Seeing an Old Story through New Eyes
by Guest Blogger Katie O’Connell
My mother died 34 years ago. I was 14. Nothing prepared me for the depth of that loss. In my teenaged mind I believed I was almost an adult. In truth, I was a lost child wearing an adult façade, too frightened and self-conscious to reveal how utterly bereft I felt. To cope, I mastered hiding feelings, pleasing others, and staying pulled together no matter how heavy the cost.
I am 48, the age she was when she died. Grief and fear, two steadfast companions on this journey, pool around me as I face this age. Throughout my life, grief has nipped at the edges of my joy and fear tangles itself around my passionate pursuits, choking my creativity and essence. Losing my mother became the context of my life. Her death convinced me I’d never outlive her.
Now, recognizing the threshold I am crossing, I sense a new possibility. Months ago I counted the number of days my mother lived into her 48th year, and that date is rapidly approaching. Crossing that place on the calendar means the loss of my mother will no longer define me. I can live my own life. For me.
This is the most powerful time I’ve ever known.
I think of this as I awaken early on Easter morning. Despite late nights on this family vacation, I’m rising early, called to peek out the curtains, gather my shoes, and slip quietly down to the waiting Atlantic. No alarm clock or child stirs me. It is the whisperings of the universe beckoning, telling me it is time to wake up and participate.
This is not just dawn; this is rebirth.
I walk the quiet shoreline. Indigo-colored heavens retreat as the palette blends violet-aqua-orange-pink. When the colors of a new day become more insistent, I sit in the chilled sand. My body imprints itself as I watch the changing light like an expectant parent. My breathing synchronizes with the rhythmic waves. The natural world surrounds me. The quiet air feels pregnant with color and magic.
Suddenly I remember the sun doesn’t technically rise. We move toward it. Our egos may think the sun is rising, yet it is Earth’s rotation that moves us into the coming light of day. The sun stays constant; we are the ones in motion. Although textbooks taught me this years ago, now I see a metaphor. Each new day happens because we lean into it, move toward it. Only through continuous change do we experience the light of rebirth.
As if in answer, the first beam of light explodes over the sea. My breath stops as my eyes catch the sunbeams. They speak to my heart and soul. “I’m here,” the sun whispers. “Always.”
“I know,” my soul answers. We recognize one another in some ancient way that has always been with me but I had long since forgotten. I am fully connected to something larger, richer, and deeper than I’d ever known.
Further down the shore, a few tourists pose for photos as the glowing orange ball continues its ascent. Yet I remain still. This spiritual connection reminds me I am part of something greater than my story. I am a valuable thread in the warp and weft of our universe’s tapestry. When I acknowledge that, a place deep within me heals.
It is true my story can’t be changed. I lost my mother when I was a child and believed many things as a result of that. Isn’t that true for many of us? Our beliefs can define and restrict us. I’m certain we are much larger than our stories. Being fully engaged in the unfolding of our life’s journey is more important than we could ever imagine. We are all invited to listen to the whispers…the call to participate…the courage to cross our thresholds…and see through new eyes.
A new day is unfolding.
I step forward to welcome the change.
It’s time to write my own story.
Katie O’Connell is a writer, teacher, mother of two daughters, and lover of all things creative and inspiring. Published author in Chicken Soup for the Soul series and also in Sasee Magazine. Katie enjoys anything that nourishes the soul, from walking to gardening to travel. She believes in the healing, authentic power of the written word and its ability to connect us to our most true, honest selves.
She painted the picture featured here, A New Dawn.
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- 2023 Women Writing to Unfold (Taos, NM)
- 21 Aug 23