Category Archives: growth

Catching up, Dream-State Messages, Childhood Angels

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It has been so long since I’ve written anything. I’m in a bit of a revolt, I think. My father said he doesn’t necessarily relate to my style, “stream of consciousness,” he called it. I will admit that threw me off a little; made me more self-conscious. It’s not that I don’t believe in my skills, but when we ask for opinions, we will assuredly get them.

True to form, since I’ve last written, I’ve had headaches, so I think that means I’ve been holding things in. Not expressing myself, feeling unconfident. I’ve also been very busy and I’m not really honoring the “creative pact” one has to make with one’s self if one is serious about creating anything. Instead, I’ve been reading books, listening to podcasts, and watching videos about how other people commit to creating.

A lot has happened in the past few weeks. Nothing earth shattering, but enough to keep my attention elsewhere, wandering, unsettled.

I’ve woken with two messages, or statements — one on 3/10/15 and another on 3/18/15 — which I consider to be very empowering and encouraging. I’m reluctant to share them because people will think I’m nuts. But I have decided that I will share them, because we’re all a little crazy. Besides, there’s only two of you reading.

The first message was “You have been written a blank check by God.”

That was a lot to take in. I “heard” the statement in a voice of sorts, just as I was waking. It was sort of part of a dream, but it was also not. I have been deep in thought of late about the concept of shame and guilt and blame and how to sort through those feelings. As much as I felt liberated by the dream I had a few weeks before about a female presence which I believe to be my mother’s “energy” but the visage was of several different women of influence — good or bad — in my life, occasionally something will happen which will trip the trigger on a feeling and we can be “found” skirting the boundary of it all, hence my thoughts on shame and guilt, et. al.

In the words I heard, I received my peace of mind. I am a Catholic on paper and I dig this current pope immensely. I haven’t consistently been to Mass in years and my brother is a pastor in another state and I have a cousin who is a priest across the country. They both left the Catholic faith. I absolutely have trouble with the whole trinity thing, to which my mother often said, “that’s the mystery of faith” which I apparently recited allegiance to for years in one of the creeds I would recite at rote during Mass. All that aside, I believe in God and I always have. Don’t ask me to qualify it or talk about Jesus. It’s not going to happen. I dig Mary, Jesus’ mother like you wouldn’t believe, and so that’s enough for me. The other aspect to me about God is the heavens — the sky and stars and moon and all the galaxies — that to me is proof of God. I suspect my leanings don’t align with the Tea Party (thank you) and other people who think Earth is only as old as the Old Testament guesses, and that’s okay with me.

But this statement, “You have been written a blank check by God” is about Grace and God’s limitless forgiveness. It tells me (whether I believe it or not is really the issue) that I am going to be alright and that the ruminating about shame and guilt regarding my relationship with my now 18-months gone mother (which is now a futile concept, time to get on that bus) is folly. That no matter what I do to myself, God is going to keep that blank check coming to me (and you).

The second message was “For every shame there is a star.”

Clearly, this is more direct. I had not given up on the concept of assigning myself shame and guilt. I had not let go of my dear friend victimhood which keeps me separate from love and acceptance. I also felt I am supposed to share this phrase as well. These messages are not for me only. I am not some prophet and I don’t plan to build an ark anytime soon or start a church or run off to a mountaintop, but I believe that these are concepts that are coming to me because I am seeking counsel, I am seeking relief from a really crappy pattern I’ve nursed about not being “enough” of a person and that in that crappy self-regard, I’m not alone. Hence the decision to share them here. With both of you.

The point of this, like the blank check, is that there is nothing God or the universe can not handle nor predict; all bets are off. There are billions upon billions of stars. I believe that my sense of shame is really more of one of regret for behavior and that it’s something I’m going to have to get over, this sense of failure or perfectionism which I apparently try to pursue and achieve yet never talk about. I honestly thought I was beyond seeking perfection, but I guess my subconscious (and my hamstrings and shoulders and the fact that I don’t feel confident to write these days) would disagree.

