Coming Home

WindandSea

Tim and I woke up this morning and we did not put on our Sunday best, not even in our hearts. After getting annoyed with each other for the 10th time in an hour, we knew we had to get away from Ground Zero. We had to go home to the beach.

We went to Wind and Sea in south La Jolla and got wet. We climbed rocks, breathed in the salty air, listened to the waves and watched the water rolling on shore, over and over again. Our hands brushed and instead of pulling away, our fingers intertwined. Over the minutes, the ticking time bombs lodged in our chests became our beating hearts once again.

I don’t know exactly what it is about the ocean that brings me home, but there is no place on earth where I find such peace, where I find myself inhabiting my own body, my heart and soul. I know the ocean doesn’t work magic on everyone, but everyone has a place that works magic on them.

It could be the beauty of a canyon, the desert, or a lake in the mountains. It might be standing in freshly fallen snow, listening to the rain, or a river go by, or even the smell of the earth and the feel of it in your hands. Everyone finds their own way “home.”

We forget to go where we feel most alive, because we confuse being “alive” with “life.” Life is what we do every day; it’s the simple act of breathing in and out and all the complications that come with it. It’s work and chores, relationships and realities. Being alive is something else entirely. When we are truly alive, we are fully present to ourselves, body and soul. When we are truly living, we aren’t just keeping busy with the smallest details to avoid asking the larger questions.

For my birthday last month, my friend Leighann gave me a journal with one of my favorite quotes on the cover.

Mermaid

“I must be a mermaid. I have no fear of depths and a great fear of shallow living.” Anais Nin

Life will keep us on the surface. Alive, we want to go deeper. I wish it weren’t quite so easy to simply live our lives.

I’ve spent a lot of time at the beach lately, swimming, paddling, thinking, reading and writing. My car is a mess of sand, seaweed and salt-water stains. My life tells me to clean it up. My heart tells me to leave it be, so it can remind me to get back to living.

Piershot

This week, I hope something does the same for you – an over-reaction, an under-achievement, a dirty car. I hope you remember where you feel most alive and get there if you can. Go early in the morning, or late at night, in the sun, or rain, or in the bright, hot light of day. Breathe in the air that gives life to who you are. Close your eyes and let the smell of your home surround you. Be in that place. Be in your body. You might laugh or cry; going home will do that to you, especially if it’s been a while.

I want to leave you with a poem by Jane Hooper.


“Please Come Home”

Please come home.
Please come home.
Find the place where your feet know where to walk
And follow your own trail home.

Please come home.
Please come home into your own body,
Your own vessel, your own earth.
Please come home into each and every cell,
And fully into the space that surrounds you…

Please come home.
Please come home to trusting yourself,
And your instincts and your ways and your knowings,
And even the particular quirks of your personality.

Please come home.
Please come home and once you are firmly there,
Please stay home awhile and come to a deep rest within.
Please treasure your home. Please love and embrace your home.
Please get a deep, deep sense of what it’s like to be truly home.

Please come home.Please come home.
And when you’re really, really ready,
And there’s a detectable urge on the outbreath, then please come out.

Please come home and please come forward.
Please express who you are to us, and please trust us
To see you and hear you and touch you
And recognize you as best we can.

Please come home.Please come home and let us know
All the nooks and crannies that are calling to be seen.
Please come home, and let us know the More
That is there that wants to come out.

Please come home.Please come home
For you belong here now.You belong among us.
Please inhabit your place fully so we can learn from you,
From your voice and your ways and your presence.

Please come home.Please come home.
And when you feel yourself home, please welcome us too,
For we too forget that we belong and are welcome,
And that we are called to express fully who we are.

Please come home.Please come home.
You and you and you and me.

Please come home.Please come home.
Thank you, Earth, for welcoming us.
And thank you touch of eyes and ears and skin,
Touch of love for welcoming us.

May we wake up and remember who we truly are.

Please come home.
Please come home.
Please come home.


photo 3I hope you’ll share your homecoming with me here, or on Facebook. They are my favorite stories. Where will you find home this week and how does it feel to be alive?

 

A Happy Ending Isn’t a Happily Ever After

end-happy-ending-quote-saying-Favim.com-680495_largeI believe in happy endings, but before you dismiss me as a romantic, let me clarify.

