1. a mythical bird of great beauty fabled to live 500 or 600 years in the Arabian wilderness, to burn itself on a funeral pyre, and to rise from its ashes in the freshness of youth and live through another cycle of years: often an emblem of immortality or of reborn idealism or hope.2. genitive “Phoe·ni·cis” found in Astronomy, a southern constellation between Hydrus and Sculptor.3. a person or thing of peerless beauty or excellence.4. a person or thing that has become renewed or restored after suffering calamity or apparent annihilation.
A person renewed or restored after suffering….life. Rebirth. Apparent annihilation is a great was to explain “how to I move on?” It fits almost every brokenhearted person I’ve emailed with, written about, talked to. Whether lover, sibling, spouse, child or parent who is lost to us, grief acts much like the catalyst that causes the mythical us to place our soul on the pyre of change and let the chaff burn away. What burns within us? Those moments that we both can’t live without or live remembering, until it’s pure in it’s form of being contained safely within our past, just more than a step away from every heart beat.
Every life has moments that are “Phoenix” by nature. You’ll know one is coming when life has you pinned to the mat; you’re friends are beginning to wonder if you’re in permanent meltdown and you yourself have questions about your own viable sanity. The foundations of the world are on shaky moorings, and there is a moment in time when you almost feel that your shedding that “old skin” of person-hood in honor of the newly emerged, slightly pink beginnings of the new you. In one second of time, you are brought to your knees by the circumstances of life as they light your soul afire, and from those ashes of used-to-be-you emerges the Phoenix…..that legendary creature of mystical magic.
It’s you, but a new you.
Maybe it’s a better you, maybe one with different feelings and ideas, maybe one with new dreams and goals. Even though you may look the same – or not – there is a new person relating to their changed soul in a new way.
Being the Phoenix and allowing yourself the room and the permission to change also allows you to live a full and happy life. Not all gongs and cymbals, but the kind of life that edifies who you are. I was thinking about this amidst my day of noticing everything about this day. Called mindfulness, it is the practice of being fully present in the moment, not caught in the past with inextricable bonds, not so focused on the future that you lose the moments of the day that make life so sweetly unique and beautiful. It’s my birthday weekend, my forty-somethingth toss around the sun. There are other landmarks to this day… it’s a year past the last time that I was unable to articulate a sentence based on the grief of the loss that wrecked my brain and life. Somewhere between falling apart last year and the moments, days and months that followed, I got back up again.
This birthday was an easy moment of joy, a surround sound of love and family. I am so glad that they never gave up on me, never stopped believing that once lost, I’d find home again. There was this amazing difference not only in the life that I lead, but in me. I noticed the riot color of leaves as we swept off the summer porch in the afternoon warmth, and the small blades of green where the yard was just landscaped. I watched Brian come and go on the tractor as he worked on our acre of trees and grass; the grace with which my sis moves when she’s intent on fixing something; the easy laughter between my baby girls playing…always playing. I noticed the squirrels playing, chasing each other over the apples that they toss from their feeder. I noticed how happy I was to see my long lost sous chef at the gas station….he’s more like my son than not, and I’d been to preoccupied with my own life when he returned this time last year to hear his story of life as a solider in Iraq. That is a bit unlike me. Listening and helping are my two most gifted areas in ministry and life, and I’ve loved (parent-wise) this kiddo since I busted him for skateboarding on the front walk of our restaurant at the ripe old age of 16.
But the last year has been anything but normal.
I’ve lost and found my faith, embraced and left my university, been consumed with grief, left hurt and broken by someone I trusted. From the moments of writing the original “How to Let Go article and now, I’ve been rebuilt through faith and grace. It’s different as a Christian to walk that out one moment at a time instead of just saying it…to get back up again trusting life will work out somehow. You do breathe again, no matter the hurt, no matter that change. It’s not candy canes and gumdrops. You can choose to go on, change careers, change addresses, make the decisions that haunt your steps. You can, but not without the fire. It’s all part of it, the proverbial rebirth that we face time and again in life.
Looking back, I was happy to see a year that was filled with other Phoenix moments that are all my own growth and doing, the will to not only fall down but to let go and get back up again. It wasn’t a year focused on medical stuff, although that was certainly a large part of it; it was a year focused on learning my family and how much I love them all once again. Rediscovering self efficacy, self esteem, a compass of good and bad. I thought of the thousands of people that visit here at THM, and how we all have such similar stories, even worlds apart.
Love, it seems, is the only universal language, even when it’s hurt us. It is within you, no matter the pain, no matter your place, to rise from the pyre and live a life that is worthy of the beauty within you. Like me, I hope that you find yourself willing to rise from the ash, excited by the newness of it all, intensely curious about this new cycle of life.