When fear tightens its grip,
“What would someone do if
they loved themself?”
Now do that.
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.
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.
“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.
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.
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.
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.
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,
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
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
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.
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
Every. Single. Day.
Until you do that thing you’re called to do.
What will you do until then?
How will you spend the currency of your finite days
looking at the clock, busying yourself
while you wait for perfection.
What never works in distraction.
Even then you feel it staring at you.
This stone of your passion, pervasive,
invading every little crumb of you.
You already know what to do.
You’ve got to begin.
Put some color on the canvass,
write a word, a scribble, anything.
Risk yourself for the sake of freedom.
Relieve your heart of this weight now.
This is truth:
That when you begin,
your wings will come,
but not ‘till then.
in winter always takes me
quite by surprise.
Not so much the noisy prattle, although wonderful,
of migratory northern geese pushing southward,
but the small throated songbirds that stay
for abbreviated cold winter days.
Trillers in lyrical bel canto
compelling me, quite in the middle of anything,
out my front door to listen.
Shivering from bare limbs,
swaying and fluttering in bleak wind when gray
can be wrung from everything—
Long after earth has gone underground for
her Sabbath rest,
a polyphonic coloratura sings,
ecstatic light emitting from delicate vocal chords.
These little warblers in joy-filled descant,
sing in psalms and praises to no one
in particular listening—
Slicing open a lemon this morning, squeezing out all its sour essence, like I do every other morning, I felt myself suddenly overcome with gratitude. This simple small act of slipping the sharpened knife past the dimpled yellow skin of this brightly colored, tart flavored little fruit—feeling the sun’s warmth streaming through the window on my back, I give thanks. I give thanks for the earth, the sun and the rain that nourished the tree that it grew upon—from small bud to flower to this lovely little fruit that sits on my counter now in front of me, that has shown up to support and sustain my health and wellbeing. Grateful, I offer up a blessing of thank you again as I down the juice in a glass of sparkling filtered water.
It came to me how I too often forget to say thank you for so many simple things and how, conversely, I find myself grumbling and grousing over my long lists of overwhelm, things I need to accomplish. Life is so simple when we allow it to be so. I am working on remembering in all things that life can be so beautifully and elegantly simple, that I don’t have to complicate it in every minute by stressing out over what I don’t have or what remains to be done. I want to be done with the complaining of it all. Instead I want to celebrate my life, this gift given to me every single day I wake up. These little acts of self-care and gratitude say I value my life, bring me unexpected joy in the most difficult of circumstances and keep me resilient and moving forward.
I am reminded of the term “Pura Vida”. When visiting Costa Rica, a country that I hope to travel to one day very soon, I have heard many remark upon their return how the custom is to say at every opportunity, “Pura Vida!” No matter what is happening, “Pura Vida!” When exiting a cab, when paying for groceries or when sipping coffee or chatting with friends, people will call out “Pura Vida!” Rain leaking through the roof? Pura Vida! Flat tire? Pura Vida! Not enough money or food? Pura Vida!
In Costa Rica, Pura vida is less a motto and more a way of life. It is an expression of happiness and moving on no matter the flat tire or the spilled milk. It is good to remember that monotonous complaining is a waste of time and there are many among us who are far less fortunate. If we are here and healthy, and there are many ways to be healthy, then we can also remember that life is good and that we are exactly where we need to be no matter what it looks like from the outside.
Wakening this a.m., eyes first beginning to flutter open, I saw a clean white sheet of paper floating down in front of me. I heard inside, “Today is the first day of your life. What will you write on this new page?”
Today I choose to write kindness, to see through its eyes. I choose to take good care of myself today; and to notice with new eyes the perfection of life within me and around me.
Each morning when your soft sleepy eyelids flutter open, a clean white sheet of paper is given to you. This is the first day of your brand new life. What will you choose to write today on this new page? How will you choose to respond to the thousand and one little things that enter your day?
