Tag: Healing

Nine Years Later

Nine Years Later

I’m sitting down to write post-sunset as the clear sky begins to darken. The surface of the river is like glass and perfectly reflects the leafy trees and sky. The birds are singing their goodnight songs. Other than that, and some traffic passing by (less than usual, though), the world is quiet – feels hushed, sacred.

Nine years ago tonight, in the wee morning hours, my mom passed away. I never forget to acknowledge and remember the night of May 26-27.

Earlier this evening, I walked at the park down the road and noticed the first of the purple irises are in bloom, just as they were nine years ago this evening. But back then, I wasn’t aware it was iris time because I was camped out at the hospice house. No time for nature walks, for every moment was poignant, full of mystery, not to be missed. We gathered in.

At the park, I stopped to smile at and lightly touch the soft petals of one of the irises, recalling how they were the first flowers that greeted me at the park – the first place I felt compelled to go – after leaving the hospice house in the morning, several hours after my mom died.

A colorful sunrise, purple irises, and a butterfly were there to uplift my spirits that first morning without my mom – evidence that there was still so much beauty and predictability in the natural world even when our human lives felt turned upside-down and suddenly unfamiliar. In my mindfulness meditation classes, I describe it as taking refuge in something larger than the circumstances of our lives.

The labyrinth at the park was my refuge that day.

Nine years later, the evening of May 26 remains a tender time of reflection. Tonight, I’m thinking of all that has transpired since that evening, including having a seven-year-old granddaughter and awaiting the arrival of a grandson. Sometimes in dreams, I try to catch my mom up on what happened since she left. Usually when I dream of her – in those dreams that seem uber real – I learn that she hadn’t died after all. All that time, I thought she had, but no – it wasn’t true! She’s back – and it’s the most wonderful feeling. Because I’ve learned to appreciate her.

* * * * * * * * *

Yesterday, my husband and I were about to drive past the street my parents lived on for 37 years, when I had an impulse to turn into the development. In the six years since we sold the house, I’d never seen anyone outside during the occasional drive-by. However, this time a man was sitting on the front porch and flashed us a peace sign as we drove slowly by. My husband urged me to stop so we could introduce ourselves. It seemed like a good idea, so I did.

We ended up talking with him for quite a while, sharing stories of the house and the neighborhood and how both had changed in the past several years. It felt good to make the connection and know who was living in my family’s old house and a little about their story.

* * * * * * * * *

Earlier this week, another significant thing happened. My very pregnant daughter and I went into my storage unit to retrieve something and noticed two plastic bins of clothing. Curious, we opened them and discovered all of the dresses my mom had made for my daughter when she was in early elementary school.

I decided to wash them and see if they would fit my granddaughter.

Inspecting them prior to putting them in the washer, I was drawn to the tags hand-stitched into some of the dresses that read, “Specially Hand Made by Grandma”. The sight of the tags brought tears to my eyes. But it was a very different wave of tears than when grief was fresh. Deeply touched by my mom’s kindness and generosity, I simply marveled at how she loved us.

Nine years later, that’s what remains.

* * * * * * * * *

When she was alive and we were enmeshed in our mother-daughter roles, and it seemed like we’d all be around forever, I couldn’t see how much love there was, and how much larger the love was than the roles and all of their implicit rules and unspoken needs. I was more focused on our differences and trying to get my mother to understand me and approve of the choices I was making and what I wanted to do with my life. I often felt frustrated because I couldn’t change her – the way she saw the world – and she probably felt much the same. Not because she believed I wasn’t good enough, but because she wanted me to have a good life.

This is something that has become crystal clear to me in the past nine years. 

Every year it (grief?) sneaks up on me at some point during late May. But as the years go by, it feels very different – in a good way.

I feel drawn to write this for the moms and grandmas who wonder if they’ll ever be appreciated. Sometimes it happens after we’re gone. The human condition is messy, and it’s often hard to see the fuller truths of each other when we’re immersed in life, roles, and relationships. We perceive each other through the warped lenses of our egos and roles (and sometimes others’) and turn partial truths into broad assumptions, stories, and caricatures. We have relationships with our ideas of who someone is instead of with the actual person. We do the best we can. It’s the way it is.

