I remember a scene in We Bought a Zoo with Matt Damon’s character, Benjamin Mee, talking to his son about life, “You know, sometimes all you need is twenty seconds of insane courage. Just literally twenty seconds of embarrassing bravery. And I promise you, something great will come of it.”
That’s some of the best, kindest, most helpful advice any kid’s father could ever give him.
I was also curious to see what might happen if I focused my energy only on what I was grateful for, not what was wrong, less than optimal, or just plain disappointing.
A profound shift happened within hours of starting. The more I celebrated what was good, the more good things happened to me.
As an empath, I am sometimes doubled-over in pain over my sense that our inhumanity is winning this battle. Especially when I see anyone invoking their religious beliefs as a means to justify or excuse their lack of mercy, kindness, and care for other beings, whether people, animals or the natural environment.
Cruelty and the ability to ignore suffering are not religious values.
I recently reconnected with a few of the friends I haven’t spoken to or heard from since high school. The friends of my girlhood. Friends who stood next to me as I passed through elementary, junior high, and high school; girls itching to delineate their boundaries, to forge characters and lives outside the confines of suburban life in the 1960s and 1970s. Women now, these girls remember a version of me I have forgotten. And because they remember me, suddenly, I do too. Through their eyes I remember that pensive waif standing on the periphery of the school yard.
I was certain I’d lost her to the dark waters of memory.
Slowly, ever so slowly, the varnish of our spirit is stripped away.
And we are left with the wreckage, the sliver of us that remains intact. The bit that cannot be sanded away.
That is what we must hold onto. That is what must never be lost. That is the part of us that makes us, us.
Silence is the moist ground from which our realizations, creativity, and inspiration rise. If we never slow down, never grow silent, or never take time to just sit with ourselves—how can we possibly expect to care for others?
My best friend and I often discuss these changes, in an attempt to unravel the mysteries that we face. So much is shifting and changing that I sometimes feel like there is absolutely no solid ground beneath us. Of course, I know that is not true, but when my fear kicks up, it is hard to reason with my internal hysteria. The thing is, that is happening less and less. I feel more solid and more sure and more grateful for all aspects of my life every single day. Changing this has been the hardest work of my life.
My capacity for enduring pain rather than processing it, is momentous. Truly. Yet, I know all too well what I’ll find if I open Pandora’s Box: Those daggers I’ve yet to dig out of my bloodied back. My slippery, rainbow trout heart, hook still embedded in its flesh. The pieces of myself that I gave away cheap.
Just say no, and mean it. You won’t ever really say yes to those things, people, and experiences you want in life, if you do not learn to say no to those things, people, and experiences that drain you.
As long as you breathe, you can change your life. And if you change your life, you will impact those around you. And If those around you see you changing, they will realize they, too, can change. And the people around them will notice a small crack of light shining into their lives. And the people those people know will notice that soft light. And pretty soon, there is something numinous, something aglow, something shifting everywhere along the route that your light travels.