Monday, June 16, 2008

Faith

"Often the thing feared, once crossed, turns out to be an unexpected bridge from which we can see who we were and who we are becoming." - Mark Nepo

The last two weeks have been a roller coaster of anxiety and euphoria. I've been okay with letting go of the bookshelves and granite countertops since I posted about them. But the security, the known has been a lot more difficult to willingly let go of. I keep looking off into the distance, towards August, and find myself filled with dread at the thought of being homeless. Staying with family until I go off and travel again, all my things in boxes... there is not a lot of comfort in that transitory vision. Often, the anxiety creeps in and overtakes me in the evenings. I can barely stand it some nights, swigging some Nyquil and going to bed earlier than usual just to shut down those thoughts and quiet the tension in my chest.

Moments of euphoria tend to arise during the day, when I'm engaged in other activities, like work, working out, driving. I realize how young and free I am. I realize that the vivid dreams no longer plague me - dreams of literal baggage, stormy seas, frustration, struggle, anger, awareness. I appreciate that it is relatively easy to find a place to live and that my situation allows me to be patient and find someplace I really like when I'm ready for that again. There is no desperation. I have a job and I have the kindness of family and friends, should I need a place to stay.

Although my ridiculously active dreams subsided the moment I made the decision to let go of my apartment and travel for awhile, I go to bed and periodically awake during the night with a nagging urgency to harness some faith. This urgency is powerful. It can awaken me with such force. I sit upright and gasp for air, choking on a peculiar awareness. I feel so overcome by this need for faith, which is quite distinct from the need for security.

Change is always daunting, even if we intellectually know that the change is good for us. We may feel that the change will yield something wonderful, but that something feels extremely tenuous. And that feeling cannot be rationalized, for it is based almost entirely on optimism. We can't as easily identify the benefits of such life changes, which makes for a rather lean "pros" column on that mental pros and cons list. Pro: um, I think this will make me feel more alive? Con: I will be homeless. The weight of the palpable cons can easily shake the optimism of any such tenuous pros. The uncertainty is both exciting and frightening, as many of you have gently reminded me in your thoughtful comments.

A few posts back, the lovely and talented illustrator and story teller, Susan, mentioned in a comment that "Frequently, at our moments of greatest happiness we find a core of emptiness - a longing for something permanent and beautiful that will last forever which we understand can never be in physical manifestation. That's where prayer and meditation enter." This comment has stuck with me since and feels like an "aha" moment but one that requires constant attention and surrender. It is impossible to find ultimate faith in a plan or anything tangible, really. And ultimate happiness seems to be much the same in that regard. There can be hope and anticipation in a journey, a place, a life changing decision. But faith (and again, happiness) seems to be a force that does not (should not) exist conditionally. Faith should not be conditional upon anything that could be placed on a pros and cons list.

I realize that I'm so hell-bent on trying to figure out how everything will come together in August and beyond that I'm overlooking something huge: Paris in July. What will that do to me, how I will I feel when there, when I return? Those are the exciting questions that really should be just that: exciting questions that don't require answers or even analyzing, but provide absolute delight in the mere wonder they produce as open questions. Acknowledging Paris brings me back even more so, to the present. Being present. How important that is and how profoundly I've lost sight of it! And this is due in large to a lack of faith.

Faith requires constant feeding. Months ago I was reading from the Tao and Mark Nepo's "The Book of Awakening," each morning with my coffee. I felt an incredible peace, starting my day in such a way and carrying the simple message and building faith with me throughout the day. I still had rough days and angst but it seems that they were easier to manage and accept overall. I felt a greater sense of faith in my ability to understand all manner of feelings, situations, people, etc. The faith that I felt building from this daily practice was by no mean a superhero cape that protected me from any hurt or struggle. Rather, it seemed a gentle and pervasive acceptance that was almost gauze-like... providing a sense of comfort in its delicate protection but in its transparent quality it did not alienate or hide me from life and others.

Somehow, I stopped those morning readings and replaced them with blogging and trying to write a bit before work, both of which are also very important to me. But I didn't make room at all in the rest of my day for those meditations and gradually their messages have become distant and faint words. I feel the void and these nighttime "awakenings" make that all the more clear.

Faith is like a garden that requires tending. If we neglect it, we have to re-seed it. Weather challenges the garden constantly but with diligence and surrender, the garden will always yield a lasting contentment, because it isn't so much the crop it yields as much as it is just the soil/earth itself. Thank you all for lending your helping hands to my own garden. It requires less re-seeding because of your faith in me. (And I promise, I'm now done with the garden analogy!)

