Category Archives: change

Full Circle

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What seems like a lifetime ago now, I was suffering terrible illness, depression and anxiety. My life was falling apart. Without the support I needed or the means to get away, I began to think of how I could help myself through these dark days…and I remembered a book that had inspired me years prior: The Artist’s Way. I knew I had it somewhere, maybe in a box in the basement. It had not been unpacked since the last move. Perhaps this could help me. It was a good place to start, and I certainly had nothing to lose.

It was the holiday season and life was all busyness. So I set a goal to begin the first of the year. I went to the basement, brushed the construction sawdust off the boxes and found the book, inscribed by the friend who had gifted it to me in 1997. It was now December of 2012. Reverently I carried it up the stairs and set it on my nightstand where I could surely find it after all the hubbub and the visiting family had waned.

Within hours I received an email from another old friend, now a psychologist, who was asking if I would be interested in attending a group study she was about to facilitate –  based on the book The Artist’s Way. When “coincidences” happen like that – which they often do for me – I feel heard, and led, by God. I could hardly wait to go; but more importantly, I knew in that moment I would be alright. In retrospect I must report that I believe this class, and the extraordinary women I would meet there, literally saved my life.

Immediately I began the practice of writing “Morning Pages”, the commitment asked of her students in the book – to journal, first thing upon waking, at least 3 pages a day. One of my favorite diversions from the stress of everyday life at the time was my addiction to interior design magazines, and their new format online: BLOGS! And I decided to write a blog. Not necessarily for sharing, but for the cathartic writing that would pull me out of the darkness.

Well. Here I sit years later, still inept at the technology needed to do this efficiently! But late in 2012 I accidentally learned how to post a video from YouTube to WordPress. And for reasons I cannot fathom today, I posted a video on January 1, 2013, of Tina Turner chanting with children.

Yesterday a Tina Turner video showed up for some weird reason as recommendation after a design video – which I’m STILL addicted to! The dominos of time and space were falling…and so I watched. And became so inspired. I have read news reports lately of her continuing struggle with cancer and poor health. NOTHING keeps this woman down. I learned that she has had a kidney transplant, battled cancer more than once, and lost her beloved son to suicide not long ago. She has overcome more adversity than most of us will ever know, and still she rises. I am in awe. On May 16th, 2018 she was interviewed by Oprah and talks of how, at 73, she is happier than she ever could have imagined. There is hope for us all.

 

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Eat, Pray, Crib…

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Elizabeth Gilbert is an American icon, of course, and certainly one of my heroes. As an aspiring memoirist, I have followed her career since Eat, Pray, Love made her a household name. Here she takes us on a silly tour of the house she was selling in 2012. Gorgeous house! (Great artwork, too.) Damn. Missed it, or as Maxwell Smart would say, “missed it by that much…”

For some reason she is uncharacteristically giggly here, but nonetheless, stick with it to see the magical details built in to the “SKY-BRARY”, and the gardens. Not yet in bloom, I can only imagine how glorious they are in the summer.

We know much heartbreak would visit Liz in the years to follow, and yet still somehow the writing that would inspire us all to keep going. I only wish her well, and that her recent living spaces have proven worthy shelters for such a magnificent spirit.

It’s a humid, hot day in northwestern Michigan, but there is a wind, and so I must have the windows open. I love my home; I love my hills…could I ever leave? Oh, sure. Like Liz, I have always moved often. There is something inherently cleansing for your soul about paring down; always editing. Homemaking is so completely, consumptively, creative. So I do understand her selling…maybe…I guess.

A True Mirror; because “individuality REALLY IS all it’s cracked up to be…”

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It’s a glorious morning. I’m completely socked in a cloud. It’s fifty-five degrees and breezy. The deep green treetops float above the mists like the Isles of Pandora. Heavenly.

