So whilst you’re probably thinking this woman is so damn medicated she can’t tell a month from a week, stay with me and have faith for I am back in The Artist’s Way saddle again, after a bit of a dark night of the soul which I will discuss in Part 2.
To be honest, I struggled a bit with the concept of God’s generosity when I got to Chapter 5 last time in 2012 as I was working through it with a group at the time, and the leader of this group seemed to think, not only was God an ecclesiastic hole-in-the-wall machine, but that we were too.
‘Sometimes we forget how powerful God is,’ she said, beaming, hands clasp together as if in pray, ‘sometimes people even see a gift from God and essentially send it back. Imagine that!’
We all beam beatifically back at her, fully open to a gift from God. No ‘return to senders’ around this table. Oh no.
‘For instances, I offered Janice here a free ticket for the ‘Patchwork Quilt’ Show last week, but I could see that she wasn’t comfortable with taking it…’
Janice starts a little as if someone just put a hand on her thigh.
‘Well’, she mumbled going a bit red, ‘I did have a Christmas party to g….’
‘…but she should have just taken it! For God wants you to have the things that make you the person you are meant to be.’
Janice, it has to be said, did not look like a Patchwork Quilt kinda gal at all. She looked more like Wednesday Addams’ older sister, but our host continued.
‘And sometimes for instance, these gifts will come from friends!’ the beam gets broader, ‘and what you mustn’t do is refuse them because you will be holding yourself back, and offending a friend…’
‘…for example my Ex bought me a ticket to a three day Christian pop music festival as a surprise gift, and I took it! And guess what?’
You had a great time?
‘I had a great time! Sooo, I don’t know whether you know, but it’s my birthday this week, so…’ the beam melts into a soft smile, and the eyes look down bashfully ‘….you might want to club together and buy me another one for ‘One Love’ festival that’s taking place in Hyde Park in January….’
Two thirds of the table look as appalled as I probably do, beams frozen rictus like to their chops, eyes wide with horror, whilst the other third, who were part of the original group beam dazzlingly at us, expectant and encouraging.
OK, I don’t profess to be a saint or to know God’s/Higher Power’s mind any more than the next person, but I’m pretty sure he/she/it doesn’t expect us to go around proactively poncing off our friends, or worse still, complete strangers.
After about ninety seconds complete silence, the leader coughed, lifted her eyes from her empty coffee cup and looked at us reproachfully.
I was nervous and couldn’t bear the silence anymore, so had to say something.
‘Hey, you should do what that ‘model’ does from Celebrity Big Brother! You know the one that was on ‘Sex, Lies and Rinsing Guys’? As long as you’re willing to mimsy around in a bikini or a pair of shorts for an hour or so every day and you’ll be laughing!’
The silence, as they say, was deafening, given that I’d just essentially called their leader, a, well, look at the website and you’ll see what I mean…..
The following week, about half of the new people did not return.
This did not deter these opportunistic evangelists; the following week one of them brought a ‘free’ ticket for some kind of trade show (which didn’t cost anything anyway) and offered it to me, beaming again, expectantly, encouragingly.
She may as well as been holding out a begging bowl. Thankfully I had other plans that day.
Then when it came to the week that you had to arrange a weekend away by yourself, I decided to throw caution to the wind, ignore my depleted financial state and arrange a trip to Sweden.
The guy hosting our table was ecstatic.
‘That’s amaazzzing!’ he gushed, ‘Sweden! I’ve always wanted to go there…how amazing…Sweden eh….mmm, Sweden…’
His eyes widened, glowed, and rolled like those of a frightened horse, betraying more than just a hint of desperation.
This trip had cost me nearly a grand and this fool was expecting me to say ‘Hey! Why doncha come along? I’ll pay! Bring your family, your girlfriend, your dog…..hell, the whole group can come along, just let me check that I can remortgage my flat!’
I smiled back, my eyes hardening. ‘Yes. Sweden.’
The following week I did not return.
But this time, things are different, and the Big Man (a) seems to be trying to tell me something, and (b) seems to have quite the sense of humour….
More to follow…..