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.
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…
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.
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.
This morning I woke with an image of connectedness. With the awareness of our mutual suffering, and that of Mother Earth choking on the waste of our shortsightedness, I felt a yearning for us to move beyond this primal ache that resides somewhere between hearts and bellies, and into the healing light of transformation.
There are days that I have checked the reach of my writing to discover that right here, within this sacred circle, are beautiful beings from all over the world. In truth, if you are reading these words, know that you are here beside me being held within this emerald green light of my heart’s devotion. I am grateful for your presence in my life.
In this reading, if you feel safe and moved to do so, I wonder if you would imagine taking my hand into yours. If so, I would have us gather with every beloved heart that I know, that you know, and that those who have joined us here know… be they still upon the earth, or those who have passed into the mystery of what comes next. Let us stand within this circle, connected through hearts and hands, a circle so broad that it could encapsulate the world with the luminous light of love.
With the power of our togetherness, we elevate the vibration of the waves of energy that we cannot see with our eyes. The atmosphere that surrounds us has become muddled with so much oppression, fear, loathing, and unkindness that we can barely breathe. As we mingle our energy, and hum a soothing Om into the atmosphere, the walls that were being built by intolerance and self-hatred cannot withstand the reverberation of loving kindness and come crumbling down.
If you are troubled or care for someone who is suffering, consider stepping into the center of this circle of human kindness to be filled with the light of love.
I carry this image in my heart of standing in the center of darkness, surrounded by those who love and support me without condition. There is firelight beyond them, which illuminates their profiles, but keeps their faces in darkness. They remind me that though I stand in shadow, I am not alone.
As you imagine yourself standing in this shadow of winter’s introspection, can you make out the silhouette of those who surround you? Can you sense their presence, their adoration, their love as it flows through you, surrounding you with the light of hope? Even if you are geographically distant, without a doubt, you are still enveloped by their love.
Imagine, if you can, walking toward each sacred being and reaching out for their embrace. Spend some time here, and consider who stands firmly within this circle. They may be members of your family, your tribe, or they could be loved ones who have passed beyond the veil, or even spirit guides and guardian angels (energetic beings of universal wisdom) whom you have never seen with the eyes, but whose presence has been evident when you thought you were alone, and suddenly felt the warm glow of comfort and loving kindness.
Let each embrace be held at heart’s center, imagining chins over left shoulders as heartbeats come into unison and knowledge is exchanged without words. When you have connected deeply with each sacred soul, choose a spot within the circle where you would like to stand, and take the hands of those beside you.
As you make this palm-to-palm connection a golden light begins to flow in a clockwise motion around the circle. This light expands to encase all who gather. But it doesn’t stop here. It continues to grow like waves upon sand, slowly reaching further, leaving a glittering glow as it retreats and then surges beyond previous reach.
Witness the glowing expansion as it presents itself to loved ones who may also glory in the return of light. See their faces awash with radiance and reverence.
Let this light be carried into every dark corner of the earth, and let every heart be healed. Love this light into ancient soil, and nourish and revitalize the Mother who gave birth to all life. This human experience is only made possible by her love.
NOTE: I was writing this yesterday, when my computer decided to take a break on me. As I toiled through troubleshooting on how to fix the issue with my brother and pc support guy three hours away, my phone rang. My mother was in the hospital following a car accident. Gratefully, she was relatively well, considering the appearance of her vehicle, which was t-boned by a large vehicle… but we spent the rest of the evening in the ER running tests – just to be sure. It was not lost on me that SHE is the mother who gave birth to my life, and that MY human experience was made possible by her love.
This, folks, is another one of those moments of gratitude in awareness. I am aware that the universe conspired to set me free from the workplace in 2017, and enabled an early retirement income so that I could live simply and be fully present for my aging parents. As for this particular piece of writing… I have needed these virtual hugs more than anyone could possibly know.
The day before the accident, my mom and I set in motion the work necessary for me to handle financial matters on my parents’ behalf, when the time comes that I can assist further with their care. As I sat in my own living room last night, having settled mom into hers, I reflected on how things might have gone differently… how our intentions might have missed their mark. I’m so grateful that, for today – having just heard her voice on the phone, informing me that she is awake and well – everything will be okay.
