As posted in Sixty and Me
As a stay-at-home mom, I used to dread meeting new people at social events. After initial pleasantries, so often the exchange would come to an awkward, grinding halt when they asked me “...and what do you do?” Though I loved raising my children at home I found this occupation to be an immediate conversation stopper. I grew to anticipate the polite smiles, knowing nods, protracted sips of wine and eyes darting for the nearest exit. I became an expert at vanishing in situations where “what I did” was more important than who I was, what I thought, how I felt. I have never regretted the choice to stay home and raise my children ~ though, to be sure, I could have used the equivalent of Conversation Hints from Heloise for Moms. Yes, I was a Mom. And I knew I was so much more.
In our culture ~ where we are often defined and identified by what we do ~ it’s easy to lose sight of who we are and how we want to be remembered.
Time to Redefine
As large swaths of our lives shrink further into the rearview mirror, each of us has an opportunity to define ~ or redefine ~ our lives and what we want to be remembered for. More than ever, in our sixties and beyond it’s important to feel relevant, to feel that we matter, to mine the gems of our brief history here so that the “who we are” comes before the “what we did”. This can be an exhilarating time of liberation from labels.
Often retirement and legacy are terms that go hand in hand. We take stock of where we’ve been and wonder what lies ahead. Many of my clients facing retirement come to me with an overwhelming sense of identity loss, having been defined by their jobs or professions or labels for decades. One of my clients put it this way, “Retirement is great and all, but when I was a teacher, I felt like I was somebody. Like I had a purpose. Now I feel like a nobody. Like I’m invisible.” She’s not alone.
The key is to recognize that you’ve been you all along. Your career accomplishments are an outward manifestation of the personal qualities you hold as an individual. A long list of achievements is admirable and certainly something to be proud of. Yet, it is how you achieved your success that people will remember ~ how your legacy is shaped.
If you worked for a company, you were required to toe the policy line and, depending on what those rules were, you may have felt restricted in how much of “you” could show up in different situations. Often managers cannot interact in a personal way with those they are responsible for. I’ve discovered those in charge often feel the most isolated ~ needing to hold boundaries while their employees are able to talk with each other freely.
Whether you were an employee, manager, or owner, each position held certain limitations. Stepping away from specific roles offers immense freedom to discover our essence and live from an unrestricted genuineness of spirit. Your personal qualities aren’t left behind at your desk, they follow you into creating your next steps beyond the workplace.
Legacy or Resume?
We remember people for their stories, for how we felt being with them, for their successes, their frailties, for the obstacles they overcame, for the very human qualities we relate to; we remember them for who they are. While we may be drawn to all aspects of a celebrity or a public figure’s life including the details of their resume, a person’s legacy is less about what they did than who they were. We can choose to bring the strengths that we brought to the workplace into how we live our lives each day.
How we choose to live our lives each and every day creates our legacy.
Memoir as Legacy ~ A Tip to Get Here from There
A memoir can be viewed as a written account of an event in your life that had meaning for you--what’s important is how it made you feel, what lessons you may have taken away, how your life was shaped by the event. Author Abigail Thomas writes that, “Memoir is the story about how we got here from there.” Agreed. Compelling memoir is honest, relatable, a window into how you have embraced your life. As such, it can become a legacy for your children, siblings, family, friends, a glimpse into your humanness...and a way to recalibrate your sense of self.
I urge my clients to write about times in their lives worthy of a second look. This time around with a sense of curiosity ~ as an observer. Thinking back without the charge of emotions surrounding an event can offer a renewed and more objective perspective that opens the door to understanding, wisdom, empathy, and--ultimately--healing. A re-awakening of what’s most important to you ~ to fully step into your power, your authentic self, and create a legacy worthy of you. A life well-lived.
Questions for reflection:
How do you see framing your life...as a detailed resume of what you did, a rich tapestry of who you are, or a compelling memoir embracing both what you did and who you became as a result? How would you like to be remembered? What times in your life deserve a second look through the lens of memoir?
Leading tours to Ireland with my husband came as a result of a happy coincidence.
I’ve organized, led, co-led, and facilitated retreats, tours, conferences and seminars along the West Coast, and many in the West of Ireland. In my practice as a transition/life coach, I love the transformations that magically come forward on retreats when one opens to possibilities, to fresh eyes looking at old ways, to allow the heart’s wisdom to lead ~ when we stop pushing on the door and realize it opens inward.
