I am afflicted with a chronic condition. My condition is living with real and seemingly endless worry about some aspects of my own life and worries about the suffering and sorrows of other people that I know and love. The chronic nature of this condition is a blessing because that means that I am alive and aware of the world inside and all around me. It is also a hard reality, what in my religious tradition we call, a cross to bear. We bear the cross of love and concern, compassion and a great desire to make things better. We also bear the cross of some fleeting awareness that we are not in control of almost anything. We strive for health and wholeness, peace and serenity, and for the courage to keep going forward in hopes of a new day. And we so often fall down with the weight of it all and with own inability to bear up alone.
On good days I surrender. I accept my discomfort with the truth of life. On really good days I reach out and take the hand of the One and the ones who are with me and who share this condition. On super good days I even laugh about this sweet human tendency to love and to run like heck from pain.
Today was one of those good days. I began the day remembering to do my yoga practice. How is it that on so many days I forget or think that I can just skip it? I felt the night time stiffness in my joints and I started to pray, Christian yoga style. “In love, humility and devotion, I submit to thee and thee alone. And thou will raise me up spiritually.” Stretch, breathe, pray, stretch, breathe, pray. Thou will raise me up spiritually.
I left the mat and went to the chair with coffee and daily devotional readings. In the sitting and sipping I read a message from someone who also suffers with a chronic condition and who had stopped berating herself for “how long O God how long” her suffering was continuing and how impatient she was for a quick fix. She wrote about the grace that comes with giving up and giving over.
On a good day we surrender trying to make something happen. We accept the discomfort (which of course is a mild word for what is sometimes anguish) of not being able to move a situation. We pray for guidance.
Praying for guidance means trusting that someone is there with guidance to give. Someone who cares about us and is close enough to us to know our desperation. Someone who does not have to be called in from afar. Someone here.
Today I prayed for guidance and this is what I received. Take the hand. Surrender your attempts to go it alone. Accept your discomfort. Trust that change is already happening because change is life’s given name.
My yoga teacher talked once about how we might practice letting go, even for a moment or two, of “joyless striving.” She was talking about the joyless, wound up, forced striving to get better, be better, do more, do less, to get somewhere else and get there now.
I was taken with the word “joyless.” It reminded me that we all strive to make changes in ourselves, in the world, and in our very core, and that striving is active participation in life. Watch a baby strive and struggle to learn to roll over or crawl forward, to reach for something enticing or to babble her way to communication. Without striving we would collapse into despair or hopelessness. Sentient beings strive. But where is the joy and the thrill in being alive when we spend our days in anxiety and needless worry about what is not ours to be or do?
Our condition, my condition, is not terminal, even if it is chronic. Even though we seem to be wired to anxious joyless striving we do not have to stay in a perennial fight. We can surrender and accept our “discomforts” and accept the hand which I believe is the hand of God which looks a lot like what your hand in mine looks like. We do not have to carry our cross alone. In fact I don’t think that is possible or desirable. When we share our lives the weight is halved. And while I am not the One who left the cross behind I look to that One for a new day.
Thank you friends and family for being there and for reminding me that surrender can be a really good thing. I can accept my full life. When I pray for guidance about the way forward I do so, today at least, trusting that someone is listening and that I too can be joyfully alive and active in the world.