Monday, July 18, 2016

29 years and counting...

Yesterday I celebrated another year of recovery from the insidious disease of addiction. There is no doubt in my mind addiction is a disease.  Why in the world would a young child lie in bed at night and listen to the never ending arguments of a codependent father trying to control the drinking of a mother caught up in the web of alcoholism, only to repeat the story when she grew up?  I don’t recall ever saying, “Gee, I want to grow up to be just like my mom.”   I do remember through clenched teeth attesting,  "I won’t put my children through this nightmare."  Her addiction completely annihilated her marriage, any meaningful relationship with her children, and worst of all her self-esteem.  Her addiction lasted for many years; the greater part of her life.  And mine.  The worst part of all, she died young, with just 7 years of sobriety under her belt. When she got sober, I started to drink. 

I tried to not be like her.  I really did. I kept the genetic predisposition at bay for a long time and dug deep into my iron will  to change the entire narrative.  However,  I did marry young the first time,  like she did and hauled in my steamer trunks of childhood baggage padlocked close to me, to keep my secrets safe.  I created and lived a fantasy world of a picket fence marriage,  putting on the Stepford wife face,  which always felt disingenuous. I wanted to do this right, for her too. I tried.  

You can’t keep the past hidden away.  It pokes its dysfunctional little head into your business when you least expect it.  You have to deal with its evil little acts.  If you don’t,  it will burst open spewing into the lives of everyone you have relationship with.  Wedded hostage taking should not be a tool in the problem solving belt. And, I took that poor man when I was 19 and held him for 7 years.  I had myself convinced I was a perfect wife and mother, and that just might get me extra credits with a God I knew, but didn't seem too fond of me.  Maybe then He would like me as I proved my worth as a spouse and momma. 

In the best of relationships, as human beings, all of us  have an ugly underbelly of behaviors that usually don’t expose themselves until much later, when a little heat is applied.   In a marriage, after the blush of romance, you end up looking at each other and wonder who took over the body of the person you said "I do" to.   These unruly character traits that show up can be survivable for healthy couples, who expect them, but, there were already so many  cracks in my shakey foundation and I didn’t have the skills or desire to repair them. In my case, my steamer trunks were  bursting at the seams.  I had never seen an example of a couple working through their issues, and growing stronger together.   Gary Zukav, life coach and spiritual author says that relationships and the unintentional button pushing that ensues after the heat of passion cools, is a holy thing.  It is meant to trigger us and help us to grow into our spiritual skins;  learn who we are and how to be true love.  My character defects were like a pressure cooker, ready to blow. I didn’t know how to turn them into a growth experience to be more self-aware.   I turned to the only thing I could trust to alleviate the constant pain I kept trying to push down.  The first sign of trouble sent me fleeing into a wine bottle.  At first, it was just a glass of wine at night, after work, to help me sleep and forget that I had failed. Again.  Problems didn’t leave and divorce seemed the solution.  After that,  It wasn’t long before the whole bottle was needed to numb my sense of failure and regret at not being able to give my daughter what I did not have. My genetic predisposition had fully kicked in. And by the time I found my way to the twelve step programs, I didn’t have the knowledge or empathy to realize that I hadn’t failed.  I had a disease.  

Today, I accept I have a disease.  It’s manageable,  as long as I take care of myself.  I've tried to do that for the last 29 years.  

Today, I am grateful for the man, the father of my child, who was clearly put on my path to reveal the hard work that needed to take place in putting my past behind me.  He was an important catalyst in my story. He unwittingly led me to face my demons and learn that  to be like my mother was not the worst thing that could happen to me.  She had put her disease into remission and found her bliss in the arms of a twelve step program, 7 years before I did.  I am grateful it didn’t take a lifetime for me as it did for her.  

Having the courage to do soul excavation through years as well as continuing to encounter these beautiful human helpers along the way,  has been key to my ongoing recovery and spiritual journey.  In 29 years I have had to relearn lessons, suffered unbearable losses, and grieved until I thought my heart would never recover.   I have also experienced exquisite joy which directly correlates to practicing accepting life on its terms; forgiving, mostly for my own sake, and staying grateful for the simplest of things.  I have learned I can take care of myself as long as I closely ride the waves with a Higher Power who has always had a long term investment in my growth and happiness.   Life will always be like the weather, mercurial at best.  I accept that. 

If you would have asked me 29 years ago to write a story about what my life might look like, I couldn’t have even come close to what I have been blessed to  experience through the years.  I became an authentically imperfect wife again, courageously taking a risk on love, and learned what it meant to lose that soulmate without becoming bitter.  I have earned the title of mother and discovered that there is no love quite as perfect as that of a grandchild.    I’m a poster child now for the belief,  all things happen for a reason.  My sobriety quite possibly might not have happened if it wasn’t for my early experiences, a mother who loved me to the best of her ability in an nontraditional way,  and my first husband who taught me to be true to who I am instead of trying to be something that I am not. 

Today I am grateful for 29 years of a meaningful life and I plan on making the most of every day of this gift.  

Tuesday, June 28, 2016

Resurrecting Gratitude

I woke this morning with a small person lying beside me, her sweet face lost in dreams of all that is holy and beautiful.   A rush of gratitude washed over me and it felt like a baptism.  I hadn’t felt that for a long, long time.  My spirit was lighter, like some of  the heaviness of the last few years had left me and gone scavenging for someone else’s joy to devour.  A silvery thread of illumination, hiding behind my heart, revealed there was a search light in there somewhere if I could just flip its switch and look for other thankful moments hidden away  far too long.  The deep depression that had been suffocating me, through pillows of self- pity, shame, and regret  began lifting.  After I stopped struggling so mightily, they too gave up the battle to destroy my life and when they left, I grabbed onto any ribbon of hope.  One of those ribbons showed up in the teachings, excerpted from a book by Father Richard Rohr, Breathing Underwater. He refers to God as Father of Light.  It is that concept of a Higher Power that is helping to bring me back to a my personal relationship with God.  And, a helpful tool that I have been using every day.  

