Dear Miracle

Setting free the beautiful truth inside.


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The Kindness of Strangers

Small and large mercies everywhere when you look.
Light in the shape of a butterfly on a dark and stormy night.

Don’t shutter the windows ,

don’t turn the deadbolt just yet while hope survives—

just not inside of you.

One minute past giving up, calling it quits

while you believe as you do because of those that hurt you—

you, the stranger, who has extended so much mercy in your life.

Kindness is not dead even if you believe it true.

You are due, owed your time, ripe for the plucking.

And your story may be much different than you picture it now

as you stand upon the narrow ledge of your own aching heart

thinking no one sees

or worse, cares.

Mercy and kindness travel in pairs on the bus of surprise—that

is how they operate.

You never see them coming until they arrive.

And what if you have locked all the doors to your heart,

how shall they enter?

All the while they’ve been looking for you while you slump pale and cold,

buttressed behind the deadbolt and shuttered window.

This troupe, this Calvary of strangers who arrive most unexpectedly

to see you through the next minute or the rest of your life

here to restore your faith in you, how okay you really are.

You never quite know where and when they will appear,

who or what will waltz or breeze through your door with arms

full of what you need

or run into your burning house

with buckets of water to save you.

So go on, turn out the lights and go to bed.

but this I beg of you,

just be sure to leave the door open a crack

for possibility, please.

Photo and poem by S. (Sawyer) Wolfington


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Communiques from the Flower People

I want to know if you have those days, weeks or months where you retreat in order to retrieve your energy or an answer?

When things or circumstances don’t seem fully manageable?

When renewal is only possible through rest of the mind, soul and body just to gain a bit of strength for the journey ahead?

Yes, I’d like to know.

🌳

Me?

Well, thank you for asking.

I like to talk to the tree people, listen to the flower folks—

they like to talk back.

I like to get real close to their mouths and be still—they talk in whispers, you know.

A camera, too, helps me to translate when the light is just right.

They get into my heart and do all their best work there.

                         🥀

I apologize,

I may not say much to you because I’m too busy listening.

Talk can be cheap on these days—

when all I can think about is how I’d rather open my heart,

fling my arms toward the sky and be ready for any bright word that might come my way.

🌱

S. Wolfington


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Living the Questions


Once upon a time oh so very long ago…I didn’t know…

I stumbled across this faded photo again tonight. A boyfriend and dear friend of so many years and I in front of the fireplace. I didn’t know then how time would pass so fast. There was so much life in front of me. I didn’t know how we would lose one another while we were busy making other plans. How years of illness or homelessness or death and marriages and so many other things would descend upon one or the other of us. I didn’t know how you can lose touch with someone you swore you could never lose.

These days, however, my intuition is stronger than ever. I’m learning the wisdom in living life with a heart that is willing to open to loss or joy or confusion. I’m learning that life with an open heart requires much wisdom. Wisdom–a bit of hardwon gain in exchange for oh so many losses. In that, I’m lucky. Wisdom is partly listening to intuition, that still small voice that says, go here, turn there, you’re okay. Wisdom is also partly resilience, learning how to bounce back from tragedy, how it’s okay to grieve or cry, how to let go of what fails to serve our life or the greater good any longer.

Too many people refuse the necessary changes that get you to wisdom. Wisdom requires boundaries in this world. Boundaries that are necessary for protection of your beautiful heart, for letting go of suffering, for not allowing the entire world, or even a smidgeon of it to take your heart hostage. Your heart is your own. You get to choose whom you share it with, whom and what you open it to. You must treat it well.

Change is inevitable. We are designed for it. We are not meant to hold on to anything too tightly, for in the tightness of our grip, we create suffering.

To be sure, life has a funny way of landing you in the most unexpected places. You never know where that might be or what will happen along the way. but I’m learning to live the questions, as poet Ranier Maria Rilke said to his young protégé. And as in all things, life is an inside job.

I believe it is ours to come into this life to learn how to lessen not only our own suffering but then the suffering of others, as well. Kindness helps, starting with you. But it can take many years to learn that. You are very fortunate, indeed, if you have discovered it and become infinitely and patiently kind with yourself while you learn the special kind of braille that is required to navigate your way through the darkness: Indeed, it is the first step towards living a few answers.


					
		
	


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Being Human

“Wholeness does not mean perfection. It means embracing brokenness as an integral part of life.”

– Parker J. Palmer –

Being human…is not easy.

It’s messy, and its

imperfection is a virtue of living in this body.

It means we are here for the human experience

in every imaginable facet, in all its

anguish and glory. Yet not necessarily

all at once, although it can feel like it sometimes.

 

Quit trying to airbrush your imperfections away.

—they keep you real and learning.

They have the ability to heal your soul and ground your body.

 

Forgive yourself. Embrace what hurts—be infinitely kind to it

while you wait for healing.

As often as possible, be in the feral world of nature where nothing

pretends to be anything other than what it is—broken or beautiful.

Unfurl your life, bent wings and everything.

Learn to inhabit yourself—dig your toes into the soil now

and then as a reminder you are part of it.

 

You are already gorgeous with your shriveled petals, your funny ways,

your insecurities, and your

crazy ideas that just might save the world.

 

S. Wolfington


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And Then There’s This…

 

And then there’s this, a moment to unplug…splendid, mind-boggling, joy giving beauty just waiting for you to notice. A moment so transitory in nature, we often miss it, opting instead for stress and worry, in a hurry to get things done.

Stop for a moment and receive what’s freely given you–and opportunity to take in the quiet miracles all around you, an opportunity to open your heart just a little more to each one.

Soon enough in those quiet moments of recognizing and receiving, your heart will soften towards noticing. It will  become the very thing it is underneath the pain and trauma you carry in your life and body–an open door to joy.


					
		
	


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Vulnerability in the Darkness

Uncertainty is hope when you don’t know the outcome. 

Photo by S. Wolfington

By now, I’ve gotten used to an array of recent diagnoses I’ve been on the receiving end of…reminders of my mortality, some having the potential to shorten a life. In the beginning, admittedly, it throws you off balance. And after a time, life then becomes a new normal where adjustments have been made, answers are being sought. You learn to manage your new normal—or a new version of the old.

Apart from the most trusted of confidantes and after the first period of mourning and shock of news, whatever it might be, you learn to keep the bad days to yourself and share the good ones by putting on your dancing shoes, getting out to catch up with life and friends.

You’ve come to recognize your survivor-hood by now.

And when someone asks, you work to keep your answers brief and hopeful. You recognize quickly the glazed eyes, the subject changed. Vulnerability can feel awkward.

Yet you know in the end analysis, everything is alright.

Yesterday I ran into a somewhat new acquaintance who upon seeing me, recognized and embraced me immediately. Embarrassed because I was having problems remembering our exact meeting and conversation, I played along. So much has happened since then. Before we parted, she made sure to take the time to let me know the takeaway of our first meeting while she cried in front of me,  how she had walked away feeling so much hope. Unbeknownst to me, I had apparently conveyed knowing that no matter what calamity befell me, I was always certain I would be okay (after a period of adjustment). Nothing was the end of the earth, not in death or life. And that gave her hope right up to moment we bumped into one another yesterday.

It’s interesting, while just being who we are, what we never suspect what people will take away in their meetings with us we’re not aware of. I wonder who of us asks ourselves if our presence is an ordeal to bear or a welcoming breath of fresh air.

My hope for each one of us in the darkness to always keep the vulnerability welcome light on. However it looks, there is a way home.

S. Wolfington

 


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Flowers While Waiting

Dear Life:

Having a good soak in the mud right now, but just want to say thank you for all the bright bouquets of beautiful flowers you’ve sent to me while here.

They make sense of everything.

Much love,

Me


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Before You Can Fly

Just as the caterpillar thought the world was ending, it became a butterfly.

Before becoming a butterfly–you have to let life bury you inside its chrysalis.

You have to turn into mushy goo. You have to lose all resemblance to your former self.

You have to get uncomfortable. You have to let go of old ways. You have to learn a whole new way of being yourself.

Not everyone is willing.

Yet the secret is that the earth needs caterpillars as much as butterflies! And caterpillars aspiring towards butterflyhood…

…and all the things you might not think it needs for reasons you probably can’t begin to imagine.

The earth looks vastly different from the ground than the air. And we need the ground and air both the same.

So if you’ve made it to butterfly stage, keep talking anyway. You survived this far when you didn’t think you were going to make it.

Keep talking love to the world. Say how it is from up there, from the trees and bright blue of the day. Some will get it, some won’t. Either way, it’s okay. 

You never know who might be listening.

-S. Wolfington


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The Invincible Summer Inside You

In the midst of winter, I found there was, within me, an invincible summer.

~Albert Camas

invincible-summer2

 Today we start the rest of our lives. It’s official.

On this day, January 20, 2017, President Obama has left the White House and a new President takes his place—for better or worse. I have my own ideas about what he might or might not do while seated in the Oval Office. I am sure you do, too. All eyes of the planet are watching to see what is going to happen. A man comfortable enough with his own authority is now taking his place in a seat that is powerful enough to make or break this barely visible blue planet–a planet that spins in the backwaters of an incomprehensibly vast pinwheel of stars. Think about that for a moment.

And it is a man who, no matter what side of the fence you’re on, has repeatedly, and with a very long stick, poked the tiger of our fears since announcing his candidacy for President of the United States. Poke, then stir and repeat. This has been the methodology for his brand of success over the years, it would seem.

However long the life span remaining for each of us here on a breathtakingly small speck of universal life, there has never been such a time as this between technology and the ability to create or destroy. I believe actions for better or worse are felt as a rippling waves throughout the fabric of all of life itself, wherever it is or whatever form. Everything is connected.

Though widely attributed to being a Chinese curse, the saying “may you live in interesting times” may be deduced from analysis of the late-19th century speeches of Englishman, Joseph Chamberlain and erroneously expounded upon by his son, Austen Chamberlain. However it came about, we are here right now, in the boiling cauldron of interesting times. [i] Interesting times are signals that something is about to change. In fact, it is pretty much a guarantee–and you play a part in it whether you choose to or not.

Interesting times are created for thinking people just like you and me. Now, what are you going to decide to do with your place in it?   Remember, if you choose to distract yourself in habituation, hoping to maintain the status quo away from uncomfortable feelings or the work of change, you’ve decided.

Most critical is the decision to give up any complacency you may be in possession of about your own life, and over your place here as a citizen of the earth, and over the gifts and talents lying within you. And you do have certain gifts and talents even if they have become undervalued, dormant or gone underground.

Because as you may or may not know, our gifts and talents, no matter our personal idea of them, were given to us so that we could give them away.  They are meant for service and for the betterment of yourself and the betterment of mankind. They are intended so that you will be able to better know exactly what and where the passion is in you to go out and serve–and with the proper tools innately and proportionately exact to you.

But sometimes you’ve got to start digging to uncover them before you can utilize them. I have some ideas about how you might begin the process and will write more about that very soon, because now is the time you are really going to need to rely on those beautiful parts of yourself. They are what will save you on more levels you can know in the present moment, and might even positively contribute to life on Planet Earth.

Collectively, we are powerful! This I know. Individually, you might not have not given yourself enough credit for surviving until now.

Desperately seeking change, whether realizing it or not on a conscious level, this is the time that the people of Planet Earth through their most heartfelt and fervent desire have collectively moved heaven and earth to effect change away from the prevailing system and towards a more healing one that WE get to create as we go. We have put people, point men or women, if you will, in place around the world who are sufficiently capable of taking a sledgehammer to our most cherished fears in order to exquisitely tear them down.

The time has arrived. We stand on the precipice of fear and change. What is our future going to look like? Right now it is a big question mark. Question marks in life are doorways to limiting probabilities or countless possibilities. What will we be? It is ours to choose for better or worse individually and collectively. We have an amazing opportunity. We get to make up the rules for continued life on this mother ship upon whose back we  reside—much like the rules that were made up for us in preceding generations.

We live in times meant for the unseating of dominance of one over another, of our fears over love; and whether we’ll be pushed by our fears or pulled by love and courage.

This is the part where we now get to save ourselves! Ultimately, no governing body can do it for us. It’s going to take some true grit and a lot of courage.

Time to get busy! Dig where you are. Ask for help. Reach out. Network. Power lies in strength of community. Choose to be a force for good where can you do the most good for the most people.

Your uncovered and passionate heart bent on love in service over fear will show you the way through.

 

[i] http://quoteinvestigator.com/2015/12/18/live/


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The Alchemy of Years

fall-on-the-columbiaThe beautiful wild calls to me more and more. Days and years pass, and I am moving closer to death now that I am in the last third of my life. Being here now, I feel done with so much focusing on the logical minutia of my days. It’s easier than when I was thirty or forty in a way. This minutia feels stale as I move towards lightening the agendas others have for me, the ones I have of myself, the tyranny of the urgent cracking its whip over me to move faster, work harder, accomplish more. I am ready to become a human being now rather than a human doing. My commodity  is not valued in how much I can accomplish but in realizing my mystery, to be tenderly compassionate towards all that I have deemed as less than perfect within and around me.

