This is a wonderfully informative and interesting post by Ali Isaac about the ways in which the new year is celebrated around the world.
Stop. I stand between, and would have a word with you. I hope that I won’t have to let you by. Why head you this way to take the road of reckoning through the swamp of sorrows, the terrain of trials? It passes through many a land marked by sweat and tears. It puts years on a person who is barely of age. It’s treacherous trails are well worn, for it is said to traverse the hero’s journey.
Who doesn’t want not merely to lead, but be a hero of her life? Why not, indeed. But of that life they say many things, and most know nothing about what it could mean. You already dread that what they say applies to you. But child, of all that has been said, very little is actually true.
Yes, life can be hard and harrowing. This is the reason given by many for why they choose to walk where the toughest brambles bar the way, though they could often take a clearer trail. They’d advise you to ever expect effort, exhaustion, and endless enduring. You should be honed by hardship, as if your form were locked within a stone and could only emerge harshly, weathered and chiseled and chipped away.
They say you will not be worthy unless you faced pain again, and again, and again. Ordeals, they say, are not only necessary to growing, but somehow deliberately placed in your way. You must prevail, but then, once more, you will nearly be broken. I am no stranger to what they say.
For almost before living memory, I once heard these same things, too. I took them to heart, as innocent, brave children do. I stood where you stand, before me the same twisted road obscured in unsettling umbral silent shade. How to survive, this I quickly had to learn. I was told that if I could not succeed, I should not return.
In many ways I became a shadow of what I could have been: I thought control was discipline, I mistook terror for triumph, and perhaps I unlearned such things too late. Thus a seed of grey as tendril wisps of fog encroached upon life’s wild green until it finally held sway.
I am the wanderer of mists and fog, not yet forgotten, always feared. I came to be called Grey One. Then hardly any one would meet my eyes. I am not heeded, only revered in hushed hurried tones. I returned and was remembered after death, but lived much of life alone.
Do not follow such an outdated path, I will tell you of the better way to go. Put down that pad and pen, for neither north, nor South, nor East, nor West will do. Sit down, young traveler. I will tell you what I know, for I can share a thing or two.
Listen, hush, be still, hold out your hands, close your eyes. I have seen men fight their dragons in bright red lines, who would not know how to shine even after they were through. Many a one has tried… oh yes, they have been tried and tried. Since when did trying lose its wonder and become a term of testing, a testament to a separateness that does not exist? Life becomes harder the more you resist. Often it is better to be, than do.
These are things you already know. But you stop trusting yourself to find the way, and instead wonder whether to believe the things they say. You, too, can fight your way through the dark, or steer by the light that burns inside. Every moment is a new chance to decide. And if ever, once again, you need to get clear: There is no where else to be, but here.
She straightens slowly, having finished digging the hole in the earth. With a small gesture she wipes the dirt from her hands, glancing a final time at what remains at the bottom. It will not be like this again.
As if to greet an unseen companion, she raises a hand palm outward, only to brush the sweat from her eyes. Nothing to do now but pack the dirt in gently, a solid softness sifting from fingers to fill the gap of earth at her feet.
The last of the silty soil settles into place, and she thinks about how no one passing by will ever be aware of the life buried here. She supposes that most will be too busy grasping after the glittery things glimpsed above the ground, grabbing their attention, to ever ponder over whether anything significant might lie below their flurried doing, their hurried footsteps.
For now, this does not matter. For now she begins the waiting, the patient tending. She will return here, day after day, watering the earth, as people do with their tears. She walks home, leaving the little life to rest in peace, cradled in a cocoon of clay.
For a second, she forgets whether she has taken part in an ending, or a beginning. Does such a distinction matter, she wonders? How much of a difference is there between still living, and living, still.
One day, a little life will rise, tiny and trembling, springing into the season that bears the name of its becoming, up and up from the seed of its growing. Tomorrow, she will plant another tree.
On Friday, I defended my dissertation, passed without the need for any revisions, and absolutely stunned out my committee! Each of them made a point to tell me how much they loved my presentation, and how well I did in answering their questions. I rocked it, above and beyond what I ever imagined. As Martha Beck says, Woohoo!!!
It’s been a long, long road, everyone. Weeks ago, I wondered whether, after I gained my freedom–err, I mean graduated– I’d be totally ecstatic and bouncing off walls, full of so much joy I wouldn’t know what to do with myself: maybe I’d have so much energy that I’d run until I’d get exhausted: which would only take a minute. I’m serious. Writing a dissertation takes up a lot of hours, and involves the “arduous” task of sitting still…with the exception of your hands of course, which are constantly typing. Moving becomes an unfamiliar pastime.
As it happens, I am immeasurably happy, and jubilant, and elated: and bone tired. Contentedly tired, but still very weary. They don’t tell you this when you get the acceptance letter, but graduate school is a long drawn out procedure with a recovery period. I recommend warning any graduate-school-enthusiast children you may have about this phenomenon, (but to be fair, no amount of warning ever dissuaded me from attending.)
For me, graduate school lasted ten enduring years. Years spent not knowing who I was, years where I faced a lot of discrimination, pain, ostracism and social invisibility, years in which I slowly but steadily moved through and eventually transformed my anger, grief, and feelings of worthlessness. Somewhere inside me was the girl who I’d forgotten in the fog, lost under harsh layers of living, but who was still breathing, silently dreaming.
