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.
I know many people are feeling overwhelmed with everything they are reading and hearing about in the news. Whether I am discussing the natural disasters, or the latest events in the United States, every conversation I have with friends revolves around what we can do, how we can help. I had tea with a friend of mine, a retired attorney and fellow yogi, who said “I didn’t used to believe in evil.” and paused for a moment, calmly picking up croissant crumbs with his fingers, “Now I do.” Things are feeling pretty dire – more than usual. Is this just me? I wonder… I am deeply saddened by recent happenings in the world (both natural and human) and I also believe that we are greater than this and that LOVE conquers all.
I have written before about Yogi Bhajan‘s prophecy that the world’s hectic pace will only continue to increase and many people will be overwhelmed – on all levels – and not know how to keep up with the chaotic energies. He went on to say that a third of the world’s population would die, a third would go nuts and the last third would be left to hold it all together. There are times when this prophecy feels like it has come true and it’s my choice to decide which third of the population I want to be a part of.
The day this picture (above) was taken, I had just driven 500+ miles in very challenging driving conditions: high winds, forest fires and driving rain for several hours. I was driving a 22 feet van that I was not wholly comfortable with and even hydroplaned a few times. When I finally pulled into the RV park, my legs were shaking. I then proceeded to get into a huge argument with my daughter who left to stay with a friend for the evening. I called a friend and sobbed. After the cry, I felt…so much better. Lighter. Less alone. Normally, I like to cry in private and talk to friends after I’ve had my breakdown. I made a conscious decision to let myself be seen in my tenderness and it was a personal stretch. I am grateful I made the decision to be vulnerable and reach out vs. keep it all to myself. Thank god for loving friends that are lifelines!
When the darkness befalls me (whether because of what’s happening out in the world, or because of whatever is going inside of my own psyche) it’s time for me to reach into my Self Care tool box and use whatever is appropriate for the situation at hand. I don’t intend to be Pollyanna or to sound naive, but don’t underestimate the power of Self Care! When the world feels overwhelming, I turn inwards and listen closely. “What do I need right now?” I ask myself. Usually an answer pops right in. Othertimes, I have to just use trial and error to see what helps. Getting out in nature is always a great place to start for me.
Spending the last month on the road, in a van, living with a 15 year old boy, has challenged my self care routines. There is very little alone time (something that I normally rely on heavily for self-sourcing), there is limited wifi (connecting with friends/lifelines is almost nil), the weather was initially very challenging (exercise was not happening for days.) I wasn’t meditating, I wasn’t practicing yoga, I was feeling isolated from adults and totally catering to another human 24/7. Thankfully, I am remembering my own teachings on Self Care and Self Love from LOVELUTION! and putting my oxygen mask on first again. Phew!
What does that look like? Have you heard that expression “If Mama Aint Happy, Aint Nobody Happy”? I’ve started making sure that I am doing something for myself each day that fills up my tank. Whether that’s a solo run, a tea date with a friend, making time to write at a wifi cafe or bringing back my meditation practice (why oh why do I ever let this go?) The expression “This little light of mine, I’m gonna let it shine” is my simple prayer and intention. I want to shine as brightly as I can so I can add my light to all the other brilliant lights in the world and we can shine light in all corners, dispelling the darkness and love it up so that it doesn’t need to spread.
Do not be dismayed by the brokenness of the world. All things break. And all things can be mended. Not with time, as they say, but with intention. So go. Love intentionally, extravagantly, unconditionally. The broken world waits in darkness for the LIGHT that is you. -L.R. Knost
This Spring, my son announced that he had two life goals: quitting school and living in a van. His love of learning has been with him from infancy, but ever since 6th grade, he’s slowly and progressively been losing interest in school. Over the past four years, I’ve watched the light go out of his eyes while in the traditional educational system.
By April, things had spiraled rapidly downward; my son was depressed, uninspired and feeling powerless to change his life. Uncharacteristically, he wasn’t getting up in the morning, he was isolating from friends and was refusing to go to school. I had no idea what to do or how to help him. Finally, at a crisis point, Harlan opened up to me. What I heard more than anything was that he really and truly doesn’t want to go back to school and wants to “drop out”.
As I listened to him, I had an “Aha!” moment. What if we “Dropped In” and hit the road? What if we took this Fall Semester of 2017 and he got to live and learn in real time, in the real world, seeing life through the eyes of a traveler? As a mother, I knew I needed to act quickly to come up with a creative solution that might serve to inspire my son into not giving up. Since nothing traditional has worked (and we’ve tried it all), I wanted to come up with an out-of-the-box learning opportunity that would spark his innate curiosity.
