A Blessing or a Curse…

For as long as I can remember, I’ve had trouble remembering.  Many of my friends will joke about how they can’t remember why they entered a room, or what they had for dinner yesterday as a commentary on aging.  And though I am only five months from 50, I have to confess that this has been my truth for quite some time.  One of my co-workers from my former life in the corporate world affectionately nicknamed me Dory, after the character in Finding Nemo, voiced by Ellen Degeneres.  That came after only a few months of our partnership, since her desk was right next to the copy room, and I was frequently sighing as I exited to return to my desk – hoping for a clue why I had gone there.

I once may have believed that it was due to an easily distracted mind in the chaos of a corporation.  Having been liberated from office life for nearly a year, I don’t see anyone often enough to live up to that nickname, but that doesn’t mean my memory has grown stronger.  In fact, these days if I visit with a friend who inquires about how I am spending my time, I may have to refer to my calendar as a guide to share… ‘oh, yeah – my grandniece stayed with me for a week’, or ‘I went to the mountains with the boys in July’.  Truly, the best way to share where I’ve been and what I’ve really been up to lately is to refer them to this blog.  This is where I have been placing my thoughts, my discoveries, and well… my memories.  Actually, looking at the beginning of this paragraph, I realize that if I were still in that world, if someone asked me what I’d been up to, the conversation would have led to how everyone around me was doing, having considered the responsibility and wellness of others to have been more important than my own.  Having the heart of a caregiver in an executive office means that you are holding space for the enormous stress of others, where fluctuations in stock somehow reflects on your worthiness to lead.  Have I mentioned how completely I do NOT miss that world?  My stomach flips at the thought of such an atmosphere.  Gratefully, those memories, too, are fleeting.  They are at my reach, only when I need a reminder of where I have been and where I may choose to venture forward.

I’ve often wondered when and where this memory shortage began, and I have wondered if it was that moment when self-doubt set in at the age of 9.  I wrote about that event in my post called ‘My Favorite Tomboy’, when my friend’s father accused me of lying to him.  I was so dumbfounded by the accusation of a grown up, that I must have questioned if I had actually done so… even though it makes no sense at all.  In recent years I have decided to let go of identifying a cause, and simply accept it.  This is what I have chosen to believe:  The Universe has gifted me with a deficient memory to enable me to live more fully in the NOW!  Think about it.  Eckhart Tolle urges us to discover The Power of NOW, suggesting that we “Realize deeply that the present moment is all [we] ever have.”  When your memory is limited, there really isn’t much choice but to be present.

At times, this can feel like a curse – especially when you are in conversation and wish to add value to the discussion.  But it can also feel like a blessing – as having a poor memory makes you a great secret keeper.  I’m sure that would look amazing on my resume, right?  I call it Swiss Cheese memory, because I may recall having a conversation with someone, but I may not remember the outcome… some of the details seem to have fallen through the holes.  Another benefit to this condition is that it can make you extremely efficient.  I was known to complete a task within minutes of assignment, because I feared that I might fail to do so if anything got in the way of that intention.  It can be a tedious skill set should you work for someone who changes his mind with some frequency, though.

In my current world, where more time is spent with those I love and cherish, I am witness to memory loss suffered by my parents and other elders in our beloved community.  I’m sure that this is not uncommon as we near or surpass our eighth decade upon the Earth.  My parents seem to lose things easily and may not recall the specific instructions from a doctor visit, and if you have an hour with a friend of ours, you may hear the same story about her youth more than once.  I always listen to each tale-retold, smile and nod, and say, “I know!”  I have to admit that I have been caught telling a story of something I have recently experienced to a friend who was actually with me at the time.  This probably happens more often than I realize – I just have really compassionate friends.  Oy…  this does not bode well for my future!

My favorite tomboy (my lifelong friend) has shared with me in recent years that one of the obstacles that has held her hostage from leaping toward the life she truly desires involves leaving the job she has been doing since she was 19.  She doesn’t love her job, but she does it well and it has delivered comfort and prosperity for which she is grateful.  Recognizing that her memory is not what it once was, she fears having to learn laws and regulations for states that would be new to her.  She is convinced that she may not be able to learn new things… and so her dreams are left waiting to be realized.  Truth be told, I had to leave my job at Dairy Queen when I was 16 because I couldn’t remember how to make each item on the menu.  Each time was like the first time (this is true for movies and television I may have seen before, as well).  So, I feel her pain and share her concern.  I’m hoping that if I have to go back to work in a ‘traditional’ workplace someday, someone will want to hire me for my obvious positive energy and extraordinary inner light…. somehow valuing my ability to not dwell on the past.  Ha!

