Ever gone through times so trying that they had you scraping at the bottom of your sanity barrel for any semblance of familiarity and solace? Times when your threshold for discomfort is maxed, making you pass a point of no return, for better or worse?
Fork In The Road
At these times we can take the road of closing down and all that comes with it (isolating, retreating and defense) or the road of staying open, soft and growing our conviction muscle, a breath at a time
We all know the closing down path very well. It’s what makes the news every day. Cases of road rage gone too far, parents that snap and do the unthinkable, politicians declaring war over pitiful offenses.
What doesn’t make the news is the other path. The one of grace. The acts of kindnesses in the face of challenge. The acts of courtesy when its inconvenient.
As I write this I’m in the airport awaiting my flight and recall the check in security man whom not too long ago, asked my son if the colorful mandala like drawing inside my transparent laptop protector was his. My son caught off guard, already numbed by exhaustion and the monotony of the checking in process answers yes. The security man responded with “Wow that’s great, you like stickers? ” My son nods and is handed a police badge sticker.
Love At The Security Check
My baby lit up like a Christmas tree. He thanked him and we went on our way. From that point forward he couldn’t stop talking about all the special places this special sticker could go since he knew, once he placed it, it couldn’t be moved.
Grace In Tension
That officer didn’t have to do that. There was a full line of grumpy people waiting for their baggage to finish being scanned by the X-ray machine. All understandably tired at 11 pm at night.
He seized the moment to infuse it with humanity, a touch of compassion in the midst of the tense and hurried crowd waiting for his attention. That doesn’t make the news, but I tell you, it quietly infuses the environment with decency.
My late grandmother Maria De Los Angeles walked this path. She passed away and is the reason for our travel tonight.
Legacy of Resilience
She lived a hard life withstanding much verbal, mental, financial and physical abuse. She lived in poverty for much of the first half of her life, bore 16 children, whom for over half she outlived due to various tragedies.
None the less she was always quick with a joke or a funny riddle that she’d make rhyme with the last thing you said. She was generous with what she had, fed many, massaged many more out of their empacho (stomach flu) and prescribed and gifted the herbs that she grew.
A Living Hearth
My abuelita was a force for good, a source of warmth and sustenance on every level. Her many kids, grandkids, nieces, nephews and neighbors all orbited around her like planets around the sun.
Beam of Light
She also had the gift of saying the truth lovingly. She would call people out in their attempts to hide the truth in such a way that disarmed them with love and humor. With all that she had seen and lived, she could smell even little white lies a mile away.
Catholic Self Care
She was sustained by her catholic faith which she never shied’ from giving credit to. She was very clear that her weekly attendance to mass and her daily practice of starting her day by praying the rosary was nonnegotiable.
Talking to God
I overheard her many times in the kitchen while cooking for us grand kids. She’d be praising God in the midst of grappling with her pain. As if trying to talk herself back to internal equilibrium. In Spanish she’d say “Lord you are good, you know whats best, your with me and you fuel me with the strength to keep doing good” all while in tears for having buried another son/daughter.
In challenging times, there is relief, sanity and our humanity to be found within the ritualized experiences of self care.
My abuelitas’ spiritual practices and fellowship with the church were her rituals of self care.
In my last post I shared an analogy between managing physical clutter and internal psychic clutter. When in crisis we are given what feels like a storage container of internal stuff to work through. Unlike physical clutter that we consciously bring into our space out of preference, we did not choose crisis.
We didn’t choose the death of a loved one, losing our job, falling gravely ill, car accidents etc. Non the less when they arrive they’re ours to manage.
My hard time currently is a climax of events happening very close together, this death being one among them.
It all has me feeling quite naked, raw, tender and porous with no foreskin, like the very breeze goes through me. Paradoxically I’m also able to focus when I need to, still play with my son, manage my volunteering position, my home and my job.
I feel more sensitive then I ever have, yet I’m more centered then I have ever been, compared to years passed.
My morning self care takes all the credit and this is why.
In between the time I wake up and the time I head out the door is time carved out for the inner chaos to be released and digested.
