Flower Fairy Hippie Feral Child – or – Life Simplified (2)

beauty in decayMy divorce is a whole topic unto itself. Needless to say, it wasn’t a surprise in any shape, form, or fashion. As a matter of fact, it was actively courted, flirted with and made welcome by me for reasons I won’t bother with here. I was miserable, miserable, miserable. The harder I tried to be happy living against myself, the more bitchy and miserable I became. And when mom’s miserable, the whole house is miserable. My favorite daydream was of at least six months of complete solitude. I pined and yearned for it. I noticed that as a family we seemed so much happier when we had less stuff to keep up with, less money to care about. Ironically, in retrospect I can see it had not a thing to do with money or stuff so much as the pain of my refusal to follow my internal compass – which in no way pointed to frequent spending to fill spiritual holes. A funny thing, perhaps the funniest, about the majority of the advice I was given from Christian advisors (who I felt never really listened/paid attention to me): there were regular homilies railing against trying to fill “that God-shaped void” with material things. Yet in practice, anyone married trying to engage in a deeper spiritual life that whiffed even slightly of mystic or monastic leanings was actively discouraged from doing so and redirected to modern American living. I think it’s primarily due to a faulty understanding of what it means to live a deeply spiritual life.

1990I sit here these past few days rediscovering that bright eyed young woman, realizing she has always been with me. She simply remained quiet, safely tucked away in my pack, likely as not sewn into the lining. Six months post-divorce as I go through my traveling gear, tossing what no longer serves, rotting food thrown to the compost, repairing the useful but broken, I encountered her, still bright and shining like a softly sparkling jewel, delighted to once again be seen and appreciated. And loved. There are many tears. Some of sorrow, for I shall never again be that bright little one I call Bright Eyes and I wonder what life would have been like for me had I continued that path. “What ifs” are impossibilities, though. I am and always have been myself and thus I did follow her path, just not the one that seemed most obvious. Time is a spiral; we’ve encountered each other often along the way, even when I did not recognize her. Most tears are of joy and relief at discovering this part of myself long hidden, yet still fully functioning in the background. She is the part of me that railed against the rampant hiding of my pain behind various material things: animals, children, more things than I can even recount. Some use drugs or food or shopping. I numbed my pain with first children, then with animals. It was easy and pretty much undetected by any but me – unless I told you. I’ve always been an animal lover and a care taker, so it was a natural thing to focus on healing others instead of seeing my own self denial and tending to my own healing. No one was the wiser (unless you lived with me) because it all looked so normal and logical.

455Here I am, returning to that place on the spiral that has yet again brought me home. I think I’ll stay awhile this time. Lay my bundles in a corner, start a fire, sweep out the cobwebs, set the kettle on for tea. It’s time I sat in my comfy chair, put my feet up and had a chat with myself while I rest. We have met once again on this journey, Bright Eyes and I. I hold her gently cradled in my hands, smiling at her and wondering if I might try on her clothing. Some will fit perfectly, others will need alterations and yet others will need to be lovingly packed into treasure boxes. This remerging of Self requires everything I have. That is the price she requires this time. All or nothing. All of me, heart, mind, body and soul. No holding back. All in or pack her away again for a later time. I can’t pack her away again, though. She won’t fit my pack anymore. She has become too heavy for concealed carry. I don’t want to hide anymore. I’m tired. To myself I surrender.

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Flower Fairy Hippie Feral Child – or- Life Simplified (1)

Tucson ShadowsI’ve recently rediscovered a part of myself that’s been with me throughout my whole life’s journey, but for many reasons has remained sort of a silent partner. Before and early into my marriage, I was what I call a Flower Fairy Hippie Feral Child. I was all about life lived authentically, wanting to live in the country growing my own food and medicines, wildcrafting plants for food, medicines and other life necessities, diving deep into yoga, intuition and other spiritual development pursuits. I wanted to (and did) make most of my food from scratch, staying as far away from processed convenience stuff as possible. I read tons of spiritual and alternative lifestyle books, kept few posessions (my then-husband and I referred to our frequent bouts of material unloading as “catharting”) and tried to live as lightly as possible. We took the Native American saying about living for the seventh generation quite seriously. We lived simply and were mostly happy. But we weren’t satisfied with our way of life, thus the part about mostly being happy. We were vegetarian, but not committed to that way of life. I had a serious problem committing firmly to anything if it seemed it might be challenged by someone else’s being uncomfortable with my choices. Huston had a problem alright; the worst part is she didn’t know it. Her problem: she didn’t realize she wasn’t Huston. Then along came Christianity.

