Homecoming

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.

20180724_204354.jpg

 

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

 

Light Up and Be Happy!

I’m in Tennessee for a couple of weeks visiting friends who have a summer home here.  Tonight, after we took the dogs for their evening stroll, as we returned to the house a firefly landed on my hand.  My friend took the dogs inside so that I could ‘have a moment’ without disturbing my new friend at rest.  It wasn’t even close to twilight, so he wasn’t ready to light up, so as he rested on the back of my hand, I sang to him a little song about the evening to which we both looked forward.  You know… that old favorite from Styx…  “Light up everybody!  Join us in this celebration.  Light up and be happy!  Sweet, sweet sound will fill the air.”  I bet you didn’t know that was a song about fireflies on a summer night, did you?  Ha!

I just love these moments, getting to connect with nature.  It’s not something I often do back home.  From where I sit now, I can hear traffic and neighbors coming and going, but there is also the sound of wind in the trees, crickets chirping, birds singing, and cicadas humming.  I find myself, at times, resenting the obnoxious sound of vehicles passing on the highway nearby, as it feels like such an insult to the orchestra that is playing a temporary tune.  Did I mention that we are also near an airport?  Sigh…  but eventually I am able to refocus on the sounds of nature, and the volume of wind chimes and insect instrumentals rises to the forefront.  Encore!, I say.

As I glance into the yard, I can see the fireflies finally at play.  They lift from grass and tree branch with a spark of light that reminds me of the sparks that pop forth from a blazing fire… rising upward and fading away.  It makes me wonder if they are playing a game of ‘ghost in the graveyard’ together.  “Over here!”  “No, over here!”, they say as their light teases one to follow.  But then they are gone, and another flash of light appears in the periphery, and you turn your head… but…  gone again.  It looks like enormous fun, and yet we are both excluded from the game, and delighted to bear witness.

I alternately enjoy these moments of solitude and wish to be sharing them with others.  So, here I am… inviting you into my solitary moment, so grateful you could join me.  I imagine that car in the distance is yours, winding up the hill and onto our street.  That you walk through the grass and open the gate, then pull out a chair and join me for this exclusive performance of the most beautiful concerto to be heard by human ears.  We reach across the table and hold hands for a moment, breathing deeply of the gratitude for this sacred moment upon the earth… together.  From this view, we can see that everything really will be okay.  I promise.

My Post (4)

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

The Umbrella Principle

There are five things, according to Dr. Ira Byock who wrote Dying Well, that can bring comfort and closure at the end of life.  In each of our relationships, as we near the end of our days, we may pass through the veil without regret if we are able to tell those we love the following:  Forgive Me, I Forgive You, Thank You, I Love You, Goodbye.  My study of end of life doula work has opened a portal for conversations with others about their own experiences with death, and I am grateful for these opportunities.  There is obviously overwhelming heartbreak involved in each story, but there is also a call to mindfulness, and at times… grace.

But what about the relationships that never have such closure, because those who were departing did not exactly plan to leave their bodies behind quite so soon… or because they were too fearful to broach such topics with those they love?  If life is filled with lessons, perhaps unexpected loss is a reminder to each of us that such endeavors need not wait for the clarity of a terminal diagnosis.

Though my parents and I hope to be in each others’ lives for years to come, we have taken time here and there to discuss our thoughts.  With their recent update to their “Last Will and Testament” documents, which came with buying a new house up the street from me, Mom and Dad each completed the “Five Wishes” form, which provides a format to help us consider our end of life wishes.  A few items for consideration are who can speak for your healthcare needs when you are not able to speak for yourself, in what situation would you deny life-saving efforts, who would you like at your bedside as your spirit returns to its original energetic form (that’s my wording, of course), and how you’d like the body you’ve left behind to be cared for at that time.

As my friend and I connected from opposite corners of the country to discuss her experiences, I shared with her the memory of the departure of a mutual friend of ours in the late 90’s.  He was only 32, and though he had a serious diagnosis, a side-door illness swooped in and took him from us with unexpected haste.  I can see his final days, dimly lit, in the back of my mind.  He had refused to discuss his wishes with his partner, and as we set to the task of planning and arranging his memorial service, the grief seemed greater for the fear of getting something wrong.  At the time, my (then) partner and I were only 28, but within weeks of our friend’s celebration of life, we celebrated our own with official documents that stated our wishes should one of us be lost to the other without warning.  As for the stories my friend shared with me, she suffered a few tragic losses in her youth, but one that was expected was that of her grandmother.  Now, her grandmother had been incredibly mindful of her wishes, and was mostly clear… mostly.  She had planned and even executed her entire funerary arrangement… right down to purchasing the flowers for her casket and securing transport of her body from hospital to funeral home.  Her loved ones would not need to do anything but grieve at her loss.  However, her advance directive left for her doctors to follow was not so clear, and there was some confusion.  In other words, if you are ready to go, but you’ve not declined life-sustaining treatment with your healthcare providers (and your health surrogate), they are honor bound to provide them.

I know that the end of life is a difficult subject for most of us to consider, but I wonder if it might be easier to think about it a little differently.  You know how it seems to rain when you don’t have an umbrella, and how when you are mindful enough to carry one, no matter how dark it gets the rain never comes?  Well, that’s how I see this form of preparation.  Not that having these discussions with loved ones and securing official documentation of your preferences will keep the inevitable at bay… after all, it is the one guarantee in life that is presented on the day we are born.  But I submit for your consideration that if you have done the work of mindfully caring and sharing your authentic wishes for a peaceful transition from this world to the mystery of what comes next, you will gift yourself and those you love great freedom to live each day fully present.  I updated my own documents before my last trip abroad, in case I were to fall off of a cliff in Ireland, and I recently wrote a ritual of departure for such an occasion though I’m not sure of when I will next enjoy such adventure.  It was a surprisingly cathartic exercise.

All of that said, I would like to take a moment to tell you that if I have ever wronged you or caused you harm in any way, I am deeply sorry and I hope that you will forgive me.  If you ever wronged me or caused me harm in any way, I have come to understand from my own deep regret that such actions likely came through suffering of some kind, and I forgive you.  For your presence in my life and for even the tiniest expressions of kindness and care, I offer you my gratitude.  For the love that you have offered so freely, not only to me but to your family, your friends, your community, our planet and all of Her beloved creatures… I love you more.  There’s one more thing… but I’m not quite ready to say goodbye (I hope).  For now, I’ll bid thee hail and farewell until we meet again.

