Too recently I sat in a waiting room, caught in one of the tragic backwards dance-moments life sometimes forces upon you.
(My first backwards dance was walking up the aisles behind my father’s coffin. I walked arm in arm with my mother thinking how this was all backwards. Fathers are supposed to walk daughters down aisles, not daughters walking mothers up aisles behind dead fathers.)
It was Backwards.
I sat in the maternity ward of a hospital, waiting for my dear friend to deliver a baby that would never breath, never cry, never laugh. Never live to call my friend “mommy.” The child had died within her, with no warning, no pain, no awareness from the women who had sacrificed so much and hoped for so long to bring this boy into life. Death entered that womb, and in that moment my friend was both full and utterly empty. In a space designed to bring new life, she delivered only the death of a deeply loved, unfilled promise.
It was Backwards.
This was a capstone on what felt often like a year of Backwards. There have been many hard and unbelievable moments of living in this snarling, restless, divided, beloved country of mine. There have been moments, many moments, that I have felt like we are facing a reversal of forward progress in the spread of equal rights, like we are retreating from compassion, like the institutions we once venerated and gave our trust are nothing more than shadows who have left our trust in shambles.
It has been Backwards.
I have wept at social injustice, and wept in personal heartbreak, and wept in frustration with my own and other’s incapacity for change. Looking back, though, I do not feel to dwell so much on the tears of these moments so much as to acknowledge the slow and raw hollowing out of spaces in my heart and mind that once held my ideals and beliefs. Outside voices call to me, telling me to write off what has been lost, what was once so precious, as so many childish dreams. These voices, from opposite sides, beckon me to join them. To filling these holes with the two binaries, activism and cynicism.
Cynicism, like fast food (sorry to mix the metaphor) would be easy in the short term, but I see in the pinched cheeks and squinting eyes of those who feast on it, that it is ultimately lacking in nourishment. Activism, I have discovered this year, while vital, can be gluttonous, and therefore, equally nonsustaining. And while a generous serving of either now and again is thrilling, and even be beneficial, I am seeking long-term health.
The word that fell into my head one day, like a ripe fruit from a generous tree, immediately seemed both delicious and fulfilling to me:
Wonder can fill the soul. Wonder does not seek to change. Wonder does not judge. Wonder sits in awareness. Wonder looks on, apart from, but in awe of. Wonder notices. Wonder hears. Wonder feels deeply. Wonder is too often reserved for children. Wonder is wrongly associated only with beauty and goodness. Wonder seeks the dark places too. Wonder is deeply spiritual. Wonder is captivated by simplicity. Wonder believes in the possibility of the miraculous. Wonder doesn’t need at the answers to HOW or WHY, but rather is content with the amazement.
I’ve really enjoyed the camera trick Boomerang for the last few years. It takes a small moment, just a few seconds, or less, and plays it backwards and forwards over, and over again. In these Boomerangs a smile, a gesture, a dance step, an accident can be lived in an endless loop. I want to cultivate my brain to appreciate these kinds of small things more frequently, be they moments of beauty, or new ideas and concepts that need some turning over, or moments of discomfort that make me want to run for the hills/blankets. It’s time to do a little more dwelling and a little less skimming. Time to make time to sit with what is in my space and in my moment and to not allow myself to be so preoccupied with what is NEXT and OVER THERE.
HOW TO BE WONDER-full:
Identify the moments of wonder in my life and name them. Point them out, write them down, tell someone else about them. Take a picture. Make a record. Sit with them for the time that I am able to sit and be still.
I.E. WORK ON ONE TASK AT A TIME.
Make time to listen to both the natural world and my internal workings. Garden, dig in the dirt, cultivate life and grow food. Do not be distracted by technology while I eat. Allow my body to enjoy, or not, but to process the experience of being fueled by foods.
I.E. PUT DOWN THE PHONE WHILE EATING.
Really listen to those who share themselves with me. Don’t anticipate what they will say or prepare a response. Think less about how their experience matches my own, but really focus on what their experience is and what they feel.
I.E. SHUT UP.
Allow myself to be quiet and really take in my present, the person, or place where I am, and to think deeply about what it offers, but resist judgement. When speaking with others, be generous with my time. Find ways to compliment them, and to offer open and sincere thanks and praise for them, and to avoid categorizing them with unhelpful labels.
I.E. STOP ASSESSING.
Get comfortable with having questions that don’t have answers, easy or otherwise. Enjoy the WONDER.
I feel like so much of the world stands on the brink of…. all of it. I have no idea what 2018 will hold. But for better or worse, I will look at it with wonder.
This song came back to me again and again this year. And while I was writing this post, the line from the bridge played itself over and over in my head. So I guess I’ll take a moment to wonder about it:
“Hold my gaze love. You know I want to let it go.
We will stare down at the wonder of it all,
And I will hold you in it, and I will hold you in it”
****Spends a few minutes WONDERING****
Here is what I find in the song. This is so cool!
This is a song in which Wonder, personified, is speaking directly to me.
First, the Wonder of identifies me as the wolf: frightened, searching, living on the brink, a bit hopeless.
Wide-eyed, with a heart made full of fright,
Your eyes follow like tracers in the night.
On the tightrope that you wander every time,
You have been weighed, you have been found wanting
Wonder questions me, calls to me, beckons me back into relationship with her. ‘Stop your wandering and come love with me.’
Been wondering for days
How you felt me slip your mind
Leave behind your wanton ways
I want to learn to love in kind
‘Cause you were all I ever longed for
Next, now that I am back inside with Wonder, she gives me warning. ‘There are other wolves prowling around, you’ve got to stay on guard, but if you stick with Wonder, she’s got this.’
Sheltered, you better keep the wolf back from the door
He wanders ever closer every night
And how he waits begging for blood
I promised you everything would be fine
And finally, most importantly, a final, but ongoing conversation I must have with WONDER this year:
Wonder: Hold my gaze love,
Me: You know I want to let it go
Us: We will stare down at the wonder of it all
Wonder: And I will hold you in it. And I will hold you in it.
Thanks, Wonder. I’ll trust you. Let’s do this.
Hello and welcome, 2018.