Photo: Path at Sinsinawa women's retreat in May
I can't watch the news anymore. And I can barely read the newspaper.
I've always felt it my duty to be informed of goings-on. Certainly it's expected that one can sufficiently converse at the water cooler, and since I often feel a sense of guilt for living a life of relative ease, the least I can do is be informed as to what's going on around me and in my world and take on some of the soul-work of praying/meditating/sending energy to alter the paths of horror occurring daily, worldwide.
But right now I find I simply cannot take it. At least not without melting into a puddle and losing entire days to wandering aimlessly and muttering, "I just don't understand." When the mere mention or fleeting thought of my father sends tears springing to my eyes, the horrific news of wars and abuse and lies and deceit are very much more than I can handle right now.
I'm a pisces. The symbol for pisces should be a sponge, because while my water-baby status allows me the ultimate flexibility in adapting to all manner of situations, it also makes it quite difficult for me not to enter into every realm I encounter and take on the accompanying energy. I enter as water enters, fully and taking up any and every available space.
So when I hear of all the heartache and suffering and loss and fear (much of it uneccessary; unless, of course, your social or political status depends upon it) I cannot help but take on the sadness and let it consume me. And it's a helpless feeling to know of these things and see no end in sight, no break to the patterns of domination and selfishness and audacity, no gathering of mothers and others screaming, "That's ENOUGH!"
One of my wise women friends, Joanieji, once told me I shouldn't disparage that thin-skinned quality that is my fate because the same faulty filters that take on the pain allow me to feel the rain on my face, the sun on my skin, the joy when I look at my disheveled long-haired boy in the backseat and stare at him just long enough that he looks up quizzically, and says, "What?" And she's right, even though it doesn't always feel right after I've read another story that drops me to my knees.
My friend Sharon once told me she stopped reading the paper because she had to spend so much time meditating for peace and healing and love afterward she couldn't attend fully to her own daily needs. My guilt- and obligation-ridden martyr self didn't quite understand at the time, but I've slowly come to see the wisdom in it. Isn't it true that unless we care for ourselves we cannot care for others? My wandering angst did nothing to change the situations I read about, it only served to worsen my own personal situation, and likely that of those who depend upon me.
The torrent of cards, letters, visits, emails, and stories that have come to us since my father's death have been such an incredible gift. I've dreaded standing in the visitation line all my life, and often declared I simply would not, could not, do it. My mother, my nurturer, pulled me aside before the day and told me I could do whatever it was I needed to do, be there in that line or not. It was that gift of acceptance, of honor for my needs, that allowed me to go to my place and stand in that line, with all my vulnerability, pain, and fear displayed in what was, for me, the ultimate submission. But the gifts that came to me that day, that I would not have recieved had I not laid myself bare, brought things full circle in a way I had not anticipated.
My father was a storyteller. He told his stories again and again and again, so often and in so predictable a fashion that cousin Heather and I always teased we could be two lines ahead of our dads all night long. But his stories weren't fiction - they were stories of the people he loved. As the familiar and unfamiliar faces filed through the line at the visitation, I could see all of my father's love and all of his stories, all there in one place. Time and again someone would begin with, "You don't know me, but I am...." and I would know the person - I knew the people through my father's words. And I saw how my gift of knowing of them and their relationship to my father and their story together was as healing for them as it was revelational for me. Here they were, all the people who loved my father and now bestowing that love upon us in our greatest hour of need, and my pisces-skin soaked it all in and bathed in it.
Who knew I'd find healing in the dreaded visitation line.
And for a short time, I saw potential for the world in that outpouring of love and support. I saw how things can be different. People I barely know can sustain me; people I am not particularly close to can come to my side and heal me with their presence; circles of friends and family can stand there and say nothing and soothe me simply by being nearby or holding my hand. This is the energy I crave, this is the medicine the world needs, and its taste is not bitter.
Thanks to the wise and insistent support of those who've gone before me, I've accepted it's ok to shut things out for a while, as I heal. I cannot attend to my wounds if I'm pulled in opposing directions. I have to go into this one fully - for me, there's no other way out.
So stop the presses. Shut off the television. Sleep deeply, write until my hand aches, eat colorful food, weed the garden, practice discernment, sit and feel and cry and give thanks, and attend to what's right in front of me. It's my most difficult to-do list yet.