Something good is on the way

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By Carla Kucinski

Something good is on the way.

I felt it as my husband and I walked our dog this evening in the September breeze. The temperature dropped a few degrees, giant puffy clouds rolled in, and the wind kicked up. Dried up crinkled leaves tumbled across the brick walkways as we strolled through the college campus near our house. The last of summer’s fireflies blinked their green bodies in the dusk. I no longer hear the chorus of cicadas. The heavy thickness of the summer air melted away and I felt like I could breathe again. In that moment, I longed for my fleece pullover. I also longed for change.

This summer has felt endless, unmovable. Like summer, I have been feeling stuck, unable to move forward, forced to stay in the present. I want newness.

Today I watched a Facebook Live video of one of my favorite life coaches, Martha Beck. She was elaborating on a recent piece she wrote on her website titled “The Storm Before the Calm.” I felt like she was talking about my life. She writes: “When we ask for better lives, we are calling the whirlwind. When the Storm hits, we don’t connect it with our wanting, with our calls for help. We feel blindsided by misfortune, attacked by circumstances, drowned in agony we can’t control.”

My grief this year has felt like one giant earthquake. There’s the initial impact—the shock, the loss, the anger, the sadness. That one simple question has stayed with me this whole year: Why?

Then, without even noticing, the grief slips away. I hear myself laughing when I thought I would never laugh again. What follows for the next few months is an ebb and flow; this earthquake of grief has ripples of aftershocks. They creep up on you when you’re not expecting it. A song on the radio. Walking by baby clothes at Target. Another friend’s announcement of their pregnancy. These moments used to take my heart days to recover from. Now, it take hours, sometimes only minutes to return to center.

Beck says, “The storm isn’t the curse, but preparation for the blessing.” Gosh. I love that. When I’ve been in the throes of these storms before, I often find myself asking “Why is this happening to me?” But reading Beck’s article today erased that question from my mind and replaced it with her sage words: “This is happening for you not to you.”

This feeling is not foreign to me. I felt it after I left my ex-husband and a shit storm followed for the next year. A tornado-like storm knocked down a towering elm in my backyard and crushed my fence while my house was on the market. (Yes, I do recognize the possible metaphors here.) Four months later, my dad almost died when his aorta split in half and he had to be airlifted to the hospital. We thought we lost him. Eight months later, my vet found a softball size tumor in my dog, Yoshi, and 24 hours later, I had to put him to sleep and he was gone from my life.

“The greater the gift we’ve requested, the wilder and more violent the storm will be, and the deeper the grace. … The very thing you thought would drown you turns out to support you,” Beck says.

And she’s right. The day I left my ex, my whole world was flipped upside down, but it left room for newness to come into my life. I met my husband Andrew because of that storm. We adopted our dog Molly because of that storm. I grew closer to my best friend Addy, whom I share this blog with, because of that storm. She was in her own storm, too, but we found each other in the tempest. Now, she’s like my sister; she’s my family. And I got closer to my dad because of that storm.

I’m still waiting for this year’s storm to reveal its path so I can make sense of it all. I want to get to that moment where I say: “Ah. I get it now.”

Truth is what keeps us calm, Beck says. When these storms are raging in our lives, we have to keep coming back to what we know is true so that we don’t completely lose it and unravel.

Truth: My heart at times feels like a wide desert of emptiness, and I fear that I will carry this feeling between my ribs as long as I am breathing.

Truth: Yesterday, I cried in the shower.

Truth: I have no road map.

It’s strange how acknowledging those simple truths anchor me. It makes the storm seem less scary, and maybe, even necessary.

Truth: Something good is on the way.

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Photo by Carla Kucinski

 

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Somewhere in the middle

I’ve been craving calm lately, and rejuvenation. I’ve spent the last few weeks perusing yoga retreat websites, searching for the perfect destination. I needed something restorative but also inexpensive.

Then I heard about Yoga Fest from my yoga teacher, Andrea. The annual day-long retreat in Raleigh features dozens of yoga sessions from meditation to acrobatic yoga. I attended my first Yoga Fest on Saturday, and it turned out to be one of the best experiences of my life. It was a day of releasing for me. I let go of emotions, tensions, judgments. By the end of the day, I felt cleansed, lighter and looser. It was a powerful experience and more than I could have imagined.

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My day started out with an amazing Yin Yoga session with my yoga teacher Andrea. She’s the coolest yogi I’ve ever met. I just adore her! She’s a wonderful teacher. See how happy and relaxed I am after her class? 

The biggest turning point of my day came in the afternoon. Between sessions, I visited the exhibitors’ area and had my aura read for $5 by a woman from a Raleigh yoga studio. I’ve always been fascinated by aura readings and curious about what my own aura looked like. I’m not an expert on the subject of auras, but I’ve been reading about them since I received mine. The best way to describe an aura is it’s a field of energy that surrounds a person and reflects their essence — who they are and what’s happening at their core. The rainbow of colors that appear in an aura are supposed to reveal one’s emotional, physical, spiritual and mental well-being. Since I’ve been dealing with some heavy emotional “stuff” these past two months I was eager to see what my aura would reveal. I placed my hands in the outlines of what looked like two metal fingerprints and within seconds my aura appeared on the screen in front of me.

I studied it for a second and turned to the woman beside me anxiously awaiting her analysis. My aura contained an overwhelming amount of red, which she said represents high energy, creativity and love. “You have a lot of passion,” she said to me. I smiled and nodded. But red, she continued, can also indicate anger, stress and too much thinking and analyzing. She asked if I had been under a lot of stress lately, and I shrugged my shoulders and said, “Not really.” I’ve been managing my stress better at work, doing more yoga and meditation every morning and sleeping well. So no, no stress. She said I have so much energy, creativity and ideas that I want to accomplish, but I’ll never be able to accomplish any of them unless I focus my energy. True. That’s been an ongoing issue.