Hoo boy! I could go on for days about this, but I won’t. The short story about me and Christianity? We are a very poor fit. I gave it my very bestest shot. I really did. I was the driving force behind getting the family up and out to church on time every week. I had a regular prayer rule. In the Orthodox Church, there is a thing about the home being a domestic chapel and I was on a mission to make sure my home was as chapel-like as possible. The icon corner was huge and the focal point of my living space, with smaller icon corners throughout the house. But I’m getting ahead of myself.

wilting peoniesI had developed quite the meditation practice and was an avid bellydancer when I entered the church. At the spiritual direction of our priest/pastor, I dropped all of it, every spiritual practice I ever had – POOF! Why? Because I was told (with no small amount of distaste) that “We don’t do that.” In the process of learning and avidly trying to adopt the things “we” did do, among them was a typical middle class American lifestyle. The one lived out in suburbia in big houses. The one where you have a car instead of walking, biking and taking the bus everywhere like we did prior to joining the church. The one where you ate lots of meat and dairy products at every meal and bought everything in sight, embodying that distasteful label of “consumer” that businesses are so fond of using and has seemlessly slipped into common usage without so much as a whiff of dissent. We aren’t people or clients, we’re consumers, mindless devourers. We ditched everything we held dear because our priest told us our lives were “too simple” and we needed to complicate it a little more. Really? Too simple? Wtf does that even mean?!? Apparently it meant we needed to get with the modern American program of devour-everything-in-sight, get a bunch of debt and make yourself miserable chasing some elusive dream of life in suburbia and “getting ahead” because that’s exactly where we were steered with a quickness. And since this was how we grew up, it made a twisted kind of sense. We didn’t question it. We dove right in. I drowned.

The last twenty-ish years since that time have been a bit rough, with me doing my best to join in the circus called typical modernity. The thing is, I was never able to break from my inner calling to a deeper spiritual life. However, whenever I brought this up with those who were meant to be my spiritual guides, I was always cautioned against following my inclinations because I was “a married woman living in the world”. To be honest, there were plenty of times I suspected my always-male advisors of being concerned that my husband wouldn’t get laid anymore. NOT ONE advised me to follow my deeper longings. Not. One. It was this longing of mine coupled with the decidedly male focus of Christianity that lead to my leaving not once but three times. Three times is the charm, yeah? I don’t expect to be returning to the Christians within this lifetime. Still, I didn’t return to myself. I kept trying to be the good modern American woman. I shopped, I bought more than I could ever use, I clung to stuff so hard and so long I’d forgotten what I was clinging to. And then came divorce.sunflowers!

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“Mother may I?” Begging Permission For Self and Sensual Expression

I occasionally model nude for artists. There. It’s out in the open for all to see and digest. Do I feel any shame or discomfort about it? No. To me, it is a beautiful thing helping artists to create more beauty in the world. Not to mention it’s something I enjoy. It’s meditative transforming myself into a living, breathing version of a still life, holding the same position for long minutes at a time. There’s also for me a harkening back to when I was a child in love with the camera. I would get the camera, hand it to my mom or dad and say “Make me say cheese!” There are much worse things to me than having a bunch of people looking at me and doing the Ye Olde version of “make me say cheese!” (And just for the record I have no fear of public speaking, either. None. Give me a topic I like and a platform and I’ll talk forever.)happy pansies

Not everyone feels that way, however. I often forget that the world in which I live and breathe, the world that gives me life and makes me sparkly, the world that is my home is a unique place not generally inhabited though frequently visited by most. My world is one generally uninhibited by the shackles of shame, guilt and stifling rules around nudity, sexual and sensual expression. My world thrives on authentic expression of the self in all its fullness. Perhaps in many ways it’s like that of small children. It can definitely be scary in all its authenticity and openness, I’m not gonna lie. In my world, nudity is no more an invitation to or even expression of a desire for sex than a woman in tiny shorts and a bikini top; it is simply natural. And comfortable. Like bare feet, which I also sport habitually. For some, perhaps many, nudity is a source of shame and embarrassment. For these, the naked human body, especially the unclothed female form, is highly sexualized, a clear invitation to sex. “Good” girls and women especially never bare their bodies except in their own homes in preparation for sex with their lover. Some people are so averse to nudity that they sleep entirely clothed regardless of temperatures and insist on sex with the lights off.

