“A strong woman is one who feels deeply and loves fiercely. Her tears flow as abundantly as her laughter. A strong woman is both soft and powerful, she is both practical and spiritual. A strong woman in her essence is a gift to the world.” Native American Saying
Even though my beloved John is 4, 466 miles away for nine months, today I am sitting on the back porch of our Auntie Eileen’s beautiful Weaverville, NC home (which is also our temporary 9 month abode!) feeling immense gratitude for the smell of fresh mountain air mixed with burning nag champa from inside, the sound of Oliver’s laughter with Sarri (Oliver’s heaven-sent caretaker who comes three days per week for 3 hour shifts while I practice necessary self-care) as they create mud pies and twig homes for fairies and gnomes, the sight of the backyard pines dancing in the gentle breeze, the feel of a hint of spring on my skin, and the taste of gifted chocolate mousse from French Broad Chocolate Lounge located in neighboring Asheville, NC (thank you, Sarri!).
The deep appreciation I feel is like the brightest star shining the way on even the darkest of nights.
Last Wednesday at the Asheville, NC airport Oliver and I hugged our arms around John’s neck, I pressed my tear-filled cheeks to his tear-filled cheeks and bravely said “see you later” to him as he dutifully fulfilled his soldiering commitment to preserving all that our glorious American flag stands for – red symbolizes hardiness and valor, white symbolizes purity and innocence and blue represents vigilance, perseverance and justice.
I stood there embracing our 2 ½ year old as we watched daddy through the glass that separated us while he unloaded his pockets and belongings and moved through security. I rose on my tippy toes and held Oliver above my head so we could maximize our sight of John waving farewell as he made his way to his flight. My flowing tears were a cathartic concoction of sadness for this day 1 of 270 days lost as an intact family, pride for John’s devotion to being a responsible American soldier, and gratitude for my steadfast deep inner strength I have successfully tapped into. It is truly humbling to think of all that is offered so that our flag, the American flag, can fly freely across this nation.
A few weeks before John departed I rose from my slumber feeling unexpectedly and noticeably spacious and buoyant, experiencing a visceral ease and peace about my capability to parent solo for 9 months. I was relieved the waves of gripping doubt and heaviness of grief had finally settled. This steady stance of grace and grit was, and remains, refreshing and familiar. In my mind I winked at God and patted myself on the back for having the courage to authentically navigate the complex and layered terrain of pre-deployment life and for finding my way back to balance, my truth, and to accepting the flow of life.
Fortitude and empowerment didn’t come in some magical overnight way. Rather it was a gentle, and sometimes turbulent, process of honestly leaning into and befriending my sadness and doubt when it organically arose. A mindful practice of softening, allowing, vulnerability, connecting, surrendering, and self-discovery has been the key to living rather than surviving uncertain times like these. Friends near and far have been steady beacons of light reminding me of my very own inner light and strength.
Practicing taking care of myself in this consciously aware and authentic way is not only an incredible life lesson forever etched into my being, I’m also modeling a healthy and high vibe way of being for Oliver.
All feelings arise, pass through, and they have a natural cycle – a beginning, middle, and end. As Oliver grows, my intention is for him to understand this intuitively so he is comfortable letting his feelings play out. Creating space for him to experience each stage of his feelings completely, to make sense of them and learn from them, is a surefire way to lay fertile ground for him grow into a compassionate, healthy, responsible, positively contributing member of society.
So, here we are, living life to its fullest even though we enormously miss John. We’d be doing John, and all our military (past and present), a disservice if we stayed stuck and stopped growing while he was away fulfilling a promise to uphold and defend the constitution. I’m choosing to be fluid as well as steeped in gratitude. Sometimes it’s as simple as a deep cleansing breath of fresh air, clean running water to drink and bathe in, and the feel of mother earth under my bare feet. Other times its the immense gratitude for having someone to love so much that I miss them so much when they are away, the joy I feel witnessing Oliver’s love of percussion, the boundless care, support, and wisdom from folks near and far who show up with precise divine timing, the self respect and self compassion I have cultivated which allows me to carve out self care time so I can be the present, energized, and engaged mother, wife, and friend that Oliver, John, loved ones, and even strangers, deserve.
Honestly, I sometimes feel a strange sweetness in the murky depths of sadness. As my heart continued to break open, I sensed more chambers in there available for appreciation, tenderness, and love. For that is what we’re doing when we grieve – mourning the loss of something or someone we love, and thereby honoring love itself.