Affair with the Air

He greets me each evening as I step onto the porch, setting earbuds into place to deliver the soundtrack for the sermon I’m about to witness. I am always thrilled to find him waiting.

As I make my way up the street, taking note of the congregation of trees lining the aisles, picking up my step to the rhythm inside my head, he reaches for my hand and asks me to dance. Yes… in this church… we twirl.

He is everything, the element of Air. Were it not for his presence, there would be so little sensuality. His cool breeze caresses my skin, plays with my hair, and lifts my skirt (he can sometimes be cheeky). Air is the intellect that raises each thought of awareness of birds in trees and bats in flight. Air carries the sound of voice and cello that urges my feet forward. Air fills my lungs for deep breath and brings to mind deeper thought.

I giggle to realize that I am being romanced by the wind, and I know in my heart that this is what true love feels like.

He is just as happy to see me, and we delight in our togetherness. I look up to the night sky and see him reach for Orion’s Belt as it becomes a circlet of stars he gently places upon my crown. Then he pours sparkling champagne into the cup of the moon with an offer to quench my thirst.

Just to make me squeal, he causes every leaf to tremor and together they glitter like confetti in the moonlight. His breath is revealed in a gasp and a sigh. This lover of mine? He is divine.

Though we have danced together for an hour without sitting out a single song, we realize that we cannot remain in constant embrace. I have words to write and he has a chorus of crickets to conduct.

But we are not sad for our parting. We are eager for our next meeting. Until then, you will find me seated with a smile, in a reverie of such finery. I am having an affair with the air, and about who is aware… I have nary a care.

Conversations with Trees

One of the seeds that I planted in my Seeds of Intention Workshop last month was to move more. Since my words come through my fingertips, rather than through spoken word, I tend to spend a great deal of time at the keyboard, and though I have not had to report to a 9 to 5 kind of job in the last year, I have been terribly sedentary for the tasks of writing, reading, editing, and re-reading.

I thought I would commit to going to a yoga class with one of my workshop attendees, but with my father’s appointments and my own standing commitments, I found it difficult to make that happen in the right timing.

Last weekend, I drove up to Tallahassee to spend the weekend with one of my Tribe Sisters to celebrate her birthday. It was there that I found inspiration. Her significant other has taken up walking each morning and evening. Despite having the wrong shoes, I joined him for ‘church’ as he calls it.

One of the symbolic tasks of planting our seeds in the garden of manifestation is to come back to the garden to see what needs more care. When I thought to commit to something that failed to manifest, it was up to me to pull some weeds and decide what else I could plant in its place.

So, with my friend’s encouragement, I started my own church… a congregation of one. I have committed to walking morning and night, and delight in checking in with him to discuss the beauty of our ‘sermons’. You see, for him… walking has become a form of devotion. Each day he exits his home into the predawn darkness and he walks into the light. At the end of the day, he walks the setting sun down the aisle and welcomes back the night. It is his own form of prayer and extreme self care. He glows with the joy of salted holy water that rises through his pores.

This morning, as I walked the streets of my neighborhood, I found myself in conversation with every tree that lined my path. Here in Florida, we experience a dance with the seasons on any given day. Lately, we have been waltzing with spring and summer with temperatures moving through the seventies and into the nineties, and I’ve heard we will have a day or two of winter this week, with temps falling into the forties at night. You never know what you might wake up to around here this time of year.

Consequently, the variety of trees that offer us their beauty are in varying states of annual evolution. Most noticeable are the oak trees, which thrive in nearly every yard. I have two in my front yard that stand sentinel and feel like great protectors of my property. As one appears to be at death’s door nearly bone bare for the loss of leaves, the other is expressing joyous rebirth in the green freshness of new life emerging from every branch.

There are also the flowering trees and shrubs like the Azaleas, which are currently screaming pink and purple at everyone who passes, and the Tabebuia trees have already passed their prime and have littered flowers of lemon yellow in yards and onto streets that surround. And we simply cannot forget the oak pollen, the film of powdered yellow-green that is painted onto every surface, as if to insist we look up to from whence it came and witness the fertility and abundance of the sacred sanctuary of our squirrels and the joyful birds that sing our welcome into each new day.

As I walk through this church of life and rebirth, it is not lost on me the way that nature and humanity mirror one another. When we witness the blossoming of new beginnings in the lives of our loved ones and feel that we have lost all of our leaves, it is not ours to grieve – but to celebrate. There is joy to be shared in the abundance of others, just as hope springs forth in our own lives. That blanket of pollen we are sprinkling onto our hopes and dreams for the manifestation of bright green new growth is only moments from being pulled back to reveal extraordinary expansion.

Just when it seems all is lost, with leaves scattered and browning upon the earth, we look up from that perceived devastation to find the glory of our own new beginnings. So, pay attention dear ones. You may think that your garden is going nowhere, but I’m willing to bet that those sprouts are rising and are about to burst forth into the sunlight of your own self-care, delivering an abundance of color and new life to fill your days with a kind of peace and happiness you have not previously imagined. I can feel it! Can’t you?

Thank you for walking this path with me. I don’t even mind the pollen when you are here. Love, love, love…

[Mucha’s Four Seasons Personified]

What Is Your Joy?

My friend Brian called from Oregon this morning. He wanted to thank me for the Valentine card I mailed last week. As we were catching up on the details of the lives and loves of one another, he made a suggestion.

We talked about the toxic workplace in which we met, and about those who are choosing to leave for their own mental health… and of course, celebrating our own choices to leave. For each of us, leaving was one of the best things we’ve done for ourselves.

As I shared with him the workshops that I am creating to share a sense of mindful manifestation with others, he exclaimed, “You make such a difference in the lives of those who know you. You should share my story! I’ll never forget what you asked me that night that we had dinner together, while my organs were literally shutting down. You said, “Brian, What is your joy?” That one question changed everything!”

I have told this story before, in an article that I wrote for Elephant Journal, and in another blog post called More than Grateful. Frankly, Brian has no idea how significant his story is and how often I share it, but I’ll share a brief version here, as well.

Brian was one of the first people I met in the company I went to work for after being liberated from my long-time workplace in 2017. It was love at first sight – you know, the way you meet someone and you instantly feel you’d like to know them better? Well, we had little opportunity to do so, since he would be working remotely and only coming to town periodically. But as fate would have it, we managed to find time to make a connection.

Of the many executives I worked with, he was the only one who seemed to be heart-centered. Sharing a meal with him during his visits was the one thing work related to which I looked forward. We loved our time so much that we continued meeting for dinner even after I left the company that October.

It was at dinner in February that he shared with me his diagnosis and prognosis. He had prostate cancer that had metastasized in his bones. That was when I looked deep into his eyes, refusing to react with tears or pity, and asked, “Brian, what is your joy?”

