In 1991 I bought a Journal. One of those large, over-sized, old fashioned Journals that they used to use for accountancy, only this one had graph paper pages. I really liked the pale blue square boxes all over the pages. I thought the symmetry would be good for me since I'd be using is as a prayer journal.
When I was little I heard of a saint or someone who said to live your life as if it were a prayer, and the idea nestled in my heart and called me Home. It simply sounded more true than right even. I had started writing the summer of 1969 and by the summer of 1970, when I turned 14, I was writing poetry, journalling and praying in written form every day, as I have done ever since.
Why not a pretty book, or a fancy book, or a hand-made book? Simple. They were too dear. Too precious for daily use. I needed something work-a-day, something not so fine I had to live up to it. I needed the blue-jean version of a notebook. Something that could hold up over time, not be too precious for all my wretchedness, yet something that stood out from my everyday journal notebooks.
My life is full of 3 hole, college ruled, one or three topic notebooks. I have at least 15 storage banker-boxes of journals in storage now, plus the shelf of unused ones in my living room, and the many boxes of full ones around the house. But I digress...
I wanted a working-class special book that didn't draw attention to itself. This journal did the job.
I began writing my prayers, writing what was on my heart, what I felt I needed help with around the time I got sober, November 17, 1991. I was living in LA at the time. I'd been there for 4 years.
I started asking for help to get sober, to stay sober, not not drink, to deliver me from pain, to help me with fear. I was grateful to be sober even when I didn't like it. I was grateful for the people in my life, particularly not the ones I was having trouble with. I was grateful for meetings, for knowing there as a different way even when I couldn't see it. I was grateful for the wisdom I heard all around me – to not limit the Universe to my lack of imagination; to say the prayer, “god, fill me up!” whenever I felt a need.
I asked for help with my job, or with dealing with the people at my job, or my family, or my loneliness.
I was grateful to have a job; I was really grateful to be living in LA. The people didn't make much sense to me, I felt like a stuffed teddy bear in the land of Barbie and Ken, but I met real people at meetings, and every day when I drove home and the air was clear enough to see the Hollywood sign, I laughed out loud in utter delight. Strains of Talking Heads, "My god! what have I done!? letting the days go by.... "
I was in pain, and I was grateful, everyday. I accepted this was what trudging the road of happy destiny looked like.
My spiritual practice at that time was writing, going to meetings and talking to my program friends, who were deeply spiritual and not religious, thank god.
Five months later the Rodney King verdict light LA on fire. The fierce grace that erupted that night, and stayed alight for 3 nights and 4 days, until the demented spin doctors and politicians arrived, was cathartic, scarey, revealing, instructive, illuminating and then – I'd had enough of the city. Any city.
At 6 months I bought myself an anniversary gift of a stunning hand-blown glass pitcher, packed up my belongings and moved to a town I'd never been to but had heard of. I moved to Port Townsend, WA. It was the first and only time I'd moved somewhere where I already had a phone number and address before I got there.
I lived about a block from the local AA-Al-anon club and immediately started going to meetings.
A month later I went to my first social function in town. I went to a 4th of July picnic at someone's property – a big, outdoor pot-luck picnic. The weather was about 45 degrees and rainy. I could not believe that it was 45 and rainy. No, that was decidedly real –but then surely it can't be the 4th of July. It was, frankly, like being in an episode of The Twilight Zone. Physical reality was making no sense what so ever.
Naturally I met a guy. I'd been in town 6 weeks – it was time, right? I certainly thought so. He was cute, had great hair, a lovely smile. His eyes had the smile lines that fan out, up and down, like happiness rays or angels wings. And his name was Tim, the same name as my 1st love – the unrequited one, not the real first love who'd fight and tease and always be there for me in every way.
I was kind of holding myself together okay until the afternoon when he kissed me. I was sitting in my car, about to leave his place. I can't remember why I was there. I suspect I had engineered some fictitious reason to go over there – knowing me I'd just shown up over there, uninvited and unannounced, wrapped in a pretense no one believed but me.
He leaned in and kissed me. No rush, no tentativeness, just definitely. Oh my. Oh my, oh my, oh my. I was … stunned. Delighted. Gone. In that moment I was sitting on the porch, shelling peas in the sunset, waiting for him to come home with the grand kids for dinner after 35 years of marriage.
Then I opened my eyes. Those winged eyes were looking at me, amused. Yea, he still had it.
