“The most important decision we make is whether we believe we live in a friendly or hostile universe.” Albert Einstein
For some time now I have truly believed that the most important thing Life had given me was Freedom. But recently I realized that this was not true: Life did not give me Freedom. The most important thing that life gave me instead was TRUST and when I finally trusted, I found true freedom.
In the beginning there was no trust, there was only fear. Hunger pangs caused a fit of screaming because there was no way I knew to trust my mother to feed me on time. Cold, wet diapers, an earache, a sore throat… everything exacted the same response to make sure the Universe knew I needed something and got it to me as quickly as possible if only to shut me up. Screaming did it until around the age of 5; after that it was being good, studying, not bothering and brushing my teeth even though the sound gave me goose bumps.
By the time I reached my teens, there was no doubt in my mind that this was a Do-It-Yourself Universe and that you only got what you screamed, kicked, worked, pleaded and fought for, and even then, there was no guarantee.
My grandmother, bless her, quickly confirmed this when she repeatedly told me that we lived in a dog-eat-dog world, and that bringing children into it was an act of extreme selfishness. Her remedy would have been –if she had had anything to say about the matter- to put a sterilizing machine on every street corner and ¡zap! every man that went by. My grandmother was a woman with very definite beliefs about what was and what wasn’t and she expressed them at the slightest excuse or without one.
My mother was not given to philosophical considerations like my grandmother, so I have no idea what she thought of the Universe and its workings, and my father several times said that he would rather be cheated and lose than to go through life untrusting. I particularly remember him saying this after being swindled in a business deal where he lost a lot of money.
My father however was not talking about the Universe; he was referring to other people. I really don’t remember him going into philosophical considerations about the cosmos except to say that he was an agnostic, having lost his faith (the Catholic one) early on when God failed to strike him down for all the terrible things he did. My mother seconded his agnosticism without justifying it, and my grandmother –whom I mentioned earlier- was a devout atheist who spoke of God almost every day of her life to declare His nonexistence. My grandfather was more dedicated to drinking, gambling and philandering than to discussing the conditions of the Cosmos.
Therefore I was left to figure out the walks and wanderings of Life on my own and I quickly came to the conclusion that it was heaped with disappointments, frustrations and disillusionments and had little to offer in the way of gratification unless you grabbed whatever chanced to come your way before anyone else spotted it. I remember my father repeating a Spanish proverb that says “Opportunity is bald and you have to grab it by the hair”.
So my upbringing was pretty straight forward: there was no God (no friendly Universe either) showering down blessings; no free rides. Whatever I wanted or needed I would have to work, grovel or cheat to get and, even then, nothing was guaranteed. This is the way I went about life for all of 49 years, and then Life itself stopped me in my tracks.
I’ll never forget the day I interned myself in a clinic for addictions. I truly believed my life was over and I had been a rotund failure throughout. But from the very beginning, the very first day, something strange happened. From out of the blue, a phrase popped into my mind that later would turn out to be one of the pet phrases of Alcoholics Anonymous: “Let go, let God”. I didn’t believe in God; even much later, I crossed out the word “God” in all the AA literature and put HP instead, which stood for “Higher Power”. To this day, I have no idea where or when I had heard the words, but Let go, let God was a catch phrase that helped me surmount my overpowering fear and stay in the clinic for the time necessary to clean my system of alcohol and learn the basic ropes of staying sober.
Repeating that phrase, however, by no means meant that I believed in God or in the Universe or in anything other than my AA group and my companions at the time. I counted myself as lucky to have landed in a “therapeutically inclined” AA group rather than in one of the “spiritual” ones. And the truth was that I trusted no one but my therapist.
Nevertheless, there was no way I could deny that there were strange things happening. For instance: the very first day I didn’t drink I went to bed thinking I would have trouble sleeping. Not only did I fall asleep immediately, but at 3a.m. –the hour when I was usually awakened by terrible nightmares- I awoke with the strangest feeling coursing through my body. It came –I realized- from the enormous smile spread across my face which was electrifying me in the most pleasant way. Immediately I understood: my decision to stop drinking and get help was the way to go. I fell asleep again filled with happiness. Where did that smile come from? At that time I decided that it had surfaced from the unconscious mind to tell me I was doing the right thing, but the marvelment of that small happening has lasted to this day. And then again, where exactly is the unconscious mind?
If I look back, I can notice now how everything fell into place so that I would follow the path I did: the friend I called (a psychoanalyst) had two alcoholic brothers and knew the name of a doctor specialized in addictions; the doctor immediately put me in touch with a marvellous clinic and they had space for me; once out of the clinic I was directed to an AA group that is –to this day- the best group I have ever participated in for its level of recovery (people shared how they were recovering, not how they had been drinking). When I divorced 18 months later, I got to keep the spacious house we had lived in and immediately was able to rent it to an American executive for an exorbitant price that gave me a decent income; the first day I went to look for a place for myself, I remember turning into a street in the section of the city where I wanted to live and seeing a brick wall at the end of the block. Immediately I knew that that was where I was going to live, before I even saw that the house was for rent.
