Expectations and Acceptance

"Unchain Your Heart" (photo courtesy of Mommysaurus75 on flickr)

“Unchain Your Heart” (photo courtesy of Mommysaurus75 on flickr)

Happiness is a choice. Simplistic? Yes. Simple? No. But nevertheless, it is true.

This is not meant to belittle the problems that any of us face on a daily basis. Problems can pile up and overwhelm us. Issues can lead to chaos and clutter that overtake our lives, becoming an endless battle against imminent depression. Or you can take action, and choose to be happy. This is not at all simple. No.

I’ve written about forgiveness before, and the importance of forgiving yourself. I forgive myself daily. And I continue to learn. I once ended a friendship because I was appalled with my friend’s inability to learn. I wanted to fix her. I saw the deep issues she was facing, and denying, and I wanted to help. Ending it was a necessary step for me, because until I was out of that cycle of ignorance and want, I could not see that the only person I was capable of fixing was me. The end of the friendship led me in to the light. It helped me realize that I, too, had lessons to learn.

I struggled with my desire to fix her. At times, I struggle with my desire to fix everyone but me. Ultimately, I know that the only person I can help is myself. So I forgive myself. And I continue to work. I continue to learn. I still see her issues clearly, as I do with many of the people that I love. But I am aware that I can not fix her, or anyone else. I can see it without trying to fix it. The big lesson for me is to work on my own stuff, and let others work on theirs. Which leads me to expectation and acceptance.

Once I understood the lesson, I realized that what got me there in the first place were the expectations that I placed on our friendship. I believe what people tell me, and I expect that their actions will support their words and vice versa. I thought it was okay to have that expectation.

There’s a tricky thing, that. Expecting others to be what they pretend to be leads to disappointment when they can’t possibly live up to it all the time. It’s a slippery slope which takes me down the path toward moral outrage and the belief that I am right. That belief never lasts long. Often, merely seconds. Funny, I’m still waiting for the day when it no longer happens at all.

When I remove right and wrong from the equation, I also remove my expectation. When I remove expectation, disappointment and outrage are gone as well. What remains is what I started with in the beginning. Love.

Love is always there, but it gets masked by the expectations we have of the people that we love. I can clearly see the damage I was causing myself by staying in that friendship now. It was not so clear when I was in it. My overwhelming need to fix another person was hurting me. The anticipated loss of our friendship was more painful than the actual loss. I was surprised at the relief I felt when I allowed myself to express my mixed emotions, in spite of the pain I was pushing aside. I was even more surprised at the relief I felt when the dust settled. I was no longer tormented by jabs at my spirit for knowing too much.

I remember old friends with love. I have no control over how they remember me. In forgiving myself, I have also forgiven them for residual pain I felt because I expected what they could not give. In accepting this truth, I learned that I don’t need validation from anyone else. Is this knowledge powerful enough to rekindle old friendships? I doubt it. I have changed. I have no expectation of change from anyone else. A difficult and worthy life lesson.

Cynicism is the New Trust

“When you were young and your heart was an open book, you used to say live and let live (you know you did). But if this ever changing world in which we’re living makes you give in and cry, say live and let die.”

~ Paul McCartney

Odd, it happened for many years. My live and let live phase. I didn’t get cynical. I believed. I believed so much that I thought parents always looked out for their children’s best interests, because mine always did. I believed so much that I thought people told the truth when they sold you something, because that’s what I do. I believed so much that I thought friends were exactly who they appeared to be. Was it naiveté? Was it stupidity?

My inner critic shouts yes to the second question. “Stupid, stupid girl,” he says, because of course he’s a man. “For such an intelligent woman, you are taken in by an awful lot of people. Why is that? Is it perhaps because you’re not quite as smart as you thought you were?”

That’s enough of that. He’s had his way long enough. Shut the fuck up, mr. inner critic. You’re not even important enough to warrant capitilization.

I have grown distrustful of doctors and lawyers, police and politicians alike. Funny, those last two. They derive from the Greek word polis which means city. Probably why I live in the country. I recognized that I have a problem with authority figures a long time ago. My problem lies in my trust and belief in them. So I started questioning authority. But my respect for authority has been so deeply bred in to my bones, that I used to say “yes, sir”  more often than not.

Not necessarily a bad thing. But to be in total agreement with someone without questioning their motives has taken me five decades to overcome. Even after significant betrayals in my twenties, I still trusted people at face value — or at uniform value as the case may be.

The army loves people like me. “Do it, because I said so.” Like an overbearing parent. Ineffectual without something to back it up. But the army also hates people like me, because although I may be slow in coming to full realization, eventually it hits me. At which point, I passionately and vigorously fight the status quo.

When someone is something other than what they appear to be, my instincts kick in. Some people are very good at it, hiding in plain sight. Politicians have become masters of this skill. Being what others want, hiding what they are. I have always had difficulty with that particular set of skills myself. Love me or hate me, I am who I am. There’s no going back. I live in the present and move on. Is there really any other way? Some people prove there is, but it’s not the life for me.

