The Winds are Slowly Filling our Sails

Solstice came! It occurred to me that while I am rejoicing the return of the light, others are like really Sarah?!  This means winter has started. In Iowa that means the frigid below-zero temperature winds will make it undesirable to leave your home. Not that it matters because the nearest Starbucks is AN HOUR AWAY. (Oh, I have so many great Iowa stories. Another day.)

So yes, solstice. A slow creep toward light, with cold winds thrown in for some of you. I promise to send you some Florida sunshine okay?

Yesterday I sat in my therapist’s office and despaired. About how horrible this year was, how everything in my life is so uncertain, and all hope was lost. I think that maybe, just maybe I saw my therapist’s eyebrow make a tiny movement upward as if to say, for real Sarah ALL HOPE LOST? but she caught herself and later we laughed when I pointed out that perhaps I was being a bit…dramatic? Yeah.  Just a tad. (I love when I realize it even as the words exit my lips but I hold on to the story I’ve created in my head, not quite ready just yet to let it go.)

But I need to tell you about the sailing ships. There is a point to this post you see. I told her how it feels like a great large ocean liner in my life is slowly changing directions but it feels so damn slow and laborious. And then her eyes lit up and she said, have you ever sailed? (Maybe once? A very long time ago.)

She told me how when sailing, when you go to change directions you must get the sails adjusted (I am forgetting all technical sailing terms) and there is a moment where you are jostling around getting it just so, and there is a pause. You must wait for the winds to fill the sail, which can be jerky at first, before you can move into the new direction. But once the sails are full of wind, WHOOSH you are off!

But that isn’t all. To change direction, you don’t just take off with those sails full of wind and zoom in the direction of your liking. No, you zig-zag back and forth for some time, forward and back. Forward and back. And little by little you go the intended direction, hitting your stride after just a bit.

We both agreed that this wonderful analogy should be tucked away for future reference for any and all clients. I mean, it is pretty brilliant right?

She told me: your sails are slowly filling with wind. I can feel it. I can too.

But there is more! Last night I read a post on Facebook about how winter solstice is a pause–not here or there just yet–like when suspended in that one moment at the top of a roller coaster where your stomach drops before the moment you rush back down again. Or, the post continued, how it is like a dead calm sea between gusts of wind.

Well, I’ll be. I love when themes and symbols pop up again and again my life.

There you have it folks. I reckon we are all in that pause right now. Heck, our country most certainly is. The world most certainly is.

Remember: our sails will continue to fill and we will soon be off to the races. It might take a little bit of backtracking at times–but don’t despair. It is necessary to get where we need to go.

 

 

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A year later: broken open but not broken

I started this blog a little more than a year ago and so much has changed in that time.

I thought about this earlier this week as I rolled a pie crust, dancing to Lady Gaga and Tony Bennett, belting out old standards that my mom loved. I felt so much joy. This was possibly the first holiday that wasn’t overshadowed by grief. Yes, my mom popped in my head often but it was met more often with smiles than tears. I know she would love my crooning to Lush Life, the same song she belted out when playing the Linda Ronstadt record. And certainly, there were moments of sadness and longing this holiday (this is inevitable, you can’t ignore the empty chair at the table) but overall I felt more peace this year.

And it’s fair to say I feel more rooted than in November 2015. A few days ago I walked the dogs in nearby pine brush woods, collecting tropical flowers, palm fronds and scarlet berries to make a homemade flower bouquet. This act now feels normal. Routine. Familiar even. This landscape of my life–both literal and figurative–that shifted so dramatically beneath my feet three years ago now feels like home. 

I recently heard a moving interview with the poet/philosopher/spiritual writer Mark Nepo and he talked about how humans are unique animals because we can experience multiple metamorphoses. Periods of darkness that take us into a cocoon, often several times in the span of a liftime, and if we choose to we can emerge from these periods anew–with new wings, new eyes, new colors and stripes. 

Twice I have entered this cocoon. The first in my early twenties. My second unfolding occurred with your help, dear readers.

I started this blog steeped in grief, and along the way suffered an additional loss–a miscarriage–that came close to breaking me. Instead, it broke me open. What a gift. I am grateful for it all, the darkness of the cocoon and the light that shines on newly spread wings. Many blessings to you and your family this holiday. I’m certain the best is yet to come.

 

 

Frog-Swimming 

I have written a few times about how it feels like things are moving at glacial speed in my life. That the universe is testing my ability to be patient. To trust. And also, I think, to simply experience joy in the meantime.

It seems I am frog-swimming through life.

That is what I realized yesterday as I dipped into the swimming pool and effortlessly started moving with frog kicks. I was doing the breast-stroke I suppose, but slower. And did I mention effortlessly! I did this nearly the entire half-hour until the last five minutes of my workout when I suddenly decided I wanted to be on my back. So I flipped over and began doing the backstroke.