It was not lost on me that this sweet man had been given a deadline, and here he was risking his health by getting on an airplane each month to come into a workplace who obviously didn’t care for his well being. Exposing an immunosuppressed sacred being to the hazards of viral and bacterial boxes of in-flight holding is criminal.

His immediate reply to my query was, “Melissa, no one has ever asked me that before.” He promised to go home and think about it. It turned out that he flew home early, and went right into the hospital. An experimental medication his oncologist was giving him had begun to shut down his organs.

I almost lost my dear friend before he was able to answer this all important question. If that alternate reality had come to pass, I wouldn’t be who I am today. I never would have understood the magnitude of my great loss. In as many ways as I have blessed his life and brought about a more mindful existence… he has done the same for me.

Brian’s courage to share his truth with me that day brought forth that morsel of wisdom that came through me. Ask the question, to help someone find their own solution.

His reply came to me on Valentine’s Day, ten days after I posed the question. He wrote to me: ” My joy: spending as much time with Derek as possible.” It was then that he told me he had been in the hospital for a week after returning home, but I was not yet aware of the close call he survived.

It has been a year since Brian made this declaration, and it has been three months since he began pursuing his JOY full time. When the cancer started spreading again in September, I convinced him to start working on an exit strategy, so that every moment of the time he has left can be dedicated to soul fulfillment.

He shared today that his last check up was pretty good. He feels good, and he is filling his days with more joy and less stress. This makes my heart so happy.

As for me, my joy is getting to connect deeply with others. That kind of surface connection just won’t do. I want to know what makes your heart happy. I want to know what makes your soul sing. I want to know… if you were to be given a terminal diagnosis tomorrow (heaven forbid), how you would choose to spend the rest of your days.

I was blessed to be able to take an early retirement of sorts, so that I can be present with the extra care that my parents need at this time in their lives. But as all caregivers should, I feel it necessary to find more balance in my life. Knowing that they are safe and well is gratifying, but there are days that are more difficult than others, and I need to have something that fills my needs while I am filling theirs.

The workshops that I am facilitating is a part of that plan. In fact, my next workshop is dedicated to finding just that. As the wheel of the year turns, and we greet the growing daylight in the northern hemisphere, we will celebrate the Spring Equinox. Twice a year, day and night are equal, and we are reminded that our needs are not unlike those of Mother Earth.

At my second workshop on March 30, Persephone Rises – and we will be Finding Balance at the Equinox. Just the thought of it makes my heart push through dark, moist soil toward the expansion of the sun. We shall throw off our cloaks of winter and don the brilliance of springtime.

The intentions that we developed in February should be starting to take root, and it is up to us to ensure their freedom to grow.

I know that for me, finding balance means ensuring that I am creating ample opportunity to refill and recharge. Spending time with those I care about brings me joy, as does listening to live music – so I’ll be having more of that. Also, I’ve dedicated to doing one of these workshops every 8 weeks or so for the year, and even the planning brings me joy. Honoring Persephone as she emerges from the underworld makes me squeal with delight! But then… there will be the time spent with others who are willing and eager to seek something deeper for themselves and to become the joyful gardeners of their own lives. More than anything, I love to be witness to the growing glow of others.

So, tell me dear ones… What is your joy? I really want to know.

May the words in this graphic that I designed be a blessing upon all of your days. Thank you for walking this path with me. Your presence is also my joy.

Soulmates and the Wounded Healer

Tonight, the moon is full and Chiron, the wounded healer, is moving into Aries. I’ve been thinking about the role of soulmates in our personal journey. Contrary to the popular belief that a soulmate is the one person with whom you are meant to spend your life, my experience is far more broad.

A soulmate, to me, is someone who reaches into your soul to expose a deeper truth about yourself, to help you find your authentic self, to learn how to overcome your self-established limitations, a pathfinder or way-shower for your internal navigation system to grow and become who you were always meant to be.

While the idealized version of soulmate as life-partner may represent the one person who comes into your life to share it and to love you without condition as you grow old together, consider that perhaps that person who broke your heart at age 20 was also a soulmate. Maybe that unfaithful SOB was the catalyst for your lifelong journey to becoming your own best friend. A far more important role than spouse or partner.

What a glorious gift it is to review old wounds and declare those who made us feel abandoned or betrayed, hurt or angry, confused or lost, no longer mistakes and poor choices, but important and necessary life-partners, dedicated to the further evolution of our souls.

This acknowledgment changes everything!

It takes us out of the role of victim and into the role of student. Every ‘poor choice’, failed relationship, and deep regret in our lives is actually part one of our education in becoming. Part two comes when we recognize the patterns in our lives, as similar ‘lessons’ come around again. In other words… same soulmate – different skin.

One of the gifts offered to me by an intuitive coach I’ve worked with in recent years is learning to interpret the wisdom language of our bodies. We don’t have to be psychic to receive messages from our higher selves… we just need to be mindful of how we feel in our skin. She suggested that when we are feeling extreme emotions, that we consider if we’ve felt this way before, and what was happening in our lives at that time.

I believe the soulmate connection can be recognized in a similar way.

When we are being triggered by someone’s behavior, and it reminds us of a past wound inflicted by another… we may just have before us another soulmate. The key to healing is to acknowledge this trigger, and when you feel that you should cut this person out of your life, because they are sure to harm you as you have been harmed before… take courage, and stay!

I don’t mean to stay in an unhealthy relationship, of course. I mean to take this opportunity to stand up and speak your truth. Write or say aloud the words you didn’t have the courage or chance to speak the first time due to the depth of emotion involved. Then… allow the opportunity for a reply. If you recognize the response to be more of the same, by all means… cut and run. But imagine that the reply received is exactly what you needed to hear from your original offender? Whether this person stays in your life and honors your hurts and fears with an intention that heals, or if they have nothing to offer and depart with haste… by speaking your truth, you have won!

I once lost a friend because we stopped trusting one another. As an Aquarius, this does not happen to me often. I tend to collect friends from diverse areas of connectedness, and even when we are not close physically or emotionally, love and mutual respect and care remains a constant between us.

There were so many great lessons in this huge loss. They were at once excruciating and liberating, life altering in every way. We put each other on pedestals which brought one of us to a sense of shame which blocked authenticity and the other to heartbreak in the loss of truth and disappointment in herself for being deemed untrustworthy.

Since we have never reconciled I can only speak for my own regrets and gratitudes. I learned so much. For example, shame is the most destructive emotion there is. If we cannot trust those we love with our truth, they do not deserve us. And if we alter the truth to avoid disappointing those we love, we risk damaging the trust we once held. Also, pedestals are for art, not people.

As we were moving through this ‘break-up’, the feeling that overwhelmed me the most was confusion. It was as if my logical mind could not make sense of what was happening. I felt victimized the way a safe driver feels as the shattered glass comes flying in an accident that was unexpected and beyond her control. I was confused by my feelings of hurt, while understanding completely that the accident was caused by her own hurting. Meanwhile, the questions inside my head were so exhausting that I emotionally shut down.

