As I drop you off at school today, this amazing day of your 5th grade graduation, I see the banner on the door of your classroom that reads “Class of 2021”. In the moment, it seems like 7 years is a long way off. But in an instant, you’ll be out of high school and entering an even different world.
I see you walk off with your friends and suddenly, they come. The waves of such full on emotions that overflow my eyes with tears, coming from the depths of my heart that is simultaneously welled up with joy for the totality of your journey, and the loss, the death of what was once previously your childhood in the way it was.
The same desperate feelings of change that took over any rational thought the day I dropped your older brother off at kindergarten. The day I said good bye to you at pre-school. The first time your brother went to a day care. The day you got your first tooth. The days both you were born and when your brother was born. The emotions that both feel like grief and exponential joy at the same time.
We go through life, moving with what is, dancing to the tune of societies flute, perhaps along the way moving out of that tune and stomping to a different drum beat from time to time, or all the time.
So when you see me with buckets of water pouring from my eyes, I may or may not have a tissue or cloth to absorb these tears, know that as a person, as a woman, as a mother, I am grieving your amazing transitions that have me reflecting my own. I am as happy as I am sad, but don’t ask me why and expect a clear response, I just am because that’s what I’m feeling.
Each transition that you go through is like a mini (or perhaps full on) death. Unattended to since birth, these feelings may have not been addressed, may not have been made aware to us that it is important to sit with. Our wombs and bodies have stored these emotions and memories for as long as there have been humans. Some feel incredibly bright and joyful, and some feel like the darkest pits of what we believe is Hell.
Often many men and women, mostly women are exposed to what is known as “empty nest syndrome”. I believe there are different reasons for this, such as being so absorbed in their children’s lives’ that they have no life of their own. Holding on so tight to the life we experience through our son’s and daughters that we’ve forgotten about our own life.
Many times these same children are the one’s that cannot wait to leave the nest as soon as possible. I know I did. I grew up in a pretty sheltered environment and the first opportunity I got, I flew the nest hours away from my hometown, so there was no chance of easily returning. It was such a relief to have my own space, earn my own way, make my own mistakes, and live in my own way. So much so that I nearly died 3 days after leaving!
I was so excited to live that I had left home with $126 to my name, a VW Karmennghia packed with some clothes and ski gear, the promise of a job at a ski resort in Mammoth Lakes and nowhere to stay. I knew one person and when I saw him I asked if I could stay at his home. He said “Gail, I’m living in the back of my truck right now!” OH! But then a lady (or perhaps an angel) I’d never met that was standing with us offered me a place to stay for a few days until I could find my own room.
Three days into my new job and home, I set out on a 2 hour hike up a mountain with a group of newly met friends, skis on our backpacks, blue skies overhead, and the excitement of fresh turns down the mountainside. After a well deserved break following the invigorating hike, I eagerly clicked into my skis at the top of the peak where the way down was appropriately called “Rockchute”. The entrance of the run was so steep that the first few turns required hop turns and hard, solid edging skills. The second hop turn I made found my bindings too loose and my ski pre-released. Down, down, down I went, sliding through a 3 meter wide gap between jutting, jagged rocks that had been the cause of previous fatal accidents.
I slid nearly 300 meters, tumbling head over heals, seeing white snow, blue skies, white, blue, white, blue, white, blue….. when they say that your life passes before your eyes before your death, I can tell you from experience that it is absolutely true. Time slowed down, aware that I was on my death slide down Rockchute, I saw my childhood, my friends, my family, and all I could say was “Oops”. When I finally stopped tumbling, I couldn’t believe that I was still alive. It felt like half my face was torn off from the sharp crystals of each and every individual snowflake. A few people skied up to me and were in awe that I was alive, especially one man who had watched his friend die from tumbling down the very same run. It was incredible, and though I was in shock (do you know how difficult it is to ski when you’re in shock? Must’ve looked funny as!) I only wanted to experience everything in this short life as I could. I listened to people tell their stories, and I wanted many of my own to share as well! And I earned the nickname “Slider” for many years to come.
I was naive, but it didn’t matter, I was done with school, and determined to never return home to live with my parents. Thank you and goodbye I said. I’ve since lived much of my life in this way, when there is a definitive opening for me to experience something bigger than the perceptions of my previous small life, I tend to run for the door, flinging it open and shouting “I’M HERE! What’s next?” When I get stuck in fear, my soul inevitably ALWAYS leads me to a path that can help me move through the fear, usually with faith, prayer, and supportive people. Or a “Fuck it ~ I’m doing it anyway, let's see what happens.” attitude, they both work in their own respective ways.
One helpful suggestion is to breathe all of this day into your body. Close your eyes, take as many deep breaths as you need and allow all of the experiences of each and every moment integrate into your cells. Embracing the life that was just lived. You’ll be amazed at how well you might sleep each night from this simple practice.
Then, in the morning, if you’re blessed to wake up to the gift of another day, breathe in the freshness of the morning, and start with a completely clean slate. What will this new day bring? If there’s something to finish up from yesterday, how can I achieve that with the fresh start to this day? If there’s nothing I can do about it, please help me be present enough within myself in each new moment so that I don’t waste my precious life worrying about the past I cannot change.
I am reminded at some point, though; we all will go through the grief of transition. As a parent, you hold up the first outfit you brought your newborn home in and the tears are there. Allow them to come. It is so beautiful to cleanse the journey of the past with our loved ones with golden tears. Remember when your baby took his first step? When she said her first word? Each new stage begins and the previous one comes to an end. Go ahead, it feels so good to reflect on this memory and cry for the death, the loss of what will never again be. Then we can be clear to start the next leg of the journey with an empty cup, creating new memories. Constantly cleaning our own internal closets so we don’t become overwhelmed with carrying things that will only serve to weigh us down.
I don’t know what life will bring, but when I’ve allowed myself to cry the sacred tears, I actually feel more rejuvenated. I feel like the world holds me in it’s nurturing embrace, cradling the cozy bosom of my Divine Mother, and there is no doubt that whatever comes next, I am clean and completely free to be present with.