Category Archives: Healing

Okay with Being Average

As I walked to the sports field on Saturday, my suede boots sinking deep into the water-logged grass, armed with an umbrella, as well as one-of-those-supposedly-life-changing-novels, that just isn’t, I mentally prepared for the often-less-than pleasant culture that emerges when parental egos converge at a children’s sporting event. I have a set of rules.

Rule one: Don’t talk unless talked to. This is not because I am trying to be mean or hostile or anti-social. It’s just at events like these, people are interested in telling about themselves or their children. So, to be honest, no one, on the whole, really wants to hear much about anyone else’s life. I find it is best just to listen. Rule two: Don’t brag about anything about your child…college plans, grades, AP or honors courses…and never mention any statistics or sports rankings. These are all topics that do not trade well in such social situations. In fact, such talk engenders that old keeping-up-with-the-Jones spirit. It awakens the inner demon of I-am-not-enough or I’m-not-doing-it-right.

I sit down on the bench, and of course, there is a mom bragging about her children. Quite loud. Quite unwarranted. But I know what’s eating her. I know that she does not mean to be so flagrantly self-promoting. I get her. It is her not-enoughness, like an evil puppeteer, manipulating her to say too much, because deep inside, she does not understand that she and her children, are rare and wonderful and unique, even if by our silly culture’s standards, they seem average, or as Star Testing cruelly hisses, below basic.

You know, my whole goal in writing this blog is to tear down all the man-made ideas that have diminished human beauty. It is not that straining for excellence and achievement are bad things. However, if the motive finds its origin in some kind of inferiority, it is always sick and wrong.

Doing your best because you feel a sense of glory, of being truly alive…now that is cool. Doing it because you think that if you try a little bit harder, you just might deserve to occupy a space on this planet, that will result in a vast and empty wasteland within. I think it is why you see people who literally fall apart when they have finally achieved some culturally induced goal. Everyone muses, “What happened? He or she had everything.”

You don’t have everything, unless you love your bumpy, less-than-average inner self.

And guess what?

Love and acceptance remarkably have the effect of growing greatness.

Remember… it is the gloriously mystical phoenix that rises from the ashes…not from the perfect SAT scores or perfectly managed stock portfolio.

So, on to rule number three: If I do find myself in a place where I have to talk, I always tell the truth… that it has been hard. We have often been stupid. That my children struggle…and then I tell how we have learned to be okay with being average.

And then I tell about grace.


Filed under "The Journey", "To thine own self be true", Children, Healing, Love

The Fake Christian

So stole my title from the great Maya Angelou–regarding faith she says this:

“I’m grateful to be a practicing Christian. I’m always amazed when people say, “I’m a Christian.” I think, “Already?” It’s an ongoing process. You know, you keep trying. And blowing it and trying and blowing it …”

I think I have been a fake Christian all my life. Like so many things, I tried to learn my role, master the script, and become conscious of the rules of this particular game. I was taught, albeit unconsciously, by my dear aunt, to “clean up my act”—the implication here that my life was more like that of an actor than a flower in a meadow. I needed to work at looking and sounding good because, at least in my family’s mythology, I wasn’t naturally acceptable as is.

I was never taught that you could “blow it”and be okay. In fact the shame from blowing it, a spiritual after-burn, culturally concocted I might add, was what hurt me  more than the error itself. I am healing up in these damaged, tender parts of my life simply by being okay with my mistakes, egotism, selfishness, and down-right stupidity. It seems like when I comfort these orphaned little children, I can feel Jesus right behind me, breathing hope and powerful restoration into these broken places.

So these last couple of years I have been learning the lesson of love and acceptance—of my self, my dear family, and others. And let me be abundantly clear, the work of spirituality, at least for me, does not end with acceptance. It is a key to a door to a new life. Yet one of the first stops on the path is humility. It is the spirit of there-is-some-work-to-be-done here; it is the still small voice that says “keep that ego in check.” I am going “Oprah” on you right here…this is what I know for sure…once I think that I deserve to be noticed, get competitive, or try a syruping-sweet-way of ingratiating myself to get what I want, my ego is going to get a-wamping. It is like when you are oblivious to a low threshold and your forehead cracks as it comes in contact with a two by four. For years this would happen, and I would not get it. I just thought people were shitty…which on any given day they are, but I didn’t get my part in the drama—this is the great truth: If I have a problem with some part of my life, I have a HUGE part in the why-this-is-happening-to-me thing. End of story. I have to reflect. Then the answers come. You see Jesus is magical. He is the fairy-godmother-good-therapist-tough-love-friend-life-coach kind of divinity. He’s a great teacher, too. He lets me figure things out, make a mess, get sad, and then he whispers a salient bit of wisdom that allows me to move forward in my life. This is Christianity to me.

