“You do not have to be a fire for every mountain blocking you. You could be a water and soft river your way to freedom too.”
– Nayyirah Waheed
Sometimes at night, when the house has settled and all our babes are breathing sweetly with comforters pulled up tight, I sigh and pull my own covers over me and everything around me softens. I feel the pull as the weight of my body sinks into pillows and linens and I am reminded how I want to show up in this world: with fierce softness.
Because the world doesn’t need more people out to prove themselves or to dehumanize the “other” in the name of something good or holy; she doesn’t need more brutality or dividing lines saying who and what is better; she doesn’t need more splits and bruises and parched and rough patches – but, she could use a few more soft and safe spaces to rest her tired head.
We all could.
We all need someone
to see us,
We all need to be reminded of tenderness and compassion,
grace and transformation.
We all need to receive and see Love the way it is intended to be lived out – not selfishly, not to manipulate or convince, not to gain something – but before and through and under, something that lifts us and moves us and connects us to something Greater, something that we all have in common.
And it is hard to imagine the possibility of having something in common with certain people –
perhaps those on the other side of the lines we draw.
And it is even harder to think of facing these people with any form of gentleness.
Because we live in a place where we are told to move cautiously and not to trust too easily,
that opening ourselves up only leads to hurt and pain;
that some people are more deserving of hate than others;
where the strongest are celebrated and the weak are left starving and forgotten, and we are reminded every day how harsh the world can be; where it seems to be easier to find connection over what we hate than what we love and cherish.
It is hard to stay soft when that is the message.
But as I close my eyes and begin to drift off to sleep, accompanied by my privilege, which provides me with safe slumber and space to wonder – I ask myself how to walk this earth with softness and graciousness, somehow also with feet firmly planted, standing with the oppressed and broken, being a part of holy restoration in some way.
Here lies the paradox and the myth –
that to be soft, is to be unstable and weak.
Part of this softening is letting go: of my own ideals, of my image, of what is expected of me. To do the hard things of speaking truth, but allowing it to be carried through love, not force. To let others see me as unstable, if they wish. It is a laying down and servant-like posture that hardly makes sense in our world. But oh, does it take strength.
These are hard things I don’t even understand, but somewhere in my gut, there is an understanding of what love looks like, and it starts with first embracing others with softness – with turning the other cheek, even – with something that might look a lot less impressive than how we are often told to show up in this world. This love is found somewhere between a reaction and a response, assuming and listening, ignoring and accepting. It is wrapped up in faith or something like it, and an old story of a Messiah and something he had to show us that shifts how we move in this world.
It is more than just thought and prayer and feeling, but it is also all of those things. It is an embodied experience of movement and grace and presence, full of intention. So today, at least for a little while, this is my practice: to move with my breath, inhaling and exhaling, slowing and finding grace and gentleness in my movements, remembering the soft and strong parts that can bring healing and connection, if I am only willing to let them be seen.