On this day, March 8th, International Women’s Day, I give thanks for being a woman. For navigating this country, this culture, as a woman. I am a strong, independent, tall, intelligent woman and it isn’t always easy or pretty to navigate in a predominantly man’s world. In fact, it can be a DRAG sometimes. But what lifts me UP are the WOMEN in my life. I love you. I see you.
For my Grandmother I bow at your feet. You are softness and grace. For my Mother I lay my head on your belly. You are infinite and deep. For my Daughter, I hold my arms wide. You are sensitivity and grit – and so much more. You gave me the gift of experiencing unconditional love.
For my Sisters I give thanks. You are Shakti and Mountain. I am inspired and awed by you! You keep on keepin’ on 24/7. You are the ones, We are the ones, the Sisterhood. You are all so beautiful. Your reverence for beauty, for ceremony, for love, for children, for passion and sex, for life, for healing, for shining your lights and the commitment to be seen and heard. Reminding each other of our gifts when we lose the way or forget. Powerful.
For gluten free, dairy free, sugar free and STILL making it delicious and nutritious and nourishing. You SHINE with the undying light of your spirit. Your kindness humbles. Your wicked humor shocks and delights. Your energy is palpable.
For the artists, the writers, the students, the moms, the divorced and still married – navigating, negotiating the FREE wild horses of you. The solid rocks of you, the grieving of you. The busy of you, tending, caring, giving generously – carrying me, loving me. Claiming me. Re-membering me, saving my place. Crying with me, adorning me, laughing with me. Kissing my throat. I humbly say thank you.
Meditation dog. Never sat down to meditate without my sidekick showing up. Had her own sheepskin but she would usually crawl in to my lap midway through the set.
A little too full-figured for a lap dog. She didn’t care.
Silly dog – people would smile at the sight of her. Some would ask to take her picture. She made me laugh. Every day.
Drove to Texas with Lili to get her at 8 weeks old. She was the size of a baked potato. A baked potato with huge ears.
When she was happy she would roll on her back and make strange choking sounds.
Everyone thought she was a boy. “Don’t they see the pink harness?” I would ask myself out loud.
She loved me. My god the devotion. She would whine outside the bathroom door for me. When I traveled she would go on hunger strikes and suffer bouts of depression.
Had to stand on my lap in the driver’s side looking out the window on car rides.
Flew on the airplane like a champ. My “emotional support” dog. She would fall asleep as soon as the plane took off. Lying across my lap, occasionally farting. Nobody seemed to care.
Her breath was terrible. All her life.
She was unafraid. She would challenge the largest deer. Shrilly barking at the nonplused herd. I thought she would get brained one day by a sharp cloven hoof.
She was Mr. Magoo blind. Unaware one time that a large red fox was stalking her in our backyard. I had to run out in my socks and scare it away. Then she barked like a mother fucker.
Dare I say it, she could strike quite the elegant pose in her old(er) age.
I burn with shame to say that I don’t remember the last walk I took her on. I’ve been pretty busy the past several days. And it’s been snowing. Not her favorite weather condition.
The last two nights of her life she slept uncharacteristically close to me, up by my pillow. It was cold outside, I didn’t mind. Sweet comforting presence of her, snuffling and snorting.
Her last day, she ate a good breakfast – rotisserie chicken and kibble. She took a nap with me on the couch. I’m wracking my brain to think of what else she did. Barked at a puppy – as was her way. Not very friendly to other dogs, sorry to say. She skipped dinner – that should have been a huge red flag. She enjoyed her meals.
Last night, I came downstairs to turn off the lights. In hindsight, I do think it was strange that she hadn’t already made her way up to my bedroom. I saw her sleeping on the rug in the TV room. I called her name and she didn’t wake up. Not strange though as she’s become hard of hearing lately. I stretched my hand out. She was cold.
Linda called her “soulful” and that felt too deep to me at first. I found her subtlety dismaying. Never a licker or a tail wagger (she didn’t really have one) her face was a mystery. Poker face extraordinaire.
She was my heart companion. For ten years Ruby has been by my side. When I cried, she would charge her way to my side. Concerned. Present. A reassuring weight. Her favorite place was on me or right beside me. Always. So “soulful” it is. I can see that now.
I am chagrined to note that in all my “death” experiences of being and sitting with people and animals that are dying, I was a basket case when it came to this. I was afraid to touch Ruby and I felt totally freaked out, like I wanted to run or throw up or both, simultaneously.