I know that what I needed most was something she could not give, for the sheer overwhelm of her own circumstance. I needed patience and understanding through the madness, and devotion to rebuilding trust. The way that I felt and behaved helped me to understand the actions of others who have been betrayed or lied to by someone they love. It’s a kind of madness, really. That deep soul confusion that sets in when you realize that things aren’t really as they seemed. It is the ultimate identity crisis… as you begin to question everything to determine how you could be so unworthy of honesty. I did not like who I became with the story I had created in my head because of the information I had missed for its withholding. I loathe drama, and it felt like a soap opera from which I needed an exit.

Fast forward a few years, and I had grown very close to someone else with whom a situation had risen that made me feel confused in a similar way. There was no breach of trust or sense of betrayal, but most likely the fear of abandonment. Like I said… logic struggles to find the surface, but confusion just drags it downward. What was different was that this soulmate was able to offer what I needed to heal that old wound. She was patient and understanding, even when my fears were unfounded. She was steadfast and empathetic. She stood by me until I came through my dark night of the soul, and back into the light. She was my torchbearer. We have been blessed to take turns being the wounded healer for one another for the past seven years. There are no pedestals, though there are probably a few fluffy pillows here and there.

Recently, a perfect stranger triggered something from an old wound in a different part of my soul. At first, the way my body felt about this unsolicited conversation through social media was identified as a red flag. It reminded me of how I felt in an interaction with someone from years back that was a real disappointment to me.

Getting to know new people when seeking friendship or more can be complicated, and it is exacerbated when Chiron is in the 10th house of your astrological natal chart. You have learned to put the needs of others before your own. All you really want is to be accepted by others, and you might be prone to compromise yourself toward that endeavor.

At the point that I decided I would end this conversation – unwilling to be compromised, I received a reply. The reply invited me to speak my truth, and it was heard, received, and validated. What I learned, as I fearlessly expressed myself was that I was no longer seeking someone else’s acceptance. I have learned to accept myself. And so, another soulmate enters my life, if only for a moment, and lights a torch. In the golden flame’s glow, I can see my own reflection, and I like what I see.

There’s a whole crew of spirit guides illuminated by the love in their hearts for me and they are cheering me on. They know that each wound brought to the surface for treatment is finally able to heal. When we are no longer bleeding out, we break free from the ties that bind, and finally… WE RISE!

Ready for Something More

Today, I am clearing the way for something more. This ‘more’ is not ‘something’ that is defined, but something that is divined.

Last year, as I let go of what I used to be and do and started working toward what may or may not come next, my days were filled with questioning and searching. In that process, I gathered books on death and books on writing. As the end of the year arrived and found my father in and out of the hospital and rehab, my life found new meaning… to serve my parents through the complicated process of aging. The study that went with those books took a backseat to the importance of their care.

For me, when I serve others, it tends to come with a fullness of presence and holding space for those who await the gentle coming of peace. That ‘full’ offering sometimes leads to an utter, if unintended, depletion of energy. As a consequence, my home, or rather every surface within, had become a place of holding space for me. The ottoman was holding the books I gathered for the writing course I took in the fall. The table was holding all of the papers and files that came home from the hospital or my parents’ home, as I try to bring some organization into what we’ve all been through in the past several months. The chair by the door was holding random objects like birthday cards and ribbons from my recent 50th birthday. The chair by my portrait was holding the different purses that I have used recently – the tiny one for daily use, the mid-size one for an extended day-out, and the large one for trips to the doctor’s office with dad. Frankly, chaos had spilled onto everything in sight.

Yesterday, I started the process of offering my beloved sanctuary more care. At first, it seemed daunting. If I picked up papers in the living room, where were they to go? As I stepped into the library, more papers were stacked with no obvious home to be found. To be honest, there is space for everything if only my mind can find the space for clarity and designation. I simply wasn’t gifted with the a-type personality that ensures that kind of follow-through. In truth, filing always was the least favorite of all tasks in my past-life.

Eventually, though… as I walked back and forth from one room to another, things started falling into place… even if its place was in a random drawer. Whatever. I’m not going to pretend to be something I’m not!

I finished my day yesterday having vacuumed the whole house (except, of course – the ottoman where my cat spends much of her time – sigh…). This morning, I once again set to light my candle of intention, lit some incense, and turned the music up. I steam mopped everything and then went back around the house with a stick of sage.

I smudged every inch of the house with the intention that the elements of fire and air would cast out all negativity, illness, dis-ease, and residue of harmful thoughts (against me or from me). I started at one corner of the library and walked through the dining room, kitchen, bedroom, guest room, bathroom, dressing room, hallway, living room, and back into the library with sacred smoke rising and filling every nook and cranny of the space that nurtures me and keeps me safe.

Next, I lit a stick of Myrrh incense and repeated my steps… singing a little chant that rose to the edge of my mind with words and melody magickally matched, “Even More Love”. (Okay, full disclosure… I don’t necessarily retain these things that are divinely inspired (swiss cheese memory – you know), so I’ll just say the chant went something like that.)

I sang into every corner of my sacred space my willingness, my desire, my expectation to invite into my life and this holy home of holding… more love. You see, there is already loads of love contained here, but I just made room for more. I cleansed and cleared, and welcomed the universe to fill it right back up with more goodness, more light, more happiness, more joy, more peace, more comfort, more contentment, more laughter, more music, more friends, more companionship, more divinity, more love.

Today I am ready for something more. I don’t have a design on forcing that something to be specific or limiting. I don’t have a vision of something more because I understand that my life experience has been only a small scale range of the possibilities the universe may provide. I am unwilling to define something more to the universe, which clearly knows far more than I about what more may come.

I am ready for something more, and I am ready to be WOWed.
Thanks Universe! I love you most.

How Does Your Garden Grow?

Over the weekend, I led a workshop dedicated to the art of manifestation. Fourteen sacred souls joined me with intention, and I do believe that healing was found.

Nurturing a belief in everything falling into place perfectly – had the seventeen who had RSVPd in prior days kept their commitment, we would have been short on table space. As fate would have it, I set fourteen spaces and fourteen arrived to fill them.

Another belief was that the right combination of remarkable beings will gather to provide a sense of connectedness and wisdom through courage and vulnerability, sharing insights gained through similar circumstance. And… so it was.

Together, we were loving and exhausted caregivers who were seeking a sense of hope, balance and self-care, and we were sacred souls who had lost spouses – learning how to move forward through the confusion of loss and freedom, after decades of togetherness and compromise. We were hoping for a brighter future in career change, and we were adjusting to career changes we had not sought… or leaning-in to a new way of life in retirement – longing for direction and a meaningful new beginning. We were beings filled with gratitude for the relationships with which we are blessed, and we were also souls longing to be so blessed. Each of us entered sacred space hoping to connect more deeply with our own true selves.

