Wednesday, August 17, 2011

Dancing in the Rain... and Beyond

This past year of my life has left me feeling rather brutalized on so many levels...

I've struggled to keep my sanity, my sense of joy, and a sense of order in my life through grave illness, pestilence, flood, and persecution... and I'm not sure I'm winning, overall.

We're a year post flood and I'm still struggling mightily to pull myself and my home together. In many ways, my capacity for the dance was so much greater a year ago. Right now it seems to me that I've forgotten the steps.

Perhaps reflecting back will help me move forward...

July, 2010: From 'Daily Word':

I think the Holy Spirit lives in my inbox... this came to me in the midst of the flooding:
"Standing in the fullness of my true nature, I am free. 
I am free. What a powerful statement! By speaking these three simple words, I create the space for true freedom in my life. I release the chains of the past and invite the possibilities of the future.
To be free is to no longer stand in a place of pain, anger and hurt but to move forward into peace, joy and happiness. It is as simple as choosing to accept my divine birthright of freedom rather than the restrictions I have accepted as truth. 
I am a spiritual being, unhampered by the limitations of the world. I am free. No longer do I buy into a limited story of my life. Instead, I stand in the fullness of my true nature. I accept that in Spirit and in Truth, I am absolutely and unconditionally free." 
This pushed my buttons on a number of levels... and brought into sharp focus much of what was going on inside of me throughout this current upheaval in my life (illness and pestilence continue, and now flood... I can't wait to see what comes next).

As we face what began as a potentially incomprehensible and inconsolable loss, I did something different from my usual... instead of trying to defend my perimeters, my possessions, my rights, my home.... I stood with my arms wide open and took it all in, without judgement, just as it was happening...

...I stood in the middle of the street in the unnatural dark of power failure in the city, in water up to my knees, and I let myself fully feel my helplessness and fear.

...I talked and argued out loud with God, and told him just exactly what I thought about this whole affair... no editing.

...I celebrated the lightening and the thunder as it shook my corner of the world. Remember that scene in Forest Gump when Lieutenant Dan is hanging from the crow's-nest railing at God as the storm tries to tear everything apart? I felt a little like that.

...I allowed my not so wee daughter (I've seen a maturity and understanding in her these last few days I would have never expected) stand beside me the whole night and share in the process of managing fear and awe (and LAUGHING despite everything)... because, despite the destruction, there is something inarguably awesome in the force of nature... it reminds me of how small I am, and just how very big God is. It puts things in perspective in ways nothing else can.

...I drove around the next day taking in the magnitude of what hit the city... for the first time in my memory there were parts of my city that were impassable for days because of water that isn't usually there... in the heartland, hundreds of miles away from oceans and incomprehensibly big water, we were suddenly and inexplicably submerged.

...I went about my business actively seeking out opportunities to speak to people about their experience in the midst of all of this... I refused to be too busy with my own concerns to connect with the experience of others.

...I didn't rush to put everything 'right' as best I could, I actually paused long enough to ask whether or not absolutely everything should be restored, or if in fact some things were better off lost, because I now see very clearly that we hold onto a lot of things for very wrong reasons.

I allowed people to see who I really am without apology... embarrassments (there were many), and grace-FULL-ness combined... and in not hiding the embarrassments, God's grace shone through me so much more brightly (there is no dignity in subterfuge). I stopped apologizing for myself, nor did I wrap myself in a blanket of angering and defensive behaviours. As a result, I believe, I experienced compassion beyond my current understanding; and as I felt so soothed by that compassion and gentleness in the face of my emotional and even physical nakedness (there is so much about my house that still reflects my insecurities and short-comings... I still have not caught up with the things that overwhelmed me while recovering from my brain injury, and people needed access behind my carefully arranged facade), I felt compassion and gentleness for myself and others rise up more strongly in my own heart.

This time I didn't, in any way, strive for some sense of control over what was happening.

I didn't worry about being smart... I tried to learn.

I didn't seek to know... I sought to understand.

I didn't try to fix anything... I struggled to move forward and beyond.

