A mist has settled over the Baltic outside my window. The boats, and not so distant trees, are shrouded in a gauzy grey. On the far end of the inlet the land has disappeared altogether. There’s only sky and water.
Were I a sailor, new to these parts, I’d embark on my journey supposing nothing existed beyond my shore. I’d be wrong. I’ve seen what’s there on a sunny day, but right now it’s unclear…much like life…I don’t know what’s ahead, I just have to trust.
Here are a few things that I’m trusting:
I’m trusting God has a plan for my son. He leaves on his mission in a little over two months. His assignment: Indianapolis, Indiana, USA. I don’t know a single soul in that state. I’ve never been there, well…driven through, but I don’t recall stopping. Still, I have faith there’s a reason, there’s something there, a person, an experience, a life lesson for him to glean. I don’t see it yet, but I’m trusting God will lead the way.
I’m trusting that the human spirit is stronger than cancer. I learned this week my mom has cancer. I was broken hearted for her, for myself, for our family. Suddenly I felt unmoored–a ship during a winter’s squall, tossing in waves of fear and doubt. And then I prayed. I squinted hard into the distance and saw the faintest outlines of hope. That hope began with gratitude, seeing all there was to be thankful for: friends, family, prayers, doctors, medicines, nurses, kind words, and thoughtful gestures.
They say to beat cancer you need a positive outlook and a reason to fight. My mom has both. She was born during the onset of The Great Depression, lived during times of war. For over 20 years she moved around the world supporting my dad’s career in the military. In the early 70’s she got her detective’s license and to this day, at the age of 82, she does the bookwork for the investigative company my dad built and retired from a decade ago. In the fight against cancer, we don’t know what’s ahead, but I’m trusting my mom will do battle, and she’ll have the love and support she needs.
I’m trusting that love is a language. For those of you unfamiliar with my faith, in The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, we have no paid ministry. The congregation takes turns “preaching” on Sundays, we call it giving talks. We accept “callings,” volunteer positions to teach, organize or lead within the congregation. For example, you might be asked to lead music, teach 5-year-old’s Sunday school or work with teenaged youth. Recently, I was called to be the Relief Society President. My job is to help organize, teach and otherwise tend to the needs of 140 Swedish women. Did I mention I don’t speak Swedish? But where our language doesn’t meet, our hearts do. I have some amazing and talented woman I work with and together we discuss and figure out what we need to do.
The thing about volunteering at church, or anywhere for that matter, is that it takes you out of your own problems. You get more than you give. You experience life through another’s eyes and glimpse the miracle we all are—how we’re all connected, no matter what our differences. It makes me think of the Ray Bradbury quote,
“We are the miracle of force and matter making itself over into imagination and will. Incredible. The Life Force experimenting with forms. You for one. Me for another. The Universe has shouted itself alive. We are one of the shouts.”
I’m trusting a move back to America will be good for our family, while Cooper serves in Iraq. We got our next assignment; rather, Cooper was given the assignment he asked for, Iraq. We’ve been through a year apart before when he was in Pakistan, (the year Maggie was born in Pennsylvania). It was the year I found out what I was made of, (and cried a lot), a defining year, but one I vowed never to repeat. So of course we’re doing it again, only this time the kids are older and come to think of it, I’m older too. Maybe it’s also because I’m angry, because I’ve watched too many innocent people die, but this time I’m okay with him leaving. I’m proud of him for getting involved and making a difference. I trust Cooper. And that’s another reason I love him.
I’m trusting I don’t need to worry about what’s ahead. When life feels overwhelming, it’s usually because I’m thinking about the past or obsessing about the future. I’ll worry about things that I have no control over or decisions that I won’t need to make until next year or years after that. Anthony de Mello, a Jesuit priest, said,
“The present moment is never intolerable. What’s intolerable is what’s going to happen in the next four hours. To have your body here at 8 pm and your mind at 10:30 pm, that’s what causes us suffering.”
It takes conscious practice to live in the moment, to remember, as Winston Churchill said, “The chain of destiny can only be grasped one link at a time.” If I’m reaching for the next link, I can’t hold onto what I have right now, and what I have now is pretty darn amazing. I have my family and the people I love, so I’m going to love them as much as I can right now. That’s what I can do.
Life is a trust walk. In 1974, Philippe Petit, a French high-wire artist, illegally crossed a cable between the two World Trade Center Towers in NYC. His feat was 6 years in the making and stunned audiences below. For 45 minutes he traipsed back and forth holding a 55-pound balancing pole a quarter of a mile above the ground knowing that every step could potentially be his last. The danger, the risk, how much trust it took to walk back and forth across that wire is what astounds us and the reason why years later, a documentary was made about his life.
Life is a trust walk. We put one foot in front of the other, while holding the weight of something heavy—be that what it may. If you’re feeling wobbly, trying to stay steady, keep Petit’s advice in mind:
“You must not force yourself to stay steady. You must move forward.” That is the secret.
Moving forward. Staying in motion. “The essential thing is to etch movements in the sky, movements so still they leave no trace. The essential thing is simplicity. That is why the long path to perfection is horizontal.”
Trusting is making those tiny movements, so subtle sometimes only our heart can feel them. But one tiny shift can change the way we think, the way we approach life, the way we live. We don’t need to see what’s ahead, we can just be grateful it’s there. Gratitude brings hope—we can trust in that. Start with gratitude.