When fear tightens its grip,
“What would someone do if
they loved themself?”
Now do that.
From my humble garden, it’s a beautiful
Good Morning, World!
What a way to start my days, out here with the flowers 🌻🌺 and almost ripe blueberries, my herbs and ferns and my gorgeous tree. 🦋
Well, the other day, a hummingbird 🐦 stopped by for a visit; and while writing these words just now, the hummingbird returned, pausing in mid air next to me to say hello.
And there’s a small throated little Bushtit bird🐧 that perches for extended visits on my fence, and. whom, the other day flew into—sweetly rustling my glass chimes–when I was feeling discouraged 🥀. ,🎶
Everyday my chorus of birds and trees and bright flowers and trailing vines are faithful to restore a tired body. What a way to greet the day!
And did I say Thank You?! ❤️
(Photo by S. Sawyer)
There are acts of Mercy,
that come along—
dying, a shape shifter, often a trickster when death settles in.
Death and dying, not always the same.
There are worse things
Step out into the tall grass, wade in to your hips,
fall to your knees.
Breathe now, let the mercy of dying carry you out into the field of your joy and pain where nothing is too early or late, always on time.
Mercy arrives when you’re too complacent or comfortably numb, or too busy in the business of your life.
Mercy steps in with the calamitous, the tragic— anything to keep us from forgetting,
and we are never forgotten by that which sees—
get us to notice down to our breath within.
There is a space of profound stillness inside where death lives, where
all possibilty exists, where we
begin and end, again and again.
This is Mercy calling.
She knows you by heart and by name.
Susan Wolfington 2020
Don’t shutter the windows ,
don’t turn the deadbolt just yet while hope survives—
just not inside of you.
One minute past giving up, calling it quits
while you believe as you do because of those that hurt you—
you, the stranger, who has extended so much mercy in your life.
Kindness is not dead even if you believe it true.
You are due, owed your time, ripe for the plucking.
And your story may be much different than you picture it now
as you stand upon the narrow ledge of your own aching heart
thinking no one sees
or worse, cares.
Mercy and kindness travel in pairs on the bus of surprise—that
is how they operate.
You never see them coming until they arrive.
And what if you have locked all the doors to your heart,
how shall they enter?
All the while they’ve been looking for you while you slump pale and cold,
buttressed behind the deadbolt and shuttered window.
This troupe, this Calvary of strangers who arrive most unexpectedly
to see you through the next minute or the rest of your life
here to restore your faith in you, how okay you really are.
You never quite know where and when they will appear,
who or what will waltz or breeze through your door with arms
full of what you need
or run into your burning house
with buckets of water to save you.
So go on, turn out the lights and go to bed.
but this I beg of you,
just be sure to leave the door open a crack
for possibility, please.
Photo and poem by S. (Sawyer) Wolfington
It is, on this rainy gray day, I meditate on gratitude. In this bleak opaqueness, it is easy to notice only that, especially after too many long seasons of unchanging gray. It is easy to feel drained of hope for anything better to come.
Yet in a simple meditative state, how wonder-filled the breadth and wholeness of life as it shows up in all its many colors…a gentle reminder back towards my own fierce life force.
Gratitude appearing as a sliver of light on the horizon–my senses tell me as I watch its arrival. It’s Love calling home, coming to find me. Not that I was ever for a second lost to it. Support arriving–beyond circumstance and suffering, of which there is plenty.
My senses inform me, tell me of it in creatively innate ways. In touch of hot and cold, skin and touch, a stroke of kindness or endearment.
I breathe in aromas of love cooking in the oven or the familiar aura of another, the smell or warning of danger, of jasmine in spring.
I witness love in the eyes of a friend, blossoming pink Dogwoods flowers or brilliant white, ship like clouds sailing upon a blue sea sky. I see where love is not felt. I say a prayer or extend a hand.
And on it goes.
Our natural senses are a gateway to the Universe when open.
And nothing good in being alive is so small as to not be noticed and full of wonder at.
We stand here at the apex of everything that has arrived in life before us so as to support us… from the Void or God or Source of all wonder to the Big Bang to stars and their trails through the universe(s) to Mother Gaia, earthquakes, fire, shifting lands. From one cell beings and the creative evolution of our bodies through eons or a single lifetime.
We are here to expand and breathe, feel pain and grow into Love, live and die and change into something else or more.
I hear, sense, touch, see, feel, and I’m alive; and in this moment or moments to come, all is well with my soul, and I’m alive past pain or suffering or complaint or whatever life throws my way.
I am not here to rejoice in the suffering of another, but to support because I have been supported.
Love is creative in its unfathomable myriad of expression, and often arrives in surprise or gift. It will show you how and the way.
Crack open the gate of resistence.. Raise your expectation just a smidge. Find life in the moment in the sidewalk flower growing from its fissures and breaks. Notice things for five minutes.
You and I are here to make a difference, to stand for kindness and the ferocity of Love in the darkest of time or place where love has not been felt or seen…
even within ourselves.
It’s been so nice having you here,
my little pink birthday girls.
Lots of photo shoots, just you and my camera
and the light
while you posed so sweetly for me
again and again every day you’ve been here.
You’re a little tired now—
I can see that.
And life is so brief for all of us and so awash with grace and grief both,
that I dont blame you for exhausting yourself
giving away all that grace.
Flowers in the window should have more function than a window seal,
but I lack a garden here up high…
except for the one you’ve planted in my heart.
I want to know if you have those days, weeks or months where you retreat in order to retrieve your energy or an answer?
When things or circumstances don’t seem fully manageable?
When renewal is only possible through rest of the mind, soul and body just to gain a bit of strength for the journey ahead?
Yes, I’d like to know.
Well, thank you for asking.
I like to talk to the tree people, listen to the flower folks—
they like to talk back.
I like to get real close to their mouths and be still—they talk in whispers, you know.
A camera, too, helps me to translate when the light is just right.
They get into my heart and do all their best work there.
I may not say much to you because I’m too busy listening.
Talk can be cheap on these days—
when all I can think about is how I’d rather open my heart,
fling my arms toward the sky and be ready for any bright word that might come my way.
When we expose our soft underbellies, we risk ourselves. There is a freedom in risk when your heart is aching to tell the truth. Yet in doing so, we grant the courage to others freedom to do the same. This is my underbelly of truth, how it is. Living with severe sleep apnea, which in the past was a point of shame. I practice kindness now even in my difficult places. My wish for you is to do the same. ♥
When one is alone long enough, it is out of necessity you grow accustomed to days upon days spent alone. You accommodate yourself. Too many days float by, like leaves on a stream, where dressing or brushing your hair becomes a bother—because, really, who is going to see you?
In fact, you prefer your aloneness over the feeling of having to entertain others because there is little energy for it. You’re practiced at keeping busy even when you’re doing nothing at all.
You’re okay with phone calls to ask how you are to which you usually make light of with a joke; or calls from those who just need a listening ear and they know you’re there. Because you’ve always been good at listening or speaking a timely word and it makes you feel useful.
Yet to pick up the phone and ask for something is akin to lifting a 50 lb. weight. It’s difficult. Friends complain you never call. You know you should. Everyone has their life to live and you’re no different.
You mostly seem to find a way around things on your own because you’re a seasoned soldier and survivor. You know how to go it alone—for the most part.
The scary part is being so darn good at it.
Relax, nothing is under control.
Creation and destruction travel in pairs.
Better to stop trying to manage the universe and know that whatever is happening, it’s function is to find what cannot be destroyed–
to find what is eternal and indelible in you.
Whomever you are,
wherever I might have lost you along the way,
Whether you know this or not, whether I’m lost
To your thoughts, or you think of me often
Or now and again,
Whatever we had in laughter, in bittersweet or hoped for dreams,
Our present lives written as they are because of that—
We are pages scribed in a book
Because I loved you or you loved me.
We are not lost because of our loss—and though
we may never speak—or maybe we do,
In my heart where love is found,
I will always love you.
You are a part of the larger story of who I am,
And I will always be grateful to you.
One day in the greater light, when the book is closed,
I know we will meet again,
Once upon a time oh so very long ago…I didn’t know…
I stumbled across this faded photo again tonight. A boyfriend and dear friend of so many years and I in front of the fireplace. I didn’t know then how time would pass so fast. There was so much life in front of me. I didn’t know how we would lose one another while we were busy making other plans. How years of illness or homelessness or death and marriages and so many other things would descend upon one or the other of us. I didn’t know how you can lose touch with someone you swore you could never lose.
These days, however, my intuition is stronger than ever. I’m learning the wisdom in living life with a heart that is willing to open to loss or joy or confusion. I’m learning that life with an open heart requires much wisdom. Wisdom–a bit of hardwon gain in exchange for oh so many losses. In that, I’m lucky. Wisdom is partly listening to intuition, that still small voice that says, go here, turn there, you’re okay. Wisdom is also partly resilience, learning how to bounce back from tragedy, how it’s okay to grieve or cry, how to let go of what fails to serve our life or the greater good any longer.
Too many people refuse the necessary changes that get you to wisdom. Wisdom requires boundaries in this world. Boundaries that are necessary for protection of your beautiful heart, for letting go of suffering, for not allowing the entire world, or even a smidgeon of it to take your heart hostage. Your heart is your own. You get to choose whom you share it with, whom and what you open it to. You must treat it well.
Change is inevitable. We are designed for it. We are not meant to hold on to anything too tightly, for in the tightness of our grip, we create suffering.
To be sure, life has a funny way of landing you in the most unexpected places. You never know where that might be or what will happen along the way. but I’m learning to live the questions, as poet Ranier Maria Rilke said to his young protégé. And as in all things, life is an inside job.
I believe it is ours to come into this life to learn how to lessen not only our own suffering but then the suffering of others, as well. Kindness helps, starting with you. But it can take many years to learn that. You are very fortunate, indeed, if you have discovered it and become infinitely and patiently kind with yourself while you learn the special kind of braille that is required to navigate your way through the darkness: Indeed, it is the first step towards living a few answers.