If you are interested in learning more about determining your own advance directive, you can check out this link:
http://www.caringinfo.org/i4a/pages/index.cfm?pageid=3277 , you can also google Five Wishes.

My Post (2)

 

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)

Release and Receive

Next week I will go back into the studio to record more of the meditations I’ve written over the years.  As I was reviewing and selecting which ones I would share, I recognized a common theme… releasing, banishing, or letting go of what no longer serves us.  If each of these meditations relates to a Celtic holy day, that means that at least eight times a year I am asking my listeners to just let it go already!  Of course, if my listeners are anything like me, they may just need the reminder.

On the way to finding self-love, if one has spent a lifetime reciting a list of accusations and false claims about one’s appearance and worthiness of deserving good things, one might take a while to break such habits, especially if one is nearly a half century along in said habit.  As for me, I have been vigilant about reprogramming negative self-talk, and yet every once in a while, I find myself berating my body for not being the size or shape of what American structure dictates to be acceptable.  And every time I catch myself falling back into this despicable behavior… despicable because if I were ever witness to someone saying these things to someone I loved, I would stand with the power and passion of mother bear to demand they consume their own words, and dare them not to choke on them… I must go back to the beginning and do it over in a way that is loving and kind.  Constant vigilance.

Though the Celtic New Year is at Samhain, which is October 31, I consider the cycle to begin at Imbolc, which is February 1.  Since the Celtic culture revolved around farming communities, the symbolism is based upon our relationship with the land.  Imbolc is when seeds are planted, and for me it seems like a logical place to start… first, we decide what we wish to bring to harvest in the coming year, and then we plant that intention.  If we were actually to plant something in the ground, as I witnessed my friend who doesn’t have a brown thumb do for my parents this evening, we would first have to prepare the soil by removing any obstacles that may be in the way.  We pull weeds and till the soil… as we must in life… remove those limiting beliefs and open our hearts to receive what can only come our way in this state.  If our palms are tightly clenched, there is no way to receive the treasure being offered.  Being open is key to receiving.  For this reason, I find myself in a perpetual state of letting go.

With the Celtic Wheel of the Year being conveniently spaced out in eight week increments, it seems like a perfect opportunity to remind ourselves to take stock.  If we planted symbolic seeds to start a new career, we can reflect on our progress and decide if we’ve been procrastinating or slacking on our commitments.  If our intentions were to build community or create a tribe, but we haven’t left the house since Imbolc… well, we need to make some plans and get out into the world at the Spring Equinox.  The thing about planting seeds is that they need to be watered, and if weeds have begun to choke our precious sprouts, they must be liberated from such obstacles.  Our minds work much the same way.  How can we attain the joy and happiness we desire if we are allowing negative thoughts to own real estate in our minds?  Bitterness and regret are the weeds that crowd our sacred garden, and if we allow them to flourish, our harvest will be bankrupt.  Do you want to harvest sun flowers or poke weed?  If you never do the work of clearing your field, you won’t have the freedom to plant your desires.

So, here we are at the Summer Solstice and in just eight weeks we will greet the first harvest, known as Lughnasadh on August 1.  I think about the seeds I have planted and I wonder if I have been caring enough to ensure their safety.  Have I sufficiently cleared out of my life the negative influences that would stunt their growth?  As a new obstacle was discovered in my field of plenty, was I able to lift the burden from tender roots to reintroduce their sweet limbs to the radiant source of light?  I hope so!  And I wish the same for you, dear one.

May the glorious healing sun bring blessings of abundance into every area of your life.    May any perceived limitations or obstacles be easily released and removed from your sacred field of fruition.  May the coming harvest season bring all of your hopes and dreams into magnificent manifestation.  Know that your presence on my journey is among my most valued and precious yield.  HAPPY SOLSTICE!

SUNFLOWER

Thanks Universe!

There is this really cool thing that seems to happen with some level of consistency.  The Universe delivers exactly what I need or who I need at just the right moment, to ensure that I do not have to suffer a crisis of faith.  Doesn’t this happen to you?  Don’t you love it when it does?

For many years, for more than a couple of decades in fact, I was in a position of clarity.  I knew with a sense of certainty that I was in the right place doing the right thing.  I loved my work and I felt an overwhelming sense of being loved at work.  It sounds strange, I know, but if you believe that what goes around comes around, well… that was my truth.  I loved what I did for a living and I adored and respected the people with whom I served.  Over time, things changed and the joy and the love were not as clear… and the Universe delivered a message which I could no longer ignore.  It said to me, “Melissa, now that you’ve got this whole self-love thing in the bag… you don’t need to keep a job that no longer serves your spirit for the purpose of validating your self-worth.  It is time to seek and fulfill your life’s purpose.”  And then the Universe, which can sometimes be an asshole, left me hanging with no immediate clue as to what the purpose might be.  But I’ve learned a thing or two over the years about being patient, paying attention, and that purpose was slowly revealed to me… one miraculous clue at a time.

What I can tell you about this discovery is that even when it seems obvious that the correct path has been revealed, one can still have moments when clarity is lost and the struggle of insecurity and self-doubt creeps back in.  Self-doubt is an old nemesis from my days of self-loathing, and though it has been cast out it continues to lurk on the outskirts of my existence, threatening to return with all of its darkness to try once again to snuff out my light.  But alas, the Universe, not always an asshole, tends to step in just in the nick of time to deliver a booster shot of confidence to bolster the new paradigm that supersedes that former false belief of limited potential.

Today I received a text message from a dear friend I’ve not seen in several months.  “Hello.  You up for a couple visitors tonight?”  And so it was that our months of unintentional separation were ended, and the three of us were reunited with a warm embrace.  I hadn’t realized how much of my personal evolution was missing from my friends’ awareness.  I’m pretty much an open book in the world of facebook, so even my mother’s friends know what I’ve been up to, but I guess I can’t expect everyone to be checking in on my shared revelations through the world of social media.  Reflecting on more than 20 years of friendship, with most of that time seeing me in the same job with not much to report, I have probably been more of an inquirer and a listener for most of our acquaintance.  I love to know how friends have been faring and receive updates on the growth and progress of their children, and if they still love or hate their jobs, or how they are overcoming obstacles.  If I ever perceived myself having obstacles, it wasn’t very likely that I would want to ‘burden’ others with the details, and more than likely, I was in denial about having any obstacles in the first place.  Our friendship dove to new depths several years ago when he went through divorce.  Oddly, we both experienced a sense of betrayal and our friendship grew stronger through sharing the darkness through which we each struggled, and celebrating our individual journeys back into the light.  This experience, I believe, created a sense of kinship which invites deep connection, even when our time together is sparse.

