Into the Fire

Wow! What a wonderful whirlwind weekend. It was filled with festivity and fire… oh, and… retirement.  It’s not exactly what you think.  At 49, I’m a long way from actual retirement in the traditional sense.  When I reached out to the financial planner that is enabling my friend’s retirement at age 59.5, I certainly had no idea that he could do anything for me in the immediate future. But when I expressed to him that I had exited the corporate world last year and how I felt that I could never return, he made a suggestion.  He said that my hard-earned savings could start working for me now.  There is apparently a provision provided by the IRS called 72T.  It was utilized a great deal when the market crashed, and jobs became scarce.  It enabled those who had to take lower paying jobs to access their retirement savings, without penalty, to receive a monthly income from their IRA until they reached retirement age.  It only allows a small percentage, but could provide the opportunity for someone who lives rather simply to focus on, oh, say… becoming a writer – without having to sell her soul back to the corporate world.

Once that exciting new beginning was set in motion, it was time to focus on the really important stuff… the celebration of our beloved Lynn.  We lost her to leukemia last fall, and it was time to celebrate what would have been her 68th birthday.  So, her wife and I went shopping to create the festive atmosphere that would express the spirit of our bountiful harvest of gratitude. We don’t really experience the beauty of autumn here in Florida the way that states north of us do.  In fact, our fall won’t come until February when the oak trees drop their dark green leaves and replace them with fresh light green leaves.  So… we decorate on the inside, while the outside continues to insist we remain in the season of Summer.  Lynn would have loved her birthday celebration on Saturday. The atmosphere, the intention, the music, and most importantly, the people. It was a small gathering of thirteen, a tiny fraction of those who loved our girl.  We gathered, we shared a meal, we each wrote love notes to Lynn on strips of paper that were rolled up and dropped into a bottle of orange glass.  She loved the color orange, and we loved getting to tell her what we loved about her and how she made us feel, and so we sent her our communal ‘message in a bottle’ as another form of prayer and gratitude.  We each spoke of our memories of one of our favorite healers… about how we fell in love with her upon meeting, how she sang to us around the campfire, how she taught us to be better people, how she listened with rapt attention and made us feel completely heard, and better – understood. We sat in awe of how she expressed to us that her weeks in the hospital, as friends came from all over just to sit with her, were the happiest weeks of her life. And we cried. Some tears were certainly from the sorrow of our great loss, and for her physical absence. But to be clear, most of our tears were joyful… for the glory of having been blessed to have Lynn in our lives… and to still feel her presence, to this day. When stories were shared, we blessed them with song. Two guitars, two dulcimers, one ukulele, one tuba, and one rainstick along with thirteen voices made up our chorus for the Angel who used to lead our choir. None of us could do what she could do to lead a campfire circle of song, but we tried… and we could feel her smiling upon us – as we read lyrics from cell phones.  She was the keeper of words, and without her, we simply have to make do. We had pie, and her grandsons blew out her birthday candles, knowing that her wish had come true in our togetherness. We finished the evening with creativity… manifesting our love and light through acrylic pour. She would have loved the way that you simply allow the color to flow onto the canvas and become what it becomes – without judgment or doubt… just appreciation. After all, that’s how she felt about each of us.

On Sunday, I returned to help with clean up and relaxation. The Autumn Equinox is a time of balance, when day and night are equal, and it is also a time for harvest. When I consider my personal harvest this year, I find it filled with more bounty than I could have imagined. I think I’ll save that declaration for another post, but I will tell you that the deepening of this friendship and being blessed to witness the grief, wisdom, and joy of my friend as she journeys forward from the loss of her beloved is at the top of my list. Together we discussed the beauty of Saturday’s gathering and how we could feel Lynn’s presence. Together we cried as friends and loved ones sent messages acknowledging the important date, and how she was being remembered far and wide. Together we shared leftovers with gratitude for the sustenance the Earth provides. And by the time we were either ready to head our separate ways for a nap or go deep into healing… we chose healing.

I spoke of nightmares and thoughts of past betrayals (personal and work-related) that had recently been plaguing my heart and mind… wondering why they were emerging at this moment, when I felt I was ready to move forward. My friend had her own sense of obstacles that were ready for removal, and she had discovered a useful tool through a meditation app we use called ‘Insight Timer’. The meditation was a Shamanic Journey called Rise of the Phoenix by Dakota Earth Cloud, and it was possibly the most powerful meditation / ritual I’ve experienced. It was more than a meditation because my friend built a fire and we called in the Elements and Spirit from Native American tradition.  We called in our guides, our ancestors, and our loved ones lost. I could see the determined and supportive faces of my grandparents, my Aunt Beth, Windwalker, and of course, our Lynn. When the fire was blazing, and we were about to begin, I fed the names of my offenders to the flames. Not in a way that would be harmful or destructive to any of them, four women and four men, but in a way that would be transformative and healing. “Thank you for teaching me, I release these lessons and any need for more through the experience of betrayal – I trust myself now.  Go in peace.”  By Dakota’s lead, this is what I saw in that dimension where the mind takes you when you step away from the mundane and into the mystery.