As I flipped from facing down to being outstretched on my back, gazing into clouds, it reminded me of yoga. Where you have poses that curl you up, surrendering…and then standing with shoulders back….heart open to receive.

Surrender. Receive. Repeat. 

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Image copyright of Lori Portka.

Earlier this summer I started swimming regularly. I remember telling my therapist about this new routine, and I was a little embarrassed. I explained to her how rough I have it– you know, having to walk past a total of four houses to get to a large community pool. And to arrive only to discover that I have the pool all to myself. I know–I told her–I am a bit spoiled.

Her response: Isn’t it wonderful to be spoiled?  

Her words took me aback. Actually it IS nice to be spoiled. How often can I claim to have felt spoiled by anything? Especially in these last few challenging years.

I’ve held tight to her words as I have floated on my back in the cool water watching clouds move above me. As I’ve seen my leg kicks move from weak and disjointed to strong and in sync. As I have danced giddily under water like a mermaid. 

Frog-swimming through life right now. Surrendering and receiving.

Surrender. Receive. Repeat. 

 


Are you frog-swimming too? Share your experiences!

 

Take time to remember

End of the Beginning by James Northrup

Someone said we begin to die
the minute we’re born.
Death is a part of life.
Who knows why the Creator
thins the herd.
Another old saying says
we must all be prepared
to give up those we love
or die first.
Take time to mourn.
Take time to remember.
Everything happens in cycles.
The pain you feel was once
balanced by someone’s joy
when that baby was born.
The loss you feel today
will be replaced by good
long-lasting memories.
Is there a message here? Yea,
treat others like this
is your last day above ground.

James Northrup 1943-2016

(artwork my own- full image can be viewed here and was inspired by this post.)

To Every Thing There is a (Lizard) Season

I don’t want to brag or anything but yesterday I vacuumed my floor and I thought about dusting a few surfaces. And I bathed my child. But then she put brown marker all over her legs because she apparently wants “faces of her daddy” on her upper thigh. Which would be sweet but shit now it looks like I didn’t bathe my kid! I want credit for this people.

I think yesterday was the first time since my child was born that I actually entertained the idea of dusting my house. Not because I am a monster or anything–I like clean surfaces as much as the next gal–but who on Goddess’s green earth has time to dust when they work full-time and have a young child? And still have time to watch Mr. Robot? (WHICH IS AMAZING AND IS MY NEW ADDICTION BECAUSE I FINISHED ALL SEASONS OF VEEP, WHICH I ALSO LOVE.)

I am reveling in this new stage of parenthood, this stage that allows me to have the time to consider dusting. I was thinking about this yesterday, how it feels like everything is less chaotic. I thought about how different it would be if I were still pregnant and giving birth in a week or two.

Yes, that is roughly when my pregnancy would have come to term if I hadn’t miscarried.

This is very strange to consider because so much has changed since February. 

Let’s review it shall we?

I found a spiritual community.

I began doing ink and watercolor again after decades of not doing it.

I started singing again.

I committed to writing nearly daily and taking scary (good scary) vulnerable steps to share my story and define the ending.

I started swimming and doing yoga regularly.

I committed to a regular meditation practice.

And most importantly, I considered taking up dusting again.

Hot damn! Those are a lot of gifts born from a period of darkness. 

This has me thinking about seasons again. How we all have them. And even when it appears you don’t you do. Like lizard season.

What the hell am I talking about you ask.

I live in southwest Florida and I am finally to the point where I have figured out that a) there are lizard seasons and b) what those lizards seasons look like. 

You know I am going to break it down right? Here we go:

Winter does not have very many lizards. One day you will walk out onto your lanai and there is a cool breeze and your air conditioning isn’t running 23 hours of the day and you go, huh, where are all the lizards??  They just…vanish all of a sudden.

But not for long, because before you know it spring brings baby lizard season. Baby lizards the size of your fingernail come out of the wood work. Not the literal wood work because that would be creepy. No, they hide in the grass and then when you take a step a zillion little lizards go scattering.

And then finally, summer brings huge, fat, slow lizard season. Even your three-year-old doesn’t scare these old dudes. They sit and stare and wait for a giant hawk to just end it all.

The moral of this story is that even in places that appear not to have seasons (like Southwest Florida), or appear to have only two seasons (wet and dry) are more nuanced than they seem. There is a season to every thing. Even lizards. 

I may not be having a baby this September. This is hard and still makes me sad. But I’m realizing that there is no rigging of the system: you cannot rig it in your favor–and it is also is not rigged against you. The seasons change and turn. You might even find yourself in the remarkable and unthinkable place of finding time for dusting.