When he and his girlfriend arrived, I was delighted to see them both, and we began discussing a topic about which I had inquired through text message about a week ago.  He is a branding genius, and I have found myself in the uncomfortable position of self promotion.  If you were to scroll down to my very first blog post, you would understand that I wrote a book earlier this year, and that a publisher had replied with intrigue, but required that I create a following and inquire again.  I’ve only been doing this writing thing since November, so the fact that I sat down and wrote a book from start to finish, with a complete table of contents that wrote itself and then allowed the systematic completion of each chapter within two months was pretty astonishing on its own… but now you want me to write a blog… and create a following?  Craziness!   And now, I’ve become a recording artist, having professionally produced my first guided meditation and published it through cdbaby, which released last week… and now that needs to be advertised through social media, too?  Until a few weeks ago, I had nothing more than a single page on facebook.  Now I have a whole host of sites that require titles, user ids and passwords… but now what do I do with them?!  Sigh…

So, that was how our conversation began.  What I found as I was explaining my needs and concerns was that somewhere in the fray of daily overwhelm, which comes with scrapping your entire former identity and seeking, developing, and solidifying a new one, I felt kind of unsure of where I was going.  The gift from the Universe arrived as our conversation continued.  He wanted to know what else I had been doing, you know… besides the blog… and I told him about the book I wrote about my journey from self-loathing to self-loving, and I told him about the meditation released last week, and how I had designed a series of meditations to correspond with the chakras, and oh, yeah… I’ve started writing another book based on my studies to become an end of life doula, and how it is a sister to the previous book.  Now, the recordings interested him, because he is also a musician – a collaboration, perhaps, and because he has ‘maximizer’ in his top five strengths, he was able to rattle off a list of ideas, each met with my already written plans for such endeavors.  Each time another piece of my story was ready to unfold, I would pull out something I had written which could explain where I’ve been and how I’ve gotten this far with great detail and eloquence.

All of these pieces coming together were affirming.  Perhaps I haven’t been wasting my time, after all.  Maybe I am on a path toward future success and happiness.  But it was in the conversation about end of life studies that we deeply connected, tonight.  His thoughts mirrored my own, about the way that the end of life is a natural part of living, and it seems a shame that it is feared rather than revered.  It was funny how he would make a statement about his wishes, and how mine were similar and already written down within the early pages of this new book.  All three of us want to be cremated rather than buried, and no open caskets.  He and I both, if we are given a deadline, wish to have a living wake before we go… because neither of us would want to miss a great party.  I talked about what I had learned from my studies about finding peace before departure.  The five things required for relationship completion, as listed in the book Dying Well by Ira Byock, M.D. are this:  I forgive you.  Forgive me.  Thank you.  I love you.  Good bye.

For my departure, if there is time to plan, I would want a gathering place with comfy seating and dim lighting, with the magick jukebox set for random play, to ensure a lovely mix of Fleetwood Mac, Loreena McKennitt, and KIVA (just to name a few of my favorites).  He and I would both want to have enough time to connect with each person in our lives… and I affirmed his request with a plan for each discussion.  Aside from the ‘five things’, we would each tell each other what we recall about our first meeting and about a moment in our shared history when we made a difference in each others’ lives.  It was not difficult for me to pull up these moments, and since we never really know how many days we have remaining, I leaned over and took his hand and told him, “When I first met you, your hair was down to your shoulders, and I thought you were absolutely amazing.”  And, “One of the times you made a real difference in my life was on that one terrible, horrible no good day, when the rug was yanked from beneath me, and I felt as if my world was tumbling down.”  As I cried on the phone to my Mom, her response was to have me hang up so she could call my Tribe.  The call she made was to his wife (at the time), and though she was tied up with a work commitment, she reported that HE was on his way, and would be there soon.  And he was… he arrived within the hour bearing cone cake from the local Chinese bakery.  I can’t recall exactly what he said to me, as we consumed our sponge cake made with rice flour, but whatever it was… it was exactly what I needed to hear.  Of everyone who had offered support that day, it was his presence and his words that brought me peace.  I could name a hundred other moments when his friendship and devotion really wowed me, but I think I’ll save that for couch time when one of us is preparing for departure, forty years from now.

I shared with my friends the alternative plan for my departure, which will be executed should I not have time to plan, and read to them the words that I plan to record to be played at my parting ritual.  And as they prepared to head home, we hugged a little bit tighter, a little bit longer, and once more for good measure.  And as I’m sitting here, committing this memory to the ether, I am taken aback by the realization that should I die tomorrow, I will have made manifest one of my dying wishes… to be able to share with someone who made a difference in my life the glorious reflection of his divine being.  If he didn’t recall that awful day on which he brought me such comfort, I hope that he will remember THIS day, and what a blessing we are to each other.  His enthusiasm for my writing and my work elevated my confidence level, and enabled me to sit down and share words that may inspire, or at least help someone fall asleep.

I’d love to hear about your end of life wishes, if you’d like to share.  And in case you’d like to travel with me through meditation, you can acquire a copy of “Release the Warrior Within” at cdbaby or iTunes (see links below).  I’ll figure out this self-promotion thing, eventually.  Love, love, love…

https://store.cdbaby.com/Artist/MelissaBaker1
https://itunes.apple.com/us/artist/1399828129

(a manifestation candle made with my friends’ wishes for my 49th year)

friendshipcandle

Learning to Listen

Trust has been a life-lesson for me.  It even says so in Dan Millman’s numerology book The Life You Were Born To Live, A Guide To Finding Your Life Purpose.  For those of us whose birth date adds up to seven (7), he writes of our purpose being ‘Trust and Openness’.  The chapter opens with these words:  “Individuals working 7 as their life purpose are here to trust the light or spirit within them, in others, and in the process of their lives so that they feel safe enough to open up and share their inner beauty with the world.”  He writes (and I summarize) of the challenges we ‘sevens’ face in our personal evolution, as an early tendency to collect opinions from friends and family and to fill our libraries with books, as seeking guidance from the wisdom of others helps us to measure our own instinct against outside advice.  He writes that our primary fears are of being misunderstood and betrayed, and how our subconscious ultimately attracts those experiences.  He even uses Charlie Brown’s trust of Lucy to be true to her word ‘this time’ as an example… which explains why I cannot stand to sit through any holiday productions of the cartoon I thought I loved as a child.  In recent years I realized that I am no longer willing to be witness to Chuck’s choice to surround himself with so many people who simply did not deserve to sit within his light.

