eleventhbeatnik

musings of an aquarian age counterculturist


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Seeking the ‘Good’ in Goodbye: Part 3

Give sorrow words; the grief that does not speak
whispers the o’er-fraught heart and bids it break.
~William Shakespeare

photo credit: eleventhbeatnik

photo credit: eleventhbeatnik

Twenty years ago today, my father departed this world.

On August 2, 1994 I learned that my father had died in a car accident.

Sometimes it feels as though it all happened centuries ago.  Other times, like today, it seems like only moments have passed.

On August 3, 1994, I boarded a plane for Winnipeg to attend his funeral.  It was as though time had stopped.  My body was doing what it needed to do, getting me from point A to B.  My brain was in a spin.  I knew I had been informed that Dad had died but I was still reeling from the shock.  Nothing and no one around me made sense.  My heart had exploded with pain and no number of band-aids, well-meaning words or deeds, could plug up the wounds fast enough for me to process any of it.

Arriving at the airport in Winnipeg I was met by family.  I was in a daze as I descended the escalator to meet them.  The first two faces I saw were those of my mother and my aunt.  I dissolved into a shaking mess of tears before I ever reached them at the bottom.

The car ride from the airport to my parents’ home was endless.  Small talk was out of the question.  I asked straight out: “What happened?”.  Although I already had heard the basics, I needed to hear it again.  Perhaps in hearing more details I would get an answer to the unanswerable “why” or allow me to uncover a huge misunderstanding.  I still hoped to hear the words:  “mistaken identity”; to know that my father in fact was safe and well.  In reality, those words were never uttered.  Although from time to time I still hear them in my dreams.

Everything that transpired after my arrival was a cascading swirl of activity:  organizing funeral arrangements, answering phone calls, accepting sympathy visits, reading messages. All of which was deeply appreciated, but infinitely exhausting.

Through all the almost business-like making of arrangements, I held it together.  It was not until the day before the funeral that I absolutely lost it.  The emotional tide swept in and overtook every part of me, fast and furious.

The minister presiding over the funeral service paid a visit to our home.  He was genuinely kind and compassionate, but I was in no way ready to face the clergy.  Or a burial.  Or the finality of the death of my father.

My father never expressed the desire to be cremated so a traditional funeral and burial had been organized.  A “viewing” had been arranged for immediate family.  I adamantly refused to go.  There was no way in hell I was going to allow the final memory of my father’s face to be from a casket.

The minister was amazing with me and I’ll never forget it.  He said, “I understand your reasons for not wanting to go.  All I ask is that you remember that you have not had a chance to say your good-byes.  If nothing else, attending the viewing will help you accept your father’s passing and give you the opportunity to express yourself as you see fit in your farewell.”  It was enough to convince me.  Begrudgingly, I attended.  And to this day I’m grateful that I did.

Before the viewing, I wrote my father a letter and a poem.  I rolled it up scroll-style in my favourite photo of him and put it in the casket near his heart.  I recited words flowing from deep inside that I knew intellectually he could not hear.  And yet.  I felt he did.

The funeral service was held the following day.  I remember nothing about it except watching his coffin being lowered in the ground and my knees buckling at the sight.  When the funeral was over, I subsequently stayed with my mother and sister for a couple of weeks before I returned to Edmonton to start school.

It was a dark and painful time.  But I look back on it now with a certain degree of gratitude and some semblance of peace.  If nothing else, what that devastating experience did was revealed to me a strength I never knew I had.  More than that, a supportive and beautiful relationship with my sister was forged.  Because we went through something so difficult and transformative together, an amazing friendship was built between us that remains to this day.

Twenty years ago today, I lost my father.  And I withstood unimaginable pain.

Twenty years ago today, I lost my father.  And I truly understood what “forever” meant.

Twenty years ago today, I lost my father.  And I learned strength in adversity.

Twenty years ago today, I lost my father.  And a loving friendship with my sister was born.

Twenty years ago today, I lost my father.  And I came to understand that grief is fluid, not finite.

Twenty years ago today, I lost my father.  And I still miss him.

Twenty years ago today, I lost my father.

And I remember him with love.


