When fear tightens its grip,
“What would someone do if
they loved themself?”
Now do that.
Don’t shutter the windows ,
don’t turn the deadbolt just yet while hope survives—
just not inside of you.
One minute past giving up, calling it quits
while you believe as you do because of those that hurt you—
you, the stranger, who has extended so much mercy in your life.
Kindness is not dead even if you believe it true.
You are due, owed your time, ripe for the plucking.
And your story may be much different than you picture it now
as you stand upon the narrow ledge of your own aching heart
thinking no one sees
or worse, cares.
Mercy and kindness travel in pairs on the bus of surprise—that
is how they operate.
You never see them coming until they arrive.
And what if you have locked all the doors to your heart,
how shall they enter?
All the while they’ve been looking for you while you slump pale and cold,
buttressed behind the deadbolt and shuttered window.
This troupe, this Calvary of strangers who arrive most unexpectedly
to see you through the next minute or the rest of your life
here to restore your faith in you, how okay you really are.
You never quite know where and when they will appear,
who or what will waltz or breeze through your door with arms
full of what you need
or run into your burning house
with buckets of water to save you.
So go on, turn out the lights and go to bed.
but this I beg of you,
just be sure to leave the door open a crack
for possibility, please.
Photo and poem by S. (Sawyer) Wolfington
It is, on this rainy gray day, I meditate on gratitude. In this bleak opaqueness, it is easy to notice only that, especially after too many long seasons of unchanging gray. It is easy to feel drained of hope for anything better to come.
Yet in a simple meditative state, how wonder-filled the breadth and wholeness of life as it shows up in all its many colors…a gentle reminder back towards my own fierce life force.
Gratitude appearing as a sliver of light on the horizon–my senses tell me as I watch its arrival. It’s Love calling home, coming to find me. Not that I was ever for a second lost to it. Support arriving–beyond circumstance and suffering, of which there is plenty.
My senses inform me, tell me of it in creatively innate ways. In touch of hot and cold, skin and touch, a stroke of kindness or endearment.
I breathe in aromas of love cooking in the oven or the familiar aura of another, the smell or warning of danger, of jasmine in spring.
I witness love in the eyes of a friend, blossoming pink Dogwoods flowers or brilliant white, ship like clouds sailing upon a blue sea sky. I see where love is not felt. I say a prayer or extend a hand.
And on it goes.
Our natural senses are a gateway to the Universe when open.
And nothing good in being alive is so small as to not be noticed and full of wonder at.
We stand here at the apex of everything that has arrived in life before us so as to support us… from the Void or God or Source of all wonder to the Big Bang to stars and their trails through the universe(s) to Mother Gaia, earthquakes, fire, shifting lands. From one cell beings and the creative evolution of our bodies through eons or a single lifetime.
We are here to expand and breathe, feel pain and grow into Love, live and die and change into something else or more.
I hear, sense, touch, see, feel, and I’m alive; and in this moment or moments to come, all is well with my soul, and I’m alive past pain or suffering or complaint or whatever life throws my way.
I am not here to rejoice in the suffering of another, but to support because I have been supported.
Love is creative in its unfathomable myriad of expression, and often arrives in surprise or gift. It will show you how and the way.
Crack open the gate of resistence.. Raise your expectation just a smidge. Find life in the moment in the sidewalk flower growing from its fissures and breaks. Notice things for five minutes.
You and I are here to make a difference, to stand for kindness and the ferocity of Love in the darkest of time or place where love has not been felt or seen…
even within ourselves.
It’s been so nice having you here,
my little pink birthday girls.
Lots of photo shoots, just you and my camera
and the light
while you posed so sweetly for me
again and again every day you’ve been here.
You’re a little tired now—
I can see that.
And life is so brief for all of us and so awash with grace and grief both,
that I dont blame you for exhausting yourself
giving away all that grace.
