Nothing ever goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” -Pema Chodron
I love painting pictures with my words. It starts when I’m trying to figure something out. I visualize what I’m thinking in an animated or metaphoric way that helps me make sense of it. So, what is my carpet bag of baggage?
It’s a rug big enough to fit all the stuff I’ve collect along the various journeys of my-life. It’s an ugly carpet, full of untruths, most of them having to do with my self-esteem. It’s all tied together with the black rope of fear. I’m so used to carrying it around that I don’t even feel how much it’s weighing me down most of the time. It’s in those moments when I’m paying attention to life that it falls off my shoulder. It’s a wonderful feeling as if I’ve sucked in some helium and I’m floating right above the ground. And I wonder why it can’t be like this all the time.
When the black rope of fear sees me happy it starts to untie itself around the carpet. Moving like a snake. Fear knows I’m afraid of snakes. It’s the way it gets my attention. As the carpet bag begins to slowly open all the dreadful demeaning voices jump around shouting me, me, me pick me. All it takes is for me to believe one demeaning thought of worthiness, and I’ll find myself standing upon the rug that fear uses, to pull the joy right out from under me.
But I’m seeing a little clearer now. They say, you have to see what needs changed, before you can change it. As the quote says about, “nothing goes away until it has taught us what we need to know.” I’m learning one thing for sure, that as big as fear looks, what lies on the other side of it is majestic.
I posted the other day about being a ward of the state when I lived in Philadelphia. As I mentioned it’s been 50 years since I ran away from Stenton Child Center. I was 15, and the year was 1968. The same year Martin Luther King was assassinated. I can remember to this this day the screams I heard from the supervisors, and the other black girls in my section. I was one of the few white girls living in a prominently black community. I knew little about him, but then I didn’t know much about anything that was going on in the world. I was too busy worrying about what was going on in my little world.
I won’t get into all I went through in this post. What I will say is that no white person could ever possible know what it’s like to be in a black person’s shoes. I did, however, know how it felt to be a minority among the black people. Eventually there was no color between us, we were all in there for the same reason, and that became our bond. So, for a short time we were living Dr. King’s dream of equality for all in our own little part of the world. Unfortunately, when he died the bond between us was severed again, and we went back to being black and white instead of just human beings.
People ask me all the time; how did you live through all that and turn out to be okay? Like Martin Luther King, I had a dream too, and believed in a God who said it was possible. But God never gives us anything we don’t have to work at. Whether it’s a young girl dreams or a strong man’s passion, nothing is handed to us without hard work and sacrifice. I don’t have to wonder if dreams come true. I am living proof that they do, but keeping that dream alive takes work too. Maybe if we all had a dream of better things instead of focusing on what divides us we’d see the one thing that makes us all the same…our humanity.
Today I went back to place I lived in Philadelphia. I haven’t seen since the day I ran away in 1968. That’s 50 years ago. It was an institution in Philadelphia called Stenton Child Center. My younger sister and I were supposed to feel fortunate that we were in such a nice place. Most of the places the state provided for abandon children were pretty run down. There is no place on earth that could be better than being with your own family no matter how difficult things are at home.
I didn’t know how I would react when I actually saw it. As we began to approach I felt only a moment panic, that quickly turned to curiosity. I couldn’t believe how much it looked the same after all these years. The memories so fresh in my mind and stories yet to tell. I couldn’t go inside because it’s now a shelter for homeless families, but I was okay with that because I felt like the monster it represented in my mind for so many years no longer had a hold on me.
On my way home I wondered about how this applies to what I wrote about yesterday in relation to place of shifting I find myself. Of all the different places I’ve been, this was by far the worst ground I’d ever worked in my life. But it’s also yielded the most growth in my life. It was a time of planting, growing, and nurturing. It was full of many cultivating opportunities that could have yielded many weeds, but instead continues to teach and bear much fruit.
I am not only in the winter of the season, but nature teaches another lesson in my life, that I am in the winter of my shifting cultivation. A time to rest, re-evaluate, contemplate, let go and chill out on a icebergs going with the rivers flow.
There’s something happening in me, and what it is, I can’t exactly see.
Something has shifted, and I’m not even sure what that means. Trying to make some sense of it I look up the word shifting. I’ve been through different stages, and on many different journeys in life, but this shifting feels unlike anything I’ve ever experienced. Maybe I just never noticed it to this degree before.
Shifting means changing, especially unpredictably. That verifies the unpredictably change I’m experiencing, but I still don’t get what’s going on. I dig a little deeper into my research on the subject and I come across a diagram called “shifting cultivation.” No, that’s not what I’m looking for. I’m looking for something that has to do with the human psyche. But, the idea of the shifting cultivation keeps pulling me into it’s explanation, and that Aha, moment hits me. The simplicity of nature at work again giving the answer through her example.
Photo from Shifting Cultivation-SignWiki
I am the cultivator of my life. I understand that now. I’ve been feeling a need for change for quite a while. I knew it was time for letting go, but of what I wasn’t sure. I mean being on familiar ground seems like the safest place to stay at least until we know where we’re going. All that time trying to work the same way I’d always done wasn’t producing anything worth giving away. So, the shifting happened abruptly, and left me with a feeling of being lost. Now that I can see, what’s happening to me, a whole new horizon of possibilities comes into view. It takes time to work new grounds taking a small section at a time. If you’d like to follow along with me I’ll share what my cultivating grows.
