Emerging

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True transformation requires an element of faith, a dash of hope, and a persistent sense of curiosity which far outweighs the fear of the unknown yet to come. True transformation is rarely found without an accompanying element of brokenness, in that we must break free of old paradigms and ways of being in this world in order to make room for the truth of what “is” and of who we really are at the very core of our beings.

So often we seek transformation in our lives, whether it is to be healthier or to find work aligned with our purpose, we strive to be better and do better. We watch as time passes us by, wishing for better lives, and yet we do little to put our desire for change into action. It’s as if, on some level, we expect transformation to simply happen with little to no effort on our part. Even those who feel driven enough to take their first baby steps toward the undertaking of the process of change often quit at their first encounter of resistance, no matter its form. We assume that, because it is not as “easy” as we had hoped, it is not destined to unfold. How quickly we give up on ourselves and our desire for a deeper connection with life.

So many, including myself, admire the butterfly for its ability to elevate itself above its former identity and yet we so often ignore the tumultuous and painful experience it had to endure in order to BECOME the beautiful butterfly which captivates us. I suppose this is why I have adopted the symbol of chrysalis along my journey. For me, the chrysalis represents the dissolution of the “self” I have come to know… the melting-away of all that was and is no longer, and the rebuilding which occurs through the alchemy of history – mixed with the hope of what the future holds when I am “reborn” anew.

What I have learned along the way is that true and lasting transformation is rarely, if ever, easy. It takes a fierce commitment to oneself as well as a deep desire to see the process through to the end, no matter what. As it often does, Fear rears its ugly head at the very mention of transforming. To transform means change is imminent, for you cannot have one without the other. Change tends to illicit fear because it means facing the great unknown and all of the questions which arise with not knowing. Questions such as, “What if I don’t have what it takes to make this happen?” “What if my family and friends do not like the ‘new’ me?” “What if I pursue my dreams and I fail?” “What if I discover that everything I thought I wanted no longer aligns with my passion and purpose?” “What if I make a fool of myself?” “What if…?” The list of questions and nagging doubts can be endless. The trick is to ignore them, so long as there is no “real” danger to oneself or others.

If we stop our quest for transformation every time we encounter resistance we will soon grow tired and weary. We will give up before we have even stepped foot onto the path of “becoming”. For every opportunity we are presented to make sincere change in our lives we will find just as many fears and excuses not to change. It is not until we face our fears, and dedicate ourselves to the work required of transformation, that we will ever move beyond the daydreaming and wishing phase. At some point one must look deep within and decide if they deem themselves worthy of living their best life, of stepping fully into their highest potential, and of letting go of their self-imposed limitations so they may become fully realized. Only the individual can make this determination on a Soul-level. Only they will know if they are ready, willing, and able to take this leap of faith. Once a Soul remembers the truth, and they embrace the knowledge of their worth, nothing but their own ‘self’ can stop them from living a life of passion and purpose fueled by the recognition of their own, unique, Divine Spark.

The path to transformation is littered with false promises, “get rich quick” schemes for pocket and for spirit, as well as many who wish to be of assistance but only hinder our journey. The road to Hell is paved with good intentions, so the saying goes, and it’s vital to remember that we are each students in this classroom called life. Each journey, each path, is as unique as the one who embarks upon it and an element of discipline is required… discipline to remember that what is good for one may not serve another. One should refrain from placing themselves above any other out of a misguided sense of who is ‘right’ and who is ‘wrong’. The ultimate truth, when it comes to choosing a path, is that no one really knows what lay at the end. To know this truth, and to accept the beautiful diversity of life-paths laid before humanity, is to take the first step beyond current limiting thoughts and beliefs of division among us.

To begin, one ought to possess a genuine longing to know oneself, as you are meant to be, and not as the façade presented in order to fit someone else’s ideal. To truly “know thyself” means you must learn to love and accept all that is “you,” even the parts you would rather keep hidden. There is no stone unturned on this quest for truth and transformation of the self. When authentic transformation occurs it leads us to create our reality based on our own hopes and dreams rather than the ones we have followed out of a sense of duty or desire to please others. Embracing the truth of who you are equates to a great awakening of mind, body, and Soul. The past becomes like a dream from which you have finally awoken. You recognize that, on this quest for truth, a great deal of compassion – for self and others, a steely reserve to persist beyond fear and doubts, an inexhaustible desire to learn and question everything, and a strong sense of humor to carry you through the darkest of times, is required.

As a species, we are ever-changing, ever-growing, and ever-becoming. It is true that we will encounter difficulties on this path. We will be met with disapproving eyes and scolding tongues. We will find ourselves left by some who no longer fit our true self or who feel pangs of their own recognition for a need to make changes in their own lives. We will feel heartbreak and fear. To say otherwise would be to speak falsely. However, what is also true is this… we may face these difficulties regardless of whether we choose to pursue our true selves or not. Time will go by as it always does. I believe that we will be better off facing the difficulties of life from a place of truth and authenticity, confident in who we are and where we are going. It has become evident to me, along my own journey and as I have stood as witness to the journey of others, that once the call for change is heeded, and we recognize the desire within for transformation, we will not be satisfied until its completion. We may try to go about our daily lives, as if nothing is different, but we are different and we will feel the growing discomfort of forcing ourselves into a life that no longer fits. If you feel called to embrace change… if the need for transformation beckons to your heart and Soul… be brave and respond with a fierce “YES!” You will never be the same again and you will be ever grateful that you took the risk of “becoming”.

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Reimagining “God”

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Let me begin by saying that I was not always comfortable using the name God when discussing my beliefs about the divine, creation, religion, etc. After many years in Catholic School, and witnessing first-hand the hypocrisy and dogma of most religions, I had long given up on “God”. This baggage began to fall away as I read ‘Conversations with God” by Neale Donald Walsh. I can’t even tell you exactly how this shift happened only that reading this book changed me and something clicked. I have been, for as long as I can remember, a seeker of truth with a deep desire for real connection. I have experienced enough in my life to know that there is something greater than me in charge of the “show”, whether you see this as the Laws of the Universe, Biology, or an Unknown, I simply cannot deny the existence of “Something”. And so I searched, and searched, and searched… you get the point. Everywhere I seemed to look I saw a world bent and broken, people lost and some searching like me. I knew there had to be more but I was completely uncertain what that “more” could be. Nothing felt “right”.

Over time, and through life experience, I began to open to all possibilities of what might be out there, of why we are all here. I began to feel something deep within… like waking up from a dream. I felt connected to Something although I wasn’t entirely sure what this meant, yet. What I am able to see now is this, humanity walks around as if we are completely separate from one another, and not dependent or connected in the least. We hold onto a mentality of I am “me” and they are “them”. In some ways, on the surface level, that perspective holds some truth. If we take a step back though and look beyond the surface, we can see that while we are each our own vessel in this vast ocean of existence we are also part of the same fleet. We are an interdependent network whose individual, every day, actions impact us all in ways we can’t yet understand. Picture, if you will, a large candle in the center of a room (this I’ll call the Source), and numerous smaller candles each being lit by this central candle (each living being is one of these candles), the flame is the same flame only it burns in numerous “locations”. We are all the same flame. To illustrate our connectedness further, if one of the candles tips and burns down the room all of the candles perish.

Most of us are blind to the truth of that. Despite our apparent differences, we are, on a Soul level, very much the same. We all come from the same source. We are physical manifestations of a creator force (whatever you choose to call this). Let me use another example to illustrate my point: we are each a piece of the same puzzle. We are, on our own, unique pieces of art but we not a complete creation without all of the pieces. We cannot have the full experience, or see the entire picture, unless we are all accounted for. To put it plainly, we are all part of the same whole. No puzzle piece is better than another. No piece holds more worth. We are all vital.

This Source who some call God, others have differing titles and views, came into existence (a whole other story unto itself). This Source is All That Is and All That Is Not. Now, I know that might be a bit difficult to grasp immediately. I mean, how can something be both something and nothing at the same time… Well, that’s the point entirely. The Source is exactly that… he/she/it exists everywhere and nowhere; he/she/it is matter and antimatter; he/she/it is all of creation and all that has yet to be created. How we, as humans, choose to experience this Source is as unique as each individual person and, here’s the kicker, there is no “right” or “wrong” way to perceive the Source. “Right” and “wrong” are human-created descriptors made to fit into a human-created moral system. Source (aka God) had nothing to do with any of it. I know that won’t sit well with some people, and I can almost hear them now, “Bit, what about the bible (or other religious texts)”? I do not discount any religious text, I also do not give them too much credit, as I realize that they were written, compiled, and edited by humankind. That is not to say that some of what is written is not true or real, only that time and people’s agendas have a way of changing things. But I digress.

Let me get back to our interconnectedness and the beauty of it all. Source wants to experience itself in his/her/its fullness, as all that is, and all that is not. The only way to do this, in essence, is to gain understanding through beings who can have experiences beyond simply thinking about or imagining them. Since the Source is, for lack of a better descriptor, an “ethereal body” (although that doesn’t begin to capture the magnitude) he/she/it brought about the creation of humankind into which Source could connect and “transfer” portions of itself in order to experience the various feelings, emotions, sensations, etc. which occur in a lifetime… make that many lifetimes. Not to complicate things even more but, in order to truly know itself as all that is and is not, the beings in which the Source manifests (that’s us) would need to experience everything and its opposite… love and hate, pain and pleasure, loyalty and betrayal, and so forth. Source truly wants to experience everything… everything!

Now, to get to the heart of the matter and the reason I wrote this article…. Through my own conversations with this Source, who I now feel completely comfortable calling God, despite all the baggage the name has held in the past, I arrived at this understanding: if we are all, indeed, manifestations of the same force then we are all, essentially, the same being walking around in different “skin suits”. Crazy thought, I know, I’m still letting all of this sink in myself. Even crazier is the fact that if all of this true, and I personally feel that it is, it means we (as Source) chose to be here. Think of it this way, imagine you’re in a waiting room. You are waiting to pick out your “mission” (or “assignment” if that suits you better). You read through some of the options and choose to experience x, y, and z this time around. You’ve already taken on missions/assignments which allowed you to experience a, b, and c… You even took an adventurous jump into the one that exposed you to j, k, and l… that one really packed a punch! This new mission/assignment holds experiences that you (aka Source) has not yet had. Despite the fact that many other of Source’s manifestations may have gone on that same mission, only you can experience it in a new way and therefore Source has the experience as well.

What I choose take away from all of this is, I can no longer look at another person and not see the Source within them, and realize also that I have the same Source within me. You and I were lit from the same candle and we share the flame. So as I do unto you, I do unto myself, and I do unto all others because… we are all connected. The only separation between us is that which is “man-made”. All the labels, the titles, the “differences” fall away when you realize that you all exist within one another. And, to know that I chose to be here and to experience all that this lifetime has to offer also teaches me that every moment, whether joyous or painful, is a gift because it allows me to know myself, and therefore Source to know itself, on an even deeper level. What can be more beautiful and profound than that? We are all birthing Source as he/she/it births us. (Mind Blown!)

With Deep Love for all my fellow candles… may we forever burn brightly together and if one candle loses its flame may we reach out to help them relight it.

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Why I’m Not Scared

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I’ve been asked at least a half-dozen times today how I feel after yesterday’s election and, truth be told, I’m not feeling the way I thought I would. I thought I would be angry when Trump got elected, scared even, but I’m not. I was shocked and saddened at first and then a sense of calm settled over me with a feeling that everything really is going to be alright… not in that naïve bubble-gummy kind of way, not at all. This comes from a place deep within, that place that is connected to the Source of all that is and which connects me to every other being on this planet. We are all going to be ok.

Yes, it’s no secret that I voted against Trump. The thought of someone like Trump running our country gave me a stomach ache and more than a few sleepless nights. When I woke this morning to realize that he was elected as President of the United States I realized I had to ‘walk my talk’. I thought back to a recent article I wrote and I asked myself, “now what?” Now that all is said and done, and Trump is going to be the next president, where do we go from here? I believe that we, as a country, are being presented with an opportunity to ‘walk our talk’. So many people talk about love, unity, democracy, respect, and healing the nation and they’re great until shit gets real then the fear and doubt creeps in turning their hearts dark. Well, true change happens in times like these. Sometimes it takes a major shake-up like this election to wake people up. Now is the time to put your money where your mouth is and move forward with love and compassion. Now is when you get to choose who you are and where you stand.

Someone asked me how I can be so calm when the world is falling apart. I told them that I’m calm because Trump’s character, and his behavior, will not dictate the kind of person I choose to be in my daily life. His character does not reflect my own. I still get to choose, in every minute of every day, how I live my life and how I choose to treat the people around me. And so, I choose more compassion, more love, deeper understanding, and more unity… not less… more. I also refuse to get caught up in the “sky is falling” mentality of some people. There’s no point in caving to panic and chaos, it only feeds the already fat beast of negativity and fear that stalks this country. Our current situation reminds me of the old Cherokee Parable of ‘Two Wolves’…

An old Cherokee chief was teaching his grandson about life…

“A fight is going on inside me,” he said to the boy.

