Faith is the willingness to give ourselves over, at times, to things we do not fully understand… the full engagement with this strange and shimmering world. – Alan Lightman
I am often asked this question by my kids:
How do you know?
This is often in reference to spring coming back, the dawn coming back, death of a loved one, something bigger at work, the universe, returning from dreamland, butterflies, forks in the road, love, etc.
Sometimes, I say, “Because I do.” Sometimes I say, “I don’t but everything will work out ok.” And sometimes I say, “Because I’m old and you have to trust me.”
I choose one word for the year. It has been amazing to see the power of a word and a verbalized intention over the years. There are no resolutions – just a word that I want to guide my inner and outer workings. It is a touchtone, reminding me of what type of experiences I am including in my life this year. Previous words I have chosen included BALANCE (the year I worked outside and inside of the home) , RELEASE (the year I had my fifth child), SIMPLIFY (the year we decided to homeschool).
I read through my year’s worth of posts, took stock of my experiences, and read through my journals. Between sharing my very real struggles and challenges with all of you and establishing connections by going out on limbs and testing my personal boundaries, I’d say there was an epic spill – for me, anyway. (And sometimes, more like a vomit.)
This was a transition year for me. Something was different in 2014. It began with letting my daughter go on her first trip abroad without us for three weeks. (I can’t even read the post without tearing up again.) For the first time in a long time, I felt that I was walking into a new parenting territory with my children – as individuals and as a unit. I was emotional, raw, and open.
Talking by a fire led to heart-to-heart connections. Writing here led to clarity within and an opportunity to breathe. Writing for Sense of Story led to more creative stirrings and an outlet for my mind clutter. Starting that little blog with two other amazing and brave mamas has led to many opportunities for growth and for exploration. And speaking of exploration, the Life Explorer secret group on Facebook, which I was terrified to begin, has been a beautiful experiment of creative ideas and thought-provoking posts. It feels like a small community, a little island of interesting observations and creative output, amidst a sea of Facebook information.
I have spilled even when every fibre in my being said to hold back and remain in my comfortable little zone. I often wonder if I have been a little too honest or a little too open or a little too vulnerable. I have been afraid to open the flood gates. I have been uncertain about revealing the innermost and the intimate.
Here’s why I do it: I find myself not knowing what I am doing. I am in this parenting place where advice is hard to come by. I google and I pray. I pray and I google. And I share not just for altruistic reasons. While I do want others to find use in what I have to say, I am really sharing to find the answers myself. I have been able to connect and re-connect with so many people in person, through the blogs, and even in social media, my frenemy. I am grateful for people who have reached out and have sent kind words.
And if I can’t have faith in all of you out there with my stories, how can I have faith in this world to take care of my children as they venture forth? As they sit on their own edges of cliffs trying to have faith themselves? I don’t want to teach them to fear and to guard themselves at all times. I don’t want them to hole themselves up in a safe cocoon like I did for many years, mortally afraid of my own shadow. Yes, be safe, follow your gut, but leave room for miracles.
Spilling has meant that I have had to have a degree of faith. I have had to leap with my heart open for both wounding and healing. I have had to trust that I am strong enough to handle criticism and judgement. I have revisited my past, having faith that my family will understand that it is always done with love. This year, faith and hope slowly emerged into my daily consciousness after years of only doubt and despair.
The deeper our faith, the more doubt we must endure; the deeper our hope, the more prone we are to despair; the deeper our love, the more pain its loss will bring; these are a few of the paradoxes we must hold as human beings. If we refuse to hold them in hopes of living without doubt, despair, and pain, we also find ourselves living without faith, hope, and love. – A Hidden Wholeness: The Journey Toward an Undivided Life by Parker J. Palmer
As I continue to spill, a natural tendency built over this year, my faith is tested more. As I continue to let go and venture out, I know that I need to build trust in myself, in my family, in my friends, in humanity and in God. As I take more risks, begin projects that could fail, submit writing that could be rejected, embark on adventures with unknown outcomes, share personal stories that could be judged, and live with equal amount of fear and wonder standing at crossroads of the personal and parenting nature, I will do one thing – have faith. I will stand amidst the doubts and give space to that quiet voice I tend to push aside that whispers, “It will be ok.”
I will have the courage to have faith that there is light and goodness in this world. This may seem naive or even dangerous to some but I have to believe it. Despite all my fears and my anxieties about parenting and if I have done my job well, feeling tested as they leave my side, I will have faith. If I screw up and make mistakes, hurt feelings, or say the wrong things, I will have faith. I will have faith that I can choose again. I will have faith that I can always begin again in the morning or in the very next moment.
In A Hidden Wholeness, there is a chapter called “Being Alone Together: A Community of Solitudes.” The chapter opens with an epigraph from Robert Bly:
Our disasters come from letting nothing live for itself, from the longing we have to pull everything, even friends, into ourselves, and let nothing alone.
I will have faith that I can vacillate between solitude and community without losing either – I can return to both when I need it. I will have faith that I have built strong enough relationships to endure absence, expanse, and close prolonged proximity. I will have faith when I can’t control the situation and that I will know when I shouldn’t.
For many artists and humanists, the question is more important than the answer. As the German poet Rainer Maria Rilke wrote a century ago, “We should try to love the questions themselves, like locked rooms and like books that are written in a very foreign tongue. Then there are also the questions that have definite answers but which we cannot answer. The question of the existence of God may be such a question.
As human beings, don’t we need questions without answers as well as questions with answers?
For once, I am content not having all the answers. I am ok with the prospect of change and growth. I am prepared to let go and believe that everything will unfold the way it’s supposed to.
Well, for now, anyway.
Do you have any intentions for 2015? Any habits to change or begin? Or do you make adjustments along the way, not tied to a date to commit to a “do-over”?