THE WANDERING, WAYWARD DAUGHTER: A MEMOIR, OF SORTS

I keep talking about and focusing on how long it had been since I sat proper and did a bible study in my trusty Life Application Study Bible (New Living Translation). Perhaps I am trying to level myself lest my head get too big (which is ridiculous). Or perhaps I am attempting to differentiate myself from others that I deem more godly than I (which is also ridiculous). Either way and for whatever reason, it is something that I do.

I focus on the time I spent separated from the bible version of God’s word and the pursuit of Him in a Christian sense. Which means I ignore all the other ways I’ve found God these past two and a half years in the pursuit of a meditation practice, yoga, healing herbs and teas, the energy in a beautiful crystal, good food and wine, hiking in nature, and the study of the religiously-neutral, spiritual, indescribable yet palpable energy that connects every and any thing.

In those two and a half years, I became a member of the People’s Church of Necessity, a phrase I use to represent God’s uncanny way of placing you in situations that seem so. wrong. amongst people that are too. different. (read: hedonists and nihilists and heathens) in order to heal you. Through the healing, God is dismantling your ego* brick by brick until all you see around you is rubble. Then slowly but surely, God shines Its light upon one brick at a time and you find yourself elbows deep in the dirt building and building. And one day, the rubble is gone and around you is a beautiful Home to dance, sing, play, and rejoice in.

* It is the ego that keeps us separate from God and others. Because it is the ego that drives our desire to be a Special Snowflake and the ego that drives our fear that we are Too Much/Alone/Different/Weird/Needy/etc.

I also came to understand how insignificant our human concept of time is to God. In Psalm 90:4 we read, “For a thousand years in Your sight are like a day that has just gone by, or like a watch in the night.” A thousand years is a day. Can you imagine? I sure can’t. And that’s exactly why I take upon my heart the largely inaccurate persona of the Wandering, Wayward Daughter.

When I read or hear the Word—in any text or conversation which was inspired by Divinity— and it rings as Truth, I see my thoughts for what they are: a (needless, unnecessary, ungodly) shame cycle meant to feed my ego and keep me separate from God.

But when I read Psalm 107:2, “Has the Lord redeemed you? Then speak out!,” I am reminded of all my conversations with the heathens and nihilists and hedonists in which I would start clapping like a giddy child while pouring out Truth after Truth after Truth of our Grand and Loving Creator of the Universe.

And when I read Jeremiah 31:12, “They will be radiant because of the Lord’s good gifts,” I am reminded of all the times I left yoga, glowing in said radiance, with a desire to only eat foods that would nourish me, and have conversations that uplifted others, and be kind and gracious to my neighbors.

And even when I read, “Happiness is the lost paradise. Humans have worked so hard to reach this point, and this is part of the evolution of the mind. […] Moses called it the Promised Land, Buddha called it Nirvana, Jesus called it Heaven, and the Toltecs call it a New Dream,” in Don Miguel Ruiz’s The Four Agreements, I smile knowingly because I know that the God of Everything is, and has always been, in everything that truthfully brings us closer to Joy. No matter what you call it.

And just like that, the shame cycle is finished.

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[QUOTE] I HAD A DAY [END QUOTE]

When you’re trying to MacGyver your broken glasses so you can somehow see after accidentally tearing your last pair of contacts and then later contemplate rinsing off the breakfast bar you dropped on the floor so you can eat it anyway (#fivesecondrule), you know your day is going to be an interesting one.

Or in my language, you know you’re about to have a day. And because you’re a trooper, you put on your bravest face and try to make it work anyway. But because you’re a human being with limits, you end up crying in a Starbucks a few hours later over a likely fictitious scenario. Demurely, of course. Because God forbid anything else.

Whenever I have such a day I count myself lucky that, even though a good number of my friends are scattered about the continental United States, I still have a handful of people that can support me in person through said Starbucks sobbing. But human relationships have their limits. So this is where I too count myself lucky that, even though I am at times more wandering than unwavering, I still have a steady relationship with my intuition, the Universe magic, and God.

So much so that when I’m struck by spontaneous whims that are rather ambitious (read: driving 1.5 hours eastbound for a grand perspective shift after said day) I don’t even blink twice. I just…go. And when I just…go, I can feel the story that I. must. share. writing itself inside me as I live and breathe something different — something holy — for however long I feel compelled to.

And because most storytellers are inspired by other storytellers, I’m going to use the 4 Lindsay McCaul songs I listened to tonight to punctuate the story from here out.