Oh my. I knew I was in trouble. Big trouble. I knew I was gone, gone, gone and that I would be no help to me at all, at all, as my mother would say when she was putting on her Irish. I was as gone this time as I had been when I was 14 and looked into the first Tim's beautiful, sparkling blue eyes with the gold flecks in them when he asked me, “what kind of snow cone would you like?” that first day I met him. He'd had the winged, smiling eyes too. I was in so much trouble.
I journalled in my prayer book – for him to like me too. For him to want to be with me; for me to be “self-respecting” this time, and not just roll over for a man. I prayed to stop thinking about him. I prayed to stop feeling so bad when I wasn't with him, eaten up with insecurity and obsession, weakness and fear. I prayed to find some other distraction, some other occupation or interests. I prayed to be relived from this fever that had overtaken me.
The I wrote a poem, not a prayer. Only it was almost like a communique, a monologue of what my body had to say. It was mesmerizing, long, detailed, gripping and terrifying. A coup, really, and this was its manifesto.
My body let me know, in no uncertain terms, that it was taking over now.
"All this spiritual stuff was fine, but body has its own Prime Directive. The Doctor's might be First Do No Harm, and Star Trek's had something to do with not interfering, but body's Prime Directive is simpler than that; plainer, more absolute.
“You can have all your spiritual stuff, the striving and the unworldly stuff, or whatever it is. But there's no way to know if you've reached it or not, and it's not in my language, I don't understand what it's all about. But here's what I do know. After 35 years it is time I get some satisfaction. I am a body, built for breeding, for making other bodies, and this man is the man to do that with. It is time. I'm giving you fair warning – I have my own prime directive – the populate the planet, to propagate the race, to make babies. We've stopped that from happening a few times now. Twice you stopped me, and twice they weren't viable. Well, I hereby declare and warn you – I am taking over now. I was built to make babies, and my expiration time is coming up soon, so now is MY time. I've had to deal with your spiritual mam-bee-pam-bee stuff long enough whether I liked it or now. So now you take a back seat. I, body, and my biological imperative are taking over, like it or not.
“We've been chasing your illusive, vague spiritual thing for decades now. Let some part of us get satisfaction – you may not be sure what satisfaction is but I sure as hell know. Sex is deeply satisfying, and it is best when it is deeply spiritual, so in that we can both be satisfied. And then having a baby, being a family, will make things right. It will make all things righter, anyway. Let's do this. Let me, body, fulfill my prime directive and you'll all get the benefits of that. You'll see. Just don't cross me, because I am certain, and I am hereby in control.”
This journal-conversation-declaration scared the shit out of me, and I felt deeply ashamed, too. To be that needy, to have a part of me take over like that, and of course my chronic fear of someone thinking I was crazy, talking about "parts of me" and things like that. And the hiding shame of being taken over like this; it didn't matter what he said or wanted – from here on out, whether I wanted to or not, some big part of me was hunter and he was prey.
I couldn't bear it all, so I wrote the prayer to be able to let it all go, let it all go, but the lock had already stuck. I had been taken hostage by this part of me; the determination was set, no matter how much I protested otherwise.
Things escalated and not smoothly. People know when you have an agenda even if you “don't know” you have one. Especially the person that is the focus, the Object of your desire.
I'm not a good liar. I can only do it if I have some very large lies to myself in place first, and even then others see through them. Even people who do not belief one little bit in the whole psychic thing know when someone is lying and/or manipulating. And I was so besotted. It is a heady combination – adoration and manipulation.
I did not know I was manipulating. What I knew was that I liked him, that I wanted to be with him, that I felt safe and lovely with him, and that I wanted to be connected, in relationship again. What's wrong with that? It had been such a long time already.
Then my father died.
We'd always had a complicated relationship. He'd been mad at me for leaving LA to go further away. “How can I help you if you're so far away?!” he'd yelled over the phone. I was stunned. When had he helped me? My experience of his helping me was by his not helping me, to teach me self reliance I supposed. My childhood had not equipped me for supporting myself or life in general, and he blamed me for that.
Then he was dead.
It took me a long time to grok that. It wasn't that the center of gravity had moved as much as the center of gravity had … left. I was beyond unmoored; I was adrift in space.
