"...a mass of tiny green things that looked like little stones or crystals,
each one about the size of a grain of rice.
They were extraordinarily beautiful, and there was a strange brightness about them,
a sort of luminous quality that made them
glow and sparkle in a most wonderful way."
-Roald Dahl, James and the Giant Peach
Do you know this quote? This part of the story? It is one of my favorite parts of the book, when things are just about to start happening to James. The green creature seeds- so pretty, so fascinating- just looking at them offers the promise of having what your heart desires most. The caveat? The magic is worked on whatever or whomever they first meet. Poor James. And even us, when we see things like this, reflections of our desires, we can't help but be myopic.
My life is full of friends. They are all glow and sparkle. I use them to fill my days with joy, I use them as sounding boards, I use them as a repository of giving- of my knowledge or time or listening ears and heart and mind. I think they use me for the same things. Also, I'm a pretty decent cook. So, having these people around me, not judging me, keeping me safe, has been deeply humbling. How do you sufficiently thank the people who sustain you? One day at a time. And yet-
I had an experience recently that involved an impromptu counseling session, a massage, and a renewed focus on meditation. Last month I was feeling run down and totally out of sorts. My mind was still adjusting to my new knowledge (or re-discovery) of Self from my retreat, and my body was beginning to show signs of the stress manifesting in my life. What stress, exactly? I mean, I had just come off a three-week hiatus, no? Yes, and I still had too much going on in my head. What to do? Arrange for a massage with my favorite Buddhist Hippie Sage? YES.
It was a Sunday morning, early, and I met him at his work space. It was one of the last best days of summer, and so I was already feeling wistful (Summer! Do! Not! Go!), but the sun was still warm, and I could wear a skirt and flip flops and thought I'd go to the beach after my session. Little did I know where the day would take me.
Me and the BHS started talking, me relaxing a bit from the long drive, both of us feeling each other out, trying to gauge mindset, making small talk in between these silent assessments. The BHS sat in the corner, cross legged in a recliner; I sat cross legged on top of the massage table. Both of us had our hands rested on our knees. I must have looked a state. The BHS says to me as our conversation moves from one topic to the next, "Honey, do you have any love in your life?"
Now, my modus operandi is to analyze and be intellectual rather than emotional. Oh, the walls we build in the name of Avoidance! My hands instinctively went up to cover my face and catch tears.
Yes. No. I don't understand.
We talked about my life and the people I held on to and marveled at- those people who are my tiny green crystals, all luminous and willing to share their magic with me. Three hours spent talking (okay, me crying and listening, really) followed by a massage passed. Deep questions, strong hands. Catharsis. My body needed this. My mind was only partially ready, but I felt calmed if not spent. I went home that night with a quiet determination to pay attention to my Core Friends, my Luminous Seeds.
" 'Something is about to happen,' he told himself. 'Something peculiar is about to happen at any moment.' He hadn't the faintest idea what it might be, but he could feel it in his bones that something was going to happen soon. He could feel it in the air around him...in the sudden stillness that had fallen upon the garden."
My daily life outwardly returned to routine, to work and single parenting, to physical body care, to establishing a regular meditation practice and creativity practice, to time spent with my surrogate families. But I wasn't settled. I was still feeling peculiar, like James. Like I told one friend, "There is a disturbance in the Force." I was only half-joking. It got so bad one day at work, the overwhelming sense of discomfort, that I literally pitched a fit, collapsing onto the floor of my office, half laughing, half crying about how I didn't want to be there. And all my co-worker could do was stand there and say "Oh, please get up." We laughed, but I was being totally truthful, and he knew this, he sensed it. I wasn't alone.
I had to do something. I started taking walks at night to the lake shore. I'll sit and stare at the water or the sky, breathe the coming of Winter in the Autumn Damp. Recently, I decided to try a walking meditation on the stars; the swarms and night-star-clouds have helped clear my head, if only for an hour or so. My daily meditations since meeting with the BHS started out as being focused on thankfulness and gratitude for the love in my life, especially centered on my Core Friends, the women I use in one way or another- and their partners! Those men I know and use as supplements! After several sessions, though, I couldn't understand why I was still in a funk. Busy hands, wonderful friends, gratitude for all they bring to my life...why no movement? Why no progression from this spot on the road? What had I not yet learned?
And then it struck me one morning while I was starting my day: I picked up a pillow from my bed, the one that lays vertical next to me, the one on the side of the bed I do not sleep on. I grabbed it and tried to set it on the floor so I could adjust the sheets and comforter, and I couldn't let it go. I was overcome with such sadness over the fact that my bed- bought brand new after my divorce- was only mine. I am the only one to have slept there, to stay there. Loneliness, jealousy. One masks the other. I had been, under the guise of gratitude, coveting the lives of the very people I was thankful for. Talk about misdirected! I had allowed my emotions to creep into my thoughts and influence me in an unhealthy way. I had to sit with that, with the realization that I was incredibly jealous of what I saw around me, of the different kinds of joy others had and that I didn't at this point of my journey. I went back to my conversation with the BHS: did I have love in my life? Of course I did. Of course I do. But-
Friends traveling here and there and to the other side of the globe. Friends arranging date nights to reconnect. Friends making detailed shopping lists, complete with notations regarding coupons. Friends texting please pick up the Sunday paper. Friends taking dancing lessons. Borrowing houses. Borrowing pets. Borrowing partners. Borrowing from others' lives the bits I don't have, piecing them together, drinking the third cup of tea set out on the tray.
I look at these people and am happy for them, really. The joy they have is what I thought I had for such a long time, and is what I yearn for now in earnest. If I figured out one thing about myself in my work on identity, it is that I am a Giver. I thrive when I have the opportunity to share and give of myself. I am happier. I am more balanced. I am calm yet energetic. I function best when I have not just all of these friends and the resources they offer to me (and I, them), but when I have a Touchstone. The pull of the comfort of that kind of intimacy- the intellectual, emotional, and physical- is not only something I crave out of jealousy, but out of necessity. Personal Truth, right? I'm a Giver. I know the importance of taking time for myself (I need to do this more often, I know), but I also recognize and accept that part of my Core Self is to Give, to make life easier for those I love.
And so what's making this section of my Life Path so rocky, what is partly responsible for the unsettled-ness, the restlessness, the disturbance in the Force, the peculiar feeling, is not what I have, but rather what I'm lacking: there is no Touchstone. That is difficult to admit, and it is difficult to know this and still be committed to finding the Good in my days, to be outwardly grateful and gracious, to still Give. I think back to the conversation with the BHS that day and how he knew- he knew- so much.
" 'My dear...' the Old-Green Grasshopper said gently, 'there are a whole lot of things in this world of ours you haven't started wondering about yet.' "
Where does this leave me? It leaves me to tell myself: stop over-thinking. Look at the Good. The glowing green seeds will work their strange brightness and magic. The wonderment will sustain.
Until next time, friends.