Its hard to describe what it feels like to be driving to Connecticut with the three of them in the backseat–Max sandwiched in between Grace and Mutoni. I look back in the rear-view mirror and see the three of them huddled over the Harry Potter movie on the computer. They are arguing over Justin Bieber (dreamy or ridiculous?–the sides are drawn) and sharing music on the ipod and sharing the box of cookies I snuck into the backsheet. It feels…well…it feels normal. A normal extended family fighting the traffic on I-95, two sisters in the front seat catching up, three cousins being silly as they sing the latest pop songs. And its that normal-ness that makes my heart swell with gratitude.
Three years ago my friend and housemate Odette made her first trip with me to Connecticut for Thanksgiving. At that time everything seemed impossible and stuck. We had no idea if she would be able to stay here in this country and the possibility of bringing her daughters from Africa seemed bleak–at best. After facing a horrible civil war and genocide in her native Rwanda, after losing her husband, after following her heart to cooking school and becoming a chef and after years of supporting her mother and children and nieces and nephews with her amazing cooking, she took a leap and came to the US. When things didn’t go as planned she ended up with me, thousands and thousands of miles away from her children, on a journey to Connecticut.
The thing I remember most about that trip is the hours we stole away dreaming about what it would be like IF she got to stay AND IF she got to bring her girls here. How amazing it would be. I also remember seeing absolutely no path to this dream. It was a far off destination through a wild jungle and a stark desert without a road (or even a path) leading there. I couldn’t see how she would get there but I loved her dreams. They were beautiful, even though they felt ridiculous and completely unreasonable. And I resisted every temptation to try and talk her out of them in order to protect her heart. And with that decision, I started to learn about dreaming, not wishing and praying but the active art about making dreams come true.
If there is anything I learned from my dear friend Odette, it is that we make the road by walking. Looking back over the highs and lows of the last three years, I am not sure anyone would ever have started out on that road if they knew how complicated, hard and impossible it would be. Huge unmoveable boulders would present themselves. Big pits of quick sand. And lions and tigers and bears. And yet, obstacles were faced one at a time. There always was a way around them, even if it took months, and heavy lifting, and impossible stretching. Just when I couldn’t imagine how she would continue or where the answer would appear, countless strangers came out of the woodwork to brick by brick built a path to that dream, chipping in how and when they could. Courage and hope was the only map. They guided everything–and always led the way home.
And then after four years of separation, we were making another journey up north, this time to an airport to pick them up because amazingly they were here. (Side note: for a bit of Thanksgiving inspiration, click over here to see Stephanie Roberts amazing photos and stories of their reunion!)
Having been a witness to this amazing story, knowing full well that when she started she had no idea what to do but it didn’t let her stop her, I don’t dismiss her advice when we are talking about my dreams, especially the ones that I can’t imagine the path towards.
JUST START, she tells me. She says it firmly. The next step will appear once you begin. I know, from the giggling I hear in the back seat, that she is right. She had no idea how she would ever bring her girls here but even though she had no plan, she threw herself into it and did the one thing in front of her. And then, the next thing…and the next one and the path appeared and outlandish, impossible and amazing dreams came true.
If there is anything I have learned from my sister Odette, from witnessing her journey, it is this. Just start. Hope and Courage are found in the doing.
Five things I know
That apple pie is a pretty strong motivator
That wearing a great t-shirt can make me feel strong
That the earth is holding me (and you too!)
That laughter and sweetness and happiness can be found even in the midst of heartbreak and frustration
That really knowing much more than this is over rated
Five things I don’t know now
Where all my socks go
Why the cats can’t seem to get along
Why the lights are always on in Max’s room
What is going to happen next
How it is all going to work out
Five things I am truly grateful for
The kitten’s soft fur
The way Rosie cat will sleep on my hip every night
A comfy bed
A warm house and clean water
Five things I am holding space open for
Slowness and space
A great cup of tea
An abundance of silliness and kindness
A comfortable place to sit
There have been some big changes in our life lately. The biggest came at my paid work a couple of weeks ago. It was the kind of change that calls everything into question and frees me up for new possibilities. It was the kind of change that open windows when doors get closed; the kind of change that promise new adventures if you follow the string. It is also the kind of change that can stir up all my big fears and set my security-loving gremlins all a-tremble. Everything is in a sort of limbo and its completely unclear which way it will go.
This autumn, like every autumn, I am enchanted by how nature is in transition too. Moving from the juicy goodness and abundance of late summer to the stark, bare essential-ness of winter. Leaves let go so the trees can rest. Birds fly away, frogs disappear into the mud. Oak trees lets their acorns drop with the hope that some of them will find fertile ground come spring. Letting go of everything without any promise but with every bit of faith that eventually the sun will come round again. Autumn is the exhale.
These days, as I marvel at nature’s transformation, this deep letting go, I am profoundly aware that in my own personal changes, I have no idea how it will all work out. I am letting go without any real sense of what comes next. The only thing that is inevitable is the change. And I am practicing finding peace in all the ways things are different than I thought they would be, practicing finding my center and exclaiming, “How fascinating” at every squirmy turn.
