Hike for Hope – Sharing my Story

Below is the written version of the talk I gave at Bedford’s Hike for Hope today, May 11, 2019. The words didn’t come out exactly as written. Here is how I intended them. Thank you, Bedford community, for allowing me to share. Thank you for so generously sharing your attention and your courage and your strength. I was deeply moved by each of you and your contributions to the day.

Thank you, Shannon, Tonya, Sherri, and to all who have made this day possible.

I am both encouraged and disheartened to see so many gathered together today. Encouraged, because your presence here tells me you care deeply about one another, about mental health, about helping those who are hurting. You’ve shown up to share stories, pain, hope – and you believe that we can change the world. You are my kind of people.

And, disheartened: Because to see so many of you here reminds me that there are so many who have lost someone to suicide; or who have almost lost someone to suicide; or who themselves were almost lost. I see you, I see the beads you wear, I see the pictures of your loved ones and I am sorry for your loss.

I have known all three of those stories: I have been to the funeral of a beloved family member who died too young and suffered for too long. I have seen more than one of my friends battle the brink of that decision. And I have lived through a darkness that was dark enough I considered, and took action to end my own life.

This is my story.

My depression officially began at age 16 when I first got the diagnosis and first got help for my debilitating symptoms. The help I’ve gotten has been kind, gentle and compassionate; and was from people who loved me and who wanted me to feel better.

For 19 years, that help came in the form of medication and talk therapy. The meds were designed to help my body have more of a neurotransmitter that I lacked called serotonin. And talk therapy was there to help me process the hard parts of life. For the most part, as long as I followed the plan, my worst symptoms were at bay. But underneath the Prozac, and between therapy sessions, I knew my body was still not well. I felt tired and weak and foggy — just with the volume turned down. What I longed for was to be really alive, really well, like when I was a little kid.

My depression never started with sadness. I’m great with sadness. I feel it, I value it, I learn from it, I embrace it and I eventually allow it to pass. Mine always started with physical fatigue. I’d be so tired in my body that all I’d want to do is sleep. I’d sleep so much that my appetite would disappear – it was like I was in hibernation. I was physically shutting down. Going days and days like that would then start to take a toll on my mind. What I first noticed was a fogginess — like I couldn’t remember what I had just read in a book or I glazed over when people were talking to me. I was zapped of energy and physically unable to do anything. Everything had become a chore. Within weeks of the first signs of fatigue, I would end up withdrawn, lonely, and unable to cope with any amount of stress. Whenever a stressor hit, just like that – I was done. An argument with a roommate or a bad grade on an assignment? Debilitating. Crying, inconsolable, alone, unable to problem-solve, desperate. That’s when the sadness came. It was so deep I couldn’t see my way out of it. Major Depressive Disorder.

At times, the symptoms landed me in the hospital. One time, a sophomore in college, I snuck out of my room, and drove in the dark in the middle of the night down a two-lane highway. I turned my headlights off, hoping another car would crash into me. My car was the place I went when it got really bad. Nowhere else felt safe to me. I just want to be NOWHERE for a while. School was too hard. Home was too hard. Life was too hard. As long as I was in the car, in between places, I felt like I could manage. Then the car became the place I’d have my darkest moment. I thought: If I could just get someone to collide with me – If I could just crash, then it will be out of my hands. I could die and be with God. Or I could get really hurt and have a socially acceptable reason to be in a hospital bed for a while. Maybe then someone will help me the way I need help. I was so tired. I wanted to rest. Looking back, I don’t think it was death I sought. I think it was rest. I so desperately needed healing. To feel alive. And I was all out of ideas and the energy to pursue them. I had quit believing it was possible.

I often wonder if those who take their own lives may have felt the same way. Maybe it wasn’t death they craved. Maybe it was rest.

