I Am Afraid of a Harmless Thing

ddll

Image Description: A close up image of a daddy long leg, standing on a green leaf.

I am afraid of a harmless thing.
It looks like it could creep,
or bounce,
or pounce,
or charge awkwardly with its considerable appendages.

But it does none of these.
It stays in place all day long,
content to rest in a single crevice,
or reside in clumps of countless others.

It wishes me no harm;
likewise, I wish it no hurt.
Unlike curious schoolchildren at recess,
I will not examine it,
or smash it,
or dash it,
or remove any of its legs.

But –
I will stand irrationally in fear.
I will freeze in the presence of a childhood phobia.
No matter the logic:
“It can’t bite you,”
“It can’t poison you,”
“It can’t jump on you,”
I will cringe with revulsion and anxiety.
I am afraid of a harmless thing.

It makes me wonder. . .

When
the word can’t enters our thinking, or
the word won’t enters our hoping, or
the word don’t enters our dreaming,
perhaps we fear something harmless too?

Renee Roederer

[1] Photo Credit: Mehran Moghtadai/Arad/Wikipedia

N.J.’s Sharkies

IMG_5430

Image Description: Two, light gray, plush shark slippers are on a hardwood floor. They are both facing in the same direction. The one on the right is slightly behind the one on the left.

Story shared with permission.

N.J. is staying at my house this week. She is a great gift in my life — a person who is thoughtful, passionate, hilarious, boisterous, committed, tenacious, strong, and spontaneous. We met only a couple of years ago, but our life stories have some uncanny commonalities. Frankly, I marvel that we found each other.

She’s a student of occupational therapy. Yesterday, she left for her classes, and I began to do some things around the house. Soon after she departed, I came around the corner and spotted two friends who seemed to be awaiting her return.

There they were. The two little sharkies. She left her slippers behind, and they were just facing the back door.

Sharkies2

Image Description: The shark slippers are facing the door in the sunroom.

This immediately made me laugh. They looked like they were waiting diligently for her to come back, eager to reunite with her feet so they could move around this house munching everything in sight.

But then after laughing, I had a sudden wave of gratitude. There is something so lovely about spotting pieces of someone’s uniqueness — symbols of who they are. And it’s an additional privilege when you have the gift of housing them, whether that’s inside a literal house or somewhere within ourselves.

These sharkies are aware they know someone special. 

I’m aware too.

Renee Roederer

Choose That Which Is Choosing You

Moon

Image Description: A large, orange-colored full moon is on the horizon in the center of the image, within a black sky. A dirt road, down the center of the image, leads to the moon. Grass, trees, and a fence line both sides of the road.

If you close your eyes and awaken your awareness,

If you inhale deeply and let that breath fill every part of your being,

If you allow yourself to sit with the Question —
really and truly, as if you were taking it out for tea,
it will inhabit you,
it will enliven you,
it will call you by name,
and you will know what I’m talking about.

You will be familiar with the Question,
because it keeps making itself familiar to you.

It is that Question that keeps rising again
inside your being,
like an enormous, beckoning moon,
and the mysterious tide She consistently summons.

Yes, listen.
Stand on the shore of the horizon
and welcome the Question revealed in the waves
of
longing
lingering
dreaming.

. . . that Idea that keeps returning,
. . . that Love that keeps emerging,
. . . that Path that keeps arriving,

Listen. . .
In the swell of waves,
Ah, there it is –
Won’t you?

It sounds for you –
Won’t you?

Hear it resound and expand –
Won’t you choose that which is choosing you?

Renee Roederer

A Thought I Didn’t Think

Epilepsy Foundation Staff

Image Description: Eleven staff members from the Epilepsy Foundation of Michigan, standing together, posing, and smiling in front of a white wall. There framed quotes hanging on the wall. Many of the people are wearing purple, the color of Epilepsy Awareness. I am in the front row, second person on the left. My purple shirt has white writing which reads, “Epilepsy can affect anyone with a brain; Any one with a brain can affect epilepsy.”