This is what makes perfect sense to me now, the alchemical weaving and blending of logos and mythos together into a substance that becomes far more valuable than either alone.  Gold, if you will. I have spent the better part of a lifetime mostly doing one or the other, furiously scurrying around to accomplish whatever long to-do list I had in order to be able to live in the mystery. As if I had to earn the right to lie on my back in the grass and gaze at shape shifting clouds or put my pen to the page when the first lines of a poem slipped in to my awareness or try my hand at putting some color on the canvass—or merely to take a much needed nap.

What makes sense now is living on purpose, living with awareness of all that I am doing in each moment, of acceptance wherever I might find myself.  Washing dishes turns into an act of grace as I feel the warm water running over my hands, handle each fork and cup, happy there are dishes to wash, food to prepare, food at the end of my arm anytime I want it, blessing the earth and each hand that went into its growth and preparation; or paying bills, feeling the abundance of the universe, that I have been graced with a roof over my head, a place to lay my tired body at night.

I am grateful I have what I need when I need it even if it is not always exactly what I think I want.

Today I was counting the last of my former life, the years I have spent in caretaking. I believed it mine to shoulder the atlas as I cared for seriously ill friends and family, along with a serious illness of my own.  Counting too many years in the business of living and dying, emergencies, and crisis and drama in the physical, mental and emotional arenas—I am just done.

Now I feel ready to count the stars  in the midnight sky, to watch the sailing ships of clouds passing by. I am ready to take long walks, write books, and rise up and up into my one beautiful life before dissolving back down into the primordial soup from which I came.

Yet even in the sad and the bad, the worry, the hurry that has consumed my days, I am utterly grateful. These are gifts of pain I have been graced with. Deep within me lies a dark underworld from which arises a priceless seam of gold, a transmutation of the pain and fear into a precious metal.  I couldn’t have fully understood this until more recently. I am multi-dimensional, of the stars and of the earth. In this suit of flesh and bone, lives a being descended from the stars, from the source of life itself. I am meant while I am here to dwell in both myth and logic, to learn equally about both, to learn to weave them into a beautiful tapestry. Everything is purposed in my life to propel me towards the realization of this wisdom…to be heavenly minded while tending to life, to mend that which is broken with my compassion, to seek forgiveness, to forgive, to be a place holder for love, to be in a possession of a heart that has been broken wide open, to become fertile ground where life can grow.

I have not entirely mastered these things yet. It’s okay. It is not mine to completely master. Better to accept my own humanity, my fragility, my missing the mark so many times. This is true wisdom to know there is perfection in failure and fragility. It is part of the dying process, the cycle of life. Everything has to eventually die so that something else can live. At every moment, ten thousand things are dissolving at the same time ten thousand things are arising, taking their turn at form, at life, deciding what they will be, just for the joy and the experience of being in any particular state.  For are we not each and every one and everything nuances of the one life that runs through us all, here to learn about life, ourselves, each other?

Grace is continually born out of pain, life arising out of death. Our pain becomes another’s grace as we reach out to touch and comfort. We can do this because we’ve been there, walked through the same fire of suffering. Lives and hearts are made whole from shards of anguish and heartache. Love grows. We’re not alone.

To me, this is what makes perfect sense.

 

Shoshana Wolfington


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Changing Our Future

super-moon2-2016There are times in life we are called to stare into the darkened abyss. Not everything is for joy. You might think of a rising situation right now where this is so.
 
However, the abyss is not for the purpose of shame. We are not called to that.
 
Shame, that is THE problem with humanity, what got us here…the shame we perpetrate upon one another and ourselves. Shame is used by individuals without real power. Shame creates powerlessness in its victims.
 
The abyss is a call towards healing. It strips everything down to its essence, takes the varnish right down to the bare metal. It’s the fire that burns down the house. It is a revealer of what needs changing and what needs loving in order to grow or even survive. Courage is required. Letting go of irrational or unhealthy fear is also required. We are the tipping point of radical change now whether we like it or not, as a planet, as a people. It’s taking us somewhere many of us have never seen before. It’s up to us to set the stage towards the very thing we’ve been asking for on the other side of it all.  
 
When trauma or pain arises, it requires awareness, the willingness to face it for what it is. Ultimately, pain is to be used towards ours and others healing.
 
Whatever level or intensity of pain one suffers through, either by ones own hand or another’s or catastrophic means, correlates to an exact degree in its opposite joy and awareness. It expands what we can hold, our strength, and our consciousness. We come to know wisdom, grace and joy to the degree we’ve suffered on the opposite end of the spectrum. That is if we use those experiences to better rather than embitter us.
 
Whether we are a nation, a planet or a person, it’s when we remain shut down and unconnected that life has to throw bigger hammers at us in order to get us to wake up and pay attention.
 
There are different rules for different levels of consciousness. What might work or be true on one plane of existence might not be for another. There is no one size fits all anything. However, they all work together in attempt to wake us up to the miracle and interconnectedness of everything to everything. They work in tandem to get us to free our minds towards possibilities rather than remaining frozen in fear.
 
It may well be that the abyss we are looking into could be the very thing that ultimately forces us together if we are going to survive and create a different future on the other side. Extremist ideologies, poverty, governmental interference and policies, and increasing militarization may ultimately force us to cross the bridge towards our brother and together create a different future.


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When Everything Falls Apart, How to Fall Together

crossingthecolumbia22Last year my sister and I took a long anticipated trip to Cabo San Lucas. Landing at the airport in San Jose at the southern tip of the Baja California peninsula, we rented a car, anticipating a happy drive to our resort. I brought my trusted electronic GPS with me in order to navigate our way there.

Zigging when we should have zagged at a fork in the road, we became horribly lost along the way. The GPS wasn’t any help at all as we found ourselves out in the middle of the Baja desert staring at nothing but cactus, sand and sun. The red car icon on the screen showed us going round in circles in one spot while the female voice instructed us to “turn right at the next alleyway.” What? What alleyway? Where? (We’re still laughing over that one!)

We ran out of road at a half finished freeway end zone that dropped off into nowhere, wild eyed and asking directions in English from workmen who knew only Spanish, who then pointed us down a dirt embankment into a dusty, dry flood zone.  We were incredulous. But then more incredulously, we drove down that embankment because we didn’t know what else to do, soft pillows of red dust kicking up everywhere as the back end of the rented sedan wildly fishtailed about, not misconstruing the overheard Spanish “loca” (crazy) as we drove off.

At a loss to know how, the flood zone got us there—eventually. Eventually, and as we later learned, the GPS had righted itself taking us on what we thought was a wild goose chase while we zigged and zagged between crumbling adobe houses, abandoned construction,  and third world city boulevards, and children in the streets while we pretended we knew where the hell we were. Then suddenly, there we were—right in front of the resort, where after checking into our rooms with much too much luggage and exhaustion—sand, sea and salt rimmed Margaritas beckoned with relief.

It’s been a wild ride these last months that have left many of us attempting to turn right at the next alleyway in the middle of foreign deserts, our psyches and emotions left going round in circles. Personally, I’ve run the gamut of inhospitable feelings and disbelief. I’m exhausted. Isn’t there a Margarita somewhere on an island resort waiting around the next corner?

And frankly, the pile of unfolded laundry on my bed isn’t going to fold itself. The piles of paperwork aren’t going anywhere until I attend to what needs attending. There are impending deadlines to meet while I stare off into space or sleep late trying to insulate myself from pain, while my fear or guilt tell me to do something now—anything, no matter what it is.

This is often how trauma impacts us at first.

We are a traumatized nation at war with itself while the whole world watches in horror. And I often feel like the first world I knew is heading into some surreal third world landscape I don’t recognize anymore.  

Then I realize that in order for something to live or be born, it is often true that something has to die. Death and birth is the natural order of life. And when what fails to work anymore, life will find another way. Chaos and order coexisting all at once. One way dying while another is being born. Yada, yada—I could write a whole chapter on that one subject. It’s painful. People suffer, even die. You know. Our egos and ideologies threatened, our existence, too. None of it is personal, but it sure feels like it.

Presently and at the same time everything is going on, I’m actively resisting the notion to intellectualize myself into a nihilistic state of stupor, or numb myself in other vice. I’m fighting to stay awake. I don’t want to miss my life or fail to connect to the suffering or joy of another.

Where true value lies is remembering to consciously breathe, meditate, pray and listen, take time out of each day in order to decipher or intuit what is yours to do, your personalized marching instructions, your “true north”, as they say.

I know that as humans we react to trauma in the most human of ways. We must grieve, allow ourselves to experience its stages in order to heal. Life must wait. It isn’t helpful to hear others tell us to calm down—which can feel for us like a manipulative tactic to alleviate the discomfort of another who is not yet grappling with their own pain.

After all we are humans, not machines.

Against a backdrop of black landscape out there, there is a still a wide vista of blue sky inside myself. In the spaces in between I choose to create, be it a minute or an hour or more, in between the crazy, the chaotic, the confusing, is where our internal guidance lives. Learning to lean in and listen is what saves us from the clamoring voices that demand we do this or go there or be quiet. Not always that we receive clarification in the exact moment of quiet breathing or prayerful listening, but that the stage is set for direction to come, often in the most unexpected ways. We learn resilience here, how to bend in hard winds. Directional leading tells us what is ours to do and what is not. Like the Wheel of Fortune in the Tarot, it is in the hub of that wheel that shelters, knowing that all is okay no matter how harsh the storm, or who might be coming at you with fear in their eyes.

I know. Easier said than done. But it’s a conscious practice. I still fall out of practice though even after practice over many years. Why do I do that? It’s the human part of me.

I’m learning it’s okay to fall, even as a nation. Failure strips the veneer off. It’s the great revealer of what’s been hidden. Healing cannot come until you uncover the hidden that has been having its way with your life or your nation planet. It’s the beginning of the end to what hasn’t been working. This could take a while though while that which has been hidden fights hard for its existence or way of life.

My GPS always knows right where I’m at, at any given moment even when I am feeling wildly off course, flailing about or melting down into a puddle of emotion. I always trust I will, however, settle down. My own true north always knows where I’m at, always comes for me to lead me back. It is always talking to me even when I’m not listening. It could say, sit still, rest, prepare, learn, take care of yourself, eat right, move now—fast, go, stop, you will be okay, you are okay, talk to someone, talk to and help the person next to you, remember what and who blesses you, write that letter, make that phone call, here’s who to see or where to go, write that book or poem—here’s the first sentence, run fast, don’t worry, trust, sleep, be careful, watch out, see the doctor, don’t go out, stay in, it’s okay, love yourself, you’ll learn, find grace in your fall, you haven’t failed.

It is intimately connected with every moment of your life. Helps you to open your heart to the world, feel the magic of and get inside of your body, identify with the suffering of another, disengage with suffering that doesn’t belong to you without losing your compassion. It’s all there. Everything you need as a guide to your life is inside of you, guides you to the next step, the next thing to do. May not give you the second step until you have completed the first. It has kept you alive to this point even if you’ve failed to see it. You’ve survived until now for something else you’re supposed to do or be or flower into. It’s fierce. It brings clarity of vision you didn’t expect in ways you couldn’t have foreseen. It can save your life, bring you home when the time comes.

Last night, I was reminded in conversation with someone dear to me about making a commitment to myself to listen more to that still small voice that knows. I am making a commitment right now that every day for the next week, I will start my day by listening in, by being still, by breathing consciously in and out, by praying for direction, clear hearing and vision. Be it for a minute several times a day or an hour when I awaken, I will listen for my marching orders, for what is mine to do. At the end of the week, I will commit to another and then another. One day at a time.

Today I am not going to rush out into the world in attack mode without hearing what it has to say first. It might only be a quiet hint, a sign, an intonation, but I have learned to recognize that voice through years of practice. It always comes with peace, with expansion of being and not contraction. There is grace in it even if the work is difficult or the suffering around me heart rending.

What is important is to keep my heart open and my ear to the ground. This is how we work for the greater good. This is how we heal in time.

And I’m wondering—will you join me?


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If You Can Wait

dug a hole

 

It’s enough, a place to begin

to wait for a single drop or bead of rain

to fall on the hole you’ve climbed in.

A single drop that waters the single word

that strikes the chord that plays just right,

that grows into a bud, a tiny shoot, a spark of hope.

If you can wait long enough.

 

A day will do, then becomes two and three,

a week, a month, a year of unexpected alteration,

offerings falling from ominous clouds

straight into your heart.

And what went down, now goes up—

it’s the natural law of things.