Without knowing exactly how I could pull it off, I proposed the idea of living on the road this Fall to Harlan. Almost instantly, like pumping a bicycle tire with air, I watched him come back to life. He became motivated and finished 9th grade. He joined a gym and is working out daily. He’s working with an inspiring mentor who is teaching him about meditation and healthy living. We’re training for our first Sprint Triathlon in October. He has a summer job and is saving money for the trip. We’re working with an educational consultant to design a personalized curriculum for Harlan.
We’re plotting our itinerary on the map:
Vancouver to Baja from September through December.
Along this route, we will be researching people and places that inspire us, in order to learn from these interactions. Together with an educational consultant, we will design a curriculum that Harlan resonates with; creating projects that involve writing, music, photography, and natural science – all with the rich backdrop of the Pacific West to support his education.
Since I have announced our decision to hit the road this August, miracles are happening. People are reaching out with places to stay, well wishers are offering words of support, and we are packing up and moving out of our home on July 31! Finances are an issue. I’m a single mom navigating work, life, and parenting two teenagers, the oldest of which is heading off to college in September.
I’m a grief counselor. I work with people who have lost a loved one and are navigating life without the person they love. I have teenagers. I know angst. I have lost family members to suicide. I have close relatives that struggle with clinical depression. I know life is short. And mysterious and powerful and awe-inspiring. I know that I love my son with all my heart and will do anything within my power – anything – to help him get the light back in his beautiful brown eyes. And yes, that means even asking for money, something I’ve been raised never to do. I’ve started a Go Fund Me Campaign, called Road School 2017, to help with our costs.
Donations will go toward:
Online Educational Consultant
Educational Experiences (e.g. Museums, State Parks)
NOTE: 5% of what we receive in donations will go to Pacific Sands Academy, a program that offers an accredited, interest-led, passion-driven independent studies program for teens. This money will help families afford an alternative choice for children who may be struggling with the traditional educational system.
There is no training manual for what Harlan and I will are about to embark on, but there is a road map – the one he and I will follow along the highway. As a parent, my job is not to mold him into a smaller, younger version of myself, but to hold a safe container large enough for him to expand his wings. To quote John O’Donohue, in his poem The Traveler, I want to introduce my son to “the invitations which wait along the way to transform” him. Stay tuned, Road School starts late August 2017! #roadschool2017
Just coming off a whirlwind weekend visiting a college with my oldest, soon to be 18, my daughter.
We landed in Denver and I stopped to fill my water bottle at Root Down, my favorite stop at DIA. After filling it, I screwed the cap on tight and turned, just in time to see a man being wheeled past, only a few feet from me, a swarm of paramedics administering CPR. I could see his chest going down and up, an alarming amount of distance really, it was not natural, not at all. They were pumping his chest with their hands. He was wheeled down some hallway I’ve never noticed before – the whole thing happened in seconds. “This is an emergency” I thought. I sucked in my breath. It did not look good.
Right there in terminal C a man was possibly dying. Probably dying by the look of the whole scene. I shut my eyes and felt the tears. Heading down the escalator to the train, I wanted to stop and tell the people swarming from the doors, “There’s a man possibly dying up there!” Life and death so close.
Of all the things I kept thinking about this weekend, “Life is Short” was one of the most prevalent thoughts. Memories of my girl as a toddler, scenes of her as a youngster, bed time, reading her stories, singing to her. Watching her struggle and falter and careen into some hard years.
Now a young woman, going to college. Beautiful big eyed girl. At ease (mostly) with herself and with life. She’s ready. I watch her from a distance.
Leaving the airport, we drive straight to her dad’s house. It’s Passover and we are going to his “Bob Marley” Seder. Passover celebrates the liberation of the Jews from slavery and people will play instruments and sing Bob Marley’s Redemption Song.
On the way, we stop and pick up my daughter’s boyfriend. I hear her in the back of the car whispering to him, “You are part of this family”. We arrive and the table is crowded with friends and relatives and exes and children. We open the door for Elijah. As usual, everyone is starving as we slog our way through the Haggadah – the book we read that tells us what Passover means and why we celebrate as we do.
On this night I sit between my son and my friend Starling. There is laughter, and the usual chaos. There are people complaining that they’re hungry, and children who would like to drink more wine, there’s raucous singing, and music breaks for more Bob Marley songs, there’s dancing, and food. And more food! Tsimmis (my favorite), and brisket, and smoked turkey with gravy, and matzah and charoset and soup and gefilte fish. Everyone is stuffed.
I look around the table. There is love. There is forgiveness. There is laughter and subtext. History. There have been heart-aches and illness and crises and hard times. Tonight we celebrate Redemption – being saved from sin and error and gathering together to celebrate another year with love and grace.
