i open my window
for a moment
the healing of the world
i open my window
for a moment
the healing of the world
“Shan, I’m an alcoholic,” my friend said to me about 9am over Skype this morning. She wouldn’t reveal her face, but I left mine showing so she could see me. “I’m so sorry, hon. What has happened the past 3 years?” She talked. I listened.
Her pain was raw and brittle – even through the slur of the alcohol. At the end of the conversation, among other things, my mind flashed back to the time she spent a Christmas with me because her family wasn’t safe – and when she told me about her years of abuse. I remembered standing next to her when she was married. I heard the echoes of the many conversations we’d shared over the years. And I was overwhelmed with her strength. And so, among other things I told her, “You can do this, but you cannot do it all yourself. It’s going to be tough, but you can let go and let God love you to wellness. You cannot do this alone.”
It’s been a tough week. I also lost a friend. A beautiful, peaceful soul. As our friendship was forming some years ago, she took me down to the neighborhood she was raised in because she discovered I’d never had a deep-fried pork chop. “Whaaat??” she said, appalled. “Well, we’ll just have to fix that, girl!”
And so it went. I took her out for scones and espresso: she took me out for deep-fried pork chops. We talked about the differences between pork chops and scones; growing up in a farming community vs urban Seattle; being white and Presbyterian vs black and Presbyterian. We talked about falling in love, the challenges of parenting, and so many little things that make up the stuff of life.
Some days the world just feels so unrepairable. Like shattered glass: shards flung around the room… no way to reassemble into form or function. Death comes. Long seasons of grief dig under our skin without our consent. We discover that we are not nearly as in control as we imagine we are.
What is our essential work in the world if it is not to be shelter and strength for each other? To remind each other that we are stronger than we feel … to be the place where we can sit comfortably after a long time apart. We are to be each other’s menders. I don’t know about you, but I have had people in my life at critical junctures that sort of massaged my heart til it could beat on it’s own.
I did not tell my friend who died this week that she was a heart mender. So I tell you to help us both remember to say the things that need to be said – And to live fully in our own skins, savoring the beauty of each other. This is our essential work in the world.
I wanted to claim the word “clarity” as my word for 2014. I have been doing this the past few years, choosing a word or two to help frame my intentions for the year. So I went for a walk in a 40-degree Louisville blue sky day. It is January 1, 2014.
As I walked, I was trying to think of a word that expressed what I feel I need right now. The word that I kept thinking of was “clarity”. It made perfect sense. There is some cloudiness in my life right now. Cloudiness on how to best care for my family while I live at at a distance; cloudiness in some pieces of my work (it’s that kind of job, one that unfolds over time); cloudiness about how to best take care of myself here in Louisville. Lots of cloudiness. So clarity seemed perfect.
But wouldn’t you know. That isn’t the word for me. I was in the groove, feeling the ooh aah of impactfulness of the word when I reached a creek and thought I’d lean over. I took in the picturesque scene with misty eyes and said to the creek, “what can you teach me?” I know it might seem a bit woo woo for some of you, but I have learned many lessons from sunsets, rocks, hawks, coyotes, tree bark, and other inanimate objects. The world is out there ready to teach you if you stop and listen for a while. And what could be a better reinforcement that a beautiful creek?
Anyway, I leaned over the bridge taking in the slow curls of water, the rocks and mud, the reaching branches reaching, the uncanny reflection of trees and clouds in the water. Then a white coffee cup with a black lid interrupted my magical moment. And a long stream of some kind of scrappy plastic hanging from one of the branches. And then I noticed a bunch of pieces of colored crap that was sitting in the bushes and along the bank. Garbage. Junk. I couldn’t see the bottom in some parts. This totally messed with my personal bliss. And I realized something.
There wasn’t going to be the clarity I wanted this year. Not likely. And what I was really asking for was a “plan” to make everything in my untidy brain all tidy again. How? By sorting everything into it’s place so I could move on to the next thing. Sigh. I didn’t really want clarity. I wanted control. And that is the exact opposite of what the spiritual life is about. Spiritual living is about letting go; giving up the illusions of control; and living in better rhythm with your soul.
What I really want and need is a different posture toward my life. I need a posture of opening; of not trying to force squishy things into perfectly measured square boxes. I do that sometimes. It’s like trying to fill up a take-out container with a jelly fish. It may fit, but the poor thing can’t breathe that way – and besides it wasn’t really supposed to be in a take out container in the first place.
So this is my first word for the year: open. I am thinking of it as an action verb. Open heart. Open hands. Open mind. Open to strangers. Open to God. Open to what other people (and things) have to teach me. There is a discernment piece that fits with this word for me. It’s not getting rid of me or of all boundaries. It is inviting others into a place that is mine and allowing them to affect and change how I am in the world. It is receiving in a way that celebrates and honors other’s experience in the world. It is a posture of arms spread open in love to the other.
I hope you live with intention too. I’d love to hear from you about your intent/hope/prayer for the year.
Oh, I did choose a second word. It is ZESTY! But that is for another blog post. Have a blessed 2014.