 

The blackness of pain, as you will learn,

drop by drop from day to day,

will serve to increase your capacity for joy,

stretch your boundaries,

which can often hurt as you know,

then break the cords that hold too tight

your beautiful and sacred life,

if you can wait

just a day or more.

 

If you give yourself permission to fall,

say it’s okay to be held while you go down,

go easy on yourself,

there will be stronger arms than yours right now

to catch you while you fall.

 

And then

there will be that day,

though I can’t say exactly  when,

you will rise and rise from your black loamy bed

born in sorrow and blood

and know you were glad you stayed

and waited for rain.

 

© 2016 Shoshana Wolfington


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A Broken Hallelujah

Broken Hallelujah

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

For all the things that make up a life,

that run a universe or that collide in hearts or stars,

in the unbearable witness of great human suffering,

or in the joy of unexpected offering,

the mercy that comes from a stranger or friend,

 

on this the whole world spins.

 

In birth and death, when something dies to allow something in,

in all the living stretched between,

in gratitude or grief

that in a moment can metamorphose from one to the other

and back again,

in a heap of tears falling to the ground,

in the bitter-sweetness of most everything,

in the simple pleasure of being here

 

a broken hallelujah all.

 

In clarity or confusion, this one thing I know,

that without brokenness,

there could never be a true hallelujah at all.

 

© 2016 Shoshana Wolfington


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Swallowing the Demon

PicMonkey PhotoThis is what I woke up to this morning—sunlight streaming through my window, a brilliant blue day out there. Somebody turned a light on inside my head.

Unusual for February in the Pacific Northwest when the temps are normally quite chilly and the sky overcast, and when the gray seeps through everything, including yourself.

But we seem to be having long stringed days of uncommon weather, missing our freeze, warming everything so that even though it is not officially spring, it is springing, nonetheless. In propitious pinks and milky white cherry blossoms, in fat fisted dogwoods and citron yellow crocuses peeking their heads above the earth.  Which doesn’t usually happen until the end of March into April.

Someone got their memos mixed up.

Expect the unexpected, they say. Like in everything. That’s how it is in life. Just when you get settled in to your humdrum routine or you’ve run out of answers to most everything, life decides to rearrange itself again around you, and you have to figure it all out or it figures it for you—and sometimes in the most delightful ways you never saw coming after a dark winter.

I’ve had a burning question inside of me for a while now, going back and forth on. One minute decided what I’m to do, and the next vacillating. And though there are no neon signs over my head pointing the exact way to go, there seems to be some kind of bright encouragement being broadcasted right here in my own living room telling me to keep stepping forward, like notes from some higher plane unexpectedly showing up when I need them the most. Like this morning. Zingers from the Universe, kind of like paper airplanes zipping all around or bouncing off my head, chock full of illuminated insight written into their folds and wings, like why didn’t I think of that? Simple, brilliant, wonderfully uplifting and motivating.

Just a couple months ago, I was fresh out of everything, which makes it all the more rousing and thrilling now.

Well, you’re not ready ‘till you’re ready, I suppose. And spring around these parts was ready much before anyone thought it should it be. At least this month.

So here’s the thing:  Sometimes you just have to be brave and take risks—do that thing you’ve been contemplating for a while. Put your big toe in the water and start even if it all seems kind of muddified (I know that’s not really a word, but I just made it one) at the moment. Sometimes that is what it takes to make things clear. The water doesn’t clear and the answers don’t come until you actually commit to the risk through action. Some action, even the smallest one is a beginning.  (And maybe that small action might even be asking for help or admitting a secret that’s been tearing you up for awhile.)

Sometimes you think you’re not ready, not prepared enough, don’t have the right answers yet. You might be mistaken to assume that idea so quickly. Dig a little deeper. What is really holding you back? You might fail or embarrass yourself?  Public opinion? You might die? Well, you just might. Any of these things can happen. That’s the risk you take being alive every day—and we are all terminal in the end. Yet maybe, just maybe, you are being given another chance to live in a brand new way, a chance to make up your own song, start your own blog, develop your best ideas into something phenomenal. It could take some time, and there will be mistakes and learning curves. It doesn’t have to be perfect—that’s not the point–unless you are developing lifesaving equipment.

This morning, as spring was springing just outside my door, everything was conspiring in my favor, informing me that all the traumas of the past are about to become my greatest strengths. Everything I have been through, and like you, it has probably been plenty, contributes to the strength of my tomorrows if I allow it and move forward toward that thing I’ve been thinking about. Like forever.

From Joseph Campbell in The Power of Myth, I’ll share what sprung me out of my sleepy head and into the clear light of the day:

There is an important idea in Nietzsche, of Amor fati, the “love of your fate,” which is in fact your life. As he says, if you say no to a single factor in your life, you have unraveled the whole thing. Furthermore, the more challenging or threatening the situation or context to be assimilated and affirmed, the greater the stature of the person who can achieve it. The demon that you can swallow gives you its power, and the greater life’s pain, the greater life’s reply.

And this:

“The struggle against an obstacle inevitably propels the fighter to a new level of functioning. The extent of the struggle determines the extent of the growth. The obstacle is an advantage, not adversity. The enemy is any perception that prevents us from seeing this.” Ryan Holiday in The Obstacle is the Way

Maslow says, “What one can be, one must be.”

I know I don’t want to die with all these beautiful words left inside me. I want to give them away, to scatter them everywhere. And whatever it takes to get there, whatever the obstacle, I’m okay.  I’ve been thinking about these words of mine since I was five years old. If not now, when? And the universe seems to think I’m ready, so who am I to argue with that? There are some upcoming and real challenges that lie directly in my path over the next several months, but I am committing to whatever it takes to embrace them and move through them to the best of my ability—and that is all I can ask for. Do my best—yes. And  let go of all self-recriminating thoughts when I don’t or it’s not perfect enough. I’m practicing at this whole thing called human life.

Today I am filled with overwhelming gratitude, as I stick my toe in the water and swallow the demon, for all the challenges and obstacles in my life today as I think about all the beautiful good it is propelling me to in my life. And it feels huge.


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MERCY

Mercy

Photo by S. Wolfington

 It takes courage to tell you this

at the risk you’ll think less, nevertheless, I will.

I’ll tell you what depression is—like this—

a barren land leaning into forever,

a dark annhilation; it’s a

void of hope or imagination

when hell comes to pay a call.

And here’s the secret: I was just there.

But most of you would never know.

(You might even be there now, too.)

Truth as I saw it then, this life had been enough,

I was done.

But you think like that when you’re in hell.

And so began to envision, with each glass of water

that passed my lips, what I could do

with that and a few or more pills.

I didn’t exactly plan that I would, only imagined it so,

how it could be.

There was no more room for anything–

not in the cruelness of men or the ghosts denied, or

the self-deprivations while acting strong for everyone

visiting all at once in my life.

Orphans each of emotions

looking for the smallest drink of love.

Not that I wasn’t loved.

Not that I didn’t love in return, not that I didn’t care.

No, it wasn’t that at all.

It was the driest white bone of exhaustion,

all the lifetimes lived in the space of one.

It was like a gift

as I see it now.

I’ll tell you what strength is—like this—

strength is taking one small move in mercy’s direction,

even a flinch or a step,

towards whom and wherever it might be found.

When all you can say to anyone with kindness in their eyes,

to whatever’s holy or sacred paying attention,

help me, please.

And I did, because my life was leaving me,

just like the sea rushing back from the shore.

A gift, indeed.

A profound breaking, a leaving, then

a sad resurrection towards the miraculous while those that could,

in compassion, seen and unseen, walk me back to myself,

back to a kind of confounding beauty,

an uncertainty of what was to come.

And it was enough.

(We’re never really alone.)

Were I to be honest, the pull towards leaving

still haunts me once in awhile

when I imagine drinking that cup while tired, I forget

that mercy waits just past the next corner, the next fork in the road.

And I remember nothing is for certain for any of us,

and life and death have a way of reminding us

there’s nothing to control.

It’s a coming home again to myself,

wherein between staying or leaving,

I need only extend myself a whit to say help

to ask for mercy, please,

when hope is lost.

© 2015 Shoshana Wolfington


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If I Had a Prayer

Light Streaming2

I’m broken.

I’ve been away too long—

there are miles to go.

 

I’m tired and broken—a pot in shards,

but I tell you, there’s a brilliance burning

I’m trying to get out,

a searing light streaming from the cracks and the holes and

even though—

 

I’m shouting hallelujah down on my knees.

 

I will tell you—if I had a prayer—and I do,

in every breath or the spaces between,

in every tattered thread of me,

 

it’s this,

O God, not above, not below, but equal to

the unbearable light of this naked soul,

the burning thing I came here for.

 

Oh, yes, I look for the day

when everything’s broken,

when nothing’s left of pots or shards,

standing here in no thing but this

glory and nakedness.

 

 © 2014 Shoshana Wolfington

 


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I Didn’t See That Coming!

After your mother dies, there are some things that happen that you didn’t see coming.

Going to Jerome Sunset3Something happens. Life begins to reshape itself. The landscape takes on new form. And whatever cords between you in life in what was unhealthy, what bound you to her ways, her beliefs about how life should be or about how your life should be, begin to dissolve.

However, I should qualify that.

You must be committed to change for a more authentic life first, even if you might not know what that looks like.

Change is usually never what you thought it would be. It looks different, feels different than what you originally envisioned. Change can go on and on way past the expiration date you think it should; when you think you’ve had just about enough and can go no more with the direction it’s taking you, loudly announcing to the world you are ready to get off this ship that feels like it’s sinking or bobbing wildly about in every direction.

Still, the bottom line is commitment. Commitment to your own growth. Not everyone chooses this in life. In fact, most don’t. It’s work; and after all, when you think about it, it’s all work—everything, that is. It’s just that some kinds of work—the unhealthy habitual kind, the tranced out states of mind, the escape routes that we so often try to catapult ourselves through, produce far different and negative results than the one that is committed to seeing positive growth in a life riddled with fears.

So first, you have to say YES. Even if you say it with trepidation or hesitation or can only whisper it. Even if you’re scared to say it–if you want your future life to look different than your past, or want to die not as an impostor, but knowing you lived an authentic life, you have to first say yes, and then keep saying yes. Beyond that, you may know nothing, having no idea how to get to that authentic life. Nevertheless, you can be sure you’ve been heard. Life finds the way for you. It will meet you where you are and take you by the hand and lead you out.

And yes, this could take awhile. So you better settle in for the long haul. There will be rest stops along the way where you can sit a spell and catch your breath, trust me.

Both my parents are gone now. As the eldest child, the one that was groomed to take care of everyone else first while being admonished to forget about my own needs or self care, my earliest lessons were in the art of shame and guilt. The religion of my parents and the generations before was a hard taskmaster, and I was an A student.

Shame is a Pandora’s Box whereby one opens the lid and all kinds of awful things fly out. It shows itself in self and other loathing, dishonoring the body, incessant and unhealthy guilt and judgment over almost everything. It relegates the sacredness for all of life to the bottom of the garbage pile. We learn to fear or blame anything that doesn’t look, talk, walk or believe the way we do. We see the world as a mirror reflecting back our own fears about ourselves.

Recently, a dear friend of many years confided in me a conversation she had with her mother, now deceased, shortly before her death. Her mother had told her shortly before her passing, that she, my friend, would finally be free once her mother made her transition. My friend queried her mother as to what she meant, saying that she didn’t want to be free if it meant her mother’s leaving. My friend’s mother who had been very controlling over my friend throughout her life, thought that was what she was referring to. Her mother told her, “I can’t explain it, but you will find out.”

That conversation with my friend was a big aha moment for me. We both agreed there were changes we could never have foreseen in the death of our parents, unanticipated emancipation from previously held fears that were finally allowed to surface. Collective grief long withheld inside our bodies now acknowledged. We were grieving for far more than just our mother’s deaths. And it was huge!

Grief has a way of forcing you to the mat. You can’t hold it at bay forever. It will eventually catch up with you, taking on shape and form you never saw coming. Or maybe you did. The warning signs were there, but you might have ignored them or come up with all kinds of excuses for shutting it down or stuffing it into some hidden corner of your psyche.

Seventeen months after my own mother’s death, my mother’s voice is beginning to fade in my head. It’s not that I don’t intensely miss her and long for her physical presence in my life, it’s just that I no longer have to live up to her expectations of me. Her death opened a door in my life I don’t think I could have gone through before. I collapsed. There had been years of care giving, illness, and the loss of so many others in my life that I held near and dear. I laid in my bed with exhaustion. Slowly, I was for the first time able to listen to the larger world around me in nature, to the inner world inside me full of its own black holes, its own wisdom, its secrets that began to bubble up to the surface in realizations and long held emotions. Up and up, one after the other, I began to take full stock of my life. There was nothing to stop me from doing so.

