Tag Archives: Encouragement

Retired Judge

25 Feb

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Although difficult, for me, running against the wind is instinctive.  I wanted to be the peaceful type full of hope and pink ponies and optimism; but ever since I can remember, I’ve taken rough back roads instead of flowing along with crowds down pristine super highways.  I’m not a glass half empty woman any more than I’m a glass half full one.  For me, there’s water in a glass that has plenty room for more.

As a child, I used to groan under my breath at family gatherings when the topic for discussion shifted to the elders’ perception of change.  The word change, it seemed, was interchangeable with self-indulgence and destruction.  “The younger generation is going to bring about the end of everything we’ve built and cast the world over the cliff into a hungry abyss that will swallow it whole.”  Blah. Blah. Blah.

kitchen women

About this time I would generally inch my way toward the back door, planning escape.  I wish I’d listened more when I was young, paid more attention.  I wish I’d been more respectful of the process of wisdom gathering, opinion formation and varying styles of perception.  These are skills that come to fruition with aging, but I didn’t get it and I was really quite arrogant about it all, shaking my head at the gloom and doom old fools I left in the living room worrying about the future of the planet. It never entered my mind they were worrying about my life, what the realities would be in the wake of monumental change following the Great Depression and World War 2.

However, my perspective shifted noticeably when I crossed the 60 year line myself as I struggled with unsettling feelings of semi-bitterness for the rapid fire changes that had beset a world I was no longer familiar with and often uncomfortable in.

Those were emotionally exhausting days spent holding myself back, or propelling forward like rotted chicken catapulted from a giant sling shot.  And once again, arrogance, as I assumed my way was somehow the best way, often better even than the steady voices of men and women of peace, or the predictions of masterful economic minds, or the advice offered by strategic planners, or the exaggerated threats from political movers, and the woeful forecasts of intellectual shakers.  I was so full of righteous indignation I felt bloated and dour and sad.

Watching a friend lose her way in extraterrestrial philosophies and questionable directives from  guides from the other side, I paused long enough to reevaluate my own beliefs and deal, face to face, with the inflexible judge I had become.

et 2

It was a process.

Just as in childhood, I found myself inching once again toward the back door in an attempt to purge poisons I carried inside.  I thought, ‘perhaps if I fill my lungs with fresh air, or eat an apple in the swing on the front porch, or pick a bouquet of Black-Eyed Susans,’ I might feel better’.  And so I did all of those things and more, binding myself more closely with the cycles of nature and the rhythmic beat of my own heart , mindful of the emotional and mental chaos I’d created in the past and how unsatisfying the experience had been.

peaceful garden

I won’t say I killed the judge inside my soul, but I let her fade away.   I am an observer now; judging nothing, not even myself.

When I choose to watch the evening news and hear the ranting and ravings of judgmental zealots, a sense of calm fills my senses, and I feel the good intentions and the fear inside each loud voice.  I make mental notes about where they are standing, which audience they are addressing, the time of day they speak, lapel pins, the shapes of glasses they wear, and the voices of reporters trying to make names for themselves.

Adults are often little more than large children and that can go either way because a child can engage or detach as he sees fit, but when all of the pieces of the puzzle come together, it is a magnificent occasion.

These days I spend more time paying attention to what other people say.  I love hearing their ideas and opinions; I love reading what they are thinking and how they disseminate unique perspectives and personal views. I learn so much as I immerse myself in both studied and unexplored concepts.  More and more, I spend time reading non-fiction, opinion pieces, and most especially blogs.  The passion and sincerity bloggers express touches my heart.?????????????????????????????????????????????

Every time I experience the strength of another person’s voice, my own grows; but I’m not in love with the sound of my own voice.  My own opinions don’t impress me either.  I often find it difficult to express them now.  Blogging has become more challenging as I struggle to share without preaching.  I’ve learned that listening is an integral part of observation.  So is keeping an open mind.  The boundaries of my perceptions have seeped or bled into the fluidity of the times freeing my mind to explore new possibilities. I’m happy that I don’t feel responsible for the fate of the entire world. I am finally comfortable in my own skin and at peace with the ever evolving world around me.

