Who Called A Time Out?

american-football-football-football-referee-official-159537.jpeg
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

We are living in an extraordinary time. I am struck by the symbolism of what is happening. To me it’s as if people all around the world have pressed an enormous pause button, consciously or unconsciously and called a time out. Let’s face it. Life wasn’t exactly simple before COVID-19 struck. The world was wound a bit too tight. And like a watch, once wound too tight, if you continue to wind it, it will break. And, similarly, if an instrument’s strings are too tight, the risk of the strings breaking is high. I would argue that we all might have been wound a bit too tight.

longines master automatic watch
Photo by TranStudios Photography & Video on Pexels.com

And so, we find ourselves on March 12, 2020, with one major entity after another cancelling events or closing down for an indeterminate period of time. Some are telling their folks to work from home, others who cannot afford to pay employees to work from home are keeping the doors open. Those who do not work for large companies are being asked to step back, establish a safe distance, self-quarantine (dare I liken that to self-regulate) and all are asked to consider eliminating any non essential travel.

Deepak Chopra said in a post today it’s like we’re all [everyone on the planet] on one giant cruise ship and we can’t get off. We’re seeing more than ever that EVERYTHING is connected. Certainly, in the way of the spirit, but also undeniably, in ways we maybe hadn’t realized. There isn’t a wall big enough that is able to keep this contained. The COVID-19 germs are being shared on a massive scale. Industries world-wide are being threatened. World economies are currently in a precarious situation. It’s been my observation that things have been unsettled for awhile and COVID-19 was the straw that broke the camel’s back.

The ramifications of changes being made in one area of the world, are expanding out in all directions and having an impact on other parts. And all of these parts are not puzzle pieces from different puzzles, they’re puzzle pieces from the same puzzle and we’re being forced to figure out how to get these puzzle pieces to fit and how to bring them back together.

I work on a campus where in person classes have been cancelled until next week. Faculty are being asked to figure out how to bring their instruction to an online format. I’ve heard from students and faculty who are both saying, “I really don’t know what to do.”

After being immersed in an environment all day where there were way more questions than answers, I find myself feeling strangely peaceful. I feel like I’m in the eye of the hurricane right now, that calm before it gets even crazier. But as I reminisce about the day, I also witnessed many people trying very hard to figure it out. I had a young student reporter in front of me who normally is incessantly asking for a quote from our department chair about one issue or another. Instead he lingered and seemed to want certainty or someone to voice his concerns with. He looked at me with his liquid brown eyes and said, “I’m not sure what to write about.” He added he didn’t know what to do.

The world’s reaction to this global pandemic is unprecedented. How we respond to the global pandemic needs to be another. While on one hand we’re being asked to create social distance, on the other hand it is through our shared knowledge, wisdom, experience and concern for humanity that we may find solutions that have never been thought of before. Oftentimes out of great challenges can come great change. Change for the betterment of not just you and not just me, but us. The collective us. The us that called for this time out.

Compassion

hands people friends communication
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

Plato said, “Be kind, for everyone you meet is fighting a harder battle.”

This was a tough week for many sentient beings across the planet. As I sit to write this post, two songs stream back to back, the first Natural Blues by Moby followed by The Sound of Silence by Simon & Garfunkel, both seemingly apropos. There were a variety of challenges for myself, family, friends and even some four legged friends I know. There were situations that threw us off our rhythm, brought a sense of despondency and at times even death. I hate to sound cliche but these are unsettled times.

This has also been a week of growth. I view the growth from a sort of collective voice. Please know I certainly don’t want to trivialize anyone’s experiences, but I have seen similarities in these opportunities of growth. Many are being asked to dig much deeper than we’ve had to before. Some have been asked to go way beyond their comfort zones and ask for help. We’ve been given the opportunity to get vulnerable with an other and to allow others to be there for us. We’ve also had to come up with new strategies to address the situations before us.

