Born of Dust and Silence

Several months of silence have elapsed since I last showed up to pour my thoughts into this space. Much has been unfolding that is more personal than I am able to explore in this format at this time, and I trust that as stories arise that want to be shared, words will accompany them. For now, know that much is shifting beneath the surface, and perhaps the surface itself is shifting, the landscape of my life changing shape a little, taking on new elements of beauty and fascination and curiosity to marvel at.

I have wondered on and off if it is time to retire from blogging for now. It seems I have less to say here than when I was a student, and it is at least as much personal as it is about midwifery. And then, at the ACNM Annual Convention last week, I spoke with no less than a dozen people (many current midwifery students, or new midwives) who told me that my blog was instrumental to them choosing this profession, or helped them through the rough waters of school, or reminded them that they were not alone. And I realized that I could still do that, even though I am in a very different place now than six years ago when I first sat down to write about my excitement about becoming a midwife and explore my journey towards this career, this calling of mine. Six-years-ago me could not have imagined that I would be sitting down during a lull on a call shift (I didn’t say the “q-word…” I learned never to say the “q-word!”) after a busy day in clinic to blog about being a midwife and becoming myself. Or, perhaps, could have imagined it, but not what it would be like from here.

But six-years-ago me isn’t the part of myself I’ve recently been most strongly connecting with. Ten years ago this summer, I was ill to the point of bordering on death. I look back at the photos of my emaciated body, hollow eyes staring at me through a decade of time, and I have so much I want to tell the person I was then. Last week, I went back to my childhood home (one of them) to visit my parents and my sister, and I spent some time connecting with myself. It felt like a deep healing sort of magic, to be able to send love back through time to myself when I desperately needed it.

Brene Brown put it this way:

A deep sense of love and belonging is an irreducible need of all people. We are biologically, cognitively, physically, and spiritually wired to love, to be loved, and to belong. When those needs are not met, we don’t function as we were meant to. We break. We fall apart. We numb. We ache. We hurt others. We get sick.

A number of those things happened to me a decade ago. I was newly out as queer, and newly in love with the person who would become my wife. I was living in a place where I did not get to express my queerness with a sense of safety or acceptance of who I was, and I managed to internalize the unspoken message that I needed to be small and take up less space. Combined with some undiagnosed physical health issues that spiraled together with anxiety and systemic oppression and not feeling a sense of belonging or knowing where home was, I made myself small. I lost 70 pounds in a year, dropping from an average weight to one that I still cannot believe I could survive at. I broke. I fell apart. I got sick.

I didn’t know if I would get better, or if I could, or even if I wanted to. I could not conceive of a life where I got to be my whole self and was loved exactly as I was and where delight was a theme woven through my days alongside the complexities of sadness and beauty and loss and heartbreaking joy.

I remember a singular moment that felt like a tipping point, where I sat alone in my room, my stomach raging in pain and nausea, gnawingly empty. I watched the pulsations of my aorta through my gaunt belly as I sat staring at a banana and trying to decide if I could eat it. I sat with that banana for hours, feeling like choosing to eat it despite how ill I knew I would feel was an affirmation of my intent to stay alive in the world, and uncertain if I had it in me to say yes. I journaled about this inner chaos. On July 1, 2007, I wrote of how “frighteningly low” my weight was (below 100 pounds), and described all the medical interventions that were on the horizon if I couldn’t force myself to eat, and what my choices were there. And then three small words at the very bottom of the page: “I choose life.”

I ate the banana. I somehow pushed through walls of pain and mountains of fear and kept eating. I left home and built a little family and fell in love with my life again. I didn’t die. I dreamed big dreams and from the depths of myself found the courage to follow them. I moved again, by myself, went to school, got divorced, became a nurse, became a midwife. And here I am on my couch at 11 p.m., pager clipped to the waistband of my shorts, hundreds of babies later, blogging about it.

In my grand tradition of writing letters to my past selves, here’s one specifically to me in that moment when I was sitting there with that banana:

Dear Rob (yep, that’s your name now; hang on),

I see you. Where you are at right now SUCKS. You feel sick constantly. Your body is wracked with pain and your mind with terror. You can’t imagine ever feeling alive again. You are eating your own flesh to stave off death for a bit longer, uncertain how much more you have to give. You are possibly the loneliest you’ve ever been, there in the solitude of your descent into illness.

I know, trust me I know, how much you don’t want to do this. You know how sick you will feel if you eat. You know what it will cost you. But just for a minute, I want to plant the seed of the idea that you not eating will cost me everything I now have. I need you to survive. I need you to do whatever it takes to keep your body alive. I can go back and repair anything else, can return with new perspectives and skills and coping strategies and will happily clean up any messes left behind. I just need you to feed yourself.

If I could, I would give you a glimpse into what lies in store for you on the other side of not dying. In the way that time is not as linear as we think it is and magic is weird and knowing that I went back last week with the intention of reconnecting with you, I’ll give it a shot. If you eat that banana, and keep eating, and keep doing whatever you need to do to stay in the land of the living, I promise you on everything you know to be holy and good that you will come alive again. This is not where your story ends. Far from it. You will keep writing.

In a couple of months, you will move to California, and you will meet people who won’t bat an eye at your queerness. A year from now, you will be married. You will put on a dress (sorry, next time it can be pants) on International Women’s Day and say “for today, and for the days to come” to a woman you love, and you will mean every word of it. You will explore together to the end of your exploring, and your paths will diverge, and you will be sad, and you will feel broken, and you will crochet and write and cry and study your way to feeling whole again.

During this time you will have moved again, to Seattle, on to one of the biggest challenges you’ve ever given yourself. You will dream a seemingly impossible dream, and you will have no idea until you’ve actually done it whether you can. From where your emaciated body sits, banana in hand, you can’t fathom being able to take on the role of caring for anyone but yourself, but you will do it. You will kick ass at one of the most accelerated intensive nurse-midwifery programs in the country. You will rise to the challenge of the dream your grandmother offered you. You will sit in a session at a midwifery conference ten years from now and hear her whisper, from somewhere, that you are her wildest dream, and you’ll realize that she gave you yours as well.

You will get a job that will stretch you and teach you a lot about how to be and how not to be a midwife. You will stay there until you need to leave it, and then you will go to a new place. You will bring your whole self to your work. You will receive babies into your hands and stories into your heart. Your presence with your patients is being cultivated by the quality of the ways in which you are showing up for yourself right now. So keep showing up. Keep doing the hard work of staying alive in the world.

