Away

Yesterday, I stood on top of a hill sprinkled with tiny yellow buttercups that danced and nodded in the breeze. The sky was bright blue with white ripples of cloud. Down the hill, families had gathered at the playground and the air echoed with children's laughter. On the path that wound around the hill's crest, an occasional jogger or dog walker passed. I watched and waited. Since I moved far away from home, I've developed a habit of searching faces for ones that are familiar. At first, I was "seeing" people I knew everywhere. In the past year or so, that's pretty much stopped. I've settled in, I guess. I've stopped looking for friends and family in the strangers around me. But not yesterday.

Yesterday, I was hoping against hope to see a familiar face. So much so that I almost convinced myself that I had. But my heart knew I was wrong, even when my eyes were convinced otherwise. So I stood, and I waited, and let the wind blow over me. It was a beautiful day, and the weather was perfect, but my heart was sore and my stomach was sick, and my muscles were in knots.

Knots. That's a good word, really. It denotes tension. It imparts the idea that there is a puzzle or problem that cannot be easily solved. Have you ever picked up a necklace from your jewelry box or a cord from a drawer to find it hopelessly tangled? You can't tell where it ends or begins; you can't tell which pieces lead to what. If it is worthwhile, you work the strands with your fingers, or fingernails, if the material is delicate. You tease them apart, sometimes pushing, sometimes pulling. As you work the snarl, sometimes it gets worse before it gets better. Then it happens - you find the key filament and the entire knot falls apart. 

Lately, my life has been a tangled mess. From grief over my father's death to work stress to illness to sudden, inexplicable loss, every part of every day has turned in upon itself until I feel trapped in a knotted web that I can't escape. Every strand I loosen seems to twine itself back into the mass. Every time I stop for breath the gnarl grows. 

So - what is the answer? Do I just sever the knot? Cut all ties? Lay down the strands and refuse to pick them up again? What good would it do? The puzzle is still there.

I deeply believe that if I can unravel the knot that is my life, I can also unravel the knots in my body; my pain, my fatigue, my illness. Somehow, somewhere, something is out of place. Something needs to be set right. I am out of harmony with the world, with the Spirit, with myself. When things are right, every part of life feeds every other part. We rest so we can work and take care of other people whom we love. We work so we can have shelter and food. We learn so we can work more efficiently and have more time to play and to love. We play and we love so that we can find joy, because joy fuels it all. 

Right now, nothing flows for me. The gears grind and slip. I can't rest because I'm in pain. I hurt more because I can't rest. I work because I have to in order to pay bills and feed my children, but the pain and fatigue drag me down and make work difficult. Play has fallen away; it has always been the first thing I sacrifice. I still take care of the people I love but the joy it gave me has dried up. In rare moments I can feel it, but it's like a weak candle-flame on the last of the wick; it flickers and dies and is hard to rekindle.

I need a sabbatical. I need to step away from this knot and be renewed. I need to be in a place where I can't see it, where I can't be tempted to pick it up and worry the strands. I am so entangled now that I can't fathom how or where to go. Away, just away...

All through the dragging day -- sharp underfoot
And hot, and like dead mist the dry dust hangs --
But far, oh, far as passionate eye can reach,
And long, ah, long as rapturous eye can cling,
The world is mine: blue hill, still silver lake,
Broad field, bright flower, and the long white road
A gateless garden, and an open path:
My feet to follow, and my heart to hold.

(From Journey, by Edna St Vincent Millay)


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