The heart wants what it wants. If the heart wants something that triggers intense pain or strong reactions, resist the urge to shut it down. The goal is not to repress what the heart is stirred to express (hopes, losses, despairs, longings) but rather to hold it all in love….and then release. Staying in the flow of life means feeling what needs to be felt. This alone does not make you a victim of life–it’s the story you tell about the feelings that create liberation or victimization.art by Lori Portka.
Can we talk about how hard April has been? Really hard. You would think I’d be prepared, knowing it’s the cruellest month and all. But nope.
There has been an endless onslaught of bad news for people I care about. Tragedy, loss, injustice. One after another. (I need to close my FB feed for real.) It’s all knocked me down more than I expected. I’ve been feeling old grief wounds surface. I’ve been emotional-eating chocolate. And if I’m totally honest, I have to admit I’ve been wallowing in it a bit.
It is ok, we all need to wallow sometimes. But I decided this morning that I was done wallowing. I am not powerless (though I often feel powerless). I am not a victim of life. (Though I sometimes want to pout and believe I am.) I am a co-creator of life. I am a participant and I don’t believe bad things happen because we are bad. I believe that nature has its rhythms and cycles and we are not immune to them. The baby tree that is knocked over in a hurricane doesn’t take it personally. The exploding ant that blows itself up to save its village doesn’t take it personally. (Um, maybe he should though??)
This is not to minimize the grief and despair we go through with major losses, pain or hurt. But the difference is that for me this past month, I wasn’t the actual victim of all the horrible stuff that went down. That doesn’t mean I don’t have empathy. (Oh Lord I do.) BUT pointing to the parade of tragedies as proof that life is awful and I’m doomed probably isn’t helpful either.
On this blog I like to talk a lot about how surrender, grace, gratitude and art/writing has helped me to release and transmute pain. Now the rubber is meeting the road, so to speak. I need to walk my walk and not just talk my talk.
For me it means I had to get outside into nature. (It always, always heals me.) I took a long walk, like many of the walks I took when I was deep in grief, and I started talking out loud to the oaks (and my beagles), asking for help to release and also recounting all I’m grateful for. Wouldn’t you know it but about a minute into this a mourning dove flew and landed about ten feet away. And then a mockingbird (another bird of meaning for me) landed on a branch and stared deeply into my eyes. Well, then I lost it, crying/laughing because yes. Ask and you will receive. Ask for help and you will be met with love. I walked for a while longer and felt so much better. I also started hearing the words I had to write today — a sure sign that I needed to sit down and write as well.
So here I am. The crazy-lady-who-talks-to-trees-and-birds-and-writes-about-it. And feels infinitely better. I’m going to keep showing up when it is hard and doing what I need to do. I’m going to be the best beacon of light I can when others are having hard times, (but I know that requires me to take care of my own baggage when needed). I’m going to go gentle with myself. I’m going to go gentle with others.
(And I’m also going to remind myself that April is thankfully over in EIGHT SHORT DAYS!)
I think it’s time to forgive all the Sarahs. Heck, not just forgive them — thank them!
They were doing the best they could. They had lessons to learn! I couldn’t be who I am today without them. Wait, this is sounding like an acceptance speech . . .
“I’d like to thank the academy, my husband, my agent, and I’d especially like to thank all the Sarahs who helped me get to where I am today:
“Law-school-Sarah, thank you for showing me what is possible when all my focus is channeled to one task. You showed me that if I stand squarely in my masculine I can achieve pretty much anything I set my mind to. (Never mind if most of it is a pointless exercise in competition, winner-take-all gamesmanship, and distorted-masculinity. But I digress.) You also showed me that there is a cost to be paid when it means shutting down my feminine energy that is the source of vitality, joy and creativity. Law school Sarah, I look at photos of you and I think, damn, that girl just needs a break. Your hair is dry, your face is puffy and you don’t really exude happiness do you? You showed me the costs of polarity within myself. Thanks for that very big lesson, girl. Now go get a facial!
