Last week was my birthday. My solar return, and a time of reflection. I celebrated another year on the first day of October, the ancestor month. The veil is getting thinner, the days are getting darker and Autumn is in the air, most days anyway. Samhain is coming. Maybe, because I'm getting older, I'm noticing this more but so many people this year wished me a happy birthday followed with a comment like "29 this year?" "Turning 30 again?" etc. and frankly it disturbed me. These comments came from both men and women and it really speaks to how our culture is scared of getting old. I understand the fear of bodies and minds breaking down but...
I AM 45 YEARS OLD! I do not wish to be 29 or 30 again. I earned this life. I worked hard for it. I am grateful for these years and I'm proud of who I am becoming. 29 year old me couldn't understand, she was too busy in the Mother phase, making babies and nurturing new life. Having entered the Wise Woman phase of life, I'm even more aware there is much still to learn and that I have much to share. This time of life with my children nearly grown and a career that is not exactly what I expected, I find my passions are pushing to the surface. My truth is being told and I cannot be anything other than my authentic self. Thank you birthday 45 for authenticity. I am learning to be gentle with myself and to listen to my body. I honor this body. I honor it for my children and for my ancestors.
This year my reflections are heavy. I've been spending time with my ancestor altar, offerings of "whiskey" and bread laid out. Looking back through my memories of the lives lived and the parts I carry forward and pass on to my children. Blood is not the link here, deep love connects us. This year the losses feel acute, the grieving is fresh all over again.
My circle and my children's circle has experienced much loss this year. Death feels very final to those of us left behind, even though we don't really know what is on the other side, what adventure may await us. In the tarot, the Death card is the ending of something so the new beginning can take hold. In life, when we lose our friends and loved ones it is not easy to see the new beginning, we are to carry the unfinished stories with us.
Grief is the spiral of living without, the lesson of finding happiness through sadness, the guilt of living and at times the guilt of not "fully" living. The raw pain we try to push aside or numb away, knowing it doesn't lessen unless we face it, feel it and hold it until we are ready to put it down.
"All the unexpressed love, the grief that will remain with us until we to pass. I hope this grief stays with me, because it is all the unexpressed love I didn't get to tell her and I told her everyday" ~Andrew Garfield speaking about the loss of his mother.
This quote caught me off guard. We say things like, "We grieve because we loved" or "Grief is the love we have". This however, hits differently because there is so much truth in no matter how much we express our love, it's never all said, it's never all felt and it hurts. It just plain hurts. Sometimes it can feel like we are drowning in unexpressed love. I guess the key is finding ways to continue expressing our love and to sew up the wounds. We must swim or at least tread water lest we drown.
Can we start small and grow into living our best life? This will look very different for each of us and somedays we'll take a few steps forward only to slide back a few more, but the point is showing up. To not build walls around our hearts, to be vulnerable and to live. There are no good answers for the deaths of the young or those whose stories are clearly unfinished. We can't finish their stories but we can weave what they brought to our lives into our stories and they live on in some way. It's not the same, but I believe it's true.
Reflecting on this year and my 45 autumns, I go inward. This time of year we are all invited to turn inward and to take stock of what to keep, what to nurture and what to let go. It takes strength to let go. When I go inward, I always find a little girl who was asked to grow up before she was ready. A little girl who now mothers herself, weaving her own mothers story into her own. That little girl has grown into a Wise Woman and sometimes is surprised to be here, in this body, with this heart and these edges that even the softness of body and heart don't quite dull. And that little girl still begs me to play with her.
This past year has been a lesson in surrender. Releasing the desire to control what is not mine to control. Surrendering to the sadness and the anger, finding ways to channel hard emotions into something useful. Surrender holds it's own power. Surrender isn't giving up or giving in, but finding peace in not resisting what the universe is unfolding and the treasures in what comes. This year I have weaved my mother's compassion, my grandmothers' resilience and my grandfather's unconditional love deeply into my story. I have held space for others pain, but possibly not quite enough for my own.
This coming year, I will honor all the unfinished stories and unexpressed love I am carrying.
In loving memory of Xavier Morrison, Joan Klein, TJ Stalzer, Nate Amayao Eugenio, Jesus Ochoa, Nico Pangelinan and Andrew Lopez. May your spirits be light and your stories continued.