“It is a terrible fight and it is between two wolves.

 One is evil – he is anger, envy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, self-doubt, and ego.

The other is good – he is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion, and faith.

This same fight is going on inside you – and inside every other person, too.”

The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather,

“Which wolf will win?” 

The old chief simply replied,

“The one you feed.”

I choose to feed the “good” wolf.

In talking with a dear friend this morning, I realized that Trump held up a giant mirror which reflected back to us our darkest shadows, all of the deep dark secrets we, as a nation, wanted to hide or deny still exist… racism, sexism, misogyny, elitism, etc. These are all things that most us knew still existed but thought it was only in small pockets of the population. I don’t think we realized, or wanted to acknowledge, how deep those pockets actually are. In counseling and spiritual circles, people talk a lot about ‘shadow work’ and the importance of recognizing and integrating the ‘shadow’ parts of ourselves. Well, Trump had no problem showing us his shadow and reflecting this nation’s own shadow back to us. We can no longer hide from the deep wounds of this nation. The people of this country elected a man into office who represents much of what we say we hate, so what does that mean for us as a country? Now what?

As we move forward I strongly believe we need to do so together. We need to work together to understand one another on a deeper level, to understand where and why these wounds still exist and then find ways to heal them… together. No matter who our president is, we get to choose the kind of people we are. We, the people, define this nation. We, the people, are wonderful, big-hearted, loving, kind, generous, determined, and resilient. Many of us are also scared of what Trump’s presidency means for much of the population and relations with other nations. There is much that we, as individuals, do not have control over, but there is also something very powerful that we do control… how we treat one another and ourselves.

Please take this entire experience to heart and grow from it. Choose to let love, not fear, dictate how you live your day-to-day lives. Choose to treat one another with respect and kindness regardless of who you voted for. Choose hope over despair and know that we are a strong nation of good people. We are not perfect, not by a longshot, but we are “good”. For all the hate, anger, frustration, and terror we see happening around us we must not lose sight of the fact that the majority of the people want nothing more than peace and a better world for us all.

So now I sit and wait to see how this all unfolds. I hold hope in my heart that we will rise together and change this nation for the better. Now that a spotlight has been shined on the dark places we can see them more clearly, and we can begin to do some real healing. We cannot change who Trump is, but we can choose how we represent this nation. The world is watching, there is no doubt. Let us come together and show them our true colors and just how resilient we are.

Do a good job Mr. Trump! Do right by the people of this great nation!

Blessings and Love to you all.

Hugging For Peace

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She No Longer Fears the Wolves

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She no longer fears the wolves.
She has learned how to howl and run like them.
She no longer envies the butterflies.
She has sprouted wings and lets the wind carry her where it may, unleashing her thirst for adventure.
She no longer fears the dark as her light shines brightest there.
She no longer questions where she belongs.
She is at home wherever her feet meet the Earth.

A child of Gaia, she stands firmly rooted in this body temple of hers. She reaches her arms toward the sky, welcoming the moonlight kisses on her skin. Her eyes dance with love and laughter and mischief, like a forest nymph she gleefully plays among her brother and sister trees.

The longing in her heart has been replaced with a burning desire to be ever closer to her Mother. She lays her bare flesh upon the dewy grass and lets her body sink into her Mother’s arms. Reborn, she now knows her strength lies within her own being. She is sovereign and each step she takes rings of the purity of knowing her Self.

No, she no longer fears all that she was taught to fear. She keeps them all in her garden now and the fear is not welcomed there. The moon, the wolf, the raven and owl, the shadows dancing in the cave of her Soul are her kin. She sees herself in their eyes, feels herself in the beating of their hearts, and relishes the company of Nature’s children.

For far too long she walked a path laid by others’ hands. Now her path is clear and laid by her own hands. No longer avoiding the jagged rocks, dark woods, and mountain peaks… her path drives straight through the heart of it all and it is here, where her bare feet touch the soil which was forbidden to her for so long, that she finally feels at home. It is here that she returns in her mind’s eye any time the chaos of modern life threatens to steal her peace and joy. She listens now, to the Earth and Her children, as they speak. Their songs carry her spirit and sometimes, when the moon is high and she feels called to return to the wood, you can hear her howl echo in the night.

She no longer fears the wolves, she has become them.

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Compassion as the Cure

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I posted an image on Facebook with the words, “Compassion leads us to understanding,” and was caught off guard by one of the responses I received. It said simply, “does it?” At first I was unsure what to say, or if I should respond at all. I honor every person’s right to speak their truth regardless of whether I agree or not. Perhaps I was misreading the tone of this response? I have come to learn that my perception of words on a page does not necessarily match that of the author’s and so I stared at those two little words until I felt a stirring from within. If one person is asking this question it means there are others who ask the same. Does compassion lead us to understanding? The answer rang with the clarity of truth… “Yes, if you truly wish to understand.” If you seek to understand another then you are willing to sit, listen deeply, and learn, so that common ground can be reached and the foundation for trust and respect can be laid. When I posted my response, this same individual replied that his inquiry was based in curiosity… he was wondering about other people and whether they believed that compassion leads to understanding. His reply inspired a sense of hope, in that so long as we are open to dialogue about compassion and understanding we can move toward positive change; however, his words also left me with a touch of sadness. Have we become so disconnected that we question our ability, and the ability of others, to hold compassion within our hearts?

This brief exchange echoed in my thoughts as the tragedy of the world’s current predicament settled in my bones. People’s reluctance, or down-right refusal, to see things from any perspective other than their own, is why we find ourselves living with fear and suspicion as our constant companions. Humanity is seemingly divided between those who wish to unite as one, and those who wish to stand apart and create greater dissonance among the people. On one hand there emerges a tribe of people who grow tired of watching death and destruction caused by differing opinions and a lack of respect for an individual’s right to sovereignty, their right to hold their own beliefs, and the right to live life in their own way. This tribe wishes to stop history from repeating itself. They desire positive change, healing and justice for all, and a coming-together to solve the world’s problems. On the other hand exists a palpable lack of compassion on the part of some individuals, corporations, and even nations of the world. They hold the belief that their way is the only way and all others who are “different” should be separated or even discarded. These are the people and nations which hold grudges, refuse forgiveness, and remain stuck in a cycle of vengeance, greed, and destruction. They do so in the name of being “right” or instilling fear among the masses in order to feel omnipotent

While there is much ugliness, there is also beauty to be found within this conundrum and it exists within the simplicity of its resolution… to have, and demonstrate, compassion for other living, breathing Souls… to treat one another the way we wish to be treated, to remedy the hate and pain caused by the illusion of separateness by truly seeing one another beyond our skin, our religion, our orientation, our race… The answer appears so simple, as to almost insult our intelligence… Be open to giving and receiving compassion in order to arrive at a better understanding of one another and, by proxy, humanity as a whole. What more elegant answer could there be? True oneness and peace can be found in the recognition that every living being in existence is a reflection of our own self. We each hold within our being a piece of one another. Every time we raise hands to our brothers and sisters we raise hands to ourselves. For every wound we inflict on another we feel the pain deep within. This wound of disconnection runs deep through every heart, every Soul, and every psyche on the planet. Mother Earth feels the sting as well, as the never-ending flagellation of the world’s people creates festering poisons which taint the minds of many. Some so blinded by a desire to hold power over all, even creation, that greed slowly eats away at us from the inside out and leads us to thoughtless actions which defile our home planet.

Are we too far gone to stop this slow death? Can we not pause, for even a moment, and see that the only direction this road leads is to certain destruction?

It was within those two simple words, “does it?” that the tragedy of our current state of affairs made itself known. There remain many who question whether it is worth the “risk” to show compassion for others. They fear they will be seen as weak and then preyed upon. They cannot see that there is strength to be found in kindness, and power in vulnerability. Rather than make an attempt to see circumstances through the eyes of others they instead choose to remain locked into a narrow focus, seeing only what they allow themselves to perceive or what they have been taught was truth. Never seeking to know for themselves… never asking if what they know as ‘truth’ could be wrong… never stepping outside their comfort zone of stereotypes and shallow views… some won’t even allow themselves to attempt compassion as a cure, deeming it a failure before they even try. Many proclaim that to drop our guard and welcome those who differ from us would be an act of suicide, whether real or symbolic in nature. In their eyes, to stand and say “enough” and extend a hand in peace is seen as weakness and a sign of naivety.

The tragedy is that people who hold these beliefs will never know if things could be different because they are not willing to make an honest attempt. They won’t take the steps needed toward real and lasting change because they are waiting for ‘proof’ that it’s worth the risk. They fail to see that, if everyone continues waiting for ‘proof’ it will never come. Someone must take the first step. We cannot continue extending the olive branch with one hand while aiming a gun with the other and expect to form a bond of trust. Fear keeps people from seeing that it takes a great deal of strength, and faith in the overall goodness of humankind, to stand unarmed in the midst of chaos and proclaim yourself a beacon of love and healing.

I, for one, can see no other way out of this. I refuse to live in fear of my brothers and sisters simply because they do not look as I do or believe what I believe. Our differences are what make this world, this life, and the experience of being human, so utterly and breathtakingly beautiful. I choose to embrace compassion as my guide, as I seek a deeper understanding of the world I live in and the people who share this home we call earth. I fully realize the deep and painful history that goes hand-in-hand with many of the world’s current conflicts, pain that cannot be healed by further bloodshed. Memories of great wounding cannot be drowned in oceans of blood and tears, the attempt only deepens the wound and keeps it from healing. History does not have to continue repeating itself. If we want change then we must come together and commit to it because if we continue to do what we have always done then we will continue to get what we have always got. We have the power to stop this carousel of insanity from turning.

I know within the core of my being that there is much more to us than hatred, violence, and mayhem. Within each of us exists a depth of beauty, love, and kindness which can move mountains, especially when we stand united. Over time we have become afraid. Like cornered animals we claw and bite at anyone who approaches too closely, no matter their intent. We need to find a way to release our fear and come together again. Then, and only then, will real healing take place. If I can find forgiveness in my heart for those who have wounded me, and if each person could do the same… If each of us can admit that the very act of being human means that we make mistakes… we can change and grow from all of this. Together we can stop the chaos which holds us hostage and we can begin again, on equal footing, as people helping people.

And so, do I believe that compassion can lead us to understanding? Yes, with every fiber of my being I believe it to be true, and I hope and pray that enough of you stand with me that we may see a day of true peace and oneness.

So let it be done!

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One Person at a Time

There is a deep and abiding desire in the hearts of most people to make this world a better place.  When we allow ourselves to get still and quiet we can hear that small, yet persistent, whisper from within saying, “something isn’t right here.” Though we may try to distract ourselves from that truth whether by watching television, or becoming engaged in gossip or keeping up with what’s trendy, we cannot silence that nagging echo resonating in our core, “Something isn’t right here.” It can be difficult to accept that the world we live in is falling apart and that we each hold some responsibility in its destruction. We want to believe that we are good people who would never harm another being but our inaction makes us just as culpable as those who do direct harm.
It is when we are confronted with this reality, one which differs greatly from our previously held views about the world, that we many experience Cognitive Dissonance [defined as “mental stress or discomfort experienced by an individual who holds two or more contradictory beliefs, ideas, or values at the same time, performs an action that is contradictory to one or more beliefs, ideas, or values, or is confronted by new information that conflicts with existing beliefs, ideas, or values.”]  People who experience Cognitive Dissonance react in ways which are counterproductive to what they know, deep down, to be true and real. They see the pain in the world, but ignore it. They see news about people starving but continue to waste food. They hear stories of other people making a difference, yet they discredit themselves as “not being capable” and never even try to enact change. They turn their attention toward “noise” and distraction, accepting whatever opinions they are fed as their own, and they stop (or never even begin) to educate themselves about what is really happening in the world around them.
On some level, people seem to believe that by choosing to adopt another’s opinion rather than forming and voicing their own, they avoid responsibility for the state of affairs in the world. What they fail to realize is that by choosing not to make a choice they have still made a decision. They have chosen to ignore, or even deny, the truth in an effort to remain in a state f blissful ignorance. Some of this behavior may be due to genuine ignorance (people who survive paycheck to paycheck and become overwhelmed by anything beyond the limited “box” they are contained in, or people who were raised under strict rules and worldviews and never dig themselves out from under their misguided views), or laziness (there are many out there who know what is happening but would prefer to live in “ignorant bliss” rather than face reality, and many who believe that it’s someone else’s job to “fix” the planet). There are also many people who truly desire to make positive change happen but are left afraid or overwhelmed because they simply don’t know where to begin. Where do you begin to heal the world when everywhere you turn there is pain, anguish, and a loss of hope?
To those people who desire change and are unafraid to begin, and to anyone else who knows on a Soul level that change is inevitable, and that it is up to us to decide what that change looks like, I share this quote by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes, “Ours is not the task of fixing the entire world at once, but of stretching out to mend the part of the world that is within our reach.” We can become easily overwhelmed, and stop before we even begin, when we ponder the extent of the world’s suffering. If we really want to enact positive change then we must do as the quote says and begin with what is within our reach. I believe the best place to begin this journey is within ourselves. It is vital that we first take time to turn within and, with the same tender loving care we would show an injured child, we must mend the wounds within us before we mend the wounds of others. When we are again whole, we can carry the healing forward to the others in our own homes, then our neighborhoods, then our cities, then our counties, then our states, then our countries, and so on.
Real and lasting change begins with the individual. Anyone paying attention can see that this world, and its people, are in trouble. We need one another now more than ever and yet the divide between us seems deeper than ever before. I, for one, do not accept this rift as representative of the true state of the world. We are closer than we think and the barriers between us are thin, some are even an illusion created by others for their own benefit. We need only reach out our hands in trust, as a sign of unity, and the barriers which stand in the way of peace will fall away.
I stand here now, hands extended, knowing that I am not alone in my belief that we can be better and do better for ourselves and for humanity as a whole. I stand here with my heart wide open knowing that yes, I may be wounded on this journey, but there is strength in my vulnerability and a closed heart cannot breathe life into this mission of Love. I stand here now, fully aware that I hold a piece of the puzzle, as do you, and every soul on this planet. I stand here now, fully aware that we need one another to complete this puzzle and that we cannot succeed alone. I stand here now and ask you to stand with me. We are many. Together we can show the few, who would put fear and hatred above love and peace, we refuse to cower at their feet. I choose love. I choose unity. I choose peace.
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Revolution

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Revolution begins with a questioning mind.

