Everything is Aw-ful

Everything is Aw-ful
20th Anniversary Issue


It is delightful to celebrate the 20th anniversary of Soulfulliving.com. I was thrilled when Valerie asked me to be part of it. It is good to see anything thrive beyond five years. The dedication, the hard work, the time, the heartache, the jubilation, the satisfaction of making something is a thing to applaud. Producing a body of work is a glorious thing.

I could revisit the essays I had written for Soulfulliving. From 2003 to 2009, there were 10 pieces I can point to with pride.

There is melancholy in visiting the past. You can see where you were and what your dreams may have been for the future. In the 10 years since I wrote my last essay, life has been a challenge. You know that adage, “when life gives you lemons make lemonade.” It felt buried under a pile of lemons and I wasn’t feeling positive about anything. Years of workshops, visualizations, manifestation rituals, and vision boards and I was no further toward attaining my goals. And I was in a quandary. I didn’t know what to write for this anniversary celebration.

After all, everything was awful. Wasn’t it? Politics across the globe seem to be more divisive than ever. We are facing a climate crisis of epic proportions. Refugees have truly become people without homes. Social media, which once brought people together, is creating fault lines in relationships. Shootings are happening at an alarming rate. Terrorist attacks are increasing. We are no longer safe in our places of worship, homes, at the movies or out shopping. Yikes.

When I was young, my favorite book was A Little Princess: The Story of Sara Crewe by Frances Hodgson Burnett. This short synopsis sums it up. “Sara Crewe’s privileged status at her boarding school ends when her father dies. Left penniless, Sara retains her pluck and optimism, which attract the notice of a mysterious benefactor.” In the story, after years of suffering a benefactor who happens to be a billionaire, saves her.

At this time, my father had died, and my mother was suffering from Lupus and was in and out of the hospital. I was skinny, cross-eyed and bullied. My childhood would make for a good British series. I absorbed the message, if I remained cheerful, kept plodding along someone would restore me to my rightful place of abundance. I also grew up on the “Prince will save me” stories, so I have deeply embedded rescue hopes and dreams in my psyche.

We do grow up and make our way. Sometimes we are restored. Or we get sick. We even die. Haven’t we said goodbye to many friends and loved ones?

Just over two years ago, when my older sister died her family and beloved pet surrounded her. Earlier with my Aunt, Uncle and cousin present; we ate, told stories, and laughed before they said their final goodbyes.

During this time, my sister was mostly unresponsive. Her eyes had already clouded over, and her life spirit was slight, like a gentle breeze where the curtains barely shift and flutter. Now and then she stirred, and we ran over to her, eager for a last word. But there was no last moment of coherency where she said her goodbyes. I looked for a bright light, a sign her spirit was leaving. What I saw was just the slightest mist around her and she was gone. Her death was as stealthy as a submarine slipping into the deep ocean. We circled the bed, each thanking her for what she had given us, packed up our things and left closing the door behind us.

Without my sister or parents, I was as alone as Sara Crewe living in her boarding school attic. Not feeling plucky or hopeful for the country and myself. My health was not good. My financial situation was dire. Arthritis had hobbled me. I was back into the bleakness of my childhood, untethered and frankly, everything felt awful.

The feeling of dread was pervasive. I was regretful for things not done. There was shame for having failed so miserably. I looked for a way out of this phase of my life. Wanting to be free of the weight of grieving I hoped for salvation. A savior. Someone who would lift me out of this life and save me. I couldn’t save myself. I was broken.

In her short essay, Brené Brown says in part,

In the song “Hallelujah,” Leonard Cohen writes, “Love is not a victory march, it’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah.”
Love is a powerful form of vulnerability and if you replace the word love with vulnerability in that line, it’s just as true

  When you’re down on the floor, the best thing is to stay there for a bit.

Brown continues,

Vulnerability is not a victory march, it’s a cold and it’s a broken hallelujah.

When we’re brave with our hearts – when we have the courage to love and hope, to try, fail, and try again – the result of our daring isn’t a victory march as much as it is a quiet sense of liberation mixed with a little battle fatigue.

If you’re out there being brave with your heart, your words, your beliefs, your art, or any messy part of you – I say, “Hallelujah!”

The thing is that life is difficult. I can look at another’s life and covet what they have, but I can’t know what is in their heart or the pain they may feel. And maybe my path has not been easy. The last couple of years have been tough. And yet, I am alive. I am here. I get up each day and I make my way, now hobbling with a cane. Writing still feels like ripping a layer of skin off. I am tired. I am wistful. And sad. And brave. Each day stepping out is a small (or large) act of bravery. There are scars and I am like a one-eyed dog with three legs and a half of a tail, but that tail still wags when I see you.

I don’t know where you are in life. Are you hurting? Sad? Have you just had a big win? All I can say bravo for making it this far. Things may seem dire around this pretty blue planet of ours, but it’s not all tumult and tragedy.

Everything is awful has been my mantra for some time… the word awful has both awe and pain in its roots, both reverential and terrible. I have been stuck on the awful, but this life is both. I wanted to be saved when the answer was just live.

There was this terrible ice storm. I had to walk carefully over ice glazed streets and sidewalks. It was treacherous, scary. The ice lingered for days and each morning I could see the trees glitter on the horizon when I opened my curtains. The awful loveliness of it all struck me. Fear and awe were both there. There is a fierce beauty that is not denied.

For me, wistfulness is still present. A billionaire is probably not going to assuage my loneliness or my grief. This life remains dark and beautiful. If I have not loved, would I grieve? I don’t know if this is the “right” thing to write. It is what I have to offer.

The journey moves us along and one day we all slip out of this life into the unknown.

We are commemorating 20 years of this website existing and the work Valerie has done to make it happen. Let’s celebrate. It is all so beautiful.

Copyright 2020 Sandra Lee Schubert. All Rights Reserved.

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