One middle of the night a few months ago, I was half awake, tossing and turning, trying to run away from the incoherent thoughts racing through my mind. After an hour, no closer to sleep, I did something I haven’t done in years. I folded my hands and I prayed. I talked out the fuzzy thoughts and feelings with the one I know now as little G god, and the next thing I knew, the sun was up and I woke with a light heart and a calmed mind.
I stopped big G God praying several years ago and began a mediation practice, which is like prayer, only not a conversation with a deity. I find staying mindful and staying present for all feelings – good and bad – has brought me a greater sense of peace and understanding of who I am. But always in the back of my mind, I missed the deity. I missed the comfort of the one thing that got me and my brand of crazy.
After some thought about how I might reconnect with that deity, I realized how talking to big G God had often made me feel small and afraid to speak my truth. This wasn’t big G God’s fault. It was a simple matter of spelling. Stripping big G God of that big G did not diminish its greatness, but it brought it eye level with me, to a place where I would be heard and I could listen, even if both of us whispered.
I’m reading Anne Lamott’s book, “Help, Thanks, Wow,” a gift from a friend who I’m convinced is in cahoots with little G god because she is as close to understanding me without running away as anyone I know. She offers me shelter without judgment and honesty without making me feel wrong or ruined.
Praying Help, writes Lamott, is like saying, “Here. You deal with it,” and then waiting to hear back.
“The willingness to do such a childish thing comes from the pain of not being able to let go of something. The willingness comes from finding yourself half mad with obsession. We learn though pain that some of the things that we thought were castles turn out to be prison, and we desperately want out, but even though we built them, we can’t find the door. Yet maybe if you ask God for help in knowing which direction to face, you’ll have a moment of intuition. Maybe you’ll see at least one next right step you can take.”
Too often in my cries for help, I have already devised a solution. And so my intention now when praying Help is to sit in the quiet – of meditation, perhaps – and allow clarity to find me and work with the answer provided.
I have been praying Help all morning after learning that my Aunt Ethel is dying. Help that she be free from suffering, Help that her daughter, my mother, and Ethel’s family and friends find strength. Ethel dictated a note to her daughter that I wanted to share here because, to me, it exemplifies what it means to pray Help.
To my wonderful friends and relatives –
This is the most difficult letter I’ve ever had to write because it is my final one. I have been informed that I have 1 to 6 months to live. All of the medical issues I have been having are related to the metastatic lung cancer recently discovered.
Your wonderful cards and prayers have helped me through this difficult time. Now, however, rather than focusing on my getting well, I ask you to focus on a peaceful transition to my dwelling in the house of the Lord forever.
I’m sure I will be allowed to take my memories with me – and I have many with all of you.
I will love you forever, Ethel
I, too, will love Ethel forever, and I will honor her wishes and pray Help that she has a peaceful passing. A difficult thing to do, to be sure, because we prefer so much to pray for healing.
Pray Help. Breathe. Crying is OK, too. And may you find your way out of those prisons you thought were castles, and calm the obsessions that became your new normal.
My aunts and mother, circa 1936. Clockwise from top left: Mavis, Ethel, Doris, Ardith (my mom), and Helen