“Wholeness does not mean perfection. It means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life.”
– Parker J. Palmer –
It’s messy, and its
imperfection is a virtue of living in this body.
It means we are here for the human experience
in every imaginable facet, in all its
anguish and glory. Yet not necessarily
all at once, although it can feel like it sometimes.
Quit trying to airbrush your imperfections away.
—they keep you real and learning.
They have the ability to heal your soul and ground your body.
Forgive yourself. Embrace what hurts—be infinitely kind to it
while you wait for healing.
As often as possible, be in the feral world of nature where nothing
pretends to be anything other than what it is—broken or beautiful.
Unfurl your life, bent wings and everything.
Learn to inhabit yourself—dig your toes into the soil now
and then as a reminder you are part of it.
You are already gorgeous with your shriveled petals, your funny ways,
your insecurities, and your
crazy ideas that just might save the world.
When you’ve learned to lighten up on yourself, learned compassion and kindness, you grieve for the years the locust has eaten. When you were so unjustly hard on yourself. When you looked in the mirror or at your life.
When kindness arrives at your door, you look back at old photos and realize, “there was nothing wrong with me”. And anything that appeared to be out of place was merely fear and a deficit of love towards yourself playing itself out in the world.
When kindness arrives, you fall in love, maybe for the first time.
The world is not our personal yardstick by which we measure ourselves. We will always come up short when we do.
It is by the heart we see ourselves rightly—even in the most difficult of circumstances.
Stay close to your heart. When hope or life feels spare, remember to return again and again.
Your heart is the book by which you rightly read your life.
And then there’s this, a moment to unplug…splendid, mind-boggling, joy giving beauty just waiting for you to notice. A moment so transitory in nature, we often miss it, opting instead for stress and worry, in a hurry to get things done.
Stop for a moment and receive what’s freely given you–and opportunity to take in the quiet miracles all around you, an opportunity to open your heart just a little more to each one.
Soon enough in those quiet moments of recognizing and receiving, your heart will soften towards noticing. It will become the very thing it is underneath the pain and trauma you carry in your life and body–an open door to joy.
Do we know how seen we are? How loved?
The day will come when we look back at our lives past judgement and pain and realize we were never alone as we believed we were. That the totality of our beingness was swimming in a sea of love. That every atom and quark was infused with it.
It”s the creative substance, fierce with truth, that glues everything together,
Even what appears to be so wrong is love…it illuminates the truest thing your heart knows in it’s deepest core.
Be still, dear, and follow that.
Uncertainty is hope when you don’t know the outcome.
By now, I’ve gotten used to an array of recent diagnoses I’ve been on the receiving end of…reminders of my mortality, some having the potential to shorten a life. In the beginning, admittedly, it throws you off balance. And after a time, life then becomes a new normal where adjustments have been made, answers are being sought. You learn to manage your new normal—or a new version of the old.
Apart from the most trusted of confidantes and after the first period of mourning and shock of news, whatever it might be, you learn to keep the bad days to yourself and share the good ones by putting on your dancing shoes, getting out to catch up with life and friends.
You’ve come to recognize your survivor-hood by now.
And when someone asks, you work to keep your answers brief and hopeful. You recognize quickly the glazed eyes, the subject changed. Vulnerability can feel awkward.
Yet you know in the end analysis, everything is alright.
Yesterday I ran into a somewhat new acquaintance who upon seeing me, recognized and embraced me immediately. Embarrassed because I was having problems remembering our exact meeting and conversation, I played along. So much has happened since then. Before we parted, she made sure to take the time to let me know the takeaway of our first meeting while she cried in front of me, how she had walked away feeling so much hope. Unbeknownst to me, I had apparently conveyed knowing that no matter what calamity befell me, I was always certain I would be okay (after a period of adjustment). Nothing was the end of the earth, not in death or life. And that gave her hope right up to moment we bumped into one another yesterday.
It’s interesting, while just being who we are, what we never suspect what people will take away in their meetings with us we’re not aware of. I wonder who of us asks ourselves if our presence is an ordeal to bear or a welcoming breath of fresh air.
My hope for each one of us in the darkness to always keep the vulnerability welcome light on. However it looks, there is a way home.
Having a good soak in the mud right now, but just want to say thank you for all the bright bouquets of beautiful flowers you’ve sent to me while here.
They make sense of everything.
In spite of appearances, life seems beautiful.
Moments that arrive unbidden when you’re minding your own business, like a sudden break in the clouds when the sun streams through and makes light of everything, and peace becomes quite a tangible thing, floods your soul.
And you know that everything is really okay no matter what’s going on, that you’re okay, seen and wholly loved.
This journey, such a temporary thing, and then you go home.
Yet the breaks in the storm arrive as a reminder to keep going, keep growing and learning and leaning toward love. You’re right where you need to be to get to where you need to go.
And this is just a reminder that it is good and you are wholly loved.
How beautiful to commit just one day to not speaking about that which disturbs, disrupts,
brings unnecessary pain to ourselves or another,
to dwell in and listen to the silence of our own deeper nature,
to be attuned to and see from the heart
rather than racing to reply or judge or manipulate.
How beautiful to allow and make space for one magnificent day of your life just as it is!
Today might be a very good day.
Something I wrote a few years back. This life all around me faithful to provide carefully positioned sentinels that stand at the gate against any misery that would seek to make a permanent address inside me–a reminder of where my true north lies, a pointer home saying “This way to your heart”.
Driving down the street the other day,
I detected that fall had had her way—
and under freshly shorn trees were luminous
yellow-gold pools where sunshine had accumulated
—a riotous cornucopia of puddled sunshine in
brief reprieve between darkening days,
like some kind of joy
suddenly rising up to greet me in the dying leaves.
It left me happy for days.
My life has it dying seasons, as well.
Yet the art of dying often leaves me wanting,
absent without poise or polish.
futile attempts made at scooping up decay
of that which needs to die, staring, bare
limbed, at loss, shivering in the wind.
If there is joy-filled reprieve, I often fail to notice it.
This letting go business—I’m not as graceful
as the golden dying leaves.
But what I’m counting on is that spring
always comes and old attitudes, beliefs and judgments
about how life is supposed to be
serve as perfect compost for my re-creation.
How completely unlike herself, you think, smiling,
and by now you know better than that— Grace
juxtaposing beneath the black swirl
of clouds while she in haste unfurls herself,
presses hard against the glass,
tap, tap, tap, demanding,
Quick, come look, good morning! Hurry please!
Looks at her watch,
We haven’t got all day!
Covers thrown, running out the door to see
her sun struck glow in the trees, alighting the hills in flame,
mere minutes before the drenching rain.
You’re left aghast, and she trails off as though nothing had happened, and
you suspect she’s been lying in wait all night.
This, a singular act of benevolence you’re chosen for, again and again.
Your fate, you say.
Striking when you’re not looking, she knows where you are.
And suddenly she’s there begging for witness, posing this way and that,
when you were just minding your business,
demanding you grab your camera or pen.
She devastates your heart with her wildness.
Bearer of all that’s untamed, you’ve become uncultivated, mad—too much
for any one person you say.
You must give it away, standing on corners, reciting her scriptures
in lines and pictures—offering her sweet-scented petals, like small prayers,
like small acts of kindness to anyone
in desperate need of water or salvation.
Before becoming a butterfly–you have to let life bury you inside its chrysalis.
You have to turn into mushy goo. You have to lose all resemblance to your former self.
You have to get uncomfortable. You have to let go of old ways. You have to learn a whole new way of being yourself.
Not everyone is willing.
Yet the secret is that the earth needs caterpillars as much as butterflies! And caterpillars aspiring towards butterflyhood…
…and all the things you might not think it needs for reasons you probably can’t begin to imagine.
The earth looks vastly different from the ground than the air. And we need the ground and air both the same.
So if you’ve made it to butterfly stage, keep talking anyway. You survived this far when you didn’t think you were going to make it.
Keep talking love to the world. Say how it is from up there, from the trees and bright blue of the day. Some will get it, some won’t. Either way, it’s okay.
You never know who might be listening.
Today we start the rest of our lives. It’s official.
On this day, January 20, 2017, President Obama has left the White House and a new President takes his place—for better or worse. I have my own ideas about what he might or might not do while seated in the Oval Office. I am sure you do, too. All eyes of the planet are watching to see what is going to happen. A man comfortable enough with his own authority is now taking his place in a seat that is powerful enough to make or break this barely visible blue planet–a planet that spins in the backwaters of an incomprehensibly vast pinwheel of stars. Think about that for a moment.
And it is a man who, no matter what side of the fence you’re on, has repeatedly, and with a very long stick, poked the tiger of our fears since announcing his candidacy for President of the United States. Poke, then stir and repeat. This has been the methodology for his brand of success over the years, it would seem.
However long the life span remaining for each of us here on a breathtakingly small speck of universal life, there has never been such a time as this between technology and the ability to create or destroy. I believe actions for better or worse are felt as a rippling waves throughout the fabric of all of life itself, wherever it is or whatever form. Everything is connected.
Though widely attributed to being a Chinese curse, the saying “may you live in interesting times” may be deduced from analysis of the late-19th century speeches of Englishman, Joseph Chamberlain and erroneously expounded upon by his son, Austen Chamberlain. However it came about, we are here right now, in the boiling cauldron of interesting times. [i] Interesting times are signals that something is about to change. In fact, it is pretty much a guarantee–and you play a part in it whether you choose to or not.
Interesting times are created for thinking people just like you and me. Now, what are you going to decide to do with your place in it? Remember, if you choose to distract yourself in habituation, hoping to maintain the status quo away from uncomfortable feelings or the work of change, you’ve decided.
Most critical is the decision to give up any complacency you may be in possession of about your own life, and over your place here as a citizen of the earth, and over the gifts and talents lying within you. And you do have certain gifts and talents even if they have become undervalued, dormant or gone underground.
