Friday, May 30, 2008

The Divine Comedy that is Life! (An Update)

I need to re-read Dante's Divine Comedy. It's about a dude who, in his mid-life, is dragging, wants out, and descends into the pits of hell, right? He's accompanied by a poet. He goes down, in order to go up. Journey takes place over Good Friday to Easter Sunday. It all seems really appropriate right now.

Good and sweet-loving-God! After a while, we just have to really laugh - don't you think?
The absurdity of it all! Whew.

Here's me in my own Mid-life, right? I make a plan. Try my best. Work hard. Work hard some more. Work harder. And then see what happens. I'm trying not to feel like a little ridiculous hampster, loving her wheel. Hmmm.....

No. Just loosely holding all of the information, all the desire that is mine, that seems to be somehow here with God's nodding approval: "Yes, Melissa, Love, Want, Try, Make some change; Work for greater good. Scurry and giggle, but please: Let me handle it. I've got the outcomes!"

Okay, God.

That's what I'm saying. Over and over again. "Okay, God. Okay. It's yours! Thank you!"

All that as way of introduction to this recent news in my life:
1. I'm not going to graduate school next month, as I planned.
2. My house has not yet sold.
3. This book proposal has not been accepted at the co-authors' publisher - who encouraged, invited the collaborative submission.
4. I have been classified by Kelly Temporary Services as an Intermediate typer. I also passed my spelling and grammar tests today. And on both Word and Excel, I'm considered a "beginner."
5. Jesse Garcia called and wants to have coffee. It's been six years.

And God is good.

And I laugh.
What are my options? What are any of our options in facing disappointments? In receiving news that so radically departs from our present hopes and dreams?
After a while, it just really really gets funny, if not super-duper-depressing. I had my mother-of-a-depression last week. Actually, truth be told, I would venture to say most of May has been hazy sorrow looming around my head and heart....How much uncertainty can a person deal with? How much hard work and effort can a person expend and then be met with less-than-satisfactory responses, results?

After sort of stepping over the miserable perceptions of failure I have of myself, I ask for new eyes. Well, honestly, I ask to lay down and be in the sorrow for a while. I ask to be okay in the sorrow, really. Because if there is anything I'm learning, it's that climbing into the pain, heading deep into it, is the most courageous way I know to transform it!
Heading down into the suffering, the struggle, I am softened by it; I experience the most potent form of grace and reconciliation. I learn about true compassion for myself, and for all other suffering humanity; I learn about the capacity of my own heart to love.

Parker Palmer and Pema Chodron and Thich Naht Hahn and Sr. Rafael and James Finley and Richard Rohr and Candlin Dobbs and Eckhardt Tolle are teaching me this. And their teachers are Buddha and Jesus and Thomas Merton. So I feel pretty good about getting these lessons.

But back to the comedy. The stepping into and through the depressing information and awaiting the grace that is the other side; that is the present moment. Yes. That is joy. That is now; not avoiding or invading it: just being in it. (Parker Palmer talks about this a lot.) Embracing the "it" in its fullness. That's where I'm at this week. Especially as I'm encountering my fellow-journeyers in their own challenging times....

My girl Angelica*, who is a dancer, and whose body holds so much of her identity: has been seriously injured. All she wants to do is dance and create and transform and teach through this wordless form of wonder and truth in motion. And instead: She's in a brace with torn shoulder muscles and looking at 6 months before she might heal. Six months before she might dance again with her entire body.

And there's Brady*. My dear guy Brady. Who bought a four-plex in North Minneapolis as a way to create not only affordable housing, but invite communal transformation and thriving through sustained and inspired living space. Yea, my guy bought a spot for some of my former students to live - who all just want to make change. He just wants to make change. Brady with these beautiful artists and activists in solidarity. He just wants to help build God's kingdom and collaborate in hope and renewal for this woe-joy-ridden part of the the Twin Cities. My friend even left his job, after 24 years, in order to tend to this dream. But he realizes now, that he's not a property manager, that that's NOT his gift, and could end up costing him his entire life savings to get out of the deal and start anew. What?

