We have arrived … we have come to the end of our journey together. I am so grateful for the time that we shared. I am grateful for the lessons learned, the friends made, the goals achieved, big and small and everything in between.
Endings are always odd for me, I have to admit. I’d have to sit down with someone a lot more clever than myself to dig up some psychology on why I tend to go a little numb during goodbyes, but I am fairly sure it has something to do with the fact that I have had many endings in my life.
As a child I had many traumas of “low-grade neglect,” as I sometimes call it, the child of functioning alcoholics, and I had to grow up fast. It has always felt like a loss, my own childhood, especially as I watch my own children grow, and realize I cannot remember very large portions of my early years. Then the storms really blew in. I lost part of my home to a forest fire when I was 14. I lost my entire home to some kind of “accidental” fire when I was 16. I lost my mom mentally that day, her eyes rolled back into her head and she never returned to us, but rather to the bottle and any other numbing agent she could find to escape everything but a shallow breath. I lost my dad 12 years ago to my mom’s alcoholism and addiction, and subsequently to a new wife and life that didn’t really have any room for me, my brother or our children. I lost my mom to the heavens 6 years ago when her addictions, sadness, depression and despair were finally soothed by death. I’ve lost two and a half husbands, all three to some kind of addiction, and my behaviors in response went from very bad in retaliation to very enabling to, at long last, albeit enabling for a while, a non-negotiable break with almost no emotion. (They call me the Head Witch but I am starting to think of myself more as the Black Widow.) I am a single parent who is raising her boys with no family around but, as irony would have it, an incredible sister-in-law. I built a company from less than nothing. The loss and aloneness I can feel at times are paralyzing. Thousands of moments have passed, when I have felt like I had no options, no wisdom and no guidance, when I have looked up because looking down can become a tendency, and imagined a holy angel, my mother, and said, “Why did you leave me? I need you. I can’t do this all by myself.”
As I look back on my life and its abundant loss, mostly of love, harmony, security and family, I have learned the skill of resilience and grit, which I am so thankful for, because gosh I have needed it when crumbling was just not an option. The downside of steadfast resilience and grit is a kind of numbing, a hardening. And it makes goodbyes feel like just another loss I need to gut through.
Before I even started this program, I vowed to myself that I would go through all of the processes with you, and be my own student. In many ways I also feel like I have now become my own teacher; the brilliant and wise teachers I have had over the years have, through their teachings, brought me back to me. I often hear them tell me in meditation, “You already know this. You already have the answers. You don’t need me to tell you. You already have this in you. I am not your teacher, you are your teacher. Stop looking outside of yourself. It’s all within you. All you have to do is listen.” Without me realizing it, through years of yoga, meditation and inquiry, I have learned the most important lesson of all: to trust my own intuitive way of doing things. Intuition isn’t always pretty. Trusting it is sloppy at best. Intution is flighty and it wanders all over the place and most of the time, it doesn’t make any sense at all. It’s a confusing house of mirrors, with no apparent strategy and seemingly no end. And yet, we all sum it up — what our gut, or our soul, or however you want to describe the inner knowing — with this common phrase, “everything happens for a reason,” which is an easy thing to say if the trauma isn’t happening to you, or after you know said reason. And it’s irritating AF to hear when you’re running into mirrors, bloodying your head.
So much of what I have written — perhaps all of it — is me teaching myself through you. The stumbling blocks, the sticky spots, the blind spots that lead us astray, the quagmire that we sometimes wallow in — I am doing all of the same things. I just have a really remarkable tool that I never really understood nor did I realize I had until the past year — it’s a piece of my heart and soul that always whispers, “keep going.”
Keep going, it says. Even if you have to slow down, just keep going.
When you want to fall apart, go ahead and fall apart. And then keep going.
When you want to run like the wind in the opposite direction of all of your responsibilities and all of the things that you created by your own choices and actions, go ahead and run. And then stop, and turn around and face it all like a warrior. And keep going.
When you feel all alone, keep going.
