In the Garden

“Do not apologize for crying. Without this emotion, we are only robots.”
― Elizabeth Gilbert, Eat, Pray, Love

I was watching one of Anthony Bourdain’s shows tonight. He was talking to a landscape painter who lives in Montana. He said something to the effect that he wants people to cry when they look at his art. I totally understand that. Something in us wants to be moved to tears.

When I write the landscape of my life, people often cry. That doesn’t mean I am living in the past; it does mean that words are how I shape my art. And as Leonard Cohen wrote, “One of the absolute qualifications of a writer is not knowing his arse from his elbow.” That is how I always feel as I limn the emotional lines of this character called Vicki.

Vicki knows nothing for sure. Oh, I know Oprah claims to know a few things for sure, but writers don’t have that luxury. You write to pull the rug out from under the reader. In one way or another. Sometimes I make people snort with laughter and that is my favorite thing to do. But I do not hesitate to make people cry when I write the truth of my life.

I was watching American Idol auditions tonight and the closer was a black guy from New York whose singing probably brought many to tears. That is gratifying. And suddenly in my head I heard myself saying, “When you give up Vicki, then you will be of real use.” And I felt sick because I knew it was not possible at this point to simply walk away from her.

You see, I think I know how to keep myself as safe as possible. Just seclude myself from the world. Keep a car’s length between myself and others. Say no. Watch TV and write and pretend like love is not passing me by. What a chicken-hearted way to live when you have weathered as many storms as I have. When you are as brave as I am. When you are as lonely as I am.

Shame predominates. My bravery and cowardice mix like oil and water. My gift of words and my fear of intimacy work against each other. My heaven and hell produce nothing but stagnation and limitation.

I am sick to death of the online version of spirituality that passes itself off as meaningful. Meaningful is going on when half your family is dead and the other half carries that weight. Jeff Foster said that we don’t have to carry the weight of sorrow and depression around with us. God bless him. I lay my burden down. I lay my burden down.

I look at my son. His father and grandfather both died of multiple myeloma at the age of 63 in the winter. No wonder we hate the holidays. They loom large and hit hard. We are both learning lessons about walking on alone. About seeing through the illusion. About true kindness and real strength. This year we did not have Christmas. I had a virus and he took care of me. Since we buried Bob on a Christmas ten years ago, we do not require festivities of any kind. I am grateful for the wisdom we both have learned. We used to quarrel and now we shed compassion upon each other.

Shedding compassion is true spirituality. I do not need to be online to do it, either. It begins and ends with me and radiates out effortlessly. I am a stumbler and a survivor, triumphant and desolate. I am in the garden but where is the Christ? I look for Him and He is not there. The tears come and they clear my vision. He is within. He has never left me. And my story is the same as His. And I will stop here and ask that the stone be rolled away again and again.

Vicki Woodyard
Author, Bigger Than The Sky: A Radical Awakening

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