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.

 

 

 

 

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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 sacred 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.

 

 

a dead cockroach and a full moon

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The day before, while driving to pick up my kids from school, I felt something crunchy in my bra. A leaf perhaps? But when I reached in and pulled it out, it was a dead cockroach. I threw it on the floor of my car and kept driving. How the fuck did that get there?

Last night I took a walk down to the end of the street to see the water and maybe catch a glimpse of the full moon with our daughter, Phoebe and our dog, Poppy. As we approached the end of the street, a huge orange-pink globe was rising from the depths of the water, climbing up an invisible ladder high into the dusky sky. We saw the moon rise! And it was so breath taking, I had to sit down on the sidewalk, with the wind sweeping it’s purifying magic and punch colored bougainvillea petals around me, and stare.

Earlier in the day, I gave myself a hug. I realize this may sound absurd to some of you. But it was the kindest and most tender thing I could do in the moment. I had a baby bottom soft sweater on too which helped. But I sat on the wood floor, put my arms around me, reached my fingertips toward one another and breathed.

It was everything.

These days, I don’t have much room for shoulds. I am guided by my aching heart, kindness, rest, and not letting crunchy dead bugs get in the way.

The walk, the moon, the hug, and in this very moment, the sound of the cooing dove, may not sound like big earth shattering things, but to me, they are big enough and beautiful enough to keep me hopeful and so very grateful.

tell yourself a different story

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“Fear, to a great extent, is born of a story we tell ourselves, and so I choose to tell myself a different story from the one women are told. I decided I was safe. I was strong. I was brave. That nothing could vanquish me. Insisting on this story was a form of mind control, but for the most part, it worked. Every time I felt something horrible cohering in my imagination, I pushed it away. I simply did not let myself become afraid. Fear begets fear. Power begets power. I willed myself to beget power. And it wasn’t long before I actually wasn’t afraid.” Cheryl Strayed

I was in yoga the other day loving the practice of inhaling my arms up over head while inviting in any images I wanted to flood my being and environment with. I envisioned a pale pink rose, petals unfolding like the unfolding of a story, bursting with love, light, mystery, healing, and grace. I breathed this into my body, into every cell and part of me. And I breathed out fear. Fear was what I wanted to do away with. Letting go of the fear and letting in the good stuff.

I am in a place right now where the sadness I feel, I am okay with. Sadness is a testament to love. But fear is it’s negative and alluring counterpart. The sadness, I will let visit and have its way with me much like a roaring wave, allowing it to take me under since fighting it is futile, and then watch with awe as it recedes back to the horizon. I’ll accept the waves washing over me encouraging them to whisk away any stagnate, stuck parts impermeable to change. I can’t control the sadness, I simply can’t repress it but I can learn to accept it and allow it. And when the sadness comes and then it goes, it leaves nothing but love in it’s wake.

Now, fear on the other hand, well sometimes, I’ll look at it. And run with it and let the what if’s dance around in my hand as they whirl around stealing my attention with their grabby fingers. But often times this indulging fear leads me down a path of worry and unnecessary struggle. So the fear is a different story and one I am choosing not to give into at the moment.

After completing these particular sun salutations at yoga, I reached for the blocks to place under my hands as I stood in a forward fold and felt grateful for their presence as I laughed at myself thinking about how years ago, I would have scoffed at needing blocks. My ego thought it was a sign of weakness. But now I take all of the help I can get. And yoga as well as life is much sweeter with the support.

 

love yourself, be who you are

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How right my friend Charlotte was when she said, “I feel a blog post coming on”, the other morning as we walked by the water with the low tide and soft breeze. I was so excited, I saw a Roseatte Spoonbill, an unusual and spectacular sight at that particular spot. I inhabited an older version of myself…older Floridian woman, wrinkly and tan with a visor on shouting out the names of various birds to no one in particular…Tufted Tit Mouse! Cardinal! Scrub Jay! (Thanks Mom for inspiring me to learn my bird names). I like the idea of this older, wiser, even kookier me.

It seems to me that within us all lives our younger selves and older selves simultaneously. The 7-year-old me lives side by side with the 80-year-old me.

As the gorgeous pink bird with the vibrant red stripe and spoon for a beak ate her breakfast oblivious to the people admiring her unusual beauty, the white Herons and Seagulls next to her, did the same. They seemingly paid no attention to their neighbors’ more stunning outfit. I doubt they were thinking, “You guys, I totally like her colors better than mine.” They just ate together enjoying their fish. No big deal.

And it was no coincidence that the day before my fairy hummingbird tree nymph of a daughter sat next to me on the floor coloring. When I glanced over to see what she was writing, her poster board revealed words that made my heart soar, Love yourself, Be Who You are.

Love yourself, whether your self is your little self, your teenage self or your elder. Be who you are…sage advice from my little girl…because who you are is so brilliant no matter the color of your feathers.

Deep breaths AND chocolate

I used to think it was all or nothing. If I taught yoga, then I must be very yogic at all times or else I was a fraud. So I best be eating organic chia seeds marinated in bone broth with kale chips and a green smoothie to wash it all down with. I thought to myself, I can’t be a calm, loving mother if I am also feeding my kids Cheetos and yelling at them to clean up the pile of shoes on the floor or their underwear on the coffee table. (We have a history in this family of undergarments being left in odd places – just last week my mother-in-law found a strapless bra in my husband’s car – I hate strapless bras and took it off as soon as I could after a recent event, fortunately it was mine and she thought it was funny).  The list goes on, I can’t be healthy and have dessert or teach others about meditation if I need medication to help with my anxiety. I can’t be sensitive and strong. I can’t be brave and scared. I can’t, I can’t, I can’t.

