TRUTH ONE: I have never been a religious person.
Uncle Conrad was a Reverend at the United Church of Christ, a nondescript chapel located at the north end of my small town. At the age of five, my mother sat me down and asked, point blank, “do you want to go to church?”
I answered back, defiantly, “no!”
There was a reason for her deliberate inquisition.
Routinely, I would un-shackle my wrists from her constrictor grip and run, like a hellcat, up-and-down the carpeted aisle, screaming and giggling and pulling my pants down, reveling in the wave of laughter the congregation awarded me.
Uncle Conrad prayed for heavenly patience. His prayers...were answered.
So, on Sunday mornings, my sister’s and I would high-tail it to the living room, jump up on our old, worn davenport and watch, with curious fascination, the tiers of our quaint community promenade themselves down Center Street past our front window. Dressed in their finest wares, they offered themselves, once a week, before their altered God and doled out a healthy dose of allegiance.
TRUTH TWO: I never felt it.
In the Navy – at the naive age of seventeen, while studying medical technology in the frigid, sub-climates of Great Lakes, Illinois, I found baptism. By choice, I enlisted into a reverential pool of Presbyterian devotees. They offered a welcome sense of safety, a feeling of security and a sacred sanctuary of learned devotion. Should I carry through with my quest and follow their mission of trust, our circle of worship would guide me, hand-held into the shallow, cool water of initiation.
I, too, had a chance at redemption.
I, too, could find God.
TRUTH THREE: I never did. Or, quite possibly, God never found me.
I kept waiting for an answer, a feeling, a pulse of recognition. I imagined my God would respond like a warm wave, a tsunami of calm showering serenity over me and my Life like a light dusting of snow, allowing forward advancement in abundance, clarity, unwavering faith, and, of course...lots and lots of self-love.
A ‘happy ending’ was sure to follow. I was certain!
TRUTH FOUR: It didn’t happen.
With or without my weekly dosage of religious doctrine, my ‘free will’ to make different, more reckless choices took over. And won. My core beliefs, adopted, digested and processed early on from an unstable upbringing had already achieved full download status, perculating in my pre-adolescent, uber-sensitive system.
I was at a spiritual stalemate. I was running, again, like a hellcat down the carpeted aisles of my past, numbing, quite successfully my present, and focusing, far too much on an unrealistic future, a perfect setup for failure. At that time, it was far more fun abandoning those renegade thoughts than receiving any sort of blessed delivery. Youth is blind to the cachophony of warning signals.
Once again, I found myself in a quandary.
Not only was I battling the conflicted views of my own self worthiness, but now, I was balancing the judgmental badgering of religious dogma, adding additional fuel to the preverbal flame.
Good versus Evil. Sinner versus Saint. Perfection versus Imperfection. Worthy versus Unworthy.
TRUTH FIVE: I gave up. My attempted profession at sainthood squelched.
TRUTH SIX: God wasn’t answering.
REMEDY: I found therapy.
For years, while living in New York City, I attempted psychoanalysis. It too, proved empty and vague. And expensive. Without the underpinnings of a solid spiritual foundation hovering beneath me like a fall-net, my weekly meetings with Patience, (I know, go figure) my therapist were more about camouflaging my hidden self than engaging in honest, revelatory exposition. It wasn’t until I caught my beloved Patience reading a magazine article during one of my sessions that I confronted her – and quit! Seven years into it! Patience IS a virtue!
TRUTH SEVEN: I guess I didn’t work the program.
It was a time of wild, inhibition; a wacky, twisted period of reckless empowerment. I acted out self-destructive behaviors affirmatively in an effort to ‘find myself.’ Honestly, at that time, I’m not even sure I knew my acts of entitlement were destructive. Compulsive? Perhaps. But they succeeded, brilliantly in anesthetizing my pain, any pain, a growing pain that came from a divided self desperately searching for a light. Did these mind-altering acts serve me? Or, were they merely a path leading me further away from the person I longed to be, get closer to, become better acquainted with?
TRUTH EIGHT: Unfortunately, that time of my Life...lasted far too long.
Then, I was led by accident to an introduction into the magical qualities of gratitude.
My Life took a strange and familiar hold.
TRUTH NINE: A different kind of reverent peace embraced me.
No longer did I need.
"Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend."
I am in sincere gratitude for this fateful discovery and find reasons daily to offer thanks...
~ grateful for my health. I have lived a blessed life without illness.
~ grateful for my creative talent. In connecting with my artistic energy, I connect with a higher vibration of Divine creativity.
~ grateful for my work. A renewed faith that I will sustain myself and earn a living in the workforce, be it writing or other.
~ grateful for cultivating a community of like-minded, imaginative individuals invested in giving back, earning trust, loyalty and experiencing a sense of joyful camaraderie around and about the written word.
~ grateful for the opportunity to love and be loved. Lovers, past and present -- for one -- putting up with me. But, more importantly, showing me a mirror of myself. The necessity to grow beyond my human self and see me...through your eyes -- warts and all!
TRUTH TEN: The most important truth of all. A profound ‘thank you’ to you! Thank you, thank you, thank you! My journey here, today, my path to GRATITUDE would not be complete without you.
Complete and utter GRATITUDE!