A Response to Tragedy

The irony of me writing a post is that I have had trouble finding the words to describe my thoughts and feelings around this week’s tragedies. The same day, Wednesday, that there was a fatal shooting just a few blocks down from my house, Flight PS752 from Iran to Ukraine crashed. I don’t know how many of you have been following the news and stories surrounding the crash, but it is terrible, tragic and absolutely heartbreaking.

I am not one of the victim’s friends or family members, so I can only imagine the grief and heaviness those directly affected must be feeling over these events. A handful of the victims on Flight PS752 were students and academics here in Ottawa, and 63 in total were Canadians. Though I am not one to focus solely on nationality, as I think we are all connected across the globe. When one human suffers all of humanity suffers. Yet, there is something about feeling the nearness of people affected in your hometown and country.

I am not writing to put any of my opinions or views out there, but as a way for me to process it. Perhaps you too are in need of some form of outlet or space for things like this. I have been sick to my stomach for days over the news of these events, and have been asking myself, “How do I respond? Can I respond? Is there anything I can or ought to do?” 

I have learnt over the years that when I get that sick feeling in my stomach, my body is saying something to me. She is trying to get my attention in some way or another. So, I have tried to lean into that a bit this week and listen to what that might be.

If you have read any of my writing before, you will know I am a huge advocate and believer in Contemplation and Mindfulness as a vital part of life; especially if we hope to live full, meaningful, present and actively engaged lives. And so, those themes have trickled into my thoughts here.

I think we are called to respond to events like this in some form. I do think it is probably wise to not just consume copious amounts of news, and yet also not to turn a blind eye to it either. I think sometimes we fear hearing about tragedy so much that we pretend it is not existing at all. We fear how it will impact us, how it will impact our future and ultimately reinforces this belief that maybe the world isn’t a safe place after all. Like most things in life, there are two sides to the same coin, but I believe in a third way to engage with things like this. I suppose I believe in a third way for most things.

What if we didn’t turn away from the troublesomeness of this weeks events, or perhaps your own more personal “news”? What if we didn’t let it just bounce off of us and let everyone else deal with it or feel it? What if we decided to sit with it. What if we let our thoughts and emotions surface, our questions and fears bubble up? Perhaps you are thinking, “Yeah, well what do I do with all that though? Where do I put it?” This is where I think having a spiritual practice, a sacred space and community is crucial. We need spaces and practices that allow the subtle voice that whispers tales of a safe world, a kind world, a world where there is healing and forgiveness where there is shalom. Aren’t we desperate for that?

These things are too big for us. And yet, I do think they beckon us to recognize the interconnectedness among all of us. They call to us from the ashes and tears of our fellow brothers and sisters, to see our our oneness, and our togetherness amidst joy and tragedy. I think it is through letting these things affect us, letting them seep into our bones that we are invited into transformation. We are invited into greater capacities for empathy, hospitality, generosity, hope and kindness — ultimately, love.

I am not saying that we use events like this as a means to transform ourselves. Never do I wish these things to happen, ever. But I do think this is a call for us to wake up. To wake up to what is bigger than ourselves, to wake up to needs and grief of one another. I do believe, ultimately, that we are called to one another.

Dare I say that I think this inner transformation is part of the answer to most of our issues on both a personal and global scale? Yes, I do. And so, I invite you too to make space for moments like this. Of reflection, meditation, prayer, lament, a meal around a table with those you love, attend vigils, engage in conversation — however it looks to you. I think we are being called to and I believe it is on behalf of all human dignity and love that we must listen and respond.

 

 

 

Results from a Social Media Experiment

The thought came to me a number of weeks ago. Through various conversations, and hearing people’s ideas about social media, I was finally inspired enough to go for it and pitch the idea. It originally started just from a desire to experience life away from these platforms and to invite people along for the ride. Though I’m a Master’s student, currently doing my Master’s in Counselling, this didn’t have anything to do with my studies (I know some people wondered that). However, the data and results are something I couldn’t keep to myself, and so, I wanted to share with the community at large.

