Friday, April 16, 2010

How Will I Meet This? (Part 2 of 2)


In the book, Deep Survival: Who Lives, Who Dies, and Why, Laurence Gonzales tells the story of a firefighter who winds up lost on a mountain. For two days, he thrashes about, grown more and more panicked. In his disoriented state, he keeps believing he is just around the corner from his destination -a fresh water lake that should be right over the next crest if he's where he thinks he is.

But of course, he's not where he thinks he is. He's misread the map - several times - and wandered into deep wilderness. Now, his frantic searching only takes him farther from his goal.

Finally, at the end of the second day, exhausted, depleted, seriously dehydrated, with the beginning signs of hypothermia, he makes a choice that will, ultimately save his life: He stops moving. He builds a fire, constructs a makeshift shelter out of a rain poncho and a pile of sticks and hunkers down. He rests, regains his strength, looks around. He stops trying to escape his situation - and turns to meet it.

By doing this - accepting his situation and asking: How will I meet this? - he was able to adapt to an unfamiliar situation and live until a few days later, when he was rescued.

Though few of us will ever face that kind of wilderness, each of us will face our own. We will, inevitably, lose someone we love; some of us will suffer grave illness; some will face financial losses and the loss of identity, community and self-esteem that brings. Alzheimers, broken bones, allergic reactions, fire, floods. I don't mean to depress you - but this is how it is. It's just life, all messy and tossed together.

Sooner or later, we will be thrust into the wilderness - and we will have to decide how to meet it.

As I write this, my daughter is meeting a different kind of wilderness. A freshman film student, Katie shot 15 rolls of film for her final assignment only to discover, during the editing process, that she'd forgotten to get any closeups - and that the script she'd been shooting from simply wasn't holding together. And she had 14 days to fix it. And she didn't have any money. And the teachers said: If you don't hand something in, you're out of the program.

Given what I'd learned from Gonzales's book, I knew Katie would be fine. Her resilience will allow her to adapt, adjust, and learn the new terrain of her situation. She'll build a fire and make a shelter out of whatever materials she has. She'll throw out the old script and write a new one, a better one. What I mean is, she won't wait for rescue: She'll rescue herself.

But given what I've learned about my daughter these past 19 years, I also know that Katie may have to spend a little time sobbing first. It's one of the ways that she meets things. Always has.

She gets that from me. We emote. We let stuff build up - and then we let it out. And that's fine. In fact, it's important.

Feel your feelings.

My friend's therapist told her that the best way to meet suffering is often, “Turn around and sit down inside of it.” I love that image. Turn around and sit down inside of it. Stop running. Don’t push it away. Let it come toward you and when it does, turn around and meet it. Sit down inside of it.

In other words, cry if you feel like crying; pour your heart out to God, if that's your thing; let all the black tar of the thing loosen and shift, and if there's a geyser of icky junk that needs to spill forth, let it spill.


The other day in yoga class, our teacher read us a poem, from the Sufi poet, Rumi. In it, there were these lines:

Learn the alchemy of what true human beings know
The moment you accept what troubles you’ve been given
The door will open.

I've had my doubts about this principle in the past and today, I lay on my yoga mat at the end of class and I thought about it. What does it mean to "accept what troubles you've been given"? And then, as so often happens when I am holding a question open in my heart, life answers me.

I was walking to my car when a friend, whose teenage son is struggling with a serious illness, caught up with me. With tears in her eyes, she said, “Everyone says, 'Accept it. Accept it.' I don’t want to accept this. I want to run a million miles away from here. I feel like my head is going to explode.”

And then I understood...

What acceptance isn't”

Acceptance or “embracing what comes,” does not mean we should talk ourselves into being happy that we have this pain, this cancer, this headache, this divorce, this sick baby, this death in the family. It doesn’t mean we are throwing a party, pretending to be happy, denying what has been dropped on our doorstep.

Conversely, acceptance isn’t giving up. It’s not saying, “Oh well, okay. I guess I will let this thing drop a bomb on my life and I will just lie here and let it roll over me.”

Acceptance means turning to meet what comes. It means feeling your feelings - crying when you’re sad; shouting when you’re angry; wailing when you’re in despair. It means including the bad stuff into the wholeness of our lives - not pushing against it, not denying or burying or disowning the problem (or the person who presents it to us.) Embracing says to the problem: Okay, here you are. Let’s see what you’ve brought to me.

And then, if we are into this kind of thing, we can call upon the forces of the universe. Dear God, we can pray. Please, help!

The angels won’t just swoop in and fix everything that isn’t working in our lives. More often, they let us know: We are here; supporting you, and this reassurance may be enough.

Or it may not.

We may need more time in the wilderness - more tears. But sooner or later we will get to the bottom of this thing, sooner or later we will sigh and shrug our shoulders and say, "Okay, here I am. What is there to learn here?" We will build a fire and put up a shelter using the materials at hand: Our curiosity, our determination to feel better, the support of our own particular kind of angels.

Human beings are remarkably resilient.

Ultimately, as the 14th century mystic, Dame Julian of Norwich once wrote, “All shall be well, and all shall be well and all manner of thing shall be well.” And all will be well. After you’ve been through hell and are still here, after you’ve endured the storm, you may just find, as all of the women I interviewed did, that you’re stronger, more determined and more in love with life than ever before.

