Ramblings or rumblings, come back (almost) daily for more.
What do you do when searching for clues? Not the easily found online answers of where to find the best sushi, or how to build a boat. Rather the super humongous questions, as in, why am I here. Or the more tangible, what am I going to do about it? Or the most important, what am I doing today?
Nowadays, I start by meditating. I used to ask Mom. But then she died. I can ask her in my mind, of course. "Hey Mom, what do you think about this direction?" I could always count on her for an honest answer or her even more honest "hmm." It no longer feels silly talking to the dead. If a response isn't forthcoming, I'll take that as her "hmm."
I also consult the living ... my hubby, a long-distance friend, or a colleague. So this week, I reached out to all the above when stuck on how I might honor my daughter, Lena's, upcoming birthdate and promote her children's story, "Hoofen Floofen Island" at the same time. Two birds, one stone.
Brainstorming ensued, logistics discussed on connecting the children's story to my "work" themes of vulnerability, living and loving after child loss, and revisiting short and long-term plans. The outcomes of these interactions remain undefined. I'm giving myself permission to experiment without worrying about getting distracted or missed deadlines.
I almost didn't go. Pulling on the first knee-high hiking sock triggered a muscle spasm halfway up my ribcage, causing me to catch my breath and I may have cussed a bit. It is always a surprise when my body misbehaves since my mind still thinks I'm twenty-something.
After retreating to the yoga mat for gentle stretching and breathing through lots of child's pose, on went the other sock. Out the gate I went, intent on my mission to Google map my daughter's name at a natural, cosmic, enlightened and, not surprisingly, favored hiking path near the vortex of Bell Rock.
Having sampled a few spots for lighting, slope and a magnificent backdrop, a young hiker paused on the trail nearby as her father consulted the map, and said, "That's a golden eagle." I checked the sky and seeing nothing, decided she was mistaken. But as I turned back to the Bell, there it was soaring near the center of the rock's height and breadth. When it landed, I knew I'd found the perfect spot.
I'm assisting with getting "It's Ok That You're Not OK" on the map in unusual ways and places least expected. Have you purchased your copy? No need to wait until someone dies to read this useful guide. It's full of profound insights whether you are grieving, supporting someone who is or preparing for the inevitable. Click the link to learn more.
It begins with love.
The new life.
Taking leave of the old.
Finding our sense of forgiveness.
Even when it only feels like neutral,
there is movement.
The giving a fuck.
It begins with love.
So I was reading through some journal entries from several months back. Seriously, why do we do that? Sometimes the words make more sense, but just as often I'm reminded of the mess I was that day. But I digress.
On this particular day, I'm chatting with myself about how I'm not as tough as I used to be. Also, that I'm more fragile. But is that true? Was my stoicism toughness or protection? Having peeled away layers of emotion this last decade, I'm probably stronger now than ever. Or perhaps I'm perfecting my balance. It has indeed become easier to say no to things I don't enjoy. Quite comfortable with the no word. So there's that.
I remember my mom telling me how the nearly unbearable grief I experienced from my daughter's passing was a reflection of the depth of my love for her. Not in the sense of measurement like the more grief, the more love was present because I'm not sure it is possible to measure love. So Elaine Mansfield's comment reminds me how the two, love and grief, are inseparable, congruent, and necessary.
Self-promotion, marketing, advertising, asking people to purchase, convincing them to part with their hard-earned money is a skill set I'm not familiar with and most definitely out of my comfort zone. Apparently, this is not uncommon for writers, artists, or any creative professional. We just want to create a thing, right? A beautiful thing that should sell itself. Organically. Magically. Effortlessly.
But as Dan Blank discusses in Be the Gateway, getting the thing into people's hands is as critical to the effort as it's creation. In other words, creation is only half the journey. His book also teaches me to minimize overwhelm and uncomfortableness by focusing on one connection at a time. Singular. Simple. Satisfying.
Sure I have spreadsheets of tasks but ultimately recognizing how I get to promote inclusiveness, gladness, literacy, adventure, and travel makes this stage of publishing Hoofen Floofen Island fun again.
In other words, shine a light on the message of the book rather than the book itself. That's a task I can get behind.
And that first step is always the most difficult.
But you take it anyway. And then another and another,
until you've left a trail,
and you can see how far you've come
and you lean on that when you're uncertain
And perhaps most importantly,
you've shown the way for someone else.