As the years have passed, I have become more outspoken. My opinions are my own, and though I will listen to what you have to say, I keep my own counsel. I have learned that those who take on the opinions of others risk losing themselves. I have learned that those who say yes to everything, find that nothing is left. I have learned that friends who wish you to be someone other than who you are, are not true friends. I have learned that while sometimes you should believe in magic beans, you must always be wary of trading the cow. I have learned to create my own magic.

These words seem simple. The lessons in them were difficult. I am still learning. And that is the key, really. Never stop looking for answers to the questions. Never stop forming questions. Always wonder if what someone is telling you is for your own good, or if it is for theirs. Either way, it’s okay. As long as both of you are aware of what is really going on.

I choose to agree with someone because I want to believe in them. Not because they have swayed me in any particular direction, although that does happen. I am like a tree, with branches swaying in the breeze. No matter how big the storm that blows, my roots are deeply grounded. And the older I get, the harder it is to knock me down.

For better or worse

Seventeen years ago, Tom and I chose to blend our five children into one family. It was with lots of love and patience that we did this, because at times it was a rocky road. I remember speaking to my mother about disagreements Tom and I had on raising our children. Mom said she didn’t think it had anything to do with the differences of biological offspring versus stepchildren. She recalled similar disagreements with my father on child-rearing.

Money and children are two of the biggest hotspots for disagreements in a marriage. Of course, there are plenty of other stressors that sideswipe your once happy relationship. Poor communication skills often send your marriage into crisis mode. Given time, some issues could lead you down the road toward divorce. Before you consider that, you should ask yourselves if either of you are interested in saving what remains of your relationship. Or would you prefer to take the investment you’ve made and throw it all away in favor of beginning again with somebody new? If saving what remains is your choice, read on.

The complications and stressors in a marriage are comparable to soup through a strainer. If you have ever strained liquid through a screen in hopes that all the free floating particles be strained out of the liquid, then you’ll understand this analogy. The liquid being clarified is the love that you feel for one another. The solids represent the stress. All the flotsam and jetsam of everyday life. Arguments about money, about how to raise the children, about work, about love, about life. All of your disagreements are represented by the stuff that’s floating in this brew.

What you need is the nourishing broth. That’s what really heals. But all the other stuff gets in the way. And when you strain it, the screen clogs up to the point where no love gets through. It can’t make its way through all of the stuff that’s blocking it. The way through is to remove some of the blockage and stir that stuff up.

That’s the painful part of it. You have to question whether or not the relationship is worth stirring all that stuff up. You both have to be committed to communicating with each other, and try to convey your feelings without taking it personally. This is incredibly difficult. You are talking about things which have far-reaching meaning. Intimacy issues. Parents. Children. Finances. Self-worth. Blame. Control. Right and Wrong.

You both have to be willing to be nice to one another. To consider each other’s feelings. To learn how to communicate with out creating a sar-chasm. To listen with out taking it personally. Because that is what happens. There is an infinitely vast space between you created by the bitter words that you’ve both spoken. Sometimes that bitterness is sneaky. You may think that what you are saying is reasonable, but you could be pushing buttons in your partner that you didn’t even know were there.

In order to save your relationship, and create a more stable foundation, you must both be willing to change the way you communicate. Refuse to treat your partner as a whipping boy. Refuse to respond as a victim. And stop blaming yourselves and each other. It can no longer be about who is right or who is wrong. You must not point fingers at one another. You must open your hearts and your minds. You can be right, or you can be happy. It’s a choice.

You must be willing to take a look in the mirror and see the parts of yourself that you could improve. See yourself clearly. And forgive yourself. Let it be in the past. Once you have forgiven yourself for all of the things that you believe you may have done wrong, then forgive each other for all of the hurts, perceived or otherwise. Tabula Rasa. It’s time to wipe the slate clean, and take care of one another again.

Be willing to discuss all the issues, not just the surface issues. If there are money problems, including disagreements about spending or saving habits, be willing to discuss them without blame. If there are differences in raising your children, do not point fingers or castigate your partner for doing something “wrong.” You have lovely, strong, wonderful children. Believe it or not, they love you no matter what kind of mistakes you make, and both parenting styles have value. Allow each other to be human. Your children will see the good examples that you set when you are willing to concede that you make mistakes. They will also see that you support each other no matter what. That’s important.

If there are intimacy issues, then be willing to talk about those as well. Sex is one of the hardest things to discuss. But it is a necessary part of marriage. Intimacy is important. Sharing each others bodies is the same as sharing each others souls. Don’t be shy about sharing yourselves and your innermost fears and desires in this area as well. If you tend to hold back in this area, then be willing to explore. And if you would like more from your partner, either sexually or emotionally, then be clear about that as well.

Once you start to crack the communication door, the floodgates may open. Be gentle with each other. Be receptive. Be honest. Treat each other with respect and tenderness. Take care of your partner as if he or she were a two-year-old. We don’t blame a child for irrational responses to a situation. He is still learning, right? So are you and your partner. But don’t condescend. Support one another as if you were best friends.