When it comes to what is going on with my mother’s slide into death, please do not overestimate what I have done or as the good and dutiful daughter my mind might want you to perceive me as in certain moments. Tonight I am feeling tired, and so because of this, I am stepping away from my mother’s bedside for a couple of days, knowing that sleep is the best meditation.
Having just said that, I also want to relate some intriguing and somewhat bizarre occurrences I’m experiencing recently, but I’ll get to that a little further down in the second part of the story.
What I write here for all the world to see can feel very private. So private in fact, that my own mother, were she aware of it, would probably be horrified by my disclosures. If I were twelve years old, more than likely, I wouldn’t be let out of my room for weeks. How do I know this? It happened when I was ten and twelve and fifteen—oh, the trouble I got in for my writing. It stopped me for a lot of years. Those were different times and that was before the internet.
I have taken all of this into consideration—a lifetime of consideration, because, inherently, I was born to write and this is what we do as collectors and chroniclers of stories. I had to make a decision to do what I what was born to do, and to hell with the consequences. I am totally alive when I write, when I let out all the secrets and mistaken truths of my life, when I am witness to the work and wisdom of both microcosm and macrocosm.
The reason I write this is to chronicle these precious days. I want to journal thoughts, emotions, insights and observations as they come up. If by doing so and making it public, only one person is encouraged or helped, even if it’s just me, then mission accomplished. This is my service in life, which is why we are gifted with talents and/or passionate interests, not to hoard for ourselves, but to give away.
We grieve and celebrate in community, the sorrows halved and the joys doubled by doing so. It is not my conscious wish to write in order to garner admiration or sympathy from you. Honestly, I cannot hold space for that because then I feel falsely obligated to somehow try to either live up to it or live it down. What I write is an intimate logging of experience with death and dying. Too often death and dying can be taboo subjects in a culture that has a difficult time facing its own mortality. We like to present ourselves as happy successful people all the time when inside we may feel quite different, while our emotions are begging for expression. Not an expert on this subject, it’s my desire to open the door to discussions about it.
There is a Buddhist meditation that calls for one to mediate on one’s own death, to envision oneself as already dead. Most assuredly, it is a reality check as we come to appreciate the brevity and impermanence of our life and material possessions and the true value of relationship. This practice has been helpful to me whenever I have practiced it over the years.
I have also discovered a Facebook page, well, several of them from different areas around the country called “Death Café”. I am considering starting one myself when I am a little more rested. In these death cafes around the country, people are gathering in homes and parks and restaurants to have intimate and heart felt discussions regarding death, and no, not in any morbid sense of the word, but an exploration towards wisdom and acceptance of letting go or surrendering that which needs surrendering or whose time has come to an end.
So this is why I write, and not to mention the fact that this is what I do: investigate my thoughts on the page, which is what good writing can be about in the hope of teasing out the curiosity of the reader, even as self, as to their own process of erroneous thoughts and belief system.
I have been spending hours at my mom’s bedside. Saturday, I shed a few tears, no, they were more like sobs right at her bedside. I don’t know if you are supposed to do that in a dying person’s presence, but I did. So did the caregivers. I also talked to her a lot as she slept.
It’s no secret I believe there is Big Love that surrounds us at every moment if we are open to it. Some of you are familiar with the story of my Near Death Experience. Having traveled to the other side where I personally witnessed them, I felt strongly there were angelic forces or beings of light in her room, and so I quietly said a prayer to be able to hear some word of encouragement from them for my own grieving process. A few minutes later, I happened to look through her little bookshelf and discovered the book, Into the Light—Real Life Stories About Angelic Visits, Visions of the Afterlife, and Other Pre-Death Experiences, by John Lerma, M.D.. I couldn’t have received a better word of encouragement and comfort as I began to read, tears running down my face as I did, filling the trash can with snotty tissues as I read.
Mom looked so peaceful hour after hour. However, I had a difficult time leaving her and didn’t get home until 1 am and asleep until 3 am due to a situation. Sunday feeling tired to the bone, I went in to see her in the afternoon.