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“This concerns me,” she said, pointing to a darker area on the screen. I looked closer at the cloudy blob of darkness sitting in the center of my chest. It looked like an ominous, black hole and it was near my heart. I noticed more murky blackness along the edges of my aura, around the crown of my head, but the hole in the center of my heart appeared the densest. “You’re protecting yourself, keeping your emotions closed in,” she said balling her hands into fists and pulling them to her chest. She mentioned illness and grief. I told her I had suffered a great loss in February. She nodded as if she already knew.

It’s been almost two months since my husband and I lost our baby. And it’s a loss unlike anything I have ever felt. It’s a shock to the heart, to the body. Most of all, I grieved the potential, what could have been. Now, what I’m mostly left with is anger. I’ve been through a lot of tough experiences in my life – chronic illness, deaths, divorce – but nothing compares to losing our baby. That black hole, it feels like an abyss. And I was staring directly into it. As I sat there studying my aura on the screen, I saw so much sadness. It’s a strange thing to see your emotions displayed in front of you. It was almost like looking at a self-portrait I had painted. But it’s up to me to change the canvas. The woman who did my reading recommended I meditate more, do some deep meditative breathing and yoga postures to open the chest and release the emotions I’m holding onto. “The gong bath will be good for you,” she continued. “It’ll be interesting to see what your aura is like after the gong.”

Gong bath. I had been hearing about this all day but had no clue what it was, and for some reason I never felt compelled to ask someone. I guess I wanted to be surprised and not go into it with any expectations. With my phone, I took a photo of my aura on the screen, thanked her, and went off to my final yoga class of the day: Cultivating Calm. How appropriate.

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The whole time I was in the class, I couldn’t get the image of my aura out of my head. Every time I tried to concentrate on a particular posture or my breath, my glowing red silhouette with that black hole in the center kept popping up. I kept thinking about how much better I thought I had been doing, how my life was getting back to normal … almost. But I’m still healing. As a friend so eloquently put it, I saw my “true colors,” and it scared me.

“Breathe in possibility and optimism,” the instructor said during our final meditation. “Breathe out fear and doubt.” As I breathed out, I pictured the black hole in my chest leaving my body and light coming in. My closed eyelids trembled as I tried to hold back the tears.

As I waited for the gong bath to begin, I pulled out my phone and Googled “gong bath.” The first result brought up: “A gong bath is a form of sound therapy where the gong is played in a therapeutic way to bring about healing. … The term gong bath means that you are bathed in sound waves, there is no water involved, or clothes removed.” Well, that’s a relief.

I closed my phone and laid down on my yoga mat, waiting to be healed. A woman with thick, blonde curly hair, black and white geometric yoga pants, and an off-the-shoulder black flowing t-shirt entered the room pushing on wheels a gong the size of a Smart car. She suggested lying down on the yoga mat with your head toward the gong and laughed as she told us one of her friends describes the gong bath as a “magic carpet ride.” The idea of floating around on a magic carpet sounded good right about now. The ultimate metaphor for freedom.

She turned off the lights, and as I laid there looking up at the dark, empty ceiling, I kept thinking about the words “healing” and “unreleased grief.” “Give yourself the gift of letting go,” the blonde-hair girl spoke gently into her wireless mic. And with that, the gong bath started. The sounds of the gong began gently like ripples of water, then increased in intensity. I could feel each sound wave reverberate throughout my body. I tried to stay grounded in the present and not let my mind drift, but I couldn’t stop thinking about the past – and that black hole. Eventually, the obsessive thoughts stopped and I let myself just be.

I’m not sure how long the gong bath lasted. Ten minutes? Fifteen? When the gong music stopped, I laid there waiting for something to happen to me. Was it over? Am I healed? What am I supposed to be feeling? Do I feel any different? With the lights still off, a musical recording began to play a New Age song I wasn’t familiar with. I didn’t know what the song was about because the lyrics were in another language, but it was beautiful and moving. As I laid there flat on my back, palms turned upward toward the sky, something broke inside of me. Hot tears slipped from the corners of my eyes and slid down my cheeks. My throat tightened and my chin trembled as I tried to hold back the tears. This is the stuff I’m still holding onto. Let it go. I surrendered to my grief and started a flood. Tears streamed down both sides of my cheeks. Some tears pooled in my ear canals and slid down my jaw bone and down my neck. Others rolled off my skin not knowing where they landed. I felt like I would never stop crying.

When the lights came on, I dug in my bag for a tissue and dabbed the tears from my eyes. I was a mess. My cheeks were wet, my neck, my chest. I felt like my whole body was covered in tears. I kneeled on my mat and started to roll it up when I noticed there were tears the size of dimes pooled on it. I had never seen my tears manifested in that way. They looked so big — perhaps the larger the grief, the bigger the tears.

I took a few deep breaths, then collected my things and hurried out the door to my car. I didn’t want anyone to see what a mess I was. When I stepped outside, the gray rain clouds that followed me on my morning drive had dissipated and the sky was now a cloudless blue. I turned my face to the sun and let its rays dry the rest of my tears. And I told myself, “I’m going to be OK.”

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Andrea introduced me to the works of poet Thomas Merton after her Yin Yoga session. “Sit still and rest.” Ah yes. And I love the second poem “At the End …” I think I’m somewhere in the middle.