Say My Name: You say my name and tell me there’s a better place; lead me to Your sweet embrace. I can hear You calling…

There were moments when my car was barreling down the Long Island Expressway, and then slightly less maniacally down Montauk Highway when I, fully cognizant yet nearly dreamland bound, recognized that my soul was out in front of my body galloping like a wild horse to meet God out in East Hampton.

And by God was it beautiful there. The midnight sky, speckled with stars, pressed deep down on the wild ocean at Main Beach, but didn’t contain its spirit. The waves of said ocean, far out in the pitch black, played tag with one another down the shore. And I was sat upon the hood of my car oblivious, for once, to the strange, dark night that I was alone in.

It was magic and exactly the kind of awestruck I needed to shake myself out of my day and into the lesson that God had for my heart that night: how to stay graceful under persecution (real or imagined). I set out for dinner, satisfied and satiated in the soul.

I got ready to head home a few enjoyable moments after chowing down on pommes frites and Malbec. And I switched songs (and moods alongside it).

Every lamb-in-the-lion’s-den moment I’d experienced in the last year flooded my brain and came out through my eyes with the longing, needy crying of a child with skinned knees, who is sitting in the lap of its parent who let go of the bike too soon, asking “But why?”

Take My Hand: For a moment I was brave and strong but now everything is going wrong. Didn’t You know that I’d be scared? Couldn’t You see I was unprepared? I’m not asking for reasons You hold or the safety of land; I just need You to take my hand…

All I could see were the moments in the dark where I felt alone and lost making decisions I wouldn’t normally make and spending time with people I’d otherwise dismiss (for very legitimate reasons). And furthermore, how those moments in the dark, though distant, are still affecting me today. I just couldn’t understand why God let go when I still clearly needed training wheels.

Hold on To Me: All I’m standing on is all my good intent as I get swept away time and time again. I know I need You now to do what I can’t somehow. So hold on to me ’cause I’m not good at holding on, I’m weak. I guess that’s how this is supposed to be; when I am barely holding on You hold on to me…

I gripped the steering wheel tightly, nostalgic for the last hour, because I knew I wasn’t just heading away from the Eden that was the quiet starry night. I was heading back toward real life too. The one with a thousand tiny hells — those moments, people, and opportunities that separate you from God — waiting around each corner.

And I didn’t want to go.

I didn’t want to leave the God of East Hampton, who showed me an amazing night sky that took my breath away and left me gazing at it longingly like a lovesick puppy, for the God of Huntington, who tests me and my grace, patience, sincerity, and devotion on the regular.

But then — isn’t there always a but then? — about halfway through my trip, I caught a gleam of a bright star in the corner of my eye and remembered the shooting star I saw earlier when I pulled over before fully, fully leaving East Hampton. And with a wave of relief and release, my signature smirk — the one that’s both fully content and slightly mischievous — crept across my face.

Where Do You Go: So where do you go when there’s no voice from heaven? Where do you go when all you have are questions? Maybe the silence is His mercy and there’s beauty in His mystery; You should know you’re not alone wherever you go…

I realized I took the stars with me. Better yet, I realized I have always taken the stars with me. Because it is all real life: the Eden’s and the tiny hells. And with that being true, it was no longer a day, but a Good Day.

YOU’RE A SEEKER, HARRY

Maybe it was when I sat in my mother’s lap after losing both my great aunts within a month of each other, at the age of 10, and consoled her from a Place deep inside me on the permanence of Life and the illusion of death…

Or maybe it was when I truly understood the gravity of knowing exactly what your God voice does and does not sound like, at the age of 26, during those numerous vulnerable and mindless moments in the car, and in the shower, and in the kitchen washing dishes when I felt so overloaded at times that I could barely breathe…

Or maybe it was when I threw myself onto the floor in a puddle of tears, at the age of 21, in a desperate search of something and Everything and hysterically asked for a surefootedness I then believed could only be rooted in the Way, the Truth, and the Life…

Or maybe it was when I walked bravely into school, at the age of 12, with a face riddled in tiny red bumps—a telltale mark of the Fifth’s Disease my body was fighting—unfazed by the questions and sneers sure to come within the mean hallways of middle school…

Or maybe it was when I was cozied up with my not yet deceased great aunt at our kitchen table, at the age of 7, asking her question upon question about the mind and heart hidden under her habit while dipping a seemingly endless tray of strawberries into melted dark chocolate the night before my First Holy Communion…

