“Exactly how many devotionals do you read each morning,” she asks with a note of caution in her voice.
“Eight,” I tell her. I do not offer up that this number does not include the two scripture reading plans I follow.
“Cut it down to two,” I hear her respond. “You know as well as I do that you aren’t going to find the answers by reading more books.”
* * *
My love affair with books began as a child. I was the kid who read hundreds of books over summer vacation. I read in the car, by the pool, on the couch. Books were the friends I didn’t always have, the safe place I was constantly looking for.
My favorite place in my home is my study. The walls lined with shelves, books piled high.
When we started working the steps, I purchased every.single.piece of conference approved literature – and some non-conference approved literature – I could get by hands on.
“How did I know you would do that?” she asked me over coffee the morning I admitted I probably had the largest collection of step work materials housed in my kitchen.
I don’t know that it ever occurred to me that there was seeking underneath all that reading. It makes sense when I pause long enough to consider it. As an attorney, its my job to read and read until I find the answer buried in a court’s opinion. Generally, if you read long enough, you will find the answer you seek.
But I knew my sponsor was right. The answers I wanted from God were not going to be found in any book. Even the Bible, for all its wisdom, provides little more than a starting point for the conversations we are each meant to have with God. Its full of wisdom, not so much straightforward answers.
I had to stay quiet if I wanted to continue to hear where He was guiding me. And that meant putting down the books.
* * *
Later that day I am sorting through my stack. Its as if someone has asked me to choose between my children. I am attached to books like some people are attached to their television or their video games. If the house was on fire I would need at least thirty minutes to grab the one thing I would save, because it would be my entire book collection.
Eventually, and after much strife, I pare it down to one piece of conference approved literature from my 12-step program, one yoga-based devotional, and a faith based one. I decide that A Course In Miracles is not, in fact, a devotional. And one scripture reading plan can stay.
I move one additional devotional to my bedside table, deciding that shifting the reading to the evening technically complies with the rule. Sort of.
* * *
A well-known side effect from chemotherapy is brain fog. Apparently, it’s also a symptom of menopause. My brain is fuzzy and gets tired easily and the one thing that is very hard to do these days is read. And I need 99% of my day’s allotment of reading ability to work.
When I wouldn’t put the books down, it seems God decided to take them away.
I do still read. But rather than hours camped out on my couch or in the bath or by the window in the coffee shop, I find myself unable to steal more than a page or two here and there. I can’t hide in the pages anymore. And my mind feels very exposed.
Its uncomfortable. Its jarring. It’s as if the last of my addictions has been wrenched away.
In recovery, we call this type of situation submission, not surrender. Its not something we have willingly done.
I’m a little tweaked over it.
* * *
“I keep watching people do it, and I’m at the precipice, but I’m still too afraid to jump. I can see everyone else and they are safe – the water is deep enough – but something is holding me back.”
We are talking about surrender over the din of the tiny café. Candlelight and kale salad seem a funny backdrop for our discussion of fear and God giving in, but we’ve sunk too deep to remove ourselves from the topic now so we just continue on.
“Do you think we can really decide to jump? Or do we have to be pushed? I had to be pushed.” I had never thought of this before. The way that I had believed myself to be so far along the road – so close to home – when I wasn’t anywhere near. God had to push me into the darkest, deepest waters for me to find the right road there, to the place I would really find Him and really find me and really heal. I couldn’t surrender until I was pushed. And now that I have been, I’m not always quite sure what to do, even though I know I am beyond grateful for the where I am.
It’s a mixed bag, it seems. I wouldn’t give it back. I am at the same time unclear about how to handle my current situation.
* * *
“So tell me what is going on.”
This is how we start each and every session, my intuitive and I. During chemo the answer was generally a rundown of symptoms and side effects and how many days were left in that horribly bad regimen. These days, it’s the trickier stuff. The emotional stuff. The things we are trying to move out of my body and heart so that this disease never comes back. So that the light will stay.
“I’m not sure,” I answer honestly. I try to find words to explain what seems unexplainable and finally tell him, “I have been overcome with a feeling of gratitude lately. So strong I can’t find words for it when I pray.” I pause. I have to pause because tears are threatening to block the rest of what I need him to know.
“But underlying all that gratitude, there is something. I don’t know what it is,” I pause again and then decide to just fess up and admit the truth, “Its fear. Fear that everything that has happened to me has made it impossible to connect with people. That no one will ever understand me again. That I am a different kind of unlovable.”
The silence afforded by the removal of books from my world has left me with a newfound understanding of just how much I have changed in the last several months. A physical weight has been lifted from me, but what remains feels gaping. Exposed. Without the constant cover of words and sentences and dog-eared pages, I can no longer ignore this change.
For the last ten days, Hope and I walk and walk. We usually walk late, as the neighborhood is falling asleep. We walk after the other dogs are tucked in tight and the other people are brushing their teeth. We walk through the dark silence of the night and tears stream down my face and I don’t understand why I am crying. I want for nothing right now. For the first time in my life, I am content. But I am also uneasy. And its that mix of opposites that bring tears of both joy and fear in a simultaneous flow.
He explains to me that this is the hardest part. This is the grief part. This is the part where everything has shifted and the unhealthy has fallen away and I need to grieve the loss of all that I had held onto for so long before the new can really settle in.
In some worlds, what is happening is called “changing your frequency.” What you attract and who you are attracted to and what you can live with changes. And it takes some adjustment to come around to that. To understand and fully accept that you have reached the point of no return. There is simply no way to go back to where you came from.
I knew this was where we were going. I was prepared for it. In my very first session with my intuitive he told me as much. On the flight home from Tucson, 24 hours out from that infamous CT scan, I decided it as I read the final chapters of Tommy Rosen’s Recovery 2.0. I have asked for this. I have longed for this. But once the final distraction was removed and I had to sit with it, I finally realized just what it all meant.
It is a beautiful change.
But no one said beauty was easy.