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Archive for the ‘Gifts’ Category

There are certain things that I know that I need, that are non-negotiables for me- yet time and time again I find myself putting many of these things on the back burner as life crowds in.  And sometimes weekends away are just the thing to reset, reboot and remind myself of all that I had forgotten.

I recently spent the weekend with some of my favorite girls in Boulder, Colorado followed by spending some great time with family.  It was an amazing time and a weekend that came at just the right time for all of us for various reasons.

There were basics I needed to be reminded of…

It is fun to get away every once in awhile, to completely change scenery.

Hydration is really important.

Working out keeps me sane.

There is nothing better than laughing with my girls.

I needed to be reminded of how loved I am, and that even the things I think are insurmountable aren’t, and that I am not alone in facing them.

AND…

I needed to be in awe again.

I had forgotten how good it felt to be delighted and inspired by the expanse around me.

And how good it was to be delighted by surprises around every corner.

We Found Mater!

And how much fun it was to capture beauty with my camera.

And how much fun it is to spend time with family, especially when you don’t get a chance to see them as often as you would like.

And sometimes it is just good to not set an alarm clock, to be reminded that there is more to life than what you look at every day, and that there is an adventure around every corner when you are looking for it.

May you seek out beauty every day.

May you remember what it is that you are certain of.

And may you find something to delight you that leaves you in awe.

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A life worth celebrating is one that you attempt to carefully craft,

holding the balance and tension of love and loss,

growth and pain,

hope and despair,

laughter and tears,

realizing there is so little that can be controlled.

And in finding your way through,

being stretched,

feeling torn,

being held,

being guided,

sharing,

learning,

laughing,

crying,

growing…

I hope you are learning to dance in the midst of it all.

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I shared with you one of my Erica Experiments-  about saying Goodbye to TV.  And the truth of the matter is over the past two years I have been engaging in several other experiments, and I am ready to be brave and share some of them with you.

Here is a short list of what I have been experimenting with:

living with more intention,

saying no more often so I can say YES to the things that matter,

prioritizing differently,

surrounding myself with the positive in a conscious way while embracing those difficult things that are real and need attention like grief and loss,

choosing to turn towards the light,

embracing my flaws and being able to love myself in the midst of, in spite of and because of my imperfections

being vulnerable and courageous.  

learning new language that supports me- speaking to myself life a friend- someone I love, value and cherish rather than someone I have to tolerate.  

learning how to truly accept a compliment

learning how to allow myself to celebrate my achievements instead of constantly looking to the “next” way to prove myself 

thinking about and shifting how I show up in the world,

learning how to see my gifts, learning how to share them,

learning how to fill myself first and how to give from joy and abundance not from feeling like I “have to” or from a space of lack, 

learning that I am worthy of love and belonging

delving more deeply into my relationship with something larger than myself (aka God, the Universe, the Mystery) and shared some of that in the Benedictions post,

taking big leaps with owning my dreams and saying them out loud  

living authentically and being willing to risk dissapointment

learning to tell the truth- to myself and others 

learning big lessons about letting go, about deep trust, about listening to my intuition, about holding myself gently and A LOT about forgiving myself. 

At first I share what I have been learning only with my trusty journal.  And then because I can’t help myself I would strike up a conversation with someone and when I would share my struggle, or my truth, or my learning more often than not they would lean in, their voice would get quiet their eyes searching mine wondering how I could see straight to their heart and and they would whisper “me too”.  Time and time again I realized that I wasn’t alone.

Our hearts our so similar, they are jagged and cracked, tender and bruised and yet they are so beautiful.

In spite of it all here we are- our hearts still beating.  We marvel in wonder at one another’s courage, bravery and we love them so fiercely- and yet we forget to offer ourselves that same fierce love.

And then quotes would be on my Facebook page, I would stumble onto a blog post, or another conversation and I would be reminded that these are things that we all struggle with, that we all muddle through, and so often we do it on our own because we think we are the “only ones.”  And yet, we have this amazing connection, we have all of these wonderful similarities, and so often we don’t reach out to realize how achingly beautiful we all are, how wonderfully tender and resilient we are… we see it in others certainly, but we often refuse to see it in ourselves.