. . . . .

I have always taken to seeing coincidences as more than two things that dovetail at the same time. On Wednesday last week, 3/25, we needed to write a check for a field trip for our son. The fee was $44 to cover a charter bus. I hadn’t had my coffee yet and I just wrote the check. My son, noticed immediately that the check number was also 4400. Now, if it were April 4th and it was 4:44 in the afternoon I would have really been freaked out, but I think that was pretty cool on its own.

Later that morning, I had to prepare for a procedure I was having the next day. Even though I wasn’t supposed to have milk in my coffee, I decided, “Fuck that.” And I put the milk in my coffee. The instructions for preparing the preparation for the procedure allowed a tea bag for flavor. I decided to take a lemon ginger tea bag and place it in the container for use several hours later.

Here is what the tea bag tag (Yogi Teas) said, and I am totally and dead serious about this, I did NOT go through a box of tea bags to find this particular missive:

“Empty yourself and let the universe fill you.”

Proof:

How do you not think twice about this?

How do you not think twice about this?

Of course I was going to have to empty myself. Sweet mother of God, have you ever done a prep for a colonoscopy?

I will not go into details (you’re welcome) about this experience, suffice it to say that it was my third time. I go every three years because of family history and it’s the most humbling experience of my life. When I think of people to whom I feel inferior, I remember that they will experience this. When I think of people to whom I feel superior, I remember that I must experience this.

They say that poverty is a great equalizer. I would add that spending several moments in the bathroom to the point of thigh numbness, delirium, exhaustion and dehydration — INTENTIONALLY, peeps — comes in a very close second. What makes it all worthwhile, I decided, is the injection of the milky propofol 18 hours later and trying to communicate the sensation that overcomes your brain, your actual brain, when the drug makes it light-speed ascent to your noggin.

Anesthesiologist [as she is lining up the injection with the port on my IV]: You’re going to notice a strange taste in your mouth.

Me: Really? Like strange how? [Watching the ports line up and hearing the click.]

Anesthesiologist: Um, just strange. Like metallic. [Pressing the plunger…]

Me [watching the fluid push into my line and thinking, ‘that wasn’t very descriptive for an anesthesiologist…’]: Woah. No taste. My brain. Yikes.

Anesthesiologist: What? Tingling?

Me: Ye … [It was tingling. Like spiders crawling all over it, but in a nice way. Nice pretty spiders.]

OUT. Procedure commences.

Apparently I dreamt about my oldest becoming a soccer player for Ireland’s celtic football club. He was very good and I was very proud. Apparently I told everyone about it.

The good news: I’m fine. The bad news: I do this again in three years. I have got to turn this frown upside-down. I have got to determine that I’m lucky to be here to hear the good news and get the milky propofol again.

. . . . .

Last weekend my family and I went to brunch at a cousin’s house. My dad came along and in the car I asked him about a housekeeper / domestic helper we had when I was a child. Her name was Betty Sortino and I believe she was one of The Most Stable forces in my young years in what was a fairly unpredictable home. Betty was short. I believe I would tower over her today with my massive 5’5″ frame. She was a proud Italian American. She had a boyfriend, Al, who would pick her up from her shifts at our home. She had shoulder-length black hair, veined with an occasional silver strand. She smoked a lot. She loved Hershey’s chocolate bars with almonds and she would share them with me, even though I wouldn’t want the almond. I would take it. That she shared her chocolate with me was huge. I didn’t get that from my mother; there was no sharing of her chocolate. Betty drank cold coffee or water. I would drink milk with my share of her Hershey’s. She would come over almost every day and often stay until my bedtime. She would sit at the foot of my bed and jiggle her leg, to let me know she was there and that I wasn’t alone. She would do this until I fell asleep. She would sing to me, “I Shot The Sheriff” in her rough smoker’s voice and I remember the heavy acidic, yet sweetness of her smoker’s breath lingering as she sang.

About that song, I remember asking Betty, “What does ‘dignity’ mean?”

