I guess I could be pretty pissed off about what happened to me, but it’s hard to stay mad when there’s so much beauty in the world. Sometimes I feel like I’m seeing it all at once, and it’s too much; my heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst.
And then I remember to relax, and stop trying to hold onto it. And then it flows through me like rain, and I can’t feel anything but gratitude- for every single moment of my stupid, little life.
You have no idea what I’m talking about, I’m sure; but don’t worry…. you will someday. -Alan Ball, American Beauty: The Shooting Script
Life is beautiful again. My invisible wall, my almost ever present companion of late, cutting me off from my oxygen supply to the rest of the world is finally, finally, gone. It’s taken awhile to get here. I’m so grateful for this space.
I had dinner with a friend last night. She said she knew right away I was me again, that my aura had changed.
We drank wine. We talked about ecological systems and how coral reefs are both resistant and resilient, but become badly battered in the face of too many attacks, too many adversities, to their system. They lose natural strength, they struggle to either resist or find resilience.
We ate fancy halibut dishes. We shouted to be heard over the loud talkers sitting next to us. We toasted the loss of people who pass from this place too soon- Jason I still think about you every single day. We toasted new life that comes after hard seasons.
We drank port and talked about being true to oneself.
I drove home looking at the pink sky, the wispy clouds framing the above. I considered the line by Sylvia Plath, I took a deep breath and listened to the old brag of my heart. I am, I am, I am. The mountains were so beautiful sitting pristine and tall above our little city, something magical stirred inside, I tried to let it flow through me like rain.
My phone chimed a text from a friend, my plans to go home suddenly changed, the comfort of my home not holding the same necessity it has all summer. I stayed out really, really late on a Tuesday, just because, I could. I felt something I haven’t felt in too long a time.
I am, I am, I am.
I don’t know what it is about this past season in life that seemed to kill my coral. My heart-filled approach to life chooses to ascribe meaning that deep work of becoming was going on, some inner evolution nobody could see. The death of something in order to create room for rebirth.
I saw, who I like to refer of as, my shaman back at the beginning of the summer, one of the wisest women I have ever, ever met. I told her all that had happened. I told her how I was feeling. I told her about the invisible wall inside, keeping me from grabbing onto life.
She told me this summer was a gift, that shadows are a gift, that the ravens in my dreams were a gift to shed light on my darkness. She told me she was staring at a woman sitting before her, who was going to have to batten down her hatches a bit, dial in life for a bit.
She said it might be hard for quite awhile. She said I would know exactly what I needed to get myself through, to heal myself.
Her words were oddly, and not oddly at all, prophetic. I like to believe this is what summer was about for me. Letting something go, losing an old life, letting it die, to transform, to save a life, to save myself.
Perhaps it was nothing as deep as that. Perhaps my ecosystem really was simply overwhelmed. Perhaps I just had crappy coral for awhile. Perhaps we are talking about the same thing. Perhaps it doesn’t matter as long as your inner self recognizes it, as truth.
I know it was hard.
I felt over exposed, transparent in pain. Like I was standing on a metaphorical ledge, trying to decide if I should jump, trying to figure out how to take back the best pieces of myself I felt were taken from me, how to reclaim, how to breathe new life into what felt dead inside.
I cursed my process often. How deeply I feel things. This sense of calling towards something I keep heading towards, the one that seems to lend itself to doing everything the hard way.
I ran. A lot. 40-50 miles a week. I lost 15 pounds. I signed up for what is supposedly a difficult but beautiful trail marathon in Oregon with a friend who I met at a coffee shop in downtown Portland 2 years back. We were both wearing running shoes, we talked for 10 minutes, we ordered lattes, friendships are made in moments like these. We will have an adventure this coming November.
So I ran a lot this summer and found that my footfalls made sense when much didn’t.
I felt like I frustrated people close to me, like I took too long. Seemed too dark. Frustrated myself. Wondered if my coral was ever going to grow the same again. I felt selfish and self-absorbed.
It was impossible for me to get through that invisible wall, to be as fully present with others as I would have liked. I was horribly limited.
I tried so hard. I would have false starts followed by a giant crash the next day. I tried even harder. I felt like I should apologize to people for not being myself, for not being the one usually counted on for peace and light and wisdom, for not being able to grab the sunshine lighting up the sky outside.
I wondered what happened to the girl who penned the words to a poem called “Look Up,” at the time my heartsong about connection, meaning, our opportunities to love, to take in life. Why couldn’t I look up? I tried so hard, I couldn’t.