“Have you ever had a thought you didn’t think?”

A wise friend named Bobbie Sanders once shared this question with me more than a decade ago. Her wording has always stuck with me. She meant this: Have you ever had an insightful thought rise up within you unexpectedly, perhaps bubbling up from your intuition? One that just suddenly shows up? A thought that wasn’t a part of your logical, cognitive process?

One year ago last November, I had this kind of experience.

I had the occasion to meet Kurt Eichenwald (which is a great story in and of itself). He invited me to meet with him at the Epilepsy Foundation of Michigan office. I had never been there before, but when I walked in to meet him, I was met with the unforgettable warmth and welcome of the Epilepsy Foundation of Michigan staff.

In the moment, this simple welcome had a big impact on me. I sat down at a table where Kurt was signing books for the staff, and I thought, “I’ve never had a community around my epilepsy experience before. . .” I knew I liked this.

But that’s when I had a thought I didn’t think:

You should work here.

Um… what? I wasn’t expecting that.

You should work here.

My time with Kurt Eichenwald was really meaningful. But this thought would be the longer lasting impact of that day. I had never done non-profit work or formal work in healthcare, chronic illness, and disability advocacy. This would be very new, I realized. But it sat with me. For months, I just held onto this thought I didn’t think.

Then four months later in February, I saw that the Epilepsy Foundation of Michigan was having an Open House. This was an occasion for people to come to the office, meet the staff members, and learn about the programs and services that the organization provides.

“I’m going to go to this, and even though there’s no job opening, I’m going to treat this like a job interview,” I told myself and also a few people close to me. And that’s what I did. I spent time with staff member after staff member. I asked them what makes this work important to them, and multiple conversations turned into brainstorming sessions of new ideas on the spot. I left that evening feeling very energized.

And then, four months later, I received an email from staff members, asking if I could come speak to them about the possibility of doing some contract work with the Epilepsy Foundation of Michigan. We had that conversation, and wholeheartedly, I said yes.

I had followed that gut instinct — that thought I didn’t think — and well… here I am.

Two weeks ago, we held another Open House event, and it was structured just like that event last February. The Epilepsy Foundation of Michigan sent out an email invitation to the listserv, inviting people around the state to come to the event. I also received that invitation in my inbox. When I opened it, this staff photo was at the top. When I saw it, I was floored by it. I felt awe and gratitude.

There I am with this staff… I’m on this team for the next Open House. Incredible.

I’m glad I heard (quite unexpectedly, I might add!) that thought I didn’t think, and I’m glad I leaned in its direction. You just never know how intuition can guide us.

So are you in relationship with a thought you didn’t think? What if… you let it lead you?

Renee Roederer

12 Day Goals

Run

Image Description: Renee is wearing purple Beats headphones, black glasses, and a purple shirt, and she’s smiling big in a closeup selfie.

I did it! I ran the Ann Arbor marathon!

. . . over 12 days on the track in my gym.

But hey! 26.2 miles. I had no idea I could do that.

Now that I have done that… I’ve decided to keep this 12 day period of time going. I’m initiating a new rhythm for myself that I’m simply calling “12 Day Goals.” I set a goal involving something that will really stretch me. Not something totally unmanageable ( <— and it’s okay when something is) but something definitely stretching. Then when I’m finished, I can say, “Wow! I didn’t know that was possible.”

I didn’t know my 12 day marathon was possible.

But I did it. Woo!

Next up: Keeping this tally going to 50 miles. (And they won’t all be running or even physical. I have some rest goals too).

Say What You Need To Say (Two Lessons from Mary Oliver)

Mary Oliver

Image: With a black background behind her, Mary Oliver is wearing a black turtleneck and smiling. I found this image here.

I’m participating in a Poem Exchange this week. It’s wonderful.

A college student in my community sent me an email, inviting me to this Poem Exchange. It’s structured in such a way that friends of friends end up emailing you poetry. I am now receiving poems in my inbox from people I’ve heard about and people who are complete strangers to me.