She corrected me, “‘Dignity’? That’s not in the song…” I remember her contorting her face, searching her memory for the word in the song.

“Yes it is. ‘But I did not shoot the dignity…'” I recited back.

“DEP-u-ty… I did not shoot the dep-u-ty…” she said back to me. “The deputy sheriff. He didn’t shoot the deputy sheriff, but he did shoot the sheriff.”

“Oh. But what does ‘dignity’ mean?” I asked.

She blushed and looked down. I remember this as clear as day. She blushed and said, “It means your virtue. Your parts of you that make you special. Who you are and how people know you… You protect that.” She indicated my heart and my body, using her hands to float around and surround my physical space.

I was confused. But I remembered it.

My father said Betty was several years older than my mother. I don’t remember her that way. I remember her as youthful and vibrant. Present and current. She knew Eric Clapton songs for Pete’s sake. My mother would’ve thought Eric Clapton was perhaps an obscure 14th century playwright.

Betty stopped working for us, probably when I turned 11 or 12. There was no issue or rift. I just remember her not being there any more. I missed her. Then about two years later we moved.

My grand father died several years later, in 1989 I believe. We traveled back to Buffalo for the funeral. It was a hard season for my mother as she had lost her aunt, her mother and her father all within 18 months or so of each other. I heard from a relative that Betty came to the funeral. She asked for me and my family. I didn’t know she was there and so I didn’t see her. I would have loved to have seen her that day, or I would like to think that I would have loved to have seen her. At 21 – 22, I was a pretty bitter person. I was focused on my studies and hell bent on getting on with my life. I’d taken what amounted to a couple years off from college (although I took classes part-time to keep me in the system) and I was very anti-my parents at that point. I do remember someone telling me she asked for me and I do remember feeling regret I missed her. Whether I would have connected all the dots as to her huge contribution to my life, I don’t know. I connect them now though. Betty Sortino was an angel. She was sent from somewhere to show me how to share, that adults can be calm and that simple constancy does matter.

In summary, I’m going to write more, not care about what anyone thinks (even though the opinion was innocuous) and just keep at it. Life is too short to get caught up in stupid thinking and there are more than enough stars to handle any crap I end up putting out there.

Thank you.

 

Transference — Tend Your Own Garden

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I don’t know what it is about the winter, but it seems to bring out the bear in me. At a time, when I should be going inward, slowing down and reflecting in order to prepare for a better or new / improved renewal in the spring, I have found myself lately drawn in to the drama of other people and getting really tired of it.

Usually I can float on the surface of such things; usually I can smile and nod, like a game show host at the unraveling contestant on my set. I could gesture to the camera tech or producer to cut to another shot.

But lately, the allure has been too much. I have found myself zooming in, in super-HD to examine the pores and nose hairs of the people in my life, looking for flaws and looking for ways to fix them. For me, this is wrong, and it’s classic transference:

Transference is a phenomenon characterized by unconscious redirection of feelings from one person to another. One definition of transference is “the inappropriate repetition in the present of a relationship that was important in a person’s childhood.”

Basically, I am recreating the dynamics of the same crap / relationships I had as a child. (Transference is hard to depict, and it’s very subtle. If someone wants to help me out here, correct me: please do!)

This is my own layperson’s understanding of transference: that when a person named Percival does something that reminds you of a person named Mortimer and you end up unconsciously treating Percival like you would have treated Mortimer, even though conditions, situations, context, relationship, everything is different.

And so Percival is all like, “Gladys! I had no idea you felt this way!!” And you’re all like, “Gladys?! My name is Hilda!”

WAKE UP! This isn’t about your grandparents.

Hahahaaaa… Anyway…

That is transference as far as I can understand. And it’s unconscious; it is something we are not aware of, but when we become aware of it, and our tendency to exhibit transference in our relationships with other people, our lives can change.

I miss you, Charles Schulz.

I miss you, Charles Schulz.

