Tag Archives: living

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

Advertisements

Stay _ A Poem for the Journey

Stay with the waves, like the ocean you breathe
These are threads of your life, a cocoon that we weave

Stay present and watchful in the vigil you’re keeping
For dormant fears, they will rise, dreamed without sleeping

Stay alert to the storm that you stir with your hands
As you strive for control, to shape life’s shifting sands

Stay open, though around you dissolves much that you’ve known
There’s no need to struggle, we carry you as our own

Stay right where you are, and no matter how far you’ve run
When you return to yourself, you’ll be found, we will come

Stay for the joy in remembering the song
And all our rejoicing, you’ve come home, you belong

Stay for the soaring, and the rest still unnamed
Stay and discover who you are when untamed

Stay, though before you the forge-fires burn
Claim your place at the center, match our strength, it’s your turn

Stay though the flames leap across through your skin
They will sear fear and shame, mend you whole from within

Stay to meet gently each moment unfolding
There is always compassion behind any challenge worth holding

Stay while your light rearranges, unwinds
Though it may seem that shadows are all that you find

Stay curious, and welcome each one eye to eye
You can never cease shining, but you might forget why

Stay your hand, your self-hatred and anger aren’t yours
Dare the mudflats of memory, there you’ll find who it’s for

Stay strong, though for days you’ve been eclipsed in long hours
Dazed in grey silences gone secret and sour

Stay with us, you are trembling with terror to speak
You are held safe in love, find the answers you seek

Stay in the dance, patterned shadows and light
You are learning your wholeness, both the day and the night

**********

You are learning the pathway within to a door
That opens in stillness, go inside and step through
It is there you remember you are worth fighting for
And to do that, you must be the one worth surrendering to

It’s the Truth: Live With It

It doesn’t matter
How often it keeps you up at night
If it makes you feel uncomfortable
Or whether you cry bitter, fearful, or joyful tears

It doesn’t matter
The struggle, and how often you look away
That you find it impossible to accept
While rationalizing excuses, constructing creatively convincing denials

Truth forces you out of hiding
Truth doesn’t leave you be
Truth whispers whether or not you listen
Truth is the mirrored image you’re too afraid to see

If it’s true, believe it
What’s the sense in doing anything else
Find it, face it,
The truth about yourself

The truth is you have always been worthy,
The truth is you have always been whole
You are already wild, it’s true,
And you are beautiful

You have the compassion of others
But are in great need of receiving your own
You are deeply, fiercely loved
And you have never been alone

It’s the truth, so live with it
Even when it seems too hard
And one day you’ll be living it
With everything you are

Hill of Tara Part 1, Ireland, 2015

I step off the large tour bus. Mom, very tired, stands to my left. In front of us the hill of Tara rises, and even closer than that, clumps of tourists, families and groups of friends, mill about. We are an odd blending of strangers and companions, all with stories of our own, dropped here from around the world to visit, for all our myriad of reasons, a part of our heritage.

It is a beautiful summer afternoon, the sun shines radiant but unobtrusively through the clear, blue sky, its rays dancing a compromise on the cool breeze, as if seeking, in midfall, to defer deferentially to already ensconced patches of shade.

A cacophony of conversation drifts up the hill over endless neatly mowed grass. Grass? At Tara? When did this happen? The question intrudes on my thoughts and I’m not sure who it’s from. All I know is that, when I was here before long ago, the place was mostly dirt, and grass in the form of neatly kept lawn was conspicuously absent.

To see the place once more, but without eyes, haunts me, taunts me with visions which will remain unconfirmed, cheating me out of an intimacy I once shared. I can walk but cannot trace the contours of the landscape with my eyes, and for a moment I am grief stricken, like someone who can behold but never touch the one she loves.

The metal gate would have been absent of course. so would the bus that dwarfed the distances I might have once traveled by foot. Would I recognize those footpaths now, or would they be permanently lost to me, covered over by time and transformation, deforestation, and fresh green grass? I have little time to ponder, for now the woman with the calm, high voice who will be our guide for the next hour issues us through the gate and we begin our ascent.

Part of me recognizes what I am doing as quite normal and routine, exactly the kind of sequence of events that occurs during a mass tour of an ancient site. And we had had no choice about the large tour group, either. Our trip to Tara is part of a larger tour of the Boinne Valley, including Newgrange, which we visited earlier. The neolithic stones are only accessible through booking a tour with the visitor’s center. What else might I have expected?