Your marriage is worth saving because when you married you had this vast sea of love between you, and you swam in it joyfully back then. Remind each other of how you felt when you were courting. Find time to spend together outside of your parenting time. Plan to go out together at least one night a week. This is not an easy thing, because life gets in the way. We make up excuses why it can’t be done. Not enough money. Too tired. The kids need us. No babysitter. All of these things are easily solved. There are ways to go out without spending money, even if it’s just for a long stroll through town, holding hands and talking. You can trade off with another couple for babysitting. Drink more coffee to wake up. And the kids need you more together, rather than living in the same house apart.  Whether you realize it or not, you both need the same thing. Love and respect. Gentle reminders when you backslide in to old habits. A blank slate each day. Each minute, if necessary.

Remember the love, because that’s what it all boils down to. That’s why we are here in this world.

Unlocking Your Fear

It is not what is seen that we most fear. It is the unseen. The things we most fear do not lie outside of us, but inside. We create our own fears, sometimes out of something so small and irrational that it’s laughable. Anyone who has seen the fears of a very young child understands this. What is not clearly understood is how those fears are carried through life with us. Children recognize the drama in our lives big or small, and they respond to it with abandon.

Linda Wojcik is a Nutritional Kinesiologist and Spiritual Intuitive. She is a healer. I was working with Linda several years ago, and as she reads your energy she often will associate your current issue with a certain time in your life. This time, she told me I was very young — maybe three or four — when a trauma had occurred in my life. Of course, my conscious mind was unaware of what that trauma could have been. I immediately wondered if I had blocked something horrible, and now I was subconsciously attempting to work through it. I was terrified of what I might find. The only ones who could help me remember were my parents.

That summer, I had the opportunity to travel to China with my mother. We were there for about ten days, and we spent our nights sharing various motel rooms throughout China. It gave us plenty of opportunities to speak. One night under cover of darkness, as we lay in our twin beds separated by only a few feet of space, I bridged the gap.

“Mom?”

“Yeah?” she responded, her voice a little sleepy.

“Do you remember anything traumatic that might have happened to me when I was little? Maybe around the age of three of four?”

She thought about it briefly and then brought a memory to the forefront. Something that had bothered her, clearly. Every mother knows that guilt. “We lived in Dansville. We were getting ready to move, and I was pregnant with Theron. You were very whiny that day, clinging to my legs in the kitchen. We were packing to move to the house we live in now, and I had had enough. I yelled at you to go find something else to do.” Her voice reflected the exasperation she must have felt at the time. “You wandered off, and after a while I wondered where you had gone. So I went to look for you. I found you sound asleep on the couch. Your face was flushed. I felt your forehead, and you were burning up. I lifted up your shirt to check, and sure enough I saw the spots. You had chicken pox.” Her voice trailed off.  Then she said, “I felt so bad for sending you away. You were sick, and I didn’t know it.”

As I listened to this story from my childhood, a moment in time that I had no memory of, tears were streaming down my cheeks and onto the hard mattress beneath me. “Thanks, Mom,” I whispered. I knew. I knew it in my soul. This was the trauma that Linda had sensed. This small moment in time when I needed my mother, and she was overwhelmed and unable to deal with my needs for a brief while. It was not a big bad monster in my closet. It was a small fear that I had carried with me for years, and it had grown far out of proportion to the actuality. A fear of abandonment had grown exponentially until it overwhelmed me in subtle ways as an adult.

I thought of all the moments when I had to take care of myself as a single mother, rather than attend to my children’s needs. Like when I went in to take a bubble bath while Madison pounded outside the door, wanting desperately to be in there with me. I was overwhelmed, and I was afraid that if I didn’t get time for myself I would hurt my children. So I chose to do something which would cause less pain. I wondered what fears I had created in my children because of small moments in time like that. I judged myself.

But while I listened to my Mom tell me that story, I did not judge her. I empathized with her. I understood her. I cried for her as much as the little girl I had been. I knew that she had done the best she could. My parents took care of me and my brothers and sister to the best of their ability. We had a good childhood. Often strict, but also full of laughter and adventures galore. So why did I judge myself as a parent? Why could I not feel empathy for myself?

It is ourselves for whom we reserve the harshest criticisms and judgements. Anyone who has a tendency to be critical toward others is sure to heap criticism upon themselves in overwhelming amounts. They stuff it deeply away in the locked rooms of their soul, and let it pile up until it leaks out as more criticism toward someone else. And those small fears, those minor traumas we feel as children become something much grander in our subconscious minds. They are the boogeyman. They are the monster under the bed.

Those fears are what keep us from opening our hearts to the people in our lives. It’s not rational, but it exists. And if something truly horrible occurs, the guilt and shame, the anger and pain are all criticized and hidden away. Frozen in time and mind. Locked tightly up so that we don’t have to deal with it ever, ever again.

