Pain & Freedom

Rarely does my therapist let me go into existential crisis mode. And rightfully so- I could theorize and deflect all day.

But last session was different. She let me go there, probably realizing it was intertwined with my pain. The physical, emotional, mental, and spiritual pain, all wrapped up into one.

I gave my “fuck you” to god. “I feel so much pain, why can’t you just give me this one thing that lets me feel free?” My dance. My connection. My flight. My stride.

Of course I know God/Spirit/The Universe has given me many things, such as Pacer, a twin sister, friends and family, etc.- but any time I travel down that rabbit hole I’m led to feeling guilty for not feeling grateful enough, and that’s a whole different part of myself I need to work on. My higher self reminds me not to conflate gratitude with guilt, that I can feel many things at once: pain, anger, sadness, and gratitude.

The funny thing is that trying to stop the physical pain has led me to unraveling my emotional pain.

After running on and off in pain for years, I finally decided to call it. Annoyed because I had already worked on this and accepted I may never run fast again. But not run at all? I felt all the stages of grief, often multiple stages at once: denial, anger, bargaining, depression, and acceptance.

I try no to let my negative voices belittle myself. “It’s just running, after all.” Truly, I (choose to) identify more as an explorer than a runner anyway. But I can’t deny that running has always been my best and favorite way to feel free, the feeling I most crave in life. Each stride, grounding and flying in a single second.

I’m not quitting. I’m just surrendering. Accepting. Realizing I can still try to heal my pain while accepting the pain my never go away. But I’m not going to force myself to run in it anymore. Which is a whole other type of healing.

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The devil in me

When I can only access the lower, insecure self, I feel like life is a game I don’t know how to play. The rules are written in an unknown language. Maybe that’s the devil in me.

When I’m allowing my Higher Self to come through, I can see that I only have to follow Mother Earth’s guidance- surrender to the flow of life, be kind to all living beings, stand tall and true like the trees. Then there’s freedom. Maybe that’s the god in me.

The Land of In-Between

Here on Earth, we wander in the Land of In-Between. Between Mother Nature and Father Sky, soil and stars, between joy and pain. I think this is really what was meant when people first spoke of purgatory, the space between joy and pain, but Catholics made it something else. Something “bad”, that’s really not bad at all. It’s a land of growth. One where we will all surely make mistakes. Suffer. Cry new rivers. A Sacred Beauty, really. As I type those words, I can’t help but think of the passing of my older sister passing away from cancer at 36. My family was gathered around her. The experience brought us to our knees. As my teacher said, the “sacred is whatever brings you to your knees.” My sister went Somewhere Else. Her body in the ground, and her spirit, I believe, to the Heavens. Wind, the Great Connector, connecting us to all worlds, Mother Nature and Father Sky, all living being and all beings who ever lived.

Normalizing Rain

Rain.
One of Mother Nature’s greatest gifts. Earth’s life flowing. The source of our food and spring flowers. A gift we often complain about. We stay inside and close the shades.

Tears.
One of greatest gifts. A release of emotions, born to flow. Forthcoming gratitude and growth. This rain to is often shunned. We turn away and choke back the rising energy in our throats. Shunned.

For as long as humans suppress their tears I fear that Mother Earth will suppress her rain, leaving all of us to burn.

Where I live in Northern Colorado, our relationship to rain is changing. With wildfires now a yearly occurrence that has no seasonal bounds, many of us now praise the late spring snow and perform rain dances weekly in each of the other seasons.

All of us have stopped in pure awe of a miraculous mid-summer rainbow, born only after a late afternoon thunderstorm. “Let if fucking rain” we all scream, curse, and pray simultaneously.

I wonder too…what would happen if we started to praise our own tears? Thank them for their magical healing powers. Let them just flow…I wonder what type of rainbows humans could create.

Driving to the canyons of southern Utah a few weeks ago, I came into awareness of how many times I had felt my throat tighten over the past few months. The energy it took to dam those tears up. The damage it cost me to dam them. Now when I start to feel my throat tighten and the energy start to rise, I consciously remind myself to surrender to my emotions and let the tears happen. There’s nothing to be ashamed about by my big emotions. When I limit my emotions, I limit myself. And I want to. be. free. expansive. serene.

