On Eclipses

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the concept of eclipses. Anyone who knows me knows I was obsessed with the recent complete solar eclipse that could be seen across the U.S. My little hometown happened to be one of the places where you could view complete totality – the pictures my family sent are absolutely breathtaking.

It is just such an overwhelming concept for me to fathom – we were literally able to witness space in action; for a few minutes the world paused and recognized just how teeny tiny we are, how little control we have, how the moon can block out the sun and there is absolutely nothing we can do about that.

After the fact, there were loads of articles on “the loss of productivity” during those 2-3 minutes, the net millions of dollars lost because people took a moment to pause and look up. As interesting and noteworthy as those articles may be, the truly noteworthy aftermath of the eclipse was put best into words by travel writer and (a personal fave) inspiration guru Jedidiah Jenkins: “..the fact that our country is suffering a divided conscience, a broken heart, and a polarized confusion like nothing I’ve seen in my life…and the sky would go black, inviting every single human being in its path to stop for a few minutes and gaze, is a bit of a miracle, a cosmic gift. And it sliced right across the whole damn country as if on purpose.”

Must we let things go fully dark before we figure out how to (re)approach the light? In a solar eclipse, the moon totally eclipses the sun. There is no half-assed exposure, no smiling to hide the pain, no blanket of light to cloak the rawness of the shadows. This covering can only happen at a new moon, in an alignment called syzygy, when the Sun and the Moon are in complete conjunction as seen from the Earth. That last part is interesting – it’s all about perspective. The planets and the moons are in constant motion every day, but sometimes it takes a physical representation of this to stop us in our tracks and remind us that the Sun and the Moon are a team of forces working within us, simultaneously.

This incredible wonder of the universe was visible to our inconsequential human eye. That is just aboutthe definition of awe. But, as Shannon Ables of the Simply Luxurious Life said, “We can’t wait 99 years for nearly 3 minutes of awe…Do we need to be told when something is significant? Do we need to be witnessing the beauty with millions of people for it to be an event worth slowing down for and savoring?”

I think not. As I’ve moved into a new chapter of my life, I’ve experienced a lot of friction between my “old life” and this “new life.” In this new life, pretty much everything as I previously knew it has changed – my home, my physical location, my family, my employment status, my schedule, the foods I eat, the currency I pay with, my healthcare system, the way I pay my bills, my proximity to the ones I love, the type of life I have to lead. Again, I was expecting this and am not complaining – rather, I’m emphasizing the fact that no one actually really knows what they are getting themselves into or knows how they will deal with the results of their decisions. You can plan and prep all you want, but it comes down to just making the decision and having a strong foundation to weather the aftershocks.

The only constant, as is usually the case, is me. Here I am again, navigating through a tumultuous ocean with the trusted strength of my own hand, the compass in my heart that I’ve worked so hard to strengthen and calibrate.
So if I am not to capsize, all I have in my boat is myself and the love and support of a few beautiful, loved humans who have volunteered as my life vests, to lean into. This life requires a lot of energy, mental and physical, and I’m trying to learn how to expand my days. I’m practicing lunging deeper to get the full experience of being, pushing myself to jump to the next lily pad, even though the last one seemed pretty comfortable.

Stretching out time and breathing in deeply until the sun has moved behind the earth. At the same time, I’m trying to work out the delicate balance of simultaneously knowing when to scale back, giving myself the permission to sometimes just do what needs to be done and let that be enough. How do I know the difference between when I’m pushing myself to my limits because that is the life I crave and when I am pushing myself as a form of punishment or avoidance, when really I just need rest?

It’s a delicate balance. A syzygy. One that sometimes can be seen on the outside, a full eclipse, obvious distress, a physical change. But, as I was reminded by Dr. Jeremy Goldberg in one of his most recent (very aptly time) Long Distance Love Bombs newsletter, “Remember, it’s how it feels that matters, not just how it looks.”