Are you witnessing the changing of seasons? Literal, or figurative, or lizard? Thanks for reading. You rock. Have a great day.

 

 

When it feels like the world is falling apart (Trump with nuclear weapons anyone?)

This post was inspired by hearing about Donald Trump’s fascination with nuclear weapons.

Nuclear apocalypse tends to invoke a little bit of unease, now doesn’t it. It’s hard not to flee to Canada react with fear to all the things currently imploding in the world. My husband and I have remarked more than once in the last several weeks that it feels as though things are falling apart…that the center cannot hold.

But I really don’t think the world is quite as doomed as it seems. 

When I think about my own life and the times that things fell apart—because they eventually always do, don’t they, like a plant that drops its wilted flowers and goes to seed, eventually dropping those too in order start the process all over again—the most painful and difficult times in my own life were also the times that most healed me and opened my heart. Each time I have painfully put myself together, I’ve discovered a stronger, braver, and more fearless version of myself emerge.   

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Dandelion going to seed. image source

Maybe the same will be true for our nation and world. Perhaps a braver, more fair and just, and less fearful world will emerge after all the turmoil.

But hot damn, the falling apart process ain’t easy. I usually want to retreat under the covers with a bag of Cheetos, waiting until someone gives me the all clear! before I surface again.  Unfortunately the call never seems to come. (So ridiculously unfair). The only call I get is my husband when he finds the orange crumbs on the sheets going, seriously, were you eating Cheetos in bed? (Uh yes, and your point??)

Yes, hard times call for Cheetos but also bravery. And self-compassion. And a kind-hearted village, because none of us, and I mean none of us, can do it alone. Warm fuzzy puppies also tend to help (who incidentally sort of smell like Cheetos but you kind of just ignore that about them).

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It’s so easy to fall into helplessness, isn’t it? Whether it is the world at large or our own little inner world. I am grateful that I am not currently dealing with any major life upheavals. (Though trust me, there are a few in my very recent review mirror.) The little things I am dealing with now (and they are little compared to nuclear appocolypse) have been frustrating me lately. For instance, I’m trying to start groundwork for making some career changes. It feels like I keep putting things out into the universe again and again and…nothing. I’m talking both intentions and actions. What gives?

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Slow and steady. image source.

I was feeling grumble-y about this recently. Well, lo and behold the other night a huge snail showed up on my window, leaving a long streak in rainy window. As far as snails go, this one was kinda cute. I tend to view odd encounters like this one as symbols from spirit. I asked myself, snail, what are you here to tell me? Slow and steady, slow and steady, and you will get there, immediately popped into my head.

Useful advice for sure. But there is more to snail than meets the eye. I was reading about snails and apparently they are capable of laying dormant for a long, long while but then when the rains finally come, they spring to life. Nothing, nothing, nothing, and then… boom! Movement!

Perhaps the same way in our lives and in our world. Keep the hope. It may feel that small actions are not making a difference. It may seem as though you are getting nowhere. But when you least expect it, cleansing rains of renewal may spring everything to life.

(And my personal prayer for the universe: when that day comes may we all collectively put down our Cheetos and prevent the Cheetos-colored man from ever touching a nuclear weapon, mkay?)


This post was not sponsored by Cheetos. If you like Cheetos, and my blog, I invite you to join me on Twitter or Facebook.

 

 

Hello From the Other Side

I have a confession: I didn’t fully believe my mourning birds.

I’m talking about the birds behind this blog. The birds that came to me and were like, hey, Poppins! HELLO.

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And I was like, Hi?

And they were like, We are your blog’s omen. (Who knew blogs had omens.)

So, I looked it up. Mourning doves represent: MOTHERHOOD, LOVE, AND HOPE AFTER LOSS.

Lovely, right? This is the catch. I DIDN’T FULLY BELIEVE THIS OMEN. I was grieving. I was like, hi, you and your “hope and change” makes for a nice slogan my feathered friends. But I am not with you. Not yet.

I was like, They say that time’s supposed to heal ya, but I aint’ done much healing…

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Ok I promise, no more Adele lyrics.

Back to those birds: hope, love, blah blah blah. It still felt so far away.

That is, until recently. I’ve had nothing short of a huge shift. A release of grief. A changing of the season of my heart.

I realized yesterday that I have only been writing this blog since November.  I’ve only been writing for four months but it seems like it must be longer because so much has shifted in that time.

I know that the writing played a role in that shift. It helped me to transmute this pain, to take the heavy stuff and perform creative alchemy.

I had a hunch about something and I checked: it turns out that there are more blog posts tagged with love and hope than are tagged with grief. Even in the midst of that pain I was feeling the love.

