Leap! It’s Not as Far as You Think

The big question is whether you are going to be able to say a hearty yes to your adventure. — Joseph Campbell

“We must be willing to let go of the life we planned so as to have the life that is waiting for us.”  ― Joseph Campbell

One of my favorite authors, mythologists and theologian, Joseph Campbell, has inspired me for decades. When I was still fairly young, I caught a series of lectures he did with Bill Moyers on PBS called The Power of Myth. There is an accompanying book, of which my own copy is dog-eared and filled with note bene and marginalia, the way some folks (me included) mark their scriptures. The thing about Campbell that always intrigued and drew me in was that while he was not an adherent to any one religious tradition, he drew richly from and honored the beauty of theology and the human striving for divinity. One of my all time favorite quotes— one that I come back to time and time again— belongs to him:

“As you go the way of life, you will see a great chasm. Jump. It’s not as wide as you think.” — Joseph Campbell

This is what I tell myself when I’m scared, like I was Sunday night. This is one of my tools for moving ahead, despite the fear. This has certainly been the recurring theme of my life for the last many years; and if I’m honest, for years before. In retrospect, I have seldom taken the safest path- and I have certainly paid the price for some of those choices. But… oh, but… but it has created a depth in my soul that perhaps I could not have achieved on any easy path that pleased someone else, and it has engendered in me a fierce appreciation for life and my own, genuine journey.

So, on this leap-day, what are you facing that you are afraid of? I would encourage you to stop hiding and just jump. It’s not as far as you think…

“The experience of eternity right here and now is the function of life. Heaven is not the place to have the experience; here is the place to have the experience.” — Joseph Campbell

“The privilege of a lifetime is being who you are.” — Joseph Campbell

Sunday Night Burn

I’m scared. Tonight I’ve been wandering Little House, ticking off the things I can take, what must be culled, the things that matter, and the things that will find their way to the front yard for the mother of all moving sales. This doesn’t bother me- it’s only stuff, and I got rid of so much when the big house floated away into foreclosure (It’s still empty, by the way- I drove by the other day on the way to a friends, and was caught off-guard by the raw tenderness under the scar I like to imagine has healed.)

Looking in the garage of Little House, I see the roof has been leaking all winter. There are boxes of sodden books and who knows what. I roll the door back down, unable to deal with it in the snowy mess, and quietly bid goodbye to more things that are ‘just stuff”. I’ll deal with it when the weather warms up a bit, and my Home Teacher can help me toss what will surely be a dump-run worth of life-remnants.

Earlier today, I missed sacrament meeting, so I went back to my old ward, big house ward, where I saw my lawyer, my dentist, my landlord, my stake president- all reminders again of a life that isn’t mine anymore. I don’t know why it bothered me, but I found myself escaping right after the first hour. Some of the women didn’t even recognize me. It was surreal. It’s an old ward, and there is so much stability; I look at the women who’ve lived in the same neighborhood forever, who have mothers and sisters and high-school friends down the street, and I feel so removed. So transitory. So outside of time. It’s been so long since I had anything stable, I feel like an urchin with my face pressed to the glass, looking in and shivering.

The last two weeks have given me my lowest low and then some of the highest grace I’ve ever imagined. I am beyond thrilled about my acceptance to GWU, and having a place to move now is so wonderful. I know I can do it, and I’m even excited to jump in and get busy. And yet…

I’m scared.

I’m scared because over the last five years, I haven’t been able to trust “good” things- and honestly, I’m terrified this is all going to be ripped away from me. One thing after another has been torn from me, and my eyes have become so used to the dark, the light hurts. It makes me shake and tears sting my eyes. I don’t want to sound like I’m feeling sorry for myself— I’m just so fearful of trusting happiness. I’m waiting for the other shoe to fall. Waiting for the next horrible thing to happen. And I hate that. I don’t want to be like that, I don’t want my spirit calloused and scarred. I want to walk fearlessly in the light.

Even as I write this, I can feel the tiniest whisperings that I have to trust the process, to give it time. I was truly and genuinely harmed over a period of years, and the healing and scars are not going to go away overnight simply because I want them to. Eventually, I can learn to believe in good things, in stability, and I can learn to trust the light.

