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the shit bench

The birds agree: this is the shit bench. How do they choose? A bird caucus? Does one bird run for office and get elected campaigning for said bench? I don’t know, but it appears unanimous. This is the shit bench. Shit here. This is where the shitting happens. It is good to shit on this bench.

I am reminded of a Chinese proverb: Keep a green tree in your heart and a singing bird may come. Seems true. Your heart can house almost anything; a tree, a flame, a jealousy, a person, or a bench where shit piles up and hardens in the sun.

It can happen - hours, days, the occasional dazzlingly awful week - when I discover I am sitting at the proverbial shit bench, accumulating thoughts that I elucidate with past hurts and fears to – I don’t know – relish the stench.

I’d rather not sit on the shit bench but it has an allure. Asking the unanswerable questions often lands me there: What is wrong with the world? With me? With humanity? Why can’t I get ahead? Even a brief sit-down with misery makes me more allied with doubt.

The vulnerability researcher, Dr. Brene Brown, says that if we connect through fear and create intimacy around a common enemy, we deny ourselves true belonging, true like the grey egret’s perch in the avocado tree, true like the goose’s honking when you crowd her nest and true like the line the ducklings form behind mom.

Maybe that’s why the animals drop the shit in one place and return to the freedom of the water, the sky and the trees. Maybe the bench did something terrible and now deserves defilement. Maybe like my dog, the birds smell shit and feel inspired to add to it. Maybe the metaphor holds no meaning and is a waste of waste, but the closer I get to myself – Glennon Doyle Melton calls it “unbecoming” – the more I realize the choice in things: the green tree for the bird that sings or the shit bench.

And sometimes it isn’t either or, sometimes it’s both. The hard, uncomfortable in-between place that grows you. But particularly now when there is unsayable pain in the world, irredeemable greed, relentless consumption and automatic weapons in our babies’ schools, I think I have to sit with hope, stockpile it, accumulate it – hell - lunge for it, imagine it, offer it, serve it for dinner and proliferate it like seeds on the wind.

We will always connect in our pain. We’re alive; it’s a painful business. But I want to connect in your joy too. Is there a bench for that? Sit with me there. Maybe a singing bird will come.

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