We are all living trinities. You are a body, soul, and spirit deeply entwined together, so thickly woven that none can escape without a death.
Our souls give life to our bodies, our bodies give flesh to our spirits. The soul can break free and go where the body cannot go, but the body must first die. Or the body can choke the spirit with it’s needs and desires and the spirit dies. A body without a soul can only live on earth. A spirit without a body can only live in eternity.
We are born body, soul, and spirit, each wrapped up in the other, humanly inseparable. Physical pain affects our spirits. Spiritual pain affects our souls. And we are a race of pain. We are born through pain, we inflict pain on ourselves, on others, and others inflict pain on us.
Some people are dealt so much pain that it becomes abuse. Some are abused physically, their bodies taken from them against their will and used and abused. And the soul and spirit are woven so tight with it that they suffer with the body. And often they try to break the bond to protect the spirit and soul at least. They may end up severing the tie so completely that they actually offer their bodies to be used. It is what they are valued for and we all want value. They come to believe it is their only value. And they think that they have separated that part of themselves so well and built walls so strong around the rest of themselves, that they are safe. But remember how there is always a death?
This breaking apart happens in many different ways on many different scales. But it happens to all of us. It may happen when our perfect performance is demanded, but our hearts are not wanted, not valued, not loved. So that our hungering spirits, our lonely souls become disconnected, until what we value ourselves for, as well, is our performance. If we don’t perform satisfactorily, we are a failure. But again, there is death somewhere. We become machines. And it is terrifying to stir up our spirits again after we have silenced them. It gives us both inexplicable hope and terrifying dread to discover that we have not actually killed it completely. We have found an identity in it. We know how to perform. This is what we are accepted for, needed for. And to find out that it gives us no value is horrifying. But to find that God is who gives us our value and he wants to have your soul and live in your spirit and breathe life into you, that is wonderful beyond words. That we can do nothing to be worthy of love, to earn it, is despairing. But that we are given love unconditionally and abundantly anyway, is awesome.
When a fragmented human turns again toward the light and seeks to be whole again, it is a long, painful, grueling journey of risk and fear. Fearing to feel again, fearing to live again, fearing to be hurt again, as your broken trinity reunites and begins to grow and intertwine again into a glorious, alive, dangerous human.
We don’t like feelings. Especially we Mennonites, I think. We treat them like parasites. Something that you don’t talk openly about. Something gross to be gotten rid of. Something that eats you from inside. Preachers say, “don’t go by your feelings.” People say, “I shouldn’t feel this way.” I say, “I don’t want to feel this way.”
But what if we cannot help how we feel? Am I the only one that has tried to manage how I feel inside, to stomp out feelings, to hide feelings, to ignore feelings, to pretend they aren’t there, to kill them with poison or logic or neglect or shame? Am I the only one who has had no success? Please, I’m not to the point yet so don’t assume I’m saying we can do nothing about our feelings.
I’ve had a canyon of feelings ever since I can remember. I was one mess of a baby. One mess of a child. One mess of a teenager. I am not a teenager anymore. And you are wanting to know if I’m one mess of an adult, I guess. I’m not telling you. But I feel like I am slowly discovering something that is slowly changing me. May I tell you?
What if I would suggest to you that feelings are not a sickness, but a symptom? What if feelings are the irregular heartbeat to a heart that has broken somewhere? Can we regulate that rhythm without mending the instrument?
Feelings are reckless, illogical, powerful, controlling. Who wants something like that? And yet we are born with them inside ourselves. As children we are driven by them. We wear them on our sleeves, unashamed. They affect everything we do. We do what we feel like and complain when we are made to do what we don’t feel like doing because we feel like complaining. Slowly we are taught to ignore those feelings. And suddenly we are adults among seemingly unfeeling adults. And we feel very alone and many other things, but would never admit it to them.
I say “we” as if assuming that is your story too, when I know nothing about you. You may as well know that I am including you because it feels less personal. Just be glad I don’t say “you”. But maybe I’ve still gone too far. Maybe you don’t understand at all what I mean.
