The Matchbook Diaries


#7 Be Still And Know That I Am God

Holy man in Bhaktapur, Nepal giving me his blessing.

Raped nightly at the age of 3, life was scary so I ran.  I sprinted into imaginary hyperspace.  My soul remained frozen in my mother’s bedroom, trembling in horror, self-talking in quiet triples: “Help, help, help.”  Every night until I was 13 my body was forced to return.  But when I was finally released physically, I heard “Help, help, help” from far, far away where my soul still stood.  I didn’t listen.  The 21 grams of me that lasts forever remained pinned down, spread eagle in my mother’s bedroom.  The husk of me floated around the world, touching down here and there.

People occasionally find themselves crawling past grisly car accidents.  I refused to look at accidents – I pass by steadfastly ignoring.  I told myself I was protecting the privacy of others whose physical suffering was temporarily public.  That’s not why I didn’t look.

Nights, now, when I hear immortal me crying out, I stop and look.  I look at the abomination in every detail.  I slow down, focus, unblur, and pay attention.  At first, when I rescued myself by the grace and mercy of God, the images were murky, but over the years they’ve coalesced.  It’s the sharp details that bring palpable repugnance.  Each little new bit is dazzling agony: “Don’t move now.  Do what Mommy tells you.  You are not to stop until Mommy tells you to stop.  Keep your legs spread out flat on the bed until Mommy says to stop.   You’re useless.  You might as well have a bag over your head.”  I listen to what I heard as a child.  It’s hard.  I listen to what I said in the silence as she said those things, “Please don’t hurt me.  Please don’t hurt me.  Please don’t hurt me.”

Hard is not bad.  Hard is hard.

I won’t leave me anymore.  Someone has to look.  That someone is me.  No one owes me.  I owe me.

Children who grow up like I did are profoundly isolated.  No one wants to know.  It’s never, ever OK to tell the story I’m telling.  It’s dirty – wicked in a way few other things are wicked, and the teller of the story is indelibly marked.  I did not fight back.  She was my mother; she was all I knew and all I had.  What I demand of God is everything.  I want it all back, everything she took from me, that is, I want all God made me before my mother’s perversion remade me.

People get partway over trauma and then decide that they are too costly to redeem.  It’s too hard.   Hahahahaha!   It gets hard, not just a little hard, hard like crucifixion, hard like maybe you will die.  You literally can’t skip over it.  There are no hacks for redemption.  If you don’t finish, you lose.  People compromise, pretend, blame, or seek recompense because they don’t trust themselves or God.  Redemption isn’t just expensive, no, it costs everything.  It costs Every Fucking Thing.  That’s what you’re worth.

True treasures are not scarce.  The components of joy are freedom, health, and peace, not one gram of which can be purchased.  Deal in realities.  You want joy, redeem yourself.  Go all the way; stand beside yourself when you are ashamed, guilty, helpless, terrified, enraged, cruel, ugly, destructive, and violent.  Stay with you when you hate you.  God never hates you.  Don’t leave you.

I entered Montessori school at the age of 3, my night terrors in full swing.  I did not speak.  I rocked on my chair, in the car, on benches.  Any time I sat, I rocked rapidly forwards and backwards.  I sat alone and spent one year tracing metal shapes.  Rocking silently, I traced metal shapes and made 100’s of booklets. (Shapes are predictable.  No surprises. )  They decided I was autistic.  Tests said I was gifted.  They decided to force me to change from left handedness to right handedness. Two years into it, I began to speak in public – I have no idea if I bought into the handedness thing, or why I decided to talk.  My last year in New York, in the 7th grade,  one of my classes was maps.  I can’t read maps.  You can tell me 5 or 10 times how to read the map.  I don’t get it.  I get lost in any mall or store.  I am profoundly, permanently, disoriented.

Catastrophic abuse is measured by the level of dysfunction it creates.  If a human being is basically miserable most of the time, without liberty, health, or peace, then whatever happened was catastrophic.  In a competition for the best story, I win.  But in a competition for who hurts most, who the hell can say who wins, and why would it matter?  The point is to transcend, not in words, not in superficial lifestyle, but in your heart.  The point is to be utterly, radically, whole.  Redemption is the ultimate fuck-you position.  You need nothing.  You give yourself what you want, you follow your heart without question, without regard to social, fiscal, or even physical cost.  You gambol about on this planet and express your God-given talent to the highest level because you know exactly who you are, and you know without doubt that you are perfectly made by something that loves you without justification, without condition.  You know you are bloody Michelangelo, Shakespeare, Da Vinci, Curie, Plato, Descartes, Beethoven, David Beckham, the mother-fucking Beetles.

You can’t tell God how to make you look, or what to give you.  You can’t tell God what you are willing to hear, or how you are willing to be served.  But you can demand that God free you to be what you are.  You can insist on freedom from every lie, every distortion.  You are entitled to reach the highest level of your God-given skills.  To this inalienable right you are entitled by God.

Holy texts I’ve studied from Judaism, Buddhism, Islam, and Christianity, as well as the I Ching, are riddled with non-understood profundities.  One of them is this:  Be still and know that I am God.  Meaning, in part, but not exclusively, stop trying to be God, stop trying to escape and deny what you are, where you are, who they are.  God is God, and I am not God, but a child of God.  I do not know the way out.  I don’t even know my left hand from my right.  But if I stop, if I stop, I find that what waits for me in the Eckhardt Tolle now is a catastrophically invested, loving God.  It’s not her.  It’s the opposite of her.  Stillness requires no talent, no equipment.  It’s a spiritual nuclear bomb.  Detonate it and you’ll unleash monumental superpower whose byproduct is joy.  Radical joy.