I have a picture of myself as a child on my fridge, now with a picture of my niece next to it and it is striking the similarities.  And wonder when i stopped looking at myself with kind eyes.  When I look at pictures of Annabelle I see a purity of spirit, a tiny human brimming over with love, with innocence and joy.  I see nothing but beauty.  So one of my grand Erica Experiments has been to look at myself through kind eyes.

In pictures when I look with kind eyes I see it all in such a different light, so full of possibility, so tender, so adorable, and I don’t pick apart and analyze any of it.  I think the random curls in her hair are precious and part of the very reason she radiates beauty.

What if we all looked at ourselves with kind eyes.  So that has been my road to self-love lately.  Asking myself to look with kind eyes at myself and the rest of the world.

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I have always, essentially, been waiting. Waiting to become something else, waiting to be that person I always thought I was on the verge of becoming, waiting for that life I thought I would have. In my head, I was always one step away. In high school, I was biding my time until I could become the college version of myself, the one my mind could see so clearly. In college, the post-college “adult” person was always looming in front of me, smarter, stronger, more organized. Then the married person, then the person I’d become when we have kids. For twenty years, literally, I have waited to become the thin version of myself, because that’s when life will really begin.

And through all that waiting, here I am. My life is passing, day by day, and I am waiting for it to start. I am waiting for that time, that person, that event when my life will finally begin.

I love movies about “The Big Moment” – the game or the performance or the wedding day or the record deal, the stories that split time with that key event, and everything is reframed, before it and after it, because it has changed everything. I have always wanted this movie-worthy event, something that will change everything and grab me out of this waiting game into the whirlwind in front of me. I cry and cry at these movies, because I am still waiting for my own big moment. I had visions of life as an adventure, a thing to be celebrated and experienced, but all I was doing was going to work and coming home, and that wasn’t what it looked like in the movies.

John Lennon once said, “Life is what happens when you’re busy making other plans.” For me, life is what was happening while I was busy waiting for my big moment. I was ready for it and believed that the rest of my life would fade into the background, and that my big moment would carry me through life like a lifeboat.

The Big Moment, unfortunately, is an urban myth. Some people have them, in a sense, when they win the Heisman or become the next American Idol. But even that football player or that singer is living a life made up of more than that one moment. Life is a collection of a million, billion moments, tiny little moments and choices, like a handful of luminous, glowing pearls. It takes so much time, and so much work, and those beads and moments are so small, and so much less fabulous and dramatic than the movies.

But this is what I’m finding, in glimpses and flashes: this is it. This is it, in the best possible way. That thing I’m waiting for, that adventure, that move-score-worthy experience unfolding gracefully. This is it. Normal, daily life ticking by on our streets and sidewalks, in our houses and apartments, in our beds and at our dinner tables, in our dreams and prayers and fights and secrets – this pedestrian life is the most precious thing any of use will ever experience.

Shauna Niequist, Cold Tangerines: Celebrating the Extraordinary Nature of Everyday Life

 So what are you waiting for?

What small choices are you making today that will bring you closer to stepping into the fullness of you, of your life, of the life that you are already living and is waiting for you to claim it?

We spend so much time somewhere else, in comparisons, in expectations (of ourselves and others) that sometimes we whittle away our lives not truly ever having lived.  We become to busy trying to fit someone else’s life or someone else’s expectations, listing to someone else’s voices telling us how we should live our life.

What pearls (with your name on them) are waiting to be cultivated?

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In talking with a friend who is finding his way through the ending of a relationship I wrote these words to help ease his transition:

Know that you are held in my love as you transition, as you honor you, as you leap into the love that the Universe has waiting for you now in different forms, and in the future as that love takes the form of another human…

His response: “That’s like a prayer and a blessing wrapped into one.”

And it got me thinking about prayers and blessings, and the power our words have – to help heal, to share certainty when our worlds feel uncertain, and the gentle reminder we are so loved as the words and truth travel from heart to heart.

When I was in high school Pastor Paul Gauche would always end the service with the following Benediction.  To this day my heart still smiles and I can hear his voice echoing in my ears when I read it:

And now as you go from this place, go knowing that you are saved by grace; you are justified, you are forgiven, you are sought out, you are beloved, you are hidden in Christ and made for the glory of God.