Through my observation of the similarities in the approaches of meeting these challenges, I’ve been witnessing incredible gifts of compassion in others and quite frankly in myself as well. It’s as if as the pendulum swings far to one side, bringing with it pain and sorrow, and then so shall the pendulum swing to the opposite side, bringing with it openhearted conversations, new levels of self reflection, and a deeper compassion for self and others.  If there had been no pain this week, I probably wouldn’t be on day 5 of my blog. I probably wouldn’t have applied for new jobs. My husband might not have explored new paths this week that he’s been procrastinating about. We wouldn’t have gotten to support my cousin tonight as she went through a move alone. I know that I had more real and raw conversations this week than I have had in a long time. 

A woman at work has been telling me about the weight she’s been feeling between care taking for her mother and not being able to find harmony in her work environment. She’s had to deal with these challenges for awhile, but this week she expressed all she wanted to do was run. Instead, this morning before dawn, she cooked an incredible meal. How do I know? She prepared it for my husband and I. She said you’re in for a treat because I cook some of my best meals when I need to heal. When I got home from work I went straight to my cousin’s house. We picked up something for her to eat along the way and brought some food from home for my husband and I. We thought we would eat when there was a lull. What we were thinking, lulls don’t happen on moving day! When we arrived, my heart just exploded with compassion and all I wanted to do was assist my cousin in getting her comfortable as she tried to manage in her new space. My husband and I didn’t get home until after 9 and then heated up the food my co-worker had prepared. The food was incredible. I was struck that my cousin’s need gave us an opportunity to be of service, and because of my co-workers pain she chose to give something to us. It seems that somehow there’s a perfect symmetry to it all. Without my need, I may not welcome you in and without your need, I don’t get to help you. And then we would all just lead these isolated lives, going it alone. I don’t think that’s the way it’s supposed to go. While I don’t wish the darkness I’ve seen this week on anyone, I do believe it is in that darkness we find the light in and of each other.

“If we have no peace, it is because we have forgotten that we belong to each other.”
― Mother Teresa

Raw Real & Ragged

Access Your Brilliance came about after a long road of choosing to dim my own light and allowing myself to become a victim of current circumstances. There were so many wrong turns made along the way, so many time I gave away my soul and my dignity for reasons known and unknown. And just when I thought things were going to turn around, I’d stay in a situation too long or I’d open another door to another forsaken soul, and it wasn’t mine.

Many people have a story to tell, many of whom are far worse. But my story keeps tugging at me lately. Tugging at me like a child who is demanding attention. And despite all the tools I’ve gained, the studying I’ve done, the processes I was trained on in India, the coaching certifications I’ve received, yes, despite all the knowledge, this part of me is asking to be expressed. I am about to share a journey through the dark side of my life. Perhaps I’m to tell my story now because it may help someone out there. I’m not sure. But life lately has been presenting me with some ugly truths. My preference would be not only to sweep it under a rug, but to get the heavy duty Dyson out and eliminate it.

I don’t think that is going to work though. Lately, I’ve said to many, “better out than in”. And so, I’m going to trust that it’s showing up for a reason and it needs to come out.

Belts, tent poles, penis, hands, fists, feet, gun, words, money, benefits

All tools used to abuse me or keep me stuck in abuse
Hell on earth.
Who is the first person you trust? The one who’s going to protect you? Oh yes, the man with the belt. And so you begin to turn away, you begin to make decisions for yourself, but you’re not ready, wrong turns, dangerous conversations, empty words.
Tent poles.
Penis, rape, real, betrayal, terror, isolation, trauma
Drugs, alcohol, music, temporary relief
More bad decisions, more lies, more emptiness.
Answer, hero.
Not so fast. Hero becomes villain
Villain become addiction
Addiction become father
Father to innocence.
But fists fly furiously
Mangled face, blurry vision, police
Don’t take him away
Daddy stop hitting Mommy
Daddy stop
Silence………………
Start over, slow long path
Starting over, we’ll find a way out.
Money, words like razor blades
Slicing, slashing, mincing words, piece by piece
More money, stay, need to survive, stay.
Loud booming psychotic words flying past me
Costs too much, I have to go.
22 years later
Benefits necessary
Benefits valued more than dreams,
Dreams on hold.
Oh no, words, scary psychotic words hiding behind this door too!
Big girl now, put on your big girl panties and deal
Words continue.
Migraines
Hard to breath
Need a way out.
Abuse has found me again.