But it doesn’t have to be the way it remains, and sometimes it’s death that opens our eyes to the wider picture. Friends share loving memories, and you begin to realize there was much more to this person than the relationship you had with them. The walls you built to protect your ego from perceived (and perhaps well-intended) threats begin to come down because they no longer serve a purpose. You don’t shame yourself or dismiss the way you felt – you just understand more, and the feelings naturally change, kind of like how wine ages.

At least, that’s been my experience (though honestly, I don’t know anything about wine).

I also write this for those who still have their moms – a little postcard from the future.

And for those newly bereaved, I’m offering hope, for grief mercifully doesn’t stay the same.

* * * * * * * * *

I washed the dresses and put them on the line to dry. And I thought: That’s a whole lot of love there, stretched across the back yard.

I marveled some more. And took a few pictures. A huge ball of sunlight showed up, no matter how I angled the phone camera…and it seemed to complete the picture.

The next evening, I took the bin of dresses to my daughter’s home. My granddaughter met me at the door and was thrilled when I told her what I brought for her. About a third of the dresses fit her, and she exclaimed into the air, “Thank you, great-grandma!”

I wish I’d realized sooner that all of those handmade dresses were in storage so she could have worn more of them. But she wore her favorite one to school today. And I love that my granddaughter feels connected with the great-grandmother she never met. They would have been two peas in a pod.

* * * * * * * * *

In the morning, I plan to buy some vegetable plants for the garden. It’s been bothering me that I haven’t planted anything yet. But now I understand why. My mom loved working in her garden. She grew roses and tulips and trained morning glories to grow upright. There were lilies of the valley, bleeding hearts, a lilac bush, a little herb garden, and more. There were countless summer days when I pulled into my parents’ driveway and found her gardening.

Yes, there are the memories from nine years ago. But there are so many more memories of May 26-27 throughout the years when you’d find her working in her garden. What better way to observe her angelversary than to work in mine? We might be inclined to grow different things, but that’s okay. 


© 2023 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this post or excerpts of it as long as you give proper credit to Susan Meyer and SusanTaraMeyer.com. Susan Meyer is a photographer, writer, and spiritual teacher who lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

Photographing Flowers

Photographing Flowers

Yesterday was my mom’s seventh angelversary: the seventh anniversary of her passing from this world into the great unknown. 

And all is well.

Better than well, actually. Because the aliveness and vitality of this time of year now overshadow the 2014-2015 memories of dying and grieving. 

The month of May, once again, is more about life than death, partly because of my flower friends: the whole parade that begins with daffodils and in the past couple weeks has included lilacs, lilies of the valley, and irises. Every spring, they show up and reliably and unknowingly support me and gladden my heart. 

At the end of my mom’s life, flowers, friends, and family are what mattered most. That year, I made it my mission to surround her with flowers and news of what was happening in the flower world. When she was strong enough, we walked around the house looking at her flower beds, and I hoped she’d be able to see some of her flowers bloom. The flower parade was how I measured time that year. 

When she wasn’t strong enough to go outdoors, and her universe narrowed down to the sofa and coffee table in the living room, I showed her my photographs of flowers. I also kept vases of freshly cut lilacs around her.

The rest of my flower memories of my mom were much happier ones. All my life, she had flower gardens. She wasn’t much of a nature girl in other respects, but she loved tending to her flowers. Memories of my mom and an abiding connection with her come strongly through flowers. 

Lilies of the valley: Tiny fairy bells with an intoxicating fragrance that transports me instantly to my childhood. My swing set was right next to a flower garden that featured lilies of the valley. The memories are so strong that they could convince me the delicate blooms lasted all summer. But that’s just how big an impression the fragrance made and how closely I must have studied them after my mom pointed them out to me.

I also remember the joy of picking some for my mom, who loved the fragrance. What joy to be a young child noticing a flower and seeing it as an opportunity to make someone happy. Picking it. Feeling the anticipation of gifting it. Seeing happiness brighten the recipient’s eyes and spread into a smile. Do you remember?

Yesterday morning, my mom’s actual angelversary, I woke up knowing exactly what I wanted to photograph.

The morning she died, after leaving the hospice house, I drove straight to the labyrinth – my sacred refuge – and was greeted by irises. They were there for me that morning, uplifting me, and they are here for me every May 27th.

