Growing Up and Spirituality

“As I child, I saw it face to face; but when I became a woman, I put away childish things and began to see through a glass darkly…” 1 Corinthians

I was born in New York City, on Park Avenue in Lenox Hill hospital. They day I was to go home, there was a blizzard. My father was drinking at the Stork Club, and was not sober enough to battle the weather, so  the hospital nurse piled my mother and baby me into a yellow taxi, and off we went to my parents’ apartment on 93rd and West End Avenue.

I took my first steps on West End Avenue;  I was an underage drinker along with all my groovy friends from The High School of Music and Art at a bar by Columbia University. I went to The Nutcracker at Lincoln Center. I had drinks at the Oak Room of the now-Trumped Plaza Hotel. We once had Thanksgiving dinner at the Carlyle. On my tenth work anniversary, my former corporate employer gave me a Tiffany clock, and when I finally resigned from the crazy publishing business, they gave me a diamond Tiffany bracelet.

New York in those days was heady, dangerous,expensive, glitzy, thrilling and exhausting. And its citizens were arrogant. Always in a rush. Fast taxis, fast subway trains, except when everything would come to a screeching halt, due to an accident or too much traffic; then everyone erupted with swear words, the middle finger, and a level of frustration that over time seemed perfectly normal to me. I had no idea how much the ethos and culture of Manhattan had shaped me, my thoughts, my anxieties, my work ethic and my spirituality.

I was interested in “God” for as long as I can remember. I almost drowned in my cousin’s swimming pool one summer. I was probably 6 or 7 years old and had a near death experience as I felt myself sinking to the bottom of the pool, unable to breathe. Thanksfully, my older cousin Bobby pulled me up, slapped me on the back to get the water out, and I lived.

But I never told anyone what happened to me at the bottom of that pool, probably because I thought it really weird, too weird to share with my mother or other families. I didn’t even know what it was until I got older and started reading the many books that started coming out about NDEs. I immediately recognized the description of a lot of the things that’d happened to me that day.

I swear on a stack of Bibles that the following is absolutely true:

I struggled to breathe and realized I couldn’t. Then, I felt very peaceful. And then, yes, there was the tunnel with the bright light at the end of it. I felt compelled to travel there. Then, there was a movie playing in my head…. and it was starring ME! It was clear that I was being shown a film of the life that I would have if I lived — so in other words it was not a life review, because I’d hardly had enough experiences to show in a movie, so it showed me growing up, my life populated by people I didn’t know now but would.

Suddenly, I felt a yank on the strap of my bathing suit, and I was hurled out of the water and hung over the side of the pool.  My cousin was pounding my back, people were yelling, and I started belching chlorinated water.  Seems I wasn’t quite ready to leave this planet yet.

I had no one to tell of my experience mostly because there was no popular language for near death experiences back in 1967. I had no idea what’d just happened to me.  Many years later, when researchers like Raymond Moody created a lexicon for these experiences, it all made sense to me. My experience in the pool came flooding back to my mind,  I’d had this “thing” yes indeed! It was great to finally have someone explain to me what the heck had happened tome.

The thing that sticks with me most even still today was Dr. Moody’s chronicling some of the aftereffects of an NDE. Many were so generic as to be applicable to anyone who ever had a life-threatening event, or perhaps a great loss, etc.  What struck me was his note that people who have an NDE have a weird relationship with electricity — TVs turn on and off without hitting a button, light bulbs burn out much sooner than they should, contact computer problems and …one’s wristwatch would never be able to correctly tell the day in that little area on some watches. I was really amazined — at that time, I’d bought about three differences watches because they all kept “breaking” and not being able to accurately show the day of the week and the month.  Still all these decades later, my watches never get the day right == either its number or its name. Very strange.

But somehow, all of these experiences stayed in my psyche, hidden but present, waiting, I guess, for the right time to bloom. In the meantime, I carried on, the way my family and culture expected, becoming a strong, independent  “working girl” wearing clothing with big shoulders and carrying an appropriately male-looking briefcase. I did well in my profession, moving up the ladder quickly. One evening an editor and I had to attend a cocktail party for (I am not making this up) The Romance Writers of America. As I recall it was down towards the south of New York City in a large hotel.  When I met up with the editor, she had this large pink stone on a chain around her neck.  I asked, somewhat uncertain, “Is that a crystal?” Yes it was. A rose quartz. My colleague was the first person I’d ever met that knew what a crystal was, much less owned one.

Lucky for me, she took me under her metaphysical wings and introduced me to the Weiser Book Shop, where there were multiple volumes of books on “esoterica” and “the occult.” I saw texts about things I’d never even imagined. She took me to my first “crystal show” which ignited a life-long passion for crystals. The flame within me was ignited, and there was no way it was going to go out. 

But back then, in the late 80s, this was all very new and very weird. God was to be worshipped in a building (either a mosque, a church or a temple) and anything other than that would be heresy.

 

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