A door that opened inward for me was the notion of combining elements of two of my greatest loves ~ Ireland and writing ~ into a 10-day memoir writing retreat in Ireland. Though it happened by accident, the nudge was unmistakable.
As part of their preparation for a tour to Ireland, I’d been asked by a Unitarian church choir to share my experiences of working as a personal assistant to an Irish poet/author and to speak about traveling in the West of Ireland.
I didn’t need to be asked twice ~ the only thing I know that feels better than sharing my love for Ireland is being there. I met my husband in Ireland ~ a musician from America in love with all things Irish. Drawing from our rich experiences traveling in Ireland we created a half hour presentation for the choir, sharing stories, songs, and poetry accompanied by a steady flow of lovely Irish landscape photos in the background.
After the presentation we mingled with the crowd. Each of us was asked the same question by different people. When will you be running your next tour? And, will you take us with you? On the way home we compared notes and seized the idea in the moment. Looking back, it’s a wonder neither of us had considered it before. So we began leading tours to Ireland.
I encourage my clients to reflect on chapters in their lives that stand out in some way or represent moments to overcome -- sweet, bitter, or bittersweet. Given the gifts of time, distance, and perspective it’s possible to examine our lives from a more dispassionate or objective place. Through writing ~ pulling the words out of our heads and onto the page ~ we can liberate thoughts that may be holding us captive.
Memoir provides us the lens to put aspects of our lives into clearer perspective ~ the process can result in a legacy for family members or a catharsis for the writer or a glimpse of shared wisdom for the rest of us. At its best, good memoir serves as a touchstone for each of our lives, a way to relate and foster compassion and insight for ourselves as well as others.
There is something about Ireland. Whether it’s the stunning landscape, the rich history of its people and their interwoven mystical traditions, the deep respect for language and the written word, or a combination of all the above, there is something about being in Ireland that stirs my soul and supports my journey. They say the veil between worlds is thin in the West of Ireland. I know this to be true.
I have felt the song of the land course through my body as I’ve walked the landscape, felt the steps of those who have walked before me, and anticipate with each return trip the strong sense of coming home. Whether the land, the people, or the thin veil, Ireland supports a transformation, an opening, an invitation to tap into things that matter, including re-visiting the worthy events in our lives.
Memoir Tours was our happy coincidence ~ what presented itself as a conversation turned into a retreat/tour to help others mine their pasts for gems of memoir, while held in the embrace of the West of Ireland. We’ve assembled a lovely group of mentors to help us craft memoir and find our way through the untamed Mayo landscape...heeding our heart’s wisdom in the heart of Ireland.
“There must be always remaining in every life, some place for the singing of angels, some place for that which in itself is breathless and beautiful.” ~ Howard Thurman
If I chose one earthly thing that I’ve delighted in my entire life it would be window boxes filled with flowers. I hope they exist wherever I’m going next. Maybe there is a “flower dimension” in the afterlife. If there is, my father will be there.
Every spring, like magic, I would come home from school on a sunny day and find all our window boxes planted with pink and red geraniums. My winter-naked bedroom window was fully accessorized from May to October. He broke the rules, my father. Planting red and pink flowers together was a definite Cosmo “don’t” in the gardening world. In all other ways, my father played by the rules, yet when it came to flowers, all bets were off. He turned a blind eye to the norm. No one put pink and red together. But my father did. Unapologetically so. A small act of rebellion in a war he could not win.
My father lived a life that held only brief glimpses of happiness, a life that didn’t unfold in the way he’d hoped, despite his continuous efforts to appease. He had a gift of seeing life in an uncomplicated way ~ there was a great blessing in his way of being. He appreciated the little things in life and found happiness in the beauty of the natural world around him. The grace of an ordinary day was not lost on him.
It was not about seeing the glass half empty or half full. For my father, It was enough to believe there was a glass at all. When you come from a hard love home it’s tricky to know where to find the good things you’ve taken away that have shaped you as an adult. Sure, you’re a survivor having made it through the trauma, but what else? It’s easy to stay in the story of how hard it was and to list all the “bad” things that happened. To wear the armor of protection around our hearts forever. Grace and freedom come in discovering gifts that were also part of what was handed down.
They come in the shape of a heart.
