I was raised Mormon, which didn't suit me. The "One True Church" aspect smacked of hubris and the focus on "Sin" made me rebellious toward a judgmental God. So I became agnostic. I wore my agnosticism like a Girl Scout merit badge.
My inner monologue when the Mormon Missionaries came to convert me:
Through the steady, extended use of my rational brain I've decided I don't know if God exists and you can't make me! So missionaries (gosh, you're so handsome!) get back on your bicycles and be gone!
However, I secretly hoped that God did exist (not the Old Testament God full of brimstone and scorn, just to be clear).
So when I found myself at rock bottom in a toxic, emotionally abusive relationship I joined a 12-Step program, which meant getting on my knees and praying to the Higher Power of my Understanding.
Here was my inner monologue while I prayed to the empty room:
Why are you praying to an empty room, Shannon? No one is out there. Can't you hear your voice echo? ... hmmm, I'm hungry, I wonder if I have any chocolate? ... I wonder if my boyfriend is currently having sex with another woman ... my knees hurt in this position, do I have to pray on my knees? ... God Dammit Shannon, focus! ... Oh great, you just took the Lord's name in vain while praying, now you're screwed ... I could track my beau with the GPS phone finder I installed on his phone to see if he's having sex with another woman. Then I'll be able to finally break up with him ... is 10 a.m. too soon to start drinking?
Praying did not come naturally to me.
But I'd begun accepting such unacceptable behavior from my man that I kept praying anyway. I was very humble, which was new for me, a dyed-in-the-wool know-it-all.
At first I didn't notice much change in my praying, just a slight diminishment of self-consciousness every time my knees hit the floor.
Then one day the Higher Power of my Understanding spoke back.
It was a particularly unfortunate day in my relationship. My boyfriend had decided to break up with me. It wasn't the first time, but this time he thought it best to drive me an hour up the Pacific Coast Highway to do it. Which meant an hour drive back with a broken heart.
I was just contemplating that horrible drive back as we sat on a frigid, mostly deserted beach that winter day when suddenly I had to pee. My bladder seemed to be controlled by a force greater than my body.
"I just don't think it's working..." my beau was saying.
"Hold that thought," I said, then dashed off to the bathroom, praying as I went:
Please God, please don't let him break up with me. Please soften his heart and make him realize, despite the fact he cheats on me and won't marry me, that deep down he really loves me and that frightens him because of his "childhood issues" and makes him behave badly!
When I entered the women's bathroom I was briefly distracted by how clean it was, since beach bathrooms tend to be disgusting.
I dashed into one of the stalls, still praying for the salvation of my relationship when I realized this bathroom really was clean because there wasn't even any graffiti on the walls.
Except for two small, perfectly lettered words on my right, exactly at eye level as I squatted over the commode. The two words said this:
I knew, with absolute certainty, that my Higher Power had responded to my prayers. Now I just had to decide whether or not I wanted to take his advice.
In the 12-step programs it's understood that smart people (c'est moi?) have the hardest time working the program, because it's very difficult for them to turn their life and will over to the care of God as they understand him.
But I'm here to tell you, regardless of your religious affiliation, agnosticism and even atheism, once you start reaching out to God, The Divine, The Universe, The Force, The Good Orderly Flow, Your Higher Self, Your Unconscious Brain or whatever other name you want to give your Higher Power, strange and wonderful things begin to happen.
Because we cannot fix our brain with our brain.
If you're struggling to avoid or get out of a toxic, dead-end, emotionally abusive relationship you'll want to opt in the Shannon's discreetly infrequent NEWSLETTER HERE.