My parents were watching the news when I stopped by to prepare a late lunch for them today. As I was stepping back out to run an errand, my mother asked: “Don’t you want to watch the death of our country?” My reply: “No! We are witnessing our rebirth.”
I cannot tell you why, as we watched domestic terrorists attacking and entering our sacred halls of Congress, mingled with horror and disbelief was a sensation between my heart and stomach that felt like… well, excitement.
The truth is, anyone with an ounce of intuition and an ear for actual news, rather than the faux-kind, could see this event coming. So, even though a seditious mob ransacked the halls that house our laws, the fact is, there were already a number of seditious traitors inside. So, one can hardly be surprised that the behavior of those within felt like an invitation to those who left the rally at the White House to follow their leader’s instructions.
That’s how I see it from where I sit, anyway. I keep hoping Randy Rainbow will do a song about GOP sedition to the tune of “Tradition” from Fiddler on the Roof.
As the news was unfolding, I could not shake that odd feeling of anticipation. I had this overwhelming sense that this was it. We are witnessing the final death knell of the GOP. Maybe even the beginning of the end of the patriarchy. As friends expressed disgust and dismay, fear of civil war, and the likelihood of things going badly, I did not lose my sense of awe.
So many images have come to mind today. One is of the Hindu Goddess of Destruction, Kali. Another is the Celtic Goddess of Rebirth, Cerridwen. Both archetypes inform us of the beauty and necessity of destruction. One cannot rebuild on a cracked and broken foundation. It will not hold.
In order to rebuild a bathroom, you don’t just remove the wallpaper, you take it down to the studs to see what might be cracked or rotten beneath the facade. That mold that festers can make you sick down the road, so it must be revealed and then sealed.
Other images that have risen for me today are from film favorites. I could visualize the invasion of our democratic process today in clips and photos, and it was met with a scene from Lord of the Rings. I saw the Ents arriving to liberate Isengard. That scene matched the feeling in my body. When that scene arrives, it is the beginning of the end. There is still darkness ahead, and many orcs to be vanquished, but even though the work remains difficult, one can tell that perseverance will be rewarded. The light returns and chases away the shadows. It always does.
The other day, a friend of mine was doing a tarot reading for herself, and into her future fell the Tower. (It is an image that seems unsettling, with a lightning strike and people falling as the building crumbles.) I squealed with excitement, which was counter to her sigh of dread. I reminded her that the most important moments of my life were ‘Tower’ moments. They were occasions when the rug was pulled from beneath me, but revealed a stunning hard wood floor.
To be sure, there is darkness ahead for our country (at least one person was killed in today’s terrorist attack, and it feels as if justice failed to remove her blindfold, not to mention that a lack of leadership has cost us hundreds of thousands of lives to Covid-19), but there is also light. The dark tower is falling. The gift of this nightmare presidency will surely be that the facade of our beloved country has been peeled away, and every crack and spot of mold has been revealed. There will be new foundations poured, and stronger supports installed.
Last year’s word for me was TRUST. I wanted not only to be surrounded by those I can trust, but I intended to be trustworthy, and above all else, I wanted to learn to trust myself. So, I have to say… this odd excitement that is rising within me on a very dark day in American history… I trust what she is telling me. She is teaching me about FAITH. She is informing me that the word for 2021 is TRUTH, and that we shall indeed… build back better. Bring it on, 46!
Today, I pulled down the 2020 calendar to be replaced.
It was a gift from my financial advisor, featuring paintings from The Saturday Evening Post. Once upon a time, I would have passed on such a gift, seeking something more me… with artwork from a Pre-Raphaelite artist or Mary Engelbreit, but since I owe my current lifestyle, in part, to the compassionate insight of my financial advisor, I liked the idea of holding him close. (Thanks Tony!)
What a strange thing… to flip through the pages of a bygone calendar year like the one we’ve just narrowly escaped. To be honest, the world I manage resides mostly on google, but the big things would usually go on the wall calendar. Like a visit from my brother and his family, a trip that might take me out of town, or a workshop I designed to share with others.
In this case, January reminded me of a friend’s knee surgery, Second Sunday Supper, Book Group, and my 51st birthday. February boasted my second annual Seeds of Intention Workshop (where we would assess the different areas of our lives to determine where we wanted to focus our intentions for… the year ahead), filing my taxes, and what would be the last time we would get to see my brother and his wife, who had come up from South Florida.
Then, I flip to March. It’s kind of eerie to look at. There’s a trip to San Antonio for a wedding, followed by a countdown. 14 days to wear a mask each time I entered my parents’ home. Somewhere in this wordpress account, is an unfinished post about the beautiful wedding I attended. It remains unfinished… much like the calendar.
Page after page of 2020 is blank. Void of significant pronouncements. Right up until October 20, which reads: “Dad Broke Hip”. Then, “Pop to Rehab”. In November… there was one weekend marked with something completely different – a two-day escape with a friend to Merritt Island. Then the day before Thanksgiving, “Dad Discharge”. December, again, is blank.
Don’t get me wrong. It’s not that I did nothing with my days. They were filled with enormous care, and loads of love. I have no regrets for the extreme caution we have chosen, in order to keep ourselves and those we love safe and well (not to mention those we don’t know, but care for just the same). Many of those days were filled with learning and growing, with spiritual deepening, with virtual connectedness, and the acquisition of new tools and new skills in the art of eldercare. We miss our people, but so far… though physically distant, we are still all present and accounted for.
But so many are not as lucky as we. Those blank calendar pages remind me of all the lives that were brimming with to-dos and check marks of accomplishment, with no more pages to be flipped. My heart aches for those who have lost loved ones this year, whether to this virus, to dis-ease, despair, or the horrors of brutality. I grieve not only for those who were unable to have the hand of a loved one holding theirs at departure, but for those they have left behind, without the opportunity to be surrounded and held by those who love them, each longing to ease suffering in the smallest, but most meaningful way.
I remember feeling so lucky that Dad had remained relatively well all year, because I couldn’t imagine him being in a hospital or rehab facility, should there be covid restrictions prohibiting visitors. When that fifth fall in a week broke his upper femur, I was relieved to know that he could at least have one visitor each day.
My parents and I have stopped doing the whole gift thing for Christmas. So, this year I bought us the box-set of the 90’s TV series, Northern Exposure. We’ve been watching two episodes each evening. It is a delightful way to end each day. A gift that keeps on giving.
One of the episodes we watched tonight was an old favorite. I think of it each year around the solstice, as the town gathers to celebrate the birth of the Sun, through the indigenous tale of the Raven. The episode takes us through the lives of our beloved community, each unique and fantastic… valued for their individuality and authenticity. Each honors the season of light in their own way, and their community holds space for all of it.
I could weep to remember that this world my parents and I are diving into, with intense longing, is fictional… but frankly, it reminds me of what it means to be Unitarian. I was blessed to grow up, not in a dogmatic religion that excludes the ideas of others, but in a loving community that honors all traditions, and has space at the table for everyone, including Mother Earth, herself.
In a year that has made consumerism feel rather foolish, I was struck by a quote from the town DJ and philosopher, Chris in the Morning: “Happiness doesn’t come from having things… it comes from being a part of things.”
Being a part of several sacred circles this year has delivered great light and joy, in the darkest of times. The big events on the 2020 calendar were few, but commitments to weekly or monthly gatherings on Zoom were consistent and sustaining. We all long to gather again, in safe spaces that are free from shields and obstacles, but what I know for sure is that we can do hard things. We can love others enough to keep them safe for a few more months… or several, if necessary.
As I hung the new calendar where the old one used to be, I opened it to a blank January. So far, it is marked for Inauguration Day and my 52nd Birthday. These pages are holding space for hope. One day, I will get to mark a square with ‘Vaccines’ for the three of us. And then, maybe… at some point… my brother and his family will get a few squares. That will be something to celebrate, indeed.
Thank you for walking this path with me. I am grateful for your presence in my life. Please know that if you are walking through your own darkness, or living with the ache of longing due to a loss that cannot be whispered or spoken, you are held firmly in the light of love. May the Raven soon carry the light of the Sun to brighten your heart and sky. I love you.
One week ago today, my phone rang at 7:37am. Three out of the four other times that week that my phone rang was in the hour of 2am, so I’m pretty sure my body thought it was home-free, for the night, from the trauma of what those calls announced.
When the caller ID says it is ‘Mom’s Cell’ calling, I know that Alexa is calling me from my father’s bathroom. It informs me that my larger than life, 83-year old father is lying on the floor and that he needs my assistance.
This fifth call in a week wasn’t really a surprise. His Leo’s pride kept him from calling me BEFORE he pushed the button of his lift chair to bring him to his feet (he didn’t want to wake me), and then pull his red Rollator Nitro walker before him so he could struggle to rise and make his way to the bathroom to empty his bladder. Had he called, I could have been unlocking the front door of my parents’ home before he released the brakes to step gingerly away from the safety of his recliner.
Instead, I got the familiar call that puts my body into a trauma response. Wondering where on the floor I will find him, and if this will be the time that I am unable to help.
The fourth call was one of those times, actually. I pulled out the Indeelift device that helps us lift his body to where his knees are at a 90 degree angle, so he can then push himself to a standing position, but he didn’t have the strength to pull himself onto the platform. I had to call for a ‘lift assist’, and the fire department sent over four strong men to set him back into his chair.
