On Sunday as I was pulling out of the Trader Joe’s parking lot, the power steering in my new car gave way.
At that moment, I became profoundly aware that I had a car. A car that is transporting me to school every day. A car that allows me to take Max to hockey and to carry a trunk full of groceries home in the heat. My chest, neck and shoulders all began to tighten as I contemplated what the next few days would be like without the use of this precious car. That tightness could have been a springboard to a whole downward spiral of panic.
Instead I used it as a bell. A call to make a different decision. Instead of contemplating its loss–what if I celebrated its presence? This was something I am learning in school. It was a chance to practice. The truth is dwelling on the problem would only have given rise to panic and my panic would not have served me. It would have not helped me solve my problem and was about to cause me a whole world of suffering. So I decided to chose a new practice of gratitude.
I started from where I was. I was able to turn the car using a bit of muscle. I could take it the two miles home. The frozen chicken in the trunk would not melt. I was grateful for that one small detail. I was grateful the whole way home, at every stop light, I noticed how far it had carried me. Whenever panic began to rise in my throat I told myself. “I have a car–a car that serves me well. It is taking me home.” Those words changed the whole way I held my body.
Surprisingly, I was feeling calm when I got home, not in the funk I might take on when my carefully orchestrated reality starts to unravel. I made a phone call to a friend and found myself blessed once again. For I had a friend who would loan me her car for a day or two while my broken one to the shop. I had a way to school and it only required one phone call. How easy!
The next morning, I made a call to the magic auto repair garage in my neighborhood. Milo the Magnificent made a quick decision that the car wasn’t safe and even though they were booked (and it required me to rush out of the house at that minute) they would take my car if I could get it there quickly. He didn’t promise me an answer anytime soon but he wanted to be sure it was off the road and safe at their place until they could take a peak. I may have felt panicked about what the visit to the garage might do to my carefully planned morning schedule but I decided to make a different choice. As I walked into the garage that morning, I declared myself joyful. It was a beautiful morning. I had mechanics who care and my car had given me an excuse for an early morning walk through the neighborhood.
When they called just a few hours later to tell me about the expensive repairs that were looming, I did not despair. Instead I chose to focus on how pleasantly surprised I was that they had looked at it so quickly and grateful that I had cash in the bank. I had a car. I had the cash. I am lucky. Lucky. Lucky.
When I went that afternoon to pick up my car, I didn’t feel tense, sick or even the slightest bit resentful, even though I was handing over hundreds that I hadn’t planned to spend. Instead I felt nothing but gratitude–for the car, the mechanics, the cash.
When my power steering hose (and another belt or two) gave way, I never imagined it would be a gift. It woke me up to a present moment both abundant and blessed.
I have a car.
I have a generous friend.
I have an efficient and fair mechanic.
I have sufficient cash.
The world is beginning to show up new. Full. Rich. I am lucky indeed. I am so grateful for the leaking power steering hose that reminded me of this. Life has showing up as abundance and it took a broken down car to point me to it. I am so glad I can finally see.
This morning I woke up and you were curled up the bottom of my bed, like a puppy, tangled up with the cats. I wonder how much longer this sweetness will last. I don’t care. I will drink it in as long as it lasts.
It is was ten years ago today that you entered this world, ten years ago this morning you lay curled up against my breast. A most marvelous decade, delicious and dreamy and its suddenly passed. It is likely that before the next decade is up you will have moved on–to college or a career, or dreams of your own. It is moments like this that I am thankful for a meditation practice because when I think of the moment that you will be grown, I can lose myself in a kind of future- looking-grief and I don’t want to waste one single moment. And so I breathe, breathe in the sweetness that is you at ten.
This was a big year for you. A year where you faced challenges head on and learned and overcame. You were the new kid on the hockey team. In the beginning you felt lonely but before long you made a world of friends and opened up a world for me too. You survived a bully and made it through the school year with your dignity and your values in tact. You tackled a math class that was two grades ahead and when it got hard I wanted to pull you out but you convinced me to let you stay and you showed me, showed us all you could not only do it–but flourish.
This is the year that someone knocked you out of swimming the backstroke in the A meets. Instead of beating yourself up, you emailed me your plan and asked me to help you. You worked out an extra hour or two each day that week. When you swam it at the B meet, you not only took first place, you not only earned your spot back on the roster, but you had taken three seconds off your time and made backstroke your best stroke. You rose to the occasion.
