She bore her soul.
And she waited…
For a hand
For a word
And she waited.
She bore her soul.
And she waited…
For a hand
For a word
And she waited.
She looked downward, as if that could hide the tears that were about to fall.
She reached and put her hand on her heart to calm its racing.
He knew what to do.
He rose to join her.
His long stride quickly reached her side.
He gently put his arm around her.
She looked up.
They both smiled as their eyes met.
She returned to the task at hand with him by her side.
She still cried but she knew she could go on.
They both knew she could have done it without him there too, of course.
She did not need him.
She loved him, and there’s a difference.
They were stronger together.
They would never need to question.
They both knew.
And they always would.
Parables of Love, Part III: How Great Thou Art, A Lesson in Song Each soul has a song to sing and it cannot be stopped. Some sing with words, some with action, the best with hearts that cannot be stopped. Let your soul sing.
The sun shone through the time-streaked bay windows in the small chapel, appearing to reflect directly off the lawn’s morning dew upward to light the room. The space was cramped and decorated, if you could call it that, with only in browns and other shades that appeared to have transformed in the way aged pages yellow.
Dust particles danced in the sunlight.
A small upright piano stood in the center of the room, appearing out of place in the barren room. A few folding chairs, a small makeshift podium, and a bouquet of plastic flowers were the only other items in the room.
“So depressing,” she whispered to herself as she set up her music.
He had left this place nearly two years ago but it looked just as it had when she last said goodbye. She shuddered thinking about it, but still she’d agreed to do this. She had a feeling he’d want her to. Papa always loved to hear her sing.
She made a final mark on her sheet music and set the copy out for the accompanist before she sat down to wait and collect her thoughts. Eyes closed, as in meditation, her silent prayer called on the pure loving universe to fill her with the spirit of love and compassion, for her song to reach all the way to her dear papa, wherever he may be, and for her soul to be filled by His love as she sang His praise.
The room had begun to fill. Wheelchairs rolled in one at a time with the frail and infirm beginning to form an audience. A few residents made it in and slowly found a seat on their own with little support. She realized how long this was going to take and knew she could never just sit there as they all began to fill in to see her.
“Well, of course, they’re not here to see me,” she thought. Shaking her head with a smile she stood to begin mingling. “They’re here for their church services, for time out of their rooms, for a chance to sit in the sun. …not unlike me, really,” she concluded.
Several smiles, handshakes, and a few hugs later, they all joined in prayer and gave thanks for their time together. They listened to words of hope and thanksgiving. There was no lesson. There was no admonishment. There was only love.
Her heart was full by the time she stood to sing. And it was magical.
“Oh Lord my God, when I, in awesome wonder, consider all the worlds Thy hands have made,” her voice carried and seemed to lift beyond her. She would never be able to explain it but it was more than her voice. She was only the vehicle.
“I see the stars. I hear the rolling thunder, Thy power throughout the universe displayed… .”
Bright blue eyes met hers with a steady gaze as the chorus began. An unspoken agreement was made and soon the two of them were singing in unison.
The sun had completed its ascent and its light now filled the room. She could not help but smile as it warmed her skin. She felt so alive.
“Then sings my soul, my savior, God, to Thee. How great Thou art!”
She was transported, some sort of electrical current seemed to enfolding and uplift her. Everyone was signing by the final chorus, even those who’d seemed unable to speak as she’d mingled earlier. She’d never experienced anything like this. All voices commingled in joyful shouts of acclamation. And those bright blue eyes reminded her so much of Papa.
Now, years later, she recalled the tears and joy as she held the little box of thank you’s they’d sent the next day.
“How can I get that feeling again?” she wondered. But she knew. So she prayed that her soul song be one of love and compassion on this day that it might reach all in need. And she felt the sun warm her skin. He was with her.
I’ve always been impressed with my ability to overcome.
I’ve just rarely loved myself for all I am.
“Not bad for someone who…”
Insert the randomly selected self-limiting descriptor.
Now an MS fighter the phrase has been consistent.
“Not bad for someone dealing with MS, huh?”
I thought I sounded confident and self-impressed.
But I was limiting myself.
Not bad. Period.
In fact, I’m so much better than simply “not bad.”
Though ultimately an optimist, I spent my childhood nights in tears worried about the future, scared I’d never find love, praying for my family. I was so scared I’d let people down and never be good enough. I even had a special pillow that I used exclusively for crying into so my sister with whom I shared a room, could not hear me cry.
I’d cry for hours sometimes. Then I’d take a deep breath, say another prayer and rest with the assurance that tomorrow was a new day and held new possbilities. I’d listen to music until I fell asleep and always awoke ready for the day, wearing a smile more times than not. I would even tell myself that no one ever needed to know how I really felt or how weak and scared I was.
I now have a life far easier than anything I’d known was possible. I’m comfortable. I’m confident in who I am. And I become bolder and braver every year, more my true unabashed self. My prayers are mostly for others and offered in gratitude.
But I still cry. Comfortable is not the same as happy. Grateful is not the same as fulfilled. But I am not scared. I’m an extraordinary girl in an extraordinary world. I know that now.
*lyrics from Greenday
The Saddest Story:
I often cry myself to sleep.
I sniffle and shake.
I whimper, trying to hold in the sobs.
But the tears roll down my face just the same.
I sigh and look over.
He’s been by my side all the years
But he doesn’t even hear me.
Why won’t he wake up?
A Song Only You Can Hear
“You don’t love someone for their looks or their clothes or for their fancy car, but because they sing a song only you can hear,” Oscar Wilde said.
So whose soul sings to you? To me?
Who can hear the soul songs we cannot help but sing?
What beautiful music, indeed.