But those horrors also creep out in subtle ways. Damaging relationships and our ability to communicate with friends and lovers. We reject anyone who recognizes the damage, pushing them away before they can reveal the secrets. We refuse to speak to them, calling on anyone else who will sympathize. We fan the flames of our fears, and bolster our insecurities. Because they are safer than the memories that are locked away in time.

Be gentle with yourself. Be gentle with your soul. Explore your fears, and put them to rest. They are not so big and bad. You don’t see them as long as you hide them away. And those unseen fears are hurting you more than anyone else. Open up those stuffed and locked rooms in your mind. Explore them through therapy. Explore them with trusted friends. But explore them.

Trying to control your hidden monsters, and keeping them locked out of sight makes them stronger. It is only when you choose to unlock the memories and set the monsters loose, that you learn how inflated they have become. What you thought was truly terrifying can only hurt you when you keep it locked away. So go ahead, release the monkeys. You may find that you are the one with wings, and the more fears you shed the lighter you become. You will achieve unimaginable heights if you have the courage to release your fears.

Does love equal trust?

Love and trust. A facebook friend recently posted a status which ended with the words Love = Trust. Something that a romance novel tells us must be true. It’s one part of the fiction that people tend to believe.

Love and trust sometimes go hand in hand, but trust is fluid when you love someone. For many different reasons. Sometimes it’s your baggage that makes it come and go. Sometimes it’s the actions of your partner that make it come and go. Their actions, and your reaction to them, determine the fluctuating levels of trust.

Let it go

Thank you to Penelope’s Pen for this image.

It’s a romantic fantasy to think that you will always trust everything that your lover says or does. The person who believes their partner one hundred percent of the time is either very foolish or very naive. The same goes for friendships. We all hold stuff back. For very personal reasons, known only to the keeper of the secrets.

But trust should not be taken lightly in any relationship. It’s the stuff that good fiction is made of. Broken promises litter the dramatic landscape of any story you read or watch on television. They also litter our emotional landscape on a daily basis.

“I’m going to finish this today,” she says. Yet it remains unfinished when the day is done.

“I’ll be working late,” he says, as he opens the door to another hotel room.

“Thanks, man. I’m going to pay you back.” he promises.

“I’m going to …” Fill in the blank. We say them and hear them all the time. The amount is up to you. The number of times that you make a promise, implicit or otherwise to another person, and then break it determines the level of trust that is felt in your relationship.

Think of the friend who promised to be there when you need her. Think of the lover who promised that he will be home on time. Think of the parent who promised to come to the big game or the big show. Watch how your children struggle as they learn to lie or tell you the truth. We all know someone who has broken a promise to us, either large or small. And we all love that person anyway.

One Person

Love and trust are not equal, nor do they go hand in hand. We do not need complete trust in order for love to last. We need communication. We need growth. We need the ability to understand the person standing next to you is as human as you are, and as capable of mistakes. Both big and small. With that understanding comes the chance to rebuild the trust. Without it, the trust fades and someone’s heart is about to be broken. Any given minute of the day.

Don’t believe the story. It’s the love that counts. You create the level of trust that you want in your relationship, whether friend or lover, parent or child, sibling or other, with every action you take and every word you speak. For the levels of trust to rise, you must each be willing to communicate and grow your relationship. Otherwise, it fails because the trust level falls. You choose the amount of trust that flows through the love. Make sure it’s at a level you can live with, or the relationship will be certain to end.

Broken Relationship

 

 

What are you leaving out?

What are you redacting out of your life? I love what Maggie Hollinbeck has to say, the profound questions she asks. The unflinching response. She works so hard to stay true to her Self and it’s inspirational. I know there has been much that I redacted, and each time that I do it I can feel it like a tap on my soul. It’s that gentle nudge that my spirit gives me to let me know that I’m being untrue to my Self.

Recently, I’ve learned to listen to that nudge. I’ve learned to fully express myself in the moment. I’ve learned to understand that when I’m being false, or justifying my reasons (which leads me to my favorite fallback position of martyrdom) if I take a moment to find the right words, it makes all the difference. The other night I felt that nudge with my husband Tom. I expressed myself and as soon as the words were released, so were the feelings.  As soon as we spoke about it, I felt better. Instead of holding in my resentment and allowing it to control me, allowing it to create a pocket of space between us — unhealthy space — I let it go. And I loved him more, if that were possible.

This is something that I’ve learned most certainly from my recent experience with a friend. It’s something that I profoundly wish that she explores, so that she may face the pain it brings to the forefront and release it. I’ve met many women in the past couple of years who have helped me in one way or another figure out what’s going on inside. Figure out how to be true to me, how to care for me. Without feeling selfish.

