Saturday, January 25, 2014


There are times when sadness falls upon us, some present or past loss that comes down like the weight of heavy snow bearing down on tree branches. We must carry its weight until it melts or falls off. At times, it feels like we might just break. It could cause us to sleep, to stare at our work or art with a blankness, as if a vacuum has sucked the well dry. We wonder if it will be filled again. This is what sadness is. 

Today, I took a walk with sadness. I let her come along with me through the woods. I befriended her and didn't push her away. We got along. But then, as happens, we think we can move on and are shocked when we turn and she is still there. She came for a walk with me, but then I closed the door on her again and when I stared at my computer screen wanting to write and felt devoid of anything with which to share, I was reminded by a friend to say hello to her again. So I opened the door and she gave me this. 

Sadness is okay. In fact, it is actually beautiful. Imagine sitting across from someone in the depths of sadness and letting her be just that in your quiet, holding presence. There is a profound beauty in witnessing the welling up of tears in the eyes of someone. We need permission to hold grief for as long as is needed. Letting it literally fall from our eyes, watching it fall from others' eyes, we don't have to be scared by it. We don't have to be pushed to move past it or put on a mask to cover it. We can move at that slower pace that sadness wants of us. And, when the fear of our immobility arises, as if it might become a permanent guest, we can remember to be a friend to our sadness and invite her in. She is not some obnoxious guest banging at our door. She is the sweetest of puppies asking for our love. We can soften ourselves to the pain and in doing so, we inherently create space for something greater to come in. There is nothing to fear in welcoming sadness; it does not cancel out our happiness. Truly joyful people know sadness well.

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

And, We Try Again

For some reason, I have been blessed with a specific path in life that connects me to people, literally and figuratively. I know others who wouldn't see it as a blessing. There are people who say they couldn't imagine doing what I do. There is someone very dear to me who repeatedly says, "people suck," as part of her regular reaction to life, to which we generally laugh and then tend to the real difficulty underlying the sentiment. But, for me, I listen to, watch, and touch people and the gifts I receive from the experience are like flowers you might find hidden behind overgrown bushes. They awaken me. This week, what strikes me most in taking in people's stories, in witnessing others' lives, is our resilience. We fall down hard. So hard it seems like the imprint on the ground is too deep to ever be filled again, the hole in our still beating heart irreparable. I have the image of Wile Coyote falling off a cliff, his shape left carved in the ground as he once again gets up to resume the chase (though have you noticed that we don't see the getting up part in the, because that takes time). We, too, get up and, remarkably, we try again. Yes, typing that makes me think of Pink's recent song with the same words. She is right; it is worth singing about. 

I heard a devastating story this week from someone. The kind that is overrun with shock, grief, pain, anger, doubt, and loss. I know this person will get through. I left her sure of that, but then I wondered how we actually do it. What, in the end, inevitably brings us home again? Home to some safety in ourselves where we actually risk loving again. And, that is what it is. No matter what caused the fall, whether it was a work, relationship, health, financial, or spiritual crisis, learning to stand is really to risk loving again. We patch ourselves up gradually with each tiny inkling of love that we receive until we can fully love once more. It happens over and over again in this full life. The greatest challenge in the moment of crisis is to hear the voice that says, "this is it; I am done; I will not love in the form of opening myself, taking another chance, or showing myself again" and give it its due space. After that, if we can find enough inner distance to respond with, "I hear you; of course you say that, but tell me more, I want to know what the feeling really is." Even better, we can describe what the physical sensation is of the feeling and just stay with it. We can breathe in and out saying, "this is what (_ _ _) feels like; I don't need to do anything to it." When we don't give up on the painful place and react with a giant pushing away, we discover that we can still breathe, that it won't kill us after all. It is like having some really deep bodywork done. I know that if I resist the hand or forearm pressing deeply up the outside of my leg, it will be a lot more painful. If I surrender and give in, I am better off as it makes space for change to happen. In that space, love has room to grow again.

What I've also learned is that no matter how many times I find myself in some struggling place, each one feels like something I won't get through. It even happens running. I run up a steep hill or a long, gradual incline and I hear myself saying how hard it is, how I won't be able to run the whole way this time, and wonder why today it feels so rough. And then, suddenly I am going downhill and all of those feelings of difficulty are wiped away completely, as if it was another day. I coast along the decline feeling strong and healthy, just one breath away from the previous experience of "oh no, it's over." When it happened last week, I laughed and thought, "don't forget this!" We recover. Somehow, someway, we end up on the other side. And, it is okay that we forget.

After one very challenging loss, I remember expressing to someone I trusted that I didn't know what hope meant. I had no sense of how to find it, but I was on a mission and was giving myself 6 months to get to some useful understanding. I had looked into what teachers and writers said on the subject to no avail and then, the same trusted person quoted Brother David Steindl-Rast who spoke of hope as being an "openness for surprise." It was the only take on it that made sense to me. What I liked was that this was not wishful thinking that asks for something to be different. It is simply what it says, an openness to what may come. It is a very present moment way of being because we do not know what will come next. We could be surprised.  

I am going to fall again. I don't know when or why it will happen, but it will. When I do, I won't believe I'll stand again and no one will be able to tell me otherwise. What I will trust is that experience has taught me to just stay with the impossibility. In staying with the impossibility, there will be possibility. So for all the people I know and the huge numbers more I don't know, that are in that ditch where love seems like an absent ladder out, I send my strength in staying. The safety rope will eventually be lowered, but you don't need to be concerned about when or how. Just be. Love knows how to find you in your pain. And, we will "get up and try and try again." We might even find ourselves singing. How amazing is that!

Friday, January 3, 2014

Letting It Be Unclear

I awoke on a snowy morning with my kids' school canceled and my day's plans scattered. It felt as if I took the things I had and wanted to do in my hand and gracefully threw them up in the air unsure of how they were going to fall. I sat with my tea in my hand sure of only one thing, a phone appointment at 10:00. I called the super to find out if the scheduled shut down of water for the day was still happening and was relieved to find that it was postponed. Besides being alive, healthy, and safe and besides the beauty of the white everywhere outside my window, it was one of  the first gifts of the day. Now I was sure of two things, but the rest felt vague and I still felt a mild uneasiness. What time was I to get my children from their other parent's home? Was it okay that it waited until after my call? Is it okay with me that I wouldn't get my work done?  With that, there was another looming uneasiness. It was that pending phone call and a relationship that needed to be discussed. I held my warm cup of tea, still foggy from some vivid dreams, when it occurred to me that sometimes this place where matters in life, from the mundane to the more significant, lack clarity and feel unsettling is okay, too. That I don't need to fix it or know how it is going to turn out. That this place is no better than the days when the outline of events goes as planned or my relationships are in their satisfying place. I can breathe in and out and let it be. Someone wise once said to me about a situation, "let it be a mess; can you let it be a mess and not think you have to do anything." This day is not a mess, but the same wisdom can be applied. In fact, I can not only accept the unclarity, but, I can actually enjoy it, too, as another feeling amidst all the other ones that will come and go. And, they will come and go and come again. There is a comfort and safety in remembering that this place is just fine and beautiful as it is.