The girl with the bowl in her lap

I have a big dream I have been holding deep in my heart. Over the last year or so I have been holding the possibility of that dream coming true. I have been getting used to the fact that maybe, just maybe, it will all work out afterall and that my story about dreams this big being for other people will finally get blown to smithereens.

This year has been one of deep rest. After declaring my dream and putting some things in motion, I have mostly been in a lull. There are lots of reasons for that lull–some logical and some that look stubbornly like fear. But mostly, my life has needed tending in the way that my overgrown garden needed tending this week. And also, even more importantly, I have needed to learn about mystery.

I am a planner. Every project I tackle with ferocity and strategy. I break things down into doable steps–I make lists. I throw myself in knowing full well how the completion of each step leads to the successful engagement with the next one. But somehow, when it comes to figuring out how I am going to rearrange my life and my finances to follow my path and learn how to heal, I have been at nothing short of a loss.

For much of the last year, this stuckness has been a source of frustration for me. I wish I could explain how many tears I cried for lack of knowledge of what to do next. How I beat myself up for my lack of movement. How I bemoaned my own stuckness. Like a horse tethered to a post for the first time I bucked and pulled and kicked and wore myself out. Until one moment, when frustrated and exhausted from all the suffering I was broken and just gave up–or maybe I gave in.

Something deep inside me, my inner wise woman, my intuition, tells me that this process is part of the curriculum. That maybe, just maybe, the lesson here for me is about not knowing what comes next and be willing to surrender everything, even the dream itself to faith that everything is unfolding exactly as it should. The learning how to “not know how” is the lesson.

I have a meditation which I have been settling into. I imagine myself climbing up on top of my mountain and sitting peacefully with a bowl in my lap. And I imagine that everything I need to know, or find, or discover will appear in my bowl unbidden.

This runs counter to everything I have always believed about how one makes their dreams come true, this slow, trusting, almost passive way of waiting. Its a lot like being pregnant. You take your vitamins, you eat well and drink your water, you sleep a lot and you wait to birth a miracle. It feels like nothing is happening and yet everything is happening efficiently and without conscious effort.

This weekend I have some steps to take. I have forms to fill out, even though I am not sure that they really matter. I have some shots to get, even though I am not sure I will actually need them. I am taking these steps because they are in front of me without any attachment that they will lead anywhere and without any knowledge of what comes next. I will do them simply because I am not sure what else to do and I am willing to just do what I can and surrender to whatever comes next, even if that is more waiting or profound disappointment or maybe just maybe a blossoming in the most unexpected way.

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Memorial day weekend found me on the nature path with Norah, my friend’s 5 year old daughter. We had read a pamphlet about how to tell the difference between the vegetation eaten by rabbits and deer. By looking at the angle of how the leaves and branches are broken, we could tell whether bunnies or Bambis had wandered through. It was fun to stoop down and walk that path with that new perspective.

Every few feet we would proclaim: Rabbit! Rabbit! More Rabbits! Deer!

I never realized how broken the forest is. She looks so lush and full but close down, she is trampled and snapped and broken.

She is a mama, giving it all to feed her babes. Stripped of her sweetest leaves, her most tender branches. She willingly offers them up to keep life living. But she looks so whole, so put together, so complete. if it wasn’t for the looking so closely, we would have thought she was bursting forth with green, overflowing with abundance. We wouldn’t have known about the broken parts. Yet, there, in the shadows, if we look closely we see it, stripped branch after stripped branch. Little bare and frazzled parts. All because she cared. She offered herself up.

We too are mothers broken out of that same love. To the outside we may appear completely complete, all together. But we are frayed and frazzled and stripped of our most tender leaves. We give everything to nurture those we love. We give because we can. We open ourselves up to be chewed up: By our children, by our spouses, by our friends. We bear it because because we exist for them.

But all that giving, well it leaves us a bit broken. Most of us would never trade it for any price. We love to love, even though it leaves us a bit frayed. And selfishly we do it because we know.

We know what I saw is also true. That those bushes that were broken last week, are growing stronger. Where one branch was sheared, two strong supple green stems have appeared.

We allow ourselves to be broken, because it feeds our loved ones. We allow ourselves to be broken because it can push us to grow in new directions. We allow it because it is part of being human, of being a woman, of being love personified.

Sometimes I think it is as much hard work to be divorced as it is to be married. Both require that you come in close intimate contact with your worst and your best selves.

I have my stories that I tell about why my marriage ended. They are all true. But they are not entirely complete. Until recently I found it convenient to leave out many of the bits about all I did to stress that relationship. I leave them out because its uncomfortable to admit these things. I leave them out because that means I can pretend that my divorce is something that happened to me, instead of something I actively created. Its easier and neater to be the victim, the good wife who got left. I suppose its an easier and simpler story to tell it.

Secretly though I have owned those ugly stories. I had to. I knew my divorce would be a whole heap of pain for nothing if I didn’t at least explore them, didn’t at least explore all the ways we got to this place and ask myself, what I could possibly learn.

For years at night I would wake up unable to sleep, the litany of all the things I had done to destroy what I loved so dearly running through my mind. There were nights I blamed myself. I fixated on my temper, my impatience, my resentment. There were other nights I railed against the injustice. Sure I was difficult, but it was no reason to leave me. Sure I could be a pain in the ass, but lets talk about what he did to provoke it! Some nights I wallowed in how wrong I was, others in how right I was.

And then one day I gave up with all this need to be right (and wrong). I simply was. It dawned on me that there is no right or wrong in something as complicated as marriage. There are just two wounded people, doing the very best they can. We bump up against each others sharp bits. We cause pain. We hurt. We soothe each other, delight each other, bore each other, infuriate each other. We push buttons–either by accident or on purpose. Sometimes we come through it. Sometimes we simply cannot stay. At very best we can hope to learn something from each other from all these interactions. We can gain some wisdom about ourselves. We might chose to stay the same,or chose to grow and change. There is no right or wrong, no fault or blame to be doled out. It just is. And in that recognition is a world of freedom and forgiveness.

The minute I stopped with the blame, I began to forgive–not just Juan, but myself for all that had transpired. Knowing that we were two people just trying to do our best, failing miserably every day, getting up and trying again, suddenly made it all redeemable.