I raise a glass and thank the cooks. And I remember the people that can’t be with us; the people that can’t be here and the people that have passed before, and yet they feel so close tonight. And I say a prayer for the man at the airport and his family. We all drink. L’Chaim. To Life. Life is short. We are all part of this family.
I do the dishes. The kids stay at their dad’s. My heart is full with just a tinge of sadness. The full April moon follows me on my ride, lighting up the mountains that wait silently for me to arrive, home.
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.
This story is about love, all the good ones are. And forgiveness. Before there was that, an incredible amount of wrong-doing happened, because it seems we always hurt the ones we love most, don’t we? As I type on this wintry night in Colorado, the coyotes howl right outside my back door, the sky darkest ink on this new moon. The last few months have been a blur – a kaleidoscope of beautiful experiences colliding into one another and creating a smear of bright colors. I haven’t had the time to stop and fully reflect on each moment and give them the time they deserve. Each experience is worthy of its own chapter, so perhaps this post is just an outline for future writings, each experience building upon the next and setting the stage. Here goes the continuous stream of miracles:
December 11th, my 50th birthday. Friends gathered and a book was presented to me, with photos and writings from loved ones. My god-daughter fanning me in the native american tradition with a hawk’s wing, her beautiful mother holding the smoldering cedar. That night, on that birthday, for whatever reason, I was able to receive all the love directed my way and feel full.
Early January, Varanasi, India – under a full moon, on a sandbar in the Ganges, sitting with friends and strangers around a fire, I chant prayers for others, for my family, for myself, and make offerings with sweets, flowers and incense. Of all my experiences in India, this remains one of the most generous and beautiful ones and I come back to it in my mind again and again. I am not always given the gift of knowing how special something is in the moment, and this was one of those moments, one to remember and re-tell.
Mid January, Rishikesh, India I dipped in the frigid waters of Mata Ganga (Mother Ganges) with my 80 year old mother. The night before I had led our group through a Kundalini yoga kriya called the Hour of Your Death and the next morning I led us in a rebirthing. Smiles were wide, hearts were light and my mother and I embraced in the yoga room as everyone danced to Here Comes The Sun by George Harrison. My birth had not been an easy one 50 years prior and this day felt like a do-over for both of us. We all took our newly born selves down to the water for a dip. There was a chilly fog that made things look even more mystical than they already felt. I felt like daughter and mother all in one, watching over my mother gripping the chain in the rushing water. We submerged, coming up baptized.
Early February, Boulder, Colorado. My daughter came home for the first time in 10 months. The breath I had been holding all this time, slowly exhaled as I felt her presence once again in my house, heard her voice, followed her trail of clothes. She was home for a family occasion, the Bar Mitzvah of my son, her brother. Family and friends came to witness this rite of passage. My children’s father and I, divorced now for 11 years, put aside old quarrels and came together, united in our love for our children. My husband (of almost 10 years) and I shyly presented ourselves at a family dinner where I would see friends and relatives that I hadn’t seen or spoken to since the divorce. Both grandfathers have died in the past 11 years and they were honored and spoken of. Both grandmothers are alive and well and graced us with their presence. In front of the congregation and our community, I released my baby and blessed him into manhood. Symbolic of course, but powerfully potent like all ritual can be. I felt it. He did too.
Last weekend, family therapy at my daughter’s school. My ex-husband, my husband, my daughter and son and me. We all showed up with vulnerability and an unflinching commitment to do our work. There were moments of despair, pain, tears and also such compassion and tenderness. The weekend was deep and hard. The weekend was light and full of love. Forgiveness was the oil that kept us all on track, even if sometimes we looked like the most sorry-assed jalopy on the lot. On the last night, before I had to leave, I held my daughter for over an hour, stroking her hair and singing to her. Rearranging my DNA. Deeply comforting. Another rebirth. Our own ceremony.
It never fails to amaze me – the redemptive quality of families – of forgiveness, love, laughter – the messiness and imperfection, the prayers for patience and tolerance, the unexpected kindnesses, the tears as we go around the table saying what we’re thankful for. I started the day out with a “raisin” heart – all small and shriveled, feeling protective and prickly and ended the day with a large, spongy heart = like those little pills you drop into water and they expand 10 xs their size into a giant snowman or pine tree. That’s me.
Things that touched me yesterday: my mom home with the flu, alone. Making the best of her day, knowing someone would deliver some delicious food to her later in the evening. FaceTiming with my daughter and son and their father and laughing over the airwaves with them. Spending the day at the beach with my husband, playing volleyball in the sunshine. Sitting with my step-daughter at the dinner table and feeling how thankful I am for her in my life. Ruby, my heart companion of a dog, almost drifting off to sea, as a wave came in – she doesn’t float! Grateful that the wave subsided and she ran to shore (I would have saved her.)
