. . .dadme la muerte que me falta. . .
. . . give me the death I need. . .
I recently had a dream where I was on a fast moving roller coaster that was twisting, turning and speeding through pitch darkness. Somehow I could make it speed up or slow down by my will. I decided to make it go faster until I was screaming a thrilled scream with my eyes closed. I remember thinking to myself--I might as well try to relax and enjoy this wild ride in the dark because it's happening whether I like it or not!
This dream plainly symbolizes what the last year of my life has felt like: being on a wild ride through the landscape of the dark night of the soul. Rather than the scream of thrill in my dream, it has been more like an excruciating, slow, painful moan as I witness the dismantling of the familiar structures that have held my life in place for more than a decade. This decent into the dark has called me to step fully into the difficult lessons of death and to dive into the well of grief that accompanies such loss. The dissolving of my marriage and the process of divorce has catapulted me into this underworld landscape where I have been put in the center of the most uncomfortable paradox I've ever experienced: learning how to let significant parts of myself die while still attending to what lives: namely, my children, our new family dynamic and the emerging life that lives for me.
At some point in our lives each of us is summoned by death of one kind or another, whether it is the death of relationships, roles, identities, illusions, hopes or dreams. As an apprentice to death, my life continues to be the subject of great learning and discovery. Every day I feel alternately broken and reconstructed; deeply vulnerable and wholly strengthened by Grace. While I am still very much living in the midst of this current chapter of my life and do not yet have the benefit of time and perspective to appreciate the full story, I feel called to offer what I can, from where I stand today.
Since I view my life as both a spiritual experience and a personal adventure, I have chosen to perceive this crisis as a journey that is calling me to face, meet and move through the Great Unknown, to strengthen my relationship to the mystery and as an invitation to become a more authentic woman and whole human being. I am learning how to be fiercely present to what is happening in the moment while so much of what was once familiar falls away. . . to trust the process and let it be messy, painful and confusing for a while. Like my dream illustrates: I am not sure where I am going but I recognize that I have a certain amount of choice about how I move through the darkness. It has helped tremendously to take the "global" perspective regularly and view my life from a wider, spiritual lens. As painful as it has been, I have also had moments that can only be described as miraculous--divinely orchestrated and impeccably timed blessings.
There is great death-cycle wisdom that I have gleaned as well. This time of "separation" has given me the opportunity to sort the "poppies from the dirt" or to discern what is generative and life giving from what lacks any vital energy both inwardly and outwardly. I am still very much in this process of sorting: material stuff, thoughts, feelings, dreams, etc. and carefully deciding what to retain and what to release as I move forward. Interestingly, I've even had to reframe my relationship to my creativity, which is such an important part of my life and work. I haven't felt creative or productive for some time and this was causing me anguish until I realized that I could let myself off the hook for not being innovative because it isn't where I am supposed to be! Destruction or death is as much a part of the cycle of creativity--it is, in itself, a kind of preparation for something entirely new. Once I realized this, I decided to let it have its way with me. Because it will anyway! Surrender has become a greater ally in this process. I have learned to befriend its gifts and am seeing that great mercy and compassion live in the act surrender. Oh and yes: surrender is most certainly an active process and not a passive response to what is happening. It will always ask more of us than we are comfortable giving.
The wild roller coaster ride of my dream is the emotional intensity of highs and lows that I have experienced mostly without warning or time to arrange for suitable conditions for a breakdown. Rage, fear, despair, sorrow, anxiety, loneliness have all swept through my being, sometimes one by one and often as a community of commotion setting up camp for days. At these times, I try to become what Rumi calls the "guesthouse" and to be hospitable and welcoming to all who arrive. As I have learned to befriend whatever shows up, I have come to know the truth that no feeling is final and just as swiftly as they arrive, our feelings, once validated, usually move on just as quickly. This practice has asked me to stretch far beyond my closeness with the light and shiny parts of myself and brings me into direct intimacy with the lost, frightened, poor, unloveable, broken-hearted pieces. I lean into the shadow inquiry: can I learn to love them all without rejecting, judging, fixing, analyzing, or spiritualizing them away? Am I willing to sit with whatever shows up and simply offer my presence within a safe, holding environment? I've come to appreciate the fact that I need to regularly consume my spiritual wheaties through prayer and practice in order to develop the nervous system strength necessary to contain these difficult emotions. My practices have been a lifeboat during this time. I am also appreciating the limits of autonomy and recognize when I simply need to ask for help and allow myself to be held by another.
Finally, I am learning to know when and how to surface. When it's time to come up for air and to walk in the daylight, topside world for a while. Rest and enjoy some of the simple pleasures of life. Spend time in nature, sleep late, be with loved ones, and dance! Not every moment needs to be spent "in process" or engaged in the deep inner work to be worthwhile or "healing." Nourishing the body with good food, watching a funny movie, playing with my children and giving myself permission to lighten up have helped me begin to find a new rhythm with my life. Exploring this kind of balance helps keep me sane and able to function in my daily life. I have no idea what tomorrow will bring but I know that I have everything required to face what comes and find my way through it. I know that I am surrounded by more love than I have ever felt. I am beginning to see the light again. In many ways I am a stranger to who I was yesterday and all the days before that, while still not yet certain of who I am becoming.
I am liminal, still forming and falling apart. And it feels like exactly where I need to be.
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