Shannon Kavanaugh | On Settling My Mind and Letting Things Be
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On Settling My Mind and Letting Things Be

On Settling My Mind and Letting Things Be

Where have I been? Better question, or maybe a statement, where I have I not been.

I’ve been riding my bike by the ocean. I spent the fourth of July exactly how it should be spent, with friends on a boat. I treated my parents and my brother’s family to a nice vacation in the Cascade mountains. I blew my kids’ mind with a moped ride. I stifled my gag reflex and took a picture with my ex husband at Kindergarten graduation. I watched my son be inspired with his first taste of BMX racing. I went to an ironic art show about penises. I saw the sun set and a full moon rise at the same time while on the Pacific ocean. I smoked cigarettes with a very sad man on his back porch while comparing divorce war stories which were so different and yet eerily similar. I adopted two kittens. I had long, hopeful, but sad phone conversations with a friend in another state from long ago who was in the hospital for six weeks with an infected leg and trying to stay clean off meth. Sadly, he was in so much more pain than physical and he’s lost now. I met some amazing women at a blogging conference across the country and sang Rick Springfield while sober. I’ve carried on a lively texting relationship with a man who lives in a neighboring state who might just be my doppelgänger. We have never met but sometimes he reads my mind and we finish each other’s sentences. Go figure, he’s a writer and editor. You’ve never seen such grammatically correct texting which, by the way, is a turn on. I’ve grown an accidental garden of cucumbers. I took a fiction class and wrote my first short story in a year. I penned an anonymous sex article for an online zine which shall remain nameless. I met another really nice boy who I liked a lot. He wined and dined me with smoked salmon and white wine in plastic stemmed cups on a mountain trail. I lost that boy out of fear – his, not mine. But that’s not to say I haven’t been afraid.Where I've been

My fear, though, is right here on this page. I’ve been writing, but not much publicly. I’m bursting with stories, but I can’t get them out. It’s an achy, itchy sort of pain. I start, stop, then ignore, and live to tell more stories squashing the regret for the ones I neglected to get out which now seem stale.

But I can’t complain. I have no right. My life is pretty good now. Which on one hand, seems strange because the hole left by the explosion of my divorce is still hallowed ground. But it’s no longer smoking. And some things are much harder now. Like bills and missing my children. But overall, I still can’t complain. In fact, often times, I look around and can’t believe how stupidly contented I feel in spite of all that I have survived in the last six years with law suits, career moves, divorce and babies.

There are many reasons I feel content in the aftermath of such destruction, but the one that comes to mind is that I’ve settled my mind. For six years the space between my ears was its own battlefield. A constant stream of impossible choices: stay, go, fight, stand down, run, hide, pull out the big guns. And while in some areas, the battle rages on, I have managed to find peace. And that peace has come not by laying down my arms, but by accepting what has come to be.

Why? That is the question I have asked more times than my self-diagnosed ADD would allow me to count. Why did this happen? Why is this my life when I made so many good choices? Why can some people see themselves clearly and others die in search of? Why is addiction such a bitch? Why is it so damn hard to communicate when there are over a million words in the English language with an infinite amount of combinations? Why is love not enough? Why?

And I suppose the peace I have found is not in the answers to these questions – it is accepting that there are no answers. There has been one phenomenal shift in my life which I may never stop writing about and that is… nothing exists in this world without its opposite. There is no definition of light that doesn’t include dark. There is no truth without the lie. The full moon can rise at the same time the sun sets over the ocean. Both exist even when you can’t see them. Especially when you can’t see them.

And so I live with the hallowed ground and the hostile ex husband and the fear of writing and the contented joy of my wild garden and I let it all just be. I fight when I have to, I sit when I need to, I tend the fire inside which aches and itches and might burst any day. I keep asking questions and practice accepting the lack of answers. And with that, I have built a pretty good life.

So that’s where I’ve been. Living. Not perfectly. Not without mistakes and messes and missing pieces, but just letting it all be.

Also, regarding my absence from this space, a couple of months ago I was rattled by the power of what I do here by a few urgent messages from readers. One message, in particular, which I’ve neglected to answer, but the gist of which was… how? How do you live with the pain and uncertainty? How do you let go? How do you face the unimaginable?

I’m not entirely certain, Andrea, but I’ve come to understand that by expanding my view while narrowing my focus was crucial. I came to a point where I included all possibilities and explanations for the fucked up reasons life is fucked up, and yet, I held fast to my own, core truth. Now, I leave nothing out of the realm of possibility, but accept my own limitations. And I hold on. Often, for dear life. And I breathe. And now I know that one can haul around an excruciating amount of pain when you know that joy is riding shotgun. Nothing exists without its opposite and everything is, as always… temporary. Good luck. 

