The Softening



I’ve been avoiding this blog for months now.  What’s worse, I’ve been avoiding my own truths.  Instead of surrendering to reality, I’ve been channeling my inner ostrich and sticking my  head in the sand. But what happens when I hide from reality is that reality waits.

And waits.


And waits some more.


(Reality is annoyingly patient.)

While I’m very busy not writing or using my voice or digging for truth, the reality I’m avoiding grows larger.  When I first peak my head up out of my hidey hole, I may be smacked with a new parenting situation that makes me feel uncomfortable .  So I quickly duck my head back into the quiet warmth of solitude and denial.  The next time I venture out, I might find the house showing signs of neglect (think overflowing laundry and dishes).  I might scrub a dish or fold a t-shirt or just complain about both but it’s so tempting to think I can make all this discomfort, all this reality, go away if I just hide once more. It’s as easy as crawling into bed with a book and shutting the door.

When I finally emerge from all that hiding, I find a deluge of honest-to-goodness LIFE awaiting me.  And that life has suffered from days or weeks (or more) of neglect.  The re-awakening is brutal.  It takes a herculean amount of energy to get back to normal.  And what the hell is normal, anyway?  It’s a moving target, if you ask me.

Life is throwing some curveballs my way lately.  Things that once came easily to me (at work, in parenting, in relationships) are far less intuitive than ever.  I feel like I’ve been demoted to Kindergarten in just about every area.  It’s humbling.  I’m being called to grow and stretch in ways that leave me feeling raw.  And it’s far easier to hide from that growth than to – gulp – seek it out.

I’m starting to understand that the reason I hide is to avoid The Softening.  The Softening is when the universe sends me hard or overwhelming things and asks, ‘Can you be vulnerable in the presence of this, Ryan?  Can you soften to this?’

My daughter wants to stop her horseback riding lessons, the activity I attribute with restoring her confidence after a very difficult first year in school. I am afraid that riding is a perfect fit for her on so many levels and she won’t find something equitable to replace it.  To which the universe replies, ‘Can you walk through your fear to allow your daughter to make her own decisions?’

In the natural rhythm of relationships, one of my beloved friendships has hit a phase of ebb.  I hide from the fear that we aren’t relating to each other because something absolutely MUST be terribly, irreparably wrong.  And the universe whispers, ‘Can you share your fear and create allies instead of islands?’

I find out Mom has cancer and nearly fall apart before surrendering.  And the universe has the balls to ask, ‘Can you be vulnerable and soft in the face of your fear?’

To each of these questions, without exception, my first answer is always, ‘HELL NO, I CAN’T!’

But I’m learning.

I’m learning that my first answer often comes from a place of fear.  But with time and stillness, I can soften to almost anything.  I can be vulnerable in the face of nearly anything.  With time.

I’m awakening from yet another hibernation and I’ve spent the better part of the last few weeks squinting at the bright light of day that reality offers and panicking at the signs of neglect I see around me.  I’m taking time to own up to the lack of attention I’ve paid those I love most and drumming up the energy to clean up, literally and figuratively.

I have a friend who says ‘we don’t get better, we  get faster.’  Taking a page out of his book, I won’t be ashamed that I hid.  I’ll just be grateful that this hibernation was shorter than the last.  I won’t dwell on what I missed.  I’ll stay in the present to connect with what’s happening now.  So today, I’m showing up for The Softening.  Volunteering, even.

Even though it’s hard work to stay soft in the face of tough truths, it feels better today to be vulnerable and raw than comfortable and isolated.  I want to pick my head up out of the sand, shed my ostrich feathers, and bathe in the light of today’s reality.  It is beautiful and hard and real and wonderful and terrible, all woven into the tapestry of my life.  And today, I claim it.