There was a point not that long ago where I didn’t trust myself. It’s strange to remember this struggle because it no longer dominates my thinking. This isn’t to say I don’t get scared or feel vulnerable — I do, and paradoxically it was precisely when the ego was in charge that I felt that vulnerability was a weakness to overcome. Not so. I see my strength in my vulnerability.
What I’ve realized is that a lot of my inner work was removing the brushes and brambles that were getting in the way of truly seeing and hearing the part of me that is connected to source. Like when you garden and so many of those fast-growing weeds take over, you can’t truly see the glorious plant hiding behind all the distractions. Once you remove it you can see clearly. Once you start to see clearly, you are much more aware when a weed pops up and you remove it swiftly.
There comes a point where it’s no longer a debate about whether you can trust in you. It is not an arrogance or a hubris but a quiet strength and inner-knowing. Of course you can do it. You were born for this.
If you aren’t there yet, just keep swimming my friend! You will eventually get there. It takes work and perseverance. I believe in you! But like my beautiful spiritual mother always says, it’s not whether I believe in you…do you believe in you?
Like many, I’ve been gutted by the horrific story of immigrant children being separated from their families and detained. I noticed something as I scrolled social media. Whether my friends are on the right or left, the story they tell seems to finish the same way. “This is happening and we can’t stop it.” Those on the left, out of urgent fear, point to where we are headed (“Do you see the parallels to Nazi Germany??”)–(to be fair, often out of a desire to make others see the horror and hope to stop it. Unfortunately I think this has the unintended effect of paralyzing us.) Those on the right may justify where we are headed as being okay (“Other leaders did bad stuff to immigrants, too, so what gives!). But both tend to say the same thing: this (bad/good) thing is happening and the outcome is inevitable. You do not have the power to change it.
Oh but yes you do.
When we witness horror, despair, injustice–unthinkable atrocities like children being separated from their families and detained–our heart wants to shut down. It is too much. I can’t do this. This can’t be happening. Or, serves them right, they broke the law, send them back home. I never said life was fair.Hearts shut down and fear/bitterness/anger takes hold.
This past week I was finding myself teetering between shutting down (“I’m going to ignore Facebook right now”) and also automatically writing the story’s ending. (“This is Nazi, Germany. This escalates from here. Next comes the [insert parade of horrors]”).
But then I realized that when my mind creates that ending, that is the ending we get. So I decided to choose a different ending. This story will end with love of millions raising voices and declaring, we demand ferocious, expansive love that protects, lifts, liberates, reunites and heals.
Every breath in, every breath out, I can choose to listen to the fear or to the love. Right now, in this moment, and for the next moment and the moment after that, I’m choosing to side with love. I’m daring to dream a new ending to the story. I dare you to do the same.
That’s the mantra that came to me recently during a walking meditation. (Walking meditation=me walking, trying not to have incessant mind-chatter and instead trying to breathe deep and stay present. Occasionally it works!) Well, the mantra keeps ringing in my ears lately, probably because I haven’t been following the mantra. I’m not sure if it is the holidays and their capacity to bring out grief, or the fact that we are nearing the end of one HECK of a sober year (though I still contend that 2016 was worse), but it seems every new day brings reckoning of truths I’d rather not deal with.
I’m old enough to know that what resists, persists, so reckon with them I shall. That doesn’t mean I always do so immediately and quickly.
Take for example the story of the misplaced lost driver’s license. I recently misplaced my driver’s license. I resisted the idea that I lost it. So certain that I would find it, I didn’t deal with it for mumble-mumble-seven-days-mumble.
I literally had to bribe myself with a fancy starbucks coffee to get myself to go to the DMV and replace the license yesterday. And. . .while they took a downright horrible photo of me with what can only be described as CRAZY EYES--overall the whole thing was pretty painless. It turns out my identification is “verified” in the system (whatever that means) and I didn’t even have to schlep fifteen forms of ID with me to get it taken care of. So much mental energy thinking about it and really, what for? I got a coffee out of the deal. I got a crazy-eyed photo out of the deal. I’m good with the law. What was the problem here.
The moral of this story is that the reckoning is sometimes easier than the thinking about the reckoning. The heartaches, the fears, the unknowns, the unspeakables, the not-pretties, the lost objects, all the junk you just don’t want to think about or deal with. . .just like my lost license, I have a hunch they won’t magically resolve on their own.
Of course, I’m holding onto the fact that mantra has another part to it: keep the faith. I mean, there is only so much compost to be made from all this sh*t, and I am told it helps to grow beautiful gardens. This too shall pass. 2018 is around the corner and I have a hunch maybe, just maybe, good things are in store. We survived 2016, and 2017, so hey things have got to chill out eventually right? (If not, we can always look at my cross-eyed DMV photo and have a good laugh.)
What do you have to reckon with that you are resisting? You can do it, really you can.