Because as you may or may not know, our gifts and talents, no matter our personal idea of them, were given to us so that we could give them away. They are meant for service and for the betterment of yourself and the betterment of mankind. They are intended so that you will be able to better know exactly what and where the passion is in you to go out and serve–and with the proper tools innately and proportionately exact to you.
But sometimes you’ve got to start digging to uncover them before you can utilize them. I have some ideas about how you might begin the process and will write more about that very soon, because now is the time you are really going to need to rely on those beautiful parts of yourself. They are what will save you on more levels you can know in the present moment, and might even positively contribute to life on Planet Earth.
Collectively, we are powerful! This I know. Individually, you might not have not given yourself enough credit for surviving until now.
Desperately seeking change, whether realizing it or not on a conscious level, this is the time that the people of Planet Earth through their most heartfelt and fervent desire have collectively moved heaven and earth to effect change away from the prevailing system and towards a more healing one that WE get to create as we go. We have put people, point men or women, if you will, in place around the world who are sufficiently capable of taking a sledgehammer to our most cherished fears in order to exquisitely tear them down.
The time has arrived. We stand on the precipice of fear and change. What is our future going to look like? Right now it is a big question mark. Question marks in life are doorways to limiting probabilities or countless possibilities. What will we be? It is ours to choose for better or worse individually and collectively. We have an amazing opportunity. We get to make up the rules for continued life on this mother ship upon whose back we reside—much like the rules that were made up for us in preceding generations.
We live in times meant for the unseating of dominance of one over another, of our fears over love; and whether we’ll be pushed by our fears or pulled by love and courage.
This is the part where we now get to save ourselves! Ultimately, no governing body can do it for us. It’s going to take some true grit and a lot of courage.
Time to get busy! Dig where you are. Ask for help. Reach out. Network. Power lies in strength of community. Choose to be a force for good where can you do the most good for the most people.
Your uncovered and passionate heart bent on love in service over fear will show you the way through.
The beautiful wild calls to me more and more. Days and years pass, and I am moving closer to death now that I am in the last third of my life. Being here now, I feel done with so much focusing on the logical minutia of my days. It’s easier than when I was thirty or forty in a way. This minutia feels stale as I move towards lightening the agendas others have for me, the ones I have of myself, the tyranny of the urgent cracking its whip over me to move faster, work harder, accomplish more. I am ready to become a human being now rather than a human doing. My commodity is not valued in how much I can accomplish but in realizing my mystery, to be tenderly compassionate towards all that I have deemed as less than perfect within and around me.
This is what makes perfect sense to me now, the alchemical weaving and blending of logos and mythos together into a substance that becomes far more valuable than either alone. Gold, if you will. I have spent the better part of a lifetime mostly doing one or the other, furiously scurrying around to accomplish whatever long to-do list I had in order to be able to live in the mystery. As if I had to earn the right to lie on my back in the grass and gaze at shape shifting clouds or put my pen to the page when the first lines of a poem slipped in to my awareness or try my hand at putting some color on the canvass—or merely to take a much needed nap.
What makes sense now is living on purpose, living with awareness of all that I am doing in each moment, of acceptance wherever I might find myself. Washing dishes turns into an act of grace as I feel the warm water running over my hands, handle each fork and cup, happy there are dishes to wash, food to prepare, food at the end of my arm anytime I want it, blessing the earth and each hand that went into its growth and preparation; or paying bills, feeling the abundance of the universe, that I have been graced with a roof over my head, a place to lay my tired body at night.
I am grateful I have what I need when I need it even if it is not always exactly what I think I want.
Today I was counting the last of my former life, the years I have spent in caretaking. I believed it mine to shoulder the atlas as I cared for seriously ill friends and family, along with a serious illness of my own. Counting too many years in the business of living and dying, emergencies, and crisis and drama in the physical, mental and emotional arenas—I am just done.
Now I feel ready to count the stars in the midnight sky, to watch the sailing ships of clouds passing by. I am ready to take long walks, write books, and rise up and up into my one beautiful life before dissolving back down into the primordial soup from which I came.
Yet even in the sad and the bad, the worry, the hurry that has consumed my days, I am utterly grateful. These are gifts of pain I have been graced with. Deep within me lies a dark underworld from which arises a priceless seam of gold, a transmutation of the pain and fear into a precious metal. I couldn’t have fully understood this until more recently. I am multi-dimensional, of the stars and of the earth. In this suit of flesh and bone, lives a being descended from the stars, from the source of life itself. I am meant while I am here to dwell in both myth and logic, to learn equally about both, to learn to weave them into a beautiful tapestry. Everything is purposed in my life to propel me towards the realization of this wisdom…to be heavenly minded while tending to life, to mend that which is broken with my compassion, to seek forgiveness, to forgive, to be a place holder for love, to be in a possession of a heart that has been broken wide open, to become fertile ground where life can grow.
I have not entirely mastered these things yet. It’s okay. It is not mine to completely master. Better to accept my own humanity, my fragility, my missing the mark so many times. This is true wisdom to know there is perfection in failure and fragility. It is part of the dying process, the cycle of life. Everything has to eventually die so that something else can live. At every moment, ten thousand things are dissolving at the same time ten thousand things are arising, taking their turn at form, at life, deciding what they will be, just for the joy and the experience of being in any particular state. For are we not each and every one and everything nuances of the one life that runs through us all, here to learn about life, ourselves, each other?
Grace is continually born out of pain, life arising out of death. Our pain becomes another’s grace as we reach out to touch and comfort. We can do this because we’ve been there, walked through the same fire of suffering. Lives and hearts are made whole from shards of anguish and heartache. Love grows. We’re not alone.
To me, this is what makes perfect sense.
“Rooted in stars and deep earth, trees remain. Oh, to live more like that!”
After raven’s wings,
I saw her from my window atop the world.
Flapping through the spacious stemmed Spruce,
the wide skirt of midnight wings catches me.
I see that you see me, the Spruce said.
Trees talk like that when they are seen.
I was taken aback.
The life of this tree further pressed into me.
It had secrets to tell and was eager to talk to anyone listening.
We see it all.
We know many things—even where the bodies are buried,
but we don’t tell.
You rushing by—we hear your thoughts.
We could say a lot about that.
Keepers of light, protectors of life, home to many things.
we bear witness to time,
Indigenous, code talkers, we live from our roots.
Until the axe comes or the beetle,
we really don’t mind standing here at all,
while you fly by barely giving us a glance.
We hold a space for your grief and your pain,
which we gladly exchange for love—you only need ask.
We, an underground network, talk a lot.
But not in the language you speak.
You have to press your ear to our trunks, bury your toes in the mud
and just stop.
You have to want what we’ve got.
You have to listen closely.
I could say more. There’s a lot to tell, but I’ll leave it at that.
Shh…it’s a secret, and you can listen for yourself.
Last year my sister and I took a long anticipated trip to Cabo San Lucas. Landing at the airport in San Jose at the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula, we rented a car, anticipating a happy drive to our resort. I brought my trusted electronic GPS with me in order to navigate our way there.
Zigging when we should have zagged at a fork in the road, we became horribly lost along the way. The GPS wasn’t any help at all as we found ourselves out in the middle of the Baja desert staring at nothing but cactus, sand and sun. The red car icon on the screen showed us going round in circles in one spot while the female voice instructed us to “turn right at the next alleyway.” What? What alleyway? Where? (We’re still laughing over that one!)
We ran out of road at a half finished freeway end zone that dropped off into nowhere, wild eyed and asking directions in English from workmen who knew only Spanish, who then pointed us down a dirt embankment into a dusty, dry flood zone. We were incredulous. But then more incredulously, we drove down that embankment because we didn’t know what else to do, soft pillows of red dust kicking up everywhere as the back end of the rented sedan wildly fishtailed about, not misconstruing the overheard Spanish “loca” (crazy) as we drove off.
At a loss to know how, the flood zone got us there—eventually. Eventually, and as we later learned, the GPS had righted itself taking us on what we thought was a wild goose chase while we zigged and zagged between crumbling adobe houses, abandoned construction, and third world city boulevards, and children in the streets while we pretended we knew where the hell we were. Then suddenly, there we were—right in front of the resort, where after checking into our rooms with much too much luggage and exhaustion—sand, sea and salt rimmed Margaritas beckoned with relief.
It’s been a wild ride these last months that have left many of us attempting to turn right at the next alleyway in the middle of foreign deserts, our psyches and emotions left going round in circles. Personally, I’ve run the gamut of inhospitable feelings and disbelief. I’m exhausted. Isn’t there a Margarita somewhere on an island resort waiting around the next corner?
And frankly, the pile of unfolded laundry on my bed isn’t going to fold itself. The piles of paperwork aren’t going anywhere until I attend to what needs attending. There are impending deadlines to meet while I stare off into space or sleep late trying to insulate myself from pain, while my fear or guilt tell me to do something now—anything, no matter what it is.
This is often how trauma impacts us at first.
We are a traumatized nation at war with itself while the whole world watches in horror. And I often feel like the first world I knew is heading into some surreal third world landscape I don’t recognize anymore.
Then I realize that in order for something to live or be born, it is often true that something has to die. Death and birth is the natural order of life. And when what fails to work anymore, life will find another way. Chaos and order coexisting all at once. One way dying while another is being born. Yada, yada—I could write a whole chapter on that one subject. It’s painful. People suffer, even die. You know. Our egos and ideologies threatened, our existence, too. None of it is personal, but it sure feels like it.
Presently and at the same time everything is going on, I’m actively resisting the notion to intellectualize myself into a nihilistic state of stupor, or numb myself in other vice. I’m fighting to stay awake. I don’t want to miss my life or fail to connect to the suffering or joy of another.
Where true value lies is remembering to consciously breathe, meditate, pray and listen, take time out of each day in order to decipher or intuit what is yours to do, your personalized marching instructions, your “true north”, as they say.
