What To Do When You Are Afraid (& Some Big News)
“Today, like every other day, we wake up empty and frightened. Don’t open the door to the study and begin reading. Take down a musical instrument.” – Rumi
I woke up this Saturday morning feeling entirely out of sorts. I’d had a nightmare, I felt exhausted, and all I could think of were the million-and-one things on my to-do list for the month ahead.
I didn’t think about the sunshine and beautiful weather, or the Skype date I had scheduled with my best friends. Despite the excitement of this season of my life (*hints at the big news*), I just felt…grumpy.
But I took myself for a walk anyway, because sometimes, you have to love yourself with a little tough love.
And I started to notice things. I started to see the flowers smiling up at me. I started to appreciate the sun on my face, the unique light of this day. I started to think to myself, “This grouchiness is a mask for fear. And if you let it take over and you miss this, you’ll never be here again.”
And I remembered, as if in a flash, the best moment of my week, the moment when fear was replaced with illumination. And as I walked, I began writing this post in my mind…
I am sitting at the L’Arche table at dinner on Thursday night, as usual. The lights are out and the candles are lit for prayer. I’m happy to see everyone, but I’m entirely depleted by my day. I went to a series of early-morning appointments, attended meetings, edited reports, purchased groceries…and somehow, I’m here, a shell of myself.
But the cook, leading prayer, asks us to share the best part of our day. When it is my turn, I share how I sipped strong coffee while waiting for those early-morning appointments. As I drank, I noticed how the sunlight slanted through the big hospital windows. I ran into my husband at the food store; a happy surprise. I have come to a table full of beloved faces. I am tired, I say, but I am blessed.
And I say these things, and I mean these things, but still, my body is weary and my heart is heavy.
Once we’ve gone around the table, we say a closing prayer. After that, each core member reaches for (or receives) a candle. This is a house tradition, a way of honoring the core members and delighting them, too. Each blows out a candle in their own way. Leo* puffs his out quickly, while Theresa takes her time to choose a wish. Miguel takes a tremendous breath and blows with all his strength. And Cassandra…
Cassandra pushes her candle toward me. We are seated next to one another, and she slides the candle in front of me. She’s never done this for me before.
“For me?” I ask, incredulous.
“Yes. For you,” she says, certain.
“Honey…thank you…I just…how did you know? Thank you.” I don’t have the words to say how I feel.
Though Cassandra has demonstrated a gift for knowing unspoken needs in the past, it astonishes me every time she does it. How does she know when I need her small surprises? How does she know that I need what she has to offer– her candle, her light?
I don’t know how she knows. But she does. And so I blow out the candle and make a wish.
“Shall I tell you what I wished for?” I ask her.
“No…” she trails off.
“Because then it won’t come true, right?”
I didn’t tell her then, but I will tell you now what I wished for. I wished to grow up to be a woman like her. I wished that I might offer my words, my light, with the same gentle wisdom that she does. I wished that I would become a woman as rich in love as Cassandra is.
This Saturday, though I woke up ‘empty and frightened’, I also managed to remember: Cassandra offered me her light. In doing so, she gave me both a gift and a challenge. Her small offering continues to turn my fatigue and fear into brilliance. Likewise, when you are afraid, you must remember: you have been given a light.
By that I mean: your acts of compassion and courage mean more than you know. Like Cassandra’s offering— which came just when I felt the weight of darkness bearing down on me— what you have to give may be enough to see another through.
This writing is my way of ‘taking down a musical instrument’, my way of counteracting the ‘mean reds’ with proactive creation. Sharing this story with you is my way of bearing the light.
The Rumi poem ends like this: “Let the beauty we love be what we do. There are hundreds of ways to kneel and kiss the ground.”
And with those words, I’d like to share some big news: after a great deal of thought, discernment and prayer, I recently gave my notice at L’Arche. After nearly 5 years of serving in various roles (and over 2 years in my current role as Program Director), I will be transitioning out of my current role as of Nov. 8th…in order to pursue writing full time!
This signifies a lifelong dream coming true for me, and the time feels ripe for me to take the leap. While there is sadness surrounding the departure (and a lot of work to do before I go!), there’s also a great sense of excitement and anticipation. Though I will be transitioning out of my role at L’Arche, I know that the family I’ve found will stay with me. In that spirit, I look forward to being more present to the people (and less present to the paperwork).
I’ll keep you posted as to the new projects on my horizon; at present, I’m excited about pursuing freelance opportunities in copywriting, serving as a weekly columnist at Autism After 16 (here’s my latest, “Run Away Laughing”), and launching my book this winter!
Lastly, thank you for the love and support you’ve shared with me here. Your comments and stories are a big part of what’s empowered me to go for my dream. For you, I give thanks with all my heart.
How are you ‘letting the beauty [you] love be what [you] do’
this week? Tell me in the comments! (Also, congratulations to Anna,
who commented last week & was selected to receive a free copy of
Amy Julia Becker’s new book, A Good And Perfect Gift!)
If you desire to bear the light– to ground yourself and grow in relationship— you’ll want to get on the advance-notification list for the new book I’ll be publishing this winter (which will be offered at a 50% discount ONLY for those on the pre-sale list).
If you want to be on the advance notification list…
Simply click here & pop your email in the box!
Also, if you’ve enjoyed the post, please consider receiving new posts via email. You’ll also receive a free copy of “Your Creed of Care: How To Dig For Treasure In People (Without Getting Buried Alive).”
*All names have been changed.
About Caroline McGraw
I'm a would-be childhood paleontologist turned full-time writer, digging for treasure in people and uncovering sacred stories in ordinary days. I grew up in New Jersey (think peaceful suburb, not Newark), graduated from Vassar with honors, then served as a live-in caregiver and program director at L'Arche Washington DC. Nowadays, my husband renovates our historic 1901 home in northwestern Alabama, while I try (& fail) to keep our cat Bootsie from developing an epic tuna fish addiction. It's a beautiful life. Follow me on Facebook, Twitter, or Google+.