I’ve noticed that it’s been hard to stay in the present these past couple of days. I’ve been thinking about my past talk with Rafiki. I’ve been rereading my blogs (including the many that I’ve yet to post).
My mind keeps going back to the fear about my former spouse’s response when she reads some of my past stories.
I struggle with the thought that my writing was wrong, that it was a mistake.
Ok, not the actual writing. That has been healing for me.
I’m struggling that it was a mistake to publish it for the world to see. That I aired my dirty laundry at the expense of my former spouse; without her consent.
I want to call Rafiki, but I’m a bit humbled by our last conversation. I don’t really want to go there today. I need to process some of this on my own.
I Grab My Phoenix Staff
I notice my staff is already a little dirty, scuffed in places. I’ve had it not more than a month and I can see it’s becoming worn. I remember what Rafiki told me on Father’s Day.
“You’ve always had awareness. You’ve always known how to parent Little Phoenix. You just needed to figure out how to access it.”
I realize that I have been using my staff to guide me. My staff is what took me on the journey to learn to forgive. It was my inner Rafiki that spoke in Take the Beef Off the Grill. The process of forgiveness has allowed me to slowly create a deeper peace within myself and accept the choices my former spouse has made.
Today, I will lean on it once again as I hike alone through Sequoia National Park. I’m longing for the solitude and peace the wilderness brings. I want to admire the majestic beauty of towering trees that are thousands of years old.
What is their story? How have they endured so much?
Phoenix and Little Phoenix will spend the day together trying to figure out their mystery, their secret.
The Giant Forrest
As we walk through The Giant Forest we learn a little about its history. This forest, named by John Muir in 1875, consists of more than 8,000 sequoia trees, many around 3,000 years old.
Wow! The things these trees have withstood over the years. These trees were here before the United States became a nation. They’re older than the birth of Christ.
And these trees are colossal.
I’m used to visiting the redwoods on the coast of California, a cousin to the sequoia. The redwoods need the moist, humid, coastal environment to survive. This marine fog adds moisture to the soil and protects the redwoods from summer drought conditions. Sequoias, on the other hand, live in the Sierra Nevada Mountains between 5,000 and 7,000 feet in elevation.
Redwoods grow to heights over 370 feet tall. While not as tall as the redwood, growing to around 310 feet, sequoia’s make up what they don’t have in height in their girth. The branches of a sequoia are around 8 feet in diameter compared to 5 feet from their coastal cousins. And, whereas the redwood bark is around 12 inches thick, the bark of a sequoia can grow up to 3 feet.
Something else Little Phoenix and I find amazing is that sequoias only reproduce by seed. The redwoods reproduce by seed or from sprouts that form around the base of a tree. When a parent redwood dies, a new generation of redwoods rise, creating a circle of trees that are often called fairy rings. When a sequoia tree dies, that is the end. There is no rebirth.
“I never saw a Big Tree that had died a natural death,” John Muir wrote of the giant sequoia. “Barring accidents, they seem to be immortal, being exempt from all diseases that afflict and kill other trees. Unless destroyed by man, they live on indefinitely until burned, smashed by lightning, cast down by storms, or by the giving way of the ground on which they stand.”
Little Phoenix and I are awe-struck when we finally reach General Sherman, the most giant of all the Sequoias. This general stands 275 feet tall, is more than 100 feet wide, and weighs a staggering 2.7 million pounds.
What is his secret? He came from only one seed. He had only one chance to survive. And once his roots were established, he continued to endure for over 2,000 years. Such resilience and strength to continue to live.
I’m reminded of the Ents in Middle Earth from the story Lord of the Rings. If only General Sherman was like Treebeard. I would love to be Merry or Pippen and sit on his shoulder, converse, and hear his wisdom.
Oh, Rafiki. I’m sorry, but you’ve got nothing compared to General Sherman!
What Have I Done?
Speaking of Rafiki, it’s time to have the chat. Maybe I should talk with General Sherman instead. He might not be as blunt as Rafiki can be. Taking a deep breath, I start.
“I’m not sure I did the right thing by starting this blog, Rafiki.”
“What did your spouse need to heal?”
