Sometimes self-awareness bubbles up gently and slowly expands to softly widen our world view and make more room for love to flow in and out of our hearts.
Sometimes self-awareness comes like a punch in the gut.
I know this. I’m living it. Last week I learned something that knocked me off my feet.
Getting up again isn’t quick or easy. Taking steps in this new reality is scary. What else will I find out?
That punch caused a chain reaction. Other awarenesses surfaced and kept surfacing. Thoughts synapsed as I tossed and turned at night. If I’m capable of this then . . . How did I get here? What is “here”? Is it the reality I’m being told?
As soon as it happened, I went home. Adrenalin coursed through my body. My gut pressed up against my spine feeling for a back way out and into the world I knew an hour before.
I had enough presence of mind to recognize I was in shock and shouldn’t be alone with the sharp images and words that kept replaying in my mind. I talked with Fred. I phoned a friend. Their love and compassion grounded me. They could hold this in a way that I couldn’t–not yet. I breathed in the thought that I was going to be okay, even if that thought had very little power to stop the aftershock.
The next day I met with eight other spiritual directors who gather monthly for peer supervision. The table where we eat lunch and “check-in” is one of the safest, most holy places on earth. I’m not kidding. Everyone there would agree.
I told them what happened, and they listened and held my pain, loving me all the more.
One of the directors, Mary Wolfe, had brought several her art pieces that we’d purchased. I brought home this one. Fred hung it above our dinner table. Every time I sit down for a meal, I see God’s mysterious, brooding presence.
Friday morning I took transit and a ferry to Bowen Island. On my way, I opened an email that contained a prayer by Scott Erickson. In it were these words,
I ask for eyes to see . . .
To see my inadequacies not as something that dismisses me but as a main ingredient in my unique voice.
I held onto that thought and the hope it gave.
Outside the library on Bowen, I replied to a few emails, then reread one from a friend. I wanted her words to soak into my bones. Months ago, I booked this time away and was looking forward to the solitude. But now, I didn’t relish being alone with myself and my thoughts for the next two days.
Saturday morning, thinking it was the reading for the day, I mistakenly read Psalm 110. I didn’t make it past the first verse without crying.
The Lord says to my lord:
“Sit at my right hand
until I make your enemies
a footstool for your feet.”
What stood out for me in my Lectio was harsh.
Don’t get me wrong; not one shred of me heard blame from God. Love’s hand was tenderly on my forehead. God knew this was hard. Later, on a walk, I admitted, “I guess I’m an enemy.”
God said, “And what did I have to say about enemies? Love them. I did and I do and I am.”
Eventually, I relaxed into the rest God offered until the eve of my return. That’s when I realized I was still in a dark valley. Over the next week, I would need to tell people about the painful event and that thought let the adrenalin hounds loose in my body again.
I turned off the light and lay my head on the pillow.
“I’ll go with you,” said the God of few words.
Back home at the end of another work week, I’m still not on the other side where Easter joy displaces Good Friday misery. I think I’m fine then I read an email or get a phone call, and reality smacks me again.
But just as the blind man’s sight was restored in stages, clarity is coming. I’m beginning to see how my inadequacies co-create my unique voice, and that it is, in fact, a gift to others.
New awarenesses come–sky blue, sea green and cloud white.
For now we see only a reflection as in a mirror; then we shall see face to face. Now I know in part; then I shall know fully, even as I am fully known. And now these three remain: faith, hope and love. But the greatest of these is love. –1 Corinthians 13: 12,13 (NIV)
* * *
When I was on Bowen, a sailboat similar to one we used to own was washed up on the shore. I walked out to have a closer look. It was damaged beyond repair. This vessel that once carried dreams and offered adventure, beauty and solitude was now was an eyesore and a problem. Was it a coincidence that a week later I came across this video by Scott Erickson, “Curator of Awesomeness”? I think not.
“Scott is a touring painter, performance speaker, and creative curate who mixes autobiography, mythology, and aesthetics to create art and moments that speak to our deepest experiences. He is the writer and performer of two one-man shows. Wrestling with his own professional burnout and clinical depression, “We Are Not Troubled Guests” is a performance story-telling piece in which he navigates the surprising gift of an existential crisis. His current show, “SAY YES: A Liturgy of Not Giving Up On Yourself”, juxtaposes story-teaching, participation, humour, and image curation as Scott walks us through the very personal and universal conversation about the death of a dream and the overwhelming voice of Giving Up in our lives. He is the co-author of Prayer: Forty Days of Practice and May It Be So, a Spiritual Director to brave women and men, and a professional dishwasher for his food blogging wife.” —www.scottericksonart.com