Mel's Healing Pilgrimage 2016

Links to the Camino de Santiago pilgrimages are on the navigation links to the right of the web page.

Friday, August 31, 2018

As You Are

    ‘as you are.’ says the universe.
    ‘after…’ you answer.

    ‘as you are.’ says the universe.
    ‘before…’ you answer.

    ‘as you are.’ says the universe.
    ‘when…’ you answer.

    ‘as you are.’ says the universe.
    ‘how…’ you answer.

    ‘as you are.’ says the universe.
    ‘why…’ you answer.

    you are happening now.
    right now.
    right at this moment
    your happening
    is beautiful.
    the thing that keeps me alive
    brings me to my knees.
    you don’t even know how breathtaking you
    as you are.’ says the universe through tears

    Nayyirah Waheed’s “as you are | you are the prayer” published in her book Nejma
I was reminded of this poem recently. And it's something that strikes me as wildly important to say to every person, even if I don't say it directly. We are loved unconditionally.

"As you are..."

Do we believe it? Do I?

My aspiration is that every word out of my mouth reminds people that the universe is saying this.
My aspiration is that every thought in my head, every beat of my heart, every sound from my mouth reflects a deep understanding that *I* hear the universe saying this.

But I fail every day. I fail because I'm only human. I have doubts, I have self-judgment. I cannot completely trust that the words I'm hearing and saying are for real.

And it's why I like doing Lay Counseling. It's why I enjoy visiting people at nursing homes, at laundrymats, at hospitals. It's why I'm trying to find space in my life to visit prisons. Because when I remind others of this message, it reminds *me* of the message.

Because I need reminding. All the time. It's ok that I need reminding, and I'm starting to remember it more often.

Usually, it takes something dramatic to happen to me before I remember this. It takes tragedy. It takes failure. It takes monumental grief. But those are just exceptions. Clauses. Conditions. Like in the poem.

The awe-filling truth is that there are no clauses. "As you are". That's it. That's all. Full stop.

When people die, we want them to have dignity in their death. When people take their own lives, we wonder if we've done enough. If people die in tragic accidents, we grieve over the manner in which they died.

It's death focused.

It's not life focused.

And that's ok, because it helps the grieving.

And, at some point, after the grieving or during the grieving, we need to recognize the life of that person. Because we loved them as living, breathing beings. When the universe, nature, God says "As you are" it's life-centered, life-celebrating, life-embracing.

Yes, we die. All of us. Sometimes tragically, sometimes accidentally, sometimes by our own hands. But we are always loved irrespective of the manner of death, just as we are loved irrespective of the manner of our birth, of our station in life. We could be born in a manger. And we are loved as we are. We could die on a cross. And we are loved as we are.

"We don't even know how breathtaking we are."

Accepting this love deeply, without reservation, grants us power over the death that we fear. And, when we accept this love, we can begin to love ourselves as we ourselves are loved: "as we are".

Tuesday, August 14, 2018

You are not alone

There's something that pains me deeply. It's something that I've been exposed to before, but it's the first time that it happened close to me in a very long time. And this breaks my heart. It's been two months now since it happened, and I'm still processing my grief.

You see, I'm a lay counselor at my church. It means I get several hours of training, meeting at least twice a month, so that I can help offer counseling services (10 sessions) to those who need an ear. Sometimes we recommend that our clients go to professionals, especially in situations we aren't equipped to handle. The ministry is as much a blessing to us counselors as we hope it is for those who come to us. And in time, we get better from the training and from more experience.

Sometimes people need help to discuss job changes. Or relationship problems. Or LGBT issues. Or family issues. Or grief. Or this. Or that. The list goes on, because we are all human and there are so many ways we can hurt. There are so many things that can make us anxious. There are so many things that break us down.

The hardest part during mt first year of training and my work with my first clients was the need to resist my tendency to want to fix things. A counselor cannot fix you. Only you can fix yourself. We're here to help you find your own way through the haze. If we can't, we'll suggest professionals who may understand how to help you better.

I'm learning to become a better listener because of this experience. And yet, I feel I missed something. I feel like I could have done better. I feel I did what I was trained to do, and what I thought was best. But I feel like I've let someone down.

I'm working on this with my spiritual advisor and my own counselor, and I'll get past this pain at some point.

But for now, I'm grieving.

For now, I carry tears in my heart.

For now, all I can say is I still want to walk with you if you still want to walk with me.

You see, I lost a client a couple months ago.

I've shed many tears this past year, losing friends and struggling with relatives who are slipping away. But they weren't my clients. And somehow this struck me differently. I feel a responsibility to take special care for a client.

And... my client didn't just die... No... It was intentional... It was a life taken away by its owner.

It was suicide.

At first, I accepted the idea that it was accidental. But I didn't know for sure.

I found out what really happened a month later, while I was putting on robes and getting ready to assist at the memorial.

What's amazing is that it's been such an eye-opener for me. I've come to realize that I have had deep problems with suicide for most of my adult life. Suicide has haunted me for decades, but I've been able to keep it in the shadows. And now, in one of the most difficult years I've had in a long time, it walked out of those shadows and banged loudly on my door.

And somehow, weirdly, ironically, and in a way shockingly, it's been helping me.

It's helping me understand that I cannot run from the specter of suicide. I've seen it before, I've seen it come back, and I will see it some day again. I need to learn how to cope with the expansive issues that trouble me about suicide (the pain, the theology, the social network, the safety net, all of it).

I know some of what pained my client. But apparently not all. Apparently not enough. There were no desperate cries for help. But there were a lot of prayers. I wish I knew more. I can only wish at this point.

You may have noticed I haven't blogged in a couple months, even though I've been on an incredible journey in the past several months. I'll blog about these experiences soon. But in the meantime, I'll just accept that I still hurt. And I'm healing.

And I know, I'm loved and not alone. Just as I pray that you, my friend, know that you are beloved and are not alone.

Everybody Hurts (by REM)
When your day is long
And the night
The night is yours alone
When you're sure you've had enough
Of this life
Well hang on
Don't let yourself go
'Cause everybody cries
And everybody hurts sometimes

Sometimes everything is wrong
Now it's time to sing along
When your day is night alone (hold on)
(Hold on) if you feel like letting go (hold on)
If you think you've had too much
Of this life
Well, hang on

'Cause everybody hurts
Take comfort in your friends
Everybody hurts
Don't throw your hand
Oh, no
Don't throw your hand
If you feel like you're alone
No, no, no, you're not alone
If you're on your own
In this life
The days and nights are long
When you think you've had too much
Of this life
To hang on

Well, everybody hurts sometimes
Everybody cries
And everybody hurts sometimes
And everybody hurts sometimes
So, hold on, hold on
Hold on, hold on
Hold on, hold on
Hold on, hold on

Everybody hurts

You are not alone