Browsed by
Category: Personal Essays

Collective Sadness

Collective Sadness

 

“When I despair, I remember that all through history the way of truth and love have always won. There have been tyrants and murderers, and for a time, they can seem invincible, but in the end, they always fall. Think of it–always.”
Mahatma Gandhi

 

The past week has been energetically erratic with currents of unrest rolling through my veins. Most due to current happenings in the world, leaving an aftertaste of helplessness over outcome. I would be remiss not to consider some of this uncomfortable energy may be due to the universal changes going on. If you are one that follows the stars, you are aware of how unique and critical the alignments are right now. Interesting times to be sure.

 

Utilizing all the many anxiety diffusing techniques I have acquired, the water in my veins still moves with tides of emotion, eroding away ever modicum of calm one can muster. When all remedies fail, I am left sitting with my anxiety, facing down one another like two jousters before a match. This proverbial stare down is never appetizing, and I remind myself a part of living this flawed human experience is facing shadows and coming to some sort of peaceful accord.

 

I appreciate my ability to sense energy. It has helped me navigate my professional world which can be a minefield of erratic energy at any given time. The problem becomes how to turn this off when people are walking in a state of arrested sadness, putting on a mask showing how OKAY they are. The truth being far less presentable. I see you!

 

“Tears are words that need to be written.”
Paulo Coelho

 

As in many times in the past, in order to allow my tired sensory system to rest, I find solace in other people’s words. Poetry is an escape for me, a window into someone else’s soul. Reading poetry allows space to let go of my story and embrace another. What better way to shake off the doldrums of current events then to be inspired by past spiritual leaders and mystics who in their own suffering left beautiful words as if clouds to take flight on.

 

My recommendation? Turn off the news, stop reading the endless politics on Facebook and dive into the calm waters of another. While floating in this deep blue, release all that lingers and is not meant for you. After spending some time floating, you will be able to breathe freely without the restraint of prickly emotional sensors. 

 

Finding this state of calm is often followed by a flood of tears. A collective sadness running down my cheeks and staining my pillow. I pay no mind to this flood, it is a welcome old friend. These tears of sadness cleanse my spirit. Do not be afraid of this discomfort. Instead, lean into the shadows and learn from what you see. Is there a better way to navigate the challenges in your life? If so, now is the time to jump.

 

 

 

Excavation of the Heart

Excavation of the Heart

 

 

The difficult work of walking back to my authentic self has been on my mind quite a bit lately. Much of my life up until now has been focused on building, while trying to find my place in this world. During my morning walk, it occurred to me that life is not really a building process but rather, an excavation. We spend so much of our time living a lie, hiding who we are and afraid to show all of our presumed flaws. At some point, this deception reaches a boiling point and the truth begins to bubble up to the surface. I suspect this often happens midlife when the flames of disappointment increase our internal emotional temperature.

 

It is only at this point, when a pot is ready to boil over after suffering through the heated elements of one’s life, when the work begins. Excavation of the heart is a tumultuous process filled with copious amounts of reflection and examination. This excavation reminds of a large construction vehicle that swoops in and scoops out all of the festering emotional baggage from decades of repression, thereby setting it free. Once the log jam has been cleared, this energetic conduit is now open, and the flow of energy cannot be stopped.

 

This is where I found myself this morning. My excavation of the heart has been in progress for some time and emotions secured in the depths of my psyche are no longer tethered. They tumble out of me like a river with no way to stop the flow. All evidenced by a tearful moment at the dentist earlier this week. I could not stop the tears from flowing due to bleeding gums from an autoimmune flare. I apologized profusely to my dentist who has walked with me through the landmine of illness. Thankfully she was gentle and gave me a hug, just what I needed.

 

Now, up the hillside across from our campsite, I felt a rising from within. I prayed out to my guardians, specifically my grandmothers for support, guidance and love. The tears poured out, not like a river but an ocean as loud and powerful as the shores below the hillside. Standing on the overlook it surprised me how much I still have to excavate and what no longer needs to be hiding beneath layer after layer of shame

 

At the forefront of this feeling came the realization of how liberating writing words and setting them free can be. Not only free from self-imposed tethers, but free from the judgment of others who will read these words and cast blame and display profound disappointment.

