Miracles: File Under 'Be Careful What You Ask For
Last night, as I was wandering around in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere under the full moon, alone, with no headlamp, it dawned on me how miraculous the situation was. I was terrified of the dark until my early twenties. I was the person who, once I turned the light switch off, would take a running leap into my bed or scramble into the next room like I was being chased. If you had asked me to stand in the middle of the dark forest by myself, I would have rather died. Frankly, I would have assumed I would die.
What was I scared of? Animals or harm-minded people attacking me. Aliens and ghosts (thanks to my older brother doing his job well when we were kids). Bust mostly I was afraid (not consciously at the time) of how the dark is such an immense reminder of my vulnerability and powerlessness to see beyond just a few steps in any direction at any time. I hate that feeling.
After I had lived through a few things that my mind would have told you would have killed me, I decided it was time to face my fear of the dark. A mentor sent me out into the night in Death Valley, and told me not to come back until I'd fallen in love with the dark. For the first hour or so I carried a big stick, hitting rocks and bushes as I stumbled along to scare off anything that might try to eat me, screaming as loud as I could, "I'm not scared of you!" Eventually I'd screamed it enough, and with such force, that I kind of believed it. And suddenly I appreciated how everything glowed a soft silver. And how the silence touched my skin and heart. And I had the feeling that I was walking on the moon itself. And I fell in love.
As I walked last night, getting proper turned around twice and nearly taking a major digger once, I felt how the underlying fear of the dark hasn't gone away. The love of the silver and the silence and the feeling of walking on the moon have simply outweighed it. And it made me think of the Marianne Williamson quote that a friend told me about earlier this year: "A miracle is a shift in perspective from fear to love." She told me that quote after I shared with her, somewhat awkwardly, that I had decided to claim that 2016 would be the year of miracles--even though I didn't really identify with that word and didn't really know what it meant to me. When she shared that quote, I thought, "Yeah, I could buy that. I'll make 2016 the year of shifting my perspective from fear to love."
Interestingly, the first few months of 2016 offered a few of what I would call honest-to-goodness miracles. The kind of events that made my heart soar with disbelief that something this amazing could happen. I thought to myself, "How smart of me to finally say yes to miracles!" And I forgot all about the part about fear.
But then a few events of a different kind occurred. The kind that make it hard to even get out of bed in the morning. And I thought, "I knew it. Fuck miracles." In crept the remembrance to be careful what I ask for because Life always seems to challenge me to see if I can still stand in what I claimed when the shit hits the fan. I hate that.
Walking with the shadow of my fear last night, I started to think again about the Marianne Williamson definition of miracles. For me it doesn't feel like a shift in perspective from fear to love. I don't know that I'm capable of that kind of fundamental shift. For me it feels more like a tipping of the scales. I don't think my fear (and not just of the dark) will ever go away. It's just a matter of whether I walk toward it long enough until I find something to fall in love with. (Because that does, oddly, seem to always work. Much to my initial orneriness.) Or whether I choose my actions from love and let my fear come along with me (as it will).
So in the end it comes down to the same story that I talk about with my clients every day: self-regulation. Can you be with the discomfort (regardless of its flavor) while at the same time feeling your own presence? Can you let your felt sense of being there for yourself with love co-exist with the fear (or shame, or grief, or guilt, or anger) and outweigh it, if only by a fraction of a percent?
How humbling it is to witness my clients practice this in the face of loss and foggy purpose and cancer and confusion and all number of human humanness that is so much bigger than walking around in the dark of night. How healing to remind each other over and over that it's not about perfection and happiness (though celebrate the hell out of it when those come!), but it's about showing up and being as present as you can be with what is. And how miraculous to find that the things you think would destroy you don't (even as they do a bit), and that you might even find that you fall in love with something in the midst of it all.