So… 2020, a year of learning?

I think that if my daughter hadn’t died, maybe this pandemic would have had a bigger impact. But once your child dies, there isn’t really anything else that can top that. Everything else is slightly sepia.

Every once in a while I look at my life, where I am now and I grieve.

There is a lot to be happy about, like my amazing partner/best friend – he is fantastic and supports me in ways I never realized existed. We have become that couple that other people gag about due to cheesy, mushy interactions and continual enjoyment of each other’s company.

I am sober – ten months. No hang overs, no regrets, no post-drinking anxiety (just regular anxiety now). Being sober has allowed me to do better at my job and be more present.

Financially I am making ends meet, and feel very in charge of my own life. And am finally making headway with my son’s progress through some enormous challenges.

But I grieve.

There is so much grief not only in the obvious of losing my daughter, but in having to realize that my previous relationship of 13 years needed to end. When that relationship ended, it took with it not only the 13 years we were together as a couple but it tainted the ten years prior to that in which I had put him on a pedestal with a massive crush.

I grieve because I miss his family, and because I never got to speak to his dad again before he died last month. I grieve because everything feels weird and foreign some times, as though I woke up in someone else’s life.

I grieve for the loss of a spiritual path I had thought made sense for me, and I feel the cold touch of reality setting in upon discovery of the man behind the curtain.

In so many ways, I have come into myself – I have a vibrant blue and yellow kitchen, reminiscent of Van Gogh’s Starry Night crossed with Sunflowers. I have raspberry walls in the living room and rec room and fun fan art of Doctor Who, Game of Thrones, Breaking Bad and others adorning the walls. I have shelves full of books on Christianity, Judaism, Gnosticism, Taosim, Hinduism, Paganism, various strands of mysticism, herbal lore, tarot and more. My bedroom looks just like I want it to and I have favourite stuffed animals and dolls, posters and incense – happy clutter everywhere.

I have my two kiddos at home with me, two dogs, two rats and my bunny. And a job that allows me to work from home (though its market research and for the most part my evenings are spent calling people who’d rather I get bent).

But there is so much pain interwoven with everything. For every joy there is hurt, but likewise I suppose for each hurt there is joy. Marriages end, people die, and yet life goes on each day. The sun rises, the day begins, stuff happens, the sun sets and we sleep.

I hope I live long enough to continue discovering myself authentically. It is happening in tiny painful bits, but definitely happening. Sometimes I feel as though I am coming full circle but I realize that each time I am bringing something new to the table. This recent dark night of the soul reinforced that.

I remember when my relationship with my spiritual path would end before, I would try to find another to fill the void. I am, after all a champion void-filler. (just ask my many tarot decks that have taken the place of empty whiskey bottles) This time even though I initially reached out to some communities that did not respond, I had already realized that there is not one fit for me and it was fine. It’s okay to not be Christian, or Pagan, or [insert religion here], because I have found such common truths among many paths and I no longer feel the need to be accepted into a religious community or to try to harmonize everything to make it fit. I will no longer mistake desire for community as a religious inclination. Having the church services stop during the pandemic helps one to examine what the actual community is made up of, outside the business disguised as a spiritual refuge.

I am a Universalist – not just because that is the tradition I was ordained into, but because it makes sense. Because there is so much beauty in the various myths, stories and belief systems in the world. And also a Divinaturist, a term coined about ten years ago to describe the experiencing of the Divine in the Natural world. Not ‘Pagan based’, or ‘Christian influenced’ . A relationship with God doesn’t need to tick all the boxes of mainstream religion.

So in the process of grieving the loss of my spiritual path I became warmed with the reminder that the boxes we create and label for God will always be too small. And that God is accessible always. 24/7. I don’t have to attend a synagogue an hour away, or recite creeds that I can’t relate to, or dance and twirl to deities I don’t believe in. God is within all and beyond all. And that includes religion.

So within this bleak strange sepia tinged year and the stripping away of who I thought I was, I have been allowed to feel the pain, embrace it and remember who I truly am. As said in Gospel of Thomas, Logion 50 :

‘It is from light that we have come – from the place where light, of its own accord alone, came into existence and [stood at rest]. And it has been shown forth in their image.’

Translation from Layton, Gnostic Scriptures 389

In emptiness I find myself because in the fullness of possessions I am lost. Too much to distract, to soothe, to long after. Rather than the things I want being tools to help me know myself, they only add layers and labels.

I still feel unraveled, and unsure. I still hurt a lot. There is a lingering confusion as to how I can enjoy and love my life so much while at the same time feel my heart splitting into pieces. But at this point I can accept this and know that it’s okay to feel this way. It’s part of the experience I am having in my life and it is totally fine if I feel lost.

As long as I seek truthfully, and don’t bury the longing with the novocaine of over indulgence. It’s not the finding that matters as much as the effort of searching.

My daughter, hugging her brother back in 2005. In simpler times. I never could have imagined that one day, just like that, she’d be gone.

2 Comments

  1. Inga Frank

    Oh Shilo,
    So beautifully written! In expressing yourself, your anguish, your spiritual journey, your many self-discoveries, you purge the dark things hidden in corners. You also hold up the mirror for us, for me.
    A sepia-toned year…yes. The isolation is barely noticeable, except when I go to visit my sister and I can’t hug her, because she is on heavy chemo again and therefore more vulnerable to Covid. She needs me to hold her hand, to reassure her, because this recurrence of cancer is in her spine and has no cure, only long-term chemo. She is afraid of what comes before, the rather rapid loss of her very active life-style, possible surgery that may take vital limbs, and not just of dying, but what it will do to her husband and her adult children….and I can’t even hold her hand.
    All I can do is make her some rich and delicately-flavoured soups in the hopes to stave off weight-loss. She is nauseous much of the time. She has asked me to help make her bedroom beautiful because she will be spending more time there. Oh, it breaks my heart. I sat on the little deck of the Feasthall with orange Daphne, who, for once was sweet, and I couldn’t stop crying. I really needed things to be better this year.
    This week I didn’t need to find blood on Alastair’s sheets, after noticing that he’d been a little colourless lately and that his new suit looked too big on him. I need to know now what ails him, not wait for another long week to hear what the doctor has found and more weeks of uncertainty till he has a colonoscopy, more doctors, more hospitals…
    I need to sleep to be strong for my sister and my husband, but I can’t seem to stay asleep.
    The post-Covid really isn’t too bad, just some days the exhaustion can be so complete that I need every ounce of willpower to get up and move. Some days feel like I have fibromyalgia when I walk. I hate that. Now I have the beautiful big house and garden, and don’t have the energy to maintain it. Some days I think that I may lose it all. Was it all for nothing?
    Will I lose Alastair, or have to watch him go through endless chemo and radiation? Endless hope for the best, have our hopes dashed, and then hope again.
    I am so tired.
    But you inspire me with your resilience, inspite of your grief. Your way of seeing what is true. I am glad that you have Grant in your life . Big hug.

    • Birch

      Oh Inga <3 Thank you so much for your comment and I am so sorry for all your pain. You've had your fair share, even among all the amazingly beautiful experiences in your life. There's a tarot deck that always makes me think of you. The Golden Wheel. I saw it again a few days ago and you have been on my mind since. Very sad news about your dear sister, I can't imagine how that would feel. I know that in my grief I sometimes write as though only a grieving mother can suffer such heartache - but I know that is not true. and these new concerns for Alastair as well - I really hope all is ok. Be sure to give yourself lots of healing space and time. Message me on FB messenger any time - let me know how things are going. I will be reactivating FB soon as well. Love you lots and miss you truly.

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