“The rejection and disappointment are critical training modules for you…Embrace it. Take detailed notes on the cycles of emotion, the kinds of stories you tell yourself, how you are reacting to others ‘kind words’, openness (or not) to other ideas and connections, how you are diminishing yourself, etc. Bottom line: get curious!”

And so in these Advent days I’ve been trying to follow my coach’s invitation.

I’ve watched how grief comes in waves. I see how much I really do want the grief to be over on a day like Saturday, for example. I see how elated I am when on Sunday I feel better and I believe the sadness is gone for good and I am moving on…..only to wake early Monday morning in a familiar cold dread.

I’ve noticed how just the other day I again was convinced that I was done with the grief and wondered where it had gone hiding….until I received a simple note from a friend,

“Grief is about what we hoped would be. Often when we loose a relationship, we are grieving more for the future which will not come, our hopes, dreams and aspirations than the aspects of the relationship which have already passed into memory.”

Something about that naming of “the loss of a future which will not come” opens me again to the wellspring of grief.

I’ve watched my familiar pattern of dealing with grief by getting stuck in the endless loop of seeking to change the past. Fidgeting in my mind with the possibilities of what might have happened if only I had said this, asked this, showed this. Fussing with myself if only I had been a different person, learned some other skills.

I’ve watched myself step back a little bit from the exhaustion of this “fix-it” mode, this fussing to change what cannot be changed. I have recognized that I do this to try to control what I can’t control and to distract me from what is real – this not-knowing, this grief, this fear.

I know that I have a deeper understanding of what it might be like for those who have faced a lifetime of “not this” in rejections, refusals, closed doors. I have a deeper empathy for how it wears a soul down, can so easily lead to feeling helpless and hopeless.

I have watched myself get mired in this place and I have wondered at noticing how I have responded in other ways as well.

On the day I received the news of “not this”, I wrote a list of all the things I imagined finding in a place like this – all the things I longed and hoped for. All the things that I wanted. I realized I had a clearer sense of my call. I wrote up and sent out that day the news of “not this” along with the list of what I had discovered and longed for. I realized it was helpful to me to share this news right away and not sit on it. I realized it was helpful to put myself out there to trusted friends and share what I wanted and longed to find.

I was rather awed to see how I responded to my grief not by my familiar pattern of isolating myself (as much as I sometimes wanted to do that – as if the word of “not this” and grief is something to be ashamed of and needs to be hidden) and reached out to connect instead. I was gifted with not only empathy for not getting the position I hoped for but encouragement and reflections on what I shared about what I know more clearly I want and am called to do.

Throughout this journey this year I have returned to finding and remembering the “verb” to guide my days. If my verb is “looking for a job” or “losing my way” that calls for certain kinds of actions. Instead, my guiding verb this season has been “discover” which recalls me to that text from my coach reminding me that this season, this day is a time for such discovery. Now is the time to get curious, take notes, watch. In other words, to be in this Advent season – to keep at the walk of discovering because of the anticipation that there really is something here and now and out there to be discovered.

For sure, I prefer the image of “discovery” that’s about coming up over a hard rocky climb and the mountain peak opening in a beautiful sunrise before me. Or the sea tossed sailing ship that spots the sunny island ahead. And this internal journey of witnessing a much more turbulent emotional journey with no clear end in sight is part of this walk of discovery as well.

For here’s the thing – When I am out there in “discovery” I find that I am discovered as well. I am seen, I am found and met by nod and a smile, an encouraging word, a call or a text, a full moon in a dark sky this early morning, a sunrise over the lake on this clear cold day. This day of discovery. This Advent.

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