Learning to choose prayer: a story from my childhood.

I'm having a very tough time processing everything that's going on in our country right now. I generally don't make political statements because I'm just not knowledgeable about the political process and I don't believe in speaking about what I don't know. But I do know fear. I believe in the power of fear, and I know there's an awful lot of folks out there who, right or wrong, are feeling very, fearful about the changes being made in our country right now.

Now, I've done a pretty good job skirting past all of this up until this point, deftly choosing where to put my attention and energy, but that cloud is getting a little too big for me to sneak by anymore.

Unfortunately for me, I wasn't gifted vertebrae in my backbone to hold space for spite. I get mad, but it fades pretty quickly. I suppose that's what you get when you grow up in a household like mine.

Tonight, I keep coming back to a memory of my childhood when I was seven, maybe eight-years-old when there was a night where a butcher knife flew faster than a hand could meet it. After five years of witnessing horrible abuse, I was finally furious over my fear.

Hiding in my room, I kicked over my doll house and smashed all my legos. I threw all of my markers and ripped up all of my artwork. I punched my favorite teddy bear, a gift from my real father I couldn't remember, and cried my heart out because this life just wasn't good for a very sensitive girl like me.

Exhausted, I huddled in the corner of my bedroom closet with my naked bottom pressed flat on the concrete floor when I was greeted with a very familiar sense of calm that often overcame me in these moments, and a thought popped up in my mind asking me why I had broken all of my toys.

"Because I'm mad!" I snapped back. "I'm so mad! I'm mad for my mom, I'm mad for me, and I just hate this house! I'm so scared here! I'm so scared that I'm mad!"

"What happened?" This thought pressed. "Can we talk about it?"

And through a very gentle process, this thought had me recount what had happened that day between my mother and her boyfriend, giving voice to my own observations and reasoning; that my surrogate father was abusing my mother because she didn't come home the night before.

A movie began to play behind my eyes and I recalled him very clearly that night, sitting in silent anxiety on the good furniture, a black plush couch with fluorescent flower accents. His lips were sealed tight as a cigarette burned in his hand. Three fingers were stained dark yellow from his heavy smoking; a hundred cigarettes butts smoldered in an ashtray beside him. He watched every car that drove past the front window and drank from his Budweiser. It was fifth in just two hours. All six of us kids knew better than to ask for dinner. He was far too preoccupied with being mad.

At the time, all I felt was apprehension and fear but as I watched him again in this reflected moment, I felt a profound sense of sympathy for him. His hair had completely fallen out at the top of his head. His frame hunched over from long hours of carpentry. His eyes were so blue they almost looked white, but they didn't have any sparkle to them, no joy. His face was sunken in and skin hanging from his cheeks. He looked so fragile and skeletal. My mother was such a stark contrast to him; healthy with pink cheeks and wore beautiful flowing dresses that accented her meticulously attended waistline. Her hair was naturally red and full of curl, buoyant like her spirit. She was ten years his junior and every bit of a stunner. I never understood what she saw in him.

"He doesn't have any friends," I said to myself, breaking free from the memory.

"That must feel very lonely," the thought added gently. I don't recall if I replied, but at this point, my humanity had already sunk in.

I already knew my parents were alcoholics. I knew about the cocaine. I knew about her affairs. I knew my house was a disaster that none of my friends ever wanted to step foot in. She was not innocent by any means, but she didn't deserve this. Oh no--and this is where I began to get enraged again.

"So it's okay to hurt people when you're sad?!" I challenged.

"Absolutely not," it replied calmly, "but fear can make people do very bad things. Even if it's breaking what they love the most."

And as the shrieks upstairs brought me out of my head and back into my empty room, I couldn't help but feel the impact of those words. As I looked around at all my broken toys, my one escape in play, I decided that I really didn't like being mad very much. From that point on, whenever I got scared for my mother again I would just pray to make him feel less scared and more happy so maybe he wouldn't be hurting, too.

I don't know what made me think of this tonight, but I guess that's what I was getting at above. I can't participate in political conversations because I really don't understand it, but I understand fear. I also know the power of a prayer that's made from the heart, so I'm just going to keep on asking that we feel less scared and more happy. It worked a miracle once before, and I believe it can do it again.