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Aunt Bea Moves Out

28 May

Several years ago my husband and I moved to Arkansas with the intention of retiring there, but sometimes intentions collide with reality.  Our Retirement Plan A crashed when unforeseen medical issues led us back to Texas.

Rick and I shared four and one half years in the forests and mountains of the Natural State, experiencing the inspiring beauty and relentless wrath of nature.  In those woods I found pieces of myself I didn’t know existed, and unearthed passions I could have only dreamed.

The forest captured my heart, stirring instincts I’d never acknowledged, and inner strength I didn’t know I possessed as I surrendered preconceived notions to her mossy floors, and released the burden of loss into the canopy of her open arms.

Unity with the earth blossomed as I followed the umbilicus between us, and when I fell in love with my garden, I began a second blog at WordPress: Aunt-Bea-Me was born.

Growing was not Mayberry-eske but the delightful Aunt Bea character in the television series of the old Andy Griffith show was the stuff of my fantasies.  She was sensible and silly at the same time.  She was consistent. You could count on her for everything from a fried chicken dinner to common sense.  She laughed a lot and was never pretentious.

When the world was too harsh, I pulled Aunt Bea from the recesses of my mind and looked to her for comfort.  As an adult, Arkansas became my Aunt Bea.

Rick and I have been back in Texas for four years.  Texas is more than my state, it is the root on which I planted my seeds.  Once again I am living in the garden of my children, and am deeply blessed by their love and attention.  Surprisingly, I find my voice much stronger than before.  I have grown into an opinionated old bird and lost any fear I harbored along the way.

I’ve toughened with the times.

Months ago I considered abandoning the Aunt-Bea-Me blog, but before I made a final decision I did a little research on Frances Bavier, the actress who played Aunt Bea.  I was surprised.  Ms. Bavier grew tired then aggravated with the role assigned her; it turns out she and Mr. Griffith were never really friends.  They were much more adversarial than I could have imagined.  Ms. Bavier said she felt she no longer existed as an individual because people associated her with a single role she played.

She admitted to having a love/hate relationship with the character Aunt Bea; so in an effort to break away from something that seemed to own her, she shifted directions to save herself.  Ms. Bavier began to isolate herself from the world through a long, lonely process of withdrawal, and in 1989 she died alone.  In the presence of a dozen plus cats and a rundown dirty home, Frances Bavier made her escape.

We all are a bit like Frances Bavier.  Through my writing, poetry and musings I present various facets of myself to an audience of strangers who sometimes assign a single aspect of that voice as the ultimate and total truth of my entire presence on earth.

A year and a half ago I became aware I was expending a great deal of energy on Facebook.  The more “friends” I made, the more pieces there were to connect. I seemed to waste a lot of time explaining, defining or justifying myself to people I didn’t even know. It isn’t a polite world out there anymore, and I never stay too long in bitterness; so as difficult as it is for a writer to walk away from an audience, I decided I needed to.

Life’s amazing whirlwind sweeps us to corners or to the middle of the room.  Frances Bavier chose a corner.  I’ve moved closer to the middle of the room myself.  The fantasy of a dear, sweet Aunt Bea carried me through many a storm, but the reality of Frances Bavier’s life reminds me today that isolation can overtake the spirit if it stays too long in a corner.

My Aunt-Bea-Me blog is coming down.  It has served me well.  But the time to move away from my safe space has long passed, and I am moving on.

Because time is precious.  And because there is a season for all things.

Bev

 

 

Finding Calm in the midst of Chaos

6 Dec

the sky is falliingWeather reports zealously predicted the emergence of a winter storm of near epic proportions.  As I listened, I was struck by the sound of rising alarm in the voices of meteorologists who paced like caged tigers, and I wondered again where the days of calm and objectivity had gone, seemingly having disappeared like two old friends descending the last mountain, looking back over their shoulders to companions left behind, giving a final thumbs up to them, as if nothing would ever change, as if time and the world would repeat itself as it always had when the sun rose each morning; but the world did change, and comfort once gained from soothing, consistent voices vanished in a populist culture of serial disasters, each horrible and mesmerizing; each uglier than its predecessor, yet understood to be just another wrung on an endless ladder of adrenaline-driven-drama yet to come.

Hoping for the best, planning for the worst, we drove to the market in preparation of the power outage that was sure to come.  How did we know the power would disappear?  Well, actually we received a text message from Entergy explaining that 8,000 workers were on their way to the area, and that outages were expected to last “5-7 days”.  It seemed more a promise than a possibility.

As we drove, we passed 3 or 4 gas stations, each with long, winding lines and a carbon monoxide fog hanging overhead like another warning, or perhaps, a final obituary.

Inside the store, signs of the new world shrank the warehouse sized building into the likes of a small parlor filled with warring tribes, each combatant wearing armor, his or her eyes straight ahead, and the cold dead stench of fear rising.

The bread aisle was empty.

The water aisle was empty.

no water

A half-gallon of milk cost $4.43.

I had a bag of tortillas in my hand until an old man shoved me and snatched it away; pushing his cart away as fast and hard as he could.  On any other day, perhaps he would have offered to reach it for me, taken it from the high shelf and put it in my hand, or maybe he might have smiled as we passed each other on Aisle 8.  But today he was not himself, or perhaps he had never been more himself until the very moment he stole a bag of tortillas from a stranger’s hand.

It caught me off-guard; for a moment, I needed to step away from the crowd, so I huddled next to an end-cap of nonessentials like cotton balls or hair color.  Narrowing my focus, I listened to the sounds emitted from the surging crowd.  Expecting growls of altercation, I was surprised to hear excitement, like a growing anticipation for an adventure yet defined.  At first I believed I was witnessing the emergence of community, a gathering of like-minded souls preparing to endure shared battle, but the longer I listened, I more clearly I began to understand, and I trembled with the knowledge that what I heard was more akin to observers at a public hanging, or a gathering of the pious howling in jubilation at the burning of a accused witch.

