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Anyone who knows my wife, Taya Gray, knows her to be a person who possesses a rare depth and transparency. She’s also quite the writer, though she’s very modest (and even secretive!) about it. She has recently been writing a good deal about a season she is in of self discovery and reformation, and one of her recent posts was so good I thought I’d share it here, trusting that rabbit room readers might enjoy and be encouraged by her reflections. Rabbit Room readers, I present, Taya Gray:
I got to fly home to visit with my family for a few days. It was a nice visit. With new tools tucked neatly in the spongy tissues of my brain, I was able to experience my family in a fresh way.
It was my dad who drove me back to the airport. Normally I would be a little stressed by this hour-long ride in the front seat with my dad. What will we talk about? What if it’s quiet for too long? Maybe I should have some things prepared for us to talk about. I should certainly be prepared to answer any questions he might have with strong, confident answers. This is how I bring myself to most people and situations in my life – prepared.
I was reading a book recently by Pema Chodron and she describes my dilemma perfectly:
“When we draw a line down the center of a page, we know who we are if we’re on the right side and who we are if we’re on the left side. But we don’t know who we are when we don’t put ourselves on either side. Then we just don’t know what to do. We have no reference point. At that point we can either freak out or settle in.”
When I bring myself to a situation, or conversation, I will draw a line down the middle of a metaphorical page, and nestle in on either the right side or the left. I’ll assume a position or disposition so that I can feel prepared. I’m beginning to realize that by doing that, I am actually presuming a reality upon those moments, rather than just letting things unfold as they will. I bring who I suspect is the person I’ll need to be for that presumed reality and by doing that, I’m not really bringing myself at all, or experiencing other people for who they are either.
So more and more I’m trying to settle in to that peace that passes my understanding that isn’t on the right side or the left side. I’m trying to lay down my presumptions and preparations and be present.
This is how I brought myself to the front seat of my dad’s jeep for an hour and 15 minutes on the return ride to the airport. Present. He began talking about some of his stresses at work. Conversation to fill the space and time. He wasn’t expecting me to do anything, solve any problems, but just to listen. It was curious to me how anxious I became. That familiar clench in the pit of my stomach. The tight ache in my chest. I had to talk myself into calming down, “breathe, relax”. What was it about that conversation that created so much tension in me?
As he was talking I had time to be curious about my response. Was my subconscious urging me to fix his stress? To make him ok? My codependent self would certainly see that as my role, but I am learning to put that self to rest. And he was ok already. He was just sharing with me as a matter of interest. The more I settled back into the discomfort of it all, the more I began to recognize my frantic attempts to ether land on “the right side of the page or the left side.” Instead of indulging my fear, I hovered in the middle, curious, and freaking out a little bit about not being able to land safely on either side, but definitely very present to the moment.
I was very present. Present to myself and my dying, unhealthy patterns that were trying to commandeer me into a fearful cycle. Present to my dad and his struggles waiting for checks to clear and containers sitting in the port of Seattle and trucking lanes that wouldn’t open until the next Monday. I was present. And it was very uncomfortable, and certainly new. It was good to be present and connected as opposed to floundering in fear and isolation.
I’m proud of myself. I do believe that is growth! And when we got to the airport and exchanged endearments and good-byes, I looked into my Dad’s eyes, those same eyes as mine, and felt as if I knew him a little better. Maybe for the first time in my life.
– Taya Gray