take off the mask, you beautiful mess.

The Moment
~Margaret Atwood

The moment when, after many years
of hard work and a long voyage
you stand in the centre of your room,
house, half-acre, square mile, island, country,
knowing at last how you got there,
and say, I own this,

is the same moment when the trees unloose
their soft arms from around you,
the birds take back their language,
the cliffs fissure and collapse,
the air moves back from you like a wave
and you can’t breathe.

No, they whisper. You own nothing.
You were a visitor, time after time
climbing the hill, planting the flag, proclaiming.
We never belonged to you.
You never found us.
It was always the other way round.

Yesterday I was running errands when all of a sudden I was saturated with an overwhelming feeling of anger. I felt uncomfortable in my own skin and irritated by anyone who was in my way. I wanted to be alone. I wanted to be in nature. I wanted the library that I was encapsulated in to disappear and for everyone to shut up. I needed silence. And for some reason, libraries are no longer the sanctuary they used to be…

I usually love going to the library, but at that very moment, I didn’t want to be surrounded by library walls and library books and enthusiastic school children. I was suffocating in my awful mood and feeling too large to be held by four walls. I was pissed at the woman in front of me who was patiently teaching her son how to use the self check out, and I was irritated when one of my books didn’t register on the machine. I wanted to scream at the librarian and push everyone out of my way so I could beeline to the park where the trees were undoubtedly continuing to change colors under a hazy autumn sky. I was missing the show.

The funny thing about these moods is that I notice right away just how irrational and awful they are. But there’s a sense of urgency and intensity that is hard to shake off, let alone rationalize. If I slow down enough and utilize my breath, I can instantly notice the judgments that happen in my mind and the ways I want to lash out at other people who are around. Apparently, I want to make everyone else feel just as crappy as I do. Don’t they know I’ve had a hard day? Don’t they know I’ve had cancer? Don’t they know the world is going to hell in a hand basket and that I’m missing the trees changing in the park?

ahhh, the joys of anger

Brené Brown clarifies in her book Daring Greatly  (which I HIGHLY recommend to anyone wanting an amazingly life changing read on tapping into personal courage and living more authentically and wholeheartedly) that anger is a “secondary emotion, one that only serves as a socially acceptable mask for many of the more difficult underlying emotions we feel” (p. 34). Oh, right. My anger wasn’t really anger after all. It was sadness.

It’s true that my outward frustration was more socially acceptable than me melting down in a puddle of tears, but I felt like one of those monsters in Where the Wild Things Are. I was a beast who could have ripped my books apart and busted through the ceiling. I didn’t seem to have any ability to manage myself in that moment and, in hindsight, I should have listened to my gut in the first place and just bypassed the errands to go directly to the park. But I didn’t have that insight at the time. I just had my crappy mood and my sadness masked as anger (is there a Halloween costume brewing, here?).

I suppose the moral of the story (and I’m reaching, here) is that I need to take more time for myself and to notice when I’m feeling sad. Even if it means losing the books I have on hold at the library or not picking up my beloved coconut creamer at the grocery store. It means not checking my email or twitter or facebook to see if there’s anything I’m missing. Sometimes life is more important that the chores or tasks I have imprinted in my brain- those “shoulds” and “coulds”. And the real connection I long for is the one that doesn’t exist inside or online.

So, my friends, my personal assignment is to become more aware of my own needs in any given moment and to listen to my gut, which happens to be right a good portion of the time. If I need more outside time, I’m going for it. I’m going to (try to) admit my imperfections, even it means looking like a watery mess, and honor that this moment is another opportunity for growth. This is what I love about yoga- it’s all a practice and a journey.

The Yoga Sutras begins with Atha Yoganushasanam, translated as something like “now begins the practice/discourse of yoga”. It all leaves room for improvement. That was then, this is now. The past and the future do not exist. There is only now, and this is my yoga practice.

your silence is winning. speak up.

your silence won’t kill you.

Not right away, at least.
It might just slowly cause your brain to shrivel and your voice to atrophy, making words and thoughts turn into gooey, decaying nothingness.
Your silence makes you unable to function. It stifles you and takes away your beautiful wings.

Your silence is a bird on a wire. No ability to get through the lines to what really matters. Alone in a crowd.

take flight.

communicate.