When my father planted his window boxes it wasn’t an act of rebellion. The complete opposite in fact; it was one of the only times I saw him smile, not a “lips together slight turning up at the corners”, no, a full on teeth showing smile. Flowers were his heart’s delight, his passion, a touchstone of joy. No one else had a say or played any part in the planting...from flower choice to soil to tending to the care of these beautiful plants through the summer. They were all his in a world where very little else was.
He made the world more beautiful. In the simple act of planting flowers he made my life brighter and the neighborhood and those that lived there a little happier. He took pleasure in the neighbors slowing their hurried steps to look at the flowers and in the compliments that followed; the hours spent fertilizing, watering and fussing over tender new shoots, delighting in every leaf and bud. He took comfort there and made a difference in the world around him.
All from his heart.
From doing something that was his own, that meant something to him, that he did because he couldn’t not do it. I can imagine it as his way of trying to find something to feel good about, to take a bit of pleasure in being alive and affirm his faith in something greater. He did it for himself. He did it to save himself. And it was a blessing and gift to others in a meaningful way.
I’ve stared at my deck for most of the summer with a few fits and starts at trying to make it feel better. The air conditioning unit under the window and typical tight urban deck dimensions left me uninspired. I bought a rug for under the table and chairs and it was too small ~ it’s still too small. I didn’t return it. I planted a couple pots of flowers only to have them struggle in the hot sun. I did my best to let it go ~ saying I’ll try again next year.
Then last week happened.
I’d noticed the occasional window box on other apartment deck railings and thought about doing the same, but with no follow-through until finally putting it in the “next summer” mental file. But something kept niggling at me last week and I couldn’t shake the idea, even though it’s the end of summer and my mind swirling with the rational ~ what would I plant and it doesn’t make any sense to do window boxes in September...all the leaves are turning, everything would rot in the rain, and, and, and….these thoughts followed me all the way to the store where I bought half-price window boxes designed for deck railings. They still needed to be customized to fit, but my ready and willing other half was quick to step in and do his magic creating the sturdiest, most secure window boxes imaginable. All without bungee cords or duct tape, which would have been my go-to remedies.
Boxes in place, we hauled home potting soil and plants that I hope will survive for at least a couple months. I spent the morning planting, feeling my fingers in the dirt, tapping, scooping and tucking the winter pansies, oregano and coral bells into their new home. Smudges of dirt on my cheeks and dirt under my fingernails I felt alive and happier than I have in a long time. Like, beside myself happy. I can’t take my eyes off these flowers. I can’t get enough of how I feel when I see them. I check on them first thing in the morning and watch them as the sun sets. I need them. I needed my father, too. And the truth is, there wasn’t much room for either of us to take root in each other.
Once the boxes were finished, I couldn’t stop, didn’t want to stop, so we potted more plants outside our entryway and re-potted a lavender tree. Neighbors who we haven’t heard boo from in the nine months we’ve been here have asked where we purchased the window boxes and others have bought large pots of chrysanthemums, ornamental kale, and dusty miller. Autumn wreaths and corn stalks grace doors and porches. All since the window boxes happened on our deck. It’s been a bit of magic and it happened from my heart, from a place my father gave me.
Today I feel like my father’s daughter. A place for the singing of angels.
They both listened silently to the water, which to them was not just water, but the voice of life, the voice of Being, the voice of perpetual Becoming." ~ Hermann Hesse
These days I seek what comforts me; today, I didn’t have to ~ the rain came to me. Waking to the splashing sound of tires parting water, the smell of thirsty sidewalks. I felt my body relax, a respite from the heat and outgoing, life of the party nature of summer. Not my season. Thank you rain for soothing me today. I roasted a chicken with onions, potatoes, and carrots, the oven at 425 degrees. I sipped hot green tea. I opened the front door and windows and practically skipped to the mailbox. I glared defiantly through the open deck door at the merest hint of sun. Don’t you dare.
The rain washed away all that was throwing me off center. I lit candles and sat quietly with my cup of tea, smelling the good smells from the kitchen, feeling the cool breeze through the windows. With my feet planted firmly on the floor delighting in the day, I felt the blessedness of water, fire, air, and earth ~ their ways of offering a free pass to connect to the peace of simple pleasures and sacred presence.
I’ve long recognized the elements as portals in deepening my connection to that “something bigger” we all long to belong to. Air, water, fire and earth and their symbolic meanings are cornerstones as I coach my clients to bring their mind into their heart. Reconnecting to the elements and their constant presence can be like finding new walking companions as we step out of our comfort zones and all that is familiar to find a little truth.
