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Winter Returning January 6, 2014

Filed under: Balance,Gratitude — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 3:12 pm
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The sun is out today in my quiet little mountain town. Snow covers every sign of life and the trees have tucked in for their winter sleep. I haven’t seen grass in the backyard for months now and the river behind our house fluctuates between a slow trickle and solid ice, depending on the amount of consecutive days of sunshine that makes its way into our little valley here. A pot of water sits on top of the cast iron stove, heating and humidifying our little mining house that I’m fairly certain hasn’t seen any new insulation since it was built in 1904. We’re piling up snow faster than it can melt, making the view out the back door something reminiscent of living in a snow cave. It’s cold here. And it’s winter. It’s winter in all the ways that winter is beautiful and also hard. It’s quiet here tucked away in the mountains, with little to distract me from the darkness and even less to remind me of the life that lingers beneath all that white. The fall here was epically beautiful, the Aspens showing off around every corner, inspiring my own contemplation on the celebration of death and what it looks like to leave this world with grace and beauty. But, in the midst of winter, I now understand now the importance of that final burst. And something tells me that when the Aspens wake up from their slumber, I will be just as surprised and awed by their vibrant life as I was by their death. They will return to quaking and shimmering with the backdrop of the infinitely blue sky that Colorado is so good at.

 

And so in this quiet, I find myself contemplating what I have long believed about what it means to grow and evolve. I have this tendency to believe that the signifier of evolution is to get over something, to move past it, to be done with it, and to let it go. But this quiet winter is inviting me to entertain the possibility that perhaps the measure of living and growing is not in fact out-growing. Maybe the end goal is not to try to get to a point where we don’t need our resources, but rather to be present to the way in which those things do in fact feed us and nurture us and fuel us, and to be grateful for their existence. And maybe what feels cold and empty is, in its own way, a resource. We weren’t made to go this alone, so perhaps there is company even in the quiet of winter. What if progress is simply allowing what those resources look like to be current? I may out-grow a particular jacket, but as long as winter keeps coming around, I will never out-grow the need for a jacket. I will always need something to keep me warm, even if that something keeps changing to be more aligned with where I currently am in my life. The fundamental need for warmth is always there.

 

I believe it’s not a step backward to return to those places again and again, those places you thought you’d out-grown, you thought you’d moved past, you thought you were done with. I think it is the endlessly cyclical nature of our existence to return, to re-engage.

 

Those security blankets that we so desperately want to believe we’ve out-grown, that we aspire to out-grow because that signifies “progress,” what if those security blankets are actually our way of navigating this world? What if instead of being a crutch to be out-grown, they are instead a place that we can come to rest, to take care, to refill?

 

I posted just 2 or 3 blog entries in 2013, finding myself more deeply entrenched in this next phase of my life that involves more doing and less reflecting. And yet, as the depth of winter calls at my heart and I find myself spending more hours in darkness, I also feel myself turning back to the space of reflecting, cycling back towards this place of contemplation and connecting to a more core part of my being. It’s never truly linear, this existence, and I find that every time I convince myself it is, I just wind up back somewhere I thought I’d left behind.

 

This time last year was full of endings and new beginnings. I was leaving behind so much, named and unnameable, and I had myself convinced that to leave meant to never really return. But that’s not true, not really.

 

Maybe every time we return, we step in to that space a little deeper, a little closer to core, a little bit more sure of all that we don’t know and yet all that we know we need. Because sometimes we need to walk away. Sometimes we need to try it all on, see what works, see what still needs work, see where we can rest, and see what drives us forward. And then we come back to the drawing board, pick up that familiar pencil, consult an old friend, sit on that worn down rock and watch the ocean dance at our feet, and remember those things that feed our soul. And rest there for a while, letting ourselves be nourished and nurtured and refueled before we begin our cycle again.

 

We are not weak to need our security blankets. Perhaps, in truth, we are stronger for it, because we recognize that which fuels us and keeps us going. And perhaps, learning to allow for support is the greatest signifier of growth. Letting those friend’s couches hold us, and those hours long phone calls recharge us, and those old familiar faces seeing us in ways we need to be seen. We may walk away from those, but the truth of it is, it is only because of the strength in that support that we are able to take the steps away from it. And so, in returning perhaps we are more able to recognize that strength and find more solace in those places that hold us – not down, but up.

 

I planted bulbs in late September before our first big snow fall. I know they are there under the ground, insulated by the feet of snow over their heads. They’re just waiting for their time to return. Because everything does, always, in some way or another. The earth revolves around the sun, offering up both the quiet of winter and the vibrance of summer. And through it all we evolve in our own revolutions around the axis of our core, returning and moving away and returning again.

