I’ve lost my inner peace. It’s hiding, like maybe in my kidney or something.
“You always see the glass as half empty,” says Hot Firefighter Husband. I thought about this a couple of weeks ago while I floated down the lazy river at Discovery Cove in Orlando. Discovery Cove is a magical fake tropical island where you can snorkel with sting-rays that don’t sting and swim with dolphins that act happy. It’s surrounded by a lazy river which meanders through organized tropical foliage. It even drifts through a fabulous aviary filled with real live flamingos and colorful macaws, and through a lovely stone cave decorated with fake stalagmites. Or stalactites. Whatever. They’re not real.
Anyway, I thought about my glass-half-empty tendency as I floated, and tried to shed it, at least for the moment. I gazed up at the sky and nature’s moving fresco of clouds, and admired the contrast of green trees against the white tableau. I closed my eyes and breathed deeply; a light summer breeze tickled my sunburnt face. For a moment, two minutes maybe, I felt something close to contentment. And then, honest to Neptune, thunder cracked, the skies opened up, and staff ordered everyone out of the river.
“I DO NOT VIEW THE GLASS AS HALF EMPTY,” I told Husband later. “I’m just constantly waiting for someone to knock the glass over, and then nobody will have any damn water.”
I’m so tired. I want to take my brain out of my head and put it into the freezer for a while so it can rest. “Do you need to go away for a couple of days?” asked Husband. Yes. No. I’m afraid it would be like taking some Ativan for a broken bone. I’d feel better while I was gone, but sooner or later the bone needs to be reset.
I walked on the beach with a friend who asked me to name my top five problems. I did. “Oh honey,” she said. “You think you suck at everything right now, don’t you.” And I burst into tears.
I don’t suck at everything. I actually don’t suck at anything, really, except maybe writing thank you notes. I’m really really bad about writing thank you notes, and yes, ironic, I know. But my inner peace is missing, and inner peace is like a person’s private super supportive camp counselor, making sure all body parts and brain matter are behaving and being nice to each other and singing Kumbaya around the campfire every night. Without inner peace, my entire being is jumpy, like my innards are hurtling around and crashing, yelling at each other to get out of the way, something’s wrong, somebody around here isn’t doing her damn job!
Many of you let Jesus handle your inner peace. I get that. I think it’s a similar concept, in fact. It’s not like Jesus is a Fairy Godmother who pays mortgages and makes sure it doesn’t rain on wedding days. You shouldn’t pray for those sorts of things anyway, in my opinion, although who am I to judge? I long ago let organized religion drift out of my life.
But the Tyrant recently brought it home like a lost cat. “Mom,” she said. “My friend got ashes on her forehead. I wanna go someplace to get ashes.” I explained “church” to her, and God, and how it wasn’t actually a giant letter “t” on top of that building down the road. She was intrigued, and asked to go. Now, Husband and I have avoided taking our children to church, what with organized religion ruining the world and all. But as a recovering Catholic, I recognize the value of community, and the clarity and wisdom a person can find in the comfort of ritual and routine. So I took her to a nearby Episcopalian church that isn’t too Jesus-y – the priests there talk more about kindness and love. By this time the Pterodactyl was interested, too. After a few weeks – “Mom,” the girly said. “I want to eat the bread.” Sigh.
I spoke with the priest – a woman! – and she said we could baptize the kids and then they could take communion. So that’s what happened. We baptized the children in front of a small congregation and now they are Christians and they eat the bread and have discovered that the wine is gross.
This has been good for the Tyrant. She listens to the priest’s sermons, and tells me she learns from them. One week the priest spoke of making a place in your heart for Jesus to live, and even lay down. The Tyrant told me she has been trying to make a bed for Jesus in her heart, but didn’t quite understand why. “Instead of Jesus, you can say ‘love.’ Or ‘kindness,'” I told her. “Make a bed for kindness and love in your heart, so you can always find it there.” Don’t let it get trapped in your kidney, I could have added.
The Jesus thing doesn’t work for me any more. I don’t think there’s a conscious being listening to me, a god that blesses America and will keep Trump from winning the presidency. But I believe in prayer, in some form, as a transformative tool in the battle against life’s chaos because it can create positive energy, and people who march through their days with positive energy can change the world.
The brilliant writer Anne Lamott says prayer can be silence or wonder, or even rage. In her book Help Thanks Wow: The Three Essential Prayers, she writes that those are the only three sentiments a person ever really needs to say when praying: help, thanks, and wow. And the words don’t have to be directed toward a god, or Buddha, or anyone or anything other than the great surrounding expanse.
“So prayer is our sometimes real selves trying to communicate with the Real, with Truth, with the Light,” Lamott writes. “It is us reaching out to be heard, hoping to be found by a light and warmth in the world, instead of darkness and cold. Even mushrooms respond to light – I suppose they blink their mushroomy eyes, like the rest of us.”
Prayer, for me, is a solitary walk in the woods with no electronics, or quietly holding hands with my daughter. Listening to morning birdsong, or watching Buddy the Wonder Dog jump an ocean wave. But I’m not praying much at all these days, and it has affected me. I’m tired and internally wounded, and when I’m struggling, the family struggles, too. The friend and I agreed I need to carve out more space in my days to fix what ails me. We didn’t call it prayer, but that’s what it is – a sustained effort to identify the real and the true in my life.
Meeting with the friend, in fact, was a sort of prayer. I made time for it; we walked four miles on the beach, me with no shoes, and now I have big blood blisters on the souls of my feet. I cried and laughed and let my friend hug me even though I felt sucky, and by the end of the walk I appreciated the pain in my feet because it meant I had been on a journey.
My inner peace remains hidden, but it’s maybe peeking out. This morning I watched the light spread across the yard, and I sat still for a very long time listening to the birdsong. Then I drank some coffee and typed out all these words, and it helped.