I entered the portal to this dimension through one of my favorite entryways… a cave. When I go there, I start at the edge of a clear water lake atop a mountain, where I swim through the reflection of the stars above, downward into the mouth of an underwater crystal cave. I made my way through safe passage by torchlight, and when the path split, I went left (as I often do). I was met by my guides whom I call the Sacred Fourteen, and they surrounded me as I stepped into the fire that was burning in the center of the space. From there I called out the names of those who had let me down. There were three bosses and one female friend, three lovers and one male friend, and as I finally expressed how I had been wounded – I yelled in spirit for how angry I was that they would put me in a situation where I would feel badly about myself… opening a wound where self-loathing and doubt would take root. The breath of fire and a shamanic drumbeat raised the energy for transformation, and as I yelled on the inside, I sobbed on the outside. I turned my head to the left to inhale through my nose, tapped my left foot, grabbed with my left hand (the side of the body that represents the past) and then turned my head to the right to exhale through my mouth, tapped my right foot, released with my right hand (the side of the body that represents the future), and I pulled up and spit out nearly 40 years of contained anguish. At this point, Dakota instructed us to ask our guides for help with this healing fire, and the Sacred Fourteen stepped in closer, and raised their arms to strengthen the impassioned flame to completely consume me. And as the roots of destruction were pulled from my being and burned away by these flames, I noticed that others had stepped in. To take the place of three bosses who betrayed me, came three bosses who loved me through it all (and still do). To take the place of friends who left through shame, mutual hurt, and confusion, came friends who stayed and stepped up to help me heal. To take the place of men who had cheated, abandoned, stolen, and lied, came men who had proven to me with action and presence that it is not ALL men who cannot be trusted. As I cried tears of sorrow, my friend’s dog Maggie leapt into my lap, licked my tears, and settled into my embrace. She stayed until my tears turned to those of joy. Surrounded by so much loving support, including that of my friend – standing within her own fire – adding to my healing flame with her intention, I felt the flames burn clean. There was no more debris to be cleared, all that remained was the light of my blue-white wings, as I rose like the Phoenix. As I looked down upon the circle of my healing, I recognized the faces of my love with gratitude. As if she knew exactly when the magick would be complete, Dakota invited us to leave this sanctuary the way we came in… and so I did.  Only this time, I was carried out in triumph by the Sacred Fourteen. They joyfully delivered me through corridor, now lit by my flaming wings, and to the edge of the cavern. I thanked them, and turned to swim upward through clear mountain lake, and rose above the water and into the stunning night sky. When we found ourselves back in our chairs by the fire’s edge, with our feet in the grass… my friend and I clasped hands, and thanked each other.  We were both aware of the work that we had done for each other, but more importantly… for ourselves.

Great Spirit – Thank you. It is done. Blessed be. Aho!

My Post (18)

Make A Wish

Hello, dear friend.  Tonight there will be a celebration in your honor.  It’s your birthday, and not one among us would miss the opportunity to give thanks for your birth.  Your beloved has been working hard on the setting, and it shall be a glorious sight.  Last night we put finishing touches on the Harry Potter corner, a tip of the Sorting Hat to your love of those powerful stories of friendship, steadfastness, and the ultimate message of love overcoming fear – always.  Tibetan prayer flags have been hung to allow the wind to carry our prayers to you.  Before they are lifted to the heavens, the prayer-filled breeze will surely dance with the lush plants and flowers of your memorial garden.

We cannot believe that ten months have passed since your body left us.  It’s a funny thing for those of us who didn’t get to see you often to contemplate this reality, especially when we feel even closer to you than when you were here.  I believe you have been walking with me, in your own magickal way, since my favorite day… that perfectly wonderful 11.5 hour day we shared in the hospital last October.  Do you remember?  It carries such a crisp beauty in my mind’s eye… your radiant smile that brightened not just the room, but the whole hospital, and surely… the whole world.

