i love you, i am listening

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When Rabbi Rami Shapiro was asked how he experienced God, he responded that God is the experience.

“How are you?,” asked a neighbor of mine the other day during a wave of abrasive heat on a walk with my dog. He asked in such a way that it brought me to tears. Right away. No time to think or process or adjust. Bam! Waterworks. I don’t know, it took me off guard somehow. I wasn’t expecting it. His asking was so earnest and innocent. So sweet. God is in the details some say.

The thing is, I am grieving. I am mourning. But the weird thing is that sometimes we do this before a loss. It is referred to as anticipatory grief. There are so many incremental losses along the way that can and often do paralyze us. Or when we feel triggered by the pain associated with our losses, we may feel more forgetful, angry, irritable, tired, heartbroken, distant, distracted. You name it.

And then sometimes grief does the opposite. You grieve. You cry. But then you feel like part of the world. Part of this seamless mystery that makes flowers bloom. Sometimes grief motivates us to be more human, more kind, more selfless, more apt to just get out there put our grievances aside and show up as much as we can, knowing that this is our one shot at doing so. No need to worry about saying the right thing, looking perfect, or sounding wise. That shit doesn’t matter. What is in your heart, that matters.

What a gift. What an opportunity. What a blessing.

Grief is internal but mourning is the outward expression of our grief. We need both. Sometimes solitude is the healing salve our soul yearns for and other times we need to share our laughter and tears with others.  We don’t need to say things are o.k. or well because they may not be in that moment. They will be again…someday. But crying right in the middle of a heat wave on the sidewalk happens sometimes.

There is no right or wrong way to do this. When we are grieving, our resilience is down and all of our emotions are so close to the surface. Seaweed floating on top of the salty sea. Seaweed, green, tough, and seemingly everywhere. And you have the choice to get entangled in it or swim through the clumps, revealing the clear water everywhere else. The clear water waiting to hold you, to support you, and wipe your beautiful tears away with an incoming wave, dispelling it and joining it with the rest of the sea.

We stop resisting. We surrender. We float.

And when we grieve, we don’t squander or squelch our feelings as much as we normally do, they just come out and recede like moving water, like passing weather.

And this too, as hard and awkward as it is, is also a gift.

Just swim through it like the seaweed.

After being embarrassed for much of my life about my readily available tears, I don’t apologize for them anymore. I don’t wave them away. I tell them I love them. I thank them. They are doing their job.

Which reminds me of a circle of lovely women I sat with recently on a nearby dock. On the steamy summer solstice evening, we listened to the lapping water and mind numbing planes overhead while discussing how we love ourselves in the midst of heavy, hard stuff.

Forgiveness. Self Care. Compassion. And sometimes if we are challenged to access this kind of compassion and forgiveness towards ourselves, we may think of how we would approach a dearly beloved friend and then turn that kind of attention to our own thirsty souls.

Life is here too in this grief. Laughter, smiles, rainbows, big colorful ones that keep appearing over the Bay, and then there is my littlest girl naked with a fuzzy halo on her head playing with flowers.

It is all Spirit. Truth. Source. God. You choose the name you are comfortable with, maybe there isn’t a name.  The soul in me and the soul in you.

It is the experience.

How do you love yourself? How do you thank your tears and your anger as well as your waves of joy?

They are all here to help us heal and to encourage our growth, to encourage our union with Spirit. Loneliness and Separation are an illusion. Or as my friend Erica said the other day, “a thinking error”.

It may be as simple as putting our hands over our hearts and saying, “I love you. I am listening.” – ( From the beautiful and soul enriching podcast, Live Awake by Sarah Blondin).

This is the experience.

 

 

 

 

ushering in the magic

“I am more vulnerable that I thought, but much stronger than I ever imagined.”– Tedeschi Calhoun

Some days I pretty much have it together. And to clarify, pretty much having it together means a sticker on the bottom of my foot (thank you friend for telling me in yoga yesterday), a dress on inside out with the tags whimsically blowing in the breeze and shit everywhere…literally, my baby took off her diaper and pooped on the carpet on Sunday afternoon.