Flowers in the window should have more function than a window seal,
but I lack a garden here up high…
except for the one you’ve planted in my heart.
When we expose our soft underbellies, we risk ourselves. There is a freedom in risk when your heart is aching to tell the truth. Yet in doing so, we grant the courage to others freedom to do the same. This is my underbelly of truth, how it is. Living with severe sleep apnea, which in the past was a point of shame. I practice kindness now even in my difficult places. My wish for you is to do the same. ♥
When one is alone long enough, it is out of necessity you grow accustomed to days upon days spent alone. You accommodate yourself. Too many days float by, like leaves on a stream, where dressing or brushing your hair becomes a bother—because, really, who is going to see you?
In fact, you prefer your aloneness over the feeling of having to entertain others because there is little energy for it. You’re practiced at keeping busy even when you’re doing nothing at all.
You’re okay with phone calls to ask how you are to which you usually make light of with a joke; or calls from those who just need a listening ear and they know you’re there. Because you’ve always been good at listening or speaking a timely word and it makes you feel useful.
Yet to pick up the phone and ask for something is akin to lifting a 50 lb. weight. It’s difficult. Friends complain you never call. You know you should. Everyone has their life to live and you’re no different.
You mostly seem to find a way around things on your own because you’re a seasoned soldier and survivor. You know how to go it alone—for the most part.
The scary part is being so darn good at it.
“Wholeness does not mean perfection. It means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life.”
– Parker J. Palmer –
It’s messy, and its
imperfection is a virtue of living in this body.
It means we are here for the human experience
in every imaginable facet, in all its
anguish and glory. Yet not necessarily
all at once, although it can feel like it sometimes.
Quit trying to airbrush your imperfections away.
—they keep you real and learning.
They have the ability to heal your soul and ground your body.
Forgive yourself. Embrace what hurts—be infinitely kind to it
while you wait for healing.
As often as possible, be in the feral world of nature where nothing
pretends to be anything other than what it is—broken or beautiful.
Unfurl your life, bent wings and everything.
Learn to inhabit yourself—dig your toes into the soil now
and then as a reminder you are part of it.
You are already gorgeous with your shriveled petals, your funny ways,
your insecurities, and your
crazy ideas that just might save the world.
When you’ve learned to lighten up on yourself, learned compassion and kindness, you grieve for the years the locust has eaten. When you were so unjustly hard on yourself. When you looked in the mirror or at your life.
When kindness arrives at your door, you look back at old photos and realize, “there was nothing wrong with me”. And anything that appeared to be out of place was merely fear and a deficit of love towards yourself playing itself out in the world.
When kindness arrives, you fall in love, maybe for the first time.
The world is not our personal yardstick by which we measure ourselves. We will always come up short when we do.
It is by the heart we see ourselves rightly—even in the most difficult of circumstances.
Stay close to your heart. When hope or life feels spare, remember to return again and again.
Your heart is the book by which you rightly read your life.
How beautiful to commit just one day to not speaking about that which disturbs, disrupts,
brings unnecessary pain to ourselves or another,
to dwell in and listen to the silence of our own deeper nature,
to be attuned to and see from the heart
rather than racing to reply or judge or manipulate.
How beautiful to allow and make space for one magnificent day of your life just as it is!
Today might be a very good day.
and by now you know better than that— Grace
juxtaposing beneath the black swirl
of clouds while she in haste unfurls herself,
presses hard against the glass,
tap, tap, tap, demanding,
Quick, come look, good morning! Hurry please!
Looks at her watch,
We haven’t got all day!
Covers thrown, running out the door to see
her sun struck glow in the trees, alighting the hills in flame,
mere minutes before the drenching rain.
You’re left aghast, and she trails off as though nothing had happened, and
you suspect she’s been lying in wait all night.
This, a singular act of benevolence you’re chosen for, again and again.
Your fate, you say.
Striking when you’re not looking, she knows where you are.