La Belette Rouge will be here tomorrow and I get to meet Function of Time and Non, Je Ne Regrette Rien this coming weekend!! I get to see family and friends this week!! And Paris is now just 15 days away!! In Paris, I'll be able to meet more wonderful bloggers like La Page Francaise, Marie, and hopefully others!! The realization of all this planning and change is really right before me, finally. And despite all the angst and challenges that I know will always emerge from time to time, I feel ready to take the leap of faith and enjoy the view from that wondrous and unexpected bridge!

11 comments:

Je ne regrette rien said...

I'm very excited to meet the font of all of these lovely writings. and the having cocktails part, too!

La Belette Rouge said...

Portland, Paris, and lovely and dear blogger friends. I am so grateful where my leaps of faith have taken me. I look forward to seeing where the path unfolds for us.

I am so happy to be part of this Francophile community of bloggy gardeners. The seeds of change we planted back in Janury are just about to be harvested!!! I am so excited!!!!

Oh, and don't forget, manure helps the garden to grow. So what looks like meaningless and stinky crap can actually be an important part of the process of change.;-)

Can't wait to see you!!xo

Randal Graves said...

I think I'm the only Francophile in Cleveland. ;-)

On the permanence of things, of whatever we're looking for, I wonder if that's possible. JNNR had a post about such a permanent, or true, happiness the other day (yesterday?). Such things seem to be, by definition, ephemeral. They exist, but we are allotted mere glimpses of them, the quickest touch. Often, because of their power, that's enough.

Given a choice between open questions and definite answer, which would we choose? The journey or the destination?

We know these sentiments, these passions, exist, but we can never grip them with our hearts and our minds. That's my take anyway, but I'm not exactly the best guy to speak on faith in hoping for these things. The curse of cynicism, I suppose. :)

La Framéricaine said...

b,

if it offers any point of reference, my belongings have been in boxes under packing tape and packing lists for 4 years. My granite counters and bookshelves have long since become faded memories. I am daily amazed at the degree to which I don't really miss any of it, except from time to time.

one of the images that I evolved for myself about the bridge was that the bridge did not even exist and was literally in the process of being knitted into being by the knitting needles held firmly but unconciously in my toes--click, clack, click, clack--bringing the bridge into existence with each of my inhalations and exhalations.

just a little input from my corner of blogdom.

Lynn said...

Faith is like finding yourself in the crappiest situation and maneuvering your way around it without abandoning your principles. That's my take. You will find what you're looking for, persevere.

I'm envious that you girls will be spending some great time together :-)

Our Juicy Life said...

LBR - found a great quote and thought of you -

Still round the corner there may wait,
A new road or a secret gate."

- J.R.R. Tolkien

keep the faith.

Run Around Paris said...

I'm just so excited for you - that sums it up!

Je ne regrette rien said...

Having now met you, I want you to know that you have a very calming, centered presence. Whatever you are doing in the being alive department is working, and your path seems clear and headed in the right direction. You're amazing ...

susan said...

Hello b,
I'm guessing you're on your way and hoping you have a wonderful journey. Bien venu!

carra said...

Dear B, it took me a long time to come up with a decent comment for this post, as I simply felt short of words. It rarely happens to me under normal circumstances, but your posts so often leave me wondering about myself so much (yeah so egotistic) that I can not think of anything to say. The truth is, I am very happy for you, for your dreams, for your life. The life you have seems to be almost what you wanted for such a long time. There is less and less of that pain that used to appear in your posts two years ago, there is only the true pure you. It has been a great pleasure watching you grow into what you are now. The faith that you're lacking at some moments, is the same faith that we all sometimes catch ourselves short of, it's only natural we are human and imperfect. I know that Paris will have a great effect on you. You will be able to enjoy it to the very core of it's essence, something I have never been able to do because of my prejudices. You will live out every day there as you want to live your life, and the change it will bring in you, will make you live the rest of your life so fully as never before. I know that, even if I sound crazy.

jessica gail said...

Dear b

I live in London and being somewhat of a francophile have loved reading your blog in tandem with La Belette rouge. Imagine my disappoint this morning when I read that La B R has become invitation only. I feel totally bereft. Please would you ask her to invite me to read her blog. Also please would you stay open.
Also I love reading but don't have the gift of words so will not be starting a blog of my own. Am going to be in Paris at the end of July.

all the best

gail
my user name is g.wulfsohn@virgin.net