Be Careful…

A shy and hesitant soul steps out of the hiding of her false self and reveals a secret. I want to telepath to the rest of the group – “Shhhh, she is revealing her soul, be careful of what you say or do.”

During a Bible study long ago,  I shared a secret and the room fell into complete silence. I remember thinking – feeling – “shit, how do I backtrack and conceal what is real”. The vulnerability I felt at that moment was painful. I do not know what the ladies thought when I exposed this secret of mine. I do not know if I shocked them all into silence or they just did not know what to say. I was painfully aware that I was exposing a truth about myself and I was facing the possibility of rejection.

I cried on the way home, and as I was sniffling at a traffic light waiting for it to turn green, a question formed. “What did I expect them to say?” Did I want their validation that I should not be ashamed of this secret? Did I want their pity? No, what I wanted was a safe place, to be honest. When I revealed, I felt the shame, and I wanted the group to take away the shame. They did not – nor should they have. The lesson was mine to learn – if I wanted honesty then I needed to learn to stand proudly in the experiences that made me who I am. Their silence gave me the space to test that ability and to show them and myself that the truth would set one free.

I went back to the group, and no one spoke a word about the secret I shared. I did not apologize nor did I hang my head in shame. If I wanted to be within a group who was honest, I was going to have to learn to be okay with what I shared. I tried to learn a balance of when to share and when not too. I asked questions that I believe some were afraid to ask and I answered questions with sincere and honest answers. Over time a friendship formed out of this group – a friendship I cherish. A friendship my soul longed for. In her friendship, I have learned to be real, and it has changed my life.

Now when I am in a group or one on one with someone, I am as transparent as I can be without coming on too strong – I am still learning the balance of give and take – to give enough to reveal and to listen enough to see if there is a connection. I do not have a deep connection with all of the people I come in contact with; one must learn to be guarded in some relationships. A person only needs one to be real with, I am lucky to a have a few. Yes, those few who are reading this blog, I am speaking of your friendship.

I have found if I listen carefully, I will be able to sense when someone is trying to be transparent. When I see it – I find it beautiful. It is the one who says a word or a sentence to reveal a deeper meaning – a truth of an experience that made her who she is today. I want to say to her “I see you – you brave, brave soul.”

But the soul is like a shy deer stepping into the clearing, barely revealing itself to you. And you know if you speak or move, it will retreat to safety, so you remain quiet and marvel at the wonder.

And if, by chance, I make eye contact – I want her to know I heard her – I saw the marvelously brave thing she just did. I want her to know I caught a glimpse of her true self and I am in awe.

 

Daily Post Writing Prompt: Careful

The Tree

Daily Post Prompt: Graceful

Daily Post Prompt: Tree

The tree loomed – with outreaching branches like a mother’s arms reaching out to a distraught child. She ran to it, hugging the trunk, the bark rough against her cheek. She easily scrambled up to her favorite branch. Hidden in the foliage of the tree, she allowed the tears to flow, her sobs muffled by the rustling of leaves. As she grieved, the dance of the leaves against the brilliant blue sky hypnotized her and her imagination took flight.

A whirling leaf took on the image of her little sister – singing and dancing gracefully with a magic wand. The wand shimmered as she raised it above her head and the treetop turned into a ballroom, with floors of polished mahogany and the walls adorned in brilliant shades of gold. Their parents followed, mother’s hand clutching her heart, her eyes wide with delight and father nodding his head with approval, eyes twinkling with pride. Another image appeared – an elephant bounced in on the scene complete with a pink tutu draping from her oversize hips. Elephant mimicked the dance of Leaf Princess; the room shook under its weight. A path of destruction followed Elephant and the room looked like a war zone. Princess commanded Elephant to stop, but Elephant was oblivious as she danced freely. The eyes of Princess burned with rage, and she leaped towards Elephant and pointed her wand, “Stop” she yelled, and the clumsy beast froze. Elephant finally saw the looks of disgust on her family’s faces. Coldness filled her and made her blood turn to ice, and turning her heart to stone and she lost all desire to dance and sing.

The sound of her mother’s far away voice erased the image from her mind. The sky behind the treetop had deepened, and the air had a chill. She swung down and hung from her branch, her feet inches from the ground. She willed herself to let go, and she landed at the base of the trunk. She reached out to touch the rough bark and spoke to the giant tree in a small voice. “I do not want to be an elephant.” Tears filled her eyes again, and she looked up into the branches of the tree. She allowed her imagination take flight once again and the tree came to life.

