Thursday, December 8, 2016

Peace Inbetween

"We are fighters Jenn. We fight for what we believe in. Do we believe in us? In our joy? That's a life question...major. Because if the answer is yes..."
A necessary, if not selfish, line of thinking. I found that it led me to more questions, contemplating joy.

Seems that so much emotional focus over the years has surrounded recovery and healing... survival, confidence, self esteem, and learning how to breathe. Have I consciously chosen the pathway of joy or stumble upon it as a result of running away / perceived failure or neither?

It's as though I possess all the tools, knowledge, resources, and ability to be completely at peace and joyful... and yet, I can't quite figure it out... No, I don't really have reason to be anything but joyful, end of the day there's no great trauma or travesty done to me... an African coworker says, "what are you Americans depressed about? Because your life is hard? Please you don't have a reason to be depressed... come live in Africa then you'll see a reason". Although that may seem a bit simplistic and callous feeling, point taken. Yet there's not much sense in comparing journeys in such a way.

Still though, the age old unsettled feeling... the gut deep knowledge that I'm not at peace, not joyful... and I don't really know the way to get there. Like a shape shifter or mirage, it's just out of vision...just out of grasp. Some days it's simply a matter of focus, intentionally choosing the positive side of a coin...."just cut it out, stop being ridiculous" said sharply scolding to myself often does the trick, get out of our own way.

But the days when I know it's so much deeper.. through and through the core...days where the only solution is to curl up in a ball and disappear for a bit...when it feels completely plausible that there's simply a piece missing within, broken beyond repair.. I long to be rescued, some hand to write on the wall, a promise breath won't feel impossible... even as I scold myself for such self indulgence. Though I may become more self aware, cope better, and grow in these periods, still the real lasting stillness and peace and joy remain elusive.

Ever so slowly, I start to learn that the answer must lie somewhere in love...not the romantic sort, but the deep love for which there is no equal and comes only from a supernatural life-source. If we can somehow see that clearly...like a bright strand, a guide to follow... it can become sustaining and dependable, surely.

So then where does joy come into the picture... and how to become familiar, even friendly with such... can it be sought or simply gifted...

It's a bit easier to see images of joy...

...bright autumn leaves scattering in the wind...
gardens abundant with produce, warm soil welcoming new growth...
...the whimsical laugh of a child...
music...the Hallelujah Chorus of Handel's Messiah...
...greeting a beloved friend with a hug after time apart..
finishing a marathon alongside your sister...
...the stillness and majesty of clear starry nights..
a crackling of warm fireplace or campfire...
...witnessing the lives of loved ones..

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I stepped away from the above writing for a few days, unsure of how to finish... not knowing where it led or what was the purpose.. frustrated with not being able to find the answers written above.  Stuck.. in between..

Since then, a small but completely priceless gift was given to me; wisdom shared by a God given friend. So simple, even common sense.. yet potentially life altering... freeing! It is this:

Peace comes only from within us, given by God. And more than that, if what feels like peace can be controlled by another person, then it cannot be peace.. but rather an illusion.

Not quite sure how I managed to live 31 years without truly realizing that. All I could determine is that peace was desperately longed for... sought, desired. But just like the above writing, I couldn't at all figure out the source... and felt torn between choosing two varieties of peace. But, where is the peace NOW? The peace that is totally controlled and dependent on You, not anyone else or any circumstance. Once I could define the real, the illusion became shockingly clear...showing itself to be false.

And this false peace controlled. Because I so desired and longed for peace when it was removed or taken away, I would feel choked...desperate...sick to my stomach...totally unable to breathe. Fighting for it became paramount, at all costs... or at all costs, avoid the chest crushing suffocation. What's that saying... I couldn't see the forest for all the trees...

One of the most favorite games to play with pre-school kids is the Monkey Game. In and of itself, it's not that exciting. Kids sing a nursery rhyme to "put the Monkey (ie me) to sleep", so they can sneak up and steal the bananas (rugby balls). If the monkey "wakes up", the kids have to freeze and "hide behind rocks", quickly crouching down until the monkey sleeps again.. once they get to the bananas, they must try to get back to their base. Simple enough. But what makes the game fantastic and memorable is the story line before the game commences.. oh such fun to make up traps and tricks to "make it tougher" for the kids to steal the bananas. There may be trap doors... invisible dinosaur guards... ice cream truck tricks... lasers... alligators... moats..  the list can be endless, each game building incrementally to more difficult.

At the end of each round, I am "shocked" and dismayed they've stolen the bananas... I ask, "how in the world did you get past so and so.. (whatever imaginary trap or trick I've created)". It's amazing to hear the way these kids have escaped the dragons and invisible lasers and moats... ranging from the hilarious to dark to common sense and back again. It never ceases to amaze me and their excitement level is contagious. If it's a new group of kids, they'll look at me suspiciously... guarded... the draw to imagination is powerful, it can be seen in their eyes... disbelief, yet innocence that believes adults. "Is that really real Coach Jenn?" some may ask... once they're quite sure I can be trusted, all suspicion leaves and they're all on-board for the imaginary game!

Kids are so interesting...nearly without fail, every child or group of children greet you for the first time with curious suspicion. You can see the doubt / question in their eyes... is this a friend?  One must provide an introduction... a reason for joining... a request to play... and draw attention to something in their world, like their shoes... say something absurd and silly, to get a giggle... It's like magic... suddenly the guarded eye leave, and you're in! Now.. an accepted guide in their world of games, learning, play, imagination.

Such a guide would be wonderful in life... pointing out the real, the illusion...trusted to walk through the journey. The natural radars and perceptions of our childhood often get distorted, twisted, biased, dulled, or dirtied over time... we lose our peace (or whatever our particular brand of struggle). A tattoo inked to my spine says, seek the wisdom of the ages but look at the world through the eyes of a child. Such a balance to find... realize... actualize...

Somewhere therein lies peace; unshakable and foundational peace. Though I can't be sure, it seems to be worthy of time...allow it to marinate, saturate us through and through.  And in the in-between... we wait for guidance, rest.
We may find, that it wasn't about us at all.


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