After traveling and Easter and spring break, I was back in my classroom this week. Our story was the “Life Cycle of the Human Being”. We looked at pictures of people in different stages of life and thought about how we weren’t two any more. All of us are much older than that now! We talked about all the many things we can do now that we couldn’t do when we were two. It’s a lot of things, even for those of us who are only three.
After our story we took time as we always do, to wonder together. We always ask, “If you were something or someone in this story, who or what would you be?” One of my children answered that she would be the person being fed. I had to clarify because part of the life cycle lesson is a baby being fed and completing the cycle by showing an elderly person being fed. “Which person being fed are you? The old person or the baby?” “Both”, she said.
This answer struck me. Probably it caught my attention because I tend to be the person feeding and not the person being fed. That was even part of the focus of the lesson. We can do so much as we grow. We can keep learning and our hearts can keep growing even when our bodies reach their full height and start shrinking again. We can do. We can grow. I like being a do-er of many things. I like being the leader. I like imagining and sharing a new way. I like growing in my thoughts and growing in compassion as I age.
So, even though I firmly believe in the value of simply being, of simply breathing, I have to admit that it’s very difficult for me to be graceful about being fed. I am ok at exchange. I am ok with mutuality. I can open to receiving most of the time if I know there will be an opportunity to give back or if I have already given something first. The pictures we witnessed together were of being fed. Not just someone else setting dinner in front of me which they have prepared with their love and effort, but a human with a spoon in their mouth that they weren’t holding themselves. I do not desire to be the person being fed.
It makes me a little uncomfortable to think of myself in a position where I cannot manage to get a spoon to my own mouth. It makes me uncomfortable to think about someone sitting in front of me, loving or indifferent, feeding me. And this discomfort is not just about the idea of physically being fed, although receiving that with grace must be a challenging practice for those who experience it. This way of being for me is also spiritual. It’s difficult for me to be vulnerable and admit that kind of need. I like leading the group and asking the questions. I like opening the space, observing and going inward. And there are spaces in my life where I share deeply and those are a refuge. However, I don’t often experience the kind of spiritual need that would require the equivalent of someone lifting a spoon to my soul.
I am going through significant transition in my life right now and it has highlighted to me the ways in which I struggle to stay steady, to be confident, to be unafraid and to show that face to my own self and others. It’s hard to allow feelings of fear and doubt and anxiety to surface. They sometimes do. They come when someone asks a compassionate question about how I’m doing. They come when all that emotion gets so stuck in my body that I’m in physical pain. But I’m having a hard time welcoming my own feelings of helplessness and despair and brokenness. When I was two, I could just cry and release every difficult feeling and the adults who loved me would hold and comfort me. When I was two I could ask for help for everything. These things seem to be much more difficult as an adult. So I find that I need to keep doing my work. I need to continue letting my children teach me what it means to surrender. I need to remember the love inherent in the Universe that makes it ok to know when despair needs expression and company. And I need to open, not just to giving kindness to others when they are in need, but to receiving it when I have nothing to give or am overwhelmed by the feelings that seem much bigger than me.
Who or what are you in this story? Are you the one being fed?