Now, I think I am just beginning to become a Christian, and this is why: I am just beginning to have faith—to get how it works. I come from a family of hand-wringers. We hope God will come through, but deep in our hearts we believe he will fail us. Something can’t come from nothing. We have all been schooled in Newtonian physics, right? There are laws to this, right? But get this, Newton at the end of his life was fascinated with alchemy and that the Holy Scriptures were kind of like some HTML code…a living, changing, relevant voice. Here’s something more, again from science: Bill Brighton says that scientists can calculated back to the beginning of the Big Bang….ten to the negative 43 seconds past the moment of creation, and that at that point the universe could fit in the palm of your hand! He goes on to say that science, here, sounds more like religion…that indeed something can come out of nothing.

So here’s my little vignette for the week. Anyone who knows us, knows that we have had a lifetime of financial woes. I am quite certain we are not alone in this fact. Also, we have been amazingly cared for. Something works out. But here’s the confession: even though we have been blessed with help—always— I am waiting for the other shoe to drop. This month will be the month we will fail. Thoughts like that. But last week something happened. I got tired of that voice and I got tired of manipulating some outcome to make us okay. And it occurred to me to try faith. You know the kind Moses would have had to have on the banks of the Red Sea with a million freaked-out people and the state-of-the-art Egyptian military on his heels. So Phil and I said a little prayer over our need…$430 for bill…and waited. “God will make a way,” was the thought in my head. That was it. The bill was due Friday. Phil checks his phone Wednesday, and someone wants him to work. He makes $490…I kid you not, by Friday. Soooo cool. And the best thing was that I was calm and at peace, just like the scriptures talk about. It was like I did a 180 in my spirit and was over my way of doing things. I was able to draw from the bank of the universe.

I am so going to try this on all the other “Red Seas” in my life. My prayer is simple: God, I am excited to see how you are going to make a way for us amidst this sea of impossibilities.

And I figure that if he did the Big Bang he can probably handle my need for tires, cash for the rising sea of bills, college for Sam, and all the other seemingly impossibilities that bully me on a daily basis.

I think I am moving out of the fake Christianity…to being a follower of  The Way.*

*Original name for Christians

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Filed under Faith, Fear, Healing

A Run-in with the Law

Back, long ago, in what seems like another dimension of time, I was a college freshman, sitting in a single person desk, in an old cement-block kind of building, trying to catch the eye of the beautiful boy sitting in my row, and pretending that I understood what my philosophy 101 professor was saying. I honestly think I barely passed that class. Not that couldn’t have, but I didn’t have the desire to do so.

You see in my life my parents had made their best efforts not to leave anything up to chance. College was always in the works for me. So were a lot of other positive experiences–travel, prep school, dance, and theatre classes. But there was this thing, this law, quite unknown, that had not been obeyed. And you know how the law functions. It does not matter one bit if you are conscious of it or not. Whether you knew of a particular statute or not. It is still enforced. The law I am speaking of is this:  it is what new-agers call the law of attraction.

In a nutshell, it functions quite simply. What you put into life, and I am talking at the heart level here, at that raw-emotions-that-spur-actions place, is what you get out of it. So that negative talk participated in, will, for example, create a dynamic. It first super-charges the environment with disquieting energy and begins to affect human well-being. People start feeling bad. Work, relationships, etcetera, suck. It also alters the trajectory of things. Ideas and attitudes form life as we know it. So even though the news may be filled with all kinds of ominous warnings of bad guys, from terrorists to dental plaque, coming to attack our castle,  it is we that will decide whether those walls of fortification stand or not.