A list of my rain in the past week…

-Leaving my dog when I left for a trip.
-Searching my sister’s Spotify for a workout playlist and finding one for my (grad school) graduation in 2019.
-Missing my older sister, and knowing my Mom was without a daughter on Mother’s Day.
-Accepting (grieving) my Achilles injury may never go away AND all the times I ran through the pain.
-Learning about a friend who lost her dog.
– Watching a close high school friend get married, then watching her dance with her unabashedly joyous dad, the dad who at one time expressed displeasure when she came out as gay.
-Realizing my shame and fear could be the end a relationship that never had the chance to flourish.
-Saying goodbye to my parents before I returned home to Colorado.
-Giving space for my voice during my therapy session.

My tears are what happen between the joy and pain of life. Between Sky and Earth. They let me know I’m alive.

I want to fucking live. So I let it rain.

Big World

Little ity, bity me. Big, big world. 

Somehow comforting.

My introversion: In cities, at parties, I feel lost.

My extroversion: In Nature, surrounded by mountains, I feel part of it all. 

My work: To find harmony in each part. 

My gift: To find beauty in each piece. 

My struggle: To find harmony in my own parts and the beauty within me.

My help: Wind, the Great Connector.

My truth: Love is at my core. 

Our truth: Love is at our core.

Scarcity is a Myth

There is enough food for every mouth.
Enough wealth for every wallet.
Enough room for every woman at the top.
Enough love for every child. Adult. Dog. And living creatures on this Earth.
And you, my darling, have always been enough.

Scarcity is the child of fear and misguided power.
It holds us back. Sets up traps. A perceived lack.

Hope is infinite.
Kindness is infinite.
Beauty is infinite.
Love is infinite.

Acrostic Train Poems: Drops of Jupiter & Hey Soul Sister- Amanda Rose Nypaver

I don’t think my twin sister Sandi would mind me saying (and would agree with) that our older sister Amanda has always been the best writer out of the three of us.  For Christmas 2019, me and Sandi received Train (the band) t-shirts and wine from Save Me, San Francisco Wine Co.  Following those gifts, we received the most special gift: acrostic poems by Amanda using Train songs “Drops of Jupiter” & “Hey Soul Sister”.    I hope you as much strength and inspiration from the poems as we have.

 

Determined to be more than just survivors of life, we 

Reach for a ray of sunshine in the darkness, and

Out pours strength from those here and gone who love us most.

Peace will find us in our weakest moments and help us

Sail across the sun.

Overcoming our obstacles, we reach the top of the mountain, free and

Fearless!

Journeys of 1,000 miles start with a single step forward, and we find

Unwaivering support from all that surrounds us. but we still

Pray we can live up to and fulfill all expectations.

In times of both turmoil and 

Triumph, we

Explore what both amazes and humbles us, ultimately

Realizing not all who wander are lost!

Merry Christmas Ray!

      All My Love,

“T”*

*Neither me or Amanda could remember how I came up with the nickname “T”, though I’ve been using it for at least 20 years.

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Hope is rejoicing in times of suffering, for we know

Everything happens for a reason.

You still find yourself asking God “Why?”, but are you really ready for His answer?

Savor the unanwered prayers, for they don’t belong in our stories,

Our paths are discovered as we look to the sky for guidance.

Under the stars we can even find light in the darkness, and we remember

Life is beautiful, even when it isn’t.

Strength, our saving grace, is a state of mind,

Inspired by those who love us and those who came before us that left too soon.

Side by side, we can conquer anything,

Tomorrow is not always promised, so today we must live!

Embrace the little things that bring you joy, for someday you will

Realize they were the big things.

 

Merry Christmas Sandi!

      All My Love,

Your Big Sis’ Amanda

 

(Christmas Eve from a pre-cancer year)

On Grieving: Pieces on Anticipatory Grief

On Friday, August 7th my twin sister and I were both in different places, camping and exploring the mountains.  When reaching cell service in our separate place, we received a text from our older sister, Amanda (36), that we needed to call her together.  We both knew what this meant, she has been battling cancer for the past 2.5 years. I was able to largely distract myself until we managed to meet  in the middle at the Mineral Belt Trailhead in Leadville, CO.  We called, and Amanda told us in a raspy voice due to the cancer affecting her vocal cords, that it was “time for her to be with Aunt Barb and Uncle Ronny” (relatives that both passed away from cancer, who have always held very deep places in our hearts.). All 3 of us were weeping, so we hung up, and Sandi and I slid down from the bumper of the car to the ground, where we sat, crumbled, and wept at the feet of Mt. Massive and Mt. Elbert.