I know I’m not the first to take a “break” from social media, and certainly won’t be the last. Every time I have done this myself, it has been incredibly enlightening and refreshing. But, the idea of doing a communal “fast”, if you will, was a fascinating thought. I think many people are motivated to participate in something if they know their community or circle of friends are also signing up. It offers a sense of connectedness, accountability and camaraderie.

HOW IT WORKED:

Ironically, I invited people to participate by using social media! Through Facebook and Instagram, I asked people to participate in a week long experiment by taking a break from these two platforms. We began on Dec. 1st and ended on Dec. 8th. During this week, people were not to access either of these sites (aside from small businesses who depended on them for cliental and/or financial income). There were about 60 participants! I was so pleased with the response.

Before we began, I asked people to keep in mind three things as the week went on:

1. How you feel within yourself. What comes come up for you?

2. How do you experience your relationships?

3. How is your overall mental health and well-being? 

The results and feedback after the week was up was overwhelmingly insightful. I asked people to send me their thoughts and reflections so that I could share them, where they would remain anonymous, for the wider community to read. I asked people to share the positive, negative, and neutral aspects from their week in however many words they would like.

RESULTS & RESPONSES:

The general consensus at large was that this break from social media was “much needed” and extremely clarifying for most.

Below, are some quotes and reflections from those who participated in the experiment:

“I had way higher productivity.”

“I found myself contacting friends more during this week away from SM. I couldn’t see what they were up to, so I had to ask them. When you can’t see what your loved ones are up to, it stirs up your attachment emotions and initiates seeking drives to move you into making sure they’re alright. In other words, seeing my friends online all the time partially inhibits or dulls my ability to ‘miss them’!”

“I was so much more creative and present to my life.”

“I felt brain space opening up as the week progressed, without other people’s thoughts and activities to think about. I had a hard time when I had big feelings to deal with, as Instagram is my primary self soothing thing to turn to when I’m upset, and distracts me to calm down. I finished a whole book and started another in the week — I was pretty happy about that. I found myself a bit more present to my own life, and a bit more bored with it at times. I found that when I went back on on Sunday night I had some things confirmed: ‘There really isn’t anything new on there, on Instagram. I hadn’t missed anything important. And when using it, I found the same negative thoughts creeping in.”

“This was ultimately only liberating and freeing.”

“I was less frustrated with my kids, like a lot less. I felt less divided and more present. They were no longer an interruption to my ‘tune out everything going on around me’ moments. My capacity for relationship has been much greater. I feel more ready to engage in conversation and more eager to have people in my home. I’ve been more productive. The things I do on my phone have more value. I’m getting through books faster. I enjoy those small moments of downtime more. I feel more prayerful and more in tune with God and my own spirit.”

“I reached out to family and friends more. I made points of real contact and connection with people instead of scrolling and thinking I had a sense of what was happening in their lives.”

“Working and studying in the mental health field, I often ask myself, ‘Should I be following suit? Do therapists need to have an online presence?’ I am not a therapist yet, but hope to be soon. My feed is crowded with all their advice and reflections. Having time away from all that noise (although potentially helpful), a question came to me: ‘Do I need others to know/read my reflections? If so, why? Do I feel unheard?”

“I spent more time being with the people in front of me and had more time focused on my needs.”

“I’ll be deleting Facebook entirely and cleaning up my e-mail accounts. Basically, I’m going offline as much as possible. The people who love me can e-mail me, or phone me. I’m curating my life, not having it curated for me.”

“This week made me more keenly aware of how much I tend to reach for my phone when in-between moments come up. It made me aware of how much I felt on Instagram to stay in the loop on peoples lives in a very impersonal and disconnected way versus an intentional text, or phone call.”

“This break continued me in my trajectory towards mindfulness.” 

“When I was with others who were on it (SM), I didn’t really know what to do with myself. It made me feel self conscious at times, really. I would pick up my phone and do honestly nothing… Given that my family and friends live far away, I did really miss them more. I felt disconnected from what they were up to (even though they’re hardly posting!) I’m not sure how much of that was just perception.”