Rich and I left carrying nuts and fruit, a couple of bags of chips and 3 bottles of marinara.  We drove like lunatics away from the crowds, weaving through debris already strewn by the wind throughout back roads and city streets.

Once home, we dug through the Recycle Bin, dragging out empty plastic bottles that we washed with hot, soapy water.  After they’d dried, we filled them with fresh tap water.

We unpacked winter blankets.

We filled a basket with candles, matches, flashlights and batteries.

We ate peanut butter sandwiches and shared the last piece of pumpkin pie from the back of the refrigerator.  Then we snuggled under the knitted blanket I’d bought at an estate sale from two daughters who didn’t want it, who had valued it at $3.00, never understanding the emotion and time, the love and careful attention their mother had invested in it.

Then we turned on the outside Christmas lights, rolled up the blinds, settled in, held hands, and watched the snow begin to fall.

snow flakes

90 is the new 30, the frustrating numbers we believe

9 Oct

used car salesman and old lady

I heard it on TV!

40 is the new 20.

60 is the new 40.

Bull pucky!   If you believe that, maybe it’s time to wake up and smell the coffee, and while you’re at it, come to terms with the fact that you might be buying yellow bricks from a bunch of munchkins from Planet Oz.

Illusion is the new truth out there, my friends!

What’s real in my house is the troubling personal reality that 90 minutes has become the new 30 minutes and the end results are starting to suck big time since I’m working with what I have and not so much with what I need, or used to have, or think I ought to have.

I remember working like a son of a gun without ending the day with cascading waves of muscles cramps and insomnia.  I remember when a glass of white wine was all it took to unwind. But the fact that it takes 90 minutes for me to do what I used to do in 30 is a fact of life, and as distasteful as it seems, I live around it as I go about the comical but satisfying process of remaining true to myself.  This time-ability-experiential -shift hasn’t changed who I am; it’s only decreased my production levels requiring me to regularly adjust priorities.

Yesterday my dentist was trying to sell me on his idea of how to best care for my teeth, saying his plan would ensure dental happiness for the next 30 years.  I looked at him like he’d lost his mind.

“I have no plans to need teeth in 30 years”, I said, to which he replied, “You need to change the paradigm you use to see life.”

I have to hand it to him, it was a great line, but paying $10,000 for a couple of teeth isn’t going to impact anything except my wallet, and honest to goodness, I don’t want to see 95!

Years ago I made a deliberate choice to live my own way.  It wasn’t an easy decision to make. It turned my entire life upside down, and during the first year that followed, I sometimes wondered if the consequences of that choice weren’t signs that I’d lost my mind.  One the best (and worst) aspects of my personality is an over-developed sense of tenacity; I’m “in it” for the long haul no matter how long or short, how wicked or delightful the ride might be.

I lost friends.  I disappointed family.  I hung in.  I pushed on and here I am!

Happiness is fleeting and situational at best, so to say I’ve been happy ever since would be dishonest, but I have enormous inner peace and intermittent bursts of sudden, unexplained joy.

Eventually my family came around, but there is space between us that didn’t feel as if it was there before.  This was disappointing until I began to understand that life is not intended to remain constant.  The human condition is based on constant evolving change as we grow from single cells into complex beings of great potential.  We accept, we reject, and we settle or compromise.  We break free from the pack.  We stumble and fall.  We get up and try again, or lie face down in the dirt unwilling to gamble on the uncertainty of the unknown.  We grow large or we shrink.  We bend or we break. Some of us try to stay in the same place but the wind blows and the night sky dims our vision, and well known plains and valleys in the geography of our existence evolves around us, forcing our hand.

If we are true to our core selves, resisting social rhetoric and religious dogma, we win!  We get to rub Ben Gay on our swollen legs at night and drink warm milk or pop Tylenol PM in hopes of getting a decent night’s sleep.

We get to have good or bad dreams, and we get to remember or forget them when we wake in the morning.  We get to choose whether or not we want to watch the 5 o’clock news.  We get to decide if we eat sensibly or forgive ourselves for eating chocolate cake for dinner.

We get to keep inching along that long narrow ledge on the steepest side of the highest mountain, and it’s our choice whether or not we leap into the near-blue invisible arms of the sky or sit in place, watching the clouds swirl around us.  We can be kings and queens or the village idiot.  We can shut up, put up and hang on.  Or not.

 

A Glimpse into the Irreplaceable Past

22 Sep

 yardsale2

Sprawling across the front lawn belonging to a 75-ish woman, yesterdays Yard Sale was the result of the mental planning and great physical efforts of two other women, one 45-ish, the other 35-ish. The 40-something gem is a jewel of a woman of whom such a description aptly fits, but the same could be said of the others relative to the fact that one is her mother, and the other, her best friend.

The odd duck in the lot was me, the 65-ish old chick who lives next door to the gem and her best friend.  I was propped up by the presence of my own best friend, Rick, my husband, who attended the foray in the capacity of muscle, security, neighbor, buddy, and loyal assistant.

The day was perfectly beautiful with bright shining sun and a slight breeze, and temperatures’ ranging from the low 60’s to low 70’s.  Having decided to forego listing our sale in the classifieds, the weather proved our best advertisement, drawing sleepy heads, weary of too many days of unseasonable heat, out of their air-conditioned caves and back into the streets in search of community.

It was a very good day to make new friends, which we did, but what impressed me most was the symbology of the items we’d each chosen to sell.  It was a clear representation of the past in a spectrum of odd collections displayed in a mishmash fashion across plastic tables, in acknowledgement of sentimental journeys spanning generations.

