The day before Easter, just about a month ago, I tripped on a concrete block in a parking lot and fell flat on my face. My chin was cut badly enough to need seven stitches, and my jaw now has a tiny little crack in it. I was blessed in that they didn’t need to wire my jaw shut, and there were no broken bones in my right hand and wrist. And of course I was blessed in having so many good friends and relatives to help me up and help me out, even though I looked like I’d just lost a prize fight.
I’m all healed up now, except–well, I can’t stop looking down as I’m walking, unable to escape the notion that a chair leg, a wrinkle in a rug, or a crack in the sidewalk is going to grab at my feet and pull me down again! So I wrote this piece with my Tuesday writing group, inspired by the prompts “Losing God,” and “What breaks my heart.”
As I stand to walk to the bathroom, the first thing I think of is the tiny step up–no, not even a step, barely an indentation, but definitely an unevenness in the path from carpeted hallway to tiled bathroom floor: I feel an apprehension, a sense memory, a bodily sensation that I might fall again. Is this a function of aging or merely experience, the accumulation of small fears, another one to be faced and then suppressed, this pattern repeated over and over again. So, no, I didn’t break bones, but maybe this breaks my heart, this inability to just shake it off the way I might have done 30 or 40 years ago. It’s like losing one’s faith, not all at once, but bit by bit, the way rocks wear away from the beating of wind and surf.
I lost God a few decades ago: just got fed up with and shed the Christian male deity. Not for merely political reasons, but in a vivid visceral way. I’d been a good girl, I’d prayed for years with an open heart. I felt led down a certain path and then God seemed to punish me for my choice. I sought a secular solution; I went into therapy. “I’m so angry with God,” I told my therapist. “Don’t worry about it,” she told me. “God can handle it.” But after months of these God-complaints she finally told me she thought I might need more in this area than she could give me. Perhaps I needed a spiritual guide? I scoffed, but within days I met Craig, the school’s substitute night custodian who would become spiritual guide for me. When the student is ready, the teacher appears. And so it was.
Now Craig has been gone nearly four years. I am older than he ever lived to be. It feels strange. I no longer doubt the existence of God, but I do doubt the existence of Nancy. Who is she? Why is she always complaining? For Christ’s sake, somebody please tell her she ought to notice how happy she really is!
I wonder what will happen to Nancy (i.e. me) after Nancy drops her body (as she seems to be practicing to do!) Will I remember Nancy? Will I melt into God and forget about her? But I kinda like her. I like her friends and her cats and her garden. Will I wink out like a firefly? Will I remember what it was like to have an open heart?