Snowflakes, Unicorns and Angels

Lately I’ve been feeling like something is missing but I can’t pinpoint exactly what. It’s not exactly a lack of inspiration, but it’s a need for a stronger connection to my higher power, Spirit, or God, or whatever you want to call this energy source that’s stronger than my human power, or any human power. So every day I’ve been meditating, finally, for the first time, and I hope I can keep it up, especially after the semester starts. It will be my second to last semester in grad school for nutrition, and I’ll be starting clinic, meaning in a few weeks I’ll be working directly with clients on their nutrition needs, and I do not feel at all prepared.

It’s important for me to find meaning in life. Everything has meaning – we just don’t always know what that meaning is. For example, I don’t know what the meaning of me spending four months with a guy who I had zero interest in other than physically, and even then, the attraction was surface-level. Maybe it was just to say looks aren’t everything. And after that I had a brief stint as a “unicorn,” in which I was the third in two different couples’ threesomes, at their request. I just re-read that last sentence and it makes me lol. It is hilarious, so feel free to laugh. I’ve always been experimental, for whatever reason. It would’ve been fun to continue, though perhaps not necessarily emotionally healthy, especially with the one particular couple who I really connected with on more than a physical level. And there are still other experiences I want to try. But it’s not meant to be at this point in time, because soon after my unicorn stint I met my current boyfriend, who is a wonderful man.

This wonderful man I’ll call Mac, short for Matthew McConaughey because he’s a good-looking Southern guy, and he’s actually old enough to be my father. Matthew McConaughey is probably only about five or 10 years older than me, but you get the gist. Anyway, I have so much fun with Mac and we have tons in common, but that extra spark is just… not there. It’s not that there’s no chemistry, because there is. Almost everything lines up perfectly except for that one thing I can’t put my finger on. There are only two things I can think of that really bother me, and one is that he has terrible table manners, and the other is that I am dying to have my own space.

My soul yearns for my own home, and it feels like forever before that will happen. Even though I graduate in August, which still seems a long time from now, I won’t be a certified nutritionist in the state of Maryland until after I get 700 more clinic hours, and that could take another year. It’s so expensive to live in this area I have doubts that I’ll be able to get my own place during that time. After I get all of those hours and become certified, my certification will be useless in certain states, where you don’t even need a certification to practice as a nutritionist. Now that I’ve decided it’s unlikely I’ll stay in Maryland due to the high cost of living, all this money I just borrowed for grad school is starting to feel like a waste. And that’s exactly what happened to me after I graduated from my first grad school after which I got a useless master’s degree in creative writing. That being said, I want to move away from negative thinking, and exercise the law of attraction, and manifest more positivity in my life. Maybe I’ll come back to that one day. Maybe it’ll come in handy, and I’ll become the writer that I always wanted to be, that I already am.

My latest thing is opening myself up to the messages that the universe/multiverse or spirit guides have for me. Last night a woman came into the store to return all of her items so that she could buy them back on her membership discount, because she’d forgotten to give her membership card at checkout. The old me would’ve been really annoyed and judged her for not having her shit together, and for the cashier for not remembering to ask for her card, but last night was different. We all forget things, especially me. Is that so bad? What stood out to me was that she noticed that her total came out to $123.41, and she took a picture of it, saying that she saw numbers like that all the time. So we talked about numbers and signs while my co-worker, who probably thought we were nuts, returned her merchandise. The same kinds of things have been happening to me. When I was driving to work, I looked up and saw 1010 on a mailbox. I was born at 10:10am. The other night I awoke at 4:44am, and later that same day when I looked at the time, it was 4:44pm. One could argue that I look at the clock and street signs hundreds of other times and all those times I don’t see repeating or chronological numbers, and that’s true. But I choose to believe they’re signs from angels and I find this a comfort. This morning I was listening to Ashley Wood’s Manifest This podcast and in an interview with Jenna Zoe she mentioned how we are each snowflakes, that we’re each unique, but when you throw us all into a pile of snow we’re not so different, or you can’t tell that we’re so different. Jenna Zoe said that her best friend had just said the same thing to her earlier that day, and maybe a minute or two later, as I was cleaning out my closet I pulled out some jewelry that had belonged to my mom, or had been given to me by either her or my grandma, and right on top was a snowflake broach. Are all these events really just coincidence?

