September 1: It Was a Treat
The first service of our brand new Center for Spiritual Living was today, and I just couldn’t wait to tell you: It was everything I hoped it would be. No—it was (as they say so often but rarely as sincerely as I do now)—it was that and so much more. It was super awesome—super deluxe awesome with ice cream.
It was a treat.
Here’s the thing: Before I arrived, I was worried it wouldn’t be—er, not for me, anyway. See, the baby and I did not sleep well last night, yet I had volunteered to be a greeter. Actually, I volunteered to be anything that was needed, but what I really wanted to do was be a greeter. Then during set-up someone came up to me and asked if I knew of anyone else who could be an usher and greeter.
“Could I do it?” I asked.
A surprised look. “Sure,” they said. “Great!”
And so, at least one cup of coffee later, it was. But my sleep-deprived self wasn’t just a greeter; I was the best damn greeter you ever saw.
I was caring. I was talkative. I was spirit-led. I was in the moment. I was, even, effervescent. I think I met my (impromptu) goal of speaking with everyone that walked through the doors of the church at least once during the morning.
I was the sparkling version of me.
It sounds so proud, I know, but I don’t care. I am proud. I am, right now, chock damn full of pride. Not because I’m such an awesome human being; I already knew that about myself (after all, I’ve been one for a very long time). No—I’m proud of myself for, at least for today, letting it actually show.
Not long ago, I made the decision to become a friendship- and community-building kind of person. I decided to start going to church, and to start reaching out to new friends—in short, to explore a whole different part of my life.
And so, when I came to this church I did not volunteer to be a writer, or a marketer—no one even knows that I do these things as well. I volunteered to do only what I can do while with the baby, and as a result I am privileged to be expanding my vision of who I am and can be in this life.
Yup—this loner by nature, nerd by default and painfully shy child by experience is now a total extrovert.
I’m proud of that, and I’m excited, too—so, so excited for what this means. This is, after all, just the beginning—not only of a new church, but of a new chapter of my life.
It is all just the start.
One more thing of note about the service today: as awesome as the social time was, everything else about it was even better—everything meaning—well, it. Having a church. Being in a church. Being with the church. Just doing it. As I sat in the service and prayed, sometimes along with the others, sometimes just on my own, I felt the strength that comes to us in gatherings like this, gatherings that may not even be religious in name but that emphasize in some way the importance of community and love. All of the rest of the day today, prayer has been easier, feeling spiritual has been easier, letting go of imperfections in myself has been easier.
I feel like I’m walking in love.
And isn’t that just another form of prayer?
So today, I am praying all day. I am, without ceasing, in a state of prayer.
If one church service can help me do that, it surely won’t be long after going to church every week before “today” becomes “many days” and “may days” becomes “always.”
Amen and so be it to that.
My friends news is also good. I’ve gotten to know two new people recently: Friend Number Twelve and Friend Number Thirteen, I’ll dub them. Both are writers. Twelve is the lady I met at Center for Spiritual Living that I told you about before. She’s smart and a great conversationalist, but (and this is a problem) she doesn’t actually live in Seattle. She’s also more than a bit abrasive—something I can overlook to a degree, but not entirely.
Friend Thirteen is someone I have a little more hope for. Like Twelve, Thirteen is intelligent (her critiques are super good), but unlike her she’s also just really easy to like. I met her in my writing group, where I noticed that no matter who reads their work and what level of skill it shows, she always makes them feel special. There’s definitely something spiritual in the way she approaches others, though we’ve haven’t talked about it (yet).
As for the other moms’ group: I’ve attended several more activities and met more people, but no one I’ve felt compelled to email yet, and I haven’t heard anything from the ones I have, either. Thank God I now have the churchgoers to fill the gap.
September 24: I’m Feeling It
So—wow. Been about a month since I wrote last, and let me just say: I’m feeling it.
In terms of friends, not a lot to report. I did meet a couple of new people, so that’s good. They are two of the women at my church, a couple, and I’ll call them Friend Fourteen and Friend Fifteen. They are about my age, super friendly, deep thinkers, and most important: they actually want to have friends. At our church planning meeting a few days ago, to which only I and they showed up, we had a very nice conversation. They told me about how hard it was to find a church they liked, that they felt at home in. We all agreed that our experience at our new church has been exceptional, and that we’re confident this is where we belong. For the first time in a long time, I feel not only hopeful about these new friends—but I actually feel pretty good about my chances with them as well.
Regarding my other friendships: Friend One is still a good option. One day this month I was having a rough time and I ended up talking to her and her husband about it for about an hour. The funny thing: it actually helped. Sometimes I wonder whether I’m exaggerating my perceived need for friendship, but then something like that happens and I realize: I’m not. I’m really not.
As it turns out, friendship is not all that overrated.
The other friendships that are still going strong: Friend Four and the two older women I told you about, though for one reason or another I haven’t had occasion to see any of them in over a month.
Okay, then. That’s the friendship news. Now I suppose you want to hear about something much more important, namely: how I’m doing spiritually.
Oh, goodness. Oh, my gosh. I wish I had better news for you on this front—I really, really do. I want to encourage you, to inspire you—and I want to just be feeling better about it all myself. But if I told you I was fine, that would just not be the truth—and in the end, all that I have is the truth. And so, here is that truth: I am a bit of a failure. Not a total failure—just a bit of one, at least for now.
Here’s what’s been going on to make me feel this way: A few weeks ago, our family went on a trip. It was a wonderful vacation, and I enjoyed it very much. It gave Dave and me lots of quality time together. We even laughed—a lot (he really is a very funny guy).
We made memories.
The trip was a success, but what hasn’t been such a success since then is my spiritual life. While away, I decided to put my spiritual practices largely on hold. This included my meditation as well as my contemplative evening walks. (Well, actually, I’d already put those on hold a week or two prior to the trip, citing hot weather as an excuse, but in any case.)
During the trip, I didn’t really notice much of a difference in my level of peace and joy. There were some rough trip-related and sleep deprivation-related moments, but nothing I couldn’t bounce back from fairly easily.
Then, about a week ago, we came home.
The first few days were okay; I got wrapped up in a few would-be stressful activities and I noted with great self-satisfaction how well I handled them. I felt mature. I felt strong. I felt very in control of my emotions.
I felt, pretty much, good.
And maybe as a result of that, or maybe as a result of just being busy, I didn’t resume my meditation practice until—well, until today, really, and that only from sheer desperation. Because after things calmed down at home, and all the unpacking was done, and all the busyness was over, it happened: I hit a freaking wall. I became suddenly very depressed, a depression which culminated in a very quiet drive home last night that ended in lots of tears and a heartfelt hug from my husband. The weird thing? I don’t even really know why it happened.
Over the past few days, life—the life that before the vacation I’d been thoroughly enjoying—has been basically back to normal. I get up (usually after plenty of sleep these days as I’ve finally gotten the baby to sleep longer at a time), do some household stuff and some computer stuff, then take the baby to do errands. At some point he falls asleep and I pull the car over and take advantage of some lovely quiet time. Then we go home and Dave watches him while I do some more house-related stuff. In the evening there’s always some activity to go to (usually a group meditation), and after that we take a walk and go to bed.
What in the world could possibly be better than that?
And yet—I’m not happy. Yup, the old adage is absolutely true: happiness really does come from within.
And so, here’s the question I’m facing today: how do I get it back? And the answer is I don’t know.
