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 hereby surrender:
To the unknown (and to knowing I never had control to begin with);
To acknowledging that some things our heart desires cannot be forced or cajoled
that everything I’ve received and will receive is a gift.
I hereby turn over my worries, fears, anxieties, disappointments and “what ifs” to the divine mother to hold.
I hereby surrender and accept my current reality as it stands–in its messy glory, its ecstatic uncertainty.
Recognizing full well I may not get the outcome I desire–for I may get something wiser.
(Fresh Air Guest Host DAVIES): Coming back to when you were talking about how there came a point when you were bored. Can you take us back to that time? Do you remember when you felt bored – a role – what it felt like?
(Actor RICHARD JENKINS): I don’t remember the specific role, but I remember being outside of myself looking at me doing what I was doing. That’s the feeling I got. And I thought, you know, what am I doing? What’s the point of this profession to me? I mean, is this what it means to me just to do this thing night after night without feeling life?
And I went back to an old acting coach I had. Harold Guskin was his name. He wasn’t an old man. He was just a coach I had worked with for a year. And I went back to what he taught me. And I just said, OK. Let’s try this. And he basically said quit trying to hide who you are. You’re the only thing you have. And I just refused to believe that it was enough, that it was interesting enough, that I had anything to offer.
But the thing you come to – that I came to – is that whether you think that or not, that’s all you got. So you have to rely on that. Every experience has to come through a filter, through your experience. You know, you get angry. It’s – you’re getting angry, what makes you angry. So I was trying to copy others or be something else or be a character. It takes a long time to trust yourself enough to think that I have something to offer. And it’s – we still – I still don’t believe it. I still think I don’t. But, you know, you know that the only chance you have is to just kind of live your life and exist on the screen.
Those were the words I heard last year, over and over. Follow the joy. It was that simple, so simple that it boggled my mind at times. Really, that’s it? Follow the joy? But where is it leading me and then what and what about after that? Listen, I’m an INFJ and if you know about myers-briggs you know that the J stands for judgment. It might as well stand for “Just watch me control and plan and assess and judge and achieve goals.” Follow the joy is so . . .fluid. Where is the road map?! Oh right there isn’t one. Because it unfolds every moment of every day.
As I enter 2018 I’m not making goals or resolutions, other than to continue to follow the joy. To suspend judgement. To sit in the mystery. To drop ideas and attachments. I’ve reached the place where I know that I don’t know much at all. Or at least, what I knew is no longer relevant to where I am now. I’m not going to throw out the yang with the yin, not at all. But I’m going to find a balance of being that honors the mystery, the dreaming, the intuiting as much as the assessing, the planning and the creating.
Where it takes me is likely beyond what my small mind could ever have dreamed. When I look back at 2016 to 2017 that is most certainly true. The ego had plans and the universe laughed. Thank goodness because the universe brought so much joy and beauty with its plans–I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I want to keep my hands busy and create something, anything. I want them to work like a spider creates a web and cast a net of protection across everyone I love.
I’m safe and yet I can’t help but think of my neighbors, my friends, and even the strangers who sought water along with me at the Winn Dixie. I think of the habitats: my own–yes–but also the egrets’ and the spoonbills’. I think of the cardinals that visit my feeders. The turtles who laid eggs on the nearest beach.
I sit in my car 773 miles from home and I watch a Georgia peach sunset. So warm and giving and yet the same air that breathes a hurricane.
All I can do is knit: Prayers, wishes, surrender.
“The night comes and we give ourselves permission to dissolve into the rest of darkness. We let go of all the valleys and rivers we wish to cross and our dreams for some distant future.” -Sarah Blondin, Live Awake.
I meditated bathed in moonlight. I was brought to tears by a deeply moving meditation about learning to surrender. It was just what my soul needed.
The neighbor’s pine tree was removed today. It stood several inches away from our property line. But it felt like my tree.
The large crew of workers cheered when the tree came crashing down but I stood and cried. Oh I had plans, all internal mind you, to talk to our neighbors about
my their tree. They told my husband they were planning to remove it because it was too messy. I was going to tell them about the woodpecker that lived in the tree. I tried to imagine their faces when I told them to save the tree for the birds, and well, I kept avoiding the conversation. And now my tree was gone, rolled away in an orderly pile of mulch.
Why am I fretting so much about the tree? It’s not the tree. I know this even though all I want to do is rant about the tree. No, I am crying for all the damn pine trees that have fallen in my life without my permission, disrupting the peace of my birds, leaving me helpless to fix. As if there was ever any fixing to be done in the first place!
Instead I will go for a run. I will drink a cup of hot tea even though I want coffee, because goodness knows more coffee will only make my heart quicken and I don’t need that.
I will fold laundry. I will pick up messes. I will write–first a dark poem about my tree on my private blog nobody knows exists (I will spare you the poem) and then this post. I will yell at the beagles when they find half a churro in my purse, and this sentence alone will make me laugh out loud for the first time since the tree was felled. Then I will chuck the churro away in the trash when I discover it is covered in ants (alas, I do live in Florida after all). Finally, one problem I can fix.
I will put away some dishes. I will drink more tea and keep avoiding coffee. I will let myself cry at the bright sun pouring down on grass where a tree once stood even though I know it’s not about the tree.
This past week felt like a ride in an old jalopy. I had creative bursts, some of them so disruptive that I felt tossed about and thrown off my seat…only to then be followed with abrupt stops that ground me to a halt.
It felt like this in my home too, where I couldn’t seem to get a grip on anything. Not the messes, the child who seemed to be acting out at every turn, not the errands that needed running or the clothes I was CERTAIN would be folded and put away for once. (Maybe another week.) Of course, toddler plus illness plus lack of sleep plus unexpected wet bed plus laundry pile (and on and on…) equals off kilter indeed. It doesn’t take much.