Here’s a story to illustrate my point. I heard this one several years ago and it goes like this. A man meets a woman on the beach. She is new to town. She asks this beach-strolling gentleman this question, “So what are the people like in this place?” To which he queries, “What were they like in your old town?” She quickly replies, “Oh they were awful. They were judgmental, petty, and very class-conscious.” Then the man on the beach said, “That is exactly how people are here.” Okay. People are jerks everywhere, right? There is more to the story. Another beach walk. Another woman. Same scenario. Same inquiry. Different response. When he asks this new sand-stroller what the people were like in her old town, she gushes, “Oh, they were the best people, so warm and real. I was so sad to leave them.”  To which the man replies, “That is exactly how they are here. I think you will be very happy.”

This story illustrates the law. Creation, artistry of life, is happening ALL THE TIME, whether we are aware of it or not. So when things are bad or seem to be sliding down hill, I have to start with myself. I have to ask some questions. These are a few I start with: What is going on with me? What is causing me to feel like complaining? What is the culprit in my poor connections with others? What is behind the constant disrespect I encounter? Why can’t I seem to move ahead?

It has been said that the quality of  life is based on the quality of the questions one asks. The handful listed above, are often beginning points for unlocking the swirling weather pattern of crazy-stuck-not-working-out stuff that has its way with me so often. Sometimes the answers come quickly. Like if I am judgmental and prickly, I usually find myself on the receiving end of another person’s condemnation or at the bare minimum, experiencing some kind disconnect with other human beings. No one wants to listen to my point of view. I feel less-than and I usually blame others for my predicament. However, after a few days of misery, I know its me. I know the world is not perfect. But its lack of perfection has to do with what is put into the ether…the fear, the scarcity, the people-are-idiots attitude, the things-never-work-out-for-me vibe. I have to abandon that stuff, if I want my life to work again.

Sometimes excavation is the order of the day. I have to dig deeper. Ask bigger questions. Sometimes the face of judgment I perceive on my neighbor, is just a reflection of some unresolved issue within me. For example, last night my son was talking about how all his friends like coming over to our house because they feel loved and feel relaxed here. The house is by default, kid friendly. It is dirty, old, and needs lots of repairs. The walkway is lined with surf boards and a sundry of other junk. It’s a little trailer parky. Then my boy said there was one ex-girlfriend of his that found it horrid. My heart hurt. I think I made some nasty comment deriding her character. But then I had to think about my reaction. You see, at the heart of that negative reaction was a sadness at the-just-getting-by nature of our finances and a shame at not being able to take care of most of the material things granted to us–cars, home, our boat project. And once I was able to admit to my inner most self  exactly what was up with my comment about my son’s friend, I was free. I owned my sadness. It was not this girl’s fault. It was my reaction because of an unhealed pain in my heart.

So this is what I did. I told God that I am sorry for always wishing for something that I don’t have, instead of appreciating, loving, relishing in the life I do have. And then I went and looked at the stars and felt better. I have learned that this process is absolutely vital. We have had both sides. I have seen how hurtful words born of scarcity and fear have created a life that has nearly annihilated my family. I am happy to report, the profound affect of the positive, too. Almost every knot of an emotional problem has been untangled through the realization that I have the power to create something different. You see, it is not just making a mantra of things you want to see happen, nor is it restricting yourself to only positive words, whilst seething just beneath the surface. It is understanding that life is trying to get you to resolve the pain that is creating your existence, so that you can think another thought; and in doing so, make something new. For regardless of what you think, thoughts become things.

Just look at the history of this country. A mess of a militia facing the greatest fighting force in the world. A David and Goliath scenario. George Washington realized after receiving pounding after pounding by the British, that he didn’t need to win the war, he just needed not lose. His strategy was to HOLD ON, despite all the evidence bellowing, “Give up.” In fact the new government, the Articles of Confederation, was created after one of the Patriot’s greatest defeats. What an act of faith! When they had no evidence that they would  even get to be a country, they acted as if it had already happened. They were determined to create something. Their focus was not primarily about being against the British, but shinning brightly at the center of their attention was the idea about creating something new, something where equality and freedom could grow. Do you see the difference?

It is not a denial that *bleep* happens, rather it is  a determined change of mind, to make sure that you are not a contributor to any more of the hurt, discouragement, or dysfunction that trips us up and make’s life like a dingy room lit by a single bare bulb hanging from the ceiling. It is suppose to be more like Van Gogh’s Starry Night. It is sublime. It is miraculous. And stuff just works out, if you are aware of this law and you start inquiring within.