You are known, you are never forsaken, you are held in the palm of God’s hand, you are loved. 

May God’s peace and power go with us until we gather again, in the name of the Father and of the Son and of the Holy Spirit.

I never tired of hearing those words.  There were many times I would find refuge in them, in the certainty with which he conveyed them to the congregation.  I would close my eyes and for a moment it was as though God himself was bestowing blessings upon me.

Those words spoken each week reminded me that we are known, we are loved, we are sought out, that we need to be reminded on a regular basis that we are chosen, we are so very loved.

We need to be reminded that love seeks to know us, to embrace us, to give us the gifts of presence, the security of being held.  We are given the opportunity so many times to share that with others, to offer those very same gifts that love longs to share with us and we are invited to receive the love that the Universe has waiting for us.
My own faith journey has taken twists and turns since sitting in those pews so long ago but the love that was woven through and held together those words has never left.  The assurance of something larger than myself, something beyond my comprehension, some mystery that holds us close has always drawn me back.  Back to the questions, to the certainty, to the struggle of trying to convey what my heart knows and my head wants to dissect and “prove”.

God is such a heavy word, laden with so much that sometimes I fear using it because I have more questions than answers and so often I don’t want others to think that I have confined God into a little box.  All I know is the closest I have come to God is a swelling from within my soul of love, a deep sense of gratitude for all that I have been given.  I know that in the darkest moments I have been held, that something has threaded my life together to create a beautiful tapestry from bits and scraps that have woven into something beautiful, and sometimes I choose to call it God.

All I know is that there is a homing device of sorts within me, a still, small voice, a sixth sense, a deep knowing, intuition perhaps, angelic guidance, acestoral assistance, perhaps all of those things, perhaps none of them… and for me it is not so much about naming it as living in the intimacy and ecstacy of being near to such lightness of being, to the vibrating core of light and love that I can see but can’t quite seem to explain that guides me, that surrounds me, that heals me.  This healing, this love, this pure goodness, this light, this energy, this something…  brings me peace, leaves me feeling bathed in love and overflowing with gratitude.

For someone who loves to put words to experiences, who strives to name things, who wants to share intimate experiences of the soul with others to deepen relationships it is hard to not know what words to use.  The words that we have are so small, so shallow, so insignificant when faced with the reality of a love that large, that deep, that powerful, that full, that radiant…  and I am torn between trying and failing and just sitting in it not trying to explain it just sharing it without words… and I suppose that is my happy medium… to do both… to do my best to try to explain and when words fail to radiate love from the very depth of my being.

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Last week I submitted an essay for a contest called Notes and Words.  The reason I entered the contest was because in addition to some amazing prizes the essayist that won received:

introductions to:

  • Michael Chabon, Pulitzer Prize winner
  • Anne Lamott, New York Times bestselling author
  • John Hodgman, The Daily Show and HBO’s Bored to Death
  • Kelly Corrigan, New York Times bestselling author

It was the introductions to Anne Lamott and Kelly Corrigan that really caught my eye.  And so I put it out there to the Universe, in my prayers, in my heart that that is what I wanted.  I wanted to be able to connect with them, to thank them for their bravery, for their words, for putting their souls on paper.  So I crossed my fingers and toes, submitted my essay and let it go.

When author Brene’ Brown came to town to speak I knew that there were a million and three things I wanted to say to her and yet I knew that when I and the three hundred others stood in front of her to get our books signed I wouldn’t be able to tell her all of the things I wanted to share so I decided to write a letter to her.  I was nervous, but just knew that I needed to do that.  She had been brave enough to put her book out there for all the world to see, the least I could do is to share my honest response.   It wasn’t until a friend said in a wistful voice “Wow, that was really brave” that it occurred to me that it indeed might be.  After giving her the letter, and realizing that for me in that moment it wasn’t about her response, it was about doing it- my giving, sharing and becoming brave was more important.   And it felt amazing, to be able to simply do something that scared me, that stretched me and let it go.