You think that you might gain strength and power by stewing in your silent fury, but what’s really happening is the silence is winning. Not you.
Power happens when you speak your words- through your voice, images, writing, body movement, or creativity.
Speak, dance, scream, sing, create, run, spin, write, scribble- anything. But don’t avoid.
Remember: Silence=Death.
You’re too important for that.
You’re amazing and beautiful and creative and unique.
Be all that.
Don’t rely on anyone else’s opinion of who you are.
Think for yourself.
Speak for yourself.

be yourself.

be YOU.

And when you finally decide to do that, you win.

reality bites. confessions of an imperfect yogi

holy crap. I suck.

Last night my sweet, patient, loving partner said these words to me: “If only people knew you weren’t the person you portray on your blog”. Ouch. I’m not?

Apparently, the person I am at home can be really impatient and snappy with a cynical edge…

And yet here I am thinking I’m on this pilgrimage toward enlightenment with hopes of being patient, kind, compassionate, witty and good. And, for the most part, that’s what the world sees…unless we’re related or I’m really hungry or I was just cut off in traffic, of course. And it never fails that when I’m mean-spirited, impatient, or brazen in a bad way, I experience a major guilt complex afterward and I get all judgy and in my own face.

some of the horrible things I say to myself:

 A real yogi wouldn’t act that way.

Someone who is really good or compassionate or kind wouldn’t do that really terrible thing you just did.

You’re a yogi hypocrite.

You don’t practice Ahimsa or Satya or Asteya, (enter any number of yogic terms, here), blah, blah, blah.

You need to get the hell out of contact with people. You’re totally irrational and super freaky, sister.

Wow, you have some serious karma to work off.

What the hell are you thinking? Are you insane? Yes. You’re insane.

Now you’ve blown it. That person sees the real you.

No wonder you got cancer.

wtf?!?

Ok. I’m lying. I’m actually way meaner in my head. And I curse more. Way more.  But I don’t know that it means I’m not the person I portray here on my little blog. Maybe it means that I’m constantly changing and that I’m totally imperfect, but in a human on a journey to be a better person kind of a way. Because every pilgrim and every seeker has different experiences and struggles that they need to go through in order to be a better person. My path might just be a windier one….

But here’s the grab. I’m open about my imperfections, and in a large part, I accept myself as a work in progress. This life is ever changing, and I am always working on cultivating forgiveness and patience. When I catch myself saying a variation of any of the cruel statements above in my head (about myself or anyone), I try to slow down to notice it. Where’s that coming from? Is that the real truth (answer: NO). And when that fails (as is often the case), I try to reflect later to think about what the real truth is; the truth isn’t that I’m a terrible person. The truth is that I may have had a moment (or longer) when I was irrational or mean (or any number of things), and that I’m a human being on this human journey. I make mistakes (sometimes really big ones) and I try my best to make up for it, grow from it, and learn about myself and others.  And that, my friends, makes me a freaking righteous yogi. Just one with an attitude.

Daring Greatly- a pledge to live wholeheartedly

taking the wholehearted pledge

My Friday morning yoga book club is currently participating in Brené Brown’s Daring Greatly online read along and we are so freaking on fire and inspired by it. Just reading the preface and intro felt like a much needed kick in the pants to begin living more intentionally and authentically; no more judgment. Well…it’s impossible to let go of judgment altogether, because judgment comes with the human experience…but the idea is to focus less on what others think and more on living wholeheartedly (a huge piece of this book). Brené outlines how to do this so perfectly:

Wholehearted living is about engaging in our lives from a place of worthiness. It means cultivating the courage, compassion, and connection to wake up in the morning and think, No matter what gets done and how much is left undone, I am enough. It’s going to bed at night thinking, Yes, I am imperfect and vulnerable and sometimes afraid, but that doesn’t change the truth that I am also brave and worthy of love and belonging.
~Brené Brown (2012, p 10)

Hot fucking damn. That’s exactly what I want more of; courage, vulnerability, and wholeheartedness. So, without sounding like a book report, I offer here my pledge for living more fully and daring greatly (based on the “guideposts” for wholehearted living that Brené offers in the intro):

