You know those insufferable people who point out all the impossible science in Star Trek movies? I'm going to spend the rest of my life loudly scoffing when any godless character suddenly turns to prayer. Prayer is a skill, and I doubt anyone's a natural.
With two likely cancers, the doctors thought I should get a PET scan, which is an all-body check for cancer, to see if we were dealing with two independent early stage cancers, or a much more ominous spread. Dr. G said she'd try to schedule me for Monday, the 15th, and by the time I was in bed on Sunday night, even what's turned out to be my relentlessly optimistic and resilient self was a little bit worried. Time, surely, to get my prayer on.
That turned out to be a lot like going to the kitchen and deciding to make palladium. I was pretty sure that I couldn't just start asking for stuff. I was pretty sure I didn't even believe in god. I looked up prayer in the dictionary. I looked up prayer in the Catholic Encyclopedia. Interesting, but I didn't feel down with submitting myself to the will of a being I probably didn't believe in.
Finally, I decided that I would just try to say things that were true. The main problem with even this strategy is that it's just about impossible not to be disingenuous when you think you might be talking to god. It's all about making a good impression, and it takes a while--I think it took me a good 30 or 45 minutes of trying to slyly bullshit god--to turn off the part of your brain that's always calculating, the part that makes you act humble to get more dessert, or less cancer, or whatever.
But finally it happened, and I was saying true stuff--and you get into a space where it becomes impossible not to know, immediately and surely, when you're not being true--and it turned out to be like the most intense therapy session ever--except that I was alone in bed, whispering in the dark--alternately laughing out loud, crying, hating myself or feeling pretty good.
Then I said "I want to live." Wait. What was that? That was the infallible prayer bullshit detector. "I want to live." It went off again. "Do I want to live?" Answer hazy, ask again later. I tried it from different angles, in different ways. But I couldn't honestly say whether I wanted to live. Maybe "always expecting to get cancer" isn't so different from "would just as soon be dead." I kept trying to puzzle it out, but eventually I was just exhausted, barely keeping myself awake and I gave up. Or I submitted myself to the will of a being I probably didn't believe in. "I don't know. You tell me, God. You tell me."