Where do our prayers go…the ones that are not good for us? The ones that break our hearts to utter? But which we want, even against our better nature?
Do you think there’s a department somewhere, full of unanswered prayers? And a file kept on each one of us? Would we be embarrassed to review the file, or relieved that our lives didn’t go in those wayward directions? Or would we still be longing for things that never materialized?
I went to the Vatican once to pray for the restoration of my marriage. I got on my knees, lit a candle, and cried actual tears of desperation. I’ll go back one day to light a candle and thank God that it never happened and I’ve lived long enough to see the bad it would have perpetuated. I bought a rosary ring on that trip from the American nuns at the gift shop. I bought it because I needed hope. I was drowning in fear and self-hatred at the time. And I needed a totem.
I walked through the streets of Rome, twirling this bumpy, gold ring on my left hand where my engagement ring had rested for ten years, having created a permanent dent. The newness of the ring kept jarring me out of torturous daydreams as I walked down ancient streets alone. It was my first trip alone. Ever. I was terrified and ashamed.
Somehow on that trip, a piece of the lies and cruelty long integrated into my psyche sloughed off me. The constant self-doubt–why am I in Europe alone when I should be home in Tucson fighting for my divorce–shuttered my mind to the almost inconceivable truth that I was in Rome. And I was fine. It wasn’t until I’d returned home, stuffed with carbonara and experiences, that I realized what I’d accomplished. It took other people commenting on my bravery and their jealousy to show me gratitude.
I’ve never taken that rosary off. It has been my companion since 2012. And the longer I’ve worn it, the more confident I’ve become in myself. And the more aware I am of what I have fought for to date.
But there have been other prayers. Prayers for children. Prayers for wealth. Prayers for death. Prayers for love from people who would only give it with strings attached, or even worse fake love that would bind me to the wrong people and things. Prayers for clarity and an easy path, when figuring out the solution myself was the thing I needed to experience.
Sometimes the discomfort, the arduous task or journey or healing, are what have formed my character. Yes, life would be so much easier if we just followed the same routine every day. Or if we had a Candyland game board that pointed out the path. But knowing what I know now, I would never wish for it. The unexpected introspection, the harrowing victory, the knowledge that I am strong enough to take one whatever comes my way…these are all things I earned by not knowing the future. And by not having prayers granted.
And thus it is always my toast to say, “May there always be a pebble in your shoe.”
I really don’t have any clue what lies ahead for the first time in years. I don’t know what totem I will pick up along the way to remind me of things I’ve yet to learn or realize. But I think I’ll be alright.
I’m a little at a loss right now. I’ve been praying for someone to reenter my life. If I’ve learned one thing, it’s that, for better or worse, people sometimes come back when you least expect it. I really want this prayer to be answered. And it will. Sometimes, though, the answer is not the one you want. At least for right now.
In ten years I could be a society maven of the UES. I could be a chic trendsetter living in the LES. An author. A playwright. A housewife. A cashier at CVS. What I least hope to be is a 50-year old woman with a decade of regret.
So I’m ok if that file in The Department is frighteningly large or filled with embarrassing wasted prayers. No prayer is wasted when it is made in true faith. If anything, right now, I pray for faith that it will all turn out well and I will one day thank 39-year old Vene for the will she forged to try in the first place.
But if I got a second prayer, it would be for the one I’m too embarrassed to ask for aloud. And if you know me, you know there’s very little I won’t say out loud.
I’ll keep you posted.