As the weather finally begins to warm (mid-40s for a high today!), I am in the mood to plant and transplant. If it weren't for the snow still melting, I'd be walking outside, envisioning how we are going to expand our orchard, nurture our struggling plants, and plan the garden for this year. Instead, I have to be content with knowing that the smell of spring--just the faintest little hint of it--is on the breeze, feeling just a nip of slightly warmer air teasing my nostrils and caressing the very tip of my nose.
The bright sunshine, the hint of warm air, and the inches of snow still on the ground give me pause. The sunshine energizes me, the hint of warm air makes me want to throw my windows wide open and begin chasing the winter's shadows and dust out of the house, and the snow remind me that it is a slow journey toward springtime and, eventually, summer. The juxtaposition of the snow with the warm air also serve to remind me that though I may feel ready to throw the windows to my house (and life) wide open to welcome spring, it is, after all, still winter, and a relapse into snow and very cold weather can happen with little or no warning. The healing process is much the same way...we feel wonderful one day, ready to throw our arms apart and announce our reemergence into the wide world, but those days of sunshine health are tempered with the snow, which reminds us not to run in the sunshine, lest we fall on the melting snow and injure ourselves and add further to our health burdens.
Of course, when I mention health, I don't mean only physical health, but also emotional and spiritual health. I began writing my book, Year of Shadow and Light, in November of 2009, as part of the healing process. I intended it to help me heal and, once it was published, to help others heal. I intended to have the book written about a year later, covering, as the title implies, only one year of my life, from about September 2009 to September or October 2010. As frequently happens, however, as just about any experienced author will explain, my book took on a new focus as I wrote it. It didn't start in October 2009 and travel through to October 2010 but started back in my childhood, focusing a lot on my life before October 2009 and then...well... To be honest, reliving those days became a roadblock to me. They were too painful to keep reliving for my book, though I relived them almost constantly for months, in my dreams, in daydreams, in random tangential thoughts, in my darkest fears, in my moments of greatest hope. I decided, finally, once I was able to revisit those days well enough to write about them for others, that such writing distanced the reader from my story, didn't illustrate the full emotional impact those days had on me. So, I decided (with the help of some trusted friends and editorial colleagues) that I would use bits of my journal entries from those days to help convey to the reader just how dark and shadowy (and even light, on rare occasion) those days were to me.
Still, I found myself not working on the book. I was swamped with work, and in any spare moment, instead of enjoying my time, I kept thinking of how much I needed to be working on the book, as my self-established one-year deadline approached, arrived, then passed. But then, something wonderful happened. Of course, as with many wonderful things that happen in life, I couldn't tell that it was wonderful at the time. My editing work dwindled and then nearly stopped. Then it did stop for a week or two at a time, then I'd get a project, then no work. Of course many people might think this would be the perfect time for someone writing a book in her spare time to actually, say, write her book. But a funny thing happened--instead of working on my book, I felt called to focus on my life, especially my home. I began cleaning every day--not much, mind you, because I am a slow, methodical cleaner and my damaged vision really hampers my ability to see small bits of dirt and grime, so I now have to look much closer than I did before. Despite weeks of effort so far, my home is still a mess by many standards and will likely remain that way, but I can slowly see it starting to take shape. The pile of things "to be handled later" on the dining room table is dwindling; the kitchen counter is never covered with dirty dishes for more than 24 hours; dust is VERY slowly disappearing from the television and some shelves; boxes that have not been opened since they were packed for the move to this house 3 years ago have been emptied and broken down for recycling; items that were thrown haphazardly on shelves in the unpacking process 3 years ago have been moved to the proper rooms and shelves, at least; family photos that were put aside 2 years ago so we could find homes for them "later" have been slowly making their way to the fireplace mantel, to the heart of our home. I have spent more time reading books I want to read--sure, it's still 5 or 6 books at a time, but a religious book, a health book, a "metaphysical" book. I have helped a friend with a story she's writing about her family, and I have not felt guilty about using the time from the books that pay me money. I have been exercising sporadically, when I have the energy. I have been MOVING instead of sitting for hours on end on the couch or in an office chair and working on books. When family and friends call, I take the calls willingly (a lesson learned in my late teens), as I always have , but now without the thought in the back of my head that I have to keep it short or suffer the consequences of having to stay up late or work harder or faster on an editing job.
I have centered my life once again (or perhaps, truly, for the first time ever) on my home and my husband and myself, and on my friends and family--all the things that matter most toI me and always have. And while focusing on all these things, feeling the call to get my life and home in order, physically and emotionally, my spiritual life has also come back into order. That may sound silly to some, like New-Age hokum, or to others, the deeply religious, it might sound about right. But I, honestly, have found it surprising. Why? Because in October 2009, my spiritual life dove more deeply than it had in a very long time. I can't really explain this well, because I have always been deeply spiritual, but in what I would call a more reserved manner. I prayed frequently and knew that I was always being watched over, that help was always available when it was necessary. I trusted the Great Scheme of Things, but I didn't always trust myself in the Great Scheme of Things. When I was a kid, I did, all the way through being a teenager, I knew that it was my purpose in life to make the world a better place by doing little things, maybe that never got noticed, but that were important. I could make someone's day better by smiling, so I tried to smile at everyone I passed. I could improve someone's day by helping them have a memorable dining experience, so I provided prompt, courteous service with a smile. In everything I did, I remembered not "as ye sow, so shall ye reap" or "do unto others as you would have them do unto you" or that every stranger could be an angel in disguise but that every person was a human, a child of God, related to me, and deserving the very best.