I love, I love not

17 Jun

Having grown past the shock of the persistence of aging, I found myself in a sea of remorse with nothing more than metaphoric water wings, of which I relied completely upon to carry me through each subsequent stage of grief.  The wings themselves consisted of waning bits of optimism, tireless stocks of hope and self-deprecating humor, the company of other relics caught in the same storm, and loving encouragement from my children.

the old gang

When least expected, I awoke from the madness feeling confident and completely at peace.  All signs of panic had vanished; it was as if having been victim of a terrible virus I’d assumed would last to the end of my times, I had spontaneously healed.

Thus, in earnest, began Phase II, a great reconciliation, of sorts.  It was an otherwise unremarkable period with the exception of occasional energy bursts and perplexing eruptions of silliness and laughter that oddly coincided with the arrival and duration of spring.

This amazing lack of anxiety caught me off guard; I began making lists of things to do, and then, quite un-expectantly, did them.  My dad always said there is something wrong with everything, and indeed, his philosophy proved true for me as I felt myself inexplicably turn from teacher to observer of the puzzling phenomenon called life.  Suddenly it no longer felt like a requirement to give my opinion on every subject entering my personal space, quite the opposite; I was compelled by invisible unknown forces to keep my mouth shut while listening to the opinions of others.

Although I’d sincerely tried to do this before, I had been unsuccessful. Strangely, this time it was a natural progression, a silver-haired right of passage that effortlessly squashed  the Queen EGO, who had, until that very moment, commandeered and dominated the entire mother-ship.  In subsequent days, I felt as if I’d awakened on another planet; so much of what I had grown accustomed to had disappeared.  But as weeks passed, I indulged in the novelty of sweet surrender, growing stronger but less attached everyday.  It wasn’t as if I no longer cared; I did, but the emotional baggage attached to evolving current and personal events had disappeared, leaving me fresh and full of vigor.

waking on another planet

Currently, I’m in what can only be called Phase III, the playground of the devil; a mental sphere separating old habits of strict discipline and strong opinions to a more abstract conceptual attitude about everything, as I simply continue to hold my tongue.  All of this change and I am still not afraid.

The brevity of life eventually makes prophets and soothsayers of us all as we observe the cycles and repercussions of evolving life.  I can sit for hours watching the wind play in the trees.  I can lose myself in the flight of fire flies, or I can calmly observe younger generations rushing into each day with the zeal and urgency of a mob of small children with new toys they don’t want to share, or with the apathy of defeated orphans.  I can sign a dozen petitions a day, write letters to politicians I know no one of power will ever read, and make 10 telephone calls a week imploring one person or another to do the right thing while feeling as if my entire body is floating above the lunacy of it all.

fireflies

As far as the drama unfolding across the world that bravely, or foolishly, is fastidiously shared via social media, I have a pretty good idea how it will all end.  It’s like watching a re-run of history repeating itself as if no one was paying attention the first time around. And I can choose to either shake my head in disbelief, or consciously disconnect from the chatter of angry old men and women who’ve soured on everything that doesn’t fit under the narrow microscopic lenses of their own philosophies as they systematically crack the whip across the backs of the unfortunate.

I can do all this without falling apart.

Sometimes I make eye contact with everyone in the grocery store.  Other times, I stare at my shoes, leaving my tongue at home on a comfortable chair, or in a loaf of rising bread, or in the melodies of old Patsy Cline songs.  Some days I love the world, some days I do not.  Some days I relate, see myself in everyone else; but there are days I look past every face letting each blend in a massive blur of anonymity, and I feel absolutely nothing.

grocery store crowd

My New Age friends are quick to say everything is as it should be, but they’re full of bologna.  No one is supposed to starve to death.  No one is supposed to be raped or tortured.  Philosophically speaking, some days it is sunshine, others, it is rain; but even in the depths of the darkest storm, even with the floor boards coming loose and tripping us up,  we can agree to quit fighting ourself, understanding that if everyone else did the same thing, the world would immediately begin to heal.

