Sometimes events you’ve been waiting for happen all at once. Thursday, May 15th was a day of great fruition.
Early in the morning I began thinking of Suzanne, whose heart is so vast that sometimes I feel her love emanating from Massachusetts all the way out here in Kansas. The 15th was Suzanne’s 30th birthday. When last we met we marveled at the joys and transformations of this decade. Building lives with the men we love, teaching and learning, maybe even procreating. Watching a beloved friend thrive: life doesn’t get sweeter than that.
At lunchtime I got the text I’d been hoping for all week. Two words from Lindsay: GOT IT. There’s no one in my life more ready to land her dream job, not even me. Alone in my kitchen, I cheered aloud.
A few hours later I checked Facebook, as I’ve done faithfully for the past two weeks. Baby Watch 2014 had come to a glorious conclusion. Not one but both friends’ babies had arrived! Melissa’s son Desmond Lee couldn’t shine any brighter. No pictures of Jess’ daughter Eleanor Frida yet, but she’s safely swathed in the love of her parents and two big sisters in Perth, Australia.
All afternoon and evening I pressed my friends’ joys close to my heart. Often I’m too busy to bask in my own good fortune, much less anybody else’s, but these days I have plenty of time. The ordinary rate of life seems to have slowed way down. David slogs through his final days of school; my teaching commitments begin to taper off. We make plans to return to Massachusetts, trusting that the doors will open. Job prospects look promising, but nothing solid has come through yet.
After sending a few emails and texts to spread my friends’ good news, I settled down with David to one of our usual nights: a simple supper, a couple Mad Men episodes, guitar practice, unhurried conversation, and a reasonable bedtime.
Shortly after midnight I woke in pain. Menstrual cramps, but something more, too. Was it all the raw carrots I’d eaten with dinner or the bowl of ice cream that came later? My digestive system had a complaint to file. I spent the next 45 minutes slumped on the toilet or crouched in child’s pose on the living room floor.
Scraps of an Anne Morrow Lindbergh quote* cycled like a mantra through my exhausted mind: Go with the pain, let it take you . . . With a deep breath – it has to be as deep as the pain . . .
Eventually, I crept back to bed.
By Friday morning the pain had receded. I picked up my journal to write about my strange midnight vigil and opened to my ebullient entry from the day before. Babies come precisely when they’re meant to come. Job offers arrive at the right moment.
It gradually dawned on me that in the night I’d experienced my own fruition. Sure, my friends were giving birth and landing awesome jobs while I was buckled over with cramps and nasty bowel movements. No matter.
This year the curriculum has been Surrender. It’s taken me a while to recognize the circumstances of my life as lessons rather than disappointments, but slowly I’ve laid down everything I thought I’d be learning. The curriculum hasn’t been Brilliant Creative Outpouring or Glorious Midwestern Triumph. It’s been Surrender. In the dark of night, hollowed out by pain, I finally found myself to be a willing student.
That’s enough, isn’t it?
*Here’s that Anne Morrow Lindbergh quote:
Go with the pain, let it take you…. Open your palms and your body to the pain. It comes in waves like a tide, and you must be open as a vessel lying on the beach, letting it fill you up and then, retreating, leaving you empty and clear…. With a deep breath–it has to be as deep as the pain—one reaches a kind of inner freedom from pain, as though the pain were not yours but your body’s. The spirit lays the body on the altar.