In my last post, Transformation Dawning, I wrote about a trip to a local spring with my grandniece, and how I found myself wondering why I had allowed decades to pass since my last visit.  Well, yesterday my friend and I made another trip.  This time we were able to get into Kelly Park, which offers a lazy-river feel to the public swimming area.  You may notice that I am writing this post on a Tuesday, which means that my friend and I escaped the routine of our individual daily lives on a Monday.  A MONDAY!  This is not something one does when trapped in the monotony of a corporate work week.  On vacation, maybe… but never on a work day.  My soul-daughter (a blossoming medium) tells me that I am learning to let go of the structure I once held as law… that I must have specific structure in my life to get things done.  She says, intuitively, that my future prosperity will not fall into such an oppressive mold.  I’d love to know what that future holds, how an income will be generated to support the lifestyle to which my cat has been accustomed.  However, if I am to glory in the gift of my poor memory, unable to wallow in the regrets of the past, I should be reminded not to drown in the worries of the future.

For now, the only plans I make (unless a reservation is required) shall be somewhat spontaneous and with an aim for joy.  I did not need the books and materials about becoming an end of life doula to inform me that there is no guarantee of future days over which to worry.  Each day, in this new existence, is met with my commitment to hold space for myself.  I am madly in love with this life, right now… not ‘someday, when’.  My funny memory just brought to mind the turtle that we saw near the spring yesterday.  I meant to look up the symbolism (and of course had forgotten until now), and this is what I’ve just learned:  Turtle symbolizes our peaceful walk on the earth, representing the path we take on the journey through life.  The way of the turtle anchors our personal unfolding in a slow, more grounded series of steps and longer cycles of transformation.  So… that’s all I need to know about the future.  I am firmly planting each footfall upon this sacred ground, allowing transformation to come when it comes.  There is nothing more to do, than to simply be.  That seems pretty easy to remember, don’t you think?

dory

Transformation Dawning

My grandniece stayed with me last week, and though we ultimately had a ‘staycation’ (for me, anyway), I still consider it to have been a glorious escape.  My brother and his family live a few hours away, so we shared the burden of driving and met half way.  I fetched her on a Saturday and gave her back on the following Saturday.  This was the longest period of time we have had alone since she was 18 months old.

13.5 years ago circumstances were such that I felt compelled to offer my support and provide her with a safe place to grow between Thanksgiving and Christmas, while her grandparents met work obligations out of state and dealt with some obstacles at home.  I will never forget the sound of relief in the voice of my sister-in-law, when I somewhat jokingly commented on how cute she was and that she should just leave her with me… “Oh, Melissa… I would be so relieved.”  With wide eyes I looked at my parents who said they would help, and I cried all the way to the airport in the rain to fetch my Tribe brother.  I cried as I told him what I was considering, both of us single and childless at the time, he understood the importance of the task and the sense of overwhelm, too.  Neither of us would have imagined then that he would be married with three children of his own now.  That night I sent an email to friends about the crazy commitment I was considering, and by morning I had been offered all of the support required to make it possible.

That month was probably the most traumatic for all of us, as some navigated separation anxiety and heartbreak, while I spent each day in fear of getting something wrong.  Above all other worries, I feared for her the abandonment issues she would surely have to face in therapy (waves flag of abandonment issues – yo!).  I took my responsibility to her so seriously that I was determined to do anything I could to ensure she would not feel abandoned by me.  I remember one weekend that my Mom came over to offer me a break and an escape, but even when I left the room she would begin to cry, and I simply could not bear to leave.  I remember friends and co-workers saying to me… “Oh, Melissa… this is going to change your mind about having children.”  Well, it didn’t.  Not because she wasn’t precious, because she was.  And not because the work of caring for a child is thankless, because I know without a doubt that that month of my life was quite possibly one of my most important and greatest accomplishments of this lifetime… after all, I managed to keep her alive for an entire month!  She had never been around other children, so of course she immediately caught a cold from daycare, and she also cut a couple of molars during the time that I had her.  Every day I would drop her off and she would cry, and every day I would cry all the way to the office.  Did I mention that empathy is my number one strength?  I would tuck her into bed each night, and collapse in a heap in the silence of the living room, hoping to have a moment to myself, but feeling too exhausted to do anything else, and not wanting to make any noise that might disturb my sleeping angel.  I remember waking each morning and hoping that I could run to the bathroom before she woke up, so that I could tinkle without having to have her on my lap while doing so (because if she was awake, and I left the room… she would cry – and I could not allow her to feel abandoned by me).  Good golly, people!  How on earth can you possibly choose to be responsible for the entire life and well-being of another human?  What a horribly overwhelming task.  I remember how I would hear her cry and it would feel like my heart was beating on the outside of my chest.  I recall the  mornings when I would hear her stir in the makeshift crib that was next to my bed, and I would look over and smile to see her standing up and holding onto the edge, with her beautiful tuft of light brown curls, greeting me with a smile – that and when she tossed her head back to take the medicine for a cold or teething always reminded me of a baby bird.  I would have done anything to keep her safe, healthy, and happy.  Her happiness was my joy!  One night, I pushed past fatigue and put up the Solstice Tree, and delighted in the look on her sweet face the next morning as I carried her into the darkened living room lit by those magickal lights.