I know that as humans we react to trauma in the most human of ways. We must grieve, allow ourselves to experience its stages in order to heal. Life must wait. It isn’t helpful to hear others tell us to calm down—which can feel for us like a manipulative tactic to alleviate the discomfort of another who is not yet grappling with their own pain.
After all we are humans, not machines.
Against a backdrop of black landscape out there, there is a still a wide vista of blue sky inside myself. In the spaces in between I choose to create, be it a minute or an hour or more, in between the crazy, the chaotic, the confusing, is where our internal guidance lives. Learning to lean in and listen is what saves us from the clamoring voices that demand we do this or go there or be quiet. Not always that we receive clarification in the exact moment of quiet breathing or prayerful listening, but that the stage is set for direction to come, often in the most unexpected ways. We learn resilience here, how to bend in hard winds. Directional leading tells us what is ours to do and what is not. Like the Wheel of Fortune in the Tarot, it is in the hub of that wheel that shelters, knowing that all is okay no matter how harsh the storm, or who might be coming at you with fear in their eyes.
I know. Easier said than done. But it’s a conscious practice. I still fall out of practice though even after practice over many years. Why do I do that? It’s the human part of me.
I’m learning it’s okay to fall, even as a nation. Failure strips the veneer off. It’s the great revealer of what’s been hidden. Healing cannot come until you uncover the hidden that has been having its way with your life or your nation planet. It’s the beginning of the end to what hasn’t been working. This could take a while though while that which has been hidden fights hard for its existence or way of life.
My GPS always knows right where I’m at, at any given moment even when I am feeling wildly off course, flailing about or melting down into a puddle of emotion. I always trust I will, however, settle down. My own true north always knows where I’m at, always comes for me to lead me back. It is always talking to me even when I’m not listening. It could say, sit still, rest, prepare, learn, take care of yourself, eat right, move now—fast, go, stop, you will be okay, you are okay, talk to someone, talk to and help the person next to you, remember what and who blesses you, write that letter, make that phone call, here’s who to see or where to go, write that book or poem—here’s the first sentence, run fast, don’t worry, trust, sleep, be careful, watch out, see the doctor, don’t go out, stay in, it’s okay, love yourself, you’ll learn, find grace in your fall, you haven’t failed.
It is intimately connected with every moment of your life. Helps you to open your heart to the world, feel the magic of and get inside of your body, identify with the suffering of another, disengage with suffering that doesn’t belong to you without losing your compassion. It’s all there. Everything you need as a guide to your life is inside of you, guides you to the next step, the next thing to do. May not give you the second step until you have completed the first. It has kept you alive to this point even if you’ve failed to see it. You’ve survived until now for something else you’re supposed to do or be or flower into. It’s fierce. It brings clarity of vision you didn’t expect in ways you couldn’t have foreseen. It can save your life, bring you home when the time comes.
Last night, I was reminded in conversation with someone dear to me about making a commitment to myself to listen more to that still small voice that knows. I am making a commitment right now that every day for the next week, I will start my day by listening in, by being still, by breathing consciously in and out, by praying for direction, clear hearing and vision. Be it for a minute several times a day or an hour when I awaken, I will listen for my marching orders, for what is mine to do. At the end of the week, I will commit to another and then another. One day at a time.
Today I am not going to rush out into the world in attack mode without hearing what it has to say first. It might only be a quiet hint, a sign, an intonation, but I have learned to recognize that voice through years of practice. It always comes with peace, with expansion of being and not contraction. There is grace in it even if the work is difficult or the suffering around me heart rending.
What is important is to keep my heart open and my ear to the ground. This is how we work for the greater good. This is how we heal in time.
And I’m wondering—will you join me?
Would you please just sing your song?
It’s just old friends here.
Make every mistake you can.
Please do it wrong.
Your singing will never be good enough for you—
it never has been.
Yet you have a word, a voice, an intonation,
a clear ringing bell
with light inside that is begging for release,
and still you hold it all in, fight the brilliance
that is uniquely you.
People are begging for your song,
waiting to be saved by a song that only you can sing,
Wisdom from a higher source–when you need to make a decision, don’t know what to do, or take a strong stand,
here are some basic rules to get you through–
You’re guaranteed only this moment.
Grace is given for this moment and no other.
Don’t waste this moment on worries that
may never materialize.
The future will provide the grace you need
at the exact moment you need it.
Grace will make herself known
not a moment too late.
Before the passion in me dies,
while I can still breathe and inhale
the sweetness of jasmine in spring and
feel the ocean pouring between my toes,
I want to stand in the small gulf of your arms
and know heaven in my soul.
I want to feel your warm skin pressed
against mine and breathe together in time.
And when I’m looking off into forever,
your adoring kisses at my neck
will to my senses bring me back.
With just a look you heal me—
you love me, and I am made whole.
So for this, while I live,
while we have this briefest encounter in time without end,
while the fire burns still within our souls,
and before the smoldering turns cold,
I will look in your eyes at this moment in time
and let myself be loved by you again and again.
It’s not always easy when you’re learning,
when the birthing of your own worthiness
is still so fresh with pain.
You have to keep saying no loud enough until you hear yourself.
I am learning to stand by my no’s, by what nourishes my own soul—
by the NO that has my back, knows best what is for me and what is not.
I am learning it’s okay to be quiet when there is nothing more to say,
when I have already spoken,
when I have paid careful attention, said what I mean
and mean what I say.
Because another discounts my no,
does not mean that I don’t count.
Both of us in the same classroom as I learn to stand by what I have said
and they learn to hear my no.
And just a single no can stand on its own—
just a simple thank you, but no—or because I said so.
I am learning it’s quite okay to have momentary confusion or
temptation to say yes without actually doing so.
It’s okay to sit with it for however long it takes until the thing is done.
Even though it hurts for a while, even though those old feelings rise up,
I know everyone is hurt
when I say yes but mean no.
It’s enough, a place to begin
to wait for a single drop or bead of rain
to fall on the hole you’ve climbed in.
A single drop that waters the single word
that strikes the chord that plays just right,
that grows into a bud, a tiny shoot, a spark of hope.
If you can wait long enough.
A day will do, then becomes two and three,
a week, a month, a year of unexpected alteration,
offerings falling from ominous clouds
straight into your heart.
And what went down, now goes up—
it’s the natural law of things.
The blackness of pain, as you will learn,
drop by drop from day to day,
will serve to increase your capacity for joy,
stretch your boundaries,
which can often hurt as you know,
then break the cords that hold too tight
your beautiful and sacred life,
if you can wait
just a day or more.
If you give yourself permission to fall,
say it’s okay to be held while you go down,
go easy on yourself,
there will be stronger arms than yours right now
to catch you while you fall.
there will be that day,
though I can’t say exactly when,
you will rise and rise from your black loamy bed
born in sorrow and blood
and know you were glad you stayed
and waited for rain.
© 2016 Shoshana Wolfington
For all the things that make up a life,
that run a universe or that collide in hearts or stars,
in the unbearable witness of great human suffering,
or in the joy of unexpected offering,
the mercy that comes from a stranger or friend,
on this the whole world spins.
In birth and death, when something dies to allow something in,
in all the living stretched between,
in gratitude or grief
that in a moment can metamorphose from one to the other
and back again,
in a heap of tears falling to the ground,
in the bitter-sweetness of most everything,
in the simple pleasure of being here
a broken hallelujah all.
In clarity or confusion, this one thing I know,
that without brokenness,
there could never be a true hallelujah at all.
© 2016 Shoshana Wolfington
While all over town cherry blossoms
are in a pink uprising—stampeding the senses
of unsuspecting ones merely trying to mind their own business.
And dogwoods are holding on to their fat little white fists, shaking
them in the wind at anyone who might notice them.
Everything says stay, don’t go and
a thousand heavy sighs escape me at every
up and coming branch that tries to halt me from my
appointed task—a final reckoning with what it will cost to leave.
Goodbye sweet trees.
Goodbye greening leaves.
Goodbye the whistling chorus out my kitchen window
—the geese coming home.
It’s not that I’m gone forever—
just long enough to miss this spring and all its terrible beauty.
I’m already full of melancholy
and I’m not even gone.
© 2015 ~ Shoshana Wolfington
This is what I woke up to this morning—sunlight streaming through my window, a brilliant blue day out there. Somebody turned a light on inside my head.
Unusual for February in the Pacific Northwest when the temps are normally quite chilly and the sky overcast, and when the gray seeps through everything, including yourself.
But we seem to be having long stringed days of uncommon weather, missing our freeze, warming everything so that even though it is not officially spring, it is springing, nonetheless. In propitious pinks and milky white cherry blossoms, in fat fisted dogwoods and citron yellow crocuses peeking their heads above the earth. Which doesn’t usually happen until the end of March into April.
Someone got their memos mixed up.
Expect the unexpected, they say. Like in everything. That’s how it is in life. Just when you get settled in to your humdrum routine or you’ve run out of answers to most everything, life decides to rearrange itself again around you, and you have to figure it all out or it figures it for you—and sometimes in the most delightful ways you never saw coming after a dark winter.
I’ve had a burning question inside of me for a while now, going back and forth on. One minute decided what I’m to do, and the next vacillating. And though there are no neon signs over my head pointing the exact way to go, there seems to be some kind of bright encouragement being broadcasted right here in my own living room telling me to keep stepping forward, like notes from some higher plane unexpectedly showing up when I need them the most. Like this morning. Zingers from the Universe, kind of like paper airplanes zipping all around or bouncing off my head, chock full of illuminated insight written into their folds and wings, like why didn’t I think of that? Simple, brilliant, wonderfully uplifting and motivating.
Just a couple months ago, I was fresh out of everything, which makes it all the more rousing and thrilling now.
Well, you’re not ready ‘till you’re ready, I suppose. And spring around these parts was ready much before anyone thought it should it be. At least this month.