Each item we discarded was a piece of our individual and collective pasts.  I can’t speak for the others, but I’d struggled for weeks culling out cabinets and closets trying to come to terms with letting go of objects that represented my past in a genuine effort to simplify the present.  For me, nothing is simply what it appears to be; that small glass bowl with its etched lid is the party I hosted when I was 25 and all my girlfriends were nearly weightless in joy and anticipation of the futures they’d planned.  It was toddlers toddling around our knees, picking cookies off dainty trays and eating them with the kind of zeal only a child can express.

etched jar

The two decorated stacking boxes were freedom at 51, they were inner courage surfacing, lust and excitement coming of age when I felt for the very first time, it was finally my turn.  Putting price tags on them for $2.50 and $4.00 seemed a slap in the face to the most extreme journey I’d taken in my life.

The end tables were tradition.  The handmade Christmas ornaments are hopes I once held for a houseful of grandchildren clamoring each holiday season to help Nonnie and Newt decorate their tree.

I know in my head, none of these items are actually pieces of my identity, only small material representations of dreams I’ve dreamt and discarded along the way as the path turned one way and then another, and each old ideal diminished in the face of a new and far brighter reality.

identity art

But the struggle to release is real.  It’s a mother entering the winter of her life finally realizing she simply must cut the cord and set her grown children completely free to flounder and fall before soaring amongst the stars in the boundless sky.  It’s burying a dead ex-husband and allowing the truth to exist by accepting that each flaw in the relationship helped you learn how to fill the tiny cracks that kept you fractured from the deepest, most authentic aspects of yourself.

It is understanding how embracing the hard times and then letting them go, strengthens your fortitude, making it easier to face the deep unknown.

It’s not a tattered old crocheted blanket; it’s the tears you shed creating it as you divested yourself from longings that, if followed, would deeply affect your children’s lives.  It is not a silly piece of art; it’s your father’s imagination, your mother’s strong hands, your sister’s laughter, your brother’s serious side, a glimpse into the irreplaceable past.

But at the end of the day, hard choices must be made.  Sitting in the shade with new friends and the love of my life, making new friends, placing old treasures into stranger’s hands, I’m cutting loose threads of the past in order to create a clearer path for today.  Even so, late in the day, when a man hassles me over the price of my two decorated boxes, I pass on the deal, deciding to keep this particular symbol for myself.

The seasons of our lives are not loved and respected because of successes we enjoy, nor are they despised and weakened by the challenges we face, but are to be richly honored for moving us each closer to authenticity and the inner sanctuary of unconditional love and absolute peace.

The wise know without the storm, there would be no majestic cliff from which to stand and observe the seemingly random, yet perfectly organized chaos of changing weather.  Without rapids in the river, sharp ridges would not be tamed into smooth stone. Yesterdays’ Yard Sale brought five people together uniting their pasts by sharing and releasing a variety of personal treasures.  These treasures attracted other collectors, and in the process relative strangers journeys’ intersected in an act of true community.

Last night I dreamed I was in a boat that was being carried by rushing currents through a narrow river stream.  Branches from a forest of trees created a low canopy that was ominous.  I could feel my heart beat faster and faster as the water drew my small boat closer to the obstacles ahead, but just as I was about to be hit in the face by a branch, it would suddenly arch toward the sky, freeing my way.  For miles I traveled watching the beautiful spectacle.  My daughters were standing on either side of the riverbed, each peaceful and smiling.  They waved as I passed, then turned and walked away.

I saw my deceased ex-husband on a hill.  He was standing with Rick.  As I approached, he shook Rick’s hand and then faded away.  Rick walked to the edge of the shore, waiting for me; then he slipped easily into my boat.  Suddenly the boat was a ship, and the sea lay open and inviting before us.  And when I awoke this morning, I swear I could taste salt on my lips and hear waves breaking on shore.  Yesterday was a beautiful season.  So is today.

season tree

  And I know tomorrow will be too, no matter when it begins or how long it stays.

Crones in Fuchsia

13 Sep

The bathroom at the end of the hall has no windows.  When I close the door behind me, it can either feel like a moss green and latte cell, or a safe house; whichever depends on how I’m feeling at the time.

This morning, it was sanctuary.

I knew the day wasn’t going to be easy no matter what kind of spin I put on it, because yesterday I received a letter beginning with the words: Welcome to Medicare.  My plan was to keep today light to stave off age related issues of insecurity, but if I’d really wanted a retreat day, I would have skipped checking in with my Facebook page, wouldn’t I?

tarot the fool

A friend had posted an article relating to internet security that was thoughtful, and while not alarming, I confess, it fed my paranoid side that is suspicious of rapid change.  Like any animal with a head larger than mine, I don’t completely trust it without a proper courting phase allowing me time to ease into the unfamiliar, rather than busting through its doors.

This morning a Facebook entry hit a raw nerve, sending me into the shadow that Medicare began the day before, and I found myself heading to the room without windows at the end of the hall.

Small windowless rooms, most notably closets, have long been my sanctuary when the big, bad wolves of the world close in.  As a child, I believed I was invisible cowering inside, safe from sharp teeth.  As an adolescent, I could feel myself blending into walls, crouching behind an assortment of clothes that played to the particular role I assigned myself for the day.  As a young wife, closets offered refuge from the raging bull in the other room.  In middle age, I became my own closet, moving in, putting the pieces back together again.  At this stage in life, closets are just another chore needing attention.

dark closet

But this morning, thanks to Medicare and Facebook, the small, windowless room whisked me back in time, and for a moment I crouched in deference to the past that made me the woman I am today. And I covered the crone’s lips in bright fuchsia lipstick before opening another door and entering.

images

 

 

 

Ambivalence: Dealing With It, Understanding it is Fear’s First Cousin

2 Sep

I always experience a blend of excitement and sadness this time of year. It feels like each day is suspended on a great curve or a massive arch, and having passed the midway point in yet another season, summer achingly descends toward its inevitable end while fall waits around the corner, giddy with anticipation. For summer, each ever-shortening minute seems to mourn the loss of delicate carefree days, but fall is like a child anticipating the first day of school, bursting with energy and full of endless possibilities. 