Fear

Fear is one thing. To let fear grab you and swing you around by the tail is another. Katherine Paterson

Yesterday morning as I went to fill my water bottle from our water dispenser a tiny little spider crawled down the spigot. “Geez”, I exclaimed, “really?” I had two choices, I could drop the bottle which was barely in my grip and let the water spill all over the floor or I could continue. Funnily, something similar happened this morning. As I went to step into the shower, and pulled the curtain back, a tiny spider dropped down and merely hit me in the face. I had one foot in the tub and nearly lost my balance. But instead I said, “Look, it’s fine if you want to live here, but do you need to jump in my face?”

Fear. Apparently one of the top things that people fear are spiders. Where I work, students on campus constantly shriek as bold squirrels comes forth foraging for food. Fortunately, neither really scare me. Truth be told, the one that always gets me running for the door are moths. I dislike their quickness and the way they’ll fearlessly fly in your face with their wings fluttering a million miles a minute.

But fear certainly exists for me in many areas of my life. I talked about some of those in yesterday’s blog. Apparently being food insecure is one of them. But what about the non-tangible ones. What about the fears I harbor in my head that can build and leave my stomach churning if left unattended?

Fears that I know well include fear of being found out, fear of being called on the carpet, fear of being cornered, fear of challenged, fear of losing control, fear of having control, fear of not being liked, fear of being asked to take full responsibility, fear of being in charge, fear of not being in charge, fear of losing, fear of winning, fear of money. Wow, didn’t see that one coming. Fear of being yelled at. Fear of doing it wrong. Fear of not being seen, fear of being seen. Incredible, huh? Incredible that I have so many opposites living inside me. The thing I think I crave is also the thing I fear.

So what do we do with it? What do I do with it? I’ve got to employ a belief bigger than my fear. Bigger than any of the fears. A quote by Shirley MacLaine reads, “I could be whatever I wanted to be if I trusted that music, that song, that vibration of God that was inside of me.” I’ve got to trust. Trust that I have landed on my feet before. Trust that I am fully supported. Trust that the universe is friendly and that I have as much right as anyone to fully engage in all of the fruits of the universe. I could be whatever I wanted to be, if I didn’t worry about the fear. I’m beginning to think that the fear will always be there. However, I don’t need to give it a seat at the table, at my table. I don’t have to wear my fear like a cloak of protection. Because really, at this point, I don’t think it’s protecting me at all. I certainly don’t need to let it swing me around by the tail.

Last year, my dad was in convalescent home. He seemed miserable and I wanted to make him smile. So I picked up my two puppets and started to sing loudly through the puppets. I didn’t make it easy for myself and sing The Farmer in the Dell, no, I chose Barbara Streisand’s Evergreen. I felt myself fill up with fear, I thought, “Oh crap, you’ve just set the stage and you can’t go back now.” He (my biggest critic) was watching. Everyone was watching to see what I was going to do. I didn’t even know what I was going to do. But from somewhere inside me, my desire to sing the song became bigger than the fear. And I sang and sang and sang. I even surprised myself. My dad was riveted and people applauded.

I imagine fear is just going to be like that. Ready to get in my way and steal my thunder. But I get to decide. I can decide in each moment that I can and do, choose to breath through the fear, love through the fear, celebrate through the fear, write through the fear and certainly sing through the fear.

Thunderstorms

city lit up at night
Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

My stomach hurts. I don’t process discomfort very well. It’s never been my cup of tea (as if it’s anyone’s). When I was a child my mother would say to my dad if he raised hell while we were eating, “Robert, remember Susanne’s stomach.” I should have remembered my stomach this evening.

There are thunderstorms in my life right now and I’m scared. I’m scared in the kind of way one might be if there were leaks in a building and no matter how much you run around, more leaks suddenly appear, in the ceilings, in the walls, in the foundation. This feeling is likely leftover from my childhood. There was a lot of uncertainty around money. My dad worked three jobs and then, when I was 10, my mom went to work full-time. It was a difficult time. Yes, when the foundation starts to crack I get scared.

