Wednesday, June 07, 2006

Finding God in an Empty Bathtub

An intensely spiritual experience. That's the only way I know how to describe it, and even that doesn't do it justice. In fact I question even writing about it because it's so far beyond explanation. Now before you think I'm getting all religious hear me out and know that as crazy as this sounds it was one of the most real experiences of my life.

I've been struggling with some things lately, some very painful things. I've been seeking direction and asking myself (and others) what I should do. Sunday there was yet another tangle of perspectives and expectations that sent me into an emotional tailspin of sorts. I wanted, I needed, to run, to hide, to be alone, even if only for awhile, until I'd had time to feel and dump and recover enough to continue on. I don't have too many options when it comes to solitude. The closest is great but I have to admit that currently my closet floor is one chaotic pile of shoes and clothes--both mine and Britton's. So I slipped into the bathroom. I locked the door, crawled into the empty bathtub, pulled the shower curtain around me and bawled my eyes out. Tell me, what's a woman to do when she needs to be alone and she knows that's not really possible? Before you knock it, before you write me off as crazy, you ought to try it. It offered a nice little shelter, a respite, from the day's storms. As I sat there, knees pulled into my chest, crying, screaming, asking questions, I realized I've been doing this all my life. All my life I've been searching for, calling out to, begging for assistance from something, someone, "out there," some invisible power in the sky, something looming above me, away from me. I know it's because that is my childhood concept of God, a holy father figure sitting in heaven, who has to reach down to offer comfort/assistance, etc. I tend to run to God when I'm a wreck. That's what I know to do. And despite all my growth I still have times when I stumble back into those childhood concepts.

Is there another way? That's what I asked myself there in the empty tub. Is there another way? What if I pull it inward? What if I put my questions, my struggles, my anger, inside, into the very deepest places of my heart, instead of hurling them "out there?" What would happen? Would it be different? Many of you may read this and think, Well duh! But honestly I don't know if I've ever really done that before--especially not in times of crisis. So I tried. I tried sending my questions into the deepest place I could, "What should I do? What should I do? What should I do?" I sat and I listened and nothing happened. I sat until my tears dried up. I sat until I was certain that at any minute little fists would be pounding on the door. Then I sighed, parted the curtain, and stepped out of the tub.

I was standing in front of the bathroom mirror, cleaning up my puffy, tear streaked face, when something deep within, I don't know if you'd call it a voice or not, said, "You are beautiful Michelle. You really are. You are beautiful and whatever you need to do, you can do it. I promise you that. You can do it. You can do what you need to do." By this time I was crying again, not from the pain and struggle, but from the intense feeling of love that I felt both within myself and surrounding me. It was my own voice, and inner voice from deep within, but it was also not my voice--it was wiser, more compassionate, more loving. It was me, and it was different than me. I'm choosing to call it God because if God is real I know God has to be the intense feeling of love that I was experiencing as I stood there staring at my reflection. Maybe an inner voice has tried to get my attention before and I wouldn't listen. I don't know. But I do know that I don't remember anything like this ever happening before. And do you know what? I believed it. Maybe that's what makes this time so different. I believed it. I believed every word and that has made the difference. I've doubted my beauty, doubted my ability, doubted my strength, but not in that moment. In that moment I knew without a doubt it was true. Maybe you think I'm crazy or delusional. Maybe I am. Maybe you don't believe in God and therefore can't accept this as anything more than wishful thinking or some absolutely normal psychological occurrence. Maybe you're right. I don't care. Whatever it was I needed it. And it was more real than I can ever begin to explain.

That message, that sense of love, has stayed with me. Throughout the past few days I've gone back, over and over again, to that moment, grabbing onto those words. And I still believe them.
I have done some hard things this week, things I never thought I would have the courage, the clarity, to do. But I was able to do them because I believe those words. "You can do what you need to do." I've done some easy things this week, things I haven't felt I had the energy or drive to do and I've done them because of those words. "You can do what you need to do." I don't know how to explain it. I don't know if I even can, but something happened in that bathroom that changed me. I felt a very distinct shift in being. Elizabeth Gilbert describes such a life altering encounter in her book Eat, Pray, Love. Jennifer describes one on her blog this week (Which by the way, if you aren't reading her blog you really should give it a try. She is real and honest, creative and artistic, and a fabulous writer. On top of all that she is doing some wonderful inner work and I truly admire her for that.) Knowing other people have had similar experiences helps me feel a little less awkward about it. It helps me know that there are other women out there seeking and finding and being changed.

It started in the empty bathtub; it finished in front of the mirror...and I'm choosing to call it God. I don't know what else to call it.

(UGH!!! I give up! I've been trying since 11:00 last night to get a pic on here. I give up!!!! Sometimes I hate blogger!)

26 Comments:

Blogger baylor said...

