Friday, November 22, 2013

I Was Only Raking Leaves

I was only raking leaves.
Raking piles of leaves like snow drifts
wind-blown against the house,
raking them away from the pathway.
The gusts responsible for this pile up
lingered still,
at first blowing the leaves back,
undoing my work.
The wind, like an unruly puppy,
Wagging and wriggling around my legs.
danced around me, through me,
teasing me.
I talked to the wind.
“Nooo”, I pleaded, “not over there”
as the leaves spurted up into the air
waist high,
and scuttled,
re-cluttering the pathway.
I fought to gather the leaves with my rake,
the wind puffs shifted,
blowing the leaves in the direction I was moving them.
I giggled with the wind.
“Yes, thank you.”
My task became easier,
and I chose to believe there was a power in the wind,
playing with me in the morning sun.
I was not alone in the autumn morning frolic
of leaves and wind
and sun and rake
and me.
I was courting the Power in the wind,
flirting with the Power in air current.
Then the Power in the wind
kissed my legs,
embraced the back of my knees,
and the inside of my thighs,
then laughed softly in my ears.
I fell in Love right then,
and walked with a quiet grin
throughout the temperate, autumn day.

Sunday, November 10, 2013

When Feeling Left Out is Feeling Let In

In the New Thought Philosophy of belief there is a spiritual law that says: The Universe is for you, the Universe seeks to give you only Good, there is only Good everywhere all the time.

So what is happening when a person finds themselves lamenting about what they don’t have?

I found myself feeling left out and disappointed about a missed opportunity. So, one morning during my meditation a still small voice piped in and said, “Do you really want to be included in that situation? Are you sure you would be satisfied and fulfilled participating in that opportunity?”

I had to stop and think about that question. In truth I did not want to be ‘there’. I was right to choose to be right where I was. My soul would be compromised and unhappy trying to make things work in a situation that I did not resonate with. Oh, what a lift to realize this! It was totally unfounded for me to feel sad, left out, passed over, or ignored. Such a breath of freedom to know I have chosen to be right where I am. I felt happy; no more blame; no more lusting after something that I had perceived as being denied me by others, when in truth I had chosen to be right where I am for very good reasons.

So now, instead of feeling left out, I feel let in. I am feeling let in to the Good that is for me right here. We are all where we have chosen to be.

Perhaps the next question might be: What quality of life are you wanting more of that you perceive to be “over there”? Is it where you are and just not yet seen or felt?

May Peace Be With You.

Friday, October 18, 2013

The Myth of Happiness

In an article from the Huff Post web site, Martha Beck lists several life lessons she states we need to unlearn, . On her list, and the one that applied to me the most, was:
“It's important to stay happy. Solving a knotty problem can help us be happy, but we don't have to be happy to feel good. If that sounds crazy, try this: Focus on something that makes you miserable. Then think, "I must stay happy!" Stressful, isn't it? Now say, "It's okay to be as sad as I need to be." This kind of permission to feel as we feel -- not continuous happiness -- is the foundation of well-being.” ~Martha Beck

In the culture of positive thinking, permission to feel the dark side of emotions and feelings can get lost. I have stumbled over this on my journey through the grieving process from losing my mother who died on August 30th.

My journey of grieving has been a walk, and sometimes a crawl, through a series of stages articulated by Elizabeth Kubler Ross. The stages of grief; there are 5 of them: 1) Denial, 2) Anger, 3) Bargaining,
4) Depression, and 5) Acceptance, take on a whole new meaning as I become immersed in them.

I recently experienced the depression phase, where loss of vitality, apathy, and sadness pulled me into a dark, very unpleasant cloud of non-living. I despaired at feeling so low; I considered myself a failure at living a positive life. My thoughts seemed to feed on this state of ennui creating an ever deepening foreboding; my life was a failure; all things negative were plaguing my mind and my heart.

Then, that still small voice within stated very clearly that I was in the depression phase of my grief. Aha! There would be an end to this! I could give myself permission to be depressed and stay the course. I used the spiritual tools of prayer, mantras/affirmations, music, meditation, and spiritual writings to remind myself that even though I did not feel the love, peace and joy, that it would come back; for the scariest part of depression was the emotional experience of the loss of hope, of motivation and inspiration.

As I accepted depression it abated. Hallelujah! No resistance to anything—lack of happiness or no lack of happiness—has come around the circle of life to remind me again, and again.

So, the myth to stay happy has been revamped in my world. Stay in non-resistance to what is happening. Find the spiritual tools that provide a life line to living and purpose, to peace and acceptance and all will pass away; the season will turn and will be new once again.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Wild, Like a Wood Sorrell Bloom On the Forest Floor

I discovered a precious gift today. It bubbled up out of the memories of my childhood experience of emotional and physical abandonment by my well-intentioned, but oh so young, parents. My mother passed away on August 30th, and I have been immersed in the process of releasing and healing the past. This process includes lots of memories, and lots of choices about what to remember, what to treasure, and what to release and leave in the years gone by.

