It’s that time of year again, when the carols eek their way out of radio stations, in lifts and shopping centres. This time of the year is so mixed for me now. Tim would have been 65 yesterday (17th December) and all week I have felt haunted by him. A couple I had never met telling me about their encounters with him and his profound impact on their lives that they married twenty plus years ago, another person letting me know he was the one who set them on a journey of learning which had put them into a career they now love, opening a book with handwritten notes of his in the margins. It all feels very close and very far away all at the same time. I had a flashback this week as well, having not had one for a couple of years, a very unsettling way to have trauma reappear, so uninvited and unwelcome.
I listened to a David Whyte talk and he spent a lot of time on breathing and touched on death, he even used the word interstitial – a key word from Tim’s diagnosis. So, haunted, is how I feel writing this. There is anguish and torment in how I find myself this day. I am also really happy noticing myself smiling and laughing more than I have for a very long time. New beginnings and new challenges are like puzzles to unravel and unlock. Some of these beginnings are wrapped up in people, others in systems and still more in the place where people and systems play together.
This is a time of mixed emotions. I am more open to hearing his name than I have been, and I didn’t fall apart with any of the encounters this week. Although I was a little wobbly after one of them. I have been able to draw on Surrender from Bono and have just started Michelle Obama’s latest book The Light We Carry. She is an almighty communicator and formidable guide. I am deeply grateful for these two sojourners. I also listened to David Whyte’s latest lecture – who unbelievably – spent quite a bit talking about breathing. (For those who are new to this blog, you may not know my husband died 5 years ago from a lung disease which had his lungs not expelling all the carbon dioxide on each breath increasing toxicity. His prognosis was originally 18 months, and he went onto live almost ten years after diagnosis, which was its own kind of miracle.) I am taking all this instruction as a sign of ending and beginnings vying for space in my head and heart, a kind of arm wrestle is going on as they do their own in and exhalations.
Taking a breath and taking time over this exchange, between ourselves and the planet, is universal and inclusive. My own breathing has been quite disrupted of late with COVID and now a lingering cough that must be treated twice daily so I don’t find myself in territory that might bring on more asthma. Without breath in the body the body is still moving, blood flowing, hair growing. With breath in the body, we are visibly alive to others, and it is the sign of life we all look for in a sleeping baby or a person resting into their last moments. I am finding myself taking a lot of deep breaths as the residue of the virus is hanging around. I think this may also be part of the trigger about feeling haunted.
I’m ready for some rest. The election is over, my onboarding is in full swing, I’ve had my first Council meeting in the mayor’s seat, I have begun making a contribution to decisions for the future, getting to know staff and elected members is underway, and I am feeling my way through conversations and connections with systems relevance.
We all carry both our light, fears, memories and pockets of darkness, and I find this blog a way to make those experiences find their way from invisibility to visibility. The lesson for me this week is the ghosts in your head are the ones that need to be exorcised and fly about in times when they can tell you are taking a big step forward. They want one last hurrah just to make sure you are up for it, knowing they won’t be taking up much real estate in your life as it grows and expands beyond them.
The line from Whyte’s Sweet Darkness rings true, and sometimes it takes just one line of poetry inhaled, to get fresh oxygen into the lungs.
“Sometimes it takes darkness and the sweet confinement of your aloneness to learn anything or anyone that does not bring you alive is too small for you.
In Ireland, a sacred pool after a walk through the hazel wood, David Whyte’s shadow hovering and lingering. This photo reminds me we are all in conversation with the elements. July 2013