“Only an hour-by-hour gratitude is strong enough to overcome all temptations to resentment.” - Father Rohr 

Resentments.  I’ve had a few.   Being on social media did not help me in that area.  Everyone’s life looks so incredibly rich and blessed, or at least that is what people want you to think.  All polished up with their Sunday best on display.  Father Rohr says, “If there is one characteristic of holy people, I would say it’s honesty.  They just don’t pretend anymore.  They are not into pretense and performance and trying to present that they are something other than what they really are.  They’ve met the enemy, and the enemy  is themselves.” That statement fit like a puzzle piece in my goals for this year. 

Authenticity as a pathway to God and being who you were created to be. 

I’ve known for years I am my own worst enemy.  It’s a lesson that continues to repeat itself.  Maybe lessons are like taking French in High School and speaking relatively fluently for the first year, but when you visit Paris five years later, a refresher course is needed to fine-tune what you thought you learned.  And, if you don’t practice it on a daily basis, you lose a great deal of your skill.  

Gratitude is like that too.  A spiritual skill necessary to a happy, peaceful life.  

It’s hard to find much genuine gratitude, the kind that sticks to your ribs and leaves you fully satiated when you are busy comparing yourself and your life to others. Comparison is a coffin to feelings of gratitude.  I’ve also discovered through the years, the simpler things we learn to be grateful for, have a longer-lasting effect on us than the worldly things. 

Detaching from the bright lights of other people’s happy lives showcased online, was essential for me this summer in order for me recognize the biggest blessings arrive in smallest moments of my own life.  I am a child of the Father of Light.  I have inherited His light and it was time to cast on the beauty present in my life, hour by hour:

A sleeping grand-daughter.
As I type this, my view of the sunshine streaming through the trees and warming my head.
A safe trip home with a headful of memorable adventures of New York City for my oldest grand-daughter to share with me. 
The ability to get up from a lounge chair at the pool this year.
Surrounded by sunshine, flowers, and peace on my patio reading my latest book.
Eyes to read my book.
Coffee from Seattle.
An easy, healthy, summer dinner with my mother and sister-in-law.
The feeling of color and heat on my slightly sunburned skin.
The chill of the ice cream flavor of the week on my tongue.
The strong legs that are emerging from trips to the gym again.
The unconditional love of friends who make time for me.

Hour by hour, something to be grateful for is doing some deep cleaning and revealing a good soul, who is much too hard on herself and whose life is perfect, just as it is in this very moment.  

 Thank you Father of Light for rewiring mine and reminding me gratitude is an hour by hour deal. 

Thursday, June 2, 2016

Grace: Unmerited divine assistance given for regeneration or sanctification: A virtue coming from God: approval, favor, mercy, pardon: Disposition to an act of kindness, courtesy, or clemency.

I sat just feet away from it yesterday. In fact I didn’t even know it was right behind me until I stood up for a tour of the land.  The Tree of Life.  This sprawling tree was named three years ago when I slipped out to see a friends new home.  She invited me because she knew I would see what she saw.  And, she was right.  I didn’t see a home that needed some major housekeeping, a lot of cleanup, and landscaping. I saw a place on the planet that was handmade by God, just for her.  I saw the fields behind her new home, a span of blue sky, and this lovely Tree of Life.  Just like she had dreamed of and talked about since I had known her. And, I knew it would breathe new life into her after a long stretch of worry and suffering.  I saw a place that within a short time would have her sweat, green thumb, and love sprinkled all over it.  There was no doubt God planted a reserved sign there.  Sitting near the tree and her,  it was the most peaceful day I have had in a long time.  

I had to come clean with someone, and reach out for help. So I texted her.  I knew I was in trouble, slipping into an abyss that scared me enough, I thought I might never come out of it this time.  Coming clean is easy for me to do.  The reaching out, well, that is another story.  I can take my own inventory and keep no secrets better than anyone these days. I write about it and share probably more than I should.  I know there was a time I couldn’t do that, for decades actually.  A twelve step program taught me that secrets make you sick, and by the time I got there, I was incredibly ill and badly damaged.  As the years went by I continued to  dole out little bits  of accumulated poison from secrets kept since childhood.  I knew it would kill me if I didn't.   That’s been almost thirty years ago and I still remember how it felt.  Every day, week, month, and year was like someone kept inching open a steel door that I installed to  protect my heart and soul.  When fresh air finally rushed through, cleansing everything it touched, I knew something had moved through me leaving behind His spirit, love, and assistance for my future use.  It wasn’t  a one-time project like I thought it would be way back then.  There have been periods of my life even in my recovery that I  have had dark nights of the soul; a deep depression that was predictable and situational coming with loss, loneliness, uncertainty, and necessary changes.  Looking back I have moved through them with the help of friends, therapists who became friends, and family.  And, most important a loving God who spoke to me soothingly, sent me some angels and signs, and directed me towards my next step.  

Imagine how scared I have been over the past year or so,  to do many of things that in the past provided  guidance and support only to find God had gone rogue on me, blocked my number, and left me to my own devices. I could picture Him with his Holy fingers in his ears chanting, Lalala.... I can’t hear you.   I meditated.  I got still. I prayed many times during the day and in the middle of the night.   I cried, I begged, I pleaded.  I'd  never been in a place of physical incapacity and pain before, which made it even scarier.  Then I stopped.  It all seemed futile.  I felt like I had gone back in time,  50 years ago - age thirteen learning that I was an unwanted addition to the planet and that most people would be better off without me.  I thought I put all that to rest when I learned to share, forgive, and experience love again.  And, most profoundly  through motherhood and becoming a grandmother.  But, there they were-  those ugly notions about myself and even worse, the demon feelings that come with those kind of thoughts.  