When I was around 11, my dad was fired from his main job, a job he had held for a very long time. He loved that job with his whole heart. We all knew the people he worked with, and I went to work with him on Saturdays. My dad seemed important.  I loved that everyone seemed to know him. Really, everywhere we went, someone would say, hey, you’re Bob Lee. This went on for years.  But one day, everything changed. My mom and I were on a bus and for some reason my mom chose that moment to tell me my father had been let go. I let out a wail. I was blinded by tears. She must be mistaken. Who would fire my dad? Everyone knew him! Why would they do this? I also remember wondering, how are we going to eat?

When I was still a teenager and pregnant with my daughter, her dad was supposed to be looking for a job. Each day I would try to “help” him find a job, pointing out things that he might be suited for. Trying to encourage him, reminding him of bills that were coming or what it would cost to bring our daughter into the world. He never did go for those jobs and if he found work, before long he was unemployed again, or he drank away whatever money he had. I began to wonder, how are we going to eat. I even ended up losing weight during my eighth month of pregnancy and searched for ways to bring home food. Fortunately, the local clinic was worried too and sent me home with 20 lbs. of potatoes.

Fast forward to 2020, I’ve got financial fears. Truth be told, we’ve been living beyond our means and we’ve got to make some tough decisions. The money isn’t flowing, and it hasn’t for a while. The job I’ve had has never paid well, and there isn’t much promise of that changing. But we allowed ourselves to be seduced by its benefits.   And now, I’ve got to put myself out there and find an opportunity to work in a place that’s pays me what I’m worth and allows me to utilize the full range of my skill set. Ageism is alive and well and I hope that doesn’t get in the way of my search the way it has for my 60+ year old husband, despite his impressive credentials, he’s been overlooked for jobs for several years. While I can and do affirm that I am in the Divine Flow and God is my true Source, and I certainly know we are nowhere near where I was when I was 19 and bringing home 20 lbs. of potatoes. However, I do believe the child in me is frightened, frightened of the thunderstorms and having to plug up the leaks, and as irrational as it is, wondering how are we going to eat?

If I know anything at all, I know that I have also landed on my feet dozens of times in my life. I also know that in each season of life, new lessons for living unfold. Perhaps all of this is an opportunity to put those old stories to rest and tap into that inner well of strength and choose how this script is going to go.

Graciousness

silhouette of trees at sunset

Photo by Pixabay on Pexels.com

February 24, 2020

Gracious. What does that look like?

Well I can tell you what it doesn’t look like, at least in my judgement.

It doesn’t look like me sulking because my vegan taco fell apart as soon as I tried to eat it. It doesn’t look like me feeling less valuable because my cousin seems to prefer my husband as he provides a resounding sense of calm and safety for her as she gets out of her wheelchair and into our vehicle. His complete focus on her every need in that moment is admirable. It does not look like me feeling sorry for myself as I go to a job in my leased 2017 Chevy Volt. It doesn’t look like me feeling burdened by having to take our full bag of compost to work to be dropped off to the urban farm that will feed those who are food-insecure.

No, it doesn’t look like any of those things. And as I write them, I view those responses as coming from my inner spoiled teenager who thinks she’s entitled to live in a fairy tale world where all her whims are met, even without asking!

Yes, I lead a privileged life. I have a bed to sleep in, a roof over my head, a job to go to, a devoted husband and loving family. I have friends all over the globe whom, if I asked, if only I asked, would come to my side and be there for me. As I write this I feel like I’ve been a sniveling child. I recently came across a holiday card that was given to me by the people I support at work. They’re a group of academics who all enrich my life in some way. I really do enjoy being around them. They go out of their way to make sure I know I’m appreciated. While I’m writing this blog, one of them just texted me and asked if she could share with me some vegan Indian food because she know how much we love it.

What my writing this morning is helping me to identify, is that even if/when I feel underutilized, the truth is, every chance my colleagues get, they sing my praises. That if I’m feeling underutilized at work (or anywhere in my life), have I put my best into whatever it is I’m working on? Have I deemed certain tasks as menial? Who is under-utilizing who?

I looked up the definition of gracious and came across a website called mannersmentor.com that offered the 10 habits of a graceful woman. And while there were some attributes that were described I indeed admire, others like “a gracious lady dresses appropriately for the occasion..” seems to me to deem that one who may not be dressed appropriate would not be considered gracious?  The website feministing.com talks about “a gracious woman’s integrity combines confidence with humility. The strength not only to admit to mistakes, but also to embrace the discomfort or punishment that must sometimes accompany such errors.”

