November 4, 2015
I stood at the top of the hill in the mist, looking out over the trees into the thick soup of grey cloud. Nothing more. There was the road, the trees at its edge and then solid dirty white nothing. I live here, so I know that hidden in that tired, dirty cloud are houses and schools and businesses, roads and railway tracks, cars and trucks and buses. Beyond them, far below me is the busy harbor with ships and bridges and industry. On a day when the clouds mind their own business high above us, from this spot I can see the strip of land we call Park Point that separates the harbor from the southwestern tip of the Great Lake, Superior, Hiawatha’s Gitche Gumee, the Shining Big Sea Water. Often there are a ship or three at anchor out there, waiting for clearance to enter the harbor.
But today, all that can be seen is this grey stuffing smothering everything. A stranger in this place, or a bird happening upon this land would have no idea what lies below.
The day reflects my life. I have had a dirty grey cloud engulfing me this past month. It presses against the joy I want to feel. It silences the song that wants to rise up inside me. It fills up my brain until I find myself lost in an obsessive circle worrying over endless lists of incomplete tasks, petty offenses, unresolved situations and their unknown outcomes that have a 50/50 chance of coming up roses or shit. And I’m worried about the shit. Some days the cloud has been so full of heavy stuff that it has wrung out crusty old garbage that I forgot to throw away and had left in some trunk in a forgotten closet of my brain.
I find myself on the good days keeping my eyes on the path in front of me, taking one step at a time, doing the next best thing to do, the good that is in front of me, offering gratitude for my ability to navigate the path through this fog.
On the bad days, I can’t shut off the steady assault of condemnation for every mistake, real and imagined, five minutes ago, five years, five lifetimes–it doesn’t matter, they’re all screaming at me. I can’t redirect the rage that bleeds from the old wounds that have opened up. Neither breathing or walking or chocolate will ease the chaos churning in my body that makes me want to crawl out of my skin. I don’t enjoy living with myself on these days…and neither does anyone else.
I have been given some answers, some guidance through the month–hours or minutes when the sun burns through a patch of the fog and reminds me that he’s still up there shining in a blue sky.
The best day was the one when I was pondering what exactly this part of me called my Soul, or my Higher Self IS–the bit that is eternal, has come from the Creator, the Source of all Life, God if you will and always returns there when completing a life cycle here on Earth. (Yes, I happen to think that living multiple lives here on the Earth, learning, growing, working, contributing, makes more sense than spending an eternity singing in a celestial choir. I’m tone deaf.) For many years when I try communicating with this part of me, this Soul of me, I imagine her as a young woman–but she doesn’t really even look like me. But, there has been for many years another image who has visited me in dreams, and come to me at other times when I’ve been searching for answers, or healing. She is a little girl who looks like I did when I was five years old–complete with short brown hair, navy blue pedal pushers and a white tee shirt. I called her, “Little Mary”. When she first started showing up, I thought this was my “inner child” that I was learning about in therapy. But, she never acted like a wounded child that I needed to take care of. Instead, she would teach me, or offer guidance. The first time she “showed up” I was in a class on chronic pain, lying on a yoga mat, being led through a breathing meditation. I had started crying softly as deep emotional pain began to rise up inside me. And suddenly I was aware of this presence–this five year old child sitting on the floor next to me. She reached out and stroked my cheek and the love I felt coursing through me was so intense, I almost couldn’t bear it.
In Oriah Mountain Dreamer’s book, The Call, she asks us what the one word is that would describe what we understand is the central, most important thing we have come to this Lifetime to learn–and then to teach. When I read that a few years ago, I knew immediately that my word is Grace. Because it is the most difficult state of being for me to allow to touch me–or to live (to learn, in other words), but also the one thing I want to BE more than anything–grace-filled, gentle, compassionate, kind. And in my work in Restorative Justice, it is what I teach.
