Ghosting

“I drove by your house,” Jeff said, “but the light wasn’t on, so I didn’t go in.”

After Jeff died, I left the light on for years. Nearly a decade.

Jeff had hazel green eyes, large and liquid, fringed with thick lashes like a deer. He had sensitive hands, calloused from his love of welding, work, painting, building, creating; but long-fingered and inclined to go in funny muppet-shapes when he was caught up in the description of something that ignited him; I loved him fiercely. I loved him in the blind, all-encompassing way that only young children or parents can love.

He struggled with depression, and I felt he needed me. I was running around the world raw, with no counseling under my belt to teach me where I ended and a person I loved began. So I broke off pieces of myself to try to heal him; I could see his magnificence, and didn’t understand why he couldn’t. To me, that was love- with no end to the love I could give another, not myself.

Jeff’s death was sudden, incomprehensible, unexplained, and cataclysmic to all who loved him. It changed us forever. I am not sure how I interacted with others for about 5-8 years; I hope I didn’t hurt anyone, because I wasn’t even there.

I finally encountered a rabbi in a way that felt like fate; he offered to counsel me, and it didn’t feel scary-he felt like a gentle father figure, so I gratefully opened the painful, acid-burned scar that was a decade of lost love, and asked him for guidance. I knew I needed to regrow my life.

After a year, he told me he was jealous of my ghost, of the unwavering love I had for him, and that he was in love with me. Well, not me – to be precise- he said he was in love with my “light” and my “heart.”

It felt authentic- because never before had I shown anyone my “true” self, the depth of this grief. At the time, I thought my grief was myself. I have compassion for this sweet girl running around the world in need of a counselor, but I wish I could tell her she chose the wrong counselor, and that predators will find people who are shattered, because broken winged birds are easy to catch and keep.

It was an affair; there is no way to gloss that over. Yes, I believed him when he painted a picture of entrapment and coldness, a story of terror and victimization straight out of Castle Otranto; I believed him because my protective instincts were stronger than my reasoning capacities, and I needed to feel like I was rescuing someone.

Not myself. Someone else.

It was a tormented, dramatic and toxic situation. It was harmful to two good-hearted, trusting women. It’s a novel in itself. (reader, I made amends with her as best I could. That awesome, ill-treated woman. I mourn her still.)

And then came the day when the man I had committed to in a (secret) engagement with betrothal ceremony (useful to be a rabbi, I guess?) with religious hoodoo-voodoo that had the added bonus of I’d already bought into the religious trappings with the naive and wholeheartedly I’m-drinking-this-punch commitment of a zealous brand-new believer,

the man I was going to go to nursing school in order to conduct my future life as a proper caretaker for,

swore to me on the Torah he wasn’t leaving me,

kissed me on the lips and said “I can’t wait to kiss these lips again,”

walked away,

cut off his phone line, his email, erased all tracks of himself,

and (I later found out), moved to Bali.

I waited for him, and finally a year later, I cleared myself of the vows I had made. Yes, I was that naive. I am inclined that way still, and have to work hard to break vows, words, ties.
So forgive me if I can no longer believe.

Forgive me if I can no longer leave the light on.

Forgive me if my loyalty now has a time limit.

This heart still runs deep and loyal. I protect it better now. I bestow it better now. I value it more now.

I have had years of counseling now, with two incredible, kick-ass women who have taught me that my life is valuable. That my life and energy and heart are more valuable than anything else, because my life and energy and heart are the only things that are mine. I get to nurture them and use them to create a story with my time here in this life. It’s the only thing of my choosing, the story I write while I’m here, the actions, words and choices I make.

I don’t get to choose for anyone else. That no one else’s life, story, heart or energy comes first, is very foreign to me and extremely difficult. I struggle with it daily.

But two good rabbi-teachers, (one male and one female,) a Maggid-teacher (female) and two life coaches (female) and the aforementioned counselors later,  I have learned how to release ghosts.

Do not carry the departed, no matter in what way they left. The dead would not want you to waste your life carrying them, and the living made their own choice. Let their absence teach you how to live more brightly. Let their absence turn your story into a wing, a torch, a promise.

We’re all going to have to leave, at some point – it’s the deal we make when we come in the door of this life. So don’t waste a moment carrying someone else’s life or leaving.

How magnificently the trees blaze as they let go; I wish to burn as brightly.

Expand into the unknown with fierce courage – it is all we have, and anything else is an illusion.

Ghosting is a choice that says nothing about you or your worth. As Brene Brown says, “We are not here to negotiate our worth with other people.”

For a still-living person to ghost another is a choice they make which expresses their own life story in this world. It has nothing to do with you.

IF they have told you why, learn what you can, know they’re taking care of their needs, and move on. If they haven’t, learn what you can, and move on.

I myself have cut off contact with three people in my life- and I gave them plenty of warning before I had to take that step. I asked for what I needed; I communicated clearly and respectfully. I told them what step I would need to take, and I took it. The behavior was severe and grievous that caused me to choose to leave no door open. There does come a time when we have to “bless and release,” even the Dalai Lama does that.

But people who abandon without the respect of communication? They have chosen to become ghosts, no longer a part of your story. I don’t really feel the need to make any judgment statements about it- just know they aren’t your people, and move on with your awesome life. Don’t leave the light on. Don’t waste a month, let alone a decade.

Mourn, excavate the story of what/who you believed they were, and release. If they have passed away, know that moving forward doesn’t equal forgetting. Grieving is a process of unraveling everything they were to you and knitting yourself back up together again. It takes a long time; it takes love and patience. But while you give yourself that grieving space and time, also release fast! Do the grieving for your own healing, and let them go. You can still love, and let go. Life is waiting for your heart and the light, undimmed, that you alone can give.

Talisman

People don’t seem to be at all suspicious of bad fortune.

When something good happens, something we wanted and maybe worked for, we look for the loophole- all of a sudden, we’ve stumbled into the dangerous and unpredictable realm of the Goblins (or Fairies or Elves- all equally twisty for us human folk), and we are wary, tense, ready for the hidden dagger, the tragic trap in the Fairies’ Gold, the hidden twist in the Genie’s wish.