 

Often the simplest and yet most profound question, the one which acts as fuel to ignite the ember of change, is this… Why?

 

It is our asking of this most basic of questions which sends chills down the spines of those who would hold us hostage with fear. You can almost hear them whispering, “Oh no, they are waking up!” And they are right… we are waking up. The time of a great awakening is here and many are no longer content to sit idly by as the world around us falls into chaos and disarray. We fully realize that Revolution unto itself is a form of chaos but it is chaos with the purpose of rebirth… a resurrection of a life lived with purpose. While things may get worse before they get better we no longer have the choice to remain blind to the happenings in the world. We are all connected, on a far deeper level than many choose to believe. When harm happens to someone on the other side of the world, it happens to us as well. It is a wound to humanity, not just to the individual. This is a truth that many feel inside but cannot find the words to describe what they feel. It is time we make room for this dialogue, for these feelings, and that time is now.

 

For too long we have gone through life in a state of either mind-numbing ambivalence, nearly sedated by our sense of powerlessness in our own lives; or on a constant mission to avoid reality in any way possible… desperately seeking distraction. We have been sold a pack of lies, every single one of us, no matter our race, religion, color, or our dot on the map. We have been told that we don’t know what we want, that everyone’s idea of happiness and joy looks the same, and that it fits inside a pretty little box. We’re told that we must keep up with the “Jones’s or be seen as less-than. We are told that we need to fear our neighbors, mistrust our own instincts, and place other people’s guidance above our own inner-knowing because “they” know what is best for us all. We have allowed ourselves to be victimized by the very people we placed into power and yet we are directed by those very people to place the blame elsewhere.

 

The constant wave of misinformation we are fed has jaded us, turned us against one another, and left us confused, bewildered, and overwhelmed which is exactly where they want us to be. Because, you see, when we are afraid and confused we can be easily controlled. When we allow ourselves to be mass-distracted as they wag-the-dog we don’t notice all of the backdoor dealings and the steady decline of this beautiful world and its people. When a celebrity’s pregnancy gains more face-time than a savage genocide or the destruction of the rainforest we have a major problem. We are the walking dead. Like tin soldiers we have been falling in line, never stopping to ask if any of it is true or if it feels right within our beings. We have allowed ourselves to become hollow behind our fake smiles and “yes sirs”; towing the line of our pop-culture political circus. If you listen closely though you can hear cries of “enough!” echoing across space and time. Change is in the air and it begins with each of us.

 

A great reckoning is on the horizon. Many are beginning to listen to that stirring deep within, that still small quiet voice which whispers “something isn’t right here.” We have begun to ask that vital question… “Why?” Why are lobbyists running our government? Why is the government taking money away from schools to fund wars that we’ve been told ended, or to line the pockets of big pharmaceutical companies, or bail out banks? Why are the rich continuing to get richer and the poor poorer? Why is the cost of everything increasing while our salaries remain frozen in time? Why are we being fed fodder for distraction rather than what is really happening in the world? Why is the health and safety of our citizens less of a priority than already wealthy companies making an even greater profit? Why are the elected officials, who are supposed to be representing “the people,” playing Russian roulette with our wellbeing and our children’s futures? Why are we fighting one another for scraps as they dine on a feast made for a king? Why isn’t anyone paying attention!?!

 

It is time. With a sense of desperation in my heart, I pray that we, as a whole, wake up. This is your life. This moment, right here, is the only moment you are guaranteed. No one is guaranteed a tomorrow, and none of us are getting out of this thing called life alive, so change must happen now! If we are to survive and thrive, rather than simply exists until we cease breathing, we need to stop walking around with blinders on. We need to really see and feel what is happening to us and all around us. Every one of us hurts… there is nothing more human than that. Yes, to open your eyes and pull back the metaphorical curtain that has separated us from one another, and the world itself, can be a terrifying prospect because once you see the truth you cannot un-see it. And, once you know what is happening you are left with a choice… do something about it or knowingly and willingly fall back into line with the status quo. With knowledge comes responsibility and responsibility scares a lot of people. I say this with a fierce and passionate urgency… we can no longer be lazy and complacent in our own lives. We can no longer sit and wait to be saved. We can no longer remain sedated and ignorant to all of the wrongdoing in our lives. We must stand up, stand united, and show those who would lead us astray that we are no longer afraid and we see their lies. Not only do we see the lies but we call them out and we call them forward to make right the wrongs they have done.

 

I am not seeking bloodshed, nor am I seeking public humiliation of those who have led the nations of this world so far off track. In truth, we are each responsible in our own way. That can be a hard pill to swallow but with the act of accepting responsibility for our own part in this theater of pain we can also choose to change. As a catalyst for positive change I am calling for a Revolution of Love… a united world under one banner of hope, love, and promise of better days ahead. If our leaders cannot lead by example then maybe it is up to us to show them the way. By coming together and talking, making peace with our differences, and celebrating the uniqueness of every beautiful soul on this planet we can show them that it is possible to create harmony and that harmony is what we, the people, desire. The leaders of the world are ruled by money and they have allowed greed to cloud their judgment. They think that if they throw money at us we will go away and that money will fix all of our problems. They are sadly mistaken. No amount of money can save a soul or bring true peace. Yes, money is necessary but it is not the lifeblood of humanity. What the people want is fairness, equality, acknowledgement, and true freedom to live their lives the way they see fit. I grow tired of allowing money to be my master and I grow weary of watching money pull the strings of our political puppet show.

 

I ask you now to stand up. How can you help make this change happen… begin by educating yourselves on what is happening in the world, form your own opinions rather than simply absorb the opinions of others, and then do something… anything… to enact positive change. It does not have to be some big, earth-shattering idea or act, but it can be if that’s what aligns with you. It can be simple acts of kindness. It can begin with something as mundane as turning off the Kardashians and turning on your mind. Watch the news and read between the lines. Talk to people who are outside your common circle. Listen to the other side, even if you don’t agree. We won’t always agree and that’s ok. It’s part of being human and thinking for ourselves.

 

You hold within you far more power than you realize. The people in power want you to play small. They want you to stay afraid. They want you to feel like you need them to save you. Be your own hero and remember that we are all of this earth, not simply on it. We are truly connected. We need to care for ourselves, care for one another, and care for our home. Today I proclaim a Revolution of Love. Who stands with me?

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Pain on Repeat… acknowledging a need for change

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The events in Orlando, Florida on Sunday, June 12, 2016, rocked the nation and left a community of people feeling unsettled and betrayed. I spoke with a dear friend who is part of the LGBT community.  She shared that the man who murdered the people in the club that evening had been frequenting that location for some time.  She said that, knowing the tendency of the LGBT community to welcome people “as they are”, with open arms and full acceptance, and knowing that this man would have been accepted lovingly by the patrons of this club, is what cut the deepest.  It was a deep and true betrayal of trust at its core.  This betrayal left my friend and many members of the LGBT community feeling unsettled, untrusting, and afraid.  It was a pure act of hatred and it struck at the very heart of this loving community.

My friend and I spoke in great length about the initial shock and the after-shocks, like that of an earthquake, rumbling through the psyche and the community as a whole. We talked about our hopes that this act of hatred would not lead to higher walls and deeper mistrust between the straight and LGBT communities.  Lastly, I voiced that my greatest hope is that people come together in a demonstration of love and unity, to stand as one against hate, rather than allowing this or any act of hatred turn us against one another or leave us with more fear.  Fear feeds hatred and is usually a primary goal of an attack like this.  These attackers want to instill fear and mistrust so that people stay guarded and afraid. Rather than give hatred, or the ones who spread hate, the satisfaction of dividing us, I hope and pray we bring peace and love to the table and join together to say that we will not be cowed… we will not allow the darkest of hearts to snuff out our light, and we refuse to kneel at the altar of fear.

It is easy in times like these to forget that the world is full of loving people, and that those who cause harm are the minority here.  I think we forget because, so often, the attacks leave such deep wounds… physically, mentally, emotionally, and even spiritually.  It doesn’t help that we rarely see stories of love, good deeds, or positive change within the media. Too often the expression, “if it bleeds it leads” takes hold and we are force-fed stories of murder, terrorism, hate crimes, kidnappings, etc. to the point that we can’t help but become fearful and borderline paranoid of the world we live in. It’s sad, really, that we allow hate and bloodshed to sit at the head of the table as we dine on terror and choke down warnings of imminent danger by some unseen enemy. I am not saying we should turn a blind eye to these events or the devastation that occurs anywhere on our planet. To the contrary, I want us to pay attention and then take positive action.  I want our love and compassion for one another to be in the forefront.  Anger is justified in these situations but anger without positive action is pointless and anger with violent and vengeful action only breeds more hate and violence.

I know many will see me as naïve. I assure you I am not. I am not blind to the depths of darkness of which humanity is capable. I am not of the illusion that if we hold hands, sing Kumbaya, and pretend that everything is all love and light, all the time that the world will magically become a perfect place. What I am pointing to is our collective blindness to the fact that we have been, whether willingly or subconsciously, led into a situation where fear holds dominion over our lives.  Like confused cattle being led to slaughter, we sense that something isn’t right but we feel powerless to change what is happening.  The cows may not have a choice but we do.  We are not powerless to enact change and it begins and ends with each one of us.

I am left to wonder if the continuation of violence and our unwillingness, or perceived inability, to change how we react to acts of violence, stems from a lack of a sense of responsibility (i.e., it’s not my job to be my brother’s keeper or that’s above my paygrade), an undercurrent of laziness (i.e., change is hard and I haven’t been directly affected so why should I do something?), fear of being perceived in a certain light (i.e., if I stand up for gay rights people will think I’m gay; or, they’re just a Liberal Tree-Hugger trying to stir up trouble), a misguided idea that in order to stop violence and discrimination we must use more violence and discrimination (i.e., we should just send them all back to where they came from; or, let’s shoot up their neighborhood/drop a bomb/buy more guns, etc.), or a deeply sad belief that this is how things have always been and so will always be.  I find every example listed above hard to swallow and some are downright ignorant and toxic.  The only reason things haven’t changed is because we, as a collective, haven’t stepped up to say enough is enough.  Instead we allow ourselves to be fragmented and turned against one another in a constant state of suspicion.  Yes, there are “bad” people out there but not all people are bad and it’s dangerous to generalize based on a handful of people’s actions.  The vast majority of the world’s people are good and loving individuals who simply want to live peaceful and happy lives. It is the few who we allow to spoil the whole.

I wish I could present an instant “fix” to the dilemma we find ourselves in.  I wish people didn’t have to experience this kind of trauma and devastation.  I wish we could begin seeing the similarities within each of us while honoring, and even celebrating, the differences instead of seeing anything and anyone “different” than us as “bad” or in the least something of which to be suspicious.  Together we weave a beautiful tapestry of cultures, beliefs, and humanness.  Why can’t that be our focus?  Why, when something horrifying like the mass shooting in Orlando happens, can we not step back and say, this is not who we are or what we stand for and then come together in peace and support rather than turn away from one another, place blame, and allow anger and fear to jade us?  I’m not entirely sure what the solution is but I know one exists. I also know that we cannot wait for a hero to save us and we cannot wait idly by hoping someone else will do something about it.  It’s up to us.  It’s up to me and you to extend the olive branch, to trust that the heart of humanity is good, and to approach every encounter with a spirit of love and unity. Only then will we be able to begin to heal. Only then will the domino effect of hate and pain and violence be stopped. Only then will we be able to say that things may have been this way in the past but we refuse to allow it to continue any longer. We all have a right to peace, to freedom, and live our lives with dignity and an absence of fear. This is our world and we all have a responsibility in shaping it or we allow it to shape us.  I believe, rather I know that we can come together and make this world a place we are all proud to call home. We may never be “perfect” but we can definitely do better than this.

