Start by sitting…

In advance of its big change to butterfly, a larva cocoons itself away during its most vulnerable state. All species cocoon in some fashion, some for a mere two weeks, some for an entire winter, and some for a 9-month gestation. All cocoon in self-protection as they transition, risking death if they emerge too soon.

Just over a month ago, I was hit by a tidal wave of uncertainty. At least that’s what it felt like. In response, I retreated to my own cocoon, the cocoon I use most often when “threatened” by the waves of change. I retreated to the busy-ness of life “cocoon,” confusing distraction for protection, and retreated from all the things that truly ground me: solitude, prayer & meditation, writing, gardening, and honest, vulnerable connection with trusted friends. I thought, “If I keep standing, I can steel myself against this wave without being pulled under.” It’s obvious I’m not a scientist.

It began on a Monday evening. My nerves were already raw from helping prepare my daughter for a month-long adventure overseas (fodder for another post!) when my husband let me know that, in two weeks, his company was consolidating operations and he was losing his job. I couldn’t breathe, but I had a book club meeting to get to so I headed out the door with few details and buckets of fear.

That evening, I tossed and turned until I finally got out of bed.  I mentally calculated our financial commitments and resources. I paced. I searched the internet for open positions. I prayed. I (momentarily) trusted, then I made contingency plans.  I recalculated bills and balances, paced some more, searched the job boards, and prayed some more. I (briefly) trusted again before I ran “what if” scenarios until I couldn’t think anymore. Finally, I fell to sleep with the help of late night television. I awoke 2 hours later, and the cycle began again; calculate, pace, search,  pray, kinda-sort-of trust, contingency plan, and repeat.

I ran this race, on and off, for roughly 4 weeks. During most of that time, I would say, and occasionally believe, the right words; “Everything happens for a reason,” “God is working something here,” “Trust, trust, trust,” and “He (my husband) has needed a change; this’ll be good for him–for all of us.” I thought of our many friends that have survived tough times, including lay-offs in this “new economy.” I thought of our own experiences surviving uncertainty. In spite of the fact that my husband was given a generous severance package, that we are all healthy, are blessed with each other and good friends, and that we have savings to help carry us through, the moments I felt at peace–those “kinda-sort-of trusting moments”–were far and few between. And, all I really wanted was to feel the peace that comes from trusting.

Well, kinda-sort-of. Truthfully, with my daughter leaving and my husband losing his job, what I really wanted was to feel like I had control– control over something–over anything. And therein, was the real problem–a total lack of awareness that I did have control, and that I had given it all away to fear, once again.

My thoughts flittered like bees moving from flower to flower. Concerns about this bill, that insurance claim, or next year’s schooling curriculum moved quickly in and out of focus. Random worries crowded out reason and the chaos that filled my brain clouded all perspective. I retreated further into daily busy-ness in an attempt to hide from everything and everyone, including myself, while trying to maintain control.  Fears I had long ago put to rest re-awakened like zombies, stealing from me the realization that I was in control–in control of my thoughts, my actions, and my reactions, even if I didn’t believe it.

Last week, my husband came home with new job, which he started yesterday. We never went without, my daughter is having a great time on the other side of the world, and my younger daughter and I are now enjoying our coveted “alone time.” Under stress, I had repeated a familiar error–I chose the wrong cocoon. I gave up my solitude, my meditative prayer time, my writing, my garden, my trust. I gave up all the sources in which I find answers or, at the very least, peace. Never once did I sit still long enough to think, really think. Never once did I sit still long enough to listen, really listen.

If you’ve spent any time at the ocean shore, you’ve likely seen the surfers bobbing up and down in the water on their boards. With careful timing, some stand and ride a wave in, while others impatiently misread the water and are consumed by the very wave they seek to conquer. Rarely, is a surfer thrown from a board or consumed by a wave while sitting.

Timing, as they say, is everything. The bigger the change, the bigger my feelings of vulnerability. The bigger my feelings of vulnerability, the faster I move to take action. I get busy in an attempt to minimize the impact of the change. I get busy in an attempt to control the situation. Impatiently, I attempt to stand before I read the water.

In her play, A Raisin in the Sun,  Lorraine Hansbury wrote, “Never be afraid to sit a while and think.” Sitting on a surf board serves a purpose, as does a cocoon. Sometimes, while reading the waves, you just have to sit a while and think rather than act. Next time stress finds its way into my thoughts, I will remember that, though I may not be able to control a situation, I can control my thoughts. And, thinking is best done while sitting. After all, there must be a reason God didn’t design cocoons with standing room.

P.S. For those friends that have walked with me during my most vulnerable times, knowing me better than I know myself, and coming along side me regardless of my cocoon and my attempts to stand alone, I thank you and I love you. ♥

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