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.
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.
A couple of years ago, I learned about the loved one of a dear friend who was facing an overwhelming future based on a diagnosis and prognosis she’d received. The ache I could feel with my empathic heart was extreme. I crafted a meditation to invoke healing with the help of others, and today that ache has returned.
A former colleague and respected friend has been reaching out for support from her beloved community, as her most sacred being and life-partner has been given an overwhelming diagnosis. Once again, I do not know him personally, but I know the heart of my friend, and I can feel her ache, her fear, and the weight of her burden. My intention is to send Reiki and ThetaHealing to assist with the battle our patient is facing, as well as to bolster the strength of my friend as she holds space for the one she loves.
Once again, I’d like to engage your support. I promise that it will not cost you more than a moment of thought, and what I know for sure is that the light produced by your mindful awareness will add to the light of mine, and together… we may just permeate the darkness descending upon a sacred soul. Now, the soul of whom I write is specific, but together – our reach may be expansive. Each of us may be just a drop of quenching rain, but together we can be a monsoon of healing light, a tsunami of love.
With so much suffering and loss in the world, I am often strengthened by the thought of touching the heart of one being, that they may touch the heart of another, with the ripple effect causing eternal waves of love that heals. You can help. We can help. Somehow, in a place beyond our understanding… we shall gather, heal, and overcome.
The sacred being of whom I speak is a gentle, loving soul who went to the doctor about an imagined rib fracture, and came out with a diagnosis of lung cancer. His partner, my friend, has spent a good part of this year rallying around friends who either did or did not win a battle with Covid-19. She is already exhausted, and has asked for support. Darlings, this is called surrender. This is what we all must do to survive during extraordinary times. We are all living in such times, and we must understand that we are not alone, for we are all one. Please reach for the support that will nurture you through the most difficult days. I promise that your hand will be met with a circle of loving kindness.
Whether you are ready to surrender, or have empathy and energy to offer, we are all grateful for your stunning, radiant inner light. The love from one heart is great and enveloping, but the love of many? It is all consuming… a cloak of comfort on a cold dark night. Please take my hand and share your light and consider opening to receive the light of others… I can see it growing brighter as you approach, and it is sweetness to behold – this love made manifest.
Further, I hope you would not consider it greedy to ask that you share this intention with others. Imagine the power of our light when it is passed from one sacred soul to another! We are each torchbearers… passing our light from one to another, until the whole world is aglow with a radiance more powerful than the sun.
I value and respect privacy, so for the purposes of our focused connection, I am going to refer to our sacred vessel as B. Know that time is not linear, and your light will make a difference even if we are all focusing at different times or on different days. Also understand that if you are in need of healing light, or wish to offer it to someone you care about, you may pull it from this cosmic gathering and place that being at the center of the circle right next to B. Love is infinite. We have access to an endless supply. Remember, when you offer your own healing energy, you are never depleted, for this is a divine force that moves through you… you cannot help but receive through the giving.
Great Spirit, Mother / Father God, Universal Force of Creation, Powers that Be, Elements of Air, Fire, Water and Earth which surround us and flow through us, Light of Truth, Unconditional Love, All That Is: Allow this sacred circle of beautiful beings to become a combined vessel of your love, filling up and spilling forth with an abundance of healing light energy. Allow the light of love to flow freely, without obstacle, and let it drip down the healers’ hands, washing away our sorrows, our fears, our hunger and thirst, our aches and pains, self-doubt and false limitations. As we are made of celestial matter, we contain the healing power of a thousand suns, and the distant light of a billion stars is ever present in the combustive force that warms us from within. Let this divine energy rise up through Earth’s core and crust, through saline ocean, and forest floor, through the soles of our feet, rising up through the roots that are our legs, lighting up our energetic being as it is filled – (red) root, (orange) sacral, (yellow) solar, and into our (green) hearts contained by strong and resilient trunks, and let this molten, healing light flow through arms to hands that are our branches, through (blue) throat, (purple) mind’s eye that sees what is not visible, and (white) crown through which we connect easily with all that is… rising up and out to deliver exactly what is required, be it for the good of all. Amen, So Be It, Blessed Be.
If it is difficult to connect with the soul of someone you do not yet know, think of someone you do know who has made you feel completely loved. Hold that beloved being in your heart and radiate and reflect that love back to her or him. As you feel that radiance shared between the two of you, allow that light to expand to encapsulate others in your circle – such as family and friends for whom you feel a sense of affection. Now, expand that light even further, beyond those you know well and out to acquaintances, and then to people you don’t know in your community, in your city, in your state. Let your light of loving compassion grow and spread beyond the boundaries of country, continent, planet. Let your love reach and grow into the darkness of space, surrounding the galaxy, and then every galaxy – known and unknown. Know that your light is expansive and boundless. You are one with the universe and all that is.