These pieces were written in the aftermath of the news and (currently) while taking care of Amanda.  At this moment, I sit next to her as she uses her nebulizer to help her breathing.  Otherwise, she is doing “well” right now…still able to eat (requesting blizzards from DQ), still able to smile.  If you’re reading this, I ask that you send energy, prayers, etc to the Universe, Mother Earth, God or Whatever/Whomever, first if a miracle is possible, and if not, that she has a smooth transition from this life and into the arms and paws of family and friends who have already made the journey to Somewhere Else.

If A Girl Cries Alone

You know the quote “If a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it make a sound?” Well I wonder if a girl cries alone in the trees, does she make a sound? Is anyone listening?

I’d like to think so. The earth soaking up her tears. The trees offering their strength. Chipmunks offering their comfort. The flowers offering their beauty. Mother Earth softy saying “You are not alone.”

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Smoke

The smoke from the wildfires are a perfect metaphor for how I’m feeling.  I’m in a haze.  I’m not sure if I don’t know what’s real…or if I’m just lost.  Meanwhile, the trees keep burning.  And while the trees turn to ashes, no hole will be left deeper than the one left in me.

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Sad Girl

It’s like I wear a giant “S” on my chest

No, not like Hester’s “A”.

My “S” stands for SAD.

I imagine everyone staring at me, saying

“That’s the SAD girl over there

Don’t get too close

She’ll infect you with her sadness”

But I don’t want to pass it on

I just want a shoulder to lean on

A hand to help me up

Just a bit of light

To enter into my open wound.

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The Holy Fucks

I’m not a big user of curse words, although I’m not against them.  Mainly, I use “fuck” for emphasis when I’m really upset about something.  It wasn’t until I found out that my 36 years young sister was dying that I started putting “holy” before the word.  During the times I couldn’t stand because the pain was too great*, when she asked my mom “did hospice say when I was going to die?”, and especially when she gave my cousin’s little girls Winnie the Pooh blankets and said she’ll always watch over them.  This is when the “fucks” became “holy”.

*A professor of my defined sacred as “that which brings us to our knees.”  I’ve been to some beautiful places, waterfalls, mountaintops, deep inside canyons, and never have I ever been brought to my knees so much as during this time.  Which, perhaps mean the most sacred thing in the world is our love for others.

These are the holy fucks.

“Holy fuck, why is this allowed to happen?”

“Holy fuck, if there’s a God or something greater out there, you better be with us right now.”

“Holy fuck, how can one person hold this much love and this much pain?”

“Holy fuck, this is too much.”

“Holy fuck, how am I going go on after she leaves?”

“Holy fuck.”

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My Daily Gratitudes

  1. The she is still alive
  2. That she’s not suffering too much
  3. That she has been my big sister for 32 years

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If I Were A Tree

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If I were a tree

I’d be a willow tree.

A weeping willow tree, to be exact.

Although sometimes I imagine myself as the small, scraggly tree

growing between the rocks on the canyon wall.

Or perhaps the last pine, right at tree line.

Once in awhile, when I grow weary of the long mountain winters,

I imagine myself as a palm tree.

And sometimes, a glowing yellow aspen tree in the fall.

But I always come back the the willow tree.

Simultaneously weeping at the beauty and ugliness of the world.

My roots digging deeper, trying to stay upright despite the changes.

Branches hanging long in attempt to shelter other beings

from the harshness of it all.

For You, to sit under.

To pause.  To think.  To reflect.

To make your own meaning,

even as darkness sets.

Yes, if I were a tree, I’d be a Weeping Willow Tree.

With tears of grief and joy.

My friend, now I wonder, if you were a tree,

which one would you be?

A Dog and Her Girl: A Love Story

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At least once a week, I’ll cry over Pacer.  The tears are from the purest Love I know.   They symbolize both my deepest gratitude for being blessed to have the best companion I could ever want, and an even deeper grief knowing one day she will most likely leave this Earth before me. (I’ve cried every time I have thought of, written, and edited that line.) The funny thing is that I know she loves me just the same.  She just doesn’t seem to share my sorrow.  It’s like she knows, or at least more truly believes, something I don’t.  Sometimes I swear I can see the Universe through her eyes.  

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One of my only hopes when I leave this world is that I can fully encompass so much Love.  

God is Love.  Dog is Love.  

I am by no means an expert in the history of language, but I can with almost 100% certainty say that it is no coincidence that God spelled backwards is Dog.  If only the religions of the world recognized that, there would be no shortage of compassion.