I had expected to find you at rest, on that day I had been gratefully liberated from the corporate world… the best thing that has ever happened to me… because it gifted me with that sacred day with you.  Oh, what a horrible loss I would have suffered had I been tied down in a thankless job, instead of signing up to sit with you.  What a delight it was for me to find you awake, sitting up in bed, talking with a friend.  When she left, I got to have you ALL to myself.  I loved reminiscing with you about our very beginning – an instant friendship of 25 years.  I would challenge you to find one person who didn’t fall in love with you at first sight!  At your birthday last year, I think you might have argued, indeed.  But not now.  Now, you know the truth.  You told me how you were astounded, when your beloved let us know that you didn’t want to be alone in the hospital, and that people drove hours just to come sit with you, sometimes in silence as you slept.  On my favorite day, I gloried in the radiance of your discovery… that you are incredibly valuable, worthy, and completely enveloped in love.

You taught me so much about grace that day, as you lit up as each hospital caregiver entered the room, and you expressed your deep gratitude… for getting sick.  I witnessed you telling doctors, nurses, and dieticians that if you had not become so ill, you would not have been hospitalized, and would never have understood the importance of western medicine, and how it could be so abundantly successful to be married with Oriental medicine.  That’s our Lynn… always learning, always teaching.  You told every person who entered your room, on that day you thought might be your last before going home, that you were grateful for their care… and I know that they truly cared for you.  It was present in the warmth of their smiles and evident in the gentle touch of assistance.

You and I made plans that day for our shared future.  I saved your text message from that day when your departure was delayed, as I headed into the mountains…  “Thank you for both yesterday and the promise of our future journey together.  I love you.  Make it a wondrous trip.”  Well, our future journey didn’t exactly turn out as we had planned, did it?  But, you know… I think it is turning out okay, after all.  I didn’t get to help you make your dreams come true… but I get to be witness to your beloved doing so.  She is following your lead, and I know that you are enormously proud of her.  You taught me about healing through grace, and she is teaching me about healing through gratitude.  Like many other things that have occurred this year, I am certain you have played a role in the deepening of our friendship.  We are both on this journey of leaving behind a path that shifted beneath our feet, leaving us breathless and then… enlightened.  We have finally figured out that time is precious, and it need not be neglected.  It is up to us to give it our love, attention, and devotion.  The time that we have upon the earth is sacred, and we have work to do.  But not the kind of work that is thankless and unkind.  The work before us is all about filling the time we have with more joy, more light, more love, more togetherness, more laughter, more… remembering.

So, here we are… gathered together… not in sorrow, but in joy.  Our souls dance to the music that you planted within our hearts.  Without you here, we may not remember the words, but we can hum along… eyes closed and chins lifted, ears cupped to catch the crispness of your beautiful voice upon evening breeze. Tonight we, this gathering of intentional family – bound by love, will light the candles of your birthday PIE, and though you will not have the breath to blow them out… we know that your wish has already come true.  We love you more!

My Post (17)

More than Grateful

Last night I had dinner with one of my soulmates.  Though we live in opposite corners of the country, we make dinner together a priority whenever work brings him here.  It was work that introduced us a little over a year ago, and without a doubt, we both know that the Universe allowed our paths to converge for the purpose of our soul connection and mutual growth.

It was at our dinner in February that he shared with me his diagnosis and prognosis.  At that time, he was on an experimental drug that would not cure him, but might prolong his life.  In actuality, it nearly killed him.  His body responded to the drug by shutting down his organs.  Gratefully, he was rescued in time, and recovered from the threat of modern medicine.  The oncologist had given him until Summer, and last night we clinked our toast to one another just days before the Autumn Equinox.

Since that February night, when he shared such a vulnerable truth with me, I have been asking him the important questions:  What is your joy?  His answer:  No one has ever asked me that before, Melissa.  And after careful thought, he further replied:  My husband of 22 years.  Okay, I say… if you feel you must continue to work, and can work from anywhere… can you go with him to follow his passion and work from there?  His answer:  I hadn’t thought of that!  And so, this summer – he did just that.  I had also asked the questions about his need to work.  I thought that if I had a fairly certain deadline, I would cash in my 401K, regardless of penalty, and utilize my hard earned savings to live my life more fully for the limited number of days remaining.  If I had a partner, I would ensure that our assets were protected in whatever way would prevent the bank from taking them to pay my medical bills.  I would then spend the rest of my days self-employed, with every assignment and task before me to be dedicated to love, joy, laughter, and procurement of peace.  He took some steps to feel more prepared, but has continued to work… feeling that he would need health insurance with his ‘pre-existing condition’.  I hate that anyone should feel this way!  I loathe the fact that we live in such a rich country, grotesque in comparison to many, which does nothing to care for the citizens who work daily to nurture its greatness.  The fact that a dying person should feel they must spend their final days in a soul-sucking role, forfeiting time with their loved ones to meet the needs of shareholders who care nothing for their well-being or how devastated the survivors will be, not only for the loss of their beloved, but for the greater loss of their time and attention when they were still living.

