The power of laughter…

Ever had one of those weeks where things seem a little harder than usual to tolerate, when your house feels like a prison from which your only escape depends on that teetering pile of ironing that  (if you are lucky) will topple over and smother you, thereby freeing you from a. having to iron it and b. housework in general!

I was spoiled—I grew up in a country where domestic help was affordable for my family. I look longingly into the recesses of my memory for a Betty, Sophie or Precious to come rescue me from this endless list of thankless tasks! I will resist the temptation here to overdramatise things by saying “Arbeit macht frei.” I won’t even mention it!

Anyway, I was just going to offer up one of those little posts in honour of my friend Mel who came to visit me a few days ago now and brought with her the most healing gift I know—laughter. Over several cups of tea (the other healing gift I treat with great respect), we laughed and laughed at everything and nothing. We laughed until we cried, we laughed until we couldn’t breathe and our faces went red, we laughed till we peed…well almost. My stomach ached for at least a day afterwards… and my soul floated heavenward with gratitude for the friends who fill my life with riches that money can’t buy.

Beautiful friends, you fill my life with sunshine. Thank you for the quirky, unique, motley bunch you are! You make me a better person by loving me and letting me love you in return.

Advertisements

And just like that. Everything changes. Again.

Let me just say this: Nothing that surprises us is ever a surprise to God. I know this because He tells me things (or about things) before they happen. The details may be a surprise to me, but never to Him.

On Friday He spoke to me about two things:

1. God gives himself many names, one of which means the God who foresees and provides what is needed. I have experienced this more times than I can count. I know it to be true.

2. Struggle, pain and change are all opportunities for Him to reveal Himself to us. I think God is disinterested in religion and its trappings. I believe His primary interest in creation lies in building a relationship with mankind, with individuals, with you and with me. Our struggles, or pain, or seasons of change are opportunities for Him to reveal himself to us, to show us who He is and let us know Him. I believe His desire is that we accept and respond. It’s beautiful. It moves me to tears.

And just like that….within an hour…everything changes. My husband (who is the primary income earner in our family of five) was made redundant. It wasn’t handled particularly well by the company, but graciously by my husband. I’m proud of him for that. It was a shock, unexpected, but we were not unprepared because there is a God who foresaw what was needed, whispered a promise of his provision, and invited us into an opportunity to see a new aspect of His character revealed. It’s beautiful. It makes me feel strong.

I’m not the kind of person who pushes my faith onto others. In fact, I rarely tell them about my faith at all because I believe that what I value should be evident in the way I live my life. But today, for a moment, if you are still reading this (which I take to mean you are not offended that I mentioned the G-word), I’d like to express my gratitude to a God who invited me to know Him and has never once stopped surprising me with how loving and generous and forgiving and faithful and powerful and beautiful He is. And it’s been 28 years…

Things can be good, and just like that, everything changes. But things can look bleak too…and just like that. Everything changes. Again.

It’s going to be one amazing journey. I’ll keep you posted.

How is it that…

How is it that music can take you out of your daily life and deposit you in a memory almost twenty years old? I remembered a song the other day that I have not heard (or even thought of) for about 18 years. In that single moment of remembering, I was flung back to my late teens— time travelling on sound waves— to some of the most long-forgotten but delicious memories . For those of you old enough to remember the song, it was Nightswimming by REM.

I have always loved swimming at night, especially in the dark, though not in water that is home to other living things—Jaws cured me of that. I’m sure Freud would have something to say about a fixation with being in water in the dark…something about returning to the womb perhaps? I just like the silence of the dark, the water lapping against some unseen barrier, the sensation of being surrounded and secret. I might stop there….there may be one or two of you who know why…let’s keep it that way : )

How is it that a book can transport you to a world in seconds so effectively, in fact, that when you lift your eyes from the page, you are there, emotionally, with the characters, falling in love, grieving the loss of a loved one or floating hopeful through your day? I remember a book I read once that cured me forever of the bad habit of putting a  book aside because I didn’t like where the story was going. The book’s name escapes me, but it was written by Bodie Thoene. In the thrid(ish) book of the series, one of the main characters dies in a bomb blast. I remember reading the scene, the pit-of-my-stomach grief that followed and was marked by four days of ignoring the offending book—an unnoticed protest at the author’s poor sense of story and her homicidal cruelty to my favourite character. I picked up the book the following week and discovered, to my chagrin, that the cliff-hanger bomb blast had not, in fact,  killed the character that I had—for days—been mourning. I learned my lesson well! It’s a good thing too, or I might never have finished New Moon! Twigeeks will know what I mean.