My plan didn’t work. My lights were out for miles and no one hit me. Where were all the cars that night? I remember screaming and crying – a cry to God that said “I give up.” I continued to drive, lights on, and ended up at my parents’ house back in Bedford. It was 4am by then. I told my mom what happened and she did what good moms do when their daughters tell them they tried to die. She called my old counselor and I ended up in the emergency room and then the mental hospital. I stayed for a week and I met other adults who had also recently done something to end their lives. I was in pain in the deepest way I had ever felt. Pain for me, for them, and for what seemed like a future of more and more suffering. I learned quickly that the only way out of there was by returning to the only thing anyone really thought would work: Prozac and therapy. I was terrified that this would be my life. It was a life where relationships were nearly impossible, a life in which I found no enjoyment.

There are more of these stories, although they didn’t all lead to the hospital. After my oldest son was born – some twelve years later – a new episode was triggered. Unbearable pain. Debilitating symptoms. Inability to care for my son. Deep sadness when I heard him cry but couldn’t get up to help. Shame that I was an imperfect mother. Fear that my husband would leave me because of it. (Spoiler alert: he didn’t.)

Five years ago, after I was about a year into my new job as a CEO, the darkness started haunting me again. A new friend encouraged me to try a different approach. So I went to a different doctor — one who practices something called functional medicine. I told him my story and said I wanted to find a way into the depression to find out what it had to tell me about my body. That I didn’t believe the old solutions really made me well. That even if it didn’t help, I had to try one more time.

And for the first time in what had now become 2 decades of seeking help, someone listened and got curious. He asked, “I wonder what’s going on in your body?Let’s try to understand this together.” He and his nurse listened to my story. They mapped out my symptoms, major life events and other details. They came up with hypotheses about what could be happening and then they tested them through lab work. Instead of making assumptions, they did the work to understand. For this doctor, my symptoms weren’t the end of the story – they were just the prelude to what the really story was. My body gave the doctors all the clues they needed, the clues that had been there all along, running through my veins. Mine was a story of vitamin deficiency, of hormonal imbalances, and of overtaxed organs. It was a story that could be re-written to include a happier ending – an ending where I was alive and well. No more suffering in my own skin.

I’m Prozac-free today after 5 years of this deep inquiry into my body which led to some different approaches. But that’s not the real headline. This isn’t a story about medicine. It is a story about love. The real headline is that for five years, my body continues to thank me for listening to it, trusting it, heeding the advice of a trusted friend, and for being stubborn enough to keep trying.

I read a quote recently: That all growth begins in the dark. Whether it’s a mother’s womb, or a seed in the dirty ground or Jesus in the tomb – all things that grow start their journey in the darkness. My darkness lasted a very long time. 19 years of believing I was broken, defective, unable to live without suffering. For 19 years, I struggled and I missed moments of my kids’ lives and I missed out on my own life and I did it alone because I didn’t want anyone to know I was crazy.

And then, one day – I’ll never forget it. I had been on my new regiment of supplements and my new routine prescribed by my new doc. It was the end of fall. For those of you who suffer from Seasonal Affective Disorder, you understand this time of year is hard. It’s a time of year I had always been depressed, even with meds. On this particular weekend morning, I woke up early, energized. I felt good.I did some work around the house and that afternoon, when I would have normally taken a nap, I wanted to go for a walk. I remember walking around my neighborhood, the sun shining on my face and thinking: I feel really good. I feel alive. I feel happy. Not everything was right with my life, but I was alright. I remember knowing then that I had beat the darkness.

This beating the darkness, this miracle has been possible because a friend noticed I was not OK and offered to help. The miracle is also that I accepted the help. And from there, the help kept coming. For every lab appointment, I had a friend by my side. For every hard day while I was weaning off of my meds, I could call the nurse to talk through it…or my friend and ask for a shoulder to cry on…or my mom and ask for dinner when I couldn’t cook it…or my colleagues to help me with work when I couldn’t make it in that day.

I’m grateful for the help. And I’m grateful for the spirit in me that would not give up — that believed there were answers worth getting. I’m grateful that I didn’t end my life before I found a way to really live.

