warmest winter

As my feet touch the soft earth, I realize that I?ve been absent too long. The selfsame soul that writes for others of psychology and healing has taken a strange hiatus from the writing that gives her own spirit such joy and deep expression. So, as I take the winding path that leads me through the pines, I realize that too many months have come between me and the inner voice that knows my soul. My pen calls to me again and again.

It is January, yet the weather whispers of a promisingly bright May day with its blue skies, golden sun, and deliciously warm breeze. This is no ordinary January; it is a surreal month that follows upon a tide of almost incomprehensible change. There is almost no aspect of my life that has not shifted in some method or manner. Is it these changes and the busyness that has come with them that has kept me from my private writing, or is it something deeper at work? I pause as I spy two timid, young deer leap off into the embrace of emerald green foliage.

Four enormous paws prance at my left side; he spotted the lanky fawns. Four smaller, reddish-toned paws wait patiently to my right; he does not bother himself with the likes of deer. Even this part of my life has changed. Not many months ago, it was a lively, copper-red hound that accompanied me on most hikes. A young, enormous black Great Dane has now joined our troop, and I?ve come to adore every mammoth bit of him. I smile at the pair with buoyant delight. The older, copper-toned dog has become a father-of-sorts to the younger, gentle giant. I shake my head in wonder. What a change one added life-force can bring to a household.

As if my thoughts had wings, they take a backward flight through the score of months that have brought me to this place, to this very moment in time. How could I wish to change one thing? Were one bit of my world to shift, the joy that I now know might never have come my way. The specter of fear creeps in to ward off my joy. I can feel my heart close down and take pause. If I am to write of my joy?to dare speak of my hopes?might that very voicing cause my hopes and dreams to vanish? I laugh at myself, and both pups look up at me. I stop in my tracks, and they wait with me. When I quiet my mind and find the deep stillness of my soul, I know the truth. Life is created not by shirking and fearing, but by breathing ever more strongly into every hope and dream. Yes, I want to dream with all my might; I want to love and be loved. My heart opens with the loveliness of my intentions, and I am affirmed by the sun?s soothing rays. Yes, this is an especially warm winter.

A mere twenty months ago, my life seemed akin to buoy upon the ocean. Although I?m a firm believer in the power of hard work and effort, I could not help but feel that I was at destiny?s mercy. I held tightly to faith and hope, yet I knew in my bones that a force beyond me was at work. There is nothing like a defenseless, waiting place to make one cherish certainty. There is a certain sweetness in learning to cherish the precious, impermanent quality of every ticking moment. The waiting came to a merciful end, and my life?though to all appearances it had not stopped?actually began.

And, so, last January I found myself breathing at last. At first, my breaths were hesitant and small. Would my new peace be taken and this hard-won sweetness vanish into nothingness? I pondered this anxiously as icy, January mornings left the fruit trees bitten by frost. Some remnant of my Catholic past nudged at me, ?The Lord giveth, and the Lord taketh away.? Worry gripped me. Would any God?Catholic or otherwise?come to take away a future that felt so rich with promise and delight? ?No,? I promised myself faithfully. ?Think of it positively. The God that gave you such deep challenges did so to make you ever so strong. That God will now take away the hardest of the challenges to allow you to enjoy your life.? What is God but that divine force that propels each one of us to strive harder, to hone our souls more finely, and to love more deeply?

It was that January past that I found myself at a seaside conference. It was in our hotel room that I sat giggling with a precious, dark-eyed girlfriend who knows every bit of my soul. My hopes and fears have been hers, and hers have been mine. There was a fear in my heart that she had never witnessed in me, and she felt it. She knew my journey and the toll it had taken on me. She nudged me forward, and I chose to take a leap. With both hope and fear at my side I believed in her belief that it was wise to venture forward again. I made her a promise, and her luminous eyes shone brilliantly.