Or maybe it was when my friend and I stumbled upon the silliest of marvels in the middle of a somewhat backwoods North Carolina town, at the age(s) of 19, in a massive Jesus statue and sought solace for our confused souls in that parking lot overwhelming night after overwhelming night…

Or maybe it was when I watched with wide-eyes and listened with an open heart, at the age of 13, to the rites and rituals my friends were diligently completing for their bat mitzvahs…

Or maybe it was when I began collecting crystals again as I used to as a child, at the age of 25, and marveled at the incomprehensible calm one could have when meditating with a cool stone in hand a thankful and proverbial 2 minutes before the worst heartbreak of my life would barge in, knock me clear to the ground, and leave me grasping at dust in search of a solid rock…

Or maybe it was when I finally sat down to write this post right here, a good 3 days after it began brewing in my mind, at the age of 27, with at once lightening fast and molasses slow fingers across a keyboard in a sweet reverie on my inner Wild Child, and all of her passionate undertakings—misguided or otherwise—and her unwavering ability to always stand back up—worse for wear or otherwise—ready to sing praises to a Great Grandness…

That I first realized I was a Seeker.

Wander and waiver though I do, as I believe most humans do and should, my heart was devoted to the pursuit, the passionate seeking, of the Love, Truth, and Understanding wrapped up in the Great Unknown long before I took my first breath in this body, for this life.

And because I find myself in this body, and in this life, I am endlessly thankful that there is an endless well of Patience for my many stops and starts. And that there is an endless well of Answers for my hundreds and thousands of Questions. And that there too is an endless well of Paths to the Divine for my Wild and Curious Heart to Explore.

Tomorrow said path may be a spark of inspiration found in the bottom of a cup of dandelion tea. Or in a breathtaking moment of beauty found in the way a curtain gets lost in the breeze. Or in an understanding of the innate Trust within all of us upon watching a child play some 50 feet away from its parent.

But tonight it is the simple deliciousness of a bowl of pasta made lovingly by my father, and the decidedly jumbled words of J.K. Rowling echoing in my head, and the soulful crooning of Josh Garrels flowing into my ears that makes me exclaim, ever so softly, “It is time to begin again.” 

And begin again I shall.

CAPITAL L

We are connected more than ever, but what exactly is it that we are connected to?

If you say that it is to each other, I dare say you’re mistaken.

Yes, we might know more people in a numerical sense, but do we really know them?

To know someone is to feel the heft of their soul in your hands as they articulate feelings and thoughts without words.

To know someone is to reciprocally share humanity and divinity in such a palpable way that you walk away from your interaction with your heart having grown in size.

To know someone is to feel the trueness of Love in your soul and to feel compelled to give that Love away to someone else because you are so full that you are spilling out.

So you pause your music, take out your ear buds, and walk across the kitchen to give the most present hug you’ve ever given to your mother.

And because you are so connected to Love, you gently tell her to ease out of the urge to pull away from the sudden confrontation of Love and Oneness with another person, and when you feel her melt into the hug, knowing you’ve delivered the right dose of Love, you give her a squeeze and head into the den to where your father is.

And you do the same for him.

And because your heart is a writer and you heal with your words, you open your laptop back up and pour some more Love out through your fingers to the rest of the world.

And then, because you’ve been so pried open, you cry the sweetest of tears where the bitterness of salt has no place.

WHAT KILLS THE CAT

True curiosity comes from a place of humility and wonder—at near childlike levels—and the throwing of oneself into a search for something or other with passion and excitement.

Because to be truly curious is to admit you do not know everything. And that is a behavior that is equally a release and a relent that sadly, a great number of adults would rather die than do.

And because I am not one to go on for longer than is necessary to tell the story, I’ll stop here and simply implore you to let go of what you know and embrace what you don’t.

A COMPASSIONARY TALE

This is my commandment: Love each other in the same way I have loved you. There is no greater love than to lay down one’s life for one’s friends. – John 15:12-13 (NLT)

A heavily studied belief in and understanding of Christianity, or the brazen lack thereof, is intrinsically woven through the fabric that is my belief in the Great Unknown. The bible is familiar to me, in the way a ring is still on your finger even after you’ve taken it off. So when Big Things happen in my life, oftentimes I remember a verse or two and smile at the return of my oddest and oldest spiritual friend.