As I said, I am not good at reaching out.  It used to be a case of not wanting anyone to think I was less than Super Woman, a flimsy a costume I designed to protect me. But, now I think its all about the debilitating uncertainty and  fear of rejection if I do reach out.  All this tells me I still have some unfinished business to do, even now.  

I have been in a mind numbing slump off and on for the last year due to some major surgeries and long recovery process afterward.  At first, I attributed much of my disposition to pain medication, isolation and an inability to live life like I had before; driving, exercising, and going where I wanted to go, when I wanted to.  My independence was ripped out of my hands.  And, with this last surgery, the recovery may not wind up being a complete recovery, and I may have to learn to live with some pain being my new normal.  I tried to accept that on my own,  but knew I would need a little help, and found most days, my prayers to an absent God (I’m not a quitter, even if He was) became more like pleas to take me Home where I really belonged if my life was going to be like it had played out in the last year - no purpose, no adventure, a black and white existence with no colors. A burden and a deadbeat.   He ignored even that request.  I thought this must be what hell feels like.

I dropped hints to people about my state of mind.  I wrote about it too,  but somehow no one seemed to connect the dots and realize I was totally incapable of helping myself.  Classic depression that this time, without the sweet silent guidance of a Higher Power was threatening my life.  I knew all the things I needed to do; go to the gym, meet friends for lunch, meditate, write my book, sit in the sun.  I even made lists of things to do for the day and couldn’t even get dressed.  Depression is like that.  It does everything in its power to take you out, sapping you of any strength and invading your head with every ugly act in your life.  It’s intent is to kill you, usually slowly and in the most torturous ways.  I felt like I was dying and worse than death in my mind,  I felt so insignificant, invisible really,  that no one could even see what was happening. 

What led me to the Tree of Life?  A few things.  First, the smallest of these, my youngest grand-daughter began to text me all her nine year old fears, resentments, and feelings.  What does a nine-year old have to be resentful for?  Older sisters that were getting to do some things she couldn’t do and one of them being mean to her.  Parents that she felt didn’t understand her.  She ended her texting telling me how much she loved me and wishing me a good night’s sleep.  Wow.  I wasn’t insignificant to her.  Another friend apparently knew I wasn’t Super Women anymore and sensed I was having difficulty not only reaching out, but following up on things I claimed to want to do.  She set a  new book to read and a date with me for a coffee shop book chat.  The spiritual book club I wanted to form enabling me to bond with like-minded tribe members was going to happen.  I have to read the book in the next week and a half.  

Yesterday was a beautiful, warm day, so with trembling fingers  I texted my friend and asked to come visit with her at her Little Piece of Heaven.  The sun, the sky, the Tree of Life lifted me and left me with a small seed, promising new fruits even as I learn to accept my new normal.   She just sat with me and listened, reassuring me she would feel the hope for me until I could feel Him again myself.  It reminded me of a line from a favorite song: 

I need your Grace
To remind me
To find my own

She’s holding my spot until I can once again, find my own.  

For now, I am logging off of social media again for the summer, turning off the television, specifically, CNN and Fox news.    I want to venture into new places that are filled with light, vitality, and good energy.   

I want to follow the sun.  Be in the presence of that which is innocent and fresh. I’m reading more.  Hanging out in God’s playground again and sitting in the stillness with the hope that my brain will settle enough sooner or later, to hear His voice. 

We’ll start there.  Baby steps and a spot held for me at Grace's table.   All roads eventually lead us back Home and to Him.  Maybe he’s not been as absent as I think.  I got to sit near a Tree of Life yesterday and the day before I couldn’t leave my couch.  

Saturday, March 12, 2016

Hard Lessons

Eat, Pray, Love - Elizabeth Gilbert 
I’m recovering from cervical spine surgery. My cervical spine, code name C1-C7, is a mess.  C4-5 literally caved on me and created all kinds of side effects like numb fingers and arms that felt like Mad Max was my personal trainer.  Having had two previous surgeries in the past three years, I debated whether I could just live with the pain until the doctor informed me, without corrective surgery the progression of my degeneration would eventually leave me a paraplegic. When viewed on the MRI, my neck was like a bobble head doll, precariously wobbling on damaged vertebrae compromising an already bruised and inflamed spinal column. My hands were getting number by the day. That got my attention. I’m not afraid to die. I am afraid of being a living, breathing burden to my loved ones. This surgery was more risky than having my hip replaced less than nine months ago.  It involved slitting my throat, close to  my vocal chords, trachea, and carotid artery not to mention all those tiny nerves running up and down my spinal column. I had to force my mind into happier thoughts in order not to dwell there.  My Ortho Surgeon reassured me he would be partnering with a Neurosurgeon, to assure a good outcome.  I didn’t have a lot of time to think about it, which made it a little easier on me, however, I was warned to not fall or get in an accident before surgery and that left me gingerly tip-toeing for the weeks preceding. 

I have to be honest, I am growing weary of surgeries. I am even more tired of these long, drawn out  recoveries and six weeks with no driving, dependent on others to take care of my transportation to doctor visits, shopping and the added burden of entertaining me to keep social deprivation at bay. Normally gratitude is as natural for me as breathing, but I have to work a lot harder at it while in the midst of these recovery processes.  Silence, isolation, and I think even the medication opens up a big, black hole that I know I shouldn’t dive into, but out of pain and boredom, I often do.  It’s like an out of body experience.  I can see myself heading there and try to talk this other me off of the precipice, but it doesn’t always work. There I go tumbling into a sea of self-pity and dangerous thoughts. The kind of thoughts that wipe out my hard drive with everything on it that I’ve learned to keep myself in good thinking order. It is more difficult, when my physical body is healed, to get back on track into some semblance of healthy patterns, routine, and practice. 

This time, for some reason, it has been just a few inches easier to maintain an optimistic outlook.  Maybe I am becoming a pro at being broken and I’ve just accepted it. Or, maybe its something healthier than that.  I not only recite the serenity prayer, I’ve woven it into my recovering lifestyle. I’ve accepted the things I cannot change. I don’t have to like it, but acceptance gets me at least halfway home. 

