It doesn’t have the sultry lushness of my tropical garden. Its not my Mexican sea. There is no deep, mysterious forest. Or wide and cloud-puffed sky. I don’t hear birds. I don’t breathe in my favorite hot and humid air. My body does not tremble, my spirit does not soar, but my soul…it knows its niche, it still finds its peace. There is magic here. Magic here, indeed.
The floors are cold cement and polished to a shiny gleam. The air is thin and dry. The space is filled, but in the gaps, ideas burn with vacancy. I look around, my eyes wandering, waiting, excited for my first clue. Organic bananas? Sushi in a plastic box? Or strawberries, plump and tempting in a fancy cart? Yes, I say. Let the magic find me…let the soul-food begin.
Each visit to my new neighborhood grocery store presents a new message to me. But only…only…if I am aware-awake. And only…only…if I remember I am a piece that matters to the whole. I am only one, but one sun, one moon, one child, one teacher, one event, one love—matters. And without the one’s, there is no whole.
So today, I met Amy. She stood, leaning on her cart, whispering to her little boy. She was thoughtful but airy, serious but floating, and her spirit, it tingled mine. Maybe that’s why we spoke. But just a little. Until we met again in another aisle. This time near the frozen lasagna.
“He’s beautiful,” I said of her son.
“So is she,” she said, nodding toward my daughter.
“Have you tried this lasagna? Its my favorite. And maybe your boy will like it as much as my girl….”
We spoke of high school in the land of rain, of seeing the world, and the jobs that fueled our dreams. We found we had both recently returned to the area where we grew up, that child rearing was much more than we imagined, and that life had thrown us a fair share of unexpected detours but that we wore them like ribbons, taped to our invisible lapels, emblazoned into our hearts. And when we were done, we vowed to connect again.
“No pressure to connect,” I said, as I turned to leave, “but my arms are open wide,” I said with a smile.
“Mine are, too,” she said with a smile of her own, “mine are, too.”
* * *
It was almost dying that made me realize that the key to my survival
depended more on strengthening my connections to all of life
than on strengthening my individual will.
The modern capitalist world reminds us every day how independence, competition, a strong will and a determined spirit are qualities to be honored and revered. We are unknowingly guided toward self-preservation and personal life agendas. So when depression strikes or when illness arrives, what do many of us do? We distance ourselves, we grow a thicker skin, we strengthen, as Mark Nepo says, our individual will and tackle life, often times, alone.
But what if instead, we dared to connect? What if we dared to be vulnerable, to shed our thick skins in favor of a rawness that invited other hearts to do the same? What if we finally admitted to ourselves and to one another that we need, yes need, one another? To listen to, to hold, to care about and to connect with, to be our friends on this one wild ride we call life. What then? Would we heal our wounded hearts? Would we find less reason to be sad? Yes…I think we would.