I have been waiting for this day.
After a walk in the dark around the neighborhood with my husband and pup, after a breakfast of sweet potatoes, kale and scrambled eggs, after filling the bird feeder at the window, I feel the words coming. Percolating in a way they haven’t for a while. Not because they weren’t there, but because something has been missing. It hasn’t felt quite right.
As I begin to write this morning, I’m careful not to edit myself and what wants to come through. The soul is shy and requires a hospitable environment to show itself. I get a blanket and pour some tea. I light a candle and watch my breath move in and out, tapping into my very lifeforce and inviting the space of nothingness and everythingness that surrounds me to press in on me like a tender embrace.
It’s been many months since I’ve written this way, typing blindly as I gaze softly out the window at the woods of our tree house, welcoming the convergence of quiet and stillness with inspired action. This morning, I see mostly empty trees against a pregnant grey sky trying to snow. Last year’s growth not yet gone trembles on branches in anticipation of what’s to come. Sweet chattering chickadees and nuthatches alight the feeder, and a fat bunchy squirrel lumbers onto the scene in search of discarded morsels.
It’s been a deliciously full time of late. These days, in the midst of all my movement and action, I’m finding the need to slow down and claim space for my creative life in a way that I haven’t felt in a long while. I am securing small pockets of silence in order to re-find my voice in this new terrain, in this new aspect of my being that has arrived “in it” as an end of life doula, as a teacher who is still learning, as a gatherer of others into the sovereignty of their own expression of and advocacy for the work. It is beyond thrilling to discover that all I have dreamed of is here and true. And so clearly only the start of what’s to come.
As such, the season has arrived for me to return to my creative roots, to tap back in for nourishment and sustenance for the ride that continues.
How that takes shape today is my return to the page. More specifically, to the blog.
A blog can be many things. For me, it’s about storytelling. It’s about tapping into our larger human experience offered through the lens of my experience, and putting that out into the world in hopes that it informs someone else’s. Whether that be a resonance of heart or a recognition of self, a wondering or a wandering that is ignited, a longing that is discovered to live more fully, or a receiving of the invitation into curiosity to explore what it means for our lives when we hold the tension of the fact that while we are living breathing creatures of nature, no matter what we do, all of us will die. It’s about navigating the adventure of deepening the tenuous and sacred relationship we each have to the big questions: Can we lean into the tension of living fully and dying well? Can we breathe fully into that paradox? Can we hold it close, this truth of impermanence, and can we love how it brings us painfully and joyfully closer to the exquisite wonder of being alive, no matter what comes?
This is what I am returning to.
In the innate wildness of balancing a “day job” and my clients, a soul-filled apprenticeship and a burgeoning non-profit, my dear family and friends, and my Self — all of which is energizing, and I LOVE — I feel how surface my energy has become. I feel my distance from the longing that lurks deep within whispering to me of who I want to be showing up fully in this work. I feel my distance from the seed of myself planted amidst all of the other new beginnings as they surface, that I am patiently — or sometimes not so patiently — waiting for to sprout into some glorious new expression.
The feeling I relish this morning, nudged as I am to sit down to write, is pure relief. “Oh, at last! Here I am.”
It is a remembering of where I belong.
I am here.
Just over a year ago, I felt called to take down the blog I had been writing since 2009, Wonder of All Things, and any other writing or trace of my start and stop projects as I peeled back the layers of my calling and stepped fully into my work with the dying. Not as a denial of the journey — there was so much sweet goodness in that time! — but as a surrendering. It was heart-wrenching. It was exhilarating. It was an urge that bubbled up from within to let go — physically and energetically — of any and all latent attachments to what was, as I prepared for what might be. It is no surprise that I found myself cleaning and sorting and purging in other areas of my life as well. Taking down the blog was simply the culmination of a larger letting go that had been going on for years.
It was a time of preparing the garden, so to speak. Pulling up all of the old growth in the form of decaying beliefs and stories about who I was and what I was — or was not — capable of, in the form of physical clutter that went unused but I was holding onto “just in case”, in the form of three different websites and hundreds of blog posts exploring the creative process of my journey to date. All of it surrendered in service of creating room to breathe, for what was to come to arrive in its own time. It was purposeful, even if I didn’t quite understand the depth and breadth of what was being asked of me once I began.
