Looking for the Divine at the beach...
Happy Thanksgiving, hope it was beautiful and magical and you had way to much pie. It's my favorite holiday of the entire year. It honestly is, I just love a meal with the people I love surrounding me. I especially love eating pie with coffee the day after.
My endless love to any of you who had a less than stellar Thanksgiving.
I received messages late yesterday and early this morning from three women that I adore. Each shared with me some tough news. Ugh, men behaving badly and sick grandparents are NOT what any of us want for the holidays.
But, the third call brought me to my knees.
I got a text from one of my most trusted inner circle. A simple text asking if I could chat. It was the perfect time, I was cooking in the kitchen still in pjs at 9am and there is nothing more delightful than a good post big weekend gossip session. I dialed immediately.
Now I have a quirk that most of my close friends know about me and find enduring... when I hear them answer on the other end, I begin my banter. I don't say, "Oh, Hi so-so and so how are you, blah, blah," I just jump in with some funny quip, mid story...." And just as we normally do I did that with my bestie. But, she cut me off saying something to the affect of, "We don't have time for this, I need to tell you something." My first thought was it was her mom. My bestie has had an "Annus Horribilis" for all you non-Latin scholars its "horrible year". I can't wait for December 31 to call her with champagne, telling her how happy I am to kick 2016 to the curb. All done 2016 for you!
Let me sum it up, three weeks ago she had shoulder surgery on HER BIRTHDAY, because it was the only day free with all the other stuff going on. Let me also share that my bestie is no martyr, she didn't have surgery as a woe is me. Honestly, it was the only free day in her life that she could schedule surgery. Cross off family dinner and cake, get her broken shoulder fixed. Check and check. Well you are starting to get the image, she has had a horrible go of it. With all of us, when life throws us a curve ball it's never the ball that stops you in your tracks. No, its most often that the ball knocks all the other things that are teetering, and it's that force that tips your precarious life out of whack--And so it was with this call.
So I stop mid banter and she blurts out the news. I will only share that it was a medical diagnosis related to one of her four children. It's a game changer. A life long medical diagnosis. It was a sucker punch to the gut. We have been here, it's familiar and its primal. It's not something that you ever get a day off from. It's the diagnosis that fills me with such rage that I want to break every glass, dish and plate in my entire kitchen.
This is the kind of friend that I am... She shares the news and my first response was not, "I'm so sorry, how are you? How are the girls? Your husband?" Nope if you want that in my friendship, call someone else... Because, she got, "WELL THAT IS (insert F-ing expletive) UNACCEPTABLE! THAT IS NOT (insert F-ing expletive) OK!"
(If you want to see the expletive in all its NSFW glory, read my earlier post where I describe its use in detail...
And her reaction to me was something along the lines of, "I knew if anyone would understand it would be you..." And she laughed her beautiful laugh and thanked me for just dropping our favorite curse word like you would say hello and telling her that I loved her a few hundred times.
We spent the next few minutes getting the specifics. The trip to the hospital, and checking in on everyone. Now I love these four girls as my own. I love these girls without limits... Perhaps it's because I love their mother so deeply. Interspersed throughout our conversation was the ever present expletive.
We just let it rip. Locker rooms would have blushed to hear us...
And in the course of this 15 minute phone call we had mentally escaped, sitting in a bar, drinking shot after shot, smoking cigarettes, the cigarettes just dangling out of our lips as we cursed, feet up on the table, spitting on the floor, getting angry drunk. And of course, beating up every tough guy who looked at us sideways.
For a few short minutes we were raw, numb and unrestrained...
Which means I now need to dust off my soap-box. I've said it before and will say it till every person on the planet stops putting that meme up on social media and needlepoint-it on pillows:
"God doesn't give us more than we can handle."
Bull-shit. Bullllllllll-shit. (Sorry for letting an expletive slip through, but I'm a little fired-up.)
Sometimes this life gives us more than we can handle. It's just that simple and in these moments, you had better get good and angry with the Divine. When I get angry with the Divine-- I'm always talking to a male image. I have a much easier time getting mad at men, just being honest.
But hold that thought for just a second...
I want to share, one philosophical understanding of the soul with all of you. It comes from my friend Bob, who is in my prayer group. He maintains that when the Divine makes each of us, he takes a peace of his God-ness and places it in each one of us. I have interpreted that concept to mean our souls are part Velcro, the Divine is one part and we are the other. We move through the world as 1/2 a piece of Velcro, and when we die we return to heaven where we stick to God. It does jive with that understanding that we are all, "made in the image and likeness of God."
