Saturday, November 27, 2010

A Week of Thanks-Giving ~ I'm Grateful For Our Ability To Continually Re-Invent Ourselves ... Becoming Maitri Libellule...

"The universe is transformation; our life is what our thoughts make it."
~ Marcus Aurelius ~

Dear Ones,

Well, I said that I would write a week of Thanksgiving posts, and though I am not making consecutive posts I will still write seven posts on thanks-giving. It is a commitment that I made to myself and I intend to keep it. I think it's important that we take stock, we should all year, but we don't always take the time, however, when Thanksgiving week comes, it is a time that just calls out to us to give thanks, to imbue our days with Hallelujah choruses of gratitude, and though I don't believe that seven days is nearly enough time, I think that it is a good start towards making it a daily practice. This I believe and intend to do.

And even though I haven't been writing here these last days I knew what I would write about when I had the time, it kept echoing in my brain, humming and gliding along my synapses, not letting me forget, so tonight the seeds of thoughts come to fruition. Like the butterfly emerging from it's cocoon, the transformation that has happened for me at midlife has been a huge one in myriad ways, and though many were the times that I cried and was depressed and felt helpless, hopeless, and afraid, like the Phoenix crashing and burning, I have also felt the joy, the wonder, and the awe of all that was happening as I came through these Phoenix phases, rising again, over and over.

I have been thinking about this all week and it has truly been revelatory. It has been so because in this last year, after a decade long terrifying roller-coaster ride through life, I have begun to cross a threshold into new territory, to a place and time that is brimming over with potent possibilites abundant. I still don't know exactly what this becoming phase will look like, how it will change me, but I am grateful, more than I can say, that in our human journey one mistake doesn't stop us, no, we are reborn again and again and again. So it has been for me since I was separated after 25 years of marriage.

I never imagined myself as being anything but a married mother of three, looking forward to the grandchildren to come, and all that that life might hold, but it was not to be. A part of me burst into bloom in a way that was painful, confusing, complicated and absolutely right. I moved into a tiny place of my own, a little white cottage with a white picket fence, the night of my 45th birthday. I didn't plan it that way it just fell on that day and I still marvel over it. My new life started almost 12 years ago and though I cherished the years of being a family and having my children, the step that I took at 45 had been coming a long time, somewhere inside of me I knew, but I didn't realize it until after I was living alone and began to think and write about the decade leading up to the end of the marriage, and I was startled to realize how very strong the inner knowing was that propelled me out of a life that I had known, where I felt safe and comfortable, into a place that I was meant to be. I know a lot of people will feel uncomfortable about what I will be sharing next, but I am so at peace, feeling that I finally slipped out of a skin that didn't fit into new skin that fit just right. It is right for me, in fact necessary for my well being if I am to go on living in this world at all. At 45 years of age I came out as a lesbian. It was the truest thing that I had ever done. Though afraid of all of the changes ahead of me my whole body heaved a sigh of relief. It was an awakening the likes of which I had never known.

And the thing that I think is marvelous is that today, while it's not easy to do, we are able to begin again, to find and move into a kind of wholeness that is there for the taking if only we have the courage. I am not suggesting that one need to leave a marriage or relationship to find themselves, but I believe that as we age there is a ripening when the colors and flavors are deeper, when we come closer and closer to our core, to a new place in ourselves that we have never touched down on before. What that place will be will vary greatly from person to person, and may be considered a subtle change, but inside the body, the mind, the life of the woman or man going through these changes it is an enormous leap.

In the middle of the therapy that helped me through these changes I went one day for my appointment and as I walked into my therapist's office I felt a thrill go through my body. There was a painted tile on the wall with a stick figure sort of image of a person leaping out over a great crevasse. It said, "Leap and the net will appear." I have spent almost twelve years falling through space and time waiting for the net to catch me. It finally did, and then began the journey to discover all that I was meant to be and do and become. Filled with wonder, delight, fear, confusion, and a sense of unravelling I began to weave together the pieces of myself that were scattered hither and yon and put them together like a puzzle. I haven't finished putting all the pieces together so that I can see the full picture, but I can see a great deal of it, finally, in this past year, and I like the picture I am seeing. I feel a kind of joy most days that at times has startled me. Clinically depressed most of my life, the clouds are clearing and I begin to see a blue sky shimmering with sunshine, and the weather is beautiful, the day is fine. What beauty life can hold for us if we allow ourselves to make that leap into an unknown place. We are fortunate to be living at a time in history when we are able to make changes in our lives that past generations would not, or could not dare to make. And these changes will happen many times in our lives.

