(A sous–chef de cuisine is a chef who is “the second in command in a kitchen; the person ranking next after the executive chef.”)
I am a member of two spiritually based fellowships. This has been so for over half my life which so far, has lasted 60 years. When I was first told that I would need a Higher Power to replace the addictions that I had used to fill what some call a God shaped hole, and that I could choose the one I wanted, I was willing to do that because I was miserable and I needed help.
This power goes by many names for many people. God, the one with the Jesus and the Holy Ghost, GOD the acronym #1-Good Orderly Direction, GOD the acronym #2-Group Of Drunks, the Universe, Love, Buddha, even a doorknob. And there are many more.
I was just twenty five and not real crazy about the God I grew up with, or to be more specific the example of God believers that I grew up around in Oklahoma. I was raised in Tulsa. On the rhinestone of the buckle of the Bible Belt.
Where many intersections had a church on all four corners.
Today, I don’t have a problem with people who go to church, but there was one variety that were EVERYWHERE in my city. Those would be of the evangelical variety. The ones who raise a lot of money from people who don’t have a lot of money and then build big mansions and colleges and hospitals with praying hands in front of them that if there were a full scale model of the Jesus that the hands were said to represent, that would have been one big ol’ 700 foot Jesus. Christ. That’s a big Jesus.
And these were big hypocrites. It was a power structure where there was a chain of command, with the head of the family revered as a bit of a God himself. And this was the God in my backyard. And I wanted nothing to do with that. That, plus my mom, who claimed to be a “born again” Christian, was sleeping with married church going men, so there’s that.
I love that phrase, by the way. Born Again Christian. Because I think I try to act like Jesus would, but I don’t think I need to be born again to do it. I just get out of bed each day and strive to do it again. For another day. Live like Jesus.
At first, I went with GOD the acronym # 2-Group Of Drunks. And that worked for a while. But I could not take that Group Of Drunks home with me where I lived. Alone. Don’t get me wrong, I took them home with me when I was drinking, but I did that one at a time.
I knew I needed more. But the direction I went was not one I would recommend to anyone. I made many things my God. But not one of those was the real thing. I made marriage my God. I made money my God. I made the idea that marriage would make me whole my God. I made building the house in the suburbs with the kid and the van and the yellow dog my God. And throughout all, I kept going back to Group of Drunks God, and while I heard God in their words it always left me wanting and needing more.
So I turned to my intellect as my God. And for years, my intellect tag teamed the Group of Drunks God and I never got the God that could come home with me. Ironically, it was and is there all the time. The God that goes home with me. It is inside me. But it requires attention. And food. And I had nearly starved it to death literally several times.
This went on for years. And the hole got filled. Not with any quality God. Instead, it was filled by the appearance of what I thought life was supposed to look like. Thinking that if it looked good on the outside, it would become good on the inside. But this kind of filling for the God hole was kind of like that shitty aerosol whipped cream. Mostly air and when you bite down on a mouthful, it collapses.
The real God is heavy whipping cream, whipped with sugar and the best vanilla. And one bite of that not only satisfies, but leaves you with a craving for more.
But I just kept shoveling it in. The better cars. The newer furniture. The clothes. The food. The entire pies. And while I got full and fifty pounds overweight, I could not have been more empty. The marriage was a lie. Run by two liars. Who brought an innocent victim into that. When one night, we were all freed from the lie. That family, as I knew it. Blew up in the living room. 26 years. Over. Poof. Thanks to the divine intervention of deal breakers in the form of multiple addictions. Some involving humans. Some substance. Some money. All from trying to fill that God shaped hole.
A surprise ending with a million red flags lining both sides of the road to the end. Thank God. Literally.
But recovering from that lie coming to an end was tough. For all three parties. We each dealt with it in our own ways.
Mine was not the healthiest. And most certainly lacked God. Instead of tending to my pain from the inside, through feeding my soul, I went at it from the outside. First, I replaced the man. I dated long before my grief had a respectful purging. The divorce wasn’t even final. But I was so lonely having been just roommates with my husband for six years that I filled that hole, well…putting others in pain’s way by so doing.
And I spent at it. I justified hundreds of dollars pissed away on fancy dinners with me and my daughter, saying I was hurting and we needed to eat. Half true, but had I tended to my spirit in the midst of the loss of my marriage as a priority, I could have fed us just fine and saved some money in the process.
At one point I blew through a thousand dollars in just two shopping outings. Two pairs of shoes that cost over $500. The rest clothes. And apparently, this was a thing. As I was checking out with my clothing haul and talking as women do at the checkout counter, I shared that my marriage had just ended in a surprising fashion and told what that was to a perfect stranger. It was more like “Scorned Woman Tourettes.” I puked it up on lots of innocents along my path. Full of rage at so much of what one very sick person had done. And as sometimes happens, that person responds in kind. “They call it a f*** you Lexus.” She said. Explaining that a woman scorned sometimes goes for the luxury car to punish the offender. In my case, it was two pairs of $500 f*** you shoes, which I still wear five years later, a hoard of clothes, lots of fancy dinners, a fancy adjustable king size bed and a house lost to foreclosure because I lived in a Godless blind rage and victim hood which distracted me from the reality of what was going on in the bank account.
