Cloak of Responsibility

Here is the best–and worst– part about old journals, Lord–busted, I’m busted. So a few days ago I was rejoicing over the growth I saw, looking back at pages from 15 years ago. Well I read a little further and I stumbled on an entry from mid-May that could have been written yesterday. Sure, the circumstances were different then–I was finishing up a later-in-life undergrad degree, studying for exams and preparing papers, but the stress responses, the fatigue, and my desperate, articulated on the page need for some time outside was identical. So writing that down, i think I see two things: this is not a new issue, a new problem and I think it dates all the way back to my school years; and second, the outdoors has been my safe soothing place for a long, long time.

So I really want to copy down here what I wrote there and then. Because I need to talk to You about this. I wish it could be once and for all. But maybe it can at least be for now. “In one sense I have no business doing anything but run this marathon called spring quarter (substitute, get open for season) but…I have a ton of buts. But I’m so tired. But I’m said. But my head is in a vice. But…but I want a break, not a big break–but some small break, some outside, outdoors break. Change focus. I deliberately am not going to write three pages, takes too long. Instead I’m going to shower and leave and go somewhere. Sounds rebellious just to write that down. Why should a morning beach walk or the Ridge be rebellious? Because duty has tons of tasks right here. When is a break ok? When I’m breaking? I don’t know.” WHEW! Yikes. May, 2003. 

I have a flood of memory. Being on call for work, in an era before cell phones, so that I didn’t dare even go to the beach for more than an hour even on the weekend “in case” I was called, called in to work or to answer a question or attend some meeting. Good grief. I remember unplugging the phone for a solid weekend and my roommate and I binge watching wonderful movies, Ghandi and Biko and I can’t recall what else. Something Native American but I don’t remember the title. I remember how I felt good and bad, doing that. I remember talking to the personnel director at the time, about all the extra work I was being expected to do after hours, but because my bosses were committee volunteers, I was told there was nothing I could do about it–and stay employed. Of course I did what I do. I stayed employed! It was seven years later and it took my mom’s illness before I finally left that job. But obviously I didn’t leave the mindset.

God, Great Creator, Your own Name is I Am. Not I Do. How can You help me?

SO much in your culture, your schooling, your family, your past employment, and even the example set by your husband extols and rewards work, effort, productivity. You have been well trained, trained to perform. But life is not a circus, and you are not a trick pony. Nor are you a racehorse. Nor are you destined to plod, plod along pulling a plow. When you picture a horse, what image comes to mind first?

Running free. Running over the plains. Running by the sea. 

Freedom to Be, that is what comes first. Essence of Horse, yes? So what is Essence of Eve? That is what I want you to ask yourself, tonight and in the morning and in the days ahead. I will give you a hint–it is not what you think. It is not what first comes to mind. Your gifts, your talents, and yes your working life, these are outpourings in particular channels of an inner life. I want you to think less about the channels and more about the spring, more about the river. I want you to think more about the Essence. More about Being. Not about Being Efficient. Not about Being Organized. Not about Being Productive or Being Successful. Not even about Being Faithful, which you translate into productivity and effort, into doing and away from merely being.

Eve means Life. “Mother of all Living” — which you have chuckled over, adopting stray cats, calling yourself Mama. You have chuckled and donned a mantle of great and grave responsibility. Once before I asked you for a cloak, to give Me the cloak you were wearing. Do you remember?

Lord, how can I forget? Of course I remember. “I clutched my grief to my body like a robe/said it is all that is mine I have left/but I threw it down at Your feet and turned to go/cold, alone, bereft”

And what happened next, in your vision, in your lyric?

You led me to the beach. You wrapped a new warm something around my shoulders. You began to heal that broken place inside.

Somewhere along the way, you abandoned the cloak I gave you, and you wove for yourself a new one–this mantle of responsibility. It is neither keeping you warm nor keeping you dry. And I want you to do what I asked you to do years ago. Give Me your mantle. Give Me your sense of weighty responsibility, that feeling you have that so much depends on you and your effort, from your family’s health and safety to the health and safety of friends, to the success of your business and every artist whose work you so lovingly steward. Can you do that? Can you trust Me with your mantle, one more time?

Gosh God, there is blood and sweat and tears on this shawl. I don’t mean to be dramatic but there are a lot of years woven into these threads. Does this mean all that work, all that effort did not count?

No, little one. What it means is that you are trying to fit into a garment that was never meant for you. What I have for you to wear is a mystical, magical coat. It will grow as you grow. Its threads shimmer and gleam in moonlight and sunlight. It is soft and gentle to the touch yet the sharpest arrows of accusation cannot penetrate its weave. This is My Weaving, and I have spent all your life preparing it for you, for this moment. For the moment you are willing to let go, and begin to Be. Live into your name, live into your loves, live into your life. Give Me your heavy mantle. Slip on your new coat. Here is its first secret: see its color change as you tap deeply into the Essence of who you are, who I have made and called you to be.

