Lupus Alae

Spiritflights, fledgling and ancient


Be still

Life is beautiful, tragic, poignant, absurd, fun, and excruciating by turns, it seems to me, and it touches with abandon every place in between. We fight for our chosen causes, scramble to make our voices heard, claw our way up the ladder in career and financial stability, juggle everything we can possibly hold and then some.

"Go and do and achieve and acquire! And if you do not like something, fight it until you find another way to get what you want." This seems to be the message people live with/by, in large part. Perpetual motion, lives going ever faster, round and round on our big blue ball.

It is natural to move forward, to strive to exchange what you have or where you are for the next thing or place along the way, for something or someplace better/different. If I want a better job, I get the additional certifications and I apply for the position I wish to have, for example. We follow our desires. And when something blocks us from attaining what we want, we focus our energy on removing that blockage. We beseech higher powers for aid in our noble pursuits (whether they be noble in truth or not sometimes!). We fight and rail against and bend our will toward changing anything that does not suit us.

To be sure, there are things to be said for that kind of indomitable spirit; you don't get anywhere in this world by rolling over the first time you meet with resistance and letting life pass you by instead of living it, striving for a life that satisfies and enriches.

Yet...there is an even greater wisdom, it seems to me, in learning when to fight and when to be still.

There are those things in life that are beyond our control, as they should be, and sometimes these things are incredibly painful. We naturally want to fight them, to find a way to reject these events and facts and replace them with something more palatable, something that doesn't hurt so much.

My great-uncle and longtime penpal/friend/mentor/favorite storyteller is dying. He is so dear to me that I simply cannot imagine life without him -- I suppose it's more accurate to say that I can, but I don't want to.

We've been writing letters for almost a quarter-century. I'll be 28 this fall and I've written back and forth with him since I was five years old. The things he has taught me would never fit in a blog post. Or a blog. Or one lifetime's recounting.

He has lung cancer. His "year" of time the doctors gave him in June appears to have been incredibly optimistic.

When I first heard the news of his illness, I immediately went into fight mode. Surely there had to be a treatment option they hadn't considered. I asked questions. I researched. I asked again. I cried and railed at life in general. I prayed to the gods for miraculous healing or to wake up and find that it'd all been a dream or a mistake and that he was healthy.

After speaking to him on the phone recently and hearing firsthand how fragile he is and how limited his time (his voice was so thin; the coughs so thick and overpowering!), I had to concede that there is no fix to be had. Not a fix as *I* would have it, at any rate. With tears streaming down after the brief conversation, I prayed again...this time for the grace to accept what is and cannot be changed -- what will come, and on its own timetable, not mine. I stopped struggling and finally held still.

And in the stillness, I felt comforted. As if the universe or the gods themselves paused a moment to say "Shh, child" and hold me close. It strongly reminded me of this verse I learned years ago:

Be still, and know that I am God. (Psalms 46:10)

Though my belief system is different from those who carry that particular book around, I see no reason for the wisdom within to be discarded, and indeed, this *is* what I felt. That in the moments of our deepest despair and grief, if we can pause a moment, cease struggling against things beyond our control, we are better able in the stillness to feel the Divine guiding all things. We are not abandoned in our hour of need; we just spend so much time making noise and ramming ourselves against those brick walls that we miss the message.

The hardest aspect of the Serenity Prayer is the serenity part.


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