same as ever, but different

Months ago, I booked a solo trip to a wellness retreat center in the Blue Ridge Mountains. With the stress of the past few weeks, I was unsure if it would work out or not, so I’ve been in touch with the reception office to explain that my grandmother was with hospice and I might need to postpone. They were unbelievably accommodating and said I could wait until the very last minute to decide if I wanted to go now or later. I didn’t want to miss time with her.

As it turned out, we buried her on Wednesday with a service that was sweet and sincere and sad. I was dreading the funeral so much, and at the end of the day, my eyes were swollen with tears. But I was also astounded at how such a simple life can be the most beautiful. I loved her because she was mine. But so many others came to grieve with us because they loved her for who she was and the countless ways she touched the lives of everyone who met her. The one and only request she ever made about her final arrangements was to drape one of her mother’s old handmade quilts across her casket, and so we did.
We laid her to rest in the piercing June sun, and it is always such a surreal feeling when someone you loved and knew so well is lying in the ground. You feel aimless and unsteady and unsure for a while. It’s a new way of life you have to somehow figure out, how to exist without the person you were once so close to.

As life would have it, though I had no idea this would be the case, I threw my things in my car the very next day to drive across the Appalachian mountains alone. The retreat center’s directions warned against GPS leading you astray and included details like “go straight under the stone bridge,” “drive until the road turns to gravel,” and “turn left and proceed to the top of the mountain.”

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When I finally reached my destination and checked in with the reception office, I found my room on the other side of the property. It was raining a steady drizzle and something like 6pm. I opened the door to find a small room with a bathroom, a simple bed, one sheet, one blanket, no television, open windows, and the most glorious view of the North Carolina mountains. I forget that stillness has a sound, a hum you can almost hear.

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I have a total of 68 hours to spend here, and I can feel layers lifting as the hours pass. The food is light, and the others here are mostly quiet but kind. I’m in yoga & meditation classes about 5 hours a day. We rose with the sun today and began class without coffee which normally would hardly be possible, but it was brisk outside and the sun greeted me in a way I couldn’t refuse.

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We’ve been talking a lot about some foundational elements of yoga which we tend to forget, and I can’t help but hear it as life advice as well. “Work hard but don’t struggle. When you feel the struggle, ease out of it a bit.” And “go to the edge of your comfort, and then just gently push forward the tiniest bit.”

My life has been loss after loss this past eighteen months, I am so ready to work hard but tired of struggling. I can feel myself, even now when the grief feels fresh and heavy, finding my place a little more everyday. My voice is growing steadier, not louder. I am ready to work hard for the things that are important to me, but I’m also growing more confident in my own ability to know when to ease off and recognize a struggle when I feel one. If you have to force it, (whatever it is) it’s no good.

I have so much more to say later and more to think about and still time left here. As I’m writing this on the tiny bed, I can hear birds out my open window. My muscles are sore and my eyes are heavy. My grandmother’s last weeks taught me the value of surrender, and I am feeling it now in this place, even in a physical sense.

I indulged in a Shirodhara treatment this morning, an Ayurvedic therapy when you lie on a table and allow warm oil to be poured on your forehead in a continuous stream. It’s said to soothe the nervous system and awaken the “third eye” of spiritual understanding and intuition. I think it does accomplish that, but only because it makes you melt into the present moment and feel what is really there. Me, same as ever but different. Still here, still breathing.

 

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5 thoughts on “same as ever, but different

  1. Teej

    “If you have to force it, (whatever it is) it’s no good.”

    That’s an interesting thought. One I will have to ponder for a while. I have had some years of loss recently as well. Three first-trimester miscarriages in 2013 and a baby born prematurely at 24 weeks in March who passed away after 11 hours in the NICU. My husband is ready to be done trying for more children, but my mind is constantly whirring about next steps. I know that there is no longer any easy way to grow our family. Any pregnancy would be stressful to the point of harrowing and might lead to more loss, and adoption or foster care have their own difficulties. And yet I want another child, somehow, some way. Maybe, sometimes, forcing it can lead to something wonderful? I want to believe that. But maybe not. Maybe I should just subside into contentment with what I do have.

    But our daughter was born in 2014 after the three miscarriages. If I hadn’t kept pushing, she wouldn’t exist.

    1. Teej – Thank you for sharing, and I am so sorry that it’s been such a long road for you. I think what I take from that idea (the “don’t force it, don’t struggle”) is just that if I myself am struggling with coming to terms with something, if I myself am having to force it or talk myself into it, it’s no good. I have definitely, many many times in my life, forced something and worked hard for it to happen and the results were positive. But that usually comes from a place of resolute certainty inside, and then I just have to work hard for the outer circumstances to come together. I am not sure if this is all making sense or not, but it’s always about your gut and your own intuition. For me, nothing peaceful ever comes from ignoring that or fighting against it.

      I hope you find peace with whatever happens, and I wish you well. ❤

      1. Teej

        Thanks for your thoughtful reply. It does make sense. Unfortunately, my gut disagrees with my husband and medical reality.

        ah well. There is time to consider.

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