I’m a fighter, always have been. Maybe it’s my Irish ancestry, maybe it’s because I would have to be to survive the family I was born into, but I’ve always been scrappy. Not necessarily physical fights either, though I’ve had them, but in spirit, the kind where your hands may be tied but your teeth can still bite, ya know? I remember one time seeing a baby picture of mine where it looks like my fists are clenched and thinking, well that make sense.
As the youngest child in a dysfunctional family, filled with alcoholism and mental illness, separated by several years from my other siblings, I often felt left behind, metaphorically speaking. But I actually was ‘left behind’ at a party as a kid, so you can imagine how it feels sitting in a garage in a strange adult’s house like some kind of leper, calling for your parents to pick you up; not great. And while I won’t get into any ‘woe is me’ stuff, suffice it to say, the way to be ‘seen’ or ‘heard’ in my family wasn’t always delicate, but a kid has to get their needs met and so it went.
In addition to a chaotic family situation, I had a precarious relationship with God. Born into a religious family with very little spirituality was confusing, with church in the morning and drunkenness at night. Add the angry nuns at school and a God who gave me those parents and He supposedly ‘loves’ me? And when you’re only 7 but told you’re already a sinner, innocent but condemned merely for your thoughts? I’m like seriously? None of it made sense, which is why I often joke that when you’re born Catholic, much like the glass in the church, you’re ‘stained’ for life. And for the record, I’m not here to bash the religion, merely to share my own experience and understanding of it in my path of searching.
So God and I had an interesting relationship – He was Big and I was small, I was nothing, He was all, and I always felt like He was punishing me for some reason I didn’t understand. Now mind you, for many people, including myself as a kid, God is sort of like a Santa Claus figure to whom you bring your wishes and petitions, like ‘Please give me this toy God’, or ‘Please don’t let that happen God’, or ‘Please get me out of trouble God’. I did believe, I just didn’t really know if it counted for much. They say that there are no atheists in foxholes and I believe it, but there are also probably more conversions to and conversations with God in foxholes – literal and metaphorical – that an any other time as well.
As I said, we weren’t on great terms. I believed in God but kind of always waited for the lighting to strike. And when I developed a condition whereby people suggested that I would likely need to develop a relationship with Him in order to overcome it I was terrified because I thought I wouldn’t be able to, because He wouldn’t want me. Apparently He did because He saved me, thankfully. Since then I’ve practice a ‘ritual’ of praying every morning, while reading some daily meditations books to center myself for whatever the day brings. I also read a great book called Simple Abundance by Sarah Ban Breathnach to inspire my creative side. She’s friends with Oprah and probably a big liberal who I would disagree with on everything, but it’s still a great book. I got it before I knew anything about that stuff, and before Oprah decided to actively involve herself in politics.
I bring up politics because that’s where my struggle lies: engage in the world and it’s chaos or retreat and remain neutral. But I can’t, it’s not in me, I’m a person who has to know things! I’ve been engaged in ‘politics’ (and everything goes under that umbrella for me, including culture, which dictates politics), since before the 2008 election, but not to the extent as during the 2016 campaign. That was intense and breathlessly fast-paced, but when Trump won, I really thought it would settle down a bit. It hasn’t though, and in fact has gotten 10x more crazy – every day is like 4th of July fireworks! And for a political junkie like me it’s exciting, but for a Seeker of Spirit it can be daunting, exhausting and difficult to find balance.
With all the frenzy & breaking news, I started to find myself cutting into my morning meditation time a bit by turning on the news or start early ‘warring’ on Twitter as I call it, and would get lost in the bedlam until it was time for work. It started to negatively affect me throughout my day because I hadn’t adequately connected with the Presence, and I found there to be increasingly less space between my thoughts and my words, and my Spirit suffered. Now, as I said, I’m a fighter, so it’s not like I’m claiming to be Buddha or anything. Sometimes when I pray I’m just kind of ‘going through the motions’, but at least I always do it. And since I do feel calmer and more content when I take the time to focus on my spiritual-life, I realized I would have to modify my behavior in order to do that.
I found that by leaving my phone at night on the table where I would be sitting down for coffee in the morning would create an irresistible pull for my ever-curious-minded self to see ‘what was going on in the world’, so I started leaving it in another room to increase my odds of successful avoidance. Where I read is also in front of the tv, but so long as I don’t turn it on in the first place, I’m good, and have been. It definitely helps to get the ‘foundation’ set before you let the ‘world’ in. These small, seemingly insignificant adjustments help and ironically, even in ideological battles. It’s like having reinforcements already on standby rather than having to call in a QRF during a firefight – metaphorically speaking of course.
I need God in my life. Not religion, not dogma, God. I need to put Him first and everything else second. And while I love to engage in the battle of ideas and joust over policies and principles, that must be tempered with a connection to the Force, as that’s where I get my sustenance. And so in the din of a crazy world during frenetic times, I seek conscious contact with my God, to set my path, praying for guidance in the morning and thanking Him at night.
I don’t claim success or that I’m all that good at any of it, just that I seek, and as the Book says, ‘Seek and ye shall find’.