I'm old.

I am really dating myself but I remember when the first e-mail was sent in 1971. I was also around in the early 80’s when we were astounded with our first office fax machine that would transmit a document across the Country in SIX MINUTES! About the same time I saw my first handheld portable telephone that was about 13 inches long and weighed almost 2 pounds!  At $3000 it was considered a gimmick, a rich man's toy, with questionable utility. It was so big and heavy, even its creators nicknamed it 'The Brick'. Plus, you could only use it for a half an hour before the battery gave out. The average salary in 1984 was $9,000. Who would even use it when payphones were everywhere and they only cost a dime to use? It took until the late 80’s for the World Wide Web to even be proposed! All of this technology’s development took about 10 years. We were astounded at the speed! Unheard of in today’s ‘instant world’! Heck, it seems there’s a new version of an i-Phone every day and a half!

It took until 1990 (another 10 years) to build to 2.6 million Internet users; the approximate population of the city of Chicago in 2010. Another year went by before, in 1991, the World Wide Web went public. That was a huge deal! People were just getting used to the fact that they could send an instant piece of mail across the country! Since then we have seen the development of Hotmail and AOL (1997), Google (1998), Wikipedia and iPods (2001), LinkedIn, Skype and myspace.com (2003) and Facebook in 2004 (only for Harvard students)! These developments were quickly followed by You Tube, Twitter, Tumblr and the iPhone. In 2006 Google reached 400 million searches EVERY DAY! In 2009 'Unfriend' was added to the Oxford American Dictionary and there were 250 million Face Book users. Pinterest soon followed and you could access some sort of Social Media from virtually anywhere on Earth! On March 12, 2012 the World population exceeded 7 Billion people and Mobile subscriptions reached 6 billion in the same year! That means more than 85% of everyone on Earth is 'connected'. Now, in 2017, the President of the United States seemingly cannot go through a day without 'Tweeting'.

During my life I have experienced all of these developments and so much more. What a wonderful life experience!  Flower Children, Women’s Movement, Equal Rights Movement, Viet Nam War. Free Love, John F. Kennedy – “Ask not what your Country can do for you. Ask what you can do for your Country.” My husband remarked, as we reached our 50’s looking back that if our Generation (Flower Children-Peace and Love, Man!) had the Internet to communicate we would have taken over the Government and started from scratch! Sadly I have also experienced much that is very sad in this world. I hesitate to call all the days past ‘the good old days’ because there was much that needed Change. But one thing that has gone awry frightens me.

With the development of all of this ‘connectedness’ I believe we have lost all of our ‘connectedness’! We have lost what is basic to our Humanity. During that tumultuous ‘Free Love’ Era we spoke to each other while looking each other in the eyes. Even when we were angry there was an underlying respect and restraint because we saw the instant result of our words. We could see it on their face. Looking into each other’s eyes created an ‘instant connection’ between us. We could see into each other. We immediately saw any pain we inflicted. We saw another’s Truth. Or professed love. Our eyes created a path to one another’s Soul; a way for us to ‘feel’ the other’s emotion. In a word: Empathy.

So we lost one thing you might say. Look at everything we have gained! Instant and limitless information, the ability to know where our loved ones are at all times, wonderful technology to make our lives so much easier. Aren’t these changes making our life better?

Let’s look at some of the changes.

Friends

We only see each other’s words. We don’t HEAR each other’s words. Or hear the inflections in our voices. Or see the accompanying body language. When we see into each other’s eyes we can feel each other’s words – and see the immediate impact of our own.  We used to say ‘Look me in the eye and say that’ because then we could assess the Truth. We can feel each other’s truth. The words we see could have been aggressive or just seeking truth. But the ‘inflection’ would tell you which. We can no longer hear the inflection; we just see the words. We have always had bullies. But now those people that may not have considered bullying in the past feel safe to be just that. Bullying has become anonymous. And more pervasive. And more common.

We don’t see the impact of our cruel words. We have become uncomfortable with eye-contact or find it threatening (‘what are you LOOKING AT?). No connection leaves us ‘wanting’ and that makes us ‘angry’ because as Humans we need a connection to one another. We have become cruel to our fellow man because we crave a connection with our fellow man and we cannot see him/her. We feel no Empathy for our fellow man.  We consider those we communicate with through Social Media our Friends. No Human contact yet they are our friends.

Business Relationships

We have lost the ability to have conversation – civil or otherwise. We have lost the ability to connect with one another. A whole Generation never learned it.  We have lost the ability to debate in a civil manner. Bosses think if they are to be an effective Boss they must rule with an Iron Hand; they must be intimidating;demanding. Long gone is the Boss you would do anything for; follow anywhere. Day to Day communication then and now has changed completely.

Intimate Relationships

When we look into each other’s eyes we can see into each other’s Souls. Speaking to one another without a word says more to each other at a much deeper level – connects us at our core/soul/center. Use just actions or touch to communicate. This is a lesson that the most successful couples know. Connecting through extended eye contact before love-making intensifies the love-making according to Tantra Practices and this author.

Government

Republican Warren Limmer sits in the second row of the Minnesota state Senate. He says more than 80 percent of his colleagues sit behind him. But he doesn't dare turn around to look at them when he gets up to speak. He might get scolded. It has happened before.

"Then my cadence is thrown off," Limmer said. "I have to beg forgiveness to the Senate president. And then I'll get a slight admonishment, and then I can proceed."

What? There is an actual RULE that says you are NOT ALLOWED to look at someone when you speak in the Minnesota State Senate!

Minnesota Senate Rule 36.8 requires that all remarks during debate be addressed to the Senate president at the front of the chamber. It has been on the books forever. And it's actually a rule most state legislatures have. Even the U.S. Senate has it! And we wonder why they are in such disarray?! But Minnesota — known for its ‘Minnesota Nice’ — takes it one step further, interpreted to mean that senators cannot look at each other during debate.

Some Minnesotans say banning eye contact in the state Legislature reflects Minnesota values. How sad is that? Rule 36.8 simply reads "All remarks during debate shall be addressed to the President." When Sen. Tom Bakk became majority leader two years ago, he read that to mean senators cannot look at each other during debate.

"Going through the president forces people to listen rather than watch facial expressions and look at each other, which sometimes I think kind of inflames some of the rhetoric going back and forth," Bakk said.

Some senators, like Limmer, wanted the rule changed. But most of his colleagues disagreed. When he proposed it the state Senate voted 44-15 to keep the rule. In this day and age of intense political rancor, Minnesota is trying to keep things, well, nice. But does a lack of eye contact really keep things more civil? Nice? The answers might be found, believe it or not, in animal behavioral science.

He added that he believes it elevates decorum — because eye contact can make people more aggressive. And to prove he's right, he said to consider the sometimes unruly Minnesota state House, which doesn't have the rule. Interestingly the Animal Kingdom interprets ‘eye contact’ as aggression. Have we reverted to Animal Behavior? What has happened to our Humanity?

We must be the Change Makers! Small changes like 'eye-contact' will make a big difference. Paying attention to our words will make a big difference. Being kind will make a big difference. Changing our way of thinking will make a big difference. We choose our way of thinking! Think outside yourself! Think first about what can I do to make another smile? Just one person a day. Every day! The change will spread in your own circle. . . .then outside your circle. . . . . . and outside that circle. . . . .and outside that circle. . . . . .and we will evolve.

Evolution is hard.

I have been watching and listening closely to recent events and progress "post election". Half of us were delighted and remain so with the results of the recent Election. Half of us were in shock (and still may be) and are frightened for our future. What I see and have been expecting for some time now is a huge shift in our Human Evolution.

What in the world does she mean by that?!!!! 

I have been watching our World for the past 50 years. I have seen the growing International chaos starting in the '60's. I have learned through further study that any major change is always preceded by major chaos. Look back at any major changes you have seen in your own life and around you. Think deeply about whether or not there were some chaotic moments preceding that change. A relationship break-up. A change in career. A move in your home. I think you will find there is some sort of angst and trepidation before that change.

The change we are seeing right now is affecting the entire World. All of Humanity. I believe our election will cause a major shift World-wide in our own Human Evolution. We can clearly see the divides among us as Humans now that may have been hiding in the shadows before. We clearly hear the venom and hatred within so many. It has been loud.

But I believe there is so much more Kindness and Love lurking in the shadows as well; it is just not as loud as what we have been hearing.I believe it is time for that Kindness and Love to become a very loud Movement. We must squelch the Vitriol and make it unacceptable behavior. Not by fighting and trying to out-scream them but by just plain being kind. By being loving. By being accepting. By being helpful. By demonstrating this behavior at every turn. By teaching our children this behavior.

