I sit here waiting for a call from the hospital to schedule an appointment with a surgeon, my body on fire and all my pain receptors on high alert. It turns out my aortic aneurism was not that at all, but instead I’ve got something called a paraesophageal hiatus hernia caused, apparently, by my lifting a heavy canoe on and off the roof of the car at Grotten Lake a few weeks ago in Vermont. The pain is impressive, and I may need surgery.
I am wondering at the metaphor of this. It seems we are all going through excruciating pain due to a series of wrong choices and major mistakes we’ve collectively made – I mean over centuries, not only stupidly trying to carry a heavy canoe above my head - and we don’t know quite what to do about it now that things are falling apart. Whose fault?
Well, who cares? We’re all in this together, like it or not. It’s up to us to make some essential changes; the question is, How?
Contemplating that dilemma for myself after learning that a bit of my stomach is now lodged in my chest cavity where it does not belong, I distractedly took a fall, tripping over the garden hose and landing flat on my face in the garden and barely missing a jutting rock by the fountain. My head hit the ground with a resounding Crack! I figured this was the end of me!
Not the worst way to go out, I thought, face down in the dirt on my own bit of turf.
However, nothing was broken and I was able to get back on my feet eventually, rather chastened, and walk away pretty much unscathed, except for some bruising around the eyes and a strange bloody mark on my forehead at the level of the Third Eye, just where an Indian sadhu would paint a red-paste bindhi.
In case I had not gotten the message, a few days later I unwittingly bought a piece of meat that had gone bad, cooked it up and ate it for two days running. The inevitable food poisoning hit me like a tsunami, and I’ve been purging it from my battered body ever since. By now, three days after this huge letting go, my whole system is spent, sore and cleaned out - empty, waiting.
I wonder, could this be an initiation? It’s got all the elements, and the timing seems right. Maybe it is happening not just to me as our world goes crazy around us; maybe we’re all getting signals that it is time to shift direction and reconsider everything we think we know.
The universe is good at this, hitting us right side the head when we need a wake-up call and making us retch from poisons we had no idea we were putting into our systems. In my case it happened to be literal, no doubt to make sure I got the point.
Could it be that we are going through a collective initiation right now, getting hit by one disaster after another, knocking us down onto to our knees in order to wake us up?
How else explain a Trump?
It’s an old story that things fall apart when they are ready to change, and it’s built into the very fabric of our lives. Why should we be surprised?
I remember, at each childbirth as our new baby lay squalling on my belly, Alan Balsam held up the discarded afterbirth for Herb and me to touch. “See how it’s aging, getting crusty here and worn out there? he would say, letting us finger the sac our baby had lived in those nine months. “Another week in there and your baby couldn’t have survived. Amazing how perfectly timed the process is, right? Timing, my dear, is everything!”
The fact is that labor, as any mother will tell you, is not a walk in the park! For nine months we go through everything from morning sickness to sciatica, aching backs to wild emotions, and then the heart-and-body tearing labor to bring this child at last into the world. The ecstasy matches the pain every step of the way of this extraordinary transition, and nobody ever promised us it would be easy, but we keep doing it because life demands it of us.
So why are we so shocked by the transition we are in the midst of now?
We’re in an ancient pattern of change now, a period of quite essential laboring as the old order crumbles – and good riddance to it – and it is our turn to assist the transition! How lucky is that? Every one of us, I’d say, has been born into the world for this very moment, right now, not a century ago nor in a century to come, but NOW! We’re the ones who get to help set the new templates, to bring our own kinds of beauty to the table, to find what and who we love in this most exciting of eras!
Nobody ever said it would be easy.
Have women ever stopped getting pregnant and going through labor to give birth to their children? Has that ever stopped mountain climbers from climbing up Mount Everest despite the dangers of high altitude and freezing cold?
There are so many ways we can take up the challenge and run with it, as many ways of kissing the ground and creating beauty from the experience as we can dream up.
We can be brave with our talents, I know we can, and bring our offerings into this crazy world of ours. Whatever we each love the most is what is needed now, whatever that happens to look like.
One word of warning though: be smart about it. If you have to lift a heavy canoe over your head, make sure there are two of you to do it, and that one of you is young and buff!
No problem, then. More fun, too.