 

Many know my story by reading this blog and seeing through the veiled metaphors chosen to describe painful life experiences. There is no metaphor for what I share today. Preyed upon by a predator who had a long history of relationships with very young woman/teens, my marriage was filled with little love and copious amounts of criticism, blame, manipulation and sexual abuse. My two beautiful children were my reason to get up in the morning and looking back, it is heartening how we all survived such a traumatic experience 

 

What has rested heavily on my shoulders, contrary to what the politics of the day sells in the media, is an experience from over 15 years ago that I share with you now. Trying desperately to hold on to a broken and unhealthy relationship while looking for a way out, I found myself pregnant once again. My love of children is so deeply felt, this position felt very emotionally precarious. Excavating further, my health was delicate during this time. My husband had been unfaithful for almost a decade and this, along with his constant manipulation, had me tied up in knots. The one thing I knew to be true was an indisputable fact. I could not bring another child into this unhealthy situation. 

 

So, I walked past the picket lines and found myself in the doctor’s office waiting for the termination of my pregnancy. My ex-husband drove me there, but did not come in. I still remember the sights, smells and sounds of that day. It is a PTSD of the worst sort. During the procedure, I cried and felt as if my insides were being scraped raw. The wound was felt so deeply, my heart was broken into pieces, shattered just like my hopes for something better. The worst of this was returning to work feeling completely undone and not able to share with anyone what I had been through. The isolation turned my world gray for so many years. Each year I counted back to figure out how old the child would have been and silently sent a prayer to the heavens, thankful they were spared my misery on Earth.

 

In my heart, I was at peace with my decision. Certain I would not have been capable of parenting a new child in such a dysfunctional family unit, my gratitude for the option of this procedure was heartfelt. Unfortunately, this secret has weighed heavily on me for far too long. Knowing the abuse I was subject to in my marriage, it is truly a miracle to find myself loved, safe and relatively unscathed. 

 

Many of you will move to the space of judgement in reading this and it is up to me to free myself from your unsolicited opinions. My excavation has unearthed a strength unknown to me in the past. Being sensitive and an empath, I walk this world feeling all the pain around me and am no longer willing to apologize for my own emotions. We each have our own work to do and it is not my responsibility to walk others to the river of acceptance and love. They must take their own journey and excavate their own dirt of denial and falsehoods. 

 

After having prayed to my guardians this morning, they did not disappoint.  At the end of the path, I looked up and saw a large seagull hanging on the air just above my head. In the sky next to this beautiful creature was the morning moon slipping toward the west as the sunlight streamed over the hillside from the east. In a gesture of togetherness, the bird seemingly floated in the air right above, holding my gaze. Then in one graceful and powerful movement, the bird flew in a large circle around me. At this moment, I knew grandma was with me. She had embraced me in a circle of love, acceptance and grace. Taking in a deep breath, my soul absorbed this private display of unconditional love. 

 

I leave you with this. If you have been holding on to something for the better part of your life and believe those around you are better off not knowing at the expense of your spiritual, physical and mental health, set if free. It will make some very uncomfortable, but this is not for you to worry about. Excavation is a one-person job and no one else can do the work for you or them. Untethering myself from these remaining bits of emotional turmoil allows me to be a better mother, daughter, sister and partner. To this end, finding another soul who has also done much personal excavation work is a wonder. My loving finance tends to me with patience and a full acceptance of all I am and all I hope to be. We have collided in the eye of our emotional hurricanes and have chosen to cling to one another in the tranquility of this center while the storm rages on.

 

We are survivors and I am so very proud of the world we are co-creating. During this season of renewal with the winter solstice upon us, set free all that tethers you to a version of yourself you no longer recognize. Set free and walk unencumbered into your authentic self, embracing the entire journey from beginning to end. Sending you all my love and light.

 

 

I Choose You!

I Choose You!

 

 

The past month has been quite the roller coaster requiring me to pull from deep wells of patience and resilience. Becoming camp hosts on the beach, adjusting to a new drive to work, living in the RV again, horrible fires, the strongest Santa Ana’s I have ever felt and minor damage to our home on wheels from this weather. Dylan and I are happy but exhausted.

 

Fatigue aside, Dylan had gifted me tickets to the Sara Bareilles concert for my birthday. Come hell or high water and Dylan’s persistent fever from a shingles vaccination, we were going to make it to the concert. A night out seemed like a good idea to step away from all that had been weighing on us.