The next step in Human Evolution will not happen by next Tuesday. It could take 100 years! We will not see the fruit of our labor in our lifetime or possibly even our children's lifetime. But a Movement has to start somewhere. This is not an "instant gratification" type of challenge. But we must start it here. And we must teach our children to continue what we started. It will gain momentum and become the "norm" for Human Behavior. Humans will take the next step to an Evolved Society over the next Generation or two. When you teach your children let them be aware of how important it is for them to continue on. Believe it; be diligent; watch carefully for small indications that the Movement is on the right road. How exciting to know we are at the very beginning and an actual catalyst of this huge shift in our Evolution! 

Share this Blog!

I came across a very wise statement the other day and it struck me quite deeply. That statement was "The American Dream is big enough for everyone." The reason it struck me so deeply was because it was so similar to a statement that was responsible for changing my entire demeanor from that of a negative way of looking at the world to a positive outlook.

Many, many years ago I began the practice of repeating a statement out loud every time I had a negative thought. I didn't just THINK my mantra, I said it out loud no matter where I was and who was around me. Whenever I had a negative thought of any kind I would say "There is enough in this world for everyone." My first week of this practice I'm sure people thought I had gone stark raving mad (a short trip!) because it seemed that was all I was saying! It certainly demonstrated to me just how MANY negative thoughts I was having! The second week my mantra-chanting was so much less! By the third week I didn't use my mantra even once! My whole life changed. I was speaking differently, people were speaking differently to me, positive things started happening to me EVERYDAY! I have recommended the practice to many since!

I have been in deep thought since the Election. I am disappointed to say the least. But because I learned a very long time ago that we must find the positive I think we can come up with a similar practice to offset the negativity and angst we have been experiencing for the last year and a half and may be faced with as we go forward. Let's each come up with our very own "Kindness Movement" that we can each begin within our own circles.

Make a plan to have our kids put together regular packages to give out to a Homeless person or needy Senior; plan to anonymously pay for someone's meal or groceries weekly; build a "Buddy-Bench" to place at the local school's recess area where a lonely kid can find a friend; start a "smiling campaign" and try to break your record every week for how many strangers you smiled at (this would be a great competition for the kids!). We're coming into the Holiday Season so gather the family to create your very own "Kindness Movement". 

I am sure things will turn around and we will become a much kinder society and maybe even world, if this takes off. Share this Blog with all your friends and family. Ask them to pass it on as well. If the 'Bucket Campaign' could go viral so can this! And you won't have to get wet!!

Our Children

In this chaotic world where we cannot predict what will happen from one moment to the next we need to consider how do we teach our children to navigate through the chaos as they grow. If we are not pleased with what we see happening in the World we must identify what specifically we do not like about what we see and teach our children to behave in the opposite way. 

If we do not like the fear and animosity we see, we must teach our children to be calm and confident. Teach them that everyone has the right to feel and live the way they want as long as they are not hurting anyone else. Think deeply about that in every instance where people are judged. If everyone has that right, including us, there is nothing to fear or be angry about. Teach them how to deal with anger in a positive way. Do not lash out. Do not get angry.

If we do not like the racism we see, we must teach our children that we are all the same no matter how we may seem different; that those differences are a good thing. How boring would this World be if we are all the same? Children learn racism from adults; they are not even close to racist as children! Don't teach them. Even if you feel racist tendencies. Know that you learned those tendencies from an adult in your life before you had any of those feelings! Don't let your children see that!

We must teach our children to not accept behaviors we do not want to see. We must teach them to be Advocates for others when they see another being treated with the behavior we do not want to see. They need to know they should speak up in defense of those being treated unfairly; that if they don't speak up they are essentially saying it's okay! And that is not okay. But this does not mean they should treat anyone unkindly. Since none of us want to be treated unkindly; all of our interactions should be done in kindness. Everyone else was taught their behaviors by an adult in their life as well. We must demonstrate the behavior we want to see. If we lash out others will automatically defend themselves and lash back. It is very difficult to react in anger to kindness. People need to be retaught acceptable behavior. 

It all is based in 'Love". Love others; don't judge them. Love the World, Love Life; everything in the World is alive-people, flowers, trees, air, water, soil, EVERYTHING! We, as individuals, have no right to determine how anyone or anything exists in this World unless they are hurting someone or something else. Because we should realize that we are all connected and if someone or something is being hurt we are also being hurt. 

The only way we will eradicate unacceptable behavior is to stop accepting it and stop behaving that way ourselves! IT IS OUR BUSINESS! IT IS OUR WORLD! OUR CHILDREN"S WORLD!

I have found a Publisher for my new book!

I am beginning a new adventure! With my Writing AND my Marketing background. I have befriended a wonderful local woman who just happens to be in the beginning stages of launching her own Publishing company: Buddha Frog Press. How fortuitous! She has written and had published over 40 books! She knows her stuff as far as publishing is concerned! When I met with her to talk about publishing my new book, Christina; a Life well-lived, she just happened to mention she might need a helping hand with Marketing. Enter Jill! I think she was just as thrilled as I am. I have been developing a comprehensive Marketing Strategy ever since!

'Christina' will be out within the next year along with another book she has written so expect to hear a lot more from Buddha Frog Press over the next year. There is a lesson here too. Never be afraid to pursue something you want! And keep your eyes and ears open to be aware of opportunities where you least expect them! I met Laurie Berry Clifford (the Publisher/Author) at my Sunday Jubilee gathering. She had written a book and was offering it for sale after Jubilee so I approached her asking for an introduction to her Publisher. "You're looking at her!" she remarked. 

Don't hesitate to approach people you do not know. We are all the same. We are all just people! If I had been intimidated (if you know me you know intimidation is not in my vocabulary!) by the fact that she was a Published Author I not only would have missed the opportunity to have my book published but I also would never have learned of this great fun opportunity to help her build a new company!

As long as you are respectful, kind with your words, and have a big smile on your face you can ask anybody anything! I don't care if you are the King of Jordan! You are just a person. Believe that EVERY PERSON ON THIS EARTH is going through their day with the same thoughts and concerns as anyone else (with situational adjustments). Heck! We all poop! You will realize EVERYONE is approachable. The worst they can say is 'no' and you won't be any worse off than you were before you asked. But, HOLY MACKEREL what if they say 'yes'! They might need some toilet paper if nothing else! GO FOR IT!

 

Writing is an art.

I arrive at my Blog today questioning what I am going to write. I think I need to write about writing itself. Writing has always been a joy for me. I have always considered using language an art form. It has been a way for me to work through something on my mind. It has also been a way for me to entertain, teach and amuse my readers. It has been a way for me to expose and heal my own depths. 

While I lived in Faribault, Minnesota I had been having lots of fun writing about food; passing on knowledge, recipes and learned methods, and having lots of fun with a myriad of 'food subjects' for a publication named Southern Minnesota Scene. Then my Beloved was in the process of passing into the next World. I found my writing was a way for me to identify the anguish I was feeling; to name it; to look at it and examine it. I needed to see it at my depth so I could move through it. My Editor indulged me.

When I moved to this wonderful and spiritual community of Asheville, North Carolina I wanted and needed to continue with my writing. I engaged with a beautiful magazine called Plough to Pantry (yea food!). I offered to donate my services to this fledgling publication to establish myself as a local writer. Win-win, right?

This experience ended up transforming my writing. But not in a positive way. Before I knew it my writing had lost its color. The Editor I was working with worked under 'very strict' journalistic rules: who, what, where, when, how; right down to the lone comma. And very strict 'word-count' rules. This was all understandable for a brand new entity building its structure. I thought it would be good for my writing. I thought it would help me be a more succinct and forceful writer. It did not.

The Southern Minnesota Scene called and asked if I would take on a project remotely. I was delighted! I plunged into my research to create what I thought would be a much better piece of writing than I had provided for them in the past.

Wrong. I lost my ability to put myself, my personality, my voice into my writing. I was succinct with a capital "S"! I realized this two ways: 1. my former Editor (who is a caring and genuine man) did not use my submission, and 2. another very talented writer read some of my writing (a book I am writing-more on that later) and commented that there was no 'voice' in my story. My former Editor said nothing to me. My former Editor still paid me for my story. My former Editor wrote the story himself. Did I say he is a caring and genuine man? That other very talented writer woke me up!

I think this experience (or Epiphany, if you will!) will actually end up making me a better writer though. Before I would just write. Now I just write and review and rewrite and tweak and reread and make constant use of a thesaurus. I think I'm back! And I think better than ever!

 

Returning to the world . . . . .

I have been absent from my Blog for a while. I was absent from the World for more than two years. It has been a long struggle back. And I am not completely back to where I was before. I can never return there. I am different. I must re-enter the World from an alternate door. But I have entered with both feet. 

