Human beings are a fascinating combination of fragility and resilience. I have the privilege as well as the ongoing heartbreak of witnessing this in many arenas. I see the fragmentation of soul, spirit, mind and body in those who have been subjected to a horrific act of violence and/or repeated acts of violence whether that was physical, sexual, verbal and/or both. We can see that on the larger scale with the language and violence towards people of color, women, refugees, those in the LBGTQ community and others who have been marginalized by dominant culture and power politics.
I also see the resilience present when victims discover they are survivors. Finding their voices. Reclaiming their bodies as their own agents of comfort, strength and empowerment. I see this in the resilience of many who are marginalized who refuse to allow dominant culture to dictate their worth as human beings. Who seek to not to create a color blind/ability blind/gender blind etc society but one who seeks to better all of humanity by removing the obstacles that limit access to essential resources and the ability to navigate life with ease and safety.
In my own experience, the enormity of pain I have experienced in life has eventually reaped deep and abiding blessings. That being said, I wouldn’t wish these experiences on anyone and I reject to the core of my soul the well meaning cliches that have shown up by loving, well meaning people such as, “God gives special children to special people.” Yep. Always throwing up a bit in my mouth after that one. And then there is, “God doesn’t give us what we can’t handle.” Anyone EVER felt comforted by that one? An isolating statement if there ever was one.
There is for me a lot to unpack here. I can do what I do what I do and show up in hard places because I have experienced violence, verbal abuse, sexual abuse and I understand the need to numb and the unskilled choices that are made when we don’t know what to do with suffering. I have made many, many, many of these myself. It is a blessing to share tools that invite life in these arenas. I can show up working with the dying because I understand and am still seeking to have a deeper understanding of death and impermanence as a part of life and that I can learn how to live with walking with people as they transition with the understanding that they are my teachers. The grace that is inherent in this process is stark in its beauty and luminescence.
There have been many moments in my life as I am sure there have been in yours, where the pain of what was happening in the moment would surely destroy everything. I recall vividly 16 plus years ago the helpless feeling of being swallowed whole by uncertainty with a equal measure of physical and emotional pain. We had made the choice to have at the time, experimental fetal surgery as we had discovered through an ultrasound that our daughter Riley had spina bifida. To make a long story short, we left my 3 year old son (whose father was in prison on drug related charges) with my sister. Yes, every small child’s worst fear. His parents for reasons too complicated for him to understand, were gone. This was a heaviness in my heart that felt enormous and challenging. We left our family and friends and headed to CHOP and U of Penn 6 hours east in Philly. Our cell phones didn’t have network coverage there and pre Facebook and lap top cut off from all our support. I had enormous complications post surgery and no one knew what to do with me. I had IV ‘s and numerous tubes, compression boots on my feet. I couldn’t wipe my ass or feed myself. Riley was 22 weeks in utero. I was in so much physical pain one night and of course the relationship between this and fear, literally screamed my head off and cried all night. I remember being in a room (for only a few days, then for the remaining 7 weeks bed rest…had no view) that looked out at the Philly skyline. The evening had just a few lights as likely cleaning crews or those meeting deadlines worked. I remember having so much resentment at this night that would seemingly never end. I felt an equal amount of resentment as the grayness of dawn slowly illuminated the skyline. How dare life go on when I am suffering so greatly!! Following this grayness was a sunrise that literally adorned every visible piece of sky with purples, pinks, oranges, yellows interwoven and moving with other subtle shades in the color spectrum. I forgot myself and my pain, my child struggling to survive in my body, my child scared and confused back in Johnstown and allowed myself to be held in Grace. A thoughtful nurse suggested that the labor and delivery mattress I was laying in for the last three days was causing my back to spasm. The whole team decided to move me out of labor and delivery and into a room and continue to monitor me there. The story moves forward and so did I. Still with fears but also with something else.
I don’t know where for me that part emerged that refused to be destroyed. I only know I likely had nothing to do with it. We are this curious blend. We are wonderfully made. In my life right now, fragility is showing up more than resilience. I will honor this and treat myself and hopefully others in this space with extra gentleness. Today while walking my dogs on this fall day, amidst the chestnuts and slowly turning and falling leaves, a lone daisy with a very short stem called to me from the earth and practically weeping with gratitude, I answered.