When a spaceship enters the atmosphere, the atmospheric drag creates friction heat on the moving vessel, converting vast amounts of kinetic energy into proportionally fiery amounts of thermal energy, slowing its movement down. It is a fiery show of mighty forces.
I have felt on such a path of re-entry lately. It is glorious to get back into the breathable atmosphere of daily life, but getting back here is a bumpy ride. And just how I imagine astronauts are ecstatic to come back to earth, the re-entry is a phase they dread: Will the vessel hold?
Last week I went on the last required class for my degree. I was gone for a week – and had an incredible time. Immersing myself in learning on all levels.! It was glorious. And as the week went by, it became clear to me that I didn’t have to worry about Walter. Each night when I talked with him, he sounded energetic. He was happy to tell me about his day. “Today I played the guitar for four hours!” – Today I rehearsed with Michael Leasure and some other amazing musicians for three hours – I stood up the whole time.” “The kids are doing just great – I took Dylan to school this morning and made sure he had his PE clothes.”
His strength made me realize that I did not need to be in the oxygen –deprived outer atmosphere of concern and contingency plans anymore. My time floating around between the satellites and space trash in outer space was coming to an end. I no longer needed to just glance at the globe of daily life; the deep blue ocean of peaceful planning and the green terra firma of daily routines. It was time for my spaceship to come home!
When I am in crisis mode, I delay my emotional reactions. And it makes me really good at focusing with clarity. But emotions don’t go away just because I don’t allow them expression. I might even realize I am scared and say it – but it is purely cognitive reasoning – a place of rational thinking. And as such, the emotion might be clear to me – but it remains locked in my body somewhere. It is not released and breathed out just because I recognize cerebrally that it is there!
One morning, we had a beautiful Native American ceremony for one of my fellow students. He lost his grandmother the previous night. Wolves had come and stood around him as he was looking at the moon sensing her – and later that night he found out she had passed. It was a profound experience for him. When he told our group, it affected us all deeply. Will Taegel promptly created an impromptu ceremony. We sang a beautiful Native American song and surrounded the now orphaned grandson with our love. As the sorrow, grief, and wonder of the beauty of it all flowed through us, I felt tears flowing. I felt a painful tightening in my throat letting me know unmistakably that I was not ready to let it all out. It was not time. This was about giving space for the grieving grandson.
From that moment on I developed an intense and persistent headache, and then the ache in my throat intensified. Driving the 400 miles home, sinus pressure was added to the mix. And suddenly I just started crying. No, that is not an accurate description: I started wailing. Just like Middle Eastern women in grief – or more humorously like Diane Keaton in “Something’s Gotta Give” when she is at the typewriter dressed in her turtleneck frantically typing her lost love out accompanied by her sobs.
I observed myself as from above, and as I wailed away, I realized how good it was that these emotions finally found their way out of my body. It was time to let go of all the months of tightness; all the fear. And then I listened to my mighty voice. It was a voice of wounded animal. And I let it go. It was time. There was nobody in the car but me. I had the music blasting, the car drove itself it seemed. And I felt safe to move through this inner trampoline of tension. Finally!
Coming back down the mountains around L.A, my crying spell was over. And all of a sudden the music disappeared and it felt as if I was flying. It was almost completely silent around me. It were as if I was floating in my car. Then I realized that the pressure from going down the mountain had closed my sinuses. There was no mystical explanation! It was just science. But still I felt altered. The experience went into my bones.
Yawning my way into Huntington Beach with my hearing 80% restored, I realized that now having allowed in the full physical/emotional catharsis, I was in for it. I could feel my body just give in. It had held so much tightness for so long, and now that I had let some of it go – not sure to what degree – time will tell – maybe all of it?
My body holds it together when it needs to. When I was pregnant with our third son, Walter got an offer to play the Pori Jazz Festival in Finland right around our son’s due date. Walter did not want to go across the globe for fear of missing the birth of our son. But I had worked so hard to get him considered for this opportunity, so I told him he needed to go. I told him: “I will just hold the kid in there until you are home again!” And I did. In fact after Walter had been home a few days and rested up, I decided it was time. Our dear friend Curtis came and got our other two sons, then 8 and 5 years old, we called in the midwives, and I had the baby a few hours later!
So, it can be very practical to hold emotions – and babies – in until it is time. But when they then do come out – well that is where that spaceship analogy comes in. Fire, friction, full-scale freakin’ BLOW-OUT!
I succumbed to the nastiest cold/flu. I haven’t been sick for two years – but I got a good dose here! As I was finishing up the second draft of my dissertation, my condition changed between crazy throat ache, sinus pressure, headache, and coughing that I believe was in fact audible in outer space! No longer holding it together, my body was able to let itself go. And this time, I went with it.
It feels like the pressure has equalized a bit on both sides of my spaceship now. I might even be able to open a window soon, and pop out into that glorious world of everyday lush green life. For right now, I sit here marveling at the whole experience. This story has gone from “Houston, we have a problem” – via Nebraska – to successful re-entry. Yes, it is glorious to be alive!