Know that you are not alone. I promise that I will come back for you. Ten years from now, I will return. I will sit in the bedroom you spent your adolescence in, and I will bring all of my accumulated love and wisdom and magic with me. I will sit in the living room eating an apple (because I can’t stand bananas anymore), and I will feel the weight of your frail body sitting there with me, and I will reach out a hand to you from across the decade and lend you all of the strength I have built in the 80 extra pounds of muscle and fat and blood and bone and life I hold in this body you now occupy, and through our collective tears I will call you home again. I must leave home to stay alive, and I promise I will come back for you and through some time-warp magic I will reach back through the past and whisper courage to your palpitating heart, the courage you need to stay alive so you can grow into me and I can go back for you.

Your (my? our?) pager will go off while you write this, and you will go catch a baby and not come back to finish blogging for another week. What will remind you is a sunset that is so astonishing in its simple brilliance that it will move you to tears. You will stand in a spot a block away from where you now live, the fading light of day dropping down over the Olympics before you, and the way the sky makes a perfect silhouette of a sprig of Queen Anne’s Lace will flood your cheeks with saltwater because you are alive to see it.

You will be listening to “Turning Wake” by Ayla Nereo right then, and you will stand still with the cool evening breeze caressing your face as she croons,

I’ll be dancing’ with the ones who remind me
we are born of dust and silence
we are made of ancient songs
and there are ones who’ll keep us sleeping
and there are ones who bring the dawn
put your back to the birch and your mind to the matter of a
listening kind of way
we are born of dust and silence
we are made of ancient songs…

I will stare into the lens of my camera in that moment as if I could look through ten years of history and catch your eye.

I will gaze unblinkingly at the memory of your dying body as tears pour down my cheeks, and I will smile because (spoiler alert!) I know you made it out alive. You can’t know that now, and that is terrifying. Your body will indeed die one day, love, and you will return to the dust and silence you were born of. But not yet. This is not where your story ends.

 

I will stare back across a decade and hold you with limitless compassion, borne out of all of the precious life I’ve lived in the 3644 days between these two photographs. I will grieve with the embodied memory of what happens when I try to take up as little space as possible. You have no idea what you are capable of, how you will proceed to gleefully and unapologetically refuse to fit into anyone’s boxes, how in claiming your authentic wholeness and all the space that is yours to occupy you will create for yourself a life that you can thrive in.

I imagine myself with you in my lap. I would kiss the top of your head and stroke your bony cheek and tell you stories of the life you will live if you eat that banana. I would whisper in your ear the names of every single baby your hands will catch. I would sing you songs you have yet to learn and recite to you some of the poems you will write. You have to stay alive, love, because the world’s best cat has yet to be born, and yours are going to be his favorite shoulders to sit on.

Oh, my love, the tales I have to tell you of who you are becoming! You have so much life left to live. I wish I could tuck you in at night with stories of how brave you are, how resilient, how you will create a home and a life and a chosen family for yourself. It will be a long, tough rode; I won’t lie and tell you otherwise. Dozens of healthcare providers, well over a hundred appointments, several surgeries, and countless medications and treatments of a variety of kinds will be required to keep your body alive. You will do so much inner work, filling journal after journal with your thoughts and reflections. You will come face to face with your own shadow and welcome it. The journey of a lifetime is to integrate all that you have seen and done and experienced and been in the world, and I promise you that you have within you a seemingly endless well of courage that you will draw from again and again to show up and do the work.

Your beautiful queer self belongs in this world, Rob. Despite what you grew up hearing and what you still hear: there is a place for you at this table. You will discover, as you do the work of staying alive, just how much the world is in love with you. Oh, I wish you could take just a tiny glimpse into my bank of memories from the past decade! You have no idea what a ridiculous life I’ve built for you to come home to. I need you not to give up on living just yet, because there are full moons to admire and queer humans to kiss and mountains to hike up and songs to dance to and heart-shaped rocks to discover in all of the places you go. There are books to read and baths to take and poems to take your breath away. There is love to give and receive and make and fall into and fall out of and do it all over again. There is so much delicious food to eat (I promise that nourishing yourself won’t always be as hard and painful and scary as it is now). There is this incredible body that you get to inhabit, and as you put in one of your poems, “to live in this skin and come alive here.”

And so you will, dear one. You were born of dust and silence, and one day you will return to the same. But not yet. I came back for you. I came to bring you home with me, to carry you to a life you’ve made for yourself to thrive in. I left a heart-shaped stone behind so that you can find your way back to me. I’ll take care of you; I’ve learned how.

Come home with me.

All my love and magic,

Rob (roughly 5,247,360 minutes later)

Between Earth and Sky

It’s been over a month since I last sat down to pour my thoughts into this container, and what a deeply moving month it has been. Each day has set before me an ever-changing landscape, and I have made it my intention to be present and deeply listen to what my life is asking of me. So far, what has been coming up is a request from myself to show up as my whole self wherever I am, and to take up all of the space that is mine.

It is the nature of my work to hold a lot of things. I accumulate so many stories during my clinic days and the nights I spend wiping sweaty brows and supporting perineums and welcoming new little lives onto the planet. I hold with my clients the intensity of pregnancy loss, the discomfort of aching backs and swollen ankles, the sweet relief of that first newborn cry. My hands guide babies safely into the world and their parents through the process of birth, mostly without excessive effort (aside from careful watching) on my part, though occasionally swift intervention to save a stuck baby from birth injury or a hemorrhaging person from complications is needed. I show up and occupy that space between life and death, and I feel it deeply when I do. I am learning that my education in science and the skill and training I received can coexist with my intuition and more subtle ways of knowing, and I am working at trusting them both.

I find myself in an endless process of becoming. I am in transition, now and always. I will never not be changing. Nothing feels solid to me right now, because I exist in the dynamic tension between beginnings and endings. There is a certain sweetness in just being in the discomfort of transition without having to know how the story ends, without having any idea if the paths I am walking will take me where I want to go, or even if where I think I’m headed is where I actually want to be.

I stand here in this singular moment in time, occupying this particular space between earth and sky, gravity holding me fast, feeling deeply into the strong force that unites the particles of matter that have come together to form this thing I call myself. I hold gently to my heart the groundlessness inherent in being human. I sit in the questions without having or needing the answers just now. I can breathe into the restlessness in my heart that wants to know what is going to happen, or if I made the right choice, or if it is all okay in the end.