I wondered why being gracious was depicted as a quality women should aspire to? Why isn’t being gracious viewed as a way for all beings to treat each other?

In Psychology Today, February 11, 2014, Arthur Dobrin D.S.W. wrote, “A gracious person is a graceful person, someone who at least attempts to not hurt others’ feelings with clumsy words and thoughtless deeds. To live in grace is to walk lightly and leave the world blessed by your presence.”

Yes, that is my vision for me today, to walk lightly and leave the world blessed by my presence, not because I’m holier than thou. No, because it is truly, beyond a doubt, an honor and a privilege to walk this path, to meet and greet others along the way, and genuinely to serve with a smile, like my dear female ancestors once did.

Sacred Sixty-Three Days

Part I: Divine Two-By-Four to the Head

My head hurt so bad I actually contemplated going to the hospital. I kept feeling around my hairline to see if there was any blood. Surely there must be blood. How can you hit your head that hard and not have blood?

headpain

Friday at 5 pm and naturally I’m excited for the weekend. I had finally rid myself of the flu, our home in Colorado sold the Friday before and stress was at a minimum. Even though I work full-time and go to school, my schedule looked manageable. I headed to the parking lot towards my car, which by the way is the first car I’ve ever been head over heels in love with, and I jumped in. BAM!!!! I solidly smashed my temple into the side of my car as I lowered myself in and nearly passed out. My head hurt so bad I actually contemplated going to the hospital. I kept feeling around my hairline to see if there was any blood. Surely there must be blood. How can you hit your head that hard and not have blood? It took me awhile to get my bearings and as far as I could tell, I was going to be okay. I began my long commute home; Friday nights are particularly bad, and this one was no exception. I did not have the wherewithal to compete with my fellow compadres in traffic, so I kept a low profile, just hoping I would make it home without incident.

I pulled into our three-car garage still holding the side of my head. I was pretty stunned. I mean why/how did that happen. It didn’t really make any sense. After all, I thought to myself, I had been feeling quite content when I left the building, where did it go awry? As I walked into the house, delicious smells were wafting down the hallway. My husband was preparing something in the kitchen and greeted me with a smile. I was just about to share what happened when he said, “Today has been an interesting day.” I was about to agree and then lunge into telling him my sad story, when I got an internal nudge to just let him talk. He began by telling me that he had fallen in our home in the same spot twice that afternoon. He said he hurt himself pretty badly. [Mind you, my husband does not fall. I’ve never known him to be careless or haphazard.] I then blurted out, “You’re kidding, I just smashed the side of my head really badly, how weird.” He said, “Maybe not so weird. The landlord called.” “Oh?” “Yes, and he’s ready to sell the house.” It was like someone had punched me in the stomach. Naturally it’s his home and we’re on a month to month, but I just wasn’t ready for this news at this time. While the weekend’s schedule was fairly light, I had mid-term exams, papers to write, and work would soon be getting busier. Besides, I also had been secretly fantasizing how Buzz and I could get away for a romantic trip to Cabos over spring break. I was tired and I really had hoped that the two of us could just rest. “You’re kidding? We literally just closed on our house one week to the day and bam, the Universe says it’s time to go?!” “Yup, it looks that way”, he said.

Buzz and I immediately began talking about all the things we would need to do to execute. We had talked about moving the year before and had seen several different types of homes in many different types of neighborhoods, but this time was for real. I could barely breathe, my head even in that moment was killing me, and I was freaked out. Within an hour I sent an email to a woman we had worked with before to see what the temperature of the market was. We set up appointments and we were off to the races.

All in all, we worked with three different realtors and were plugged into Zillow following every lead. Buzz was canvasing neighborhoods of interest to get a feel for them, occasionally popping in whenever there was an open house, sometimes even just finding out the lockbox code and letting himself in. We had conflicting stories from our landlord to take our time AND the sooner we can leave the better. He wanted to start showing the home and could we please pack neatly. PACK NEATLY?! Are you freakin’ kidding me? Oh boy. This was NOT going to be a cake walk. Each place we thought we would take was wrought with its own drama. We put bids in on places and either we changed our mind or other prospective tenants beat us to the punch line. One home I felt fairly confident in we looked at three times and when I would lay my head down I would have nightmares about it and so we ultimately passed.