It didn’t used to be like this. I have had significant “training” (therapy) to help me understand when this is happening. In fact, I quit my first therapist because I believe he started exhibiting transference to me and I felt the neutrality was jeopardized. But lately? It’s not like it’s been happening without my knowledge. I know better.

It was like sipping from the bottle of chaos for me. Look at another person’s so-called problems, and treat them as I would the person that I’m reminded of so I don’t have to focus on myself.

I chalk it up to boredom. I also chalk it up to a basic fatigue of navel gazing, of looking back at the misfires in order to create a more content and pleasant future or present.

It’s addictive, the navel gazing, and it’s really narcissistic too, because after a while, if we don’t make any healthy changes based on our navel gazing, if we don’t become aware of our tendencies redirect, or deflect, or point the finger at someone else, we end up deciding that our way of living is A-OK, Billy Bob. (I don’t know where Billy Bob came from…) And nothing changes. We drink/gamble/eat/smoke/shop/dream/navel gaze too much, we shout too much, we hold on too tightly. We don’t improve.

What bugs me most about result-less navel gazing is that lots of people are into it. As a yoga instructor, I try very hard to live the code of mindfulness, of “live unto others” and be cool with whatever happens because that’s meant to happen.

I had a student who reached out to me. She has since quit my classes (yes, they do leave me). It was not under the best of circumstances that she left (she transferred her past / mother on to me and wanted more of me than I felt was professionally appropriate). But I don’t “cut” people off unless I get a directive from them or the situation goes from awkward to untenable. So as is customary, when I was sending out the announcement for the upcoming session, she asked me to remove her from my email list. I did. I get it: clean slate, start over. I dig that. It showed me growth from her. I was actually happy for her.

Namaste and all that stuff.

Moving on.

Oddly, a few months later, she sent me a link to a blog about yoga instructors and how we need to check our egos at the door and not make the classes all about ourselves and trying to attain the perfect pose and just letting our students meet THEMSELVES where they are, so-called “limitations” and all.

Well, if you’re a friend of mine, or you’ve read anything I’ve written or taken a class of mine, you would know right off the bat, that I strive each day to be a growth-oriented and “it’s ok where you are” type person. That paradigm shift for me was massive, 10 years ago. I can hear me now: I didn’t just accept things the way they were! I fought them! That solid, cold, black iron rod must be bent and turned into a platter to suit my needs! Without fire! Without heat! Without cajoling or kindness or flattery, sincere or otherwise… Man, I was a fighter, but without cause.

Back to reality: the irony, of course, is that this former student (and I can say this with a ton of confidence) was still projecting her stuff on to me. My days of “perfectionism” are toast. Twenty years of combined marriage, parenting, yoga, crazy mother, and classic psychotherapy, CBT and EMDR have exorcised that demon. She spoke endlessly to me about her need to make the Yoga Journal -cover perfect pose when reality simply didn’t allow for it.

I recall clearly that I would speak with her after many classes. Calmly, nodding, listening and hearing her, feeling her desperation for acceptable levels of perfection….

I drew her attention to a tree outside and said, “Would you ever consider that tree imperfect? Would you say that it’s not a ‘tree’ as defined by what our understanding of what a tree is? It’s got a missing limb or two, some knots and a hole in its trunk…” She shook her head ‘no.’

“Those things give it character. A place for animals to live.” I added, like freakin’ Snow White Freud.

She nodded and agreed, her eyes welling up a little in the sun. Her nose grew pink and she started to chew on her inner cheek, leaning on one leg more than the other.

“Then why do you beat yourself up? Do you think that tree would consider you somehow imperfect? Why must you insist that you are? And why must you fight your story, your reality, to prove –for whom I don’t know– your perfection?”

I was all “This is our reality… It is what it is, man… y’dig?” In my Nehru shirt and dandelion chain tiara crown.

She said she understood, that she appreciated my help and time. That I was a true teacher and friend to her for doing so and she thanked me.

Then the phone calls increased, the emails increased and the text messages increased. She wanted more of my time; I began to feel uneasy. This is my issue: I didn’t like being someone’s salvation. I couldn’t save my own mother, there was no way I could to do it for a yoga student.