In truth, I have been betrayed… probably more than my fair share.  As a child, there was a neighborhood acquaintance, a friend of a friend, who stole the baby from my ‘Sunshine Family’ doll set, and I can recall being alone at the Saturday movies, and trusting two girls I didn’t even know to save my seat, leaving my bag of candy behind – returning to the story that some older kids came by and stole it.  In high school, a boy I had known practically since we were born and considered a close friend, orchestrated an all out attack on my home – toilet papering the yard, cookie-ing my parent’s windshields, and taping lesbian pornography on my bedroom window with slurs against me and my mother.  I was away that weekend, and my mother cleaned it all up without telling even my father.  She stayed quiet until the rumor had gotten to me, and I shared it with her – amazed at the silliness of it all… then, when I was on hold with that boy, she told me to just hang up… that the rumor was true.  At age 20, the boy I lived with who had won my heart chose to crush it when he came home from a college event with hickies on his neck.  I tried to find trust, but a few months later I moved him out – and frankly, never trusted men after that. Looking back, I realize it was in that same time frame that a childhood friend had stolen credit cards from my wallet, revealed when my mother called me to address the unauthorized use of her account, which I carried for emergencies.  The card was still in my purse, which revealed that someone had removed it and replaced it, after use… handwriting analysis of the receipts made identity simple to secure.

Analysis of these childhood wounds did offer me great wisdom, when I had gained the maturity to seek peace through forgiveness.  I realized that in each of these indiscretions, the offender was acting out of inauthenticity… they were pretending to be something they were not – a curse of the young or fearful.  It is much easier to release past hurts when we realize that the damage inflicted was never really about us – the recipient of harm, but about the one who acted out.  With this understanding, we may not be completely shielded from acts of betrayal, but we can definitely accept the circumstances, remove ourselves from the situation, and move forward with our lives, rather than dwelling in the pit of despair over what we must have done to deserve being lied to, stolen from, cheated on, etc.  Forgiveness does provide some level of inner peace.  In certain situations, the betrayal may feel too great to offer forgiveness, and if so, consider forgiving that it happened to you, until you can develop the possibility of compassion for someone who would act out in ways that seem to have such disregard for the respect and care of your soul.

I can see now how these life experiences kept me from trusting my own inner voice.  During one period of Mercury Retrograde a few years ago, I can remember coming to a huge aha moment.  I was talking to a friend about how I would never find true love, because I didn’t trust men… and suddenly it hit me like a bolt of lightning.  I realized that the truth of the matter was that more difficult than finding a man I could trust, was my ability to trust myself to choose well.  Talk about closing the subconscious doors of opportunity.  And so, I set forth on a path to rebuild that trust… in myself.

These days my practice includes paying attention to signs and synchronicities, so that if I cannot clearly hear my own intuitive voice, I can at least follow the direction in which the Universe might guide me.  An example would be the way that I found myself feeling this time last year, much the way I had felt 16 years before.  In my beloved workplace, I found myself feeling fearful, paranoid, depressed and distressed with the arrival of a new boss.  It was clear that she didn’t like me from the get-go, as I struggled to try to make her happy.  After multiple years with outstanding performance, I was suddenly declared completely unprofessional and inept. This sensation nearly left me fetal and unhinged, until…  my intuitive life coach asked me to reflect on when I might have felt this way before.  She indicated that for those of us who are empathic, we often receive information from our inner guidance through the way our bodies feel.  When I stopped to reflect on that sensation as something familiar, I realized that I had felt this way before.  In fact, it was the feeling that brought me to this place.  A very similar experience had unhinged me from my loyal seat in the company I was dedicated to for ten years.  Same scenario… new boss, lack of resonance despite beloved reputation throughout organization, deep dive of fear, self-loathing, depression and a sense of being hit by a bus, because the platform of love was suddenly gone and there was no one around to save me.  Fast forward sixteen years, and though I find myself reliving a nightmare of the past, I am suddenly thrust a life preserver… but not from someone else who had come to my rescue… it was my higher self!  She was right there, reaching her hand to me saying, “Okay… calm down and breathe.  Remember when this happened the last time?  Remember how you were frightened of what would happen to you?  Remember how you spent weeks drowning in self-doubt and fear of the unknown future?  Now, remember how it all turned out.  Remember that that moment of discomfort prepared you for something extraordinary.  Remember that you would never have left that place of mediocrity to find this place of wonder.  Remember how you were blessed to serve those who really needed you, and how greatly you were rewarded for providing your special brand of care.  Now, remember who you are.  Offer gratitude to those who would set you free from your own self-limiting beliefs, even if their methods were careless and unfortunate.  Forgive yourself for waiting so long to see the truth of your light.  Know that you are completely safe and protected.  Now, step out into the brightness of your being, and take all of the time you need to decide how you will choose to shine into the future.  Brilliance cannot be rushed, it must be cultivated.  Write it all down and then write some more.  Keep writing and speaking your truth until your truth becomes your path.  Then… when you are ready… you can stop following and start leading.”

As I near the one year anniversary of my liberation from that workplace, I find myself at the edge of a new path.  I still don’t know exactly where this path is headed, but I know one thing for sure… I trust myself to lead the way.

newpath

WTF Menopause?

Since the day I got my period, when I was twelve years old and in the sixth grade, I have been counting the days until menopause would grace me with its presence.  I’ve waited 37 years for this, and now… you are failing me.  I have always held the strong belief that fertility should be a choice, something that if you really wanted the burden of childbearing, you would have to take a pill or flip a switch to endure.  I know this is not a popular belief, as there are actually some women who have gladly exchanged this inconvenience for the blessing of children, and others who would choose to bleed every day if only they COULD be so blessed.  But seriously, why should someone who never wanted children be forced to face month after month of discomfort, inconvenience, mess, and expense?  Nearly four decades later, and I am still rather miffed about this evolutionary slap in the face.

