Now that I’m Free To Be Myself, Who Am I? ~ Mary Oliver

I came across this Mary Oliver quote this morning and it brought me up short. I just sat and stared at it. 
Last night, between 11 and 12 pm, I started, stopped, and deleted no less than 5 attempts at a podcast. I have not missed a scheduled podcast since I started even though I’ve gone from every day to every other day since they have gotten so much longer, time for listeners to have time to listen and for me enough time for the well to fill again so that I feel I have something to say, to share. While my podcasts are not on the edge of your seat exciting. simply gentle musings from Dragonfly Cottage about the days here, the pugs and the parrots, the garden, my writing and art, thoughts about life, last night it felt like everything I came up with was gibberish, and, I must admit, it sounded like meaningless meandering all over the place. I could not get my brain on straight! The question that I had been grappling with all day was a version of just this, Now that I’m free to be myself, who am I?

By last night I was exhausted to the point of tears trying to figure out what it was that I was that I wanted to do with my one wild and precious life (One of my all-time favorite quotes, also by Oliver, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?” the last two lines of  her poem “The Summer Day.”), and I’ll be doggoned if I could tell you.
I have written here, there, and everywhere about my 100 ladies, and I love them, and fully intend to continue with that book and their work. I have grappled with trying to write my book on being bi polar, I Will Not Go Down That Rabbit Hole, but after pulling it out, dusting it off, connecting with it strongly, after getting an amazing amount of feedback and thank you’s for sharing it I became afraid again, not that I couldn’t write it but, as self-care is absolutely essential for me, the dark place that I would have to live in for the year or however long it would take me to write it would mean that I would have to live through the pain and struggles that I face almost daily, twice. Once in the living of it and again in the writing. It is just not a place I feel it would be healthy for me to go. 
Then a few comments came in about part of a book that I have started over and over again for years, The Road To Dragonfly Cottage. This is not just a journey to a physical place but a spiritual journey that began after leaving my marriage at 45 in April 1999 to the present, and there is a lot in that book as I have conceived it and in the numerous drafts I have written to date that I feel has merit, might help others as well as be a record of both a spiritual and psychological journey of a woman coming to midlife and beyond while struggling to create a life that has purpose and meaning.

All of these projects are important to me even while I know Rabbit Hole needs to just rest for now, but my most pressing concern that comes up and up and up is that writing a book is not enough at a time when I really need to create an income. And so the idea of creating a community where I might bring the wisdom and experience that I have into a forum where I can help other women is what I have come to, but how best to go about it? Thank goodness I have Dori Etter of Inspired Income to help me do just that.

So after contacting Dori on Tuesday to tell her that I was finally ready to have our one-on-one session to start moving forward with this work, and I will next Tuesday, I started plotting and planning, and yesterday I made up a list of all of the things I have done in my life that I can bring to bear on this new work and I was overwhelmed. It was a life review of sorts and there was so much that it left me reeling and feeling somewhat depressed and melancholy about times gone by, as well as tender towards all of the things that I have done. And, too, what I came to is how little we credit ourselves for our own experience, knowledge, and wisdom earned over the years. I think most of all I love having come into my crone years and fully embrace that I am a wisdom keeper, a truth teller with the battle scars and stripes of glory that we all have, in our own way, as we grow into midlife and beyond.

Who am I?

I was a daughter and a wife. I am a mother and a grandmother, a friend and a lover of so much of the world and very nearly every one I meet, everyone that is kind and gentle and loving I embrace with my whole heart, even if I can’t do it in person I have a lot to give and receive from where I am.

I was a childbirth educator for ten years teaching natural childbirth classes to countless couples, and after having my 2nd and 3rd babies at home I got more and more involved in the homebirth movement and became a lay midwife. I was a La Leche League Leader and counseled breastfeeding mothers for over a decade and nursed my own three children for long periods of time. We homeschooled our children and grew as a family through so very many experiences and so much over so many years. After 25 years we would separate and just short of our 31st wedding anniversary we divorced but my husband and I have had a very gentle, kind and loving parting and celebrated birthdays and holidays and weddings and deaths and births together over the years. My family, including my ex-husband, are the dearest people in the world to me.

As a survivor of long-term sexual abuse and suffering from a handful of mental health diagnoses, and having had nervous breakdowns and been suicidal, and having come through the worst of it to the place where I now work vigilantly at self-care, managing medications and working with a therapist for four of my nearly six decades, I have gained so much insight and wisdom about being a survivor, about healing, about struggling, nearly losing the battle, but winning the worst wars and daily finding my way over the hurdles and through the valleys, I have been on a shaman’s journey, and with a lifelong spiritual quest from being raised Catholic, to studying Buddhism for four decades, as well as Native American spirituality, being ordained a Christian minister, studying, deeply, the monastic traditions, and finally coming to peace with God in what I call Direct Communion, I have a knowledge base that spans a multitude of spiritual traditions, that has brought a richness to my life and which carries with it so much depth, and color, and passion for living a life of spiritual service that I know I was born to do just this, to be of service in the world carrying the message of the name I took legally a decade ago. Maitri, the Buddhist teaching of loving-kindness and compassion, and that we must first have it for ourselves to give it to another. My work is centered in compassion and loving-kindness in all that I do from day to day relations with others to my writing and art to the work that I will do with women for the rest of my life.