Last night I watched the movie Avatar for the first time. A friend had used it as metaphor the other day, and I had to admit to being the last person in ‘Merica who had not seen it. I had not been interested when it was released, and to be honest, I was as disappointed as I expected to be. It was pedantic and oh so predictable. I wonder if James Cameron got a kick-back from the US military, because as a piece of recruitment propaganda it was outstanding. Let’s give the director the benefit of the doubt and assume that is exactly the result he was going for. Had the overly emphasized theme of good versus evil not been so blatantly pounded into us however, the beauty of the animation might not have made it to the big screen.

My friend’s heart was in the right place. It is a fabulous illustration of the out-of-body experience: the work we do while our body is sleeping is never to be taken lightly. The first thing I do when I wake in a strange place is to look down at my hands and feet to see what this body looks like. Next I regulate my breath, and quietly observe my surroundings as best as possible. But sometimes I’m in the middle of war or natural disaster or chaos of some sort. Then you just GO! and figure it out on the move. Quantum leaping is not for the faint of heart. Of course, I’ve never trained for this, or consciously asked for it in any way. God knows I’ve tried to resign. But on some level, in some reality, my soul signed up for this work. Some intelligence somewhere decided I was up to the challenge.

And that was my friend’s point – that sometimes we take a hit for the downtrodden or the oppressed, and it hurts here, when we wake in this time and place. The lifetime we live now is but the tip of the iceberg of our full soul’s experience. It’s hard to remember that when my heart is breaking.

This brings me to the idea I have tried to reconcile much of my adult life: the ongoing argument of PURPOSE. Many loved ones are struggling to “find” their purpose, to “live their purpose”, to fulfill their purpose.

Honestly, it makes me a bit crazy. My friend was right about the best scene in the film:

“We will see if your insanity can be cured,” says the wise leader.

My hope for curing the insanity of my culture is that we can give up this erroneous idea of purpose. I don’t have a purpose; I AM A PURPOSE. I breathe purpose. I embody purpose. WE ALL DO. It is not the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. It is not a goal. It is not a job. There is nothing to find or figure out. You cannot miss it or fail at it. It is not your gift – YOU are the gift.

If we don’t SEE that, then we don’t SEE each other. And until we see each other there will always be an enemy without. There will always be a war. And Heaven will always be a fantasy.

This woman knows. She makes a business out of telling us:

“Who would not go on a little further were it given him to know the way is short and Heaven is the goal?” – ACIM

 

Happy Mother’s Day to Me…

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“Instant karma’s gonna get you, gonna look you right in the face…” – John Lennon

Those close to me often hear me kid, “I must have done something very heroic in a past life to be so blessed in this one.” Actually, I don’t believe in multiple lives. I have Buddhist friends who do. The majority of the world population is Hindu; they do. Oh, I believe in karma! You get back what you put out – and I don’t know about you, but mine seems to show itself almost instantly…darn it. I can’t seem to get away with anything.

My son has the same experience, and I have always told him that it means we are living a blessed life – that God put us exactly where he wanted us and needed us to be. There isn’t space for messing up, no margin for error. God is always nearby, paying attention, and has your back. That’s not to say we don’t have fun; it’s to say we get to be aware of it all being a privilege all the time, “good” or “bad.”

Having Doris as my Mom was a privilege. I wonder if her sweet nature didn’t just skip a generation and show up in her four grandchildren: my son, and my niece and two nephews. Man, they are sweet kids.

Having Steven as my son is such a privilege, too. Big time! And I know it. It makes me question what I could have done to deserve such love, and hence the statement about earning it in another life! But there isn’t actually anything such as deservedness. Karma is a paper tiger. As is all dis-ease, come-uppance, guilt, sin, wrongness by any name. Not one of us is wrong. That’s a big concept for me to grapple with some days. Especially if I turn on the television or read the political posts on Facebook. We are all innocent here. My Mom used to say, “I’m just rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic,” and we would laugh! If you can grasp that, or to the degree that you can feel that, that you are MADE IN HIS IMAGE, you can free yourself of guilt and shame and fear. ‘Cause we all shine on…

F = false E = evidence A = appearing R = real

HAPPY MOTHER’S DAY.

