And so today’s moment of happiness despite the news.
For years now, I’ve walked labyrinths. I believe they helped me to meditate before I was meditating. There’s just something about setting my feet onto a path where I know I can’t become lost.
I’ve used labyrinths for help with creativity and in times of emotional uncertainty. I often walk in feeling scrambled, and then walk out, not with a solution, but with a feeling of steadiness and the sense of a solid path in front of me.
There is a labyrinth in La Crosse that I discovered my first time here and that I’ve walked each time I’ve come. Last year, I taught a class on creativity and the labyrinth, setting students walking that certain path, and then letting them rip on a story or piece of artwork. It remains one of my most joyful teaching experiences. When I made my plans to come to La Crosse this year, I knew I’d be walking the labyrinth. But then I realized it would be different this time.
The labyrinth is located outside of a cancer center. Its intended purpose is to bring peace to cancer patients and survivors. This year, that’s how I would be walking it.
It didn’t take very many steps before the tears came. I wasn’t surprised by them, but I was surprised by the force. I felt like I was being wrung out. You know how you can wring out a towel, then loosen it, then wring it again and still get more water from it? That was me this afternoon. Wring and pause, wring and pause.
When I got to the center, I stood and folded my hands. There is no bench at this labyrinth, so I just stood in the exact center. Folded hands, bowed head.
I receive three emails every day, just for fun. One is a fortune cookie, which you click on to crack open. One is an astrological forecast. I’m a Leo. And one is “A Note From The Universe”. This morning, each and every one had the same message: “Don’t be afraid to ask for help.”
I’ve often been told that I seem like I’m not afraid of anything. Seem is an important word.
In the center of the labyrinth, head bowed, hands folded, I decided to not be afraid and I asked for help. I have no idea who I asked, but I asked. I asked for help in recovery. I asked for help finding Michael a job. I asked for a return to a feeling of safety.
Someone told me, right after diagnosis, that I would never feel safe again. I find that hard to accept.
So I asked for help.
Then I started the walk back out.
Throughout the walk, on the way in and on the way out, the same red leaf kept skittering into my path. It was directly in front of me when I started, and I stepped carefully around it. Each time I started to cry, that red leaf moved in front of me. I stopped my walk, noted it and moved on.
Red is one of my favorite colors. It’s a color of strength.
As I stood in the center of the labyrinth, the red leaf blew in front of me again, stopping by my toes.
And right before I stepped off the labyrinth, it blew in front of me again.
By the time I stepped off the labyrinth, I was no longer crying. My shoulders were relaxed. My head was up. Despite the cold air, I was breathing steadily. I didn’t feel wrung out. I actually felt pretty good.
The windows of the cancer center line the wall behind the labyrinth. When I looked inside as I was stepping off the labyrinth, I saw a row of five women standing there. One raised her hand with the thumb and first finger together, in the A-OK sign, and then she pointed at me. I nodded and smiled. All five women raised their fists in the air and smiled back.
An old labyrinth walked with new intention. A persistent bright red leaf. A group of five anonymous women who took the time to make sure I was all right and who raised their fists in triumph and strength and solidarity.
Today’s moment of happiness.
And yes, that helps. Despite. Anyway.