“Still, what I want in my life
is to be willing
to be dazzled—
to cast aside the weight of facts
and maybe even
to float a little
above this difficult world.
I want to believe I am looking
into the white fire of a great mystery.
I want to believe that the imperfections are nothing—
that the light is everything—that it is more than the sum
of each flawed blossom rising and falling. And I do.”
― Mary Oliver, House of Light
“This lotion smells like a barn.”
For someone who loves words, I certainly have a hard time putting them together in real-time. By no means a compliment, I neither meant it as a criticism. Somehow smelling both earthy and synthetic, I was five years old again, twirling on hay in my uncle’s barn, watching him feed a splotched-skin calf with a botte Jack must have tossed down the beanstalk.
No cows. No barn. Just me, a massage table, and my neck in a vice-hold by the physical therapist. Did you know I’m going to physical therapy? I think you’re supposed to go for a legitimate reason like “post-car-accident” or “surgery-recovery” or something with the phrase “rehabilitation” in it.
I am there simply because I’m weak. I ignored and gagged my inner alarm and when it still wouldn’t shut up, I just disconnected the battery pack. You healthy, regulated people know how this ends. The only thing stronger than my stubbornness is my body’s primordial demand to be listened to. Eventually, more draining than feeling perpetually weak and tired is continually trying to outrun that feeling.
Here I am at physical therapy, shoulders looped to a machine, having to face the reality of my weakness. It’s not pretty. I am a proud, proud person. My body has always been strong so when three (count them one, two, three, that’s it) pounds cause my back to spasm during an exercise I don’t recognize myself. When an excruciating neck-stretch is interrupted by an aid because it looks from afar as if I “wasn’t doing anything and just waiting” (yes, someone said that to me), I have a mini existential crisis.
Weakness is the battle. Weakness can be defined as a lack of vigor, a feebleness, an inadequacy. My day feels bound by the deficits. Deficit of time. Deficit of energy. Deficit of vertebrae that don’t reverberate with numbness. When I feel feeble, inadequate, lacking, I find myself waiting. That’s my true enemy. I begin waiting for a better time to begin. A time when there will be more time. When I will feel better. When I can start pursuing these ever-shifting dreams. Why are we waiting for a time we know is not coming?
My grace is enough; it’s all you need.
My strength comes into its own in your weakness. (2Corinthians12:9)
I don’t understand these words. I just keep reading them because I trust it is true and at some point I will internalize this truth. For now, I have stopped running. I have turned and faced the looming wave of weakness. I am allowing it to crash cold and wet and powerful and shocking against me. I’m ready to do the hard, disorienting work of building back my strength. I don’t want to outrun. I don’t want to wait.
I want to be dazzled. I want to stare into the mystery and yes, to maybe even float a little.