  • I pledge to be more connected, engaged, and loving in my relationships. The people in my life mean the world to me, and I want to let them know that through my words and actions. I want to tell people why they matter to me, even if I sound like a crazy person.
  • I pledge to take more time for play. Designated time without talk about work, money, or stress. No checking email or social media. No tv. No chores. Opening up to FUN. Stepping into the world and noticing how it feels to just be (insert deep sigh of relief here).
  • I pledge to allow more mess in my life/environment in order to make space for creativity. The laundry and dishes can wait. I have a life to live. Living wholeheartedly and allowing vulnerability means allowing people to see me in my full messy glory. And the more I allow people to see me for who I really am (chaos and messiness included), the more I can be open to deep human connections.
  • I pledge to begin taking more risks and thinking less about what people might think. There’s a lovely fierceness in being bold. I want to do what I feel inspired to do- break into dance in public, sing out loud, practice yoga on a crowded beach, ride my bike through puddles (you get the picture).
  • I pledge to speak my truth, even when it’s scary or leaves me feeling exposed (within reason, of course). This is the whole “speak your truth, even if your voice shakes” principal. My thought is that if my voice is shaking or I’m experiencing fear, I’m closest to my truth. And when I squelch my truth, I’m letting myself down.

All of this, and I haven’t even begun chapter one. Hot damn. I love this book.

SUP Yoga: Breath, Balance, Fear

warrior one on the shore. cheating? maybe.

To dare is to lose one’s footing momentarily.  To not dare is to lose oneself. 
~ Kierkegaard

Stepping onto a stand up paddleboard (SUP) didn’t change me, and neither did taking my yoga practice onto the wobbly surfboard shaped mat. I didn’t leave the two hours on the SUP thinking that this was going to be my yoga practice from now on. I didn’t have some miraculous experience of complete balance on the water with a life changing awareness of myself as a yogi (quite the opposite, in face).  But I loved every minute of the practice. I would even go so far to say that because of my SUP yoga experience, I understand more keenly the importance of taking risks rather than staying in stagnancy- now that’s a pretty big deal.

Back story: I purchased a deal on Living Social several months ago for 3 sessions of SUP yoga for a nominal fee. I couldn’t seem to find a friend to go with me, and I was considering not going because of my nervousness of trying something new/ scary/ different. I finally decided that I had a very narrow window of warm weather in Seattle, and I was being un-adventurous (which is unacceptable). If I didn’t go I was not only wasting money, but I was possibly missing out on something really great. So I registered for a class online and ventured down to Washington Surf Academy just south of Shilshole Marina on a gorgeous day in mid September. I rented a wetsuit and sat in a chair waiting nervously for the others to arrive for class (I’m nearly always unfashionably early).

After sitting awkwardly on a bench  in the wetsuit, I finally decided to forego it for the comfort of my own yoga clothes (the first of many risky moves). This was partially prompted by the fact that nobody else had a wetsuit on. I made my way with the group of very fit yogis to the beach where we set off for our practice space.  We paddled along shore and across a main waterway where boats set off waves and sea lions jumped in their search for migrating salmon. My sea legs were barely forming and there I was, teetering on a skinny little board in the Puget Sound alongside seven other people. We had all hooked our SUP’s to a rope that was connected between two buoys, but even still we drifted with the current and bobbed with the waves. I loved the sun on my skin and the sounds of water, birds and boats around me, but I struggled with keeping myself steady as we moved our practice from standing to sitting to actually attempting poses that require balance and attention to the breath. Every breath felt like I could pitch myself into the water. Every movement felt like a dangerous experiment. For the first time in years, I was petrified of yoga postures. It was lovely.

Something happens with fear that isn’t life threatening; it makes the body come alive to the senses. I felt my heart in my chest and could hear pulsing in my ears. I could see with a bit more clarity and I tasted the salty quality of the air on my lips. When we closed our eyes to begin our practice, my ears perked up to sounds around me. I tried relaxing and realized that the best I could do was to surrender to the fact that I was in this predicament and I just had to try; another opportunity to practice surrendering. Thanks, Universe.

I listened attentively to the instructor, Hasna Altry (who is truly blessed at teaching SUP yoga- or any type of yoga, for that matter), and I attempted nearly every pose (aside from wheel or headstand, which just felt like asking for a swim). I pushed my hands and feet into the board in downward dog, working to point my tailbone to the sky as if my life depended on me forming the perfect V. I balanced on my board with my arms and legs spread in a wide warrior pose and I worked hard to settle the chatter in my mind. I moved slowly through the asana noticing details that I rarely pay attention to when I’m on dry land; like what happens when I focus more on listening for approaching waves than on my body and breath (answer: complete loss of balance).

