I took this photo in my local cemetery last week – a poignant spot in this beautiful little town with a big and broken heart… For we’ve had five suicides here in our Valley over the last couple of weeks, alone. Two of those were our young people. And several more of our community died by suicide this last year. It’s a lot for a small community to carry… Life is fairly quiet, here. Slower than in cities. And so many people are woven tightly into the community’s cloth. So when someone dies, especially by suicide, you can really feel the fray. There’s nowhere for it to hide. And when it keeps happening, and the sorrow keeps spreading, and the list of loved ones keeps growing, it can start to sound like a bell tolling out the question on everyone’s minds: “Why?” “Why?” “Why?”
My little boy is two-and-a-half. Just old enough to start wrestling with the big stuff. And I’m not talking about tantrums, here. But the stuff that many of us will grapple with all the days of our lives. Like brokenness… He brings a toy or a flower to me in too many pieces. “Fix it?” His eyes are bright and wide, face beaming, awaiting the alchemy of togetherness and glue. He’s seen this magic many times. He likes it. But it won’t work this time. “Sticky tape?” he suggests. I shake my head. “A band-aid?” I try to explain. How some things can be mended. And some things just can’t.
My grandmother is a sly sage (as so many of our grandmothers seem to be). On our most recent wander through her backyard, when I casually commented on her magnolia tree, she paused and replied, “Yes, we have a lot to learn from the garden…” And so we do. It’s been a pretty bleak time for me over the last couple of years. (Which is why I took a break from blogging). Lots of changes driven by heartache and pain. As sometimes seems to happen in life… The walls of my internal garden during that time have housed next to nought, as necessity overshadowed nourishment, and everything ended up neglected and parched. And though I kept ‘ploughing-on’ through the days, somehow I forgot to plant new seeds… So the field’s been kind of empty for a while. Do you know that feeling? Perhaps only too well. So many of us do, at some time or other. And as Valentine’s Day approaches, this kind of stuff just seems to get harder, harsher, the contrast highlighted by all the ‘lurve’ and flowers in the air. It seems easier just not to look; at the hype; at the self. And then, walking up my back steps the other day, I saw it anyway. A vine untangling and growing beneath my very house. Right there, in the dark and the dust. Neglected, not watered, but flourishing anyway. A vine of verdant hearts. (That’s it in the photo above). Yes, we have a lot to learn from the garden…
Are you over Mother’s Day yet? And by that I mean, have you recovered from it? Healed again? Found your balance after the stormy emotions it might have rained down on you? Because for many people this single day in the calendar echoes painfully in their hearts for much, much longer – sometimes days, sometimes weeks. It can unleash all kinds of sadness and despair. Why? There are many reasons… Maybe you don’t even know if you’re ‘allowed’ to call yourself a mother just yet.
All around you, they're growing, like tiny blades of grass, if only you'll stoop down to see them. Little moments of living mindfulness. So come down for a moment, down from the seemingly lofty heights of ambition and theoretical knowledge and social matters. Drop out of the school of thought that teaches you there's only one right way to be. Drop down to earth (perhaps literally). Down to just yourself as a living being right here with other moments of aliveness running through you. And, wherever you are, just be...
When was the last time you rested? Truly just put aside some time – a minute or an hour – to do whatever it is that recharges you. And what is that for you anyway? What does rest look like - for you? Is it kicking back and taking the phone off the hook and just breathing in the sun? Or do you rest best while you’re mindfully engaged in some activity - like maybe gardening or cooking or drawing or something else - where your mind can get involved just enough in the minute-by-minute process that it can let go of holding onto everything else? Rest seems underrated sometimes. Misconstrued. Painted in the colours of lazy or unambitious. And then compared to the razzle dazzle ‘importance’ that busyness likes to decorate itself in. But maybe rest is at least as important as busyness…
It's an old story. Old as the hills. And yet new every time it tells itself again. Have you heard it told to you lately? The clouds have gathered, thick and dark, on your skies. They're banked up and rolling heavy to your horizon. Maybe the rains have already started, pouring their grief over everything you know and soaking it all through with shadows. And then maybe the wind starts up. The lightning. It seems everything is going wrong at once. It's hard to imagine ever riding out this storm. And yet, if the story has its way, there will come a moment. A moment you might not notice at first. A moment that can start out smaller than small. But it's enough. Enough to invite a shift - an infinitessimal shift - that's almost no shift at all. Except that it is. So something tiny changes. And somehow that awakens the next little change. Until, gradually, all these fragile moments come together - like countless particles of light converging - almost invisible on their own. But together, slowly, they can start to pull the temperature of your day in a warmer direction. Together, they start to matter.
Have you forgotten your phone anywhere lately? Accidentally left it behind somewhere, until you realised you "needed" it? And it wasn’t there? (I just did). It’s amazing how much daily living can be kind of woven through this little device. Pixellated inside it. So seemingly handy. And yet… When you’re without your phone, are there other parts of your life that you’re more with? If you forget it, do you remember you? (And what might that tell you?)
One of the things I love about living in Australia is the grace of the gum trees. Even in the bustle of the city, they're dotted around the streets, their leaves quietly whispering of stuff more grounded and true. And recently it's been the time of year for some of them to shed their bark (like in the photo, above). It's an inspiring process in a metaphorical way - a time to slough off the old and let the new parts of you come to the surface. Sometimes, for the trees, it might look messy for a while, with great strips of their old selves peeling off and swinging in the wind before they fall away. But, with a bit of time and persistence, they come clean again, with brand new skins to face the world in. So, if you could shed your own bark like these trees, what would you be shedding?
Trust is such an important part of therapy. And, of course, of life… So do you trust yourself? To know yourself. To grow yourself. To heal. A gentleman born in the early 1900’s trusted you, even though you’ve never met. His name was Carl Rogers, and he was a psychologist. And he believed that you – that all of us – have the innate power to understand and heal ourselves. He believed that somewhere inside, you have the solution, the answer, the salve for your life’s struggles. And that trust will help unlock them. So how do you do that?