“And everything that has happened to you belongs to you. If people wanted you to write more warmly about them, they should have behaved better.” Anne Lamott
Meet Mr. and Mrs. X
It started out fine. The relationship, that is. We had just moved in and they were our neighbors across the street. I’ll call them Mr. and Mrs. X.
As soon as our moving van pulled up, Mrs. X came over to introduce herself. She was chatty with a wide smile and the type of conversational cadence that doesn’t leave room for commentary nor waits for replies. Within the first 15 minutes of talking she asked me what church I went to and what school my daughter attended. In the South, these two questions are often asked of perfect strangers and I’ve never gotten used to it. I mumbled something about being a recovering Catholic, to which she replied: That’s just because you need the right church!
Like any good death, the death of my father changed my life irrevocably. He was my champion; my steadfast advisor. A central planet in my universe...
It took me some time to realize that I was on the wrong path. That the work I was doing for a living was no longer fulfilling me; actually was no longer working on any level. Funny how the universe intervenes when you haven't been listening: Contracts are broken; new clients are nowhere to be found; the flow of money runs dry.
Early on in my personal spiritual journey, I went through a phase of watching and reading stories of NDE’s or near death experiences. It was an integral part of shedding my ingrained catholic beliefs of heaven and hell and life ending at death.
This led me to the work of Dr. Michael Newton (Journey of Souls: Case Studies of Life Between Lives), which quite literally blew my mind and made me eager to experience my own past life regression; which I later did with the fabulous Nancy Hajek right here in Nashville.
In the forward to Frank Ostaskeski’s beautiful book, The Five Invitations* is this quote by Rachel Naomi Remen, M.D.:
“For many people, authentic life starts at the time of death — not our own, but someone else’s.”
Chances are until you have experienced that one great loss, this will read to you as more ominous than catalytic. Like grief itself, these types of statements can’t fully be absorbed and understood until you experience them yourself.
We can get attached to who we think we are. We can be downright stubborn about it. Our identity seamlessly and completely intertwined with what we do. What we do becomes what we are. But what if what we do is taken away from us in the blink of an eye? Who are we then?
In the words of Chinese Philosopher Lao Tzu:
“When you let go of what you are, you become what you might be.”
Words fail me when I try to describe Jill Bolte Taylor’s Ted Talk: My Stroke of Insight to others. What I can share with you is that it came into my awareness at the perfect time in my life. When I had already shattered most of the beliefs that had been passed down to me; scripts that had been programmed into my mind by others in my life throughout my formative and well into my adult years.
After working most of this past weekend* I found myself whiling away the better part of Monday afternoon watching Ted Talks on my laptop with a big bowl of white popcorn beside me, and later a chilled glass of Chardonnay.I revisited my favorites and laughed out loud and hung on words and filled up with tears as if I was seeing them all for the very first time.
It may sound like the beginning of a bad joke, but in actuality it was the end of a very dark time. A period in my life of extreme disappointment that led to — what was at the time — a shocking series of big life lessons that can only be surmised as this: I was not in charge. I could not will things to happen. There was some force outside of myself, outside of any religion, that had a different plan. No amount of positive thinking was going to change the outcome. My sunny disposition and glass is half full mantra had failed me. I had reached a dead end for the first time in my life.
I have a sentence that sits on the vision board above my desk. It says: I have been radically transforming. When I was drawn to those words, less than a year ago, I was decidedly not in the midst of a radical transformation. I didn’t even feel as if I were approaching one.
But something inside of me knew.
And I knew just enough at the time not to question. So I cut out the tiny sentence and placed it in the career and life purpose section of my vision board where it sits at eye level.
I held onto my secrets for years. Decades, actually. And there are many reasons why. Reasons that anyone who has endured it — lived it — will understand. But only those who have endured it — lived it — will.
I’m writing this for everyone else.
I love you, but I’ve got to let you go.
Each time our paths cross I open my heart with renewed hope that it will be different somehow. And each time I walk away feeling empty.
My dear (____________), I realize now that at some point, I gave away my power to you. I was rebuilding my life, creating it piece by piece, and in all of its uncertainty and tender roots, I shyly let a chosen few in to tread softly and take a peek. I wanted to share my trepidation and fear and doubt and exhilaration and sheer anticipation with you. So I gave you permission to validate me. In no small way I longed for it. But it never came.
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