Erin Duffy Osswald is a creatrix practicing the fine and healing arts. She leads sacred circles, celebrates rites of passage and guides personal spiritual metamorphosis. She is a ceremonialist specializing in Earth Medicine Practice. Erin enjoys a reverent life under the Big Sky of north central Montana. She writes at The Telling of the Bees.
I broke my own heart recently by falling head over heels in love with what I thought was the perfect idea. This great love propelled me to take an enormous chance and it convinced me so thoroughly of it’s beauty that I never really believed I could fail, but the risk didn’t pay off and I floundered in my denial for longer than I enjoy admitting. I was so lost because in the end I couldn’t bear to bury my dead dream. I cried through an entire season until one morning I woke up and somehow started to gently let go. I wish I could say I was propmpted by something heroic, but in actuality the pain I had been carrying was crushing me. I had to set it down. I was legitimately terrified by the emotional landscape I found myself in and for weeks I wrestled with one thought, “What in the hell have I done to myself?!” Initially, the concept of ever taking another risk seemed impossible to me, so I struggled for months learning how to take my lumps (accept my loss) and still get back in the saddle again (eye on the prize, darlin). If I was going to come out of this emotional nightmare of my own creation intact, I was going to have to mine the lessons out of my loss.
Courage was required to take the risk and courage is what it has taken to heal my bruised heart. The root of the word itself comes from the latin Cor, meaning heart and does it ever take heart to live! Yes, we literally need a heart to pump oxygen rich blood through our body to keep our organs functioning and our bodies alive, AND we need it to be brave enough to keep showing up for LIVING, especially when we’ve taken some hard fucking tumbles. Our job is learning to tend the flame of our heart artfully and expertly so we do not consume ourselves with too much passion or snuff ourselves out through inattention. Having bravely searched out the trick to this balance, my priority remains keeping that flame burning slow and low in the aftermath of what the master class in life I just put myself through taught me.
There were days during my depression and recovery period when I just wanted to retreat to a nice hidey-hole and never come out again. My grief was only outpaced by my shame. Not only did I have a gaping hole in my chest (and by extension, my life,) there were also a handful of people who even knew about the risk I had taken. I thought, for certain, that risk taking and BIG living were no longer options for this gun-shy lady until I realized that I’m probably not old enough to be dead yet. This is the kind of thing one can learn in a hidey-hole because there is literally nothing in there except fear, delusions and mean voices who say the stupidest, most untrue things.
Somewhere along this journey, by the grace of the Gods I decided that I would continue to show up and feel and be and do this thing called life. That I wouldn't shrink from opportunities to grow and learn. I doubled down on my commitment to keep embracing the life I have and quit holding on so tightly to the life I’ve been dreaming of. I arrived at a place of trust in the unfolding of my process and in the knowing of my inherent bad-assery (one more level up on my shadow dancing). In short, I decided that my heartbreak would not break me and somehow I would eventually be ok. I was changed by this experience, but I lived to tell and the nuance I've gained makes my life fuller. Not easier, but, richer.
It was only natural that the careful tending of my own heart would become paramount this past summer as the season of the Lion unfurled. The most precious seed I had planted at Imbolc did not sprout and I would not be rewarded with it's harvest this year. Not everything we sow will actually grow, this is sometimes the way of things and disappointment is always an appropriate response. The brave energy of Leo encouraged me to share my full heart, the joy and the sorrow and it reassured me that others vulnerability endearing.
Slowly, I began to open up about my grief, first only to myself, but eventually I could admit my pain to others. As the sun’s arc drifted south and traversed through the zodiac I was delivered, predictably, to a healing crisis as the sun entered the sign of the Virgin Priestess. It was during the month of the Virgo sun that I came to the safe harbor of acceptance. Casting out denial was imperative to my ability embrace beauty and possibility again which, thankfully returned as my sense of balance was being restored as the season of Libra dawned.
My heart has recovered enough to appreciate the ALL of what I have put myself through this year. As I make preparations for Samhain these hard won lessons serve as my strongest motivation to release my grasp when I feel myself reaching for a tentacle of my dead dream to hold on to. This year of bitter disappointments comes to a close and I remind myself it opens again just as quickly. I clear the space in my heart, made stronger by knowing how just how far it can stretch, and I cultivate faith that my heart's desire will somehow come to pass. It will be safe to risk again if I truly, fully, deeply and totally let go of how my most cherished dream could manifest. I know that in clearing the detritus out of my emotional space I make the way for infinite possibility, but if I hold on to stagnation, nothing new can ever grow. It is a paradox, but one I have faith in. I believe in the magic of the cycle of transmutation, from death all new life is reborn.
To never have risked at all would not have saved my precious heart from breaking. That would have only been a slow and cowardly way to let myself down irredeemably, ultimately leading to a far greater loss, that of my own self respect. No, I did not hit the mark I was carefully aiming for and it’s arguable that my grasp exceeded my reach in the pursuit of this deep desire, but if I had never even tried I could have spent the rest of my life wondering about so many things. In the end, there is solace in knowing the outcome even if it wasn’t the one I wished for. It is no small thing to say I tried.