A ten-year anniversary is fast approaching. It marks a life-changing decision by my BFF. She’d always longed to live in a temple. So she moved from the west coast to the east coast and took up permanent residence in a spiritual retreat center. Her new temple mates didn’t immediately warm to her. It made for an excruciatingly lonely few months. We talked frequently on the phone because as she said, “I need a place to rest.”
It was years before I fully understood the significance of giving another a place to rest. After all, I wasn’t doing anything when we talked. It looked to me like listening and loving, prompting her to laugh now and then and reminding her she was lovable, courageous and perseverant.
Fast forward through a few major transitions of my own including leading an intense project that spanned three years, being on-duty in the last days of my father’s battle with pancreatic cancer, and temporarily distancing from the man I loved while we assessed whether we had a future. In each, I had work to do. The much harder task was allowing myself to be changed in ways I couldn’t control or predict. Part of me had to come undone before a fuller, less guarded and more relateable woman could come forward. During the undoing I couldn’t rest in normal anymore. Normal vanished.
Thank goodness it did. Subtle structures that let me move through my days without much fuss – without conscious awareness – were no longer. With a modicum of distance, I began to see those structures for what they were. Flimflam. Faulty. Mere toothpicks of a foundation. I often find letting go of illusions to be exhilarating. Still, in each of these instances I was left with a problem. Where could I rest my fledgling consciousness each time I lost my sea legs?
Cue the miracle of growth-oriented friends and family. They neither coddle nor enable. They care, listen, empathize, and above all reflect back. Through them I get a glimpse of the alchemical process I’ve entered. Sometimes their presence is enough. No. It’s huge. It reminds me that other people whom I consider to be pillars of strength and compassion lived to tell about their own foundations crumbling under their feet.
And so we do this for one another. Letting people rest on us during trials, transformations, traverses. We hold the aspiration on their behalf that they take full advantage of their own undoing, allowing them to open to the eventual appearance of a deeper resting place than they had ever known.