How is it that a smell can transport you half way across the world to the bedroom you had as a child in Africa, the warm scent of jasmine washing over you in waves of pure spring pleasure? I will not think about the other smells that take me back: disinfectant, blood, Earl Grey tea (oh yes, you heard me…evil Earl Grey, thou shalt not have me!).

What are your favourite triggers for long-forgotten memories or sensations?

Lethargy…

Did you know that lethargy is a normal response to dramatic life changes and, in particular, grief? I am finding this out.

Just when everything starts going again, just when you think “I’m back on track, building speed and gaining momentum,’ the tiredness creeps up and slaps you on the back of the head. It’s that stealthy foe that fells, the silent drain that drops you to your knees. It’s not the kind of tiredness you get after a good long run (because I know what that feels like…ha ha…ok, a good, long but fast-paced walk…ok, fast paced for someone half my height with midget-like legs. Can you just see my point please and stop being so pedantic? Darned inner critic!), but the tiredness that steals those extra hours you would have spent doing positive things, extra things, things that make you feel good about life. Instead, I find myself scraping my toes over the last few jobs before falling into bed wondering when last I picked up a book—and that’s bad for me, I usually read two a week and it’s been two books in two months.

My friend—let’s call her Magnesium—calls them her sad days. Just for no reason and out of the blue, she feels sad. I know what she means. I have them too. I find myself watching a movie and out of nowhere I start crying about it, about everything. It’s hard to explain without telling you the ins and outs of the thing that has done this to me, to my friends and the people I love, but it doesn’t matter, because you’d probably laugh and say, “Arianne, it happens every day.” And you’d be right, it does happen every day, but when it happens to someone you know and love, when it happens to someone you really thought was immunised against it, it fells you. NO, it rocks you. And you see the devastation behind the statistics. To most people, a betrayal like this is a fact of life, a statistic, a number in the great tally of human unfaithfulness, but to those involved it is an earthquake, a cataclysm, a tsunami, a landscape changing event. There  is so much to think about: how did it happen? Why? When? Where? Why didn’t I see it coming? What happens now? How does this change things? What should I do? What can I do?

It’s little wonder the tiredness creeps in! The mental energy that goes into evaluating the details of everyday life in the light of new information, of filtering everything through a new sieve and testing every word, and thought, and action, and emotion…is draining! It is all draining. And how do you find a way of carrying on, when there is no enthusiasm for what lies ahead, when the what that lies ahead is unknown, uninvited, undesired?

I’m lucky, I still have my destination intact. I still have some momentum, as long as I don’t try to carry someone else’s load. I can share their burdens without carrying the weight of it, can love them, be there for them, help them…all without carrying their load for them. The trick to living successfully is to carry what I was intended to carry—be it bigger or smaller than someone else’s load—because I was made to carry mine, my shoulders are big enough, my back strong enough, my legs empowered for the task. I need to learn to learn to pick up the friend who has stumbled, hold their load for a moment while they pick themselves up, carry it a mile or two with them if needs be, but then I let them carry their own load as I walk alongside them. and, as a wise friend once said, “Do  not worry about tomorrow;; each day has enough trouble for the day.”

When the going gets tough, strong people keep going.

 

At the beginning of a journey, you gather your wits, your resources, your team… and you gather your strength…to climb…

This mountain…all the way…to the top!

When we set out—a band of intrepid climbers—to climb to the top of Table Mountain in Cape Town, South Africa, we had no idea that we were a few hours from a near-disaster…of our own making.

A few hours into our climb, following the little yellow footprints that marked our path, we decided to rest…

…and enjoy the view!

We should have thought it was strange that there were a number of rock climbers passing us on their way down the mountain, ropes in hand, water bottles near-empty, but we didn’t. We just waved at the people who were passing us in the cable car that glided it’s way up and down the kilometre to the summit of the mountain where our lunch awaited…

We missed lunch! The path seemed to have taken a detour around the middle of the mountain…a detour that lasted a few hours, but afforded luxury views. We might have enjoyed them more, had we not run out of water..and had we not been lugging a good few kilograms of camera equipment.