I wanted to make it a habit to sink into that feeling of making courageous choices, to stretch my comfort zone, to reach out in acts of bravery on a regular basis.  So I made a list of things that would be brave for me, lists of people that I wanted to write to, to thank them, to share with them pieces of how they have inspired me, to celebrate what they bring to the world.  And I have been committing my “Acts of Bravery” every month since.  Sometimes it is letters, sometimes it is a blog post I am scared to publish, a conversation that requires me to be vulnerable, a workout that challenges me, or setting my book free into the world.  More often than not it means letting go of control or the outcome in various ways.  Since this commitment I have published my book, wrote several blog posts that required me to summon my courage to hit Publish, sent a letter to SARK, Brene’ Brown, Shauna Ahern from Gluten Free Girl, Jen Gray and Katrina Kenison (which is being mailed this week) and have started a list on my desktop that is titled “Acts of Bravery” where I keep all of the things that I have done, and those that I plan to do.

On Saturday I ran into some friends who mentioned “Oh Erica, you read Anne Lamott right?  Did you know that she will be doing a book signing in the cities on Monday?”  (Enter a chorus of angels singing)  Really!?!?

An opportunity for another committing another “Act of Bravery.”

(A blurry) Anne Lamott and I tonight (with my book and my letter!)

What you can’t see is two of my friends cheering me on in the background as I committed another Act of Bravery.

I am reminded every time I do this, it is a lot easier to be brave when you have your cheering section at your side.  When I share with others what I am doing, why I am doing it I have gotten amazing amounts of support.  I believe people are drawn to support dreams [and I do believe you have to choose your support system carefully.  As Brene’ Brown reminds us- “share with those who have earned the right to hear your story”]  I believe we want to see the best in each other and we want to encourage each other to shine brightly in this world and to do that we have to give others an opportunity to support us, to be in on the dreams.

People can’t support what they don’t know- they can’t share in dreams that aren’t spoken.

I have been reminded time and time again that courage expands when it is spoken, bravery grows by leaps and bounds when given the right nourishment and that we sometimes need a nudge to keep dreaming big.

So here is your nudge to keep dreaming big, here is your invitation to bravery…

What Acts of Bravery will you commit?

The world is waiting!

 

P.S.  The connectedness of all of this- these lessons, these themes, the weaving together of reminders I need and the ways that the Universe/God gets my attention never ceases to amaze me… and leaves me in awe, feeling known, loved and held.  Tonight while going to Jen Gray’s site for the first time in awhile to link to her name her most recent blog post from March 13th included an Anne Lamott quote… grace indeed.

I do not understand the mystery of grace only that it meets us where we are
but does not leave us where it found us..

~ anne lamott

 

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The above graphic is from Kristin Noelle.  Her site Trust Tending sends out these beautiful little Trust Notes each week and they are simply delightful.  She has all sorts of other great free and wonderful things you can sign up for as well.

About two months ago for a variety of reasons I decided to get rid of TV (note that I did wait until after football season was over).   Everyone has their vice right?  But for me it went back to looking more closely at my life and living more intentionally.  Although I didn’t watch a whole lot of tv I would find myself turning it on and watching things that after an hour I wondered… did I really need to know which flat they chose in London, or what the final outcome of the Extreme Makeover was?  And all watching the Food Network all it would do is make me hungry… and I wasn’t working on things that were truly feeding me.  Right now I am focusing on saving money, on putting my time and energy into things that deserve them and I realized TV didn’t fit for me anymore.  After getting sick and not turning it on for a few days I decide to take the plunge and I decided to make it into a fun experiment and get rid of TV, at least for the summer.

Giving up TV for the first week or so was a bit tough because it is so instinctual to come in the house and turn it on, “catch up” on the day and what I missed.  But I realize that with all of the access to news online and listening to NPR I am still up to date with current events.  I also worried about whether or not I would have something to talk about with certain people if we didn’t share our stories of the most recent episode of X show… but I am realizing that we are having better conversations about ourselves rather than some other stranger’s life.

Sometimes there is an echoey silence when there isn’t radio or TV on to fill it.  So it started me thinking about silence, and what would happen if I truly befriended silence, and thus the 40 Days of Silence  was born.