My message is NOT that functional medicine will solve your problem. It might be a path you want to try, it might not be. My message is NOT that you shouldn’t take meds. Do not misunderstand me. And don’t quit taking your meds without talking to your doc.

My message is THIS: That you are worth asking the very hardest questions about. Even if a doctor doesn’t understand. Especially if a doctor doesn’t understand. You deserve a million helpers who will jump in your corner with you. You deserve the kind of helpers who bring their best work. You are worthy of all the questions you are asking and you must keep asking them until they point you in the direction that is best for you. If you do not feel strong enough to keep pushing, find someone you can trust and ask them to help you push. Do not settle for answers that do not work. Do not settle for doctors who will not look at you as a whole person. Do not settle for being put in a position of not knowing. Because you know.

My message is also: Healing is possible – I think healing might just be inevitable. Even for those of us who have wanted to die. For those of us who couldn’t stand to be in our own bodies. Who have slept for weeks at a time so we wouldn’t have to witness the craziness of our own minds. Those of us who have been secluded, restrained, medicated, shamed. Even for us, there is healing. I know it as well as I know my own name. I know it is true because I have lived it.

Leaving the darkness starts with curiosity about why you feel the way you do. It starts with refusal to believe that you are permanently damned to this way of living and being. It starts with hope that tomorrow doesn’t have to be like today. And it starts with courage just big enough to reach out to someone else and say “I need help – I’m not OK just yet.” All that curiosity and refusal and hope and courage: it becomes love. Love for YOU. Love you can acknowledge from your higher power, from your friends, and maybe even from yourself. And once that love gets you, it won’t let you go.

As you hike today, I want you to make a promise. Perhaps you promise yourself that you will ask for help from someone who is worthy of helping you. Perhaps you promise yourself that you will try again, even though you have tried a hundred times and stalled. You might promise a friend that you will take him to the doctor or pay for her therapy session or call every Friday afternoon to check in. You might even make a promise to God that you will accept forgiveness, that you will come out of the regret and shame you’ve been hiding in, for all the ways you are blaming yourself for the uncle or sister or father you lost to suicide. Because that pain is yours – but the fault is not. It never was.

As you put your feet to the dirt today, consider the promises you must make to change the world. Changing the world starts here. It starts now. The darkness is not an ending, friend. It is just the beginning.

hike for hope 4

Pictured here with event organizers: Tonya Wood Blair (L) and Shannon Jurkus (R)

For more information about hike for hope or to donate to the cause, visit asp.org.
Credits:
Photo by Shannon Jurkus.
Darkness quote by Barbara Brown Taylor as heard on Jen Hatmaker’s podcast interview with Rachel Held Evans.

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A different kind of eyes

“Today, kids, I want you to find one way to be of help to someone else.”

My older brother and I were buckled up in the backseat of our family’s new Dodge Aries K station wagon: light blue with a wood stripe. (OK, who am I kidding? We were sitting unbuckled in the ‘way-back’.) He was in third grade, I was in first grade, and it was the last year we would spend in Henderson, Nevada. My dad’s retirement from the United States Air Force would soon be a reality and we would move to the east coast to be nearer to both sets of grandparents. But for today, we were in our Sunday clothes, on our way to the new church our parents had helped build with other volunteers and church members. As we rode through the flat and sand-colored landscapes, my parents asked us to go into church differently than usual – to be on the lookout for people who might need help and then to help them.

We entered the sanctuary with all the others coming in to worship in the new space they had built together. My brother did his helpful deed right away: he held the door for a couple walking in. Mom went to sing in the choir while my dad, brother and I took our seats in the new pews. To my right was an elderly woman sitting alone. After all the prayers had been sung, the anthems sung, the sermon preached and the offering collected, it was time for the final hymn. The woman next to me seemed to be fumbling and having a hard time finding the right page. This was it! This was my moment! I couldn’t leave this service without helping. I took her hymnal from her, turned to the correct song and handed it back with a smile. She smiled back at me and we all stood to sing together. I looked at my dad like did you catch that? I HELPED!