The one thing I do know, though, is that I will get my spiritual high again. I’ve come back from much worse—much, much worse—than the way I feel right now, and have even surpassed my previous level of hope, love and joy. And as I’m now back to regular meditation, it may even be much sooner than I expect.
Who knows? It may even start right now.
At least that’s what I’m telling myself today, over and over again.
September 26: I Am Two
For a very long time—most of my life, I suppose—I have been two people. One of me is hesitant, doubtful, depressed, while the other is just sparkling. On any given day, I must choose which one I’m going to be.
The decision is harder than it sounds.
Lately, I’ve had so much to be thankful for: my family, my spirituality, my financial success, increased time with friends. I’ve even had better sleep. It’s like one my new affirmations says: “I am energy, and the energy I am is love.” Nothing is real except that, so there is nothing bad in my life.
On the days when it’s just me and the baby and I don’t want to stay at home or take a walk, I put him in the car and drive to a coffee shop. If by the time I get there he has fallen asleep I get some coffee at the drive-thru, then park the car until his nap ends and read a book. If he’s still awake I drink my coffee inside and entertain him the best I can, which isn’t so hard when there are other people around for him to stare at.
Later when we’re at a store and a happy song starts to play, I dance with him in the aisle. I narrate our outings for him aloud—even the most mundane details—and stare at his beautiful face and tell him over and over how perfect he is and how much I love him. I say it out loud, oblivious to any stranger’s stare.
These are the times that I sparkle.
And there are other times, too. I sparkle on my walks. I sparkle, almost always, during and shortly after meditation sessions. I sparkle in many social situations. Even so—I don’t sparkle enough.
See, in spite of these many and beautiful and inspired moments of my life, I still feel alone. I am still lonely, and sometimes I’m even depressed.
Like I said: two people.
And so, as is my habit, instead of sitting around pondering my lack, I do something much more helpful: I make a plan. And here is that plan:
- Stay busy. Keep going on those mom and baby outings, and keep filling my calendar with as many social things as I can;
- Increase my times of meditation to three per day (can I really do this?); and
- Continue to seek inspiration. My involvement with my new church is so exciting to me not just because it’s something cool to do, but because it feels so right. Keep busy, but be guided by my spirit at the same time, if at all possible.
I don’t want to be depressed Katie anymore. I want to be sparkling Katie, every day, all day long. If I can do that, I will have found what I’ve been seeking in this journal—or at least I’ll be well on my way.
I’ll try my new plan this week and let you know how it goes.
September 30: I Just Stopped
Just a quick check-in today. Last time I wrote I was feeling pretty terrible, so I wanted you to know what has happened since, namely: I stopped.
I just stopped feeling terrible.
I guess I should attempt to explain how this happened, but actually, there isn’t all that much to tell. Saturday, I woke up feeling better after a successful meditation day Friday. I kept busy. I took a walk. Then, on Sunday, I went to church. It was only my second actual service and lemme tell ya: it was still truly awesome. The people there are beautiful. We had lunch together afterwards like we did the first time, which was nice, and everything just went well.
The best part, though? I felt it. During part of the service, someone volunteered to hold the baby for me and I just sat with my eyes closed and my hands palms-up (in my preferred meditation position) and I didn’t pray, really, and I didn’t say affirmations, really. I just . . . felt.
And it felt pretty darn good.
In fact, it felt better than pretty darn good; it may have felt better than I’ve ever felt in a spiritual way before.
Last week I wrote that I knew this would happen, and what do you know: I was right.
I am very thankful for this church.
But before I talk more about that, let me give you the friends report. Let me see now . . . Where to begin? I suppose I’ll start with last night.
Last night, after an enjoyable meeting of my writers’ group, I had some even more enjoyable one-on-one chats with the attendees, and two—yes, two—invited me to hang out with them in the coming few weeks.
I think that’s a world’s record for me.
One of them, Friend Thirteen, I told you about before. She’s the one who is so easy to like. The other is also a very interesting, sweet person but with whom I feel a bit less chemistry. I’ll call her Friend Sixteen. Still, I enjoyed our talk and will respond to her email (yes, she emailed me already) today.
What else. Becoming ever closer to Friends Fourteen and Fifteen, the gay couple from church. They will babysit for me tonight so I’ll get to hang out with them a little beforehand. Also, at church this week there was a new lady who is like me a new mom, and as part of my church duties I gave her a welcome call. I will call her again today and invite her to coffee or something. Since I already know we have a few things in common, I’m going to go ahead and put her on the list.
She’ll be Friend Seventeen.
While I’m at it, why don’t I add a few others from church to the list as well? Friends Eighteen, Nineteen and Twenty are all church volunteers like me. We meet every Sunday morning to set things up, then chat for a while before the service begins. It’s a great time, and Eighteen, Nineteen and Twenty are part of the reason why. They’re spiritually-minded, of course, but more than that: they’re just really cool.
I think I can learn a lot from them.
Oh, one last thing I almost forgot: The other day I went to the house of one of the moms in my moms’ group to buy her baby carrier. We had a good time chatting and watching the kids, and at one point she made the following statement: “You know, I think it’s been, like, weeks since I’ve had a meaningful adult conversation—or any adult conversation—besides with my husband.”
As I left her house, this friend (Number Twenty-One) invited me to come over again sometime soon, just to visit. It’s my hope that she will become my first real friend—not just a let’s-hang-out-with-the-other-moms-who-show-up-at-the-playground kind of friend—from my working moms’ group.
And so, I am having some success. In the nine months during which I’ve been keeping this journal I have made two friends from my writing group, one from my other moms’ group and lots more from church. Do I have a best friend yet? No, I don’t. But the couple from church feels like they’re getting close to that. In just the few weeks we’ve known each other, I’ve already shared a great deal with them about myself and learned a lot about them, too. All of us believe that the relationships we’re forming with each other are just the beginning.
We are building something, we realize. We may only have forty or so church members and ten or so volunteers, of which only three or four are close to my age. But soon, there will be more—lots more. Who knows? The church may someday become big. In any case, we’ll have something that’s so much cooler and more amazing and, in my life, rarer than any single friend could ever be: we’ll have a group.
Finally, what I’ve been trying to bring together by joining my moms’ groups and hosting parties at my house and doing everything I’ve been doing all year and beyond, will occur.
I will be part of a group.
And so, at this point, I have to ask: have I already arrived? Has the goal I made for myself at the beginning of the year, namely to find a few close friends, already—five months before the deadline—been met? And my answer, I’ll have you know, is a bold one.
It is yes.
Yes. My goal has been met or, put more accurately, is being met. I know you might caution me at this point not to get too excited about something that is so new and just starting out. But today, as I sit here right now, that is just not how I feel. I don’t feel like being cautious. I don’t feel like being political and circumspect.
I feel like having faith.
In related news: Remember my goal to meditate three times per day? Well, you’ll never believe it, but here it is: I am doing it. I’m actually doing it.
I am meditating at church. I am meditating in the car. I am meditating at a Hindu spiritual center I found.
Meditation is my new hobby.
How in the world is this happening? I don’t know. All I know is that it is happening, and I appreciate it.
I really do like being one person.
And so—I’m back. And now I ask myself again the question of the year: Am I ready to start praying without ceasing? And again, I’m not really sure that I am.
As we used to say in church, I may not yet be willing, but I am definitely willing to be willing. And for now, that will just have to do. Maybe after I’ve fully and completely established my three times of meditation per day I’ll be ready for the next step—whatever that may be. Well, not maybe—probably. Definitely.