But the fifth call… this was the one we were all dreading. This was the one where he didn’t get to decline a trip to the emergency room. This was the one where the pain was too great. This was the one that led to x-rays. This was the one that came with a diagnosis that comes with horror stories. My father, the man with bones and toenails of steel, had broken his hip.
I think he and I both went to that dark place with this news. I asked him what he was thinking, and he said that he was considering everything this would mean. He didn’t elaborate, possibly because I was in tears considering the same thing, feeling as if I had failed to keep him safe. I was thinking that for years I’d heard it said, when an elderly person breaks a hip, they are not long for this world. He was probably thinking he should have called me before the trip rather than after the fall.
It would be 24-hours before they could do the surgery to put a rod in his leg and repair the break in his upper femur. I was grateful that Covid-19 restrictions allowed one visitor to stay with him in the ER and during visiting hours, once admitted. They gave him a pain blocker and some pain meds to get him through the night. As he was drifting off to sleep, and I wished him sweet dreams, he said to me, “We’re going to have to get you one of those handheld crossbows.” I’m not sure where those pain meds were taking him, but I wish I could have seen the view from his perspective.
On Sunday, he was accepted and transferred to a Rehabilitation Hospital that has a pretty strict regimen for recovery. They provide each patient with three hours per day of physical and occupational therapy. The intention is to have each patient out within two weeks. To be honest, I don’t know that any amount of therapy will help. He has a host of complications that may impair the possibility of getting stronger. He fell four times in a week, and that was before he broke his hip. That said, before surgery I asked him if he wanted a Do Not Resuscitate order should anything go wrong, and his response was a resounding, NO! So, here’s to the strength of spirit for something more.
As for me, I have not had a day off of caregiving duty since this time last year. In addition to wanting to stay close for the possibility of a 2am phone call, Covid-19 has never gone into remission in the state in which we live. It hasn’t felt wise to travel and risk exposure or worse, unknowingly delivering the risk to others. 2020 has been a difficult year for all of us, and I have the added joy of constant highway construction just a few yards from my house. It’s like living in a war zone with the sound of dump trucks banging like cannon-fire, constant motion of cranes and power shovels, and then there’s the rattle and hum that shakes the whole house and bounces the art off the walls as dirt is shimmied and compressed into a highway foundation. Oh! And the pounding of pylons! That felt like an all out assault on my entire body. Needless to say… I’m exhausted.
One of the things I have to acknowledge is that I have two significant strengths at play, when it comes to my choice to not go back to work and care for my parents full-time. One is EMPATHY and the other is RESPONSIBILITY. When I am more distressed about our current situation than either of my parents seem to be, it is quite possible that my strengths are out of balance.
I feel obligated to stand at attention and be of service. It’s what I’ve always done. I used to get paid for it. Somehow, in my need to feel needed and worthy of love, I trained myself to give away so much of myself there was nothing left for me. The year my boss was dealing with a hostile takeover, I told myself I couldn’t take time off unless she did, because it would cause HER more stress. My own stress level and five weeks of unused vacation were secondary. Not because she required it of me, but because I demanded it of myself.
I’ve noticed how my body and mind have been telling me that it is time for a break, the way it did during that difficult year at work, but I hate that it may be made possible by my father’s extended stay elsewhere to recover from a broken and mending body.
I’m working on figuring out how to get away during a pandemic, and plans are starting to develop. Meanwhile, I am mindful of how beautiful it can be to find one’s self in need. During these months of lockdown, I have gotten to know my neighbors. Many of us have been here for decades, but the coming and going of our lives kept us passing with a wave or completely out of sight. Now, we have exchanged phone numbers, and text each other to see if anyone needs something from the store. And when a neighbor was outside the morning the ambulance came… I received messages of concern and outreach from several neighbors, wanting to know that we are safe and well, and how they might be of service to me.
Dear friends and beloved community are letting us know that they are holding us close, and they are standing-by, intending to assist in any way. One friend thanked me for allowing her to cook a pot of soup for us this week. I thanked her back, for reminding me how important it is to allow those who love us to be of service, when they are so desperately wishing there was something they could do.
So, thank you, dear ones… for taking the time to read about the heavy burdens I am carrying, for sending your healing energy and caring thoughts for my father’s recovery and wellness, and for holding space for a woman who is still learning how to treat herself with the same kindness and compassion she so abundantly offers to others. Much like the highway that runs through my side yard, I am a never ending work in progress. It seems tedious, but worth the effort.
Thank you for walking this path with me. None of us should have to do the hard things alone. I suspect that when we feel that we are isolated or abandoned, it is because we are too overwhelmed to notice that we are surrounded by a Tribe that has been paving the way all along. Goodness, we are so blessed, and ever so grateful. We hope that you and yours are safe and well.
This morning I woke with a sense of joy. My favorite month has finally arrived. I greet it with enthusiasm, as I do my cats (GOOD MORNING FLEUR AND NEVILLE!), my sanctuary (GOOD MORNING HOUSE!), and the lizards on the porch, as I step outside to check the weather (GOOD MORNING LIZARDS!). GOOD MORNING OCTOBER! To all of them and to you, I say: I’m so glad you are here!
Living so close to the equator in the state of Florida, October isn’t really so different from September. Really, it is just the idea of it that brings my spirit to a glorious new vibration. I mean, we don’t even get to enjoy the striking color display of states just north of us. We pretty much experience different shades of green throughout the year, until the dull green oak leaves get pushed out by the vibrant green leaves in February, when the world seems coated in yellow-green pollen, and no one can breathe for the code-red pollen count.
Still, I know change is happening somewhere. I can feel it in my bones. For example, the high today is expected to be only 82 degrees. We’re actually having a cold-front! It makes me want to step out of the air conditioning and twirl as I burst into song.
I think the animals are doing the same. I’m in a suburb, so wildlife sightings are limited, but today I was delighted by it. As I walked to my parents’ home to help my father with his morning routine, I happened upon a grand celebration. No less than nine squirrels were dashing around the trunk and branches of their neighbor’s tree. I tried counting them several times, but then three would dash up and to the left, while three more went up and to the right, and a few more came down the trunk and into the yard… and back up again. I stood there, as witness to an abundance of joyful activity and I laughed until I cried.
Since I pay attention to synchronicity and seek messages from the universe, I am taking from Squirrel spirit that I am prepared for the future, I am abundantly blessed, and now it is time to manifest more joy in my life. I mean… NINE SQUIRRELS! One cannot ignore Mother Nature when she is trying to get your attention in such a remarkable way.
Thank you, dear universe, for the abundance of joy in my life, for providing all I need with plenty to share, and for the blessings of beauty that surround me every day. I am grateful.
To be sure, I have struggled with despair in recent weeks. I live in a state where Covid-19 restrictions are being lifted, while thousands of people are testing positive, and more than 100 people die each day. It is painful to understand that life is so meaningless to so many. I have felt oppressed by the realization that in order to keep my parents safe, we will all have to continue living in exile for the foreseeable future. I miss my people. I miss hugging them. I miss seeing their smiles, in real life… unmasked and radiant in the reflection of mutual affection.
Oh, and then there’s the awareness that there are people trying to get rid of the best healthcare coverage I’ve had in 50 years. I cannot, for the life of me, understand how anyone could believe this is a caring thing to do. Why don’t people care about the safety and wellness of others?
But today… today is the beginning of October! And even if I can’t see it… I can feel that change is coming. The things in life that no longer serve us are beginning to shrivel on the vine, and soon it will all fall away. There will be a time of naked awareness as the pile at our feet exposes the truth of what wickedness once grew unhindered and fed by poison.
Then… one day soon, we will bear witness to new growth and vibrant blossoming of new beginnings. This life thing, on the earthly plane, is comprised of a series of cycles, and all things must end. I, for one, value the darkness, and I do not fear endings. In my life, every ending has delivered clarity and greater understanding of where I’ve been and how I’d like to pave my path forward. It shall not be an easy task, but imagine where it will take us!
Thank you for walking this path with me. May October bring you an abundance of blessings and endless moments of joy. I love you more.
Each week in my world, an international circle of friends gathers to discuss a random topic. This week’s discussion was inspired by a portion of William Blake’s 1863 (published then, written earlier) poem, The Auguries of Innocence. The piece of the much longer poem that initiated conversation was this…
What happens in circle stays in circle, but I can tell you what rose to mind for me, and some of what I shared… at least, what has not yet fallen through the holes of my swiss-cheese-memory, as we discussed what brings us joy, and what the words of this portion of the poem unearthed.
The thread for which my mind first reached was that JOY is surely woven with SORROW. It brings to mind a tapestry upon a cold castle wall that not only warms the corridor, but seeks to tell a story.
Empathy is one of 34 inherent strengths that comes most naturally to me, and I am also an Aquarian extrovert, so when I think of what brings me joy, the first images to come to mind are, at once – spending time with those I love, and bearing witness to the joy of others. Because I feel the emotions of others, I simply relish the opportunity to know that loved ones are happy, safe, and well.
The most recent example was a friend who called for my support. Facing a change of ‘home’ in her 80s, the uncertainty and the financial challenges felt overwhelming. She’s engaged me as her End of Life Doula, and I confirmed I would be her ‘person’, should there be an -in case of emergency- situation. But I also reminded her that, as she looked at the many options for shelter in the year ahead, that above all, she should remove from her concerns that she would ever be homeless. She is well-loved by many with guest rooms, so her worse-case scenario would never include being abandoned and destitute. With that reminder, her entire being began to relax. She called the next day to tell me that I was right, that everything would be okay, and that she already has solutions. And just like that, her sense of peace, became my JOY.
