As this New Year kicks off, I am thankful for the joy I have shared with others recently and opportunities that lie ahead of me. Even as I connect with love and joy inside me, I recognize and bear witness to the suffering of people near and far, including my own struggles. I ask myself, “How do I choose to respond?”
This is the same question that I faced in October, 2012 when I learned that my husband and soulmate, Scott Jaeger, had stage IV pancreatic cancer. I asked myself, “Since I am powerless to change this situation to be something I want it to be, how do I choose to respond?” I chose love and peace then, and I choose that response now.
Does that mean that I never felt fear or anger as I lived through losing the love of my life? Of course not. It meant that I recognized the natural response of fear and its sibling, anger, and gently said, “I understand you think you’re going to protect me here, but, really, your response is not helpful in this situation.” I felt my fear and anger and sorrow. I expressed those feelings through crying, long walks, writing poetry, singing songs and talking with my loved ones. Then, I let them go and acted on love.
Throughout the nine months that Scott lived knowing he was dying of cancer, I did my best to follow a path of peace within and without. I practiced acceptance while advocating for the best possible experience along the way. I welcomed the now and did my best to stay present in each moment. I lived, as best I could, in connection with myself, my partner, my children, and all whom I encountered, including the abundant life found in the natural spaces where I retreated for comfort.
Since going through such a profound loss, I have looked at life differently. How could I not? Spirituality has taken on new depth and vividness for me. It’s so real to me now. No longer a theory, it is a practice.
I nurture friendships with others who support a vision of possibility in Love. Anything is possible. What I am saying has been said so many ways by people far more eloquent than I am, but it bears repeating so that we can imprint it on our hearts. Love in response to hate brings transformation. Consistent, profound Love changes the energy and feeling around a place, a group of people, an event, even a country. And, you know what? Even if love didn’t transform, it would still be my choice as a response because of who I am, who I choose to be.
So, yes. I feel troubled at times when I read the latest news reports and articles about the powerful and what they plan to do that could put others in harms way. As an advocate for people living in poverty, people with disabilities, people persecuted for their faith, the color of their skin, whom they love, and other common folk, I feel concern about many of the policies being put forward today.
I could choose to resist in disgust, in outrage, in terror! I could spend time and energy strategizing the most effective way to blast back at the hate and injustice I witness. I could use my voice and my written words to spread righteous indignation, anxiety, and dismay, like a virus, to others I meet. After all, who could blame me? We live in such terrible times in many, many ways. To deny that would be folly.
Yet, what would I be contributing to the world if I chose that response? I would be sending out into the world more fear and anger, more despair. How would that help anyone? So, instead, I take a deep breath and another and another. Then I reach inside and feel around in the dark for the warmth and glimmer of Love. And I cradle it between my palms like an ember, sheltering it from the winds of doubt. I breathe gently on it to encourage it to grow brighter and stronger. I meditate on it, integrating it into my full being, knowing its truth. I pray for the courage and strength to continue to carry this Love inside me and share it with the world through my thoughts, words, actions, and songs. I respond in Love.
Love shows itself with many faces: hope, kindness, compassion, joy, togetherness. Please join me in nurturing Love inside you and throughout our communities. When we learn to recognize Love all around us, fear and anger lose their power over us. As my friend and mentor Tricia Alexander wrote in a beautiful song treasured by many, “Love is all around us in this world. Love is all around us in this world. Love is all around us. I am absolutely sure. I can see it ’cause I know what I’m looking for.” More recently she wrote a song that I am learning. It’s called “The Answer is Love.” She writes, “Whatever the question, the answer is love.” I agree and thank her for sharing this wisdom.
May you feel love and light and warmth and peace this year. Let’s help one another respond with love.
In compassion and truth,