Well, it happened. The world got too big for me again.
I saw it coming, or at least I saw many things coming, and I knew I was strong enough to handle it. Most of it. Then one little extra step and it became too much.
On Monday the unexpected happened: I went to a rheumatologist looking for answers but not having much confidence it would be unlike any of the other times I had seen a professional and walked away empty-handed. (Empty pockets, too.) So it seemed fairly routine.
I would go in. I would answers questions. I would describe symptoms. And they would say with not much conviction: "well, it might be this, so why don't you try such and such?"
So it was a bit of an acme anvil when they announced with confidence and no reserve the pattern they saw so often. I suddenly found my empty hands had been filled with a diagnosis. A real, live, this-is-what-has-made-my-whole-life-complicated answer.
And it's heavy. And I don't want it. And I am starting a lot of sentences with "and" when the reality is most of them are ending that way for me right now. The fact is, I don't want to write this diagnosis into my story, lest it become more of my story than necessary, so I may just not. It doesn't really change things in the moment. It validates my experience, but doesn't offer a fixing formula. The time since has been a melting pot of muddled feelings.
So I walked a labyrinth.
It was already planned, and it couldn't have worked out better. On the night of the summer solstice, just before the strawberry moon rose, I met a friend and she drove me to the grounds where the event was taking place. It was filled up, a waiting list was mentioned, but somehow they made a little more space. Together we walked a labyrinth to the vibration of crystal singing bowls.
I want to say it was prayerful and in a way it was, but not as deeply prayerful as if there hadn't been a crowd. It took several self-corrections to focus on the experience and not on who might be watching me. (Nobody, of course, but many of us have these anxieties.)
It eventually became an experience of being drawn in again and again as I let myself wander in and out of the ego fixation of needing to be somebody going somewhere. It was when I realized this that I began to notice heart-shaped leaves on the path beneath me. I looked up at the clouds and another heart shape was visible but transformed before me into a butterfly. I looked at the path before me and out of the woods darted first one deer and then another, perhaps irresistibly drawn to the vibrations from the bowls.
My own heart pumped in my ears as the summer heat and humidity weighed down and the shoes on my feet seemed tighter and closer with every step. It was a labor of will more than excitement over a dream coming true. (I have long desired to walk a labyrinth, you see.) I wondered if the heart was a visible symbol for me that divine love can reach me on any part of my path.
Our guide had asked us to let go of expectations. She urged us all, personally, before we stepped onto the path, to allow anything or nothing to happen and accept it all in peace. We were introduced to the concept of the singing bowls' vibrations performing hidden work, opening chakras as different ones resonated. My throat was stubborn and didn't want to be moved. I pressed on it with my fist, so difficult had it become to swallow. I knew what it meant, sure as if words were spoken: I have been hiding from a gift, and it's high time I swallow my fears and begin again on a very old path I thought was over. I let the thought pass through, as advised by our guide, instead of trying to decipher a plan. It would return later to unfold in its time.
I didn't see angels, but the presence of many messengers was felt. I didn't receive any mountaintop euphoria, but the quietness tiptoed in with the grace of a deer. I wasn't struck by any forceful convictions- they were there, but in a gentle urging kind of way that was anything but in a hurry.
That may have been the hardest message of the labyrinth: To slow down. To make way for others on the path. To not panic when I wasn't sure of what came next.
The last thing I remember before finding the middle of the labyrinth was looking up to see a statue of St. Francis, arms raised in benediction. I don't know why he had a wolf and a butterfly by his side, (two animals that have huge personal significance to me,) but I intend to do some research. If any of you know, please share in the comments!
The world is still too much, but I carry with me a knowing of being held, of finding peace among wild things, of friendship, and of a sense of confidence that somehow, some way of which I do not know or understand, there is a healing in store. I know what shape I hope it takes, but for now, I will continue walking my own life labyrinth and pray for an abundance of grace to rain down on me and bring relief to the journey.
I pray that prayer for all of you, too.