Our thoughts have the capacity to make us miserable, and negative thinking can be especially insidious, feeding on itself, with the potential to become a self-fulfilling and self-defeating prophesy.  The process of pain recovery includes dramatically changing the negative progression starting with regaining cognitive and emotional balance through the application of acceptance strategies and mindfulness based practices. - Psychology Today

Peace then begins to settle in allowing me to find the truth, nestled in that part of my heart where God resides. When I get really quiet, He whispers, “All experiences are opportunities for you to learn lessons, grow, and evolve. Know this well and life will be easier.” I once again, sometimes begrudgingly, other times freely, depending on how miserable I've become-  accept. He’s right.  He always is. 

After my first surgery in 2014, while I was recovering,  I found out who my true friends were and how important it is to a positive, grateful life to surround myself with people who enhance it. I learned the true meaning of faith and walking boldly into the thing that scares you the most. I discovered I had no more patience for working in toxic environments, surrounded by bitter, unhappy, and mean-spirited people.  I overcame my fear of lack and failure and had both the courage and faith to  leave a miserable environment.  God, as usual, stepped up to the plate and carved a path for me to continue to pay my bills and detox from the negativity, giving me back my serenity and my smile.  Surgery One - Lesson Learned:  Have Faith -  Mustard Seed Faith.

My second surgery, I learned how incredibly  independent, resourceful, and strong I could be  as well as discovering the keys to my happiness were in my own pocket. No one else could make me happy.  And no one was going to swoop in and rescue me.   I was responsible for taking care of my mind and my needs, all of them;  my loneliness, self-confidence, sense of worth, peace of mind and healthy liaisons were up to me.  Surgery Two - Lesson Learned: I’ve been given all the resources to take care of me.  I am responsible for my serenity and happiness.

With this recent surgery, suffering seemed inevitable as I tried to adapt to more than a few awkward changes.  The neurosurgeon stressed, no BLT, not the sandwich, rather, bending, lifting, and twisting.  I have to wear a hard collar monster brace around my neck 24-7 for six weeks, except to shower and eat. I predict I will have water-wrinkled, plucked chicken skin at the end of it all. And, stalling dining, like a little kid being forced to sit at the table until she finishes her dreaded peas, has become the norm for me.  Anything to escape the suffocating clutches of my Miami J Brace which sounds like the name for a cool rapper dude. Only there is not one thing cool or attractive about it. I can't even figure out a way to bling it up being the diva lady I am. It's like they purposely made it ugly to slow you down. And,  do you know how difficult it is to try to projectile spit your toothpaste out past six inches of brace ledge supporting your chin? The bathroom mirror looks like a tube of toothpaste has been murdered in there.  I can't drink (neatly) without using a straw, including my coffee.  The brightly colored neon ones I purchased do lend an air of whimsey to my morning ritual.  Sleeping on my back is not a natural state under normal conditions, but back sleeping (and I use the word  sleep loosely) with your head encased in a vice?  It put an end to  my traditional lullaby of Friends episodes pre-slumber, something light and funny to fall asleep to.  I couldn’t even see the television. And, during the day, In my  boredom, I  tuned into the latest political updates, and spent time in my head wondering if our country would turn into a fascist state with a chubby, yellow skinned dictator with the chalkiest white teeth I’ve ever seen, at the helm. I wasn’t fooled by his expensive suit and red power tie. I found myself screaming at the television, “Use your big words. Give me a real plan and how you will achieve it!”  I had myself worked up into a fever pitch, addicted to the political poison on continuous drip by Fox news and CNN. 
Then, I read something:

“Between stimulus and response there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.” —Viktor Frankl

What? Before I even had an opportunity for my blood pressure to skyrocket, I could turn the channel?  I could watch The Chew or Hallmark movies, fall asleep to the gentle sounds of nature and plug in my essential oils diffuser with a little Ylang Ylang to soothe me to sleep.  I could make a joyful ritual out of removing my brace and mindfully appreciate the delicious food in front of me, savoring every bite.  I could stop complaining about the brace itself and be grateful that it is holding up my fragile neck, and keeping it safe while I heal. 

Surgery Three - Lesson Learned:  Pain is inevitable.  Suffering is optional.

Into focus comes the big picture and I am continuing the journey on my road to transformation.  Thankfully, rest breaks are not only allowed, but encouraged.

Saturday, February 6, 2016

Beggy Prayers

My Facebook Post Dated November 30, 2015 : 
 4:00 am and the loneliness broke down her door and threatened to make her believe all the secrets swirling in her mind about worthiness, lovability, failure, and why she was still here. What was her purpose at this juncture of her life? Her mind was a bad neighborhood to be in, especially at night. She tried to wrap herself up in a heavy coat of faith, scrunching her eyes shut reciting Beggy Prayers for peace and direction, or even a small sign but the fear blew right through her coat, and the world was so silent she couldn't even hear God breathe.

I've had these unexpected, debilitating, bone and joint  issues the last few years. I feel like I took pretty good care of my bones, with supplements and lifting weights, but in hindsight, if stress plays a role in health, that explains it perfectly.  It appears I am crumbling- or melting - like the wicked witch of the East.  Only, I’ve been good, and I no longer believe what happens to me is some karmic unpaid debt, or based on stellar behavior.  I’ve had bad things happen to me, when I’ve toed the line of kindness and integrity  and blessings showered on me when I didn’t deserve them.   I’m relatively adept at finding the humor in the midst of most of my problems, even joints that aren’t holding up, or more recently a spine that is dangerously collapsing.  The embellished fantasy I’m sticking to about these disintegrating bones goes like this:  

He’s got the whole world... in His hands.  
He’s got the whole world... in His hands. 
He’s got the whole world ... in His hands. 
On the seventh day He rested... and placed it in mine

Spoken like a true co-dependent. My arrogant interpretation of what happens to good joints when you carry the weight of the world, even if only for one day of the week.  It’s a good pity party and sometimes you just gotta attend to get it out of your system.  I set a timer dictating how long I'm going to party-on. The rest of my energy is being used to stay positive and maintain my sense of humor  as I prepare to go under the knife and get my throat slit to repair collapsed vertebrae that are bruising and damaging my spinal column. Three surgeries in three years.  I've said it before, third time is a charm.

