The phone rang early this morning with heartbreaking news. I answered the phone to hear the sobs of a dear friend. Very unexpectedly last night her mother died. Her father passed away only a year before. She just moved her mother across country to live with her only a few months ago. We cried together as she recounted all that she had lost. As is our way of coping, we soon found ourselves laughing (bitterly) about the Vortex of Senseless Tragedy that she seems to be living in of late. I hung up the phone feeling helpless to ease my friend’s sorrow.
Helpless is not a pill I swallow easily. I am scrappy. I am the person you want around when an emergency comes your way. I will take care of business. I’ll problem-solve the heck out of a situation then bring you hot tea and a cookie. In the face of a crisis I am a warrior. I know how to get it done!
Those who know me well understand that I am very familiar with the Vortex of Senseless Tragedy. Over the past few years tragedy, trauma, loss, fear, hardship and chaos have littered my days at a remarkable rate. My close friends and I celebrated those rare weeks in which nothing awful happened. Mostly I handled this like the warrior I am. I did what needed to be done to respond to the latest crisis. I organized, advocated, worked, scrapped, strived, struggled, brainstormed and planned my way through it. I also cried, begged, pleaded, and railed against God. There were times when I didn’t think I could get out of bed to face another day of chaos and loss. Surely there was something I could do that would loosen the Vortex’s grip on my life. Enough already!!
A few months ago, I unpacked a box from my recent move and found a book that I read a decade ago by Pema Chroden, When Things Fall Apart. In those pages the author suggests getting comfortable and familiar with your messy life and all of those equally messy feelings that are born of the experience. Our instinct is to escape as fast as we can from our pain. We find lots of things to do to run and hide from all of the feelings the chaos stirs up. The completely crazy thing is that the healing place is right where we are at any given moment. When we run away from the fear and pain we are also running away from ourselves.
I’m not going to tell you that your grief or loss was given to you for a reason. I’m not sure I believe in a God or Spirit that hands out painful situations just to teach us a lesson. That seems like the acts of a cruel deity and that doesn’t mesh with my deepest intuition about who God is. I’m not sure why it all happens.
What I am beginning to know for myself is that there is wisdom in surrendering to whatever moment I find myself in. It is a moment by moment practice of relaxing my grip on what I want to happen and leaning into what is. There is healing and peace to be found in living the life that I am given as I am given it. Sure it hurts like hell and is often not what I would choose if I could, but it is my life to live. This is the only life I get. If I spend less time plotting my escape and more time compassionately staying with my experience…I just might find healing and wholeness in spite of the chaos.
Ironically, as I was writing the lines before this, I received a phone call informing me of a new bit of chaos. Sigh. Life happens. I have a choice about how I respond to this. So…… I breathe in. I breathe out. I ask God to help me be brave enough to surrender. Repeat.