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
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.
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