Finding Hope

Today I am stunned and heartbroken over the results of the election. I want to write more, but I don’t have the time right now, nor do I want to mull over the sadness I’m feeling. Furthermore, I don’t wish to alienate anyone who disagrees with my view.

My goal now is to give and receive positivity by finding ways to be of service to others. And in spite of the fact that I don’t agree with everyone’s view, my aim is to love others no matter what. People like Jesus, Buddha, Gandhi, Mother Teresa, Martin Luther King, Jr., Nelson Mandela, Thich Nhat Hanh, Pema Chodron, Tara Brach, Jack Kornfield… these are all people who led by example, people who, in some cases, endured tragic circumstances but held strong and true to their beliefs. They are my role models.

Here’s one of my favorite prayers, the St. Francis of Assisi prayer (the 12-step version):

Lord, make me a channel of thy peace;
that where there is hatred, I may bring love;
that where there is wrong, I may bring the spirit of forgiveness;
that where there is discord, I may bring harmony;
that where there is error, I may bring truth;
that where there is doubt, I may bring faith;
that where there is despair, I may bring hope;
that where there are shadows, I may bring light;
that where there is sadness, I may bring joy.
Lord, grant that I may seek rather to comfort than to be comforted;
to understand, than to be understood;
to love, than to be loved.
For it is by self-forgetting that one finds.
It is by forgiving that one is forgiven.
It is by dying that one awakens to eternal life.
Amen.

I hope that you too will look to spiritual teachers and the pitfalls that come in life as lessons to learn, regardless of whether or not you feel the same about this particular issue.

Peace and love,

TCH

 

On Acceptance

img_2147Lately I have felt so frustrated at my lack of feeling grounded, my impatience with the journey, my dissatisfaction with being here, now. But what if I reflect on previous hard times, and the time it took to cycle into the next phase, the gratitude I felt after having suffered for so long, to find such immense joy, and the times that I’ve felt God’s presence? Why not take that into this moment, and feel God’s presence here? God is always here. This time now is painful, but it’s also beautiful. It has allowed me to pause what I was doing before and reflect on what’s really important in life, and to appreciate what’s here, the everyday miracles found in nature. Seasons change, which always feels sad to me, but there’s a beauty in the change, even in the decay. The sadness lies in saying goodbye to what was, and the fear of an unknown future.

How about just knowing that God is here, now. And that whatever decisions I’ve made or didn’t make were the right choices at the time. Every small action, even the mundane, is okay. Also, whatever choices other people make will be okay, too. Whoever becomes the next President of the United States, that person cannot save the world, and if they contribute to its destruction, that will, in the end, be okay too. It will have to be. Not that a person couldn’t or shouldn’t engage in protests or take action, but just that we ultimately must accept whatever comes our way.

There’s a forest fire near my mother’s house where my stepfather lives in western North Carolina, and it’s spreading, without containment. Of course I worry about my sister and stepfather who live there, but my first thought was my mother’s things. My sister and stepfather can evacuate, but they can only take so many things with them. But then those are all just things. I am grateful for the memories that I have. If everything burns to the ground, I’ll still have beautiful memories of my mom.

The other night I dreamt I was in the middle of the autumn woods, on a winding path that looked just like the path where my boyfriend and I rode our bikes yesterday, a path that he photographed because it was so beautiful (the picture is shown at the top of this post). Most importantly, in my dream I felt a higher presence–a feminine energy–and that’s all I remember.

Before I’d gone to bed I’d burned my mugwort oil, drank a cup of mugwort tea, rubbed some mugwort oil on the soles of my feet, all with an intention of inducing a lucid dream of which I gain more insight into my path. Mugwort is considered to have spiritual benefits that induce lucid dreaming, but so far the only time it worked for me was when I had it fresh, under my pillow case. This particular dream wasn’t lucid, but I certainly got insight into my path:  a winding, unclear road of which I’m in the middle, with autumn leaves falling, bursts of gorgeous color, and a beautiful feminine presence—my mother?

The answers are right in front of me, of us:  this is it. I am on my path, and you are on yours, and only time will tell what happens.

 

Gratitude

klimt-owlsNovember is considered “gratitude month” in some 12-step circles, so I want to focus this post on the gratitude I have for my mother, who passed from this lifetime on August 21st.

Some women seem to have been born for motherhood, and I would describe my mom as being one of those people. She got pregnant by accident when she was 17 with my oldest sister, and again with my other sister four years later, and again with me four years after that. Prior to this time she didn’t even like kids, and had no idea she’d love being a mother so much. She married my dad soon after she found out she was pregnant the first time. Although we were all accidents, we were happy accidents that she never regretted.

She was not perfect. When she was in her 30s she went through a long bout of depression that wasn’t so great for any of us. Her second marriage was empty, and she worked in retail which was stressful at times while raising us three girls. But one thing was always true:  we never doubted her love for us. She would often say, “If it weren’t for you girls, I don’t know what I’d do.”

Not everyone gets to have a mother like this. Who she was:  our biggest cheerleader, a champion of good causes, a believer in justice and honesty. Who she was NOT:  a guilt-tripper, a scorekeeper, a backstabber. Once she and her best friend pooled together their money to help a customer, another mother who had to put her kid’s Christmas gifts on lay-away, and they helped this woman buy her gifts. She encouraged independence from the time we were little:  we picked out our own clothes, we made our own breakfast, we walked to school (with our friends, but that’s what kids did in the 80’s and before), we played in the woods. We took crayons and drew all over the carport walls, and she just laughed. She took us to the library, she read to us, she cooked dinner for us. She was beautiful but not vain. She was against beauty pageants and for women’s rights. Her wardrobe was outdated because she couldn’t afford to buy clothes for herself, but she made sure we had clothes. We were never forced to eat food we didn’t want (though we all loved vegetables). We were not forced to go to church, but we were encouraged to find a belief that worked for us. As a result, I have no resentment against the church, and didn’t have a hard time believing in God or finding a higher power that worked for me when I needed to do so in getting sober and living a more spiritual way of life.

