Karen’s father never listened to her. When her college friend, Iris, came home for Thanksgiving to meet her family, Karen’s father began to drift away from their conversation as he always did, dismissing both of them. But Iris immediately said, “Mr. Hollins, we’re here, please.” This awkward call from Iris broke a dark custom between Karen and her father. After a brief and difficult silence, Karen’s father said, “Oh, sorry. Yes, where were we?”
Later, Iris said to Karen, “It hurt me to see you so disregarded. Why can’t you ask for your turn? He probably won’t change, but you don’t have to muffle yourself.” It had never occurred to Karen to say a word.
It’s hard to remember that we are filled with light, and that we have choices. To emanate our light in the presence of others is a struggle that everyone faces, more than once. Unlike animals, we as humans can muffle our light and do so every time we let others block us from being who we are. We do this to ourselves each time we don’t ask for our turn: to come out from behind our masks, to speak our truth, and to honestly share our feelings.
Some people are so blocked from their light that they can’t bear the light of others nearby, as it painfully reminds them of the absence of their own connection to the Truth of the Universe. They become light-mufflers rather than light-seekers. In the face of all this, we’re asked to grow toward the light the way trees and plants do. Each branch grows toward whatever opening is available. Branches grow around each other and through each other. Some branches grow down before growing up. Some grow sideways, while some twist through the smallest openings. But together, all the branches form a majestic, unrepeatable latticework of trees. Growing toward the light is asking for our turn.
A Question to Walk With: Describe a time when you needed to ask for your turn. Did you do so or not? If so, what made that possible? If not, what kept you from asking for your turn? How has this experience affected the way you share what you truly experience?
Last month, Atria published my new book, The One Life We’re Given: Finding the Wisdom that Waits in Your Heart. To make the most of being here, we’re required to learn when to try and when to let go. This is our initiation into grace. The gift and practice of being human centers on the effort to restore what matters and, when in trouble, to make good use of our heart. No one quite knows how to do this, but learn it we must. There is no other way. By fully living the one life we’re given, we’re led to the wisdom that waits in our heart. The above piece is an excerpt from the book.
For more poetry for the soul, click here.
For more by Mark Nepo, click here.
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