You never know who will take these moments in stride. Not to gloat or anything but between my husband and me, I tend to be the one who does well with disruptions in routine. Yet, this time around it was him patiently adapting to it all, as I was triggered with anger and melodrama by the smallest of things.
Exhale. Return to breath and meet it with love. Return to writing. To movement. To the bird feeder, at last refilled with seeds (one errand accomplished –by my husband of course!) and now populated with three mourning doves, a woodpecker and a female cardinal.
Namaste, friends. Hoping for a week that finds its stride!
It is DAY TWO of the blogging series about my healing journey – can you handle the excitement?! Do you have your coffee ready?!
I will recap yesterday’s post. The start of the journey, if you will, in one long run-on sentence:
My mom dies in 2013, I am very very sad (as one would be), a year later I try to get pregnant but can’t, I go to the acupuncturist, the energy gates open and I grieve every loss I have ever had (a lot of loss), I am on a road to healing…and BUM BUM BUM.
That takes us to part two: we pick up at the bum, bum bum!
We are still at the top of the flow chart (<–here in full). BUT now we are gonna move to that section labeled SUFFERING. Hold on to your hats folks.
It is January, precisely two years, four months after my mom died. I am still feeling a lot of grief but it is flowing through me. This is good. But also, my husband has been witnessing the grief flow through me for, oh, two and a half years. That is a hard thing to do, to witness our loved ones in pain. (Psst, this bit is some foreshadowing, wink wink.)
As you may recall I was seeing an acupuncturist in the hopes of getting pregnant. I was starting to see shifts in my body, and I was also taking Chinese herbs and such.
And then in mid-January, I noticed all the signs I had noticed when I was pregnant with my daughter. I took a pregnancy test and I was pregnant.
Everything about this pregnancy felt miraculous. It is hard to explain. It felt like it came out of nowhere. I didn’t think my body was fully ready for pregnancy so I was a bit stunned.
I did the online calculator of when I was due: It was the date my mother died, September 18th.
To the day.
Now, I know due dates are estimations, but I got goosebumps. I mean really, how does that happen?
This feeling of disbelief–but also of something not being right, of it all being too easy, and not quite real–was with me from the start.
Seven weeks into my pregnancy I had a dream. It was a beautiful dream of huge cranes flying away into the night. I can still close my eyes and feel its beauty. But I awoke with a huge amount of despair and grief. I could not figure it out. I honored the grief -I figured it was new grief surfacing about how my mom would never meet this child, or something like that. I was so very sad though. I remember taking a day off of work, that was how much I was grieving.
Two weeks later I sat in an ultrasound room and saw there was no heartbeat. I had started bleeding the day prior. I knew that I had lost the baby, but I was not really ready to face it until sitting in that room. My husband’s eyes welled with tears and I sat numb. I knew it already on some level. But I hadn’t been ready to really know it, you know?
It appeared the baby had stopped growing two weeks prior – the day of my dream, I am nearly certain.
This loss, this loss of a child that was supposed to enter our world on the date I lost my mom, it was the icing on the cake of so. much. loss. It was the tipping point. I had suffered up until this point, yes, but I was able to see light at the end, to which I was headed.
This loss was different.
Are you still with me? I now it is so sad but I will promise you, this big story ends well. It ends with love and connection. I think we need a reminder from Maria that it is going to be ok in the end:
But yes, what came next was suffering.
We have all suffered so what I will share I am sure you can relate to: I felt like I was being punished. (“Why me?”) I felt as though maybe it was true that bad things happen to bad people. (A favorite ethos of our culture. Not true however!) I felt isolated and alone in my grief, that there was NO way ANYONE could EVER relate to MY PAIN because it was SO UNIQUE. (Also not true.) I felt bitter and angry.
Remember my husband? Well, we both took it hard. And I wanted someone to blame and while it makes zero sense, I remember constantly being upset with him because he just couldn’t understand, he wasn’t being patient in my healing…and later, in therapy, I realized that really I just wanted HIM to make it better. Somehow. I didn’t realize it at the time but suffering does weird things to us doesn’t it?
So, not only was I suffering from the miscarriage, I was feeling angry and bitter in my marriage…a bit of projection, if you will. Well that just creates more stress. A sh*tstorm of stress, really.
And then it all shifted.
If you were to ask me the turning point in my healing, if I could identify one moment in time, I can tell you. It was early March. I was talking to my sister on the phone. I can even picture the corner of my couch I was sitting on when I spoke to her.
My sister is often able to connect spiritually with my mother in intense ways that I am not able to. You know what she told me as we spoke on the phone that day in March? She said mom saw my intense suffering. And she said, “Mom wants you to be happy…to be able to enjoy your husband and daughter. She doesn’t want you to suffer any more.”
That, my friends, was the turning point.
I felt those words in my heart. I felt my mother with me, and I felt her pain at seeing me in pain.
It was like a light bulb went off. I thought, I do not have to choose suffering. Yes, I didn’t ask be dealt these cards. But I can choose how I respond.
I surrendered to the pain. I didn’t blame, I didn’t fight, I simply saw that it was part of my story at this point, and that I could choose to embrace this or I could angrily fight against it. The fighting-against-it-trope was not going well for me, my husband or my family.
If you want the truth, it was my mother’s love that made me see. My mother continues to mother me from beyond the veil. Is that not incredible?
I TOLD YOU IT WOULD END WELL! But there is more…
TOMORROW – PART 3: How I chose love and connection over fear, anger, and suffering. (PLUS more gifs!)