One thing that Buzz and I immediately were aware of was that it was time to downsize and that downsizing would take time. When we weren’t looking for a home, I was in my office trying to make sense of years of piles of paper. I had photographs, CD’s, materials for a newsletter I write, 3 years’ worth of college textbooks and notebooks and in the mix was the current training materials from the latest coaching training I was taking. Making hard choices and moving forward would be vital to the process yet the best I seemed to be able to do was cry. To be fair, I am in the midst of the change of life, so who knows how much of the extremes I was feeling was purely because I had to let go of a lot of things or how much was hormone related. But I cried for days and days and days. I cried in anger, I cried for things I had never started, and I cried for things I had never finished. I cried for the man I would have to say good-bye to at the dry cleaner and I cried harder for the hummingbirds who had kept me company for six years. I cried because I was overwhelmed, I cried because I felt ashamed that I was crying. Seriously, the tears went on for weeks. I began to blame my husband for the fact that we had to move at this time rather than the year before when I was proactively engaged in trying to find us a new space. I was pissed off at God and I was pissed off that I make choices in my life that led me to a place where someone else had control over when I had to move or whether I could stay. The anger and sadness were consuming me, so much so I ended up with one of the worst ear infections I’ve ever had in my life. And then I cried about that. I literally could not hear out of my right ear at all. I went to the doctors and they could not figure out what the problem was. They put me on medicine that in the end I learned was actually exacerbating the condition. While it wasn’t the first time in my life I had known self-pity, I was definitely was in one of the bigger pity parties I’d ever had. And that made me cry more. What an ungrateful wretch I was. After all, I have an amazing husband, a job, a home, money in the bank, a kick ass car, food in my stomach and I live in a state I’ve wanted to live in since I was ten years old. But the tears kept on flowing. I frequently hated myself and occasionally hated my husband and regularly blamed God. Blaming. I could see how I was drowning in it. Not how I thought 2018 would be.

At the end of 2017, I got to participate in a process where at the end of it, you end up with a word that is supposed to be the prevailing theme by which huge shifts can happen. My word was “responsibility”. And here I was working very very hard at trying to attach blame to someone or something else and it wasn’t working anymore. My old modus operandi was causing me more harm than relief. I was unable to buy my own story. Apparently, I was being pushed to let go of that as well. There are a few close women in my life that I shared I thought I was going insane. More than one of those women said I might require help managing the change of life, suggesting that medication might be necessary. Wow, when your support group starts telling you, you need help, things are bad!

And my husband. In the ten years we’ve known each other, we’ve maybe have had two serious disagreements. Throughout this process I was gathering fuel to justify being more than slightly pissed off at him. He was going through his own process, preparing for a trade show, managing new clients, supporting a business partner whose mother was terminally ill, not to mention his own feelings around the move. And so, we were a bit like oil and water. Again, mind you, I was well aware that truly life was not bad, but my feelings about what was happening was like a snowball going down the hill, growing in size all along the way. I felt guilty for my feelings as people around me went through horrific things and spoke of gratitude. I could write a gratitude list, but I was grumbling at the same time. Not very effective.

And then came our preparation for the garage sale. We had set the dates and advertised it. We tried to prepare in advance, clearing out the garage to make room for the things we would sell. However, that backfired as our landlord’s realtor complained that we needed to keep the house neat so she could prepare for an open house. OMG, could the pressure be any bigger? As we looked out into our garage the night before, we had no plan. All we knew was at 7 am the next morning people would start to show up looking to snag a bargain. I had to figure out how to move past my self-imposed despair to work with this man who was my husband so that we could make this happen. Slowly, very slowly, piece by piece, we started to organize and strategize the next days’ plan. Around 1 am we headed to bed having little faith that it could come together. Tomorrow would tell. We were 56 days into this nightmare. We mumbled terms of endearment as exhaustion set in.

Tomorrow: Part II – Resistance to Grace

Philomena

I commented, “I can feel you. How can you be dead?” She explained, “Things are accelerating right now and there’s no time to waste. This newsletter must get out. It’s imperative.”