Several times before in my life, I have felt a sense of being invited to do something by something larger than me, and of that being something I just couldn’t not do. I didn’t have answers, or even certainty that I would be able to do it. I felt this when I decided to come out of the closet 13 years ago. I felt it when I was deciding if I should go on the Equality Ride in 2006. I felt it as I was trying to figure out if I would be able to survive midwifery school. And I feel it now.

Mia Hollow put it this way:

every now and again,
you will feel a dull ache in your soul.
a gentle humming around your heart.
a longing for something without a name.
if i ever told you to obey anything,
this would be it.

listen to the call of your authentic self.
that part of you that lives just outside of your own skin.
let it have its way with you.

i have died a hundred times trying to ignore it.

I have learned to deeply trust this voice, because every time I have followed it, the subsequent journey it has invited me on has become a vital part of my becoming myself. It is a call to my deepest courage and most audacious visioning. It is, as Mia Hollow said, “the call of [my] authentic self.” And I have made a commitment to myself that I get to show up whole and take up space, which means claiming all of the parts of myself as mine and not making myself small to make other people comfortable.

Standing at the edge of this unknown, I feel a pull from what feels like a future iteration of myself whispering, “Yes, take this next step. You don’t have to see the whole path now. But take this step.” I also feel an immense surge of gratitude to my past selves for all of the times that I’ve shown up for these invitations with an open, curious heart, and how each of the steps I’ve taken so far have led me right here. There is a sense of continuity here throughout my evolution thus far, and as I sit with my own liminality, it is becoming clear to me that while the destination is uncertain, I know that I am coming home to myself.

This word that I’ve chosen for 2017, belonging, is already challenging me to show up for my life in brave ways. This afternoon, during a meditation on grounding, I felt a fierce sense of belonging as I sensed myself occupying the space where earth and sky came together. There was a wholeness, a continuum between the farthest reaches of space and the solid core at the center of the earth, and I existed in that expanse, taking up a miniscule fraction of it, but nevertheless belonging here.

So much is happening under the surface, and I keep coming back to a question posed by poet William Stafford: “Ask me whether what I have done is my life.”

Some time when the river is ice ask me
mistakes I have made. Ask me whether
what I have done is my life. Others
have come in their slow way into
my thought, and some have tried to help
or to hurt: ask me what difference
their strongest love or hate has made.

I will listen to what you say.
You and I can turn and look
at the silent river and wait. We know
the current is there, hidden; and there
are comings and goings from miles away
that hold the stillness exactly before us.
What the river says, that is what I say.

I’m sitting here at the edge of the river, trusting the current, asking myself whether what I have done is my life, taking up space between earth and sky.

Tell About It

pay attention.
be astonished.
tell about it.
-mary oliver

Words have been hard to come by lately. This year has been a transformative one for me in so many ways, and I have found it challenging to find ways to describe my experience in language. I’ve spent this year doing countless things I’ve never done before, and I am doing my best to listen to Mary Oliver’s wise words. I have indeed been paying attention, and I am astonished over and over again. So here I am to tell about it.

This January is when I started dancing, which was the first time I ever really intentionally began moving my body. After a couple of decades of my muscles existing in a trauma-induced state of permafrost, I remember the exact moment (in the middle of dancing) when I felt them melt. At first, learning to dance was an endeavor of being in deep solitude in the middle of a crowd of people I didn’t know, but over the coming months, I developed a community of beautiful humans who have become family to me in ways I cannot begin to define in words. These people have gone on so many journeys with me, both in the container of an evening’s set list, as well as journeying with me into the wilderness of my humanity and vulnerability while exploring deep connection and belonging. I am unendingly grateful that this year brought dance to my world, and the people that have come with it.

February brought me to the end of one job–my first position as a midwife after graduation–and the beginning of another. That transition was an important one that afforded me much more time for self-care, as I am currently working much less than I was previously. My quality of life has drastically improved in this new role, and I view my decision to accept this new position as one of my most important life decisions thus far. I am grateful for the environment in which I work, the delightful midwives and nurses and other staff who make my workdays something I look forward to, and the precious individuals and families I have the privilege of serving. This month, I also met for the first time someone who became a member of my chosen family and one of the dearest humans in my world. The end of February was also when I learned that my mother had cancer, which would prove to be a thread woven throughout the remainder of the year.

March was full of cherry blossoms and poetry. This month ushered in my thirty-second year of life, and with it, the first labor I ever attended where the baby shared my birthday with me. That is a special moment I will not soon forget, and a hard birth that compelled me to dig deep into my reserves and hold exquisite space for what was unfolding. I went home to vegan cake with a small handful of special friends, and I felt loved. I also stood on a stage on the tenth anniversary of the start of the Equality Ride and told a deeply personal and hilarious story about my journey of self-discovery of my sexuality, which felt like an embrace of my choice of the word “storytelling” as my word of the year.

April involved a road trip that took me to a workshop that proved life-changing for me in several important ways. I met some people who made a big impression on me, and formed new connections that would push me to the edges of discovery and increased self-knowledge. I continued to become more comfortable in my new job, and kept building relationships as I met more people in the dance community I joined at the beginning of the year. April took me away from home to help me find home within myself in new ways.

May brought me love, and exploration, and curiosity, and growth. So many stories unfolded this month, stories I can’t begin to unpack just now. May was about mindful embodiment, witnessing my formerly trauma-frozen body continuing to melt and heal and open to movement and wonder and delight. I kept dancing, and catching babies, and writing poems, and falling in love with the world in new ways.

June took me out into the woods and brought me home again. The magic I created during my five days there left indelible imprints on my life. This month kept teaching me about relationship-building, and boundaries, and attachment, and family. June also contained some new trauma that shook me to my core for a while, and ultimately it showed me the importance of healing in community. I claimed very openly my whole self, and I lost some people I loved because of it. I saw how resilient I have become, and how even painful wounds can be tended to in ways that strengthen my wholeness.

July was about coming undone. The trauma from June seeped into my spirit, and I could not keep holding it all. I went into the woods again, and I fell apart. I set some clear boundaries in relationships that were not serving my wholeness. I grieved hard for what I lost. I felt everything deeply. July was messy and important.

August, again, took me out into the wilderness in search of something inside myself. I went to the coast alone for a week, and felt so very lost. I wrote my way back to myself there, and I came back home with thousands of pictures and hundreds of heart-shaped stones and dozens of ways I had reclaimed lost parts of myself. I went to dance camp this month, and explored movement in community. I allowed myself to be witnessed and held in extraordinary grief, and through this found the strength to go all the way through it to the end of my sorrow. Relationship creation and nurturing continued to be an important theme throughout the end of the summer, as did showing up in my solitude in the natural world and finding myself belonging to it.