 

Well… we are both still on a high from an evening that left me crying on and off for the past few days. Tears of happiness and tears of recognition for all the wonderful synchronicity in life. I cannot say why, but I am moved to write a letter to Sara thanking her for sharing her gift with a world moving far too quickly to stop and appreciate our connectivity. Sara has earned a place in my village that consists of a number of other strong, honest and loving women who have gently encouraged and escorted me through this evolution. Here is my letter to you Sara and a video of another ethereal moment at the concert.

(My favorite part is Dylan at the end!)

 

Dear Sara,

 

As the woman who got engaged at your Hollywood Bowl show, I offer my deepest apology for the ruckus the proposal caused. Dylan and I never expected our moment to become interactive but were pleasantly surprised by all the support and well wishes, especially from you! As card carrying members of AARP, we must seem like an unlikely couple to be finding such a meaningful love at this stage in our life. Well, find it we did and in the most glorious of ways!

 

Some back story might help explain why Dylan choose your concert for his proposal. Your music has been woven into the tapestry of my life in ways that are difficult to articulate. When going through a horrible divorce, your album Kaleidoscope Heart was my saving grace. Listening to the songs over and over walked me through crippling sadness and into the loving light of authentic self after suffering years of emotional abuse. Your music empowered me to believe I could return to school, earn a Master’s degree and become financially independent. Thereby creating a way to extricate myself from a painful and toxic relationship.

 

Finally on my feet once again, it was not long before the next shoe dropped and I was diagnosed with Multiple Sclerosis. This was a very dark time shaded with lingering emotions from a wounded heart. Every time I had an MRI of my brain and spine, the technician would ask what music I wanted to listen to in order to drown out the magnets of the machine and the anxiety of what they might find. The answer was always Sara Bareilles.  Having moved through divorced, debt and now disease, your music once again sustained me.

 

Five years after my divorce my daughter, seeing me paralyzed by my relationship fears, encouraged me to sign up for online dating. In fact, she signed me up and was swiping potential candidates before I could even protest. After many first and last dates and resigned to spending my remaining years alone, doing puzzles and reading my beloved books, I meet Dylan Mattina.

 

He too had his own personal story of grief and one that echoed mine. Infidelity is a bitter pill to swallow and can leave one in pieces, unable to trust again. Dylan helped gather all the broken pieces of my heart and lovingly began to put them back together.  As if conjured by magic and the age old dance between the sun and moon, we slowly began to open up to one another, sharing our pain and setting it free.

 

 Dylan is the most gentle-hearted and loving person I have ever known and he understands and accepts my need to be introspective and quite at times. My constant undercurrents of melancholy do not seem to bother him rather, they intrigue him.  It was only after meeting Dylan in the most serendipitous of ways,  that I returned to my lifelong passion of writing poetry. During my divorce I had blogged, creating a space to muse as if my own personal diary. Doubting anyone would read my posts and not really caring, I decided what mattered most was putting words to the many emotions bubbling inside.

 

A tea kettle about to blow, I could no longer hold in my feelings and now believe that by doing so all those years, I created a catalyst for sickness. Writing allowed release from the self-inflicted chains of self doubt. A desire to fly freely once more was growing, just as I had as a young girl . This unfolding was a pathway to meeting my soul for the first time and this pathway was illuminated with your songs.

 

Dylan understands what your music and writing means to me and picked this most precious moment to express his eternal love for me. To find love at this stage in our lives is truly a gift and one that we do not take lightly. Looking back, we both were wandering this crazy world, alone and in pain, waiting for our paths to collide in the most spectacular of ways. We never really understood the enormity of this combustion and how special it would be until now.

 

Please accept this book as a token of my appreciation for your artistry and vulnerability each time you share yourself with the world. Somehow, I think you will understand the words more than most. You are an angel sent from above and I am incredibly thankful for you.

 

All my best,

Lavinia

I do not know if she will ever read this, but as a believer in putting things out into the universe, I hope she can feel the love and appreciation I have for her as an artist. Thank you Sara, many times over, for being apart of our special moment even if inadvertently. Dylan and I are feeling the love!

 

What is Intelligence?

What is Intelligence?

 

Of late, I have been completely consumed with the idea of intelligence leading me down the murky path of curious discovery. Always an above average student, one would believe I had a handle on this concept. On the contrary, bouts of low self-esteem and social anxiety left me afraid to take risks, challenge others in debate or share personal philosophies. It has only been through writing that I have discovered hidden strength and allowed parts of myself to be seen. To this point one of my favorite authors, Parker Palmer, states,

 

As teenagers and young adults, we learned that self-knowledge counts for little on the road to workplace success. What counts is the “objective” knowledge that empowers us to manipulate the world. Ethics, taught in this context, becomes one more arm’s-length study of great thinkers and their thoughts, one more exercise in data collection that fails to inform our hearts.