But when something bad happens, we aren’t hunting for the hidden promise, the gift. “Ah! Of course,” we say knowingly, feeling good in a strange, dark (and Goblin-like, if we could only see ourselves) way, that if we didn’t see it coming, we at least foresaw something bad- and even if we weren’t quite as prepared as we thought we would be, at least we knew. We watched the news, didn’t we, in order to know, to be informed, in readiness for just such a happening as this. Dark triumph.

And with the laws of finite probability, we can live years -decades, even- ready for “something bad”; prepping for it, experiencing it internally over and over, and it will come eventually! It is a relative certainty.
And maybe there’s something good – good possibility and promise sparkling around the edges of our life, so we might even get specific and define that something Bad as a threat to the something Good that’s nosing toward us, wagging its tail. “Look out behind you,” we call to Good Thing, even while we absolutely know with every power in our Goblin-made lenses, that the Bad Thing will gobble up the Good before it reaches us.

Until the moment something bad finally actually happens, and we’re almost relieved. “At last- it’s here- I can face it.”

This is how we call in “bad luck,” and make a home for it. This is, in fact, how we create it. Fairies and Goblins alike tremble at the power we humans have to create “bad fortune.”

This is how we fail to use the powerful magic lenses, the talisman we’ve been given. (It was originally supposed to protect us!) We can choose, really. We get to find our way into the Fairy halls, passing the throne and the ballroom, with hardly a wistful glance at the glittering gowns and impeccable tailoring, at the swirling, dancing, laughing party guests in their elaborate masks, with certainly not one single taste of the vast, gleaming array of steaming dishes, savory and sweet, ripe fruit bursting with promise, and every kind of drink or nectar we can imagine (and many we can’t)- we can be strong, ignore it all, and make our purposeful way to the Forge. We can set our lenses there in the crucible that’s been sitting unused, and we can take up the ladle of molten, liquid Dream and pour it gently on our lenses. We can coat them in any powerful transformative substance we wish.

Or, we can stalk through our lives in human instinct, as human beings created with a negative bias in our brains (so we could survive in the caves and dwellings that Bad Experiences taught us to seek, and gather around our campfires and tell stories that taught us all, deeply, how to Survive when the Night gathered outside the ring of our fires) We can magnify our talismanic lenses with Doom and Prediction of Failure and all the substances that fairies find so horribly unfashionable, so they mostly exist right here in our world, all ready to hand – it’s not even hard to gather them. It requires no quest. We can even do the re-coating of our lenses while sitting on the couch!

We can continue to seek and call Bad “fortune” to us, and look for it even when Good is determined to find us- we can continue to look for the Bad as avidly as any lover in the marketplace, sure his heart’s desire is around the next corner.

This is just to say: I am writing fairytales. In them are clues I’ve hidden; clues that will help any humans that should happen to stumble accidentally into the Other realm. The hidden things will help you survive, and they’ll even help you build a kingdom successfully, if that is what you desire.

I’ve been forbidden to simply tell these rules outright, because it is another truth of humans that we have to work for things, or we don’t see their sovereign nature, and run the risk of simply discarding that which is valuable beyond our ability to imagine.

Do you have what it takes to craft your talisman? You will need it – your very life depends on it.

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Choosing the Warrior’s Path…again

When times get a little rough, when we have chronic strife, we can choose to complain about another person and make them wrong, make them small in any way our brain chooses to present evidence for that – or we can choose to learn. We can choose curiosity.

I know which I choose.

I have to actively make the choice; as I sit with anger coiled like bitter fire in my belly, the anger resolves into words – it recites the wrongs to me. It recites the good things I’ve given and the wrongs I’ve perceived and received, in my imagination. As I breathe and listen, I start to hear a pattern. The self-righteous bluster is flat, like the old-time stage scenery that was painted skillfully on plywood, shaded to look like structures of depth and substance. The more I look at it, the more I see deep grief underneath. The grief of a dream tarnished, a dream I’ve rebuilt, a dream I’m afraid of losing- a dream that was created by a child, a very young me.

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The grief turns into questions. “Was it real? Am I a fool?” and flashes quickly into labels like “Betrayal.” Then it moves to list what I did wrong, where I messed up. It holds some truth, here – I could have done better. I can do better. But the self-hatred that shows up is a twisted form of the “bargaining” stage of grief. I breathe and observe.

Then anger begins again. The list starts repeating itself. I don’t do or say anything; I used to journal, but I found that writing gave the anger more substance. I am a storyteller; when I write things, I paint them in great detail in my mind, most of which are edited off the page. The world takes on life; the things I write breathe in me, and grow. I do not wish to feed and give life and substance to this bitter dragon, so I watch, and wait.

I consider compassion. Not empathy-that isn’t a road to take here – identifying and plunging in with a heart all to ready to imagine, feel, and perhaps project, is not wise in this instance. Compassion is bigger than that. Compassion breathes and says “Yes.” Yes, what you are experiencing is valid. Yes, you are held and supported. Support doesn’t mean I agree with the stories that create what I’m experiencing, or what you are experiencing – it means that beyond the stories and the pain, there is support that sees my, your, brightest light. Support can also mean taking no action at all. Compassion doesn’t seek to control. It simply IS, and I breathe it in.

I stop writing stories about what the other person is thinking, feeling, choosing. I stop trying to follow the labyrinth of “WHY” to find some way to comfort my rational mind, which seeks to understand and seeks to answer every criticism it can imagine is leveled in my direction. Trying to understand, or think I understand, is a form of control. I breathe again and feel the knot loosen.

I survey the future I had built for myself: the vision, the lovely castle in my mind and heart. I breathe in again when a knot of grief, followed by resentment, quickly followed by story (“can’t they see what I saw?”)  forms. It loosens quickly, almost sheepishly. Good.

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This is the warrior’s path. This takes patience, self-compassion, and commitment.