It took on the appearance of a wise old man, wrinkled with time. The eyes were dark but gentle and the voice cracked with age. “Listen to me, my favorite tree climber,” it said as a branch reached down and pulled her closer. “I too long to be graceful, but can you imagine me dancing?” She giggled at the image as the old tree continued. “Yes the world admires graceful people.   Do you love me less because I am big and clumsy?” She shook her head and wrapped her arms around its trunk. “Do you believe others love you less because you are not graceful?” She shrugged her shoulders and rested her cheek against its trunk; she could feel the vibration of its voice as it spoke. “Some are born to be graceful, others are not, but we are all given a choice to accept the grace of God. And it does not matter if you are a princess, an elephant or an old oak tree; you can always be kind and forgiving. But if you focus on what you are not, you will become bitter and angry.”

Her mother’s voice rang once more, and the tree became a tree again. With one last look, she ran home, towards the worried sound of her mother’s voice, with the tree’s words echoing in her heart “be full of grace.”

Silence

Daily Post Prompt: Silence

I spent a weekend at Abbey of Gethsemani, a monastery in Kentucky for a silent retreat. I was nervous when my friend and I pulled up into the parking lot. The Abbey stood in front of us, beautiful and intimidating – I was not sure I wanted to face the silence.

As I rolled my suitcase along the hallway the sound echoed off the walls and I felt like a loud intruder who had yet to shed the remnants of the world. I left my suitcase in my small room with its narrow cot and went to explore the grounds. The garden was a noisy place, filled with traffic sounds from a nearby road, the roar of the monk’s tractor as it harvest wheat and whirl of the lawn mowers as the landscapers maintained the grounds. I was disappointed, I knew I was there for the silence and I was not finding it.

I eventually made my way to the balcony of the church. As soon as the door closed behind me I knew this was the place I needed to be. The silence felt heavy – like a burden. It rested on me like a blanket – suffocating. I let it rest upon me and pin me down under its weight. I was facing silence for the first time – and I was terrified but relieved, I am tired of running. It was time to come face to face with myself.

I sat in the heavy silence and melted into a pool of tears. Tears of sorrow and of joy – the in-between space. Silence is the space between both. It is Holy space – and although I know it resides in me – I felt the full weight of it in the holy sanctuary.

What I felt in the church was the humming reverence of the spirit. In a small church where even the smallest sound sounded like a thunder-clap – I heard the sound of God. He is the silence.

It is a silence almost impossible to find – maybe it was the original purpose of church, a place to find silence. My church at home is big, beautiful and on the corner of a busy street. It is a place to be seen. I would not weep openly in my church – I am too visible. I feel invisible in this sanctuary and I feel freedom. I feel free to kneel, to bow my head and let my tears drip off my nose. I close my eyes and breath in the silence – and allow it to wrap itself around me – like an embrace. When the monks enter and sing, I am lulled in the arms of God.

Brother Carlos told us during our orientation that the purpose of silence is to create a hermitage in one’s heart, a place where one can be free to explore one’s feelings with curiosity and to contemplate on the day’s events. I believe he was explaining what happen to me in the church.

“To look out from this untouchable silence is what we mean by contemplation.” (Thomas Merton).

I will never forget that day in the church. The day I faced silence and felt love.

Depression

Daily Post Writing Prompt: Recharge
The ground vibrates under my feet and I cannot deny it any longer. Depression is barreling down on me like a locomotive. I can hear the warning call and see the light in the distance. In my younger days I was able to outrun it by denying it but as I have aged I have lost the ability.

I can see the light rounding the bend and I stand transfixed like a deer in the headlights –I cannot advert my gaze as it comes closer… And closer… And closer… I see the conductor – it is a continuous changing of people who have had some kind authority over my life. Beside the conductor is a figure that slowly morphs into a demon, with pointed ears, red complexion and serpent-like tongue. The train is close enough and  I can hear his laughter – he has caught up with me. His hand reaches for the pull-cord of the whistle.

I call out to a friend to save me. I reach out to my husband to pull me from the tracks, but they cannot hear me for the noise of the train. I am alone in this – and I wait for the inescapable impact.

Maybe I can fight it – but it plows right through me. I am a fool to think that I can battle someone driving a locomotive. The impact plunges me into darkness.

Jonah must have felt this kind of darkness when he was in the belly of the whale and like Jonah, I cry out to God. “Why does this train follow me wherever I go? Why do people set its course to destroy me?“ In the darkness I feel the answer, it feels like a breath of fresh air in the dank place I am in.

The problem is not the conductor of the train but the train itself. The train represents a deep wound and certain people are able to push the button to start it moving. The people wake it up and draw it out into the open. When the realization of this sinks in, the foreboding darkness deepens, for it is easier to fight the devil when he takes on a human form than to face a powerful train. It will take strength I don’t have.

