“I went to the osteopath again today,” Sam tells me over the phone. “My muscles, the ones that were once so strong from ballet, are like knots twisted, tense and tight. He says it’s mainly around the area where all the lumber punctures and bone marrow biopsies were taken. He suggests I try another Pilates class, one that is more specialized, one that can help me build my core again” and with this she begins to cry. “It’s too hard mum. Its like every part of me needs to be rebuilt but I feel I can hardly move.”
I’ve been thinking a lot lately about all the things that weave their way around our hearts, entangling our thoughts, rendering us motionless. As I think about this I’m reminded of that passage in the gospels where Jesus told His disciples to take nothing for the journey except what they were wearing. It interests me how specific he was in this scripture.
“Take no gold or silver nor (even) copper money in your purses. And do not take a provision bag or a wallet for a collection bag for your journey, nor two undergarments nor sandals, nor a staff…”
When I read this I think He is trying to tell us that He will be enough. He doesn’t tell the disciples to go without, he doesn’t tell them to sleep on the streets, quite the contrary in fact. He tells them “And into whatever town or village you go, inquire who in it is deserving, and stay there [at his house] until you leave that vicinity.”
It’s like God is telling us, pack light but expect help. It sounds simple, but its not until you have no choice but to leave your job, the one that has paid the mortgage while your husband establishes his business that you really begin to discover what it is to live by faith. Every now and again I have to remind myself of the miraculous provision that came to us last year, from real people who came alongside us to help. I remind myself because even now, even though it feels that we have come so far, even though the help was incredible, I still feel terrified at times. The relentless nature of this condition is unceasingly hard, there are setbacks at every juncture and under the grey sky of winter; I feel the knots that have formed around my mind. I want to be light but instead I am motionless from the losses, the disappointments, and the humiliation of broken dreams.
It seems that the knots have tangled their way around my courage, pinning me down, too close to the ground. I have become ‘Leptosia nina’, which is the Latin name for a small butterfly otherwise known as the Psyche. This butterfly is weak in flight and erratic and though they flap their wings, it is mainly their body that lifts up and down. They hover over the grass but rarely leave ground level.
Have you observed the butterfly?
How it lifts effortlessly in flight?
How it rises and falls?
How it hovers delicately, tempting you to follow it,
Slowing down just enough to persuade you that
You can position your camera lens long enough to
Capture its beauty on film. Then taunting you,
It disappears into the undergrowth,
Weaving its way through the green.
The photo is completely out of focus,
The moment feels like it’s gone,
Regretting that you won’t be able to share
The magic of this moment with anyone else,
Reluctantly you move the camera from its position
In front of your eyes and allow it to rest against your chest,
Suspended from its heavy strap and you search again,
Hoping the butterfly might make another appearance,
A last encore!
And it does,
It flirts its way back out of the garden,
Making its way across the path,
The blue sky is its backdrop
And it flutters off towards the beach
In the scorching sunlight
Then closing your eyes you see the image
Perfectly formed in sepia,
Framed on your retina
You discover that this moment was just for you.
Like a gift from your Maker,
Like capturing thoughts,
Like sweet felicity,
Like the enchantment of fairytales,
Like clandestine hope,
Like a silent inner voice absconding with your heart
“Remember me, I’m with you on this journey, you have everything you need.”
When Sam and Emma were small we used to take them to the Melbourne Zoo and no enclosure held their interest like the butterfly house. Pushing our way through the door, not allowing the heat to escape, then up the ramp with Emma in her stroller, we would find our place on the bridge. It was warm inside the butterfly enclosure; so warm I would remove their beanies, scarves and their tiny mittens. The whiteness of their baby cheeks would turn all rosy red. They would watch mesmerized, pointing and ducking and sharing sisterly love. “Look Emma!” Sam would say. “All the lovely colours.” And Emma would look up from her stroller with as much admiration for her sister as they both had for the butterflies. Then after a while we would rug up again and make our way out the other side back into the chill of the Melbourne weather, completely satisfied with our little journey through paradise.
We all come to forks in the road, presented with choices and paths to take. Like when you graduate from high school and need to decide what to study at university, or when you graduate from university and try to find a job. All the information, the marks you didn’t get, the interviews that seemed to go so well until the letter came announcing you’d been unsuccessful. Rejection and failure weave knots around our psyche, we cramp up, we stand back from life. Perhaps it’s the hearts way of protecting itself. We think that if we stay inside and keep to ourselves we may avoid being hurt again. So how do you unravel those knots? How do you loosen them? How do you relieve all the tension and cramps? What do you do with your jarred personality and newly discovered neurosis?