Back to Philosophy 101. So this is a class I barely passed…truly because I was unconscious of all that I have talked about today. Yet for some reason, I remembered Plato’s Allegory of the Cave, which, in Cliff-notes brevity is this: A bunch of guys are in a subterranean cave, lit from some unknown-to-them source. Shadows result on the walls. The cave dwellers think that the shadows are reality, when reality is through the hole up in the world where the light is sourced.

This is how I lived. Shadows being what I thought was real. I had to make the tough trek to the opening…to discover what was really going on. I still do. I still think the shadowy feelings I have are informing me of reality. But they are not. I have to ask the right questions to not only get out of my cave, but to make sure I am not adding to the pain of the world around me.

We have a weighty responsibility to obey this law, but isn’t so cool that we can commit to thinking differently, to healing, and in doing so, shift the world.

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed citizens can change the world; indeed, it’s the only thing that ever does.” Margaret Mead

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Filed under "Looking within", "The Journey", Healing, Truth

Furniture of Life

Yesterday, in class we did this silly little quick write activity. The prompt was in the form of a multiple choice question: What is your favorite piece of furniture?

a. swing

b. couch

c. desk with computer

d. pillows on the floor

I asked my students what they thought mine was. Some thought, rightly, the desk/computer combo. A good choice, backed with plenty of evidence. I love technology, our class is nearly 100% digital, and I am a writer. Others assessed me as a pillows-on-the-floor girl. Right on, again. Lots of support for that one, too. There is a shift in atmosphere when people are sitting on the floor, comfortably with something soft to recline upon. I also think it takes away the distance thing that happens with tables and chairs. It’s harder to stay emotionally separated from another human being when there are no barriers. You can get closer to hear what someone is saying. Also everyone is on the same level. No hierarchy.

Although these two answers are true of me, at the heart, I am a swing girl.

First of all, a swing is exceedingly simple. Very low tech. It’s movement calms the savage beast within. It is, by default, set in nature. Very important. Desks, computers, and pillows are creatures of the man-made world. In fact, they dominate in some ways. Or a least play a starring role. A swing is a small thing set against the lush wide wild world of God.

There was this swing up in Santa Cruz, probably long gone from the playground there, a casualty of that oh-my-god-swings-and slides-are-the bastions-of-danger citizen’s group. You know those clans that have existed for all time. The ones that think the unsafe must be eliminated at all costs. They should be called the taking-all-fun-out-of-this-world group. Okay, back to that swing. It had so much purchase that once you got going, you could touch the low tips of the Redwoods that clustered, in a protective way, around that little box of sand. At night, you could gaze on the blanket of black dotted with its starry random pattern and feel right again. I think it was also the site of my first kiss.

You see for me, the swing puts me in my place. I am a part of a much bigger picture. I am not isolated from the world. I am in it. Those Redwoods, those stars, the maternal movement of the swing, are far more like me than those things made by human hands. And I feel at home with my worldly family.

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Filed under Healing, Materialism, Perspective, Recovery

Kahlil Gibran and the Dead Fish

Soft sobs emanated from my daughter’s room this rainy morning. Her beloved Beta lay on his side at the bottom of the tank. We knew he was old. We knew he wasn’t well. So we were “prepared” like our culture says we should be…like expecting a loss would somehow make it better.

As I held my daughter in my arms, as she cried, I thought of what I could say to make it better. Again, it feels like that idea is more a cultural norm. For what could anyone say that could ease the pain of loss. A quiet presence is needed…coupled with a willingness to do something hard: enter into the silence of sadness, even if it is just for a few minutes. Just be there. Let it penetrate the heart, like a storm surge over the emotional boundary levy of the heart… the one that most of us have constructed against the pain and horror of this world. But that is not what usually happens. We raise a hand to suffering and say, “You shall not pass.”

But what does keeping out this metaphorical sea actually accomplish?

For me it has, ironically, kept me from life. I was raised to avoid the sad and the tragic, even though, right within my immediate family, there was heart-breaking dysfunction.  I am not sure why this seems to be the way of things. Maybe when there is so much incomprehensible woe, you just disassociate from it. However, regardless of the emotional content of my childhood, the result was that I interfaced with life quite superficially. Life on the surface is not much of a trip. The deep is where the wonder is.

