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Category: Personal Essays

Some Scars Are Beautiful

Some Scars Are Beautiful

Lamoille Canyon, Ruby Mountains ©Dylan Mattina, 2018.

 

Scars hold many secrets. Hard earned but never displayed in any sort of distinctive manner, they are often tucked away behind locked doors without keys. Scars can be hard fought, forged in territory marked by pain and hardship. A desolate landscape rarely traveled and purposely avoided. Yesterday, while driving in rural Idaho and following a very trying week, I was reminded that scars can be marks of the beautiful as well.

 

Just about everything that could go wrong this week did. The RV had some power issues, eventually working themselves out only after causing much undue stress. Dylan and I both got very sick from the smoke coming from the California wildfires. Not just a nuisance head cold, but full on respiratory distress. Visits to the doctor and heavy medication where required to even feel a semblance of oxygen circulating our lungs. Steroids are not a good road trip companion and to say that nerves were frayed and emotions high is a grand understatement.

 

Couple all of this with the looming uncertainty about exactly where and when I will find my little slice of paradise in which to ruminate, write and relax; I found myself in the most perfect of storms.

 

Lamoille Canyon, Ruby Mountains ©Lavinia Busch, 2018

 

After leaving Elko and the arresting beauty of Lamoille Canyon, we came across the Hansen Bridge towering over the Snake River gorge. Nestled in the middle of vast farmlands filled with nothing but corn, hay and cattle; the bridge appeared out of nowhere with a startling presentation. Trying to find words for this natural wonder is simply impossible.

 

The scar, marking one of the largest floods in geologic history was nothing short of stunning. So beautiful in fact, one would be hard pressed to visualize the horrific power of the flood carving out such an enormous section of land.  What remains, amid the tortuous twisting of the gorge, is a striking beauty. Set this wonder beside the spectacular strength of Lamoille Canyon, itself forged by a glacier scar, the wonder of nature in all things was exposed in the most intimate of ways.

 

Snake River Gorge, Hansen Bridge ©Lavinia Busch, 2018.

 

Thinking of these places, I was struck by the metaphor within. We all have deep and painful scars, some visible with others lurking within our shadow self. My guess would be the deepest of scars, those hidden from others, are strew with rugged edges and steep plunging cliffs. It is these scars that shape use just as the gorge and canyon were shaped many millions of year ago. So very significant are the wounds responsible, that fantastic wells of strength must have been required by the natural world to overcome.

 

What is clear to me is that scars are absolutely necessary for growth. Without such wounds one would miss out on valuable opportunities for self-evaluation. It is only in the deepest depths of despair that walls must come down, vulnerability be exposed, and true character formed.  As in the natural world, I must confess to my fair share of deeply seeded scars continually grappled with. Looking down at the Snake River gorge and walking in Lamoille Canyon, it is evident this grappling will continue indefinitely, and I have to be okay with this process.

 

Quietly, I thanked all that had come before, both the darkness and the light, allowing me to forge my own gorges and canyons. Without wounds, I would not fully understand pain, happiness, grief or wonder. Blessing each and every one of my scars, both seen and unseen, I silently said a prayer of acceptance for everything I am and everything I am not. This week has provided much fodder for growth, revealing the most sensitive edges of my innermost fears, yet I remain steadfast in my commitment to live as completely as possible, scars and all.

Dreaming My Way into the Next

Dreaming My Way into the Next

 

“Yes: I am a dreamer. For a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight, and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.”

― Oscar Wilde, The Critic as Artist

 

It is often in the most heated of summer days that one feels the need for utter surrender to all that is being held back. Emotions simmer as the final days of summer vacations, pools and adventure draw to a close. Being on creative leave from work,  I find myself vacillating between an uneasy anxiousness and a building excitement of the unplanned. Gently, I remind myself this time has been granted so I may let go of the burdens of the typical and allow creative forces to guide me to the unexpected, a logistics free zone if you will.

 

The difficult aspect of this place is that my thoughts, the constant narrative in my mind, continue to barrel towards the typical. The tug of all sorts of responsibility is ever present and it takes “work” to let go. It is only in the dark of night and in my deepest of dreams where a momentary respite is found. As one that has always dreamed, I find that the messages of purpose and direction are flooding my sleep as if a tsunami of suggestion. Avoidance of such messages is always attempted, but alas I am unable to resist the call of my intuition.

 

Dreaming is never just a downloading of useless information, but rather a convoluted storyboard containing information my psyche is begging me to hear. Dreams can contain morsels of suggestion that are meant to be heeded and applied in daily life. Sadly, I often reject what I have seen. I am one that has learned many lessons the hard way and have paid the price for my refusal to listen to spirit.

