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Finding What Fulfills Me

| written by cj

The last three years I’ve spent every waking moment in tears or suppressing grief (successfully and unsuccessfully).

My grandmother passed on January 16, 2016, my younger brother on May 19, 2018; the two people I loved most in the world. When your heart is constantly aching; when you don’t know how to grieve because western society is crap at supporting the heartbroken; when the loving and the well-intentioned loved ones in your immediate family and friend group have generational trauma around how they process and express grief, so all you can do is remind these souls whose grief is of the same magnitude, that you love them and need them … Your daily mantra and focus becomes: Survive. Or to quote my Christmas present from my best friend, “Keep f*@%!^g going…” I stopped asking myself what feeds my soul, I could only focus on my next step.

During my yoga teacher training in 2017, a classmate, Kaitlyn, (who is now a good friend) talked about a concept that was brand new to me: Instead of an exhaustive list of New Year’s resolutions, pick just one word. A word you can focus on every day, all year long. A word that sums up who you want to be, how you want to live, what you want to manifest for your loved ones and the world. The very essence of #oneword365.

At the time, I was still raw from losing my grandmother. Yes, she lived a long, fruitful life to the age of 83. She bore 9 children, who lived successful lives of their own. Regardless, there’s no way to navigate the loss of your best friend. And she was mine. She was who I called first for every success, every loss. Hers was the advice I wouldn’t move without. As the eldest grandchild and an indigent criminal defense attorney, for the next 2 years I could do little more than focus on my immediate next step: on billing enough not to get fired; on making sure parents, sibling, and cousins were ok; and graduating from yoga teaching training. Drowning in unpredictable waves of grief, I was incapable of creating the space to manifest anything.

Just as I believed I was finding an equilibrium, five months after the 2 year anniversary of my grandmother’s death, I found myself further crippled by the totally random death of my only biological sibling. My brother was my moral compass. Whether it was a difficult client; an inappropriate social media meme; exposure to art; or enlightenment and education about gender, sexuality, and chosen family, I was always learning from him. He was, by far, the wiser of the two of us. I am so fortunate that my brother’s partner and best friends allow me to continue to love him, through them. Their individuality and love for my brother has been a bright beacon on those days when I can’t just “keep f*@%!^g going;” when the tears and grief threaten to render me immoveable. 

Fortunately, in addition to these bright lights, the universe, in all her wisdom, kept me in the courtroom, brought me to teach yoga, and forced me to accept and acknowledge unexpected friendships. My commitment to doing my work the way my clients and students deserve has forced me to hear Grammy and my brother asking,

“Are you fulfilled? Is this the life He’s calling you to live? Is your heart beating easy? Does your breath move smoothly? Are you able to truly rest? No? Ok, what needs to change, to be added or subtracted, to make the answer, ‘yes’?”

And when stress and grief wakes me at 2a.m. and keeps me up for hours, I can hear God telling me I’m meant for more. By hearing my grandmother and sibling, through prayer and deliberate asana, my gut and soul have settled on the word “fulfill” to focus on every day of 2019. Much like Shonda Rhimes’ “Year of Yes,” at every turn I will now ask myself: “Does this relationship fulfill me? Does this choice fulfill my purpose? Does this action fulfill my chosen obligation to my loved ones? Am I heading in a direction to fulfill my desire to improve my piece of the world?

I hope you will join me finding your word and fulfilling your role in lessening this world’s grief.

We’ve all suffered loss. What word will help you to manifest a life filled with purpose, not just mere survival? What word will help you fulfill the life your loved ones want for you? 

CJ is a curly-haired black woman indigent criminal defense attorney living in Denver who passionately believes “Yoga and the full protections of the US Constitution are for every body and everybody.” Quote me.