One of my (many) oddities is that I am rather clueless about most celebrities. Because I don’t have a TV, rarely go to movies, don’t pay attention to sports, and do not follow mainstream music, I am unaware of who most of these people are. And even if I’ve heard people mention the names, I am entirely unable to recognize most celebrities in photographs. So news about the trials, tribulations, or even deaths of these famous people generally leaves me rather unmoved because I don’t know who they are.
Authors tend to be a different story for me. I love to read, and books have often been my closest friends in that they have expanded my world, encouraged me in tough times, and helped me to grow. The authors that write these books that mean so much to me—most of whom I have never met in any way—feel like distant friends because they have shared so much of themselves with me in the writing of their books. When one of these authors dies, I feel the loss.
“No one ever told me that grief felt so like fear.” ~C.S. Lewis
Yesterday was the start of the Advent season, a season of expectant waiting and preparing for the coming of Christ into the world. It is a time of waiting and of hope.
And yet, I am finding myself surrounded by people who are waiting in grief.
I have a close relative who had a relatively brief out-of-body experience as a child when she died and was resuscitated. She generally prefers not to talk about this experience and would rather people not know of it, but she did tell me the story once. I’ve never forgotten it, but it only served to whet my curiosity to know more. Ever since, I’ve been fascinated by the reports of people’s experiences like this.
There was a recent one published in Newsweek by a neurosurgeon who had always been skeptical of the reality of life-after-death experiences. In enjoyed reading his account with his neurological understanding of what was happening to him woven into the story, but there was one particular part of the story that particularly caught my attention.
I love nature. I love to be out in the woods, walking among the trees. I delight (mostly) in the changing seasons. (Although I wouldn’t mind if winter was a bit shorter.) I learn so many lessons from the plants, trees, animals, and bugs that I find in the natural world.
Spending time in nature is one of the places that I find greatest peace. Except when I am forced to deal with the reminders that nature itself is ultimately not peaceful. It’s all about survival out there.
I woke up this morning with the title of this poem in my head (singing it to the tune of “Here comes the rain again” by the Eurythmics). The words to the poem came quickly out of nowhere, but they express one of the challenges of this kind of intense inner work, at least for me. No matter how much I share of this journey with those around me, there are aspects of this that are beyond words and are difficult to share in ways that allow others to experience the depth of grief that these changes sometimes cause inside.
“You will never know abundance by holding back your heart. You will never realize your wingspan by decorating your cage. You did not come here to make do. You came here to make a difference. It’s time to fly. It’s time to try” ~Tama J. Kieves
I’ve talked many times about the way that a chrysalis provides a safe space for the caterpillar to be melted down to be recreated as a butterfly. The past couple of years have been an intense time of learning to surrender to the process of being melted down. During this time, I’ve lost just about everything that I would have pointed to on the outside to define who I was. Just like the caterpillar, I have become no longer recognizable as the creature I once was.
However, as I encountered this quote from Tama a few days ago, I realized that I have become attached to my chrysalis as my safe place in this space between who I was and who I will be. It has become my new definition of who I am. It has become the cage that I now decorate.
But the point of the chrysalis has never been a stopping point. Yes, it is a safe space during transformation, but it is a temporary one. The point has always been to prepare for the coming emergence of butterfly to soar free, leaving the chrysalis far behind.
“Some people think it’s holding on that makes one strong–sometimes it’s letting go.” ~Author unknown
Sometimes letting go is the hardest thing to do. There are times that this feat takes more strength of will and of commitment than any holding on could ever require. It feels at times like willingly putting a part of oneself to death.
“If you live in the dark a long time and the sun comes out, you do not cross into it whistling. There’s an initial uprush of relief at first, then—for me, anyway—a profound dislocation. My old assumptions about how the world works are buried, yet my new ones aren’t yet operational. There’s been a death of sorts, but without a few days in hell, no resurrection is possible.” ~Mary Karr (from Lit: A Memoir)
This is one of the most accurate and concise descriptions of the process I have been going through for the last many months. It has at times puzzled me (and I’m sure those around me) to see my life’s circumstances to become so much better in so many ways, and yet I have continued to struggle even after things were improving. This quote explains better than I ever could why I was unable to immediately respond to improved circumstances with an improvement in my attitude and emotional state.
“There are many pathways in this life and it doesn’t matter which one you take, for they all have a common destination, and that is the grave. But some paths give you energy and some take it away.” ~Cervantes
Several weeks ago in yoga class, we had a conversation about beliefs that we have that hold us back in making progress toward something we really want. I spent a lot of time the week before the conversation really digging into my beliefs and looking at the ones that hold me back (there were more of them than I like to admit), but there was one that for me was clearly the biggest culprit.
I realized (with quite a bit of shock) last night that I’m sick of my stories. You know the stories I mean … the ones about why I have this or that wound, why I have no self-esteem because of what so-and-so did (usually decades ago), why I have all these limitations and stucknesses. I’ve been telling these stories for years as my excuse for why I am how I am, but I also told them with the hope that sometime somewhere someone would finally really hear my story in such a way that it would validate my experience so I could move on. I wanted someone to tell me I was ok despite what my story was.
However, as I sat in yoga class last night as we went around the room sharing our stories on a given topic (with deep emotional content) that I’ve grown sick of telling my stories. I shared mine in the briefest possible encapsulated form in class to demonstrate participation, but somehow it just doesn’t seem important anymore. I had no need for anyone to hear it, to validate it, to witness it. It bores even me all of a sudden!