Now, bring your focus back into your center. Visualize this place that is in a realm that is not limited by what we know in this world. In this place, there is plenty of room for all of us to gather. We are each standing in our own strength, prepared to share it freely with one another. If you once felt alone in this space, feel the arrival of other light beings, as the palms of your hands are filled with the palms of two others. As each of us arrive in this sacred circle, a pale blue light radiates from each being, and as hands are linked, the light begins to pulsate and grow stronger as it flows gently in a clockwise motion, from heart to heart and hand to hand.
As the circle is made complete, you look before you and see B seated at the center, enveloped in the pale blue light of your loving presence. Let B be represented by that being who has made you feel most loved and cherished, and let that love be reflected back to him. He is surrounded by Universal light delivered through sacred souls from all over the planet. You may be holding hands with someone from America, from Canada or Ireland, from India, Japan, Australia, or from Africa… your light is mingling with the light of people from countries whose names have never crossed your lips. We are all one, and there are no barriers here. We are all here for one purpose… to bring divine healing light to the soul of another, in whatever form is needed. When we offer our healing energy, Reiki, Theta, our thoughts and prayers, it must be unattached to outcome, for we cannot know the destined journey of one’s soul. We can only trust that exactly what is needed to bring healing to that sacred soul, in any form, will be delivered by our care.
As the light surrounding B grows and pulsates, it is like a magnet that is pulling from his body any residue of past harm, be it betrayal, fear-based thought, denial of personal worthiness, resentment, guilt, or environmental impurity. As all remnants of negativity and dis-ease (mentioned and unnamed) are removed from his body, his energetic being, his DNA, and his beautiful soul, all areas of exit are filled and sealed with golden light. The pale blue light, which has grown in strength as each new soul enters the circle, becomes a beautiful emerald green. As B has been emptied of what no longer serves him, he has become an open vessel to receive the light that we offer, as well as the sparkly white light of creation that flows from above. We are grateful witness to the arrival of this light, and are awed by the beauty that illuminates B’s own strength and beauty as he is filled with this light that is like the golden light from a holiday sparkler, or a downpour of luminous glitter.
This light fills every cell of his body with divine healing energy, as it delivers strength and fortitude for the road ahead. B is receiving through his open heart, the wisdom of the universe, the strength of earthly ancient mountains, the air to fill his lungs and speak his truth, the fire to move his muscles and accomplish every task he seeks to fulfill, the water to wash his spirit clean of fear, anger, bitterness, and regret. What remains is love, joy, and with full forgiveness of the past, complete self-acceptance and approval.
B is filled with divine light and soothed by the love that surrounds him. Whatever is required for his peace, comfort, and transformation in the form that his soul has chosen will be provided with grace and ease. He is one with all of us and we are all one with the Universe. Together we transcend the limitations beholden to the confines of the human body, through the power of the mind, which is greater than our understanding. Once again, we place our trust within this truth… that assistance is given to those who reach. Together we reach beyond what we can see, feel, understand, and know that this mystery is received and freely given through the love that resides within each of us.
Finally, in this sacred place where we have gathered, we raise our hands toward B, and send golden light energy from heart to palm and into his being, so that he may carry the love of this circle within through all of his days upon the earth and into the mystery of what comes next, many years from now. And when you feel that you have given what he needs, place your hands upon your own heart, and receive that same energy that flows through you and each sacred being within this circle. Allow your own body and energetic being to be filled with this Universal Light Energy. Feel the light and love of this vast community surround you and enter your heart. Know that you carry this love within you, and that it seeps through every pore with a radiant light that brings healing to old wounds, and attracts an abundance of goodness to your life.
When you are ready to return to the place where you are sitting, I hope that you hold onto my gratitude and my love for the light that you have offered, and for the healing it has provided. You are loved and valued beyond your previous imagining. Hold onto that and let it grow in your awareness. Your light will illuminate your path, and beauty surrounds you, every step of the way.
With so much suffering and loss in the world, I am often strengthened by the thought of touching the heart of one being, that they may touch the heart of another, with the ripple effect causing eternal waves of love that heals. You can help. We can help. Somehow, in a place beyond our understanding… we shall gather, heal, and overcome.
Now allow the white light of cleansing and separation wash over you as you start to wiggle your fingers and toes, allowing the light to gently find your eyes. And finally, send your energy deep into mother earth, pull that golden, molten core energy up into your being, and when you are grounded, cut the cord of this connection and seal your energetic being like closing a zipper.
Thank you for walking this path with me! I love you! It is done!
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.
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!
In October, I committed to an 8-month course on Holding Space Leadership. The first module was on the basics of Holding Space, and yesterday marked its conclusion.
As I reflect on this introduction and the pending Celtic Holy Day, which marks another turn of the wheel of the year in the ever changing cycle of seasons, I can’t help but contemplate Heather Plett’s notes on Liminal Space. It feels like the Winter Solstice (now happening in the northern hemisphere) is a perfect example of this concept.
