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.
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.
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