Everyone has something going on in their life.  Maybe they are better able to handle things than I am.  Maybe they’re on good drugs.  Or, maybe they don’t handle things any better than I do and suffer in silence.  I was a child protege in the field of suffering in silence and earned my  PhD early on.  In middle-age I burned that advanced degree with the help of others who taught me that secrets would continue to make me even sicker and then introduced me to a twelve step plan for a healthier way of life. I also learned I am only responsible for the square footage around my own little body, not the whole world.  Learning and understanding all of these things,  it seems God opened that place where all my hurt, pain, and isolation was stuffed.  It was like Hoover Dam had sprung a big leak, and I shared, and I shared and I shared.  I promised never to shove that much fear, anger, and silent suffering down like that again.  Most  of the time I’m pretty good about  dealing with things as they arise rather than ignoring it, pushing it way, or medicating in some way. I'm still working on stuffing my feelings down along with a pound or two of good cheese. While blissful in the moment, it extracts too big a price on my digestive system and thighs. I've acquired some good anti-stuffing tools and I know what I need to do.  Call a friend.  Meditate and sit in stillness for awhile. Go for a walk.  Get out and be among people. Help someone else.   If none of those things work, and the feelings overwhelm me, say, in the middle of the night, where I am most vulnerable, I call on my Beggy Prayers.  

I once heard Iyanla VanZant, author and self-help guru chastise those kinds of prayers.  You know the ones that are punctuated with the word please in between every other word. Oh, please.  Please God. Pretty please.  Those were my childhood prayers back when I thought God and Santa Claus were brothers and her comment made me feel childish.  Her claim is God hears us the first time and it’s not necessary to repeat it over and over again.   I believe that He does too, in fact I think He knows our heart and needs even before we do.  But there is something about  Beggy Prayers that humbles me so much and I feel like an innocent child again, in a sweet way,  standing at the feet of a powerful, loving Father who soothes me.  I may not have to say please two hundred times in order for help to arrive or my wish to be granted, but it puts me in communion and that’s all that matters.  In times  when I am most powerless, that might be the best it gets, and its always felt good enough.  

When I pull out those Beggy Prayers, I am at my most innocent, moldable, receptive self.  Like a mediation mantra, a focal point to quiet the mind and tune into the silence and make some room for a connection to take place.  Beggy Prayers are the big guns for me.  Oh, please (take this cup from me).  Oh, please (if I must drink from this cup, hold my hand).  Oh, please (teach me how to trust you explicitly in all things).  

Reciting those Beggy Prayers long enough in my dark night of the soul back in November, I did eventually feel God’s breath on my cheek and comfort in my heart.

That won’t be the last time I use my Beggy Prayers regardless what any self-help guru says. They may seem childlike.  They may seem unnecessary; however, for every Beggy Word that I speak, it is communion with the Most High, who understands I am most human.   

Just a little heads up God.  You will hear my Beggy Prayers again, right before the twilight of anesthesia slips in and takes me into the land of dreamless sleep next week. Oh, please, (be with me always).

Oh, please (let this be my last surgery for awhile).   

Friday, January 29, 2016

Treasure Chest

Image from
He was her hero
not in the cape-flying
out the window kinda way
but in the best friend,
believes in who you are kinda way
The last week of January has traditionally been a rough week for me.  It’s been that way since January 30, 1999.  Watching the person you believe to have been your soulmate slip out of your arms into the arms of heaven leaves a wound on your soul.  There have been years that have been better than others, and possibly even years where there was a new love interest in my life.  I haven’t stayed stuck in the muck of hopelessness and grief, and he wouldn’t have wanted me to.  However, his presence in my life carved a deeper impression than a legal and holy merger between a man and woman who love each other whole-heartedly.   He changed everything I believed about me.

In the months after his death, I begged God to take me with him. Later, I ranted at the unfairness, and constantly dwelled on what life would be like if he was still here,  I lived in a twisted future world of fantasy; making up stories of the two of us, buying a business, traveling, building a small condo by some beach, and immersing ourselves in the activities of  precocious  little grandchildren.  How he would enjoy them.  Those stories I told myself just left me a little envious and a lot bitter.  

After a few years, I moved beyond that, and gingerly stepped into dating again.  I was a young widow and at the time the idea of living out the rest of my days alone was a dreaded fate, right behind death.  Being with him when he died, I no longer feared life on the other side, but a life alone seemed to me to be a miserable existence.  With that fear in the forefront of my mind, many of my choices in companionship weren’t really the best fit for me and with every break-up, it somehow made his death even more painful.  I wondered if I compared others to him too often, and decided I probably did.  Using him as a measure of suitability was destined to fail, not because so many of those others weren’t good people and nice guys, but simply because nothing can ever compare to the trophy on the shelf, shiny and flawless in my imagination;  picking and choosing only the stellar qualities and fireworks moments to memorialize him.  I pushed away the minutia of character traits and times when he wasn’t perfect. 

I’ve settled into a much more comfortable place and my dreaded widowhood has turned to comfortable singledom.  What that means is I am no longer defined by his death.  I treasure the Golden Decade I spent with him, but I have also had beautiful moments without him.  

However, he was my hero and always will be. He left me with a treasure chest of unconditional love, acceptance, and an explicit  belief in me and my capabilities, things I struggled to give to myself. He taught me to love me. He looked at me with a fresh set of eyes.  He saw my heart and my humor.  He saw my talents, unfiltered by insecurity.  He told me I was one of the smartest people he knew and reinforced it when he listened intently to my opinions and used them with his business, in his relationships, and for his own personal growth.   Those were the gifts he left to comfort me when he was gone.  Eternal, life-changing gifts.  I didn’t see it for a long, long, time and maybe I had to dig my way out of the grave in order to breathe.

