Birthday reflections


Today I turn 48.  I’ve always seen birthdays as a day to celebrate all of the accomplishments from the year before.  I find great joy in birthdays; feeling special on my own and doing what I can to make others feel special on theirs.  They are a day for remembering and pondering over the year, sifting through memories to see what should be carried over into the new one.  They are a day to honor ourselves and allow others to reach out to us with love and joy.  They are a day to open ourselves up to receive and simply rest in the comfort that we’ve made it through another year.

My birthday is also a time that I look forward into a new year of living.  Even more than the beginning of a new calendar year, it is the time that I set intentions for a new year in my life.  It is a time (that usually encompasses many more days than just my actual birthday) that I think about what I want to embrace and what I need to let go of.  It is a time for naming and claiming who I am and who I want to be.  It is a time for taking the first steps into new adventures and playing just a little bit more.

This week in Florida has been an amazing gift and I feel so very blessed to be spending the week of my birthday at an ocean, on a beach, surrounded by family, playing with my kids.  The place I have always felt the most peaceful, the most able to tap into joy and love is at the beach.  My heart lightens with the sand in between my toes, the crash of the waves in my ears, the smell of the sand and salt water, the endless blue of the ocean as far as my eyes can see.  Every single time I am on a beach I spend hours brainstorming how I can make this a daily reality for myself.  If I ever won the lottery I would move to the beach in a blink of an eye.  There is nowhere else that I feel as much lightness of being as I do when I sit on a beach with the ocean stretched out before me.

This week has also been one of great poignancy for me.  Russell and I first connected because of our love for the ocean and beaches.  The very first thing I remember hearing him say when I met him in our Feminist Theology class in graduate school was that he had a beach spirituality.  Now mind you, when we met he was studying to become a priest. But when he said that my ears perked up and I knew I had to get to know him.  Thus began a friendship that grew into love that led us to creating the family and the life that I now have.

Being here in Florida without him has been much harder than I had thought it would. be.  Oh I knew it would have many challenges, but I had honestly been feeling pretty strong and well on my way to healing and wholeness again.  I’ve been walking more confidently forward, able to have conversations about Russell with friends without immediately feeling choked up, and just able to move through my daily life with more ease.  Pfftt, I forgot that the reality of vacation is a releasing of the tight hold I often have on myself and on my life.  I move through my days finding the ways to keep functioning.  I don’t avoid dealing with things but I have many tools to get through each day without breaking down all of the time.

But on vacation, I am able to relax and simply stay in whatever the moment can bring.  This week that has meant allowing myself the time and space to feel it all.  I am having great moments of joyous playfulness.  Yesterday sliding down the slide off of the pontoon boat into the ocean was awesome and very playful.  Playing cards, napping, being silly, crazy shopping experiences, bloody marys all day if I want, walking across the street to the beach, all joyous times!

I am also, in the midst of these joyous times, missing Russell so very, very much. Tears well up and pour out of me often this week.  He would have loved every single minute of this vacation.  It was on vacations that both he and I could relax enough to let go of all our work concerns and simply be with one another and our kids again.  We were always happiest together when we were in Florida.  It was always as if our hearts would open and sing to one another again.  And oh what a beautiful song we could sing together when we let go of all of the blockages and barriers and worries that living a busy life can do to us all.  As I relax and allow myself to just be in every moment this week, with no focus on working and new endeavors ahead, my heart sings a sad song of longing and missing and wishing that Russell could really be here.  While I do feel his presence, it isn’t the same as him being here with us in the flesh.

It continues to be the most fascinating part of this journey for me, that I walk in this in between place.  I walk between joy and sorrow; light and darkness, endings and amazing new beginnings.  This week, when I don’t have to focus at all on work (thank you my amazing Avalon community), I can allow myself to feel it all in every moment.  I am allowing myself to be more open and vulnerable because I can.  I don’t have to be the responsible one.  I imagine I will return to Illinois a little more raw; in some ways a little more healed and in other ways a little more in need of new healing.  And that is okay.

So I find myself settling into this new definition of myself that I carry forth into my new year of living; a definition I have avoided writing or even speaking out loud very much.  My name is Lara and I am the widow of Russell Peterson.  I am the widow whose task it is to help myself and our children heal and step strongly into lives that we don’t know the way through.  I am the widow who wants to remember Russell with joy and love and light and keep his memory alive for others to know him.  I the widow who wants to live her life filled with and focused on the joys in her life as this is the very best way that I can honor Russell’s memory.  I am the widow who walks in the middle of paths of darkness and light, sadness and joy, confusion and clarity.  This is not the only definition I have of myself, but it is the newest and I walk slowly, ever so slowly, into what it means for me.