Walking in her door, there was something different about my time there on Sunday. Because I was so tired, I could not be as present for her as I had the day before. Not that she was able to talk to me or acknowledge my presence at any point, still I felt the duty to be there on Sunday whereas I stayed out of love on Saturday. Sunday, she was agitated and fretful, attempting to lift her head off the pillow, crying and moving her legs around. I tried to comfort her and stroke her hair, but nothing worked despite the meds she was receiving to calm her.
It is said that your loved one can still hear you even if they don’t appear to be all there or are comatose. So I continued to talk to her, and even played a recording from some family members she hadn’t heard from in a while. I was hoping for closure, and I thought she might need to hear their voices expressing their love for her. That only upset her more it seemed. Of course, these were my ideas mostly in my attempts to soothe her.
By 8 pm, watching her, I sat and meditated, asking whatever unseen benevolent forces that were in her room to please show me why she was so agitated. These are the words that immediately formed in my mind:
“Go home! You are exhausted and on a deep level, she is worried for you. You are keeping her from her rest.”
I knew this was correct. If you knew my mom, you would know that no matter what state of mind she is in, the first thoughts for her are the well being and safety of her kids. I immediately got up from the chair, gathered my things, kissed her on the cheek and went home.
Today, Monday, I awoke feeling not much more rested and wondering if I should attempt to go see her again. I sat in my chair and meditated for a long while, asking again if I should stay home or go see her. I mean what if I miss something or she passes and I am not there? What if she says something in a moment of lucid clarity just before crossing over and I miss it? What if she dies alone? I want no regrets.
My cell phone rang. I considered not answering it until realizing it was my youngest sister calling. Right away, she wanted to know how I was feeling. Living a state apart, we keep up with our lives by phone. I told her how tired I felt. She relayed the word “faith” to me. It was something I must hear, she said. It pertained to all of us in letting mom go. There was an urgency to tell me—that we must trust mom will pass as she needs to and if I am meant to be there when she does, I will be. If not, not. It will be perfect however it turns out. The more important thing needed was taking care of myself right now.
How did she know? I had not told her the events of the day before regarding Mom’s agitation and my prayer for guidance. She relayed how she was letting Mom go, too, sending her spirit to the arms of Love Itself. She prayed, and as she did, I actually saw Mom fly up in a beautiful quilt of memories to a whole happy crowd of people waiting to welcome her. I saw the light. There was a party waiting for her! I saw mom suddenly looking young and radiant as she dropped the quilt to look back down at us and say “Thank you!”
A bit later while paying her bills (see how I wasn’t resting?!), the phone rang again. Hospice calling to tell me she was very peaceful today, sleeping soundly. I had left an anxious message during the middle of my visit the day before with news of my mom’s agitation and what we might do about it. The hospice nurse bluntly told me that she believed my mom had most likely been triggered by my presence. I then told her of my tiredness and agreed. “Stay home and rest for a couple of days”, she said. They would let me know if something came up.
What happened next was most strange: Doing some work on my computer, I felt a sudden and unexpected gentle touch, like someone had softly stroked my shoulder. I felt it through the pajamas and fleece robe I was still in. I whipped around to see what or who was there or if something had fallen from the ceiling on me. Nothing. Empty space and nothing on the floor or me. What was that, or better yet, whom?
So what is the takeaway from all of this? You might call me crazy or foolish, but if you have read anything else I’ve written, I believe there answers out there we don’t even have questions for yet. I am learning to surrender, to let go, admit my vulnerability, my lack of answers–and it is perfect. Some habits die hard as the one who in another life always felt the compulsion to rescue everyone from everything. I don’t have to adjust or fix my mother’s road to the other side. Her death does not need my intervention. Life does not require for its existence that I fix or adjust or straighten everything, only leave much as I find it in its perfect imperfection.
Having said all that, I’m climbing back into my perfect rumpled, unmade bed where all my pillows are just right.
