If you don’t let go, you’ll get dragged. As humans, we strive, we grasp, we control, we grab anything and everything, and refuse to let go unless it’s taken from our hands. This is America. We never surrender, never stop, and Die Hard. Because of this attitude, when someone or something precious to us — a pillar of our lives– has been ripped from us, it threatens to obliterate us.
When we’re obliterated, the things we already know aren’t accessible to us. We’re lost in the woods in the dark, with no flashlight. We can’t remember how we got here, much less, how to get out. We no longer know who we are without this person, dream, talent, possession, etc.
For example, I had two treasures that were the two halves of me, I thought, and temporarily lost them both. All that was left of me was weeping pieces. I was erased.
I ‘m a lawyer. Translation: fast on my feet, at ease verbally, sometimes insufferable, love a challenge, incapable of being intimidated, tough and strong. I liked those traits. But, on December 6, 2012, all of that changed, and the fearless part of me was erased, along with my short- term memory, my ability to drive without panic attacks, and my identity.
I was stopped at the yield sign at the 290 and I 35 interchange. Someone hit me from behind, going 50 mph, and I felt my brain shake in my head. I don’t remember much else except looking up at the 18-year-old with no insurance who was driving her grandmother’s car without her permission asking if I was ok. As a typical American, I said “sure”. I was tough and strong. By the next day, my way of being in the world vanished. I was the Scarecrow needing the Wizard of OZ to give me back my brain. That was 8 years ago. This year, I got my memory back, but have still felt lost.
God wasn’t finished with the tour de force in which he had me enrolled.
I was a concert pianist. If there was any place with a baby grand or grand piano, I would sit down and run through my repertoire, compiled through my 11 years of piano lessons. It was my meditation and peace. It was the gentle other side of the hard- charging warrior persona. I needed it to feel whole.
In October of 2018, I fell and shattered my hand, and it mended in such a way that my fingers couldn’t move across the keyboard. So, here I was without my familiar touchstones to guide me back to myself.
But, these “essential” parts of my history were hiding something more important I couldn’t see until the obstacle—me–was removed.
When we’re obliterated and detoured, the only thing to do is retrace our own footsteps. The people God puts in our lives are no accident. Only very recently through the perceptions of my wonderful friend, Anita, did I get a glimpse of the truth and the purpose of this detour.
She’s an Enneagram Yoda, and assessed me as a 4. But this wasn’t who I thought I was. I was strong and tough! I was objective and analytical. I had these skills, but they were not who I was. What I lost was my crutch, and what I received was the gift back of my true identity.
For a 4 to be happy and optimally functional, she must live from the heart. That’s where her confidence comes from. But I’d been living in my head since law school! How insane. My heart had been starving for decades.
I received a course correction, and a reminder the part about being a lawyer that I loved didn’t come from a fancy law school or prestigious law practice. It came from my childhood dinner table! Some law professor didn’t give me my gift of oratory, debate, or confidence. My parents did! It’s always about relationships, isn’t it?
The piano was always calling me back to my heart, back to myself, back to vulnerabilities, out of my intellect. It took losing it, to shed what Thomas Merton calls “the false self.”
So, who we think we are, often isn’t even close. We put on “temporary costumes” * to cope with loss, change, and the ambiguous nature of life, and then forget we’re wearing them. In doing so we refuse to surrender to something bigger than us, something better to our own true selves.
Our hearts are our North Star, if we don’t let loss and confusion blind us to what’s been in front of our faces all along.
We may pray for divine intervention and look for grandiose flashes in the sky as an answer. But, the answers inhabit the everyday miracles in life right now—friends. Music. Even lawyers. Pianos. The things we have that we love call us back to ourselves and the world with renewed purpose and vigor. Above all else guard your heart, for it’s the wellspring of life.
So, tell me, who are you?
*Richard Rohr, The Universal Christ.