Just when you seem to yourself
nothing but a flimsy web
of questions, you are given
the questions of others to hold
in the emptiness of your hands,
songbird eggs that can still hatch
if you keep them warm,
butterflies opening and closing themselves
in your cupped palms, trusting you not to injure
their scintillant fur, their dust.
You are given the questions of others
as if they were answers
to all you ask. Yes, perhaps
this gift is your answer.
from Sands of the Well
I find myself often in positions of more responsibility than I am able to meet. Marriage comes to mind. Motherhood also. Everyday I wake up with the knowledge that I am totally incompetent to adequately execute the barest sliver of what my life situation requres of me. For a perfectionist this is not happy information. Some people cry themselves to sleep. I can remember a time when I cried to find myself awake and in the world of the living, overwhelmed to be yet again doomed to push my personal boulder up a slope too steep.
I love Levertov's poem. It loosens something inside, gives space, gives permission to breathe again. It's a reminder that the most important parts of life--the parts that involve relationships with other people--require not that we have and hand out all the answers to others' questions, but that we allow others to ask their questions and then to seek for themselves, that we stand as witness and encouragement for the searchings of our family, our friends and mentees. It's a reminder that, quite frankly, we need fairly often to keep from closing our well-meaning handfulls of pat answers around fragile wings and crushing them. It's fear, I think, that clenches our fists so tightly, fear of not knowing answers ourselves, or of not trusting the answers we claim to know. I want the grace to live in ignorance in willingness without willfulness.
Open hands, Cindy. Open hands.