Definitely, I will soon be ready.
October 6: Oh, Crap
October has begun, and here’s what I think about that: Oh, crap. Only three more months to find the divine connection I’ve been looking for.
I am well and truly screwed.
As far as meditation goes, well … it goes. In spite of this and my other spirituality-related efforts, though, every day is definitely not bliss. Today, for instance, I am not feeling particularly inspired, even though there’s no clear reason why not.
And so, we turn again to the question of the year: When will I ever learn to pray without ceasing?
Well, today I actually have an answer for you: I’ve decided to start right now.
Let me tell you why.
In my last entry, I reported that despite the occasional feelings of inspiration, when it comes to praying without ceasing I’ve still been dragging my feet. And in the week or so since then it’s been even worse: I’ve slowed down on meditation as well. I mean, I still say my affirmations and meditate regularly—but not for nearly as long as before.
My excuse? I don’t want to use the baby’s naptime for something so seemingly unproductive. After all, the two hours or so that he is asleep are the only reliably free two hours of my day.
You understand, I’m sure: these are my moments, my special, wonderful moments to myself. I can do anything, anything at all, and maybe most important, I can think. No one is distracting me, asking for my attention. I can write. I can read. I can fly through a to-do list in record time . . . Or I can just eat a meal without anyone there grabbing at my food.
I can do anything I want; I have super powers.
So you can see why sitting still and doing absolutely nothing during this time would be so difficult.
Okay, then. What about my other meditation times, the ones I attend with the baby? Well, lately those have lessened both in quality and in number. One of them was preempted by the small group I joined for church, and as another is held on the weekend my attendance there was always spotty. As for the third? Last week the baby proved himself too much to handle there when he threw up four times on the host church’s carpet.
I still love meditation, and I still attend one session per week plus church. I also do occasionally enjoy longer sessions at home or in the car. But that handful of times isn’t enough; I don’t want to be a meditation hobbyist, as I previously implied.
I want to be fully committed.
In any case. This is where I’m at today, and I’m just going to have to accept it. Lately my primary spiritual practice is more like what I hoped it would be at the beginning of the year before starting the whole meditation thing: continually asking for divine guidance and continually bringing myself back to the awareness of God. Because this of course is something I can do anywhere, and at any time at all.
And really, it’s what I want to do. It’s meditation, but it’s also a whole lot more than that. It’s a way of bringing joy and connectedness into my every action, my every decision—my whole self. It’s not just a practice—it’s a way of life.
And so, that is what I’ve decided: As much as I love meditation, praying without ceasing is what I am really meant to do—and what I’m going to do.
Today is October 6th. On this date, it begins.
Praying without ceasing, asking for guidance for the smallest of actions, remaining aware of my body (as Tolle says to do) and of the Divine. And guess what? It’s working.
I can feel it working.
What do you know—my inspiration was here all along. I just had to make the decision to see it.
I. Love. This.
October 8: The Turning Point
Last Sunday, something happened that I’ve been looking forward to writing about all week: the turning point. That’s right, I didn’t say “a” turning point, I said “the” turning point.
What do I mean by this phrase? Well, that’s a bit . . . involved. Let me explain by shortening a long story, then lengthening it once again.
The shortened story is this: I haven’t been praying without ceasing every day. (I know: big surprise, right?) In spite of this, though, things have been going pretty well. Here’s why:
1. There are some days that I do—and those are really awesome days indeed;
2. Every day I at least make the attempt. I at least remind myself this is what I want to do—no more “wait for tomorrow” kind of stuff;
3. It is getting easier; and
4. It is getting more frequent as well.
Now like I said, until last Sunday, I really didn’t realize these statements were true. Until then, I saw my mix of good days and bad days since my last prematurely triumphant journal entry as, well, a mix.
Truth be told, I really didn’t think I was getting anywhere.
My prayers have often felt uninspired. My times of meditation have been short and constantly interrupted. My walks have been infrequent. And as for following my intuition? Well, it’s hard to do what the universe is telling you to do when you aren’t convinced you’re even hearing it right.
And so, I struggled. Here’s the thing, though: I did not give up.
And that makes me pretty proud.
There are several reasons I didn’t give up, but today let me highlight just one.
The reason has to do with my first day of college: October 6, 1997. On that day, my life changed forever. No longer—never again, actually—would I live with my parents at home. No longer would I have to follow someone else’s rules.
Finally, I was an adult.
This must have meant more to me than I even realized at the time, I suppose, because in order to relate this story to you I did not have to look up the date in an old journal or school paperwork.
I have remembered it ever since.
Okay, you may be saying, what does this have to do with praying without ceasing? Well, just and simply this: The date of my last entry, the one in which I spontaneously decided to begin again my attempt to pray without ceasing, was October 6th.
Now, maybe this doesn’t matter. Maybe it is just a coincidence that this (hopefully) new phase of my life began on the anniversary of the beginning of another. As you may or may not know, according to my spiritual beliefs, life circumstances and coincidences and whatever other events occur don’t really have meaning in and of themselves, except the meaning we give them. Of course, the great advantage of this belief is that it holds within it something very special: the open-ended invitation to interpret events in ways that benefit me and encourage growth.
And so, that is what I did. The possibility of not only celebrating one achievement by beginning another, but (admittedly) of actually being able to remember, possibly for the rest of my life, the precise date when this new phase began, was too attractive a possibility to pass up. And so, ever since this October 6th, I have never once said to myself, “I’ll wait for another day to begin—a day when it feels more right.”
Instead, I’ve decided to view that date as a sign.
It was October 6th when I took on this challenge again, I told myself in my weaker moments of late. It was usually just a very fleeting thought, one I was barely aware of—but as we know, those are often the most powerful kind.
Right now, I don’t feel like I can do it, but maybe the universe is saying it disagrees.
Besides, it’s September. I really do need to get this thing done.
So, there it is. There is the reason that in spite of my repeated failures to pray without ceasing, I have not given up. Sometimes, the strength you need to carry out your goal is sort of just magically there, placed fully within your immediate grasp. Other times, you’ve gotta kinda believe that it is—then look really hard for the evidence you’re right.
In any case, last Sunday as I was sitting in church, all of these things were going through my mind. I was remembering my goal while at the same time soaking in the spiritual strength that often comes to me while in the presence of people who share similar spiritual beliefs. Then, all during the service and for the rest of the day as well, I stayed in that mindset of peace.
At no point during the day did I say my mantras. At no point did I sit quietly with crossed legs and raised palms and meditate. I didn’t even take a long walk. Instead, this is what I did: I talked to people. I made lunch. I played with the baby. I hung out with my husband—even watched TV with him.
And, through it all, I felt the presence of God.
That feeling—the one all spiritual people have felt at some point and ever after seek out again and again—I will now try to describe. Not because you don’t know what it’s like, but just because I think it may be interesting to try.
Here it is: It is a nearly physical sensation that radiates from my chest out to each of my limbs and beyond. It is a pulsing and a warming, and along with it are thoughts of—well, for me, mostly of gratitude. I don’t have to say or think anything in particular when I feel it (many mystics, of course, would argue that it’s better if you don’t), but if I do it’s often along the lines of this: Thank you, God. Thank you for trees. Thank you for clouds. Thank you for driving. Thank you for my baby. Thank you for my husband. Thank you for my life. Thank you for flowers.