The answer comes unbidden to me, unannounced, almost a surprise. For we entered Tara without challenge or ordeal, no statements of pedigree, degree and right, status or reason for business. And I remembered, from somewhere deep within, how such a display of worthiness was required if a person wished to even remotely be considered for the welcoming. And here we are, without trial or travail. My surprise, I realize, is not at the details of the memory, but my unnerving feeling of culture shock.

And “Now watch your step,” warns our vigilant tour guide, in a tone of voice that conveys her desire to avoid a repeat of some prior mishap. “The grass is slippery and wet, and the ground is uneven.”

Of course it is, I think to myself. The first thing I notice, with a pang of sadness, is the absence of the great wall. The open grassland unsettles me, any trace of a protective embrace now long since eroded away. We walk past two stones, which our guide explains are all that remain of an ancient rite of kingship. It was said that these stones were placed a specific distance apart, and that a potential king would only be allowed onto further initiations if he could drive a chariot between the stones without touching them. I felt the two stones, the aspiring king would have had to be very skilled indeed to accomplish the challenge.

I am grateful when mom is too tired to walk with the rest of the group, and we fall behind. I need distance, and badly. Besides our feet upon the now grassy earth and the birds chattering in sporadic song, the occasional caught phrase from a fellow tourist up ahead, the wind whispering its opinion now and again in low, hushed tones – the place is silent, silent.

No one lives here. No horses whinny impatiently in a stable, no king’s servants hurry by with provisions, wash buckets, hay bundles, or cooking pots. No last minute commotion to repair a building. No children hollering and playing in the dirt. No pits for fires, no conclaves of brehons, no bards with their harps, no druids preparing the ceremonies of Samhain. No shouts from the now absent walls. No buildings in fact, except for a church, constructed in 1822.

It’s a very interesting church, but while I am appreciating its existence and contribution to the long history of this place, I am left grappling with the elusive transience of uncertainty forged through the passage of time. Time and its remnants seem to emanate from this place from every age, from the stone age to the present, clambering for their own share of loyalty, of recognition, of honor. In the midst of the iconic passage tombs with their transparent mystery, the allure of the Christian era crossing the minds of those from the middle ages to modernity, casting its shadows over the past, Tara from the second century CE seems to have fallen into obscurity. To the hand or the eye mapping the surface, the time I walked this world as Mairin is almost forgotten, or else shrouded in the misunderstandings and messiness of myth.

We walk on. My feet take to the landscape almost effortlessly. True to our guide’s word, the ground is quite uneven and slippery. Mom stumbles, and instantly I catch her fall, perfectly poised on the ridge of a dip in the landscape. Farther on she trips again. Again, I compensate without thinking, immediately placing us solidly on the furrowed plane of the hill. “Don’t worry, this is what sighted guide is for,” I joke, grinning at her, “So that I can ensure you don’t lose your balance.”

We laugh. “You’re doing pretty well,” she admits and I wonder, should I tell her that I am fairly convinced that I know my way around?

I decide against it. Mom is pretty tired after all and I feel she might need a break from conversation: she’s been describing landscapes and standing stones to me all day. Besides, I don’t know where my brothers are, and if either of them overhear, I’ll be hard pressed for a decent explanation. In fact, I’ve yet to figure out an adequate explanation that satisfies myself, though I can feel myself teasing out the story from my bones, as if patiently completing a one thousand piece puzzle.

Just before we crest the top of the hill, it is plain to me that I do in fact have some sort of instinctual memory of the place. Toward the top is a very steep portion, and forgetting mom’s fatigue, I bound up the steep incline like a dear in the dark, slowing down only because I am still holding onto mom’s arm, and I can’t as well drag her with me.

I want, so badly want, to run, to race up the rest of the hill, then race down again, several times, until I’ve exhausted myself. But I don’t have Allegro or my cane with me, and I can’t run with a cane anyway, doing so is the equivalent of sprinting with a big stick, and that has other potentially hazardous consequences (usually for other people.)

So I do the next best thing, what I have always done when I long to be able to move gracefully in a world that doesn’t allow that without vision: I take a moment and imagine, in vivid sensory detail, what it would be like to move fast on my own. Then I let go of the desire. I’ve done all I can with it.