This morning I saw a clip of a good news story about an 11-year-old girl named Ruby who goes with her mom, Amanda, to her work in nursing homes. She started asking the residents their 3 biggest wishes and she was surprised by their responses. None of their lists included fancy cars, houses or money. They wanted fresh fruit, hygiene products, and the little cans of vienna sausages. This young lady – the same age as my oldest son – started a charity, raised money online, and bought all the items the residents had wished for. She returned to the nursing home to deliver the goods – stacked in boxes on a wheelchair which she used as her cart. The residents were overwhelmed with gratitude as Ruby had met some of their most basic human needs: the need to be remembered, to be cherished. And my guess is that Ruby learned the same thing I learned in that new church building 32 years ago: that we are sufficiently equipped to meet the needs that our neighbors are brave enough to make known. Being a helper is not only for grown-ups or for the richest or for the strongest among us. It is for all of us. Right now.

In the midst of my eyes welling up over Ruby’s work, my mind went straight back to my parents’ words to me: Find a way to help. Use your eyes to see more than just what this world has for you. Use your eyes to see someone else.

In honor of my parents on this Palm Sunday, I gave my kids the same encouragement while they were buckled in the backseat of my car: Use your eyes to see others. Look for ways to help. {AND PLEASE GOD WHEN MY KIDS LOOK BACK AT OLD PHOTOS DON’T LET MY ACURA BE AS UNCOOL AS MY PARENTS’ DODGE, AMEN}.

The land

The land where my brother is buried
next to him my father
next to him my grandfather
grandmother
and one day my mother:
is sacred.

Haunting and hoping at once
my feet are stuck to the ground
then my knees
my forehead.
I bow close to the ground and examine all that grows from it.

Wild mosses and weeds next to
shrubs planted by the still-living, the mourners.

My eyes lift. I see that I am actually quite high.
We buried them on a mountain. Yes.

Poetry is my portable sacred ground,
a space to lay all that lives and dies in me.
I lay it there so that I need not carry it anymore; or
because I cannot carry it anymore.
or: because when it is on the pages, I can see
just exactly what it was I carried
and how.

Ashes, I will become ashes,
scattered here, lighter than air
and then: it will be me who is carried.
high – carried high.

 

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Drawing the Tummy

As the third anniversary of my dad’s passing approaches, I share this poem written just days after his death. It is an account of how my children processed their new reality without grandaddy Jimmy. The most poignant moments were the moments with them: telling them the truth, holding space for their sadness and questions and love and truth. 

Drawing the Tummy

Grandaddy is dead.
I told them, he died.  I’m so sorry.

One son threw up.
Yes, I thought.  That is how this feels.

Details, mom.  How?

Middle of the night.  Up to get decaf coffee and pee.
Grandma held the coffee for him so it wouldn’t spill.
He collapsed.  Stiff, he fell to the floor.
Grandma spilled the coffee.

She called the helpers and they came.
She called me.  I went.

His heart had stopped beating, the heart they had just fixed.
Something was wrong that couldn’t be mended.
Tired, worked so hard, finished.

All of our bodies will stop one day.

I’m glad he was home.
I’m glad we were near.

The kids made papers for his casket—for him to carry to the other side.
Older son wrote a note.  Younger son drew a picture.

Note from older son: Funeral logistics.
We will have a funeral.  I will go.
You will be in a casket.
A church, a graveside, dress up clothes.

Picture from younger son:  The scene.
A birds-eye view of the bedroom and how he imagined it looked.
A bed.  Grandaddy. Blood splattered.  No coffee.

“Is it OK to draw the tummy?”

How does he know that even in our final scene we may not want to look as fat as we really are?
How does he know this?

“Yes, son.”  It is ok to draw the tummy.
To tell the truth.

We tucked those papers in, sent him away.
Dotted lavender on his head, on the place that had ached so badly.