So many feelings have swept through me. Rivers of them, leaving behind leaves and things till I’ve become choked with these memories. I call it baggage. Grownups are baggage carriers. We think carrying all this baggage makes us strong. But it actually just makes us weary and worn down when we could be happy and dancing.
And it all starts with those feelings. We don’t understand them and they are so strong that we fight against them and try to shove them into iron cages. And then we make these iron cages stronger and stronger to hold in these feelings that only seem to be getting stronger and more deadly. We begin to see them as our enemy, our ruin. And we are only as strong as that iron cage. Behind the bars the ugly feelings grow cold and dark and toxic. Every time we peer through the bars we are more sickened and terrified than we were before. Every time those feelings are harder to admit. And sometimes they break forth and murder everything and everyone in their path, including us. Of course they are our enemy.
But what if we would stop throwing every bad feeling into this poisonous pit? And instead, we would say with our words what we feel, in all its horror. What if we would weep for those we have hurt and for those who have hurt us. What if we would let that pain blind us with tears and rip up that mask we have perfected so carefully. What if everyone would see us for who we are. What if we would look ourselves in the eye and not look away again.
What if we would begin again, like a child. We would love openly, but like one who has found Love, we would never demand love. We would cry without shame, but like one who has felt other’s pain, we would never manipulate with tears. We would laugh without fear, but as one who has walked through deep darkness, we would not lose our calm. We would do what we love with inspiration, but like one who has learned joy, we would live for other’s joy. We would live in wonder, but like one who has learned more, we would see more. We would live fearless, but like one who knows our own selfishness, we would never become confident in ourselves.
Blow till it snows.
Pummel the clouds
till they shatter to bits
and fall to the earth.
Branches thrash in their sleep.
Houses shiver and mutter at the cold.
I listen as snowflakes break
against my window pane
and fall dead into its lap.
A dream is falling tonight.
I am in a snow globe.
A sky heavy with snow hovers over the expectant city. Eyes look up often. Waiting. Snow, everyone thinks. When? Everyone wonders. And still the sky holds its breath. One more leaf falls. It has won the race with the first snowflake. Or has it lost? Was it a test of speed or endurance? The city yawns up at the sky, its hot breath rising like smoke from houses and factories. The wind is hungry. It takes the city’s breath away in gulps. It punches at the snow-stuffed clouds. It tears leaves off of scanty trees and spits them into the air. And still the sky is silent, unmoved. Sometime soon it will burst and snow will fall down, down, against the brow of Earth. But when? We wonder. But when? The wind taunts. And still the sky is silent.
The sky has fallen at last and the city is white with it. Booted people tromp through heaps of it and shovel it into crested mounds along the edges. The city is full of icebergs.
Humanity will keep moving. Snow lays its bulk over everything, blocking up sidewalks and streets, trying to shut them all in. But they shovel their way out. Push and plow the snow off to the side, making roads and walkways so they can keep going places and doing things. Carving away the wondrous white snow to return to their boring industrious lives.
But there is that interval, when the snow has been falling for hours and still falls. It lies thick over everything like a dazzling white hug. The city helplessly falls into its trance. Cars choke on snow covered streets. Hooded people scurry home and lean into the wind. Others emerge from warm houses and run out to the sidewalk to play and dance in the snow.
This is why I love snow in the city.
The night hasn’t drunk the blue from the sky yet and the moon hasn’t peeled back the clouds to look at the earth. I imagine the sun and moon looking at each other. A pock-marked, ashen, stone face beholding the glorious, blazing face of infinite light. And they gaze at each other, one in undone admiration, the other in unspeakable, undying love. And the stone begins to glow with the light it gazes at so fixedly; that light that it is dazzled by, consumed with. Does it even know how gazing at that light has lit its own gray face? If it turns its face away from the sun’s face, the light would drain from it, like blood.
I am that moon.
And You are my sun.