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The Beauty and Power of Acknowledgment

Woman Looking at Reflection
Each soul on this planet has a simple desire at its core… to have its existence validated. It seems simple enough, the desire to be seen and heard, yet it holds tremendous power. To be acknowledged brings a sense of meaning while the absence of acknowledgment can leave one feeling invisible and cast aside. When I speak of acknowledgement here, I am mainly speaking about the basic, yet deeply profound, soul-to-soul and heart-to-heart human connection form of acknowledgement.

A humble smile, a nod, a door held when your arms are full… any of these unassuming actions can cause a ripple of positive energy that can have a meaningful and far-reaching impact that cannot be imagined in the moment. A “seemingly unimportant decision” can change the lives, or at least the day, of the person or people on the receiving end of this kindness.

While acknowledgement is often beautiful in its simplicity, it frequently defines, at least in part, how we come to see ourselves and the world around us. This means that acknowledgement, or a lack-there-of, carries with it a great deal of weight within the human psyche. Questions such as, “How and where do I fit within my community?” “Why am I so different from the rest of my family?” “Why do I feel invisible in a crowd?” all stem from our deep-seated, albeit often subconscious, desire to feel seen, heard, and most of all… understood. This craving to be recognized, when left unchecked, can lead to an increased ego-centric personality. On the contrary, if this desire is not filled, it can lead to feelings of low self-esteem, reliance on outward approval for validation, and a lack of self-worth. It is important to realize that, while being acknowledged by others feels good, we must also cultivate the ability to acknowledge and validate our own selves and accomplishments along the way. Doing so will lead to a healthy ego-development versus narcissism or self-abnegation.

Life offers many opportunities to both give and receive acknowledgement. We may be acknowledged for our talents, our contributions to the community, our “feats of daring”, our academic and/or professional accomplishments, as well as for our acts of creation and destruction, to name a few. Some individuals go beyond the typical need for acknowledgment and begin to crave it, like an addict caves their favorite drug. They become “hooked” on accolades and who seem to need the spotlight in order to feel “worthy,” or even alive. On the flipside of that coin are those who wish to remain secluded, and away from prying eyes. These are the people who need validation and acknowledgement the most but who have received the message of “you are not worthy” from the culture at large. These are the homeless men, women, and children we see on the streets; the prostitutes and addicts who are searching for something to fill the void in their hearts and souls; the people labeled “criminal” who are locked up and forgotten; these are the poor, the mentally ill, the otherwise “disabled” individuals who wish for nothing more than to be seen and not judged. These are two extremes, two distant branches, yet they are from the same tree. Even at these opposing poles the root is the same… “Do you see me?”

We can witness the incredible beauty and transformative power of acknowledgment with a nod of our head and a brief moment of eye contact with a homeless person we pass on the street, instead of dodging them and looking away; or, when you make a really big deal over a child’s art project or silly dance… “Wow! That is spectacular. You are so creative! I love it!” The message they receive is, “I am seen. I am heard. My presence in this world means something.”

What better gift could we give to someone than to let them know, even for a moment, that they matter and they are not alone?

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Legacy of Love

Love’s Symphony

In the twilight of my grief

I heard your love like a symphony

Through missing pieces of my heart

Each note carrying a different part

And as these notes rose through the night

Love’s music filled the cracks with light

 

I wrote this poem for my daughter Kristin who passed away, on August 3, 2014, at the tender age of 16-months.  She was the brightest light I had ever known and she became one of my greatest teachers in life and in death.  I have come to know anger, grief, and fear through the loss of my daughter and I have also come to know strength, faith, and grace as well.  The greatest lesson my sweet angel has taught me is how to love and appreciate life.  Her death was a catalyst for immense change.  I was forced to be stronger than I ever wanted to be.  I was forced to come face-to-face with one of my greatest fears… the loss of a child.  The blessing came when I tapped into that wellspring of strength and realized that it had been there all along, just beneath the surface.

My journey to uncovering this strength came as I sat at her bedside, knowing in my heart of hearts that she was fading, and I promised her that I would go on living in her honor; that I would carry on a legacy of love that she had started in her short time with us.  You see, Kristin was born with Goldenhar Syndrome, a rare disorder that effects a child’s craniofacial and body development often leaving them disfigured and in need of numerous surgeries.  In some cases, the deformities are so severe that the child does not survive infancy.  In Kristin’s case her first surgery is what led to her death.  During her 16 months on this planet we ran a fundraiser to help support the medical expenses that were to arise from her medical care and surgeries.  Through this fundraising the world got to know my sweet Kristin and she inspired so many to go beyond what they thought possible.  The outpouring of support from around the globe renewed my faith, and many others’, in humanity.  This was the legacy I promised to carry on in Kristin’s name… hope and love.

Even though my life was ripped off of its foundation, and I was left staring into an abyss of uncertainty, I found comfort in knowing that she watched on from the other side.  I still feel her presence and her gentle reminders to keep my promise.  When I lay awake in bed, cursing the day or someone who crossed me, I remember her lesson… love.  I remember that each day I am given, even the “bad” ones, are days that she will never get to live.  I try to remember to let go and forgive so that I can make room in my heart for love.  And, I hold her little hand in my dreams and thank her for everything that she has taught me.

I tell this story because I believe it is important for others to know that they can keep going even after a devastating loss.  We owe it to those we’ve lost to live for them, to bring love to the places and people that hurt like we do, and to show our beloveds that we honor their lives – no matter how long or short – by not giving up.  I write this for Kristin who was/is the bravest soul I know.

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Sweet Kristin (aka Wee-Nut) – 03/22/2013 – 08/04/2014

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Will You Answer the Call?

Praying Woman

I had always wondered what people experienced when they said that they had a “calling” or had been “called by God” (or any other Divine Entity for that matter). I would try and imagine if it was like a phone call from a friend, “Hey, ya, it’s me… you know the Big Guy/Gal in charge… I’m just calling to let you know that you’re life is never going to be the same. From here on out you’re going to be a nun/priest/priestess/monk, etc., ok…” or something along those lines. I really couldn’t fathom what a “calling” was or how’d you even know if you received one. Why did only some people get these mysterious “calls” anyway? So many questions and so few, if any answer, at least answers that made any sense at all. I never doubted that these people, well most of them, had experienced something. The thing I found interesting was how much difficulty they seemed to have in explaining exactly what had transpired. Some stories seemed beyond belief… a vision of angels and the Mother Mary exclaiming from on high that this person was to be a bringer of peace to a nation, for instance. Again, I didn’t doubt them exactly. I mean, I have experienced things in life that others may judge as “impossible”, “improbable”, or even down-right “crazy”. My inquiry lay in my deep curiosity for these types of experiences. I just wanted to know what it was all about and I carried this wondering in the back of my mind for decades.

After the passing of my daughter Kristin a lot changed for me… not just in ways that you would imagine for someone who loses a child but on a fundamental level of existing in this world. My whole focus changed. I was seeing, feeling, and experiencing things in a very different way… sometimes in ways that didn’t make sense to me. At times this rollercoaster ride spun me off into feelings of losing my mind, or of falling deep into cavernous depression, because I could not seem to find stable ground to center myself. I would later realize that this was all part of the process of dissolving and reforming, what I’ve come to see as my Chrysalis stage. I didn’t know, at the time, that I was being torn apart, melted down, and rebirthed. I didn’t know that I was about to receive an answer to a long-held question… what does it mean to be “called” for a higher purpose? All I knew at the time was that nothing in my life made sense, everything seemed unfamiliar, and I really didn’t know what would happen, when or if, I made it through to the other side. I rediscovered a sense of Faith during this time and I also came to know the true meaning of the word Grace. Because, when it came down to it, I would not have survived this transition without both of those vital virtues… Faith that everything was unfolding as it was meant to and that I was being held and supported by some unseen “force” in my life and the Grace to surrender and accept that I was unable to control what happened to my daughter, only the path I would choose from that moment on.

When I finally made it through the darkest parts of my journey I arrived at a place of stillness and light. A calmness had entered me. A sense of “knowing” that everything was ok, or at least was going to be ok. A longing to reconnect with a higher power, as well as a rekindled romance with what many might describe as “the ethereal realms” or even the “mystical” side of life, brought me connections to people, places, and things from my past. The “coincidences” and synchronicities began happening at a rapid pace. Opportunities began to arise that were far outside my comfort zone but that felt like total certainty to my Soul. When a long-lost friend and I reconnected, and she told me of her journey and then offered me a chance to enter into an Interfaith Ministry, I was uncertain at first. There was no pressure, only an offering of assistance. There was no judgement or questioning. And so I sat with this opportunity for many months. This was so far flung from “who I was”. Who was I anyway? All of these doubts and questions bubbled up from deep inside. What would others think of me? What would this even mean? What if it had a negative impact on how people viewed me professionally? On and on and on, these doubts rolled in and I let them. I didn’t run from them, as I would have in the past. I chose to sit with them and feel into them. Was there any real weight to these concerns or was this just my ego, or past traumas, influencing me? What was the worst-case scenario and the chances of it actually happening? I began to feel something inside. I began to feel an inner-strength. A voice rose up and I knew, on a level I had never known anything before, that this voice would only speak the truth to me. This… this was the voice of my Soul… the voice that each of us possess which is directly connected to our Source (whatever that means to the individual).

Once I learned to trust this voice, and to trust that it was me but also something much greater then me speaking, I learned to listen very intently. I learned that I could tap into this voice at any time and at any place. This became my “go to” when I felt overwhelmed or unsure or when I simply needed to feel safe, secure, and supported. I formed a deep and loving bond with this “entity” that seemed to be me, of me, and yet beyond me. I began to sense the deep connection that is shared through the energy that makes up our world. I understood the physicists and spiritual scholars in a different way. I began to actually feel this energy they spoke of, both in a scientific way as well as in a spiritual way. This was me, experiencing life, on a Soul level. This new way of being in the world, which I am still learning, on a daily basis, the true meaning behind it, has opened up many doorways. I have uncovered and rediscovered some long lost “gifts”. With all of this new information and alchemy of Soul and Spirit happening within, I began to inquire deep within about my true purpose in this lifetime. The elusive questions and answers I had been carrying around my entire life began to resurface. Through my own form of prayer and meditation I arrived at a deep inner-knowing that I was to enter the ministry my friend had brought to my attention. I was to become an Interfaith Minister and Healer… a “Modern Mystic” of sorts. I was meant to include this new path of “Reverend” with my current path of “Social Worker”. My love of helping people, and deep desire to bring healing and Love into this world, would be made manifest by joining the two worlds I had kept separate all these years. I was guided to marry the Spiritual with the Scientific. I was to embody the Archetypes of “Mystic” and “Healer”.

At first, my “rationale” mind jumped in, with my ego in tow, carrying thoughts of “Are you crazy? Have you lost your mind? A Mystic? A Healer? Who the Hell do you think you are?” Out of habit I, of course, fell into a spiral of doubt. I mean, none of this had never been on my “radar”. I was not one of those kids who dreamed of becoming a nun or priest or of having any involvement in any church, religion, or Spiritual path. I had actually lived my life with a great distaste for religion and all things deemed as Spiritually “woo woo”. Up until recently the idea of becoming a Minister or Reverend would have made me feel ill. Something was different though. That quiet but strong voice rose to the surface and drowned out the others. It quieted the fears of my “rational” mind by pointing out that I am, in fact, already a “healer” by profession. My very job as a Social Worker presents opportunities for me to help people heal from all sorts of emotional, psychological, and spiritual wounds. The “Mystic” part comes with the introduction of my intuitive gifts and simply refers to the deep connection with something beyond the “normal” realms of human cognition. Any form of spiritual practice can be deemed “mystical”… even organized religious ceremonies and practices. So, the fact that I am choosing to marry my current profession with the new realm of Interfaith Ministry and Soul-Work, should not seem so far-fetched and is definitely nothing to be feared or shamed.

Had I not had the privilege of birthing my two beautiful daughters into this world, of being their mother and feeling that intense connection to another being, I don’t know if I would have understood this experience in the same way. Had I not experienced the intense loss when my youngest daughter passed away I don’t know if I would have grasped the immensity of the power of Love that we all hold inside. Had I not had the honor of communing with over 30 women in the mountains of Montana, where we were provided the sacred opportunity to reconnect with our Souls and to be cracked wide-open, burned down, and reborn from the flames of this Divine connection, I do not know if I would have recognized the strength I possess to bring all of this to fruition. I do not know if I would have had the courage to embrace the voice within as Guidance from my true Source had I not witnessed a beautiful Soul by the name of Sera do the same. Through all of these experiences, and so many more, I have learned the immense strength and power which can be found in our moments of deep vulnerability. There is nothing that I can think of in this moment that represents my being vulnerable than putting these words to paper and sending them out into the world for all to see. I am doing this from a place of sincere honesty. I am doing this from a place of hope, Love, and Trust. I am opening myself up because it is the only way that I know how to live now. I have been called to a higher purpose and I now understand that once called, you can never hide again. Once you’ve been called… you become a beacon which calls to others. Love is my mission… will you accept the call to join?

