“Guys come look!!” I shouted to my family as we were exploring during our after-dinner walk. I wasn’t looking for anything specific but there I found it, a tiny spec on a bright green leaf sitting among the teeny white flowers. A ladybug.
I was lost in thought thinking about how different our walks are now. I still carry a tumbler but its water instead of wine. I hydrate myself so I can keep up with the kiddos vs. being dehydrated and rushing them back home so I can refill my drink. I’m no longer power walking and telling them to keep up when they stop to examine the flowers, ants and whatever else is in the dirt. I had zero interest in that before. It prolonged the walk and increased my anxiety that would start to fester if my cup was running low. Since I am a stay at home mom there were only a few reasons why I would walk at all. One, to get me out of the house. I had been cooped up all day up to my eyeballs in laundry, meal prep, emails from school, cleaning and all the other things we do. So, I needed to release my pent-up energy somewhere and a walk would do me good. Second, I rarely moved my body and I knew that wasn’t good. My body was sluggish and unhealthy so a walk was the only thing I had enough energy to do. And lastly, it was probably the only time my husband and I could get a chat in with minimal interruption.
Now here I am at almost two and a half years into an alcohol-free life. Birds are chirping, sky is blue, sun is shining and we are out on our second walk of the day. I love exploring with the kids now. We stop and check out the flowers to observe how the pollen looks like yellow-dyed baby powder on them. Or we flip over some rocks to see what bugs are hiding beneath the damp soil. We work up the courage to cross the makeshift bridge over the stream that leads from the trail into the woods. And sometimes we grab some fallen branches from the wooded area to form some teepees for fun. Like I said I wasn’t looking for anything specific, I wasn’t really looking for anything at all, it was more like it found me.
I am forever grateful that my life is so peaceful now. Sometimes I get an overwhelming sense of joy, like the night I saw the ladybug, something so simple that sparked so many emotions and I am not complaining. I missed out on that before being clouded by the fog of addiction. It swallowed me whole then decided to spit me out when I was just a shell of who I used to be. I had to surrender to the fact that the addiction was bigger than me. When you find yourself that broken you tend to look for something that is bigger than you. Something you can rely on. Something that makes your spirit curious. I was able to reawaken my relationship with God who is my creator, my first friend and my holy father.
My life was so full of chaos and destruction and it seemed to follow me everywhere. It followed me because it was me. I was my own worst enemy. I was constantly trying to run from myself while pointing the finger at others like they were the ones to blame. You can’t outrun yourself. I tried. You have to face the chaos. You have to face yourself. Funny how that works huh?
I thought I was insignificant, worthless, dumb and just a discarded spec of a human in this vast universe. I had known God before but never really knew him. I thought he was just this all-seeing figure in the sky waving his finger intensely when I did something wrong. Holding all that guilt I always assumed I had to prove myself right to earn his love. That was the furthest from the truth.
To me, ladybugs are sign from spirit. They come by on a rare occasion and when you least expect it. According to Google, ‘the ladybug stands for protection, healing, good fortune, and grace. It’s a very spiritual animal that often protects plants and flowers from pests and other bugs.’ So, on this random June day I thanked God for sending me this tiny little spec, a symbol and a gentle reminder that even though I am small in comparison to this immense universe, I am not forgotten. I was never alone and I will never be alone again. He has been my constant protector, provider and healer. He is a God of mercy and grace. He found me when I was lost. He reminded me that even though I am but just a spec in this immense universe that to him I am worthy, I am loved, I am significant and I am enough. And so are you. I no longer seek happiness. Happiness, like feelings, are fleeting. You cannot rely on the next best thing to make you happy. You will forever chase different circumstances to bring you something you can find everyday as long as you are staying present and enjoying the now. Occasionally we get so caught up on the tangible things, things that are only temporary, that we can miss out on the joy of experiencing what the spiritual world can bring.
Belonging is our capacity to feel joy, freedom, and love in any moment. As the late Zen teacher Charlotte Joko Beck [1917 — 2011] said: Joy is exactly what’s happening, minus our opinion of it. She made a distinction between joy and happiness — Happiness has an opposite: unhappiness.  Joy is not about happy or unhappy, liking or disliking. Joy is accepting each moment for what it is without contention. We belong to any moment simply by meeting it with joy. This is freedom. Love is the ultimate expression of joy and freedom. Joy, freedom, and love could be considered synonyms for each other, and for belonging.
 Charlotte Joko Beck, Nothing Special: Living Zen, ed. Steve Smith (San Francisco, CA: HarperSanFrancisco, 1993), 233, 232.