Grateful to my kids for their compassion and kindness last night, to my sweet friend who stayed up until 1am with me on the phone and to my sister Linda who came over this morning and did what I couldn’t. She helped me get Ruby out of the cardboard box in the garage, set up an altar with sweet flowers, candles, oils and incense. And chanted Akals to my soulful heart companion, Ruby. Then she helped me wrap her in the same sheet we had wrapped her beloved mastiff, Juno, in just a few weeks ago and bundled me in her car, while I held Ruby in my arms, kissing her sweet nose, and drove me to the vet, where I left her to be cremated.
or… What I Learned Last Week Through Trial and Error
I spent a chunk of last week caring for my dear friend Barbara after she had surgery. I have never had surgery and really had no idea what to expect. I just knew that this is one of my best friends and I wanted to be there for her and so I volunteered to be her main person for the first few days. What I know in hindsight is that this is no small task nor should it be taken lightly. And…it’s not for everyone. So I’ve compiled a list of what I learned in the hope that it will help others – both caregivers and people about to have surgery – so that they can make the best decisions about who is in their space at this tender time.
1-Play to Your Strengths
For example if you don’t have the best bedside manner but you make a really mean chicken soup, volunteer to make meals, but don’t sign up to be the hand holder for your friend or family member when she’s getting prepped for surgery. If you decide to take on the “job” of caregiver, go for it wholeheartedly and no holds barred. Be on board. If rubbing somebody’s feet makes you squeamish, find someone who is great at giving massage to come sit with the patient while you have a little break.
2 – Take Your Job Seriously
Remember that you are the gatekeeper and that your job, to the best of your ability, is to filter all the personalities, energies and information that the patient is being bombarded with. You are an advocate for the patient. You’re another set of eyes and ears, don’t be afraid to take notes or even record the doctor when they are speaking. In my experience, nobody minded when I asked for clarification on certain things or had questions about the aftercare instructions. In general, I felt that the hospital preferred that I was there as a go-between for Barbara.
3 – Be Gentle with the Patient!
Even if you’ve never had surgery before, it’s important to note that the days leading up to surgery, immediately after the operation, and the days shortly after the procedure can be a very tender and vulnerable time for the patient and her family. My friend Barbara kept saying that the veils were thin. I think she was referring to the fact that all of her defenses were stripped away and this can be a time where fear and powerlessness are magnified. Be especially gentle and kind with your loved one. This is definitely where a nurturing and gentle caregiver will be preferred over somebody with very little bedside manner. Let that person run errands for you or help in other ways.
4 – Have Food in the House
Do have lots of yummy and nourishing snacks available in the house for the patient after surgery. Don’t assume that the patient only wants to eat soup or bland foods. In fact, I knew Barbara was feeling better on day two when she started fantasizing about lasagna!
5 – Rest
Encourage the patient to have many breaks and to rest quietly. It can get a little overwhelming with friends and family calling, texting, and stopping by. No matter how wonderful it is to be reminded how loved she is, my little Energizer Bunny needed quiet time so that she could recharge. One of my best memories was playing my Dragon Drum for Barbara while she napped. Also in this category, do encourage the patient to take her 3 AM pain pill and go right back to sleep. You do not want her to get chatty, nip that right in the bud. You need your sleep too!
6 – Show Some Emotion
Let yourself have feelings. Your friend will appreciate someone else expressing themselves; it’s not just the patient who is feeling an overwhelming amount of emotion. Once all the forms were signed and Barbara came out of the bathroom in her cloth gown and paper cap, s*** got real and I couldn’t help myself, the tears just flowed. Barbara held my hand and it was a very loving moment. Also, don’t be afraid to share a laugh – always good medicine (where appropriate, see below.)
A lot of these will seem like a giant “Duh!” to most of you but I assure you these were either learned the hard way or witnessed.
1 – Don’t Forget to Eat
Don’t eat the patient’s yummy nourishing snacks! And don’t underestimate how hungry you as the caregiver might get. It’s important to think ahead if you can and if you have that luxury, stock the refrigerator for you as well. When well-meaning friends text and ask what they can bring you can also say that the patient is very hungry and wants chocolate and almonds (even if they’re really for you!)
2 – Friends Don’t Let Friends Drive to Surgery
Do not, repeat do not, let the patient drive herself to the hospital on surgery day with you in the passenger seat. The patient has a lot on her mind and will be distracted. When she tries to back up into a very tiny space it will not go well. Avoid this scenario by insisting upon driving.
3. Laughter is Good Medicine Except When Patient is Nervous/Crabby
Don’t make too many jokes right before surgery. Usually the patient will not appreciate you making references to your giant pimple on your face and asking the surgeon if they have any medical recommendations for you. Once again, the patient will not think this is funny. Neither will the doctor.
