We've had two earthquakes in southern California over the past 24 hours. And I felt them both.
Thankfully, they were benign, soft little shakers that didn't rattle anything much more than my nerves for about 30 seconds each time.
The thing that is most unsettling in any earthquake (unless it's a BIG one) isn't the actual movement, but the anticipation of the damage that might be done as a result.
What if this keeps going on and on? Will it get bigger, stronger? Will my roof cave in? Will I be able to protect my son from the crashing furniture and flying shards of glass? What if he gets hurt? What if I get hurt?
Those unanswered questions are what really shake me.
While the last two earthquakes didn't last long enough to keep me caught in those questions for too long, their timing was significant; because in the same time frame, I was still recovering from my own little soul quake. I got some news, and I felt it shake me.
I felt the earth shake under my internal feet, and--just like in a literal earthquake--what was most upsetting was the list of questions the news triggered, the what if's and will I's.
Because of this parallel, the recent earthquakes have actually been a comfort--none of my what if's and will I's ever came true. The quakes came, they shook, they left. There was no collateral damage. We're all fine and life goes on.
And this, I have a hunch, will be the final outcome of the news I got as well.
My soul quake, however, did not seem nearly as benign as the other two earthquakes. When it happened, I felt like part of my brain did cave in. I was undone. There was no space for clear thinking in the midst of the swirling questions and fears. I tried to relax, but to no avail.
In the midst of it all, two loving voices spoke words of comfort, peace and truth: There's nothing you can do about this right now, Angela. Just let it go. Welcome peace, confidence, and yes, even joy.
I can't say I consciously embraced those words when I heard them (I was still quaking and shaking after all), but they did get inside of me.
"It may be different for others, but pain is what it took to teach me to pay attention. In times of pain, when the future is too terrifying to contemplate and the past too painful to remember, I have learned to pay attention to right now."
--Julia Cameron, The Artist's Way
My son recently came up with a summer evening ritual. Just before bed, after the sun has set and the neighborhood is quiet, he likes to take a walk around the block. As we do, we tiptoe in whispers with flashlights in hand and ears in tune.
What are we listening for? Crickets.
We listen for chirping and turn our ears toward the source of the sound. Then, very quietly, stealthily--like we are on a top-secret mission--we move toward it. We stop, listen again, and keep adjusting our path so that we can locate the chirping cricket.
And when we do, excitement ensues.
We've developed a routine. I keep the light shining on the cricket while my son carefully gets down on hands and knees and tries to cup his hands around it and scoop it up. More often than not, the clever cricket gets away. They're fast and illusive and it takes a quick and steady hand to catch them. But my persistent son keeps with the hunt.
Even though it's all catch and release, he seems deeply satisfied when he finally captures one. His chest puffs up and his eyes dance with delight because he did it; he caught a cricket.
It's a fun little game. And my rough and tumble six-year-old who loves wrestling and horseplay seems to be two years old again the way he presses up against my legs and wants to whisper in my ear.
My favorite part? In the midst of our game, the rest of the world falls away. It's like it's just us and the chirping crickets and nothing else matters. All that is relevant is the hunt. I don't worry about what if's and will I's. There's no space for swirling questions and fears.
Last night I needed the hunt like I needed air. I needed to be swept up into something so that the confusion could be swept away from me.
The night started out like the one before it, but it took an unexpected, delightful turn. Our neighbors spotted us outside, and they came out to see what we were up to.
There was a flurry of activity as little ones went inside to retrieve flip flops and flash lights and butterfly nets and bug cages. They were joining our search party.
The adults gathered on a street corner to talk about life in the darkness of the night, but I stayed with the children. I watched with amazement as they quickly executed a strategy for catching and trapping every cricket they could find.
I can only hear the orchestra when I am caught up in the moment, too occupied with now to be afraid of yesterday's news or tomorrow's collateral damage. But when I have ears to hear it, it is magical.
The song the orchestra played last night was full of high notes, with a smattering of deep, base tones; it was full of unfettered playfulness and curiosity. I needed some of that to get inside my soul and resonate in my bones. I needed unbridled, awakened curiosity to neutralize all my scary questions. And somehow, the crickets--as they chirped and sang with the squealing children--knew that.
They played a song, and it felt like they played it just for me.
I am feeling centered again. Instead of feeling like there isn't room for clarity in my brain, I feel like there's no space for unrest.
It's daytime and the crickets aren't chirping anymore, but I can still hear the song they were singing last night.
*I am indebted to recording artist Meaghan Smith for this delightful little phrase.