STARTING ANEW IN THE SACRED SPACE OF NOW
Finding courage to start over when life has dealt us changes or even tragic blows is a topic that has always been of interest to me. I have been faced with the necessity to make new starts many times, as have most of us. Life is full of beginnings, both large and small. Where there are endings, there are beginnings and where there are beginnings, there are the inevitable endings. They can be whimpers and whines that try to signal what is happening for a long time before we acknowledge that an ending is at hand. They can be violent explosions that give us little choice but to face the facts. Starting anew or changing paths requires us to find energy we can’t always easily muster. We have to dig deeply into the core of ourselves to pull it out. It requires us to challenge and push ourselves and to be open. When we have been hurt or have experienced losses, this is not an easy task. We want so much to move into the future, to leave the loss, grief or failure behind. Still, we fear leaving what we have lost, or the familiar behind us. The taste of loss remains in our mouths and affects everything we consume. We can’t just rinse it with mouthwash and expect it to stay away. The tears blur what we see and colors around us look dismal until we are ready to wipe our tears or peek through them. If we are grieving loved ones, sometimes it feels like a betrayal of them to forge ahead into new life and new opportunities, or a betrayal of the relationship or venture in which we previously invested ourselves that is no longer with us. For most of us it is a process where we gradually find ways to incorporate our life learning into how we choose to act in and contribute to the world. We find ways to honor our lost loved ones, our past lives, failures and successes. Sometimes we have aha moments too, that come to us as ideas, messages or spirit teachers, to help us.
I remember one early summer day, visiting our home that was significantly damaged in the fire that killed my first husband who was an invalid. I needed to oversee some work the contractors were doing. I had avoided returning to the house as much as possible, but decisions had to be made quickly. I surveyed the blackened siding and the boarded up windows. The vehicle that brought death into our lives, the old dryer in which the fire had begun before it consumed our entire kitchen and spread its hot venom, was sitting menacingly next to the back door. Our 1851 farmhouse had always seemed to me to wear a friendly, loving face, but instead, appeared then to be draped in sadness, despair and hopelessness. I did not want to move back into this house, but choices open to me seemed few. Without life insurance, there wasn’t a whole lot out there that I could afford and that would meet the needs of my young family, or contain space for the business I ran. My kids had been horribly disrupted and we still faced a long period of time without a permanent home to settle back into in order to truly go about the work of healing. Nonetheless, the kids seemed to want to go home to what they knew and seemed to crave the connection and continuity, even without their father or their personal possessions, most of which had been lost. I could not have felt more alone, desperate or miserable than I did at that moment as I took some deep breaths to keep from breaking down as I was about to enter the house. I could not see anything but endings and lack of possibilities.
Suddenly by the door I noticed a small plant with a couple of green tomatoes on it. I was puzzled. Some years earlier, before my husband was diagnosed with multiple sclerosis, I had a garden behind our shed, that was a considerable distance from this location and I had never planted tomatoes anywhere near this. Just next to the one lone, but beautiful tomato plant were a few blanket flower daisies that I know I had not planted there. Close to that spot there was a long bed of daffodils stalks left from their earlier half-hearted blooming. They had not bloomed well that spring at all, having choked themselves out after years of neglect due to my stressed and busy life of care giving for a sick husband and kids. Certainly I had never planted daisies there. That was a simple, defining moment for me, standing there with the sun warming me (I always felt cold, alone and desolate). I chose new life. I saw how life goes on in nature no matter what and that the world continues to blossom and to perpetuate itself.
Year later, I had a similar moment, when I was facing the probable loss of the career I had built for many years. This was layered over so many other losses by deaths of family members and friends. In spite of always fulfilling my responsibilities and seeming to function by the world’s standards, bleakness had been overtaking me for some time, and I was trying to fight my way out of it. As I stared dejectedly out of my living room window, at a sandy, grassless area of our yard, I noticed four straggly-stalked poppies making a beautiful crimson statement. I was stunned. Poppies had not bloomed in that spot since the first year we moved into our home, in 1978. I ran outside to examine the flowers and in the soil surrounding them, I also saw many small pieces of glass that managed to work their way up through the soil each year. These shards were reminders of the fire mentioned above, and no matter how much cleaning up we did over the years, there were always more. I had another aha moment. I realized that we don’t ever forget or escape our past, that it is indeed a part of who we are and why we act as we do today. We must not let it limit and lock us in, or keep us from new ventures, or from just enjoying the sacred space of here and now. Just next to the pieces of glass that always surprised me, were those amazing, unexpected poppies beginning a new cycle and bringing pleasure to my otherwise unhappy day.
As someone of Jewish background, (and there are similar themes in other religions) I remember the belief that the Torah never ends. We begin the year with the first book of the Five Books of Moses. The conclusion of a year always brings about the new cycle. As we enter the new cycle we bring with us a greater understanding and new insights about life, from our studies and living during the years past. The cycle of study in the Torah mirrors the cycle we all experience in life. We are born, we live, we do good deeds and some not so good ones, we learn, we strive to be less imperfect and better human beings. We love, we feel joy, and we encounter pain and loss.
We are perpetually deepening our knowledge and understanding through new insights, based on past years’ learning. We move through the world seeking our true purpose. Some of us choose how we will make our mark and some of us just fall into it, or perhaps we do both at different points. Those of us who have children hope that they will carry forth some values or seeds that we planted when raising them. We hope that our lives will continue to have meaning and purpose, through our own deeds and creations, and through the memories of those whole lives we touched in different ways…
Anne Sullivan, the teacher of Helen Keller, said, “Keep on beginning and failing. Each time you fail, begin all over again and grow stronger, until you have accomplished a purpose-not the one you began with perhaps, but one you’ll be glad to remember.”
The novelist, Louis L’Amour, said, “There will come a time when you believe everything is finished. That will be the beginning.”
How will you begin to view and utilize your endings as ramps to take you to a fresh start? Are you ready to free your fears and let them float to the sky on their own? Can you feel the waves washing over the edge of the beach, taking the empty, deteriorating shell carcasses out to sea and leaving you bright sea glass and flawless shells for your discovery and pleasure? Now is the perfect time to let yourself be a part of a new cycle.