4. Let It Roll
Don’t take anything the patient says prior, during, or after surgery personally. A lot of emotions can come up. It’s best to encourage the patient not to make any long-lasting, life-changing decisions in this general window of time. The patient’s mood could be perceived as erratic – something seemingly harmless like a little elderly man pushing a motorcycle up a hill could drive the patient into a murderous rant. Best to just soothingly reassure the patient that you hate that motorcyclist too…there, there. The patient will have almost zero recollection of what they said or asked for. For example when your friend/patient asks you to mince garlic in her lemon water she might actually mean ginger and will look at you like you have sprouted a second head when you ask her if she really wants you to put garlic in her tea. (Actually, as I write this, it occurs to me that this section could be written for perimenopause too…aaack.)
5. Don’t Be A Jerk
In her tender time post-surgery, do not give the patient any books regarding her medical condition or tell her stories about people who have died from the same medical condition. Right? Also in this category, do not judge any type of procedure or follow-up care the patient decides upon afterwards. This may take an attitude of trust on your part, but I assure you most people think long and hard and confer with their doctors and their loved ones before they decide on any follow-up treatments and it is OUR job as a supportive community to love our friends and family members through all of their decisions without judgment or opinion unless asked. And even then, people, use your heads. Remember…this is a tender time. Tread lightly! No bombarding the patient with statistics and medical data.
6. Don’t Forget What a Sacred Window of Time you are Sharing Together
Take as much opportunity as you possibly can in the surprisingly busy days post surgery to reassure your loved one what an absolute gift it is, and continues to be, to spend time with them. To hold their hand, to do their laundry, to steam there garlic tea, to warm up their soup, to stroke their hair, to give them a kiss, to cry with them, to laugh with them, to drive them around, and to just be in their presence. It is a rare gift to share so intimately with another and I am grateful to have had this bonding time with my sweet friend of 26 years.
Huge thank you to my family and friends for supporting me in making this trip happen, kids got shuffled, pet/house sitter bent backwards, drum carrier got fedexed so I could bring it with me on the plane, friends held space for me and said healing prayers for Barbara. I know it’s cliche but it truly takes a village.
“When we are heavy with the world’s sadness, call to us through Hawk’s cry, reminding us to look up and beyond, trusting in Spirit’s great design.” Tiphaine Bonetti
For years I have related to the hawk and have felt that hawk was one of my special animals. I would have dreams of hawks and sightings – close encounters. There is a connection between Hawk and Kundalini energy, some say hawk comes into your life only after Kundalini energy is activated.
Four years ago, my friend, Lance Gentry, was diagnosed with a stage 4 brain tumor. During the last year of his life, he saw many hawks and started to feel that they were messengers. We had some email conversations about hawk medicine and that’s when I started calling him “Brother Hawk”.
Around this time, Nancy and I would go for hikes and have heart-to-heart discussions about our life. I prayed for my life to have meaning and wished there was something I could do for Lance and his family. Nancy prayed for Lance.
“This powerful bird [hawk] can awaken visionary power and lead you to your life purpose. It is the messenger bird, and wherever is shows up, pay attention. There is a message coming.” from Animal Speak, by Ted Andrews.
In the Spring before Lance’s death, I got to spend more time with him, giving him Reiki and quietly sitting with him. I was able to let all the words I wanted to say to him, and all the love I felt for him flow through my hands, through my touch. His gift to me was that he received that love. We got to communicate without words…and share sacred time together…the biggest exchange of LOVE I had ever experienced with another human being that I wasn’t related to. It was a soul love, without form or expectation.
The day Lance died was a beautiful hot June day. He was at home, in his bed, made peaceful with morphine. A friend of Lance’s stopped by to see him and brought a hawk wing, not knowing that Lance had an affiliation with hawk, but feeling called to do it. Lance died 10 hours later, surrounded by dear friends and Nancy holding him in the bed and his mother by his side.
There was a beautiful ceremony for his life at the Shambala Center – a buddhist center here in town. His body lay in a cardboard casket. He wore his favorite hat and favorite T-shirt that said “Love More, Fear Less”. The hawk wing was placed on his chest. We kept Lance’s body on dry ice for 3 days and friends took turns staying with him so he was never alone, sleeping with him in shifts. It’s hard to describe the holy atmosphere of the place in the middle of the night, sitting in solitude with Lance, candles flickering, watching the room start to lighten with the morning sun.
