I am usually on a jam-packed freeway when I have the same thought I have when I am on a jam-packed airplane thirty-plus thousand feet in the air: I am tiny; therefore my problems are minuscule. These are great moments when suddenly the entire world, including the one that lives inside my head, shifts into perfect focus. Despite the drug-like high of this aha-moment, something disturbing niggles at me; taunts me like a fourth grade con-man trading a kindergartner a nickel for a dime–having convinced the youngster that bigger is better. I figure it out fairly quickly as I am taking the exit home: enlightenment is not a panacea; nor is it a miracle-drug, even when it feels like one–despite its miraculous size and feel.
Understanding how life works, that there is no resisting it, does not make it any easier to cope with the “part and parcel” atrocities. Just because I know that death is a natural part of life does not mean that I will not bawl uncontrollably, curse uncharacteristically, mask, hide, deny, fall apart…mourn forever. I will never be ready to lose someone I love. Period. There are no zen moments to cover the kind of grieving that arrives with those horrific curveballs thrown at light speed miles per hour–the ones that threaten to pin us to the ground forever. And this is what, right after the enlightened high has worn off and the right indicator light is still clicking, I am left with: the other shoe. When will it drop? Will I be ready? How can I prepare?
This is when I pray; not because I am religious, but because I know of no other way–other than driving into a ravine–to assuage any current or future grief. Praying feels good. It helps me. I like to think that my prayers have an energy that is attracted to other energy, that is attracted to…and so on and so forth, and that good things happen as the result of them. This might be enough to get me through, except for this awful enlightenment thing that feels a bit like intuition–or in darker moments, premonition. Tough times happen to everyone, and though humankind has come up with a plethora of mind-numbing substances to ease the pain, no one has transcended them.
I do not believe that those who have unshakable faith in an omniscient, omnipresent, omnipotent and omnibenevolent god get to escape my freeway epiphany either. Having supernatural faith may bring a certain kind of peace; the kind that comes from knowing that there is a greater power around to help when life gets incomprehensibly difficult, the kind that brings the blessed assurance that the God in Heaven above will explain everything; but even the most upstanding Christians I know are still suffering, despite the fact that Jesus was sacrificed–despite having Biblical answers to difficult questions.
I am nearly home when the dam breaks; warm tears of gratitude creating black rivers down my cheeks. Pulling over might be a good idea, but I don’t. Pulling myself together instead, I renew my commitment to live and let live; to do the best I can with the time I have been given, to enjoy the amazing people God or science has put into my life, to give more than I take, to develop the gifts I can manage to unwrap, to smile and laugh more, to eradicate guilt, and to keep worry in a teensy tiny box; reserving it only for those times when it spurs me into positive action.
The prayer I say before reaching my driveway winds up being something like this: Please forgive me for not understanding you, for praying as if I am a believer, when sometimes I am not. All I ask is that you will give me the grace, the love, and the strength I need to navigate whatever comes my way. Amen.
It’s what I’ve taken to praying for those who are experiencing tough times: Grace, love and strength for the journey. And then I pray that there is a Great Someone Somewhere to give it to them.
If you click here, you can hear me singing a very rough version of one of my favorite songs (1953) about faith, dedicated to my friend, Sandra: 20120616 165447
This is the mp3 version, for those who cannot open the link above: 6_16_12 4_54 PM