“I’d also like to thank grieving, collapsed on the sofa new-mom-Sarah for showing me the gifts of surrender. Girl, you had a tough time of it too. Your mom died, your cat died, and you could have probably used a facial as well. But wow you learned that there are times to surrender and throw your arms up. To proclaim to the universe, I don’t have any answers so some help here would be appreciated. You learned to be still and receive. You gave so much of yourself that you were due for a long period of rest and renewal. You found your way back to your heart and lit the spark of the divine feminine within. You transmuted pain with your writing and art. That is kind of a big deal! I’m so thankful for you for showing the way back to the things that make my heart sing. What a gift!
“And lastly–this is the hardest one because it is so raw–I’d like to thank infertility Sarah. I didn’t want to see your gifts because not fair! But alas, you had them too. If it weren’t for you I wouldn’t have demanded my own vitality. Imagine that. It took a representative of the patriarchy–a male in a white lab coat, discussing my body like it was a machine to be fixed and tweaked–for me to realize that this was not okay. It was not okay that my body was dried up, spent, and lacking in feminine life force itself! It was a confirmation of something I knew and had ignored: that I had given too much and my cup was empty, that there had to be a better way of living than depending on another cup of coffee. You showed me, dear heartbroken Sarah, that you matter. You matter beyond comprehension. You matter more than your ability to create new life. Imagine if you had waited to learn this lesson from staring at a different clinical diagnosis? What a gift that you were shaken awake.
“What’s that? You cut to commercial five minutes ago? But there are so many other Sarahs to thank! Fine, but I won’t leave this stage without a fight. Oprah for president! Impeach Trump! You will not silence me!!” [Mic cut.]
For real though, there are other Sarahs to thank. But for today this will do.
What past selves do you think you might be able to forgive? It’s okay if it doesn’t come easily or quickly. This post is the end product of more sad, self-indulgent journal entries than I care to admit!
The Wasteland burns us up and burns us out. Instead of following your own instincts, instead of discovering what it is that gives us joy, what makes our heart sing, we spend most of our lives trying to make other people happy…living from our head rather than our instinct for what is good and healthy.
The Heroine’s Journey for these times is a journey out of the Wasteland. Each of us has our own unique set of stories to tell: the story of the years we spent in the Wasteland, the story of our awakening, and the story of the path we took out of it.
~Sharon Blackie, If Women Rose Rooted
At least, that is what my wise-woman self tells me.
Trust the process.
The process is not linear.
The process will not be understood by your monkey mind (which undoubtedly will want to dictate the process and will fail miserably).
The process may be met with all your defenses. The sudden need to sleep. The sudden need to hide into a book. The sudden need to shove mouthfuls of popcorn into your mouth while reading said book.
If your body says rest, rest. If you body says dig in, dig in. If your body says, “you are putting up your defenses” then stay curious.
Allow your partner to call you out (they always will). Allow your dreams to speak to you (make sure you’re listening).
Move. Shake. Walk. Dance. Tickle. Flail. Kick. Conga. [really wise self? Conga?]
Walk, relax, meditate in savasana.
Self-care, self-care, self-care. And then some more.
The sun will rise again. It didn’t disappear, it was just out of view. Relax into the orbit of your life.
“Pain is a great teacher, but light is a greater one.” – Magldala Ramirez, Ancient Wisdom of the Feminine podcast.
The man who gives you a back rub without your permission. The guy who stands a little too close to you on the bus, so close you can smell the alcohol on his breath. The boys who joked and the men who joked and so many jokes but you were never laughing. The jokes you didn’t understand because you were too young to understand. The gut punch when you were old enough to finally get what they meant.
The prayers not to be raped by the guy who was angry you wouldn’t have sex with him. The relief when you weren’t. Rage over feeling relief.
All the winks. The condescending sighs. The “hey baby”s. The talking, always the talking, louder and over and in between and beneath. The drive-bys and the phone call after phone call after phone call. Will he stay or will he go now? If he stays it will be trouble. Another damn fork in the road. So many forks in the road decided by someone other than you.
All of it a catch in the throat, a drop in the gut. Fight or flight. Fight or flight. An entire lifetime dictated by fight or flight. Learned at an age when you couldn’t spell rape but lived it followed by an entire lifetime of repressing, running, hiding, cajoling, negotiating with it and then finally healing it. The slow release of a fist when you heard the first me, too. Healing when you utter your first me, too, into a microphone into the dark to mostly strangers because they all have me toos or have loved ones with me toos and they don’t know you so that makes it even better. Healing healing healing healing so much healing you are so tired of the healing please can I stop the healing? And the relief when you suddenly wake up one day and it’s three-and-half decades later and you discover that your life is no longer a series of fight or flight. Fight or flight. Fight or flight. You didn’t know it was possible.
