Happy New Year! We are officially finished with 2020. It was a particularly intense year for everyone. And, even if the pandemic had never occurred, it was an otherwise intense year for me. Immense changes. Buckets of grief. Deep love. Several weeks ago I asked myself the question: what have I learned in all of this?
It seemed like a logical question. One that someone like myself would ask at the end of such a rollercoaster of a year. “I’ll even write a blog post about it,” I thought. Great idea! Except… each time I asked myself that question the answers seemed slippery and elusive; at least, the type of answers I expected were slippery and elusive.
I looked for answers like I learned about self-love and self-responsibility; I learned about community care and social justice; I learned about sovereignty and self-trust. But these answers didn’t quite satisfy. It wasn’t that I hadn’t learned anything throughout the year. There were plenty of insights, inspirations, and lessons. I wrote about many of them here! These answers seemed to overlook something far more important.
As I asked the question, all I saw in the vision of my mind’s eye was my uncoupling. I saw my move from the home I adored. I saw myself dancing around my living room and soaking up the goodness of my favorite park. I saw my deep, intimate connection with soul sisters. I saw myself sitting in circle underneath the night sky in New Mexico. I saw myself reading, writing, and contemplating. I saw myself working and responding to the pandemic. I saw experiences.
I laid them aside because those weren’t lessons. Those were mere memories. What did they have to possibly share with me?
On the winter solstice, I turned on my essential oil diffuser with a blend called “Love.” I sat on my light grey couch with my dark grey blanket. I sipped on a cup of fresh ginger tea and opened my computer for the first in a series of six weekly virtual breathwork circles. Prior to the breathwork, we did a visualization exercise where we entered the forest of our year. Month by month we journaled about whatever came up for us, whatever we could recall of our experiences and learnings. “Ah!” I thought, “Now will be the time to excavate those hard-earned lessons.”
January, February, March, April… my last trip to Santa Barbara and New Mexico with my love for my birthday. The week he went to Mexico, and I tried on the energy of single life. The day my grandfather fell and broke his neck, and the night I broke down on the phone with my sister. The decision to stay in my apartment. The moment we decided it was safer for him to leave. The tears. The writing. The solo adventures. The stress of the pandemic as my co-workers and I huddled to discuss how we’d care for these patients. His final visit to officially end our relationship…
No lessons. No mental ruminations. No critical analysis. Only a swarm of memories flooded with sensations and emotions.
The cool air seeped in from beneath the edge of the door to our right. The hot air washed over my left side from the wood-burning stove. The amber glow of the fire flickered across his face as I turned to look at him. I closed my eyes and pulled the blankets up close and tight to my chin. Behind my eyes, I saw a kaleidoscope of colors. Bright, colorful diamond light. Our energy fields coming together in union. My love. His love. Our love mingling in the beautiful and natural way that it does. I reached out and grabbed his hand and he grabbed back.
The cold, hard floor pressed against my sit bones. My legs laid across his as I leaned into his shoulder with his arms wrapped around my body. Tears soaked his t-shirt as I felt the rise and fall of his grieving heart. He whispered the lyrics as the song played overhead, “Traveled through the universe. I think I’ll take a shot at earth again. It’s a planet of so much hurt but you said we’d meet back up again. When you first looked in my eyes I was paralyzed. It’s like I met you at another time. You have a different name but you are still the same. Love doesn’t fade.”
Sprawled out on the grass on a blanket of geometric colors, staring at the light blue sky through waving leaves. The ground pressed up against my back, hips, and heels; holding me. The warm, spring air trailed across my belly and down my legs. Rupert sat at my feet rubbing his belly across my toes with his tongue hanging out as he pants, pants, pants. Earbuds in place whisper melodies, sweetly singing, “Even if this world is leveled to the ground; Even if the seas dry up and the mountains wear down; Love will Live Forever in the Infinite Universe.”
We’re driving north on Hillcrest in his father’s forerunner. The sun sits low in the sky not yet kissing the horizon. He’s in his dark blue collared shirt. I’m in a short black dress with large print flowers. Our hearts are heavy. The tension is palpable. I look at him. Perpetual tears at the edge of our eyes. We’re sinking ever deeper into each and every second together. How much can we squeeze out of this? Key lime pie tucked in a bag at my feet. One last sweet treat. I reach over and lay my hand on his leg. He wraps his hand around the back of mine. Warmth presses into me; his love.
It’s dark. Starlight fills the sky and gives way to hardly perceptible shadows skipping between the ponderosa pines. We’re gathered in a large circle. Each of us with our sleeping bags, blankets, coats, and chairs. Staying as warm and as comfortable as we can manage. No fire. Only a large altar at the center with crystals, feathers, photos, statues, and other personal and meaningful items. I shiver and pull my arms in closer to my core. I inch deeper into my yellow sleeping bag and straighten my quilt across the top. I’m communing with a floating star being. She softly and sweetly meanders across the sky. I’m staring up with my mouth agape. Hardly believing my eyes. It’s the first time I’ve looked up since the ceremony started. It wasn’t the last time. The stars had much wisdom to impart; the magic of my spacesuit. I slept right there that night. Beneath a sea of stars and next to fellow cosmonauts.
I looked back one more time, down the long hallway into the dark, empty living room. The blinds were pulled shut and all the lights were out except the one right above my head. I took my hand off the door handle and went back. Had I said goodbye enough? Is it really over? “Goodbye spirits of the land who have kept me safe and nurtured. Goodbye long walks and beautiful parks. Goodbye solo dance parties, Burning Man prep session, pancakes with him, and ukulele on the patio. Goodbye kitties. Goodbye long talks and hours solving all the problems of the universe. Goodbye to the nest that caught me after long days at clinicals which turned into heart-wrenching shifts at work. Goodbye tears cried over love and life. Goodbye……” I reached into my pocket and grabbed my phone. Disheveled and tear-stained in my grey nursing hoodie, one last selfie in the home that carried me over the last six and a half years.
These are only a few of the memories that make my year 2020. As difficult and challenging a year as it’s been, there have been so many deep moments of love, humanity, soul, synchronicity, inspiration, and tears. The depth of experience has been profound. Every step of the way I’ve been called into a deeper and deeper presence; not rushing forward or pulling back. I constantly asked myself, how can I be more fully here in this moment now?
I let thoughts of the future fall away as I focused intently on how I felt with whomever I was with, no matter the feeling. Grief, pain, sadness, frustration, anger, and fear. Or, love, joy, inspiration, and happiness. I’ll admit I spent far more time in the darker feelings but each feeling was wrapped in a blessing of love. Each feeling took me deeper into my body.
My soul inched further into the tips of my fingers and the marrow of my bones. She emanated through each curl of my hair and the sway of my hips. She heaved into my belly and out with my breath. She yelled and screamed. She unhinged and unraveled. She coalesced and came together to tighten and strengthen at my core. She broke open my heart and taught me how to own my boundaries and my privacy.
This year wasn’t about mental ruminations and cognitive lessons. This year wasn’t about critical thinking and analysis of behavior. This year wasn’t about what I thought. Even though the year contained a lot of mental activity this year wasn’t about any of that.
This was the year I sank, sank, sank into the belly of my laugh, the aching of my grief, and the tenderness of my love. This year was about the depth and breadth of my very soulful human experience. This was the year I came alive amidst so much chaos, death, and change. This was one of the juiciest years of my life.
No lessons to report here. Only the tender beating heart of a human who lives.