Originally published May 27, 2009

Some months ago I felt a rush of deep joy that I thought I'd lost forever. At that moment, I felt like someone who'd just climbed out of a septic tank into a forest, and I just wanted to sit and inhale the dewy atmosphere of joy. I gasped for it, clung to it.

I've always been a deeply happy, contented person. Then, in my late 40s, I lost my lifelong faith, converted to a new religion, and my husband of nearly 30 years moved out. My writing couldn't support my current lifestyle and the only other work I'd done was for my husband, so I had no real career. My degrees in philosophy and anthropology were worthless. Assuming I'd lose my home, I planned to move into my sister's guest home, which she'd offered me. I figured I'd probably end up working in a convenience store.

Because I knew the importance of not burying grief, I refused medication, so I spent a chunk of each day curled in a fetal position in my office floor, staring up at my computer, unable to work. My husband and I spoke daily, wondering if we'd done the right thing. Once, we tried to stop our divorce proceedings. Several months after our separation, he moved back in with me, but it was disastrous. We clung to each other and sobbed. It was the worst grief I've ever felt. Mike packed his bags and moved out, this time for good.

Three months before Mike and I separated, I'd left my lifelong religion. That had been the last thread that bound my marriage together, and now it was gone. I hadn't been one of those kids who'd questioned her faith; I bought into everything I was taught. Or maybe questions lingered deep inside me that I feared admitting. Fundamentalism bans you from thought, from questions, and from authentic relationships with other people. But an emotionally abusive church I attended in my mid-30s rattled me out of my cocoon, and fifteen years later - it was a long process - I knew my faith was gone. And then so was my husband.

I had two books published during this process of upheaval in my life and I paid dearly for writing them when major changes were taking place in my life. A talk show host hung up on me in the middle of a live radio show because he deemed me a heretic. A neighbor who hadn't been the least bit religious told me outright that I was going to hell. A former friend told me I had "invalidated Christianity". An editor for whom I'd regularly written insinuated that I'd deceived the Christian community.

Yet I hadn't planned a single thing in my life. I thought I was merely opening my heart and mind to life and spiritual explorations. Doing so caused me to lose everything that meant everything to me, and I had no idea how I'd survive, emotionally or financially.

The amazing thing, though, were those moments between my tears, between the gut-wrenching bouts with grief. Somehow I managed to snatch onto those moments, like a person caught in the middle of a disaster who acts instinctively to save her life. For instance, a few people suggested that I take my experiences working for my ex and see what might develop. I made a couple of halfway enthusiastic phone calls and received a more than enthusiastic response. Within six months I'd built a business that allowed me to support myself - and to keep the home I'd lived in for 25 years. The business has continued to grow, and recently has begun to expand nationally. A short time ago, I realized I could write again. The bouts of grief had dissipated.

A little more than a year ago, I remarried. Joe & I met on a Jewish dating site. Both of us had grown up in Christian homes, and we'd entered into Judaism late in life, independently. During Joe's conversion process, he lost his wife to breast cancer. I had lost mine to change. Then we found each other, completed our grieving process together, and begun our journey back to joy.

Life, I've discovered, with all its in-your-face moments, will always grant moments of sustenance and reprieve. I'm embracing each moment of my life with hope and joy and contentment, but if and when I'm faced with new tragedies, I'll remember to capture again the whispers of God's presence. When that's all you can hear, it's still enough.

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