I have gone to take it even further, if our souls are part Velcro, perhaps we can share parts of our souls with others here in our lifetime. When we love, we give part of our soul to our friends and love ones, and that part of us connects with theirs and we glob together in a big Velcro ball.
In my soul, I can often feel that sacred connection with those I love most. It is that sacred connection that I feel with my bestie, which is why I was so angry. I was filled with such profound sadness for her, that her life is really stinking hard. And I was pointless to ease her suffering.
After hanging up, Jeff walked through the kitchen--I told him I needed to go to the beach and pray. I was furious, absolutely furious.
It is in these moments that many ask, "What is the point of believing in God, if life is going to be like this?"
And my answer is always the same, because we can meet the Divine in the lowest moments too.
And today I met the Divine on a beach in California... and we had much to discuss.
I got to the beach and put in my earbuds and went walking with The Rolling Stones, Eagles and Joe Cocker blaring in my ears. Each song was as angry as I was. The sky was grey, the wind was blowing, and the waves were crashing. I could look out on the edge of the horizon where the sky was clear, sunny even, with soft clouds and endless sun, but I was in a different place and the contrast was stark.
Halfway into my walk the wind was so strong it was pushing me back, I noticed a few yards away from the surf a bend in the sandstone cliff--which could protect me from the strong wind. I ducked up against the cliff and dropped down onto the sand. To my left the cliff was my protection, my refuge from the wind and I could sit and focus my attention on the ocean. And for a long time, I sat and watched the wind and the surf claw toward the shore. I could feel the ferociousness of the wind, the anger of ocean as she formed the waves, and then witnessed the rage as each wave crashed onto the beach. When I was walking, I could see the tiny shards of shell that were littering the beach. It was the same intensity at which I would have shattered every dish in my kitchen. Nature had mirrored my rage and tossed it at my feet.
As I watched the waves, the wind would hurl towards me, casting sand in every direction, I would bow my head down, and yet the sand would still sting my face, my lips were coated with sand, and my mouth was gritty with the taste of salt. But I continued to sit, and listen, and then in the midst of all of the noise, deep in my soul, the voice of the Divine spoke to my soul.
"Don't you think I'm angry too? Let me show you how angry. Watch all of this creation and see my rage. Look at the ocean, feel my presence in the wind, feel the cold in your bones."
I never have had an encounter with the Divine in which I understood the depths of the power of God. That in my suffering, I was missing the fundamental nature of the Divine, that she too was suffering with me, and that she too understood my pain in a place so fundamentally raw.
Because she showed me hers too. I was reminded in the pain, the Divine wasn't just the soft place to fall-- she was the place to safely unleash my anger, my hurt, my disappointment and know that she understood it because she had given me that piece of her. That piece to love so completely, why wouldn't that same being of love struggle with me too.
I'm reminded that in all the hardness of life, the beauty is often hidden from our view. As I walked back to the car, I snapped photos of the sand blowing and looked at the pain of broken tress littering the beach from lost storms. As I passed one tree, I was drawn to the roots and the decaying of the bark. As I looked at the tree, I marveled at the seaweed and all the different forms of life that sprung from its decay, and then I saw something that caught my eye.
A white object between all the brown. I thought it was a piece of a Styrofoam cup that had lodged in the tree. When I picked up the "Styrofoam" base I realized it was a large white shell covered in barnacles of seaweed.
As I rubbed off the seaweed, the beauty of the shell reappeared, it would forever be changed by the seaweed, but what made it so stunning was that the brilliant whiteness of the shell now had more silver, green and brown tones.
When he came home from school, Ian looked at the shell and replied, "Mom it's perfectly imperfect, like us..."
That summed up the thought of the day. In all the darkness that surrounds our bad news, the decay of life, in between all of the mess, there hides beauty.
The beauty of two friends that could have a smoke and drink in an imaginary bar and make each other laugh in what was a very difficult conversation.
The love of friends, who you know always have your back and the faith that even in the darkness, you are never alone.
Finding peace in the perfectly imperfect in our midst.
The Divine in me will forever Velcro to the Divine in you...
Photo Credits: PilgrimageGal