Thursday, December 19, 2019

New purpose emerging from old losses

Ideas breaking on Cambria beach
12/19/2019 - this morning as I begin a new phase, I was called back to old threads that are being woven into a new tapestry. Ten years ago I was lost, alone, filled with grief from three years of loss. A stranger said four words that changed my life and set me on a path that now offers me a new purpose.

The blog post history about her four words is below, however, what I'm celebrating at this moment is the wonder of the Universe. I've reached an age where loss and grief are becoming more common ... mine and that of friends and family. Nothing will stop this relentless motion; however, it comes with new offerings to be accepted when we can, or rejected when we're not ready.

It's easy to be trite when dealing with heart-wrenching experiences. There are no words that will fix the wounds of grief. I have little to offer those who are suffering other my caring and the story of my journey. Since joining the legion of the wounded, I have slowly become softer, more vulnerable, and, gradually, more peaceful. I also hope I have become wiser and more understanding.

The past ten years have been a blur of motion ... moving, changing, trying this and trying that. Most weren't particularly conscious choices. Since returning from Mexico, it has felt like it was time to stop and reflect on where I've been, what I've learned, and what comes next.

Two days ago in my 18th love letter to my life, I talked about a new project that I was launching ... helping people make personal photo books ... a process I'm calling foto journaling. New projects are always exciting. However, sometimes the excitement is only momentary, so I've learned to let them steep for awhile to make sure they fit me ... my interests and skills as well as my values and intentions.

This morning, a random article** offered a question that demanded my attention: “Will it make the world better?"  Of course most ideas won't heal the planet or cure cancer, however good ideas will always help others in some way. 

As I contemplated how making personal photo books would fit me and help the world, it reminded me of a conversation I had with Richard before he died. I asked him if he was afraid of dying and he said he was only afraid of being forgotten. I had thought frequently about trying to capture some of his stories on video, but it was too late; he was too weak. 

The pain of remembering that lost opportunity helped me realize that encouraging and making it easier for people to capture their memory stories before it was too late would make the world a little better. Perhaps, in a small way, it would help them keep their own memories, and their memories of their loved ones, alive in a tangible, shareable way.

**Interesting article: 20,000 People Just Explained How Creativity Works

8/31/2016: Almost seven years ago, a stranger who would soon become a friend, changed my life with four words. She also reminded me of the world of blogging, something that had slipped away during the years of illness that ended with the death of my husband.

This note is for Diane Walker, a remarkable artist/photographer, creative being and generous soul. Above is a small sample of her art from her Facebook page: Contemplative Photography by Diane Walker:

Facebook cover art by Diane Walker
I met Diane at a Miksang photography workshop taught by Michael Wood in Boulder, CO.  The workshop was already in the process of changing forever the way I see and take photographs but it was at lunch one day when I found myself pouring out my story and Diane said the four words that woke me up.

The words don't seem all that magical by themselves, but they were like a key finely ground to fit a particular lock. I told the story in my second blog post on this blog which I started within days of meeting Diane and seeing her blog. You can read it below.

Finding that old post, reminds me that we never know the effect we have on others with our words, our actions, and the example of our own lives. One of my favorite quotes comes from Bali ...
Someone out there needs you.
Live your life so they can find you.

What I want to say today, seven years later, is ... thank you Diane for your words at that critical moment in my life when I truly needed them. Thank you for the continuing example of someone living and growing in creative expression. Thank you for the kindness and beauty that you pour so generously into the world.

Meeting you was a miracle. I knew it then and I look at my life today in all its joy and fulfillment and it has your fingerprints all over it. Thank you so much for being you and for the gift of knowing how to fill my cup!

Coffee in Grass Valley in 2015
Blog Post: September 15, 2009 - 
My Cup Is Empty

We are sitting at lunch at Boulder's Pearl Street mall when my new friend Diane says, "Your cup is empty" and the words telegraph through my body and find their mark deep in my heart. And, as tears begin to flow, I realize that I am empty ... broken open, depleted and disconsolate, far from the dyed-in-the wool, rose-colored-glasses, cheerful optimist that I had been.

Three years of loss piled one upon another until I am sitting here in this strange state feeling utterly alone, homeless, rootless, without solid ground to hold onto. I suddenly know that I am an empty vessel and am not completely sure that I am not too broken to ever be filled again.

Mary Oliver's words from "The Journey" echo in my mind, "It was already late enough, and a wild night, and the road full of fallen branches and stones." My path seems confounded and blocked by the fallen branches and stones, and perhaps I will never be able to clear them. Sorrow, fear, pain and aloneness envelop me and I'm not sure I have the energy to find my way out. By myself, I feel too weak to grapple with this challenge and I find myself clinging to a past-relationship as if it's my only hope.

And yet, the simple act of admitting that I am empty seems to let me hear a small, new voice that says simply: "Begin, do what brings you joy, take one step at a time and tend your spirit."

What brought me to this place and introduced me to my new friend, who with just four words stripped me bare of my false-front of strength and independence, was a Miksang workshop about seeing in a new way and capturing those new perceptions through photography. Miksang is a Tibetan word that means "good eye" and is as much a meditative practice as a photography technique.

We had been using the technique for two days and, as always, the act of taking pictures, capturing small pieces of beauty, was bringing me joy but, in some ways, it felt like layering wallpaper over a wall that had not been washed clean of years of grime and debris. The pain was still swirling an indelible pattern below the surface. Admitting to myself my vulnerability to pain and loss seems like a first step in cleaning that surface. Perhaps now the Miksang practice of awareness and perception, the slowing down and taking each step with intention, will allow the joy of each perception to stick and gradually begin to refill my cup.

I feel a great sense of relief. I have been looking around rather desperately for a project, a mission, a way of serving, in actuality, anything that would distract me from the pain. Now I realize that I am not ready to go out into the world. I have nothing to offer because I am empty. Who I was has drained away and who I will be has not made an appearance. So now I am unformed, uncertain of anything except my emptiness and a willingness to walk toward spirit, a willingness to be filled.


  1. Thanks, Maureen ... you've been a part of this journey.

  2. I remember reading this post, Joyce. And Diane has been with us both, sometimes actively, sometimes more in memory as we've headed into new adventures and more losses (the latter at least for me). And Louise, as well. (Talk about a "squad"!) We all need to find a date for a meet-up (we've been talking about it long enough). Love to you and Diane and Louise as we continue our walk together.