I hate to see the flowers go, but I love the spectrum of autumn colors, and savor the thought of shorter days and lengthening nights; its nature’s way of slowing us down, bringing a little work/rest balance to our lives.  When the forest erupts in nearly indescribable color, there’s pep in my step that is missing in the heat of deep summer.  I love the bounce and the crisp air that carries with it a hint of wood burning in distant fire pits and fireplaces.  Still, I miss the elegance of blossoming flowers, the sound of bees congregating over the oregano and thyme, the fragrance of sage and rosemary, lavender, Thai basil and lemon eucalyptus.

my love affair with flowers continues MY STUFF1

Each year the changing of seasons is a bit different from the last.  If it’s been a particularly wet summer, the landscape captures the story of persistent rain beating the ground, distending the earths belly with forced feedings that erode fragile ecosystems, destroy newly fallen seeds, and drown insects and other small creatures.  The bodies of summer are carried by rushing streams of rainwater until snagged by mounds of debris that have collected in nooks and crannies across uneven ground.  These makeshift cemeteries will be their last resting place as they ferment and dissolve back into the earth that bore them.  The initial fragrance of rain intersecting dry earth deepens to a musky scent before succumbing to the eventual stench of decay. 

Even the trees seemingly weep, their branches weary, and bark swollen.  While I celebrate the bounty of water, simultaneously I mourn the loss of my precious flowers as they lay their heads to the ground in absolute surrender.  Manically, I’m up again watching the birds feed on fat worms plucked from sodden grasses, easily satisfying their appetites in a ritual of sustainability and regeneration.  If summer has been cruel, if skies have refused to provide water to the dry pleading soil below, the landscape withers in brittle tales of want and desire.  And the earth splits in spidering cracks and crevices, creating safe havens for insects, invertebrates and small mammals. 

cracked earth 1

The trees on the horizon shrink in rising dust, their parched leaves defeated, and dropping by the handfuls with even a hint of a breeze. And as far as the eye can see, there is a backdrop of scarcity and woe.  Soon we move indoors in search of something more, leaving the earth to endure the scalding heat alone.

Evenings are one of the few rewards we find for having suffered the dog days of summer.  Late afternoon often marks the arrival of migratory birds in search of something to eat or drink,  Their musical voices are soothing and reminiscent of old women haggling in a market place.  By dusk, when fireflies begin to light the hem of the woods, we return to the thick, warm air, languishing in lawn chairs, shooing flies and gnats from the corners of our mouths as we talk about the weather, or dream aloud of cooler days to come.

I match each season to the cadence of my own life.  On the cusp of fall, I find myself finishing projects I began in the spring and nurtured all summer long, and compiling list after list of things that must be done in preparation for the cold, dark void of winter that is building just around the corner. 

I’m plucking the dry heads off daisies, sunflowers and Echinacea and scattering their seeds throughout my gardens.  I’m preparing a list of bushes and tree limbs to prune in late October.  I’m harvesting and drying herbs to use in the cold months when their roots are resting beneath ice or snow.  I’m starting construction on small Halloween gifts for the children on my street who delight me year after year with their eager faces squealing “Trick or Treat!”

MY STUFF 2 halloween door

I’m a little early with what I call my Annual Fall Clean-Out, the time set aside to sort through everything I’ve collected or saved since early spring. I’m editing the clutter.  If I don’t, everything I own suddenly owns me, and I become a slave to their upkeep.  I’m getting too old for heavy cleaning and shuffling stuff from place to place anymore, so I’m downsizing in my own way.  I admit to the absurdity and obvious conflict of being both a serial cleaner and one tittering on the abysmal brink of hoarding, and confess that I run myself wild saving for what may or may not ever happen, while throwing away what isn’t actually needed.  I understand that I am my own particular disease just as much as I am its own particular cure.

bandaide on heart

Today is September 2nd.  Outside, if feels as if summer is still with us, but our calendar is filling with autumn activities.  Soon the leaves will turn and begin to fall, and I will pile them on top of all my flower beds to insulate against the bitter cold that lies ahead.  Summer was slow starting for us this year, and already the night temperatures are dipping into the 60’s.  I remember standing on our deck on the fourth of July and telling my husband that winter would arrive soon.

“Sooner than we’ll be ready for it, I fear,” he said.

Time passes so quickly these days.  It seems we are always looking over our shoulders toward yesterday, yesterday when the babies were born and life was joyfully packed with activity and pseudo-drama.  Yesterday, when everyone we loved was still alive, still laughing or causing grief.  Yesterday, when tomorrow seemed a million years away.  But I’ve no time for ambivalent thoughts today.  My sister telephoned; she and her husband and my brother and Mom are coming for a visit at the end of the month.  I have so much to do before they arrive…and there is so much to look forward to, so many busy pleasures and rich experiences for Rich and I to explore before the bone cold winter hand knocks at our front door and whispers our names.

old couple in love 1

  

 

 

Keeping Secrets and Caring for Our Shadow Side

19 Aug

top secret stamp itty

It’s a challenge at times, especially when they rise to the surface, refusing to be ignored.  I can push with all of my might, using laser-beam focus, but it doesn’t help a bit.  Mama used to say ‘some things take on a life all of their own’, and if I’ve learned anything, it’s that every single thought, every action and consequence, does exactly that.

