These are the words that entered my mind on August 4th when the design centre where I worked part-time was hit by a hailstorm and flood.
I'd been feeling an old familiar restlessness for months, and as the water rushed in from the basement, I knew in my heart that everything would go.
And it did.
By the end of the month, despite our best efforts to save it, the charming business that had helped me support my coaching practice for over a year, closed its doors for good.
Life was rearranging things once again—inviting me to slip away to the green Eden of the heart.
And I was quick to accept.
It wasn't always this way . . .
My need for solitude used to show up as illness. I'd have to be brought down by some awful, snot-laden, mucous-membrane malady that would force me to lay the fuck down.
It felt like a curse.
But as I started listening to my life and honouring my body's need for silence and rest, I began to understand that my sinus/flu thing was not a weakness, but a holy signal, calling me home.
The soul's a garden, my friend. It needs some tending.
I realized that if I was to trust in the great flow of Life, then it was time to allow it to lead.
What other choice is there?
I don't know about you, but my plans don't work out like they used to. The more I think I'm the one in control, the more Life joyfully proves that I'm not.
Naomi Shihab Nye said it best in her poem, Kindness
"What you counted and carefully saved, all this must go . . ."
Not as a punishment, I've discovered. But as a deep plunge into the fullness of love.
When we lose things—especially the things we so heavily count on—something remarkable happens.
Angels show up.
In the days following the flood, generosity met me on every corner.
I was offered a Reiki session, a gift from a healer who is now a dear friend.
On August 31st, I drove to the small town where she lives and was welcomed into her home with open arms.
She led me down into her studio and lit sage, smudging me with the scented smoke and the loving energy of her own quiet presence.
This is the tender gravity of kindness Naomi writes about.
After months of doing and giving, I was now being asked to be still and receive.
My friend lit a candle then handed me a bowl of beautiful stones.
"Choose the ones that speak to you," she said.
I considered them carefully, then made my choice, laying them out on the table between us.
My friend asked me to explain my choices. "What does each stone represent for you?"
"The large purple one is my masculine energy," I told her.
"And the one across from it, the feminine."
She nodded, listening.
"I feel that something wants to be born through me," I continued. "Like I'm being called to go inward for awhile, to allow support and renewal."
I touched the purple stone with my fingers.
"I think the masculine is here to protect the feminine as I integrate the lessons of this past year."
"And the stone in between them?" she asked.
"That's what needs to be grieved."
At the time, I had a niggly feeling that Life was asking me to say good-bye to interior design for good—that I was being called to give more of my time and energy to coaching.
I didn't know that in one month, my brother would be killed at home by a self inflicted gunshot wound to the stomach.
I just felt a yearning. A homesickness. An ache to be alone.
When the session was over, I went home and blocked some time off on the calendar.
Two weeks for my soul.
Normally, I run to the mountains when I need a retreat, but the session had highlighted a need to thank Calgary for all the years of support, and so, on September 21st, I filled a backpack with bottled water and snacks and headed to a park within the heart of the city.
At first, the beauty was almost hard to take in. It was so powerful and vibrant and alive. The paths at the reservoir go for miles and I just kept walking and breathing, staying with myself in the present moment, trying to absorb the fall colours around me, the blue sky above.
I gathered stones by the water and when I got home, I wrote thank-you on each one and put them into my pack.
The next morning I set out with an intention. I would lay a stone on every spot within the city that had significant meaning to me and give thanks.
I did this for eight days.
And something wonderful happened.
Hearts began showing up in various forms—spray-painted on the sidewalk, or twisted in the back of chairs at an outdoor cafe.
I saw them everywhere. Some elaborately fashioned out of scarves, others appearing in the simple forms of nature.
License plates started clustering in traffic, the word LUV appearing again and again.
I began posting the sightings on Facebook, because here was proof! What you focus on grows!
On Friday, October 2nd, I saw three or four hearts in a row. James and I were walking to the River Cafe and I kept stopping to take pictures because, "Oh look, honey! Another heart!"
I wouldn't know until later that my brother was leaving his body at the same moment I was capturing those hearts with my camera.
When that call finally came, James and I were eating desert and enjoying the most beautiful afternoon.
I answered my phone and listened as my sister-in-law told me the news.
"I'm ready for this," I said.
And I was. An ancient knowing had already set hold in my body.
I stood up and went outside and when I looked around, I saw thousands of leaves, all in the shape of individual gold hearts, shining pure love right toward me.
That love was so big, so deeply personal and unlimited, that the enormity of it stopped my breath.
Naomi says in her poem,
"Before you know what kindness REALLY is, you must lose things"
I've lost several people I've loved—but never Troy. This is my first time around with this kind of grief.
And yet standing there, looking at all those leaves, I knew what Naomi was writing about.
It was kindness, after all, that had so carefully prepared me for his death. And it was kindness that would guide me through the heartbreak.
As the poem says,
"Before you know kindness as the deepest thing inside, you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing"
This, I have found out, is true.
But there's a difference between sorrow and suffering.
Sorrow carries us inward, to the heart. It anchors us in our body, in our own deep awareness. Yes, oh my God, there is pain! But it's full and expansive, opening us up to the astonishing gift of love if we allow it.
Suffering, on the other hand, takes us into the dark. There's no cleansing relief, no exquisite sweetness. Just crippling pain, caused by thought.
I know this now, from personal experience.
In those first weeks after Troy's death, my mind kept dragging me back to his last moments, filling in the blanks with gruesome details.
I can't even describe my despair.
This, my friend, is called dirty pain.
And since I'm trained to navigate this kind of anguish, I decided to explore it fully, probing all the dark, desolate corners.
That's when I noticed something profound.
Troy wasn't there.
My brother's not stuck in that moment! He's part of a higher consciousness now.
I can choose to go into suffering if I want to, but he won't join me there.
LOVE ONLY KNOWS LOVE
This is the great gift I've been given.
And I can find Troy immediately when I turn to this truth.
That's when I feel his spirit, his essence, his freedom and joy.
Any ideas of separation disappear as I realize:
I carry my brother in my heart.
That's why I'm writing today. To let you know where I'm at in this process and to thank you for your support as I continue to go inward and give this experience my full attention.
I'm changing, my darling!
And when I'm ready, I'll write you again and tell you exactly what that means.
Until then, I'm wishing you a holiday season filled with hearts of love and kindness.
When they start showing up, please let me know.
Sending you so much love,
P.S. Here are some of the hearts that showed up for me during my Souljourn.