Sunday, May 31, 2015

I know why the caged lion paces

Ever been to a zoo? Most of us have. Growing up I would visit the Lion House at Lincoln Park Zoo in Chicago. The big cat house was a particularly popular stop. You could walk in and immediately smell the animal musty scent. You would hear a muffled roar or yawn that was loud and terrifying echoing off the ceiling tiles way overhead. A crowd would be clumped together by a railing. You walk past cages were you see a bit of a sleeping lion or cheetah until you get to the clump. You look up and there in front of you is a very large very dangerous cat pacing along the front of the cage.

Back and forth. Back and forth.

Come closer it seems to say.

Back and forth.

I could tear you to pieces.

Back and forth.

I could eat you alive.

Back and forth.

I remember feeling two things: One, very glad for the bars and two, empathy for that poor animal trapped in a little cage. It must be so bored and pent up with emotion that all it can do is pace.

Or maybe it is acting on its natural instincts so that all it can do is go back and forth because if it stops it may explode.

And that is exactly how I feel sometimes too.

Several years ago, I had a relationship that didn’t go the way I wanted it to go. I realized I liked him and he realized that he needed to move across the country. Which he did.

(Please don’t take out the violins, it is for the best I know. Yada yada.) 

Afterwards I was angry, hurt and confused. Pent up with emotion. I stayed that way for months.

Now I am a praying person. (Sidenote: I don’t mean to make you uncomfortable if you aren’t and I am not here to preach at you. I share because it is part of my story and a part of this one. And please know I whole-heartedly respect your story)

When I pray, I communicate my deepest groanings and longings of my soul. It is one of my purest forms of expression and a way I can connect to God.

After this man left my life I couldn’t pray. I felt like I was numb.

I was wrong.

The first crack came while I was sitting in a field in Gettysburg. I remember looking at the field where so many died. It was such a mournful hallowed space. It was a beautiful field. My heart was moved. The protective shell started to break, but it took sitting there in that scared place to begin the process.

Days later, still cracked and still unable to pray, I found myself on vacation in Wisconsin. I decided to jump on the Jet Ski.

In the beginning it started like a normal ride. I was alone zipping over the water. My face was wet from the spray. I came down hard on the waves. I was flying over the surface. I wanted to go chase something and run away from something at the same time.

I remember that I yelled. 

And then I realized I was mad, really mad. And hurt, really hurt.

 I began to feel so much. I felt I wanted to burst open.

And I prayed. Well, it was more like a scream but it became a prayer.

I was finally at a place where my surroundings and my internal heart matched, roaring across open water heading to nowhere. In a place where the angst, pain, fear, doubt, shock and anger in my heart felt safe to express itself.

Eventually, I healed.

I remembered this moment because in the last several days I can’t seem to stop moving. I find myself not being able to stay in one spot. I pace. I pace some in morning. I pace some in the evening. I go for extra long walks. I drive my car. I drive in my car a lot. I listen to a few lines of music and then stop. I swing back and forth from tears to fears to elation. But mostly, I pace.

Back and forth. Back and forth.

My heart is working something out.

And I know I need to let go and surrender. Embrace the unknown. I know I do. But like a stubborn toddler I refuse to be quieted. Like a little child I need to exhaust myself before I rest.

It is just how I am sometimes.

And I think that is okay. And I hope you feel it is okay for you too.

I know that we live in a busy culture. I am not talking about that. I am talking about allowing your thoughts and feelings to work themselves in the way that they need. 

I am talking about giving yourself permission to let your heart speak to you in it’s own language. Mysterious that it is.

Sometimes your heart needs to move and therefore you do to. 

If you find yourself in a cage somewhere I hope you give yourself permission to let yourself out.  

I said I know why the caged lion paces. And I do. But there is a difference between me and that poor animal. 

And I think it is hope. The kind of hope that feels awful for a long time. But it is there. Waiting for us as we go back and forth. 

This evening I went for a walk again. My heart still full with many questions that either I don’t want to accept the answers to or they haven’t presented themselves yet. I don’t even know which is which. 

I feel many things but one of them is gratitude. 

I sigh yes, but I also get to look up at the stars.

I may feel some really hard things but I am least feeling them. 

And unlike some I feel that this too shall pass.

My heart is full and heavy but it is also free. 

Live cageless.

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