I looked at his face.  Last time.

March 2016

 

Your Picture

I ran the tip of my pointer finger
across the dusty glass, the once shiny square cover laid to rest
in a wooden frame too intricate for the
photo it held
of you.

You were smaller then – scrunched up,
holding your stuffed fish friend
Superhero t-shirt
Athletic shorts
Velcro shoes.
You were three. A new brother.

I captured you just as you scooted your back end from
the wooden platform
to the plastic part of the slide
Ready to descend down the curvy yellow plastic
into the muddy yard – the yard that had more grass
Before the slide, before you.

Over and over you climbed and you descended –
up the stairs, down the slide. Every time
holding your friend, every time
smiling.

I wonder now: was it the top you loved most –
or the bottom – or the trip up or down?
Or was it that you got to hold on to something?
Was it that someone was watching you –
noticing you, holding this moment in time?
What was it that made you smile
that beautiful fall day
under the stinky pear tree?

Now, here it is – the threshold moment, needing to be dusted.
Placed on my piano next to my fiddle. I see you
again and again when I go to do my own playing.
Scrunched up just like you.

Losing Season

Maybe all of life is a losing season.
We start and we build, we want to hold on to
Love, connection, tribal belonging
Babies and husbands and flower beds
Talent. Discipline. Improvement.
We play instruments, run races, write papers.
Try to be a good daughter.
It all matters—it all feels like it matters so much.
We send our kids outside to build independence.
We tell them to watch for cars so that they don’t get killed.
But they will.
They will—and it all goes away.
Every day a cat dead or a dog lost. A friend with a cough, a lump, a feeling.
A tree loses its leaves. Over and over again.
iPad left in the rain—the last remnant I had
of my father’s voice, of his face when he looked at my sons.
Gone.
Losing him was one thing. Losing those sounds—those ghost
Sounds. Feels unbearable.

Basketball season a total loss—except the last game
We beat the only other team that had lost all their games
And this does not feel like winning.
Baseball season a total loss. All the games lost.
And still my son walks off the field bright-eyed
And smiling. He got to play.
He got to take a swing. He got to throw pitches. He got to get runners out on first.
He is thrilled. He is muddy.
He’s on the team. The team for which there weren’t even any tryouts.
This is not an accomplishment by any stretch of an American’s imagination.
Maybe it isn’t accomplishment he seeks.
Maybe it is something else.

These legs, I train them—to run fast, to run a long time, to run up hills without stopping.
I’ll lose them. One day they won’t run anymore. They won’t carry me.

My husband, I talk to him and I listen. We sit together and we build
something between us. One day we won’t exist anymore as the two of us.
There will be one of us, or none of us. Where will it go—what we’ve built?

What will outlast the losing?

It all falls down? All of it?

Or is there a trace? Is there a shadow—something
at the end that shows where you once stood,
where you once breathed,
where you once slept and cried and prayed.
Your voice as it was when you were tiny
and when you were new to love
and when you had seen it all—where will the voices be kept?

 

Passing

I drove by.

The place where I ate the greasy burger
before giving birth to my youngest son.

The place my granddaddy took my brother and me when we were little
and said a quiet prayer to bless our hot dogs and milkshakes.
Orange booth seat secured to the floor, awkward distance
to the table for my young body.

The place where—driving past—I saw a man who could
have been my dad.
Patting his round belly; lifting himself
into his pickup truck. Toothpick
in gritted teeth.

Where everyone inside looks like someone who could
be at my family reunion.

Side of the highway. The only decent hot food between the city and my
quiet hometown for many generations.

I continued past,
remembering those tastes, tasting them
again, briefly, long enough to
understand it wasn’t what I needed
on this day.

Neither did I need to unwrap my food
from paper; to eat it in the car, handheld, fast,
messy, unconscious: meal over and barely satisfied.