I hope that all is well with you and yours, also. Thank you for walking this path with me. I can see you bathed in golden light, and I’m so glad that you are here.
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.
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.
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.
The purpose of the next few minutes of our time together is to step out of the world where we are responsible to others, and remember that we are especially responsible to ourselves. I’ve written this as a guided meditation that I would speak to you, but understand that you may still ‘go within’ through reading, even without being able to close your eyes.
Our wellness and self-care is more than the concept of taking care of the body that is our temple… it is also a gift that we give to those who love us.
You have likely heard the term coined by Carl Sagan, that we are all ‘starstuff’. The particles that come together to make up this human form are the same as those found in all that surrounds us, including the Universe which may seem beyond our reach. The truth is… we ARE the Universe. All we need to do to connect with that larger than life energy is to simply go within.
Creative visualization is a tool that allows our minds to release our worries of the future and our regrets of the past. It takes us on a journey that is at once outside of ourselves and deep within. It provides a sort of guidance along a path which our minds may travel, in order to find focus and nurture intention as we create a foundation for the reality we desire for ourselves. Guided visualization doesn’t require that you go where the reader takes you, but that you follow the voice to find the path that you wish to blaze.
Consider that you are being given a metaphor or a story outline into which you have the opportunity to fill in the blanks, or to create your very own tale of becoming.
So now, I invite you to find your comfort, whether seated or reclining. If you choose to lie down, be sure that you are not too close to needing a nap. Though, should you suddenly wake to find you have slept through parts of this journey, know that you have not done anything wrong. Your mind and body will take you exactly where you need to go.
We will begin with deep breaths that make your belly rise. And then we will allow our breath to settle into a normal flow, In through the nose, and out through the nose. If you have sinus congestion, breathing through the mouth is fine, but having your tongue pressed to the roof of your mouth behind your front teeth, while inhaling and exhaling through the nose is recommended.
Our breathing connects our mind and our body in a rhythmic flow which allows us to journey beyond the confines of the room in which we are seated. Being mindful and connecting with gratitude for that which we take for granted can be a simple way to connect with the energy of all that is.
Breathe into your belly the element of air which fills your lungs and delivers oxygen, and exhale with a prayer of thanks for the expansion of your chest as you receive the light of love and release the burden of tension.
Breathe into your belly the element of fire which warms your body and delivers healing where needed, exhaling with gratitude for the inner flame of metabolism and energy that powers your body’s machinery.
Breathe into your belly the element of water which washes through your body with cleansing and quenching fluidity, exhale with a prayer of thanks for the blood and saline liquid that delivers life through the body and back into your beautiful heart.
Breathe into your belly the element of earth which creates the foundation for all other elements to flow and grow, exhaling gratitude for the strength of your bones and the whole of your body which holds and nurtures your sacred soul.
We come to nature to be reminded that we are not separate from all of life, we are one with it. We can connect with our breath and imagine sitting on a boulder of granite, warmed by the sun on the edge of a mountaintop, or in our mind’s eye see that boulder turn into a billion grains of sand, washed by the vastness of the ocean as our feet sink in and waves rise and fall upon the beach where we stand.
When you think of a place in nature that makes you feel calm and connected, be it ocean’s edge, mountain view, or a tree you climbed in childhood, which made you feel safe and held within an embrace you did not yet understand, consider making this place, real or imagined, your meditation safe place. This is where you may go to connect with your breath and enter sacred space.
Sacred space is a sanctuary. It can be any place that allows you to feel safe and loved. It can be a physical place, like a church, a temple, or your living room, and it can be inside your mind, which is so powerful that it can create for you a safe place in which to dwell. The beauty of creative visualization is that you are not limited by physical surroundings. In this realm, you may swim in a pool of starlight and be held in the embrace of the being who has made you feel most loved in this lifetime, regardless of your ability to do so in the physical world.
If you have in mind your sacred space, take yourself there now. Experience in your body all of the sensations that come with feeling safe, feeling free from distraction, feeling present, feeling at ease, feeling loved. Know deep within your bones that this is truth, you are enveloped and protected by the light of love.
