Cissy Brady-Rogers
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Father Richard Rohr says that the entire second half of life is about letting go…of ego, of doing, of the need to prove myself, of having things my way.

There’s a lot to let go of!

We Love You Cobbs

We Love You Cobbs

This past weekend I said goodbye to a dear friend, a soul sister who has walked with me the past ten years. A group of friends surprised her family Saturday morning. We showed up at their estimated time of departure to send them off with one last outpouring of love. Some helped finish packing, others vacuumed, some stood around visiting and drinking coffee. Then, we waved them off to the great adventure awaiting them in Washington.

When I returned home, I cried.

The tears began slipping out in little bits a few months ago when Lauren first told me she was moving.

Then again last Saturday night at a going away party.

Then again at her final yoga class with me last Wednesday. At the end of class, as the rest of the students lay in final resting pose, I went and adjusted her shoulders for the last time. Then, I looked at her face, so serene and lovely, and began to cry, again.

Goodbye Soul Friend

Goodbye Soul Friend

I know the tears speak of other “letting go” experiences. Of more than just a friend moving away. They remind me of the many I’ve loved who’ve moved on, either geographically or through death. The many I’ve known and loved who are no longer just around the corner, up the freeway, or a phone call away.

When I went to my yoga mat later Saturday morning, more tears came.

Not just for Lauren, but for Colleen, for Dee, for Peggy, for Andrea and Paul, for Marsha and Greg, for Francie, for Linda, for Patty and John, for so many soul friends who came and went as I’ve spent most of my life planted here in Los Angeles.

Not just for the living, but for my mom, my dad, aunts and uncles, grandparents I never met, people I grew up with, former pastors and their wives, many dear saints we worshipped with in churches over the years, no longer with us in body.

This week, I’m most aware that it’s another opportunity to let go of the love I want and open myself up to the love I already have.

Recommended Couples Resource

Recommended Couples Resource

A still popular self-help book, Getting the Love You Want, was first published over 20 years ago. It’s a good resource for helping couples develop more supportive, satisfying relationships.

And, getting the love you want isn’t always possible, even with the ones you love.

I wanted Lauren and her family to stay in California.

I want Paul and Andy to live next door.

I wanted to have a child.

The story is complex and many layered.

We never talked about it before marriage. I just assumed we’d have children.

Three years into our marriage, I was diagnosed with breast cancer and the doctors recommended we wait five years, just to be “sure.”

A few years later, my husband, who’d been my “commando” following my diagnosis, fell into a depression. He realized he’d probably been depressed his whole life and was finally beginning to deal with it.

Once I was ready to have kids. He wasn’t.

I stopped going to baby showers or hanging out with friends who had small children. It was too painful.

He wasn’t ready to say “yes” or “no.”

A few more years passed. Individual therapy. Couples therapy. Trying to work it out.

I got older. I felt my body changing. I wondered if having a child in my forties was a good idea. And found myself in tears every month during ovulation, grieving yet another opportunity to birth love into the world.

He still wasn’t ready to say “yes” or “no.” He wanted me to be happy, but didn’t feel a strong urge for fatherhood. And, he worried, “What if…cancer came back…depression reemerged…” Images of himself as a depressed, single dad haunted him.

After years of wrestling within myself, therapy with my husband, pastoral counseling, considering divorce, and shedding many tears in prayer, I made the decision to “let go” of the love I longed for with a child of my own body, in order to hold onto the love, I already had with my husband.

Letting go of the love I wanted. Keeping the love, I already had.

It wasn’t easy. It still isn’t easy.

On days like Saturday when a community of moms, dads and kids gather to send off another family, noticing I’m the only one there without children.

On days like Mother’s day last month or Father’s day yesterday when the focus is on the family.

And, I’m grateful for the wise ones like Richard Rohr who remind me that this is the path to life. No one gets to “have it all.” And, even if we get to have it all, once we get it, we’re told to let it all go.

Many major spiritual traditions offer teachings about letting go.

The Buddha said “You only lose what you cling to.”

The twelve step tradition tells us to “Let go and let God.”

From my faith tradition, I especially like Eugene Peterson’s translation of Jesus’ teaching on letting go.

“Anyone who intends to come with me has to let me lead. You’re not in the driver’s seat—I am. Don’t run from suffering; embrace it. Follow me and I’ll show you how. Self-help is no help at all. Self-sacrifice is the way, my way, to finding yourself, your true self. What good would it do to get everything you want and lose you, the real you? If any of you is embarrassed with me and the way I’m leading you, know that the Son of Man will be far more embarrassed with you when he arrives in all his splendor in company with the Father and the holy angels. This isn’t, you realize, pie in the sky by and by. Some who have taken their stand right here are going to see it happen, see with their own eyes the kingdom of God.”

Gifts are all around us. The kingdom of God is now.

May I have eyes to see the love around me today. In my husband, family and friends, but also in my neighbors, the grocery store clerk or the kind gestures offered by strangers.

For more on letting go, check out the offerings of my blogging community, beginning with Sarah who writes with heartfelt depth and wisdom on walking with her mom through ovarian cancer.

Stephanie Says Yes to Rest - Camping in Joshua Tree

Stephanie Says Yes to Rest – Camping in Joshua Tree

My friend Stephanie’s fierce commitment to living wholeheartedly and authentically inspires me. She shared her poem “Say Yes to Rest” with me in early October. She listened to her body’s signals and made a radical choice to take a few days off from work before she got sick. I was proud of her and grateful for the ways we support each other in self-care. And I knew it would be meaningful to those who follow my blog. I appreciate her willingness to share the wisdom of her lived experience here.

