smith-spring“HE’S DEAD,” SHE SAID, opening her apartment door. Her long brown disheveled hair framed a face stained with tears and mascara.

I had arrived back in Minneapolis from Guatemala two hours ago and went to my clinically depressed, recently diagnosed, bipolar type II, 19-year-old daughter’s place. Distraught over her grandfather’s stroke, she wanted to see me.

“It’s 2 a.m.,” she said before I could respond, still standing in the doorway, me in the hall, “I thought you were coming at 1.”

“Well,” I stumbled, looking at my feet that had been moving between two countries for 22 hours, wondering how long they’d be in the hall, “We hit six deer on the way, took out two, and here I am.”

“We?” she asked, flat affect, one hand on the doorframe and the other on the door.

“A friend,” I said, my lips tightening around my teeth, “I had a vision the other night that the passenger side of the car would be totaled. I just didn’t know I’d be in it.”

“Oh,” she said, turning and walking into her apartment.

“I’m okay though,” I said to her back, my eye’s scanning the top of the fridge for any vodka as I walked in.

As I walked dirt roads with barefoot children, their mothers balancing baskets of fruit on their heads, men with cords of woods strapped to their foreheads and tied around their backs, and random pigs and chickens, my children sat next to their grandfather, holding his hand as he cried out in pain.

My father-in-law had died before I returned. My mother-in-law died three months earlier, with two aunts and an uncle sandwiched in between. Five deaths in five months, I held my daughter while she cried.

During his mother’s wake, my husband and I stood with our children next to the open casket.

“Grandma looks better now than when we saw her last month at Christmas,” he said to the kids, breaking the silence, “don’t cha think?”

I just looked at him. They looked at her.

That’s embalming fluid, makeup. Your father will be dead in the spring, I thought, and I’ll be gone shortly after.

In the two weeks that followed his father’s death, I felt like a snake itching to shed its skin. As I embraced my distraught husband during those days, I wondered if we could find our way back to each other. We couldn’t.

I thought about two men in my life and could no longer hold onto what was lost nor grip what never was. I needed to give up what no longer worked in order to free my soul. My spirit was trapped like a snake in old skin; if a snake cannot slough, it dies inside, never revealing its beautiful new pattern. I was dying.

Desperate to be free, a life force began in my gut, circled my heart, and rose up my throat, begging to be released through my mouth.

Driving, I could no longer concentrate. I turned down a side street and pulled over. I desperately wanted to talk to the man I had fallen in love with. I needed to hear the sound of his voice, his laugh. But he hadn’t returned my text in over a week. Being sent to voicemail would be humiliating.

I left a message for a girlfriend instead.

The nerve endings in my skin were tingling and anxiety started traveling in waves from my toes to the top of my head. Loneliness consumed me. The need to hear someone’s voice was strong, someone who understood me. Needing his support and guidance, I called. I never heard from him.

Maybe we believe lies so that one day we’ll trust our own voice. Perhaps we feel abandoned so that we learn to stand on our own two feet. Maybe there’s no one to talk to so we are forced to listen to the Divine; so alone at night, we gaze at the moon, feeling its wisdom; ’til we understand those who love and support us often aren’t seen, but felt.

As I care for the one soul I am given, I ask myself if it is justice or healing I need. Seeking justice is ego. My ego wants to lash out at the hurt and deceit I’ve experienced, but I cannot separate myself from what I know, from the love and compassion I felt when my soul travelled across the ocean to the forest.

Entering the deep wood, a ginormous gnarly oak tree with its multitude of branches smiled at me as I placed my hand over its bark, crevices as wide as the Grand Canyon I’d never seen. His dark brown carvings held my emotions and I brushed my fingertips over them, feeling the cracks of my own heart. I lowered myself in the small pool next to Tree. We were reunited then, the three of us. Tree was my heart and Pool my soul. Pool knows the way I am to go; she empowers me with strength and he supports me with love. I tucked both deep inside me that day.

Sitting in the car, I slowed my breathing, quieted my mind and felt their presence, their reassurance that everything would be okay; that though I would walk through this, I wouldn’t be alone.

I pulled away from the curb and headed home.

As we walked down the hall to where my husband was sleeping, I thought about the time I traveled through the castle, releasing names and presenting myself to the awaiting universe. I didn’t want to write him in the book then and didn’t want to release him now.

I stood outside his door, tears rolled down my face in a mixture of anguish and relief. My heart ached for the loss of our marriage; for our children; for a love never realized. Sometimes we want to love so badly we allow ourselves to be violated. I remembered soul traveling through a painting, brought to a time long ago where I saw myself in unhealthy relationships; where I felt the oppression on my skin, its stink filled my nose; and where I drank from the fountain of knowledge that was my soul, encouraging me to break the pattern I had created centuries ago. I’d been afraid if I acknowledged the obvious in my present relationships, I’d lose what I had. But I realized I didn’t have anything.

I knew the cost of not renewing my connection to the Divine, the Universe, and all that is eternal. My spirit had been sick for years, manifesting itself as depression, drinking, and detachment. I’ve seen and felt what I needed. It’s powerful, real, and available to all. And though I haven’t found where I belong or whom to love yet, acting from a place of intentional power, I am becoming.

I knocked on the door.

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