Yesterday, someone sent me this gem from Mary Oliver:

“Moments” by Mary Oliver

There are moments that cry out to be fulfilled —
like telling someone you love them
or giving your money away, all of it.

Your heart is beating, isn’t it?
You’re not in chains, are you?

There is nothing more pathetic than caution
when headlong might save a life,
even possibly, your own.

This is a stunning, simple, headlong call to action.

Lesson One:
This is the kind of poem that speaks straight into particular situations in our lives. Do it. Say what you need to say. Act in ways you need to act. You can do this.

Lesson Two (my even larger take-away from this poem):

As soon as I received this, I thought, “Goodness… I wonder… How many specific situations has this poem has spoken straight into? Straight toward? Experiences and stories that even Mary Oliver herself could not have anticipated?”

So I found myself pondering this too…

Speak the larger message you need to speak. Put it out into the world. Write the post. Create the art. Embody the dream. Lean into the collective. Release it into the community. Sow the seeds. Express the possibility.

Because… you don’t know who will hear you and how they will hear you…

I know this experience as a preacher. Sometimes, you express that sermon, and it seems you have so little to say… Or you stayed up late writing, and it still feels disjointed and lifeless. But someone still hears something! Sometimes, it’s something life-giving that you didn’t even intend. And you wake up to the realization that you are participating in what feels like a living, breathing moment. Somehow, it flowed through you… you — a relatively unaware messenger.

So this message, this post, this art, this embodiment, this leaning, this releasing, this sowing, this expressing…

It’s calling you.

Say what you need to say.

It may enliven a life,
even possibly, your own.

Renee Roederer

 

Let the Trees Speak to Our Roots. (Again)

I like to re-post this reflection at this time of year. I initially wrote this piece three years ago. Well, guess what? These very trees below are bright orange again, so I love to share once more.

Some reflection questions for me and from me this time around:

-How is beauty revealing itself in your life right now? Perhaps vibrantly? Perhaps surprisingly or stunningly?

-How can beauty call us to our roots, making space for new possibilities? These leaves are a prelude to new leaves that will follow, even if we can’t see them yet. How do we let this beauty speak to the present moment? And to our roots? And to possibility?

trees

I had a total geekout yesterday about these trees.

When I walked out of the gym, I just stood there, stunned that so many gorgeous fall leaves were present in one place. Of course, I did more than just stand there. I took a bunch of photos and recorded a goofy, geekout video on Snapchat.

Beyond the worthy geekout, however, these trees also remind me of something. I think they’re a valuable symbol, especially if we feel fatigued or on edge during this season.

Every autumn, trees reveal their vibrant colors
when their energy is shifted toward their roots.

All spring and summer, leaves gather energy for sustenance and growth through their photosynthesis process. When the autumn begins, leaves don’t really turn red, orange, yellow, and brown. They are revealed to be red, orange, yellow, and brown. In preparation for winter, deciduous trees stop their photosynthesis process. As a result, the accompanying color of green recedes, and we see the revealed colors of these leaves. This process prepares for the winter season in which roots can continue to thrive and grow.

When we see the vibrant colors of autumn, we might also make spiritual analogies and ponder our own rooting process.

As we think about the present moment we’re living, and the future we want to live,

What forms of energy do we need to shed?
What forms of energy do we need to pursue?

To what and to whom are we rooted?
With what and with whom are we connected?

How can a sense of groundedness reveal beauty?
How can rootedness help us see the worth and value of our neighbors?

During this season, when we see the trees (and potentially, have a geekout) perhaps we can ponder these kinds of questions. As I watch trees make these changes, I like to imagine that their energy and focus is moving into the ground — into the most foundational parts of being — and I find myself wanting to do the same.

What do we need to bring inside ourselves toward the most foundational parts of our being?

Grace
in the midst of divisiveness?

Joy
in the midst of strife?

Conviction
in the midst of cynicism?

Justice
in the midst of violence?

Possibility
in the midst of anxiety?

Let’s ponder these when we see the leaves.

Renee Roederer