Burned by the Flames, Intent on Rising from the Ashes

My personal life, my home and very heart, is in turmoil and I am going through some very big changes.

My big changes involve other people and, while I am ever so comfortable blabbering to you about my personal triumphs and failures, I will not expose others to the same public examination. Some day I will be able to talk to you in clear terms about my own Phoenix Process — as author Elizabeth Lesser calls it in Broken Open: How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow — just not yet.

“You and I are the Phoenix. We too can reproduce ourselves from the shattered pieces of a difficult time. Our lives ask us to die and to be reborn every time we confront change—change within ourselves and change in our world. When we descend all the way down to the bottom of a loss, and dwell patiently, with an open heart, in the darkness and pain, we can bring back up with us the sweetness of life and the exhilaration of inner growth. When there is nothing left to lose, we find the true self—the self that is whole, the self that is enough, the self that no longer looks to others for definition, or completion, or anything but companionship on the journey.

“This is the way to live a meaningful and hopeful life—a life of real happiness and inner peace. This is the Phoenix Process.”

So here I am, in the Phoenix Process. It is painful. Sometimes I find it hard to breathe. My breath catches in my chest, fear rises into my throat, a hollow loneliness settles into my stomach. It’s me, peering into the future and seeing only darkness. I don’t have a clear picture of what is ahead yet. It all looks so dark and scary.

My head says, “It only looks so dark and scary because you don’t know where you are going yet. You’re still lost. Be gentle with yourself. Slow down, take a breath, find your bearings. Let’s look at the map together. We’ll find The Way. Don’t be afraid.”

My heart, lying in the ashes, cries. My eyes are closed to the Light. Fear is my companion, sorrow my bread.

Here is the Book of thy Descent,
Here begins the Book of the Holy Grail,
Here begin the terrors,
Here begin the miracles.

—The Grail Legend

Here begin the terrors. The fire burned, and then afterward, lying in the dark ashes, the terror overwhelmed me. But now, at least, it has my attention. I have been sleepwalking through my life, convinced that I was doing and being what I needed to be and going where I needed to go. But I was living a delusion. I was delusional  and complacent—that is until something came along to shake me to my very foundation and awaken me to the reality and terror my own complacency.

In our sleep, pain, which cannot forget,
falls drop by drop upon the heart,
until, in our own despair, against our will
comes the wisdom through the awful grace of God.

—Aeschylus

Here begin the miracles. While I moved through the fearsome fire and while I still sit in the ashes, I know that I am held in the Hand of God. That has been my miracle. And every so often, when I find the strength to look up through my tears, I see the blessings of the fire and find comfort in the ashes. I see the miracle of clear signs, signs of hope and direction; of the gentle coaxing of friends; of moments of clarity, of brief, decisive action; of Meaning sought and of Truth found.

And I am still here. Breathing. So that’s progress, right? I’m ready to find out what I am really capable of, who I really am. I’m ready—scared, but ready. I’m ready to come out of the ashes and into the Light.

Maybe tomorrow.

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~ by Kimberly Mason on January 27, 2010.

9 Responses to “Burned by the Flames, Intent on Rising from the Ashes”

  1. Deut.31:6, Joshua 1:5, and Hebrws 13:5——-I will never leave you nor forsake you. The Lord God is with you. Listen to Him in whatever manner He chooses to communicate with you.Love, D.

  2. I so wish I could just be there to give you a hug! You are a courageous woman…

  3. I know how those ashes taste and smell. It is a hard place to be, a terrifying place to be. But. With every passing day you move one day closer to the light. And. There are lots of us out here to let you know that you are not alone. Sometimes I think that is what is most important.

    As a less-than-stellar fictional character once stated with incredible compassion and wisdom, “I can’t be on the cross with you, but I can stand at the foot of the cross and tend to you.” That’s us.

  4. Oh my. I won’t come by without sending you a note that extends loving-kindness to you. I won’t come by without reminding you to sit with that pain and practice your practice for when the big pain comes at the end, when we face death we can do that, too. We’ll be practiced with deep pain and we’ll recognize letting go…

  5. Hello Friend. Please know that I have been traveled through the dark ages, which you describe perfectly. There were days that I said to myself – I will take only the next ten minutes. For the next ten minutes I will do this and not think of this. I screamed at God. I would go through an entire emotional spectrum in the span of an hour. I lived over three years doing this. There is renaissance, Kim. I know it doesn’t feel like there is and you’re stuck, but it will come.

    I am with you. Walking by your side. Sitting quietly next to you.

  6. I know this sounds ridiculously snotty, but it came to me today in response to a friend’s comment about reading Cynthia Bourgeault’s book, The Wisdom Way of Knowing. So… if you can, even for a moment: don’t brace yourself against it. EMbrace yourself. Don’t brace, EMbrace. And know all of us are embracing you as you embrace yourself. Yup. Gunna be hard — but you can do hard. And we’re right there with you.

  7. PS: I love that you’ve set this up to give each comment a different quilt square. YOU ARE SO AMAZING!!!

  8. When I found out that my husband was an addict, (didn’t even know he did drugs) I was sitting right where you are. Terrified, horrified and angry. The absolute beauty is that I learned I could get through anything with God. Didn’t have that faith before this happened.

    The feeling of looking back and knowing that I was truly in Gods hands and he carried me through some ugly ole crap, has been miraculous. Both excruciatingly painful and beautiful.

    I will pray that you feel his love and protection. And in the midst of whatever it is that is going on, you still take the time to write and pray and effect others!! What a woman!

  9. I have that book right at my bedside. It’s hard to understand unless you have had your own Phoenix Process, but by the time anyone is our age, there are very few who haven’t. I just said a little prayer for you and your family, Kim. My only advice is to take a walk when you can. For some reason, this always seems to help me. Something about walking the earth is reassuring to me when everything else is in turmoil.

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