On my run today, I found myself thinking about the phrase “Let Go and Let God.” It appeals to me, but also feels goofy and a little squirmy, a little too pat. Like a bumpersticker.
But I have to say, sometimes I envy people with religious devotion. Or, in the spirit of Jenna’s beautiful post about turning envy into inspiration, let’s say instead that I’m often most inspired by people who have deep faith, who live in a way that truly reflects that.
Earlier this week, I heard an interview on NPR with Matisyahu, who was talking about his new album, “Light.” He talked about his journey, from following Phish and dropping acid to disappearing into the Oregon wilderness to going to Israel and, eventually, becoming an Orthodox Jew. He spoke of keeping kosher and keeping Shabbos and praying three times a day, how the “rules” provide structure and discipline to his life. And here’s what caught my ear. He prays every morning. “Just like I warm up my voice,” he said, “I wake up my God consciousness.”
At this point, as I write, it would be easy to be all self-deprecating. It is tempting to dismiss our mornings as all manner of chaos, the furthest thing from prayer. But is that really fair to myself? And even more importantly, is it even true? Was it not God consciousness to wake up this morning with my girls on either side of me, soft and angelic, thinking it’s 9/11 and we are all here together, and pressing my nose into their hair? That, too, is a form of devotion, of prayer.
And then, as I ran, my mind went to an Oprah episode I watched in April, 2006, during those few weeks when Pearl was a newborn and I was still encapsulated in my little postpartum bubble, watching daytime TV on chilly early spring afternoons. She told the story of reaching bottom, devastated, then deciding in an instant to surrender everything. The way she tells it, at that very moment Steven Spielberg calls to tell her he is casting her in A Color Purple, and she had better not lose a single pound or she’ll lose the part. But the part of the show that got to me was when Faith Hill performed “I Surrender All.” There I was, days after celebrating Passover, nursing my tiny new baby, crying in front of the TV and singing about Jesus. I was just so moved, by the story, by the music, by the expression of faith.
Jesus or not, sometimes when the chaos really kicks in, I start humming that song. I have had moments of occasionally wishing I had something like Jesus to surrender to, moments that have led me to greater empathy with my Grammy, who converted, secretly, to Christian Science, so moved was she by scripture.
What do I believe? To whom or what do I devote myself? What wakes up my God consciousness?
I’ve had a real shift the past few days around my perspective on self-care. The story I typically tell – and you know it’s time to check in when you have a story you typically tell, about anything – is that I am depleted, caught up in an ongoing cycle of crash and burn, victim to monthly hormonal rollercoasters. Yadda yadda.
The story I tell is that I eat creemees alone – is that like drinking alone? – far more often than anyone knows (well, knew). That my yoga practice is sporadic at best. That I don’t drink kombucha (tried it once, hated it), I go to bed way too late, drink too much coffee, the self-berating list goes on. The snarky gremlin says, “When are you going to take your practice seriously? When are you going to take your self-care seriously? When are you going to walk your talk? When are you going to stop complaining and do something differently?”
All of this, and some other stuff, propelled me to go shopping for a new therapist recently. I met with two people over the course of a week. With one of them, I was able to re-frame the story. I was able to finally stop with the storytelling and just sit, just sit and let the tears release, just sit and breathe and hear how hard I can be on myself. It opened up some space, to begin imagining what could move through me – what ideas, what creativity, what capacity for joy and connection – if I did bring more gentleness to myself when it comes to sleeping, eating, exercising, all the basics. Nothing fancy.
So yesterday morning in an incredibly satisfying fit, I moved all the furniture in my home office around. All of it. The desk, the couch, the file cabinet, the lamps. And the room feels transformed, feels like my space, the space I have dreamed of creating, to see clients in, to write in, to sit in, just to enjoy. A space that truly feels separate from the chaos of the rest of the house, even if said chaos represents my devotion, to my life, to my family.
And in this new space, my perspective on self care also shifted. It is quite remarkable and somewhat mysterious to me, these ebbs and flows in my outlook on life.
Last night, I came downstairs a little before 9:00 from putting Aviva and Pearl to bed. I felt vaguely irritated, shaking off the day, not feeling connected to Greg or myself, anything really. Just out of sorts. Normally, I’d sit down at my computer, or make lunches in a banging-around-the-kitchen kind of way.
But instead, I found tadasana and practiced yoga for maybe twenty minutes. I arrived in my body for the first time all day. I wandered into the kitchen to find Greg, and we… well… does ANYONE write about sex for god’s sake? Then I went to curl up on the couch in my cozy new office and read the first chapter of Suzuki’s Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind.
After all that, eating a big bowl of popcorn and watching two (two!!) episodes of Grey’s Anatomy felt less like a deadening unconscious habit and more like a comfy place to land before finally going to bed.
There is only so much i can talk about things. Rather than make giant life-changing commitments, I want to step into some small ones, one at a time, for just a little while each. Simply to see what is possible. To bring some curiosity and awareness to myself in a way I tend to reserve just for others, being more the martyr than I’d like to admit.
I was thinking that starting today, I’ll go off sugar for 30 days. Or maybe it will be for one day. Or an hour. One meal. You can tell my commitment is unclear. But the intention is there, and it doesn’t matter really, because the point is less that I want to cut out sugar and more that I want to affirm – and enact, in ways that are small and do-able, playful and gradual – my wish to feel energetic and healthy in ways I so often don’t.
I do want to surrender all – to something, someone. Jesus? The Universe? Elijah? If you hear me humming, don’t worry. I’ll still be apple picking with my girls soon, and dipping those apples in honey to usher in a sweet new year. My Grammy’s legacies are left for other posts, but she did teach me something about devotion.
I want to believe – I do believe – that “God consciousness” doesn’t have to look extreme or devout or foreign. In fact, I may be a little less likely to trust it when it does. I don’t want “Let Go and Let God” to be the property of Sarah-Palin-supporting, right-wing hecklers.
Surrender and consciousness. Maybe Suzuki would say that they are two, and they are one.
This morning, during sitting meditation with my friend Nan, my lids were heavy. I kept drifting off. Over and over and over, I had to choose whether to let myself go, or to wake myself up. It was so tempting to sleep. But I kept opening my eyes, returning to awareness. I kept coming home – where else? – to right now.