 

“There is only one thing that makes a dream impossible to achieve: the fear of failure.”
Paulo Coelho

 

 

In the heat of a summer night, with the new moon and Venus caressing one another, I sense a quantum shift has begun and feel a bit helpless in the midst of such tumultuous celestial activity. This shift has been in the making for some time with many experiencing great change in all aspects of life. This is no easy transformation, on the contrary it has been quite painful at times. Having deep wells of emotion bubbling under the surface, I find myself teary and completely overcome by the onslaught of this atypical energy.

 

I have no shame in stating my current emotional temperature. What troubles me is the persistent awareness of things looming yet not discovered. This foreshadowing has built to a spectacular crescendo and all I can think of is when will it be over. Yes, I have many dreams, hopes and aspirations; some of which I tremble to say out loud. I dream of writing. I dream of finding others who are moved by my ideas and I dream of wide open spaces, nature and solitude.

 

I understand that by speaking my dreams out loud, I must make a choice to move in their direction or stay frozen in a sea of contradiction and worries. The simple act of speaking my truth somehow provides strength and hope in making decisions that are otherwise uncomfortable. Along with these truths, I would be reticent to ignore the other elephant in the room, my self-confidence. By stating my dreams and listening to my intuition, I honor the Divine within me. This builds layer upon layer of confidence over the heaps of “not good enough”  that have littered my subconscious for years. It is exceptionally difficult to move past the stories we tell ourselves. If not careful, I easily fall back into untruths that subtly smoother me in thinking I am less than. It is only in my deepest of dreams that relief is found, if only I pay attention.

 

In the approaching dog days of summer, I commit to making every effort to listen for the messages meant for me. I promise to believe in myself and dream BIG! Nothing is ever achieved in the status quo.  I allow myself to bloom by being beautifully different, embracing all that is unique about myself, while forgiving missteps along the way. No one is perfect, but the critic speaks from a position of judgment and it is a choice to silence that beast. Lastly, I chose to swim freely in the depths of my dream world and explore all that resides within. The shift beckons and I will follow.

 

Limbo: Laundromats, Outdoor Showers and Bonfires

Limbo: Laundromats, Outdoor Showers and Bonfires

 

“It could be a meeting on the street, or a party or a lecture, or just a simple, banal introduction, then suddenly there is a flash of recognition and the embers of kinship glow. There is an awakening between you, a sense of ancient knowing.”

― John O’Donohue

 

Sitting at the iWash Laundromat, I watch my clothes swishing around in an industrial size washer and am struck by the simple act of water washing away the dirt and grime of this place. Feeling the heat of the day sticking to me like a wet coat, I let out an audible sigh wishing I too could be washed clean. One must always respect the sweltering heat of a desert summer day, if not the heat can cripple even the toughest of souls.

 

The anticipation has been mounting and I wake up each morning wishing I was anywhere else but here, as if my life is a movie set on pause. Knowing that my travels begins in August, I try to fill my days with the tasks at hand. Planning has always been a strength of mine, to the point of distraction. Now I focus on letting go of all the material things that weigh me down. Everything must go, it is all just so heavy both physically and spiritually.

 

Only three weeks until I leave for Harvard, my last academic obligation before beginning creative leave in earnest. It is a limbo of the worst sort. My mind is longing for the tranquility of nature and immersion into deeper ideas and I struggle to redirect in doing homework for the course I will be attending. The banality of academic dialogue is more pronounced in this limbo, a bad song playing on repeat over and over. The only true music calling me is aesthetically soothing and filled with the mysteries of the universe.

 

Watching the clothes spin in the machine, I ponder this place and all that it represents. The dust of the desert is unrelenting, a veritable Grapes of Wrath scenario. I find it in my shoes, my hair and even in bed. I glance up and notice a young couple stopping in with their week of dirty laundry. They too need water to wash the desert out. Even though the heat is oppressive, they smile at one another, make small talk and even seem to enjoy the ritual of the laundromat.

 

“Real friendship or love is not manufactured or achieved by an act of will or intention. Friendship is always an act of recognition.”

― John O’Donohue

 

Expanding my perspective, I see an elderly man with skin worn deeply by the heat and poverty of this place. He sits quietly on a bench enjoying the air-conditioned respite before he too must go out once again facing the wall of 1000 suns. The woman behind the counter has a look of resignation, as if to say “Yes, I work at a small-town laundromat and life is not how I expected it to be.” She too has the look of wear and tear with deep wrinkles on her face from years of smoking and a raspy voice to boot. “Can I help you darling?” she asks. “No thank you”, I say wanting to be left alone in my thoughts for at least the spin cycle.