I had to find my gratitude again to light the way back into the land of the living and uncover the blessings he brought into my life, rather than focusing on my loss.  

As I prepare for another January 30th, tomorrow, this year I think I will snuggle into the beautiful wool quilt my talented sister-in-law made for my father-in-law and gifted to me after his death a few years ago.  Surrounded by material symbols of love, it’s really time to send an extra helping of thanks to God and him for arriving in my life and helping me to see that I am really strong and talented, and loved way beyond the grave.  Spending the day honoring the treasure chest full of gifts that have helped me to navigate these many years since he's been gone, seems like it would be a better reflection of the love we shared.  My husband, my hero, my blessing.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Negativity as a teacher. A return to Optimism.

I wrote this last summer a few months after my hip replacement surgery.  It was a great exercise then and a good review now.  Somehow in the midst of the negativity a lesson was learned that opened the door to gratitude again. Through it all,  I discovered how much power I have- granted by the grace of God.  We are responsible for our own happiness, NO MATTER THE CIRCUMSTANCES.  I'm reposting because I need the reminder:  All is well, and will be well, as I head into a scary cervical spine surgery in three weeks.  Three surgeries in three years - I should play the lottery.  Lucky number 3.  Third time is a charm they say.  I am ready to be charmed and I know, this time, Optimism is my best  pre-surgery medicine. 

July 4, 2015 - I was cleared by the doctor yesterday to drive, walk, swim, and bike.  Now, you would think I would be overjoyed to be able to do those things. It was still only mid-summer. These last seven weeks have been a real challenge, especially taking my wheels away. I also wasn’t prepared at all for the emotional roller coaster ride brought on by pain, medication, surgery, isolation, and immobility.  I felt like a child, helpless and dependent on the schedules and whims of other people.   My social life, cheering squad, and shopping needs were in their control. It felt like my emotional well-being was too.   I don’t do well being dependent or asking for help.  I've been self-sufficient for the greater part of my life.  It seemed when I did reach out, my surgically/pharmaceuticaly  induced mood swings and depression was something no one wanted to deal with and I felt that terrible sting of rejection.  Abandoned, once again. Shouldn’t family and friends accept me as I was - mood swings, negativity and all?  They hadn’t just had their hip socket sawed off and a metal rod jammed down into their femur. They’d be cranky too, I thought.  

For a few moments there, instead of squealing in delight because I could drive,  I sat with my doctor and a long list, questioning him on when I could do Yoga, hit the nautilus at the gym, go back to spin class, and travel.  “Not for six months,” he replied.  He had just shown my an Xray of my perfect new hip - the one that was giving me back my ability to live my life as fully as the average baby boomer and it wasn’t enough?  Maybe I needed to relearn that art of gratitude.  I am normally a grateful person by nature so my “not enough” thinking quickly turned to jubilation as I strode to my daughter’s car and proclaimed a  celebration in order.  After she dropped me off from a cane-free walk around a store and lunch, I backed my car out of my driveway just to make sure it would start, and my new bionic gam could control the pedals.  Freedom!   I felt like a prisoner who had served the time and was sprung from a long sentence.  The sky was a little bluer, the world a lot more glorious. The air was fresh, unlike the canned air-conditioned prison laced with the smell of my isolation and, for awhile there, a limited amount of caring about appearances or hygiene on my part.  With every mile I drove, Optimism, once again, rushed through my veins.

 It appeared the road to Optimism could be found by taking the Gratitude trail. 

But, boy was it earned on a long, often lonely road.  There is something about being cooped up for an extended period of time.  I don’t care how optimistic and grateful you think you are, every little character defect (yours and others), every insecurity, every still unhealed part of you is going to show up to keep you company in the still  of your healing journey.  My traveling insecurities would come and go uninvited, sometimes just paying a short visit and other times they would arrive with the steamer trunk, packed up for a world cruise. My head had a difficult time changing course and heading towards Port Optimism. Under normal circumstances, at this juncture of my life, through trial and error, I have learned what tools to use to turn my thinking into something constructive and optimistic.  Nature works well, however, I couldn’t sit outside for a few weeks and the weeks when I could, it rained constantly.  Meditation has been my best friend for a number of years now, but those little minions in my head would rattle cages I hadn’t opened up in years and it took all my strength to keep them locked out. Reading a book was difficult - pain medication and concentration don't make good bedfellows.  I granny walked my way to the computer, pushing my metal walker with the homeless lady bag on the front, and spent hours creating my own little motivational screen-savers to reinforce all the good in my life. I practically wallpapered my phone and computer with them.  The one on this blog post was designed on a particularly sarcastic and anger infused day.  I might be an unpleasant grouch, but at least I would be authentic and embrace my grouchhood.  I think that’s when my 2016 word of the year began to take shape. Authentically a Scrooge.  I prayed to be happy, and then decided no one could possibly be happy considering my situation, so I prayed for peace, at least.   A little voice in my head reminded me, if I wanted long-term peace, maybe I should do a little work and the questions I should ask might go like this.  

What is your anger and pique trying to teach you?  What are the lessons that you will take from this experience?   

Here goes:

I was put out that I had to essentially take care of myself.  After all, I had taken care of just about everyone else in my life  and it was my turn, for a change.  I was a good human being.  A good friend. A caring soul.  As if all my goodness could be saved for a rainy day and God would grant me help because my giving ledger was full.  Wasn’t that an expectation and wasn’t it also ragingly codependent?

I was angry at myself for not taking better care of my health through the years, not making my own well-being a priority and guarding it like I had for others I loved. I had been the one that hadn’t gone to doctor when I needed to, worked long hours, and put others needs before my own.  What could I do about it now?  Absolutely nothing. Again, codependent as hell and martyrdom in its stinkiest  glory.

