Sunday, September 13, 2015

Drawing the circle wide

You know that feeling you get in the pit of your stomach?  The one that says "fear" and "danger" and "stop"?  You know the way your chest can clench sometimes with that feeling, and the way it makes you want to fold inward and protect your heart?  You know that feeling?

I have been living with this feeling for a little over a week now.  Actually, that's a lie.  I have been running from this feeling for a little over a week now.  I've pretended to confront it every now and again -- but haven't really.  I've said hello to it as I ran by, more likely.  I think it appreciated the acknowledgment, but it wasn't satisfied.  That feeling is a greedy sonofabitch who wants ALL of the attention before it will think about going away.

I gave a workshop yesterday on mindfulness and self-compassion -- and it was messy, and challenging, and hard, and exhausting, and some version of right that is hard for me to understand and accept.  I came home last night and I was tired and overwhelmed with all the other things that need doing, and I didn't want to think about the things that are hard.  I couldn't focus on anything, though -- not work that should have been done, not mindless TV, or reading, or even knitting, so my brain did the thing where it cycles rapidly through ALL of the things that are hard.  Eventually, I went to sleep, but then woke up at 4:30 this morning just to continue cycling through the thoughts of all the hard things.  And not just the current hard things.  This was one of those "remember that time you said the dumb thing when you were 12?" type of cyclings.  I thought of all of the things. 

This morning, I drove to church, and I felt like a hypocrite.  I felt like I suck at mindfulness and self-compassion, and I felt like everyone must know that.  If I didn't have obligations at church, I honestly wouldn't have gone.  The reason?  Because I'm scared.  Because my brain likes to make associations, and because right now those associations are saying "you have asked for too much."  The faulty associations in my brain are saying, "shut down now," are saying, "pull back now," are saying, "don't share your heart."  It's not because of church or the people there, to be clear -- it's me, and another situation that feels messy and hard, and old feelings that crop up and become pervasive when I feel scared, or unsupported, or alone in something I need to do.

So this morning I went to church, and I sang with the choir for the first time in several months.  And this song...this song will never not fill me with emotion and intensity and love and heartache.  This song -- it speaks right to that hurt place in my heart.  This morning, we stood in a circle around the congregation, and we sang this song, and it was powerful, and right, and profoundly good. 

Draw the circle, draw the circle wide.
Draw the circle, draw the circle wide.
No one stands alone, we'll stand side by side
Draw the circle, draw the circle wide.

Draw the circle wide, draw it wider still
let this be our song, no one stands alone
standing side by side
draw the circle, draw the circle wide.

While we were singing, I could look at the faces of the people around me, and I knew that they needed it, too.  I saw tears, and closed eyes, and faces holding emotions that told me how much we all need this widening circle.  Not only do we need the circle, we need this assertion - again and again - that we are part of the circle.  That we can widen the circle.  That we will widen the circle.  That we are not alone.  Perhaps there is that hurting part of everyone's hearts that needs the reminder that no one stands alone.

As I was driving home, many hours later, I continued to sing this song, and to think about what it means, and how hard I struggle with being in community sometimes, and how scared I am of moving into this week.  I thought about how I know this circle is there, and how hard it is to believe it will continue to be there.  I pictured us -- all of us in this community -- in a literal circle, holding hands, and how there is always room to expand the circle.  How many times I have seen circles of chairs expand and contract as people arrive and depart. 

Then I pictured how, when my heart is hurting, I can step outside the circle and join the hands of the people on my left and my right.  I can seamlessly create a space and close it, and the circle will continue expanding and contracting.  When my heart is not hurting, I can step back in.  This image -- this closing and expanding of the circle -- it was, actually comforting.

But then I thought of this quote by Rumi: "Your task is not to seek for love, but merely to seek and find all the barriers within yourself that you have built against it."

I thought about all the barriers I have built against love.  I thought about the ways that love, in all its forms, is fucking terrifying.  I thought about the ways that I have dismantled (or am dismantling) some of those barriers, and the ways that I pull them back out like a shield, like a force field, like a suit of armor when things feel hard. 

That's when it hit me.  And when it hit me, it hit me hard. 

Hey, the thought said, quietly. 

Hey, listen.

You CAN step outside the circle.  You can. 

But you can also step in.

And guys...this simple completely undid me.  I cried big, fat, ugly tears, and hid my face in my sweatshirt, because I don't even like my dog to see me cry. 

I thought about the ways I see it happen all the time -- this stepping in, and stepping back, and stepping out and back in again.  This is the way of the circle.  It is ever expanding.  Ever containing.  Ever changing.

The choice here -- the choice is mine.  The barriers to love that exist in my heart...they are real, and they are there for a reason.  I can step outside the circle.  My heart is uncomfortable right now as she attempts to find her footing, and maybe I choose that the world does not get to have my heart right now.  She is mine, and if I want to shut everything down around her, I can.

Maybe I step out and close the space I am standing in, knowing that when I open my heart again, the circle will still be drawn wide.  Maybe I continue to stand in the circumference.  Maybe I step outside of the circle and leave a gap.

Or maybe.


Maybe, this time, I choose to step in. 

Draw the circle wide, draw it wider still
let this be our song, no one stands alone
standing side by side
draw the circle, draw the circle wide.

I am drawing the circle wide, friends, and I repeat to you: no one stands alone. 

No one stands alone. 

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