We Will Walk It Out…

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“We’re all just walking each other home.” – Ram Dass

It is a glorious sunny morning, albeit chilly. As I sit in my beautiful new home high overlooking the sand bluffs and treetops of northwestern lower Michigan two of my close friends are fighting for their lives. One is fighting a physical cancer, the other a mental cancer. Both potentially deadly. I can’t help but wonder why them, why not me, or anyone else for that matter? It all seems so random, the blessings and the curses. There is one thing that occurs to me: there is no such thing as deservedness. No one deserves any more blessings or suffering than another. This immature notion must be allowed to wither away from our collective consciousness as a culture. It was a bill of goods someone sold us, and it needs to go the way of our ancestors.

As it happens, I have just been through a week of my own hell, bedridden with debilitating migraines. I had fooled myself into thinking I was going to do a nice liver detox this week, and then had to resort to taking migraine medication when the pain became frightening. There is a (not so funny) meme circulating on social media that says, “When the head and the heart clash, the liver suffers.” It has a different meaning to me now! Migraines come as demons in the night when I have succumbed to spending too much time in my head, disconnected from my heart. And there is grieving to be done.

But there is equal joy to be found in “falling apart at the SEEMS” and re-membering myself, my sweet life. And that I am not in charge here…as The Indigo Girls sing, “the less I seek my Source for some definitive, the closer I am to fine.” Today is the first day in over a week that I can stand up straight and the nausea has subsided. It is the first time I remember to look at my daily lesson in A Course in Miracles: “By grace I live. By grace I am released.” For some reason it feels like Christmas.

 

The Power of Not Knowing, or, how to Navigate the World with a Sense of Humor

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Artist, author and American icon Maira Kalman says “I love my empty mind.” Meditate, let go, empty, repeat. Michael Strang writes about this practice in The Surrender Experiment. It’s a way of life that requires courage. It’s The Artist’s Way.

In the movie Trouble with the Curve baseball scout Gus Noble is losing his sight. But he can recognize great talent by hearing “the pure sound.” I’m not much for sports movies of any kind, but I loved this one and Million Dollar Arm. They’re as much about life as baseball.

All the House Lights Left Up Bright

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“It’s coming on winter, they’re cutting down trees, they’re putting up reindeer and singin’ songs of joy and peace…oh I wish I had a river I could skate away on.” -Joni Mitchell

In the dream I lived on a river. Mid-morning I took my dogs to walk along the shore, stretch from the early hours at the typewriter. That was so long ago, that dream. And dream it was, what little I recall of it as I entered another scramble morning. Steven ready for school and I for work as we head out the door, just a little late, forgetting some somethings. Half the time I swear I caught myself watching out the corner of my eye. Life moved so fast it was painful. You knew you were missing something, but you were powerless to slow down. So many demands.

Now I live on a river, have two dogs. Mid-morning we walk along the shore as I secretly shoo crumbs from my pocket, imagining some little birds delight at discovering the manna. My son has long since grown and lives away in his own scramble world. I’m still pulling at time, ever slowing the momentum it took so much life to build.

I wish I could write like Joni Mitchell. A few lines told the whole story; some part of your psyche filling in the future. It seems you knew that story before she reminded you. Again I must say: Thank God for the artists. The historians of our truth. Thank God for Joni.

“Read a thousand books and your words will flow like a river.” – Virginia Woolf

 

“It’s Space. It Doesn’t Cooperate.”

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It seems that perhaps I do have a story to tell after all. And I am only now figuring that out for myself; perhaps beginning to glean some worth in the mess, some reason to tell it. All of my adult life people have said that I should write my story, and all of my adult life I have dismissed this suggestion as frivolous, egotistical, and frankly, boring.

