Day by day, week by week. Month by month, joy began to seep in. A true living, breathing, practical happiness became mine, just when I least expected it.
Over time, I have begun to worry less, and I started to take life more lightly. Notably absent are a husband — or a wife — and my children. Though my beautiful son Luke does pop in occasionally with something hilarious, or perhaps a technical request about things like laundry, grammar, or college expenses.
Also absent are the big house, the driving business, the big, dazzling accomplishments and the schedule jam-packed with ‘critical’ tasks. Gone are the usual markers I always held up as ‘success’ – which is when I assumed I’d finally be happy.
So why this beautiful, tender, ethereal joy? Why now … and why me, God?
Is it because I have been meditating, dutifully, every morning for more than a year now? Or because of California’s predictably sunny weather? Or because of the easy sweet peace and humor I enjoy with my housemates Bobbie and Jeewon?
Or is it because I have come to know God in my heart and soul – as a living, breathing part of myself. So that my soul no longer feels like a refugee, just trudging through life.
I cannot completely explain it. But I can say I have done my work. The entire last year was a study in surrender, during which time I learned to tell the truth about my life, ask for help and get it.
But then this was what I decided when Teal died: the rest of my life would be dedicated to her memory. To living the life she could not, with power, grace, authenticity, and most of all, with love and service to others.
And so in this way Teal, who wanted with all her heart to be a healer, has healed her mother.
I notice I can now make peace where I once made messes. I feel a new, tender grace about things that once bothered me. For instance, I stopped thinking about my former partner as some pariah sent down to hurt me. My need to vilify her is gone and I now regard her with compassion and true empathy. As I do suddenly for anyone who has hurt me in my life.
This compassion-empathy bit is new. Bobbie and I talked this last night. “But haven’t you always felt compassion for others?” she asked.
“No,” I answered evenly. Which made both of us laugh.
My compassion was always furtive – darting in, hopefully unseen. Because if you caught me in that pants-around-my-ankles moment, I might be too exposed. Too vulnerable. Too weak.
The truth is I can be more compassionate with others because I have learned to be compassionate with myself — and not just through massages and ice cream sundaes. Now I comfort myself in the middle of the night, when worry collides with reason and my imagination runs wild. Then I slowly tether my galloping thoughts and soothe them back into their corrals.
I find myself setting healthy boundaries that I couldn’t set before, and saying ‘No’ with love and kindness. And mostly, I reassure myself now that God’s got my back and that I have nothing to fear. And so I can naturally relax.
Ironically, this renders me so much more powerful than before.
So I move through life with a new, delicate strength, just feeling my way along, one step at a time. And I see myself emerging as I edit these essays into a book for publication, and prepare to give talks for anyone who wants to listen.
This is the life I promised Teal when she was dying.
One of the last afternoons of her life, before she was taken off of life support, my friends Rick and Brian came to see Teal. And she gave Rick a telepathic message. “This is my stage,” he clearly heard her say.
And so it is.
Teal’s natural love and compassion for the world – her greatest natural gift – has become mine to share as well. But only through my complete surrender to a whole new way of being, informed by love and honesty.
This happiness feels so new, and hopeful, and beautiful. And it has that rightness we know at birth … that sense that somehow slips away over time. Yet, you are a child of God, as am I, and this peace is here for every one of us.
It’s free for the taking. All you have to be is brave — and decide, if only for one moment, that you deserve it. That, I know, was Teal’s wish for all of us.