Monday, January 23, 2012

A Teaching Moment

I've written about it before, but it's my firm belief that God (or a Higher Power or The Universe or Whatever You Want to Call It) is speaking when the perfect written passage, conversation, person or experience is put in front of you to shed new light on otherwise hazy terrain. At least, this is how my higher power speaks to me; I'm a very pragmatic woman and I think God understands that I'd wig out and go crazy if burning bushes started talking to me.

But I digress...

This more subtle kind of "divine intervention" happened to me over the weekend when a friend of mine sent a piece of writing to me -- not because she thought I needed to read it, but because it meant something to her and she wanted to share her thoughts with me. Little did she know that this passage would resonate so deeply with me.

Have you ever read something or heard something and instantly felt your body relax, or your lips curl into a smile, or a deep sigh expel from your lungs? This is what I felt as I read this piece of writing. I'm pasting it here with the intent that maybe these words will hold meaning for someone else. (Disclaimer: This passage contains a reference to the Bible and is from a Christian author. I'm not a Christian, nor do I align with any manmade religion. But the passage still held relevance for me.)

When we are dissatisfied with things as they are, or suffer and know pain, we begin to imagine what the world would be like if things were different -- if there were no hunger or thirst and all tears were wiped away (Rev. 7:14). This creative imagination reaches toward God and glimpses a new heaven and new earth. The new reality has nothing to do with the present order. In fact, the one who responds to call seeks to put something more beautiful in the place of what she sees. This is where the friction and fight begin.

Martin Luther King was not killed because he had a dream. Dreamers are easily dismissed. He was killed because he sought to introduce into the political arena what he saw with his heart and mind. The same was true of Gandhi and of our Lord.

Those who say yes to the perilous vocation of implementing vision at each stage will find new resistances emerging in themselves, as well as in the society. Opposition to the new is very natural and should not cause any of us to be taken by surprise. The best way to understand it in one's contemporaries is to have named and owned it in one's self. That process is also some protection against the self-righteousness that plagues too many reformers as well as the pious.
Source: Cry Pain, Cry Hope

This spoke to me because I've been facing a fair amount of "friction and fight" in areas of my life where I'm trying to pave new roads. It seems that recently most every direction I turn, I encounter "signs" insisting that I slow down, rethink, wait and listen.

These are not activities that come naturally to me.

Take this retinal hemorrhage, for instance. My eyes have literally shown me that I do not have complete control over my environment. Ah yes, complete control. It's a beautiful illusion at which I love to gaze -- with only one eye, currently. Sure, I give my best effort at whatever I do (and this is good and healthy), but perhaps I could learn to be more graceful (and patient) in acknowledging the red flags that rise up along the way and announce: "Bet you didn't see THIS coming!" A very good friend of mine suggested recently that maybe it's a good practice to approach these red flags with child-like curiosity versus malcontent or judgment -- or even worse, taking it personally. I'm not saying I have to be happy about hemorrhaging in my eyeball, but what is this teaching me? As I slow down, what do I notice about my environment, about myself?

I feel friction in my prison work too. For the first time in 11 years, we're not gearing up for a spring semester because external forces reduced our time inside. This unanticipated roadblock frustrated me at first and a part of me wanted to take it personally. Are we not seen as valuable? Is the administration changing its mind about our program? But the truth is, I've been wanting to revisit some of my lesson plans, as well as do some personal writing, but never have had time to do either -- the whole "too busy working in the business to work on the business" dilemma. Maybe the warden inadvertently "made space" for me to grow.

Intellectually I understand that there's tremendous peace in letting go of the "it's supposed to look like this" vision. It's my heart that doesn't get the picture. My heart daydreams all the time, and it loves the idea that it all will unfold as I see it. My friends have told me that I'm the queen of carpe diem -- We only live once! Let's go! But underneath that passion is my most basic self: the self who gets anxious when she can't clearly see what lies ahead. The writer in me loves to cook up and live out adventures, but the editor in me would like to see a production calendar -- thank you very much.

My truth right now -- if I were to embrace this opportunity to pause and rethink -- is that I'm doing what I do best: I'm making light of and intellectualizing external circumstances that are uncomfortable for me at a gut level. It's my best defense mechanism and it works beautifully. The trouble is, this approach allows me to cruise through detours without ever looking at the scenery. If I were to be really honest -- like scary "I don't really want to go there" honest -- what I've been feeling lately is vulnerable. And I'm carrying around a sadness whose roots remain hidden from me at the moment.

What I am seeing right now is that there's a bittersweet beauty in feeling "at the mercy of" instead of "in control of" life. And as much as I don't want to examine this fragile terrain, I think my Higher Power is telling me to see it differently.