Mounds within mounds. Age packed onto age. Standing atop it all at the summit, where everyone with the eyes for it are looking out over three fourths of the whole country, history sings to me from far beyond who I was, far before who I am now. As I stand, the energy of this place captivates me, courses through me, a raw reverberation of remembrances. I am centered in their radiance. As if a tree, rooted, I pull up a current of change that seems to seap out of the ground through the soles of my shoes, traveling like sap through a tree trunk, until I am not sure where the soul of the land ends and my spirit begins. That is when I remember.

Day 3, Three Quote Challenge

The third day of the three quote challenge is almost over! My conclusion is that time is going by too quickly. Thanks again to my awesome friend, Ali Isaac, for inviting me to participate, it’s been super fun!

My last quote comes from a person who I could probably quote all day, both because her words move me beyond being able to find any words of my own for a while, and because she inevitably challenges me beyond any point I could remotely map onto the edge of my comfort zone. Pema Chodron gets at the heart of being human, in all its gnarly and profoundly beautiful intricacies, in a way that, without fail, causes me to grow immediately.

So, I had a hard time figuring out which of her quotes to post, but settled on this one because it makes me think of Caoilte every time I read it.

Rejoicing in ordinary things is not sentimental or trite. It actually takes guts. Each time we drop our complaints and allow everyday good fortune to
inspire us, we enter the warrior’s world.

Pema Chödrön,
The Places That Scare You: A Guide to Fearlessness in Difficult Times.

To carry on, if she chooses to do so of course, I nominate my lovely blogger friend Helen Jones.

Demeter’s Fire

Six months old she is
When I begin gathering her in my arms,
To gently rock her
Within the flames.

I stand by her fiercely
Every night, with love,
Sweep away the ashes
Of the no longer needed.

With ardent joy I watch her change
As the outer shell dissolves,
Her eyes take on a charcoal grey
And raw and radiant, she burns to live.

Stop, stop! her mother cries
Tearing tears from raging eyes,
Her fervent passion rivals mine,
Equal, by the love with which we’re both defined

What are you doing to my child?
I am seeing to her being wild.
Bone deep the memories I set alight,
To the song of the soul I sing each night.

I do not deliver death on one so small,
The smallness itself is all that dies.
Who questions me, when there’s only love behind
what to you appears, at once, harsh and strange?

I, born of eternal light divine,
I lit the wisdom in the child’s eyes,
Set smoldering, her limits, to shine her light free,
Turned resilient and bright all she can be.

Do not tear her from my arms
As with Demeter of old,
Do not misunderstand
Healing in unfamiliar guise.

Do not be mistaken
By what you’ve been told.
Though tried, she will rise
Brilliant and bold.

I know, for I too am self-made
And could not help but recognize
My kindred, spark which can’t be tamed
Which as well within myself resides.

Let me hold her,
Until she knows her name,
Until trembling, leaping
Through a waking world, she flies,

And with our ones
Who stir the sleeping,
Though she’ll not see
Her world the same,

She’ll be as the sun
Is to the dreaming
Rekindling the hearths
No one thought would blaze again.

Then through this life, let me carry her,
These trials, triumphs to the wise.
There is no loss here undertaken,
She is opening her eyes.

Don’t Try This At Home, Kids

How often must you fail before it stops hurting? That was the question in my mind this morning. It’s not that I am exactly failing. I’m just not succeeding, at all.

I’ve heard a lot of interesting and many helpful bits of advice about becoming conscious, and the flow of this year in particular. What has stayed with me is an idea that seems to describe life, whatever your belief system.

We’ start out in life floating down a river in boats of different shapes and sizes. At some point however we lose the boat, or it breaks apart on rocks, or it gets hijacked or stolen or reappropriated. After this, we make the rest of our way submerged in the river itself, which means everything is harsher, brighter, colder, more immediate, more beautiful, more wild, more painful, more harrowing, more directly interactive. (To be fair, if this were not a metaphor, we’d probably also die from hypothermia at this point, but I digress.)

For all its simplicity, I feel this metaphor is quite apt. For instance, I know many people including myself who are going along in living, and then something happens to terrify us out of our skin and we’re flailing in the water. If you think holding onto the shore gives you safety, think twice. Without a boat, it’s your hands grasping at the rocks along the bank for dear life. Meanwhile the churning water surges past you, dragging you away, leaving your hands wounded and bloody stains on the rock where they were a moment before. Trust me, this only needs to happen once before you realize it’s a terrible strategy.

