[Painting: The Best Of Dreams, by Liliya Garipova]
It happened while I was jogging on a wooded path beside a lake. I’d been running for almost an hour. I was a bit tired, but I was doing fine.
With no warning I knew—without any doubt at all—that a man was about to jump me, to attack me.
I didn’t hear or see anything. This knowing was closer than my senses. And I knew it to be utterly true.
I got mad and ran faster. There was still no sign of him. But fifty feet ahead, there he was, pushing his way out of the bushes and reaching for me. I yelled, shoved him down and ran like hell. No harm was done.
Twenty-five years later, during the worst days of my life, it happened again. I had married a second time, had two more children, and was teaching at a college. My husband’s career had taken off and we lived in a huge, showy home.
But a trembling child crouched in my husband’s mind. In spite of worldwide acclaim and a huge salary, he was being eaten alive. As a tiny boy, he had been horribly abused. That terror stayed with him, although as an adult he called it other things. Inside his mind, he slid back and forth between the brilliant man who led a research team and the little boy who had been given away, who thought he deserved the beatings, who waited alone in the black apartment to hear his uncle’s footsteps on the stairs.
Nothing helped—not medication, not therapy. The wound did not heal. We ate and laughed and tried to keep him with us. We traveled to Disney World and sat on the beach in Rome. Sometimes it worked, and he hugged his little girls, helped with math assignments and cooked elaborate dinners of paté, roast capon and risotto. But often he lapsed into rage-filled black silences that lasted days.
I think I’m holding things together. One day he tries to drive off the highway, to end his pain. He survives, but his crazy thoughts keep calling, like sirens luring sailors to oblivion.
I can barely make it. I can’t leave the house unless I know he’s safe. Before this crisis, at 6:30 every morning I had walked a block to a Catholic church where I could meditate before the 7 am mass. Now I stay home.
Finally, he seems all right. At dawn, I slip out of the house and walk to church. I plan to ask God for help. I’ll explain what’s going on and beg for relief. My family is sinking under the waves, we are drowning and I’m the one at the rudder.
There are only a few lights on at the front of the sanctuary. A woman wearing a scarf kneels in the second row, her head almost resting on the back of the pew in front of her. I take a seat on the right in the middle, take off my coat, sit back, look to the front and close my eyes.
The silence moves. It’s there. It’s inside me, with me. I have not prayed, I have not asked, I have not thought. This comes before thought, closer than breathing. It rises and flows. It is everything, filling me, wrapping around me like an old quilt.
I am not alone. Everything is known already. The awareness, the field of all that exists shimmers in me and around me with my own consciousness. An opening into what? A mystery without a name, utter safety, a dimension that stretches everywhere, an openness to all possibility. The Awareness. The Source. It has been with me, watching with me, feeling with me. It knows. It is.
There is no need to pray at all.
The priest comes in and starts the mass, but it’s far away. What’s close is this Oneness. Closer than whispering. Closer than warm or cold. Closer than breathing. It is immediate, closer than intuition or thought.
It just knows. I was never alone. Everything is known.
I start crying and can’t stop. It is overwhelming, tender, aware and safe. I have never known such comfort.
After the mass, the priest sits and puts his arm around me as I cry. Eventually, I manage to go home.
In the years that followed, my husband did not recover. “Come to Me, all ye who are weary and heavy laden, and I will give you rest.” I think of him as a child safe in bed, wrapped in an old quilt, held close and easy as birds murmur and the sky turns bright.
There is something that exists. Thought cannot describe it, but it holds me as it holds all of existence. There are no boundaries, no you and me, no out there and in here. No limit to what is possible. No before, no after, no alive, no dead.
There is something that exists. Sometimes I touch it, sometimes it touches me, and I know that I am not alone.
–By Jean Gendreau
copyright © 2016 by Jean E Gendreau