And suddenly she’s there begging for witness, posing this way and that,
when you were just minding your business,
demanding you grab your camera or pen.
She devastates your heart with her wildness.
Bearer of all that’s untamed, you’ve become uncultivated, mad—too much
for any one person you say.
You must give it away, standing on corners, reciting her scriptures
in lines and pictures—offering her sweet-scented petals, like small prayers,
like small acts of kindness to anyone
in desperate need of water or salvation.
The beautiful wild calls to me more and more. Days and years pass, and I am moving closer to death now that I am in the last third of my life. Being here now, I feel done with so much focusing on the logical minutia of my days. It’s easier than when I was thirty or forty in a way. This minutia feels stale as I move towards lightening the agendas others have for me, the ones I have of myself, the tyranny of the urgent cracking its whip over me to move faster, work harder, accomplish more. I am ready to become a human being now rather than a human doing. My commodity is not valued in how much I can accomplish but in realizing my mystery, to be tenderly compassionate towards all that I have deemed as less than perfect within and around me.
This is what makes perfect sense to me now, the alchemical weaving and blending of logos and mythos together into a substance that becomes far more valuable than either alone. Gold, if you will. I have spent the better part of a lifetime mostly doing one or the other, furiously scurrying around to accomplish whatever long to-do list I had in order to be able to live in the mystery. As if I had to earn the right to lie on my back in the grass and gaze at shape shifting clouds or put my pen to the page when the first lines of a poem slipped in to my awareness or try my hand at putting some color on the canvass—or merely to take a much needed nap.
What makes sense now is living on purpose, living with awareness of all that I am doing in each moment, of acceptance wherever I might find myself. Washing dishes turns into an act of grace as I feel the warm water running over my hands, handle each fork and cup, happy there are dishes to wash, food to prepare, food at the end of my arm anytime I want it, blessing the earth and each hand that went into its growth and preparation; or paying bills, feeling the abundance of the universe, that I have been graced with a roof over my head, a place to lay my tired body at night.
I am grateful I have what I need when I need it even if it is not always exactly what I think I want.
Today I was counting the last of my former life, the years I have spent in caretaking. I believed it mine to shoulder the atlas as I cared for seriously ill friends and family, along with a serious illness of my own. Counting too many years in the business of living and dying, emergencies, and crisis and drama in the physical, mental and emotional arenas—I am just done.
Now I feel ready to count the stars in the midnight sky, to watch the sailing ships of clouds passing by. I am ready to take long walks, write books, and rise up and up into my one beautiful life before dissolving back down into the primordial soup from which I came.
Yet even in the sad and the bad, the worry, the hurry that has consumed my days, I am utterly grateful. These are gifts of pain I have been graced with. Deep within me lies a dark underworld from which arises a priceless seam of gold, a transmutation of the pain and fear into a precious metal. I couldn’t have fully understood this until more recently. I am multi-dimensional, of the stars and of the earth. In this suit of flesh and bone, lives a being descended from the stars, from the source of life itself. I am meant while I am here to dwell in both myth and logic, to learn equally about both, to learn to weave them into a beautiful tapestry. Everything is purposed in my life to propel me towards the realization of this wisdom…to be heavenly minded while tending to life, to mend that which is broken with my compassion, to seek forgiveness, to forgive, to be a place holder for love, to be in a possession of a heart that has been broken wide open, to become fertile ground where life can grow.
I have not entirely mastered these things yet. It’s okay. It is not mine to completely master. Better to accept my own humanity, my fragility, my missing the mark so many times. This is true wisdom to know there is perfection in failure and fragility. It is part of the dying process, the cycle of life. Everything has to eventually die so that something else can live. At every moment, ten thousand things are dissolving at the same time ten thousand things are arising, taking their turn at form, at life, deciding what they will be, just for the joy and the experience of being in any particular state. For are we not each and every one and everything nuances of the one life that runs through us all, here to learn about life, ourselves, each other?