Sometimes that growth has been painful, because there were things — people — that I didn’t want to let go of. But those people aren’t gone. They’re following their own paths. They may  live with their eyes closed to the possibility of whole hearted living, or they may choose to open their hearts and see. That is what I choose. I will no longer cut those feelings out. I will explore them. I will feel them. I will pay attention to them. I will surrender to the honesty of who I am. I have no control over anyone but myself. And I will always choose to be true to my Self. Because I lived for far too many years listening to the voices of others, the opinions of others. People who told me I was wrong. People who told me that I wasn’t as good as, or as strong as, or that it wasn’t possible. People who rolled their eyes when I spoke of pursuing a dream. People who sniggered when I shared my truth. But I am very aware of what is possible. I believe.

Whole hearted living is exactly what I meant by living with my heart open. Open hearts and open minds are important, but there must be thoughtfulness that accompanies that. The intuitive nudges that you receive become louder and louder if you refuse to listen to them. They become stronger and stronger. They push you and pull you closer to your edge until you explode out of the circle that you’ve confined yourself in. I will no longer confine my Self. I refuse to be put in a box. I refuse to be labelled. I refuse to listen to those who would judge me without knowing the story. I choose to forgive. I choose to remember. I choose to love in spite of it all. I choose to accept all that happens with a complete and whole heart, knowing that I have done what I needed in each moment to take care of myself. That when I chose not to do that, the pressure built inside of me until it exploded out and once it was out, I was found again. I was not lost. I was found. I am here. I am whole. I am love.

For the first time in my life, I feel as though I am building my Self up, rather than tearing my Self down. A significant change in my patterns and behaviors. I intend to hold on to that change. It is my choice.

A Colorful Tale

In a valley not far from here lived two women, named So and Hum. The valley was ringed by a majestic mountain range, and in the foothills grew many and various trees and shrubs. There was evidence that amber waves of grain had tried to root in the soil, but it could not grow as it was cut off from the rest of the world it helped to sustain. Instead, there was purple sage that grew alongside tall redwoods, adorned with beautiful green ivy. Glorious black walnut trees also grew there; they were surrounded by lovely flowers of many different colors. Birds from far and wide knew of the beauty of this valley and rested in the boughs of the trees, leaving music behind and sometimes seeds from which new growth emerged.

The lands of So and Hum were divided by a long winding river which added another layer of music and beauty to their lives. Like any river, during stormy weather the waters raged. Both So and Hum built levees to keep the waters from pouring over into their beautiful valley. They were welcomed into each others lives, and Hum would often visit So at her home which was peaceful and loving, filled with beauty and grace. Hum loved the quiet introspection that she achieved during her visits there. So crossed the river to see Hum as well, but not as often. It was quietly agreed that So’s home was the place they would see each other most.

Over the next few years as they each tended their gardens, Hum made her journeys across the river to visit So. After one very large storm, Hum noticed the levees that So had built were beginning to drip. The leaks were not large, but there was a steady trickle which allowed the river to flow into Hum’s side of the valley. Hum spoke to So about the holes. So said that she was aware of them, that she herself had noticed them before. Hum was happy that So saw them as well. Hum believed that So would do something to stop the water from escaping.

As the months passed, So and Hum continued to spend much time together. Hum was troubled. The small pond on her side of the valley was growing in size. One evening, Hum crossed the river again to meet So in the forest. She noticed the water had formed rivulets spilling through the levee. As they strolled together through the forest, Hum spoke of the leaks again. This time, So was irritated with the reminder. So was defensive, saying she too had noticed. They changed the subject, while the wind whistled through the trees. They strolled for another hour, then parted ways.

More time passed, and the pond on Hum’s side of the valley had become a lake. It encroached on her gardens, no longer allowing her to grow enough food to nourish herself. Hum knew that it upset So to speak of it, so rather than broach the subject with her again, Hum took long walks through the forest to think, often lingering beneath the black walnut trees. Their leaves allowed dappled sunlight to shine through and warmed her heart and soul.

Hum walked so much, that she created new paths through the forest. Hum discovered a pass through the mountain range and into the world that surrounded them. Hum found other sources of nourishment there. Outside their valley lived more people, who were generous and helpful. People who counseled her about her troubles with So and the levee.

Hum still visited So, and they continued strolling through the ivy-covered forest together. They noticed the beauty that surrounded them, and both especially loved the new white birch saplings that had recently taken root in the forest. But So was not as receptive to Hum as she once had been. So’s levees were steadily percolating and brimming over onto Hum’s land, and So refused to acknowledge it. So’s levee had been leaking for years and the trickle had been so slow, that by the time Hum realized the danger she was in, it was almost too late. The deep depression that had been carved by the steady seep of water threatened to drown her.

Hum stopped visiting So when the waters on her side of the valley began to lap at the foundations of her home. So insisted that it was Hum’s fault, because Hum had called attention to the leaks. Hum could no longer make the journey to So’s side of the river. Hum could no longer get to her own levee to repair the cracks that had formed there as well. While Hum was stranded in her home, the part of the levee that she had worked so hard to maintain broke open.

