RE-POSE (A Poem)

 

 

Out of the fog,

twirling around;

What happened to the ballroom?

Where are the people

who danced in flowing gowns

With the soft white gloves

that rode up their arms?

Vines overshadow marble walls

while frogs flop unceremoniously,

Into old green fountains,

Perched on the heads of rigoured dancing ladies

Stuck in the same uncomfortable looking grace

Since before they were made.

Perched pitchers long gone dry,

With nothing left to give.

Shards of sunlight

dance on the crown of my head

As though the sky is made of water.

This must be the difference between alive

and dead.

Outside, crickets sing an evening song,

I gather my senses to find others

who have since gone far and long,

right or wrong.

Alive now in the places

Where silver streaks the sky

and children are instructed

not to cry.

Even as the ground beneath my feet

shifts to become

something else in this new season.

I find my comfort within the confines

of my own skin,

rolling in oily memories

sick with tears

Sludging feet in slick wet mud

naked to everything but God,

Always reaching

for the perfect pose,

Never achieving

But the heart must not close.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Home – a poem

Meditation walk in the morning sun

letting my mind wander until there are no more thoughts.

geese call wild in the key of D

trying to tell me that it is

ON SURRENDERall about being free.

since not a soul is stirring I sit with the river

at the base of the mountain

and wait for the rocks to tumble all over me.

But nothing moves,

only the steady whir and burr

Of old worn thoughts that I release.

Stretching legs and arms I flow

feeling the ground steady and sure now

beneath the feet thatnot-so-long-ago

could not fly.

The river says

there is no one waiting to tell me

what they think

Or what I think

no one to correct me

Direct me

Protect me.

Cause that gets really old.

“this is all in my imagination”

the river whispers loud enough

So that I can hear.

And frankly speaking I have to believe the river

because he is so old

and has been recycling himself

over and in and through all time

returning always to this place

just waiting for me to come and

Ask the right questions.

The mountain stands behind the river

arms folded across her breast

Appearing calm and pensive as she considers river’s advice

(about the truth of course)

She sends the geese popping out over the ring of trees

that is her crown.

Geese emissaries acting as her voice

which would otherwise be silent

(except for when she really has something to say:

please see: Avalanche)

and frankly speaking

I have to believe the mountain

for she has been waiting for me

through all time

to return to this place

where the geese sing

to remind me that we have always been here

 

And by the river I awaken and see that

I have never left home.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

All You Need Is Love – really.

I was adopted, like allot of people, but my story isn’t like anyone’s.  I was an inter-family adoption taken home at 4 days old to be raised as the youngest of 7 children. My parents were kind and older, and I loved them both.  When I was 13 I was told that one of my sister’s was my birth mother. Luckily, I really adored her in the first place, and the transition to this idea was difficult but not impossible. My adopted mother/grandmother died when I was 15. My bio mom had serious issues with alcohol and prescription drugs, which she successfully battled and our relationship truly began to blossom when I was 25 having my first baby and she was to become Grandma – or Nana as the kids called her.

581933_10151470627203633_1947530459_nShe was my dear friend and soulmate. There aren’t enough words to tell you how grateful I am for her.  She was a great spiritual teacher always assuring me that “this too shall pass”, and hold on “one more day”…when things got rough, she was my 2 o’clock in the morning person. The only person alive that would truly relish my rebellious nature, love when I stepped outside of the box, and cheer when I forged new paths.  She loved my weirdness and all my edges.  She loved everything about me and her love taught me how to love myself. I felt most at ease with her than any other person in my life.  Loosing her physical presence has been very difficult.

I remember the day she called to tell me she had lung cancer,  I ran to her apartment and fell into her hug and only then, only then, realizing that we fit perfectly together . Why had I not noticed this before?  I remember the smell of her, and the warm safe feeling when she was anywhere near. If anyone crossed us or said anything that would cause either of us pain – she tore into them like a pit bull. She was a woman to be reckoned with.  Until she died I didn’t realize how much she had protected me.

Here we are two years later, and the grief still tears at me  – it doesn’t go away – it just changes shape. Each day remembering her and thinking about all the things I should have done or said or been or whatever – all useless thoughts or regret that have no purpose except to torture me.  I hear her words reverberating through my head each day – the ones she said to me through sad chemo sick eyes –981297_499916463412877_1698475491_o

“No guilt OK?”.

OK Mama no guilt.

But I didn’t call her “Mom” – there’s my first issue.  I couldn’t. It just seemed too bizarre – she had been her name to me all my life – and so if I called her mom this would mean I had no brothers or sisters, or that my parents were my grandparents – just unreal.  When I lived in Africa with her and would want her to say yes to one of my unreasonable teenage requests – I would call her “Mom” – “Please mom…” I could feel the word dripping off my tongue like something that didn’t belong there.

images0G56APY3I never thought about my biological father very much – he was like a super hero in my mind. Bad-ass bike riding tough guy from the rough side of town was the story i heard.  He was handsome and leather clad in my minds eye, sitting on his bike waiting to whisk my mother away from our overly conservative family. I was indeed a love-child. And his genetic presence in my body made me understand that although I was a rich kid from boarding sch0ols when I was younger, I was in my heart a bike riding, freedom loving rock and roll rebel chick. The small amount of history I had on him showed me that my proclivities didn’t come from no where – although I couldn’t really see how having a penchant for bikers and bad boys was genetic – all indications seemed to point to the fact that it was.

After my mother died two years ago, I began to become curious – maybe hopeful – that i still had a parent out there.  My adopted family had stopped “pretending” I was really one of them, and I was left pretty much empty of family, except for one sister who helped to raise me and could see me as none other than her sister – “give me back my sweater – hey did you borrow my make-up??!”…is just not something you yell at your niece.  I think they were all just tired of pretending.