You’d think I would feel differently, having discovered the goddess path in my early twenties, but alas… no.  I would hear women talk about their ‘moon cycle’ or their ‘red tent’ moments, and try my best to adopt a positive view of what always felt like more of a curse.  “The curse has come upon me!, she cried… The Lady of Shalott” (makes me wonder what Tennyson knew about either bleeding or having children forced through a tiny hole in his gut)… now I think I’ll go lie down in the boat and wait to bleed out.  Sheesh!  I did find it funny to realize that in a certain faith, men and women were expected to give up something each year as a symbol of reverence and commitment to honor the sacrificial king, when women were literally giving up their life’s blood at the drop of a hat, or rather the drop of an egg.  Clearly, men should get to do a forced blood letting on a monthly basis in order to keep up with the species that is always giving more than their share.

Perhaps I would feel differently if the religious right felt the seed of man was as ‘holy’ as my own, and regulate and limit ‘his’ right to choose how he would spill his semen upon the earth.  But no… pregnancy by rape or by love, though unwanted is demanded to be carried as a stain upon a woman’s soul, while no burden or shame shall ever be placed upon the penis that put it there.  If you think I feel bitter and outraged, you are right!  I have been free from this bloody curse for an entire year… until the fall of midnight on the morning of June 11.  F you, menopause!  Now, the glorious countdown to freedom has to start all over again… and I hate math!

I guess I should be relieved that the gut wrenching pain I suffered several days back was not actually my body being empathetic to two friends having abdominal surgery that day, and that my nipples haven’t been aching because I’ve developed some kind of bilateral, fast moving breast cancer.  Shew… it’s not cancer, it’s just the f*ing curse of fertility, back to torment me… like Buffy being ripped out of heaven and brought back into the demon dimension of hell on earth.    Too soon?

Perhaps I would feel less bitter if I’d not lived most of my life feeling a sense of body betrayal and self-loathing.  With a diagnosis of poly cystic ovarian syndrome in my early twenties which blessed me with rapid weight gain and insulin resistance, I put on a hundred pounds in four years without ever consuming enough calories to put weight on the most sloth-like being.  Despite a hundred different programs, pills, and even surgery… my body never lets go of her claim on the fat cells she harvested through these lumpy ovaries.

Sigh… but alas… I have spent the last several years cultivating self-love.  I have worked hard to reprogram the negative voice that once lived inside my head, constantly reminding me that I am not good enough, that I am not thin enough, that I am not pretty enough, that I am not smart enough, that I am not working hard enough, that I am not sacrificing enough, that I am not worthy of being loved, that no man will love a fat woman, that I don’t deserve the happiness of others whose bodies never betrayed them, that never ending barrage of hateful, unkind, unloving language that would never roll off my tongue to harm another living soul… only mine.  That old voice has been silenced, finally.

So here’s how I shall interpret the swelling of my belly and the shedding of dark flesh from inside my womb.  I am transforming!  I am becoming something new.  I am leaving behind that which no longer serves me, and it is being scraped out from the inside… flushing away from this sacred vessel, cleansed by water and transmuted by Mother Earth, into something healed and refreshed.  In April, the shedding occurred on the outside, through an angry dermatitis, and now… the work is just being wrapped up, on my behalf.  Here you go, dear… let’s just be done with this bit of outdated flesh.  It can’t hurt you, if you just send it love!

Okay, then.  I’m marking my calendar, and unlike in my youth, when I prayed that my period would come… I’ll say a little prayer that the lining of my uterus and I will never have to meet again.  I shall commit it to holding.  Not holding the loathing and distaste of old, but of something much healthier.  Let her hold onto the light of my love, and the healing red of root and orange of sacral chakra energy, and from there… let her energy bring birth to creativity, with words that flow freely rather than blood, and new projects that bring enlightenment, empowerment, and prosperity for self and community.  I will take this life blood and pour it onto the earth as my prayer, as I did at the full moon in May of 2000 in dedication to Artemis, with a promise to “open up and let a piece of myself fall away”.  Okay, great lady.  I hear you.  I am allowing this last remaining bit of false belief and bitterness to fall away from my body, never to be entertained again.  I promise.

Beloved vessel of loving expression, I commit to you that all of my words shall come to you with love.  Body of the universe, I vow to hold sacred every curve and every curl.  Sacred being, I promise to love you, cherish you, hold you close, to always be honest and express my truth, and will never ask you to endure suffering from self or others, for you have done your time, and I am choosing to set you free.  With this freedom, I find a release of tension in my belly, and I am finally able to breathe, and perhaps to sleep.  The rage has passed, and we have earned a dark chocolate reward.  May peace be with me, and also with you.  Amen and Blessed be.

(The Lady of Shalott by John William Waterhouse – my favorite non-living artist)

waterhouseshalott

My Favorite Tomboy

She was four and I was five, the little tomboy who lived around the block.  We met in kindergarten – the afternoon class with Miss Carlyle.  Things I remember about that particular new beginning are:  being walked to school by my Mom and our basset hound, Biggy…  crying from fear, as my mother prepared to abandon me to this place filled with strangers in a hallway that smelled of mimeographed pages.  It may have been less frightening to me, had I realized that in this tiny classroom I would find a true and lifelong friend.

Forty-four years have passed, but there are pieces of our shared history that could never fall through the holes of my memory.  Riding my yellow bike with the banana seat and training wheels around the block, where I discovered the little tomboy outside in her front yard.  Graduating to an adult bike, with a bar that taught me to toss both legs over the side for a running dismount, rather than risking losing my breath to the smarts of feet not reaching the ground and the bar crashing into a place you wouldn’t have guessed was attached to your lungs.  Sun drenched days, playing and riding our bikes, jumping over the mound of dirt that never did get moved into the backyard to build a garden.  And then there were the days spent on the floor of the bedroom she shared with her sister… a four-poster bed, a small record player with a stack of 45’s, playing barbies or ‘pancake kids’ as I called the Flatsies she had, and singing songs that children probably shouldn’t sing, but it doesn’t matter because to us, ‘afternoon delight’ was exactly what we were doing… spending the afternoon playing with the little girl who will surely be by your side until the very end.