One more thing. You can’t easily hide in this coat. This is not a camouflage garment. You will be both more conspicuous and more free, wearing it. You want to see how you look? Your reflection pool will be found first in the eyes of those closest to you, from animals to people you love who love you back.

Lord, what are You going to do with my old cloak, the one I just took off?

Give that cloak no more thought. I Am going to light a fire, to warm your winter and help light your way. This is not the sort of garment to hand down to anyone else, you know. And it had gotten way too heavy to wear in warmer weather, and your busier season. You would have fallen, trying to bear it.  How does your new coat feel?

It, it feels lightweight. And oh my goodness, I just moved my neck and it is moving more freely, less stiff, less pain.

The lightness in your spirit will translate directly into lightness for your bones, and energy for your body and mind. And paradoxically, into more restful sleep as well. So sleep tight, little one. Snuggle into your coat. Let Me teach you about restful labor, and energizing rest.

Tumbling Down The Well

Lord, I know what is most important to You is not work. It’s relationship. So what can I do? I feel like I’m side-stepping this problem; no matter how I have tried, I can’t seem to resolve this. I have tried to address symptoms but the underlying drivenness remains. And I do see this, really, as a deficit of character, not as an asset–at least at its current level. Maybe it could be an asset in moderation. So can I, dare I, ask You to help? The only way I can think of to truly make amends is to a)work less and b)quit manifesting anxiety and I am not there, in my own strength.

You can ask Me to remove anything and everything that separates you from My best for you. Do you think this state of being is My best? Do you view this way of being as a gift from Me? Do you think I can help you get everything done? Do you think I can protect you without your having to be hyper-vigilant, like that tv show you watched a while back, about the veteran?

Lord, are You saying I have some kind of post-traumatic stress disorder? That’s ridiculous! That’s for victims of trauma, like soldiers or the abused or hurricane victims, or 9-11, right?

2011 was your personal, private, 9-11. The twin towers were Pete’s cancer and Patrick’s death–both sudden, life-never-the-same attacks from outside yourself on your normal everyday life.

God, I’m sobbing now. You say that and bang, I’m sobbing, getting my paper wet. What do I do? What do I do?

You start by being honest. You start by asking for help. You don’t try to hide it, from yourself, from Me, from others.

Lord, I’m really embarrassed. And I’m really ashamed. Shouldn’t this relationship I have with You be enough?

It is because of our connection that you are still functioning at all. You opted to stay strong and power through that time, but you are like a car that is stuck in 4th gear now. You can’t shift. You can’t down-shift, you can’t put it in neutral for more than a few minutes at a time–like here, or walking outside–and even then, your inner motor is revving, just waiting to kick into overdrive again. It’s why you can’t settle. Why you are so restless. Why you don’t make music. Why all of a sudden you struggle to write. Why you can’t remember. You’re on overdrive and on auto-pilot. You’re trying to multitask mentally, juggle all these different must-do’s and need-to’s and shoulds. You’ve gone beyond overload. You’re like a power plant that has been running too long at peak capacity and the whole thing is in danger of shutting down.

Lord, that is my fear, though, that the grid will go down, so to speak. In my life. It is the same fear family members have, I guess. They go around angry. Me, I’m just so afraid…and then this past fall, with Pete…and the other day, with Pete…I feel like I can’t let down my guard for one second. I feel like, if I take a break, take a walk, take a breather, that is the very moment he will need me, and I won’t be right there. So. That is my fear.

I know. And yet, when you stop and think, you realize you are not afraid of Me, and you do trust Me. So you feel confused, too.

Yes, that is true.

These are all symptoms. Sometimes symptoms must increase so the diagnosis can be made, so the condition can be identified and treated.

And You are saying I need professional help? Since I can’t handle this?

Eve, Eve. You did handle this. That is what you are not seeing. You did. You do. You came through like a trooper–but you are still stuck in “like a trooper” mode. That is the problem. You are waiting, 24/7, for the shoe to drop. For the next sudden attack on your life. That’s the problem.

Yes, well. Isn’t that obvious? I mean, hello, isn’t that where we are? Where he is, and where I am? Isn’t that where the whole world is, at some point?

So let Me play this back for you. You are saying the best response to aging is to move into a crisis mode with greater anxiety and less joy, just so you can be prepared for an eventual inevitable disaster? And that is the best I can offer humans for their latter years? And that is the most humans can expect of themselves, each other, and Me? Is that really what you think, or believe?

Well, when You put it that way…

No–you put it that way. You put it that way every time you make a choice to operate from a perspective that says, everything around you is falling apart and it is your responsibility to keep all the pieces together and in play. But everything around you is not falling apart, for one thing, and it is not your responsibility to hold everything together, as I have told you before. It is your responsibility to do what?

To live each day connected to You, and in love. In love with You, in love with Pete, in love with this beautiful, messy world and my beautiful, messy life.

And what part of love, of lovingkindness does the puzzle piece of your stress and anxiety, your fear and drivenness fit?

