Here on the farm the dying has begun. And dying can be quite beautiful, actually.
Brilliant dogwood flaming red, yellowing aspens and birch, sugar maples blazing orange—all stand center stage against blue sky backdrop. Because they’re dying. They’re bleeding out green, being replaced with orange, red, yellow. Those turning are not exactly more beautiful—just a different beautiful.
In our fields, milkweed leaves shine golden, almost too bright to view without squinting as the autumn sun penetrates. Their pods are browning, drying, readying to crack. And when they finally do crack completely, they spill wispy white angel wings carrying seed on the wind, sprouting new life in another season, another place. Funny how all this dying brings out the most beautiful in some.
And then there’s the not-so-beautiful.
Brittle leaves curl in on themselves. Like you could turn them to dust with the slightest squeeze of your hand. In their prime, not long ago really, they’re now dried up, rigid, inward-focused, just waiting to drop to the ground and be done.
Why do some of the dying become more beautiful while some become more tragic?
Forest trees and prairie flowers don’t seem to have a choice. They all die, sooner or later. We all die, sooner or later. The cycle of seasons, the circle of life, brings change whether the leaves will it or not.
Same for us. But we of free will?
We might not be able to change our inward cycles of seasons but we can change our minds about our seasons and see with new eyes, with eyes that see truth.
Sometimes those feelings we’d rather not feel? We do our best to bury them with good things. Like work and achievement and giving till it hurts and a whole host of noble deeds making us look damn-near like saints. But our good works still don’t stop that damn nagging sense of Loss and Grief standing oh, so close. Too close.
Those two—Loss and Grief—they stay with us, whether we like it or not. We can only will them away for so long. Even then, we’re fooling ourselves. We cannot will them away.
They visit us mostly during the night when they startle awake in the dark while the rest of the world sleeps sound. They make us pay attention to them. We try to toss and turn them out of our minds—hurl them out of our souls—bury them under our sheets of denial. But they won’t go away.
They insist. They demand. They hold our peace hostage until we give them what they want.
And what do they want, Loss and Grief?
What do they demand?
They want—no, they demand—to be acknowledged and heard and dealt with. They will settle for nothing less. Because these two whom we hate? They want to be our best friends.
Though we’d rather focus on Pretty and Positive because they’re lighter, friendlier company, Loss and Grief will have nothing to do with being ignored. Sure, we can try. But they’ll bury themselves deep into our heart like the finger splinters we won’t take the time to extract. They turn red and swell big and throb hot. And they begin to fester till we can stand their cry no longer.
Because the seemingly small we ignored for too long—the wound now screams.
So we get the magnifying glass and the needle and the match to sterilize. We take the time to perform our own microsurgery just to get a bit of relief. And cutting oneself open is never painless. But there’s a truth I used to tell my therapy clients . . .
You won’t change till the pain of not changing becomes greater than the pain of changing.
Because there’s one huge lie we all digest in this life—that avoiding pain in a good thing—that pain will just go away if we don’t look at it—if we don’t acknowledge it—if we don’t deal with it.
And the truth is this—the more we avoid dealing with pain, the bigger and greater it becomes and the less fully human we become.
Until one day, we wake in the middle of the night, or in the height of the day, and we become conscious once again that something is wrong with us—still wrong with us—and that it’s not going to go away on its own after all.
We’re going to have to choose, sooner or later.
We’ve come to Robert Frost’s fork in the road, that place in the wood where two paths diverge . . .
And we must make a choice—this path—or that path—or stand paralyzed at the pivotal point, unable to decide which path.
Truth is, there’s only one path that leads to healing and wholeness. And it’s not always the pretty path, the easy path.
It’s most often the more painful path. And it’s usually the lonelier path, where humility isn’t so popular.
Because the path to true peace is the road less traveled, the road that requires us to acknowledge our poverty of spirit so we can become rich.
It’s the honest path, the conscious path, the path where our self-imposed schizophrenic selves get glued back together, fused into a peace-filled whole once again, because we’re no longer so afraid of the fear. We’re no longer afraid of others’ opinions.
NO! We are the furthest thing from insignificant. No human/Divine dies for insignificant. No human/Divine hammers down innocent verdict on the absolutely guilty and lost unless that human/Divine sees beyond what we are able to see and substitutes self as ransom for the bound.
Yet, that man/God—he was a man of sorrows, acquainted with grief. He knew its soul value.
We can learn much from Him . . .
If we will open our minds . . .
And open our hearts.
He felt all of human experience. He rejected none of human experience. He embraced it all and, in so doing, embraced us all. He never judged Loss and Grief as rejectables. He told us straight-up we would experience these stretchers of our souls.
So when we judge Loss and Grief insignificant, we might as well slice ourselves right down the center and remove half our human heart, or more. Because when we judge Loss and Grief insignificant we judge ourselves insignificant, more or less.
Am I insignificant?
To some, indeed I am. I have been so easily, conveniently rejected, even by certain “family”. Sure it stung. Sure it hurt. But surely, I am not just what some other thinks about me. And I know, so well . . .
