Column 17.5 Published in the Decebmer 22/29 double issue of the Warroad Pioneer
When I chose the title of this column early in 2015, or rather when it revealed itself to me, I understood very little about the concept of grace. As the events of the year unfolded and as I endured the growing pains of yet another emotional upheaval on life’s journey, grace became much more than just a concept.
Slowly at first, I started noticing all of the angels waiting in the wings for us to accept their aid. They and the aid came in many different forms, a compliment, encouragement, extra work, a shoulder, a smile or hug or phone call right when it was needed, a 2-year old’s reminder that her papa loved me too even if he wasn’t around anymore.
Angels are neighbors, family members, a purring kitten, a well-timed song, the kind owner of a grocery store, extra volunteers for Angle Days, and a hundred more and varied examples. When I paused for a moment during the pell mell rush of daily life, I saw that they were around me in abundance, and the benevolence of the universe rode on their wings like a warm swath of moonlight on the darkest night of the soul.
I’ve always believed that the universe, or God if you prefer, doesn’t give you more than you can handle. And in fact, you get exactly what you need to keep chugging along productively on your chosen path. Living in grace seems to be operating with an abiding faith that life is working For you not Against you, that God is on your side, that this is indeed a friendly universe, despite all news reports to the contrary.
Grace is not the real estate of the religious. You don’t have to live in righteous piety, though it doesn’t hurt, to experience divine flow. Grace belongs to all of us when we choose to remember. Moving to The Angle and all of the pendulum swings that have come with that choice has been yet another toll of the bells awakening me from my slumber. And with each little bit of awakening, I can see more clearly how deeply asleep we all are.
Looking back over the year in review, I realized I was always working on this or that. Here are five practices that have helped me awaken bit by tiny bit during this tumultuous year.
It’s easy to practice gratitude when things are going well, but what about finding grace in the suffering, seeing goodness in the hardships, saying Thank You for the harsh words. If I find myself complaining or if I say or hear someone else say the word “hate”, my practice is to find appreciation for that which I am judging. Instead of hating chapped lips, for example, I was able to feel gratitude for the reminder to drink more water and refill the humidifier. I’m still working on feeling grateful for Fox News, that’s been a tough one for me.
I don’t get a vote in what is. It happens the way it happens and I can either accept it and hopefully learn to love it, or I can suffer. That doesn’t mean I’m a doormat. It means that reality rules. Reality is king. Reality is God. My practice is to simply be aware of my feelings to the extent that they tell me when I am fighting reality. My suffering comes about when I fight what is.
For a time, even the most benign interaction with my ex would leave my insides writhing in angry knots. All of the rage and self-pity at the way this part of my story turned out would then unfurl itself in an impatient mudslide of words torrential.
I had gotten attached to my plan. For many years, I truly believed that he was supposed to be a certain way and our relationship was supposed to be a certain way. But we all know what happens when we tell God our plans. I imagine she smiles, pats us on the head and amusedly says, “back to sleep now, little one.” When I experience stress, I understand I’ve gotten attached to something untrue. This practice rolls in with nicely with the previous one. Pay attention to my stress to learn where I’m attached to something that isn’t reality.
The older I get, the less certain I am about everything. Not knowing is a wonderful place to be. All possibilities are open to you. Magic is everywhere. There was definitely a time in my life when I thought I knew it all, and I’m humbled that people put up with me. Now, I can see that every time I think I’m certain about something, I’m not seeing its beautiful truth. It helps having an inquisitive toddler at my side. My practice is to try to see beyond the labels that we put on everything and everyone around us. “We call it an eagle, my love, but it is more than just its name, as is everything. It is a powerful bird of prey that fishes the quiet coves of our meandering lake or cleans the carcass of a road-killed deer. Look at its snowy white head and its wide wings. Many see it as a symbol of freedom and strength. It would eat our new kitten for breakfast given the chance.”
I am enough. Even in all of my shortcomings, my ridiculous flaws, my concerted efforts that amount to not much at all, through grace, I am enough. Through grace, I will always have enough. My practice is, again, a simple awareness exercise to notice when I am feeling lack or less than. It does take practice. Negative feelings can spiral into much bigger problems, and eventually disease, if left unchecked. I have to pay attention to how I feel throughout the day. Slowing down with some deep breaths or by looking in a mirror seem to help. I’ll use it as a mantra when I walk, repeating until the words sound almost non-sensical, “I am enough. I have enough.” It helps.
Thanks for wandering along this winding road with me throughout 2015. I wish you all a wonderful holiday season filled with the music of love and laughter.