September taught me more about healing and letting myself be held and loved by my chosen family. This month found me unearthing the courage to be vulnerable in my storytelling, to choose to unload shame that was not mine to carry, and to see myself through the eyes of the ones who love me the most. This month, I traveled to Oregon for the second of five times this year, and I saw my mother and her family and connected with them in the beauty of nature. I made memories of collecting heart-shaped stones from the beach together with my mother, which I will always cherish.

October taught me again about loss and grief. In the span of two weeks, I lost a dear mentor (a mother figure I have loved since college, when her presence in my life was instrumental in keeping me alive in the world) to cancer and two queer friends to suicide. I grieved their loss in my bones as I continued doing my work of baby-catching and community-building and working for justice. A bright spot in this month was getting the chemical structure of oxytocin, my favorite hormone, tattooed onto my forearm, reminding me to generate love and connection and relaxation wherever I go.

November was a hard month. Anxiety building up to the election, exponentially worse afterwards, gave way to an odd mix of paralyzing despair and dedicated action towards resistance. Two more weekend trips to Portland, and a third to Bainbridge Island, made this month full of travel. I stayed on friends’ couches and in guest bedrooms and in a gorgeous cabin in the woods, connecting with chosen family and my ancestors and finding belonging in the world I inhabit while continuing to work for justice in as many ways as my limited energy would allow.

And now it’s December. 2016 is close to over. This year of exploring storytelling has taken me into both my past stories, as well as giving me many new ones to write. Indeed, I think I am realizing that I write in ways that go much deeper than words. My presence in the world is writing epic poetry to the time I inhabit. My body is composing a love story to the land. My feet are dancing stories into sand, snow, dirt, grass, and on hardwood floors throughout the Pacific Northwest. The birth stories I witness unfolding and help to write with the families I serve may go untold, but they are writing themselves into my memory, not to be forgotten.

I may not have been writing as much this year, definitely not blogging as prolifically as I used to, which has required much gentleness and self-compassion on my part. But silence here does not equate to a lack of stories being lived or being told. I think I am just learning new ways of storytelling. I am seeing that the way I eat a ripe satsuma tangerine is a story. How I trace my fingers down the cheek of someone I care deeply for. The ways my body has learned to move to music and to rest in stillness. The quality of space I hold in my clinic and hospital rooms when important things are unfolding. The presence I give to the feeling of fall air on my face. The tenderness with which I welcome new people onto the planet. All of these are evidence of the ways I am becoming a more prolific storyteller and stepping into my greater wholeness as a member of the human family.

I have been paying attention. I am astonished. And I am doing my best to tell about it.

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In the Storm

The West Coast is bracing itself for a storm of potentially historic proportions this weekend, and here in my apartment I am watching the wind ripping leaves off trees in my yard and bracing for what might be in store. To top it off, I am on call all weekend and am half expecting that all of our remaining clients due in October will come in and have babies with me during the storm!

Earlier today, I donned a raincoat and boots and braved the heavy rains to prepare the yard for the storm. I moved potted plants to where they wouldn’t blow away in a sudden gust, noticing the cold raindrops stinging my eyes and feeling my fingertips going numb as I moved my plants to safety. Already quite damp, I decided that instead of going straight back inside to dry off, I wanted to walk down to where I had a good view of the city. I wanted to see what Seattle looks like in a storm.

I stomped and sploshed my way down the hill, kicking my rain boots at puddles, not caring when I felt them filling with water. I shivered a little, suddenly feeling the ambient temperature dropping. Standing at the top of the hill overlooking the Puget Sound, I planted my feet in the saturated ground and breathed deeply, truly feeling into what it is to be in the storm. I flipped off the rain hood from my jacket and let the sky water me. Each raindrop made a different path down my face, and I tried to follow them one by one. Tilting my head back, I stuck out my tongue, saying to myself, “This is what the storm tastes like.” All of my senses were recruited to tell me every last detail I could gather about what it meant to stand in the center of the storm.

I felt fully present and very much alive as the wind swirled around me and the rain got me soaking wet. When I finally decided it was time to walk back up the hill towards home, I reflected on how much the rest of my life mirrors those moments in the rain today.

I have been in some storms this past year, which picked up speed and intensity over the summer. I lost three friends to death over a ten-day span of time this past couple of weeks (two queer/trans friends to suicide, and a dear mentor to cancer), and I have been navigating some intense conflict and loss in my family of origin after coming out a few months ago. I haven’t blogged very often because some of what I’m processing is more vulnerable than I am ready to be in this public of a space.

That is not to say that I have not been writing. On the contrary, I have been doing more poetry-writing and journaling this year than in recent memory, and each entry feels to me like sticking my tongue out in the storm and tasting the raindrops. It is not lost on me that the wind and the rain have the potential for destruction. I also know that when life circumstances carve deep channels of grief and anger and sadness in me, my capacity for holding more delight, wonder, and joy is similarly expanded. I have been doing my best to show up and splash around in the puddles at my feet, aware that I am getting soaked.

“Let this open you,” my life has asked me on more than one potent occasion, and I feel those whispers again. With rain and tears mingling and coursing down my cheeks, I feel renewed courage and resolve to show up and pay attention, and to taste the storms as they rage around me. I see myself as a force of nature, and offer myself to the wind and the rain, reaching out my hand to invite them to dance with me.

I know that the sun will return, and that the nights won’t always seem as long and dark as they do. And I know that storms can bring rainbows, but I’m not counting on those. I feel into the groundlessness of not being ultimately in charge, and I hold my small self gently as I breathe through the contraction and expansion of it all.

As I wrote that last paragraph, the wind has continued to howl outside my window, but the rain stopped momentarily, and now the fierce afternoon sun has burst through the clouds, and my cat has claimed his spot in the warm windowsill. He is watching the bushes and trees blowing every which way outside, unperturbed by thoughts of what is to come.

I have solid confidence in my ability to weather these storms. That might be the biggest difference I feel between now and stressful periods I’ve endured previously in my life. Each challenge I have faced and opened to has changed me, and I’m not going to sugar-coat things and say that every obstacle I’ve encountered has made me stronger. Some of the things I’ve survived have damn near broken me, and I wouldn’t wish those “growth experiences” on anyone.