“I was less anxious. Had more time to do meaningful things. I was more present.”

MY FINAL THOUGHTS & CHANGES MOVING FORWARD 

The responses above are direct quotes from people who participated. As you can see, all of them who shared had an entirely positive affect. I didn’t receive any responses about how it affected anyone negatively, or even in a neutral way — and I did ask people for those insights if appropriate.

I am a firm believer that just cutting things out of our lives isn’t always the “answer”. However, having space from things like this gives us a chance to reflect on our relationship to the thing we are “abstaining from”. My hope for this experiment was for me, and those involved, to “re-think” our relationship with social media.

For me, I found myself more creative in a number of ways. I had so much more space within myself for people, for my assignments, for my spiritual practice and just enjoying the things in front of me. I had a deeper desire to connect with my family. I opted for more “Facetime” conversations with those far away. I felt so much more engaged in my life. More present, more calm, and more inspired. I also left my phone in other rooms way more often, and found there to be so much liberation in that.

I am convinced that MINDFULNESS is crucial here, as it is with everything in our lives. How can we be more mindful, and intentional with the ways in which we use social media? How can you?

Facebook was not really my addiction, but rather Instagram. I read up recently on one of the original employees, designers and creators of Instagram, Bailey Richardson, and how all but three, herself included, have left the company because it is not the same platform they first designed — “the sense of intimacy, artistry and discovery that defined early Instagram and led to its success has given way to a celebrity-driven marketplace that is engineered to sap users’ time and attention at the cost of their well-being.”

Moving forward, I have decided for the year 2020, to only use these platforms through my computer as much as possible. I have deleted the Apps from my phone and will use them via my laptop. Though the process is much slower, as I have a 2010 version of the Macbook Pro, and had to research how and if you can even upload photos via your computer anymore. This small decision has helped me to be so much more intentional with how I choose to use it, including much smaller fractions of time. I want to use Instagram to share my Blog primarily, and to limit the itch that pressures me to share so much. It is ridiculous really, how much I felt that pressure at times. So unnecessary and frankly, WHERE and from WHOM is that even coming from?!

A new year approaches, and it is my thirtieth year. As cliche as it may sound, it feels important for me to lay a foundation for this new decade. It feels exciting and empowering — to take more ownership over my life and to make the changes I want to make. To live the life I want!

I have been so inspired by the reflections and responses I received from all those who participated. It has been the fuel for me to cultivate greater spaces for freedom and vitality in my own life. I hope it has done the same for you.

 

 

 

 

 

From Presence to Wonder

December has begun, and many of us can already feel time quicken. The days spent travelling over the holidays approach, and we foresee the hours spent buying gifts and baking cookies until our hands are cramped – But, “just one more!” right?

I have been reflecting on the Advent season more this year, the weeks leading up to Christmas, or Epiphany in some traditions. Perhaps for some of you there is no religious affiliation, but maybe a sense of “anticipation”, a sense of hope or longing for all things visible and invisible.

As you think of the weeks ahead, I invite you to take notice of how you feel in your body. Does your breathing change? Do you have tightness in your chest? Do your stress levels increase? Or, is there an openness and spaciousness within you? I find myself asking, “Am I really going to be present this year?

I have been taking notice myself and I wonder – how often do I actually feel that sense of anticipation anymore? Where is the wonder in it all? Well, I don’t think it has truly left us, but I do think our pace of life has altered our ability to recognize it.

Growing up, the Christmas season was a magical one for me. It evoked this sense of wonder and curiosity in me as a child. From my belief in a big, jolly, generous old man dressed in red and white, to the Divine becoming human so that we could be met with true Presence. I was enchanted by it all. And this year, that longing for magic and wonder has resurfaced and I’m left to cultivate it, if I so choose.

