1. Sometimes, I feel uncomfortable with my first name, because it feels like a name for a child rather than a grown-up, but I also like it a lot. I've always loved my middle name, which came from the Fleetwood Mac song, because it was about a mysterious magic woman. It took me a while to decide wether to change my last name when I got married, and I am so glad I did because I love being a little tribe together. And when I put all three together, it's the best name I could imagine. I am Whitney Rhiannon Till.
2. I grew up in a small farm community in Nebraska, and now I live in a funny little village in Ohio.
3. I moved here for a magical forest, and ended up finding my whole life.
4. I met my husband on the street one afternoon seven years ago when he jumped out of his chair to open a door for me. That is the best thing that has ever happened to me. We are really compatible and have a lot of fun together. I’m learning that partnership is not about being everything to one another, which is nice, because it means I can take care of my own stuff, and get to know him for who he truly his. I really, really love him.
5. I spend my mornings working on this blog and my upcoming creations. I hope to gradually create a way to make a living by doing this kind of thing. We’ll see;)
6. I spend my afternoons taking care of our son, Malcolm. He is amazing. He is so good at playing and smiling and I’m so grateful I get to take care of him each day. I craved a baby for years, and I'm so glad he's finally here.
7. I’ve spent about ten years deconstructing my childhood hurts, some of which I talk about here, some I don't. It’s been really helpful to my well-being and mental balance to identify and heal these early wounds.
8. I love lattés and chocolate croissants together.
9. Sometimes, I really struggle with the fact that I have thoughts and feelings. More and more, I am able to find a really peaceful flow with them, but some days, I just wish they would all go away.
10. I always dress as a witch for Halloween. When I was a child, my stepsister and I had two witches’ hats: a nice one and a tattered one. Each year, we would alternate between who got to wear the nice one. We had a lot of fun together.
11. I have visited eight different counselors through the years. Of these, three were really helpful, three were not so much, and two were extremely skilled and helped me heal and learn in huge ways.
12. I love my mom. I am rooted deeply in her love for me.
13. When it comes to religion and politics, I like to hear the different sides of the spectrum, but I usually end up right in the middle, or a little bit to one side or the other.
14. My goal when I write is to help your life become easier and make more sense.
15. I love fall. It’s when I was born, and with total death, the whole world becomes one big comfy bed.
May you find what you need most,
Whitney Rhiannon Till
I have been working through a THICK fog of doubt for a few weeks now. It just doesn't seem to be lifting. But I just keep on working, because I think that's what's more important.
But I'm getting sick of this doubt, so yesterday, I asked the Universe (for about the millionth time) to tell me if my plans will succeed. I received a pretty blunt answer:
“Whitney, I will not tell you if this is going to work or not.”
But then I realized...I'm not actually asking:
“What will the future bring?”
What I am really asking is:
“Is it okay that I am doing this?"
"Am I breaking some Almighty Rule of Behavior by not being on a pre-approved route right now?"
"Is it okay that I am doing what I actually want to be doing?"
I deeply want to know if I am still acceptable, and doing this work makes me feel like I am breaking all the rules I'm supposed to follow.
I think these questions are coming from my fear of The Man, that force that tells us that we must do what it says, keep our heads down, and stay in line.
I am so fucking sick of this.
I don’t know if it’s cultural or just from my personal background, but this has been a thick theme throughout my life, and I’m sick of it.
I've spent so much time and energy learning how to be obedient, and working my ass off for approval, but the more I do it, the more I realize that this unseen force is not working for me. It's not actually trying to make my life better.
And I am so sick of it.
So now...I’m gonna get mine;)
I'm gonna work toward what I truly need, both so that I may enjoy it, and because I suspect that my taking responsibility for my own needs is what will help the larger whole as well. This is me acting from my grass roots.
I am in control of my own life.
(This scares the shit out of me, by the way.)
I am much more comfortable in the victim role. In some ways, I would prefer it if someone else would tell me what to do, so that I can just do that, and then be able to blame them for my lack of fulfillment. I know how to do that. That's familiar. I'm good at that.
But the problem with that structure, is that it doesn't actually make me happy. Or well. Or good.
So who is it benefitting?
So now I’m trying a new way of moving through this world: I’m going to lead my own destiny.
I’ve been doing this for a while in my personal life, to great success.
Now, I’m trying this in my work life.
I am going to do the work I care about, write the stuff that I know, and hope that it will help others who have similar struggles.
