Thursday, March 17, 2011

A Lesson In Everything

Photo: Erin Doyle

Don’t you just love when you get lost in a great book, and it begins to transform you?  Right now I’m in the middle of reading, Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow, by the amazing Elizabeth Lesser. In one chapter she tells a beautiful story about her good friend Ram Dass, who is a spiritual leader and the voice of a generation. Ram Dass spent his career teaching others to live with spirit and grace. Until he came to a critical turning point in his own life.

One night as he was answering the phone, this powerful man suddenly fell to the floor and found himself unable to move or speak. His friend on the phone was calling out to him. “Ram- Do you need help? Tap the phone once for yes, and twice for no.” Ram Dass tapped twice.

Most of us have a hard time accepting help, even when we desperately need it. Don’t I know it. All last year Troy and I faced numerous battles on our own, vowing that no matter what came we would withstand it. But with all the other crises the year brought, and after more than a year of this legal battle, we were unraveling. The financial burden was stressing us, but the emotional burden took the heavier toll. Troy often said he felt like there was a mountain of grief on us, and he was trying frantically to dig us out.

When I had the miscarriage in February, it was the last straw for me. I just couldn’t lift myself up anymore. The trial was two months away, but my fight was gone. Our money was gone. Our hope was gone. I called my attorney, ready to throw in the towel. I told her…if this guy’s intention was to break me down, he’s won. So what now? Show up at court and tell the judge I’ve got no attorney? What are they going to do, force me to give up my dog?  I won’t. Let them arrest me.

I really didn’t care any more.

She wisely advised me to take a few days to rest and think things over, and we’d continue our discussion later in the week.

In the meantime, my girlfriends called to offer support. They told me – don’t let it get you down. Just think of all the wonderful family and friends you have! You are surrounded with love! And I said, cynically, Yeah. I wish love could win this court case.

But then I thought about that. Wait a minute….I may be low in financial resources, but man oh man do I have a wealth of beautiful people in my life. I am RICH in love. What is it I’m always saying in my blogs…LOVE conquers HATE. LOVE conquers FEAR. Somehow I forgot. But my friends didn’t. They knew that LOVE could conquer this battle.

As hard as it was for me, and especially for my husband, I had to tap once on that phone. I needed help. And along came another lesson. The lesson of being vulnerable. The lesson of needing people. This is the ultimate “trust fall”, and not one person has let me touch the ground.

I had a friend say to me, “I could never do that…ask for help.” Neither could I. Honestly, it has been gut-wrenching to admit that I needed help. I’ve always been independant. I want to be the strong one who lifts others. But life has brought me to my knees, so here I am, humbled and grateful.

And that brings me back to the story of Ram Dass. He had a stroke that night that would forever change him. Ram Dass, the pillar of strength, would spend the rest of his days in a wheelchair. This brilliant man who spent forty years lecturing and teaching could now barely speak. It was an entirely new state of being for him.

When Elizabeth asked him what the experience was like, he called it “Fierce Grace.” He said,“Ego breaks open, then you see who you really are.”

I get it now. Fierce grace has been at work on my life, forcing my Ego to take the backseat. What I’ve discovered is that when Ego leaves, there is much more room for LOVE.

My favorite word.

And as I get back on my feet, remember this…
tap once if you need help.
I’ll be listening for you.


  1. Hollye Hollye Hollye--your writing weaves it's way under my skin and ignites my heart. you are very special. you ARE fierce grace--even when you don't realize it. I loved the book Broken Open--and I happened to have the good fortune to sit at Ram Das's feet after he had a stroke when he spoke to a group about fierce grace......he was inspiring and so are you.....

  2. Oh, Hollye. I love how you write. I don't know if you know the song "Broken Open" by Laura C., but I think it speaks to exactly what you are talking about. Warmth and light, Hollye - be well. Here's a link to the song as posted on my blog:

  3. This is lovely Hollye, a reminder that surrender gratitude and love can sustain us. Surrender is the hardest thing for me but I know if I can manage it, the tight gnarled knots will be softly unwound. Thank you for inviting us into your life...

  4. Tears for you. Tears of understanding. Tears for the love. Tears for the bright future. Tears for treasuring the present. Tears of joy. Love you.

  5. Beautiful. Surrender. Fierce grace. Love. Just beautiful! Thank you for sharing your story and your heart.

  6. I have learned like you have Hollye that asking for help is a gift you give yourself. Beautiful post. And I am on my way to your website for Stitch.

  7. I grew up pretty much, on my own, so I didn't learn this lesson until I met my wife's 5000 =/- person family that overflows with LOVE. Very nice col.

  8. Wow. Yes. Ego. I have learned a great lesson, too, in putting aside my ego and asking for help/accepting help. I have learned this lesson, though, and I am ready to move on so I can be more of a help. I have been pretty much destitute for the past 10 years and have accepted more help than I care to mention. But it has shown me one very important thing: the abundance of love is more overflowing than money.

  9. I've NEVER been good at asking for help. I get embarrassed, anxious, etc. I will let real problems pile up as a result.

    A couple of times in the past year I finally reached out to a few people and asked for support. I too was PLEASANTLY surprised with the response.

  10. Wow! So strange, I just got that book, haven't opened it yet but I can't wait to now. If you haven't already, read The Collective Wisdom by Florence Scovel Shinn. It will really help you have faith and strength to believe in things again. I have also been thru some really tough times the past few years and you must be strong for Fear is the opposite of faith, I have been spreading that around like fertilizer for my loved ones to grow on. Good old power of positive thinking. Only put out there the best intention that you will have everything in time.
    Love U miss hollye...

  11. This column opened and inspired me.


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