Last night, my friend shared with me that he is working twelve hour days for a company that does not value and appreciate him.  It is thankless work that brings him no joy, save for our dinners when he comes to town.  I argue that a corporation that would require an employee who is immunocompromised to get on a plane once a month would be complicit in his future decline, and yet I am grateful for each and every time that he lands in my city.

My darling friend longs for laughter which once was a daily ritual… and I feel he should have it!  Having recently learned from my financial planner that I can collect a monthly income from my IRA without penalty, until I turn 59, I asked my friend his age.  He declared that he had never shared his true age with anyone, but then confessed that he is already at an age where he can collect those funds, as well as social security.  Further, he noted that his mortgage is paid in full.  In other words, the only reason for him to sacrifice his valuable time to a corporation is for the fear of requiring health care.  One of the important notes within my end of life doula studies is about the blessing of hospice care.  I’m pretty sure that this is the one good thing to come from my friend’s prognosis… when one is given six months to live, they automatically qualify for hospice care.  I think people fear engaging such care because it might feel like a statement to the universe that they are giving up on life.  I wholly disagree.  Consider that one might engage hospice for the care that is their right to receive, while living in one of the wealthiest countries on the planet, and then set out to defy the prognosis of one’s disease.  Hospice will see you reach the six month mark, and adjust their sails to get you all the way home when the time is right.

So, I have challenged my soulmate to go home and do his research… and then to make himself his own priority.  His husband is already doing so.  My friend worries that he dotes too much.  He is blessed to have a partner who wants to be sure that he is comfortable, that he is well-fed, that he feels loved and cherished at every moment of every day.  With tears in my eyes, I assured my friend that I would give anything to have that kind of love in my life… and begged him to let go and receive it… to be saturated and enveloped by it.  I told him that when he retires, he won’t be coming to my city for work anymore… so I would simply have to come to him.  I am looking forward to that celebration, in his home town, one day very soon.  He has important work ahead of him, and that current job doesn’t deserve him.  His number one careholder, however, totally deserves every ounce of his energy, every moment of his valuable time, every rise of his laughter, and the blessing of being of service to the one person on this planet that he holds most dear, for all of his remaining days upon the earth – be they long or few.

My soulmate tells me that each time he sees me, he is filled with renewal and hope, as I provide sustenance to ponder.  The funny thing is, were it not for his presence in my life, none of this wisdom would have been available to me.  Had my empathic heart not been introduced to his courageous soul, the past year of my life might not have been spent in deep contemplation of my own joy and happiness.  It was that conversation in February that led to awareness of end of life doula study, and though I still am unsure of where this path will lead, I know for certain that learning more about death has taught me way more about life.  It is meant to be filled with love, light, laughter, and joy… and when there is suffering… it is meant to be honored, comforted, and held in reverence.

Now, if you’ll excuse me… I am off to research flights to the other corner of the country.  Celebration awaits… and I have to develop a word that means more than grateful.

My Post (16)

Careholder…

I remember in my past life, the one that revolved around a stressful role in a corporate office, that each time I took an overdue vacation it would take me a few days to finally feel disconnected from the intensity and worry of what was happening in the workplace.  Especially in those last few years that were tainted by layoffs and the hostile takeover of the board of directors which were sources of extreme pressure for those I served.  Gratefully, I ventured forth from my new normal and into a vacation with friends last week free from that kind of stress… but I must confess that it has taken me a few days to shake free from worry.  My new worry lies with care and concern for my aging parents.  It is difficult to disconnect from this particular anxiety, for it is far more important than any corporate or executive angst.  I don’t think I’m alone in my lack of complete presence this week, for I know that each of us on this journey are carrying a similar weight.  One of my friends may be speaking, and I am running a movie of whether or not my father is comfortable, or my mother has received the care she needed for her aching knee.  I can personally recall the way that my parents jumped to action when I was sick or hurting, and now it is my father who is hurting.  At 81, a blister on the foot from lack of socks with shoes can become a dangerous wound requiring antibiotics and daily treatment… and a bedsore…. ugh…

One of my life lessons has been the overcoming of fear based thought.  I have been fearful of never being loved enough.  I have feared losing the job that provided security.  I have feared the suffering of beloved pets, and if I prolonged their suffering selfishly.  I have feared gaining back weight that was so very difficult to lose.  I have feared injury from which I might not recover.  All of these things were major challenges to conquer in the field of thought, especially since we tend to manifest what we think about.  The comfort and safety of my parents exceeds all of these concerns.  It is heartbreaking to know that these people who have been powerful providers of love and support are facing the betrayal of their bodies and that there is little I can do to make it better.  After all… this is life.