The issue of adoption and being adopted came up during the course of my grieving, and it became suddenly important for me to find out if I had genetic links to anyone else out there. So I registered on a few free web sites what small information I had on my father, never expecting to get a response – especially not the response I got.

I was contacted by a lady named Annie who is a search angel. I don’t know her story, but I assume that many of these ‘search angels’ are people who have been searching for their own parents or children and have become pretty good at spotting links between people and volunteer their time.

Her email to me began tentatively, because she was concerned with her accuracy and didn’t want to cause me undue pain. She says “I’m sorry the news isn’t better. if this is indeed your father, he died when he was 23”.

Stop world. You’re spinning.

below her note a series of lists, with my grandfathers names and notably my grandmother Fanny. No obituary for my dad, only my grandfathers.

I felt it first in my gut – like a punch from deep inside.

The second thing I thought was – oh my god – he was so young…

I thought about my own son, now nearing 23, beautiful handsome and sweet and full of life, joy and potential. My heart ached for the young man who made me in a flurry of passion only to leave me as his only legacy. I am the most enduring thing he did in this life.

Holy shit.

As the news sinks in all I can think of is…

“I’d better not waste a flipping minute! ”

I don’t know about you, but as I get older, now almost 50, I see that there is a plan in the works, and although i am not privy or capable of understanding its intricacies, i am definitely part of the story.

In my research for this book, on adopted people, I have discovered that we all (adopted and non-adopted!) have amazing stories, like great adventures, each life is like a fascinating book. I can see my life and yours like that – and I believe its the only way we can really learn to increase our capacities and purpose here in this life – find out, dig deep and don’t stop asking questions. Be brave.

I have just returned from Australia where I spent some time in the desert with first peoples learning about the long long history of the worlds oldest genetic lineage.  I learned about the connection between living people and their ancestors and how important it was for them to honour the lives of their ancestors. Al of this is driving home to me the need to honour my own in the same way. I wish we had the stories like they do – so I could know them better, and in turn know myself better.  I think the purpose of life is to know yourself as well as possible so you can use everything you have to be of service.

It is a courageous journey to take into the center of yourself, to ask the real questions that are begging for answers…

I will continue work on the book – in the hopes that other people can find their purpose, their center or their story and not feel so unrelatable or different or alone.  We are all connected in some freaky quantum way, and I feel him now, beside me smiling. he is happy with me, and maybe even lives abit of my life with me, connected and guiding me from he inside, through my thoughts and dreams. Parents don’t stop being parents when they die – but its up to us to stay tuned in and be brave enough to hear their messages.

 

As I write this – the only song I hear in my head is

“All you need is love…”

Thanks Dad.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

THE MIDDLE PLACE

The Middle Place

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It is in the middle of the place

Where you finally break down

and take the brave journey into your self

Recalling what it was like in vivid detail

Dancing in rhythm to the red hot intensity

of the whole world.

When you could wish for the rain,

To fall down harder,

Knowing it could hear you,

And laughed with you.

Dancing abandoned in warm summer puddles,

It is to this Middle place we must bravely return;

To when one face had two heartbeats,

And we knew all we would need to learn.

When all of the hopes of the world were within us,

flowering within in each cell

we have only reveal it.

Before your skin puckered

and became stained with spots

Before you knew more of what you were

And less of what you are not.

But try you must!

And know that it is not the first thing,

Nor the second or maybe even the fifth thing you try,

That will bring you back from the edge

Of what you believe is your own demise.

Listen to the simple creeping desires

that sounds like the ripping shred

of an old worn out skin,

This is how you will transform

this to that

Here to there,

Then to now.

This is how you will begin again to choose

and move

Past your own freezing point.

As you already know

The Tin Man needed to take one screeching step

Back to himself to recall

How freely his limbs had once moved,

and just knowing this

made him want to run and play

Again.

And although a beloved voice

Can no longer stir the wind,

It is still the music in the rustling of the autumn leaves

And skies of birds chanting in conspiring harmonies

That tell the greater story that you were meant to hear.

It says…

Don’t put the book down before you reach the ending

It has not yet been written!

Most Redundant Blog Ever Written…just my opinion.

It’s redundant for me to have an opinion on opinionated people, don’t you think? But I really do and it’s making me a little crazy.

For the last few years I have been struck by how counterproductive strong personal opinions are for me.    Negative or positive – it’s all the same thing as far as I am concerned.  It’s a right and wrong, black and white up and down that really only exists in our faerie tale minds.download (1)

Last night I met a woman I had never met before who had been making quite merry all night. At one point she grabbed at my husband’s cigarettes (he has been struggling to quit for a while now) and starting sneering at him

“what are you gonna do?” she jeered

 

“You gonna be an idiot and smoke this?” She waved the pack at him sitting back arrogantly with her glass of whatever in her other hand.

 

“Um…” I could see he was visibly shaken,  not knowing how to handle this strange aggressive approach.

 

9896d25c60bca36da9eba9145c33233aShe wanted to humiliate him in some way, and frankly I felt bad for him.  Addicted is addicted and for sure I m not going to be the one to throw stones from my glass house.  In all my attempt to be “compassionate” towards all people, I found it a little tough with this one. Soon, I found words spilling out of my unhindered unfiltered mouth. Generally this is not a good thing.

 

“So, does your shoulder hurt?” I asked her pointedly

 

“Hunh?” she looked at me quizzically

 

“Does your SHOULDER hurt?” I said pointing to the portion of my body above my arm below my neck, in case you need instructions like she did

 

“Well, it is a little stiff..”

“Yeah, that’s what happens when you walk around in your life carrying a heavy gavel and judging people. Why don’t you just lay it down.” I stared at her predatorially watching her eyes drop conflicted to her feet.

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“Well mine’s just fine then…” She murmured staring at her feet.