I don’t worry much that there are so few years left in my life to live, instead I worry for the quality and abundance of those left in my children’s and grandchildren’s lives.

Morgan's birthday 2012

chris and billie  Brian and kiddos Crissy and Trent Chris and kids roller rink

ashley

I refuse to wring my hands or join the angry disillusioned masses of seniors scorching the good earth as they march against time trying to bring back the old days.  The old days are gone; we need to learn from them.  Today didn’t just happen; we formed it, all of us, but many of us will die, leaving the mess for others to clean up even as they struggle with their own generational responsibilities and challenges.

The only constant in my off and on love affair with life are the feelings I have toward children.  Their plights and futures put an extra kick in every pump of my heart.  I worry about all of them; borders and nationalities mean nothing to me.

Last month, I watched a child standing in a food line with her mother who apparently has Down syndrome.  There was nothing I could do to change the trajectory of her life.  That gives me pause; reality hurts my soul, but reality is also the cold earth warming in the early days of new spring, and fresh life growing in mossy clumps across the base of winter worn trees. And soft tunes carried on the wind from the strings of a child’s violin to the rocking chair on my back porch.  And clouds gathering.  And bad news on the television every day, and weddings and births.  And hope for future generations.

 

 

 

 

 

 

The Sisterhood of the World Bloggers Award

23 Jan

sister-hood-award

I’d like to thank Irene Waters: Reflections and Nightmares- Writer and Memoirist-   Http://irenewaters19.com  for nominating me for the Sisterhood of the world Bloggers Award. I thoroughly enjoy Irene’s blog; her photography is amazing and the insights she offers about life’s journey are always enlightening.  In the blogosphere, I’m still sort of a Newbie, so receiving recognition for my work, which is really my pleasure, encourages me to keep sharing my heart.

~ ~The Rules ~ ~

  1. Provide a link to and thank the blogger who nominated you for this award.
  2. Answer ten questions.
  3. Nominate 10-12 blogs that you find a joy to read. Provide links to these nominated blogs and kindly let the recipients know they have been nominated.
  4. Include the award logo within your blog post.

~~Questions~~

1.  Your favorite color…. Green

2.  Your favorite animal … I love them all

3.  Your favorite non-alcoholic drink …. Chamomile tea

4.    Facebook or Twitter….. Facebook, I’m still figuring out Twitter

5.    Your favorite pattern …..  Spirals

6.    Do you prefer getting or giving presents…. Giving

7.    Your favorite number … 11

8.    Your favorite day of the week … Thursday

9.    Your favorite flower …. Echinacea

10.  What is your passion? ….. Reading and writing Poetry

There are so many deserving blog sites and so little time.  I’m going to list and link a few of my fem-favorites understanding not all will be able to participate in the nomination process.

http://humoringthegoddess.com

http://secondhalfwoman.wordpress.com

http://tllsci.wordpress.com

http://theempathyqueen.wordpress.com

http://www.wantonwordflirt.com

http://forgivingdreams.wordpress.com

http://thehipgrandmother.wordpress.com

http://momof3isnuts.wordpress.com

http://mainstreetmusings.wordpress.com

http://architar.wordpress.com

Don’t worry about hurting my feelings; I assure you, I completely understand time constraints.  : )  I do hope you all visit any link that speaks to you!

*** Please note: the blog address for Wanton Word Flirt has been corrected.  Please explore this delightful site at http://www.wantonwordflirt.com

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.

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.