I have this commitment to myself, and to the life I have been given. I made this commitment years ago, when I put on boxing gloves for the first time in earnest, and chose healing instead of despair. When I chose to walk on coals far hotter than anything I’m experiencing now. When I chose every day to face violent storms again, and again, and again – choosing day after day, even though my legs would freeze up and refuse to carry me some days; even though my hands would shake and refuse to hold my pen; even though the symptoms of the war I fought sometimes showed up in humiliating ways, stripping me in public, rendering me unable to hide PTSD; even when the symptoms made each miniscule step forward an enormous effort- an effort that took everything I had. I have often made mistakes, been unskillful and emotionally irresponsible, but I showed up. I learned to deeply celebrate the smallest of victories. I fell into self-reproach when I stumbled, but I kept showing up. I got myself to the counselor. I got myself to the boxing bags. I made the healthy food. I walked away from abuse. I chose myself. I apologized and took responsibility. I suited up, wrapped my hands, allowed my tears to fall in prayer, and showed up with relentless determination.

From that time, I know a core of strength lives in me that nothing can destroy. I’ve obscured it lately with self-reproach and unkind words, self-blame. I have assaulted myself, as though if I could figure out what was wrong with me and uproot it at the source, I would finally be chosen. I would finally be seen.
I kept learning, kept taking responsibility, kept building more lesson plans for myself and seeking out what I had done wrong. thinking I was still on the warrior’s path, the path of wisdom.

Do you see the disconnect, here? I only saw it this morning. The ego got fairly tricky on me, and decided to disguise itself as betterment. As “healing.” As thinking I know what someone else is choosing, and what they’re experiencing. “This person is angry at you because you are flawed and you messed up.  You messed everything up. Again.” There are so many flaws in this belief. This is all a form of control. It’s ego, thinking I know what is going on in someone else. Seeking to control someone else’s choices and the perception *I invented*, by changing myself. It’s choosing an imaginary someone else before myself, my real self.

It’s Black Panther’s brother, choosing death “instead of slavery,” when really, he was choosing death instead of the firewalk that is swallowing pride, making peace, honoring himself, and choosing to live. Choosing to learn. Choosing the fight towards freedom that comes with walking the warrior’s path. pri_66417644

Other people’s choices HAVE NOTHING TO DO WITH ME. Others’ perceptions aren’t my business. And so I release it.
I return to my power by realizing my worth. By focusing on myself again, my own life, and what a deep gift it is, and has been. I return to my power by focusing on what I choose. By choosing my own life.

I ask a question: If what someone else chooses for their life has nothing to do with me, and “self-improvement” is not what I thought it was, how, then, can I transform this? I thought I had let go. Apparently, it’s a matter of letting go, then letting go again. Maybe we’re never really “done” with releasing. Maybe that’s one of the most important lessons to learn in this life.
Love and release. Love and release. Love doesn’t seek to bind. Love allows. Even when my mind doesn’t comprehend another’s choice, love says “Good. Choose. Choose for you. If you don’t choose me, it isn’t personal.” Release. Love myself.

This is what I can learn, here. Lessons and self improvement that come with a sense of self-compassion, love and curiosity, those are the lessons I will follow, now.
Because how can I be walking the warrior’s path of love, if I refuse compassion to myself? So I just gently bring myself back to the path. This time, I feel so much lighter. I feel joy – this will be a dance.

I breathe again. I hold the fluttering bird that is wounded me in this instance. Her eyes are dull with pain, and she’s thrashing around a bit, one broken wing trailing stiffly through my fingers. I can feel her heart stuttering wildly, panicked, in my palm. She’s nearly incoherent – “he was- I thought – we had- he said – he hasn’t – he chose – but I brought – I was- why can’t -” these are the words that she gasps. I just hold her, breathe, soothe her. I imagine her surrounded in warmth, safety, comfort, and also freedom- I don’t restrain her with my hand. She is free to fly at any time.

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I whisper to her, so gently, the way I’d talk softly to a child who had awakened from a nightmare – “it is all unfolding as it should. whatever you are trying to make happen, release your hold. come back, now. Come back to my heart, and when you are ready, open up again with me. believe again with me. trust again with me. love again with me. it is all unfolding as it should. You will see; the painting of this life will be a beautiful masterpiece, when we are done.”  I stroke her feathers, and feel her calm. “I know it hurts. It is okay. Let it hurt. Let go of blame. Let go of reasons. Let it hurt, accept the hurt, and let go of any thought of why or predictions of what. Just be.”

The choice I make again: what can I learn from this? What can I learn in curiosity and playfulness, without reproach to self or others; how can I expand from this, how can my life and my heart become a bigger place?

This is the warrior’s path. It is deceptively gentle at times. It seeks stillness in the midst of story, talk, jagged energies that blame and criticize, rumor, choices not made from the highest self – and, as I just learned, it also recognizes self-harm in the seductive form of self-reproach and self-blame; it walks back to center, takes responsibility, which doesn’t look like shame- it looks like a gift. The gift of learning and improving.
How wonderful, really – the opportunity to see where my aim was off, my arrow didn’t fly true, and improve my aim,

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The warrior’s path winds to the center of the labyrinth and tries again. Patiently, without pride, without carrying anything but determination and curiosity, slow step by slow step, firmly, never giving up.

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Leap

“What if I fall?
but oh, my darling…what if you fly?” – Erin Hanson

When did you stop dancing?

 I once asked Baryshnikov how he leaped, so high and so free. How he broke the chains of gravity.

He said (and it’s the only thing he’s ever said to me, so listen up:) “When I leap, I do not think about the ground.”

So today in crossfit I had a crazy experience.

This was coming on the heels of an emotional drive there, in which I gave myself a pep talk. “It’s time for you to stop hiding,” I decided. “You thought it served you. It doesn’t. You put on weight, you slouched, you did everything you could in order to hide. You thought it would make you safe; that people wouldn’t look at you, then.
But safety isn’t going to help you rise. You’ve got to leave it behind now. Time to hold your head up. Expand. You’re afraid the scary men will come for you if you shine too brightly, aren’t you. Let them- you are strong now. You can defend yourself.”

There’s this thing called box jump. It seems a bit silly and not very difficult – you just jump onto a box. that’s it. with both feet at the same time. I couldn’t do it – I could do one foot at a time. I’d go as fast as possible; I’d alternate legs – I made it challenging for myself to make up for the fact that I was too afraid to take both feet off the ground at once.

