I don’t consider myself superstitious at all. But last Friday night when I gave my testimony, I was more anxious that I thought I would be. Before going over to church, I went quietly into my room. I opened one of the many containers I have containing various objects from my past and found a little hair-band with four wooden beads. That was what I wanted. I slipped it into my pocket.
I couldn’t figure out why I was as anxious as I was. I had taught lessons at Celebrate Recovery, made announcements and prayed in front of the group. What was reading my testimony getting me worked up about? And was there mojo in this little hair band?
Flashback 15 years ago:
I am walking to a carnival set up in an empty park in Budapest. Then I see the bungee jump. There is a crane taking folks up about 50 meters and they jump off. I ask nicely if I can do the bungee jump. (Just the previous night I’d had a dream of flying.) Prajna says yes. The little Hungarian language I know gets me a ticket. The operators tell me to take my coat off. I feel in my pockets for anything loose and hand my keys and wallet to Prajna. I also feel the hair ribbon. I don’t remember where it came from. It may have been in our flat when we moved in. Naomi likes to play with it and for some reason it’s in my pocket so I keep it there. I take off my boots, get strapped into a harness and the crane takes me up… and up. I look down on the tops of the 12 floor apartment buildings. I see the Danube. Then the men tell me “okay”. My stocking feet toes are hanging over the side and I look down on a huge expanse of empty space. The ground is a long way down. Suddenly I’m terrified. The men wait patiently. I realize that standing there trying to steel myself won’t do anything but slow this down. I paid to jump, and the thrill is not only in the jump, but in this frightening first step. Then I am jumping. The air is rushing around me everywhere and I am soaring, falling, then bouncing. Then it’s done and as the crane descends, I hang upside down for a minute and begin to get my bearings back. People help me to my feet. Other than the clothes on my back, the only item I had on me was the little hair band with the four beads.
As I was walking over to church I thought about the hair band. I didn’t really believe in lucky charms. I do, however, have an unhealthy attachment to the past sometimes. Was I convincing myself that if I could jump of a crane platform 50 meters above Budapest then I could read a 15 minute testimony to people I’m learning to trust? Yes, maybe I was.
I had another talisman for a long time. It was a long chain like a keychain with the dog-tags Prajna wore in the Air Force. Along with her dog tags was a tiny medic-alert bracelet that had belonged to Naomi. I used to wear this chain all the time until it snapped once when I was working construction. After that I hung it from the rearview mirror of my truck. I didn’t think about this chain until I was already at church. I wondered why I didn’t consider that as a comfort object.
The chain with Naomi’s medic-alert was just an object of memory. The beads were with me when I overcame the natural human instinct to not step off a precipice into nothing. What I was doing that night felt more like that than anything else. At the meeting, people prayed for me. They played some of my favorite songs before I got up and spoke. I felt encouraged. It was like helpful workers, even if they didn’t speak the same language as me, knowing that I was afraid and being cool with that.
When I delivered my testimony, I kept my eyes on my paper in front of me. Usually when I teach, I make eye contact. It was just different.
When I was done speaking, people clapped and I got handshakes and hugs. It was like being helped back to my feet. It had been scary and a bit of a thrill too. Of course I could have done it without the talisman in my pocket. It had no powers. It just reminded me that I once I took a risk and came out alive and standing, albeit with help. Could I have done it without the help and support of others, including Prajna? No.
And part of my recovery in this program is admitting that. The fact that I never considered an old chain to carry, one that only reminded me of her and not what I had overcome, that was a good step too.