Please God, let that be true.

YES: Go East!

Telling your kids “Hey guys! We’re moving this summer, but I don’t know where!” is really sucky. Not only did I not know where- I didn’t even know to which state we’d be headed. This is unnerving for all parties, but its especially untenable for a child with autism— and his mama who is trying to calm him and assure him while we cannot take his swing-set, there will be good things on the other end of the interstate move. (could he feel my fear? my uncertainty? probably)

It all hinged on what school (if any— I mean, I thought someone would take me- but still…) sent me that “yes”. Well, I got my yes. George Washington University in Washington DC has invited me to join them for the fall semester 2012, where I will begin working towards my M.Ed with a focus in Autism Spectrum Disorders.  In June, after I graduate here, we’re packing up and heading to Washington DC. This California girl, after nine years in the Evergreen State, is heading east!

I’m ecstatic! The month of February has held my very lowest, darkest low, and within a week, it gave me unimaginable grace. Then, on top of what felt like nothing short of a stack of miracles, I got my acceptance letter from GW. I know this is not going to be easy, and there are a million details of which I don’t yet have answers. But if the last few weeks have taught me anything, it’s that it will work out, and the path will be made clear. Hard work is ahead, to be sure- but I’m ready and along with the work comes a great new adventure, excitement, joy and a whole new happy start. It’s about damn time!

Besides, can you imagine how much fun it’s going to be trying to find Bean in the Smithsonian?!

Only Everything

Come, thou Fount of every blessing,
tune my heart to sing thy grace;
streams of mercy, never ceasing,
call for songs of loudest praise.
Teach me some melodious sonnet,
sung by flaming tongues above.
Praise the mount! I’m fixed upon it,
mount of thy redeeming love.

Abby was four months old when life started to unravel. The prescription from the dentist that made my stomach hurt- but made my husband float away- turned into the loss of jobs, homes, security, marriage, and a hot five and half year burn. There were times I thought I could not lift my head another day- and truthfully, there were days I didn’t. Looking at the ground made it easier to not acknowledge anything beyond my breathing. In and out. Keep going. If I don’t look up, I won’t falter.

One perceived need after another fell away, and I wondered how long one could free-fall before your breath stopped catching, your eyes stopped tearing against the bitter wind, and falling became normal. There were tender hands and mercies reaching out as I tumbled down, but they were powerless to stop the laws of physics and the cost of agency; their cool hands on my fevered brow offered brief human comfort and let me know I was not alone, even in their helplessness to stop the avalanche of life.

Scriptures and platitudes seemed to mock— no, a traveling husband is no the same as a single mother. Sometimes you are given more than you can bear, and you do fall. Not everything that doesn’t kill us makes us stronger- sometimes things just hurt like hell for no reason. You get used to the dark, to the howling wind, to hard sharp edges that cut and tear as you tumble by, wondering in desperation where God went…

That’s the most terrifying part. The utter and abject desolation of feeling abandoned by God. Lost. Forgotten. Forsaken. In the prolonged absence of light, with nothing to reflect back who you might be, you forget your own edges and question where the darkness ends and you begin. This is the place where your heart cleaves, the contents within spill into the deep darkness, you balk in terror at what seems like the end of the world. But the heart has to break for what’s within to grow… to push out of the darkness, where all seeds sprout, and force its way up, through some miracle, towards the light.

In that moment, one becomes fully human. We embody the fallen, and in some small measure, we might finally, in our own brokenness, understand the grace offered by Christ in his descending beneath all things. The contents of your shattered heart are the fertile loam that feeds the life as it pushes up, finally bursting into the light.

Perhaps there are other ways, gentler and kinder, to learn these lessons. Perhaps there is a different story for each of us written in the book of life. The single thing of which I am now certain is that the contents of our hewn, split, shattered, broken hearts— however they be torn asunder— is required for the seeds within us to find that light. Nothing less will do. Nothing more is asked. It’s only everything.

