Big things and small things

I look down at my hands, and see
I’m holding the wand of disappearance
I know I’ve wielded it
because everything seems to be gone
but I can’t quite remember
why

I did a weird thing this year. I broke up with my partner of 12 years. I’ve never done anything like that before. It was a big deal. It shook my life to the core. And I find myself in strange terrain – a place that, frankly, sometimes terrifies me with its emptiness.

It’s an emptiness that I asked for, that I sought and fiercely claimed. And now that I have it, I’m – not quite sure what I’m doing here.

(And in the space, feelings arise.)

Trees at the side of a lake

I’ve been told (by Marc David and others) that when one is going through big life transitions – it’s ok to simplify; it might in fact be necessary to let go of a lot of activity. I’ve recalled this advice often as I attempt to navigate this time. Because just processing what’s happening, internally recalibrating to how every every every aspect of life is different now, that takes a lot of energy – energy I’m mostly not even conscious of spending. Then there’s feeling all the emotions: the intense swing dance of lightness and grief, grief and lightness, then swapping partners to do a turn with fear, with excitement, with frustration, with happiness, with anger, with depression, with freedom, with plain old sadness. There’s the struggle with self doubt: this too takes life force, meeting and battling and surrendering and falling and rising up again to face with compassion the old, old, OLD story that my motivations are not to be trusted, or that I’m simply a failure.

Oh, self criticism, self doubt, that bitter couple – and their bothersome neighbor, the Fear of Missing Out (aka, to some, FOMO). This is one of the big places where I always used to punish myself, the gasoline to the spark of jealousy I carried so insistently as a younger person. Fear that I would miss the rich experiences of human interaction that were the main point of life, either because of some unfairness that should be resented and fought against, or more often, because I was simply inadequate to the task of creating them: “Why do I have to be such a loser?”

I’ve worked on this a lot. And mostly I don’t get sucked into this sewer-drain in my day to day life. But you know what can trigger it (I’ve discovered)? Breaking up with someone and seeing them launch instantly into exciting and successful new creative and business projects. Visiting friends whose lives look (sometimes, from the outside) like constant international adventure and shiny metropolitan coolness.

And me being like – gosh – all I really want to do is look at trees. Touch them, sit under them, learn their names and anatomy, breathe oxygen directly as it’s exhaled from their leaves. Lie on the ground beneath them and nap between dirt and sun. Roll over and read a book, or (if I’m feeling really energetic) jot a verse.

Yep. That’s basically all I want to do right now.

And I relentlessly ask myself, is that enough? Can it possibly be enough? Surely everyone in my life will decide I’m an uninteresting nobody, and will move on with their big, important things, and I’ll be sitting alone crying in my twin bed.

Can it be enough? This time of seeking refuge in forests, and clearing old leaves from the garden, and writing tiny poems in pencil?

Maybe what I’m really asking is, can I do this and still be loved? Or maybe even clearer – can I be valued? Can I be a worthwhile addition other people’s lives?

Even if I’m not in three choirs and two boards and spending every evening going to classes and leading Dances of Universal Peace and attending retreats and volunteering with the homeless and rallying for politicians and… you know, all the stuff I normally do?

Because I can’t really, right now. And I hear one voice in one ear saying, throw yourself into service and growth! It’s the way to forget your selfish troubles and find real happiness!

But my body says No.

It says it so loudly and clearly that I cannot force it to say otherwise.

And funny thing: it said “No.” in that very same, resounding, irrefutable tone when I was asking, isn’t it (surely it’s) time for me to buckle down and work really hard, again, on trying to make this marriage a place where I can be happy?

My body said No. so strongly, I knew it was the truth. And I did what it told me. And I felt better.

So maybe I’m in a period of No.

And maybe I’ll lose friends, community, opportunities. Maybe I’ll fall like a stone in a giant lake, my little ripple vanishing in seconds as big important waves continue their unflappable business of going places. Maybe I’ll come out of this time and find I need to start all over, building a life from scratch, because I’ve alienated everyone with my vanishing act.

And maybe it will still be ok, even if all that happens. Maybe I’ll emerge from this night with some piece of self knowledge that can’t be gotten any other way. Or maybe I’ll just be rested. And hungry. And ready.

For whatever’s next.

Wooden bridge and autumn leaves

11 thoughts on “Big things and small things

  1. Those body-deep nos can be trusted. Your trees can be trusted. It’s enough right now to rest. Those who love you will still love you when they see you again. It’s enough. Love you!

  2. This is very beautifully expressed. Thank you so much for sharing your process. It is one that I deeply understand. When we first moved to Colorado and I took 2 years off from teaching, I went through so many of the same questions. Those years were largely spent listening to trees and rushing water, resting, not relentlessly pushing myself, listening to and honoring my fears and resistance rather than instantly overriding them, integrating all of the traumas that had piled up during my hectic transition from Minnesota to Missouri (losing my dad and my partner of 10 years, leaving communities that I considered family, and watching my former self disappear into maleness as I flushed my hard won academic career). It was such an important time for me because I deeply had to know am I loved and valued because of WHO I AM or because of WHAT I DO. And the only way I could know that for sure was to do nothing. To let myself be ordinary. To say I am enough and, even if I never do anything else important in my life, this is enough. For me it was a major step in my healing from the academic mindset, letting go of the ways I had been previously motivated by fear

  3. I love you. And you are definitely enough. I’m glad you are listening to your own heart and spirit. I am your friend through thick and thin. I believe in you. ❤

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