Gratitude Blossoms

gratitudeblossomOver the past week I’ve felt more vulnerable than I ever have before. I feel cracked open, and I’m not sure I’ll ever really close up again, not that I was very closed before. And maybe that’s a good thing. Being a parent is the greatest gift I’ve ever known, and in one way it’s also the most awful. Because if you’re honest, you know that there is no way you can protect your child every moment of every day. And there’s no way to guess how long you, yourself, have. Elizabeth Stone has a quote, “Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” And even if you don’t have children, you either accept that life is an undertaking that makes you vulnerable, or you live in delusion.

We’ve all had incredible bliss at one time or another. Heart-opening love, and joy and absolute delight. And most of us have experienced the loss of those things as well. When we’re young, we define certain endings as “heartbreaks”, and sometimes age and experience teach us those were really just Junior Varsity versions of actual heartbreaks. Profound loss puts everything into perspective. We really spend so much time and energy focusing on stuff that is truly, absolutely meaningless. Somebody said something, or did something, and we boil ourselves and become fixated. Hours might go by, days even. That’s time you can never have back. There is no rollover plan for wasted moments, they are simply wasted, lost, gone.

You cannot live in fear, that’s a sickness. It’s a soul-sickness. Because the heart can’t open and the love can’t flow if you are in the grip of despair. Of trying to control or manage or predict or manipulate. The things you hold most dear can be ripped away from you, senselessly, violently, without warning. Or slowly, painfully, with warning and with the heart-wrenching reality that you cannot stop it no matter what you do, or how you hope or pray. This is the truth of the thing, and I will not pretend otherwise. So how to live? I worked this one out in the months after I had my first, my son. Just a couple of weeks before his birth, my dog, my very best friend for a decade, died suddenly, violently, and without warning in a matter of hours one sunny morning. I watched six people try to save him on a cold metal table, while he stared at me and they did chest compressions like they do on people. To no avail. I miss him every day, and I try to dwell on all the years before and not those awful, final moments. A couple of weeks later, I was on the cold metal table, having a labor that was full of fear, and panic, and alarms going off, and nurses running in and a respiratory team waiting, and it resembled nothing, nothing like what I had envisioned or worked toward. There were moments when I was not sure either of us would make it. There’s a saying in Swahili, “At the moment of birth, the mother’s grave opens for a moment.” I relate to that, although I had a much easier time with my second.

Anyway, I was in love in the way you can be only when you look into the eyes of your child. But I felt the tremendous vulnerability of the thing weighing on me. And I couldn’t, nor did I want to, push it away. For awhile, I struggled with how to open to the reality of a love like this, and the understanding that nothing is promised. And I realized the doorway to living and breathing and rejoicing and receiving was gratitude. However long I have to open to love, let me celebrate it. Let me say thank you and thank you and thank you a million times, every moment of every day. You let the reality of the thing harden you and close you, or you allow it to soften you and open you and inspire you to not miss any opportunity to love.

I am so hopeful we can make this world a safer, more loving and peaceful place for our children, and for ourselves. I’m hopeful about it because I know from my own personal experience, making your inner world a loving place to be is doable. It’s not easy, it takes work and a willingness to sit with your pain and find the path toward healing that will work for you. It feels to me like enough people are starting to realize that anything else leads to violence. If we aren’t loving ourselves, we’re rejecting ourselves. That’s a violent act. And pain inside leads to pain outside, just like love inside leads to love outside. We don’t need everyone, although it would surely be nice. We just need enough people to start to tip the scale. And I feel like we’re getting closer. If you need help, support, love, if there’s anything I can do, let me know and I will try. You can practice yoga with me on-line if you aren’t local. I’ll give you a coupon to try it for free if you want to…practicing yoga transformed me and my life, and that’s one thing I can share. I want my children to grow up in a world where people lend a hand, an ear, a shoulder, whatever they’ve got. I’m sending you so much love. Ally

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