From here you are able to connect more deeply with the energetic force that surrounds you and flows through you. Imagine that from where you are, your energy reaches like tendrils of light, downward into the earth and through saline water, through rock, mud, and crust into the molten core coursing with the fire of passion. Gather that source and pull it inside of you, allowing the lava to soothe aching joints as it delivers healing light.
Now, sense the sparkly white light of creation raining down on you from above. Imagine the crown of your skull opening like a funnel to receive this light, which spirals downward through your body to mingle with the light you’ve pulled from below. This is your connection with your higher self, the wisdom that you have carried with you from a time before memory.
This swirling light of gold and silver moves through your body to deliver comfort and peace that calms a worried heart and allows you to see with clarity your best path forward. Let it expand beyond the boundaries of your body to encapsulate your auric field, which extends a few inches further than your body’s full height and wider than your outstretched arms.
This is a sphere of protection that you can invoke at anytime with a simple deep breath. When you are here, you can imagine pushing out all thoughts, emotions, and energy fragments that do not belong to you or no longer serve your highest good. You can also command that nothing may enter your sphere of protection other than pure love and healing energy.
Once you have declared this sacred space and the gathering of earth, body, and universal energy… sit for a while to feel this love filter through every cell of your being. If you are seeking answers to your own heart’s wondering, you may ask here and listen. [long pause before continuing]
It is time for our journey inward to come to a close, but know that this space is always safe and waiting for you at the close of your eyes and deepening of your breath. When you are feeling frazzled or disconnected, you can come here for renewal and to reconnect.
Picture your energetic being, as if you are outside of yourself, or perhaps looking into the reflection of a mirror. Allow the brightness of the light to fade into the scenery of your sacred space in nature, but know that you shall remain protected and safe.
Now, see the image of your sacred space within your mind begin to fade, bringing you back into the room where you are. Carry with you, into the here and now the awareness of the messages you may have received, and the shield of protection you created for yourself. It will continue to protect you throughout your day. If you begin to feel uncomfortable or out of sorts, you can take yourself through an abbreviated version of this journey to recharge those boundaries.
When you are ready… you may open your eyes and resume your day. Thank you for walking this path with me.
On a normal day devoted to writing, I typically sit down at the keyboard, empty my mind and ask for inspiration to come. Words flow from my fingertips without a conscious direction… my writing is a mystery that is revealed to me as it comes. It reminds me of the metaphor my soul-daughter has used for my current path: She says that I am on a long, dark highway and I can only see what is illuminated by my headlights. The road is safe, and my GPS is leading me to where I need to be, and my car is safe with a full tank of gas. All that is required is to keep driving forward, pay attention to what is being revealed as I go, and know that I will be informed when it is time to stop driving.
On these days that I am focused on writing, I am often reaching into my past for a story to tell, through which some level of insight or self-healing may be revealed. Today is different. Today, I am writing about something from my future, and I’d like to engage your support. I promise that it will not cost you more than a moment of thought, and what I know for sure is that the light produced by your mindful awareness will add to the light of mine, and together… we may just permeate the darkness descending upon a sacred soul. Now, the soul of whom I write is specific, but together – our reach may be more broad. Each of us may be just a drop of quenching rain, but together we can be a monsoon of healing light, a tsunami of love. The holy one of whom I write is the beloved sister of a dear friend. In this year of transformation, she has selflessly offered her gifts to me, as she does to anyone in need, asking for nothing more than the pleasure of my company in return. She, herself, is a warrior of overcoming – and she has reached to me with a request to grab my bow, and lead this Tribe of loved ones through a circle of healing. The invading predator is fierce – ALS invades the body and robs it of its strength to move, and eventually… to breathe. You see… this is why I need you today, and your stunning, radiant inner light. My love is great and enveloping, but OUR love? It is all consuming… a cloak of comfort on a cold dark night. Please take my hand and share your light… I can see it growing brighter as you approach, and it is sweetness to behold – love made manifest. Further, I hope you would not consider it greedy to ask that you share this post with others. Imagine the power of our light when it is passed from one sacred soul to another! We are each torchbearers… passing our light from one to another, until the whole world is aglow with a radiance more powerful than the sun.