I have allowed myself to feel Joy once again. I smile with my memories instead of grieve. I talk about my future. That does not mean I no longer talk about the past; I do that joyfully now. You might ask 'has your grieving time ended?' and I will tell you 'no'. I will never stop grieving the loss of my Beloved. But I have found that I can once again enjoy my life. And not feel guilty that I am. I think that may be what keeps many from moving forward; feeling guilt. Those grieving the loss of a loved one (especially someone very close) feel guilt for smiling. For laughing. For enjoying. And they cannot be convinced that they will ever truly enjoy life once again. Or that they should. Our heads know we should. But our hearts don't know that we can.

I have moved forward because of People. People that have brought understanding, love, caring, laughter and joy. People who have allowed me to wallow, to feel devastated, to grieve deeply and were still here when I emerged ready to take a step. I threw myself into my Spirit. Into Introspection. Into Writing. And then slowly into other people. Other people is what finally pulled me from my depths. It was when I finally focused on someone else instead of myself that I started to open my heart again. It was then that I fully learned the lesson of the complete joy of giving one's self to others.

I had always felt wonderful when I was giving to others. I always called giving to others a 'selfish' act because it felt so good. But now it's different. Now it is essential to me. Now I cannot behave in another way. It sustains me now. I have discovered how it feels to live this way completely; completely at Peace. There is no longer any anger, petty irritation or disdain. I am totally at Peace. This is not to say I do not feel sadness. I do. I feel it quite deeply. For the moment. I do not let it linger. I believe through examining myself totally, honestly and deeply I have let go of things that have affected me in some way in the past. I no longer have any focus on me. I have no need to. I have looked at it all. I have analyzed it all. I have come to grips with it all. There is no longer anything anyone can do that will really affect me other than touch me. But there are many things I can do that can affect others. Touch others. Make a difference in their lives. That is true and complete joy. And he is here watching me; smiling. It's wonderful to know I am still having Epiphanies.

Evolution

From January 9

We grew up in a time of social discourse and injustice much like we are seeing today but without the Internet (more discussion about todays' chaos in a future blog). People of other races were not good enough to drink from the same fountain or go to the same schools. People of different sexual orientations were to be scorned, laughed at and even physically harmed. There should be no unions of those with different skin color, ethnic background, religious beliefs, or sexual differences. How ‘unchristian-like’! Would God not preach the Golden Rule or at least something like it? Would God not teach something like ‘Live and let live?’

 

I promised in my Blog Post of January 9 that I would come back to discuss today’s chaos in the world. I’m not talking only about our current American political fiasco but humans hell-bent on murdering fellow humans because of religion, ethnicity, gender, or just saying the perceived wrong thing, children starving all over the world when there is more than enough food for all, water, atmosphere and land being contaminated and decimated beyond repair; humans just plain not caring about their fellow humans. I have come to believe that we (as the Human Race) are on the cusp of the next step in our Evolution. Call me crazy (you’re certainly not the first!) but if you research any major change it is always preceded by upheaval. And the level of upheaval we are experiencing is not only massive and all-encompassing but it all is rooted in the same topic: Love.

There are a huge number in our Human Race that have lost their way. They have forsaken caring, kindness and love for apathy, rudeness and hate. They have lost the ability to ‘live and let live’ and have replaced it with ‘do it my way or die’. They have decided that ‘Power Over’ is much more important than ‘Power Within’. I believe those that lack this discourse in their heart; those that have a Love for their fellow humans and this world we call our home will evolve to the next level of human existence. You might think “well we are doomed then! The darkness and hate is all we can see! I don’t see any Love out there!” I have another experience. Yes the darkness and hate is there loud and clear! “Loud and clear” is the key here. They are the loudest. But the Love is there in great numbers if you see with different eyes. The Love is there quietly doing its work every day. Look for it. See it. Make the choice to BE it. If you do then it will come to you every day; you will be surrounded by it. It’s your choice.

Grief

I have to apologize for the span of time between posts. I had a virus in my computer! Aaarrgghh!

This post is about loss. This post is about debilitating grief. This post is about losing the center of my being; my husband whom I had spent a magical 50 years with losing his battle to Cancer. 

Over the next week and a half I watched my beloved leave me a little bit every day. Richard was declining fast. He lost a tremendous amount of weight; he was unsteady on his feet (he fell twice); his appetite became nonexistent; he became confused about what was reality and what was a dream. He felt like he had one foot in each of two Worlds. He was gaunt.
We brought in a hospital bed after his second fall. They inserted a catheter. I moved Richard’s recliner next to the hospital bed and that is where I slept for his last four days. I did not shower. I did not change my clothes. I barely ate.
Based on what Rich’s Hospice Nurse Kari said on Friday about telling our son to come ‘sooner than later’ and the fact that the weekend ‘on-call’ nurse called to reassure me they were there to help, I called our son and told him he needed to come back.
He arrived Saturday evening. Richard was gone Sunday evening. Our children and I surrounded him as he left. Before he left he told us he loved us all; he kissed the back of my hand as I sobbed inconsolably. Within an hour his lungs filled and with my hand on his chest his heart stopped beating.
So did mine.
There is no way to describe how losing your soul mate, your partner of fifty years, the center of your World, feels. The pain is excruciating. And it does not give you any respite when you sleep; if you sleep. Over the next few days I told several people that I was blessed that my Father abandoned me as a child. Strange statement. What it taught me, as a young adult trying to reconcile that fact, was that if you allow yourself to feel the pain (and it seems unbearable), even lose yourself in it, you can start to heal.
I am also of the belief that we all need to cry every day and we need to laugh every day. It releases you. I cried and laughed every day of our three-year journey with cancer. I continue that practice although the crying is now deeper and much more painful. But because of my experience with my Father I know I’ll get there. I know the pain will subside and be replaced by joyful memories.
I also know that Richard is waiting for me. We will find each other anew and embark on a brand new adventure.

The Lesson: Allow yourself to feel all the pain. Do not put on a 'strong' face for others. This is about you. I have made my journey. I miss him desperately every moment but by releasing all of that pain I have taught myself how to live without him; how to feel joy again. I can survive with memories of him that make me smile knowing he is watching over me. I pay close attention. I have seen the results of him caring for me; still.

See from a different angle.

My Tenth Epiphany.  
My mother had moved back to live in New England where I hoped she could find some happiness or at least some peace in her last years. Her health continued to fail. My brother kept me informed every time she was admitted to the hospital as she began her process of giving up her battle and her body quickly deteriorated. He visited her regularly but she was basically alone. I felt emptiness for her. I don’t know whether she felt the same emptiness. When she was with us she would not accept any change in how we interacted with one another and I could not accept our relationship remaining the same. Stalemate.  
On August 12, at 4 a.m., our telephone rang. It was my brother. She had passed peacefully only a half hour before.  I was strangely very calm; strangely relieved for her.  
 

Goodbye

I’m reaching deep into my heart to celebrate the sacrifices that my mother made. I believe because of her I am now able to reach that deep place in my heart. I believe that, as a spirit before entering this life, she selflessly chose to live a life with no comfort, with no happiness, with no peace, with no love. She chose this life to show her children a choice, a dark choice and direct us toward each other to recognize another choice. She directed us to choose comfort, choose happiness, choose peace, and choose love. I am so grateful to her for this sacrifice. For so long I was baffled why this incredibly intelligent woman could not see that love and happiness were so valuable; why she resisted to her last breath every attempt to bring her there. I know now, if she had succumbed to happiness and love I would not have traveled the entire journey to this place; this deep place in my heart. I would have believed she somehow finally ‘got it’ instead of realizing where she wanted me to go: It doesn’t matter what the question is, love and compassion are always the answer.  My final step is the ability to love her and thank her for her darkness and her sacrifice.   Thank you Mom.

The Lesson: Finding a way to forgive and letting go of anger and resentment is a gift to yourself. You will empty yourself of your pain which will give you so much room to fill with love and light.

“When we release the bitterness, judgment and blame of the past, whether of ourselves or others, the past becomes a stepping stone to spiritual growth, to increased compassion, understanding and love.”  Mary Manin Morrissey  

Change.

"Everyone has a photographic memory. Some just don't have film." Anonymous

This Blog is meant to demonstrate that sometimes you need to be able to allow yourself to 'give up'; sometimes you have to make a choice and walk away with your own permission. It's a long one. It's all about how my relationship with my Mother came to an end.

My mother and I had two huge ‘blow ups’ before Richard and I moved away to Illinois. They were both basically over the same thing; her lack of respect for my role as a parent. My son and I had an argument during his rebellious high school years. He decided to run away from home. I had no idea for several days where he had gone. I was worried but I knew he was safe because he was attending school. What I didn’t know was that he had been staying with my mother. How could she not call me to let me know he was with her?