You will find that under the icky black glop, there's a clear spring of hope and even, joy. You will. I promise.

This is the gift of difficult experience – every locked door becomes a potential opening onto a new room of experience; every dead end, every barrier, is an invitation to draw a new map.


Marisa said...

In my own wilderness, having made the shelter and beginning to look around, I woke this morning and followed a tweet to this article. You've given me much to think about.

Sally G. said...

Words cannot express how centred and peaceful I feel after spending time with your words.

I participated in the Oprah/Eckhart Tolle A New Earth webinar a couple of years ago, and at one point he said, when in situations as you've described, "Think of yourself as the space in which all this exists."

In other words, you are bigger than your experience and bringing Awareness and Acceptance to it puts you in a place where you can act vs react.

I just love the depth of your expression. Thank you ...

Amy Oscar said...

Marisa - Thank you for stopping by to read my post, and to share your comment. I'm amazed at the way we find each other in this wilderness of Internet links and connections. So glad you found me!

Sally - Once again, your comment about something I've written has inspired me. I love what you brought - what Eckhart Tolle wrote - and I will include it in my book.

These two posts are actually two halves of a chapter I've been struggling with - my own particular wilderness: The one where I don't think I really have much to say on a subject, nothing that hasn't been said and said before.

But I come to the page (or the blog) and find that in fact, the "space in which all this exists" is waiting for me. And it helps me to sort out my thoughts - or writes through me, or something... I'm not really sure HOW it all works.

So anyway, thanks.

Sally G. said...

You'll get clear Amy ~ you have asked the best possible question: How will I meet this?

Eckhart also said, "You enter a state of clarity when you bring acceptance to the present moment and there is no resistance to what you're feeling or doing."

This week, I felt I finally had my own 'branding image' clear and was excited to keep moving on it. Then, with each passing day, I'd have examples of 'already doing' cross my path. CRAP!!

So, I started to get frustrated and wallow. I allowed this for 30 minutes - then, while cleaning the kitchen after dinner, I accepted that it was possible I'd have to start over. With everything. The networking, the relationship building, the vision, all of it. I had to start over.

I experienced grief for awhile -- I mean, after investing years of life experience and months of researching, sourcing, connecting, etc. -- starting over is not something that ignited my enthusiasm at first.

Once I was able to let go of what I thought would be - and allowed what might be better instead to present itself ... I'd reached Acceptance (or resignation, a bit of both really).

I woke at 4:15am -- couldn't get back to sleep. So, I drifted. I drifted into no space, the place where answers and potential dwell. And a new vision came to me. One that won't involve a total dismantle but will require a whole new approach.

I truly believe I facilitated this process by working efficiently through disappointment, resistance and grief -- to move right into Acceptance. A 'mitigate your losses' kind of approach really. No point hanging on to what likely won't work just because I've invested time in it.

Am I tracking correctly now? Who knows. But I've made it through 18 hours without anyone showing up with my vision already in play. That's something.

So now, I'm 'Sally G.: Finding My Self Along the Way' ( .. and I have to laugh, cause the answer has been right in front of me in the wide open all along.

I have not sense of direction, no inner compass. No one gets lost as easily as me. Unless I lift to another realm. There, I'm quite in tune. The answer's in there somewhere ...

olive + hope said...

Amy this is beautiful! And man oh man did I need to read this today. I am on the verge of discovering what my "big dream" is, and I'm bouncing back and forth between peaceful with what is, and resistance and clenched teeth. I am sitting with it - in it. And I think that a good cry is in order!

I have found that avoiding and bottling up the emotions is far more detrimental to my health, than just letting it flow. It makes me sad that most of us are taught, not to express our emotions. All that causes is dis-ease.

Whatever it is, we should feel it, express it and let it flow - sadness, anger, joy, etc. As it flows it passes through, and it clears me to receive the good that is surely coming my way.

Thank you for the reminder to turn and face it with a good cry!

mydivabydesign said...

Thank you for this. I am usually too caught up in worry about my situation to just stop, look around and say "OK. What do I do about it?" It's good to have a reminder.

K. said...

This is so interesting. I remember the exact moment I was able to accept that no matter how I felt about it, I was going to have no influence at all over the outcome of my daughter's heart surery. Interestingly, it wasn't by living into my feelings that I found acceptance, it was through feeling trapped by my emotions that I was able to "give it up." Never in my life have I felt such gratitude than when I was able to see that I wasn't supposed to carry all that on my shoulders.

Facing fear is one of the most liberating things I believe you can do in this life. And as you said, it has nothing to do with giving up, more with allowing the universe to help support you.

Which reminds me of something one of my teachers in teacher training said, something along the lines that if we knew how many spiritual beings are out there to support us, we could not bear it.

Thanks for your thoughts, they're always appreciated. I love your neck of the woods, btw., have visited a few times there over the last few years.

MrsWhich said...

Thank you for describing a process I've been groping at in the dark

wholly jeanne said...

well, shoot. another book to add to my wish list. i probably oughta read part 1 of 2 before commenting, but, well, you know. something alone this line has been nibbling at me for weeks now, and i think you have nudged me closer to clarity. i sure do appreciate that. you know, in times of heavy fog, my favorite uncle says simply "so be it". those 3 words bathe me in calmness and confidence.