Advent 17: Loneliness

On the way to and from school these days, the kids and I are listening to Maggie Stiefvater’s magical book series, The Raven Cycle. Yesterday, she explored one character’s way of being/not being with others in a tender discussion of loneliness and lonesomeness and aloneness. I can’t reconstruct her dreamy prose here, but the idea caught the flighty bird of my attention.

I have been considering these concepts lately, too, because one of the shadows that overwhelms in this season of shifting shadows is loneliness. Let’s keep our eyes open and hearts aware, as we walk this path together, of those who live with a deep sense of isolation and lack of connection from others. I see them at school, those who–for whatever reason–remain separate from the rest, keep their heads down and their eyes low, who take up so little body space they can almost make themselves invisible. Whether it’s fear or shyness or past pain or perceived difference, they live in isolation from others, and it takes deep tenderness and patience to step through the veil toward them. Social anxiety is a monstrous fear for so many young people these days, and it breeds an aching loneliness.

It’s also possible to be extremely socially interactive and still feel separate and apart, lonesome. In places where you feel a profound sense of unbroachable difference with others, it’s easy to feel isolated, no matter how gregarious and interactive your relationships. Yesterday, I posted Brene Brown’s message on my board at school: “If I get to be me, I belong. If I have to be like you, I fit in.” The holiest communities for me have been the ones where we can acknowledge and appreciate the ways in which we are different, where we can revel in the uniqueness of each individual while meeting at our common points. In this season, I have been more acutely aware of some of the challenges of meeting in ways that appreciate difference when theological and political discussions have created such chasms. Our current cultural divide heightens our separation and makes belongingness even more elusive. It is possible to be interactive and friendly on the surface while feeling the width of the chasm between self and others as a poignant and painful lonesomeness.

One of my deep, deep longings, especially at times when the rest of the world seems to gearing up the energy to a frenzy, is for long periods of quiet aloneness, a nearly impossible commodity in this season. The demands of the world outside become so intense that I can find it hard to catch my breath. I need to take my aloneness when I can, and keep my schedule as loose and open as possible. I need to be my own dragon at the gate. It’s hard at times to keep the open and watchful heart that is ready to notice the lonely hearts of others when I am protecting my own aloneness, and I feel this tension acutely in the shadow season.

Let’s keep our hearts aware and awake to our own needs for space and quiet in this season, even while we offer belonging to those in our communities who may be feeling invisible or isolated.


Gratitude List:
1. Quiet moments of restful aloneness
2. Belongingness. Deep, true heart-meeting belongingness
3. Warm fleeces and flannels
4. Watching students open themselves to being known
5. You, out there, breathing and thinking and dreaming and being present.

May we walk in Beauty and Belongingness.

Advent 16: Companionship

Last summer’s wren nest from the behind the light switch in the shop. Even claustrophobic people love the cozy symbolism of a nest.

Today, as we Breathe-Step-Stop-Listen, Breathe-Step-Stop-Listen, Breathe-Step-Stop-Listen, a song and a poem to sustain us on this walk through Day Sixteen toward Advent. Thank you for walking with me. Only five more days until Sunreturn, Beloveds. We are going to make it.

When I compare this year’s more deliberate and careful wander into the dark of December with last year’s panicked careen, I am filled with gratitude. I know I tried last year, but I had decided that I was going to try a keto-based way of eating last fall, and my deliberations were focused on that, and less inward. It was only when I reached the growing light of late January that I realized how deeply I had sunk into winter’s numbness. Last year, I probably should have checked in with a therapist to keep me coping. This year, I am watching and ready to make that call, in case I feel myself sinking into the pool of sadness. If the season weighs too heavily, or the cold seeps into your spirit, I encourage you to be ready, too, to check in with a professional.

Funny, isn’t it? Usually, we look for the light at the end of a tunnel, meaning we’ll be out and into the fresh air, but while this journey into the well of December may bring us to a lighted chamber, we have to turn and walk out again the same distance before we get back out of the tunnel. Still, that moment of coming to center and pausing, then the turning, and setting our faces toward the return journey into the light–oh, how I long for that moment. That will be so joyful. Five more days.


Here is a video of Brian Claflin and Ellie Grace singing “I’m Gonna Walk It With You.” Whether our journey is the descent into winter’s darkness, or the determined march toward justice, I am glad of your companionship. You can support Claflin and Grace by buying their music at https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=c8boCrXOp9M.


I wrote this poem a few years ago, but it feels like it fits this moment, my deep gratitude for your companionship on this journey.

Stepping Toward the Solstice

We stand in the shadows.
Hold my hand.
The darkness suffocates.
Look this way,
to where the sun shines briefly
through a curtain of ice.
This. This one moment
will sustain us for the next steps.


Gratitude List:
1. I made an enormous dent in my Impossible Mountain last night. Part of my relief today is the amount of work I accomplished, but a greater part of the relief is the feeling of that dam being unclogged. Still so much to do, but I have returned to the truth that Will builds Will. An act of will creates the possibility for more acts of will. As long as I keep that energy, I should make it.
2. Great gratitude to Nancy, for listening and sharing the story. I think I needed an accountability partner, and I used our conversation yesterday as the slingshot to get me around the hardest bits of the Impossible Task.
3. A new warm thing. I stopped at Goodwill and bought myself a new warm fleece jacket-thing. It’s for wearing around the house at home, and it’s cozy, and it’s a wild cat print, so it makes me feel a little fierce. Is that a middle-aged woman thing, to want to wear wildcat print? Or maybe it’s just a Leo thing. I know that some consider it a tacky thing, too, but I’m not fussed about that. It’s warm and it’s fierce, and so Merry Christmas to me.
4. The sacred moments within the mundane.
5. The anticipation of a snow day, even when it doesn’t seem like it’s going to pan out.

