In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.
Today we start the rest of our lives. It’s official.
On this day, January 20, 2017, President Obama has left the White House and a new President takes his place—for better or worse. I have my own ideas about what he might or might not do while seated in the Oval Office. I am sure you do, too. All eyes of the planet are watching to see what is going to happen. A man comfortable enough with his own authority is now taking his place in a seat that is powerful enough to make or break this barely visible blue planet–a planet that spins in the backwaters of an incomprehensibly vast pinwheel of stars. Think about that for a moment.
And it is a man who, no matter what side of the fence you’re on, has repeatedly, and with a very long stick, poked the tiger of our fears since announcing his candidacy for President of the United States. Poke, then stir and repeat. This has been the methodology for his brand of success over the years, it would seem.
However long the life span remaining for each of us here on a breathtakingly small speck of universal life, there has never been such a time as this between technology and the ability to create or destroy. I believe actions for better or worse are felt as a rippling waves throughout the fabric of all of life itself, wherever it is or whatever form. Everything is connected.
Though widely attributed to being a Chinese curse, the saying “may you live in interesting times” may be deduced from analysis of the late-19th century speeches of Englishman, Joseph Chamberlain and erroneously expounded upon by his son, Austen Chamberlain. However it came about, we are here right now, in the boiling cauldron of interesting times. [i] Interesting times are signals that something is about to change. In fact, it is pretty much a guarantee–and you play a part in it whether you choose to or not.
Interesting times are created for thinking people just like you and me. Now, what are you going to decide to do with your place in it? Remember, if you choose to distract yourself in habituation, hoping to maintain the status quo away from uncomfortable feelings or the work of change, you’ve decided.
Most critical is the decision to give up any complacency you may be in possession of about your own life, and over your place here as a citizen of the earth, and over the gifts and talents lying within you. And you do have certain gifts and talents even if they have become undervalued, dormant or gone underground.
Because as you may or may not know, our gifts and talents, no matter our personal idea of them, were given to us so that we could give them away. They are meant for service and for the betterment of yourself and the betterment of mankind. They are intended so that you will be able to better know exactly what and where the passion is in you to go out and serve–and with the proper tools innately and proportionately exact to you.
But sometimes you’ve got to start digging to uncover them before you can utilize them. I have some ideas about how you might begin the process and will write more about that very soon, because now is the time you are really going to need to rely on those beautiful parts of yourself. They are what will save you on more levels you can know in the present moment, and might even positively contribute to life on Planet Earth.
Collectively, we are powerful! This I know. Individually, you might not have not given yourself enough credit for surviving until now.
Desperately seeking change, whether realizing it or not on a conscious level, this is the time that the people of Planet Earth through their most heartfelt and fervent desire have collectively moved heaven and earth to effect change away from the prevailing system and towards a more healing one that WE get to create as we go. We have put people, point men or women, if you will, in place around the world who are sufficiently capable of taking a sledgehammer to our most cherished fears in order to exquisitely tear them down.
The time has arrived. We stand on the precipice of fear and change. What is our future going to look like? Right now it is a big question mark. Question marks in life are doorways to limiting probabilities or countless possibilities. What will we be? It is ours to choose for better or worse individually and collectively. We have an amazing opportunity. We get to make up the rules for continued life on this mother ship upon whose back we reside—much like the rules that were made up for us in preceding generations.
We live in times meant for the unseating of dominance of one over another, of our fears over love; and whether we’ll be pushed by our fears or pulled by love and courage.
This is the part where we now get to save ourselves! Ultimately, no governing body can do it for us. It’s going to take some true grit and a lot of courage.
Time to get busy! Dig where you are. Ask for help. Reach out. Network. Power lies in strength of community. Choose to be a force for good where can you do the most good for the most people.
Your uncovered and passionate heart bent on love in service over fear will show you the way through.
