Back then you didn't take on the world's problems You knew they were there And set out your worry dolls down on your windowsill at night Sometimes you were visited by an elf Who squeezed your hand tight and Told you bad things. But you also played It settled you At day you explored and refined At night the worries surfaced And you knew what to do. If life is about balance for you Where is the play now? ~Nikki, The Soul Reporter
Without the pain
I would not have found the poetry.
~Nikki, The Soul Reporter
My dad got into my bones I didn't know he was there until he started to fade away The other night at Red Lobster he talked about bunnies eating lettuce— the kind on his plate He didn't just talk, he mimicked their bunny eating ways I thought: what is he talking about.... and what does this have to do with anything.... You see, for me, the conversation has changed as my dad's brain gets chipped away by diabetes or alzheimer's— we don't know. He says it’s spiritual, he's going "higher" so maybe it's that But gone is the comfort of bringing him anything and him always knowing the right thing to say or when not to Now I speak and he munches on his salad like a bunny and laughs Later we sit on his driveway at dusk There are the bunnies! They munch on his grass and driveway crack microgreens I see what he means There are two chairs on his lawn— two choices on where to sit and watch the bunnies munch As we watch together the crows caw and he says the crows crow, the squirrels squirrel and, yes dad, the bunnies bunny This is his lesson now He was once an athlete, top of his football and baseball game Then handball It's hard to see the cuts and bruises on his body from losing balance Once a strong, intimidating man—and still so damn stubborn— he now laughs, smiles and attunes to my emotions, even the angry ones about what is happening to him Lou, my dad's name, is Lou-ing, becoming more real As he fades and goes higher the strength and wisdom of him is in my bones.
~Nikki, The Soul Reporter
Tell me how much you love him
Tell me how much you want to leave him
Tell me how he hurts you
Tell me how he loves you
Tell me why you’re afraid to stay
Tell me why you’re afraid to leave
Tell me why you fear you’ve been replaced
Tell me what you still want with him
Tell me how hard this has been
Tell me how this love affair began
Tell me how he holds you back
Tell me how he lets you drown
Tell me how you hold yourself back
Tell me how you let yourself drown
Tell me how you suffer
Tell me everything until there’s nothing left to tell
Tell me everything so we both understand and can move on.
~Nikki, The Soul Reporter
What do you do when the world, at least as you knew it, is ending? How do you grieve that?
For me, a white cisgender woman, it started to end globally on November 9, 2016. I went on a bike ride the day after election night to my usual spot— an “island” on the Mississippi River. Before this day, I’d go there to reflect on my personal trials or to escape them. However, there was a new kind of angst— not only the weight of my personal life on my shoulders, but the collective life. It is not that I did not care before, this just felt different.
I wish I could find the words to express where I find myself now, 6 1/2 years later. I’d like a story or fable that would help me frame it, or to write my own if I could focus long enough and stay motivated. What I do know, what I am beginning to feel is there has been, and is, a lot of loss personally and collectively, a collective reckoning and grief process.
Our primitive brain likes to make it one thing because then that one thing can be fixed, managed or contemplated easily. But we are not in primitive times. These are complex times. We are complex and to think in this way is difficult, but necessary. These days, the loss isn’t just A, B or C, it is the whole damn alphabet and then some.
Just in my own life, I am started to comprehend the losses and how each one intermingles and connects to the others, and as they do their capability of fully sinking me is real.
The sinking has been happening. As I reflect I see I’ve sunk many times. As a teenager I wondered how could one person, still so young, cry so much. As a 50-year-old it is starting to make sense as I am sinking like that again and again.
Yesterday I could not find one think to pull me out. Then my husband asked if I wanted ice cream. In the ice cream line I found myself smiling, then I asked him if he tried the frozen peanut butter cups. Later a stranger approached us, happy and friendly as can be, and asked how we made our “love it” treat. Before this, I watched a small child look up at her older brother, saying “again” over and over to pick her up as she squealed. Once we got our dark chocolate with extra peanut butter ice cream, we sat on a bench outside and I saw the sliver of moon. I didn’t really eat my ice cream because the point was not the ice cream.