I did return to the acronym # 2 Group Of Drunks though. And that was a step in the right direction. But what I brought with me there was that intellect God because at that point, I was afraid to trust much that I could not see. I was glad that the marriage was over, but remember, I had used the marriage and family that we created to fill that God shaped hole. For half of my life. And that God was gone. And the hole that remained was huge. And oh so empty.
So when I went back to Group Of Drunks God and shared my pain during the healing process, I allowed a couple of members of Group Of Drunks to piss me off and hurt my feelings. And I showed them. I went home. I threw the baby out with the bathwater. Baby being me. Bathwater, being the best thing that ever happened to me in the form of the fellowship I qualified as a member of.
I sat in my condo for a whole year. By myself. Disappointed and grief stricken from the loss of that marriage and that house and that life that I had given half of mine to thinking it would fill that God shaped hole.
And when those walls came down from addictions that flared and were left untreated, I was devastated. There I sat. With no family. No husband. No home. All gone. The only thing left was me. And a big empty God shaped hole.
I had given up hope. Almost completely. Now, my intellect was completely in charge.
I trusted me alone with all of my decisions and all of my choices and all of my actions. God for a year. That was me. I sat in my condo. For a year. I started each day after opening my eyes with the mantra, “fuck it’s another day.”
Doing nothing but eating and sleeping and picking up curbside groceries. I did not work. I rarely bathed. Going to my mailbox was stressful. Who could see me? Would they know how sick I was? Was my pain showing? I felt such shame. I had become agoraphobic. I was socially atrophied. And I had lost almost all hope and faith. Despair and self pity and hopelessness were now my father, son and holy terror.
But there was a God. And there is a God. And that God used a person to prove it because while all of the people who knew how bad off I was were too uncomfortable to check on me, one person was willing to be uncomfortable. And that person was my daughter.
She had found the same acronym # 2-Group Of Drunks and she fanned the flame of hope in me on a regular basis. Not too much though, because it was barely flickering. But that God that there is knew she was the one who could lead me back. And she did.
As a result, I came back to those who suggested I have a Higher Power. And that I surrender my life to the care of said HP. In the 35 years from the first time I used that Group Of Drunks, I returned to my Group Of Drunks as desperate as the dying can be and they are now a part of the new God Squad.
I have since learned that I have to have the God that can come home with me. The one who gives me these words to express myself. The one who cares for the birds in my front yard and the rabbits in my backyard.
Yet, I still seem to think there is something I can do that can help God do the job that God is quite capable of on God’s own.
I have so many gifts that I don’t deserve. Often instead of just receiving them and saying thank you or showing my gratitude and giving back by using them, I waste time by creating my own suffering with this worry crap instead of just enjoying the gifts.
I say this because while I see God working in the lives of others and most certainly in my own and those around me, I struggle to simply trust. Blindly trust. Faithfully trust. Even though I can look at everything in my life up to now. Surviving a halfway house with severely mentally ill roommates, surviving breast cancer, surviving alcoholism, surviving anorexia, surviving divorce, surviving miscarriage, surviving the death of my mother, and more that I choose not to share at this time. I still worry. About things out of my control. In spite of what is true. As if my worrying is going to grease the wheels of God’s machine to make things go smoothly. It isn’t that I want to run things. I don’t. I have desires, but running things is not one of them. That always ended badly.
I had a friend who shared my Group Of Drunks God once who used to say, “Paint the barn and the crops will grow.” The Texas version of what others I know in the fellowship say. “Do the next right thing.” Simple. But not easy.
I hear people say, God either Is or God Isn’t. I’m good with the first option. So I will don my apron, and fill up ramekins to do my part in God’s kitchen.
I will set forth upon a stainless steel table to fill it with bowls of happy, colorful, whimsical furniture for foster kids. And tubs full of honest, inspired words from the heart. Measuring cups filled with truth and humor. Giant steel bowls full of canvas art and photographs. Rich with flavor and color and pattern and humor.
And As I set up my prep station, there are tubs full of paints- bright pink, turquoise, emerald green, sapphire, periwinkle. Black and white like salt and pepper for contrast.
For the main course, all of the greens and blues in the sea and the sky will make a lovely lasagna. Layered between white sands will be emerald green waters and sapphire blue horizon lines topped with periwinkle sky and parmesean clouds.
And sitting next to it will be me. As I move from Oklahoma to the Emerald Coast. In Destin, Florida. Under an umbrella. As one very grateful Lucinda.