Isn’t truth what we are looking for, now more than ever? In this time of fake news, gaslighting and ghosting? How do we know the truth of who we are, where we belong, who we are supposed to be? What’s holding us back? Are we ready to love all of who we are; even the parts we’ve kept hidden from ourselves? Where do we find our answers and the guidance to inform our decisions? Can we live a holy life in our seemingly ordinary days?
These are the questions I ask. And are often the focus of conversations I have with my clients.
There are many ways to invite a deeper connection with the elements and their reminders on how to live our lives. Air that clears mind and heart, that whispers wisdom. Water that reminds us to go with the flow of our ever-changing lives. Fire that ignites passion, life force and holy flame. Earth that roots us ~ steadies us.
Here are a few suggestions you may wish to consider as ways to intentionally bring your awareness ‘round to say hello ~
These are a few simple ways to bring the beauty and power of the elements into your life. There are many ways the elements can support us in feeling connected to the natural world as part of our daily rhythm. You don’t need money, special clothing or gadgets. Only your attention and imagination.
There is more. So much more. This is a place to begin. The elements and their symbolism are an easily accessible brass ring to claim as one way of saying “yes” to exploring your connection to God, Source, Creator, Universe, whatever name you choose.
It’s Love. It’s all Love.
Find your faith. Live your days ~ even the ones that throw a curveball ~ from a place of quiet connection to what’s true and beautiful. Breathe into each day with gratitude and acceptance. Allow emotions to move through you instead of unpacking for a long-term visit. Allow your heart’s voice to be heard. Trust it. Trust yourself. Our heart, the home of tranquility and conviction, is the sanctuary we do well to spend time in. The quiet, still place of peace, wisdom, our divine nature ~ our joy. The elements lead me there.
This is the comfort I seek.
“We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.” ~ May Sarton
After spending three months in Ireland and two months finding and settling into our new home in Mill Creek, WA, I’m back at my desk again. My “desk” is a comfy down chair with an ottoman. I’m sitting here with my feet up, my laptop balanced on my thighs, a cup of tea and my phone within easy reach.
I can’t tell you how amazing these past months have been. The time in Ireland worked me to my soul’s core. Challenging me beyond anything I could have imagined. I’ve learned so much about myself and what’s important to me at this time in my life.
It hasn’t been easy.
Not that I expected being alone with myself to be easy. I didn’t. I was anticipating and prepared myself for the usual suspects—shame, regret, and inadequacy—to have a field day making their opinions known as if for the first time. Those voices are not strangers. And, they didn’t disappoint, being the first to greet me as I stepped into the quiet.
I wasn’t prepared for what happened next.
With nowhere to go, no schedule to keep, no Internet or cell service, I was forced to stay present and learn to tolerate feeling uncomfortable with myself for more than five minutes. My vision of writing by the fire, rain lashing at the windows didn't happen. It was sunny most of the time. I went outside. And there I found what I was looking for. What I needed most.
I needed the sound of the distant ocean waves. I needed to feel the soft breeze on my cheeks. I needed to sit and watch the crows, gulls, and herons and listen to their voices. I needed to smile and say "hello" to fellow passersby. I needed the cup of tea with friends. I needed ten hours of sleep at night. I needed to not do a single darn thing.
I had to let go of feeling disappointment in myself for not writing as much as I'd hoped, and not living up to my expectations of what I thought I would accomplish while in Ireland. That my time there didn't shape itself in the way I'd imagined. Instead, the gift was found in a deepening of knowing myself by connecting with the natural world around me.
I re-ignited my passion for the work I do.
And, while I could choose to spend the rest of my days sitting in front of a peat fire, reading, and sipping tea, I am instead feeling an enormous desire to step more fully into my work supporting others in finding their deep wisdom, trusting themselves to know what they want and guiding them to live from their heart.
We don't have time for anything else.
From my chair beside the cottage fire, I imagine the coffin being lowered into the freshly dug earth, carefully cut pieces of sod stacked to the side, anticipating their return to cover my sister’s remains. A patchwork of earth and grass that would mend itself back together again. I envy that. I will be lonely for Jo the rest of my life.
