I was drinking wine while packing my suitcase for a trip to Colorado last week, and while I was in my bathroom, gathering together the mini shampoos, and placing earrings into little plastic bags, the voice of Ernest Holmes, a spiritual teacher who is long-since dead, boomed through the speaker on my phone:
“Friends, in the Colorado Rockies,” he said, as I placed Q-Tips in the zippered pocket of a lemon-colored ditty bag. “There is a beautiful valley from which many fountains gush forth. Each fountain is different. More water comes some than from others. But there is only one body of water at a deep subterranean level that flows through each one of them. Here is a great spiritual lesson,” he says, as I stack cardboard boxes, the bones of an online shopping binge on the floor near my window. “You and I and everyone has a direct and individual relationship with this thing called life, which is ever seeking an outlet through us. God is the original ocean of all life that flows through everything. There is a divine pressure at the back of us, that evermore seeks expression through us, and if there were nothing in us that inhibited or stopped its action, we would be whole.”
I remember very clearly the first time I rode a bike. My Dad took off the training wheels, held the bottom of my seat for a second, and when he let go, I pedaled as fast as I could. It smelled like eucalyptus and rain. School had just started. And I should have pedaled slowly, letting my Dad hover his hand under the back of my seat. Instead, I rode at a break-neck speed, half crying, half screaming, as I rounded past the park with the birch trees and towards my best friend at the time (now she has two children) Jaclyn’s house. I made it to the opposite end of the two cul-de-sacs that formed our U-shaped neighborhood, and when I got there, because I didn’t know how to stop, I crashed into the waist-high cinder block wall that separated canyon from pavement. My Dad arrived seconds later, huffing, puffing, and laughing. I was crying.
I remember the feeling of the propulsion. Not being able to stop. I remember my Dad’s hand on my back, urging me forward. And it’s an interesting idea – Holmes’ idea – that divinity is at our backs, urging us to do things in the way physics, and my father, were there. Pressuring me along.
I do my best to act well. But sometimes I don’t. I send a text that never, ever should have been sent. I am angry, forming this whole story in my head about a stranger at barre class because she looked as if she was about to steal my spot. I let the “Ma’am” comment from the woman in Bloomingdales get to me, enough to mention it to my Mom on the phone, as I am exiting the freeway next to the bay cupped with palm trees. I am just a flawed little human, and sometimes I feel like I’m moving through this world, like I moved through the exhibit at the Exploratorium in San Francisco when I was 11. It’s pitch black, and I am feeling my way through this thing. I am crawling up step ladders blind. I am sliding into pools of what feel like cold, uncooked pinto beans. I am trying doors that won’t open. I am leaping and I am falling. I am running into walls. And I am vulnerable.
But if God – whether it’s a dancing shiva, or energies, dark and light, floating around making the things that we think come true – were at my back, how would I be? If God were there, like the strong hand of my Dad, pushing me forward, saying: “Why not believe in owning your own home in a good neighborhood?” or “Why not believe in love, for you?” If God were there, as a quiet voice within, saying “Life is good. Life is short. Love people, Natalie,” could I listen? If I didn’t have to depend on only myself, if I didn’t have to do all the work and feel like I was all alone, would it be better?
This idea occurs to me. It occurs to me when I drive past a seventies-style church with a long sweeping steeple. When I see a woman in a pastel pant suit leaving mass, arm in arm with her gray-haired husband on a Sunday. It occurs to me when I see a group of dolphins less than ten feet away from me, playing in waves, and I should be happy – amazed – but at my core, I am still sad. What if God were real? Would I still feel this way?
If God were real, I think he, she or it, would want me to make a lot of surf trips to Mexico. He, she or it, would want me to make lemonade from scratch in the summer, and holiday wreaths to hang on my door in the winter. He, she or it would want me to learn how to do things, simply because I don’t know how to do them. Canning class? Why not. Sewing seminar? Sign me up. I think we get in our own way a lot. And if we didn’t stop the flow of water as Holmes says, maybe we would wake up every day feeling the adventure of our lives. Heartbreaks, boredom, sadness, and hangovers not excepted. No. But maybe not taken so seriously.
I don’t know what God is. Or if there is a God. But I do know that every day babies grasp a parent’s finger with a full fist. I know there are underground caves in Turkey that I want to see in person. And I know colors don’t exist without us being here to see them. I know that the moons sends waves to shore in varying patterns. I know that I will love again. And I will be loved by people I have yet to meet. And if there were a God, if there is a God, I know that God would want me to be happy in as many moments of my life as possible. And it’s not always possible. But if there were a God, I know that’s what he, she, or it would want me to always try.