By late afternoon, we were beginning to worry. We called the office at the top of the mountain to ask them not to shut the cable car until we reached the top. We prayed we wouldn’t need to call a rescue helicopter to get us down… we hoped we wouldn’t be in the paper the next day as the next group of people to die on the mountain…we wouldn’t have been the first.

Then the weather began rolling in…quickly!

And the sun set…more quickly….

 

But we reached the top of the mountain a few minutes before the weather, and the dark.

And then we found this sign….

Really? No wonder there were so many blinkin mountain climbers!

At least we’ve done what no one else has done before…and probably since.

Tourists!!!

 

 

 

Sometimes I ‘see’ things…

In the community in which I live, there has been an event devastating in its scope and impact. It has rocked so many things that we thought were solid and immovable. It has brought with it tremendous grief for those whom it has affected directly and grief for us who are it’s secondary victims. I cannot speak about details in this context because it is not my story to share though the grief is, though I too was betrayed.

This blog has been a place to speak about the process of grieving, to tell these people whom I love dearly, that it is normal to feel all these things when tragedy touches your life. The day after it happened, over 250 people dropped in here to see what I would say about it, how I would react. There were people who stopped by from all over the world who heard what had happened. Most of them wanted to know that we were ok. Thank you for caring.

The truth is I feel strong. My friends, do you  recall as I do,  that I stood up six months ago when we were together on our hill and said that I had seen something…an earthquake…do you remember? Do you remember that I said I saw it hit us, that I saw fires, floods, ground shaking and rupture, landslides, tsunami’s and soil liquefaction (when the soil turns to liquid)? Do you remember? It was the weekend of the Japanese Tsunami. Do you remember that I said that even though all these things could be devastating, could destroy us, that if we keep our focus right, in tune, resonating, that it would not destroy us but lead to good—to changed landscapes. Do you remember? Do you remember that horrible little diagram I drew and the clip I showed you?

Now do you remember it? The shaking will lead to patterns of increasing beauty and complexity.

So stay tuned…resonate….be full of hope….we were prepared for this! We are strong, we are together, we have each other…

We are changing, a kaleidoscope of patterns of increasing beauty and complexity. You, me, the way we are…and what we will become!

Which alters not…

Grief is ‘a natural process that draws on the resilience of the individual and the community.’

Grief.  Grief! It is a heavy word and laden with sorrow. Grief weighs me down—gravity on steroids—until I am exhausted by it, too tired to speak, to eat, to move. The droplets of my grief are pulled unwillingly from eyes too tired to cry; their downward journey an homage to this twisted gravity.

Gravity. Grave. I withdraw. How can I not when I feel disconnected from everything, from everyone? My mind whirls, water down the drain carrying one question only: what could I have done? Grief. Guilt. I have done nothing to feel guilty about, but it seems a sin in itself: doing nothing.

Grief. Grieve. Grave. Graven. The hurt engraved on the surface…and deeper…

Graven. Graven image. “A Prince has fallen,’ an idol toppled…but I didn’t worship him! ————!SNAP!———— My answer.

I love The Bard! Shakespeare speaks to me—not in the I-have-voices-inside-my-head kind of way, but in the how-does-this-long-dead-dude-know-what’s-in-my-head kind of way.  With all the tragedy of this week, with the anger and the frustrating un-answered questions, with the helplessness and the guilt and shock and every other emotion on this roller-coaster ride, there is something I could have missed. Thank you, William Shakespeare, for reminding me.

” ….Love is not love

Which alters when it alteration finds,

or bends with the remover to remove:

Oh no! It is an ever-fixed mark

That looks of tempests and is never shaken…”

from Sonnet 116

For those of you who don’t speak the ‘speare’s English, here is a paraphrase: Love does not change, even in the face of  change. It is an unmoving anchor-point  in the face of tempest.

We who face this storm are more-than-familiar with the phrase: LOVE looks like something and now more than ever, LOVE looks like SOMEONE! He is an ever-fixed mark, an anchor point that does not change like shifting shadows, does not bend, does not move.

Here lies our resilience: Our experience of the world has changed, but the world has not. Our lives have changed, but our anchor has not. Our present has changed, but our future has not. There is still rock beneath our feet. There is still an anchor for our souls…an ever fixed mark…that looks like SomeONE, that looks like LOVE.

Previous Older Entries