How to Get to Hawaii from Hell

My husband and I are planning a trip to Hawaii. Just the two of us. We are celebrating our marriage surviving after nearly TANKING a few years ago.

Now, four years later, we are better than ever. There are no guarantees, but so far so good. We’re celebrating.

Basically, in my mind, I’m already swimming in a cove surrounded by sea turtles. Digging my toes into the sand on the beach outside of our hotel. Wearing a lei at a luau.

How the fuck did I get here? How did I get this amazing life?

Because I am a girl who grew up in a tough situation, in a family with parents who loved us but who were decimated by addiction. I was too scared to leave my room a lot of the time and instead of going through the living room where my dad and his friends would make sex jokes about me, I tore out the screen in my bedroom window over and over again so I could get out of the house without facing them.

My dad and his friends were gross when they were drinking and smoking pot, or on whatever else. Their moustaches, moist with beer, legs splayed out on the sofa, Playboy magazines on the tables. My dad would make jokes about me for their amusement. His friends would laugh, duck their heads because even they were embarrassed at the things he said. It was fucked up.

So how am I – that same girl – going to Hawaii now? How have I built this awesome life?

(A quick aside: A friend of mine told me that it’s Belize in her suburb, that’s where the fancy families go, but when I was little, it was Hawaii – that’s where the rich kids went – and by rich, I mean the kids who got Hostess cupcakes and individual packs of Doritos in their lunchboxes – that was a mother’s love back then. Now it’s organic bento boxes, but still.)

How did I get from there to here? That’s the thing I want to tell you. The short version is: it was God.


Before you stop reading, what do I mean by God?

I mean that small voice inside, following that guidance, and the possibility that there may be a plan in place that I can’t see.

We have a lot of examples of how to hear and follow God’s will, including, but not limited to, Jesus. I personally don’t believe the Bible is literal, but I’ll use whatever can be useful, and that includes the Bible’s stories, but it includes Buddhist teachings too, and other people’s ideas.

I ask other people all the time: how are you getting through life without giving up? What is helping you?

Mostly, though, I listen for the small voice inside and follow that. (A Born-again Christian friend said that they call that the Holy Spirit. I’ll take it!) For me it’s my own divine connection to a Power Greater Than Myself.

As one of my friends says, “I just know there’s a God and that I’m not it.”

So, I’m not proselytizing to you about any particular God. You can believe whatever you want, and you can also be helped by this thing whether you believe in it or not.

I have struggled a lot with “belief” but I still have some tools, and some experience.

These tools are available to all of us.

And first, God helped me with my childhood.

How? What did I do to connect with a God I barely believed in and didn’t trust really at all?

For me there were three important elements to developing a relationship with a Higher Power. Anyone can do these.

1.     Listen.

When I was seven years old I sensed God tell me that all I had to do was graduate from high school and then I could leave my family and never look back if I wanted to, and I believed it. I focused on JUST GRADUATING.

I didn’t worry about what would come next.

I see this as divinely inspired because when I was seven, that meant I was looking at staying in an unbearable situation for another 10 years. That’s more than twice as long as I had even been alive.

That’s like if you told me now, “Melissa, don’t worry, this terrible situation will only last until you’re 90. Then you’ll be fine.”

I am amazed that I believed that “just graduate from high school” voice, but I did, and it has saved my life.

There is a homing device inside us, God’s voice, our Higher Power’s guidance, and all we have to do is listen and then step in the direction of its guidance.

Keep doing this over and over again and, my experience is, miracles will occur.

Transformation is not only possible, but inevitable.

2.     Be willing to let go of things that make it hard to hear Divine Guidance.

For me this has meant quitting drinking, stopping eating sugar, letting go of some friendships, letting go of a “great” teaching job, letting up on some of my ambitions.

Anything that is so miserable for me that I find myself having to placate myself with a bunch of numbing behaviors, THAT HAS TO GO, because when I numb out to pain, I numb out to God’s guidance as well.

Don’t worry though. I’m sure you won’t have to give up sugar.

3.     Pray. (I know. Seriously.)

When I began praying, my face burned with shame.

I couldn’t believe what I was doing.

Kneeling down next to my bed, my knees boring into the hard wood floors, I felt like a religious zealot, but I DIDN’T CARE.


Honestly, I needed help and I really didn’t care where that help came from. I was desperate enough to TRY ANYTHING. Even something insane, like prayer.

I am willing to do whatever it takes to develop this connection, to clear the channel between me and God, so that I can hear God’s guidance in my life. Trying out prayer, even though it didn’t jibe with my self-concept, has been huge.

Like all of us, I have been through a lot. God has helped me through it all.

My job is to look inward and listen.

We can all do this, whether we “believe” in God or not. We don’t have to “believe” in God for him/it to work in our lives. We don’t have to know what God is.

Just be open to the idea. Say, MAYBE. That’s the first step to developing a foolproof inner guidance system.

This “maybe” has saved my life.

Because I don’t know what God has planned, or if God even HAS a plan, if that’s the nature of God. I don’t know.

What I DO KNOW is that if I listen, I can hear God’s will inside me – I can connect with God (or Source, or the Universe, or Higher Power, or Jesus, or whatever you want to call it.) I can feel God’s voice inside me, only it’s not a voice, it’s a nudge.

The nudge pushes me and I go.

I try to go.

I go.

And look at me: I’m gonna be swimming with sea turtles, y’all!

Miracles are real.

Thank God.


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