I went to her house to resolve the issue with my son but also to confront my mother about her lack of consideration for my feelings and concerns. I was incredibly angry with her and started yelling the moment she opened the door. “Didn’t you think I might be worried about my son?” “Why don’t you have any respect for me as a parent?” She replied that she didn’t call because she thought my son had been right to leave. She thought I had been on the wrong side of the argument we had.

I went over the edge I became so angry. I screamed at her that she had no right to have kept his whereabouts a secret! The argument we had was none of her business! He was MY son not hers! As my mother she should have said “right or wrong, she’s your mother and you need to figure it out with her. I can’t take sides.” She, at the very least, should have called me to let me know he was safe.

She had never given me any credit for my parenting. She told my son that she thought I was wrong and he could stay with her as long as he wanted. I know she is his grandmother but I thought her first loyalty should be to support her own daughter. It felt like she was in competition with me for my own son’s affection. It felt like she was actually ‘pleased’ and thought my son had chosen her over me! It never entered her mind that I might be worried about him.

Reread the incident above and identify what I did that was the absolute wrong way to approach the situation.

My son came home and we resolved our disagreement but I didn’t speak to my mother for over a year. After a year the problem seemed to just ‘go away’. That’s how our family handled everything -‘if you wait long enough it will go away - no need to discuss or resolve anything’.

The second blow up was not really a blow up but just a continuation of the same issue. When my daughter and I had our ‘falling out’ she also went to my mother’s house. Several days passed before I learned where she was; once again my mother had not called me to let me know she was safe! I did not confront my mother this time. I had resolved my issue with my daughter. If my mother didn’t get the message the last time there was no sense rehashing it. I just stopped talking to her again. During this ‘no talking’ period Richard and I moved to Illinois. We moved without telling my mother. When we came back to the area to visit the problem had ‘gone away’ again. We just began to talk to each other again.

 It’s my opinion that my mother has spent her life trying to escape. I think she has tried to escape painful memories, having any deep feelings and having to take responsibility for her own actions. They each require her to feel pain. I think she felt so much pain as a child (we really have no idea what she may have experienced at the children’s home) that she shut down the part of her that feels. Her life became all about the dark. Alcohol helped her do that. Alcohol damaged most of her relationships beyond repair and it also damaged her own body beyond repair.

After we moved away my mother’s health began to fail. She had an episode in a grocery store parking lot where she couldn’t breathe and was rushed to the hospital by ambulance. My brother called to tell me what happened. The doctors told her that her kidneys were failing. The fluid her kidneys were supposed to process through her body backed up into her lungs causing her to have difficulty breathing. They recommended a couple of fairly minor surgical procedures to assist her kidneys. The results were helpful but certainly not a cure. Her kidneys and her circulation would continue to erode over time.

She had several bouts with her lungs filling up. Every time my brother called I felt helpless; because I couldn’t be there to help take care of her and also because we never really had the mother-daughter relationship that I so craved. I also felt, being the oldest, that it was my responsibility to take care of her.

So now her health was failing and time was running out for us to resolve anything and have a real relationship. I didn’t want her to be alone when she died. I didn’t want her to have to struggle financially any more. I wanted her to feel the joy of family like I had been experiencing it. Both my daughters had followed us and lived nearby. My youngest had presented us with two of our grandsons and we saw them all the time. Her sister was engaged to be married. I knew my mother had never felt simple pure joy. I wanted to fix everything.

After another of my brother’s telephone calls I thought about asking my mother to live with us. I struggled with it all day long. I kept rehashing the pros and cons of having her move in. Back and forth. Back and forth. On one hand, we had big problems getting along. On the other hand, I had learned a new way to communicate; I could ‘handle’ any conflicts. But our family was so happy; how could I bring this disruption into the mix? I was more emotionally stable than she was; I can do it. How can I ask Richard to open his happy home to what he knew would be a huge and difficult adjustment. I can’t let her die alone without having experienced pure joy once in her life.

I was still struggling with it when I arrived home from work. Richard was home. He kissed me ‘hello’ and said “I think your mother should come live with us.”

I fell in love with him all over again.

I called both my sister and my brother to discuss it before I called my mother. I wanted to make sure they thought it would be a good idea. They both said the same thing to me. “Are you sure you want to do this to yourself?” I reassured them both that I was in a different place now. I could handle it. I called my mother. I said I wanted to ask her something and I wanted her to give it a lot of thought. I told her that we wanted her to live with us; that we wanted her to use her Social Security check for whatever she wanted, not for rent, utilities and food; that we wanted her to be with her family. I told her I would understand if she didn’t want to move half way across the country away from all her friends and she should think long and hard about this big a change.

She was delighted! Her first words were “I think I’m going to cry.” She agreed and cited two rules that she required us to abide. We must agree to play her favorite game with her (Scrabble) and to tell her if she was being an ‘asshole’ (her words). I had one rule. If we had a conflict we would talk it through. We both agreed to the rules. We set a date and my brother helped her start packing. When she arrived at the airport I gave her a hug and said “Welcome Home”. There were fresh flowers waiting for her in her new bedroom with a ‘welcome home’ card. 

I had her all set up with new doctors so her medical care wouldn’t skip a beat. I was consulting so I could arrange my schedule to drive her to all of her appointments. I arranged for her to receive financial assistance for her numerous medications. There was a county senior citizen bus that could transport her anywhere she wanted to go within the county for two dollars. Many of the towns in the area had thriving Senior Centers that hosted weekly ‘Scrabble Clubs’.

What a 'good daughter' I was. Right?

Dinner was prepared every day when I got home from work! This was almost like having a wife! The three of us would sit out on the patio and have dinner and a glass of wine. She got to know our grandsons when they visited each weekend. This would work out just fine!

One weekend evening (not thirty days later) while we were all out in the back yard I noticed that she had gone into the house. When she didn’t return in a few minutes I went to see where she was. I found her sitting in the kitchen by herself with a scowl on her face. I asked her what was wrong. She said she couldn’t handle it when the ‘boys’ were there. She said in an angry voice that they were totally undisciplined. I replied that it had been a long time since she was around small children. I thought it might take awhile for her to get used to it. I explained that a big part of the reason for her being there was to build a relationship with her family. Her response was how could she have a relationship with them when she didn’t even like them!? She said she didn’t want to talk about this anymore and she retreated to her bedroom.

I followed her and reminded her of our agreement to work through conflicts. I told her of my wish for her to experience joy; that it was my reason for asking her to live with us in the first place. I told her I didn’t want us to find ourselves not speaking to each other again. If we worked through small conflicts we wouldn’t be faced with large ones like before.

She didn’t like the fact that I wouldn’t let this drop. She became very angry telling me she never did know why I had stopped talking to her either time, that those boys didn’t want to have a relationship with her anyway, that my house didn’t reflect anything about her and she didn’t appreciate my psychoanalyzing her!

She pushed all the right buttons. I got angry and reacted. I told her she was the adult. It was her responsibility to build a relationship with her great-grandsons, not theirs. They were six and two years old! If she didn’t know why I stopped talking to her after my screaming why before I stopped then we had a bigger problem; her comprehension abilities. I reminded her that we had displayed many of her things throughout my house so she would feel at home and that maybe she needed a professional to psychoanalyze her and help us with our relationship because it was clear we couldn’t do it by ourselves.

I made an appointment with a family therapist the following week. We drove in silence. It was clear not only to me but immediately to the therapist that she did not want anything to do with this appointment. She stormed out of the session in a huff. The therapist asked her if she minded waiting while she spoke with me.

In essence the therapist wished me luck. She couldn’t help someone who was so adamant about not wanting or needing help. She recognized that my mother was consumed with anger and didn’t think she would attempt to change at her age. She told me to accept that all I could do is my best. She didn’t think my mother would come to a point where she would seek help yet she told her to call anytime she wanted a safe place to talk.

That was certainly the end of having a wife! We never recovered. She ate her own dinners separately from us. We had very little conversation. She watched TV alone in her room each evening. She had several other angry eruptions until she finally brought me to the end of my rope. She got angry when I asked her if something was bothering her because she had been exceptionally irritated. She became defensive, things escalated and she threw a glass filled with water at my head! I was done.

I was taken aback when she actually apologized to me two days later. It was the first time in my life I had ever heard her apologize, to anyone. I told her that I appreciated the fact that she showed remorse for her actions. I knew how difficult it was for her to apologize. But even with that effort I could not forgive her behavior. I had spent my life forgiving her behavior. I was past the point of no return and could not forgive her anymore. I knew her apology would not change her behavior or make any scars disappear.

