Thursday, November 02, 2006
Life On The Cerebral Plain
I have very little experience to go on when it comes to living life from somewhere other than my head. Living on a cerebral level feels much safer. Total control. My body, my feelings, my gut - well - they aren't nearly so predictable, you know? One time my mom was showing me something in her bookshelves when she touched my shoulder. My body's instant reaction was to freeze and try to get away from her touch. I was over 35 years old when that happened. The body remembers things that the mind would rather not. It doesn't seek permission first either. Scary stuff.
The last time the Gospel reading at the Mass was the one where Jesus says "Who do you say that I am?" Father Charlie asked us how we would answer that question. I know now why I gravitated towards a fundamentalist bent of evangelicalism all these years. It seemed to be about having the right answer and preening (at least inwardly) if you did. And since I have spent most of my life either convinced I was right or pretending to be, that whole mind set suited me well. And while I know there are fundamentalist Catholics out there, and as much as I sometimes want to run to their camp, living my faith from somewhere deeper than spouting off the 'right' answer is a challenge I try to embrace.
So, Father Charlie throws out Christ's question to us, "Who do you say that I am?" and I get all smug, sit up a bit straighter and call out, "Saviour." He shoots back without a moment's hesitation "Why?" I throw back at him something along the lines of Christ died for my sins and the rest of the answer I was used to getting brownie points for. The 'right, safe' answer. Something out of a textbook. Father Charlie said nothing in reply. No gold star for me. No pat on the back. In the intervening nano second of quiet someone else gave their answer. Several minutes of this goes on, with nearly everyone in our tiny congregation saying something, when he challenges another women in the pews to answer at more than a head level. At this he turns and tells all of us that we need to answer that question from somewhere more than a cerebral level. He draws his hand across his forehead, puts his hand over his heart and tells us we need to answer the question from our heart. And then he repeats Christ's question, "Who do you say that I am?" and leaves us hanging there - making us responsible for our own response.
Geez, I hate trick questions like that. After spending years being asked spiritual questions in a context where the person asking already has the set answer in mind, I get lost when the rules change. Ask me what I think and I can nearly give you a thesis. Ask me how I feel and more often than not I am stumped. I have lost track of the number of times I have been confronted with that question, "Who do you say that I am?" since hearing the Gospel read at the Mass every Sunday. It trips me up every time.
Where am I going with this tale? On some level I know that my sobriety, my abstinence, my linking together of one day at a time(s) hinges on living from somewhere other than my head. It means being open to listening to what my body, my feelings, my gut is trying to tell me. Doing so scares the crap out of me. But life has become pretty unmanageable by trying to live solely from my head so I know it's either quit my bitching and jump into the unkown or accept the same old, same old. I hope to God I've come to the end of the same old, same old.
Last month at one of my AA meetings a woman shared how she lived her life from her heart. She said that she knew all too well what life had been like when she tried living it from her head. I immediately thought of the magnet you see in this post. When I got home I took it off my fridge, put it in an envelope and wrote her a short note of explanation. I got goose bumps when she shared at that meeting because she nearly quoted the magnet word for word just by sharing her experience, strength and hope. She gave me hope that living from my heart is possible, that letting go is necessary, and that one day, the words on the magnet will be my own reality.