by Leza Lowitz

Original Language English

You keep waiting for something to happen,
the thing that lifts you out of yourself,

catapults you into doing all the things you've put off
the great things you're meant to do in your life,

but somehow never quite get to.
You keep waiting for the planets to shift

the new moon to bring news,
the universe to align, something to give.

Meanwhile, the pile of papers, the laundry, the dishes the job --
it all stacks up while you keep hoping

for some miracle to blast down upon you,
scattering the piles to the winds.

Sometimes you lie in bed, terrified of your life.
Sometimes you laugh at the privilege of waking.

But all the while, life goes on in its messy way.
And then you turn forty. Or fifty. Or sixty...

and some part of you realizes you are not alone
and you find signs of this in the animal kingdom --

when a snake sheds its skin its eyes glaze over,
it slinks under a rock, not wanting to be touched,

and when caterpillar turns to butterfly
if the pupa is brushed, it will die --

and when the bird taps its beak hungrily against the egg
it's because the thing is too small, too small,

and it needs to break out.
And midlife walks you into that wisdom

that this is what transformation looks like --
the mess of it, the tapping at the walls of your life,

the yearning and writhing and pushing,
until one day, one day

you emerge from the wreck
embracing both the immense dawn

and the dusk of the body,
glistening, beautiful

just as you are.

-- from Poems of Awakening: An International Anthology of Spiritual Poetry, Edited by Betsy Small

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Commentary by Ivan M. Granger

It is part of my morning ritual, I shuffle to the sink and wash last night's dishes by hand. I like the tactile quality of it, the warm soapy water on my hands, slowly watching the order of clean, neatly arranged dishes emerging from the mess. This is spiritual practice at midlife: a fifty year old man, hair sleep mussed, still in his bed clothes, doing the dishes.

I like the poet's suggestion that the wisdom of midlife is not raging against the chaos and mess of life, but the interaction with it until we ourselves emerge transformed.

We stop expecting the mess to go away or somehow be made right. When I do the dishes in the morning, a whole new stack of dirty dishes have reappeared with the next meal. Sometimes I'm convinced that my wife and I couldn't possibly have created so many dirty dishes in such a short time, that hungry house hobs have been secretly adding to the stack.

That's the thing, life is about mess. The act of living and interacting with the world, with other people creates a certain amount of disorder. We don't want to be utterly free of mess and chaos or even problems. They are the signs of life being lived. We make a mess. We clean up the mess. This is the natural rhythm of life.

until one day, one day

you emerge from the wreck
embracing both the immense dawn

and the dusk of the body,
glistening, beautiful

just as you are.

I love the way she contrasts the embrace of the dawn while also embracing the "dusk of the body." Embracing dawn suggests to me that we recognize in ourselves something filled with new life, something vast and glowing. But there is also the increasing sense of the fading of the body. Even if we remain healthy and strong as we grow older, maturity requires us to recognize that this body is limited and has a looming expiration date. And this is wisdom, the integration of these two truths.

Seeing both, at peace with both, we step into the present moment and come to know ourselves-- "glistening, beautiful / just as you are."

Have a beautiful day! Enjoy the mess. And enjoy cleaning it up again.

Recommended Books: Leza Lowitz

Poems of Awakening: An International Anthology of Spiritual Poetry Yoga Poems: Lines to Unfold By