“Cradle your life … and save it. Cradle your life in the hands of your heart.”
So said my friend, a long time ago. So said I, to myself, last night.
So said I, when all I could hear was “I can’t.” So said I, when I picked up the phone and dialled, and surrendered to the sound of a beloved voice. A friend whose mercy resounded in the marrow of me.
This blog will be mercy for our marrow … an invitation to soften into the sanctuary of our own goodness.
Traumorphosis: transforming the aftermaths of traumatic injury into stories that save and salve us. Softening our way into the goodness that we are, no matter what has happened to us.
Softening shame, fear, secrecy. Re-minding.
As one of my friends recently told me, “Change the channel!” Grabbing the remote; disengaging the autopilot. Seeking what softens.
Today, I soften “I can’t” into the knowledge that I will pass through it into can … into will.
A recent can’t was about going to church. I couldn’t do it that day. I had to honour the No that resounded; the no to driving a car, to being in the company of several other people, to being able to absorb sight, sound, and complex stimuli. Last summer, my brain was injured in a fall, and one of its persistent effects has been to render the ordinary as overwhelming, the mere as sheer. Sometimes, to take a shower can fell me for an hour. Sometimes my ability to write by hand degenerates into illegibility, or I can’t follow the steps needed to make a meal. The sound of a ringing phone can pierce my ear like a blade, or I lose the ability to form a sentence halfway through a thought. I teeter on my feet and crash into walls, and my hands lose their ability to hold onto things. Sometimes my senses can’t absorb the simple presence of another human being.
One of the gentle disciplines I apply is to discern every day — sometimes from moment to moment — where my abilities lie on the can – can’t continuum; is the can’t rooted in fear or on a realistic assessment of what’s possible right now? What can I do when a glitch appears as insurmountable opportunity? When I find myself unable to spell a word — “insurmountable” — and it takes four attempts, plus a peek at an online dictionary, to get it right?
I can pause … and breathe … and notice.
I can act to soften the impact of panic; I can stand up, plant my feet on the good earth, and gaze out my window at the sky, which is ceaselessly open, spacious, and moving. “Movement is life,” said Moshe Feldenkrais, one of the world’s great teachers of somatic (body-based) re-education. Movement is life: move those feet, those hands, those eyes. Move beyond the glitch. Move the mind into curiosity, the body into mastery. Spell out that word. Take a breath … and another. Lay down the fear; pick up the mercy and apply it. Write, write, write out the word; make the opportunity surmountable.
I’ve hidden in plain sight for so long … and a relentless pressure whorls within me to emerge from secrecy and shame, to make my story sacred by sharing it, by blending it with others, to add one more weave to the fabric of I can. The tipping point into revelation? My dear friend’s voice, reminding me that in my vulnerability is my calling … and a video I watched this morning. A brief story shared by a man who felled himself over a bridge, and lived to tell the tale.
Albert Camus once wrote, “In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.” Today I think of invincible Spring. My neighbourhood’s dotted with green.
Oliver Wendell Holmes — who was a doctor, among other things — wrote, “Expression is the one fundamental sacrament.” I added a coda: “… and love is the one fundamental expression.” If I reach, reach, reach into the wellspring of mercy that is my good heart, I locate love that softens the glitches, the terror, the panic. Words do arise.
“Physician, heal thyself.” I will, and I do, with the one fundamental expression that never fails. Love, in a form perfectly suited to this moment.
Right now, it’s these words, this story, this truth. Softening comes through this passage into invincible Spring … this refinement of every can’t into a can.