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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Things that bring us together

16 Apr

Things that bring us together these days are usually bad news.  When that happens, we cling to each other like long, lost family members fighting for a single cause, but eventually, when the crisis passes, we fall into familiar cadences of normality that predominated time before it was marred by violent immorality. Then we pull from each other, following ruts along the paths we travel, away from one another, chasing whatever it was we were chasing “before”. 

Even so, those precious moments of unity change us forever, and out of tragedy we emerge lighter versions of ourselves, or with new perspectives and levels of understanding, although sometimes the only thing we understand is that we will never understand violence, or those who are intent on using it for the sake of satisfying a sick personal need, or to force a particular point of view, or to punish others with inexplicable acts of depravity. 

Before we are strong enough again to find the courage we need to reopen the shades covering the windows that separate us from possible beasts in the streets below, we fall under the terrible spell of grief, our chests’ heavy, our hands’ trembling, blank stares clouding the color of our eyes, and an unbearable weight of the threat looming over our heads, reminding us with each breath we take, we may never find it in ourselves to recapture the gifts of hope and trust that monsters steal.  

These observations are true but incomplete, because even before the great collective grief begins, unification has already taken root.  Tribal accord, altruistic tendencies sleeping in old brain chambers, shift from their shadows, pushing forward in a great surge of instinctual kindness in heroic acts for preservation of the species. Having been severed, lineage that once joined us together reconnects in perfectly orchestrated unanimity.  Having lain quietly benign for perhaps an entire lifetime, instinct is suddenly awakened, stimulated by adrenaline and an enigmatic drive to survive and to save the clan, to define and strengthen and then erase, for the very last time, the blurry lines that oftentimes split us apart like identical electrons pushing each other away from a shared nucleus.

Evil.  Wickedness.  Cruelty.  Greed.  Depravity.  Horror.  These things exist, but weaken in the presence of innocence, purity, kindness, generosity, honor and beauty.  The city of Boston is resilient , but the people attending the marathon there yesterday are strong.  The lives of those lost in the terrible Boston Marathon tragedy will be with each of us forever, they will color our vision and set our feet on altered paths, and the survivors will ignite our passions and the spirit of love with their strength and determination. 

And the perpetrators of horror will be apprehended and will bear the immense weight of justice.

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Rebels and Wallflowers

14 Mar

From the beach, the sea is immense, but it gets bigger when you’re in a boat and land disappears from sight.  Suddenly you find yourself chasing an elusive horizon that seems to tumble from the sky into the water like a blue blizzard, or an avalanche. It’s hard to tell where one ends and the other begins.

The girl swam to her grandfather’s boat, released it from its mooring, lay flat on her back in the bottom of the hull like a stow-a-way; she watched white Cumulus overhead shape-shift, the rhythm of lapping water lulling her brain into a nearly unconscious state.  When the sound of waves breaking on shore vanished, she sat up. That was when she realized she’d drifted much further from the safety of her grandfather’s house atop the bluff overlooking the bay than she had intended, and her stomach tightened, then lurched, the bitter sting of lunch rising in the back of her throat. 

She was in deep water now, the gradual slope of sand bars behind her, only the midnight blues of the channel as far as she could see.  The sharks she imagined circled in anticipation with night only a few hours away. 

This was the row boat, not the larger one with the Evinrude motor.  But there were the oars, so all wasn’t lost. The girl pulled them from starboard, placed them in  rusty oar locks, sat with her back to the bow as she dipped them into the water, moving the oars in unison like two giant wings on a huge bird, an albatross maybe.  The dot in the distance was home, but she knew she would have to work harder than she had ever worked before to get there.  That thought filled her with an unfamiliar sensation, and her breathing deepened and evened out.  The girl held her head high and began to whistle.

Rowing against the current was hard work, but the girl was strong; her endurance was untested, she had yet to discover her limits.  The idea that barriers should contain her thoughts, should influence her vision of herself; that century old standards and gender based expectations should restrict her ability to achieve any goal she set for herself had not yet formed in her brain.  She knew only what she’d learned for herself, and watching her grandfather. 

