April is here. Spring in full swing. The tulips, long ago planted by previous owners, pop out for their brief life before being plucked by fat toddler fingers. Gratefulness abounds.
The name April apparently originates from the Latin aperire, “to open.” Or it may have come from Aphrodite (Aphros), as April was sacred to the Roman goddess Venus. I like both. To open requires a certain courage, does it not? We trust that we’re safe, loved, ready to receive. We open our hands, our hearts and stand ready for what’s next.
Maya and I have been reading Greek myths lately. She loves them. I love them. I’d never really read them before. I knew of certain stories but never really studied all of the myths. It’s ridiculous how much was wasted in my four years of higher education. To think what I could have learned. Well, I’m learning now. Learning so much about the complexities of man, how we fail so. I especially love the connection to the natural world as well - that the selfishness of gods can lead to the misery of winter, the joy of spring - it all makes sense to me.
I’m always trying to reconcile my previous beliefs with what I know now to be true. Easter is coming, and my family is planning to get together. Sometimes these holidays feel false to me. I don’t believe in Jesus. I also don’t believe in the East Bunny. But I do believe in renewal. I do believe in Spring. I do believe in eggs and carrots and sweets and celebrating the end of winter and the beginning of a new year.
March was about mindfulness. I became very mindful of my self-sabotage. I became very mindful of how much I fill my aching with food, eating mindlessly, disconnected, distracted by thoughts, looking for a quick fix. I became very mindful of just how much I choose myself, always my self. Maybe it just feels that way - I think I’m being critical instead of being mindful. I bash bad thoughts with a sledgehammer. I’m oh so hard on myself. Either way, just so full of my self.
I think I learned that in doing these challenges the point is not to be so hard that I’m completely obsessed and miserable, but neither is it to be too soft and end up with nothing. Therefore, April is going to be about Opening to Love. Well, that sounds just as vague as mindfulness. But there’s a point. April is about being my own friend. So, I’m doing a vague, thoughtful challenge and a very specific challenge. I plan to write 500 words each day of April, hold myself accountable to do something I love. But I also plan to have my focus be on opening to love. I’m trying to stop myself from destroying. I’m trying to stop myself from overreacting. I’m trying to be the friend I need, taking my hand ever so gently and leading me away from what I know will cause me harm. And open up, let go of control, and allow myself to be complex and imperfect and irrational and know that if that was okay for the Greek gods, then it’s okay for me. Perfection is not the goal.
The other night the twins got the stomach flu. They vomited for six hours straight. It was intense. And, at any previous point in my life, I would have continued to tell myself how hard it was and how bad it was for me. I would have made the whole situation just so much more miserable by complaining and acting like the whole universe conspired against only me by giving me this ridiculous amount of discomfort. But this time I didn’t, at least not completely. I just made a choice, at 2am, when we realized that we were in for a long haul, that I was just going to be there and do it and stop telling myself stories about poor old me. And you know, it was kind of amazing. Marco and I laughed and just looked at each other with that look of, “Can you believe this?” We were just in it, together. I couldn’t have chosen a better person to be by my side at times like that. He’s calm, present and focused. He never gets frazzled or stressed. He just does what is necessary, and he usually is able to laugh about it, even with vomit on his neck.
So, that’s what I’m talking about when I say Opening to Love. Life is filled with shit. We ebb and flow between stubbed toes, car accidents, stomach flu and sunny cookouts, deep sleep, belly laughing. We get it all. We know that. But when the shit happens, we always want to act like we didn’t know, that we somehow are the one person on earth who does not deserve such things. We say, “Why is this happening to me?” Well, it is. It does. But we make it so much worse when we dramatize it. I know I have, and still do much of the time. “Here I am, again, doing all this laundry. My life is so hard.” No, my life is just life. Life, in its very nature, is hard. And amazing. But hard. So, I’m trying to just take on this open attitude of, “So, this is happening now. Okay.” Buddhists call this not being attached - not holding on to the expectation of what we thought was going to happen. Because, I think you’ll agree, we so, so want what we wanted to happen. It’s so very difficult to let go of that wanting. We think if we let go of wanting it, we’ll never get anything, we’ll be sad forever. But just the opposite is true. Happiness is in the next breath. What you wanted, the sadness you carry, it will not break you. I thought mine would break me, for years and years. But it didn’t. And I thought, when the twins were babies, that there was just no way I could do it, but I did. I didn’t shatter like I thought I would. I didn’t fall apart. Things fell apart, but I didn’t actually. I’m still here. I’m staying.
The narcissus flower grew out of Narcissus dying from total self-consumption. We let go of what we want, we die to it, and behold, better things blossom. Jesus said, “Listen carefully: Unless a grain of wheat is buried in the ground, dead to the world, it is never any more than a grain of wheat. But if it is buried, it sprouts and reproduces itself many times over. In the same way, anyone who holds on to life just as it is destroys that life. But if you let it go, reckless in your love, you’ll have it forever, real and eternal.”
That’s a kind of resurrection I can celebrate.