Invitation to Exist

hiker in misty forestWhether you birthed your child, or they landed in your embrace through adoption, that first look into each other’s eyes was a magical moment—the beginning of two souls connecting for life.

A rush of instinct and emotion takes over whenever a parent meets a new human and the process of forming a bond begins—the ancient rite of being part of the human race, connected into a circle that forms a family that forms our experiences of life: together.

When death rips that apart, the opposite happens.  Souls are shredded and the fringes never get fully resolved—a jagged, unfinished edge remains there forever.

What is it that happens in that magical first gaze—and so many to follow? My favourite explanation is given by developmentalist Dr. Gordon Neufeld, who calls it “The invitation to exist.”  We invite our newborns into the human race with that initial gaze, and each time we acknowledge them, pay attention to them, stop what we are doing to affirm their importance, we are repeating the ritual—we are giving them the invitation to exist in our presence.

This is a powerful gift, perhaps as powerful as the gift of life itself.  Take a day or two to note who it is in your life that most fully invites you to exist—or who it is that invites you to exist in all your fullness.  Who did that for you as a child? That person holds an inexplicable sway over your soul—for better or for worse, they gave you an invitation to be fully who you are.

My mom was that core of my soul—the one who took the time to let me wind my arms around her neck, look deeply into her eyes, and tell her who I was.  She has been gone for over forty years, but I can shut my eyes right now, right here…stop writing for 20 seconds…and though I cannot see her face in my memory of images, I can feel the softness of her skin under my fingertips.

No wonder then, in losing her, a whole piece of the fabric of my own soul was shredded. A giant hole formed inside of me—and for many years I felt the danger of that abscess, as if my very self could potentially slide right through it.

It should take time to heal from such a great loss.

And it does.

Anyone who tries to push you along the path of healing faster than you can move is not helping.  There is no quick trip to the top of the mountain of healing and back again. It is a longterm daily walk through a forest of pain, and though it may take years, it is better to go at your own pace.  The forest and the mountain are not going anywhere, and healing will be yours when you have taken all the time you need to let the tears roll through your pain and down your cheeks.

When streams of tears flow down the mountain tracks where you’ve wandered in your fog of grief, then healing will re-attach the good memories, the joy of those moments of mutual existence—two souls connecting to each other with soft skin and glowing eyes.

Give yourself the gift of time.

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