As I grew older and became educated and got a job, I still kept those principles in mind and tried to live by them still, but I was less sure that I was making the world a better place. I was making pockets of the world a better place for a brief time for some individuals I encountered, but I was hardly improving the world. I still prayed, though not so much, preferring to think of every action I did as an offering to God. I prayed when an emergency vehicle drove by or when I passed an accident on the highway, praying for the best possible results for those involved and for smooth transitions into death for those whose lot it was to die. When a dangerous driver passed me on the highway, I prayed for the person to not injure someone or someone else's property but that the person somehow learn the consequences caused by his or her driving. When I was scared, I prayed. So, I talked TO God a lot, butt I stopped listening to God.
As a kid, I had followed my instincts to keep me out of trouble, to keep me safe, to say the right things. As I grew up, though, I thought I had learned more and didn't need those instincts so much. I was operating in a "thinking" world, where logic won over intuition. I forgot that my intuition was God speaking to me and guiding me, something I had known as a kid. So this was how I had come to not trust myself as part of the Grand Scheme of Things--I no longer listened to that voice inside of me coming from the Divine.
It was right around September 2009, though, when I started hearing that voice again, though. Somehow, probably through all the pain, I had let down my "guard" that shut out the voice, and I began trusting it again, but this time even more than I had as a kid. But the road to physical recovery is long, and it takes a toll on emotional health, which can impact your spiritual health greatly. I began to doubt the voice again. Or, rather, I began to doubt that I was really hearing the voice, that I was really hearing what I thought I was hearing. I was hearing that I was going to make a big difference in the world. A big difference? I thought. That can't be right. I've always been meant to make small differences in the world. It wasn't that I didn't trust the Great Scheme of Things, but that I could be so important in the Grand Scheme of Things. After all, I have always subscribed to the idea that one smile can brighten one person's day, which causes that person to smile at 10 other people, and so on, so one small change could make things better exponentially. But so what? Anyone, EVERYONE, can do that, can change the world, so I can't be more important than anyone else in the Grand Scheme of Things.
Yes, I do still believe that I am no more important than anyone else. But I've finally grasped the concept that being no more important than anyone else doesn't mean that I'm not making a big difference in the world. Still, though I trust the Grand Scheme of Things, I doubted my "greatness." Yes, I'm hard-headed. Yes, I'm stubborn. Yes, it's exhausting spending an hour in my head. But I just don't "get something" until I understand all the pieces. But God knows this. And so that's what my time since October 2009 has been--me learning how all the little pieces of my life fit together. We (the Big "Guy" and I, and about a hundred friends, acquaintances, spirit guides, strangers, and who knows who else) have worked on the bugs (mostly on my end) in the two-way communication system between me and the higher realms. We've explored just about every question or doubt I've had about faith or religion and addressed them all. We've healed some issues in my body and have begun addressing others. We have patched up relationships that have suffered. We have picked up relationships that have fallen by the wayside for one reason or another but that I need again.
Everything has led (thus far) to these past few weeks, when I have been called to work not on my book but on my life. It's not that I haven't worked on my book in these weeks, but that I haven't written or revised. Instead, I have embraced the call to organize and clean my life and have felt rich rewards. As I work on and in my life by cleaning my home and focusing on my life, I'm beginning to feel the scope of my book change in both subtle and dramatic ways. By allowing myself to be in simple, constant communication with all of my friends and family and the Divine, as well as with myself, I have felt repercussions in these past 6 weeks or so that I never could have imagined in October 2010, which was when I had expected to have my book completely written.
Over the past few weeks, then, in the deep, bitter cold and nasty weather of winter, I have been through more of an "inner" journey. And just as the sunshine, warm air, and snow combine today to remind me that winter is still here and can come raging back in, it reminds me that my spiritual and physical journeys can regress occasionally too. I have been on a constant push for spring and out of winter (physically, emotionally, and spiritually) since October of 2009, and I am making great progress. And on those days when it seems like winter will never end, I receive a day like today. My damaged vision is the snow on the ground reminding me of where I have come from, what's causing me to hope for better days. My loved ones supporting me are the sunshine that makes me smile and know that great things are always present in my life. And the hint of warm air promising even better things to come? That's someone I barely know and have seen only 15 or 20 minutes across 3 encounters in the past year telling me about her life and telling me, out of the blue, that my strength has given her strength and that I will help a lot of people. "Days" like this really do prepare us for sowing the seeds of truly great things.
If you're reading this on Facebook instead of on my blog, you can't click the title to go here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LdojxtLI25g Check it out.