So, on this foggy day a few weeks ago, I was meditating about what, or who, this part of me is that is my Soul, that is the real, true, core Self of me. And the image of the young woman popped into my mind…okay, yeah, sure. You again. But who ARE you? “Do you have a name”, I asked? Immediately the word Grace dropped into my mind. Right. And then she said, “Hail, Mary, full of Grace” and giggled like a little girl. I stopped right in the middle of the street I was crossing. WTF?!
My father named me Mary–after, yes, the mother of Jesus. Who it is recorded in Scripture was greeted by an Angel who said, “Hail, Mary, full of Grace!” And then of course, there is this notion that our Soul is what fills our corporeal body and animates it. Without our Soul, our body is just dead meat. So…Mary, full of Grace was just the most clever, ridiculous pun–and I have never found puns particularly amusing. But she thought she was hilarious.
The next ray of sunshine that found its way through the fog of this storm raging through my life came a few days later when the image of my Soul, “Grace”, showed up not as the young woman, but as “Little Mary”. She had a few choice words to say to me about my needing to embrace joy, stop resisting the very gifts my Life was trying to bring me, and and as my imagination had her dressed in her usual pedal pushers, she put her hands on her hips and said, “Really?! Pedal pushers? Again?!” She ended up dressed in jeans and a raggedy red shirt and cowboy boots and had a fairy wand stuck in her back pocket. And she had long dark hair in braids. (Because I always wanted long hair in braids…and my mother wouldn’t let me.)
In some other dimension in my mind she took me to an archaeological dig in Egypt and started moving a grain of sand at a time until she uncovered a treasure. She told me, “When you finally discover a truth, a treasure, or a revelation to shed light on the mysteries or the problems in your life, you have already done more than 90% of the work. You are finished. And this is true in your life now, you have finished the hard work. Now it is time to gather the treasures and celebrate! Share them!”
But then the clouds whirled about and drove the rain and the wind and shut off the sunlight again. Sealed me off from Grace, again. If I could just get it through my head that Grace is not “out there”, but here, inside me, then it wouldn’t matter anymore if there is fog, or sunshine–storms or balmy waters. I have Grace inside me. I AM Grace.
But still, the anxiety in my guts has me writhing; the cacophony of critical and condemning voices in my head rail on into the night. The despair weighs so much it is difficult to breathe. I open my heart over and over to the flow of the stream of Light and Life, to love, to joy. I offer gratitude for the simple things. I cry. I write a little. I yell at my husband for something stupid. I want to crawl out of my skin and run away. I freak out over the bills. I slam my fist on the rocks on which I’m sitting, furious that the help I pray for isn’t showing up.
Today I stood at the top of the hill in the mist. I told myself all I can do is keep on keeping on walking the path in front or me. The part I can see. Doing what I know to do in this moment. And wait out the storm.
“We all struggle. …to make the most of our lives. To take what we’ve been given and turn it into something better… But to do so seldom is simple and more often requires we fight. Not against each other. But against the current threatening to drown the ambition in us. There is tremendous purpose in struggle. From our youth we’ve been taught that when faced with insurmountable, unthinkable odds, we cheerfully do all that lies within our power, and then stand still with the utmost assurance to let fate, destiny, karma, or to let God do the rest. …the closer we get to the furnace of the affliction the more our obstinance and pride burns off revealing the best way to win a fight in ourselves is to let Grace fight the battle instead. There are those that have been through so many defining moments that they are intimately acquainted with Grace and know Her to be close cousins with Hope. They know that when they can’t fully understand the purpose of a struggle, they instead recognize that knowing there is a purpose is enough.“
My Soul has a sense of humor. Grace, indeed.
Rachel Platten’s Fight Song...
Like a small boat
On the ocean
Sending big waves
Like how a single word
Can make a heart open
I might only have one match
But I can make an explosion
And all those things I didn’t say
Wrecking balls inside my brain
I will scream them loud tonight
Can you hear my voice this time?
This is my fight song
Take back my life song
Prove I’m alright song
My power’s turned on
Starting right now I’ll be strong
I’ll play my fight song
And I don’t really care if nobody else believes
‘Cause I’ve still got a lot of fight left in me