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.

 

 

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the most wonderful present

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Gifts are great. I am not going to lie, I love receiving them, opening them and giving them. Last week sitting next to my mom and mom – in – law while watching Barbara Streisand perform, I felt like one of the luckiest people in the world. Because last year at this time, my mom had just been diagnosed with cancer again. Here we were, a year later, her hair growing back, a smile on our faces, hanging with Babs.

A big sigh of gratitude.

I think I want to stop trying so hard to heal that which I feel needs healing. Focus on the good, what I dream and know is possible. I want to take a break and pause, accept, and appreciate what is. Much of what is is hard to accept. But there is so much beauty, so much to still smile about.

Below is the link to the post I wrote for the moms blog on being present. Check it out if you wish.

But more importantly, please know your being – however imperfect or messy it feels right now – is exactly what your family and the world needs. Your soul, your true self is the most wonderful present you could ever give. Don’t worry about changing. In the words of Elizabeth Lesser, “uncover your soul”. Because your soul it is perfect, absolutely perfect!

Wishing you and yours many blessings and loads of love this holiday season and in 2017!

http://tampabay.citymomsblog.com/2016/12/09/opening-up-our-present-final/

the truth of who you are

I am holding the preciousness of my daughter’s 7th birthday yesterday close to my heart. It speaks to everything I am feeling right now. The ups and downs, attachment, joy, gratitude, disappointment, elation, bittersweetness, and challenge of letting something we love go.

She had a good day. And at the end of it, she laid flat on her stomach crying in her bed  because it was over.

Earlier in the day while she was at school, I walked with my youngest as the Autumn sun streamed through the leaves. I saw a man, a neighbor driving away in his truck with a huge flag for the person I am not voting for, waving proudly in the air. I felt my chest tighten. He raised his cup and looked at me through his glass window. I waved back feeling proud of myself for actually doing so.

I then felt slightly ridiculous that for a split second I thought about not waving. I don’t want to be someone who doesn’t wave or smile because of a difference in opinion.

But sometimes I forget who I am and who I want to be.

I really want to see underneath the surfaces and beyond the layers of story and opinions that keep us separate.

Although I fail at this pursuit regularly, I prefer to operate from soul to soul. The best in me and the best in you. Or like we say in yoga, Namaste, the light in me honors the light in you.

But I’m human. And sometimes I mess up, make mistakes and act out of fear or anger instead of Love.

Forgiveness is important too. And acceptance. I’m trying.

Today, I am blissfully thankful for this touch of Fall weather sweeping through. The heat is finally calming down, thank goodness. I am not sure if it will stay but it is a welcome change for now.

And things are always changing. Always in flux. Why is this so hard to accept? Because we tighten, we attach, we hold on to our memories, our ideas for how things should be. It makes us feel safer, maybe more in control. The future is uncertain and that is for certain! Pema Chodron reminds us to recognize impermanence even celebrate it as it is a “principal of harmony” that exists in our world. When we see it, she teaches us to name it as such. The leaves and acorns falling, the relationship changing, the birthday ending. Impermanence.

I didn’t really feel like writing today because I have too much to do while the baby sleeps, namely take a shower and attend to a massive amount of laundry. I didn’t know what to write. But I am writing what is in my heart. What is making my chest feel heavy and my heart feel like a sinking ship. By giving name to what it is; the worry, the tinge of sadness, the fear of the unknown, the shimmer of gratitude and love, I feel like myself. Not the one who doesn’t wave but the one who does no matter what.

Because I am in awe of the miracle and mystery of all of it. And all I can really do today, in addition to the laundry and grocery shopping, is surrender to it all.

“Being who I am. Just being who I am. That’s the big trick. I spent so many years trying to be someone else; trying to be what I thought I was supposed to be, or what someone wanted me to be. And then trying to get what I wanted for me from the scraps, or by sneaking around and doing things behind other people’s backs. Exhausting. Let me tell you, it’s an exhausting way to live. But the cancer stripped me down. Nothing left to lose, as they say. So this year I said to myself, fuck it, no apologies, I’ll just be who I am. I’ll see how that works.”

The more I stopped trying to be a perfect little human for everybody else, the more I stopped expecting other people to be perfect. The more I trusted myself, the more I trusted other people. It’s the darnedest thing…

I wanna tell my kids this. I wanna tell them not to care so much about what other people think. Not to be afraid of saying what they want, what they need. I wanna say, don’t dim your light; don’t live small. You’re not damaged goods; you don’t need to be fixed. Just be who you are -’cause that’s what the people who really matter want anyway. The truth of who you are. ” – Maggie Lake from Marrow; A Love Story by Elizabeth Lesser. 

 

i touch the cloud

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“Everything will take care of itself with unexpected grace. Death is perfectly safe. Death is not the enemy, holding to fear is.” – Stephen Levine

“Radical acceptance tells us that the best way to overcome a perceived threat is not to look for ways to ward it off but to change your relationship to it.” – Sameet M. Kumar

The famed psychologist Carl Jung once said that he never had a patient over the age of forty whose unhappiness did not have its roots in the fear of death.