How is it that he always goes off on a different subject when I want to talk about me?
Irritated, I respond, “Divorce.”
“No, Phoenix.” Rafiki sighs. “Divorce was her means to an end.” Rafiki pauses, letting that sink in.
“Your former spouse needed to find herself. Her path towards self-love was to untangle the enmeshment the two of you had. You wouldn’t let go. You wouldn’t give her that. She needed to separate from your obsessive craziness. That is what divorce gave her.”
My shoulder sag. My head drops. I flop to the ground. I’m trying to battle the guilt and shame that threaten to overtake me. That negative self-talk sits just beneath the surface ready to point its dirty little fingers scolding me, “I told you so!”
“Phoenix, there was no way you could trust the process. Your wounds were so deep that all you could focus on was your pain. They were so deep, you couldn’t trust God. You couldn’t see that not only were you destroying yourself, you were destroying your former spouse in the process. In many ways, you were the scab to her wound. She needed to rip you off so she could clean out the infection underneath.”
“You aren’t helping, Rafiki,” I whisper.
“This is not to put you down, Phoenix. This is to open your eyes to see what your former spouse needed to heal. It had nothing to do with you. She needed to remove herself from you. She needed to separate so she could heal. The question is, what did you need for you to heal?”
“I don’t know.”
“What did you need to do for you?”
“I get it,” I snap back, glaring at Rafiki. “I needed to heal without her. We couldn’t do it together.” Drained after my outburst, I slump back to the ground.
“That’s not at all what I am saying.”
I look up, tears puddled in my eyes.
“What you needed to heal was this blog.”
I stare at him. A single tear slides down my right cheek.
“Not only did you need to work through your childhood trauma, you needed a purpose in doing so. When your purpose became to help others, it allowed you to step outside your story and work through your pain. The abandonment issues, that agony, was killing you. It was killing your family. You were poisoning everyone. No matter how hard you tried, there was nothing that could break through that wall.
“So, you started a blog to help others. You became vulnerable, believing that if you could open up, others could learn from you. You looked at your issues as something that was teachable, not something that was holding you back.
“Your blog is that struggle. Your blog shows your ‘craziness.’ We all have that in our minds. Most people don’t speak it, they internalize those thoughts. Many medicate with addiction. Others use blame and shame to project, to hurt others so they stop the hurting that’s going on within themselves. And still others use anger, not being able to control the emotions that are bubbling under the surface, until they explode like a volcano.”
Rafiki hesitates. “You did all this in your marriage.” He pauses once again. “That was one of the reasons for the divorce. There was no way the two of you could ever have any kind of reconciliation without untangling your roots first. Both of you needed to take separate paths to heal.”
I nod, the tears flow down my face. He understands me like no one else.
“Your blog shows how completely off your mind got, and yet, your blog kept bringing you back to center. You have been vulnerable and brave enough to express it for the world to see.”
“It’s not too late take it down.” I can feel immense fear flooding my body. “She hasn’t read it all yet.”
“Once again, there you go self-sabotaging yourself. Do you believe that taking this down will fix things?”
“I don’t want to hurt her again, Rafiki.” My voice rises and I find myself starting to argue once again. “I’ve hurt her too much in the past. There are things on here that she might find triggering.”
“I think you’re more afraid of her anger than hurting her Phoenix.”
My stomach drops, like plummeting down a roller coaster. Am I still that self-centered?
“Yes, there will be things in here that will trigger your former spouse. Yes, she may not agree with all your thoughts. Yes, she may possibly even get angry with you. But listen closely.” Rafiki stops and leans in close. I can smell his breath. “When you started your blog your intentions have never been to attack your former spouse. Your intentions have never been to make her look bad. Your intentions were to learn how to love her. And there was no way you could truly love her.” Rafiki leans back.
“What do you mean?” Maybe he doesn’t understand me. He sure knows how to push my buttons. My anger starts to pool.
“You know exactly what I mean,” Rafiki challenges. “You were unable to love your wife the way she deserved.”