When we started the day, we were feeling scattered and rushed, tangential and transitional, excited and hopeful. When we finished, we were feeling encouraged, segmental, determined, peaceful, prepared, plan-full, and… lighter.

Through meditation, we entered the garden of clutter and neglect, and with clarity we plucked every weed and withered vine and cleared away self-doubt, unwanted expectations of others, limiting choices, and harmful tolerance. We wrote it all down and then committed our burdens to the flames until all was naught but ash. When cooled, we sprinkled them upon hallowed ground in the church garden.

We walked the labyrinth to honor that which we released, for through every burden we have carried, we have grown stronger and more fully into ourselves.

Once free from that which no longer served us, we were ready for the work of defining the path forward. When our goals are too many and too broad, a sense of overwhelm can be the obstacle that keeps us from making progress. So we spent time reviewing every area of our lives for a sort of high or low rating of our contentment with our status or relationships with family, friends, significant other, career, finances, home, etc. – we soon had an idea of where we’d like to focus our intentions and plant our seeds. Where we found a lower rating, we found our desire for something more.

We meditated on the progress of our garden, ready to welcome the seeds of new beginnings. With courage and vulnerability, just as we had shared our burdens and regrets, we offered our truth to one another to be honored and validated, and to receive feedback and support for each commitment we chose to make to ourselves. We crafted a symbol of our devotion to ourselves and our dreams, and also selected a word for the year. I would share those with you… but alas, what happens in sacred space – remains in sacred space.

As for me, this gathering was already a dream-come-true… and there is evidence of new growth rising. Maybe that should be MY word for the year.
RISE!

To be clear, there are things I missed and things I would do differently… but not much. For a very first event, I surprised myself with my fearlessness and organization. This shows me how much I have grown. It helped to have many of the faces at my table familiar ones, who love me without condition. What a blessing, to be surrounded with open hearts and open minds. I will surely learn and grow with each exercise of connectedness. I’m choosing to love myself for my courage and accomplishment, rather than to chastise myself for imperfection. For this is the healthy garden in which we may all blossom and bear fruit.

For now… I shall return to the garden of manifestation and nurture the soil that tenderly holds my dreams. Thank you for walking this path with me. Your presence is like a radiant blossom in my heart. You have no idea what you mean to me…

Writer’s Vacation Photo / Blue Ridge Mountains

The Joy and the Sorrow

If 2018, for me, was about LETTING GO of my former self… the ‘me’ I had been for 25 years, in a career of supporting the wellness of two corporations, then 2019 will surely be about BECOMING the ‘me’ of my future self.

I have to say that being officially retired and thrust into daily care for my parents who are aging and facing struggles with body betrayal and memory loss, has offered the total immersion that has allowed my subconscious to sever the bonds that once tethered me to that former identity.

I no longer worry that I will have to return to that world or what it is that I should be doing with my time and energy. It seems that my time and energy, for this moment, is meant to serve my parents.

Full disclosure, as my 50th birthday approaches this weekend, there are times that I feel a little sad about where we are. I mean, I had once dreamed with childhood friends who also reach this milestone birthday in 2019, that we would make a celebratory trip to Greece or back to Ireland together. But retirement living offers a different budget and being that far away for a length of time feels impossible.

But then… I come back to gratitude. I asked the universe for prosperity that would allow freedom from the corporate world, and it provided in an unexpected blessing (in the form of the IRS 72T loophole). I thought I would still need to work a full time job (for less pay), but it turns out that I can live simply and have all I need on a quarter of my former income (for now).

I asked to be guided toward a meaningful purpose, and I thought I was led to becoming an end of life doula. Now, I’m not so sure that was for a path of prosperity as it was a path to peace. Spending a year studying death has brought me into a respectful relationship with what once was feared.

A doula is ultimately a transition / transformation guide – one who holds space for and supports those who are moving from one phase of life to another… a birth doula walks with the maiden as she becomes a mother, and the death doula walks with the mother who has become the crone as she makes her way back to the mystery of what comes next. (fill in the masculine phases as well, of course)

I recently made the mistake of looking up the meaning of doula online, and the Greek origin of the word means ‘female slave’. I am currently seeking a different word.

My family’s new year is not off to a particularly joyful beginning. On new year’s eve, I brought my 81 year old father back to the emergency room for an issue that has been ongoing since October. He was admitted, and then after a procedure, he went back to Rehab for strengthening his ability to stand and walk. Nine days later, my 77 year old mother was t-boned by a careless driver while on her way to the store. So, back to the emergency room we went. Gratefully, major bruising was the extent of her injuries. Well… and serious trauma, of course.

The fact that I am childless, single, and retired means that I have the freedom to be fully present for my parents. A lovely consequence is a deepening of our relationships with one another… A healing of old wounds, and a more patient and compassionate communication style. I feel that the three of us are learning and growing together in this period of transition. But to be clear… this is hard!

I am not really living for myself at the moment, but this is temporary. I have taken on multiple roles – sometimes nurse, sometimes accountant, manager, booking agent, driver, housekeeper, etc. I am working as hard or harder than I did in the corporate world, but without a paycheck… and yet, feeling valued and appreciated by my parents feels like a great reward.

Somehow, the universe will guide me to finding balance. I will learn about other resources to assist us on our journey, and I will learn how to surrender to the kindness of others. I will be available for the care of my parents, and I will not abandon myself and my own needs to a former belief that everyone else’s comfort is more important than my own. I will continue to open to the mystery of receiving, which was not available to me as long as I was always giving. I will meditate, take hot baths, and nap when I need to, because the energy that I give to others must be replenished. And somehow, I will create opportunities to do a little bit of living for me.

There is great sorrow in the obvious decline of our parents, and in the sense of loss of ourselves as we serve others. There is an overwhelming sense of alone-ness (not always loneliness) at the end of the day, lying in bed awake with the worries of what lies ahead, without a companion to remind [some of] us (me) that everything will be okay.

But there is also great joy in the way that we are reminded that we are not walking alone in darkness, as those who love us are standing by, ready to shine their beautiful inner light of wisdom and support to illuminate the path forward, and to give us a good squeeze when we feel that our guts might spill onto the earth below. There is incredible peace in realizing that everything we need is provided, falling into place with divine timing and often great surprise. And enormous gratitude that things should be turning out exactly as they are, because this moment… in all of its darkness and light, trauma and recovery, solitude and togetherness, is somehow terribly and wonderfully perfect.

Thank you for walking this path with me, dear ones. I can feel you surrounding me, and I hope that you can feel me in your circle, as well. I love you more.