Of course, this required a commitment on my part first. What else was I going to do if I ever wanted to get out of bed? Allowing all those hidden places to surface and then to face what felt surreal or scary without running away from it, without trying to numb myself out so I wouldn’t have to think or cry or grieve whatever monster was coming out of the closet.

I gave myself permission to grieve, not only for my mother, but for myself, to say that it was okay if I didn’t absolutely feel top of the world every minute; and to even forgive myself on certain days when I failed to love my life, to wish that there were a way to get out of my body. I gave myself permission to say I didn’t feel so okay, that I needed help.

There has been so much healing work that has gone on these last seventeen months, and it has been intense, painful, and full of unexpected grace and recognition marching right along with the desperation and depression and even wanting to, by default, leave my body. I have been through the gamut of emotion, pain and elation.

Now the light of day is beginning to seep through the cracks of my life. We all know the song by Leonard Cohen who sings, “Ring the bells that still can ring, there is a crack in everything—that’s how the lights gets in.” I am ringing the bells in spite of everything and through everything, knowing that something bigger than the humanness of myself holds me, sees me, and intimately knows and loves me as perfect underneath my sacred cracks. I am asking for some signs of blessing and acknowledgment. Am I doing it right? Am I listening for the whispering intuitive voice that lives inside of me? Am I making progress? The answer comes back with a big YES.

I realized that if my tomorrows were to be different, then I would have to be different, be willing to make changes in my life and allow for the changes that naturally find their way to me. I am finally beginning to reap some of the ripened fruit of my hard labor in the sowing I’ve done these past months.

Several weeks ago, I decided to test the waters. In my journey, I have recognized my issues surrounding money, and have asked to find healing for that, as well. I recognize that the Universe is full of abundance, that everything is there for us if we can only learn how to harvest and use it over anxiety of not enough and scarcity. And so with that in mind, I asked for a sample of abundance in my life in order to overcome some of that mentality of lack and fear, put a chisel in the crack so that a little more light can begin to spread itself into the darkness of my fears.

Three days later, I was gifted with a fairly recent edition of a Toyota Corolla, upgraded and in perfect condition, with a couple minor cosmetic flaws easily and quickly remedied. This in comparison to my present and paid off car, as reliable and low mileage as it is, felt unsafe for me as I traveled the slick, wet, icy or snowy roads up here in the Pacific Northwest part of the country.

Relating this experience to another very dear friend who is extremely tuned in, I was informed that a door previously closed in my life, had now been kicked wide open. Now a couple weeks into it, I continue to receive quite unexpected blessings—blessings I never could have anticipated, but come in logical form, falling into my hands. The abundance is flowing. Someone turned the faucet of grace on, and I am now standing knee deep in it.

I don’t think any of this could have come about if not for the death of my mother. Oh, yes, maybe it could have in another life or place, but maybe not in this one. I had to be made ready for it–it was always there waiting in the wings of my life until I was. There was so much re-wiring within me that needed to be done that, for me, could only happen through the everyday tragedies and blessings that muscled their way into my life when I wasn’t looking.

It’s been a long road, and I am far from done yet. Then again, who knows? Life is a big question mark, and you never know what will come around. The thing that insinuates itself into your life in misfortune or grace can ultimately be the very thing that brings your wildest dreams to you. Stay with it—it could be better and worse than you ever imagined.


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Everything Is Okay

Life is a series of natural and spontaneous changes. Don’t resist them; that only creates sorrow. Let reality be reality. Let things flow naturally forward in whatever way they like.” ~~Lao Tzu

I am over it–I’m throwiPhoto by S. Wolfingtonng out my “Goo-B-Gone” in exchange for authenticity, giving up the sanitized version of myself for a more authentic me. Me with all my messiness, my pain and my outrageous laughter.

This is not to say I don’t still sometimes dig through the trash for that stuff in a moment of panicked meltdown. But the general theme of showing up as myself is having its way against my compulsive need to look strong for everyone. I am finding freedom in asking for help, in admitting my vulnerability.

It’s heady stuff, exhilarating when you finally begin to let the truth of yourself out.

It’s taken me awhile to get here after much grief and loss, and I’m not about to throw away all this hard work in order to look good for a lot of people that don’t really care because they are too busy worrying about how good they smell or how well they clean up.

I have given up my dreams of reaching total enlightenment or perfection in this lifetime and have decided to go out and live. If I have to fall down, that’s okay—let my life be worse or better than I could ever have imagined.

I’ve spent too many years believing certain things are fixed or healed and put away for good. These are just silly notions I’ve entertained. I have come to realize that I am at my best when I am broken wide open to both myself and others; and that because of the brokenness, there are far vista-ed rooms that wait for me, things within them I could never have conceived of on my own. It’s not that I go out looking for it. It has a way of finding me when I’m least expecting it. Wait long enough, it will come around. Life can be really surprising on both ends of the spectrum.

What I have often thought of as healed or finished so often returns for another day of reckoning, another layer of awareness in order to enter into wholeness, to make you ready for certain gifts that are waiting in the wings to enter your life.

I know my perception of how things are is limited by my stoicism, my blind faith, my rigidity, the wounds that live inside me. It is only by becoming soft inside, by allowing life to do its best work on me, and my eventual surrender to the whole beautiful world living inside my beingness that I am given the password to enter the sacred expanse of rooms or realms beyond anything I knew existed. Openness is where the sweetest of grace sweeps in. Brokenness is where it can find me, where I tumble down to my knees in gratitude for this one moment of pure release, knowing I am seen.

Pain is often the chisel that cracks the heart open when I have refused to surrender.

And it’s okay that it might take a while to learn this. I am learning to be tender with myself.

I am done with trying to sanitize and rationalize my life away.

Life doesn’t work like this on a more organic level. It will always find a way to come to you in order to crack your most carefully crafted exterior wide open. We are not as together as we would like others to believe.

Sometimes you just have to fall apart in order to come together. That toughened exterior has to crack wide open–the one that always wants to tell the world how fine you are, the one you hide behind with your doubts and fears and wounds.

There are some wounds that are buried deep, and like a splinter, take their own sweet time to surface. Sometimes the abyss looms large and we fall in.

On the way down, open your eyes and look around. Don’t fall asleep. Don’t judge yourself in the falling. Life is having its way with you, hoping you will surrender your heart to it—that you will find a way to say yes.

Life and the ability to laugh will cycle around again.

Life has a rhythm to it like the natural inhalation and exhalation of breathing, like the tides going in and out. No less your very own life, too. Expansion and contraction, contraction and expansion. There is no getting around it.

There are times you are required to give out and then just as naturally, simplify your life or days enough in order to take in the necessary  nurture and nutrition your depleted body and soul requires. You cannot serve from an empty vessel. If you habituate yourself to serving from that place or believing there is no other way, life will come in the backdoor to simplify it for you. It will make a way where you thought there was none.

Recently, I let the windshield washer tank in my car run dry. I discovered this one day when I went to turn it on, and the only thing that came out was disgusting brown ooze all over my windshield. It’s kind of like this when we let our tanks run dry without taking the time to fill them back up.

In my years, I am coming to recognize that I always have enough. It might not appear to be so, I still too often hit the panic button; but it starts with the knowing that I am enough in whatever comes along. It is my perceived inner lack that I project out into the world and then draw back to myself.

Knowing this requires a daily commitment first to show up for myself, even if in the smallest of ways, such as consciously and simply inhaling and exhaling first before taking action or deciding what to say when things fall apart. And maybe that is all you can do in the moment. You might have to keep breathing, on purpose and with awareness.

No matter how we perceive it, we don’t know the end of the story yet. It could be better or worse than you ever imagined and then circle back around again. And remember that at the end of every story, a new one begins, whether that story ends by death or circumstance.

Put away the veneer and shellac, and begin to peer into the holes of your life with new eyes–there are stars in there!

If I were to get a tattoo on my arm to remind me in every minute when things fall apart, here’s what it would say: Everything Is Okay.


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Enough

Hubble01

There is space for everything.

Indeed.

For this unmade bed, for dishes in the sink,

for the need to sit here and gather dust

against unfinished chores.

Space enough for not knowing or why

after you’ve counted it out, things transform.

There is space enough, in abundance, in spades,

in dark and light and intense pain, in doubling-over laughter,

or the beggar on the corner, in the taking of a life

or the birthing of a child, in unending grief.

 

In the giving of compassion, in the restoration of

what wounds or is wounded, between any equation,

there is space enough.

 

Inside the life of everything,

on this lesser planet spinning on a wheel of stars,

in the unfathomable blackness of matter or hearts,

in galaxies that collide to craft a larger whole or

exploding supernovas in the shape of a womb,

there’s space for dying so that something might be born.

 

Messy, glorious life—it’s enough.

 

The whole of everything—a luscious trailing vine, keeps on

into blackened holes, over walls, snaking along

impenitent ground, finding its way in the order of things,

becoming and dying all at once.

No matter what in any mind, it’s enough.

 

 

© 2014 Shoshana Wolfington


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Making Out with Mickey Hargitay

Jayne Mansfield and Mickey Hargitay at home (circa late 1950s)WHAT I REMEMBER IS JAYNE. Jayne Mansfield, that is—the bursting at the seams, large bosomed, blonde bombshell and sexpot of the 60’s. The Hollywood star with the heart shaped pool in her backyard lived a large life in my mind. I wanted to be her. I was nine or ten playing house in my bedroom—as Jayne Mansfield, of course, stepping into the cool darkness of my closet to make out with an imaginary, muscle ripped Mickey Hargitay, while my girlfriends, all the while sighing and moaning, languished on my bed waiting for me to come to my senses and come out of the closet.

Then one day she was beheaded. I was devastated. Riding in the front seat of her car, slamming into and under the backside of a semi-truck, and…off went her head—I imagine right into the back seat! Just like that.

I imagine that she believed she still had a lot more making out with Mickey left to do, but as you know in all things, they end. Time runs out, and all you’ve ever done is all you’re ever going to do.  And besides all that, I had already grown tired of making out with Mickey and was feeling the intensity of my puberty bearing down on me in the crush of feelings I had towards the boy down the street.

So much innocence left behind as the crush of life began to have its way with me. I almost succumbed to it more times than I care to say. Lucky for me, I made it this far into my sixties. Surprised to be here now, I was sure I would die before I was fifty. My entire adult life was white hot with extreme busyness and caretaking, and then total collapse—all of which I believed to be a badge of honor I wore proudly.

While at lunch the other day, my friend, Mystic Meena (whose odometer is getting ready to roll over to seventy), happened to remark on a sixty-seven year old actor that had passed away recently. Meena related how television pundits had observed after his passing that at least he had lived a long, full life—to which my friend exclaimed, “Bullshit!” When I was thirty, sixty-seven was definitely old—and death not so unexpected—that is, of course, unless you are sixty-seven. Unless you are ready for it, the pronouncement of death always comes as a surprise at any age. I don’t feel done yet.

Here I am, and the sun is beginning to dip in the sky. There isn’t a whole life left in front of me as I have a  series of “holy shit” realizations that I’ve got to begin now if I want to find and use my real voice. My dreams are still the same. It’s just that I have a little less physical energy to realize them with. Maybe the point of the body sliding past the apex of youth is this: it compels you towards your realness. I don’t know for certain. It’s just a hunch I have.

Now that the leaves are beginning to turn into blazing yellows and crimson reds and oranges, into their most flagrant and final stand for beauty, I am wondering how I didn’t see there could be so much splendor in moving towards that inevitable final breath of falling from the tree. What a metaphor to our lives—the grace-filled allowing, the gentle welcoming of age, the coming home to ourselves, finally. Perhaps, the leaning into our wisdom years, of spreading our brightly colored canopy over the lives of those coming up after us as way-showers is what really matters. Personally, I don’t want to waste it, not a single drop, not a single brilliant colored leaf of it between now and the time whatever pronouncements over my impending demise are made.

I am heading towards my glory years; and it going to take some careful planning and execution as I begin to re imagine myself, playing smarter, not harder. There is still time enough whether it be one year or forty years.  I cannot take my body for granted anymore. I cannot ignore and punish it. As long as I am able, there is a strict requirement for honor and listening, then supplying it with the necessary rest, nutrition and nurturance it requires. In this one moment I have been gifted. It almost didn’t happen.

Whatever has happened in my life has brought me full circle.  I am lucky to get the chance to have a “do over” in the last act of my life, playing the part of me rather than someone else. My fear, in whatever time is left, is leaving this life realizing I never had the courage to live an authentic life.

Admittedly, I am scared. It’s a moment by moment thing requiring a firm commitment. Holes must be plugged in order to enter into right relationship with myself. Gone is the bent towards extremism in my thoughts and actions, doing everything at once or nothing at all. It is not mine to single-handedly save the world.