Whatever—whatever at all—comes into my mind, I just give thanks for that.
After a while of this, I’m able to let go of what’s bothering me. Then when the feeling I want to have breaks through I sit with it, notice it, and appreciate it.
It is as simple as that.
Sunday was a beautiful, blessed day—one of the best I’ve had in a long while. But Sunday was not the turning point—Tuesday was.
Allow me to explain.
All day Sunday I wondered if I’d ever feel bad again. How could I? I thought. I am a part of God, and the end of it all is Good. However, after that something happened that gave me the answer. That thing was Monday.
Monday, everything went wrong.
Well—maybe “everything” is a bit of an exaggeration. Not everything went wrong, really—mostly just one thing that then made everything else feel, and thus be, bad. By early afternoon, I no longer felt even a hint of the inspiration I’d so enjoyed only the day before.
I just felt depressed.
And yet—even then, I realized something. Remembering my previous bliss, I reminded myself that the depression was just a temporary thing, something I allow myself to experience at various moments for various reasons. But if a day like yesterday was possible, I told myself, another one like it—and many more after that—will be, too.
Now, don’t misunderstand me here—this one thought did not instantly change my mood. But by the time I woke up the next morning, I felt a lot better, and by the time I went to bed that night, I was again right where I wanted to be.
I was back in the zone.
Maybe this doesn’t seem like a big deal, or at least not as big a deal as I’m making it out to be. But here’s the thing: I was able to get back to my meditative, praying without ceasing state quickly—to intercept and subdue my funk after only a single day. You do know what this means, don’t you?
It means my persistence is paying off.
And that is what I mean by “the” turning point. The turning point was the realization that yes, I will actually get where I’m going eventually, but not because I just know myself, know that I’ll keep trying until I do.
No—I know I will get where I’m going eventually because I am already on my way.
I am making progress, and it’s tangible progress, progress I can attest to with evidence from my life.
Right now, as I sit here, I am feeling the Divine.
And I’m not meditating. I’m not walking. I’m not even praying as such.
I am writing. I am getting dressed. I am brushing my teeth. I am thinking about other things entirely.
And I am, at the same time, feeling a great deal of peace.
Do you remember an entry from a few months ago where I said I hoped that soon my long list of spiritual practices would sort of merge into one unified thing—one blended, continuous property and habit of my daily life? I do. I remember writing it and realizing how important that step would be, since then this thing I call praying without ceasing would no longer feel like a struggle or like a list of items on a to-do list (meditate three times per day, say affirmations every morning, etc.). Instead, it would all just sort of happen—easily and naturally, and all at the very same time.
Like I said before: It would just be one Thing.
Well, today I can tell you that maybe—just maybe—that day has already come. As of yesterday, I’ve decided that no longer will I make it my goal to meditate a certain number of times per day, or set aside special prayer time in the morning, or take a walk three times a week, or whatever and ever and ever. Not that there’s anything wrong with those goals—they just aren’t the right goals for me right now, and even if I wanted them to be, actually accomplishing them would be quite difficult—difficult enough that I’d fail or give up (as in fact I have done). Maybe at some point in the future I will make these things goals in themselves again, but lately I’ve been realizing that my one goal for the year—the one I started this book with, that of learning how to pray without ceasing—really is, in fact, enough. Because when I’m praying without ceasing, I’m not just asking for intuitive guidance and direction in my actions, as I once thought and wrote here. When I’m praying without ceasing, I am meditating—when circumstances provide an opportunity to do so. I am saying mantras and affirmations—when I get a thought I don’t like and am trying to focus on something else. I am following my inner guide—when in a sensitive conversation with someone and trying to find the right thing to say.
I am walking when my body says to walk. I am focusing my awareness on my body when I need to feel more calm. I am encouraging others with my words, making divine declarations, when the situation calls for it.
And all of this, of course, is prayer.
So, part of my turning point has to do with the fact that I am actually seeing progress—that I am in fact more in tune with God’s presence than I ever have been before. But part of it has to do with the way I define that presence, and that beautiful word “prayer.” Looking back, I’m not sure why I equated praying without ceasing with following clear divine guidance in each and every action I take. It must have had something to do with the book I read about Brother Lawrence and his admirable ability to do so. In the past few days, though, I’ve experienced something that convinces me that, at least for now, this total clarity and unity isn’t necessary in order to be successful in my goal. Three times in the past three days, I experienced coincidences of timing that, for me, confirmed that the actions I was taking were the right and best ones in that moment—even though at the time I didn’t think I was following my intuition in doing them, but just my mind as usual. The details aren’t important; they involve finances and phone calls and finding the right people for the job. But each morning, I had prayed that I would take the right actions that day—and then I just did what seemed like the right thing to do. I didn’t stop to pray about it first, even for a second. Of course, if something didn’t feel right, I’d be in tune enough to recognize that and move on to something else. Other than that, though? No clear thought was needed. Following my so-called “intuition” was on autopilot.
People always say (as I myself have said) that you need not—even should not—try to force yourself to maintain your spiritual practices. No good comes from doing anything like this because you “should,” they say, and like I said: I’ve agreed. And yet, at the same time that I knew this to be true, I was forcing myself to do certain things. Not force-forcing them, I would have said—just “setting goals.” See, even though we feel that it’s true that spiritual practices should never be forced but only enjoyed, that concept is essentially difficult for us as humans to truly believe. How can we grow spiritually, we wonder, if we don’t consistently do the things that help us grow? And how do we do these things if we don’t, well, make ourselves do them? After all, life is busy. Other things grab our attention and distract us. Some of those things help us survive, and others are just more fun. In any case, spirituality isn’t always our first priority.
Well, finally, I have an answer to this dilemma—my answer, anyway. I’ve decided that I won’t make myself do anything I don’t truly desire to do, but—and here’s the important part—every day, I will remind myself that those things are freely available. I will remind myself that some days I will pray more and some days I will pray less, but whatever amount I choose that day is enough. It is my hope that after realizing this, the pressure to be perfect will be off, and my spirit will be free to enjoy its communion with God.
So, to return again to the short story of the past month or more: No, I’m not yet successfully praying without ceasing every day—not even close. But I am praying a lot more than I ever used to, and even on my really bad days, I’m doing pretty darn well.
So, much like in my last entry about my friendships, I guess I’m asking the question: Where do I go from here? Despite my very best intentions, at this point I don’t actually anticipate achieving my goal for divine connection in the next four months. I guess I should have the perspective, then, that that’s the fun of this thing: taking one step at a time, then watching to see what happens next. Funny thing, though: for the first time in a long time, maybe even ever, I’m actually pretty happy with where I am on my spiritual path.
I’m doing good. I’m feeling good. I’m feeling God. Most important: I know, finally know, that with every day that passes, I am making progress. One day, I’ll be exactly where I want to be: living in a place of bliss and moment-to-moment unity with God—at least some of the time. Until then, I’m merely aware this is possible.
And that’s actually pretty cool, too.
October 30: I Wonder
Sometimes I wonder if when our language was evolving and people were feeling what I’m feeling now, if one person didn’t just use the word “love” and then attach it primarily to relationships, while another person thought of the word “joy” and, another, peace, and attached those words to different areas of life—or different aspects of the feeling. Who knows?
What brings this question up? you may be wondering. Well, just this: Today, I am in the zone. I’m in the flow. I’m feeling it. (“It” being of course communion with God.)
And it feels good.