I didn’t pay much attention to flowers while my mom was alive (until the last few years of her life). That was her thing. For my dad, it was birds. Those are the languages in which they speak to me even now. The first messenger was irises. From day one, irises were there to connect me to the goodness and beauty in the world when I needed it most.

And so I immersed myself in photographing irises on my mom’s angelversary and reflected on how her love of flowers had become integrated in me and how it has awakened me in many ways and deepened our connection. 

In Beauty: The Invisible Embrace (2005), John O’Donohue wrote:

The dead are not distant or absent. They are alongside us. When we lose someone to death, we lose their physical image and presence, they slip out of visible form into invisible presence…Though they cannot reappear, they continue to be near us and part of the healing of grief is the refinement of our hearts whereby we come to sense their loving nearness. 

It feels to me that when we engage or connect with something our dearly departed one loved, we draw them near. 

After photographing the irises, I walked the labyrinth and declared inwardly something my heart had known all along: All of my flower pictures are dedicated to my mom (except for water lilies, which are my thing.) When I photograph flowers, there is no separation between myself and my mother’s essence – which has become part of me. It’s almost as if I can see through her eyes.

Which is why all is well seven years later. And I make lots of photos with flowers.


© 2021 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this post or excerpts of it as long as you give proper credit to Susan Meyer and SusanTaraMeyer.com. Susan Meyer is a photographer, writer, and spiritual teacher who lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

What’s Going on Inside This Heart?

What’s Going on Inside This Heart?

Here we are in the uncharted waters of December 2020. It was dark when I woke up this morning at 6:45 and checked in with my heart. What’s going on in here? What’s the weather like inside this heart?

It feels a little weary, to be honest. Weary from one encounter after another over the past several months with people I assumed were “on the same page” and seeing the world through a similar lens, only to discover that’s not the case at all.

I remember back in March when we absorbed one shockwave after another as we moved into and adjusted to shutdown mode. It feels a little like that. But this time, it’s more about digesting realities about the stories we’re buying into that have solidified throughout the year, and how to be in relationship with one another when those stories differ radically. 

I keep reminding myself we’re in uncharted territory, and everyone is doing the best they can. I try to catch myself and shake off the seductive stories before they have a chance to settle in. Daily.

Earlier this year, things were moving so fast, and it seemed every week served up a different theme. At some point, themes didn’t seem to be so much of a thing. It just felt increasingly chaotic. But now I’m feeling another theme arising. In a nutshell, it feels like our country is divided into perceptions of government/authority being either protective or controlling. Maybe that’s a huge overgeneralization. But it was what I saw when I stepped into my heart yesterday and asked the question I ask many times a day: WTF?

The theme I’m digesting now centers on rebuilding, reconnecting, and caring about people who see things very differently. How to live in a world with so much difference of opinion and clinging to compelling narratives. (Are they fact or fiction? Or a mixture of both?) How to live in a world in which it seems so many people have been drinking the Kool-Aid, so to speak. People who would think the same of me. People I’ve known and respected for a long time. And still do.

Even though I catch myself repeatedly, to have that reaction in the first place… This is new to me. It’s an adjustment, a revelation. And it’s often uncomfortable. In this heart of mine, connection is more important than being right. So I listen and try not to offend. I try to understand what’s below the beliefs and find some kind of caring beneath it all.

Sometimes it can feel overwhelming, especially if you’re a “feeling” type. And if you’re not getting enough sleep.

The Power of Presence

When we get hijacked by emotions, awareness (a.k.a. mindfulness) gives us options. This happened to me when I was driving home yesterday. Realizing I was hooked in an addictive storyline that I called out as “romanticizing”, I surveyed my options and decided I could take a deep breath and blow it out, blow it along, release what doesn’t serve. Then it wouldn’t get stuck in me like fluffy seed fairies dispersed into the air looking for a place to land and take root.

The breath can be really powerful like that. It can blow those story seeds along, saying Not Here. With mindfulness, we can notice what’s going on and choose the seeds we allow to grow in our garden and what to do about the stubborn, subterranean root and rhizome systems that started a long time ago.