I have to admit, having a 15 year old in my guest room was much easier than having an 18 month old beside my bed.  I just caught myself wondering why we had never done this before… and remembered that this, too, is a gift of the year of time and reflection I’ve given myself.  Not beholden to anyone to grant me time off, I had the freedom to ask… and to receive.  It was pretty awesome.  She cooked for her great grandparents and me, and we shopped for school clothes.  She attended an event I co-hosted… a sort of female empowerment and expressive arts evening with friends.  She WOWed me with her openness and authenticity.  She spoke her truth and shared her vulnerability, knowing that she was in a safe place.  Her courage to share encouraged the same in others.  I introduced her to the art of acrylic pour, and she suggested that we do a project together, each creating a piece that would be symbolic of how we felt about each other or what we meant to one another.  Into the colors I chose – each as vibrant and rich as her stunning brilliance and personality – I stirred my hopes and dreams for her… to see her own true value, to seek her own truth and follow her own north star, to be filled with utter joy, and fulfilled by purpose and passion.  When it was dry, I wrote on the back of her canvas:  “Beloved – This painting contains my love for you, and symbolizes the beauty that you are and that which is on the horizon for you.  Love, M”  In turn, what she created for me contained many shades of green, with an additional image that she brilliantly added into negative space, which started as a Stag (sacred to Artemis, you know) and became a tree.  She told me that in meditation the forest is her safe place, and that I, too, am her safe place.  On the back of my canvas she wrote:  “To a GORGEOUS Goddess – You deserve the care you provide for everyone else.  You will get all that you need and want because you’re a beautiful soul.”   (I hope you’re listening, Universe!)

So, all of this was pure delight, and I loved every moment with my girly, but one of my favorite parts was meeting her request to enjoy a bit of nature together.  A friend of mine had suggested taking her to one of our local springs, and that is what we did.  We grabbed another friend of mine, and headed off for adventure.  We packed some snacks, put on bathing suits, and traveled just 30 minutes from home to reach a piece of paradise, Wekiwa Springs.  Knowing that the water would be shocking to our delicate systems (we Florida girls aren’t used to diving into 70 degree water), we chose to take a hike, so that the (literally) breathtaking plunge might feel even more welcome.  We traveled along the path and boardwalks, and delighted in the flora and fauna, as well as several winged creatures that were surely faery folk in the guise of dragonflies.  We saw them in many different colors, including green, silver and blue.  The presence of dragonfly informs us that transformation is dawning on the horizon – and I do believe all three of us can feel it coming.  As we completed the trail and began to hear the sound of others splashing in nearby water, we determined we were definitely ready for a swim.  This was the first time my grandniece had ever been to a spring, but this adventure brought back memories for my friend and for me.  My friend recalled many wonderful visits shared with her beloved, whom we lost to leukemia last fall… and having been away from this glory far too long, my own memories were of trips to the springs with my parents and brother when he and I were young, when we could dive for fossilized sharks teeth and swim until our lips turned blue.  I even remember a time when I was maybe 4 or 5 and my parents swam next to me – atop a raft, and there were people up on a bank who were tossing marshmallows into the water to feed an alligator.  I may have to check this memory with my folks to determine if that particular recall is based in fact or childhood fantasy.  Anyway, we swam for a while, and I began to worry that my toe rings would fall off, because the usual swelling of heat and gravity was totally lacking in this element… and they started to feel rather loose.  So, we each made our way up the hill to the shaded spot with our blanket and snacks.  We reflected on the connectedness we experienced with nature (and with the boy my grandniece met at the edge of the spring – oh, to be fifteen again), and after a while, we determined our needs had been filled.  We finished off the afternoon at my friend’s house with a few rounds of cards.  It was a perfect day!  Ever since, I’ve been asking myself why I had taken these gifts of nature for granted… feeling like I had to drive ten hours to find a piece of heaven, when it was right here… just a short drive from my front door.  I feel as if I will need to make up for lost time, and spend the next several weeks escaping to a local spring to dance with the dragonflies and swim until my lips turn blue.

As I summarized this delightful week to my soul-daughter, sharing how I felt badly for having shirked my responsibility to the end of life doula study… she once again reminded me, with that wisdom-beyond-years way that she does, that though I may have spent fewer hours at the computer or reading a book on death or palliative care, I had most certainly been ‘doing the work’.  You know what?  She’s right!  I am less sure today that my path is to become a doula, but more certain that there is purpose and meaning in doing this work.  Every single day of this sabbatical has been filled with a certain kind of mindfulness and gratitude that comes with the absolute knowledge that our time here is limited.  If the beauty of a natural spring doesn’t bring a sense of homecoming to your soul, you are denying the importance of the element of water in your very existence.  I mean…  you are made of mostly water!  The Earth is bubbling with this cooling, soothing salve for your tired and aching spirit, and She invites you to enter her healing embrace.  The cicadas are singing for the resonant pleasure of your eternal spirit – reminding you of the freedom of summertime on a hot afternoon, how could you fail to recognize their tune?  And everywhere you turn, the dragonflies are bobbing and dancing, then gently perching upon branch and limb, hoping to get a closer look at your vibrant being, knowing that the symbolism of the human body is to be reminded that you are looking upon the Universe itself – in which all of the elements, air, fire, water, earth and spirit, are contained.  The dragonflies know this about every human they pass, why must so many of us fail to recognize this truth, whether passing another on a trail, or seeing our own reflection in the living waters?  There is so much tragedy in what we fail to see.

