The first time I was aware of it was almost 20 years ago. I was standing in a friends living room in Georgetown, a hoity toity DC neighborhood. I was visiting from Houston and talking to a woman I knew in college at some friend’s engagement party. While I told her about my experiences as a teacher she told me about becoming a nurse. And in the pit of my stomach I knew. “Yeah…THAT’s what I should have done. That should have been me.” I was flooded suddenly with awareness and knowing–a sense that came from almost nowhere that told me I should have become a healer and with a slight sinking feeling rarely experienced by the young, I felt I may have missed my calling.
As the years went on, this uncomfortable feeling returned in the most unlikely of times and places. Long before I would even consider having a child, I became obsessed with midwifery. While I excelled at my chosen career, while my work felt meaningful and important, while I felt I was making a mark somewhere good and important, I never felt 100% at home. I began to dream of healing of the most ancient kind–the wise women healing of our ancestors.
I read everything there was to read on the subject of birthing babies. I pinned down any midwife who would talk to me for hours while I asked thousands of questions. I searched through catalogs and plotted training and career paths and dreamed in unrealistic and silly ways about how I would one day join the league of those who hold space so something beautiful could be born. I called it my fantasy career–and spoke about it longingly as the thing I would do when I retired or when I was old and grey. I spoke of it as the thing I might try if I could do it all over again.
But it never let me go, the crazy notion that I am meant for something else. It popped up its head in countless ways. Even when I wasn’t taking this life seriously, it was dreaming me.
About 2 years ago I realized that it was less about birthing babies and more about birthing hope. It was about being with people through their dark days of pain and touching them with compassion and giving them permission to heal. As I emerged from the fog of my own divorce and a battle with migraines and what some had called chronic fatigue, I knew it was about witnessing birth of a different kind.
Over the course of years, of healing from my own hurts–both physical, emotional and spiritual, I have explored various modalities. Western medicine is truly miraculous but I am drawn to the old ancient healing traditions, like acupuncture. These have touched my life in ways that feel down right miraculous. I started out going for my migraines. While we have made progress with my beastly headaches, the reality is that something else has shifted in me within that treatment room. I have felt fear drop away. I have let anxiety drift. I have woken up to lessons in my life. I have been able to settle more into the present. I have felt my body and spirit shift together to a place of more wholeness.
As I have witnessed friends and loved ones suffer from pain of all sorts, my hands have itched for needles.
The uneasy disquieting feeling has turned into an alarm. It has become a child tugging on my sleeve relentlessly. I want to be there to help hold the space so others too can let go of their pain, heal their souls and bodies. I want to help women and men alike birth, not babies but their better healthier selves. I want to hold space so something healing can be born.
I know, with all my being, that this healing work, is what I am meant to do. Yes. There. I have said it out loud. Its scary to declare it to the world this way. Especially since it seems so impossible, improbable, impractical.
For the last 10 months or so I have started to adjust my thinking to hold the possibility that maybe I could really do this in some way shape or form. For the most part I sat quietly with these dreams, speaking them outloud only occasionally, only tentatively. I tenderly rocked the vision of me as healer like a sickly newborn babe. I wasn’t sure she would thrive, but I held her close to my heart and nursed her anyway. She has now grown to the point that I know she will be healthy vibrant…and dare I speak it…real.
Standing between me and training as a healer is a mountain range of challenges. The one that looms largest, looking unscalable and impassable is the mountain that represents at least a couple of hundred of thousands of dollars to pay for tuition and to support Max and I while I study. I have no idea how or where these resources will come from as I struggle to make ends meet every month without books and school. Even if I could find the cash for tuition, I have no idea how I will add studying to an already overcrowded life of fulltime work and single parenting. I know major changes will have to occur in my life to make space for this dream but I can’t quite figure them out. I see the path but truth be told, I have no idea how the hell I am going to get on it.
At another time in my life, this lack of clarity may have caused me to give up in despair, resigning myself to my almost good enough life with my good enough career and the choices I have made to this point. I would have held my knees close to my chest and told myself that it is enough and I should be happy with my beautiful child, my lovely community, my meaningful work. But this is now and I am no longer content with resignation. I am feeling fierce and warrior like, even though I am not exactly sure what that really means.
I know I am a healer and that it is only a matter of time before I can acquire the tools of my trade. I am declaring the start of my journey, even though I can’t quite see the path ahead. And somehow, declaring it here feels important for reasons I don’t really understand. But I am trusting this instinct and my need to tell you this story.
How is it going to all turn out? I have no idea. This story is an epic mystery. Will it happen on top of my current career, along side it, in place of it? How will I stitch the resources together? Where will I end up doing this work? What is the Universe going to require of me? What pound of flesh will I be forced to pay? What blessings will find me on the way? What marvelous and scary destinations await me?
I can’t wait to find out.
If you too are curious how this all turns out drop me a note in the comments here or by email at meg at megcasey dot com. As I set off on this journey however slow or rapid it may be, I am seeking a community of fellow travelers who will help me navigate this path and who will hold me accountable to this life that is dreaming me.
Max and I sitting on the steps of the coffee house where Odette works. We had gotten there three minutes too late and we thought we missed eating her delicious grilled cheese that he had wanted after a hard and exhausting day.
If anyone had every really been able to help me understand how hard motherhood would be I never would have taken the leap. Now don’t get me wrong, there is not a day that I regret that I leapt but I know my wimpy ol’ self absorbed young 30-something self never would have signed up if I really believed and knew in my gut how this job would turn me inside out and back again, fill me with joy and sorrow and desperate panicky fear all at once, bring up all my old primal insecurities, force me to do the brutal work of healing old soul wounds. Truth is, I might have been frightened away if I simply knew how much time I would spend making lunches that don’t get eaten, picking up toys that will just get dumped again, and driving endless and countess miles from activity to activity to drs appointments to playdates. Really. I am so glad I never really got it.