If I want to live out the richness and the depth of all that has brought me here, I must practice sacredness and gratitude in the gentle or not so gentle breath of each day, in allowing, in letting go, in lightening up, and in laughter, and last but not least, in the flow of words that find their way from my heart to my fingertips. I am rising up and up into this voice that has been given me, flowering quietly or noisily, vibrantly and brilliantly. I am practicing freedom, using the only voice I have to set this prisoner free.

 


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Play and the Language of Monsters

signs2

“There was formerly a capacity for light-heartedness and play which has been to some extent inhibited by the cult of efficiency.

–Bertrand Russell

 I.

IT”S ALL OUT THERE. I am ten years old, flying out the door to play with my friend across the street. My chores are complete; the dinner dishes have been scrubbed clean and are neatly stacked in the drainer, a clean dish towel covering them while they dry.

School’s out, summer is in full bloom. Jasmine’s in the air, and I am intoxicated with it. My cherry red Schwinn bike waits at the door, my portal to the world. The heat of the long day is cooling with the advent of the evening’s breeze. I step up, one foot on one pedal at the same time I deftly swing my other leg over the bike’s other side, and without even sitting down, begin pumping down the drive and across the street, wind against my sweaty ten-year old face. Breathless, I arrive at Charlene’s door.

Charlene and I are making our big plans for the remains of the evening—should we play with our dolls or race down the street on our bikes? I am not there twenty minutes when there is a firm, heavy knock at the door. I hear my father’s voice calling for me. He is ordering me home. By his tone, I know I am in trouble, and I don’t know why. So does Charlene’s mother who stands awkwardly at the door. I feel embarrassed, my face flushes. My head begins to buzz a little bit. Feeling disappointed, I’m slightly sick to my stomach. There’s a storm coming.

My father grasps me firmly by the shoulder and marches me back across the street, my bike left propped at the neighbor’s porch. He leads me to the kitchen where I am horrified to see that he has removed every single dish, pot and pan, every knife and fork and everything in between from their appointed resting place in the cupboards. They are piled on the countertops, in the sink, and on the washing machine, and he is yelling at me how he found a spot on one of the “clean” dishes I had washed, and because of that, I must now wash every dish in the kitchen. I will not be playing until this is done.

Of course, it takes me to bedtime to complete. The tears run hot down my face as I work, steaming soapy water to my elbows—not daring to shirk my assigned task or there will be worse punishment meted out in the form of a hand-picked switch across the back of my legs and bare buttocks, or days spent confined to my room. I know my dad will be back to inspect my work for perfection. I am angry—it seems so unfair, but I’m just a kid.

A seminal moment. There were more than a few of these teaching watersheds in my house or my church. That beautiful, bright star racing to earth to be born into her amazing life just crashed to the ground. And stayed there.

I know how to play. In leaves or long walks, heady laughter, in beads and baubles, shaky bicycles at sixty, blackberries plucked from barbed vines on a sweltering August day and swallowed whole past purple stained lips and tongue. Arising in an instant from my seat and out the door because it is the time of Robins and Jays and Juncos and they are putting on a show just for me. In swirling yellow leaves, in piles of things, in midnight skies life is calling to me to come out and play.

But not until I’ve done the damn proverbial dishes!  There is hell to pay inside my head for that. I have been torn apart with it for over fifty years.

You think you’d outgrow these things. There have been years of therapy and hundreds of healing modalities. You’ve yoga-ed to death, stood on your head, breathed, meditated years and hours on end, ad nauseum, and it yes, where has it has brought you but right here, right now, facing it down all over again. There are layers of this stuff.  It’s those pesky monsters lurking in those darkened closets who stalk your days, insinuating themselves into your knee-jerk reactions and thoughts, like some kind of mad puppet-master pulling on your strings. Monsters of overwork, self-doubt and not good enough. Monsters of rape or stalking and bad men. Monsters of abuse and punishment for not being or doing what they expected. Monsters of horrible things. Some are unnamable, and some are just looking for names.

II.

My parents are gone now. Finally, I am coming up for air. Contracting waves push me forward into the bright light.

Cords cut, blinking back the light, I see my monsters, crawling, too, out of their darkened wombs. Breathe.

Together we will learn a new language.

III.

There is something indescribable shaping inside of my heart. I am falling in love–all those distorted faces inside the cosmos of me, softening. That ten year old, that girl of the many ages I’ve been with the broken parts just needs love. And I am surprised. Why did I wait so long—not knowing  this would happen on those long days spent in the land of nothing where dishes wait for swirling blue skies and stars, where phones don’t ring and I can say anything without fear of reprisal or a backhand across the face.

With wrenching compassion and forgiveness, tears of sweetness run down my face. I understand, and I vow to keep her safe.

For all the children hiding in closets growing up to wound or be wounded, to become captors or victim, willing or not, imaginary or real, the shape of forgiveness morphs my heart, heals me bit by bit.  So many wounded children in desperate need of love or a bit of wrenching compassion—the angry, haters, the wife-beaters, the earth destroyers, the less than lovely.

Here is the funny part:  All those monsters? They are merely pointing to the places needing  love or understanding a spot of kindness.  I am listening. Still, there are moments when I fall through the cracks. There is nothing to forgive in that.

Furthermore, it is time now. The season is ripe for healing, and as a friend recently said to me, “What you got to do besides that?” She was right. No dishes, no mother, and no place I have to be—mostly. Nowhere else to go but here, loving me, without shame or self-recrimination, forgiving those that wounded me; forgiving me for wounding others, and finding infinite compassion in all of it.  And…

I could go on.

But summer’s out there waiting for me, rising in full, fragrant bloom, and the jasmine is calling.


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When Gratitude is Your Only Prayer

483482_565462646818902_28905324_nI am going through a dark night of the soul. Yet today, upon awakening, I slipped outside on to my porch with my morning coffee, sat and listened. Even the gray-skied Oregon shroud and the blur of cars racing by couldn’t keep the praise of the new day from winging through the trees in song.

Today—what a profound relief—a few inwardly quiet healing moments spent where gratitude could find me. When I arose from the chair, it was with much delight that I could feel the welcoming of it all no matter what or whom is showing up.

The Hebrew term for gratitude is hakarat hatov, which means, literally, “recognizing the good.” Practicing gratitude means recognizing the good that is already yours, because, as my dear friend, Mystic Meena, says, “When gratitude is your only prayer, all begging ceases.”

Nevertheless, I am, this year, recognizing where in my life I have played the part of beggar. More than any other year, it has come to me this year that begging has no place in my life anymore. There are so many ways I could describe how it has manifested in my life.

I hesitate to share, but for the purposes of this blog, I will be brief. I know I am not alone. Many of us share similar stories—a lifetime’s worth, but more recently for me in my 40’s and 50’s (now in my early 60’s), I went through a difficult and abusive marriage and divorce, which was followed by a decade of illness interspersed with multiple major and/or near death surgeries; an immediate family member with severe bipolar disorder I took responsibility for, and thankfully,they are holding their own now. Subsequently, however, my mother dropped into my life fulltime with Alzheimer’s Disease. It fell to me to care of her for six years until she passed exactly one year ago today. There was a period in between my mother’s illness and death of insane traveling combined with the end of a challenging relationship. And it almost feels like too much to even mention, but in the last thirteen months, I have experienced seventeen other deaths both near and far to or from me. It’s more than I can process in one fell swoop.

No wonder I am outright physically and emotionally exhausted—part life happening because it does and part believing incorrectly about where answers laid.

Trauma hides in our organs and brain and skin and shows itself in some interesting ways, comes back to us as fate in illness or loss or poor choices with unfortunate consequences. Three weeks ago, I ended up in the hospital with crushing chest pain.

My overdoing, my attempts to save everyone but me have become my undoing—and thank god! I’m taking the year off. No one to care-give but me; no volunteering; no wounded bird projects.  My mother is gone along with so many others. I love her dearly, miss her terribly, but I am free now to play catch-up with me.

Cumulative grief, my hospice grief counselor of the last few years calls it. I have lost body parts due to profound and overwhelming cumulative grief…grief of which I managed to push back down into my body out of guilt or shame or whatever other false notion I had about my life and how I needed to show up in it. My mantra has too often been “I’m fine, I’m fine”, when in fact I was not fine.

I have decided to out myself. I’m working on allowing what needs to surface for healing, surface. My agreement with myself is there will be no tolerance for guilt or shame in myself or through the well-meaning words of friends. What’s done is done. I take full responsibility, give myself complete grace. I’m allowing the imperfection of my life or my choices or what befell me to bleed through, to give in to crying or laughter or sleep. I am holding to the idea of giving up my quest for perfection in exchange for a more imperfect authentic self. There is work to do.

Grief can be an exquisitely painful, surgically exacting knife that reduces one down to their more essential self. It has a way of stripping away the superfluous, the pretentious, and the inauthentic.  No less true in my life, I am greatly paring down to what heals, what brings balance and wholeness, or what feels restorative in the most inward parts of me, even as painful memories trigger tears or the sudden wash of anger at current injustices having nothing to do with me.  I have allowed so much in order to be liked or loved.

These last months, there is a pull between living and dying. Every moment I am acutely aware as I feel caught in its tautly roped tension between “what’s the use?” and the desire to push through and forward towards my long held dreams and goals—dreams that have dogged my days since I was five years old.   I still want what I’ve always wanted: to feel the length and depth and breadth of my days, to feel wholly alive. Most certainly, I’ve had my moments. Profound, they burn inside me.  I want to live free from the inside out, maybe for the first time in my life.

There are days I often fail to make a lot of sense to even myself—those days when pulling myself out of bed seems like an insurmountable task, or my legs refuse to carry me. Then there are other days when grace shows up unexpectedly as a beautiful reminder that life is still good no matter what, and I am brought to my knees in gratitude just because.

My most important job right now is me. I am working on my vulnerability, my transparency. I am making the decision, however challenging, to give voice to my secrets, to honor my emotions and my body, who both show up as messengers of what needs more loving in me. Sometimes I don’t feel so okay, yet I am determined to walk this path, ultimately give up my beggar-hood for the deepest practice of gratitude. I have a feeling this may be the most important work of my life yet.


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Kindness

This poem, Kindness, by Naomi Shihab Nye, arrived in my inbox this morning. I have read it before, but now it seems especially appropriate after several years of deep loss. Anymore, nothing makes sense to me apart from kindness in the dealings of human relations, including the relationship I have with myself. I am learning more everyday what it means to be infinitely kind in this kind of exhaustion from loss, beginning here with my own body, emotions and self-care.  

Evening on Puget Sound

Evening on Puget Sound / Photo by S. Wolfington

 

Before you know what kindness really is

you must lose things,

feel the future dissolve in a moment

like salt in a weakened broth.

What you held in your hand,

what you counted and carefully saved,

all this must go so you know

how desolate the landscape can be

between the regions of kindness.

How you ride and ride

thinking the bus will never stop,

the passengers eating maize and chicken

will stare out the window forever.

 
Before you learn the tender gravity of kindness,

you must travel where the Indian in a white poncho

lies dead by the side of the road.

You must see how this could be you,

how he too was someone

who journeyed through the night with plans

and the simple breath that kept him alive.

 
Before you know kindness as the deepest thing

inside,

you must know sorrow as the other deepest thing.

You must wake up with sorrow.

You must speak to it till your voice

catches the thread of all sorrows

and you see the size of the cloth.

Then it is only kindness that makes sense anymore,

only kindness that ties your shoes

and sends you out into the day to mail letters and

purchase bread,

only kindness that raises its head

from the crowd of the world to say

It is I you have been looking for,

and then goes with you everywhere

like a shadow or a friend

 

Naomi Shihab Nye


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Waiting for Perfection

paint splashWhat if it sits like a stone in your heart?

Every.  Single.  Day.

Until you do that thing you’re called to do.

What will you do until then?

How will you spend the currency of your finite days

looking at the clock, busying yourself

while you wait for perfection.

 

What never works in distraction.

Even then you feel it staring at you.

This stone of your passion, pervasive,

invading every little crumb of you.

 

You already know what to do.

You’ve got to begin.

Put some color on the canvass,

write a word, a scribble, anything.

Risk yourself for the sake of freedom.

Relieve your heart of this weight now.

 

This is truth:

 

That when you begin,

your wings will come,

but not ‘till then.


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Dream On

Woman Sits on BeachShe needed dream time. Life had felt like a whip at her back. Death had left its calling card—again and again, more than she cared to recall; and she was tired now, thought she might lie down though there was still a great deal more to do, even with the business of death being cleaned up.

She wasn’t sure if she should wade out into the water where everything was—a sea of possibility, laughter, work and friends. Was she ready to take her dreams and leave the shore of reasons why not? No, she was not, but who is? Sleep called her out quite a bit, and she didn’t know if that was just an excuse to stop or if she merely needed catching up, but giving into dreaming seemed good.

