“Looking back, I’m awed by the way that embracing everything - from what I got right to what I got wrong - invites the grace of wholeness. When psychologist Florida Scott-Maxwell was eight-five, she wrote, “You need only claim the events of your life to make yourself yours. When you truly possess all you have been and done . . . you are fierce with reality.
Fierce with reality is how I feel when I’m able to say, “I am that to which I gave short shrift and that to which I attended. I am my descents into darkness and my rising again into the light, my betrayals and my fidelities, my failures and my successes. I am my ignorance and my insight, my doubts and my convictions, my fears and my hopes.
Wholeness does not mean perfection - it means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life. I’m grateful for this truth as age leads me to look back on the zigzagging, up-and-down path I’ve hacked out during my far-from-perfect life.
What I know for sure is this: we come from mystery and we return to mystery. I know this, too: standing closer to the reality of death awakens my wonder at the many gifts of life.”
~ Parker J. Palmer, “On the Brink of Everything. Grace, Gravity & Getting Old”
💛 💛 💛
I’d like to think I’m about 20 yrs too early for a book like this - Parker J. Palmer is 80 yrs old at the time of this book’s writing and release this year - but the truth is, it couldn’t have been more timely in its arrival for me. Eight days ago I turned 64. My husband saw the book on the kitchen counter with birthday cards and he laughed heartily and asked me very seriously who would be so cruel as to give me a book like that for my birthday! I laughed in return and said, “I gave it to myself! No cruelty involved! I bought it on an intuitive nudge and it’s the best gift I’ve given myself in a long time.”
I've never feared death (still don't) and I’ve always looked forward to my birthdays acknowledging that if I didn’t have another birthday I’d be dead and simply being alive is surely worth celebrating no matter what the circumstances of my life happen to be with each birthday.
Each decade has brought with it its own unique flavor of change, challenges, growth and wisdom and as the years ticked by I learned to look forward to the new adventure of a new decade beginning. I savored each one and all the highs and lows that have come with them made the journey worth living and marked a unique path I could call 'my own'. I always felt younger than my chronological years and I always felt like I still had time (well, most of the time!)...for whatever I’m supposed to accomplish in this lifetime (which remains a mystery to this day). Even 60, 61, and 62 were fairly easy on me comparatively, but deep down something shifted for me with the start of this decade in a way that it never had before and it wouldn’t let me rest.
The idea of turning 64 this year felt like 84 and I found myself doing some serious soul searching. There’s lots of reasons for that - depression, anxiety, chronic illness, unrelenting stress, overwhelm, isolation, existential angst, dread and urgency, just to name a few of the "darker" visitors. Perhaps a sense of mortality is creeping in knowing that I’m beyond the halfway mark of my life now and I pondered, if I’m feeling this at 64, what’s it going to feel like when I’m 70 or 80, if I live that long (or even longer)? I ‘soul search’ all.the.time (often to a fault)….and no one takes my inventory better or harsher than I do. I was going down hard this year and for the first time ever I didn’t really want to celebrate another birthday. I felt tired, old, wasted, unworthy and running out of time. I truly felt "on the brink"...of life and death. Don’t worry, I wasn’t suicidal but to be honest, living felt way too hard. I was, however, “giving up”...which ultimately (thankfully) became true surrender which is where miracles come from.
And then, through Grace and Divine intervention, ‘help’ came my way through various resources - holistic, spiritual, energetic, medical, my “inner physician” and THIS BOOK! Friends, I was truly changed and lifted up by just reading the Prologue and the first chapter and I can’t wait to read the rest. It's a short book but I’m taking my time with it because I want to savor and really integrate each section and each chapter. It feels like balm to my soul as he speaks my own heart’s Truth.
The veil of darkness continued to lift and I made another shift just in time to celebrate my birthday with a sense of true joy, love and gratitude.
“Fierce with reality” is where I needed to land and where I choose to BE as I choose to age grace-fully and consciously. Parker J Palmer said it all perfectly for me. He feels like a kindred soul to me. He gets the dark and the light, not just through platitudes or repetitions but through his LIVING IT.
|"Her Universe to Create" |
by Sean Corner Sculptures, Wichita K “
My soul lit up with his words, reflections and poetry and I had a wonderful birthday - perhaps the best one ever simply because I “got it”...in a whole new way. Mind you, his wisdom and truth is really not new to me - on principle, it’s been the foundation of my own spiritual path, teachings and belief system for most of my adult life - and yet the way he said it made it feel brand new and made ME feel brand new too. Ahh, that’s the hallmark of a great poet, writer and teacher. I needed to hear the tried and true and timeless wisdom in a new and fresh way and there it was.
I’m back. Back on track. Here for the duration and embracing it all. Fierce with reality and facing life with an open, forgiving and compassionate heart. I don’t want to live in the transpersonal spiritual world...I can go there easily enough and I do want to embody the wisdom that's there, but I want to bring it down to earth. I want to live a life that’s Fierce with Reality by bringing Spirit into Matter through Practical living. Practical magic. Practical mysteries. Bridging duality. Collaboration! It’s really all one and the same. We’re the ones who create the separation.
“The laws of nature that dictate sundown dictate our demise. But how we travel the arc toward the sunset of our lives is ours to choose: will it be denial, defiance, or collaboration?” - Parker J. Palmer, “On the Brink of Everything. Grace, Gravity & Getting Old”
A BIG BONUS: three essays in this book are accompanied by songs written and performed by the gifted singer-songwriter Carrie Newcomer in response to themes in those essays. All three songs can be downloaded free of charge at NewcomerPalmer.com/home.