Dear family & friends texting, messaging me, facebooking me, from all over the world = global village. People posting on Facebook and inviting others to their table, recognizing that people can feel alone and sad on holidays. Another friend, alone on Thanksgiving and feeling the freedom of that! Skating at Rockefeller center, watching the parade and enjoying New York’s first snow fall of the season. Light and dark. Vulnerable and tenacious. Hearts beating. Breath catching. Eyes watering. Lips curling. I felt it all yesterday. It was beautiful. Thank you.
If you only say one prayer in a day, make it “Thank You.” -Rumi
Last year I wrote a post about how I always go within at this time of year – actually I wrote that 2 weeks ago too – hah. Well, I guess it’s a theme for me. But something is starting to shift and lest you think that I only write about tough things, I wanted to share a bright, beautiful light that is shining on me right now. It’s called Embracing Loneliness.
Eleven years ago, I admitted to myself that I might be sensitive. Don’t laugh! Sensitive people had always made me feel uncomfortable and I had spent a lot of energy distancing myself from people that seemed “overly” sensitive. It’s been a process of accepting that indeed, I am a very sensitive person, and finding the gifts in that – it’s my creative spark, my drive to connect from the heart with others, what makes me approachable to people. I have a gentle nature and I try to honor that and try not to get too stressed out, because under stress, my fierce protector comes in and mows everybody down. Balance is a good thing. Praying for that. And working on it. Always.
Well, now I’m on to a new one – uncomfortable emotion, that is. Being in a long distance marriage, having one kid live in another state, and traveling a lot myself, I have a lot of time by myself. All my life I’ve felt lonely and it’s never been comfortable for me. Never! I’ve done so much on my own. I’m an only child, had a lot of freedom as a kid, saw my dad once or twice a year, moved a lot, felt like a ‘weirdo’ because I was ‘different’ (probably being overly sensitive – hah), I’m fiercely independent, a little bit of a loner – ok, a lot of a loner, march to my own drummer, not a joiner, etc. You can probably get the picture. All this time, I’ve thought there was something wrong with me for feeling lonely. I gave ‘loneliness’ a value judegment of wrong…or worse, unevolved – not spiritual enough. If I was truly connected to God, I would “never be alone” right? We’re all connected. So anytime I felt lonely, I felt bad about myself and tried very hard to NOT feel lonely! Push it down. Call a friend. Judge myself. Blame somebody else (ok, Andy) for making me feel lonely!
And then…something happened…something so small and every day, but for some reason, it got in and I had an “Aha!” moment. I was having a therapy session with someone that I respect. He leads workshops all over the world and lives with his wife and son and they all seem to have a very loving, connected relationship with each other. He was talking about how loneliness can overcome him during his morning meditation time and he will weep with it – even when his beloved family is in the very next room! He shared that loneliness is universal and just a feeling – a feeling to be felt and expressed and allowed to pass through. I really did feel like a bull, drunkenly tilting my head to one side and thinking “huh….? Wha??” He also went on to say, that loneliness, when felt, can be an indicator of deep love and yearning – something that I can convey and share with others and further my connectedness.
I thought about how so many people in the hospice groups for the newly bereaved are overcome with grief and afraid of how overwhelming it can feel. What we teach is that the only way ‘out’ is really ‘through’ – feeling the grief is the only thing that lessens the grief. I am comfortable with grief, I feel it every day. I allow it in and really ‘go there’, knowing it will pass and my tears will dry in minutes. What if I applied this to loneliness?
The past several days, I’ve had a lot of time alone in the house, the weather has been bitterly cold, all the animals are using me as a heating pad.
I’ve felt alone and have been missing my family, and have even felt some melancholy and existential angst about the passage of time as well as knowing that I am preparing to be away in India for several weeks – which always makes me feel as if I’m in outer space – as far away from familiar as I can get.
But what’s different these last few days is that I’m sitting in stillness (usually with at least one animal on top of me) and lighting candles, painting, creating beauty and warmth, and saying out loud “I’m lonely” and really feeling it. Letting myself go there. I’m sharing it with others without (and this is big, and new) hoping somebody (ok, Andy) will make it better. And guess what? Big surprise. It’s passing! Not only is it passing, it’s kind of welcome. In a poignant way. Like shedding a tear for a beloved grandparent – so sweet to remember their face, and sad to miss their embrace, but heart-opening to connect to that loving memory. This moment of loneliness connects me to my heart. I long for my husband and connect to the love I have for him. I notice the beauty of the falling snow. I’m present and aware that this moment is fleeting. I am grateful to be in my own good company. I heat soup. I feed the cats. I walk the dog. I feel content. So simple. So big.
