Saturday, February 6, 2016

Beggy Prayers

My Facebook Post Dated November 30, 2015 : 
 4:00 am and the loneliness broke down her door and threatened to make her believe all the secrets swirling in her mind about worthiness, lovability, failure, and why she was still here. What was her purpose at this juncture of her life? Her mind was a bad neighborhood to be in, especially at night. She tried to wrap herself up in a heavy coat of faith, scrunching her eyes shut reciting Beggy Prayers for peace and direction, or even a small sign but the fear blew right through her coat, and the world was so silent she couldn't even hear God breathe.

I've had these unexpected, debilitating, bone and joint  issues the last few years. I feel like I took pretty good care of my bones, with supplements and lifting weights, but in hindsight, if stress plays a role in health, that explains it perfectly.  It appears I am crumbling- or melting - like the wicked witch of the East.  Only, I’ve been good, and I no longer believe what happens to me is some karmic unpaid debt, or based on stellar behavior.  I’ve had bad things happen to me, when I’ve toed the line of kindness and integrity  and blessings showered on me when I didn’t deserve them.   I’m relatively adept at finding the humor in the midst of most of my problems, even joints that aren’t holding up, or more recently a spine that is dangerously collapsing.  The embellished fantasy I’m sticking to about these disintegrating bones goes like this:  

He’s got the whole world... in His hands.  
He’s got the whole world... in His hands. 
He’s got the whole world ... in His hands. 
On the seventh day He rested... and placed it in mine

Spoken like a true co-dependent. My arrogant interpretation of what happens to good joints when you carry the weight of the world, even if only for one day of the week.  It’s a good pity party and sometimes you just gotta attend to get it out of your system.  I set a timer dictating how long I'm going to party-on. The rest of my energy is being used to stay positive and maintain my sense of humor  as I prepare to go under the knife and get my throat slit to repair collapsed vertebrae that are bruising and damaging my spinal column. Three surgeries in three years.  I've said it before, third time is a charm.

Everyone has something going on in their life.  Maybe they are better able to handle things than I am.  Maybe they’re on good drugs.  Or, maybe they don’t handle things any better than I do and suffer in silence.  I was a child protege in the field of suffering in silence and earned my  PhD early on.  In middle-age I burned that advanced degree with the help of others who taught me that secrets would continue to make me even sicker and then introduced me to a twelve step plan for a healthier way of life. I also learned I am only responsible for the square footage around my own little body, not the whole world.  Learning and understanding all of these things,  it seems God opened that place where all my hurt, pain, and isolation was stuffed.  It was like Hoover Dam had sprung a big leak, and I shared, and I shared and I shared.  I promised never to shove that much fear, anger, and silent suffering down like that again.  Most  of the time I’m pretty good about  dealing with things as they arise rather than ignoring it, pushing it way, or medicating in some way. I'm still working on stuffing my feelings down along with a pound or two of good cheese. While blissful in the moment, it extracts too big a price on my digestive system and thighs. I've acquired some good anti-stuffing tools and I know what I need to do.  Call a friend.  Meditate and sit in stillness for awhile. Go for a walk.  Get out and be among people. Help someone else.   If none of those things work, and the feelings overwhelm me, say, in the middle of the night, where I am most vulnerable, I call on my Beggy Prayers.  

I once heard Iyanla VanZant, author and self-help guru chastise those kinds of prayers.  You know the ones that are punctuated with the word please in between every other word. Oh, please.  Please God. Pretty please.  Those were my childhood prayers back when I thought God and Santa Claus were brothers and her comment made me feel childish.  Her claim is God hears us the first time and it’s not necessary to repeat it over and over again.   I believe that He does too, in fact I think He knows our heart and needs even before we do.  But there is something about  Beggy Prayers that humbles me so much and I feel like an innocent child again, in a sweet way,  standing at the feet of a powerful, loving Father who soothes me.  I may not have to say please two hundred times in order for help to arrive or my wish to be granted, but it puts me in communion and that’s all that matters.  In times  when I am most powerless, that might be the best it gets, and its always felt good enough.  

When I pull out those Beggy Prayers, I am at my most innocent, moldable, receptive self.  Like a mediation mantra, a focal point to quiet the mind and tune into the silence and make some room for a connection to take place.  Beggy Prayers are the big guns for me.  Oh, please (take this cup from me).  Oh, please (if I must drink from this cup, hold my hand).  Oh, please (teach me how to trust you explicitly in all things).  

Reciting those Beggy Prayers long enough in my dark night of the soul back in November, I did eventually feel God’s breath on my cheek and comfort in my heart.

That won’t be the last time I use my Beggy Prayers regardless what any self-help guru says. They may seem childlike.  They may seem unnecessary; however, for every Beggy Word that I speak, it is communion with the Most High, who understands I am most human.   

Just a little heads up God.  You will hear my Beggy Prayers again, right before the twilight of anesthesia slips in and takes me into the land of dreamless sleep next week. Oh, please, (be with me always).

Oh, please (let this be my last surgery for awhile).   

Friday, January 29, 2016

Treasure Chest

Image from
He was her hero
not in the cape-flying
out the window kinda way
but in the best friend,
believes in who you are kinda way
The last week of January has traditionally been a rough week for me.  It’s been that way since January 30, 1999.  Watching the person you believe to have been your soulmate slip out of your arms into the arms of heaven leaves a wound on your soul.  There have been years that have been better than others, and possibly even years where there was a new love interest in my life.  I haven’t stayed stuck in the muck of hopelessness and grief, and he wouldn’t have wanted me to.  However, his presence in my life carved a deeper impression than a legal and holy merger between a man and woman who love each other whole-heartedly.   He changed everything I believed about me.