On the way home, Neil Diamond’s Hello Again came on shuffle. I cried again, a deep, hurting cry as if I was in physical pain. I said to myself: it’s my mom. She was and always will be my first experience here on Earth as me, Nikki DiVirgilio. Nothing will ever change this. And she, my first experience, has dementia and I miss her. There is a hole in me. There are several now, but she is at the center of them all.
It is weird for me to state this and experience it to be true. My relationship with her has always felt like a loss, but what it is now feels like that sliver moon, it is all that is left and what I had with her was more than I realized. She was a best friend, someone I called to vent to, someone I hung out with. Someone who created a million and one beautiful experiences and distractions for me, for us— vacations, cabin getaways, shopping, lunches, going to the “new” place and buying the “new” thing. Over time all of this became hollow for me, but now, sinking into nothingness, they were the things that kept me afloat. These were the days. That was my mom.
When I woke up the next morning, after several days of sinking, I didn’t care much about anything (balance, right?). I wondered what was the point, especially after reading a Twitter thread stating a very real possibility for the 2024 election. It’s not good. It’s bleak, and it seems the world, including my own, is over in the way I knew it. I don’t really know 1) how to navigate these times or 2) how to grieve or if I even can fully. But the sweater I bought was on my front step. I opened it, tried in on to make sure I loved it, and instead of folding it, tags on, saving it for a special occasion, I took it off, cut the tags, put it back on and decided today is the special occasion.*** 🌙🍦
Be well during this time,
~Nikki, The Soul Reporter
***snippets from a memoir I’m writing…well, several actually.
Sometimes I’m amazed at new insights about myself, especially at my age.
One I just discovered was so deeply rooted, I thought it was just my personality.
This pattern’s motive is for one single use—the holy grail of psychological mechanisms: self-protection.
Here it is: if I am quiet and shut down around someone or in an environment—it is because for one reason or another- I do not feel safe.
I am not shut down and quiet because I am:
a) an introvert
I am shut down and quiet because actually…….
I LOVE MYSELF. I CARE ABOUT MYSELF.
What I needed in order to see this pattern: to—finally—be with people who, and in environments that, create a sense of safety and worthiness.
When I was a little girl, I was just quiet. I kept to myself. The more quiet and to myself, the more isolated and therefore, weird I thought I was. But, recently when I noticed myself being shut down and quiet around certain people, I also noticed the story I was telling about myself: you’re weird and everyone thinks you’re weird. And then the berating: what is wrong with you? Why can’t you just talk to people? Do you think you are better than they are…? (Well, I mean yes, sometimes I do).
But— a stream of high-level consciousness broke through. I connected this adult moment in real time with my child self. I saw my child self do exactly what grown up self is doing and realized: I AM NOT WEIRD. I may not even be an introvert. My little kid self who shut down to stay safe did so because she loved her self.
“It is in the homes and in childhood that the wreckage of human life begins.”
This week, and quite honestly from now on, consider your personality traits, that you think you are just stuck with or maybe even like, could be deeply ingrained self-protective mechanisms. For many of us, in our childhoods, conditions were harsh. These harsh conditions showed up in our childhood homes, in the schools we attended and in the world we lived in. Harsh doesn’t have to mean abuse. It can just mean unkind or not hospitable to the souls and spirits that we are.
To protect ourselves from harshness our wisdom created mechanisms to keep us safe and protected. Mine was to shut down. What was/is yours?
Once you discover it, pay attention to it. Where does it show up? Consider why. Do you have to hang on to it to keep you safe or can you start to let it go? Could it be that you are more than what you think your personality is? Now that you are a grown up, is it possible to be safe even when around unsafe people?
Finding our self-protective patterns can be a tedious task. And some are buried more deeply than others. I am 47, and just discovered my deeply ingrained pattern. But you know, now that I have, I feel lighter. I feel freer. I feel more myself. And, I know I have worked to build or perhaps, uncover, the foundation within myself— a foundation I stand safely on— even in the harshest conditions.
As usual, reach out if needed. I am here to hold space for your stories, your challenges, your process.
