Happy Birthday Whispers of Wisdom®. Today is your third anniversary of being launched! Wow… the time has gone quickly. When I wrote my first post in 2014, I was approaching the third anniversary of Roy’s death and thought I had “come through the grief” – which in a certain way I had. However, adding on another three years has taught me that this journey never truly ends. When we lose our life partner, we are faced with a choice: Stay paralyzed by the grief or become the author of our new life, which is what I chose to do. In my marriage, I had a different relationship with myself. My late husband and I shared responsibilities for one another – we had each other’s backs, we supported each other’s dreams, and we immersed ourselves in attaining our dreams. I was not 100% responsible for all the tasks of daily life – I could talk things over with Roy and get a great second opinion. We shared the joys and sorrows of life – we watched the world events and discussed them. We faced the world with two hearts, four eyes, and an incredible bond of loyalty to one another.
What do I know now that I didn’t know three years ago? Being single at 64 years of age is hard, often lonely, and yet as I become more and more accustomed to the aloneness, I find freedom. I have recognized that overcoming this horrible trauma and pain has led me to a new awareness of freedom. There is not much else that can stop me now that I have “digested” the reality of Roy’s death. In the aftermath of that life changing event, I was forced to fight for my life, to create new dreams, and in the process have cultivated a new sense of myself that unfolds regularly. I have become more compassionate, more understanding, I speak out against injustice, and support those who are suffering. I don’t tolerate a great deal of BS yet I am learning to widen the aperture of accepting others’ mishigas. I have created a very powerful relationship with myself and I have grown to like my company.
During the past three years, I have enjoyed dating some wonderful men. Each of them has been a valuable contribution to my life. Not too surprisingly, as I got “close” to them, I also pulled back – maintaining a comfortable distance and protecting myself from getting too close and being too vulnerable. The fear of grief has kept me from following the call of love for another man – instead I have been pulled towards self-love. Without knowing, loving and caring for myself in the aftermath of what was traumatic for me, how can I truly let someone get close to me – who is the “me” that is being experienced by others? And now I recognize that this has been the work of the past three years – grappling with becoming the author of my life without the additional responsibility of creating a serious connection with a man.
So as 2017 meanders along, I continue to stay busy with teaching, being of service, meeting men, spending time with my friends, and hanging out with myself and my cats. When I first began grief therapy soon after Roy’s death, I told my grief counselor that it would take seven years for me to heal. I will enter the seventh year in July 2017. I believe this is the year that I may meet someone. I realize that to hold back from loving and being loved because of the reality of grief would be similar to preventing a child from learning to walk because of the risk of falling. We do fall and we do get up again. That is my hope! I’ll keep you posted.
In her book Crow Planet: Essential Wisdom from the Urban Wilderness, author Lyanda Lynn Haupt defines wonder as “an attitude of mind and heart, a graced completion of a circle between observer and observed. Wonder is not a given; it is contingent on the habit of being that allows it to arise”. I have written about wonder ever since attending a Landmark workshop in Quebec last summer. I have attempted to create a practice of wonder for the past several months. Ms. Haupt’s definition brings me to a new level of awareness of a “wonder practice”.
There is something about looking out at the ocean from my terrace that encourages a practice of wonder and a way of being is cultivated that is open to wonder. The experience of being with the ocean lends itself to wondrous inquiry. Gazing at the horizon, I am often freed from the mundane thoughts that shape my day in the form of to do lists. Instead I drift and float with the movement of the waves. My listening is narrowed to the sounds of the rhythm of the waves as they move in and out from the shore. My senses are engaged and I am present to my breath and to the breathing of the universe. My mind is quieted and my imagination is freed from the cage of rational thinking. There are no enemies in this wondrous realm – I am just being with the cumulative forces of life.
These moments of wonder allow me respite from the daily wear and tear of my life: burdensome thoughts that create fearful internal states. The thoughts sound like: will I get cancer, will I have enough money to live on until I die, will I meet another wonderful man with whom I can co-create a lasting loving relationship, will we as a species find a way to honor diversity and do no harm to others, who will win the elections in November, and what will happen to our environment. In a practice of wonder, there is a freeing up, a liberation within intrapsychic spaces which brings forth creativity, energy, and possibilities. No longer are the questions fear driven, instead they are cast in lightness and generativity: the quality of the wondering shifts to themes such as what contribution will I make in my remaining days, who can I share my wisdom with today, what if I just surrender to a sense of faith that I will form a lasting relationship with a wonderful man and that he will arrive when he arrives, in what ways am I here on this planet to be of service, how can I help in the ways that I can, I wonder what can I do today to bring beauty and grace to those I meet.
I hope to leave you with a sense of wonder in your own lives. Is it possible that we can cultivate a habit of wonder at the drop of a hat – not only when alone with the ocean, but also when in the middle of a crowded grocery store when pandemonium engulfs us. This is I think at the heart of Haupt’s query into wonder as an attitude of mind and heart working together. My motto for this week is “think less, wonder more!”
I ￼have been asked by folks when I was going to start blogging again. The last post was in September 2015 following a fantastic trip to Quebec with Landmark Education. The focus of that weeklong course was about wondering more and knowing/being certain less. I have been cultivating the practice of wonder for several months. So what do I know now? I have come to recognize that there is a creative energy that accompanies wonder resulting in a rise in imagination and a rolling out of unforeseen possibilities. Following that course in Canada, I went to another Landmark course for two weeks in Hawaii on the island of Kauai. That course was focused on an inquiry into the creation of freedom – like what is freedom, what keeps us from being free. I began this year with the awareness that freedom for me was going to entail saying NO to many of the projects I have been involved with for the past year. Freedom was about having the time to reflect, wonder, and imagine where my life is heading. I was acutely aware of how much time I was spending on projects that no longer felt fulfilling. By saying no, I have been able to start saying yes to new projects, having time to myself without the hustle and bustle of getting to appointments, sitting through meetings, and taking notes.
We are now entering the sixth month of 2016 and many hours have been freed up since my Just Say No campaign began. It has been a bit overwhelming to savor my solitude – to be at one with my thoughts and ideas. I learned during the course in Hawaii that freedom is dependent upon a willingness to look at life as it is – to be in wonder about the nature of life, of time, and our relationships to others. The late social psychoanalyst Erich Fromm wrote in his 1941 bestselling book Escape from Freedom that human beings look for ways to avoid or escape their existential freedoms. The sense of freedom he writes about is due to the fight for individualism and self-determination that began in Western culture during the Renaissance. This sense of freedom often leaves us feeling untethered, afraid, isolated, and can lead to destruction. Some of the ways we “escape” or avoid freedom is by being involved in destructive relationships, substance abuse, and being overcommitted to work, projects, and volunteering. In other words we avoid being alone with our thoughts, with ourselves by being overextended with our time. Fromm noted that the escaping of freedom tends to encourage a climate of authoritarianism. In essence we become non-thinking, non-wondering, and not being aware and the tendency towards mass or group think rises in tandem with the climate of authoritarianism. The “group think” can take over as we saw in Nazi Germany and the rise of fascism in Europe and as we can witness currently in the polarization of our political parties in America. I am wondering about so many things right now. My next few posts will be devoted to wonder, freedom, and the nuanced relationship between being an individual and a community member.