I would give anything to be able to wave my magic wand and erase memory loss, or the sense of panic that comes when landmarks are not as remembered and one feels lost.  I would trade the contents of my 401K to ease your suffering and make your body strong again.  I would wrap you in a cloak of comfort until you felt safe and knew that you would never fall down again.  If I could, I would hold you in my arms and rock you to sleep each night to help you feel whole and loved unconditionally.  I know that I cannot make everything right again, for this is the path we must each travel.  The body is not meant to go on forever… that is the task of the eternal soul, but flesh is temporary.  But love… love IS forever.  I will love you through every challenge you face.  I will love your memory, even when it only recalls the disappointment and rarely the beauty.  I will love your heart that has loved me for all of my days upon the earth, and the days before my feet ever touched the ground.

All of that corporate crap from my personal history book is rendered obsolete in every future chapter.  The time has come to nurture my most important shareholders.  I hope not to let them down.  But first… just a few more days of vacation.  I love you most!

My Post (14)

A Woodland Wedding

Early Friday morning, I headed to the airport with a few of my favorite people.  It was still dark when we arrived, but the sun was dawning on this new day as our flight departed the 90 degree south and set forth to the 60 degree north.  We were invited to stand witness and help celebrate the marriage and handfasting of two people we adore.

These two beloveds are among the couples I know that make me envy their togetherness.  You can see each light up at the sight of the other.  Their love is effervescent and warm… almost innocent with the obvious open-heartedness they hold for one another… as if neither has ever been hurt by another.  What a beautiful mystery… fearless love at 40.

Lovers of all things created by Mother Nature, the venue was a campground in Bar Harbor, Maine… recently closed for the season.  Not a camper, I found a beautiful spot across the street – a seaside cottage with two bathrooms and a fireplace.  This provided the best of both worlds, as far as I’m concerned.  One of the brides is the co-founder of our monthly Supper Club.  Five members were able to attend, and in this cottage we stayed… along with my life-long friend, who is my favorite adventure buddy – and my +1.  Together, we were one tenth of those gathered to hold space and reflect the light of love back at these two beings who capture the hearts of all they meet.

Our favorite Unitarian Minister presided over the sacred ceremony, though she would argue she won’t be ordained until January – she has always held this sort of role… a spiritual guide… for many of us.  The brides chose to be handfasted, which is a Celtic wedding tradition from which we get the term ‘tie the knot’.  I was asked to seek the blessing of their guests before the ceremony began, and carried the cloth that would bind their hands and their love to each guest and informed them that we are infusing this cloth with our blessings and good wishes for the marriage of our brides, so that their lives together would be eternally woven with the beauty and wonder that we each would bestow upon them.  Each loved one placed their hands upon the cloth, closed their eyes, and said a silent prayer.  When our Minister took her place between two trees, beneath a magickal chandelier, the Celtic cloth that contained our love was upon the marriage altar.

The first bride entered the clearing through a wooded path, revealing herself to be like the faery queen emerging from her hidden realm.  She was stunning in white chiffon and lace… and with the sight of her we had no choice but to fall into this dream.  The second bride entered the circle from the opposite side of the clearing, donning a navy blue suit and bare feet – an homage to her betrothed, whose feet are rarely oppressed by the burden of shoes.  She was lit by the internal flame of joy that is ever present when these two make eye contact.  The entire circle was aglow!

Each bride honored their families, those they came with and those with whom they were becoming one, and returned to the altar of their new beginning.  Their hands and hearts were bound by the minister, vows of wisdom and wit were shared with the glide of rings onto fingers, and tear-filled eyes met their tearful, grinning congregation.  A cacophony of joyful noise escorted the happy couple as they exited the circle, once alone and now together, back into the faery realm from which they came.  But the dream didn’t end there… it continued nearby with a whimsical reception beneath a canopy of white.  Tables were set with mismatched china collected and shipped by the brides, all to be donated to charity upon departure.  Table assignments were identified with names on postcards from the region in which we gathered, dating back to the 30’s.  The tables were marked with the names of pets rescued and cared for by our faery queen bride.  Imagine my dismay when I learned the ‘Oprah’ table at which we were seated was dedicated to the memory of her dearly departed tarantula!  The error was quickly remedied with a switch of spider name to doggy name… she loves me that much.  Ha!