In the months after his death, I begged God to take me with him. Later, I ranted at the unfairness, and constantly dwelled on what life would be like if he was still here,  I lived in a twisted future world of fantasy; making up stories of the two of us, buying a business, traveling, building a small condo by some beach, and immersing ourselves in the activities of  precocious  little grandchildren.  How he would enjoy them.  Those stories I told myself just left me a little envious and a lot bitter.  

After a few years, I moved beyond that, and gingerly stepped into dating again.  I was a young widow and at the time the idea of living out the rest of my days alone was a dreaded fate, right behind death.  Being with him when he died, I no longer feared life on the other side, but a life alone seemed to me to be a miserable existence.  With that fear in the forefront of my mind, many of my choices in companionship weren’t really the best fit for me and with every break-up, it somehow made his death even more painful.  I wondered if I compared others to him too often, and decided I probably did.  Using him as a measure of suitability was destined to fail, not because so many of those others weren’t good people and nice guys, but simply because nothing can ever compare to the trophy on the shelf, shiny and flawless in my imagination;  picking and choosing only the stellar qualities and fireworks moments to memorialize him.  I pushed away the minutia of character traits and times when he wasn’t perfect. 

I’ve settled into a much more comfortable place and my dreaded widowhood has turned to comfortable singledom.  What that means is I am no longer defined by his death.  I treasure the Golden Decade I spent with him, but I have also had beautiful moments without him.  

However, he was my hero and always will be. He left me with a treasure chest of unconditional love, acceptance, and an explicit  belief in me and my capabilities, things I struggled to give to myself. He taught me to love me. He looked at me with a fresh set of eyes.  He saw my heart and my humor.  He saw my talents, unfiltered by insecurity.  He told me I was one of the smartest people he knew and reinforced it when he listened intently to my opinions and used them with his business, in his relationships, and for his own personal growth.   Those were the gifts he left to comfort me when he was gone.  Eternal, life-changing gifts.  I didn’t see it for a long, long, time and maybe I had to dig my way out of the grave in order to breathe.

I had to find my gratitude again to light the way back into the land of the living and uncover the blessings he brought into my life, rather than focusing on my loss.  

As I prepare for another January 30th, tomorrow, this year I think I will snuggle into the beautiful wool quilt my talented sister-in-law made for my father-in-law and gifted to me after his death a few years ago.  Surrounded by material symbols of love, it’s really time to send an extra helping of thanks to God and him for arriving in my life and helping me to see that I am really strong and talented, and loved way beyond the grave.  Spending the day honoring the treasure chest full of gifts that have helped me to navigate these many years since he's been gone, seems like it would be a better reflection of the love we shared.  My husband, my hero, my blessing.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Negativity as a teacher. A return to Optimism.

I wrote this last summer a few months after my hip replacement surgery.  It was a great exercise then and a good review now.  Somehow in the midst of the negativity a lesson was learned that opened the door to gratitude again. Through it all,  I discovered how much power I have- granted by the grace of God.  We are responsible for our own happiness, NO MATTER THE CIRCUMSTANCES.  I'm reposting because I need the reminder:  All is well, and will be well, as I head into a scary cervical spine surgery in three weeks.  Three surgeries in three years - I should play the lottery.  Lucky number 3.  Third time is a charm they say.  I am ready to be charmed and I know, this time, Optimism is my best  pre-surgery medicine. 

July 4, 2015 - I was cleared by the doctor yesterday to drive, walk, swim, and bike.  Now, you would think I would be overjoyed to be able to do those things. It was still only mid-summer. These last seven weeks have been a real challenge, especially taking my wheels away. I also wasn’t prepared at all for the emotional roller coaster ride brought on by pain, medication, surgery, isolation, and immobility.  I felt like a child, helpless and dependent on the schedules and whims of other people.   My social life, cheering squad, and shopping needs were in their control. It felt like my emotional well-being was too.   I don’t do well being dependent or asking for help.  I've been self-sufficient for the greater part of my life.  It seemed when I did reach out, my surgically/pharmaceuticaly  induced mood swings and depression was something no one wanted to deal with and I felt that terrible sting of rejection.  Abandoned, once again. Shouldn’t family and friends accept me as I was - mood swings, negativity and all?  They hadn’t just had their hip socket sawed off and a metal rod jammed down into their femur. They’d be cranky too, I thought.  

For a few moments there, instead of squealing in delight because I could drive,  I sat with my doctor and a long list, questioning him on when I could do Yoga, hit the nautilus at the gym, go back to spin class, and travel.  “Not for six months,” he replied.  He had just shown my an Xray of my perfect new hip - the one that was giving me back my ability to live my life as fully as the average baby boomer and it wasn’t enough?  Maybe I needed to relearn that art of gratitude.  I am normally a grateful person by nature so my “not enough” thinking quickly turned to jubilation as I strode to my daughter’s car and proclaimed a  celebration in order.  After she dropped me off from a cane-free walk around a store and lunch, I backed my car out of my driveway just to make sure it would start, and my new bionic gam could control the pedals.  Freedom!   I felt like a prisoner who had served the time and was sprung from a long sentence.  The sky was a little bluer, the world a lot more glorious. The air was fresh, unlike the canned air-conditioned prison laced with the smell of my isolation and, for awhile there, a limited amount of caring about appearances or hygiene on my part.  With every mile I drove, Optimism, once again, rushed through my veins.

 It appeared the road to Optimism could be found by taking the Gratitude trail. 

