(This story is part of a continuing series, An Assault in Venice. Part 1 starts here.)

Jeanette’s assault coincided with a time in my life when I was searching. Perhaps everyone goes through a period of time when things aren’t working out the way you’d hoped, and so you search for deeper meaning. This was my what’s-it-all-about phase. My writing career hadn’t materialized in the way I imagined it would. My life partner hadn’t yet arrived. I didn’t have as much money as I expected to have at that point in my life. And so I kept asking why and looking for new sources of insight.

Southern California was offering a smorgasbord of answers, from the wacky to the holistic, and I was willing to try a little bit of everything. I read books, went to workshops and consulted psychics. I had my chart read, my palms read and my cards read. I meditated, got therapy and delved into my past lives. I became a vegetarian, ate macrobiotically and took herbs. I cleared my chakras, I studied Reiki, I wore magnets, I consulted a pendulum, I carried a medicine bag, I bought gemstones, I recited affirmations, I visited monasteries, I journaled, I journeyed, I fasted and I cleansed.

I’m not sure if what I found through it all was clarity or confusion. All I knew was that I kept returning to one resource over and over again. The book A Course in Miracles rooted me in a way nothing else had before, and my mentor Marianne Williamson was the clearest voice I’d ever found on matters both physical and metaphysical. She was the one who taught me how to pray. She also, in so many ways, taught me how to think. And so it was an enormous blessing that on the morning after I’d spent my first night alone, hers was the voice of comfort that reached out to me. It was still early when she phoned.

“Tess, it’s Marianne,” she said. “I just heard what happened.”

“Oh, Marianne.” It may have been my first moment of relief. “I don’t know what to do with this.” I struggled for words as I recounted the story to her, as well as my fear and sense of loss. “I’m trying to figure out how to frame this event in my mind and it’s not coming, I don’t know how to do it.”

I expected her to say something deeply profound, something that would radically change my perspective. This was, after all, what made Marianne famous the world over: she provided nuggets of wisdom that dispelled all questions. Especially mine. So her response surprised me.