This is absolutely beautiful! So glad you had such a wonderful moment that can last with you throughout the hard times.

xoxo

6:06 AM  
Blogger andrea said...

Wow, what a moment. I hope these feelings stay with you, that you pull them in, nurture them.
a.

6:14 AM  
Blogger my pink sky said...

you parted the curtain, and your soul stepped out...
we all need more quiet times to listen to ourselves. i will give the ol' tub a try next time - thanks for sharing this experience.
~mindy

7:31 AM  
Blogger Heather said...

I hope that feeling and relization stays with you forever, what a beautiful thing, whatever you decide to call it.

7:51 AM  
Blogger Trish said...

Listen to that voice, no matter where it came from; it's right.

You are Beautiful! You can Do It!

Thank you for sharing...

8:13 AM  
Blogger deirdre said...

I've had a couple of moments like that too, when something spoke and told me I'd be okay. And I believed it. I don't pray because it forces me outside of myself and into a place of begging, ignoring what I need to hear from my soul. BTW, mine happen when I looked into a mirror too.

8:18 AM  
Anonymous Amy said...

We are in parallel spots in the universe. I can do it, too. You go, girl!
Britton is so lucky to have an empowered momma!

8:27 AM  
Anonymous Linda said...

I've had moments that like too - too few and too far between for me, but I'm still a work in progress.

oftentimes that's when inspiration (answers or whatever label you would give it) comes - when we can be still, really still, and/or when we can find the courage or strength required to 'let go' - let go of our desperation to make things right or our frantic need to find the answer or our control of whatever situation.

Happy for you.

9:22 AM  
Blogger Susannah said...

Michelle, my love, if god works for you then god it is: there are so many names for this kind of wonderful experience - higher self, universal spirit, angels, guides... i believe it's god in the truest sense of the word - the energy that connects us all, the wisdom that is contained within each of us, in our soul, our hearts, ourselves. i know this intuitively because this has happened to me quite a few times, partcularly in the last year. when you are so flattened on the floor and reaching out, as i have been in my grief, *that* is when we connect with 'it', with god (god is us afterall) and we finally listen. and the words are loving - and they are real, without a shadow of a doubt. i could talk about this all night actually as some of my most profound thoughts/feelings/knowings have been in those moments...... i also think this is a place we can get to in our quiet times, when we open our hearts and listen.. we don't always have to be on the floor! sometimes when writing i'll look back on what i've written and wonder where on earth that came from - this happens more in diary writings rather than novel writing, but i always smile as i know 'someone' is trying to tell me something. i believe the technical term is 'channeling' but if i go on about that everyone will think i'm mad too :-)

hugs to you. listen in - that connection is open now and is there to guide you, reassure you, *empower* you
Sx

12:28 PM  
Blogger maggiegracecreates said...

I too had childhood relapses in dealing with things. Then - I had a lumpectomy of my left breast. CANCER - big word - life changing -almost 10 years ago now. My life changing moment was just before going under the anethesia. They strap your arms outstretched to pullouts on the table. The last thought I had was "i wonder if this is what Jesus felt like. Fear - real fear - loss of control - facing an unknown.

What did i find? A strength to do what was needed. A strength to realize that I am special, beautiful, strong. A strength to "fire" the deadwood out of my life - be it stress or the people bringing the stress.

Continue your journey my friend, true happiness is in the details of the trip, not the destination.

12:51 PM  
Anonymous Nicole said...

I recently had a similar experience. I was feeling very low (very, very) and didn't understand how anyone could love me. I heard a voice that said, "You are loved. No matter what, you are loved." I was sitting in church at the time, but the message had nothing to do with the sermon. I cried so hard my husband thought I was crazy. But now I know it to be true. I am loved. So are you.

2:11 PM  
Blogger melba said...

You are not crazy. I have felt that before. That feeling that God is within me. I have felt that presense and love. But it didn't come easily. I mediatated for years before I was able to be quiet enogh to hear it. Now when I am alone in my car is the only time I am able to go inward and hear and fell like that. When you have young children there is a lot of external noise on top of the internal noise we all have. I know you will feel this way again. Once you open the door the light keeps shining in.

5:20 PM  
Blogger Amber said...

I believe you. It seems my early life was spent crying and praying for help, like that. And even if no one understood, I knew I was not alone, because I had that same feeling.

I hope you find the peace and the answers you are looking for.

:)

6:36 PM  
Blogger gkgirl said...

gah.

i'm sure i already posted a
deep and interesting response!
(heh.)
where did it go?
blogger must have ate it!

heh.
now to recreate.

i wanted to say
so many defining moments
for you in this...
asking the question inward
instead of outward,
that alone being a huge one.

and how i always considered
myself odd because if i
am upset
and cannot "go away"
i find it helps me immensely
to visualize myself in the
place i'd be most likely to
find comfort in hiding in,
whether it be
at the bottom of the closet
beneath the heaviness
of the coats,
or under my bed,
tight against the safety
of the wall...

for someone claustrophobic,
its funny that it is
small enclosed spaces that
give me a sense of peace.

and its nice to know
i am not alone in this.