~The Soul Reporter
At middle-age, which is where I am, I have been at the edge of the unknown a few times. I have taken myself there deliberately, and I have been mysteriously taken there without warning. I am at the edge of the unknown again. I am going through the shift of no longer being a woman who can conceive. I am going through the shift of no longer being a mother whose duties are nearly every minute of my existence. I am going through the shift of who I am as a wife, and realizing I want to be a partner, not a role. I am going through the shift of being full-time mom, to full-time student, to do-I-want-to-be-a-full-time-employee when really all I want to do is go-deeper-into-my-authentic-nature-and-immerse-in-whatever-is-my-soul’s-intent.
The possibilities of this time of life seem endless. The freedom of this new space sometimes takes my breath away. It’s a time of great unknown and seemingly instability where I don’t know how or where my next steps will unfold. It is also a time I know and trust myself more than ever before— and that is proving to be everything.
To continue reading, visit The Volk online.
The journey is not far. It is expansive.
I went for a forest walk this morning. I entered, expectant. Further along, afraid. What twists and turns might I face? As a woman, would a man try and hurt me? As a human in mid-life, more feelings of loss? As a spiritual being, enlightenment? The wondering passed and my feet on the path continued. The journey felt far, and at times I felt tangled within it with no escape, like that branch above (1). As the path turned I found a paved path. It led where I began. The return was so close, and had always been (2).
Nature can be used as a metaphor for our personal/spiritual journeys. It can be symbolic of our relationships with ourselves and others. Today for me, feeling entangled in the forest, and then to find the paved path to where I began, was a metaphor of my journey. Within the journey are many twists and turns, moments of being snared and entangled, to then being pushed into a clear open space. There is darkness. There is light. There is mess, debris and branches and old leaves everywhere (3). All of this tricks the mind that I have gone too far from myself, from where I began, and will not make it to where I am trying to go. But— my feet continue to step. The path leads to where I began and I see I was never far away, I was really never far at all, ever, and will not be again.
Below are the images and metaphors from my forest walk. Tip: if you’re feeling stuck creatively or worried about where you are on the journey, take your own nature walk. See what you see, how it reflects where you are and how it can be used to provide you with some expression and guidance.
Moss: how I love thee. Had I known I could have made a career studying moss I might have changed my major. Seems to me studying moss may be more enjoyable than the study of people and relationships. #IAmASocialWorker
The Soul Reporter.
3-4 minute read
What’s Your Expression of Change?
Hello September! It is the time of the In-Between. Have you noticed where you are in your life often aligns with the seasons of the year, and the transitions between them? Do you pay attention to the signs in nature that a season change is coming? What about you— what are your signs that change is coming? What’s your expression of change?
Signs of the In-Between
Yesterday, I planted mums while my hibiscus still bloomed. I hung the fall wreath on the door, added the fall lawn ornaments outside, and decorated the inside with ceramic pumpkins. I did this while the air outside was hot and muggy. This is the time of the In-Between.
Here, in the Midwest, where the signs of the new season peak through and life continues to exist in the season that is leaving, can be quite vivid. The first sign I notice are the sounds during the day of the Cicada, the Locust and the Cricket. It occurs to me this is their final chorus before the air turns cold. In the In-Between, there are days that require a sweater or a light jacket and then back in shorts and a tank top. When the heat returns, there is an abundance of bugs: bees, boxelder and lady bugs— their final jaunt before the cold is here to stay.
It is the time when the deep, green leaves fade. Some begin to turn to their autumn color, and others dry up and fall to the ground. The grass does not grow as quickly, the sun does not shine as brightly, yet still brings warmth on one side of the body while the wind feels cool on the other. The days grow shorter, which initiates a sadness of the summer that is ending and the dread of a long winter. But before this happens, there is the excitement of fall and all that it brings: back to school, pumpkin spice lattes, walks in the woods— stopping to take pictures of the colorful leaves, taking a tag off a sweater that was too warm to wear in the summer, a trip to the apple orchard and making apple crisp, and the anticipation of the holidays that follow.
I am in the In-Between in my life. I am middle-aged. I am transitioning from a life of homemaking to a life of working outside my home. I graduated from college. After 3 months, I did find a job, but it is a temporary job. I am working, but also not for long. I am married, but I have changed. He has changed. We have changed. We find ourselves in the same bed at night, but little else is shared. It’s enough to still be welcomed to our in-laws, and enough to have a short fight. But it’s not enough to feel as in love, or as connected and fully together as we once did. We are in the In-Between.
