Eleven years ago, things were going pretty well. I mean, I was happily married and living in Los Angeles; we had a really cool apartment and good friends. My job was interesting and I got to work from home. I was even relatively thin.
Things were good.
And yet? I felt … off. I felt sort of like, Wow, that’s it? I’d pretty much gotten everything I’d ever wanted, which was a happy relationship and a big-city life. Those were the things I’d been dreaming of since I was fourteen. So what the hell? How annoying was I, with my white middle-class angst?
I had a friend who was sober, as in "AA sober." Looking at her, you’d never in a million years guess the hell she’d been through. She was all healthy-looking and beautiful, she had an impressive job and she was so very grounded. I am not what you’d call grounded. I can’t even see the ground. I kind of admired her.
“Maybe you need to get yourself a higher power,” she suggested serenely. I was an atheist. Always had been. My parents were hippies and it was how I was raised. “Yeah, I don’t think I can do that,” I told her.
She ignored me (serenely), and suggested that that night, I sit quietly and just ask. Just say, "Hey, is there anyone out there who might be, you know, more powerful than just my stupid self?"
And because I was so dissatisfied and anchorless and empty, I did. I felt like a buffoon. Seriously. Because my whole life, I was absolutely 100% certain we were nothing but mold. That everything was science. We evolved from whatever — here we were and soon enough we’d be dust. All we are is dust in the wind, dude.
“So, um, hello. If there’s, you know, anything out there, could you show yourself to me?” I sat at the end of my bed, thinking that stupid thought, and then pulled the covers up and went to sleep.
That night, Julie Andrews came to me in a dream and told me different ways I could improve my life. I am not making that up. I have no idea why my higher power turned out to be Julie Andrews, but there she was.
And the spooky thing was, I was living in L.A. Julie Andrews was living in L.A. I could have run into my own higher power at the grocery store, if Julie Andrews ever actually goes to the grocery store, which let’s face it, she probably doesn’t. Still.
So I decided to believe. Not that Julie Andrews is any kind of god (although, she can fly with an umbrella — can you?). I decided to just start believing that there was a power greater than me, and that maybe it wouldn’t harm anyone if I talked to that higher power sometimes, maybe asked for guidance when I was confused. I still wasn’t convinced. I still mostly thought this was hooey.
But the thing is? I felt better. I’ve kept a diary since fifth grade, and when I read my journal entries from that I-sorta-believe-in-God time, from about 2002 to 2007, I was really happy. I had problems, sure, but they didn’t overwhelm me. I started reading Anne Lamont and Eckert Tolle. I meditated in the morning, and even — are you ready? — prayed when I woke up and right before I fell asleep. Mostly I kept it really simple. Sometimes the morning prayer was just, “Help,” and at night it was just “Thanks.” When I had time, I’d do the whole St. Francis prayer.
Then I don’t know what happened. My marriage became troubled, we moved to the South, we had money woes. And I forgot about my version of God. My Julie-Andrews, maybe-you’re-there-maybe-you’re-not, “Help”-version of God.
The other day, I watched an episode of “Orange Is the New Black,” and if you’re not watching it, I suggest you stop everything and begin doing so. It is that good. My point is, the lead character tried to pray, for the first time ever, and I remembered exactly what that was like. How tentative it was, how weird it is. And yet, how peaceful you feel after. Even if it’s a bunch of hooey, you can’t deny how peaceful you feel afterwards.
And I realized how much I miss the God of my understanding. I hope the God of my understanding is understanding. Because I kinda hope we can get back together someday.