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Welcome Back, Yoga

“There are two ways to change things:
Either you are forced to change or you have the intuition to change.”

Yogi Bhajan

Change.  Rumour has it this is inevitable, like death and taxes.

Agreed.

Over the past few months I have been navigating my way through change forced upon me.  It has been uncomfortable.  And unwanted.  And painful.  And sad.  And weird.  And lonely.  Yet sometimes surprisingly exciting.  Let’s just call it educational.

These past few days, I’ve felt a subtle but significant switch in focus from change thrust upon me to change I am now willingly catalyzing.  It feels precisely in tune with the idea that change is either forced or intuitively chosen.

After years of swimming in that pit known as what is “perceptually expected”, I am walking forward into the realm of that which is “personally desired”.  I am intuitively and resolutely moving away from the comfort zone that has been my day-to-day existence for far too long into an uncertain, scary, unknown abyss.  Interestingly, I am not experiencing intense fear so much as a sense of certainty that stepping into the unknown feels infinitely better than remaining trapped in the stagnant, dead zone of the familiar.

I have no idea what is coming next.  Who does?  All I can say is that I restarted sadhana this morning after a time away and it has been my experience that shit shifts big time whenever I’m regularly practising yoga and meditation.

Welcome back, yoga.  Bring it.

Photo by Jim Marshall during 1972 Rolling Stones tour

Photo by Jim Marshall during 1972 Rolling Stones tour


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The punchline? My ass.

Given the emotional upheaval of the past few months, I’ve lost a great deal of weight and as a result, I’ve been forced to engage in my least favorite activity  – clothes shopping.  In my world, this is on par with suffering through a root canal.  But my old pants were sliding down my hips, and despite my reluctance to buy anything while in transition,  I had to suck it up and pick up a couple of things.  The most significant item was a brand new pair of jeans purchased a few weeks ago, the likes of which I have not indulged dropping coin on in YEARS.

Basically, I bought the jeans because they fit, were on sale, and I was in a hurry.  Labels mean nothing to me, so I did not take note of what I was trying on or what I eventually bought.

Until today.

Let’s face it.  Sometimes the universe has a warped sense of humour.

And no, this is not an inside joke (seriously: see recent posts).  Even if it were:  the punchline will be located on my ass for the foreseeable future.

Bottom line?  Ha!  Literally. Fidelity remains an important theme in my life.

Fidelity

Photo credit: eleventhbeatnik

 


Ode to Halloween

Dear Halloween:

This thank you note is long overdue.

Yes, it is pretty much guaranteed that you will never read this (you are a cat); and in all likelihood you really don’t care (you are a cat).  A cool cat, but a cat nonetheless.  Clearly then, this is more for my benefit than yours.

You adopted me at an animal sanctuary in NY.   At the precise moment I needed sanctuary myself, you rescued me.  This, to me, is living poetry.

You wait for me at the door when I arrive home from work.  Dog lovers think they have the edge on this, but as you and I know, cats are capable of so much more than the stereotype reveals.  If, of course, said cat likes you.  Or feels like it.

You allow me to cry all over your fur when I’m upset.  When the tears dry, you graciously pretend not to notice that my face looks like a puffy cotton ball.

You reach up for a hug when I’ve been out of your sight for a little too long.

You vocalize your feelings.  Pleasure.  Displeasure.  Basically you are not afraid to demonstrate that you like the sound of your own voice.

You sleep on my feet on cool winter nights when it feels like I’ll never warm up.

You do not judge me when I become fat. Or depressed. Or hormonal.

You are a constant source of smiles and a consistent inspiration for love.  Even when the rest of my life feels like it has gone off the rails on the Express Train of Shit.

You are my anchor.

You are loyal.

You are a character.

You are family.

You are an angel in a catsuit.

You are the best.  I love you.

Halloween


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Spring Cleaning the Soul

I recently decided at the last minute to attend a yoga retreat in Northern California.  As it turns out, it was one of the better decisions I’ve made in quite some time.   It was truly a gift to myself.