In these last many years I have grown as a writer, an artist, and most importantly, my connection to spirit has deepened so much further than I ever dreamed it could that now every minute of every day has more weight, more meaning, more texture, a multitude of colors, ever-expanding. This is a liminal time. It reminds me of the beginning of the classic movie "The Wizard Of Oz" when the movie turns from black and white to technicolor. I am smiling as I write this. Oh what a different woman I have become, am becoming. I am coming into my fullness, into my authentic self, and it is a revelation, and I am grateful every day that I have been led down this path. I stop here a moment to close my eyes, and lower my head in silent prayer. Thank you God. Thank you, thank you, thank you.

We were separated for six years before we finalized the divorce, and I am grateful, oh so very grateful, that it was an amicable separation and even gentle divorce if that word might be used in this kind of situation. My ex-husband and I remained friends, and family, with our children, and though a dozen years has passed, and our lives have moved further and further apart, there is still a peace between us. This alone has been an enormous blessing.

And so as the time came, the absolute severing of a union that I had thought would last a lifetime, I came to the realization that the new life ahead of me would be very different than anything I had known before. Further, I was a very different person, I was almost unrecognizable to people who had known me in my youth and through the years of my marriage, and the new woman that was emerging longed for something that would represent my new life, and the person that I was becoming. Further, I wanted to do something that would be a beacon of light that would be a constant reminder of the path I believed I was meant to take. In July of 2005 I changed my name, legally, to Maitri Libellule. That was the moment I stepped out of my old skin, damp and trembling like the butterfly just emerging from her cocoon, but knowing that soon enough I would fly.

Why Maitri Libellule, every asks? Well, as a Buddhist of nearly 3 decades at that point one of the deepest teachings to me was the teaching of maitri. Maitri is about loving-kindness and compassion, and further that we must first have it for ourselves before we have it to give to another. This is a very important lesson for me and I will be a student of maitri all the days of my life. I wanted to take the name so that it would be a constant reminder of the direction I wanted my life to take, to dedicate my life to a life of service, of living and promoting loving-kindness, compassion, and self-acceptance for everyone that I could in the world around me and my vehicle would be, in the main, my writing, and also my art, and daily I live this teaching, also, in the care of rescued animals whom I cherish and who have become my family. "Maitri" would be both a beacon of light and a guide to remind me to keep true to my path. I knew that I would fall, forget, slip away from what my heart knew I should be, but in becoming Maitri I could never forget, when I write, or say my name or see it in print, that I have taken the mantle of this teaching and it is my duty to continue and deepen this work all the days of my life.

Libellule. When I left the marriage and moved into the little white cottage an amazing thing happened. Everywhere I went in the garden, walking around outside, in a parking lot at the grocery store there were dragonflies. Everywhere. Iridescent blues and greens and reds and golds and more. Finally, it was no longer startling. I realized one day that the dragonflies were coming to me with a message, that the dragonfly was my totem animal, my teacher, my guide. In Native American spirituality the dragonfly is the symbol of transformation, of moving out of the darkness into the light, and more times than I can count or even remember in this moment, as I fell into times of deepest despair the dragonfly would appear and remind me to keep becoming. During these early days I wrote a poem that expressed what I felt, where I was in my life at that moment. I will share it with you here, feeling somewhat shy, and also with a sense of pride. I have come such a long way...

~ Metamorphosis ~
Becoming A Dragonfly

Setting Sail

Who knew that when the sun did set on my forty-fifth birthday I would begin the long metamorphosis of woman into dragonfly? And that there would be so many painful and unexpected lessons along the way?

Leaving the cocoon I came out some kind of wet and slimy thing -- unable, yet, to fly; sticky ­ people and things stuck to me and my still bent wings tore in crucial places. No one believed that I would survive this phase, but I always knew I would.

Bending, shifting, stretching, reaching, carried on a bird's wings I did finally begin to rise. It was a bumpy flight. I tumbled and fell from the great bird's back, plummeted dangerously, nearly crashing headlong into the glassy waters, and while others darted and soared, I tried, desperately, at times, to keep my wings above the surface of the pond. Many times did I come close to drowning.