Oh, the anguish from walking the path of a solitary child, an unattached existence, wild, like a wood sorrel bloom timid on the silent forest floor. And now, to know its transformation into a deep appreciation for this life, led and fed, by a power and a love greater than any parent could have ever given me.

From a renewed look through years distant from those days this gift rose up. The gift--a perspective, cultivated and honed from a lifetime of walking without the closeness, the unconditional love of family. The gift—a deep appreciation for the solitude, un-enmeshed from the emotional dysfunction of the family I was born into. The gift—I now have the wisdom, temperament, and strength to hold my sister as she agonizes through the pain of the immediate family members crashing against each other.

I embrace this capacity born out of the wound as a precious gift.

Friday, August 30, 2013

When A Mother Dies

Iona Lucille Wirth Kudlacek
(November 5, 1933-August 30, 2013)

The inevitable spinning of the wheel of life has come around to the time of my mother’s death. I am surprised at how much grief and forgiveness I feel in my heart because we spent very little time together as adults. Our relationship was filled with pain and misunderstandings.
The memories that are flooding my awareness are the subtle sensations of being in my mother’s presence, the scent of her body, the sensation of the grounded bones of her German ancestry, large and strong. The goodness of my mother’s presence is gifting me with childhood memories of spending time on the earth, gathering earth’s bounty and taking it to our kitchen, preparing, canning, cooking, and creating nourishment from nature’s bounty. I am remembering her smile and the way she laughed when she thought something was funny. I see her large, fleshy hands, her large fingers busy with home-crafting.
I am forgetting the bitterness and the cruelty that spilled out in misguided coping moments from both of us. She suffered a great deal as women will do. And I forgive her. My once bad mother has become something of a wonder woman, my perspective forever changed, born out of the distance of time and the maturity of understanding. My mother loved flowers and gardening and she will always be standing in her garden surrounded by the beauty, the peace, and the calm that certainly fed her soul in hard times. She did her best with what she knew and had to work with. I feel a freedom in loving her in her death that I never knew while she walked the earth.
In saying good-by I am given the gifts we both never knew she had given me.

Tuesday, August 27, 2013

Through The Grieving Process: What to Say

Through the Grieving Process:

