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The Hardest Lesson: It's Not Personal

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I feel like I’m disappearing into an old boring woman. Like I’m indistinguishable now from every other old bag with jiggly jowls in her late sixties. It’s very depressing.

And then I remember my Buddhist practice. I remember that we contemplate death, the impermanence of life. And I have no problem with that. (Which is total and complete bullshit.) If I can’t handle getting older, and losing all my show-stopping appeal when I walk into a room — how the hell am I going to handle that last hurdle? That last terrifying Now It’s Over.

What are the parallels in the natural world? Do aging dogs yearn for their younger days when they were more spiffy, more frisky, more agile? There’s no telling, but I’m thinking no. They do not. But they don’t write poetry either. So.

My point is nature just does what it does, what she does, without complaint, without trying to reverse herself. Even the floods and tornadoes and fires and hurricanes just do what they do. They don’t rage. They don’t apologize either, that’s for sure. It’s just that those are the conditions and there they go. New Orleans. Gone. California. Gone. The North Pole. Gone. Nature isn’t angry. She’s just responding to what we’ve put in motion. She’s just saying, “If you push this button, this is what happens.”

There’s no ill intent. She’s not mad. She’s not fighting back. She’s just showing us that when you jump off a cliff, you fall down. Not up.

It always bemuses me how people pray to God for something to happen or not happen. I understand the desire, I do. But when I was holding my 1-year-old in my arms, his face graying, and his eyes rolled up, and I was alone in the house with his newborn little sister tucked into the corner of the couch. Believe me, I didn’t have time to pray. I literally just yelled at him, “Don’t you leave me Luke. Don’t do it.”

My poor baby. The rest of the story unfolded, someone showed up and drove us to the hospital, and he lived and all. Grew out of infantile epilepsy. Lots of stories came out of it. But my point is I didn’t pray to God or anyone about it. I just felt desperate. I felt a mother’s wordless panic. A scream waiting to be unleashed. A helplessness I’d never felt before. And he lived, despite that helpless feeling.

Plenty don’t. Despite prayers, despite desperate, good prayers from good people, killing of sacrificial goat prayers, promises of excellent behavior prayers. And they die anyway. I was so lucky.

So why am I writing today? Just to say that the only thing that matters is humility. Humility in the face of all that’s holy. And everything is holy.

God is holy, if you believe. The Goddess, too. And if you don’t believe, then life is holy. The world is holy. Really, it is. Kindness is holy. The whole ball of wax is holy. It doesn’t matter if we understand how or why. It just is.

And we need to cultivate humility because eventually, there will come a time when, for whatever reason, we are mute with panic, so scared we won’t even know what to think, much less say — like I was, holding my baby son during a seizure. At that time, whether we know it or not, life is living itself through us. That holy mystery is leading us through a terror that it’s our turn to see. We must be there with as much gusto as we can.

Eventually, our heart rate will come down. Our breathing will normalize. If it turns out we lost everything in the process, then that’s what happened. Humility is the ability, the willingness to bow to What Is.

Bottom line? Nothing happens to us. Everything happens for us.


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