Wednesday, January 4, 2017

Word of the Year 2017- Transformation

Transformation:  (noun)
A thorough or dramatic change in form or appearance.
A metamorphosis during the life cycle of an animal.
The genetic alteration of a cell by introduction of extraneous DNA.

In the original Greek language of the New Testament, the word used for transformation is metamorphosis. The biological definition for metamorphosis, is “a profound change in form from one stage to the next in the life history of an organism; as from the caterpillar to the pupa, and then to the adult butterfly.”  An outward change comes from within the life of the organism, the butterfly doesn’t put on a butterfly costume or just act like a butterfly, the caterpillar becomes a butterfly and it becomes a butterfly, over time, and without extraordinary effort BECAUSE the divine force inside It's Creation is destined to be one.  

I think what I’ve been doing for years is donning the butterfly costume over top of my little caterpillar body with the desire to get there quicker. Like when you're a child and play dress up to be something you aren't yet.  I could take my many “to do” and “to change lists” accumulated through the years and use them to  gift wrap all my self-help books and present them to the library of the Behavioral Science Institute. I would probably qualify as a Platinum Donor.  Not that changing bad behaviors, learning new coping skills, or becoming more self-aware isn’t important and a pathway to a better life.  But, I’m not so sure that its sustainable if it’s just knowledge put into some sort of practice without opening up to the need for simple grace and redemption, that spiritual mystery to a truly transformed life.

And, honestly my Amazon collection of "how-to" and "what to" has not helped me get rid of my anger, or fear less, or lose weight in the past year!  2016 has been like walking into a bad dream and not being able to find a door to let yourself out.  

I’ve also tried on the religious hats of a variety of faiths in my quest for this transformation and awareness I hoped would lead to my purpose.  I’ve read enough tomes and attended enough services, picking out the principles and practices that resonated with my heart and tried to leave the rest.  However, most of the time following a path to transformation through the rules and regulations of organized religion disappointed me greatly as did many of its leaders.  We are all flawed human beings, but how could so many religious types be so incredibly blind to Jesus' most basic request  - Love one another?  I didn’t think He meant, love only Christians, or Clinton, or Trump supporters, or people who can afford to pay their own insurance premiums without tax credits, or white people.  Or, those who were blessed to be born in a country that isn’t war torn. Because it isn’t happening to you, or part of your reality,  simply turning a blind-eye isn't a solution.  If being a member of a group that didn’t at least try to walk the most basic and simple teachings of their faith: service, love, compassion, and kindness, I certainly didn’t think it would lead me to the peace of heart and mind I was seeking. The inspirational Elie Wiesel, who suffered unimaginable atrocities as a young boy in a Nazi concentration Camp, said, “The opposite of love is not hate, it’s indifference.”  Specifically, over the last few years, the indifference I've seen reflected has been disheartening.  And, I haven't been able to  wrap my mind around any  faith that separates people into baskets: good, bad, worthy and unworthy.  Religion seemed to me to be too much like Government.  I'm not convinced the Creator of Heaven AND Earth cares more about the United States of America and its people, than Syrian's and their beautiful, historic land. It is astounding to me that so many can’t grasp we are NOT just one nation under God, but one planet under God.  I mean, seriously... we are talking about the Entity that created the heavens too. That meanness, arrogance and separatism  defied everything I thought I knew about Jesus' love.  While I used to find such peace sitting in silence in houses of worship, sensing God's presence, I now just find myself getting angry at some of the doctrine that builds walls that keep people out. I find more peace being in nature or watching children play.  At this juncture of my life, I know I will not be transforming sitting in a pew or chair amongst the faithful with the kind of confusion and judgment I, myself, am holding against organized religion, support groups and their followers. So, I’ve turned from the regular attendance and participation in a community of "believe my way or you don't fit in," until I can shift to a more personally compassionate place, or, find my tribe.  I've come to realize rather than looking in books and beautiful buildings with steeples, or being a member of groups that only welcome you if you have a particular common ground, there is a better way of transforming my attitudes, character flaws, unhealthy habits and body.  