I sometimes get the sense that when WOE is winning – pressed tightly to the chest – encased in fear, we may fail to see that JOY is right there, too, holding space, and awaiting our notice. When we do, everything relaxes, and as we breathe more deeply, we are able to witness everything falling into place, exactly as it should.
The last blog post I shared, was a plea for your assistance to enhance healing energy for someone in need. And this… is what next came to mind about the entanglement of JOY and WOE. A friend and former colleague had recently come back into my life through social media. She was sharing the joy of her work life and personal life – in a pandemic paradigm, along with the woes of friends who struggled with the deadly virus that took some and spared some. I thought of the blanket of comfort she is weaving now, with a special page dedicated to her beloved’s unexpected and all-consuming battle with lung cancer.
The walls of her castle are warmed with photographs of past adventures, the loving memories of devoted friends, online-gatherings to walk a healing labyrinth on her beloved’s behalf, with prayers spoken, songs enchanted, and the very real terror of the limitations of the body and medicine. Connectedness through community is their lifeline, and joy comes to greet the sorrow with the arrival of bucket list gifts, and friends wearing masks to carry the wounded warrior out of the house and into the car to return to the hospital for more chemotherapy. I am agog with the vulnerability and courage they are each expressing to the universe. They are showing us all how to strengthen the weave.
If you are willing and able to read my last post and wish to add your healing energy to the intention of his wellness, please click here (when you finish this):
The third thing that came to mind, was the JOY of building deeper bonds of commitment and connection during the WOES of social injustice and global pandemic. I don’t know about you, but I have a minimum of four online gatherings each week, some of which have been occurring since the Spring Equinox. As the Autumn Equinox approaches, only 15 days away, what started as a way to know that dear ones were safe and well through the early weeks of uncertainty and skyrocketing death rates, has become a comforting salve for our longing.
We long to gather safely in one sacred space, with beautiful smiling faces unburdened by the veil of a mask. We ache for the hugs that remind us we are not alone, and that this is not all a dream, we are real and tangible, and lovable, and necessary in the lives of those who love us. We are grateful for the JOY of this technology, which enables us to, at the same time, sit in the living rooms of those we love, to show them that we are safe and well, and through the light of our eyes, exhibit the sorrows of our seclusion and the commitment to doing whatever it takes to get to the other side of this challenging banishment… for HUGS AWAIT!
I hope my circle-mate won’t mind me sharing this one item that resonated from our conversation that night. She said (far more eloquently) that her grandmother taught her that when she goes about selecting pieces of fabric for making a quilt, she must ensure there are many muted squares – so that the favorite fabrics can be savored all the more.
From afar, I witness the mingled vines of JOY and WOE through what is happening around the country and the globe. Friends in the west are facing the specter of a dry scorched earth as wild fires rage, and the Gulf Coast endures yet another destructive hurricane, and little earthquakes are happening in unexpected places. In other countries, communities are reopening and reconnecting to the lives they once knew… with some caution, but some freedom, too.
And in my own tiny world… amid the WOE of missing hugs and mountain adventures, from this sanctuary I JOYfully embrace the comfort and safety of a home surrounded by oak trees, beloved tiny lizards, and wonderful neighbors. I am writing to you from a peaceful living room that is filled with a great deal of art that I love, and two kitties at rest. We are surrounded by the WOEful heat of this sunshine state, but are blessed by the JOY of air conditioning, while my parents, just seven houses up the street, are doing the same with their three dogs.
We are all safe and well, and continue to find JOY in the small things. That we have each other is not taken for granted, and without a doubt, we know it to be no small thing, at all.
Thank you for walking this path with me. I love you more.
Today is Lughnasadh, or Lammas, in the northern hemisphere. On the Celtic calendar, it is the cross quarter holiday that marks the midpoint between the summer solstice and the autumn equinox. When we lived in farming communities, it was considered the first harvest.
Since some of us were born with brown thumbs and outside of farming communities, as many do in the current era, we can still find value in these calendar pages through the power of metaphor. And so, once again, I ask… What’s in your harvest?
My Sacred Gardeners and I met in February for the annual workshop on intention setting. At Imbolc, we planted our figurative seeds of intention. Even with a brown thumb, intentions can grow when nurtured with mindfulness and attention.
We anticipated gathering again at the end of March, for the Spring Equinox, and even had a Beltaine retreat planned in my beloved Blue Ridge Mountains. It was to be a weekend dedicated to falling in love with ourselves, right down to a commitment ceremony with rings and circlets of flowers for our heads.
But sometimes, something happens in life that takes our attention away from the garden. A loved one dies, a job is lost, the path forward becomes less clear and uncertainty enters like a thick fog. 2020 has certainly been that kind of a year, ten-fold.
But every eight weeks, the wheel of the year turns to remind us to come back to the cycles of nature. Everything changes. All life is temporary. We remember that though these days are challenging, frustrating, disappointing, sad… they, too, are temporary. This pandemic will come to an end. This physical distancing from those we love will come to an end. This financial insecurity and horrific failure of leadership will come to an end. In the meantime, we are free to set our fears and worries aside, to come back to our gardens of intention.
So… this would be the time of year, the midpoint Imbolc and Winter Solstice, to assess the status of our intentions. What is ready to be harvested and stored to sustain us through the long winter? When I look back at my own lifechart completed with my gardeners, I can reflect on the key words I chose to adorn my candle of intention.
I realize that what I might have pictured to be a result of these intentions may not have manifested in the ways I had intended, but I can usually see that the Universe conspired to bring them to fruition in glorious and unexpected ways. The beauty of the garden is always found in the eyes of the beholder. One gardener may prefer something tediously manicured, while another may delight in allowing Mother Nature to do Her own thing.
What I have found is that my word for the year is RECIPROCITY. and I have found it in the ways that love is offered and returned, as friends and community respect and care for one another. We wear masks, we connect by phone, text, and Zoom. We don’t take personally the necessity of our distancing. We do what we can to deliver kindness, compassion, and togetherness in new and innovative ways.
I wanted to EMBODY TRUST. Which was not just to be the friend and daughter that those I love could depend on to hold their truth with gentle reverence, but that I would do the same for myself. That I would trust myself completely. That I would hear the sacred voice of my own intuition, and never doubt it.
I intended to continue to HEAL AND GROW this year, and I certainly have. Gratefully, much of this work can be done out in the world, but is even more succinct when done in solitude or isolation. In silence and without distractions of others, we can hear the cries of the oppressed, and ask ourselves what we don’t know. How is my silence harmful? How might I do better and be better as a trusted friend and ally? Oh, yes! I have learned so much… and I am still learning.
To CULTIVATE JOY was an intention, and I can see the many ways this has grown. Right before our world shut down, I was reunited with the boss who loved me, at the occasion of her son’s wedding. When he later wrote me, he said that it was so obvious to him how much she and I loved and cared for each other. And even though that was the last time I’ve gathered in a room with others… I have continued to find joy in the beautiful moments of each and every day… in a brief chat with a neighbor, having a giggle with my parents, witnessing the bats fly over my head as I walk home from tucking them in. So much delight can be found in living a small and simple life.
I wanted my year to be GROUNDED IN LOVE, and though there are many days when anger and outrage rise to greet the news of the day, it is always love that grounds me. Primarily, self-love. Each time I enter my home, after caring for my parents or doing the bi-weekly grocery run, I greet my kitties, and I walk through a mist of homemade balancing spray. As I do, I feel my shoulders drop, and my whole body relaxes. I can feel my roots reconnect to the earth through my sanctuary of home, and all is right with the world.
The final word on my candle of intention makes me laugh. Ganesha, the remover of obstacles, always reminds me to be careful what you wish for. The word is RETREAT. Well… my intention was to host TWO retreats this year, in those sacred mountains. At first, we thought we would just lose the opportunity in May, but now… as my home state has skyrocketing Covid cases, it is clear that none of us will be traveling in October, either. But still… this intention surely did manifest. Just… not as imagined.
We have retreated into our homes, to keep our loved ones safe. I am in a daily retreat, really, as each day when I return from caring for my parents, I enter my home, and come back into myself… each day a little deeper. I can remember hearing about silent retreats or going on retreat alone, and thinking it had no appeal. And yet, I have found myself here over and over again, not just this year, but in the two years prior, as I endeavored to create a life beyond the corporate world I’d always known.
What I’ve found here, is that though I may be alone, I love the one I’m with. There is no one I’d rather be secluded with when the world is plagued with a potential plague. That’s kind of a pleasant surprise, for the girl who searched long and hard for a love she deserved… to have found it within herself.
Finally, all of these intentions manifested in the form of a new kind of togetherness. With our worlds becoming so small, during self-isolation and continued extreme caution until a vaccine can be discovered and broadly shared, some of us have chosen to see more of each other. Since March, I have been virtually meeting weekly with a Thursday night group of International friends from a course we took together, a weekly Friday night group of intuitive friends, a Saturday morning group with my Sacred Gardeners, and a Sunday night group with my goddesses.