With practically zero light pollution in the area in which we had gathered, more stars than I have seen in one place in my lifetime filled the sky as nightfall joined the party.  The Milky Way didn’t want to miss the celebration.  A large carpet placed upon the grass became a dance floor and the trees that hugged this clearing danced with sparkling lights projected to bring the starlight a bit closer to our reach.  My life-long friend and I used to go dancing as teenagers in the late 80’s, and feeling the youthful vibration of love and red wine, we made our way to nature’s dance floor to dance among the stars.  This is where we spent most of the evening… with old friends and new… like whirling dervishes in ecstatic devotion to the mystery and majesty of love openly expressed and shared.  These moments of celebration are when the divine is truly made manifest in our lives.

On this weekend made possible by the love of two nurtured by many, we were delighted to make new friends and grow our intentional community.  I love the way that joyfully authentic people attract more of the same, and how the blessing of being invited into a circle of such kinship envelops all who take the hands of those gathered.  Regardless of geography from which each traveled, whether the years upon the earth are many or few, if we’ve known each other for 40 years or 4 days… we have become ONE.  And we are grateful!

So, here’s to our beloved brides!  Here’s to bountiful blessings of love, light, laughter, joy, happiness, peace, prosperity, good health, longevity, moonlight and magick upon their marriage.  May we all be blessed to know such love within this lifetime, and gather in a circle of belonging to bear witness to the beauty of Mother Nature who holds us lovingly in her embrace.  We are so blessed!

WoodlandWedding

Random Messages from the Universe

In this year of introspection, a typical day may have been assigned a certain direction before bedtime the day before.  Today, I didn’t have a specific list of tasks, I just let my thoughts lead me.  So, it started with coffee and a bit of light reading.  I recently purchased a book that I’d discovered through posts on facebook.  I purchased a copy, not only because the words shared in random posts seemed to speak my language, but also because it was self-published and appeared to be well marketed.  I thought I could learn something from this author.  I’ve been debating whether I should self-publish the book I finished in April… you know, the catalyst for this blog, and frankly, the other side of the debate is the voice of an old familiar bully that inquires who will want to read it, and will it be worth the investment at a time when an active income is not present.  I recently made a new friend, a soul sister of sorts who found me through my blog after I posted my words on ‘pilgrimage’ on a site dedicated to Irish archaeology.  She and I spoke on the phone last week for 4.5 hours straight.  The synchronicities were endless, which explains why she found resonance in my writing… and more importantly, why the Universe guided me to post on that page a few weeks ago.  We were destined to meet.  Within our list of synchroncities was this book.  [Have you read this, because it reminds me a little of your writing?  Actually, I have it sitting right here, but I haven’t started reading it yet.]  This week, she texted me a couple of page numbers to look up… one reference that reminded her of me, and one that spoke to her current situation – which feels similar to my own.

Yesterday, I woke up to a tip from a friend about a course that she felt I would enjoy and find benefit.  This course was being offered through a well respected journal, which was mentioned by my new friend in our lengthy conversation last week – a suggestion for submitting my writing for the purpose of reaching more readers.  So… twice mentioned in one week, I felt it a sort of divine guidance.  There was an application process and a fee that would go through if you had been accepted into the course.  It was not a small fee.  I almost didn’t even think about it… I just clicked on the link, read the introduction, and started typing my proposal.  I spoke to another friend about it, and though she had no doubt I would be accepted, we wondered together if they would accept anyone who paid the fee.  Later that day, I received acceptance notification.  I mentioned this to a friend at dinner last night, and when I wondered aloud about whether it was my writing or my money that gained my acceptance, he wondered back why I would jump so immediately to self doubt.  Today, I found myself continuing the misery of toiling over my actions.  The class doesn’t start until the end of September, and I can cancel up to 24 hours before it begins and only lose the application fee.  I have been going over and over this internal argument, the core being a fear based thought of spending savings which is finite, but is also funding my year of freedom and exploration.

So, as I picked up this book that I’ve been holding onto to read passages referred to in recent text messages, I found resonance and support for exactly where I am.  And when I continued reading, forward and back, I found something else…  words on self-doubt.  Not wanting to use her words, which are sacred, I will refer to the Shakespearean quote that rose up from the page just before the poem that meant so much to my friend:  “Doubts are traitors that make us lose the good we oft might win, by fearing to attempt.”  Huh… funny how the Universe uses people, places and things to inspire us and to provide answers… if we would only listen.

