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What Can You Feel?



Have you been feeling it? That late November swirl? Time winding up, like a jack-in-the-box, set to pop soon? Holiday songs slipping into rotation on the radio? All the department stores poised, with their perfectly stacked displays of gift ideas?


It's the calm before the storm.


My anticipation is laced with dread. I can’t tell how much of it is real or just habitual. My mind so deeply associates the holidays with pain. The pain of what’s missing. Of what got dropped and shattered. What didn’t go right. What “should” be. What never will be.


The first round of holidays post divorce, I remember walking the dogs in the woods and playing a little game. I would name what I could feel. It might sound strange, but when your default position is: ‘numb’, it’s helpful to identify all the little things you can still feel.


Numbness is not nothingness. It’s not a full bloom, blotting out. It’s more of a brutal distance. Things are still happening but you’re encased in ice. There’s a sleeve around you that nothing can pierce. You’re here but not really. You’re all the wrong prepositions - above, below, around - never “in”.


“What can you feel?”, I would ask myself.


I can feel the fleece inside my mitten.

I can feel the cold wind against my cheek.

I can feel the swishing of my thighs against each other as I walk.

I can feel the rough tissue wiping against my nose.

I can feel the crackle of ice, like glass breaking, as I walk through frozen puddles.

I can feel the cold metal keychain in my pocket.


These tactile lists could give way to the deeper, more honest, complicated ones:


I feel gutted. I feel my breathing too shallow

I feel nauseated.

I feel panic.

I feel empty.

I feel brittle, like those frozen puddles.

I feel despair.


A Course in Miracle teaches us that the Holy Spirit enters our lives at the level of our current consciousness. And Hafiz wrote: “Wherever you are, God circled on a map.”


There’s an immediacy and a rightness to these teachings. They’re centered on where we are right now. Not where we’re heading, or where our Egos tell us we should be.


Where are you right now? What can you feel right now? What can you handle right now?


This is where the work begins. There is no pre-qualification for this test. No on ramp for this highway. No introduction for this performance. It begins now. It’s already begun.


When I couldn’t bear to feel my emptiness, I could still feel the inside of my mitten. My refusal to accept globalized thoughts like: “I can’t feel anything” helped me stay in the granular, ultra present tense where the potential for mercy and salvation lies.


It’s never true that we can’t feel “anything” or that “everything” is over/doomed/hopeless. There are always these splinters hanging out, on the edges we’re rushing past, waiting to snag our stockings, waiting to trip us up or stop us cold and change our understandings.


Wherever you find yourself in the vortex right now - better than other years or worse - let the splinters pierce your veneer. Let the details speak to your heart. Let your mind go slack, like an unclipped leash. Let it unfurl from the tight, balled up fist of its certainty.


There is always something we don’t know or aren’t seeing properly. There is always another way to look. And during these super charged times of complicated good cheer and sometimes hurtful remembering, knowing that what we know about our lives isn’t the whole, final version of the story, can be immensely comforting.


Till next time friends,