 

Finishing up my clothes, I load them into my dust covered car and head back to the RV, my temporary sanctuary, parked on my boyfriend’s lot until our voyage commences. The heat is stifling, and the RV air conditioner simply cannot keep up.  Spontaneously, I take off my sweaty clothes and decide to use the outside shower to cool down. The heat has a way of letting all inhibitions go and before I even have a chance to think about it, I am outside, stark naked, letting the cool streams of water wash over me. I think about the iWash washing off the desert and feel as if I am in my own laundromat begging to be purified.  The water pours over me and a desert breeze gently brushes my skin. In an instant spirit is here, yet another moment of discomfort in which spirit reminds me I am never alone. The breeze dances across me as if to say, “Let it go Lavinia, let it all go. I am with you.”  As I finish my shower and wrap myself in large beach towel, I feel a freshness that permeates my very being. Taking a deep breathe, I pause to look up at the sun acknowledging the symbiotic relationship of heat to water. Nature is truly amazing.

 

Later, my boyfriend lights a bonfire in front of his house. This is something that people do out here in the desert, especially when the coolness of night settles in. Once again, I am struck by the dichotomy of this place. The heat of the day is as repellent as a bad cold, but in the coolness of a desert night, the heat is a welcome visitor warming my legs as I sit mesmerized by the dancing flames. I lean my head back and look at the night sky. The stars flicker like thousands of jewels lighting up the darkness. I catch my breath for a moment stunned by the beauty of this desolate place.

 

Even in the harshest of environments beauty can be found. I may be riddled with anticipation but must not ignore moments of serenity as they present: the iWash with its plethora of interesting people, the absolute freedom of an outside shower as a breeze dances across my skin and the majesty of a desert night sky canvasing the glowing flames of a bonfire. These all offer moments of serenity in which spirit reminds of the connection to all others in the most beautiful of ways. Limbo will pass, and I will soon be on my way. The desert will stay with me, yet another piece to the universal puzzle of this world. Blessings to this place, the people and even the dirt. You all have been my teacher in the most harmonious and unexpected of ways.

 

 

 

 

For My Children: Move to Your Own Music

For My Children: Move to Your Own Music

 

FOR ANY DAUGHTER/ FOR ANY SON

Do not let yourself be blindfolded early on.

Do not accept harsh or kindly lashing, slashing …

even when it is called “traditional,” “required.”

Do not be lulled by sensations…

soft velvet wrapped around your head

will blind thee nonetheless.

Do not hide behind, “It can’t be bad,”

“It’s not that bad,”

“No real harm’s been done. . .”

Do not try to convince yourself by bargaining,

“See, they’re such exquisite velvet blinders. . .

a cut above the usual.”

Be wary of “doing what we do here,”

“doing as we have always done.”

Withstand grinning Death in his many disguises;

he will promise fleeting excitement ,

a once a year glory in exchange for forfeiting

your one precious and wild life forever.

Do not pour salt

into the earth of your mind

and expect lilies to grow there.

For us, resistance is ceremony.

We are the proof that the soul’s truths

transcend the oldest time-honored lies.

 

“For Any Daughter, For Any Son” by Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estés

 

Nothing feels stronger than the tug of tradition, an incredibly magnetic pull toward the past. Traditions are an important part of any family story. What would we be without those that have come before? That being said, it is important to understand that we have no obligation to take ownership of what may not be meant for us, including our family traditions. We flex our courage muscle each time we resist doing things as they have always been done as opposed to listening to our hearts and moving in that direction.

 

Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes writes, “Do not pour salt into the earth of your mind and expect lilies to grow there.” Breathing in these words, I experience an instant release of the unwanted. Salt is an abrasive yet essential mineral for life. The metaphor of a mind filled with this life mineral, yet unable to blossom, is powerful.  Why not sprinkle salt and leave some room for the lilies to germinate? After all, beauty is discovered only by giving breathe to an otherwise constricted way of being.

 

Resisting the status quo can be difficult. By its very nature, resistance can be insidious.  If I wish my daughter and son to be strong minded yet gentle hearted, I must let them forge their way into this role even if their path differs from mine. Who is to say one way is the only way? Walking through life with a different cadence does not dishonor.  It takes many cadences to create the beautiful music of a symphonic variation. One cannot possibly bloom if trying to walk, act or behave as everyone else.

 

The harsh words of the critic will sound, seeing all that is different and speaking to these differences without permission.  Forget what you hear and see. As Dr. Estes writes, “For us, resistance is ceremony. We are the proof that the soul’s truths transcend the oldest time-honored lies.”

 

The following thoughts are for my beautiful children. My wish for them is that they continue to honor the voice within and dance to their own music, no matter how different it may be. Dance my loves and live fully.

 

Know your truth and honor it with every action and thought. Be freely and unabashedly yourself and revel in knowing that no matter the outcome you have lived life on your own terms.

 

Be brave and circle your own wagons as need be. Bravery is hard fought each time you face a fear that is not yours to hold. Toss out the ceremonial makings of the expected and dance a new war dance of your own. Listen for direction on the winds of change and let the breeze elevate your soul.

 

Face hardships with a humble heart and know that this life was not meant to be easy. Everyone, no matter how they appear, has experienced darkness bringing them to their knees. It is only face down in the dirt that one can finally let go of all expectations, inhibitions and unwanted observation by committing to the blooming of a beautiful soul.