I think, as we get older, we are tempted to let the more harsh realities of life dictate our sense of faith in wonderful things. Don’t get me wrong; there are certainly severe realities that cannot be ignored. But, when I reflect on that little girl from all those years ago and give her the space to be present in my life now, I am reminded of the courage she had. The courage she had to hope, and to marvel at the world in front of her.

More than ever, I am convinced that we need contemplative space and a sense of presence within us to cultivate this wonder. Contemplation is a fancy word for “thoughtfully gazing”. It is a posture of being reflective, slowing down and gazing at what “is”. It is waiting at the bus stop without your phone out, and observing the trees, watching the snowfall, and smelling the crisp air. It is sitting with your morning coffee, and well, just sitting. Feeling the warmth around your hands, and watching the steam dance up from your mug. It is becoming aware of your own presence in this world, aware of one another.

Amidst the hustle and frantic energy that can so often come with this season, isn’t there this deep longing within us, to just be? To enjoy the people closest to us, to experience the presence of something bigger than ourselves, to enjoy good food and drink and to truly be merry? I know I can feel it.

This is the invitation of the Advent season to us – Presence. And I don’t mean the kind we wrap and place under our trees – presents (though, those are in some ways extensions of what I mean). But I mean that real, earthy, flesh-like kind of presence. The kind you feel when you come home to your friends and family. When you come home to yourself. When you come home to the earth beneath your feet, and realize that all of this is gift.

How can you cultivate contemplative space this season, so that you may genuinely be present to your life and relationships?

May I suggest one thing… each day, wherever you find yourself sitting or standing, take a moment, or two, and just gaze. Gaze at your surroundings. Stare at the objects in front of you. Let yourself be bored. Let yourself be, however it is you are arriving this day.

This Advent season, may you awaken a little bit more to the wonder and Presence of all things.

This piece was featured on Convivium, you can read more here:

https://www.convivium.ca/voices/the-present-of-advent-s-presence/

Darkness.

This is a piece I wrote last year. It felt appropriate to share again as the winter months approach.

The days are getting shorter now, as autumn has fully emerged from the warm summer months. Darkness has subtly welcomed our mornings and taken more from our evening light. We wrap ourselves in layers of comfort, to ease the chill of these colder days. Naturally, I think, we take on a slower pace. We cannot anticipate the first snowfall, or the Southern Ontario ice storms. But somehow, we adjust to the rhythms of autumn and winter, to the darkness; to the cold.

Our bodies know that they need to keep warm. That they need a bit more light. They know that we may need to hibernate more than usual; and to walk gently through the world lest we slip. We go to bed earlier, and perhaps allow ourselves that extra bit of sleep in the morning. The physical world teaches us that darkness too has its time and place. Creation submits to the presence of the darker, colder months. Not only does it invite us, but somehow gently nudges us to accept it too. The resistance only seems to make us more miserable.

Truth be told, I am a lover of these darker months. Autumn and winter are my favourite seasons. They have a moodiness, and a melancholic spirit about them. Two things that aren’t foreign to me (sometimes I wish that weren’t the case). However, the seasons in our lives that are clouded by deep darkness, and despair, do not explicitly carry the same magic or anticipation that fall and winter do. They often hold in them much fear, anxiety, confusion and disorientation. And yet, this darkness too is a gift.

I am sure you each have had your fair share of darkness. Perhaps it has been cloaked in grief, loss, or mental health struggles. Perhaps it came from a wrong done to you, a move, a relationship conflict or ending, abuse, or a an unmet longing. Maybe you experienced it, or are currently experiencing it, but have no idea why. It just seems to be there, with no explanation or understanding of it. And you can feel it, almost viscerally.

I know you’ve heard it before, that there is hope within the cloud of despair. That “this too shall pass”. And as cliche as it is, it’s the truth. And maybe just something we all needed to be reminded of. Not only will it pass, but it will mark you, maybe even leave a scar on you, to remind you that you endured, and that grace held you through it. It will remind you, that you too can be, and hold hope for someone else, because you lived to tell the tale of it.

