If you read last week's segment, you know that I got my ass kicked by the bible belt early in life. I carried all those negative feelings further into my adulthood, but as the years passed I still did my praying and looked for ways to be a better person. I read some self-help books, was extra kind to old people and hobos, watched church on TV, and tried to eat healthy things. Maybe that would make God happy. Yet the harder I tried, the worse off I seemed to be.
Salvation never happens like you think it will. The real change came when the owner of the company that I worked for pompously announced to the whole office that I was incompetent, devoid of the ability to reason beyond that of a simple dog, and not-so-delicately recommended that I find another job. I sat expressionless for a while as I absorbed these words of encouragement, waxing and waning between poisoning him with oleander or packing my shit and leaving. The girls I worked with brought me tea and sympathetically offered logistical support in the disposal of the body. It was a thoughtful gesture and I appreciated it.
You’ll be pleased to hear that no homicides took place that day, unless you count my spirit. This was the third job I’d lost in fewer than three years, which is especially weird considering how delightful I am. Still, there I sat, a smart, motivated, creative girl who had only managed to overachieve at failure. I was broke, pissed off, pathetic, self-medicating, and ready to give up. I told my husband, “Screw it. Let’s sell everything and move out to the woods. I’ll beat our laundry on a rock. We’ll eat bugs. I don’t give a shit anymore.” Without a word, he refilled my wine and retreated into the house. How proud he must have been of his hillbilly bride.
About a month later, a friend of mine found me another job making thirteen dollars less an hour than I was making before. I told myself that I should just be thankful to have anything at this point and to settle into my fat, stupid life of dread and disappointment. I accepted the fact that this was the best life would ever be; I’d never see the world, have any money, or accomplish anything of any significance. Indeed, my cup of mediocrity runneth over. I even had the audacity to tell my son that life is just a long string of disappointments with a few little successes sprinkled in there to trick us, so saddle up! It’s going to be a long, sucky ride! I was a lame horse, ready to be put down.
No doubt I was at an all-time low. I drank so much wine that my liver moved in with Hank Williams. I once went through an entire bag of Ruffles and a container of French onion dip. By once I mean four days in a row. It’s the only marathon I can take any real credit for.
When I wasn’t getting Ruffle drunk, I sat in the garage smoking, drinking, and feeling OH so sorry for myself. Even though in my heart I knew what that man said to me wasn’t true, I let the words seep into my soul. They must be true, I thought, because look what a failure I am! Who wakes up with a Ruffle stuck to their face? A loser. That’s who! I cried. I yelled at people. I picked my toenails. I found fault in everybody and everything. I was also pretty sure I had either heart disease or cancer and was going to die right after my husband won the lottery and ran away with a red-headed twenty year old. What an asshole! I seethed and broiled over these and worse thoughts - obsessively. You can imagine how attractive I must have been to the general passerby.
One of two things happens when you wake up with a Ruffle on your face. You either A, eat the Ruffle, because it’s still a perfectly good Ruffle, or B, you pull your head out of your ass. It took some precarious leveraging, but I was indeed able to extract my head from my rectal region and objectively examine what was really going on. I was sick of feeling bad. When I say sick, I mean really, really sick of being pissed off and pathetic. I knew I was better than this, I just didn’t know how to stop feeling the way I did, or how to think positively about any of it.
Years before all this, a book came out called The Secret. At the time I was fascinated by the message that we attract what we think about. It was an idea that had never before occurred to me and it made perfect sense. I read the shit out of that book. By that, I mean I read it once and thought I had life all figured out. This is the equivalent of running down to the end of the driveway and back and thinking you’re in shape for life. But hey, this is 'Merica, dammit. I'll take a super-sized quick fix, cut the calories, extra fries.
I adopted the ideas of The Secret and committed myself to my new life. I did really, really great for about three hours and ten minutes. Then everything went right back to the way it had always been. That was just too much damn work, all that positive thinking. Being a heathen seemed easier. To hell with it.
But that was all years before.
After the unfortunate Ruffle incident, I found ways to drag my worthless ass out of bed and make it to work everyday. I was miserable and at an all-time low inside. One day, though, while sitting there at my desk, I said a prayer that went something like this: Hi God. I know you hate my fat, stupid guts, but could you PLEASE make all this go away? I can't stand it anymore. Do whatever you want with me. You can't do any worse than I have. Thanks and have a great day! While not very eloquent, that prayer was filled with a heartfelt desire that can't be described in words. I wanted to feel better. I had to.
Strangely enough, within about a minute The Secret popped into my head. Not very helpful seeing as though I couldn’t exactly read a book at work. But then another thought came to me that I knew was surely divine. It told me to look in my phone’s app store for audiobooks. I had never, ever, in the history of the world listened to an audio book before, because that was for nerds and old ladies who knitted sweaters for nerds. Regardless, I’d asked God to throw me a bone and who was I to say that this wasn’t the bone? I ended up downloading Librivox that day.
The Secret wasn’t the first book I listened to. There were a bunch of free books with titles like “Your Invisible Power”, “The Science of Getting Rich”, and “Thought Vibration or the Law of Attraction in the Thought World”. Freebies? I liked free. I also liked instant gratification. One by one I listened to the free books, each one leading me to another, and each providing a new idea or inspiration. Before I knew it I’d downloaded dozens of books that I listened to all day, every day, some over and over.
As I considered the new ideas I was learning about, I couldn’t help but connect the dots. Suddenly, the bible was making much more sense to me, and the realization that I’d been hoodwinked all these years became blatantly obvious. I'd been baby-shaken by the Universe. Hallelujah! Everything hit me all at once on a Tuesday afternoon in my cubicle, while slurping the last of a Diet Coke and licking the Flaming Hot Cheeto dust off my fingers. There was no Jesus approved holy water, no holy man, and no fancy words spoken; just an indescribable rush of love, peace, and absolute clarity.
The self-hate I'd felt my entire life was suddenly absent in one swift instant. Not only did I not dislike myself anymore, but I only felt the utmost affection and adoration; total girl crush. Past mistakes? What past mistakes? Suddenly I understood what it meant to be "born again in Christ", and it was nothing like I'd learned in Sunday school.
Not only did it become clear that there is a God, but also that He's not mad at me and never has been. And He's not sitting up on a cloud in some ego-throne zapping evil doers, either. That's shit's a lie. There's only love and nothing else. After all, the saying is "God is love". Not "God is love but it really turns Him on when you suffer, too". That wouldn't be love, that would be sociopathic, and that's not how it works. That's not how any of this works! (sorry, too many Esurance commercials.)
Suddenly I understood what it meant to turn away from "sin", or rather, those things that no longer serve us. I thought that would mean not having fun anymore, but I was wrong. It means more fun. Feeling good, having peace, and being happy is fun. And I don't even have to give up saying "shit", because that word totally still serves me and it turns out God doesn't care about that kind of stuff anyway.
You know what else? Jesus wasn't the sashaying pansy depicted in paintings and texts around the world. No sir. He marched this earth like a damn boss, and that's a fact.
That day in my cubicle I realized that my life was about to get very cool, very fast. Now, don't mistake this salvation of mine for enlightenment, because those are two different things. We'll talk about that much later, but first check in next Monday for Part 4 of the Law of Attraction: the Most Awesome Physics Lesson Ever. Turns out you can learn a lot about God in physics class. As always, feel free to throw your opinion my way, and Happy Monday.