But, boy was it earned on a long, often lonely road.  There is something about being cooped up for an extended period of time.  I don’t care how optimistic and grateful you think you are, every little character defect (yours and others), every insecurity, every still unhealed part of you is going to show up to keep you company in the still  of your healing journey.  My traveling insecurities would come and go uninvited, sometimes just paying a short visit and other times they would arrive with the steamer trunk, packed up for a world cruise. My head had a difficult time changing course and heading towards Port Optimism. Under normal circumstances, at this juncture of my life, through trial and error, I have learned what tools to use to turn my thinking into something constructive and optimistic.  Nature works well, however, I couldn’t sit outside for a few weeks and the weeks when I could, it rained constantly.  Meditation has been my best friend for a number of years now, but those little minions in my head would rattle cages I hadn’t opened up in years and it took all my strength to keep them locked out. Reading a book was difficult - pain medication and concentration don't make good bedfellows.  I granny walked my way to the computer, pushing my metal walker with the homeless lady bag on the front, and spent hours creating my own little motivational screen-savers to reinforce all the good in my life. I practically wallpapered my phone and computer with them.  The one on this blog post was designed on a particularly sarcastic and anger infused day.  I might be an unpleasant grouch, but at least I would be authentic and embrace my grouchhood.  I think that’s when my 2016 word of the year began to take shape. Authentically a Scrooge.  I prayed to be happy, and then decided no one could possibly be happy considering my situation, so I prayed for peace, at least.   A little voice in my head reminded me, if I wanted long-term peace, maybe I should do a little work and the questions I should ask might go like this.  

What is your anger and pique trying to teach you?  What are the lessons that you will take from this experience?   

Here goes:

I was put out that I had to essentially take care of myself.  After all, I had taken care of just about everyone else in my life  and it was my turn, for a change.  I was a good human being.  A good friend. A caring soul.  As if all my goodness could be saved for a rainy day and God would grant me help because my giving ledger was full.  Wasn’t that an expectation and wasn’t it also ragingly codependent?

I was angry at myself for not taking better care of my health through the years, not making my own well-being a priority and guarding it like I had for others I loved. I had been the one that hadn’t gone to doctor when I needed to, worked long hours, and put others needs before my own.  What could I do about it now?  Absolutely nothing. Again, codependent as hell and martyrdom in its stinkiest  glory.

I was angry for expecting people who simply aren’t capable of support and thinking somehow, magically, it would be different this time.  When would I learn that some people are not dependable? Some people can barely take care of themselves.  I was really angry that I had forgotten, when people show you who they are, believe them.  However, it was a beginning in seeing that I have the power, to choose who I lean on, pick to share my secrets, and those that have the capacity to be there in unconditional love. 

Most of all, near the end of my drive through hip replacement ordeal, I was angry with myself for giving me so little credit.  I wasn’t the helpless victim.  Who better to take care of me and know what I need, but me?  Sure some things were a physical challenge during the healing process, but somehow, somewhere, the strength arrived to get done what I needed to do. 

Finally, shouldn't I have been focusing on those beautiful souls that did help me through a tough time and made sacrifices to see me through it?  Optimism might return if that's what I chose to see.  

I looked back over the course of my life.  It has been peppered with more challenges than most people can even imagine. But the real biography of my life - overcoming, diligence, faith and courage, and the right people,  always showed up when needed.  

Time spent in suffering and solitude guided me to  recognize as the Apostle Paul said, “For when I am weak, I am strong.”  

A teeny bit of negativity never hurt anyone. At least not me. It forced me to examine what was behind it. Being weak showed me how capable I was of taking care of me.  Through the crazy thinking, anger, and loneliness, there stood God guiding me through it all, making me stronger as I drew closer to Him. 

 Another obstacle  traversed on the journey to RENEW, my Word of the Year for 2015.   I am convinced, there is power in this practice.

RENEW - that was my wish, tossed out to the Universe.  It’s beginning to look like the message was received.  For starters, a new hip - RENEW: make like new.  I can feel a quickening in the pit of my stomach.  Life awaits. It’s  time to  be my own fairy godmother and head on off to the ball. I’m not looking for Prince Charming or someone to rescue me.  I wouldn't miss it for the world. I’m going  because I love to dance. 

Tuesday, January 12, 2016

No Lie Left

A little over a week in, and I have already learned this authenticity commitment is a bit more of a challenge than I thought it would be. I imagined it would be a simple matter of proclaiming, this is who I am, what you see, is what you get, here is my truth.  That’s great, however, I discovered this week, there are times I just really don’t know the truth.   Sometimes the truth gets buried under years of protecting the feelings of others, and shame and guilt. 

This is where my Higher Power steps in.  By openly declaring my word, a spiritual pact has been formed between myself and God.  This year’s word, AUTHENTIC, I’ve decided to essentially follow what I call a Four Agreements lifestyle.  For those of you unfamiliar, the four agreements come from the book of the same name, written by Don Miguel Ruiz and published about eighteen years ago.  I read it way back then, and again off and on through the years, usually desperately, when a patch of quicksand on life’s road threatened to take me down.  Its simplicity is perfect for people like me who occasionally spend far too much excavating and then dissecting things in my head.  

The Four Agreements are:

Be impeccable with your word. (A little irony here perhaps)
Don’t take anything personally.
Don’t make assumptions.
Always do your best. 

Simple.  Right? Not at all.

Last week I got to work on being impeccable with my word.  With myself. God thought it was time.  I have to be open to learning more about who this authentic creature is and how she operates in order to not tell myself anymore lies. In an interview a few years ago  Alanis Morrisette said something and it stuck in a random brain cell.   She said, “I hate my own lying.  I need to get to the bottom of it until there is no lie left.”  Being impeccable with your word includes the things you tell yourself.  Authenticity begins at home. 

Those lies aren’t intentional.  I consider myself a painfully self-aware, honest person, sometimes struggling in identifying when the honesty has turned into self-flagellation. Some things are buried so deep, we can’t seem to unearth them on our own, or we don’t deal with them until they begin to affect our lives. They are the subtle tales we’ve woven, usually for many years. It takes a little nudge from an experience or in my recent case, God, to turn those lies into a truth that can set you free.  Last week, His nudge was an inner voice pointing out a few lies I’ve been telling myself all my life that have profoundly impacted me and others.  My lies are:  Love hurts.  I am unlovable. Everyone abandons me.   I can’t let myself be so vulnerable ever again.  