Just think about it, if a person’s guiding, albeit unconscious, philosophy is to avoid pain at all costs, look what is lost. Relationships with others are most definitely on the block. For there is no other place fraught with more suffering than the commitment to love someone in all their imperfection. Also what about risk? It is the essential element  in having a dream. What then? Can great things be accomplished if risk is reduced to a background buzz? Yes, it is true that there is safety, but what kind of life is safeguarded? Is it something transcendently beautiful, like the soulful strains of a cello, or the orange-pink of a morning sky? No, it is a life of  protected routine  that never allows for the sweetness innate in every soul to emerge. Kahlil Gibran said that our capacity to feel joy in life was directly proportional to our capacity to feel pain. I wonder in our society, if some of the great tragic sweeps of serious psychological hurt might be displaced, somehow, if we as a culture, made some  sacred space for sadness, instead of always trying for “happy” all the time?

Kahlil also says:

Your pain is the breaking of the shell that encloses your understanding.
Even as the stone of the fruit must break, that its heart may stand in the sun, so must you know pain.
And could you keep your heart in wonder at the daily miracles of your life, your pain would not seem less wondrous than your joy;
And you would accept the seasons of your heart, even as you have always accepted the seasons that pass over your fields.
And you would watch with serenity through the winters of your grief.

So back to the dead fish. As I held my sweet girl, I thought of this to say:  “He was probably the most loved fish in the world. Most people don’t even care about a little fish, but you did, and he knew it.” When my daughter would place her finger on his tank, he would come. There was a connection between two living beings. Life happened. It wasn’t safe, for as Antoine de Saint Exupery says in The Little Prince, you risk tears when you love. But it was life because there was depth and meaning present…”mattering” was there. It was one of those Gibran daily miracles. That fragility of loving something, knowing consciously that it is indeed ephemeral, that it will die, or leave, and then defiantly loving it all the same, is life. And it can hurt. But it is also sweet…it is poetry…it is the heavens touching our plasticy, costumed existence with such luminous beauty.

Who would have thought there was so much in the little life of a fish.

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Filed under Children, Dreams, Healing, Joy, Loss, Love, Pain, Perspective

Dinner Theatre or Partying Naked?

In the film, My Dinner with Andre, there is this  interesting exchange about the theater and parties. Wally, an out-of-work-actor and playwright remarks to his friend, Andre: “You know, Debby once said after one of these New York evenings, she thought she’d traveled a greater distance just by journeying from her origins in the suburbs of Chicago to that New York evening, than her grandmother had traveled in making her way from the steppes of Russia to the suburbs of Chicago.” He also that he said that he never understood what was going on at  parties. To which his friend, Andre, responded, “Well, I think that’s right! You know, it may be, Wally, that one of the reasons that we don’t know what’s going on is that when we’re at a party, we’re all too busy performing…You know, that was one of the reason that Grotowsiki gave up the theater. He just felt that people in their lives now were performing so well that performance in the theater was sort of superfluous…”

So my question is why when we are a completely unique form of life on the planet earth, are a walking novel, or strain of beautiful music in the starry night, do we feel the need to be someone else? Why do we feel the pull to pack away the truth and rummage in the costume closet for another identity? Or why do we feel compelled to only submit the well-scrubbed, carefully edited, polished, savvy self  to others? Particularly when, if we are honest, this kind of activity will only guarantee a really boring conversation.

I know the answer. It has been my life’s work to drop the costume in a pile on the floor and emerge in all my fragile psychic nakedness into life. Maybe that is what Jesus meant when he said that you had to be born again. Maybe it is nothing more than being born out of a life of costumed slavery and falseness. Maybe what he meant when he spoke of life abundant was that we could actually live free and true…

This has a lot to do with why our Christmas tree is still up. Just call me rebellious, but I don’t want to do anything without making sure my freewill, my ultimate gift from God, is engaged and active.

Now about the tree. We did not put ornaments on it this year. Martin Luther, who allegedly started the tradition, when out walking one night, came upon  snow-kissed evergreens shimmering against the starry night. So we kept our tree like his primordial vision…green with little lights shining out in the darkness. However, let me be abundantly clear, it is no longer a Christmas tree. It is our winter tree and I keep feeding it water because its fragrance and lights comfort me.

So what’s the thread, you might be asking? Well, it is this. I don’t want to do anything because I think I need to perform for any external dictates anymore. I personally think that listening to that haranguing voice that says stuff like, “You better do such and such…or it’s imperative…or don’t say this or that,” just condemns me to a life of stress and inauthenticity.

