Gifts to embrace and spill
The middle drawer of her mother’s dresser was filled with silk stockings, dozens of pairs in many exquisite colors, each wrapped in the store’s original package. They had never been worn. Rachel admired the stockings, imagining the texture and enjoying the array of colors.
One day she asked her mother, “Why don’t you ever wear your silk stockings?”
“Because” her mother answered, “they are too good to wear. They may get torn or damaged. Besides, they are too valuable. It’s wartime, and silk is now used for parachutes for our troops. Someday, for a special occasion, I will wear the stockings.”
Rachel remembers a family vacation when they were away from their apartment in Manhattan for a month. They returned to a ransacked and burglarized home, their personal belongings askew, scattered and broken. In the main bedroom, the dresser drawers hung open. The middle drawer was completely empty. The silk stockings were gone.
Rachel tells how her father bought more locks for the door. He made certain every house after had at least three locks on the front door.
“Interesting story choice on Mother’s Day, Terry. We were hoping for uplifting.”
Fair enough. But here’s the irony; it was just the impetus for Rachel Remen, who wrote about the gift of lessons learned (in My Grandfather’s Blessings), “Eventually I began to use everything I owned. Perhaps the only way we get to keep anything may be to use it up. Perhaps we are all given many more blessings than we receive.”
Yes. And Amen.
Because here’s the deal: It is our human instinct, once we’ve been harmed or hurt, or life has been too heavy (say, this past year), to double-down on precaution.
And I can tell you that I’ve spent too much of my life (in precaution mode) pretending, either to be someone I’m not, or that I have a handle on things because I’m afraid that being blemished or broken (or real) is not okay.
So. This is more than a story about loss or our need for more protection. This is a story about whatever we keep wrapped inside of us; awaiting the right occasion.
It is as if there’s some kind of governor on our emotional life and we either don’t want to see, or haven’t been given the permission to see what is inside; what is ours to embrace, value and to spill (share).
What experience will rise to the occasion, which will allow us to say, “Now… let life begin?”
And when did we swallow the notion that life begins some place other than where we are right now?
You know what gets us in a pickle? We focus only on what we don’t have, or what we have lost or can lose… rather than on what is.
There is exquisite freedom and empowerment when we ‘fess up. Our invitation? Show up and embrace this life (even the squirrely parts), the gifts and sacrament of this present moment.
Okay. Count me in. Just tell me how. Isn’t that the magical question? How? Is there a way to do this? Because if I’m going to embrace this present moment (“use up my blessings”–my silk stockings), I might as well excel at it!
We need to cut ourselves some slack here, assuming that there is a big prize in spiritual well-being for people who have Aced the test on embracing-the-sacred-present technique.
I do know this: Embracing the present isn’t a beauty pageant. And I have a hunch that people who really do love (enjoy, live, venture, give, risk, embrace) life are literally, non-self-conscious about method or practice or performance. It’s not a race or contest or beauty pageant.
For 25 years in Invercargill at the south end of New Zealand, Burt Munro worked on increasing the speed of his motorcycle, a 1920 Indian Scout. He dreamed of taking it to the Bonneville Salt Flats to see how fast it could go. By the early 1960s, heart disease threatened his life, so he mortgaged his house and takes a boat to Los Angeles, buys an old car, builds a makeshift trailer, gets the Indian through customs, and heads for Utah.
Along the way, people he meets are charmed by his open, direct friendliness. The uncertainty is still real… if he makes it to Bonneville, will they let an old coot race on the flats, with makeshift tires, no brakes, and no chute?
And yes, they did.
In 1967 Burt set the land-speed world record.
Before his trip, his young neighbor Tom (maybe aged 12) asks him why he’s going to all the trouble. “You’ll live more in 5 minutes on that bike than some people live in a lifetime. And if you don’t follow through on your dream you might as well be a vegetable.”
“What kind of vegetable?” Tom asks.