I had it so together yesterday that a young guy walked up to my car and asked me if I was his uber driver. I said no and we both laughed as I drove off with my perplexed son in the backseat and an infant car seat next to him. Oddly, I was flattered which may be something I should explore with my therapist.

But really I am joking, I never have it together. The people that you think have it together probably have odd fetishes and aren’t that much fun.

Really, right now, I am sad. And grateful. And tired, napping in the middle of a sunny afternoon tired. My mom, my sweet, Oil of Olay and Tide laundry detergent smelling mama, is in New Jersey coping with cancer. Again. And I miss her. I miss our almost daily phone chats. I miss her visits. So much has changed these past few months. I want to be with her. I want to be with my kids and husband. I want to be on a beach alone. I want to be helpful. I  don’t know what I want or need or how to be of service. Mostly, I wish we could go back to the way things were. But I know that is not a reality. I try to stay present and thankful for what we do have.

This being human business is hard work.

I am rereading Broken Open; How Difficult Times Help us Grow, by Elizabeth Lesser because I love it so much and need it right now. I read this passage yesterday and it gave me chills. I felt scared awe as Einstein called it. Tears glimmered in my eyes like the soft track of light from the sun’s rays on the water. The presence of soul…

” If our senses were fine enough, we would stand around with our mouths hanging open at the glory and grace of it all. We would sense the presence of mystery everywhere: the angels keeping us safe as we drive home from work; the spirits hovering around our children; the thin waft of light pointing us in the direction of The Road of Truth. All we can do is try to refine our senses. We can try to quiet the noise in our minds, listen for deeper instructions, and leap without fear beyond what we think is so”.

These times call for a lot of checking in and grounding in the soul. The sadness doesn’t dissipate but it is accompanied by a big blanket of love, acceptance, support and appreciation of the universal mystery weaving in and out of every waking moment. I am trying to let myself be silently drawn by the strange pull of what I really love like Rumi tells us to do, and trust that there is something bigger at work here.

And then, in addition to the sadness, I feel warmly alive, thankful, at peace (sometimes) and even happy (most of the time). I don’t take the abundance of blessings and kindness of friends and strangers alike for granted.

Being human is hard but more important than hard, it is sacred.

Connecting to others is a saving grace. And true connection soothes sadness.

Although, right now, I often want to cocoon myself up with a good book, I find when I have chatted with dear friends, over tears and hope, that it feels rich and life affirming  Like an unfurling rose. It leaves me feeling better because we just touched something authentic, sweet, and universal.

So often we want to run in the other direction but when we swim towards what is hard and face it together, magic happens.

Because we all suffer.

But in the fog of suffering, there are angels everywhere. My friends have reminded me in so many different ways of the beauty, joy, laughter and meaning in the midst of it all. No small act goes unnoticed.

Jenny told me to listen to beautiful music because it supports the nervous system and keeps the energy up. So I listen to music I love (when my kids aren’t yelling at our Amazon Echo to play  “Baby’s Got Back” or “This is How we Do It”) and it helps. Because of more music, we have been dancing more too. And singing. While my particular singing may not be beautiful, it does unburden my heart and tether me to something collective, something humans have been doing forever in every corner of the planet during good times and bad. My chest feels softer, more open, and not so achy. Glory, Glory, Halleluja, since I laid my burden down…

Stephanee mentioned grounding, supportive rituals and lighting candles. It too reminds me of all of the abundant blessings all around. All the beautiful light ushering in the magic.

I used to think I needed more time to engage in such rituals. That to meditate or pray, I needed to set aside special time. But now I just do it whenever however in my own imperfect, not together way. The intention is there and intention is big. I burn palo santo and sage. I light a candle while I do the dishes. I pray out loud for all of the people I love and know are hurting while I am driving around in my car. I write in my journal in the pick up line. I say yes to help and food and walks. And no to what drains me. I take a bath with nice salts and probably don’t wash my hair because it is too much work during a ritual!