So we try letting go and floating. And this is by far the more sensible thing to do … until we hear that we’re approaching a waterfall, and begin questioning our sanity. (I’m going to do what?) It’s not as though we aren’t used to white water rapids and waterfalls. It’s just that with them, there are only two outcomes: somewhat miraculous gliding through unscathed, or disaster.

Finishing a dissertation is like hearing that roar of waterfall up ahead. I am questioning my sanity—well to be honest I’ve been questioning that for a while. I have also heard lately the saying that if we just let the water carry us over the edge and not struggle with it, in other words pay attention to the way things in life are going and adjust ourselves accordingly, this will prevent tumbling headlong into raging currents from getting disastrous. I, for one, am not convinced.

I am paying attention to what’s going on with the people in my life who have some control over when I graduate. If I took their actions as a sign and went with the flow, so to speak, I’d slow down. In the past week, three people, an auspicious number, have told me in different ways that my plan for defending this summer is unrealistic. If I believe them, I will give up before even starting. If I don’t believe them, I’ll just be bulldozing ahead in a way that frankly feels a bit obtuse. Sure, I’m good at being recalcitrant, but that hasn’t ever won me a popularity contest in social graces. So I usually refrain.

So this morning I woke up thinking about entrepreneurs who say they are successful because they failed first, more times than they can count. It baffles me. How on earth do they do this without feeling terrible about themselves, being ashamed, giving up and attempting an easier venture instead, shedding tears, grieving, or making fools of themselves? (Actually, crying is probably acceptable. Literally or figuratively falling flat on your face? Probably not.)

I think about social movements, people who lose their lives to take a cause forward and never live to see its conclusion. Have they failed retrospectively if the movement disintegrates? Or the people who have always wanted children and try, but can’t: have they failed? I mean, they did try and did not succeed, and that’s one definition of failure. Does a person fail when their body has genuine physical limits they can’t transcend? Is it just their body that has failed them?

When is failure not personal? When is it both a genuine falling short and yet not a loss? When does it defeat a person? When is it transformative? How many attempts at trying are needed before it’s all right to walk away? How many failures does a person have to endure before it’s okay to stop beating herself up about it? Would failure be impossible in a world where judgment does not exist, and if so, are there good reasons for us in this judgmental world to abandon the concept in favor of another one? Is it ever possible to fail, spectacularly, and still be worth something, and still be whole, and still be enough?

These are my questions, and I struggle with the answers. Right now, I have little wisdom to impart. I am only beginning to experience what will hopefully, if I don’t fail, turn out to be the sequence of things which will give me the answers to those questions. And in doing so, I am reminded of the very sensible saying which I have never heeded, “Don’t try this at home, kids.”

What I do know is that sometimes failure isn’t a result of not working hard at something. There have been times when I’ve worked so hard on my dissertation that I’ve driven myself into incoherence and exhaustion. These efforts however have no impact on how fast or slowly my committee gives me comments, if they give them at all. On top of this, life seems to be getting in the way of progress for everyone involved, so that regardless of how much I personally do, there’s a sense in which progress isn’t really made. I am reminded of Diana Gabaldon’s book title, “Dragonfly in Amber.” If I’m the dragonfly, grad school is the amber. I beat and beat my wings, but hover still. Is that failure? Or has there happened to be an eddy right before the waterfall so that I can look ahead to the treacherous journey but am forever swirled in place? I suppose if life is a river, you’re bound to get caught in its eddies sometime or other. Is that failure, or just terrible timing and bad luck?

For all sorts of good and ridiculous reasons, I am here, working on a PH.D., which maybe, if I’m lucky, I’ll finish. There are people who get several PH.D.s. They have got to be masochistic. I’ve already reached the point where I am tired of such a painful experience, but the experience isn’t willing to give me up yet. I wish I had made other life choices. There are no answers, but I keep wondering when I’ll no longer feel like a failure, or like I am trying to climb Mt. Everest in flip-flops and a bathing suit. When does the light break through the clouds? When it does, I will not look back.

