From The Archives: Beyond the edge of the campfire
[Originally posted March 26, 2006]
A personal sharing about my own experience of an edge . . .
Certain circumstances recently brought two small and exquisite tiffany lamps that were meant to go on the mantel. One of them would have to replace a very old, tiny shoji lamp that had been Tim's and on his mantel, and one of the first things I had noticed when first meeting him, which seems aeons ago. It had been in pretty bad shape then, and over the years I'd managed to keep it together with tape for the rips, staples for the wood, and the glue of determination. But this time it was clear that its days were truly over, and with a sinking heart, I slowly carried it to the rubbish bin. The guilt I felt about this seemed no less than a mother burying a child. Tim stood by me the entire time, but refused to comment, and remained silent but supportive. He wanted me to figure this out on my own. I had reached an edge.
I realized I had reached this edge after my third return to the bin in order to fish it out and bring it back in. Each time, I felt a slight veneer of relief, but then would catch an exquisitely subtle feeling of something that I couldn't name — I could only feel it. Each time I retrieved the lamp out of the bin, it felt as if my world slightly contracted back into something familiar, and therefore safe and tolerable. But when I relented and put it back, I felt the tension of my world's edges very slightly expand by the anxiety arising. Contracting and expanding, like breathing in a different way, and making me feel faint and confused. The feeling of expansion caught my attention and my curiosity about this new territory, which was alive, squirming and wriggling like a butterfly trying to get out of the long familiar but now used up cocoon. This was like the natural curiosity of the explorer who knew she had to venture beyond the safety of the campfire, sooner or later, to see what was beyond the unfamiliar mountains.
It seems like a small and silly thing, my struggle with a wood and paper lamp. It had been my campfire that I had settled in next to every night for the past 15 years, helping me feel safe and close to the old familiar warmth of the relationship I'd had with Tim. In The Risen, we speak about the necessity for holding on to dear, familiar objects of our loved ones, for as long as we should ever want. There is no right or wrong about our decisions, only feelings. Our loved ones watch us as we hold and caress their former possessions, patiently waiting for us to realize that their existence is not in the objects of the past, but in the present, right there, with us.
I decided, after the third return to the rubbish bin, that I could let the lamp go. Almost immediately, a new kind of comfort and grounding arrived — I felt expanded, lighter, and freer. I was saying "yes" to life by allowing the anxiety to simply be anxiety, and then to venture through it, letting my hands and feet take me in the right direction that they intuitively knew was the right way.
That night I dreamt of seeing myself in a mirror — I saw the reflection of someone I'd never seen before. Eyes, hair, shape of face, skin — all completely different. Fascinated, I realized this was the next stage of "me" and represented a new possibility of manifest being, whereas before, there had only been potentiality. Choosing to let go of the lamp didn't lessen the light, but instead had let more light in, and was an act of further awakening to the experience that is my immortal existence. My life had expanded in consciousness and in awareness, bringing me closer to that of Tim's present state of mind and spirit.
Although he still hasn't said a word about all this, it's clear that he's proud of me by his smile, as well as patiently enduring his own edges around waiting for the day when I will join him at our new hearth in the wilderness of the infinite Universe.