(Side note: Yes, I am aware many women feel so profoundly ashamed of and unhappy with their bodies that the fear of rejection is why many insist on no-lights sex. Any would-be lover of mine who would reject me because they dislike what they’ve been given access to freely touch is not worthy of my bed. But then, I would certainly know this about them long before I invited or surrendered to their invitation. Those types leave honkin’ huge clues. They would simply never get there.)

Some would and have refered to my behavior and views as “trashy”. I really have no clue how to respond to that judgement other than to sigh and do my best to ignore it. I do get frustrated from time to time. There are those who think it perfectly reasonable and appropriate for a woman to ask her friends, family, children, spiritual counselor – anyone outside herself – how they feel about her self expression. It’s not exponentially better for men, either.

74910_418856671560159_1523830832_nAs adults who aspire to health in all areas we often encounter those who would do their best to censor our self, sexual and sensual expression due to their personal discomfort. It isn’t a way of life they would choose; someone they see is choosing something outside their comfort zone; they feel discomfort and they reach for our society’s drug of choice much the same as an emotional eater reaches for a twinkie at the first sign of upset. If they are close to us, they tell us their attempts at controling our behavior by heaping shame on our shoulders is “for our own good” or “because they care about our well being”. If they don’t know us, they drag out the old “protecting the children” or “for the societal good” argument. These are the same people who police men and tell them it’s disgraceful to be visibly aroused, that to be seen with a hard on is disrespectful to women and shameful. Arousal is inappropriate. Get rid of it! Everyone knows a man aroused is a man out of control about to rampage through society. A dick is a lethal weapon in pants and a sign of mental instability. Cover that thing up! Quick! Relaxed, easy expression of our sensual sexual selves is likewise inappropriate, disgusting, dirty, highly suspect. These would have everyone constantly playing the child’s game “Mother, may I?” and responding with a loud, aggressive “NO, you may NOT!” nearly every time, though oddly they often have no problem with violent expressions of self. Just look at our entertainments: movies where people are blown up, shot at, fight to the death and/or killed in any number of creative ways is the norm. Even in our so-called romance films, books, etc. violence of one sort or another is common and expected.

I am done playing the game of “Mother, may I?” which is just another variation of the shrink-to-fit game. I spent the majority of my life in shrink-to-fit mode. Considering I’m approaching the 48th anniversary of my birth, that’s a really long time to play a game that isn’t any fun. I intend to dedicate the rest of my years here on this earth plane to exploring every nook and cranny of this being I call me and to expressing myself fully, authentically and with abandon. “Go big or go home” the saying goes. I aim to make big my home. Care to join me?

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I’m Thriving – OR – What I Really Want

IMG_0080.JPGKinda funny being single again. I thought I was being silly when I found myself teary and bummed after Doug and I split a few weeks back. I had thoughts of “Maybe we can give this one more shot with me putting in more effort?” Seriously?!? I didn’t make up the (very good, solid) reasons I had for wanting out of the marriage. I realized it was fear and habit that had me thinking that way. Fear that I wasn’t ready and I’d end up on the streets and the habit of just having Doug in my life everyday for the last quarter century, regardless of the quality of that constant presence. We were there in each other’s space and lives. We had our habits, our shared jokes, our happy moments, our less-than-happy moments. We each took on certain duties to keep the house and family running as smoothly as we could. We were a decent householding team. Lovers? Intimates? Not so much. So, now we’ve ended our intimate association, though we’ll always be a part of each other’s lives to some degree. That quarter century produced three of the most amazing young men to ever grace the planet: half him, half me. We don’t hate each other (thankfully) and though there’s a good bit of anger on both sides, we’ll eventually work that out on our own time. There’s no hate – at least not on my part and I’m pretty sure not on his either.