I always knew where to find her. My sister was as predictable as clockwork and while I couldn’t imagine her life being mine, I often needed and took comfort in the familiarity of each other, the shared understanding of where we came from, though how that shaped us manifested in different ways. We drew from a deep well of humor. And while that often offered a detour from digging into uncomfortable places and the conversations I longed for, it also honored the best family trait handed down to us.
Random bits and pieces of times spent together have kept me company this week. I remember how my sister loved the musical Camelot. She had the album and I truly thought she would wear the vinyl out; part of me hoped so, except I loved hearing her sing and look so happy. I teased her about having a crush on Robert Goulet. George Harrison did nothing for her. We liked different music, our styles were different, we often saw the world from different points of view.
She was my sister. I loved her. She loved me. The love between us was always there. It was enough.
This week the tears keep coming, blurring my vision and choking my heart. I vacillate between holding them back and letting them flow. Someone who has been a part of my life forever is gone. I’m feeling numb against the finality of her death. To know I’ll never laugh with her again.
To not know, for the first time in my life, where to find her.
"I believe in intuition and inspiration…at times I feel certain I am right while not knowing the reason".~ Albert Einstein
There are inner nudges you can’t ignore. The ones that are nestled deep in your soul and eventually move beyond a whisper. They tug at your heart and no matter how you may try to push them to the side, they won’t have it.
This inner knowingness has directed me in ways that haven’t always been easy. In fact, most often I’ve been guided in directions I’d done my best to avoid. The unknown lies in wait, where too much courage is needed, and too much judgement handed down. Yet, without exception, when I allow myself to breathe through, and tolerate my feelings of fear, anxiety and downright terror, I move into a new part of myself. Life expands and my faith deepens when I say “yes” to following those inner nudges without fully knowing the “why” of it.
Two years ago, staring out our front window, I asked aloud…”What are we doing?” “Is this how we want to spend our days?” Those two questions unleashed all we needed to jolt us into knowing we needed to make a change. Our hearts quickening, we began a process of questioning, examining and exploring possibilities to shift us forward in a new direction.
Out of that questioning, my husband, Craig, and I created Eire Retour, which plays to our individual and combined strengths and joys. Eire Retour is a unique travel experience offering a time for renewal, reconnection and exploration. We’ve blended the elements we cherish in this beautiful life...lovely food, lively conversation, laughter and music in the mystical, breathtaking landscape of Ireland.
Each of us was ready to take another leap of faith that led us to where we are today ~ without a physical place to call home. After ten years living in Portland, Oregon, we’ve packed our belongings into a 5 x 10 storage unit and are spending time with our precious granddaughter and family before crossing the pond to Ireland.
We’re excited to host our second Retour and then plan on staying in Ireland on a personal retreat. Intuition and inspiration are traveling with me. I feel called to write and I’m excited about expanding my work with clients in a new direction that will shape itself over the next few months.
While in Ireland, I am setting aside Thursdays, beginning October 12, to continue working with you. I’ve added a Scheduling page to my website that will easily allow you to book a session on the calendar. The platform we will use for a session will depend on what’s easiest for each of us. Skype, FaceTime and What’sApp? are all possible options. I will be in touch with those who schedule with the details.
Here’s to holding each other in our hearts quickening ~
Here is the world.
Beautiful and terrible things will happen.
Don't be afraid. ~ Frederich Buechner
November 8th has come and gone and here we are one month later. My brain feels broken.
Waking early the morning after, I reached for my favorite mug, made tea and buttered a piece of toast. A quick look at Facebook, then on to CNN, Huffington Post, NYT, BBC, The Guardian and eventually scanning the local news. All this after having watched hours of the PBS election coverage the night before.
Already an avalanche of reaction to Donald Trump’s successful presidential bid had emerged--in the wearing of safety pins and calls for action to protect the civil rights long fought for over our country’s history. I found myself unable to engage from a reactive place. I needed to grieve, not try to make myself feel better, or try to make everything better right away. My way has involved extra cups of tea and a drastic reduction of exposure to FB and the news, lots of candles, quiet conversations with my other half and hours spent in stillness.
I needed to hear myself.
One month later, I am finding my way forward in this deeply divided political climate of mistrust and uncertainty; where facts appear to act no longer as the touchstone we relied upon as absolute. Where do we look to find voices we can trust to give us an expanded perspective? If we learn nothing from this election, please let it be that we must learn to listen to other points of view with genuine interest and respect. This begins with listening first to what lies within, deep within our hearts. Order should proceed from love, not from the reactionary chaos of righteousness.
