Friday, September 22, 2006

God Is

I caught the 6:05 train this morning because my day is accordianed into what seems like only two hours. The long commute to work cuts into the actual work part and I figured I'd find more time in my day if I lost some sleep and went to work earlier today. This scares me shitless because someone came up with this brilliant plan to get a holistic nutritionist's degree and who knows where that will be crammed in. But losing more sleep until I only have a couple hours left STILL seems better than the Indefinite Douche Bag Broker Plan.

I like the dark, intimate hours of the morning. It seems like a secret time; a sweet pocket of productivity. It was too dark to see the river from the train though, which was a shame, but I did see a sunrise over industrial areas and the contrast was stunning. I do like contrast.

When I arrived at my OC station it was 7:15 and I decided to walk the two and a half miles to work carrying ten pounds of purse and lunch and books and school papers to be looked over and signed. I haven't been exercising as much as I'd like either so the walk seemed a good combo'ed use of my time. I'm a really good Time Combo'er.

Being a pedestrian feels empowering in Santa Monica, but as I walked to work past the long agricultural blocks and business parks, I could see the looks on drivers’ faces: I wonder what's wrong. Why is she walking? It was an odd vibe on the street and made the walk less enjoyable. But as I crossed an overpass, columns of sunlight busted through steely clouds and the rays fanned out majestic-like. I am a sucker for a scene like this. I always think, "Oh, there's God" just like the old-school church goers want me to believe. Blonde, laminated Jesus is always erectly talking to those Rays of Light. So, there was God on the Irvine overpass and I plotted along, ignoring stares and reminisced about God for the rest of the walk.

On my 18th birthday, I was baptized by full submersion as a Seventh Day Adventist at an all-black church in a rough area east of Inglewood, south of Leimert Park. I found myself at this particular church because I ditched much of my senior year in high school to play basketball with a regular group of guys including a cute, 19 year old devout Seventh Day Adventist, and he invited me to a Saturday service. I accepted.

At this age, 17, I was sinking. I was tired of being the responsible Wise Child; I was sick of Baby Old-Soul Piety because at 17 I felt it all meant absolutely nothing. I was completely alone and becoming trapped by hopelessness. An internal hurricane was whirling. I could feel myself starting to crave destruction; I was reaching a point of utter uncare. School was the first to fall of my priority list because I couldn't afford to give up my jobs. Basketball and reading brought me limited relief. But I felt myself slipping. I was down and vulnerable enough to go to church.

I stuck out sorely at this large congregation. It was like I had a force field around me. “Oh, I know Chris did not bring her here,” I could hear as I was scoured with looks. Chris crumbled under the pressure and he sat with his friends. I sat alone in a back pew and leafed through the hymnal. I had convinced myself that I was supposed to be there anyway. The choir opened up the service. I couldn’t see them because they were tucked away in an alcove at the front of the church, but the first few notes of harmony clobbered me with emotional intimacy. I slouched down on the wooden bench and squished myself against the end lip of the pew. I felt tiny under the towering arched ceilings with wood beams. I was nothing next to the big hats and big voices and wigs and good church clothes. The song was called God Is and I wanted to believe in every word though they made no sense to me. Savior? Surrender? Let go? In someone else’s hands? The words had absolutely no rational meaning to me. But the choir voices went deeper than anything I understood and I put the open hymnal over my face and cried my eyes out.

Had I had more wits about me, I probably would not have chosen a ridged Christian fundamentalist route where the patrons of the church mainly ignored and rejected me. But I kept my ass in that pew because I knew I could save my life by listening to choir music. It seemed like the perfect alternative to letting my hurricane fester and explode and destroy. I was going to let someone else be the Wise One. God took that pressure off me. The girls of the church talked shit on me, Chris waffled in and out of interest and the old people shook their heads though a good few finally did extend their welcome and friendship, but nobody could’ve gotten me out of that church once I heard God Is. And no one did for two years until God restored faith in myself and my wits.


Don't Get Mad Get Vegan! said...

I adore this post and your blog.
Really love the way you express yourself.

Marigoldie said...

So much to say! I'll just say thanks for the post.

angela said...

This is so beautifully written that it brought tears to my eyes. You have a real gift for storytelling. I feel like I want to give that 17-year-old girl a big hug and just hold her in my arms!

acumamakiki said...

I love how unexpected this story was dear Madness, as always told so eloquently by you. Early morning is my favorite time because of that hushed, quiet beauty. And I can so totally picture those OC-er's freaking on your cute mama self, as you walked to work ~ hehe.

Ali la Loca said...

I recently had to walk to the train in Walnut Creek, CA because there was no parking in the garage at the station, or in any of the nearby garages, or at a meter - nothing! So I parked downtown and walked the full 25 mintues to the station. People looked at me as if I were completely out of my mind, and I was grateful to have my iPod to tune it all out. And this was Northern California - I can only imagine down there the kinds of looks you got.

Anyhow, I loved the church story, especially the part about God allowing you to find yourself and your strength at the end of 4 years. It must have been hard to keep going back to that church where you were made to feel like an outsider. I admire that.

My 17-year-old hurricane was defused through travel, not church, but the end result was the same: find God in places you feel you don't really belong, only to find out that the real good stuff was within you the entire time.

joy madison said...

so lovely!

LeS said...

You are an endless source of inspiration.

I was just thinking about some tight corners that I willed myself out of in my youth so I could support myself yet again in the challenges that lay ahead.

And then I came here.
And read that you have done and are doing the same thing.

Grand comfort, my friend.
You are awesome.

Green Whale said...

Beautiful. So much heart.

Laini Taylor said...

I love early morning hours too, they seem so quiet and personal and filled with intention. The holistic nutritionalist plan sounds like a good one -- you can get some good studying in on the train. I wish you the best. Your other job sounds so unworthy of you! Of course, I would like to see you just write books, and more books, and more books, but I suppose you can squeeze some holistic nutrition in there, too! :)

la vie en rose said...

i love that you found god in the music...and i love that by sitting it out you finally found the faith in yourself you were needing. thank you for sharing this intimate piece of your life.

Alexandra S said...

I've been getting up real early in the morning too. I realized when I have this extra time before my workday I feel much better like I am not just a work drone. And I soooo know that feeling walking in Los Angeles! People DO look at you funny! One time my ex and I took the bus to LAX from Fairfax & 6th and as we walked with our luggage I felt those same stares and questions. Its one of the things I like least about that home city of mine, that you must have a car really or you are stranded or feel like a freak doing something as natural and wonderful as walking down a city boulevard. I remember hearing about someone visiting LA for the first time from overseas and wondering where all the people were on the empty sidewalks and the person said, "in their cars!" Its true. We NEED an awesome public transit system there!