A World of Phoenixes
A tale of ashes and resurrections
Though I always had an amateur interest, I began investigating invisible things fiercely when the material world failed me once and for all.
It had been a gradual uncoupling over many years, but the final divorce from my faith and investment into the physical, material world as my primary mode of seeing came when I hit my own personal rock bottom.
And it always has to be that way, you know: You must fall to rise, you must breakdown to breakthrough. The lows propel the highs—if you let them.
And that’s the real ass kicker right there, those four words: if you let them. How many of us do? Not me for the majority of my life. It took me 31 years to “let them,” 31 years to let me be me. It has been a life full of resistance, for sure—of thinking I know better than what is. Of thinking my little (big) ego mind knew what was better for me than did Spirit. Of thinking my will was mightier than the force that holds galaxies together.
What did it take, then, for me to surrender? To eradicate the illusion that I do or should control anything in this existence? To step into the flow of creation and truly begin living life?
Death, of course.
Like most stories about the light, this one starts in the dark.
It starts, literally, when everything I knew ended. Capsized. Sunk.
It starts because everything I knew ended-capsized-sunk.
At 30 years old, I lost everything I loved and knew and found solace in, in one fell swoop. My mother died; my brother and sister-in-law (my only remaining immediate family) subsequently moved to a different country; I walked away from the girl I intended to marry and her child who I considered my own; and, icing-on-the-cake style, a handful of lifelong friendships surprisingly and suddenly vanished in the wake of all this hardship. What death didn’t obliterate, grief made sure to pick up the slack, and there, quite suddenly, I was: tossed, as my therapist explained it, into the Arctic Sea with no boat and no legs and no lighthouse. Fucked—to be succinct. One day I had a family and the next I did not. One day I had a purpose and the next I did not. One day I had a heart and the next I did not.
Rock bottom was not gradual for me; it was sudden and it was fierce. It was swallowing.
This kind of complex loss does things to a person that cannot entirely be explained with words. For one, it can kill you. Worse, it can turn you into the walking dead, which is where I found myself. The clock tick-tocked and my heart thuh-dumped, but for all intents and purposes I was zombified—which was a completely foreign state to me, someone who had popped out of the womb a fiery-fierce passionista.
You can’t go on like this for too long, deadwalking. Eventually you have to make a choice because there are only two real options after shipwreck: anchor down or buoy up.
Sink or swim.
You know the choice I made because you are reading my words; but I want you to know that it was a close call. Indirectly I nearly killed myself by excessive partying, numbing up, drowning out; directly I lay awake at night immersed in an asphyxiating feeling of aloneness and purposelessness and thought obsessively of how and when I would do it. Could I? Without my mom and my brother and the loves of my life, would anyone really care if I were dead or alive (I saw then firsthand how fast people moved on from losing people)? Is it better to eliminate the kind of darkness that, I swore then, could never again be illuminated? Would death be the fast-track back to the light? I weighed the options seriously.
Life or death: I needed to choose one because I was tired of choosing both; I was tired of being dead in life. The emptiness of the in-between of living and dying felt insulting both to life and to death, and I either wanted to be truly dead or I wanted to be truly alive. I wanted to want.
After a grueling vetting process, I chose life and I bet you know why: Because my mom would have wanted me to.
And that, truthfully, is the only reason I am here today, because I convinced myself every day that even though I didn’t crave life, any other alternative would disappoint her. And there was no way in hell I was going to do that. I wasn’t able to live for myself at that point, but for her I would do anything.
The light of my life, I knew, would want me to take the seemingly impossible challenge of transmuting the pitch black I found myself in into divine light, now, in this physical life, in a way I wouldn’t have been able to had she not died. She would want me to gather all my lead and commit to goldsmithery. She would accept alchemy and nothing less.
This background story isn’t told to solicit pity or position myself as a victim—the dark touches us all the way we needed to be touched (and we should stop pitying or shaming those who are in the throes of shadow work already, seriously). I reveal these wounds to you in an attempt to be vulnerable, in an attempt to say “me too” to anyone who is suffering, in an attempt to do my part in soothing our collective illusions of aloneness. As scholar Brene Brown says, “If we are going to find our way back to each other, vulnerability is going to be that path.”
And that’s the overarching goal here: to find our way back to each other; to be brothers and sisters in oneness instead of competitors in perceived separation. In trying to be authentic we must tell how we’ve failed to be—how we’ve been hurt, how we’ve hurt. In trying to shine the light we must tell tales of the storm.
I started Wildtimes to restore passion and purpose into my life once my storm had settled a bit. But I didn’t do it because it was what I wanted to do. After this deep surrendering to the invisible, I no longer asked myself what I wanted from life, what I wanted to manifest—that question became short-sighted to me; a total miss of the mark. I gave up the idea that I needed to or could control anything—I had seen with my own eyes that the opposite is true.
Happiness, I learned, is surrender.
That is all it is.
That—it is everything.
So, instead, I began asking this invisible thing that I surrendered to, which I call God and you may call Spirit or Intuition or something else you feel good about: How can I be of service? How can I best spread Love? I asked that day after day and made no sudden movements. I asked and made sure to be quiet for as long as it took to hear the answer, because I learned that our highest self doesn’t yell. Gradually, the answer was revealed to me in the gentle voice clarity speaks in. Wildtimes was the beginning of that answer, and so, here we are.
And now, as I continue to ask how I can be of service, how I can help the most in this after-rock-bottom life, Spirit has nudged me, once again, toward my longest and truest passion: writing. Writing is something I’ve done since I was small and something I truly thought I’d never be able to do again in the throes of deep and complex grief. But here I am, once again amazed at the resilience of our hearts and souls and guts.
What is more miraculous, more breathtaking, than a world of Phoenixes? Because that’s what we’re dealing with here—ashes and resurrections. Over and over, that’s what we are dealing with. It is hard and it is soft; it is dark and it is light. And, just like days when its clouds and its sun both, it is more beautiful than any day of pure light could be.
The lows propel the highs.
If you let them.
Today, years after my mother’s passing, I am more alive, more happy, and more authentic than I ever have been. Had you told me that would be the outcome the day she died I would have scoffed in disbelief—probably called you a mother fucker. I would have forgotten that Spring is a promise and we too are seasons. But now, on the other side of the Dark Night of The Soul, I know that my increased aliveness and happiness and authenticity is directly related to my increased faith in the invisible, in the mystery, in the big, beautiful, unknown things that wait patiently—sometimes entire lifetimes—to burst from hearts.
What I’m saying is, this is a beginning birthed from an end. This is creation formed from destruction. This is morning bursting from night.
And it always has to be that way, you know.
Arizona Bell is the co-founder and editorial director of Wildtimes Media. Her book “Soul Magic: Ancient wisdom for modern mystics” is available everywhere books are sold. Arizona came out the shoot a free thinker, and intends to go to the grave the same.