As I focus on all that has happened, all the living of these past many months, I find the focus is on a hard look at essentials and vulnerability.
Planning a year long, cross-county trip, downsizing and storing only our most essential possessions, finishing the production of Hoofen Floofen Island and balancing work time, have forced a cut out the fluff mentality. After all, how does one undergo a major lifestyle change without a step back to basics?
The huge sense of vulnerability I experienced when first developing this website two years ago (Would anybody read it? And OMG, what if they read it!?) has returned due to the release of my daughter's children's story. (What if it doesn't sell well? Why did I think I could self-publish? Who do I think I am?) My personal history has shown however, the release of all that vulnerability is the only path to see what comes next.
I'm quite sure we've packed too much (do I really need 10 pairs of socks?). And a year from now, we may look at those possessions and wonder why many items were still necessary but that's a story for next year.
And writing this now, I'm just as sure I didn't pack enough of the books!
Recently, reading Robin Botie's "Another Precious Summer," and her call to action questions at the end of the post triggered the following comment from me:
"This summer I'm returning to my ancestral home and my chosen hometown(s) from the 50+ years I lived in Wisconsin. Returning to my roots so I may start out again and again. Revisiting the haunts of my and my late daughter's, promoting the tender story she wrote, which is now an illustrated children's story. I will allow myself to stand on familiar and new coasts and declare I'm ready for whatever comes next."
A blessing and a promise. To myself.
A cool breeze tickles
like silk, on my arm
She's looking at me
through the damp mirror
Watching me brush my teeth
"Allow this life to live through you," says a calm voice guiding me through morning meditation. Entrusting ourselves to say yes to the life we've been given.
Building that sort of trust as a focus in my life has been more difficult than learning to accept the fates I've been dealt. Writing this though feels like I'm creating blame for someone or something making the decisions on my human experience. Only recently, I've begun to understand the importance and recognition of how a strong base of trust can be the fulcrum between acceptance and choice.
May I remember today, I have trust, I know acceptance and I get to choose.
Today's Oracle card of snowflakes on a bright red background remind me of the blessings I receive every day of life. The snowflakes tell me to stay connected, and that despite my vulnerabilities, the bond we form together is so much stronger than our individuality.
Today I'll be light and delicate and seek my kind, not clinging to the grand idea of doing everything myself. The card states "do not be convinced you can hold on by the sheer force of your desire." Yes to that! It is exactly why yesterday nearly broke me by not asking for help until I nearly collapsed in physical and emotional pain. Only then did I ask, almost too late.
Ah, but it is never too late. Keep asking, dear ones.
Often we focus on the feeling of being loved and its wonders, joys, and impact on our lives. Certainly, there are many benefits to knowing one is loved. It is a gift to be on the receiving end. This came to mind as Mother's Day approaches, with this year being the first time without my mother and my daughter. Two women who held me up, held me accountable and loved me without conditions.
I've been noting more recently, the sweetness of loving others and the good feels of being on the giving end. Mom's and Lena's physical absence doesn't change that. I'm still loving them in my heart and any action on my part will be directed to those still here, distant or near, family or friend or stranger.
Yes, how sweet it is to love someone.
Does anyone know who said this?
While going through some old file folders, I found this comment in my notes from either a workshop or a book read early in my career. Our eyes make the connection with another before anything else. We can feel touched or turned away in an instant.
What will your logo be today? Happiness, judging, curiosity, sorrow, contentment, anger, compassion, love, or . . .?
It happens about this time every year. The restlessness. Wanting to rearrange the furniture in our small space when there are more important things to be done. Rearranging the pebbles when it's the boulder that needs moving.
Certainly, attention to detail is responsibility in action but today I want something bigger. Better. Different. And to skip the planning for once and just do it. I tell myself that's alright as long as the time spent, at least in some small way, relates to the essential purpose.
Greg McKeown, author of Essentialism, will likely cringe at this interpretation of how I'm applying his concepts to my day. I'll keep learning, Greg. Tomorrow will try again.
The bits and pieces of our lives come and go with our emotional tides. How much belongs to us? For what am I responsible? How might I dispose of it properly and permanently? Or better yet, how may it be upcycled to fuel the things that save me, that are of service to others?