One of the loudest messages I’ve been hearing is just that everyone has their own journey. This is something I knew intellectually, but in my heart and soul I wasn’t accepting it. For example, my dad, who is a dry drunk, was recently abandoned by his bipolar, drug-addicted wife, which at first seemed like the best thing for him. As always, I had a hope that he’d change his life, maybe move to the beach and find God. But nope. The wife has regained her senses and is weaseling her way back into my dad’s life. And maybe that is what’s best for him, for them. It’s not for me to say. It makes me sad to see that’s their journey because they seem so spiritually sick and oblivious. But who am I to judge?

Getting back to the woman who came to me in the store, her name was the same as a famous female musician, which I won’t write here to protect her anonymity. She told me that she had gotten chills a couple of times throughout the conversation, and I ended up telling her my mom had passed two years ago. She almost started crying, and she took my hand and squeezed it, saying my mom is all around me, that she loves me so much. I have another friend like this, who would come into my work from time to time, an older woman who I know from AA. After Mom died she would come into my work and while we were talking she’d say, I have chills! That’s your mom. She’d tell me all the time that my mom was there with me, that angels are all around us. I believed that she believed it, and maybe that’s what gave her chills, and I didn’t not believe my mom wasn’t with me, but at the same time I’ve always been skeptical. Something’s happening, and I don’t know what it is, nor do I know if anyone else knows. But it’s there and we can choose to believe it or not.

I think I’ll go ahead and choose to believe it.

Peace, love, and namaste,

TCH

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Pink Roses and Pennies from Heaven

Right now I can feel that I’m on the cusp of a spiritual awakening, or shift in perspective, or beliefs, and I don’t know what they are, or what will happen, but I can feel it. It all started with two events: 1) looking up my birth chart and finding that it was uncannily accurate, and 2) my dad’s allusion to my mother’s possible infidelity at the end of their marriage. The birth chart idea came up when my co-worker suggested it, as she had done many times, as I’d dismissed many times, thinking it’s too new-agey, too woowoo. But then for some reason I decided I’d see what it said. I’m sure I’ve done it before, in high school, when I was very into analyzing my dreams, reading Edgar Cayce books, and had learned to lucid dream. My best friend was and still is into astrology and crystals and chakras and everything new age, and now she practices acupuncture and Chinese medicine which I know very little about. I want scientific explanations, and I don’t think Western science has all the answers, and in fact I think there’s so much more out there that we/I have yet to learn, or re-learn, and I have an interest in learning more about quantum physics. Anyway, my birth chart is amazingly accurate, so I looked up my sisters’, my boyfriend’s, and parents’, and they all seemed accurate enough that if you were to switch them up without knowing they’d been switched, you might suspect they’d been switched. You’d say they were wrong. But I only felt like that on this one website. I haven’t tried but one other website, which didn’t seem accurate.

This whole birth chart review along with thinking about who my mom was as a person has led me to thinking about mediums. A couple years ago my hairdresser had mentioned that she’d seen one who knew details no one else could know, and that she and all her friends had seen her, so I finally decided to set up an appointment with her. And I don’t know who the medium reached, if anyone, but it couldn’t have been my mother.