A number of years back, my daughter was an assistant teacher at an elite private school just outside of Los Angeles. Many of the children that attended there had parents in the movie industry and one of them was a student in my daughter’s classroom. His dad just happened to be Will Smith. Since I was personally dating the cousin of the owner of the school at the same time, I was invited to several social events, which also included being introduced to a few of the celebrity parents, including Will Smith and his beautiful wife, Jada. It was quickly apparent to me they were no different than the rest of us, and on top of that, they were warm, friendly and engaging. Since then I have seen interviews with them, and it is my feeling that they are old souls here on this planet, highly evolved individuals with ample amounts of integrity and wisdom. I realized there is a lot I could learn from them.
So tonight, when I happened along this Facebook post, Be Intoxicating, by Jada (https://www.facebook.com/jada), I was thrilled. It’s a perfect segue from my last blog post, “The Crack in the Mirror”. And I am excited, having written that piece over a year ago, to have transitioned to a place of being pretty okay with who I am and where I find myself at this stage of my life. I am loving just sending out love wherever I happen to find myself by noticing the people that end up in front of me—the teller at the bank, the stranger at the other end of the phone, the person waiting on me, calling them by their first name, engaging them, becoming genuinely interested in their humanity. It’s a selfish act really for all the satisfaction it personally brings to me as I find ways to let someone know they are seen and appreciated just for who they are right here and now, however they show up. I am far from perfect at this and I definitely have my moments of being self absorbed, yet this seems to be fast becoming a new avocation of mine as I learn to practice on one person at a time.
But I digress…I’ll just let you read Jada on Be Intoxicating…
I have never been nor will I ever be the prettiest girl in the room. This has a lot to do with my profession, but also with the fact that my grandmother raised me with the belief that there will always be someone prettier than me and that beauty does not guarantee anyone love. Therefore, she did not focus on beauty in her house. Instead, she raised me to focus on what she considered to be the most important component in life…how well we relate to the soul of another.
The other day I met a woman, who was 80, who spoke to the most unreachable spaces of my soul through her kindness, laughter and wisdom. We related in a way that was so intoxicating, it was difficult to leave her. My experience with this woman brought my grandmother’s vision of relating full circle for me. Jada, be a joy to others and may that joy nourish them. Surround yourself with those who are a joy to you and allow that joy to nourish you. Always make the effort to find a language for the untouched spaces of every soul you meet. This is the recipe for blissful intoxication that she has passed on to me.
Thank you Marion.
“Waiting for my girlfriend”, he told me,
sitting there patiently on the rooftop.
He was quite the looker—for a Robin that is,
with his bright orange chest all stuck out,
all proud like, positioning himself for
the little beauty soon to arrive.
Right away he caught my attention as he sailed down from the sky, expertly landing on the edge of a neighbor’s roof. Settling in for a wait, he sat there, looking at me—he could feel my eyes boring holes through him, admiring his handsome beauty. That’s when he decided to strike up a short conversation with me. Anyway, he must have sensed I was kind of curious to know what he had to say for himself.
It was just about the time I happened to be leaning out the back porch door across the drive. A full bloom jasmine spring evening, everywhere birds were chattering in that wonderful kind of music they do—it was a full on orchestra playing. The dishes could wait. I couldn’t stand it a moment longer and made a beeline for the door to eavesdrop in on their conversation and enjoy the scarlet remnants of a setting sun. It’s mating season around here, and birds beginning to feather their nests, chattering from tree to tree, flying here and there. We humans seldom pay them any mind, so consumed by the frenetic pace of our lives, but this eve, I was listening.
I guess he thought he wasn’t close enough because he scooted himself over several feet to the very corner of the roof where we could get a better look at one another. I wondered if I was hearing him correctly or if I was just a silly human over-imagining things when he told me his girlfriend would soon be there. We humans can be quite dim when it comes to bird language, or for that matter, any other mother tongue of another. We sat there staring at one another for a while until suddenly he whistled the most lilting little love tune. A moment later in response, the same love notes sang out from a distant tree. And a few minutes after that, here she came, a delicate little beauty, orange breasted, swooping in, landing on the ground, hopping around, checking out this thing and that.