So, what does this have to do with me being better than okay? Remember that part about the fear of being on the streets? Well, honestly my gut says very strongly: NOT HAPPENING. Not only am I fine and will I continue to BE fine, but I’m thriving. Notice I said “I’m thriving” not “I will thrive”? Yeah. That’s because it all starts now even when I can’t see it fully. My gut says loud and clear “current state: alive and thriving.” I have no choice but to settle into the thrive and expect that thriving to continue. It’s straight physics: a body in motion will continue to be in motion and it takes considerably more effort/energy 10887279_10152499810053414_6311181674237432333_oto change direction than to continue in the direction already traveling. Since I’m already on the thrive trajectory it’s a lot easier to continue than to derail myself, get all in the mullygrubs and decide to do poorly.

I have to admit I don’t really know HOW to do poorly. I’ve been in a lot of interesting and sometimes less-than-pleasant situations in my nearly five decades on this plane of existence, but I can’t say I’ve ever done poorly. Gotten in some tight spots, sure. Been in places that left me wondering how the hell I got there, but outright done poorly? No. I think to do poorly you actually have to see yourself as being without options, as having no way back to a pleasant state, no way out of a jam. Maybe seeing your current state of unpleasantness not as a jam or a cue to get moving, but as a state of being. I’ve never had that perspective. Plenty of times the Lady has had to give me a shove or kick my butt to get me moving again, especially when I’m being particularly stubborn and silly running the same rutty pattern pretending I can’t see over the edges of the ruts I’m in (like my up-until-recently living situation). Still, my habit has never been to stare at the ground and pretend there’s no sky. Funny how falling can change your perspective on the quick and force the sky into view. 

 

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Changes and Storm’s Brew

01668_upcomingfoghighway_1400x1050So many changes coming at me so fast I barely have a second to process it all. I think it’s starting to hurt less every time I take a hit, but no guarantees. Sometimes the changes are a bit like gulping storm’s brew – a nasty concoction that makes your face screw up and you can only just manage to force down. Often it threatens to come back up. It’d be so much worse if it came back up so I make damn sure it all stays down where I can digest it, however debilitating the feel of it in my stomach. It’s times like these I wish I didn’t feel everything so damn intently. It would be lovely to be emotionally illiterate, numb, stupid. My impulse is to run, knowing damn well hiding in plain sight isn’t an option I can make too much use of, though I think I’m currently doing a damn good job of it. So thankful people are blissfully ignorant of the right questions to ask me. That way I don’t have to answer – honestly or otherwise. But we’ve already covered what a sh*tty liar I am so it’d have to be honestly.

But back to running. It’s something I’m REALLY good at. It’s served me well in the past. Misdirect, hide in plain sight and when all else fails, run like hell is on my heels. I’d love to take that run option, but right now my legs refuse to move. So I sparkle instead. Can’t hand the world ammo with my name on it. Preserve and persevere at all costs, yeah? Yeah. So f*ck yes I’ll smile and sparkle even when the sparkle is caused by a billion shards of glass and they’re all cutting into me. Suck my blood inwards where it can’t be seen or touched. No blood, no evidence, it didn’t happen. Besides, I know how to sparkle so bright the sun and stars get jealous and lust after my shiny secret. Even if a droplet or ten escapes, you can’t see it; it didn’t happen.

This has been building for months, lest you come to the conclusion it’s a sudden thing. No.

I wish I knew who to attribute this to. If this is your work or know whose it is please message me so I can give credit where credit is due! :) <3<3<3

I wish I knew who to attribute this to. If this is your work or know whose it is please message me so I can give credit where credit is due! :) <3<3<3

I’d even venture to say it’s been building for years, each year finding me more sensitive and open than the last. Just bear in mind when you tell the Lady you are Her vessel, Hers to do with as She wills, She will sure as f*ck reshape you and it won’t always be a pleasant thing – mostly because we cling so tightly to the ideas we have about who and what we are. I now find myself living in a highly sensitive body: sights, sounds and scents affect me keenly. These past months have found me unable to tolerate certain types of sound and very aware of differing scents in my environment. There are some really beautiful benefits to all this sensitivity, but not all is butterflies and roses. Death has a very particular smell. I live in a household where people eat meat. It’s a challenge to handle the smell, but I do it anyway because I adore my son regardless of his food choices. And it’s not just physical sensitivities.