I've been attempting this in one way or another for about a year now. And it's gone like this: I work for a while. I feel good. People appreciate my work. I feel grateful and proud of myself. And then…I get scared. I wonder: “What the fuck am I doing here?” I start to feel invalid. I shrink down a little bit.
That’s when I hear the voice of Holy Guidance say:
“One step at a time, dear. One breath at a time."
This is an extremely important moment. The key is to keep going, even when doubt is all around you. This is when we must remember:
I don’t know what I'm building, because I haven’t built it yet.
I know what I am working on today. I now how I’m creating a possible window for success, but I don’t actually know what’s going to happen from here.
I know I need to spend my days taking care of myself and my family. I know I need to spend my time sharing that which has saved me with others. I know I need income to come from that, so that I can support my family, and continue spending my time doing these two wonderful things.
What I don’t know is exactly how this is going to look.
I’ve painted some pictures of how the future’s going to go. I made a nice collage of what's going to occur in the future (you know, the future that doesn't actually exist).
I am grateful for these images, because they gave me the balls to try something brand new. The felt like a nice, tidy parachute when I was being pushed off the edge of Brand New.
But the truth is, I don't know if these plans will work out in the long run.
I only know what I am lead to do today.
I need to let go of some of my ideas of the future, so that it can actually happen.
Last night, in the middle of a group meditation, I looked deep inside myself.
All this doubt had exhausted me, and I knew I was looking for the root of it.
After a good while, I finally glimpsed something interesting.
Here I’ve been, hearing over and over and over the voice of doubt offering numerous and, may I say, very valid arguments against sharing what I think, and really, the answer was inside of me the entire time:
I am not going to stop.
And I knew it so clearly that I couldn't help but laugh.
I know I’m going to keep doing this.
No matter how much doubt shows up, no matter what other people may or may not say about it.
I know I’m going to keep trying this and seeing what happens and adjusting as I need to and then keep doing it some more.
I know that it’s time for me to be doing my work. Period. It was never time for me to be doing it before, but now it is, and I am doing it.
Doubt may be here, and doubt may not be here, but I am doing this.
This knowledge is liberating.
I have permission to feel doubt.
It’s okay if doubt is here. It’s okay if not every moment that I’m working toward my dream feels good. That is not actually a problem. I can still keep working toward my dream.
Just keep going. Whatever it is you need to do, just do it, and keep doing it.
I can look back, and see how this drive is not new, it is just directed to a new area of my life.
For nearly a decade, I have had an inexplicable, and often times, extremely aggravating drive to heal myself from the harsh effects of growing up with a mentally ill father and a degrading culture.
How many times did I wish I could just stop bothering with all that?
But now that I have learned so much, and truly become free in so many ways, I can see how worthwhile all that hard work was.
I can also see that doubt is somehow intrinsic to the grain of growth. Somehow, it's all the same thing. I’m not sure how or why, but it’s just there, woven into every new expansion we experience.
Doubt is not a reason to stop.
Sometimes, there may be actual reasons to stop, but the simple presence of doubt is just a given. It will always be there in one form or another.
Just keep going. Push through it.
Doubt may actually be a sign that you’re getting close to something really great;)
So so much love,
Whitney Rhiannon Till (the first;)
P.S. - Do you have an example of a time you pushed through doubt and found something great?
I really don't want to blog today.
I'd much rather play with the custom calendar I'm making.
I really don't want to expose my thoughts and feelings to you.
You see, if I let you see what I'm really thinking and feeling, you might have your own thoughts and feelings about mine! And I don't know if I can handle that.
Even positive thoughts can make me uncomfortable.
So it would be much easier to just not worry about blogging today.
But, alas, I made a commitment to myself, and I want to show Whitney that I respect her by honoring the commitment I made to her.
So here I am, not knowing what to say, but knowing I don't feel like saying it.
You see, this blogging thing is f***ing vulnerable!
And oh, that feeling is uncomfortable. I feel it in my chest, like a swelling balloon, saying "it would be better to just avoid this altogether."
I am much better at staying quiet. I am very good at listening.
I like to talk, but often times, my truest thoughts come out when I'm alone, with my hands doing the sharing. At least that way, when I'm writing, I can pretend that no one will ever read this. And then I trick myself into putting it out there into the world so quickly that I barely realize what I've just done.
I don't like this.
And that's okay.
Maybe I'll just write this bare-bones blogpost just to see if I'm still alive after it reaches the interworlds.
What's the point of all this?
I have no idea.
Except to say, that I'm finally putting my truest thoughts out there for the world to see, and it is scaring the shit out of me.
with all my love,
Whitney Rhiannon Till
P.S.- I included a photo of me at another moment when I felt kind of like an idiot. I figure if I'm doing this, I might as well go all the way;)
It was the Ides of March.