My mom told me that during the few moments of complete totality, the temperature dropped about 7 degrees. It was lunchtime yet completely dark, the crickets came out, the animals went to bed. In the same way, my 180 degree change has made me stop in my tracks and really dig deep – what do I want,what feels right – to remind myself of the winding road that led me here. I am strong in my convictions, and very in tune with my body, and sometimes what I feel inside and know to be true does not match up with what I hear, see, read, scroll through on Instagram..

But, ultimately, it is about how it feels. It’s that connection I crave, that voice bouncing back at me from the dark cave walls. Like the moon literally blocking out the sunlight, forcing the world to pause, sometimes a soul just begs to be brought to the surface – especially when that soul has repeatedly been denied access to the light, has been brushed into the shadows either by its physical human home or other relationships or life events. The only way to recognize when you are shhhsing your own voice is to pay attention to how stuff feels (poetic, yeah?)

Liz Gilbert says an artist is “anyone who walks through the world saying don’t erase me.”

I create because I want to be seen. By others maybe, but also by myself. My authentic self is yearning to escape the stifling, the shoving away, the quieting, that it has repeatedly endured. It wants to feel what it feels, not just when it is convenient. It wants to love so fiercely and feel so deeply, sometimes to an extent that is beyond everyday human experience.
And the incredible thing is, we all have the capacity within us to allow ourselves to be seen. Whether it’s through creating, speaking, connecting, growing deeper in our relationships, leaning into our hardships, moments of awe and pivot surround us every day, if we choose to notice them. There is it again – the balance, the cycle.

I recently read a piece by Connor Beaton, author and inspirer, in which he said “Isn’t it mind-blowing how many of us pay for truth, connection, and reality—but don’t show up when it’s right in front of us?” We crave buzzes and likes and taps as some kind of artificial connection, we drink away our realities and constantly subscribe to new fads, diets, drugs, training programs, yoga classes, and beyond. But if we haven’t already quit/cancelled/dropped out, when we begin to engage with these new things, we are actually only halfway plugged in, because the other half of is busy looping into some new promise of “connection.”

“The worst thing we can do as a seeker is to sign-up for everything and show up for nothing.”

If you crave something, get it. Just that one thing. Savour it. Pause, and then continue.

If you commit to something, whether it be friends or a work assignment or something else entirely, give your all to that thing. Engage fully. Pause and immerse yourself.  The rest of the world will always be there; all of the things waving for your attention aren’t going anywhere.

Serve the people who show up. Show up for them.

And above all, recognize that we all hang in a delicate balance and the moon and the sun don’t really care about our earthy desires – both the Sun and the Moon out there in the solar system and the ones that reside inside each of us, representing our brightest highlights and also our darkest corners.

I don’t know about you, but I am so, so tired of resisting the universe. Of questioning my gut, of caring about how much space I take up in this world. I want to be comfortable with the space I inhabit, to let my voice echo off the walls, to cherish the opinions of those I care about AND to honor what I know to be true. Energy spent on the opinions or thoughts of some colloquial, undefined “others” is energy well-wasted. I’ve spent a lot of time as a planted seed, building up confidence and watering myself with honesty and love so I can burst through my skeleton shell. I want to honor that time that was taken, those experiences endured, by imbuing the time I have now with intention and purpose.   

My life is such a work in progress, but if there’s one thing I know, it is that I am not content with scraping the bottom of the barrel of existence.

This eclipse shook me to the realisation that sometimes you really do just need to let things go fully dark – feel the full gamut of emotion – in order to fill yourself back up with the most energizing light. Just make a decision, do the thing, without knowing how it will play out. But – make sure you allow yourself the space to feel, expect there to be some whiplash and don’t beat yourself up about it.

One of the most cherished pieces of advice I’ve ever received from my mother is, “You can’t pour from an empty cup.”

And maybe life is about figuring out what exactly it is that fills your cup.
Once it’s gone pitch black, once your tank is on reserve fuel, you must take the time and give yourself the space to “top up your glass,” as the people in my new home country say. Jury is still out on how to do this without internal judgement and without feeling like you are teetering on the precipice of an existential crisis, but hey, at least I’ve made it one lily pad further.

That’s as far as I’ve gotten, but it’s something. A well-deserved pause.