A very special guest post
I am excited and honored to introduce you to my dear friend, Brooke. (Who is here with us today for my first ever guest post!)
To describe Brooke in just a few words is not an easy task. I'll just say it's a great joy to call her friend; this person who stretches & opens and expands each day, right before my amazed eyes. She teaches me how to love anyway. She shows me what beauty may come when one steps away from fear & old conditioned junk & toward what is real & true.
She picks me up & dusts me off when i might otherwise stay head-first in the muck. She holds the space for me to vent and ramble the same stories over and over again. She becomes giddy when i paint something new.
She'll sweep you off your feet with her writing. And her piano playing. And her ability to step out of the box--again and again. She is my friend & i love her.
In our high school musical I played Chavaleh in Fiddler on the Roof, the spitfire redhead who dreamily sings "Matchmaker" with her sisters, and in the end blatantly defies her Jewish tradition to elope with a Russian Gentile. She is disowned by her father and outcast from her family and community. Through the entire show there is the repeated refrain, "Tradition! Tradition! Tradition!" In fact this word makes up the entire chorus of a song.
I remember how powerfully I could identify with the storyline of Fiddler on the Roof, as if it was all just stored memory, and with Chavaleh; how perfectly natural it felt for this woman to follow her heart, rather than to shut it down, even if in the end she might be wrong. At the time I had no idea how significant to my experience this musical would become, as I too would marry for love, outside of my faith, (in my case, at the time, Mormon) very much defying my own tradition.
When I grew up and married a non-Mormon outside of the temple, in a godless wedding, I defied my roots and surprised everyone, even myself. Having such a personal exodus foreshadowed by playing the character of Chavaleh has become a kind of cosmic joke for me.
I could have never imagined defying tradition, but when the situation arose, there was never much question of which way to travel, that is, when I could finally hear my own heart over all of the voices--some near and dear to me-- warning me, and pleading with me not to throw away my salvation.
Overriding the fear at that time was a deeper knowledge that I did not, and could never believe in a God that would only gather part of his flock back to him. I couldn't believe that God would be partial to a few, nor that he would be hampered in his love and acceptance of all his children, no matter what their religion, getting caught up in the details of our very individual human experience and circumstance.
Many years later there was the exodus from my marriage, and another story of losing my religion in the name of love. I have a lot of admiration for my ex-husband, who with me, was able to let go of the idea that our relationship should last forever, when we both knew that we were slowly killing each other. In the end it felt natural to let it end, because both of us knew, even if just on an intuitive level, that we were loving each other more by letting the other go, than by forcing us to stay together out of fear. I see that relationships never end, however, they merely transform--what they transform into, is up to us.
Day by day, my ex and I are making something better for our family, by changing the form, by letting go of what life should look like. Our intention in getting divorced was never to tear our family apart, but to build something better for all of us.
So, I lost another religion, along with a lot of fear. I realize that early on, the desires of my heart have been stronger than my fears. I am reassured by this as I continue my path. The way I walk through this world may look at times subversive and iconoclastic to some, but there is a deeper truth that I can't ignore, and it knows no bounds. It eases and heals, rather than destroys and labels. I realize that I have always been heeding its call. It becomes easier and easier as I see what amazing possibilities can appear in the place of fearful ones.
I am continually losing my religions to find heart, and it always feels better. Of course, for some letting go of their religions might be staying married, or finding a religion with, say, the Mormons. I am not advocating leaving your cherished religions, or marriages. I am more interested in the patterns that appear in our lives to help us to become free to listen to our hearts. Every way is unique. It has to be. Only you can know what path is closest to your heart, whether it is living fully, or is shutting it down. No one knows but you.
I am learning that nothing is what it seems, that everything I have feared, when faced, has never been anything more than a dark shadow easily cast away by moving into the light. It is amazing who comes out of the woodwork to love you when you are sure that you will be burned at the stake. You leave the people who would burn you behind, or in some cases you bring them along, into another kind of world where love rules.
Some religions I am still losing, like that my house should be perfectly clean, that my body should be perfect, that my kids should keep their rooms clean, that my kids should be well-behaved all the time, and on time for school, that I should be a supermom, and a superwoman, and have a super garden. There is a lot of pain from holding these religions, but I do see that I have made room for peace within some of them, and that the peaceful space holds a lot more love and acceptance, and compassion for others. I also see that the more painful the religion I hold, the more that it speaks to deeper aspects of myself wanting to heal--wanting to let go and let love in.
So, what patterns have always been there for you? Can you recognize how they have organized aspects of your life into gentle attempts to lead you out of your struggles? Any foreshadowing? What religions have given way for you, allowing you to nestle into your heartspace, to hear the softness of your own heart singing a sweet and ancient song of the way back to your gentle and loving truth?
There is one guarantee, that listening to this song will never yield more pain and suffering, at least that you'll ever look at in the same way. It will open you, it will hold you, and always, it will give you a feeling of coming home.
***Brooke Meservy is a writer, teacher and mother of two daughters. Her passion is to walk a path of heart in life, and to rejoice with others she meets along the way. You can read more of her writings on her blog Wild Road.