The emotions that surfaced — and frankly, continue to surface — are as real as any death I’ve experienced. The death of dreams and aspirations, roads not chosen, what never was and can no longer be. The death of various aspects of self that the ego personality tenaciously identifies with but that threatens to keep us small and hidden from the largeness of soul that craves vibrant and lively expression in the world. Perhaps this time for me has been the true “midlife crisis” of re-evaluation and re-creation when we weather the instinctive pull of our internal tides to shed everything we think we know in order to willingly set sail into the mystery of what we don’t (tears and laughter as I write this — could I ever feel old enough to consider myself in “midlife”??!? Ha!).
Most of us spend our early life hell-bent on accumulating and collecting — stuff, plans, people, ideas, knowledge, beliefs — thinking we need to know and have everything from outside of ourselves in order to make our way. Attachments made to this mode of living thread deeply underground in a complex maze of supposed lifelines that we invest everything in — energy, time, money, relationships, our true selves — in order to “succeed”. When those attachments are broken, or when our fear of losing them is triggered, we suffer.
If we’re lucky, through age or circumstance, we find ourselves upon a threshold of growth where we are invited to cast aside our hubris and the fear it breeds, and into relationship with trust sparked by a gentle fierceness that buoys us as we move forward into the darkness that has always been our future. We begin to venture into life in a new way, opening to be nurtured by the dark with a spirit of curiosity and adventure, with nothing but a small headlamp to light our way. It is here we find confidence for a new way of being with ourselves and others. It is here that we remember we don’t have to have the answers but can play with possibility. It isn’t always easy — often it feels like the hardest of hardships. But something rich happens when we say yes to this call. We become free in a way that allows us to throw off convention and dig in to see where our roots of attachment run, discovering what else they connect to, and to discern which of these roots nourish us and which have long since run dry.
This is where I’ve been. Exploring and choosing what stays and what goes, holding gratefully to what is life-giving, and releasing, often painfully, what has run its course. I have become aware of what makes up my true foundation and am learning how to stand upon it. I have sat with the despair of letting go of what I believed to be my lifesource, my everything. And have celebrated the liberation of discovering otherwise.
It is snowing now. The reminder that change is our only constant is always, painstakingly, at hand. What was a few hours ago merely the potential of snow, has become. Soon, it will be gone, and some other pattern of energy will rise to take its place. Just like us. Nature provides a most unflinching and trustworthy mirror.
What I want for this blog is to create a truthful and sacred space to be with whatever arises in this curious conundrum of living while dying, an experience we all share at every moment whether our circumstances make us immediately and persistently aware of it or not. I want to explore not only living while dying, but living fully and well alongside the reality of our impending death. I will share my own stories in witness of my own inner wranglings, and share the stories of others who I am privileged to companion and witness on their journey at and across the threshold from life into death. I want to explore what it means for everything to belong and how we hold the creative tension of the inherent joys and sorrows of being human — of how we hold them separately, how we hold them together, and what it means to dance in this liminal space of the unknown with creativity, perfect imperfection, and grace.
I want this to be an open exploration of what it means to tend life at the threshold of the Great Mystery that we all dance upon in every moment of every day.
The only way I know how to do this is to arrive right here, arms flung open wide, my face turned towards the sun or the stars or the wind or the rain equally, whenever and however they show up.
This. This is the voice I’ve been waiting for, and the space in which to share it. This is the truth of who I am and why I’m here. I offer it up in the way that I offer my work as a death doula — in completely awe and wonder of the mystery of it all, letting it grow me and expand me heart and soul in ways greater than I could ever imagine.
I wonder what living fully and creatively looks like for you.
Our lives have amazing things to teach us. As does our creative engagement with the process of living fully alongside and into our death. I have made it my life’s work to listen deeply, to trust what I hear, and to respond to the invitation it offers with my whole messy humanness. It is with curiosity and delight that I invite you in to do the same. Magic lives here. This I know is true.
As the late John O’Donohue says:
I would love to live
Like a river flows,
Carried by the surprise
Of its own unfolding.