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A special welcome to anyone who is new to The Grieving Room.  We meet every Monday evening.  Whether your loss is recent or many years ago, whether you have lost a person or a pet, or even if the person you are "mourning" is still alive ("pre-grief" can be a very lonely and confusing time) you can come to this diary and process your grieving in whatever way works for you.  Share whatever you need to share.  We can't solve each other's problems, but we can be a sounding board and a place of connection.

It seems like the only time I can write is when I’m motivated by strong emotion. I’ve never been able to just sit down and create at will. At this point, I’m resigning myself to my fate and writing about what I know: grief. It’s been a bit of a tough year for me in that regard. Follow me below the fleur-de-Kos for the rest:

Those of you that read my diaries are already familiar with my most common topic, Rachel.

Here’s a link to the first diary I wrote about her.

Here’s the second.

I also wrote two about my grandmother, who passed away just last fall. Here and here.

This year marks six years since Rachel passed. I’m finding myself a lot less debilitated by the 24th, compared to past years.  I’m certainly still sad, but feeling like I’m moving forward as well. I did several things on Rachel's Day, and it ended up being rather positive. More on that below.

On the 24th, I slept in a little. Just long enough for everyone else to have left. I made coffee from beans that I had recently purchased at The Java House (Iowa City's contribution to coffee awesomeness!). They have a flavor called Icing On The Cake, which I have loved since Rachel and I had started dating. Drank the whole pot. I ruminated over soup recipes from my Progressive Soup cookbook (Netroots For The Troops donation gift!) to make for the evening meal. Once I had picked one, I went to the store and purchased the ingredients. Lastly, I performed a magical working around my grief, then another when I began cooking. The magic part is important, see below.

I recently had a conversation with a pagan elder, someone I trust. He has rather a talent for posing questions that induce thought in me. Many times, I’ve referred to the promise I made Rachel, that I would ‘live.’ I’ve long taken that to mean that I would refrain from killing myself. In the early months and years, that was enough. Actually, it was all I could do. His question to me was: ‘Define living.’

Interesting. That simple question has caused me to have to really look inward and evaluate what it truly means to ‘live.’ I’ve concluded that mere physical existence doesn’t quite measure up to ‘living.’ I’ve outgrown that definition.

Concurrent with (and also predating) that question, I’ve been slowly moving forward with a course of spiritual development. I’ve been part of the local pagan community for several years now, and have been part of organizations that put on pagan festivals. However, I always felt like an outsider. I made some very good friends, folks I know I can rely on. What has eluded me is feeling a sense of connection to things I can’t really find good words for. Some words that might be used are:
1.    Gods.
2.    The Oversoul.
3.    She Who Is.
Without a connection, I was just going through motions. I participated in many lovely rituals, and was even occasionally moved by them. There was no lasting effect, though.

Last summer, at festival, things came to a bit of a head. I was still frustrated, and I decided to take a shamanic journey, guided by some of the friends I trust. The journey as planned involved fasting and sleep deprivation. In the course of staying up all night we drummed and went in search of our Answers by walking into the night for a time. All culminated with a dawn sweat lodge ceremony as a closing.  

I went into it with a Question, and I got an answer to Another One Entirely (of course). It is important to remember O'Toole's Corollary of Finagle’s Law(The perversity of the Universe tends towards a maximum.) I won’t go into details about my Questions and Answers, other than to say that I got what I needed out of it, and got some indication as to a direction I could (should?) take.

Probably as a result of this active seeking on my part, an opportunity presented itself to me to take formal instruction from a group that I already know very well, and trust. Have I mentioned that trust is a bit of an issue for me? Especially when it comes to religious/spiritual authority. One of the things that has held me up in the past has been a nagging fear that I might be hurt or taken advantage of. I want so badly to believe, to have faith. I’m a physical scientist. I’m skeptical for a living. I’m a sexual abuse survivor. I’m a recovering Catholic. It’s fair to mention that the last two sentences are not related. I must make a concerted effort to turn off my Skeptometer whenever I seek to learn spiritual things.

I’m making some good strides in this quest. I actually interviewed with the aforementioned group and was accepted into their Seeker class. The time commitment is a bit daunting. There are daily exercises, and weekly classes and labs(!), plus required rituals and optional events. I’m loving it so far. After lamenting lack of connection, I now have it, in terrifying abundance. I’m not sure which scares me more: that this may subside and fade away, or that it might continue. Rachel would be proud. I’m sure she’s laughing uproariously somewhere at all the contortions I’ve put myself through in this search.

Define Living. It must include physical existence, at least until something else is discovered. It must include less dwelling on things and more doing of things. It also must include growth. It must include thirst for knowledge, hunger for connection. It must include gratitude for what I have been given. It must include a childlike sense of wonder. These can be considered a start towards a definition.

Define Living. I’ve really got no clue where I’m going to end up with this definition, but I can tell I’m going to be working at it for a very long time.

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