A young friend asked me a couple of weeks ago if I've been writing over the last two months, if I've been stockpiling posts and had a plan in mind for my spectacular return to blogging. An even greater sadness quickly permeated my already hurting heart as I looked into the young man's kind and gentle eyes and said, "No, my friend ... I haven't written at all." He smiled softly as he replied, "People need you to write, Terrie ... I need you to write ... the world needs you to write ... you need you to write." I tried desperately to blink back my tears as I shook my head and said, "I don't think so, friend ... I think I'm done." Later that evening, I wept for what I didn't tell him ... that over the last weeks I have tried again and again to write ... that I've spent night after night staring at the blank screen before me ... that I was certain my days of writing were over ...that I was convinced I had nothing more to offer anyone. I wept for what I knew but could not say ... that my confidence was gone ... that my spirit was broken ... that I was afraid to write again.
A few days later my very first guest blogger told me she was spending Christmas in the same place where she penned her first guest post ... her first blog post ever in fact. I published her post on December 31, 2012 ... and what a powerful post it was. I suggested she write another guest post to close out 2014 since I knew I wouldn't be writing one myself. She quickly suggested we write a post together, and I quickly replied that she should write alone. That night sleep eluded me as I thought about her words, her suggestion that we write a joint post, her thoughts for possible topics, her not-so-subtle attempt to get me to write again. But even more ... so much more ... I thought about the impact her words have had upon so many of you. I read back through countless emails I've received asking that she guest post more often, telling me of the difference her words and her insight have made in the lives of so many of you. And that's when I knew ... that's when I knew I had to try again ... for you ... for her ... maybe even for me. So settle in and read for a while … though I’m not at all sure about my own words, I am certain beyond any doubt that the words of my friend are well worth reading.
Writing isn't the only thing I've abandoned over the last couple of months ... perhaps the most telling, the most frightening, the most significant of all the things I've abandoned have been my nightly walks with my wiener dog Ollie. As is so often true when the darkness of depression envelops me, I only saw my own sadness and felt my own loss ... I didn't even consider what Ollie was feeling or what he needed. Until my sweet little wiener dog did something he's never ever done before ... until he let me know in no uncertain terms that not going for a walk each evening was absolutely, completely and totally unacceptable in wiener dog land. It was a Friday evening and upon arriving home from work, I flipped on the light in my bedroom to let Ollie out of his kennel. I stood in silence as I looked around my room ... there were feathers everywhere ... feathers on the carpet, feathers on the bed, feathers on the furniture, feathers on the clothes I had tossed on the floor, feathers on the ceiling ... there were feathers everywhere. As I stood there wondering if a flock of chickens had somehow made their way into my room and subsequently exploded, Ollie started barking ... and with each "Mom, you're home ... let me out!!" bark he barked, more and more feathers flew out of his kennel. As I peered at my tail-wagging, feather-covered little hound, I realized what had happened ... Ollie had completely shredded the oversize feather pillow that had been his bed for more than a year. I've been unable to get Ollie's pillow-shredding feather tantrum out of my mind, but only partly because I'm still finding feathers even though I've vacuumed a gazillion times. I can't get the feather episode out of my mind because I can't get the meaning of it ... the deep and powerful meaning of it … out of my heart.
When Terrie first told me about Ollie and the feather incident, the first thing that came to mind is Terrie’s video, “Ears Wide Open?” But because little Ollie can’t talk, this was more of an “Eyes Wide Open” moment. And maybe even an “Eyes and Heart Wide Open” moment. Terrie talks about while in a depressed state, it’s hard to see anything beyond her own sadness. I think that Terrie isn’t alone in this. When many of us go through difficult or troubling times, it’s hard for any of us to see what others are going through. Actually, sometimes it doesn’t even take a difficult or troubling time, there are just times that we’re more focused on ourselves than others.
It’s hard to admit, but I’ve often been surprised to learn about others’ struggles, as I bet we all have. I’m guilty of interacting with people who I think have it all – thinking that maybe they aren’t dealing with as much, they aren’t as stressed, they don’t have to worry about things to the degree others might. Then, with ears, eyes and heart open, we learn more about others. We learn they are dealing with a lot of worry. It could be that their son has health problems, their aging mom needs daily assistance which is taxing the family, their job isn’t what they hoped, their spouse or partner isn’t being supportive, they found a lump, their partner is out of work, they lost a friend due to a disagreement and so on and so on and so on.
Personally, when I learn of these things, I’m maybe a little embarrassed. Embarrassed that I first thought that they had it all. That they didn’t have things to worry about. Embarrassed that I didn’t take more time to get to know them, to talk, to listen. And then it comes down to, for me anyway – exercising real empathy. Real understanding that everyone has stuff they are dealing with. Because that is a fact:
Everyone has stuff.
I think maybe it’s true that all things happen for a reason, that perhaps there are no coincidences in life. My endeavor to remove the feathers from my physical dwelling place has caused me to think an awful lot about the feathers that reside inside of me … feathers of shame and doubt and guilt and sadness and despair and loneliness and fear and isolation. Just as it seems I will never be able to rid my room of all the feathers left behind by Ollie’s shredding event, it so often seems I will never be able to rid my mind, my heart and my soul of all the feathers left behind from the times when events or words or circumstances tried so desperately to shred my sense of self-worth or belonging or inner peace. My first reaction when I walked into my room that evening and saw the massive feather chaos was anger … my first thought was “This is going to take forever to clean up … this is going to be an impossible task.” I didn’t see the humor in what Ollie had done … I didn’t see the opportunity for some much-needed deep cleaning in my room … I didn’t see that Ollie was trying to help get me back to the trail. When I walked into my room that evening, I only saw chaos … I only saw lots and lots of hard work ahead … I only saw what seemed to me an impossible obstacle to overcome.