Emotionally, I am heaps more sensitive. I can end up feeling overwhelmed so quickly it can be difficult to function in normal society. Yesterday I broke down in tears in the grocery store in the middle of the meat and dairy sections. All that suffering and death in pretty packaging. I spent the rest of my grocery trip muttering “I’m sorry. I’m so, so sorry,” to the animals whose lives are stolen for our pleasure. Yay social functionality!

I’ve been empathic my entire life. For awhile I was able to shield myself from the swarm of emotional information coming at me constantly; I didn’t even need to leave my house to encounter potential emotional overload. I got really good at avoiding crowds. WAY too stimulating. As I type this, I feel as though “I” am floating for lack of a better way of putting it. Not that I’m leaving my body, but rather that “I” am extending out far beyond the boundaries of my physical form even as my skin has become hypersensitive. I feel myself and the world around me buzzing and crackling across my skin. Trust me when I say this takes vulnerability to a whole new level! Remember what I said about death? Well, it also has a distinctive feel that lingers ’round the body (or pieces thereof) no matter how long deceased. I even find myself avoiding inhaling near people when I’m out walking. Not because of their scents but because one breath has me energetically tasting them and a taste of someone is an altogether intimate thing. A lot of information is held in that taste. I used to have to actively decide to do taste someone’s energy. Not anymore. Yes, I’m all up in the woo.

Oddly, through all this I have the distinct feeling I am held securely, even in the moments when I most want to run or hide. Or when I feel the most afraid the world will look at me and shout “FREAK!” while gloating and pointing. I know I will not fall or fail no matter what else is going on around me. No matter how much storm’s brew I suck down. I don’t have a clue where this is all going or what waits at the end of this particular stretch of path I’m on but that doesn’t seem important. Bumpy stretches of road have a way of leveling out again or I adapt and the bumps are no longer noticed. And as for the flavor of storm’s brew, it needn’t be foul tasting. It can be sweet, fruity, spicy, exciting. It all depends on how I feel about it. It’s a tonic meant to strengthen me. Now to figure out how to access those other flavors, maybe even get drunk off the brew. It probably has something to do with surrender, dammit.

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Faith, Courage, Surrender

The ending of a marriage is a BIG change. Especially after twenty four years. Even when the end is something desired. Big changes can be scary sometimes. I find myself feeling worthless on occasion. I want nothing. Not a damn thing. Not even to move. Vaguely I wish someone would come along and kick me in the butt, yank the blankets off my head, yell at me to get off my ass because I’m awesome and I got this and the Universe has my back and I’m such an incredible manifestor, etc., etc., blah blah f*ckin’ blah. Yeah. That. It would be hella awesome if that happened. And a bigger miracle if I listened. But it’s not going to because damn it, I’m all I’ve got. And oh-poor-me-I’m-not-all-that-great. (Insert f*ck this kitty gif here along with the face of gloom and irritation.)

The boys have me and they have their dad and they have both sides of their family full of relatives ready to help them in a pinch. Or a punch. Or an oh-f*ck-I’m-about-to-get-run-over. My youngest wanted to stay with me. In moments like these I think he’d have been better off with his dad. There are moments I just want to lay myself out in the desert and let the buzzards pick my bones. It doen’t matter that I’m relieved to have this whole thing come to an end. Right now I’m busy partying with my fears like the world is ending and they’re my bestest buddies in the whole f*cking world. And they brought some friends, too: grief, anxiety, resistence to change. Give it up ’cause Gloom and Doom Chica is in the house! Let the “I’m not smart enough/driven enough/clever enough/OMG I’m gonna end up on the streets” litany begin! Bring in the tears, the cling-on behavior and the worry. I’m getting all up in it! And then a shift starts to happen.