A few minutes ago, this was a blank page; now it’s a presentation of my personal beliefs.  Each time I strike a key on the keyboard, the page develops into something more complex than it was when I decided to sit down at the desk. I could stop writing now, but even if I do, I’ve already planted a tiny seed that could grow into a monster, or turn into dust that will simply blow away.

It’s a risk I can’t wait to take.

The world is alive.  Sometimes I picture myself as a tiny cosmic dot hanging onto the bushy outer fur of the world as it races across countries and vast bodies of water, timelines and contrasting poles, picking up speed without breaking stride.  It takes every bit of my strength to stay in place, and not be shaken from the world’s great back like a dog would shake off fleas.

There are days I can admit I am a parasite, and other days I am certain I am a vaccine.  But in either state of mind, I am honest with, and forgiving of myself.  It takes a lot of energy just to talk, but it takes me much more to be silent.  My mind is an ocean churning.  There are dangerous rip tides, under tows and furtive currents to be considered.  There are the whirlpools of life and death struggles playing out beyond eyesight.  My mind is full of formidable forests growing from its sandy floor.  There are centuries old shipwrecks hiding bones and lost treasure.  There are species of fish never before seen. In the sea, I am not at the top of the food chain, I am a little fish in a very big pond; that’s how my mind sees my body, and I can either be lunch or a servant to the brain that owns me.

ocean surge itty

I love the sea as much as I am frightened by it.

For years friends urged me to write a book.  My response never wavered, “Who am I to tell anyone how to do anything?” I would ask.  Yet here I am, shooting off my mouth about my philosophy on secret keeping.  I’m able to rationalize this by convincing myself that no one here has ever lost any money over anything I’ve said.  I’ve never tried to present myself as an expert on anything; I’ve never tried to sell my ideas.  I have sold poetry I’ve written, but I don’t do poetry on the two blogs I write.  I keep blogs the same way I used to keep journals.  Getting older has its perks; I’m no longer interested in what others think about me, and while I know I’m not an authority on any given subject, at this age, I give myself permission to say what I think.

If I have to lie to keep a secret, I don’t keep it anymore; I set the darned thing free.  I haven’t had to do that but a couple of times in my life, but each time I have, I’ve felt robbed afterwards.  No one has ever forced me to divulge anything, but I have been convinced to submit to another person’s will before.  Going against my own values is never good; it’s an act of weakness that makes me ashamed of myself, and I hate feeling that way.

Anything can be a secret really.  It doesn’t necessarily have to be heavy information.  Maybe it was nothing until you decided to elevate it by designating it as a ‘secret’.  Nothing moves a non-issue to the front of the line like good branding.

I have lots of secrets.  If I let them go, I lose part of my mystique, and I’m not about to voluntarily give any of that up at this stage.  I have so many secrets, matter of fact, that I categorize them with indexing ranging from recipes to sex.  (Got your attention, didn’t I?)

Whatever task I attempt, I carry my baggage along for the ride.  I’ve gotten rid of most of what I wanted to get rid of, but I’ve kept an awful lot.  My husband is a fixer.  He always wants to improve everything from a situation to a point of view.  I resist being fixed.  I read a book years ago about Native American philosophy and was transfixed by the whole Shadow Side perspective.  There is light, and there is darkness.  The author explained his ancestor’s respect for the difference between the two, and their understanding of the necessity of each.  Without the light, nothing will live or thrive.  But there are times the light is threatened, and to ensure its survival, man calls on his shadow side to protect it.

light and dark itty

Calling forth the shadow is not done lightly, nor without ceremony.  A ceremony sets an intention; in the case of protecting something as important as a value or the ability to live the kind of life one loves, it is the starting line.  A purification/dedication fire is lit and dancing begins.  Prayers are offered to the Great Ones above.  Finally, paint representing the savage nature of the shadow inside, is smeared across the face.  Then the battle begins.

warpainted woman face itty

The author emphasized the importance of knowing when to pull out one’s shadow and when to put it back again.  To enjoy the acts involved in destruction is to become stuck in one’s shadow. To be stuck in darkness prohibits light.

I appreciate the truth about myself, but it doesn’t matter to or affect anyone but me.   I’ve learned how beautiful the light is, and how necessary it is to ensure its survival.  I’m comfortable with my shadow side too.  The secrets I keep, keep my shadow alive.  I respect any memory that has impacted my life so powerfully that I chose to keep it secret.  I’ve given a name to my shadow side, (that’s a secret too), but I often consult her opinion on issues before I act; I find her wisdom invaluable.  I choose my battles carefully these days, but once I determine a battle is completely necessary, I light a candle, set an intention, ask the Universe for support and guidance, and then I do what I believe is best, no matter the price.

victorious woman standing in low tide itty

Dealing With the Past Everyday, Whether it’s Horse Poop or Ice Cream

9 Aug

I’ll speak for myself, but I know for a fact there is one other person who agrees with my philosophy about the past’s influence on the present. Because of that, it makes it easier for us to comfort and lift each other up whenever needed. Lynette is my best friend although it will 10 years in October since we last saw each other. If I dwell on that fact, I emotionally hemorrhage; so on a lighter note, here’s a photo of us back in 2001 or 2002.