The thing about these internal lies about our character, they usually aren’t really true and we often don’t even know we are telling them.  They have become a part of our belief system and likely began a long time ago. We eternalize them because we think it will keep us safe on some  level  and we continue to breathe life into them.     I’ve fed that impostor all my life, which began in childhood and I refused to acknowledge because of a sense of misguided loyalty, guilt and shame. I thought I had put it all to rest, and essentially I have.  Most of it.   Don’t misunderstand, I blame no one.  I love my parents deeply.  Both of them have been gone quite some time now and I’ve taken the time to put the craziness in perspective with the help of some incredible counseling,  lots of prayer and developing a meditation practice.  They did the very best they could from their level of consciousness with the tools life had handed them. I came to not only know that, but appreciate their lives as well.  They too had struggles. This has allowed me to forgive and focus on their goodness and the things I loved about them. 

My lie apparently has been harder to get rid of.  It isn’t a lie. I have been abandoned.  From the beginning of life.    The insidious evil part of my lie is how I continue to perpetuate the story: I am unlovable, everyone leaves, and I can’t be vulnerable.  What a shock to discover, I keep the lie alive.  I breathe life into it with every choice I make. That awareness unfolded the first week of my Word of the Year. 

As I was vacuuming, and crying about yet another surgery coming up, and bemoaning the fact I would have to walk through it by myself, this internal voice said, you created that reality.  You can’t pick people who are irresponsible, emotionally unavailable,  dishonest, or incapable of intimacy, and expect them NOT to abandon you.  They don’t have the capacity to have a healthy relationship.  It’s not their fault, just like it was not your parents fault. The difference between back then and now, you couldn’t choose back then.  You can now.  If you truly want healthy relationships, pick healthy people.     

Of course, my comeback in this conversation was to  blubber to God about my one healthy relationship, and how he even abandoned me.  God said: He didn’t abandon you, he got very sick and he died.  My response was:  Well, you could have saved him.  God said: His life journey ended.  He did what he came here to do, and it has nothing to do with you. He didn’t leave you, he died.  I haven’t abandoned you.  I never will. Use my love and loyalty as the standard when you are choosing. 

It’s always a shock to realize that we really do create our own life and destiny.  The quality of my relationships are up to me.  I pick them.  If I want a caring, reciprocal, intimate relationship with someone, I have to choose people who are capable of one. I also have to decide, for myself, if I am picking those kinds of relationships in order to sabotage any chance of meaningful, reciprocal, intimacy,  knowing I just might really be content and satisfied with living alone. Whatever the truth is, no more lies. 

I have a feeling this Authenticity gig is going to be a bit more than I initially bargained for.  But, I have a feeling the rewards are going to be too! 

Friday, January 1, 2016

Word of the Year 2016 - AUTHENTIC - AUTHENTICITY

Authentic:  Real or genuine: not copied or false.  True.  Accurate.  An original. 
Authenticity: The truthfulness of origins, attributes, commitments, sincerity, devotion, and intentions.  In philosophy a particular way of dealing with the external world, being faithful to internal rather than external ideas. 

I’ve chosen a Word every year for quite a few years now starting this practice even before it was so popular. I really love the concept and invest some time in the selection process.  It’s become a holiday ritual, letting my yearly Word of the Year evolve through thought, prayer, and meditation the week between Christmas and New Years. The soft glow of the Christmas tree lights and a big overstuffed chair are conducive to this kind of introspection.  Being reflective and seeking guidance in picking my Word of the Year is worth the investment of time it takes and works so much better for me than a check sheet of New Year resolutions that come wrapped with a lot of pressure. I am no longer interested in resolute efforts that I know through past trial, will set me up later to feel inadequate, regretful and defeated.  Keep it simple is not just a slogan to me, it’s a conscious decision.  

At this stage of my life I am not necessarily seeking to accomplish things either.  I am looking to grow a better human being; one that is living up to her potential.  That takes cultivating qualities, building spiritual muscles, around the framework of my life as it exists, not how I wish it was.   Aspirations are fine, if they are of the kind that enhance and grow the human spirit and others. However, I think gifts and abundance arrive as a result of that growth.  Or, maybe it's this simple - we learn to recognize them even if they aren't the sparkly obvious ones.  

The practice of One Word, also removes my tendency to live in the “When”, postponing life. It drives my focus towards co-creating my present, moment by moment.  I no longer live with: When I loose 30 pounds on my January 1st diet.  Or, when I get healthier, after my surgery, better blood work, or new body parts.   Again, I am not saying there is anything wrong with working towards goals, I just think the pathway to those goals, for me,  has been to place my attention on one Word that strengthens qualities that may serve me better in getting to those goals rather than charging towards a single end result.  When I do that, the word becomes an intention that is seared into my heart and head, and the UNFOLDING  of it has been gratefully passed back into the hands of God.  To steal an AA phrase and concept, I want to practice my Word in all my affairs. 

My New Year mantra is: It is my heart's desire to be like a feather on the breath of God.  This makes this year’s Word of the Year task even simpler.  My only business is to use and apply that Word to situations that arise and to grease the sticking points throughout the year. If I do that, I will be prepared when God's breath moves me where I need to be.  Every year, I can now look back and see a pattern, leading me to the next yearly Word and a new level of awareness.  Every Word over the last few years has been leading up to the next.  I don’t know that authentic would have been possible until I learned what it means to blossom (2011), set myself free (2012), be fearless (2013), create (2014), and  renew (2015).  It takes a free, fearless spirit to create a renewed life authentically. 