I was angry for expecting people who simply aren’t capable of support and thinking somehow, magically, it would be different this time.  When would I learn that some people are not dependable? Some people can barely take care of themselves.  I was really angry that I had forgotten, when people show you who they are, believe them.  However, it was a beginning in seeing that I have the power, to choose who I lean on, pick to share my secrets, and those that have the capacity to be there in unconditional love. 

Most of all, near the end of my drive through hip replacement ordeal, I was angry with myself for giving me so little credit.  I wasn’t the helpless victim.  Who better to take care of me and know what I need, but me?  Sure some things were a physical challenge during the healing process, but somehow, somewhere, the strength arrived to get done what I needed to do. 

Finally, shouldn't I have been focusing on those beautiful souls that did help me through a tough time and made sacrifices to see me through it?  Optimism might return if that's what I chose to see.  

I looked back over the course of my life.  It has been peppered with more challenges than most people can even imagine. But the real biography of my life - overcoming, diligence, faith and courage, and the right people,  always showed up when needed.  

Time spent in suffering and solitude guided me to  recognize as the Apostle Paul said, “For when I am weak, I am strong.”  

A teeny bit of negativity never hurt anyone. At least not me. It forced me to examine what was behind it. Being weak showed me how capable I was of taking care of me.  Through the crazy thinking, anger, and loneliness, there stood God guiding me through it all, making me stronger as I drew closer to Him. 

 Another obstacle  traversed on the journey to RENEW, my Word of the Year for 2015.   I am convinced, there is power in this practice.

RENEW - that was my wish, tossed out to the Universe.  It’s beginning to look like the message was received.  For starters, a new hip - RENEW: make like new.  I can feel a quickening in the pit of my stomach.  Life awaits. It’s  time to  be my own fairy godmother and head on off to the ball. I’m not looking for Prince Charming or someone to rescue me.  I wouldn't miss it for the world. I’m going  because I love to dance. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

No Lie Left

A little over a week in, and I have already learned this authenticity commitment is a bit more of a challenge than I thought it would be. I imagined it would be a simple matter of proclaiming, this is who I am, what you see, is what you get, here is my truth.  That’s great, however, I discovered this week, there are times I just really don’t know the truth.   Sometimes the truth gets buried under years of protecting the feelings of others, and shame and guilt. 

This is where my Higher Power steps in.  By openly declaring my word, a spiritual pact has been formed between myself and God.  This year’s word, AUTHENTIC, I’ve decided to essentially follow what I call a Four Agreements lifestyle.  For those of you unfamiliar, the four agreements come from the book of the same name, written by Don Miguel Ruiz and published about eighteen years ago.  I read it way back then, and again off and on through the years, usually desperately, when a patch of quicksand on life’s road threatened to take me down.  Its simplicity is perfect for people like me who occasionally spend far too much excavating and then dissecting things in my head.  

The Four Agreements are:

Be impeccable with your word. (A little irony here perhaps)
Don’t take anything personally.
Don’t make assumptions.
Always do your best. 

Simple.  Right? Not at all.

Last week I got to work on being impeccable with my word.  With myself. God thought it was time.  I have to be open to learning more about who this authentic creature is and how she operates in order to not tell myself anymore lies. In an interview a few years ago  Alanis Morrisette said something and it stuck in a random brain cell.   She said, “I hate my own lying.  I need to get to the bottom of it until there is no lie left.”  Being impeccable with your word includes the things you tell yourself.  Authenticity begins at home. 

Those lies aren’t intentional.  I consider myself a painfully self-aware, honest person, sometimes struggling in identifying when the honesty has turned into self-flagellation. Some things are buried so deep, we can’t seem to unearth them on our own, or we don’t deal with them until they begin to affect our lives. They are the subtle tales we’ve woven, usually for many years. It takes a little nudge from an experience or in my recent case, God, to turn those lies into a truth that can set you free.  Last week, His nudge was an inner voice pointing out a few lies I’ve been telling myself all my life that have profoundly impacted me and others.  My lies are:  Love hurts.  I am unlovable. Everyone abandons me.   I can’t let myself be so vulnerable ever again.  

The thing about these internal lies about our character, they usually aren’t really true and we often don’t even know we are telling them.  They have become a part of our belief system and likely began a long time ago. We eternalize them because we think it will keep us safe on some  level  and we continue to breathe life into them.     I’ve fed that impostor all my life, which began in childhood and I refused to acknowledge because of a sense of misguided loyalty, guilt and shame. I thought I had put it all to rest, and essentially I have.  Most of it.   Don’t misunderstand, I blame no one.  I love my parents deeply.  Both of them have been gone quite some time now and I’ve taken the time to put the craziness in perspective with the help of some incredible counseling,  lots of prayer and developing a meditation practice.  They did the very best they could from their level of consciousness with the tools life had handed them. I came to not only know that, but appreciate their lives as well.  They too had struggles. This has allowed me to forgive and focus on their goodness and the things I loved about them. 

My lie apparently has been harder to get rid of.  It isn’t a lie. I have been abandoned.  From the beginning of life.    The insidious evil part of my lie is how I continue to perpetuate the story: I am unlovable, everyone leaves, and I can’t be vulnerable.  What a shock to discover, I keep the lie alive.  I breathe life into it with every choice I make. That awareness unfolded the first week of my Word of the Year. 

As I was vacuuming, and crying about yet another surgery coming up, and bemoaning the fact I would have to walk through it by myself, this internal voice said, you created that reality.  You can’t pick people who are irresponsible, emotionally unavailable,  dishonest, or incapable of intimacy, and expect them NOT to abandon you.  They don’t have the capacity to have a healthy relationship.  It’s not their fault, just like it was not your parents fault. The difference between back then and now, you couldn’t choose back then.  You can now.  If you truly want healthy relationships, pick healthy people.     

