Turning inward, turning 40, and the outward spiral

In many ways, the last year has been a deep inward turning to sort out just what I wanted and needed, and how I imagined my life going forward.  From what I can tell, many of my friends and peers were doing the same thing.

My introspection often led me to thoughts of mortality as I felt my health yo-yo between states of wellness and illness.  I have spent a lot of time working on coming to terms with what it means to live with a chronic dis-ease and how it shapes my relationships with others and my view on the future.  And then I considered how quickly life can pass by, and I vowed to stop waiting for my real life to begin.  Perhaps you know the bargain–when this happens, then I can do this thing that will make me happy–that’s how I’ve lived much of my life up until now.  Waiting.


I have often wanted and wished, but believed somewhere at the core of me that there was no way that thing would ever really happen.  I had a lot of stories to buffer the disappointments that life put in front of me.  Stories that have some basis in truth–like being in debt and having struggled financially for most of my life–but that really don’t serve to move me any closer to my dreams.


Last year, I started imagining and visioning and opening up to the idea that maybe, someday, I could actually have an herb farm and teaching center and an old farm house with woods all around it.  I started feeling myself grow into that vision.


While I am still living in a rented apartment with a small growing space, I am teaching herbalism classes at Justice in the Body in Portland with a wonderful new friend.  I am making creams and teas and herbal elixirs and syrups that are gaining some momentum.  I am learning how to be an imperfect teacher, a not-totally-together teacher, a teacher who is-still-and-always-will-be-a-student.  I am learning to remember that I am speaking for the plants, not for this human body called Cathleen.  I am being called to share this knowledge because the world needs it, because people want it, not because I am ready to teach.  If I had not been pushed hard out of my comfort zone, I would still be looking for the right class, the perfect training to mold me into the most skilled clinician and teacher I could be.  I would not have leaped off that cliff back into the classroom.  My stories would have held me on solid, rocky ground.  Instead, I am swimming around in the ocean of becoming.  I owe a great debt of gratitude to Sage Hayes, who gave me a good, gentle nudge into the unknown.  And I owe a lot to my ongoing meditation practice, which has pushed my edges and reminded me of the beauty and pain of the dissolution of the ego.

So, here I stand at the beginning of my 40s, looking at what I might create in this next decade.  I am grateful to be here, to be imagining, because when I was 10 or 20 or even 30, I’m not sure that I could have looked beyond what was right in front of me to really dream about what might come next.  I feel a vast expansion of my spirit, and I aim to use that expansive energy to work toward inner and outer transformation.  I began my 40th year with a ritual to let go of some of the grief I have carried through much of my life.  I stood, with people I love, under the white pine on a damp January day that was the record warmest for that date.  We stood in a circle around a fire and contemplated shedding energy that held us back, and then we let it all go in the flames.

birthday fire

I know that this fire was just the beginning, but it felt important to mark this day with a shedding of skin, an acknowledgement of impermanence, and a joyful movement into the next decade.  My thirties were all about healing wounds.  I hope that my forties are filled with embracing beauty.


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