From the beginning of this cuckoo luckoo time I have done all I can to remain as honest with myself about what I need for myself and for my children.  I refuse to walk this part of my journey with anything but openness to what it is I need to do in each moment to handle my grief in the way that is best for me.  Grief is a bizarre thing in that even though there are obviously common elements of grieving for everyone, the way in which we grieve is so uniquely our own.  Being honest and direct about what we need in every given moment is, I believe, essential.  For some, never talking about it is good. For others talking about it a lot is good.  Some people need to share their journey with others and some need to have it be as private as they can make it.  All of it is okay.

I share my journey through my writings because it is what I feel compelled to do,  It gets it out of me and one of my deepest hopes is that my words may somehow, in some tiny way be healing for others.  I write for me because the need to write rises up in me like the dragon needing to fly.  There is no other thing I can often do in those moments I feel called to write.  I simply have to get it all out.  And I share that writing because I do believe we are all connected and the sharing of my story helps others understand my journey and might help someone feel not quite so alone in their own journey.

I wish I could stay here near the sand and the surf that heals my entire being.  But since I can’t stay I will simply embrace every last moment of joy I can in these last few days we are here.  I am beyond thankful that I get to spend my birthday here in a place I love and that Russell loved.  He would have been so happy to celebrate with me.  So I will just celebrate extra hard for both of us.

In this time and in this moment, I am happy that I will be walking soon on the beach with a bloody mary in my hand, listening to the laughter of my kids playing in the ocean.  I am happy that it is sunny with gorgeous blue skies. I am happy that I will be eating crab legs for dinner tonight.  I am happy that my family and friends love me in all of the aspects of myself.  I am happy that we have a silly, adorable, wonderful puppy here to play with us.  I am happy that we will play on go carts (we hope) later today.  I am happy for this day of hearing from folks that they are thinking of me and that I am loved.  I am happy that writing is a joy for me.  I am happy to have survived this past year. I am happy for the beginning of a new year that promises to have lots of new adventures as I awaken into a new understanding of who I am and what I am about.

My fight song

This song by Rachel Platten has become the one that I play over and over again every day. As I feel myself moving into to being able to take bigger steps, I feel myself fighting my way back to walking and living strongly. No longer am I taking just baby steps on my path of healing. I’m at least taking toddler steps now, no longer needing to hold onto something solid to make my way through. I’m not ready to run full force ahead and have many moments that I still fall down into a crumbled heap. Some days all I can do is crawl but others I feel like I am dancing through the day. On all the days,  I am fiercely reclaiming my strength and my hope that I am healing.

This past week was a powerful one of reclaiming for me. The return of the sun after weeks of grey and rainy weather acted like that one match that created an explosion of activity from me. I pushed myself for 6 days to prep for Avalon Horse Farm​’s amazing, first Cross Country Schooling Day yesterday. I worked for 5 to 8 hours each day in the heat fixing fence, making new jumps, putting in new gates, prettifying the farm and so much more. I had lots of helpers but some of the projects I took on to do myself because I needed to know that I CAN DO IT again. I’ve felt so weak and out of it for months that I needed to feel strong and mighty and completely competent again, even if just for a little while. So I spent the week doing things that 5 months ago I could have done without blinking. My body was sore beyond belief each day. But every thing I did made me feel like my power was being turned back on. The best was when I lifted a jump that weighs at least 100-150 lbs onto the lawn tractor cart all by myself. I kept thinking I could get help but at my core I could hear myself screaming “No, you need to do this. This is part of your fight song back. This is your way to become strong and powerful again. This is the way to take back your life.” I did get help taking the jump back off the cart, because hey, I don’t need to do it ALL alone. 🙂

I still miss Russell deeply every moment of every day. There are so many wonderful things I want to share with him that our kids are doing and that are happening at Avalon. I do talk with him often in my mind and out loud at times. I picture him smiling at me and that makes me smile. I am finding that it truly is getting a little bit easier. Somethings are harder but oh so many are easier. I can at least function without feeling like I’m trapped in fog all the time. And that is a very, very good thing.

I am fighting and dancing and loving and crying and loving my way back to myself. The words and hugs and love you all share with me and my family are the lighted stepping stones that I follow to keep my heart open. Keep them coming. You’re helping me find my way back.

Healing and trusting: Re-framing my brokenness and fear


Synchronicity is one of my greatest allies right now.  Over and over again, I am surprised by the ways in which things happen in my life at just the right time and moment.  My final dive down into the depths of my darkness yesterday, after a good 10 days or so of swimming deeper and deeper into murky waters, came at just the right moment.  For just a few hours after my dive, I was able to spend time with my life coach/counselor/guide who helped me swim through the deep and start making my way back up and out.  Through some new, very cool guided meditations she helped me start re-framing some of my fears and my brokenness.  And she 100% affirmed that I am exactly where I need to be in this time and in this moment.