Nevertheless, I have grown. Having to learn to survive has taught me survival skills that continue to serve me well when I need them, and also, I am tired of living in a world that people just have to survive in. I will continue to be a part of the work of healing the wounds where I encounter them, including inside myself. As I open to healing, and as I see the enormous capacity I have cultivated, the ability to hold intense emotions without needing to run away from them all the time, I am more at ease in the storm. As Louisa May Alcott said, “I am not afraid of storms, for I am learning how to sail my ship.”

This body, this mind, this life I inhabit is my ship. And whether I am sailing on calm seas, enjoying witnessing the sun set over the horizon, or whether I am navigating over the choppiest of waters, I want to be fully here, living this one wild and precious life of mine (to borrow a line from Mary Oliver). I want to hear the roar of the wind whipping through the trees. I want to smell the petrichlor, to feel each icy drop coursing down my face. I want to taste the storm while I am in it. And when the rain lets up, I will revel in the glory of the sun breaking through the clouds.

 

Note:
This weekend’s storm is just beginning, and while I may be inconvenienced by it (through loss of power, or possibly minor damage to property, or flooding… hard to predict), I am not anticipating any long-lasting serious effects. It is fascinating to me how a different storm killed over a thousand people in Haiti recently (a country where I went last year to work as a midwife), and it has now all but disappeared from my news feed, replaced by projections of heavy wind and rain locally, but unlikely to cause anywhere near that level of destruction or loss of life. The social justice implications of what we choose to talk about are ominous, and I couldn’t close this post without mentioning that silence.

 

Rage, and Be Kind

I wrote this as a Facebook status update this afternoon, trying to work through my body the grief and rage I feel at the murder of so many queer folks at Pulse in Orlando yesterday. I wanted to share it publicly as well.

Rage, and Be Kind

Note to everyone I love:
I cannot help you right now.
I can reach out my hands
And wrap them around you
And extend to you my broken heart
And witness yours.
But I cannot live in the mundane world today
Cannot hold the ordinary.
Fifty members of my family were slaughtered yesterday
And today I am trying to be a midwife
And not let my heart break open wondering if the babies my queer hands welcome
Will grow up to be queer and live in a world
Where they might still be slaughtered for it too.
I cannot bear it.
I can take a brief nap in the sunshine with my cats
And let the tears fall.
I do not know what I need
Other than to live in a world
Where I do not always need to look over my shoulder
Where families love their children exactly as they are
Where my people can pee without it being a political act
Where being myself is an act of fierce authenticity
But one that doesn’t risk my life or my safety
I want to live in a world where speaking my truth
and my name
Doesn’t cost me my family
And where going somewhere that should be a safe place
Doesn’t end in violence.
A friend asked how she could help
And all I could ask her is to raise her infant son not to rape and slaughter my people.
That is not an ordinary answer.
That’s where I am today.
Nothing is ordinary.
Please love hard.
Please be kind.
Rage, and be kind.

Dare to be Powerful

Sometimes things don’t go as planned.

I talk about this as a midwife, in prenatal visits and birthing rooms. Labor might have different plans than I do, might choose a different path. Sometimes a GBS test comes back positive and antibiotics are added to the plan. Sometimes a breech baby won’t turn and a cesarean birth is now up for discussion. Sometimes waters break and labor doesn’t start and augmentation becomes the plan. Sometimes, despite every trick in my book, babies won’t come out vaginally without help, or at all, and operative interventions become the plan. Sometimes uteruses won’t stop bleeding and lots of rapid interventions are added to the plan. Sometimes babies are born sick, and need treatment, or surgery, or a decision when enough is enough. Sometimes labor starts before babies can survive and saying goodbye becomes the most terrible plan ever.

The majority of pregnancies are healthy, and most labors can and do go smoothly. Most pregnant people do well with encouragement to put healthy things in their bodies and stay active, and we can expect them to have mostly-normal labors as well. As a midwife, that is my plan. But, as a midwife, I am also ready for when things don’t go as planned. I train for those moments, not for the normal babies that would essentially deliver themselves and the parents that would recover well on their own. I learn how to have difficult conversations quickly, expressing necessary information and getting consent to perform an intervention. I am flexible, and I know how to respond when plans need to change.

So, then, when I’m not in scrubs anymore, and my badge is no longer clipped to my chest, one might assume that I would be similarly flexible when my personal life takes unexpected turns. After all, I’m good at responding to new information and acting quickly. And sometimes, this is true.

And sometimes, it is not.

Sometimes, I want my life to follow the plan I have set out in my head. Sometimes, I don’t want to have to be flexible. Sometimes, I wish that I could snap my fingers and turn the image of “my perfect life” that I carry in my head into reality. But I’ve tried that before, and even when I was on track to achieve what it was that I thought I wanted, I was miserable. My life felt solid but I was not whole. And it took me a bit, but I realized that more than anything, I needed to be allowed to be whole.

Sometimes, just sometimes, when curiosity and self-compassion settle into my heart, filling in the cracks where worry threatens to submerge me, I feel the deliciousness of having no solid ground to stand on. For brief moments, I rest in the stillness in between thoughts. I remember that my life today looks nothing like the plans I had laid out for myself a decade ago, and that it is ever the more beautiful for every time I have shouted or sobbed or whispered “yes” to the offering of a new adventure.

Transition is hard. It is a hard part of labor and it is a hard part of life. That liminal in-between space that links before and after, here and there, past and future and right now–that space is home to me. My queer little self exists outside of the binary world of easy opposites. I have never found a box into which I easily fit. It would stand to reason that I would spend much of my life in in-between spaces. Sitting in a labor room, pregnant with anticipation, holding the intensity of a new person crossing over into this realm and guarding their passage, I feel this liminality. Sitting in my bedroom late at night, trying to remember what I am doing with my life, I feel it too.

What I am doing is telling stories. And I learned this weekend, in a conversation with a delightful new friend, that I am also un-telling stories that I have been told and been telling myself for a long time. I am rewriting my narratives, tracing a trail of breadcrumbs back to myself, back to a body I am constantly trying to belong in, back to a life that I am making that feels like mine, back to a family I am assembling for myself, back to the fire at the center of my being that drives me to be more fully myself in the world, as terrifying and vulnerable a thing as that is. I am ever and always making my way home.

Like all explorers, we are drawn to discover what’s waiting out there without knowing yet if we have the courage to face it.
–Pema Chodron

Recently, doors to new adventures have been offering themselves to me, asking me if I have the courage to open them. And I don’t yet know what my answer is, other than that my curiosity about where these invitations will take me is stronger than my fear of everything changing. And everything is always changing. The times that I feel solid ground beneath my feet are little more than an illusion.