Having taught journal-keeping classes for thirty years, first with my childbirth couples and then, after apprenticing Katya Sabaroff Taylor whose wonderful approach to journal keeping changed my life, to studying with Ira Progoff, the founder of The Intensive Journal Method, and Natalie Goldberg author of Writing Down The Bones, and becoming friends with the woman who was my favorite writer and became my mentor and muse in the last years of her life, May Sarton, all the way up to this last year when I have studied and worked with SARK, Susan Ariel Rainbow Kennedy, who has taught me so much, read my writing and encouraged me every month since last July, and inspired me to do all that I have wanted and meant to do, in fact was born to do, yes, all of these people have stood me in good stead for what lies ahead.

I have learned the power of our stories. Writing and sharing our human stories is the most powerful thing that we can do and the recording and sharing of our lives with others and leaving that legacy for the generations to come I truly believe is the great legacy we will have left when our days on this earth have come to an end. Writing and sharing my own story, teaching, helping, and encouraging others to do the same, and gently midwifing women through the birthing of their deepest, most authentic self, and learning to fully love and embrace who they are may just be the most important work that I can do.

I am also a Reiki Master, a Shambhala Master Healer, a long time gardener connected to the earth more deeply than almost anything else, and I have had a lifetime of working with animals, rescuing them, as they rescued me, and living with a multitude of pugs and parrots and more over the years. Colette wrote, “My poetry is earthbound.” My poetry, my life, my work, my love, my whole being is both earthbound and spirit-led. I am a child of the sun, the moon, and the stars. I carry within me the innocence of the newborn that I have never lost throughout it all as well as the wisdom of the grandmothers which I have truly earned. I am near tears writing this. I am all of this and so much more.

As I write this I truly encourage all of you to do just this. Start with the quote at the top and keep writing. Write for days, for weeks, for the rest of your life. Embrace and love and celebrate all that you are, and keep evolving and becoming and celebrating every single facet of your life, every battle scar and stripe of glory that you have rightly earned. As Walt Whitman wrote, “Celebrate yourself, Sing yourself!” and in this blog entry I have and going forward I will and I will help others to do the same.

I have answered the question. I am ready. I will meet with Dori next week and I will begin. Soon I will open the doors to a community that I will spend the rest of my life building and nurturing, where I will teach, and listen, and offer all that I have, all that I am, all that I know, and I will learn from the women who come to me, and I will love and cherish them with all of my heart.

In writing this I have found my answers, I have found my peace, I have finally, fully understood who I am. My heart is soaring. I am on my knees thanking God and my spirit has sprouted wings and my soul taken flight. I cannot wait to start this work. The best part of my life is about to begin.

Oh yes. I am ready.

With all the love in my heart I embrace each of you with the warmest regard and sending the deepest blessings to all…

Make this the year your resolutions come true!

Make this the year your resolutions come true!

Comments

  1. OMG Maitri,I knew I felt a deep connection and honor for you but I had no idea of all you had done that caused that firm attraction. Your spirit and character are so deeply enriched. You are a treasure and a natural resource! In all your struggles I feel perhaps you need a helpmate of some sort to be there for you physically to some degree. You need to be served and tended to. I pray the miraculous helper appear with whom you will be confortable to accept nurturing in order to give it to others in all your ways. MAITRI, I knew nothing of that WORD, your NAME, I am blown away at how my spirit and soul identified you as such a strong blessed presence knowing only the face value of the dear pug love and garden tending, and the sufferings of your mind and spirit. Thank you so much for revealing more of who you are!

  2. Jennifer Dearheart,

    Tears ran down my cheeks reading this and I don’t know how to thank you for all that you have said. I, like anyone I should imagine, would love to have someone to love and care for as they care for me, each offering one another what we have to give, but my own world is rather unusual and must needs be to keep me balanced so that I can work at all. Constant worries about the financial situation have made it difficult for me to stay the course out of fear, but my deepest spiritual belief is that I must daily work to move past that fear, to have trust and faith in God and all that I believe I was meant to do. I firmly believe that we are all here with a purpose and a mission and that finding out what that is IS our most important purpose, and then working as hard as we can all the days of our lives to achieve our goals.

    I have been told so often by so many people to put a donation button on this blog and a handful of times I have done it and then felt so shy I usually took it down within hours. It has never felt right to me. I am praying for the answers, for the means, to do my work. I appreciate you praying for me as well. I believe in the power of prayer. Your prayers are a gift to me.

    I send so many blessings, so much love, and again more thanks than I know how to express for your beautiful comments here. I am deeply touched…

    Maitri

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