She uses the caterpillar to butterfly metaphor in great detail, which makes it so easy to understand the middle ground of a transition cycle. I hadn’t realized the process of transformation of these magickal creatures until I read Martha Beck’s Steering by Starlight in 2018, when I was trying to figure out what I wanted to do with the rest of my life, since my past life felt finished. That’s where I learned that the caterpillar doesn’t just sprout longer legs and wings while cloaked in mystery… it actually ceases to exist in its previous form. It becomes a liquid before becoming solid again, in a brand new way.
From this course, I have learned that when we are in the process of un-becoming – casting off a former self, while not yet stepping into a new, final form… we are in liminal space. There is no time limit on transformation. We can be in this space for a year or a decade. It takes however long it takes. No pressure. No judgment. No shame.
What I took from Martha’s notes on this transition, is that if someone were to try to help (or force) the butterfly out of its safe place, it would ooze out and cease to exist… never to emerge in that glorious form. So, we come to understand that when we are in liminal space, it is our gift and responsibility to do the work of transformation. No one can do it for us. And from Heather’s notes on this process, I realized that as one who is holding space for someone in transition, it is not our responsibility to force their becoming, but to provide the safe place for this transformation to occur in their own time and on their own terms.
Now that I’ve been given language for it, I realize that this time of year, between one holiday and another, and another, and another… is like being in liminal space.
When I was in the corporate world, everything shifted the week before Thanksgiving. There was a sense of limbo to living, as everyone moved into some kind of chaotic survival mode. Either coming alive with anticipation of time with family, vacation, decorations, gifts, etc… or conversely, killing themselves to get it all done, or wanting to – for the stress of it all, with the enormous discomfort and despair it might bring for a host of reasons. This feeling of clouded disconnection would take root and hold on until the second week of the new year.
This is my third holiday season without co-workers, so I’m no longer witness to the excitement or tension. My family and I have moved away from the stress and chaos of holidays dictated by expectations. I didn’t put up a tree or purchase presents this year. It’s funny how simplifying one’s life can feel so liberating.
Even without all of the trappings of the holiday season, this time of year still feels like liminal space… a time of reflection and transformation.
This year, we are not only facing the end of another year, but the end of a decade. In reflection, we may review this time to see where we’ve been and what has changed. In 2010, the boss who needed me had just retired, and the boss who loved me was growing nicely into her new role. I loved my job, I loved my workplace, and I loved the people. I was still learning how to love myself. I hoped I would always get to be there, in that job. But the universe had other plans. Thank goodness.
I think I moved into liminal space when the boss who loved me retired in 2015, and the rest of the decade has been spent in peeling away all of the layers that had turned into something ‘unbecoming’ to me. My soul took flight when I realized that I didn’t have to stay in that form that always felt a little false. I looked and felt completely out of place in the corporate world, where making money for shareholders was more important than nurturing and stoking the light of love in every individual. Yet, I don’t regret the work of the caterpillar that delivered the abundance of savings that became the chrysalis of transformation. In fact, I am grateful for that former self in that past life.
I remember when I started writing in 2018, how I would refer to that former life, wondering where I might go next and what I might do with the time remaining. I simply decided to follow inspiration and my IGS (internal guidance system) to see where it would lead. In the last two years, I have studied End of Life wisdom, writing and editing, and have started on the path of Holding Space Leadership (something I already do, but don’t know what I don’t know). My favorite exploration has been crafting and facilitating workshops and retreats focused on mindfulness, creative expression, sacred ceremony, and joy manifestation in the form of self-awareness and intentional living.
I am not the same person I was before the universe wrapped me in a cloak of transformation. I am no longer the caterpillar, but I am not yet the butterfly, either. I’m somewhere in the goo, tossing out what doesn’t belong, picking out colors and textures that will suit my new wings, when I am ready to take flight.
I challenge you, dear reader, to determine where you are in your own sacred cycle. If you feel as if you are in liminal space, even if it feels like years have passed while you’ve been here, embrace your beautiful gooey self and keep doing the work of transformation. Don’t be afraid to let go of what no longer serves you. Just chuck it! You’re going to need that extra space to build your wings.
I wrote a meditation for my goddess group Solstice gathering that was inspired by this work, and I recorded it for sharing. Keep in mind that I’m not a professional – I am exploring tools that I’m figuring out as I go, and it is far from perfect. I guess it is liminal, too. Also, it was written for a specific gathering, so please forgive the gender reference at the end.
So, tomorrow the sun will set and we will experience the longest night of the year. It is the perfect time for reflection and introspection. Move into that glorious darkness and give your gooey self a good swirl. Glory in your blessed opportunity to recreate yourself as the days begin to grow longer, when your divine spirit is reborn along with the radiant sun.
For those who find this time of year to be difficult or painful, know that I am holding space for you in my heart. Wishing you sweet memories to be cherished of the past and new memories to be made and revered in the future.