Meditation teacher Sylvia Boorstein speaks to this, saying that we don’t need to set aside time for spirituality, rather spirituality is simply unfolded into our days. The way we fold towels, listen to our children when they speak, and by being honest with one another about our feelings.

Grounding in the soul looks different to everyone and is often the medicine we most need. It may involve simplifying and prioritizing, getting in touch with what we hold most dear, and letting go of countless, energy depleting obligations.

This soul time means perfection has to go while compassion and self care takes center stage. Which for me means I must write this right now. But while I do, my baby girl is using an orange chalk pastel on the stucco wall outside. Sorry, Josh and thank you for understanding.

Engaging in small, meaningful rituals is a way to sustain the soul. Rest is always a good place to start.

Last week, I heard doctor and wife of Paul Kalanthi, author of the beautiful book, When Breath Becomes Air, say that while Paul was alive, he taught her that life wasn’t about avoiding struggle, it was about finding meaning.

One day, we will die but today we are alive. 

And our lives have meaning.

In Option B, Sheryl Sandberg’s new book, she discusses finding meaning during grief and how we build resilience. One activity that helped her after her husband died was to write down 3 things she did well each day before bed. Smalls victories, maybe seemingly insignificant ones like checking email but anything that kept her going, kept her knowing that she was doing what she could to be engaged with living.

We live with losses and grief and the older I get, the more I realize grief is never something you get over. Rather, it is something we learn to live with. And that anything, any small thing that keeps us choosing life, light, and living with compassion, kindness and connection is a good idea. Our souls know that we will be okay.

 

 

today trascendence

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“You find peace not by rearranging the circumstances of your life but by realizing who you are at the deepest level.” – Eckhart Tolle

Our anger, pain, and our sadness is fleeting. Our bad moods are fleeting. These emotional states often have such a grip on our hearts. But they are not who we are. We are the observer, the witness, the one that notices the rollercoaster of emotions.We are along for the ride.

These emotions, they come and go like a dense fog rolling into view and limiting our visibility only to later be burned off by the warming sun. And when the fog eventually lifts as it always does, a more sparkly, clearer, and truer sky is revealed.

Our souls are not fleeting. At the core of our beings, no matter what turmoil is going on around us, we are pure magnificence. Compassionate. Genuine. Loving. Light.

Even in death our light shines like a million shooting stars showering down on the earth blanketing those we love with a glowing embrace.

We are together in this. Our hearts, our souls at the deepest level are the same. We are one.

“In the end there are three things that matter. How well we’ve lived. How well we’ve loved. How well we’ve learned to let go.” – Jack Kornfield

We as human beings have this amazing capacity to be reborn at breakfast…everyday this is a new day, who will I be today? – Jack Kornfield

 

 

 

Life is but a dream

 

Life is but a dream…

Row Row Row Your Boat. I sang this to my baby girl today. And she smiled. Such a bright light. A bright light drowning out the noise.

The sadness, the horror, the violence. I bet the mamas of those slain men sang them this same song when they were babies. When their eyes shone bright with innocence, purity, and trust. Like all of us moms, they had dreams for their children, the loves of their lives, the pulse of their worlds, that they would grow up to be happy, healthy, and safe. Certainly alive.

They can’t drown out the noise. They don’t have the option to do so like I do.

We eventually go to bed because we have to sleep. We shut our eyes from pure exhaustion. For a moment in the morning we think we have been spared, that the nightmare from the day before was exactly that, a scary dream. Or it was actually someone else that it happened to. Which doesn’t make it anymore terrible and heartbreaking but it doesn’t impact your every breath in the same way.

You have survivor’s guilt but you bargain with the powers that be that you will behave differently, will be more giving, more helpful to everyone. You won’t talk shit about anyone anymore. You will not take one minute for granted. You are so thankful.

