when i find myself
(The expanded story from the Instagram post)
It was one of those transfers where my heart felt heavy as I watched the boys drive away with their Dad. The little one hadn't wanted to go, it had been a hard goodbye. Plus I hadn't made any plans, and I was feeling listless. Something needed doing, but I didn't know quite what. I had recently committed myself to a 200 hour yoga teacher training that would be starting in a few weeks, so I decided on this day to use some of my spare time to go book shopping for some pre-class required reading.
Probably I could have bought the Yoga Sutras at a regular old Barnes and Noble, but I chose instead to go to a small, independent, book store that also happened to sell other items of 'spiritual' flavors. Assorted pretty tarot decks, paintings sprinkled with ground quartz, incense, candles, singing bowls and prayer flags.
I'd never been before so of course I spent more than an hour poking around. I found the sutras. I also walked out with a copy of A Course in Miracles (I still haven't cracked it open, but that's another story). With still no clear idea of what my day should be, and still a pulling in my heart, I wandered around Seattle's Capitol Hill neighborhood for a bit. Bought a coffee. Sat in the park and read a chapter. Walked around, window gazing. And then I happened upon the Cathedral.
St. James Cathedral is the closest I have ever been to a typical 'Holy' place. I usually find all of the holiness I seek in nature, in the mountains, by the rivers and trees. But today, with no where else to be and this dogged longingness weighing me down, I figured why not? So I wandered inside the vast, cold building and found a seat.
I sat down in front of the organ, where I'd sat with my family the only other time I'd been in the Cathedral, on a Christmas Eve decades ago. I thought about my Catholic school upbringing and said an Our Father. It didn't feel right. So I prayed to Mary instead. And then my Hail Marys turned into 'Om Nama Shivaya,' I bow to the true inner self. And I pulled out my mala, which suddenly looked just like a rosary. And I prayed. And I started to cry. And I realized that all day I had been pulled here, like magnetic north.
And I also realized that my heart was broken for my boys. For all of the things they were going through, and would have to go through. The things I could see coming, and the things that none of us can yet imagine. And my love for them is so beyond, so huge, so powerful. And yet I was powerless. I was stuck in the knowing that I couldn't protect them from all of the pain, that I shouldn't protect them from any of it, that their paths were theirs and I was only a steward for this first little bit with them. But I wanted to help them, to do the best for them, and didn't know how.
I prayed for a long time, alone with all of the higher powers and my Love. After a while the tears began to slow, and I sat in the pew with legs crossed and hands at heart center, breathing. Listening to the breath.
After a little while, I had calmed down enough to pull out a pen and paper and write. I wrote about how I was feeling for my boys. About how I knew that I was powerless, but didn't know how to let go. They felt too important, too perfect, too worthy of any sacrifice of mySelf. It felt good to write it out, after having cried it out. I felt lighter than I had all day.
I gathered my things and wandered around the inside of the cathedral for a little bit. The light on the floor from the high windows had moved up the wall in the time I'd been there. Everything was dark, and heavy, but in a warm blanket sort of way.
As I headed for an exit, across from where I'd entered, I noticed to my right an opening. There was a long, dark room just before the door, rectangular walls covered in flickering candles. The far end glowed with the bright colors of dozens of flower arrangements, scattered at the feet of a towering statue of Mary.
My tears started again as I walked forward. Her gaze followed me as I approached. Her half smile was the familiar, knowing grin of a mother whose little one is inconsolable due to something that She already knows is impermanent. Her hands were outstretched like she was waiting to gather me up and hold me until it passed.
I sat on the floor beside the flowers, and cried some more, but this time it felt more like past episodes of, 'what the fuck do I do now' crying. Like when I knew I was a drunk. Like when I knew he had to leave. And I looked up at that statue in desperation, hoping maybe for a miracle. And maybe it was. Because what I heard was, 'it's not for you to do, but I will see that it's done.' And then the words suddenly came to me, 'hold them, guide them'. And I knew this was her gift, a Mother's prayer, for me to use. And I knew no matter what, they would be OK.
And it will still be hard, and beautiful, and painful, and wonderful, and scary, and that's what it's meant to be. And they will walk their paths, and I will walk mine, and we won't always go in the same direction, but they will sometimes wind together. And Mary will walk beside them, and just a little bit behind, because that's what mothers do.
(Thank you to evitaworks.com for the beautiful images above. Link to the etsy shop.)