Appalachian Wisdom (with a pinch of Buddhism for good measure)


Recovering in West Virginia has brought me back to my roots and memories of my grandparents. I still miss their wisdom and the way they imparted it through sayings that just stick in your head and swirl around until a particular life circumstance pulls it out for re-examination.

My transition experience is very much like a death and birth rolled into one. At first this terrified me. How can I die and give birth to myself? No life-giving mother, no protective father. Nothing.

Then that saying popped into my head. “You come into this world alone and you leave this world alone.” I’d heard it many times as a child. It was a scary and ominous thing. For some, the sting of this realization is too much to bear and one may find solace through faith in an omnipresent personal God who safely delivers you on both ends. I never found much comfort in that; my only recourse was to let the fear wash over me and soldier on.

But now and then, real life creeps in and the existential nausea wave just kicks the wind out of you. Loss. Death. A new beginning riddled with fear of failure. A grim diagnosis.

In the wee hours of the morning, alone, with only the tick of a far-off clock in the room for company, this fear is paralyzing. The realization that you truly are alone at those pivotal moments and there is nothing you can do to change it is overwhelming.

Stop. Breathe. Observe. What am I so attached to that is causing all this suffering?

Digging deeper, finding that source of inner strength to take the next step in spite of the paralyzing fear is the intangible something I’d like to capture in a flow chart – a repeatable process to pull out whenever the need arises. But I can’t – it’s a gut thing, not a head thing.

The gut thing is not a strength of mine – I admittedly spend way too much time in my head. So now, just starting down the path of symbolic death and birth, I have a chance to get better at it and be more balanced.

Thank you for sharing in this journey.

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