Tag Archives: growing

Crossing The In Between

You carry me
A child in your arms
Through an open door, a crumbling ruin
Remnants of an old self where once I lived

Glancing back, there is only a shadow
Of the one I once had been
Fading as the sunset settles
The landscape still

And then … …

Hush, the darkness descends, encircling, enfolding
The quiet complete, I am safe in your keeping
Dissolving into the soft peaceful presence of you
Heartbeat of earth, soil of silence

I wait to sing the songs of sleeping seeds
Stirring as seeds do, gently
In their slow, motionless unfolding
Rooted firmly in our unconditional belonging

Turning toward the light
Without eyes to behold the dawning sky
Reaching, growing up toward the unknown
Without hands to hold out to find the way

Only your eyes
Seeing with such compassion to every moment of my waking
Only your hands
Holding me tenderly, shaping me whole

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Who Are You?

Hold nothing back, you have no need to hide
Hold out your hands, you have no need to defend
Let go and live wild, you have no need to doubt
Let go and breathe, you have no need to fear

Stand equal to the defenders of dreams, protectors of truth, guardians of growing
Stand strong among the streaming stars that set your soul alight with wonder
And even when all you feel inside are division and despair
Show me the light of you, for this is who you are

Kindle the kindness that shame forbids you to share
With the one whose worth it tries to mar
Yes, that one, daring to dance despite history’s horrors
Blazing the beauty of you, every moment

Show me how you are learning to trust
With the gentle grace grown in the soil of sorrow
Show me how you are finding self-compassion
While fighting fiercely to own your own strength

Show me the spark that shines through the dark at the heart of you
Beneath the beliefs that still barricade you from belonging
Tell me of the tenderness you touch after trembling
And the tears that turned terror to triumph

Stand in the fire that melts chains and burns burdens
False foundations fall, timber tumbles, so many ruins crumbling
Flames fill and surround you, radiance reshaping shadow
Show me the sunlight soaring in your eyes

Re-turning to Trust

Fear is like the partner you can’t get rid of: you fight it and scream at it and beg it to go away and then spend the interminable hours of a frantic night after it disappears flailing in the dark, unmoored, untethered, searching for the hand you know always brings you back to familiar ground. It certainly feels momentarily like anything is better than being alone with nothing to do but confront the immensity of yourself. So you give fear a call and let it back in. And the cycle continues…

Sometimes I’ve been able to break that cycle, and for lengths of time that surprise me, at least when I am with people who hold space for me in the world beyond the world. But when it comes to this world? A world where getting hurt isn’t a theory, where my differences define me, where rejection is very real, where words can wound, intentions get crossed, and the present moment is so often ensnared in a web of wilting memories… what, are you kidding?! Trust is a very, very rare and endangered species.

My world began like this: when I was six months old, someone tried to kill me. Part of me understood, in a way I still cannot even put words to, just how, literally, totally frightening the world could be. Safety became my mantra and my survival raft on the sea of changes. I learned all sorts of healthy and unhealthy ways to build and maintain a stronghold over the water, shore up the retaining walls, and in general do all I could to ensure that the tiny, fragile island I was didn’t get swamped and submerged again. I didn’t discriminate. Whatever it took. I needed rain, not a flood. I needed the calm clay earth to give me another chance to put firm roots down, ground me here. I needed air to keep moving through my body, breathing room, the winds of many temperaments to carry me once I learned to fly. Most of all, I needed other people and needed to learn how to love, rather than fear them.

Unfortunately, we don’t usually get only one traumatic experience to heal from while we’re here. So, over the past couple years as I liberated myself from grad school, I’ve done a lot of healing. I’ve gathered myself in, gone through the naming, sat with shadows and struggled to find their place as part of my wholeness and accept them. And still, the fear is there. It hums an eerie lullaby just beneath the constant cacophony of day to day living. It comes knocking at my door as soon as I want to take a step, let alone a leap, out into the world. It haunts me while I’m longing for solitude with worries or pictures or memories or just a nagging urgency to keep watch. It winds around my relationships, putting a stranglehold on genuine intimacy. It riddles my confidence with pointed question marks and weaves illusions of isolation around my dreams. It awaits in the silence when my only company is the vast bewilderment of myself. It tries to convince me I’m the only one who’s ever felt like this.

