Creating Space For Our Joys and Sorrows

by Rev. Kim Wildszewski

At the end of August, we turned the service over to the ritual of Joys & Sorrows, something we hadn’t done in full since March of 2020. You can find the homily I shared to reintroduce us to this beloved tradition below.

Since that service I have heard from so many of you about how meaningful that hour was. Thank you for reaching out in the ways you have. I am so grateful that you felt connected and reconnected because of that time. Going forward, you can expect a similar service (a very brief homily in place of the meditation, then joys and sorrows in place of the sermon) about every 3 weeks. The next Joys & Sorrows Sunday will be September 25th.

At this time, we will not do Joys & Sorrows every other week like we once had, in part because of the volume of sharing during one multiplatform service, but also so that we can create a time of meaningful sharing. If we find that we don’t need that entire time, or that it would be more meaningful to have more brief opportunities to share, we will make that change. Making such a decision requires that continued conversation between you and me, so please keep the feedback coming.

With gratitude and care,
Rev. Kim

. . . . .

Since May, I have been waking up with back spasms. The kind that stretch like vines along your back. The kind that seem to have no particular starting point and have no interest in waning to an end.

I haven’t been sleeping well because of it. At first, it was the pain, and then, it was the googling. I have been self-diagnosed with every terminal ailment at least three times a night, each night, since June. I’ve been tired.

And then I finally took to the doctors. Doctors of all kinds. Blood work, GPs and PTs. It was the chiropractor who had me do the x-rays where they found the compression. Weird for someone my age they said but there it is: bone sitting on nerve right in the middle of my spine. So she hooked me up to this machine where you lay down flat, and then get belted in.

Do you know what a billet strap is? The buckle that holds a saddle on a horse? It’s kind of like that only it was me secured to the table, and then a rope line that hitches from your pelvis to the machine at the end of your feet.

Then, slowly, ever so slowly, the table moves up and the pull line pulls down, and the bones that are compressed and hitting against the nerve breathe. Or, I guess, they experience space and spaciousness. The nerve can move, stretch, dance, respond unencumbered. And wouldn’t you know it? The brain begins to notice things, focus on things, other than pain and tightening and bracing.

I wonder: how many of us here could use a little room, a little space, some decompression to help us breathe?

To feel like there is some freedom to move, to stretch, to stretch into something uncertain or exciting?

I wonder how many of us could benefit from some spaciousness?

So that, as life presented itself with its stresses and urgencies, its competing needs or sorrows, we get just a little space so that we could respond unencumbered.

So that we could not anticipate pain.

So that we didn’t feel the need to brace ourselves.

So that we weren’t always so exhausted.

I have no pulley here today. No table. No fix. But I do have you, and you have me, and we have each other, and it has been so long since we have practiced the ritual of creating space for and with each other. Space to name out loud our hurts and changes, our joys and anticipations. Space to receive another’s sorrow or to share with them in their celebration.

As Unitarian Universalists, we say that the congregation is the classroom. You get what that means. It’s in our interactions that we come to know the world and our place in it. It’s in this time out of time that we worship, that we turn our attention to that learning, to that growing.

But, if week after week all we do is come and receive one or two people’s thoughts on the world and spirit, we are simply alone together. Our learning and growing becomes stunted. We Unitarian Universalists believe that it is in our sharing of ourselves—that brave task, and that it is in the act of receiving someone else—that task that creates and grows trust and connection in the world, that this is how we come not only to marvel at, but to engage in the depth and movement of the spirit of life, of the human experience, of the interconnection of which we are but a part.

And so, we must create the space. We must make of it a practice, again. And see and feel how it changes us. Slowly, slowly.

This will be a practice, you know. It’s not a fix.

At the end of the twenty minutes of the medieval looking machine, I was unnerved by how compressed I felt again. And on the drive home I cried and cried because I wanted it to be—not just better, but done. Fixed. Forgotten. And I knew I’d have to do it again. And again. And again, until I got stronger.

It’s going to be like that for us, too. Today doesn’t fix anything. It just starts to create a little space again. It just begins to help us realign to what matters; to who we are; to how we can be.

And if we’re lucky, as we learn again that we are not alone together, but, instead, companions and advocates – a village – we just might feel that freedom to move more freely, to stretch more bravely, to release a bit of our bracing. And, wouldn’t that be something to worship?

My last word: If you felt a stretch of spaciousness today, or maybe a bit of tender pulling, if you feel sore or uncertain because of this time, I’ll offer you the same course of action that was given to me: make sure you drink some water; and move your body; and to check back in if something doesn’t feel right.