The Gathering

I was you when you cried
All alone, no one there
Cloaked in possibility’s sudden
Severe song of I am here

The earth your cradle
The wind she who rocked you
In the screaming silence
All around you

I made my way
Gathered you softly in my arms
To whisper, there now, it’s okay
Come home, I say

I was you when you arrived
Pink and trembling
Fragile and small
A girl who gripped life

With the passion of the gnarled oak
solid, sapling strength
Unaware of how time would erode
The steadfast soil beneath your feet

Before you knew how hateful jealousy
Could try stealing your light in insatiable hunger
And still, though turned from green to brown
You refused to be uprooted by its thunder

I made my way
Gathered you softly in my arms
Replanted you as you were reaching
To touch the spark of brilliant sky

From a greater light you now are grown
And in the breeze enfolding you
I whisper, it will be okay
Come home, I say

I was you
Sister of my heart
When your stern smile
Broke through the vale

Of a startling world
To gaze quizzically
with clear, sharp child’s eyes
Up at unfamiliar faces

How you wondered, even then
Why you had to hush at all
Solid as the granite rock
Keening after experience

Unquenchable as the wailing wall
You were, not yet trusting
If the foundations would hold
Were the posts to crumble and fall

You became my lighthouse
Not knowing who else would heed the call
Of that ever beckoning spark within
You lived out loud as did we all

I gather you up in my arms
As your reluctance melts away
I whisper, it has always been okay
Come home, I say

I was you
Taking your first breath of precious life
Reaching out to an expectant
Waiting world

Hands eager to explore
To touch your beaming mother’s face
And taste the exquisite solace
Of arms who knew of love

And in the harshness of uncertain time
You encountered and embraced letting go
Tending carefully the light of memory
Which each, crossing over, left behind

I catch you
Leaping wildly into my arms
Laughing, okay, okay
You’re home, I say

I, the one who touched another world
Before I learned to crawl
I reach out
Gather myself in my arms

And through all I am and ever was
I thread the shreds of shattered past
At last to mend them whole
Pull the weeds of grief and fear

So in their place, love and joy
Can once again reseed the grove of our belonging
And then, never more, should our children need
To weep our tears of longing

Around the circle, we join hands
Changed, though just as ever one
Shining through our eyes, the patterns rearranged
Emerge in wonder, it is done

The Four Who Helped Me Heal _ When Two Worlds Meet

August-September, 2013

In 2008, I develop a chronic and serious medical condition that is not properly diagnosed for the next six years. It is an intestinal condition and here is the thing I learn about such conditions: there is a lot of stigma around them and it is almost taboo to speak about it. So it has taken me over a year to decide to post this.

I am tested for Crohn’s, IBS, a whole gamut of scary conditions—but never, oddly, for the one condition I end up learning I have. I wonder if my problem has anything to do with my diet, so I give up dairy, gluten, and nuts and seeds. None of this works either, and is instead quite the hassle to deal with in daily living as I am exhausted, not absorbing any food I am eating, and scheduling my life around my illness.

Besides the physical illness, however, there is an even stealthier nightmare to contend with: the nightmare of secrecy, shame, self-blame, self-disgust, and isolation. At the same time that I want an accurate diagnosis, I also live in constant fear of its discovery. I believe that if anyone finds out, it will be proof that I must be replaceable and unloved. Sometimes I wish I could never see anyone again. I feel like I am living someone else’s life. I have certainly checked out of the one I’ve been given, but like the lyric in Hotel California, “you can check out any time you like but you can’t ever leave.” I have already made up my mind a while back that “leaving,” which would mean complete apathy or death, is no option for me. I just wish I could be a whole person again.

It takes until March of 2013 to get a proper diagnosis, after which I am immediately referred to a surgeon. I find I am mortified and relieved to finally be taken seriously and have an explanation for the terror and pain. I can finally name my nightmare that has taken over my life, its truth borne silently and in hushed horror. And as I come to accept both that I will not have to endure this forever, and that surgery is my only option, as I work hard to heal my shattered spirit, I begin slowly to surrender to what is. Very slowly.

It has been extremely difficult to prepare for surgery: all the ins and outs of care I need during the hospital stay and then again almost constantly for the three weeks following, the lining up of friends and family, social workers, and dealing with bureaucracy has been almost too much to handle. During all this, four people from the otherworld keep appearing together around my living room. Quietly, with no expectations of their own, they lend me support with silent presence, and it is strangely validating, this vigil of acknowledgement and how they do not judge me for not being whole, or well, and don’t look away. They wear homemade wool outfits, are extremely tall, and carry swords and shields with swirly ray patterns on them, so I can’t tell precisely if I am seeing the symbol for sun or water, or both at once. They look solemn and serious. They rarely move. They have yet to speak to me. That hardly matters. In the other world, whole conversations can occur without words.