 

What speaks to me is Palmers use of the word manipulate. We often choose to show up each day as society expects us to and with the information required for each interaction. In my field we call this data driven decision making. In doing so we hide our authentic self and shield our hearts while navigating a professional life. We gladly put on errs and dish out facts and figures to support positions, forgetting the points we argue remain eternally elusive. Intelligence of the heart gently reminds, it is better to be kind than to be right. Parker speaks further with,

 

Not knowing who or what we are dealing with and feeling unsafe, we hunker down in a psychological foxhole and withhold the investment of our energy, commitment, and gifts… The perceived incongruity of inner and outer-the inauthenticity that we sense in others, or they in us-constantly undermines our morale, our relationships, and our capacity for good work.

 

I have felt this inauthenticity in both myself and those in my workplace. If I am not showing up as myself, trying my hardest to be as others wish me to be, am I not doing a disservice to everyone? If I had to define true knowledge, I would have to say universal intelligence fits the bill. It is a knowing that no matter how much we think we know, it is never as vast as the great unknown. The divine light in each of us, no matter how we name it, holds this universal knowledge and tries desperately to show us the smallest of sparks during our lifetime.

 

What we name it matters little to me, since the origins, nature, and destiny of call-it-what-you-will are forever hidden from us, and no one can credibly claim to know its true name. But that we name it matters a great deal. For “it” is the objective, ontological reality of selfhood that keeps us from reducing ourselves, or each other, to biological mechanisms, psychological projections, sociological constructs, or raw material to be manufactured into whatever society needs — diminishments of our humanity that constantly threaten the quality of our lives.

 

My writing is a playground for self-examination, self-reflection and philosophical interplay. I debate with myself as I write and the outcome is never predestined. I flirt with new ideas and old tales of wisdom, never really settling into one frame but rather enjoying the entire picture, even the odd brushstrokes and frayed edges. The universe is such a creative space and the joy I feel when floating in this galactic sea of creativity is unmatched by any measure of intelligence we know of.

 

I have no name for this other but know it is with me and is relentless in providing learning opportunities for my soul. Sometimes I fail miserably while other times I shine brightly, soaking in the love of a perceived success. It is only with this duality that we learn, grow and come home to ourselves. The journey can be frustrating, but maybe this is the only way to truly earn our intelligence wings.

 

Why I Write

Why I Write

 

The written word and I have always had a close relationship. As a young child I wrote short stories and enjoyed the escape other characters and worlds allowed. Poetry spoke to me as well, specifically the darker tone of Edgar Allan Poe. Reading the Raven in middle school was life changing. Until that point, I didn’t known that others felt so intensely, flirting with complex emotions. Writing provided a safe space to explore these feelings beyond my dreams and internal dialogue.

 

As an adult, I struggled with all of the things that one experiences in the real world. Relationships, finances, parenting, career, the list goes on. The words on the page became my counselor, my salvation. Only in this medium did it feel completely safe to express how I was feeling. Just putting thoughts on paper brought instant relief from whatever was troubling me. Putting words to my jumbled mess of feelings somehow made for a softer landing.

 

There is no greater agony than bearing an untold story inside you.

Maya Angelou

 

In early adulthood, I went through what can only be described as a constriction of self. I put down the pen, embarrassed by what I saw on paper. Overcome with emotions and with no creative outlet, I became closed off thinking I could stop the onslaught of feeling and effectively mute the voices that had been my guide and comfort for so many years.

 

I wish I would have known that living in a manner that is counter to self never ends well. Self will come torpedoing back in the most uncomfortable of ways. Faced with my own darkness and unable to deny my imperfections, I was brought to my knees. From this low point, the only way I could see the light was by the pen. I took to writing in a bedside journal and creative energy came rushing back. The words danced on the page as if taunting me to follow along.

 

“We write to taste life twice, in the moment and in retrospect.”

― Anais Nin

 

 

Today, after many years of this practice, I still hear the same words when faced with uncertainty. I hear a very clear voice saying “Lavinia, just write.”  I know in some small way what I write matters. It gives voice to all the many things I cannot, exhibiting much more bravery than my actual voice alone. Yes, I dream of the day when I can write as often as spirit allows, but life has a way of walking down the path in its own time. Patience is a necessity.

