We don’t talk much anymore of rites of passage, those rituals that have been lost the further we trek into the industrial/technological age. Those things that, as we age get farther apart and measure not how much life we have to live, but how much living we better squeeze out of life. The rituals particular to humans, celebrating achievements and witnessing deaths. These moments are easy to spot and feel and remember. How we relentlessly strived, how disciplined and focused we were, how we couldn’t wait for THE day to arrive. For us to arrive; a grown up version of Christmas. A graduation, a driver’s license, a marriage. A trip on your own to Europe, testing out the waters of adulthood.
What also interests me is what happens when something grows us unexpectedly?
A pregnancy has gone wrong. Years pass and another pregnancy is about to get derailed when you know you’re married to the wrong man to be a father because he can’t even be a decent husband.
The moment the veils lift in a great flash of light, and all your preconceptions of someone you know well (or not) is so beautiful, whole and so lovely it makes you ache.
The moment you feel an animal, once abused and defensive and fearful and terrorized, lays it’s head in your lap or closes their eyes as you stand next to them.
The moment, when you once felt terrorized and helpless, you lie down in another’s presence and welcome them with a heart to match your open arms. Or lie down in your own presence, feeling safe in your skin.
The moment one love dies, and another is born.
What happens is that we grow closer to our shared humanity. We relish our shape and breath. We weep from joy, or sorrow but the despair has moved out of the small noises we can’t stop from escaping when we cry.
The moments of growth (though at the time I called them torture) caused me to set up a metaphorical garage sale. All the things someone else told me I needed, I got rid of. At the end of many days stood looking at a stripped bare room. Holes in the walls where pictures (not mine) used to hang. The smooth whiskey voice of self-loathing and every other voice that sought to put me in my place weren’t mine either and so began the process of teaching them to use kinder words.
There’s a point at which getting rid of clutter can also be an escape. I crossed that line many times. Whatever is at operation in this numinous universe, whatever force has a hand in this great big beautiful messy life, is the same hand that has guided me to know who I am. I don’t have any other explanation because I have at times been weak, and cowardly. Passive, lazy, self-sabotaging. And while I have also been the flip side of all those things, I can’t say with any certainty that I was the only force. There have been too many life preservers thrown my way for me to take credit for them all. I believe mystics used to call this Grace. It’s probably still called Grace (as a recovering Catholic, this way of thinking needs some WD-40).
I’ve come to realize that many things happen after life’s happenings. It’s not the pinnacle. It’s not the end. It’s not a way station that we mistake for a home. What it is, what it blossoms into, is the knowledge of the beauty of who we each are and how we share this universe with a great mystery that can sustain us. And while dearly held beliefs say more about us than about them, I am also at the point in my gray-haired life that I am willing to admit that I don’t know. The Great Mystery is now a comfort, and though my rooms aren’t grandly furnished, everything in them is mine.