I don’t know their names or why they are here, I mean why they are bothering to hang out with me, but I am not ever surprised to see them, it is kind of like arriving home from a long day and finding your family there— ordinary joyous contentment, belonging. I am also way too exhausted and ill to ask questions or even be particularly polite, but they don’t seem bothered by that. I simply except, gratefully, that they are here, as I go about making countless phone calls, and work out my manifest world recovery team who will have to spend three to six weeks assisting me while I don’t have a guide dog. The surgeons don’t want him with me while there’s a chance he could pull on me or cause me to fall.

Now, six months after my referral to a surgeon, around August 20th, I am attending another appointment for a second opinion. I am prepared to take as much control of the situation and my health as possible. I have literally twenty-five questions on my Braille computer ready to ask, thoroughly researched. I’m leaving no stone unturned.

I look around the room and find all four of my otherworld people are here. When our eyes meet, their eyes are kind, with a somber calm within them. I marvel at how they can see into the truth of things, but don’t evaluate what they see. This in and of itself is a gift to me. When I think there is no way I could possibly be safe, I look at my otherworld people and they help to ground me in myself, in a gaze that simply accepts what is.

When the surgeon walks in, I think, well okay, this surgeon dude tries messing with me, he’s going to be really sorry he does. That thought makes me smile despite the circumstances. These four people from the otherworld are formidable looking indeed. They certainly command anyone’s respect, and I surmise, would most likely instill fear in anyone who got on the wrong side of them. The surgeon, I notice, is effectively surrounded. I am relieved and for the first time ever while in a doctor’s office, I feel safe.

Fortunately, the surgeon is thoughtful and respectful, and doesn’t hold limiting stereotypical views about people with disabilities. He answers my questions thoroughly and to the extent it is humanly possible, puts me at ease. I am so young and otherwise healthy that he is confident the surgery will be a success. He corrects my misinformation and this in and of itself silences many of my fears. Meanwhile, my otherworld people keep their vigil around the room, holding space for me, keeping me centered, their presence silently challenging my belief that until I am well I am not valuable to anyone. I cannot seriously have this thought and look into their eyes at the same time, and so unless I need to be looking elsewhere, I never look away from them.

I arrive at the hospital on September 17th. Trembling violently from cold and nerves, I enter the unusually frigid operating room. This is when I realize I have a choice: resist or surrender. Up until this point, I believe that surrendering means giving up the deepest part of me. It is my dignity and respect which needs fighting for, and it is this dignity that the surgery and the hospital stay, with its inevitability of rendering me profoundly dependent on others, surely threatens and compromises. But suddenly my need to heal overrides my desire to continue with my defenses. The anesthesiologist begins to read the affirmations I have written up for her to say while I go under, each to be repeated three times. “You are whole, safe, and secure,” she says soothingly. “You are whole, safe and secure.”

I let go, completely, and by the time she repeats the affirmation a third time, I’ve lost consciousness. When I awake, I know I am well. I still need to recover, but my body feels like mine again. My first words are, “I’m so happy!” I realize surprisingly that at the moment I am not in any pain at all, despite just having gone through an intense major procedure. But that is not the only gift I receive from this experience. I know that my choice to surrender is the greatest gift I could ever imagine: I come home to myself. I do not lose myself, but find it again. I find peace, and this peace stays with me wherever I am.

I spend six days in hospital. I do recover well, but there is still all that uncomfortable and gnarly stuff that comes with having major surgery. Incredibly, amazingly, my other world people stay with me the whole time, regardless. They hold space for me, and protect me so all I have to do is heal. I don’t need to see them. I can feel the light that surrounds me, and it is like being a child who finally experiences what it is like to be held.

It is only after six weeks of recovery (after which I can eat whatever I want!) that I see my four otherworld people vividly, in front of me, like I normally do. And when I do, it finally occurs to me to ask who they are. When they tell me, my rational brain goes on strike until further notice and I am caught in between impossible and possible, acceptable and unnervingly unacceptable reality.