I had thought it was a normal day.
I was sitting in Panera, reflecting on my life, when the woman next to me began eating her sandwich, chewing with her mouth open.
This was bad news for my tranquil personal time, because when I hear that sound, I often recall this unhappy memory from when I was a precious four years old:
My parents, brothers, and I are sitting at our dinning room table, having dinner. My father, Scott, screams across the table “DON’T CHEW WITH YOUR MOUTH OPEN!!!!” I freeze. I don’t even know who he’s screaming at, but terror fills my entire body. I stare at my plate as intensely as I can, not thinking, not moving, just waiting for this moment to end. Every muscle in my body memorizes how it feels in this moment. These moments seem to be happening more and more often.
So on another day, twenty-four years later, when I heard the sound I was so conditioned against, I quickly recognized that I would not be able to sit there in my own serenity any longer. I felt agitated as I packed up my things and left, wondering why this mood of disturbance was becoming so intense so quickly.
By the time I got home, there was a torment coming up from somewhere deep within my soul. I was so worked up and confused that I knew I would be no good for conversation. Instead, I went straight to the bathtub to surround myself with heat and water and darkness.
I asked myself “Where is this deep unsettling coming from?”
I waited and listened for the answer.
Gradually, I realized that I did not feel alone. There was someone else in the room with me. I had experienced this before, and I can only describe it as some kind of unresolved spirit, the story of someone who has passed on, without being able to let go. The whole thing felt very weird, and I kind of wondered if I was going crazy. But I also sensed that ignoring it would only make it weirder, so I just stayed there and paid attention.
The other person in the room started to show me things. I felt their terror and their fear. I saw an image of a sterile, frightening, white tiled room. They were lying on a hard table, completely paralyzed. Doctors were doing very strange things to their body, and they were scared shitless.
They were so afraid that they left their body in order to get away from it. But then…their body died, and they were suddenly stuck in the in-between. They were not spirit, not body, not alive, not dead.
This person asked for my help: “How do I die?” they begged to know.
I told them to go into something physical, a tree or the ground, and then fade away gradually, naturally.
I left the bath, not knowing what to make of the experience. Perhaps it was just my imagination, as it can be very vivid sometimes. I went to bed early to try to break the weird mood.
The next morning I turned my phone on for the first time in three days. I had messages from both of my brothers, and immediately felt that something awful had happened. I called my brother, holding my breath, praying to God that our mother was okay. When he told me that our father had died, I felt relief.
That I could handle. That made sense even.
He said that Scott had gone in for surgery the afternoon before. His diabetes had gotten so bad they had amputated his feet. There had been problems, and he had died on the table.
I understood everything now.
I understood his terror in those last moments. I felt true grief for him.
I felt true grief for a man I barely knew.
Grief is somehow different than other emotions.
I think because grief is not really an emotion. It’s barely a feeling.
It’s a state, a process.
It’s something you DO. Something you have to be active about.
Grief is not something that just happens and then you’re done and you move on.
You have to make grief happen, or else it just sits there and buries you.
When you experience a loss, you have to facilitate your own grief.
If it doesn't happen on it’s own, it can get locked up, and you can start to get weird.
Grief is very quiet. It is extremely subtle.
If we do not pay attention to it, it just kind of sits around the edges...lingering...waiting for us.
And it is very patient.
We must pay attention, because there is both grief and there is the fear of grief.
The fear of grief will have us thinking that there is something very dangerous, very scary about being sad, in recognizing loss.
But grief doesn’t care about this.
That is the advantage of grief.
Once you give into it, once you let yourself just pass away into the essence of loss, you are freed from caring somehow.
You are free to just let the loss be everything.
Nothing else matters. Nothing else is there.
All that is there is that which is no longer there.
That which will never be there again.
This is all you have to feel, this is all you have to know while you grieve.
In some ways, greif never ends, but it also won’t last forever.
Let yourself feel it. Let it run it’s course, and it will eventually lighten.
It will eventually become a little less intense, or come around a little less often, or stay around for shorter stints.
And when it does come back, it often surprises us. It comes at the oddest moments, from the oddest reminders.
Let this happen. Let it arise.
Tell it that it is welcome here, it is welcome to come in and set up camp for as long as it needs, because you know you cannot get away from it, you cannot live without it.
And that is just it. Life cannot be separated from death. They are the same thing. You cannot live without grief.
Every part of life contains its own loss.