So, I no longer meet people for lunch, but I do take an occasional masked-walk with a friend, with a hip-bump greeting instead of a hug. I write random letters and send them the old fashioned way, in the mail. My friend, who lives on the opposite corner of the country, and I have become pen pals, and last week she sent me sealing wax and a spoon for melting – so our letters are both sealed with more than just love.
I don’t know what I thought I’d find when I decided to walk through my garden of intentions, but I have to say, I’m pretty darned pleased with what I’ve found here. I allowed Mother Nature to do her thing, and as always, she has WOWed me beyond belief.
I hope that you and yours are safe and well. I hope that despite the unexpected twists and turns of an unusual and extraordinary year, it has been kinder to you than realized. I hope that your personal harvest is filled with light, love, and laughter that nourishes, nurtures, and sustains you throughout the coming seasons. Thank you for walking this path with me. I love you more.
I feel as if the world is in a state of transformation. Global pandemic feels like a symptom of the rising perception of separateness over the past many years. Countries (including my own) that I once admired for what I imagined to be inclusiveness, being so called melting pots of many beautiful and rich cultures, somehow accepted exclusion. They allowed fear and greed to close their borders to people of certain religions or skin tones, and locked children in cages. They voted everyone off the island, so they could have it to themselves. With every news story over the last four years, many of us have asked, “What have we become?”
When forced to go within, as we have all been asked to shelter-in-place for the mercy of our healthcare workers and community members who are at greatest risk, life has become quiet enough to hear the cries of the oppressed. That’s why the world showed up for the murder of George Floyd. They were less distracted by the incessant busy-ness of the world. We have all heard the reports of black people dying in police custody for decades and brown people being caged at our borders, but it was too easy to look away, toward board meetings and soccer matches, and the mind-numbing endeavor to do more, have more, be more. It makes me wonder if this is when we get to ask, “What are we unbecoming?”
I have such curiosity about the emptiness one must feel to insist on spending their lives working so hard to ensure they can buy more things, at the detriment of others, who would be grateful just to have enough food to fill their bellies. Hoarding newspapers and hoarding dollars are really no different, they are both symbolic of filling a hole. When people who don’t pay their fair share of taxes have more money than one can spend in a lifetime (or many lifetimes), while other humans are becoming homeless because they cannot pay their medical bills, we are witnessing crimes against humanity.
To be honest, I can relate to a time in my life when my rising income felt like an affirmation of my worth. It actually wasn’t that long ago. When I left the corporate world and chose to live more simply and care for my aging parents, it took some time to move through the fear of less. This choice has made my life look very small from the outside. I am more mindful of how I spend my savings, and I no longer live beyond my means.
In the process of unbecoming who I thought the world expected me to be, I discovered the rich beauty of who I already am. My income does not define my worthiness of love, it is the actions of my heart that does so. From the inside, my life looks vast and expansive.
When the shutdown for Covid-19 started, I felt a sense of excitement alongside feelings of dread. I imagined that when other people had the opportunity (even when not by choice) to make their worlds small, they might choose to go within. I hoped that they would find the beauty of simplicity, and that even without the ability to dine out daily, and to show the world how worthy they are to be loved, by the cost of the car they drive or the overpriced iProducts they carry, they might realize that life is incredibly beautiful and that being in caring community is an enormous blessing. (This lesson did not arrive for me, until the pandemic insisted that my neighbors stay at home. Most of us have been on this block for 20 years or more, and we are just now learning each others’ names.)
And I do believe that is happening for some, at least in my virtual circles. But what is also happening, as I live in a state that opened too soon and is now seeing a distressing rise in Covid infections, is that living simply and making life small was too uncomfortable for many. The truth had become impossible to believe, and so they imagined themselves immune without regard for those who might not survive their contamination.
I’ve heard some of those people say that they refuse to live in fear, and therefore will not wear a mask, and they will not stop living the life to which they feel entitled. But I wonder what is lost in that inability to place the concern for others above their own perceived pleasure.
I would argue, based on my own life experience, that fear enters our lives to alert us that it is time for change. When I have felt most unsafe and most fearful, or rather when I was on the other side of fear – looking back, I realized that the fear was announcing that great, life-altering transformation was near. I learned that I could see the fear rise, and hold it close, then comfort it and wait patiently for new beginnings to arrive.
It reminds me of being present for the births of three of my goddess daughters. Each time, when their courageous mother, who had chosen natural childbirth, announced in panic that she “could not do this”, her body was telling us that the girls were about to leave the darkness of the womb to be welcomed into the light. I know that those moments felt frightening, but there was no going back, it was too late for numbing medication, and there was untold, remarkable beauty about to be birthed. That beauty, born through fear, made our lives and the world a better and brighter place to live.
We do have a sense that things will get harder and that darkness will grow. Covid-19 continues to surge in America, and it is rising elsewhere. The toll on world economy will surely be overwhelming and deeply unsettling. I have no doubt that fear will be seeded in the hearts of many.
But what I hope will also happen is that the light of truth will rise even higher and shine even brighter. As sacred souls go within for reflection, they will discover what is truly important (that things are not among them) – their health and wellness is important, as is the health and wellness of every being upon the earth, as is Mother Earth Herself.
I hope we can all see that it is not what we’ve accomplished, or what we drive, or where we live, or how we travel that makes us worthy of being loved, but our very existence that makes us so.
I hope that on the other side of fear, a new world is brought to birth, and that we will look back on this pandemic and social justice uprising as labor pains that brought into the world the beauty of humanity, humility, equity, and peace.
May we hold space for this better future without expectation of timing. Let us commit to doing the labor without looking away or going numb.
May it be so. So mote it be. Blessed be. Amen. Thank you for walking this path with me. I love you more.
I’ve been finding it difficult to enjoy movie and television entertainment lately. Real life is difficult and complicated right now, and if I am going to turn on the television seeking entertainment, I don’t want it to make me feel worse… I want it to make me feel better. I often start something and turn it off if it cannot ‘take me away’ within the first few minutes. Life is short, maybe even shorter with the threat of a deadly virus lurking nearby, and I don’t want to waste time on anything that does not endeavor to help me grow or fill me up.
I quit cable television 15 years ago, and I have never missed it. Before streaming channels became a thing, I only watched DVDs, and now I have a ROKU device that offers channels of my choosing. But I find myself finding nothing worth watching these days, and so I land on YouTube. There, you can find programs that last 15 minutes to two hours. There are documentaries, clips from programming on topics of concern (like How to be Anti-Racist and White Fragility), and there are TEDTalks, too.
Last night, I happened upon this ‘talk’ by Joseph Gordon-Levitt. He’s an American actor, but also a collaborative creator. He and his brother started a fabulous center for creative minded people from all over the world to connect and contribute online, called Hit REcord. It is enormously uplifting to witness the work that comes to life when nurtured by such crafty folks. It is surely the inspiration that paved the way for what I call ‘Covid Creativity’, as musicians and singers come together through Zoom to perform for our entertainment while remaining safely at home.
In this TEDtalk, Joe asks [paraphrasing]: “How does a social media platform make money? It is selling the attention of its users to advertisers.” He says that, “We become addicted to the power of getting attention.” He goes further to remind us that when we are less distracted, we are able to ‘be in the flow’, which nurtures and expands our creativity. This is a pretty vague summary, so I hope you’ll watch it and see what rises for you, but here’s what it sparked for me.
I am taking time away from social media during Mercury Retrograde, because my addiction to the attention I give and receive on that platform distracts from my ability to be ‘in the flow’.
I referred above to leaving cable television behind in 2005. What was a surprise to me, at that time, was that I found myself finally grieving my relationship which had ended FOUR YEARS before. I recognized that I had been numbing myself with visual noise. Now, just about 36-hours into my FB-fast, I am already finding ‘the flow’. I still hear and feel the chaos of construction in my side-yard, but if I focus on my words, I can move the noise to my side-mind. I’ll be relieved when they are through. Even the sound of unhindered traffic moving will be soothing when the crash of dump truck gates has moved on.
The other thing that Joe brought to mind is the question of why I write. Am I just seeking attention? Am I validated by the number of readers who show up in my blog stats, or how many likes I get on a FB post?
I think that once upon a time, my answer might have been, yes. But I’m not so sure now. I think that what I am seeking by writing is connection. First and foremost, I am seeking connection with myself and my authentic truth. Next, I am seeking connection with those of like-mind. The world is vast, but what I know for sure is that in every corner of the world, there are people who resonate with each of us in a way that delivers a sense of belonging. Whether it is because we share a history of self-loathing with a desire to feel like we are enough, or because we care deeply about the heartbreaking destruction of our planet and about protecting the lives of those oppressed by systemic racism.
About 20 years ago, my Mom was asked to speak during a church service on the topic of her connection with nature. There was one line that failed to fall through the swiss cheese holes of my mind after all of these years. It was a quote from Konrad Lorenz from his lifelong study of the Behavior of the Greylag Goose. His book published in 1988 was titled, “Here Am I — Where Are You?” And these words resonate with me when I ask myself why I write. My purpose is not to seek attention or validation, but to let you know that I am here, and I desire to know that you are here, too. I wish to offer up the truth of my soul, as I discover it, and long to hear the truth of yours. I suspect that what we all hope for in the pilgrimage of purpose is to feel as if we have been seen and heard, before we cease to exist.
Here’s a video I found about Konrad Lorenz’s work, if you are interested.