 

Let go and flower into the sun, dance in the wind and smile broadly. This life is such a beautiful and precious gift. Remember that each new day is filled with possibility no matter what obstacles you may experience.

 

Smile at your troubles, laugh during your hardships and release the fear of the unknown. Silence the voices and refuse to change the music of your own drum. It is only when being completely self that life unfolds as it should.

 

Love unconditionally. Love those that make you uncomfortable, love family that you do not understand, love strangers that appear odd and love those that argue for the obscene and confrontational. Approach all with love in every instance. Think before you speak and hold your tongue if you do not trust what might be said in haste.

 

Do not acquiesce to others but simply send them love as you move in your own way. Try not to hold hate in your heart. Hate is a darkness that will take root and strangle the bloom before it has seen the sun.

 

Finally, dance. Dance to the music in your heart and the soothing sounds of the universe. Feel the rhythm of your day as if turning pages on a score. Balance moments of excitement with moments of repose just as an allegro meets an adagio. Feel joy in your body and do not be ashamed by this. Jump into the freedom that comes from moving your body in your own unique way. Embrace the oneness you experience in this movement and cherish the togetherness of body and soul.

 

Dance your way through the hardship and heartbreak and continue to listen to the music of your heart…turning it up loud. Be simple in your complexity, an open book that sits on a shelf waiting for those that wish to read you. Stand in honor of this authenticity and refuse to back down. Never forget, you are a beautiful soul and deeply loved.

 

One of Those Days: Chronic Illness Sucks

One of Those Days: Chronic Illness Sucks

 

A Prayer

Refuse to fall down

If you cannot refuse to fall down,

refuse to stay down.

If you cannot refuse to stay down,

lift your heart toward heaven,

and like a hungry beggar,

ask that it be filled.

You may be pushed down.

You may be kept from rising.

But no one can keep you from lifting your heart

toward heaven

only you.

It is in the middle of misery

that so much becomes clear.

The one who says nothing good

came of this,

is not yet listening.”

― Clarissa Pinkola Estés

 

I began writing this post over two months ago and could not find the motivation to spend another minute on the challenges of chronic illness. It seemed to be a bit too “woe is me” and I hate to sound as if whining about things, it is not in my nature.  What prompted a return to this draft was a series of events that cast me back into a much darker place of “why me” regarding autoimmune diseases and the way in which illness permeates every corner of my life, even if I like to pretend otherwise.

 

Spring has a history of being difficult on me. It is this time of year that I was diagnosed after experiencing a severe relapse that left persistent issues. It is also this time of year when I struggle most with fatigue and MS symptoms that flare up constantly with little rest for the weary. Maybe it is the temperature change or the long academic year wearing on me. All I know is that spring gives me a run for my money every year.

 

Thursday, I woke up feeling exceptionally tired. When I say tired, I mean like having just run a marathon and ready to dive under the covers for a ten hour sleep…that tired. I have a mantra I live by of  “energy creates energy” especially in moments such as that morning. With this in mind, I made my way to the gym and limped through a workout, giving myself kudos for having pushed through the sea of brain fog and muscle fatigue. Rushing to work, I was foggy but somehow made it to school on time. Walking in the break area I grabbed a used napkin out of my bag to throw in the garbage, made a quick move on my right leg and momentarily felt the all familiar disequilibrium that plagues me. Before I could gather myself my leg gave way. I raised my upper body abruptly to catch my balance and instantly cracked my head on the hanging cabinet above.

 

What followed was intense ringing in my ears, pain shooting down to my feet, a leg that felt like jello and a flood of tears. Coupled with the complete embarrassment at this having been witnessed by a coworker, my day was not going well. An “MS day” as I like to call them, had outed me in the most public of ways. I had hurt myself for the first time because of the unpredictability of this illness. The tears keep coming for over an hour, something else that has changed in the past year. My emotions are like floodgates and for some strange reason I have no off button once the gates are opened. It is not depression, it is the inability to control the physical process of crying.

 

The day progressed with a few mandatory meetings in which I tried to pretend nothing was wrong, multiple visit from the school nurse, a risk management intervention and a local trip to the workers compensation doctor. The doctor was impressed with my vocabulary around neurological illness as well as the many tools I have empowered myself with. This did nothing to change the fact that I was sitting in a doctors office because of a balance and weakness issue caused by my constant companion, MS. Nothing could change that.

 

Safely arriving home after this whirlwind of events, I collapsed in a heap on the sofa completely spent from the physical and emotional drain of it all. It is unbearably humbling to realized illness can rear its ugly head at any time, disrupting every area of my life in an instant. Relaying this story to my sister, she sweetly reminded me that not everything is because of MS. People lose their balance and hit things all the time. While I especially appreciated her attempt at making me feel better, I knew my MS was to blame. I wish I could rationalize it all away somehow, but I could not. I knew how my leg and dizziness symptoms present and they did ever so grandly that morning. 