At the heart of this retreat was the myth of Persephone. When I started studying death last year, as a part of the End of Life Doula studies, I dedicated my learning to Her in the role of Goddess of the Underworld. But here’s the thing… I have chosen a version of the myth which is not tied to patriarchal brutality. I am not interested in perpetuating or celebrating a relationship based on abduction, rape, and entrapment. There is another telling that I prefer. It was one I learned from another, so I cannot verify the source – but I suspect it comes from Dr. Pinkola Estes or another goddess-mother of feminine spirituality. The version that my swiss-cheese memory recalls goes something like this…
Persephone was in a field collecting flowers to make a circlet for her mother’s hair, when she came upon a lost soul who could not find the doorway to the underworld. She returned to her mother, the Goddess Demeter, and told her that she must go into the underworld to guide these lost souls and offer them initiation. Though She did not want to let her go (the plight of most mothers), Demeter watched Persephone’s descent and immediately longed for her return. As she mourned the absence of her daughter, the world fell into a stark, quiet version of itself as a blanket of snow fell and the flowers receded into the earth.
Meanwhile, Persephone took Her place at the crystal doorway to offer seeds of transformation to those who no longer walked upon the earth. Initiation involved consumption of a pomegranate seed, and these garnet seeds would light the inner flame of those moving into a new way of being. When Persephone returned from the underworld to visit her mother, Demeter felt such joy that the earth burst forth in blossoms of celebration, as life and color bloomed once more.
Here we have a story of creation and of changing seasons, mothers and daughters, of love and loss, of passion and responsibility, of transformation, death and renewal. This is a version of an ancient tale I can relate to.
My current belief (current – because I am ever evolving based on my own life experience) about the transformation that death brings is that we are all energetic beings, and in human incarnation we are able to learn and grow through emotions that are not experienced beyond the confines of the body. So, once we have gathered these lessons and intentions, we are free to leave the body behind, as we return to energetic form. Those we love and have lost in body to death, remain ever present in energetic form. My intention for connecting with our lost loves at Samhain, was to use the tool of creative visualization or meditation to sit with them once more.
And so it was Persephone who manifested within the cave of sacred memory to offer us initiation and safe passage. When we reached the central chamber, which was warmed by firelight, with walls donned with portraits of our ancestors and dear ones lost, we sat upon a crimson couch and welcomed whomever chose to step through the doorway veiled in magickal moonlight.
The results of meditation differ, based on experience. Someone who is well-practiced may have honed the ability to get out of their own way to let vision come and judgment or expectation fall away. But one should never negate the vision or experience they find in the sacred space of the powerful mind.
JK Rowling, I feel, captured it perfectly in The Deathly Hallows, when Harry asks the ghostly image of Professor Dumbledore:
“Tell me one last thing,” said Harry. “Is this real? Or has this been happening inside my head?” “Of course it is happening inside your head, Harry, but why on earth should that mean that it is not real?”
Some of us had very clear, even life-altering conversations with one or more people on that comfy couch. Some of us saw ourselves surrounded by smiling loved ones who were present, without words. As for me, I found an opportunity to seek forgiveness and receive acceptance at the edge of the underworld.
I had no expectation of my own personal journey, since I had written the meditation, led the visualization, and was ultimately holding space for the experience of others. However, as I provided the silent pause for those on this journey to find connection, someone came through the veil for me.
In January of 1993, I volunteered in the buddy program for Hope & Help, a local resource for people living with HIV. I was introduced to my first and only buddy somewhere around my 24th birthday. I was the first ‘stranger’ his parents left him with, so that they could go to church together. When they left, he told me that he was being punished by God. This broke my heart and made me angry, all at once. I am not a fan of religions that lead people to believe they are worthy of abandonment and abuse from a supposed all-powerful being. He was a young and passionate choir leader for his gospel church. He had a blood transfusion during a surgery after his appendix burst. He died in November of that same year, a week before his 28th birthday.
It was Kirby who came through the veil for me. He was smiling and happy to see me, and the feeling was mutual. A part of my guidance was to consider the conversations we never got to have… the ones where we have the opportunity to say to our loved ones: Please forgive me. I forgive you. Thank you. I love you. 26 years have passed since Kirby left this earthly realm, and he came through so that I could tell him something I needed to say.
When I was 24, I had not yet learned about life, let alone death. I had minimal access to my gift for words. When I sat with him, whether in his home or in the hospital, I felt a complete lack. I did not know what to say or how to say it. I sat and held his hand and looked into his eyes, but I always felt that I provided little comfort. But here’s the thing I’ve carried… shame. When I held his hand as he lay in his hospital bed, lung capacity too weak to push out words, I was not fully present. As I held his hand, I thought about the fear I carried for a disease on which I had been well-educated. I knew that holding his hand was zero risk for my wellness, and yet I can recall leaving the room and washing my hands with urgency. The only real threat was to him… my germs could compromise his health, and not the other way around. I would give anything to be able to sit with him again with the presence, compassion, and understanding I now possess.