First off, she sensed someone who’d died of heart or lung problems, and my mom had a stroke. She did say that the way it worked was someone would come forward and then she’d ask them to get my mom. So it could’ve been my mom’s mom, who’d had lung cancer, or her grandma, who’d died of a heart attack. It seemed to me that anyone could guess heart or lungs – that’s not uncommon. The medium described my mom as a reserved, kind-hearted, and charming person. Mom was kind-hearted but not reserved and she sure didn’t try to charm anyone. She was a tell-it-like-it-is kind of a person. She said that she saw water, and my mom lived near a lake, but she also said my mom loved water. My mom’s father drowned when she was six months old, and she was afraid of water for most of her life. She didn’t learn how to swim until she was in her 30s. Then the medium mentioned the color pink, that Mom was surrounded in pink, and she sensed pink roses. It’s true that when I think of Mom I imagine her wearing pale pink pajamas because she loved pajamas and she had some very pale pink pajamas, but she did not like the color pink. The medium said that Mom’s advice to me was to be frugal and that she was sending me pennies from heaven. This isn’t really anything Mom would say to me. She did worry about money but she never told me to be frugal. She thought I made a lot of money and never worried about me, but I’m actually in debt and sometimes spend beyond my means. So that does make me wonder. It makes me wonder if now she knows I was doing that to prove my independence, so she wouldn’t worry about me, so she’d think I was strong. She wouldn’t say she was sending pennies from heaven.

Two nights later I was walking out of a meeting and someone looked down and said, “Whoa there’s a pile of pennies here on the floor!” and I thought to myself, Now every time I see pennies I’ll wonder if it’s my mom. And you know what? Maybe it’s not, but I’m going to choose to believe it is. I find it a comfort. Maybe the medium was full of shit, and maybe it was a waste of my money, but I still found it comforting. I’d have liked it better had she mentioned owls, lavender, reading, politics, Mom’s feisty nature. Something specific to Mom. Or something random like something about Dolly Parton, because Mom and I went to see “9 to 5,” a play showing at her local theater, just before she died. Then I’d have been blown away.

The weird thing that happened about 20 minutes before the call was that I was straightening my hair in the bathroom, alone in the house, and the mirror fell. I was trying to hurry so that I could meditate before the call, and first the earbuds I’d hung on the towel rack fell. I picked them up, thinking it was probably a coincidence, and then a couple minutes later the entire mirror fell. It did not break, but rather, it was wedged between the walls. A 50-pound mirror that’s been hanging since 1983, which I know because that’s the date on the back of the mirror, I later found out (August 1 or August 10, I forget which now), and probably when this house was built. I hadn’t been moving much, no one had banged on the wall, nothing had provoked the mirror at all, and it just fell. So I got the hell out of there, went downstairs and meditated.

I want to write so much more, but I have to get ready for work, and I want to pray and meditate beforehand, so more on all of this later.

Oh and I forgot to say that after my call with the medium, I went into the dining room and there were pink roses on the table. So that was weird. My roommate apparently had brought them home the night before.

This is going to be a journey.

Good Guys, Bad Guys, and the Ugly Truth

John Welwood, a writer and psychologist I’d never heard of until reading his article, “Intimate Relationship as a Spiritual Crucible” (in this month’s Lion’s Roar), just became my new spiritual hero. My Kindle is charging right now so I can buy one of his books, because I feel like I just found the answer to my relationship troubles, which is this: at their worst, relationships can bring out the deepest, most painful feelings of being unloved, but when we can face those feelings, accept that they’re there, accept who we are and who our partner is, we can grow spiritually. We must have the breakdown to get to the breakthrough. The key is “not losing our twoness in the oneness, while not losing our oneness in the twoness.”

This is always the problem I run into. In the beginning, my partner is my world, which means that after some time, my world becomes small. Instead of having my own friends, my time alone, my hobbies, I spend all my free time with the guy. With my ex-husband, I eventually did my own thing all the time, without spending much time with him, and he did his own thing. It was like living with a roommate instead of a partner. Each of us swam in our own fishbowl. Then I became intertwined with Steven, and none of my free time was spent on self-care, unless it was during a period of him shutting me out during his depressive episodes, and those times for me were spent feeling abandoned and hurt while trying to ignore that I felt that way, trying to spiritually bypass those feelings, which is one of the ways Welwood says we try to avoid the pain of being in a relationship. The other way is to leave altogether, which is ultimately what happens in my relationships, hence two divorces and my current singlehood at 41 years of age.