She wanted more of the class’s time and attention. It became a cyclone of need. I had to draw a line; I had my own personality limitations as well as a real interest in protecting the integrity of the class, the time of other students, as well as my reputation as an instructor to manage disruption. I had to ask her after class to stop the chatter, the distractions in class, the bringing of the “outer world” into the room. “…We take our shoes off as a gesture of the solemnity and respect for the practice of yoga, likewise, we need to do with our day, our woes, our ego and our mirth. I ring the bell at the beginning to announce the tenor of practice, to introduce a new moment. Not everyone had a bad day like you did… not everyone just aced a final like you did… everyone is working on something personal and unique in here, so please respect that.”

She didn’t say so. She didn’t say anything in fact. She packed up her stuff and thanked me for a nice class. Only later, I surmise, did she decide to tell me (indirectly through that email) that my interests in protecting my yoga classes felt unkind and ego-identfied to her. That I was asserting my “authority” in a non-produtive and territorial way. I was the enemy. She resorted to her native coping skills and never communicated with me again.

Until that link to the blog.

So I sit and I sigh. Distracted by this not-very-subtle jab at my person and teaching style I start to wonder, actively, about that person. About what makes her so high and mighty, what makes her the high priestess of ego and yoga teaching? She’s not such hot stuff, why if she were then … And what’s with the contacting ME when she told me to take her off my list?? Talk about BOUNDARY ISSUES!!! Why she …. …. …. ….

And down the rabbit hole we go. Watch out for that root on the right as you go down, it’s like a whip.

The good news is that that rabbit hole is brighter now; it has landing strips by it and it’s not as bumpy, deep or as curvy as it used to be. My descents into it are less intense and more fleeting. It’s more of a gopher hole. But the gopher holes are everywhere and they’re in my garden.

Instead of tending to my gopher holes, instead of sealing them up or planting a flower in them, I look over the fence, into someone else’s garden and I start to think about where an azalea would look good to cover up that ugly corner; or that a shade tree would do well to keep from burning up the astilbe… My, she doesn’t know how to tend to her garden; she’s got shade plants in full sun… her kids are likely on drugs too… that son is a mess… I thought my mom was weird … her mother is a trip…

… and there we go again. Me thinking about someone else’s crap instead of my own. Me transferring my energy and my thoughts and my precious little time left on this planet to someone else, someone who’s into the drama, who’s into the distraction and who’s not able to understand my “brand” of help; or my timing.

People need to work at their own pace and just because I can see all the traps and falls awaiting that person, it doesn’t mean 1) she can or 2) he cares. Sometimes the elixir of someone else’s problems or issues are SO important strong that they keep us from working on ourselves. As I said to a friend this morning, fully aware of all the trappings of the drama I’m hovering over, “I love decorating someone else’s house…”

What else this means is that I stop the narrative I’ve been telling about my life. I’m 47. It’s time I put things in their boxes and ship them off for the garbage dump (or the book). My story of who I am and how I got here is precious to me, yes, but it doesn’t define me and it needn’t hold me hostage anymore. I’m not just the result of my parents’ union; I have transcended that — years ago — and I am a fully functional adult female human who has co-created three more humans. I am more than 1967 – 1990; so much more. I am 1991 – 2003; and 2003 to now, and counting. I look back at the time I feel I have squandered worrying about my mother and father, about “reputation” and about fear.

The only way I can, and you can, and your neighbor and your former friend or ex-spouse, or ex-lover, or former yoga student can fully achieve our own fantastic full-blown personhood is to learn from the past, not let it hold us back or down anymore, see it for what it has provided (a backdrop, that is all — and that backdrop changes with the set of our stories!), and move on, with gratitude for all it has provided. We can leave that garden where it is without regret — and that is hard!