I am praying for courage.
We don’t know what lies ahead. I may be called to a access a deep courage to support those who may be more affected than myself by what unfolds. These next four years are not about a Republican or Democratic administration. We’ve survived both many times before. The election of Donald Trump has given a permission slip for the shadow of our culture to emerge; for all that was buried beneath political correctness and our complacent personal comfort zone. Too many voices not heard in the very real erosion of what working class Americans held true ~ that a steady job provided for your family’s needs. Trump massaged the simple message ~ Make America Great Again. For some, this offered the opportunity to express their disgust for the “educated”, liberal Democrats and claim an equal voice. My hope is for an new middle to form ~ one defined not by one political party ~ but rather, includes many voices unified in standing against racism, bigotry and misogyny. I believe there are many Republicans who were willing to overlook Trump’s personality to support a conservative political agenda, but who do not abide hatred and bigotry. Maybe, we will be able to meet on that ground and begin to move beyond the polarization. Trump has succeeded in alienating folks across the political spectrum, and perhaps that has created a crack in the polarization as well. Maybe our elected officials’ votes won’t continue to be cast strictly along party lines. Perhaps we will move into a new middle.
I stand in love.
It’s time for love to be taken seriously. For love to count. Love is not naive. Love is a direction, an agenda, a way of living that is powerful. Every bit the equal of hate in its power to transform and create change. Choose love. All love ~ all the time. Love lies deep in our core. Go there...every day. Take time to examine your days...did you operate from love? Did you contribute in ways that make you feel at peace ~ less anxious? Or at the end of the day do you still feel worked up, angry and agitated?
If you do, then I would suggest you rethink your approach. This is your life. Make a difference where you’re able. If you choose to make donations to organizations you feel are doing good work in the world, do it. If you want to sign petitions you feel strongly about and let your public officials know how you feel with a letter or phone call, by all means, do it. I’m not saying those actions are wrong or ineffective; they are absolutely necessary. I am saying we also need to contribute closer to home, where we are able to make a difference that we can witness in a more personal way; supporting local business owners and organizations, making genuine personal connections with others. Don’t underestimate the power in simple courtesies of human care and connection ~ eye contact, smiles, manners, compliments...seeing others and letting them know you see them. These actions foster peace in your heart at the end of the day and may have contributed more than you will ever know to the people you met in offering comfort and strength ~ a reminder of compassion.
I vow to shine.
I invite you to join me. We all have gifts we bring to the world. Now is the time to step fully into being your highest, brightest self. Not all of us are called to be activists, yet we all have the ability to change the world. We do this by thriving from our deepest passion. For those of you who make music, make the most glorious notes ~ our hearts need to hear them. For those who write, write with raw passion and truth and delight in the creation ~ we need your words. If you grow flowers and gardens, cultivate prolific and beautiful abundance. Allow your imagination to soar. Do something to make the world more beautiful in the simplest and most natural of ways. In times of darkness, truth and beauty are our touchstones for survival. We need what your heart brings to the world.
My husband, Craig, and I are opening our our home on the second Sunday of every month for a simple soup supper. This idea emerged from our hearts as a way of sharing our love of gathering people at our table and our need to see and be with others in a meaningful way ~ not on social media. You are welcome at our table. We hope you’ll join us.
“I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
~ LM Montgomery
I’m not a fan of temperatures above 75 degrees. I live for that first hint of cooler air, knowing that soon it will be sweater weather, warm homemade soup on the stove and tattoos will hibernate until spring.
The extroverted energy of the summer season softens into the quiet season of autumn, signaling - for me - the feeling of a new year when all things seem possible, even probable. I feel called to a slow turning inward and I am able to rest and reflect in the quiet waiting for me. I find my balance again.
Autumn is witness to life returning to the earth, a portal for dying and yet I am baptized by the dazzling fire color of falling leaves, delighting in the gift of the summer’s garden bounty and turning my eyes upward watching the migrating birds fly south across the sky. We put our gardens to bed; our days shorten as the darkness comes early, and I feel a surge of aliveness that is a joyous dance. Is it in dying we feel fully alive? Does one ignite the other?
