Rigel: On this blog, Deb and Barbara have often guided us into conversations about a) taking care of ourselves, and b) how to take deliberate care of others in times of need. But, today, I want to talk about the times when, in small but well-timed and therefore significant ways, a force outside of ourselves seemingly steps in to provide precious incidents of unexplainable, unexpected grace and tender loving care. I am not talking about huge moments. Quite the opposite! I am talking about tiny little treasures––scattered moments of surprising personal significance. These are itsy bitsy events precisely timed to make a big difference. When I think about these tiny moments of grace, in my mind's eye, I see hands that are bruised and bloodied from hanging on so tight to a ragged cliff face, dangling over a deadly abyss. And, for a moment, these tired hands are being taken into the soothing, healing hands of an angel and being refreshed, having the scrapes washed and bandaged. The big problems aren't solved. But, the moment's agony is soothed. Those hands may then go right back to holding onto that cliff face dangling over that wretched abyss, but they will do so less tired and with a stronger grip. I want to talk today about when the universe holds my hand.
Just to be safe, here are two bits of full disclosure to smooth potential ruffled feathers. First, I do not believe in coincidence. Y'all might, and that's cool. I think most coincidences can be explained away by running lines of math and physics that are beyond what I have an intellectual grasp on. Some things are just bound to happen eventually if the iterations of probability and a congruence of variables get run for long enough. But I also believe some portion of coincidences are actually quite deliberately fostered by an outside force. And that brings me to my second disclosure. This bloggie family is made of people along the full range of the faith spectrum. Because I am a Christian (albeit NOT Fundamentalist––I am a social justice oriented, feminist, increasingly radicalized Christian), heavily influenced by Reform Judaism (tikkun olam being my chosen sacred, guiding principle), as I write this blog post, my vocabulary will be influenced by my theist perspective. I think of God or angels holding my hand. But, the concept holds when applied using terms such as Allah, the Universe, karma, good energy, Mother Earth, or even the plants thanking you for the nourishing compost you just spread—any outside, larger, cosmic energy you endow with a degree of sentience. Also, as a Christian, I believe in the “small, still voice” of the Holy Spirit and that people who are open to this voice can be moved to be used as God's hands and feet on Earth. I can't count how many times I've heard stories and witnessed beautiful adventures that began with something along the lines of, “I didn't know what was going on with him. I just kept feeling a strong nudge to go by and check on him. Turns out it was perfect timing!” I can only see the words I'm typing through my own eyes. I do not mean to alienate or offend anyone. If you who are reading this are, for example, an atheist who believes in coincidence, I'm eager to read your take on this subject! I hope that the discussion on this post pretzels up my brain in a really fun, interesting way that I get to ponder over for days to come! But to write with any voice but my own would be a lie.
So, what do I mean by having my hand held? What do I mean by being startled by tiny moments of grace? I am not talking about huge things like a sudden windfall of money, the healing of a disease, or rescue from a car accident. I am talking about very minor, incidental, seemingly insignificant little drops of elixir that startle me with the positive in the midst of the negative. For example, during a teeth clinching, jaw aching, tension headache inducing, aggravating, really pissy day, I get into the car, crank it up, and the radio springs to life singing to me a happy, old favorite song with lovely memories attached. I pause for a few heartbeats and smile a little. My fevered mind suddenly stops, dives into a pool of clear, cold spring water, and then breaks the surface and draws in a deep breath. I am refreshed by perfectly timed grace, which I do not believe is a coincidence. And, afterward, I am better able to cope with the garbage. I have been startled by grace. My hand has been held, and my perspective has been shifted a few millimeters in a healthier direction. Or, after a day of dealing with a seemingly endless stream of mean, rude, spiteful, selfish people, I'm suddenly presented with a tall, handsome stranger of a man with smile crinkled eyes, a deep voice, and strong hands with long fingers—a gentleman who holds a door for me and gives me a nod and grin while calling me ma'am. How can I not feel a warm flush of happiness wash through