 

“There are going to be frustrations in life. The question is not: How do I escape? It is: How can I use this as something positive?”

― Dalai Lama XIV

 

A constant challenge of this disease is the need for greater emotional intelligence and sensitivity in all instances. This need has been one of my most profound teachers. I have learned I can not expect, nor should I, a suitable reaction from others in their gracious attempts to comfort me.  I have learned I will always doubt myself when it comes to discerning what is disease related and what is just age or illness.  I have learned because my illness is somewhat invisible others will want to commiserate by sharing the story of a home remedy “that works!” I have learned to be kinder to myself in all of my failings and shortcomings, when I am unabashedly sad or a bit introspective and quiet. Finally, I have learned that I am fragile in my humanity and must be loving and patient with the process.

 

Our lives are short, minuscule in geologic terms. We are all terminal and it makes no difference what we might be afflicted with. Pain and suffering do not discriminate and come in many flavors. One does not need to have a disease to experience all of these emotions, it is important for those with MS to remember that others have challenges as well. In some small way this understanding helps me feel much less isolated and alone. Growing older gracefully with the added challenge of illness is humbling at best. I know that I am not alone in this journey and look to others for guidance and support when I am at my wits end.  

 

Take a moment and really see those around you. If someone you know is suffering in some way, let them know you are there. No personal stories, remedies or suggestions are necessary. Just let them know you are sorry for their suffering and sit with them in whatever way feels right. That is it. Empathy is not providing solutions, empathy is feeling another’s pain and remaining with them in that place as support. As in all things, simple in its complexity and exceedingly difficult in action.  Illness is a constant reminder to connect emotionally with those around us and to continue to be available in this way as long as is necessary. On Thursday, I was reminded that even the worst of “MS Days” is better than no day at all. 

 

Words have Meaning

Words have Meaning

 

Love after Love

The time will come

when, with elation,

you will greet yourself arriving

at your own door, in your own mirror,

and each will smile at the other’s welcome,

and say, sit here. Eat.

You will love again the stranger who was your self.

Give wine. Give bread. Give back your heart

to itself, to the stranger who has loved you

all your life, whom you ignored

for another, who knows you by heart.

Take down the love letters from the bookshelf,

the photographs, the desperate notes,

peel your own image from the mirror.

Sit. Feast on your life.

Derek Walcott

 

Midlife is a strange and unfamiliar territory with the tapestry of my life becoming a colorful cloth woven from unique experiences of old and of what is yet to come.  Even with the underlying sense of fatigue that accompanies a full life, I remain optimistic that patience, understanding and growth will sustain as I continue this very humbling and human journey. To this point, an area of introspection that still eludes me is complete self-acceptance. It is one thing to write, teach or talk about self love. It is still quite another  to feel what can only be called a lingering sense of unease with parts of myself that I find less desirable. With an embarrassing level of honesty, I wonder if feelings such as these will ever go away. In addition, the “love thyself” dialogue of late has me flustered. I find it exceedingly difficult to find a place of belonging in this narrative, leading to even more feelings of separateness from the group.

 

Words matter and in my case nothing more than the written word. The constant search for inspiration has provided some peace in this chapter of life. When I am totally spent and exhausted from constant reflection, I find refuge each and every time in the thoughts of another. Reading others words without prejudice somehow makes my confusion less so.

 

Love after Love by Derek Walcott is no different in this regard. His words soothe me in the most gentle of ways. “The time will come when, with elation, you will greet yourself arriving at your own door….” How wonderful to greet myself with elation as I might a dear friend that has been deeply missed. In truth, I have missed the girl that was creative, gentle-hearted, sensitive, curious and thoughtful. I have missed the girl that worried less about what others thought and more about big ideas and important questions. I have missed her and have begun welcoming her back with open arms. It is in this return to wholeness that I see myself apart from others opinions and begin to open as was meant only for me.

 

Life is a winding road peppered with diversions and distractions. It is curious that at this juncture I am returning to a more authentic self, before the self-critique took over and silenced all the beautiful uniqueness within. These words say it all; “Give back your heart, to itself, to the stranger who has loved you, all your life, whom you ignored…” I apologize to that young girl whom I left behind in an attempt to “blend” in. That beautiful child that was filled with such a loving and creative spirit. That child that was loved but often misunderstood. I welcome that child at my door and into my home. We are one and without each other I am lost.

 

I am forever thankful to all the intrepid writers that have continued to write regardless of audience. It is in your words that I have rediscovered self in the most glorious of ways. Words continue to matter. Nothing speaks to a seeker more than words of self-discovery. Keep writing my beautiful ones. It is within our words that we will be set free.

 

Quiet Butterfly

Quiet Butterfly

 

Keeping Quiet

by Pablo Neruda

Now we will count to twelve

and we will all keep still.