The In-Between is difficult, and full of possibility. The In-Between means change. The activity of the squirrels, who run through the grass and up the trees, remind me it is also the time to prepare for the changes ahead. The squirrels understand the necessity of storing their food in various places to be retrieved in the winter. The In-Between cannot last, but sometimes it can feel like it will never end. Sooner or later, new life does unfold. The changes we desire and the ones we fear do occur. Our body and soul know this. They also know if we are prepared for the changes or not.
If you feel like your life mimics the time of the In-Between we are in, take a moment to tune in to your body, to your self, your soul, your life. Are there changes you want for yourself? Are there changes you fear coming? What does this feel like in your body? Do the changes, the unknown of this time in the In-Between, make you feel anxious? Excited? Calm? Do you feel you are prepared? If not, how might you prepare?
My Expression of Change
I have been anxious during this time. I feel the anxiety in my belly. I experience myself gripping and clinging, as if I’m trying to stop the changes from happening. I notice my thoughts, which try to control and analyze what is occurring. I also know these patterns. I have been here before. I know change is coming, and it’s coming fast. I know letting go and allowing is the antidote to the clinging and gripping, the controlling and analyzing. I know the transition is happening as it should and soon I will be in new territory. I take deep breaths, get still and consider some of my anxiety could be an indicator more preparation is needed, that I must gather my nourishment for the winter to come. I then begin to seek and gather this nourishment to prepare.
Soon the sounds of the Cicada and Locust and Cricket will fade. The landscape will be less green, and instead flourish with gold, brown, red and orange. Fall will be here. I will gain knowledge and new understanding. I will find resources through relationship and experience that will awaken and strengthen me in this new space. The nourishment I gather will be plenty. Eventually, I will thrive. Just as the snow will accumulate in January, so will my confidence. And in the Spring, change will come again.
I wish you wisdom and serenity during the changes in your life and in your self.
If you feel a need to have assistance and guidance during your time of transition, please contact me @ email@example.com. Together, we will create a space of support and a plan toward greater awareness and understanding. For a list of services, visit here.
The Soul Reporter.
You belong. You exist.
This is important to say. You belong. You exist. Exist means: to have actual being.
Very often we don’t receive these messages as children. You belong. You exist. The yearning to belong and exist is deep, deep within us. I might argue this yearning creates everything we have experienced in our lives so far. There comes a point, if we are reaching for it, where we realize we actually do belong, we do exist. This occurrence happens even if our experiences have shown us the opposite.
I just had this experience. I was listening to Day 5 of Deepak & Oprah’s 21-Day Meditation, Experiencing, Creating Peace from the Inside Out. Oprah said, “If it is intimacy and connection you resist, it is love you crave most.” This struck a chord and is a theme that’s been surfacing lately.
Moving into the meditation, the centering thought for Day 5 was, I only feel a need to connect. Instead of closing my eyes as I normally would, I looked up at a picture of me, probably 4 or 5 years of age, sitting at on a chair at my grandmother’s house. I’m wearing light bluish-green pants, a dark blue-green turtle neck and what look like Buster Brown shoes. My hands are folded in my lap, my shoulders are hunched over and my head is slightly tilted to the side. My eyes are bright, yet distant, I have a soft smile and I envy my thick, wavy hair. I think: this little girl only feels a need to connect.
I cannot hold back what’s inside of me. Pain and hurt for the yearning of this little girl. I began to speak to her. You are not rejected. You aren’t rejectable. You are sacred. You are connected. You are loved. You are safe.
I cried throughout the meditation and continued to speak to her. I imagined myself holding her to my heart, giving her a kiss on that thick, wavy head of hair. After the meditation I picked up the framed picture and kissed her face and held her image to my chest and said, “You belong. You exist.”
The word exist felt like truth ringing inside of my being. I made the connection to my pattern of hiding to this fear I don’t exist. I keep this pattern going by continuing to hide. But, now, I know~
I do belong. I do exist. I don’t need to hide anymore.
I look at her now, and smile.
The Soul Reporter