For the purposes of our focused connection, I am going to refer to our sacred vessel as Juno. For clarity, if you are reading this after the date of this gathering to which you are contributing… know that time is not linear, and your light will still make a difference. Also understand that if you are in need of healing light, you may pull it from this cosmic gathering, and when you offer your own healing energy, you are never depleted, for this is a divine force that moves through you… you cannot help but receive through the giving.
Great Spirit, Mother / Father God, Universal Force of Creation, Powers that Be, Elements that surround us and flow through us, All That Is: Allow this sacred circle of beautiful beings to become a combined vessel of your love, filling up and spilling forth with an abundance of healing light energy. Allow the light of love to flow freely, without obstacle, and let it drip down the healers’ hands, washing away our sorrows, our fears, our hunger and thirst, our aches and pains, self-doubt and false limitations. As we are made of celestial matter, we contain the healing power of a thousand suns, and the distant light of a billion stars is ever present in the combustive force that warms us from within. Let this divine energy rise up through Earth’s core and crust, through saline ocean, and forest floor, through the soles of our feet, rising up through the roots that are our legs, lighting up our energetic being as it is filled – (red) root, (orange) sacral, (yellow) solar, and into our (green) hearts contained by strong and resilient trunks, and let this molten, healing light flow through arms to hands that are our branches, through (blue) throat, (purple) mind’s eye that sees what is not visible, and (white) crown through which we connect easily with all that is… rising up and out to deliver exactly what is required, be it for the good of all. Amen, So Be It, Blessed Be.
If it is difficult to connect with the soul of someone you do not yet know, think of someone you do know who has made you feel completely loved. Hold that beloved being in your heart and radiate and reflect that love back to her or him. As you feel that radiance shared between the two of you, allow that light to expand to encapsulate others in your circle – family and friends for whom you feel a sense of affection. Now, expand that light even further, beyond those you know well and out to acquaintances, and then to people you don’t know in your community, in your city, in your state. Let your light of loving compassion grow and spread beyond the boundaries of country, continent, planet. Let your love reach and grow into the darkness of space, surrounding the galaxy, and then every galaxy – known and unknown. Know that your light is expansive and boundless. You are one with the universe and all that is.
Now, bring your focus back into your center. Visualize this place that is in a realm that is not limited by what we know in this world. In this place, there is plenty of room for all of us to gather. We are each standing in our own strength, prepared to share it freely with one another. If you once felt alone in this space, feel the arrival of other light beings, as the palms of your hands are filled with the palms of two others. As each of us arrive in this sacred circle, a pale blue light radiates from each being, and as hands are linked, the light begins to pulsate and grow stronger as it flows gently in a clockwise motion, from heart to heart and hand to hand. As the circle is made complete, you look before you and see Juno seated at the center, enveloped in the pale blue light of your loving presence. Let Juno be represented by that being who has made you feel most loved and cherished, and let that love be reflected back to her. She is surrounded by Universal light delivered through sacred souls from all over the planet. You may be holding hands with someone from America, from Canada or Ireland, from India or from Africa… your light is mingling with the light of people from countries whose names have never crossed your lips. We are all one, and there are no barriers here. We are all here for one purpose… to bring divine healing light to the soul of another, in whatever form is needed. When we offer our healing energy, Reiki, Theta, our thoughts and prayers, it must be unattached to outcome, for we cannot know the destined journey of one’s soul. We can only trust that exactly what is needed to bring healing to that sacred soul, in any form, will be delivered by our care.
