We have to remind ourselves constantly that we are not saviours. We are simply a tiny sign, among thousands of others, that love is possible, that the world is not condemned to a struggle between oppressors and oppressed, that class and racial warfare is not inevitable.
How ironic that the more globally connected we become, the more disconnected we feel individually. The words of Jean Vanier always resonate so deeply with me, as they remind me that the most beautiful change occurs with the simple act of discovering the love within another person – it is through this connection that we uncover our own worthiness, and from that most sacred of places, we find joy.
The pause – that impressive silence, that eloquent silence, that geometrically progressive silence, which often achieves a desired effect where no combination of words, however felicitous could accomplish it.
Over the past two years, I’ve been struggling with one of the lesser-known side effects of PTSD – a delay in speech response due to the brain’s inability to process language at its normal rate. What at times has felt paralyzing and embarrassing has become a blessing in disguise, as it has compelled me to either slow down my reaction, or to simply forgo one entirely. In becoming a more empathetic listener, I’ve discovered that more often than not, the best advice you can give someone is to be fully present, and listen.
She could never go back and make some of the details pretty.
All she could do was move forward and make
the whole beautiful.
~Terri St. Cloud
My wife and I are closing in on 30 years of marriage, and looking back over the landscape we travelled, it’s comfortably overwhelming to take in all the joys, hiccups, and evolution that took place in moments, that stretched into days, that wove into beautiful years together. But so very often, I’m guilty of tripping over something uncomfortable from my past, instead of being wholly present in today. I think that the relationships we carry forward with us are a gentle reminder that every ‘detail’ not be pretty for the whole to be beautiful.
"As I look back on my own pilgrimage, marked by wanderings, detours, and dead ends, I see now that what pulled me along was my search for grace. I rejected the church for a time because I found so little grace there. I returned because I found grace nowhere else."
~ Philip Yancey
As is the case with many people of my generation, I have wandered away from the organized religion that I was brought up with. But lately, growing weary of the ‘soulless wanderings’ and a ‘numbing disconnect’, I have in my own way, returned to the church, but it is not the church of my upbringing. Instead, it is a search for ‘grace’ and ‘meaning’ in a tapestry of traditions and beliefs woven together from eastern and western religions. And it’s my belief that although ‘grace’ can be found within the confines of a church, temple, or mosque, my sanctuary exists deep into a long run, when I am alone with my thoughts and in communion with whatever feeds my soul.
I hold a beast, an angel,
and a madman in me.
~ Dylan Thomas
Daily, I dance with these three entities jostling inside me – one demanding to be heard, to be seen above the others. The beast, I cannot hide, and you know it all too well as it explodes onto the stage. You need not forget the angel; I will tell you whenever it appears – yet, she is the most beautiful, least interesting part of me. The madman in me is my guilty pleasure – the place I retreat to, and give birth from. What I fear most is that when I am long gone, my legacy will be the madness left unsaid.
I hold a hope in me
that the reason
we all feel so heavy
is that we carry
a little piece of
We so often equate feeling ‘heavy’ with the suffocating weight of a burden that we must bear. It’s as if we spend our lives trying to extricate ourselves from commitments, entanglements, and responsibilities. But lately, I’ve come to believe that it is this very ‘weight’ that tethers me to you – and even when you’re not with me, I feel the reassuring weight of your presence, the trace of your arm around my shoulder, the gentle weight of an eiderdown duvet holding me firm in the cool darkness.
If equal affection cannot be
Let the more loving one be me.
I’ve fallen into that trap lately of determining my value based on external validation – seeking meaning and self worth in the opinions of others. If you’ve ever trod down this road, and I’m sure most of you have, you know how soul-destroying it can be. Thankfully, I was reminded by a dear friend that, “It's not what you do, but what you do for other people. How and where is irrelevant.” I consider myself to be a creative and empathetic person, and so, I was thankfully for the reminder that those qualities are nurtured from within our own wellspring of passion. Whenever I get knocked off course like this, the surest way back is through gratitude – finding joy in the process and acceptance in your vision.
“Perfection is finally attained not when there is no longer anything to add, but when there is no longer anything to take away.” ~Antoine de Saint-Exupery
As I’m closing in on my 50th birthday, I find that I’m reflecting on not only a life lived but also a life left unlived. My one overriding regret is that I have spent far too many years defining myself by what I have attained, by what I have accumulated. This past year I have come to believe that the possibility of “perfection” has always lain within me, yet it’s not until I sit within the discomfort of those bare walls inside of me, that I begin to appreciate that perfection is unearthed once “there is no longer anything to take away.” This may account for why our heart feels the most at peace when we spend quiet time with the person who brings us our greatest joy – not a word is exchanged, the ‘perfection’ comes with knowing that after everything else has been striped away, only love resides in this space.
“Perhaps we each have a wound, a vulnerable place that we have to protect in order to survive. And yet sometimes we overcompensate so much for the things we are trying to hide that no one ever suspects the truth… and then we are left with the true aloneness of never really being seen.” ~Nadia Bolz-Weber
One of life’s bitter truths is that in order to heal, to be released from the bondage of self, we are often asked to inhabit a place of intense vulnerability. Having buried the secret of being a survivor of child sexual abuse for over 35 years, I know how adept I am at being in the world, yet never being seen. Eventually the day came when I no longer was willing to be ‘unseen’, and that was the day I finally found the strength to walk towards that vulnerability.
"And the Law of Natural Selection was powerless to respond to such new technologies. No female of any species, unless, maybe, she was a rhinoceros, could expect to give birth to a baby who was fireproof, bombproof, or bulletproof.
The best that the Law of Natural Selection could come up with. . . was somebody who wasn't afraid of anything, even though there was so much to fear." [Kurt Vonnegut]
There is nothing more tragic than a life unfulfilled, all that promise, love, and joy left to whither and die. The great slayer of all this promise is nothing other than fear, that insidious maelstrom that undercuts faith in our potential. Kurt Vonnegut was correct--none of us is born "fireproof, bombproof, or bulletproof." But when it comes right down to it, every day that you face your fears and tell yourself “my abilities outweigh my doubts”, you are proving that you are a miracle of resiliency.