I have been reading and writing more, I have been listening to more music, I have been getting more restful sleep, I have been working out more, I have been praying and meditating more, I have been outside more, I have enjoyed my silence more, and one of the unexpected benefits is that I am more content.  When I do go online to watch my shows that I watch I do so intentionally, with the purpose of enjoying them, not as a default setting or as filler.

What has brought me the most peace is not having the constant underlying reminders of what I “need”, what I “can’t live without” and how I don’t “measure up” – the empty promises IF I got this certain product or service my life would be amazing.  The average American consumes over 3,000 ads per day, between radio, TV, billboards, newspapers, online etc. and it seeps into our subconscious coloring our opinions of ourselves and our lives.

Another unexpected benefit is that I have been having some great conversations as a result of this little experiment.  Turns out several of my friends have done this at the same time without really talking about it, and I have yet to find one that wishes they had it back.   It also has created some great conversation about what role the TV plays in our lives.  And for many it isn’t about cutting it out completely so much as it is being more mindful about it, for many it isn’t something they want to consider but the talk of an experiment to change something inspires them to think of some other experiment they have been toying with but haven’t yet done.

What experiment would push your comfort zone?  What kind of experiment could create more space for you to follow your dreams, to invite more fun and joy into your life, to create deeper relationships?  What kind of experiment could get you out of your rut and into your radiant life?

 

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Northern Minnesota

Silence…

I have been following my own advice and making time and space to find silence lately, some days five minutes comes easily, and then some days finding myself rushing until the moment I lay down at night only to realize that I never took that time to be silent and still.

I have found silence in various places lately.  Last week I spent one of my 5 minutes with my nephew after putting him to bed, sitting in the chair in his room sharing the sacred space before a little one goes to sleep just listening to him breathe in and out.

This weekend I went on an adventure to Northern Minnesota where silence was woven through the weekend.  Snowshoeing as the snow gently fell walking in silence on freshly fallen snow.  The sounds of the forest muted by the 10 inches of fresh snow they had gotten a few days before and stillness emanating from every tree and rock.  Sitting by a fire in silence with a friend, a glass of wine and no internet, no cell phone reception, watching the waves and listening to the lake.

It reminded me that by giving myself silence, by taking the time to soak it all in things sort themselves out, so often I fall into the habit of fixing everything now, going faster, doing bigger, better things- and so often it is in the silence that reminds me that this moment is enough just as it is.

And as will almost always happen, when I step into stillness, when I offer myself the time to stop, to get off the hamster wheel I emerge refreshed and ready to reengage, recommitting to my promise to myself to live my life from a more authentic, clear, and centered place.

I found this quote upon my return and smiled as I thought about the wisdom of the Lake and all that it had shared with me this weekend.

Wash the dust from your soul and heart with wisdom’s water.

~Rumi

After sitting, centering, being silent I found that my words were tumbling forth… and this is part of a response to a journal prompt my friend had given me:

As I listen to the lake

As I listen to the lake it reminds me that it is a big, vast lake, filled with so many individual droplets of water, yet all are integral to the whole… there are water droplets who revel in splashing against the rocks, who love the idea of jumping onto the shore, and other drops of water who prefer to be in the still, depth and center of the lake… there are yet others who want to glide on the top, gently swaying and rocking, and other drops who want to travel a long ways- distance is their goal, and others who long to stay as close to their home as possible… and all ways lead to the beauty, reflect the who of the lake… the lake is all of them and none of them… the lake simply is… this ancient stillness, this watery heartbeat of the waves… in and out… pulled by the moon, warmed by the sun…

As I listen to the lake it reminds me that there are so many worlds yet to explore, there is so much left to uncover, unearth…

I have only just begun.

Indeed, I have been struggling with a few things lately that have taken a toll on my soul, and my healing has been found in this silence.  This silence has held me in the midst of so much grace, in so much love, in so much compassion.  The silence has helped heal old wounds, it has given me strength to support others as they navigate difficult times, it has given me strength to make brave choices, it has reminded me of my power and my voice and it has reminded me to move with more intention in my life.

In the silence I have heard the voice of love remind me that the story is not over yet, there is so much of my life yet to be written.

