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.
“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.
“Seeking life everywhere, I found it in the burn of my lungs.” -Mark Nepo
I go to take a sip of my morning coffee of which I’ve added a drop of peppermint essential oil. I can barely touch my lips to the rim before the blast of its essence smacks me in the face. Like a cool breeze it enters my nose and burns all the way down into my lungs. It is simply divine, decadent and mind blowing. There’s no doubt I’m awake now, I think to myself. As I get past the blast and begin to enjoy each sip, I open todays reading and there is the quote above by Mark Nepo.
Have you ever ridden a bike or went for a run on a cool fall day? The air burns the lungs in the same way. It can feel like a rude awakening, but suddenly we feel alive, invigorated and hopeful again. And like the old commercial where the guy smacks on his aftershave waking himself up, I say too, “thanks! I needed that.” Now the work of the day begins as I try to remain in this awakened state of mind.
Sometimes life becomes as twisted as a vine. The tighter it wraps itself around one circumstance after the other it becomes hard to breath. Hard to understand. Hard to think. The desperation to reach and cling, and climb brings us to a standstill. In this place of resting we find the breath of life, and clarity begins to set in. We quench our thirst from a drop of the ocean, and we begin to see that we are a part of something much bigger then ourselves. We begin to feel the need for expression going deeper within where we feed on the nourishment we’ve collected along the way. In the process, we become a bud growing within instead of out. The need to express what we are becoming grows ever stronger until in the mist of all our twisted vines what we were created to be burst forth in all our beauty and glory.
We can become who we were created to be if we stop twisting ourselves up knots. If we stop fighting against ourselves and others. If we stop to listen to the voice…not calling in the wind…but the one that comes from within longing to be expressed through…you…and…me.
I have to say that being in my 60’s feels like another coming of age experience. Oh, I know there’s lots of aches and pains. Things I can no longer do, but something within is changing on a deeper level. The term coming of age is often used as we go from the teen years into adulthood. But what do we really know at that age. It’s really only the beginning of experiencing life. What it has to teach us. Who we want to be. What we want to do. I remember when I turned 40 feeling like it was another coming of age experience. It was the beginning of truly getting to know, accept and like myself for who I was. I road into my 50’s with a little more confidence and understanding that it isn’t all about me, but about who I am in connection to something much bigger then myself, my religion and my calling. Now that I’ve been in my 60’s I feel lighter in many ways definitely freer. I sense this new coming of age is melding me together both body, mind and soul. This longing I have to simple “be” …it’s my soul calling to me.
I have lots of doggy friends of different sizes and colors. One of my very first friends was a Great Dane I meet at my people training class. He was as big as a horse with black and white patches like a cow. Then there’s my neighbors Lulu, Phin, Teddy and Gracie. I don’t know all the different nationalities of my neighbors. Lulu is very big and white, Phin is medium size and black, Teddy is small but not as small as me. He’s kind of funny looking with tight curly hair and a mixture of gray, silver, black, white, brown all over. Then there’s Gracie who is just a little bigger than me, I think, it’s hard to tell because she has lots of thick reddish brown fluffy fur. I also have lots of family doggies to play with. Hunter is a big German Shepard. When he barks it scares me but his bark is louder than his gentle personality. I have a lot of fun playing with Stella. She’s medium big and as black as night. I like nibbling on her long skinny legs. It makes her dance. Some of my doggy friends are pure bread like me, but the others are a mixture of all kinds of breeds, but none of us seem to notice or care. Each butt smells different it’s true, but on the inside the dog god made us all the same.
Hot dang I’m glad I’m a dog, a lucky dog at that indeed, for I was born to love and be loved…
…Weren’t we all?
You can say any foolish thing to a dog, and the dog will give you a look that says,
“My God, you’re right! I never thought of that!” -Dave Berry