In the beginning there was only the land, but Grandfather said that was all they needed, so for weeks, the two lived in a cramped borrowed trailer while they built their home.  Often she marveled at the concept of creating something useful and sturdy from nothing at all, using only primitive tools and a strong back and of course, Grandfather’s knowledge and resolve.

These memories wafted in and out of her mind as she rowed, making her stronger, filling her with the sense that she is liberating herself from a nameless, faceless capture. 

She imagines Grandfather waiting for her on the bluff, sitting in the forest green Adirondack chair he’d built, the chair he sits in when he watches the waters below for schools of mullet.  She knows her grandfather realized she was gone almost as soon as she had left; perhaps he had even watched her leave, chuckling at her great escape, amused by her determination to intentionally break a rule, and proud to have witnessed another passage in her life. 

Had she known he was watching, she might have understood he recognized the necessity of this small rebellion, how sacred and intimate such choices become.  She already knew he would not be angry at her; Grandfather would understand, even if until this very moment, she, herself, had not fully grasped the requisite need to establish independence, to spread one’s wings and jump off the highest cliff, testing your fortitude, knowing instinctively you can fly. 

The girl’s mind moved to another thought as she rowed, turning her head from time to time to look at the cliffs that were growing larger and larger, emboldening her to do whatever it takes to find her way home.  In her mind’s eye, the girl was at a dance in the school gym where the bleachers were lined with a short string of unfortunate girls who had yet to discover how beautiful they are.  And she suddenly understood that taking a boat without permission, drifting mindlessly into open sea was inspired by the same kind of longing a wall flower has to dance, to feel the spotlight emphasize her presence in the shallows of a dance-floor-world of popular girls, to dream that jocks might stop dead in their tracks as if seeing her for the first time, amnesia claiming their memories of ignoring her in corridors and the lunch room, or even worse, laughing at her on the track in Phys-Ed where she is forced to wear one of those hideous white short jumpsuits with elastic around her thighs.

The sound of waves breaking on shore roars in the girl’s ears.  She turns to see her grandfather standing on the bluff watching over her; he is smiling.   The girl angles the small boat parallel the mooring post and tosses the anchor in; then jumps into the water, swimming with the rope in her teeth.  She ties the knot around the post the way Grandfather taught her; then swims to shore.

On the beach again, the sea rushes in, foam pools around her ankles and a sand dollar nudges her foot.  She bends down and picks it up with her hands.  The girl looks to the bluff again, this time Grandfather is not there.  She knows they will talk about this at dinner tonight.  Without thinking, the girl tosses the sand dollar as far as she can, back into the sea.

“Go home”, she says.

Climbing the stairs that wind up the bluff, the girl hears herself say,

“I’m not a good soldier anymore; I’m not sure what I am or what I’ll ever be, but whatever happens, I’ll take the risk, and I will be the one who decides.”

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The Freya Principle

14 Feb

In the Wizard of Oz, Dorothy found herself dropped from the sky into a strange and unfamiliar land after a terrible storm.  When my inner hussy bullied her way into my world, I could certainly relate.  The realization that my good princess days had ended in the snap of painted fingernails, was both shocking and intriguing.  The truth is there was never any good princess days in my life, only my illusion of such nonsense, to which I’d clung with serious tenacity.  Shaking myself loose from the fairy tale wasn’t easy.

Before I could cure the darkness, I had to understand the light and its power.  I needed to figure out how to access that power, and what I was supposed to do with it.  I had to untangle miles of jumbled cable lines that short circuited the way I’d approached anger, hiding it inside, repressing its fury, refusing to acknowledge its presence in any way, and allowing that vicious cycle to fester into subtle self-loathing that over time, manifested as depression.

The problem was me, but not me in the way others believed.   No fundamental flaw existed; I was not the walking soap opera I appeared to be.  Slowly I began to understand I’d wasted a great deal of time trying to meet the expectations of others without having a clear vision of what I wanted, what was important to me. By the time I figured this out, I was alone.  I can’t say that was something I’d counted on, but in hindsight, it needed to happen.