A little more on our Love story: 

When my then boyfriend and I (we adopted her together) went to pick up Pacer (in Asheboro, NC), I was just about as nervous as I was excited—pretty much how I am going on any mountain adventure.

That little squirt was such a beautiful little determined sass-ball from the start.  She tripped my boyfriend walking up to the car, puked in my lap on the drive home, and had us chasing her around the yard from the start.  

When me and that first boyfriend split (I guess we can call him her Dad), it was never a question of whom she’d go with.  I would’ve stayed in that relationship if I had to, even though we had exhausted all options of working things out.  I’m pretty sure he and I both cried when I left.  Pacer probably licked my tears.  But did she know that we were leaving for good?

Pacer has been with me through several other relationships after that, like the one boy I fell in love with, hard and fast, but between The Pill* that left me with panic attacks, navigating a transition back to being a student, and a whole lot of insecurities, we couldn’t make it work.  I’m not sure how much I cried on mine and Pacer’s trip to Cloud Peak Wilderness in Wyoming (I may have still been in denial), but she remained my constant companion through the very literal highs and lows.  

*I am by no means against The Pill or any other method of birth control.  For me they just didn’t work.  And for any guy reading this, go you for wearing a condom and taking part of the responsibility off your partner. 

Then there was the relationship that ended with a boyfriend coming home drunk and angry, her body under mine in hopes that I could protect her from some of the yelling.  She never judged me for not leaving sooner and instead gave comfort by simply laying next to me (plus some incessant pawing and licking) not as I cried from heartbreak but the absurdity of it all.  Then off to the mountains we went again, seeking healing in the San Juans, her never leaving my side even when not happy with my route decisions.  (She has, however, learned to demand rest days.)

The last boyfriend, whom we both adored, maybe loved, but only Pacer could ever say.  Except my internal warning system has never been able to turn off of high alert from the last one.  I can’t tell you if the system was accurate or faulty, only that when I felt my throat constrict and the weight in my chest that I was already trapped in a mix of fight and flight.  All my body could tell me was enough.  Even on those lonely nights hoping for a text or a “like” on Facebook, Pacer just curled up beside me on the couch (unless she got bored with me ignoring her for the computer, and put herself to bed.) 

True Love is unconditional.  We’ve never needed words because we could always attune to the other’s presence.  Or maybe spirit?  Pacer is my ultimate Love story.  

I laugh because that certainly isn’t to stay our story has been perfect or easy.  I still can’t say I’ve totally forgave myself for some of the training tools (ex. e-collar) I used on her as a puppy (instructed by professionals) or some of the mountains I’ve taken her up when she was clearly not happy with me by the end.  And I can still see her little body running through our old house with the veggie burgers I made for dinner locked in her jaw.  Even more so, Pacer has made my life more challenging.  I can’t be away from home for more than 8 hours (maybe 9, but then I feel guilty), I can’t travel unless Sandi can watch her or I can afford to put her in boarding with a trainer who is used to working with reactive dogs, and I carefully consider each trail we can go on safely.  Then there’s the constant worry.  Like right now, her first few steps on her hind leg are tentative, and then she’s fine.  Should we do an easy hike tomorrow, or should we abandon ship (or rather, our camping trip) and head home?  Nevertheless, all of that is second.  Effortlessly, she slid into my life as my number one priority.  I never regret anything I haven’t been able to do because of her.  Because her laying next to me is worth so much more than anything else.

I probably should add…it’s not to say I don’t love some of the humans in my life to the Nth degree.  It’s just that we humans often come with conditions and stories of what Love should be, which makes it harder.  Pacer just is Love. (At least to those who know her.  For those of who don’t—well my friend told me that Pacer has the bite that I don’t always have when I should.)  Together we just ARE. 

Maybe Pacer, and all dogs, have been put into this world to teach humans what Love is.

In many ways, Pacer and I are wild, stubborn or determined (depending on your perspective), and tamed only in the sense that I am Hers and She is mine.

Love,

A Dog and Her Girl

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These Winter Winds

These winter winds

That lay deep inside

Amongst the stillness

They howl and rage

From the northwest

Caressing the mountaintops

An extra layer of ice

Blowing through my soul

Or with my soul

Stirring thoughts around

Harsh against my skin

Awakening the heart

Eventually

They quiet down

Until there’s on a wisp of drifting snow

A whisper

The Earth is never dead

Just resting

Just dreaming

And so She hums

A lullaby

Not into my ear

Into me

I watch the clouds move over a bright sliver of moon

Yes, my own too will pass.

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