It seems that lately, I just can’t stop crying.  Pain is everywhere.  Sadness abounds, and grief is abundant. It just seems to be a very, very, very real part of life.  In fact there are days, weeks, months where it seems to be the central character in my story.  It isn’t that I have a sad life, or even that I have experienced an abundance of personal tragedy.  But there is, no doubt about it, a very deep well filled with heartache.

The funny thing is, I don’t think that this is a bad thing.  Not that I love to cry until I can’t see or breathe, nor do I look forward to the days that pain and sorrow fill my heart till I think I might actually die.  But I have come to believe that pain has a purpose.  It can, if I let it, become the doorway to compassion and kindness, love and tenderness.  As I sit with the hurt, and just let it wash over me, I am able to understand that this is part of what makes each of us human, and, that it is part of the richness of life. It makes it possible for me to see, understand and connect to the hurt in those around me.  And hopefully it helps me to sit with them in the midst of their pain.

There have been times when I have done everything I could to avoid the hurt.  I have tried to buy my way out of it, redecorate it, medicate it, sleep it way, sweat it out, and just plain pretend that it wasn’t there.  But it is.  The truth is, I live with a hole in my heart. I think we all do.  It comes from past regrets, choices that we would give anything to take back, unexpected loss, wounds inflicted by others, and the shadowy glimpses of what is no longer possible.  Some days the other part of my heart, that part that is whole, and strong beats louder.  And other days,the sound gets sucked into that hole, and I follow it right down into the depths.  I’ve quit trying to hide from it, because it is all part of the heart that is mine.  Trying to have one without the other is like trying to separate the waves from the ocean.

I am absolutely not a poet.  Never have been, and most likely never will be.  But years ago, sitting in my college dorm room, lonely, homesick and heartbroken, the one and only poem I have ever written came spilling out.  It seems that even back then, at some level far, far below my consciousness, I understood that pain was important.  Here is what I wrote;

Pain and love go hand in hand

One often leading the other

But the led need not struggle against the leader

For they both travel to the same place

They go to the clear, bittersweet pool of human experience

Where each may drink freely from one cup

Having once looked into such waters

one will never again settle for the cloudy, shallow pools of comfort,

which do not reflect, but simply swallow the reflection

When you seek love

look also for pain

and welcome it

that you too may drink deeply.

 

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I live at the base of a mountain.  Not just any mountain either.  This is a glorious, grand, majestic, dramatic mountain. It is perfectly framed in my living room windows.  You can’t miss it.  It is a show stopper. Their first time here, people often say, “It’s almost as if you planned the house so that the mountain would sit dead-center in those windows.”  The fact is, we did.  Of course we planned it that way.  We wanted the killer view, the picture perfect view.  The kind of view that you only see in magazines.

But you see, the thing is, while some days she is out in all of her glory, other days, often days on end, she is shrouded in clouds and fog.  Other days, the only thing visible is the very top, or the sloping base.  There are days when the clouds come and go, and of course therefore, so does the mountain.  The truth of the matter is that whether we can see the mountain or not, it is always, Always, ALWAYS there.

I think there is a deeper, more subtle reason that we look out at this breathtaking peak.  It serves as a reminder, and as a great teacher of things far more important and moving than a great view.

So just what are those things?  Faith!  Purpose!

Faith~

I believe in God.  I can’t explain exactly what that means, or exactly how he or she operates in the world.  I just know that there is something far bigger than me, than humanity, than this planet at work in the world.  I find life too full of miracles, creativity, joy, pain, devastation and mystery to be able to be explained away with  reason, a big bang and eons of interactions between energy and matter.  Somehow, I believe that God is involved with us and with our world, and we are meant to be the human face, hands, heart, mind and soul of our Creator.  However, there are many days that I forget that bigger picture and get caught up in my little life.  On those days, I find it hard to put one foot in front of the other for myself, much less even think about how I might serve a greater good to the world that is within my grasp.  And so, my mountain serves to remind me of that greater presence.  When I look out and the sun is shining on the brilliant, snow covered peak, I know beyond a shadow of a doubt that that something bigger is here, there and everywhere.  But on those days when all I can see is dark, grey clouds, I have the chance to practice living with faith, by reminding myself that just because my life is socked in, that sacred presence is there just the same.

Purpose~

Each one of us adds to the world what no one else can.  Which means, we all have a purpose and a calling, and in the finding and in the following, our gifts can bring good to the world.  When my daughters were small, my purpose was clear. Those were days of clear blue skies and not a cloud in sight. My purpose… to love, nurture, guide and protect.  Everyday, not always perfectly, but always with intention, a huge part of my purpose was to help those precious girls grow up and become strong, wise women in their own rights.  As they grew and changed, so did my purpose.  And to be honest, the skies were less clear, and more often than not, the clouds rolled in, and it was hard to see very far down the road. My role too, became cloudy.  It seemed to be one of being available, but not intrusive, offering counsel but not direction, and opening my ears, and shutting my mouth.  Frankly, sometimes I did this with spectacular success, and other times I failed miserably.  Now I am at a new place.  My daughters are grown and living their lives, managing their choices and navigating their successes and failures on their own.  Not that we aren’t still connected.  We are, and I am grateful.  But is isn’t what it was, and it won’t ever be that again.  I know that.  I appreciate that.  I respect that.  In the midst of it all, I also have good work, meaningful work.  All that said, there are days that I totally and completely lose sight of my purpose.  Somehow it was so much easier to know what that was when that meant making sure that my daughters were safely strapped into their car seats, and we ended every night under the covers with a book.

These days, what often reconnects me to my purpose is the mountain.  It looms large out my window, whether I can see it or not. So does my purpose, and so does yours and yours and yours.  If my experience with the mountain offers any lessons in the matter it is this, even when you can’t see it, it is there.  My hero, Annie Lamott claims that we are all here in Earth School.  Perhaps our greatest lesson is to find our purpose.  To find the work and contribution that is ours, and ours alone to give.  And then, to offer that to the world with all of our might, and all of our mind, and all of our soul.

The mountain out my window helps me keep that in mind.

“I will lift up mine eyes unto the mountains: From whence shall my help come?”

~Psalm 121

“Climb every mountain….” Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music

written by Molly Davis

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