Sowing Seeds of Intention

So, I’m going to lead a workshop at the beginning of February, and the thought of it makes my spirit come alive. You see, this will be the first in a series, and it is also a statement to the universe of my mindful new beginning. It will be the very first seed that I plant in sacred ground for the coming harvest in the fall.

To be honest, I have a brown thumb when it comes to literal gardening. But the figurative kind? This is where my world comes into full blossom.

For example, at the full moon in December 1993, I nurtured fertile earth to plant a dream for building my own goddess group. It was a rainy day, but all twelve people invited climbed the steps to the place I called home at that time, and together, we began the work of building our sacred garden.

We decided that we would need a name, that we would make a commitment to meet weekly, and that we would not work within a hierarchy… we were a group of kindred souls who would bring to this plot of land, our own individual beauty to be shared and distributed freely.

Watching this garden grow has been, for me, the most joyful work of my lifetime. As Tribe Mother, I have been witness to the blooming of each gloriously unique spirit, as they chose career paths, life partners, and some bore the fruit of children who have become such remarkable young people, always choosing to come back to themselves, nurturing and celebrating the divine feminine and masculine within… moving through the phases of maiden/lover, mother/father and crone/sage.

Over the years, these sacred beings have moved away to nurture new land and grow in different plots of holy ground. I suppose I long for that kind of deep connectedness and mutual growth, once more. So, I am returning to Mother Earth to offer her my seeds of intention, trusting that whatever comes to blossom will provide a bountiful harvest of joy and happiness throughout the year ahead.

You may ask about all of this gardening metaphor, and I will gladly share how it has become meaningful to me… an otherwise uninterested landscaper.

I grew up Unitarian, which to me is a religion that is not about dogma, but about karma… and community (be kind to and care for all beings and the planet upon which we dwell). At 23, I was introduced to earth-based spirituality, which offered me an understanding of symbolism and archetypes as another way to relate to what was happening within me and around me.

In Tribe, we used the cycle of seasons (the Celtic wheel of the year) to guide our path forward. At Imbolc each year, which is February 2 in the northern hemisphere, those who lived off of the land would light fires in the field and drive their cattle through the coals to burn away the muck and dis-ease that gathered on hooves through the cold, damp months of winter, and they planted the seeds that would later become their harvest.

So, we would do the same, symbolically. We would declare it a day of rebirth, and we would recommit to our Tribe, that we would offer each other our intention for another year of learning and growing, of nurturing and becoming, of healing and thriving, and it would begin with letting go of what was no longer working for the group – that which no longer served us.

This annual practice allowed us to be mindful throughout the year, rather than just once, like those new-year resolutions that fall flat after the second week back at the gym. We would plant the seeds of our intentions, and then come back to the garden each week to water them with meditation, with deep reflection, healing conversation that reminded us we were not alone, and from one another we learned about how we might tend our lives differently, to develop more color and more blossoms of comfort and peace.

This practice brought us so close that even with individual gardens now planted around the globe, our roots have grown so deep that we remain ever connected in the core of the earth and in the ether, where every circle we ever cast still stands.

As for my little workshop next month, I have no idea how many will make a commitment to gather, but what I know from experience is that it will be the right people… be it 5 or 15. It will be a day that marks a moment of rebirth for each person present. We will burn away old ideas, former identities, labels that were placed upon us by others, and limitations that were once perceived, but are ready to fall into glowing embers and turned to dust. And into the fertile earth each will plant the seeds of their intentions, to be nurtured and supported, watered and nourished, loved and cherished… all the way to a bountiful harvest.

As this tiny tribe gathers to clear individual plots of land, they will lend a hand to those who might have a boulder that needs adjusting, and in return someone will shine a light to reveal the very best spot for new life to grow. This whole life thing… it really is a community effort. How lucky are we to have all we need to blossom into fullness?

Thank you for walking this path with me, dear ones. You are among the brightest, most colorful bounty this garden has to offer. I am grateful.

Forget those temporary resolutions.
Plant seeds of intention and watch your garden grow!

Ode to Sanctuary

My sweet Pop is back in the hospital. Year 81 has been pretty rough for him, and he is not even half way through it. It’s hard to see beyond this day to day mire, when the truth is that it really won’t get much easier.

Friends ask me what I am doing for self-care, as my entire world revolves around assisting my parents and friends facing serious health issues these days. Since I am experimenting with early retirement and an income a quarter of what it once was, the truth is that self care, at the moment, looks like sitting at home… alone.

So yesterday, I came home from the hospital and crashed hard in the embrace of the couch I bought when Arthur died. A traumatic loss, the cat who looked at me with such adoration – like no human I’ve known – dead within two hours of sneaking past me at the mailbox check. If you are gone, never to claw my furniture again… I’ll show you. I’ll get a new couch. But, oh… to yell at you to stop, once more. Sigh…

I slept on the couch for at least an hour, certain that I had become a stone memorial in repose from a Gorgon’s glance. When I woke, I turned on the telly for background noise, and picked up my journal. More often than not, this is my journal, but my soul-daughter gave me new book for Yule, and it called to me.

Netflix was showing a season of Tidying Up with Marie Kondo, and she started each session with greeting the house, and asked the inhabitants of each home to reflect on gratitude – thanking the house for its shelter, and to consider how they see their home in the future. So… guess what I wrote about.

I wrote a love letter to my house. My conduit of self-care.

Dear, beloved, gracious home~
Thank you for the protective shelter you have been for me these many years, and for the many years ahead.

I love the way you hold sacred memories of my personal history. I see, as I glance toward the kitchen, Nanny placing a chair at the sink, so I could help her wash dishes. I see granddaddy serving me a bowl of crumbled gram crackers with milk at the dining room table, and the secretary desk opened for me to sit and draw, when my feet didn’t reach the floor from the chair they placed there for me.

In my mind’s eye, I can see the place in the hall where the wooden cabinet granddaddy built held the green rotary dial telephone with the long spiral cord (I can still hear it ring – delivering voices no longer heard upon the earth). In the library, I recall the mural on the wall that always reminded me of the hunting scene in Lucille Ball’s movie – Mame. And I remember Nanny, in the hospital bed… holding her hand as it hung in the air – my final memory of her in this lifetime. Her spirit remains in this space… and in the kitchen, as well.

I see the faces of family and friends who have gathered here for more than 20 years (or 50 years, if we count those before I made you my own). Every guest who has stayed, Tribe rituals that altered our lives and connection with the divine. Laurel dances from the hall into the living room, Rabbit prepares us a meal in the kitchen, StarJasmine pours us a glass of wine. So many sacred circles in this space has turned it into a vortex of tangible magick. People comment on this feeling as they enter, and I just smile with a nod to the ether.

This home has given me peace, comfort, happiness, and joy. Every departure leaves me longing for return… as I enter and walk into a hug. (An acknowledgment of your warmth from our friend, Joe.)