Everyone grieves differently, but maybe this list will prove helpful to you next time someone close to you has a tragedy and you aren’t sure what to do or say.
1. When you see me, ask how I am. A simple “How are you doing?” or “How are you holding up?” works wonders. It shows that you care, and it gives me the freedom to respond with a simple “Fine, thanks,” if I don’t want to talk about it—or to give more detail if I do.
2. Pay attention to the mood I’m in. I’ve come to realize that I have three different ways of handling grief:
• Sometimes I want to talk through it.
• Sometimes I want to get my mind off of it for a while.
• And sometimes I just want to be alone.
The best friends are good at noticing which mode I’m operating in at any given moment. If they aren’t sure, they ask. “Would you like to talk about it, or would you prefer a distraction?” “Would you like to get out? Or do you need some space right now?” These are wonderful questions.
3. Let me decide what I need in the moment. At times, I’ve said I wanted to get my mind off of my grief, only to have someone say to me, “No, you need to talk about this to work through it. Avoidance isn’t healthy.” That doesn’t help me. Yes, I will talk through this at some point, but this may not be the right time for me, and you might not be the person I choose to talk through it with. (I might choose a therapist, family member, or pastor, for instance. Please don’t take it personally.) Remember, everyone grieves differently, and only I know what I need at any given moment.
4. If I want to talk, let me talk. Don’t worry about saying the right things; there aren’t any magic words you can say to make me feel better, and we both know it. Just listen. You don’t need to say anything at all beyond “I’m sorry.”
5. Don’t try to fix it. I don’t want to hear about how she’s in a better place. I don’t want to hear about how “God called home an angel,” or how it’s good she’s not suffering, or how she’ll live on in our hearts. I already know these things, and I might say them myself, but when you say them, it feels a bit like you’re trying to cheer me up and stop me from grieving. Right now, I need to grieve, so let me grieve.
6. If I don’t want to talk about it, you can help by being a distraction. When I’m in distraction mode, it isn’t the right time to ask for details about what happened, how the funeral went, or what she was like, even if you’re insanely curious. Right now, I want to make jokes, go for a walk, watch a movie, or something else. Don’t treat me like I’m fragile, and don’t worry if my mood seems to shift a lot. I might laugh one minute and cry the next. It’s okay. I’m glad you’re with me, and I still don’t want to talk about the other stuff. Not right now.
7. If I want to be alone, let me be alone. Don’t take it personally; it’s not about you. I just need some space to process my grief. Don’t try to cheer me up. That only makes me feel worse. Let me know you’re intentionally giving me space and that you’re available when I want to call on you—that lets me know you’re not just abandoning me—but then leave. Let me have the time and space I need, without my having to worry about what you are thinking.
8. Don’t tell me you “know how it feels.” You don’t. You can’t know how it feels to be me right now because you’re not me. One of my best friends also just lost his mom to a similar neurological disease, but even he doesn’t know exactly how I feel, and I don’t know exactly how he felt. We’re different people, our moms were different people, and our experiences of grief are different.
What is appropriate is to relate: “I’m so sorry. My mom died years ago and I still cry when I think about her.” That tells me that you understand that this is difficult, but that you don’t necessarily think your grief was equivalent to my grief. If you’ve never had a serious loss, just say something like, “I can’t imagine how you must be feeling right now,” and follow it up with letting me know you’re here for me.
9. Instead of asking if there’s anything you can do, offer something specific.In the past, I’ve been guilty of asking people, “Is there anything I can do?” But I’m discovering I don’t like it much when people ask me, because I really don’t know what to tell them.
I know, when people say this, they just want me to know that they care and that I can call upon them. But when my friend from many states away asks me what she can do, I don’t know what to tell her. She can’t bring my mom back. She can’t take away my grief. She can’t make it all better. And when I’m already feeling emotionally overwhelmed, it’s easy for her well-intentioned question to come across to me like, “Knowing you’re sad makes me feel helpless. I don’t like feeling helpless, so I’m now transferring the burden to you to find something I can do so that I’ll feel less helpless, or so that you’ll say there’s nothing I can do and I can feel better and know that I’ve done my duty.”
That might sound strange, but I’m amazed at how often I find myself, as a grieving person, having to comfort other people for their feelings of helplessness and discomfort surrounding my grief. It’s okay that you don’t know what to say or do. I don’t expect you to. And if you can’t think of anything you could do in this situation, there’s probably not anything. It’s okay to just be a good listener. I’d rather not be tasked with the responsibility of finding something for you to do.
On the other hand, if you can think of something specific I might need, it’s great to offer that: “Can I bring you dinner?” “Can I finish that project for you so you can spend more time with your family?” “Would you like to get out for a while for coffee or drinks?” I appreciate the offer, and I might take you up on it. Just be sure not to pressure me or be offended if I decline.
10. Understand that this is a slow, difficult, often confusing journey.Sometimes, I might seem very inconsistent in what I want. As I write this, I’m feeling fine. That’s no guarantee I’ll be feeling fine ten minutes from now. The day after my mother died, I poured myself into work like nothing was wrong. Today, I’m taking the day off to be alone. Months from now, when you’ve forgotten this post, I may still be grieving and have times when it seems like more than I can bear—but feel awkward bringing it up for fear of being a downer.
Don’t assume everything is fine just because I seem to be my usual cheerful self, and don’t assume I’m not fine if I say I really am. Sometimes, grief comes in waves.
The grieving process is a weird thing. But if you are comfortable enough to let me grieve in my own way, you can make it much easier for me to do what I need to do and keep moving forward. And that is one of the marks of a true friend.

Sunday, June 2, 2013

A Pearl on a String

Ahead of me standing in line at Target this morning was an older woman, small, gray-haired, and soft-spoken. I stepped closer to her and observed that she was standing in the long line to buy a single loaf of bread. So, I warmly commented, “You’re standing in line to buy a single loaf of bread.” “ Yes”, she kindly replied, “This is the only store that sells thinly sliced bread for his sandwiches.” “Oh, really?” I replied with interest. “Yes, I’ve been married for 47 years, and he has lung cancer. So, I get him what he likes.” Our conversation continued as she shared a bit of her life caring for her ill husband. “God, only gives us what we can handle,” She says as she raises her eyes to the sky, and pleads, “Turn it down lord.” I tell her I don’t agree with that belief anymore. I tell her I believe there are things in life that can be too much for a person to handle or cope with, and when this is the case the person might numb out or find a way to tune out their overwhelming difficulty. She turns to me and says, “Talking with someone like you makes me feel better, and helps me to carry on.” My heart just opened and tears began to pool in my eyes. I raised my arm to embrace her. Right there, standing in line at Target, we embraced each other , our hearts wide open. A moment, like a pearl on a string, precious beyond anything going on around us. And here I thought I was shopping for a new bathing suit, but now I know that Life brought me to Target for Its own reasons .