Parables of Love, Part I: The Guru We are here to heal, to be made whole. That is the only goal, and the lesson is found in the journey. The teacher is life itself. But The Guru, Our Master, is eternal and takes many forms. Only when you open yourself to The Guru can you truly be healed.
“This is your time; invite yourself to just be,” she started.
The soft sound of healing breaths, in and out, began to hum as we drifted into our own inner spaces. Grounding ourselves in our breath, reminded of our humanity, and reaching with our hearts, reminded of our spirits, we commenced our yoga practice. It’s a practice designed for discovery. We struggle with poses we’re not yet strong enough to hold. We flow through stretches that push our limits. We falter, even fall, as we learn to balance. The discovery will be of our true selves, the core of our beings at the energy source that sparks our human existence. This practice is part of all we do.
The chimes bring us back as our guru intones reminders to listen to our bodies and go at our own pace.
“Thank you for sharing your practice with me today. Thank yourself for making the effort to be present. Notice if you were able to put on those yoga blinders and care only for your practice rather than comparing yourself and your practice to others. Ask your soul if you loved yourself in your practice today. That’s why we practice.”
We thought about her words. We closed our eyes and searched our souls. Then we all bowed and offered “namaste” at the conclusion of the hour. Emma sat frozen with a smile, beaming as if illuminated by the time we’d just shared as a group.
Her petite frame was shrouded in atypical exercise attire. But then Emma was no typical yoga instructor. Mousy brown hair went all directions, appearing to spring from her delicate pink face; it was pulled up as usual, in a style none could, nor would likely attempt, to replicate. Her baggy clothes looked as though they could slip off her narrow shoulders and hips without warning. Yet she held her balances with unwavering strength. She moved with beauty and grace none would expect from such a disheveled waif. She looked like a wood sprite or faerie playing at being human and unsure how to fit in. But when she spoke she lit up the room. She was truly beautiful.
“So, how was that on your your neck, Sarah?” She asked as I gathered my things after class. “Was that buggy? Because we don’t want it buggy. Remember, if you’re over it, you’re over it–just like anything in life. Yoga teaches us that, right?”
I snickered a bit. I couldn’t help it. Her phrasing always made me smile. “Who talks like that?” I thought.
“It was great, Emma. Really. I’ve been trying to listen to my body and honor my limits, …” I demonstrated what I’d been practicing, propping my head against my forearms on the mat. “It actually feels better this way and, look.” I pushed out the last word with a bit more force as I kicked my legs to the ceiling and entered my headstand.
“So that’s two goals met: crow pose and a yoga headstand,” I beamed upside down still.
“That’s so awesome! You amaze me.” She waited until I righted myself and returned to sit, crosslegged on my mat in front of her. “Sarah, can you believe that you’re stronger now, so many years after your diagnosis, than ever before? … I mean, that’s really powerful. You should be ecstatic” She searched my eyes, tearing up as they often did when the subject of my health and happiness came up.
“I am proud of myself,” I replied. “I know I can do whatever I set my mind to.”
“But you’re not happy. I can tell.” A tear escaped against my will as she leaned in and seemed to see into my soul.
“I can’t explain it. It’s like I’ve just discovered who I really am and it makes me sad that I haven’t honored my identity but, more, like I don’t know how to.” I admitted, wondering why and how she brought this honesty out in me–and why I kept coming back to share more.
“Sarah, sweetie, you do know. It’s why you keep coming.” We embraced at that and I let the tears flow.
It’s true that I’m a cryer, although most would never guess that. I would rather suffer great pain than cry in public. Tough. Strong. Hilarious. … those are the descriptors I make sure I demonstrate in my day-to-day activities. They’re also what I tell people I am. Emma says crying is a sign of strength, and I almost believe her. But I still think being able to hold my tears until I’m alone is a sign of even greater strength. Every time I say that she speaks of the need for vulnerability, but I’m not there yet.
But today I cried, sobs and sighs, and gasps for air included. It was no dainty or sweet cry. It was the heavy healing kind of cry.
“Well it’s about time, cutie,” she whispered. “I knew you had that in you. And now you’re ready.” Her smile soothed me as she spoke.
“Sarah, you’re about to begin a journey.” A mysterious shift in the room’s light, as if the sun had broken free of dozens of clouds, seemed to welcome me to another dimension as she spoke. The only way to explain it is to say it felt like church, that light and airy and thankful feeling of peace when church is the way it’s supposed to be and love is the lesson.
“What are you talking about?” I asked.
“Today’s lesson will begin to explain it, so just go with it.”
“Okay, Emma. I’m all in. ”
“Cool,” she said informally. “Let’s do this!” She smiled, beamed really, as she began. “Today’s lesson is the parable of the guiding light.”
And, with that, I was transported to a morning more than two decades ago.
Learning to Love Myself
I have always known that I’m quite amazing. Does that sound egocentric? Just kidding. I know it does.
I’ve always been confident. I’ve always known my strengths. And I’ve been criticized for being too self-impressed.
But I am impressed with myself. I’ve overcome a lot. I’ve achieved a lot. I know my work makes a difference.
I also know that I love people. I genuinely love and care about others. The funny thing is that for the longest time I didn’t realize that I didn’t really love myself.
I didn’t love myself as much as I loved others anyway. I always put myself last. I always said “I can help” or “I could be good for that person.”
I actually thought that made me even more impressive. I managed to walk around a contradiction between “I’m amazing” and “other people matter more than I do.”
I have fancy language for all of this now. But I won’t go into it. All that matters is that I learn to love myself.
It’s not enough to be impressed by myself. I must love myself and care for myself. I might even put myself first sometimes–because sometimes you just have to.
Love matters. And I’m going to love myself more than anyone else. Because I am always with me; and that relationship matters too.
Maybe I can help myself. Maybe I could be good for me. And I can still be pretty damn impressive.