Oh, and the beloved pets who blessed my life, kept safe in your embrace… I love that they are all four still here, only one in corporeal form.

For our shared life to come, I thank you for sheltering and nurturing a loving caring, healthy, reciprocal relationship for myself and the responsible, committed man who enters my life and pursues my heart with laughter and grace, then stays. Nanny smiles upon us, witnessing the long awaited love that we have all dreamed of, but had not previously found.

This love, for both of us, has been truly worth the wait. It heals hearts and souls throughout our genetic line and for lifetimes to come. This partnership brings freedom and prosperity, and this home is nurtured and caressed in new and loving ways – making room and extending time for even more love to grow.

Thank you for all of this and for all that is yet to come, my beloved safe place and sanctuary. I love you so!

That last part is obviously just a dream of a possible future, but these things happen for others… why not for me? (Wouldn’t it be great if… ?) I’ve decided to be happy, regardless of outcome. Life is more fulfilling that way.

Thank you for walking this path with me. I can feel you here in my sacred space adding to the magick that resides here. Come by anytime, and sit for a spell.

The Road Behind and the Road Ahead

This morning I woke to the awareness of closure. Several hours from now, we will close the door on the year 2018. I have friends who do an annual letter to summarize the year for themselves and their families each Christmas. For someone with swiss-cheese memory, where huge chunks of what happened yesterday tend to fall through the holes, the thought of reviewing the year seems like a herculean task.

So, I called to mind the metaphor with which my soul daughter gifted me in a reading this year. Each time I asked my psychic friend what I should be doing with my life, she assured me that I was already doing it. She said that my guides were showing her a long dark highway. She saw me in my car with a full tank of gas. My car was safe and my GPS was guiding me forward. On this safe but unknown journey I could only see what was illuminated in my headlights. My only need was to pay attention to what may be revealed in that glow without worry of what lies ahead. My instructions were to just keep driving.

When I consider this metaphor for the year that I leave behind, I see that road as a highway with big green signs overhead. In my mind’s eye, I am driving through 2018 from start to finish, as I drive beneath the signs of direction which I followed without hesitation, signs for rest areas where I received love and healing, signs for nourishment which came through more than food, but also through sharing art with others, and signs of arrival and departure as I made new friends and let go of people and clutter that littered my highway.

Every time I sit down to write, I start with a blank mind and blank page, and wait to see what my fingertips reveal to me. I can’t wait to see what I find at the end of this imagined ‘road trip’.

I finished 2017 having departed a beloved workplace of nearly 16 years, and then working briefly for a company that felt toxic enough to inspire me to take the rest of the year off. I entered 2018 having no real direction beyond overcoming fear and seeking a job that would bring more of the same. After all, what does one do with a 25 year resume in a single role?

So, the new year started with an updated resume and the encouragement and support of seven executives I had cared for, in one form or another, in years passed. I received daily notification of job postings, but none bore any appeal, and worse, the very review of tasks involved turned my stomach. After a few months, I was determined not to work somewhere that would feel like a betrayal to my soul, and cashed in my employee stock savings into which I had invested for a decade and a half.

While determining what I was NOT willing to do, I continued to be grateful for what I was now free and available to do… to rest, reflect, recover, revive, and to serve my beloved community. When a full-time job was in the way, it was difficult to find the time and energy to be of service to others. I was already giving nearly everything to a corporation, and for the last few years I was there, the stress consumed so much of my life source that my social life was malnourished.

In this new beginning, I was able to serve my parents with more presence, and assist friends who were dealing with serious health issues. I became an occasional driver, wheelchair maiden, medical witness and scribe, communications director, and healthcare advocate. While I wish that my parents and friends had no such need for support, I am grateful that I could be present… holding space for each challenge and celebration of overcoming.

Looking back, I wonder how I ever had time to work a full time job (kidding / not kidding). There was so much living to be done, and I was missing it. I ran into one of my retired executives earlier this month who said practically the same thing… “Melissa, I had no idea what I was missing while being so devoted to my career.”

Each day of this year, I have been thankful to the powers-that-be for expelling me from that job I thought I loved. The truth I have found is that it was always about the people, and once those people were gone, so was my reason for being there.

When I look in my rear-view mirror of 2018, I see the sign posts for things I have chosen to leave behind. I have driven beyond the need to be validated by a boss, a job, a title, or a salary. Living simply, I no longer feel the need to fill my home or my closet with objects that serve no purpose but filling an unacknowledged void.

The excursions I took as I followed the signs of synchronicity were far more important than I dreamed they might be. My friend Brian’s terminal diagnosis led me to the study of End of Life Doula, which has taught me a great deal about how to plan for the future that is certain, and to live more fully with uncertainty.

The invitations I received to travel with friends were accepted without hesitation, since I didn’t have to accrue vacation time, or ask permission to leave my desk. Each trip taken allowed me to connect deeply with friends who own real estate in my heart. The signs I followed took me to New York City on two occasions to see Broadway shows and experience the city from different perspectives… once from Astoria in Queens, and once from Harlem. We saw Kinky Boots in April, and Harry Potter and the Cursed Child in May. Back home, I was blessed to enjoy the theater with friends. This year we saw Lion King, Hello Dolly, and thoroughly enjoyed Aida, the Musical and Elf, the Musical at the high school where our friend runs the drama department. With each of these rest stops, I was reminded of the importance of making time for arts and culture in our lives. The energy and efforts of artists, of any medium, delivers a unique experience of joy… and they are doing it all for us! How could we possibly fail to receive the gift of such heart and soul from another?

Two trips to Georgia – first for a brief art-cation with my life-long friend, and second to visit the boss who raised me as she performed in a play with fellow retirees – were paths joyfully taken. Signs also led me to Tennessee, North Carolina, and Virginia in the summer, and back to North Carolina in the Fall. These journeys allowed me to connect with friends rarely seen beyond social media, and to nurture my relationship with nature, which had been too long neglected. With each of these blessings, I was reminded of the importance of connectedness. Breathing deeply and sending energetic roots into the earth to feel the comfort and love from Mother Nature and from those who love us without condition, is absolutely necessary for our survival.

There were dark roads illuminated by moonlight, as I planned and led sacred ceremonies for connecting with loved ones lost, for healing through friends’ worrisome diagnoses, and for deepening connections with the Universe as one grows closer to becoming one with all that is. For me, meditation and ritual provides a space for letting go of that which no longer serves us, for mindfully gathering intentions for moving forward, and a deep healing of mind, body, and spirit. The grand finale of these events this year was writing and officiating my goddess daughter’s handfasting ceremony. The handfasting bound the souls of two lovers, and the commitment of their community to support their marriage. What an honor to behold. This brought the arrival of extended family, and the departure of a young couple at the jumping off place of their new beginning.

