In the mornings, I read a short meditation from the Unity Church publication Daily Word, a habit acquired years ago from watching Mom do it, although like all practices that are good for me, pulling me into relationship with a more expansive view of my purpose on this earth, I am far from consistent. Years have gone by when I’ve forgotten about the simplicity of beginning the day grounding myself in even such simple (some might say simplistic) affirmations as these few sentences. I am always the better for any precious seconds I spend attending to my spiritual well-being. The challenge of being an incarnate soul is that the physical, time-bound world just demands so damn much attention. There’s laundry and traffic, politics and paperwork, and a million little decisions about what to eat or which route to take or whether we can afford this or that. How can it be that we can feel such deep peace and love in our souls at times, yet live in a continual state of chaos, forgetting that bedrock foundation?
This morning’s Daily Word began “Today I consider the path that has brought me to this moment. Looking back at past situations, I now see that seemingly insurmountable obstacles held rich new opportunities to my Christ self to guide my every choice.” As an aside, I should clarify the difference between my interpretation of “Christ self” and anything to do with Jesus, the man, or Jesus, God incarnate. Christ I understand here (shout out to theologian Richard Rohr, whose daily email meditations I also receive, and who has written much about Christ-as-energy this week) as non-denominational, not owned by any sect or religion and not exclusive to Jesus, a thirty-three year old carpenter from a little town in the Middle East. Rather, it is shorthand for universal love, the dynamic, living energy that animates all existence and Big Banged us into eternally interconnected existence, bound to each other by our transcendent impulses: love, joy, creativity, compassion, generosity. (Also: carbon and physics.) This conception of “Christ” is what arose within Buddha as he meditated under his Ficus reliogiosa. It’s the deep font of wisdom that informed great Jewish thinkers from Maimonedes to Elie Weisel. It’s the radical love and social progressivism embodied by Jesus, and the creative force that animated Michelangelo as he lay on his back, paint and sweat clouding his vision, forging the beauty of the Sistene Chapel. It’s that almost imperceptible breeze that sometime lifts a few hairs on your head and inexplicably opens your heart to something so rich and profoundly connective that tears spring to your eyes and you can hardly express why. I don’t know how to square the power and beauty of this Christ Spirit with the depravity and corruption done in the name of the human being Jesus over the millenia, except to say that churches and religions are as imperfect as the humans who created and compose them, and it’s folly to suggest otherwise.
I don’t know if you’re still with me after that digression, but after reading the first sentence of this morning’s Daily Word, I closed my eyes to actually do the assignment, i.e. consider the path that has brought me to this moment: Two weeks away from my fifty-ninth birthday, newly sidelined by a single misstep last Monday. My world is reduced to my kitchen armchair, knees propped on a pillow with a bruise the size of a football on my thigh, awaiting MRI results that will unveil the truth of what’s actually happening inside my own body (I feel I should know with more certainty than I do), a tendon or perhaps two detached from my ischial tuberosity, floating somewhere under my ample thigh flesh, or perhaps (I hope), still attached, but frayed and tenuous, slamming me down into this suddenly sedentary existence. As I considered the question, images of myself played across the screen of my mind: A montage of the past two years, essentially since the 2016 presidential election, spinning ever faster, like a broken clock: from Nia classes to writing to building a business to strength training to dog walking, with frequent stops at my pantry door, where I scan the shelves for anything sufficiently crunchy to suppress the urgency that roils in me.
In an instant, it came to me: I’ve been running from my own broken heart.
It’s broken because I miss my kids, even as I thrill to see them go out into to the world and forge their lives, authentic, creative, brave, struggling, growing. But damn, it’s hard to go for months without seeing them in the flesh. I just love ‘em so. I miss their laughter, their music, their amazing minds and big hearts.
Broken because I’ve been called on to do so much caretaking, with people dear to me experiencing grave health challenges with uncertain outcomes.
Broken from visiting people at McLean Hospital so often that the environment came to feel almost ho-hum. Yet the parade of suffering was always profoundly moving: the human condition at its most vulnerable–wounded minds, fractured hearts, spirits at a loss.
Broken because I have been pulled back into childhood feelings of disempowerment and confusion, caretaking where distortions rule and everyone acts as if it’s all normal and good, and as long as you look attractive and are successful in worldly ways, we’re all okay, when in fact we are a big old (if well-intentioned) mess.
