Earlier today I was mowing and weeding the yard. While doing so I came across a three to four-foot King Snake hanging out in the grass. I didn’t want to hurt it so I nudged it with the wheel of my push mower and it didn’t move. I bumped it again and the snake curled up into a ball. I was hoping the third time was the charm and tried to get it moving but it wasn’t going anywhere. I then went and grabbed a wooden stake, found the snake still rolled up and not willing to budge. As a last result, I pushed the stake through the center of the ball, picked it up and placed it in another part of the yard where it would be safe. “Sheesh!” I thought to myself. It just had to be difficult.
After getting back to my mowing I thought about the defensive behavior of the snake. It wasn’t helpful for it or me. I reflected on my defensive behaviors and unhelpful coping skills. As someone who deals with mental illness, I know first hand what a sense of being in danger, uncertain, threatened can do. It can cause me to make a bad decision, seize up, pull myself into an emotional ball and try to keep the danger out. Most times it doesn’t work but, like the snake, its instinct.
I know if I would’ve been able to communicate with the reptile I would’ve explained it needed to move for its own safety. If it was left alone eventually the snake would relax and be able to go on its way. When people fight, flight or freeze when we try to help our intention doesn’t matter. What matters is understanding and adapting our help to meet the needs of the other.
Turn on the Light –
The last few nights I have been watching an Unsolved Mystery Series about Paranormal Activity. It’s interesting to learn the history of a certain place, why it would be haunted and listen to those who have reportedly seen, felt, heard, witnessed a ghost. For the record, I don’t believe in ghosts, Big Foot or aliens. I understand that my unbelief doesn’t mean they don’t exist I just need proof, real, scientific, verifiable proof.
There are two hosts of the show; one is a “believer” the other a “cynic.” They travel around the world to different haunted sites and investigate, sometimes spending the night, trying to obtain proof of the paranormal. They usually arrive in the daytime and explore the site and when night comes find a place to sleep. It’s when dark comes the “fun” begins. The one who thinks spooks are real hears noises, whispers, thumps and automatically assumes its ghosts trying to communicate or scare the duo. The cynic laughs and dismisses it all as coincidence and his co-host’s overactive imagination. The cynic tries to sleep but the believer keeps him up all night long with questions; “did you hear that? I know you heard that! Did you feel that? Something moved past my leg!” By the time morning comes they are both worn out and neither has come over to the other’s point of view. Usually, at the crack of dawn, the believer is so relieved he made it through the night he is delirious and suddenly braver while the cynic is simply ready to leave.
It’s interesting the difference light makes. It shines, chasing away our darkest fears, deepest dreads, and restores what the darkness steals.
Today I had the privilege and duty to be a part of the memorial service for my father. It’s been surreal the last few days. So many errands to run, items to check off on a list, places to go, people to see. There’s been a sense of urgency, a nervous energy, a controlled chaos, riding a wave of sorrow and speed. Because of the hectic pace of the last several days, I stood on the stage behind the pulpit at the service this afternoon with no notes, and no structure to the stories and experiences I wanted to share.
Words, they’ve flooded my mind and soul since Dad passed. Words from family and friends who care and are sorry for our loss. Words that go into an obituary, on a card for flowers, in a service program and used in phone calls, emails, and texts. So many words used to describe the love a family has for one who is, was, the central fixed, point.
Now, standing behind the pulpit at the memorial service today, I had no notes, no words written, no solid ideas, memories swarming in my head but none coming in for a landing. How do you choose the right words to convey the meaning of a life which impacted many people? In the pantheon of phrases, how do you pick out those which will express the purpose of a life lived well?
A deep breath, a small prayer, and … share my heart, open my lips, loosen my tongue and let the words come. No, they will not be adequate. No, they will not be perfect. Yes, there will be second-guessing and memories that are forgotten to be shared.
Words. They are not, and cannot contain the heart’s cry of longing and loneliness or succinctly express the fondness, the love, the good of being apart from a person you love. This is okay. Living, being, existing, is more than words, deeper than condolences, greater than expressions of sympathy and sadness.
Living should be beyond our ability to communicate it easily if it is done well.