Wakening this a.m., eyes first beginning to flutter open, I saw a clean white sheet of paper floating down in front of me. I heard inside, “Today is the first day of your life. What will you write on this new page?”
Today I choose to write kindness, to see through its eyes. I choose to take good care of myself today; and to notice with new eyes the perfection of life within me and around me.
Each morning when your soft sleepy eyelids flutter open, a clean white sheet of paper is given to you. This is the first day of your brand new life. What will you choose to write today on this new page? How will you choose to respond to the thousand and one little things that enter your day?
Redemption comes easy. We’re told that. It’s sold on street corners, in pulpits and on television. Hawkers of salvation everywhere with goods to sell that will make you happy, change your life, offer eternal deliverance, forgive every sin and clean your toilet. Our lives and souls can be washed clean in an instant in beauty creams, laundry detergent and holy blood.
So whatever I have thought redemption is, I have been paying my dues towards achieving it without buying into creams and detergent. At least that’s what I tell myself.
What is that anyway? In my quest for this elusive thing called redemption I have supposedly bought into, I have often found shame instead. It has caused me to be overtly punishing of myself; and I think I’ve confused redemption for perfection at times. When I am perfect at this thing or that—religiously meditating every day; my life pristinely organized and categorized; practicing compassionate kindness with everyone equally; never getting my feelings ruffled; faithfully practicing healthy habits of eating right, exercising daily; going to bed early; resisting unhealthy habits and demands…after I’ve perfected all this, then I will somehow find my redemption, and the scepter of “good-enough-you-may-now-enter-the-kingdom-of-light” will crown me. Then the angels will sing. Oh, and one other thing—flawless, inspired writing that hits like a zing to the heart of every reader.
What a load of bull crap!
Redemption is this: I am already redeemed in every moment no matter what is going on. As the comedian, the late Gilda Radner, used to say, “It’s always something”. There will always be something lacking, something left undone, something urgent or necessary to get in the way of our perfection. We can exhaust ourselves into a quivering heap trying to achieve it. I am not always going to get it right. When I think I have achieved a certain modicum of equanimity or balance, there will always be something to challenge me. Life doesn’t fit into neat little packages for the most part.
So what would redemption really look like for me on a daily basis? Devising a daily, weekly or life plan and then executing it to the letter? Nope! There are many components to my life that, in fact, add to its quality when I adhere to what’s good for me. I could start with one. Good sleeping habits are an example, and I do have specific challenges with my sleep that can detract for sure. Yet maybe redemption comes in dropping the story I’m telling myself about how it is, how I’ve become a victim of life or even my own inaction after a night without sleep. Maybe it’s just accepting that I am humanly flawed, that life is messy, and that all I have is right here, right now, and I am doing exactly what I’m supposed to be doing now because I am doing it. I can change my story, shift my dimension by being with this moment on its own terms. There is no other story beside woman sitting at her computer writing about redemption. I can sit here and focus on this one thing I am doing and drop the stories about how I should really be doing ten other things and how much there is to do and why-can’t-I-get-it-all-done-at-once, or I-should-be-saving-the-world-and-why-haven’t-I-done-it-yet? Let go of that big tangled ball of string of everything I must accomplish, be and do that wants to live inside my head. Instead I could pull on one strand, the one solitary note of the singular thing my heart or my body is speaking to me to do now. Maybe what is more needful is to be “woman sitting at window watching the rain come down”.
Redemption for me lies in this one moment, not in a thousand others that don’t exist.
Awhile back I made the decision to leave a relationship I was in. As decision making often goes, the lead up to the decision was distressing, agonizing even as I searched my heart for right answers of what to do, all the while not really wanting to do what was right knowing it would be the most inconvenient and painful for all parties in the short run. I vacillated back and forth, one moment totally ready to stick it out and make it all okay no matter what, believing it would be; and the next knowing some things were beyond my control and repair.