Hugs Lynette and Bev

Most of my followers probably expect me to be satisfied with the silver lining in the dark cloud, but finding satisfaction depends on surviving the storm and being willing to assess (and reassess) its damage. Sometimes it seems we are victimized by outside forces we can’t control; and there are cases when that certainly is true: a serious illness, the loss of a child…but 98% of the time, whatever smacks us upside the head has everything to do with an issue we’ve been trying to avoid. The issue and the storms we find ourselves in rarely seem to connect, but after doing the inner work , we find they do.

sea storm BLOG

I have a past as colorful and choppy as mosaic art; it can also be compared to a Pointillist landscape composed of thousands of tiny dots placed on a canvas in seemingly random order, but when viewed from a distance, each individual dot becomes an integral piece in a cohesive story.

                whole face pointillist

In 2000, when I opened a door, my world changed. I tried to pretend it away, but once opened, some doors can never be closed again. Because I was such a master of hiding the truth from everyone who knew me at the time, when I entered that door, my support system fell away, and I found myself on the journey of my life, alone.

Opening one door leads to opening another, which is exactly what I did. But here are a few interesting observations I made along the way: sometimes what lies on the other side of the door is too beautiful to look at for long. Sometimes what appears to be a diamond turns out to be broken glass. And often we simply can’t make our minds up about which door to open in the first place, so gingerly, we turn the handles, meekly peeking in; but once we discover the secret behind the door, we close then open it again and again,  doing that whole  c-r-a-z-y thing where we keep expecting a different outcome while doing the same old thing.

hallway with doors

The great thing about opening doors is the fact that you find the courage to walk on the tight rope of each individual, unscripted moment of life without a safety net, and OMG!, that’s a powerful feeling.

Although for several years I lost my familiar community of family and friends, I wasn’t actually alone for very long. Wandering the hall of opened doors, there was, at first, only a trickling of equally timid souls weaving in and out, walking close or around me.  But the deeper into the guts of the unknown I traveled, the more lively and heavily populated the crowds became.

Lynette was one the earliest hall-walkers I met, and once introduced, we buddied up for the duration of the trip.

The first door I opened, the biggest one, the one responsible for prompting the entire journey, was a door I kept opening and closing. Even as my ever-changing perception of what was on the other side vacillated from horror to ecstasy and back, I never slammed it shut. After a few years, I decided the best thing to do was to turn away from it.

winding trails

What walking away taught me was that entering it in the first place was the best choice I’d ever made, and that trying to completely seal that particular door would prove impossible in this lifetime. For me, that first door represents the precise group of Pointillist dots that form my legs. Without keeping everything I experienced on the other side of the door in my heart; I would not be able to move forward.

While not quite afraid of the pivotal door, for me it’s like the sea, I have a healthy respect of its power while admiring its seductive ruthlessness, its beauty, and the impulsiveness of unyielding focus. If I pretended the past never happened, I’d be doomed to repeat it.

woman and sea merged BLOG

 

I’ve been working everyday since 1997.  And I’ll continue to work for the rest of my life, if that’s what it takes to support the world I created having opened a series of amazing doors.

A Wise Defense

26 Jul

If you try your best, it is still quite difficult to shut out the noise of the world, perhaps that’s not a bad thing because little would change without collective outrage against the status quo. But there is only so much energy a person can expend before annoyances burgeon into total outrage. A thoughtful person who deeply knows him/herself respects the boundaries he sets in efforts to keep enough energy available to successfully run the Mother Ship. A good rule of thumb: Carry social concerns and controversies in direct proportion to weight you can safely bear without causing damage to your mental and physical balance. Do what you can to further causes you are passionate about mindfully; that’s another way of saying the same thing.

The desire to continue my own inner journey is often inspired by observing the chaos of others. The further they move from the light, the more driven I become to reflect its radiance.

Life is the teacher, we are students. Some learn quickly, others never try. Some people in the classroom act out, hoping to illicit a response from others. Often it works, distracting many from tasks at hand. There are pools of negativity everywhere we look. They have always existed, but the smaller the world becomes with the tools of social networking, the more aware we become of their existence. Social media consists of many students of the world. Some use global social media in an attempt to increase numbers in their angry crowds. Like follows like, but loud attracts the attention of many who have not yet formed strong consciences regarding issues presented; thus, it is a formula that, sadly, works.

When I hear, read, or witness words of hatred, I am inspired to react in two different ways. The first is to fall into the abyss, heat rising in my gut, evoking a primal urge to strike back. The second is to intercede and settle the matter, hoping against all odds that the terrible hate-filled events were mere misunderstandings. These are initial reactions, but both are far from practical responses.

Throw hatred in my path and even though I want to kick it out of the way, I have learned that’s like kicking a hornets nest, or trying to reason with a rattlesnake. But as a human, emotions must be respected, so I allow myself to experience the feelings of having been offended, and then I move in.

For me, the best way to accomplish this is to try to identify the source energy of the particular hatred involved, examining everything I discover from a philosophical perspective. Almost always hatred can be traced back to fear. Each of us shows our true colors by the words we choose to speak, by the banners we carry, the projects we begin and the arguments we end. To create something beautiful and beneficial does not require one to be a god, but a steward of positive intentions, deliberate actions, and unwavering focus. All that is needed to destroy is a carefully chosen word of dissent angrily spoken.

Words are powerfully constructive tools when used to build, but they are weapons of mass destruction when intended to destroy. Conflict cannot be avoided in life; for me, the goal isn’t to be giddy with hope or combatively defensive, but to counter the extremes in a spirit of generosity, choosing to use language fostered in the quiet, practical countenance of inner peace before speaking, or setting words to paper.

Throw a rock at my right eye; I will not offer my left as your next target. I will not throw another stone at you. I will not satisfy your cruelty with screams or tears. But I will look you in the eye and I will know you. I will see your weakness and your fear. I will maintain my peace, and the fact of knowing you as I will, shall weaken the hatred that propels you to do and say irrational things.