I have to be the change I want to see. I must reflect the LOVE my Creator is and recognize that it is already a part of me. But how do I get there?

I have a relationship with the God of my understanding, but its been relatively regimented and rote with little real commitment and the superficial intimacy of a Facebook friendship. Yes, I reach out for verbal comfort, validation, and support.   That's not really my idea of intimacy.  I do that on social media too.   I do pray. I meditate. Sometimes that feels like it’s all lip service and dressed to impress. Pavlov's dog performing the same old tricks.  I HAVE changed with all my personal efforts seeking to be this better version, but I’ve come to believe I don’t have to work that hard at it, and certainly not alone.  Quality Time is my love language.  It's time for some one on one with my Creator.  I need reminded that I am His butterfly and with Him, ALL things are possible, and I am smack dab in the midst of where I am supposed to be in my metamorphosis.  

I am not looking for behavior modification anymore. I’m looking for something more powerful. Something magical.  I am looking for soul transformation.  

If my soul changes, everything changes. I want the kind of transformation that can only come from the One who made me, where people recognize the butterfly simply by the grace of its movement, the marvel of its colors, and the delight it brings to the world.  I want a change that is so infused throughout every cell that there is only one conclusion; God's love is flowing through me, his spirit lives in me and I am being guided by His divine patience and wisdom. I don't want to just hear how to BECOME more peaceful, forgiving or grateful. I want to REFLECT all those things because that is the nature of my Holy heritage, His spirit from within me shining forth. I want to let that power take over and infuse my life. 

The transformation I am seeking will begin with the recognition that I don’t have to put on the butterfly costume anymore.  My genes come from the extraneous DNA of that Who is Perfect, and all I need to do is build a deeper relationship, surrender, listen, and then, trust the process.  I have all the markings and have already been named a butterfly.   

All these thoughts: digging deep, self-exploration, trying out new practices this past few years, and a profound desire to be the best version of me; more understanding,  more loving, less judgmental, left me agonizing over my word of the year. Abundant?  Forgiving? Observant? Connected?  Healthy? I wanted it all.  I didn't think I had enough years left to make all those changes. Maybe I don't have to. Maybe it’s as simple as my favorite Bible verse." Be Still and Know I am God." And, then, investing the time to really know Him. He is the change artist and the magician and can do for me what I won't find outside myself or in the world.  I don't need to be perfect and work at life, and change, and growth so fervently.  The metamorphosis is already taking place. Relax. Trust more. Fear less. Through Him all things are possible.  Maybe my word next year will be Supported. But, wait- by then I will know that I already am and always have been.

Note:  This will be my final post on this beloved blog of mine.  The benefits are relatively selfish.  I gained a lot of humility and self-awareness and it  taught me to be vulnerable,no matter what,  fearlessly sharing my stories.  Stay tuned in 2017 - I am in the beginning stages of a new blog that I am hoping will help me accept this aging process and  find the humor in being a Baby Boomer.  Boom Baby! 

Wednesday, October 19, 2016


It was a gorgeous Fall day filled with sunshine and anticipation. Orange, red and yellow leaves barely clung to the branches of the trees surrounding the temple;  a simple white gazebo, tucked on top of a hill.  Nature held on until the final “I do” to release its colorful confetti in celebration of two souls that had somehow found each other through the rubble of their individual pasts.   Friends and family came together to bear witness to a union even they sensed was a Holy gift.  Pre-destined, perfect timing, all  guided by a God that knew these two would help one another grow into their spiritual skins. If an infrared picture could have been taken,  the souls of those they loved who had passed before, wrapped their arms around them in a circle of celebration and angelic good wishes.  A mother’s presence crossed over from heaven and the light of her joy warmed the hearts of those witness to this special day.  Finally, her daughter found her worth and because of this, her dreams were coming true.