What is beneath the surface? Bright, dark and fertile crystals waiting for the life-giving light coming on the next tide releasing them to shine again.
It doesn't matter, so let it go. And once you let go, forget about the fact that you let go. No sense in wondering where it went either or how it took this long to release what is no longer serving you. There may be all sorts of valid reasons why. You need no justification. No sense in worrying about why it was, seemingly, of service to you. Enjoy the feeling of releasing the who, what, when, and why.
The shadows of my ancestors
the shadow of my child
Take the form of love
take the form of mystery
In all that is above or below
in all that is come or gone
The horizon grows closer
the horizon is here
Carrying me forth
carrying me home
A month of Thursday's rather than the adage "a month of Sunday's" when speaking about time passing slowly. February 23rd, was the first Thursday after Mom died; then March 2nd, the second Thursday; March 9th, the third and today, it's been a month.
After someone dies, it feels as though the march of time shifts. Some days we walk more mindfully and other days roam about with little purpose or drive. It's been a month of tears and reminiscing and wondering. And acceptance. And learning to live in a world that's changed yet again.
I feel her presence in previously unexplored ways; while chopping veggies wearing her apron, when saying evening prayers, while gazing at my favorite photo of her smile glowing on a Hawaiian vacation.
What will it feel like when I have the courage to listen to Mom's last voice mail? We'll see.
Maybe next month.
I thought I broke my foot. Thankfully, I've never broken a bone and today's episode did not change that record. Still, it hurt. A lot. After ignoring warning pains, I took a misstep that got my attention enough to make a stop at urgent care.
In "You Can Heal Your Life," Louise Hay says feet represent "our understanding of ourselves, of life, of others." Apparently, I need some clarity on how to change with the times and feel safe about that.
Sitting here, in the easy chair, with my foot elevated and on ice, has me wondering what have I misunderstood and where I'll find the key to that door. Perhaps the foot injury is simply an opportunity to take slower steps and a reminder to put first things first.
When you haven't got a clue, what do you do? Hadn't meant for that to rhyme. But now that I have made a rhyme, perhaps that is part of the answer.
Write a poem.
Make a song.
Using these gentle techniques, I often find a workaround or enough of an answer to continue and it's much less painful that beating myself up for solutions.
"Balance isn't found, it's created," says the Alpha Romero Super Bowl commercial.
Since Balance, yes, with a capital B, is the word I've chosen to guide me this year, every time I hear it mentioned, I perk up. To me, this message means less seeking, more creating and action, and excludes blaming others when there is an imbalance. It reminds me I'm the one in control of my life.
When seeking balance, I find myself signing up for more webinars or online workshops or reading more self-help books. Not that any of these aren't worthwhile, however, I'm beginning to realize they are likely a distraction or procrastination from getting the real work done. When I find myself complaining about not enough hours in the week to create, an honest review of where the time went reveals pages and pages of notes taken while listening to others' ideas.
When creating balance, my week has morning rituals, regular meals, time outdoors, scheduled blocks of creativity clearly separated from work and call my mother time. By the end of the week, I'm full of good feels. From now on, when I fail to create this balance, I'll think of the Alpha Romero commercial reminding me to keep all four wheels grounded and take those beautiful curves with grace and balance.
A man who flies from his fear may find that he has only taken a shortcut to meet it. --JRR Tolkien
The boomerang effect. Deal with it now or later. If later, the fear can become unbearably magnified. The fruits of dealing with my fear have included feelings of enrichment, fulfillment, being in a more evolved state of mind where more options bloom into reality.
So what does the mean really?
For me, recognizing the fact that for too many years I was living my life waiting for the other shoe to drop following my daughter's death, was slowly killing me, my dreams. Yes, it has been hard and painful work facing this reality. And time-consuming. And worth every minute of effort. It serves no one and does not honor my daughter if I'm not creating a life well lived.
May I be well
May I be happy
May I be free of suffering
It's a curiosity to me that when I direct loving kindness to myself, I start to cry. Why? A letting go? Is it feeling undeserving when other's suffering is greater than mine? Perhaps a sense of profound gratefulness to finally experience being better to myself without feeling selfish.
I can go for days flowing along at a just right pace, feeling accomplished and thinking I've finally figured it all out. Perhaps I shouldn't be surprised how often adjustments are necessary to maintain the balance.