In so many ways I have only just begun.

Sitting with silence has brought me so many gifts and I am looking forward to hearing if any of you are experiencing the same…

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It is March 1st.

March is my favorite month for a variety of reasons, including the fact that it is a birthday month for 14 of my favorite people, including my brother, my dad, my sister-in-law, cousin, aunts, friends and ME!

I was thinking about birthday gifts and cards (14 is a lot to think about!) and also about what I would want to give myself- I have decided that I want to celebrate selling 1,000 books!  So far I have sold 664 books (let’s take a moment for a happy dance here!)  Which for those of you who are great at math (and for the rest of us who are reliant on calculators) means that I will need to sell 336 by March 30th to reach my goal.

I have had so many of you reach out and help me make my previous goals already and I am so humbled by all of the people who have shared my words with your friends, family members and loved ones who have needed them, those who have posted on your wall sharing the links and heartfelt comments with your friends, moments that you have sought me out in person, on FB, or in e-mails sharing how the book has touched you.

And that is what I want… for no one to feel like they are navigating the In-Between on their own, like you have a friend beside you that will be will you in the quiet moments witnessing your strength when you forget, honoring how far you have come while promising to be with you in the journey to come, offering love freely and reminding you that we move forward one step at a time.

So to help me to that end, please keep sharing your stories, to remind me that this is needed.  Please keep sharing the book, to help provide a light in the midst of darkness.  Keep sharing your thoughts about where the book might find a home in your hometown- a small gift shop, a flower shop, a funeral home etc.  Keep sharing the blog posts that touch you.  Keep sharing your love. 

And if you haven’t listened yet here is a 15 minute interview with Teri Knight from KYMN Radio in Northfield, MN that shares the story behind the book and so much more.  It was such a gift to be able to talk with someone who “gets” the book, and the need for it in the world. 

Before life turned upside down I wouldn’t have dreamed of  asking for help like this, or wanted to break 1,000 books sold… but one of the benefits of having your life as you knew it come crashing down is that you get to rebuild your new life and try out new ways of being.  You get to practice a lot of receiving, and asking for help… and you the world doesn’t implode, and people still love you- often even more so because they see all of you- your strength and your struggle.   And what I have found time and time again (in my life and others) is that when you have a dream, when it is ready to be made real and when you ask for help from others more often than not people will respond with something like “Why didn’t you ask sooner?” or “How can I help?”   I have also learned that if I say it outloud I hold myself accountable, if I say it outloud it become a conversation piece and people are more likely to talk to me about it, wanting to know where I am at in the process reminding me to keep going towards my goal.  If I say it outloud people can participate in making my dreams come true.

And that is the best birthday present, the one that lives on through the year… knowing you are loved and supported, knowing that people in ways large and small continue to support you… and that is the true gift and what I celebrate every day. 

AND since it is a birthday month for me I want to be able to give away some books too… and I will be posting more soon about that.  So stay tuned!

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Today was a day where words are so inadequate, where one can’t hold all that it contains into a sentence, a post, my hands or my heart.

I was blessed to have spent the day with family and friends near and dear to me honoring life, grieving loss and holding hope. I was reminded of how powerful ritual is, how love can weave together broken hearts, how vital community is and how important we are to one another.  Looking at the people that surrounded me with all of our lives flashing before us, from the picture above, to the moments now so many years later with so much love, light and loss woven within each year, each milestone, each step taken together.  Weaving in and out of each others lives, creating a safety net of community, of connection I was overwhelmed with so many emotions.  With the angelic voice of Heatherlyn lifting our hearts, a moving message about the power of marking the time and the acknowledgement of the difficulty of the firsts of a year after loss an ordinary Sunday afternoon where time was suspended and love was made visible.

Last night I was blessed to hear beautiful music from the talented Leslie Ball whose beautiful stories, sharing and music broke open the hearts of the audience and drew them in from the very first strum of her guitar.  Followed by a reading/talk by Matthew Sanford about his memoir: Waking- A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence. 

