Thursday, July 28, 2011

Leaving Pieces of Myself

This is going to sound gross--you’ve been warned--but today I nearly left a piece of myself behind: a broken toenail. I have this bad pinky toe, and it’s always been painful to consider removing, but today it decided to remove itself painlessly on the edge of a soft couch. I was grateful it didn’t hurt and took the ugly away!

So of course I got to thinking about needless worry, about pain taken away, about the things we leave behind, the bits and pieces of ourselves. I marvel to think about the sheer amount of pieces--the bits I didn’t like, and some grudgingly taken away. I’ve left pieces with friends who needed consoling, bits throughout my graduate career at various classes and in various administrative offices, crumbs after capstone moments like graduations and weddings and baptisms, chunks after disagreements and gatherings. Giving myself to life, if I am really giving myself to it, involves necessarily leaving myself behind, both going into and out of the situation at hand.

Lately I’ve been thinking about anger--or any volatile emotion, the kind that keeps me from leaving good pieces, from giving of myself. I just read some about the Desert Fathers regarding acknowledging anger. Not ignoring or hiding it out of embarrassment, not pushing it aside, thinking it just something wrong with our wiring, but actually taking it up, looking at it, and realizing that it’s telling us something, this anger, this emotion. I tend to see anger as something wrong with me, or with whomever is angry at me (justly or not), but this writer encouraged the idea of conscientiousness regarding anger. The emotion shows us what we’re missing, or doing right or wrong, and if we’d just consider the emotion and then act on it with compassion, we wouldn’t ignore something so central to human existence: an acknowledgement of self. Sometimes anger is necessary, for instance, to bring our attention to something we need to change or make better or rethink. The key comes in how we act on our emotion--taking it as an odd gift, and making use of it to bring about a good. Writers and artists do this when they create out of random inspiration, daily looking for the beauty in even the ugly.

I want to create out of some of my twisted messes, and see the world anew, in this way, and leave the better pieces behind for beauty’s sake.

Sunday, July 3, 2011

Life and Death Create Us

I'm flashing back to childbirth, to the experience of pain. It was excruciating, but it was mine to have--I was bent over with it, then straddling bedside, stretching, rocking back and forth, and always, always breathing, breathing with stride. Exercising patience with breathing, with being present; with my husband's help, I was able to do both, and possess my pain. Hold it and practically admire it. Oddly, it was awe-inspiring even as it broke me down.

I'll never forget that day--now it's been almost a year, and yet feels like a lifetime. Through initial feeding problems because of her cleft palate, litany of doctor consultations, surgery, fevers and colds, and then watching her learn to become human, we have come to know our little Peanut.

Have I come to know myself in a new way?

The answer came in the death of a friend, in the mundane of life.

When our friend--our favorite lector at church and weaver of stories at social functions there--died, I felt the sorrow and joy from Massachusetts, where I was at the time. Sorrow in loss--and then joy in knowing he was where he'd prepared to be.

What really did it for me was visiting his grave--the simplicity of his death story, the experience of it for his family as told by the groundskeeper of this beautiful conservation burial grounds. Wrapped in a shroud he lay in the shade of the earth before us, and I knew he was in a cool comfort beyond the heat of this world. I experienced in the quiet of those woods, in the company of chirping birds and hushed tones of our conversation, a sense that I would like such a burial, such a return to God, and then such a place for those who loved me to reconnect, spiritually.

In birth and death, we come to know ourselves. We witness that experience of others and, if we're truly open, let the spirit move us, and then move with it, we can come to know something deeply about ourselves, something held secret and quiet even as we were in our mothers' wombs, pressing against bone to get out and get the day started in we know not what. Maybe little minds know the love which created us will hold us up.