There might be long stretches of time during a day or for several weeks when I can ignore it and throw myself into enjoying life. But the fear for that life I am out enjoying never really goes away. So, last April when I decided to join a group of people who gather once a week to learn about an art of relating called circling, I was unsurprisingly terrified. It turned out to be one of the best things that has happened to me in a long time. There was a structure and several things we agreed upon at the outset, which created a container of trust and belonging unprecidented in regular social life. We would pick two people per night whom we’d focus our attention on, just being with what is: the moment to moment experience of that person, the present way it was like to be ourselves, how we felt in relation to each other. It was suddenly okay to make mistakes without fear of rejection, safe for me to come out of a long hibernation, which had begun somewhere back in graduate school, poke my head out of my shell, and discover solid ground just where and as I was.

The more I became solid in myself, the more I was able to be present and compassionate toward others and drop the nonspecific persistent fear. I remembered how to sit and listen softly to someone who was hurting. I could hold someone who was grieving and be in that space with them, without trying to rush them through the feelings, fix their pain or insist it would all get better soon. I delighted in laughing with others, reconnecting with a joy not possible when living so much in solitude, and even occasionally felt vulnerable enough to laugh at myself. The idea I’ve always known as true, that the world is full of many good and trustworthy physical people, developed from a thought to a visceral feeling, an embodied knowing.

I was traveling the road home, this time not through the otherworld, but through this world. And home is gradually getting a little bit bigger… enough to give fear more room to settle down, close its eyes, and even sleep for a while if I’m lucky. The space in which I live has grown larger, able to contain that much more of the light and the shadow and the fear (which isn’t planning to vacate any time soon) … all at the same time.

Now, only a few short months later, my time in that particular cauldron of transformation has abruptly ended. A lot of people there use e-cigarettes constantly throughout the night and the vapor was giving me migraines. The person leading the group (who also vapes) hasn’t ever responded to my attempts to contact him and work out an accommodation for everyone’s needs.

Fear responded promptly, of course. There was the fear that I’m the problem, that the world might not be safe after all, that I simply don’t belong. Then a friend from the group called and shared that this guy is notorious for never communicating. I’m still disappointed. Mostly, I am humbled by a truth staring me in the face. How can a person be safe if she’s rejecting, blaming, and putting down her own self? I can long for belonging, but if I can’t have it in my own skin, where do I go? And it doesn’t help anyone to stall out on fully living whenever anyone else has temporarily forgotten how to shine.

It would be easy to get disillusioned, crawl back into that old, clammy, familiar shell, pull down the curtains and pretend that actually makes you safe. But, life unfolds whether you struggle or let go into the living of it. When I’m aware enough to make the choice, I kind of get wide-eyed at my unconscious actions and wonder what all the needless flailing and frenzy was about.

There’s that scene in Monty Pithon’s Life of Brian when a bunch of people wait in a line to talk to this guy who asks each of them if they want freedom or execution. The hilarity is that a bunch of people enthusiastically choose execution. The grave truth behind the comedy is, of course, that in the end, many of us fear the wildness of genuinely self-authored freedom more than we fear the subtle and not so subtle ways we allow ourselves and others to deprive us of life. Struggle, or let go? Freeze, or freedom? Do I really have to think twice about that? It is our re-turning over and over to trust, even though with specific people trust gets broken, that allows the space we hold for all of who we are to grow, and that’s what gives us room to shine, no longer play it small. That is what empowers a person to put the authority into self-authorship, and that’s the foundation of freedom, and there’s no safer place to be.