The longest, darkest road this year has been the bumpy, unpaved path of my father’s declining health. He was in and out of the hospital, each time for over a week, and then in rehab for an entire month. Though he is now at home, it is obvious that he grows more weary and frustrated with the betrayal of his body and loss of strength, each day. I have learned that I can only care for him to the best of my ability and hold space for his suffering… I cannot bring him happiness that he could not find for himself. I have also learned that my empathy for him is very physical. I often feel his pain in my body, and realize this is a skill I will need to explore further in an effort to either use it to benefit others, or shield myself better with stronger boundaries.

Darkness was always sprinkled with light. Time with friends in summer alerted me to the awareness of a financial planner who would remove the road block of having to figure out what I would do for a living. He revealed to me the ability to collect a monthly income from my retirement fund, without penalty. In October, I collected my first check! Also, I am assisting three strong women with their private businesses, utilizing my intuitive wordsmith ability and administrative experience. I yearn to create healing retreats for women in the future. Beyond that, I continue to see only what falls within sight of my headlights, and know not where my GPS ultimately leads.

Throughout this year, the highway that has transported me without incident has been my writing. I wrote a book of seasonal guided visualizations (I even recorded one for sale on cdbaby.com). I wrote a book about my journey through self-loathing to wholeness alongside the archetypal feminine, and started working on a book about thoughts that rise in the study of end of life doula work. And of course… since writers need a following in order to be published… I started a blog. Aside from the healing and self-discovery I’ve witnessed in my headlights, I have loved seeing the tiny flags that represent readers from around the world who have offered their valuable time to sit in my passenger seat for a while. I’m so grateful for your company!

As for the road ahead, the year 2019… is surely paved with magick. When I turn 50 at the end of January, I will move into a ‘twelve’ year (in tarot numerology). In the graph of my life chart, wonderful, amazing, life altering things have occurred in these years. In my first twelve-year I found My People and planted the seeds that would become a Tribe. In my second twelve-year, I went to work for a man who needed my light and saw my value (this partnership ultimately enabled my early retirement). In my third twelve-year, I traveled back to Avalon on a healing retreat to Glastonbury and Cornwall, where I got to reconnect with the land of my ancestors and check ancient goddess sites off of my bucket list.

2019 will be my fourth twelve year. I have no idea where that road may lead or what signs will be posted along the way, but I have the faith and wisdom to know it will be extraordinary! My plan is to keep on driving, enjoy the grace that is illuminated in my headlights, and anticipate with patience the moment that my GPS informs me that I have arrived.

My passenger seat is open. Would you care to join me for a stretch?

Wishing you an abundance of joy and everything your heart
and soul may require to thrive in the year ahead.
HAPPY NEW YEAR, DEAR ONES! I love you more.

Out of the Darkness

Out of the darkness and into the light! That’s what this holy day is all about.

On the Earth’s path around the sun, there are points throughout the year that mark her progress and remind us to pay attention to our own life’s progression. The Solstices and Equinoxes are significant events, as they each signify a change in direction, so to speak. Days come into balance at each Equinox, and they shift momentum at the Solstices.

The Summer Solstice, which we celebrated on June 21 – was the longest day of the year, when the Sun was at his peak. Alternately, December 21 is when we celebrate the Winter Solstice – the longest night of the year, when we are witness to the symbolic rebirth of the Sun.

Since the Autumn Equinox on September 21, we have been moving further into darkness, as the days have grown shorter. Considering how the cycle of nature relates to our own human life cycle, we have moved out of our time of harvest, where we gathered all we have manifested in the past year, and we have stepped into deep introspection, which is only nurtured in the fading light.

Here in the darkness, we gather with those we love and remember those we’ve lost. We take stock of what we had hoped for, and what has not yet come to fruition. We light candles of remembrance, and bonfires of celebration.

Before electricity, when we relied upon the bounty of our crops rather than the convenience of our grocery stores, we would have stored our final harvest and then looked ahead toward a lengthy winter, unsure of how well our hard work would manage to sustain us.

And so, we would gather with those we loved in order to eat, drink, and make merry, as we might not make it through the long, cold winter. And since the nights just kept getting longer, we would light a fire at the Solstice, to remind the sun to return, once again. The fire would be lit as the sun was setting, and it would be maintained throughout the night, until the first rays could be viewed like a blush upon the horizon.

This year, we are blessed with added celestial goodness, as the moon shall be full, and there will be a passing meteor shower, as well. I would venture to say that if you have any hopes and dreams still awaiting harvest, this would be a good time to speak your truth to the radiant light, and invite every blessing to shower down upon you.

While pondering the darkness, such as regrets, challenges, and sorrows from this year that we are about to leave behind… consider what you are ready to release, write it down, and then lay it into the flames of your Yule fire. Know that you need not carry anything into the light that does not bring you joy. Better to leave those ashes in the darkness, and move forward into the glow.

Some of us don’t have a fireplace, or a safe place to burn a Yule log, and so a candle will suffice. Just speak into the flame as the sun goes down, and let it know how grateful you are. Grateful for the illumination you’ve experienced this year, and the warmth of love that has filled your life. Acknowledging the blessings you’ve received in such a way that you have discovered that upon your wish list there is nothing for which you would ask, beyond the safety and wellness of those you love, and those you would love if you had only the opportunity to know them.

Throughout this year, I have walked through the darkness and insecurity of the unknown. But I have also, with enormous gratitude, walked beside many with such grace as to show me the luminescence of their courage and radiance of their love. Great warriors of overcoming and becoming, all.

Out of the darkness, we walk with courage and confidence for the abundance and delight that awaits. Into the light, we carry our hopes and dreams to be planted, nurtured and grown in the radiant rise of new beginnings.

Wishing you all of the beauty and peace that is to be found as daylight grows and blessings expand. Thank you for walking this path with me.


Light is returning even though this is the darkest hour,
No one can hold back the dawn.
Let’s keep it burning, let’s keep the light of hope alive,
Make safe our journey through the storm.
One planet is turning, circled on Her path around the sun,
Earth Mother is calling her children home.

Elephant Parade

If anyone has noticed my limited connectedness since early October, it is because I gifted myself with an investment in learning. It happened at the behest of synchronicity, which I consider to be the voice of my internal guidance system. Within one week it was suggested by two unrelated friends that I should consider writing for Elephant Journal… the second recommendation came with a link for Elephant Academy. The Academy is a quarterly online school for writing, editing, and social media. I didn’t hesitate to apply when I received the link. It was as if I was on autopilot.

I confess that I argued with myself about the cost, being newly retired and exploring the possibility of living simply enough to avoid returning to work. Ultimately, I decided that personal development and spiritual enrichment is worthy of every penny spent. Also, I figured I might meet some lovely people of like-mind.

I definitely hit the jackpot on that last expectation. I love it when hope is rewarded! Don’t you?