I took these words and felt I needed to go within to have a conversation with my stubborn, insecure inner self, so I ran a hot bath and scattered epson salt and essential oils.  I played a meditation that I recorded to be played at my own funeral, inspired by my end of life doula studies, and dissolved myself in salty, fragrant water.  I followed up that meditation with Phowa (poh-wuh) practice, which is a meditation from The Tibetan Book of Living and Dying, which is suggested to be practiced often to be mindful enough to use at death or while supporting someone through dying.  In this practice, you connect with your form of spirit or Universal golden light before you.  You ask all negative karma, destructive emotions, obstacles and blockages to be purified and removed.  You say to the light, “May I know myself to be forgiven for all harm I may have thought and done.  May this practice allow me a good and peaceful death.  Through the triumph of my death, may I be able to benefit all other beings, living and dead.”  You imagine that the light receives your plea with love and compassion and that light is freely given to you as you are cleansed and purified by the Universal divine light… completely healed by the presence.  You imagine that your body, free of past karma, dissolves into light, and you become one with the divine light of the embodiment of truth… and sit within this light.

As I sat within the light, I felt guided to go into nature.  So, I got out of the tub and put on my bathing suit, grabbed my pool noodle, and went to the Spring.  I don’t think this is something I would have done a year ago… to go off to a public place without a friend in tow.  But I am not who I was a year ago.  I parked my car and planted my blanket, book, and towel, and took my noodle to the water.  I passed a big tough looking man on the stairs into the water, who was backtracking upon finding the water too cold to enter.  I assured him that it would help to vocalize while just pushing forth into the frigid fluid.  As I did so, noticing that my previous trips into these waters this summer allowed me to vocalize (imagine a kind of high pitched shriek) only briefly before finding my comfort, I glanced back to see the man I passed standing back away from the stairs, apparently defeated.

I floated into the water to find a spot that was free from the crowd.  Seated atop my noodle, like sitting upon a paper moon, I waved my hands and feet beneath clear water to take in my surroundings.  This is what I noticed.  In this crowd of people who had come to the park to perhaps escape the heat of 90 degree weather, or to celebrate the kickoff of a holiday weekend, or the successful conclusion of the first week or two of school, I was alone, but not lonely.  This was not the only indication of being in the minority.  Of the many people who had come to the park today, I was one of only a handful of obviously (read:  pasty white) Caucasian bathers.  Everywhere I looked, skin tones were darker than mine and languages spoken were different from mine, as well.  I asked myself how this made me feel, and this is what I got.  So what?  What I saw around me were people in love, holding each other and kissing as they shivered in the cold of the spring.  I saw daddies who loved their daughters, as they coaxed them to swim toward them from the safety of a floating ring of protection.  I saw groups of teenagers piling on shoulders to build a temple of joy and laughter.  And I also saw that the big tough guy had found his courage, and was gleefully enjoying this gift of nature with the rest of us.  I thought about that term to be “colorblind”, and what I thought was that I don’t want to be blind to the beauty of other cultures.  I want to see them with clarity so that I can celebrate them and feel gratitude for them.  I imagined how boring life would be if everyone looked, and spoke, and behaved like me.  What a fucking ripoff that would be!  No thanks.  I want to be surrounded by every skin tone, every culture, every language… and be witness to freedom, joy, laughter, happiness, peace, comfort, and prosperity throughout this gathering of divine humanity.  What a beautiful place I found myself guided to today.

I climbed out of the water and sat down to start reading this book I’ve been carrying for several weeks, and from the opening pages I found a story that is familiar.  Not exactly the same as mine… but recognizing that core wounds in each of us may be similar, despite the differences of our environment and circumstances.  I found myself arguing with the voice that negated my own suffering because it wasn’t as bad as what the writer endured.  I also heard that old inner bully telling me that this writing is extraordinary, and that my writing isn’t as good… so I probably shouldn’t bother publishing.  As I’m writing this, I wonder how I should reply to this inner bully.  Should I tell her to sit down and shut up?  Should I call her a liar and banish her from this reverie of connectedness?  I take a deep breath and have decided differently.  I have decided to take her into my arms, tell her that she is loved.  I tell her that her words are valuable, my words are valuable, as are the words of every being with the willingness and capability to express themselves.  It is through our words that we share stories, and it is through shared stories that we find commonality, compassion, kindred spirits, and homecoming.  Stay tuned to find out if self-doubt wins.  I hope it fails miserably, because frankly… I deserve better.  We all do.

The book to which I have been referring is Toko-pa Turner’s Belonging.  I’ve not even scratched the surface of its content… but I can assure you that there is great treasure here.  As mentioned, I purchased the book with a sense that I could learn something from her excellent ability to be seen.  I have a feeling I will find much more than I imagined.  For the beautiful and abundant way that the universe delivers with consistency more wonder than I could have dreamed for myself… your presence among them, I am grateful.  Thank you for walking this path with me.  Happy Labor Day Weekend!

