It’s all being held. The puddle with no definition of edges and shape is being contained within the binding together of people. If we are ashes, if we are dust, if we are clay—none of these on their own, as they are, can hold water. They absorb it. However clay, when given water and gentle molding, put to the fire, becomes a vessel with which the uncontainable finds shape. I am witness to people absorbing bits of my puddle, and with deep commitment and effort see their molding, shaping, sacrificing, shifting, and being willing to experience the solidifying fire to provide a catching space for me to land; a space to find myself when it feels nearly impossible.
As broken and restless and confused and surreal as this is, I know that all is not lost. I know that I’m not being poured out into an abyss, just another element dissipating into the universe. Right now this element may be undefined, but it is not lost. Instead, it is found within the defining structure around me, the vessels that hold me, with the possibility of responsive movement, as often happens with water, but safely surrounded. Safely contained.
To be honest, I often find myself wanting to wake up to find that this has all been a bad dream. Not to ignore my own growth in the process or to have things be what they’ve been, but to wake up to something new and good and hopeful that doesn’t require the same kind of letting go.
Who is to say, though, that this same kind of growth would happen without this kind of letting go? I can’t be sure, but I can be grateful. I can maybe even have joy.
Recently I experienced one of many tiniest graces (more on that later) through listening to Rob Bell discuss joy while on his tour through Portland. Joy. Ha. A little comedic in this season, but I couldn’t think of anything better to lean into.
Joy, he shared, is outside of the dichotomous norm of happy/sad, good/bad, painless/painful, peace/anger, etc. Instead,
Joy does not ignore, but acknowledges and submerges into the depths of the human experience in its mystery and in its uncertainty. Joy is being fully in it. It's a recognition of the finiteness of life, humanity on earth as a vapor, and in knowing that reality, choosing to "have another round" in the moment, because all we have is now and now is a gift.
As a caveat, “now” does not always feel like a gift, especially in the face of injustice, evil, loss. This may be true for you, but it has definitely been true for me, especially right now. I am experiencing moments that are not quite a gift, but more of a swift kick in the pants. Right on the tushy. With a lingering sting that makes it difficult to sit down.
In no way am I attempting to oversimplify joy and being in the now and claim that each moment must be considered a gift. I am suggesting, however, that by being present in the moment, identifying within it what we ought to expose ourselves to and what ought to be given boundaries, the gift can be a result of that very process. Then the joy? That comes (eventually) in having been present and holding it all; every broken and beautiful and confusing and hopeful part.
Of course, this much easier said than done.
After all, when it rains, it pours. Right?
My car died Monday 3 miles from the house, out of nowhere in the middle of the road.
Luckily, I had time to pull over and put my hazards on, which was helpful to avoid, you know, causing traffic on the single lane 101 highway and experiencing the discontent of every single summer coastal driver that slowly passes to see what the holdup was only to discover that its just a woman sitting in the front seat awkwardly avoiding eye contact knowing how the annoyance she and her broken car are being.
Unluckily, the tow truck took almost 2 hours to arrive because dispatch kept not calling them (which I found out later after the tow truck driver informed me he was at home eating dinner and watching his favorite show those 2 hours and I had called dispatch 5 times to get an update and check in).
Luckily, I was right by a Chevron that had a nice bathroom and great snacks. I really had to pee. (I drank a ton of water on my drive and the bladder was full). They sold Ben & Jerry’s Cherry Garcia ice cream and had a spoon for me!
Unluckily, I called the mechanic and they won’t know much more about why Yeep (my Jeep’s very creative name) broke down until tomorrow because they are so busy. (Small town with seasonal visitor problems). Their initial look at it gave them little to no information and I have a feeling that after 219,000 miles Yeep may be on its last leg.
Oh, and remember that sprained ankle/sprained foot that happened almost a month ago? Yeah, it’s still not completely healed which means I’ve been pretty limited on movement other than an occasional walk. It’s summertime! The sun has been out and I want to take advantage, but having a bum ankle-foot puts a damper on things.
Good grief, Charlie Brown.
Yet, even still,
Maybe I am a puddle right now. Maybe my car did break down and my ankle-foot is kaput and life feels overwhelming and I am scared. I also am present.
Present to the moment, being in it, with it, feeling it, discovering it, fully experiencing all of it.
And when that moment holds the tiniest graces like sunshine kissing my face or biting into a perfectly ripe cherry or the tiniest bird perching on my driver window while I'm parked and sitting in the passenger seat or meeting my friend's day old baby or picking wildflowers or celebrating love with former students or someone checking in or a bright blue sky with puffy clouds or unexpected laughter or a couple hours enduring the craziness at the busiest community pool because nothing beats cool (even dirty pee) water on a hot day or a new candle or unexpected tears or a hug that speaks, I am present to the joy, no matter how brief.
For years I've yearned to know joy, asking, hoping, searching for it in every adventure, every person, every prayer, as if it would be found if I just looked hard enough, if I just had one more epic experience, if I just, just, just. Yet until being exposed and present to the depths, to the dark places, to pain and heartache, until the shape of ice melted into a puddle, capable of absorbing and being absorbed, the joy was out of reach. To be held by joy, to be in joy, and for joy to take the shape of the people around me and the moments we share or that I share with myself from being present, is the greatest gift that I never knew I was missing, that I needed, that I am receiving. And although it is being discovered in the most unexpected ways, I am forever grateful for this unwrapping of joy, for I know it means that I am holding it all.