For once on the face of the earth,

let’s not speak in any language;

let’s stop for one second,

and not move our arms so much.

It would be an exotic moment

without rush, without engines;

we would all be together

in a sudden strangeness.

Fisherman in the cold sea

would not harm whales

and the man gathering salt

would not look at his hurt hands.

Those who prepare green wars,

wars with gas, wars with fire,

victories with no survivors,

would put on clean clothes

and walk about with their brothers

in the shade, doing nothing.

What I want should not be confused

with total inactivity.

Life is what it is about;

I want no truck with death.

If we were not so single-minded

about keeping our lives moving,

and for once could do nothing,

perhaps a huge silence

might interrupt this sadness

of never understanding ourselves

and of threatening ourselves with death.

Perhaps the earth can teach us

as when everything seems dead

and later proves to be alive.

Now I’ll count up to twelve

and you keep quiet and I will go.

 

Quiet. I crave it but never seem to get enough; quiet in my external environment and quiet from an internal dialogue that haunts me. It is only with quiet that I find clarity, especially during periods of great transformation. As in the metaphor of the butterfly, I feel the delicate strands of a self-imposed cocoon restricting at the moment. Discomfort is necessary for growth and I wonder how much I must bear before breaking free and stretching my new found wings. I feel a constant hum of the other, a sound in the distance that beckons me. The sound being the steady march of possibility, the limitation being a tightly wrapped cocoon. I have the urge to burst forth regardless of circumstance, common sense tempers this desire with a litany of questioning. A constant risk assessment visits like a bad habit, it baffles the mind.

 

Having flirted with uncertainty before,  memory replays moments of flight apart from this ever tightening cocoon. Even so, I am certain that I have stifled transformation by allowing the opinions of others and even myself to further restrict.  It is difficult to admit that in learning how to fly the atmosphere will become unstable. Wings must be taught how to catch the air, glide effortlessly and land softly while still enduring bumpy rides and hard landings. The discomfort of it all is like an itch that can not be scratched, lessened only by the ever present hum of possibility.

 

“My imagination functions much better when I don’t have to speak to people.”

― Patricia Highsmith

 

Tuning into this hum calls for solitude and a clear mind.  Only in this space am I able to separate fear from possibility, often becoming shaken by the speed of impending transformation. Life is so very short and if not soaring what then? I have only myself to blame if I do not escape from this cocoon with a certain measure of immediacy. It is only in flight that all pretense is left behind and beautiful colors that are uniquely mine appear.

 

“The quiet sense of something lost”

― Alfred Tennyson

 

In this space I sense those who have come before, living in the most unusual of ways.  Having unabashedly taken flight they experienced both the joy and heartbreak of a life well lived. Feeling the void of sudden departure it is clear someone will fill this space, this vacuum. Someone will be the free spirit that shines deeply, unafraid of the cuts. Someone will live dangerously, taking chances and relishing results. Someone will approach all others with unconditional love, no expectations or judgments. Someone will break free and fly…. Looking to the sky, I smell the air, feel the breeze and absorb the rays of the sun. It is only in failing that one can be transformed. I silently pray that I become this someone. I silently pray for wings.

 

 

Waypoints

Waypoints

 

“Most people are on the world, not in it– having no conscious sympathy or relationship to anything about them– undiffused separate, and rigidly alone like marbles of polished stone, touching but separate. ”

― John Muir

 

The time is quickly approaching, I can feel it. The time in which I have the choice to remain frozen on the banks of life or move forward with the river as it ambles along to the next waypoint. These waypoints are deeply marked on the map of my life. In hindsight they jump off the page; moments in which I stayed in the wrong relationship, raised my beautiful children, decided I was not smart enough for that job, went back to get my masters degree or stayed in an unfulfilling job. All very clear in the rear view mirror. My gypsy spirit has either beckoned me down an unfamiliar path or held me in place with a knowing that the time to move along was not at hand. If pressed, I would have to say that I have experienced more beckoning than holding, so much so I am getting a bit tired of the unrest. Tired of the risks, the uncertainty and the constant wading into the unknown.

 

How do I know change is looming? It announces itself with a specific feeling of agitation, a sensation of being undone ever so slightly. The rhythm of my day seems off and I begin to accept a certain level of disconnect with all around me. I sometimes think this is akin to a long goodbye, a gift that allows me to move on to the next chapter without much consternation. On the other hand this disconnect can be off putting. I wonder if it blurs my view of what is really happening, clouding my better judgment.

 

In moments such as these, I call upon my intuition. This requires a trust of self that has been earned one mistake at a time. Life can be treacherous, a virtual landmine of decisions that can set one off in the wrong direction indefinitely. It is in the ability to redirect oneself that strength is earned. A strength in knowing all will be well no matter the circumstance.