Last year, my Word, renew, was in the front of my mind as I changed some habits that I had draped over my shoulders like a security blanket, but then they turned on me and were weighing me down.  The word renew was in the front of my mind as I paid attention to what I put into my body and how I treated it.  The word renew kept me curious and interested in anything new that might even moderately be a healing tool for not only my physical form, but my spirit.  I investigated food as medicine, the Healing Arts, Tapping, Aromatherapy, Himalayan Salt Lamps, Essential Oils, Reiki, Forgiveness Therapy;  stepping out of the conventional box, to explore anything that might rejuvenate and refresh whether it was proven, practical, or FDA approved.  Experimentation, belief and faith became my new Science.   

There were times when my Word pushed hard on me and the evidence of success wasn’t immediately apparent.  Those times I had to remember the ghost of Words past.  I learned to be fearless by practicing it. I set myself free, by recognizing I was the one that chained myself to things that didn’t honor who I was. And, creating, well, that was entirely up to me too.  My talent wasn’t dependent on what other people thought of it!  I could create, a beautiful meal, a comfortable home, an interesting story, an environment of love,  a good life. My creativity was a personal thing.  God didn't place it inside me to necessarily gather a big audience.  He placed it there as an expression of  His love and a gift to me.

Word of the year might be a simple practice, but changing old, misbehaving behaviors is much harder than laying out a to-do list.  They are like leeches, burrowing under your skin and don't budge much without personal effort. Early in the year,  applying my Word always feels like a clumsy cha-cha - one, two, back, back, back. Eventually though, it memorizes the steps and finds its flow. The Word rises up and the spiritual question gets asked.  Will selling my house help me to feel free? Is switching churches going to help me to blossom in my spiritual knowledge and understanding of God?  What other things can I do to renew stale relationships?   What are some actions I can take  that will lead to an authentic life?   In doing this, am I being true to my values and standing for authenticity?

 Authentic is my chosen Word of the Year for 2016. I have prayed it into being, God's breathed life into it and  starting today, I’ll strive to practice authenticity in all my affairs.  

I’ll check back in a few months and let you know how it’s going.


Tuesday, December 8, 2015

Aunt Rosie

These words were read Thanksgiving weekend at the funeral of Aunt Rosemarie. She led a nicely packed life, filled with more challenges than seems fair, if you are one of those that wonders occasionally, like I do, about the distribution of worldly ease and comfort.   Not once did I see any less than gratitude and joy for the life she was given, as it was.  I am always in awe of people like her, who truly live the meaning of faith and have this amazing ability to see all of life as a great gift, no matter the circumstances they find themselves in.  They live in joy, no matter what. I strive to be like that, but I fear I’m not even close to the goalpost. I simply have to thank God for exposing me to people like her who walk In pure trust, an example for people like me who have good intentions, but sometimes can’t find our way to that portal of acceptance; let alone understanding. She understood.  

She understood this lifetime is just a classroom, a place to hone the gifts of the spirit.  

She understood raising a handicapped daughter taught her many holy things, how to serve others, how to be patient, and love as God loves, unconditionally. 

She understood life would be a lot easier if she lived it with humor.  

She made me laugh.  She was the older auntie I always hoped would be at family gatherings because of her witty outlook. With all the curve balls life tossed her way, she still stepped up to the plate and made the decision to have fun playing the game.  A few years ago at the annual family Trivial Pursuit game, she could barely walk, crippled with arthritis and an assortment of other ailments.  She navigated the room in her seated walker, smiling, cracking jokes.  Her lively wit lightened up even the serious, brilliant boys who often happened to win this battle of the sexes.  The nimble banter combined with her dancing eyes, was contagious, even to the most scholarly competitors.  She seemed always to be both happy and grateful to be alive another day to enjoy the moments and her family. That was how I saw her.   Her outlook simply drew you in.

I was inducted into this extended  family through a back door, in my late thirties, because I married her nephew.   To her, I was family, even after her nephew; my husband, passed away.  Blood has never been thicker than water in my life experience. I’ve had many “surrogates” throughout its course who taught me, belonging has nothing to do with shared DNA. To be able to welcome others unconditionally into your life and heart is a by-product of knowing God well.  She knew God through and through. This gift of belonging and acceptance into his precious family, has been my husband’s greatest legacy to me. 

Long after he passed away she still sent birthday cards, encouraged me, and prayed for me.  Best of all  she invited me to find humor in the midst of hardship and misfortune. In May, when I had my hip replacement surgery, she called my voice mail to wish me well, starting off with a corny joke and her great laugh. She ended it with words of encouragement and promises of prayers for a good outcome.  With her, you just knew, the words, “I will pray for you,” weren’t empty promises.  If she was going to pray for me, I was in very good hands.  She had an intimate relationship and very notable connections.  Those suspicions were verified at her funeral Mass.  Her daughter read Aunt Rosie’s favorite verses from an unknown writer. 

God spoke.  She listened and learned.  She gave up the pain, saw her beautiful handicapped daughter as perfect, certainly had plenty of opportunity to practice patience, and learned to appreciate her blessings. When she suffered, she leaned on Him, and she practiced her faith. Her spirit grew and through it, she taught others what was important. She enjoyed life - as it was, how it was.   She knew the keys to our happiness are in our own hands.  God has given us all we need for an abundant life. Life is a classroom, honing our qualities in His image. 

I am grateful to Aunt Rosemarie for her example of loving others as God does.  I will carry her wisdom, laughter, and loving heart with me until we meet again.  I think I will probably greet her with:

Hey, did you hear the one about the orthopedic surgeon who tried to replace me?

Friday, July 31, 2015

New Hip. Hooray!

