Jumping for joy can be counter-intuitive when you’ve been despairing long term. Your cells become expectant of disappointment. The repetition of compromise settles into your muscles and makes reflexes happen. Grey. Less than luminous. Not ideal. In-between half vital and half wanting more. In-between kinda dying and kinda living, a space which can very often be healing, confusing, and wonderfully risky.
Tibetan Buddhists call the place between death and rebirth the Bardo. Catholics have Purgatory. When my Priest explained Purgatory to us in Grade Two, I super-double-dipped-chocolate-vowed to get into heaven, not so much to avoid the flames of hell, but to avoid the total drag of being stuck in between worlds in the Purgatory waiting room of “not quite good enough” losers.
In-between can be terrifically uncomfortable. Like healing, which can be itchy and tight and arduous. And after a while, we can actually manage to get comfortable there, accustomed to the restraints, the warmth of the bandages, tired of how demanding it can be to take good care of ourselves. And so we keep waiting for the fog to lift, naturally. We await the will of heaven. We wait for the meds to kick in. We wait, because, you know, “time heals all things.” (Time, by the way, is not the actual healer. Consciousness is.) And we keep waiting to be healed.
Waiting to be healed can be a tragic form of compromise. When we’re so close to vitality and freedom, we can be lulled by the self-comfort that has served it’s purpose, by the luxury of respites, by the mercy of slow death. Like I said, “in-between” can be risky business. No Buddhist wants to get stuck in the Bardo — they want to come back to life.
The final stages of healing do not necessarily call for organic clearing, but rather, the soul skill of transmutation: intentionally altering your course. Think: wizardry, high-priestess, impassioned agents of change. Think: like God.
TRANSMUTATION, and what my favorite sci-fi movie has to do with getting on with your life…
The Abyss is one of my fave sci-fi movies of the 90′s. A crew of ocean scientists head to new depths of the ocean and it gets rogue and extraterrestrial pretty fast. The scene: Mr. Sexy Sea Captain, “Bud”, played by Ed Harris, and his movie ex-wife, “Lindsey”, played by Mary Elizabeth Mastrantonio, are trapped in an underwater capsule that’s rapidly filling up with water. It’s dire.
They need to swim back to the mother ship to safety. There’s only one oxygen mask and two of them. The distance is a few meters too far to make it without an air supply. Because Bud is a stronger swimmer, Lindsey decides that she will effectively let her self drown, and then Bud can wear the oxygen mask and swim with her back to the ship to quickly resuscitate her.
I searched high and low to find the complete scene for you online. I really want you to see the part where she is inhaling water and letting her body die, while Bud masks up and prepares to swim her to the ship. It’s deeply moving. It is so metaphorical for the times in your life where you take a deep breath and decide let it all go – it is the intentional leap into the liminal bardo where we can only trust that we will find life on the other side.
But, I couldn’t find THAT scene (and James Cameron didn’t return my call.) Howevah, what you can view here is the most riveting, moving, nerve-clenching conclusion of that moment where Bud fights for Lindsey’s life.
And THIS is where I get to my point about healing and Transmutation Time:
There comes a time to fight your way out of purgatory. Assess what you learned, bow to your healing process, and tear off the band-aids. Burn things. This is the time to make announcements and head out into the world even if your skin is a bit tender, even if you are limping now.
You bust out of the in-between when you declare that you.have.decided.to.live. No matter what. Such as you are, you are here, and you are ready for more.