 

It takes great courage to break with one’s past history and stand alone.”

-Marion Woodman

 

We are never only our past mistakes but a combination of moments that have ushered us to present. My map is filled with waypoints, some I wish to forget and others that brought me great joy. What I can say with clarity is that I have explored, taken risks and moved off the banks of the river more than once. In some instances I nearly drowned, but in others I floated to the surface and enjoyed the easy ride down the river. In moments of drowning, I thankfully found a gentle strength that has remained. I know I can swim. Knowing this gives me courage to speak with my heart and find joy in all instances.

 

Trust in self is paramount. With resolve I can dream big, plan for the future and even face down failure with no harsh expectations. This does not mean that by taking risks I am fearless, on the contrary I am scared every single time. Jumping from one waypoint to the next is uncomfortable at best. It requires strength of character and a commitment to not look back, at least not for long. Yes, I am tired and this uncertainty is like an old friend I no longer want to speak with. What is clear is that I have more waypoints ahead. The journey is not over for me and I must find peace in the process. I understand standing on the banks is no longer an option. I am fast approaching the last chapter of my life and the time to move along is always now. While I long for a gentle swim down a lazy river, I will surely experience more rough waters along the way. I trust in my ability to weather the storm, ride the waves and identify my next adventure as it comes into view.

 

The Guest House

The Guest House

The Guest House

This being human is a guest house.

Every morning a new arrival.

 

A joy, a depression, a meanness,

some momentary awareness comes

As an unexpected visitor.

 

Welcome and entertain them all!

Even if they’re a crowd of sorrows,

who violently sweep your house

empty of its furniture,

still treat each guest honorably.

He may be clearing you out

for some new delight.

 

The dark thought, the shame, the malice,

meet them at the door laughing,

and invite them in.

 

Be grateful for whoever comes,

because each has been sent

as a guide from beyond.

-Rumi

 

I like to think of myself as perennially optimistic. I try my best to see the positive in all things, the light at the end of the tunnel. Even if doubts persist, I rarely speak them. My long held belief is that by speaking positively, words will become a reality. The woe is me attitude is not welcome in my home and I try my very best to lead by example. It is for all of these reasons and more that when I do have days with shades of sadness, I have trouble knowing how to process these feelings.

 

Be it the celestial activity of the past month with a lunar eclipse, mercury retrograde and a solar eclipse, the change in my living situation or that pesky perimenopause that makes every day an experience, I am left slighty off balance.  Coupled with my constant ongoing struggle with MS, this multitude of occurrences has me tired. I am frustrated by the way my body defies me even after treating it with the utmost of care. I eat better than most people, exercise regularly, sleep eight hours a night and do my level best to manage stress. It is always a complete shock after having done all of this work, waking up day after day to a body that is tired.

 

It is on days such as these that I ponder why I have been given this lot in life. I work hard and give my job and family my best. Why am I constantly being taught the lesson of grace, humility and acceptance? Haven’t I been through enough already to have earned some collateral in the wisdom bank? Realizing the whininess of my internal dialogue, I chastise myself for complaining and am constantly disappointed in my frustration, wondering why I entertain such thoughts rather than getting on with my day, head held high.

 

Looking for solace,  I often turn to the written word for inspiration. I look for a way to find compassion, patience in my shortcomings and a space to allow moments of sadness and grief. The truth is that it is hard having a chronic illness. Sure, I can buck up and do my best to forget, except for when I can’t. Some days I just want to curl up into a ball and be sad. I want to acknowledge how difficult it is to live with an illness that makes every single task a challenge, even one as simple as getting out of bed. I try to never take ownership over these emotions but choose to gently observe until they move along. In the morning I may be feeling deep saddness and by the afternoon it has passed and I am optimistic once again. This does not make me overly sensitive or unstable, this makes me human.

 

As Rumi speaks to with The Guest House, I too am thankful for the ability to experience a rainbow of emotions. He says, “Be grateful for whoever comes, because each has been sent, as a guide from beyond”.  My days of sadness, weakness or quiet reflection teach me more about myself than a constant state of  perennial optimism. I freely swim in the dark depths of self making it that much more beautiful upon returning to the light. I appreciate my family, friends, my ability to walk, read, listen and love; all things that are never guaranteed. Never be afraid of appearing human, it is in these very human moments that strength, courage and acceptance is won.

 

Changing Tides and Mothers and Daughters

Changing Tides and Mothers and Daughters

I am no longer waiting for a special occasion; I burn the best candles on ordinary days.

I am no longer waiting for the house to be clean; I fill it with people who understand that even dust is Sacred.

I am no longer waiting for everyone to understand me; It’s just not their task

I am no longer waiting for the perfect children; my children have their own names that burn as brightly as any star.

I am no longer waiting for the other shoe to drop; It already did, and I survived.

I am no longer waiting for the time to be right; the time is always now.

