Living Above the Circumstances
The other day, my friend and confidante remarked how important it is to live above the circumstances.
"Huh?" I remarked, curious about her sentiment, particularly since it was coming from a woman who had a husband working in Iraq and a son fighting in Afghanistan.
"No way could I get through a day without believing that," she continued. "It forces me to rise above my fear-to believe that somehow, everything will be all right."
Stunned by her optimism, I found myself nodding and thinking only major upheavals force this kind of attitude-only if we are pushed to change will it happen. And yet, driven by fear, most of us have been frozen in place, tread water or duck for cover until the peril passes. As the commentators and reporters continue to profess doom and gloom we find it harder and harder to "live above the circumstances."
But not a band of merry women who attended my recent Body, Mind, Spirit Retreat. Braced for mass cancellations because of the economy, I was happily surprised to come face to face with thirty-two exceptional seekers. In the best of times it is difficult for women to take themselves away. There's always the issue of money--having enough and then, God forbid, spending it on ourselves! Then, there are the myriad entanglements-getting away from day to day life, finding babysitters, leaving copious instructions, and making casseroles, even! At the end of the exercise, who would want to bother?
Yet it became obvious as we gathered by a roaring fire on the first afternoon what determination and perseverance can accomplish. Having studied their biographies in advance, I was well aware that this particular group had left a multitude of personal issues behind-issues they were determined to tackle-all of them seemingly desirous "to save the only life they could save," as Mary Oliver said so eloquently in her poem, The Journey.
They have been carrying more than their share of everyone else's burdens (Surprise! Surprise!) and had come to question just who they were beyond the roles that they played. More than enough change had been thrust upon them-- betrayal, bad diagnoses, sudden poverty, fall from grace, to name a few-- that they truly had no choice but to take themselves away and pause. Doing so with like-minded women might offer just the wisdom they were craving. After all, aren't we all beggars after light telling one another where to find even the slightest glimmer? For as anthropologist, Margaret Mead discovered: "Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens (women) can change the world; indeed, it is the only thing that ever has."
Trained to fix and find solutions, these women seemed to intuit that some other behavior was in order just now-- something 'other' was to be done. And so, whether walking the cold winter beaches, weaving their lives and beginning to understand that they possessed hard earned strengths, understanding the very phase they each were in, burning their past in an evening bonfire, slowly they began to come alive once again, so much so that they could actually see a future regardless of what is going on in the world around them.
And so began the actual charting a new course--redesigning themselves in their own image-contemplating a second journey actually. Having lived the prescribed life, they were now about to write their own prescriptions.
It eventually became obvious why they had bothered to venture out in January-a month named after the mythological God Janus who faces in two directions. Now was their time to straddle both the past and the future...the known and the unknown...to understand what is outlived so they could find room to embrace what is unlived.
For as one young forty year old from Nebraska concluded: "In BEING I am not remaining stagnant or procrastinating. I am actually progressing. There is no choice for me right now. I do not have to choose. I just need to be."
Out of the mouths of babes! There is always something we can do as we stand wondering. And perhaps at the end of our wondering time we will rejoice in the fact that time of change and crisis is no more than transformation. Time to light the candles, place them in the window and expect, in time, that our individual self will know the way.