Yesterday in my massage practice I had a woman recently diagnosed with breast cancer. She had a look in her eyes I know well and it was hard not to just hug and rock her. The look is the one you get when you can’t believe your (mis)fortune, that the world can continue spinning, that people can ever spend a minute of their lives being cruel, and also a look of terror– of coming face to face with the wild unknown and not being absolutely sure you can survive it.
Before she undressed she said “I think I may have only shaved one leg”. When I got to the unshaven leg, I was struck again with empathy. The walking through the world in a fog– the noise and silence of it– the unfinished tasks, the not sure where you were going, the cart full of groceries you abandon, the other leg you don’t shave–I can relate. I can relate to the dissonance waging a revolt inside and the mask worn to imitate composure. The smile you wear so that others are comfortable around you, especially when your very presence threatens their security in things being just, making sense, fitting nicely, working themselves out.
This post is not about my client. It’s not about recognizing myself in her eyes. I’m just constantly in awe of the selves we are able to carry, project, protect, disguise. Of the dance we do when we are in pain, to avoid stepping on anyone’s feet, to make it seem graceful when we trip over our own.
In The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz, I have learned over and over again not to take things personally and not to make assumptions. This book is the closest to a holy book that I get, and reminds me over and over again that a spiritual practice is exactly that– practice– not perfection. I went off the rails recently with taking things personally and making assumptions. And it was clearly time to rededicate myself to a more sustainable way of being in this world.
I’m not in charge of how others choose to walk their path. Even when their path tracks through my property.
It’s important to remember this when it seems like your favorite people have some kind of chip on their shoulder and it feels like you’re their punching bag– or garbage dump, for all their unresolved anger and projections. Being the target of unkindness, especially when you’re in cataclysmic pain, can feel extraordinarily personal. Try not to go there– and if you do, try to remember your way home as quickly as you can. Make that home comfy and inviting, soft and spacious. Let yourself linger and be warmed at the hearth, until you remember what is always true.
The other two agreements hold significant potency in my life these days. Be Impeccable with Your Word and Always Do Your Best. I’m not sure I can say that has always been true since I started reading this book 2 decades ago, because I probably thought I was “all good” on that front. I can see how that is not ironic– the first two I mentioned effect how I feel about/because of others, and these two are about my relationship with myself, which I didn’t truly cultivate until I lost “my identity”– Mama. I understand this. For starters, losing Isaac forced me to confront a victim mentality I unconsciously held dear much of my life. The why’s are less important than the how– it enabled me to believe I was entitled to believe or behave in any way that I was feeling. When Isaac died all of my excuses, pretensions & entitlements were obliterated by humility. In the subsequent aftermath of rebuilding my life from the ground up, from the foundation, alignment with a base rooted in these two agreements has become non negotiable. My Self won’t even let me move in any direction without a perfect fit, right lock right key. And when I push it? it always brings me back to my knees. It is very likely due to feeling like Isaac can see everything I’m doing saying being becoming, and I need him to be proud of me, I need him to know I have been altered, I need him to know that I’m sorry if any of his choice is related to my flaws and shortcomings.
I feel like i have grown from infant to toddler in this– all of it. Grief, humility, transformation. Like I am as old as Isaac’s been gone. So almost three. Which was the first of my favorite ages of his, actually. I’ve recovered from the shock and bewilderment of birth, I’m still at the mercy of those around me who are kind and looking out for me, but I kinda wanna “do it myself”, you know the type of little one I’m talkin about! I’m so grateful for those who have found a way to endure this with me, who understand that they may not understand but they can hold space for me, and we can proceed from the clarity that space provides even when everything else is vague or the scales are imbalanced, who can do this without my help, without the encouragement they may have grown accustomed to from my old life. It isn’t everyone, and that’s ok. I have read & heard from many grievers that this happens when you go through a life altering loss. Nothing can quite prepare you for the perplexity of this. I used to have an expansive hive but I’ve lost some along the way, some who couldn’t walk this road with me. I have mourned and continue to mourn & question myself on those losses, but I remember my truths, I remember the four agreements, I remember to breathe, I remember to stay in alignment, and from that safety and security, I can continue stepping forward into this wild unknown, building my road with each step, blazing my trail to a version of myself that I can live with. Part of being in alignment, part of being impeccable with your word, part of doing your best is being able to apologize AND part of not taking things personally and not making assumptions is accepting when others cannot forgive you or apologize themselves.
I continue to learn so much from loss and life and love. I have so many teachers– those who love me, those who leave me, those who don’t even see me but whose lives light my path.
If you see me out walking, smiling, having full on conversations with birds–know that I’m alright, I am finding my way. If you see me out there, wild eyed and crying and standing still, lost in a moment– know that I’m alright, I am finding my way.