(By request this blog post from my now defunct blog - Mostly Zen- is being re-run)

I’m a bionic woman!  2015 opened the door to some really big changes in my life. My research, diligence, and prayers  to find funding, health insurance, and a quality physician throughout the Fall and Winter of 2014, paid off.  The clouds parted, the angels sang and in May of this year I acquired a shiny metal hip joint.  Yay!  While this past five week recovery process has been a physical (and dear Lord) emotional roller coaster ride, it’s also hauled in a few more lessons I apparently needed to know in order to earn extra credits towards my Mostly Zen status. Even writing this, I feel my heart flutter with a tinge of excitement at a pain-free and bright future of new paths and exploration on my sexy new metal leg. 

My leg issues were undiagnosed for the longest time because I rarely go to a doctor for anything other than extreme emergencies. Examples of extreme emergency: A burst fallopian tube or a face full of shingles.  A few years ago, I attributed the increasing ache in my right buttock and an inability to stand up without pain, as just part of this aging process, too many Spin classes, and carrying the weight of the world on my solitary shoulders for way too many years. In March of 2014 a rogue gallbladder needed to be removed and the delusional optimist in me thought maybe the pain in my diseased organ and the pain in my butt were somehow related.  After all, from a spiritual, holistic perspective, isn't it all  connected?  That line of thinking was hopeful but I now know it was the direct result of some pretty awesome pain medication post gall bladder surgery.  Nothing hurt. For about six weeks.  

The awareness I needed to see a neurologist or an orthopedic doctor came when I stepped out of my car, balancing a brand new oversize George Foreman Grill from my cousin; it was her contribution to my eat healthy plan to help stop the rapidly increasing number on the scales. Not only did I have this horrific pain, I had packed away two clothing sizes (I couldn't bear to get rid of them)  as I packed on enough pounds to drive me into a serious depression. By now, my Planet Fitness usage was merely a pipe dream and a drain on my checking account. A doctor wrote me a prescription to halt my membership for six months without monetary penalties.   Giving up my beloved exercise and gym was not an effective cure. My mind and my body slid into a lethargic spiral.   I was convinced, as a result of my daily incessant Web MD, and Internet diagnostician practice, that I had Multiple Sclerosis. So, naturally,  I started with a neurologist, who upon trying to bend my leg like a chicken wing brought forth animal sounds that I didn't know could come from a human being.  Puzzled, he  X-rayed my right hip.  An immediate review and his proclamation of advanced, bone on bone hip arthritis, as well as a referral to someone who might be able to really help me, sparked a small hope for relief. The sports medicine doctor while witty, compassionate, and wise didn't really tell me what I wanted to hear. As with most things in my life, I was in search of the quick, easy, fix. It wasn't that simple.  It wouldn't reverse itself.  Any treatment would be palliative at best. Total hip replacement was the only cure. I wasn't ready.  Nor was my pocketbook.   A temporary fix in the form of a prescription for anti-inflammatory medication and a nightly dose of Tramadol helped me pretend it might go away.  And, I prayed.  The effectiveness of the prescriptions lasted about as long as the blush of a new relationship. I was ready for a new lover within months  and  I'd heard cortisone shots were the answer.  The injection hurt so good - within minutes I could feel relief settling into my arthritic joint. This love affair lasted just long enough for me to mop floors and clean tubs that I couldn't move to do on my own for a few months.  I socialized, went to basketball games, drove all over town, pain free.  For 3 1/2 weeks. 

Life and mobility spiraled down from there.  Work was impossible, driving was dangerous and difficult and I was sending stock prices soaring on over the counter pain relievers. I had a dilemma.  I needed surgery and I had no job and no insurance.  With no income, I qualified for Medicaid, if, I would allow the government to take any assets that I had worked for years to accumulate.  I couldn't buy insurance through the Marketplace because I had no income.  Caught, clearly between the rock and hard place of need and bureaucracy,  I meditated, I researched, and I prayed for answers. Friends prayed for healing for me.  One insightful friend said she prayed for complete healing for me, however, she didn't define how that should happen. She let that be up to God how it would play out in my life. I thought to myself, that really was letting go.  I stopped praying for money, insurance, Prince Charming, a new hip, and humbly asked that He heal my life so that I may do His will. Sometimes we need to just get quiet enough to hear the stirring of divine direction and trust what we are asked to do.  Lying in bed one morning, something drove me to the social security website. Disappointed, I read that I was still too young to take early retirement. Something guided me to call their offices and talk to a representative.  The voice on the other end was empathetic and helpful.  Her first questions to me were, "Are you a widow and have you ever remarried?"  Two weeks later, my first survivor's benefit check was deposited in my checking account.   Heaven joined forces to continue to take care of me - God and my husband.  Oh, me of little faith.   I was able to purchase insurance off of the Marketplace because I now had an income.  

An early orange sunrise, warmed the May morning and portended a bright outcome as my daughter drove me to the hospital.  Any nervousness was at a minimum. Surgery felt like the reward at the end of long, solitary, trek through the wilds, complete with bruises and banged up knees from navigating so many obstacles and a feeble leg which collapsed on occassion.  I was exhilarated, but exhausted as a few hours later I went under the scalpel, hammer and saw.  I knew the tools of the trade because the Internet surgeon in me unabashedly watched an entire hip replacement a few weeks before.   I went into the operating room at 8:00 in the morning and was finished by 9:00.  At 10:30 a.m. I was in a room, and up and walking with a walker by afternoon.  By 8:00 that evening, I was on my way home to my own bed.  I fondly refer to my surgery as my drive-through hip replacement.  I knew when I stepped onto my surgical leg hours later, that very same day, all arthritis pain gone, no matter what I had to do to restore my strength and heal completely, I was willing to do it.  I was getting my life back and it was all wrapped up in a big red ribbon, bought with the prayers of friends and family, and the love of a heavenly Father and deceased husband. 