Leave that garden in the sun or in the shadows, in a state of flourish or disrepair, but walk away from it nevertheless. It’s not our garden anymore, and the garden that IS ours, needs us. We can walk into our own garden, as modest as it is, and tend to it. Talk to it, let the sun in and the rain fall. We can see it in the greater landscape with all the other gardens, in their own individual growths, and we can admire it all, while keeping the errant vines and the weeds out of ours. And we can step back. And we can see it grow.

Thank you.

 

Super Fast: Projection is Like Barfing

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My youngest son came to me this morning, complaining about a disagreement he had with his older brother. He was upset about it because the things his older brother said to him about him were mean and hurtful.

It bothered me also to hear that one son could be like that toward another son, but I also know that in my household that my boys hold this mentality about their siblings, regardless of birth order or pecking order: “No one kicks my brother but me.” I smile at that sentiment a little because it’s funny and it’s true.

Nevertheless, my youngest was injured emotionally and I have to agree that the things his brother said were ugly.

So I set my youngest down and talked to him about projection.

“I have said some really unkind things about other people. I have believed them. I have even said those things to the people. Sometimes, I’ve hid behind a symbol or an event to say those things and yet try to blame it on the context, the ‘where I was’ or the ‘what I was doing’ or my state of mind. Like if I had a headache or was busy, but the reality is that I was like a stereo speaker, or a movie projector of that thought, image, opinion, sentiment or belief that I HAD ABOUT MYSELF that I hurled on to that other person, my target.” I said to my youngest, who was doing his best to pay attention. It was a lot of words.

He rubbed his eyes and sighed.

“Because I felt that way about myself first.” I added.

Then it started to make sense.

“You know when I say, ‘you can’t give what you don’t have?'” I asked.

He nodded.

“It’s the same with projection. If you don’t have love or kindness, then you can’t project, like a speaker projects sound, that love or kindness.”

I started to lose him again.

“How’s this? When you feel good about yourself or what you’re experiencing, you share nice thoughts. You share thoughts or behaviors that are like copies, or the song in the speaker with a person…”

He brightened.

“So, when you feel bad about yourself or what you’re experiencing, you share not-nice thoughts. You share the copies of your bad feelings in the form of bad behaviors or a bad song coming out of the speakers, or bad pictures coming out of the movie projector. It’s like you blame your bad behavior on that person when you’re the one with the bad mood… the bad feelings are inside to begin with…”

He nodded and stared a little blankly and said, “So when you’re tired and you say mean things or are super fast and not nice about things, it’s not at me, even though it feels like it, but it’s because you don’t feel nice inside?”

“YES!” I shouted and surprised him. “Yes. Let’s stay on the idea that it’s me, because sometimes it is. It’s because I don’t feel nice inside. Sometimes you can be with me and I’m tired, or stressed, or sick, or that I feel really angry about something else … What I sometimes don’t do, when I project, is separate my feelings inside — whatever they are — from the person I project onto, in this example, you.”

“So projecting is like vomiting. That’s where ‘projectile vomiting’ comes from?”

“Yes. Projecting is like vomiting. Great analogy. It’s like the feelings are so bad inside that person, your brother in this case, that he vomited his emotions all over you.”

“Yup. It is. So … then what?”

I liked where this was going.

“Well, if you’re a target of projection, like if you were barfed on, you can stay there and get stinky, cold and crusty and feel bad, probably worse that the person who barfed on you, because …”

“Because when you barf, you always feel better…” he said. “But it can get other people sick, because it’s contagious… and I usually feel really empty inside after I barf, like I hurt in a different way…”

My son’s a genius.

“Right! You likely feel worse than the barfer, and are stinky. You can stay there and be angry at the person who barfed on you, and like you said, spread the barf and be mean to another person, or… you can get up and change your clothes and feel a bit sorry for the person who’s feeling so bad, they had to project their bad feelings on to you. Or you don’t have to feel sorry. And that new pain? That’s because after barfing, or projecting, that person is still sick or weak. The “yuck” is still there. But, if you feel sorry for them, chances are you might end up feeling bad with them, which is their point usually. It’s like they feel so ugly, they want you to feel ugly too, so they’re not alone…”

I started to lose him again.

