'Life isn't about finding yourself, life is about creating yourself' - Buddha


Painting by Christian Shloe

As the saying goes 'a plane doesn't crash for one reason!' So three major life events all happening in quick succession brought my plane down, at least temporarily! At the beginning of this year I was dealing with the ending of a long-term relationship, a house move, and an assault & robbery (don't worry I'm fine now and my assailants were apprehended by the law!) all happening within a few months of each other. While I felt I was managing the first two changes very well, it was after the assault that I crumbled. I really struggled with feelings of powerlessness, which left me shaken and depleted. I soldiered on telling myself I was fine, but as the year went on I felt like a clockwork toy whose key was slowly grinding to a halt. By mid-July I knew I had to stop and just take a breath.

I deliberated about whether to share this story because quite frankly over the past few months I neither felt inspired nor inspiring! Being confronted with the pervasive pain of powerlessness created a separation within me from myself; and a separation between me and the rest of the world. This quickly led to feelings of isolation and despair. I know I am not alone with these feelings. We all experience setbacks and disappointments and one thing I know for sure is that to heal we need to reach out and connect and share our story with our community. I have spent months processing my emotions and this is the first time I have felt healed enough to talk about it publicly. The truth is that living our lives authentically and being ourselves, means reaching out to others and sharing what's painful, messy and confusing as well as what's fulfilling, joyful and exciting. Sometimes change is forced upon us and other times we choose it, but either way it can make us feel scared, alone and exhausted. All of my work is about standing for and supporting women to be able to express themselves and say what's in their heart, especially the difficult stuff. I'm very aware that speaking out takes courage. Being brave is something I have to work on every single day, and I don't always succeed! So, for someone whose work is all about empowering women, feeling like I'd lost my power was devastating (as it is for everyone) and the irony was not lost on me!

So, here's what I did to reclaim my power. I nourished myself with time in nature, time with good friends, and time alone. Over the summer I took time out and connected to my senses, claiming my place amongst the beauty of the world. My medicine included the velvety touch of a rose petal, aromas of elderflower, the sweetness of honey, a blackbird's melody and a golden moon. I read inspirational books and listened to uplifting music, poetry and podcasts by people whose work I admire. I indulged my desire for great writing and storytelling by participating in the West Cork Literary Festival. I worked with a wonderful NLP coach Una Hearne who helped me to reclaim my strength and to rejoice in having a tender heart. I paid attention to what makes me light up, what makes me feel joyful, alive, and excited. I noticed there was a rich vein of poetry running through my healing journey. It brought home, how the beauty of words and imagery drops a steadying anchor into the deepest parts of me, making me feel grounded and connected to a whole universe of infinite possibility.

By drinking from that deep well I have a fresh perspective on my year. Now I can see that it was a REBIRTH. The heartbreak and loss of my old life/world created a pressurized container forcing me to touch those unacknowledged parts of myself that were crying out for attention. By retreating inwards I could hear the quiet voice guiding me through my own creation process. This was unsettling because much of what I heard terrified me with its expansiveness, and I wanted to push it away out of my consciousness. But once the lid has been lifted, it's impossible to forget what we see in our own hearts!

In time, I hope roots of deep wisdom will grow from this experience, and that my new understandings of how powerlessness feels and impacts individuals and society, will inform and enrich my future work. Kindling what is in my heart and soul has sparked new interests, desires and curiosities. These are breadcrumbs along the path leading me to take action in new boundary-pushing ways. One of my first realizations is that I need to express more of my creativity in all areas of my work/life. This self-expression makes me feel whole, at one, alive! An expanded vision for the Inspiring Woman community is one of the deliciously happy results. Some new initiatives include a podcast series about feminist academics, an online course, and more trainings. My power is returning! How I know for sure is because once again I am out in the world taking action, and believing in my ability to make a difference!

So, how has your year been? I hope it has been fun and fulfilling. If you have been through a lot of change like me, perhaps this is a rebirth for you also? Maybe now is a good time to connect with what your body and soul are craving? What makes you feel grounded:- music, art, yoga, or getting out into nature? Ask yourself 'what do I want more of in my life?' and 'who is it I am becoming?' Perhaps this is the season to gift yourself the time you deserve to really feel into your own creation process.

Poem for September: In Impossible Darkness

In Impossible Darkness Do you know how the caterpillar turns? Do you remember what happens inside a cocoon? You liquefy. There in the thick black of your self-spun womb, void as the moon before waxing, you melt (as Christ did for three days in the tomb) conceiving in impossible darkness the sheer inevitability of wings. By Kim Rosen

If my story has ignited anything in you that you would like to share please feel free to drop me a line at (shirleygraham.net@gmail.com). I am always happy to hear from you.:) Thank you for being part of my community, together we are stronger!

Shirley X


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