 

“Give it time”…I said smiling sardonically.

 

Oh great. Good old “zen-me” had just reacting to someone being humiliated by humiliating the,  So much for non-violence…

 

Sigh…

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She wanted to go at him about cancer being caused by cigarettes.  Meanwhile my brain wanted to tell her all sorts of things, about being overweight, having a lousy attitude, her bleached blond hair, carcinogenic make up tested on poor little bunnies, her diamonds mined in South Africa, her need to control other people…omg.  My brain wouldn’t shut up – thankfully I had found my filter, and we packed up not wanting to ruin what had been a lovely evening.

 

I remember when I was young I had an opinion about everything. In my family it was a way to be valued. The more opinions you had = the smarter you were.  Generally I wasn’t much into telling others how to run their lives.  But on world issues and grander things, you couldn’t have shut me up.

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But here’s what I know now: if someone does something that annoys me (like to the pint this woman’s attitude annoyed me..) then it is ONLY because that same aspect exists inside of me.  The bright light of imperfection shone directly on my face like a crazy celestial spotlight.  It was me..not her.  I cant change a person or how they behave. I can only choose to accept exactly as they are,  them or not.    I knew this was true because I came away from the judging woman with a sense of annoyance, which I think is a good thing. That feeling is an indication I have to look at something within myself.   Seeing it like that makes the altercation not useless – but useful for my own personal understanding and growth.   Having a perception of conflicting relationships like this can really change the way you feel about interacting with the world.

What it came down to was I think we all have that “inner critic”. And, there is a distinct difference between a critic and being discerning.  We were all given the power to discern what works for us and what doesn’t. I can observe a person’s behaviour or choices, and in view of how I am moving forward in my life, I can discern whether or not it is a good relationship for me or a counter-productive one, for now.

 

So, I realize how redundant it is for me to blog about my opinion about people’s opinions, but I am seeing a trend which is kind of black and white, and probably attributable to social networking.  Daily posts from people that are like personal opinion vomit – all day long. They just go on and on and how one person is bad, or a country is bad, or an institution is bad…oy.  This isn’t productive and it gets tedious reading and seeing such of negative comments.

 

I say – shut up and go DO something a bout it. If you complain about a problem more than once without taking action – you are officially whining.

 

 

I’m grateful for my annoyance as it has made me aware enough to back off of my own strong opinions – but it doesn’t mean I will lose my sense of discernment.  If I am stuck to what I think about a person place or situation, then I am not accepting that person place and situation and I guarantee you that the only one who will be miserable from that kind of unconscious bull-in-a-china-shop thinking – is ME.

 

So, in my efforts to be more gentle and compassionate with my own self (yes…a huge challenge), I am going to take a dose of my own medicine and remind myself that even the judging woman needs to be accepted. We are ALL perfectly imperfect, as my mom used to like to remind me when I would beat myself up.

 

Accepting people and not always having a false belief that I can change the unchangeable is a very powerful tool in keeping emotional balance and avoiding depression.  It’s all just one more thing to add to your toolbox, if that works for you.

Have a great weekend.

Peace.

Jo

 

 

 

Hungry? Angry? Lonely? Tired? H.A.L.T.!

301549_10150375411088656_541083655_8281137_1256522812_nFor those of us who live with depression, whether we can are on meds, off meds – the bottom line is that living with (sometimes unpredictable) emotional fluctuations can make it really hard to plan the  future..or sometime just an hour from now even.   Something that helps allot of people keep focus on balance in the day is also one of my family’s favourite – H.A.L.T. I’d like to share it in case its new to you and can help for next time the blues comes knockin’…

What it means seems obvious – when your mind starts twisting out and you feel your mood plummet…just STOP.

Stop everything if you can and check your basics. Are you hungry, angry lonely or tired?  This focus can help you to regain balance and avert deep depression when you begin to feel out of whack.  It’s also part of being emotionally responsible for yourself.  Over time it becomes easier to remember.

H.A.L.T:

Hungry ;

can mean you need food. Let’s stick to basics. Admit it, when we are emotionally overwrought we re not often inclined to be putting our physical well-being at the top of the to do list. We are more likely thinking …and drowning in thinking. All of ours, and the world’s problems at once.   Our thoughts have run away with a “mind of their own” (did I really just say that?) and we quickly lose body needs awareness. We forget to eat, or we eat crap. Carb;s usually – just for a moment of a little dopamine.

Seriously – Not having the proper minerals and vitamins when you are a clinically depressed person, can be life threatening.   The food we intake directly affects the way in which our brain produces dopamine and serotonin. I don’t know how you can do that in your diet.  I’m sure there are a million line resources. I believe that  many doctors obviously need to be more multidimensional in their approach to patient knowledge.  They need to be more like health partners and less like people that think they know more about your insides than you do. They have to really be thinking about the whole person and the situation.

So, that’s where you come in,  Someone with depression has to be very responsible for this most basic requirement.  When you feel that you are quickly spinning into the abyss, take a second, ok well maybe take 30 and check out what your body needs.

1- Drink water – in fact start your day with it. You wake dehydrated.  I don’t know much about the brain but I can imagine that`s not a great start for it.

2- Lay off caffeine – stop wrecking the start of your day by giving yourself a hyper dose of anxiety. Drink tea – you`ll live

3- Refined sugar is bad. Period.  It sparks mood swings, physical energy crashes etc… We are trying to avoid ANY crashes here.

4- Meat takes alot of energy for the body to consume. Plus it`s gross. I don’t eat it.

5- Eat whenever I`m hungry.  Small amounts.

6- Indulge your food fantasies sometimes. What the hell. One life.  But don`t do it when you`re sad.  Again, sugar never helps depression.

ANGRY:

Self explanatory. If you`re angry, stop, don`t RE-act (Def: Acting outwardly the angry you are feeling – creating a negative action twice).