Again I went to a therapist to help me deal with not only the fact that I was living in a house with a woman that I couldn’t bring myself to speak to unless I had to but also with the fact that I had to give up and ask her to leave my home. I didn’t want to feel anger anymore. I didn’t want to feel failure anymore. I needed help dealing with the fact that my mother did not love me the way I wanted her to. What the Therapist said to me helped me give myself permission to walk away. Based on my description of my Mother he said he was pretty sure she was a Narcissist. "Imagine a little boy who desperately wants to play baseball with his Dad. Imagine the Dad has no legs. No matter how much the Dad may want to play baseball with his son he cannot; he has no legs. Your Mother has no legs. She does not have the capacity to truly love anyone but herself no matter how much you want her to." This realization allowed me to give up. And give up without feeling guilty. I had empathy for my Mother's plight but I also knew the health and well-being of my family and myself had to be protected. I asked my Mother to move out. I offered all the help I could but she had to move out.

The Lesson: You cannot change someone else. It does not matter how much you desire it. You can only change yourself.

 

Entry 10 - A hug and a shoulder.

Some things you can fix; some things you can’t. The trick is figuring out when to keep trying, when to let go and when to just be a shoulder.

My youngest had fallen in love, married and was living in the Chicago area. She was about to present us with our second grandchild and had asked me if I would like to be in the delivery room with her to watch the miracle happen! Silly question. I don’t think I’ve ever been so excited! This was not a possibility when I was having babies. They didn’t even allow the Dads in the labor or delivery rooms back then. And since Hope had been five months old when we met her this would be our first experience with the entire process of becoming a grandparent. She was due just before Thanksgiving. We would have something very tangible to be thankful for this year! I immediately went shopping!

Since we had moved to the Minneapolis area the year before I drove the seven hours to her and her husband’s home the day before she was scheduled to have her labor induced. A scheduled birth! How convenient for me! I had been apprehensive of the thought that she would go into labor and give birth before I could get there. We had a family history of expeditious labors. Her appointment was two days before Thanksgiving. I felt as if I had wings for what was normally a tiring trip and could hardly contain my excitement. If I didn’t have to stop for gas (and the restroom) I certainly wouldn’t have!

I should preface this entire story to let you know that the longest labor I had experienced myself was five hours with my first born. My labor with each of the girls was only two hours. I think my body was tailor made for pumping out babies. The nurses were not able to get my mom to the delivery room in time. She delivered my brother in the labor room. My daughter did not expect her labor to be any different.

The appointment was at 7:00 a.m. Everything was ready. We set up her music. The nurses prepped her and gave instructions to Andy and me. We turned on the television to pass the time until the excitement would begin.

Ten hours later our grandson had still not presented himself and I think my daughter was starting to be a little irritated with the entire process. I’m very lucky I was not within reaching distance when I said (tongue-in-cheek to lighten the mood), “Well, who was it that made you think this was going to be a short and easy procedure?” The look in her eyes told me that humor was not going to be appropriate at this time.

Another five hours passed before Lucas entered our world. I was in awe of the experience. Being at the receiving end was totally different than the shipping end. He, of course, was perfect; round, pink, and soft, with all of his digits attached.  My son-in-law and I went home to make last minute preparations for the big arrival.

Overnight his breathing had become shallow. It was a concern enough for the doctors to insist that Lucas stay in the hospital another day. My daughter, her husband and I went home without a baby.

The house was thick with absolute stillness and silence. You could hear yourself breathe. That evening I found her sitting on the edge of her bed with her head hung low - just sitting. My heart was breaking when I sat next to her. She was supposed to be bringing home her child. It was supposed to have been a joyous day. I put my arm around her and said “I have no words of wisdom for you. This stinks. This hurts. This is scary.” We both cried.

“I'll lean on you and you lean on me and we'll be okay.”
 Dave Matthews

Thanksgiving was not what we had intended. Although the baby had improved he was not with us that day. The day was filled with forced smiles and conversation. The feast was not quite as tasty or succulent as was anticipated. This had nothing to do with the skill of the cook!

Almost immediately after dinner the telephone rang and we all stopped moving. My daughter seized the receiver. We were all on the edge of our seats and watching intently for any sign of what the caller was saying. There were a lot of “yeses”, “no’s” and head nodding. Then it happened.

She always had such a beautiful smile.

The doctors had taken very good care of him and Lucas came home the day after Thanksgiving. He was as perfect as we first thought he was.

The Lesson: You don't have to have the solution to every problem. None of us has the solution to every problem. There are many situations where trying to offer a solution will not be accepted as assistance. Sometimes offering that shoulder to cry on is exactly what is needed.

Entry 9 - Being there. . . . .

“There are no accidents in this universe. Everything operates according to perfect law. No thing can happen to us.  Everything happens through us.”
-Mary Manin Morrissey

 You can imagine how close my brother and I became experiencing the circumstances of our lives together only three years apart in age. I always felt it was my responsibility to protect my brother. He was just young enough that I was the caretaker but old enough for us to become friends. And we became the very closest of friends. We have the same sense of humor (although his is much quicker and a lot more off-beat) and our thoughts even moved along the same line at the same time. We thought so much alike we finished each other’s sentences. I think at one time we were convinced we must have lived other lives together. My brother was not a ‘rough and tumble’ boy. I was the ‘rough and tumble’ one; the protector. Whenever anyone picked on him or teased him I was there to stand up for him.

After our son was born Richard and I moved out on our own. Bruce was left to live with mother, her new husband and our little sister Amy. He was sixteen. For the next two years he spent the majority of his school time at my apartment. He would arrive first thing in the morning, spend the day and go home at the time he would normally go home from school. I have no idea why I thought this was o.k. or how all of this got past the school or my mother but it did. He hated being at school. He quit before graduating. In retrospect I think he may have been bullied and teased at school.

He was barely twenty-three in the early ‘70’s when he dropped the ‘bomb’. . . he was gay. No one was surprised but me. I think I had spent so many years defending him it was hard for me to realize ‘they’ had been right all along. Although this was a time in history of great social change we certainly were not at a place in time where this was a commonplace announcement. We still aren’t there forty years later. It was an incredibly courageous thing to do.

Now the real job of defending my brother had begun. And I was going to start where I thought the source was! Our father! I believed if he had been there for him this would never have happened. I thought my father’s rejection had caused my brother to have to live a very difficult life. And I was angry! I decided it was time for the two of us to confront him.

The last time I had seen or heard from my father was my twelfth birthday (1962). He had taken me out for a night of dinner and dancing at the old Statler Hilton Hotel in downtown Boston. I never felt so special. When we got up to dance the floor cleared and we were the only ones dancing. The magic was back. The entire dining room applauded when the music stopped. That night was when all of our communication stopped as well. I guess it was his way of saying goodbye.

He had re-married. We had his address in Connecticut. I was determined that we would see him, tell him the news and he would do the fatherly thing and make everything o.k.

We drove for what seemed like forever before we reached the base of his driveway. It was long, winding and edged by what felt like jungle all the way to the clearing at the top. My recurring dream flooded back to me. The pounding of my heart sounded like jungle roars in my head. Time stopped when I saw him at the top of the drive washing his car. He looked up. He put down his cloth. He walked into the house through the garage and pulled down the door. All in slow motion.

That was the last glimpse I had of my father until I was in my fifties.. His new wife rebuffed us at the door. She said, “Stop badgering him. This is too hard for him.”

We sat in the car hoping he would change his mind until the police car appeared behind us to escort us off his property. There was only one thing said on the long drive home. “Well, I guess it’s just you and me kid.”

“You may be only one person in the world, but you may also be the world to one person.”

-Author Unknown

The Lesson:  Those you love are everything. The love they show you is everything. The love you show them is everything. When you care about someone the most important thing you can be for them is their support and their advocate. Everyone needs a "rock", someone they know they can count on no matter what.

Entry 8 - Parents

“Parents are often so busy with the physical rearing of children that they miss the glory of parenthood, just as the grandeur of the trees is lost when raking leaves.”  

Marcelene Cox

I learned my parenting skills from my mother. Enough said.

I felt something missing all my life. It was the ‘comfort’, the ‘hugs and kisses’, hearing a parent say ‘I love you’, ‘feeling safe’, the ‘affection’.  I said earlier that I felt guilty showing my son affection because I felt so guilty for disappointing my mother. Affection felt awkward. I tried to show the children some signs that I loved them but always felt totally inadequate in my efforts. There were always kisses goodnight but not much more.

I watched Richard’s family in awe. Any comfort in showing affection was learned through them; Richard’s Mom, Harriet, in particular. She was so warm and welcoming. I was taken aback the first time she hugged me - the first day she met me! Later, I realized that it was the first hug of my life. Some may think that can't be true. I assure you it is true.

