“If you want to make God laugh, tell him your plans.” ~ Woody Allen
Large and in Charge
I believe each one of us has Spirit (God, Goddess, or Higher Power—whatever term works for you) on speed dial. By that I mean we have direct access to the divine wisdom we need to live our lives, unravel our problems, work on ourselves, and manifest our dreams. We simply need to ask. And we simply need to listen for the answer once we do. We also need to allow spirit to step in and ‘drive the car’ or determine the direction of our lives, rather than (from our ego’s perspective) thinking we know best what is right for us. None of this is particularly easy to do.
For years, I resisted the idea that Spirit was large and in-charge. I wanted to wrest control from it, and, usually, drive 100 m.p.h. in the opposite direction.
How’s that working for you?
My aim was to drive the car (my life) from the back seat. I wanted to navigate my journey from the passenger seat and, of course, control the outcome. The result would come from my determination. I would make it happen. I would will it into being.
Surely, I was a better judge of what direction I should take than Spirit was.
The result of this attitude—which took me years to get over—was predictably underwhelming (in terms of me actually getting anything I really wanted).
It turned out that resistance was like a disease that had only one cure: trust.
That said, I had been burned ten too many times. I found human beings to be very short on attributes that elicited my trust. I wanted proof that they might be worthy of my trust before I would ever give it. And, predictably, people lived up (or down as the case may be) to my low expectations. The universe continued to provide me with experiences with people who weren’t worth my time or trust. They, in turn, reinforced my sense that the world was unsafe, and that I would be screwed over if I opened my heart to anyone.
I admit I lived in the nation of victimization.
And I have to say, it wasn’t a fun place to live.
It provided me with plenty to complain about, but not much else. It certainly didn’t help me locate the life I wanted: a job I enjoyed surrounded by people I respect; a good personal relationship; solid connections with family and friends.
There were a few (very few) people I trusted. But, for the most part, I basically lived in fear.
What ultimately changed my extreme bout of fear/distrust was a series of experiences that showed me that Spirit was a living presence in my life. I realized that even if I was betrayed or hurt by another person, I could handle the disappointment and move on.
In other words, I trusted myself to survive.
Encountering the Universe’s Mouthpiece.
One day in the spring of 2000, as I stood waiting for a bus on Sunset Boulevard, a homeless woman approached me. She was incoherent and filthy. Nothing she said made sense, and I was, to say the least, uncomfortable. People around me didn’t seem to notice her. She was just a part of the scenery of Los Angeles. The bus arrived and we lined up to board. Just as I was about to climb aboard, the woman walked up to me clear-eyed and articulate.
She whispered in my ear, “Do the thing you fear the most.”
My skin burned with sudden goosebumps.
What was on my mind at that exact moment?
I should quit my job.
Hearing her, my mind filled with dread. I imagined myself living on the streets of LA, digging through garbage and sleeping in my car. (Yes, of course, if I left that job I would never work again.)
However, for the first time in my life, I listened to the message: Throw Your Hat in the Ring.
Within a few short weeks, I quit my job.
Terrified, but resolute, I dove into the unknown because I had to. I knew I couldn’t continue living the way I was living.
So, I let go of the wheel and finally let spirit drive the car.
Fourteen years later, my life is in a completely different place. Not just in terms of where I live, but spiritually, physically, emotionally. Everything has changed.
Along the way, I started teaching writing, fell in (and out of) love a few times, got my heart broken, bruised my ego, smacked myself upside the head more than once, but you know what? I lived through all of it. I kept going.
Again and again, when I followed my gut (guidance), the results were good.
Rising from the Ashes.
I took my teaching job in Arizona because I told Spirit I’d go wherever I was needed. I came to Phoenix sight unseen. I picked out my first apartment online.
Moving here was difficult, but the results speak for themselves. I’ve learned to love this vast, arid place with its prehistoric flora and fauna, its Wild West mentality, its hard scrabble ways. I like to think I was sent here to shake things up a bit, and to learn about myself and life in a very deep way.
And although I didn’t plan to live in the Valley of the Sun, now I can’t imagine another place that would’ve shaped me—as a woman, a teacher, and a writer—in a more profound way.
All this came from trusting that Spirit had my highest good in mind.
These days, the universe has my back. There’s nothing to worry about or fear.
It’s a good place to be.
Shavawn M. Berry’s work has appeared or is forthcoming in The Huffington Post, elephant journal, Journey of the Heart: Women’s Spiritual Poetry, Olentangy Review, Black Fox Literary Magazine, Vagina – The Zine, Rebelle Society, The Cancer Poetry Project 2, Kinema Poetics, Kalliope, Poet Lore, Westview – A Journal of Western Oklahoma, Meridian Anthology of Contemporary Poetry, Concho River Review, North Atlantic Review, Synapse, Living Buddhism, Blue Mountain Arts/SPS, and Poetry Seattle. Her technique essay on the dramatic monologue/persona poem is featured in a poetry database published in 2013 by Ebsco Publishing. In 1998, she received her MPW in Professional Writing from the University of Southern California in Los Angeles where she specialized in Creative Nonfiction and Memoir.
Ms. Berry teaches writing at Arizona State University where she just completed a 2013 Lincoln Ethics Teaching Fellowship. You can follow her on Facebook or read more of her work on her blog. A portfolio featuring a selection of her essays, blog postings, and prose is available at Shavawnberry.contently.com.