So, as those of you who are regulars know, I’ve been unable to shake this cold I came down with about a month ago. I’ve been coming in here on Tuesday evenings with my hot lemon water and my tissues, trying not to disturb meditation with my coughing. I strung it along, using the neti pot and ignoring everything until Saturday morning when I awakened with fever. I got to the doctor’s office and on the intake the nurse asked me if I had any mucus! By that time I’d let the thing go to the point where everything seemed involved: sinuses, ears, throat, lungs. Where didn’t I have mucus?
I think I used to be pretty good at being sick, it gave me a chance to hide from the world and my fears. Now, not so much. I want to feel well all the time, to be out walking, to be seeing clients, and focus on what I hear the angels saying. Instead, as I couldn’t sleep, up coughing, feverish and worn out, my fears preyed upon my mind, causing me to question my work, my goals, my ability to make a living, what I have to offer, just everything.
Once I got to the doctor, got the medicine I needed, got to bed, I rested. That was what I needed; rest and loving support and I received both. By Saturday evening, I was feeling physically, spiritually, and emotionally better. And by the next day, this talk was in my mind, along with some clear action I need to take regarding my work.
What changed? I asked for help. I asked people who love me to help me. And I asked my spiritual companions for clear and direct help. By reaching out, I found myself connected. When I am sick, tired, and/or afraid, I often find myself feeling alone. I felt that way on Saturday morning – so very alone and my mind began to take a negative spiral, focusing on what is lacking rather than the abundance I have.
For me, these things often go together. Fear/fatigue/illness leads me down that path of isolation. And isolation often feeds itself. I begin, I head down the rabbit hole, and then I feed it. At times this feeling of self-pity, of sadness, of loneliness is one of those old familiar feelings that I can actually take comfort in, I kind of like it, I recognize it, I can work, in the worst way, with it. The further I go, the further I go and it is a perpetual downward spiral until I decide to stop.
My spiritual practice has given me some ability now to observe what I am doing, observe the pattern I form, observe the spiral. I’ve learned that I need to reach out and connect with someone who loves me. That is what I did on Saturday and it helped me focus on what I needed to do that day. Then, everything looked different to me that day.
This pattern of connection/disconnection can create a lot of ups and downs in our days. For me, the great disconnectors are fear and judgment. When I am in fear, I can isolate, I imagine things that aren’t real, that feed the fear and further isolate me. That’s what happened to me on Saturday morning.
Judgment, that feeling of being superior and the need to be right, is really driven by fear but feels a bit different. It cuts me off from others because I’ve decided something about another and that judgment sets me apart, better than, in the right. I find this rearing its head most often when I’m driving. Oooo, I am quick to judge when in the driver’s seat! A few nights ago, I was headed out somewhere when someone began tailgating me. I really hate this. My story line goes: “you don’t have time to stop if I need to brake. You clearly don’t understand how much time it takes to stop, you don’t get the basic physics involved, and you must be stupid.” I’m afraid I’ll get hit but more than that, I feel I have no control over the situation. This feeling that I need or want to control a situation is often at the center of my judgmental mind.
Back to my tailgater—the lane split into two lanes as we approached a light. I pulled up in the right lane, preparing to make a right turn. My tailgating friend pulled up in the left lane beside me. I looked over and was surprised to see a young woman at the wheel of the car. She glanced over at me and I mouthed to her, “You follow too closely.” She responded with an obscene gesture. I blew her a kiss in kindness and made my right turn.
She just looked so young and vulnerable and angry, sitting there and I thought, “She really doesn’t have any idea what she’s doing.” Her youth and her vulnerability really touched me, whether the mother in me or the young and very confused woman I once was, I don’t know. But when I glanced at her, I saw a person, not a story line.
The truth is we’re all afraid. We’re afraid for ourselves and for our children and for our neighbors and for our homes and our pets. We feel vulnerable and confused and afraid. So we pull back or we lash out.
No matter how hard I try, I have these humbling, terrifying moments. Sometimes they strip me bare, I feel so exposed. Sometimes, they bring me some clarity. They always give me the opportunity to let people I love in, or let a young tailgater in. They give me the opportunity to see my vulnerable humanity or to see the tender humanity of another. And then I receive the opportunity to hold myself gently. Or to offer a small gesture of love to a stranger.
This takes practice (that’s why we call it “practice”)! It takes awareness. It takes the hard work of spiritual discipline. But the rewards are limitless. They are acceptance, peace, and love. And I always want more of that.
© 2015 Janet Tuck