Returning home, my small, hesitant breaths grew larger and bolder. I wished that my anxious fear would vanish completely, yet it had a path of its own. It would not leave me completely; it waxed and waned, not with the sweet regularity of the moon, but with a willful, strident life of its own. Even so, my joyful energy slowly returned. The vocation I love filled up more of my days and heart again. In new pockets of space that appeared, joyful excursions into helping others?and tending to myself?began. I breathed into my yoga practice, and it breathed life back into me. I meditated with others, and their meditations inspired me. I felt the circle of life more forcefully than ever before. I felt my connection to the earth, to my loved ones, and to my god. I clung, and yet I also had the courage to let go. More and more, it was my courage that won over the fear?the need to hold on too tightly to some fragment of security.

It was on the sweetest of April days that I was stunned. It was on a simple, nondescript spring day that I encountered the unlikeliest of teachers. With his dark hair, shimmering energy, and sparkling brown eyes, he radiated a tender soulfulness that captivated me. It started simply. Coffee. Tea. Talking. Dinner. Laughing. Smiling. Dinner again. Stories. Giggling. Walking. More laughter. Sharing. Another dinner. Deeper laughter. Deeper sharing. Crying. A gentle embrace. An understanding. A misunderstanding. A heartfelt talk?or two?whatever it takes. What is it that makes a friendship? What is it that makes a teacher, a mentor? What is it that makes one soul recognize the awesome, impossible beauty in another? There is no greater teacher than this thing called love. We face our worst fears, we find our secret selves, and we offer them to another. In this exchange?may it never end?there is a deepening, a learning, and a knowing beyond compare. Call it spectacular, gut-wrenching, and incomprehensible. Call it what you will, but I shall call it love.

Change comes in the tiniest and most unexpected of places. It shimmies in through cracks and crevices. It pushes through once firm strongholds. There is a tendency to grow tighter and more rigid with age, yet I find myself shifting and moving to allow another soul into my world. Change comes more easily and more naturally than ever before. When I might shift to make room, I do. When I might hold fast to keep my ground, I don?t. It?s not a matter of territory or physical space, it is a matter of spaciousness of the heart. I laugh when I find myself bending and making more room in my world . . . and my heart. When fear is not lurking in the corners of my head, there is no struggle. We cry. We laugh. What a wonderful fuss to make over the simple complexity of love.

And, so, I find myself risking where I never thought I would. I find myself opening in places that I never knew I could. In places of the mind and heart, I thought I had things figured out quite well. Yet now, I find myself ever humbled in the face of love. Normally, I am the teacher, the leader, and now find myself both humbly teaching and so very often being taught. I find myself in moments?even days?of growth curves and the anxious fear they bring. It mystifies me that my well-ordered life has become so topsy-turvy in this strange new place of learning-to-love-and-be-loved. If I had former definitions of love, they are now gone. There is something deep and mystical prowling in this place where the heart and the soul meet. This work and play of love is not easy. It is not proud. It is tough. It is gentle. It is powerful. It is tender. It is faithful. It flutters. It is delicate. It is strong. In its own hopeful, faith-filled way, it sometimes lacks a certain faith in its own power and strength, but on the best of days it does not.

And, so it goes. There are days that I take one step at a time, and other days that whirl like a dervish, taking thousands of steps in the blink of a moment. I skip along. I walk softly. My heart dances on clouds of dreams and life-long hopes. My soul opens and warms in spaces where a fearful chill had threatened to set in. There is such delicious freedom to be found in this wild circle of giving and learning. Who am I to know such love? Ah, but who am I not to know such love? Dare I hope this love will last until my dying day? No, I will not simply hope. With my heart and soul, I shall make it so.

Life is too short to live modest, easy dreams. Since I was a child, I always dreamed big. Even in the times I may have lived small, my secret heart never failed to dream in giant-sized Technicolor bursts. And, here he is at my doorstep. Love in a brown-eyed, handsome man who knows me so well. Here is love in a bright, easy grin that opens my heart and allows my soul to smile peacefully. This is no ordinary love, but a once-in-a-lifetime love that comes to make me stretch and grow. It is a brilliant, luminous, and challenging love. The diamond of myself is ever finer from the gentle, polishing quality of his love and fortitude. My prayer is to offer him the same with every touch and every breath. This is my partner. This is my love. And, on the warmest of winter days, this is now my life.

Author?s Note: Dedicated to you, the one I love, with boundless, infinite love and gratitude.

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