In August, I grounded myself. No trips for sixth months. After six months of work travel and fun adventures, I couldn’t tell anymore if I was traveling to heal or to escape. I also knew that I had to face my fears of loneliness, and be present to what I missed most. I needed roots. Strong roots gives us wings.
But planting roots takes cultivation and compassion and patience. It requires sitting with the holes in my heart.
I wanted to make sure I could show up in life. I wanted to address my burnout. I wanted to create a cherished life from the ashes of my old one. The first weeks of staying put squeezed me. My old life felt a little like a phantom limb. I missed. I ached for the Bossed Up Happy Hours. I pined for cups of coffee around D.C. with clients and colleagues.
“You are what you carry.” Megan Devine, a mental health counselor, shares wisdom on grief. She talks about how our culture does not make room to be with or understand deep grief. We’re very bad at it.
And yet, we keep showing up with + for love.
“Every time we make the decision to love someone, we open ourselves to great suffering, because those we most love cause us not only great joy but also great pain. The greatest pain comes from leaving. When the child leaves home, when the husband or wife leaves for a long period of time or for good, when the beloved friend departs to another country or dies … the pain of the leaving can tear us apart. Still, if we want to avoid the suffering of leaving, we will never experience the joy of loving. And love is stronger than fear, life stronger than death, hope stronger than despair. We have to trust that the risk of loving is always worth taking.” ― Henri J.M. Nouwen
It’s uncomfortable to sit with hurt and pain that comes with loving. We’re wired to fix it. I’ve written about it before, and the truth is that there is no quick fix. What we have lived through and what we have loved shapes the very core of who we are. We bring our own lessons, truth and wisdom from these places.
I sat in the car with a friend of a friend driving towards our mutual friend’s wedding festivities. She’s had a hard couple of years with her engagement ending when her would be “husband” walked out. According to social media, she’s thrived in rebuilding her life. In the car she turned to me. “I miss him,” she said. “I miss the life we had.”
To acknowledge the holes in our heart is some of the deepest work we can do. When the dreams and life that we had are no longer, we are present to heart holes. This is the work of wholeness, to be with exactly what is. To be so fully present and loving this moment in life, even though it is different.
I simultaneously feel tremendous gratitude for where I am AND I didn’t love the squeezing.
Norah McInerny lost her husband from a brain tumor and runs the podcast, Terrible, Thanks for Asking. She so powerfully writes: “The cure for grief is not ‘be not sad’ and the cure for anger isn’t ‘be angry!’ It’s feeling all of the things, even the uncomfortable ones, without judging yourself for them. Your job, when bad shit happens, is to get through it however you can. It is not your job to make your life more palatable for other people.”
I really want us to get better at acknowledging one another in grief. For holding the sacred space of just being with what is. For sitting with the holes in our hearth without judgement or compulsive fixing.
As we navigate the holidays in particular, this is a mantra and a prayer. The holes we carry are holy. We are whole.
To the road that you walked to get to THIS point. It mattered. Your love matters.
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