Sometimes a step back is a step forward, nothing is linear. This is a great lesson that I am learning on my memoir journey. I have written so much of what I remember about a particularly tumultuous era of my life, but somehow I always find myself back at the beginning, realizing a new thread of truth about my life’s meaning. From that thread, I want to reshape my perspectives according to the new priceless discoveries I have made. I am learning the true meaning of soul work and the fact that it is never done.
Soul work is an intense process, a sacred untangling of the neglected bones left behind in a fervent search to find Shangri-La, so that life will be easy, of course. I see my tendencies to rush finishing the book; I find my ego enjoying my cleverness, which adds more distraction. I have already done the book tour, sat on Oprah’s couch, and hugged my family over the success, and yet nothing is complete. This work I should not see as a future meal ticket, but instead a deep connection to understanding myself and why I am here. With each step I take I am connecting to a profound realization that I AM of Goddess mind, spirit, and body. That is more than any riches I could ever attain on the physical plane.
When Alison Nappi, my beloved writing coach and soul sister, was teaching me the ways and voices with which I could write my memoir, she said “You are the mystical feminine. That voice is seductive and it needs to be the strongest voice in your work.” I didn’t understand what she was saying because I was unwilling to look at the aspects of life that frightened me, the stuff of legend that made me what I am. I did not want to face my truth for fear that something gruesome was lurking, about to be unearthed and swallow me whole.
I met my weaker self: the self that was blinded by other people’s ideas and desires of me. I was way too ugly by my dad’s standards as well as my grandmother’s. I was tainted by relationship deaths in the loss of my youngest son to his father’s criminal level control, physical deaths of my mother to cancer, friends to suicide and murder, deaths of eras of my life from being a self-centered pretty young thing to becoming a mother and a nurturer, the death of dreams, the death of the day, even the death of seasons: I always get scared when the last leaf falls from the tree, as if I may never see the promise of springtime green again.
Sometimes my grief is just too much to bear.
This is why I never really saw myself as a goddess. Goddesses were sexy, beautiful and all powerful. They had the power to give life and take it away. They were worshipped and enjoyed adoration. I was completely unconscious of my power and my role in the outcomes of my life. I handed my power over to whoever could perform my life for me, be it a deity or a dead-end lover. I viewed the realities of suffering as punishments to keep hidden away.
Now, as my life is spread all over the floor of my psyche, my spirit says it is time to claim what I really am. All of my suffering has been an initiation for me to figure out who I am to me, my most sacred relationship, and what I have come to do. In the doing, my true identity is revealed and hidden and revealed again. I am a divine mosaic.
Sometimes standing in my power is so muggy, so heat inducing, so intense that I can barely stand its aridness and I thirst for the mundane. People want to be around me, I have to connect and be aware. Those things have been debilitating difficulties for me. Now, I am beginning to move past such notions but it is no less difficult, but the difference is that I believe in myself more. I expand and I contract knowing that sometimes a blanket is so much more welcoming to hide under than to take the risk of change and leap into the abyss of the unknown.
I am learning to reteach myself how to live after grief. I have to learn how to walk, talk, eat, see, feel, breathe and assimilate information again. I have rebuilt and torn down my heart many times over because I fear future loss. I don’t want to break the hearts of those who love me by dying, and I don’t want anyone I love to die leaving me behind in my bleakness again.
Seeing death as a masculine aspect of punishment with a scythe and bony finger extended from a dusty old cloak is not good for anyone. We cannot live unless we understand that death is a relationship, one of such deep intimacy that it is within us all the time, working with us, creating alongside us. It is teaching us by whispering in our ears during the night saying “Nothing is of value without me.” It brings us comfort when we can bear no more, holding our hands to the very end of the path. I did not grow up being taught this, but instead grew up knowing only that the wages of sin were death, followed by more death if you didn’t accept this religious fact and that mythic story.
I think this is why my family is so broken. They have given up on life’s majesty. From their vantage point, they have been punished for their fact of being. Their air was treacherous and tinged with enough poison so either spiritually or physically, they began dropping like flies with the most shallow of breaths.
Pain is transformative and death is a muse. It is everyone’s muse. We all suffer, but what keeps us from being devoured is a renewed perspective of our sufferings in both an individual and collective consciousness. I choose not to look away, but to stare directly at my struggles, breathe in the poison defiantly, so that I may die to live again. We can only be destroyed by our personal chambers of hell if we allow it to be so. The same can be said for the glory that we chase.
I believe that I will always be acclimating myself to a new normal. Connecting to and believing that each experience shapes my world and changes the gate of my stride is an addendum to understanding the beauty and importance of death. It is a death in and of itself; for I have killed the belief system that was strangling my life force. I am untangling, reshaping and adding flesh to the bones.
My greatest mistake was in thinking that my stride only comes from glory, praise and that my intuition, sassiness and sensuality was from the boons of life. No. That is not where I get my hip swivel and spiritual strength. It is in being utterly destroyed and not only living to tell about it, but admiring the beauty of all life that has come to be and has learned to thrive under the watchful keep of inevitability. It is in having a part of me taken away and connecting to the regenerative properties of body, mind and spirit. Life is not for the faint-hearted. Its glory is in being unafraid to see truth while wrapping the soul around its temperamental embrace and making love to the unknown.