Trying to calm myself amid the chaos, and Jesus not taking the wheel

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.IMG_0180

“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.

28 responses to Trying to calm myself amid the chaos, and Jesus not taking the wheel

  1. Sheila says:

    Thank you.
    Hope I can be a prayer in your life sometime soon.
    A prayer served with coffee.
    Or wine.
    Or gin.
    I mean it cuz my inner peace comes and goes like the tide.
    Today was a good day and the tide lingered.
    Thank you.

    • tricia says:

      Sheila, yes, we must suspend our busy lives soon and investigate the tide together.

  2. Madeleine Holland says:

    I would love to walk those miles with you! I will say, that as disappointed as I am in “the Church,” my parish is so full of wonderful people who are working so hard to make a difference in this world. I have a lot of doubts, and so do my kids, but I try to encourage them to think about their time in mass being like a meditation session, Ponder the ways that you can be a better person, etc. Love is what this world need more of…xoxo

    • tricia says:

      I like the way you’ve handled it – inspiring. And I really, really hope we can walk at least a few miles together one day soon. Miss good peeps like you. xoxo

  3. Carolyn says:

    I found some inner peace after adjusting my serotonin levels this spring. I highly recommend looking into it–it has been a great change for all of us. I nearly made a billboard for Lexapro.
    But I hear meditation is helpful, if you can find time and space for it. Hugs to you, Tricia. Love, Carolyn

    • tricia says:

      Thanks for the reminder – will make an appointment today. Cymbalta is my helper of choice, though ; ) xoxox

  4. Christine says:

    Tricia, this offering touches me deeply. I would like to suggest that I or some other therapist could help you with a good healing massage session. I don’t work a lot any more, I save my energy for a session like this so …..I’m offering. You are SUCH a good writer and this piece was brutally honest and raw. I happen to agree with you on everything.

    • tricia says:

      Thank you so much, friend…I will be in touch soon. I would love to have coffee with you, too. You are good peeps. xo

  5. Carol Harris says:

    I have found through the years that an antidepressant will just not work anymore after a period of time.. My PA, a woman at my Internist’s office is good about changing it and tries me on different ones till I am regulated again. Good Luck & God Bless! I also totally identify with your whole God-thing having been raised Carholic and branching out. Now am OK with silent prayers to God!

    • tricia says:

      Thanks, Carol…nice to hear from a fellow recovering Catholic. And about the prayer….exactly. xo

  6. Matz says:

    While I hate to dispense advice, as I have been the recipient of much of it throughout my journey through mental and chronic illness, I will let you know that I empathize. I pray that you will discover what it is that presents itself as a void, or obstacle, to achieving inner peace, or that you will determine if this is indeed a void which requires filling with anything at all. You are the only one who can, and will, journey to find that answer. I am quite confident that you will, indeed, end up enjoying the process, however long it takes.

    • tricia says:

      Thanks forever for your faith in me, and your admission of sympatico. Sometimes illness is invisible, friend. xoxo

  7. Leigh D. Muller says:

    I don’t know how you can be in the dark, when you shed such brilliant light. Holding you close, dear one, and wishing you clarity, hope, and peace.

    • tricia says:

      What a beautiful thing to say, friend. Thanks for your warm thoughts and love. xo

  8. Gale says:

    Hey Booker, This is grief, my friend. It doesn’t tickle, it never will. You have to make your peace with it. Somehow. Time is essential, lots of it. It takes time. But, look at the love coming at you. Aim some of it my way, please. But seriously, several things helped me after my mom died. A brief grief group, a little bit of talk therapy one on one, and praying for my mom. Not to god, cause why? I simply spent a few minutes here and there during my day and repeating, May you not suffer, may you know peace. And that brought me some relief. May you know peace, my dear one.

    • tricia says:

      You are so wise. Thank you from the bottom of my heart for being my friend. And endless supplies of love headed your way. xo

      • Gale says:

        Oh, another thing that helped me was writing – something that you are extraordinarily talented at. Keep writing. It’s who you are, it’s how your brain works, and through it you will find your way. In time. xxoo xxoo.

        • tricia says:

          I’m trying. I’ve fallen off the wagon, but I’m climbing back on. xoxo

  9. Amy says:

    It’s like you’ve peeked inside my head and wrote what you saw…I’d like a walk/coffee on our peaceful beach with you too. Through the years and many ups/downs here, that beach has been my clarity place, and I tend to go on Sundays, especially since Church of the Crossfit hasn’t been open for a while. Peace and love and joy – it always comes back, but sometimes it takes a bit longer. We need to put our faces to the sun to remember the feeling, and the pause is what keeps us going. xo

    • tricia says:

      Face to the sun. Face to the sun. A great reminder, Amy. xo

  10. Julie G. Delegal says:

    Ah, I can so relate. And I’m mad at the priest who said your children had to be baptized first. I was taught when a child holds up her hands for spiritual nourishment, you feed her. These kids you are raising are beautiful–they want “in”–in on choosing to be a part of Something Bigger, in on choosing to be one of the “people who march through their days with positive energy [and thereby, one of the people who] can change the world.” The whole Body of Christ metaphor, the whole Nicene Creed mumbo jumbo, has left me cold for quite some time. This helps me. To this I say thanks, and as always, wow. All you have to do is be you.

    • tricia says:

      I knew, I knew, I knew you’d get it. I sort of felt that way too, about the communion, but I didn’t want to be disrespectful. I should have just been brave. Thank you for your wonderful words. They help. xo

    • tricia says:

      Absolutely. Coffee and girlfriends always welcome dates.

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