When Matthew Sanford was just thirteen, his family’s car skidded off an overpass on an icy Iowa road — killing his father and sister, paralyzing him from the chest down, and changing his life forever. Years later, yoga would dramatically change it again. In WAKING: A Memoir of Trauma and Transcendence (Rodale, June 2006), Matthew chronicles his journey from the intensive care unit to becoming a paralyzed yoga teacher and founder of a nonprofit organization. Along the way, Matthew gains a deeper understanding of the connection between mind and body, and formulates an entirely new view of existence as a “whole” person.

For years after the devastating accident, Matthew felt a schism, or “silence,” between his mind and his body. As he grew into adulthood, he began studying philosophy in an increasingly frustrating search for answers. Then he discovered yoga. At first, he didn’t even know if a paraplegic could do yoga, but he was willing to try. Guided by his teacher, Matthew began to explore what it truly means to live in a body, and discovered new meaning and purpose in the “distance” between mind and body.

Then while standing in line to get my book signed meeting Joe Stone and learning more about his amazing story.  And being reminded this weekend at every turn, about how people every day experience trauma and transcendence, how people experience love and loss, how we move forwards, backwards and everywhere in-between.  And sometimes it is our own volition that keeps us moving, sometimes it is friends, family, others that share their hope and healing with us, and sometimes it is a moment from a book, a blog, a movie, a stranger that offers what we need at that moment if we are willing to receive the gift.

At the service today, to honor a young life taken much to soon, on what would have been his first birthday, last night hearing Matthew speak, and the stories and songs that Leslie shared, my own experience- they all have common threads… the love of friends and family that sustained us through difficult times, the power of using your experience to guide and help others through, reminders of how dependent we are on one another, reminders that we are all vulnerable to loss as long as we love, that life can change in an instant, that we are all so fragile and yet, so much stronger than we ever knew.

And reading the words from my journal after the funeral one year ago…

It is always the things that you can’t prepare for that hit you the most about grief. Today it was watching as S. and another man went in for the man hug and his suitcoat revealed the hospital band still on his wrist. The dead look in their eyes as shock, grief, fatigue and overwhelm numbed their souls and weighed heavy on their hearts.

It is a wonder we can literally still stand, when grief knocks you to the ground it amazes me that we continue to breathe, that we continue to function in any significant way when you just want to curl up and stop breathing.

And that is the hard part… walking away from the moment where you feel so held, where others feed you, where others tell you when to sit, when to stand, where to go, what to do next… and it is the moments when you have to figure out how to rebuild a life after… what to do next, how to keep going when you feel dead inside.

And somehow it happens. One moment at a time the rebuilding begins. The new castle in the sand. And that is the hard part, with no control over the ebb and flow of the tide, no timeline for how often, when or if the sea will give or it will take away… moments of pure joy and ecstacy in the building of a new castle and then the sweeping in of grief once again and you are left with a mound of wet sand and the decision yet again… to rebuild, to enjoy the process, to sit and let the waves wash over you again and again, to move your castle, to pout, to cry, or to find a new opportunity. Because as long as you love you will be vulnerable to loss, and the deeper your love the deeper your pain, but I have decided there is truly no choice, that my desire to live in love is too strong, even though it is a risk, but the rewards are great. The deeper my love the stronger my support, even when the waves are crashing in and in that moment of being knocked off center there is an underpinning of certainty that I will build again. I will believe in the power of creating another castle, of sharing brief moments of joy, of moments of dancing and honoring all that has been created, all that I have loved and lost. But retaining the little snapshots of joy, little moments of my love being so full and complete that it drowns out any darkness that tries to seep through to color the moment or the memory. It is better to be here… this place where I know that they will be okay… but then the pain of knowing how hard the journey is… how long and how difficult… but also knowing the treasures found along the way…

I was trying to think of how to pull this blog “together” to weave the threads together, to have a striking ending of some sort… but then remembered- that is how life is.  It isn’t packaged neatly, there isn’t always a clear beginning, middle and an end.  Once again I am brought back to the In-Between and how so much of life is lived in the mess where there are no guidebooks and no simple answers.

And sometimes it is all we can do to hold on to one another in love and trust that one step at a time the way will unfold.

We live into the healing, into the meaning of events, sometimes not realizing their full power until many years later.

I can already tell that this was one of those times.

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