Although I have spent my children’s entire childhood feeling guilty for this I think I have made up for it with my grandchildren. Ahh, my grandchildren. The children of my children. I often wonder if they are jealous of the affection that I show their children. I wonder if they feel as if it really should have been theirs. They’re right; it should have been theirs. I hope they feel the wondrous and unconditional love I show their children truly is theirs – through their children. It comes from knowing they are the children of my children; from seeing life continue; from watching them love their children.

With my grandchildren I found that I was not overwhelmed with the day-to-day upbringing of these fabulous creations. Their upbringing is a huge job! I am proud to say that, in spite of the inadequacies, we brought up three terrific parents!

I have told many people that the joy of grandchildren is not that you can send them home (because I usually don’t want them to go home) but that you have no responsibility for who they become as adults! I don’t have to worry if they eat their green beans, if they stay up late or if their ‘best’ outfit gets dirty. I just have to worry that they are having a great time at Gramma’s house and that they feel loved.

My son, the father of my eldest grandchild, still tells stories to his friends about my letting his daughter have a hot fudge sundae for dinner. She was five then. She’s now twenty eight. And she’s obviously no worse for the wear. She’s absolutely beautiful, incredibly well mannered, thoughtful and kind, graduated second in her high school class, has achieved a Master's Degree after completing five years of an Architecture program at Northeastern University! And I have never seen her "crabby! Her parents have done an incredible job.

And my grandsons (5 of them) are just as remarkable (am I starting to sound like a Gramma?).  All five will be heart-breakers; each with their own distinctively striking and unique personalities. And I can’t get enough of them. I love to hang on their every word, to find everyday things they want to help me with, to read them stories, to hug them, to kiss them. They really don’t care what you’re telling them or what you’re doing. They want your time and attention. Your love. And they give it back to you one-thousand fold.

“If your children look up to you, you've made a success of  life's biggest job.”  Author Unknown

I knew I had made a success of life’s most fun job as a Gramma when my daughter told me, with desperation in her voice, that she had to answer the same question from her sons everyday; “Are we going to Gramma’s house today?”

Lesson: Children love unconditionally. They are our opportunity to make an impact on the world. And if we look around at the world today we can use all the help we can get! Teach them to be accepting and non-judgmental about everything and everyone in our world. 

Entry 7 - Spirit

I start this post with an apology; I have been gone WAAAAYYYY too long! The Holidays were in control in December! I spent a large amount of time out of state visiting family which was delightful but I have been away from this Blog and missed it. I missed my new home. I missed new friends. I missed the Spirit of this place. So it's very appropriate that this Blog talks about how after a 'life-long' search how I found a Home for my Spirit.

“The worst moment for an atheist is when he is really thankful and has nobody to thank.”
Dante Gabriel Rossetti

There must be something larger than us out there. There must be a Spirit world of some kind. Look around at the perfection of how everything works in the world.


I had no religious training as a child unless you call atheism religious training. And the atheism I learned was not through any formal training, it was by example. My mother did not believe there was anything that could even come close to being a God. She believes that when you die that’s it! She believes when you live that’s it! She holds nothing but contempt for those that are involved in any kind of organized religion. If there were a God how could her life have been what it was?


Even though I also never offered any kind of organized religious training to my children I did encourage them to visit as many of their friend's secular gatherings as possible. I wanted them to find their own way; to find their own place for their own Spirit. I certainly had no base of knowledge to lead them in this respect. I was searching myself. My daughters have seemed to find places comfortable for them through their husbands. One of them has studied and been baptized in the Catholic Church. I am so happy they have found their place.


Richard had been raised a very strict Catholic but had his own questions about all of their teachings. I had never found anything organized that felt comfortable for my Spirit but, different from my mother, I was sure I had one. However, in a world filled with so many organized religions, how does a person choose one to be the truth? How can one actually be the truth? Is there a different God for each religion? They all seem to be sure theirs is the one - the only. And there seem to be so many supposedly religious people that behave and believe things completely contrary to the Golden Rule.

We grew up in a time of social discourse and injustice much like we are seeing today but without the Internet (more discussion about todays' chaos in a future blog). People of other races were not good enough to drink from the same fountain or go to the same schools. People of different sexual orientations were to be scorned, laughed at and even physically harmed. There should be no unions of those with different skin color, ethnic background, religious beliefs, or sexual differences. How ‘unchristian-like’! Would God not preach the Golden Rule or at least something like it? Would God not teach something like ‘Live and let live?’

So many organized religions believe they are the chosen ones and everyone else will be excluded from Heaven. And a child, no matter how good, will be excluded from Heaven if they are not baptized in certain sects because they were born with Sin!. And where is this Heaven? For that matter where is Hell? There were so many unanswered questions. At least they weren’t answered to my satisfaction. I struggled to find a place for my Spirit.


Becoming an adult during the ‘flower child era’ had piqued my interest in the unorthodox spiritual world. The Zodiac fascinated me. I am an Aquarian and it was the Age of Aquarius. How could I not be fascinated? Psychics fascinated me. I read voraciously. Reading about different beliefs always revealed something real for me.


“People who want to share their religious views with you almost never want you to share yours.”
Dave Barry


Over the years I read and discussed many different opinions. Richard and I talked about numerous views together and with friends. We had many heated arguments with zealots. I found others that were searching and we explored various theories and cultures. A little piece of this view, a small bit of that theory, this culture draws me to it. I was slowly forming my own place for my own Spirit.


At a particularly difficult time in my professional life I had the opportunity to visit with my favorite cousin and his equally fabulous wife for a long weekend to explore a new Spiritual training program they were developing. I was exploring it to determine whether or not any part of it might apply to a training program I was also developing with partners. And I was still on my personal Quest.


We had always been very close and had many deep conversations regarding Spirituality. I knew they had recently found a church that they had become very involved with. If nothing else, I was looking forward to discussing their discovery and spending the weekend with them away from the stresses in my professional life at the time. Their program is called ‘Great Explorations - An Experiential Journey of Authentic Self’. I have done a good amount of work on my personal self in my life so I didn’t feel as if I was searching to find myself. I know who I am and what I am here on earth to do. I thought I was quite clear. But I still had not found a solid place for my Spirit and it had grown immensely over the years. I didn't realize how much clearer it could become.


We had agreed that they would take me through their training program the first day and I would take him through mine on the second. We could then both determine if there was anything in each that we could share. The daylong program included quite a lot of affirmations and meditation. There were several worksheets they had developed that assisted the student in delving deeply into who they really are. It was a very personal exploration.


During this journey we discussed their belief regarding the Spirit world at length. We discussed how it aligned with the place I had come to over many years. We talked about a number of different authors of books we had read and they gave me a couple of books that I hadn’t read. One that I highly recommend and have purchased for others is Conversations with God by Neale Donald Walsch. We attended the Sunday service at their new church. The service was inspiring and the sermon by the pastor of the church made perfect sense to me. It went straight to what my heart had felt for so long. The entire weekend was a floodgate opening for me.


But suddenly I found myself in the throws of a terrible migraine headache. I think my own newly discovered Spirit was struggling with the old for its place in my life. Wendy, my cousin’s wife, said she thought she might be able to help. She sat me in a straight-backed chair. She stood behind me and placed her thumbs and palms at the base of my neck and held them there. I could feel heat coming from her hands. The heat permeated itself into my skull at the base of the pain. The pain moved. It moved up towards the front of my head. Without a single word, instinctively, Wendy’s hands moved with the pain. After approximately half an hour of Wendy chasing the pain around my head what had been an overwhelming migraine became a small pocket of pain at the base of my neck.


We were both exhausted and I went to bed to hopefully sleep off the remaining headache. Within moments I had to rush to the bathroom to vomit. At the very moment I vomited the last bits of pain left me. I slept like a baby that night knowing that the last bits of negative Spirit had left me. My new Spirit had won the battle with Wendy’s help. At long last I found the missing pieces to the place where my Spirit dwelled. It felt right, it made sense and I felt like I was finally home. I won’t delve into the beliefs or teachings of this group. Every Spirit needs to find its own place. But if you’re searching I encourage you to investigate the metaphysical belief of New Thought. Henry Thoreau lived his life by these beliefs 150 years ago. It's all about love.


I now have a place where I know that all that I want and all that I need is there for the asking. It’s a place where the Creator is loving, not punitive. The center of this belief is love. It’s a place where we are all a part of that Creator experiencing something for that Creator. We are all spiritual beings having a human experience by design. I’m home.

Since moving to Asheville I have found a place that 'oozes' with Spirit. My personal Spirit has been becoming stronger and stronger. My Intuition and my senses have grown sharper.