On last night’s weekly video conference, my friends and I discussed the consequences of despair and hopelessness. What happens in circle stays in circle, but I will share with you a thought I had while holding space for this topic. We are aware of overwhelming sorrow in the world right now, as we face the fear of economic and health uncertainty. Someday, we will learn of the true number of souls who chose to move on, rather than to stick around to see how this pandemic pans out. As an empath, I feel this truth in my body. Since March, I have often experienced symptoms of pain and pressure in my chest that have made me worry that I might be ‘carrying the corona’. I got a clean bill of health in February with my annual exams and I have practiced extreme caution, so I am certain that what I am feeling is 1) allergy related – because I live in Florida where something is always in bloom, 2) psychosomatic responses to the news of escalating outbreaks, and/or 3) the suffering of others felt through my innate strength of physical and emotional empathy.
Even with all of that awareness, I still experience moments of despair and hopelessness. Knowing that this virus will take a long time to figure out, I recognize that my state of aloneness will not change for the foreseeable future. My longing for being hugged and held cannot be fulfilled as long as the threat of breathing the same air as another can endanger the lives of my parents. Not to mention that being over 50 and overweight puts me into the potential death category, alongside the two sacred beings that I care for daily.
As I explore this particular ‘truth of my soul’, I can only acknowledge that I know I am not alone in walking with this shadow of doubt. And the message that arrives to greet my reach is this:
This is temporary. Our world has long been shrouded in the darkness of uncertainty (even when some of us were oblivious), and when shadows have been revealed, we’ve learned to shine our light even brighter to discover a deeper truth. Light is returning and shadows will recede. This exile will one day be a distant memory, through which we will have grown into deeper and stronger beings.
Until it is safe to be hugged and held by another, you will be held in the light of love as you are seen and heard by those whose hearts are called to this sacred space. All are welcome!
Thank you for walking this path with me. I see you. I hear you. I am holding you close through the darkness and all the way back into the light. I love you more.
If you are in the US, and are feeling hopeless and alone, please consider calling SAMHSA’s National Helpline at 800.662.4357. There is someone available 24/7 to provide confidential guidance and support.
Today is the beginning of Mercury Retrograde. This occurs about three times a year. It is an astrological event, simply explained, when it ‘appears’ that the planet Mercury is moving backwards in the sky. Of course, it isn’t really going backwards, it is just a science and math thing that I’m not going to pretend to understand or explain. But, if you’re inclined to relate to our relationship with the other celestial bodies in our universe, you might take note of how this particular planet is said to rub our energetic being. Below is an article about the current astrology.
Mercury is the planet of thought and communication, so when it is retrograde, we can experience a surge in misunderstandings and other complications. Sometimes it is a relief to have this planetary scapegoat to explain why things feel really hard. But some of the best advice I’ve seen is to consider what not to do vs. how to best use this time. For example, do NOT sign any contracts or start new relationships in Mercury Retrograde, for the final outcome may not be as you had hoped. But it is a great time to do ‘RE’ things, like reflecting, reviewing, realigning, reassessing, and reconstructing, just to name a few retro-actions.
I have chosen RESTORATION as my verb for this particular moment in time, and the first action I’ve taken is to REMOVE myself from social media. This is no small effort for an extrovert with ‘connectedness’ in her top 5 strengths during self-exile in a global pandemic. I’m only five waking hours into a three week fast, and I can already feel the absence of the many like-minded friends who have nurtured my hyper-focus on seeking truth, understanding, and revolution (another great ‘RE’ thing) during extraordinary times. (I often think of that curse that is worded like a blessing, these days… “May you live in interesting times.”)
My intention, from June 18 through July 12, is not to stop caring about the importance of current affairs, but to RETURN myself to the center of my world, REFINE the manner in which I initiate self-care, and REESTABLISH a relationship with my creative nature, which is most easily REFLECTED through my writing.
My blog marked its second anniversary at the end of May, and I realized that while I averaged six posts per month for the first year and a half, I’ve only managed to write six posts in 2020. I’ve been working on one blog post since March, and I can usually get that done in two hours.
I’ve speculated about what has happened to my inner-scribe this year. It feels multi-tiered. One thing is that empathy is my number one strength, and the world is suffering on a global level. (I have literally found it hard to breathe, at times.)
Another probable cause is the construction that has been going on in my side yard since January. There have been days when my body felt it would crumble from the trauma of earth shattering pounding of pylons that rocked my tiny home, and on other days, it feels as if I’ve put a quarter in the bedpost, as the whole house trembles with vibration.
Another layer was my focus on learning how to Hold Space through complexity, which morphed into actually living with complexity, as the country shut down and then tragically reopened while people are still infecting each other and thousands are dying from Covid-19. And while we were looking for something to do with our downtime, we witnessed a murder that shook the world, not unlike my tiny house has been shaken by large equipment of destruction and replacement.
And I’ve just stumbled upon another metaphor for what is happening in the world to accompany the multi-year, multi-million dollar project to improve the main highway that runs through our community. They are taking away old structures that no longer serve us, and replacing them with something better. It is disruptive. It is inconvenient. It is sometimes painful. But it is absolutely worth doing the hard work.
So, here I go. I will continue the hard work of dismantling racism and demolishing the patriarchy, while keeping my parents safe from this virus, but I will start by RECOMMITTING to my own mental and physical wellness. I can see the enormous importance of this moment in our shared history, and I know that we all have a significant role to play in RE-IMAGINING a better future for the greater good of ALL. I also know that I will be stronger if I take the time to REFORTIFY my body, mind, and spirit by providing the nurturing and care that I freely offer others.
I don’t know what the days ahead will hold for me, but I will gladly share my REFLECTIONS, as I allow the universe to REVEAL itself to me – as it always does – in divine timing.
May you find many blessings woven through this Mercury Retrograde. May you find RENEWAL, REJUVENATION, and a REFRESHING new outlook on the other side. Thank you for walking this path with me. I am grateful that you are here.
I wonder what beauty you may be finding during these difficult days.
For me, life is not much different. I had already made my world very small, by choosing to live simply, while serving my parents. The biggest change for us, is that I now do all of the shopping, with great care and more frequent hand-washing.
There has, of course, been great loss… in the form of up-close connectedness. I miss hugs more than anything on this planet, and what I know for sure, is that it is the one thing I will miss when my body is done and my spirit moves on.
But there have been many extraordinary developments that add light to this shadow. For these gifts, I am grateful.
If I start with what is really close to home, it would be a continued growing affection between my parents and myself. Our commitment and care for the wellness of one another is now our primary focus. There are few distractions from this imperative intention. We are not ready to lose each other, therefore, we will continue to do whatever science and healthcare leaders recommend to keep ourselves safe and well. And we will also do it to help keep others well.
To open the circle a little wider to our surroundings, there is the delight of getting to know my neighbors. I’ve lived in this house for nearly 25 years, and because we were all working outside of the home, there has been little to no interaction. We might know we had neighbors simply by the presence or absence of a car in the driveway, noticed in passing.
I’ve been around full-time for a couple of years, but now that they are home, as well… we are not just waving as we pass, we are stopping to say hello and check on our mutual emotional well-being. And we are eager to offer kindness, in the form of a text to say one of us is going to the store – is there anything you need?
The other day, the guy across the street noticed tree branches brushing my roof, and offered to cut them back. He even took the cuttings to the curb, and blew away the leaves that had gathered. I thanked him with a gift-card and two pints of his favorite ice cream, and he gave me a bag of avocados he’d picked up in plenty from a nearby store. Seriously, anyone would be blessed to have a neighbor like mine. He once witnessed a fallen tree branch hit my roof in a rainstorm, and climbed up before I got home, to be sure there was no damage or to secure a tarp for protection.
Then there’s the lady who was out one day, as I walked up to my folks’ house, who had been here for 29 years – and I’d never seen her once. She started watching for me, and stepping outside to take a walk with me. Yesterday, she texted and said… “I know you can’t walk tonight, but I got you something, and I can’t wait to give it to you.” It was a few minutes before my online meditation group gathering, but I met her half-way. I opened it late last night, and then used the illumination of this warmly given flashlight, as I made my way back up the street for bedtime ritual with Mom and Dad.
I learned that she worked for our local grocery store for 30 years, and that on Monday, she is having her port removed, because she has defeated cancer. So glad that she will now have another neighbor cheering her on.
Then there’s the neighbor across the street, who is there because I begged the homeowner to let me pick his next renter. He is in his 70s and on furlough (because for many, social security is not enough to live on). He has not been able to file for unemployment in the last nine weeks, because we are in Florida, and the Governor who created the system is a criminal. The other day, I asked my lawn guys if they could cut his lawn, and today, I helped him to file for the benefits he needs and deserves.
Expanding my reach even more, there are the circles of friends whose hugs I dearly miss. Some of us would have been seeing each other every 8 weeks in my workshops for mindfulness and creativity. I remember asking them if they would be interested in meeting more often this year (imagining a small gathering in my home, as needed), and now that we cannot gather, we are even more connected than before. We have a weekly video conference scheduled, and I’m using some of the skills I’ve learned in a course I’m taking to facilitate a safe and brave space, where everyone is heard and held for every joy and concern.
In fact, I have multiple circles like this. One with a spiritual, intuitive focus. One to nurture a loving bond, of a group that has met monthly for decades, to cook together and raise a glass, as we share the depth of what is happening in our lives. Now, we are having a monthly virtual happy hour, instead… and we each offer a toast to the camera with our gratitude for the safety and wellness of each sacred soul.