When I dare to be powerful, to use my strength in the service of my vision, then it becomes less and less important whether I am afraid.
–Audre Lorde

I am afraid. Of course I am. I want desperately to know what is going to happen and how it all works out. I want to know what my life will look like in six months or five years or three decades. I love stories, and I want to already know how this one ends. But it is so far from ending, and if I knew, I think I would shrink back. I think through all of the moments of my life where I would have run away if I knew what was in store, and how much I would have missed out on by not showing up. So I dare to be powerful. I feel the pounding in my chest and the clenching in my gut and I move forward anyway. I find my strength and hold clearly my vision of who I am called to be in this world and how I am being asked to serve, and my fear, though still powerful, becomes less relevant.

New people have joined the planet today, and others have left us. Cells are dividing inside me at a dizzying rate, going on about their processes without so much as a guiding thought on my part. Winter has left, for now, and spring has squarely taken hold here in the Pacific Northwest. The days are longer than the nights again, and the sun shines through my window to wake me. Doors are opening and closing before me, before all of us. Ground is illusory. The best-intended plans are constantly in flux. We are only ever always in transition.

Burying Sadness

But if you bury your sadness under your skin instead of letting it out, what else can it do but grow in your veins, to your heart?

–Nikita Gill

My life is full of joy. I have spent delightful hours over the past couple of weeks at my new job, getting to know a new population of clients, most of whom are expecting to welcome babies into their families in the near future. I have had the immense honor of catching their babies in my hands and whispering a blessing of welcome into this big world. Witnessing contractions opening bodies so new members of growing families can come through never ceases to amaze me. I have no doubt that I am doing my work in the world. I am lucky that my job is also my vocation and my calling.

Mixed in with that joy is now and always a fair bit of sorrow. Sometimes my experienced hands cannot guide the Doppler to a heartbeat. Sometimes a scan shows worrisome findings. Sometimes the lying bastard known as depression tries to steal away the happiness of welcoming a new little love into one’s home. Sometimes a partner unexpectedly turns violent, or cheats, or leaves, and my client is left with a mess on their hands. Always, always, there is fallout, and often this bubbles up in my clinic room.

And my life, too, has its measure of sadness. It is not easy to be a healthcare provider and simultaneously the adult child of a mother with cancer. It intense to live in a body that so regularly reminds me that I am made of flesh that aches and bleeds and can sometimes break open. I have not hidden the fact that my mind has myriad reasons for big feelings to arise from time to time, and when I am in periods of transition, everything in my history tends to ask for my loving attention again, which I am willing to give, and which offers me insights into deep and beautiful things when I slow down and show up for myself.

It takes its toll being queer in a world that doesn’t have a box to check that easily defines me, always being “other.” No part of me easily fits into a box, and while I would not trade in my queerness if I could (though I did spend the bulk of my teens trying, without success and with plenty of damage to my wellbeing), the idea of being understandable and understood by more than just other misfits and weirdos has its appeal every once in a while. Coming home to an empty house after a long call shift spent helping other folks create their families doesn’t always touch that place in my heart that aches, but today it did. Being a wounded healer is a privilege with a heavy price tag attached.

So on nights like tonight, I feel my sadness instead of letting it settle in my flesh unexamined. I notice the ache in my sternum where my awareness of mortality lies. I feel my ovaries begging me to use their eggs. I feel my belly (always), chugging along, painfully digesting my life as it so diligently tries to do. I sense the vast empty places in my bed that for now will be filled with feline companions. Sinking into my body, I remember that sadness is a universal experience, one which links me to the whole world. Catching my breath, I feel the ice around my heart melting. Tendrils of compassion wrap themselves around me and extend outwards to hold the shared sadness of others. I feel all the feelings at once. It is not possible to feel so alone when I remember that I am a part of everything.

So much is shifting for me, and so quickly, that it is easy to get lost in what is different. And also, in the groundlessness, there is space to rest as well.

We are always in transition. If you can relax with that, you’ll have no problem.

–Chogyam Trungpa Rinpoche

Transition is hard. In labor, it’s when many people hit a wall and feel like they can’t do it anymore. In life, it’s when the maps that used to prescribe where I should go next no longer show me the road ahead, and I must wander through and trust that the way will open before me.

Choosing “storytelling” as my word of the year is kicking my butt. I didn’t realize that such a word would call me to more deeply question and explore who I am as a storyteller. This year is not even a quarter over, and already I am not the same as when it began. My life is dynamic just now, and while all that is changing leaves me feeling like I have no solid ground on which to rest my feet, relaxing into that reality is bringing me comfort. Not long ago, I felt very stuck, and while I had solid plans for what direction I would be going, I wasn’t happy. Now, I am most definitely not stuck, and I have no idea where I will be in six months or a year, but I feel free in a way that I didn’t before. Free not only to tell stories that have been holding me back, but also to release their power over me.

For me, I have found that in my vulnerability and acceptance and willingness to face the things I haven’t wanted to write down or speak aloud, they lose their power over me. As I claim all of my life experiences and actions as mine, I become free from them. Integrating every last bit of my life into one complicated whole has been some of the hardest and most rewarding work I’ve ever done, and there is certainly plenty left to do.

Sometimes, when I remember to pause in the midst of chaos, I ask myself, “What is the work of this moment?” And then I do that. Tonight, my work has involved rearranging furniture, answering pages from clients, remembering to feed myself, having a good cry, reaching out to friends to break my isolation, and writing a blog post under the warmth of a snuggly purring cat-friend. And now, the work of this moment is to rest (until morning or the pager goes off again, whichever comes first!). Much love to anyone and everyone who has ever felt sadness, and may the willingness to feel it deeply open you to greater joy as well.

You Burn

“You burn because you carry fire.”

–Rune Lazuli

I know that I am not alone in this sensation of burning from the inside out, this intensity that has called my name since I was a child and has compelled me to follow a tough path with many opportunities to give up and choose something easier. I know that I take up more space than is “ladylike” or comfortable or easy to witness. I speak openly about some very difficult topics and don’t hesitate to move in the direction of big feelings. My dinner table conversations are likely to make some people squeamish. If I take a liking to you, I will probably ask to see your soul and show you mine in return. I believe in and practice radical vulnerability. As Brené Brown says:

“Owning our story can be hard but not nearly as difficult as spending our lives running from it. Embracing our vulnerabilities is risky but not nearly as dangerous as giving up on love and belonging and joy—the experiences that make us the most vulnerable. Only when we are brave enough to explore the darkness will we discover the infinite power of our light.”