01693_blurrypeaches_1400x1050I remember my value. I remember this is a much desired change and I had very good, solid reasons for wanting this. That it’s happening a little sooner than I originally planned doesn’t change that fact. I remember that the Goddess does indeed have my back, that I am indeed an incredible manifestor. I remember the themes I received from the Lady at the beginning of this turn around the sun – faith, courage, surrender – and I remain open and vulnerable even when I want very much to shut down and retreat. So many countings of little things that could’ve been better done or perhaps not done at all. So many places previously numbed coming to life. Places where I believed myself to be both right and happy I now question. Was I correct in my perceptions? Was I happy or just pretending? It’s funny how when new enters your life the old kind of looks “not so bad”. Dunno about you, but I easily forget how miserable I felt, how miserable my misery was making everyone else. I swear some days my fangs were permanently distended; the Lady help anybody in my environment. And no, I didn’t actually need to know you personally. I suppose it’s a case of the “devil that you know” and all that.

And through it all, the Big Scary looms in the background, often not so far back, sometimes right up in my face or draped on my shoulder like we’re best buddies. It makes that pile of hidey blankets in the corner look really inviting. Throw in some chocolate hazelnut fudge ice cream, a few peanutbutter chocolate chip cookies and some tea and I’m good for a nice, long hibernation. To hell with all that spiritual stuff! Now gimme that bag of cookies, shut up and don’t argue with my logic….

The thing is, none of this behavior or thinking feels very good. I don’t particularly like when things don’t feel good. I start working feverishly to find a way back to feeling good, even if I’m not actively aware of it. And it really does get annoying to have the words “faith, courage, surrender” popping into my head/consciousness, periodically reminding me of my theme until my next birthday. (Last year’s theme was integrity and alignment. It was an interesting year. They’re still playing out in the background.) For me the most comfotab;e place to be is in Love, spilling forth from my heart, soaking in from my surroundings, cocooning me gently yet firmly in every action, every breath, every smile. I will do whatever it takes short of stuffing my emotions down to stay in or get back to that place of Love. This meant for me allowing time and space to feel into every painful emotion, every heart ache,every newly awakened numb place. Moving through the pain, the guilt, the shame, letting it flow freely through me until it’s spent. Not a comfortable place to be but growth occurs outside the comfort zone, yeah? I think I’ve just hit a major growth spurt. Sometimes it hurts. A lot. The alternative is worse, though: decay, collapse, death. The only way out is through, so off I get, sliding in sideways with a big ol’ whoop of “YEEEEEHAW!” I’ll see you on the other side!01459_pinkblosmitulips_1400x1050

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Reflections on Death, pt. 2

972058_663004823727853_1191019364_nAll the rituals and stories we create around and about Death are largely to comfort and help the living. The dead generally need very little if any help from the living. They are dead; their jobs here are done. There is nothing wrong with this idea, at least not from my perspective. Do what must be done to help those in need, always. Do it openly, though. Don’t cloak the true purpose of what you offer.

Funerals, wakes, burials, etc. are all to help the living accept and integrate that a major rite of passage has occurred. Sometimes the dead do need help, but the help they need is often not of the variety we provide in most of our one size fits all death rituals. Perhaps they once did, but things change and no two dead people are any more the same as they were when alive. What may have been designed to help those along their path from one community at one point in time may be useless to the dead in this time and place. I believe ritual and tradition are in place to help the living, especially when we are grieving and need structures in place to help us figure out what to do next. The structure of ritual aid us, the living, in feeling like we can do something, that we really aren’t so helpless after all.

 

beauty in decaySadness and grief often put us in a place where we temporarily have no clue how to proceed. Even here our discomfort tends to fail those in need, leaving those grieving to figure out how to proceed after the fanfare dies down. We don’t like Death, fear Her mightily. We don’t want some sad, grieving person around reminding us of our mortality. We want them to hurry up and get over it already. Get back to being sunny or at least not grieving so we can feel comfortable again. Grieving is important. Sometimes grieving people do need help healing and integrating their loss. However “get over it already” isn’t the attitude to help either them or ourselves.

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Handling The Changes

images (1)Sometimes the process of becoming gentler, of becoming nonviolent doesn’t feel nonviolent or gentle. I think this is because we resist the changes, changes that we have asked for with our whole hearts. Only the new stuff is, well NEW! It’s an unknown. Sometimes the unknown is scary, thus “old habits die hard”. But in order to allow the person we truly are to come into being, we have to let go of the old, the comfortable, the familiar. Yes, even the pain that we hold so dear has to be released. In spite of beliefs to the contrary, our pain doesn’t make us who we are.