Well, I don’t want to be a cabbage, so let the spiritual adventure begin.
Or, in the words from an article in today’s paper, “Don’t languish, flourish.” Embrace and practice gratitude, kindness and community.
Howard Thurman’s reminder, “Don’t ask what the world needs. Ask what makes you come alive, and go do it. Because what the world needs is people who have come alive.”
We languish when we give up (or lose sight of) who we are–the reservoir inside of us, filled with hopes, dreams, generosity and yearnings–for who we think we should be. Or because we think our life will be safer.
I don’t know when that coaxing toward precaution started for you. I do know that whatever was censored–however long ago–is still inside. Live with regret if you wish, but it will only compound what is already lost.
The alternative? In the words of poet Mary Oliver, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”
What a day to raise my glass to all the Mothers who planted the seeds of yearning for wholeheartedness. “You don’t have to give birth to have mothered. You simply need to know how to love, how to nurture, and how to care (patience and stamina also help). It also really, really helps to be able to see the child in front of you and allow them to become who they were destined to be, not who you want them to become. In addition to my own mother, I’ve been blessed in my life to have several other people who have mothered me along the way. They are people who have held up a mirror to me, nurtured me, and reminded me of who I am when I’ve lost track.” (Thank you Maria Shriver)
Irv and Dottie and their gosling crew are visiting on this Mother’s Day. The picture above is from the patio. I gawk and grin. They take their time. This is certain… while they’re here, there is no if only.
Quote for your week…
I’ve led such a little life. And even that will be over pretty soon. I have allowed myself to lead this little life, when inside me there was so much more. And it’s all gone unused. And now it never will be. Why do we get all this life if we don’t ever use it? Why do we get all these feelings and dreams and hopes if we don’t ever use them? That’s where Shirley Valentine disappeared to. She got lost in all this unused life. –From the movie Shirley Valentine
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In the mailbag…
–Terry, I write to simply thank you. Your words are balm. Sometimes they are reminders of what I already know and hold dear, but need to hear again. Sometimes they make my brain and heart stretch in good ways to take in their meaning. Sometimes they are just a reminder to be still, in my senses and in my heart for a while. To center and ground. Your words remind me of the connection between me and a stranger I might meet and the power of eye contact, of a simple greeting or acknowledgement. You remind me of the need to receive as well as give. My heart goes out to you as you make your way to Michigan to memorialize your dad and spread his ashes. Those moments can be among the most wrenching and the most amazing. Since you speak of your garden that you miss, I occasionally remember you as I work in mine. My roses have started to bloom. Even the little miniature ones that I can’t resist from Trader Joe’s that I pop in the ground once they start looking peaky in the house. Safe travels to you. Mary
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POEMS AND PRAYERS
I bought a cheap watch from a crazy man
Floating down canal.
It doesn’t use numbers or moving hands
It always just says now.
Now you may be thinking that I was had
But this watch is never wrong.
And if I have trouble the warranty said
Breathe In, Breathe Out, Move On
I will not die an unlived life.
I will not die an unlived life.
I will not live in fear
of falling or catching fire.
I choose to inhabit my days,
to allow my living to open me,
to make me less afraid,
to loosen my heart
until it becomes a wing,
a torch, a promise.
I choose to risk my significance;
to live so that which came to me as seed
goes to the next as blossom
and that which came to me as blossom,
goes on as fruit.
Let us know celebrate the Sacrament of the Blessed Present.
Let us now intentionally dance to the music that God plays just for us,
hearing each note and feeling each beat in rhythm with our lives.
Let us dance… sometimes waltzing, sometimes two-stepping,
sometimes feeling a little rumba in the beat;
sometimes jitterbugging, sometimes salsa dancing, sometimes fox-trotting;
and sometimes resting our bodies long enough for our souls to once again feel the beat.
Let us each day intentionally listen for the chords of music in our own lives
and know the music by heart…
and let us always dance with the Blessed Present.