O to grace how great a debtor
daily I’m constrained to be!
Let thy goodness, like a fetter,
bind my wandering heart to thee.
Prone to wander, Lord, I feel it,
prone to leave the God I love;
here’s my heart, O take and seal it,
seal it for thy courts above.

Bird’s Eye View

Every once in a while, you get a privileged, pull-back, crane-view of your life. It’s brief, but if you’re lucky, it allows you to see the grace of things you cannot from the trenches of your daily battles.

As part of the incredible blessings I’m being graced with, a dear friend is going over the entire seven years of Dandelion and doing some culling and editing with the intention of creating something new and possibly paper-y. While the archives are of course open to anyone who wants to read- knowing someone is lovingly cataloging the life I’ve lived is a surprisingly vulnerable feeling. She’s doing so in chronological order, and has sent me some touching observations as she moves forward through my life with the surreal advantage of knowing the future.

I felt a little geeky, as though someone was reading my embarrassing junior high diaries— and yes I know anyone can read it— but knowing someone is doing so meticulously is crazy-making stuff. Her observations have all been kind and tender. Along with noting the general improvement in my writing (huzzah!) she asked me to go back and read my very first post ever. I just did, and I think I want to share it with you.

The whole reason Dandelion exists, from a practical point, is that I needed to respond to a young woman who was critical of being a SAHM, and I couldn’t post without my own URL. Thats it. I even picked the name in two seconds, on a whim, as I looked out the window.  That first letter though, my friend observed, contains the seeds of my future—

It’s a beautiful letter, and again, especially heart wrenching given what you’ve been through lately…that first post is a powerful picture of the woman you are going to be forced to become, or, rather, the woman inside that you will be forced to find. That first post shows that she has been there, all along.

Indeed. I even write what I will do in the unlikely even of my marriage dissolving. I had no idea what was coming, and yet the seeds are all there. Stepping back and looking at the 7 year arch of my life is humbling and makes me realize how prepared and fertile the ground always is- even when we cannot get anything to take root and the soil is hard and unforgiving- it’s part of the plan.

I hope I can remember that now, moving forward, again and always on the curling crest of my future. It really is about faith.

If you’d like to read the letter, click this link

Floating to the Surface

I’m not sure how to get back in the saddle. My whole world has changed because of the kindness of mostly strangers, and simply plunking myself down at my keyboard somehow seems weightier and more meaningful. I plan on writing up something more sensitive and substantial on this, but for now, I just wanted to return and report.

Last week- just a few days ago, actually- I vented into the universe my fears and frustrations. Calling how I felt ‘afraid’ is really a tremendous understatement- I was at my lowest point I can remember. I felt desperate, without resource— I felt abandoned by God and utterly alone.

When I write, I seldom imagine who is reading. In my mind, a handful of friends check in and may or may not have something to say to me. My only guiding light is honesty; I committed a long time ago to never shy away from things because I am vulnerable or they’re difficult. What happened last week though has utterly taken my breath away.

It appears I was wrong about a small handful of friends. Never in my wildest dreams did I imagine the incredible outreach that swept over me and my children. Scores of emails from friends, and from people who had never commented on the blog, but had been reading since I was pregnant with Abby, or who had stumbled upon me one day and then spent days going through the years of archives. People who shared stories from their own lives, and who told me I had helped them, or their mom, their sister, their cousin, their daughter, their friend…

For two solid days I sat curled up on my bed and watched my screen fill with beautiful, kind words that made my eyes swim and tears of gratitude splatter down on my keyboard. And it wasn’t only words. The generosity has been inconceivable, and with each gift to my family, however small or grand, came a note, a meaningful exchange of humanity, a sharing of grief or joy or some shard of who we are- and I have tucked them away to keep me warm. My lamp is overflowing.

Because of the kindness of you, (and you and you and you and you….) I can stay in Little House now until I graduate. I can focus on school now, and not worry about being homeless with my children. While I want to believe that was never a possibility, the truth is, I was that vulnerable. Now, I have a small cushion that we can float on while I focus on studying and getting my applications submitted and my essays written.

There is no way for me to ever thank most of you. But your names are etched on my heart, and I have been shown exactly the kind of person I want to be. This is Zion.