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Transformation

transformation

There is often terrifying splendor in transformation.  The way it takes what is familiar and twists it, turns it inside out, and all but snuffs it out of existence.  And, if we can look past the pain and discomfort, we will see that there is beauty in the breakdown.

Lately, I have felt very much like the caterpillar in its chrysalis… I have for a few months now.  It’s such a strange sensation, but not entirely unpleasant.  I can sense the melting away of my old self to make room for the new.  There is an “emerging” happening… a rebirth.  As many of us know, birth is a painful but awe-inspiringly transcendent experience.  We rarely, if ever, emerge on the other side of birth the same way.  Our bodies change.  Our minds expand.  Our heart grows infinitely bigger.  That is what is happening… I am being reborn. 

I realize that I am simply unable to remain in this cocoon any longer.  I can feel my wings, still tender and soft, push against the walls.  I want to be free to stretch and to fly.  I have lived small and protected for far too long.  I am ready to take flight and embrace life in all of its messy glory.  Doing so will mean taking risks but I am ready.  Doing so will mean leaving people behind but I am ready.  Doing so will make me vulnerable beyond anything I can even yet imagine but I am ready.  There is fire in my soul and it cannot be suppressed any longer.  

I could choose to remain tucked safely in my shell.  It is much less dangerous here, but it still holds its own set of risks.  Remain tucked inside I would suffocate.  I would wither and die.  Fire needs oxygen to breathe and I am living fire.  There is pain as I push, as I stretch.  There is fear of what is waiting for me when I break through.  More than any of this though, there is hope and love and an unending array of exciting possibilities.  There is freedom to burn brightly and deeply. 

I know that my new wings may falter.  They may tear a bit as I learn to use them.  I may find myself swept away on these winds of change but I will also find my way back home.  Like a Monarch Butterfly migrating I can always find my true home. 

And while my new wings may get me into trouble… curiosity is a natural side effect of new life… I know that I will be ok.  I know this because I can feel the necessity of this change.  I know this because I have faith that I have been led to this point in my life by a benevolent force.  My Mother is rebirthing me and I will be welcomed into this new existence with open arms.  The fear is superficial.  It no longer runs as deep as before.  I am no longer afraid to let go.  How can I fly if I continue to hold tightly to the people, places, and things of the past?  I must have faith that those who are meant to fly with me will grow their own wings.  I can no longer allow myself to be grounded by others perceptions of how I should be.

In truth, we are all caterpillars.  We will either accept the change or fight against it.  If we embrace the change we get to become butterflies who turn out to be capable of so much more than we ever believed possible.  If we fight against it we perish either in body, mind, or soul.

So my friends, may we all be brave enough to stretch our wings and face each moment with a renewed sense of wonder.

 

 

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The Echoing of Loss

baby_angel

When your heart is breaking and there are no words to describe the way you feel how do you go on? What is it, within us, that gives us the strength to put one foot in front of the other when all we want to do some days is curl up and fade away? I am often told that I am strong. I hear the words, “I don’t think I could survive if I lost a child!” or “Bless you for being so strong!” The truth is, yes… I am strong, but I still feel the pain and ache of loss. Some people seem to believe that strength equates to an absence of fear, pain, sadness, or anger. This is not the case. True strength equates to feeling all of those things, sometimes at once, and still moving forward. True strength is found in the willingness to be vulnerable, exposed, and willing to try again. True strength is found in the ability to suffer a tragic and traumatic blow to the core and still be willing to put yourself out there, knowing fully that you could be hurt again.

I am strong, so are many of the people who say that they don’t think they could experience the death of their child and still go on. You don’t realize, until you are in that moment, just how capable you are. It seems superhuman to those who watch but to the one living it… it’s simply survival. I did not choose to be this strong. Life delivered me into a situation which only had two possible responses… go on living or die. I chose to live and that… that is when I discovered how strong I really am. Ask any parent who has lost a child and they will tell you how deep their pain runs, how many nights they laid awake – staring at the ceiling – playing that moment over and over in their head, crying so hard they could barely breathe, and then getting up the next morning to take care of what needed to be taken care of. They chose life, knowing it would be hard, and also knowing that to do otherwise would only serve to add more pain to those left behind.

My daughter, Kristin, would have been three years old on March 22, 2016. She died, unexpectedly, on August 4, 2014, after experiencing complications following surgery. It’s times like these, around her birthday, or Christmas, that I wonder who she would be now. What would she look like? What would her favorite color be? What would her favorite toy or activity be? How would her and her sister, Katie, get along? We’ll never get to know the kid, young adult, or woman Krissy would have become. We’ll never get to see her ride a bike, start Kindergarten, graduate from college, get married, or have children of her own – if she chose to do those things. All we have are photographs and memories of her infectious giggle and crooked little smile… flashes of her twinkling eyes, or echoes of her first attempt at words… ma-ma, da-da, uh-oh, and geddit (get-it). All we have now is an empty place which we fill as best we can with our Love for her and the happy memories. All we can do now is be strong and carry on in her memory. We live life because she cannot.

I know that my family and I are not alone in this ocean of grief. Unfortunately, the company we keep is great in numbers. Every smiling face holds a sadness and longing in its eyes. Every voice cracks ever-so-slightly when it speaks their child’s name. Every heart wears a scar, like a badge of triumph over adversity. Every mind wanders from time-to-time to thoughts of little fingers, little toes, and all the moments stolen away in an instant. Despite all of this, or maybe because of it, we speak with more compassion, we carry ourselves with a bit more grace, we act more boldly, and we hold much less fear… I mean, honestly, what is there to be afraid of when you’ve already experienced the worst of what you could have ever imagined?

So again I say… yes, we are strong, but we wish we didn’t have to be. We’d rather have our children back so we could hold them again and tell them how much we love them. There is nothing that will ever take away the empty space we hold inside. You don’t “get over” a loss like this and time only dulls the pain, it doesn’t remove it. No, all we can do is learn to live with it and, if we feel called to, we can use our experience to help others. My heart goes out to all the parents who have lost a child. We hold a membership to a “club” we wish didn’t exist, and one that none of signed up for, we got selected. In those moments where the pain takes your breath away I offer you my heart, my thoughts, and my prayers. I know they do little to mend the wound but they are all I have to give you.

May our children never be forgotten and may the Love we have for them reign above all else.

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How Do You Describe a “Divine Awakening” Without Sounding Crazy?

Heart_of_Oneness

How do you explain to the people in your life that you’re not the same person you were all the years they have known you?  How do you explain this “you” that has gone through such a dramatic transformation in a way that will help the ones you love understand? How do you describe the new sensations, emotions, and zest for life that you’ve discovered along the way?  Do you even have to explain all of this? Does anyone even care or are they too wrapped up in their own ‘stuff’? I’m not entirely sure that I would even know how… I don’t think I contain the adequate vocabulary to describe the intense unraveling and rebuilding that I have been through in the past two years. I can liken it to a caterpillar entering the chrysalis and being reborn a butterfly. The feeling of melting down to the most basic of materials, swimming in pain and confusion, knowing that this is what is meant to happen but still experiencing the fear of the unknown… what will I be when this is all over? All of this followed by the struggle to break out of the cocoon and to wait, in a state of sheer vulnerability for my wings to dry, before I suddenly realize that I can, in fact, fly.  How do you express this new found freedom and sense of self and purpose to another human being? I wish I could. I think that they will learn more from experiencing this new me, versus me trying to talk to them about it. It’s not that they can’t comprehend the struggles I have been through or can’t “relate” to some of my experiences. It is simply, or maybe profoundly, the fact that I FEEL different… no… I AM different. I really and truly feel reborn and finally feel at home here, in this place, in this body, in this lifetime.

I am unsure of how to bring them along so my hope is that the love we share is the bond that will keep them in my life. I also know, on a deep Soul level, that not everyone who is currently in my life will need to or want to remain a part of my life. I also know, and feel, that this is ok… more than ok. It is all a part of my life’s journey, and theirs’ as well. The best I can do is explain some new insights I’ve had… a new way of being in this world. Maybe if people can accept this part of me, even if they don’t agree with some of it, then they can have a deeper understanding of who I am now. I will do my best to explain how and why this journey has transformed me so vastly.

For much of my life I didn’t know, or maybe even care, why people, animals, plants, etc. existed. I just went through my life knowing that all of this existed, that things are born and then they die and this is how life works. Raised Catholic, I had it all laid out before me and went along until one day the story didn’t make sense anymore. I lost my connection, or maybe I never had a real sense of connection, to a Higher Power. I didn’t know what was real or who to believe. I was lost and confused. Science brought more questions than answers, as did the world’s religions and Spiritual ideologies. After years of trying to find one that “fit” I gave up on it all and let go of the hope of ever finding my way home (in the spiritual sense).  Life went on and eventually I began to feel that longing again. A nagging sensation in my core told me that there was something deeper, something in me, in everyone and everything. I kept much of these new thoughts and feelings to myself. I experienced sensations, vibrations, an emotional onslaught in crowds, vivid and lucid dreams that carried amazing and sometimes terrifying messages, heard whispers and laughter from children who were not there, had electronic devices begin playing on their own to later find out they had no batteries, and a number of other “odd” incidents that could not be “rationally” explained. I became fascinated with the paranormal and occult. I dug into anything that was “outside the box” and soaked up other people’s experiences. All of it helped me feel less alone but no more connected to a Divine Source than before. I was still very much lost in every sense of the word

Fast-forward another decade and I’ve continued to experience things outside the norm. I would talk to some people about it but always sensed they thought it was “all in my head”. The longing for deeper meaning and purpose in my life called to me. I was a wife and mother now. My “normal” life took up all of my time and energy and my experiences, which I would later discover stemmed from my “gifts”, took a backseat. They lay dormant, along with my questions about God and Faith and Love and Purpose, until I was faced with the death of my daughter, Kristin. I’ve written about this before so I won’t go into all of the details again. What I will share here though is this… the night Kristin died is when I entered the Chrysalis. Her death became the catalyst for my rebirth and the power she unlocked in me… the fire she lit inside my Soul… the nearly electric shock to my system which felt like a total reboot… she did all of this. She ultimately reconnected me to my Higher Power and I give thanks to her every day for gifting me with this newfound relationship to the Divine. While I would give anything to have my sweet Krissy back I have come to realize that she had bigger plans. Her life held so much meaning and she touched so many lives in her short 16-months on this planet. Krissy signed up for this mission, did what she needed to do, learned the lessons she needed to learn, taught the ones she needed to teach, delivered her message and then she went home. Her Soul gifted me a roadmap to find my Soul… the piece and I had been missing for so long. When I made my vow to her that night, to carry on the legacy she had birthed into this world, I awoke to the knowledge of my mission in this lifetime… Love. Love is my mission. I am meant to bring as much Love and healing as I can while I am here. A mother should save her children… in this case my child saved me.

So, after attending a retreat, and being called to enter an Interfaith Ministry, I found myself wiggling inside my cocoon, preparing to break through to the other side. In November of 2015, one year and three months after Krissy’s death, I became “me”. This is what is difficult to convey. I still look like ‘Tanya’ and sound like ‘Tanya’ but I am not the same ‘Tanya’ that I was before. The energy, almost electric, hums through my entire being. I see differently. I feel differently. I experience life differently. I see the miracle that is living. I can feel so much more and so much deeper than ever before. All of the gifts I had hidden away, forgotten about, or didn’t even realize that I had, came surging through me, into me. The connection to my Divine Beloved was not only forged… it has become the very foundation of who I am. I can’t explain what the Divine is or means… it is a very personal relationship that each of us has to discover for ourselves. It’s funny because the Divine is us and we are the Divine, no matter the name we assign to ‘It’. I plan to write more about this later… there’s so much to discuss! I wish I could show you all what I see when I look at each of you or the world around me. I wish I could convey the sheer Love and Light that I sense in each Soul. I guess this has become a part of my mission… to bring this awareness, of the Sacred in each of us, out into the light for all to see.

You see, I have come to realize that we all come into this life with a mission… a set of lessons that we need to learn. Before we arrive we “sign up” for these missions and know exactly what we’re in for. The hardest part is, that once we arrive, we forget. We arrive in each life with a clean slate. I want to share more about this as well but I will save it for another day. My “awakening” to my mission arrived during the darkest period of my life. However, without that darkness I would not have been able to see the light. There’s so much more to share… so much more to explain and discuss. I’ll leave you with a heartfelt wish for each and every one of you to recognize your own light and to feel just how deeply loved, and never alone, you truly are. Many Blessings… from my heart to yours.