As a child, and long after, I loved to follow her around while she did laundry or cooked, and just talk to her. When I’d visit her home in North Carolina I loved to sit with her in the morning, sipping coffee while reading our books. We loved going to musicals together, and had gone to see “The Nutcracker” multiple times at different venues, including the Kennedy Center in DC.

These are just a few of the blessings I received from my mother. I believe she’s in a beautiful place that some people call heaven; I don’t worry about that. I am incredibly grateful that she was my mom, and I’m grateful that I get to experience this strong and deep love that I have for her.

Healing, Art, and the Show “Transparent”

The best way I can think of how to describe my experience with my healer is that it’s like reiki but with sage, massage, meditation, some drumming, and a few stretches. Oh, and it involved the making of prayer ties. In other words, not a lightning bolt experience, no burning bushes or visions. The hand of God didn’t come down from the sky to convince me of my purpose in the world and with a message that my mother is still my biggest cheerleader and guardian angel standing over my shoulder rooting me on and providing guidance for specifically what I should do with my life in terms of a career or otherwise.

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Prayer Ties

It’s not what I wanted but I’m okay with it. Although I tried to have no expectations, in a corner of my heart I’d hoped for glittery, etheric dust floating in a beam of light centering around some indescribable higher being followed by a vision of my mother’s face smiling down on me to tell me everything’s going to be okay. And everything will be okay, but there are still moments when it feels like my world is falling apart and no one to save me.

My favorite character on the Amazon prime show “Transparent” is the mother played by Judith Light because she reminds me of my mother, and of me. She has a big inner world, her own dreams, her own inner self that’s dying to get out, while everyone around her is too concerned about their own needs to notice hers. To be fair, the other characters could easily say the same, because isn’t that often the case, that we are each so concerned with our own needs that we don’t notice the needs of others? I’m certain that the people in my life have felt I ignored their needs at some point, some times more than others. Still, I think Judith Light’s character is different because she’s the mother, and as the mother she often gets overlooked. Her role has been defined by who she is in relation to them, not by who she is as an individual.

One thing I have learned is that you can’t rely on any person, place, or thing in this world to fix your problems. No relationship, job, or house will save you. People die, houses fall apart, jobs come and go. Everything and everyone is temporary. The pain feels enormous and almost unbearable at times, but what are you going to do. I used to wallow in self-pity for days, years. And what did that do? Made it worse. No one magically understood after witnessing my self-pity, no one said here let me help you with that, no one said let me fix it for you. When you’re little, mama can put a band-aid on it and kiss it and make it all better, but I’m not little anymore, and Mama is gone, in a bodily sense. I can no longer resort to my back-up plan (run to Mom) when my fear of abandonment kicks in and I think my boyfriend will leave me (which he’s not; my perception is not reality). So now I just feel my feelings and say to myself, This is painful, frustrating, infuriating, and I feel sad and angry in this moment. Reliving all the things I should’ve said or not said, replaying it so that I say the right thing, rehearsing what I’ll say in the future, all that just adds fuel to the fire and makes the bitterness that much more bitter.

The most useful advice my healer gave me is to no longer do things that serve me. Seems like common sense, and like I’d have already been doing that, but it occurred to me when I started to watch “Transparent” that I really could not take watching Ali’s intimate moments with a much older Leslie, or Sarah’s BDSM sessions of getting spanked, both of which feel so inauthentic to their true selves, and are just plain uncomfortable to watch. What is Jill Soloway trying to say here? Does she see it how I see it, or is she pointing out that these forays into sexual deviance are healthy, and that we need to accept them as ways of being? While Sarah’s ex-husband’s affair with a much younger woman is also gross, it’s less so because it’s more socially acceptable; I’m more used to the idea so it’s less uncomfortable (though still annoying and gross, don’t get me wrong). Maybe she just wants us to get the conversation going about it—I hope so anyway. And it’s not beyond me that when I am disturbed something is wrong with me, that we see things as we are, not necessarily as they are. All of this annoys me to think or write about. The only likeable characters in my opinion are Shelly (Judith Light) and Vicki (Anjelica Huston), so I opted not to watch the show in favor of a much more compelling TV viewing experience, the show called “Life” on Netflix.

“Life” is a documentary series about wildlife, a beautiful divergence from human conflict and terrible decision-making that goes with being human. That being said, the witnessing of the leopard seal’s voracious attack of the sweet, recently-orphaned juvenile penguin, leaving all but the penguin’s head and wings, was devastating, and not the peaceful, soulful experience I had hoped for. But then, it’s TV. While TV can be unbearable most of the time for me at this stage of my life, it’s something to do when I don’t have the energy or space to do anything else.

So while my healing experience wasn’t exactly healing, especially after coming home to a distant boyfriend (and to be fair, he has his own shit to deal with that is completely justifiable and valid), it wasn’t exactly not healing either. I went outside that night and cried in the dark while looking up at the stars, feeling, for a few moments, utterly alone. And who’s going to take care of me now? But then my inner resolve kicked in, and the words I am on my own now carried a new meaning. Not the meaning that I’m all alone and poor me, but more like I am strong and I can do this, no matter what happens.

Below is the painting I made for my healer, as payment for her services. This exercise inspired me to do more painting, a creative endeavor that I abandoned for the most part over the past 20 years. Apologies for the non-editing of the borders–I cannot access the edited version, so this is what you get:

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