“We are all butterflies. Earth is our chrysalis.” ~ LeeAnn Taylor
I’ve been thinking a lot about the shape of the life I’ve built, and where I see myself headed. For the past two years, I’ve endeavored to take the reins of my writing life and direct them more consciously and carefully. Doing this was motivated by the idea that I must create the time and space to do the important things in my life, not just the urgent ones. As a teacher I’ve tended to put my students first. This quality was wonderful for them, but not that great for me, my writing life, or my personal life.
At this point, I am unwilling to continue that pattern.
My research and writing, the artful arrangement of language, my reading and traveling, and all of the close relationships which allow me to bear witness to life on earth, these are the experiences I want to focus on during the second half of my life. I want to live and write and love. I want to be unwavering in my joy and the exploration of what makes me tick. I want to understand myself, so I can more deeply understand others.
I’ve been unpacking my artistic work so far, seeing patterns emerge. It’s strange to realize how far the river of words stretch back in my life. I wrote a scholarly agenda for myself this week (regarding my plans as a writer) and found myself transported back in time. There I sat, on a chair inside a beautiful, airy apartment in Spokane, Washington in 1965. Mesmerized by the birds in an aviary in front of me, I watched perhaps a dozen parakeets flying freely in that windowed room. They were turquoise, apple green, and bright yellow. My mother sat in the next room, in a private writing lesson with a woman named Mrs. Simondet. She wore Chanel No. 5 and pulled her silver hair up into a fashionable French knot. She dressed in impeccable tweed suits reminiscent of Jacqueline Kennedy. I don’t know what my mom wrote about in those days. I only know that her longing to write, and her mother’s longing to write, is etched into my blood. Almost fifty years ago, words pulled me in. They gathered around me — much like those lovely birds — and they captured my imagination.
After we left Spokane, Mrs. Simondet wrote me letters. We were pen pals until, I imagine, she died. She often sent me treasures, things like a ceramic burrow with flowers painted around its neck, or a bottle of sweet smelling toilet water packaged inside a small blue coach like the one in which Cinderella rode to the ball. Elusive and glamorous, she was like a poem in female form.
I realize now that my few encounters with her, changed my life.
I also realize that our sense of possibility, our sense of real longing for what we are meant to do — our mission per se — is crucial, especially now.
“A dog sign […] is a sign of service and making a contribution to others. Have you been loyal to your mission in life?” ~ Denise Linn, The Secret Language of Signs
Dog is my co-pilot…
Lately, all I want to do is sleep — yet when I finally do sleep — it is fitful, and I wake up in the middle of the night, mind racing. I can’t tell you how many nights I’ve spent writing because I was wide-eyed at 2 or 3 a.m. In my dreams, I adopt more and more dogs. Little dogs and big ones. There is even a fox in the mix. They show up outside my door when it’s storming. They appear as if by magic, in the crate beside the dog I actually own. Symbolically, dogs are loyal and protective, faithful and true. Spirit dogs gather around me to act as my protective detail. While we all weather the profound changes transpiring right now, doglets continually appear. I have lap dogs and mutts, glossy pure breeds and strays, and a lovely red fox, with beautiful markings. My spirit dogs gather close to let me know I am safe, no matter what. There’s comfort in the presence of these dog-shaped angels. I know they’ve ‘got my back.’
Don’t Hold Out; Don’t Hold On
So, my question for you is, are you paying attention to what’s showing up in your life right now? Do you notice what’s arriving, and what’s being ripped away? Are you finding your way into work that feeds your soul? Are you protecting yourself and your own needs, so you can be soft and useful to the larger world? Or are you still beholden to folks who play the blame game, and want you to be their scapegoat or their doormat?
More than ever, we’re finding out not only who we are, but also the reality that lurks behind the masks of others. Sometimes our true, soul family is not our blood family. Sometimes we have to go out in search of our pack, ready to cut ties with anyone who makes us feel small. I find myself divorcing distraction and cutting ties with anyone who’s not genuinely kind, supportive, and loving. I am embracing my tribe of writers and poets and scribes and sages and seekers.
It’s time you do too.
Join the pack of people (and animals and spirits and totems) that believe in you and want the best for you. Find the pack who will love and protect you, always. They are your true family.
As I awoke this morning, I shook off the memory of those dream dogs. I found my real, flesh and blood dog stretched out next to me, snoring peacefully. I knew that I would write something today and take some down time to read. I knew that I’d soak up the light that was filling the sky and think about what to do next.
As I let the dog out to pee, I looked up. A smattering of thin clouds and stars spackled the sky. My breath caught in my throat. For a long moment, I thought about all the lost souls wandering this world, hopeless or heartbroken. I wished them peace. I wished them the means to find their way back from whatever it is that weighs them down.
I feel sure that their angels and guides are aware of their plight, but still I wished them peace. May they find the kindred spirits who are seeking them. May they recognize home when they see it.
© 2013 Shavawn M. Berry All rights reserved
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