Crossing the Threshold
My half-open eyes see a cathedral in the darkness of my bedroom before I realize I am home. I hear the first notes of birdsong as the light peaks over the horizon and I float with them across the ocean to another land I also call home. What was familiar seems out of place and old routines lie in a jumble on the floor. In my first week home I lost cash, my spare prescription glasses, and my patience while driving. One of the few things that feels grounding is returning to lap swimming. Somehow the fluidity of water settles me. Crossing the threshold home after Sojourning with Grief has brought me into an old place with new eyes. The familiar is now unfamiliar. I am disoriented.
As I write this I have been home ten days. Jet lag is long gone, my suitcase unpacked, and laundry done. The unpacking of my journey, however, will take months. I feel a sense of loss. Missing the simplicity of the day-to-day focus on the sojourn. Being in touch with myself in a new way and discovering what I could do (including hauling my suitcase though the Paris Metro up and down stairs!) And how I could be, simply BE in the moment without the distractions of my daily life here. It takes more effort to be present to my inner voice amid my mounting “to do” list.
And then there is deep sense of loss at missing my homeland. My time there was like exploring a new lover. Tracing the coastline of their body. Their moods as winds changed and storms rolled in. Unfamiliar aromas in the morning as flowers opened to the sun. And now an ocean separates us and I don’t know when we will embrace again.
Loss comes in many forms throughout our lives. Sometimes we can even anticipate a loss ahead of time. I know this from the work I do and even prepared as much as I could for my return. I “anticipated” that I would need time to reintegrate and took two days away on retreat my first week back. It helped and it wasn’t enough. I’m still feeling adrift in many ways. Yes, I have anchor points and focus when I need to. I also find I am easily distracted. Tired. Sad. Yearning. And also happy to be back with those who care about, love, and support me. The both/and of risking “saying yes” to living a full life is knowing a “Tangled Ball of Emotions” will be stirred inside me.
Reminders: Sage Advice for Coping with Loss
This loss, though immersed in a time that included joy and wonder, intentionality for belonging, and deep spiritual experiences, is a loss none the less, and invites me to journey with my companion Grief. What I am experiencing is normal. The weariness. The disorientation. The inability to make choices. I have checked in with my wise counsel of support since my return. They offer sage advice—advice I would offer to myself if I could step out of my body and have a chat.
Lie on grass and gaze at the sky.
Be gentle with yourself.
Cry (I’ve been doing a lot of that.)
Remember, you are loved.
Walk on this earth to reconnect with this land.
Keep breathing-deep, long breaths.
Sojourn Shifting From the External to the Internal
I scroll through my camera roll and look back over my photos several times a day. I read my journal and write new insights and scraps of poems. I sit and sleep with all that has unfolded. There are gaps in my sojourn posts. My last post was from scattering my mother’s ashes. Other significant events happened after that—time in Canterbury that started out feeling heavy but was redeemed when I met with four wise women that shared their labyrinth and poetry wisdom. (A special thank you to Jan Sellers for being my host for the day.) A touching time in London where I visited my uncle's grave site, an uncle who died when I was a toddler and I never knew. And then my retreat/pilgrimage offered through Veriditas (with special appreciation for the excellent facilitation of Christine Valters Paintner in our morning sessions) to Chartres Cathedral in France where something further shifted within, where words still linger in the liminal space waiting to take form. There will be other “Sojourning with Grief” posts, for I am still on the sojourn, it has simply shifted into an internal space.
Gratitude, Grief, and Meandering
Grief, my mentor, is with me on this journey, reminding me through those wise ones I mentioned above and my guides beyond this world what I need to do. The labyrinth wisdom reminds me there is only one path and no right or wrong way to be present on the journey. I share this post with you, even in this more raw state, because so often we want our losses, our grieving to be cleaned up and dusted off. More palatable. But if I am going to offer my services as someone who can support those in the midst of their own losses and life transitions, know I am willing to continue to meander down that path myself. And it is a meander. The journey can’t be rushed. Grief reminds me of that. So I continue to nap. And sip tea. And remind myself it may be awhile before my glasses show up. And I laugh. I have someone in my life who can stir a laugh from me with a wink. For that I am grateful. For all of this, I am grateful.
Thank you for following along this far on my sojourn.
When was a time you returned from an external or internal journey and found yourself disoriented? What helped you reintegrate? How did you acknowledge any loss that may have been part of the return?
We transition from the wet womb to open air, sucking in first breath. Relationships form. Some endure. Some end. Our sense of home and belonging shifts. What gives life meaning—school, career, family, beauty, creativity, service—ebbs and flows as we age. Our lives are full of transitions. Some weave in and out of our world seamlessly, going unrecognized until years later. Others create a temporary loss of balance. Then there are the transitions that leave you feeling like the GPS of your life has gone haywire.
Taking time to recognize life transitions by naming them can offer relief, release, or an invitation to honor a part of your life journey that you may not have considered relevant.
In this workshop, you’ll be introduced to the archetype of the labyrinth as a tool to reflect on your life transitions in combination with written expression and other creative means. No writing experience is necessary to participate! This workshop is in partnership with Portland Women Writers (http://pdxwomenwriters.com/) and is for women or those who identify female. Workshop is limited to 12 participants.
Don’t hesitate to contact me if you have any questions about the workshop or any of my other services.