Learned, Burned and Earned

Through a series of serendipitous events a few weeks ago, I was blessed to spend a weekend in Golden, CO with a dear friend.  In addition to the long soul talks, great food and craft beer, spectacular fresh air and exquisite mountain ranges, the apex of the trip was seeing Michael Franti in concert at Red Rocks Amphitheater.  My first encounter with this amazing outdoor venue left me speechless and spellbound.  The venue, built into a mountain, provides a cocoon of Mother Earth while the Colorado sun sets and music comes to life. 

Franti, a long time favorite, is a man of such optimism, faith and love that one cannot help but be energized and lifted by his music and spirit.   He strikes me as someone who truly believes that positive thoughts lead to positive actions, and one person can make a difference in the world.

This trip was my first “post” pandemic travel, and it brought my soul back to Life.  Travel has long been what grounds me, keeps me balanced, and helps me stay connected with the deepest parts of myself that don’t get put into action in the sometime redundant passing of days.  To be out in the world in a breath-taking location with music about love and hope pulsing through the rocks was invigorating to say the least.

Franti began his concert with a video montage of the past 16 months.  He shared some of his losses from Covid, including people near and dear.  He graciously thanked his fans who stayed true and connected even as concert after concert was canceled and not rescheduled. 

But the most memorable part of his opening was the way he framed his past 16 months into things he learned, things he burned, and things he earned.

Learned.

Burned.

Earned.

This resonated with me in such a profound way that I couldn’t help but immediately begin reflecting on how my experiences from the past 16 months could also be placed into these compelling categories. 

We lost.  We all lost during Covid. 

People.

Jobs.

Income.

Connections.

Time with others.

Momentum towards our dreams.

But we also learned.  Many of us gained robust and impressive insights into  ourselves.  About how we handle hardship, change, the unknown. 

As I reflect, I see so much in that “Learned” category.  I learned life marches forward, no matter what else is happening.  I learned that for this old suburban girl, now living on acreage and being deeply connected to nature is among the greatest healing forces in the world.  I learned I am far more introverted than I ever knew, and the preciousness of solitude is balancing and calming. And as I continued my work with children experiencing abuse and neglect, through the frightening spans when I couldn’t lay my eyes on them, I learned that connection is the truest heartbeat of all. 

The ”Burned” part feels a bit intense.  Just as we are, hopefully, always learning and gaining insight, those insights lead us to acknowledge, and even embrace, things that no longer serve us. In some ways this is the Marie Kondo part of Life, the time when we examine people, habits, things by asking ourselves, “Does this help me live my best life? What is the cost of maintaining this? Has this reached it’s blessing for me.”

There is a purging that must occur every so often for us to maintain healthy boundaries and stay in authenticity with the Life we strive to live.  During the time of sheltering in place, I burned and purged the need to “stay put” in situations and relationships that were no longer positive for myself or others. Easy does not correlate to better, and sometimes the toughest road is the one for which you are meant.

I burned the idea that, for me, a structured “Sunday School God” is how you “do religion”.  I need a raw, powerful God found in nature and children’s smiles and holding the door for an elderly gentleman.  God got immensely bigger for me in the past 16 months.  I not only got Him out of the box, I broke the box down and recycled it.  I burned the idea that if I didn’t “do religion” just right, I was somehow letting God down.  He and I have come to terms with knowing there are lots of ways to connect with one another.  It transcends any place or time, and is the truest meaning of ethereal.

And, finally, “Earned”. I interpret earning as something I had to work hard through/for and can feel a sense of accomplishment for having reached.   Having lost my lifelong best friend/soul sister a mere 6 weeks before the world shut down, the two are inextricably connected.  I look back now and I know I have earned my way through a grief like no other, the deepest loss of my life.  I think one of the toughest parts of losing someone, at least for me, is watching the world slowly get back to “normal” while mine remains shattered, knowing there is no more “normal”.  It felt as if the whole world stopped at the loss of Terri.  Unlike our Western culture’s rapid expectation for grief processing (funeral on Tuesday, back to work on Wednesday), I was suddenly given the time and space and silence needed to figure out how to build a new world without her daily physical presence.  I was gifted with space and silence, and powerful, beautiful, soul-filling things emerged from that.

Slowly, slowly the world is opening back up.  Gently and mindfully we resume our activities, our social connections, our time out and about exploring Life fully and freely once again.

Yet not one of us is unchanged from the past 16 months, from the sacrifices, loss and uncertainty of it all.  As Life opens back up like a blossoming flower, I pray we all take the time to reflect on how very much we have learned, burned and earned during this time.

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