There’s a big difference between looking through the glass at life and being ankle deep in it.
I just came back from one of those big trips you take when you want to feel alive again. You go not just to get a break from your own knee-deep responsibilities. You hope that by stepping away from your life, you will gain clarity . . . new energy . . . new perspective.
I knew it was time for this trip to Vietnam and Cambodia with my husband. I was starting to feel a comfortable distance from life. Running on autopilot; resting in the ease of routine and habitual choices; feeling victim to the pace of my days; procrastinating; observing my life rather than being fully in it. I even felt distant from my own heart.
So off to a far away land. Immediately the heat, smells, sites and flavors woke up my senses. And then my heart broke open . . . seeing the pain of poverty mile after mile . . . yet feeling the peace behind the eyes and the smiles of everyone in my path.
Each day I had greater desire to get closer to the people, to be deeper in their worlds. I would look out of the car window at the rice paddies as we sped along, watching the back breaking work of the straw hatted workers, curious about how rice is grown and harvested. My desire for a perfect photo for my walls shifted to wanting to experience the feeling of being in the rice paddies myself. I became obsessed with the idea. But what was I going to do? Tell our driver to stop the car and march out through the wet fields and saddle up next to a farmer?
Yes. That was what I was going to do. We were on a small dirt road in the scorching heat of the afternoon. I found the courage to verbalize my request, “Would it be possible for me to plant some rice?” Our guide turned his head with a wide grin. A minute later my shoes were off, and three dark faces with bright bright eyes were welcoming me to join them. I slowly stepped into the slippery mud and sank to my ankles. A child like energy burst within me as I felt the mud between my toes. I was handed my own bunch of young rice sproutings that had been pulled by hand just to replant them again evenly in order to maximize the harvest. One by one I pushed the small stem deep into the clay like earth, being coached on the right distance between plantings. The fully clothed ladies cackled under their hats. It was a joyful moment for all of us. I could have stayed there all afternoon, ankle deep in life.
I’m back now. Determined to feel the deep texture of my life and the hearts and desires of those in my daily path. I’m done with the distance that makes us numb to others and keeps life safe and easy.
What distance are you keeping? Why? What might you gain by rolling down the window, getting a little muddy, allowing a new closeness in your life?