I am no longer waiting for the mate who will complete me; I am grateful to be so warmly, tenderly held.

I am no longer waiting for a quiet moment; my heart can be stilled whenever it is called.

I am no longer waiting for the world to be at peace; I unclench my grasp and breathe peace in and out.

I am no longer waiting to do something great; being awake to carry my grain of sand is enough.

I am no longer waiting to be recognized; I know that I dance in a holy circle.

I am no longer waiting for Forgiveness. I believe, I Believe.

Mary Anne Perrone

 

I write this post on the eve of change. I understand that life is nothing but a constant flow of change. Somehow, even with this knowing, I am constantly caught off guard in moments such as these, as if the air has been knocked out of me and I can’t catch my breathe. I understand change is my teacher and one that I continue to struggle with. Resistance is futile. Change will stampede in when least expected and demanded attention. Every ounce of denial I throw at it is rejected. I am powerless in its throes and dislike this feeling immensely.

 

Where do I begin? If you have read a few of my previous posts, you know that my daughter and her boyfriend live with me at present. My daughter has lived with me for the past few years beginning during a time of great distress and upheaval in her life. It was a difficult transition at first. She headstrong and secretive not exposing her coming and goings, me newly divorced and just beginning to flex my independence muscle. Suddenly and without premonition, we were thrown into a partnership that was anything but comfortable. In fact, for the first full year, she slept on my living room floor of my small one bedroom apartment that represented my first foray into independent living.

 

I struggled to find my new normal. Faced with a constant assault of chitter chatter, facetime conversations and late night arrivals I was unsettled. I would often find hair dye on the bathroom cabinets and bad food in the refrigerator. Forget my no shoes in the house rule, that went out the door as soon as she moved in with her high heels and sneaker collection that screamed style next to my clogs and sandals. My living room had become a hostel with pillows and blankets strewn about. At the same time, she was traveling periodically for work, the side effect being a permanent piece of luggage lying about and used as a dresser in between jobs. Her schedule was the complete opposite of mine. I woke up at 5:00am and went to bed by 8:00pm. She was up by 10:00am and often went to bed just as I was getting up.

 

I worried about her late at night as I had never done when she lived alone. Having her under my roof somehow increased my responsibility and I demanded that she text me if she was not coming home so that at least I knew she was okay and not on the side of the road. It was an uneasy relationship but one founded in love. We had all the right reasons for “putting up” with each other and our love for one another was the glue that kept us from screaming in frustration.

 

Over time, the waters began to calm. We learned to speak our mind without crying and had meaningful conversation instead of arguments. I learned to loosen the rope and only voice my opinion in matters of practicality such as finances and cleanliness. I reminded myself that her personal life was just that, hers. I even managed to sleep some nights and not lie restless in my room waiting to hear the door open, breathing a sigh of relief that she had made it back to our sanctuary safely. She had moments of manic cleaning in which she vowed to “get her life together” and was a whirlwind of activity inside our little apartment. The blankets folded, clothes tucked neatly away organized. These would often be fleeting, but progress is progress no matter how small.

 

The good life starts only when you stop

wanting a better one.

—Bertrand Russell

 

We made the joint decision to move closer to my work and into a bigger space. She began paying rent and was a roommate in every sense of the word. What had once been passing moments of adulting now became more regular and we eased into a more mature relationship of equals. She began dating a wonderful young man and he too moved in with us as he struggled with the time between college and medical school. I dove into my work and strived to find some sense of balance with my health needs and desire to forge my way in a new field. At the same time she signed me up, despite my great reluctance, for online dating. A moment that will forever be a point of humorous recall between the two of us. In just a few seconds she was chatting with men online as if she was me as I stood back appalled. The tables were turning in the most interesting of ways.

 

As I took tentative steps with a heart in recovery, she was by my side encouraging me to just try. No expectations and no promises. I on the other hand, encouraged her to look forward to a career transition and a more permanent work situation. In many ways, there were times our roles saw a complete reversal and we established a sisterhood of togetherness as two adult women. We talked about many things that I never spoke about with my mother. Sometimes uncomfortable, but freeing in the letting go of what had been held inside far too long. No more shame about past experiences, just love.

 

With my daughter moving out into a sanctuary of her own, I cannot help but reflect on the time we had together. As women, we push our daughters to leave the home and experience the world, yet we do not provide avenues for them to celebrate their womanhood soon enough. The power and beauty of a strong woman resides in her acceptance and love of her feminine power. I like to think that our time together was an opportunity for both of us to reclaim this power. We will forever be as different as oil and water, but it is in spite of these differences that we have found the perennial common ground. We see each other as beautiful souls and respect the journey we have taken thus far. I have no illusions that life will be easy moving forward, but I am sure that I have a kindred spirit in my daughter. We can talk about the things that concern us and the prospects for the future. Our love for each other has survived the heat of unrest and will continue to persist no matter what life has in store.