I struggled to lay aside my sense of loss, and embrace an attitude of opportunity.

I chose (sometimes just barely, and moment by moment) to respond from a place of trust, faith and abundance... rather than react from a place of fear, disappointment, need.

These past two weeks, instead of focusing on and fussing over the work we had to do, while I worked I focused on the people around me... my family, and these strangers who were now intimately engaged in my life (they held my heart - and in some moments my soul - in their hands as they cleaned up beside me)... I learned their names, I asked them about their lives, I listened to their stories... I wanted to understand what sort of person makes it their life's work to muck out detritus under the worst circumstances.

The Hazmat crew that mucked out our house were unbelievable. Seeing these men on the street, or in a bar, or in the tattoo parlour, no one would guess at the depth of humour, compassion, respect, and dignity that lives within them. They handled us, as well as every piece of our lives that they touched, with utmost care and respect. They didn't just clean up our mess, they made us feel better. I have never felt safer and more loved in the midst of strangers... nor did I feel my usual need to control every aspect of what was happening.

I now know what angels look like...
...angels sometimes look like people to whom I would not give a second glance, or that I might possibly even avoid in the midst of my daily meanderings.
...angels wear rubber boots, and loudly shout, "Let's go make a difference, boys!" as they do exactly that.
...angels eyes twinkle no matter the circumstances.
...angels are sometimes older, crusty, German gents who smoke Export A cigarettes.
...angels teach you while they save you.
...angels don't need you to explain just how hurt you are.
...angels see the best of you and don't concern themselves with your shortcomings.

Additionally, I believe I've finally come to a place where I understand the distinction between possessions and relationships. I believe hoarders and pack rats may be people overwhelmed by fears and grief.

Much of my life I've had a tendency to hang on to too much. As I've developed relationships which are fulfilling and healing and truly supportive, I've been able to let go of more things. As I nurture a truer and more compassionate relationship with myself I let go of even more 'stuff'. As I fill my life with joy, and love, and meaningful activity, material possessions seem to matter less and less... and those things which remain important are part and parcel of the means by which I can offer sanctuary and peace to others.

I found that it wasn't so hard to lose anything this time around... and I still don't have a significant attachment to pictures (though we didn't lose any). The piece of my life that delighted me the most as I came across it in the mess was a note I saved in a file cabinet (where everything was lost... all 4 two-drawer cabinets)... a note I wrote to the babysitter when  The Divine Miss O was around 14 months old. I read it over and over again delighting in the picture I painted of my daughter with my words.

I also discovered that I didn't grieve the loss of anything that related to any relationship where I have achieved peace. I didn't need any evidence of relationship... yes, some of the things were beautiful gifts... but they paled in light of the relationship. I am now free to stand on my own. I no longer need things or possessions to define me, to validate me, to express me. I simply am... despite and separate from anything I keep around me.

I now understand something in a way I couldn't before... we will have freedom, liberty and peace for all in the world when we can learn to live it fully for ourselves, and carry it within our own hearts moment by moment.

The Divine Miss O brought to me a bouquet a few weeks ago. I thanked her for her thoughtfulness and when she asked what sort of flower they were, I told her truthfully that they were stink weeds. She drooped with disappointment and wrinkled her nose as she gave them a suspicious sniff. It was then I invited her to notice that even though they didn't smell all that great, the leaves and seed pods were heart shaped... dozens and dozens of tiny little hearts (for despite their reputation as weeds, stink weeds are rather delicate and  lacy).

Next came her inevitable question, "WHY?!" I smiled and told her that the leaves were heart-shaped because God has a rich sense of humour, and he never misses an opportunity to remind us just how very much he loves us no matter how much life may try to show us otherwise. The stink weeds held a place of honour in a pretty glass until they could do so no more.

So, if you find yourself surrounded by stink weeds, gather in a bouquet, and in the words of one angel, as he returned to work in our home after too little sleep, and likely not many of his own needs being fully or even adequately met, "Let's go make a difference, people!"

...until the next dance!

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