 

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The process of opening our hearts, our minds, our souls is painful only because we, deep in our fears, cling so tightly to our old ways. It can be painless if we not only allow but encourage the opening, the changes. 972058_663004823727853_1191019364_nTry it first on something small, just to get used to it and to get a feel for how it works. Then continue with things of ever-increasing importance until letting go and opening to change becomes easier and more comfortable. It may never be that thing you dance for joy over but eventually it can become something you accept with grace, ease and even (gasp!) gratitude.

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Reflections on Death, pt. 1

A simple fact of life: some day I will die. We all will. I believe that’s a good thing. It’s a perfectly natural part of the process. Life happens, then Death happens. We claim to be enamored of the former and are so terrified of the latter that we barely speak of it, create huge swaths of seriousness and ceremony around it, and endless rules, rules, rules about how we must all respond when told someone has died (laughing is “heartless and rude”, celebratory sex is…. well, who wants to have sex “at a time like this”?, dancing is okay so long as you’re not actually joyous).

Our religious traditions create endless tales of how heavens of varying names are such beautiful, restful places far better than here, yet when someone actually makes it to this mythical place, when the transition inevitably happens we’re all seriousness and tears, often going on about how they “left us too soon”. What is too soon? Why is this a sad thing if where they went is so beautiful?

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If the person is very young we really have a hard time reconciling their death. Here is where we definitely lose the plot, asking “why?” interminably. Why not? Would it really be better accepted if they lived longer, you had more time with them and then they died? Maybe, but from what I’ve seen we’re a “greedy” lot and no matter how long we’ve had with someone we love, when they die we tend to wish there had been more time with them regardless of their age.

There is always the list of what we said and shouldn’t have, what we didn’t say and wish we could have, things we wish we could have done with the newly-dead while they were alive. There is always more: more to experience in someone’s company, more to say to them, more things to explain because we spoke too harshly for various and sundry reasons, more time to love and laugh and live with them. There is never a good time, never enough time; it’s always “too soon” for the living.

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Conclusions?

I came across this piece from years ago about the death of my father. I have no idea if I ever published it but just in case I kept it to myself all those years, here it is now in all its gory, pain riddled glory. May it help, may it heal, may it do honor to my father and all my Ancestors. Blessings.

My father is dying, I am told. What does this mean, dying? He is leaving this plane of existance for another, preparing himself for a grand adventure where most can not follow just yet, nor would we really want to. We aren’t ready. I am confused, joyous and disturbed all at once.

Ronald Francis Alston is my father, but I can’t really say that I know him nor did I ever really know him well. My grandmother told me that he spoke of me often and bragged about me to everyone; he always called me his baby girl and was proud of me. Hmph. The odd things we find out at such late hours. Who knew?

I found myself bewildered at the sheer torrent of tears I shed for this man who had played the disappearing magician for much of my life: now here he is; POOF! Now he’s gone. “The Daddy Guy” he called himself when I was little and managed to see him. He was married to my mother for a time. His skirt-chasing and months-on-end disappearances finally got to my mom and she left him, taking me with her. He said cruel things to me during their divorce that I thankfully don’t remember. It was enough that my parents were no longer together. My mom was a very good liar and I have no memory of my dad being MIA for long months at a time. She covered for him well. If my brother, a few years older than me, ever knew differently he never said anything about it. I was well sheltered.