And honestly, who can sleep forever when dreams are burning holes in your head?

Dreams were in order then—a reordering of her days, a visioning, a new place to begin. There was something so right in this, so elemental when you break it down by task: Sleep well, eat whole foods, and walk a lot. Be good to herself, draw it out, breathe, draw it back in, connect with the ground, and write it all down. Say yes when one means yes; and know that saying “no” is not a dangling thread or frayed edge.

Dream on then. There’s time enough for it all in what would come; it was exactly perfect in its imperfection, she thought, while wading in.


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Pura Vida!

Lemon TreeSlicing open a lemon this morning, squeezing out all its sour essence, like I do every other morning, I felt myself suddenly overcome with gratitude. This simple small act of slipping the sharpened knife past the dimpled yellow skin of this brightly colored, tart flavored little fruit—feeling the sun’s warmth streaming through the window on my back, I give thanks. I give thanks for the earth, the sun and the rain that nourished the tree that it grew upon—from small bud to flower to this lovely little fruit that sits on my counter now in front of me, that has shown up to support and sustain my health and wellbeing.  Grateful, I offer up a blessing of thank you again as I down the juice in a glass of sparkling filtered water.

It came to me how I too often forget to say thank you for so many simple things and how, conversely, I find myself grumbling and grousing over my long lists of overwhelm, things I need to accomplish. Life is so simple when we allow it to be so. I am working on remembering in all things that life can be so beautifully and elegantly simple, that I don’t have to complicate it in every minute by stressing out over what I don’t have or what remains to be done. I want to be done with the complaining of it all. Instead I want to celebrate my life, this gift given to me every single day I wake up. These little acts of self-care and gratitude say I value my life, bring me unexpected joy in the most difficult of circumstances and keep me resilient and moving forward.

I am reminded of the term “Pura Vida”. When visiting Costa Rica, a country that I hope to travel to one day very soon, I have heard many remark upon their return how the custom is to say at every opportunity, “Pura Vida!”  No matter what is happening, “Pura Vida!” When exiting a cab, when paying for groceries or when sipping coffee or chatting with friends, people will call out “Pura Vida!” Rain leaking through the roof? Pura Vida! Flat tire? Pura Vida! Not enough money or food? Pura Vida!

In Costa Rica, Pura vida is less a motto and more a way of life. It is an expression of happiness and moving on no matter the flat tire or the spilled milk. It is good to remember that monotonous complaining is a waste of time and there are many among us who are far less fortunate. If we are here and healthy, and there are many ways to be healthy, then we can also remember that life is good and that we are exactly where we need to be no matter what it looks like from the outside.


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Writers Write and Things That Go Bump In the Night

Sleep is the best meditationI’m no hero, and I’m no victim. I just want to start by saying that.

When it comes to what is going on with my mother’s slide into death, please do not overestimate what I have done or as the good and dutiful daughter my mind might want you to perceive me as in certain moments. Tonight I am feeling tired, and so because of this, I am stepping away from my mother’s bedside for a couple of days, knowing that sleep is the best meditation.

Having just said that, I also want to relate some intriguing and somewhat bizarre occurrences I’m experiencing recently, but I’ll get to that a little further down in the second part of the story.

I.

What I write here for all the world to see can feel very private. So private in fact, that my own mother, were she aware of it, would probably be horrified by my disclosures. If I were twelve years old, more than likely, I wouldn’t be let out of my room for weeks. How do I know this? It happened when I was ten and twelve and fifteen—oh, the trouble I got in for my writing. It stopped me for a lot of years. Those were different times and that was before the internet.

I have taken all of this into consideration—a lifetime of consideration, because, inherently, I was born to write and this is what we do as collectors and chroniclers of stories. I had to make a decision to do what I what was born to do, and to hell with the consequences. I am totally alive when I write, when I let out all the secrets and mistaken truths of my life, when I am witness to the work and wisdom of both microcosm and macrocosm.

The reason I write this is to chronicle these precious days. I want to journal thoughts, emotions, insights and observations as they come up. If by doing so and making it public, only one person is encouraged or helped, even if it’s just me, then mission accomplished. This is my service in life, which is why we are gifted with talents and/or passionate interests, not to hoard for ourselves, but to give away.

We grieve and celebrate in community, the sorrows halved and the joys doubled by doing so. It is not my conscious wish to write in order to garner admiration or sympathy from you. Honestly, I cannot hold space for that because then I feel falsely obligated to somehow try to either live up to it or live it down. What I write is an intimate logging of experience with death and dying. Too often death and dying can be taboo subjects in a culture that has a difficult time facing its own mortality. We like to present ourselves as happy successful people all the time when inside we may feel quite different, while our emotions are begging for expression. Not an expert on this subject, it’s my desire to open the door to discussions about it.

There is a Buddhist meditation that calls for one to mediate on one’s own death, to envision oneself as already dead. Most assuredly, it is a reality check as we come to appreciate the brevity and impermanence of our life and material possessions and the true value of relationship. This practice has been helpful to me whenever I have practiced it over the years.

I have also discovered a Facebook page, well, several of them from different areas around the country called “Death Café”. I am considering starting one myself when I am a little more rested. In these death cafes around the country, people are gathering in homes and parks and restaurants to have intimate and heart felt discussions regarding death, and no, not in any morbid sense of the word, but an exploration towards wisdom and acceptance of letting go or surrendering that which needs surrendering or whose time has come to an end.

So this is why I write, and not to mention the fact that this is what I do: investigate my thoughts on the page, which is what good writing can be about in the hope of teasing out the curiosity of the reader, even as self, as to their own process of erroneous thoughts and belief system.

II.

383363_211274448959232_100002300359908_461006_699439150_nChanging gears, I have stories to tell. Things are going bump in the night.

I have been spending hours at my mom’s bedside. Saturday, I shed a few tears, no, they were more like sobs right at her bedside. I don’t know if you are supposed to do that in a dying person’s presence, but I did. So did the caregivers. I also talked to her a lot as she slept.

It’s no secret I believe there is Big Love that surrounds us at every moment if we are open to it. Some of you are familiar with the story of my Near Death Experience. Having traveled to the other side where I personally witnessed them, I felt strongly there were angelic forces or beings of light in her room, and so I quietly said a prayer to be able to hear some word of encouragement from them for my own grieving process. A few minutes later, I happened to look through her little bookshelf and discovered the book, Into the Light—Real Life Stories About Angelic Visits, Visions of the Afterlife, and Other Pre-Death Experiences, by John Lerma, M.D.. I couldn’t have received a better word of encouragement and comfort as I began to read, tears running down my face as I did, filling the trash can with snotty tissues as I read.

Mom looked so peaceful hour after hour. However, I had a difficult time leaving her and didn’t get home until 1 am and  asleep until 3 am due to a situation. Sunday feeling tired to the bone, I went in to see her in the afternoon.

Walking in her door, there was something different about my time there on Sunday. Because I was so tired, I could not be as present for her as I had the day before. Not that she was able to talk to me or acknowledge my presence at any point, still I felt the duty to be there on Sunday whereas I stayed out of love on Saturday. Sunday, she was agitated and fretful, attempting to lift her head off the pillow, crying and moving her legs around. I tried to comfort her and stroke her hair, but nothing worked despite the meds she was receiving to calm her.

It is said that your loved one can still hear you even if they don’t appear to be all there or are comatose. So I continued to talk to her, and even played a recording from some family members she hadn’t heard from in a while. I was hoping for closure, and I thought she might need to hear their voices expressing their love for her.  That only upset her more it seemed. Of course, these were my ideas mostly in my attempts to soothe her.

By 8 pm, watching her, I sat and meditated, asking whatever unseen benevolent forces that were in her room to please show me why she was so agitated. These are the words that immediately formed in my mind:

“Go home! You are exhausted and on a deep level, she is worried for you. You are keeping her from her rest.”

I knew this was correct. If you knew my mom, you would know that no matter what state of mind she is in, the first thoughts for her are the well being and safety of her kids. I immediately got up from the chair, gathered my things, kissed her on the cheek and went home.

Today, Monday, I awoke feeling not much more rested and wondering if I should attempt to go see her again. I sat in my chair and meditated for a long while, asking again if I should stay home or go see her. I mean what if I miss something or she passes and I am not there? What if she says something in a moment of lucid clarity just before crossing over and I miss it? What if she dies alone? I want no regrets.

My cell phone rang. I considered not answering it until realizing it was my youngest sister calling. Right away, she wanted to know how I was feeling. Living a state apart, we keep up with our lives by phone. I told her how tired I felt. She relayed the word “faith” to me. It was something I must hear, she said. It pertained to all of us in letting mom go. There was an urgency to tell me—that we must trust mom will pass as she needs to and if I am meant to be there when she does, I will be. If not, not. It will be perfect however it turns out. The more important thing needed was taking care of myself right now.

How did she know? I had not told her the events of the day before regarding Mom’s agitation and my prayer for guidance. She relayed how she was letting Mom go, too, sending her spirit to the arms of Love Itself. She prayed, and as she did, I actually saw Mom fly up in a beautiful quilt of memories to a whole happy crowd of people waiting to welcome her. I saw the light. There was a party waiting for her! I saw mom suddenly looking young and radiant as she dropped the quilt to look back down at us and say “Thank you!”

A bit later while paying her bills (see how I wasn’t resting?!), the phone rang again. Hospice calling to tell me she was very peaceful today, sleeping soundly. I had left an anxious message during the middle of my visit the day before with news of my mom’s agitation and what we might do about it. The hospice nurse bluntly told me that she believed my mom had most likely been triggered by my presence. I then told her of my tiredness and agreed. “Stay home and rest for a couple of days”, she said. They would let me know if something came up.

What happened next was most strange: Doing some work on my computer, I felt a sudden and unexpected gentle touch, like someone had softly stroked my shoulder. I felt it through the pajamas and fleece robe I was still in. I whipped around to see what or who was there or if something had fallen from the ceiling on me. Nothing. Empty space and nothing on the floor or me. What was that, or better yet, whom?

So what is the takeaway from all of this? You might call me crazy or foolish, but if you have read anything else I’ve written, I believe there answers out there we don’t even have questions for yet.  I am learning to surrender, to let go, admit my vulnerability, my lack of answers–and it is perfect. Some habits die hard as the one who in another life always felt the compulsion to rescue everyone from everything. I don’t have to adjust or fix my mother’s road to the other side. Her death does not need my intervention.  Life does not require for its existence that I fix or adjust or straighten everything, only leave much as I find it in its perfect imperfection.

Having said all that, I’m climbing back into my perfect rumpled, unmade bed where all my pillows are just right.


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The Last Moment Before Heaven

BeforeHeavenYou have not heard from me lately due to one of the following reasons—pick one:

1.  I have been seeing a great deal of this handsome frog.

2.  I’ve been having delirium tremens from using the wrong detergent.

3.  I have been spending a great deal of time with my mom who is getting ready to make her final transition into the great beyond.

If you picked 1 or 2, sorry! Door number 3 it is, but, hopefully, you already knew that, although I have dated a few handsome frogs in my time.

My mother is getting ready to walk or sail or fly, or whatever it is we do, through that big door called death. We all have to go through it sooner or later.  However, as her daughter, it is extremely challenging to watch. Hospice tells me she is experiencing terminal agitation, which is a stage where the body has run its course but is still fighting to survive. There can be intense anxiousness, twitching, jerking, and an inability to lay still, odd body contortions, combativeness and anger. This can start from hours  up to a couple of weeks preceding death.  She is already a week into it, but had been declining somewhat dramatically the last several weeks before.

There is a beautiful resident cat in the cottage of the memory care facility where my mother lives. His name is Jasper, and he is a silken black very Zen like cat. I am told that when a resident is getting ready to pass, he will climb on their beds and stay there. He starts at the feet, and as it gets closer, he moves to the middle of the bed and at the end he is on the pillow with them. In the past, my mother never appreciated him jumping on her bed, but last week she was found petting him as he lay next to her. Jasper has taken up residence at her feet.

It is difficult to watch someone you have loved your whole life shrink down to nothing and be in so much agony in their slide towards the inevitable. She has been in hell every minute and completely aware of being there even if the person who once lived in her body is no longer there.

I have had to make some painful decisions in these final days as to her care and comfort, and I have to tell you, it has been wrenchingly difficult and guilt producing. There is so much I don’t know here. She has a DNR order (Do Not Resuscitate) in place, but what to do about getting water or a little bit of food into them if there is still the willingness or ability to swallow at all? She has been placed on heavy meds in order to keep her comfortable. Otherwise, she is attempting to get up and then repeatedly falling; shockingly, she’s even been found climbing on chairs and sitting on tables. No one would expect this from a very frail and skeletal 95 lb. woman who just two years ago, weighed in at 180 lbs. After several recent small strokes, her speech is unintelligible, but she is still amazingly strong and has a death grip when she decides to hold on to something. She has become a danger to herself at this point, and after getting as much water and a bit of food down her as she has been able to tolerate, she now sleeps, due to the influence of medication.