The waters rushed into So’s side of the valley. They boiled and roiled and swept away much ground, exposing some of the roots of the forest that surrounded them. The churning waters threatened to unearth the tenuous hold the ivy had in the ground, and it clung desperately to the trunks of the trees and struggled for solid footing.

The river finally began to settle, and because Hum could no longer leave her home to walk in the forest and find her paths through the foothills, she wrapped herself up in a cocoon of warmth. She emerged, a week later. Breaking free from her cocoon, she spread her wings and flew high above the valley. A weight had been lifted, and she was delighted to discover her new abilities. Her wings were lovely to behold, variegated stripes of gold and brown. From the soaring heights she looked over the valley, surrounded by the forest that had once been her home. Hum saw that whether it was by a slow trickle, or a sudden gush of flowing water, both sides were swept away. It was a matter of perspective.

Hum could clearly see the circle below. Half of the water was somewhat murky and brown. The fiery overflow from Hum’s broken levee was evident on the surface. The other half was a sparkling and radiant blue, streaked with waves which hinted at the depths beneath. The contrast was beautiful! She worried that So was also stranded, because now the entire valley was flooded. But the river still wound between the two sides, clearly delineating what used to exist. Their homes were submerged but could still be seen, their opposing colors contrasting with the water around them. The trees still towered around the valley, protecting the deep waters.

Hum flew a little lower, nearer to So’s home. Suddenly, a leaping and sparkling fish whose scales brilliantly reflected the light and color that surrounded her, jumped from the water toward Hum. It was then that Hum realized that So had adapted as well. So had become that beautiful fish swimming through the waters that were left behind. Hum flew away, recognizing that the entire valley had changed. The old growth was washed away by cool waters that allowed a new and different kind of growth.

Hum knew that though she would never stroll through the forest with So again, she could still alight on the trees that surrounded the valley. The robust ivy-draped redwoods were a possibility, perhaps. The new white birch saplings also reached their branches toward the sky, quietly offering a tender young, flexible branch for Hum to land. The branches of the birch swayed with the winds that blew through the forest. Perhaps with time, they would become hardier and offer Hum more stability. Hum’s favorite spot to land was the strong and stalwart Black Walnut, which still provided refuge and dappled light to shine upon her through its leaves.

Though their world had changed, it was not deemed right or wrong on either side of the river. Some outside the valley shook their heads, sorrowful for the damage that the flood had caused when Hum’s levee broke. Others were witness to the fact that damage had occurred slowly on one side and quickly on the other, but both sides had suffered and the result was the same. Many noticed and were thankful that there was still much beauty that remained. Hum still flutters through the valley, and So still swims in the waters that were left behind. Hum holds hope for So that she will have the courage to plumb the murky depths of her new home. Both are wiser and sadder, sending love and healing to each other as they find their way in the new world they created together, surrounded by the beloved forest they both once called home.

Yin Yang

Surrendering to Honesty

I’ve thought a lot about a guiding word for the year over the past week. I’ve considered, and thought that I had settled on, generosity. One thing that I noticed about myself recently was my conspicuous lack of generosity toward a certain person. He is a relative of my husband. And whenever Tom would suggest doing something for him, or giving something to him, I balked. Before considering it, I said no. More than once. Finally, I asked myself: Why? Why did I feel it was necessary to judge this man unfit for giving. He is not so different from us. He struggles to make his way in the world, as all of us do in one way or another.

But something about him gave me pause. The solution was not about him. It was about me. When I released my judgements about this man I saw that he was as divine as any one of us. And that divinity that we all share makes us deserving of whatever another chooses to give.

Recent events in my life have pointed me toward forgiveness as my guiding word. But almost as soon as I thought that, I realized that forgiveness was already deeply embedded in my soul. I don’t need to use it as my guiding word. I live it, almost daily. I observe all the things that we do to hurt one another, and I forgive. I observe all the things that we do to protect ourselves or the people we love, and I forgive. Forgiveness is a way of life for me. I chose that a few years ago and included myself in that forgiveness as well, which is a very powerful practice. I recommend it highly. Forgiveness is a gift that we give to our Selves.

Today, when I woke with the opening lyric of “Watching the Wheels” in my head, I wondered what the message was about. I thought about it a long time. For those who aren’t aware, this is a famous song by John Lennon which begins with “People say I’m crazy.” That was the only lyric I could remember at first. And I wondered about that. While my mind meandered, I dwelt on the word “Surrender” as a possibility for that guiding word for 2014. Surrender to the possibilities. Release expectation, and let go of judgement. Surrender. It sounded right. Perhaps that is the one.

Then I looked up the rest of the lyrics for the song, and realized that the universe has a greater message for me. It makes me laugh with joy. It helps me realize that I have found my true Self again. Hello, Self. It’s been a long time. A friend recently told me that she was worried about me because she has seen anger in me, darkness which concerned her. I finally released it. I let it go, when I realized the true source. And I have forgiven. Because I love. That may lead you to believe that I will choose Love as my guiding word. But love is a constant in my life, even with the anger simmering in background, I always felt the love. I don’t need to choose it to guide me, because I live it.

