photo credit: The Aisling Collective
I am aggravated. Irritated. And for a red-head who already runs with an undercurrent of feist this can be dangerous. Or maybe it is exactly what the world needs now...
Typically I carry my tension and stress in a neat little pocket between my shoulder blades. The past few days and weeks - okay let's be honest - years, my shoulder pocket has become packed full and so the tension is spilling out and settling in my hips and ankles. Weird I know. But this physical tenderness has drawn my attention to the emotional and mental tenderness that it reflects.
I am craving the experience of holding things lightly and maybe even letting them go altogether. As I ruminate on some of the things that get me and those around me so riled up, it is becoming rather comical. Like really, can we all just take a deep breath and swallow one giant chill pill?
The crushed up version for my darling, please.
Here is an example:
I was recently sitting in a leaders training for my church's youth group and in that space alone there are many heavy things. Our group of volunteers who love on sweet & struggling high school students are grieving and trying to grapple with the sudden removal of the high school pastor. She is an amazing woman, beloved by so many. The decision to take her from us and more importantly from our students is dumbfounding. I'll have to save that for another post, but I wanted to set the backdrop for this recent chill-pill moment.
During our second breakout of the leaders training, our group was learning about a new journal that will help equip us throughout the year. The middle school pastor - and also a dear friend - was explaining an element within the journal called a sociogram. It provides a handy way of mapping out relationships within and recording specific background information that shapes each member, using squiggly lines, straight lines and dashes to represent varying types of relationships. At this point someone in the back raised a hand and said this,
"I just want to remind everyone that if you are writing out your sociograms in these journals, you need to guard them with your life. Can you imagine what a student will think if they see their name next to a squiggly line??"
"Oh my goodness," I thought. "I cannot imagine. That would just be the most horrible thing. Yes. My life will forever be protecting this little notebook."
My friend leading the breakout acknowledged the comment and reminded everyone to be attentive to the keeping of their journals throughout the year. And on went the teaching until my husband and I were able to forego the end of the night cookie to sneak out early.
A couple of days passed, bringing a few additional stressors with it before I found myself revisiting this fleeting encounter. As I walked to the park on a lunch break at work the ridiculousness of the woman's statements hit me with a sudden clarity.
Really -- what would happen if one of my sweet girls saw their name in my notebook and it was attached to a squiggly, straight or dashed line? I bet the discovery would be followed by a question. And that question would be followed by an honest, tender and rare conversation where I had the opportunity to tell that budding young woman how I saw her. I would get the chance to share with her the beauty and talent that she displayed, the struggles that I see her carrying, the strength that the carrying represents, along with the awesome, time-tested and sometimes tense relationship dynamics I witness between her and the other precious young woman in our group.
And it turns out, that would not be the most horrible thing. That would be an incredible, vulnerable, and life-giving thing. This reflection makes me wonder... what else are we holding so tightly in our fear-fueled grip that we are suffocating the blessing out of it? What actually isn't that big of a deal? What might I be able to let go of altogether and what would that look like?
I bet my shoulder pocket full of stress would empty a bit so I could stand a little straighter and smile at the person walking toward me on the sidewalk. My stiff, tense hips might loosen and even sway a bit, tempting me to dance across the street. And maybe my ankles may flex and extend, daring me to kick off my shoes and stand barefoot in the grass or linger just a bit longer in the sunshine before heading back inside to my desk. I imagine my mind would also clear enough so I could make conscious choices about which thoughts received my precious time and attention. I bet I'd laugh more, smile more, have better conversations and even write differently.
My nephew told me a joke when he was five. He is a very grown up six-year-old now.
It went something like this:
Nephew: Auntie Kari - want to hear a joke?
Nephew: Why shouldn't you let Elsa hold your balloons?
Me: [After pausing to remember which princess Elsa was] Um, because they will freeze?
Nephew: No! Because she will let them go.
Me & Nephew: [Laughing out loud.]
I understand too well that there are many heavy, hard and heart-breaking things in our homes and in our world. This is not a call to disregard the things that need our love and attention. This is a challenge to also pay attention to the situations, statements and relationships that are soaked in fear, falsely demanding a stressful response.
In their Invitation to Peace, Lissa Rankin and Martha Beck offer that if you find a desire planted deep within you, instead of clinging to it in fear, you must offer it up to the universe. Surrender to peace and trust it is all being done for you. You must let it go and be present in your own life. In the letting go, you make room for the thing you most desire to actually take shape.
I wonder what fear-filled balloons I would gladly hand over to Elsa. Probably my people-pleasing-yes balloon, my who's going to win the next election balloon, my purpose in this world balloon and my how are we going to make a family balloon. That's a good start I guess. Here you go Elsa - my nephew told me you would let them go.