Finding Homes For The Un-welcomed Clutter
The waves of clamoring emotions and fearful thoughts have their chance to be fully heard and fully felt as I go about my morning rituals. In moving from one automated activity to the next, my body does for me what I cannot consciously do for myself while the storage container of stuff to be processed, moves through me.
You know those times when you get in your car and drive to a familiar place through a familiar route? You know how your mind effortlessly pivots into this resting, dreamy state and the occurrences between point a and point b become a blur?
Well when I enter my routine, inner turbulence and all, it’s like getting in that car. As the storm within pounds on the walls of my psyche, demanding I stretch, I listen, I feel them completely… I breathe and keep moving. At times having had 30 minutes at a time pass where I do double takes about what I did last.
The Pain Has It’s Say
During my chanting practice first thing in the morning, big emotions say hello to me in between the sounds. Sometimes fists clenched, chest hot and heaving, tears streaming down my cheeks, my blessed habit is stronger than all that is arising in me and I continue till I’m finished.
Life Giving Action Overrides
Stillness peaks through and creates a pause in between the whirling thoughts and heavy emotions overtaking me. This pause softens the sharpness of the pain and has the chaos move to the background of my focus, if only for moment.
Letting Go Parts of Me
Feels like physic surgery where all my insides are being moved around to make homes for all these orphaned parts of me. Some parts of me are not moving but dying. Those parts that, in the wake of this transformation, must be let go. What would be the equivalent in physical clutter of throwing out or donating.
Fear Taking Over
I have felt like a crazy person at times when the tornado of scared thoughts comes to a crest and I’m paralyzed in fear, as if to take another step would be dangerous. The thoughts gather such emotional momentum that they FEEL as real as these laptop keys under my fingers this very moment.
A Familiar Morning Scene
I’m standing in the middle of my yoga mat at 4 in the morning having finished my last asana, suddenly afraid to move. In the midst of the tightening grip of fearful thoughts taking hold, my feet move me to the edge of my kitchen counter as they have done countless times before.
Good Feeling Interceding the Bad
There a 1.5 liter mason jar of water awaits me. Still lost in thought, fully gripped by the suffocating anxiety, pain and fear I bring the jar to my lips and as the water makes its way through my throat, the familiar refreshing coolness pushes through my stomach. Once again I’m brought back into my body and am present. The inner storm pauses, bringing relief from the vacuum type thoughts and emotions.
In logging into my laptop to write for this blog, its as if I jump into an ongoing conversation and I pick up where I last left off. Once again another action taken that brings me to the present moment, making the chaos recede.
After one and a half hours my hamstring muscles start to twitch, my cue to begin my cross training routine. I switch on the familiar music playlist on my phone and start moving. As I push my body up ad down the workout step stool, the breath gets heavy and again the inner chaos is lulled.
Let It Out
If tears need to flow, I let them, if so much anger arises that even a harder then usual workout doesn’t calm them, I make the time to write in all its rawness on paper and proceed to burn it in my burning bowl.
In moving through each sequenced and empowering activity, my orphaned emotions and thoughts lose their steam. They shrink to a manageable size, enough for me to shelve them inside me where they won’t cause too much interruption to what lies ahead in the day.
By the time I’m out of the shower, dressed, groomed, my son woken, washed up and fed and I start the ignition in my car, my clamoring insides are for the most part at peace.
Air Out The Insides
I have allowed whatever is arising in me that day to air itself out within the confines of my self care time. Since every morning activity is one that is centering, energizing and nourishing, the grating thoughts of judgment, ridicule and victimization rise up and in the midst of that life giving activity, fizzle out.
The clamor will most likely come again, the intensity waxes and wanes and that’s ok. They again will have their time in the spotlight and I will work with them and stretch just a little more to make a home for them, again.
The Other Voice
My overwhelmed mind many times wants to convince me to stay under the covers and ruminate over all the “unfair demands” life is making of me at the time. Because my body after all these years goes into automatic regardless of what my mind says, I get up. Not much thought goes into it, it just happens, thankfully.
This is what it looks like today to let my internal life have its say while undergoing major change. In allowing this time, it’s easier (not easy!) to make peace with the difficult and hard to digest.
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