As I explored these thoughts, I realized that part of what created that darkness was secrets. When I look up the word secretive, I find synonyms for it which help to describe where the anger came from. Words like reticent, buttoned up, cagey, uncommunicative, close-mouthed, cryptic, furtive, in private, in the background, reserved, tight-lipped, unforthcoming, and withdrawn are all synonyms for secretive. These are all aspects of my shadow side. I felt most comfortable sharing some of those secrets that I kept buttoned up with my husband. For he is my saving grace. He allows me to explore that darkness. He brings me back into the light when I need it. His patience and love are his divinity.

This leads me to another possibility for my guiding word: Honesty. It is the opposite of secretive. It means direct, forthcoming, frank, candid, sincere. I have often been described as direct by others. It is something that I strive to be. But I realized that the secrets that I’ve kept, the ones I’ve hidden from myself and my closest friends are the very things that have hurt me. Unfortunately, it also hurt them. I was clumsy as I revealed those secrets. I did it in a painfully honest and cruel way. For this, I can only seek their forgiveness. It is their choice to offer it to me. I have no control.

I have already seen how the secrets I have kept have led me into this darkness. The only secrets that I explore are my own. Rest assured, I’m very aware that others’ secrets are not mine to divulge. That is a personal choice that each of us must make. The journey of our soul is a path that we walk alone. There are people that help us in that journey, but no one else can take the same steps as you. It is our choices that lead us home. Releasing my secrets has led me to a lightness that I haven’t felt in years. A weight has been lifted, and I see the mistakes that I have made — and the weight that I’ve placed on my husband while I struggled through my secrets.

May your year be happy, healthy, full of grace. And may you find the courage to face your own secrets. I leave you with the words from the great sage, John Lennon:

“Watching The Wheels”

People say I’m crazy doing what I’m doing,
Well they give me all kinds of warnings to save me from ruin,
When I say that I’m okay, they look at me kind of strange,
Surely you’re not happy now you no longer play the game,

People say I’m lazy dreaming my life away,
Well they give me all kinds of advice designed to enlighten me,
When I tell that I’m doing fine watching shadows on the wall,
Don’t you miss the big time boy you’re no longer on the ball?

I’m just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round,
I really love to watch them roll,
No longer riding on the merry-go-round,
I just had to let it go,

People asking questions lost in confusion,
Well I tell them there’s no problem,
Only solutions,
Well they shake their heads and they look at me as if I’ve lost my mind,
I tell them there’s no hurry…
I’m just sitting here doing time,

I’m just sitting here watching the wheels go round and round,
I really love to watch them roll,
No longer riding on the merry-go-round,
I just had to let it go.

Freedom’s Just Another Word …

“The most important kind of freedom is to be what you really are. You trade in your reality for a role. You trade in your sense for an act. You give up your ability to feel, and in exchange, put on a mask. There can’t be any large-scale revolution until there’s a personal revolution, on an individual level. It’s got to happen inside first.” ~ Jim Morrison

There is always a cost associated with this kind of freedom. And you must ask yourself if you are willing to pay the price. Like the song says “Freedom’s just another word for nothin’ left to lose.”

I am willing to pay the price. What I have learned is that I can not force anyone else to pay it. People don’t give up their masks easily. It is the only form of protection we have. But it is a psuedo protection. It is a false front. It is what we cling to when the world is falling apart.

Except … what if you let it go? What if you peel back the mask to reveal the vulnerability beneath? What if you let people see everything? What’s the worst that can happen?

Not everyone is comfortable seeing you without the mask. The ones that see it, and accept you in spite of it all are exceptional. That is unconditional love. The ones who tell you to put the mask back on … well, those you can love from afar, because that’s where you will be.

I believe the people who have faced their own darkness, have the ability to offer you unconditional love. I believe the people who don’t want to deal with the pain in their own darkness, can not help you face yours.

There was a time that I chose to self-medicate. Alcohol, pot, precarious sex with strangers all played a role. At one time, I identified myself as a control freak. Once I became aware of my need to control everything around me, I was able to release it. It was only after I released my need to control that I started feel the effect of real change in my life.

I still have the tendency to want to control things. I see it come out in OCD-like behavior, particularly with numbers. And I laugh. But more often than not these days I let the chips fall where they may. I am aware that the less I control, the more freedom I achieve. I can not make choices for others, only for myself. It is a mistake to try. I still have to remind myself of that, especially for those that I love.

Change is like an exit on a highway, leading to new possibilities. It is a choice I have made. I have set fire to my past, and made way for new growth in my future. I live my life with an open heart, and I own my mistakes. I can not regret any of it, for to regret it is to deny my own soul. With change comes pain, and I am sorry for the pain that I have caused others.  But this, I can not change.

Someone once said to me “Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.” Let it begin. Because I am free at last.