As her guardian, it has been up to me to tend to all the business of dying. I am either with her, or making phone calls and tying up a lot of loose ends every day. It is a tremendous amount of work, not to mention the emotional business. In the evening, I collapse and cry in my compulsion to try and make her dying as comfortable as possible. This is not always so possible, and there are daily emotional adjustments to her constant and many changes.

Still there have been some funny and/or meaningful things she has been able to say in the middle of it all:

  • She mentioned that she keeps seeing “Dad” hanging around a lot lately and didn’t know why.
  • The other day, my girlfriend, who has adopted my mom as her own and has provided invaluable help as Certified Nursing Assistant, was tending to her. Mom looked up at her and asked, “If you’re my sister, then why are you so short?!” (Her “tall” sister passed away several years ago, and my mom has been mentioning her a lot lately—so she must be hanging around, too.)
  • My same girlfriend told her that she was very beautiful, and my mom straightened herself and replied in a clear distinct voice, “Yes, I AM beautiful!” before slumping over and returning to her unintelligible speech once again.

You have to find reasons to laugh. Yesterday after we left my mother sleeping and after we met in conference with administration and hospice regarding mom’s care where I chose comfort over everything else they could do, my girlfriend and I went to lunch and had a glass of wine. Jokingly, I informed her that taking care of the dying requires lots of wine. She said she thought she would write that into her contract the next time she takes care of a terminally ill patient.

Family and friends have made last minute visits to see her, but it does not appear that she recognizes much of anyone anymore. Yesterday while sitting next to her bed, this same girlfriend who has been there every step of the way through this journey with me, suggested to my mother that she hug me. On cue, my mother who was determined to lean vertically in my direction, put her head on my chest. I put my arms around her and for over an hour we stayed that way—her ear against my beating heart, my fingers playing in her hair, gently caressing her back and arm…it was the last moment of heaven together before she closed her eyes—maybe forever.


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Tending the Roses of God

therosesofgod2

My mother, light as paper, stands,

folds, crumples to the floor.

Yellowed parchment skin inked in

purple orbs and reddened tears, evidence

of failed attempts to hold on.

Her feathery body sleeps heavy

against knocks at her door, barely knows

anymore the call of her name.

She does not stir as I press my lips to her cheek,

my love into her heart,

stroke her hair or feet, wondering where she goes

when she sleeps.

Is she walking somewhere in light-filled fields of gold?

Is she speaking in hushed tones with dear ones passed on?

Is she tending the roses of God?

Will someone tell me please?

I want to know if when she awakes,

something of her stays behind in that world

and waits

for her to come home.

© 2013 ~ S. Wolfington

 


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Be Intoxicating

old friendsA number of years back, my daughter was an assistant teacher at an elite private school just outside of Los Angeles. Many of the children that attended there had parents in the movie industry and one of them was a student in my daughter’s classroom. His dad just happened to be Will Smith. Since I was personally dating the cousin of the owner of the school at the same time, I was invited to several social events, which also included being introduced to a few of the celebrity parents, including Will Smith and his beautiful wife, Jada. It was quickly apparent to me they were no different than the rest of us, and on top of that, they were warm, friendly and engaging. Since then I have seen interviews with them, and it is my feeling that they are old souls here on this planet, highly evolved individuals with ample amounts of integrity and wisdom. I realized there is a lot I could learn from them.

So tonight, when I happened along this Facebook post, Be Intoxicating, by Jada (https://www.facebook.com/jada), I was thrilled. It’s a perfect segue from my last blog post, “The Crack in the Mirror”. And I am excited, having written that piece over a year ago, to have transitioned to a place of being pretty okay with who I am and where I find myself at this stage of my life. I am loving just sending out love wherever I happen to find myself by noticing the people that end up in front of me—the teller at the bank, the stranger at the other end of the phone, the person waiting on me, calling them by their first name, engaging them, becoming genuinely interested in their humanity. It’s a selfish act really for all the satisfaction it personally brings to me as I  find ways to let someone know they are seen and appreciated just for who they are right here and now, however they show up. I am far from perfect at this and I definitely have my moments of being self absorbed, yet this seems to be fast becoming a new avocation of mine as I learn to practice on one person at a time.

But I digress…I’ll just let you read Jada on Be Intoxicating

 I have never been nor will I ever be the prettiest girl in the room. This has a lot to do with my profession, but also with the fact that my grandmother raised me with the belief that there will always be someone prettier than me and that beauty does not guarantee anyone love. Therefore, she did not focus on beauty in her house. Instead, she raised me to focus on what she considered to be the most important component in life…how well we relate to the soul of another. 


The other day I met a woman, who was 80, who spoke to the most unreachable spaces of my soul through her kindness, laughter and wisdom. We related in a way that was so intoxicating, it was difficult to leave her. My experience with this woman brought my grandmother’s vision of relating full circle for me. Jada, be a joy to others and may that joy nourish them. Surround yourself with those who are a joy to you and allow that joy to nourish you. Always make the effort to find a language for the untouched spaces of every soul you meet. This is the recipe for blissful intoxication that she has passed on to me.

Thank you Marion.

J


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Bird Talk and the Gift of Noticing

American-Robin-and-berries

“Waiting for my girlfriend”, he told me,

sitting there patiently on the rooftop.

He was quite the looker—for a Robin that is,

with his bright orange chest all stuck out,

all proud like, positioning himself for

the little beauty soon to arrive.
Right away he caught my attention as he sailed down from the sky, expertly landing on the edge of a neighbor’s roof. Settling in for a wait, he sat there, looking at me—he could feel my eyes boring holes through him, admiring his handsome beauty. That’s when he decided to strike up a short conversation with me. Anyway, he must have sensed I was kind of curious to know what he had to say for himself.

It was just about the time I happened to be leaning out the back porch door across the drive. A full bloom jasmine spring evening, everywhere birds were chattering in that wonderful kind of music they do—it was a full on orchestra playing. The dishes could wait. I couldn’t stand it a moment longer and made a beeline for the door to eavesdrop in on their conversation and enjoy the scarlet remnants of a setting sun. It’s mating season around here, and birds beginning to feather their nests, chattering from tree to tree, flying here and there. We humans seldom pay them any mind, so consumed by the frenetic pace of our lives, but this eve, I was listening.

I guess he thought he wasn’t close enough because he scooted himself over several feet to the very corner of the roof where we could get a better look at one another. I wondered if I was hearing him correctly or if I was just a silly human over-imagining things when he told me his girlfriend would soon be there. We humans can be quite dim when it comes to bird language, or for that matter, any other mother tongue of another. We sat there staring at one another for a while until suddenly he whistled the most lilting little love tune. A moment later in response, the same love notes sang out from a distant tree. And a few minutes after that, here she came, a delicate little beauty, orange breasted, swooping in, landing on the ground, hopping around, checking out this thing and that.

Swooping down from his perch, they were both unexpectedly and quickly in front of me. He had brought her over to where I was to introduce me to his little sweetie. They pranced around at the bottom of the porch steps, hopping by the garden all happy and proud, keeping me in their line of sight all the while. They stayed a couple more minutes, taking off quickly in flight at first sight of an approaching car. I bade them farewell and happy nesting.

What a magnificent gift—this gift of noticing, slowing down long enough to listen to the larger conversation that is taking place in our everyday lives, to actively find where love lives, to see who and what is paying attention to us. It surprised me that in my witness of this magnificent nature being, I was noticed in return, a continuing affirmation I am always seen, a vital part of this whole beautiful mess called life—a realization that trumps the nightly news of war, disaster and nonstop pronouncements that the sky is falling any minute now. Life goes on out there in the world, up there in the sky, creating and recreating itself over and over again when and where you think it never could. The funny thing about love, it’s always there waiting for you somewhere. Paying attention, as I sometimes forget to do, can definitely help. You find love in the unlikeliest of places, the most unexpected, too.

Tomorrow, just as an experiment, determine to notice where the love is in your life. Notice the little acts of kindness that cross your path. Notice the people that pay attention. See who is begging for love or in need of witness. Notice the natural world around you waiting to be seen, even longing to bend down and share its secrets with you, its praise songs that ring from tree to tree and star to star even when no one is listening

In any event, I have it on good authority that the sky is not falling, not today or tomorrow or ever. There’s still plenty of love holding it all together, being born everywhere, no matter how it looks to the human eye. How do I know? A little birdie told me.


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Like This When the Telephone Rings

I wrote this a short while ago, just before the Boston Marathon Bombing, not knowing exactly why or what it was for–it was what came through, what wrote itself.

boston-marathon-explosion-bombs

There is no knocking,

this dark stranger of disbelief, of incivility

who, without warning, arrives

at your door, shouldering past, coming in.

Some wild force of nature, a hammer—

you never could have predicted (although there were signs),

you crumble.

And everything gives at once—porch chimes,

trash cans, the roof, your life,

what’s not nailed down.

A wild plethora of Dogwood petals in pink set free,

fly past, slam to the ground.

A grief presaged

in blossoms

unleashed, their splendor still intact

in the rubble of what’s left.

Grace and grief together, an annihilation,

yet to be understood.

Loss can come at you like this when

the telephone rings.

 © 2013  ~  S. Wolfington


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Nocturne

biplane-fllying-into-sun-copy2.jpgAfter fire has burnt down your house,

the old skin of imperfection doesn’t seem

so terrible anymore.

There are worse things than that and

as watersheds go,

you’ve lived through them all—

you endure, you’ve learned

each brings a mercy of its own.

Now there are bones and memories that creak—

the crashing footfall of youth exhausted,

its intoxicant flush tamed,

solidity spent, traded in

for more sophisticated sensibilities.

Accustomed to imperfection,

light streams through its cracks and holes as

you walk weightless now

in upward, ever widening spirals

freeing yourself towards heaven.

2012 ~ S. Wolfington


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The Baggage of Hatred

“Well, my conclusion is: Hate is baggage. Life is too short to be pissed off all the time. It’s just not worth it”, Danny in ‘American History X’” 1998  

Hate is Baggage

The other day I was parked in Costco

parking lot and getting ready to exit my car

when another car parked alongside me.

Inside, with the windows rolled up,

I could hear the poor woman screaming

at the top of her lungs over and over at no one I could see (on her blue tooth maybe?), “I hate you, I hate you! Do you know how much I really, really hate you?!” For a moment, her force of spew threw me off balance–I have no idea of the circumstances she was in, but my heart went out to her in a kind of way for whatever hard journey she is on.

We all have our upset moments, but it’s not an address I choose to live at every damn day. I realized that it’s been many years since I’ve lived in that world of constant upset with everything and everyone…I also realized that for most of the people in my circle, this was also true. It is work to get here. None of us are immune from the more difficult challenges that can come our way or the instant reactions that might arise–the work comes in understanding that you’ve probably survived worse and if this is worse, you will survive one way or another, here or there. It requires the vigilant practice of practicing  infinite compassion and kindness towards yourself and others. You learn to start again with beginner’s mind, knowing the gift in everything will find you if you remain open to it.


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The Girl from Venus

576681_391326510974636_765741492_nI might be from Venus. When I was a girl of five, I would dream every night of catching the wind and soaring high above the earth. I could see perfectly everything that was going on below. It was a heady, exhilarating experience, and I had no doubt about my ability to run and leap into the sky. I was quite sure about my powers because I was from Venus, you see. And the secret to Venus, in my five year old dreams, is that the clouds surrounding Venus were actually a protective cooling system from the intense heat of the sun where we lived. This world I had traded in for Earth, Venus, was futuristic and beautiful, and we were a highly advanced civilization. Of course, I couldn’t tell anyone where I really came from down here on Earth, but every night I was my own little super hero. This was a nightly ritual I entertained for several years until the world convinced me, of course, that I was only dreaming nonsense.

Now that I’m returning to my second childhood, as they say, I’ve decided that maybe I was right the first time, at least about flying. A week ago, while in deep sleep, I dreamed I was a great bird with expansive feathered wings of black and white, all the while still being me. Life was so big up there that I was near bursting with the deliciousness of it all as I glided down the length of a wide green river below. My wings effortlessly followed a natural easy up and down swoosh, dipping low to the ground, swooping and rising into the air again, catching the currents as they lifted me higher and higher. I could feel the sun warming my face and back as I rose. And I wasn’t alone. Others joined me in my flight—indigenous colorful human birds whom I knew had my back. Other human birds came near to us, too, who at first appeared menacing, but as we got close, they showed themselves as friends and together we banked and dipped, letting the wind carry us further along until we landed on grassy slopes along the river where I was led to their sacred tented circle of community as an honored guest.

