This is my first blog from the dark. I feel like I’m stuck at the barely visible desk in my photo. I’m aware of sunlight and vast space outside, yet not ready to move from the sheltered schoolroom.
How does one learn alone in the dark? I’m figuring it out. It helps to be near a window.
Normally, when I write in this public space, topics come to me from the outdoors. I’m on my feet, walking, and sharing insights from a positive perspective. Not today. My feet are tucked under me on the sofa. I’m feeling vulnerable. I’ve been moving slowly (or not moving at all), working through disruption and despair.
My beloved father — a healthy, active, eternally optimistic 78-year-old — fell suddenly on February 27 while taking a walk. He was diagnosed with a fatal, fast-growing brain tumor in late March, declined with stunning speed after having a stroke, and died April 15, tax day in the US. Benjamin Franklin wrote “… in this world nothing can be said to be certain, except death and taxes.” These inevitable events will be linked in my mind forever.
Often, I invite friends, loved ones and clients to use taxing life experiences as opportunities for growth. It’s time for me to do the same. I am determined to “walk my talk” in uncomfortable territory.
In my world, nothing is more certain than the need to find meaning from life’s sudden, shocking losses. Yet I’m impatient, hearing subtle or direct messages to “get on with it.” That’s the American way. Who has time to be sad? Isn’t giving in to “negative emotion” a sign of weakness? NO! It takes open-hearted COURAGE to feel deeply and completely. (I’ve needed a lot of convincing to value the full range of human emotion. Early in life, I was taught that some feelings were unacceptable.)
After months of jarring losses, I am questioning everything about how I live, work, and learn. I want to make the best of my remaining years. This requires allowing space and time for tough lessons life is teaching me now. I need to accept — rather than fight — my grief and taxing, exhausting feelings. It’s not my goal to get rid of sadness, nor do I want “closure,” as that feels like denying myself access to my Dad’s wisdom, love and spirit. I want the window of learning from loss to remain open.
For years, I thought I knew about pain. I said good-bye to loved ones, and I buried cherished dreams. I survived a messy divorce, cared for a dear friend who lost her cancer battle, and the list goes on… but there is always more to discover in the dark.
One of the best things my Dad ever said to me was this: “When I think of you Julie, I think of ONE BIG LEARN! You are curious about what you can learn in any situation, and that’s a good thing.” In that moment, I felt loved and visible for who I am: An eager, life-long learner. Thanks for seeing that in me, Dad. I miss you very much. I will keep on learning, even in the dark.