In 2010 I experienced a major life rupture: My relationship at the time, and the pregnancy we were excitedly growing, both ended in the space of one month. With these radical and nearly simultaneous traumas, I found myself retreating to the shores of Kauai, spending long hours watching the trees and whole days quietly paddling up rivers.
If you’ve ever had a radical life change, maybe because of being fired, getting divorced, sick, injured, or like me, experiencing a miscarriage or death of a child, you might know it can shatter you. The shatter is physical, in that the room you’ve been walking into encounters a forced stop, a gate comes down saying, “I’m sorry, you can no longer enter here, this area is closed to you.”
Your body and it’s slow to adjust physiology, keep walking into that room, even though you can never go in it again. You dream you’re in there, you wake up thinking you’re still in that room, and yet you’re not. It’s a horrible sense of isolation because the rest of you believes you are elsewhere, even if you were the one (in the case of the job or relationship) who made the change.
Radical change also shocks ideals. A dream you’ve had to live a kind of life, with a kind of rhythm, or certain people, was lit, and you lived into that light with the other(s). Even if the ideal was the sole source of light, and served the function of carrying your enthusiasm for the less-than-a-match job or relationship (dead children don’t fit into this category) being torn from it is just that, a tear. While letting down into the change, you must contend with the broken dream. That isn’t easy. You might never get over it, because you still want it, even if you can’t or don’t want to have it with him, her, or them.
I’ve long wondered what one can really do with such radical rupture. One of my mentors, Stephen Jenkinson, would say, “Learning to live with grief is the only way to set the feast table of your days.” Another, Andrew Feldmar would say, “Be sad as long as you need to be sad for. It is sad.” And my now loving husband, Bruce Sanguin has said, “Your heart has to shatter open in order for it to hold more light.” These have all been true.
While paddling the rivers during that early period of that grief, sadness, and shatter, in 2010, the rupture did have a surprisingly positive fallout: vision. Scattering so thoroughly (although incredibly disorienting) seemed to provide definition to every one of my scattered pieces. There was where I lived, how I lived, who I was friends with, how I was as a friend, how I worked, who I presented as at work, my past, my present, and a choice about my future. Scatter shone light onto the sovereignty in every aspect of my life. And, because there really is no such thing being in pieces, I was seeing every aspect of myself wholly. I stood on my paddle board one day, the sun hot against the bull rushes lining a narrow, calm river, and I knew I could take my body, my being, my talents, and my self anywhere. Just as I directed this board and myself on it, so I could direct my whole life forward into any circumstance of my choosing.
This new definition of sovereignty stayed with me for short time, then quickly, like many radical insights do, went underground. Back then, during that moment on the river, I imagined moving to Bali and paddling every day and working in a lush forest village. Even though the plan to go there passed, I believe it presented itself so to prove the point. Sovereignty can be radical, that’s how powerful whole-being choice is.
If you’ve known it, you’ll agree that there’s nothing like radical rupture for getting that life is not forever. And you’ll know it’s helpful in getting that the only person who has to live with your choices is you, not those who you believe are watching and assessing you.
What would you do if you believed, as I do, that you could gather all of your sorverign life force–your intellect, your personality, your physical body, your moment-by-moment way, your essential stewardship of self, and point your boat in the direction of your choosing?
As it happens, I recently took that dormant rupture-inspired dream of sovereignty, and together with Bruce asked what would it look like to gather our whole selves into one place, pick up our life energies and guide them in a direction we truly want to live in?
Because of those questions, today I write from our home on a beautiful and lush island in the North Pacific. We made the move last week and although we miss our friends from home, we are in bliss at the beauty here. I hadn’t paddled much for years, but after stepping off my board early this morning, and walking home up our dusty road from the beach, the years knit together, and I marvel at how we all might live into the generative seam from where what dies breathes new life.