Wordless What Is

I was afraid this would happen. What if, I sometimes wondered, I finally found peace, grace, the experience of the presence of God, what have you, that ineffable joy I have been longing for all of my life, that sense of being loved and cherished for myself in a world made new by....

Well, I was in full flood there for the moment, but my son came to give me a hug, by the by planting himself on the chaise longue next to me and leaning over my shoulder as if he were trying to read while I typed. And then I freaked out (he wasn't doing anything other than leaning on me) and then I lost the peace I was trying to write about because I started wanting something other than what was. And now I am in anguish again because I could not fulfill my plan, which was to write, and instead accept the gift that my son was giving me of his attention. Which should mean, given the original premise with which I sat down to write, that now this is going to be a really long post. Sigh.

And now, of course, my family is laughing at me because I am dictating to them every word that I am writing, being so very in the moment of what is. Which is great for them because that way they get to tease me--mercilessly. But seriously, folks. Okay, my son came back and is now sitting on top of me, so I get to try again. I want to accept his attention, but I find it physically overwhelming. Is he being truly affectionate or just purposefully irritating? I have the same problem when my puppy grabs onto my pants' leg and won't let go until I give her a treat. Great. Now she just bit me (in play, not in anger), and I have completely lost the peace that I had when I sat down to write this post in the first place. I am sure there is a lesson in all of this, but now I'm feeling too upset to recover it. And I want to cry. At least, a little bit. But not much.

Ironically, I really, really haven't felt like this in weeks and I wanted to share with you what that has been like. How beautiful it has been taking my puppy out at all hours of the day (and some of the night, although, thankfully, my husband often helps out for the last, late night pee run), even in the amazingly bitter cold, even with stacks and stacks of application files to read for admission into our graduate program, even with still no kitchen and a much more realistic assessment of how long it is going to be until it is finished (yes, it will be a full five weeks from tomorrow before the cabinets are ready and delivered, never mind installed), even with my sister-in-law now awaiting the results of her recent breast biopsy (please, please pray for her). And then, my son and the puppy and the sheer cussedness of things have to get in the way and mess it up for me. Again.

Although, of course, they haven't. The puppy is now in her basket, busily demolishing the wickerwork with her teeth; my son has settled down with his homework after satisfying himself that he had teased me enough; and it is just possible that my husband is making me a cup of tea. Life really is sweet. All of it, even the part about being teased. But, being so sweet, I find I have nothing left to write about, other than to exclaim with joy at how beautiful everything is and at how, suddenly, thanks to The Work and the questions that it has taught me to ask ("Is it true?" "Can you absolutely know that it is true?" "How do you react when you believe that thought?" "Who would you be without the thought?"), simply being in the moment has become, well, yes, possible, and how it feels like being, well, yes, saved.

I'm superstitious, of course. What if I write about how blissful the past few weeks have been (not every second; I still have thoughts that I allow to distract me, but they seem to let go of me more quickly than they have in the past), and by writing, draw the very anxiety to me that I am so anxious to avoid? I'm not really very good at this living-in-the-moment thing, not nearly so good as Byron Katie (or, at least, from her books as she would so seem). It's very easy for me to start listening to my thoughts again, about how I "should" be working on this or that, about how I "should" have already achieved such-and-such level of success (whatever that means), about how what is happening at the moment is somehow wrong, rather than, as The Work would tend to suggest, not only right, but exactly, precisely, cosmically right, indeed, God's will precisely because it is so right.

And yet, even when I do get upset, as I did a few minutes (now a good half hour) ago, I don't seem to stay upset quite as long as I used to. Which does, I am perhaps predictably afraid to admit, given how superstitious I am, make me a little bit hopeful. Although being hopeful about a change isn't really necessary, since what is (including being anxious) is actually fine, even, yes, good. Yes, that's what it's been like in my head these past several weeks. I have a thought that is potentially stressful, then I question it, then I turn it around, and viola! More often than not I am no longer thinking it again. Except for the thought that maybe I shouldn't allow myself to think such stressful thoughts. Except that there is no should.