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The Eye

You can dance in a hurricane
But only if you’re standing in the eye

~Brandi Carlile

 hurricane-over-the-field

 

I’m not going to tell you that it’s all going to be ok…

To tell you that you will never face a storm would be a lie.  To pretend they do not exist would only leave you open to being blindsided by their harsh reality.  To tell you to hide away in shelters built around your heart; to remain steely and aloof, would only serve to cut you off from all that makes life worth it… and, the shelters never survive the biggest storms anyway.  Storms are a natural part of life.  They come in the form of death, disease, job loss, separations, financial collapse, and numerous other trials and tribulations found within the human experience.  You can pray that a storm will never find its way to your door but they always do.  I could tell you to run screaming, crying over the inevitable pain that the storm will bring, but that would only serve to weaken you and that I will not do.  Instead, I will tell you to run into the storm… to embrace the winds and let them carry you.  You can make them a part of you.  You can love the storms and all their brutal honesty.

Head this warning… once you choose to embrace the storm you will never be able to go back to the way you were before.  To do this means letting go of the limitations you have placed on yourself.  It means opening yourself wide, dropping the sword and the shield, and leaving yourself vulnerable to all that comes when a storm hits.  Once you stand inside the storm and survive, you realize just how strong you really are.  You will come to realize that everything you allowed to hold you back no longer holds power over you.  Things that seemed impossible become obtainable.  Things that were once a nuisance no longer seem to matter.  I know the familiar doubts that creep in with each step you take forward.  I am all too familiar with the fear of being swallowed by the howling gale-force winds you see ahead.  I too have found myself suddenly engulfed, drowning in oceans of tears and pain that takes my breath away.  I survived and became stronger.  You can as well.

The secret to withstanding life’s storms is to find your “eye”.  It is there you’ll rediscover your footing.  While all the world seems to be whipping around your head and you feel like the storm will never end, don’t run from the pain… walk through it, to the center, to the “eye”.  Stand firm, or fall to your knees, but stay present.  Let every pain, regret, despair, “what if”, and “why” whirl around you.  Let the numbness go.  Let the shrapnel fly by your head and tear at your flesh… let it draw blood so you can see that you are still alive.  Let the wind of hopelessness threaten to steal your very breath and in that moment know that IT CAN’T TOUCH YOU!  You can exist in the middle of the tempest, you can scream into the howling winds, you can dance, you can stomp your feet and curse “the powers that be”… you can do all of this and more in a giant display of “f*ck you” against the anguish that threatens to squelch the light from your soul.  So long as you hold onto an ember of hope, the flame cannot be completely extinguished, no matter how hard the storm tries to put it out. 

When my storm came, in the form of my daughter dying, I tried to escape it but only got more lost, more caught up in the pain and grief that seemed to exist all around me.  It was only when I stopped running from the fear, and sat with my pain, that I found some semblance relief.  I finally gave myself permission to grieve, and I grieved hard.  I dropped the platitudes I had been clinging to and just let the grief wash over me.  There was beauty to be found in that breakdown.  I let myself be cracked wide open, tears poured forth in a torrent of loss, disbelief, and an unbearable ache in the very depth of my being.  I cried until there was nothing left.  When I could finally allow myself to feel EVERYTHING, and to be emptied of everything, Love had room to move back in.  Slowly it filled the empty spaces.  Like a balm washing over my wounds.  I began to heal from the inside out.  The storm began to quiet and I could see the other side.  The eye was the scariest place I had ever dared to stand and yet I realized that it was also my sanctuary. 

I will not tell you that it’s all going to be ok… You will never be the same. Time will heal some of the wounds and you will begin to feel bent rather than broken.  A scar, that only you can feel, will remain.  Wear it on your heart as a badge of remembrance and live your life.

 

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For Lily and Krissy

Love Song

I wanted to write something deeply profound, something earth-shatteringly beautiful and deep.  I wanted to write about the beautiful comings and goings of life and everything for which we can be thankful.  I sit, at a bit of a loss, on how to proceed.  Many of you already know that one year, three-and-a-half months ago, my baby girl Kristin was called back to that other place where souls are born.  Some call it Heaven.  Some have no name for it.  I consider that place my original home.  I begin with her end because, very recently, my friend experienced the same loss when her 3 ½ year old daughter died suddenly.  The news stopped me in my tracks and the pain rippled through lifetimes of existence.  I was brought back to that moment when I knew Krissy was gone and my heart ached deeply for my friend and her family.  Two young lives, cut short, in such seemly pointless ways.  I know that we are not the only families to experience this kind of loss.  Unfortunately, burying your child is all too common in some parts of the world and tragedy strikes down the innocent every day.  None of it makes any sense on the surface.  I was left with the thought that “life is too short”. 

Life is too short to be wrapped up in worrying about the bottom line.  It is too short to worry about who is saying what about whom.  Life is too short, and too precious, to waste another minute not living it to its fullest.  After my mind stopped spinning I went deep into thought about how I have survived such a devastating loss.  The understanding I have that has helped me accept my daughter, and Lily’s, untimely death is this… they chose us to be their parents.  They chose us because they knew we would love tem beyond measure and we would give them everything they needed to fulfill their purpose in this lifetime, as short as it was.  They also knew that we would be strong enough to take the pain of their loss and keep going in their honor, carrying their purpose with us, forward… with Love and appreciation for life.

I can’t know why Lily and Krissy were taken from us so soon.  I will never know what might have been.  I have had to choose to put one foot in front of the other, to keep going, to continuing living since our daughters cannot.  I want to soak up every moment.  I want to stop taking for granted all of the blessings, big and small, that I have in my life.  I want to honor them by being the very best version of myself that I can be.  I know, deep in my heart, that is what they would want.  I know this because they were both such amazing souls.  They had smiles that would light up a room, giggles that were contagious to everyone in earshot, and a deep love in their hearts that you could feel in your bones.  If you looked closely, you could see their old souls peeking through their sparkling eyes.  They left us with so many gifts.  Even on my darkest days I picture Krissy’s face and my heart melts.  For all the unanswered questions her death left behind the one answer I know for sure is that Krissy was pure love and I was truly blessed to be her mother. 

I know that my friends have a long journey ahead of them.  I know because I continue to walk it every day.  We are forever bonded through the love we have for our daughters as well as the grief we carry for the empty place in our lives they once filled.  My heart still cracks open, and tears still flow from time to time. But, the good days are beginning to outnumber the bad and the light of Love that I hold inside for Krissy, and now Lily too, shines through the cracks and heals the wound a little more every day.  These two beautiful souls never had a chance to meet while here, on earth.  It brings me some comfort to believe that they are now side-by-side and hand-in-hand watching over us as we fumble our way through life’s ups and downs.  I can only hope that we make them proud and that they can still feel how very much they are loved.

I really didn’t know what I was going to write when I started.  I guess I have written a message of hope for all those out there with broken hearts.  There will be days when you don’t think you can get out of bed and face the day.  There will be days when you won’t want to.  But, if you get quiet and listen closely you will hear your heart beating… you can, you can, you can.  And some days will nothing more than putting one foot in front of the other, and that is ok.  The only real way to fail at living is to stop trying.  So, even when it hurts to breathe, because my chest is full of longing, I get up and I try.  The more I try, the easier it gets.  The empty places in my heart and soul slowly fill with happy memories and the love I carry for our girls.  And as the days begin to return to some semblance of normalcy I give thanks for the time we did have together.  I try to replace the grief with gratitude.  Sometimes I fail but I keep trying.  After you survive a loss like this you are, in a way, reborn into someone new.  With this rebirth you discover parts of yourself that you never knew existed.  You discover just how strong you really are and just how capable you are of living again.  It may never be “perfect” but it will get better.  

In loving memory or Kristin Ashley Tiger (3/22/13 – 8/04/14) and Lily Ann Haley (5/15/12 – 11/22/15)

May we be blessed enough to bring as much joy into the world as they did and may we live with gratitude for each we get to wake up and try again.

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The Buoyancy of Human Spirit

The light in young woman hands in cupped shape. Concepts of shar

 

“The greatest glory in living lies not in never falling, but in rising every time we fall.”  ~Nelson Mandela

Resiliency… according to the dictionary, can be defined as:

  1. The power or ability to return to the original form, position, etc., after being bent, compressed, or stretched; elasticity.
  2. Ability to recover readily from illness, depression, adversity, or the like; buoyancy.

 

Anyone who has ever had to overcome tragedy knows that the word Resiliency means so much more than that basic definition.  To me, being resilient means to be faced with a sorrow so great that you want to lay down and die but instead you stand up, face the darkness, and put one foot in front of the other.  Resiliency is to be returned to ashes and rise again, over and over, without end.  It does not mean that we do not feel pain, regret, sorrow, anger, sadness, etc.  It simply means we feel all of that, embrace it, learn from it and keep moving.  My mother gave me a button after my daughter died.  It says, “I’ve survived damn near everything”.  I can’t help but smile when I look at it and it gives me a boost when I’m feeling beat-down by the world around me.  It’s a gentle, and funny, reminder that I have faced a lot of adversity in my life but I’ve always come out on top.  Some ask me how I do it… how do I go on after experiencing such a loss.  I say, the alternative was to surrender to the pain, to slip into darkness and to die.  I could not do that.  I could not tarnish the memory of my sweet daughter by giving up on life.  One death was enough.  I have another daughter who needs her mommy and a husband who would lay his life down for his family.  To give in to the shadows would have been the easy way out.  I’m too stubborn for that.

When people tell me how tough they think I am or how strong I must be to keep going I think about all the other souls the world over that have faced so much more than I could ever imagine in my worst nightmares.  It is they who have earned a deep sense of respect from my heart and soul.  They have faced the worst that the world and humanity have to offer and yet they keep putting one foot in front of the other.  If they can overcome their demons, who am I to give up?  Some say they fight on because they have no choice.  Some say that they are too stubborn to give up.  Some say that life is too beautiful to allow their hearts to be filled with the anger and hatred fed to them by their enemies.  Some simply know no other way.  To all of them I bow and I pray that they find the peace and salvation they deserve.  They have a fighter’s spirit and an angel’s heart.  To see their struggle is see both anguish and grace in its purist form.  Some would call them victims, I call them survivors.

They are the survivors of genocide, of rape and torture, of human slavery.  They have watched their children, parents, spouses, friends and family slain right before their eyes.  They are the survivors of extreme poverty where they cannot find clean water to drink and go without eating for days.  They have clawed their way through the dirt to find safety and sustenance only to be turned away or ignored.  They are the survivors of Mother Nature’s fury and of failing infrastructure that was supposed to keep them safe.  They are the survivors of abuse, of cults, of disease, and of empty promises made by their governments.  They are victorious in my eyes because they refuse to give in or give up.  They have a fire in their bellies that pushes them on into the future.  This fire feeds them with hope of better days to come.  They may admit their pain and anguish but they will not be cowed by it.  They may have days where hope is but a tiny ember in their hearts but they feed it with dreams of love and peace and promises fulfilled.  I can see the fire in their eyes, deep within, hidden from those who cannot see past their own hatred for the people they oppress.  I know these souls are peaceful warriors, waiting for their turn in the sun.  I know that the day will come when they will be free of this pain and suffering and they will sing with voices so loud and so powerful it will shake the very foundation of the cultures who have held them down.

There is nothing more resilient than the human spirit.  Each of us has the power in any given moment to stop being a victim in our lives and to become our own hero.  I think when we stop waiting for someone to rescue us, when we take back our power, we realize that we can overcome more than we could have ever imagined.  Sometimes, to face another day seems like the most difficult task in the world… do it anyway.  Do it for all those who have died trying.  Do it for all those who wake up every day not knowing if they will live to see the next.  Do it for the next generation who look to us for guidance on how to handle trials and tribulations.  Do it because you can… deep down you know you can.

So when others tell me how resilient I am, and that I can overcome anything that is placed in my path, I say, “yes, yes I am and I can and so can you”.  And as you make your way through life take a moment to say thank you to all those other souls that struggle along next to you.  You may not be able to see them but they are there.  Say a prayer for all of them and say one for yourself.  We can do so much more when we know we’re not alone.  Believe me when I say, we are all walking through fire, no matter how big or small the flames.  We will all be reduced to ashes and we will all meet on the other side.  To overcome and keep gratitude and love in our hearts… that is true resiliency.

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Death and Regret

old-new-hands

 

I found myself sitting by her bedside, quiet, sad, and yet trying to put on a good face for her.  She is my grandmother.  94 years old, formerly full of life and full of pride in her appearance, now wishing she would die.  It was painful to see her in such a state.  My heart broke for her, her loneliness, the long days staring at the wall or the TV, barely able to hear what was going on around her.  I suppose, at times, her hearing loss was a blessing.  It blocked out the crying of other residents and the beeping of machines.  But I would become angry when the nursing home staff would enter and talk about her or their day-to-day lives without including her in their conversation.  Even family did this and I spoke up to the best of my abilities.  I was in shock I think.  Seeing her lying in that bed, the sound of her oxygen machine hissing and pumping brought me back to the hospital room where I watched my sweet daughter Krissy fade away.  I sat thinking to myself, “she never wanted this”.  My grandfather had passed about 10 years ago.  My grandmother prayed ever since that day that she would follow behind him, quickly.  She has since watched two of her children die at the hands of cancer and one great-granddaughter be taken by medical negligence.