Yin and yang Kittens

My yin and yang expressed in kittens. (Also known as, Alex, left and Benjamin, right.)

  • Amy
    Posted at 20:42h, 14 July Reply

    Love this post, especially the line “one can haul around an excruciating amount of pain when you know that joy is riding shotgun.” I don’t often comment on blogs that I read, but this post has inspired me. I am a single mother, too, having waded through the land of divorce with a small child in tow, and, if it hadn’t been for those small moments of joy, then I would be utterly lost in pain. Thank you for sharing your stories with us, for moving beyond the pain, for experiencing the joys of life.

    • Shannon Lell
      Posted at 20:47h, 14 July Reply

      Awe Amy. Thank you. Comments like this keep me going. I know what I’m doing is important. Thank you. Keep on, keepin’ on mama.

  • Jill
    Posted at 20:48h, 14 July Reply

    Love everything about this! I can’t wait to see what’s next for you!

  • Dana
    Posted at 23:42h, 14 July Reply

    Thank you for existing, oh ye trailblazer o’ mine. You are my doppelgänger of divorce and I thank the heavens and the yin and yang of kittens that I get to read what you write. Like Amy, my heart is filled with hope when I see your beautiful, imperfect sprouts of regeneration appearing via the written word and I am reminded that I, too, will be OK. xoxo

  • mommyinsports
    Posted at 23:57h, 14 July Reply

    This moved me to tears. “Now, I leave nothing out of the realm of possibility, but accept my own limitations. And I hold on. Often, for dear life. And I breathe. And now I know that one can haul around an excruciating amount of pain when you know that joy is riding shotgun. Nothing exists without its opposite and everything is, as always… temporary.”

    I am in a huge transition in my career, and my health has not been good. But I still persist and deal with it without complaining. Or writing about the storm swirling inside, because I just can’t…yet But I now have 2 kittens too – which make me happy. And isn’t that all that matters? Love, kids and cute kitties?!

  • Extreme Mom
    Posted at 00:21h, 15 July Reply

    You write deeply from the soul – like very few can. Thank you for sharing this beautiful gift. I find myself both refreshed and invigorated each time I read one of your posts. Keep on keeping on – you have a fabulous story unfolding. Xo

  • farmerbud57
    Posted at 01:04h, 15 July Reply

    Shannon I have missed you! And I have been hoping you would return. Great post. I have sold my farm and I’m down in Fla shopping for boats and enough land to have a garden close by the water. I was the rare man back in the 90s that became a single father to a baby boy. Sometimes there is nothing you can do but endure the times. I did. I thrived. My little boy is now a young man, a rising junior at a good school, and spending his 3rd summer in the New Mexico desert guiding groups of Boy Scouts on wilderness adventures.

    Sounds like you are doing some guiding of boys yourself! Good luck with that…. :- }

    Sign me,

    Captain Blud!

    • Shannon Lell
      Posted at 01:07h, 15 July Reply

      I do adore you farmer bud. I’d love to hear more of your story. And good for you getting a boat and a garden. Two of my favorite things right there!

  • Jocelyn
    Posted at 04:30h, 15 July Reply

    I admire you, your intelligence (both brain- and heart-based), and your writing so much. Thank you, always, for your posts.

  • Mamma_Simona
    Posted at 13:21h, 15 July Reply

    Just … YES!! I’ve temporarily given up my own writing (in my case it’s due to pain caused by Fibromyalgia compounded by another “auto-immune disease” of as yet unknown aetiology) which makes typing very difficult. Although the constant physical pain and extreme fatigue is hard to deal with some days, I have arrived at the same conclusion you have. Despite it all, I’m at peace and (although some days are really difficult) overall I feel blessed.

    As always, thanks for sharing. 🙂

    • Shannon Lell
      Posted at 19:12h, 15 July Reply

      Thank you! And sometimes, just sitting back and letting it be is the only thing you can do, and when it’s the only thing you can do, you have to decide how you’re going to feel about that, and contented is always better. Good luck and hope you find relief soon.

  • Charity Craig
    Posted at 16:37h, 24 July Reply

    I totally understand the feeling of learning to just be. I’m going through the same journey right now (even if for different reasons), but I’m so happy to hear how self-aware you are. Learning to just be isn’t always easy, and not everyone is aware enough to know how to do it. I know for me, letting go for the time being feels like failing, because you know how all the “experts” can tell us to hustle.

    Thanks for sharing your heart in this quiet time. It confirms my own quiet. 🙂

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