 

 

 

 

Another Trip Around the Sun December 24, 2012

Filed under: Balance,Gratitude — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 10:38 pm
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Christmas is upon us again and this year I find myself reflecting on something new I’ve discovered about why I love this time of year. It’s not the presents (we stopped doing that in my family years ago), and it’s not just the music and lights and feasting. It’s not even the quality family time (although truthfully, that’s a big part of it these days). What I love so dearly about this time of year are those moments of quiet reflection on this trip around the sun that we have collectively taken. Christmas is a time for a collective check-in. What has happened since the last year? Where are we now? Who are we with? Because inevitably, as it does every year, things have changed. Certainly we have traditions. In my family this involves some sort of walk on the beach on Christmas morning  (often regardless of the weather) and toasting with a glass of Port to absent friends at dinner, and my mom grumbling at my side at church about the deviation from the King James Bible translation (the newer ones lack the poetry of the King James). These are all constants that I have come to expect and they are comforting in their nature. The steady posts as the rest of the year unfolds and we watch and experience the multitude of transitions and transformations that take place throughout the year. And then, once again, we circle around the sun and back to each other and we mark off another year, another place to settle and reflect on where we have been and where we are now. And to be grateful for that. Certainly there is much to be grateful for, even the sorrow. There have been deaths and births, weddings, completions, movement, and new life. There have been lessons on letting go and lessons on forgiveness, lessons on kindness and lessons on unimaginable hurt. And so today, I offer up to you, take a moment whatever you’re doing, however you’re spending this day (whether you celebrate Christmas or not), and let’s have a collective check-in. Where are you now?

I think in the wake of tragedy, I am finding myself feeling more deeply the gratitude I have for opportunities in my life, to live this life. Opportunities to be with my family, to play games with my nephew, to share a quite moment with my parents, and to walk on the beach with my siblings. Opportunities to love and offer light and support to those I love, opportunities to watch new little beings grow, opportunities to be welcomed home by my sweet dog, opportunities to explore and deepen into love and companionship with my lover, opportunities to do what I’m doing and be who I’m being in the world, and opportunities to continue to evolve.  And yes, that gratitude is not necessarily new this year. But my connection to all of these things has changed in this last trip around the sun because life has continued on, as it always seems to do. In the ever-evolving nature of this existence, we are given the chance over and over again to change how we see ourselves and how we see the world. These chances present themselves to us in the form of tragedy and pain and celebration and birth. This means that I get a chance to allow for my gratitude to evolve and change – to let in parts of these things that before could only linger at the surface, to deepen in to my connection to this life I am living and the people I am sharing it with.

And so again I ask, even if everything around you looks the same as it always has, where are you now? And even if those places feel dark, can you find some gratitude for the time we have all had traversing through the days together in this last year and an openness to the possibilities of what lies ahead?

Merry Christmas and so much light and love to you all!

 

Giving Thanks: Letting go and Letting it in. November 21, 2012

Filed under: Balance,Gratitude — Reflections Integrative Therapy @ 4:40 pm
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Every Thanksgiving that I can remember from birth-17 years old were spent in York Harbor, ME at my grandmother’s house with various family members in attendance, learning how to make gravy from the Turkey juice, sitting at the kid’s table, feeding the food I didn’t want to the giant goldfish in my grandmother’s winter fish tank. My first Thanksgiving not in this familiar setting was just after I turned 18, I sat on a beach on the coast of Kenya, 8 hours into my 24-hour solo experience, slicing into a fresh Mango at sunset. And in the years to come, after that deeply reflective, profoundly different holiday experience, I have found myself at tables with strangers, foreign tongues, new holiday traditions, old familiar family, newly created family, lovers, loneliness, warmth, abundance, non-tradition, and constant evolution. In the past 12 years, I have actually spent this holiday differently each year. As a lover of tradition and a creature of habit, this is kind of bizarre.

There’s a feeling of melancholy that this time of year holds for me. And despite my greatest efforts to the contrary, I find that it has arrived again this year. But, this year, unlike in the past where I’ve either resisted or swam in the melancholy, I am just watching it. I am seeing that in many ways this feeling is a pattern. It’s a place that’s familiar for me to go. It is the cliff outside my grandmother’s old home on the coast of Maine. It’s that perch that I know every crevasse of and can sit and listen to the ocean and it’s like I’ve never left.

But, the thing is, I have left. I have learned. I have uncovered the ability within myself to be with something without identifying with it. Without being it. And in that, I am beginning to shed the ties that those patterns have kept me tethered with.

There’s always been a strong sense of loneliness, of displacement, entangled with this melancholy. And frankly, some years that has been totally justified. There were a few rough years there with my ex, full of loneliness and bracing for her drunken outrages. And there was sometimes the sense of being an orphan, feeling disconnected from my family and without a safe, loving community. But in the past few years, a shift has taken place. And I’ve been participating in it without fully opening my awareness and consciousness to it, to the ways it is different and nourishing. So, here in this coffee shop, miles away from friends and family, immersing myself in a new family, exploring traditions crafted by others, I am beginning to let sink in a new way of being with patterns. And in that, I’m allowing for gratitude for what is, in this moment. And so in the tradition of Thanksgiving, I offer up a pie slice of what I am grateful for today, that I can actually allow sink and that I know is there beneath whatever emotions are churning on the surface.