Impossible? Or simply the next big challenge in life? Hard work, indeed, but the question is, is it worth it? Is it worth it to feel better, to grow, to become the person you want to be? It is tough, really tough. But worth it for sure. As we face 2015, I’ve been thinking about that impossible task for me. Or maybe it’s a couple of impossible tasks. It’s different for all of us. It could be that yours is to run a marathon, to de-clutter (yikes, that seems impossible for me!), to spend less time thinking about work and more time thinking about how to raise the most incredible little humans. Is it to overcome a fear of public speaking? To lead without reservations? To be confident in decisions that affect your family? Or decisions that affect your work family? To stand up to someone who hasn’t been supportive? To finally speak your mind, even if you know you might lose some support or even friends.
My goal is to think about the impossible task for 2015 – and see if I can make it more possible through a different focus, a different approach, a different point of view. How would my best friend approach it? My dad? My daughter? I can guarantee those would be three very different approaches. What is your impossible? And how can you reframe the situation?
Here’s the thing about feathers … they don’t float through the air or move around unless something or someone disturbs them. It’s when the wind blows and the air starts churning around me … it’s when everything presses in on top of me and screams at me to give up … that’s when feathers fly and that’s when feathers get ruffled. And when all those feathers escape from their cozy, comfortable resting place and start flying around all willy-nilly … well … that’s when I am forced to acknowledge that I’ve got a serious feather problem that’s going to require some serious hard work to fix. I’ve learned that when I’m still … when I’m quiet … when I focus on removing one feather at a time and don’t allow myself to become overwhelmed or intimidated by the enormity of the task before me, that’s when I make the most headway. Healing is the same way, you know … healing of my mind … healing of my heart … healing of my soul takes stillness, quiet, time, patience, determination, courage and strength. Healing takes focusing on one feather at a time … healing takes understanding that feathers can be used for good, for growth, for grace.
I love the thought of one feather at a time. What can I do today to make a difference? To start to make that change? What a perfect time to reflect – the beginning of a new year. What will I do differently this year? What will be my goal for the year? What is my impossible task? And where do I want to be on December 31, 2015? If I have a year to get there, what will I do each month? Each week? Every day? How will 2015 be for me? Or better yet, how will I be in 2015? I get to choose. Sure I’ll have feathers to get through throughout the year, but I choose how I am, how I react, how I grow in 2015. I choose to conquer my impossible.
A few days after I was absolutely sure I had finally found and removed all of the feathers from my room, I discovered how very wrong I was … feathers are still showing up even now in places I would have never expected feathers to be. It would be easy, you know, to just give up and resign myself to the fact that I will never be able to clean up all the feathers. It would be easy to throw in the towel and acknowledge that I will never again have a room without feathers … to stop trying to remove the feathers that continue to appear … to say it’s too difficult, too time-consuming, too humbling, too impossible to ever have a feather-free room. The truth is I really may not be able to completely rid my room or my heart, mind and soul of every single feather … but if I stop trying … if I give up … I let the feathers win. If I allow the feathers to totally invade my heart … if I allow them to completely consume my mind … if I allow them to blatantly overtake my soul ... then I’ve let the feathers do so much more than win. I’ve let them trample my will to go on … I’ve let them crush my desire to keep fighting … I’ve let them suffocate who I am, who I really, really am … I’ve let them bury the real me.
They say that with meditation, the answers come in the silence. If one can spend time ridding the mind of all of the clutter, answers will come, the answers that are right for me, will come. The feathers flutter away and the truth arrives.
Now for me, this is one of my impossible tasks. Meditation. Calming the mind. Allowing the real thoughts to develop and be brought to the surface. To choose the feathers I want, to be reminded by some of those feathers about what is important in life, and to get rid of the feathers that are bringing me down, not allowing me to be the best version of me.
I read recently that it would be a good thing to choose a word for the new year. I have but a few more hours to decide on the word, but for now, for me, my 2015 word is CHOICE. I make the choices to guide my 2015. To achieve what I hope to achieve by making the choices to be who I want to be. I will choose to take time to meditate. I choose how to face the day. I choose which feathers I pay attention to, and which feathers to discard. I choose to take the time for empathy. For listening. For making a difference. I will choose to put down the technology and engage with those I care about. I will also choose this for my teenagers who might not make this choice!
Choosing the gift of time, and more specifically, meditation, will allow me to more clearly focus on those I love. Choosing to take the time to meditate, and not choosing to sleep for 15 more minutes, will allow me to choose the feathers I want, and rid my mind of the ones I don’t. And you can bet there will be some days that I will certainly choose to sleep in.
What will be your word for 2015? Is it patience? Is it persistence? Is it love? Is it to keep on keeping on (this qualifies for one word in my book)? My word may change throughout the year, but for now, my word is choice. I’m choosing to make 2015 spectacular.
There’s a difference in my response to the feathers in my room now as compared to when they first overtook my place of refuge and retreat. When a feather suddenly and unexpectedly makes an appearance now, I smile. Every time I pluck yet another feather from my bed or my clothes or my furniture or my floor, I see my little Ollie … tail wagging, feathers flying … trying so very hard to remind me of what matters most. I see him reminding me not to quit when life gets hard, not to give up during the shredding, not to stop believing in myself. I see my feathered-covered little wiener dog begging me to remember I can choose … I can choose to love … I can choose to laugh …I can choose to live. Even when the feathers are flying, friends … even when it seems as if the feathers will never stop flying … I can choose.