It’s been over twenty years since I’ve seen her. We didn’t leave off on the best of terms. Our last conversation took place while I was still living in New York, just after 9-11. I had the impulse to call her to see how she was handling it all. Our conversation felt forced and awkward, a stark difference from the ease we once had where every topic was fair game and we put it all out on the table.

She asked if I had known that Fireman Ray had died. I gasped. I did not know and had been pretty far removed from the old neighborhood. Ray had taken my daughter and I on my first real vacation as an adult, along with his daughter Christina. While my relationship with Ray had been relatively short, in that brief time, I had learned that he was madly in love with God. So much so that one of our dates involved him and I reading the Bible. Christina, God and being a firefighter was pretty much all he talked about. Although she could tell I was now terribly upset to hear the news about Ray, our telephone conversation continued to be strained. I was actually lost in a fog, one – hearing her voice again and second learning that a man I cared very much for tragically died in one of the most horrifying events ever, doing what he loved. Serving others.

Philomena and I made a feeble attempt to determine how/when we would meet up and catch up on old times. I was really surprised at how disconnected we were. I got lost in thought about how once it had been so easy. God, I miss those times. There wasn’t anything we wouldn’t share. I would give anything to be able to call her right now. I would tell her I feel lost and alone in a fellowship I have known for almost 31 years. Somehow, she would know just the right questions to ask to help me reframe. Back then, we would come up with a plan to help one of us get back on the beam. That’s what we did for each other. That’s what friends do for each other.

Life had been tough during those times. We were both single moms with children who needed our attention and they were competing with our overactive hormones. Philomena was 15 years my senior but somehow, I felt like we were soul sisters. A regular Thelma & Louise, with all kinds of adventures and often times with our kids in tow. With Philomena, it was completely okay to be me. Raw, sometimes feeling unglued and a strong yearning to get my life together. She knew that. I cheered Philomena on as she was figuring out how to be in charge of her own life. She had had her life all together according to appearances. The corporate husband, the house, the kids and then it all fell apart. While our goals were different at the time, what we wanted for the other was success, peace and happiness. One funny memory is when for a period of time both our heads would almost rotate off our bodies as we heard the sound of a motorcycle. We would laugh as we noticed the other had that same response. What we did not know is that I was on my way out of the biker world and she was on her way in. She very badly wanted to distance herself from the corporate dependent wife she once described herself to be and I was looking for a more conservative husband, the white picket fence, children and a big yard. I wanted to be the Kool-Aid mom. She started her own business and navigating through what is required in running a household as a single mom. I can still hear her voice today as she spoke about her beloved kids and how much she wanted to be able to provide for them.

I guess it was about this time where we grew apart. We both followed those dreams believing somehow, there would be more fulfillment if we realized those dreams. We both met began relationships with the prospective partners and both of our lives dramatically changed. I traded in my thigh high boots and George Thorogood cassettes for tapered pants and high tops. I was approaching 30 and mindful of my biological clock, she was approaching 45 and tired of living according to someone else’s rules, ready to reclaim her life. I believe she felt it was my fault we drifted apart. I don’t know, I guess I could take responsibility. I honestly don’t recall the particulars. I know I missed her fiercely, but apparently not enough.  I ended up getting married and while she and I had a blast at my wedding, once I moved out to Long Island our connection just dissipated. Eventually she too moved from Queens to Long Island, she on the North Shore and me on the South Shore. She learned to ride a motorcycle and I learned how to buy the right bread for my ever-disapproving conservative now ex-husband.

My dear friend Philomena died a horrific death. I had always known her to have asthma and I would pass her the inhaler while we smoked cigarettes and talked about the challenges of single motherhood. Emphysema eventually would catch up with her and from the little I know, it took every bit of her in a long painful drawn out death. I am so very sad I did not get to support her and her children through that difficult time. While we may have grown apart, I never stopped loving her. Her friendship was the glue that held me together for a long time. I have that perspective now, then I traded relationships in for the next best model, never taking into account how friendships are invaluable. The song that is in my head as I write is one I learned when I was a girl scout. “Make new friends but keep the old, one is silver and the other’s gold”. Apparently, I forgot that simple childhood lesson.