The couple wrote their own vows.  The words went beyond the ordinary.  They wanted their lives to be more than to love, honor and cherish, until death parted them.  They were equally interested in making a difference in the world they lived both separately and as a team: in their own ways, unique in their interests and talents, yet united in all that felt important to them - people, kindness, curiosity, values.  Two people locking arms, knowing they could accomplish more together than apart.  They had each others  back.  Always.  Their love was a soft place to rest and they cherished their time together.  Yet they also intuitively knew this relationship was much larger than both of them.   It was about the big picture; the eternal one. They crossed paths to learn and grow from the lessons their union would offer them.   It was truly a soul connection.  

Falling  in love was familiar, gentle and easy, like revisiting a past life and recognizing you have known one another before.  It was a safe place to live, devoid of drama, and reinforced an unfailing trust; a cozy comfort zone of the best kind.  Their relationship was a place where they could be themselves, always.   It was an invitation to see each other through fresh eyes, each others and God’s, instead of peering out from the harsh lens of their individual insecurities and perceived defects.

He taught her to trust others and most of all trust love, something she had little faith in.   She taught him to share and be open and honest with his feelings, something he struggled to do.  He taught her to take risks and walk with adventure.  She offered him the experience, adoration, and love of a child while he learned how to mentor and parent.  He taught her she had more talent and ability than she gave herself credit for.  She taught him to reach deeper inside and not only know the God of his religion, but experience Him in personal ways.  They both enjoyed the gift of humor; his sarcastic, hers self-deprecating. Life had already validated for both of them, that even in the darkest of moments, humor isn’t irreverent, it’s life-saving, and can be a grounding force for putting things back into perspective. They possessed curious natures and this trait made life an adventure, although he was clearly the more experimental of the two. Back and forth- student and teacher trading roles as easily as breathing in the freshness of a Spring day after many dark nights searching for answers. 

A perfect union between two flawed people with the intention of bringing forth their better angels.  
His physical presence left her in January of 1999. The grief was like a thick, black smoke choking the life out of her for a long time. She ran for her life. The harder she ran, the deeper and darker it got. Finally, she collapsed and groped around in the blackness for some light. Any light.  Emergency light.  Night Light. Generator.  There were plenty.  His family.  Her family. Friends.  Kind strangers.  She stood still and felt the loss and cried enough tears to fill a new ocean.  

I am her. 

A dear friend shared with me today that she has never had the experience of love at the level I had. That’s not the first time someone has said that to me. It was unique.  It was special.  This same friend added, “The grief must be so deep.”  It is. His love changed me and his death changed my life.  But, every day I am alive, it’s a choice.   I can choose to be grateful and honor the gifts and the growth, or get lost in the maze of what might have been. Most days, those better angels, which he helped to reveal, are in charge. 

On days like today,  I miss him.  Kirk Diedrich, author and poet, said, “When you meet the one who changes the way your heart beats, dance with them to the rhythm for as long as the song lasts.”  Our song will last forever.  The lyrics may have changed , but when I close my eyes and get very still, the ethereal strain of the melody is seared into my heart forever.  

Thursday, August 11, 2016

An Angel Sent from Above

Sixteen years old!  A milestone birthday which warranted a special letter to my sweet, sweet oldest grand-daughter.

My dearest Alex,                                  August 4, 2016

There is an old song that keeps running through my head on this special day.  It goes something like this:

Where are you going, my little one, little one
Where are you going, my baby, my own?
Turn around and you're two, turn around and you're four
Turn around and you're a young girl going out of my door.

I’m  sure Mom and Dad are deeply feeling this too!  The time has ticked by so quickly.  So many precious moments began on August 4, 2000.   Those moments have been like little pebbles guiding me out of a forrest of grief onto a path of gratitude and joy.