It feels like joy. It feels like love. It feels like peace—all at the very same time. Why are these three words so often used together? Because they are the best. They’re the three best—and actually, I think that they’re all the same.
In any case. Today I am in love/joy/peace with the Divine, and it feels good. Last week, however, I was not. And it did not feel good. It felt pretty darn bad, actually, and it even included the end of a friendship.
A short background: Since my last entry in this journal, most of my days have been a little sub-par. Despite a fairly decent effort to maintain the spiritual high that I was on for a while, after some ongoing annoyance with a friend and another disconcerting episode my mood abruptly, then persistently, shifted—and it did not get good again. My depression (what I refer to as my “depression leftovers,” what’s left of my lows that I can’t seem to get rid of completely) was hanging on pretty tight.
So when a good friend—the best friend that I told you about at the beginning of this journal (I think I’ll call her Friend Zero)—came to visit last weekend and I said something that was a little insensitive and then she screamed and drove back home without allowing time to resolve the problem, it shook me up—hard.
This is my only really close friend besides my husband, I thought. What the hell is going to happen to us?
Because this was no ordinary fight. This was a much bigger one than we’ve ever had before—a bigger one, even, than I think I’ve ever had with anyone. Not because of the content of the fight—just because of the reaction.
And it threw me for a friggin’ loop.
First came the defensiveness—all of the arguments in my favor circling endlessly through my mind. Then came the anger, especially after the disproportionately passionate email from her the next day that culminated in a very pointed “fuck you.” You see, people don’t normally say that word to me. So maybe I overreacted, but this single word put me into a tailspin that lasted the rest of the week.
I did have some bright spots. One afternoon, after emailing someone from church (a trained counselor) about the issue, I became inspired to change my outlook on my relationships and to come up with a new affirmation, namely: “My friendship does not come for free. I demand respect.”
Now, in case you hadn’t noticed after reading this far in this journal, so far in my life I haven’t been very picky about friends. At times I guess I have been, but for the most part I’ve been too desperate and lonely to do a great deal of filtering. Now, picking my husband—that was a different matter, and a different story (but I won’t go into all of that here). But here’s the thing you may not fully understand about this situation (as I sure didn’t until now): Not only am I not very picky about who my friends are—I haven’t been very picky about how they’ve treated me, either.
That’s right: Until this happened, I had been doing what I think most people do in unpleasant moments with friends: just being nice and hoping it all works out. And what I realized this week was that this approach just isn’t working for me anymore.
Recently in church we’ve been talking about agreements and commitments. One of the points Friend Eleven (the minister) made was that sometimes, our agreements are most effective when written down. And so, as I remembered this, a lightning bolt: I am going to write out a friendship agreement—one that both parties can freely sign. There’ll be various non-negotiables listed, things that I expect of each and every friendship that I have (whether or not they want to actually sign the paper; this exercise is more for my sake than for theirs, you know).
And the first one on the list will be respect.
I was emotional, of course, when I came up with the idea, and when I told Friend Zero about it on the phone a week or so later.
“Zero,” I said, “This is what I want, but if there’s any part of it that you can’t agree to, don’t do so anyway just to make me feel good.
“This is not just a silly exercise to me; this is serious.”
And she believed me.
That weekend, we met up at my house for the first time since the incident occurred. I showed her the paper, and she decided to neither sign it nor verbally agree to its requirements.
She wanted none of it at all.
Well—not none of it. Points two through five were just fine with her. It was that first point (and the way that I interpreted it to mean “no screaming or cursing”) that she just couldn’t live with.
“I respect you, Katie,” she said. “But I believe I have a right to yell when it’s deserved.”
“I just can’t be yelled at,” I told her. “I don’t yell at people in my life, and people don’t yell at me. It’s just not my style. Maybe someday when my kids are older they’ll yell, but they can go to their rooms or do it somewhere else; I’m not going to take it from them, either.”
I guess this is what they mean by the phrase “feeling empowered.”
Here’s the thing: if the verbal attack of the other day, together with the emails to follow, were an isolated incident, it’d be one thing. However, that is not the case. Each time I plan to see Friend Zero I understand that the chances of her snapping at me at least once are pretty high—and up to this point, I guess I’ve been okay with that.
This is just the way she is, I told myself. It’s her weakness.
And when often it happened as I’d predicted it would, I didn’t argue, and the next day when she apologized I told her it was fine—every single time.
In other words: I accepted it.
And that was a mistake. But when you see someone infrequently, you tend to let certain things slide a little more than you normally would. And clearly, that is what had happened with her.
Here’s how our final conversation ended.
“Well, I guess then we can’t be friends anymore,” I said.
“I guess not,” she replied. “I am really glad we talked about it, though.”
“This makes me sad, Katie,” she added, and once again I agreed.
It was the most self-restrained angry parting I’ve ever had.
That was two days ago, and we haven’t talked or emailed each other since.
Are we really not going to be friends anymore? I wondered.
Here’s the thing, though: In spite of the sadness, in spite of the suckiness, I am feeling at peace. At not just at peace; I am feeling that peace/love/joy thing that I described before.
I know that I did the right thing.
And so, today I am feeling that it’s time. It’s time to do something that I’ve put off for some months: I am going to cross some friends off my list.
Not Friend Zero, of course—she wasn’t on there in the first place, as (ironically) ours was my only friendship that I believed wouldn’t change. The people I’m crossing off the list today are people I’m going to stop pursuing entirely from now on, based partly on the friendship agreement I wrote recently and partly on their lack of receptivity.
Before I do that, though, allow me to reproduce here that agreement, in order to show you what I’m talking about.
On this __ day of ______, ____, we the undersigned agree to the following conditions of friendship:
- To treat each other with respect at all times and in all circumstances, including those of hardship or distress;
- To not gossip about each other, except in matters of health or safety;
- To discuss any hurts, wrongs, misdeeds or misunderstandings that may arise between us with and only with each other;
- To apologize when in the wrong; and
- To forgive when wronged.
If at any time we do not meet these conditions, we agree that the consequences may include the suspension or termination of our friendship.
Signed in love,
So. How do you like it? Is it complete in your eyes? Maybe it isn’t, but I didn’t write it for completeness, anyway, and I didn’t write it for anyone else. These are my expectations, whether or not they’re anyone else’s—and that is good enough for me.
All right, then. Here are the friends that are left on the list:
Friend Number One (still responsive)
Friend Number Two (unresponsive) Friend Number Three (unresponsive)
Friend Number Four (still responsive)
Friend Number Five (unresponsive) Friend Number Six (unresponsive) Friend Number Seven (unavailable) Friend Number Eight (uninteresting) Friend Number Nine (unresponsive) Friend Number Ten (unresponsive)
Friend Number Eleven
Friend Number Twelve (unavailable)
Friend Number Thirteen
Friend Number Fourteen
Friend Number Fifteen
Friend Number Sixteen (unavailable)
Friend Number Seventeen
Friend Number Eighteen
Friend Number Nineteen
Friend Number Twenty
Friend Number Twenty-One
Friend Number Twenty-Two
Friend Number Twenty-Three
Friend Number Twenty-Four
As you can see, my old Friend Four is still on the list. Though as I told you before I do think there’s an upper limit with her, I enjoy much of the time we spend together—and she is, as the agreement requires, always respectful and mature.