You may be wondering if I am just some kind of rebel who leaves her laundry piled high and is at odds with every so-called authority figure or duty at hand. Yes on the laundry…sometimes…because dirty clothes happen, but I don’t go looking for conflict.However, when a hurt, frustration, or reaction to someone or something, arises out of the misty realms of my psyche, I inquire within. What is this about? Why am I feeling this way? Is this some post-traumatic-stress thing poisoning my present moment? And I have to admit, that a lot of the time, it is just that. I, damn it, have played a starring role in my own pain. After the moment of clarity comes from this kind of inquiry-based learning, I usually don’t have a lot of fight left in me. Also, doing my job, being a worker-among-workers thing, is a super essential mindset for me. In all of my uniqueness, there is a sweetness, paradoxically, just being a part of a greater whole. I think it is why I adore storms. Big weather reminds me of how small I am.

Yet let me be clear, if  after such a sifting of my spirit, there remains something that is unequivocally wrong, I will say the truth. I have to or else, by denying the veracity of the throbbing bruise, I will never, ever heal. It will perturb me, like the Princess and that little nuisance, the Pea, and I will have no rest, no restoration, or well-being until I deal with it.

No rulership or enforced authority is my code, which makes me an anarchist of sorts. It’s just that I know that I am made to obey one source, and let me clear, it is not carbon-based. Poet Walt Whitman described human liberty as “loosed of limits and imaginary lines.” It is freedom from those systems of belief about what it means to be human, those false notions that bind me  up at parties, at work, and at life. And frankly, I am saying “No” to that kind of rule in my life.

Dinner theatre…all of life is a stage and we are the actors? I say, “I don’t want to play that game any longer.” I want to be known for the fragility, the lack of education, sometimes the iffy morality, the failings, the humor, the courage, and the rawness that is me. And I want to know that bundle of idiosyncrasies that is you, too.

I don’t care where or if you went, to school. But I would love to know what you learned. I don’t care what your house is like. But I do care about the life, dreams, and joy that has occurred in amidst those walls. I don’t want, really, to hear your plan for keeping the proverbial boogie men out of your life or what massive efforts at controlling others you are mounting at the moment. But rather, I am interested in hearing how you have handled life when those sad, dark things we all wish would never happen, happen. I want to know your journey through pain, for there is no greater, more epic Mount Everest-of- the-soul expedition than to face down the demons that taunt when all the busyness of the day dies down, and all that is left is the four walls of the soft, exposed self.

Now wouldn’t that be a dinner party…a celebration of all the uncostumed reality of the attendees. Gives new meaning to “party naked.”


Filed under "Looking within", "Saying No", "The Journey", "To thine own self be true", Freewill, Healing, Parties, Perspective, Truth

Mystical Warts

Okay…this might be a little weird and a smidge gross…but welcome to my brain. I have my morning chores…stuff I have to do so that  gluttonous trash cans and dirty socks and their bad-boy friends stay within their territory. I do hate these boundary disputes and right now my laundry room is threatening to become a new state. Anyhow, sorry for this upcoming TMI (too much information), but  I have this wart. Not one of those white bumpy ones with more tiny dry relatives on the surface, but one that could be blessedly mistaken for a callous. I have been assaulting it with a pumice stone and I do believe it is on its last leg. But, again sorry for being graphic, but when I do this, it bleeds. And this morning whilst I was changing out the sheets et al, it still hadn’t coagulated. So I muttered something about it to my husband while digging around for another band-aid. He coolly reminded me that warts spread through all the layers of the skin and that is why, when you get them burned off, they hurt so much.

And that was all it took for me to get thinking. You see I have been on a spiritual journey for a long time and I do have a guide…not an audible voice (though that would be so cool) but there is presence, a teacher in my head, that points out analogies in the most odd subjects. So today it was the wart metaphor. You also should know that I have had a running, often intense, dialog with God about why it is taking sooo damn long to get me “done.” That is, why is he taking his sweet time getting me healed and moving me forward? Well, the wart offered an answer.

