When I was eighteen and stepped outside the airport in Jakarta the heat and humidity were so intense I thought I was going to faint. The city I lived in for a year as an exchange student was situated in the hills a few hours outside of Jakarta and thankfully, had a slightly more moderate climate.
But certain experiences in my early years have conditioned me to be somewhat fond of humidity. First it was summers spent in Wisconsin with my grandparents where I loved the warm thunder showers that would break the heat and bring mosquitoes. This was such a change compared to the arid dry weather of Southern California. Then came Indonesia where the vegetation was so lush and wet sensuality pulsed through the air despite the sexual constraint of the culture. After that came time in Connecticut and New York where summers were filled with verdant green and restless nights from heat.
And yes, these climates are sticky and gross and make my hair even more unruly. But I also feel a certain comfort in the warmth. I feel alive in the mess of it. And maybe that is precisely why I like humidity and the rain that washes it all away.
When my world shattered at an early age I didn’t turn to God. I didn’t know who God was. If he existed, he had abandoned me like others had.
So I turned to books and paper and crayons. To drama and dance. And in the creative, I organized myself as best I could.
When your world shatters, you can dance along the edge of madness. I’ve seen it in myself and I’ve seen it in others. Thankfully, art heals.
This weekend I rejoined a group of friends and colleagues for an annual conference using a particular method of drama therapy. I have been involved with this form of work for seventeen years post graduate school. Many of us have traveled across the globe to train in it. Based on Grotowski’s work (among others), it is a radical form of encounter with self, other, one’s issues and something Other.
Our mentor founded the New Haven Post-Traumatic Stress Center with his wife. They believe that people can heal from trauma. That through art, we can pick up the pieces of our lives. In front of their building is an actual beam from the World Trade Center.
I am reminded that –
Today will be the day that my fragile world will fall
The teetering house of suffering will collapse
And I will be freed of what happened then.
All that matters is that I will be caught by you!
I see your outstretched hands! I feel the building sway!
Now is the time…
I cannot wait for tomorrow…again.
And I have also found God through art. He said to me, “I will give you a new heart and put a new spirt in you; I will remove from you your heart of stone and give you a heart of flesh” (Ezekiel 36:26). And yes, these bones can life. “He will wipe away every tear from their eyes; and there will no longer be any death; there will no longer be any mourning, or crying, or pain; the first things have passed away” Revelation 21:4.
I once read a novel where the protagonist described her bed as her lover. Actually, she was having a menage-a-tois with her mattress and pillows. I can relate. Lately I’ve been having these 8-9 hour sleeps that leave me feeling literally giddy and hung over in the morning. I am sleeping as hard as a toddler and need a good hour or so to wake up in the morning.
Over the last few years the more I travel for work, the more I’m finding myself taking time off at home instead of going on vacation somewhere. I used to call this a stay-cation where I’d actively get out and enjoy some of San Diego’s sights. I’d make sure to surf and hike. Go to a museum and see a few movies. Now however, I’m having a rest-cation because I don’t the energy or the desire to navigate the car to the beach or to battle the crowds at the zoo. So I am thinking about the ocean in my mind instead.
The reality is I rarely truly rest. Sure, I am at home but I’m writing a book and seeing clients and auditing two classes. There are groceries to buy and cats to feed and poop to scoop. Presentations to prepare and lines to memorize. I am however allowing myself to indulge in slowing down. Down-shifting from fourth to first, taking a pause and coming up for air.
This is what summer used to be for. I remember what it was like to be a kid and have unstructured time. At my grandparents’ home in Wisconsin, I’d wake up, sit with my grandparents over breakfast and then go read Nancy Drew books. Eventually, I’d have to make the bed and get dressed as the big action for the day would be to accompany my grandmother on her errands and to the grocery store.
I’d also rinse out the bird baths and do cart wheels on the lawn. And I never ever got bored.
Unstructured time is really important and few of us have it anymore. It is necessary for health and vital for the soul. Some of my best creativity has come from periods of letting the field lie fallow and I have learned over time that if you expect the goose to lay multiple golden eggs daily, eventually she won’t lay any at all.
So yes, for a bit I’m watching the news each night and an hour of the Big Bang Theory. I’m reading books and staring at the ceiling while the mini-lions sit at my side purring. Because without a doubt, this is a temporary luxury and the pace will soon quicken. What do you do for rest? And what signals you that your soul is weary? How do you discipline yourself to unplug and rest?
I never planned on being Christian. Sure I was raised Catholic but I didn’t get the whole Jesus thing. I didn’t understand why he was supposed to be my friend and the idea of being nailed to a cross creeped me out.
As a teenager, I was even more suspect. If Jesus really was the Son of God, he could have done anything to save himself. Was he stupid? Why didn’t he pull a super hero move and make a beeline out of there? And why didn’t God just take a torch and blow up the place? I never realized that Jesus acquiescing with the crucifixion was a courageous choice. This was God and Jesus, acting in tandem to redeem the world. I just thought Christianity was advocating a life as a spineless victim.
Then five years ago my mother took her life.
When people are suicidal the last thing we want them to think is that they are a burden or that the world would be better off without them. The shame one feels when depressed is profound enough without these additional thoughts. And yet in the end, this is what my mom thought and this is something I have to live with and grieve. I carry with me the guilt that I couldn’t somehow save her but I also hold within me her sacrifice that infused me with life because of her profound love.
When it comes to love there is a selfless quality to it. John 15:13 states, “Greater love has no one than this, that he lay down his life for his friends.”
I had been taught that Jesus loved me but I didn’t understand what that meant. Yet when I looked at the image of a cross and wedded it with the knowledge that my mother had taken her life in order that I might live, I suddenly understood the crucifixion as the ultimate act of love. My mom had become the sacrificial lamb. This knowledge hit me on a cellular level, coursed through my veins, and ultimately transformed me. Stunned by the unnerving presence of love, I dropped to my knees in awe of this amazing grace. In that moment I was saved. I was redeemed. All the years of anguish and worry and heartbreak were being washed away. The years the locusts had eaten were being restored. Jesus healed me in that moment with his touch, as he had the lepers, the prostitutes and the blind. I was a female Lazarus being raised from the dead. Grafted into the vine, I had new life.