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The Unrequited Lover

I’m about to get vulnerable here, and I hope it doesn’t make you uncomfortable. These thoughts come over me every once in a while, usually prompted by someone I know finding new love. I have been single for most of my life, though I have rarely felt lonely. Being an Aquarius means that from a young age I have had a plethora of friends from a multitude of backgrounds, with whom I have developed deep meaningful relationships. These friendships, carefully chosen, are incredibly fulfilling and pretty much free from drama. So… ultimately perfect!

I sometimes look at the marriages or relationships of others and think to myself, “thank goodness I’m single.” In fact, somewhere in the process of conquering self-loathing, I have actually fallen in love with my own company and sometimes prefer it… certainly over spending time with someone who lacks depth and attracts drama (not that I know anyone who fits that description).

My longest committed relationship, besides those of my cats Nightshade (19 years) and Gwydion (13 years), was with a woman. What I learned in those eight years is that you really can’t fake being gay. I fell in love with her soul, but my body never learned to cooperate. My therapist told me that I was the only client she had ever worked with who regretted NOT being gay. She will always be among my most trusted soulmates. We now live on opposite corners of the country, but try to share a vacation once a year, if possible.

I can count the men to whom I have opened my heart on one hand, and combined they were in my life for less than three years. The first one lived with me and came home with hickeys on his neck. This was a core wound at age 20, and I struggled to trust men after that. I did a lot of work and opened up to someone I met on a dating site and had to leap over a bunch of red flags, feeling that this must be what one must tolerate to have a man in her life. The last one landed in my life by geography… right up the street, in fact. Remember what I was saying about preferring a drama free life? Well… that just wasn’t possible for him. Forget red flags, he had red blankets.

The wounded child / woman I used to be when loathing was an emotion saved for myself and shared with no other, was certain that I had never attracted a man who would love me the way that some people appeared to be loved, because I was fat and ugly. I had this inner voice from childhood when I put on puberty pounds that informed me so… even as a size 10. I can remember being asked by an uncle and later by a male friend from church why I didn’t have a boyfriend… and that was the only answer that came to mind. “Well, duh! Who could ever love this (gestures to self)?”

Now, I’ve done quite a lot of healing and nurturing of that poor wounded child that I carry in my soul over the last few years, and I’m happy to say that she feels well-loved. So please know that I am not writing this for any kind of sympathy. It is just a type of wondering aloud, really. When a dear friend welcomes new love into her life, I am enormously happy for her (though I will admit that I had to learn to quiet my inner worrier… what if he breaks your heart the way mine has been broken?), but it also leads me to ponder what remains of my old wound to be healed. Could I possibly appear unlovable to others? I don’t think so… the love that I have in my life through the generous hearts of dearest friends is greater than the blessings of most people I know. After all, I have been single forever, so I have a great deal of time and energy to devote to the cultivation of a deeply caring community. Is it that I embody the Artemis archetype to a detriment? Do I seem too independent and unapproachable? Do people assume I’m already taken because I am so kind, warm, generous, and loving… surely someone remarkable won her heart long ago?

Speaking of living archetypes… I have long identified with Artemis. Part of her comfort delivered was that she never needed a man to feel whole. But recently I came across a video of an astrologer I follow who was speaking about Jungian archetypes, and how they are cyclical… we put on an archetype to learn the lessons our soul has come to learn. In his lecture, he confessed to his own relationship archetype being the unrequited lover, and that got my attention. Mostly because he was informing us that cycles do come to an end, and that the opposite of the unrequited lover archetype is the mystical lover. You can bet your sweet bippy that I lit a candle at the very next new moon with the intention of letting go of the old and receiving the new! Ha!

There’s another theory that goes along with the description of an empath. It is that we are the wounded healers. We experience from an early age the difficulties and disappointments in life that allow us to relate to and help comfort others. I cannot deny that throughout my life, I have had the words that could bring comfort to a friend who was hurting. So, if this is the purpose for my lonely path… I wouldn’t change a thing. I think I have been a better friend for the lack of a partner to distract me from being generous with my love and available with my time.

In the last few days, two of my friends who have been single for a length of time, but who have had significant love in their lives in the past, have each announced finding someone new with whom they are exploring all of the fun stuff that comes with a kind of connectedness that alerts the soul to potential partnership. And I will confess to quieting the inner protective voice, reminding myself that many people have found wonderful, amazing, loving partnerships… and that my own experience is not the norm for most lucky souls. I will also confess to the rise of a tiny little voice from within, you know… that well-loved inner child who once thought she wasn’t good enough, but recently figured out that she is pretty fucking fabulous… saying, “Hmmm… I wonder if this will ever happen to me.”

My answer to that sweet girl? “Be patient, beloved. He is on his way, and you will find him to be totally worth the wait.” Unrequited Lover… meet the new girl in town. We call her Mysti. *giggles to herself*

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