I asked Kirby for his forgiveness, and even now, I can almost hear his voice. “Oh, Melissa. There is nothing to forgive!” As he tilts his head, glances at me with compassion, and offers me that gorgeous grin… tears flow, and I know that this is happening inside my head, and also that this is real.
When I lead a meditation, my main worry is whether the silence I offer is long enough for a message to be received, or so long that I lose the mindful attention of those I’m hoping to lead. When Kirby faded into the veil, I ended the silence with these words…
We know that time moves differently in the Underworld, and that though we long to be with our loved ones, we know that now is not that time. Tonight is a moment when time stands still, and here we were blessed to connect between the worlds.
But time will move on and we shall go with it. Much like when we connect in the realm of the living, it feels as if no time has passed… so will be the day when they come to greet us and take us from the temporary realm to the eternal.
Until then… we honor them by choosing to live in joy and happiness. It would be an insult to their sacrifice not to.
We made our way out of sacred space the same way we came in, and we shared the stories of our experience. We cried together, and we amazed one another with knowledge of healing offered and received between the worlds.
The next day, a meditation informed everyone of a gift from Persephone. We were all given a garnet pomegranate seed, in the form of a teardrop bead attached to a small silver ring. The symbolism was that we would be offered safe passage any time we wished to connect with our loved ones, and when our time comes, we, too, will be received and initiated by Her love.
We then took the gift we were given, and selected a series of other beads to encircle our wrists in the form of a bracelet that would forever remind us of this time we’ve shared at the edge of the underworld.
The final piece of the remembrance portion of the retreat was to write the names of those we had invoked onto gathered autumn leaves. We drove to a nearby river, walked to the center of the bridge, and blew kisses into the wind, as our leaves floated down and around, returning our beloveds to the eternal flow of the river that separates us.
When we returned to the mountain house we now recognized as home, some of us stepped into the kitchen, and continued the preparation of a true Thanks-Giving meal. When my hosts suggested a full turkey dinner with all the sides, I thought it sounded great, but I hadn’t really considered the symbolism.
We were at the end of our time together. We twelve had chosen to be vulnerable and authentic. We supported and celebrated transition and transformation. We cried together, and we built a bond that transcends time and space. We agreed that we wanted to do this again. And we gave thanks for all of it.
The day before these gorgeous beings gathered, I started a seven month course on Holding Space Leadership, and our course creator and guide, Heather Plett, shared with us a poem. As she read these words, I understood that I would share them, too. They are perfection. So, before we sat down to our final full-togetherness, I read these words to my courageous and wonderful guests, and now… I offer them to you.
Blessing for a New Beginning by John O’Donohue
In out of the way places of the heart Where your thoughts never think to wander This beginning has been quietly forming Waiting until you were ready to emerge. For a long time it has watched your desire Feeling the emptiness grow inside you Noticing how you willed yourself on Still unable to leave what you had outgrown. It watched you play with the seduction of safety And the grey promises that sameness whispered Heard the waves of turmoil rise and relent Wondered would you always live like this. Then the delight, when your courage kindled, And out you stepped onto new ground, Your eyes young again with energy and dream A path of plenitude opening before you. Though your destination is not yet clear You can trust the promise of this opening; Unfurl yourself into the grace of beginning That is at one with your life’s desire. Awaken your spirit to adventure Hold nothing back, learn to ﬁnd ease in risk Soon you will be home in a new rhythm For your soul senses the world that awaits you.
Each farewell the next morning took away a little piece of my heart, in the form of longing and protection. And by noon, we were three again. We set to the task of breaking the set, and packing it up. Our journey down the mountain would come the next morning, and there was much to do.
Gratefully, the universe rewarded me with a little more time with my dear hosts, who drove over from their daughter’s home. I was pleased to share my gratitude for the remarkable journey we had all shared in this beautiful space that held us all in warmth and love. And because it is what sacred gardeners do, I planted seeds of intention for two retreats in 2020. My life-long friend took notes during our eleven hour drive home, on our ideas for how to manifest more self-love at Beltaine next May. I can’t wait to light that candle and dedicate that hearth to bless, once again, the journey we will share.
Thank you for walking this path with me. I’m so happy to be here with you for this brief moment in time. May the season of light bring you an abundance of blessings.
When the sacred ceremony for our beloved Crone was complete, we shared a delicious meal that our hosts had prepared for us, and when we were warm and well-fed, we gathered at the heart of the house, beside the hearth fire.
