In February of 2020, my brother-in-law, Clayton, moved to Los Angeles. He wanted a fresh start. He needed a fresh start after a false start in Nashville (he moved there for the music scene and it turned out that it wasn’t his scene), and after a few years of living into the things he had started (work-wise and relationship-wise) coming to an end.
He arrived to Los Angeles – the city of angels – here, he would find his wings.
Then, March of 2020 – we were indefinitely grounded, safer at home. It’s hard to spread your wings when you’re not allowed to fly. Los Angeles was in full lockdown mode and Clayton’s fresh start was hard to find.
What was meant to be a three-week stay to finalize where he wanted to live turned into a six-month stretch of total togetherness, kids on zoom and all.
In the beginning, Clayton embraced our home life with wholehearted enthusiasm – we had cook-offs and dance parties and backyard workouts. We were rapt by The Last Dance sports documentary about Michael Jordan’s career and were perplexed and weirdly captivated by the Tiger King – until we didn’t care anymore. And in between the moments he was feeling grateful that he wasn’t living alone and genuinely happy to be living with his nieces and nephew, there were moments of defeat. There was the launch that didn’t happen – and also, the launch that could happen if he knew where he wanted to go.
So, he started reading. Clayton is a big reader. Usually he reads biographies, historical fiction or books about a particular event in history like a war, a market crash or the history of salt. But at this point in his life, he needed a different type of book. He needed direction – and that usually comes from self-awareness and clarity – direction comes from personal development. And he happened to be sleeping in my office, on a pullout couch, literally surrounded by every self-help book one could ever need to reference.
Each morning, Clayton would get up and follow a consistent morning routine – meditation, journaling, intention-setting….and of course, reading.
At lunch, Clayton and I would talk and he would reveal his indecision or frustration with wanting a vision for his life but not yet having one. I would suggest a book.
It became a joke between us – which book he would have tucked under his arm as he made his way to the backyard, coffee, notebook, hope in hand.
Fast forward to November 2023 and I stand in our backyard in the same spot where the palm tree once stood, the tree that Clayton would sit against to meditate and write down his intentions for partnership, meaningful work, travel, a healthy lifestyle near the ocean – I stand there and I toast to Clayton and his Beloved, Renee and I tell the story of the self-help books.
And how it makes sense that the room Clayton lived in no longer exists – we renovated our home last year – and everything about that time and space in our lives has transformed.
It is a little depressing and funny to be stuck in life, in a small room with kids and puppies that are not your own (though you love them) and all sorts of travel restrictions and hiring freezes and have that room be papered, literally layers of paper, with messages about leaping and starting and making decisions and finding meaning and just be you and get the love you want and dare to lead.
And it’s kind of awesome. I like to think Clayton was exactly where he needed to be.
Sometimes starts look like fighter jet engines and sometimes they look like libraries. I think the answer is to let your start look however it looks – and still consider it a good start.
And as far as starting marriage goes, Clayton and Renee exchanged their vows beneath a beautiful arbor on a glorious afternoon by the ocean – it was a magical start. Boyd and his other brother, Carter, officiated with humor and love.
Throughout the ceremony, there was a humming bird just above the bride and groom. We all noticed it. There’s something about hummingbirds that is universally enchanting, and they can also be messengers for people when they show up in a specific way.
“Did you see it?” Clayton finds me at the reception.
“Yes! We loved seeing that hummingbird.”
“It’s a sign,” he gives me a knowing look, and I burst out laughing.
SIGNS is one of the books Clayton read when he lived with us.
The writer of this book, Laura Lynne Jackson, believes in four truths, and the book is about the evidence she’s experienced to affirm these truths.
We are all constantly being watched over by a Team of Light.
We are loved.
We are all connected and invested in one another’s journeys
When you ask for signs from the Universe, the Universe speaks back.
(quoted from page 7)
I’m not sure exactly how Clayton interpreted the presence of the hummingbird – though I suspect he thought of his late father, Renee’s late grandmother, maybe the presence of many ancestors rejoicing in their union. That hummingbird definitely felt like the presence of loved ones past – we all felt it.
And I felt something else, too. I felt the freedom of it, the possibility of what can happen with wings.
The day after the wedding, I was reviewing photographs on my phone and I realized I captured a picture of Clayton mid-ceremony. Here he is looking up, delighting in that hummingbird – watching it do what he now does so well…fly.
Day 3: Reflection Questions
*Did you have any tough starts this year? How about good starts? Is there something you are ending? Maybe it’s an expected ending, maybe it’s a regretful one. Take a moment to honor your starts and endings from 2023.
*Do you believe in signs from the universe or loved ones past? If you do, take a moment to reflect on the signs that have guided you in your life, especially this past year, and appreciate that you are loved.
*You don’t necessarily have to believe in signs to acknowledge that life can unfold in mysteriously supportive and magical ways. Recall some of the ways life has shown up for you this year – how have you been supported – by people, by animals, by nature, by opportunity?
*You don’t have to believe there is a Team of Light just for you, but it is nice to consider that the lightness of life does shine on you now and then – and when it does, being grateful for it makes that light brighter. And if the Team of Light is in your belief system, thank the Team. Always, always thank the Team.