Happy Anniversary

Seventeen years ago, today, I came out.

I was, as some later remarked, a bit long in the tooth compared to others who took that step much earlier. And, as many others admitted, my news was not news to them.

This was followed, some years later, by the acknowledgment of other truths. A major one begins with the recitation “We admitted we were powerless…”.

I like the word “admit”. It’s not just about confessing. It’s about “letting in.” As in, admission to a movie, for example.

I once conceived this as opening a door to allow a new truth to gain access to the deepest parts of myself. And, I see now that some truths do come in through the front door.

But, I now conceive this specific truth differently. I was really opening the innermost door to the sub-basement of my psyche, to free a deeply significant core truth, which I had boxed within a box, and padlocked.

I say this now, having experienced that this truth, acknowledged and lived, has a most vitalizing energy, one that radiates from my core, through me, and then outward to everything.

This by no means suggests that once the truth radiates, everything becomes easy. Lives may change, relationships may crumble, and people fall away. Many of life’s familiar markers disappear, are knocked down, or lose their meaning.

But, inner guidance can sometimes far exceed outer markers in substance, stability and integrity.

So, to all of you who have embraced your truths, whatever they are, and now live from them – thank you and bless you.

To those who still struggle with your truths, I thank you and bless you. And, I send love and mountains of courage.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Full Circle

For E, with love, who encouraged me to keep writing.

Today, the Feast of the Assumption, calls me back to a much earlier and formative time – my Catholic childhood. And, although I left the RC Church decades ago, and subsequently joined the Episcopal Church, certain remembrances have resonance with me from those early days.

My recollection is that there was a special devotion to Mary, often observed by women in the church, especially by my Father’s mother, also named Mary. There were yearly ceremonies, such as the May crowning (May being dedicated to Mary), which held a reverence and solemnity that was joyous and moving.

For me, now, it is not important to hold firmly to an assertion that Mary was bodily assumed into Heaven. Today, this feast day brings me back to the Annunciation.

The Day of Yes. Where it all started, according to the recountings.

These two moments, Annunciation and Assumption, frame a lifetime. And, they both represent, for me,  transition and expansion. In the first instance, an expansion that only “Yes” can bring. “Yes”, when uttered in a moment of possibility that seems so terrifyingly right, can be the most transformative word in our language. Terrifying and freeing. “Yes” can set into motion powerful changes, some quick, some glacial. Whereas “No” constricts, “Yes” releases.

“Yes’, in the right moment (and moment after moment), allows us to participate in the kenosis, or self-emptying, practiced by all the spiritual masters. For Christians, Jesus is the Master of this Way. You may know of, or revere, others.

Death, the other transition and expansion, frees spiritual energy from the material body, allowing it to become more greatly accessible. Many have witnessed to this. Hence, death, as well as “yes”, has transformative power.

Many of us have experienced one, or more, “little deaths” on this plane of existence that have created greater space and smoothed the transition to newer life. Saying “yes” to a “little death” may be preceded, at least in my case, by years of clinging to ways that didn’t work or weren’t honest (and aren’t those often the same?); holding tight to things or people I didn’t really need; and/or without the belief that Life will provide what is best for me.

I have come to see that saying, “yes” to life is also saying, “yes” to death.

 

“Die before you die,” said the Prophet

Muhammad.

Have wings that feared ever

touched the Sun?

 I was born when all I once

feared – I could

love.

From Die Before You Die, by Rabia Basri,

Female Sufi saint (717 – 801)

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

The Tenderness of the Soul’s Longing

I have returned from leading a group retreat in Assisi. As I reflect on my own learnings and experiences, as well as what others tell me about theirs, the following become clear.

  • We make pilgrimages for highly personal reasons.
  • While there, we may see the same things, but in different ways.
  • In fact, we may see entirely different things.
  • We make unique meanings; see unique connections.
  • We come away with highly personal learnings, even revelations.

So, what is it that we all share? I think it is the longing. The exact object of that longing, the process of seeking and finding, and even the depth of desire, may all be different. But, we all have the desire.

We may be separated in our particulars, but we are united in our universal seeking…in and through the intention, the openness and the quality of focus.

In, and from, this commonality, is born a sense of hope, support, perhaps even joy. And, a quality of tenderness toward others on the journey, as we know the courage and vulnerability that seeking requires.

 If you are seeking,

Speak truthfully to yourself of your desire.

And, while being truthful,

Please,

Also be tender.

Cradle your longing,

Lest you judge yourself, in haste,

Unworthy of its satisfaction.

For, we can be quick to shame,

To blink and disavow,

To deny our exquisite truth,

When the depth of its

Beautiful blue desire

Would seem to swallow us.

Yet, it knows what we do not:

We can breathe

Underwater.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Healing of Memories

In certain circles, we say, “If it’s hysterical, it’s historical.” This past Friday evening, we began our Healing of Memories workshop in a similar vein.

We were led by Fr. Michael Lapsley, who lost his hands and one eye in a terror bombing in South Africa, and created the Institute for the Healing of Memories as part of his own journey toward wholeness.

