Moving through Shadow

It seemed that I was incapable of putting things into words in 2016. I wrote only the papers that I had to submit for professional purposes. I wrote no poems. I answered emails so sporadically that I’m sure people must have thought I disappeared. I wrote in my journal but twice. This space sat empty, awaiting something, but it never seemed to come. I gardened. I taught classes. I traveled. I helped to organize a conference. I fell in love. I gathered with friends. I lived life with a heart full of gratitude and mourning.

There was a lot of shifting, growth and change that happened for me personally, not to mention the chaos of the world, the multitudes of heartbreaks that felt relentless by the end of December. It was all just a bit too much to sum up in the hopes of gaining insight. What I was left with through it all was the sense that our personal and collective shadows were arising so that we might find a way to heal what truly impedes us from moving forward.

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I found myself examining and reframing my beliefs about what it meant to be loved, competent, and worthy of being on the planet at all. I worked on embracing and celebrating the quirkiness that is part of who I am. Through teaching, I witnessed the ways that I shine and the ways that I hold back in fear. I pushed through some edges about what it means to “be enough.” I am lucky enough to have found a lover-cheerleader who sees all of my best self and loves the rough edges too. I learned to truly believe in magic.

With my students, I allowed myself to be raw, resolving that the ability to show emotion in a public space is a gift that I can offer. My students felt raw too. Hell, the whole world felt like it was tipping. While this is certainly not new to many of us, the intensity with which it all happened was jarring. I found a way to be an activist as a teacher. In my Botanical Therapies class, we read Robin Wall Kimmerer’s beautiful book Braiding Sweetgrass. While it was difficult for some of my students at first, I found it to be the perfect accompaniment to events on the world stage. One discussion that stuck with me was about how despair keeps us in a place of inaction, how we needed to grieve and then find a way to shift that energy into activity. We returned over and over to the concepts of gratitude, interconnection and reciprocity. Indeed, this is really what it’s all about.

As I begin a new year, I am pondering the many ways to build more of a sense of community offline so that I can help to foster resilience in myself and others. What I will nurture most is the spark of joy that lives in my heart, which will be most necessary in these uncertain times.

I am excited to return to words, to poems, to ways of expressing the rage that might otherwise destroy. I can see what we’re up against as we move into this new era; the expression of grief and the creation of rituals to heal our hearts and spirits will be crucial, as will be an acknowledgment of just how much we depend upon one another. We all need each other and it’s time we learn how to show up to what matters.

 

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