I am sitting on a conveyor belt riding through an assembly-line type of arrangement, but at each station I pass there is a devil with a pitchfork trying to poke me. I have passed five or six stations when this part of the meditation ends. I feel ashamed and embarrassed. This fragment of a long-ago meditation stayed with me for quite a while because of the shame I felt. I realized that I would have to redo it, because I could not face my “accusers;” the next time I needed to look them in the eye, saying: “yes, there is guilt and yes, I did that.” I did go back and reenter the meditation later and knew that I had done it with no shame.
So often in my life I have learned that the only way to get over something is to go through it. Avoiding, not acknowledging, not apologizing, not facing up to my own dark side—while these may seem like viable responses to us —only serve to make matters worse and keep us tied to the past. Facing up to life, no matter how painful it is, is less painful in the end than avoiding it. This is true of grief, fears and other emotions; it’s also true of the tasks we wish to avoid. Anything we avoid just looms larger in our lives—unexpressed emotions, undone tasks, and unmet needs all have more power over us than when the truth is expressed, the tasks done and our needs are met—no matter how well we rationalize them away.
I had arthroscopic knee surgery six years ago to repair a torn meniscus. The round of physical therapy I did after the surgery was not successful, I was still limping pretty badly after two months. Between the therapist who was not the best and my own fears of further injury, my recovery was not complete. As I considered my options, a friend mentioned a trainer who had been a physical therapist previously. I signed up to work with him. He pushed and challenged me through my fears of hurting myself more; I followed his advice because of my confidence in his training. My knee today is good because he knew exactly what I was capable of—way beyond my wanting to protect myself from further pain. The way out was through my fears.
On a everyday task level, lately I hit a brick wall over filing the paperwork I accumulate and generate. I felt that if I had to open the file drawers one more time and rifle through all those files, I’d die!(a little dramatic, don’t you think?) In considering my options I decided to buy a set of cubes that each had three shelves. Now I stand in from of the cubes and almost throw the papers into the properly labeled shelf. I love this arrangement. At the end of the year it is easy to gather together each shelf’s papers for taxes. No more hanging out in a file drawer. No more piles of paperwork.
When facing an overwhelming situation like grief over a loved one’s death, there is just no way to get over it other than experience the grief fully(although our culture certainly has this expectation: that soon after the death and the burial one just soldiers on) The pain one feels is in direct proportion to the love or attachment one has for the person who died. Feel the pain, remember the person and all he or she meant in your life, cry, languish, write about it, talk about it for as long as it takes. I was most fortunate when my husband died that my daughter called from the East Coast twice a week and a friend met me for dinner once a week for a year afterwards. So at least three times a week I was able to talk about what I was going through—a tremendous blessing.
Whatever the challenges we face in life, if we want to live to the fullest, we must meet them head on. We are not alone, the Holy Spirit is always in our lives providing love and support. As we practice meeting life’s challenges, we gain awareness of the resilience within ourselves, of our capacity to withstand anything that life throws at us and of the constancy of God’s presence in our lives.