It’s been a few years since I chose a word of the year. Everyone kept asking me what my word was and every time someone would ask, I would hear this soft voice saying “trust.” But of course I would say, “oh I don’t have a word.” Finally I gave in and said to myself, “okay, this year we are going to learn how to trust.” (we just means me, but I usually talk to myself as an us.)
The problem with learning life things (rather than intellectual things) is that I have to learn experientially. Trust is a really nice idea. I can see other people trust and understand the concept, but to really grow in trust, I have to be presented with experiences where trust is the only option.
I wish I could have had the word “fun.” I’m not even that great at having fun so it is something that I hope to practice more one day. I would love to be presented with all sorts of experiences to learn how to have more fun. But alas, trust it is.
Last week I made an instagram post about how I couldn’t believe within the first two weeks of the year, I was already presented with an opportunity. The past four months, my best friend and I have been living together. It has been pure bliss. I never imagined a living situation so perfect in single life as this. We pray morning prayer together, cook food for each other, make each other coffee, talk about our days at the end of the day, check in with each other, make sure the other is awake in the mornings, etc etc.
So when she accepted a job in San Francisco, I had to accept that things were going to change. I am so so so happy for her and excited and proud of this new opportunity. And I wondered what life was going to be like for me – who would move in? How would it be? Will I be lonely?
And I remembered my word. Trust. I’ve seen things work out for the best so many times in my life that I knew it was my only proper response. But of course I worried a bit – it’s only human nature. And I would turn it over to God.
Last night, I had a call with my spiritual director. He gives such solid advice and I feel selfish to keep it for myself. So let me share the two metaphors that he gave me.
Fr. Michael: Do you carry a purse?
Me: what did you say? a purse?
F.M: yeah, you know one of those hand bag things, do you call it a purse?
Me: oh yes, I carry a purse
F.M: do you have more than one purse?
Me: yes, I have quite a few, although this past year I mostly carry the same one all the time
F.M: so if you have one that carries your essentials, what would be the purpose of carrying a different one at different times?
Me: sometimes I want to carry less things and sometimes I want to carry more things
Fr. Michael: exactly! So imagine, you are your everyday purse. You carry just your essentials. If you carry a big purse all the time, so that you can carry every single thing in it, it gets really heavy doesn’t it? And in the end, you don’t need to carry around a stapler, toothpicks, kleenex or whatever you women like to carry around.
There is a price to pay for keeping all the things with you. Just like in life, if you try to keep all the good things, everything that suits you, makes you happy, feels good, then your shoulder is going to hurt. If you are upset by this situation, exhausted by it even, it’s because you are trying to hold onto things that were never meant to be held onto!
Your relationship with God is the only thing that is essential. We have to live interdependent on other people, which means that things are always changing. Life is full of change and in this spiritual life, these moments of ease are just intermitent to take a rest from the growing pains.
And what will happen if we don’t change? We will die.
That made so much sense to me! I do want all the things to stay the same when it works for me. But Marylouise, she needs things to change because she needs a job! And she has work to do and a mission to live. Oh how many times I have caused myself more pain because I was trying to hoard all the things, all the time.
He continued, imagine a plant. If it is potted in a small pot and fed water, it will happily stay the same size and live contently.
But if someone takes the plant and repots it in a larger pot, adds some soil and waters it, it grows even bigger and more beautiful! Erica, I’ve seen you be repotted so many times over the last 3.5 years and you just keep growing and it’s amazing to watch. So I think this is just another moment where you’re being repotted.
And remember, that plant never asked to be repotted. We never ask for it, but in our spiritual life, it is inevitable. So how can you accept it with gusto?
That really struck me. Father Michael is under the order of Saint Philip Neri and I keep his prayer near my desk. He is the patron saint of JOY. Father Michael not only reminds me to accept life, but to confront it with “gusto” and joy.
So listen to this! This morning, Marylouise and I prayed our morning prayers and we asked for help with this living situation – for housing for her in San Fran and for me to find someone who could benefit from living with me for three months (I have dear friends who want to move in in June).
I went to exercise and when I got back to my computer and opened my email, there was an email from a woman who said I met her back in April and had given her my email in case she need a place to live. She is from Spain and was going to be studying here from March to May 31. My jaw dropped to the ground. Even now as I write this, I am in a bit of disbelief.
I texted Father Michael and he replied, “trust works.” And I realized I forgot to even tell him my word for the year. So here it is. The growing, the trusting, the new pot I can see in the distance.