Sitting on my deck this early morning, the cool air brushing my skin, I hear the roosters crowing in the distance and 'my' birds chirping their morning songs as they flit about the feeders and trees that provide them a steady ecosystem for their beautiful lives. The swath of varied and many shades of green surround and amaze me. The peaches on the low hanging branches remind me to step out and check for harvesting sometime today.
The morning of May 18th, 2022, I had to suddenly euthanize my beloved Zoe girl because a tumor had erupted in her belly and she was bleeding internally. The day after, May 19th, as I sat at her bedside just after singing sweetly to her, my 100 year old mother died after a long life well-lived. Forward to June 8th and I lost my lifetime friend to an 8-year battle with Early Onset Alzheimer's. To say that grief has knocked at my door is an understatement. It is up my ass, all over me, any time that I pause (and even when I don't.) It accompanies me to the bathroom, the gardens, while doing laundry, while in my sitting practice and at many other times when I might least expect it. Grief is the boss and I am at it's service in some very real ways that both take me down and offer me gifts and opportunities. It's a strange and wonderful, painful and enlightening unfolding I find myself in. And when it's pouring down on me and roaming around within me (the complexity more evident and powerful than any desire in me to 'understand' it) I find myself simply saying, "This is my life right now. This is my life." And there I sit feeling 'my life right now.'
I am learning two things about myself and my process as I navigate this time with whatever awareness and self-compassion I can muster. Amidst the losses I have sustained, two things have become apparent and I share them one, to offer them to you in the event that they may be of help and two, just, well, because. Closing the gap between the external life one is living with all that is observable by others and the rich landscape of feelings and thoughts that exist internally is, in itself, healing. So I write today to offer myself to you and your healing as well as to offer myself to my own healing.
While I am no longer the perfectionist I once was in my earlier life, I do generally have high standards for, and expectations of, myself. Grief, the ultimate guide in letting go, is teaching me to shift these expectations and to allow for my current needs to dictate. Consequently, I have spent more time lying around, sleeping, pivoting toward myself when my impulse may be to 'get shit done.' The tasks are endless, as we all know, and well? Maybe they're just not as important as I am right now. Maybe they just don't measure up to reveling in the fond memories of those who have died or to the deep feelings of loss that honor those memories. Tending to myself, to the garden of my own heart and soul, to the ache that is alive within me is what is called for now. Even as I write this, I feel myself lean back into my chair a little more deeply and my breath shifts me toward myself. It is right and good that I change my expectations.
The second process I am learning and leaning into is about pace. I am a person for whom pausing is a sacred act; a part of my spiritual life and being. I do my best, in general, to remember silence and stillness. Even so, I am typically a productive person who tends to all that needs tending. Now? With grief as my guide? I am tending to pacing myself with greater awareness. One thing at a time. What gets done gets done. Just because the external is active, my internal life does not have to match it. Slow down. Breathe consciously as I move my body from here to there doing this and that. Pace. Pausing. Being as I am doing and being honest about what I need in a given moment.
As I reflect and click out these words on my keyboard, I am reminded of a piece of poetry I wrote in the mid-90's:
Close your eyes.
The holy violet
Wants to open
Amidst all the death, the violet still opens into its blossom, for you, for me, and for the sheer service to life's expression of itself. It's a beautiful reminder that as goes death, so goes life. One does not stop the other yet they are intricately linked. How do I live in service of life's expression of itself while I am cloaked in death? I realize that death and loss are expressions of life; of the life experience. The mystery unfolds and emerges much as the colors and shapes of a turning kaleidoscope; the fragments coming together in unique and varied combinations for our amazement.
I am grateful for all of the life around me as I sit here telling you a story of grief and death. This, too. This, too. It all happens simultaneously and I welcome my capacity to embrace it all. May it also be so for you in whatever capacity you might need.
From my beautiful heart to your beautiful hearts,