This particular phase of my life was deliberate, filled with intention and ritual.  One of the rituals I enjoyed was Friday night at Barnes and Noble, where I’d cruise the aisles in search of literary wood to stoke the fires of inner growth.  On one such occasion, I found myself seated on the worn carpet between Women’s Issues, Psychology, and New Age books, each vying for attention.  My hand brushed against the spine of a book about Norse Mythology on the bottom shelf.  Without thinking, I picked it up.  The pages fell open, revealing words I needed to read under the chapter heading: Freya, Goddess of Sex, Beauty, and War.  A black ink illustration portrayed the Goddess’ likeness, an angular woman with fiery eyes as sharp as swords, content in her anger, giving an impression of pride and intimidation and sexual confidence.

Again, my eyes settled on words waiting for them in a short tale that recalled Freya and her desire to possess a brooch she had admired in a silver smith’s window.  It was incredibly detailed, catching sunlight and sparkling like diamonds.  Freya was a Goddess used to getting what she wanted, and she wanted that brooch.  Entering the shop, she was greeted by a horrible little man, bent and knotted.  He was a dwarf, but misshapen as he was, he might as easily been confused with a troll.

Freya told the man she wanted the brooch in the window.  He replied it was not for sale.  His adamancy drove her desire.  The shop owner told Freya the only way she would ever own the brooch was if she agreed to sleep with him and his three brothers.  The thought disgusted Freya, but she was a woman who knew what she wanted.  The dwarf’s terms were nonnegotiable.  Freya considered her options: walk away from the treasure she wanted, or have sex with four disgusting, little men. 

The following night, the Goddess of Sex ,Beauty, and War went to the dwarfs’ home where she proceeded to meet the terms of their agreement.  Freya won possession of the jewel she longed for, and in the process, learned an important lesson.  In the days that followed, Freya could be heard bragging to the Gods about her adventure, telling them the four brothers had been the most magnificent lovers she had ever had.

I closed the book, dubbing the story, “The Freya Principle”.  The moral of the mythological story was multilayered.  First, we must know exactly what it is that we want.  Then we must come to terms with what we will sacrifice in order to achieve the goal of acquisition.  Sometimes that boils down to your best bet.  Sometimes that boils down to a matter of trust.  Sometimes it requires a leap of faith. But details of the unknown are always sketchy, that’s why we fear change as much as we do.  Staying in a familiar situation feels safer than gambling on the unknown, although change always facilitates awareness.

Second, we cannot make assumptions based on visual perceptions alone.  We need to go deeper into ourselves and the circumstance that confronts us.  The goal isn’t the destination; it truly is the journey. 

Third, last, but not least, conquering our fear in pursuit of inner growth is rewarded many times over by unexpected pleasures we experience along the way. 

Once I’d made my decision to redefine my life in spite of my fear of the uncertainty of change, I’d taken the first step that was the first of many to follow.  Whenever I wobble, my mind carries me back to that night at Barnes and Noble, reminding me how important it is to keep my eye on the prize and to search through all the surface debris of any situation for its greater, intended content.   And then to have the courage to apply it to my own life.

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Don’t you just hate it when that happens?

6 Feb

Don’t you hate it when a piece of toilet paper gets stuck on your shoe, and you parade around for, I don’t know, maybe thirty or forty years, and no one tells you it’s there, so feeling like a perfect idiot, you nonchalantly try to take it off, but when you bend over to do it, everyone in the room sees and laughs so hard they cry; and when you’re standing there feeling stupid, you start to get angry, wondering why nobody bothered to say anything to you about it for all those years, and then you realize everything that’s led you to this point of humiliating clarity, is just about to get a whole lot worse, and everything does, and you’re struck nearly dumb, by the realization that everything you’ve swallowed since Day One, was a load of genetically altered super seeds designed by aliens who implanted them into your brain when you were a baby just sitting there, minding  your own business, drooling and sticking plastic toys in your mouth, and the person you thought was your mother, was a government issued robot, and the spoon she always fed you with was a derivative of plutonium, and the FDA knew it all along and did nothing?  Don’t you just hate it when that happens?  

