What's been happening since an earthquake of sadness and fear arrived at my door?
With the first winter snows after a glorious fall here in the Tetons, an earthquake of sadness, anger, and fear arrived at my doorstep. I was blindsided when I got fired for the first time in my life at 59. Not technically fired, as an independent contractor, that’s not the right word, but a year into a lucrative three-year contract that I loved (and by all accounts, my work was exceeding expectations), I was given 30 days’ notice with little explanation that my contract would be terminated. “It’s not you, it’s us” was the reason given, which is a story for another day.
In the middle of panicking about how I was going to continue paying for my kid’s ski comps and college tuition bills, I received news that a cherished friend, a fellow mother, died at 46 despite her heroic battle with colon cancer.
That day, staring out my window in my dark corner office, watching the snow whirl around on the muddy slopes of Snow King Mountain, wondering what to do next, I wiped away my warm tears, took a deep breath, and opened my laptop. Just then, an opportunity knocked.
The email was an invitation from an old friend and mentor that promised: “good energy with amazing women friends and catalyzing our extraordinary community in sharing their talents.” The email pushed, pulled, and eventually dragged me to a weekend retreat called Across the Water: Moving to Higher Ground that promised participants the opportunity to “step out of their daily reality and receive two full days of inspiring teachings and practices that expand and illuminate body, mind, and soul.”
There were so many excuses to ignore the call - the closing weekend of deer hunting season, glorious weather for biking, piles of laundry, dogs who need a walk, gardens to put away for winter, and my child’s lacrosse tournament. But the words in the description keep calling.:
“Bridging the gap between where we are and where we are going” enticed me;
“We are on a mission to awaken women and girls to our divine feminine nature, in the vision of creating a better humanity” further piqued my curiosity;
“Women are the abundant creators of life, and it is time for us to believe and embody the truth of what we are capable of” made me nervous;
“Bringing together indigenous ceremony, speakers, workshops, panels, community, movement and some of our favorite brands to thoroughly inspire and uplevel in mind, body and spirit” made me seriously squirm.
So I signed up.
In the next few weeks, I’ll be devoting a full post or two to what transpired at the event, but for now, I’m skipping to what’s happened since. Like the November 2022 storms of rain, sleet, and wicked wind outside that finally left us with champagne powder and the promise of a great ski season, I can’t write fast enough to capture all my thoughts. I feel unleashed.
I’m going on a road trip with fear and creativity as outlined by Elizabeth Gilbert in Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear (thanks, Julia Heemstra, for being the embodiment of Teton Strong or reminding me of this!). Sparks from my heart are coursing through my fingers, bypassing my critical brain, and piling up in sticky notes, iPhone reminders, journals, and google docs. I’m trying to capture my reworking, rethinking, and regenerating thoughts to share later. I’m calling in everything that makes me uncomfortable. And then I’m going to rest, rejuvenate, relax, and give myself permission to just stare at the walls and think.
A few days after the Across the Water retreat - I came across this Rumi poem. If I were queen, it would be required reading for every middle schooler on the planet.
The Guest House This being human is a guest house. Every morning a new arrival. A joy, a depression, a meanness, some momentary awareness comes as an unexpected visitor. Welcome and entertain them all! Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows, who violently sweep your house empty of its furniture, still, treat each guest honorably. He may be clearing you out for some new delight. The dark thought, the shame, the malice, meet them at the door laughing, and invite them in. Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent as a guide from beyond. by Rumi
Another recent source of creative inspiration came from the examined family by fellow Substack writer Courtney Martin On why you still haven’t written that thing. Her words, much like the teachings from Across the Water, are a call to prioritize my wellness and dreams for expression and stand up to the “system” that prioritizes busy-ness (business!) and encourage me to say “no” to the “myriad incentives for producing ego-enhancing and money-making widgets (power points, emails, deliverables…).”
Courtney further pulls this out, which for those who know me personally, is an astute description of me as the idealist:
Perhaps Thomas Merton said it best:
“There is a pervasive form of modern violence to which the idealist...most easily succumbs: activism and overwork. The rush and pressure of modern life are a form, perhaps the most common form, of its innate violence. To allow oneself to be carried away by a multitude of conflicting concerns, to surrender to too many demands, to commit oneself to too many projects, and to want to help everyone in everything is to succumb to violence. The frenzy of the activist neutralizes his (or her) work... It destroys the fruitfulness of his (or her) work because it kills the root of inner wisdom which makes work fruitful.”
Damn. I am not doing that anymore. You heard it first here. Hold me to it.
One last thing before I go. I just learned that at the Vancouver Peace Summit in 2010 that the Dahli Lama famously said:
“The world will be saved by the Western Women”
I agree with His Holiness, but we must save ourselves before bringing others along.
These dark times offer us all an unprecedented chance to evolve. We were made for this. But we must be vulnerable and let ourselves be seen to activate. So, from now on, I’ll answer the knocking, as Rumi recommends, with a heart that welcomes whoever shows up at the door.
I need your help. I don’t need your “likes” on social media, but I do need your engagement if you are moved. I need you to tell me what you want to read, what speaks to you, and what questions you want to be answered. Show up at my door, challenge me.
I’ve only just left the driveway on my road trip, but I’ve identified the top two fears that block my writing - perfection and judgment. Because you are reading this far, I can assume you judge me less critically than I judge myself, but I will ask for your patience and understanding with less-than-perfect writing.
If you have the financial means to support me by subscribing or even just buying me a coffee to keep me going, your investment will be used to create only to manifest positive, loving change. Out from under employers, editors, agents, advertisers, etc., I promise to speak my truth.
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I loved reading this and am inspired by your words. I've saved that quote by Thomas Merton in hopes that I won't end up working myself to death. Thank you again for the excellent read.
Sue, thank you for this wonderfully written sharing of your heart in the wake of such abrupt bad news. The remarkably apt Rumi poem says it so well, "...may be clearing you out
for some new delight." In the meantime, you have family and friends who love and support you and who always will. Love, Uncle Cliff