We have come into this exquisite world to experience ever and ever more deeply our divine courage, freedom and light.
~Hafiz

What I learned in SUP yoga more than anything is that I need to experience little bits of fear from time to time, just to feel my pulse and remind myself that I’m alive. I need to slow down enough to notice the details of what’s going on in my body when I’m scared and to observe the ways I hold panic when it’s not about life and death but more about taking a risk.  I’ve lived through some pretty big ordeals, and I’ve made it through relatively unscathed (scars aside, I’m pretty fortunate). I need to remind myself that I’m courageous. And SUP yoga helped me to realize that it’s not only important to confront my fears, but that it’s an act of bravery to admit them.

I confess openly that SUP yoga was scary, but I can also say that I’ve never experienced a better savasana (corpse pose- final relaxation) than the one in SUP yoga- envision the sounds of water lapping underneath, sea birds overhead and sunshine pouring over your entire body. It’s magical. And it was the perfect way to end an act of courage- to connect to the universe in complete and utter relaxation. This is all there is. I am in control of my body and mind. And if I fall in, I get wet. So what?

Yamas and Niyamas- Bicycle Style

 

bicycle at Fisherman's Terminal

shifting light & changing gears

The quality of light has shifted in the past couple of weeks, reminding me that summer is coming to an end soon. There are fewer birds in the trees on my morning bike ride and the geese that I’ve witnessed turn from chartreuse gosling to awkward adolescent have finally made it to full-fledged goose.  I’ve planted winter crops in the p-patch, begun to empty my closet of summer wear and pulled out my socks and boots in preparation for fall and winter. And just as the trees are beginning to change color, my wardrobe is beginning to move back toward my basic black.

Usually this time of year makes me a bit wistful about what I’ve missed out on during the long, lazy days of summer, but with the overwhelming events of the summer, I’m feeling ready to hunker down for the dark days. That is, except for my bike commute to work…I’ve been riding my bike to work regularly since early spring of this year, and I’m not quite used to riding in the dark or the rain. I’ll be damned if I’ll be a fair weather rider again, and so I wanted to inspire myself to take my cycling journey more seriously. I realized I needed to pull out the big guns. I decided to look at my cycling through a yogic lens of the Yamas and Niyamas.

my journey of bicycle riding through the first two limbs of Patanjali’s eight limbs of yoga

Yamas: Moral principles and social behaviors (some call these the “restraints”). If followed, these five precepts can help anyone to find balance- which is always good when one is riding a bike.

  • Ahimsa (Non-Violence):  Donna Farhi describes Ahimsa as “a state of living free from fear”, which is the perfect reminder for my bicycle riding. It’s impossible for me to ride a bike without experiencing some amount of healthy fear, but I can’t allow this to impact the entire experience. I have to trust that I will not necessarily fly over my handlebars or be slammed into by a texting driver. As regularly as riding a bike brings me in touch with my mortality, I have to understand that nobody is out to hurt me intentionally. And riding a bike subsequently causes less harm to the planet than my driving a car- which makes me (and my body) happy.
  • Satya (Truthfulness): Honesty is moral and good, and so is following rules. So, to be completely truthful here, there are times when I run red lights or blow through stop signs on my bike (like at 5:40 in the morning when there’s no traffic at all). The important thing is to have a commitment to being an upright person in thought, action and speech. This means being honest with myself and others as well as living as impeccably as I possibly can. Sort of like confession- I speak my truth to you about being a morning stop sign runner and now I am forgiven (ok…not really).
  • Asteya (Non-Stealing): Asteya has as much to do with not taking from others as it does not stealing from ourselves. It could relate to not cutting someone off or riding too close- stealing space. It can also be an opportunity to practice being generous- welcoming another biker to take the lead, offering assistance to someone who is broken down or offering up an extra bike to someone who needs one (this is really generous and builds up positive biking karma).
  • Brahmacharya (Celibacy/ Self Control): It’s important to hold back sometimes to conserve some much needed energy and to notice the small things that might have seemed insignificant before. If we’re only going full speed ahead searching for that biking orgasm, we aren’t going to notice the little thrills along the way. And isn’t noticing the small sensory details one of the best things about biking?
  • Aparigraha (Non-Grasping): Be here now. This moment matters, and if you’re grasping onto what just happened or where you need to get to, you’re potentially missing out. You’re also likely distracted from paying attention to things like cars, other bikers, pedestrians, rodents, potholes, etc.  Another perspective is this: riding a bike is just about riding a bike. All of the gear in the world doesn’t take that away. Your bike just needs to get you from point A to point B. Everything else, my gear-head friends, is icing on the bicycle cake. I may want the Linus bike, but do I really need it? Probably not (but don’t tell Santa…).