“There are only two ways to live your life. One is as though nothing is a miracle.
The other is as if everything is.”

Albert Einstein

LESSON: Don't settle blindly for what you may have been taught or led to. Explore. Question. Never stop exploring or questioning. Follow the roads that feel right. It's all about what you can feel.



 

Entry 6 - Negativity

“It is better to light a candle than to curse the darkness.”  Eleanor Roosevelt

My mother had a knack for seeing the rotten apple in any basket. She was never happy for someone else’s success; she found a reason they didn’t deserve it or prophesied how they would screw it up. My mother’s view of the world always had a glitch in it somewhere. I’m sure it grew from her own life experiences teaching her that nothing good would ever happen to her. All she knew in her own life were negative events. It shaped how she viewed the world.

“If you can smile when things go wrong, you have someone in mind to blame.” Author Unknown

My first therapist pointed out that my view of the world was similar and she’d like to take a shot at helping me change it. I didn’t really believe I had the same affliction (as a matter of fact I didn’t really notice how terribly negative my mother’s attitude was!) but I thought, “What can it hurt to try this?”

She told me that she believed a lot of the negative events in my mother’s life and mine were actually brought on by our own thoughts. She said it worked like a magnet; a negative thought actually wills the negative thing to happen. But, a positive thought actually wills a positive event, as well. She said it all has to do with positive and negative energy attracting itself like a magnet will. “Poppycock!” I thought. “I’ll prove to her that she’s wrong.” (Not at all a negative thought!)

She gave me an exercise to try. She said every time I had a negative thought (however small) I should recite out loud “There is enough in the world for everyone.”  She said the statement itself (although it needs to be a positive one) is not really the trick. It was the practice of replacing a negative thought with a positive one. The exercise also reveals to you just how many negative thoughts you are actually having. As you continue to practice replacing one for the other eventually you have fewer and fewer negative thoughts because your brain will learn to replace them with a positive one before you are conscious of it.

I was visiting this therapist at the time that Richard and I were struggling with our relationship, I had been laid off from my job and the regional economy was in a major slump. I practiced reciting what became a ‘mantra’ for me for a week. I was amazed at how many times a day I was reciting “There is enough in the world for everyone”! It proved that I had quite a few negative thoughts but I didn’t see any changes in positive events. Richard and I were still struggling with the relationship and finances and there were very few newspaper jobs open because of the economy. One week to the day that I started my little experiment we received an unexpected check in the mail. It wasn’t for much but it was totally unexpected. The telephone company was returning a deposit we had made one year earlier. Now, you may say we would have gotten that check whether I was chanting or not but we got it then. It was enough to keep me chanting for another week.

Within that next week I had very serious employment conversations with a Newspaper Advertising Director in the Chicago area. It seemed to be a terrific opportunity for me to move my career forward. I was skeptical about whether or not Richard would think it was a good idea to move halfway across the country so I kept chanting. He initially agreed I should go to interview. I was offered the job. Would Richard really uproot himself from his boyhood home for a job for me?

 “Never be afraid to try something new. Remember that amateurs built the ark. Professionals built the Titanic.”  Dave Barry

It seemed to be perfect timing because our middle child was living on her own, our son had moved back home but had a friend to move in with and our youngest child was entering college the following month. But still I thought I was in for a real battle. No one was more surprised than me when he readily agreed!

What started with a ‘chanting ritual’ seemed to be actually turning things around! I was sold on this ‘positive thoughts’ thing. I’ve been so sold on it that I’ve expanded it to positive speech and positive attitude and actions, as well.

“Give to the world the best that you have, and the best will come back to you.”  Madeline Bridges

People are now very surprised to see me in a bad mood or to hear a negative statement from me. When asked, “How are you?” I answer, “I’m fabulous! How are you?” even when I’m not feeling that fabulous. I’ve found that positive statements breed a positive environment no matter what the situation. 

LESSON: What we project comes back to us. Negativity breeds negative events. Positive thoughts and behavior breed positive events.

Entry 5 - Kindness

My third epiphany. 

I had been teaching and guiding the children by the Golden Rule because I had been so moved by the book ‘Black Like Me’. Whenever they were faced with a situation where they, as children, could be cruel or unfeeling, I would ask them the question “How would YOU feel?”  If any of them got into a physical or emotional disagreement with one of their siblings or friends I would always turn the situation around for the offender and ask them how they thought it felt to be treated the way they were treating their friend or sibling. We even had these same discussions regarding animals of all kinds - pets, birds, mice, and any creatures they might come across.

They all seemed to have an affinity for kindness and took to the Golden Rule very well. I won’t, even for an instant, try to say they didn’t have their many moments when they were typical children that got angry, that were selfish, that bullied, that broke the rules. But, as they grew, they didn’t have to be reminded nearly as often about the rule. They each have become caring, sensitive people that don’t have a biased bone in their bodies. I am incredibly proud of the adults each of them has become.

We could learn a lot from crayons: some are sharp, some are pretty, some are dull, some have weird names, and all are different colors...
but they all have to learn to live in the same box.

Author Unknown

There is one specific example in my own practice of the rule of how well it works. I was training for a new waitress job; ‘new kid on the block’. Apparently there was a kind of ‘hazing’ for new hires that was performed by one of the bartenders. It wasn’t an official hazing but everyone went through it because ‘Bobby’ was so mean and nasty to the new staff until they knew the ropes. He would berate you if you asked any sort of question regarding how to handle any of the drinks he was required to serve your customers. He was mean and tried his best to make you feel stupid. And, we were required to tip him at the end of the shift for his help!!!

Every time he would answer my questions with a surly growl I would thank him and let him know how much I appreciated his help. No matter how hard it sometimes was to hold my tongue and not react to his nasty remarks I always thanked him for his help with a smile. I’m sure that every time someone reacted in anger it encouraged him even more. If someone yells at you isn’t your first thought to defend yourself and react in kind? After awhile you attack first. I had to continue to remind myself that I certainly had no knowledge of what might have happened in his life to encourage him to attack first.

I thought it would go on forever. Two weeks feels like forever when you have to work so hard at being nice. Deep down inside I wanted to give Bobby a good slap!  According to ‘legend’ Bobby would just slowly stop targeting you when you stopped asking what he called ‘stupid questions’. But something happened, that in the entire time Bobby worked for this company, had never happened before. He called me aside and apologized for the way he had been treating me. He said, “No matter what I said you were always nice to me. And I continued to be mean to you. My behavior was unacceptable and I’m sorry.”

We may not always see this clear a result of following this rule but, I promise you, it will affect the way you feel about yourself. The feeling that came over me when Bobby apologized was all encompassing. It felt huge. I later identified it as ‘compassion’. My reason for continuing this behavior may be thought of as selfish because that feeling of compassion was so good I want to feel it over and over again.

Many examples of my learning the Golden Rule first hand came from Richard. Throughout my life I had only seen examples of self-centeredness, self-absorption or self-involvement from my mother. It never occurred to me to have my first thought (and very often my second or third) be of someone other than my mother or myself. What I learned from watching Richard’s behavior with our friends on a day-to-day basis was how to think of others first; how to be a thoughtful person.

“There is a transcendent power in example. We reform others unconsciously, when we walk uprightly.”  

Anne Sophie Swetchine

It doesn’t matter what time of day or night it might be; if a friend or relative calls with a problem (their car broke down or they need some help with a household project or they need some help moving, etc.) Richard is there for them. I’ve seen him get up out of a sound sleep at two a.m. and drive an hour to assist a friend whose car broke down. Or he’ll suggest a small personally thoughtful gift for a friend because he noticed they had a particular interest. If he gives someone a ride somewhere, he will always watch until they are inside before leaving. If he drops someone to their own car, he will wait to make sure their car starts before driving away. Richard is always there if you need him to be and sometimes even when you didn’t think you needed him. I’m sure he learned to behave this way by watching his mother. What a wonderful example he was for our children. And for me.

LESSON: “Beginning today, treat everyone you meet as if he or she were going to be dead by midnight. Extend to them all the care, kindness, and understanding you can muster, and do so with no thought of any reward. Your life will never be the same again.”         Og Mandino

 

 

"Entry 4" - Communication

There would be several times in my life when I would reach out for help but this would be my first experience with a therapist. I insisted that we go to a ‘couples therapist’. What a disaster! The sessions only made things worse. It seemed that all we did was point fingers at each other. All we did was make each other feel guilty. Richard refused to go after two sessions. I didn’t blame him. 