Especially if you are in position to react to what someone else is saying to you it is always best to find some space and come back to it if you need to once you have checked your other indicators.

One of my grandmother`s favourite sayings was

“Don’t ever say something to someone you’ll have to apologize for. Especially if you don`t like them.”

LONELY: One of the hardest things to do in depression is reaching out to express yourself, but it is vitally important and healing.

There is an ocean’s difference between peaceful solitude and abject loneliness.  In mid-depression (if there is such a place) often people feel and see only themselves, and not in the best light either. Surrounding yourself with friends who understand you and are empathetic to your experience is really important.  It’s also part of what can be in your control.   Making relationship choices is empowering.

TIRED:

Most basic for all of us  but especially people with depression: you must sleep regularly and well.   One of the symptoms of a prolonged depression is insomnia. At this point a person is really so disconnected form the body that they have messed up their circadian rhythms and can’t return to a normal routine of sleep.  Thoughts race and we all know you cant run from yourself.

There is a reason why sleep deprivation has been used as a  favoured technique for torture throughout our war torn histories.  People make bad decisions when they are exhausted. For people with depression, exhaustion can lead to suicidal ideation difficult emotions like hopelessness and despair.  No one wants to live like that on purpose.

Fake it till you make it doesn’t mean you’re lying or being fake…not really.  But it helps to act as if you already feel good…to feel good this doesn’t mean lying but more like acting out positivity.  When someone asks you how you are, don’t go into a forty minute diabtribe about your woes, try staring by saying something positive, or grateful.  This can have a huge effect on the whole energy of the interaction.

 

You know how sometimes it feels as though just in a MOMENT you can fall into a depression,

Keep in mind that the same thing applies to the opposite …in a MOMENT you can fall out and back into contentedness.   Say yes to things that feel good for example.  Taking care of basics puts everyone in a better position to make the best daily choices on their own behalf and help create this outcome.

Peace~

 

 

 

 

THIS OLD TREE

TREEThere is a dead tree outside my window where I write. I watch it each day. For something that has probably been dead longer than it was alive, it’s a very busy place.

I have watched this tree now for more than half a decade and it only amazes me more each season. Happily I have now placed my writing desk at the window and face it each day. It gives me continuous inspiration or just an interesting place to look. This tree, which seems to be standing against all odds is a focal point for new life around here.  Each year quite reliably, different creatures take their places in the tree and begin a new season of aliveness. Although the center is now blackened with rot, it teems with insects that feed on its fermenting flesh and grow healthy. This in turn feeds the three kinds of woodpeckers I have seen. They only come out of hiding when the sun stays in the sky longer, so seeing them is a really good sign after a long hard winter.

There is a nearly indescribable feeling of aliveness to the spring in Canada. The kind if freshness that doesn’t exist in tropical climates where plant life and greenery get a “used up” look from constant exposure to the blazing hot sun. Here, everything gets  a period of rest – quiet; a natural downtime. The, when the sun finds its equinox and starts to extend the days you can feel everything around yawning and stretching after the most amazing rejuvenating nap. I love spring. Hope is fresh in the air, like a wonderful perfume you want to just pour all over yourself.  Something longed for is being shaken loose and it is a great relief to know it will come finally.

In my world it is that dead tree that I wait for every year.  The one that my husband has threatened to cut down now for three years but knows that I would have to chain myself to if he does. I have watched how the dead bark and concave rotted trunk, knotted and blackened with age, changes shapes creating a new story to add-on to every year. In march it begins quickly and continues to erupt all summer in a splendid display of life. It is better than T.V. when you’re sitting on my front porch and it is as reliable as anything can possibly be every year no matter how hard the winter is.

Squirrels live in the hole on the right; the deep one where they can nest their babies safely not needing to risk them falling from a tree in the vapid spring winds.  They seem to usually have 2-3 babies. Chipmunks use it as a launching pad to get to the oak tree whose branches are too high for their little legs to reach. Plus with all of our talented mousing cats, no chipmunk wants to find himself on the ground as a moving buffet.

A couple of years ago I noticed that amazingly a brand new tree has somehow managed to grow and entwine itself within the center of the old dead tree, completed embedded, like an arboreal soul-mate I suppose. It seems to be giving it new life, new purpose and a reason to stay standing. A good reminder of the continuity of life for me in any season.

The tree has only three large main branches reaching. One standing straight up from the middle like the upturned face of a norse god. Then two branches that look like arms extending outwards like a scarecrow reaching right and left with fingers outstretched.  Chipped white at the edges from the constant chiseling of the woodpeckers that delight in the millions of bugs that have taken refuge in the soft white wood. We think it may have been a maple at one time.   On close inspection of the white wood, you can see the artistic impacts that the woodpeckers beaks have made, in shapes of beautiful intricate random mazes and lines all interlaced with the markings of the red ants that like to nest in an orderly and fastidious fashion. It is natural art.

The Blue Jays also come in the early spring eager to take the highest branch position.  Perched high atop the rest of the inhabitants of the tree, they are naturally “top-dog” (please excuse the inappropriate metaphor – dogs would fall out of the tree.) In this way, the evil little birds are able to see, pick and choose, plan and connive whatever they would like on their menus for the day. Small birds, sweet little field mice or baby moles are all fodder for their cannibalistic menu. They remind me of  our politicians.    They are voracious predators and are my least favourite visitors. I call them  terrorists of the bird world.