“But they don’t want you around … why would they want you around? You said ‘so they’re not alone?‘ So when my brother does this to me again, I can get up and walk away…”

“That ‘so they’re not alone’ is a figure of speech and it’s confusing. Yes. You can get up and walk away. But will you? Sometimes people want to get back and do something nasty to the person who made them feel bad. That’s a natural feeling, revenge, and it reminds me of the different pain we have after we barf, but … one of the things I like to say to myself, when I’m feeling very vengeful, is that I’m lucky I’m not her… the person who barfed on me…”

And that’s the truth.

He didn’t answer me, about whether he’d get back at his brother, or take the high road. He’s eleven. I don’t have huge aspirations for him in that vein, but I hope to plant a seed.

Eleven?! It can be hard to practice this level of self-awareness at 47!

So much of our pain and its projections comes from a place very deep inside, very old, very real so much so that one confrontation with Truth (a rejection, a situation where you perceive a comment as a threat because maybe it’s close to Truth…?) can feel like an actual threat; as though everything is riding on our survival (read: fight to the death) of that moment.

Viktor Frankl said,

Between stimulus and response, there is a space. In that space is our power to choose our response. In our response lies our growth and our freedom.
Man’s Search for Meaning

I like to call that space, a breath. A breath that slows things down and lets us come to a place of calm and acceptance that things ARE NOT life and death. Rather that breath can mean the difference between having a life and living a life.

I’ve used my blog as a platform to have my say about things that bug me, and I will absolutely submit that I’ve projected my pain on it. It’s my catharsis. In those instances, my use of my blog is emblematic of the fact that I feel I’ve run into a brick wall, that I’m just at a point where I feel as though my message has run into a cognitive dissonance machine and that I need to process it. The funny part (to me) is that there is SO MUCH I don’t share here. However, I will also submit that I can meditate more on the point of my blog, that it needn’t be a platform because I feel unheard or worse, voiceless. If people think what I write is about them, or they don’t like what I’ve shared, that’s … well, their ego; it’s tickled a notion in them and…that’s not my problem. My dad has a saying, “If people react to what you’ve said, that means you got to them. Either way, it’s about them.” My distant relative, a priest, had a saying for that, “You’re not mad at what you’re mad at.” 

So my son turned to me and he said, “You’re a great mom. I think I get it. It’s like now, I feel good inside for talking about this and I want to share it with you. Will you be my date to Starbucks today? I would like to buy you a coffee and a scone with my birthday money.”

How to refuse that?!

So we went. Here’s our “us-ie” from the date:

one of the best dates i've ever had.

one of the best dates i’ve ever had. we talked about minecraft and Christmas and legos and Little Big Planet and sugar cookies.

So try to not see your moments of hurt and frustrations as things or places where you have no choice but to fire an invective at someone OR a thing where you have to wear the stinky wet barfy clothes.

Try to see them as lessons, teachers, messengers from your deeper, inner self to address a feeling of __________ from long ago. And then, try to “listen” to it; try to hear its lesson. Try to be OK with it. Feelings are just sensations. There is no threat.

Thank you.

Grief: One Breath at a Time

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Today in yoga, when I got to have svasana, I meditated on compassion and the only word that came to me in response was “unfolding.”

Being on the web, with a blog, assures a certain vulnerability. My words are here for anyone to denigrate and yet I find myself buoyed by the kindnesses and trust of strangers.

Christmas is in a week and I miss the idea of wondering what my mother would give me as a gift. Would it be something I’d want? Would it be something she liked and she gave to me? Would it be something she’d give to everyone else or my sisters-in-law too?

I sit here, just a bit more than a year after her death and I feel emotions ranging from pure confusion about death to sadness that people, all of us, die; from deep guilt that I wasn’t a better daughter, to pure anger that she wasn’t a better mother; from a proud awareness that we are each others’ teachers to a sheepish allowance that we are each others’ pupils.