Now, on the other end of the phone was my heart-broken, somewhat estranged grandmother asking me if I wanted Ronnie’s ashes. He always said he wanted to be cremated, you see. I remembered this much, but even that memory was forty-eight hours in surfacing. Mark, my brother, told me that I had said to my father that I wanted his ashes. I did? Well, apparently so – more years ago than my memory cares to search. I was a little girl. All his life he held on to the utterance of his little girl and in his end times, he made it known that I was to have whatever was left of him that the fires didn’t take. At seven am after a long night of watching movies and dancing in my bathroom (a sacred pleasure of mine – the bedroom’s carpeted), I was in no shape to hear this clearly. Suddenly the mild nausea I felt from being tired and startled out of my sleep became numbness. I’m dreaming, right? Well, no because I could hear Gadget’s tiny mutterings under his cage cover behind me. Oddly, not even the dovey-birds, who coo at the slightest hint of movement any time day or night, made a sound. I shlumped off to bed again, tried to go back to sleep and instead found myself jabbering out loud. The sun seemed too bright to shut out anyway. A tear slipped past me and I flopped over onto my pillow. Doug was awake and hugged me. I wanted it to help, but it didn’t. I didn’t feel safe; I felt confined. I would’ve fought, but I was too tired, so instead I just lay there like a log staring at the red lights on my clock. What time was it? I had no idea, the symbols weren’t registering. Whatever. I decided that I wasn’t going to be one of these mourners who fall apart and blather on about how “HE’S GOOOOONE!” My dad was a funny, good guy and I was determined that I would remember all the good stuff I could about him, however little it was. I found myself smiling through the trickle of tears that came in steady succession. Besides, I barely knew him. How debilitating could it be to lose a father you spent so little of your life with? I was due at the gym where I work at two pm. I felt fine enough, so of course I would go in, even if I did have a sneaky feeling that I didn’t want to go anywhere. Sometimes I ignore my intuition – not always, but sometimes.

me, Aunt Elsie & my dad

I walked into work, said hi to Trish, admitted I wasn’t doing too great as I headed towards the back to clock in. She asked what was wrong and I fell apart – BAM! There she goes! Just like that. As we headed into the back to give me and my flood some privacy, my nose started bleeding. Doug had left less than five minutes earlier and already Trish was calling him to come get me. I was a wreck. It took him twenty minutes to come pick me up. My nose bled and the tears flowed for about seventeen of those twenty minutes. The nose bleed thing is a family trait, I later learned from my mom. Some people get head aches, our noses bleed. Woohoo.

Doug brought me a strong drink, which in the Stasiverse is a cup of regular Lipton tea – milk and sweet, of course. I rarely bother with caffeinated teas anymore, but these were rather extreme circumstances. He also brought me a coldcut sandwich. It made me remember the HUGE coldcut sandwiches my dad would make on Sunday afternoons. Every Sunday he and my mom would make coldcut sandwiches and watch sports. The time I remember best were always baseball games. My dad didn’t make ordinary huge sandwiches, oh no! He had to have his pickled hot peppers both on the sandwich and on the side! EE-GAW those were some damned hot peppers, at least they were to a 4-year-old. They made my eyes and nose run and my ears itch! And of course, the requisite drink was beer.

In all the chaos of the past few days, I’d forgotten my dad was an alcoholic. It was part and parcel of his life as skirt chaser/sports fan/insecure-lost-child-in-need-of-mental-help. It seems so insignificant now, but to realize that all that hard drinking, smoking and partying are what contributed to the recurrent strokes that have incapacitated him and what will be his undoing on this plane. Alcoholism may not seem a big deal, but the grand smiles, loud voice and ready laughter of my father were ultimately undone by this exact insignificant thing.

He had a beautiful smile. Such lovely teeth! I remember as a child his perfect white teeth. And when he laughed, it came from deep inside. He never faked amusement that I could ever tell. So many things seemed interesting to him. I remember riding on his shoulders as he, my mother and I went down the stairs of our house on the way to who-remembers-where, singing at the tops of our voices “All together now!” from my then-favorite movie, The Yellow Submarine. If there’s one thing I remember about my dad’s singing it’s that he couldn’t carry a tune if you strapped it to him. It never seemed to bother him, though. He sang anyway. My mom has a beautiful voice, as does just about all of her family, but my dad was tone deaf. His side of the family had their own artistic talents, but music was not one of them. Ronnie was great with words.

I only saw him cry once and I thought it the saddest thing on earth. When my great grandmother died, at her funeral I saw him with a slow trickle of tears, no sound, just the tears, the red eyes. Now it’s my turn to make tracks for the slow streams down my own face. My children have seen me cry before, though it isn’t a common occurrence. It takes a lot to make me cry. But that is a tale for another time.

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