Actually,  it began even before that.  I’ve told you, there is no doubt in my mind, you were my angel sent from God to breathe life back into me after Mark died.  The anticipation of your birth gave me hope and filled the days before with a sense of purpose. There was absolutely nothing more important than your safe arrival into our family.   I watched as Mom and Dad created the perfect nursery for you; freshly painted with the best in baby couture, the John Lennon Collection - only the best for our baby.  I sat with mom every day when she was on bed rest to keep you safe, preparing lunch for her and watching endless episodes of A Baby Story. Seeing all those television babies being born just heightened our own anticipation.  My every day ritual was to climb the steps to your  beautiful new room and pray to a God who had shaken my faith in Him and the fairness of life.  I pleaded for Him to take good care of your mom and bring you safe and healthy into this world.  And, then you arrived...many laborious hours later.  I don’t think you were  anxious to be a part of this world because you sure took your time making your grand entrance.  I can't say I blame you.  Heaven must have been, well, heavenly.  Perfection.  However, God knew you had more than one mission to fulfill here. When you did arrive, we all passed you around, laying kisses on your soft angel face,  I know you sensed from hour one you were immensely loved and would be all the days of your life.  

The times I was lucky enough to be called to “babysit” (aka: healing ceremonies)   As soon as Mom and Dad walked out the door I would sweep you into my arms. You would nuzzle up to my neck, your tiny fuzzy head next to my chin, and I would breathe in your fresh new baby scents.  With every inhalation, I felt my heart open up a little bit more; a torrent of love gushed in and freshened its battered old chambers. I whispered sweet every-things into your tiny ears, thanking you and God for the privilege of being your Mimi, promising you that I would always be there for you and love you forever and beyond: reciting stories and sealing them with kisses of the wonderful life you would have, filled with the kind of love that would always keep you safe while allowing you  the freedom to be your own person. Uniquely, incredible, hand crafted you; formed of the same elements of the stars, in the image of the One who created all.   I told you how blessed you were to be born a girl at a time that you could dare to dream and try, fail and succeed, and find your own path, all the while being unconditionally protected and tucked under the arms of your earthly parents and your heavenly one as well.  I poured all of those wishes onto your tiny head like a baptism of sorts sealing your future with a God that I was beginning to know again. Wise sages have said that children are so fresh from heaven, they can heal your soul.  Alex, you gave me back my life and put the light back into my eyes. 

Everyday since your birth, I thank God for you, your sisters, your mom and dad, and all of our family.  We are so blessed to have so much love in our lives and I never want to take that for granted.  I hope you will always remember that too.  Joy is our birthright, but it is also a great privilege and must be fertilized with our gratitude in order to experience its fullness.  

I have watched you walk through  things in this life that I  wished I could have protected you from.  Hand surgeries.  Elementary school bullies.  Disappointments.  The amazing thing is, you always come out the other side stronger and a better person.  Your empathy, acceptance and understanding of your friends and others is mature beyond your years.  Your kind heart reaches out and forgives, touches, and softens people. I’ve been witness to that. I have always been amazed at your honesty for one so young.  That is a rare quality these days, and at times it may not seem to serve you well, but it will always pay off in the long run if for no other reason, it will bring you peace of mind.  I am delighted by your curiosity of life.  A thirst for knowledge and open-mindedness are two of the best qualities a person can have. Keep reading.  With only 33% of the population reading a book a year, it’s sure to give you a bit of an edge in life.  The old saying, “knowledge is power”  is so true.  Knowledge slays fear and will help you to grow, step outside of your comfort zone, and find your purpose.  I just know you will do great things with this precious life you have been given.  When your heart gets skinned up, and it will, because that is part of this wonderful life,  I will be there, extending the healing salve of love and kisses, helping you to remember your resilience and promising you that you will believe in love, and goodness, and find your joy again.  Just like you did for me, 16 years ago. 

Happy 16th Birthday my sweet girl!  I will love you for all eternity.  

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 vulnerable.  My innocent, moldable, receptive self.  Like a mediation mantra, (maybe even Om Please) its 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).