7:10 PM  
Blogger Kim G. said...

I have found such comfort and peace in my life in my relationship with God. A God who cares about the big and little things in my life and is never too busy to listen to me. He hears me when I cry and knows just the words I need to hear and when I need to hear them. The times in life when I think God has let me down are more often the times that I wanted something that wasn't right for me anyway. He knows what we need and I'm so thankful he has given you the words and the peace that you needed at this point in your journey. He is faithful, He is real, and He loves us regardless if we love him back.

7:10 PM  
Blogger Dana said...

OK. First, I am totally pissed at Blogger right now. Bad Blogger! You are our connection to one another, and you need to behave.

Second, I know the closet floor and the bathtub well. Anyplace small enough to feel safe and where you can be alone to let out the deep grief that can crawl inside you.

Some people would call your experience an insight gained through mindfulness, or meditation ~ one brought about by taking the time to listen, of feeling that listening in your body. Some might call that meditation prayer, to something inside you or outside you, or both. If you choose to call it God, if that is what makes sense, that is what it is. I hope you can find that voice again when you need it and carry it with you always.

7:27 PM  
Blogger Kelly L. Watson said...

Amazing post. I have been going through similar emotions and it is such a blessing not only to find someone travelling on a similar path, but someone with the honesty to write so openly about it.

Thank you, thank you... I hope someday you will find all the answers your heart is craving.

7:41 PM  
Blogger jim said...

I was just passing through among my Poetry Thursday favs (I got tired waiting for Blogger--which will never be confused for any god), and your meditation threw me against so many past crises of my own, where a vase, or a coffee cup, something clean, material, gave me that calm, gave me a little peace and space where change or growth could take place--why not God being there?

7:58 PM  
Blogger Alexandra S said...

There isn't anything anywhere in this post that sounds crazy. It sounds like true grace, a pearl of wisdom slipped to you right there in the bath. I've never met you but there is something so definitively mighty and powerful about you that glows through your posts right to all the eyeballs round the world reading your soul baring words. Whatever you are going through you will come out the other end. Where does that inner voice disappear to sometimes? where does it go to for days, weeks, sometimes months??? Whereever it goes yours is clearly right there with you. Trust these moments dearly that you have described here. I do believe they are as real as your right hand and deserve all the faith and respect you can muster. You are wonderful, so inspiring, and strong.

8:35 PM  
Blogger Neasa said...

What a beautiful post & thank you for sharing this! I had a similar experience in a bathtub once (though mine was filled with water, but hey, whatever works!) & I'll never believe it was anything but God by whatever name. The quality of love expressed is too out of the norm, too out of the head - you can just tell. So I was saying "yippee!" while reading about your grace experience. Call it back to yourself in future times of need, so you don't forget.

2:23 AM  
Blogger Josephine said...

Thank you for sharing this experience. Because of the deep nature of what you've written, all I can come up with saying is that I am happy for you, and it is beautiful. And you are beautiful.

7:39 AM  
Blogger Bohemian Girl said...

mmmmm...yes.

this has happened to me before. the crying, the fists to the sky, the raw truth of my feelings being spilled in a myriad of ways (anger, fear, love, sadness) and then in a hush...i hear a voice within and a calm washes over me and a knowing lives on inside my heart.

i truly believe you.

loving you,
boho

8:25 AM  
Blogger Turquoise CRO said...

That bathtub wasn't EMPTY!!! YOU WAS IN IT and it WAS BRIMMING OVER!!! I LOVE GOD!!!!!!!!! Alleluia is my favorite word at this time in my life soooo Alleluia!!! to your Godliness!!!!! love and prayers

6:48 PM  
Blogger SUEB0B said...

I love your writing and I love your journey. I am so glad you got to have this experience.

10:40 AM  
Blogger Living Part Deux said...

I'm smilint and nodding and saying, "Hmmmmm," and sending you hugs!

2:10 PM  
Anonymous Joni - MI said...

I loved reading about your experience. I don't even know you but I want to say that God does care about us and that I believe he sends to us what each of us needs. I would love to hear from him the way you have.

Oh, and I want to tell you one more thing: I too, have found that the shower is a "safe" place to cry and I have done so there from time to time. Sometimes it's deep grief and sometimes it's loneliness, anger; a backward glance at the past and things that will not ever be healed, but it's safe and it works for me and I suspect for many women before us!

Keep it honest, there are a lot of us who appreciate it!

2:41 PM  

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