Thursday, April 1, 2010

Prayer for Normalcy

Even in my journal writing I am compelled to tell a story. If days or weeks are missed between entries—as has happened in this blog—there is a strong urge to make a full account of the time passed, clearly a result of that obsessive trait in my family that insists on always being productive and accountable.

A blog or journal is especially challenging for me precisely because there are dates and progressions so easily identifiable. Gaps stand out like a bulls eye, drawing my attention as tautly as a bow string and sighting down the shaft.

What happened there? What have I done in these last weeks that I could not scribble on these pages? My days are a blur, unfocused, slow-motion movement, unable to find that target of a story to tell, a moral flaw to expose, or a precious moment worth celebrating at the top of my lungs. In regular discomfort, I hold my belly tightly, trying to cushion the sensations instead of projecting outwards the joy that could resonate so freely.

Having written words that have inspired flattering compliments, I notice my approach to this blank page has a greater sense of purpose and responsibility, a splash of pressure to write profoundly. Appreciating that I have gained a few faithful readers, the desire grows to make new words worthwhile or, failing that, remain quiet.

Understanding that a good portion of you are friends and family who would remain so whether I write or not, I recognize this pressure is entirely from within. My internal critic is much more harsh than any reader pausing for a moment for a small distraction from their busy day.

The self-censoring voice is strong in so many of us. Conventional wisdom raises us to be modest, blend into the crowd, take risk so cautiously we may never gain the speed necessary to leap ahead. For so many, we believe it is far better (safer) to fit in than to stand out.

In these last two years, so many have acknowledged with kind and sympathetic compliments my bravery for exposing myself so openly , admitting they could never be so open themselves. I think I am not so radically different from anyone else, certainly no better or worse; these are value judgments far too subjective to support any weight.

In fact, what I have learned is that such exposure invites a compassion that wraps me like a blanket. Being so open reveals friends and strangers willing to reach out and share a little of themselves as well. The fear that holds us back is eased by the welcoming, embracing arms of others, loosening their own grip on themselves.

These essays may begin with an idea in mind, a story to tell, a moment to celebrate, but often surprise me by venturing down a path I had not anticipated, teaching me things I had not realized I needed to learn. Writing grounds me. The flow of words, in an anxious and unsettled moment, calms me. Within the count of 750, my perspective can be changed, anxiety dispelled. What felt at first confusing or frightening, becomes just another stone in my path to support my steps from here to there. Once again, I see the destination matters less than the process.

My challenge in these months of injury and physical suffering has been to sit quietly with patience, without judgment of the silence or lack of production in words or action. I have been forced to sit, to ponder the tube in my belly, to learn to be grateful for each breath, experience chronic pain in the most sensitive and intimate part of my body and learn to accept each moment as somehow still precious.

I am not yet good at it. I moan and groan, whimper in despair to select friends who have the patience to hold me squirming. My frustration leaps tall thoughts and drives me deep into the folds of my couch from where I fear I may never rise again.

Bills pile up, people live their lives outside of my little dark cave with its view of the woods, car wash and those people rushing by. Opportunities have come and gone. I have pushed myself to be normal and collapsed, and I have embraced the silence to learn how sweetly other voices can sing.

This month of March, grey wet and cold, is fecund with life bursting. In this part of the world no buds show, crocuses have poked out, but flaunt no colors, settling back into the mud, frozen. New life is about to burst forth, but tantilizes. Tomorrow may be completely different.

For me, so used to kicking a soccer ball in the bursting of spring, taking long walks or short bike rides, digging a foundation, fully participating in the busy-ness of life, I sit here now one step removed, reconciled that this summer for me—requiring surgery—will be like no other I have experienced.

Still, stepping onto the porch, the fresh air is lustrous. I am grateful that I can walk at all, that music has come back to my voice and a pen scribbles thoughts at the tip of my fingers. I experience love in many forms, impoverished in my pocket, broken physically, but so very rich in my soul.

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