the unbearable raw

Rawness is hard and tender.

There is a draw, a pull to stare and at the same time, a compulsion to avert the eyes and look away,

because how can you look at something so unbearably chaffed and not try to alleviate the discomfort, to help heal the wound, to apply a sweet balm and make all the coarseness go away? Either you must try to forget it or do something to help. So, we try:

“you will get through this.”

“things will get better”

“just give it time”

“don’t give up hope”

“be strong”

but what about when the rubbing doesn’t stop and months and years go by and you are still living with the rawness, reliving the crude spikes of tenderness, like waves splashing over and over against the cliffside, taking away a little bit more and more and more, barely noticeable, but then, one day, it all splits and crashes into the sea.

And you swear you hear the waves roaring with laughter at another bit of you worn down and snuffed out.  A fresh new side now exposed to begin the process again, and you’re not sure how much more you can take before there is nothing left of you at all.

You ask yourself all the what ifs and feel the rubbing and the burning feeling again. What if I had said something different?  What if I had stayed instead of ran away? What if I been more? Less? 

There are always what ifs, past, present, upcoming.

What ifs don’t solve anything though.

They don’t patch up tears in our hearts or seal lost moments away for us to forget about. We ask them, even though we know we can’t change the past. We open up the wound again and again, picking at the scab until we finally decide we really shouldn’t be doing that and pull our sleeve back over it, hoping for no infection.

At some point, we need to stop asking “what if” and begin to ask, “what now”.

What now provides a path to healing and real change. It invites us to lift our chin a little and brush off the dirt and step toward a new path. We can look at our past choices and acknowledge what has happened, allowing our life to be seen for what it is, and then turn away and move forward.

What now involves us in the present.

Instead of being focused on the past or the distant future, what now asks us to look at what is right in front of us and determine what good thing there is to do next.

It is a simple practice and one that helps tremendously when I am trying to be mindful and at peace with what is going on around me on any given day. It keeps me focused on goodness and love, on slowing down and taking care of others and myself.

It requires sacrifice and an openness and awareness of new opportunities that might present themselves. And it is freeing.

-bec

Simplicity is not a sacrifice

My husband and I started reading the book, Voluntary Simplicity by Duane Elgin, and while we are only one chapter into the book there is so much to digest and think about and evaluate in our own life even in the few words we have read so far.  

Being in the season of lent, I thought it was appropriate to focus on sacrifice.  Many people view Lent simply to the extent of it being a time to give up some sort of vice or habit.  We have found it to be a rhythm we deeply appreciate during the year to break up bad habits and regain focus in different areas of our lives.

In terms of simplicity, it may feel like a sacrifice looking from the outside.

However, I am not talking about the sacrifices you must make when adopting a more simple lifestyle, but rather the idea that not embracing a simple life is the real sacrifice.

In his book, Elgin demonstrates this by listing the positive outcomes of conscious simplicity such as promoting fairness and equity among people, finding balance in all realms of life, stripping the unnecessary clutter, distraction, and busywork from our lives, connecting with those who really matter and staying focused on what is really important in life, and living in a way that looks ahead to the future and cares about the generations who follow.  (p. 4-5)

In contrast, he goes on to list the ways in which we make huge sacrifices every day by choosing to continue in a stressful and materialistic lifestyle.

How we are really sacrificing when we are sitting for long hours in traffic away from our homes and those we care about so we can make a living, when we are giving away hours of our lives for a job that is nothing more than just that, and when we lose the feeling of community as we are more cut off from our neighbors.  Not to mention the natural outcomes such as extinction of animals and plants due to our carelessness toward the earth.  (p.6)

Many people will look at some of the choices we make and think (or even say to us), “I would rather die than live without (fill in the blank)”

I thought like this (perhaps not so dramatically) at one point, too.

And there are still things that are hard to “give up”, but perhaps that is because I still retain the viewpoint that I will be missing out on something if I exchange it for a simpler counterpart.

This isn’t about legalism or doing something just for the sake of being different or radical.

This about living life in a holistic way that blesses others and gives us a greater meaning and depth in life.  As I trade in one way of living for something different, I have found greater freedom and time and a feeling of wholeness I didn’t know was possible to have.

My actions may not contribute a great deal to the environment or greater community in the grand scheme of things.  But, for me and hopefully the people around me, life can be richer, more meaningful, and less rushed.  As I tread lighter on the earth, perhaps I am able to leave a little bit more for someone else.

We need to shift our thinking from viewing  a simple lifestyle (not involuntary poverty) as a sacrifice or detrimental to growth, and realize what we are missing out on if we continue to focus on acquiring more and placing value on things that will not last or which may even contribute to human suffering (whether in generations to come, countries around the globe, or even in the places we ourselves live right now).

We are pretty good at turning a blind eye to many of the things we support silently and habitually every day in our western lifestyle, because we are so removed from them.

That is sacrifice.

But is it ours to make?

-b.e.

Further Reading:

Voluntary Simplicity by Duane Elgin