After all of these years, I know this to be true… that we will be one of a significant few required to be present at the end of our days, may that end be eons from now.  There is a moment in time that we share that was marked by trauma, and that we survived it adds depth to our soul-connection today.  This story is significant in my journey of overcoming and becoming… from self-loathing to self-love.  I was reminded of it in 2005, when I happened to sit next to a Medium from California at a Broadway Play I was attending with friends.  I wrote about it in my not-yet-published book, the name of which I will someday reveal here, about the way that the Archetypal Feminine plays a role in my life.

Over the years, Artemis has continued to make her presence known to me.  She came through loud and clear in 2005, and that was possibly the biggest shift forward in my labyrinth of transformation.  I had gone to New York with friends, specifically to see Tim Curry on Broadway in Spamalot, but we decided to add another show to the itinerary to make the weekend trip worthwhile.  The show we selected was 700 Sundays with Billy Crystal.  It was there that magick happened, again.

There were three people in my party, an empty seat, and then a party of four in our row.  As we waited for Billy Crystal to grace the stage with his brilliant energy, a woman slid into our row and sat down next to me.  It was obvious she was on her own, so I struck up conversation.  She said that she had come to NYC from California specifically to see this show, that her family thought she was crazy for doing so, and that she was going to do some work while she was here.  Then, the show started, and Billy wowed us with his incredible gift of storytelling.  He talked about the remarkable life he lived in his youth, with his father and his uncle, who owned a record label.  His father was busy with work, but they had his undivided attention every Sunday.  They lost him too soon, and so Billy assessed that he had him in his life for about 700 Sundays.  The stories were incredible, and he was engaging.  Then, at the intermission, I continued talking with the woman to my right.  I asked her what it was that she does that allowed her to work on either coast.  She said that she was a medium, and started to explain to me what that was.  I stopped her and told her that I had been doing psychic development with my Tribe, but that I just couldn’t seem to receive.  She said:  “That’s because of what happened when you were nine.”  She continued, “Your Dad was yelling at you, and that’s when you shut down.”  She asked if my Dad yelled a lot, and I replied that he had a big voice, but that I never really felt he yelled AT me.  I asked the west coast medium (wish I could remember her name) what I could do about it, and she said: “All you have to do is fall in love with yourself, AND IT WILL ALL FALL AWAY.”  I stared at her and assured her I had received that message before, but that I was never sure of how to interpret the guidance.  So, here’s where the big aha moment for me appeared; my very next thought was… how can I fall in love with someone I loathe?  So, before I even left New York, I had written a list of common phrases that my inner bully beat me with, and when I got home, I called my therapist and engaged her in the endeavor of continuing the work that Artemis was patiently waiting for me to complete.

When I met with my therapist, I arrived with my list, and I talked pretty solidly about the message I had received, about the inner dialog that had plagued me for so long, about where it came from and how the only one responsible for perpetuating it was me.  We worked together for a few sessions, but I pretty much set my own plan for recovery, while she validated my journey.  I determined that anytime a voice inside my head said something negative, I would replace it by saying something positive aloud.  Most importantly, I declared that I would never say anything to myself that I would never say to someone I love.  And so, that’s how my path out of self-loathing continued… one step at a time, with constant vigilance and occasional course recovery.

When I got home from that fateful trip to NYC and recounted that conversation with the medium to my life-long friend, whom I’ve known since kindergarten, with eyes wide, she said, “I bet it was MY Dad who yelled at you!”, which totally resonated with me.  I recognized that there was a moment in our shared history that quite possibly had damaged something in my psyche.  Her dad, unlike mine, was rather intimidating, and we were both rather afraid of him.  I have a ridiculous sense of recall on this particular day, though I cannot tell you what I did yesterday without checking my calendar.  My friend and I are not sure of our age, because we felt younger than nine, but it probably fits. 

I can’t tell you if it was summertime or a weekend, but it was a warm sunny day in my childhood, when my Mom said she would take me to get lunch at Arby’s.  I asked her if my friend could come with us, and she said yes.  I told her I would run over to her house, and that we would be right back, if she could come.  She lived around the block from us, and I can’t say why I didn’t just call her on the phone.  For whatever reason, I walked, and quite possibly skipped around the block, past the ditch that ran between our streets, and up to her house.  When I got there, she wanted to go with us, but wanted me to ask her dad.  So, I held my breath and walked out to the Florida room where he sat in his recliner, and I asked him if his youngest daughter could come with my mom and me to Arby’s for lunch.  He looked at me, and asked, “Is it okay with your mother?”  I answered him, and we took to the task of getting her ready to go.  When I realized it was taking longer to get back home, I called my mom, and asked if she would mind picking us up.  When I hung up the phone, my friend’s dad was standing in the doorway of the Florida room, glaring at me.  He said, “I thought you said it was okay with your mother.  You lied to me!”  I stood there dumbfounded and in shock.  Did I lie to him?  Is it possible that I could have told a lie to a grown up?  What just happened?  My brain went fuzzy.  As my mom was pulling up outside, my friend’s father removed his approval for her to join me for lunch, and he forbid us to play together ever again.  I don’t recall what happened after that.  I really do believe I was in shock.  I don’t know why I didn’t engage my parents to argue for me, or stand up for my nature which was never to lie to a grown up… or for that matter, why I couldn’t stand up to my friend’s dad in the first place and simply speak the truth… that I hadn’t lied, and that what had changed was that we would not walk back around the block, but ask my mother to pick us up instead.  What I did realize, looking back at that moment in time, was this:  This event was very likely when self-doubt began.  To this day, I refer to my mind as having swiss cheese memory because it seems that I can have a memory, for example, that I had a conversation with someone about a certain topic, but I can’t recall any of the details about it, as if they had fallen through the holes.  I’ve always said that I am an amazing secret keeper.  Your secret is safe with me, because if I remember that we spoke, I definitely won’t recall many details.  This obviously does not bode well for the future, as I age.  

But seriously, it’s a shame that grown-ups are oblivious to the damage their words and actions are committing against the children in their lives.  Wounds may scar over, but the healing could take a lifetime.  As you know, my life-long friend and I did get to be friends again, but it was after about a year of being forbidden to play together.  She is an introvert, and didn’t have many playmates, and so her mother finally demanded an end to our exile.  My next memory of her dad was much different… he was dying.  He seemed much less intimidating by then, and he smiled when he saw me.  I didn’t get an apology, but we resumed our friendship, and he died in our 6th grade year.  I would get my apology many years after he was gone, either in a dream or a meditation.  To this day, my friend and I reflect on these moments that shaped us, and together, we stand committed to the overcoming of our perceived obstacles.  Like I said, it requires constant vigilance.

