The Privilege of Empty Hands

I’ve had enough experience with sorrow and loss to know that the best things come when our hands have been emptied and are therefore available to take hold of the new thing that grace sends our way. It’s a form of trust in the energy and essential goodness of the universe to reject despair and embrace hope when something terrible happens. The empty hand, then, is a gift of sorts–a privilege.

I’ve seen it work in my own life and in that of others. When Son didn’t get a scholarship to Chicago or MIT, his first choices were denied him. However, the path he took because of the generosity of Tulane University led him directly into a field he hadn’t even known about and to his wonderful life with a wonderful woman who is his intellectual equal in France. And that is just one example of the truth of this trust.

In my own life, some terrible things happened, but they all led me to this amazing life I live now. And sometimes the things that empty our hands are not terrible. I struggled for about a year with my identity when, a few years ago, I stopped working for money at Papabear’s request. Everything that resulted from that decision has been good, including the cessation of what had been frequent migraines and my renewed ability to write. But now, with the time I have available–this small happy version of empty hands–I have been able to accept a job reviewing restaurants for the local paper. It’s a small job but perfect for us. And one striking thing is that it happened immediately after the little grocery store where I had been selling herbs and tomatoes from my garden closed permanently.

So again, I see the proverbial door open after accepting other doors’ closing. I’ve lived long enough and known enough sadness in my own life and others’ lives not to be a thoughtless Little Miss Sunshine. But how can I deny, against the evidence of the river of events I see in my own life and that of those I’ve loved, that things do work for good if we let them? I hope you can see the same in your own life, and I hope you have the privilege to allow your hands to become empty once in a while.

About janemwoodman

Singer, writer, restaurant reviewer, urban farmer, devoted lover of my husband....old and getting happier all the time.
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4 Responses to The Privilege of Empty Hands

  1. rita kowats says:

    This is so poignant and clean. I really love, ” The empty hand, then, is a gift of sorts–a privilege.” Thank you Jane.

  2. An ancient Chinese text, the Tao Te Ching or “Book of Changes” talks about a similar concept called “Empty Your Cup”. I encourage you to explore it, fits right in with what you’re saying. I’ve also written a paper on the concept, I think I’ll post it on my blog tonight 🙂

  3. I referenced the wrong ancient Chinese text! My bad. The Book of Changes is an oracle, not a traditional text. The correct reference is “Zen Mind, Beginner’s Mind” by Shunryu Suzuki. I’ll be posting my essay on the topic shortly if you’re interested. Take care!

  4. July Girl says:

    So beautifully stated. I have also seen this in my own life, so I feel its truth.

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