Ok, now I’m pissed. I have always loved my wife. I really want to end this conversation. I want to get up and walk away from him right now. Unfortunately, this is the Rafiki in my head. He’ll follow me where ever I go. I take a deep breath. I close my eyes for a moment. I center myself. I come to ground. I open my eyes. I glare at Rafiki.
“What was the first reason to blog?”
“To stop divorce and to save marriages,” I reply, like an automated robot with venom in my tone.
“If I could save just one marriage, I could give back what I lost.”
“But why was your first objective to save marriages?” Rafiki asks patiently, “Out of any other reason for starting a blog, why save marriages?”
“Because I couldn’t save mine. Because I didn’t want anyone to go through the pain I went through with divorce.”
“You believed value and worth came from something external.” Rafiki stops, letting this set in.
After a couple of minutes he continues, “Yes, we need connection. Yes, we need love. But through your journey, you have found that we can’t truly give or receive love until…” Rafiki pauses once again, waiting for a response.
I sigh, drained and feeling defeated, “Until we learn to love ourselves.”
“Deep down what does Together We Can Heal represent?”
“It’s learning how to integrate our parent with our inner child within a community of others who are struggling with the same issues.”
“What blog was it when you figured that piece out?”
I stop and think. Rafiki now has my attention. “I don’t know. It was like the third or fourth blog, right?”
I search through my blogs, looking at the lessons I had learned. Then I find it. Nurture Your Inner Child. I stopped and stared. Had it really taken me that many blogs to learn?
“Phoenix, it took you 15 blog entries for your thought pattern to shift and learn that what you needed wasn’t to save your marriage. What you needed was to save yourself. And to save yourself, you had to learn to love yourself. That meant learning how to parent Little Phoenix.”
My mantra about learning to love myself and “together” meaning to integrate our inner child with our adult, learning to parent and nurture ourselves, had become so normalized these past few months. I wasn’t aware that it took me a month of writing to get to there. I wasn’t aware that it took another month of EMDR work and a lone cruise to truly learn what loving myself meant.
“You were caught up in the childhood pain that you recreated in your marriage. You had to have your marriage break so that you could heal the childhood pain. You had to go through the ‘craziness’ to start your journey of self-love. I have one other thing to tell you, but I need you to do something first.”
“Ok, what is it?”
“Meditate to Oprah and Deepak’s Desire and Destiny 21-Day meditation about being resilient. When you’re done, we’ll finish our conversation.”
Time to Meditate
I grab my ear buds, plug them into my cell phone, and find the meditation app. I lay on the ground in the forest, lying on my back looking up at the royal sequoias stretched high into the sky. I stare at the rays of the sun, imagining they are slides from heaven that angels are sliding down upon. I’m centered in the middle of the universe and the angels are coming to rescue me.
I push play.
When everything is flowing according to our idea of how things “should be”, we feel we are in harmony with the rhythms of the universe. But, when there is a clear gap between what we want and how our life is unfolding, we are more likely to feel stress and doubt. We may judge a situation as wrong or unfair. Or judge ourselves for what we perceive are our shortcomings or failures.
Subconsciously, I hit pause and think. OMG! That’s what I’ve done with my recovery, my marriage, and my divorce. I’m in harmony when I’m connected with my former spouse because that is my idea of how “things should be.” And when there’s distance and a clear gap that I’m not getting what I want, my anxiety increases and the “craziness” begins.
I could probably do numerous blogs just on the first part of this meditation. I push play again.
When our mind is full of resistance and painful thoughts, it’s difficult to access our innate state of wisdom, clarity, and creativity. We get caught up in our thoughts and we begin to think we are our thoughts.
When we get caught up in our thoughts, we begin to think we ARE our thoughts. Click To Tweet
In the inner quiet of meditation, our mind settles and we are able to witness our thoughts and our stories as a detached observer.
Writing from outside the story. Not being a part of the story.
As our awareness expands, we begin to see the hidden gifts and possibilities in whatever challenge we are facing. With the shift of perception, we realized to be a devastating setback has actually cleared the way for our rebirth and transformation.
With awareness, we see hidden gifts and possibilities in whatever challenge we are facing. Click To Tweet
The life cycle of the Phoenix; rebirth and transformation. The reason for my blogs, the shift in my perception. So many gifts have come through my writing and I’ve been able to better face my challenges.