I spoke of my gratitude for this remarkable gathering of those who have been walking this path with me all year, and those who walked with me long ago. I lit the candle of my intentions, with the word RETREAT front and center. I asked my travelers to close their eyes as we grounded ourselves into the present moment, and then we moved our minds into a sacred grove of trees to which we would return throughout the weekend. This circle of ancient beings held space for each of us as we remembered those we have loved and lost. They reached out their branches to us and begged to hold symbols of our love, as we pulled photos and trinkets from imaginary pockets. Into each tree our love and longing was gently placed. And then, we opened our eyes to dedicate these intentions to the Ancestors’ Altar before us. We each pulled out photos and placed them upon the mantle and hearth, as we called the names and shared stories of those we love beyond the veil.
And as we felt the honor and arrival of each soul into our circle, we bid them a warm welcome, and eventually made our way into warm beds and deep sleep.
Saturday morning brought the sunshine and a report from our Crone that she slept soundly without the burden she once carried. Once we were all awake and ready to return to our work, we circled at the hearth once more. As I was preparing for this retreat, I thought of our intention to journey into the underworld to spend some time connecting with our lost beloveds. What came to mind for me at the thought of gathering with my ancestors was the idea of which I’d read, that we can choose to heal what had been passed down the family line, and effectively heal that wound in both directions – past and future.
In my Mabon workshop, for the Autumn Equinox, we did a cord cutting ceremony. We cut the cords that remained tied to those who had harmed us, or to ideas of who we SHOULD be based on the beliefs of others. When we were done, many felt that we could spend more time on this, because there were more cords to be severed. So, it was an easy decision to make this a part of our retreat. I loved the idea of sitting with my grandmother and letting her know that I had chosen to heal this familial trauma for myself, for my mother, for her, and for all of our relations throughout time.
This ended up being more powerful than I had imagined. It turns out, some of us are really conscious of what is holding us back, and can easily see how it may have been passed down through generations.
The ceremony took some time, because it needed to be focused for each and every one of us. I cut the cords for one of our Tribe members, and then she stepped forward to wield the sword of surrender for all others. As each sacred soul stepped forward, they were asked:
Are you ready,
willing, and able to sever, release, and retract any and all cords attached to
people, places, events, emotions, feelings, fears, traumas, and unknown and unseen
forces that bind you and your familial line, that keep you from living fully
present and in joy? “I AM!”
Do you who are holding space in this sacred circle offer your loving support and positive energy toward the safe, healing endeavor of our dedicant, for her/his highest good and for the good of all? “WE DO!”
Will you allow and receive the loving assistance and positive energy of those surrounding you who are holding space for you in loving light, who offer their energy for the highest good of you and for all? “I WILL!”
Do you wish to name aloud or silently those people, places, events, emotions, feelings, fears, traumas? “SAY THEM ALOUD OR STATE THAT YOU ARE DOING SO IN SILENCE”
As I wield the sword
of surrender to symbolize the cutting of these cords – be they many or few –
see in your mind’s eye the cords being swiftly cut with grace and ease, and
then witness each cord being retracted into your being and simultaneously into
the being or representation of what formerly bound you. As each cord recedes
and retracts, send it with love and with gratitude, for each of those cords
represented a lesson and a growth opportunity. Let that being or representative
know that you are finished with this lesson, that you are no longer holding on,
and that you wish them peace.
Chant: And it all just falls away. And
it all just falls away.
When s/he feels it is finished, dedicant says: “Thank you. It is done!”
As the sword of surrender waved through the air that surrounded each of us, it symbolically cut away our attachment to the stories of betrayal, abandonment, abuse, unworthiness, not-enough-ness, unlovableness. We cut the cords of mental illness, of addiction, of perfectionism, of estrangement, of drama, and poor choices we’ve made, as well as those made by others which caused us suffering and turmoil. We cut and cut and cried and cried.
And when everyone had been freed from these bonds, I became “Someone’s Priority” once more, and the words were spoken and the sword was wielded for me.
Suddenly, as the work was done, I was surrounded by the embrace of this Tribe. This marriage of old and new had become one in the understanding of our sameness.
We can never look upon a single human and believe that we know the perfection of their lives. Every one of us carries a burden, tied to a past of longing. We each long to be free from suffering, and often believe we are alone. We carry the shame in silence, because we fear the thoughts and expectations of others. And yet, it is through the sharing that we are able to witness our similarities, and it is through being truly seen that we understand that the only shame is what we ourselves carry. When we have the courage to share in a safe space, it is as if each person present lifts a stone that once pressed down upon us, and we are once again able to breathe deeply and rise into our wholeness.
I was so honored to stand witness to the severance of cords and release of these beautiful beings. With tear stained faces, each fell into my embrace, and I was so proud of the hard work they had been willing to do for themselves. I was teased for making them cry, and I replied that my work was done! I only think a movie was good if it made me cry – because it means that it managed to touch me deeply. And so it is with sacred ceremony.
