We marked the 20-year anniversary of Leah’s death earlier this month.
That fact is enough to stop me in my tracks. 20 years is a long time.
That’s what I thought when I first began to mark 20-year milestones; 20 years since I graduated grade school and high school, my 20-year wedding anniversary, 20-years since my mom died, and my dad, and so many more. Those milestones now have many more years added to the time that has past.
20 years since I last saw Leah’s precious face in person, and felt her hugs; that’s a lot for my head to grasp.
The week leading up to this anniversary was intense. We were in negotiations with both the selling of our home in Raleigh, and the purchase of our new home in St. Paul, MN. We’re packing and doing all the things necessary to ensure an organized move.
Dan retired after a 41-year career.
It was election week.
Mercury was going direct.
With all of these activities swirling around in my world, I turned to presence like never before. The only thing that kept me grounded was to breathe deeply, come into my heart, listen deeply to the guidance I always receive there, and act (or not act) from a place of Divine Wisdom. I was guided more often than not to just be. That seemed counter intuitive to me in light of everything clamoring to get done, and yet it was exactly the right guidance.
Each time I tried to write about what was happening, nothing came. I chided myself for not following through on my commitment to share my experience of going through this time. And each time the message was clear, not now.
On Sunday, November 8th, we had a Celebration of Lives to mark this anniversary, via Zoom. Leah requested a party this year; she let me know that she missed all us as much as we miss her. The celebration was exactly what we needed this year.
Many of our family and friends joined to remember Leah, as well as their loved ones. I’ve been sitting with and basking in the energy of that gathering as I’ve been continuing to sort, and purge, and pack. I’m aware that I am also grieving this move, and I’ve not wanted to give in to it because I want to get more done first. And that reminded me that “waiting until” is something I’ve done all my life, and it’s at the root of all perfectionism. See if any of these statements ring true for you.
If I wait until I am the perfect weight, then I can wear cool clothes, or …..(this has changed throughout the years depending on the circumstance)
When I retire, then I’ll have time to dance or paint, or write poetry.
When I get my life in order, then I’ll be able to be a better partner, or mother, or friend.
When I have more time, then I’ll tend to my grief.
When I first started to dismantle perfectionism in my own life, I had to take a long hard look at these statements. Why couldn’t I wear cool clothes before I reached a perceived number on a scale that may or may not be realistic?
Why can’t I dance, or make art, or write poetry now?
And grief, what if I make time to be with my feelings of grief as they arise? That is what I teach, and I’m beginning to allow myself to grieve my move. I’m not just leaving a home that we love. I am also saying goodbye to friends, and to professional relationships I have cultivated. I’m saying goodbye to warmer weather, and to my identity here in Raleigh, among many other things.
Even after all this time, my first reaction is to push the grief away to “get things done.” What I know is that allowing my feelings in, and to let them be here until they move through will allow me to be more productive in the long run.
Grief has taught me to slow down and to listen deeply. When I do that, I can get curious about my first reaction, and see what is underneath. Usually it’s what really needs attention, it’s what I’ve been avoiding with the excuse that I’m too busy to tend to that now.
Presence is my practice, and it’s here that I connect with my heart. My head may not be able to grasp 20 years, my heart doesn’t have to grasp it, it can hold all the feelings that arise now and as I continue to move through this time.
Grieving is an active pursuit. Even allowing my feelings to be here as they are is an active choice.