Thursday, January 31, 2013

Midlife Wonderings

There is an unseen life that

Dreams us; it knows

Our true direction and destiny

We can trust ourselves

More than we realize,

And we need have no fear of change.

John O’Donohue

Winter Sunrise looking towards Seattle
I don't know if it's the New Year, my age or the constant grey weather that seems to have settled permanently overhead but I find myself more contemplative this month. I'm looking back, I'm looking forward and all the while trying to stay present and in the moment. Not an easy task, by any means.

December left me wiped out with the Newtown shootings, my bout with the flu and just the overall heaviness that seemed to be sitting on the world. But as we turned the page towards 2013,  I (always the optimist) was determined to figure out my next steps. As an empty nester, a bereaved mom, a wife, a friend, a daughter, a sister--who am I? For 24 years I have happily walked the journey of parenthood as we raised our children to be young adults. Now that path is less clear and I see 2013 as a time to rediscover my course. My roles have been changing these last few years, and a redefinition has been taking place. I wish that it were just an empty nest that I was dealing with. That's a big enough change in and of itself. But when you add in the death of your child, well it's almost like you are on the fast track. Your world is forever changed and so are you. Now 26 months later, I feel ready to do the soul searching that will help the new path emerge. I want to look at retreats and classes, read books, write, travel and most of all listen to my inner voice to help me figure out "what next?"

So the first thing I did this year was sign up for a series of classes on the Enneagram. Briefly speaking, the Enneagram believes that there are nine distinct personality types, and each type has its own unique capacities and limitations. Through understanding your type, you can become your best self, as well as understand the people around you better. I am not going to go in depth about it now, as we are only three weeks into a 10-week class; but it's already proving to be quite helpful and revealing.  If you are interested in learning about the Enneagram, here's a link:  You can also take an online test to help you determine your own personality type.

I am also excited by the prospects of a new bereavement training at the hospice where I volunteer. Last May, I went through the initial volunteer training at a hospice in Seattle. I chose this particular hospice because they specifically offer a program for families dealing with terminally ill children. I thought that given my experience with Matthew (although he was not in hospice) I could be a helpful presence to families in need. Anyway,  as anyone who has ever gone through a hospice training will tell you, it is a pretty amazing experience. In addition to the actual nuts and bolts of what it means to be a hospice volunteer, you are asked to examine your own beliefs and theories on death and dying. Not surprisingly, the part that spoke to me the most was the session on grief and bereavement. I understood those concepts to my very core and realized that's where I think my gifts lie. At the end of the session, I approached one of the trainers and asked her if they ever had volunteers help out with their bereavement work. She said that they do and last week I signed up for the training that will take place in March. This feels like the right next step on the journey I have started. One thing I know is that I am not afraid of other people's grief and that I am able to sit with someone who is in that dark place.

Finally, I want to share a book that I read over Martin Luther King weekend that resonated deeply with me. Magical Journey: An Apprenticeship in Contentment by Katrina Kenison addresses so many of the issues that we find ourselves facing in our fifties--an empty nest, loss, grief and new beginnings.  She writes with eloquence and wisdom, managing to be transparently honest, without being preachy. With the departure of her two sons from home, the loss of her best friend to cancer, a changing marriage and a more open-ended work role, Katrina finds that she is in the unique position of having time for herself for the first time in twenty plus years. She wonders where to next place her energy. As I was reading the book I felt like I was listening to a good friend talk about all the things one talks about with a good friend. I loved reading her musings and watching her journey unfold.

So there you have it. I've been pretty silent this month on Grief & Gratitude, but my mind has been working overtime. I'm sure that many of you can relate. I'm so grateful that I live in a time and place where I can partake in these explorations. I am also aware that I'm experiencing what could be termed as "first world problems." Believe me, that's not lost on me. But I know that there is a connection between all of us, and by going deeper I may be able to become my best self and figure out my gifts for the next act.


  1. That book does sound good, Robin. And I so admire you for looking inward AND outward - such a difficult balance, but necessary to well-being, I think. Sending love to you!

  2. You have many gifts to share with people, writing is definitely a talent that you possess. Your compassion will help to ease the suffering of patients and families in hospice. Although when my mom died she was only in hospice for three days, I remember how kind each staff member was and how much that meant to all of us.

  3. Hi Robin,

    I am a friend of Debbie and Neal N. Debbie sent me a link to your blog and also recommended this book -- which I will definitely buy today, based on both of your recommendations. I am in awe of your courage, your optimism, your generosity of spirit, and your writing. Thank you for sharing and for helping. Hope to meet you someday! My husband and I, also empty nesters, are considering retiring on the Island, so who knows? Maybe!

    You've also inspired me to consider getting back to my blog -- something that used to be part of my daily routine, but now sits, neglected and almost abandoned. (