me upon this reminder that not everyone is hateful and unpleasant? On a day when I'm feeling unbearably trapped and suffocated in this town, the library will call and say that an interlibrary loan I requested many, many weeks ago has come in. Perfect timing! Suddenly, I have a happy bit of the outside world for my eyes and brain to gobble up exactly when I most needed it! Or, as happened last week, in the two days before time for child support and my paycheck to deposit when there was less than dust in my bank account after having paid a high electric bill, a big packet of grocery coupons came in the mail, including coupons for customer appreciation freebies that happened to be for a couple of luxurious, indulgent favorites of both my son and myself. We had what we needed to get by with careful planning, but that packet of freebie coupons gave us a surprise abundance, a small joy, treats in the middle of no margin of error. Does a packet of coupons from that grocery chain come a few times a year? Yes. But, what was so special to me was that the packet arrived on THAT day. To me, it felt like a cosmic treat saying, “Someone is paying attention to how hard you've been trying, how careful you've been being. Someone knows how hard you've been fighting to make sure your son feels safe, secure, and provided for. Someone knows you're tired. Here's a little present for you to open to let you know you aren't really alone. Now, walk up to the grocery store and get your free goodies to enjoy until the money comes at the end of the week.” It's tiny, perfectly timed gestures like these that are often just enough to reboot my virus-ridden mental hard drive. They grab me by the scruff of the neck, yank me up, and remind me, “It's not all bad. IT'S NOT ALL BAD. Someone is paying attention. An angel just held your hand.” It's grace as a perspective check.
Then there are the really bad times. During an ultra-difficult day or in the depths of the rancid, sticky bowels of a long, dark night of the soul, I may be struggling in suffocating muck and mire, frantically screaming red alert klaxons in my mind begging for huge miracles and sweeping changes. During these hours when hope has begun to fail and frustration is hitting critical mass, it is most often one of these out of the blue tiny moments of grace from a source outside of myself that starts to wake me up, that puts a crack in the wall of dark fog. When I get like that, I get to where I can't imagine things getting better. I can't see out of my pit. The fog has blanketed out any light, any sense of goodness in the future. And I really, really suck at getting myself out of that mindset. And, then, for example, my computer will chime, and there'll be an email from Deb replying to an email I had sent her days before. And that email will contain something that makes me smile and laugh and makes me feel loved EXACTLY at the second I needed that. (Deb, I bet you didn't know that sometimes your insomnia is well timed!) Or, in a day when I'm so deep in my pit that I've begun to slide down into my bunker mentality, hiding from phone and email, not leaving home, sheltering in place, out of the blue a friend who had no way of knowing that I was in the midst of a dark spell will call up and say, “I'm bored. It's almost Sonic half price happy hour. Can I come pick you up, and we'll go get a soda?” When the universe holds my hand like this—the startling, tiny moment of grace—it gives me enough pause to enable me to once again feel the faint flicker of belief and hope that refuses to die in that place deep, deep in my chest where the most essential corner of my soul seems to be almost physically tangible. A gentle whisper takes my hand and reminds me, “Stop. There is love. There is hope. You are not alone. Be still for a few seconds. Feel gratitude for this moment of grace. Gratitude. Gratitude. Gratitude.” These tiny gestures of care give me a reorienting jolt – the proverbial slap to the face in the midst of hysterical negativity. I can begin to see through a lens of gratitude instead of being blinded by fear, rage, or panic. It doesn't fix everything. But, it helps me imagine that in a few hours or a few days, I WILL feel better. It reminds me that this feeling of unfixability, of hopelessness, is an illusion that will pass. When the universe throws me one of these exquisitely timed tiny moments of grace, I grab at the warm, fuzzy metaphysical security blanket with a grip so tight that the knuckles of my spirit's fingers are whitened. I pay attention. I collect these graces and line them up on a bookshelf in my brain and take them down, flicking through their pages at later times when I need a reminder, a gratitude tinged perspective check. A tiny moment of grace not only changes the challenge it has interrupted. The gratitude wrapped memory continues to heal long after the occurrence.