 Now – I can jump rope, and I can do it fast. Both feet at once. But I can’t go very high, or so I told myself, which kept me from progressing to more advanced moves…

 today, my trainer Aaron Anderson said : try with both feet.

I said no, Aaron, this is a mental thing. I truly can’t .

 He said, okay, so just stack two weights on the ground. Start low. do it with both feet.

 So I did …

and I encountered a young me who used to fly. She was a dancer. She broke the chains of gravity and she really flew. She was proud of her leaps… I had forgotten all about her, and how those moments off the ground felt like the reason I was living. How flying became an obsession. How, in my pre-Juilliard days, my joy, my reason for living, was dance. I felt my spirit unleashed when I danced – I felt set free.

 and then, I fell.

It’s not the falling that is the hard part. injuries heal, though my knee will never be the same …

it’s the fear that stays with you.

 I was in a show – I had to dance, something I had choreographed myself, on a little walkway that was built around a live orchestra. The audience and orchestra were below me – and they seemed so FAR below me… and I fell one night.

 It wasn’t a big deal. After that, I was more careful. But something happened …

 I apparently wrote stories in order to protect myself.

 “you are too heavy.”

“you are a more earthy dancer. Do modern, Stick to the ground.”
“you have big, strong legs. You weren’t made lightly – you weren’t made to fly.”

 Now I know what it was that came up and choked me, when I spoke to Baryshnikov.

 That longing came up again today. So silly – so small…. jumping on to a stack of weights, and jumping off again.

 Every single jump (there were about 150 total, then I added another weight and did more)

 I was terrified. Paralyzed. Legs shaking.

 I was sobbing in crossfit; I could hear myself over the music, my breathing fast, panting like a terrified little girl.

 I kept going.

 This is a small thing….but each jump, I was taking that little girl by the hand and asking her to choose.

 Leave the ground.

Leave the ground.

Don’t think about falling.

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photo by Mark Edward Lewis

IT’s not the falling itself or the injuries – it’s the feeling of terror that shocks through your entire body when you feel the unknown, the loss of control. Unsure where you’ll land or what will happen next.

 That blind panic has kept me grounded for so many years. In trying to protect myself from ever feeling that fear again, I was actually living inside it. I was knee-locked, grounded, weighted down, my wings clipped, never to feel the joy of reaching as high as I could again…

 I had thrown stones at my own mockingbird, and I had killed her with the relentless weight of my fear.

 So, here’s the thing: a big step can look ridiculous to anyone on the outside. Those weights looked like nothing. People thought I was injured; they were kind –

They didn’t know I was forcing myself through the scariest thing I have experienced in years.

 But I did it.

 It doesn’t matter how low that leap was. I did it, over and over until the little girl inside me released her stranglehold on the ground.

 Leap. Leap. Do not think about the ground.

 We are not here in this life to be as safe and comfortable as possible until the day we die.

 Leap. For your dreams, for your crazy desire to feel free of this earth for one moment, for the thing your heart yearns for that comes up in your throat and chokes you with tears when you try to speak it aloud —

 Leap.

 And do not think about the ground.

Holy Sh*t. The Biggest Challenge Of Your Life. (You May Need Goggles For This One)

I think maybe our minds are wired for hypervigilance- after all, it’s not the relaxed and “it’s all good” happy-thinking ones who survived in the jungles and forests. Maybe it’s encoded in our DNA to worry, to focus on the problems or small hints of possibly-approaching-trouble and develop those hints into stories of What Might Be. So it takes a lot of work to train the mind away from this stuff -and it’s easy, in times of illness, weariness, hunger or stress, for the mind to slip back into those old worn pathways. The “What Ifs” —

I made the worries and upsets large in my mind, and forgot my sense of humor. I left it behind somewhere lost in a pile of emails, to-dos, cold remedies and grim watching of the numbers on the scale-

I forgot the simple joy of being alive in this beautiful world;

I forgot to celebrate my strong body, and instead I began to watch it suspiciously for signs of weight gain…

I forgot, even, the joy of boxing; I made it a task, a thing I had to do. On the days I would miss, I would get on the scale four or five times in order to “make sure” my weight hadn’t gone up.  I made myself a Project. To Be Completed. To Be Perfected.

I forgot why I was in nutrition school… I forgot why I was in a Maggid program…I forgot the heart, the reason that drove me to seek to learn these healing arts, and they became a To Do List, a Must-Do, Have-To-Do List that had drained away my joy completely.

I forgot that people cared about me – and I forgot to look at those people and see how incredibly dear they all are.

I forgot to look with fresh eyes and see how incredibly full and rich my life is.

I mean…not too long ago, I thought everything would be perfect “If only I could lose that weight.” I was so happy with my amazing, kick-ass life, but not happy with my weight, which had gone about 20lbs beyond my body’s normal “set point” during a difficult relationship. The relationship ended (whew!); I lost the weight.

Soon, I got used to my old “skinny clothes” being a bit baggy, and the gratitude feelings shifted – I started to nitpick every flaw, wish my muscles would be larger, more defined, wish I could box faster, stronger, longer — it became “If only I could lose MORE weight…”

Then, I woke up, and realized that if I didn’t change my thinking, this would continue indefinitely.  I would never be satisfied. I’d never reach a moment where everything was perfect.  As soon as I realized that, I noticed most of the people around me carrying on a similar theme.

The What-Ifs and If-Onlys and But-I-Don’t-Haves were the bulk of conversations.  They seem to be huge occupiers of many of our time, thoughts, and energy.

Say I gave a present to someone and they didn’t appreciate it. Worse, what if they saw it, shrugged, and then started talking about all the things they DON’T have. I dunno about you, but I wouldn’t really want to give that person a present again — or if I did, I’d be prepared for the reaction and wouldn’t, maybe, put as much loving energy into the finding, choosing, and joyful giving of the present as I had before.

I think that’s how it is when we forget gratitude for what we have. When we instead focus on what we lack…why would the universe want to give us more of the juicy good stuff, if we can’t appreciate what we have been given?  And anyway, where is the fun in complaining? yecccchhhh.

