I had been in that hotel room in the Midwestern middle of nowhere for several days, and there were several to come. My heart was shattered into a million pieces. Heartbreak notwithstanding, I had been called to duty to support my mother through having her leg amputated. Feeling as though she might not be able to cope with the recovery, she was threatening suicide, yet again. I was in this small town, familiar yet always foreign, and very much alone, trying to take care of my family when everything I knew to be good and right had literally disintegrated.
I was developing a routine at the small restaurant near the hotel: the server would give me an emergency beer when I got in, and then deliver my second with dinner. I would then take the short walk back to the hotel and then lie in the dark, in the cool damp of the room. No music, no TV, just silence. At dusk the truckers started to come in and park in all the spaces around the hotel, mostly in the lot right in front of my window, which only added to my experience of dislocation.
I didn’t want to have any more sensation than necessary, because everything was too raw. I didn’t wanted to be reminded of the outside world. I would sob, stop, and sob again, and try to sleep as much as possible, just hoping it would all go away.
As there probably really are no atheists in foxholes, one night I found myself petitioning: “Shining lady of joy, of beauty, love and laughter, can you take this from me? What can I give you to have you help me? Can you change this? I swear I wanted more than anything for Aphrodite to swoop in like Wonder Woman, and just fix everything that was broken. New altar? Fine offerings? Candles? I’ll do it. Just take this all away and make it right again.
But I knew there was no candle I could light, no prayer I could recite that would do a damn thing about any of this. There is one way out and that is through.
“Of course I will help, but fix it? I think we are a little past that in our relationship, aren’t we?” Came the voice from deep in my belly. “And just what, exactly, am I supposed to fix?
“First, you will sleep until you can sleep no more. And then, you will go to the gym tomorrow morning, as soon as you are able.
“Your prayers to me will be on your feet. Your offerings will be your self-care and your mindfulness to others while you are in pain so that you do not widen the sphere of suffering. My face is in every flower and on every shining wave. I move you with every step you take. As I am in you and you are of me, this awareness and strength will guide you through these stormy waters. But none of this gets ‘fixed’, and I think you know that.
“So, continue doing my Work, and I will help you do yours, that is the commitment we have made to each other. But do know that your work here will not be easy. Your work will be to continually refine, to gain insight and clarity, it will be taking responsibility, asking yourself the hard questions, and learning how to do better every time.
But there are tools to help you: Go to that place down the road and get yourself a pedi. Ask for a flower on your big toe. And those glasses you like are on sale. If you’re gonna feel like shit anyway, you may as well also try to feel a bit cute. It may be more of a stepping stone to healing than you think.”