I cannot shout louder than an angry crowd, but wisdom and introspection will protect me from catching hatred’s demoralizing disease. There is a cure for hatred. To find it, we’ve only to look inside.

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Contradictions in Place

17 May

Is it just me or is life full of contradictions?  The sweetest people I know have diabetes and can’t eat sweet things, those with the biggest, most generous hearts have heart disease, and the friendliest folks I’ve ever met, often are pretty lonely in everyday life.  Those with the biggest smiles have been forced to invest thousands in rotten teeth.  And some of funniest people in the world are depressed. 

I’m in a new phase.  I am the consummate observer these days, working like mad to detach myself from the prospect of falling into modern culture’s habit of discounting or discarding the elderly amongst us.  I’m in this phase as a matter of self-defense, being that I am one of the elderly amongst us these days. Populist judgment isn’t the only conceptual ideology I’m detaching from either; I’m dropping old wives tales, cultural mythology, political rancor, mainstream media and processed foods.  (Well, I’m giving that whole process food thingy my best shot anyway.)

I’ve been forced to reevaluate my life once again, (seems its a cyclical process), and as I enter that whole practice of introspection, I realize I’m in the autumn of my existence, but not to worry, fall has always been my favorite season, (followed by winter and spring.)  So I’m looking at it this way: I get  to spend, hopefully, years in my all-time favorite seasons!  Also, how apropos for a person like me who believes in an afterlife, that spring should follow winter’s death.

My mother is 86 years old.  She often tells me the Golden Years are hard and cold.  I hope not.  I’m personally expecting them to be the most introspective years of life.  I’m visualizing a quieter, slower time with a great deal of rocking in my favorite old black rocking chair, staring at the trees off my deck, and spending long hours in the peaceful solitude of quilting.  But the truth is, I don’t know what to expect, no one does. So, under these particular circumstances, the best thing I think I can do is to be aware and not waste precious time being frustrated.  I believe I can save myself a great deal of grief  by watching the signs along the way, because I know that everything is connected.  One thing leads to another, and that leads to fresh opportunities and change.  My observation that life is full of contradictions arose from my introspective space where I concluded a person can be so sweet or kind to others that he ends up giving pieces of himself away, never fulfilling his own need for sweetness, and out of a sense of exigency or self-preservation, his body responds; his pancreas slowing, or simply shutting down.  Maybe the same can be said of one who has dealt with a broken heart, or the person who continually helps others, but never asks for help himself. 

I know this is the truth: the earth is changing.  I see it in the woods where I live.  I see it in the animals here.  We are all part of this good earth, an extension of naturalness under assault.  I can live with as small of a carbon footprint as is personally possible, but I cannot change the velocity of world-speed, or the stealth-like consequences of progress. Still, I have power; I can observe and consider paths chosen and paths ignored, and I can add those observations to the well of learned wisdom I share with others.

My bones are tired; they are swollen and sore from a life full of activity.  Still, they press on.  The person with the greatest heart I have ever known is my husband, Richard.  He has persistent heart disease.  Rick and I met and married in 2003.  I thought our love would heal him.  What it did was make him stronger and more determined to do the right thing for himself. I can’t list everything marrying Richard has done for me; there’s not enough paper in the world, but his love saves me everyday.  

I recently shared my life philosophy with a blogger friend of mine, telling her I approach every day as if it is a vacation day.  No matter how busy I am, no matter how many tasks must be completed, I’m off the clock!  On vacation, you give yourself time to rest, time to heal and regroup before stepping back into the real world.  Vacation is my real world.  I have permission to sit out a day, or a week, or a month, whatever I need because  I give it to myself.  And I watch the signs, follow the trails and mysterious hints nature gives.

Today it is overcast outside, drizzling rain, cool, crisp breeze;  a day best spent tending to inside things … like sitting on the covered deck blowing bubbles.   

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My Comfort Zone is a Fortress

12 Apr

Stepping into someone else’s life is good for the soul. When the time comes to return to your own reality, you find the walk on the other side has added new dimensions to your perceptions, altering, to one degree or another, your philosophies, enhancing your focus and outlook on the big picture, or fine tuning a smaller one.

Universally speaking, I embrace change, but on a more personal level I cling to long held rituals and habits to carry me from day to day. My comfort zone is a fortress of lessons learned. Inside its walls, I explore the options of adding my personal insights into the vast ocean of public opinion, or withdrawing from society all together. But having walked beside, if not in, another’s shoes, I’m left with a collage of fresh insights which will result in new questions that I will attempt to answer to satisfy the philosophical detective in my brain.

First observations in this new journey simply did not match any of the preconceived notions I’d packed for the occasion. I was terribly overdressed for such delightfully casual sincerity. I was the only person wearing armor in a room full of authenticity. While on the surface, I blended, in my mind I was forced to deal with the dirty truth that the assumption I’d made that I would be judged by others, was itself a judgment, making me a cynic at best, or a hypocrite at the other end of the ruler I was packing.

Reality was shock therapy; thank goodness I was surrounded by compassionate people, good food and playful children. In the end, Karaoke pulled me from the hard grip of fear, and I rose from self-imposed darkness, walking purposefully toward new light.

Day two was more delightful than day one; but with all experience comes self-revelation, and having already blundered my way through a buried mine field of my own fixed opinions, horrifying as it had been, it was time to dig through another pile of soiled undies; and all I could do was to smile and hope for the best. Ultimately, it ended well, but better even than that, the celebratory encounters of two distinctively diverse families moving closer, bridging social gaps, effortlessly forming a comfortable cohesion between contrasting tribes, created bonds that will not be broken.

The week was evolution stuck in fast-forward, covering more ground than shining black Starlings feeding mid-spring in Texas. For me, it was more; it was college. It was a revival of the spirit, a well-deserved kick in the pants jolting me from the status-quo back into the boundless realms of new possibilities.