It was in that house that I received the first gift from life: the gift of Gratitude (read “Life Doesn’t Owe You Anything”) and was invited to let new love into my heart. It was then that the idea of trust began to slowly seep in. Gratitude made me realize the abundance in my life and the fact that I had not done anything to deserve it or to achieve it. As a matter of fact, I had not even noticed it until that strange voice in my head brought it to my attention. It was gratitude that actually made me see that I was not going anywhere I was being led. For the first time since sobering up, I felt the deep meaning of the catch phrase that had accompanied me in the Clinic: “Let go, let God”. For the first time in my life I really experienced from deep inside that a Power Greater than myself (as they say in the groups) was doing for me what I couldn’t do for myself. Consciously I began practicing letting go; I stopped grasping, clinging to or longing for things and sort of settled back (nervously at first) to see what would happen.
For once, I really began to notice that everything I needed came to me exactly when I needed it. If there was something I thought I needed and didn’t get it, shortly afterwards I would discover why this had been for the best, or instead I would get something even better than that which I had wanted. And then the clincher came.
Once I felt sure enough that the sober life was the one for me and that I wasn’t going to slip easily back into my old habits, I made a wish. I wanted to fall in love, really fall in love, like an adolescent. I actually told the Universe about this wish, and then tried to take things into my own hands checking out every possible candidate. I even propositioned a couple of them and was turned down. After a while, I got tired of hoping and trying so hard and I gave up, throwing myself into other things. I founded a women’s group for co-dependency; I translated Melody Beattie’s 12 Steps for Codependents into Spanish and got it published, I made friends with other single women and started making a life for myself. Of course (I can say that now), when I stopped obsessing about it, it happened.
I was sitting in front of the room facing towards the door; I had just finished coordinating the meeting, when the door opened and he walked in. The moment I saw him I knew. Without a thought, I stood up, crossed the room and held out my hand:
“Hi, I’m Brianda.”
His name was Fernando, like my ex-husband; he was recently divorced and had been sober for 13 years. He was tall, slender, well-dressed and 4 years younger than me (which turned out not to be a problem). Less than a week later we were going together and I was madly in love, so much so that I thought I was going to die. Be careful what you wish for!
By the time we had been dating some 6 months and I knew that I wanted to live with Fernando, but I had been to his house and seen that moving in would probably be a fast-track to the end of the relationship. And then, one day, I had a dream… no, not an asleep dream, a waking dream: a day-dream. I was walking down the street thinking of my love when a vision appeared in my mind’s eye. It was like a movie: I saw myself knocking down a wall between Fernando’s house and the house next door. The vision was so real and I got so excited that the minute I arrived home I called him.
“You won’t believe this, but I just had this waking dream,” and I told him about the vision. “I don’t know how you feel but I want to live with you and I don’t fit into your house. So, if you agree, I need to buy the house next door,” I blurted out, suddenly realizing that I was proposing to the guy.
“It isn’t for sale,” he answered, “and I don’t think they will consider selling it as the woman who owns it rents it out and lives from that income.”
I wasn’t worried about details for some strange reason; what I wanted to know was if he felt the same, so I asked him straight out. He said that he did, that he too wanted to live with me. That clinched it.
As the house next door was not for sale, I went around to the neighbour that owned a large stretch of property directly behind Fernando’s house and asked if she would sell me a piece of her enormous garden. She said no. I insisted; she got nasty. That was the end of that. For a few days, I went over and over the possibilities without finding a solution and then, one day, I threw my hands up in exasperation:
“I give up”-I was addressing the Universe or whatever- “If you want me to have this relationship, if it is the best thing for me, then you make it happen.”
And I actually let go. I carried on with my life and forgot about our living or not together completely. Then, about ten days later, I came home from whatever I was doing one afternoon and the cleaning girl told me Fernando had called 3 times; this was not usual as he very seldom called before night and never more than once. I phoned him back.
“They just put the house next door up for sale. Do you want to buy it?”
Ten days! This was the house he had been sure wouldn’t be sold so we hadn’t even asked. Ten days, for god’s sake! How was it possible? Coincidence? Chance? Call it what you will, there was something at work here that had nothing whatsoever to do with human endeavour.
To make a long story short, I bought the house and we knocked out the wall between Fernando’s bedroom and a room in my new house just as I had seen it in my daydream, and made a master bedroom connecting both houses so that each morning we would get up and he would go into his house and I would go into mine. The vision that had come to me completely out of the blue had become reality through no effort of mine, but simply by letting go.
It was then and there that the element of Trust was born in me. I realized that there had never been very much that I could do, that there were really no decisions that could be taken intelligently as we could never know the outcomes, that my life had been led down paths I could never have suspected and that I might as well trust what was “doing for me what I couldn’t do for myself”, because to date it certainly had seemed to want what was best for me.
Since then I have basically trusted, letting what I call The Universe, do its job with the least possible interference from me. Today, I look at how things have unfolded without much input from me and I find it hard to believe. Many of the things I thought I would never experience in this lifetime (living in Madrid, visiting Machu Picchu, moving to a small town in France, spending three years on a fascinating new project that got me up every morning at 6 a.m., etc) have come to pass, and every day I wake up wondering what adventure is next.
Since then I have but one prayer (if it can be called that) and that is “I’m willing…” I live with faith and trust in the Universe knowing absolutely that it is friendly and will bring nothing but the best for me. And as I said at the beginning, this Trust has given me the greatest gift of all: Freedom.
And if all the previous proof wasn’t enough to believe in the intervention of the Universe, while I was writing this piece I happened to look over some other posts I have on my blog spot and thought to myself that I really would like to make a book out of some of them. Then tonight before turning in, I took one last look at my mail. I always check the Spam before erasing it and there was omeone who subscribed to my blog. I opened his page out of interest and it was publicity inviting me to make a book out of my blog posts, yes… exactly… I thought the same.