09 December 2005

In the moment

There is a saying, "be in the moment." Someone who's been through addiction, whether as participant, codependent, or exasperated onlooker, knows exactly what's meant by that. At some point, all civilized human beings have to apply rationalization or skirt reality in order to apply charity and tolerance. "He's just tired." "She's under stress." "I was behaving like a child... no wonder he came off on me." But, sometimes, it gets to be an obsession... a life skill... an art form. One loses the awareness of making a conscious effort to get around the discomfort. Instead, you start jollying yourself into believing Everything is Just Fine. We forbid ourselves and others to feel otherwise. No matter how much our stomach hurts from anxiety or the tears want to fall, we smile and calmly say, "it's all right" or "it's not so bad."

It takes a long time to overcome that. One way is to concentrate on simple, accessible experiences: the fragrance of a rose, the beauty of a landscape, or a beautiful melody. Not just the nose, eyes or ears, but the brain and the emotions, the memory and the soul. It took me a long time to learn to do that. To this day, it is still a conscious decision.

Of late ... many years down the road of recovery ... I've noticed that the willingness to be in the moment has not been limited to just the good stuff. I am willing to feel my pain.

This is not a maudlin exercise, though if I'm tired I might retire early with a box of tissues and cry myself to sleep. (I spent decades without shedding a tear, so that's really an improvement.) It is, for me, a quiet acknowledgement that life hurts, and I can feel that hurt, understand and acknowledge it, and honor my sorrow and my pain - and life is really sweeter when I do.

I don't recommend wallowing in pain. I don't allow myself to do so. If it gets too bad, I go for a walk, have a hot bath, take my vitamins, and get some sleep. But, sometimes, I honor myself and what I have lived through by acknowledging the scope of what I have lost and endured.

It hurts, yes, but it's nothing compared to what Jesus endured. If I open my soul to him, I sense him drawing near. "Though I walk through the valley of the shadow of death..." I know that valley. I've crossed it a few times. I know how dank and cold and dark it gets. There are things to fear in there, things you cannot identify but whose reality your soul knows, and wants to run from.

He is with us in those moments.

I have a lot of beauty in my life. I have love, and so many good things. Still, I feel like it's part of my healing that sometimes I can sit and open the dark side of my soul. I find I can look at the horror without flinching because Jesus is looking at it with me. Together we open the hidden place. Together we hear the cruel words again, or feel the awful horror of a moment of loss so deep that I knew my life would never be the same. I look at the moment, and hand it off to him. I don't know what he does with it. Sometimes I think I hear the echo of nails being driven, or the soft drip of something heavier than water onto the ground.

I don't want it to be that way. I don't want my pain to be his, too. But he lets me know somehow that his part already happened. It's done. He knew what I would experience, and he took it on himself that day. Part of what he suffered was for me. There were my sins, and there were those of the ones whose sin complicated my life. It doesn't matter. They all got dealt with then.

They got dealt with so that I could heal, today; so that I could look at the pain and let it go, into the hands of one who let evil do its worst, yet rose again. And that's what he points me to, now. I don't understand why what happened to me had to happen. I've been given the grace to let go of that need to know. The Sun is rising, making all things new. My soul is different and new, too. The pain isn't gone, but it has no power to hurt me, now. He took it from me.

I am still wounded. I am still maimed. The life that was so easy for others ... meet, marry, know, love ... was never mine, although I yearned for it so deeply. My blunders led to a barren existence in an emotional wilderness. Now I can quit hiding from the pain. Instead of annihilating me, the sorrow has led me to be closer to God than ever before in my life. He has let me share an infinitesimal bit of what he knew on the cross. I have been taken into his confidence. The only difference is, he understood why, and I never will. There are no explanations. There is only the promise of company and support if you surrender.

In a Carmelite cell, there is a bare cross on the wall. It is bare because it is a destination.


Lorna said...

This is so breath-takingly beautiful.

So I Go said...

to what Lorna said, i can only say.. "ditto."

wow.. wow.. wow.


Essy said...

Thank you so much for putting all that into words...I second the 'beautiful' and 'wow' sentiments.

A. Noël said...

Thank you all. It is good to know that one's dark times can end up lightening someone else's path. It is comforting to know that we can do that for one another in this medium.

Jo said...

I have a child who is crippled by depression. I have had many nights of despair over his condition. Sometimes the pain is just too much. Once I heard the awful groaning of the wood of the cross as I cried for him. That sound-image taught me that there is really only one place we can take such pain. Your post reminded me of that.