About Me

 

 The greatest thing we can do is to show up for our lives and not be ashamed.

 -Anne Lamott

 

I'm a creature of the word, learning to tell my honest story.

I offer it here because telling stories is the road back home.

Motherhood is not a biological designation
Search This Blog
Books that shifted paradigms
Walking Barefoot on Facebook
Login
« People who climb down into the hole with you | Main | My first marriage is over »
Sunday
Mar062016

Holding space

"Loss transforms perspective.  

The pain of loss can be staggering.  

This means we must focus our attention on the present moment, scanning its particular delights even if from an emotional distance.  

In severe seasons of heartache, we are asked to protect and care for ourselves

like vulnerable children taking a childlike delight in the tiny joys of life."

-Julia Cameron, Transitions: Prayers and Declarations for a Changing Life

 

I read this passage this morning, and called a close friend going through terrible loss.  

I know it's likely too much for her to answer phone calls, so I've been leaving her messages throughout these awful days, of my thoughts, and prayers, and love.  I want her to know she is not alone, that I am thinking of her always, even though we live far away and I cannot show up at her door to hold her.

I do not have a holy "me too" to give her. I have not experienced the grief she is walking through.  But the griefs I have known have opened up before me like a limitless abyss, and I can guess she is staring into that same inky black darkness.

I know the vertigo that happens when you stare into the great black hole of loss, when you know all you have to do is lean in to the void, and you will become the void, and that will mean you don't have to feel anything anymore, and that seems like a very blessed release.

I called my friend and told her I know words are inadequate, and that I know she is staring into the void, and that today I wanted to offer her my very inadequate and tiny view, like a child would, of where I was sitting in the room when I called her.

I described my sheepskin rug and the ponytail palm that sits on top of my electric fireplace. I talked about finding my "electricplace" on Craigslist for $75.00 and how I sanded it and painted it white. I described the Diebenkorn poster from the Dallas Museum of Art that I bought at Goodwill for $7.99, and how it hangs next to the two black and white photographs I took of bison in Yellowstone Park.  I talked about the books on the coffee table, and the coffee in my mug with a tiger on it.  I rambled on about the camp chair I brought in from the shed to use as my second accent chair next to my white sofa, that, surprisingly, isn't showing much wear and tear even though it's pummeled daily by dirty child feet.  

I read her a passage from the Julia Cameron book on prayer, and even though I wanted to skip the last part about "taking a childlike delight in the tiny joys of life" because even the suggestion that there were tiny joys right now seemed like the most callous thing I could possibly read, I read the whole thing anyway, and told her I thought the message might be to care for herself gently, to let her world get very small, severely short-sighted, like a child.  That I might call this being present, and that I think it's probably the only way to survive.

 

It's awful when people you love experience the void.

You'd give your anything to make the pain go away, but you know you can't fix it, and it sucks so bad to sit with that feeling of helplessness. It's petrifying.

How can the world become in an instant just entirely too much to handle?  And if it can for them, then it sure as hell can for you.  And there it is.  The awful truth of all of our lives reveals itself: the world truly is entirely too much to handle.  It's hard not to freeze up on the best of days, and now this?  All of our ideas for comfort seem so ridiculously pathetic, insulting almost, and so it seems better to do nothing, and at least not make it any worse than it already is.

How could describing my living room help AT ALL when you've lost what she's lost? 

It doesn't.  My living room description doesn't do jack squat. 

But me calling might do something.  Me, inserting myself, between my loved one and the great awful hugeness of the world.  Me, showing up, even if I have no good ideas for how to make things better.

It's called holding space.


They can't hold the space. It's everything they can do just to keep on breathing.  Just to try not to topple into the vast blackness.  So you do it for them.  You fill the space with your presence.  Even if you feel stupidly small to fill the space; even if you feel like a pipsqueak with a toothpick for a sword.  It's not about you.  

 

She's done it for me, from across the country, in my black void times.

She called with nothing to say, but she called.  I cried, and she cried just as hard.  I held the phone in silence, and she stayed on the line and breathed with me.

And when she could, she bought a plane ticket and she showed up and she cooked me Thai food.

She helped me paint my bedroom orange, and didn't ask me why I needed to do that.

She laid in bed with me and watched weird indie movies and got popcorn in between the sheets.

She wiped my counters clean, and intercepted all my phone calls so I didn't have to pretend I was doing fine. 

 

She pulled me back into the present with her presence.  

She was good to me not because she magically figured out the right thing to do when someone you love is suffering, but because she knew what every child knows who has ever skinned a knee and had it healed with a kiss: we don't need someone to make it better; we just need someone to show up.

 

 


Wild Geese 

You do not have to be good. 
You do not have to walk on your knees 
for a hundred miles through the desert, repenting. 
You only have to let the soft animal of your body 
love what it loves. 
Tell me about despair, yours, and I will tell you mine. 
Meanwhile the world goes on. 
Meanwhile the sun and the clear pebbles of the rain 
are moving across the landscapes, 
over the prairies and the deep trees, 
the mountains and the rivers. 
Meanwhile the wild geese, high in the clean blue air, 
are heading home again. 
Whoever you are, no matter how lonely, 
the world offers itself to your imagination, 
calls to you like the wild geese, harsh and exciting--
over and over announcing your place 
in the family of things.

 

© Mary Oliver. Online Source