A few months ago when my brother Patrick died, somewhere in the midst of the funeral haze, I drifted off by myself to collapse on a bed and sob. My eyelids lifted to watch my consoling cousin pull back the tear-drenched hair off of my face. I recall my faint, yet bitter voice emphatically saying to her, “You know, I could be standing in the most exotic, stunning place in the world right now and I’d see no beauty. I’d feel nothing.”
I meant that. Much of the declaration was because world travel has become an invigorating passion of mine. But, sadly, it’s because this is not my first rodeo of tragic death. I lost my oldest brother Aaron when I was a teenager. After a decade of soul-searching and finally feeling at a pinnacle, losing both of my brothers has been a bizarre actuality to wrap my head around.
To say this year was one of the most formative years of my life would be an understatement. Then again, it has been so transitional that I am not sure taking form is even the right description. As per usual with the ever-flowing tide of life, it has been accompanied by soaring highs, followed by one of the greatest lows. It was a year in which I left behind my California identity of the last decade to embark on a new story. I confronted changes occurring within me while adapting to those outside of me. It was a year where I went to the other side of the world to feel back in the world. An excursion to the magical island of Bah-lee completely changed and redirected my life. I had never felt more alive than traveling solo in such a foreign land, and I had never felt more dead shortly thereafter.
As days have gone by, each one feeling as though there’s a little more life inside of me, I reminisce back to what I said to my cousin that day. I recognize it as a reflection of my internal experience at that moment in time. My apathy towards the aesthetics of the external solely mirrored that I felt dead inside. My reality was a belief I created based off of the numb feeling that nothing could make me feel alive again. Of course with good ole time, this experience has shifted. Since the loss of Patrick, I’ve returned once again from traveling. My thoughts have centered around a prevalent theme that emerged — an embrace of transitions.
In retrospect, there are so many chapters in my life that were remarkable periods of transition. Yet, if each changing moment is one transition to the next, then isn’t everything a transition? Reminded by all chapters left to the past, one final page after another, it got me thinking about my perception of goodbye. As someone who has long struggled with goodbyes, I’ve come to discover why traveling has been healing for me. The temporal experiences that unfold, only to fade, have been a powerful teacher. It fascinates me, really, the incredible forces at work when I step into the unknown to allow the divine to intervene. In my experience it has been one of the greatest agents of change, accelerating rapid growth and bringing forth much clarity. The big picture, so to speak, becomes a lot clearer.
One of my favorite parts of traveling is always the people I meet and connect to along the way. It’s interesting, being the person that’s never liked goodbyes. There’s an inherent understanding when traveling that while I may meet others on the journey, there’s no guarantee for anything further. In fact, there’s more the likeliness we won’t see each other again than there is otherwise. The respect of the present moment and allowing it to be is the lesson. It is recognition of a willingness to embrace the new moment and the ability to gracefully let go of the last. The beautiful temporal qualities of life teach us that there’s no way to foresee that which is to stay or go. It’s a hard thing to master, letting go, especially when shocked or traumatized. The go-to of fight-or-flight is to clench with all one’s power. Yet, we fail to realize the giveaway of power when struggling to make something stay that is to end. Things forever continue to strip away in life. The more I’ve grown and the more goodbyes I’ve had to say — I’m learning to consider a new perspective. I’m learning that maybe it’s not goodbye, it’s hello.
It’s been a year of many goodbyes and many hellos. As my various grief becomes interwoven, all I can do is stand in it. Feel it. Face it. Loosen my grip, and let go.
Endings are hard, but as it is often practiced in yoga — the transition between each pose can be the most enlightening of all. It is the power in awareness of each transition. How do I respond to the changing moment? Am I present? Is my ego holding onto something that happened in the last that no longer serves me? Am I moving forward into the next with total embrace of the new? Can I trust that what is gone is as it should be? Can I be content with the plan that is out of my control? Can I trust myself to be okay? Can I have compassion for my grief along the way?
So, life is one transition after another. It is a transition from one moment into the next, a city or career to the next, a profound love, or from one dimension into the next.
It is challenging to accept both of my brothers’ fate and their transitions from birth to death in this lifetime. Still, I ponder my own transitions of grief and have learned something. In one moment I thought I could see no beauty in the world, that I was dead inside. A few months later I was on a gorgeous beach in Mexico, and I was feeling things; I was feeling a lot. As the lucid, turquoise water slipped between my ankles, and the warm wind danced on my skin, there I stood in my grief. And, even as much ache as I may still feel in my heart, I was able to look around and feel some peace that day. I could acknowledge gratitude for the new because I could see my progression. So, I was able to accept goodbye a tiny bit more, and this time I could say, hello.