With mindfulness, every moment is an opportunity to choose what’s most important and what’s best (which can change). We can choose to get stuck in a limiting personal narrative or to step out of it. We can choose to drop down into something much deeper: a field of being I call Presence.

Dropping into presence actually saves a lot of time because you realize what is and isn’t ultimately important, and a lot of stuff you thought was important just falls away. Here, fresh ideas, insights, solutions, and perspectives are accessible. And lovingkindness.

I sense that all the division we’re experiencing in the world around us at this time and confusion about who or what to believe is ultimately calling us inward, to our our deeper wisdom, which is very, very different than sorting things out in our head through thinking and analyzing or being brainwashed by media. (If you haven’t watched The Social Dilemma, I urge you to.) 

Asking for Help

When we are caught up in the lower, addictive energies of a storyline, we also can ask for help. Especially when we’re tired and don’t have the energy to drop down deeper.

One evening this week, before falling asleep I asked for help. I had gotten triggered and was having trouble getting unhooked – like when those prickly hitchhiker seeds get caught on your clothes, and it’s really hard to get them off. Authentic movement (which is a new thing for me) has become my go-to for releasing and expressing emotional energy. But I was too tired to dance or meditate that evening. So I sent out an earnest S.O.S. to Unconditional Love (spirit guides, angels, ancestors, higher self, etc.). And I ended up having a very interesting dream.

I dreamed I was able to cross the border and visit Eckhart Tolle in his home in Vancouver. We were in his living room, which was modern and spacious. I was drawn to the patterned flooring, which I found lovely. I told him I was grateful to be in his Presence (“with a capital P”), meaning the pure presence coming through him.

I woke up feeling I’d received an energy upgrade in my sleep! I felt totally different.

Then I wrote down the words going through my head and put them on the image that came to mind. 

The image is of the octagonal apex of Inner Light Lodge at Light on the Hill retreat center. I spent the past few years doing a lot of inner growth work in that building with my Hidden Treasure tribe. As I worked on the image, I noticed the roofing of the protruding structure was very similar to the flooring in my dream – which took it to another level, literally!

So we can ask for help. Help that I’ve learned is always available if we can open ourselves to it.

Step out of the storyline, drop into presence, and see what’s there. Ask for help when you need it. This is my advice for these times, which I give myself daily.

What’s the weather like inside this heart? Feels more like peace now…because the energy was channeled into these words.

May we all find constructive ways to channel and release the energies coursing through us. And inspire one another to connect with our deeper wisdom and compassion, which is so much richer than any personal or collective narrative.


© 2020 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this post or excerpts of it as long as you give proper credit to Susan Meyer and SusanTaraMeyer.com. Susan Meyer is a photographer, writer, and spiritual teacher who lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

The model pictured is Hannah Zlotnick, https://www.anandagaia.com/ .

Dear World

Dear World

Dear World

Sometimes I hold back
Because I don’t believe you want
To let go of your comfortable distractions 
And awaken.

And then I feel lonely
Believing you’d rather numb out
Than risk being intimate 
With what is most important 
And with me.

It feels like rejection.
And it hurts.
So I put my imagination to use
Creating stories
And have become quite the storyteller.

But it’s not enough, is it?
Crafting stories around illusions 
And assumptions of smallness:
Yours and mine.
It’s not how I want this life to end.

What vulnerability causes us
To give up so easily on one another
And to be content with this longing
To love and be beloved?
This longing for connection.

Can you see?
The scared, wounded part
Is not in the way.
It is the way
From longing to the belonging
Each of us seeks.


© 2020 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. You are welcome to share this poem as long as you give proper credit to Susan Meyer and SusanTaraMeyer.com. Susan Meyer is a photographer, writer, and spiritual teacher who lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

What Would Love Say?

What Would Love Say?

I only take in current events in small sips. It’s all my sensitivities can handle. Touching in briefly a few times a week is plenty for me. I don’t watch the news at home, but when I go to the gym, headlines flash on multiple television screens, from different sources. But it’s pretty much the same: angry-looking heads and talking heads talking about why everyone’s so angry, sandwiched between commercials designed to make you feel not-good-enough without whatever product or service they’re selling.