Why did I chose this topic for the blog today, even running a risk since it is religion tinged? So often this blog and the precious people within its embrace are the source of these tiny moments of grace. So often, I have witnessed this bloggie family being the handholds. And, not just for me. How often in the comments have we read someone's words that the topic for the day was exactly what she needed to read that day? How often have we answered that small, still voice to close ranks around one of our number who is wobbly? I know y'all have done it with me, and I count it a profound privilege to have been able to be a part of doing it for some of y'all. How often have we read the words of someone who has never spoken up before but who is chiming in for the first time to describe experiencing a perfect, cosmic hand-holding via this blog? How many of us now have at least one new, offline friend that we met online through this blog—someone whom we never would've met otherwise but who has since fully integrated herself into our lives? I do not believe this bloggie family has coalesced by luck. Nor by the commonality of Colin fangirldom. I believe this bloggie family has been formed as a sacred act of grace. The angels, God, the universe, whatever you want to call it is holding our hands.
Colin fangirldom. Yeah, I went there. * deep breath * Most of us have outed ourselves as Colin fangirls. But, you know what? The whole Colin and Whose Line? thing is an absolutely essential part of this topic. And, I would be a shameful coward if I didn't address it. Colin, Ruth called it perfectly in a conversation she and I once had. She said that your work is your ministry. That is 100% true. You are an instrument of God's grace. You and your work are angelic hand-holding. How many of us have admitted to finding, through Colin, a spark of light, laughter, hope in the midst of unbearable darkness? How many of us medicate our insomnia not with drugs but with Whose Line? clips on YouTube? How many of us have written in discussions on this blog how Colin's work has helped us, encouraged us, taught us, warmed us, freed us when we were locked up in a bad place in our heads? How many of us have sought refuge in Colin's gifts? The big, bad thing that was plaguing us at that moment wasn't fixed, but enjoying Colin's work was that tiny spark of grace that helped refresh our spirits, helped open up our minds to healing. A silly little something like finding the right comedy video at the right time opened the door to a much larger torrent of grace. A perspective shift, an unclinching, a deep breath. I do not believe in coincidence. And how many of us? The majority of us? How many were led into this bloggie family via Colin? A larger gift that has flowed from an already precious one. Many of us have previously expressed our gratitude here on the blog. But I'm saying it here in this post in a really face heating up, heart racing, tummy churning way, hands shaking hard to type way: Thank you, Colin. Thank you for your work. Thank you for introducing us to Deb and Barbara. Thank you for your kind, gentle, patient strength. Thank you for all the times you have answered that still, small voice.
I also want to make sure that I reveal here, publicly, with complete honesty and clarity my profound gratitude to Deb and Barbara for so frequently being open to being the instruments of these moments of cosmic care. From the beautifully unique approach of each woman flows beautifully unique grace. For example, Barbara often presents a perspective I never could've imagined but that is exactly what I need to examine at that exact, precise moment. She's freakishly accurate. And Deb is the only person I know who can fuss at me hard without hurting my feelings. And her fusses always fall at exactly the right time. That cold splash, that jolt, that reorientation. And they both are the perfect kind of silly when I am wound way too tight. As instruments of grace, their notes are played with the purest, richest tone and pitch. They are earthly angels being used to hold my bloody, bruised hands. The praise and gratitude I feel about this cannot be covered even by the strongest adjectives and superlatives. Exultant? Profound? Rapturous? Enormous? No. There are not words sufficient to cover my gratitude for Deb and Barbara. They both demonstrate love in a way I've never known before.
Anyway, to close, I want to ask: Do you experience cosmic hand holding? How do you perceive it? How do you explain coincidences of grace? Do you ever get your mind rebooted by a tiny event? What's your perspective on gratitude? Basically, what's your take on all this?
And, also in closing, I want to say that I love you all and feel limitless gratitude for the grace filled gift of this bloggie family.
Love and hugs,