Monthly Archives: November 2015

A silver cord

A beautifully moving post by Sue Vincent for The Silent Eye, with a strong and timely message for everyone of any age.

The Silent Eye

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As soon as I was considered old enough to wander alone… a ridiculously young age by today’s standards… I would knock on the doors of the various elderly relatives that lived within a stone’s throw of home or school. Their doors opened onto another era that to my young eyes qualified as the ‘olden days’. There would inevitably be a cup of tea; none of your new-fangled tea bags or ‘gnats water’, but the rich mahogany brew that seethed in perpetuity beside the flames of the range. If I was lucky and timed it right, there would be a slab of fruit cake topped with a slice of tangy cheese or perhaps a curd tart, or we might toast a teacake in front of the fire on the toasting fork and I would sit and listen, fascinated as the old ones spoke of their lives.

Between my great-grandparents and their…

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The Shadow Side of Joy

Last night I was visiting family, and we decided to watch what would turn out to be one of the most suspenseful movies we’ve seen in a long time. Why? Well, the major problem turned out to be that nothing went wrong.

First of all, three very young children set out to maneuver a rickety homemade raft across a lake … and none of them drown. There was a very old, arthritic dog … that didn’t die. Two of the lead characters, an African-American man who used a wheelchair and an able-bodied white woman who lived in the deep south … did not experience any challenges or conflicts in their evolving relationship, and fell madly in love within three months of meeting each other. Disagreements, when they did arise, … only brought people closer together.

The longer the banal plot line of the story stretched without a crisis, the more agitated we became. Then it happened: our groaning complaints about the lack of riveting action (I.E. terrible stuff befalling people) turned into hesitant, nervous exclamatory pleas for an unknown and obviously hostile future to please not dump its doom onto these people whose lives were so precariously prosperous. “Oh god, I won’t be able to handle it if that dog dies.” “Those kids are going to drown, I just know it.” “Someone’s going to get their heart broken and be emotionally shattered.” “I can’t take it! What if…” …

I sat there eating popcorn, reflecting as if from a distance on how absurd human beings, including myself, can be. (I admit to feeling just as threatened by all that good fortune, which was obviously going to turn out to be too good to be true.) What a fascinating phenomenon, to expect vicarious terror to temporarily take us out of ourselves, only to realize that we are terrified to feel joy. Suddenly, the movie seemed far more interesting, not because of what was happening in it, but because of what was happening to us. The characters’ happiness grew in direct proportion to our misery. Our own fears prevented us from sharing in their happiness.

We know life is ephemeral, that time is fragile, that change is inevitable. We’ve been prepared, to the best of human ability, to respond in a crisis of tragedy. But we barely recognize the crisis we experience when we are surrounded by love and truly feel at peace. We grow up expecting the next shoe to drop, the next tragedy to hit.

At least I did. I remember a particular day when I was about to graduate from Stanford. I felt completely at home in myself and completely content where I was. As far as my twenty-two-year-old self was concerned, I could be a student with this wonderful group of friends in this beautiful city, living in the space between the potential of a dreamed future and the lived experience of launching it, for the rest of my life. I was caught in an experience of pure joy at what was the case, this very moment. I loved it all. And then someone reminded me of the impending changes I would soon be facing, that all my friends would leave and that there were many rough, gnarly, tragic, and potentially devastating moments to come in my future, and I was an anxious terrified mess for months afterward.

That person was absolutely right. I probably don’t even have to tell you of how, in those subsequent ten years, I have lived through strained awkwardness, gnarly situations, terrible grief, gnawing loneliness, discrimination, pain. I could go on, but adversity befalls every life. The question is not, ‘how can I prevent suffering from ever happening?’ The question is, ‘Why let the fear of inevitable, yet unpredictable suffering silence my laughter, stifle my wonder, strangle my joy, stop me from reaching out in love and cause me to withdraw and close down instead?’

Why, indeed. Bitterness is child to a constricted soul who shies from the vulnerability needed to love and be loved, out of fear of the risk of being hurt. People who can’t experience their own joy because they so fear the potential immanent loss of the good all around them, come to resent and compete with those who seem to be able to fully take in moments of connection and contentment. And how can you author your own life if you allow yourself to be ruled by the tyranny of anticipation and your current fictions about the future?