As the light surrounding Juno grows and pulsates, it is like a magnet that is pulling from her body any residue of past harm, be it betrayal, fear-based thought, denial of success or personal worthiness, food-born or environmental distress or illness. As all remnants of negativity and dis-ease (mentioned and unnamed) are removed from her body, her energetic being, her DNA, and her beautiful soul, all areas of exit are filled and sealed with golden light. The pale blue light, which has grown in strength as each new soul enters the circle, becomes a beautiful emerald green. As Juno has been emptied of what no longer serves her, she has become an open vessel to receive the light that we offer, as well as the sparkly white light of creation that flows from above. We are grateful witness to the arrival of this light, and are awed by the beauty that illuminates Juno’s own beauty as she is filled with this light that is like the golden light from a holiday sparkler, or a downpour of luminous glitter. This light fills every cell of her body with divine healing energy, as it delivers strength and fortitude for the road ahead. Juno is receiving through her open heart, the wisdom of the universe, the strength of earthly ancient mountains, the air to fill her lungs and speak her truth, the fire to move her muscles and accomplish every task she seeks to fulfill, the water to wash her spirit clean of fear, anger, bitterness, and regret. Juno is filled with divine light and soothed by the love that surrounds her. Whatever is required for her peace, comfort, and transformation in the form that her soul has chosen will be provided with grace and ease. She is one with all of us and we are all one with the Universe. Together we transcend the limitations beholden to the confines of the human body, through the power of the mind, which is greater than our understanding. Once again, we place our trust within this truth… that assistance is given to those who reach. Together we reach beyond what we can see, feel, understand, and know that this mystery is received and freely given through the love that resides within each of us.
Finally, in this sacred place where we have gathered, we raise our hands toward Juno, and send golden light energy from heart to palm and into her being, so that she may carry the love of this circle within her through all of her days upon the earth and into the mystery of what comes next. And when you feel that you have given what she needs, place your hands upon your own heart, and receive that same energy that flows through you and each sacred being within this circle. Allow your own body and energetic being to be filled with this Universal Light Energy. Feel the light and love of this vast community surround you and enter your heart. Know that you carry this love within you, and that it seeps through every pore with a radiant light that brings healing to old wounds, and attracts an abundance of goodness to your life.
When you are ready to return to the place where you are sitting, reading these words that have somehow come through my fingertips and onto this page, I hope that you hold onto my gratitude and my love for the light that you have offered, and for the healing it has provided. You are loved and valued beyond your previous imagining. Hold onto that and let it grow in your awareness. Your light will illuminate your path, and beauty surrounds you, every step of the way.
Thank you! I love you! It is done!
PS: If you can please like and share this post, it will multiply the intensity of our combined healing light. As I was lying in bed this morning, thinking about ‘Juno’, I could feel a heaviness and shortness of breath that was overwhelming. I could feel the fear of those who suffer, and the sorrow of those who would give anything to be able to help. I was strengthened by the thought of touching your heart, that you might touch the heart of another, and so on. You can help. We can help. Somehow, in a place beyond our understanding… we shall rise… warriors – all!
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?
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.
I drove home from Tennessee on Saturday. It was a nearly ten hour drive that was fueled by my desire to squish my kitty after two weeks of abandonment… hoping as each mile passed that she would welcome my arrival and not remind me of the betrayal with a cold shoulder attitude. Instead of the career focused reading on palliative care that got me to the mountains two weeks before, I chose to listen to one of my very favorite fiction novels on the journey home. Sue Monk Kidd’s The Secret Life of Bees never lets me down. If you’ve only seen the movie, you’ve missed the most important feature of the story… the divine mother. She comes through in a thousand beautiful ways, if you know what to listen for.
With Lilly, Rosaleen, and the Calendar Sisters’ company, the long drive was made even more picturesque. Driving along highway 26 through the Blue Ridge Mountains is always my favorite part of the journey regardless of direction… coming or going. The saddest part of going is when you are about to enter South Carolina, and you see the last glimpse of those beautiful mountains in the rear view mirror. I don’t know how to explain how this particular mountain range affects me, but it is something akin to coming home to the lap of the most nurturing embrace. I have visited other mountain ranges that may be beautiful, but they’ve got nothing on these ancient and wise, healing mounds of rock and blue-green earth. It is always a bittersweet departure.
