Practicing Awareness


For weeks I keep coming here to write, but time and time again I stare blankly at the blinking cursor for a while before I just give up and leave. I think I have so much to say that it is overwhelming.

So for now, here I am, writing something, posting anything.

Life has been so wonderful in a very strange way. I mean that to say, this year (all 33 days of it so far! 34 days?) has been so tremendously better than all of last year combined. Even with winter quite tragically kicking my behind. I have been craving blue skies and sunshine, bike rides and warm trail runs and camping and rock climbing and hiking and all of the things that fill my soul.

Even so. My emotional well-being since 2017 started has been rejuvenated.

At first I was baffled as to why, but I do have a theory:

Passing through December was like being kicked, hard, right in the gut, and when I was already down nonetheless. I hated December. I hated Christmas, I hated the one year anniversary of James' death. I cried and wallowed in sometimes gut-wrenching misery and tried to pretend everything was okay when really, I was just barely making it through.

And then suddenly, January hit. And with it, well, how do I explain this... It was as though I had been driving through a tunnel. A long, windy, very dark tunnel. And aside from a glimpse of dull light here and there coming through some cracks in the tunnel walls, it was all just darkness. It became reality. I coped and dug for courage and tried so hard to just accept it, that I was in this tunnel, that this was my new life now.

And then suddenly, after a long, long drive through the tunnel (an entire year of a drive), there I was, coming out the other side. Without any warning that I would be, I just...left the tunnel behind. I entered a whole new world and I will never have the chance to go back to the other side of the tunnel, but here in this new world it is open and spacious and there is light! There is sunshine! I can feel things that have been dead inside of me for a while now and I almost forgot they were there at all.

I think grief and life after loss is different for every single person. Some people say grief is like a snowflake because it is so very unique.

I still don't know how to really cope with and move past James not being here, his not being a physical part of our family anymore, the horrible reality that I will never ever see his face again in my lifetime, and the guilt that still surfaces from my not being able to save him before. I really truly don't think I will ever get past it. But it seems apparent to me now that the darkest and most miserable part of my grief lasted exactly one year. That year had some ups, some glimpses of hope and peace, but really a lot of downs, and I don't think a single day went by all year where I didn't cry. I was trying so hard, but I just couldn't manage all of the emotions inside of me.

But, for whatever reason, it seems that one year was the amount of time it took before someone lifted the heavy anvil off my chest. I'm just sure it will never be easy and James being gone is still absolutely surreal, but I am learning so much more this year already about peace than I learned all of last year combined.

I have real hope. And not the temporary hope that will go away tomorrow, the kind I dealt with off and on all of 2016. I feel like I finally have real hope.

I have also been acutely practicing awareness for the past month and it has been so incredibly rewarding.

Do you ever feel like maybe people these days are so distracted and obliviously passing by all of the beauty surrounding them, that perhaps the universe puts on an extra brilliant show for the people that are actually putting forth the effort to pay attention? I do. I feel it on the daily. I see so many beautiful displays, the kind that take my breath away, and then I see everyone else just passing through their day completely oblivious to what they would see if they would just stop and look.

Have you ever seen flocking birds move in unison, dancing and swooping, as if choreographed? Pelicans and geese will fly in their flocks that usually form v-shapes, but I am talking about the clusters that are usually starlings or shorebirds or, what I see most often, blackbirds. They fly in dense groups and make all of their swoops and turns in unison, as though they are doing a dance. It is beautiful.

There are so many ancient and even modern beliefs about birds, birds as spirits or Gods, birds as omens and signs. I am obsessed with birds. I love them all but I have noticed my awareness is centered on black birds in-particular. I see them everywhere. It seems as though they know I am watching and so they go out of their way to make sure they are always around, putting on great shows, swooping in front of me, saying hello. And the truth is, I had never noticed these dancing birds until this year, but suddenly, with the practice of awareness, I am seeing them all of the time. Every single day.

I wonder how often they were there in years past and I just passed on by without noticing them at all.


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