One day, in the time of the year when the sun sets earlier on the horizon, my heart lifted a little, my wings did dry and unfurl like great colorful kites high in the sky over the tranquil waters, but the sky became cloudy, the surface choppy, and The Great Kite that I emulated disappeared from view. I hit the raw-edged surface of the ocean, shattering like an egg on a grainy sidewalk.

I felt myself falling as well -- falling, falling, falling -- but just at the last moment, as The Great Kite met its demise, I bumped and I tossed and I turned and I tumbled sideways and, finally, found myself coasting on a level plane above the sea. I was flying low, but keeping my balance, if at times precariously, and staying just above the crest of the waves that would pull me under if they could.

Finding serenity on my passive plane I tried hard not to give in to the urge to fly upward too quickly, or to dive down beneath the mirrored sea to follow the Great Kite's path to seek the jewels hidden in the ocean's caves. I had learned the lesson of succumbing to the highs and lows. It was now my time to learn the great teaching about sitting still, of watching my breath, of taking the middle road, which, as always, is the road less traveled.

I had decided, finally, on this metamorphic ride, to learn the lesson not of destination, but of journey. If I become very still, very quiet, I can coast farther, longer, and sit just watching my brothers and sisters who have chosen different lessons this go-round. I sit like a frog on a rock in a stream, watching those around me flowing past at a sometimes alarming rate.

During this metamorphic cycle they rise and they fall, they sink and they swim, they soar and they dive and they crash and they burn. Some are here to learn about flight. Some, the dangers of plumbing the depths too deeply too quickly. It has been hard, at times, to allow each his own journey, but the middle way is one of being still. I will not stop them or save them, nor mourn their passing, for now I know the secret, the truth, the meaning of this ride called life, and it is to be all of who I can be, the best flying dragoness ever, without relying on others to guide or help or direct me.

Too, like the firefly, it is my mission to be lit from within. And as my dragonfly-self emerges, I also yearn to learn how to rest easy on a blade of grass and enjoy the sun's warmth as it dries my wings. I do not need a friend to bring me a towel. It feels good to allow the drying to take place of its own accord while I sit in this place and think.

I am wanting to be coupled with another dragoness whose wings might wrap around me when the night grows cold. But I am learning that the coupling must come only when the time is right. The time in the cocoon has its place, and the coupling will come, but first, like the firefly, I must find my own light.

Inside The Cocoon

I crouch in a corner, not even allowing myself to take up all the space afforded me. I fill the room around me with tiny trinkets, old quilts, many books, soft music, so that I might wrap myself ever tighter and inhabit a world of my own making, and I lay my head down on pillows made of many-colored feathers, so that my dreams might coddle and soothe me while I sleep. Too often they are vivid and painful, dreams of other flights, strenuous journeys, lost worlds, disappeared people, and I awaken with a broken heart. My new magical pillows are filled with the feathers of parrots who fly against the sky and make rainbows, offering I, myself, the opportunity to soar. I awaken sliding down the other side of the rainbow, my broken heart begins to heal.

Cocoon-time is long. The metamorphosis into a new being is not a smooth journey, nor an easy one. It is often unpleasant, and at times I wonder why I should make this change at all. Transformation is the most frightening thing I know. I can feel my old skin peeling back and tearing away, it is painful, and I scream, but it becomes impossible to continue to live in skin that has grown old, that no longer fits. It becomes leathery and it cracks in unfortunate places. That is more painful, much more painful, so I enter the dark-time, and I wait.

Once inside the cocoon, any shred of light becomes precious, and as the hours pass and the days, I begin to shed my skin, watching it crinkle, tear, rip, and fall around me, and see the slivers of light in places where in time just passed there had been nothing but blackness all around me. My old skin now forms the bedding upon which I sleep, trying to stay close to old memories, and the texture of my past against my cheek. Change chosen is still hard, and I hold on while I may

As emergence from the cocoon draws near, I become even more afraid. One does not leave the safety of the cocoon and come out into the light a bright and shining being. Not at all. One comes out wet, a slimy sticky newborn thing, and pieces of the past still cling to the tightly folded wings. I have, now, the tools for flight, but I will not soar until I spread them and seek upward mobility. Days are that I do not know if this will be possible. Night falls and I shiver and crouch in the dark, but the time draws near. It is almost here. I rock back and forth on fragile feet. My antennae quiver. My wings are shaking. Soon, I will not be able to help myself. I will spread my wings and fly.

It is coming. I can feel it. I think I may be ready

Part III
Emerging From The Cocoon...