A few others didn’t make the cut. Due to our lack of genuine chemistry—something I realized lately I need to weigh more heavily—Friend Eight is off the list. Ten has (to my surprise, actually) been “too busy” to get together. Twelve moved back to Costa Rica, and Sixteen really is too busy—we’ve tried several times to get together, only to have her cancel last-minute.
We move on …
November 30: That Is Definitely the Goal
Good news today: I have made a discovery. Do you want to know what it is right away? Or do you want me to tell you how I made it, then find out? Hmmm . . . Let’s try the former. My discovery is this: the best way to maintain my state of unceasing prayer—and the oneness-with-God feeling that goes along with it—is the very practice I started this journal with in January: asking for guidance in my actions both large and small.
Nothing—nothing—that I do during my day to increase my spiritual awareness is as effective as this.
Now, I know what I said before—that all of my spiritual practices are actually one thing, different portals that lead me to the very same place. But as you may recall I also said that some may work better than others—though until now, I didn’t actually know which of them was best for me. Now, I do—and that’s a significant improvement indeed.
And so, I have come full circle. Trying new things, making lists to help me remember them all, reading all kinds of books and following their advice. But in the end (if you consider October the end, which I don’t, really—we’ll see what happens after this) . . . In the quasi-end, I see that there’s a reason I felt so inspired to use the divine guidance method as my first and main technique for learning how to pray without ceasing: it just works really well.
What has been going on lately to make me think so? Well, simply that I’m doing it. I’m asking for guidance in my actions ten or more times each day—and I then I’m actually getting it.
Here are the times when I find asking for guidance most useful:
- When deciding on my plans for the day—when and where to go. I often get an answer to this kind of prayer and when I follow it I’m always glad that I did.
- While having a serious conversation, or having a regular conversation with someone I don’t know very well.
- When making a big decision, of course; and
- While writing.
And so, due to this wonderful success, today I’m going to do something I’ve hesitated to do thus far: I’m going to give you an example of how I perform this (admittedly odd) spiritual practice. Until this time, my self-consciousness about the unusual nature of this experiment has prevented me from doing so but today I say self-consciousness and embarrassment, be damned.
I am going to be foolish for God.
And so, here it is: a description of my morning—a typical praying-without-ceasing experience.
I wake up to the sounds of the baby. After a few minutes of letting him play in the near pitch-black darkness of our heavily shaded room, I remember to commune with the Divine. I feel my hands, my feet, my arms, my legs, and the energy that is inside them. A feeling of peace begins to emanate from my body.
It is working.
As I lie there, I let myself wonder in a prayerful way what I should do next.
Not surprisingly, the first thing I hear to do is to turn on the light.
I do so. Then I consider whether to first brush my teeth or go to the kitchen to make coffee. The answer comes: let the baby play in the bedroom while I brush my teeth. After a while Jack comes in and plays with the baby (he had been in the office) and I’m able to gratefully finish getting ready alone—and brew my coffee as well.
It is already a good day.
By the time Jack decides to hit the shower, I’m ready for some playtime myself, which, with the help of the crib, I manage to pull off while folding the rest of the laundry from the day before. There is a play date scheduled for the morning and I check in with my spirit again to see whether or not this is the best plan for the day. While there’s no absolute “yes” in my mind on this one, my desire to get out of the house combines with a lack of “no” response (sometimes the “no” feels sort of like a grey cloud hanging over the place I’m imagining) to come up with my decision.
I take the baby and go.
On the way to the play date host’s house, I decide on the route that feels right even though it follows the street with the most stoplights. As I drive I’m surprised to sail through all of the lights except one, at which I’m stopped just long enough to text the host that I’m on my way. At one point I consider changing lanes, get a “no” response, then look over my shoulder to see a car in my blind spot. I stay in the same lane until my turn comes closer, then change lanes (even though there was no particular guidance to do so).
I enjoy the drive. My mind is not racing to figure out the quickest route, or to plan the rest of my day, or even to ruminate on that argument with Zero last week. When it tries the latter, I stop and shift my attention back to my feelings both physical and spiritual. Then, when there is any little decision to be made (should I pass this car up ahead?) I consult my spirit for the answer.
In other words: My mind is occupied, but not busy.
The best part of my conversation with the Divine today happens when I arrive at the host’s house. As the women chat and watch the children play, I wait for some guidance about what to contribute—and, very often, I get it. In this way I am able to keep a close connection with my spirit while also increasing my chances that my comments will be well received.
By the way, just in case you’re wondering—getting this so-called inspiration to speak is much easier than you might think. After a thought comes I just stop and consider it for a few seconds. Sometimes the duds are obvious—they are preachy, self-serving, irrelevant or just plain clunky, and anyone trying to improve their interpersonal skills would know to avoid them, with or without divine guidance. Other ill-timed comments, however, leap to mind several times only to be shot down by the Spirit each time. You really want to say them and you have no idea why they’re inappropriate until you (inevitably) find out the reason later on. Other times you find yourself being led to say something you’d rather not say right then, and you’re a little surprised when the response is so good. These last two circumstances are where the real magic of this technique comes in, and I love it when either occurs.
It didn’t happen often today. But I did show maturity, I think, in the way I conversed. Maybe even love. And heck—at no point over the course of the morning did I embarrass myself.
So these are all good things.
Here’s a sample of our play date conversation as I recall it:
Me (changing the subject): “So, people tell me it actually gets harder after they learn how to walk. Why do you think this is?”
Mom Number One: “Well, for me, it’s not so much that she walks now as it is that she is getting into everything in the cabinets.” (She explains a bit.)
Mom Number Two: “You know, those cabinet latches work really, really well.”
This line of talk continues, and by the end of the morning Mom Number One is planning to baby proof her cabinets later that same day. A miraculous intervention? Maybe not. But she does have two young children at home; it could feel like a miracle to her.
In any case, back to my morning.
At one point, I get the feeling that it’s time to leave. I don’t want to go, but I look at my clock and it’s the baby’s naptime, so I do. The baby falls asleep during the ten-minute car ride home, and when I get to the driveway I feel an (unasked-for) urge to back the car into the driveway rather than pull in forward in my usual way. Since the baby is sleeping and therefore sensitive to noise, I turn off the engine, pull the hand break and take out my keys in a deliberate, waiting-for-guidance kind of way. The baby does not wake up. I then decide to go inside for a while before coming back out to the car to do some writing while waiting for the baby to wake up (a little tradition of mine that’s perfectly safe in our mild climate, in case you were wondering). However, I get a clear sense that I should stay in the car and start writing now, instead. I fight this idea for a moment, then give in. Later I’m glad I did; the baby’s nap was much shorter than usual and I still got quite a bit done.
Half an hour into his nap the baby wakes up and I realize I have to get the car in motion again right away so he’ll fall back asleep. At this point I’m glad that the car is turned the right way so I can pull out of the driveway quickly. After he’s asleep I park the car again and resume my writing.
And now here I sit, and this has thus far been my day.
Often, the difference that my prayers make is a bit more significant, but rarely is it life-altering. On Sunday I felt not to suggest my preferred driving route to a friend who was already late to a meeting we were both attending, and she made it there well ahead of me. Other times the guidance helps me know when to bring up a sensitive subject with my husband (and when not to). It helps me plan my day (I’m glad I waited to buy groceries a few days back until I had the car, not the stroller; I wouldn’t’ve been able to carry a quarter of what I wanted to buy otherwise). And the somewhat trivial nature of these prayers is the reason I’ve been too embarrassed to tell you about them until now.
