Monday, June 30, 2008

When I Grow Up, I Want to Fly

When I grow up, I want to fly, I thought. Not in an airplane. I want to have the power to fly, the gift of flight.

Whenever anyone would ask me what I wanted to do when I grew up, I would suppress this answer. I would choose from a careful list of fun-sounding careers, settling on something that was not too out-there, not too scary. Something that wouldn't devastate me if it didn't happen. In fifth grade, for example, I think it was marine biologist.

But walking alone, looking at the stars, letting my yearning heart speak, I knew what I wanted to do when I grew up. Fly.

Sometimes I flew in my dreams. It would be so realistic that I would wake up in disbelief. I must have been awake! And the dream feeling remained. Oddly, it was not only a feeling of being light and floating. It was a feeling that the air around me was heavier than it seemed. That it was filled with a magical substance so substantial, in fact, that it could support me. That by a combination of movements of body and belief and energy willed up, I could take off. For fun, to escape my enemies, to revel in some innate power that only I was aware of. While others saw nothing, I knew the air was alive.

As I grew older, my flying dreams diminished, but my heart yearned no less for this power. I certainly couldn't tell people about it now. Can you imagine the look on the advisor's face when she asked what I wanted to major in? "I want to fly." And to me it seemed much more practical than French literature.

My dream had been in my heart strongly for a couple of weeks, when I was working on homework for my religion class. The desk in my attic apartment faced a window, and as I glanced out, I caught sight of a bird. The wind pushed up into its wings, and the bird floated and swooped, deft movements working with the air to change its direction.

In that moment, not just the air, but other matter became fluid. I became the bird, and from that vantage point, I could feel the wind supporting me, feel the magic of weightlessness, that it is not the absence of weight, but being held by powers unknown but felt. I was the bird. I flew.

And when I came back to my body at the desk, windblown, the air fresh in my lungs, I smiled at the secret.

I have grown up to fly. Thank God.

Tuesday, June 3, 2008

Spring Cleaning Leaves Unfinished Business

So I actually did my spring cleaning. I moved furniture, washed walls and floors, and rearranged rooms. At first, I was tired; then exhilarated; and finally, disappointed. My house has a fresh feeling, but my situation is still the same. I still have highs and lows, still struggle to remember God and do what is right.

And part of me wanted to find this out. Often, when I am feeling stressed or depressed, I think, If only this place were clean and organized, I would be clear-headed enough to know exactly what I want to do, and to do it. Well, after my cleaning experience, I've decided that it was good to clean, but, like other quick fixes, it doesn't solve all of my problems.

Once again I am reminded that there is no such thing as the final hurdle, the solution to all my problems, because after one goal is met, there is still a whole life to be lived. And it can only be lived from moment to moment, trying to be present in even the most mundane tasks. As the spiritual writer Jack Kornfield puts it, "After the ecstasy, the laundry." Or in this case, after the laundry, finding the ecstasy in the challenge of life going on.

I received some good advice from a friend this past weekend. When she hears that negative voice in her head telling her she can't do something, she simply starts doing the very thing that part of her believes she can't do. She's had whole conversations with herself, listing the reasons why she can't do it, and when she's finished her list of why not, she finds that she's done it.

Whether it's cleaning or praying or eating healthy foods, part of us rebels and part of us knows what's good for us in each moment. Though I often like to theorize and weigh the pros and cons, set up a plan, and plan a time to start it, these strategies can hurt more than they help. Which is why I had to trick myself into writing this blog entry by ignoring the voice in my head that has been trying to plan it for the last two weeks.

It is also why I just had to stop planning and delaying and start spring cleaning, and thank God, I did it. But now that it's done, I can't drop out forever, can't stop listening to what I know I need to do now. It might be something completely different, but I can trust that I am where I need to be.

After I moved the bookcase in my office into its new position (the finishing touch of my spring cleaning), I got overwhelmed looking at all the books on the shelves: books on writing, notebooks full of unpublished stories, great novels written by other people. Tangible evidence that my life still had some unfinished business, even after cleaning (how can that be?!). Without fully analyzing what I was doing, I went to my jewelry box and found a silver pendant with the word Allah ("God" in Arabic) inscribed in it. I took a piece of ribbon and ran it through the pendant, then taped it above the bookcase. Life can be overwhelming, but for me there is one focal point; one to remember and to serve above all: God.