And another intention upon my candle was harvested… PASSION. This work is my passion. Holding space for others to do the work of their own healing is my passion. Standing witness to the beautiful and painful truth of my beloved community is my passion. Knowing that they each feel safe, seen, heard, held, and loved… is my passion.
There is still a bit more to tell, but I am emotionally spent on this glorious memory. I hope you’ll come back for more. Thank you for walking this path with me. I’m so glad you are here.
Once I had finalized the itinerary for the Retreat I had dubbed Persephone’s Passage, I shared it with my travelers. I then received a pretty urgent message from my beloved Crone who is also an original member of my Tribe. She didn’t want to interfere with the flow of the retreat, but she wanted to seek our assistance with some work. So, one day a week or two before our journey north, I picked her up and brought her home to hear her story and nurture a plan.
I have her permission to share, and though I won’t offer specifics, I imagine her story will not be unfamiliar. She was carrying a heavy load of darkness. In her life, like many of us, she had some sorrows and regrets. She felt haunted by portions of her life that were woven with naivete and poor choices. Though these things were stitched and resolved a half century ago, through counseling and mindfulness, she would wake at night to rub her fingers over those prickly threads, and she was exhausted. She said to me:
“Melissa, I am eighty years old! I may only have twenty years left. (Her Mom recently died at age 99.) I don’t want to carry this burden any longer.
So, she shared with me the raw and naked truth of every ounce of shame and regret that she carried. She had each one written down on small pieces of paper that she kept in a sacred box she crafted nearly 30 years ago, when we first met. She provided her thoughts on building a sacred ceremony to banish what haunted her, and I started a ritual outline. After I took her home, I came back to my laptop to weave in my own words, and shared a final version with her. She was pleased. So, we engaged those who would be joining us at the edge of the Underworld, and let them know that if they were interested in assisting our Crone with this important work, we would set the timing to be inclusive.
She arrived on Thursday with a second wave from Florida. She was there to witness snowfall on the mountain, and to prepare mentally and emotionally for the next day. Since there was still snow on the ground by the time everyone had arrived on Friday (and because it was basically FREEZING to this bunch of Floridians), the part we had envisioned of her lying upon the grass had to be re-imagined. We moved the ritual indoors, next to the fireplace.
I reviewed the outline and handed out assignments. The sacred vessel into whom we invoked Artemis in a Drawing Down the Moon ceremony in 1999 was present, so we were honored to have her invoke Artemis for this rite. Others were invited to call into our sacred space the elements of air, fire, water and earth, and everyone would take part in the healing.
Some of the words came right from the ceremony I wrote for the occasion of my own death, as a part of my End of Life Doula coursework last year, and some were adapted from the Tibetan Book of Living and Dying. Some traditions used by our Crone were from her own spiritual journey with Starhawk and her peaceful protest platform, plus others gathered on an eclectic path when she was in her sixties and seventies with our Tribe and others.
What I know for sure is that when we come to our twilight years (or in our Crone’s case, mid-life), body betrayal is enough of a burden to carry, we should not have to also carry treachery of the mind. For that reason, my Crone and I wanted to share our combined words and ceremony with those who might, at any age, be seeking symbolic and emotional release.
First… you’ll need a Tribe.
INVOKING THE ELEMENTS
Spirit of Earth, Beloved Elements of the North – We call upon your solid essence to bring to our circle your gifts of strength and support. May our heartfelt gratitude for the body that sustains us bring rise to the arms of the Goddess to wrap us in Her embrace as we support the work of surrender. Divine rock and bone, we bid thee hail and welcome.
Spirit of Water, Beloved Elements of the West – We call upon your fluid essence to bring to our circle your gifts of healing and sweet flowing emotion. May our heartfelt gratitude for sentiment bring rise to calm sensation as we wash away the pain and the sorrow of regret that Our Crone carries. Divine flood, we bid thee hail and welcome.
Spirit of Fire, Beloved Elements of the South – We call upon your radiant essence to bring to our circle your gifts of energy and inspiration. May our heartfelt gratitude for the warmth bring rise of the Mother’s molten core through the roots of our beings as we offer healing flow to aid Our Crone’s release of sorrows. Divine flame, we bid thee hail and welcome.
Spirit of Air, Beloved Elements of the East – We call upon your luminous essence to bring to our circle your gifts of remembrance and new beginnings. May our heartfelt gratitude for the light bring rise to the sacred sun as we breathe deeply and witness the death of the old and rebirth of the new through Our Crone’s surrender. Divine breath, we bid thee hail and welcome.
CALLING THE GODDESS (at my memorial, there will be two – and so it is)
Holy Maiden, Beloved Artemis – Goddess of Forest and Stream, we ask for your presence in our sacred circle, as we send what burdens our beloved sister to meet you beyond the veil for healing and transmutation. Great Warrior Queen, we honor your spirit of courage which long ago pierced the soul of Our Crone, when her devotion to you was immediate and fierce. Through you, she finds strength, courage and determination to be wholly unto herself. We ask that you stand with your torch burning brightly, to guide her way to surrender. We bid thee hail and welcome!
