How to be Content
Most days I don’t know how to let go of fear.
It presses heavy on my chest and claws up my throat threatening to stifle my breath with all the things that can go wrong and do go wrong. And breath is the only thing I have. In and out.
Infilling and surrender.
Sometimes the mountains don’t keep the grey Marine layer out and the fog rolls in obscuring my view of the sloped horizon. Days like this I have to fight hard to remember what I’m thankful for when the myriad of test results don’t come back the way I wanted or I think about the losses I’ve already had.
Things like MTHFR gene mutations and how they affect fertility, and can lead to miscarriage and a host of other issues, things I’m just beginning to understand, detonate like bombs into my world of delicate balance.
There are days when every post on Facebook is some new woman who is pregnant, or a picture of a girl with her three friends who are all pregnant at the same time….how serendipitous. I try not to roll my eyes. There are times when there is a preemie baby born in Uganda stuck in an ICU, battling for his life and while my team is there, I long to be there.
These are days when my experience tells me that the worst thing always happens and the things I want don’t seem to work out.
I have to fight for my breath. I have to fight for my peace.
The roses on my deck died about two months ago. The petals fell to the ground, trampled and shriveled, dry from lack of water, and I thought yes, it’s true, I can’t keep anything alive. I wish I had gotten my grandmother’s green thumb. My rose bush stood naked like that for weeks, bereft of her tangerine color. I felt sad every time I looked at her, hoping that maybe she would bloom again.
Sometimes we have to realize our worst fears, so we can be free of them.
What if this is as good as it gets?
What if I don’t have a child?
How do I learn to live here?
How do I learn to be content now, in this present moment?
In my mind’s eye, I can see Jesus at that pivotal moment before his death feeling the weight of helplessness, the dream withered, the promise destroyed, the abandonment, the doubt:
“Why have you forsaken me?”
He wasn’t spared the pain of that, but in it he turns to God with honest words. And then surrenders.
A kind of holy grieving.
I’m learning something too from my research on the ancient Stoics.
This idea of negative visualization that when we contemplate the loss of things we hold dear, we can be grateful for what we have, just as a brush with death makes us aware of the gift of life.
It might sound morbid to contemplate, but scientists say that it can actually increases levels of happiness.
I’m not quartered into a refugee camp in Syria, I did not lose my family in the Holocaust, I’m not being bombed in Israel, and I’m not being persecuted for my faith in Sudan.
There are all kinds of reasons to be grateful.
It is not a letting go of hope, but just a letting go of my idea that I can control things.
I breathe in. I face my deepest fear. It threatens to strangle me with its grief, but as I look I realize the fear was exaggerated. I breathe out.
The reality is that I will be ok. God has been good to me through worse than this and in this present moment, I am alright. I think of my husband curled up napping with my little dog, Rosie, the two lights of my life.
There is a bud bursting forth on my rose bush, pointed like a rocket rising towards the sun.
What matters is that I can see the good now here too.
My acupuncturist said something to me that struck me: “The same way you feel now, the same issues you struggle with before you have a baby are the same ones you will have after. The baby doesn’t solve all your problems, in fact, it can amplify them.”
It reminds me of something Tyson always says, “It’s like Lil’ Kim says, ‘Who you are before you have money is the same person you will be after. If you’re unhappy before, you’ll be unhappy after.'”
Wise words from a rapper.
But it’s true. How do I learn to be content here without the thing I want?
How do I lean into my healing so I can live the life I long for?
Because there will always be something I want and things I cannot control. Everyone has struggles. Things they are believing for and I’ve learned no one is exempt. Whether it’s over a job or money, a marriage, or a long wanted baby, to be healthy, or to not be crazy, we all have dreams we are contending for, and disappointments we are wrangling through.
Just because I am trying to learn to be content doesn’t mean I don’t have hope.
Faith is not blind. It is not a repetition of positive sayings.
Faith is an every moment choice to see goodness and to know that it will get better because we trust our hope will not be ashamed.
But in the meantime, I’m going to live with eyes wide open for all the beauty that is here and now.
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