I dunno about you, but I don’t want to be a  party pooper in my own LIFE.  It’s like showing up to a birthday party the Universe is holding in my honor, and having atrocious manners the whole time, or sitting and moping about a Past Life and reading its old letters, listening to its old droopy love songs, and generally missing the entire party by behaving like a wet sock! ew!
I don’t want to live with lack-goggles on any more. They’re so dreary. It took me a little while but my sense of humor is back, and I found a pair of hope-infused gratitude goggles and they’re back firmly in place.

 

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Here’s all it took :  laughter (someone called when I was in the midst of a Very Grim Day with a to-do list a mile long, and made me laugh…)
Somehow that particular moment, that laughter and lighthearted exchange shook the Grim Goggles off my face, and I saw the sun on the trees across the street. I saw the loveliness of the world on my way to complete my errands, and I even saw how blessed I was to be on such an errand – voting!! – for which privilege women in the past had fought a really tough battle.

Then I entered into a conscious effort to change my thinking with these tools: Medition. Writing. Self-care. The practice of awareness- of truly being right here right now, one breath at a time, and seeing my world with new, fresh, conscious eyes.

I might be half asleep,  and my mind is spinning off on Floyd Mayweather the boxing champ, and his tactics in the ring. I’ll be going over boxing moves in my mind, and thinking how to be better, faster, stronger — and that’s when I’ll realize my mind is monkeying away. I’ll breathe deeply into my belly. I’ll notice and name the beauty around me. I’ll say to myself “Be here now. I am here, breathing the crisp air that’s coming through the window. The sun is shining in a patch on the ceiling, I’m looking at the green, sunlit leaves of a tree.”  I’ll name the things I experience.  I’ll drop back again into the present.

That’s the practice  of waking up. That’s the practice of becoming present — it’s what meditation teaches us. It’s like a heavy bag workout for the mind…and I think it’s going to be a constant practice for me.

You think Floyd Mayweather is a champ? You think boxing is tough? This is gonna be the biggest challenge yet,
being here for your own life!  Actually being in it. Think you can do that? 
I ask myself,
and then I grin.  I always did love a challenge.  (It also cracks me up that my inner voice sounds, sometimes, a lot like Rocky’s trainer.)

So. Are you ready for this challenge, Dear Reader?

All we have to do is begin to be aware of what we’re grateful for, and it’s like our eyes are opened and we can actually see more clearly the people in our lives we are so blessed to have, the moments of peace, the beauty.  (and of course, the cats.)

From there, once I “woke up,”  I saw what I had been doing to myself.  I had utterly forgotten to enjoy being alive. I had gotten so caught up in trying to achieve and trying to reach a specific goal, I had forgotten to be grateful for living, and enjoy it.

And here’s a thought: what if I never achieved this “important goal”?  What if THIS is my great life’s work, just the every day living that happens in between trying to achieve things?  Wouldn’t it be better to do my best to be present, right here now, if this in-between-on-the-way-to-a-goal-place is my life? And I’ll take that one step further — what if the struggles, the small frustrations, the striving itself is the Big Work I am here to do?

What if.

It pays to be present in the small things, rather that get through them as quickly as possible so that the real business of living might finally, finally begin —

the real business of living is now. and now. and now!  And with all its imperfections, with the feeling of being left out sometimes, and the feeling of sometimes not communicating clearly with our partner, and the feeling of tiredness and wishing we could just catch UP for once…

This business of living is a really lovely, fun thing.  I’ve got my Gratitude Goggles on now, and I can see it so clearly.

Do find yourself a pair – they’re all the latest rage in Paris, I hear…  :o)

Imagesyllabus (this is stolen from some cool teacher on tumblr, by way of a cool teacher on Facebook. O, modern times, you do leave me breathless. I shall have to loosen my stays.)

Getting Clear – Honoring Yourself

I wrote this almost two years ago, and I’m finding it is time to revisit it.

I do have to add that I no longer agree with my words regarding the man in question; I’m not going to change the words of this post, however, because regardless of what someone else chose to do with their time here in this life, my own learning turns out to be what is important.

Getting Clear

I just finished a coaching assignment, writing about “my ideal partner.” it was surprisingly difficult.
How often do we actually think specifically about what it is we want?

I have been allowing what comes into my life…not asking for what I want and need.

He was persistent and determined, I loved him- he is a truly wonderful person- I was flattered and thought it must be right. It got to the point where I needed him to persist. I needed to “test” him, pick arguments or push him away a little, in order to know that he was loyal, that I could be safe. Because I wasn’t safe…he had been dishonest, out of his own fear. I could not handle dishonesty, but I pretended to myself that it didn’t matter. He left too many times, in pain and confusion of his own. I dealt with the shattering of abandonment again and again, accepted, understood, and forgave, and endured, and didn’t notice that I was betraying myself.

Here’s the thing I have learned, that is easier for me to put into words than into action: unconditional love does NOT mean that you ignore your own needs.

If you accept things that go against your own core values, you will not be able to act from your highest self. You will fall into reactionary behavior, you will get sucked right into your own conditioned responses…in short, for both people, no matter how much in love you are, the relationship will not be bringing out the best YOU you can be.

This was the truest love I have ever known, but harmed by a toxic cycle of fear and reaction.
I am learning so much from this, and I am finding I want to teach others, and help them with what I have learned. Then, this deep love will still have a purpose. It will be putting some good into the world. It won’t have been for nothing.

I only saw the good things, of which there were many. This is not about him being bad in any way. He’s one of the most amazing people I have ever met. Because of that, I put blinders on myself and ignored warning signs, because I wanted to believe in a beautiful fantasy.
I accepted his choices that went against my deepest values, because I convinced myself that loyalty to the one I loved was more important than anything else. I’ve been reacting my life.

I am taking responsibility now–and grateful for this lesson. I made the choice to ignore my own values. I am not regretful of this- I learned a lot from it. Nor do I regret loving so deeply, because I found out how magnificently loyal my heart is. I am proud of that.

Examine what you are at the core without judgment, accept it. Then, it’s time to start working with it. Whatever you are, don’t hide it!

