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This is my Fifty-one-year-old-day-off-face selfie. Freshly scrubbed, no makeup or hairdo. Looking in those windows to see how I’m faring in this enormous life transition. A bit less tear-swollen, a little less haunted maybe. Still standing. Feeling love and empathy and caring and gratitude for my husband and my daughter as we help each other through each day with loving kindness. One more day.

2014 will bear a single word to mark its passage:  Transition

I have wrestled around with what the next blog post would be, with how on earth I would address the changes occurring in my life.  In my perspective.  In my learning.  In my family.  In the very fabric of my Self.  Then, today, I saw this quote from Ernest Hemingway:

about-what-hurts-670x321Today, I am deep in a pile of pillows and quilts, nursing aches and pains everywhere as the ubiquitous ‘flu virus burns its way through my body.  It is another day like so many there have been over the last four or five months, when I am alone in a silent and empty house, filled with the loudness of silence created by absence.  I read this quote and was immediately resolved to tell it how it is.  Not pretty.  Not easy.  Not sweet.  Life hurts like hell at this time in my life.  I’ve carried on with my work, my life, my service to my community, my caring for my home and family.  Behind it all, I am weeping.  Three months ago, my husband of nearly 30 years and I separated.  In the aftermath, all I ever thought I knew has crashed into brittle shards, and I am engulfed by silence, deafened by the blast wave.

The whys and hows are known to a few, and really aren’t the issue.  We continue every day to work as a family to help each of us through this time with loving kindness.  We are close.  We are working hard.  We will resolve, and we will move forward, one way or another.  Whatever the eventual outcome will be, we have been grieving the separation for three months now, with no ease yet coming to our divided life.  I turn to my studio, to the pages of my journal, to my tools and supplies and can find no expression of the revolution going on inside me.  The soul agony and grief cannot be denied, but there is some good to come from it too.  We have some distance, an ability to back up far enough to get the whole picture into the viewfinder; to see what is good and what is not good; to see what we treasure and refuse to lose.  It has been hard to speak brutal truths to myself, to be honest about my ways of doing things that helped bring us to where we are.  To find strength to learn and grow without sinking into self blame.

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Teaching at CREATE in both Dallas and Seattle this fall gave me a chance for distance and thought.  It was with deep sadness that I received the recent announcement that CREATE has come to an end.  I am so deeply grateful for the creativity, travel and kindred spirits my participation in CREATE brought me.  How much I will miss the opportunity to see all of you!  Among the other endings of my life, this news brought home the deep sense that life is going into a major transition.  The path before my creative feet is well illuminated, and I feel sure of the direction I should take while I wait to learn what comes next.  Change1

I have been overwhelmed by the gifts this year has also brought.  The growing opportunities, the open-hearted reception to my work when I have finally let these difficult stories be told and expressed. The work that has emerged from my hands over the last two or three years has all been about healing journeys.  In the next month, an editorial article will be published in Pages magazine featuring the body of work created around the loss of our children and the birth and life of our daughter.  The series is long from finished, and even in this, I believe the story is not over.  There is a new beginning in here somewhere.  I don’t know what it is yet, or whether it will be with my life partner’s hand in mine or alone.  But somewhere in amongst all the tears and the grief and the pain, there is a kernel of hope in the future.  The last few months have been all about endings.  An ending of one thing always heralds the beginning of something else.  I can feel its approach, even if I can’t yet make out its features in the gloom.  holding hands

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I have come back to my blog several times since my last post in May.  Customarily, I try to blog a couple of times a month every month.  Over this strange summer, I haven’t found myself able to do so.  Each time I came here, I spent time with a mental butterfly net, trying to capture something of all that was floating around inside me, and failing.    

I have certainly not been idle in these intervening months.  I have been travelling.  I have been teaching.  I have been spending long, unaccustomed periods alone.  And I have been working.  Indeed, I have been working.  None of it has been the pretty, appealing work I would ordinarily share on my Facebook page, or blog about here.  It has had nothing to do with articles or acquisitions or teaching.  All of it has been deep.  All of it has been drenched in pain and clarity and blood.  And all of it has taken place between the covers of my very private journal.

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A transformation began on our trip back to England in February this year.  In March, I followed with a course that took me deep into the darkest places of my soul and what I needed to face in my life.  The effect of that course was momentous. As we neared the end of that course, I received a commission.  The commission was to write an editorial about the body of work I have created to face and deal with the loss of my children and my parenthood.  Working together with other forces in my life, this sequence of events acted as the catalyst for a great process of change and release.

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Each time I have returned here, I have wondered what to say.  Each time I have returned, my ability to stick to every-day subjects has failed me, my tongue stilled to all words but the truthful ones I needed to speak.  And so, as my life has slowly melted to liquid around me, I have distilled it all into the pages of my journal and remained silent here.  