The retreat center was located in the mountains in a gorgeous setting near Nevada City, California.  People came from all directions, from many different walks of life.  Our days were spent practising yoga, meditating, chanting, sharing divine vegetarian cuisine, and uncovering the mysteries of natural medicines through the sciences of aromatherapy and ayurveda.   Yep.  A hippie chick’s dream.

Spending time with so many other people on healing journeys brought home the idea that we are never really alone in our struggles.  Our stories may be different but our challenges and how we deal with them is often a common denominator of being human.

My heart was touched hearing how others were overcoming illness, loss, confusion and loneliness.  In that time and space we were connected to each other through compassion and caring and it was a beautiful thing.

There were a few people who I instantly connected with, and it feels as though we will stay in touch and remain in one another’s orbits for a while.  We shared great conversation, laughter and tears and I suspect we will see each other again in a similar setting in the not too distant future.  In my view, there really are no accidents.  We cross paths with certain people for a reason, and it is interesting to watch the lessons around such meetings unfold as the days pass.

This experience brought many emotions and thought patterns to the surface (as kundalini yoga frequently tends to do!) and it felt a lot like taking out the mental trash.  How wonderful to do it in a supportive environment where others totally get what’s going on because they are experiencing it too.

I will definitely be saving my pennies to embark on more journeys like this in the future.  Annual spring cleaning of the soul?  Sounds like a grand idea.

IMG_0432


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Giving up, Giving in

The past three months were an exhausting emotional roller coaster ride.  Despite chronic transition fatigue, lately I find myself feeling as though I’m waking up to the truth of the entire situation for the very first time.  This morning a strong and insistent voice in the back of my mind started saying:  “That’s it. Give up.  Surrender”.

What am I giving up?  Anger.  What am I surrendering to?  Acceptance.

It seems that I am finally beginning to understand that my futile wish to change an ending that has already happened is holding me hostage to hurt and despair.  The last chapter was finalized, printed and circulated without my input.  An opportunity for a do-over never existed.  At least not for me.

This basically leaves me facing the hurdle of acceptance.  Simple idea.  Complex process.  Surrendering frees up space for peace to grow; eventually overcoming the chaos churning inside.  Not easy, but a necessary part of grieving.  Doing so makes room for hope to blossom and healing to set in.

It seems fitting at this time that I am attending a yoga retreat in California.  What better way to give up, give in, surrender.  A path of outward transformation must begin within.

I’m curious to uncover the latest version of myself as I move on to the next chapter.  It feels really good to contemplate fresh pages of writing appearing in my book of life.  Authored by Me.

Om Shanti.

surrender


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Shelter in a Shitstorm

Ever notice that some of the most effing amazing epiphanies occur in the middle of chaos?  Yeah, me too.  While I could certainly do without the chaos, the epiphanies are pretty awesome.

Lately  it seems as though I am in a state of chronic confusion.  The phrase fits so well, I’ll say it again:  I am chronically confused.  Yes. I. Am.

Every area of my life where I once felt a sense of security, love and belonging disappeared along with the rug abruptly pulled out from under my feet.  Never saw it coming.  Does anyone?   I think we’ve all been there on one level or another.

Over the past month, I’ve been forced to face a lot of uncomfortable emotions and realizations.  Being off work recuperating from knee surgery in the middle of a major life transition has been both a blessing and a curse.  Blessing:  nowhere to run, nowhere to hide. Curse:  nowhere to run, nowhere to hide.

Counselling, a previously uncharted territory for me, is proving to be beyond helpful in the grieving process.   Having a safe space to say what I *really* feel; rather than pretending everything is okay for the sake of good manners is potent therapy in its own right.  And it is helping me let go.  I mean really LET GO of  any illusions of control; wishing to recreate the past, or hoping to predict the future.  There is no greater freedom than that.  In my mind, letting go represents genuine healing of the heart and soul.  Which goes way beyond the superficial big pharma prescription or avoidance technique.

Most interesting to me is the discovery of where a genuine safe haven exists in my life.  It does not come from other people, places or promises.

The saving grace I’ve uncovered in these pain riddled days?  Meditation.  The Inner Temple.  My meditation practise has become a healing sanctuary in the middle of a relentless shitstorm.

Don’t know where to find shelter?   Go within.

I highly recommend it.

shelter-in-the-storm