I am growing more certain with each passing day that this sacred journey upon which I embarked last fall is really about learning to truly see.  I am learning to see what has always surrounded me… that beauty is before me, behind me, above me, below me, and within me.  I am learning to sense what I cannot see with my eyes, allowing energy to be felt with my heart and words that are not heard through my ears to flow with grace and ease through my fingertips and onto this page.  Through the study of death and dying, I am learning how to truly live.  Every time I wish I could see the future and how my financial security will evolve from something I no longer care to do into something I was born to do, I am reminded that I don’t need to see it to know it is on the way.  I don’t need to define it to be able to manifest it.  I am already in the spring and it is carrying me forward, and I have no choice but to stay open to receive and appreciate all of the rich beauty that awaits, as I mindfully and joyfully go with the flow.

20180803_110859

Harvesting Gratitude

It’s hard to believe that we are already facing the harvest season.  Each year does seem to go by faster and faster, doesn’t it?  On the Celtic calendar, August 1 marks Lughnasadh, also known as Lammas or the First Harvest.  This ancient holy day and cross-quarter holiday (that which falls between a solstice and an equinox) has a mythology that goes along with the purpose and legend, but I prefer to leave those stories and explanations to the scholars.  For me, the Celtic calendar provides a personal guide for mapping my own personal progress through the year.  If we still lived in farming communities, this might be the time of year that we would begin harvesting our grains, which we planted with intention at Imbolc in February, back when the land was beginning to thaw after the long winter.

This time of year is when I like to make a review of those mindful intentions to consider how my hopes and dreams may be coming to fruition.  Do they need more of my attention?  Do they need to be watered?  Do they need more light?  Do they need to be freed from obstacles?  Are they fully grown and ready to be uprooted and celebrated?

For me, investment and savings provided the gift of a year of reflection, deep diving into spirit and soul to determine a path forward after finding myself at the crossroads last fall.  I have no regret for the choice that I made to end a search for more of the same to embark on a journey toward something extraordinary.  I wish that everyone could have this opportunity.  Imagine getting to spend an entire year with the most important person in your life… YOU.  Consider removing any obstacles that stand in the way of deeply connecting with the divine spirit that entered this earthly plane with you, and will remain with you for all of your days… and beyond.  What if you could take some time to brush away the expectations of others and determine the truth of your own desires… exploring possibilities beyond what you’ve previously imagined possible for yourself?  You could ask yourself:  What is it that really makes your soul sing?  If you had no need for an income, what would you be doing with your time?  Does your passion lie in something solitary or something that connects you with others?  Do you have a story to share that might initiate healing and inspire others toward a similar outcome?  Can the healing you’ve encountered be a beacon of light for those behind you on the path?  Do you have a skill that you’ve taken for granted that deserves to be brought into view?  Does your happiness really lie within the size of your paycheck or square footage of your home?  Or do you find greater beauty in a more simple existence, filled with more nature and less stress?

I wonder what it is that you might find on your list of reflection.  What do you consider to be your personal harvest, so far this year?  Were you finally able to let go of some of the people or things that were no longer serving your best interest?  Did you create and nurture a new habit of eating differently, or moving more?  Did you have the chance to step outside of your box and meet new people, face new adventure, go somewhere you’d never been before?  A personal harvest doesn’t have to be filled with really big things… for some of us, greeting August with a smile is worth a bushel of gold.  The important part of celebrating Lughnasadh is to find gratitude in every little thing… large or small.  Take some time to dance a little jig with joy in your heart for all of the love and beauty that surrounds you.  In the northern hemisphere, we are still in the light part of the year and when the Equinox comes around, we will begin our descent into darkness.  Is there anything else you’d like to accomplish, gather for your coffer as the year comes into balance and moves… beyond?

To be honest, I feel as if I still have a long, long way to go before I can rest, but I am definitely grateful for my bountiful harvest, thus far.  I am enormously blessed to enjoy more time with my parents, and to have this entire week with my grandniece, coming home from the mountains with the sweetest memories of time spent with dearest friends, and overwhelming grace and beauty that Mother Nature nurtures and shares.  I am grateful for a loving and supportive community that cares about me, about the wellness of my family, and for one another.  I am grateful that sad news in my community, like the loss of a loved one or a beloved pet, or serious illness was also met with wonderful news of outstanding support and loving kindness.  I am glad that I have allowed myself the time to find my words and speak my truth, finding healing for self, and for possibly inspiring others to do the same.  Our voices are so important – every. single. one!

