It’s interesting to me how dates, or symbols look so innocent on a calendar when the actual living of them can take a person to edges of who they are.
We reach our edges for many reasons, but it happens when we are stretched past the norm emotionally, mentally, physically, and spiritually, exposing new thoughts, realizations, or clarity. Sometimes we see deeply personal and long-felt pains come to life and resolution when hope had become a blurred shadow seen only by God. Other times we see that piercing, crystalline essence of life in something simple, yet painfully profound. And on rare occasion we are brought into the presence of some joyful exuberance that was never part of our life before and it leaves us wondering, what if? What if I had had the freedom to experience joy in this way before? How would my world be different? And the list goes on.
I realize that not everyone thinks or lives like this. Some say it’s a special gift, or that it’s the province of sensitive people. Maybe so, but it’s no less real for belonging to just one type of person, gift or not.
Many people have found ways of staying grounded during these stretching and sometimes overwhelming experiences. I saw and felt the edges of my life several times between February 12th and 19th. It was one rolling experience after another—for eight days. In these short and intense bursts of time I took time to talk and think with God, out loud, while I touched and handled real things, tangible things with color and texture, and light. I worked with my hands, and I experienced beauty. Somehow that process does it for me—this is how I stay grounded. It encourages growth and brings introspective calm, it allows me to come back to center after experiencing some of the unsettling mysteries of life, both joyful and heartbreaking. And later I can see that my life was enlarged.
During those eight days I prepared for a celebratory Valentine’s Day dinner with a group of single women friends. We have found our way through some difficult times through the years, and have always chosen to honor one another and the faith-bond that connects us. This year I set the table with many colorful and beautiful things that belonged to generations of women in my family. And again we chose honor and love even though some are at opposite ends of the currently fractured political spectrum. My love for these friends runs deep and the harmony we choose and experience, especially in hard times is more than beautiful. Hard won love takes me to the edges.
Along with a small group of friends I went to a concert at our city’s performing arts center. It was not something I would have ever chosen, but this Naturally Seven concert took me to the edge of my musical experience with a mix of expertly and joyfully done rap, hip hop, jazz, and more. These seven men have mastered the art of inviting the audience into the music. When the second or third piece of the encore finished my friends and I looked at one another, all asking different forms of the questions: What was this? What have we just experienced? This was too wonderful. We left in amazement and are still talking about it. We were changed by it.
Out of the blue I received a phone call from far away with the surprising second-hand news of a relationship being restored, exposing deep emotions and memories of years of loss. And in the same breath was given the nearly unbelievable hope or vision of something new being born—because of loss and because of forgiveness. The initial events were so long ago that the only other person who understands the value of this news is the person who is relating the story. I am utterly stunned. All I can do is think and talk with God. I am overwhelmed at what this means.
Acting as the advocate-support for a terminally ill friend I hear every part of her life exposed in a matter of fact way. I felt I should have been pained when the questions were discussed about allowing others to handle the details of the most personal aspects of her care, or about the plans for the disposition of her body. But instead, it was the simple question that was an afterthought by comparison: How often do you trim your toenails? In that moment it seemed like the most intimate exposure of her essence. And I was taken to the edge with the crystal clear picture of her, where she’d been and where she was going.
I facilitated and later participated in a very significant meeting that had the potential for being successful or disappointingly bad—no middle ground. I put hours of thought and prayer into my preparation. I talked with several of the participants ahead of time to gather their input and so we would all understand the goals and the questions. I gave it my all, spreading myself so thin, transparent in my hopes and passion for the matter at hand. Others responded in kind, and now we see each other differently.
And the last, on Sunday afternoon I went to a local theater with a friend to watch the broadcast of George Takei’s Allegiance. A family’s story of their experience in a Japanese internment camp during WWII. There are many things I appreciated about this production—the music, the acting, the details of camp life, and the overarching themes that fit into every family in every era of time. Love, fear, courage, acceptance and the bitterness of regret, or the regret of bitterness. It works either way. The opportunity for forgiveness is golden. Don’t let it pass you by.
Throughout the whole eight days I was either preparing for the Valentine dinner, or I was washing, drying, polishing, counting, and putting away. Enjoying the way the light was shining through the amethyst glass, loving the weight and feel of the crystal, appreciating the balance of the silver forks, knives, and spoons. Talking and thinking with God, wondering at the benefit of these large experiences, thinking about who needs to know and how I will tell the stories when the time comes.