When the light begins to stream in more quickly, it is as if one is in a sinking ship, the moment comes and there is no choice. When a ship begins to take on water all are at risk. Panic sets in. I feel the light, the heat, the walls of the cocoon are shaking, I am afraid. I hem and I haw, and the earth shakes beneath my feet. My wings unfurl like the sails on a great ship, I cringe back for a moment, suspended in time, the walls around me shake and shatter and fall away, I fly.

I bounce on the airwaves, I turn clumsily and I slip, faster and faster, nearing the surface of the earth. I quake, I flutter my wings far too quickly, I do a somersault, I stutter, I tremble, and I seize the air currents through which I pass. I begin to rise.

Is this possible? Will I be able to maintain level flight? Not at first, I have much to learn, but I am freer now, and I like the feel of my wings.

Copyright 2000-2010
Maitri Libellule

The thing that startled me, when I pulled this poem out again tonight, not having read it in years, was that it was prescient, it foretold a journey that I was beginning to travel, that I would for a decade and more, a path that I am still traveling. How could I know, nearly twelve years ago, that I would be here today. There's no way that I could, and yet it has been an important lesson for me that we hold everything we will ever need to know inside of us. These teachings are waiting there, maturing, until their time has come. In the year 2000, one year after I had left my marriage and long, oh so much longer than I could have imagined it would take, I am on the brink of flying. I am now ready to leap. I know that the net will appear. I have faith. I am not afraid.

And so I named my little home Dragonfly Cottage, and every place I have lived since is also Dragonfly Cottage, for it is not a specific place but a state of mind and it is the cocoon I have been growing and changing in, my safe haven, all these years.

I am now living in a larger space as I flutter on the threshold, ready to cross it. When I changed my name I wanted it to have meaning and purpose, and, too, I wanted to have a familial feel, one that went back to where it all began. I was adopted. It was strange but throughout my life I had been obsessed with France. I took four years of French in high school, went to France when I was eighteen after graduation, and felt at home for the first time in my life. In later years I would cry with such longing for the country where I first felt an inkling of who I might be. At 26 years of age I found my biological mother. It was not a good meeting but I did come away with a long list of questions answered and one was especially startling. I am half French. My biological grandmother's maiden name was Papillon, the butterfly. And so led by my totem animal and reaching back to the place I had my real roots, I took the name Libellule, dragonfly in French. Now I had a purpose, now I was rooted. Now, I was Maitri Libellule.

As I walked out onto the courthouse steps, the legal papers in my hand, I felt as though I had awakened from a long sleep. It is a powerful thing to change one's name and the reverberations go deep and wide. It is such a huge step that one cannot go back and I was propelled forward in a direction that felt right, and I knew I would keep traveling this path no matter what. I am still on that path today, but coming closer and closer to the next phase of my life. It has taken nearly six decades to get here.

Becoming Maitri Libellule is one of the most important things I have ever done in my life. It began the process of my finally picking up the threads of my new life and weaving them together. The tapestry is woven fine. It is almost complete.

And so this Thanksgiving week I am grateful for the opportunity that life has afforded me, that it affords us all if we are willing to leap out over that vast crevasse. I leapt farther than I could have ever imagined, and I have not fallen yet.

What a gift this life that we are given is. I treasure every moment now, the hard ones, the joyful ones, the moments of wonder and delight, and I even bear up a little easier going through times of pain and darkness because I know that the pain is the thing that begins the transformation that represents tremendous change. I am finding it easier to breathe and pray my way through these times. In the life of solitude and silence that I have chosen, reclusive, purposeful, doing work that never ceases every waking moment, I have found my true calling, and this week, and always and ongoing, I am filled with a kind of gratitude and inner peace that I didn't know existed. I have become Maitri Libellule and I will follow the path lit by my name for the rest of my life.

The road ahead is still unknown but I am no longer afraid. I journey onward, I have faith, how beautiful life is, all of it, and as I sit with a sleeping snoring pug snuggled against me I smile, about to go to bed, and wake up in the morning ready to take the journey that each day holds.

Oh, what a miracle life is.


Jean said...

Life is a Miracle! This is an incredible post. Funny that I also have been undergoing a transformation.:)

Francis Hunt said...

Beautiful post, Maitri!

Honesty takes courage, but - having found it - the transparency of dragonfly wings lets us soar ...

Sam said...

Your indeed a writer. I admired you :-)

snore stop said...

Thanks for sharing,Love the photos.

Post a Comment