I would consider it a great honor to hear about your sacred harvest.  Shall we dance?

My Post (5)

The Journey Inward

Yesterday I visited a nearby mountain park to get an added dose of nature before I head home at the end of the week.  I hadn’t really thought it out very well, because I stepped onto the Lakeside Trail in my traditional open-toe shoes, instead of something more trail appropriate.  I could have turned back early on, but the path kept calling me forward… and so forward I went.  The ‘lake’ was more of a reservoir, and was not round like many lakes back home, but more like a wide river with end caps.  I started my journey, like most adventures in life, without expectation or awareness of what I might find or experience along the way.  At the beginning of the trail, as I traveled counter-clockwise on the map, I found a bench at water’s edge, and so I sat for a moment to contemplate the beauty before me.  The water was filled with all sorts of plant life, and there were trees that had fallen on the bank and into the lake, that were left to become a part of the landscape, creating homes for the creatures that live there.  As I sat there, I would occasionally hear a sound that informed me that something was moving in the water, but each time I heard it, I would look and see nothing more than a slight ripple.  It reminded me of how we often assume that a situation is how we perceive it, based on what we can see on the surface, but how reality is that there is often something of greater depth actually going on beneath the surface.  I took a moment to honor all that was present which I could not see, and then I continued my walk.

Next, I came to a boardwalk structure that crossed the water, and before I was half way across, I gasped to see a young deer with antlers grazing on plant life in shallow water.  This is not something we get to see where I come from, and the sight took my breath away before it brought me to tears.  A couple who were hiking in the opposite direction came upon us, and respectfully stood quietly for a few minutes before gently passing.  I thought about how magick happens throughout our lives, if we are open to it, and how special it can be to have it all to ourselves at times, and also to be blessed to share it with others.  I could have stayed all day to simply stand witness to such grace and beauty, but I decided to offer my gratitude for this moment, and asked to be WOWed again somewhere along my journey.  I was not disappointed.

As I moved forward on the path, having no idea where it would take me, or if I would regret not having turned back for better hiking gear, I couldn’t help but think about my personal life experience with the Artemis Archetype.  After all, the stag is one of her most sacred symbols, and the mountain forest is her realm.  I might turn a curve along this winding path and see her in the distance drawing back her bow.  I thought about how alone I felt on this path, as I could hear no human sound at this point.  I realized that my footwear could betray me on a path filled with tree roots and loose stones, or how I might slip and fall somewhere on this journey and that no one would be around to see me, hear me, or come to my rescue.  It made me think about how unprepared I have been throughout life for the obstacles that would appear in my life, leaving me hurt or disappointed by the actions of others.  But then I realized that my travels with Artemis have always been that way.  I may have had the support of my band of nymphs that I call my Tribe, but the work that I did to move through self-loathing to find my true self-worth and value was always a solitary journey.  It never mattered how emphatically others would assure me of how worthy they found me, I could never find it to be true until I felt it for myself.  And every betrayal and wound I’ve received has always led to learning and the positive evolution of my soul.  And so…  I chose to continue… believing that I was well protected, and that I would find more moments of magick if I simply refused to give up on myself.

As I moved further into the forest, and away from view of the lake, the feeling of solitude grew more profound.  I realized how similar this world that belongs to Artemis resembles the world that belongs to Persephone.  In the non-patriarchal version of her tale, she has chosen to go into the underworld to welcome the souls who have transitioned from the world of the living and are now seeking passage through the veil.  On this lonely mountain path, I could feel the isolation of one’s journey from human form into the mystery of what comes next.  There might be loved ones present to hold your hand for a while, but at some point… you must move forward on your own.  But then I realized through much of my hike that I would hear a recurring sound that was lacking form.  I imagined that it might be the sound of hooves on forest floor, an unseen squirrel or chipmunk, or a bird taking flight in the canopy above.  The message that I received from this awareness was that our perception of aloneness throughout our sacred journey is an illusion.  Even when we cannot see others around us, the truth is that we are never alone.  Whether it be the consciousness that we can step into to deliver strength in a moment of weakness – becoming the warrior and rescuing ourselves, or the presence of guides and loved ones that some of us may never connect with and recognize without the support of a medium, or at the end of life – as witnessed by Hospice Nurses again and again, as their patients acknowledge days or moments before death, alerting them to call the family, for departure time is near.