You can’t, of course. You might be so worried about the possibility that something might happen to your kids that you fail to fully be present as you tuck them into bed at night. You might be so afraid of losing a dog or a cat that you only realize after they’re gone how you could have fiercely loved them, but held back instead. Most of us don’t ever fully realize how many beautiful, vibrant, cherished moments we miss while we’re preoccupied with fears of what isn’t there.

We learn to embrace–accept, acknowledge, attend to– the shadows of our soul, our inner children, our false beliefs, the fragmented rejections we sometimes glimpse in the mirror. And yet I am left wondering, long after the movie ended, what would happen if we learned to hold a compassionate space for the shadow side of joy. I wonder about the freedom in finally being seen, the strength born in a person when the risks in reaching out are worth every second of being fully alive.

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Moon-spun moments disperse at daybreak
By day the sunsoaked landscape cries
Sighs a cacophony of endless voices
Boisterous streetsong, chatter of strangers

Arrange my day along a familiar route
Without a topography, the map obscures
Ensures that I will lose my way
If I stray from the journey, even slightly

Yet, nightly I travel roads unweary
Hearing the hush of darkness unfolded
Enfolded in the ebony behind closed eyes
I step lightly through

Moon-beam strewn stepping stones
Alone wander paths I’ve never taken
Then a whole world to explore
For there are memories to awaken

Aching to be known, whispered in landscapes
Grace in every motion, no need for seeing
Only being; until streams of dawn
Drawn across night’s sacred shelter

Melt the moonpath, its visions vanished
Banished in the dusk of dreaming

The Place Without a Name

A hundred yesterdays stacked behind her
Alone but for the memories there
And possibility’s children, yet to find her
The moments unlived, unborn, are there

And the purple fog beckons from elsewhere
Along the path she was just on before
The in-between, vast silent shelter
Tomorrow is an open door

The space between howls as if the wind of wonder
Swept vast across a cold and barren plane
But there is only stillness, question marks to wander
In neither world, the place without a name

She stands at the threshold of a foot fall
Slowly uncertainty uncoils, stretches, those searching eyes hardly tame
Time will tell the story of us all
She will, and will not be the same

It’s the Truth: Live With It

It doesn’t matter
How often it keeps you up at night
If it makes you feel uncomfortable
Or whether you cry bitter, fearful, or joyful tears

It doesn’t matter
The struggle, and how often you look away
That you find it impossible to accept
While rationalizing excuses, constructing creatively convincing denials

Truth forces you out of hiding
Truth doesn’t leave you be
Truth whispers whether or not you listen
Truth is the mirrored image you’re too afraid to see

If it’s true, believe it
What’s the sense in doing anything else
Find it, face it,
The truth about yourself

The truth is you have always been worthy,
The truth is you have always been whole
You are already wild, it’s true,
And you are beautiful

You have the compassion of others
But are in great need of receiving your own
You are deeply, fiercely loved
And you have never been alone

It’s the truth, so live with it
Even when it seems too hard
And one day you’ll be living it
With everything you are

Further Transitions _ A Villanelle

I grieve, though I’ve never lost what’s mine,
Struggling to accept what I wish wasn’t true.
I long to let go, still afraid of what I’ll find.

Too many people choose smallness, forgetting how to shine,
So while I’m in this world, I feel most at home with you
And I grieve, though I’ve never lost what’s mine.

Why embrace life’s sorrows and joys, equally in kind?
Getting hurt has only made me more mistrustful of the ones I knew.
How can I let go when I’m afraid of what I’ll find?

Hush, you say, you defend against illusions when you’re fine.
But, I’m trying to hold back waves of tears from overwhelming me anew
With grief, for I’m sure I’ve lost what’s mine.

Perfect as I am? The idea blows my mind.
What about all the wrong turns and mistakes I should work through?
I long to let go, still afraid of what I’ll find.

If I leap ahead, cross beyond the line,
Where will I land, strangely beautiful and new?
I’ll surely grieve, though I’ve never lost what’s mine.

The loss is of all I need to leave behind,
Even if its time and purpose long since flew.
I long to let go, still afraid of what I’ll find.

Uncertain change initiates its eerie whine
At the standstill. I remain, not sure just what I’ll do.
I grieve, though I’ve never lost what’s mine.

Knotted threads of broken patterns continue to unwind
And the nets that kept a sense of safety number few.
I long to let go, still afraid of what I’ll find.

I don’t know where I belong, both embodied and divine.
Bridged in between, I wander, a missing shade of blue
And grieve, though I’ve never lost what’s mine,
Longing to let go, still afraid of what I’ll find.