An invitation to slow down and connect
I am writing this on first day of the first year after my mom died. I woke up this morning and lay in bed thinking that this is an invitation to develop new patterns—patterns that will shape how the map of the rest of my life unfolds. I’m sure there will be days when this will feel daunting or overwhelming, but this morning I am frolicking in possibilities and questions.
I know this could be any day. Any day could be the day we choose to do something differently, thus shifting the course of our lives. And yet how often do we pause and reflect on this? Any day could be the day we disrupt the patterns of our lives and begin something new.
I lay nestled in the comfort of my sheets and old patterns for a while, letting myself savour the familiarity, thank them for the stability they have provided me for the last year while I grieved. And then I swung my legs over the side of the bed and pressed my bare feet into the hand-woven carpet beside my bed—something that I have done every day for the past year, but today it felt different. The moment my feet met carpet and I stood up was (at least in my mind) my physical commitment to this new chapter and new ways of navigating through it. I don’t know what it will look like yet, but as I made my way onto my deck to do my morning viola-harvesting meditation, I felt a shift in my body—a willingness to let go of the familiar and get curious.
Do you remember what it felt like in your body when, as a child, you woke up on a day when something you were super excited to do was happening? How you couldn’t WAIT to get out of bed? That is how I am feeling today. To all outward appearances nothing has changed. I am sitting in front of my computer sipping an iced frappe. Shortly I will do my usual workout, shower, get dressed and head out to run errands. On the surface everything looks the same.
Only it isn’t. I have survived one year on this planet with both of my parents beneath the earth. In truth I think anyone who survives the first year after a loved one has died with even a shred of their sanity still intact deserves a medal. A year ago I didn’t think I could get through a day, let alone a year. It has been the longest year of my life. A year survived one day, and some days one very slow hour at a time. A year of one fitful night of rest after another. Of nightmares and waking with my sheets drenched with sweat. A year of learning more about self-compassion than I realized I needed to learn. A year of tenderness. Of tears. Of slow healing. Of learning how much I had relied on my mother for support through all of life’s ups and downs, and slowly and ungracefully learning to mother and support myself.
I have fewer friends than I did a year ago. The ones who remain in my life challenge me to strive towards becoming a better version of myself every single day, and I am really proud of how much more of a friend I am to myself today than I was back then. The journey of year one has been a combination of shedding skin after skin like a snake and cocooning myself and turning inward so that I had the space to begin the often painful but equally miraculous process of transformation.
I recently made a new vision board for this next chapter. In the centre of my board is the black silhouette of a woman. I felt attracted to the image because she is a blank canvas—a mystery woman. Often when I look at myself in the mirror these days I see someone I do not know. The person who I was before caring for my parents through their battles with cancer is gone, and the woman looking back at me is someone I do not yet know. Sometimes this not knowing is a little scary, but lately I notice more than anything an excitement to explore and get to know who this new woman is. I hear myself saying things in conversation and I think: wow! Really? I didn’t know you felt that way! That’s cool!
As I write this a cool breeze is blowing through my kitchen. It is still summer, but fall is already in the air—the heat wave of the last few weeks over, and the air temperature a little cooler. There is a vase of cheerful yellow sunflowers, rudbeckias, statice, zinnias and celosia next to me—one of two arrangements I picked up from my fellow flower farmer Barb Jewell at Island Meadow Farms for the memorial gathering that I hosted for my mom at the home of some dear friends yesterday. After a few days away from the shore my body is longing for an evening at the beach, so unless the clouds intervene, this evening will include a swim.
I am finishing this post on a breezy, sunny Thursday. I find lately my writing has been fragmented, concentration coming in bursts between the distraction of the quickly passing summer and practical necessities of life that need my attention. I am looking forward to more uninterrupted writing time as we shift into the fall, as much as my body could reside in summer indefinitely.
Last evening I drove to the beach. The sun was shining bright in town, but the closer I got to the shore the more clouds swirled overhead. This has been the summer of clouds, and they have been breathtakingly beautiful—a landscape unto themselves. I have spent many hours lying on my back mesmerized in how light and wind illuminate their contours, highlighting one layer and then another like some giant gaseous tectonic shift. Last night was no exception. I had intended to swim, but the slightly cooler weather and lack of sunshine instead invited me to curl up on my blanket with my journal and observe the clouds. The friend who joined me courageously dared the waves and wind. I sat and watched her joyful frolic in the water and savoured the view from the shore. I have been practicing JOMO (the joy of missing out) more lately. It is even on my vision board. There are details I observe when I take a step back and look at an experience from a new perspective.
When my friend emerged from the water, chilly but visibly refreshed, the stress and overwhelm of the day released, we sat on our blanket and painted the sky with our words. Just like any art form, the precise words for the immensity of beauty above us is not always readily available without practice. The more time and attention I give to describing the sky with words the more words bubble up to allow me to more accurately capture what I am seeing. As the evening progressed and the sun sunk lower into the horizon people drifted on and off of the beach—drawn to the shoreline and the powerful spectacle happening above us. I have a feeling that even when we are not aware of it, what pulls us toward the beauty of nature is the soul. I have no way of knowing for sure, but I think the soul and the sunset are composed of the same mystical dust, and when like sees like, it draws toward itself.
Before we finally packed up and headed back to town, the darkened sky around our shoulders, I wrote:
As I wrote this Covid is still spreading uncontrollably across many countries in the world. Wildfires are ravaging landscapes, wildlife and communities that have already suffered so much across California. The waves of migration displacement continue. Migrant workers arrive to help harvest the crops here on PEI. Soon students will head back to school, and the challenging new reality of distance learning. So much is in flux, most of us in constant adaptation mode to all the change. It is exhausting and overwhelming, but we are doing it, and we are doing it together.
I am grateful for the opportunities that disruption have brought. For the invitation to lean in and learn what community really means. For the challenge to grow beyond the confines of my previously held assumptions about what I was capable of—what we as a global community were capable of. I don’t know where we are headed, but I am excited by the possibility of new ways of being, as an individual and as a member of this giant, messy and wildly beautiful entity, the human race.