When I was 18 years old and life felt just about impossible I thought about killing myself. I considered it. I didn’t think about the way I would do it or the timing, I thought only about the people I would leave behind. I wondered who would care. I wondered what people would say. I wondered if my mother would cry. The thoughts only lasted a few days. I casually told a friend one night over noodles. She gave me a sad sort of smile and said something along the lines of, “but you won’t, right?” She was right. I wouldn’t. But, not because I didn’t want to, but because I somehow had the uncanny ability to remain unscathed as fires burned around me. Most people I came into contact with chalked it up to luck. You’re lucky that although your mother is a raging alcoholic and your brother is a drug addict and that none of what goes on behind closed doors is okay, you’re like you are. Occasionally, someone would mutter something about someone looking out for me as they pointed their face, briefly, upwards.
I didn’t believe in God because I had no conception of God and so Luck and I held hands and kept going. Abuse. College. Rape. I never considered death as an option. I continued to smile. I continued to laugh and invest in a social life, friends, cute tops I only wore once. But, I never considered God.
One night, luck would have it, I stumbled into an AA meeting. It wasn’t an accident. It wasn’t a miracle. It just was. I sat in a pew and craned my neck to listen to some older woman who looked, as a friend of a friend put it, like she led a “simple life.” She smiled and chatted about the tomatoes she’d eaten for dinner and the way she said “please” and “thank you” each day to God. Please. Thank you. Each and every morning and night. That seemed like a lot of work. And for what? An invisible friend?
Though, I didn’t feel particularly called to God, I did start to ask questions. Who was this person and could I have one too? Did it matter what they looked like? Did they have to be a “he?” Could I see them for coffee ever? Was God like a 24-7 hotline? Was God open on holidays? Laugh as you may, these were the sincere questions I would ponder for the months leading up to finding a God that made sense to me.
I wasn’t raised religious and I had no intention of adding another relationship to the crumbling stack on my shoulders. But, I’ve come to understand we rarely choose the really true things. The really true things have a way of showing up. Always. Especially when we least expect it.
I hit my knees the first time I ever spoke at an AA meeting. A dingy bathroom. Gross tile. I was scared and felt lonely and I’d heard that this is what people did for relief, so I did it too. I didn’t feel any differently when I rose. I spoke my story to a room full of people who all responded in their sweet, honest way. But, there was no God that I could feel, no aha moment to share, no unicorns and rainbows. Just me. And an echoey silence.
I didn’t have a God moment, I didn’t know what a God moment was, until last March. March was the month I truly started to talk to God, to treat God like the second person in the room, to confront her when I needed help, when I was scared or scarred, or in love, or broken-hearted. God became my right-hand woman. Me and God. God and I. It was God and I on the floor at 2 o’clock in the morning when no-one would answer my texts. It was God and I when I announced to a room full of familiar faces, that this was day one for the fourth, fifth, sixth time. It was God and I when I felt misunderstood, anxious, at the end of my rope.
God always picks up. She always answers. She. Always. Shows. Up. But, just because she does, doesn’t mean I do. I’m stubborn. People say, hit your knees and I mutter slowly before I drift off to sleep. People say, don’t ask for you ask for them and I spend minutes asking for every last thing on my list. People say, God and I say Mine. That’s the connection. That’s what matters most. It doesn’t matter what Mine looks like. It just matters that they’re not yours. It just matters that they’re not you.
I’ve started to trust God more. I converse with God on a daily basis. Sometimes without even realizing it. Sometimes it’s all I can do in a day. Sometimes it doesn’t feel like enough. That’s how I found myself for a few weeks torn up about the question my friend, Bethany, asked me one night. She’d asked me what I prayed for because she said sometimes she didn’t know what to ask for. Usually, I would rapid-fire back a response: health, healing, hope. Or, an easy commute. Or, coffee. But, none of those answers felt…right. What I wanted to say was more than a few short sentences. What I wanted to say was I spent a lifetime trying to solve everything alone, only to figure out that it’s a losing game. What I wanted to say was leaning on God is the only way I make it through more days than I’d like to admit. What I wanted to say were the words passed down to me by countless women, written by the God-send herself, Anne Lamott: help, thanks, wow.
I don’t know if there is a right way to pray or a wrong one. I don’t know what you pray for and really, I don’t truly care. I’d just advise a solid higher-power figure to anyone who finds themselves lost, with questions they don’t trust any human with, or with answers they can’t find solace in. I’d say find a quiet spot, look up, and say hi. It doesn’t have to be bigger than that. Or it can be. You’ll start to find that God shows up in impossible ways at impossible times. I like to share this story with non believers:
One Sunday night when I’d first moved back to Boston, I asked my rapist (E) to meet me for coffee. We settled on the following Wednesday. My sponsor at the time advised me not to go–I wasn’t going to get the answers I wanted. She also told me I had no obligation to let E off the hook. I didn’t cancel, but Wednesday morning came around and E did. I bitched and moaned for the entire day. I wasn’t going to show up, BUT how could E cancel? This wasn’t about her. This was entirely about me. A new AA friend told me she’d take me to a meeting to clear my head. The meeting was a new, Buddhist one she’d heard was good and healing. Perfect. Boston is a pretty small city, but there are tons of meetings throughout. I felt pretty confident when I walked into the space, until I looked up and saw E. There. She was sitting on the couch, laughing. E in the flesh. E on the couch that I too would sit on for the next 90 minutes. Maybe you’ll say it was just happenstance. Maybe you’ll say it was a coincidence easily explained by consulting a list of meetings and times. I call it God. That meeting healed me in ways no coffee could have. I still carry the scars, but I don’t carry the fear. God moment.
Tonight, I stumbled upon these lines in a poem: “You cannot sneak through life.” I sincerely hope you don’t sneak through yours anymore. I understand that I was and am never alone. I don’t chalk surviving my past up to luck anymore, I thank my God that she took such incredible care of me when no one else did. I don’t think it was a miracle I never hurt myself, I think I knew just enough to know I was taken care of. I do know that isn’t everyone’s experience. I do know that my conversations with God are in the top three most important things to me. I do know that it doesn’t really matter what I pray for, what really matters is that I do. I do know that you can’t sneak through this life, because even when you don’t think anyone hears you, they do. I sincerely hope that you ask yourself the God questions and then stick around and listen. You might not like what you hear at first, but you’ll learn to love, in a better, brighter way, the answers.