 

In the meantime, I will continue to commit all that lingers to paper. Just as a stone must continue down the hill to conclusion, so too must I until this crazy life journey ends. Writing is not a conscience choice but a part of who I am. Self-doubt and criticism no longer matter.  I write because I must.

 

 

 

Time

Time

 

Time is too slow for those that wait,

Too swift for those that fear,

Too long for those that grieve,

Too short for those who rejoice,

But for those who love, time is Eternity.

Henry Van Dyke

1852-1933

We are all only here for a fixed amount of time, life is a terminal condition and the question is not if this journey will end but when. To a person such as myself, this is a comfort rather than a fear. I have always known that I am not from this place. Never one to feel any sense of unease with the unknown of the thereafter, I chose to embrace this other with hope and joy.

 

Each day I look at my body with curiosity as it begins to make this aged transition. My hands, wrinkled and worn from years of work. My face a canvas the shows brush strokes of both sadness and joy. My legs, more tentative and careful with a slower pace. Everything is in reverse now. I catch myself forgetting the title of a book, the name of a street or the ingredients for a favorite recipe. I witness it all and know that this part of my journey has just begun. I call on the Divine for grace, guidance and strength when feeling overwhelmed.  With each new reckoning I continue to shine a light toward home.

 

“The world’s thy ship and not thy home.”

St. Therese of Lisieux

 

The poem by Henry Van Dyke speaks to a curious fascination with time, specifically death. We are energetic beings and as such will persist even after biological death. Whether you believe in an afterlife or not, one cannot deny that the moment of passing is one of unimaginable transformation. No amount of worldly success can be called upon to make this transition. We venture into eternity alone, taking with us only the love and connections we have shared with others.

 

Believing that the soul is eternal can be reassuring for anyone struggling with the peculiarities and challenges of life. Energy never ceases, it simply changes form. I choose to hold in my heart a knowing of a time when all the hustle and bustle of the day will stop. The constant worldly distractions, to do lists and commitments will be replaced with a restful and glorious peace. Silence will prevail and all will become clear. This knowing is enough, it must be.

 

Nothing Speaks

Nothing Speaks

 

Lips pressed so tightly sealed, eyelids close as emotion yields

Everything slowing to a crawl, vision narrowing down the eternal hall

Wanting to run but legs remain, stuck in quicksand from the rain

Face to face with a godly mirror, reflecting ideas falsely clear

 

Suddenly now I feel the growl, a voice stifled and becoming foul

Rising up from the darkest place, around my throat with fingers laced

Willing any sound to be heard, trying to shout like a morning bird

Crumbling apart and thought as weak, no matter the effort nothing speaks

 

-Lavinia Busch

 

How does one find their voice after many years of holding back, willing it to silence because of insecurity or scrutiny? I have made my fair share of mistakes learning how to speak up over the years. It is very difficult finding the right tone when freeing an idea that has been wanting so desperately to emerge. Often, the result is a harsh exclamation…not a good look.

 

When I wrote the poem “Nothing Speaks” my mind was in deep consideration of this contradiction. When a voice has been silent for an extended period of time, it is unbelievably difficult to change course and exercise a willing openness. The give and take of daily conversation can set off all sorts of alarms. “Is it safe to say what I know to be true?” or “Will people think less of me?”  The self-doubt never ceases, and the easiest road is to just keep silent.

 

It takes great courage to finally speak up, especially for one like myself that prefers to keep most thoughts tightly held. In my rush to seize the moment and speak to an issue I am passionate about, sometimes the words tumble out more assertively than I would like.

 

In general, my goal is to find the balance between not speaking, as in the poem, and sharing my thoughts openly. Some days I am better at it than others. I have learned that as in all things, balance in conversation is a muscle that must be exercised.

 

 

 

Nothing Remains

Nothing Remains

 

Nothing Remains

 

Pictures drifting as before, when frailty roamed with an audible roar

Apparitions lifeless and complete, in precious memories so very sweet

Blink and the fragile forms will change, faces and stories all appearing strange

Set your watch and shed your chains, at long last nothing remains

 

-Lavinia Busch 2019

 

Having just returned to work after a six month sabbatical, I am caught in a fog of “work stuff”. As a librarian in higher education, I have the wonderful opportunity to work with young adults excited about learning and exploring new ideas. By the same token, the culture of busyness and the hierarchical structures of university life have left me conflicted.