You see the physical world informed my spiritual world today. A wart is caused by a viral infection called the human papillomavirus virus. I also know that they can exist more often if an immune system is not strong. The virus enters through a weak or moist place in the skin and sets up shop, sending its tendril deep…just like the pain of some severe emotional experience. And I don’t know about you, but I have had this funny thing that has happened to me over and over again. When in the past, I have experience something terribly traumatic, I have often acted as if it was “no big deal” and have gone on like nothing ever happened. Some people have called me resilient. But I think that I have just been in some permanent state of shock and my personal gyroscope has been disconnected. I have also thought, again in the past, that dysfunction was normal. These events are both like the way warts function. They cause weakening in the skin of the soul and then they download a program, for want of a better word, that insures a permanent pattern of pain and even implants a homing beacon of  sorts that sends out a message that you are, albeit unconsciously, open for more abuse. I see it all the time in others. The little girl rejected or not protected by her father is spreading her legs for anyone as a teen. Everyone is appalled. But I know that she has just been profoundly hurt and is trapped, like a cursed princess in a dismal fortress of pain.

So the wart is the wound. So back to the analogy and what my guide was saying: all pain is not the same, that is, there is a difference between the pain of just being unconscious of your need for healing and the pain that results from the process of healing. You know the first kind well. It comes in scenarios like these…when you are asking yourself why, for example, do all my boyfriends reject me or why are all my bosses so disrespectful. This is the wart acting upon you. But there is a different kind of pain…and that is like my I-know-it-is-gross bleeding wart analogy, which is the pain that comes through healing. And it has dawned on me, that this is why I often give up on any kind of projects that would move me out of my wartiness. It hurts. Just like the searing of the skin to expunge the virus, so my spiritual innards throb. They are tender. Vulnerable. And a little weepy. But I must not be confuddled here. This pain is the layers of my spiritual dermis healing and it takes time and I won’t like it.

So my little meditation on warts has helped me to be a little less whinny about God’s timing and little more willing to be grateful for the gift of pain.

” Pain is the touchstone of spiritual progress.”

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Filed under Healing, Pain, Perspective, Recovery

The Wanna-Be OCD

I hate to have my visual field cluttered. I adore neatness.

I longingly look at Simple magazine’s fresh, bright, tidy, well-lit photos of stacks of multicolored sweaters. I relish the sharp images of clean drawers with neat little open-topped boxes holding a bevy of push-pins, paper clips, carefully sharpened pencils, and cleverly designed post-its, all at the ready for the oh-so-organized gal. I have shamelessly poured over Pottery Barn catalogs with their charming linens, plump sofas, and tight little work stations where each late model piece of technology is housed in some charming, yet intelligently designed piece of furniture.

In fact the first time I went to France, what I adored most of all was the sumptuous order. Every Quarter had its Marche with its symmetrical stacks of oranges and apples, where ordinary items some how magically transformed into art. And the boulangeries perfuming the air with the comfort and wellbeing found in an end of warm baguette, well let’s just say, it was a spiritual experience.

I would long to wash my car with all the proper tools as Martha Stewart outlined in her “how-to” meditation on the joys of a  owning a sparkling vehicle. And most of all, I would love to be able to read Suzy Orman’s financial advice and to have actually been smart and saavy enough to be in a place to follow it.

However, this is not my life.

I have a big black Durango that needs a new engine, collecting something way beyond dust, sitting in my carport. It is kept company by a stack of firewood, tools, wetsuits, and surfboards on one side, and on the other, the wood needed to complete the interior of our boat project…some day. Our house tips slightly down the hill and when it rains outside, our living room has precipitation as well. My laundry room, I am not sure that I am emotionally well to talk about my travails in that four by four cell, but let’s just saying is my Saint George and the Dragon experience amongst the suds and dirty underwear. And there are super-sized dust bunnies that appear each night after I swear that I have swept or vacuumed them all into oblivion. Our living situation is a mess. And as much as I have tried to order it, three children, the strain of our unrealized dream, and the work load my husband and I take on to survive, has left little time and absolutely not a cent, to contribute to a finer exterior.

So, where am I taking you with this little journey through my mind and my carport? It is this: it dawned on me, a short while ago, after a long time of being mad, sad, and everything else in between, that my life looked bad on the outside, but like those knobbly geodes, was a glittery splendor within.

