The Gifts In Brokenness…

“My imperfections and failures are as much a blessing from God as my successes and my talents and I lay them both at his feet.”  Mahatma Gandhi

 It was a sunny afternoon in June, 1995, and I had been in the library for several hours. That morning I had had an odd moment in the shower when I felt as though water were hitting my open eye. I had no idea what was happening then, but sitting in the library I noticed that my face felt very strange. My eye felt funny, and the terrible headache that I had had for the previous few days was back with a vengeance. I gathered my things and left the library and driving home my face really began to feel awful. I barely made it home, went into the house, and saw, with horror, that my face was becoming unrecognizable. Imagine putting your little finger in the corner of your mouth and your index finger in the side of your eye and pulling down. It was as if one side of my face was melting. It was the beginning of the paralysis of Bell’s Palsy and by the next day I was in terrible pain and looked frightening. Over that summer I would see a succession of doctors and spend most of the summer in bed with my face packed in ice. I was told by one doctor that in addition to the Bell’s I had another syndrome that was complicating matters and would cause extreme pain. Over 90% of people recover from Bell’s completely. Thank God I didn’t know, at that juncture, that I wouldn’t be one of them.

Today, twenty-two years later, I am still paralyzed. My left eye isn’t quite right, and I only smile on one side. During many years of struggling with my weight after I’d had my children my one vestige of pride in myself was my smile. People used to tell me I had a beautiful smile. In a heartbeat that smile was gone, never to return, and I would spend the next decades trying to come to terms with the aftermath of Bell’s Palsy. I have never quite adjusted. I feel shy and often afraid to meet people. And it was the beginning of my leaving the world, in stages, the onset of agoraphobia. The Bell’s left me a broken thing, my heart, my spirit, my sense of self, shattered, and I was never to be who I once had been in the world again.

My saving grace, at this time, was finding a book that helped change my outlook. The book was Everyday Sacred by Sue Bender, and in this book she spoke about the concept of wabi sabi, something I had never heard of. She said that in Japan when a prize bowl broke it was not discarded but pieced back together with silver or gold and became more valuable than it had originally been. I began to study wabi sabi and found out that it is the Japanese aesthetic of the imperfect-perfect, and my heart began to open, to find compassion, for my lopsided face. It changed everything in my life and I started, gradually, to accept myself, but I had become afraid of the world at large and still rarely left my house. My heart was open but the rest of me was in hiding. Finally, as time went on, I was also diagnosed as bipolar, and I was suffering from an anxiety disorder, agoraphobia, and PTSD. It was a domino effect, and as they fell I felt flattened. I was far more wabi sabi than I had ever realized.

Fast forward to today. I have been looking back over the last 22 years. Where have I come from? Where can I go? What can I do now? I have only just realized that Bell’s Palsy cracked me open to a kind of compassion for myself and the world that I would never have had otherwise, and it is the place, the very place, where a kind of light began to shine through the cracks, light that would be the lantern I would carry on my path for two decades and more through endless trials and hardships I could never have imagined would come. It is as the late Leonard Cohen wrote…

Ring the bells that still can ring,
Forget your perfect offering,
There is a crack in everything,
That’s how the light gets in.

I have been writing about the Bell’s a lot lately as I hold it up and look at it from different angles. I am also trying to figure out how to survive in this life with the various parts and pieces and diagnoses I carry around with me. Today I am afraid. I am so afraid. I have been anxious all day. I just keep moving, fingers on keyboard, filling up the vast expanse of the page before me, breathing, one breath after the other. Hold on, hold on, hold on.

I wrote a whole blog post. And I looked at it, I read and reread it, and I realized that it wasn’t right. I threw most of it out and started over. I keep going over the same territory, hoping that if I just find the right way to look at my life, to understand it, maybe I can move forward. I will be 63 next month and I am on the cusp of a new way of working in the world and if I am going to be able to do that I have to get my bits and parts and pieces together in some formation that can make for a workable life. And how to do that?

It occurs to me that the clue is in Gandhi’s quote. If there was a blessing in the Bell’s perhaps there is a blessing in it all. The imperfections, the failures in life from manic episodes gone awry when bad decisions were made, if I can hold those times up with the times of grace, when successes and talents had their days and surely they did, then perhaps I can find the balance in it all, perhaps I can lay it all at the feet of God. Perhaps if I have work to do in the world it will come from having been so broken and so afraid but somehow holding on and continuing to move forward, one step, one moment, one day at a time. I believe I have something to offer. There are gifts in brokenness.

The summer after the Bell’s, with my face packed in ice, I started a small press publication called The Contemplative Way ~ Slowing Down In A Modern World. As I slowly recovered I poured my heart into that publication. I found a way to do my work despite the pain and the ravages of Bell’s Palsy, and the work was good. If I could do it then I can do it now when I shake from anxiety and fear. I have done so much in my life, I have things to share, things to teach, stories to tell. I will find my way, and through the cracks the light will get in.