It's easy to be so flip and positive five weeks out as a big part of the healing has taken place. However, it's been, as most major life events are, enlightening. It's been the long haul.  I've learned so much about myself and surprisingly others. Trying times tend to strip away pretense and reveal people's true nature. Including our own.  What's left is honesty and essence of who we are; our values, character, and even our weaknesses -  stripped of fancy words and little white lies.  You find out who your true friends are and where your treasures lie in the isolation, fear and loneliness of a long recovery process.   Being incapacitated and alone, not being able to check your own mail, put out your trash, bend to pick something up, cut your own toenails, or drive for so many weeks snatches away your independence and makes you very vulnerable.  For self-sufficient warriors like me, that's difficult.  It takes a lot of courage to ask. And, it takes even more courage, when you do ask, and you are rejected to not take it personally. The old tapes of abandonment started playing loudly in the stillness of my solitude.  

However, I found in the solitude, stripped of everything, it was up to me to turn down that volume and lean into the faith that I had everything I needed for the care and nurturing of me.  I have learned how to navigate boredom and loneliness.  I understand the true meaning of self-care, and slathered on healthy doses of self-love.  Surprisingly, this time, I really didn't forget the one constant Source of help and support is right beside me - as close as my breath, just one prayer away.  That's the best it gets when push comes to shove. That's all we got and all we can ever count fully on - ourselves and God.  My strong new hip and even stronger faith, will carry me down my yellow brick road, no ruby slippers needed. I had the power all along.  Some blessings come disguised as challenges.  No experience is wasted.  I will always, on my very best and wisest day be the student and just Mostly Zen. Partially  there, hoping to arrive someday, yet content in knowing, I am at least on the path.   I am well on my way to 2015's intention - RENEW.  

Charge!  And, even that's now possible - on my brand new leg. 

Thursday, January 22, 2015

Word of the Year 2015 - RENEW

Renew:  To make fresh or strong again; to make a promise or vow; to begin with force or enthusiasm; Make like new. 

I need a makeover.  I’m a little frustrated. No, honestly, I’m pissed.  Here’s why.

I’ve spent the last five years or so, on a “strip it all down to the naked truth” emotional, spiritual, and psychological exploration. A kind of interrogation into the what, why, and how of my life.  It’s been tough and it’s been a long haul.  I may have seen results sooner but  I had to do this in my spare time in between work, worry, and a minimal amount of emotional support. Everyone else had their own lives, their own families, their own spouses, I thought.  I spent the first few years trying to make sense of my ugly orphan child syndrome and got a real clear picture of why I had this overriding fear of abandonment. I had been.  Often.  Why would my precious God take away the unconditional love and healing arms of the presence of a mom, dads and a spouse. Way too soon.  Those were significant people who were supposed to be constants.  Some heavy hits over the past few decades.  My journey inward wasn't luxurious.  There were no retreats, spa days, or life exploration summits.  From Maslow’s perspective in the Hierarchy of Needs, I had to work my way up from the bottom of the triangle.  Food and shelter were paramount and safety, well, I wasn't sure where that would be from day to day. Always  the eternal optimist, (eventually) I now recognize  change may not have happened if I’d been privy to the easier, softer way; me all wrapped in a swaddling blanket of creature comforts and love, real or imagined.  Climbing up the hierarchy to reach the hallowed esteem and self-actualization quadrants may have taken me a little longer than perhaps the average human soul,  but it truly has been one of the greatest gifts of my life.  

I’ve been my own worst Gestapo, holding myself accountable and not letting me slink away from my defects, OR, (probably most important in my case)  down play my attributes.  I really haven’t made the climb on my own.  I have to give credit where credit is due.  There have been a few therapists, special spiritual guides, as well as a few challenging souls that have helped me unravel the truth of me.   I knew I had to do that in order not to continue waking up to eternal Ground Hog Days. You know what I mean.  When you scratch your head in disbelief because you are with the same man, different face; or tolerating the same abuse in a different setting and wondering how you got there, again.  There have been a few mid-terms tossed in and the final exam was a real dilly.  However, I discovered, what we don’t know, we can’t change. Another important lesson: What we don’t know, we can hardly beat ourselves up over. As Maya Angelou says, “When you know better, you do better.”  That has been a huge blessing because no one slips the boxing gloves on to pound on me better than me. Forgiven.   I also learned, it’s not  that you can’t go back; you really shouldn’t. I've learned to treasure the love that is already present in my life and focus my attention on those angels. All of these discoveries have finally freed my life of guilt, shame, remorse, comparison, self-pity, martyrdom and replaced those demons with empowerment, peace, honesty, grace, belonging, and acceptance.  Surrender isn’t the same as giving up.   I KNOW THIS NOW!  Most days. 

So, here I sit with a silly smile of peace and contentment on my face.  Taking charge of my own life and its outcome; EXCEPT, this physical vessel holding all that acceptance, grace and the goodies of light and love, HAS GONE TO HELL IN A HAND BASKET!  I am fully aware, these fruits of the spirit, the result of so much hard work, will be just a fond memory if the vessel is all battered and dysfunctional and physical pain is a constant companion.  

So, here we go 2015.  This is the year to renew.  

Dear lovely, worn out body.

I am renewing a vow to you to care for you as if you were my own precious grandchild. You and I are worthy of going to a doctor when we need to. We are also worthy of getting that which needs repaired, fixed.  We’re worthy of taking the time to cook delicious healthy food and eating what’s wholesome.  Not fast and cheap, sleazy rendezvouses shoveling it in by the kitchen sink.   I commit to you back to back nights of restful sleep and I promise to remove you from any negative influences which threaten to attack your immune system and serenity.  When you are back on track, feeling pain free, nourished, and stronger, I cross my heart, because I know I will die, if I don’t take you out to play, often!  We’ll move and stretch and dance in the day.  I promise to continue my quest of learning about you and what makes you keep ticking smoothly as well as the things you need to not just function, but flourish.   Then, I plan to introduce you to your new spirit filled heart and maybe the two of you can hook up for rest of your life.  I anticipate a true match made in heaven. 