Say Yes to Rest by Stephanie Jenkins

The street outside my window is filled
with the rush of cars; their dirty engines
propel them in opposing directions
with equal measures of hurry
as if, for each one, there is an unseen fire
somewhere that only that one driver can put out.

I have pulled myself out of the hustle
and bustle today; I have crawled
out of the jaws of the beast
refusing to be devoured.

The ache that runs through my body, the piercing
in my skull, the awful pressure on my throat
like two angry hands pushing, are evidence
that I barely survived. My eyes throb,
there is a stabbing in my right side.

This is the violence of our day–we abuse both
earth and body in our relentless pursuit of productivity.
The thirst for output that refuses to be slaked
has indeed given us more…
more anxiety,
more fear,
more pollution,
more poverty,
more violence,
so much more…

Today I want less. I push pause
on the crazy, frenetic rush. I enter
into my own slice of Sabbath. I tend
to my aching bones with loving care.

I want to see what is real in this world,
my eyes long to be healed by the vision
of the rose unfurling towards the sun;
my body asks to be rocked and soothed
in the ocean’s cool embrace; my bones beg
the soft give of soil rather than the harshness of pavement;
my skin thirsts for canyon breezes and dappled light
instead of conditioned air and florescent bulbs.

And today I say yes to my longings.
I say yes to rest, yes to wild, yes to free.
Today I say yes to Love,
so I might find again what is real in this world.
__________

After sitting with Stephanie’s poem, wondering how to fit it into a blog so I could share it with others, I realized that I was the one who needed the lesson. Stephanie’s words were prophetic–calling me to “crawl out of the jaws of the beast” lest I too be devoured by the ways I’d fallen prey to believing if I just worked harder, more efficiently or found the right time management tool I’d be more successful. Stephanie helped name my experience.

Following a very busy September and first two weeks of October I found myself depleted, out-of-alignment with myself and God, and in deep need of refueling. As Alive and Well Women enters its second year, I was experiencing the emotional exhaustion and decreased sense of personal accomplishment that accompanies burnout–and is an occupational hazard of helping professionals! The goodness, blessings and excitement of birthing a nonprofit had worn off. Amidst the busyness of my rushed and useful life, I’d lost my center, my “why” and “how” of the work I am called to do in the world. Distracted and anxious about “what” I was doing, my self-worth and identity were becoming overly attached to my level of productivity. As Thomas Merton wrote in his Letter to a Young Activist, that is not the right use of my work!

Merton speaks to the activist in all of us when he advises: “All the good that you will do will come not from you but from the fact that you have allowed yourself, in the obedience of faith, to be used by God’s love. Think of this more, and gradually you will be free from the need to prove yourself, and you can be more open to the power that will work through you without your knowing it.”

Saying Yes to Rest in Coronado by Day

Saying Yes to Rest in Coronado by Day

I’m grateful that self-care and authenticity are the heart of Alive and Well. We are committed to practice what we preach. And I’m grateful for the remarkable team God is bringing together to support one another in these values and empower others to do the same. With their support and a very generous scholarship from The Cottage on Coronado, I spent last week recovering my center, remembering that the success or failure of anything I do is not a reflection of my self-worth.

It wasn’t easy to say “No” to the many tasks left undone on my list. As noted in research on the stresses of nonprofit work, despite the intrinsic rewards of the work we do, jobs in this sector often come with high demands, long working hours and low pay!  My main work is to stay rooted and grounded in God’s love and entrust outcomes to God’s care.

The wisdom of Stephanie’s experience is a gift to remember as we head into what can become a very frenetic season.  May we listen to our lives, find courage to press the pause button, and take time to rest!

I ran into an acquaintance last week at the dentist. A fitness instructor at a gym I used to attend, we’d had significant conversations about our shared health and wellness passions.

Several years have passed since I’d seen her, but we immediately recognized each other in the waiting room. We exchanged greetings and caught up briefly on where I’d gone and where she was teaching now.

Throughout the “conversation” she kept looking down at her cell phone, scrolling and looking back up. Sadly, it didn’t seem all that strange to me. A few years ago I might have been offended. But I guess like the proverbial frog in the kettle, I’ve grown accustomed to it. 

After I finished my business with the receptionist, I turned back to the waiting area. She was just a few feet away, sitting by the door. I walked to the door and bid farewell: “Hey___ it was good to see you…”

But, caught up in the digital world, she had totally blocked me out. She didn’t hear me or see me. She’d barely acknowledged my existence during our conversation, what made me think she’d hear my farewell greeting?

I didn’t take it personally. But as I walked to my car a flood of emotions and thoughts rose within me about how digital devices are altering human engagements. And concern about future generation’s capacity for empathy, vulnerability and authenticity.

Among other discoveries, psychologist Sherry Turkle’s research indicates that over-reliance on digital connection is diminishing our capacity for face-to-face engagement. In her latest book, Reclaiming Conversation: The power of talk in a digital age, she advocates for carving out “sacred” device free zones and embracing “unitasking”.

Digital Free at Lean-In Women's Retreat

Digital Free at Lean-In Women’s Retreat

Being more interested in our phones than the people in our presence is not good for the future of humanity. If we can’t invest time to be present with the real flesh and blood neighbors standing in line, sitting in a waiting room or at the dinner table, then how will we ever love our enemies?

It made me grateful for the work I do. I help people develop empathy with themselves and others. I sit with individuals and groups without cell phones or laptops. We have real engagements that sometimes get complicated and messy. Sometimes there are tears, sometimes voices get loud. That’s how real conversations with real people work. And only real face-to-face conversations help us develop empathy.

May the change begin with me!