This morning as a slideshow of our family photos and past memories played as my computer screen saver, Ava said, “I want to see daddy's friends today.” I watch as she lights up and is drawn to younger men, men similar to Mitch in one way or another, some that share similar physical attributes and some that share his young, free-spirited nature. I see clearly that we are both grieving his absence in varying ways. I too find that when I see people in love, I long for him, or when I see a man that looks similar to him, I long for Mitch. I too am drawn to that masculine energy, that Ava at two years old is drawn to. And this is when there is a choice to fear not falling in love again, not finding a loving dad for my daughters, or to have faith and to trust that the perfect man will come and join our family at the right time. We all long to be loved, to have a companion to journey with in this life, but it is during the times we find ourselves without that we must look within to love ourselves more wholly, to allow our sadness, our pains, and our fears to refine us into more loving fulfilled human beings. It is then that we open to receiving more love that can come in its many forms. I cannot ease Ava's pain of loss for her dad, but for now I can make sure our home is filled to the brim with love and expose her to positive and trusting male energy as a positive reminder of her dad in some way. I can also help her connect to his spirit through daily prayers and conversations with him, and pray for his guidance in how I parent her. And perhaps as I become more whole and healed, and find more peace and fulfillment, that this too will ease some of the longing that Ava feels. And this is one of the challenges for anyone raising a child without a partner, finding ways to fulfill our children's need for love in ways that are nurturing to the soul. And in this process we too will learn to love ourselves in ways that nurture our souls.
The pain of loss twists and turns, swallows me whole sometimes, and I emerge soaking wet, gasping for air, sitting on the very edge catching my breath looking in at where I've been. And so for days after I slowly come back to life, moving more slowly, feeling the need for more solitude, withdrawing from expending my energy out into the world, as all the energy I have and create nourishes me, the baby growing inside me, and my daughter. And its in these days that when the demands of other relationships rap at my door, I learn to politely say that I am not home. And so during this process of grieving my husband, nourishing new life, raising my 2 ½ year old daughter, setting up new residence in a foreign country that was truly home to my husband and I, and launching my career, I just have to stop and breathe to take note of where I've been, where I am, and where I'm going. And so it is a process of gradual integration after the shock of reality fades, of a pain so deep that slow is the only way to go to not break into a million pieces. And for now, I let the earth dry my tears and I drink in the life breath that nourishes me. And I emerge a little more whole and a little more healed.
I am at the tail end of my long journey through graduate school, I’m in my fourth year. That is what happens when you have nearly enough credits for two Master’s programs (Transpersonal Psychology and Counseling Psychology), and you have a baby in the middle. My husband and I are living an unconventional life with our dreams and passions leading the way, of which I receive considerable criticism for doing. My reaction to the criticism and doubt is what I work on now. I am coming to grips with the reality that what ultimately matters most is how I think and feel about my life, and that I must let go of the frustration I feel from not meeting the expectations that others have for me and the anger I feel for not being truly seen and heard; and that I must let go of the fight, because as long as I fight, I lose. Who am I fighting against really? Myself in the end, because as long as I allow the opinions of others to rule my life and cause me distress, I will never reach my full potential as a human being and will hinder those I choose to journey with as well. So now I find myself stepping into my own shoes with my head held high with an embodied knowing that I am living my life as authentically as I can, how else can any of us truly live a life worth living? A quote I picked up along the way that has stayed with me is
“the reward for conformity is that everyone liked you except yourself.”
So, be yourself, love yourself, and live a life that you can feel at home in. Oh, and it doesn’t hurt to treat others the way you yourself would like to be treated...
Empathy is walking in someone else's shoes, it is letting go of the colors of our own judgements, if for only an instant, so that we may feel what someone else is feeling. Step into their world and carry some of their burden, and share in some of their joy in order to truly understand. Only when we truly understand with our hearts, do our judgements, criticisms, fears, and expectations fall away a bit. When we disentangle ourselves from each other to hear our own call, we allow each of us to be free to live our own lives. Let each one of us realize our own true nature and see the history of our own walk written on the soles of our feet and on the soles of our ancestors feet. Feel for ourselves. Then, and only then, will we be able to truly feel for another.