In the stillness of meditation, we begin to gently release ego thoughts connected with success and failure. We begin to trust the movement of life, knowing that the universe has much grander plans for us than we could ever fathom. Each step along the path of life – regardless of the destination – is an exciting part of the adventure. The moments themselves are the gift; the journey itself, the rich reward.
The greatest adventure has been this journey. Lots of potholes and barriers along the way. Yet, conquering those obstacles has made this excursion the most rewarding experience of my life. My therapist told me many times, “it’s not the destination, it’s the journey.”
The giant sequoias are some of the world’s most ancient trees. The oldest known sequoia is estimated to be around 3,500 years old. What is the secret of the sequoias longevity?
I open my eyes. These trees are magnificent. Beautiful. They are breath taking. Oh, crap. I’m meditating and missed what Deepak just said. A quick rewind of my guided meditation. I close my eyes once again.
Their secret is the elemental power of fire. Periodic forest fires clear away everything that threatens the tree’s survival, while ensuring their growth and rejuvenation. Without the fire’s heat, the sequoia cones couldn’t open and release their seeds. Without the clearing force of fire, seedlings would be over crowed by competing shade trees and not have enough sunlight to grow.
I picture a roaring mountain fire burning everything in its path. Then I see what’s left. The few thousand trees standing tall, their bark burned like a body bruised. The land barren. The charred ashes blending with the soil providing nutrients for the new seedlings that now can sprout. The seedlings that sat on the forest floor for over 20 years waiting for the fire. Fire and rebirth. We need the fire to grow.
In your own life, you can probably think of an example of events that felt like a dream going up in flames, but which ended up being the start of something more wonderful than you could ever have imagined.
My marriage and my divorce. My own death and rebirth. I am tapping into something wonderful that I never could have imagined.
Today, as we meditate, remember that from the soul’s perspective there is no such thing as success or failure, there is only the present moment which is filled with infinite possibilities.
As we prepare to meditate, let’s set the intention to gently acknowledge and release the spirit all thoughts and feelings about our perceived challenges and adversities that do not serve us. Let’s fill that newly cleared space with infinite love, light, and joy.
As we step into this acceptance and find our resilience, we open to prosperity and our infinite potential.
I love the thought about infinite possibilities and infinite potential. That opens the door instead of slamming it shut so that what is can become.
Now consider our centering thought. A gift resides in every moment.
A gift resides in every moment. Click To Tweet
Without divorce, without moving out of the house, I may never have been able to open up to myself. Without the ravaging fire that burned my soul, I may not even have thought about blogging. And without my blogging, I may never have had my rebirth. Without the gift of my blog, I may have been forever stuck in my past pain.
I open my eyes and look at Rafiki.
Rafiki asks, “What is the most feared blog for your spouse to read?”
“The Gifts of Anger,” I answer, not hesitating at all.
“When was it written?”
I look, perplexed and trying to understand where he’s going with this. I respond, “The one right after Nurture Your Inner Child.”
“Phoenix, can’t you see? The minute Little Phoenix was truly heard, he let his father know.” Rafiki points at my heart. “He let you know how incredibly hurt he was. He felt safe to let it out. His anger and pain was the fire that raged through your own internal forest of weeds. Just like Mack in The Shack, you needed to clean out the tangled mess of weeds so that you could plant a seed and regrow your garden. And what came out of that piece when you were finished?”
I’m stunned in disbelief. I’m still stuck with the truth that it came after learning to nurture my inner child. I find it hard to answer.
“Gifts, Phoenix. You found a gift in that moment. You learned what was acceptable anger and what wasn’t. You learned how to acknowledge your anger. You learned what was important to you. You found gifts from that moment.”
I’m still silent, caught off guard.
“Phoenix, you started this journey to stop divorce. You thought divorce was the problem. You thought your ex not loving you was the problem. The problem was, you didn’t love you! You didn’t love Little Phoenix. That has been the journey. Your writing has been your path towards healing your faulty beliefs. That has been the gift. You needed the fire of divorce to open the seeds of love so a new sequoia could grow. You needed the fire of divorce so you could become reborn. You needed the fire so you could become Phoenix Emery.