And then… there’s the community of remarkable beings with whom I have been meeting weekly since the end of October. We have lately remarked on how we felt drawn to this online course for reasons unknown… until now. Now, we can see the guiding hand of the Universe, that led us each to sign up for Heather Plett’s Holding Space Leadership Program last fall (or spring for those of us in the southern hemisphere).
In the beginning, we were told that we numbered about 50, and were given a pinpoint map of the world to show where each of us are physically located. We are in Canada (east and west), we are all over the United States, we are all over Australia, we are in Japan, Singapore, Norway, and Belgium. There are other countries on the map, but I’m not sure I’ve had the pleasure of meeting a few people that are learning and growing with us.
Through five modules and seven months of weekly connectedness, we have experienced so much. We started by learning about the basic concepts and symbolism in Holding Space, then moved into learning how to hold space for ourselves. We did a deep dive into the foundation of The Circle Way, as one form of the container we can create for the courage and vulnerability of others. Next, we moved into the module to which I most looked forward… Holding Space in Complexity. Friends…. I learned this lesson years ago when I asked Ganesha to remove my obstacles and had to leave my job of 10 years the next day… BE CAREFUL WHAT YOU WISH FOR.
Right before this module started, we were holding space for our friends and classmates in Australia, for their country was burning. With them, we prayed for rain and an end to the nightmare, while listening to their fears and concerns without judgment, deepening our skills for holding others in a space where we know we cannot fix it… and understanding the power of remaining present, rather than looking away from that which we cannot control.
In the months before, we were sharing our stories with depth, honesty, and vulnerability, in groups of 20, groups of 4, and one-on-one. We were finding resonance with these stories, and reaching out away from the class meeting time and separate from the homework, because we wanted to know more about each soul who was speaking to our own. Slowly, the news was shifting focus, from the natural disaster down under, to classmates in corporate roles who were preparing for pandemic.
And then… it happened. The whole world shut down. Only, we were not just seeing it in the news. We were witnessing it through the stories of our new friends and classmates. We found gratitude in seeing each face in a tiny Zoom-square every week, with a breath of relief – thank goodness she/he/they are safe.
Talk about complexity! We thought the hardest part would be unveiling our implicit biases, and peeling back our privilege. But imagine being in that deep dive and learning that so much death is occurring in places denied the privilege from which you benefit… like on Reservations and in black communities. It’s a painful process, but worth the effort. It might just free you from inertia and give you the strength and courage to do more.
But wait… there’s more. Some kind of magick occurred in this process. Our remarkable and big-hearted teachers and facilitators, who are on their fifth go-round with this annual class, have informed us that this level of bonding has not happened before. They had not previously seen members creating new groups of their own – like our Thursday meditation circle that meets before class. They wonder if we can pinpoint the factors that supported this cohesiveness. I’m not sure if we have an answer. It feels spiritual to me, as if Mother Earth commanded it.
Let me tell you, this love runs deep. There is something powerful about vulnerability. When we have the courage to go deep, and to peel away the layers of pretense, daring to speak our truths, and to be held and heard by others with respect and caring… falling in love is inevitable. This is where we find belonging. Together, we have learned that when we show up for one another, even in the silence of meditation, the strands that are the fiber of our beings become interwoven. We have no doubt that this bond will only grow stronger. With two weeks left of class, we have already committed to continue.
I’ve had trouble writing this year. My words normally flow easily through the simple action of placing my fingers on the keyboard, but lately… the flow has been blocked. Whether it is because of my body’s fight or flight response to the constant pounding and vibration of nearby construction or the empathic space holding of fear and chaos for what is happening for the collective, I am unsure. But what I do know, is that I didn’t want this time to go by undocumented. I don’t want to forget, should the world normalize in any way, what magick we’ve created in this liminal time.
I’ve been thinking about this pandemic, and how it has affected the world. It rapidly spread across continents and changed everything in an instant. But when I seek the good in the situation, which I always do, what I acknowledge, value, and treasure is the way that when our personal lives have gotten so very small… our love has gotten so very big.
The family that I am working to protect started as three people in two houses on one block, and has spread across the entire globe. It’s a fam-demic!
I have no doubt that if so much love can be nurtured and expanded through a series of sacred circles, it can surely ripple out across the world. And really, loving one another is the only thing that can bring this suffering to an end.
I love you enough to wear a mask. I love you enough to wash my hands. I love you enough to keep my distance. I love you enough to offer my care. I love you enough to help where I can. I love you enough to show up, even if virtually is the best way, for now. I love you enough to speak my truth. I love you enough to honor your truth. I love you enough to hold this space for you with the light of love. Thank you for walking this path with me. I love you more.
The funny thing about this crazy development of social distancing and societal quarantine is that… I’ve sort of been living this way since I left the corporate world at the end of 2017. For me, aside from my excessively fierce protection of my father’s safety and wellness (wearing a mask and washing my hands three times more often), not much has changed in our tiny universe.
If it weren’t for the very real threat that is lurking nearby and ready to pounce, it might feel as if the rest of the world was finally catching up to our grand discovery. If I could ignore the ‘why’ of the situation – the risk to mortality and the heartbreaking financial implications that come with it, I might be happy for those who may be closer to learning what I have learned… that we really can live simply and be joyfully content and peacefully happy, with less. Less shopping, less spending, less working, less eating out, less driving, less square footage, less stress.
Three times a day, I walk up the street to my parents’ house to ensure that all is well. I give Pop his pills, refill his cup, fix him breakfast, and if Mom isn’t up, I’ll start the coffee. The first visit is just before noon, as their sleep habits are off. I come back again around 5pm to see if Pop is hungry. Sometimes he is, and sometimes he isn’t. I don’t push it. I offer options, but if he is not swayed by an offer of a sandwich, chips and salsa, or a piece of cake, I do a quick rotation of small tasks, then walk back home.
Around 9pm, I head back over, and don my mask before entering. This time I stay a bit longer, as the routine has multiple tasks. I check his blood pressure and oxygen level, give him his pills (without the blood pressure elevator, if his numbers were good), prepare and serve his dinner (if he’s hungry), and then the dogs have their day. They each get their treats, Sunshine gets her pills with peanut butter, Tina gets to finish what’s left, I ensure there is a safe path to the bathroom for Pop (no dog toys to trip over), lock all of the doors, wish everyone a good night, and then step outside to walk home, having immediately removed my mask.
I haven’t had regular television in 15 years. I never see commercials, political ads, or the news. Except… when I go to my parents’ house. The news is almost always on. This isn’t a problem in the sense that we have differing beliefs, because gratefully, we are of similar values and minds. For me, the problem is simply that I am physically sickened by what is happening in our country, and I can feel my blood pressure rise every time the news proves that it really can get worse. While my Mom feels it is important to know what is going on, I don’t disagree, and yet… it feels physically impossible to torture myself with reality sometimes.
And yet, it is the news that informs me it is time to reach out to friends and loved ones and keep them close… from a distance. It is the news that alerts me to the probability there is more happening in some people’s lives than making their lives small and hunkering down. In my distant Tribe alone, we have one beloved who is a Physician Assistant for an outpatient clinic at a large hospital. She is now in charge of one of five Covid-19 Testing Tents in her city, and she is doing everything she can to stay safe and avoid taking something home to her family. Another one of our beloveds is a microbiologist, who is working in a lab to benefit our nation and her community. And another one of our beloveds, who has had a persistent cough and recent pneumonia diagnosis, is awaiting test results to determine if her illness is related to this virus (originally told it would take 72 hours, and now has been told it will take 7-10 days to get results). One of our beloveds was poised to visit us with his family from Japan, when all flights were cancelled. Together, we felt the disappointment and relief, to know our reunion would be delayed while they were being kept safe from current risk and chaos.
I don’t know how to begin to comfort those who are losing their jobs. When it happened to me twice before, the shock and sense of betrayal of forced freedom eventually led to something better than previously imagined. I can only hope for such an outcome for others.
Since last year, I have been supported by a tiny portion of my retirement savings through 72T, and I am choosing not to look at the losses in my portfolio. While I am sure it will recover in time, I really don’t know what this means for my future and my ability to remain fully present in caring for my parents.
What I have decided is that fear-based thought is detrimental to my well-being, and if I allow stress and worry to affect my health, I will not have the strength to keep my parents and myself healthy and safe while our nation’s healthcare warriors fight tirelessly to slay the beast.
It seems our grocery stores are starting to recover from the panic hoarding that recently occurred. My neighbor just texted me to share that our local grocery has “a crap load of toilet paper” this morning (ha!). I’m not going to rush out to buy some, because my parents and I have enough for now, and we want to be sure that it is there for those who need it.
And there’s the crux of this situation. How have we become a people who would choose to buy more than we need, keeping necessities from others? What is the psychological hole we are trying to fill by spending our hard-earned income on stuff we don’t need? I don’t mean the bulk buying, like our memberships at Costco which save money in the long run. After all, that’s why we don’t need toilet paper during the tp-apocalypse. But when I started living small, after leaving the corporate world 2.5 years ago, I realized just how wasteful my spending had become. Living on a quarter of my past income informed me that I really could live with less and be quite content. Ultimately, the human desire for more, more, more is what got us into this mess, where viruses carried by animals whose habitats have been stolen are finding a way into the lives of those who were not content with ‘enough’.
