“Man must be arched and buttressed from within, else the temple wavers to the dust.” ~Marcus Aurelius Antoninus
The Washington National Cathedral is a dear place to my heart, so the pictures of the damage caused by Tuesday’s earthquake saddened me. The sight of the missing spire, the other spires that are off-center, the fallen stone works, the cracks left behind—all of these grieve me and concern me. The reports of cracks in the flying buttresses worry me further, especially given the approach of hurricane Irene in a few days.
However, as I look at the pictures of damage from towns that are near where my family lives (a short drive from the epicenter), I am grateful that such a large building constructed of stacked stone fared as well as it did. Architecturally, the credit for this stability comes from the arches and buttresses built into it.
“Stoop and you’ll be stepped on; stand tall and you’ll be shot at.” ~Carlos A. Urbizo
I’ve stooped for as long as I can remember. I raised to think that in order to be a good Christian woman, I needed to excel at being a doormat, and I learned that lesson well. I’m tired of stooping and being stepped on, but it’s all I know.
The few times I have scraped my courage together and stood tall, I got shot at. I really don’t like being shot at. It feels much more threatening and hurtful to me than being stepped on. I realize that’s probably just because I’m not used to it, but being shot at feeling potentially lethal whereas being stepped on is just uncomfortable.
“When we were children, we used to think that when we were grown-up we would no longer be vulnerable. But to grow up is to accept vulnerability… To be alive is to be vulnerable.” ~Madeleine L’Engle
I’ve talked a lot about my fear and anxiety that stems from always feeling so vulnerable in this world. I think for the greatest disappointment of growing up was the realization that being grown-up did not remove the vulnerability I experienced as a child. In fact, in many ways I became even more aware of just how vulnerable I am.
“The nature of conflict means you can’t set a boundary in your life and take care of someone else’s feelings at the same time.” ~Martha Beck
Setting (and sticking to) good boundaries is something that I really don’t do well at all. I think Martha’s quote has finally helped me to understand why this is the case.
I was raised to believe that it is my job to take of the feelings of everyone around me at all times. In fact, any lapse in taking care of others’ feelings was proof that I was undeserving of being loved. (No, those words weren’t literally spoken to me, but that was the message that was acted out.)
Like everyone, I have people and situations in my life that are not always the most supportive of the person I am becoming. I struggle to hold my ground in ways that honor the ways I am growing when I must deal with them.
Yet I hesitate to intentionally avoid (or at least reduce) interactions with them because it feels rude, and I hate hurting others in any way. (Yes, I do recognize my usual people-pleaser tactics going on in that, but I’m still working on that particular “growth area.”) There’s also a part of me that feels cowardly and weak in avoiding someone rather than being strong enough to withstand whatever they can dish out.
“It is not so much that what we are at the deepest level wants to wake up, to be aware, to love, to create peace and truth and beauty, but that our essential nature is wakefulness, awareness, love, peace, truth and beauty. To hear the call we only need to listen. But sometimes we can listen only when our illusions of control and safety have been shattered.” ~Oriah Mountain Dreamer (from The Call)
The last year (or more now) have thoroughly shattered my illusions of control and safety. In fact, they continue to be dismantled even more daily as I find more major issues with my house to deal with along with the needed work on my car. It reminds me that not even the roof over my head nor my ability to get to places I need to be are secure.
I truly have no control. I have no safety in this life. It’s terrifying, and it continues to make me feel like there is no solid ground under my feet on which to craft this new life I am trying to create.
“Being with joy means being willing to be stretched, to expand to hold it all. With joy, we are stretched to take in the enormity of it all—ourselves, the world, the mystery. And this frightens us. We have been taught that if we have too great a sense of our own largeness, we will lack humility or invite dangerous envy.” ~Oriah Mountain Dreamer
I’ve mentioned before that I am participating in a book discussion group of The Invitation, by Oriah Mountain Dreamer. In previous weeks, we have talked about longing, fear and sorrow. As someone who tends to live beneath the surface of life, these are all comfortable, familiar topics to me. While I still have room to grow in my relationship with each one of them, I do have an intimate relationship with each one. I know them. I live and move and have my being in them. I breathe them in and know what it is like to have them permeate my being.
Tonight our topic was joy. For most people I know, this would be an enormous relief after the weighty topics of the last few weeks. For me, the moment I saw the topic, I felt my body tighten in an instinctual preparation for a blow. Continue reading
“Follow your heart and be true to yourself. Never live the life of another. You have to create your own road.” ~James Van Praagh
This is amazingly simple advice, but it’s also one of the hardest things for me to manage to do, especially as a co-dependent. I have a great deal of practice in being true to those around me; I have very little in being true to myself. I cringe in guilt at the very thought of being true to myself when doing so brings disapproval or criticism from those around me.
And then there’s the whole concept of creating my own road!
“What if becoming who and what we truly are happens not through striving and trying but by recognizing and receiving the people and places and practices that offer us the warmth of encouragement we need to unfold?” ~Oriah Mountain Dreamer
This notion goes completely against the grain of our cultural mythology of the American dream where we are all capable of becoming anyone we want to be through our hard work and effort. We transfer that mythology of the material world to our inner world all the time, believing that with enough striving and effort we can achieve the kind of inner growth and development we long for. But what if Oriah’s right? What if it is not about that at all? What if what is really required is recognizing what offers us encouragement and cultivating those things? Continue reading