Last night Philomena came to me in my dream. My goodness she was a real as you or I. Also, in the dream was her son Jason. He was the same age in the dream as he was when she and I were best friends. Philomena had on an outfit that I loved her in. Her white tank top and a pair of cut off shorts. Funny, the  things we remember. In this dream I asked her, “How are you here? You’re dead? I know you’re dead.” But yet, [I went to touch her skin to see if she was in physical form], I commented, “I can feel you. How can you be dead? She explained, “Things are accelerating right now and there’s no time to waste. This newsletter must get out. It’s imperative.” [In the dream Jason, her son is 9 or 10]. I asked, “How is Jason going to be able to write a newsletter? How will he know what to write?” She replied, “They will write through him. It must happen.” I inquired, “How is this happening. How is it you look so real?” And in typical Philomena style, she reached for a Doritos and took a bite. She said, “Do you see this”, as she dissected the Doritos in her hand, showing me shards of some strange looking by-product within the chip. She replied, “I’m as real as this crap and if I eat another one of these, it will interfere in my own growth on the other side.”

And that was that. I woke up and was amazed. It was 4:20 am this morning and I realized I had to begin writing. Just for today, I’m not sure where it’s going or what will come of it. All I know is my dear friend Philomena had come to see me. Before I went to sleep last night, I prayed for some help to get into action. I’ve been putting off writing for a long time. A book I never quite finished and life’s twists and turns kept me thinking I wasn’t ready to pound away at the keyboard. But here I am and I am grateful to my dear friend for waking me up, once again.

Stick My Head In the Sand

“Sticking your head in the sand does not prevent the tide from coming in.”

K.J.

headinsand

“You can’t just stick your head in the sand”, I’ve been told.   And why not?  Its nice and cool and PEACEFUL down there.  These past few weeks with military action increasing, lies, increased border protection and people demanding buses of children be turned around, accusations, unreasonable and unfathomable destruction,  and hundreds of innocent lives taken I feel myself wanting to retreat.  When I channel surf, either on the radio or television, I feel like I’m trying to avoid minefields of more news of hatred, intolerance and senseless killing. True, the tide will come in regardless of how much I try to hide from it, however I feel its almost my duty to not only retreat but to increase my field of peace, love, kindness and caring wherever and whenever I can, including towards myself.  I may not be able to bring back the lives of those lost on flight MH17 nor bring peace to the Middle East, but I can exercise tolerance and patience every time I get on the freeway.  I may not be able to heal the wounds of the parents who are losing their young children in Palestine and Israel, but I can be kind to myself when I see my reflection in the mirror.

Of course its not my land and it wasn’t my child, but I do believe it is my responsibility as a human being to create a field of kindness as far around me as I can.  Mother Theresa said, “Kind words can be short and easy to speak, but their echoes are truly endless.”  I am a firm believer that as each one of us cultivates peace within and around us – its affects are far reaching.  I am currently working at a university where 71 different languages are spoken.  I feel blessed and privileged to be here.  A few years back, I spent time in a University in India, where my fellow students came from 29 different countries.  Were there differences?  Absolutely!  Did it take work on my part to explore where we were the same rather than focus on where we were different?  Oh yes!  Especially the morning I woke up in my dorm room and I found out that my roommates (11 of them), thought that making kimchee at 5 am would be a great way to start the day!  I am no saint  and I too can be territorial.  But what I believe to be the actual truth is that often times when something is new, I first respond with trepidation and/or fear.  However, as the blessed human being that I am, I have been gifted with the ability to reason and choose a different response.  Just because fear is present does not mean I have the right to decide that you’re wrong or out of place.

A few years back I had this overwhelming feeling that came over me that the words of hatred that I used against myself or someone else energetically was just as harmful us the bullets shot out of a gun 7,000 miles away.  I’ve got to keep my side of the street clean.  And if I’m under duress or am experiencing personal strife, I must get back to balance.  Do I need to meditate?  Am I hungry?  Is there an unresolved issue that I need to discuss with a loved one?  Have I asked for support in overcoming a challenge?  And have I asked my Divine to  help me be more kind out in the world today?

While burying my head in the sand is obviously not the answer, creating an environment of peace through prayer and action in my home and with others is something I can do.

My wish for you peace.