In the place we call Now
On Now: What if this is where the healing is? In the breaking.
I’ve said that writing saved my life, and it’s true. It has. But so has music and books and art and travel and a boyfriend or two or three. Healing is never just one thing. And with each thing that has brought healing, the breaking follows soon after.
My path to healing hasn’t been linear, but I can tell you where it started.
My grandparents used to take me to church when my mother was in prison and my dad was too high to remember to pay the rent or buy groceries or change me out of my pajamas. Grandma Linda and Grandpa Pete—my father’s parents—ate three home-cooked meals a day, read books instead of watching television, went on a hike every weekend, fixed their hair as if they were going somewhere even if they weren’t, said their prayers before bed, and never missed church. They didn’t yell or curse and they never hurried. With them, I knew what to expect. They offered me stability. I felt safe with them.
I can still feel the slowness of the morning on the days we’d go to church. Grandma would put curlers in my hair and put me in a dress that twirled—all the primping and attention to every detail, Grandma humming hymns, Grandpa reading from his Bible in his big, warm voice that felt like the sun on your face. The rhythm, the ritual, the reverence—it showed me what purpose felt like.
I remember asking my grandparents how to pray. They said, “You just talk to God like you would a friend, like someone you trust. Tell him about the things that make you happy and the things that make you sad. Ask for his help. He will hear you.”
“That’s it?” I said.
My Grandpa chuckled. “That’s it.”
This faith made me feel safe and loved and like everything was going to be okay. It gave me stable ground to stand on when my whole life had been a sinking ship. I finally had someone who would listen to me, someone I could count on. I carried this faith with me well into my thirties. It was never about religion for me. I didn’t go to church, follow a strict set of rules, or believe in a hell. But I prayed every day since my grandparents showed me how. I talked all about the things that made me happy, the things I was grateful for. I shared my sorrow and my grief and my loneliness. Because it was always about connection, connection to something bigger than me. I felt part of something. I felt loved.
But then my son was born and that’s when the breaking happened.
During the twenty hours of labor—seventeen of which I was dilated at nine centimeters with no progress—I prayed. I have never prayed so hard in my entire life. I was doing the work. I had tried every birthing position imaginable. I pushed for five hours. But I never could get the baby earthside. The doctors had to cut him out of me. They pulled him from my birth canal, his head bruised and bloodied from being pushed again and again against the bones of my pelvis. I could hear him crying, but I couldn’t see him. I couldn’t hold him. When I finally did get to see his swollen, tired face, I told him how brave he was. I told him how proud I was of him. I told him I was so grateful that he was finally here.
I would’ve thanked God for him, but the entire notion had ceased to exist. When I thought of God or the Universe or whatever the hell it was that made me feel less alone, I was met with complete blackness; like a solar eclipse, my world went dark. I wanted to say, Why didn’t you show up for me? For him? He needed you. We needed you. But what difference did it make? No one and nothing was listening.
I lay in the hospital bed and cried. I tried to sleep, but I’d have nightmares that I was in the desert pleading for my baby, but no one could hear me. Maybe I was back in the Mojave—the place I’d spent my whole life trying to escape—or maybe it was the wilderness like the Israelites, wandering for years, searching for the promised land. I felt forsaken. Abandoned. Alone. I’d wake and I’d sob, then I’d hallucinate the scene all over again with my eyes open.
I lost so much of myself that day. The little girl who believed there was someone or something she could count on. The woman who saw God in everything—the trees, the moon, the river, the fireflies in the field; her life, a living, breathing prayer of gratitude. The woman who believed if you hoped for it hard enough, it would show up for you. It would manifest.
Manifesting was like this special access to magic. You let go of the fear and the self-doubt and the limiting beliefs, and you let desire in. You get clear on your desire, your want. You name it. You feel what it feels like to have it or be it. You live from that place, that place where your frequency buzzes a little higher. You make decisions and take risks from that place. And then, the thing happens. At least that’s how it has worked for me.
I grew up wanting to work at Atlantic Records. A kid with no money and no connections from a nowhere town in the Mojave, I had no idea how I would get there, but I believed it would happen. And it did.
I yearned to see the world outside California. I wanted to hike the southwest, swim in the waterfalls of Hawaii, eat pasta in Italy, walk the streets of New York, Paris, London, drive the countryside in the south of France, and watch the sea from the coast of Barcelona. It seemed impossible when I thought about how I would do it. But I knew I didn’t have to figure out all the steps, I just had to make decisions from the place I wanted to be. I put the fee for my passport on a credit card because I only had enough money in my bank account for gas. That’s when things started happening. I made it to Paris first, and there was no giving up from there.
My husband, my business, my home in the mountains that are always blue—there’s a manifestation story for all of it. But my link to the spiritual realm, to the magic and the hope and the peace, was severed the day my son was handed to me on the operating table.
I wanted so badly to show him that the world could be a gentle place, that life doesn’t have to be hard but that’s not how it started for him. Instead, he joined me earthside with pain and exhaustion and separation. I wanted to show him that there is magic in manifesting, to believing, to putting hope at the center of your being.
But now, hope is something that exists quietly in the background. A slow pulse. Anne Lamott says hope is a radical act. And she’s right. Even if you can manage to find it in the darkest hour, will it deliver? Or will it betray you? Hope is deception. Something I don’t want to need. Something I try to ignore. Something that is both a luxury and a burden. The very act is a grasping. A wanting. A yearning. And I am so damn tired.
The thing is, I don’t like who I am without it. I don’t know what to do with my gratitude. My hands are full. What do I do with the restlessness? The slow panic that comes with losing yourself? How do I find my way back to the healing and the hope when I am lost in the unknown? Terra Incognita. I am an uncharted map.
What if this is where the healing is? In the unknowing. The getting lost. In the place we call Now. A place where we’re wholly open to the unknown. Absorbing and arranging. Rejuvenating the hand-me-down ways of living and tired ideas into a life rich with uncertainty and awe, into a new kind of hope. A hope that is less about believing that everything is going to be okay and more about where we go from the point of breaking. Maybe that’s how we know we’re still alive—by the screaming ache in our chest or the bile that burns at the base of our throat or the fear that makes our teeth chatter.
What if this is where the healing is? In the breaking. In the agony, the grief, and the heavy-headed dahlias outside the back door. In the rage, the hurt, and the strangled quiet between midnight and morning. In the loss, the doubt, and the yellow August moon. In the worry, the guilt, and the last of summer’s thunderstorms. In the desire, the surrender, and the joy that flows from my son like a spring.
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You've said before that writing saved your life. May I ask what else (if anything) you feel was integral to your version of healing?
I love the thoughtful questions that come through from my readers. I am so grateful to this community that we’re building together. Thank you so much for being here.
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