“It matters not how straight the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate,
I am the captain of my soul.”
-William Ernest Henley, “Invictus”
And God is the compass that points the way.
It’s up to me
which way I sail,
Which way I go
Is where I’ll be.
Sometimes I feel
Alone at sea.
Inside of me.
I look for an answer
A narrow telescope.
There is nothing in sight
But a seagull
Why do I forget
Its easy to see.
It can’t get lost,
For its inside of me.
I am after all
Of my soul,
But it’s the compass
That shows me
Way to go.
I was sharing with a friend the other day how uninspired I’ve been feeling lately with my writing. These times of disarray, fear and anger going on in our country, and the world, feel awful familiar to me. It brings me back to the 60’s a time when my own life was turned upside down…let alone what was going in our country at the time. No wonder I can’t get inspired, the feeling paralyses me like it did back then when all I wanted to do was roll up into a ball and disappear. I remember my Dad telling that life is like a pendulum swinging back and forth between the good and the bad times. That every generation has its own painful experiences to go through and overcome.
I’ve always wanted to help others. To make people feel more hopeful, but sometimes even the flower girl runs out of flowers to offer, and she just needs to have one offered back to her so she can remember how good it feels to receive. So, as I pray for guidance I come across a fable in one of my daily readings, and I receive the flower that it has to offer me. Today I pass it onto you with a hopeful heart that you can find some peace in the midst of these stormy days.
*There was a king who offered a prize for the person who could paint the best picture of peace. There were two finalists. One drew a picture of peaceful mountains, fluffy clouds and a calm lake. The other drew a picture of an angry sky, lightning and a rushing waterfall. Behind the waterfall was a tiny bush growing from a crack in a rock, and there sat a mother bird in her nest in perfect calm. The king chose the second picture, because, as the anonymous author described, “Peace doesn’t mean to be in a place where there is no noise, trouble or hard work. It means to be in the midst of these things and still be calm in your heart.”
*Science of Mind Magazine daily reading Sunday August 20, 2017 by Rev. Ron Fox
I’m learning that people sometimes want to turn you into what they want you to be. Do you know anyone like that in your life? Maybe they don’t like the way you do things, so they tell you to stop doing that. I get that a lot. Maybe they don’t like the way you say things so they tell you to stop barking. I get that a lot too. Maybe be they don’t like the way you dress so they put their clothes on you.
Little people are especially good at playing this game. They like to pretend that I’m a little person too. So they put clothes on me. I wish I could say the word stop just so I could be me. I mean how would they like it if I put a tail on them to walk around with all day. I bet it would feel as cumbersome as it does for me to wear a dress.The dog God made me special just the way I am same as He made you as unique as you are.
Yes-sir-ere, that makes me a lucky dog indeed.
If Hope were a person
She’d be my best friend.
She’s been there for me,
through thick and thin.
She’s my shadow cast
from her beacon of lite.
Pointing the way
Toward the good and right.
We’ve been on a lot
of bumpy roads,
And some of the worst
were paved in hot coals.
I felt abandon,
Standing all alone.
Not even a shadow
to call my own.
It was in the silence
Hope’s voice became mine,
I knew in that moment
we’d become intertwined.
Hope doesn’t have to be a person
To be my best friend,
We’re already inseparable
To the very end.
At the end of the mini series “Genius,” Einstein is dying, and as his long time secretary looks at him with sadness, he takes a flower from an arrangement and holding it in his hand says, “Look deep into nature and then you will understand everything better.”
I looked at Tom with a childlike excitement, and said, “I learned that all by myself!”
Just a few simple lines, and yet they hold within them a great awakening, opening up a whole new world for us. You don’t even have to be a genius to discover it yoursełf. It reminds me of when my father-in-law had his cataract surgery. He said he could see things with such clarity and crispness, and the colors were so vivid. When our own blinders are stripped away we can also say, ” I can see clearly now.”
A friend asked me a few weeks again, what is it that you want out of life? All I could think of was that I simple want to “be.” I’ve been on my caterpillar journey. Moving upon the various path. Taking in all the nourishment, knowledge and understanding I could get along the way. Never quite knowing where I’m going, only knowing that something instinctively inspires me to keep going. Now I find myself up a tree and resting upon a branch. I can see from this place everywhere I’ve been and what I’ve learned along the way. It’s time to begin to let go of what no longer serves me at this point in my life, but this is the hardest part of life yet because it means trusting in what seems illogical. I mean how can I let go when I need to hang on in order to go through the process of metamorphose or transformation.
And so, this is where I’ve been these past few weeks sitting on my branch looking out over my life. Getting rid of this and that. Feeling lighter with less weight holding me down. Yet I find myself holding on tighter as I pray for the courage I need to move onto the next stage. I contemplate the quote above that reminds me that, “Nothing happens until the pain of remaining the same outweighs the pain of change.” I’ve still a long way to go, but a caterpillar has many feet to hang on with. I’m learning to let go one foot at a time, and each time I trust a little bit more in that which goes beyond the self. For I have come to believe that the God I know wants nothing more then for me to become the beautiful butterfly…He created me to be.