Dear Miracle

Setting free the beautiful truth inside.


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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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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

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“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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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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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.