Friday, December 21, 2012

The Least Light

It’s an auspicious day. The older I get, the more the winter solstice means to me. The darkness closes in with a suffocating, threatening oppression. I yearn for light. I eat cookies to bolster my fortitude. Today the tide turns. Today we have the least light. But tomorrow we begin our ascent.

Quite a few things have happened lately that have left me feeling acutely aware of my own ineptitude and impotence. I’ve had friends make permanent decisions about their marriages that I neither understood nor could control. I’ve had sickness that lasted over a month and culminated in a week of complete wipe-out. And then a young man killed twenty-six people, mostly children. It’s dark. It’s deeply, dankly, desolately dark.

I am not in control.

Maya, my five year old daughter, reminded me this morning that the world is not going to end. She said, “Remember? Matter can’t be destroyed. It goes on and on and becomes something else.”

It made me realize that I think of the world and existence in terms of me. I look at everything through my filter of existence. The world’s existence, according to me, is really just as long as the lights are on in my own mind. But the world will actually keep going on without me. She’s right about that. And I see other people’s relationships in terms of my own experience. I am angry that I can’t fix them. I don’t understand how they can’t just use my suggestions and get things back on track. I have really good suggestions. Of course, fixing my own marriage has been difficult, often harrowing work that I was equally ill-equipped to tackle. But that doesn’t keep me from wanting and trying to fix other people. I have trouble sitting with distress, even other people’s distress.

The illness was just another bout of body over mind control. The Celiac, the anxiety, depression, illness, physical pain - it’s been a year of enduring and shifting my view of my body as a tool, a tool I need desperately to care for and not take for granted. It is a thing of beauty, true. But it is also my only mode of transportation on this earth, so I need to treat it as such and honor it a great deal more. And, sometimes, no matter what you do to prepare and take care, viruses and autoimmune diseases come along and just really fuck you up something silly. My tendency has always been to assume guilt when “bad” things happen. But sometimes they just happen. And my reaction to them is the only thing I can control.

This year Maya started reading. Watching this unfold was an act of letting go of control and allowing her deeper motivation for understanding to grow rather than forcing my desires upon her. But she is reading. And the beauty of witnessing another human being begin to read is one of the greatest joys I have ever experienced. The world has opened to her. It breaks my heart with its simple beauty.

Plants - another example of something I cannot control. Not surprisingly, if you know me, I had anxiety that my paperwhites would not bloom before we left for Mexico (priorities clearly in order). I watched them each day shooting up tall and green and beautiful. And I told myself, “It’s okay. Just this is enough. Watching these shoots is enough beauty.” But I longed for the blooms as I stared at them while washing dishes. Come on little buds.

Well, today my paperwhites bloomed. I came up from the basement thinking about this dark day and the hope of more light, and there, smiling so pretty, was one tiny little white bloom.

Things unfold. They come to us all crumpled up and look like trash, but they unfold. And the hardest to discern are usually the things of the most value. But we can’t just forcefully rip them open. They are as delicate as blooms. We just have to sit and wait and do our watering and let the sun shine. It’s sheer torture.

But we can spend all that burning energy, that craving desire for satisfaction - we can spend that on wonder. Whether it’s “Holy shit. The bottom is falling out,” or “no one will do what I want them to do,“ or “this is the most beautiful experience of my life,” my reaction can be the same. Miracles are not always good. But they are awesome. The jaw drops just the same.

It’s hard to see any beauty now or imagine any beauty coming from the horrific events of last week in Newtown. It’s hard to find miracles there. But I hope we’ll eventually find some. And that the families will find that they unfold, like precious little blooms that they never expected and desperately needed. Perhaps we can water their growth with our love and compassion and making changes in our own lives. Perhaps more will grow from this - a systemic change, a national consciousness shift, a Gandhian non-violent revolution? I have hope.

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it - always.” - Mahatma Gandhi

Wherever you are, whatever you’re waiting for to bloom, I hope you find peace in the wonder and hope in the least of light.

“The beginning of awe is wonder, and the beginning of wisdom is awe.”
- Abraham Heschel

Happy Solstice!


Sarah said...

I love that your paperwhites bloomed on the darkest of days. How stunning.

Brandi Gunn said...

Heather - I love you! I love reading what you think about and find the energy to put words to. Thank you for sharing honestly and fearlessly. You help me.

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