After Lance died, so many people reported fantastic hawk sightings, myself included. Nancy had one experience with the kids where a hawk came flying right down the middle of the street towards them, at eye level, and flew right past them. They all felt that they had just had a visitation from Lance.
I am missing Lance and really missing that beautiful heart of his. It’s hard to lose something that feels that sweet. I had a dream about Lance the other day, and there he was in my dream, so loving and kind, smiling. It was good to feel him again. One thing I committed to, after Lance died, was to always let the people in my life know how much I love them…Lance taught me about being loving. He taught me that there is beauty and grace in openly loving people and not hiding it. After Reiki he would often say “I love you” and it felt so good to hear it from him. His face was open and radiant and all the love in his heart came pouring out of his eyes.
Three years ago, over the course of three months, I lost 3 friends. They didn’t die, they dumped me. All of these relationships ended abruptly and each one of them came as a surprise to me. I’d love to have a nice new age explanation for why these friendships ended – like, it was time for anything and anyone that doesn’t serve to end – but all I really know, is that they did. End that is.
I didn’t want anyone to know that someone I had considered one of my closest friends no longer wanted to be in relationship with me. You know that phrase “You’re only as sick as your secrets?” well I kept this a secret for a long time. Only my husband and one or two close friends knew. Recently, as I was confessing all of this to another friend, she shared that she had recently had some friendships end too. “There’s no term for friend divorce.” she said. As we spoke, I realized that I’ve been carrying a sense of shame about these endings and feeling very secretive about it. I can feel guilt and hurt, but carrying shame is toxic. Why is it that the very thing I am embarrassed about in myself, I can accept and understand in somebody else? I wonder if other women are walking around feeling shame about friendships that have ended.
A few weeks ago, I was in a group that was studying with Ann Drucker, and we were discussing the shaman practice of “dismemberment.” In a shamanic journey, it can be common to experience dismemberment by one’s spirit guide. This is a unique experience for each person, but it’s common to be literally torn apart, limb from limb, or eaten/ingested so that there is nothing left of you. The spirit guide does this with great intention and service to the individual, in order to tear down and clear away the old, what no longer serves, ego.
Make no mistake about it – enlightenment is a destructive process. It has nothing to do with becoming better or being happier. Enlightenment is the crumbling away of untruth. It’s seeing through the facade of pretense. It’s the complete eradication of everything we imagined to be true. – Adyashanti
I started thinking about my past relationships and wondered if on some energetic, karmic plane, these particular friendships were dismemberment gifts to me. I have no idea, but I can say that looking at these endings with this lens is comforting. I felt totally naked, exposed, raw when these friendships ended – one in particular. She wrote me an email and said terrible things to me about my character – things I would never have thought a friend would say – I did feel like my heart was ripped open – the same way a Jaguar spirit animal might eat my flesh. But what if that was the gift? I hardly ever know why things happen the way they do…that’s actually one thing I’m looking forward to when I die – I hope I get let in on the mysteries of life! But I do trust the universe. And I do trust that these friendships ended for a reason.
Fast forward to last week, sitting in my car, on the phone with a friend, both of us confessing about our ended relationships and both of us realizing that we carry shame and secrecy around this. As we talked, she gave me a gift. She said “People are complex. We have our faults. We’re not perfect. But I know this, if any one of those people reached out to you today and asked if you would meet with them, you would say “yes”, wouldn’t you?” I said “Of course!” and just like that, I re-membered myself. I RE-MEMBERED myself! All the shame, all the embarrassement, all the secrecy I’d been carrying for years started to lift. Yes, I am imperfect. I am horribly hormonal sometimes. Ugh. I am flawed. But I am also unflinching in crisis. I am always, always willing to try again. I have a gentle and kind heart. And my friend reminded me, to re-member who I am. I AM. And that is another gift of the shamanic spirit guide, after they dismember you, they re-member you so that you are complete. Whole. It took me awhile to remember myself, years to be exact, but I am more whole today because of those friendships.
These days, I am filled with gratitude for the women in my life. I am blessed to experience the level of intimacy in my relationships that I do. I feel humbled with the abundance of love that is beamed at me, regularly! I’m still me, I didn’t suddenly become the greatest person in the world. I do keep working on myself and try to own my shit, when I’m aware of it. The one common thread that all my relationships have currently is the quality of “leaning in.” I can truly lean in to my friends and they can lean in to me. Each of them have seen me in my rawness, my vulnerability and my imperfection and loved me anyway. Inspite of. Because of. Deep gratitude to the women in my life – all of them. Past. Present. Future.
and PS – thank you to my husband who midwifed me through all my grief during that time, even as he struggled to understand what the big deal was. I love you.