So much healing mixed with a little bit of telling. The telling is mostly over and above around and beneath. Yes you spoke into the microphone and in circles of women in social workers’ offices and in therapists’ offices. But part of you is afraid and you are not sure why because you have already lost the support of so many and how could you lose more by speaking? How is that even possible? Anything is possible. The walking rape-trigger might become president and this, this is what finally does it. The walking-trigger at a microphone about to become president and this feels like another fork in the road. You decide you want to have a say for once in these forks in the road so you tell it like it is, not above or beneath but through the middle, a straight arrow of truth. And the world doesn’t crumble. And you realize this whole time you were afraid it wasn’t about them. It was about you seeing yourself, standing in the light the in truth of it all, the full unadulterated whole entire truth. All its horror and strength and despair and rising above. A thousand me toos tossed into the light. An arrow of truth pointing toward a future no longer full of too many me toos.
Thank you for reading. If you are a survivor and need someone to talk to, the most up-to-date information on services in your community can be found here (on the right hand side of the page).
The kiddo was up very early today which meant one thing: I had to blog, just like old times! All those early mornings where I wrote as the sun rose. The days where writing daily was a necessary part of my routine.
I got to thinking about it all. How writing was a daily ritual of healing. Only now can I see what a courageous and life-sustaining act it truly was. Day by day, scrubbing away pain and loss. Transmuting the pain. And now, today on August 2, 2017, the fact is that there is so much less pain to transmute – the main reason I don’t feel the need to write as frequently. A good problem to have, no?
In hindsight I have so many questions for my former self. Why did you, former Sarah, take so long to start writing? Why didn’t you start using anti-aging face cream sooner? And why oh why did you sit in that suffering place for so damn long? (Ever notice that “why didn’t I let myself suffer longer?” has been asked by nobody ever.)
There are a lot of reasons. But mostly it is because I hadn’t learned lesson 3.
This is from the incredible Nigerian poet Ijeoma Umebinyuo. I remember the day I discovered this – I wanted to shout from the rooftops: “THIS! THIS!!!! LESSON NUMBER THREE! THIS IS WHERE IT’S AT PEOPLE! Don’t let it overstay!”
(Thankfully I did not proclaim it from the rooftops. Probably good since my neighborhood is full of highly suspicious retirees who would likely bring such an incident to the attention of the HOA.)
Touch and release. Touch and release. So freaking hard. Feel the feels but don’t succumb to them. Swimming without wearing a huge heavy backpack. (It just weighs you down and plus everything inside gets wet. Who wants that?!)
It takes a helluva lot of courage to set down the backpack full of feels. Once you do, you realize what a heavy weight it had been. Really, it doesn’t need to overstay its welcome. Bye Felicia.
Anyway where am I going with this post? OH yes, sunrises, sunsets! Sunrises full of writing and healing and transmuting pain. Sunsets of saying goodbye to the pain. Lesson number three. Touch and release. Healing. Dropping the heavy backpack at the shore so you can swim.
This blog wouldn’t have happened. Healing would not have taken place. And the art that came after all the loss — well, that would not have flourished. Your love and encouragement is what propelled me forward on the darkest, hardest days. Thank you.
With sweaty palms and joy, I’m excited to announce that I’m finally launching my etsy shop! You are the first to know–not because I am trying to sell you anything (and I truly am not, and I also promise not to use this blog to promote the shop beyond sharing today’s news!)–but because this is as much yours to celebrate as mine. I firmly believe that nothing creative, healing, or heart-driven can be done in isolation. This community has been everything to me.
Thank you, dear readers, and people who click “like” and people who post notes of encouragement! Every single darn one of you is part of this becoming manifest.
P.s. If you *would* like to be in the loop about the Etsy store, text JOYFULART to 2393-03-4330. (You will get a special thank you and will be notified of other special promotions! But not more than twice a month, if that. Pinkie swear.) This has been a promotional message. This is the last of the promotional messages. Thank you for your cooperation as these will no longer interrupt your Mourning Dove Motherhood blog reading experience. 😀