But nothing was fixed. I couldn’t trust Richard and he felt it every time he left the house. He was becoming more and more resentful of my badgering questions about his whereabouts but too guilty about his betrayal to say so. Every time he went out the door I felt that same wrenching feeling I had during the phone call. I decided that even if he wouldn’t go to therapy I needed to feel better.

“The deeper that sorrow carves into your being, the more joy you can contain.When you are joyous, look deep into your heart and you shall find it is only that which has given you sorrow that is giving you joy.”
Kahlil Gibran, The Prophet

The decision to seek help for myself saved our marriage and was the beginning of an actual relationship for Richard and me. The woman I saw every week for six months suggested a number of therapies; writing letters that wouldn’t be sent, drawing pictures with no form and reading other therapist’s books on communication. I still, to this day, not only highly recommend one of them but also give it to people as a Wedding gift. Practicing its communication techniques opened a door so that Richard and I opened our hearts to each other and fell into true love for the first time; after fifteen years of marriage. 

“The way I see it, if you want the rainbow, you gotta put up with the rain.” 
Dolly Parton

Surprisingly enough, my very close cousin Jay had actually become very good friends with the author Jordan Paul - small world. The book is titled: Do I have to give up me to be loved by you?  The communication techniques he teaches will work for any kind of communications; personal and professional. 

But his methods take a tremendous amount of practice! I learned how to make statements that didn’t get defensive responses. That’s incredibly difficult to do when you’re feeling so betrayed; when you want to strike out; when you want someone to admit their errors and beg your forgiveness. We would have conversations that lasted for hours because it would sometimes take me ten minutes to formulate a correct response in my head to one statement. I was learning not to react. I stopped accusing and started telling Richard exactly how deeply I felt. How I felt about him, about something he might have said to me, about his behavior or mine, about our relationship, about our life, about myself. 

We actually started to be tender with each other. Many times the awesome power of that tenderness would bring me to tears with the realization that these feelings were the essence of life itself. The most difficult part was trying to come up with the words that could describe the deep feelings I was having. ‘Love’ just didn’t do it. The feeling was so much more than that. I started to use the phrase ‘I love you desperately’ because it felt more real. 

For the first time we were openly affectionate to each other all of the time. We held hands, we kissed each other if we entered the same room or left the room or for no apparent reason, we started and ended each day declaring our love for each other. Our feelings were so deep they made me cry; cry for joy that where there had been a cavernous aching emptiness and pain there was now such an intense all encompassing love that is still indescribable. My empty hole was overflowing.

The Lesson: Listen to your planned words with the ears of the person that will hear them before you let them leave your lips. Make sure the words you say are said with kindness. Make sure they will not incite a knee jerk defensive response.

 

 

"Entry 3" - Looking inward to heal

My second epiphany hit me like a freight train.

Macs (now Richard - his given name) and I seemed to have different lives. Richard had his own things going on - softball games, hanging out with his friends, all-night poker games, drinking, playing pool. I was so self-involved I didn’t know we were drifting far away from one another; not that we had ever really had a terribly close relationship.  We never really consciously discussed our relationship. It was just there. We were married. We had children. We took care of our day-to-day tasks with no awareness that a relationship existed. We just were.

Then it happened. The phone rang.

Her name was Michelle. She sounded like a child; a cruel child trying to hurt me.

“Who do you think Richard spent his time with when he was hurting about his Father’s death?”  “Where do you think Richard was when he was gone all night?”  “He was with me!”  “I’m carrying his baby!!” “I need money for an abortion.”

The air left my body. Something was reaching into my chest and wrenching out all that was inside. It was surreal. I was watching it happen to myself from above somehow. It was such a powerful moment that when I think back I relive the feeling. It was the same feeling I had when I read my father’s letter but so much stronger.

Memo

Out of body. Be back in five minutes.

Author Unknown 

My first thought was not to strike out but internal. Questions bombarded me. “What had I done wrong to cause Richard to want someone else?!”   “Why doesn’t anyone love me?!”“WHAT’S WRONG WITH ME??!!”

I rushed right back to the ‘Poor Me!’

I felt like my entire world was crashing in. Many women would have left their husband without another thought. Ending relationships was certainly the road I had learned about in my life. By then my mother had ended her second marriage. But there was something tugging at me inside. I was torn. I wanted to make a stand; to let him know he couldn’t treat me this way. But, I didn’t want Richard to go. I wanted him to love me. I was faced with two roads. I could go down the path that I knew and that my mother had taken; end the marriage, admit defeat’, protect myself from pain. Or I could go down a path I knew nothing about; examine the relationship. Recognize what love really is and allow myself to be vulnerable.

This was my wake-up call.  I forced myself to take a long detached look at our relationship for the first time. What I discovered was that we didn’t really have what I’d call a real relationship. We both did our own thing and lived in the same house. Once again I had to tell myself “This is your situation. If you want it to be different, fix it.” But I realized I needed help. I needed help to identify my own behavior. I needed help to fix at least what I had certainly caused to happen. I couldn’t figure this one out on my own; I didn’t have the skill, knowledge or training. This is not to say that Richard held none of the responsibility for what happened but I couldn’t control his behavior; only my own. I had to realize that if he was happy and felt loved he would not have sought love elsewhere.

THE LESSON: Look inward. Be critical of oneself. Identify what part of the problem you have some control to change. We don’t have all the answers so don’t be afraid to ask for help wherever you can find it. When you find help continue to be critical of yourself and fully commit to the process to improve the situation. 

"Entry 2" - Change direction

“If you do not change direction, you may end up where you are heading.” Lao Tse 

Take control of your life. 

My first epiphany hit me when I was driving alone on a day like any other day. I remember where I was but it’s somewhat poetic that I have no memory of where I was going. I asked a question of myself for the thousandth time: “Why do some people have everything with seemingly no effort and people, like me, don’t? Poor me!”

An actual answer came to me for the first time:

“What makes you think they have everything with no effort? Maybe they have been focused and worked hard towards a goal!!! You haven’t worked towards anything. Like your mother you’ve been waiting for something to fall into your lap! You need to get your high school diploma and go to college if you want things to change.”  I wonder where Horatio Alger was when he came to the same revelation?

One day Alice came to a fork in the road and saw a Cheshire cat in a tree. “Which road do I take?” she asked.  His response was a question; “Where do you want to go?” “I don’t know,” Alice answered. “Then,” said the cat, “It doesn’t matter.” Lewis Carroll 

This was the moment in my life where I stopped feeling sorry for myself; realized I was behaving like a victim. I knew I needed to take responsibility for my own life. If I wanted something to change I needed to change it myself. I needed to choose a direction, focus on it and work towards a goal.

“I am woman. Hear me roar.” Helen Reddy

I realized I had to step away from myself and take a true look at what was going on. It’s very difficult to actually look at your life situation or your own behavior with an impartial eye. Looking back I find it interesting that my first conscious epiphany was about finances and not my relationship. I think of it as a training ground for recognizing the more difficult and important epiphanies. It’s easier to be impartial about finances than relationships.

We always have a reason or an excuse for our own behavior.  “I yelled because he made me angry!”, “I ignore her because she doesn’t pay any attention to me!”, “He doesn’t show me any affection so why should I?” or the classic “He hit me first!”  We always have a reason for our own situation; our own behavior. “My parents didn’t love me”, “My family didn’t have anything to give me”, or “Nobody taught me how to take care of myself”.

Didn’t I have every reason in the world to feel sorry for myself? To feel unloved and unappreciated? To feel as if I didn’t deserve to get ahead? Let’s add it up. My father deserted me, I had never really felt as if my mother loved me, I quit high school because I HAD to get married, I was considered a second class citizen and incompetent because I was female, I had no money, I had no financial advantages in life, I had a limited formal education, no direction. What a mess!

“Our background and circumstances may have influenced who we are but we are responsible for who we become.” Author Unknown

THE LESSON: What I realized for the first time was it doesn’t matter what may have happened to you in the past, how people may have treated you, what’s going on with other people, including your family. Right now is your life. Right now is your situation. Right now is the reality of the way things are. If you want it to be different, fix it. There is no such thing as ‘Poor me!’  Fix it. You have no control over anyone’s behavior but your own. Others are involved in their own ‘stuff’. You are not anyone’s first priority but your own! Treat yourself like a ‘first priority’. Do what you have to do to ‘fix it’.

To help you take an unbiased look at your situation ask a casual friend or acquaintance (maybe several of them) to give their opinion about someone you know that’s having a problem. Of course, that friend is you. Tell them the situation without revealing who it’s about. Change it somewhat if you need to so they don’t realize it’s about you. Don’t give them any reasons why things are like they are. Tell them just the facts. Ask them what they think about the whole situation and what they might do to remedy it. And don’t take offense at some of the answers you may get or make excuses. Think long and hard about their assessments.