So, here’s how I got less crazy… and you can too, in these 18 rather difficult steps!
1. Start when you’re 19. Realize you have a terrible tendency to choose date-rapey dudes as boyfriends. For the 1st time ever, go against the grain and start a relationship with a dear friend, a truly wonderful person who will end up being your husband.
2. Let this man walk you to the counseling office at your college, as he is sure you are crazy and you’re starting to think he might be right. Your roommate’s dad just gave you a book on co-dependency — it’s a bad sign when a man who has met you thrice is giving you self-help books.
3. Grapple with the fact that you have an inherited chemical imbalance that has literally been the death of several of your forebears. Enter therapy and the wild world of psychopharmacology.
4. Caution — do not try this at home: Lose a parent at 21 to a horrible disease. Truly grieve this incredible person, allowing his loss to change you on every level. Spend an entire winter staring at the neon sign across the street from your apartment, one sad paper snowflake obstructing this essential view. Grow closer to the loved ones you still have.
5. Hang out with people a lot crazier than you for a living. Love them like they’re family. Realize that relationships are truly the only things that ever change people. Embrace your talent for using art and symbols to help folks heal.
6. Marry your best friend. Enter into this commitment with determination, total naiveté, and more love than you are humanly capable of. Have a kick-ass wedding/Haitian dance party that people talk about for years.
7. Move far away from everything you know, to a place where you have few friends and understand little about the culture, especially everyone’s tendency to dress in costume on a normal Tuesday afternoon. Allow this place to soften you, relax you, and open you up to the point where you own several wigs and show up to work dressed like Carol Brady just for shits and giggs.
8. Re-member your body through movement every way possible. Dance until your feet bleed, practice yoga and om your way through your fear, teach Pilates at lunchtime, and walk those San Francisco hills because you’ll never, ever be able to afford a car again.
9. Follow your calling as a healer. Complete your Masters in Counseling Psychology with a concentration in Expressive Arts Therapy from a hippie school that gratefully has a sense of humor about itself (most of the time). Become a psychotherapist, working with people of all walks of life, guiding them through the underworld and getting stuck there sometimes.
10. Get consistent bodywork, doing a swap for Pilates to afford it. Learn that acupressure actually does work. Rebuild your immune system after a seriously scary bout of meningitis.
11. Enter into a flawed but beautiful intentional community. Give everything to it, then watch it all fall completely apart. Recommit yourself to honesty at all costs.
12. Therapy, therapy, more therapy. Couples, individual, retreats, Expressive Arts, Jungian, Somatic — try everything under the sun that doesn’t involve hard drugs. Feel the steel door that guards your heart being pried ajar with a crow bar, then unceremoniously flung open.
13. Teach yourself to read Tarot and use it to hear the Holy Spirit. Get scary accurate in your readings. Develop an arts-based, feminine spirituality that will never leave you, even when you return to organized religion.
14. Have transformative friendships, especially with a gal named Amanda, who teaches you to be sensitive and how to have reciprocal relationships in which you get your needs met.
15. Fall in love with a church community, made up mostly of a pack of misfits who are totally unselfconscious.
16. Make the decision to become a parent. Get knocked up. Be fully present for the whole pregnancy with teas, prenatal yoga, childbirth classes, all that jazz. Have a 4 day long labor, resulting in a beautiful but excruciating natural birth in a birth center. Have a terrifying health scare in which you’re not sure your baby will survive. Then take your baby home and watch her thrive, thanking God every second you have with her.
17. Enjoy motherhood to the hilt, which is weird, terrifying, and so much more like falling in love than you ever imagined.
18. Seek mercy. Choose love. Find faith somewhere in the depths of your being and cling to it while your world shakes at its very foundation. Practice redemption.
When this process is through, you will look exactly like this. You will not be particularly rich, thin, successful, or free of anxiety and pain. But you will be fabulously well-read, and be able to salsa dance. What more could a person want?