If you enjoy this blog a donation would be deeply appreciated to help me continue to bring “Maitri’s Heart” to you. Thank you, and many deep blessings to one and all…

Comments

  1. Oh, Maitri, you’ve already done so much good in the world simply by writing your graceful and heartfelt essays on your blog, not to mention the groups that I’ve been a part of. And, speaking with you on a regular basis for a while — that was illuminating, too.

    You have many gifts. Remember that.

    • Thank you so much Lisa honey, that means so much to me, I just can’t tell you how much. I loved working with you and remember our times very fondly. I miss them. You have lifted my spirits this night with your sweet words. I will carry them with me.

      Love,

      Maitri

  2. If you weren’t Maitri, if you could be satisfied with a lifetime of creativity and extraordinary writing, you could put up your feet and bask in all you have accomplished. But you have a vision bigger than all outdoors and won’t rest while one aching heart waits for your words. And so we will benefit from all the gifts you continue to bestow on the world.

    • Oh Cathryn, what a beautiful thing to say. I love you so much. I must believe that no matter what hardships we encounter, no matter our mistakes and faults and foibles we are each here with a purpose and must try as hard as we can to fulfill it. That is all I have ever tried to do and I will keep on trying. If my hard times will not have been in vain but in their way were teachings, however painful, that I can bring forward into the light and share then I will be blessed. Thank you for being part of my life and for encouraging me, with your kind words, to believe in myself, and to carry on. I am sending you a gentle warm hug this day…

      Maitri

  3. Terri Myszka says:

    Sweet Maitri you are perfectly Perfect just the way you are. There are no failures just lessons, some unfortunately harder to learn than others. We’re all a little wabi sabi, vulnerable souls. Thankyou for being you, just as you are and for shining light through the many cracks i have. Huge hugs❤

    • Oh beautiful Teresa, you are so dear to me. Thank you for your kind words. And yes, we are all wabi sabi in our own way, sweet vulnerable souls trying our best. May we open our eyes to see the light that shines through the cracks, and may we bask in it’s warmth. I am holding you so close right now as you go through your hard times. May you be blessed.

      Love,

      Maitri

  4. Yes, you have been giving giving giving of your talent, creativity, compassion, sensibility, ever since i met you, many many years ago, more than three decades. Through all your suffering, fear, anxiety, issues of identity, you have continued to pour light out for those who need it badly, who need to be raised up. How ironic, that while so beset yourself, you were able to give so generously. You will always be who you really are, the essence of maitri, loving kindness. And because of you, the world is already a better place.

    • Oh sweet Ka, thank you so much dear sister-friend. My we have known one another long and well, and have shared much over the years. I feel so blessed by your loving support and always gentle kindness. Thank you so much for shoring me up with your words this day, it helps more than you could possibly know. I am sending you a warm, gentle hug and so much love. Know that I am ever close to you in my heart…

      Love,

      Maitri

  5. Thank you, Maitri, I am so blessed to have found you. May our Lord provide you with healing in your spirit and in your physical being. Amen. Love, Memarge.

    • Thank you so much Marge, I so appreciate your kind words and your prayers. I really need the prayers now. And I’m so glad that we connected here too. I hope you are well this day. May gentle winds blow through your life and the sun shine down on you.

      Blessings and Love,

      Maitri

  6. This is such a beautiful essay. One that touched me deeply and one that I can so relate to, just in a different way. I had a tipping point in my life too where one day something strange occurred and my life was never the same. I have struggled at times to make peace with the changes in my own physical and emotional body over the years and yet at other times have felt grateful for what happened. It’s led me to meet you for example. You give me more and more courage to share more of my own story. I have already written the first page of it, but it’s so exhausting and painful to recount the unraveling of it all that I don’t write on it very often. It’s so much easier for me to speak it than write it. Maybe I will wind up doing a podcast or video series of it instead one day.

    You have many gifts and you are even more aligned now with all of it and all that you have to offer. Whatever you create with this business will be wonderful.

    • Thank you so much beautiful Bekah, your words mean so much to me and your friendship and your help at this time and always. And yes honey you have a story that deserves to be told and will help many and you will tell it when you are ready. Know how important it is. We are messengers. Our stories are not ours to keep. They are packages of healing to give to the world. You are a blessing to others. Know that this work that you have to do must needs come forth and do not be afraid.

      I love you honey, be blessed…

      Maitri

  7. Jacquie Fuller says:

    I loved this, thank you.

    • You are so welcome Jacquie, thank you so much for coming and reading it. You bless me with your kind words. Much love and many blessings to you…

      Maitri

  8. Diva Odete Kreszl says:

    Thank you for sharing your story with us, you are an inspiration for so many who have not found a voice.

    • Thank you so much dear Diva, you are so welcome and your lovely words mean more to me than I can say. Thank you so much for coming to read and leave a comment. These things help me continue on with my work.

      Blessings and love,

      Maitri

  9. Saundra McKenzie says:

    Get up and go look in the mirror- you have a gorgeous smile, one that people will remember. You are so perfect in your imperfections. Thanks so much for sharing with us and for being you.

    • Thank you so much dear Sandy, you are very kind and you have made me smile real big with this lopsided smile… <3

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