Don’t just skip to the end. Begin with Part 1 of the journey here.
I first started writing this when I arrived back home as a cathartic and therapeutic process; that is, a way of dealing with all that had happened. As though I did not learn my lesson about being Type A and have things planned out – I had planned a series in four parts then an epilogue. Even before the after effects of everything could take place I already knew what my epilogue would be like. It would go something like this: I sit here in sunny California, writing poolside. My leg is healing well and I’ve processed all the great lessons I’ve learned from this. The epilogue would be my victory speech in the face of great hardship. It would serve as my forever mantra: Jai Jen!
Of course, I should know, life does not work like that. I’ve watched all my great plans dissimate into nothing more than ideas I had once. I did spend some time in California recovering. The moment that I was walking without crutches and genuinely starting to feel more optimistic about the situation I got a phone call that crippled me emotionally. My grandfather had passed away suddenly. The next thing I know I’m on a flight back home to Chicago – the city I cannot seem to escape. The next week the whole family was thrown into a frenzy of making all of the arrangements for the wake and funeral and going through his things.
We lost the patriarch of the family. Mornings I’d wake up, without a work routine to get back to, without anything else to hold on to. The past three months have challenged every single thought or belief system I ever had. They challenged me to find a center, any center. Without my work to cling to as a crutch, who was I? Was I this yogini when I haven’t been able to fully practice in months since my accident? Was I this business woman when I haven’t worked since commencing my travels in October? Was I this world traveler when I keep getting sent back home by tragedy? Was I even all these labels I tried to define myself as? I saw my familial structure shifting and evolving in front of my eyes. We were a wolf pack in transition, mourning the loss of our Alpha.
The supposed tragedy of my leg could not even begin to compare with the sense of loss I was feeling for my dear abuelo. The grief felt all too great sometimes, I’d go swimming and see a man wearing a chain like the one he used to wear. I’d see an old man at the airport with a cane and think of him. I’d see him in my dreams, silent and stoic and me: wishing selfishly that he’d tell me something of great consequence; that he’d give my life meaning somehow in his death.
The greatest part of feeling an emptiness so vast is you begin to emerge, like the phoenix from the ash, fearless and flying because you’ve got nothing else to lose. Again, I prayed and surrendered to God, the Universe, Spirit, whatever you’d like to call that greater power that you see glimpses of in the moments of coincidence and serendipity. I began to wake up, not with tears in my eyes and this unsurmountable sorrow, but with a stronger will to continue and with the power of my own choice.
When I was younger, I always felt as though there was this great plan for my life (aren’t all little children narcissists, thinking the whole world revolves around them and them alone? Apparently, I was). It took me too long to realize that thing that everyone always says about life being what you make of it. There is great power is making a choice. I woke up one morning and made a choice, and I made it from a great place of power that exists only in the emptiness and not the ego we fill up and act as though sustainable or those identities we wear like outfits and change on a dime.
No, I am not my body. I am not my mind. I am not these supposed identities I choose to wear on any given day. As my friend likes to say: I am Spirit having a human experience. I am my choices. I am a phoenix rising. I am beyond external validation. I am strength. I am resilient. I am a warrior with battle scars and beauty marks galore. There’s nothing you can say to me. There’s nothing you can do to me. Where there is emptiness there is power to create. I am a blank canvas. I am the artist. I am a vessel of light.
This is my victory speech, ‘cept I don’t really believe in victory other than winning or losing is all what you choose to make of it. I realized there was nothing to lose and therefore nothing to feel victorious of. Existence is not a game – in many ways it’s a choice. If we can muster the strength to live that choice boldly, without apology for being what we are at any given moment, to let go of all that no longer resonates through an understanding of honoring one’s very core being, we make a choice closer to happiness. We then become truly responsible for our own actions.
I fear nothing now, not even myself.