For about 6 weeks I felt as if there was a dull ax lodged in my skull. The only time I felt a little okay was when I was with Tim. Tim, who's daily goal was “to be a nice guy,” his daily amends and atonement for the grievances and sins the held against himself. He attending the church of “be a nice guy” daily as alter boy and cleric. Being a “nice guy” was the only thing that kept him from the tortures of recrimination, his daily reprieve from insanity since he couldn't bring himself to believe in a higher power, except the humming bird.
My own pain and suffering was too great, too all-consuming for me to have seen that then.
If we'd been white water rafting and I'd been taco'd out of the boat, this is the point in the rescue where the person in the boat would have had to push me away from the boat to prevent me from pulling them in with me. “Nice guy” survival imperative does not allow for such contingencies. His survival depended on his being seen as a Nice Guy, and I was a grieving, frail girl-woman. That would have taken a cruelty, confidence or conviction that he did not have. He was not equipped to push me away from the boat.
In my prayer journal I asked to be relieved, of the pain, the obsession, of the fear he didn't love me as much as I loved him. I asked for understanding, and direction, and redemption.
I was crazed with fear that he didn't like me as much as I liked him. I would ask him if that was true – ask him to tell me the truth, oblivious to the position I was putting him in.
“Please, I am dying here. I am starving and you are the only food my body won't reject. Is it okay if I eat you alive, or not? Which is it? I just need to know, one way or another.”
I thought I was being clear, adult and straightforward. I knew he hid behind “nice guy” but my own pain was so consuming it never occurred to me he was desperate for his own survival and redemption.
I prayed for us to be happy together. I absolutely could not see what the problem was, other than him.
If he would just love me back, everything would be okay.
And during the times he tried, when he applied himself to the task of letting us be a happy couple together, it was heaven, wasn't it. Wasn't it?
It all could not have been more picture perfect. The good looking man and woman. The artisan, craftsman cabinet maker and the poet. The cozy cabin in the waterway, overlooking the inlet to the shores not too near, not too far away. At night the cabin lights across the way and their long reflections in the still water looked like musical notes in the night. The beautifully set table, the expertly cooked organic foods, the art and music everywhere.... this was The perfect picture I had dreamed of for so long. To look at it, I had it all, everything I'd ever wanted. That's what made me crazy. The picture was 95% complete, so how could there be a problem! It was only 5% off – I could live with that, surely.
But when the 5% off is in the cornerstone, when it is the foundation 5% that is off, everything else being right on can't make up for it.
I had heard of the sin-eater in the Twilight Zone, but what I experienced was I had become The Emotion Carrier. I was the live wire for unowned emotions. I was aware of carrying his unwanted emotions, but oblivious to my own.
In the 12 step world there's a saying about when you are pointing a finger at someone else, there are 4 pointing back at you. It takes the hand gesture for that to make sense maybe but the point is that when you get clear on someone else's “defects” it's time to start looking for where and how you do the same thing. Keeping “your side of the street” cleaned up is the point, instead of worrying about someone else's side of the street.
Behind being a long-suffering, grieving poet who had nothing but love and admiration for her man, I was a raging, angry, wounded animal who only knew how to get relief from others. Since that is not possible, you know my satisfaction levels were pretty low. Still, my determination was high.
I love how the Aussie's say, “she fell pregnant.” I fell pregnant in September-October, coming up on the first anniversary of my father's death.
When I'd been back home for my father's funeral, my long time emotional dad and family priest, Fr. Perusina, had told me something that sounded like him but crazy. He said not to worry about what would become of me. Told me to return to Port Townsend and if I got pregnant, everything would work out okay.
Well, when I fell pregnant, I tried to believe that. I wished it to be true. I prayed to be guided and for Trust. I tried to be joyful about the pregnancy but it wasn't going well.
I know it was the last time in my life I'd have a chance to be a mom. It was the first time in my life I said I wanted the baby. I wanted to want the baby. The notion of “family” was so strong, surely I'd be okay if I had a child and we'd have to become a family. I couldn't believe I'd turned into “one of those women” but I knew I could not live like I had been any longer.
Within a week of confirming that I was pregnant, I got a call. Fr. Perusina had died. My information was in his phone book, and his secretary said he had often spoken of me with great delight. She knew he'd want me to know.
Well, most every aspect of the family I'd always known was gone now. I must'v gotten pregnant around the time he died – maybe this baby was his way of gifting me somehow...
I haven't been here in a while but I hope you find this relatable or noteworthy. Feedback is gratifying. I am going for authenticity, but maybe it needs more humor? more gravitas? more details?
I thank you for your time and comments as the case may be.