Designing Wholeness In Life, by Only A Designer

As a designer, I have the privilege, the responsibility, the glory – and sometime the difficulty – of being invited into a client’s home. Their inner sanctum. It is a great responsibility. And so, with my best and most respectful intention, I remain careful to keep a professional resonance to what I always hope is a warm and productive relationship. But whether due to my constitution or simply due to the ‘proximity’ designing a home creates…I am sometimes made privy to the Life challenges and struggles clients – people – face.

But, I’m only the designer, I reason. I must keep my mouth shut. I listen compassionately. I keep my comments brief and sympathetic. After all, I’m only the designer. It’s not my place to say too much or to say the wrong thing. In design, I am aware of the need to create an aesthetic design boundary in a room to ‘make it feel right.’ I am certainly aware of the necessity of boundaries in Life…trust me! Professional boundaries. Important.

Still. Remaining compassionate but not saying what I know to be true to a client…because I’m only the designer….this is difficult.

This week was a heavy week for an empath like me. I encountered clients with parents who are dying, spouses who are becoming wheelchair bound, family pets that are dying (Hey…don’t knock this if you’ve never had a pet. Even greater…I learned long ago not to judge other people’s sorrows. Sorrow is sorrow …and in the moment that it’s yours…it hurts.) I had clients recovering from widowhood, others fearing a job loss. I’m spent. I wish I could take it all away – the suffering, the grief, the loss. Yes, a heavy week.

At this moment, a discussion on designing Home and Hearth this week here in my fairy blog- dom. seems pale. Instead, I’d like to share something more even sacred than the crafting of Home. Instead, let’s you and I go to a different drafting table and sketch 2 of the elements that help Design Wholeness in Life.

Like every other surfer, I have been bounced around by Life’s great waves – her sometimes brutal undertow and her unrelenting rising and falling tides. Somewhere around my millionth psycho-spiritual ‘concussion’ from being ‘dragged under” – I came to understand that every problem, no matter how dark and heavy it is, does come baring a gift. To those wise enough to find it and open it, that is.

For example, I didn’t how how I’d ever learn to see true color again after my mother Naomi died. Everything in Life took on a slightly gray cast. For a very long while. But eventually, after fighting through the waves grief that pounded my shore – for too long a time for my own comfort I might add – one day I was able to stand and look back. I looked back and I saw that as heart broken as I had been to have lost this special friend, this mother and this spirit…something had happened to me. In me. I recognized that by the simple act of moving forward and fighting to regain my equilibrium, I had unwittingly become a much stronger, much sturdier ship. Because of her death. Because of the great suffering that came with her death, there came too this great gift – this great gift that my mother gave me by dying in my 37th year.

But how do I tell this to a client? It is not my place. I’m only a designer. So I say none of this and hope she’ll find my blog. Here – where I feel able to speak more freely. And if it is you who suffers in any way – great or small – I must share one more very powerful and precious tool from the design tool box when it comes to designing wholeness in Life. This thing may elude you at first – but if you chase her long enough, you will catch her hand. I refer here to: Resilience.

In short, Resillience is the single engine that pushes the plane forward in any storm – long after all of the other engines have given out. Resilience. What a marvelous, mystical and magical piece of Life-design magic.

Here is my favorite resilience story:

I remember gardening early last spring in my ‘just coming back to life’ garden. As I knelt at the base of my favorite hydrangea – the one the children had long ago named “Angelica” because ‘she’ is prolific bloomer – I was struck by something. There on my knees in the dirt in my garden, I realized that I was surrounded by Resilience. In front of me stood my towering hydrangea – around me were all of my other ‘botanical friends’ and they were all singing in one grand chorus. They were bouncing back from the perils of winter. Little signs of budding, of ‘re-emerging life’ were everywhere present in my formerly desolate looking garden. My rooted friends – my winter-pummeled, old green companions – were demonstrating with no flourish whatsoever, that they were thriving and surviving “in spite of.” They were ‘coming back’ in spite of the unceasing, pelting challenges of a particularly harsh and long winter.

Faced with this show – believe it or not, the first thing I was struck by was my own weakness – and all of my old sorrows came flooding to me in a great wave. I felt suddenly burdened by all of the challenges I – and my family – have been given in he last few years in particular. I felt sad. I felt very sad. But no sooner had that sadness tickled my spirit that something much bigger and better landed in me. It was large enough to me that kneeling there, in the holy sanctum of my garden, I laid down my spade and I cried. (Have you ever had a good cry in the garden? They are rich.) But it was not sadness I felt. The tears that flowed came from a deep and abiding overwhelm and gratitude for the lesson and message these strong garden-dwellers offered me by their wise example. Their message was this: Resilience. These old friends, who stood still and quiet before me game me a gift: They shared a glimpse of their early buds – their burst back into their own greater glory after their long, deep winter. They laid before me the powerful reminder that the natural law of Life is this: To go forward. Resilience.

We move forward. We do. Not always straight; sometimes hobbled a bit by a circumstance or a sorrow, but on we go. Forward. Always. We go forward and we bloom again ..until of course we hit our next winter. And so repeats the movement of the seasons in the garden of our own Life.

So my friend – you may be in your own winter right now as you read this. But. Take heart. Know that there is a bloom that is being “prepared and worked” inside you right now. One day you will be wise enough to recognize and cultivate it. Just as I came to know the gift my mother left me in her passing -a gift I came to know only because I exercised enough resilience to get through the winter of her departure. Yes, you may be in your own winter right now, but know that your own currently ‘unknown bloom’ is inside you somewhere and it will one day show itself. Most likely when you least expect it. Possibly long after you’ve paid your last therapist bill or bought your 80th pair of make-me-feel-better shoes. You will bloom again. Life will bloom again. It is the natural law of the Garden called You. You will have one bloom, followed by another and another. And another. Resilience.

And while you cultivate your resilience, you will hit a weak moment. You will. But when you do, drag yourself through, just another inch and just another second, knowing that:

*This too shall pass.
*There is a solution to every problem
*Resilience is the mother of survival.
*Sometimes Life is difficult
*This too shall pass (again.)
*Everything feels ‘better’ in the morning.
*Each sorrow comes with gift to be opened, long after its offering.

Plattitudes or Truth? I say both.

May we all water ourselves well with these truisms – these platitudes. May we water ourselves well . . . and find our next bloom. For it will come.