As I walked the Lakeside Trail, wondering if it would ever come to an end, I walked through fear and kept going.  I walked through solitude, and realized I wasn’t really alone.  I walked through self-doubt and negative self-talk about the foolishness of being ill-prepared, and I kept moving forward.  I walked for three hours straight, and never grew weary.  I acknowledged that my twice-weekly time in the gym had been time well spent, as my legs were strong enough to carry me up hill and down again without complaint.  I passed an occasional human, and while I was glad to see them and smiled as they passed, I was also grateful to continue on my own.  I realized that walking with Artemis brought me to this place… where being alone with myself is a wonderful place to be.  Once filled with self-loathing, I now feel that I make for really great company, and I was so happy to be walking with my own best friend… ME.  As I began to hear the sound of traffic on the mountain road upon which I entered the park, I was pleased to be coming full circle.  I had hoped to be shown the blessings of nature, and I was rewarded with three different deer sightings, each bringing me to tears.  For three hours, I was honored to walk beside two Goddesses who are ever present in my life, and I bowed my head to Persephone in reverence for the guidance and comfort she provides as I explore the path to the underworld, hoping to be one of her torchbearers in the future… holding the hands of those transitioning from human form, until they are finally able to see those who shall greet them on the other side.

20180716_133122

 

Mountain Music

I am sitting on the porch of my friends’ Tennessee home, and the breeze offers a slight chill as it plays with my hair while the lowering sun caresses my skin with warmth.  A variety of birds are singing their evening songs which speak of a beautiful day blessed by sunshine and the smell of sweet grass.  Several are dancing around the nearby feeder, reminding me that the term ‘eats like a bird’ doesn’t mean what most people assume.    My friend lost his sweet mother last year, and this space that we are blessed to enjoy was lovingly referred to by that kind and generous woman as Mockingbird Cottage.  Her gentle spirit still surrounds us in this heavenly place. and I can sense that she is near… laughing at the hungry birds at play, and recalling the way the wind once felt against her skin on a cool summer evening.  She and I close our eyes and breathe deeply of this moment of shared peace and solitude.  We anticipate the arrival of fireflies within the next hour.

I drove up on Friday, and the journey was pleasant as the companion I chose read to me his words of experience and wisdom with the voice of a philosopher.  I downloaded required reading for my end of life doula coursework through Audibles, and Stephen Jenkinson’s voice fed my mind throughout my ten hour journey with his thoughts on palliative care from his book called DIE WISE: A Manifesto for Sanity and Soul.   Eight hours of reading remains, and he has already given me so much to think about… mostly about the way that death, though it is the one guarantee that comes with birth, is something that most people fear and run from.  Many of his patients who chose palliative care when a diagnosis became a prognosis would later come to curse the effectiveness of their treatment, as it was keeping them alive long past their wish to continue.  In other words, it may have given them more time, but it did not necessarily give them more ‘life’… just more suffering.  That kind of took my breath away.  It made me think more clearly about the wording I would use in my advance directive, the official forms which will state my wishes for end of life care.

It also made me think about the act of dying, and the choices one makes for how to spend their final days once a deadline has been given.  And if one would choose to do things any differently, at that point, (assuming the body was able) why we would wait until we’ve been given a deadline to start living in a way that would finally feed our soul.  Should we not be spending all of our days that way?  I mean, the day we are born the one thing that is certain is that we will also die.  It seems to me that there is always a deadline, its just that the expiration date is hidden beneath the fold of awareness.

I wonder what that might look like for me… a well-fed soul, and I believe that it looks something like sitting outside on a summer evening to hear the cacophony of birds chirping, cicadas humming, and distant dogs barking.  It also looks like valuable time spent connecting with dear friends, and making new ones at a mountain art festival.  It looks like smiling at the tiny green bug that just landed on the keyboard, and resting until it is ready to take flight.  It looks like taking the time to dive into a topic that once felt overwhelming and frightening, so that I may one day be of service in a way that transcends and ascends my former level and ability of caring.  It looks like choosing to fill the rest of my days, be they long or few, with greater purpose and meaning.

Sitting here, in this sacred space outdoors, with the spirit of this sweet lady that I was blessed to know and shall always adore, I can list the messages that nature has delivered for my inability to hear her voice.  The symbolism of the mockingbird is overcoming fear.  The symbolism of the hummingbird, whose presence inspired the urge to write, is lightness of being and enjoyment of life, as well as the reminder to be more present.  The symbolism of the fireflies for whom we wait, is self-illumination, guidance and freedom.  As I glance over my shoulder to see if they have yet arrived, I see a cardinal at the feeder and smile to myself to realize that the symbolism of this particular bird is a reminder to realize the importance of your purpose in life… while for some, it informs them of the presence of a loved one lost.  She knows I’m thinking of her and that I know she is here… affirmed by a glance before me to see that cardinal making his way across the darkening yard, stopping to look back at me from a moment’s perch atop the umbrella in the yard.

