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.

 

 

Friends Are Everything

krisanderi

Last night my daughter was in the tub playing with her two new mermaid dolls, Olivia and Alexis (her names for them.) I asked her how they were. Her response: “My friends are being dramatic.”

Growing up, my pretend friends were dramatic too sometimes. Their names alone were quite interesting; Karen Ann Damichio, Linda Ann Commute, and lastly, the most unfortunately named, Wendy Feces.

I spent last weekend with my closest high school friends, Erica and Kristin. It brought back a flood of memories like during our senior year when we dressed up as members of the Jackson Five and played hooky. We spent the afternoon driving to random parking lots and dancing to songs like “C’est Chic”out of our friends’ stereo in her gold VW Bug.

Erica and I both moved to New Jersey our junior year. We became fast friends. She was with my family the last Thanksgiving before my Dad died. I recall it being a wonderful day. I also remember putting a cowboy hat on my Grandmother and singing, “I’m Too Sexy.”

Erica didn’t blink an eye a week later when I asked her to accompany me on the two hour drive to the hospital where my dad was after his car accident. That year she spent many hours patiently sitting with me on my mother’s couch.

Kristin and I traveled in Europe together. She was the ideal travel partner; always up for anything including  talking at any hour. I smile deeply thinking of a lovely dinner we had in Amsterdam. (No, we weren’t at a coffee shop…not then anyway.) We spoke of our dreams and our love of travel. She mentioned wanting to join the Peace Corps. Fast forward thirteen years later, she now travels around the world with a non-profit organization and spent two years as a Peace Corps volunteer in Bolivia.

All of this reminiscing about friendships brought to mind a conversation that took place years ago with a family friend visiting from Minnesota. It was a cozy night at my mom’s house in New Jersey, in the same room I used to hibernate in. I asked her, why, all these years later, she still lived in a town she was not crazy about.

She had moved to that Midwestern city with her family from Arizona about twenty years before. In response to my question, she thoughtfully said that after all of this time, although it wasn’t perfect, they now had friends. Good friends that they did not want to leave.

It brings tears to my eyes thinking about how my friends here in Tampa, many of them new ones, brought us dinner right after my babies were born. The dinners and congratulatory hugs helped me survive those first exhausting transitory weeks.

Last weekend my brother sent me one of the most moving articles I have ever read. It was written by Madonna Badger who lost her entire family in a fire two years ago at her new home in Connecticut. Of course, it was gut wrenching to read and at the same time unimaginably hopeful.

She wrote about the friends surrounding her hospital bed as she lay there in utter disbelief. She wrote about the friends that took her into their home with whom she ended up living with for a year. Along with her unfathomable determination and a lot of professional help, friends are what got her through.

My husband told me last night as I was going to bed that he saw our son, Will, put his hand on the back of a teammate at his baseball game on Saturday. The boy was having a tough time hitting the ball. Will wanted the boy to know it was okay.

This brings me such peace because I feel if my children understand the importance of friendships that they too will always be okay. When we have friends, we have everything. And I am not being dramatic!

Here’s a link to the Monica Badger article. Thanks, Rich. http://m.vogue.com/magazine/article/the-long-road-back-madonna-badger/