One day, a few years ago whilst in the throes of religious fervor, I read an article with a new phrase—Golden Nuggets of Wisdom (GNW)—to describe the moment in which someone speaks something to you and the impact and power of what they have said resonates deeply in your soul, but barely means much of anything to them.

I had a GNW moment today (but contrary to my norm, I was on the receiving end). A friend who recently experienced the sharp pain that is heartbreak said this, “Because of you guys, I feel like my hurting divided into 4. Like I only had to deal with a quarter of the pain.” Immediately that verse from the Book of John flew into my mind and took on a gloriously rich new meaning.

Another day, a few years ago whilst still in the throes of religious fervor, I read yet another article that expanded my understanding of compassion. I had used the word often enough to that point knowing, but not knowing, what the word meant. I appreciate it more now and use it a lot less. Compassion isn’t about feeling bad for someone being in pain, compassion is suffering with them.

So when that friend said, to the 3 of us in our group chat, that we divided her pain in quarters, leaving her only a fraction of it to bear as her own, I further understood what it meant to be compassionate. I experienced, with an acute consciousness, what it meant to love one another in the same way that God loves us. Because she made me realize that, even without realizing it, I actively chose to lay down my life for someone—to lay down my disposition, my desires, my moods—and experience their life as my own.

For as long as we could and as long as she needed, the 3 of us suffered with her and transformed her pain into an experience of Grand Love. I dare say, we alchemized it into gold.

OVERSIZED

Has your heart ever been so heavy,
that you feel as though you can’t breathe,
that with every beat it grows in size,
until there’s no more room left in your body,
for anything but its ache,
ache,
aching?

CAR SEATS ARE FOR ADULTS TOO

I hate driving in overcast weather. Between the shadows and the increased pressure, it’s never a fun experience. But today was exceptionally bad. I could barely stand being behind the wheel. So it got me thinking: am I doing this car seat thing all wrong?

And then I really got to thinking. New parents obsess over putting their babies and toddlers into car seats properly. There are precise angles and locations for the seat belt, the seat, the baby, etc. If you get it wrong, the mistake can be costly. But it can be just as costly to sit improperly as a driver or passenger too.

I realized that though I could correctly install a car seat for a small child—thanks to my niece and nephew—I had no idea how I should be sitting in my car seat. Or anyone’s for that matter. So I did what I do and I took to Google.

Thanks to these videos, I made micro-adjustments to my headrest, my side view mirrors, my rear view mirror, the angle of my seat, the location of my seat, the height of my steering wheel, the angle of my steering wheel, and how I sat. I changed everything.

And it was no longer a surprise why I was a wriggly worm every time I tried to drive. My headrest was too high, my side view mirrors were tucked in too much, my rear view mirror was too low, my seat was angled too far back, my seat was too far from the pedals (and I already sat pretty darn close), and my steering wheel was both too far forward and angled too far down.

Sitting parked on the side of the road, I felt great. But as soon as I began driving, I was completely disoriented. I thought I was going to throw up the entire time. For a minute, I entertained putting everything back to the (way more comfortable) wrong way. But when I saw the other drivers around me hunched over their steering wheels, white-knuckled making left turns I knew I couldn’t keep doing the wrong thing just because it felt better. So I kept going.

Disoriented as I was, I was also more in control. My car felt speedier and lighter—too light at times, the wind was blowing me off-center every chance it got. Pushed back against the seat as I should be, I was conscious of how often I’d displace my weight on the steering wheel. And so I wondered if I even liked the experience of driving as much as I thought I did—considering the level of tension I had behind the wheel—or if I just liked the freedom that my car represented. This body/soul/life scan continued along with the drive.

I realized that forcing my body into one position for x-amount of time was a constant dance between tension and release. My body kept trying to regain control. It did not like being at the whim of the road. When the car would dip on the left, my body pushed toward the right side. When I would break, instead of succumbing to the change in G-forces, my body fought to stay where it wanted to stay. When I would switch my right foot between pedals, my left side would angle backward to maintain its oddly centered balance.

When I felt my right shoulder blade repeatedly pulling toward the steering wheel, fighting against the cradling effect of the car seat, I wondered how many times a day my body does this little dance. How often I roll my shoulders back and down and yank them back up toward my ears. How often I tighten my hips and ease them back down into the chair. How often my lower jaw clamps toward my upper jaw and steadily relaxes.

It was exhausting to notice how exhausting it is to try to maintain control. So I instead focused on this story and tried, as best I could, to let my body succumb to the movement of the road, for once fighting my ability to fight for control, and release.