If only you could go back ,you think, and do things a tad bit differently. Kept a better eye on them. Kept them on the phone a bit longer. Not have let them go there. Told them to be careful. Told them you loved them louder and more often. But you don’t want them to live life being fearful of their every move. That is no way to live. We are free for fuck’s sake. This is the land of the free and the home of the brave after all.

But it is not your fault. You know that.

After a few very brief moments, the pit in your stomach is there again and it’s growing all the way up to your throat. You feel like you could throw up or you want to go back to sleep but of course you can’t. You want to numb it, take something, drink something, feel something else. Anything but this. Please G-d, anything but this. It has to be a mistake. It feels so surreal. Like you are just going through the motions.

Everything is different. Everything is tainted. You will never be the same. This is not a dream. This is real. This is very real.

People who pray will pray. People who paint will paint. Many will talk. Many will cry. Many will help. Many will not. Many will post to Facebook. Most don’t know what to do. Those of us who write will write. Because we can’t just sit here and do nothing. We don’t want to be insensitive. We don’t know if it is our place to say something, do anything, because we can’t possibly imagine what it is like. What they are going through.  We were spared, we are so grateful. This time.

It will be in the news, it will be everywhere. Constantly. Until it isn’t. Until the next horrific event happens. Until the initial shock and devastation is a little less raw. A wound. A scab. A scar.

Some reach out, some hide, some can’t take it. Some say helpful things. Some say annoying things.

For a moment there is something that gives you a glimmer of hope. Again. A glimmer of hope and peace. A view of the big picture. We can’t know, we aren’t meant to understand. We will do better. But then the light goes out. Again. And it happens again. Again. Again. Again.

We say ENOUGH! Or NO MORE! OR shout something else. But nothing changes. Or does it? Is it changing? We just keep being asked time and time again to come together and love each other more, and let things go more. To be more compassionate.

We can protest. We can lead with our hearts. We can sign petitions and write letters. We can speak the truth. We can volunteer. We can raise money. We can speak from our hearts, from our fears and insecurities. We can give voice to what we really think. We can talk honestly with one another. With our neighbors, our in-laws, our friends, those who are similar and those who are different, our bosses, people that intimidate us, our kids.

But more than anything, we have to stop being fearful. Because we don’t want to live being fearful.

This is the land of the free and the home of the brave.

But until we are all brave, we won’t all be free.

we connect

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“There are so few places in our normal social lives where we are privileged to meet one another so vulnerably-to laugh, and cry and laugh again. ” – Pat Schneider from Writing Alone and with others

Tonight I am feeling very moved and grateful for the opportunity to lead women’s groups.

When people ask me what we do in these groups, I struggle with forming a concise and intelligible response.  It is hard to convey exactly what transpires in a room full of women sharing their thoughts, feelings, and vulnerabilities with one another.

Many of us lead isolated lives. As a stay at home mother, I will never forget how lonely I felt those first few months after having my son and not returning to work. I was thrilled to be home with my sweet new baby and I also missed many aspects of my job. It was a very strange time for me and for many women I know.

Before I became a mom, I worked with a local Hospice. It was an incredibly fulfilling and life affirming job. I loved the people I worked with. And training and managing hospice volunteers was a constant reminder of how much good there is in the world.

I will never forget talking to a lovely woman on the phone one day when she told me she had not been out with her family since taking over the care of her uncle. She was beside herself pushing back tears when I told her that a volunteer would be coming over to sit with her beloved uncle so she could go out and enjoy a nice dinner with her children.

It brings me to tears thinking about it. Or the gentleman who helped a beautiful 18 year old woman make a video so that her family would always be able to watch her when she was no longer here.

It is no surprise that I missed this work.

The quiet at home felt very odd. I would go to the park, meet friends, and get coffee but it all felt like a weird world I wasn’t sure I had signed up for. As much as I like being alone, I like to be with people too!