As I flew, I couldn’t understand how so many had forgotten they, also, had the power to fly. I wanted to tell everyone on the ground to come join us in this most ecstatic experience. And one or two young human birds, a little afraid to fly, did make the leap into the sky—while I taught them how to bank and dip and rise again, how to catch the light just right.

Life can feel so very overwhelming and congested at times, and it is good to catch the uprising drafts of wind now and then, to see life from up high as though through the eyes of mighty bird. It is easy to feel landlocked when we can’t seem to appreciate the proverbial “forest for the trees.” From my vantage point up there, I knew I was beautiful. There was space enough to travel anywhere I wanted to go, and I knew this was really the natural order of things. There was a seamless-ness to life, a natural ordering as I understood my meaning of being here for my soul’s growth. Up high, it was easy to trade in the tired and old for the sacredness in all things.

It’s been a long path from my five year old self to here as I lean into the wisdom years, but I am coming to more fully understand what fragments, what fails to enhance or bring joy, what stops me from flying when forests are thickened by too much overgrowth, and I am unable to get a foothold on catching the currents. Not that I look for it or expect it, but I understand it becomes necessary that some trees might need pruning. Trees need light to grow, just as humans do, and old growth prevents the fullest measure of light from getting in. Every forest needs a good fire now and then in order to clear the ground, pry open the tight fisted buds and force new life up from the underground.

This is truth: That chaos is completely necessary, as is fire, or water or wind, as are all the elements of the earth. After the burning, chaos is bound to bring order around eventually. It is the natural order of things. Order arising, becoming this thing or that of another order and the cycle begins again.

It helps to have wings. You should try it sometime.


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Woman Who Waits

IcelandLast night, I was held captive,

a kitchen slave tied to the galley amidst

formal rooms upon rooms between floors

upon floors,

half dead among pots and pans

cooking for some nameless man who

ignored me in his big house.

For years I disappeared—search party had given up

until a young girl found me, took me by the hand

and led me out.

Last night I was a rich lady putting on airs

at Neiman Marcus, hair

covered in swathes of

white fabric that showed my pedigree,

customary for well-to-do ladies like myself—

that is, in dreams.

That is, until I looked in the mirror and saw

the disheveled smeared made up face, the aging lines,

panicked I would be seen and

scouring floor to floor for makeup counters that would save me.

This was my dream.

Messages from the underworld of my soul—

pay attention, please!

Not washer woman, not rich woman,

but woman in first light’s chill scrambling

up slick footed moss covered knolls

to revel in maiden recital of dew coated starlings and sparrows.

Woman rapt with awe in amazement’s cloak—

slack jawed, eye struck watching

as sun climbs by slivers

just past mountain’s top.

A woman witness to riotous revelry heralding

birth of first light—all of nature lifting its head to sing in

intemperate praise!

Not this—slave, drudge or drone of days, I am free!

Not this—above or below, but equal to the breadth and width of my days.

I am this—woman who waits,

if there is a way,

to translate on to page such thinly skinned sacred splendor,

my soul eager, breath-held in rapture as I wait.

Toes dug in mud, stars and soul tangled together, I wait.

Exultant life in sun and starlings and first morning’s light

coursing through my veins,

its blood

bleeding on to page.

© 2012  –  S. Wolfington

How Water Over Time Goes

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294602_232947533419473_102333399814221_580425_213359260_nNot so much by relentless hammer blows—
the rubble pound of life,
rather by wind that blows
‘cross water, skipping, skidding, rolling,
smoothing over without care or heed the many edges of things.
Washing past what cuts, what causes to bleed
in sprays and stings, in the steady pulse of waves heading toward land, or in
strong undercurrents without end
wearing things down, leveling them out,
the jewel refined,
the patina rubbed in, shined into the stone.

Change comes slow,
does not relent or flinch, hitherto howls and moans,
sings its wearying song.
All the jagged lines, the gouged holes done in
by the slow increment of time,

the tic toc of year upon year pushing against,
wearing down both stone and skin

And one day, surprised, you wake up
after you’ve become transparent enough,
and the beautiful thing inside,
the truest gem of shimmer and light,
rises up and up and flies.

© 2013 Susan Wolfington


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On Grief

This was written awhile back after years of caregiving, illness, and death, and the demise of a relationship. Our lives can feel much like a proverbial pressure cooker at times–especially these days on the planet as time seems set on warp speed. Yet intersecting with the grief that can overwhelm us in doing our work, there come unexpected moments of pure release, a benevolence, an answer to prayer, as if to say, “go on, keep moving, you are not alone”.  There is sweet grace in not knowing, in our confusion of not having exact answers but knowing they will arrive in the exact moment necessary–and not a moment too late. There is grace in allowing the knife edge of pain to do its best surgical work in our lives without trying to cover it over with the lid of denial. Better to accept our own vulnerability, our tears–there’s a new day coming when we do–even if we are the only one changed. 

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These are days when grief takes what it takes. When the best I can do is hold myself and cry. I am spent with it, pale and tired, worn down.

Nonetheless it seems right that I should find myself here at the same time when everywhere trees are catching fire, going down in cloven tongued flames of glory, suspended between death and life in a kind of spectral breath stopping splendor—a brilliant colored luminosity that makes you wonder what it is that dying knows.

Sorrow has a way of opening me and ripening me, of letting everything out—and bringing everything in, while the whole world rises to meet me in my solitary pain while I fall. Yet not always so serenely as the dying leaves, while I am choking on the words, “help me, please”, and I think no one is listening.

What comes without predictability startles me—strong arms that gather me up in moments of laughter or surprise. Grief interrupted, I suppose, preempted by grace when the unexpected flare of golden light outlines dark clouds after heavy deluge; or falling words from a stranger’s mouth apprise I’m still here. It’s okay to cry—

or laugh when yesterday, as trick or treating goblins came out— as I went by a dark angel in bright wings receiving a ticket from a sternly posed uniformed man; and further along the road seen were old men in tutus teetering down the sidewalk in high heeled shoes.

These are gifts of pure release, a break in the storm, a kind of benevolence coming into my bones, won’t let go, that fiercely holds on. Laughter and transcendence, marrow building even in what is dying; even while I let go, and life goes on. Even while what needs to come around, comes around, and once again,  I find myself spiraling down to my knees.

It is my hardest work in this earthly realm, to tell myself the truth, to tear this mask of pretense off. In this, I believe I am not alone. I am struggling daily to confront my own humanity, to be intently present for myself as I listen deeply. I am discovering as I listen, it has the unintended consequence of changing my entire view of life around me. Allowing this pain sensitizes me the humanity of others in a larger way. Labels about how I believe someone might be are falling away, and I am beginning to see an integrity in the basic goodness of life, no matter the outward appearance.

Concurrently, what comes is the knowledge of where I’ve failed to live up to my own commitments to others, where I’ve lied in order to gain something for myself, and in so doing, deeply hurt someone else; where I’ve failed to say what I mean and instead what I thought someone wanted to hear, the many occasions where my motives have been less than pure, where harm was done to another soul.  It hurts to look at the many parts my actor self has played, and to take responsibility for where I have failed the test of my own humanity. It crashes in with a loud thud, and I am grieving also for what I have done at the same time I am feeling relief, a proverbial lightness of being.

Still and always, there are respites that come guaranteed, bring the necessary energy to go on, to see it from above, then the wheel turns instinctually to face me with what needs attending in my life.

My soul that needs its time in mourning, its difficult times of transitioning, the realization of what’s been lost or what was done. And I am tempted to run. Still I can count on my steadfast life of reckoning in the fated events and happenings that show up. It then becomes up to me to find the beautiful truth of what needs grieving? Or what needs loving? What needs amends?

As with everything in this life, this life of mine requires its struggling, it maturing and I am grappling with my relationship to it and my place in the world. Things take time to grow and mature on the vine as in me, to be fully what they are intended to become.

I am learning a certain approbation of the requisite pain, the obligatory difficult work of grieving what’s done. There is a fundamental understanding I cannot summon to myself everything at once. What is trying to be born requires turning over the soil again and again. Like biting into a sour green apple before its time, impatience would have us spit it out, leaving a bitter taste upon our tongue. What is vitally important is the struggle, then the acceptance in the rendering down where the most essential self is found, where the truth of the heart is let out. It is in the stripping away of façade, or the relief of laughter, in the unexpected support we receive, in the surrendering again and again that something necessary and bewilderingly beautiful can finally emerge.


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Running With the Pack

Turns out that ruling the world from my bed has not been a total waste of time this last ten days. Sitting like queen, I have been holding court with boxes of Kleenex, cough drops and cups of tea. This was not a role I aspired to, however, and normally I would have resisted and complained at every turn about being ill. Normally, I might have muscled my way past body aches and fatigue out into the world believing I shouldn’t feel like this. However, you can’t believe everything you think. I should feel like this, because I do. It’s my body’s way of ensuring balance and rest—which I didn’t consciously know I needed—but I will defer to my body’s wisdom on this one.

 It’s been interesting to watch myself lie here without complaint, to observe life racing madly around me and not feel compelled to enter into the skirmish of getting it all done. This week, I have declared a truce with myself. I’m going to just lie here and be okay with it even while dishes and dust and paperwork pile up.

In my long hours of solitary idleness, I can’t muster the energy to even disagree with anyone. I have decided that I have will have no opinion as to who is right or who is wrong. I have decided that this week there shall be a truce, a kind of peace inside of me. It’s none of my business what others are doing out there—whose fighting with whom, who is right or who is wrong. I have no talking points, nor do I want to listen to them from anyone else. I’m tired of argument and the scrapping of ideas and ideology. Can’t we all just get along, and could you pass me the box of tissue, please?

It’s not that I don’t care. I care passionately. But I think I care more about the state of my being, the state of your sacred being right now. When I am still long enough, the truth has a chance to present itself before me for what it is, and I have recognized some very inconvenient truths, and as much as I say I am for peace, I also recognize my own hypocrisy in always being an ambassador of peace in what I think and do. So okay, I admit it. Yes, I am a hypocrite. My outward actions don’t always align with my more zen like thoughts or vice-versa. Yet I am going to be okay with that. I am going to lie here and know how terribly blind-spotted I can be because I know I am really okay in the greater scheme of things. So no, I don’t want to run with the pack anymore of who is right or who is wrong. No more name calling, denigrating, demeaning, reducing the other into some concept or label so that I can further dehumanize or categorize them. That includes the dehumanization of my own self for perceived mistakes. I am ready to step outside of the “group speak” when it comes to another individual or group.

I am not a concept or a label and I don’t want to put anyone else into that category where they become my enemy. Our primitive minds have been conditioned for this. We haven’t been aroJack Russell Terrier Snarlingund all that long in the history of the planet. In fact, you could kind of say, we just got here. We’re still learning. So it is natural—we had a need to stay aware of what surrounded us at all time in order to stay alive, to consider who was friend and who was foe. Our lives depended upon it.

These last days have given me further opportunity to look at my unquestioned thoughts and ideologies. I could be anyone, born into any life on the planet that looks different than mine, raised with ideas I consider as inhumane or insane or ignorant. We paint the world with broad strokes of disapprobation, the lenses through which we see one another like fun house mirrors. We decide in an instant who is worthy of life and who isn’t just because that’s the way it is or has always been in our tribal consensus.   Yet there is no idea or act too strange or evil or charitable at any point on the continuum that I also do not carry within myself. Given different circumstances or in another lifetime, I might have very well committed the same act, envisioned the same deed for good or for evil, and indeed, carry the very seeds of Hitler and Mother Theresa within me.

I want to notice when I censor myself in order to be seen as loyal to the group to which I belong. Where have I believed something because my tribe believes it so without first examining that belief and where it came from? To accept carte blanche what informs my life without first having an honest conversation with it is dishonest. There are many things I don’t know but have accepted at face value because it sounds good or feels good, and heaven knows I want you to approve of me. Yet it only takes a minority or handful of people to be a mighty force for good when they begin to set aside their own selfish interests for the greater good of all by questioning their thoughts. In Mark Matousek’s book, Ethical Wisdom—The Search for a Moral Life”, he writes the following:

The good news about us versus them is that stereotyping can be reversed. A recent study of prejudice revealed that mutual trust can catch on and spread between different racial groups just as quickly as suspicion. Through something known as the “extended-contact effect,” which travels like a benign virus through opposing groups, “conscious as well as unconscious bias between people of different races can change in a matter of hours,” according to psychology researchers at the University of Massachusetts. Peaceful exposure to “the other” seems to be key.

And I would add this would also apply to any other group of people with which we find ourselves at odds because of their race, political persuasion, ideology, religious belief or sexual orientation.

This benign virus of which they speak, I want to be a carrier of it.

“If we could read the secret history of our enemies, we should find in each man’s life sorrow and suffering enough to disarm any hostility.”

  —  Henry Wadsworth Longfellow