So here’s the thing: Sometimes you just have to be brave and take risks—do that thing you’ve been contemplating for a while. Put your big toe in the water and start even if it all seems kind of muddified (I know that’s not really a word, but I just made it one) at the moment. Sometimes that is what it takes to make things clear. The water doesn’t clear and the answers don’t come until you actually commit to the risk through action. Some action, even the smallest one is a beginning. (And maybe that small action might even be asking for help or admitting a secret that’s been tearing you up for awhile.)
Sometimes you think you’re not ready, not prepared enough, don’t have the right answers yet. You might be mistaken to assume that idea so quickly. Dig a little deeper. What is really holding you back? You might fail or embarrass yourself? Public opinion? You might die? Well, you just might. Any of these things can happen. That’s the risk you take being alive every day—and we are all terminal in the end. Yet maybe, just maybe, you are being given another chance to live in a brand new way, a chance to make up your own song, start your own blog, develop your best ideas into something phenomenal. It could take some time, and there will be mistakes and learning curves. It doesn’t have to be perfect—that’s not the point–unless you are developing lifesaving equipment.
This morning, as spring was springing just outside my door, everything was conspiring in my favor, informing me that all the traumas of the past are about to become my greatest strengths. Everything I have been through, and like you, it has probably been plenty, contributes to the strength of my tomorrows if I allow it and move forward toward that thing I’ve been thinking about. Like forever.
From Joseph Campbell in The Power of Myth, I’ll share what sprung me out of my sleepy head and into the clear light of the day:
There is an important idea in Nietzsche, of Amor fati, the “love of your fate,” which is in fact your life. As he says, if you say no to a single factor in your life, you have unraveled the whole thing. Furthermore, the more challenging or threatening the situation or context to be assimilated and affirmed, the greater the stature of the person who can achieve it. The demon that you can swallow gives you its power, and the greater life’s pain, the greater life’s reply.
“The struggle against an obstacle inevitably propels the fighter to a new level of functioning. The extent of the struggle determines the extent of the growth. The obstacle is an advantage, not adversity. The enemy is any perception that prevents us from seeing this.” Ryan Holiday in The Obstacle is the Way
Maslow says, “What one can be, one must be.”
I know I don’t want to die with all these beautiful words left inside me. I want to give them away, to scatter them everywhere. And whatever it takes to get there, whatever the obstacle, I’m okay. I’ve been thinking about these words of mine since I was five years old. If not now, when? And the universe seems to think I’m ready, so who am I to argue with that? There are some upcoming and real challenges that lie directly in my path over the next several months, but I am committing to whatever it takes to embrace them and move through them to the best of my ability—and that is all I can ask for. Do my best—yes. And let go of all self-recriminating thoughts when I don’t or it’s not perfect enough. I’m practicing at this whole thing called human life.
Today I am filled with overwhelming gratitude, as I stick my toe in the water and swallow the demon, for all the challenges and obstacles in my life today as I think about all the beautiful good it is propelling me to in my life. And it feels huge.
I am a river sluicing past canyon walls,
splashing at the bends before
settling down again.
Little whitecaps belie the deep undertow
of quiet and knowing repose
rushing through my belly below.
And following a predestined path set before
over a million years and more,
I do not hammer or drive into the stone
at my side—it is with instinctive ease
that I bend and twist and glide.
I have no need to resist what lies ahead
as I wash on by.
Let the howling winds chip away the stone,
let the rain drive a wider channel—
I am going the way of angels.
© 1997 Shoshana Wolfington
My friend’s dog loves dandelions.
She loves to eat these bright yellow stars.
To her they must taste good.
Hard to imagine, although it’s said they’re edible.
Apart from the occasional dandelion salad or tea,
humans usually regard them with disdain—a stain
upon our impeccable yards
as we rush around with our clippers and mowers
or attempt to pull them up by their roots from which
they usually pull back.
It’s at the roots you’ve got to get them.
A good dose of Weed-B-Gone usually does it
as they shrivel up, turn brown and breathe their
last little breath. Sigh . . .
Yet, dandelions are durable little fellows for all our extermination
attempts against their short-lived lives—
bright, small stars, faces to the sky, just happy to be alive.
© 1997 Shoshana Wolfington
I wish the following excerpt were written by me, but it’s not. It comes from David James Duncan, “What Fundamentalists Need for Their Salvation”, Orion Magazine. He, like me, cut his teeth on fundamentalism, so we both know a bit about it. I want to share a brief excerpt with you as it strikes a deep chord within me that I, myself, aspire to, but don’t always live up to.
The article was written during the era of President G.W. Bush, however, the author makes numerous salient points that could be applied to any extremist belief system. There is a middle path between the far left or the far right points of view. A middle path that would unite rather than divide, that would find the commonality in us all rather than the differences. Extremism, hate driven zealotry whether coming from Christian, Muslim or Jew or any other religious or political ideology, seldom comes to any good end.
“True evangelism based on the example of Jesus (whether you believe in him or not–my words) does not suggest the ‘missionary zeal’ of self-righteous proselytizers. It implies, on the contrary, the kind of all-embracing universality evident in Mother Teresa’s prayer: May God break my heart so completely that the whole world falls in.” Not just fellow nuns, Catholics, Calcuttans, Indians. The whole world. It gives me pause to realize that, were such a prayer said by me and answered by God, I would afterward possess a heart so open that even hate-driven zealots would fall inside. There is a self-righteous knot in me that finds zealotry so repugnant, it wants to sit on the sidelines with the like-minded, plaster our cars with bumper stickers that say, ‘Mean People Suck’ and ‘No Billionaire Left Behind’ and ‘Who Would Jesus Bomb?’, and leave it at that. But my sense of the world as a gift, my sense of a grace operative in this world despite its terrors, propels me to allow the world to open my heart still wider, if the openness comes by breaking–for I have seen the whole world fall into a few hearts, and nothing has struck me as more beautiful.”
growing in reckless disarray far
from the trellis with its measured lines and squares.
Out of control and knee deep in weeds and fallen leaves—
the rich compost of soil below.
Insects that come to feast on our decay,
is perfection, indeed.
Indeed, everything is trying to help us live
even in our dying.
Give up trying to sanitize your life away.
Life never works like this.
You are not as together as you would like to believe.
Give up your dreams of enlightenment—
let it find you while you go out and live.
Fall down and get up again—let it be worse or better than
you ever imagined.
Dear, you must surrender to the beauty in everything
before you can really know anything.
© 2015 Shoshana Wolfington
It takes courage to tell you this
at the risk you’ll think less, nevertheless, I will.
I’ll tell you what depression is—like this—
a barren land leaning into forever,
a dark annhilation; it’s a
void of hope or imagination
when hell comes to pay a call.
And here’s the secret: I was just there.
But most of you would never know.
(You might even be there now, too.)
Truth as I saw it then, this life had been enough,
I was done.
But you think like that when you’re in hell.
And so began to envision, with each glass of water
that passed my lips, what I could do
with that and a few or more pills.
I didn’t exactly plan that I would, only imagined it so,
how it could be.
There was no more room for anything–
not in the cruelness of men or the ghosts denied, or
the self-deprivations while acting strong for everyone
visiting all at once in my life.
Orphans each of emotions
looking for the smallest drink of love.
Not that I wasn’t loved.
Not that I didn’t love in return, not that I didn’t care.
No, it wasn’t that at all.
It was the driest white bone of exhaustion,
all the lifetimes lived in the space of one.
It was like a gift
as I see it now.
I’ll tell you what strength is—like this—
strength is taking one small move in mercy’s direction,
even a flinch or a step,
towards whom and wherever it might be found.
When all you can say to anyone with kindness in their eyes,
to whatever’s holy or sacred paying attention,
help me, please.
And I did, because my life was leaving me,
just like the sea rushing back from the shore.
A gift, indeed.
A profound breaking, a leaving, then
a sad resurrection towards the miraculous while those that could,
in compassion, seen and unseen, walk me back to myself,
back to a kind of confounding beauty,
an uncertainty of what was to come.
And it was enough.
(We’re never really alone.)
Were I to be honest, the pull towards leaving
still haunts me once in awhile
when I imagine drinking that cup while tired, I forget
that mercy waits just past the next corner, the next fork in the road.
And I remember nothing is for certain for any of us,
and life and death have a way of reminding us
there’s nothing to control.
It’s a coming home again to myself,
wherein between staying or leaving,
I need only extend myself a whit to say help
to ask for mercy, please,
when hope is lost.
© 2015 Shoshana Wolfington
The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for this blog.
Here’s an excerpt:
A San Francisco cable car holds 60 people. This blog was viewed about 1,700 times in 2014. If it were a cable car, it would take about 28 trips to carry that many people.
When I loved you, when we were strong as trees,
rooted in green, when I said yes to everything—
it was easy to love.
sturdy as trunks, foliage thick as spring,
where has it gone, my dear?
We had our years in laughter, in plenty or little
back when we bent so easily in the wind.
We were foolish with love,
spent it down to our skin, ’till
there was nothing left to say, and
you sent me away.
Near a lifetime’s passed,
I don’t always think of it so much,
so much water and so many years come and gone,
but truth is,
I love you—yet winter’s here,
branches stripped, their leaves spent,
too much weather in limbs sweeping the ground.
Still it’s been a lifetime of loving you,
though not like when we were young.
Yet here it is—
alone or together, husband, brother, companion
and friend, in sweet and bitter,
in axe to the trunk—oh, I remember
all those springs and summers when once I loved you, when
we were young.
I’ve been away too long—
there are miles to go.
I’m tired and broken—a pot in shards,
but I tell you, there’s a brilliance burning
I’m trying to get out,
a searing light streaming from the cracks and the holes and
I’m shouting hallelujah down on my knees.
I will tell you—if I had a prayer—and I do,
in every breath or the spaces between,
in every tattered thread of me,
O God, not above, not below, but equal to
the unbearable light of this naked soul,
the burning thing I came here for.
