November 3, 2017

“When death finds you, may it find you alive.” – African Proverb


I am awake, but am I alive?

It’s a question we ponder in The Anam Cara Journey as related to the Gaelic term anam cara, which means soul friend. The anam cara was the priest (or priestess) that walked with you through your dying process, posing the question: As you are dying, how shall you live? Irish theologian John O’Donohue brought the term anam cara into mass consciousness by reminding us that we are all dying. The broader question becomes: Am I alive today? Or have I become one of the walking dead?

As a student of archetypal patterns, it occurs to me that the popularity of zombies is reflecting how many of us are going through life as if we were one of the walking dead. Not fully dead, but not fully alive. Going through the motions. Looking but not seeing. Listening but not hearing. Spinning stories in our heads that confirm why aliveness is a fickle friend. It is only recently that I shed the zombie garment and once again engaged in my aliveness.

I’ve been energetically asleep for two years. It started the summer of 2015. That’s when the Medicare mail started arriving. At one point I allowed all of the mail to pile up. I recall sitting with my morning cup of coffee in one hand and the other elbow leaning on the table. Aloud, I said to my husband, “I get it. Turning 65 is when you get ready to die. Is that what I have to look forward to?” He laughed, I slumped even more. Doug is five years my junior. “Just you wait,” I said, channeling the Wicked Witch of the West.

I decided to take a year off from my mentoring work and speaking schedule. During that time we re-located from the city of Portland to the small town of McMinnville. It was a great move! And then came Nov. 8, 2016. I was horrified by who my country elected as president. I fell into a deep depression for a few days, not even getting dressed. I sat on our couch and watched Hallmark movies throughout November and December. Sometimes three in a sitting. Always with comfort food as my friend. I was looking for a happy ending to my situational depression. I know the TV movies are cheesy, but, hey, everyone lives happily ever after.

Add to the mix the loss of friends. Not just moving away from my home city of 40+ years, but also literally losing friends who died. Most of the deaths were sudden. When you mix shock with loss, the path to healing can be extra bumpy. “Who’s next?” I sometimes mutter to myself, knowing that one day it will be me that death finds.

Then, early in 2017, I felt the quickening of aliveness return. “I am alive,” a shouted one night to the starry heavens above. And there it was. A shooting star. My aliveness in that moment was likely 100%.

The important part of this message is not just about waking up. It’s about staying awake. We can’t afford anymore to drift, hide or give up. Much is being asked of us. As individuals and a country. In the words of Sufi mystic Jalaluddin Rumi:

The breezes at dawn have secrets to tell you
Don’t go back to sleep!
You must ask for what you really want.
Don’t go back to sleep!
People are going back and forth
across the doorsill where the two worlds touch,
The door is round and open
Don’t go back to sleep!

With my renewed sense of aliveness, I am once again healing my body temple. I am enjoying reading books about the second half of life. My heart has softened as I continue to pray for our country and its leaders. I can truthfully say, “I am awake AND I am alive.” Then I hear a little whisper from the ancestors, “Don’t go back to sleep!”

CHANT: I Am Alive, David Zeller

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