I’m sure I had a hundred thoughts on writing during my long day’s travel. I started out at 9am, and at 3:42pm I looked at the GPS to see that I had 342 miles left to drive. I did stop to buy lottery tickets in two of the states through which I traveled… because I have decided that if I didn’t have to worry about an income, I could simply be of service to those I love and those in need, without making a business out of it. That’s one of the questions in the end of life doula study… if you didn’t have to worry about an income, what services would you most like to provide? The truth is, it would look something like what I’ve been doing since I left the corporate world. I would walk through the world of uncertainty with those who are facing new challenges in health or in life, delivering comfort, listening with great care and without judgment, advocating for the patient’s best interest, hand holding, wheelchair pushing, driving, reminding, recording, and above all… holding sacred space throughout transition, transformation, and healing.
My soul-daughter and I had a video conference while I was away, and her epiphany was that I was her end of life doula, as she transitioned from her former life where she grew up, into her new life where she will continue to grow in a city where everything is new to her. For the two months prior to her move, I listened to and affirmed her plan – even when others couldn’t understand a young woman following her inner guidance which might have defied logic at times, I helped her pack up the old apartment, and was with her when she found her new apartment, being witness to the magick that kept showing her that she was on the right path. I made a trip over to see her when she was all settled in, and remain connected to learn about all of the wonderful things she is manifesting in her new life. What a gift she is to me! We are gifts to each other.
As I drove onto my street, somewhere around 7pm, I was excited to stop at my parents’ home, which is seven houses away from my own. I carried in mountain gifts of tomatoes, apples, and pickles (Dad’s one request), and visited briefly before heading home to squish my cat. Here’s the really good news… she wasn’t mad at me. She was at the door as I walked in, and when I pulled her into my arms, the love fest began. I didn’t want to leave her until she felt adequately adored. Eventually, I did feel I should bring in things from the trunk of my car. That’s when it happened… Not when you’d think it would happen, while lifting my 26 inch suitcase up and out… no. The snap in my lumbar occurred as I simply turned and lifted the lid of the trunk. It was that simple. One moment you are feeling fine… and the next… excruciating pain through lower back and hip. Oy! Hence, the radio silence since homecoming. I have found it really difficult to concentrate on anything resembling coherent thought since Sunday morning. I asked the Universe why I needed to be going through this right now, and the answer I received was… empathy. My reply was that I really feel like I’ve got this one down already. After all, empathy is at the top of my list of top 5 strengths from StrengthsFinder. I guess I need to listen harder to find another reason. This is what I decided… I shall move through this pain and suffering, reminding myself that there are many living with chronic pain on a daily basis. I am reaching out to the healers in my community, and remind myself that we are never alone and that there are people in our lives who hold wisdom and possibility in the palms of their hands. With each form of treatment, I find some relief and some agitation as healing moves through bone and muscle, fascia and flesh. Earlier today, pain came while walking and this evening it was walking that brought relief, as I headed over to see my folks – feeling badly about coming home and then disappearing again to nurture my wound. So I know that tomorrow will be twice better than yesterday… reminding myself that suffering is temporary and that this, too, shall pass.
As I walked home tonight, twilight was bathing my surroundings in that magickal light. The waxing moon was reflecting the radiant sun no longer in view. I thought about how I am already missing the fireflies that danced through my friends’ yard… here in Florida we spray for mosquitoes, so firefly sightings are extremely rare. But as I looked around me, I was thrilled to recognize that the magick and beauty of nature that I could see, hear, smell, and feel in the mountains can also be found right here at home. As I looked up at the radiant moon, I saw our beautiful bats in exuberant flight – dashing to and fro in a dance of joyful mosquito consumption, and I could hear the cicadas screaming their deafening chant of summer evening delight (our cicadas sing a different song than the one heard in Tennessee – and I love that sound, which reminds me of summertime in childhood when the streetlights came on and it was time to leave friends and head home). It had rained in the late afternoon, so the earth was moist and I could smell the color green that pours forth through lush trees, plants, and grass, and the air was delightfully cool as a result of that earlier precipitation. As I walked along the familiar path between the home where my parents live and the home where my grandparents once lived, I realized that though healing in my back is not complete, it is in progress – and though I am no longer in the mountains, I am still surrounded by overwhelming grace and beauty… and though I have not yet won the lottery or determined how a future income will present itself, I am not fearful of the future and I know that divine timing will allow all that is needed to fall into place exactly as it should, and for all of this… and I mean all of it… I am eternally grateful.