All Good Things…

Sunset sail

“I am no longer afraid of storms for I am learning to sail my own ship.” –Louisa May Alcott (Photo by A.E. Irwin)

If you know the rest of the expression, you know that it goes like this: All good things must end.

I’m writing this before the morning sun peeks over the tops of the silhouetted cedars and evergreens visible from my patio, illuminating a new day, one which marks the last of 11 days where I’ve been away from work and social obligations. It’s been a lovely, intentionally quiet, and deeply reflective time.

In the past four months, I’ve shed numerous belongings that no longer fit who I am. In the past four weeks, I’ve experienced the ending of an extraordinary relationship in my life. In the past 48 hours, I’ve burned 37 journals that have spanned 32 years of my life.

Good Goddess, has it been bittersweet…

Four years and a day ago, I began this blog, not entirely sure what I was doing, but determined that I would write and publish my first post. I’d polled some friends when I chose the title of it: “No Apologies: Life from the Absurd to the Sublime.”

I was full of fire while being transformed by the fires of loss, and the tone of those early posts reflected that. I gave myself permission to voice other parts of me, those which defy people’s first impressions of me (read: sweet and polite. Oh, how very boring to seem that one-dimensional…). Through this blog I’ve been able to be fun, at times brash, at times bold, but always truthful.

Writing these posts, some of them wrenching, has done more than help me survive some difficult times. The writing has helped me heal and grow. It has for decades. It is one of the most certain things in my life, and I am so grateful to have this gift of expression, and to be able to share it.

It’s been a year of immense intensity in every area of my life: physically, emotionally, mentally, and spiritually. Four years and a day after beginning this work, I find myself at a threshold. The voice which has been quietly calling to me is only getting louder. It’s a voice I want to heed.

It’s time to let go. It’s time to stop putting aside the biggest dream. It’s time…it’s time.

It feels very good to admit that, here, on the page. I am in no way done writing. Far from it, for I can no more let go of the words than I can the gift of each breath that enters my lungs and helps animate my physical form each moment of my life.

I have dreams of how the words will show up next, and I’m making some shifts and space so I can do this. It’s different, it’s unknown…and it will be worth it. Of that I feel certain.

The sun has risen, shining its brilliance into my room. With the growing light, I offer these final words: From my heart’s center, thank you for reading. Thank you for witnessing. Thank you for sharing this part of the journey.

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Encountering the Angel of Authenticity

You’ll find them in the unlikeliest of places…Photo courtesy of Google images.

I’d been driving to work on a typical cool and cloudy Northwest autumn morning. The question occupying my innermost thoughts was mirrored in gray swirling sky above: Do I tell her how I’m really feeling?

I arrived early, nearly blown into my building’s lobby by the wind which was stirring the falling leaves just outside the door. I had some extra time before my meeting with my boss, so I headed toward the elevators leading to the coffee shop. I breezed by the man at the front desk, who was just finishing his words to the woman who’d stopped there.

I could’ve easily let the elevator door close, but suddenly I found myself pushing the door-open button as I heard the woman’s voice echo down the short hallway: “Thank you for answering my question honestly.”

I was intrigued.

There was no rush to grab the coffee. As I held the elevator door, the woman entered, dressed a velvety sweep of moss green, burnt orange and chocolate brown separates. She was taller, older, and larger than I, yet the word that best describes her presence is regal.

Her voice was as beautiful as the deep color of her skin and skirt. I waited for her to speak.

“I asked him how he was,” she began, reflecting what I’d intuited. “And I was so glad that he told the truth.”

We discussed how, when asked, “How are you?” most people don’t answer it honestly. Too often the inquiring person doesn’t want the answer if it doesn’t fall within the socially accepted “great,” “good,” or “fine” that requires no further engagement. Any other answer requires one’s full presence, the willingness to slow down and to truly listen.

“I wish that if people really didn’t want to know, they wouldn’t ask the question,” she said. I agreed.

“Isn’t authenticity wonderful?” I asked as the elevator door opened and ended our short ride together.

She returned my smile, and as she neared the door to the parking garage, she unexpectedly took my hand. It seemed the most natural thing in the world.

Instead of recoiling at a seeming stranger’s touch, I turned and looked straight into her eyes and asked her what her name was. It was a unique enough name, beginning with the letter “I.” You’d think I would’ve remembered it, but I couldn’t. I still can’t.

But in the moment, I used her name and said, “Have a beautiful day.” I meant it. She returned my smile and replied, “You, too.”

It was only after she released my hand that I was aware that other people were watching. I didn’t care, and that felt good. I’d had an instant upward mood shift.

Minutes later I calmly collected my purchased coffee and headed back up the two sets of elevators, knowing that “I” was more than a person who’d ridden with me on the elevator.

She was an angel walking around in human form, one who gave me the gift of courageous centeredness. When I walked into that meeting, I was able to speak from my heart, undeterred by potential outcome. I was able to speak authentically.

Lessons in Love & Healing: What You Need

Flowers among ferns

Hidden medicine. Photo by A.E. Irwin.

“You need to rest. You need to relax. And stop worrying.”

The indigenous healer said these words to me during my session with her last night. To describe it as a powerful experience is one of the biggest understatements of my year. This healer is the last of her kind in her country and carries some of the most ancient wisdom known to humanity, all of it unwritten.

The fact that I worry isn’t news to me, but to have the medicine woman tell me through her translator that my excessive worrying was so strong that she could feel it on her own head like itching was a reminder of the palpable effect of our energies. My worrying definitely wasn’t the type of energy I wanted to be cultivating, let alone sharing.

Yet here I was, doing it again with automatic negative responses to most things that just aren’t that important, even though I had vowed to be more protective of my health.

Just over two months ago I had a large tumor and half of my kidney removed. It was a surgery I fought having for a very long time. Mercifully the tumor was benign. The fact that I didn’t care about getting the biopsy results in the 3 days following surgery is a testament to the intensity of the pain, fatigue, and trauma on my body.

My month-long leave from work went by quickly. Only during the second half of it did I realize that I wasn’t resting as much as my body needed. I made an extra effort to take naps, a method I jokingly called “conscious sleep cramming.” It helped, but I’m also aware that the healing is far from over.

The first words I heard when I returned to work were, “Great! So glad you’re back at 100%.” I quickly corrected the individual who said this with, “No, I’m definitely not at 100%.” I contrasted this with the advice I received from one of the surgeons with whom I work: “Whatever time you think it’s going to take to heal, triple it.”

I’ve been back on the job less than two months, and despite my intentions, I’ve not protected my health as much as I’ve needed to. Last evening’s session just affirmed this: the healer recommended six months to a year off to fully heal. This is a far cry from the four weeks I had away from the workplace. Taking that felt like a luxury, though my body was telling me otherwise.

Last night I became aware that I’ve been expecting myself to run at a pace that my body is nowhere near ready for. It’s a pace that, in this country, at least, is completely unrealistic for people to function well and be in—let alone return to—a state of wholeness and optimal health.

But since I can’t change the system (on my own), I’m going to focus on what I can do something about: worrying less, and giving myself permission to trust in my knowing of what’s a realistic workload and pace. I will rest when I need to rest. I will laugh more. I will pursue my postponed passion. I will wear this world more as a loose cloak than a breath-crushing corset.

Each day, I vow to remember the healer’s words: “You are the doctor of your body. You are the doctor of your heart.”

Now that’s good medicine.