I ask this question of myself (what is here in me?) and of the world (what is here before me?) and of the people I meet (what is here in her, in him?)
I look behind the mask of things – behind the posturing and pretense.
What I discover is astonishing, humbling beauty
I look at my marriage and I find the foundational presence of my husband’s love for me. The simple fact of it. The floor that it provides to my life; the rooms and windows. I peel away the story I used to tell, years ago, of “You don’t say, ‘I love you.'”
“I’m here, aren’t I?” he would always reply. With the story peeled away, I get that now.
Here he was: standing beside me as I cried out in labor. Here he was, walking our crying babies in the middle of the night.
Here he was at the dinner table, at the beach house, in the hospital – and last week, here he was, loving me through an all-day, high-stakes argument about college tuition, and home ownership and freedom.
Here wasn’t he? Always.
Recently, as my question has led me down the rabbit hole of myself, I’ve realized that I am in the middle of a great peeling away. Life was tightening around me. I was squeezing through a tight tunnel, peeling and being peeled.
My life was suddenly, and quite profoundly, too small for me.
My awareness was expanding and contracting like a chest with new lungs – and great gasps of new experience moving in and out.
I’d been preparing for this opening for years. Still, I was unprepared for the onslaught – the sheer deluge of feeling.
Tears came. Oh, the beauty and then, the sorrow that such beauty could not last!
What is here? I asked and found,
- My mother, moaning on the sofa, hooked to her oxygen tube, eyes clouded with pain. But then, a moment later, there was my mother, alert, giggling, those same eyes adoring me.
- My father, sitting in the corner of the nursing home where I fed him pureed pizza and salad and we talked about God. He can no longer feed himself, can only move one hand – and barely. “Everyone suffers,” he said. “But you can’t give up…”
- My daughter sitting beside me in the car,shooting an iPhone video of the San Francisco fog as the beautiful song she was introducing to me steadily played.
- My son, shirtless in the blazing sun, looking up at me; grinning as he dug a hole for the garden I am finally ready to plant.
- My sisters, texting, phoning, hugging, laughing. And Sarah, teaching us all how to give.
My husband: the crossbar to my T, the dot to my I. Here, aren’t they? These gift-wrapped miracles placed in my life by the gods.
Also here, and suddenly, this deluge of fierce bright love, fueled by a courage I have never experienced before: a courage that transcends all fear.
Now when the old voice cautions: Careful, you might get hurt, my heart says: Love anyway.
When the old voice argues, But what if they laugh at you, don’t love you back? What if your outpouring of love is met by … nothing?
My heart shrugs. “So what?” It asks. “Love anyway.”
This love is new and tender : a quiet new heartbeat, infinitely fragile and enormously strong; a courageous pulse that teaches and translates me from ‘less than’ to ‘more than’ .
This love says, Love can never be wasted.
I watch what happens -this asking, this opening, this courage, this surrender – and I learn.
Is this mindfulness? I don’t know. I cannot do this – this unfolding, this becoming something new – any other way.
I observe and allow. Allow and observe.
I let love arise in me while also noticing that when love arises, I am afraid.
I see that not allowing myself to love as fully as I actually love leaves me half-alive.
I see that this is what separates me from love: wrapping me in an invisible but impenetrable layer of protection – a Saran Wrap of fear.
I peel it away.
Peeling and observing and beneath it I find, of course, of course, love.
I am getting used to it now. To loving
- my family,
- my friends,
- this beautiful work that I do.
- My body with its warm, soft curves,
- this home where I now sit, writing
- this magnificent cup of of tea.
Getting used to this love that was here, wasn’t it? all the time.