Gratitude is the capacity to stare doubt, loss, chaos and despair right in the eye and say, ‘I am still here.’
Diana Butler Bass
Our lives are filled with challenges – great and small – every day. The ways we accept or reject the opportunity that challenges bring us informs who we believe we are. Finding our way forward through these challenges can seem very difficult and being grateful for them? Well, that’s another thing altogether – especially when we are walking through an emotional minefield.
Nearly three years ago, The house I had lived in for nearly 11 years sold, after being on and off the market for about twenty months. When it finally sold, it was a cash sale and I had thirty days to vacate. You might think I was ready for such an event, since I had waited so long for the house to sell, all the while donating, selling and generally thinning out thirty plus years of many things – from clothes to furniture and decorative items of all kinds. Well, thirty days notice isn’t enough time to do much of anything except pack what was still out and in use, have it put into storage, and find a place to stay for what I had planned would be about three months. I packed up my two furry companions, my computers and suitcases of summer clothes and drove six hours to a coastal area for a relatively brief stay.
I was reminded that having plans doesn’t always guarantee that all will work out the way you think it will or want it to.
Two years and twenty months later, I moved into a new home. Evacuating for the hurricane last September provided an opportunity to look at the area I was moving back to with new eyes. Having a home built without being there every week to check the progress was an exercise in trust and faith.
Has it been an easy transition? No. I have met very nice, caring people who have worked tirelessly to see that things which were not as they should be or otherwise went awry were put into the condition they should have been in or to correct problems and deficiencies. And…we receive what we give. Kindness begets kindness. And of course, it goes even deeper than that. That is for another post, however.
Then there are all of those boxes. All of those boxes….many of which were packed four years ago and others nearly three years ago. Watching the endless stream of boxes and other furnishings come off of the trucks, I could feel my energy plummeting. Wishing I could be excited, I could only feel the feelings that I can describe today as overwhelming. I started asking those question of myself that are rooted in self judgment…and I know better. The good news is that I turned those questions into acknowledgement. I started to embrace the fact that all of those boxes and furnishings represented thirty or more years of my life – with all of the experiences of that period – contained in what I watched come into the house. The bulk of those boxes went to the basement.
I am far from being finished with the sorting. I even had a number of days when I couldn’t even go to the basement to look at any box, even if I thought it contained something I was looking for and wished to have out to use. It seemed to be unbearable at times. Some of the boxes I had previously opened took me to places within that I was unprepared for. The house that had been sold was larger than the one I live in now. That house had been filled with lots of love and wonderful memories and I was truly ready to leave it when I did. For a long time it felt as if it held me comfortably as I entered a new phase of life at the time. It had become so much for me to maintain that I knew I had to let it go. What had once held me, was then holding me down.
My spiritual director helped me find some perspective about my discomfort with going down to the basement to open those boxes. In many ways, the placement of those boxes and the process of going through them is metaphoric…as I plumb the depths of feelings that arise about each item that I remove from a box and consider its placement or disposition.
I know as humans, we either embrace of resist discomfort of many kinds. When we are busy and moving fast each day with so much on our “to-do” lists, we eschew discomfort, pain, grief and other feelings that might potentially slow us down or take us to what I often refer to as, “dark places”. And yet, our freedom, our bliss, our joy can only be found and authentically experienced when we allow the light into those dark places, by embracing the discomfort, pain, and grief. We fear that experience. We feel we are not equipped. We numb those feeling with lots of busy-ness, over-doing, over-committing to others and turning to substances which keep it all at bay. There is always someone who is willing to hold our hands as we walk through these experiences. Plumbing the depths of ourselves is the journey.
There are no obstacles to the path. The obstacles are the path.
– Zen saying
As I continue this journey, I continue to process many memories; seeing what I may not have seen before and taking perspectives that I wasn’t sure I was capable of. This deep dive will keep me occupied for a while. The days are a mixture of lightness and darkness. Over time, I am confident the balance will return and perspective will be easier to take than it has been these last few weeks.
Back to the boxes!