Holy Maiden, Beloved Persephone – Goddess of flowers and darkness, we ask for your presence in our sacred circle as we send what burdens our beloved sister to meet you beyond the veil for healing and transmutation. Great Queen of the Underworld, we honor your spirit of initiation and ask for a gentle death for the life of regret Our Crone wishes to leave behind. We ask that you offer her your garnet seeds of pomegranate that she may surrender to you what has haunted her memories and spirit. We bid thee hail and welcome!
STATING THE PURPOSE
To honor and release that which haunts the memories of Our Crone, to be banished and resolved for all time with the support of her beloved community and Tribe
THE KEY TO SURRENDER
Our Crone enters sacred space with dedication to the five truths
QUESTIONER STATES: These five truths cannot be denied:
Anything Can Be Healed
Artemis knows the patterns of regeneration
The trip to the Underworld must be made alone
Turn prayer into promise
That which you give to her, you must relinquish
“Are you committed to these truths and are you ready to enter the underworld?” Our Crone says, “YES.”
Crone briefly describes what is going on in her head – pulling pages from her
sacred box of holding, and acknowledging without words what haunts her, and
what she commands to be banished.
She then Drops
pages into flames.
lies down with coat closed.
Someone sings or speaks:
“In the places that wreak of impossibility the serpent of life coils. She crawls upon the swollen stone, she crawls upon the swollen stone, she crawls upon the swollen stone and loosens her only garment.”
She opens her coat and expands her reach to become the embodiment of the sacred pentacle.
Participants gather around Our Crone’s prone body, each holding a stone in their commanding hand, guiding banishing energy from her center, where fear and anxiety gather, away from her body while focusing the intention into the stones they hold.
Through the blessing, grace, guidance, and power of the light that streams from the embodiment of truth: May all of Our Crone’s negative karma, destructive emotions, obscurations, and blockages be purified and removed. May she know herself forgiven for all the harm she may have thought and done. May Our Crone accomplish this profound practice of phowa, surrendering now what haunts her spirit, and when it is her time, may she die a good and peaceful death. And through the triumph of her death when her time has come, may she be able to benefit all other beings, living or dead.
May all who love this sacred soul see her being illuminated and encased in this radiant light, as Our Crone is received with loving kindness by the embodiment of that which receives us and renews us. May all stand witness to the cleansing and purification of her negative karma, destructive emotions, and all that may have caused her suffering or suffering to others. May all see the light of Our Crone’s heart rise in rays of emerald green toward the golden light of compassion above her. As her soul feels the absence of all suffering with the gift of forgiveness, no longer held to the realm of regret, Our Crone’s being melts into light, and merges with the blissful presence. When that time comes to pass, may all find peace as she becomes one with all that is. Blessed be.
Chanting: By stone and flood we banish all bad blood
All continue chanting and directing energy into the stones until Our Crone opens her eyes and says: “Thank you. It is done!”
We help her to her feet, and she releases remaining energy through the Kali Breath and says: “I surrender this burden to the light of love. I know that all is well in this moment. I trust that all shall be healed in time.”
She is adorned with a pendant charged with this reminder, as these words are spoken:
“What you have given to Her for healing, you must relinquish!”
SAYING FAREWELL WHEN THE WORK IS DONE
ARTEMIS AND PERSEPHONE Courageous and Compassionate Ladies of our hearts, Artemis and Persephone, we thank you for your presence in our sacred circle, and for your bright welcome to the former, haunted self of our sister Our Crone, as she surrendered and released old bonds. Ever be with us on our spiritual journeys. We bid thee hail and farewell.
THE ELEMENTS To the great elements of Air, Fire, Water, and Earth – Elements of East, South, West and North – That which surrounds us and that which dwells within us – We offer our gratitude for your presence and support in this sacred circle and for the transmutation of old wounds into new beginnings. Ever be with us on our spiritual journeys. We bid thee hail and farewell.
OPENING “All is over, all is done. What has been must now be gone. What was done by ancient art, merry meet and merry part.”
TO THE RIVER Transport stones to the river to be tossed in, cleansed, and transmuted for the healing of Our Crone and Mother Earth.
This sacred ceremony was followed by a love-fest for the vulnerability and courage our Crone offered to us. For nearly thirty years, she has taught us so much about grace and reverence. After all, this is the role of our Crones in community… to show us how it’s done – this aging thing. Letting go and moving forward. Forgiving ourselves and settling into a place of peace.
We are enormously blessed!
Cherish your elders, dear ones. Listen when they speak their truths and if you are trusted with their burdens, help them toss those fuckers into the river.
Can you believe this was only the beginning of our retreat? Y’all, we did some serious work last weekend! There is so much more to share. Thank you for walking this path and following this flow with me. I’m so glad you are here.