Sometimes this is scary. Not everyone can hold this much fire, at least not without practice. I have felt lately in certain relationships like I might be too much, too big, too intense, and have contemplated how to go about being just a little bit smaller. I would fit so much better in the world as it is now, in my family of origin, in polite company, if I could contain some of this potent energy, if I asked less of the people I love and showed them less of the harder-to-love parts of myself. But the thought of making my magic smaller hurts me. I feel like I would be less whole, less authentically me, if I worked to fashion myself into something more acceptable. I feel that burning, and lately, I’ve been struggling with what to do with it.

“You burn because you carry fire.” What a simple and potent statement! The ardent heat in my chest that put me on the path that has led me to becoming an ever-closer approximation of myself is not an anomaly. It is not a symptom to be treated, a burning to be extinguished. I burn because I have spent my life chasing down my demons and reclaiming their power over me, and this has made me brave, if not exactly fearless. I have gone to many dark places, some with company and some alone. I have made space in my chest for the enormity of grief, the agony of loss, the ugliness of shame, deep waves of sadness, isolating loneliness, and the bitterness of rejection, and in turn this has carved more room inside me for deeper joy than I could have ever imagined. I live in a body that I have only really known in a semi-broken form, and I invest much time and energy working to understand what level of wholeness is possible for me. I am a broken healer, burning because the fire I carry is not something I can put out.

I do not exist to make anyone comfortable, not even (especially not) myself. I am here to invite you to go to the scary places where you will meet yourself. If I extend a hand to you, it is inviting you to come with me to the edges and peer over to see what lies beyond them, to discover what wholeness you might claim from going to the places that scare you. I am here to hold up a mirror to show you the most beautiful things about you that you’ve never let yourself love. I am happy to love them with you.

This will likely be unpleasant. Big feelings will come up, and along with them all of the things we do to avoid feeling those big feelings. But if you can breathe, and stay at that edge, and not run away, I promise you that something valuable will be there to explore, something that will deepen your understanding of yourself and your life and your purpose.

I am at that edge now. I am breathing. I am wanting to run away, wanting to quiet the feelings with chocolate or mindless chatter or anything but actually feeling my way into them. So much in my life is shifting, and with these transitions come both the finality of closed doors and the invitation of open ones. In this period of liminality, I invite my whole self to show up and remind me who I am and what my life wants me to be. “Let your life speak,” the Quakers say, and I am working to create the stillness necessary for the quiet voice to come forward and beckon me into deeper wholeness.

Paying attention to the voice of the whole self is dangerous, because often it asks for what it needs, and these requests require action. I have been offered invitations to make some big changes in my life this year that are pointing me in the direction, ultimately I believe, of greater authenticity and wellbeing, but for the time being, I also feel a certain degree of chaos surrounding them. I am making changes in my personal life, in my most important relationships, in my work life, and in my home, and I anticipate that while I feel destabilized temporarily, I will settle into a place of greater stability in the long run. All of these choices presented themselves to me initially as a sense of unease, whether in my mind or body, and only as I explored them was I able to mine their deeper messages.

2015 has been a big year for me. I have had several major health issues to deal with (including needing surgery and having a couple of procedures under general anesthesia), an important relationship that grew as much as it could but ultimately was not sustainable, my first international midwifery volunteer experience, many dozens of babies caught and hundreds of encounters with pregnant folks as well as those seeking general reproductive health care or contraception, some lovely new friendships and relationships built, and the beginnings of transition from one place of employment as a midwife to another (which will officially happen in February 2016).

I am making choices that will stoke this fire that I carry, that will help me guard it and use it well and help it keep burning strongly for as long as I live in a body to carry fire in. It is not easy to stand up and say, “I need this to change for me to be my best self,” especially when claiming one’s wholeness risks disappointing others. But self-care is the least selfish act I know of, especially for those whose job it is to care for others. It took guts for me to recognize that the work situation I was in was not sustainable if I wanted to remain healthy and balanced, and to take steps to orchestrate the changes necessary to create that balance. The same goes for relationships, and for my interactions with family. Ultimately, I am only responsible for myself, and if I do not love myself fiercely and protect this spark inside of me, I risk it going out.

Robin Williams said, “You’re only given a little spark of madness. You mustn’t lose it.” He’s right. We just have that one spark. But if we care for it, that one spark is enough.

You burn. You burn because you carry fire. So carry that fire. Merge it with other flames, dance on dry twigs, and stoke smoldering embers. Let the fire inside you burn whatever does not make you your most whole self. Let it remind you who you are in the world to be, and then go be that.

The Love of Thousands

Yesterday, these hands of mine had the honor of welcoming three new people into the world, and last week, I caught my 200th baby. It felt like a terribly ordinary moment but one with an extra measure of delight added in. Counting c-sections I’ve assisted in, homebirths I’ve attended, births I’ve attended but not as midwife, and all of my doula babies, I figure that I’ve seen at least 350 births. This is probably already more than my grandmother witnessed in her whole career as a nurse and a midwife, which is hard for me to grasp.

I went to Seward Park this afternoon, just as the afternoon sun was beginning to sink low into the sky. The fall leaves were rustling in the tree branches above my head. A gaggle of geese huddled together in the water. Red, orange, yellow, and brown leaves littered the grass. I saw my breath in the crisp air as I exhaled.

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Just bringing myself back into nature, I felt my energy quicken. As I began my walk around the circumference of the park, capturing the sights through the lens of my camera, I noticed tears running down my cheeks. I paused, trying to make space in my mind and body for the immense beauty that surrounded me. A stiff breeze kicked up, causing the leaves to whisper their secrets to me. I felt the incredible aliveness of the world around me. As I stood still, I recalled the time I felt the trees breathing me in the redwood forest in northern California. I felt these trees breathing too, and reaching up to touch a branch, a gentle, “Hello,” escaped my lips, a greeting, a recognition of our kinship.

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I walked through the damp grass, my breath catching in my chest as if anticipating a lover’s kiss. I fell terribly in love with the world again, a sensation which surprised me given the various transitions that are occurring in my life at the moment. I expected maybe to be sad that I was walking in the park alone, when the last time I was there I was with a partner. This time, the whole park was my partner, and was showing me its beauty in ways I might not have seen had I been holding someone’s hand.

