To say that these past few months have been a whirlwind of transformation in my life is more than an understatement.
In September, because of some major policy changes on their end, I decided to end my 18 year relationship with the Ghost Ranch Conference Center where I have held over 25 magical week long intuitive painting retreats over the years.
And then three weeks later in early October, my beloved Mountain Home Ranch, a family run retreat center in Calistoga, CA and my second spiritual home (where I have been teaching for the past 17 years hosting close to 50 retreats) burnt to the ground in the devastating Sonoma County fires.
Because my business is primarily retreat based, losing BOTH of these places in such a short span of time has been overwhelming and disorienting to say the least.
I feel like a bomb went off in the middle of my world, demolishing long term structures that I had grown to count on and depend upon for emotional sustenance, meaning, a sense of identity and financial security.
None of these shifts have felt chosen or welcome. And many days I have a very decidedly cranky view of transformation, seeing it as an uninvited visitor into my previously well ordered and personally crafted domain.
I LIKED how things were going in that world of my making.
In fact, I thought everything was pretty much just groovy and peachy keen. I had worked hard to create these wondrous frameworks that supported me, my work and my family in so many powerfully meaningful and satisfying ways. And I was under the all too popular illusion that these structures were solid and unshakeable.
I was ALSO under the illusion that my soul and psyche were completely aligned with each other and that we would just go sailing into the future with minimal disruption. I DID have my own ideas for changes that I was preparing to make in my business, but these were things that I had chosen and the plan was that they would happen on my own timetable.
But apparently I wasn’t moving fast enough and the changes were not sweeping enough for some aspect of my being. I had plans for a minor remodel but my soul was ready for a total renovation. And as anyone knows who has GONE through a total renovation, bringing in the demolition crew is always the first step.
As I sit here in the rubble, still quite stunned and trying to find my way through into some kind of clarity, I am experiencing all kinds of different feelings, emotions and psychological states.
There’s still the sense of disbelief that all of this is REALLY happening. There’s the grief over what I have lost and working my way through to understanding the true EXTENT of those losses. Most days I feel like I’m literally moving through wet cement which I know is one expression of the grief.
I HAVE to move forward because my community and my livelihood depend upon it, but I also feel resentful that I have to, because much of the time all I really want to do is to eat nothing but cookies and pizza, watch endless hours of Netflix and pull the covers over my head for the foreseeable future.
Some days I’m just pissed. At everything and nothing. And of course all of the political and social chaos in the larger world gives me a lot of fodder for my undifferentiated crankiness and rage. Which makes me even more pissed.
And sometimes the pain of the grief is simply overwhelming and I curl up into a fetal ball, barely moving except for whimpering. Sometimes it’s just too painful to cry. And other times I find myself wailing and howling in the car.
I generally love planning for the future and get excited about birthing new things into the world.
But my inspiration and enthusiasm meter is at a terrible new low. I am getting things done… finding retreat centers, interviewing caterers, setting dates for upcoming events, planning itineraries for future workshops and retreats.
But in a lot of ways it’s just going through the motions. I’ve done all of these things so many times before that at least I’m not reinventing brand new processes, but I am entering into many brand new relationships. Each interaction that I have with a different vendor underscores what I no longer have available to me.
And triggers again and again those tender feelings of grief and loss.
Even though these new folks are wonderful and have much to offer me, it’s still stressful negotiating unfamiliar relationship terrain. I had a rhythm and an understanding and a well developed way of communicating with Mountain Home Ranch over 17 years that gave me a sense of deep comfort and being held that just CAN’T be there in a brand new relationship. At least not yet. And I miss that wonderful sense of ease and familiarity.
Mountain Home WAS … and still is… family.
And in a certain way I feel like I’ve been thrown out of the nest. I felt protected by Mountain Home. They supported me unconditionally. There was a profound sense of trust and loyalty on both sides. They kept their word and were steeped in integrity. They were totally committed to making things work with me. And I also knew that they valued me and the work I do as much as I valued them.
As I sit with myself and try to make my way through the tangled maze of this grieving process I realize that it is losing this trusted partnership … even more than losing the physical space itself… that is really the primary source of my grief.
As always, it helps to give these things a name. Recognizing the grief for what it is allows me to truly honor what I am being asked to release and relinquish.
There’s the truth that I can’t ever truly replace what I had at Mountain Home Ranch. Even if they DO rebuild the ranch, as is their intention, it will never, ever be the same.That’s what death is. It’s losing something that can’t ever come back.
But I still deeply value the essence of what I have lost.
I still value love and loyalty and commitment. I still value partnership and integrity and reliability and support. And those are things that I CAN have again. I know how to create relationships that contain and foster those qualities.
Being crystal clear about what I have lost and what I value means that I can re-create those same qualities and experiences, albeit in a different form.
My grief actually points the way to what I love.
And those things that I love exist in great abundance and make up the eternal fabric of the Universe. In that sense, they are things that can’t ever die.
On my really bad days I take solace in remembering that truth. And do my best to stay open to the experiences of love and trust and loyalty and support that have never really left me. Acknowledging what I DO have as I allow my heart to break for all that is now gone.
It’s not an easy thing, this being human. Not an easy thing at all.
So my prayer for us all is to be endlessly gentle with ourselves around the hard stuff. So that our hearts can stay open to receiving the always available sweet goodness that will allow us to eventually heal.