“And, in turn, that is the gift you’re giving others. The gift that to learn to love yourself is not easy, but the rewards, the rebirth are immense.
“So, instead of obsessing about the fear of how your former spouse is going to respond to your writing, realize that you may have also given her a gift. She wanted to untangle her roots to find herself. Maybe through your struggles, she too can start her fire so she can rise from the ashes and become reborn. She too can learn to love herself.
“We can’t completely give or receive love unless we love ourselves. We can’t ‘love our neighbor as we love ourselves’ if we don’t love ourselves first. There’s no way to love another until we take that first step in learning to love ourselves.”
We can't 'love our neighbor as we love ourselves' if we don't love ourselves first. Click To Tweet
“Pain has a way of clipping our wings and keeping us from being able to fly.”
-William Paul Young
“First the pain, then the rising.”
-Glennon Doyle Melton
“We can complain because rose bushes have thorns or we can rejoice because thorn bushes have roses.”
One thing I’m learning is that we are always growing; growing and changing. And we aren’t the only ones…
General Sherman grew three inches in diameter in forty years. That means, in the last forty years, General Sherman has as added enough new wood each year to construct a five or six room house, equivalent to a new seedling starting from nothing growing fifty feet and one foot in diameter within a single year.
“Do not go where the path may lead, go instead where there is no path and leave a trail.”
-Ralph Waldo Emerson
May all my Fledglings find your way out of your raging fire so you too can be reborn.
May you continue to take the leap and learn to love yourselves.
May you find abundant gifts on your journey to self-love.
May we all come together, both parent and inner child, so Together We Can Heal.
PS: Of course, I had to research and add a little more information about the giant sequoia. I have found their story fascinating!
The life story of the giant sequoia begins with a plethora of small seeds. 91,000 sequoia seeds weigh just 1 pound. Unlike its cousin the coast redwood, which can sprout from root and stump, the sequoia can sprout only from seed. To germinate and survive, sequoia seeds must fall on bare, mineral soil. All seeds fall out of cones eventually, but they accomplish nothing unless soil conditions are right. Fires bring down large numbers of seeds on top of soil burned clear of duff. Douglas squirrels, also known as chickarees, harvest cones and release thousands of seeds.
In the absence of fire, however, these seeds rarely fall on suitable seedbed. Larvae of a tiny cone-boring beetle also cause the release of sequoia seeds, but their fate remains fruitless as well in the absence of recent fire. The sequoia seed must fall on bare mineral soil, not on duff. Fires not only bare the soil, but also burn off competing trees such as the shade-tolerant white firs.
Fire plays a crucial role in the giant sequoia ecosystem. Toward summer’s end in the dry season forest conditions favor fire and lightning storms are not uncommon in the mountains. Fire scars in the tree rings dating back 2,000 years show that fires have occurred naturally at varying intervals, generally between three and 35 years, in sequoia forests.
Giant sequoias are adapted to periodic fire. They even take advantage of fire to gain a competitive edge for reproduction. Under natural fire conditions sequoia bark usually protects the trees against significant damage. At up to 18 inches thick and extremely fibrous, sequoia bark not only resists burning but also insulates the tree against fire’s heat. Should fire penetrate the bark and scar the cambium, new growth –one-half inch of new wood and bark can be added each year – can heal the scar. Eventually the scar may be completely covered and the tree protected anew against subsequent fire.
Fire also prepares the bare, mineral soil required by sequoia seeds for germination. It burns of undergrowth and trees that compete for the abundant sunlight young sequoias require. The sequoia’s cone-and-seed strategy certainly evolved with fire. Sequoia cones retain their seeds – unlike other trees in their forest environs – in closed cones for perhaps 20 years. When fire burns through the forest the hot air dries out older cones. They open up and, within one to two weeks, begin to rain down their seeds loads onto fire-swept, bare soil. The reproductive success of giant sequoias demands only that each tree produce just one maturing offspring over its lifespan of several thousand years.
Taken from the National Park Service Website