The fact is that sometimes you have to find a way to take time out from the gruelling grey gloominess. You need to find a butterfly enclosure. Somewhere that is warm and colourful. An escape from the everyday!
I used to do this with Jack when he was in Kindergarten. Some mornings he would climb into my bed and holding each side of my face in his little fat hands, he would say, “I love you, mum and I don’t want to go to school. Let’s go for coffee instead.” He was speaking the language of my heart, so we would make our way to the waffle bar at Manly wharf and start our day propped up on stools, our legs swinging as we sipped our ‘chinos’ in rhythm with the ocean that lapped at the pier. After breakfast we made our way around the seafront to Manly Underwater World where we spent the day looking upwards, standing on the conveyer belt that took us for a journey far beneath the sea.
How the colours of the fish would revive our senses, how we marvelled as we watched the divers feed the sharks, filled with wonder we would stare at the giant gills of stingrays. We loved poking at shark eggs in the touch tank, observing the miniature seahorses in the fish tanks and the seal show made us laugh, even though after a few trips to the aquarium the jokes of the trainer were so predictable. By 2 o’clock when its was time to go to get the girls we would make our way contentedly back to school, Jack falling asleep in his car seat and me feeling like the most wonderful but rebellious of mums.
Every now and then you must break a few rules, just little things like indulging in bullets and coca cola for breakfast, just for fun. When you run out of ideas, or the pain gets too great or you become more paranoid than you can bear. When your own ideas and pep talks no longer cut it then you need to find a great orator who can remind you how to get free. I like to surf the web for quotes, or read from “Speeches That Changed the World: The Stories and Transcripts of the Moments That Made History” by Simon Sebag Montefiore or flip through a notebook where I once recorded great sermons and speeches.
My favourite ones always involve metaphors and the other day I found a little talk that I’d been privileged to hear from Dr Briony Scott. It was many years ago when I was teaching as a casual at the school where I now work fulltime. Dr Scott had gathered her year 10 students who were still considering their subject choices for years 11 and 12. I was there to help hand out information sheets, just filling in the gaps, wherever I was needed but while I was listening I decided to pull out my notebook to record her words.
“When you are trying to work out what you want to study it’s a bit like untangling a ball of wool. You just sit quietly and sort through till you find an end. Any end will do. Then you begin to tease it out, gently tugging, weaving it around, following thoughts through to their logical (or sometimes not logical) conclusion. While this happens, you chat with your parents, play tennis, read books, learn to drive, hold hands with your boyfriend, study and go to work. But whenever you get a spare moment you go back to gently teasing out the ball of wool, forming an ordered ball from the knots. Sometimes it all flows so easily and sometimes you might seem to take forever softening the wool, gently easing it backwards so the knot comes undone. And in time it does. I’ve never known a knotty mess that cannot be resolved with time and patience. But it’s all in the process. If you want the jumper presented, already done, you have no pleasure or satisfaction in the end result. So enjoy the journey, work with what you have in front of you. You have everything you need – it’s now just down to the hard, patient, time consuming, consistent job of sorting through your wool and turning it into a masterpiece.”
“You have everything you need.”
It’s just like Jesus told the disciples, they were equipped because they knew Him and with that they had enough to “Cure the sick, raise the dead, cleanse the lepers, drive out demons.” Sometimes it enough, just for someone to believe in you and even though they know the journey will be full of impossible situations (like tangled knots) they send you anyway. They offer words of wisdom, reminding you not to give your heart away to just anyone, they remind you to keep moving when it looks like its over, they warn you about the wolves and tell you to be wise. When things go from bad to worse they tell you “not to be anxious about how or what you are to speak; for what you are to say will be given to you in that very hour and moment. For it is not you who are speaking but the Spirit of your Father speaking through you.”
The words from a great speech, the Holy Bible or the resounding echo that’s been buried in the catacombs of your soul reawaken hope. Hope is the quintessential quality for getting through and from there builds faith and love. Love, of course is the greatest of all.
Hodding Carter says, “There are only two lasting bequests we can give our children. One of these is roots, the other is wings.”
I listen until the tears have been cried for a while. I validate them. I tell her I know that it’s still incredibly hard but then I remind her that we will get through this. It’s going to be okay. I’ll help her make the phone call, make sure she has enough money for the Pilates class and in time, she will be stronger and as I hang up the phone I see the mighty hands of my Creator, they are cupped around me. He lifts me upwards, he opens his hands and with a gentle blow of his breath I am free again. I have found my wings and I fly.