Embarrassingly, I note that the most recent blog post here was September of last year, nearly ten months ago. Shortly thereafter I “went south” (sounds like I’m on vacation) – my personal term for sinking into depression and withdrawing from all but a few close soldiers. This recent willingness to risk sharing again was sparked – as inspiration is – by the funniest little thing…a photo in a magazine article about a cottage restoration. God works in mysterious ways. Actually, I think God works in any way available, whenever there is an opening.

There I was, reading my favorite blog, drinking my morning coffee, looking at pretty pictures…the blog, Content In A Cottage, (wish I’d thought of that name!) is an almost daily hit of inspiration about life in a small space. Rosemary Beck is a realtor, a middle aged woman like myself, and has shared the huge recent losses of her Mom and her beloved dog, Webster. But she has found a rhythm that suits her in posting often and briefly, sometimes by simply sharing what someone else has already written. Today it was a picture of a cute house with a link to an article in Gardens And Guns Magazine. Well! First of all, I would never subscribe to a magazine with the word guns in the title. It made me laugh right off though, thinking of Will Thacker in Notting Hill, posing as a writer for Horse and Hound.

This article is so well written by Allison GLOCK (God has such a great sense of humor) that I want to read it again. I think it would have been delightful even if it hadn’t been about my favorite subject. The transformation of the house is inspiring, the result altogether enchanting. But, (and isn’t there always a but for me?) frustrated and grief stricken by over sixty years now of not being true to myself, some of the photographs brought tears of sadness and disappointment. Everything that interests me seems bittersweet at this stage of my life. And there – in that split second where delight and discouragement co-exist simultaneously and rises up to shock and surprise us – THERE is the crux of any meaningful story. There, for my son and all the others who live in that juxtaposition, is the gift I will continue to explore in my writing. Because only there do we have a choice to make – that can, and does, effect our future.

That photo showed “freshly cut olive branches” in a vase on a table. That was all it took. The tears could not be denied. My olive trees are gone. I still miss them. Years ago now, my then husband and I drove up to a house we were looking at to buy, and five twisted old olive trees bowed noble along the drive, the stubborn sentinels of a long ago orchard. They were FULL of Cedar Waxwings. I knew immediately this was my next home. It was magic. I fell in love with those trees the longer I lived with them. The leaves were soft green on one side and silver underneath. Thomas Jefferson said “the olive tree is assuredly the richest gift of heaven.” That quote, cut from a magazine years prior, was glued into one of my notebooks. I had always wanted olive trees.

One day I drove home from work to find the olive trees gone, leveled by my husband and a chainsaw. Stumps. “Messy old junk trees,” he called them. I was devastated. I couldn’t talk, and went straight to bed. I had no inkling he didn’t like the trees; never knew they were in danger. Never had a chance to defend them. I knew the Waxwings would not come again. But the real tragedy took hold slowly over time. To this day, my now former husband doesn’t know I loved those trees. I couldn’t tell him. I couldn’t trust him with my heart. I knew he would become defensive and angry, telling me how ridiculous and unreasonable I was being over stupid old trees. It was, of course, also about more than the loss of the trees. It was about not being considered in that decision. I knew then that they were never our trees. They were his. This wasn’t our home, it was his. It took a dozen more years, another move, and many more heartbreaks before I would leave. It took my greedy silence and selfish denial a lot longer to surface before I would come to realize this path of stoic silence was a death trap for my soul – and that I was worth saving.

In the movie The Martian, there is a scene when astronaut Mark Watney must launch himself into space without a ship or any safety mechanism, and soon he will either be rescued and go home, or he will die. Either way, he will never be the same man who left the earth on this adventure. He can’t go back. After fighting for survival all this time, you watch the dawning of this realization move across his face – that this has all been immeasurably precious, each terrifying, hard and painful moment he has endured. Precious. And he cries. Seldom has a movie caused such a response in me. I, too, experienced the moment with him, of despair and terror and elation and hope – all at once. The crux. The “bleed through”, as Nadine calls it, between life on earth, and the Kingdom of Heaven. The Holy Instant, A Course In Miracles calls it. Whatever you may call it, know that these precious moments will come again and again until we live in the “bleed through.” Because life, like space, does not cooperate.

