Gratitude, Joy, Oneness, Service, Purpose and Meaning (Day 1075 – 1103)
I have found that the overwhelming task of re-orienting to life after the fire can sometimes cause me to panic. After the young man threw a bomb into our relationship, I learned that one of the things we do when we are caught in our grief and cannot move out of it is to search for the lost person everywhere and to try to re-establish order. I remember when my mother died, I would go to pick up the phone to call her, or set an extra place at the dinner table and I would think I saw her face in a crowd.
I’ve been searching since the fire ritual, and I’m working to just get dead calm like a still day on the ocean. As I try to adjust to being just the space between the ashes of who I once was, I have been searching for what will come next. Even as I bury the babies and I cry my tears for what has died, I have been searching. I have been trying to put my life back together and try on new lives like new sets of clothes. Nothing seems to fit.
And then I remember that in re-birth, just as in birth, we are in the water, alone and naked. This vulnerable time is a necessary part of real transformation.
The only thing that calms me is a return to the ocean. Yes, early on I started walking by the sea. That is still enjoyable for me but I’ve learned, in this process, that I love to be on the water, or in the water. I can’t afford to sail, so I’ve taken up sea kayaking. And I do it as often as I can.
When I was a child, I was a long distance swimmer. For me, the constant repetition of the stroke and the breath was a meditation. Life was not always easy for me, as the youngest sibling whose older sisters often resented her presence and bullied her, as siblings do. But swimming, I was free. I swam for hours and because my sisters would hold my head under water at the public pool to taunt me, I grew stronger from the constant practice of breath, stroke, breath, stroke, treading water and holding my breath. I stayed calm in a world that was turbulent for me.
The young man is going through a similar process of trying on lives, and I saw him recently. He told me that “I have time” to figure it all out. While we share this in common, and that is a comfort, I am the only one of us who can see life from both sides of the age gap. I have been where he is in life. But where I am – that is a place he cannot yet know. I am alone, trying to fathom its depths.
At times, I feel quite lonely, here.
I think it was Soren Kierkegard who said that “Life can only be understood backwards; but it must be lived forwards.” And even as I paddle, I know that I can’t know what is ahead of me but I can know what is behind me and yet, life is flowing. We can never go back to a point that has flowed past us.
For a long time after the ending of our relationship, I tried to make sense of things. After 7 months, I came upon one thought that I had never thought and only then did the pieces come together. Having the pieces come together, however, does not make the fact of the situation any easier to bear. When things hurt, understanding why they hurt doesn’t take away the sting. All it does is put the mind to rest, and possibly provide insights for what can be expected, going forward. It doesn’t change anything.
I’ve seen him and I’ve talked to him and I feel strange. There are just so many emotions that run the gamut from ease to sadness to a distant observation of what is. I’ve been in this place before and it is very internal and intimate and I wouldn’t want to describe all that is going on – to him or to anyone else. Something has died and I’m watching “what is,” with detachment. This won’t last, but I am surprised by my lack of desire to rush in and re-order the universe. What is, is. What the meaning in it is – well – maybe I’ll only know in a year or 10 or 20 or at the end of my life. Or maybe I will never know. And maybe it doesn’t even matter.
Perhaps this is wisdom – the ability to let things be what they are and just be the observer, adjusting the rudder and accepting the tide.
I’m sure that, in time, I will get caught up in the future or the past or be somehow out of the present moment. But for this brief window of time, I am so incredibly present in the moment, and I am grateful for that gift.
I panic about my own future when I look to buy a home and see prices rising 4% a month and I wonder how soon I will be completely priced out of the market. And then I paddle. And I wonder if this is where I’m meant to be. If life is like paddling against the tide all the time, perhaps its time to stop and float and see where the current is directing life.
I am not good at just being. But I am grateful for the discovery of how calming and central to my rebirth the kayak has become. Like lifestyles, not all kayaks are the same. Some are meant for long ocean tours and some for whitewater paddling. Some are meant for lakes and rivers. Some have long and narrow bows and some are wider and each one has its own ease of entry and exit for the individual. No kayak is good for all weather and conditions and so we must choose wisely and we must know what is most important to us.
I spent the day with a friend that I’ve known all of my adult life. I wondered why it is that as we get older, our energy gets less directed at the big issues in the world and we become more tender and focused on our own little world. The young man might call this “small mindedness.” I know that I am one of the most broad minded people I know. And yet, I no longer have the energy to fight the system. I know that true influence comes from within. Like any ecosystem, we are all connected. And it is the understanding of this Oneness that makes me want to focus inward, at this point in my life. The change I want to see in the world must begin with me. If I change, it all changes.
And with every stroke I take as I kayak out against the tide, I know that I am fighting a losing battle. The best we can do in a kayak is to use our paddle and our rudder to work with the flow of the currents and tides and get into the flow of the whole-body stroke to reach our destination with ease. When I am racing, and paddling so hard against the tide, I miss the heron and the seals and the ravens and eagles that populate the coast. When I am gentle with myself, my course, and when I allow whatever time is required to reach my destination, with ease, there is joy in the journey.
I am doing some very deep inner work at the moment and I am grateful for this moment and the transformation that is in process. I have no energy to paddle against the tide. But the changes I make within myself may be the most powerful impact I can have in the world. Changing myself and letting go of at least a layer of ego, holding the light of my soul shining – that is the greatest service I can do for the world though there will be no accolades or worldly appreciation for this. But the forest knows when I sing to her and the waters know when I am there.
I don’t know what will fill this space that has been left by the death of so many things. But, I trust that the Divine does. I hope that it will be a new understanding of what is important in life in order to live a meaningful and purposeful life. Although I can find calm when the storm gets too turbulent, I feel quite lonely in both the eye of the hurricane and when I am spinning at its whim. This is not the loneliness of lack of friendship. This is the loneliness of being in a place in life that few have been.
I am in my own kind of wilderness. This is my postcard to you.