It had been a week of frustration piled on top of irritation with a side of Seriously...WTF?!
Internet failures, freeway madness, sixth grade math homework. A document management system that was managing only to short-circuit everything I tried to accomplish at work. And the disturbing news that soon there would be not one but TWO new Wal-Marts in my (there goes the) neighborhood. (Sorry, Wal-Mart fans...feel free to sound off in the comment box.)
I knew I wasn't handling matters in the most skillful way, but didn't realize how sadly victim-y I'd become until I walked out my front door one evening to get the mail, looked up at the clear night sky and asked (out loud - and loudly), Where the hell is the moon?!
Well...the poor moon was probably hiding from me for fear that I would look at it wrong and weaken its gravitational pull, wrecking all sorts of havoc on our planet.
Yes, I had indeed crashed my own pity party, in a most unattractive way. And I was officially being kicked out.
Sitting on the freeway the next morning (ironically, with a gorgeous view of the moon), I recognized the absence of God, the lengths to which I'd gone (again) to shut Him out (again). As is true every time it happens, the separation felt worse than ever, the fear of never coming out of it bigger than ever. I knew that trying to pray would only shine an even brighter spotlight on the depth of the disconnect. If there was to be a 180-degree turn-around it would have to happen one degree at a time, with prayer not becoming a real possibility until somewhere around degree number 125.
Nothing was obvious and it seemed a sort of amnesia had taken hold. So as I made my way out of the downward spiral, I created a road map, a collection of small steps that began to melt away the resistance and orient me in the direction of connection. I secretly hoped that the existence of such a map would ensure its future obsolescence. (It hasn't. I've unfolded it countless times since.)
Small step #1: Ask What if? What if I could feel God? What would I believe about who He is, where He is, what He wants for me? The answers never change. Even when I can't feel Him, my idea of God is a river of truth that continues to flow beneath the sheet of icy, human-made resistance. When the emotional connection is absent, I can always rely on logic and reason to open the door to that truth...if I remember to ask the question.
Small step #2: I had to admit without judgment the extent to which I had allowed circumstances beyond (way beyond) my control to determine my happiness. Harder still, I had to decide to stop doing that. I didn't have to stop not liking what was going on. I did have to stop fighting it.
Small step #2.5 (a baby step within a small step, because (at least for me) step two is hard): I had to accept that acceptance doesn't come all at once. The challenges - the freeway, the homework, the document management system, the impending Wal-Marts - were still part of my reality, an undertow of suffering patiently waiting for me to stumble. So even as I worked through the steps that followed, I had to keep coming back to step two.
Small step #3: I had to acknowledge my capacity for happiness. Not to be confused with being happy. That came later. Step #3 is simply about remembering that I have been happy before, that there have been plenty of times in my life when I've seen and felt God. This remembering is a tiny leap of faith that closes the gap between what is and what can be...based on the truth of what has been.
With the foundation of steps 1-3, I had a little breathing room, cracks through which beauty and creativity and possibility might slip through almost undetected, so that I could begin to feel again. In This Is Not The Story You Think It Is...Laura Munson writes, "I will be ultimately empowered by my commitment to not suffer. It's a way of life. A way to life."
Here was my opportunity to make choices that would bring me back to life.
The number of ways to experience God are as infinite as God Himself, and we each carry within us a unique blueprint for what makes life meaningful and joyful and beautiful. Part of being human is studying the details of that blueprint, figuring out the circumstances and conditions that need to be in place in order for us to be our best selves, doing those things, and then rediscovering them when we lose our way. It's easy to make choices that sustain and cultivate a connection to God when things are going well, and just as easy to forget when things are not.
Small step #4: I recognized all the ways I'd gotten away from my blueprint and committed to reconnecting with it. In doing so, I regained some perspective, made my way back to myself, and made space once again for God to be God.
• I listened to music, especially songs that capture life itself, somehow managing to hold within their lyrics and chords and choruses all the mystery, the magic, the longing, the poignancy, the heartbreaking, the rebuilding and everything in between. Songs like this.
• I started paying attention again to all the beauty I had not been letting in: the sound and mountain view from my office at work, the enchanting birch tree in my backyard, the always-a-different-shade-of-blue lake that more than makes up for the crawling commute.
• I looked at the evidence of God that lives on my phone. Who knew that the best thing about having an iPhone would be the camera? It takes amazing photos and it's helping me see the world with new eyes.
• I found a way to move, because movement gets me out of my head and into my body and opens the channels for the creative, proactive, solution-oriented voices to be heard. I can't always drop everything and run to the gym, but I can force myself to go outside for a walk. And the benefits of having an office with a door that closes go beyond being able to cry in private about the new document (mis)management system. I can also do yoga in there. I can put on a song that demands to be danced to (like this one).
• I got out of my own story. As simple as a water cooler conversation with a co-worker (those conversations, in my experience, are often highly underrated), a good book, movie, blog, episode of This American Life or On Being, or any show involving some form of cooking and competition (hey, guilty pleasures are pleasures, too).
• And, of course...Pinterest. The perfect antidote to fatigue, lack of inspiration, and less-than-stellar moods of every variety.
I could go on, but now it's your turn.
I want to know what kind of beauty most easily fits through the cracks of the resistance you run up against, and the small steps you take to find yourself when you find yourself lost.
What have you discovered about the details of your own happiness blueprint? What music is on your Get Back To God playlists? Which books, movies, television, and radio do you turn to? What are your favorite on- and off-line resources? Your (guilty or not) pleasures?
Writing it down will help you remember. Sharing it will help the rest of us consider new possibilities in those human moments when we just can't seem to find the moon.
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