Seeing Through the Glass
What a crazy adventure we’re in. So many have spoken, sharing their take, their opinions, their facts, their jokes, their love. Up until now I’ve felt, instead, to sit back in the quiet. I’ve found myself resting in the space of not doing and not talking and not listening to the drama in all it’s costumes, including the play in my own head about how the world has turned inside out and what should be done about it. But today I feel moved to speak.
Have you ever noticed that when ‘life as it looks’ falls away, we get to open the gift of new eyes? Getting smacked in the face hurts, but it also wakes us up from all the stories in our heads. It’s a beeline to the now, to what’s real and ever present. Call me crazy, but I secretly love the freshness, that opening into a new way of being, even when it comes in the midst of torrential weather. I’ve fallen in love with the freedom that emerges as we find a new landing, one that’s shaped out of less illusion and more truth.
Four years ago today I finished chemotherapy for stage four ovarian cancer. That time reminds me a lot of this time; waves of panic, waves of uncertainty, waves of chaos, waves of God. But I notice, this time around, I’m not so scared of getting soaked. The waves are still coming, but I’m less afraid of being afraid, or frustrated, or stir crazy, or lost. I have a cleaner sense of what I can rely on, what won’t fall apart. And, wow, do I love the pervading peace of being less afraid to be human.
I don't give myself credit for a gentler experience or even for still being alive, in the same way I don’t blame my beautiful friend who died of cancer a few weeks ago. Death and grace are beyond our ken. It’s what I’ve woken up to, beneath it all, that has me smitten. Call it love, call it God, call it life, call it grace, call it the real you and me, call it whatever you want. It’s caught my eye enough to entice me to look right at it, and I can’t look away.
My life has been steeped in religion, from day one to this one, but I feel as if I've just woken up to the whole point - of God, of life, of church, of scripture, of being human. It's as though, for 40 years, I’ve been obsessed with the car I’m trying to get somewhere in, thinking if I can just get the windshield clean enough I'll find what I'm looking for. I just discovered I can look through the glass rather than at it, and the view has stopped me in my tracks. The colors of life, the vastness of who we are, and the depth of what’s behind it all has brought me to my knees, bust my heart open, and loosened all the knots in my made-up world.
That old imagined, self-made car now sits on the side of the road somewhere, full of the stink of self flagellation and the angst of feeling there’s not enough and I’m not enough. I thought that car, with all its stories and maps, was keeping me safe. I thought the car was me, and my only choice was to keep improving it and coaxing it to take me somewhere better. The moment I saw through the glass I realized there is nowhere to go, and I got out and left it behind. It’s all right here, right now, right under our nose. It’s only ever our eyes that take us to new places, as they clear and clear and clear again, to a wider and deeper experience of the same unending truth. It's such a relief to turn my face to the sun and just let the clouds and wind and rain pass through me. There is so much more space. There is so much less in the way. There is so much freedom. There is so much peace.
I bathed in this peace as I sat with my friend a few weeks before she died. We laughed, we cried, we rested in the stillness. I listened to she and her gentle husband speak without filter about their love, their grief, their favorite TV shows, their amazing kids and a favorite beach they’ll take her ashes to. The truth that she was untouched by her tired, decaying home was so real I could almost touch it. I was stunned, every time I looked in her gorgeous Hawaiian brown eyes, at the obvious eternity of her presence. I knew, even in the face of tsunami-sized grief, that all was well and would be. I knelt at her feet to kiss her goodbye. “Keep breathing” I said, our eyes locked in an ocean of quiet. “Keep breathing until you don’t want to anymore, and then you can just stop.” She did, a few weeks later, when she took off her muddy jacket and ran into the sunshine.
There have been a few moments I wish I could go with her, moments when I'm wet and dirty and up to my neck in it. We doggie paddle for something to hold on to when we forget we're an ocean of love and possibility, but our anxiety calms the moment we begin to notice the essence of who and what we are, with or without a wave of emotion, with or without cancer, with or without a virus. Sensing we are the soil from which it all grows, the untouchable sky it’s all happening in, is the best medicine in the world. It cures us of wanting to lug around years of old mental photographs or fear of monsters in next week’s closet. It drops us into the ordinary glory of now, where there's a knowing of what to do next whether it's hug our kids, share our toilet paper, re-invent our business or just be still.
I wonder at the grace of seeing through the glass, those moments when our eyes emerge from a car wash into a cleaner rearranging of reality. I wonder, as my eyes keep clearing, how many more cars I'll notice I'm driving around in, trying to get somewhere I already am. I wonder what new vistas will appear, in all of our eyes, as we make our way through this global adventure. It helps to know truth is always incubating within each of us and we carry around God in our bones. Take a big deep breath of fresh living air, world. It's only a matter of time before grace will open our eyes.