I spend the first week in a bit of stunned denial, and ask them at least twice a day to come again with who they are. Occasionally I worry that I am engaging in the most outlandishly creative act of imagination ever conceived. Have I lost it? But no, somehow I know I am probably not making this up at all, and the adage ‘truth is stranger than fiction’ would absolutely apply and I’d be incapable of dreaming all this even if I tried. Also I am definitely not dreaming. Also, I have been too busy preparing for and then recovering from surgery to try. Also, if these really are the people they say they are, I absolutely have to believe them.

Still, I am having trouble accepting this reality. Moments strike me at random in which I am confronted with trying to come to terms with what is going on. Why would these four people, who I don’t even know, choose to spend days with me in which I can barely get out of bed, am often in pain, and need help doing almost everything under the sun? How can they see the state I’m in and not judge me? Why is it that, though they never look away, I feel peacefully, utterly safe? I am beyond grateful. But why? Why do this for me?

But when I do ask Caoilte about it, ask why, why would he and his sons Faolán and Colla, and his cousin Oisín, be so unconditionally here for me, he simply replies, “Why not?”

It’s a response that effectively separates itself from any line of argument to the contrary. It causes me to think seriously about the negative view of myself that I hold and always have taken for granted. I know that if I were given a reason why, I’d try my best to come up with why I still did not deserve it. But there is no reason. I am given instead an invitation to accept what is. It takes some time, but acceptance does come. I accept despite my culture’s aversion to spiritual experiences that make no sense, I accept though this leaves me in profound humility, gratitude, and wonder. And I am forced to confront my incredulity that I could ever be worth doing such a thing for, ask myself whether I have been wrong my whole life about lacking value unless I am exceptional or perfect, whether, regardless of my blindness or health or illness or strengths or weaknesses I might just be enough. Really? And why? But as I will come to find out, there are many preconceptions of myself and the world that I’ll be turning on their head, reevaluating, and growing from, letting go into awe and gratitude and wonder, coming home.

a href=”https://thesoundofwhathappens.wordpress.com/2014/12/02/the-antlered-branch-_-when-two-worlds-meet-part-13/” title=”The Antlered Branch _ When Two Worlds Meet: Part 13″/

Dialogue of the Birthday Blues

What’s the matter, you ask, and why
With so much to love, do you want to cry?
As you’re still young with time to dream,
Life gives more to you than you need.

***

I will tell you what, I say,
Thirty-two’s two days away.
Two years more than three times ten,
Yikes, I’m older once again!

I worry yet that naught I’ve grown:
I have no family of my own,
I’m breaking every social rule,
And darn it all, I’m still in school!

So here I sit, bemoan my fate,
So many milestones, come too late
I should have been done years ago,
Instead I’m lost and rather slow.

I don’t know what I want to do
Once formal learning’s finally through,
Uncertainty cuts like a knife,
I’m not sure what to make of life.

***

Oh no, you say, and have no fear,
You needn’t agree with all you hear,
False expectations of a crowd
Who compare and judge … and talk too loud.

Why believe the things they say?
There’s nothing wrong with you, anyway.
Why hurry to fulfill a role
That’s not imprinted on your soul?

***

To heed such wise advice, I should,
If only I could claim some good.
Has come from all those years unfurled,
But I’ve changed nothing in this world.

Try to understand my gloom.
I rarely venture from my room,
And when I do, it’s such a mess,
A misadventure full of stress.

The trouble still remains for me,
That I take too long since I can’t see.
I’ve no accomplishment at which to point
My life appears so out of joint.

Or so say my friends who can’t disguise,
The fear in pity in their eyes.
How did I go oh so astray,
How could I have turned out this way?

They remind me I’m a Stanford grad,
And should not have it half this bad.
“Where’s the house, the job, the date?”
Protest my friends? “You’ll be too late!”

***

I’d question friendship of that kind,
I’d tell them so if I’d half the mind
But they’re not the ones who trouble me:
I care too much for you, you see?

Why listen to such knotted lies
They’ll seal your place with gilded ties
Just leave those should haves on the shelf
You are the author of yourself.

Too many values and ways to be,
Don’t foster authenticity.
So many making this mistake,
Turn from the chance to live awake.

Good enough, it can’t be bought,
Or given out as you’ve been taught.
Living well takes skill and art,
It’s not in tick marks on a chart.

Your worth is with you when you’re born,
So there is nothing here to mourn.
You are always where you need to be,
And share your light so brilliantly.