Swooping down from his perch, they were both unexpectedly and quickly in front of me. He had brought her over to where I was to introduce me to his little sweetie. They pranced around at the bottom of the porch steps, hopping by the garden all happy and proud, keeping me in their line of sight all the while. They stayed a couple more minutes, taking off quickly in flight at first sight of an approaching car. I bade them farewell and happy nesting.
What a magnificent gift—this gift of noticing, slowing down long enough to listen to the larger conversation that is taking place in our everyday lives, to actively find where love lives, to see who and what is paying attention to us. It surprised me that in my witness of this magnificent nature being, I was noticed in return, a continuing affirmation I am always seen, a vital part of this whole beautiful mess called life—a realization that trumps the nightly news of war, disaster and nonstop pronouncements that the sky is falling any minute now. Life goes on out there in the world, up there in the sky, creating and recreating itself over and over again when and where you think it never could. The funny thing about love, it’s always there waiting for you somewhere. Paying attention, as I sometimes forget to do, can definitely help. You find love in the unlikeliest of places, the most unexpected, too.
Tomorrow, just as an experiment, determine to notice where the love is in your life. Notice the little acts of kindness that cross your path. Notice the people that pay attention. See who is begging for love or in need of witness. Notice the natural world around you waiting to be seen, even longing to bend down and share its secrets with you, its praise songs that ring from tree to tree and star to star even when no one is listening
In any event, I have it on good authority that the sky is not falling, not today or tomorrow or ever. There’s still plenty of love holding it all together, being born everywhere, no matter how it looks to the human eye. How do I know? A little birdie told me.
Awhile back I made the decision to leave a relationship I was in. As decision making often goes, the lead up to the decision was distressing, agonizing even as I searched my heart for right answers of what to do, all the while not really wanting to do what was right knowing it would be the most inconvenient and painful for all parties in the short run. I vacillated back and forth, one moment totally ready to stick it out and make it all okay no matter what, believing it would be; and the next knowing some things were beyond my control and repair.
Day by day, the situation had become increasingly unbearable in exact proportion to the good that seemed to be leaving for both of us. Looking in the mirror, I was looking like someone else looking back at me. My joie de vivre had taken flight to distant shores. My soul was shriveling and meaningful purpose or repair wasn’t to be conjured up or found anywhere.
Then one morning after a particularly bad night, I just woke up with perfect clarity of what I had to do.
I took comfort all the while in my questioning knowing that the decision would make itself. I knew I didn’t have to rush to judgement or do anything ahead of schedule. However, I will add the proviso this may not be true in every case, and indecision and vacillation can too often render one immobilized, keep a person in a stagnant or even dangerous situation, or at the very least, from their most authentic selves. The thing was I knew myself well enough to know how resilient I am, how much of a survivor, that I have survived far more painful things. I knew I would ultimately do what I needed to do to save the only life I really could when nothing else was working—my own.
I knew there would be those who would disagree with my decision, who would call me wrong for doing so, who would question my motives, who would no longer call me friend. I knew this questioning might arise from people who thought they knew what was best for me or my partner, or thought they had a grasp on who I am or what the situation was. Nonetheless, I knew in the depths of me what was true, and I left in spite of the clamoring voices that might surround me.
It was one of those watershed moments in life when you know you are going to have start from scratch all over again. It’s not like I haven’t had to build from the bottom up before. It’s a kind of fire in your life that burns the house down. It’s damn hard work to rebuild. It’s damn inconvenient, too.
Oftentimes the decision to leave a situation, a job, or a relationship is something that decides itself. One day, after a lot of tossing and turning and sleepless nights, you just wake up knowing. Suddenly there are no more questions. The decision becomes almost independent of you and begins to move you at that point.
And sometimes the decision is made for you, thrust at you without your input. It can be abrupt and shocking, leaving you crying and groping for answers for endless days.
