Knocked Down, But Not For Long

beach 2You, my friend, have been knocked down by a giant wave, a hard and cold one that stole much, but you can start moving again. I know this, even if it’s only a crawl for now, and the second you begin, you will feel stronger and more optimistic. You’ve only temporarily forgotten that it’s okay to take risks, but you have, deep within, a healer that remembers. Moving and tasting new experiences aren’t things we ever forget how to do, not fully. Trying and failing is in our genes; it’s how we learn everything.

And while sitting on the shoreline taking stock and getting your bearings for a while serves a purpose, there is no point in thinking too long and hard about which single action will be safest and most sure to fix that something you desperately want fixed. We find our way and strength again by roving, tasting, trying, and failing. There is no other way to make it to the burial ground we need to find, no other way to gather the ingredients we’ll need to nourish a new plot of soil in which to grow new dreams.

What we sometimes temporarily forget is this: trying new things doesn’t have to translate into a permanent new hobby. Creative work doesn’t have to be marketable to be therapeutic. Work doesn’t have to come with a big paycheck to be meaningful and valuable. Courses don’t have to lead to certification to be beneficial. Meeting new people doesn’t have to replace old friends. Movement doesn’t have to be pain-free to bring strength. All of these however, enrich and expand life. There is joy and strength to be found in a million things, even in the face of great loss.

There’s a reason they get us out of bed quickly after surgery: despite the accompanying pain, it gets blood and energy flowing again. Neither psychic nor physical muscle can develop the strength it needs to withstand the next wave while we lie there with the old injury.

So cry, yes, but don’t forget to keep moving. Swim in some really great music. Sing along or dance if you can. Create something. Hold a baby. Cook, write, paint, plant some seeds. Play a game. Watch things that make you laugh. Meditate. Go for a walk or to a yoga class. Love somebody. Lose yourself in a great story. Volunteer to help someone. Try something completely new. Take the first step toward something, anything. Feel your pain, but don’t spend too much thinking about the how and why, just embrace it, and begin moving. All of these actions have at various times in the past effectively brought me back to health and balance. They will work for you too.

Anything and everything that can bring us out of our heads—out of the past and regret, out of the future and magical thinking—and rather into the present, is of inestimable value. Being present to the moment involves seeing, noticing, listening, paying close attention to things outside our heads. The color of another’s eyes, the fatigue in her voice, the changes in the room, the air, the crowd, what tastes good right now, what gives us energy, all of it. It involves paying close attention to what is, both that for which we’re grateful, and that which we need to mourn. Gratitude and mourning are not, by the way, mutually exclusive. Both are the antidote to fear.

We have, since the advent of pharmaceutical medicine, been conditioned to believe in magic bullet fixes for all that ails us, but there are no quick fixes for real healing, only the hard work of acceptance and remaining present to all of life. Nor are healing and strength and joy something we arrive at permanently. There’s always another wave, and balance is fluid, and requires muscle.

So stay at the shoreline for a short while, yes, but begin to ask yourself what small thing you can do today that will nurture and fortify you right now for the tasks of laying to rest dreams that have died, and of cultivating soil that will grow new ones. And then move, even if it’s only a couple of inches. It is, after all, spring.

Come, Sit and Chat for a Moment

Good morning, all you lovelies, it’s me here today, just me, straight up, to answer the question I am (perhaps in response to some dark kinds of posts recently?) being asked a lot lately—are you okay? My answer is yes, I am, most definitely.

Yes, even though some of those dark posts were about me, or at least partially about me. And yes, even though I have a million tiny shards of something running through my veins today, thanks to my lovely and strong and fearless massage therapist, who yesterday broke up and dislodged the giant slabs of concrete at home in my deepest muscles. And yes, even though, for me, alone often feels lonely, which is unpleasant. And yes, even though having danced with my mortality didn’t exactly leave me, as it does some, nothing but hap-hap-happy and grateful to be here. And yes even though I have this winter, at the urging of some brightly shining wise women and in defiance of our culture of positivity, been spending some significant time visiting the desert, collecting my own bones, listening for that new song that might more fully flesh them out again.

The desert’s barrenness may not be terribly inviting at first glance, true. Visiting may initially induce feelings of panic, as we gain awareness of just how many of the old dreams lie there buried in the sand. The desert may well deliver on its promise of devastating truth. But despite the dark cold nights, it is vast with potential, and filled with the brightest light, and tiny and resilient life. Its unique intensity, away from the busy and anesthetized mundane we mostly live in, can enrich in the most surprising ways. It can give us ears to hear the humming of the universe again, that vibration that sustains our breath and being and stokes the fire within.

Anesthetizing has its place, true. Reality can be intensely uncomfortable, heartbreaking even. But wading in from time to time can yield new muscle, inspiration, action that involves a little less spinning of our wheels. I have been hanging out here in hopes of scurrying for cover a little less, more fully finding my stride again.

Not that I’d want to go to these arid places of black cold nights entirely on my own. Finding the sage willing to walk alongside for a period of time, and the healer in possession of hands and eyes that see beneath the surface of the skin is essential. These amazing human beings, vibrating with essence and energy gleaned from their own sojourn in the desert, will, if we can avoid from running from their bright light and power, impart a portion of it to us. For this I am always deeply thankful.

So again, I’m fine, truly. The life I’m finding here, though perhaps less visible and smaller and quieter than that of the jungle—initially hardly even perceptible—is tiny and vibrantly strong, humming with just the intensity my bones need.

This will resonate with some of you, not at all with others, either of which is completely fine. I am, literally at the moment, having a cup of tea, and should you feel so inclined, would love to hear from those of you for whom it strikes a chord of recognition.

Essence

You’ve been knocked down, she told me, but you’re still you. The dragon has left its mark, altered you. You look different, you feel different, you think differently. Your strength has faltered. You have nearly been felled, and your light shines more dimly.

But you are still you at your core, and your light will shine brilliantly again. This is your task now: uncover your essence. Follow your bliss. Allow it to lead you, to blow at your back. Breathe it in, and allow it to fan the embers and burn away the residual darkness in a grand display of fireworks.

I’ve been trying, I tell her.

Ride on our wings for a while; we’ll help you, she tells me.

Thank you, you enchantress, you lovely conduit of healing words and hope, you queen of magical and exotic-sounding medicines. I will drink your elixir and do as you say.