I know I am deeply loyal, and could no more betray someone, abandon someone or shirk responsibility than I could cut off my own arm…this is a truth that’s in my bones, it is who I am. The important thing is to love that, not pretend it doesn’t exist, if someone comes along who has different values. It doesn’t make them less, or you less. The key is to be so clear in who you are, that you remove the emotion from your decisions. If you’ve already mapped out what is truly vital to you, you will no longer be in a reactive state when other people come into your life. You will be acting from your truest self.

We are all so different. If we learn to love who we are, and stand up and BE who we are without hiding, if we let the people go who do not mesh with our own core values — without rancor or judgment of them or ourselves, just let them go, as they need their own kind of people, you see — then , we can begin to have clear lives free of toxicity.

Sit down and articulate your core values. What makes you who you are? What makes you happy? Then go one step further, and define what you want. Get specific. It’s surprisingly difficult to actually write it out. We might think about it vaguely, but rarely do people actually spell out their visions, dreams, intentions, desires on paper.

Creating my life is fun- it feels like I’m a kid again, where the daydream is nearly as pleasurable as the reality would be. When we actually get specific, not just about what we want but about how that would feel, we call things into our lives. Creating your life with intention, honoring who you are, knowing that it’s possible and that it’s not “selfish” is a very empowering thing! I highly recommend it. take a moment to really think about what it is you want in your life, or to create in the world with your time here. Happiness is a choice, it is accessible to everyone regardless of external circumstances. To want to be happy is not selfish- it actually leads to greater compassion for others, and more ability to put healing in the world.  

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Inquire Within

I tried on some advice I was given- like a castoff sweater from someone else’s life, it felt scratchy – it weighed me down. I felt heavy, defeated.

heartI asked my own heart, and she answered:
What about this? Be radically honest.
Take a risk that people may not like you.
The ones who see you & know you will love you, but only if you are authentically you–not squeezing yourself into someone else’s knitted idea of who you need to be.
If you want the life you envision, BE the self who dreamed that life. It starts within.

It starts with the courage to live authentically.
I do not want to waste time living something I am not.
I have always been a risk-taker in this way: It has been my lifelong specialty- radical honesty.

I have been told “question the way you define yourself” –but no; no, this is the one thing I know is true: nothing in this life is more important to me than living with all my heart, and all of my truth.
Anything less simply will not do.

We go so many places for advice…
when really, we carry everything we need within us.
Inquire within. There are your deepest questions, and sometimes, answers.

This is love: to fly toward a secret sky,
to cause a hundred veils to fall each moment.
First, to let go of life.
In the end, to take a step without feet;
to regard this world as invisible,
and to disregard what appears to be the self.
 
Heart, I said, what a gift it has been
to enter this circle of lovers,
to see beyond seeing itself,
to reach and feel within the breast.  – Rumi

To Build a Fire

“You attract to yourself what you give your attention and energy to, whether wanted or unwanted.” – Abraham Hicks

Re-evaluating the focus.

Are you focusing more on complaints or negative things that are out of your control, than you are on gratitude for the good things that are present, and the things you want in your life?

It takes a minor shift to re-focus the lenses and give no more energy to people or things that are draining.

Toxicity in my environment (neighbor burning wood smoke night and day) VS. doing what I can to stay healthy by nurturing my body with clean, nutritious, organic, whole foods.

People who are in psychic pain of some kind and choose unkindness VS. the many people in my life, home and community who are loving…my friends who make me laugh…

“Shoulds,” and More Societally Acceptable 9-5 jobs VS. Creating my own unique and incredible livelihood…

I know which I would choose to focus on, every time.  But when you let the toxic or negative things build up, it’s easy to get into reactive mode and let your mind churn away on little mean, petty things that unhealthy people say or do, out of their own pain.  Sometimes we go over and over the harms like we’re sliding prayer beads through our fingers… what if we shifted that, and replaced all those bad things with affirmations? What if we stopped trying to control others (which is part of what hanging on to perceived wrongs is all about) and started practicing radical self-care?

Let it all go, now…that is not your burden to carry.  Do what you can to clear it out. Take a walk, and breathe it out to the trees. Release it.  Do a mikveh… meditate…

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Climb into your dirigible, sail above it all, and let your imagination soar.

Worry is just negative daydreaming.  Sometimes it seems like adults have forgotten how to daydream…

What about practicing that again?  No rules, no limits, no self-editing – your beautiful daydream is waiting for you to open the door, come outside and play.

There will *always* be people who choose to remain safe, and there will always be people who try to tie everyone around them down to their grey vision of plodding, “should”-oriented life.  There will always be critical people – but one does not have to focus on these things. One does not have to try to please.

For heaven’s sake!  Shake them off!

“Twenty years from now you will be more disappointed by the things that you didn’t do than by the ones you did so. So throw off the bowlines. Sail away from the safe harbor. Catch the trade winds in your sails. Explore. Dream. Discover.”  – Mark Twain

I remember when I began to (naïvely) tell people that Juilliard was my dream school.
“Better have a billion backup choices.” “No one *ever* gets in there.” “Why would you want that? You’d be better off doing something practical.”

I said I was going to get in, and I got in.

Doesn’t matter that my passion and drive shifted. Doesn’t matter that I am not focusing on acting right now– I use the things I learned at that incredible school every single day. (Alexander in boxing, you’d better believe it 😉

If you have a dream, don’t focus on the ones who want to chip away at it (even if – *especially* if- they are coming from a caring place, wanting to protect you from the hurt they’ve experienced. The fears, worries, concerns and attempts to stifle you, encourage you to dream smaller…all that is about them, not you.)

Focus on the dream. Focus on the desire. Focus on working toward it every day. Just a little every single day.

Do one thing every day that will bring you closer to, or hone your skills for, your dream- whatever it is you dream you can do. Begin it…and don’t stop.

That’s the secret… hone your body, mind and spirit; nurture your heart, and keep going.

This is a note to self.  I’m pretty hard on myself in this arena, and I’m learning positive ways to re-frame the self-talk, through my life coaching (life-saving!) program.  I’m learning to temper the inner Boxing Coach voice with much compassion and love…and I’m grateful for that Celtic fire in my heart that doesn’t give up.

