60 to 60: I Bow
I wasn't brought up in any particular religion. Well okay, in the Bronx I went to Sunday school but that was all about Play-Doh and a Chatty Cathy doll and something called Legos. In the seventies, up in New Milford, Connecticut we attended the First Congregational Church for a few years. Dad stopped going. There was palpable tension around this, but I was too young to name it. Then it became just the two major holidays. I’d sit there on those old hard New England benches, squirming. In retrospect, I never did like the feeling of being hemmed in there. It’s just not my nature. My mother would put her hand on mine in an attempt to settle me down.
I sat there in that big, white church, like an anthropologist: observing, taking notes, summarizing. I loved the choirs but disliked the organ. I counted the minutes til it was time for cookies and freedom on the playground. My sister, older by four years, got confirmed.
Then I turned 13. By now, I had been labeled both smart and “willful”.* When the letter from the church arrived at our house, it listed requirements for me to become a member of the church. I knew in my heart and in my bones in that moment. This was not my path. Don’t get me wrong. I appreciated many aspects of the church.
It just wasn’t home for me.
Mom did make a good attempt to talk me into getting confirmed. What if you have children? she asked. What if I do, I questioned. It was only 1976, just a few years after Helen Reddy sang out permission for women all over the globe to ROAR.** The country was changing rapidly. Mom’s enlightenment came later.
After that, we all stopped going to church.
My mother later found the Unitarian Universalists and was a leader and active community member of the Mattatuck UU Society in Woodbury, Connecticut for over two decades. A high school teacher of the Humanities, I watched her dig in, learn about and honor all the world’s religions. In her classes she'd invite rabbis and Tibetan monks and Muslim leaders (imams) to come engage and speak with her students. Her classroom, and her mind, was an open circle in which to pour and receive knowledge. My mother's approach toward all religion and spirituality as a great mystery is perhaps her greatest gift to me, among many.
Anyway, I have found God in many places over the years. At the sea. In my daughter’s beautiful brown eyes. In my mother’s irises. On walks with true-blue friends. Dogs. Jay’s steady love. Recovery meetings. In grief circles. At the base of Mount Everest. In India. Planting a tree in Kenya. In sangha (beloved yoga community). Even in the rubble of an earthquake. At my edge. The hard stuff, illness, depression, loss of people who were once so very important.
If I look, God is there.
Today, I take a deep bow.
I bow to Life.
I am grateful.
I have faith.
I breathe in.
I breathe out.
*I’m a Montessori mom. I would have called it “independent thinker.”
** Helen Reddy’s 1972 song I am Woman includes this quote:
I know you doubt yourself
But you’re brilliant and you’ve worked so hard
To get to where you are.
Just keep saying to yourself, “I am woman, hear me roar!”
One of my happy places.
The beach. Ocean. Sky.