Going Home

I visited my hometown, Toledo, this weekend for a 48 hour whirlwind celebration of my dear Nannie's 90th birthday. Visits home have always seeped in nostalgia for me. I tend to remember the 'old days', when in retrospect, I seemed carefree; problems were scant and life plans were allowed to just be pipe-dreams. I left Toledo (for the second time) after ending a long relationship and being laid off six years ago. The city was in a depression: doors were closing, businesses were shrinking, and citizens' attitudes reflected the decline. Since I've left, I've often referred to Toledo as 'Detroit's runoff' with a sardonic 'I'm so glad I got out of there' attitude. It was cast as a place of 'endings' in my book.

I've been buried in a gloomy hole bleeding death and loss for the past seven months. Seeing light is desperately hard. But the past few days, I was confronted with life and growth from the most unexpected place. Toledo taught me a lesson.

I saw a city that is healing her wounds. Doors of closed businesses downtown are opening up as juice bars and trendy condos. Conscious options are popping up next to the Del Tacos and McDonald's. I visited three yoga studios and was delighted by the powerful teachers, thoughtful sequences, and jam-packed classes. Waistlines are shrinking, consciousness is expanding, and smokers are quitting.

Beyond the city herself blossoming after a long, cold winter – I saw life in her people. While death may mysteriously and unabashedly take too soon... sometimes he is patient. He holds off – allowing many to think sharply, move healthily, and breathe longer. My grandmother was surrounded by more members of our family then ever. So much growth has taken place: a new era of young life has sprung from my generation (the ones I still think of as 'the kids'). Babies are growing, crawling, and discovering. Children are playfully coming into their own. Young boys are becoming men who look like their fathers. I was reminded of long-time friendships that continue to sparkle and swell. I was touched by new connections and possibility. I was grateful for bittersweet conversation, laughter, tears of remembrance, and support.

Toledo's forecast is often grey and cloudy. But this past weekend, her sun shined warm and her sky was blue. She dazzled as a reminder of the 'little engine that could'. When one is thrashed into the pit of suffering, she is often blinded from hope. The cycles of life/death, beginning/endings, and growth/decline are infinite and as old as time. But without darkness there is no way to see light. The light crept in from under the crack of the door of the most unforeseen place. Thank you, Toledo.


The path I walk these days is not only dark, but it’s also foggy. I can’t see much, and when I can make something out – it’s usually covered in a looming haze. Maybe a candle is lit along the way or a window opens and the sun shines into my tunnel. Sometimes I can make out the lightness: a gloomy warmth. Sometimes I shield my eyes from the lightness; it’s become comfortable to stay buried in the dark. And occasionally, I see the light – and I allow myself to bask in its warmth.

I am a vastly different woman than I was seven months ago... My head cocks to the side inquisitively as I typed that sentence. ‘Am i? Or am I the same woman?’

It’s more like I am a new version of the same woman I was seven months ago.

Imagine the Self like a glacier: a huge floating chunk of frozen, yet transformable solid. Sometimes, our glacier floats high in the water and other times, very much submerged in darkness. It’s always changing. Our mass floats high, low, or somewhere between, depending on circumstance. But at the center of the glacier, is our source. I truly believe that the core of each human is intrinsically good. Our source is the innocence that we possessed in the womb, and at the same time all the wisdom in our universe and the divine. It is the subtle body's access to Ananda (bliss).

But our glacier is huge and our source is buried deep, deep within. When we are aware, we can sense our source – it feels like a moment of enlightenment. When we start to remove the layers of ourselves, there is a knowing. Our source is far beneath the superficial layers of our day-to-day lives – the schedules, the stressors, the static rush of our society. It’s beneath our core values – our human desire to love and connect. It is even beneath the deeper, challenging components of our being – our fears, our shame, our judgements – the ailments that cloud our core values. Beneath all of our layers, all of our shadow, all of our questions, all of our ignorance, all of our anger, all of our trauma... that is where our source lives: like a shining sun inside of a dark cave.

We spend many lives chipping away at our glacier. Sometimes the chipping feels good – we hit a vein and out bubbles a glittering glimmer of our inner radiance, a hint of what’s beneath. Sometimes the chipping is incredibly painful – we remove a rock and uncover something we have been hiding for a very long time. We are given a choice: put the rock back on and run away, ignore what we see, or study it. Eventually, after going backwards, sideways, or being still – we keep digging. At times, along our individual journeys, we take each choice. Some of us are more comfortable with running, some of us with ignoring, some of us with sitting, and some of us with digging. And we learn the lessons we are supposed to be learning through every one of those choices. They are all right. They might not be the fastest, or the safest, or the healthiest, or the easiest – but they are all right.

We learn lessons when we run away, when then find ourselves further from our goal – alone and lost. We have to begin a trek back along a new path – which uncovers new rocks. We learn lessons when we ignore and numb ourselves – maybe it’s here where we learn about disconnection and loneliness. We learn lessons when we sit – maybe it's here where we learn about self-love and acceptance. And we learn lessons when we keep digging.

When you died, a monstrous chunk of my glacier was fractured and ripped out. I was left on my knees: the wind knocked out of me and heart cracked open, wallowing in a crater of raw wounds.

It has forced me to study all that was upturned and revealed. I have run away. I have hidden. I have numbed. I have sat. And I have dug. All while being encased in darkness and fog. In the deep depression of my glacier lies ugliness – parts of my being that are hard and humbling to face; there lies trauma – which is alarming and unfamiliar; there lies grief – which is unpredictable and harrowing; but there also lies beauty – which is often disguised. But from within the dark fog, I see bits of bliss bleed from my source. The knowing is there.

So yes, I am a new version of the same woman you loved.

And while I have been sitting in darkness and fog for over six months, I have had more moments lately when I see the haze lifting and showing me the landscape – sometimes barren, sometimes lush, often somewhere in between. My wound is beginning to heal in some places. In other places, it’s gaping more than ever. But as I’ve sat in this cavity of my untethered self, I’ve been forced to really look around. In a courageous (because fuck yes, it is!), vulnerable, and confusing way – I’ve questioned many parts of my being. I’ve realized things that I thought were important to me, maybe are not at all. I’ve begun to understand what shapes my reactions and why. I’ve started to be OK with stillness and solitude. I have addressed the darker side of my spirit. I've begun forgive myself. I've noticed the presence of anger and allowed it to vent (even though it's through ways I can't yet control and don't think are pretty). I have felt inspired and not let myself feel guilty or run back into my comfortable cave of gloom. I have recognized ways in which I cause harm to myself and gently decided they aren't serving me for now. I’ve understood a need to actually love myself, rather than offering my love to others and hoping it reflects back to myself. With self-love comes opening up to the possibility of healing – through my own digging and also from teachers I meet along my path.

I know I have come closer to my source; maybe just centimeters in a journey of thousands of miles, but closer still. And I am bound to a knowing that within me is truth and light.

The path is rocky. But I will forge.