Yet, through it all I have found great comfort in the simple act of planting daffodil bulbs. Digging into the cold wet autumn ground and hiding a treasure. Its an act of faith, really, planting bulbs. It seems crazy this sticking something into the earth just before it freezes, trusting that despite the cold and ice and snow, the thieving squirrels and other hungry animals that it will ultimately spring into something lovely and green and beautiful. But I do it and I never really doubt my flower garden. I can’t say how or why it works but I believe that God and nature and Mother Earth will do their jobs and come spring my garden will be full of color. Like the trees who drop their acorns on muddy fall paths, I am trusting that if I just let go, something new will (one day) be born.
Its that kind of faith pure and simple that I need right now.
This fall, as I plant my bulbs I am adding a new practice. I am writing on tiny pieces of paper the things I am cultivating my faith around. I am wrapping each tiny piece of paper around a bulb and blessing it before I pile the dirt back into the hole. Every day for as little as 5 minutes a day, sometimes as long as an hour, I am digging, praying silently. I am, quite literally, asking Mother Earth to hold onto my dreams, my needs, my deepest wishes.
Here are just a few of the things I am holding the space for, opening up to, trusting in:
That there always will be enough and we will not want.
That an open path to the next phase of my life will appear.
That I will have the resources to support us and to do the work I am dreaming of
That the cat will stop peeing in the house and my house will smell good every day when I walk in.
That allies and friends will show up when I need them.
That life will slow down.
That Max knows how much I love him and that he always feel cherished
That abundance and goodness will find us and that there will be more than enough to share.
That creativity will guide me and I will grow into the healer I am becoming
That I will know what to do at the moment I need to do it
As the days get darker we need to trust more and more. These practices, which feel so ancient to me give me strength. I have a bag of daffodils and I want to share. Leave a comment here or drop me a line at meg (at) megcasey (dot) com and whisper what you are offering up to faith these days. I promise that between now and Thanksgiving, I will plant you a bulb with your wish/hope/statement of faith in my garden where it will rest all winter before it blooms into magic I promise will be just for you.
I am sitting here at the end of what can only be described as a truly nutty week. It was full of disappointment and pain, especially for Max. In less than 6 days time he suffered: a surprise root canal, a puck shot at the back of his leg, an unexpected upper cut to the jaw from an angry kid he didn’t know, a pencil to the eye at school, and a hand slammed in the door and a trip to the emergency room. And that was just the physical stuff. For me too this week has been a wild ride with surprise announcements at work that tore my heart apart.
Tonight I have been hiding away in my newly constructed art room and playing with paper and glue, somehow pasting my own wounds back together.
Early today I took a walk with a friend and told her that despite the week’s misadventures, and rocky twists and turns I was feeling solid and safe and at peace. I have my health. My son is safe–if battered and bruised somewhat. I have good friends, a full fridge, and a car that still insists on working despite the way I have treated her. Joy and silliness are only a corny joke away. We are so blessed.
Tonight, as I clean up the house, putting dishes away and shoes in their place, picking up after the hurricane that is my son and his friends, I am counting my blessings, feeling my heart swell with gratitude for so much. Our life is, in the truest sense so very full, even now–especially now–when it is bumpy and uncertain.
The fall is a natural time of acknowledgement and gratitude, only fitting for me to list out here what is in my head and heart:
Why My Heart is Overflowing:
1. Max is having a sleep over with one of his oldest and dearest friends–a boy who literally knew him from birth.
2. The manager of Max’s hockey team sent a note to us all reminding us to set our clocks back.
3. I have an extra hour of sleep tomorrow morning.
4. I have enough apples to make apple sauce and apple crisp and apple torte tomorrow when I do wake up.
5. My house is peaceful and clear thanks to my dear sister Odette and my darling friend John who came over last weekend and spent their Saturday night with me, clearing out, moving furniture, making trips to the attic and basement, nailing up things and mopping the floor.
6. Max and I went to see our beloved Caps last night and I got to scream my head off with joy when they beat the Boston Bruins 5-3 after an exciting dramatic game.
7. Max is strong and resilient and was climbing trees within hours of the emergency room, waving at me with his ace-bandaged hand. I had to fuss at him to come down and sit still.
8. I have an art room where my home office used to be.
9. Juan brought me over a beautiful new glass table that a client of his was giving away for free. It replaces an old and broken table that we had once settled for but never truly loved.
10. Max and Rosie and Tabitha and I have each other. We have you too.
11. My old gray cat Rosie is alive and warm and cozy and sitting on my lap, talking to me, chattering away in meows and squeaks. She almost died 6 years ago. Yet here she is.
Here we all are. And that is everything.
I am opening a space here in my heart, in my house, in my life. I am opening up a wide open space for miracles. I am feeling a huge shift, as though everything is about to change and I am trusting that all will be well…all will be well and all manner of things will be well.
Things are blowing up, unlocking and transforming all around me. It started this summer when someone I love got really really sick. It was then when I was faced with how quickly change happens. One minute we are lounging by the pool and the next minute we are sitting on the side of the road, with our arms wrapped around our knees in tears. In the space of 5 minutes everything changes.