Blaming myself for a loss of self-care focus, for allowing an indulgence, or a temporary devil-may-care attitude that caused the imbalance is useless. Forgiveness, a return to loving kindness of self, a reckoning of my humanness and a reminder to consider how far I've come. We learn from our past to be better now; creating hope for the future.
And as the scales return to a state of equilibrium, let me enjoy these moments with simple celebration noting the ebb and flow of life. It doesn't have to "mean" something when the measures tip too far north or south. A humble recognition is sufficient.
Habitually not writing that is. It's not that hard and yet I procrastinate. Dorothy Parker once said, "I hate writing. I love having written." I don't really hate it, but there are plenty of times when I'll think, "I should write" instead of "I could write." That's why I love her quote.
After creating something, it always feels amazing. It is so much more rewarding than other habits, like making the bed, or taking my vitamins.
I've even set up this blog in a different way to ease the numerous steps it previously required to publish a post. So I start again today with this reminder and tell myself if not daily, then at least every other day.
It all boils down to choice about what's most important.
Soft. The minute I stepped outside to consider a walk through town soft, is the word I felt on my skin.
Moments after settling on a bench trailside to the Pinellas corridor, an older fella zipped by on his Segway, cheerfully playing "You are My Sunshine." On a harmonica. In an upbeat tempo to match his zippiness.
"One tattoo is one too many," a woman lectures her walking partner on the perils of body markings. And I sit and wonder at the graciousness and acceptance some humans find difficult to grasp.
Overhead a bird happily, and rapidly, sang through its entire repertoire of songs, signals, and clicks, even more urgently than the invocation of the First Methodist church bells encouraging all to take up their favorite pew immediately.
Brilliant green flocks of parrots, non-native to the area, freed generations ago from the cages where we fed them bits of bologna, paying us back with their raucous, aggressive and intense screeching, refusing to be mute any longer.
Dogs walking their people, sometimes dragging, sometimes obediently in step with their master's every move, and ever alert to opportunity.
Young couples wander between coffee shops relieving their throbbing temples from last night's indulgences and prepping for Sunday afternoon football.
E-oo, e-oo . . . e-oo, e-oo squeak the bicycle chains straining to the rhythm of their riders communing with nature this soft Sunday morning.
The nature of living things is a power source. Here is when I find a balance between seeking and finding.
Beauty and fully. These type of graces are on my mind lately while thinking on how I might do anything and everything more beautifully. Whether cooking oatmeal on a chilly morning, holding a friend's hand while crossing a busy street or putting a brush to a fresh canvas, there is opportunity to do so fully and with beauty.
If I'm listening to something, can I focus on only that? Greg McKeown, in "Essentialism," says something about focus as a action rather than labeling it as something to achieve. In other words, might I listen more beautifully when expending my thinking time rather than on how to gain more focus.
If I'm walking down the street, might I enjoy more grace by gazing at the tree tops rather than the sidewalk cracks, which raises my head which improves my posture which helps me breathe and move with purpose.
And when I talk, may I speak with kindness and confidence. If I know little of the topic, recognize silence is a choice. Albert Einstein said, "If you can't explain it to a six year old, you don't understand it yourself." To me, that means more listening is in order. I'm fairly certain there is much I'm not able to explain.
When you haven't got a clue, what do you do? Hadn't meant for that to rhyme. But now that I have made a rhyme, perhaps that is part of the answer.
Write a poem.
Make a song.
Using these gentle techniques, I often find a workaround or enough of an answer to continue and it's much less painful that beating myself for solutions.
Recently I came across a quote of John Green's that said, "Grief doesn't change you. It reveals you." Relating this to my life, I'd have to say this statement is accurate. Although I am forever changed through the loss of important family members, out of order death, and the shock of unexpected loss, ultimately, I continue to be who I am at the core.
The initial shock of losing my daughter caused me to shut down for several years. I slept a lot to protect the hole in my chest. The grief revealed my demons, fear, disappointments and regrets hovering below the surface of my average life.
Ultimately through my perseverance, resilience, and hard-working nature, helped me survive and create a life that is very much still worth living. Gone are the days of controlling virtually everything to the nth degree. What a waste of time. I've learned that opening myself, sharing my story, dropping the judgment of all that is wrong with myself and my life, reveals answers to the right questions.