Grace is continually born out of pain, life arising out of death. Our pain becomes another’s grace as we reach out to touch and comfort. We can do this because we’ve been there, walked through the same fire of suffering. Lives and hearts are made whole from shards of anguish and heartache. Love grows. We’re not alone.
To me, this is what makes perfect sense.
Wisdom from a higher source–when you need to make a decision, don’t know what to do, or take a strong stand,
here are some basic rules to get you through–
It takes courage to tell you this
at the risk you’ll think less, nevertheless, I will.
I’ll tell you what depression is—like this—
a barren land leaning into forever,
a dark annhilation; it’s a
void of hope or imagination
when hell comes to pay a call.
And here’s the secret: I was just there.
But most of you would never know.
(You might even be there now, too.)
Truth as I saw it then, this life had been enough,
I was done.
But you think like that when you’re in hell.
And so began to envision, with each glass of water
that passed my lips, what I could do
with that and a few or more pills.
I didn’t exactly plan that I would, only imagined it so,
how it could be.
There was no more room for anything–
not in the cruelness of men or the ghosts denied, or
the self-deprivations while acting strong for everyone
visiting all at once in my life.
Orphans each of emotions
looking for the smallest drink of love.
Not that I wasn’t loved.
Not that I didn’t love in return, not that I didn’t care.
No, it wasn’t that at all.
It was the driest white bone of exhaustion,
all the lifetimes lived in the space of one.
It was like a gift
as I see it now.
I’ll tell you what strength is—like this—
strength is taking one small move in mercy’s direction,
even a flinch or a step,
towards whom and wherever it might be found.
When all you can say to anyone with kindness in their eyes,
to whatever’s holy or sacred paying attention,
help me, please.
And I did, because my life was leaving me,
just like the sea rushing back from the shore.
A gift, indeed.
A profound breaking, a leaving, then
a sad resurrection towards the miraculous while those that could,
in compassion, seen and unseen, walk me back to myself,
back to a kind of confounding beauty,
an uncertainty of what was to come.
And it was enough.
(We’re never really alone.)
Were I to be honest, the pull towards leaving
still haunts me once in awhile
when I imagine drinking that cup while tired, I forget
that mercy waits just past the next corner, the next fork in the road.
And I remember nothing is for certain for any of us,
and life and death have a way of reminding us
there’s nothing to control.
It’s a coming home again to myself,
wherein between staying or leaving,
I need only extend myself a whit to say help
to ask for mercy, please,
when hope is lost.
© 2015 Shoshana Wolfington
As I enter the last third of my time here on earth, looking back over my life, I find that some things never change as much I might have believed they did. I am still starting over again as I’ve done many times before. It’s all about “beginner’s mind”. I won’t officially arrive until I graduate from this life. Until then I am still learning–and in fact, learning many things are not to be taken as seriously as I once thought, that laughter counts for a lot and kindness starts with me.
I love these exerpts by spiritual teacher and author of Life With A Hole In It, A Guru in the Guest Room, Vicki Woodyard :
“….Here’s the deal. No one reaches full potential until they die. Not only that, no one appreciates them until they do. I am speaking of both literal and psychological death. ‘The price of kissing is your life.’ …….
Things come and go. People come and go. You’ll leave and probably forget your hat. If you do, that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. It just means you forgot your hat. See, that’s the thing about death. You can’t come back for your hat.”
This poem, Kindness, by Naomi Shihab Nye, arrived in my inbox this morning. I have read it before, but now it seems especially appropriate after several years of deep loss. Anymore, nothing makes sense to me apart from kindness in the dealings of human relations, including the relationship I have with myself. I am learning more everyday what it means to be infinitely kind in this kind of exhaustion from loss, beginning here with my own body, emotions and self-care.
Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.
Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
It is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you everywhere
like a shadow or a friend
Naomi Shihab Nye