It will require strength outside of myself – a power source that will recharge the light from within me and chase away the darkness and it will take time.

Labor Day

I have had the perfect weekend – the weather was beautiful, with cool mornings for writing, lazy afternoons for reading and surrounded by family as we eat excellent food. This morning I will sit with the one family member that is not present – for even in the good times I miss him so much it hurts.

I believe the perfectness of the weekend has to do with the person we are missing. We have acquired an appreciation for each other’s company – for we know that in an instant a person you love might be gone tomorrow. My children have seen true love made visible by a loss. Nothing shows love more than how broken a heart is after you lose someone. They know I love them with the same intensity.

I wish I could have both – the knowledge of how precious life is without the loss. Maybe if someone told me – than maybe I could have had the best of both worlds.

Maybe I am the one to do the telling.

I sit here in the quiet on this Labor Day morning and I find myself in between feeling contentment and feeling sadness. It is in this space – the in between – that I have found survival.

When I am looking at my life from this point of view – I find that the world is full of contradictions. It is simply complex and perfectly imperfect. One can either have cake or one can eat it.

I can’t have the best of both worlds – but I can find comfort somewhere in between them.

The Sidewalk

Daily Post Writing Prompt: Sidewalk
The word sidewalk takes me back to last year – the year I stepped out of my comfort zone and did something that terrified me.

I remember pulling into the parking lot and finding a spot close to the stairs that lead to a beautiful tree-lined sidewalk. I unclenched my sweaty hands from the steering wheel and forced myself to exit the car. I climbed the stairs and stood at the beginning of the concrete path. I knew the sidewalk would take me into a building that held the local theater company but I also knew the metaphoric path would take me some place too.

I was to audition for a part in the annual Christmas play and I remember vividly standing on the sidewalk and fighting a fierce battle with my fear. I have worked back stage and have made a few good friends; they and my family had talked me into auditioning. Did they see something I didn’t”?

A young girl of six or seven skipped past me and up the sidewalk, following close behind was an older gentleman, her father perhaps. She turned towards the man and exclaimed, “I am so nervous!” and her pigtail flapped with her bobbing head. The man offered her words of encouragement, they joined hands and continued up the path. I felt my inner child stir.

My inner child yearned to enjoy life.  I wanted to try new things and to quit sitting on the sidelines (or staying backstage). Yet to be child-like at forty-eight is not an attractive sight. A six-year-old trying something new is cute, but I would look like a fool. The fear of appearing foolish eclipse my desire for a part in the play.

My inner child must have sensed fear was winning the battle, because I had a sudden urge to skip along the path like the six-year old. I wanted to throw caution to the wind and to take a risk – I wanted the experience.

I didn’t skip, but I squared my shoulders and lifted my chin and marched down that sidewalk, into the building and I auditioned. I did feel foolish and so ashamed that I cried all the way home afterwards. I was rewarded a small part and I rehearsed for weeks. I had the time of my life. When the curtain open for the first show, I was ready for it and I was as giddy as my six-year old co-actor.

I think of this day whenever I want to try something new. If I could perform on stage I could lead a bible study or sing in the church choir.  I will use the memory for my future experiences.

Sidewalks are to take us some place – both literally and metaphorically.

 

 

 

I am no expert….

Daily Writing Prompt: Expert

Knowledge can only take one so far. To be knowledgeable about a certain subject will give you the title of expert. I have been told that I like to argue and should submit to authority and respect their expertise. I ask too many questions, looking for a better way or a better explanation. I threaten their title of “expert”; or do I do this because I am threatened by their “expertise”?

As my life evolves I find myself searching for experience instead of researching for knowledge. I have found the lessons are in every situation – in every moment, if I am open to it. The simple act of sitting down and writing about the word expert, has taught me a lesson on how I relate with some people. I now realize I am fighting a war that is not worth winning.

I do not want to be an expert. I want to approach life with a hunger for experiences and to be on the look out for the lessons that will make me aware of how precious life is. I want to share these experiences and I want to hear about other’s experiences. As we share each other’s stories we gain insight from the listening as well as in the telling – to be both student and teacher. If I could discipline myself to approach each relationship this way – I would not only gain wisdom, but friendship.

The need to be the expert gets in the way of this kind of lifestyle. If one needs to be an expert then someone else must be the inferior. If one is an expert, what else is there to learn? I want my life to be a never-ending lesson and experiences that will fill me with wonder and excitement. I will ask many questions and I will try and fail at many things and at times I will look foolish – but it is a price I am willing to pay – it is probably the cure to my need for perfection.