Lord, it doesn’t. It doesn’t fit the puzzle at all. It is the wrong size and the wrong shape and the wrong color. And it has rough, sharp edges. 

I want you to live “as if.” Some people counsel to live as if you are dying, as if life is shrinking and diminishing and you have to cram as much as you can into every moment. I don’t want you to do that. I don’t want you to live as though nothing matters and there is no purpose either. I want you to live a third way. I want you to live AS IF this day, every day, is the best day of your life so far. And then get up tomorrow and do that again. Just purpose in your heart, wow, this day is going to be incredible! Then let’s color in what incredible looks and feels like for you. It is different for everyone. For you, it does include both time to reflect and time to create, time to be with those you love and time to be alone, time at the Page with Me and time noticing the natural world. Incredible for you includes beauty in many forms. Words in many genres. Music. Laughter. The affection of furry critters. You’ve tumbled once again down a deep well of grief and you need to climb toward the light. Miraculously, nothing is really broken–yet. And there is a ladder leading up. So let’s climb out together, shall we?

Keeping Peace

Lord, I want to talk to You tonight about amends. And about peacekeeping. Or peace-making. Actually, what I want to talk to you about is that verse in the Psalms, I forget where it is exactly, I am for peace, but when I speak, they are for war. That is what I want to talk about, how to keep peace, how to maintain it.

The first place you have to maintain peace is within yourself. You be at peace. Be at peace with Me. If you are at peace with Me, part of what that means is, let My Peace prevail within you. Let My Peace permeate your being.

Lord, I got this sudden visual, of a hurricane, and that made me remember a line in my friend Judy’s poem, now for me comes the calm i of the storm…

Yes, you can live at peace even in the midst of a storm. You can be an oasis of calm.

But what if the people you care most about in the world are in that storm? What if they are trapped in that storm, or, worse yet, even causing the storm? Then what?

This is what turn the cheek means–sometimes you have to take a breath and turn aside. You have to decide that your peace is more important than their war. The hard truth is, you cannot argue them into peace, not within themselves, not between themselves. You cannot argue anyone else into peace with you. You can only extend your peace, extend your love, and hope and pray they listen.

What if they don’t? 

Love never gives up. That doesn’t mean you continue to fuel someone else’s fire, but it does mean you can continue to hold your peace, in hope they will find their own. Think about that phrase a minute: hold your peace. You use it to mean, keep quiet. Keep silent, don’t speak up, don’t speak out. But think about it literally–hold your peace. Keep  your peace close to your heart. Hold on to your peace, don’t give it away, don’t give it up.

It hurts, to want peace so badly and to feel in my spiritual bones that a storm is coming. I know a little bit what to do in the natural. I know how to remove objects that could become missiles, to prepare for the power to go out, to stockpile water, maybe even shutter windows against flying debris, and to make sure my vehicle is safe on high ground. But spiritually? I know about building your house, your life, on solid ground, on You. On Your Love. That’s my rock. But what else can I do?

Here is what you can’t do. You cannot accurately forecast the wind speed or direction, or anticipate every flying object that might be hurled in your direction. But you can rely on My Peace as a guidance system, to tell you in the moment how to react, what to do or not do, and how to keep yourself safe, and on an even keel, emotionally and physically and spiritually.

Lord, I just feel like a hurricane is coming. A tsunami, a great raging wall of anger and upset. I see it in our country and I see it in the family. And it frightens me.

And what have I promised you? I have promised you that you will not drown. You will neither drown in a sea of rage, nor die of thirst in drought. I have promised you will be safe, safe in Me, safe in My Love, safe in My Armor, safe in My Peace. You won’t have to fight to keep yourself safe. You won’t have to abandon who you are. It may be, once the initial storm passes, that you will look around and find your world is smaller, but it will be yours, and it will be beautiful. Why beautiful? Because it will reflect who you are at your core: loving, peaceful, grateful, joyful. So be at Peace now, little one. Do not sleep fearing a nightmare in your future. What have I said, over and over? Perfect Love casts out all fear. And where is perfect Love? Right here. Surrounding you. That is your spiritual safety–My Perfect Love.

Here is something else I can promise you. As I Am fully and completely Myself, you will remain fully and completely yourself. You will not snap, you will not break, you will not shatter. In fact, the power you possess, which is gentle strength, the strength to love in the midst of the storm, is a gift from Me, and no one can take that away from you.

Now I want you to relax, and let go. Let go of your angst and your anguish over anyone else’s choices. That is hard for you. But as I told you before, you can be compassionate without taking on responsibility for anyone else’s choices. You learned this once. You can learn this again.

So in answer to your question, how can you remain at peace if the world around you goes to war? Be a conscientious objector. You don’t have to be objectionable, or obnoxious. Just purpose in your heart to utter a Divine No. And how do you do that? You say Yes to Me. Just as darkness cannot exist where there is even the tiniest light, so war cannot exist in a life or heart, as yours, where there is a commitment to peace. Follow Me, your Prince of Peace, and within you, all shall be well.