When I was about twelve years old Blue jays gave me my first experience of death. As I rode in a riding lesson in a cold damp arena one spring, two screeching Blue Jays swooped in the big open back door of the arena, causing our horses to stop suddenly and pay attention. I watched helplessly as they flew to a small sparrows nest and landed pecking at the new babies within. I watched the frantic sparrow mother diving in again and again to try to save her babies but was forcefully rebuked by the large beaked bright blue birds. The nest fell to the ground from the roof of the arena and the babies were launched to the soft sandy ground almost featherless and so still. I dismounted and held my breath. I kept expecting them to move. My coach told me that it was better that they were dead – they would not have survived without their mother and she would abandon the nest now that it had been invaded. I never thought about death until this first experience and I don’t think I have really stopped since.

I have a project idea for my dead tree. I always imagined a faerie door in the big rotted knot at the bottom of the stumpy old tree. It is shaped perfectly and would be like a small Hobbit door, with a rounded top and a small window so the light can come in.  Faeries don’t like living in the dark all the time, you know.  I would paint it green and blue with gold glitter just in case they like that sort of thing.  I think making your house hospitable for Faeries to come and protect your children, animals and garden is a very wise idea, don’t you?  It wasn’t my idea of course – I am only following the lead of thousands of cultures and centuries of stories and myths that came before even this old tree.

Anyways, what can it hurt?

After all this introspection I notice something amazing and new!  Somehow over the winter the bottom of the tree has eroded away into the shape of an angel; her sideways view, looking down almost reverently at the ground, as though blessing it in some way – or maybe pondering it?tree angel

If we give something our full attention isn’t that the same thing as blessing it – in a way?

I notice her sweet little wing is perched atop her shoulders like a leaf, and her hands are at her sides, resting peacefully.

I imagine that she is waiting for the time when the squirrels will come to have their babies and the Blue Jays will take their place in the beautiful mess of it all.

A WORD ON GRIEF…

I’d like to share a word of advice to anyone grieving:

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1-       People will forget you are grieving about a week and a half after the funeral. So sorry, you can’t change this part. But you can know in advance that you will need to set boundaries and really keep a handle on yourself and how you feel and what you need.

2-       Try not to punch people in the face when they say “I’VE BEEN THROUGH what you’re going through”or “I Know EXACTLY how you feel…” Jail won’t help your mood, I promise.

3-       Everyone will say to you – “you need to take care of yourself”, but they only mean it if they don’t need something for themselves from you.  Once your grieving becomes inconvenient for them (which is most everybody) then they will demand you be present for what they need and then you can return to your “grief”. Know how to set your boundaries.

4-       If it is a serious loss that you feel a huge hole in your life from, be prepared to feel like the Grand Canyon has been blown wide open in your chest.  Don’t fill it with food, relationships, booze, drugs, movies, TV, video games or unconscious drama. You have enough problems. Be aware that depression is anger turned inwards, so please be careful of what you fill that space with.

5-       Grieving is unique to each person.  However, generally the grief is most difficult because we are focusing on the past or the future. Neither of these places are reality. Try to stay present. If you don’t meditate – start today.

6-       Learn to ask for what you need, and give less of a shit about inconveniencing people, or putting them out.

7-       Choose who you talk to. Everyone says they want to know HOW you are…but they don’t really.  Telling someone your story of pain and having them look bored or uncomfortable is not a great feeling.

8-       Keep a journal. It’s the only sure way to express yourself without annoying feedback – (ie: “Oh…I know just how you feel”. No dammit – you don’t. Just like I don’t know how you feel.

9-        When the pain feels so bad that you are going to burn up inside, try and sit with it. Don’t avoid it – don’t DO something else or THINK something else.  Just be with the pain. It will make it go away faster. Remember, the point we are trying to reach is acceptance and that can’t happen through avoidance.

10-    Cry whenever the hell you want.  Wherever you want. However you want.  It cleans out your insides.

11-    Pray like hell. Maybe you’re not religious, but if you’re in enough pain – you will know exactly what I mean by this.

12-    Keep doing the things you love – your grief is only a PART of you – it’s not EVERYTHING you are. Put it aside sometimes, and do something that totally turns you on.

13-    Find someone you trust, and call them every day. Don’t go into that place alone – or as my mother used to say, when going into your own head and thoughts…”Don’t visit that neighbourhood alone – it’s a dangerous and scary place. Bring a friend”.

** Most important – if you begin to feel hopeless, suicidal, and this goes on for “too long” (you decide)…please contact a professional and see if they can help you put things into perspective.  You matter to allot of people – although you may not feel like it all the time. Let someone help you remember…

A note to those of you supporting someone who is grieving:

Grieving

1-       I’m sure you know but I’ll say it again – it is NOT helpful to say “You know exactly what I’m going through” cause that is not possible. Everyone has a unique experience. Just be quiet and listen.

2-       DO make food and make sure your loved one is keeping their basics up.  Being physically down doesn’t help anything.

3-       DO make happy plans and suggestions that can help bring the colour back to your loved-one’s face

4-       Plan on spending time listening, without saying anything “helpful”.  Try to just listen without giving your own experience.  Just be there.  Presence is a true act of love.  YOu don’t have to do anything more.

5-       Keep unnecessary stresses away from your loved one if possible like enthusiastic Jehovah’s witnesses at the door  or maybe take over paying bills for a while, or something else that can clear up the time for your loved one to just be quiet and have their space.

6-       Family’s should make a plan and work together to support each other. Communication in a family has to be more deliberate and open when someone or many are in the pain of grief.

7-       Employers need to realize that employees wont be functioning at full capacity for a year.

8-         Pray – every little bit helps.

9-        BE PATIENT – this is the foremost focus for you.  Your love done will go through mood swings that make Coney island look like shuffle board. Try not to be RE-active.

10-      Take care of yourself as well! Focus on making sure you have the space and time to handle this intensity with your loved one.

Since my Mother’s death, I have seen and heard so many people going through difficult stages of watching people they love die or are in the emotions of grief. I don’t know how long this lasts, I just know that some days it feels endless and some days are ok.