Even when I did actually look up, I still couldn’t. I missed that girl. I missed her terribly.
I felt very alone at times. I wasn’t able to reach out. I don’t know why, it was another couldn’t. It felt impossible.
Tiny kindnesses unasked for, became anchors. People checking in. The invitation to go running. Can we go to lunch? The heartfelt, funny, I care emails a friend started sending.
I couldn’t always receive these things fully, take them into my heart, embrace their joy as I would have liked. They didn’t fully penetrate my blunted affect, that thick layer of saran wrap covering my ability to receive life into my heart, but they poked small holes though it. Love trickled in.
I learned what it was to have loved somebody who told lies. With words, by omission, to me, to himself. I don’t know how much. I wondered what was real, what was illusion. I tried to make sense out of something that doesn’t make any sense.
I beat my head against the wall doing this. It hurt. I felt like I was falling down a never ending rabbit hole.
I wondered if I love you was real. I wondered if he even knew. I learned to accept it is unlikely I will ever know. I learned to start prying my death grip away from the tomb and begin the rain washing, life giving dance of letting go.
I petitioned Love the day after my friend died. I lay on the bed sobbing, shouting out to Love that you will fix this, you will fix my dead forgotten heart, for surely there is a lack of love in the world and we need more of it. I pleaded for over an hour.
I demanded a sign that I was actually heard by somebody. I asked for roses. I received them. In various forms. Every day. One week straight.
The woman named Rose in Hope. The picture of a rose a friend sent, I saw this and thought of you he said. The unexpected gift wrapped in rose covered paper. The roses delivered to my office.
The lone rose blooming in the middle of a muddy trail. The shop called Roses and Tar. The bag somebody gave me for my birthday with roses all over and the words “take time to smell the roses.”
I chose to see beyond coincidence, I chose to believe in the mysterious and magical, I chose to believe my petition was heard. I carried my bag throughout California as a reminder.
I felt ashamed at times of my own darkness, as if I were staying in that space on purpose, not trying hard enough to help myself. Please still love me anyways, I thought, though I can’t be much of a lighthouse right now, though my energy might be sad to be around, though I feel entrenched in dark matter.
Please love this person I am at present, she is part of me too. I think people did. Though it can be hard to love something you don’t understand, I think they did in their own ways. I needed that love. They kept me going. We can’t do life alone.
Love save lives.
I wondered if things would ever shift. I felt directionless.
I didn’t like the person I was becoming. I didn’t know the person I was becoming.
I could no longer be the person I used to be. I couldn’t find my True North.
I felt I was the only one who could go in search of it. I wandered in my wilderness, my 40 days, my 40 nights.
I tried to practice radial compassion and love myself where I was at. It was very hard. It was ugly. I did it anyways.
I think it worked.
My compass pointed straight this week. No false starts this time. It’s back. I’m back.
Hello World. I’ve really missed you. I feel my heart beating freely. I feel my heart breathing easily. I feel my heart bragging lustily.
I am, I am, I am.
I have a friend, the one who sent those funny, heartfelt, I care emails all summer, who perhaps better than anyone understood the space I’ve been in, because it is still so freshly imprinted on his heart. Though his story is different, my summer was very alike to his summer last year.
He walked through his wilderness. He’d take breaks and let me stand by his side before he kept journeying again. I told him to break as he broke. I told him it was okay to not know where he was yet going, that is the best place to find yourself.
I told him the dark place he was in was going to bear gifts, that his lost summer was a gift. I told him he would have to batten down the hatches, ride out this storm. I said it was going to be hard for quite awhile. I said he would find what he needed to get himself through.
These days life is very different for him. He once told me he is so overwhelmed with joy he feels his heart will overflow. He said to me one of the last times we talked that he cries all the time these days.
Tears of joy, tears of life, tears of love because his heart is so full. He told me about the time he drove up to Flattop and stared at a cloud, the shape was so beautiful, it brought tears to his eyes.
I thought about how much I understood that moment as I was running this morning. The gray sky overhead blanketed with gray clouds that seemed to me, beautiful. Hundreds of different shapes, different shades, different colors, different combinations they are never the same day after day.
They are the infinite possibility of wonder that is this life, hanging above us every day reminding us to look up. I looked up. I thought, I know what you mean my friend, those clouds are beautiful.
One small tear leaked down my sweat laden, lightened, carefree face. It etched a song into my skin.
I am, I am, I am.