Oh yes I can.

I am so grateful to my new friend Charnell, who during a recent women’s circle, stressed the importance of the word, and. “You can wake up anxious and still cut up apples for your kids lunch”, she said. And while I have certainly thought of this, lived it in fact, I have never realized how glorious the word and really is.

And it is liberating. And is spaciousness. And is kind. And is acceptance. And is compassion. And is the antithesis of perfection. And is sincere. And is genuine.

This chasing happiness business is crazy making. Because it is impossible. So maybe we find meaning instead and stop worrying so much about finding this elusive perfect happiness. Like Vikor Frankl who survived the Holocaust teaches us in his beautiful book, Man’s Search for Meaning, we can survive hardship when we find meaning in our struggles.

As I prepare for facilitating a new women’s circle starting this weekend, I am swept up in gratitude for the bright and beautiful creature in my back yard. It is a cardinal and to me this sweet little bird signifies that my dad is near, telling me I’ve got this even though I am not sure I do. These days I don’t strive for perfection or even happiness, I strive for acceptance. And meaning. And unconditional love. And in addition to deep breaths, I need chocolate.

marching on

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” If you want people to listen to you, you have to listen to them.” – Gloria Steinem

So here is my truth. I encourage you all to share yours in whatever capacity suits you.

I hate being political. It makes me, in the words of my college days in Massachusetts, wicked uncomfortable.

When I was a teenager, my brother-in-law enjoyed asking me about my stance on such “hot button topics” like abortion. He grew up getting in heated discussions with his family, I did not. And I hated every minute of it. I did not possess the confidence or often the knowledge to back up how I felt.

What happened over time was in order to protect myself from feeling stupid and embarrassed, I started getting quieter and quieter. I never internally questioned my strongest convictions, but I didn’t want to discuss them out loud either. I hated being put on the spot so to speak. I would feel “too” emotional, “too sensitive” or maybe I took things “too” personally. Often, it felt antagonistic, almost as if I was being bullied.

I made the mistake of thinking that if I didn’t know everything about an issue being discussed, that maybe I wasn’t entitled to an opinion. But we are all entitled to an opinion. Our feelings are valid, our points of view, important, no matter how many articles we have read on a subject.

If it’s important to us, we’ve got to speak up even when we feel uncomfortable and have difficulty locating our voice.

As a child, I remember standing up to bullies. And it was hard. I hated every minute of that too. I would get red, my heart would pound but I did it anyway because every fiber of my being was screaming at me to do so.

I still despise confrontation and arguing. Even if it is a topic I am familiar with, I would rather not “get into it.”

So the other day when I posted something on my wall on Facebook about a college starting a program where professors read books about social justice issues to children, I was gobsmacked that my nephew took offense to it. Once again, I didn’t want to get into it but here I was.

Contrary to what some people say, we don’t have control over our thoughts and feelings. We do of course have control over what we do with them. My nephew, much younger and most likely smarter, is of course entitled to his opinions too. But I couldn’t help feeling misunderstood and confused. Certainly, he couldn’t disagree with the idea of exposing children to people and issues different than themselves, I thought. I responded to his comment which just furthered his fire and squelched mine.

Clearly, we weren’t going to see eye to eye on this. So I dropped it.

Once again, I told myself that it was okay to have differences in opinion.

And that it is okay to disagree.

However, it is not okay, in my book anyway, to do so in a disrespectful and bullish manner. Life is fragile. And while we argue, there are people battling vicious diseases and cleaning up tornado toppled houses.

So on Saturday, when I joined millions of people around the world, and marched in the women’s march in St. Pete, I hoped it would be peaceful and respectful. Unlike the protests the day before.

Part of me was exited to attend and part of me had my reservations.

I really wanted to spend a quiet Saturday at home with my family. I also felt fearful about being public about my political beliefs. (Lindsay, remember you are not good at this, I heard). I feared photos from the day leading to another spat on facebook. I feared being in a big crowd. I feared feeling stupid when someone mentioned a name of a newly appointed cabinet member I hadn’t heard of yet. I questioned my intention…I am all about love and peace, why do I need to do this? Maybe I could just stay home meditate and pray instead.

But the same me that stood up to the kid in high school who was always picking on the kid smaller and not as athletic or as good looking as he, said hell no. So my face hot, my heart beating hard, I went anyway. Going with a group of fabulous and supportive women helped too of course.

And this march was everything I hoped it would be. It was the antithesis of hate. It was peaceful. Hopeful. And loving. I felt like I was being carried in a sea of supportive, super humans who shared concerns for the planet and for each other. I spoke to an 81-year -old woman there with her husband who marched her whole life for causes like the civil rights movement and nuclear arms. She told me, “You can’t hug a child with nuclear arms.” I saw an older woman with a walker. I listened to a 12-year-old girl sing, “We Shall Overcome.” I saw a little boy wearing an anti bullying message around his neck. And lots of wonderful and brave men. It didn’t feel antagonistic or divisive, it felt humane and unifying. It was heartening.

So while some of us disagree with what is happening right now in our government, some of us are supportive of it.

And I want you to know, whomever you voted for, whatever you think of this current feminist movement, that I love you and I want to work with you no matter what. I will try my best to listen with an open heart to your opinion if done so in a kind way, if you promise to do the same.

Even the one vocal Trump supporter I saw at the march was kind. He held his Trump sign but he smiled and didn’t shout at us. And according to another account I heard on the news this morning, he even said, “Thank you ladies”, as we passed.