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a Fugue: Kafka in Barney Purple OR a lesson in Letting Go

In a week, I am moving into a new home.  This new home is in no way ready for me (and Figaro) to move in.
Granted, my remodel plans were ambitious; some, (clearly lacking vision) might say “crazy,”
but as the plans developed and the contractors were found, I learned what to let go, what to save for later…I prioritized. (the TARDIS stays, but I haven’t begun construction yet; the tile and the Sherlock Holmes fireplace have to happen first. TARDIS happens before the Secret Passageway Bookcase. See? I am quite sensible.)

I also decided I wanted to paint some of the rooms myself (and my Dad did a *lot* of the work, too) because I wanted to get to know my home, and inhabit it in this way before I moved in.

Great! Sounds nice, yeah? Reasonable?

I was buying paint for an accent wall – a small thing, you’d think – and it mysteriously came out Bright Barney the Dinosaur Purple.

Ok, this wasn’t what I had planned – I wasn’t remotely going for purple, but, being a go-with-the-flow type, I tried it for a bit and even tried to like it or see if I could make it work (maybe by hanging a wall-sized mural over it?)

a Fugue: Kafka in Barney Purple

Okay, maybe not.   

I took it back. They put it on a shelf called Mis-mixed paint, rather like the Island of Forgotten Toys.  I felt a little guilty. I found a new color entirely, and even switched to an entirely different brand,

but failed to note that it was the same person mixing my paint.

Looking back, I am quite sure there was a Malevolent, Dinosaur-ish, Purple gleam in her eye.

I went home again, tra-la,  and began stirring the paint with a sinking feeling…
put the paint on the wall (maybe it looks different ON?)

Barney the Dinosaur Purple.

Again.

Same. exact. Shade. If I had paid her to match it, she couldn’t have done a more impeccable job…not even if I had decided to hold a contest for the most Devious Mixer of Paint Who Could Infallibly, Impeccably Recreate This Abhorrent Purple.

I have a bad habit: I see symbols, metaphors, messages – in *everything.*

a can of paint could maybe just be a can of paint, I see that. I really do.

BUT.

Really?

I once auditioned for a dinosaur in “Barney.” it was a boy, six-year-old-ish, who was a “scat-singer” or rap artist.

Riff

Maybe I should be grateful that my wall color didn’t mysteriously turn out to be “Riff Orange.”

It was one of the coolest auditions I’ve ever experienced, as it was in a sweet little hidden studio with awesome exposed brick and crazy decor.

They told me after my audition that they felt like they’d just been to a Toots Theilmans concert. That felt awesome, which made it o.k. that I didn’t get the job.

Still, good memories and all, I don’t know how to live in a room with a Barney Dinosaur Purple wall.

And I think the lesson here is:  you don’t have to make something work, even if it’s *very* persistent. You also don’t have to stick with something “for Old Times’ sake.”

O.k., there is a time to stick with it and work at something. For sure. That’s my definition of “romantic,” actually… when people have positive connections that outweigh the troubles, and they stick together and work on things. (But the positive needs to outweigh the negative! that’s key!) Loyalty. Awesome. That and honesty are top things on my list of desirable traits in a partner.

But knowing when to let go is important.

I used to be one of those people who hung in there no matter what. I was a freaking barnacle. Through storms, through high seas with no rum in sight, I was stalwart. I Remained. I held on.  Even if people were horrid rotten little perishers, I was loyal. Stay at the party hoping it gets better! Stay till the bitter end!  Hang in there and keep hanging until you turn into an albatross!

Being like that is like having a business that is deeply important to you, but then hiring anyone who walks in and keeping them no matter what: your business is going to die in fearful agonies. It’s important to define what you’re looking for in employees (yeah?) and make sure that relationship (the work) has a sort of maintenance aspect- it stays healthy, or it needs to end. Yes? Why is this easier to see about business, and so much harder to see about our own amazing, precious and beautiful selves? And our lives which are finite and irreplaceable?

Letting go of caffeine.  Huge one for me. Maaaaajor detox symptoms. It was so hard, but I did it, and all of a sudden, I feel so much healthier and my hypoglycemia turns out to be non-existent.

Let go!  You may experience unpleasant side-effects at first, but still – let go!

That friend who chooses to see the world through complaint-filters, who dims your sparkle but is there! and persistent! and you’ve known them forever!
sometimes, it may even be HARD to find what you’re looking for – that Barney Dinosaur Purple may keep showing up – but hold on.

Hold on to the vision of what your soul needs.

“Letting go” is a passive-sounding phrase, but it is one of the hardest, most demanding-of-action things I have ever experienced…because carving out a new pathway takes persistence and awareness.  It’s so easy for the mind (and, by extension, our choices) to follow the well-worn habitual pathways. So letting go properly is something that requires you to be fully present, and very clear.

So – here’s my lesson from the paint store today:  define what you want. Set your intention. Get clear, and then  let go of anything, any color, or anyone not in alignment with the way you want to show up in the world.

and here’s the really hard part:  go in and try again, try as though it is the first time and you haven’t just been given one gallon after another of Barney the Dinosaur Purple.  Hold your little paint card and valiantly ask for Eggshell or Winston Churchill Buttercup, completely believing that it’s going to work. Show up fully.

I pretty much failed to do that today… I stood there looking at all those little cards and clever little pamphlets showing perfectly painted rooms (no purple in sight) and all I could see was that Lurid, Eye-bruising, Artist Formerly Known As, not-found-anywhere-in-nature, purple.

I finally had to leave and ask my saint of a mother to go request a color. I felt Jinxed. I felt Cursed. I felt that if I looked one more time into the clearly-plotting-some-kind-of-purple-colored-revenge eyes of that Wicked Paint Mixer, I would blurt out “PURPLE!” and get another can of you-know-what.

So I’m still learning this…

Letting go completely, so you can focus your entire heart in a positive way on the intention ahead of you. That might be a lifelong master class! (I wonder who teaches it? I hope it’s Morgan Freeman.)