I sat with her.  I talked when I could think of something to day that didn’t seem contrived or like pointless banter.  She tried so hard to hear my words but I know that she only caught about half of what was said.  So I spoke with my eyes and my touch.  I let her know that I was there with her and that I felt her anguish at wanting to be called home and, yet, being left to dwindle slowly in a home that was not hers.  We offered to play BINGO, an old favorite, but even that didn’t catch her interest.  I played “Satin Pillows” by Bobby Darin, one of her favorite songs.  That seemed to cheer her for a moment but then I saw a sadness in her eyes… a remembering of what was no longer possible.  Our family tries to visit when they can.  Some try harder than others but we all cope in our own ways and we all have lives of our own.  I am not them and I don’t walk in their shoes so I can’t and won’t judge their efforts.  We all do the best we can in these circumstances… what else can be asked?  All I know is that my grandmother is in Florida and I’m in New York and I feel like I’m planets away from her.  It’s been hard on my mother, wishing she could have brought her to NY when she moved to be closer to me and my family, but my grandmother’s health would not allow for it.  I can see the pain in her eyes when we talk about it.

After my grandmother had a stroke she felt more defeated than ever and, I believe, that she gave up completely.  In her mind she thought it would speed up her reunion with my grandfather but it has only prolonged her misery.  She no longer gets out of bed for anything.  Her muscles have withered away and she can barely hold herself up.  She wears a Blessed Mother pendent around her neck.  She used to pin it inside her bra, keeping it close to her heart.  It was blessed by the last pope and she feels lost without it.  I watched her clutch it, especially when she was sleeping, as if she is beckoning to the Blessed Mother to come and take her home.  I prayed to the Blessed Mother to hear her cries for mercy.  I asked that my grandmother be taken, peacefully and without pain, in her sleep.  I do not want my grandmother to die alone or with strangers.  I figure that if she is sleeping she won’t know that she is alone or that we aren’t there with her.  As we left my grandmother, after visiting for three days, my mother told her that she would return again soon to see her.  My grandmother said, “I hope I’m dead”.  My mother flinched and started to dispute my grandmother’s sentiment but stopped.  I bent down, held my grandmother’s hand, and told her, “Nana, none of us want to see you go but if that is what you want, if you’re ready, then please know that we will be ok. It’s OK to go.”  She thanked me and we both had tears in our eyes.  My mother leaned in and spoke into my grandmother’s ear, “I love you mom… if that’s what you want we’ll be ok”.  That was three days ago and my grandmother is still with us.  None of know why she is still here, even my grandmother.  She doesn’t eat, barely drinks, and is refusing treatments.  She wants to go.  She begs to go.  She told me, “It’s all in His hands now”.  I hope He’s listening

All of this left me wondering why death is so fickle.  It takes babies who have barely had a chance to live and yet leaves those who pray to die.  I suppose it’s not for me, or anyone, to know.  It’s one of the deeper mysteries of life.  I do wish our country would legalize euthanasia across the board.  I know that some states have already done so and what a blessing it has been to many.  Doing so would allow people to choose their time to depart this earth.  They could choose to go with dignity, and have family around or to be alone.  They could throw a party or go peacefully in the night… no matter when or how the choice would be their own.  I know for a fact that my grandmother would not have chosen this way out.  She would not have wished for dependence on others to bathe her, change her, feed her, and wipe her mouth.  My grandmother would have chosen a beautiful gown, and pearls, and a Mudslide to wash down the pills.  She would have chosen a party with balloons and the music of her youth.  She would have had family and friends with her to say her goodbyes.  And she would have died with the same sense of dignity and pride that she had lived her life.

I write this from my heart for all of those who have suffered and for all those who have watched a loved one suffer.  I write this for all those that think this will never happen to them and fail to plan ahead.  I write this for all those people who sit in those homes alone thinking that no one remembers them.  I remember you, I honor you, and I hope that you all reach the peaceful end that you deserve.  I hold you all in my heart and send prayers to you that your wishes, whatever they may be, come true.

And finally, I write this for all those who have something important to say but wait until “the time is right”.  Say what needs to be said.  None of us are guaranteed a tomorrow.  Once someone is gone you’ve lost your chance to share what needs to be shared.  The fear may be great but the pain of regret is far worse.  Tell them… tell them.  I beg you.

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Do You Know Where You Are?

alice_and_cheshire_cat_by_mashi

“Alice asked the Cheshire Cat, who was sitting in a tree, “What road do I take?” 

The cat asked, “Where do you want to go?” 

“I don’t know,” Alice answered. 

“Then,” said the cat, “it really doesn’t matter, does it?”

I love this exchange because it reminds of far I have come in my life.  I can remember, in the not-so-distant past, a young girl who didn’t even know what her favorite color was or her favorite flavor of ice-cream.  She relied so heavily on others to tell her what she liked that she had lost the inner-voice of “knowing”.  The little girl was very much like Alice.  She was unsure, she lacked direction, and the world was full of people ready and willing to tell her where to go and how to go about living her life.  Having never known anyone who spoke their mind without being ridiculed, and not wanting to be ridiculed herself, the little girl went on living in a kind of dream-state.  She fell in line with whatever the people around her believed, felt, or thought was a good fit for her.  She dressed a certain way to try and fit in and when she dared try something new she was laughed at and returned quickly to the uniform of the norm.  She learned quickly that to stand out put her in danger of being scorned or made the fool.  She became a good little soldier in the army of conformity.

Having been raised Catholic, she wore a uniform and looked just like everyone else.  She learned about God and Jesus, Mother Mary and the disciples.  She said her prayers and was tested by the nuns.  One day the little girl even donned a miniature wedding gown and got married to God.  She attended Catholic School and went to church three times per week.  Guilt became her constant companion and she was sure to tell the priest her worst sins, such as stealing a friend’s crayon, during confession.  She always felt out of place and always had a ton of questions but quietly she sat, barely a blip on anyone’s radar.  Then one day a little rumble occurred.  The girl’s mother explained Confirmation to her and said, “…and then you kiss the Cardinal’s ring”.  The girl felt something sizzle inside and then a burn deep in her soul made her utter these words, “I will kiss no man’s ring!”  Her mother was a bit stunned, her grandmother was shocked, and the little girl was scared.  She was scared that she had crossed the line.  She was scared that she would be in trouble for being defiant.  But deeper still, she was afraid she would be made to do it anyway.  Thankfully the girl’s mother had a fire in her too and Confirmation faded away.  This was the beginning of an unnamed change in the young girl.  Soon after, the little girl stopped attending Catholic School and stopped attending church.

As she got older the girl began to feel a hollowness growing within.  This hollowness caused a tremendous ache but nothing the girl did seemed to fix it.  The hollowness threatened to take over her entire being.  It was a mix of emptiness and fire.  She tried food but only gained weight and drew the very disdain she had tried to avoid.  She tried losing weight but was then told that she was “too skinny”.  She tried emulating celebrities in the way she dressed or hobbies she undertook.  She turned to self-help books and religion.  She tried returning to Catholicism but it felt like a lie.  She tried Buddhism but something was missing.  She tried New Age and Witchcraft but it didn’t stick.  Through all of this the girl picked up pieces and began putting them together.  It was a strange and twisted puzzle.  The girl would lose patience with it and walk away.  She kept up her happy appearance and put on whatever mask was required for the company she was keeping.  All the while that nagging, empty, burning feeling grew in her heart and her mind.  Something was calling to her.  She returned to the puzzle.

Years passed and the girl became a woman.  On the outside she seemed to have it all but on the inside she felt like a play-actor in her own life.  She kept waiting for people to find out that she was an imposter, a phony.  In a room full of peers she continued to feel like a child trapped in a woman’s body.  She continued leaning on other people and looking to them to point her in the “right” direction.  She changed majors six times in college, always basing her decision on what others thought was a good fit for her or to follow someone else’s lead.  At the time she felt like she was making her own choices but in reality she was living the life of a puppet.  This woman-child read books and watched documentaries about “discovering your true identity”.  She tried things that were supposed to alter her reality but it only confused her more.  She kept adding pieces to the puzzle but it always looked fuzzy to her up close.

More time went by and this woman got married and had babies of her own.  They filled up her life with so much love and joy that she almost forgot about the emptiness inside.  The woman still felt unsure of herself but she began to think that it was just the way people felt… this was her life.  She had everything that she had ever wanted.  She had a loving husband, two beautiful children, a solid career, and her family close by.  Yes, there were challenges, but for the first time she held hope that things would be ok. That fire inside dimmed to an ember and the puzzle gathered dust in her mind.  Then one day the woman’s world came crashing down around her.  Her youngest baby died.  The mirror cracked.  All illusions were shattered and a darkness crept across her heart.  She could not reconcile her reality with the fantasy any longer.  The woman woke up.

This tragedy was like fuel and the ember in her soul reignited.  The fire burned to the very core of the woman’s being and as she burned so did the façade.  She threw the masks into the flames.  She threw the personas, the self-doubt, and the others’ opinions in and watched them burn to ash.  The fire grew bigger and brighter until it burst through every pore of her body.  The light from the fire shone brightly across the puzzle that she had been working on for so long.  The woman approached it thinking that it too would burn but instead the puzzle pieces fused together and the woman could finally see the image clearly.  It was her… she was the answer she had been looking for all of this time.  Tears poured forth as she lay the finished puzzle down.  “It was me all along” she thought to herself.  From that day to this one the woman stopped looking outside of herself.  Now her intuition is her guide and she dances to the beat of her own heart, like a drum that never stops beating.  A rhythm all her own.  Now the woman knows what her favorite color is… sunset.  Now the woman knows her favorite ice cream… hot fudge sundae.  Now the woman knows herself and that is the greatest discovery of them all.

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Inside the Chaos

chaos

“To experience peace does not mean that your life is always blissful. It means that you are capable of tapping into a blissful state of mind amidst the normal chaos of a hectic life.” – Jill Bolte Taylor

As a side note: I love Jill’s story. If you’ve never had the opportunity to watch her TED talk, you should take the time… it’s more than worth it. I won’t spoil the story for you. It’s breathtaking!

Anyway, when I found this quote it really hit home with me. Anyone who follows my writing knows that I suffered an immeasurable loss in 2014, when my youngest daughter died unexpectedly. While this experience went way beyond the “normal chaos of a hectic life” the quote still held truth for me. The loss of my daughter not only shook me to my core it threw my life into absolute chaos. On the outside I seemed to be holding it all together. On the inside, however, lived a far more turbulent truth. As a family we had already overcome so much. As a mother I was, and remain, fiercely protective of my children. To know that I was unable to protect my little girl killed me.

Having braced myself for a rough road ahead with Kristin’s medical issues I had finally settled into a sense of peace, a sense of “everything is going to be ok”. And, it was ok. We were ok, until the day she left us. My peace was shattered into a million pieces, like stardust through the sky. The shards blinded me and cut me deeply. I was beyond wounded but in such a deep state of shock I didn’t realize that I was metaphorically “bleeding-out”. It was as if my ribcage had been torn in two and my heart had been ripped from my chest. My soul was strangled under the weight of disbelief and despair. My little light, who burned so bright she could warm the coldest heart with her smile, was gone. She left behind an older sister, only 2 ½ at the time who, to this day, asks me when her sissy is coming home. She left behind parents who are still picking up the pieces of their broken hearts and will continue doing so until the day they die. She left behind grandparents and other family, friends, and teachers who are still seeking meaning behind what happened. She also left behind a whole lotta love and the promises we made to her; to keep her spirit alive by making this world a better place in her honor.

I begin with this part of my story because, for as long as I can remember, I have been a “seeker”. I have been seeking peace, wisdom, understanding, the meaning of life… you know, the easy stuff (*smirk*). I was always looking for mentors, gurus, books, experts, etc. to point me in the right direction. I forgot how to listen to my own heart and follow my own instincts. This led me down many, many roads that never felt right to me but I stayed the course because it’s what (insert famous person’s name here) said worked for them or it came “highly recommended” by So & So. I spent so much time looking outward that I neglected my inner-self. I lost my internal compass. I became a spiritual puppet. Now, I can look back at all of this and recognize that it was all a necessary part of my journey. How could I recognize what did work if I didn’t also figure out what didn’t. The culmination of my spiritual crisis hit as I sat in Kristin’s hospital room realizing that I didn’t even know how to pray, who to pray to, or if prayer was even something I believed in. I had been searching for all those years and I was left directionless. I sat surrounded by so many loving people, supporting me, but I still felt utterly alone. Then, as I held Kristin in my arms and sang to her, listening as the machines stopped breathing for her, I placed my hand upon her heart and felt its beating slow and then stop. In that heartbreaking moment, with a profound sense of permanence, I breathed her in and found my compass again. My seeking turned inward. She gifted a new spiritual insight to me as she passed on to the next realm. She gave me some semblance of peace in that moment of chaos. Her dying light rekindled mine.