I can’t think of a better way to spend a brand new year of our life.  I look forward, with patience and love until we are reunited again.  This one time, it’s a blessing to go back.  Back to the oneness God wants for us, body, mind, soul.  Renewed: Beginning again with force and enthusiasm.  

Your Mostly Zen Heart and Soul

While I’m waiting for these two to be reunited, just so I don’t forget what I learned earning my degree in Knowing and Loving Me,  I am committed to sharing my new, Mostly Zen head, on a (fairly) regular basis. It will reinforce what I now know, keep me humble in an empowering way.

Mostly Zen.  I like that.  Totally Zen or achieving Nirvana, well, I know me.  I would be so bored.  We’ll save that for the afterlife.   

Here's to a Renewal. Here's to Mostly Zen. 

Sunday, October 12, 2014

Happy Birthday to Me!

My birthday was this last Monday.  I woke up with a kaleidoscope of butterflies in my stomach.  These weren’t the frail, winged beauties of insecurity and fear that set up butterfly housekeeping for what seemed like too many years. This time the flutter inside, was a celebration of another year of life.  Time to get up and dance in the day.  Wow.  I’ve lived this long and gathered a lifetime of enough material to create quite a tome; part Running with Scissors, part Raiders of the Lost Ark, with a spattering of Nicholas Sparks-ish tear-jerkers tossed in for my  hopeless romantic heart.  A well-worn life for sure; comfortably broken in by now.  Through time and healing, the set-backs and suffering have become simply distant, impartial memories to entertain me in my rapidly approaching golden years. 

When the butterflies and I settled into a meditative state, I reflected on the extreme gratitude I feel to be alive after all these years.  Most of my family didn’t make it this far. A legacy of mean genes ended the lives of so many of my loved ones way too soon.  This left me questioning life’s fairness and a loving God. However, experience has also evolved my conception of God.  I no longer believe He sits up there doling out grace and mercy based on naughty and nice.  I’ve certainly pushed the envelope in my younger years, throwing caution and good sense off to the side in pursuit of exhilaration and adventure. The consummate rebel. A survivor.  Maybe it’s an extension of Grace that my Creator has saved me the heartbreak of dying with unfinished business at a much younger age.  I wouldn’t have to come back:  reincarnated, with a ginormous bucket list and a tick sheet of amends I needed to make.  I think my slate is clean now, and I’ve done about everything my heart thought I had to do - at least for today.  It’s been an extreme joy ride, although, I’ve been tossed off the roller coaster a time or two.  Looking back, even those periods when the shattered me was recouping and healing yet another failure, big disappointment, or  broken heart;  those moments  proved every time to be meaningful lessons I just hadn’t quite mastered, and a reflective time in my journey.  I have changed. 

I pondered what I would tell me a decade ago if I could go back and have coffee with my mildly neurotic, totally insecure, people pleaser self.   Then, I decided I probably wouldn’t change a thing.  It doesn’t matter that this past decade has really been filled with hair-pin turns and a few poor choices that frequently rendering me disoriented and confused, wondering what to do next. It forced me to surrender and listen to something other than a mind puffed up, engorged with ego.   The voice within taught me (eventually) to stop charging past the red flags which always led me into the abyss of magical thinking. This past decade of remedial enlightenment has revealed why I fall into that abyss time and time again.  Ego said, “You’re  smarter now, hold onto your flags, you’ve earned them.  Just jump over that hole.”   Inevitably gravity, sucked me back in and I fell further in as the hole had grown larger over time because I always had to dig my way out.  I hope I have finally learned the lesson, the hole will always hold the same things, darkness, and delusion,  even when it’s camouflaged under prettiness, promises and pretense. Recently, it’s been this simple.  Red flags are there to warn me of the danger.  Steer clear.  Hole ahead.  Walk around.  Do not look back.  There is nothing meant for me there. 

So, what would I say to this little self-proclaimed guru who wears all her flaws, fears, and feelings on her sleeves?  What didn’t she seem to know a decade ago?  

I would say, “My sweet love, heart of my hearts, a few tips to navigate the remainder of this precious life. I know you have your lessons still to learn, but if you can keep these in mind, you will live out your days with a peaceful heart. A peaceful heart intimately knows God.” 

  1. You will never be skinny enough, smart enough, pretty enough, clever enough, talented enough, or rich enough, to suit anyone else.  Stop trying.  Be enough for you.  You have been given everything you need to make your life here matter. 
  2. You were born with an internal GPS to help you navigate your life and decisions. Learn to pay attention to the directions it calls out.  
  3. The absolute most precious moments in your life will be the quietest and the simplest.  Treasure and live in those. 
  4. People will treat you exactly how you give them permission to treat you.  
  5. Sleepless nights and worry are the biggest waste of time. Drink hot milk.  Pray. Watch old episodes of Big Bang Theory.  
  6. Forgive. Forgive. Forgive.  Yourself. Everyone else. In that order.
  7. Just get started.  
  8. Right foot. Left foot. Right foot. Left foot.  This will take you anywhere you want to go.
  9. Begin your day with a gratitude list.  End your day with a gratitude list.  
  10. Dream more. It’s free. 
  11. Treat yourself like you would treat the person you love more than life itself.
  12. Share where you've been and what you've learned, without fear.  Be authentic. 
  13. Whatever you water and nurture grows - relationships, friendships, your attitude, blessings, and hope. Fertilize wisely. 
  14. Take just about everything you see and hear with a grain of salt. Trade in judgement for the faith of a grain of a mustard seed.  
  15. Pretend you are the Divine for the day, and look at others through That Pair of Eyes.


17.  Be your own guru.  This in no way diminishes contributions others can make to the quality of your life and your personal growth.  It means, learn to trust yourself.  Your Voice is important.  Honor what it has to say too.  

On to the next decade.  One precious day at a time.