riding bitch

The life of a writer and survivor of loss.


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On Flow and Foundation

It’s been a busy month, lots of writing, reading and thinking, the latter mostly about the future. I feel as if on the edge of a precipice, or a bridge, poised to cross over into a new life that is very slowly coming into focus, like a landscape under a receding fog.

Hudson River view

That the future isn’t exactly in focus sometimes scares the living daylights out of me. I don’t do well with unknowns, never have. But the uncomfortableness gives me the chance to practice my new resolve: to have faith, to plan ahead, to be patient (not expect everything to fall into place overnight and then get discouraged when it doesn’t), and, most importantly, to be present and appreciate the Now.

If my posts are becoming redundant with this sentiment, it’s because this period is so intensely about learning to appreciate life again, that is, to feel happiness and joy in the simplest of pleasures, and not just when things are going well. It’s when life isn’t going well that it’s the most challenging to keep that sense of gratitude and inner peace. That is the core of what I’m after, and what I’m trying to practice here, every day.

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It’s funny how life sometimes throws things in your path that are just what you need in the moment. In my monthly book group here, someone recently suggested we read a novel called the Wind-Up Bird Chronicle by Haruki Murakami.

At first it felt a little daunting (it’s 607 pages of small print), but after a while, I couldn’t put it down. Besides being a great mystery and window into Japanese culture and history, the story felt almost like a philosophical manifesto on “flow”: when life is in flow, when it is out of flow, and when there is no flow at all, like at the bottom of a dry well.

Spring creek

For most of the story, the main character is dealing with several losses, in a state of confusion and passive. He lets things happen to him, instead of making them happen.

But he’s actually not entirely passive. Rather, he is consciously going with the flow… allowing people to come in and out of his life, listening and observing everything closely, not resisting his emotions but allowing them to be, while all the while acknowledging that his emotions aren’t him. He also spends time confronting his greatest fears (and regulating his breathing) in a solitary place, where he sometimes cannot distinguish between his imagination and reality. But by doing these things, he finds his way back to his true self, and regains the necessary strength and self-determination to take action.

Needless to say, I related to it very much.

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I have written before about how loss shakes our foundation and changes us. It’s not just the loss itself, it’s how we deal with it years later, how we process and are reborn from the devastation. After loss, there is no going back, not to the person we lost, not to the life we used to lead or the person we used to be. And so we struggle to find ourselves again, and regain our footing in the new world, our new future.

This is how I feel about this period in upstate New York. Here, among the mountains, changing seasons, animals, insects, plants and endless creeks, lakes and rivers, I am both regaining my emotional, spiritual and physical foundation, and learning to go with the flow, not in some esoteric way, but literally shifting my approach to life.

I don’t mind that it’s taking some time. It should take time. This is the foundation on which the rest of my life will rest.

Creek feet


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Feeding Your Soul

Sometimes bad things happen out of the blue and stop us in our tracks. Other times, we may find ourselves in situations that feel like they’re slowly eating away at the core of who we are. In either case, the hurt and pain makes the world seem different, uninspiring, devoid of meaning, unfair and cruel. We lose our sense of purpose, our will to continue. We think to ourselves, what’s the point of anything? What’s the point of me?

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And then… one day, weeks, months or even years after our pain began… something or someone causes us snap out of it momentarily. It can be almost anything. A piece of music, a kind gesture from a friend or stranger, a ray of light filtered through the trees, the sound of birds chirping, a memory, a line of dialogue, a smell, an animal, a joke, a dream, a piece of art… anything.

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In that moment of inspiration, we suddenly remember the other side of life: beauty, love, joy, laughter, goodness, grace.

At first, we might resent that these things still exist when our pain is so deep. We might resent that the world continues to turn while we feel dead inside.

But another part of us cries out, possibly a meek voice that requires a special type of listening. The voice of our soul, which has been long neglected and patiently waiting in the darkness.

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In that moment, our soul peeks out from behind the curtain shrouding our heart and turns up to the sunshine of inspiration.

Like the first daylight after a storm, it feels a fleeting sense of hope again. If it happened once, maybe it can happen again.

Our soul urges us to find more inspiration, for it is hungry.

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For the first time in a while, we do something that seems so simple but actually requires a bit more energy… we notice things. We allow ourselves to feel and observe and enjoy the world around us.  And each time we encounter another moment of inspiration, we grow stronger.

We grow stronger because we are feeding our soul.

Our souls are individual. What feeds your soul might not feed another’s. But feeding it is essential.

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What feeds your soul? What inspires you?