Before I begin, let me back up. On Wednesday night, I went to an AA meeting at the clubhouse at 8:00 PM. It was an 11th Step meeting, so we read from the 12&12 about how we “Sought through prayer and meditation to improve our conscious contact with G-d as we understood Him, praying only for knowledge of His will for us and the power to carry that out.”
And it pissed me the fuck off.
I’ve been known to twist people’s words. So I’m told by my mother, anyway, who never seems to say what she means. At the meeting, it sounded like here was a roomful of drunks telling me how to pray. Don’t pray for yourself. Don’t beg G-d to relieve some of this unbearable pain. Don’t ask Him to quiet the trauma storm inside you, to soften your heart, to help you be kind to your father, the man who’s just trying his best and doing such a good job at it. Just ask G-d to do His thing, which He’s going to do regardless of whether or not I ask Him to. That’s not how I want my “conscious contact” to be.
I have conversations with my Higher Power. She wants me to stay sober, to make good choices, to be the best version of myself that I can be. Sometimes, She makes mistakes. But She never abandons me. She is always listening.
Sometimes, I forget this. I get hung up on the patriarchal, Old Testament version of G-d, and I think He is vindictive, cold, not listening, and punishing. I hadn’t been maintaining conscious contact with G-d, regardless of whether G-d is male or female or something else entirely, so that night, I told G-d to fuck off. I turned off my faith for a little while, and it was like vomiting right out of my heart.
I didn’t pray for the next few days. I didn’t go to shul on Friday. I went to a meeting instead and left early because I was angry at my fellow alcoholics for having faith.
I felt so empty. Alone. In free-fall.
So after a couple of days of reminding myself not to ask G-d for help, not to reach out to G-d, not to pray, I broke down in tears and prayed. “G-d, it hurts so much,” I cried. I begged Him to ease the pain, to show me that He loves me. I went to a meeting, where I saw an old friend I haven’t seen in months. Stubbornly, I didn’t say the Serenity Prayer or the Lord’s Prayer at the respective beginning and end of the meeting.
I asked myself, “Why?” over and over. “Why did G-d allow me to be raped as a child? Why did G-d set me up for failure in relationships? Why did He put abusive people in my life over and over? Was G-d punishing me every time that boy hit me and choked me? Was G-d punishing me for being a drug addict by leaving me alone with that stranger when I passed out? Was I put here just to be raped and abused over and over?”
The way I choose to make sense of these questions is by telling myself that G-d has all the answers and is keeping them safe for me until I die. The answers are so much more perfect, beautiful, and complex than anything any mere human could comprehend.
This morning, I went to the clubhouse, and there was a newcomer at the meeting, so we talked about Step 1. And suddenly it all just clicked for me. Alcoholics Anonymous is such a simple program. Don’t drink and go to meetings. Maintain that conscious contact. Be okay.
I am okay.
I apologized to G-d for telling Him to fuck off. When I was a teenager and I’d slam the door in my parents’ faces, eventually I’d have to apologize and make things right. My parents always knew that I didn’t hate them, that I was just having a Moment. G-d knows my heart. He made it, with all it’s flaws and imperfections and character defects–all the awful things that are inside me, but He also gave me so much goodness, a little spark, ruach, ‘or, Divine magic.
I am okay.
After the meeting, I was sitting on Colette’s front porch while she chain-smoked and I drank Mountain Dew. “This is how people grow apart,” I thought, as she talked (and talked, and talked, and talked). She was telling me about how the world is such a dark place, how society is fucked, how capitalism is evil, all this STUFF! about how the world is going to hell in a hand basket. She has such a bleak outlook. She’s proud of being cynical.
What a stupid thing to be proud of.
Why not be proud that you did something productive today?
Or that you took good care of yourself?
Better still, that you took good care of someone else?
(Even if that someone else is a plant, a fish, or a dog.)
I told her that I don’t have those thought-problems (though I may have a completely different set of thought-problems) because I have G-d. That someone else is holding onto the answers for me, that it’s not my job to figure out the meaning of life. She actually said that–she said that the summer after she graduated high school, she just sat in her bedroom and tried to figure out the meaning of life, and that she feels that her sociology classes at university has helped her get closer to unraveling it. How presumptuous to think that it’s even within our capacity as humans to know the meaning of life.
I believe that if G-d were to come to me in a dream tonight and tell me the meaning of life, I would die. That is holy knowledge that no human is meant to have.
Colette asked me what it feels like to know G-d, to have conscious contact. I said I couldn’t even describe it, that it’s a feeling of safety, knowledge, and comfort unlike any other. Nothing I tried to liken the feeling to was viable.
G-d is when you’re four years old and there are monsters in your closet. It’s dark, you’re tired and half-asleep and terrified. The room has never seemed so big; you’ve never felt so alone. And then, your mom comes into your room to check on you, and you know you’re safe, that you’re okay, that everything is okay.
G-d is knowing that you are loved unconditionally, that you will never be given more than you can handle, that you don’t have to drink and drug your life away because there is a better way and because you are worth more than inebriation, if for no other reason than because you were made in a Divine image with holy love.
I don’t want to become one of those people who thinks everyone needs G-d in their life. But at the same time, I already believe that. I always say, “I know religion isn’t for everyone,” but I do believe G-d is for everyone. At any rate, I believe G-d loves everyone.
I know the solution to so many of my problems is less thought and more action. Sitting around and thinking about why I’m miserable/self-pitying/whatever isn’t going to solve my problems. Working with my students, being a good employee at my job, doing something to help my mom around the house… all of those are things that will get me out of my own head and into the real world.
So, remind me not to take a philosophy class if it’s going to fuck me up that intensely.