To some, who can’t deal with their own pain, they sure as hell don’t want to deal with mine—or yours—or anyone else’s. So they stand in their own space and I stand in my own space and we can be right there in the same room in our own separate spaces with a world of tense space keeping each of us in our own place. And when one reaches out to hug when she has refused to reconcile, I withdraw. Because, honestly, I’m not so like Jesus yet. I will not accept a “Judas kiss”. I will not play polite and fake.
Yeah. I get that people just want to be happy—that they want all to be pretty and neat and appearing oh, so, proper. Gag me.
It’s not like I don’t want to be happy.
And in fact, I am happy, generally.
But I’m not running away anymore. And I won’t be fake anymore, just so I can encourage some other person’s fake—or even a whole family of fake.
So I’m making new friends whose names are Loss and Grief. Yes, they can become close friends, if we invite, taking the most tender parts of our hearts and souls into a place of grace where we can be fully human, not sliced and diced sections where we sort the “good” and the “bad” and we love parts of ourselves and hate others.
And yeah, I get that maybe most people will find my ponderings painful to read—maybe even infuriating—at least if they have any ability for introspection.
Because let’s face it.
We are all broken people trying to become whole, whether we realize this truth or not.
And the only way one becomes whole is to be whole—to be real—to stop all this frantic dissection and rejection and embrace what is—to hold who we are—loved as is by the God who knows just how screwed up we are—just how frightened—just how desperate for approval and something—anything—that will prove that we are just . . . OK.
Isn’t this why we refuse to get off whatever treadmill we’re on, running ourselves ragged, hoping to get somewhere but getting nowhere, really?
Sure, we might become famous. And we might not. We might get rich. And we might not. We might gain everything we value. And then lose it. Or we might agonize that we will lose whatever we’ve gained. Possessions. Friends. Family. Looks. Health. With whatever we try to fill our gnawing emptiness, our false fillers will gnaw us to death from the inside out.
I write today, the day after some news went public.
I have always said I don’t play Monopoly. I LIVE Monopoly. We are invested in business. My husband—the most loyal, upright, honest human being I have ever known, is chairman of the board of several companies. One company—a major company—we discovered last week has been the victim of recent fraud, somewhere between 22 and 176 million dollars. Our lives and the lives of so many who are friends—hard-working, honest folk—we could likely lose hundreds of thousands, if not everything.
How do I view this? As a reminder not to put trust in anything less than the perfectly trustworthy.
Funny how money is the current subject on my mind . . .
All those rectangular paper pieces with green ink—all saying, “In God We Trust”.
Do I really trust in God more than money—more than family—more than happiness and friends and accomplishment and applause and awards and health and . . . .
Dare to name what you hold most dear.
Dare to say how you would feel if stripped of that tomorrow.
Even dare to write it down in our own handwriting, in black ink on white page.
Do you have something bigger to hold you, if what you love most is stripped straight away out of your hands and your heart?
Circumstances can come upon us so suddenly. Circumstances we don’t expect—that we don’t like—that we scream and cry about, even if silently—from depths of ourselves we didn’t even know.
So what do we do, in such times?
I do believe we must believe in the only thing—in the only One—that/who does not change—EVER—who holds us dear, no matter what.
Go ahead and say you don’t believe. Go ahead and say you doubt.
God doesn’t care much about what you think.
God cares about truth.
God cares about love.
And the truth is, no matter how much we reject or fight or try to disprove, there is a God who is absolute Truth—who is absolute Love—who is PERSONAL—who will love us AS WE ARE—WHERE WE ARE—no matter how filthy dirty—no matter how broken—no matter how rotten—no matter how GOOD we think we are when, in truth, we can NEVER be good ENOUGH.
You know it, deep down.
I know it.
We all know it—in the truest part of ourselves.
We know we are like that leaf in the field—right now—dry and brittle, curling in on itself, wondering if we will ever have a resurrection.
If we want.
But the dead cannot resurrect the dead . . .
And the choice we have is whether to hold fast to faith and gratitude or to embrace control where we won’t let go, even when life’s realities try and pry our white-knuckled fingers off what we most hold dear, releasing our grip.
Like our inevitable aging and losing of abilities—do we accept or fight?
Like the freedoms we once took for granted—do we reflect with gratitude or lament with bitterness?
How do we adjust to new realities we didn’t choose but that chose us?
Like dealing with injustice when we’re innocent and words that are nothing more than lies. But those words spoken behind backs harm us anyway.
Like the perceptions of others and their consequent acts that can damage our soul more than a fist can damage a face.
Some leaves are curling in on themselves, all brittle. Some leaves will become dust in the crush of life’s realities.
Yet, fall is the season where some come into their prime, opening fully, displaying their own unique beauty, right there in the face of death.
Because they embrace the season.
Because they bloom in their own time, right where they’re planted.
When I look around and see so much withering, and browning, and dying?
I remember that every season of life brings beauty, if only I will open my eyes to see and my heart to embrace.
And all those naysayers . . .
Those who hate living here in Wisconsin . . .
Those who hate wherever they’re living . . .
I say . . .
Open you eyes and your hearts.
Every place—every season—has beauty to be embraced—if we will just open ourselves to the possibilities.