Each step forward or sideways or whicheverways brings new questions, or new realizations. After days of working through ideas and drafts about Do vs. Be and zentasticness, I found myself dragged unexpectedly back into an area of old resentments. Dagnabit. I can write about zen progress and do yoga and feel good and then a conversation or a facebook post leaves me chewing my pencil and growling about situations gone by. I become a walking dark cloud of interior ugh—which inevitably spills over into my exterior interactions with my family and friends.
This week also marks seven years since my daughter started an ultimately disastrous clinical trial to try and stop her brain tumor progression. Due to a disturbing phenomenon called paradoxical activation, the trial drug actually made the tumors catastrophically GROW. I have made some peace with the outcome of the trial, after years of wrestling with really difficult emotions about the darkness of that time. Seeing the early days, the days when we so hoped this trial would be a magic bullet, the days when we had to start treatment after 5 years off with a teen and not a first grader (and all the new challenges created by a greater understanding of what was at stake)…seeing these reminders on social media of those early days hurts my heart.And just like that I realize my wrestling match is not just in the ring of Do vs. Be, but in Get Over It vs. Be With It.
Somehow I can be with the feelings about the trial fail and no longer be paralyzed with rememberings. Maybe this is just grace at work? I am not sure what it is, or really how I got here. Somehow I have to work/surrender to get to the point where I can be with those difficult unresolved situations from my daughter’s high school years and NOT be instantly dragged back into a cesspool of OH YEAH LET ME TELL YOU HOW THINGS REALLY WERE. Or where I can see the images of my daughter bravely taking the trial drugs for the first time and not be tsunamied by the emotions of that time filtered through the emotions of 3 months later, when all hell broke loose.
I suppose there is some grace in being able to even write about it?I am continually astounded by the constant work of mental, emotional, and spiritual health. How progress in self-care and healthy striving continually comes up against resistance and ugly stuff that seems to lie ever just below the surface, dredged up unexpectedly by an image or a word, then dispersing until the uglies settle once again to the bottom of the lake.
Or road, if one forgets one used lake as a metaphor
and then is too lazy to redraw and re-upload picture.
Or imagine I am walking on water, ala Jesus. Uphill.
As much as I try to build bridges over this lake, (er, road) I realized this week that I have to learn to be ok with the bottom, and to know that even when the uglies are swirling, they don’t need to drag me under.
It’s kind of like Lake George. Lake George in the Adirondack Mountains of New York is a pristine mountain lake, clear from the surface all the way to the bottom, even to a depth of 15 feet or so.
We have vacationed there every year since Dave and I married; he has been going there since he was 7 years old. We love this place. In the rare summer when the weather upstate gets really hot, I will actually float around on the lake (which is always cold. Don’t believe my spouse and third born who will swim in it no matter what. IT IS COLD). I will lie on a big black inner tube that soaks in the heat of the sun while my toes dangle in the cold water. Zen exists in its purest form in that moment.
Lesson number 1 of Lake Swimming (after COLD!!!): don’t touch the bottom. The bottom is soft and squishy and leaf covered and gross to feel—purely organic matter, just so squishy, and if you walk in it to get into the water the muck gets all stirred up and gross. I have perfected balancing on the tube and pushing off from the edge so I can float without stirring up muck. And if other folks stir it up, I just float in another direction…as long as I am not squidging my toes in yuck, it’s all good.Inevitably some little kid gets stuck each year…not literally, but they take a few steps past the sandy bottom and realize EW THIS IS GROSS and holler for mom or dad. Lesson learned.
Anyway, THIS is what I have to figure out how to do in life. Keep on paddling my inner tube. Soak in the sun and let the feelings settle. I can’t deny their reality. Just like those soggy leaves and twigs and lake soil, the feelings and situations from the past are real and unpleasant—but the bigger picture is so much bigger. There are miles and miles of lake beyond that one roiled area. Just keep floating!As I pondered this in the past few days, I brainstormed what helps (in an effort to get myself out of the visceral SO’S YOUR MOM! Feelings clawing at me). Being outside helps. Grounding yoga practices help (YouTube has so many great resources, especially the Yoga With Adrienne series). Praying helps (I pray all the time, sort of a running commentary with God—so sometimes I’ll go walk the dog, and thus have a little walk/outside/God talk when I am feeling ugh about the lake bottom stuff in my life). Doing something for someone else helps.
I have so many tools to work with, really, so many inner tubes to choose from.
Rainbow Pegacorn, anyone?
At the same time, being frenetically busy to avoid those feelings can anesthetize the moment, but I know now that busy-ness does not address the underlying pain. I have to learn to Be With Feelings, just like I have to learn to Be OK with Myself and not just what I Get Done.Get Over It invalidates experiences, squelches healthy understanding of self and pain and life. Get Over It closes down communication (even with our self). Be With It acknowledges pain, but also acknowledges that we have as much power as the pain—it does not need to rule. I can float with it, and then keep floating on.
In a different context, as soon as I started to write the first draft of my wrestly moment I felt an overwhelming surge of GOYA (Get Over Yourself Already!). Like, who am I to even talk about any of this? I AM A MESS. A mess with cute shoes, but a mess.But—maybe my mess can help someone. If I succumb to GOYA syndrome or Impostor Syndrome or any of the other things that make me want to be quiet and shut down, the match is over. I can’t be fake. My authentic is kind of messy (um, totally messy. Hoarders episode messy). My constant commentary with God has a lot of "Lord, what the heck am I supposed to be doing? I want to do what you want me to do…"
And while no giant hand has appeared writing on my wall (phew, that would be terrifying), ideas and thoughts holler WRITE US. So…yeah.I am going to be with my discomfort and not let fear of vulnerability win. I am not going to Get Over It (whatever it is) and write sunshine without acknowledging the rain. I am blessed with a lot of sun, but I only know it because of all the years of intermittent cloudfest. I am not going to let my GOYA force me into silence. If nothing else, I know that is NOT what I am supposed to do.
In my next moment of figurative lake muck, I am going to try to use the tools I have to acknowledge the moment and keep moving. I will let you know how it goes. Until then—let’s keep movin’ right along, through the questions, with the questions, and hopefully into a sunny place of zen.
and until then--I will dream of coffee, morning prayer,
and yoga by the side of Lake George in summer. Happiness.