Dying Before You Die

Over the weekend, I had the unexpected pleasure of being in the company of two people whom I first met 20 years ago, when my life was very different.

I met each of them, initially, during the course of weekends spent in upstate New York. I can’t say that I was especially close to either one. Our lives intersected in the normal routines of living – shopping, dining out, hanging out.

Interestingly, their presence seems more significant now, because they have marked time for me. So much has happened in the intervening years, and much to be grateful for. And the broader view can be especially helpful at times. Especially when the recent past, and the present, are filled with ambiguity.

There is nothing like a merger to turn the work world upside down. And, this is the world I now inhabit.

As I was describing the last 9 months of my experience, a friend likened it to coping with the serious illness of a loved one….the decline, and the progress; the exhilaration of good news and positive change; the dashed hopes when the odds are, in the end, too high; the adrenaline rushes, and the inevitable lows that follow.

We have had a number of layoffs, all of which have prompted me to wonder, “Will I be next, or will I be spared?”. When the angel of death passes over my house without collecting his due, my relief is tempered by knowing that it is someone else’s time.

These days, it seems, there is no joy without sadness. No excitement without anxiety. No change that is completely beneficent.

And, yes, this is a reflection of how life is anyway. Though in these specific circumstances, time is both accelerated and compressed. Everything seems more intense.

Yet, at the core, I am well.

Although, I have certainly had my moments. Fear is a familiar companion. Vulnerability has startled me with its exquisite fragility.

At the same time, I have begun and finished new projects, so I could learn a new skill or have a new experience, and build my portfolio. I have reached out to others in the company, to build new professional relationships. I am living fully in this brave new world.

I would not have had this perspective, or taken this approach, 20 years ago. My coping skills were few. My inner life was twisted, not grounded in truth. My anxiety was out-sized; so were my ego needs.

Beyond that, I would not have had the lived experience to bring equanimity to my current situation. Other significant changes – some of my own making, some not – have swept through during the intervening years. Some have disturbed old certainties, or shown them to be fallacious. Some left me wondering about the most basic questions – where will I live? How shall I live?

This strikes me as congruent with what Richard Rohr speaks of in his wonderful series, “The Art of Letting Go: Living the Wisdom of Saint Francis”:  that those who die before they die can allow themselves to be transformed.

I have died to other things – some small; others not so, like false notions of myself. Buried them, mourned them and then gone on.

I have found that there is always “more” after the dying, although it may not be the “more” I expect.

Sometimes it is far better, richer and more desirable.

More will be revealed in this particular case…

About Soul Intention

"Spirituality is, ultimately, about what we do with...desire. What we do with our longings, both in terms of handling the pain and the hope they bring us, that is our spirituality." from The Holy Longing by Ronald Rolheiser. Paraphrasing what Gerald May has said, in his book Will and Spirit, spirituality is our experience and interpretation of our relationship with the Sacred. The intent of this blog is to explore for myself, and to invite others to explore with me, just what is it we do with our desire? What is our spirituality? Mine has been shaped by many things...in my formative years, by the Roman Catholic church. In the last decade, by the 12 steps. Most recently, by the Episcopal Church. And, always, always, by the sense that Nature helped to reveal the Great Mystery, of which we are all a part. So, my spirituality includes concrete practices, like the Steps, as well as probing more philosophical matters. I was certified, in January 2011, as a Spiritual Director by the Haden Institute. During those 21 months of study, which included a broad range of topics from Celtic Spirituality, to the Christian Mystics, to Jungian Depth psychology, I was given the space and time to ponder my own spiritual journey, hear about others' paths, and benefit from participation in an intentional community. My hope is that this blog can engender a similar conversation. Peace, Paul
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1 Response to Dying Before You Die

  1. carringtonpbrown says:

    a wonderful reflection….. Think about your visitor from the weekend: Snakes as Symbols of Spiritual Growth and Transformation

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