Oh, yes, I look for the day
when everything’s broken,
when nothing’s left of pots or shards,
standing here in no thing but this
glory and nakedness.
© 2014 Shoshana Wolfington
After your mother dies, there are some things that happen that you didn’t see coming.
Something happens. Life begins to reshape itself. The landscape takes on new form. And whatever cords between you in life in what was unhealthy, what bound you to her ways, her beliefs about how life should be or about how your life should be, begin to dissolve.
However, I should qualify that.
You must be committed to change for a more authentic life first, even if you might not know what that looks like.
Change is usually never what you thought it would be. It looks different, feels different than what you originally envisioned. Change can go on and on way past the expiration date you think it should; when you think you’ve had just about enough and can go no more with the direction it’s taking you, loudly announcing to the world you are ready to get off this ship that feels like it’s sinking or bobbing wildly about in every direction.
Still, the bottom line is commitment. Commitment to your own growth. Not everyone chooses this in life. In fact, most don’t. It’s work; and after all, when you think about it, it’s all work—everything, that is. It’s just that some kinds of work—the unhealthy habitual kind, the tranced out states of mind, the escape routes that we so often try to catapult ourselves through, produce far different and negative results than the one that is committed to seeing positive growth in a life riddled with fears.
So first, you have to say YES. Even if you say it with trepidation or hesitation or can only whisper it. Even if you’re scared to say it–if you want your future life to look different than your past, or want to die not as an impostor, but knowing you lived an authentic life, you have to first say yes, and then keep saying yes. Beyond that, you may know nothing, having no idea how to get to that authentic life. Nevertheless, you can be sure you’ve been heard. Life finds the way for you. It will meet you where you are and take you by the hand and lead you out.
And yes, this could take awhile. So you better settle in for the long haul. There will be rest stops along the way where you can sit a spell and catch your breath, trust me.
Both my parents are gone now. As the eldest child, the one that was groomed to take care of everyone else first while being admonished to forget about my own needs or self care, my earliest lessons were in the art of shame and guilt. The religion of my parents and the generations before was a hard taskmaster, and I was an A student.
Shame is a Pandora’s Box whereby one opens the lid and all kinds of awful things fly out. It shows itself in self and other loathing, dishonoring the body, incessant and unhealthy guilt and judgment over almost everything. It relegates the sacredness for all of life to the bottom of the garbage pile. We learn to fear or blame anything that doesn’t look, talk, walk or believe the way we do. We see the world as a mirror reflecting back our own fears about ourselves.
Recently, a dear friend of many years confided in me a conversation she had with her mother, now deceased, shortly before her death. Her mother had told her shortly before her passing, that she, my friend, would finally be free once her mother made her transition. My friend queried her mother as to what she meant, saying that she didn’t want to be free if it meant her mother’s leaving. My friend’s mother who had been very controlling over my friend throughout her life, thought that was what she was referring to. Her mother told her, “I can’t explain it, but you will find out.”
That conversation with my friend was a big aha moment for me. We both agreed there were changes we could never have foreseen in the death of our parents, unanticipated emancipation from previously held fears that were finally allowed to surface. Collective grief long withheld inside our bodies now acknowledged. We were grieving for far more than just our mother’s deaths. And it was huge!
Grief has a way of forcing you to the mat. You can’t hold it at bay forever. It will eventually catch up with you, taking on shape and form you never saw coming. Or maybe you did. The warning signs were there, but you might have ignored them or come up with all kinds of excuses for shutting it down or stuffing it into some hidden corner of your psyche.
Seventeen months after my own mother’s death, my mother’s voice is beginning to fade in my head. It’s not that I don’t intensely miss her and long for her physical presence in my life, it’s just that I no longer have to live up to her expectations of me. Her death opened a door in my life I don’t think I could have gone through before. I collapsed. There had been years of care giving, illness, and the loss of so many others in my life that I held near and dear. I laid in my bed with exhaustion. Slowly, I was for the first time able to listen to the larger world around me in nature, to the inner world inside me full of its own black holes, its own wisdom, its secrets that began to bubble up to the surface in realizations and long held emotions. Up and up, one after the other, I began to take full stock of my life. There was nothing to stop me from doing so.
Of course, this required a commitment on my part first. What else was I going to do if I ever wanted to get out of bed? Allowing all those hidden places to surface and then to face what felt surreal or scary without running away from it, without trying to numb myself out so I wouldn’t have to think or cry or grieve whatever monster was coming out of the closet.
I gave myself permission to grieve, not only for my mother, but for myself, to say that it was okay if I didn’t absolutely feel top of the world every minute; and to even forgive myself on certain days when I failed to love my life, to wish that there were a way to get out of my body. I gave myself permission to say I didn’t feel so okay, that I needed help.
There has been so much healing work that has gone on these last seventeen months, and it has been intense, painful, and full of unexpected grace and recognition marching right along with the desperation and depression and even wanting to, by default, leave my body. I have been through the gamut of emotion, pain and elation.
Now the light of day is beginning to seep through the cracks of my life. We all know the song by Leonard Cohen who sings, “Ring the bells that still can ring, there is a crack in everything—that’s how the lights gets in.” I am ringing the bells in spite of everything and through everything, knowing that something bigger than the humanness of myself holds me, sees me, and intimately knows and loves me as perfect underneath my sacred cracks. I am asking for some signs of blessing and acknowledgment. Am I doing it right? Am I listening for the whispering intuitive voice that lives inside of me? Am I making progress? The answer comes back with a big YES.
I realized that if my tomorrows were to be different, then I would have to be different, be willing to make changes in my life and allow for the changes that naturally find their way to me. I am finally beginning to reap some of the ripened fruit of my hard labor in the sowing I’ve done these past months.
Several weeks ago, I decided to test the waters. In my journey, I have recognized my issues surrounding money, and have asked to find healing for that, as well. I recognize that the Universe is full of abundance, that everything is there for us if we can only learn how to harvest and use it over anxiety of not enough and scarcity. And so with that in mind, I asked for a sample of abundance in my life in order to overcome some of that mentality of lack and fear, put a chisel in the crack so that a little more light can begin to spread itself into the darkness of my fears.
Three days later, I was gifted with a fairly recent edition of a Toyota Corolla, upgraded and in perfect condition, with a couple minor cosmetic flaws easily and quickly remedied. This in comparison to my present and paid off car, as reliable and low mileage as it is, felt unsafe for me as I traveled the slick, wet, icy or snowy roads up here in the Pacific Northwest part of the country.
Relating this experience to another very dear friend who is extremely tuned in, I was informed that a door previously closed in my life, had now been kicked wide open. Now a couple weeks into it, I continue to receive quite unexpected blessings—blessings I never could have anticipated, but come in logical form, falling into my hands. The abundance is flowing. Someone turned the faucet of grace on, and I am now standing knee deep in it.
I don’t think any of this could have come about if not for the death of my mother. Oh, yes, maybe it could have in another life or place, but maybe not in this one. I had to be made ready for it–it was always there waiting in the wings of my life until I was. There was so much re-wiring within me that needed to be done that, for me, could only happen through the everyday tragedies and blessings that muscled their way into my life when I wasn’t looking.
It’s been a long road, and I am far from done yet. Then again, who knows? Life is a big question mark, and you never know what will come around. The thing that insinuates itself into your life in misfortune or grace can ultimately be the very thing that brings your wildest dreams to you. Stay with it—it could be better and worse than you ever imagined.
Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” ~~Lao Tzu
I am over it–I’m throwing out my “Goo-B-Gone” in exchange for authenticity, giving up the sanitized version of myself for a more authentic me. Me with all my messiness, my pain and my outrageous laughter.
This is not to say I don’t still sometimes dig through the trash for that stuff in a moment of panicked meltdown. But the general theme of showing up as myself is having its way against my compulsive need to look strong for everyone. I am finding freedom in asking for help, in admitting my vulnerability.
It’s heady stuff, exhilarating when you finally begin to let the truth of yourself out.
It’s taken me awhile to get here after much grief and loss, and I’m not about to throw away all this hard work in order to look good for a lot of people that don’t really care because they are too busy worrying about how good they smell or how well they clean up.
I have given up my dreams of reaching total enlightenment or perfection in this lifetime and have decided to go out and live. If I have to fall down, that’s okay—let my life be worse or better than I could ever have imagined.
I’ve spent too many years believing certain things are fixed or healed and put away for good. These are just silly notions I’ve entertained. I have come to realize that I am at my best when I am broken wide open to both myself and others; and that because of the brokenness, there are far vista-ed rooms that wait for me, things within them I could never have conceived of on my own. It’s not that I go out looking for it. It has a way of finding me when I’m least expecting it. Wait long enough, it will come around. Life can be really surprising on both ends of the spectrum.
What I have often thought of as healed or finished so often returns for another day of reckoning, another layer of awareness in order to enter into wholeness, to make you ready for certain gifts that are waiting in the wings to enter your life.
I know my perception of how things are is limited by my stoicism, my blind faith, my rigidity, the wounds that live inside me. It is only by becoming soft inside, by allowing life to do its best work on me, and my eventual surrender to the whole beautiful world living inside my beingness that I am given the password to enter the sacred expanse of rooms or realms beyond anything I knew existed. Openness is where the sweetest of grace sweeps in. Brokenness is where it can find me, where I tumble down to my knees in gratitude for this one moment of pure release, knowing I am seen.
Pain is often the chisel that cracks the heart open when I have refused to surrender.
And it’s okay that it might take a while to learn this. I am learning to be tender with myself.
I am done with trying to sanitize and rationalize my life away.
Life doesn’t work like this on a more organic level. It will always find a way to come to you in order to crack your most carefully crafted exterior wide open. We are not as together as we would like others to believe.
Sometimes you just have to fall apart in order to come together. That toughened exterior has to crack wide open–the one that always wants to tell the world how fine you are, the one you hide behind with your doubts and fears and wounds.