For nothing makes me happier than being Max’s mom. I feel as though I some how got snuck backstage to witness the greatest show on earth. Max has taken me on adventure after adventure across landscapes of the heart as well as real lives ones. With his beautiful smile, he cut away all the bullshit and revealed how purely I can love. He has given me new eyes and together we discover and uncover so much joy and silliness and wonder in the world. I don’t know if he will ever appreciate the tremendous gift he has given me simply by being here. Today on Mother’s Day, I didn’t want anyone to praise me for all I do for him. I wanted to hug him and play street hockey with him, and hold hands eating icecream and revel in all the joys that motherhood has brought me–I wanted to buzz the way I do when I see him leap over walls, his long hair flying out behind him and I yell,”Go Max GO!!!”.
If I am honest though, one of the hardest things about being Max’s mom is meeting his gremlins, the little voices in his head who tell him he is not good enough, or that it is all his fault. The worst of the bunch is the one who tells him that when bad things happen, it must be because he is an idiot and so therefor he must punish himself by refusing the icecream, sitting alone by himself instead of playing, hiding away and torturing his little heart. When did these monsters show up? When do our kids stop believing in themselves even just for a few minutes?
But what kills me as I see his little heart hurt is that I know these insecurities so very well. Apparently, I did more than pass on my freckles and chattiness, but as he grows I am witness him wrestle with the very same demons that I thought I had banished, or at very least tamed, years ago.
Oh they push my buttons those gremlins. And while I keep mine safely at bay these days, I can’t help but be flooded with empathic fear and hurt and sadness when I see him suffering so. Nothing I say really seems to change his mind when he is convinced he is to blame for the day falling apart and as I watch him fall apart with it, I feel helpless, helpless helpless. I know that those gremlins in his head are his to tame and while I can give him some tools, ultimately this is HIS work, not mine. I can support him, but alas I cannot fix it.
Now I finally understand what my mother told me when I held him as a newborn and she said that motherhood feels as though your heart is off walking around outside your body.
Today as I held him on my lap as he sobbed through the breakdown of the day, I decided to stop telling him he was wrong and I simply just said, “You are so precious to me. It stinks that the world is so disappointing sometimes. I don’t know what to do about it. But we can sit here together and be sad for a bit if you want. And then we can eat grilled cheese and do grocery shopping. And by the way, this was the best mother’s day of my life because I got to celebrate that no matter what happens, I have you.”
Happy Mother’s Day Max. I am so glad I didn’t know then what I know now. I can’t wait to see where we go next!
This is the time of year that finds me in the garden. Every morning, I am distracted from my march out the door by an inspection of flower beds. What has come up? What new thing is showing itself? What new beginning has announced itself? Max always has to yell from the car, “Mom…Mommmmm……Come….on…We are going to be late.” I am dreamy as I stumble to the car, unable to take my eyes off the soil. It is fascinating to me–this explosion of new life.
Yet, when it is time to work in my garden, I find that the majority of the work is about clearing. Removing. Pulling up weeds, tilling the soil, turning over the ground. Clearing the space so that something new and beautiful can grow. I spend so little time actually planting. No, most of my work is about picking up dead leaves. Picking up the sticks brought down by the rain. Pruning the azaleas and the roses. Cutting back. Cleaning out. Sweeping up. Creating space so something new can be born. Isn’t this really the work of a gardener?
There is a spot in my garden where I usually plant annuals. Impatients or pansies–something that will immediately add color. This year, for a variety of reasons I don’t understand, I decided not to do this. I bought a couple packs of seeds, checking only that the light would be OK. Without paying much attention, Max and I dumped them onto the freshly tilled soil. We raked over a bit more soil and waited as it rained.
This week our beloved housemate is leaving us. Its hard to believe it is so, but it is. It is an occasion of excitement for it marks a wonderful new beginning for her. Our home was a safe place of refuge when she needed it most. Our house was a transition. But now she has all that she needs to make it on her own–legal status, a job, resources, a community. The apartment half a mile down the street, up high on the top of the building, with the tiny kitchen and big windows, it is the right place for her to be now. It is the first home she will call her own. And this is a miracle. Something new is being born for her.
And I know that something new will be born for us too. My dear friend Kaiya tells me that the Universe abhors a vacuum. When space is opened up, something new will grow. And I am holding onto this truth fiercely. It is a great comfort.
As we transition from housemates to friends, there is an ache in this empty place in our heart’s house where she used to be with her lilting African voice and the smells of her yummy cooking, in the place where she used to look at me with eyes that really saw. And yet, I know that out of this emptiness something new will grow. Letting go makes me sad and if I am completely honest, the mystery of what will grow up in this place makes me a little uncomfortable. But it is a discomfort I will sit with. But I have long ago given up guessing. Whatever is next will surprise me, that is for sure.
For weeks now I have been churning on these thoughts, in the garden, with the moving boxes. I am feeling it in other places of my life too. Colleagues are moving on, our organization is transitioning, friendships that are dear to me are tranforming. I know that in my heart too something is giving way, releasing, letting go. I am letting so much go so something new and marvelous can be born. It is sad and scary and also full of wonder…
I am drawing on the lessons of my garden. If I clear the space, something beautiful can be born. There is a cycle to this life we live, a cycle of letting go of what blossomed and filled us last, clearing the space and waiting with an empty patch of soil.
I feel I am stepping into an empty field, freshly tilled. I am saying yes to whatever will grow here in this open space in my heart, in my life. Yes without knowing where it will take me. Yes without a plan. Yes without knowing what the next step will be.