Complete Grief


Let’s start with the tragic denouement: the sudden death of David, my high school best friend, on April 18, 2011.  I found out the following evening via Facebook, and proceeded to sob and rage over the next four days.  This coincided with my planned extrication from the farm house I had shared with my ex to a city apartment I would share with a stranger.  On my final day of box-heaving and car-packing, I was exhausted and numb with mourning.  Running in to make a final sweep for odds and ends, I almost stepped on a copperhead snake with a toad lodged sideways in its mouth.  I sucked in a shallow breath and felt my whole body go cold.  The ambient noise of birds and insects in the forest at the yard’s edge was gone.  The snake, toad, and I were suspended in time, and I knew my role: to patiently bear witness.

I squatted on the driveway, hugging my knees around the deep rasp of my breath.  I remembered squealing like a toddler when I found the toad under the boot brush a few weeks prior.  It had reminded me of the only gift I still have from David: a pair of hand-sculpted toads nestled in a shop rag in a box in my parents’ attic.  At first, the slow motion sound of the snake’s teeth releasing and re-puncturing the toad’s leathery skin was sickening; but soon it became…comforting.  I realized I was meditating.  And softly crying.  Mother Nature had engaged me with this simple example of energy transformation to help me find perspective within the complexities of my human grief.  My feet started to go numb and my hips ached.  With toad legs protruding from her open mouth and a bulge in her throat, the snake looked just as uncomfortable.

I don’t know how long I watched that poor toad being devoured, but I knew when our moment had passed.  The copperhead had snuggled herself against the cinder blocks of the house in digestion, her tail end resting up the mailbox post.  She flicked her tongue, and mostly ignored me as I slowly stood up, and let sensation re-enter my feet.  I stepped over the small spots of blood on the concrete and ascended the stairs.  In my sad and tired mind, the death of the toad formed a sacred triangle with the end of my relationship and the death of my friend.  My grief was now complete.  When I came back down the stairs to my car, the snake had gone; and with her, some of the heaviness in my heart.


Skip to Content


I’ve told and retold, pared down and beefed up, the story of how wee baby Alex came into this world.  His invitation for me to become his earthly mother was impeccably timed.  My heart had burrowed itself deep into the dirt of grief, and Alex wrote his invitation for me to become his earthly mother in the dust thrown up around it.

As Rumi reminds us,

Whoever finds love
beneath hurt and grief
disappears into emptiness
with a thousand new disguises. 

So here I am, truly madly deeply (as they say) in love with an infant son conceived amidst grieving.  It could be the sleep-deprivation talking, but I’m feeling pretty confident and graceful in my new roles (i.e. disguises) of mother, co-parent, partner, and house-elf.  So, have I disappeared into emptiness?  I’m working on it…

Unfolding in Real Time


Two years ago yesterday, I was fired from my last office job.  At the time, if felt like the ultimate freedom, like a push out of the nest by a momma-bird universe that wanted to see me fly into right livelihood.  Today I celebrate this anniversary with a new understanding of freedom.

In Eastern Body, Western MindAnodea Judith says that “we must accept limitation in order to transcend it.”  I most certainly didn’t accept the limitation of having to be at a desk at the same time every morning, wilting under fluorescent lights, pushing papers around until the clock told me I could escape.  And so, of course, I didn’t transcend it.  I didn’t appreciate the amazing amount of freedom that I had in the puffy paycheck I received and the vacation time I accrued.

If I had just opened my eyes to the fact that all of my mind-body training during my four-year stint as a legal secretary wouldn’t have been possible without working within the boundaries implied by that position.  If I had just accepted that their rules were easy to follow, and that I was smart enough to find ways to challenge myself and perform at a higher standard than I did.  Ah, but that’s not what happened, and eventually the world tired of my self-righteous behavior and my rejection of the necessity of limitation.

So, I was fired.  And I was then so very free to pursue yoga teaching and therapy full-time, but…(and here’s the kicker)…what do you think happened then?  I hadn’t practiced acceptance of limitation to the point where even growing work that I loved seemed stifling.  My current self frustratingly reaches into the past to shake the me of two years ago.  “Yes, you must do the work: make those phone calls, give free sessions, follow up with past clients, continue to update your website, create marketing materials…”

As I’ve learned over the past few years of self-employment, and have been recently reminded by Anodea Judith, “In order to manifest, we must be able to accept limitation.  We have to be able to focus on what we want, to be specific about it.  We have to be able to stick with it long enough for manifestation to occur.”

Seems simple enough, yeah?  And yet sometimes it takes a while for boundaries to feel like they’re holding space for what we want to manifest, instead of holding us back.

Now I no longer reach back into the past, into the should haves.  I feel gratitude now for all the nests I have been, am, and will be cradled in; and in real time I’m nudging myself out, starting to settle into acceptance of the boundary of the sky.