If I look back on my life, it is the times that were completely and utterly dark, that formed me most, and frankly, made me more kind. This is the gift of hindsight. When you are in it however, it feels like complete shit and as though joy will never return to you. But it does and it will.

I can’t tell you how your own box of darkness (as Mary Oliver writes) will shape your life. How, you too will look back on it with some sense of gratitude for the ways it taught you about grace, compassion, kindness, forgiveness and love. But it will. In its own mysterious way and timing, it will cultivate an empathy and spaciousness within you for others to sit, and just be, in the dark.

Just as we let our physical bodies be cared for in these months approaching, with warm baths, and soups, blankets and early nights in with a friend or a book; let yourself be cared for in the times of pain. Make self-care a priority, and don’t feel bad about it! And please, please let others care for you.

I will leave you with a poem by Mary Oliver that a friend gave to me not that long ago. Along with a poem that I often come back to in the more trying times. May these words leave you with a little more hope and light.

Heavy, by Mary Oliver

That time
I thought I could not
go any closer to grief
without dying

I went closer,
and I did not die.
Surely God
had His hand in this,

as well as friends.
Still, I was bent,
and my laughter,
as the poets said,

was nowhere to be found.
Then said my friend Daniel
(brave even among lions),
“It’s not the weight you carry

but how you carry it—
books, bricks, grief—
it’s all in the way
you embrace it, balance it, carry it

when you cannot, and would not,
put it down.”
So I went practicing.
Have you noticed?

Have you heard
the laughter
that comes, now and again,
out of my startled mouth?

How I linger
to admire, admire, admire
the things of this world
that are kind, and maybe

also troubled—
roses in the wind,
the sea geese on the steep waves,
a love
to which there is no reply?

Kindness, by Naomi Shihab Nye

Before you know what kindness really is
you must lose things,
feel the future dissolve in a moment
like salt in a weakened broth.
What you held in your hand,
what you counted and carefully saved,
all this must go so you know
how desolate the landscape can be
between the regions of kindness.
How you ride and ride
thinking the bus will never stop,
the passengers eating maize and chicken
will stare out the window forever.

Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,
you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho
lies dead by the side of the road.
You must see how this could be you,
how he too was someone
who journeyed through the night with plans
and the simple breath that kept him alive.

Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside,
you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.
You must wake up with sorrow.
You must speak to it till your voice
catches the thread of all sorrows
and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,
only kindness that ties your shoes
and sends you out into the day to mail letters and
purchase bread,
only kindness that raises its head
from the crowd of the world to say
it is I you have been looking for,
and then goes with you every where
like a shadow or a friend.

I have collaborated with the wonderful Staci Lee Kennelly in some of these writing projects.  Please check out her work here:

https://alifedeveloping.org and follow her on Instagram at stacileekennelly

Listening to Soul

The idea of “listening to your soul” can sound like some ethereal concept that is hard to grasp, or just fluffy language within the newest spiritual fad. It’s not. Not in my opinion anyway. If I am honest, I really believe it is the most essential way to live.

The thing about soul, is that it encompasses our entire being. It is not limited to our intellect, or heart; our emotions or feelings. It is not just our physical body or intuition. It is all those things combined. It is our essence. It is our psyche and consciousness. It is the energy of our being that moves through the world and is connected to something larger than us. It can be hard to define, because the soul comprises all of these things and has an impact on every aspect of what makes us, “us”.

Our soul speaks to us. I believe that with every fibre of my being. She whispers in ways that result in a deep knowing about something or someone. She can manifest in our bodies feeling physically ill or in pain when we don’t listen to her nudges. She can bring about a moment of sharp clarity in our intellect and mind.

Our soul has a sacred intelligence that is unique to us, and goes beyond what we can grasp or understand. Soul sees the bigger picture, and often asks us to trust her when we cannot see that image fully formed.

But what does it mean to listen to your soul? How do we even do that?

For me, it has required a silence and stillness. It usually means getting alone, and quieting my rational mind and emotive heart. Sometimes it means going for a long walk or run. What is it for you?