May we walk in Beauty!

The Wayfinder


Today’s prompt is a What I Learned poem.

What I Learned
by Beth Weaver-Kreider

How much a heart can hold, of fire and of earth,
how wild a soul can feel, how feral, how untamed,
how deep attention causes the spirit to rise,
to break free of its earth-bound chains,
how solid the earth upon which we walk,
and how free it feels to rest upon air,
how fire consumes but does not burn,
how water is its own pathway for journeying.


“Oh to meet, however briefly, the greatness that lives under our surface. To summon enough bravery to be without armour and strategy, for the chance at meeting that irreducible power. Oh to make of our terrified hearts a prayer of surrender to the God of Love; that we remain safe in our quivering ache to be near that Otherness, even for a moment. To touch that ancient life who will never relinquish its wilderness, who lets instinct make its choices, whose knowing lives in bones and whose song is a wayfinder.” ―Dreamwork with Toko-pa
***
“The deeper our faith, the more doubt we must endure; the deeper our hope, the more prone we are to despair; the deeper our love, the more pain its loss will bring: these are a few of the paradoxes we must hold as human beings. If we refuse to hold them in the hopes of living without doubt, despair, and pain, we also find ourselves living without faith, hope, and love.”
―Parker J. Palmer
***
“November always seemed to me the Norway of the year.”
―Emily Dickinson
***
“One of my favourite teachings by Martín Prechtel is that ‘violence is an inability with grief.’ In other words, it takes skillfulness to grieve well, to grieve wholeheartedly. It requires us to bravely, nakedly come to face all that is lost, keeping our hearts open to loving just as fully again.

“When we make war, lashing out in rage and revenge, it is because we are unwilling to make this full encounter with grief. It is easy to enact the same violence which has taken so much from us―including towards ourselves―but the greater work is to let that which is missing enlarge your life; to make beauty from your brokenness.

“Whatever you hold in the cauldron of your intention is your offering to the divine. The quality of assistance you can generate and receive from the Holy is governed by the quality of your inner offering. When you indulge in fear and doubt, you are flooding the arena where love is attempting to work.” ―Dreamwork with Toko-pa
***
“Our true home is in the present moment.
To live in the present moment is a miracle.
The miracle is not to walk on water.
The miracle is to walk on the green Earth
in the present moment.”
―Thich Nhat Hanh
***
“An Awake Heart
is like a Sky that Pours Light.” ―Hafiz
***
“Gather the dawn and wind.
Breathe in sun and frost and song.
Hold for a moment.
Breathe out birds and words and joy.
Breathe out moss and stones and hope.”
―Beth Weaver-Kreider


Gratitude List:
1. (What was beautiful?) Three geese winging low over golden fields with sky turning to sunset behind them.
2. (What sounds brought you awake?) Students hitting the chimes in my doorway. I have a little chime magnet that hangs from my doorway, and several students hit it on the way in and the way out each day.
3. (What smells enlivened the day?) I can’t smell much through this cold, but the essential oils I wear in the mornings–patchouli and sandalwood, sweet orange, palmarosa, and lavender–got through. Essential oils help to break through the sinusitis.
4. (What was good to the touch?) I brought out my large black and white scarf, so soft and warm. The cats like it, too. They knead it like little kittens.
5. (What is the flavor of the day?) Turkey Hill’s Homemade Vanilla ice cream. It tastes like my childhood.

May we walk in Beauty!

Patience

toad

Toad. Symbol–for me, at least–of grounding, of quiet, thoughtful observation. The toad is a wise  and patient watcher who doesn’t get rattled about much of anything, except perhaps grabby humans. There’s always time, for a toad. The toad is a simple center of gravity. Resting is baseline. Movement throws the whole works off balance with a waddle or a leap. A toad is the base chakra–solid support and the instinct to survive and thrive.

Gratitude List:
1. Warm clothes on a cold day.
2. A house that keeps my children warm.
3. A good story to listen to.
4. These sunny yellow walls.
5. Patience. Thoughtful observation.

May we walk in Beauty!

Nomads

We keep reminding ourselves that sometimes after big ice storms, power grids go down for a week, for weeks.  We have been told that we should have power by Sunday.  I keep remembering that there are people who don’t have at least a dozen friends and family offering warm houses, meals, showers.  It is humbling to remember that there are people for whom finding a warm place to stay, to keep their children warm–for some people this is a daily experience, not a response to a storm emergency.  And we have a place to go back to when all is said and done.

Oh, it’s frustrating having to strategize every morning what our day will be like, where Jon will go to keep the children warm while I am at work during the day, when we will go home to that cold house to take care of the cats and the chickens, worrying about whether the pump will freeze, whether the canned goods will freeze, what we’re going to do about the rotting food in the freezer when all is said and done.  But it’s also a bit of an adventure, like going on vacation here at home.  Spending the night with grandparents, eating out as often as we want to.  All is truly well.  What a safety net we have–so many good people offering help.  So much love.

Gratitude List:
1.  Warmth, warm places
2.  Plan B and C, safety nets
3.  Sunlight on snow
4.  The resilience of children
5.  Warmth, warm hearts

May we walk in Beauty.