I continued on
to the Asian café.
Warm washing towel—yes.
Hot tea meticulously prepared and poured.
Fermented soup.
Rice steamed and vegetables barely cooked.
Ice cold water.
Slow. Attention to each bite. The waitress’
face—a face my dad, granddad, perhaps even my brother
wouldn’t have accepted
food from. Too hard—the war, the either/or.

Not all things are worth passing down.

As monuments topple and people cling,
I see the space my ancestors have left behind:
Space I can move through, disloyal
to the once-living
loyal to the now-living (including me)
and the next-living. My children. Theirs.

The eclipse has passed too: sun covered
and uncovered. Within a time brief enough
to see in between meals. The darkness
came and went. The sun will pass too—

It’s only a star—
one placed just close enough to sustain
life, far enough away not to burn.
It’s our star
and we forget that it, too, and we
will end.

The mint comes at the end of the meal
with the check—the amount owed
for all
the service, the food: all grown
from the sun, the earth, our ancestors.

Some things are worth passing down. Yes.
And so we pass.

picking up pieces: a poem

Before you pick up those pieces
Stop.

Sit down with them.
Hold them.

Touch the edges
rough
ragged
dusty

Like they aren’t broken at all.

Examine them
shiny and dull
smooth and sharp

Like they aren’t broken at all.

Before you sweep them up
And throw them out
And tell the children to watch their step
And forget them

See the shape they make in the
sprawl
a solar system in the floor
life on each planet piece:
the big bang

theory: they aren’t broken at all.

 

Letting yourself have what you have (or, the difference between heaven and hell.)

“You will find yourself on death’s doorstep one day. It’ll happen. There will come a moment in your life—and you don’t know when—and you will be about to pass from this realm.”

I was sitting at a retreat at a yoga center in the mountains of Massachusetts. Autumn was beginning to show off. The air had just turned crisp and chilly and the leaves on the trees were starting to turn—some had rushed to turn their brightest colors and others were hanging on to their green. I had come here to hear an author speak. An author whose books I ran across by accident and which have become quite meaningful to me as part of my health and self-care journey.

She had come down from the mini-stage where she sat for most of her talk and she was walking among us—about 200 women in yoga pants holding hot cups of tea and journals—and she was telling us a story about a time she thought she was about to die. She reminded us we’d all find ourselves in that day—that day where death is closer than ever.

She summarized the countless studies that have been done on end-of-life regrets. What do people most regret when they are near death? Over and over people keep saying that the things they regret most are that they were not more present for the life they already had. They don’t wish they had worked more or traveled more… they don’t wish for more anything really—they wish they had actually just shown up for the life they’d already been given.

She asked us to write down the things we’d regret if today were that day. If today I found out I had hours to live, what will I wish I had done more of? I thought about what I really love. The real pleasures of being in this body that I have on this earth where I’ve been planted. Here’s what I wrote:

Place my cheek against my kids’ cheeks and feel the softness of their skin.
Look—really look at my husband, especially in his eyes (he has beautiful eyes.)
Rub and smell the dog’s fur.
Run fast.
Write the stories that are in me.
Cook beautiful, tasty food.
Laugh with my friend.

beandog

Bean-dog made the list!

Listen to beautiful music.
Let my mom know I love her.

She asked us what we noticed about our lists.

What I noticed about mine was that it didn’t have anything on it that I keep thinking I want –the things that take up lots of mind-space (to be thinner, stronger, to travel more, to make more money, to get recognition, to be better at music than I really am…) What I noticed about my list was that it was full of everything that I already have. What I noticed about my list was that I already have everything that I really want.

She asked us a few times during the retreat: What will having what you think you want give you that you don’t already have? Stated differently: What will (being thinner, traveling more, making more money, etc.) actually give you of any value that you don’t already have?

This was not an exercise in gratitude. It was not an exercise in feeling bad or guilty for not being a better wife or mother or daughter. It was not an exercise burdened by any value judgments or criticism.

This was an exercise in noticing: Noticing what you really want and noticing what you already have.