“You wait for God to tell you when to do the dishes, the laundry, take out the trash?” I imagine you asking after reading this. And my answer is: not always—not by a long shot yet.
But that is definitely the goal.
Yesterday I planned to watch a movie during the baby’s afternoon nap. I wasn’t feeling all that well, and I thought it would be nice. However, when I got a clear “no” and sat down at the computer instead, I was glad to have changed my mind. I got a few things done, reversing my malaise of the morning. Before bed the baby and I got to watch our movie together with minimal complaints on his part—something that rarely happens (both the movie and the minimal complaints).
It worked out really well.
Earlier this year I told you about the guidance that ultimately led to a life-changing discovery (that of my new church). That was a wonderful thing indeed, but this little daily stuff is—yes, I’m going to say it—this little daily stuff is even better. I no longer worry so much about my schedule—things just seem to work out. I don’t worry so much in general, actually, as my mind is occupied with the present moment instead.
I am being constantly reminded of the existence of my spirit, and that is a beautiful thing.
I told you before the reason it took me so long to actually do the thing I meant to start doing in January, but just in case you forgot, I’ll say it again now: I didn’t want to give up control. And sometimes, I still don’t; I think I can figure out things better by myself.
Here’s the thing, though: this is myself that’s leading me in this way. According to my belief system, I am part and parcel of God; I am the one Spirit that I’m consulting. I’m not inconveniencing some other busy being—I’m basically just talking to the larger, more complete version of myself.
And after all: that’s what she’s there for, right?
I think so. And I think she likes not being ignored so much anymore. I think she likes being consulted, even about the smallest of decisions. After all, one of the parts of me—my spirit or my mind—has to make my decisions; it might as well be the smarter of the two.
And so. The above is a little sample of what it’s been like in my head for the past few days, and on occasion before that.
Crazy, isn’t it? And yet, if this is a form of schizophrenia as some people may believe, all I can say is: I hope it gets much worse.
As for my friends goal? Well, we are trucking along. The other week, at one of the meditation groups I go to, I met and had a long conversation with Friend Twenty-Two. She leads one of the weekly sessions and I am hoping to get to know her better (though I’m not getting a distinct read on whether or not the feeling is mutual). Friend Twenty-Three is also a possibility. We met at the writing moms’ group and though she’s not my usual type of friend—way too cool, I think—she actually texted me to hang out last weekend, then came to my church (in response to my invite) on Sunday.
Friend Twenty-Four is interesting. She is a member of a recovery group I occasionally attend for chronic problem eaters. We’ve met up twice already and I love our in-depth chats about all things food and eating (yes, you can actually talk deeply about food). We seem to have a lot in common and it helps that she lives nearby.
And so, that’s three more for the list, folks. Like I said: progress is being made.
November 12: The Verdict Is In
Well, the verdict is in: I am a work in progress. For the past week or so, I have not been praying without ceasing. Still, I’ve been feeling really, really good—and really spiritually-minded, too. Importantly, I still have one of my keys to happiness working for me, namely gratitude. Yesterday at church the minister was speaking on this subject and she said that the kind of gratitude that is causative—that has the ability to change our circumstances for the better—is the kind that you carry with you throughout your days. It’s the kind that doesn’t go away when so-called “bad” stuff happens or that comes back when “good” stuff happens.
It’s the kind that is always just sort of there.
Well, for the past week or so, and longer too I guess, this has been my experience. All day long I look for—and find—a hundred or so things to be grateful for, and I speak about my gratitude out loud, telling whoever will listen—my husband, my baby, or even just (just!) God, while on a walk. If I’m not in a good mood when I start after a while it feels like all the bad stuff has been cleared out of the corners of my mind. I am clean. I am refreshed.
I am walking in joy.
Of course, it isn’t always an easy process; most days, some negativity still manages to find its way in. But here’s the funny thing: I’ve gotten so good at counteracting these thoughts based solely on their own merits (or lack thereof) that for the past several days one of the only ones that finds its way to the conscious level on these (literally and figuratively) cool, foggy mornings is this: “I have just had three (two, five, whatever) really amazingly good days in a row. I am due for a less-than-great one.
“Maybe this will be it.”
And then my mind starts in on some guesses as to what the problem to come is likely to be.
Wow, right? Does this blow your mind as much as it does mine? I actually have an unconscious belief—and a deeply held one—that there is a limit as to how many good days I can have in a row.
Here’s the point I’m trying to make, though: There are, I now believe, two different portals to the Source that work equally well for me. One of them is, as I’ve said before, asking for divine guidance throughout my day.
The other is just continuous gratitude.
So have I been praying without ceasing these past few weeks? No. But—dare I say it?—I sort of have been, too. Now, don’t get me wrong: I want to get back to doing what I was doing before, for all of the reasons I told you before. But gratitude, man. It really is my current secret to happiness, especially when asking for guidance just seems way too hard.
That, and a whole lot of sleep.
Anyway, because of this recent change, I realized today that I want to reinstitute The List. Not the friends list—that one’s never been in danger. I mean the list of spiritual practices that I made a few months back. See, a lot of the time, when I’m not in the place of joy and communication and prayer that I’d like to be, I don’t really know how to get back. I try whatever comes to mind, but it’s not always effective. What I need is a more systematic approach with specific ideas that can help. Besides, I always seem to be learning new tips—and now that I’m going to church regularly, that is especially true. Listing them means that I won’t forget what I’ve already learned (assuming I occasionally read over the list, of course),
Okay, then. Here are the spiritual practices I wrote before, with my recent additions:
- Saying affirmations;
- Meditating by feeling my inner body;
- Meditating by repeating a mantra;
- Asking my spirit for guidance in my actions both small and large;
- Saying prayers of thanks repeatedly;
- Writing affirmations;
- Keeping a journal of answered prayers;
- Listening to spiritual music;
- Singing spiritual and uplifting music;
- Reading spiritual books;
- Smiling, even when I don’t feel like it;
- Doing good deeds for others; and
- Reaching out to friends.
I suppose this will do for now.
November 24: There’s a Party in My Head
Okay. I am not proud of this, but here it is: I have backslidden. One day just recently it hit me that for some reason, I wasn’t doing it anymore—even though “it” had previously been making me so happy. I went from doing “it” and being happy to just being grateful all the time but still being happy to what has been happening the past two weeks, which is not doing “it” and not being as happy as I’d like to be, either.
The question I ask myself about this turn of events is, of course, why. Why do I stop doing something that is in every way, for all of the reasons I mentioned before, so cool?
Well, here’s one answer: it’s just hard.
So many mornings I tell myself that this is the day that I will start up again, and every time (until today, which I’ll tell you about in a minute), I just don’t get an immediate answer to my prayer for guidance.
I don’t know what to do next.
I might try to be super self-aware and discover what it is, exactly, that’s keeping me from getting the information that I want. Do I have enough faith? I’ve wondered. Am I giving the Universe enough time to respond?
Am I doing it right?
Self-analysis can be such a tricky thing, can’t it? Sometimes you think you need it when really what you need is to just shut up all of the voices in your head and all of the conflicting advice they’re giving you and to just do whatever you feel you need to do. And if whatever that is fails, you don’t give up; you either try something different, or you just try the same thing again later.
In this case, I went with the latter route; this morning I just started fresh and tried again.
And guess what? It worked. Right now as I write this I’m not as sensitive to that guiding voice as I’d like to be, but for several hours this morning, I was—and it made a difference.