Of course, my comeback in this conversation was to  blubber to God about my one healthy relationship, and how he even abandoned me.  God said: He didn’t abandon you, he got very sick and he died.  My response was:  Well, you could have saved him.  God said: His life journey ended.  He did what he came here to do, and it has nothing to do with you. He didn’t leave you, he died.  I haven’t abandoned you.  I never will. Use my love and loyalty as the standard when you are choosing. 

It’s always a shock to realize that we really do create our own life and destiny.  The quality of my relationships are up to me.  I pick them.  If I want a caring, reciprocal, intimate relationship with someone, I have to choose people who are capable of one. I also have to decide, for myself, if I am picking those kinds of relationships in order to sabotage any chance of meaningful, reciprocal, intimacy,  knowing I just might really be content and satisfied with living alone. Whatever the truth is, no more lies. 

I have a feeling this Authenticity gig is going to be a bit more than I initially bargained for.  But, I have a feeling the rewards are going to be too! 

Friday, January 1, 2016

Word of the Year 2016 - AUTHENTIC - AUTHENTICITY

Authentic:  Real or genuine: not copied or false.  True.  Accurate.  An original. 
Authenticity: The truthfulness of origins, attributes, commitments, sincerity, devotion, and intentions.  In philosophy a particular way of dealing with the external world, being faithful to internal rather than external ideas. 

I’ve chosen a Word every year for quite a few years now starting this practice even before it was so popular. I really love the concept and invest some time in the selection process.  It’s become a holiday ritual, letting my yearly Word of the Year evolve through thought, prayer, and meditation the week between Christmas and New Years. The soft glow of the Christmas tree lights and a big overstuffed chair are conducive to this kind of introspection.  Being reflective and seeking guidance in picking my Word of the Year is worth the investment of time it takes and works so much better for me than a check sheet of New Year resolutions that come wrapped with a lot of pressure. I am no longer interested in resolute efforts that I know through past trial, will set me up later to feel inadequate, regretful and defeated.  Keep it simple is not just a slogan to me, it’s a conscious decision.  

At this stage of my life I am not necessarily seeking to accomplish things either.  I am looking to grow a better human being; one that is living up to her potential.  That takes cultivating qualities, building spiritual muscles, around the framework of my life as it exists, not how I wish it was.   Aspirations are fine, if they are of the kind that enhance and grow the human spirit and others. However, I think gifts and abundance arrive as a result of that growth.  Or, maybe it's this simple - we learn to recognize them even if they aren't the sparkly obvious ones.  

The practice of One Word, also removes my tendency to live in the “When”, postponing life. It drives my focus towards co-creating my present, moment by moment.  I no longer live with: When I loose 30 pounds on my January 1st diet.  Or, when I get healthier, after my surgery, better blood work, or new body parts.   Again, I am not saying there is anything wrong with working towards goals, I just think the pathway to those goals, for me,  has been to place my attention on one Word that strengthens qualities that may serve me better in getting to those goals rather than charging towards a single end result.  When I do that, the word becomes an intention that is seared into my heart and head, and the UNFOLDING  of it has been gratefully passed back into the hands of God.  To steal an AA phrase and concept, I want to practice my Word in all my affairs. 

My New Year mantra is: It is my heart's desire to be like a feather on the breath of God.  This makes this year’s Word of the Year task even simpler.  My only business is to use and apply that Word to situations that arise and to grease the sticking points throughout the year. If I do that, I will be prepared when God's breath moves me where I need to be.  Every year, I can now look back and see a pattern, leading me to the next yearly Word and a new level of awareness.  Every Word over the last few years has been leading up to the next.  I don’t know that authentic would have been possible until I learned what it means to blossom (2011), set myself free (2012), be fearless (2013), create (2014), and  renew (2015).  It takes a free, fearless spirit to create a renewed life authentically. 

Last year, my Word, renew, was in the front of my mind as I changed some habits that I had draped over my shoulders like a security blanket, but then they turned on me and were weighing me down.  The word renew was in the front of my mind as I paid attention to what I put into my body and how I treated it.  The word renew kept me curious and interested in anything new that might even moderately be a healing tool for not only my physical form, but my spirit.  I investigated food as medicine, the Healing Arts, Tapping, Aromatherapy, Himalayan Salt Lamps, Essential Oils, Reiki, Forgiveness Therapy;  stepping out of the conventional box, to explore anything that might rejuvenate and refresh whether it was proven, practical, or FDA approved.  Experimentation, belief and faith became my new Science.   

There were times when my Word pushed hard on me and the evidence of success wasn’t immediately apparent.  Those times I had to remember the ghost of Words past.  I learned to be fearless by practicing it. I set myself free, by recognizing I was the one that chained myself to things that didn’t honor who I was. And, creating, well, that was entirely up to me too.  My talent wasn’t dependent on what other people thought of it!  I could create, a beautiful meal, a comfortable home, an interesting story, an environment of love,  a good life. My creativity was a personal thing.  God didn't place it inside me to necessarily gather a big audience.  He placed it there as an expression of  His love and a gift to me.

Word of the year might be a simple practice, but changing old, misbehaving behaviors is much harder than laying out a to-do list.  They are like leeches, burrowing under your skin and don't budge much without personal effort. Early in the year,  applying my Word always feels like a clumsy cha-cha - one, two, back, back, back. Eventually though, it memorizes the steps and finds its flow. The Word rises up and the spiritual question gets asked.  Will selling my house help me to feel free? Is switching churches going to help me to blossom in my spiritual knowledge and understanding of God?  What other things can I do to renew stale relationships?   What are some actions I can take  that will lead to an authentic life?   In doing this, am I being true to my values and standing for authenticity?

 Authentic is my chosen Word of the Year for 2016. I have prayed it into being, God's breathed life into it and  starting today, I’ll strive to practice authenticity in all my affairs.  

I’ll check back in a few months and let you know how it’s going.