The quiet whisper of farewell calls me to those things I love most ~ music, flowers, being in my kitchen, and candles lit everywhere. If I am destined to be met with a conscious dying, I can imagine I would dust off Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks, turn up the volume, open the windows wide, for once not caring about disturbing the neighbors. I would surround myself with flowers and all the books I’ve yet to read. And I would bake my favorite dishes, but let someone else wash them. I would hold my beloved’s hand as much as possible. And I would smile and cry at the same time. Dancing between two worlds, each taking turns leading me from one home to the next, until I take that final twist, when all I’ve loved is no longer enough to keep me here.
This year has me dancing life in all its colors ~ coming to terms with my sister's reckoning with leaving her earthly home and then anticipating the joy of greeting my first grand-baby due to arrive in February. I do not know what the world will feel like without my sister in it. I wonder about that as I am knitting a sweater for the wee one coming in. Knit one, purl two, the tears blur the stitches and I have to unravel the yarn back to the place where all was well, something I can not do for my sister. Sitting by her bedside, I leaned forward to hear her soft whisper ~ “I watch all of you get up from your chairs and I can’t. I won’t ever again put something in my crockpot for dinner.” I nodded and said a quiet “yes” that I hope held an ounce of what my heart was feeling. Witnessing her letting go of these simple, yet suddenly precious acts of ordinary living.
Wedded as I am to participating fully in this life I’m living, I feel every bit of the tenderness in both saying goodbye ~ how can that possibly happen? ~ and saying welcome to the world, baby girl. Loving both of these beings, one who has shaped a part of my heart and another who will.
So, this October, I will play all my favorite music while wearing my apron and sing into a spatula as I blend a chocolate batter sure to bring good smells and wide smiles. I’ll light all the candles and have extra cups of tea and curl up with a book. I will step into a brilliance of being alive and embrace all that I love about being here. Not because I have the answers. But instead, because I can.
I’ve always loved Rilke’s quote, “Being here is so much”. These days, though, I feel being here is almost too much. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired. Tired of the political climate of this election year and the senseless shootings that have left families and communities shattered; where we barely catch our breath before we hear of yet another tragedy. In the midst of all that leaves me weary, I tap into a deeper place of knowingness that everything we are witnessing is reflecting and revealing the patriarchy working in its shadow, allowing us to see without question the polarities of love and fear. I choose love. Every day. Again and again. It’s all I know how to do in this climate of black and white thinking. That, and I would suggest we all take a nap. The whole world needs a nap.
When I hold fast to loving fiercely I feel better; taking time to walk daily, allowing the flowers and trees and seeing God in the eyes of the people I meet to soothe me and remind me not all is lost in the midst of the injustice and darkness that seems to greet us these days from the time we wake up to when our heads finally rest on our pillows at night. Issues that require our attention to learn and listen and claim our responsibility to contribute to what is in alignment with our integrity.
Holding to this path of loving fiercely in the midst of divisiveness, where anger and frustration can so easily eclipse compassion and respect can be challenging. In addition to my daily walks, I find myself needing to be sure I’m truly “in my body”. When we’re keeping company with fear ~ it’s so contagious! ~ it’s easy for us to “check out” of our bodies. It’s a natural way of coping, of surviving trauma. This “checking out” also allows fear to have its way with us and suddenly we’re “up to ninety” as my Irish friends say. Stressed and afraid. Overwhelmed and feeling powerless.
I’ve learned to check in with my body throughout the day, paying close attention to how my body is responding to the outer world. Your body is your constant companion, ready to act as a buffer between you and the world. Your body holds deep wisdom and will never lie to you. It is in our best interest to pay attention and listen to the messages wanting to be heard and learn the ways our bodies communicate their wisdom. My clients recognize this strategy as “taking your temperature”; intentionally stopping for a few moments, tuning in, breathing deeply, holding steady and really feeling your physical self. What is your body trying to say to you if your shoulders are raised, your stomach is tight, or your jaw is clenched? Having spent the vast majority of my life out of my body, it was a wonderful gift to embrace this inner relationship, to allow acceptance, gratitude, trust and self compassion to become the foundation for all the other relationships in my life. And how effective and empowering it is to listen to your body and then respond accordingly, with a mantra supporting you to relax and come back to center, come back into your body. To ground yourself.
When we’re grounded and fully present in our bodies, we are better positioned for whatever curve ball may come our way. That, and a strong cup of tea, will do wonders for coping in these uncertain times, this in-between time in our spiritual evolution. Hold fast to Love. And take a nap.
Write something about yourself. No need to be fancy, just an overview.