Several of my yoga teachers end their class with a reading. Usually, I ignore the reading and think on the good things that God has given me such as breath, flexibility, a beating heart, and purpose. And I remind myself that I am fearfully and wonderfully made; your works are wonderful, I know that full well. (Psalm 139:14)
But today was different. She caught my attending while reading the following passage from Mark Nepo found in The Book of Awakening:
I was aching and vulnerable, feeling far from home, when, through the harsh shore wind, I saw a large rock surrounded by the rough churned-up sea. The rock was covered with all kinds of animals: willet, gull, cormorant, sea lion, seal, pelican, otter. All had found refuge from the hammering of the sea; climbing, winging, hauling themselves on the rock; living together, laying on each other; finding this rock-oasis of wind and sun; too tired once on the rock to fight, each having been wrung out by the pounding of the wet, wet hours.
I realized this is how the wounded find their way, how we have found each other, even in this book. Every survivor, regardless of what they survive, knows the hammering of the sea, and the rock we find refuge on is an exposed place where we finally accept each other—too tired from swimming to think any longer about territories, too tired to talk except through simple touch.
The wellness group I attended was such a rock. The meeting rooms of recovery are such a rock. The thousand quiet rooms of therapy are such a rock. For those who have suffered, tolerance is not a political position or even a principle. For those of us who have suffered, who have hauled ourselves into the sun, anything exhausted beside us is family.
My bird rock has always been associated with the people at church. When I was 18, it was a group of us who met every Sunday night at Kathleen and Sherman’s house. Early in my marriage, I surrounded myself with others who were learning what it meant to be married and sought the advice of Ms. Helen who had been married for 61 years at that time. As a young parent, I would meet other moms from church for what they now call play-dates. I watched for children who were well behaved at church and then sought out their parents to ask for advice.
But, somehow, when I wasn’t looking I grew old enough to be the mentor. I led Bible studies and book clubs. I surrounded myself with women who were less mature in the faith and shared what little knowledge I had gained along the way. And I hoped beyond hope that my experiences would help them along their way in the same that I had been helped.
I think that’s what I’m missing right now. I need someone to teach me how to age gracefully and I want to help someone avoid the mistakes that I’ve made in the past.
I need to find my own bird rock.