By Marjorie Turner Hollman
We thrive on change, even as we resist it. I wrote this piece during a time of healing, which was not yet. In truth, my healing may never be complete. And so I face times when the challenges feel too much. Even then, I have learned to trust that those feelings will change as well—a dependable constant. Here is a chapter of my upcoming book “A Liturgy of Easy Walks: Finding the Sacred in Everyday (and some very strange) Places:”
Living in New England, I am keenly aware of seasonal changes, shifts, if you will, as the entire stream of sap and snow ebbs and flows according to seasonal commands that appear erratic at times, but which truly push onwards into the next season. I find it easiest to track in the plants that surround me, as trees and shrubs begin budding or leaves transform into a spectacular display of color before drifting to the ground before winter. Flowers bloom or wither. There is a “knowing” much larger than any temperature gauge we use to gain clues for how to dress for the day. The weather reports never tell the whole story.
And so with anniversaries. Birthdays, death days, weddings, divorces, momentous times mark changes in individual lives, even as the world continues its seasonal rhythms. My body knows this. Perhaps because of how often I forget to listen to the real seasons, it is when the deep, dark times come round that I find them ready to knock me flat. Ignoring, hoping to remain oblivious doesn’t work. Suddenly, there is no escape. The sadness, sorrow, the lethargy that comes with deep mourning is overwhelming. And it keeps knocking me over when I thought I was “through it.” My body knows better. Another season of mourning is upon me. Time spent with it is necessary, a part of life. There is no “away,” only going through.
I would ask for unmitigated joy and celebration. It is denied me. In the midst of what might be a time of celebration, my body keeps returning me to deep mourning for the near loss of my life those years ago, and the lingering reminders of the earthquake-like changes that remain.
My body still remembers the sudden sharp shock as a grand mal seizure overtook me, wracking me for ten to fifteen minutes. Memories of feelings of invasion, loss of control, the stunning effect of planning one’s own funeral at age thirty-seven, desperately concerned for the well-being of my young children. Memories of bewilderment after surgery watching my limbs laying lifeless at my side, providing nothing but pain and struggle. Remaining memories are stirred by needed adaptations to get through summer seasons, a time my body struggles to remain stable when deprived of the ability to cool myself down.
Feelings of exhilaration return even remembering the hardest times, tempering the despair and reminding me of the intense emotions, a roller coaster at times, and now more of a tightrope I walk daily. I should know by now when these low times will come, yet they still catch me unawares.
And then, somehow, a still, small voice reminds me, “embrace it all.”
Thanks, I really don’t want to right now, but thanks, anyway.
“Stop fighting. Your body is wiser than you are right now.”
But if I stop fighting, what will happen?
“You’ll have to wait and see. It’s a story. No one gets to know the end, or even the middle of the story, but the storyteller. Just listen.”
I don’t want to.
“But your body is listening, even if you don’t want to. Stay with your body.”
“I know, but leaving your body to struggle alone hurts even more. Don’t leave your body alone. It is part of you, and needs you very much.”
But it betrayed me.
“No, it has stayed with you, and not abandoned you. It is rich with life, love, energy, excitement, humor, wit, laughter, music, dance, passion, caring nurturing, compassion, intellect, thoughtfulness, and more you still have not discovered. Don’t you want to know what else is waiting in this wondrous gift I have given you?”
Not always. Not today. Maybe tomorrow.
“Tomorrow may be soon enough.”
What if it’s not?
“You’re asking for the next part of the story?”
“Then you’re going to need to listen closely.”
“You must start by listening to your body. It is a real part of the story. You can’t find out the rest if you leave out a huge part of the story. You can’t find out the rest if you leave out part of the middle. It won’t make sense.”
“Yes, I promise.”
I can’t do it alone.
“I know. You don’t have to.”
But it feels lonely.
I hate it.
“Hating anything gives more power to what you hate. Loving, embracing, allows it to be what it is.”
“You will when you can.”
How do you know?
“Because I’m the storyteller, and I know how all stories end.”
I thought you said you couldn’t tell me how the story was going to end!
“Ah, but I haven’t told you the whole story yet, only enough to give you hope and light, so you are able to keep listening. For what is the storyteller with no listener?”
You make me mad sometimes.
I just want to know how it will end.
“Then the story will be over and it will be time to go home.”
That doesn’t sound so bad.
“There may be some things you might be sorry to have missed.”
Why can’t you just tell me?
“Then it wouldn’t be a story.”
I hate stories!
Well, not really, if I know the storyteller will keep telling me the story.
All right. I’m ready.
“Oh, good. For once, there was a girl…..
And the seasons keep shifting, whether we choose to feel them or not. Have you noticed? Have you breathed deep the air around you? Change is coming, ready or not.
Marjorie Turner Hollman is a personal historian who loves the outdoors, and has completed four Easy Walking guide books including her newest book Finding Easy Walks Wherever You Are. A native Floridian, she came north for college and snow! A freelance writer, she has appeared on Boston’s WCVB Channel 5 TV news magazine show, Chronicle, the Boston Globe, local radio and cable TV shows, and been published in local, regional, and national publications. www.marjorieturner.com