You rose. You rose so much this year–it was indeed a rising year. You rose to tackle your chores without complaint. You rose to set up the tent and the campsite. You rose in so many ways by facing adversity, sadness and disappointment. And I am so very proud to bear witness to the glorious masterpieces you created from situations that could have stopped you in your tracks.
You and me, we are close in a new way this year my boy. A closeness that comes from facing your challenges together. You are a bell calling me to laughter and courage. You are teaching me every day. I am so happy that you were born. Words cannot describe how deeply I love you, how exponentially more I love you each day.
Ten years ago a whole new universe rose in the sky. You keep rising, like the stars, like the moon, like the sun.
Today I bought a white lab coat, a stethoscope and a blood pressure cuff. I also bought 10 rice paper scrolls and a calligraphy brush. A book a cell biology and ancient Chinese poetry. What a marvelous stew I am simmering in.
I am three days into my program and I am exhausted. I am also elated and excited. I am bumping into walls and learning new things about myself at every turn. Its almost too much to process. I found myself in tears today when a fellow classmate from Korea described that the pictograph for person was two sticks leaning up against one another. She said her mother told her that it is this way because the only way we humans exist is through our knowledge of one another. That we exist only when we lean against one another. I am moved by these kinds of lessons as I am moved by the classmate sitting next to me who took my hand because I cried.
I am not afraid anymore. I am embracing the adventure. It is not magical and it is not dreamy. It is hard work being a beginner–Being a new born babe and letting go of all my expectations of competency. It is slogging through and falling apart and wondering how on earth I will ever learn to stop trying to figure it all out. I am a beginner. I am learning that I will never get it right and that I am perfect. I am building this world anew. Will you build it with me?
The books arrived this week, in a brown box that sat on the coffee table. I took a deep breath as I opened them and spread them out, fingered the crisp binding, the smooth unblemished pages, held them to my nose. So many tiny choices over so many days, months, year have led to this pile of books on my table, the books that tell me that no, I am not making this up. I am, in fact, going to school on Tuesday.
Netter’s Clinical Anatomy, the IChing, The Yellow Emperor’s Classic of Medicine. These are classics–books that connect me with learning that is old, very old and rooted in intuition and science both. I am walking in a long line–following wise ones ahead of me.
I can exhale. And lean into this. I can do this.
I promised her that I would do this, before she died, I promised her I would live and wouldn’t be afraid. That I would keep moving forward, keep moving into the next adventure, keep walking onto the path before me. And even now I am not entirely sure what comes next. Don’t know where this next step will really take me. So instead I flip through textbooks and then pile them up, then spread them out on the table again.
This summer has been an up and down one, filled with thousands of tiny decisions and many big lifts and a hundred and one changes to our life, all in service of moving forward on this path. I had no idea how to get there, still don’t really know what I am going to do next, so I have been focused on putting one foot in front of the other–a to-do list that has unfurled like a scroll, each step revealing itself after the next. I have so many stories swirling round my head, so many half-written pieces that have had to wait–will still have to wait while I have moved urgently forward with my list of tiny tasks–ordinary simple engines.
Even now I am furiously packing, more tiny to-dos propelling me forward, always forward, preparing for a long weekend in the woods, to finally slow down and rest in the company of my tribe around a campfire and sing and let it all sink in before I step through the gate. One last mad dash to the quiet hollow that is my church deep in the Monongehala. But I stop schleping tarps and guitars to the car because that pile of books has begged me to stop and recognize its significance. Its weighty presence telling me that yes I am here, where I am supposed to be. I have taken my place in line, in a long line of healers. I don’t need to wait until I can sit in the moonlight to let it sink in. It is true now. It has always been true.
I am scared to feel the joy of this moment–so afraid that it will all come crashing down, or a rug will pull out or worse yet that it will really be awful and I will have realized that I have made a very big mistake and I can’t turn back. And yet that scary feeling reassures me–tells me in no uncertain terms that I am going exactly in the right direction. Not wishing and dreaming but moving forward. Moving forward. Moving forward. Step by step revealed as I take it. Feeling the fear and doing it anyway. Walking in a long line through the dark, through the light, through my life.