Day by day, the situation had become increasingly unbearable in exact proportion to the good that seemed to be leaving for both of us. Looking in the mirror, I was looking like someone else looking back at me. My joie de vivre had taken flight to distant shores. My soul was shriveling and meaningful purpose or repair wasn’t to be conjured up or found anywhere.
Then one morning after a particularly bad night, I just woke up with perfect clarity of what I had to do.
I took comfort all the while in my questioning knowing that the decision would make itself. I knew I didn’t have to rush to judgement or do anything ahead of schedule. However, I will add the proviso this may not be true in every case, and indecision and vacillation can too often render one immobilized, keep a person in a stagnant or even dangerous situation, or at the very least, from their most authentic selves. The thing was I knew myself well enough to know how resilient I am, how much of a survivor, that I have survived far more painful things. I knew I would ultimately do what I needed to do to save the only life I really could when nothing else was working—my own.
I knew there would be those who would disagree with my decision, who would call me wrong for doing so, who would question my motives, who would no longer call me friend. I knew this questioning might arise from people who thought they knew what was best for me or my partner, or thought they had a grasp on who I am or what the situation was. Nonetheless, I knew in the depths of me what was true, and I left in spite of the clamoring voices that might surround me.
It was one of those watershed moments in life when you know you are going to have start from scratch all over again. It’s not like I haven’t had to build from the bottom up before. It’s a kind of fire in your life that burns the house down. It’s damn hard work to rebuild. It’s damn inconvenient, too.
Oftentimes the decision to leave a situation, a job, or a relationship is something that decides itself. One day, after a lot of tossing and turning and sleepless nights, you just wake up knowing. Suddenly there are no more questions. The decision becomes almost independent of you and begins to move you at that point.
And sometimes the decision is made for you, thrust at you without your input. It can be abrupt and shocking, leaving you crying and groping for answers for endless days.
Yet you do find the courage to go on you didn’t know existed—from a place deep inside yourself. You do what’s necessary to rebuild life in a meaningful way, to restore the lost vitality, to create something beautiful and with purpose. You laugh again. You make new friends. You are still you, maybe only now a better version, and you grow through the pain into wisdom and caring and helping others to find their way, too.
First, you must do the important work of grieving, whatever it takes. It doesn’t mean, however, that there will not be doubts or second guessing once the decision has moved you away. You will still wonder what if, what might have been. Then again in your heart you know the truest answer, that you did the right thing, that you can never go back.
How do we judge the rightness of a decision except by listening deeply to our own heart, following our truest true? Hindsight is usually a good barometer once you are far enough down the road from it. In the meantime, we must trust life and our hearts enough to listen, to know that the answer will find us. And if we are fortunate enough to have a friend who knows and trusts our heart also, it also good to listen to that friend of wise counsel.
The answer that comes may not always look like something we think it should or hoped it would. Sometimes the miracle comes through the hard work of growth and willingness to change. It may not be convenient. It might be painful. Yet in the still small voice of yourself, the places that whisper, you know it to be true if you are listening. You know that if you do not heed the whisper, the inner knowing underneath all the questioning, second guessing and vacillation, you will miss something very important in your life—yourself, your reason for being here.
In an alternate version/universe of yourself, you decided to stay against what your heart knew to be true, to play it out, and it had catastrophic consequences. In this universe, however, you will get to live and thrive because you left, or because you were left. You have something else you are supposed to do, that waits for you to walk its way. And maybe you might not have found your way had you remained frozen where you were.
This was written awhile back after years of caregiving, illness, and death, and the demise of a relationship. Our lives can feel much like a proverbial pressure cooker at times–especially these days on the planet as time seems set on warp speed. Yet intersecting with the grief that can overwhelm us in doing our work, there come unexpected moments of pure release, a benevolence, an answer to prayer, as if to say, “go on, keep moving, you are not alone”. There is sweet grace in not knowing, in our confusion of not having exact answers but knowing they will arrive in the exact moment necessary–and not a moment too late. There is grace in allowing the knife edge of pain to do its best surgical work in our lives without trying to cover it over with the lid of denial. Better to accept our own vulnerability, our tears–there’s a new day coming when we do–even if we are the only one changed.
