We need to stop pretending. Pretending we are different from, better than, separate from; pretending that we’ve never lived through raw jagged pain; never felt bone shattering loss; never been sickened by extraordinary guilt; never been shamed down to the core of our essence, never been rattled by all consuming rage.
Wake up people! We are all the same here; at the core; at the deep down bottom of our souls. And when we share our stories; our raw true authentic selves with each other we finally understand our bond; our shared human experience; our core of pain and guilt and grief and shame that we try so hard to bury, ignore, delete, in our haste to appear better than; different from. We wrap our core selves in heart breaking isolation.
This is the sickness that we need to heal. Today. Not tomorrow. Now. Yes I mean you. Yes I mean me. Yes I mean them. “The bad guys.” The ones we love to blame; to point fingers at.
When we tell it raw, write it raw, down to the grieving, abused, guilty, shameful edges of ourselves we wake up. We realize that we all carry the heavy weight of jagged stories in our core; and when we share these stories we understand our sameness. We are lifted from a burden of pretending.
When we ignore our pain; bury it underneath alcohol or drugs or gambling or sex or rage or prejudice we become sick; sick of mind and heart and soul. Healing occurs when we realize that my pain is no greater than yours; and yours is no greater than mine. Our pain only carries different details; has a different flavor.
And imagine this; our pain is our fuel for waking up; for living up to our greatest potential; for doing our great work in the world; but only when we bring it up into the light of understanding. When we pull it up for examination; hold it in the light of day; reveal our darkness; then great healing occurs for ourselves and for those we share our story with. Then our darkness no longer holds power over us. No longer poisons us; sends us out into the world to hate and blame and kill and abuse. We’re able to forgive. To reach across the room and take an enemy’s hand and love them. Reach across the room and heal each other.
This is our way forward. The old way of living in our ideas, our minds; comforting ourselves with money; separating our stories; of hiding behind our clever personalities- is crumbling. Who can you reach out to today? But only with your truest raw jagged authentic self. It’s time to show up ragged and real. Are you ready?
I’ve just returned from a family funeral gathering in New Orleans where we honored the life of my beautiful Aunt BeeDee. It was a reunion of cousins, siblings and of our generations-long love affair with our childhood home in Long Beach, Miss. that we lost to Hurricane Camille in 1969.
At this gathering we shared endless memories and stories of Long Beach and how it was the best part of all of our childhoods – before Camille washed it away. If you’ve read my memoir Water Oak: The Happiness of Longing then you know this story and you’ve met some of these people – including my dear cousins Russell and Davis and my Uncle Warren and Aunt BeeDee who we lost last week. She was a huge part of Long Beach and she was the definition of a strong woman way before that was a thing to be.
I come from generations of southern story tellers and generations of devotion to this Long Beach land that shaped our lives. We learned this weekend that Long Beach had been in our family more than 100 years ago when the first hurricane destroyed it and it was sold to someone with no connection to our family – who then randomly sold it to my great grandfather JP who didn’t even realize the land’s previous ancestral connection. We only discovered this recently through background title searches.
This tells me that the land is indeed sacred to our family and was part of our soul agreements in ways we can’t begin to understand. And never will.
We don’t own Long Beach anymore. And our conversations this weekend were about why we can’t own it again. It has already been destroyed by three hurricanes we know of – including Camille and Katrina.
Yet this piece of land lives in our hearts and souls and always will. I myself dream of Long Beach and all of us there together nearly once a week – always have and always will. We will never “get over” our love of Long Beach and our dreams and memories of it.
What it gave us was a raw rugged love of nature, of wild untamed places and of relationships built on camaraderie and spirit. We learned to be strong and fearless there. As a girl in the 50s in Long Beach I was treated the same as my male cousins and siblings as we climbed trees, took boats out into the rough waves and dared each other to do impossible things and be whoever we wanted to be. This freedom only existed for me in Long Beach. And for most of us that’s what Long Beach was; a glimpse into our wild and fearless selves.
Every book I’ve ever written contains Long Beach in it. And every word I will write in the future was born there. I will live inside of Long Beach until the day I cross over and get to stand there once again on the porch beside my daddy, grandpa, grandma, Aunt BeeDee, Uncle Pete and the rest of us; our soul agreements continuing on as we learn to love each other better and better – sitting in the arms of our oak tree or running through the low tide sandbars with the minnows at our feet. Thank you Long Beach. Thank you for the soul agreements.
This is from one of my Bridges to Heaven grief workshop attendees in New York who writes for the New York Times. She recently lost her partner, Laura, to cancer. She writes about her healing experience in my class:
Yesterday I went to the ‘Healing Our Grief’ workshop at the Open Center. It was a beautiful sharing experience hosted by Sue Frederick author of Bridges to Heaven. Sue’s husband died age 37 from cancer and her best friend died the same year. These two tragedies transformed her life, reawakened her intuition and her spiritual side and prompted her to quit her job in journalism.
Sue came to understand, she says, that, ‘We take the soul journey of loss with our loved ones for a divine purpose’. It sets us on a path to reinvention and reconnection with spirit. Over the day, the mood in the room turned from sorrow to uplift.
Timidly at first, everyone began to share stories of their departed loved ones reappearing in their lives. Incredibly I was sitting in a Lucie-Laura sandwich; my neighbors were Lucille, Laura and Lore-Donna. Lore-Donna said roses magically grew around her window in time for her birthday after her husband died. Liz, who had just lost both parents, experienced her mother as a beautiful moth that sat by her side and rested in her palm.
These delicate experiences are easy to pick apart or dismiss as fanciful imaginings with our cerebral left brains. But they are the tissue that connects us to our loved ones and the spiritual world.
Once we stop doubting and see them for what they are, they are an amazing joy.
Several people, including Sue, commented on how comfortable I am with all this. Of course, I’ve had the best spirit guide in Laura. She was holding my hand and tickling me during the day.
But Sue also thought my intuition might have awakened earlier due to having battled Multiple Sclerosis for most of my life. I’ve healed myself using alternative methods and a lifetime’s symptoms have vanished (that’s a story for another time) but shortly after I was officially diagnosed in 2004, I had a vision that a large piece of my head was missing, almost half my skull was gone.
And then just as I was feeling sad, into this hole poured the most beautiful golden light. I felt that my illness had cracked me open and let the light in. That out of this suffering, beautiful things would come. And they did. By Lucie Young