The Spiral Pattern of Living

There is no finish line
No tick marks or check boxes
No blanks to fill in
No thing to cross out

Instead we walk the labyrinth of living
Inward and outward
Weaving ourselves into being
Learning our mystery moment by moment

This terrain of trouble and triumph
I have traveled many times before
Wondering what it was I did wrong
If I was growing, why had I returned

The contours of the path remain the same
Not so, the one who passes through
Every switchback, rewandered turn, has mattered
And in the crossing and recrossing, we unfold

I will come by here again, hold out my hand
To welcome every seed of joy
And the beauty of the broken roots
With stark scars of sadness, red as sunset

Each time, a different phase of moon
Cascades its own collage of color
Each time, reflected light casts its shadows
And I am left breathless once again with the remembering

Fly Anyway

A work in progress
A million shards of mirror –

It could take lifetimes,
Making peace with the pieces

Now, where does that leave me?
Which present do I share –

When I still have thoughts that shouldn’t be there
Patterns I should not repeat?

Fragmented, fractured – who am I to speak
Of wholeness, so fragile

With little sense of direction,
A broken wing –

The wild winds whisper,
Fly anyway.

The Place Beyond Forgiveness

I have forgiven me, but that has not been enough
I’m still haunted, at times just looking in your eyes
For me, the fact that I’ve grown is irrelevant
I remember; and I ache to erase, all of it

Breath catches, frozen in mid motion
I relive it in an instant, a wave of yesterdays
This time, I force myself to trace the river of shame
Trembling with the effort of owning what I did

Perhaps I can finally be at peace
The way you have made peace, and love me
The way you have always loved me
You stand in the doorway, a light against shadows

Try to find the grace in the sorrow, you say,
The gold in the grey
Some compassion for the one that you were
In a moment where all was forgotten

I search for the goodness I might have learned
Gather a harvest from tears
You meet my eyes before I shut them
With open eyes I watch the wounds begin to heal

Can I hold space with you, you ask me then
I fear allowing myself something kind
Attempting, regardless, to meet myself gently
You step behind me, quietly enfold me in your arms

With the trust of a child, I let myself be seen
I am present without judgment, perhaps for the first time
I am shifted into spaciousness, now enfolding us
And the light shining through me is mine

Echo Poem

In songs of night, it calls your name.
Aim.
Dark slits of eyes gleam like sapphire.
Fire.
The chains of shame are tightly wound.
Wound.
No one now can hear your pleas.
Please!

Where is the joy you used to know?
No.
Or the light which you’ve so carefully grown?
Gone.
Is there still time to take stock?
Stalk.
Down your cheek a single tear.
Tear.

You rage in fury like the wind.
Wind.
The dark knows all that you are not.
Knot.
Its voices with your own entwine,
Whine.
You long to feel less afraid,
Frayed.

Doubt takes over every thought:
Ought.
Always something more to do,
Due.
More is better, try again:
Gain
Finds you wanting,
Wanting.

To the shadows you will never be enough.
Enough!
There’s nothing more you must become.
Come.
In you, the power to bewilder,
Wilder,
In you, the light that’s always there,
Here.

Right now you do not think you’re strong,
Wrong.
Let go, for many hold you still.
Still.
What is it that cages you in fear??
Fear,
And the separateness in which you disappear.
Appear.

Shadows cannot leave a hole.
Whole.
It’s you who are the missing piece.
Peace.
This journey isn’t only yours,
Ours.
You are not alone
One.

This is a poem inspired by Jane Dougherty’s poetry challenge. This week the task was to write an echo poem. Check out Jane’s Blog tosee the challenge and the rules for it, as well as all the awesome poetry and short fiction she writes.

What Lies Beneath

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.

I Return As Dr. Éilis!

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!

The Apology

While what’s broken mends
We gather one another’s tears
Frightened by these raw words
Shared in earnest honesty

For our trembling hands
Suddenly afraid to touch
For the truths, unearthed
We longed to rebury in sand

For fragile trust
We thread between to weave again
I will share with you what no one else has known
What hidden shadows still inform who I am

Reach out, light one, I have much to own
Though you found the strength to take a stand
A midst the rubble of our yesterdays
What I wish to take back, were it that I can

Why do you still blame yourself
When there is nothing else you could have done
How could you not be carried away
By wild waves, compelling you too far from land

I led the way, in the space that was ours
And almost lost you; of course you ran
Let the sea of forgiveness enfold our hearts
You were caught in fierce tides you did not understand