Tuesday, November 26, 2013
Despite my best attempts not to, I've still been chasing a runaway balloon.
The chase continues because, you see, it is not often that I pursue just one balloon. I let one go only to see another enticing, delightful, shiny, oh-so-close-I can-almost-touch-it balloon go floating by and I switch from one wanting to another.
What you don't know if you aren't a balloon chaser yourself is that all this life up in the clouds with your feet off the ground leaves you dizzy and light-headed. Cut off from life below, you become disjointed, dismembered, disconnected. So long as one is grasping at straws, reaching for the illusive outside of self, what's going on inside is completely ignored.
High-altitude living is not sustainable. The inevitable happens: eventually you must come down.
Though I would like it to be otherwise, the coming down for me often involves a crash landing. I'm left bumped and bruised and a little for worse for wear.
The precursor to the final crash is most often a whisper in my ear that speaks an old, familiar, worn-out declaration which expresses sentiments I used in other seasons of life to give me permission to continue on in misery and shut out the rest of the world.
I don't want to be with you, is what first whispered and then came tumbling out of my mouth this week. After it splatted onto the floor in front of me - lying there like a hairball, spit out of a cat's mouth - I stood over it, marveling at its clarity and realized the "you" I was talking about was me.
I didn't want to be with me.
That statement, a sister-wife to the old bugger - I hate my life - that used to plague me years ago, surfaces whenever I believe that the hard parts of my journey will never alter or change course, will both always and never be this or that, or when I feel lonely, less than, and afraid.
A deep part of me sends it up - launches it, as it were, like a water balloon from my core - because that part of me knows that when I hear the sharpness of its accusation, I will snap out of my stupor. It's the wake up call, the splash of water in my face I need to let all the runaway balloons float away. It's an invitation for me to return to myself, to come home.
The way of return this week was a bath. (Ocean water, bath water, tears-running-out-of-my-eyes water are always my preferred forms of home-going.)
As I lowered my body into the tub - water running hot and at full force - I felt myself returning. As the water began to cover my nakedness, I caught a glimpse of my limbs stretched out beside me and a new statement - neither planned nor premeditated - escaped my lips: It's a good body.
In that moment, not only did I want to be with me, I was at rest because I knew I was.
I closed my eyes, took a deep breath, and when I opened them again, I made an effort to see that which I had been avoiding, devaluing, and rejecting. I adopted, as it were, the eyes of a lover, beholding my form for the first time. I focused my love and gratitude toward each of my parts and praised them aloud, one by one.
I started with my legs. As they were propped up on the wall in front of me, I noticed the plumpness in my thighs (something I longed for in my days of being weak and frail and thin), saw a bruise I don't remember getting on my shin, noticed redness on my toes from where ill-fitting shoes rub against my skin. I did not judge or call any of these things ugly, as I can be quick to do. I simply took them in as an observer and an admirer would.
Moved, I spoke again. These are good legs. The have taken me into new territory. I remembered back to a time when I had been holed up in a hospital bed, unable to walk more than a few paces before feeling winded and exhausted. How far these legs have taken me since then, I mused.
I moved on to my arms. I lifted them out of the water to get a better look. I raised them in the air, palms turned up, and without thinking said, These arms have carried heavy burdens. They no longer bear that weight. They are good arms.
I went on to my face. I gently laid my hands over my closed lids and said with confidence, These are eyes that see that which other eyes do not see. I spoke similarly of my ears, nose and mouth, praising them for what they are capable of, for what they do.
The sound of my own voice which spoke thus surprised me. I heard the voice of a woman who knows. It was piercing, firm and resolute. It quivered a bit from the emotion of it all, but my conviction never wavered. I heard myself speaking and I believed what I heard.
I ended by putting my hands on my abdomen. I was aware of how I've chastised my gut, blamed it for my troubles, berated it for flaring up when things get hard, accused it of being weak and defective, for feeling too much, for slowing me down. The days when I felt that way seemed very far away. In place of disgust, there was gratitude. I felt its gift. I knew then that my gut is my strongest part, worthy of being cherished and honored.
I spread my fingers wide, taking it in, embracing its sacredness. With tears I spoke: This is a good gut. It feels that which other guts do not feel.
I sat in the stillness for some time before I washed myself. I felt cleansed.
I was home.
Runaway balloons aren't very enticing when I'm nestled up by a warm fire, settled and grounded in home. Next time I see one floating by my window, I hope I'll remember what happened this week and close the curtains, draw a bath, and return to what I know.