Do I contradict myself? Very well then I contradict myself, (I am large, I contain multitudes.)
-Walt Whitman

I started working on a new book this morning.

I figured since it’s pitch black out until almost 10am, and I have more than used up my repertoire of writing poetry inspired by the ongoing onyx night that covers Alaska this time of year, it is do or die time.

Either give myself something tangible to do right now until we start getting a proper amount of daylight back again or go nuts from the lack of light.

So Heliotrope Nights is now officially in the works; at the moment I’m going the self-publishing route as the creative in me finds it exquisitely fun and satisfying to do the layout work of designing a book, and I figure between the writing and designing, it’s something constructive to keep me occupied through the heart of darkness.

I woke up with a storm cloud hanging over my head today. Some of it is the darkness wearing me down, some of it readjusting to life after all the travel and fatigue from jet lag, but the real contributor that is really beating up my brain and my heart is the weight of my brother.

I keep finding myself bursting into intermittent, private bouts of tears; the cluster of holiday memories coalescing with the time line that the year anniversary is drawing near coalescing with the publication of my grief book this January.

So many things that turned life upside down this year, tore me to shreds, tore my family in seams; so many things that helped sew and knit and mend it all back together, no matter how tattered some of the edges may be.

There are days where I can’t tell if I cry from love or cry from loss, and I don’t even know if there’s much difference, our lovings and losings so inextricably intertwined. What I know is that this year fundamentally changed me, and I keep coming face to face with myself wondering who I see in the mirror and who I would see without this loss.

I wrote a reflective article on 2016 and submitted it to the Tattooed Buddha yesterday morning and cried last night when they sent me an acceptance note. Cried from gratitude. Cried from being overwhelmed by the process of taking the heart lessons of 2016 and turning them into words to be shared with others. Cried with catharsis.

Cried with sorrow for the wisdom of the words I wrote, they come too young and too soon. Cried because I shouldn’t be writing these kinds of heart lessons; shouldn’t be writing these words; shouldn’t have this time line-

Even as I sit in complete acceptance of all the things that have come to pass.

Perhaps one of the most valuable wisdoms I have fully come to realize and integrate this year is just how deep and wide is the scope of our humanity and emotional range. We can hold a mass of emotions and thoughts inside of ourselves and they don’t need to add up. They don’t need to be judged. One doesn’t negate the truth of the other, even if seemingly contradictory.

I can believe in the beauty and joy of life and be in a horrible mood.

I can be in absolute peace and equanimity over the events of 2016 and still wake in the night in disbelief, my brother is dead, I whisper to the ceiling, wondering who is listening on the other side.

I can embrace and write and embody the heart lessons of my life, even as I hate the path that brought me here.

I can be a light who sometimes feels snuffed by the dark.

I can be human and divine; wise sage and crying child; a seeker who holds the universe in her breath and a tired woman who looks in the mirror and sees the permanent circles under her eyes and the faint lines that have come with the stress of the past 11 months- who just wants to go lay on a beach and be soothed by the ocean and quit.

I can hold many viewpoints within myself at once. I am large, I contain multitudes.

There was a time when I was younger where I judged and shamed my own process of self, would have labeled my morning’s cranky mood as a “bad” thing, would have sought to wipe the tears that flow so freely from my eyes these days and tell myself to be strong.

I didn’t understand then the strength of a tear drop.

Or that our contradictory experiences of life are not joined by the word “but,” they are joined by the word “and.”

Or the beauty found in the Whole of who we are.

I know these things now. Now I practice kindness and giving myself permission to feel as I feel when I feel how I feel why I feel where I feel- for as long as I need to feel. I breathe in contradictory equanimity. And there is value to it all.

It is part of the human experience to feel so many and so much, and the more honest we are being with ourselves the more many and much we are going to feel. The trick to learning to navigate these emotional waters isn’t to run back to the shallow end of the shore; it is simply to accept whatever comes our way and make peace with that part of ourselves.

Sometimes that means cranky, sometimes that means calm. Sometimes that means you shine with the light of 1,000 candles, sometimes that means you accept the harsh edges of a long season of night.

And sometimes that means that you roll up your sleeves, tap away at the key board, and keep working on that new book.