Take these suggestions and everything else in your life – ONE DAY AT A TIME. Cause it’s all we have .

Namaste

Through My Mother’s Eyes…

When my mother was in the hospital, I had a chance to spend allot of time downtown which is something I really haven’t done very much of over the past 20 years.  I found myself invigorated by the energy of the city. I loved watching the beautiful people dressed in clean clothes, women walking stealthily on high heeled shoes, people distractedly crossing streets while multitasking on their cell phones.  The hospital was near many amazing attractions in Montreal, like the fine arts museum, china town and St Joseph’s Oratory, and after my visits I would go somewhere to fill my energy levels back up before going home to face my family and busy life.

One night, like he often did, my husband met me at the hospital after work to say hi to my mom for a while and take me somewhere nice for dinner to distract my mind from being sad.  “A dinner adventure”, we called it when we would allow our intuition to guide us to some cool new restaurant where the food was inevitably delicious.  Our gut never lead us wrong.  That night, we headed into China Town. I was having a particularly hard time with my sadness feeling as though the hospital environment and the disappointing narrow mindedness of the doctors were making my mother even more sick.  It was a hopeless feeling, and I left with a heavy heart, only to find myself following my husband in our dirty old dented Ram pickup truck, fresh off the farm with one tire half flat and going down. Traffic was horrendous. The road was a sea of cars and impossible construction hurdles.  People sat mostly patiently in their cars waiting for the next inch to open up ahead. Meanwhile,  I felt like a complete country bumpkin, in my cheerful little yellow beetle feeling like the weight of the world was crushing me. The radio not working and there was no escape from my thoughts or feelings. Compounded with sitting in the heat and the stench of a downtown traffic jam not exactly knowing where to put my car – I felt my mind edging on a good therapeutic primal scream. It seemed like no one was very aware of the space around themselves and I was at constant odds with one car or another vying for space. Soon I found myself tossed like a salad by aggressive drivers into some place on the right side of the road which I hadn’t realized was a bus lane.  After shifting to the left as much as I could, an angry frazzled completely freaked out bus driver pulled up beside me. The size of the double bus making my little bug look like a Tonka Toy.   She gestured for me to open my passenger side window, and yelled frustratedly  irate~

“Hey! Stay out of my lane. You’ve been blocking me the whole way”!

My mouth opened, my mind snapped, and I told her to go do something very unspiritual with herself.  She yelled something about a report and took off amazingly fast. I felt immediately remorseful for my actions.  I quickly realized that I certainly could not even come close to fathoming what it must be like to drive that bus up an down the insanity of that road every day, five or six days a week, through traffic.  I would be insane too.

Compassion came too late and karma bit me in the ass as I watched the bus plow into  into the passenger side mirror of my big dirty truck being driven by my husband.

When we arrived an hour later (usually a five minute drive) into the Asian part of town, he jumped out of his truck and said “Hey! Did you see that bus driver hit me!?”

How was I ever going to explain that this was entirely my fault? I had to laugh and must admit it took me a while to explain how it all happened between fits of laughter.

We had a nice dinner though I didn’t eat much.  I was busy looking around and kept seeing things I wanted to show my mother. I wanted to take a pictutre of the pretty food on my plate to show her my dinner and where e could go when she would be bnetter. I wanted to take a picture of the handsome Spanish guitar player doing flamenco on his guitar in the square and ask her if it reminded her of our trip to the Canary Islands? I knew deep niside me that her condition had worsened too much and she would likely never see these things, from her body anyways, again. But I still wanted to share all of the amazing things I was seeing.

When I would go and visit and talk to her, she was so tired and on so many medications, that she could not focus. I could see it made her feel bad. She didn’t want to waste any time with me with sleeping, but she just couldn’t stay awake. So I thought suddenly, that I should take pictures so she could see what I was talking about without it taking so much time and energy. Maybe it would make her feel still like part of life.

I began to take random pictures. Statues and Fountains in places I hadn’t ever noticed although according to the plaques they had been there since the mid 1800’s.  Stores with beautiful displays I would have liked to visit with her.  A Puppet store in the oldest part of town in an arboretum type place that reminded me of Italy and I knew how much she would love that little corne. We saw the Old Port. The Horse drawn carriages and the nice people we met. I even took pictures of them.

Each day we would visit and I would see and go to different places.  Someties with John, with kids, or alone.

The first time I found myself alone at St Joseph’s Oratory surprised me. I am not aligned to any religion – I feel no pull by them, but I have learned how to listen to the universe when ti wants my attention. Even when I think the request is strange, it usually makes sense later.

One day after leaving the hospital, I got lost, in my distress – completely turned around.  I had found myself baffled by the same horrific construction loop 3 times and each time I went around I found myself passing the immense  and mysterious St Joseph’s Oratory. A place reputed to have been built by a sainted priest who healed crippled people. His heart was inside in a jar. Cool.

My path was pretty clear. No matter which “short cut” I tried to take,  all other exits were blocked.   I had never been to the Oratory except once as a child when I was doing my first communion. It meant nothing to me back then. It was boring. A place that no one in Quebec can help but see, perched high atop Mount Royal, visible even to remote communities like where I live nearly like from Rigaud mountain, nearly an hour away. Local mythology says that Mount Royal is an inactive volcano.

I drove into the gates, finally surrendering to the loop of lostness I had found myself in.  I felt out of miserably place in my cheerful little yellow bug, peering sadly up at the man at the gate who asked for a 5, 00 parking donation to help support the church. I remembered then I was completely broke. I shuffled nervously through my change and found I only had about 3.50 and no other money.  I felt utterly dismayed.  I was pretty sure if I couldn’t find some peace my heart would break right then and there and if I couldn’t get into Gods own house, as they say,  because of a lousy $1.50, I decided I would break up with my faith. I would write it a Dear John letter to God and be done with it.

