Sunday, July 25, 2010

A matter of faith. And monkey bars

I am stuck. Really, really, really stuck. The cemented-in-place kind of stuck. You know--- the kind of motionlessness that you used to get when you were a kid, slinking low in your seat when your teacher asked a question, laser eyes searching through the sea of desks, looking past all the waving arms, all the eager faces demanding attention, demanding they be given their chance to show their preparedness. No, the teacher looked past them, through them, looking for You, the one kid who so did not know the answer, flop sweat soaking through your shirt and making your skin clammy, where you begged silently, "don't see me, don't notice me, pass me by, pleasepleaseplease," knowing that if you even hinted at movement, you would be caught, noticed, called on to answer that unanswerable question. So you made yourself small and held yourself still. Unmoving. Willfully stuck.

And you got called on anyway.

I don't like being in this place, this needy and scary place. I want to be in control, captain of my life, captain of happy. I was talking a friend, who told me that the only thing left for me to do was to ask for help. Not from a person, but from the Universe. God. Whatever I might choose to call that thing that is bigger than me, outside of me. She said it was now a matter of faith.

Too many people are talking about faith to me these days. And it's not as if these folks are regular faith talkers. In fact, they're not. I can mostly depend on them to not talk about faith. More, I can mostly depend on them to not remind me to act on my faith. So what gives? Is this God's little joke on me? Am I getting what I need, even when I want anything but? And where is my faith? I had it just a while ago. I was floating on it, sustained and strengthened by it. It is so much easier to depend on faith when life is good, isn't it? It is the question I have been asking my Sunday school kids for years: how do you approach God in the face of joy? In the face of despair? And everything in between? I thought I had answered this question, dammit. I thought I had learned this lesson. I could have sworn I had my long dark night of the soul. Years ago.

So my friend said that this was about faith. And asking for help--- but asking differently. And she said that it was ok to not know the lesson I'm being given.

But it's still scary. It still seems so large and consuming.

I hate that she may be right.

I am so used to being alone. I am the strong one, dammit. You learn, cynically--- that help doesn't come, that there is no knight in shining armor and you're no damsel in distress, but mostly that you are alone in your need and hurt. And then you get stuck, trapped in this endless loop. So you just stop asking, because the pain of being alone is always greater than whatever need you have that's driving you to ask for help.

I am the Healer of Broken Things. I do not get healed. I am strong and loving and compassionate. I slay dragons and exorcise demons and forge paths and light torches. For others. Because I don't know how to ask for myself. I don't know how to say I am in need.

I get wrapped up in the story of stuck, of the big and scary stuff. I don't always leave room for the other stuff: the small stuff, the happy and good stuff. I need to be reminded to talk about the things that are surprising and filled with grace. The things that have made me smile, that took my breath away because of their beauty or their simplicity.

So what is my good stuff? Because I need the reminder that life is not quite as heavy as I make it. I must remember the stuff that awed me or made me laugh. The stuff that got me out of my head, because I can set up camp there, live in a burnt out slum there, where I regularly mug myself. It's about faith, right? And this is part of that expression: there is good stuff in the universe, there is light and hope.

There is faith, faith enough to carry me, comfort me. Faith greater than my fear. Maybe. Perhaps. I am willing to believe that possibly, my faith is enough. That if I reach out my hand, leap into the chasm, I will be caught and held. Cherished and loved. That this dark and cold place, silent and singular and solitary, this is illusion, smoke and mirrors that are shattered with a single laugh, a kind word. I am reminded, in my faith, that it is enough to go to God and ask for help. My prayer does not change God; rather, it changes me, and my heart.

So tonight, I will act as if. Some people, some cynical people who like to dress all in black and smoke cigarettes off in the corner looking disdainful, they would call it pretending, not acting as if. But they would be wrong, damn them. They would be bitter and unhappy people. They would not wear their hair in pig tails and swing from the monkey bars. They would not know how to laugh; they would merely snicker.

So tonight, I will act as if, and laugh and swing from the monkey bars. I will act as if I live in that bright and centered spiritual place. I will act as if I am happy and unafraid.
And in my darkness, I am shown, in surety and faith, that my fears, real and scary and looming large and all-consuming, that they are made of cobwebs and dust motes. And I breathe; I move, with infinite slowness and subtle grace. I move, and it's ok to not know, to ask for help. I am not alone. There is God. There is a light. There is hope.