There is so much I want to share with the dozen of you lovely humans who read my blog. I’ve started drafting some posts about the healing process. Some of it is pretty intense and to be honest, downright spiritual. I will share soon.

But in the meantime, it feels really good to say…

….HELLO FROM THE OTHER SIDE!

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(I know, I promised…I just couldn’t resist. What can I san, it’s quite possible that Adele is also my spirit animal.)

Do you Facebook with the best of them? Feel free to join me on Facebook! Or Twitter!

Signs of Spring

It is spring in Southern Florida. You have to look closely (it is easy to miss the subtle signs among the constant sunshine and blue skies) but it is here.

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Magical little dragonfly. Kind of weird and cool at the same time. Image source.

 

On a walk yesterday I noticed what appeared to be baby dragon flies. Have you ever seen such a thing? At first I didn’t even know what I was looking at. Were they flies? Were they butterflies? They seemed like something out of a fairy tale. One little booger landed on my hand! She had bright red wings. Magical.

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Flowering bougainvillea. image source.

As I walked further I suddenly noticed tons of
flowering bougainvillea that
seemed to appear out of nowhere. Overnight entire branches were now full of the bright pink blossoms.

And the baby anoles! They are the lizards you see everywhere in Florida. I noticed they were absent from our yard for a bit. Weird. And then in the last week or two tons of the little guys started to appear once again, darting around, climbing the lanai screen and scurrying under foliage.

I am heartily embracing these signs of spring. It may not be daffodils and forsythia (gosh I miss forsythia) but I’ll take it.

If you have read any of my recent posts you might have caught on to the fact that things have been a wee bit heavy in my life as of late. (Understatement?) I recently wrote about how it felt like I’ve been stuck in the winter season.

Since writing that post, a heaviness has lifted. I am pretty sure the writing itself had something to do with it. It never ceases to astound me how the simple (and yet so difficult) act of witnessing and acknowledging our pain is enough to make it go POUF. Even when it is heavy and dense and feels like it stretches back a thousand lifetimes. Doesn’t matter. Poof.

Crazy isn’t it?

I am fairly new to Florida and I’m still trying to figure out what the seasons exactly are (other than rainy…and non-rainy) but I will tell you: It feels like spring.
 

 

 

Surrendering to the Season of my Heart

I’m currently reading this little gem of a book called Anam Cara by John O’Donohue. It’s a compilation of Celtic wisdom on the themes of friendship, solitude, love, and death.

One passage in particular really resonated with me. O’Donohue describes the Celts’ wonderful intuition for life; how they respect the circle of the seasons and understand that the rhythms in nature are also active in our own hearts.  How there is wisdom in surrendering to whatever season we find ourselves in.

I can definitely relate to finding myself in a season of the heart: without a doubt it feels as though I have been stuck in winter for some time. The last three years have largely been dominated by pain and loss. My mom passed away the day that my daughter turned eight months old. Her death unearthed a well of grief much deeper than I could have anticipated. (I write about this experience a bit in another post.)

I have no doubt that releasing this grief has healed me in ways I could never have expected, and I’m certainly grateful for the fruits of the painful passage. That being said, I’m more than ready to move on to the next season of my heart.

In January when I found out I was pregnant, I was elated. In an amazing twist of fate, my due date was the date of my mother’s passing. How beautiful, I thought. New life literally springing forth after a season of loss.

But then I miscarried. It is an understatement to say that I was devastated.

I thought, really universe, more grief and loss? I have tired of this landscape. I know my husband is beyond tired of this landscape. The whole experience has rattled me and made me question whether I can trust that “this too will pass.” What is next, I bitterly ask.

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CC license, photo courtesy of Pexels.

O’Donohue reminds us that nobody is immune from bleak times. He urges—be “exceedingly gentle with yourself.”  In Anam Cara, he describes the image of a field of corn in autumn:

When the wind catches the corn, it does not stand stiff and direct against the force of the wind; were it to do this, the wind would rip it sunder. No, the corn weaves with the wind, it bends low. And when the wind is gone, it weaves back and finds its own poise and balance again. (passage from Anam Cara by John O’Donohue.)

I may not like that I still find myself in winter, but for now I will do my best to surrender to it. When I am impatient, I will remind myself that ultimately it is a season. Seasons cannot be fought or battled, but simply weathered. Seasons are not personal. Yes, it may require bending and weaving with the wind for a bit, but the wind will eventually stop, and balance will return again.

Plus, after winter comes spring. I will hold onto the faith that sometime soon, when the time is right, the ag borradh will appear: the Gaelic term for “quivering life to break forth.”

You may also enjoy An Ocean of Tears Larger than the Four Oceans.