In the years that followed his departure, we were at times distant and close.  Through high school we had different classes and consequently, different friends.  In fact, after kindergarten, despite having attended the same schools through thirteen years of education, we never had another class together.  Weird, right?  But we eventually found our way back to the lap of our connection.  Even if a month should pass without seeing one another when life gets in the way, we are eternally bound by this childhood, shared.  She IS the sister I never had.  She jokes that I am an old soul, and that she, as a young soul, is just following my lead.  But the truth is, she is wiser than she lets on.  She has a gift of mindful reflection that enables her to see both sides of a story, and though she is passionate about her views, she is able to use her words to express herself without lashing out against the views of another.  I may have the gift of words, but this is not one of my strengths.  I tend to remain silent on the topics by which I am most affected, for my level of rage does not permit me such grace.  She claims that empathy is not her strength, as it is overwhelmingly one of mine, and yet her beautiful heart nearly bleeds for the suffering of any animal, be it field mouse or elephant.  Her beautiful heart dispels any false rumor she may be spreading about the age of her soul.

I shudder to think what might have happened if her Dad had been any different.  Without trauma that binds us, she might have been like any other neighborhood kid, fearless of the future and led far away from this place where geography keeps us close.  Our shared wounding in youth left me filled with self-doubt, and I believe her wound is similar.  Her father insisted that if she couldn’t do something right, she shouldn’t do it at all.  Therefore, her living room sat empty for the first ten years of her marriage, because she could not risk choosing the wrong furniture.  This is the core of many of our deep-dive discussions of overcoming.  Mine has been a long journey of seeking.  Through life-altering experiences that were fearful to start, but ultimately joyful at outcome, I have learned to have faith that the Universe is leading me along a path of discovery that will surely be for my highest good.  She has vowed to follow my lead, and year-by-year I am witness to her growing courage.  Next year we both turn 50.  I have no doubt that she is on the verge of her own fearless becoming.  After all, she WOWs me every day.  One day soon, she is going to WOW herself… and I’ll be right here holding the torch and cheering her on.  Oh, how I love and adore that little tomboy of my heart, now as girly as they get.  She is stunningly magnificent, and I am blessed to be in her tiny circle.

(as I imagine our future / Garden Afternoon by Marcelle Milo Gray)

uswithtea

 

Holding Space

Since leaving the corporate world in October, the Universe has presented multiple opportunities for me to be of service to my beloved community.  On one hand, I wish that no one in my sacred circle had cause for suffering or need for support through the struggle of poor health or hardship, but on the other hand… I am so very grateful that this moment of freedom has allowed me the ability to be completely present.

The last several years in the working world were filled with traumatic change and overwhelming grief.  Survival was no easy task for an empath.  I recall having a friend in need for whom I could not be wholly present, because at the end of the day… I had nothing left to give.  I feel as if the Universe is giving me the opportunity to rebuild the karma of those lost opportunities through this sabbatical.

In the book I am writing, I begin with an explanation of what brought me to the path of studying to become an end of life doula.  That story begins with what leaving a toxic workplace gifted me… it gave me the world!  And best of all, it presented me with a sense of purpose.  I never really knew what I was meant to do with my life, the way that some people seem to graduate high school with a final destination in mind for college and career.  My mom chose my electives in school, which included typing and word processing, so that I would have ‘something to fall back on’, and so… I fell into secretarial work, when I decided the hospitality industry (you know, because I’m a people person) wouldn’t offer me a 9 to 5 job with weekends off.

But I was lucky in that regard, you know… in settling.  A friend shared my typing speed with the manager of the processing department where she worked, and they asked me to come in, and I was immediately hired.  Within a year or so, a secretarial position opened and I was promoted.  It was in that role that I was blessed to support someone who could see my light, and she nurtured my growth as my mentor for ten years, until the Universe guided me to what was next.  That particular bit of guidance is a different story, entirely!  But where it led me was to support someone who seemed to really need my particular energy and light.  He had worked with five assistants in nine years when the planets aligned to bring us together.  Sometimes I think that what he needed most was kindness, compassion, patience, and a smile that would inform him that everything would be okay.  He was under enormous pressure, some of which was self-generated.  I did see the side of him that made the others seek other work, but we worked through it.  I would ask if he was okay, and he would say, “I’m not sharing my stress am I, because I don’t mean to.”  And at the end of each day he would say, “Melissa!  Thank you for a great day!”  That made everything worth it.  We were together eight and a half years until he retired.  I was blessed to work with his chosen successor until her retirement, six years later.  She was a tiny woman with a powerful mind and a giant heart.  My blood pressure normalized during those years.  She suffered weekly migraines during the last couple of years, and I was there with honey-tea, with ice pack, and reminded her to put down what was stressing her soul and to feed her body.  I introduced her to a friend who commented to her about how positively I speak of her, and her reply was, “Oh, Mel and I just love each other.”  That’s not often heard in the corporate world, but I was blessed to have that.  I remain in touch with these three beloved work partners to this day.  I wonder if I was happy there for so long because they each allowed me to utilize my strengths to serve them.  I provided a little something that eased the stress of whatever they were dealing with.  In a way, I think I was holding space for them to do their work.

Now free from the enormous stress of a corporation, these days more beholden to shareholders than to their employees and the communities they serve, I have the opportunity to hold space… to bring comfort and support healing.  This is where my future lies.

During these days of freedom, I have been able to spend a magickal day with a beautiful friend who showed me what grace looks like at the end of life.  I have been the communications director for another friend at the beginning of her cancer journey, and only five minutes away, remain on-call for her assistance through chemotherapy and recovery.  I have been patient advocate and wheelchair maiden to dear friends, who are life-long support to one another, but are both facing health issues at the same time.  I’ve been able to be more present for my parents who are slowing down and needing a little more support these days.  Since my brother lives a few hours away, I’ve even been learning the art of PC and Tablet support, skills which may elude your average 80 year old.  And after the death of my beautiful friend, I was able to hold space for the healing of her heartbroken wife.  As I said, I wish that dear ones had no need of my presence in these ways, but I am grateful and heart-filled to have had the freedom and ability to serve.