For Faith.

Are You There? Say A Prayer…

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My friend Nadine says I have a musical heart…it is true that music serves as illustration for much of my life. My junior high science teacher, Mr. Barrow, would put an extra credit question at the end of every weekly test. It was always about rock and roll, and I always got it right. I knew all the words to all the songs…by heart. Strangely, most of my family played an instrument and sang, but always the outsider, I was asked not to participate…I was tone deaf and off key. (In their defense, the church choir didn’t want me either!) As a teen, I spent my days in headphones and my nights on the east side of Detroit at the Grande Ballroom and the Eastown Theatre…and I still circle through the music in my head hourly. Someone is often singing to me in my sleep. It is fair to say I have learned as much from music as from books, or teachers, or any form of information. Music has the unique ability to impart it’s wisdom physiologically: Right. Straight. Into. Your. Soul.

If you weren’t a Joni Mitchell groupie, driving to every concert within a hundred mile radius, you might not know how these men met. They all got their start opening for her on tour. We have her to thank for introducing them to each other, and to us. I love these men – truly – never having met any of them. They represent everything to me that God meant for men to express: deeply humble intelligence.

This song in particular spoke to me of the struggle between living “true to our inner promptings” as Hesse wrote, or engaging in the world with all of it’s futile expectations, “waving truce against the moon…”

The Vietnam war was raging on my television throughout my adolescent years. The images on the news were so gruesome, so awful. They showed cruelty beyond imagining. Those scenes of war are never shown on television anymore, by the way. They can’t sell anything that way…least of all the political agenda of the day. So for many of us naive souls, music became the voice of sanity in a truly insane world.

And like 911, every child of my generation remembers where they were when JFK was shot. I was in the 4th grade. The screens of black and white televisions were rolled out into our classrooms until the school decided to close early and send us home. I walked in on my Mother wailing…and somehow knew life would never be the same. I suspect that was the beginning of our cultural awakening. Our superficial values died a catastrophic death. No one I knew had ever really faced any personal tragedy at that young age, but now we suddenly knew what a broken heart was. I don’t think mine has ever mended, but then, I don’t think they’re meant to.

I don’t know about you, but the rest of my life has been a process of letting go. And clawing to hang on. And then a little more letting go…it begins to take on an eerie rhythm. Not that it ever makes any sense. The clawing to hang on never makes any sense. You will let go…breathing in and out, or kicking and screaming…it turns out we are all The Pretender.

For Kelly, Rodasi and Cilla, dedicated women. I am grateful for you.

So Many Different People To Be…

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It’s been nine months since my Dad passed away. As time is a fickle and irreverent companion, nine months took but one beat of my heart…and some days take an eternity. I sure do miss him. If you’ve read past writings here about my Dad you know that he was a larger than life character…I love the movie Big Fish with Albert Finney and Ewan McGregor because it reminds me of him, of us. He was also not prone to express his emotions. I suspect much of his generation had no language for it. So in many ways it seems I am getting to know him better in his absence than I did in his presence.

After he died I found pictures of him as a child that we never even knew existed. What a cute kid! Do you ever look at childhood photographs of yourself or your loved ones and see the utter sweetness in our faces? And I don’t know about you, but often at night, in the vast dark silence, I still FEEL myself AS that little kid…I AM still her…perhaps that is always true for us all.

People sometimes ask me why I put up with so much from my family. Did they not see those photos of THEIR family? We are all innocent here. In the end we must give up our beliefs about what the past meant. We must forgive them…we must forgive ourselves. We must. I’m not saying it is easy, or that it means we allow any further abuse. We draw a line; we turn to face the dragon, we pound our staff and declare to our pain, “YOU SHALL NOT PASS.”