There are moments of sudden realization when I feel stranded in time and place, as if I’ve only just now begun to exist and will cease to exist just now again. In these moments, I look with untouched eyes at my surroundings, my closest family and friends, my own hands. And they all seem new and strange to me. I don’t remember learning to know them. Is this what it feels like to be born an adult? I feel like I’ve been suddenly awakened. But nothing has changed and no one seems aware of my sudden epiphany. And then it recedes, the peices sifting down through my consciousness, leaving a faint taste in my mouth, but that is it. Memories come back in waves, washing away the sands of my epiphany. I remember the road that lead me here. I can see it stretching far into the distance behind me. The farther I look, the less I see, but I know I walked it and I know what lead me here. I remember each turn in the road, each rugged mountain, each swallowing canyon, each one blocking my view for a time. And I remember slowly seeing father beyond and behind me, my line of vision broadening, not suddenly like an epiphany. The epiphany came when I realized how much had changed and that so slowly I’d hardly noticed. And I feel the sureness inside me like a weight, that all along I’ve been walking, living toward this moment. And every step I took was to bring me closer to this, to this epiphany. And every step I take beyond this will take me closer to the next one. Excelsior — ever upward!
It is late morning and the sun’s white-gold glow is blinding. Cars and people drag long heavy shadows behind them. The sun burns away at the edges of the dark illusive shapes but cannot consume them, only distort. The autumn sun is losing its strength to the wind. The quivering rays fall broken to the heaving blacktop where their fires are absorbed and rekindled and thrown back into the wind. Then lost again. But I feel the sun’s breath hot on my face every time the wind stops to catch it’s breath. The sky is an ocean stilled. The waves have sunk and not risen again on these shores, and the foam has burst against the sharp sands. The world is clean now. For days the winds blew the settled dusts of summer and the rains rinsed them down the drains. Humanity has grown a winter coat, but my cold feet disdain their shoes. The throbbing streets flood with noise and movement, then drain and flood again; it is the heartbeat of the streets. A familiar face walks by and smiles to itself. I smile to myself and lift my pencil to etch into the gold of my paper. The world holds so much gold etched with our darkness.
This is the backyard, where I’m laying in the dancing grass with the breeze bursting impulsively upon everything as if trying to surprise it. The window above me in the house to my left holds the round face of an old woman for a brief moment, then to my relief, drops the face and again is empty, save for the dried paint clinging to its edges. The fan on the roof of this building never ceases day or night and fills our small yard with ominous monotony. The rats are hidden from sight as the sun is high, (though hidden by clouds just now) but they are no less present. They’ve heard much about my personal life at high moon hours when the night was streetlit and my voice to the phone was all but overcome by street noise and the constant roar of the fan on the house to my left. The ground is cool and damp on my skin and the wind has shifted slightly, carrying dark clouds with it. The world seems to be challenging all people out in its wildness to dare to brave the coming night and storm. But I don’t even know if there is going to be a storm tonight. I am only hoping.
October has come and Fall is growing on the trees. My book lies in the grass, slyly trying to hide from me, but I see it even though the grass is taller than it, and is partner in crime to its foolishness. Now that I’ve started reading you, lovely book, there is no hiding from me! Who knows what I would do if it weren’t for my fear of blotting the innocence of the windows watching me gravely all around. The wind wanted me to dance with it, but I told it about the windows and it then had to be content to play with my hair and pull strands loose from my neat bun.
I hate to desert this dear grassy place, but Time can be a relentless master, and it hasn’t taken into consideration the fact that I may want stay out here forever. So I must go work. But it is not the rain that sends me in. Only duty. I will leave a fading imprint in your grasses as a brief memory of my visit.
I visited my other homes
The one where I first breathed
The one where I grew up
And the one that I left not long ago
And they all seemed to have forgotten me.
At first I was kind of hurt
Why did they change?
They should have waited
For my return.
But I’ve forgotten them some too
I’m different too in ways
Things never stay the same —
Anybody or Anywhere.
I left to learn another life
And the giving up has given me so much
And now I know
I can never go back to What Once Was.