And we human beings are social creatures wired for connection. We thrive from deep bonds with one another. Bonds that help us make meaning out of our days and bonds that help us navigate the spectrum of emotions and experiences.

This brings me back to my groups. Really they are about connection. And not just the connection to one another but the connection to ourselves. Sometimes we get so busy or overwhelmed, we may not even be able to identify what in our life brings us joy. So we snap at our loved ones because we are so depleted.

Or maybe shut down or clam up because we feel fearful.

But then we talk to others struggling and we feel less afraid. Or we share what we are grateful for and we are reminded just how much there is to celebrate.

It is a reminder that we have more similarities than we do differences. It is a reminder of how much we need each other. And how much can happen when we come together in the spirit of collaboration and soulfulness.

And if you think these groups are selfish, they are a bit. And this is a good thing. We deserve it. If we all took responsibility for our emotions, thoughts, and behaviors, we would live in a much healthier and well-balanced world.

So what do we do in these women’s groups?

We show up for each other. We wake up. We listen. We share. We laugh and sometimes we cry. We write. We play. We feel. We breathe. We connect.

And for that I am so grateful.

 

 

cracking open with molly

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Last night I had the pleasure of participating in a workshop with author and therapist, Molly Carroll. Her book, Cracking Open, A creative journal for self transformation called to me the minute I saw the cover. And then I opened it and wanted to dive into its colorful tapestry of words, wisdom and art.

I was working on the section entitled, be seen when I realized how hard it is for all of me to be seen. I desperately want to look like I have this figured out, this life business. But I am tired. I have a baby who is still not sleeping through the night. And two older kids. Sometimes I feel lonely and isolated. I am sad that my mom is sick. I miss my family. I question my career and what is next. It’s a lot.

As Brene Brown says, we have to go through vulnerability to get to courage. I know she’s right but it can be so freakin hard and I can’t help but want to bypass the vulnerability part. But it doesn’t work that way.

So last night when surrounded by a group of supportive women, I was surprised that being seen for me was not about speaking up and sharing my voice.

Being seen for me last night was about exposing my sadness. It was about being raw and vulnerable and cracked open for all to see. I didn’t even know that I was sad before I got there. But I needed to cry. I needed to be heard and seen and held by those empathetic women who were okay sitting in discomfort without trying to fix it and make it better.

Because we can’t get to better without being in it. And last night it was sadness.

And today it is better. Because I let it out. I am working on some stuff and I know it takes time, most likely a lifetime. But I am trying one page at a time.

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This is me this morning trying to erase the bags under my eyes! 

there she is again!

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Yesterday during my women’s group, one of the participants spoke of the importance of signs in her life. We talked about how easy it is to miss them as such if we are not paying attention. It takes a certain receptivity, an openness and then we see them everywhere.

So last night, after posting, how they show up about my mom’s friend, Cheerleader, I drowsily walked my daughter to bed. Laying next to her warm body in between the well worn sheets, I looked at the desk calendar on the nightstand. The calendar features a different dog every day doing something cute.

When I saw yesterday’s dog, a big knowing smile instantaneously found my cheeks. It was a West Highland White Terrier, of course, a little Westie just like the dog Cheerleader had when I was growing up.

When we would visit New Jersey in the summers, we always stayed at their house. It was familiar and cozy and I was a big fan of the constant supply of soda and chips, the goldfish in the kitchen that lived to be at least 17, and the green toilet that sat underneath a vent and gave me frostbite. I loved that house and I loved their Westie, Holly, who used to run around carrying an orange and purple rubber alligator in her mouth that she believed to be her baby. The poor lamb suffered from “false pregnancies.”

Then, today, after I dropped my kids off at school, I’m waiting for the light at the intersection to turn green, when a woman appears walking two dogs right by my car. A Scottie and a Westie. Another one. And there’s Cheerleader again. Still making me smile.