Tonight I am working with a friend to bring expressive arts to a group of women in her circle.  The goal is to release what no longer serves us, and with burdens lifted to put focused energy into the art of manifesting the future we each desire.  A year ago, I was fearful of what life might look like without the burden of a job that I no longer loved.  As I look back at that time, I fear what I would have missed if nothing had changed.  It’s funny how perspective can be altered just by looking at something from a different level.  Spiral in…  spiral out.

Thanks for walking this labyrinth with me, dear ones.  May all of your burdens be lifted, and may all of your hopes and dreams be made manifest with grace and ease.

(photo found on pinterest w/o credit)

redlabyrinth

A Spiritual Path Less Traveled

I have been asked on more than one occasion about the sense of comfort and calm that I carry.  One co-worker asked me if it was my spirituality that made me such a peaceful and happy soul.  I tend to think that my demeanor would be the same regardless of my spiritual path, and yet I surely would not be who I am today without it.

I started my spiritual journey in 1992 when I was in my early twenties, and feeling a bit lacking in direction.  I was raised Unitarian Agnostic, so had an openness toward learning about world religion and alternative paths of spirituality.  I had gone to church with friends while growing up, and had experienced multiple denominations of Christianity, but was never able to find a connection there.

As a teenager, and an adoring fan of a certain chiffon cloaked songstress, I developed an interest in learning about Wicca.  I recall asking my brother one day, “They call her a witch, but her music is uplifting and makes me feel good… so how can she be bad?”  His reply was that she wasn’t bad, she was a Witch to Wicca, as a Catholic is to Christianity.  In the mid 1980’s, there was little to be found in the library on that topic.  I found a brief outline in an encyclopedia that I photocopied, but it didn’t do much to help my understanding.  It felt too foreign and strange, and so I dropped my inquiry.  Then in February of 1992, my Mom signed us both up to attend a workshop at our church, called “Women in Religion – A Walk in Many Worlds”.   It was a weekend of experiential learning about Feminine Spirituality, hosted by Margot Adler.  I can still vividly recall the Saturday morning ritual that was simple in nature, but powerful.  There were 120 women in attendance, and Margot (the late NPR Correspondent, and granddaughter of famed psychiatrist, Alfred Adler) invited any woman who was going through some kind of trauma or sorrow to enter the center of the circle.  When I looked around, there were not enough women left in the outer ring to be able to clasp hands.  As we joined voices for my first healing chant, there was an unmistakable energy rising.  It came up through the soles of my feet and poured forth through the tears in my eyes… there was so much suffering in this circle.  I longed to hold them all in sacred space.  These are the words that we repeatedly chanted:  “I am a circle, I am healing you.  You are a circle, you are healing me.  Unite us, be one.  Unite us, be as one.”  I still find this chant to be powerful and incredibly moving, whether in a circle of three or three hundred.  At the time of this gathering, I knew one woman in that circle… when I would later reflect on that moment that changed my life for the better; I would realize that a good number of those present would become my people.  Aside from the healing chant, there is one thing that really stands out in my memory of that weekend. We were all invited to bring an item to place on the altar, and had a chance to explain the symbolism of our offering.  Margot spoke of the item she brought, which was a replica of a Neolithic age goddess image known as the Venus of Willendorf.  She dates back over 30,000 years, and here’s the thing… she is not a stick figure.  Willie is actually rotund by current standards.  She is full, and round, and fertile, with hips meant for childbearing.  Margot said that when she learned to see this ancient relic through the eyes of those who created her… with a sense of awe and reverence… she could begin to see herself that way.  Can you imagine – realizing that someone who looked like you was once considered divine and worthy of worship? There really might be something here for me, after all, I thought.

After the workshop, my mom found an ad in the paper for a six-month class on Wicca.  Again, she signed us both up.  Mom left the class when she knew I was safe (i.e., not getting involved with a cult), as this path was not for her.  I continued my weekly commitment from March through August of that year.  We learned about different mythological pantheons, sacred ceremony, herbalism, astrology, divination (such as tarot and runes, etc.), and more.  It’s funny to come from the perspective of skepticism and open mindedness.  It takes a really long time to move through disbelief and prove-it mentality to genuine knowing – even when you’ve been witness to real magick and minor miracles.  It helps to be a highly committed individual; you can just keep trying, until it clicks.  It also helps to have others with whom you feel safe to explore.  When the class was over, I was initially not sure I would do anything with what I’d learned.  There were parts that resonated, and parts that did not.  But, as fate would have it, I was invited to join a small group of classmates to continue this exploration.  These people valued my authentic nature, and did not judge my lack of education on the subjects into which we would grow.  With their confidence and support, I began to blossom.  I was their ‘maiden’, and the tarot card that symbolized my place on the path at age 23 was The Fool…  a curious soul at the beginning of an unknown and exciting adventure.

For me, what was most profound in this exploration was the ability to finally find myself in the divine.  For on this spiritual path, through Margot Adler’s introduction and the class on Wicca, I met the Goddess.  Before this, the only expression of divinity I’d been shown came in male form, and quite frankly, having been betrayed by a male at age 20 to whom I had given my heart, well… I just wasn’t interested.  How could I trust Him?  And so here, in the proverbial lap of the Goddess, I was ready to make my home.

Over the last 25 years, my personal definition of spirituality has fluctuated… a permanent state of evolution, as life and experience has changed understanding, and as I’ve gathered insight and traditions from many paths and religions, as well as Jungian psychology and the Archetypal Feminine.  I am grateful to have been raised with an open mind, not tied to a single belief system or dogma. I love that we all have the freedom to explore and ultimately define what it is that makes us feel safe, supported, transformed, fulfilled.  For me, an earth based, goddess centered path still resonates most clearly… but my understanding of consciousness continues to evolve, and today I define myself as spiritual, but not religious.  What I’ve gathered from every single path I’ve studied… is that symbolism is powerful.  We can find commonality in the Earth’s path around the sun through the changing seasons, and the cycle of birth, growth, death and rebirth of nature.  And just as Mother Nature sheds her leaves each fall, we too can choose to drop what no longer serves us, be it an attitude, a toxic relationship, or a path that no longer meets our needs.

Whichever path you have chosen, and however you define it dear ones, I hope that your own sacred journey is paved with love and healing light, and that you are surrounded by a community of supportive, loving, compassionate friends who will take your hand when you need guidance through moments of darkness.  Knowing that I am never alone, and that I am surrounded by so much love has always been a great blessing to me… and from the center of my being, I wish to share it with you.  I hope you can feel it!

lamplightforest