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Barefoot and Preaching

By Leah Perrault

11/08/2017

Leah Perrault


Arriving safe and OK, however unintended, is an edge, not an end

 

Safe and OK have been elusive feelings for quite awhile. Tracing the shape of the dark, wandering lost, tending to wounds, willing some measure of wellness — it’s all been a road I never wanted to turn down in the first place. I was aiming for a destination quite different from where I have found myself, perhaps somewhere with less confusion, fewer tears, maybe with lower propensity for trauma-induced jet lag?

Last week I was scrolling mindlessly through my Facebook feed when a friend’s post caught me off guard: “You have to be grateful whenever you get to someplace safe and OK, even if it turns out it wasn’t quite where you were heading” (Anne Lamott, Small Victories). The strangest part of the realization was that I noticed the constant fear and restlessness more in their absence than in their presence.

All the stepping, one foot in front of the one before, the practices of showing up for my life have led me to somewhere new. Arriving safe and OK — on an ordinary Tuesday without having the location in my agenda — caught me by surprise. It took me two weeks to notice, actually. It is almost as if I have forgotten the purpose of the open-handed wandering: to grow intentionally toward something, toward some One. Isn’t that the point?

Trauma is evidence that we are not always safe; previously, my sense of well-being depended on a sense that I am, and will be. These months have been an exercise in choosing to love into a world that may not always return love with love. These days have been a discipline in reaching for the safety that does exist without obsessing over the what ifs that could threaten.

Even before the words that changed my world were spoken, I was afraid. My fear, an emotion designed to warn and protect me from harm, was realized. But when the threat was locked up, when the damage exacted, the immediate need for fear receded. Pain, however, provides a place for fear to grow without attention to the need. It takes active practice to feel the fear and let it go, to hold it in my hands and then set it down so there is room to hold on to life.

Restlessness uprooted me, made my life feel unfamiliar. It threatens to pull me under and its gift is a new set of eyes. It tempts me to believe that I will never feel settled again. I have felt the invitation to see again, to see something new, and resisted the pull by planting myself in the present and breathing here.

Sorrow and ache are reminders of the fragility of life. One day, every single person I love will be lost to me, separated by their death or mine. The particular sorrow points to the universal. It takes energy to integrate and hold the ache, to let it leak out of my eyes and my heart, a tear at a time. And gradually, the pressure in the well returns to a bearable level, sneaking up less frequently, and with less intensity.

The effort it took to stay focused on the present moment made it hard to see and feel the gradual healing that was happening. While I have participated in the movement, I also feel swept along by the current of it, caught up in something more powerful than myself. A time or two in my past, I tentatively reached out to touch the Healer. The fragments of healing are still surprising, every time.

Resurrection and healing — these are not accidents, not coincidences of time or circumstance. Living barefoot changes something, opens me to possibilities I cannot predict, but can trust. It is a beautiful, if embarrassing, comfort to be reminded that I live this way for a reason. It changes my life, brings me closer to wholeness, even when I take the long way and forget.

The bright fall colours have given way to the edge of winter in Saskatchewan, and the safe and OK arrives with the same resigned shift into something cooler. Safe, if only for now, and OK, if only a minimum, is a beautiful place compared to the other stopovers on this detour. I’m grateful for the gift of more space, more hope, more joy that this place offers. And I am grateful that safe and OK is an edge of something more and not an end.

Perrault is a wife and mom, a grateful employee of Emmanuel Care, and a speaker, writer and consultant at www.leahperrault.com