When you feel completely supported and everything is ambling along with ease and gentleness and comfort, keep going.
When the road comes to an end, you better get your thinking cap on and figure out how to build a new road. Because you have to keep going.
I was born near the Yankton Indian Reservation in southeastern South Dakota, on a very cold winter’s night in February, 1974. I was only one of two babies born that day. The reservation is the homeland of the Yankton Sioux and covers approximately 262,300 acres. It is the second-largest Indian reservation in the United States that is located entirely within one county. Legend has it that while Lewis and Clark gathered with the Yanktons in 1804 on Calumet Bluff, a baby boy was born. Captain Lewis learned about the birth, sent for the child, and wrapped him in an American flag. Lewis gave a speech in which he prophesied that the boy would live to become leader among his people and would be a great friend of the white men. “Struck by the Ree” (1804-1888) grew up to become Chief of the Yankton Tribe. As a leader, he befriended the whites, yet remained dedicated and loyal to his people. I love this story. I love that — a spritual leader of Mother Earth and the Great Spirit, brought people unlikely to befriend, together, and was a highly respected Chief among his devoted people — was born where I was born.
I grew up from age 2 in the Black Hills of South Dakota. The Black Hills rise from the horizon, a gloriously dark, mysterious and unexpected island in a sea of green and yellow prairie grass. Its pine forests and granite peaks keep centuries of stories and history, while the aspens whisper in the breezes and cover patches of foothillls like a blanket made of golden threads. Home to the Lakota Sioux, who called this place Paha Sapa, or Black Hills, because its pine-covered slopes appear black from a distance. The hills are not only magical to see and feel, but the Lakota viewed them as the center of the universe, home to spiritually significant sites. The majestic buffalo, sacred to the Lakota, still roam. In fact, they roam on my brother’s ranch, and I have fed the enormous, beautiful beasts with my own hands, while tears streamed down my face in awe.
There is a book I cherish, called The Lakota Way. It speaks of the beliefs, values and wisdom that have sustained the Lakota people, the people of my birthplace and home, “since time immemorial” through stories — stories handed down generation after generation. The author, Joseph Marshall III, wrote another book, called Keep Going, the Art of Perseverance. This book always sits on my desk.
Before I leave you, before I say goodbye, I want to share a short piece of this book.
A young man asked his grandfather why life had to be so difficult sometimes. This was the old man’s reply.
Grandfather says this: “In life there is sadness as well as joy, losing as well as winning, falling as well as standing, hunger as well as plenty, badness as well as goodness. I do not say this to make you despair, but to teach you reality. Life is a journey sometimes walked in light, sometimes in shadow.”
Grandfather says this: “You did not ask to be born but you are here. You have weaknesses as well as strengths. You have both because in life, there is two of everything. Within you is the will to win, as well as the willingness to lose. Within you is the heart to feel compassion as well as the smallness to be arrogant. Within you is the way to face life as well as the fear to turn away from it.”
Grandfather says this: “Life can give you strength, strength can come from facing the storms of life, from knowing loss, feeling sadness and heartache, from falling into the depths of grief. You must stand up in the storm. You must face the wind and the cold and the darkness. When the storm blows hard you must stand firm for it is not trying to knock you down, it is really trying to teach you to be strong.”
Grandfather says this: “Being strong means taking one more step toward the top of the hill, no matter how weary you may be. It means letting the tears flow through grief. It means to keep looking for the answer, though the darkness of despair is all around you. Being strong means to cling to hope for one more heartbeat, one more sunrise. Each step, no matter how difficult, is one more step closer to the top of the hill. To keep hope alive for one more heartbeat at a time leads to the light of the next sunrise, and the promise of a new day.”
Grandfather says this: The weakest step toward the top of the hill, toward sunrise, toward hope, is stronger than the fiercest storm.
Grandfather says this: “Keep going.”
My friends of Indigo30, it has been a pleasure teaching you and learning with you. Thank you for listening to my words. Now go and share and do amazing things with the gifts you have been given from every teacher, including yourself.
Your Indigo30 is now complete.