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I can’t maintain that silence.  I have CREATE retreats fast approaching and deadlines to meet and connections to forge.  I must re-emerge into the world.  In emerging, I have carried my truth forward with me, and needed to find some way to speak about the truth-telling that had transformed my inner landscape.  Some way that honoured my truth but kept the personal details of it private for those who need and deserve my love, protection and circumspection.  A re-emergence.  I had to make a decision.  And so, over these few months, I have worked and thought and worked and considered.  Finally, today, I made up my mind.

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As a result, I am here.  I have decided to take a step I have never taken before in my entire life, since I started a private journal at 12 years old.  I have decided to share some of the rich, anguished, fearful, decided work I have poured into my most private of journals.  This time of my life has been and remains transformational.  To be able to move forward, I simply cannot permit it to hide in invisibility.  I am changed.  My life is changing.  I am leaving the personal landscape that has been my own for nearly thirty years.  I am emerging.  My future looks quite different from what I thought it would be a year ago.  One life is moving toward its ending, another life is evolving toward a beginning.  I am softly occupying the quiet no-man’s-land between them.  Honouring.  Recognising.  Allowing.  I am looking back with love and tenderness.  I am looking forward with eagerness.  But I am standing right here in my shoes, feeling grateful, feeling ready, feeling open.  Feeling the pain.  This is now, and it is full of power.  Thank you for welcoming me back.

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The Christmas holiday has once again come and gone.  I hope for you it brought peace and fellowship.  I was involved in a discussion with a friend from a very different culture today, in which we explained to each other our perceptions of this holiday time.  The discussion has left me thoughtful, contemplating how differently I view the holiday season in recent years.  I have never been a very materialistic person, and as I grow older, I find myself moving further and further away from the Western materialistic approach to Christmas and more deeply into the spiritual gifts it has to give.

For example, it has become our tradition to share our Christmas table with a friend or two in need or who is alone over the holidays.  We began this tradition about fifteen years ago, and have continued it throughout our daughter’s life.  In this way, we share the bounty we are so fortunate to have, of our hearts and of our table.  At the same time, we help bring some comfort and companionship to people we care about who would otherwise be alone.  It began as a natural outward reaching in those long years in which we tried and failed repeatedly to build a family of our own.  The love and family longings we felt within were turned outward, and we nurtured others instead.  It fulfilled something within us to do so, and eased the painful childless quiet of our home in these times that are so much about children and family.  Twelve years after the eventual birth of our child, we continue the tradition.  Why?  Because to us, that is what Christmas is about.  It is not about the presents we give or receive, or the parties we attend or the events we participate in.  It has become about connecting and sharing of love and caring.

As we have become more aware of our footprint on this earth, the giving of material gifts has given way to the gift of activities or the gifts of our hands, our hearts and our time.  Each year has come to include a donation of time and effort to a community activity or cause (playing Santa for the annual food drive or running lantern-making workshops for the annual Festival of Lights for peace).  And each year, the rewards are felt more deeply and the holiday season loses its stressful, strident quality. 

No more is the season about cramming in dozens of activities between working long hours, shopping endlessly, trying to get it all done and sliding sideways into Christmas at a skid.   The segue from everyday life into the holidays is subtle and gentle.  It becomes a gentle interlude for reflection and the enjoyment of family time.  I have thought a great deal about this today, and about how and why it has changed.  I found myself able to put my finger on it firmly for my friend:  Life for me is now the fulfillment of passion every day.  I live the life I love and was born to live, in which I give myself and my family time to do the things we love, time to be together and to see each other and to talk.  Life has become a daily celebration, a daily meditation on what really matters, and so there is not so much to distinguish every day from holiday.  I am so often filled with an overwhelming sense of joy and satisfaction from the daily work of my hands, heart and mind.  It is this that tells me clearly that I have found my place.

The New Year is so traditionally a time of new beginnings.  Last night, I dreamed long and in a very detailed way of each of the areas in my life that have been difficult in this year.  I woke to startling clarity of mind and a certainty that each of those areas would see growth and change this year.  It was not a plan, it was a knowledge, an understanding.  I see clearly before me an open doorway, welcoming me with possibility.  There is such a sense of potential in doorways and apertures that hint at that pause we often take just before the next action.  Captured in that moment is all the anticipation, the excitement, the wondering what lies beyond, what the tantalising glimpses through the crack in the wood hint at.  I am entering 2012 with my eye firmly on the crack in the wood and the tantalising glimpse of vista beyond.   

I hope for you the year will bring growth and satisfaction.