Yet you do find the courage to go on you didn’t know existed—from a place deep inside yourself. You do what’s necessary to rebuild life in a meaningful way, to restore the lost vitality, to create something beautiful and with purpose. You laugh again. You make new friends. You are still you, maybe only now a better version, and you grow through the pain into wisdom and caring and helping others to find their way, too.
First, you must do the important work of grieving, whatever it takes. It doesn’t mean, however, that there will not be doubts or second guessing once the decision has moved you away. You will still wonder what if, what might have been. Then again in your heart you know the truest answer, that you did the right thing, that you can never go back.
How do we judge the rightness of a decision except by listening deeply to our own heart, following our truest true? Hindsight is usually a good barometer once you are far enough down the road from it. In the meantime, we must trust life and our hearts enough to listen, to know that the answer will find us. And if we are fortunate enough to have a friend who knows and trusts our heart also, it also good to listen to that friend of wise counsel.
The answer that comes may not always look like something we think it should or hoped it would. Sometimes the miracle comes through the hard work of growth and willingness to change. It may not be convenient. It might be painful. Yet in the still small voice of yourself, the places that whisper, you know it to be true if you are listening. You know that if you do not heed the whisper, the inner knowing underneath all the questioning, second guessing and vacillation, you will miss something very important in your life—yourself, your reason for being here.
In an alternate version/universe of yourself, you decided to stay against what your heart knew to be true, to play it out, and it had catastrophic consequences. In this universe, however, you will get to live and thrive because you left, or because you were left. You have something else you are supposed to do, that waits for you to walk its way. And maybe you might not have found your way had you remained frozen where you were.
This week, having been a little unsettling, I accept myself in whatever state I am in–doubt, sadness, joy, pain, bliss, I’ve run the gamut. There is room for everything. I am perfectly imperfect. I’m going with that.
This week, I accept that words have eluded me as I have struggled with my imperfect attempts to be brilliant here. After much effort of starting, stopping, stilting, nothing until stop–I’ve felt like a too hard eraser that stubs across and rips at the page. I offer this instead, a poem in honor of this sacred life and being–
Let the soft animal that is your body,
rise up from the earth.
You who live on the edge of infinity and stars,
feet on the ground deeply rooting into black soil beneath you,
feel as emerald earth rises up through your bones.
This animal that you are, that houses you,
needs stroking, needs petting,
needs feeding and nurture.
Let it purr.
Your animal soft or sleek is perfect,
this suit of blood and bone and flesh—
born from Earth and stars
—that houses the light of ten suns.
This animal that is your home for such a brief time,
that gives you arms to surround and hold close with;
hands to comfort or create with;
legs to run, to climb mountains or merely to move towards
a crying child; and
eyes that mirror the heart beating inside your chest.
This being-ness so full of miracles
in every miniscule act,
in the little lion that roars when its hungry;
in the vast army of red corpuscles muscling their way
through your body,
its vast arterial highway—
down to atoms and quarks in joyous dance
and light that explodes in ecstasy
in the cosmos that lies between.
As the heart flows into the body in
muscle and skin and lungs that breathe;
in fits of laughter when your eyes water
and your beautiful cheeks can take it no more
and your body is doubled over with pleasure—
until the last day your animal serves,
until earth reclaims your house,
and your light is freed, what shall you do?
Till then, here’s a clue:
Love the animal you find yourself in.
Praise it often for giving everything you need and more.
Why give it less when it asks so little of you?
Just a little fresh air and sunshine, some good food,
laughter and friends to hold near,
some cleansing tears—
Choose to be an opening everyday
through which love lives.
© 2010 Susan Wolfington
This was written awhile back after years of caregiving, illness, and death, and the demise of a relationship. Our lives can feel much like a proverbial pressure cooker at times–especially these days on the planet as time seems set on warp speed. Yet intersecting with the grief that can overwhelm us in doing our work, there come unexpected moments of pure release, a benevolence, an answer to prayer, as if to say, “go on, keep moving, you are not alone”. There is sweet grace in not knowing, in our confusion of not having exact answers but knowing they will arrive in the exact moment necessary–and not a moment too late. There is grace in allowing the knife edge of pain to do its best surgical work in our lives without trying to cover it over with the lid of denial. Better to accept our own vulnerability, our tears–there’s a new day coming when we do–even if we are the only one changed.