There are some wounds that are buried deep, and like a splinter, take their own sweet time to surface. Sometimes the abyss looms large and we fall in.
On the way down, open your eyes and look around. Don’t fall asleep. Don’t judge yourself in the falling. Life is having its way with you, hoping you will surrender your heart to it—that you will find a way to say yes.
Life and the ability to laugh will cycle around again.
Life has a rhythm to it like the natural inhalation and exhalation of breathing, like the tides going in and out. No less your very own life, too. Expansion and contraction, contraction and expansion. There is no getting around it.
There are times you are required to give out and then just as naturally, simplify your life or days enough in order to take in the necessary nurture and nutrition your depleted body and soul requires. You cannot serve from an empty vessel. If you habituate yourself to serving from that place or believing there is no other way, life will come in the backdoor to simplify it for you. It will make a way where you thought there was none.
Recently, I let the windshield washer tank in my car run dry. I discovered this one day when I went to turn it on, and the only thing that came out was disgusting brown ooze all over my windshield. It’s kind of like this when we let our tanks run dry without taking the time to fill them back up.
In my years, I am coming to recognize that I always have enough. It might not appear to be so, I still too often hit the panic button; but it starts with the knowing that I am enough in whatever comes along. It is my perceived inner lack that I project out into the world and then draw back to myself.
Knowing this requires a daily commitment first to show up for myself, even if in the smallest of ways, such as consciously and simply inhaling and exhaling first before taking action or deciding what to say when things fall apart. And maybe that is all you can do in the moment. You might have to keep breathing, on purpose and with awareness.
No matter how we perceive it, we don’t know the end of the story yet. It could be better or worse than you ever imagined and then circle back around again. And remember that at the end of every story, a new one begins, whether that story ends by death or circumstance.
Put away the veneer and shellac, and begin to peer into the holes of your life with new eyes–there are stars in there!
If I were to get a tattoo on my arm to remind me in every minute when things fall apart, here’s what it would say: Everything Is Okay.
Stand here, where you are right now.
Stop what you’re doing and just notice.
Put your phone down, your gizmos and gadgets
and pay attention.
What is around you?
What do your eyes see?
A bare leafed tree?
A single apple on the counter?
What is here now?
What do you hear?
A barking dog?
The voice of a child?
The wind in the leaves?
This is where your happiness lies.
Not there or over there or something just beyond your reach
or something left behind.
You are here now.
You have already arrived
if you will stop and notice where you stand
and let be what surrounds you with your full attention.
©2014 Shoshana Wolfington
As I enter the last third of my time here on earth, looking back over my life, I find that some things never change as much I might have believed they did. I am still starting over again as I’ve done many times before. It’s all about “beginner’s mind”. I won’t officially arrive until I graduate from this life. Until then I am still learning–and in fact, learning many things are not to be taken as seriously as I once thought, that laughter counts for a lot and kindness starts with me.
I love these exerpts by spiritual teacher and author of Life With A Hole In It, A Guru in the Guest Room, Vicki Woodyard :
“….Here’s the deal. No one reaches full potential until they die. Not only that, no one appreciates them until they do. I am speaking of both literal and psychological death. ‘The price of kissing is your life.’ …….
Things come and go. People come and go. You’ll leave and probably forget your hat. If you do, that doesn’t mean there’s anything wrong with you. It just means you forgot your hat. See, that’s the thing about death. You can’t come back for your hat.”
There is space for everything.
For this unmade bed, for dishes in the sink,
for the need to sit here and gather dust
against unfinished chores.
Space enough for not knowing or why
after you’ve counted it out, things transform.
There is space enough, in abundance, in spades,
in dark and light and intense pain, in doubling-over laughter,
or the beggar on the corner, in the taking of a life
or the birthing of a child, in unending grief.
In the giving of compassion, in the restoration of
what wounds or is wounded, between any equation,
there is space enough.
Inside the life of everything,
on this lesser planet spinning on a wheel of stars,
in the unfathomable blackness of matter or hearts,
in galaxies that collide to craft a larger whole or
exploding supernovas in the shape of a womb,
there’s space for dying so that something might be born.
Messy, glorious life—it’s enough.
The whole of everything—a luscious trailing vine, keeps on
into blackened holes, over walls, snaking along
impenitent ground, finding its way in the order of things,
becoming and dying all at once.
No matter what in any mind, it’s enough.
© 2014 Shoshana Wolfington
WHAT I REMEMBER IS JAYNE. Jayne Mansfield, that is—the bursting at the seams, large bosomed, blonde bombshell and sexpot of the 60’s. The Hollywood star with the heart shaped pool in her backyard lived a large life in my mind. I wanted to be her. I was nine or ten playing house in my bedroom—as Jayne Mansfield, of course, stepping into the cool darkness of my closet to make out with an imaginary, muscle ripped Mickey Hargitay, while my girlfriends, all the while sighing and moaning, languished on my bed waiting for me to come to my senses and come out of the closet.
Then one day she was beheaded. I was devastated. Riding in the front seat of her car, slamming into and under the backside of a semi-truck, and…off went her head—I imagine right into the back seat! Just like that.
I imagine that she believed she still had a lot more making out with Mickey left to do, but as you know in all things, they end. Time runs out, and all you’ve ever done is all you’re ever going to do. And besides all that, I had already grown tired of making out with Mickey and was feeling the intensity of my puberty bearing down on me in the crush of feelings I had towards the boy down the street.
So much innocence left behind as the crush of life began to have its way with me. I almost succumbed to it more times than I care to say. Lucky for me, I made it this far into my sixties. Surprised to be here now, I was sure I would die before I was fifty. My entire adult life was white hot with extreme busyness and caretaking, and then total collapse—all of which I believed to be a badge of honor I wore proudly.
While at lunch the other day, my friend, Mystic Meena (whose odometer is getting ready to roll over to seventy), happened to remark on a sixty-seven year old actor that had passed away recently. Meena related how television pundits had observed after his passing that at least he had lived a long, full life—to which my friend exclaimed, “Bullshit!” When I was thirty, sixty-seven was definitely old—and death not so unexpected—that is, of course, unless you are sixty-seven. Unless you are ready for it, the pronouncement of death always comes as a surprise at any age. I don’t feel done yet.
Here I am, and the sun is beginning to dip in the sky. There isn’t a whole life left in front of me as I have a series of “holy shit” realizations that I’ve got to begin now if I want to find and use my real voice. My dreams are still the same. It’s just that I have a little less physical energy to realize them with. Maybe the point of the body sliding past the apex of youth is this: it compels you towards your realness. I don’t know for certain. It’s just a hunch I have.
Now that the leaves are beginning to turn into blazing yellows and crimson reds and oranges, into their most flagrant and final stand for beauty, I am wondering how I didn’t see there could be so much splendor in moving towards that inevitable final breath of falling from the tree. What a metaphor to our lives—the grace-filled allowing, the gentle welcoming of age, the coming home to ourselves, finally. Perhaps, the leaning into our wisdom years, of spreading our brightly colored canopy over the lives of those coming up after us as way-showers is what really matters. Personally, I don’t want to waste it, not a single drop, not a single brilliant colored leaf of it between now and the time whatever pronouncements over my impending demise are made.
I am heading towards my glory years; and it going to take some careful planning and execution as I begin to re imagine myself, playing smarter, not harder. There is still time enough whether it be one year or forty years. I cannot take my body for granted anymore. I cannot ignore and punish it. As long as I am able, there is a strict requirement for honor and listening, then supplying it with the necessary rest, nutrition and nurturance it requires. In this one moment I have been gifted. It almost didn’t happen.
Whatever has happened in my life has brought me full circle. I am lucky to get the chance to have a “do over” in the last act of my life, playing the part of me rather than someone else. My fear, in whatever time is left, is leaving this life realizing I never had the courage to live an authentic life.
Admittedly, I am scared. It’s a moment by moment thing requiring a firm commitment. Holes must be plugged in order to enter into right relationship with myself. Gone is the bent towards extremism in my thoughts and actions, doing everything at once or nothing at all. It is not mine to single-handedly save the world.
If I want to live out the richness and the depth of all that has brought me here, I must practice sacredness and gratitude in the gentle or not so gentle breath of each day, in allowing, in letting go, in lightening up, and in laughter, and last but not least, in the flow of words that find their way from my heart to my fingertips. I am rising up and up into this voice that has been given me, flowering quietly or noisily, vibrantly and brilliantly. I am practicing freedom, using the only voice I have to set this prisoner free.
“There was formerly a capacity for light-heartedness and play which has been to some extent inhibited by the cult of efficiency.“
IT”S ALL OUT THERE. I am ten years old, flying out the door to play with my friend across the street. My chores are complete; the dinner dishes have been scrubbed clean and are neatly stacked in the drainer, a clean dish towel covering them while they dry.
School’s out, summer is in full bloom. Jasmine’s in the air, and I am intoxicated with it. My cherry red Schwinn bike waits at the door, my portal to the world. The heat of the long day is cooling with the advent of the evening’s breeze. I step up, one foot on one pedal at the same time I deftly swing my other leg over the bike’s other side, and without even sitting down, begin pumping down the drive and across the street, wind against my sweaty ten-year old face. Breathless, I arrive at Charlene’s door.
Charlene and I are making our big plans for the remains of the evening—should we play with our dolls or race down the street on our bikes? I am not there twenty minutes when there is a firm, heavy knock at the door. I hear my father’s voice calling for me. He is ordering me home. By his tone, I know I am in trouble, and I don’t know why. So does Charlene’s mother who stands awkwardly at the door. I feel embarrassed, my face flushes. My head begins to buzz a little bit. Feeling disappointed, I’m slightly sick to my stomach. There’s a storm coming.