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Tears again came as I felt love coursing through my veins, and they come now as I find words to describe the immense gratitude I feel to have found myself again in the magic of the world. I think back to all of the people I have been throughout my life, all of the various iterations of me, and I am just so delighted that each one of them made the choices they did that brought me here. I am thankful to them for not giving up, for finding a way through some very difficult times and places, for continuing to believe in the idea of home.

The cold wind kissed my cheeks as I sat on a damp log on the shoreline, looking at rocks on the beach. Anytime I am around rocks, I look for any that are remotely heart-shaped; these make their way into my pockets and come home with me. Sometimes it is a stretch to see a heart in a rock, but if you look closely enough, you can find love everywhere. I look closely.

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I took my time wandering, and the sun quickly faded beneath the horizon. I found myself on a path in the dark, and was momentarily struck with the various and sundry fears that arise in the dark. But then my breath came back to me, and I stood still, watching leaves tumble from their branches down to the forest floor. I must have witnessed this for five or ten minutes, just soaking up the wisdom that allows the trees to release without fear what they no longer need to hold onto and trust in the cycles of life. These giants towered above me, and they’ve stood in this park for far longer than I’ve stood on this planet. They have seen countless seasons come and go. Millions, billions of leaves have been shed onto this ground.

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I thought of the following quote as I walked back to my car:

“Walking, I can almost hear the redwoods beating. And the oceans are above me here, rolling clouds, heavy and dark. It is winter and there is smoke from the fires. It is a world of elemental attention, of all things working together, listening to what speaks in the blood. Whichever road I follow, I walk in the land of many gods, and they love and eat one another. Suddenly all my ancestors are behind me. Be still, they say. Watch and listen. You are the result of the love of thousands.”

–Linda Hogan, from Dwellings: A Spiritual History of the Living World

I am the result of the love of thousands. The babies that I have welcomed are the result of the love of thousands. You, you my dear, are the result of the love of thousands. Watch and listen.

That Long Journey

“And you?

When will you begin

That long journey

Into yourself?”

–Rumi

I am aware of the silence that has permeated my blog lately. I have been very mindfully (sometimes) sitting with the intensity of the words I can’t find to describe where exactly I am.

I know my posts in Haiti ended abruptly. So did our trip there. I got sick (likely with dengue fever), and we had to come home a few days early. That is the short story, the one I can put words on.

What I have been having trouble describing is the day and night I spent as a patient in a Haitian hospital while I waited for transportation back to the States. I was pretty sick, and feeling pretty darn awful, and pretty good and dehydrated. I had no idea whether to expect to get better or suddenly worse (dengue can go either way), and I knew that if I got worse, I was in a place where there was no medical care that could help stabilize me to the level that I might require. To say I was nervous is an understatement.

I watched two people die in front of me in the hospital ward I was in that night, and listened to the agonal breathing of a third all night long. I watched no one rushing to save them. I watched a soon-to-be-widow swat flies away from her dying husband and bring the sheet further and further up towards his face, ready to cover him once he gave his last gasping breath. I heard the keening of a family member at the bedside of another patient who died during the night. I sat up from my restless attempts at sleep dozens of times when there were gaps in the gasping sounds, wondering if this poor man’s suffering was finally over. I watched exhausted family members hold buckets for their sick loved ones to vomit or poop or pee into, right in the middle of everyone, without any privacy.

I laid there on my bed which was covered by a sheet someone scrounged up, without a pillow (as I hadn’t known I was supposed to bring my own pillow and linens), sweating in the heat even at midnight, swatting away flies and those damned mosquitoes that got me into this predicament in the first place. The front door to the hospital (and the “intensive care unit” I was in, as it was the only inpatient unit at the hospital) was kept open all night due to the immense heat, and at one point I saw the rain pouring down, which provided a small amount of relief from the heat.

There was a bucket under my bed, but I refused to use it. I was so dehydrated, I barely had to pee after the liter of fluid they gave me before my poorly-placed IV fell out, and I chose instead to use the filthy bathroom where family members dumped out the contents of the buckets.

That night that I was alone in that bed, trying to advocate for my well-being in French and Creole–that night changed me. Watching people die while I was trying very hard to stay alive changed me. Seeing how hard it is to be a patient in a foreign healthcare system that you do not understand changed me.

I had a moment there, when I was alone in a sea of other sick people, when I remember having a choice. I wanted desperately to allow myself to go into full-blown panic mode, but I felt like I had to hold it all together. So I stayed with my breaths, one at a time, purposely slowing down my inhalations, as the phrase, “I want to go home,” settled in my mind.

I want to go home.

I didn’t just want to be in my own bed, in proximity to my own healthcare system, not surrounded by dying people, and speaking a language I could better understand, though all of those things were certainly true.

I wanted to come home to myself. I wanted to feel like I belonged in my body again.

I made a choice on that hospital bed to feel everything. I decided that I had the courage to climb into my own skin and find myself at home there. “If I can feel at home here,” I remember thinking as I looked around the crowded ward, “I can be at home anywhere.”

And, for fleeting moments in between waves of panic, I felt myself fully alive in the present moment, in my body, in the space I was inhabiting. I felt the raging headache and the brutal bone and muscle aches and the gripping pain in my belly. I felt the flies settling on my sweaty skin. I felt the shifting sheet barely covering the plastic-covered gurney beneath me. I heard the sounds of caregivers soothing sick family members in Creole. I watched people leave their bodies forever, and I realized how desperately I want to be alive in mine for the time I have left in it.

That night moved me more than the rest of the trip combined, though I have other stories of midwifery care to tell at some point, and I will tell them as I wade through the layers of what that trip meant to me. Being a patient changed me more than being a healthcare provider.

Last December, I chose the word “home” to meditate on for 2015. I thought I had a pretty good idea in mind of what home would mean to me and where that process would take me. I am discovering that I might not have left enough room for my life to surprise me, as it is wont to do.

A good friend reminded me last night that my whole experience with my fistula earlier this year asked of me, “Let this open you.” And indeed it did. And, once opened, and shaken, and with eyes wide open to how harsh and fragile and gorgeous life can be, I am finding myself with a renewed sense of urgency to really live the hell out of my days, to strive for more balance in my life, to take better care of myself (noting that the majority of my energy goes towards taking care of others), and to really explore what my soul is calling me to do.

I feel like that has the potential to disrupt my status quo, which is unnerving to me. But transition is rarely easy.

Home is calling me. That long journey into myself continues.

And you…when will you begin?