My family. I am grateful that even though I am not with them right now, I want to be. My friends, for the years that we spent together (and probably will continue to in different manifestations) crafting a version of this holiday that finally made it resonate with my soul. My lover’s family who have opened their doors to me, welcoming me into their traditions. My love, herself, for sharing in this adventure of opening and deepening and revealing and loving in a way that feels nurturing and unconditional to a degree I never believed possible. Solitude. I am grateful that I can take this time for myself, to be tender with myself, to reflect and release and honor all that arises for me at this time, and move through it into something new. The tenderness to allow for old patterns and beliefs to die away, making room for something new. To take the cynicism I have long held around this holiday and transmute it into gratitude for what is in this moment. I am grateful for family, those we’re born into and those we create and the sometimes-vast differences between them.

Gratitude for what we’re all learning here, the processes we are engaged in, the healing and growth we are moving through together, the tender places in our hearts we are learning to let others see, the opening that we are allowing for and the practice of remaining in that openness for a split second beyond what feels comfortable, to allow a little more light into the darkness, a little more compassion for the raw places in all of us.

And today in particular, I am grateful for my grandmother, for the family and traditions that she created. I am grateful that even though I wandered some years, I always knew that there was a place for me at her Thanksgiving table, a glass of ginger ale by my plate.

 

Letting go…or how I ended my summer vacation. September 20, 2011

“To live in this world you must be able to do three things: to love what is mortal; to hold it against your bones knowing your own life depends on it; and when the time comes to let it go, to let it go.”  –  Mary Oliver

This oft-quoted passage from Mary Oliver has been in my head a lot lately as the practice of loving and letting go has been a constant work these days. I’ve been finding myself saying good-bye an awful lot lately. But, loving and letting go shows up in so many different forms that it felt appropriate, on the eve of the end of summer, to ruminate for a while on holding on and letting go.

Summer is waning, the days are growing shorter and the morning chill lasts a little longer than in weeks past. Stock is taken of the summer’s activities, what goals were accomplished, what projects completed, what trips taken and adventures had. And with one eye on that, I turn the other to the coming months of vibrant colors, cooler days and more of an inward twist.

How do you face the change of seasons? Is there a grieving process, do you mourn the days no longer? Is there excitement about the newness that the upcoming season will hold? Do you have a ritual to say good-bye and welcome in the new?

And, because this is where I’ve been these days, I can’t help but turn those three tasks inward. I think this applies both to our interactions with others and our surrounding environment, and also to how we interact with ourselves. There are parts of myself that I have loved. Held against my bones as if my very life depended on them. And yet. And yet. Something about this time is calling to me to let them go. Let go of these parts of myself that I know and love and understand and find as comforting as an old flannel shirt. Because that shirt has a lot of holes in it these days and frankly, it doesn’t really fit anymore, one too many dryer cycles. So the time has come to let go. Easier said than done, believe you me. But life has a funny way of helping you along in doing hard things that need to be done. And by “help” I mean, it will find a way of forcing you to do it, even if you don’t want to.

I look at this, too, with bodywork, and the difficulty in changing a holding pattern. The ways that patterns that we’ve adopted are familiar and comforting because they were what we did to manage our experience, they were how we coped. In some way, our life depended on those patterns. And yet. And yet. Now, the experience that we were managing has passed (and if it hasn’t, you have full permission to hang out in your pattern!) and so perhaps it’s time to let it go.

And the inevitable, and perhaps more straight forward realm that Mary Oliver was speaking to (listen, I like to read into things, ok?), letting go of those we love. But to start with, loving those we love. Loving others, holding them close, sharing hearts and lives and adventures. And then, when the time comes to let them go, to let them go.

For me, there is a fear of the void. The space after letting go, before the newness has moved in. And perhaps this is where the seasons can help. The transitional time means some days of shorts and sweatshirts and others pants and flip-flops. Brilliant late afternoon sunshine and warmth, and chilly mornings. In essence transition, neither here nor there, you get to enjoy a little bit of both on any given day. And there is play in that space in between, movement even. A fluidity that allows for deliberate behavior; a consciousness about the coming days. In this time we can give ourselves permission to grieve, to mourn the loss of what is no longer, see the ways in which it impacted our lives and offer it gratitude.

Perhaps it seems so easy to do because I’m just really excited about fall. It’s my favorite season, in part because here in Colorado you get all the beauty and sunshine of summer, without the stifling, soul-sucking heat. August nearly fried me. And fall signals my birthday and I get 5-year-old excited about that. So, while I was a little saddened that it was dusk when I left my office at 7 tonight, I’m delighted to feel a crispness in the air when I open my door to take Lucy for a walk in the morning. And my home is certainly quieter without the constant hum of ceiling fans.

So, yes, there is a lot in this transitory time about letting go. But what about the joy of experience? The ways we celebrated summer? The brilliance of our body’s coping strategies? The beauty in how we’ve known ourselves and the experience of self-discovery? And the wonder in loving others, opening our hearts to friends and lovers and family and giving love wholeheartedly? What an amazing thing to be capable of!

So, as a more specific directive to tag onto Mary Oliver’s, I suggest that in the letting go we also offer gratitude to those parts of ourselves that nurtured us at some point in our lives, to the ways the season held us, to the gifts and lessons and love another brought into our lives, and let them go, knowing that we are forever changed because of them.

 

 
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