Staying home and caring for my parents altered the size of my circle. My whole world revolves around a tiny section of my geographic location. I can walk to their house, and it is a short drive to the two grocery stores we frequent. Dad’s doctors are all a short distance from home, and we’ve been lucky that he hasn’t had too many needs to leave home since last summer, beyond regular check-ups and getting new glasses. So, this self-isolation thing we are facing now feels like our normal, with the exception that I am now insisting to do all of the shopping that Mom once handled herself.
The weird part is experiencing the world around us starting to calm and quiet. Where we live, traffic is a constant. Whether it be the main road that borders our neighborhood, or the major highway that cuts through it… our surroundings are nearly always inundated with multitudes of people in a rush to get somewhere. I remember how strange it was to experience silence after 9/11, when the skies and roads were desolate, as we cried together or alone for the unknown and all that had been lost. It wasn’t unlike the silence that comes with a storm curfew during hurricane season, as bands of chaos threaten to topple trees and spawn tornadoes, and we hold our breath until it passes.
But a two week stay-at-home order will begin in our county tomorrow night, and I’m beginning to imagine how surreal our days and nights will become. I suspect our world will get oddly quiet. I didn’t see highway construction to be listed as an essential service, so I’m curious to see if my house will be vibration free for a while, after years of constant work on this expansion project. I’m kind of looking forward to actual stillness.
The thing I’ve learned about silence is that it invites self-reflection. Since choosing this simple way of life, I have had the time to dive into old wounds and lift the source of suffering. Once on the surface, I could offer the light and love that it deserved, to bring healing. I have studied death and dying, and have made peace with the bringer of our mortality, and now find nothing to fear. I have nurtured a mindful practice of writing and centering with meditation and breath work. And now, I am conveniently in the midst of learning how to hold space – for myself, for my community, and next week, we begin learning more about how to hold space in complexity. That seems like divine timing, if you ask me.
So, perhaps, if you are finding that you have time on your hands without the regular distractions of typical daily living, you might consider going deep. Hold space for your frightened inner child, and offer that sacred being the loving support it has always longed for. In solitude, we are offered the gift of discovering that we really are stronger than we previously imagined. Don’t be afraid of the darkness. Be courageous enough to ask others to sit with you there. We may be separated for a while, but we are never alone. Speaking our truth in vulnerability is our super power right now. Don’t hesitate to reach for what you need. Someone else is sitting in their own darkness seeking purpose, and you might just be the light they need.
Interestingly, the tools that have become our escape mechanisms enabling us to disconnect from the real world, through computers and smart phones, now offer us what we need to visually connect with what is really important… our loved ones. Explore them! You can meet face to face through Messenger, Zoom, Skype, or 8×8, to name a few resources for free video conferencing.
If you are frightened or worried, I am holding space for you, and asking you to see that you are not alone. We are beginning to receive news of fatalities related to the viral reach in our own part of the world, and knowing someone who knows someone who knows someone… makes this spreading darkness finally feel real. One day soon, the degrees of separation could be zero.
Each day, I feel fear rise, and I honor it, then let it go. I offer my shadow self the same love and compassion I give the outward parts of my being. It is the one thing I can control, for now… how I respond to uncertainty. I can be of service to others by remaining present in this moment, while focusing on the unknowable future serves no one.
May you find peace in the cycle of seasons, which show us year after year how nature blooms and falls away, then blooms again. This season of cold discomfort will pass, and we will emerge stronger and better than before. It is the way of nature, and (to quote my Tribal Crone) we… are all just mammals.
Wishing you and yours safe and WELL during this surreal moment in our shared history. Thank you for walking (at a safe distance) this path with me.
I woke the other morning, realizing I had been dreaming about spiders. Now, normally, that would have informed me that my subconscious was working out some kind of stress. I have a phobia that has played out in spider nightmares my entire life. The irrationality of my fear must be connected to a past life, because even the tiniest eight legged being, spinning from my rear view mirror, could cause some screaming and hyperventilation, if not an accident. Silly, I know.
What was different that morning, was my sense that whatever had happened in my dreams, this time it was not focused on the fear or the havoc caused, but on the strength of the weave in carefully threaded webs. What I can recall was a tiny, armored being wrapping a thread between two poles over and over and over, until it formed, at once a supportive cradle and a powerful slingshot.
In the past, when I have had spiders show up (for real) in my life, I have asked the question to the Universe: “Why are you making me feel unsafe? What are you trying to tell me?” I have heard the reply: “What do you fear most?” Then, I could reflect on what false belief I was holding onto.
The words I heard in my mind this time were: “building a strong foundation”. What comes to mind (thank goodness something came to mind, because my brain has been too fuzzy to write for some time), is community. Not just the cliche ‘we are the web’, but in the way that we come together and pool our energy and resources to catch someone we love, rather than allowing them to fall or fend for themselves.
I’ve been doing some extra caregiving since January. A dear friend went through knee replacement surgery, and I was able to offer some needed support for her (age 75) and her wife of 40 years (age 83). With severe memory issues, it is difficult for her wife to navigate the hospital alone, and I had the flexibility to stand-in until her daughter could be available.
These women are also pillars of our Unitarian church community, and the recipients of much love and support from many others, in one form or another.
While at home healing from the knee replacement, my friend fell while getting out of bed, and somehow broke her femur. Yes. It sounds unbelievable, and she is pretty pissed off about the whole thing. It meant another hospital stay, another surgery, and this time, she had to go to rehab to learn how to maneuver without putting more than 20 lbs. of pressure on the healing leg.
Folks, the state of rehab care I’ve witnessed in the last two years has been an eye opener. That’s not to say that those who are caring for our loved ones in facilities are negligent (though some are clearly more skilled than others), it is that the carer vs. patient ratio is terribly deficient. When Dad was dealing with health issues, he ended up in the same facility twice. The first time, the space was brand new and beautiful. Not a bad place to recover. But the second time, he went to a different floor, which was not new, and conditions upon arrival were not acceptable. Both times, it was nearly impossible to find someone on staff to assist, and I shudder to imagine what he might have endured without my advocacy. (His version of self-care is to shrug his shoulders and say: “Oh, well.”) Both my father and my friend, were forbidden and physically unable to get out of bed alone, and yet response time to the call-button was often longer than 30 minutes. One in this position simply has to cast-off their sense of dignity and pride. It’s pretty awful.
When we are older, compounding these circumstances may be our sense of body betrayal and feelings of regret, fear, and overwhelming emotion which bottles up and spills over onto the people upon whose care we rely. And it’s especially difficult when we have grown old with a partner who has age-related difficulties of their own. My parents have been together for nearly 60 years, and while one has mobility and memory issues, the other has hearing and memory issues. There is not a whole lot of patience between them, but when I remind them that their partner is living inside their own world of challenges and fears, it seems that a bit more compassion rises for the other.
So, yesterday, I picked up my friend from rehab and brought her home, after a two week stay in what she has dubbed ‘hell’. We arrived home to her wife, who had already made some adjustments to make life easier. I had a plan for how we could get her onto the porch and into the house, which would have involved a series of maneuvers. But we ultimately decided to call for a non-emergency lift assist with our local fire department. These people are amazing, generous, and kind. Several friends from church had offered support and shared resources such as a wheelchair (until the prescribed chair arrives), a shower chair (from a friend who went through his own difficult recovery after knee surgery), a new shower head installed by a friend who also helped remove the bathroom door for easier access, and a sister-friend RN arrived just in time to help us get our healing-being settled safely into bed. They have more friends from church who are delivering meals and fellowship. Seriously, if you are dealing with some shit, it is a beautiful thing to be in such a caring circle.
Every once in a while, my friend and I have a conversation about the ‘why me’ of it all. Neither of us believe that things always ‘happen for a reason’, so we choose to seek the ‘what may I learn’ from this current challenge. What comes to mind for me is that body betrayal allows those who have served others to finally receive a karmic return on investment. My father was a Vocational Rehab counselor and supervisor for the bulk of his career, and my friend was a mental health counselor. They supported many grateful beings in times of need. Now, they are each being supported in theirs.
And, perhaps their individual challenges will lend a sense of patience and understanding for the struggles of their partners. But what I hope for the most, is that they each learn to forgive the betrayal of their own bodies, and to love them unconditionally for the strength and support they’ve always provided, as the sacred containers of their precious souls.
Caring for beloveds through this process of aging and supporting them through physical challenges is surely a message to me from the Universe, as I am reminded to offer myself the kind of care and attention I offer others. I have a whole list of things I would like to be doing for myself, including using a year-old gift card for a massage. What the hell?! How can I urge anyone else to self-care when I am not walking my own talk? Well, I’m getting there. I scheduled my well-visits with the doctor and imaging center, and got blood work done. Step by step, I will keep loving myself a little more, offering my body her own karmic reward. Hopefully, she’ll recognize my efforts and allow forgiveness over defeat.
Today, as I showered, I offered my body heartfelt gratitude and as I dried off, I sang to my own reflection. Oh, how we all deserve to be loved and cherished… especially by our own sacred selves.
So, the words I heard that morning were ‘building a strong foundation’, and I reflect on what meaning might be found. We are blessed with an unbreakable net woven with golden strands of individuals in our beloved community. Our friends, caregivers, hospital staff, physical therapists, and firefighters are among those who offer a cradle or hammock of nurturing protection. Our partners (if we are blessed to have one) are the home we get to return to, again and again. And the tenderness, compassion, and unconditional love that we offer ourselves is the beacon of warmth and healing light that we offer the world in reciprocity for this extraordinary earthly experience.
