In my darker times I have felt so very alone. And often unacceptable. "If only I could do...be...[fill in the blank]...then my partner...my parents...my friends...God...would love me." But what if we are loved exactly as we are, without having to DO anything or CHANGE anything? Could there a word for that?
A number of years ago I was part of an intentional religious community in inner city Washington, DC. For several years I lived in one of the community households, and during some of those years I had a roommate—I'll call her Lucy. Lucy battled, as I did, with self-esteem and depression. She was raising a son as a single mom, and passionately hoped she would not pass her struggles and melancholy on to him. She also had a deep practice of prayer and meditation.
Not long after we began sharing a room, I noticed an unusual item on the wall near her bed. A six by six inch square of dark brown cork, maybe two inches thick, it had a number of small shells glued onto the front which formed the capital letters W, I, T, and H.
It seemed a little odd to me at the time—just that single word. I even wondered if it was an acronym for something. Eventually I asked her about it. She said that in all her struggles and trials, the thing that helped her the most was being reminded that she was not alone. "With" represented a sense of Presence. For her it was a central—or perhaps the central—message of the Christian faith: Immanuel, which means, "God with us." Not that she felt that way all the time—in fact, the word "with" was important to her precisely because she had a hard time feeling it. It was a reminder, a lodestar, a refuge.
For her, with also represented the gift of connection, within the community and beyond. We supported each other as we sought to stand with and serve those considered less important in the world—the poor, the broken, strangers and immigrants, those in prison, those living in our rundown, forgotten neighborhood—"the least of these." And we stood with her as she tried to recover from her inner darkness and raise her son, free from the dank and heavy cloak that often seemed to cling to her.
Unfortunately I lost touch with Lucy a number of years ago. But the message of those shells on the cork stayed with me.
There's another facet of with. Over the years I have experienced by far the most healing with practitioners who have been most able to simple be with me. Compassionately, wherever I was. Supporting any movement into more ease and health, but not needing me to change.
That gentle, radical acceptance offers so much light on my path. Through their acceptance I am learning to be with myself—mindfully, heartfully, fully accepting. And as I accept myself, I seem to bloom.
So now with has become a motto for me—a blaze on the trail—in my own healing arts practice. It is a central focus as I move through an appointment. How can I simply be here, with this person? Fully accepting. And resting in ease. Not even needing that person to accept my accepting. Simply being. And trusting the blooms will come in their own time.
Perhaps with can work for you, whether you are theist or atheist, pantheist or agnostic, transcendentalist or a student of a more Eastern brand of spirituality. While we are all alone in some ways, we are also each a part of something bigger, whether we know it or not. A molecule of water is both separate and a part of an ocean of other molecules. It is my hope, and sometimes my experience, that we are all part of the Good Big Thing (a concept that comes from the book, The Secret Garden. Consider reading it if you haven't, or re-reading it if you have. It's a very cool book).
With. It can be remarkably healing, a breath of fresh air in world where we often feel so alone, and where we always seem to be striving to do or be “better.”
Radical. Simply being with…
Next time I'll write about lugubrious ha-ha. (!)
Photo credits: Jordan Whitt, unSplash
Delfi de la Rua, unSplash