The human ego is such an odd, strange thing. It’s there to protect us from emotional harm, but for me, in the end all it does is delay the eventual pain when it protects too much. It elevates us, falsely, above and beyond our threshold of “value” so that we are uneven with that which hurts us. When we come down, to the reality that we are all connected, that we all breathe the same way, that we all eat with a mouth and chew with our teeth and fart and cry and poop and sneeze … it can be a lot to bear.

Yeah.

It’s a cold reality sometimes.

When I was a child, I held my parents to a godlike status. As I’ve aged, they did / are too and I see their humanity. I use the present tense with Mom, even today, because my perception of her humanity is ever emerging even though she has moved on.

I shared a dream, the only one, I had of Mom after she died with my father yesterday and it made me weep to share it. Not because she’s dead, but because it’s really a gorgeous message.

She was on a shoreline on a familiar Canadian beach on Lake Erie where we swam often. Her sylvan hair was in a chin-length bob. She was wearing a navy blue knit cashmere suit, her red cashmere sweater, a cashmere black, white, red and navy plaid scarf and these little blue leather loafers she loved but I hated for the same reason: because they were so shapeless. She was in her healthy early 70s. She was about one hundred feet from me, walking along the shore, just at the point where a receding wave leaves the sand still slick and wet and shiny. She stopped and looked over some tiny spiral shells on the shore. Her hands were clasped behind her back and her hair would sweep down over her face, I couldn’t see it perfectly, but it was her. The lake’s tiny waves were lapping at her shoes. She didn’t care. She bent over and inspected closer. Her fingers were glancing along the sand, turning over a little shell here, or a rounded, ancient pebble there. The sun had set behind me, behind the trees bunkering the white tent where a festive party was going on behind me, and I called out to her, “Mom! Mom! C’mon! You’re missing the party!” and she turned to me, and she said nothing. Her hair was clear off her face now. Stars were starting to show in the periwinkle sky. She beamed at me, this gorgeous wide smile she had. Her lips were red with our favorite lipstick she bought because I loved it so much. She swept up her arms as the wind swept up her scarf and her hair around her cheeks and she turned to the water. Her face looked up to the heavens and she looked back at me and shook her head “no” and instead lovingly and theatrically gesturing at all the glory of things I’d never understand in this lifetime as if to say, “No. You’re missing the party.”

I turned back to the party, to reference it, to say, “NO! It’s happening here! Mom!” and I turned back to her, and she was gone.

This is the Mom I never allowed. The one who bucked the system yet wore cashmere anyway. The one who I wanted fiercely to somehow morph into a rule-follower. The one who I wanted to tell me when to be home and to punish me when I wasn’t. The one who I needed to help me with my homework when I lied and said there wasn’t any. That one wasn’t there.

It’s hard to have so many conflicting emotions about the woman who brought me into this world. I loved her the only way I could, the way she let me. She used to say to me, “Maaaally, you’re conflicted. You’re ambivalent. You can’t ‘hate‘ me without loving me first.”

I hated it when she said that.

Snort.

Because even though I used to tell her she was full of crap, she was so right. I loved her like … a child loves its mother; with a fierce, fearful, perfect and abiding love. She could do no wrong when I was young. It wasn’t until I was much older, that I saw her humanity … and I hated it. It broke me apart; her fragility broke me apart. She lived on a different plane; where there were no rules and that all of them could be broken. I was brought here to learn that.

I was going to make it with or without her; I laugh at that now. She was instrumental in hardening me for this world I inhabit now. So at this moment, while I miss her, and I miss the idea of wondering whether I would feel rejected or loved by the Christmas gift she would give me, I realize that the gift she gave me, all along, is life. With all its ups and downs, my mom gave me life.

If your mom is around in your life still, and you are in communication with her, tell her thanks from me for giving us you. And if you’re not in communication with her, well … say something nice about yourself because she helped make you.

We do not live one day at a time; we live one breath at a time. This is the ‘unfolding.’ This is the message from svasana. When we are still, things change.

Thank you.