He asked us to identify a recent moment that both “pushed our buttons” and, in a flash, took us back to an earlier time. I could think of nothing like this, though I could recall recent exchanges that caused me to over-react.

The next day, through reflection, picture-making and story-telling, and surrounded by others on the healing journey, I had a revelation. In the course of 30 minutes, I laid bare a piece of my history, made illuminating connections between past and present, and had a remarkable catharsis of grief that surprised me with its presence, force and urgency.

This experience has given me so much to ponder:

  • Pictorial representations and the unconscious
  • The role of community in healing
  • The redemption of story-telling
  • The limitations of our own awareness
  • The mystery of the human experience

My own particular mystery is this: I know what it’s like to ignore an issue of which I am aware. I know the cost of that choice. I know what comes from finally facing what I have ignored.

I have no understanding, yet, of the cost of my unknown and unexpressed pain, grief and hatred. I wonder, now, what will flow from the new awareness, the new freedom and the new love.

 

“If you bring forth what is within you, what you have will save you….”

from The Gospel of Thomas

 

http://www.healing-memories.org/about/history

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“Full of Yes”

This morning I felt compelled to pray. Instead, I wrote a poem. Some, like Mary Oliver, would say, “same thing.”

I wrote because the prayer I would have said (Hail, Mary) did not seem right. It seemed too perfect, idealistic. I wanted something earthier, something more real. Something I could identify with.

Hail, Mary, Full of  Yes

You are

The girl who said yes

Without knowing how

It would all unfold.

 

You became the

Mother of mysteries, the

Mother of sorrows.

Stabat Mater.

 

What can you tell me about the path between

Yes and no,

Faith and despair,

Acceptance and resignation?

 

Did you feel blessed

Or cursed.

Favored or burdened.

Foolish or wise.

 

What can you tell me about

The joy and heartache

of Yes?

 

Or, just tell me

Would you do it all again?

Would you?

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

“I Am Afraid”

I said this aloud to someone the other day. It took me hours to accomplish the task. Why?

First, I had to figure out what I felt, at bottom. For me, this requires a sifting, or sorting through. When I have fear-based reactions, they often propel me quickly into solutions – actions to take; things I must say. So quickly do I move into action that I may be unaware of the initial feelings.

I have come to see that, although there seems to be a certain urgency to do or say something, action is rarely required, or rarely the most suitable response. After all, I am not doing triage in an ER. No one is bleeding on the gurney. Although, it may feel as if I am.

Knowing this about myself, I waited. And, the realization came to me: I am afraid. I had named what it was, and backed off the need to fix it. And then the urgency quieted.

Urgency is one thing. Shame is another. I have, until the last decade, not understood that my shame around fear doubled my dilemma. Not only did I feel afraid, and in need of action; I also felt my fear was deeply wrong.

Many of us have felt deeply wrong about something. It can be about emotion, as in my case. It can also be about addiction; a medical condition such as depression; or a traumatic event that victimized us. It can be about identity, as we know from the phenomenon of the closet.

Shame is insidiously powerful. It denies access to those parts of us that need the most attention, love and integration. It cuts us off from others.

How then, can we heal – sitting alone, with the strong-box of our dis-ease stashed safely under the bed?

This is why the story-telling component of recovery is so powerful. Or, why, I think Jesus asked so many people “What would you have me do for you?”

We need to be able to say it, aloud, for the healing to begin. To name the thing that needs attention and love. To coax it out from under the bed.

It’s paradoxical….we’d rather die than say the thing we most dread. And, yet, to live, we must.

Amen.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Ready To Go

Late yesterday afternoon, time seemed to collapse for a moment.

As I sat in a chair, facing out into the woods, I saw myself more than 12 years earlier, doing the very same thing.

At that time, as now, the house was quiet, and void of the many things – some of which are now packed or sold – that would come to fill it.

That sense of sameness invoked by the view, the spare space, and the quiet, reminded me that the intervening years have not changed my love of this simplicity, my ideas about beauty nor my need for it.

None of this is written in sadness, or fear. Not this time. I feel ready to go. And, that is a tremendous gift.

How many times have I, have you, have we, been pulled unwillingly into the current of change? And in those times, how long has it taken me, or you, or us, to turn from resistance to acceptance? To welcome, perhaps begrudgingly, or even bitterly, what must be.

Of course, I initiated this particular change in order to free my time and resources. And, so, this readiness may bear the taint of luxury. Nonetheless, I have initiated other changes that seemed to come on as rip tides, and I felt alone, far out at sea.

One anchoring quest in all of these transitions has been the search for beauty, the need to find it, and the grace it offers. The connection it makes, for me, to this big, mysterious, sacred world. The gratitude it births.

I have heard, from a wise friend, that gratitude is the opposite of entitlement.

I am not owed any of this beauty, and yet, it is here. It is lavish, like full-hearted love. But I only see it, appreciate it, when I am present. My ongoing prayer is than I remain open and present, especially during times of change, to see what is before me, rather than to see only what is behind.

Beauty can be birthed in the letting go. This has been my experience. There is no reason to believe it will not be so again.

Amen.

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment