Wake-Up Call: Finding the Joy

I’ve had wake-up moments in my life that would imply that I was in some manner asleep. Sharing these moments with those I love is helpful in conveying an existence beyond the small world of my teenagers, who delight in knowing the imperfections in their mother. As Wavy Gravy said, we are all bozos on the same bus together. Here goes, my top four wake-up calls:

  1. Age eight: I was told by the nuns in catechism school that I, as a girl, could never be a priest.  This broke my heart.  I decided that church was not the place for me.  Any place that does not honor you is not the place for you.
  1. Age 20-something: the man I loved shoving me on New Year’s Eve after badgering me about the hundred ways in which I was wrong … in his mind.  The next day, I woke up, packed my bags, and left that guy. Any partner who doesn't see you as manna from heaven is wrong. (That’s a mashup of David Whyte. Here’s Whyte’s original:  “…you must learn one thing: the world was made to be free in… anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you.”
  1. Age 30-ish: I started to write my dissertation on how spirituality and psychology are deeply connected and began my clinical internship at the Dana-Farber Cancer Institute working with kids with cancer. On my first day, I was assigned my first patient, a girl coming in for bone-marrow treatment. The first words out of her mom upon meeting me were: “Our girl is quite special.”

“How?” I asked.

“She knows things about people who have passed—people—whom she has never met.”

“Oh,” I said.

“And she talks to God.”

“Oh my,” I said.

“And, she told us that the cancer was not important.”

“What!?” I almost shouted.

“On the day we told her that the cancer had returned, she said to me that the cancer was not important. I was not to worry. She was here to teach me to love better, and when I learned that, she would go home again, then she’d go back to God."

My first patient, my first day during my first attempt at finding a way to articulate how we are spiritual as well as psychological beings. Sometimes, the miraculous just shows up.  (P.S.The girl sailed through her bone-marrow treatment.)

  1. Age 26: A complete stranger, a little boy, turned to me on the subway in New York City, after we had been trapped on a train for 17 minutes in the pure dark, with no idea why the train had stopped. He turned to me just as the door opened, looked me straight in the eye, and said, “Sometimes it takes a while to find the joy.”  And he hopped off.

Sometimes, it takes a while to find the joy. And it does. But it is here. Joy, love, abundance, care, kindness, wisdom, the miraculous … it’s all here on the same bus we are all riding. We just have to stay present to the moments that shatter our slumber and mine them for what they can teach us.

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