I am grateful for this time that I have given myself… to explore the depths of my soul before stepping blindly into a new chapter that might be less than fulfilling, to breathe deeply with gratitude for the beauty of nature and for that which we cannot see or hear without the courage to open our hearts.  After all, love is not something visible to the eye… it can only be felt with the heart.  So, I dare you, dear ones to close your eyes and open your hearts.  There are messages flashing before you, like the fireflies who have just arrived.  I’d love for you to join me in this reverie of light and flight!  Tell me…  what do you see?

fireflies

Death and Rebirth

The act of becoming involves a sort of death.  When we realize that we can no longer return to a former life once responsible for our prosperity, identity, and validity, there is a process of grieving and release that must take place.  Reaching the one year anniversary of my departure from that former life surprised me.  As I looked back at that former life, I could find no regret for its loss.  It was interesting that the lunch date I had with my former work partner was postponed by two weeks, and on that rescheduled morning a facebook memory revealed the 2017 announcement of my departure.  It was poetic to be sharing that anniversary afternoon with the last meaningful work relationship I had in that past life.  Together, we share a sense of warmth and love that transcends traditional roles in the corporate world.  After lunch she texted a photo to the man who hired us both, and bragged that we were together.  Minutes later, her phone rang, and the three of us were instantly connected, as if no time had passed, and yet all of our lives are vastly different from when we last walked those halls at the same time.  It had been nine years since his retirement, which informed me that his second grandbaby, who arrived on the day he announced his pending retirement, was indeed the young girl in a photo he sent, playing golf with her brother.  We talked about that day, and he said that it was at the birth of her big brother that he decided he would retire.  As an executive, he was expected to make a presentation at a board meeting which was being held out of state on the same day his eldest daughter was giving birth to her first child.  His grandson, who was given his name, was born an hour before he hopped on the corporate jet.  The role he committed to in corporate America meant missing much of the growth of his own daughters, and he realized that being a grandfather was a sacred opportunity he was not willing to miss. I remember him saying to me on the day I helped load his car as he left the office for the last time, “Melissa – I feel like I’m getting a second chance!”  His sacrifice afforded his family great comfort, but I’m not sure if he would have chosen a different path if he’d known what he was to miss… so many hours of work and three college degrees, his wife feeling like a single mother of three, much of the time.  I think he was a little nervous about his decision to retire, at first.  What I know for sure, is that once he was on the outside looking in… he never looked back with regret for leaving.  He now has five grandchildren, and keeps very busy with travel to three different states to spend time with them.

As for my most recent partner, she too had given up her personal life for the commitment she had made to the corporation. I can recall a certain corporate crisis that had her calling in from her 30th anniversary cruise with her husband.  In the last couple of years of our partnership, she was experiencing almost daily migraines.  When we were finished with the lunch she had prepared for me, including fresh baked bread, she brought out a huge stack of professionally printed photo books, which documented at least a dozen trips she has taken with her husband and her adult children in the last four years.  She hasn’t had a migraine since she retired.  She acknowledged that her daughter, a doctor, has chosen not to pursue her own practice, which would require a greater commitment of time.  She has chosen to live her life for herself, rather than living for running a business.  She didn’t struggle with that choice her child had made, she honored it.  Like her predecessor, she recognized her personal sacrifice, and though she loved those years in a meaningful career, she is happy to be living such a full and active life with her family now.  She and her husband will continue to travel for as long as they are physically able… or until grandbabies come along to join the granddoggies.

So, at my one year anniversary of what I’ve dubbed ‘retirement rehearsal’… with one partner nine years retired and the other three years retired, I worried a little about what each might think of my choice not to return to the corporate world in a role that I have held for the last 25 years.  After all, it doesn’t seem like a rational choice.  And yet, I was met not with reproach, but with complete understanding and support.  It was even suggested (among other ideas) that I consider renting out a room in my house, and simply working part time, so that I can have the freedom to do what really makes me happy.  Of course… they get it!  They get me.

These two people were pivotal in my personal growth and development of an identity that helped me to feel valued, appreciated, and worthy when I could not find that for myself.  Having witnessed the extraordinary burden they carried at the end of their careers makes getting to see the beauty of their full and joyful lives in retirement that much sweeter.  I’m so grateful for those years and for these relationships.  I have no doubt that we will continue to celebrate all that flourishes in the lives of one another for many years to come.

Of course, I’m nowhere near actual retirement, but I am happy to follow their lead.  I don’t have children or grandchildren to follow, but I do have a plethora of passions.  My intention is to create a future from which I will never wish to retire.  In the tarot, there are two cards that would symbolize the last year of my life.  The first would be The Tower, when lightning struck and my whole world changed in an instant with the end of a sixteen year career from which I had once imagined retiring.  The next would be The Death Card, which is where I am today.  Before I understood that I would not be continuing on the path I had traveled for the last 25 years, I sat down to connect with my creativity guide, and drew a random card from the deck.  It was Death.  And this is what I wrote:

Transformation

In the tarot, the Death card symbolizes change or transformation. It reminds us that everything changes… one season passes into another, the mother becomes the crone… without the dying leaves, we would fail to witness the rich beauty of autumn, which briefly awes our senses with a multitude of colors and textures before each leaf falls to the ground, transforming into rich fertile ground that will feed the roots of the tree from which they’ve fallen.