 

What I am left with is the idea of impermanence and contribution. Well aware of the fragile nature of life, it is striking how much energy is expended doing things that have nothing to do with permanence. Pepper this with what can be real injustices in the world, and I find myself constantly thinking about an elusive other way forward.

 

“Anyone who has lost something they thought was theirs forever finally comes to realise that nothing really belongs to them.”

― Paulo Coelho

 

As a person attempting to let go of all that weighs heavily, what remains clear is that the practice of minimalism is not just about stuff. Minimalism is what we allow into our lives and what we set free to move along on the rivers of fate. Nothing remains static; no problem, institution, relationship, river or mountain. Everything is in a constant state of change. Stepping away from my workplace for six months really demonstrated this concept for me.

 

When I am gone, my work contribution will remain as if an echo bouncing off the walls of a vast and empty hallway as new voices, ideas and leadership step forth. What then is really important to me? How should I be spending my precious life energy?

 

The answer I always return to is family and writing. Both are extremely important to me and deserving of my very best. Through my family, I leave a bit of myself in all that I do. My children may not grasp the value of this work, but I am convinced my job is only to plant the seeds of hope and inspiration. They must tend their own soil and allow unique flowers to bloom.

By writing, I contribute my voice, my heart, in a format that will far outlast my physical body. It would be lovely if in 100 years, someone picked up one of my poems and felt unfamiliar emotions after reading. To me this would epitomize life energy well spent.

 

“No man ever steps in the same river twice, for it’s not the same river and he’s not the same man.”

― Heraclitus

 

Remembering that nothing remains is also a comfort during times of unease. Everything that confounds me about this life will pass. The discomfort of this physical body, awkward relationships and the many mind numbing tasks that make up a day. In the future, the world will no longer be as I see it now.  A new landscape will emerge as the cycle of life returns and repeats.  Taking this in, my desire to spend more time doing what speaks to my heart is pressing. We must all ask ourselves, if these were our last days on earth, what would we do with the time remaining?

 

 

We All Have Unique Contributions to Make

We All Have Unique Contributions to Make

 

Desiderata

Go placidly amid the noise and haste,

and remember what peace there may be in silence.

As far as possible without surrender

be on good terms with all persons.

Speak your truth quietly and clearly;

and listen to others,

even the dull and the ignorant;

they too have their story.

Avoid loud and aggressive persons,

they are vexations to the spirit.

If you compare yourself with others,

you may become vain and bitter;

for always there will be greater and lesser persons than yourself.

Enjoy your achievements as well as your plans.

Keep interested in your own career, however humble;

it is a real possession in the changing fortunes of time.

Exercise caution in your business affairs;

for the world is full of trickery.

But let this not blind you to what virtue there is;

many persons strive for high ideals;

and everywhere life is full of heroism.

Be yourself.

Especially, do not feign affection.

Neither be cynical about love;

for in the face of all aridity and disenchantment

it is as perennial as the grass.

Take kindly the counsel of the years,

gracefully surrendering the things of youth.

Nurture strength of spirit to shield you in sudden misfortune.

But do not distress yourself with dark imaginings.

Many fears are born of fatigue and loneliness.

Beyond a wholesome discipline,

be gentle with yourself.

You are a child of the universe,

no less than the trees and the stars;

you have a right to be here.

And whether or not it is clear to you,

no doubt the universe is unfolding as it should.

Therefore be at peace with God,

whatever you conceive Him to be,

and whatever your labors and aspirations,

in the noisy confusion of life keep peace with your soul.

With all its sham, drudgery, and broken dreams,

it is still a beautiful world.

Be cheerful.

Strive to be happy.

Max Ehrmann, Desiderata, Copyright 1952.

 

Desiderata has been a favorite of mine for many years, so much so that I have a copy hanging in my office. Returning to his words, on this New Year’s Day, I am struck by the relevance standing on the threshold of the new filled with unlimited mystery.

 

Not a fan of resolutions, my exploration of the nuances of life is forever ongoing. Thinking on this topic, I am left with the understated importance of unique service. What do I have to offer this world by showing up as authentically as I can? What is my unique contribution?

