dis/integration

Either things are coming together, or else they’re falling apart… Or so says poet Peter Cole in “Song of Shattering Vessels”. He suggests that nothing remains stagnant, and that we are always at the beginning or the end of something.

Over the years, I come back to this poem (or it comes to me) again and again) Just when I think that my life is on the verge of being whole and complete, a relationship ends. A friend moves away. A project fails. A bird (so close) in the bush, slips through my hands. And what I’d assumed would come together, falls apart in an instance.

Last Tuesday night, everything was coming apart. The pending full moon cast her spell. The feeling was electric and the air was dry, as if we were on a red flag warming for human combustibility. I did nothing to help. I realized that my standard “invitation” into meditation at the start of worship came with an edge. I wondered if anyone else had noticed that I’d been so patronizing. I used the time of silence to condemn myself again and again, and hen I invited folks to share prayers, I anticipated that condemnation would become corporate.

The most agitated man in the congregation raised his hand first. I cringed. I would try not to fall apart.

I suffer from schizophrenia, he said. And I don’t want to try to hide it anymore. And he prayed about how he suffered. About how most people looked down on him. About how difficult it is to live in the cruelty of this world. And about how he never felt judged here, at Spirit Cafe.

“Me, too!” another woman said. “And we should pray that other people would try to understand us. Because we’re also human beings. And most people hate us.” It went on from there. Others joined in, and my own concerns, my own embarrassment, became superfluous in the face of the power of a community coming together.

I thought about it as I did the security check. As I filled out the weekly form. As I said my friendly and polite “thank you”‘s and “goodbye”‘s. I thought about how much time I spend telling others, “I am holding everything together.” Even as I face the face that things, inevitably, fall apart. There are good reasons for such a masquerade. Privacy is our right. Boundaries help us all feel safe. And also, the man who came out about his mental illness was also in his rights. And I was not threatened. I was convicted. Because at the moment we can be fully honest about what is falling apart, we can begin finding our way back together. When we stop spending all of our time avoiding disintegration, integration is possible.

What is it that is falling apart in your life? Is there some way of being that you are wholly committed to that no longer yields the hoped for result (or, perhaps, never did)? It is a brave and remarkable person who will say that right out loud to a room full of people. I never claimed to be brave – so I am just learning to speak the truth to my self. To my dog. To friends and family, one or two at a time. But each time I say, “This is falling apart,” I feel something else coming together. Something else bringing me together. I don’t know that I have ever encountered God this way before.

Either things are coming together, or else they’re falling apart. Or perhaps both are happening at the same time. Perhaps we accept disintegration, we open ourselves to the integration that – at this very moment – is in the process of becoming.

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