How about my chica Janie*? Janie who just loves and adores children. Loves them. Has no biological babes of her own, but devotes her life to loving and tending to those around her. God-mom is Janie, through and through. She exudes joy and love and a heart that knows no bounds where love calls her. And this week? This week, her relationship with two of these Godchildren was severed - because their father disapproves of the fact that Janie has been involved romantically with a man of different skin tone. And it's sort of like, "Really? Really? Janie cannot hang out with your children because her heart allows her to love a person with different pigmentation?"

Ack! To me: it's all wretched and cruel and sort of like woeful injustice!

But what's a person to do? Scream? Kick? Curse out the ignorance and unfairness of circumstances? Wallow and steep in rage? And what's that going to do? Whew. Perpetuate the woe? Please. Why be part of perpetuating the woe?

Now don't get me wrong. I'm not advocating for the dismissal of emotion or anger -or love for that matter. But just a conscious examination and identification of what it is, where it comes from, and then a loving, tender and intentional choice about what to do with the feelings.
How to be in the emotion, and then step into the grace of transforming the circumstances......
We have choices. I have a choice in the matter. And for the better part of a year now, since it seemed that my life and hard work was handed back to me with a "Sorry, try again" sign, I've been trying to slow myself down long enough to really see what my choices are. And how I intentionally want to choose to live on this earth. I don't want to live angry. I don't want to live depressed. I don't want to live constantly disappointed. But rather: as a love force that is calm and capable of encompassing and navigating all that is really hard and messy and even horrible. I want to weather these things, be present to them -and be present with others - as they weather and wade and choose to continue living and breathing and dreaming and loving and creating.
In and through it all, I want to celebrate and be of gratitude and joy.


So right now: this is what I'm doing. I'm saying "Thank you" for everything. I took a year off from my work as teacher and community activist and artist, and I cleaned houses. I cleaned my own house: both literally and figuratively. I got rid of a lot of junk and excess that is simply not necessary. I did this for others on a daily basis, and in the actions, found myself doing something powerful and healing within my own body.... And then: in my own home! Simplifying my space, cleaning and clearing and working to live in essentials, well: what a gift!
And while I've not earned a lot of money, I have something much more precious than anyone could really put a dollar amount on: my health, my happiness, my life!
I have the knowledge, too, that I can travel through some rocky emotional terrain and be just fine. I say, "Thank you."

What else? I spent some time tending to love to this past year. Loving myself, and being in love with a person who I have felt overwhelmingly invited to love by God as romantic life partner. And while that has not all turned out as I wanted it to, according to my time line and plans. I say, "Thank you" for it.

I also spent a lot of physical energy and emotional muscle preparing my house for sale, in order to finance this next phase of my life. And while it hasn't sold, I'm thankful that I could do it.

Other big thank you's: Are for all the opportunities that present themselves daily. I am saying, "thank you" for these sweet fellows that are showing up left and right and expressing interest in hanging out with me. Thank you for Usry and Jesse and Rich and Joe and Uche. I'm saying "thank you" for the nuns. Thank you for the faithful, artistic, intelligent women and men in my life, and the invitations to serve and be in meaningful dialogue. Thanks for the opportunity to paint a group home in North Minneapolis, alongside the formerly incarcerated young men transitioning back into society. Thank you for the opportunity to host an Arts Professor from Ghana. Thank you for the invitation to sit with smart women at the Sisters of St. Joseph Center and talk about being agents of peaceful transformation. Thank you for the opportunity to dialogue on race and issues of diversity and equity with folks from the Peace Foundation. Thank you for the opportunity to dance and celebrate Jah! in the Reggae community. Thank you for the opportunity to re-create and re-envision and be as transparent as possible in walking this path.

It's all good!
Now: I'm ready for Dante's journey to Heaven. I'm ready for the Easter Day in the Divine Comedy. I'm ready for my own Beatrice to show up and accompany me. Who's to say she isn't already here? Who's to say that Heaven isn't right now!?! Yes!

Incidentally, my Free Will Astrology horoscope this week announces that I'm in the "House of Resurrection." I laugh and say, "Amen! Thank you!"

Humbly, happily, in peace and love,

*Names changed.

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