Thursday, September 24, 2009

Life's not what it's not

Good Morning! -- and thank you for your patience during my absence. Tuesday was my husband's birthday, and we had planned to go to the Washington Coast for two days to celebrate, but at the last minute he got a consulting job and so I ended up going with a photographer friend to celebrate.

It was fun: we spent a lot of time on the beach with our cameras, the weather was perfect, the cabin and the food at the Kalaloch Lodge (a place I'd always wanted to stay) were wonderful, and my friend was a perfect traveling companion.

But when I saw this scrawled on a log at Rialto Beach, I had to photograph it. Because the whole time I was there, I was thinking of my husband and wishing he were with me. And thinking of my daughter in Vermont, who turns 21 today without me there to give her a hug and offer a celebratory bottle of champagne. And thinking of you, my companions on the blog road, and feeling sad that there was no wireless at the lodge, so I couldn't share some of the wonderful images from the trip with you.

But, as I realized in my meditation this morning -- and told my daughter, who called in the middle of my sit to thank me for her presents and share some tearful concerns about the young man who's visiting her this week -- Life's not what it's not: it just is what it is. We can spend our time worrying about what it's not; we can even view everything through that lens of disappointment. Or we can accept that what's happening is what's happening; even begin to believe that what's happening is what's supposed to happen -- that all of what challenges us now is a way of preparing us and bringing us to what awaits us next.

In Anam Cara this morning, I was reading (and I apologize if I've stated this here before, but I think it bears repeating) a quotation O'Donohue cites from Paul Valery: "A difficulty is a light; an insurmountable difficulty is a sun." O'Donohue uses this as a way of explaining his own thinking on this tendency we have to get caught up in what is not. Perception, he says, "is crucial to understanding. How you see, and what you see, determine how you will be. Your perception, or your view of reality, is the lens through which you see things. Your perception detemines the way things will behave for you and toward you...

Deep within us, there is a terrible impulse and drive toward perfection. We want everything flattened into the one shape. We do not like unexpected shapes. One of the essential aspects of beginning to re-imagine [life] is to awaken the ability to welcome that which is difficult and awkward. Frequently... it is our IMAGE of it that makes it appear difficult and awkward.... The image is not merely a surface; it also becomes a lens through which we behold a thing. We are partly responsible for the construction of our own images, and completely responsible for how we use them. To recognize that the image is not the person or the thing is liberating."

If we persist in looking at our lives through the lens of what is missing, we run the very serious risk of never seeing what IS; the incredible gifts that surround us even in the challenges we face or the times when life doesn't go the way we planned. Which doesn't mean we don't notice or think about what might be missing from time to time. But to focus on it to the exclusion of all else might mean we miss some amazing gifts and opportunities -- like these beautiful scenes, which were what I saw when I turned away from this log and began to appreciate my surroundings.


Maureen said...


Your text today so beautifully matches the images.

Isn't "Anam Cara" just a wonderful book to own?

Anonymous said...

Oh wow. When I read the quote of the difficulty and the insurmountable difficulty it literally pulled a deep, noiseful sound of sorrow from within my heart into the air. JUST what I needed to hear today about my focus, my lens. I am thanking God for the blessings you leave for me to find...

I am adding that quote to my prayer blog, btw, I love it so!

Kimberly Mason said...

Ha! I was looking back through a post I had made 5 months ago when I was reading the same chapter in a book I am reading again and I found this at the end of the post (

I often find myself in a mindset where I am so worried about whether I am doing something RIGHT that I forget to experience what IS...

“How we Christians fear straying from the correct path! In our concern to do it right, we have forgotten how to respond spontaneously to an encounter with the Divine.” -Brother Robert Lenz, O.F.M., Iconographer, from the forward to Behold the Beauty of the Lord: Praying with Icons

Diane Walker said...

Thank you both -- and I love that quote!

When did you start the new blog? How did I miss that?

Kimberly Mason said...

You missed it (the start of the new prayer blog) because I was pretty quiet about it for a while...and you were on vacation when I announced it, I think.

It's getting to where I had more to say about Jesus stuff (the technical term *g*) and I didn't want to bore or maybe scare away the Non-Jesus-y quilters (another technical term)

I'm glad you are back. Just in time to give me the swift kick I've been looking for. Been spending some time feeling sorry for myself.

Joyce Wycoff said...

Diane ... thank you so much for this post ... you said so beautifully what I've been feeling.