When my soul is trying to say something to me, it can feel like a few different things:

When she has reservation or hesitation about something, my body feels more tense and on edge. I usually get an unsettledness within me that nudges me to pay attention and take my time. My mind can feel like it is on overdrive because I am trying to make sense of something or convince myself that what I am perhaps intuiting is nonsense. Soul speaks up.

When she has an openness and readiness towards something, it can feel like my whole person is expanding. Like my body is giving a “full and wholehearted yes!” It is as if the world opens up and there is a surge of deep joy and excitement, even if it feels scary and unknown. My mind feels clear and hungry for new knowledge and insight. It is as if the world is a safe place to take risks and play!

When she is quiet and content, it is like my entire person is just at ease. It is as if there is permission within me to just be and continue to be where I am. Striving ceases, I feel a sense of “okay-ness” in who I am, and where I am. That I can keep going and all shall be well.

Are there ways your soul is speaking to you? What is keeping you from really listening? How can you carve out space today to connect to that sacred intelligence within you? 

I leave you with a blessing from John O’ Donohue “May the Light of your Soul guide you”

“May the light of your soul guide you.
May the light of your soul bless the work
You do with the secret love and warmth of your heart.
May you see in what you do the beauty of your own soul.
May the sacredness of your work bring healing, light and renewal to those
Who work with you and to those who see and receive your work.
May your work never weary you.
May it release within you wellsprings of refreshment, inspiration and excitement.
May you be present in what you do.
May you never become lost in the bland absences.
May the day never burden you.
May dawn find you awake and alert, approaching your new day with dreams,
Possibilities and promises.
May evening find you gracious and fulfilled.
May you go into the night blessed, sheltered and protected.
May your soul calm, console and renew you.”

Body.

When you tear your ACL and go through reconstructive surgery, there is little that compares to that kind of pain and awareness of your body (at least in my experience). As much as I wish I didn’t injure myself back in January, the things I have learnt along the way, not to mention the importance of Embodiment, have been quite revolutionary for me.

Whenever talking about physicality and body image, I grew up believing and hearing that it’s “what’s on the inside that counts”. Though this is an honourable sentiment, and even true in a lot of ways, it taught me that my body, and all that makes me a human being with flesh on, was somehow secondary to what was “within” me. It only reinforced the dualism that I subconsciously lived out of for so long.

For a long time, I believed that my flesh, my sexuality, my desires, and even care for my body (how I dress, whether or not I wear make-up, how much I work-out, what I eat etc.) was either vain, or “dangerous”. I did not know how to integrate my Christian faith and spirituality with this (major) aspect of myself. I felt fragmented and quite honestly it sent me into a tumultuous struggle of wanting to be “pure of heart” while still being “human”. The thing is, these two things are not mutually exclusive. To pursue one, does not mean you abandon the other. At all.

Unfortunately, many of us (maybe more so those in the Christian community), have believed this, and it has influenced not only our decisions but our view of ourselves, how we believe God views us. Many of us have been living compartmentalized lives, and more and more I am beginning to realize how detrimental that can be to us.

Just from a psychological perspective, this is where I think so many self-destructive behaviours and habits come from. Where self forgetting, self loathing and harmful habits can originate. It’s a breeding ground for shame.

We do not know how to love our bodies. We do not know that they are actually good, beautiful and made for vitality and yes, pleasure! Made for celebration and emotion, made for service of others and self-care. Our bodies are made to experience this wonderful and terrible life in and through.

And so, what if we actually experienced God/ the Divine in our BODY and even in our SEXUALITY. What if we actually experienced a sense of integration. I believe we really would become more loving, more compassionate, and more “pure of heart”; in the most robust sense of the phrase.

I can only speak from the perspective of a woman, though I know men struggle in their own ways with their physicality, sexuality and body image. Asking questions like, “what it actually means to inhabit our bodies in all of their splendour”, is essential if we are to experience healing and spiritual awareness in all facets of our lives.