From that day to this one, I continue to hold that moment in my heart. It was deeply painful but the aching has begun to ebb, replaced with a sense of calm and connectedness. I know that the echo of pain will remain. I have come to realize that life will not always be blissful, sometimes it will be breathtakingly painful, but that does not mean that I cannot find peace. Peace echoes in the darkest recesses of our minds. It lives in the shadows we dance with during tumultuous times. Peace holds us in its arms as we struggle through the hardships of daily life. Peace is there, always, if we open our eyes and hold out our hands. So, now I no longer seek meaning and peace outside of myself. Instead I get quiet and recognize that the peace I need is inside of me already, tucked inside my heart, waiting to be invited into being. I have learned to open myself to new methods, tools, books, and opinions about connecting to peace without attaching myself too tightly to them. I remind myself that I don’t have to walk down every path I come across. I also realize that I can always blaze my own trail, which is often the most fun way to explore anyway.

My friends, may you seek until you find what it is you’re looking for and when you’ve sought out everyone else’s way remember to return to your own soul’s door. That is where the answers live.

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Finding My Voice

phoenix rising

To quote Mary Lambert’s song Sum of Our Parts, “I didn’t know I was a phoenix ‘til I learned how to speak, even with ashes in my mouth I was still born to breathe.”

From a young age I was told that I had a talent for writing and art but I never really allowed myself to enjoy the compliments.  I suffered from paralyzing shyness and self-doubt due to years of being bullied.  Even if my writing had been Pulitzer Prize material, the world would never have laid eyes on it because I was terrified at the very thought of presenting my work to an audience.  At the behest of my 7th grade English Teacher I submitted one of my poems to a Young Authors Contest.  My poem placed and I was equal amounts surprised and proud.  At first I was even a little happy to know that maybe there was some truth to what people were saying about my writing.  Maybe I was good at it.  My teacher informed me that my poem would be published in a little brochure that would be given out at an awards ceremony.  I thought to myself, “well, that’s pretty cool.”  Then came the hammer which pounded the smile right off my face… My teacher went on to explain that I was going to have to stand up and read my poem at the awards ceremony!  Dread filled every molecule of my being.  I tried to back out but my teacher would not relent.  “You need this!” she proclaimed.  So I went.  I sat three rows back with my teacher beside me and I waited.  They were going in alphabetical order and as they read the name of the presenter before me I excused myself to go to the bathroom… and I stayed there.  I sat in that bathroom for well over 30 minutes.  I had to make sure that they skipped me entirely.  I could not bring myself to face what my mind had painted as a firing squad of laughter and judgment.  When I returned to my seat I could barely make eye contact with my teacher.  The look of disappointment mixed with mild irritation on her face was almost enough to bring me to tears.

Now, flash forward a few years.  I’m sitting in my college Communications class waiting to give my first speech.  I’m terrified, sweating, and staring at the door, planning my escape.  The class is very small, only 12 students, and we’re a pretty close-knit group.  The teacher calls my name and I approach the podium.  My mouth is dry, there are beads of sweat on my forehead.  I can feel them sliding down the sides of my face.  The room feels like it’s tilting to the side and I take a deep breath to steady myself.  I open my mouth once, twice, three times but nothing comes out.  My friend smiles at me and nods, a silent “it’s going to be ok”.  I try again and this time trembling words escape my parched lips.  I get only three or four sentences out before I suddenly burst into tears.  I am so embarrassed that I run from the room and straight towards, you guessed it, the bathroom (what is it about bathrooms?).  My friend had run down the hall behind me, calling my name and waiving her arms like a crazy person.  We must have made quite the scene!  I calmed down but could not bring myself to return to the class.  I just sat there feeling completely defeated by this overwhelming fear and anxiety.  It sucked, plain and simple.

As you can see, public speaking has been (and continues to be) a major nemesis of mine.  In fact, for many years, any form of public display of talent that might bring attention was a big no-no.  I mean, who was I to think that I would have anything worthy of sharing with other people?  I’ve read that the number one fear, even above death, for most people is public speaking.  How strange?  How dramatic!  Only recently, within the last year, can I honestly say that my fear and anxiety has been beaten down by my determination to become a better version of myself, to let go of the “baggage”.  The catalyst for this change, I truly believe, came after I lost my daughter.  My fear of public speaking, and of sharing my art and writing, was dwarfed by the fear of losing a child and I was forced to live that fear.  So now, when I feel the nerves begin to creep up and that little voice in the back of my head tries to rent space and tell me that I’m not good enough or I’ll look stupid… I tell it to shut up.  I remind myself that I have already survived damn near everything and I can survive putting myself out there for all the world to see. 

I have become a Phoenix Rising.  I have been burned beyond all recognition into pure ash and I have risen.  I have found my voice.  I have been reborn through my daughter’s death. 

I guess I share this with you all because I now know that I’m not alone.  As writers, as creative spirits, as human beings we have all felt the pangs of fear, anxiety, and rejection.  That is why I believe it is even more important for those of us who have been wounded and continue to fight to share our works with the world.  We can never know what small thing we say or do will influence another soul to keep going.  I hope by sharing my thoughts and stories I help another find their voice.  How beautifully poetic it would be to create a choir of wounded souls, singing songs of freedom through creative expressions.  To wrap our wounds in the former white flags of surrender we used to waive at every turn.  To laugh and sing joyfully, cracked voices and all, in the face of our fears… how beautiful that would be.   

he nerves begin to creep up and that little voice in the back of my head tries to rent space and tell me that I’m not good enough or I’ll look stupid… I tell it to shut up.  I remind myself that I have already survived damn near everything and I can survive putting myself out there for all the world to see.

I have become a Phoenix Rising.  I have been burned beyond all recognition into pure ash and I have risen.  I have found my voice.  I have been reborn through my daughter’s death.

I guess I share this with you all because I now know that I’m not alone.  As writers, as creative spirits, as human beings we have all felt the pangs of fear, anxiety, and rejection.  That is why I believe it is even more important for those of us who have been wounded and continue to fight to share our works with the world.  We can never know what small thing we say or do will influence another soul to keep going.  I hope by sharing my thoughts and stories I help another find their voice.  How beautifully poetic it would be to create a choir of wounded souls, singing songs of freedom through creative expressions.  To wrap our wounds in the former white flags of surrender we used to waive at every turn.  To laugh and sing joyfully, cracked voices and all, in the face of our fears… how beautiful that would be.

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An Analogy for Change

When we are no longer able to change a situation – we are challenged to change ourselves.

~ Viktor E. Frankl

Woman Looking at Reflection

 

I’ve come to see that change is like water flowing through a canyon.  I can’t stop change from washing over me any more than a canyon can stop water flowing through it.  Change shapes and carves the person I am in much the same way as water shapes and carves the rocks that form the canyons.  When I struggle against change I encounter resistance much like water crashing into rocks.  When I try and hold back change, the tension builds up inside like water trapped by a dam.  This struggle creates jagged edges in my psyche, tension in my body, and cracks in the surface of my very being.

When I “go with the flow” and allow change to simply occur, the tension eases, the jagged edges smooth out, and change occurs with much less effort.  Change becomes what it is supposed to be, a natural and inevitable force of nature.  When I lean into change, and let it move me, I am sculpted into a stronger and more beautiful version of myself.  Even the most seemingly difficult changes get absorbed into me and become a living, breathing work of art.  I close my eyes and picture vicious storms with raging waters crashing through the canyons, breaking rocks away from their foundations, washing them down river and leaving them to rest elsewhere.  There, they become part of their new surroundings… a beautiful, sculptural wonder brought to rest by change.  If the canyon was able to fight, if it resisted the water and held onto its rocks, it might crumble entirely and lose its inherent beauty.  The water would seep into the cracks and erode from the inside out.  But nature knows better.  Nature knows that change is part of life and that change offers a chance for new things to bloom.

Despite this new ‘revelation’ about change, you will never hear me say that change is easy.  Even when I know that a certain change is good for me, I often resist it, at least at first.  I resist because change is scary.  Change brings with it the unknown.  Change brings with it responsibility, responsibility to make choices for yourself rather than rely on others to point you in the “right” direction.  The choice then becomes to accept that change is happening and work with it or to resist and fight against it.  I had to make a choice last year when my 16-month-old daughter passed away unexpectedly.  Change was knocking on my door, an uninvited guest.  I could hide from it, pretend I didn’t hear it knocking, and choose to remain locked inside my dark sanctuary or I could open the door and invite it inside.  I chose to let it in.

As I said, this was not easy.  I did not want to accept that my baby girl was dead or that I would now go on living with this ache in my soul (even acceptance doesn’t take the ache away completely).  I had not invited this change into my life but it was here now.  There was no “undo button” so I chose to make the best of a horrible situation.  I did this because my daughter deserves to be remembered for the light she was and not the darkness that her death carried with it.  The change that I embraced was letting go of the idea that I could not live through this kind of loss, that I was not strong enough to keep living.  Change brought with it strength I didn’t know I had.   Along with this strength came a deep desire to help others.  Change brought with it the understanding that my daughter’s life and death could be lost to time in a sea of anger, depression, and regrets or her life could be honored with love.  I chose and continue to choose to honor her with love.

Making this change and choosing to turn something undeniably ugly and painful into something positive was one of the most challenging things I have had to do in my life.  It was foreign to me.  Familiar territory would have been to be angry and resentful, to hold a grudge against “God”, to curse the very ground that her caretakers walked on.  As I sat on the precipice of that dark abyss I realized that losing myself in the darkness would not be helpful to anyone and it would not bring my daughter back.

I have come to understand that people will often stay stuck in an uncomfortable situation simply because it is familiar.  They know deep down that change would bring relief and ease their pain but that would mean venturing out into the unknown.  Changing would mean giving up the familiar.  The familiar is comfortable… change is not.  The familiar for me was embracing darkness.  I have always been quite comfortable with sadness, vengeance, and anger even when I could feel myself suffocating under the heaviness of carrying their weight.  To accept change in the moment of my daughter’s death and embrace love and forgiveness was frightening but I also realized that this change was vital for me.  By making this change I was choosing to go on living and not just existing as an empty shell of a person.

I have learned that change forces us to grow and reach beyond what we may have thought was possible.  It forces us to look in the mirror, face the reality of ‘what is’, and make a choice.  The reality for me was, and is, that changing from someone who held on to anger and sadness into someone who embraces love (even in my darkest moments) I have saved my own life and I have helped others make their way through the dark too.

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Compassion and the Begging Man

homeless

Every day that I drive past this particular spot there is a man that stands on the corner.  He holds a cardboard sign which talks of peace and human connection and compassion.  He is there every day, rain or shine.  His clothes are worn thin and tattered on the edges.  He wears the same dirty painters cap day in and day out.  He smiles at everyone, even those who do not stop to offer him money, food, or kind words.  He is like moving art to me. 

At first I hesitated to stop my car for him.  I had all of the typical warnings running through my head: he might hurt you, he just wants your money for booze, he’s scamming you, etc.  On one particular day I simply felt compelled to stop.  I rarely carry cash on me but that day I had a few dollars in my pocket so I pulled over and rolled down my window.  I handed him the few one dollar bills I had and apologized that I did not have more to give him.  He smiled a big toothless grin and thanked me.  He bobbed his head a few times and said, “Bless you ma’am, God bless you.”  I was touched by his seemingly genuine gratefulness and I felt my heart get a little lighter.  After that day I stopped a few more times, whenever I had a couple of extra dollars in my purse.  He was always thankful and always blessed me.  I thought to myself, “this man, who seems to have so little, still finds it in his heart to offer me a blessing… I wish more people could be like that.”

When I told a few of my family members what I had been doing they were concerned that I was being taken as a fool by this man.  I told them that it didn’t matter because I was doing what felt right.  If he were scamming me then that would be on him, my conscience was clear.  I told them that I was doing it because if the roles were reversed I would hope someone would stop for me.  I feel that if we avoid helping others because we are afraid of being taken advantage of then many, many people will go unaided, their needs never getting met, and I could not play a role in that.  I was trying to “be the change” that I want to see in the world. 

A few months after my last offering was made (he wasn’t there as often), I was leaving the wine & liquor store with some party supplies when I locked eyes with the man from the corner.  He immediately put his down in shame and darted his eyes away from mine.  When he did look back at me I simply smiled at him, not just with the curve of my lips but with my eyes as well, so that he would realize there was no judgment, no anger, only one soul recognizing another.  He seemed surprised by my reaction and mustered up the best grin he could find in that moment.  I realized after that exchange that something had shifted in the core of my being.  I used to be cynical about people’s intentions, always wondering what was “behind the curtain”.  In the past I would have been angered that he was using the money he collected to purchase alcohol.  I would have stood in judgment.  None of those feeling were there in that moment.  I realized that I did not know this man or his story.  I did not know what journey he had been on or where his path was taking him.  Who was I to judge another soul?  I learned true compassion that day.  I felt for this man and could only offer him a silent blessing and a smile as he wandered back out of the store, into the cold night, with a bottle in his hand.

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