But even as a young child, I feared losing my parents, and strangely, I worried about them getting in a car accident. When my dad died almost twelve years later, I wondered if my childhood fear was actually a premonition or if the worrying itself caused that awful wreck to happen. I grew panic stricken when I would hear people say “be careful what you wish for” and “your thoughts are powerful.” I am grateful to know now that thoughts are just thoughts, and we choose rather to listen to them or watch them go as quickly as they came.

And now my children ask me questions about death. This summer after my daughter saw a dead cat on a dirt path in Nantucket, she wondered worriedly if he was alright. Later in bed she asked me whether it is possible to talk after we die. And years before, my son needed clarification about heaven existing in the toilet after we said goodbye to his first pet fish, Nova, with a ceremonious flush.

These questions begrudgingly bring up my own fears and confusion about death. But they also remind me to be as honest, real, and present as possible while thinking about my answers. It is my heartfelt wish for my children and for all of us to be brought up understanding – and sometimes I think my kids get this better than me – that death is not separate from but instead is a part of life, and that everything is impermanent. I hope to never let the fear of dying obstruct living life fully (and not in an “I’m invincible, I can do anything kind of way.”) Lastly, I wish for us to all know that death is essentially okay. (And I know, too, that death feels as far away as possible from okay when something tragic happens.)

I am now more likely to meet their questions about what happens after death with the answer, I don’t know.

But I do know that when someone dies, he or she is still with us. And to answer my daughter’s previous question, I also think we can still talk after we die.

The night of my father’s death, he, in fact, spoke to me. He appeared before me while I slept in my high school bedroom with the bright blue walls. Although I was asleep, this meeting was more real, vivid, and vibrant than any dream I have ever had. In fact, it was not really a dream at all.

We had unfinished business, my dad and I, and it felt as if he came to console me. I needed him, and he was there even though he couldn’t be there in the way he used to be.

Wearing a navy blue suit and tie with his signature warmth, he told me not to worry and not to feel guilty about an argument we had had days earlier. He was relaxed, carefree and at complete peace. I heard his message loud and clear: everything is going to be okay.

This particular encounter, and subsequent experiences with people at the end of their lives, stirs in me the soothing, albeit enigmatic realization that when someone close to us dies, he or she remains in our lives forever. And not just in the obvious ways found in old photographs, videos, and memories faded and grown soft with time. This subtle reprieve lies in the knowing that our relationships survive death. And with hopeful watering and loving tending, continue to grow. There, flowers bloom where there was once only dirt.

It is often in the presence of beauty, nature, silence, and serendipitous moments, that we are shown that we too will be okay.

When I feel overwhelmed with the weight of grief or anxiety, I know it is time to simplify…to slow down and feel my feet on the earth. And to stop thinking so much…to not look at the big picture for a spell but instead try to narrow my focus with the eye of an eagle on the miniscule details before me…the hot shower, the dishes in the sink, and the pretty punch-colored petal on the ground.

And while I don’t know much about death, I do believe that when we die, we don’t just disappear. Energy doesn’t vanish, but rather, it changes and transforms. This is not simply spiritual discourse but is in fact the science behind the law of thermodynamics. This theory states that energy can neither be created nor destroyed, only transformed. Caterpillars become butterflies; the crushing of shells makes sand by the sea; and fires bring new growth to the forest.

I believe that the light we carry within us never extinguishes but instead transforms into brilliant, omnipresent, and eternal sparks. These sparks move through us. I have felt them manifest as smooth ripples in the ocean, in the smile in my son’s eyes, and the quiet stare of the hawk that visits my mom’s backyard in December.

Through my own misty eyes, I recently read of the cyclical nature of growth and life in Elizabeth Lesser’s book, Broken Open; How Difficult Times Can Help Us Grow. She writes of Buddhist teacher Thich Nhat Hanh’s teaching on death. He says, nothing is born, nothing can die. In the below excerpt, Hanh offers this explanation:

Look into the true nature of the paper. What do you see? You see – in a very tangible, scientific way – that paper is made of non-paper elements. When I touch the paper, I touch the tree, the forest because I know that deep inside there is the existence of the tree, the forest. Right? I also touch the sunshine. Even at midnight touching the sheet of paper, I touch sunshine. I touch the cloud. There is the cloud floating in this sheet of paper. You don’t have to be a poet to see the cloud. Because without the cloud, there would be no rain and no forest could grow. So the cloud is in there. The trees are in there. The sunshine, the minerals from the earth, the earth itself, time, space, people, insects-everything in the cosmos seems to be existing in this sheet of paper. It is very important to see that a sheet of paper is made of – only of – non-paper elements. Our body is also like that.

I don’t know what really happened the night my dad came to me or what happens when we die. And death still makes me anxious and sad. But while it is hard for our human hearts to bear, I also believe that it is okay, just like my dad said.

*I referenced these beautiful and helpful books above and recommend each one wholeheartedly. A Year to Live by Stephen Levine, Grieving Mindfully by Sameet M. Kumar, and Broken Open by Elizabeth Lesser.