Do you want to take straw and make it gold?
Last week was one where the weight of reality felt like more than I could carry. The first half of the week was spent at the end of my rope. There are two stories that won’t let go, stories of hurt and disappointment, and feeling not-quite-good-enough, that weave together, each one reminding me of the other, and my constant work is untangling my heart and mind from these threads. I spent too much time swimming through these stories, mired in regret. The old disappointments drained the days of their color and vibe, it was all grey noise and grey space, everything overlaid with this odd static.
Here’s the question I finally asked myself: Would I tattoo these stories on my skin? Wear it forever as a piece of my identity, or a story of how I came to be the way I am? For me, and for these stories, the answer is decidedly no. So why can’t I just lift this thing out? Whatever this thing is that stays in my gut reminding me of where I thought I’d be, and how different it is from where I am, why can’t I pull it out and throw it off a cliff? I would be so much lighter without it.
It started me thinking, though. If I were to take a permanent marker and ink a reminder on my arm for today, what would I write? What would you write? On the days when you’re digging deep to find grace for the day, when you’re not sure you can keep going, when all you want is to hide and wait for the storm to pass over, what are the words you want to remember?
I want to remember that I’ve chosen to engage with the world. This is where real life is. I’ve heard people say that “real life” is paying bills, doing chores, running errands, and being responsible, but I say those are the things we do to enable real life. We do them out of love, to nurture and care for our loved ones. Real life is love and connection and grace, family and friends, adventure and experience.
The temptation to hide is as real as ever, but to hide means to stay stuck. Growth does not come on the whisper of wishes. It comes, most often, with a certain amount of discomfort, and awkwardness and hard work. It comes with staying involved when we really want to fold. It comes in looking for deeper wisdom in the chaos, letting the challenges make us braver, stronger, more willing to try new things. It’s allowing the things that rub us the wrong way to instead rub off our rough edges.
I went out for ice cream with a friend, and she’s so good to me, and so good for me, but I know I need to get really honest with myself before I see her, because she wants the whole truth, as messy and raw as it is. I try to clean it up a little, put some shine on it, and she sees right through that, with laser focus on the heart of the matter. She has hard-won wisdom, that one, and she delivers it with grace and gentleness, but won’t let me hide. She refuses to let me play small. She told me she thinks I’m reinventing myself.
Perhaps I am. Slowly but surely, I’m getting more comfortable with the wide open space of the unknown. Instead of looking around for a space to hide, I’m stretching my limbs, stretching my boundaries. Through it all is the unrelenting theme that what I most deeply want will not come in isolation. I crave community.
I took my first real yoga class recently. I’ve been doing yoga for years, but hidden, learning from DVDs and YouTube videos. I was afraid that the instructor would tell me I’ve been doing it all wrong, but it seems I’m just fine. It felt so good to be watched over, called up, told I can be strong, told I’m allowed to rest, told to breathe, but all the while reminded to listen to my own body and heart, to decide for myself when I could push a little farther, and when I needed a moment to rest.
What a beautiful picture of community.
This is what we do for each other, when we’re at the end of our ropes. We remind one another that we can be strong or that it’s OK to take a rest. We help each other hear through the static, and get to the heart of the matter. We remind each other that we’ll feel better after we’ve had our coffee. Friends, and dark roast coffee. They are my little reminders to wake up, to be bold, to keep trying to tune in to the larger truth and the bigger picture.
This is where the beauty lies
In being honest and raw and transparent
In not needing to be perfect
It’s trusting that the way will be made clear
And freeing yourself from the worry of figuring it all out now
This is where the beauty is
In the interplay between light and shadow
In the knowing and being known
In the seasons and lessons
Adaptations and new perspectives
And new beginnings
In surrender, acceptance and grace