Souffle: n. a low murmuring or blowing sound heard through a stethoscope.

Tonight we dine on eggs and cheese whipped up to a ridiculous tower of richness. It will be delicious. We will laugh together and share stories about our day. A rather idyllic snippet of family time, one that I cherish now that college and activities usually keep us apart for dinner.

And still-  with each soufflé created I am transported. Word associations send my mind flowing away from the present day to long ago sleepless nights holding an asthmatic baby, getting inadvertently speedy off the vaporized steroids held near a tiny, wheezy mouth. Alternatively, I am at the pediatrician, tentatively hopeful, asking if a heart murmur is still audible.

That’s what it is to be a parent or, really, what it is to care for others over an extended period of time. Our memories of worry and love are threaded in and among recipes for casseroles or fragments of songs. Smells and sounds attached to moments of intensity, we carry them around with us like burs in our coats.

It’s amazing how we caregivers can multitask this way. Experiencing past and present simultaneously, some senses are occupied with tasting cheese while others recall the phantom  weight of supporting an exhausted child struggling to breathe. Both felt senses are real. Perhaps a fold in dimensions allows me to be in multiple experiences at the same time? It delights me to think it could be so.

Whatever the explanation for the spontaneous arrival, when the memories show up I have learned to give them some time, maybe see if they tell me something new. What pieces are significant today? Where is my mind drawn? What feelings arise? Arise… Rise up magically like a soufflé.

P.S. I use Julia Child’s recipe which made me go looking for this gem:

The Only Way Out Is Through

There is a moment in every Great Undertaking when I realize I can not go on.

I think to myself, “This Great Undertaking is a fool’s plan, unachievable, and just not going to happen no way-no how, stop the ferris wheel NOW I need to get OFF!”

When I was about eight months pregnant it occurred to me that this large wonderful Creature-Lump inside me was actually going to have to come OUT at some point. Up until then we had been having a lovely contemplative time together. I mostly read books and drank nourishing herbal teas. The Creature-Lump mostly hung out, grew, and mildly squirmed in an increasingly constrained space. We had a rhythm. It was just fine.

Then the comprehension happened. I was doing my normal evening routine, on a day like any other, and suddenly realized that this large Creature-Lump was going to come out into the world. It would come out. Out of me. That was just weird, freaky, and scary. And I couldn’t run away from this reality. I couldn’t wish it to be magically over or find an older sister to do it for me. I realized was just up to me and the lump-creature to make the change.

The only way out is through.

Turns out is wasn’t just up to me and the C-L, though. When we came to the moment of no return, a sizable network of people helped me, cared for me, encouraged me, and literally held me up when I couldn’t go on.

Life is often just plain hard. And hard is not always bad. The challenge sometimes leads to really great amazing stuff. That lump-creature became the most wonderful girl (now young woman) who made my whole life better.

But, facing the reality of knowing there is absolutely no turning back or hiding from the process…is a defining moment. Whether that stampeding process is childbirth, or another equally terrifying unavoidable truth ….the only way out is through. Equal measures of awareness and acceptance will save the day.

I wish I could say it has gotten easier to accept this truth. Somehow, it sneaks up on me every. damn. time.

Writing term papers. Getting a project completed. Telling the truth that needs to be told. Not telling the truth that doesn’t need to be told. Stepping away from what is known toward something new. The only way out is through.

SO I remember what always always makes the impossible possible. Surround myself with people who love me. Talk to people who have traversed this path. Feel the feelings. Read books about inspiring heroes. Dance to great music. Take naps.

And when the transition comes, because of course it will…Stay present. Breathe. Be curious and rely on the process to happen.






Being Okay With the Mystery

Sometimes the answers are really clear: What happens if I stay up too late? (Answer: I will be tired the next day.) Sometimes the answers are more vague: What is your favorite kind of ice cream? (Hmmm…depends on the day, if I had to pick one- probably peppermint stick.) And sometimes there just really isn’t any answer: What happens to us when we die?

This would be one of the Great Mysteries. We Unitarian Universalists have many Great Mysteries. It comes from being people who are evolving in our beliefs, searching for truth.

It is the last question that I have been pondering a lot lately, and I am not alone. None of us knows for sure what happens when we die. Does any part of us- the essence of us- keep going on? Is there a heaven? Is there reincarnation? Is there nothing at all? Will our loved ones remember us?

It can be very confusing and tiring to hold all these questions. To know that we do not have definitive answers. To be certain only that there will always be Great Mysteries. I guess it is part of being part of a thinking and progressive religion. Today, I had the realization that I have a better response to these Mysteries when I have taken care of myself, when I feed my spirit, when I keep my “batteries charged”.

Fourth Principle

Fourth Principle

Being okay with the Mystery  begins when I stay connected to my spiritual practices, practice deep conversation with my friends, and drink enough coffee. I am not kidding. I’m not prescribing that this is the recipe for everyone’s spirit, but I am asking all of us to figure out what are the practices that help YOU feel balanced and healthy, stable and grounded, so that you are more resilient when the Mysteries raise their big question mark selves and DO them regularly. (Because Mysteries usually show up at inconvenient times!)

Seems like the major reason we keep a regular connection together. Whether you practice through Sunday worship, classes, small groups, reading, yoga, coffee house singing, meditation, journaling, etc., the what doesn’t really matter. The act of practicing is the key. The regular development of your faith is what makes us ready for the Mystery – whenever it arrives.

What a blessing that we have a community of like minded people who embrace our evolving faith. We can talk together about our searching, our new ideas, and our fragile thoughts. We can find friends of all ages to share their experiences and ideas. We know that muddling through our own questions is more fruitful and powerful than being given someone else’s answers all tied up in a neat package.

As for the Mystery I am currently pondering- What is left of us after we die? I am no closer to any answers, but that’s okay. I am very grateful for my UU faith, my friends, and a nice cup of coffee- all which keep me company while I ponder. I’ll leave you with a clip from the BBC TV show “Rev.” which helps me think about all sorts of Mysteries- while he is describing one idea of heaven, I like the idea of relationship, of memory and connection among all of us that is strong in the story.