If you, dear one, are facing challenges in your own life, I hope that you are feeling held in the light of love, and that you are gently pouring unconditional love onto every wound and sorrow. Let that love spread throughout your physical and energetic being to soothe every ache and anxiety. Let peace settle into your bones, and witness joyful gratitude rising to the surface. And may that joy outshine fear and longing. Let that gorgeous light of yours become a healing balm that comforts you and those around you, as you witness the vision of your own transformation and new beginning. I’ll be right here to cheer as you emerge!
Thank you for walking this path with me. I am grateful for your care.
So much can change in a year. New Year’s Eve is often the prompt for such a review. Considering what we were doing this time last year, for our family, it seems we have a decent year to celebrate. After seeing a movie with the entire family, I rushed my father to the emergency room on the eve of 2019. It was then that a problem we’d dealt with since October was finally diagnosed and in the months that followed a urethral stricture would find repair.
In 2019, unlike the year before, Pop has been at home, rather than in the hospital or rehab (save for the stricture recovery). He also had a procedure to repair the entropion in his left eye, which started while in rehab the year before. This was my first full year as a parental caregiver. It pays very little (I’m living on a tiny fraction of my retirement savings), but offers great reward. I know that my parents are safe, cared for, and that they both feel loved.
There’s much more to review for the year, but I’ve been reminded that we are not just at year’s end, but at decade’s end, so I’ll take a moment to journey through time. This time, ten years ago, I packed up the office of the boss who needed me, and watched him drive away from the office for the last time. 8.5 years earlier, he hired me to be his assistant, and that partnership changed both of our lives for the better. That’s really a story for the previous decade, but I can reflect on how different my life would be now, had the universe failed to align in our favor for a fruitful partnership. This early retirement to care for my parents would have been impossible, had he NOT chosen me in the early part of the decade that came before. I am eternally grateful for the way my life fell apart and came back together.
In my personal life, the beginning of this decade saw the end of an important friendship and a crack in the foundation of my Tribe. Trust was lost and never rediscovered. I’m certain that this soulmate life lesson was about learning why we don’t put people on pedestals, about the destructive nature of shame, and understanding how betrayal can make one feel like they have lost their mind (very useful experience for learning to hold space for others without judgment). Also affirmed, when someone leaves our lives, though it feels catastrophic for the loss of a future we once imagined, in time, our hearts do heal, and we fill that void with different experiences. Not better, not worse, just… different.
In 2012, I made a decision that brought a new group of people into my life, whom I adore. Having struggled with self-loathing and metabolic disorder since my early 20’s, I chose to have weight loss surgery. A woman I met in the support group I joined, became one of my best friends. We have held space for one another through difficult days, which is an important chapter in each of our healing journeys (read my blogpost “Witness to Healing”). The surgery may have been a temporary fix, since my metabolism remains broken, but the purpose of that path was clearly to bring us together. I wouldn’t change a thing.
2013 was a difficult year. It marked the first layoff in the corporate history of the workplace many of us loved. I witnessed so much heartbreak as people who would have chosen to stay forever had to leave. Then 2014 came along and I had a front row seat for the hostile takeover of the board of directors. I do not recommend any of this level of drama for an empathic soul. At the core of these two years was the heavy emotion of feeling helpless and unsafe. This was a period when I felt lost in darkness and could not find my inner light.
In 2015, I realized that sometimes things don’t go the way we planned, but it doesn’t mean they won’t go well. It was up to me to plan and execute more executive retirement events that year than I care to count. There are two positives to note with these changes delivered by so called ‘activist investors’. One is that every executive that I’ve run into since saying farewell at the event I organized on their behalf has reported that they are enormously happy. One I ran into last year said to me, “Melissa, I had no idea what I was missing!” And of course, my greatest loss in 2015 was the boss who loved me. I texted her on her birthday ten days ago, and she replied with photos from the travel adventure she and her husband were returning from with news of the one they were about to leave for with their adult children. Her migraines, a weekly if not daily occurrence while working, are a thing of the past. The other positive is that the company stock performance exceeded the lofty expectations of the guy who felt more like a terrorist in those early days of the takeover. (Again… a boon to my early retirement.)
The next two years swim with memories of tolerance, really. The place I once loved to work felt foreign in energy and culture… but still I couldn’t imagine that life could be better elsewhere. Then, in 2017… a new boss delivered liberation. Her former assistant who now sits at my desk of 16 years, told another she was told just to wait 90 days. I nearly danced out of the building that day, walked out by one of the leaders I supported, the way so many others departed in 2013. I did not feel unsafe, though. I was a little surprised by the sense of relief I felt. Instead of my world collapsing, it was falling into place.
The next year confirmed the sense that I could never return to that corporate world. I started writing and learning and growing, and have not stopped. I spent a year studying death and dying – and learned how live more mindfully. I spent time learning to write and edit for a popular online journal, and decided I prefer to write in my own style, for myself, knowing that comfort or inspiration may be found for those who bless my words with their valuable time and attention. I no longer wish to bend myself to fit the expectations of others.
This year, I planted metaphoric seeds which have grown into a glorious garden of lush connectedness, colorful healing, and bountiful beauty for myself and the sacred gardeners who have traveled this path with me. Eight seasonally evolving workshops and one mountain retreat brought together a new community of remarkable beings who care deeply for the wellness of one another, as they cultivate greater authenticity and joy in their own lives. To me, it feels like the birth of a new Tribe.
In this decade, I have lost friends to cancer, I have celebrated with some the news of remission, and with others, who continue the path of metastasis, facing challenges and overcoming them, I am committed to holding space, either bearing light or sitting in the darkness, with hope they will at least not feel alone. They are great warriors who continue to teach me about surrendering to grace, resting when the body commands, and opening to receive the kindness of others.
As I’ve focused on recreating myself and my world, I have walked with others whose lives have also changed through the death of a loved one or a former career, through aging – either of self, partners, children, or parents, and a host of other types of transformation induced by the unavoidable and unexpected. What has been fortified on this pilgrimage is that we are stronger together, and that we are never alone. Though we are nurturing different dreams for ourselves, we still glory in the manifestation of peace and comfort in the lives of those we love.
I’ve reflected on a decade of loss, but there has also been great adventure. Since 2010, I have been blessed to travel. Many adventures were with my life-long friend, and best travel companion (see my blogpost: “My Favorite Tomboy”). We started the decade with a trip to England, and birthed an annual Art-Cation tradition. Wherever we go, be it in driving distance or via flight, to see family or friends, or to touch the mysteries of history, we seek and find the local artists whose gifts reach through canvas to touch the hearts of others. In 2011, a trip to Scotland with anther friend delivered more magick and new friends. (European travel, for me, was a luxury that a few years without a car payment allowed.) I cannot fathom a life firmly planted. I am grateful for the wanderlust my mother seeded in me.
A decade of reflection could probably go on for just as long. So I’ll come back home to current gratitudes. My parents and I are closer than we have ever been, and not just because they bought a house up the street five years ago. My involvement in my father’s daily care since the last quarter of 2018 has nurtured an intimacy we never had before. And my mother and I have talked through old wounds and healing has been found. I laughed on my way home from setting Dad up with breakfast, to realize that instead of commenting on my weight, my mother complemented my butt. This feels like a good omen for the future. Ha!
Finally, in this decade I have welcomed four cats into my life. One died two years after his arrival, a freak tragedy that he probably thought might be a small adventure, and the other died in my arms in September. It was difficult to give words to the love and affection each of these magickal beings offered me (see my blogposts: “The Love of a Good Cat, Parts 2 and 3”). And last month, the other two beings of fluff and light came into my life and home. We are all still getting to know each other, but I predict a grand love affair in the decade to come.
To bring this reflection to conclusion, acknowledging a million other important things that occurred which I’ve failed to list, I would be remiss not to mention this blog. For many years, I was told by others that I had a gift for writing, and that I should do something with it. I once could not imagine how that might manifest. What on earth would I write about, and who would want to read it? But here we are.
A year and a half of writing about life has taught me a great deal about the power of introspection and sharing – about vulnerability and authenticity. I have been blessed to receive from others the acknowledgment that they found resonance in my words, they have sometimes been introduced to a new way of looking at things, and best of all, they have at times seen themselves on these pages, and found comfort in the reminder that we are all one.
As this decade comes to a close and you move through your own review, I hope that you have found balance. If there has been great change and loss, I hope there has also been great discovery and joy. If your health has been a primary focus, I hope that you have received the love and resources that support your path to acceptance, healing and wellness. I hope that the hardships can be seen as lessons, and that you can see clearly the beauty of your own evolution. I hope that you have found compassion and kindness for nurturing yourself, as well as others. I hope you have found forgiveness… for those who have harmed you, if possible, but more importantly, for yourself, be it for poor choices or for never having made a choice.
With this old decade, I am choosing to leave behind the ‘tradition’ of measuring my worth by how much weight I’ve lost, and my value by the size of my income. Three decades of not-enough-ness is quite enough, thank you!
Into this new decade, I shall only measure my goodness by the love that I give, and my fortune by the love that I receive.
Happy New Year, dear ones. Thank you for walking this path with me. Wishing you an abundance of blessings in the decade to come. May you have all you need and want all you have. You are so loved!