 

This contribution may quite possibly have nothing to do with a role or title but rather a value, or character trait. Stay with me here for a moment. Living in a goal-oriented society, service often circles around career, family or community involvement. While these are all commendable vehicles to affect change, they are simply the vehicle, not the mechanism.

 

“We need people in our lives with whom we can be as open as possible. To have real conversations with people may seem like such a simple, obvious suggestion, but it involves courage and risk.” -Thomas Moore

 

As a fairly private person, I have the unusual habit of showing up as I believe the environment calls for. My true character is never on display but rather put forward in pieces as if living my life a la carte. Strange I know, but this has been the way I have navigated the treacherous social constructs of my life…until now.

 

It has become clear to me that one of my potential contributions is specific to human nature. I enjoy talking to others, reading their energy and trying to figure out why they are who they are. This microscope on interpersonal relationships has become, over time, my “mothership” or home base.

 

“Many of us have made our world so familiar that we do not see it anymore. An interesting question to ask yourself at night is, What did I really see this day?”

― John O’Donohue, Anam Cara

 

Up until the present, this has also been my dirty little secret. When talking with someone, the busy beehive of my brain is analyzing, questioning and insatiably curious. The pretense for the meeting makes little difference, I am much more interested in understanding the participants human nature. It also makes no difference what emotion is exposed. I see anger, sadness and loneliness as well as kindness, love and joy. Each emotion fills in the blank page of the other, similar to an amazing novel you just can not put down. People are so beautifully complex.

 

My continued commitment is to honor what I see. Whether it be in my workplace or home, I must believe what others share even if it was meant to be quietly withheld. This information allows me to be the best caretaker in ways that may be foreign to some. Having the ability to hold the sadness of others is an incredibly humbling responsibility, especially when sadness is expressed as anger or criticism. It takes every bit of strength to see this sadness and be gentle.

 

My hope is to find more opportunities to practice this gentle patience amid a world lead by harsh judgments, born from some of the darkest of emotions. I hope to be able to see the genesis for these emotions and be a source of light, a different way forward. Maybe in this way, I will learn more about myself and act upon what is discovered.

 

 

Hearing My Voice

Hearing My Voice

 

 

“Being true to that self involves sifting through the layers of bad advice and unreasonable expectations of others. It requires seeing through your own delusions of grandeur or your fear of failure or your impostor syndrome or your conviction that there is something uniquely and obviously screwed up about your particular self.”

― Elizabeth Lesser, Marrow: A Love Story

 

As one with a personality that thrives in the grey, speaking a strong opinion sounds foreign and unwelcoming. Ask me my opinion on any sensitive issue and you may leave the conversation never knowing my true view. By design, I hold strong beliefs close. Debating the merits of moral and ethical ideals is in no way appealing to me. My beliefs may shift over time and are framed by personal experience, representative only of self and not the whole.

 

This may also be why my writing has taken a turn towards prose rather than essays.  I enjoy the metaphor in poetry and how words can mean a multitude of things depending on the readers experience. I can now speak to a much larger audience and find a renewed freedom in the metaphorical imagery of poetry. Each new piece is brought to life by evoking personal emotions with little control over the end result. I grab my laptop and start writing as if consumed by what are sometimes dark and uncensored thoughts. It is an exposure in the deepest sense and one that leaves me completely spent.

 

Should it be me, that others see.

Could I possibly be the one,

who holds center stage, alone in a cage

fearful yet outspoken.

 

Should I project, all for effect

A false and misfitting equation

Or should I be, completely me

Rejecting all misleading notions.

-Lavinia Busch

 

 

After writing, I often let the poem sit for some time before returning to read and edit. This is when the awful “imposter syndrome” rages. Looking at otherwise private emotions is a humbling venture. I wonder what in the world was I thinking and how could it be of any importance to others. Slamming my laptop shut, I walk away from my words, my heart, time and time again. Self doubt is so very insidious.

 

Having repeated this over and over, it is clear that writing is a radical act of bravery. Inherently, I understand publishing intimate thoughts, requires a letting go of obsession with “the other”. I must write for me and only me. It sounds selfish, but the only way in which my unique voice can be heard. By releasing the focus on approval, I am free to take risks, explore uncharted emotional territory and dive as deeply as words allow.

 

Ultimately, there is only one of me in this grand universe and my singular voice matters. Similarly, the collective voice of humanity also has something to teach, whether it be frightening or inspirational. It is up to each individual how they wish to interpret words, imagery and creative thought. How freeing to know we each have choice in this way.