Three weeks ago, I opened my home to interested individuals who wanted to experience Advent consciously. My only requirements : commit to all sessions and come on time. Predictably, there was a fallout. What started out as a group of eight has dwindled to six, but last week we started to feel what can arise when a vessel is kept whole by a group of truly committed people with a shared purpose. This year, we are working with the theme “integrity”. On one level it means showing up consistently and on time, being responsible, being true to your word, and on another it means being upright, gathering all our parts towards wholeness and alignment.
It’s interesting what people say when you ask them what they look for in a life partner. When we were younger, it seemed obvious: a good man (whatever that meant, but we all had rough ideas), decent if not above average looks, a stable job and a stab at success. But as we advance in years, it changes. A friend recently expressed her need for being taken care of at last. We were talking about age differences and how that has taken on new meaning now that we are all in our fifties. She has been a single mom and very successful in her career, so what she is looking for is someone to carry some of the burden for her. She doesn’t want to have to do most of the care-taking anymore. I get that and I do think it so important to identify what love looks like for us. Everyone has their own story, but so few of us actually have that internal conversation then we find ourselves flailing in our relationships because we don’t even know how we got there.
A few messages I sent out recently were completely ignored. There was no acknowledgment, response, not even a friendly brush-off emoticon.
On one level this is simply rude, not to mention unkind, especially since these were not garden variety messages. One was a request for help around my children and the others I would categorize as heart questions or offerings. To behave as if they had not arrived at all I find appallingly cold-hearted. How difficult is it to type “Thank you and I hope all is well”, or if you don’t hope it, “Got it!”, or “Thanks for the thought.” There are a hundred ways to acknowledge a person who reaches out for one reason or another, emoticons included. If you receive a message you wish you hadn’t, at least make an effort to recognize the presence of the human being on the other side, especially if the message is personal.
I have been away from this space for so long; each time I think of writing, I whip out my journal and do it there instead. It has been a season of intense self-reflection. All my public words went into hibernation. But I feel able enough to let my words reach out again and I hope they are of some use or solace to you.
This is not just me. I suspect we are all struggling over how our external reality has shifted. The world feels noisy, much of its sound more baffling than enlightening. Nothing is the same. It takes more effort to find that quiet voice of sense and equanimity online. Part of me doesn’t want to add to the chatter, but I also know how important it is to quit telling myself I have nothing of value to add to the conversation, should others seek it.
I’ve been fighting the rumblings of a cough. Then Orlando. Rain. My mind said workout, but my body said something else.
It is so like life to have you in a space of total lightness and optimism one moment and then test you a hundredfold the next, as if to say “Think you got it figured out? Well, let’s see how you fare with this….” Boom. So many dead and injured. So much hatred and pain.
Of course I want to dig my heels further into my optimism and hope for humanity, have my light burn ever more brightly so I can ray it forth with stars, rainbows, silly emoticons, superhuman love powers. Ever more brightly. Ever more brightly. But one can’t do that without pausing, gathering, recalibrating, feeling.
I needed quiet and stillness, tenderness, self-kindness. I gave myself time and space to breathe, lean, burrow. I let myself feel the pain, disappointment, shock, grief, sadness, terror–for the kind of world I brought my children into and the monumental task of birthing the kind of love we have never known before. And let myself feel my place in it. My possibilities in it.
They have been everywhere for me lately.
A few weeks ago, she came in the form of a heartfelt text message from a friend I hardly see. Her message said, “I’m feeling you, sister. Is everything ok?” She was an unexpected life raft that day and she didn’t even know it. We decided it was time to make good on our constant “lets-get-togethers”. She chose a nice place to eat and made me laugh. We had a great time connecting and hugged each other with much appreciation when we parted.
What is it they say about being tested the minute we commit to living out of our spiritual convictions?
Well, I have been committing to many lately, so I suppose I was due. Just when I published a post about finding grace where I am, I had an encounter with a well-meaning friend who chatted with me about the changes in my life, asked pointed questions, listened well, and then mindlessly said he was now adjusting his view of me. He actually made gestures with his hands going diagonally down from an invisible pedestal. I could only be thankful I was never actually on it.
My previous post earned a conversation with a concerned friend who thought I might be clinically depressed or suffering from concealed depression (aha, a brand new disease !). Like I said in the post, I am not prone to depression, but this does not mean I have not felt despair, sadness and grief. I have. I am somewhere in that well now, but slowly finding my way back to the surface.
Now, I know myself, but I also like to guard against denial. I went online after we hung up and read several articles on depression, even took a few quizzes, enough to confirm what I already know: I’m just sad, and I know it’s something that comes with my life experiences of late. If I went into detail, you would agree that it is a very sad time, indeed.
I recently had a talk with my godson about marriage. His friends seem to be diving in, left and right, and he’s having to fly to different places to attend weddings and christenings. Part of him was feeling a little odd being one of two in his group who is still single, but it was clear he had many questions about the institution. I told him I had as many and feel marriage to be painfully outdated given our present context.
We are different human beings today, evolving towards becoming more and more ourselves (hopefully), so more and more marriages are ending up torn and frayed, if not completely shattered. Religion certainly has not helped in this area. There is much talk about fidelity, forever, sin, morality, God, but not much about the necessary and spiritual evolution of the self, and how this can happen authentically within the same space. Isn’t this what marriage can be–a conscious spiritual endeavour, the nurturing of shared space that allows each individual freedom and self-actualization over time, the recognition and honoring of each other’s essence, learning to love in truth, first ourselves and then another? I move towards these points each time I think about marriage and all its possibilities.
I’m so tempted to post a candid, really horrid photo of me here, just to prove a point. I almost did, until I saw the scratches on my arm, blemishes on my face, remembered how I over-trimmed my eyebrows and well, I couldn’t bring myself to do it. I was also at my heaviest (not pregnant), my hair was limp and unstyled, and of course I had the worst expression ever: bored, zero energy, definitely anemic–basically, an unthreatening zombie. I could not post it. Not even for that point. I have to say that I look more like that most days before, during and after obsessively scrubbing my shower stall, cooking, exercising, doing the laundry, not cleaning my study–just being myself, and not appearing in selfies.