Letting go of that job that is wonderful, but isn’t your genius work or dream and is using up time that you need in order to do your Real Work-

Letting go of that friend whom you love, but who is dragging you down –

Letting go does not require disapproving, disliking, disengaging, or dysfunction. It can be done with love, and it can be a compassionate and very kind thing to do. Sometimes it can be a blessing for the ones you let go, too – it can be a springboard for them to find where and with whom they fit- now that there is not space and time filled up by trying, trying, trying to mesh with you.

Barney Purple, I don’t care how many times it takes, I’m replacing you with a restful, warm, elegant parchment-ish color. It’s not that I don’t think you’re great, in areas where you are appropriate (like the big huge costume of a dinosaur character for kids)  – I do. It’s not that you don’t bring back a wonderful memory – you do,

but your persistence , your insistence at being in my house and on my wall is puzzling in the extreme. Please, go tell Kafka I’m hiring another writer to conduct my life…

07-3wodehouse_full_600

his name is P.G. Wodehouse, and he has a much more restful color sense. (pay no attention to that lurid dinosaur purple cover. I am quite sure Plum did not choose it.)

one stone at a time

There was always a first stone – even when they built Stonehenge.  There was a time when that was just a vision, a dream.

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There was a time not too long ago when I was still hampered by my spinal injury, and could not even drive for fifteen minutes without my arm going numb.

There was a time relatively recently when I lived with such confusion and pain, caught up in someone else’s story, that I rarely left my house.

First stone: I laid the first stone of my new, beautiful life when I found my counselor.  I went through the proper channels, filled out the necessary paperwork, went through meetings and screenings, and it was all very very hard because I was shaking with ptsd and crying.

it is harder when you are ill to do the things you need to do in order to get better. it is SO hard.

But one small tiny step at a time. keep moving forward. keep going.

I found a counselor who helped me on the very first day I met her.  Everything I went through was worth that first day, when hope came back ; when the realization came that there was nothing “wrong” with me, that I would heal, and that when I healed, I would be stronger and more compassion-filled; that I would be a force to be reckoned with.

I’m standing here today and affirming: It is true. I am a force. Nearly a year after my world was shattered, I am stronger and more empowered than I have ever been in my life.

*Because* of what I have been through – my self esteem is growing, my joie de vivre is back, and the rioting blossoms of spring have entered my soul.

you can look toward a day when you will be whole.

hold on to that. believe it.

I have a “tribe” of women now with whom I am going through a six month journey of amazing discovery and growth.  I went on a retreat in february to the beautiful mountains, stayed in a sweet little cabin and had classes in a little river yurt, ate wholesome organic meals and stood in the snow around a bonfire that reminded me of my own heart, so beautifully it burned and danced with sparks under the moon…

and from that time, my life just… exploded.

with adventure, with wonderful projects, with friends and romance, too.

I didn’t think I would ever feel *that* again, the excitement of being a young-ish woman meeting someone attractive and kind and getting to know him…

I thought my heart was destroyed.

What a resilient thing a heart is… it was not destroyed ; it was opened.
I can see with compassion now, not anger;  I have so much love for the one who brought me these tough lessons – but healthy love – I am no longer IN that story; it no longer is my life. I have such gratitude to be through that mitzrayim, that narrow, narrow place of the soul…

I am in a time of great expansion, and it is so exciting.

I’m on the other side, and I want to lay out a trail of words to tell others how to cross, if they are in narrow, trapped places in their own lives.

it starts small, but with great courage. Make a small change, and stick to it -even if it is a counseling appointment once a week – begin it. Whatever it is that your health requires – and we ALL have something that could make us healthier – implement it today; start with one small thing.

meditation practice – come on, everyone has five minutes.

the voice that comes up telling you “I don’t have time,” is just trying to keep you in old habits.  When we make change, we are always going to have to fight against that part of us that would rather remain in status quo, even if that is an unhealthy place to be.

I do not believe we are here to be as comfortable as possible until we die…

it will be uncomfortable to challenge your old mindsets or habits or patterns…but if you allow the discomfort and just sit with it, don’t react to it – just acknowledge it – you will grow. Your life will open up.

it’s amazing, when you clear away the things that no longer serve you,

when you sit there with the emptiness for a time (it was painful but I kept breathing through it. I reminded myself …allow the emptiness…get through your times of grief by knowing that is your psyche healing – ride those waves of sorrow out like you have food poisoning, or are giving birth-)

when you have the courage to make peace with discomfort and emptiness,

it makes room for beauty you never even imagined possible to come into your life.

it comes because you called it there. It comes because you are raising yourself and your life higher; you have set your intention and defined what you want; you are no longer just allowing whatever to come in and living your life in *reaction* to what happens to you-

you are now creating.

and WOW, is it fun!

No matter where you are in this process, you can begin creating your life.

one stone at a time – hold in your head the image of the beautiful structure you are building – (do you think people began Notre Dame Cathedral with complete confidence and certainty? No way. but they began it. and they kept going.)

build.

One stone might be: get specific about the kinds of friends you want in your life. if old relationships are no longer in alignment with who you want to be in the world,

define your tribe.

another stone of mine was : boxing classes. begin to do something you love, even if it’s really, really really really tough at first. keep going.

I thought I’d never box again; now I am going several times a week, sometimes several classes in a day. my strength is coming back *really* fast, as though my body was just waiting for me to figure out that I could trust it again, that I could give it a challenge.

another stone: just allow. make room and allow – act like your life is one big theater improv game – when things come in that your insides say YES to, say yes! go to see that play with that friend you haven’t seen in many years. Go to that class; learn that thing you’ve always wanted to try.  Take out all of the things you say “someday” about, and make them TODAY.

And it all begins and continues with gratitude – before you go to sleep, recognize the new and incredible things that came to you that day (even if they are tiny at first, celebrate and recognize them!) … when you are grateful for what comes, you will soon find that there is an abundance of that kind of magic, just waiting to pour into your life.  It was there all along, maybe , waiting for you to ask for it – waiting for you to grow big enough to see it.

What fun this is being…building my own personal stonehenge, one beautiful rock at a time.

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