A happy ending isn’t the same as “happily ever after.”

A happy ending isn’t limited to times when you get exactly what you want.

A happy ending doesn’t mean there’s no darkness on the horizon and it definitely doesn’t mean nothing bad is ever going to happen again.

A happy ending is simply this: in the end, there is some possibility for redemption, a glimmer of hope that all is not lost.

I don’t know when we started to lose our capacity for hope as a nation, but it seems to me we’re on our way and in some Western societies, they’ve arrived.

The Washington Post ran a commentary this week by Michael Gerson, which described the practice of euthanasia in Belgium, a (seemingly) civilized society. When afflicted with a serious, or terminal illness, it is a basic right in that country to have assistance in carrying out your own death. The Belgian courts recently extended that right to prisoners with mental illnesses, saying in essence, if you don’t want to be alive, who are we to stop you? In fact, it’s our moral and legal obligation to help you.

My heart dropped as the writer considered the implications of the ruling. At what point is mental illness considered terminal? At what age do we give up hope for successful treatment and recovery? At what point do we start believing that the “right” to commit suicide when facing cancer, dementia, Parkinson’s, or the like, is actually a duty, or obligation? At what point do ailing individuals feel like they must act on the perception they are taking up too much space and time in their homes, or society? At what point past our prime do we become undeserving of our space?

In the last year alone, 1,800 Belgians exercised their right to die, up 25% from the previous year. Are these numbers a sign of a need that was previously unfilled, or of a society who has lost their cultural belief in happy endings?

When everyone surrounding you believes that who and what you are in this moment is all there is, then you are in trouble (and so are we). The one who is suffering cannot be relied on to see the route to healing for themselves. That’s asking too much of them, to carry the burden of their pain and the weight of possibility as well. It’s our obligation to hold that hope for them. We may not feel like happy endings are real, but we’d better believe it anyway, because it’s the only hope for our future.

A happy ending says that when everything is lost, something can be gained. When we are broken, something new will be made. When all is dark, it’s because we can’t see the light, not because the light doesn’t exist.

While we are well, we need to repeat these truths to ourselves over and over again, so that we can remember them when the bad days come.

Every day, in public schools across America, kids recite the Pledge of Allegiance, claiming that our nation is “indivisible, with liberty and justice for all.” It’s a good thing too, because the evidence to the contrary is everywhere. It doesn’t always feel like our country is on the right track, but our common belief in those foundational values allows us to press on and reach for our higher selves, instead of giving up on the system. We need to bring that same level of commitment to the way we value life itself, not just the structures that govern it.

As individuals we can’t believe in happy endings all the time. That’s why we have to believe in them as a society, as families, as parents and spouses and siblings and friends. We have to talk about them, share them, celebrate them. We have to saturate our culture with the knowledge that just because we can’t see the way out, doesn’t mean it isn’t there.

I find it discouraging that so much of our cultural conditioning leads us to believe that ‘happy endings’ are for fools and fairytales. Happy endings are for fighters too. Like Winston Churchill, I believe that we can “never, never, never, never give in.” But Belgium has. In the name of choice, they’ve lost sight of our collective human responsibility to struggle together to make meaning from our lives and our deaths.

I am not unsympathetic to those in mental and physical pain. I would never make a blanket judgment about someone’s obligation to live through unspeakable suffering, or the choices they make in those moments, hopefully surrounded by loved ones. But I want to make my stand on the side of hopefulness. James Finley, one of my teachers, commented recently, “Few people in hospice recover, but many people in hospice are healed.” Healing, of any kind, is a happy ending, for those who are leaving and those left behind.

Ultimately, a happy ending isn’t primarily about how we face the end of our lives, though that’s what got me thinking about the subject. A happy ending is about how we face the disappointments we are handed each and every day: the too-small bank account, the unflattering gossip, the college rejection letter, the nasty fight with our spouse, the team our kids didn’t make and the friends who don’t want to play. Do we believe something good can come from this bad?

No matter how many movies, books and songs try to convince me otherwise, I believe in the power of happy endings. When I look the “bright side,” it’s not out of naive optimism, or willful ignorance. It’s an intentional choice. How else will I meet those final challenges without a daily practice in the hope I claim?

Where is my happy ending? Right here, wherever I am.