Thursday, December 23, 2010

Rebirth [ree-burth, ree-burth]

Renaissance; Renewal; Resurrection; New Beginning

Most faith traditions throughout human history have acknowledged some version of the “circle of life” – birth, life, death, and rebirth. This is the season where Christians focus attention on that concept through the birth of a child, symbolizing the hope of a new beginning for humanity. In the last few years I have thought about this only in the context of Susan’s own birth, life, death, and “resurrection”. But as we navigate through this second year and into a third without her physical presence, I have become more aware of how this concept also applies to me. While I have not “died” in the sense that we usually mean it, a chapter of my life has in fact passed away and I am experiencing a renaissance. I’m feeling very much alive in a very new way. It’s exciting, challenging, and maybe a little scary.

As it applies to me, the “labor and delivery” of my own rebirth started slowly at first, but has picked up momentum. Somewhere along the line a new “me” has begun to emerge – a mix of who I have always been, minus who I can no longer be, with added features of who I can yet become. This “year of seconds” since Susan died has not been without its challenges. In fact, it has affected me in ways I did not expect. Labor and delivery indeed. But I have found my way through it mostly because of Jane and my wonderful relationship with her. Jane has graced my life with new awareness and new reasons to “be”. I think she would say something similar about how the relationship has affected her. Jane and I aren’t deliberately trying to change each other. But by being together, we are doing just that.

A new relationship at this stage of our lives is a fascinating experience. It retains many aspects of the original love recipe but it’s also seasoned with life experience. The result is a tasty new set of savory sensations. And like all new culinary creations, it brings anticipation along with questions. Is this what we want it to be? Is there too much of this or too little of that? Have we prepared it properly? How do we know when we’re “ready” for the next course? And taste-testing along the way yields delighted exclamations like, “Oh my! This is really good!”

One of the major differences in establishing relationships with new mates later in life must surely be what we inherit from each other as part of the bargain. When we’re young and just getting started, there’s not as much life history to assimilate with a new partner. There are the families of course, and that’s often a significant factor. But later in life, there are decades worth of friendships, experiences, roots, habits, children, and “stuff” to absorb into a new life style. This adds both clarity and complexity to the newness. Clarity, because we have a better idea of what we want and need (or don’t want and don’t need) from a new relationship. Complexity, because we still have to figure out how to merge what’s already been established.

The list of changes in our respective lives has grown over the ten months we’ve been together. Jane and I have formed a new living environment with different things in different places, different routines, and a developing set of new shared experiences. They are all inextricably rooted in our old paradigms and inevitably compared to them. Our minds are busy processing all of this, occasionally demanding us to take a deep breath and catch up to the realization that this is all good, and good for us. One of my realizations is how healthy I feel in both body and spirit (and how long it’s been since I have felt that way). It’s not at all stretching the point when I say I feel “reborn”.

I suspect – indeed I hope – that all of us are experiencing some version of this renewal. Susan will never be truly gone from us. She is in fact an active participant – a midwife perhaps – in all of these new beginnings. There is no dishonor or betrayal of her life and legacy. Quite the opposite. She and all of our departed loved ones are a vital part of the new life that is being reborn in us. It is because they lived that we experience renewal in the ways that we do. I really like that notion. Isn’t that how faith traditions view their icons and ancestors? Isn’t that what we’d like to be for those whom we will leave behind?

Just like our bodies are continuously shedding old skin cells and replacing them with new ones, we have a continuous opportunity to ask ourselves: What elements of my life am I ready to release to history? What new elements would be relevant to my needs today? Becoming aware of these things invites epiphanies that can revitalize us.

Birth, life, death, rebirth. People who have come and gone long before us already knew what we must learn for ourselves.

Bless you all in this season where darkness turns back to light as a reminder of new life and new awareness. Happy Winter Solstice! Merry Christmas! Happy New Year!