We're moving through the "spooky" time of year. Halloween, Samhain, All Saints Day, All Souls Day, Dia de Muertos...all ways of honoring "those who have died yet never, never left" us. This time of year, we are haunted by the dead, in costume, at intentional altars, or in our nightmares.
On Halloween the dead walk among us as heroes and angels, villians, the actual undead, ghosts, and other spectres from beyond our world. The Christians remember and pray for the dead on All Souls Day. Those who keep Samhain know it as the time of year when "the veil thins between the worlds," easing for many days the two-way flow of energy across what often appears as a solid barrier. Day of the Dead brings the culture of feeding and "visiting" with the ancestors, seeking their "signs" that speak to our requests for wise counsel and guidance.
No matter which of these "holiday" traditions is yours, this is the time of year when we ritualize fear of death. Death. We personify it--him, typically. We get him, Death, out where we can acknowledge him, face him. We play at playing Death, using mask, make-up, and puppetry. We fight him to the death with the power of prayer in our rituals. (Irony completely intentional.)
For me, this time of year is an excellent reminder of the authorless meme quote I sometimes see and share on Facebook. Something like: "Today I interviewed a woman who is terminally ill. Delicately, I asked, 'What is it like to wake up every morning knowing you are dying?' She replied, 'What's it like to wake up every morning pretending you are not?'"
For me, this time of year is a significant reminder that I'm dying...and, in a way, have been ever since the moment of my birth. The process of dying IS the process of life. They are one and the same. I'm a being of energy and light, moving inside a body. That body is a piece of fruit. It has a shelf life.
This time of year viscerally reminds me that my body is going through a process similar to the seeding, flowering, fruiting, ripening, rotting, and fertilizing/re-seeding process that is observable all around me in nature. In many other lives, non-human lives, this process happens inside a few months, weeks, or even days.
For us that cycle of life is decades long. We are not that special, for having a long cycle. Other species live longer, so don't get to thinking you're all that.
After the ripening that is parenthood, the fertilizing and re-seeding phase is the longest part of the human cycle, often called grandparenthood. Sometimes these phases give birth to a new line of thought, rather than a child. Sometimes a life composts into a legacy of generational influence, rather than progeny.
Each unique combination of soil nutrients, weather, tending, and blight produces a unique contribution to the fertilizer, creating what comes next. And that's it. Boom. All lives contribute to the circle of Life.
Once I knew--really knew--that all lives have meaning, I stopped fearing death. I stopped fearing Death, too, because it seemed absurd to fear the personification of that step in the cycle any more than those who represent the steps of flowering, fruiting, or ripening. All intended. All natural.
Seeing the meaning in all lives led to one of the most valuable lessons of my life. You ready? It's a big one. Okay, here it is: Fear of almost everything else is simply a distraction from fear of death. Fear of poverty is fear of death. Fear of rejection is fear of death. Fear of "the other" is fear of death, no matter how I define "other."
Yep! All the drama I have whupped up in my life with fear was really to give my Big Fear--my fear of death--something more manageable on which to focus. I mean, why be afraid of any sized bogey man, once you have seen The Man behind the Bogey mask?
Some people wonder how I can, on the verge of my 65th birthday, be giving up most of my assets and heading into the unknown of living on the road, a lily of the field in many ways. They are full of "What ifs" for me to consider. They want to know: Am I not afraid?
The key to courage in the face of the world's realities is to speak this truth to fear's power: "You--whatever I might think up a fear about--are not an ending, but a transition. You are no more or less fearsome than being born, going to kindergarten, getting married, or (for goodness sake!) turning 65."
Assets rise and fall (at least for 98% of us), friends and loved ones come and go for a whole raft of reasons, the wheel turns and circumstances change, and change, and change. Each transition is only as scary as I make it up, dress it up, mask it out to be.
Courage is simply putting away all the costumery and seeing each fear as a doorway, a transition, a point of regeneration, rather than a death.
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I'm leaving for a year on the road in a 24-foot Class C camper, making my way around the U.S.A. as a motivational, inspirational, educational speaker. My first book is available on my website or at Amazon.com.