Updated: Aug 2, 2021
“ In this picture, I am outdoors, where I need to be to feel alive, near water with mountains and woods, the trees like a family I can never bear to be far from. "
I snapped a picture while chanting japa on the deck of the hotel this morning, as the grey mist lifted off Puget Sound and drifted up over the tops of the mountains in the distance. I looked down at my phone and realized I had just taken a photograph that represents the end of a story that belongs in a time capsule of my life. In this picture I am holding a bead bag, a string of carved tulsi wood spilling out onto my hand. I never believed in God a day of my life until I was singing the Hare Krishna mantra with Om at his temple, and remembered suddenly who and where I was in this world as if awakening from a long dream, bowing my head to the floor with tears of recognition and surrender. Now, I walk many days with this bag of beads close to me, chanting to remember God in my thoughts and actions, to shine light ahead onto my path. In the picture, a silver circle is on the ring finger of my left hand, which is resting softly on my knee. I struggled under the pain and shame of sexual abuse and secrecy for four decades, roaming through pitch black fear and loneliness in search of love from myself and others. Now I am married, and to a man. I am loved for exactly who I am and for exactly who I am not, and can finally return love from the deepest parts of my heart for all the right reasons. In this picture, I am outdoors, where I need to be to feel alive, near water with mountains and woods, the trees like a family I can never bear to be far from. I am here doing what brings me happiness, creating images and stories with other people like me. As this picture is taken, there is the hint of light raindrops falling from the sky, but a fire at my feet to keep me warm. I have fought so hard to survive so long, not understanding what was happening or why. I’ve had darkness crush my spirit and I’ve cried a million tears of confusion. Yet now, I have tiny moments like this, when the worst pain I may have endured seems like the greatest blessing, when I am filled with the simplicity of joy and the intelligence of gratitude for being lifted up and over the wall, finally able to see the purpose and beauty of it all.