Question of the day: How do you recalibrate after drastic change and upheaval?
I’m back in NYC after approximately six weeks of traveling in over thirteen different cities on three continents with my partner and his family. There was an anniversary celebration, an engagement announcement, a mysterious illness, the heartbreaking passing of a loved one, a flood, and ending with a holiday.
I’m full of love and grief, gratitude and fear.
My eyes have been saturated by the beauty of space and nature in so many different forms, from the lush green of the papyrus swamps along the Nile contrasted by fiery yellow sand dunes close to Sudan, to purple flowering rosemary on orange cliffs above a glittering Mediterranean sea in Catalonia.
a few of my favorite things: Aresh, wild rosemary, Mediterranean Sea
I’ve been enchanted by the charm of 1,000 bobbing white sailboats in the Old Port of Marseilles and by late-blooming fuchsia roses and scarlet leaves bathed in soft autumn fog in the Loire Valley. I’ve been comforted by dappled sunlight on sycamore trees over the brook I played in as a child in Virginia…
wet rose at Chateau Moulin a Vent, Burgundy, France
I’m touched by the warmth of my beloved’s family, and humbled by the challenges and triggers brought up by time spent with my own.
Coming back to NYC, I recognize that I’m at home in my body and psyche. I’m at home in New York.
And now, as I struggle with the enormous blessing of regaining a solid routine that I get to re-invent on my own, I’m reminded of the title of one of my favorite books: After Ecstasy, the Laundry by Jack Kornfield. I think that the title says it all.
I’ve woken up on dark mornings in our NYC tenement apartment to lists miles long, little knowing how to begin. I found out about the passing of a loved one via email in the airport in Cairo, and this has me feeling helpless and raw as well as blessed to have known him, and gifted with the reminder that we do not know the time we lose… I must live in the present.
Thanksgiving was challenging for me, as I know it was for plenty of people. My partner said, “I think this house is haunted. And you’re possessed by it.” That’s what it feels like when I’m there, the place where I grew up, and the only place in all of my travels that I didn’t feel at home.
This isn’t the fault of any of my family, present tense. It comes from the resonances of the past, the relationship that I have with those walls and the memories in them. I’ve felt afraid of the power they have over me. Ultimately, it’s humbling. I have so far to go to be free, to be always present.
today in our community garden
In the meantime I have a community garden to attend to (thank God), the first chapter of a new novel that wants my attention, a half-finished play, a thousand story and essay ideas, and the burning desire to write poetry. The other, non-writing list of priorities and chores is as long as the Nile.
My shadow patterns have been surfacing. I wasted half a day window-shopping. All of my inner critics and monsters have been sauntering about loudly. I’ve lost hours to inner darkness, not writing, just starring and thinking bad thoughts.
But I’m altered. I have skills to regain my equilibrium. I know how to listen to the true desires of my soul. And I’ve tried things in the past to get me out of funks, and these things have worked, so I know that they work, and so I do them, despite being unmotivated.
I’m letting my dreams help sort things for me. My night dreams will often tell me exactly the best next move to make if I pay attention to them, and I’ve been listening.
I’ve been going for long brisk walks, and, if there is any sun to speak of I’ve been soaking it in.
I’ve been getting re-inspired by all of the incredible creative energy of NYC. I show up when I don’t feel like it, and I’m generally glad that I did.
Breathing, chanting, and praying helps me, even when the prayers are simple, Anne Lamont style—that is: “please, please, please, and thank you, thank you, thank you.”
I do my Dancemeditation practice, rocking on the floor, gently stretching to favorite music, moving and paying attention to my breath.
And mostly, I’m making sure to write something every day. I can feel the subtle shifting of my being, way below the surface, and I have to be patient to whatever wants to emerge, in its own time.
In this, the darkest time of year, when I’m engulfed by recent experiences and surrounded by first drafts, I need to be patient with my writing and psyche. I ask for patience and gentleness. I remember the line from Rilke, “I love the dark moods of my being…”
Why? How? What is the gift?
I’m humbled. I turn inwards. I slow down.
I need to be humbled, to be inwards, to slow down. And so I am grateful for these challenging moods. Maybe sometime soon I’ll get there another way.
Under the Sont tree in Egypt where I tore off a piece of my favorite scarf as a prayer and offering on All Soul’s Day.
What do you like to do to regain equilibrium after major shifts?