Well, I do; and while it doesn’t have to happen often, it does require that an entire series of seemingly unrelated incidents converge in your brain simultaneously, in a merciless ‘Light-Bulb Moment’ you will use for the rest of your life, to divide time into Before and After categories.

I confess, there were many, many mitigating factors that were partially responsible for the shift in my vision that resulted in a philosophical ‘Do Over’ inside my personal house. But outside forces were at work as well, leaving a bread crumb trail I followed to the edge of the cliff, at which point, I thought about it for a moment, then turned on my heels.  Walking away from the sheeple leap, I chose a different path through the woods, forgoing city life altogether this time. I had no idea how isolating the choice I’d made would feel; and were it not for amazing technological gains, I might have died of boredom where I stood, or worse even than that, I might have returned to the stampede, jumping as a single unit into the surety of despair, leaving behind all traces of the soul inhabiting this sturdy, curious body of mine, and all for the certainty of having friends and feeling as if I truly belonged.  

Connie was a friend of mine.  A preacher with a mean streak paired us as prayer partners about a million years ago.  She bore little resemblance to the masks and costumes I wore.  Hers were tailored, classical; the perfect picture of the perfectly successful business woman, juggling the world with one hand, reading an impressive cache of self-help and spiritually enlightening books with the other.  I, on the other hand, was doused in domesticity, Earth Mother from the garden roots to the split-end crown.  The only books I owned, outside half a dozen Bibles, were fictional forays into hazy, ill-defined realms of romance and questionable behavior.  I know the good Reverend was trying to heal my wayward soul with the prayers and the unavoidable company of a ‘Good Woman’.  But he failed.  Almost from the beginning, Connie and I genuinely liked one another, and in the most extraordinary way, balanced each other’s far leaning tendencies to elevate personal goals so high we believed they’d not be missed by casual observers, thusly, gaining the acceptance and respect we craved.

There were hundreds of pot holes in our lives, and Connie and I had filled them with community and church-approved repair materials; but, in spite of our best efforts, we were leaking oil.  So the relationship intended to ground, cut the only string tethering us both to the good earth; and off we floated, like giggling children.  In a couple of months, our reputations reached the scandalous level since we’d traded church for fun.  We parked our RV’s side by side in a park a few miles from home.  We brought our husbands together every weekend in a forced friendship, and we melded two households of children into one.  Those were the days spent exploring inner worlds as comfortably as external realities.  Two years into the fun, my family moved away and Connie and I fell into new roles of pen and telephone pals.  She returned to church, doing something that looked to me like ‘social penance’.  It didn’t make sense to me.

In time I returned to college for a degree in Nursing Science.  I thought Connie would be happy for me; I was surprised by the cynicism I heard in her voice.

Well, Beverly, science is a good thing as long as you don’t push it too far….

I wondered if she believed the same about knowledge. 

Months passed between us, and during one of our last conversations, she mentioned her cousin had given birth to a child with water on the brain. I thought explaining Down syndrome would be helpful, but Connie insisted the baby had been born deformed because its mother had eaten bad potatoes when she was pregnant

I made the mistake of laughing out loud, believing Connie was making a joke; she was not.  The world is full of well-read people whose beliefs are not grounded in truth; many are quite defensive about it, and loud.  I enraged a friend when I challenged a belief she held.  It wasn’t my intention to do so.  Stephen King says, “If you intend to write as truthfully as you can, your days as a member of polite society are numbered anyway.” 

After I found the toilet paper on my heel and tore it off, I understood quite personally what Mr. King was trying to say.

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