When I think of my husband, and notice how overwhelming my gratitude for his presence in my life is, I cannot help but know how horrible it would be if I ever have to live without him. What pain, what daily shock I would experience.
Every time I look at my son and swell with uncontainable love, I also swell with that pure knowledge that the extent to which I want him near me is the same as the extent to which he is not mine. I cannot have him. I will never have him. I get to be with him for this moment, but his life is his own. I cannot own him, and oh, how that kills me. I want him here in my chest for all eternity.
I wonder if I’m being unnecessarily morbid for having these thoughts, but I don’t think so. I’m being honest with myself.
I must acknowledge the inherent capacity for loss there is in all things I love.
Because love and loss are the same thing.
And it is okay to grieve.
It is okay if it hurts like hell sometimes.
It is okay if it empties you out.
Because then, when it's finished, you have this special gift: you are empty.
You are so empty.
Whole new things can enter your body and your heart now.
When we love someone dearly, intensely, and they die, they are both gone, and they are not gone.
They are gone from us, and yet, we can get to know them in a new way.
We can explore our memories and ask some questions and find some resolutions we weren’t able to when they were here with us.
My Grandmothers love surrounds my heart every day, and when I start to take the small things way too seriously, I hear her laughing at me, and I relax a little bit.
My relationship to my Grandfather has opened up wide in order to help set some things right in the last year. He has been dead for thirteen years.
My relationship with my father has found new resolution now that he is gone. And I am really grateful for this.
In the weeks following Scott’s death, my husband and I took a lot of adventures. We drove all around the county finding any little corner of the countryside we hadn’t yet seen before. This was such a wonderful way to pace the process. It allowed me the space and quietness I needed to feel the huge hole in my chest, while at the same time providing some distractions, some alternate attention grabbers to break up the feelings a bit. It kept things moving, even though I was feeling the same thing over and over and over again, it kept it going in cycles, reaching a bit more resolution each time we went around. It mixed pain with pleasure.
My father was dead. Finally. His mental illness began escalating before I was born, so my entire life has been spent grieving the loss of a father I never even really had. I spent twenty-eight years trying to figure out how to do this, so by the time he passed away, I had gotten good at it. His death finally gave me the opportunity to say what I’d been needing to say for decades: “I have no father.”
A month before he died, I had a dream about him. We were sitting together on a bench across the street from my Jr. High School. I was grown, but he was about thirteen. I could see that he wanted to reach out, he really wanted to be able to connect with me, but he was genuinely incapable of it. He truly had no way of reaching outside of himself enough to get to another person. I felt such sympathy for him. Such compassion and sadness for the traps he experienced in his own mind and heart. I felt so badly for him. But I was also aware that there was nothing I could do either. There was nothing I could do to reach him. All there was room for was frustration…and grief.
Now, as I sit crying in the coffee shop typing this, I realize how true that was. All there was ever room for in our relationship was frustration…and grief.
Perhaps others would describe him differently. I hope so. I hope other people knew more sides of him than I saw, because from where I was standing, a little girl who could never become good enough for him, he was extremely limited.
I spent years being angry at him, hating him even, and I’m glad I did that. I needed that. I needed a way to realize that it wasn’t me. That I hadn’t done anything wrong. That I was whole and complete and well, regardless of how my father had treated me.
Then, once I had spent all my anger, all that was left was grief, grief that I had never had a father who just loved me for exactly what I was. I may spend my entire life grieving this, but now that I’ve been doing it for quite a while, it doesn’t come up as often, and when it does, it doesn’t elicit the same heart pangs that it used to. It is an awareness. I sometimes pray for some form of the father love to come and fill it, but I’m also okay knowing that there’s a hole in my chest, a hole that may never be filled.
This is grief. Allowing yourself to feel that hole, that physical absence of something or someone you want near to you and can not have.
This is the pain, the relief of grief.
Allow this, and it will show you what you need to do.
Know also that grief is exhausting.
It is like early pregnancy, you just need to sleep so much more than normal.
Because all of your energy is pouring out of this new hole in you.
Make room for that in your life.
Let yourself sleep.
Allow grief to do its work in you, and you keep the pathways to your heart open.
This way, the ones who are still here may find you, and love you as you are.
Autumn is the season for grief.
Fall is for everything dying away.
There is serious comfort in being surrounded by this expression of death.
If you don’t know how to grieve what you must grieve, go and make a great pile of the leaves. Lie down in them, cover your whole body with them, and just stay there for a while...
See what happens when you let death surround you.
There is utter pain, but hidden within that pain, there is comfort, there is true release.