(The Baptists wouldn’t let me take a photo of them. “We aren’t here for the photos! We are just here to help!” they told me.)
Who are the Baptists? A bunch of gray-haired sixty-something men in bright yellow shirts from a Pennsylvania Baptist church who came to Florida to chop up my tree with their chainsaw. (To be fair, they came to chop up lots of trees that happened to include mine.)
They just showed up yesterday and chainsawed the palm tree that was on our tree service guy’s very, very long wait list. Boom, done. For free. Because BAPTISTS.
He and my neighbor swapped heart attack stories (as sixty-something men do) and the Baptist (not John as far as I am aware) said his doctor found a 95% blockage two years ago. Saved his life. Told him he was one lucky fella.
“I told him, not luck. FAITH! I prayed for my heart and for my doctor to fix it and he did.” And two years later here he is volunteering all the way from Pennsylvania.
I want to keep my hands busy and create something, anything. I want them to work like a spider creates a web and cast a net of protection across everyone I love.
I’m safe and yet I can’t help but think of my neighbors, my friends, and even the strangers who sought water along with me at the Winn Dixie. I think of the habitats: my own–yes–but also the egrets’ and the spoonbills’. I think of the cardinals that visit my feeders. The turtles who laid eggs on the nearest beach.
I sit in my car 773 miles from home and I watch a Georgia peach sunset. So warm and giving and yet the same air that breathes a hurricane.
I am sitting here in my favorite oversized sweater that smells a little bit like beagles, but maybe that makes me love it more. I wore this sweater while studying for exams in law school. I wore this sweater in the drafty farm house in Iowa as my belly grew larger and larger when pregnant with my daughter.
I don’t get to wear this sweater as often anymore in Florida, but I woke up chilly and even the dogs are snuggled together in a puppy pile. It is a brisk 58 degrees (seriously I am not trying to rub this in–I know that everyone else in the US is dealing with arctic temps) and my first thought was, at long last I can put on my favorite sweater. And more importantly, at long last I can write.
I don’t even know where to begin with what has unraveled these last few weeks. Unraveled has a negative connotation but I mean it as a neutral term. Merriam Webster defines unravel as to disengage or separate the threads of :disentangleb: to cause to come apart by or as if by separating the threads of; to resolve the intricacy, complexity, or obscurity of : clear up <unravel a mystery>.
That has been my last few weeks. Resolving the intricacy and complexity of challenges and clearing up mysteries. It involved a coming apart in the sense that it is no longer longer knotted up. It has been untangled and laid bare so I can see it for what it is and begin to slowly and lovingly stitch it back together. It turns out that my healing and my daughter’s growing pains seem as intertwined as the DNA that we share.
The way I write makes it sound so dramatic. It isn’t. Nothing large or scary happened. It all felt large in the way that things often do when we are triggered or afraid. And the stitching back together felt large, but it too was not. It involved daily acts of love (which makes it sound easy but it was anything but easy), done in minutes and hours and days.
Those small things done with love are the hardest parts of parenting. It is a slow slog that surrenders to trust in the process. Trust that many small steps will add up and make a difference. They do and it is beautiful.
I will write more about the untangling and the stitching back together. But for now I will wear my oversized sweater and drink hot coffee on the lanai. I will prepare to go Christmas shopping with my husband, and then later I will listen to my daughter sing Christmas songs at preschool. My heart is full.
I have written a few times about how it feels like things are moving at glacial speed in my life. That the universe is testing my ability to be patient. To trust. And also, I think, to simply experience joy in the meantime.
It seems I am frog-swimming through life.
That is what I realized yesterday as I dipped into the swimming pool and effortlessly started moving with frog kicks. I was doing the breast-stroke I suppose, but slower. And did I mention effortlessly! I did this nearly the entire half-hour until the last five minutes of my workout when I suddenly decided I wanted to be on my back. So I flipped over and began doing the backstroke.
As I flipped from facing down to being outstretched on my back, gazing into clouds, it reminded me of yoga. Where you have poses that curl you up, surrendering…and then standing with shoulders back….heart open to receive.
Surrender. Receive. Repeat.
Earlier this summer I started swimming regularly. I remember telling my therapist about this new routine, and I was a little embarrassed. I explained to her how rough I have it– you know, having to walk past a total of four houses to get to a large community pool. And to arrive only to discover that I have the pool all to myself. I know–I told her–I am a bit spoiled.
Her response: Isn’t it wonderful to be spoiled?
Her words took me aback. Actually it IS nice to be spoiled. How often can I claim to have felt spoiled by anything? Especially in these last few challenging years.
I’ve held tight to her words as I have floated on my back in the cool water watching clouds move above me. As I’ve seen my leg kicks move from weak and disjointed to strong and in sync. As I have danced giddily under water like a mermaid.
Frog-swimming through life right now. Surrendering and receiving.
Surrender. Receive. Repeat.
Are you frog-swimming too? Share your experiences!