And then in small and big ways the “way things have always been” started to get unglued. Everything started to unravel. In every corner of my life I am being asked to let go of something. And I am simply trusting, after all that I have learned, that this letting go is simply to create the space for something to be born. I don’t know what that something is yet. I can’t even begin to imagine and so instead, I light my candles, go about my work and leave the door open for miracles.
The other night I made chocolate chip cookies and poured tea and cuddled my boy while I climbed in bed and talked in whispers with some of my dear ones huddled in their hotel rooms. We talked until I was so tired I no longer made sense, long after everything that needed to be said had been said. Its this kind of self care and kindness and compassion that is necessary in times like these. Tonight I practiced music I love to play, watched old music videos from the 80s and then curled up on the couch and listened to my friend play guitar while the kitten nestled herself into my lap. These are the things we can do to simply be, to squeeze the pleasure and beauty out of a day some would call awful. This is how I open to miracles.
Last night at midnight I slipped outside into the sharp autumn and sat down on the cold slate pathway in front of my house. And I breathed. Counted my breaths, one, two, three, four all the way to ten and back again.
And now, I am listening to the rain. That soothing, melodic rain. Its like a lullaby and I am half asleep already. Comforted in the arms of some invisible angel who whispers to me in time to the rain, “all will be well….all will be well…”
I have no idea how this will turn out–these sudden crazy shifts. It could simply be we are experiencing earthquakes but after the shakes it will look pretty much the same around here. Or it could be that new mountains will be born. Either way, the world will keep spinning and I will be wiser.
Yes I am holding out for miracles: little miracles and big ones too. Miracles that will set the world spinning in the most delicious and unlikely of ways. Miracles that will heal and miracles that will inspire and miracles that will reorganize and miracles that will hold me.
Every now and then a possibility shows up that seems almost magical in its design. A perfect situation that seems to be constructed just for me (and Max), even as it sends us spinning in a new direction. I have learned to leap at those opportunities and to follow the string of it where ever it leads me. To wholeheartedly and excitedly say yes to these possibilities when they show up. In big or small ways, they always lead somewhere essential and unexpected.
I don’t know about you, but sometimes, when those opportunities appear and I have said my yes, I am suddenly awash in hopes and expectations. I find myself day dreaming about how amazing or fun or challenging or thrilling it will be. If I am not careful, I can suddenly in my excitement leap ahead imagining how it will look or feel, and what is going to be great and what is going to be hard and what is going to be different than we ever imagined it would be. I fantasize about lessons I will learn. I can get carried away.
Funny thing is, it never turns out exactly that way, and sometimes the possibilities dissolve as quickly as they materialize — like a mirage shimmering in the sun.
It could be an opportunity to host an foreign exchange student who doesn’t come, or a new job dangled in front of me only to be retracted. It could be a chance to partner on a cool creative project or to visit a place I have always wanted to go. It disappointing when that happens and I can find myself suddenly grieving something I never had, something that I didn’t even know I wanted until it sparkled in front of me like a fairy dust.
In the past, when the exciting opportunity slipped through my fingers like that, I could feel something like such a chump for daring to get excited about this unmanifested adventure. Who was I to believe that this exciting opportunity was meant for me? Who was I to believe that I that saying “yes” might carry me somewhere new? Who was I to get so–AHEAD of myself?
Truth is, in those moments I was so focused on the fact that I didn’t land where I thought I would, that I ignored the fact that the adventure had in fact already carried me somewhere–usually somewhere good, challenging or thought provoking. Someplace important. But instead of continuing to follow the string, I would drop it, not realizing that it hadn’t come to a bitter end. And I would get stuck.
But now, I am practicing the art of genuinely, excitedly, openly saying yes without attaching to the outcome. Because I am learning that often, its not the end result that matters, but what gets put in motion when I say yes that matters most.
Offering to host the student who is not coming may have inspired me to finally clean out the guest room, creating space for newness unimagined. The new job that falls through may have inspired me to view my talents in a new light or step into a new role in my current job. The work of readying myself for a project with a mentor may have set in motion a creative process that doesn’t need a partner. The cancelled trip to a dream location may be the thing that gets my travel itch going, readying me to say yes to a future journey that might have otherwise seemed daunting or undoable.
Truth is, every time we open ourselves up to adventure we are indeed swept a little further along the path leading to our dreams, even if we don’t end up where we thought we would. I am learning that sometimes these wonderful possibilities that never materialize may indeed be mirages–wonderful tricks the Universe may use to entice us out somewhere we might never have dared journey otherwise–somewhere uncomfortable or scary or exhausting or just simply counter-intuitive.
Once upon a time, past disappointment may have been thing that gave me pause next time an exciting adventure presented itself.
But now, I am beginning to peer beneath the surface of that disappointment and am finding that actually, really, the disappointment is the mirage. All it takes is a closer look to see what treasures actually were delivered.
Truth is, as a teacher I admire has said, I am (we all are) arriving, exactly where I need to, right on time.
And instead of throwing down the string that led me here in despair or annoyance, I am instead holding on lightly, following it centimeter by centimeter around blind corners and down dark alleys, learning as I go to trust the crazy places it may lead, squeezing the goodness out of every step.