Throughout our lives, we come to our own autumn season – when it is time to reflect on the beauty and the darkness of what has gone before… to honor those moments and lessons, to give thanks – even for the darkness (for it has shown us the light), to let them gently fall away, and to prepare for what is yet to come. Remember that once the leaves fall from the tree of life, there is a period of rest, followed by the surprising POP of new growth, so vibrant and stunning, stark contrast from the nakedness of dormancy, that we cannot help but celebrate the utter joy of new life being presented.

So here’s to the coming of autumn… to the beauty, to the sorrow, to the gratitude, to the slumber, to the waking, and to the rebirth. Gather it into a great big cushy pile and fall back into it. Bury yourself in the memories… and finally… emerge with a smile, brush yourself off, and move forward… into the light.

All three of us have experienced a form of death, if you think about it.  The souls that once existed in the corporate world have all been reborn into something different… Formerly serving the expectations of shareholders, and now serving the hearts of our beloved families and spiritual communities. There is not regret for what we may have missed, only gratitude for all that we gathered…  And great anticipation for all that is yet to come.  I can’t wait to see how it all turns out.

(The Death Card from Colette Baron-Reid’s The GOOD Tarot)

20180701_000144

Transmute and Transcend

Today has been a difficult day.  Not really for any good reason… it seemed like an energetic thing.  Kind of like an indescribable ‘ick’ that sits thickly within one’s surroundings.  I sat down to my end of life studies and found no drive.  I opened the book I penned earlier this year, and I had no will to read.  I glanced at my blog, and had no words to share.  My soul-daughter reminded me that Mars goes retrograde tomorrow (in my own sun sign, no less), and that it means we will all be reviewing the past… so that we may then be free to move forward.  This is our chance to slow down and consider past actions and patterns, and how they have served us… and what habits might be hindering our progress for the evolution of our higher selves.  Sigh… if I get it all done today, can I just go on vacation from the hard work for the next two months, until Mars goes direct at the end of August?  Please?!  Well, no… my goddess girlie assures me that we will all get to face these old issues for the next two months, so let’s just plan to get through it… feel all the feels, and be prepared to move forward along with the perceived trajectory of Mars.

Being only a little stubborn and wanting to get the show on the road… as she headed out – I started my journey in.  On Saturday, a few members of my spiritual community gathered to celebrate the Summer Solstice.  The meditation guided us through a honeycomb beehive of past mistakes and regrets, and when we emerged we focused those morsels of restriction into honey and beeswax candles to be transmuted and transformed… into the sweetness of life, which only occurs when we are able to acknowledge how far we’ve come, and how much we’ve grown.  “Last night, as I was sleeping, I dreamt that I had a beehive here inside my heart.  And the golden bees were making white combs and sweet honey from my past mistakes.” ~Antonio Machado

This evening I continued that process, and I lit my beeswax candle along with some sage and dragonsblood incense.  I called upon that which I cannot see with my eyes, yet is always present, and moved into the sacred art of flow.  I set pen to page and awaited the words.  They came as they always do, in curving lines of surprise.  Who knew THAT was still in there?  A list of names unworthy of her love and affection (save for one) – that girl I used to be, going back three decades… the pattern identified as giving at a deficit of receiving.  All she ever wanted was to be loved enough… but she didn’t even love herself.

Words written in the color of blood, she poured out of her heart every ounce of bitterness and sorrow, then sealed it up with smoke and flame.  Five pages consumed by ink, and then by fire…  into the bowl of banishment.  Ashes smoldering then doused by the sacred waters from the heart of Ireland… St. Brighid’s and St. Brendan’s wells.  Then taken to that place in the side yard, near where her sweet Arthur was lost – has it been three years passed?  Asking her beloved boy to help with the transformation from ash to resurrection… delivering the kind of deep-soul-love that his adoring gaze once made her feel.

Sage and incense still permeate the air, but it does feel less heavy… the ‘ick’ is gone.  The candle has only moments of flame remaining, the light flickers in the base of its holder, the stick no longer exists.  Transmutation is complete.  Thank you.  I love you.  I love me.  It is done!

Dear ones, should you find yourselves in deep reflection of your personal past over the next several weeks… please be kind to your heart.  It was doing the best it could.  Your soul appreciates the lessons and remains unharmed.  These are lessons in forgiveness.  Forgive yourself for the ignorance of youth and for every lesson that arrived ‘the hard way’.  With mindful awareness, we do have the freedom to move into the future with an intention of continuing the process of growth and evolution, asking the Universe to deliver each ‘the fun and loving way’.  That is MY intention, anyway.  Make it so!

(St. Gobnait – Patron Saint of Bees and Beekeeping – Gougane Barra, Ireland)stgobineta (2)