Already a burden seems to have been lifted. I have nothing to prove.

I am learning how to live – if I become an expert, the learning stops.

Reach for it…

Daily Writing Prompt Reach

My dreams were within my reach. I am transitioning into the next stage of my life. My children were nearly grown and I find myself with free time. I feel the beginnings of hope that I might achieve to be something more than their caretaker.

I played in the creativity of writing like the child I was never allowed to be. It felt incredible to spread those creative wings and express the jumble thoughts that always roam around in my head. I felt I was on the verge of flying, – then obligation tethered me.  I am expected to start working full-time.

I have to squeeze a lifetime of yearning into Saturday mornings and Sunday afternoons. It feels like I am standing before a huge mountain and I am to shape it into something profound with a tiny chisel – it will take a very long time with such a small tool. I don’t know how I will conquer it. I do not know where to begin. I lie down in the shadow of that mountain and stare up at its massive size. “It seems impossible”.

I recall the massive mountain of motherhood I had to face when my children were babies. The days were filled with so much responsibility and I felt I would never have a moment’s peace. That mountain has been honed over the years and before me stands the most impressive masterpieces. All that time was well worth it.

I also recall the mountain of grief – that formidable sheet of rock that seemed impenetrable, now has a wide canyon created by a river of my tears. It is still impressive but navigable. Or the mountain of guilt weathered by forgiveness and the mountain of pride conquered by humility; they both are now manageable foothills.

Life is a series of mountains, one right after another and this mountain that stands before me is no different. As I imagine myself lying in the shadow of my metaphor, the huge chunk of rock blocks the sun. I look up I can see the beautiful rays creating a halo around the peak. If the mountain were to be removed I would be blinded by the intensity of the sun. I thank the mountain for protecting me, shielding me. The mountain immediately loses it menacing appearance and becomes something to behold. I can see something begin to take shape in the rugged edges and sharp points. I approach it with my chisel and chip away small shards of rock. I work until my time is up and I put my chisel down until next week. I accomplished very little today but over the years it will become something spectacular.

 

If I Could Paint…

Writing Prompt: Paint

If I could paint – I would be able to create without needing the conditions to be just right. I would not have to wait for sun to peek out from behind the cloud to capture the spotlight on a flower. I would not have to wait for the leaves to shine in the golden hour. I would not have to wait for the lake to turn that color of blue, the color of someone’s eyes. I would not have to wait for the hummingbird to pose in the right spot at the right time for the light to create a halo out of the movement of it’s wings.

If I could paint, I would not have to wait for the gloomy days to turn bright in order to find all the spider webs hidden in the garden. Nor would I have to wait to find tiny rainbows in the dew upon the grass. I would not have to wait to capture the the sun’s rays as it shines through the tree branches. Nor would I have to wait for the reflection to appear as a crane stands in water.

If I could paint, I would be able to capture the mirth in my son’s eye and the highlights in his sun-kissed hair and the dimple in his right cheek. If I could paint I would be able to capture it from memory – for a photograph is no longer possible.

If I could paint, I would be able to portray the emotions that I cannot capture in my camera’s lens. Sadness would be an array of colors in gray, brown, and black,  regret in plum, blue and forest green and my joy would be splattered here and there in bright oranges and yellows. My hope would be in red – a small blotch of color in the center of it all.

A camera cannot capture everything – but if I could paint, I would have the freedom to capture sweet memories and powerful emotions any time I wish.

I apologize…

Daily Writing Prompt: Apology
I am sorry, Momma, for not being the perfect daughter. I didn’t try hard in school and I was unpopular. I am sorry for all the mistakes I made growing up – all those bad choices. I apologize for my pouts of depression. I am sorry for all these things and more.

I am sorry, my dear husband, for not being the perfect wife. I apologize for my fail attempts of cooking and of keeping an orderly house. I am sorry for being a day-dreamer and for loving books. I apologize for times I was so afraid and for those times of great sadness. I am sorry for not being strong enough. I apologize for all those arguments. I am sorry for being too proud to admit when I was wrong.   I am sorry for all these things and more.

My sweet children, to you I offer a thousand apologies for not being the perfect mother. I am sorry for losing my temper and ranting on and on. I am sorry for not being able to work, parent and keep house effectively. I am sorry for those days of sorrow. I am sorry for butting my nose into your business and for all those embarrassing moments when I made a fool of myself. I apologize for making you eat things like kale and Brussels sprouts. I am sorry for all these things and more.

I apologize for being human.

And you all forgive me for everything I deem a failure; you all continue to love me with all my flaws and imperfections.

Why do I feel the need to keep apologizing?