one more light

an intense photo of the milky way across a starry siky. mountains are silhouetted against the sky in the lower third of the photo.

and other things that might be true

Hello to me and anyone else that might be reading this. I’ve already been finding this way of expression to be helpful, and it is allowing my voice to begin making its way out toward the light.

Once again, everything around me seems like it’s death or grief related, which apart from being frequency bias, is a thing I contextualize as a signpost to encourage myself that I am going in the correct direction.

A principle in my training that means more to me than I’m able to express is the concept of doing what I am meant to do in the world; doing my Will, being not only in search of what that is exactly, but being willing to direct my energy and effort toward whatever it is, in whatever way that means.

Doors close when choices are made, and I made a choice to take death doula training last year. Actually, I made the choice to do that probably a year before it happened, and then eventually I made the choice to pay for and sign up for it, and then to show up for classes and practical exercises. The choice to point my life in this direction has been both an exercise of what I believe is my Will — my reason, my Work that is for me to do — and a closing of other doors, which may have been other meaningful ways for me to accomplish the same thing, even if it looked different.

Seeing the themes of death and grief almost everywhere that I look is, to me, a chain of signposts; or maybe glowing lamps in a fog of cloudy darkness; that what I am doing, the direction in which I have chosen to point myself, is the most correct direction for me to be oriented. I think that the frequency bias is a tool that my gods and ancestors and my training use to help me hold onto hope. And I need hope, in the dark times we are living in right now. I need hope to comfort me and ground me, and I need, soul-deep, to do my Work.

I’m terrified of doing this thing wrong. Not just because it’s still new to me and not just because I have a metaphorical giant red warning trauma button that’s labeled ‘I can’t do anything right.’ I am terrified of making mistakes, because I have internalized a mis-truth from my life experiences that mistakes are flaws in my character and proof that I am not who I think I am.

It might be true that I don’t have a grasp of who I actually am, but it’s not true that mistakes show the flaws in my character. Mistakes show me that I am trying. Mistakes are also signposts, in a way. As is my fear of doing it wrong. I would not be so fearful of something if it were not deeply important to me to do it as well as possible.

In a tradition that demands perfection while also holding a core truth that we cannot be perfect in our actions, thoughts, intentions, and words, it is comforting to know that it actually counts to shoot for the stars and land on the moon. I try for perfection, even while knowing I cannot get there, because the intention of perfection internalizes a new set of beliefs that are more true than what my trauma tells me: I will make mistakes, but what matters is what I did, regardless of its imperfection. Impact matters more than intent, but seeing my choices fearlessly as what they are means that I can trace back any mistake to where it originated, and I can decide for myself how I feel about it and what to do with it.

I will never be able to do all things, think all things, speak all things, in a perfect way, but the trying makes me a better person. I think that this way of looking at my self, in the context of iron sharpening iron, or the way a knife blade can sharpen a blunt branch, has helped me — a flawed perfectionist with intense fear of making the wrong choices — to relax and allow myself the gift of being wrong.

The tradition I’m learning and living into is hard and impossible, but the fact that it is hard and impossible allows me to let my fear drop to the ground behind me so that I can step fearlessly forward into a space where I can do my best, try my best, and then look at what actually happened, with grace for my mistakes, allowing them to teach me the lessons I need to learn.

There’s a rhythm game I’ve been playing on my Switch, Avicii Invector, and I think that I am enjoying the music and the experience of playing along with the music because I know that the DJ Tim Bergling, the person who was Avicii, died young by his own hand. There’s that thing about pain that makes something more beautiful, more true, more perfected in that moment in a way that I don’t really know how to explain.

I watched a movie that I didn’t know anything about, Euphoria, because I happened to think it might be interesting based on nothing but the suggestion that Hulu made plus the fact that I knew I liked one of the actors. It turns out that Euphoria is a movie about death. And things that cannot be undone or taken back. About truth and how it hurts to approach it. The main character is on her own journey into her dying, and in the process of intentionally asking for what she needs before she dies, she also has somehow learned that in the face of certain mortality — that fixed point in time that cannot be avoided — there is a freedom of choice and potential for experiences that would otherwise be avoided because they may not fit within the ideal one has about what their life is supposed to look like.

Then there’s the game I play in the evenings after most of the family has gone to bed; for a while it was Fallout 4, sometimes it’s Lord of the Rings Online, but for several weeks now it’s been Frostpunk, which is a kind of game I probably would have avoided if I knew what it was actually like. I do enjoy resource management and simulation games, but the cost of choices during gameplay seems to come down to acceptable losses. Do a few people die or do a lot of people die? What direction should I take them for the best chance of survival? Do we plunge feet first into faith in the divine for comforting us in our pain, or do we turn to the hubristic surety of militant protection? At the end of the decision trees of either option, there are choices that appear that are essentially a culmination of whatever you began doing to get to this place. Religious dogma, or full-blown fascism. Both decision trees end in a binary, a black and white version of reality that can see no gray area at all. It has been remarkably interesting and I will play this game until I have played it enough times, and then I’ll find something else.

And in the meantime, I’ll listen to Chester Bennington sing my favorite song, in his beautiful voice from beyond the grave, and I will keep looking for the choices that help me be more fearless.

If they say
Who cares if one more light goes out?
In a sky of a million stars
It flickers, flickers
Who cares when someone’s time runs out?
If a moment is all we are
We’re quicker, quicker
Who cares if one more light goes out?
Well I do

‘One More Light’ by Linkin Park

featured image is a photo by Denis Degioanni on Unsplash

Nix Kelley
Co-parent to multiple kids. Writer. Death doula. Member of the Order of the Good Death. Seeker on the Path of Light. Queer, non-binary, & trans.


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