Sunday, May 20, 2012

The Exquisite Pain of Being Alive

There is a legend about a bird which sings just once in its life, more sweetly than any other creature on the face of the earth.  From the moment it leaves the nest it searches for a thorn tree, and does not rest until it has found one.  Then, singing among the savage branches, it impales itself upon the longest, sharpest spine.  And, dying, it rises above its own agony to out-carol the lark and the nightingale.  One superlative song, existence the price.  But the whole world stills to listen, and God in His heaven smiles.  For the best is only bought at the cost of great pain . . . Or so says the legend.

I just finished reading The Thorn Birds.  Again.  I think I may have read this book about 7 times since my grandmother first introduced it to me in high school.  Published in 1982 and written by Colleen McCullough, this dynasterial epic spans decades and continents.  It is about love and loss.  Family and lovers.  Death and new life.  Hope and marking time, waiting for the grief to abate. 

My own copy is worn out, pages are loose, the paper rips easily.  It is badly taped together.  I also have my grandmother's hardback edition.  There are very few books I own two copies of.  (Harriet the Spy is the only other, I believe.) 

The real reason I wanted to babble, was, however, on the topic of longing.  That feeling that is hungry and incessant.  Sometimes it hibernates for years, but a few words from a friend can awaken it with a vengeance. 

Recently, in my a.m. ponderings and prayers, I was moved to ask for "light to be cast on my shadow self."  I watched as I greedily awaited what would come.  I admit to having a sick fascination with drama. But I am also more alive than I have been in a long, long time and although I knew that I was inviting change and maybe some difficult times to my world, I know it is for my own highest good.

 Old feelings started coming to the front of my consciousness again, feelings I had not dealt with for a long time.  I have faith that my cornerstone is higher in my mind now, I hope to not be dragged down into old, debilitating spirals.  Being wracked with uncertainties is not my idea of a good time and I am very aware of my satisfaction these days; my hunger for more is of a practical design:  less clutter, less drama, more awareness of God in my life. 

So when I awoke this morning with that old, familiar hunger in my belly, I lay with it awhile, refusing to let it pull me under.  My shadow self has awakened and is to be acknowledged once again.  I don't feel like packing my bags and I'm not dreaming of a different life.  I am content with my beautiful reality, but the time has come again to look deep inside and feel the truth inside myself.  Time to shed my skin one more time.  Perhaps this time I can do it more lovingly and with eyes wide open.  No need to rip and tear this time. 

The bird with the thorn in its breast, it follows an immutable law; it is driven by it knows not what to impale itself, and die singing.  At the very instant the thorn enters there is no awareness in it of the dying to come; it simply sings and sings until there is not the life left to utter another note.  But we, when we put the thorns in our breasts, we know.  We understand.  And still we do it.  Still we do it. 

Thanks for listening . . .