How glamorous the intoxication of ease, how refreshing not to try to mow one’s yard using only a pair of scissors. But intoxication isn’t a one way street; it’s a thoroughfare, traffic teeming, horns blaring from all directions. It is an invitation to reevaluate the furniture in the brain along with each and every particle of its structure. Intoxication from extremes is an invitation to a dissection and probing study of intellectual properly lines you claim.

My visit to the other side was the holiday that made my reality more beautiful magically. It was the most perfect planet I’d ever visited although I found it lacked the amenities of home, the dust bunnies and loud, clanging dishwasher, the worn oak floors creaking beneath my feet, the quilts softening old chairs and cold plaster walls, hot tea from my favorite cup that was a gift from my eldest daughter, and my Peter Pan, Captain Hook, Tinker Belle sewing turntable, a handmade gift from my youngest daughter.

The truth is: I attended a gathering with preconceived ideas of what I would find there, but what I discovered was inconsistent with anything I might have imagined. Enjoying the lavish lifestyles of people whose paths run parallel to mine, but without an unexpected twist of fate would never cross my own, was an unforeseen opportunity to reassess my values. What I found caught me off guard.

I discovered I had grown intoxicated by the story I called my life, a collection of perceptions of all of the experiences I have had; and I saw that I’ve carried a handy-dandy label maker with me at all times, completely unaware I was doing so. I’ve limited myself, unnecessarily, and it took a walk on the other side of the street to suggest there is a great deal out there I’ve missed. I have the life I want; there is no one in the world I would change places with, but I need to invite the unexpected into my life. I need to stop making excuses for myself, to quit believing it’s too late for anything new and exciting to happen to me. I need to quit asking the question, “Who the hell do I think I am?” and admit that question is an excuse I’ve used to avoid reaching higher.

Why would anyone be interested in reading anything I have to say; who the hell do I think I am anyway? Well, I’m one voice in a Universe of many voices… and after breaking out of my comfort zone, I find I still have a lot to say.

Watch the Signs…

21 Feb

Not street signs, although it’s always a good idea to know where you’re going and what rules you must follow to get there, but when I say Watch the Signs, I’m shooting lower and deeper.  Reality isn’t something you witness with your eyes; it’s the place you live under your skin, beneath your bones, inside your heart and mind.  Reality isn’t easily recognized; you’d think it would be, but actually, you’ll probably spend a great deal of your life occupying space, nesting in a specific place, wearing a variety of particular roles and calling it all real

Lately I’ve noticed more and more people seem content to play that game their whole life, never asking if there is anything more, or if there is something they might have missed. I did that myself for many years.  When you’re busy taking care of a family, there isn’t a lot of time left over for considering the philosophical implications of the decisions you make in daily life; but if you run full blast on empty long enough, you’re going to collide with something so powerful; it knocks you off your feet.  For me, being down was the perfect time to ‘go in’. 

What I discovered in the long process of introspection, was alarming.  I made a list of the qualities I believed most fairly represented me as a person.  Every day I had to mark something off of that list.  The list was a litany of illusions; it was protocol for being me. I would have liked to believe I’d simply outgrown the list, but by this time, I’d quit lying to myself.  I had to take the truth on the chin.  As I came to terms with each illusion, it was easy to see why I’d felt one way or another, why I’d made one choice over another; and it was easy to forgive myself once I identified and embraced the source of my need to please others more than to take care of myself.

This wasn’t the blame game; it wasn’t a pity party either; this was solid interior work.  Every so often, I fall off the philosophical wagon, but I don’t stay in the dirt very long.  It has become second nature to remove myself from the chatter and clatter of messaging meant to demean, rather than to elevate or educate.  I am careful of the quality, intent and content of things I put into my mind through television, books and articles, and banter with friends and acquaintances. Once introduced, even if not fully digested, information alters the process of perception. *  ** 

The voice I’m most interested in is my own; that does not make me selfish, rather it acknowledges the importance of accessing lessons I’ve learned as I’ve grown from a child into a mature woman in the autumn of life. 

Self-Is, I say daily. Self-knows. 

There is a line we cross to reach nirvana, once crossed, you can never go back, but even if you lose your footing, you understand you will not die in the fall. 

This morning I was thinking of all the things on my to-do list and feeling overwhelmed.  I walked to the window in my bedroom and looked into the forest.  It was 8 o’clock,but still dark; thunder rumbled from the north side of the mountain to the south, and sleet fell in crystal sheets.  The mobile art my father made that hangs in our pink Dogwood tree, was encrusted in ice, long icicles spinning in the wind like kitchen knives.  Young pine trees were bent to the ground forming surreal arches; bright, yellow Daffodils gleamed like yellow diamonds, and I spoke out loud to the God of such things, asking

Why do I feel as if there isn’t enough time to get everything done, why not just begin?  Why does today feel like a burden?        

I’d scarcely gotten the questions out of my mouth when a large piece of bark peeled from the side of a tree, falling to the frozen ground, revealing the answer.

The tree used a storm to rid itself of unwanted diseased bark

I can use this time to deal with old wood I still carry.  I’ll have ample time to go inside again, to dig through my own storm, to deal with lingering or new issues, and to mindfully prepare my inner soil for the promise of spring.

If you follow all the signs, you’ll see that the answers are hidden in plain sight, and instead of feeling as if you’re carrying an insurmountable weight on your shoulders, you’ll begin to understand that weight grounds us only for as long as we need. 

And that revelation in itself, will give you wings.

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  • The Happiness Hypothesis by Jonathan Haidt
  • The Biology of Belief by Bruce H. Lipton, Ph.D.