I have seen in others, and experienced for myself, the harmful ways that this dualism has at times brought. It is something I have grown more passionate about over the years, because for too long we have made our decisions, compiled our beliefs and approached God from a place of fear, rather than a place of love. And how many times have we read and heard, “Do not be afraid.” So, let us not fear any longer.

Here are some questions to consider:

What is your relationship to your body like? What is your relationship to your sexuality like (and I don’t just mean whether one is having “sex” or not, but as a whole)? Do you experience God within these things or separate from them? 

I leave you with a piece I wrote in light of this. Peace & compassion to you and your body.

 

I am my body

 

Silk and tender, fat and fleshy

like the cut of meat, most flavourful.

‘Feast on the world!’

It is juicy. It is delicious.

I am my body.

Strong and tight,

lean, and a long waited resilience

she speaks up, damnit!

It is brave. It is power.

I am my body.

Seer, taster, toucher and hearer.

Breather, feeler, thinker and yearner

I am my body.

Trauma and healing, lodged between her

Desire and pleasure, cry out of her

Pain and dis-ease, know her.

I am my body.

My body speaks to me. May my body listen

My body speaks to you. May your body hear

Your body speaks to me. May my body receive.

A home for all that is,

I am body.

Transitional Grief

I’ve been reading quite a bit on Transitional Grief these days. The term itself is a comfort. To know that what we all, at some point or another, may feel the grief that comes with transition. Any change in our lives can bring with it mixed feelings and sometimes can be confusing when one feels both deep sadness and great joy, at the same time.

When do we experience transitional grief? Ultimately any form of change or adjusting to a new normal can bring about transitional grief. Events like: having a baby, divorce, moving, breakups, marriage, leaving a job, retiring, graduating, children leaving home; all of these and more bring about this sense of being in transition. Leaving what was and adjusting to a new normal.

I remember when I first read about transitional grief, I felt a wave of warmth come over me. Mostly because I haven’t really been able to put language to my experience internally lately. It has been hard to pin-point. There is deep loneliness and yet I am surrounded by some of the most beautiful people, in this new city. There is disorientation, a sense of not really feeling “at home” anywhere. There is longing, for the people I have left and yet longing for the start of the new adventure school will bring. There are mid-afternoon meltdowns, and evening solace in the comforts of my new apartment. There is anxiety, and there is deep peace. And to top it off, you may also feel shame. Because some of these choices and decisions to change something in your life are ultimately GOOD, so why are you feeling so blue? But shame too, is normal. It’s terrible, but it’s normal. Just because you’ve chosen something good and healthy for you, does not mean you won’t experience the more painful emotions that appear on the other side of the coin.

I was talking to my dear friend, Justin, the other day. He is someone who has also gone through a similar transition, and he said it well,

It’s an unusual grief because you’re still tethered and attached to something you love, something that is very much alive, but also something you can’t have or touch or hold. Nothing is dead or dying other than the form or shape of something in your life.”

I knew this move would be daunting and bring about its own challenges, but no one can really prepare you for what’s on the other side. Just as I would imagine those friends of mine who prepared to give birth to their babies. You really can only prepare so much for that moment. You just have to go through it, and experience it as it comes.

I have found voicing my emotions to be of great help. Even if they are a blubbering mess to the people on the other end — thank you by the way. I have found meditation and centering prayer to be what grounds me. I have found exploring the “new” around me to cultivate a sense of play and adventure within me. I have found reading novels again to be companions for the journey when it’s lonely. Cooking new meals and getting good sleep. Connecting to my body (even if it’s limited right now) by swimming, biking or just a small physio routine to remind me of the present moment.

There really is no right way to grieve. No right way at all. So, be gentle with yourself. And if you are a close friend to someone who is going through a transition, or in some form of grief, be gentle and patient with them too. They most likely wish they didn’t feel all that they feel. Be present with them, and remind them they can do it. Remind them that this will take time. Remind them that you believe in them and that they have what they need within them to venture into this new territory. 

In the words of Mary Oliver

“Things take the time they take. Don’t worry.

How many roads did St. Augustine follow

before he became St. Augustine.”