Broken because our parents are fragile, needing us to soothe their fears about losses and declines inevitable at their life stage, and truly, there’s little we can do except listen. We lost John’s mom in November, and of course, more such passings lie ahead, whether in years or decades. It’s a weird fact to sit with on a daily basis. The unremitting anxiety of being 80-or-90-something-years-old for the person living it is wholly understandable and fitting, and yet, I feel guilty to admit: it’s a buzzkill to be around. (My parents would agree…)
Broken because marriages I admired have erupted into astonishing hostility, dissolving like sugar in boiling water.
Broken by the continual evidence of mankind’s capacity for corruption and arrogance, embodied in so many men that it takes my breath away: from Trump to Harvey Weinstein, R. Kelly, Larry Nassar, Bill Cosby. Catholic priests abuse children, women and nuns; prep school teachers assault students; boys at parties, in frats or clubs, on teams, in dorms fail to understand (or worse yet, fail to comply) when they are being denied consent—if I listed them all, this post would be Nile-length and I’d have to update it hourly. How can it be, with the overwhelming evidence of the capacity of men in power to abuse women, LGBTQ people of all genders, people of color, or any other disenfranchised group, that our culture continues to shame the people who call them on it? Time and time again, “we” accept Man’s “categorical denial,” buy into his sense of outrage at being accused of harms he may not or may not have intended, but caused nonetheless. Just this Friday, New England Patriots owner Bob Kraft, a Boston celebrity, “categorically denied” paying for sex when caught in a sex-trafficking sting where the police report videotape evidence of 200 men engaged in the sleaze, including Mr. Kraft. The system works for these abusers every time we affirm their blustering demurrals without scrupulous, disinterested examination. Is it any wonder victims of sexual assault or gender-based harassment don’t feel safe coming forward?
Broken because so many people seem to admire bullying as strength, believe mendacity is justified (unless the other team is doing the lying), and think patriotism is a club to be used against fellow Americans.
Broken because people who are black and brown continue to be systemically oppressed in a country purporting to prize liberty and justice for all. Hate thrives where selfless love might heal. We owe these people of color an apology, for crap’s sake. I’ll give mine right now: I apologize to you for all the ways in which I am insensitive, clueless, blind to my own prejudices or privilege, participate in systems that oppress you in ways large and small, feel threatened by what I don’t understand or even see about your culture or experiences, misinterpret, fear, misjudge, look away, overcompensate or in any way think/feel/behave/believe/that you are less than I am, or treat you that way.
Broken because people are struggling and poor, children go hungry, families can’t afford to visit the doctor, schools crumble…in these United States, the most affluent country in the free world. Watching certain media outlets, you’d think our problem is lazy, greedy teachers, and not the astonishing gap in power, access, and capital that has opened up over the last two decades between big money and everyone else.
Broken because people are estranged by technology, and our arrogance and self-absorption undermines the health of our planet (not to mention, our social fabric. I’ll put that on my list of future posts). We separate ourselves from nature, as if our species somehow stands outside it–one day we’ll all have microchips in our brains and bionic joints anyway, so who cares if we burn the house down, we humans seem to think. Well, here’s the news heading heatedly our way: we are not the boss of Mother Nature.
BROKEN because so much beauty and health, goodwill and transformation is possible, just beyond our grasp, if only we’d discipline ourselves to look for intergration versus separation, expansion versus contraction, love versus fear; to set the highest standards for our care of this world and all that is in it: flora, fauna, and human, seen and unseen, friends and enemies (as Jesus the man insisted, by the way). These are all the reasons why my heart has been broken. In my steadfast yet blinkered optimism, I have been running away from the realization as fast as I can. Until Monday, when I pitched forward onto my left leg and my hamstring emphatically declared: JUST STOP RUNNING.
So this morning, with the Daily Word app open on my cellphone, my ass aching on an icepack, I felt the tears of all that broken-heartedness welling up inside me.
You know: It was a relief.
If anything, the sensation of grief renews my determination to choose positivity. I have just this one life, for all I know, incarnate in a human body. Every moment counts, every choice is a gift, every thought and word has consequences, and everything I imagine creates some kind of reality. It takes vigilance to ride my feelings of rage, fear, loss, accepting that they are with me and legitimate, yet nonetheless: continually choosing faith and hope.
Step by halting step, that’s my path.