Just for starters, I have been fortunate to have had the opportunity to heal from many emotional hurts and dysfunctions. I have witnessed my son’s hard fight out of  what we thought would be a perpetual cycle of depression. I have seen two brothers once divided by hurt and hate, facing life as a united front. And then there is this little sparkling star of girl, whose wisdom, grace, and self-effacing humor touch my heart in ways words cannot describe. You know when we were all in the throws of my oldest son’s depression, complete with meds, a shrink, and all, she said, in her eight year old voice, “Mama, he doesn’t need drugs, he needs love.” She was right. We were given the grace to let go and begin to love this prince of a boy for who he was, not who we felt pressed for him to be.

One night when I was almost too overwhelmed to take another step, my 15 year middle son took me by the arm and led me outside to look at the stars and reminded me, with wisdom beyond boyish bracy self, that it was a choice to be happy and a good look at the stars on any given night was a good enough start.

And then there is my sweet noble husband, who has endured so much for being true…for not caving in to the many pressures men undergo on this plant. He is Lord Aragorn in world of Costcos, Starbucks, and televised talking heads. We have learned to be gentle with each other in our weakness and stupidity, while still admiring the grace and wilted beauty of  lives marred from living under siege for so long.

So yes, there is that whisper that wishes for external order and loveliness, but I would not trade a well manicured lawn and freshly painted exterior for the lovely garden cultivated within.

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Filed under "Looking within", Children, Healing, Joy, Perspective

Confessions of a Mask Wearer

Not a great title. I know. Kinda of clunky, like me right now. Tough day yesterday, and nobody knew it. We have some unrealized twenty-two year old dreams that we have not been able to bring out of the misty realms of hope, imagination, and wonder into the physical world in which we dwell. And to be honest, they are a heavy press on some days. Like a troubled child that you adore and cannot abandon, are these offspring of our souls. And yet like some corrective brace for unruly teeth or a twisted limb, they have shaped us by the hardship that naturally comes with off-road travel. What I am saying is that if we had not obeyed this inward vision and created a more conventional life, I probably wouldn’t have healed and grown up. But that doesn’t mean that I don’t wish for breakthrough…for some inkling of a crack in the wall of impossible.


Filed under "The Journey", "Tough Days", Dreams, Healing, Pain

Resolution Revolution

Every day for the last 10 days or so, a few simple exercises have been added to my morning routine. They take me all of 10 to 15 minutes–leg lifts, toe ups, squats, crunches, and push-ups–and best of all, I can see results.

Okay, let’s let those two words from those two sentences sink in: simple and results.

So my question is this, why have I not done this before?

The answer is easy, but rather esoteric. It is behind  all the things I have wanted to do and have yet to do. I can pretty much guarantee, also, that it will not show up in any  January resolution topic’d magazine article.

So what is this secret?

It is found in an old African proverb:

If there is no enemy within, the enemy outside can do us no harm.

Are there a few quizzical looks? Raised eye brows?

What would be an enemy within? All I can say is that it is different for each person, but the origin of the enemy, the first cause, is always the same: it starts with a wound that has not healed, and no, I am not talking about a physical wound, I am talking about an emotional one.

And those unattended, invisible wounds have a life of their own. They operate in all sorts of scenarios, exacting their pound of flesh. They are behind every type of failure, in every type of circumstance possible.

So how do you find your wound? I know it sounds lame, but look within. The wound is inside, but so is the guide. Get quiet. Notice pain. Ask, what is this about?

In The Secret Life of Bees, Sue Monk Kidd, via her narrator, Lily, says this:

“Every human being on the face of the earth has a steel plate in his head, but if you lie down now and then and get still as you can, it will slide open like elevator doors, letting in all the secret thoughts that have been standing around so patiently, pushing the button for a ride to the top. The real troubles in life happen when those hidden doors stay closed for too long. But that’s just my opinion.”

About two years ago, I made a slight, but significant alteration in my habit of journaling. I began to transcribe the anatomy of my personal “fall.” That is, I recorded my digression into the hole of  fill-in-the-blank. I wrote down the hurt and the embarrassment as precisely as I could. Then I noticed something, the fill-in-the-blank didn’t have the power it once had over me. I felt a new robust strength that I had not had before: the power to say NO to something that did not have any of my best interest in mind, and YES to something that was good for me…something that would move me forward in my life.

The enemy within was having its cover blown.

So that’s how I have been able to do my calisthenics each morning…but it’s just my opinion.

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Filed under "Looking within", Healing, Resolutions, Success