There are so many days when I worked at a 9 to 5 that I thought to myself, “I would give anything to be able to work from bed right now.” I would jealously watch my husband go on a surf trip up the coast and think, “wouldn’t it be nice if I could just work from wherever and be able to leave on a whim.”
I was in a meditation class when the professor asked everyone to take turns sharing something they did that took courage.
If you haven’t ever been in a class that focuses on mindfulness BEWARE. During these kinds of exercises you are told to listen intently to the person speaking instead of rehearsing what you are going to say. And for people who hate talking in front of others this experience feels like being asked to die a painfully unplanned death.
One by one we went around the room. When it was my turn I blurted out the first thing that came to my mind.
Have you ever tried to cut stretch fabric? It’s like asking a baby to sit perfectly still at the edge of a couch. Impossible.
For the last three months, every Wednesday I work a jam packed day and shuffle into class dinner-less to focus my blurry eyes on little stitches. Recently, this resulted in me accidentally sewing my finger. When I originally said, “I want to make swimsuits,” the vision in my brain looked less bloody and more like me waving a wand and doing cartwheels on the beach in Lisa Frank polyester blends.
Yesterday, my agency moved into a big, beautiful new office. Everyone was excited to stake their claim on their desks and within minutes it was the perfect agency fortress of super hero figurines, baby succulents and mood lighting.
Every once in a while, I leave work and walk down to the Santa Monica Pier to soak in the sunset and join a smorgosborg of people weaving in and out of each other to the beat of old guitars and the smell of churros.
I was walking along the dock watching a clown make balloon animals synchronized to Michael Jackson songs when I noticed on the deck below that a man had kicked a flopping fish as if he was disappointed with its size and walked away.
The fish was left to its own fate, flopping furiously to get away.
A few kids were watching with big eyes as one parent explained, “It’s okay, there are tons of little fish in the sea.”
Every once in a while I stop in my tracks, look at a project I am working on and ask the question, “Is this a stupid idea?”
I have always felt that this question comes from the most unstable parts of our souls. The parts we let others feed. The parts that are lazy. The parts that memorize words like ‘undeserving’ and ‘untalented.’
This destructive cloud often catches up to me after the initial excitement of the beginning of a journey and sits on my head until I make my next move.
I can’t think of any other reason besides God that I would have ever met Eric Chevalier. Bold, sappy statement, but I honestly believe it.
And I can’t think of any other explanation than God’s love works through human beings, to explain why three years ago a red-head named Greg would respond to an accidental LinkedIn request with the snarky subject line: ‘connect with no message?’
My friend looked at me from across a table with complete honesty as he slowly put together a string of words to tell me that he felt he could no longer be Mormon.
“You’re the first friend I have told.” He said and waited for my reply.
The next few seconds were a blur as I thought about my good friend and others like him. There is so much I wanted to say that I couldn’t express at the moment. So I ran home and wrote a letter to all the people I love so much who at some point or another have confessed something similar and with heavy hearts waited for me to say something.
Nothing has changed. Not since yesterday. Not since years ago when we became friends. I think you are just as funny, just as smart, and just as capable of being happy as you have always been. I think you are strong to say how you feel. I think you are brave to search for answers that are significant and intimate to your life and situation.
I once heard a Rabbi tell this story:
I remember my student saying to me, “Rabbi Hartmen. I want you to know, but don’t get upset with me, I’ve become an aethiest.“
I said, “When did you become an aethiest?”
He said, “Wednesday.”
“Oh boy that’s a remarkable thing. What were you Tuesday? You were a believer right? And what happened on Thursday?” I said.
“Is there any difference between the way you lived when you were a believer and when you became an atheist?”
And that’s the criteria for me.
Labels and titles don’t define us. Our actions do.
In Matthew 7:20 it says, “By their fruits ye shall know them.”
You would have helped me yesterday, the same way you would help me today.
And I love you the same way today, that I loved you yesterday.
You aren’t the first to wake up not feeling Mormon, Jewish, Atheist, Agnostic, Christian, Muslim, or Buddhist. Our faith is a wave that pulls our souls in directions we sometimes don’t anticipate at different times in our lives.
And you have been there for me when it has pulled at mine.
I remember when you hugged me when I broke down in tears in a church parking lot. You were gay, I was anxious and we both felt like we didn’t belong there that day.
I remember the time we laid on the Idaho grass with the sun in our faces while we tried to figure out life. You were homeless and heavenless but we held on to each other.
I remember the first time I taught Sunday School and you sat in the second row telling jokes to break the ice so I wouldn’t be so nervous.
I remember the day I knew God existed, because you answered a prayer that was so unique and timely to my desperate circumstance.
And I remember the day I cried on the couch because I couldn’t find the answer to a question and I didn’t know what I was. You held my face in your hands and said you would love me either way.
This letter is to many friends, not just one. Because you aren’t alone. And because we need each other regardless of our circumstance, level of faith, or type of religion.
I am grateful for you as a friend. No matter what you are. Because you have loved me when I needed you most and to know you is to know God.
Whatever God or overwhelming happiness you believe in.
Image: Cannon Kangaroo