Wanted: Fire Walking Lessons
Contrary to what we may think or wish, healing during times of physical or emotional illness is a loud, raucous, even painful process. You may want a straight shot upward to wellness, all sunny skies, butterflies and fields of wildflowers. Forget it! It is a process of rediscovery, of shedding old skin and old habits, of escaping traps and safe routines. It is necessarily painful. Memories are buried deep under your skin, so deep they've taken up residence in organs, it seems. Now they've come to the surface, a raw surface to be sure, so that you can look at them clearly and say goodbye or stay.
And here we are.
December in the northern hemisphere---when nights are long as we wait for the birth of the sun on the 22nd to begin the march back to light---is usually a quiet, contemplative time. This year has been different. It feels more like a giant nightmare. I imagine that for some we are on the cusp of something better (the ends justify the means), and for others, we are on the edge of democratic crises as we've never seen, at least, not all at the same time. Writers and journalists have expressed so clearly the time we are in. Every day I read something new that fills me with both dread and fire. If you care, you cannot and do not want to escape it.
Five years ago at the height of illness, I wrote about facing the darkness and walking through fire to reach a life of good health and about the small trials of my daily life and the lives of people I knew. Now that my health has improved, I'm faced with other changes (and it's all just change, isn't it?): getting older, changing jobs, preparing for eventual old age (if I make it), finding a place to call home, and being closer to family.
My views have changed, but one idea hasn't. What are those things that we must do as the trade-offs to keep the thing that feeds the deepest part of us? This is still true, but I cannot bring myself to write about doing what I'm called to do or the day-to-day challenges of work, health and finances (not quite yet) without thinking they don't matter among the larger concerns today. I have disappeared, as it turns out, and am holding on to a moment. I am slowly coming to a livable place of reading news after writing and working and staying informed and involved while living with feet on the ground. My students, people around me and I deserve that much. We matter. Our days matter somehow.
Today, which attitudes or habits have to be transformed to have a realization as a person, community, country, and world? Who are we? What do we stand for?
Richard Bausch, a great short story writer and former prof of mine, once asked in class: what is the loudest sound in your story? That's not the story. The story is what happens because of that sound.
We've heard a loud sound. It seems as if we are already in a state of growing realization of how powerful or not we can be. We are in darkness with awareness just as at night, we lie sleepless in bed, gnawing our fears and wrestling them to the ground until light arrives and with it, solutions and a little solace. Soon we will walk through fire together. And THAT will be our story, People.