Everyone has a sanctuary. If only in their mind. That space (or place) where we feel grounded, or at home in our own skin. Where there is nothing to prove and no one to impress.
For me it is my garden. No surprise there. I can tell you those weeks when I don’t get my recommended dose of garden time. And I can tell when I do; it’s a restorative mainlined straight to the heart.
For Molly Barker it is running.
At age 15, Molly started running with her mom.
As part of her recovery from alcoholism, Molly’s 50-year-old mom drew strength from running. And it was apparent to Molly when her mother returned from those runs awake and alive.
So, when she ran, Molly discovered that sanctuary too, knowing simply that she “loved the process of running.”
But on our journey in real life, there’s always a hitch that isn’t in the plans. Go figure. And whatever it is (whether we choose it, or it chooses us), it does its best to distract us, or derail us, from our self.
For Molly, it came when she encountered “the girl box.”
She describes this as a space where “only girls who were a certain size with a certain beauty were popular; where girls who wanted to fit in had to mold their bodies and their personalities to fit the requirements of the box.” Fatefully, the same year Molly found strength in running, she also took her first drink, became a “flirty party girl,” caring too much about all the things she shouldn’t. As time went on, when she drank Molly found it easier to fit into “the girl box.”
I wonder sometimes, do they hand these out at birth? Or do we shop for them and pick the one to fit our psyche? Either way, they’re not easy to shake, are they?
But here’s the deal: Whatever the box or script; it is never the whole truth. Never. Never. Never.
Even so, that label or narrative will always influence or persuade us, to play small. Which is another way of saying… We begin to hide our own beauty.
And when we hide our own beauty, we bury (literally, entomb) our courage.
And when we bury our courage, we disconnect from faith and hope and love.
As she got older, Molly continued running, and drinking. On the surface, Molly had it all together–college degrees in chemistry and social work. She taught high school, coached track and worked as a college counselor. She also became a competitive athlete; a four-time Hawaii Ironman triathlete.
And yet; under the surface, Molly was still stuck, in “the girl box.”
One day, under the threat of a thunderstorm, Molly went for a run and experienced an awakening like no other. She felt present and in control. The power she channeled when running took over. For whatever reason, in an epiphany Molly realized that her true human potential had been buried. It was at that moment, she began the journey to shed the influences that had trapped her in “the girl box.” On that run, the concept for Girls on the Run–a program for young girls ages 8 to 12–took root.
Our circumstances do shape us, ‘tis true. And our mind creates (or latches on to) a box or narrative. In other words, we live with scotoma, and we see only what we want or need to see… And sadly, we play it out, because “that is who we are.” Yes, labels are powerful. Because labels dictate choices.
Okay. Back to Girls on the Run. They encourage girls to run. By doing this, the encourage the girls to locate or see an identity–value, worth, beauty–beyond the confines of the box or label.
At the end of each rally day with the girls, many seek Molly out–to say thank you, to get a hug, to ask for a picture. And with each young girl, Molly will crouch, look them in the eye and say, “Give me one word to capture this day for you.”
I like that. At home in your own skin.
Yes, many young girls will say “fun” or “cool” or “amazing”… but the point is still reinforced.
It does us well to remember that there is nothing more substantial to place against the cruelty of the world than language.
Why? Because there is power in language. And when Molly asks them to find a word for that new sense of freedom, they are able to mark this moment and give it a voice.
Reading Molly’s story, I see the power of a word; and that word becomes a boundary (think Celtic CAIM or circle of safety), within which there can be profusion and abundance. And grace. And mercy.
When any demeaning narrative wins, we live confined and resigned.
You know. Like a tomb. After all, that is the end of the story, right?
Oh, wait. Is it possible that death is not the final word? That the stone is rolled away?
The power of Easter is the paradigm shift. Resurrection has the final word.
“At last we can meaningfully live with hope,” Richard Rohr writes. “It is no longer an absurd or tragic universe. Our hurts now become the home for our greatest hopes.”
What would happen if we empowered these young girls to know that they have the ability to choose?
What would happen if we empowered these young women to use their words and not the words proscribed for them?
What would happen if we empowered these young girls to know that they get to say how the story ends?
Some of us have felt that way (cynical, bitter, tired). Like there is no reason to go on.
It is made all the thornier, if we see our imperfection (box, label or script) as an enemy (predicament or obstacle) to be overcome.
We do not see Grace. We do not see Love.
We see only our shortcomings, and not our potential.
And we live with fear. Or regret.
Last week, empowered kids marched in cities across the United Sates. They said, violence is not our only narrative. And even when there is death, resurrection is possible. I watched the coverage of the DC march. Even though (to quote a friend), crying tears of hope into my coffee makes it taste weird.
As a boy I was told, “There is no limit for you. You can be anything you want to be.”
That is true. It’s just that this is not only about vocational choices. It’s about the kind of person I desire to be.
And today, I choose to be kind. I choose to create spaces where people can run. Where they can live fully alive, finding their beauty and spilling their light to a world that needs it.
Saturday night was a tough basketball game for Loyola’s boys. They had a great run. And 98 yr. old Sister Jean offered solace after the game. However, as a Michigan boy, I will be watching on Monday night.
I spent the weekend in my garden. Sanctuary indeed. The tulips are close. Flowering Red currant blooms charming. Ducks on the pond. And even a wee bit of sun. It’s been pure pleasure preparing the new eCourse, Soul Gardening. I’ll see many of you in the garden next Monday, April 9.
Okay Molly Barker, my word today is delight.
Quote for the week…
I came upon a doctor who appeared in quite poor health. I said, ‘There’s nothing that I can do for you that you can’t do for yourself.’ He said, ‘Oh yes you can. Just hold my hand. I think that that would help.’ So, I sat with him a while then I asked him how he felt. He said, ‘I think I’m cured.’ Conor Oberst
Notes: A part of Molly’s story is adapted from ladieswholaunch
POEMS AND PRAYERS
I believe that the world was created and approved by love,
that it subsists, coheres, and endures by love,
and that, insofar as it is redeemable,
it can be redeemed only by love.
(For John O’Donohue)
The blessing of the morning light to you,…
may it find you even in your invisible
appearances, may you be seen to have risen
from some other place you know and have known
in the darkness and that that carries all you need.
May you see what is hidden in you
as a place of hospitality and shadowed shelter,
may that hidden darkness be your gift to give,
may you hold that shadow to the light
and the silence of that shelter to the word of the light,
may you join all of your previous disappearances
with this new appearance, this new morning,
this being seen again, new and newly alive.
from the upcoming book The Bell and the Blackbird
© David Whyte and Many River Press 2018
Lord of life
We pray for all who bring your word of life
As a light to those in darkness
For those who bring your word of peace
To those enslaved by fear
For those who bring your word of love
To those in need of comfort
Lord of love and Lord of peace
Lord of resurrection life
Through our lives
and through your power
Christ the Lord is risen to-day