Today, God and I drove slow miles on familiar streets through neighborhoods that were once mine. I remembered parties I attended, work I did, meetings I conducted, flirtations, indignations, victories, defeats. Everything was distorted in the ways the past distorts itself. Soft and gone. We drifted in and out of shops where nice people helped us reduce our lists of irritating errands. God chattered, waved, and pointed as I coped with the exhaustion of nostalgia. She steered for a while, but then abandoned the front seat altogether because she did not have my full attention.
Texting while driving is a bad idea. Driving around with a buoyant God might be worse. She floods the interior with visions and boundless energy. It was not only distracting, it was paralyzing. “God,” I finally said as I struggled to parallel park, “You need to quiet down and let me focus.”
God saluted, unbuckled, leaped out, opened my door, and bowed like she was a valet at a five-star hotel. And I willingly stepped into the mud of the world, the DNA of impending disaster. Black ice. It was slicker than I thought, and I nearly fell. The carpet of God spread itself thick, and the arm of God shot out. The mouth of God said, “Whoa there, Nelly.” I resented the assistance.
“Let go,” I said, shaking my elbow free of God’s hand. “I’m fine.”
“Of course, you are, dear,” said my snappy young God. She melted into razor-sharp shadows cast by the midday sun. My parking job wasn’t stellar. God leaned against the building and watched me consider my next move. Being with God is like being alone only worse. The fantasy of self-sufficient isolation is rendered pathetically transparent if you get caught in the gaze of God. We are seen and seen through. It doesn’t seem fair.
I don’t know how long I stood there, regrouping, asserting my right to a modicum of privacy, but I know I made it home in time to cook a nutritious dinner of vegetables I peeled myself. I don’t know how many more streets will become familiar before God and I no longer navigate exploratory routes, but every day I remind myself that at least for now, I know how to read a map. I dig into that idea like a dog in soft dirt, and I bury reminders and markers and idle thoughts, fully aware someone else will find them. That’s why I add incantations, blessings, and instructions for how to jitterbug. Who knows what might be needed?