The first several weeks included a writing assignment that could be published in Elephant Journal. The gift of this process was the opportunity to receive guidance and feedback from editors. Either they would accept your work and make it elephant-ready, or they would provide two rounds of support, to help you get it there.

What I hadn’t counted on was that my 81 year old father would end up hospitalized after a fall, and spend the next month in rehab. Talk about synchronicity. Every ‘voice’ I followed this year led me somewhere wonderful… including the guidance that led me to a financial planner who enlightened me on 72T (detailed in a previous post). This retirement income has enabled me to be fully present for my parents during difficult days. If I had to work a full time job as well, the stress would have been overwhelming. I do not take for granted this great blessing.

My first article was published, and my last (thesis) article was published, but with daily visits to rehab, I chose not to spend more time on the articles that required editing. Perhaps they weren’t meant to be seen. One of them was extremely vulnerable, and I might just be relieved that it didn’t fly. Ha!

I feel that I have learned a great deal during my weeks in Elephant Academy, but far more valuable to me has been the relationships birthed and nurtured. The nature of writing for a journal dedicated to mindfulness leads to a kind of vulnerability and openness that one does not often find in community.

When we have the courage to be authentic with one another, we have no choice but to fall in love, just a little. It’s like exposing your fears and flaws to a room full of people who are willing to look you in the eye and say, “We see you. We accept you. You are one of us, now.”

The courage to be vulnerable is a gift to everyone in your orbit. Don’t you know that we love to see you twirl? We are points of light surrounding the globe, and we shine more brightly for the illumination we bring to one another.

And so, for the third time in my life, I feel as if I have found my people… my Trunk Tribe.

It may not be a journey for everyone, but for those who choose to accept the challenge – be it to strengthen your writing, find your voice, or learn more about navigating the world of social media, I have a feeling that falling in love will be in the cards. The people one meets will be extraordinary. It will feel like money well-spent.

If you are interested in reading what my classmates and editors helped me bring to birth on Elephant Journal, I will post links below. And should you choose to look around while you are there, I guarantee you will be moved by the strength and courage of the other writers in this beloved community.

Thank you for walking this path with me. You are the light that guides my way on.

https://www.elephantjournal.com/2018/10/a-samhain-practice-to-fill-you-as-the-nights-grow-long/

https://www.elephantjournal.com/now/walking-the-labyrinth-a-tool-for-healing-a-metaphor-for-life/

https://www.elephantjournal.com/2018/12/when-death-came-to-dinner-taught-me-how-to-live/

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[Photo from Gregory Colbert’s Ashes and Snow Exhibit]

Acorn Becomes the Oak

I have found myself in such an interesting place in recent months. I had heard the term before, from friends whose parents were aging and required a bit more attention and care, and while I don’t want to say that I am becoming the parent to my parent… I have to admit, it feels like we are moving into a sort of role reversal.

My sweet Pop has lived 80 of his 81 years with epilepsy, and in the last ten years it has really taken a toll on his body. I call it body betrayal, the way that simple commands the body once executed with barely a thought suddenly (or gradually) become tasks which require serious concentration and a concerted physical effort to perform. In 2008, Pop spent a good part of the year traveling to and from Mayo Clinic in Jacksonville. Test after test failed to reveal what was causing symptoms which impaired his ability to walk, to feel his feet and fingertips, and eventually… his ability to find words while speaking. I will never forget the day he told me that he was deeply depressed, and that he didn’t think he would live out the year. I was heartbroken, but I was also still working in a high demand, stressful job in the corporate world, which didn’t leave me with much time or energy to be of service.

Finally, he saw a local neurologist who reviewed the same lab results that Mayo Clinic ordered and reviewed, and my beloved father was diagnosed with a serious B-12 deficiency. Apparently, his epilepsy medication, his age, and the fact he was living with a vegetarian had left him seriously depleted. I later learned from a friend whose pediatrician had the same diagnosis, that if it had not been discovered, he would have ended up in a coma. The end result of this oversight for such a length of time was permanent nerve damage and neuropathy in his feet and from a lifetime of small seizures, down his left side.

So, Poppy has been using a walker to get around for the last ten years, and he and Mom moved closer to me a few years ago. I’d never really imagined living seven houses away from my parents, but I have to tell you that I am really glad to have them so near. I worry less than when they were 45 minutes away with no neighbors around to check on them. I don’t necessarily stop in every day, but I can glance over on the way to my house to be sure all appears well, and can be there in two minutes if they call for assistance.

There are a few new things that we are experiencing this year. First of all, in my role as careholder, I am witnessing my father’s stubbornness when I ask if he has accomplished certain tasks for self-care, and he informs me that he has not. Twice in the last two months, we have been to the dermatologist, and both times he failed to mention wounds on hidden parts of his body until we were getting back into the car when the appointment was over. He’s been falling down a lot lately (scans show that a compression fracture in L4 and L5 may be to blame), because his left leg just drops out from under him, and a few times we’ve had the lovely men-on-duty at our local fire department stop by for a “lift assist” when he wasn’t able to get himself upright. This was the very best tip ever, that you can call ‘911’ and tell them it is a non-emergency and that you need a lift assist. When they hear you have an 80 year old man on the ground who needs a lift, they transfer you immediately to the nearest available fire department.  Dad has offered on a couple of occasions to bake them cookies or invest in their children’s college funds. Seriously, we love these people!

Yesterday, he finally followed instructions and remembered to call me when he got out of the walk-in tub (I can’t say we loved the installation process, but we love that dad can get in and out of a hot-soak relatively well now). He said, “I’m out of the tub. You’d better hurry over before my toenails turn back to steel!” And within two minutes, I was serving at the feet of one of my heroes in his pajama bottoms, with reading glasses (for protection as much as for magnification) and a pair of industrial strength clippers. I made sure the talons were shortened enough, then applied lotion before putting on his socks. Next, I helped him put his shirt on and giggled as I exclaimed, “There he is!” as his head popped through the neck hole. (He’s a pretty good sport about it all.) I finished up my service by brushing his hair, and made him a bagel with cream cheese.

I am not sure what I thought this time in our lives would have entailed, but I’m sure I might have imagined it to be sad or tedious, but so far, it is not. For me, right now… it is joyful. I am one of the lucky ones, to have a father who is warm, kind and generous to all who are blessed to know him. He was a social worker who served the physically handicapped for over 30 years, after all. I don’t know if he imagined that some of the tools he made available to his clients, all those years ago, would be something my mom and I would be seeking for his comfort decades later.

Beyond any luxury that this year of freedom from the corporate world has given me, the freedom to care for my father, and be present for my parents is my favorite most sacred thing. I’m so grateful to have them in my life, to have them nearby, and to have this time to show them my love, my affection, and to be of service when the future feels shorter and less certain than they’ve previously known. I hope they know that every single day… they are loved.

acornbecomestheoak