A few weeks ago I found myself at a 4-day anatomy training, away from my kids and traveling solo for the first time in just under nine years. I was all at once anxious and excited, terrified and electrified, wanting to jump all in and drive home as fast I could. It was a very visceral tension of opposites.
I cried when I got there, setting these emotions free and then promised myself to be as present as I could in every moment. There had been days prior to my trip when I fantasied about this time to myself. Time without dishes and laundry and whining and cleaning and the demands that come with having a family. I knew that if I longed for what I'd left at home I would miss my opportunity at what this space could offer and abuse such a beautiful gift.
So I sunk in, allowing my entire being to expand and grow and learn and be challenged.
A couple days in I wandered outside during lunch, found a grassy patch, and planted myself for an hour or so to enjoy the sun and food and quiet. I opened the book I'd been reading and a few paragraphs in realized something was walking across the page. The closer I looked, I noticed many somethings. Somehow I'd been reading the words but completely missed what was actually happening on the page.
I looked on as a tiny round bug made its way across the top of the binding while a yellow one walked up the side and a small ant zigzagged over the words. The more I watched, the more I got this sense that everywhere I looked there was life and wonder. These tiny little micro-balls of atoms were making a life for themselves in the same way that every other living, breathing, pulsing thing does. How did these things, no bigger than a grain of sand, survive? And yet here they were. They do. We do.
At once I was overcome with a sense that I could no longer separate these tiny creatures from myself. That somehow we were related and our survival depended on each other.
Awareness does this. Seeing changes things.
Sometimes I wonder if holy and worship, for me, are found less within a set of walls and more in my choices and responses and actions and the quiet spaces within the world. In the past my tendency would have been to smash these little bugs and move on.
But I really saw them.
For a few brief moments in the space of my life I watch them create their own. They worked and tended and searched and took in air.
For a few brief moments much of our lives looked the same.
These tiny insects were created, like me. To fulfill a purpose and have a place, like me. Were their lives any less precious or unique than my own? To irrevocably take this from something because it was on my book and in my way now seemed like a direct insult to the One who created us both.
Smashing was no longer an option.
That's the thing about life and relationship. This humble ecosystem of plants and bugs and bacteria and dirt that I had sprawled out upon existed in faith. Faith in my ability to see us all as one through eyes of kindness and respect and honor.
I think that's how we all survive - faith in the goodness of our neighbor. Faith that love might actually be a better way. Faith that small acts of kindness matter. That respect actually makes a difference. That the tiniest things of this world may actually be important.
I was annoyed by and even feared the bugs. And then I sat and watched them. Somehow I found myself lonely when they left.