Catch-22

I find myself embroiled in a melodrama of my own creation. And I’m aware that’s where all our drama begins, from inside. The inner world that we each live in is comprised of all the little moments in our lives that are deeply impressed upon us. We experience them daily. Of course, as children we are much more prone to believing things that as adults we know to be false. Yet, some of our childish beliefs remain in place long into our adult years. Some of those mistaken notions may never leave us.

I think I mentioned once before that I grew up believing the red cones of the sumac trees to be poisonous. I was certain that my mother told me as a child to stay away from those poison sumac trees. They were dangerous. Yet, just a few short months ago I learned from Rebecca Lindamood and Gena Decker that not only are those fuzzy red berries not poison, they are delicious. They are also good for you, high in vitamin C. They can be dried and used as a seasoning, or they can be brewed into a tea which has in the past been referred to as “Indian Lemonade.” Some native American cultures have long known about the puckery sweet flavor of these lovely little berries.

I overcame my beliefs about Sumac because Rebecca is a trusted source of information for all things food. She is a food blogger, in fact. And a damn good one. So I sipped the sumac drink that she offered me, and I loved it. And just like that, a childhood belief — a known fact for me prior to this new knowledge — was blown out of my brain like so much dust in the wind. A couple of weeks later, I asked my Mom if she knew that those Sumac berries were not poison. I was sure she was the source of my mistaken information. She said she knew they were good to eat, she used to eat them as a child herself. It was some of the wild grapes she had warned me about as a child. The ones the birds wouldn’t eat were the ones I should steer clear of. I can’t even begin to tell you how many wild grapes I ate as a child, with nary of thought of poison in my head. But I stayed the hell away from that sumac. How could I have been so wrong for so many years?

Sometimes, all we need is a little more light shed on the subject so that our mistaken beliefs can be swept away. But, unless you are willing to open your eyes it doesn’t matter how much light is beaming. You won’t see it without an open heart and a willing mind. Sometimes, your ego won’t allow you to see the mistakes that you’ve made. Unless you are willing to consider all sides of the matter, or look at it from a different point of view, you may never learn. Some people prefer to live in ignorance. It’s more comfortable. Change is not comforting, even if it’s for the better.

My own personal current drama involves significant change in a friendship. This friendship is exceedingly dear to me. I have held on to some old stuff for a few years that was chipping away at my heart. When a tear in our friendship first tested us, I tried to speak to my friend about it. The first time was just a week or so after it happened. The second time was several months afterward. Nothing changed after either conversation. There was no acknowledgement of a problem between us, except to say that similar things had occurred many times for her in the past, as she has befriended many strong women.

I should mention that I find it difficult to speak about deep and heartfelt things, particularly when it may cost me a friend. In some cases, it takes me years to confide in people. So instead, I decided to suck it up. I decided to stuff it down. As deep and as far as I could. I focused on love. I visualized my friend with love in my heart, so that when I saw her in person I could be a loving friend to her.

But every couple of months, something else would happen that would remind me of the original pain. She was short with me, or she would make a comment that was hurtful, if not intentional. There was a time period of one or two months the following year, whenever I explained something to her, she would interrupt me with two short words. “I understand.” Even her tone was short when she said this to me, indicating that not only were further words unnecessary, they were unimportant. That time period passed, and we went on to enjoy each other’s company once again.

But for the past few months, I could feel something building inside of me. A tidal wave of emotion. A raging tsunami. Other things were occurring in my life that needed more focus than this particular friendship, and I could no longer keep a lid on the pain that I had been stuffing away. So, rather than speak to her about it again I started to avoid her. I did not feel emotionally safe around her, nor did I trust her anymore. Unexpected comments surprised me with unexpected pain. I started to miss meetings where I knew we might see each other. I backed away from commitments, and excused myself. I began to see hurtful intention emanating from her, right or not. That’s the funny thing about pain. It colors your every experience. You begin to suspect everything, and shy away from it so as not to be hurt again.

Finally, it boiled over and I let her have it. I was unkind about it. She questioned me about that, asking if I could have found a kinder way to handle it. Perhaps I could have. But I’m not certain. If I felt that I would be heard if I was kinder about it, then perhaps. She’d read the first two paragraphs of my letter and said it wasn’t true. I said it was my truth. She said she would not read the rest, she did not feel safe. I replied that she was a perfect mirror for me. That was the irony of it all. She was not willing to hear what I had to say when I broached the subject in the past. Why would she hear me now?

Eventually she did read the letter. But we have not yet spoken about it. She chose to share it with our mutual friends. I agreed that they would offer loving support. I do not want pity. I do not want any one to take my side. In fact, I have been processing this stuff for quite some time. It is my friend who has been hit with it all of a sudden. It is my friend that is now angered and hurt, by my hand. Between the rock and the hard place, I chose the rock. And I threw it at her. I am no longer her trusted friend.  If you choose sides, take hers. She needs all the healing love and support that she can get. I chose to save my own heart from the beating it was receiving, and unfortunately it may cost me my friendship — perhaps more than one. Now that our painful past has been revealed, it no longer has the power to hurt me.