These are days when grief takes what it takes. When the best I can do is hold myself and cry. I am spent with it, pale and tired, worn down.
Nonetheless it seems right that I should find myself here at the same time when everywhere trees are catching fire, going down in cloven tongued flames of glory, suspended between death and life in a kind of spectral breath stopping splendor—a brilliant colored luminosity that makes you wonder what it is that dying knows.
Sorrow has a way of opening me and ripening me, of letting everything out—and bringing everything in, while the whole world rises to meet me in my solitary pain while I fall. Yet not always so serenely as the dying leaves, while I am choking on the words, “help me, please”, and I think no one is listening.
What comes without predictability startles me—strong arms that gather me up in moments of laughter or surprise. Grief interrupted, I suppose, preempted by grace when the unexpected flare of golden light outlines dark clouds after heavy deluge; or falling words from a stranger’s mouth apprise I’m still here. It’s okay to cry—
or laugh when yesterday, as trick or treating goblins came out— as I went by a dark angel in bright wings receiving a ticket from a sternly posed uniformed man; and further along the road seen were old men in tutus teetering down the sidewalk in high heeled shoes.
These are gifts of pure release, a break in the storm, a kind of benevolence coming into my bones, won’t let go, that fiercely holds on. Laughter and transcendence, marrow building even in what is dying; even while I let go, and life goes on. Even while what needs to come around, comes around, and once again, I find myself spiraling down to my knees.
It is my hardest work in this earthly realm, to tell myself the truth, to tear this mask of pretense off. In this, I believe I am not alone. I am struggling daily to confront my own humanity, to be intently present for myself as I listen deeply. I am discovering as I listen, it has the unintended consequence of changing my entire view of life around me. Allowing this pain sensitizes me the humanity of others in a larger way. Labels about how I believe someone might be are falling away, and I am beginning to see an integrity in the basic goodness of life, no matter the outward appearance.
Concurrently, what comes is the knowledge of where I’ve failed to live up to my own commitments to others, where I’ve lied in order to gain something for myself, and in so doing, deeply hurt someone else; where I’ve failed to say what I mean and instead what I thought someone wanted to hear, the many occasions where my motives have been less than pure, where harm was done to another soul. It hurts to look at the many parts my actor self has played, and to take responsibility for where I have failed the test of my own humanity. It crashes in with a loud thud, and I am grieving also for what I have done at the same time I am feeling relief, a proverbial lightness of being.
Still and always, there are respites that come guaranteed, bring the necessary energy to go on, to see it from above, then the wheel turns instinctually to face me with what needs attending in my life.
My soul that needs its time in mourning, its difficult times of transitioning, the realization of what’s been lost or what was done. And I am tempted to run. Still I can count on my steadfast life of reckoning in the fated events and happenings that show up. It then becomes up to me to find the beautiful truth of what needs grieving? Or what needs loving? What needs amends?
As with everything in this life, this life of mine requires its struggling, it maturing and I am grappling with my relationship to it and my place in the world. Things take time to grow and mature on the vine as in me, to be fully what they are intended to become.
I am learning a certain approbation of the requisite pain, the obligatory difficult work of grieving what’s done. There is a fundamental understanding I cannot summon to myself everything at once. What is trying to be born requires turning over the soil again and again. Like biting into a sour green apple before its time, impatience would have us spit it out, leaving a bitter taste upon our tongue. What is vitally important is the struggle, then the acceptance in the rendering down where the most essential self is found, where the truth of the heart is let out. It is in the stripping away of façade, or the relief of laughter, in the unexpected support we receive, in the surrendering again and again that something necessary and bewilderingly beautiful can finally emerge.