There is a loneliness more precious than life. There is a freedom more precious than the world. Infinitely more precious than life and the world is that moment when one is alone with God. – Rumi
I once heard a woman say that as soon as she sat on her yoga mat, she was home. I will go one step further and say, when I sit and connect to my heart, I am home. There’s a lot going on right now for me around the concept of ‘home.’ For years I have prayed to be a “Citizen of the World” living the life of a gypsy, meeting people from different countries and learning about their cultures. I imagined I would have a home base somewhere (Colorado? California?) but most of the time I would be off having adventures – sometimes by myself, sometimes with Andy and sometimes with the kids. As I write this, I think it sounds like the musings of a young girl and perhaps sounds immature. Yet, these “adventures” I’m referring to stem from a deep desire to be of service, to connect from the heart with humanity, to experience the “oneness” in all things and to show this world to my kids. To expand my boundaries into the unfamiliar, because in doing so, I get out of my ‘self’ with a small ‘s’ and see that I am a drop of water in a vast beautiful ocean.
I once went to a homeopathist for a consultation. After several hours of questions, she gave me my personal remedy – not for an ailment, but for who I am: Falco peregrinus.
Know what that is? Falcon. Peregrin Falcon. I looked it up. Falco Peregrinus is Latin for Falcon Wanderer. Yup. Sounds about right. I’ve lived in 2 countries and 11 states, and moved over 23 times. In some Native American culture, Falcon is referred to as “The Stranger.” I can relate.
Andy and I drove out to California this summer on our 3rd annual road trip. Just us. No cell phone service, no computers. Just the two of us, a great playlist and a lot of sky.
Want to know what’s living for your partner? Sit in a car with them for 2 days. And listen, really listen, to what they have to say. Turns out, sweetie has been phoning it in on our daily life. (I knew it!) I’ve been extra busy with kids, India, death work while he’s been busy with work but with a growing dissatisfaction with his time off. This is a guy who is feeling his mortality, a man who loves the ocean and has never lived near one. A man nearing retirement who has never had the luxury of time to himself. I’m all about freedom (falcon, remember?) I never want to feel trapped and sure as hell don’t want my partner to feel trapped.
For the next hour, somewhere in Utah, under the vast expanse of sky, I listened to my husband talk about how unhappy he was in his daily life. How he longs to live near the ocean before he gets too old to appreciate it. How he’s lived in Boulder for the past 28 years and how he’s ready to leave. A life lived for others…wives, companies, children – and now maybe it’s his turn…
The blessing of this talk was that I heard – really heard – him. I took it seriously. I love him and want him to be happy. I want us to both feel free, never trapped. Andy’s conclusion was that he could never live in CA because I wasn’t ready to make a permanent move – yet. And so, he was trapped. Stuck. Grounded.
Long story short…we signed a year lease on a beach cottage in Santa Cruz. Over the next year, Andy will live there two thirds time. I’ll be there at least a third of the year. This means we will be spending some time apart. This means that sometimes I will be living in Boulder without Andy. As much as I consider myself a free spirit, I have been surprisingly challenged by this new arrangement. My beliefs around home, marriage and parenting are crumbling and there is no manual for this! Where is my manual!!! (shaking fist!) Once again, I am pioneering a different vision of what is “normal” (I don’t think there is a normal per se) and I can’t find the “how to” manual.
When I am in Santa Cruz, I feel suspended in amber – like I have stepped out of my “real” life into a fantasy life I have dreamed up for myself. I have a beautiufl yoga practice in Santa Cruz with an amazing community that has welcomed me. I ride my bike everywhere. I have a beach house where every thing in it has been carefully chosen by Andy and me. I sit at the harbor and watch dolphins (yes, dolphins) play in the surf. I surf! I paddleboard. I am going to learn the ukelele and paddle the outrigger canoe with other women on Thursday mornings.
When I’m in Santa Cruz, on a long weekend with Andy, I miss my kids. half of my heart longs to be with them. When Andy and I are apart, I am loving that he is filling up at the beach, giving himself the gift of being near the ocean and I am missing him and looking forward to the time we will be back together. When I am in India, skyping from outer space, nothing could be more poignant that calling my children and getting the answering machine. It’s rare that we are ALL together and when it happens, I cherish it. Heart overflowing.
“There is nothing from outside. Try to understand that. All is in you. You are the storehouse of your totality.”