Niyamas: Personal observances that focus on inner discipline and responsibility (connecting with the self) in order to cultivate a connection to the Whole.

  • Shaucha (Cleanliness): Wash up, people. And that means not only your body but your mind, too. Clutter creates chaos, so it’s just as important to clear your mind as it is to clean out that pannier. I like to take a few minutes before getting on my bike to think about my ride and to prepare for entering the world. If I have everything ready the night before, I have the time to setting before setting out in the world.  That way, my ride itself can be meditative. And that’s really a lovely experience.
  • Santosha (Contentment): Contentment doesn’t mean “happy”. It means equanimity- not placing “good” or “bad” on the situation. Traffic is just traffic. Rain is just rain. Sunshine is just sunshine. A flat tire is just flat. And all of this shall pass- the good, the bad and the ugly.
  • Tapas (Fire/Austerity): The amount of energy you put into anything is what you’ll get out of it. I like to think about the idea of alchemy: burning away those things that don’t matter to make room for the things that do. Riding my bike at the end of the day allows me to forget the things that I was freaking out about just minutes before (refer back to Santosha). It also helps me to decide what it is I want to spend my energy and attention on.
  • Svadhyaya (Self-Study): Svadhyaya refers most specifically to study of scripture and ancient texts. In bicycling, this doesn’t exist as far as I know- but might I suggest reading Pedal, Stretch, Breathe by Kelli Refer. It’s a small little book that takes up very little space and costs just a few bucks. It’s sweet and honest and has incredibly simple suggestions for ways to move your body before, during and after riding. And if this doesn’t appeal to you, I would propose that most spiritual texts are meant for you to take the teachings into the world- why not read the Bhagavad Gita and explore the ways riding a bike in the city can make you feel a bit like Arjuna preparing for a battle (and then go deeper into the concept of dharma, morals, ethics and spiritual connection).
  • Ishvarapranidhana (Devotion): When I open up my heart to God, the Divine, that which is greater than me, I see the world with new eyes. My ride becomes less about where I am going and more about the experience of being connected with everything around me. I develop a greater peace and I soften to the subtleties that occur when I’m on my bike.  I notice my heart beat, the resonance of the birds along the canal, the rhythm of the tires on the pavement and the sound of other bikers breathing as they pedal to pass me. When I pay attention, my interconnectedness with everything feels like a great comfort- and this is really what draws me to riding my bike in the first place.

are you there, God? it’s me…

In memory of Patsy, who lived, loved, laughed and graced the world with a generous heart.

How to find God when nobody’s looking

I’m not a religious person. Not in a structured way, at least. Organized religion sort of freaks me out and makes me wince- most likely because I wasn’t raised going to church and because the first time I remember setting foot in a church, it was as a young teen. I think I was fourteen years old when I sat in an old stone church next to my mom for the memorial service of my brother’s best friend Billy who died of leukemia. Between moments of glaring at my mother for blowing her nose in public (I was a terrible, terrible child), I rolled my eyes at the words of the priest. Seriously, I thought, this is nonsense. Billy is gone, and now the priest is asking for us to give ourselves over to the “Lord”, too? Whatever (did I say it was the 80’s?). I was not going to give anything over to anyone– this “Lord” already had my grandpa and now he had Billy. He sure didn’t need my ass. Consequently, I went on with my angry teenage years having insignificant associations with religion (going to forbidding youth group meetings with a friend, hanging out with pot smoking Mormon missionaries with another friend, and perusing the “New Age” sections at the far corner of the used book store).

Organized religion confused me. God, on the other hand, was someone who I connected with. I can remember pretty regular occasions when I would step outside to stare at the night sky, thinking that stars had to have something to do with heaven or the divine or God or something miraculous, and I would talk out loud. I don’t know that this was prayer- it was more like a one-sided conversation with someone I knew wouldn’t interrupt or judge. It felt safe and sweet, and if I kept this all to myself, nobody could tell me anything about my version of God that would taint my own image. I didn’t want to be confined by anyone else’s ideals and I certainly didn’t want to be told what to do or how to think (still don’t, in case anyone’s wondering).