Here is some of what I trusted myself (and her) to do and what I was able to walk away with.  I share this because it was powerful for me to start reframing things and I desperately hope that my pain can give hope to others and a possible path out of their own. Plus, writing is such a necessity for me and I need to do it more!

I dove deep down into all the fear, all the pain, all the brokenness.  I allowed myself to feel it all in every part of my being, seeing all the millions of pieces scattered around me.  At one point within this part of the exercise, as I was being encouraged to feel it all, I wailed “I’m afraid to feel it all.  If I allow it all in I want to start throwing things and break all the windows in this room.”  And Ayanna just smiled and quietly told me to let it all in.  Then, as I was shaking and crying and feeling as if my body truly would explode into millions of pieces, she started guiding me to start allowing all of the broken pieces to start coming back to me.  This part of the process was really slow at first.  I couldn’t find the pieces and didn’t even know where to look which brought more tears.  The ah-ha moment came when Ayanna said to imagine my core, my true self made of light and love as a magnet drawing all of the pieces back in.  Then the pieces started coming flying back.  I didn’t have to “do anything”, just allow the magnet to do the work.  All I had to do was stand in the light and the love and breathe.  The rest would happen.  Wow, just WOW!  Powerful, powerful stuff for me!

The rest of my session we talked through much of my feelings of brokenness, fear and also broke down a little more my steps in this time and in this moment that are healing me.

***I am experiencing much of the breaking apart, the exploding of my life that in some ways I didn’t experience early on.  The grieving process is in no way a linear path. It’s as twisted up and with as many turns as any maze.  The first few weeks of this journey I stood so strongly in the center of the Web of Love and Healing I had spun that I didn’t feel very broken.  But now, as I settle into being a single parent, having a bedroom that is only mine, making decisions on my own, I break a little bit more each day.  So I find myself in a new part of the maze-like journey of grieving and it is baffling at best.

***The explosion of my being is the detox and cleansing that must take place in order to be open to move into the new life that is now occurring.  The explosion is very real, very necessary, and part of the deeper, ongoing clearing to become a New me. Or actually to become a deeper, more authentic me.

***This is a time to re-frame EVERYTHING and EVERY situation, large and small, menial and monumental.  ALL of it is new and can be new.  I find this to be one of the greatest gifts of this time.  I am now in a position to give everything in my life new respect, new attention, new focus.  I am in the rare place of being able to 100% decide what my life will look like from this point forward.  I am re-learning what is truly important.  I am attempting to live out of my deepest truths and trust my gut instincts over all else.  If it feels off kilter than I usually don’t do it.  I am encouraging my kids to listen to what they most need and do what feels right to them.  I am trying to trust that when I am ready to make decisions about any new endeavors I will know what to do.

***The explosion reflects the other side – the clear and new side – that someday I will be able to walk strongly and with confidence in.  It will be different.

***I work so hard to be positive and see the opportunities in every situation that I do not allow myself to simply feel the pain and voice my darker side.  I cannot see the light or be light if I don’t also name the darkness.  All of it is part of me.

***The menial tasks that I often find so challenging are my greatest victories each day.  These are my anchors, the things that ground me back into the here and now.  Taking a shower, feeding a horse, putting a halter on, picking up my clothes, and all of the dozens of little things I do each really are a big deal right now.  They help me put one foot in front of another like a baby learning to walk who cruises around the furniture.  These tasks are not any heavier than before they just feel like it.  The minute details of my life are the great gift and proof that I AM DOING IT!  This was a huge insight for me and I could feel the pressure leave my body as Ayanna talked me through this.  To be able to see dozens of victories throughout my day just based on things that just to be second nature is so freeing.  The smallest things can become my greatest lessons in living a life of intention in the here and now.  Each task I complete during the day is a way to strengthen my body and spirit.

***I must work in plenty of alone time to breathe and heal and give myself the space I need to process all that comes flooding over me each day.

***I need to be more clear and direct in stating what I need.  And I need to learn to remove myself quicker and tap out when I feel things boiling up inside of me.

***Grieving is a door way to many gifts.  It creates new places for new solutions.  The problems have changed so I need new solutions.  My life has changed so I need new ways of doing things.  It also gives me the space to be real and authentic .It is a bizarrely fascinating time of wonder and awe as I look at the world through new lenses.

***I must write every day. Or at the very least I must write when the urge comes over me.  I feel so much more connected to my core when I am writing.  Other things will just have to wait if the writing muse is what calls out to me.

Thank you all for you support and holding up the web.  I am feeling you reach out and love me in the darkness.  Healing and trusting that all will be well.  Feeling grateful, grateful, grateful!