My father grasps me firmly by the shoulder and marches me back across the street, my bike left propped at the neighbor’s porch. He leads me to the kitchen where I am horrified to see that he has removed every single dish, pot and pan, every knife and fork and everything in between from their appointed resting place in the cupboards. They are piled on the countertops, in the sink, and on the washing machine, and he is yelling at me how he found a spot on one of the “clean” dishes I had washed, and because of that, I must now wash every dish in the kitchen. I will not be playing until this is done.
Of course, it takes me to bedtime to complete. The tears run hot down my face as I work, steaming soapy water to my elbows—not daring to shirk my assigned task or there will be worse punishment meted out in the form of a hand-picked switch across the back of my legs and bare buttocks, or days spent confined to my room. I know my dad will be back to inspect my work for perfection. I am angry—it seems so unfair, but I’m just a kid.
A seminal moment. There were more than a few of these teaching watersheds in my house or my church. That beautiful, bright star racing to earth to be born into her amazing life just crashed to the ground. And stayed there.
I know how to play. In leaves or long walks, heady laughter, in beads and baubles, shaky bicycles at sixty, blackberries plucked from barbed vines on a sweltering August day and swallowed whole past purple stained lips and tongue. Arising in an instant from my seat and out the door because it is the time of Robins and Jays and Juncos and they are putting on a show just for me. In swirling yellow leaves, in piles of things, in midnight skies life is calling to me to come out and play.
But not until I’ve done the damn proverbial dishes! There is hell to pay inside my head for that. I have been torn apart with it for over fifty years.
You think you’d outgrow these things. There have been years of therapy and hundreds of healing modalities. You’ve yoga-ed to death, stood on your head, breathed, meditated years and hours on end, ad nauseum, and it yes, where has it has brought you but right here, right now, facing it down all over again. There are layers of this stuff. It’s those pesky monsters lurking in those darkened closets who stalk your days, insinuating themselves into your knee-jerk reactions and thoughts, like some kind of mad puppet-master pulling on your strings. Monsters of overwork, self-doubt and not good enough. Monsters of rape or stalking and bad men. Monsters of abuse and punishment for not being or doing what they expected. Monsters of horrible things. Some are unnamable, and some are just looking for names.
My parents are gone now. Finally, I am coming up for air. Contracting waves push me forward into the bright light.
Cords cut, blinking back the light, I see my monsters, crawling, too, out of their darkened wombs. Breathe.
Together we will learn a new language.
There is something indescribable shaping inside of my heart. I am falling in love–all those distorted faces inside the cosmos of me, softening. That ten year old, that girl of the many ages I’ve been with the broken parts just needs love. And I am surprised. Why did I wait so long—not knowing this would happen on those long days spent in the land of nothing where dishes wait for swirling blue skies and stars, where phones don’t ring and I can say anything without fear of reprisal or a backhand across the face.
With wrenching compassion and forgiveness, tears of sweetness run down my face. I understand, and I vow to keep her safe.
For all the children hiding in closets growing up to wound or be wounded, to become captors or victim, willing or not, imaginary or real, the shape of forgiveness morphs my heart, heals me bit by bit. So many wounded children in desperate need of love or a bit of wrenching compassion—the angry, haters, the wife-beaters, the earth destroyers, the less than lovely.
Here is the funny part: All those monsters? They are merely pointing to the places needing love or understanding a spot of kindness. I am listening. Still, there are moments when I fall through the cracks. There is nothing to forgive in that.
Furthermore, it is time now. The season is ripe for healing, and as a friend recently said to me, “What you got to do besides that?” She was right. No dishes, no mother, and no place I have to be—mostly. Nowhere else to go but here, loving me, without shame or self-recrimination, forgiving those that wounded me; forgiving me for wounding others, and finding infinite compassion in all of it. And…
I could go on.
But summer’s out there waiting for me, rising in full, fragrant bloom, and the jasmine is calling.
I am going through a dark night of the soul. Yet today, upon awakening, I slipped outside on to my porch with my morning coffee, sat and listened. Even the gray-skied Oregon shroud and the blur of cars racing by couldn’t keep the praise of the new day from winging through the trees in song.
Today—what a profound relief—a few inwardly quiet healing moments spent where gratitude could find me. When I arose from the chair, it was with much delight that I could feel the welcoming of it all no matter what or whom is showing up.
The Hebrew term for gratitude is hakarat hatov, which means, literally, “recognizing the good.” Practicing gratitude means recognizing the good that is already yours, because, as my dear friend, Mystic Meena, says, “When gratitude is your only prayer, all begging ceases.”
Nevertheless, I am, this year, recognizing where in my life I have played the part of beggar. More than any other year, it has come to me this year that begging has no place in my life anymore. There are so many ways I could describe how it has manifested in my life.
I hesitate to share, but for the purposes of this blog, I will be brief. I know I am not alone. Many of us share similar stories—a lifetime’s worth, but more recently for me in my 40’s and 50’s (now in my early 60’s), I went through a difficult and abusive marriage and divorce, which was followed by a decade of illness interspersed with multiple major and/or near death surgeries; an immediate family member with severe bipolar disorder I took responsibility for, and thankfully,they are holding their own now. Subsequently, however, my mother dropped into my life fulltime with Alzheimer’s Disease. It fell to me to care of her for six years until she passed exactly one year ago today. There was a period in between my mother’s illness and death of insane traveling combined with the end of a challenging relationship. And it almost feels like too much to even mention, but in the last thirteen months, I have experienced seventeen other deaths both near and far to or from me. It’s more than I can process in one fell swoop.
No wonder I am outright physically and emotionally exhausted—part life happening because it does and part believing incorrectly about where answers laid.
Trauma hides in our organs and brain and skin and shows itself in some interesting ways, comes back to us as fate in illness or loss or poor choices with unfortunate consequences. Three weeks ago, I ended up in the hospital with crushing chest pain.
My overdoing, my attempts to save everyone but me have become my undoing—and thank god! I’m taking the year off. No one to care-give but me; no volunteering; no wounded bird projects. My mother is gone along with so many others. I love her dearly, miss her terribly, but I am free now to play catch-up with me.
Cumulative grief, my hospice grief counselor of the last few years calls it. I have lost body parts due to profound and overwhelming cumulative grief…grief of which I managed to push back down into my body out of guilt or shame or whatever other false notion I had about my life and how I needed to show up in it. My mantra has too often been “I’m fine, I’m fine”, when in fact I was not fine.
I have decided to out myself. I’m working on allowing what needs to surface for healing, surface. My agreement with myself is there will be no tolerance for guilt or shame in myself or through the well-meaning words of friends. What’s done is done. I take full responsibility, give myself complete grace. I’m allowing the imperfection of my life or my choices or what befell me to bleed through, to give in to crying or laughter or sleep. I am holding to the idea of giving up my quest for perfection in exchange for a more imperfect authentic self. There is work to do.
Grief can be an exquisitely painful, surgically exacting knife that reduces one down to their more essential self. It has a way of stripping away the superfluous, the pretentious, and the inauthentic. No less true in my life, I am greatly paring down to what heals, what brings balance and wholeness, or what feels restorative in the most inward parts of me, even as painful memories trigger tears or the sudden wash of anger at current injustices having nothing to do with me. I have allowed so much in order to be liked or loved.
These last months, there is a pull between living and dying. Every moment I am acutely aware as I feel caught in its tautly roped tension between “what’s the use?” and the desire to push through and forward towards my long held dreams and goals—dreams that have dogged my days since I was five years old. I still want what I’ve always wanted: to feel the length and depth and breadth of my days, to feel wholly alive. Most certainly, I’ve had my moments. Profound, they burn inside me. I want to live free from the inside out, maybe for the first time in my life.
There are days I often fail to make a lot of sense to even myself—those days when pulling myself out of bed seems like an insurmountable task, or my legs refuse to carry me. Then there are other days when grace shows up unexpectedly as a beautiful reminder that life is still good no matter what, and I am brought to my knees in gratitude just because.
My most important job right now is me. I am working on my vulnerability, my transparency. I am making the decision, however challenging, to give voice to my secrets, to honor my emotions and my body, who both show up as messengers of what needs more loving in me. Sometimes I don’t feel so okay, yet I am determined to walk this path, ultimately give up my beggar-hood for the deepest practice of gratitude. I have a feeling this may be the most important work of my life yet.
I am but a string, upon which all my memories
upon which all my existences run.
Jeweled beads one by one rest on me,
though I am not the beads.
Memory to memory, life to life and all that lies between,
I am the string, the ocean in a drop of water—
not separate from.
The same string that runs through you and me,
the thread of being that knits the seams of everything.
Woven of light, the exhalation of God weaving through
me and you, the stars, a child’s laughter, a grieving mother,
the deepest sea.
There is no other but the breath of God.
I’ve been here forever, so have you.
© 2014 Shoshana Wolfington
Love has a way of entering the back door
of your life
when you least expect it.
When you had your life precisely charted out,
your keys in hand, your perfect plans,
while walking out the front door,
when suddenly, BAM!
the back door slams against the wall,
like a hurricane coming in.
I was just leaving, you said.
You had to lay down your keys
and your map—because what just came in looked nothing
but what came in had its own plans for you.
While standing there, you’d never guess, looking at the mess,
it was only love come
to save you.
Resistance is futile, it said, surrender best.
But of course, it might take a while to learn that.
And when you finally get it
while it’s got you, this thing of your undoing,
this decimator of plans,
it becomes sweetness in your hands,
and the whole splendored universe moves
inside of you.
You wonder how it is you never saw such an endless
midnight sky blinking back at you.
Love is a shape-shifting trickster in ways you’d never conceive,
can take you to dizzying vistas you’ve never seen
on some crazy and crooked paths.
It’s not about what you think it is. It’s more than that.
Love comes to bust down your doors and walls,
shake possibility loose in your mind,
get you to move beyond your self-imposed boundaries
as a citizen of the stars
into your own feral nature.
Out beyond the dictates of decorum or certain civilities
waits your aching passion,
but first you must learn to surrender
you think you have, then leap
from the precipice of that life.
© 2014 Shoshana Wolfington