These are days when grief takes what it takes. When the best I can do is hold myself and cry. I am spent with it, pale and tired, worn down.
Nonetheless it seems right that I should find myself here at the same time when everywhere trees are catching fire, going down in cloven tongued flames of glory, suspended between death and life in a kind of spectral breath stopping splendor—a brilliant colored luminosity that makes you wonder what it is that dying knows.
Sorrow has a way of opening me and ripening me, of letting everything out—and bringing everything in, while the whole world rises to meet me in my solitary pain while I fall. Yet not always so serenely as the dying leaves, while I am choking on the words, “help me, please”, and I think no one is listening.
What comes without predictability startles me—strong arms that gather me up in moments of laughter or surprise. Grief interrupted, I suppose, preempted by grace when the unexpected flare of golden light outlines dark clouds after heavy deluge; or falling words from a stranger’s mouth apprise I’m still here. It’s okay to cry—
or laugh when yesterday, as trick or treating goblins came out— as I went by a dark angel in bright wings receiving a ticket from a sternly posed uniformed man; and further along the road seen were old men in tutus teetering down the sidewalk in high heeled shoes.
These are gifts of pure release, a break in the storm, a kind of benevolence coming into my bones, won’t let go, that fiercely holds on. Laughter and transcendence, marrow building even in what is dying; even while I let go, and life goes on. Even while what needs to come around, comes around, and once again, I find myself spiraling down to my knees.
It is my hardest work in this earthly realm, to tell myself the truth, to tear this mask of pretense off. In this, I believe I am not alone. I am struggling daily to confront my own humanity, to be intently present for myself as I listen deeply. I am discovering as I listen, it has the unintended consequence of changing my entire view of life around me. Allowing this pain sensitizes me the humanity of others in a larger way. Labels about how I believe someone might be are falling away, and I am beginning to see an integrity in the basic goodness of life, no matter the outward appearance.
Concurrently, what comes is the knowledge of where I’ve failed to live up to my own commitments to others, where I’ve lied in order to gain something for myself, and in so doing, deeply hurt someone else; where I’ve failed to say what I mean and instead what I thought someone wanted to hear, the many occasions where my motives have been less than pure, where harm was done to another soul. It hurts to look at the many parts my actor self has played, and to take responsibility for where I have failed the test of my own humanity. It crashes in with a loud thud, and I am grieving also for what I have done at the same time I am feeling relief, a proverbial lightness of being.
Still and always, there are respites that come guaranteed, bring the necessary energy to go on, to see it from above, then the wheel turns instinctually to face me with what needs attending in my life.
My soul that needs its time in mourning, its difficult times of transitioning, the realization of what’s been lost or what was done. And I am tempted to run. Still I can count on my steadfast life of reckoning in the fated events and happenings that show up. It then becomes up to me to find the beautiful truth of what needs grieving? Or what needs loving? What needs amends?
As with everything in this life, this life of mine requires its struggling, it maturing and I am grappling with my relationship to it and my place in the world. Things take time to grow and mature on the vine as in me, to be fully what they are intended to become.
I am learning a certain approbation of the requisite pain, the obligatory difficult work of grieving what’s done. There is a fundamental understanding I cannot summon to myself everything at once. What is trying to be born requires turning over the soil again and again. Like biting into a sour green apple before its time, impatience would have us spit it out, leaving a bitter taste upon our tongue. What is vitally important is the struggle, then the acceptance in the rendering down where the most essential self is found, where the truth of the heart is let out. It is in the stripping away of façade, or the relief of laughter, in the unexpected support we receive, in the surrendering again and again that something necessary and bewilderingly beautiful can finally emerge.