Monday, July 12, 2010

Chasing Fireflies

I have been accused, you may be surprised to hear,  of being (shall we say) intense. When the observer is being kind. When said observer is being less kind, intensity turns to scary Too focused, too needy, too there. As a dear friend (one of the kind ones) once said, "Stacey, you never even give people a chance to miss you."

So, I had a revelation the other day. No; angels did not dance on the head of a pin, and the earth did not move, but I think I figured something out. It has to do with that intensity thing (I was going to say character defect, but I have decided to be a bit kinder to myself) (while I've been typing, because I'm nothing if not compulsive and easily distracted by bright shiny objects)(my thoughts being mostly shiny today and always bright) (and speaking parenthetically is a great illustration of my distraction). As I was about to say, before I was distracted: on to my rambling revelation - on to INTENSITY.

Here's the deal. For what felt like a thousand years, but turns out to be merely a couple of decades, I lived in a very tiny tiny universe of one. Nothing got in. Nothing got out. I had decided, somewhere around the time I started drinking, that I could not afford to be hurt again. Life was way too painful. My heart was already quite fragile, and so I wrapped my fear and my anger and my hurt around me like a shield. And I lived that way (ok, "lived" is only an approximation; I was much more like Gollum eventually became--- stretched) for a long time. It was… safe.

At least, that's what I told myself. I ignored the leaks, of course. I ignored the seepage of hurt, the numbness of anger, the whispers of pain that managed to find every chink and crack in my carefully crafted armor. They were all brief, flashes of something felt more in retrospect, when I was tired or hungry. It was a lonely and stretched thinner-than-air existence, Of course, the more I drank, the more I took refuge in alcohol asShield, the lonelier and more tired I would get.

And then, miracle of miracles--- I got sober! And after a little bit of time (Days? Weeks? A year or two? Who the hell knew? Who the hell cared?!)--- after a while, I noticed the walls of my tiny little universe of one had crumbled. The trumpet had blared under the light of a new sun, and I stood before God and everyone else, defenseless and open.

And it was good.

Ok, mostly it was good. I still have my moments, even twenty years and more later, still want to cling to the dark and comforting fog of that particular prison. But God, I was out! I was free. And I could run, and you know what? It feels like I am twirling in a starlit field, twirling and dizzy - not drunk, but alive and dizzy - and chasing fireflies. And I think, really and truly, when I stop to think at all, that this is the feeling that everyone has, all the time. This is the thing I missed for so long! This abandon and exuberance and energy. This is my shout: Hineini! Here I am, free at last, in the light of a new day. Let's play! And I really believe that everyone wants to play, to feel that dizzy, twirly, joyous thing.

Nothing is filtered anymore. All I ever did in my old half life, was filter: edit, erase, delete, change, hide, scorn, disdain. Take your pick. Everything went through layer after layer of subterfuge until it (whatever "it" was) lay dead at the feet of my metaphor. But not anymore. There are no filters. And that is the source of this intensity. I just want to play. I don't ever want to lose sight of that joy, that connection, that sense that once I was alone and now I am not. I was so alone, for so very long. I have no real frames of reference on how to be not alone. What I get is connection, this electric feeling of not alone.

I know, I know: I have to learn how to put the filters back on. Not in the way they were. Never that. But in a new way, a way that let's the light in still, but that doesn't frighten anyone either. Not an easy task. Certainly not for me, because I like the dizzy, twisty, firefly-catching dance. But I have to learn to temper it. I have to grow up a bit and learn to walk a bit and I can't keep dancing. Can I?

And so there's my revelation. It may seem trite or naive, so forgive me. It's just that there are so many fireflies to catch, and I don't want to miss a one. I want to play in that light, the dizzying, twirly light and feel connected. In the end, I am convinced it is the connections that matter--- deep and rich and life-affirming. Forgive me as I stumble through my intensity, looking for the filters that mute the intensity to bearable levels.

 In the meantime, thanks for letting me dance.