The noticing led me to a deeper understanding that I already have everything I want. I wondered, then, about my times of discontent. Perhaps when I am dissatisfied or suffering, it is not because I really lack something. Perhaps I am suffering because I am not letting myself have what I already have.  Suffering, perhaps, is not noticing what is already there, not really showing up.

“Hell is wanting to be somewhere different from where you are.” (Stephen Levine as quoted by Geneen Roth.)

Where do I encounter hell?
The grocery store, for one. And if I’m honest, the rushed evenings at home after work: dinner, homework, baths, bedtime….

I can go to the grocery store and try to get through it as quickly as is humanly possible because ohmygod why are all these people so slow and unable to navigate aisles? Or I can go to the grocery store and notice the abundance of food available to me, notice my own abundance that I have enough money to feed my family.

I can yell at my kids to take their baths, do their homework, go to bed. Or I can run the bath water and hear how it sounds and feel it running on my hands. I can see my kids’ bodies in that bathtub and how they’ve grown. I can hear them splashing. I can smell their skin as its drying.

You get the picture.

I can get through life wishing I were somewhere else or I can live life. I can constantly try to jump ship or I can really inhabit the body I was given and the moment I’m in and the speck of earth where I’ve landed.

I can drop my attachment to all the things I think I’ll get when I get the things I think I want. I can drop the story about how things will be better when I weigh a little less or earn a little more. I can notice what’s right in front of me, what’s in me right now.

Right now? I’m writing the stories that are in me while I sit next to my dog. Birds are singing outside. My tea is warm. My body feels pretty good. I’m fairly certain my kids made it safely to school. There is breath in my body. I’m awake, present.

But what if your moment right now sucks? What if right now your moment is that the person beside you is sick and dying? What if right now you are sadder than you’ve ever been? What if right now your kids didn’t make it to school safely?

You can be present for that too. Regrets aren’t about the deck of cards you got dealt. Regrets are about not having been present for your life. When your life feels good and when your life feels bad. When you are faced with beauty and when you are faced with what feel like unbearable circumstances. For all of it, you can be present. You can, in the words of the author at the retreat, “come home to yourself” (Roth).

What an invitation.

I read a meditation once that said: “The divine lives in you, as you.” It resonated with me and matched what I’d learned early in my Christian faith: that God abides in me, that my body is a temple of God’s spirit. If that is true, then coming home to yourself is coming home to God. Being present in this body, on this earth, in this moment is communing with the one who made you. It is the highest spiritual practice. It is perhaps, the place you’ll find peace. Can you imagine that?

 

Where did I see God today? (a poem for the pre-occupied)

I recently started a new kind of spiritual discipline.  It is the (almost) daily practice of taking a few moments to ask and ponder the simple question: Where did I see God today?  Where did I hear him?  Feel him?  It has been a way for me to come back to a simple gratitude without the standard, “I’m thankful for…”  It helps me remember that God was there all along–that in the hardest moments, in the brightest ones, I was not alone.  Most days, I remember.  Most days I remember the moments I felt the presence of the eternal.  In a song.  A look on my child’s face.  A breeze.  Today, as I sat down to reflect, something different came forth–a realization that all the times he must have been nearby I was nowhere to be found.  I was the one who didn’t show up.  My head was swimming with thoughts of the past, the future.  So preoccupied with what could be, I failed to see what was.   I took myself so far out of the present that I seemed to not notice the Presence.

Where did I see God today?

Was he in the sunshine that warmed my skin
as I sat still on the park bench
stewing about the work inside the building across the field?

Was he in the faces across the table –
All the many tables that held my elbows up
In the difficult conversations today?

Was he in the food on my plate:
The bread and the greens and the cheese,
The glass of water?

Was he in my breath? The few, short, shallow breaths?
Was he in my tears? The ones that waited for home to come forth?
Was he in my children tonight?

Where did I see God today? Where was he?

Was he as there as everyone says he is? Can you feel alone with him beaming down on you? Can you feel trapped when the creator of freedom is on your plate?

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