Which is of course when the man looked down into my dark eyes and smiled kindly –

“This is fine Madam, please enjoy your visit”, he said in a gentle French accent.

Relief. All of a sudden everything felt warm.  My hands which had been numb with cold despite the warm summer day \began to tingle coming back to life.  I smiled up pretty weakly, but he got the point.  I later came to see that this man’s kindness, from his heart, transferred to my heart and helped it to beat abit more normally.  I needed that connection and it shows me proof that there are no small acts.

I parked the bug on the side of the sloping lot where the stairs begin. You couldn’t miss it, big and round and yellow sticking out amongst the sea of greys and blacks and browns.  I got out beside the The stairs of Pilgrim’s where people come from all over the world the climb over 100 stairs on their knees, saying a prayer for each stair. The supplant themselves in the hopes that God will look upon them more favorably for ther obvious act of humility.

It struck me that in our culture, seeing people in open public prayer was a strange thing to see.  I  I felt like I was seeing something private that is between you and God.  I never knew I felt like that before and I’m not sure I still agree.  “Maybe sharing prayer like that will help everyone around them?” I wondered as I try not to stare at the reverent face of the Hispanic woman saying prayers to the Virgin Mary in Spanish. Her daughter only a few stairs behind bowed her head kneeling on the stair in quiet mumbled prayer.   The woman reaches the top stair and places her hands on the landing like she is making a statement, leaning forward, her face upturned and unabashedly says her payer to the door in front of her.  The door beside the next set of fifty stairs. Fifty more prayers before what? “Is God listening yet or is It too busy comforting her poor knees”, I can’t help but wonder.

There are hundreds of stairs to climb to get to the main entrance of the oratory. Once inside, a sweet faced girl greets me openly shoving a pamphlet into my hand and asking me if it was my first time. I told her that I was especially interested in the legends of Brother Andre; the sainted priest who was reputed to have healing powers and had cured many people of terrible illness.  I had heard about the crutches and canes lining the walls outside of his crypt.  Then of course there was his heart, which was apparently in a jar somewhere. I didn’t ask her about this. I’m so sensationalist – my mind smiles.  I would fnid it if I was meant to. But secretly  nd between you and I, I looked for it the whole time, and never found it.

I tell the greeting girl I’d like to see the place of the miracles.

Ah yes!”, she says as if everyone comes in looking for miracles.  She refers me to the map pointing to several places.  The place is an absolute labyrinth.

“You will find the best way is through here “, and she makes a zig zag squiggly line with her finger ending up pointing to a chapel with an exit on both sides. The place is an incredible maze, and I am pretty sure I’m going to get lost. I always get lost but I usually like it.  I think I do it on purpose secretly looking for the places no one else sees.  Or maybe being continually lost is a sign that I am incredibly distracted and really don’t care where I am. Either way, I am used to finding my way through places I am not familiar with, both figuratively and practically.

I go up a long escalator herded together with a bunch of other people.  I am suddenly a tourist in my own city and I like it.  I hear some American accents, maybe from New Jersey. The young boy is wearing a black torn wife beater covered ostensibly by a plaid shirt.  He has multiple facial piercings and a momentarily grim look.  I start to make some negative assumptions about him and catch myself when he looks up at me with eyes that smile – and all I see are his eyes.  They are young and fresh and he has gentleness inside of him that maybe his outer appearance doesn’t belay right away. It makes my heart feel good to and I smile back.

At the top of the escalator I enter a chapel and I go inside to the front row. I say a prayer.  I don’t actually believe God hears me better just because I am in a church, but I do believe that She pays attention to my heartfelt intention and my spontaneous expression willingness.   I think God really listens to willingness because that’s when we are able to hear.

I pass through into a another room, a crypt filled with lights from a sea of candles, a waterfall of each flowing down onto several prayer stations. It is breathtakingly beautiful and I find myself standing still while the world walks around and past me.  It is a magical place.   Behind me along the wall are the crutches and canes in the hundreds of the people that brother André healed.  They hang in rows and layers upon layers, all made of dark old wood. Some carved mostly plain canes and crutches each with its own history and story. I stood looking at them for a long time. I was amazed that you could touch them and they weren’t behind glass.  I put my hand on one and hoped for its magic to come inside of me.   I closed my eyes tight like a little kid throwing a nickel into the wishing well and I whispered silently to myself “Help. Thank you”.

A simple prayer. Surely one of my favorites.

A good prayer because it leaves the results and expectations up to something that knows more than I do.

I walk around slowly and notice that there are different stations of prayer.  St Joseph, I learn is the husband of Mary the mother of Jesus. He is the patron saint of allot of things. Families, fathers, virgins and the dying amongst others.  The last two interested me. Who would be the patron saint of virgins?  A man who trusted his wife when she said she was impregnated by God, I suppose.

I realized then that if you believe in the miracle of the virgin birth, then the fact that he a) believed her and b) stuck with her, makes him a really exceptional man.  I don’t know if that’s the real reason as the church says, but it works for me.

Then I came to the final station – Prayer for the dying.

I hope God doesn’t mind, but I didn’t have the 5.00 for the cost of lighting the candle. I found whatever change I had and put it in the little coffer.

Then I lit a candle, for my mother. It was probably the first moment I realize that she was actually dying.  I knelt and prayed. Not because I thought God would like it better if I did it this way, but because I felt like a heavy weight was pressing me down to my knees and I had to rest and just be with this sadness. I found it interesting to be in a place where if you just knelt down in the middle of everyone an everything, no one looked at you funny. It wasn’t regarded as ‘religious fanaticism”. It was just You being with God.

After a long healing cry with a bent head, I got up and left the station slowly.  I feel like I left something behind there – something I had come in with and couldn’t carry anymore I suppose.

