Your hand opens and closes, opens and closes. If it were always a fist or always stretched open, you would be paralyzed. Your deepest presence is in every small contracting and expanding, the two as beautifully balanced and coordinated as birds' wings ― Rumi
I was trying to think of how to start this post. At first I wanted to talk about normalcy, and how it feels like I am returning to my normal self. But being the Four that I am, words like normal and ordinary, while sometimes healing, don't fully represent what it is I'm trying to say. While I actually am quite ordinary and normal, I'm also unique and rather special. We all are — that's the beauty of it. So instead, today is not so much about normal as it is about stasis, about equilibrium, about balance.
My life since moving to Vancouver has been a whirlwind of emotion, fantasy, grief, sadness, loneliness, stress, expectation, assumption, and probably a few more words that all sum up to my feeling a bit crazy and not like myself at all. I'm drawn to the dramatic, the fraught. I've recognized lately just how tight I hold my shoulders and how often my fists are clenched. In that moment where I make a conscious effort to drop my shoulders and release my fingers, I breathe. It's not a loud breath, but I can hear it inside myself. So you can imagine how fitting I found Rumi's words to be this morning. Open. Closed. Tight. Relaxed.
That was for me more than for you. But in case you needed it, don't worry: I did too.
This week, I was honored to spend a lot of time with dying people and their loved ones. While I saw my fair share of death back in Cleveland and Chicago, in the setting of a small community hospital, it's different, and no amount of exposure could prepare me for the experience of witnessing someone's last breath when you've been there alongside them not for mere minutes but hours, and in some cases, days. I've had to be a different kind of pastor and chaplain, and I've been blessed to have colleagues who know how to take care of me (a month ago I felt very differently about them, so I'm glad for the change in my perspective). I'm glad for an extra day off, or leaving a bit early, or having some administrative task to do that uses a different subset of my gifts and graces. I'm glad to feel like people are starting to see me — or maybe that I'm starting to let them.
Dear God, I am so afraid to open my clenched fists! Who will I be when I have nothing left to hold on to? Who will I be when I stand before you with empty hands? Please help me to gradually open my hands and to discover that I am not what I own, but what you want to give me. ― Henri J.M. Nouwen
Last night, I was insatiably giggly during my therapy session. I just felt happy. It was a good week filled with new adventures, better habits, new friends, less drinking, more crocheting, and a number of other positive changes. Don't get me wrong - I miss Cleveland and Chicago horribly. I miss my friends, and my church, and my coffee shop and wine bar and Thai restaurant. But I'm here, and I have the chance to experience life, to experience myself, in a whole new way. Things are slowing down, and when that happens, when we succumb to the stillness and the silence, to the stasis, we find out who we are and what we're made of. And there's beauty to behold there, joy to experience, and peace to embrace.
photo credit: Miguel Carvalho (via Flickr)