Our preacher this morning said something really beautiful in her sermon that made me think, yet again, about what it means to be doing The Work and watching myself watching for the beauty of what is. She was preaching on the conversion of St. Paul, and on how God calls us, not to be Paul, but always already ourselves, St. Anne (as it were) or St. Rachel. "The wonderful thing about your spiritual story," she said, "is that you and God create it together and so only you can tell it. The scary thing about your spiritual story is also that it is not something anyone else can give you because it comes from the depths of your own subjective experience of living."

Scary, indeed. What would it mean to be simply, ecstatically, purely, gracefully St. Me? It sounds so arrogant--and yet, who else am I meant to be other than myself as God made me? I have, I freely confess, spent much of my life trying to be Somebody Else. My mentor in graduate school, my best friend in college, the woman down the street whose clothes I especially like, my sister: somebody, anybody other than me. Which, as Byron Katie has more than once observed, means that there is nobody busy with being myself. Which means there is nobody being St. Rachel and, as long as I am obsessed with being St. Caroline or St. Pam or St. Mary or St. Rebecca, there never will be. Now there's a sobering thought.

Anne continued: "So the good news this morning is that God is not going to ask you to be St. Paul. The even better and scarier news is that God is going to want you to be St. You, defined by your relationship with her and not defined by any lesser thing." And the best, if not scariest, news of all? There is nothing to do to be St. Me other than (you guessed it) loving what is, including what is about me. I'm not sure I can do that, it sounds stressful! What, give up frowning every time I look in the mirror because I am still ever so slightly convinced that I am "too fat"? And give up telling myself the story of how I haven't published enough when I have no idea what I might publish in the future, not to mention whether what I have already published isn't already the thing? Nah. I couldn't do that. Could I?

I have thoughts at the moment about things that I might write that are scaring the daylights out of me. About how The Work has lifted this incredible burden from me of thinking that no matter what I do, I have been and will always be, oh dear, a failure. About how fruitless and not a little silly all of our striving in academia now seems when, yes, truth to tell, nothing that we write is ever particularly urgent, not at least in the sense that the world or, perhaps less dramatically, even civilization will come to an end if we don't make sense of it. About how, thanks to The Work, there doesn't really seem to be any need to pray other than to praise God for how wonderful everything is.

Guess what? I really don't need to be doing anything other than what I am doing right now in order to be a success. And, no, our academic writing will not save the world, nor does it need to because, quite simply, the world does not need saving; it already is (saved, that is). Nor is prayer strictly speaking necessary, unless, that is, we feel the impulse to do it. I'm not saying any of this particularly well, which is perhaps one of the reasons that I've been hesitant to write. But, then, I'm not sure any more how much needs to be said. It's a little bit like waking from a dream. That life that I've been living, anxiously trying to claw myself up the so-called ladder of success, it just doesn't seem real any more, not, at least, in the viscerally-gripping way that it used to.

Heaven forbid that I claim here anything about being (gasp!) converted. I'm no St. Paul. I've had no vision of Christ knocking me off of my horse, although there was a moment at church the other day when Reality seemed to break in just as I was receiving the Eucharist and suddenly everything--the light, the faces of the people standing around me, the texture of the bread, the music--was so beautiful, I nearly burst into tears. But that didn't feel like a change in myself so much as a revelation of what had always already been there in the first place, ready for me to see if only I would just look. But, again, even looking did not seem to be like anything I had to do or, even better, apologize in some way for not doing. It was not that I suddenly learned a new skill or was able to concentrate better or, indeed, that there was anything that I even needed to try. All I needed to do (or not-do) was question the story that I had in the moment about whether anything needed to be anything other than what it was. Which, of course, it didn't. It was perfect just as it was--and is.

As is this moment, right now, as I am sitting her with my laptop, my puppy now asleep on the rug after pooping on the floor (oops!), my son on the other couch working on his laptop, the sun streaming in through the window to the south, and the smoke from the incense that my son lit winding its way upwards and sideways as it drifts on the currents in the air. Perfect. Everything is absolutely, poignantly, blissfully, achingly perfect. And has been. And will be, world without end.

What more can there possibly be to say?

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