Three weeks ago, I opened my home to interested individuals who wanted to experience Advent consciously. My only requirements : commit to all sessions and come on time. Predictably, there was a fallout. What started out as a group of eight has dwindled to six, but last week we started to feel what can arise when a vessel is kept whole by a group of truly committed people with a shared purpose. This year, we are working with the theme “integrity”. On one level it means showing up consistently and on time, being responsible, being true to your word, and on another it means being upright, gathering all our parts towards wholeness and alignment.
Just like that we are at the first week of Advent. Where did all the days go? I can see myself at this very desk last year, in a place where the immediate future seemed crystal clear. Weeks later I was thrown straight into the middle of the unforeseen. It was unexpected, difficult and completely changed the course of my life.
Now here I am again, a deeply changed individual, experiencing this threshold for the umpteenth time but also, it seems, for the first. I carry a wakefulness about the space I am entering. It is dark but not empty. It is full of cosmic possibility. I am meeting the season from a sacred internal space with renewed respect for transitions, deaths and awakenings. We are all there now, in this space of ending a year in our lives, but also marinating in the possibility of what we can create for the next.
I’ve been taking lots of long early morning walks. The neighborhood is quiet, its streets deserted and still a little dark. I am fresh from sleep, unburdened by the stresses of the day. There is only a looking forward, therefore a greater spaciousness for being. As my body begins to move, I notice there is much that arises in the soul–memories, feelings, thoughts that often come from far away places. I welcome them all and often stop, retrace my steps, unsure of whether I had reached the bottom of the street, or passed a favorite tree, lost as I am in my internal world. But the one thing I’m always awake to is sunlight. The minute it starts peeping through the sky, I open to receive. I stand beneath its beams and turn my face upwards to meet its rays. Always, always, I break into a smile. I just can’t help it. My face just does it.
“I was alone for so long and was perfectly fine, but it doesn’t work anymore. After awhile you need a mate to be your mirror. Otherwise, you stop growing spiritually.”
That was a dear friend’s reply, when I asked if he would ever remarry. He had lost the love of his life to a sudden illness and I frankly thought he was that man who would love once–fiercely–and never again, because no one could possibly come close to his beloved. It was moving to hear his view, and in it the tender courage to love again.
What he said struck a very deep chord. I have been helping people through their heartbreak and relationship trauma. By design, I have had to step up my own self-work. His words are the encapsulation of all I am learning about relationships and how we behave in them, all because our view is often too small and limited.
It’s interesting what people say when you ask them what they look for in a life partner. When we were younger, it seemed obvious: a good man (whatever that meant, but we all had rough ideas), decent if not above average looks, a stable job and a stab at success. But as we advance in years, it changes. A friend recently expressed her need for being taken care of at last. We were talking about age differences and how that has taken on new meaning now that we are all in our fifties. She has been a single mom and very successful in her career, so what she is looking for is someone to carry some of the burden for her. She doesn’t want to have to do most of the care-taking anymore. I get that and I do think it so important to identify what love looks like for us. Everyone has their own story, but so few of us actually have that internal conversation then we find ourselves flailing in our relationships because we don’t even know how we got there.
The last few years have been an emotional rollercoaster ride–the kind that threw me in repetitive cycles of unexpected joy and sadness. It was not a place I wanted to be, considering what I had already been through, yet there I was again. Despite the pain, I was thankful for the years of experience that created the fertile ground on which I could now stand: in sorrow, yes, but also in quiet strength. In it was the wisdom to ask: what do I need to learn? What is love asking of me? During that last plunge into grief, I knew I finally had to accept the inevitable because big lessons were bursting forth and I no longer wanted to deny them entry. Love was asking me to honor the promise I had made to myself–to spend time alone, free of romantic entanglement. There was work to do and my heart could no longer withstand the postponement.
A few messages I sent out recently were completely ignored. There was no acknowledgment, response, not even a friendly brush-off emoticon.
On one level this is simply rude, not to mention unkind, especially since these were not garden variety messages. One was a request for help around my children and the others I would categorize as heart questions or offerings. To behave as if they had not arrived at all I find appallingly cold-hearted. How difficult is it to type “Thank you and I hope all is well”, or if you don’t hope it, “Got it!”, or “Thanks for the thought.” There are a hundred ways to acknowledge a person who reaches out for one reason or another, emoticons included. If you receive a message you wish you hadn’t, at least make an effort to recognize the presence of the human being on the other side, especially if the message is personal.
I have been away from this space for so long; each time I think of writing, I whip out my journal and do it there instead. It has been a season of intense self-reflection. All my public words went into hibernation. But I feel able enough to let my words reach out again and I hope they are of some use or solace to you.
This is not just me. I suspect we are all struggling over how our external reality has shifted. The world feels noisy, much of its sound more baffling than enlightening. Nothing is the same. It takes more effort to find that quiet voice of sense and equanimity online. Part of me doesn’t want to add to the chatter, but I also know how important it is to quit telling myself I have nothing of value to add to the conversation, should others seek it.
I’ve been fighting the rumblings of a cough. Then Orlando. Rain. My mind said workout, but my body said something else.
It is so like life to have you in a space of total lightness and optimism one moment and then test you a hundredfold the next, as if to say “Think you got it figured out? Well, let’s see how you fare with this….” Boom. So many dead and injured. So much hatred and pain.
Of course I want to dig my heels further into my optimism and hope for humanity, have my light burn ever more brightly so I can ray it forth with stars, rainbows, silly emoticons, superhuman love powers. Ever more brightly. Ever more brightly. But one can’t do that without pausing, gathering, recalibrating, feeling.
I needed quiet and stillness, tenderness, self-kindness. I gave myself time and space to breathe, lean, burrow. I let myself feel the pain, disappointment, shock, grief, sadness, terror–for the kind of world I brought my children into and the monumental task of birthing the kind of love we have never known before. And let myself feel my place in it. My possibilities in it.
What a beautiful morning for a walk. I almost rush outside to catch the sun’s kindest rays. As soon as I shut the gate behind me, I am lost in a flow of memories: of recent walks along cool, shady trails, blooming wild flowers, dogs frolicking on the beach, and the naked man running on the sand, seconds away from entering the frame of a young couple’s photo. I see all the different landscapes I didn’t realize I had grown to love so much. I remember a window through which I always peeked–all kinds of white plates hanging on the dining room wall. I feel my hands inside my pockets, seeking warmth. I feel them lovingly held.
But I am no longer there. I take myself firmly back to the present, my legs beginning to sweat, my feet on hot pavement. At that moment, I summon appreciation for this place, my current home. I have been in a state of disappointment and restlessness, looking out into the world for some place else to live, then realize I am being shown it is not time for that yet. The universe has not moved with me on this intention; instead, obstacles–external and internal–keep presenting themselves.