From where I stand, it looks like a lot of unmet needs creating lots of fear and suffering. We are the walking wounded, walking around wounding, whether we realize and intend it or not. We’ve all been hurt in some way and often don’t even know how we are wounded and what deeper longing lies beneath the veneer of our various cravings, addictions, and aversions.

My mother was an appearance-conscious stewardess during the golden age of flying, and I experienced a wound in childhood that set me up for a life of self-consciousness and suffering. She couldn’t possibly have foreseen how deeply her words – intended for my benefit – would hurt me. She, too, had been wounded, in a different way, and I have tremendous compassion for her. The person who wounded her did so out of their own woundedness. And so it goes. It’s the human condition, what we’re given to work with and evolve from.

How would our view of others and our interactions with them – the quality of our hearts – change if we could see people as walking wounds crying out: Love me! Assure me that I’m good and worthy! Even the ones who seem so full of themselves.

How would our relationship with our self change if we could see our own wounds as being rooted in innocence? And if we could see the wounds we’ve inflicted on others as being rooted in ignorance rather than inherent badness?

Have you ever held a baby in your arms and soaked up their radiant innocence?

Have you ever been held in the arms of someone who sees that in you and loves you unconditionally – perhaps a grandparent? If this person were around, what would they say to you now? What do you most need to hear? What would set your heart free?

If Love could speak, what would s/he say to you? And what difference would hearing it make in your life/heart/mind/relationships? 

Well, I did a little exercise (inspired by author Elizabeth Gilbert) that you can do, too. I reached out to Love and then wrote down what Love said to me. It went something like this:

I’m right here, sweetheart.
I will be here for you
No matter what you look like
Or how much you weigh.
You don’t have to try to be
More special, successful,
Popular, or prosperous.
There’s nothing you need
To be or do
To be worthy and beautiful
And forgiven for everything
You’ve not forgiven yourself for.

I will never abandon you.
There’s nothing I need from you,
And there’s nothing you could do
To lose me. I’m with you
When you get stuck
In the painful trap
Of conditioning and fear
And fall short of who
You want to be
And find it so hard
To accept yourself.

When you lose sight
Of who you really are,
I remember and hold up a mirror
So you can catch a glimpse
Of yourself as I see you
And love yourself enough
To draw healthy boundaries
And shine.
But I also hold you dearly
When you feel too tired to shine.
I’m here when you stand tall
And when you fall.

When you are in need,
Call upon me and hear
The words I whisper constantly
Into your heart:
You are not alone.
I see you, and you matter.
You don’t have to prove your worth;
You already are enough.
I am always here.
You can draw strength
From me.

I’ve reread these words several times since channeling them and realized two things. First, what I’ve tried to do and be for others (the mirror) is exactly what I most needed, myself. Second, this is exactly how I feel about my four-year-old granddaughter and what I’d want to say to her every day for the rest of her life – though the third and fourth lines would be different and address her own inevitable wounds.

I’d be willing to bet that these are the words my own grandmothers would say to me if they could. And that makes the words very real. Not just some wish-fulfilling fantasy but a message that grandmothers and others who are capable of loving in the purest, most unconditional sense would want to imprint on dented hearts.

The good news is that we can fill ourselves up from within so we don’t walk around so needy. So we can love ourselves and others better. It’s a form of activism that feels important to me.

How would the world and each person in it be different if we reached out to Love every day and heard what we most needed to hear before even leaving the house or interacting with anyone else?

What would Love say to you?

P.S. – The night after doing this exercise, my mother came to me in a dream for the first time in quite a while. In the dream, we hugged for a good, long time. I felt her love and warmth, and surely she felt mine. It was the first time I’ve experienced a dream-hug with my mother (who passed away nearly six years ago). And it was wonderful. Totally filled me up. I went through the day shining brightly and radiating love.

We can do this.

And if you’d like to hear the words Love spoke to me, then listen here. I recorded this for you.

 


© 2020 Susan Meyer. All rights reserved. To use any or all of this article, include this exactly: Susan Meyer (SusanTaraMeyer.com) is a photographer, writer, mindfulness meditation teacher, clutter coach, and Reiki practitioner who lives on the Hudson River in Upstate New York.

Let's Stay Together!

Join my mailing list to receive the latest articles, updates, and offerings. Don't worry: I won't spam you or share your info with anyone!

You have Successfully Subscribed!