Although church felt like foreign territory to me, God didn’t feel like a stranger. We didn’t necessarily discuss God or faith outright in my home growing up, but I remember distinctly sitting with my mom as she read Bible stories or singing Sunday school songs for long stretches of road inside the family van. I ended up knowing as many songs as some of my Christian friends, in fact. And I think these times helped me to understand a relationship to something larger than myself or the material world. They informed my way of connecting to people, places, and things.

I found my connection to God most often in nature. Nobody told me to look there, but I had a sense that this was the right place (I have to admit that I may have also been influenced by Laura Ingalls Wilder…). Even now, I feel harmony when I’m outside noticing the small miracles that occur in the natural world. Maybe it’s because I’m less distracted and my mind isn’t racing, and maybe it’s because I’m most at peace away from the confines of a structure (another reason I’m put off from attending church).

Stop trying so hard…

My current image of God has shifted some, and in many ways expanded. I’ve softened and grown and I’m more willing to accept that I don’t have the answers. I suspect that there are few who do, in fact. And that idea comforts me somehow. I’m willing to be open to the unknown and to seek miracles or meaning in the small things. And that helps. Especially when things are difficult.

I have opened to a more fluid image of the sacred, and this has allowed my own compassion to expand and my own meaning of faith to be more of a working one. I can find the sacred in everything from the early morning chickadees at the bird feeder as much as I can watching the interaction between a homeless man and his dog. I can also recognize that my own actions are sacred- a good reminder as a human being. And when I remember this, I wake up a little more and notice things that were previously hidden. Hafiz puts it best:

Now is the time to remember that all you do is sacred.

In Patanjali’s second limb of yoga, the concept of Ishvara Pranidhana (devotion and, ultimately, surrender to God/the Divine) speaks directly to the practice of devotion in order to cultivate awareness. Devotion, in other words, allows the individual to be more awake and aware, experiencing the most subtle levels of living. I like this concept so much- mostly because it reminds me that I am connected to everything and that everything is a part of this whole. Even the things I cringe at or judge. A good reminder when some idiot (a divine idiot, but an idiot just the same) cuts me off in traffic or blows cigarette smoke in my face as I’m walking down the street. These, too, are sacred. It’s not possible to separate them (remind me of this at election time).

Hail Mary’s, Mantras, and Metaphor

Most recently, I found myself looking for God in the hospital where someone I love very much was dying and struggling with pain. I was in the stark hospital room with my partner, taking turns sleeping so that we could be present if anything happened that needed our attention. I was drinking hospital coffee like a mad woman in an attempt to stay awake and gazing at the bed praying for peace, comfort, and healing- whatever that might mean. I stared at our loved one’s rosary beads, read Catholic prayers and poetry aloud, and practiced every calming technique I could think of to sooth my fears (and coffee jitters). I attempted to memorize the Hail Mary, thinking that this prayer could be my mantra and the ultimate gift to my devout friend. What I found, though, was that all of my prayers turned into grasping, and that the most helpful thing that I could do for myself and for my sweet friend was to live my yoga and surrender.

By “surrender”, I don’t mean that I gave up or stopped paying attention. I stopped trying so hard to control the situation. I surrendered to the moment and to my lack of control of it. Letting go allowed me to see everything in a more generous way and it allowed me to be more present for my loved one. The more I grasped and looked for God, the more I stressed out about not being in control. The more I let go, the more open I was to the Divine, and the more I felt connected and engaged in the experience. Sort of like those Chinese finger traps where the harder the person pulls, the stronger the grasp.  The trap only releases when the person softens and stops pulling. A beautiful metaphor.

Just like the trap, my practice of yoga has helped me to notice the times I try too hard in my life (on and off the mat). Sitting in a chair in a tight space between the hospital bed and the radiator was the perfect place to practice living my yoga- to connect to my breath and to surrender. Stop trying so hard and just love, I reminded myself. Everything else comes into place. No balancing required.

Our loved one died the next day. The ultimate act of surrender.

Driving to the airport after a week of memorial and Catholic rituals (and a few whiskey sours), we stopped at a roadside shrine with the Virgin Mary standing regally in the center of a cavernous stone structure. I was reminded about the force of history and the power of faith and devotion. After standing in awe for several minutes, we lit candles in memory and focused on this image of a woman who has represented grace, love and strength from adversity for centuries. My eyes filled with tears, and I recited the Hail Mary in my head, thinking about surrender. We had a long journey toward home ahead, and yet in the act of surrendering, I felt a sense of arrival.