Like I said before, though, it wasn’t easy. I got kicked out of the “flow” (so to speak) when I was asked to do something that I wasn’t sure was a good idea which, come to think of it, was a really bad reason to stop listening for guidance. Anyway, ever since then I’ve been pretty off and on with knowing where best to go and what best to do. I wonder if taking some quiet time for meditation in the mornings (yes, that’s been pretty lacking lately, too) would help.
So, that’s my plan. Add in a little meditation, keep plugging away. And remember that whatever the reasons are for my many failures in this area, they will be resolved in time—as long as I just keep the vision, stay on the path. After all, I’ve already come a pretty long way, haven’t I? Perfection is not an overnight thing—and neither is spiritual connection. I mean, it can be.
But I’m not gonna be waiting around counting on it.
Okay, then. That’s the spirituality news. In friends news: I met someone awesome—I mean really awesome. (Yay! Party in my head!)
It happened after one of my (relatively) few moments of clarity last week when I asked God to show me which way to go on my walk. I wanted to do my usual circle but felt to go the other way instead. Not long after that I came across a woman who lives in my neighborhood. She struck up a conversation with me and we started walking together. At one point I said, “Which way do you need to go?”
“I was heading home, that way,” she said, indicating her street. “But I don’t mind just continuing on with you; I’m really enjoying our conversation.”
And that, I feel confident, was the beginning of a beautiful friendship.
We walked and talked for an hour more, and like I said, I have a lot of hope for this one. Friend Twenty-Five is genuine, spiritually minded, artsy, mature and—most notably—happy and positive in the extreme. After talking to her I remembered what it was like to really hit it off with someone in a way that is easy, unforced. We talked about all kinds of personal things—husbands and parenting, to name two. At one point we actually found ourselves celebrating our newfound friendship, mentioning how truly happy we were to meet. It was such a nice talk that it makes me wonder if I’ve been expecting too little of my friends not only in how they treat me, but in how much I actually enjoy them as well.
Not to mention in how much they’re responding to my overtures. Whereas Twenty-Five has already called me and we already have another walk planned, I seem to be getting nowhere with almost everyone else on my list.
I’ll review again soon, but suffice it to say for now: today was a very good day.
And that wasn’t all that happened. Inspired by my good luck with Twenty-Five, on Halloween night while everyone was trick-or-treating Jack and I dressed up the baby and knocked on a few of our neighbors’ doors to introduce ourselves. In this way I made three new friends: Twenty-Six, Twenty-Seven and Twenty-Eight. Because of this sudden influx, I’ve decided to plan a party for the neighbors. Oh, and lest I forget—I met two more possibilities, Numbers Twenty-Nine and Thirty, at church this month, and have coffee dates tentatively planned with both.
Things are moving along …
November 30: I’m a Mess
I cried last night. And the night before, and the day before that, and last Saturday in a parking lot, too. The tears were mostly unexpected but they all happened for the same reason, namely: I am lonely. I am lonely, and I am realizing it more and more.
One of the main reasons: my lack of success with the people at church. My hopes for them were so high, but lately, it’s all come to nothing. Well—not nothing, exactly; I still see them every Sunday. We laugh and we talk and we set up chairs. But my calls, texts and emails have often gone unanswered and I haven’t spent time with anyone outside of the services yet. It’s kind of like the problem with the moms’ group I’m in: it’s not that we don’t like each other, because we do.
It’s just that we aren’t all that close.
And that’s not all the bad friends news I have for you today. Last night I hosted a party at my home for my new neighborhood acquaintances that I told you about. My hopes for the gathering were high, just as they usually are in this situation.
It will be so much fun, I think as I plan the food, buy the flowers. We will all laugh and talk and bond, and maybe by the time we’re done we will have formed a group.
Inevitably, though, when the day of the party comes, my feelings about the situation are very different: I just want to bail.
Yesterday was one of those days, and, possibly not coincidentally, it was also one of Those Days. The kind you wish you could just erase from your mind by shaking an Etch-A-Sketch.
Why was it so hard? Well that’s the thing: It wasn’t. It was just a day. I just woke up with the baby (after not quite enough sleep, I admit), drank coffee and played and hung out, all as usual. We had a nice time seeing a friend from church, taking a walk together. But as the afternoon wore on, I became more and more easily annoyed and by the time the party began, I was on the verge of tears.
So, I gave the baby to Jack for a while and went to the grocery store for some alone time. Before I went in I sat in the car for a while, thinking and praying, trying to figure out what had gone wrong.
A couple of possibilities came to mind. Baby overload? Stomach bloating, feeling fat? But nothing I came up with really seemed to explain the emotions. Then, another thought: Would I be feeling this bad, I wondered, if I didn’t have this party to host tonight?
And the answer, I decided, was no. Now, it probably wouldn’t’ve been a five-star day; it just wasn’t in the cards. But would I be feeling this sense of despair? I doubted it.
I just really didn’t want to have the party.
And so, I did what I usually do under these circumstances: I prayed. In this case, I prayed that all of the guests would call to tell me they weren’t coming, and that Jack and I could celebrate by putting our pajamas on and watching TV.
However, that is not what happened. What happened was that we had the party and it was fine . . . but I had the distinct impression that everyone there felt exactly the same way I did.
I was sure they would’ve rather been at home.
The party was scheduled for four o’clock to seven o’clock and everyone came around four forty-five and left around six thirty. It was the shortest dinner I’ve ever eaten with eight adults and five children.
So there was that to be grateful for, at least.
Anyway, after it was over I was in a worse mood than ever—and I had no idea what to do about it. I tried to take a walk, but it was too cold. I tried to talk to my husband, but I just ended up yelling at him. I tried eating, but that just made me feel worse. Finally, I said, “Screw it. This day isn’t going to get better; it just needs to get done.” Then I went to bed.
While there, I had a realization. I realized that there was something I could learn from that day—something very important. What I learned was this: I’m a mess.
See, normally I think pretty highly of myself—much too highly, maybe. I mean, it’s good to like yourself and all, but when in your heart you think you’re better than other people, that’s when I think you’ve crossed the line.
And that is what I have done; I have crossed that line too many times to count.
And so last night, when it hit me that I’m a mess, just like those other people to whom I compare myself so favorably and so often, it was a realization to be thankful for. Because it’s true—I really was a mess.
I was cranky, and moody. I was unforgiving and angry. I was impatient and self-centered and negative and depressed—and for no good reason at all.
And, truth be told, I still am. Right now, as I sit here, I am on the verge of tears. My heart is sad and lonely and I am trying to think of a way to feel better but I can’t. Earlier today my cell phone rang and my first thought was, I hope that’s a friend. And just a minute ago as I sat here in the car with the baby napping in the backseat, a van I didn’t recognize pulled partly up our driveway and again I found myself hoping that it was someone stopping by for a visit. As they backed up and turned around, all I could think was, I am tired of being alone.
Like I said: I’m a mess.
I am lonely. I am flawed. I depend too much on things and people for my happiness.
I am vulnerable.
And if I were a more spiritual person, this would not be the case. I’d be strong all the time. I’d be able to face much bigger problems than I have with barely a blink of the eye.
I would be at least a little invincible.
Someday, after this life is over, I will be invincible. But that is not me now—not really, not at my deepest core. I am weak, just like everybody else. And now, I know it.
And that, at least, is a gift.
Thank you, God, for that gift. Now, then: How to get back to feeling good?
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