“…The Courage to Start All Over Again”

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For the past two weeks, I’ve been tackling a lifetime of family photos. There are picture puddles all over my living room floor and stacks on and around my dining room table. There are albums that I’ve started and others that are yet to be decided upon. This is truly an intense immersion and not for the faint of heart. It invokes time travel and then grounding back into present time.

These photos commemorate a thirty-year marriage that finally ended in a divorce. They take me through all the stages of my two daughters’ growth–the birthdays, holidays, graduations, sports, scouts, family gatherings, siblings, the feasts I prepared…and then, the remembrance of the dearly beloved departures. These moments in time preserved in photos. And when I see them, I remember the stories that surrounded them. The mother-in-law who held tightly onto her son, my husband and her jealousy that seeped into our relationship. The father-in-law who always had to assert his macho superiority. The ex-husband who danced between his anger and sentimentality. The adorable daughters discovering themselves and the world. My dear siblings, there were nine of us, and our highly dysfunctional parents. And photos of me, young, pretty, naïve , trying to find my way through the chaos of the past and the then present.

There are times that I’m judgmental of myself–were there things that I could have done differently? Were there choices I could have made that would have improved the quality of my life and those closest to me? Yes, there are some regrets. But didn’t I do the best that I could with what I knew? I see how I can fall headfirst into that Pandora’s box of photos and spiral down with that undertow of regret. And then, don’t forget the generational trauma that has been added to the mix. Truly, there’s always that which is bigger than the small picture frame through which I’m viewing my life. There’s always a vaster landscape. I’m not alone on this wild journey. We all have our boxes and albums of family photos, and today there are the digital ones.

It seems like human frailty, vulnerability, happenstance and more are part of the whole. They are right beside courage, victory, endurance, determination, love. In life we co-exist with everything both inside of us and outside of us. There’s so much we don’t know about the soul’s journey. So much.

Recently, I listened to an interview with a young woman who had lots of struggles in her early life. She had been full of self-blame and there was early trauma involved. It touched me when I heard her say that she had cultivated a way of sending a beam of love to those hurting places within herself. Beaming love to those memories, losses and old trauma. I think that’s a good practice.

With all of that said and all that goes unsaid, I turn to the words of F. Scott Fitzgerald.
“I hope you live a life you’re proud of, and if you’re not, I hope you have the courage to start all over again.” And I want to add, bring reverence to your whole experience, make it sacred.

Fake It Until You Make It?

Have you experienced anything like this?

A couple of months ago, I attended an art opening.  I wasn’t feeling great.  Regardless, I wanted to attend this opening of two Native American artists, brothers.  One is a painter, the other a sculptor of animals.  I had been studying the mythologies of wise women archetypes, the energies that they represent.  This evening, I asked myself how did I want to presence myself.  I decided to stand taller than I felt.  I envisioned embodying the archetypes of the guardian, the alchemist and the priestess.

When I entered the gallery, one of the brothers approached me immediately and said “Haven’t we met before?” I answered, “No, I don’t think so.” A little while later, his sister approached me and asked the same question, “Haven’t we met before?” Again, “No, I don’t think so.” I told her that her brother had asked the same thing…somehow, I seemed  familiar to them.  Then, a third woman came up to me and repeated the same exact words!

This experience caused me to wonder about how we occupy ourselves.  I am timid.  I didn’t feel good.  Yet, when I called on the archetypes within, I was recognizable to others.  It was interesting to observe this and powerful too.  Yes, I did feel better by having invoked these archetypes which are within me…and you.  And it was reflected back to me by the responses from others.  

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An Aside
This art show was about caretaking the earth. The Native American culture has an ethic of earth preservation. This is illustrated in their art and stories. And in their ceremony, dance and song. The show was called “Reverence.”  I had an interesting conversation with the sister of the artists.  She collects rocks that reveal messages to her. One night she was instructed to go and find a stone. It was dark, mountain lions could be around. She followed the instructions, drove to a certain spot.  Even with her flashlight, she couldn’t find anything.  She got back in the car and was going to go home.  She was instructed to get out of the car once again. She obeyed and realized she was standing on a stone that was partially embedded in the earth. She pulled it free and brought it home. The next morning, she discovered three images in the stone.

Her story makes me wonder how well I listen to the instructions that come to me.