I walked to my left,  unsure of where I was and come upon a beautiful golden statue of St. Joseph with a pool of oil at his feet. The plaque said that this was the oil of St Joseph that it had been reputed to have healing properties and had been continued along generations and was used b Brother Andre.  now it maintained its holiness by being blessed by his priests. Interesting…and surprisingly Pagan too, I thought secretly to myself.

I have never been comfortable with the thought that a single person had special powers that could bless anything better than the good intentions of God through any kind of people. I remembered the holy water behind me and decided to take off my Tibetan oil necklace and fill it with the water of that place.  The room, it seemed to me, must hold a powerful energy because it was constantly filled with spiritual seekers – simply people who were looking for answers.  This in and of itself felt incredibly strong. So I filled my necklace so I could bring part of that experience to my mother as well.

I loved the oratory. I walked for a while longer, visited upstairs in a place like a wax museum, vividly real reenactions of Brother Andre’s life with displays of his miracles.  I was amazed at how small people were back then. He was a teeny tiny man, maybe 4’10”-  and he helped build this gigantic Cathedral. Amazing.

I took pictures of everything I could to show my mom the next day.  I found myself wanting to see things through her eyes – what was important and beautiful. It made me pay more attention to the details that made things alive and wondrous, hoping that I could bring her this living experience as vividly as possible.

This is the first holiday we have without her. It’s very strange surreal and painful all at once. It makes me remember what is important, and all the things I am grateful for are multiplied as I understand what she would have given to have lived just a few more weeks to experience this gathering of thanks that was her favourite holiday.

At Thanksgiving, she used to make us all say something we were grateful for at dinner. The challenge would be tossed out almost ceremoniously like a glove onto the dining room table and she would choose the first person to start – always followed by a grumble and silence.  The first answers are usually short. I am grateful for my food The end. I am grateful for family. I am grateful for my friends and my job, grateful for music, for art for love…and it would continue, the last idea always contributing to a new idea of what we could be grateful for and the bubble would get bigger and bigger.

I am grateful for my mother and for the ways she showed me how to express gratitude in my life. Today I will feed my family and friends and feel so blessed to have this love all around me, feeling her right there where she has always been.

Namaste

UNCONDITIONAL LOVE?

I’m learning about Love right now.  All sorts of love, and the ways I experience it, where and how it motivates me and exists within me.   Consciousness urges me to understand a love that is without attachment, requirement or desire; a love that contains only Truth, like pure sweet clean water.  Is it possible that we all already have this kind of love within us and the purpose of this life is simply to uncover it?

 

In a recent conversation with a good friend, he brought up the idea of “unconditional love” recalling a previous conversation a few weeks before where I had declared to him regretfully and honestly that I didn’t think I was capable of such a thing.  Outside of my own children for whom I felt a deeper bond that what can even be described in words, I didn’t think I could love someone completely – I would always judge something about them, this was the human condition I concluded.

My friend said that he had considered my statement over the past few weeks and had concluded that I was mistaken because I was misinterpreting what “unconditional” meant.  I asked him what he meant.

“Can you love me even when I’m being a jerk?” he asked.

History had proven this to be true. We had been friends a long time.

My mind argued that this wasn’t unconditional because it was only one person in seven billion and unconditional meant I could love without condition of who you are, what you do, where you live, what you look like – separate from any judgment my mind may have of you.

So then I tried to imagine other people in my life, and found that in fact, I did love them even when they were acting in a way or saying things that I judged negatively – or even that caused me direct harm, or pain. Yes, I could still Love them, even though I didn’t like what they did all the time.

So then my question had to extend to people I had not yet met, strangers, and people in other lands – could I love those people, even though I don’t know them?

I look on the internet and see faces of people I don’t know and I look deep in their eyes. There is…something there that I recognize.  Something is there that is known to me, even though we have not met. Yes, I can love them too.

We have many incorrect notions of what love is: Love doesn’t mean I want to move in with you, sleep with you, cook your meals, solve your problems or become your therapist. Love means I realize I know nothing actually, and I am open to learning with you and through you.

I realized after my conversation with my friend that unconditional love exists as our birth-right – it is the center of free will.  Judgment is a natural human activity, designed to help us discern what may or may not be the best option for us at the time. It is freedom in action.  We are free to express love or to withhold its expression. And without sounding too much like a hippie we must conclude that if each person held love as the conscious motivation behind each choice they made, things would be very different.  We can love someone but not necessarily “judge” that it is the healthiest option for our choices to have them in our intimate life.  Since everything changes and passes, what is for today is not necessarily what is for tomorrow, But, we can always recognize that the part inside of us which express love is the same part of another that is receiving the love.

Maybe the greatest challenge we all face is to come to a place where we understand that we have to love our own selves unconditionally before we can transfer that love to someone else.  Running workshops on my farm I have had the chance to speak to many people about this idea of being “centered in self”. Although it seems logical to conclude that we can’t give away to someone what we don’t have for our own selves, our culture has communicated a very different type of conditioning to us.  We have told women that they need to put their children and families first and have created a martyr like attitude3.  This has only resulted in a multitude of generations being raised by secretly resentful women.

Men have the pressure of continued roles as “caretakers”, emotionally detached breadwinners and hunter-gatherers,  their success being measured by material acquisition and property value.  This is such medieval thinking in the modern age! The challenge for men is daunting, requiring that they take the very long journey to understanding their own hearts and emotions and putting aside the requirements of society to ignore the basic inner natures.

Unconditional love exists in all of us I see now.  The challenge is in excavating and finding out the truth about how it lives in you. When I look out of my window and see that I am life living in life, I feel a kind of love which expresses itself as joy in my heart.  This love doesn’t require anything of me, it just is.  Gratitude is the natural result of this focus.

Namaste