commune

We’re all hurtling through our lives, and the planet is hurtling through space without a seat belt. We have to discover successively more freedom inside the terrible things that have happened and the terrible things that certainly will happen, and the whole of it is also a mysterious splendor, full of kindness, welcome and cups of tea. – John Tarrant

as dawn broke on this day, i awoke with the same feeling of deep sadness with which i had fallen into that fitful sleep. my dreams had only reinforced my feelings of failure. you know how that can be with dreams. as the morning unfolded, my tears were so near to the surface that silence fell over me like a blanket to keep them undercover.

after spending some time with myself in my journal, some of which i also shared here, i texted my friend, to see how she was feeling today. she has been experiencing her own measure of sorrows lately. we soon made a date for afternoon tea.

that time spent with her, mutually revealing and receiving our fears and flaws, remorses and regrets, struggles and sorrows was to share a communion more healing than any sacramental bread and wine.  being held by a true friend in an empathy that understands, not from an intellectual assertion, but from the mutual experience of being human is truly redemptive.

its not always easy to be vulnerable with another human being like that, but when we find that place of true belonging, acceptance, and love, where we are free to be all of who we are without shame, the saving of our souls from despair is so real. i don’t know how often that happens. i have the feeling i am blessed to have a small circle – a circle that is growing – of women in my life with whom i can get naked like this. i am suspicious that it is my willingness to get naked at last that is making that so.

three mornings a week, after we have finished our morning water aerobic class, i shower in the university locker room with a group of women.  standing naked with all of those fearfully and wonderfully shaped women has helped me to love my own body in ways that i could not have imagined i could ever do. i no longer measure myself against some illusory standard that isn’t even real. that’s what getting naked can do. strip the illusion of perfection we use to hate ourselves and cover over our beauty.

it’s a brave thing to do. get naked. there are still places out there where we will be laughed at or ridiculed, shamed or rejected, judged as unworthy. we do have to learn where it is safe to take off our clothes, but more and more i realize that there are others out there who look just like me, hurting and lonely and doubting and longing and messing up and feeling life deeply.

that blogger i’ve recently discovered, Dr. Kelly Flanagan, whom I’ve mentioned here previously sums it up perfectly.

Vulnerability is a beautiful thing. And it sucks. It gets a little easier over time, but not much. Because vulnerability is always a door thrown wide open for pain. So, why keep doing it? Because it is also the doorway to grace and worthiness and connection and belonging and passion and purpose. And joy of every surprising kind.

i realize that i also do this here, with you. get naked. sometimes it is scary. i wake up and wonder what i have done! like a woman the morning after taking off her clothes the first time with a new lover. then i take a deep look in the mirror, rereading my words, and realize i’m not so mishapen at all. i look just like everyone else. 

i hope that my vulnerability is likewise a gift to you. a mirror. a sip of tea. a lump of bread. a moment of connection and grace. a place to be human. a place of belonging.

as we hurtle together through this terrible, beautiful life without a seat belt.

see

there is a situation in my life that causes me deep pain, has been causing me deep pain for a very long time. i have gotten caught in the trap that if i just could fix this, i would be free at last to be happy. i could finally let go my frustrations, my longings, my weariness, my fear.

perhaps my deeper wisdom has known that this is not true, but i can’t seem to live in and from that deep place as much as I’ve thought that i could.  of course, my love is tangled up in that pain. it seems that is always the case. again, my deeper wisdom knows a deeper Love that can hold it without getting hooked into the spiraling chaos.

i slept fitfully last night, after having gone to bed early to get away from it for a while. my dreams were plagued by starving children and unforgiving adults. there is no escaping it, i suppose.  so, here i am with my journal, seeking the wisdom she so often reveals – beneath it.

i see that i need to stop hooking my happiness upon others, whether it is upon their happiness or their understanding. likewise, stop blaming them. look to myself for it. not in a self-centered, armored kind of way, as in ‘i’m going to take care of myself from now on’. but in a looking within- to how it is that i contribute to my own despair. how is my own behavior – thoughts or actions- harmful to myself and to others. what unskillful patterns have i taken on as model ones. it is hard to see myself clearly, both in the somewhat impossible way-from within the blindness of my conditioning, and in the painfully difficult way when i do finally glimpse the truth.

of course, the trick is always how to go there without slipping into self-hatred or self-condemnation, with the resultant popping back out of that place with a determination to atone my humanity. humility is needed to simply acknowledge my self- my blindness, my striving, my clinging, my fear, my flaws – and stop trying so hard to be perfect, or frantically fix what i perceive to be broken.

this going within is one kind of way, of course, to separate myself from the drama. move into the eye of the storm. sometimes that feels like escape, like running away, like not addressing the problem that keeps spinning out of control. i have learned, however, that i am quite small and powerless in the force of that storm, and i am learning what is not mine to fix. i need to step away from that.

of course, sweet companions of mine (we who eat of the same bread), you know that stepping out of the fray is also what i experience when i escape in another way into the woods and the water of the wilderness.  i hold dear to my heart an explanation given by a psychotherapist on the process of individuation, those passages in our lives when we are shedding old roles and ways of relating and growing a new way of expressing and being our selves. clearly, she said, there is a necessary break away that is a part of that becoming in order for the new self to emerge, outside of the tugs, pulls, hooks, that dismantle one’s identity before it can fully take shape. i see a caterpillar inside it cocoon here, hidden and protected from the beaks that would consume it before it had wings.

the classic example of this is a young adult leaving home for college. but I’ve often been taken by the Hindu life stage referred to as ‘the forest dweller’, which honors this need in the older adult as well, as she moves away from the householder stage. separation is a valid way to transform oneself and one’s way of relating with the world. we have similar stories in our culture, most often something like Cheryl Strayed’s experience on the Pacific Crest Trail.

the test of whether the change goes deeper than the surface, or whether it is also simply escape, can be when one returns to one’s ‘ordinary’ life. just as daily prayer or meditation practices, which invite one to access a deeper wisdom within from which to live, can so easily erode over time, so can the sense of deeper identity one finds out there.

metamorphosis cannot be hurried. wings cannot be forced open, or the butterfly perishes before it becomes.

time. deep time. i need.

in order to see who i am.

 

 

 

 

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