Last week, the sewage pump went in our home. It was a mess. The long story made short is that the Board of Health, Housing Court, Plumbers, Electricians, Fire Department and EPA were all eventually called in to demand the landlord resolve the problem. My family and I were instructed to vacate the premises on a moments notice. The house was deemed condemned and unusable for human habitation. It was suggested we find a hotel and get reimbursed by the landlord. Pretty dire, eh?
So, for the last week, the van has been carting around the necessities: toothbrushes and toiletries, clothing and pillows, art supplies and library books, bicycles and laptops and yes, even my printer. Because, even when you're displaced, life goes on.
We made due at the tiny abode of my partner. Kids sleeping on the floors while my partner and I camped out under the stars in the night air. While I am literally covered from head to toe in mosquito bites, I couldn't find a thing to complain about. The kids took long walks in the woods, rode their bikes down the winding New England dirt roads, swam in the river, laughed hard and slept harder. I put more miles on my car this week than I usually do in three months. I made more phone calls, took more notes, talked to more officials and followed through on more details than a high powered stock broker. Yet, beneath it all, I stayed calm.
I kept waiting for the avalanche of emotions. You know what I mean, right? The moment when the weight of one more thing makes it all unbearable. That moment when you realize you're no longer breathing deeply, the lump in your throat makes it too hard to form a sentence, and you just fall apart and hope against hope (because it never really happens) that someone else--some Great Mama--will soothe your brow, pick up the pieces and make it all better.
The avalanche never came. And, in the midst of camping out on decks, in tents, on floors and later in beds at my brother's house, everyone was just fine. The details came together. Appointments were kept. We didn't, really, miss a beat. I kept slowing down, stilling myself and checking. "Am I so overwhelmed I'm not letting myself feel this? Am I so shielded I'm not as present as I think I am?" Nope. I'm right here. Present. All parts accounted for and on board.
In fact, the kids and I were able to have a good time. Rather than wallowing in sorrow, drama and a sense of victimization, we cloaked ourselves in a sense of adventure. Can't go home? Great! It's summer! Let's play!
Don't get me wrong. We came home last night and sprawling out across my own bed never felt so good. Awakening this morning to the mess of sleeping bags, suitcases and gear to be unpacked, laundry and dishes to be done, correspondence to be answered didn't send me into a panic. It'll all get done. No big deal.
It's been a wild roller coaster ride. There's a lot going on in my life right now. But, looking back over the years I have to laugh and ask, "When hasn't there been a lot going on?" And, looking around at the lives of my friends, family and clients, I nod quietly and think, "This is the human condition. There's just no planning for it. No getting around it. Chaos happens." Perhaps the Time we find ourselves living in makes us more vulnerable to chaos. More likely, this has always been the case with our condition.
No matter how well we plan or how safe we think we are, no matter how organized or structured our lives, the unplanned for will intercede. The sewage drain breaks, accidents happen, a family member gets a scary diagnosis, the loan isn't approved, the flight is delayed, the event is canceled, the baby is up all night teething, our hearts are broken. The question isn't how to avoid these inevitabilities, but rather, how will we respond when the structures and safeties we've erected come tumbling down? Will we ride the roller coaster with our eyes wide open? Or will we resist the momentum of the fast forward motion?
My tradition is often called "martial," as in Bushido or Karate. This kind of Warriorship doesn't avoid conflict. We don't go looking for it, mind you, but we don't avoid. Rather, we read and discern the energy patterns and enter the fray. Here we bend like the willow in a great wind. Here we strike like the cobra when provoked. We engage.
Engaging fully, completely, honestly and deeply with Life we become resilient. We engage not only with the sweet, uplifting parts of our human experience, but with the dark, messy, scary parts as well. In any given moment we ask, "What can I learn from this?"
Notice the difference in asking "What can I learn from this" from "What is the lesson?" The latter assumes the lesson is being done to us, against our Will by some outside force "for our own good." Hello, bearded white guy in the sky, it's not so good to notice you hiding there again, still. The former, question, recognizes our agency or, if you will, our own Divine Authority, our ability to discern for ourselves how we will interpret our circumstances and how we will Act.
I'm choosing to write about this week's Odyssey here in Soul Alignments because it's a very personal example of conscious alignment within one's self and the circumstances one might find oneself in as we live and move through our human experience. It's one thing to be aligned at the altar when we are in the midst of our practice. It's quite another the carry that wholeness into the messy unpredictability of our lives and still another to embody it in the midst of crisis. I'm not talking about making lemonade when the universe hands us lemons. I'm not advocating for a Pollyanna approach to life. Rather, I'm asking us to consider the uses of adversity and our ability to Surrender fully while working our Will precisely.
Enjoy your ride!