I know she was there, because I have found her. I sang to her bones to rise, to walk into her own belonging. I traveled the road of shadows for her, called her name, gathered the shattered mirror pieces and pieced them whole once I heard and knew and felt throughout all I ever was that I was not broken. I learned to love those jagged pieces, a patchwork puzzle of the past. And despite all I had been through in the place to which I returned, last week when I returned, I remained wholeheartedly myself. I could have never achieved this on my own, of course, but I did have to decide to keep going, each step of the way. That is to me a testament to how far I have come.
Always the question arises, after arriving, no longer questing, for a threshold: as I look toward my whole life ahead of me, what amidst all that should be left behind is worth carrying forward? re-membering is important, relearning resilience, rebuilding a self by the soft light of a core spark that never dies, retrieving compassion from where it had retreated, backed into a corner of regret and shame and silence about much that had never been true. Freedom, walking out of the Anonymous Desert for the last time, and shutting a door of an era behind me was a right of passage in itself. But I know well that I could have never lept the crossing had I never learned to tear down walls, break through bars, and hold my own rather than hold on for dear life. (I have often done both kinds of holding, sometimes simultaneously.)
A week before my defense, I sat down and did some re-membering. I wrote from myself to myself, which I had never done before. I will share a bit of the growing with you, as I think I’ve learned things which we are all in the process of re-membering, and because I finally found the words for it.
Power is found within, springs forth from love and compassion for you, to hold your own sacred space within you, and claim your birthright of worth and belonging. You can stay centered in your own truth, your own power. You are the author of your life and the divine guardian of yourself.
Stop holding your breath against change. Be discerning and open. Let go. Let go of expectations. you belong to yourself and always have. This past does not define you. It will not ruin you. You will return. Keep your energy centered, your mind focused. Have great love and compassion for you. Know you are stronger than you know or believe. The grey will fall at your light. Be present, be alive and do not try to hide your eyes. Please return without any sense of small. Be the unbridled joyfulness of you. Your power, your truth, your strength, your trust, is all of and for yourself. I love you. You are already wild.
The journey that has gotten me here far surpasses the feat of freeing myself from a situation I never should have stayed in. If that lived experience was the only way to get me to where I am now, I am grateful for every moment of it, and that’s the truth. And truthfully, I am also overjoyed to finally be moving on, to embrace what is next in this wonderfully wild world. Let’s do this thing!
It’s happening, everyone! Tomorrow I will be on a plane to Anonymous Desert and will be defending my dissertation this Friday. Basically I will be spending 2.5 hours in a room with four committee members who will ask me all sorts of questions, and then decide, based on my responses as well as the over 200 page document I’ve handed in, whether I qualify to graduate with a PH.D. It’s been an incredible amount of work and I am still preparing! This is why I haven’t written much new content on the blog. To say it’s been all-consuming for a while now is an understatement. 🙂
My goal is to be Dr. Éilis on my return.
Meanwhile, I leave you with the poem that first began this blog back on December 3, 2013.
There is not one word to name
Or rocky crags,
Wind blustering by
Or blue, deep flowing,
A whirrlpool of color
In the vastness of this sky
There my self of many faces passes by
The red beneath blood deep within
And blue around me reaches
Out across the thresholds of my skin
There but for her shaping hands go I
Molding new ground for my wearry feet
There but for their ancient eyes
And strong, tall forms,
Long streaming hair,
And for me finding all of me,
I might never have been whole
I duck inside
The shelter of my own light house
As vast as sunrise,
As wide as mountains
As old as time
Home at last
I sweep the floor
I’ve left my golden shiny things outside
The only thing that matters now:
Unconditioned joy of living
Poured out from their hands
I once asked why,
Fragmented my soul
Against stone to understand
But now newly formed and unknowing
I am content to stand,
Belonging to myself
Beside them hand and hand.
Where haunting melodies of Lír’s children linger in the silence of the night
Where the Fianna’s hunting horn lies buried,
Where I can still follow the footsteps
That lead inside earthy knolls
Where landscapes reawaken
The absences of dreams leave holes
Along the path less taken
I discovered who I was
Fragile and bony, easily torn
Eternal and holy a spirit now born
When the rains came and washed fear away
Into the seven seas
I opened my eyes from a long sleep
Of seven years
And with a gratitude more full
Than the universe has stars
I jumped off securities jagged ledge
And soared into the trees.
Now I do not try
To name what refuses to be a certainty
Better it remain wild and unruly,
In the history of landscape
Better to welcome those you dance with wordlessly
So you do not waltz
Into the four sided space
Of a definition
With no way to return
As you have come
Slide me into the glaring light
Of your microscopic gaze
Try to holler at the silence
Edges of my life
I will sift like mist between
Your fingers and nothing will linger
But the emptiness you made of me
For I am, at heart, a mystery
With no word to capture the unfathomable totality
Who I am
When all is said and done, even then,
I will be.
This is an absolutely stunning poem. I just had to share it.
She is light.
She glows with gentle radiance
that touches everyone she meets with her warmth.
She is peace.
In her calm presence you are comforted
simply by being near her serene heart.
She is whole.
She does not need anything from anyone,
for she has found the font of her strength within herself.
She is love.