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.
Beth and I were talking over the weekend about perspective. It amazes me as I get older the more control I lose and the greater perspective I gain. Whether it’s a few moments, days, months or years, our lives, which we like to plan, can come undone.
The world has never been predictable. I was speaking with a friend the other day about the instability which surrounds us. Our political systems, family and community systems, even our environment seems to be spinning out of control. Nothing, if it ever was, is normal nor inevitable.
Last night I read a quote from Eugene Peterson, a pastor, writer, and scholar. He writes;
“The whole of the spiritual life is learning to die.”
This quote resonated with my spirit and experiences over the last several years. Dying takes many forms. Death of all things is a given but we seem to organize our lives as if we might be the ones to escape the fate of everyone else. Death is not a negative word if you’ve learned to die. If you do not hold on treasures and trinkets, live each day as if it’s your last; being kind, grace-filled and loving, never putting off to an uncertain tomorrow what can be done now, in the present moment.
We are but sojourners on this path called life. We are not meant nor built to last for long. With this perspective; how we choose to be today could be how our transient life is remembered tomorrow.
I feel embarrassed to admit I am sitting on the couch, pajama pants rolled up to the knees with my feet soaking in hot water, mixed with Epsom salt. I’m not sure why it’s hard to admit except it doesn’t seem very manly. Of course, that’s a sexist thing to write and it feels really good! Foot massages are for everyone.
The last couple of weeks my feet have been hurting. I’ve bought a pack of gel insoles and arch supports but still after a long day my feet hurt to walk on. The other day I asked Beth if we had a foot massage and she said perhaps but it’s packed up in a box in the shed. It was her idea to add the Epsom salt. So today, I bought a water, foot massage, a big bag of Epsom salt and here I sit.
This has been a long, busy, tough week. My thoughts are in different places with people who are facing difficult challenges in the weeks, months and perhaps years to come. If had a foot massage and some Epsom salt for each of them it would be awesome. However, I also know that even if their feet felt better they would still have to overcome some intimidating obstacles to regain their health and well-being.
I can’t take away the pain, the disease, the needs. I can, however, pray and trust that in some way those who are worried, uncertain and hurting tonight can find comfort and contentment in the midst of it all.