Another Buddhist whose name I can’t remember once said something that struck me, which was that when you become committed to a relationship, what you must know is that you’re going to have times in which you feel lonely. Being married does not change that. I know this from experience, and I’d say it’s more painful than being single and feeling lonely. When the other person switches from being the one who saved me from myself (which by the way is not the role a partner can realistically/healthily play) to the one who destroyed me, or worse, ignored or did not acknowledge me, or abandoned me—it opens up deep-rooted childhood wounds of not feeling accepted, unloved, unloveable. According to Welwood, everyone has these feelings at some point because everyone has had some kind of disappointment that probably started in childhood, because that’s just life. If you want your relationship to work, you must be willing to get down to the nitty gritty reality and ride the waves when tough times come.

One important point I want to raise here is that one could use this argument as a basis to accept abuse, and that’s one situation that I can’t condone. Also, I feel that both partners must be willing to commit—this can’t be the kind of situation in which your partner constantly breaks it off while you wait around and take them back when they decide they want to return to you.

My first thought as I was reading this was to send it to my ex and tell him that the ugliness that revealed itself in the end was what happens in a relationship, no one’s perfect, I said something hurtful to him that opened a deep wound within him that could not be healed or forgiven or forgotten, and that was this: I felt that you hugged your daughter too much, and it seemed inappropriate because she’s 13 now and getting too old for that.

No matter that I prefaced it with how it was my own issue, that I felt jealous, and no matter that I explained that I have my own childhood issues. No matter that I apologized, multiple times, that I admitted I was wrong, there’s no age limit on hugging one’s child, that I emphasized that never once did I think he was a child molester or that he’d ever even thought of molesting his child. How can a person recover from that? In my case, it wasn’t possible. What I’d thought was that maybe a man should keep more physical distance from his daughter as she grows older, but that because he’d never been a father to a teenage girl before he didn’t know about that “rule,” this rule I’d created, or grown up with, because my family hugs each other but we’re not as affectionate as some families. That’s just it. Some families are more affectionate than others. What I’d wanted was for him to show his kids that I was part of the family too, that I was his partner, but instead I felt like an extra wheel to their trio of unconditional love that happens between parent and child.

My therapist suggested that maybe I purposely and subconsciously sabotaged the relationship because I began to feel it wasn’t working. He’d placed unrealistic expectations on me to skip out on visiting my sister and stepfather for Thanksgiving (right after my mom died) and visit his father in the nursing home, his father who’d abused him and who hadn’t seen in five years, who’d been living in Ohio in a nursing home for the past three years. And he’d wanted me to have telepathy, to just know that’s what he wanted me to do, so he told me it didn’t matter if I went or not, then became angry and hurt when I expressed my choice to visit my family. I changed my mind when I saw how much it meant to him that I be there for him, but the truth was that I just could not be there for him during that time. Resentment grew because I felt that he was putting a time limit on my grief over my mom’s death.

The only thing worse than being hurt by someone else, for me, is knowing you hurt someone else and destroyed the very relationship you cherished above all else.

I want to believe we could’ve gotten through both of those situations, and maybe we could have. But the next hurdle to overcome would be that I need my space and time away from him, and he was not into “sharing” me with other people. I chose to spend my time with him—it was what I wanted, too. But now that I’ve had time away from him, have made my own friends, have my own haven, I don’t want to go back to that. At the time my sponsor told me that reconciliation was possible but it would have to be a different relationship.

The good part that came from all this pain is that I grew spiritually. Oh my God. Tenfold. Especially because my mother had died suddenly a few months prior to this. I’d believed he was my savior, that if I couldn’t have my mom anymore then at least I had a partner to take care of me. But the truth is, no one’s going to save me or take care of me except for me, with the help of a higher power that I call God.

Now I have a better idea of what I want from a relationship. I know–intellectually, let’s be real here–that finding a partner will not fix me. Practicing it is another thing, but I have the knowledge. I’ve spent many months beating myself up over saying those words to my ex, and I still regret it and feel ashamed for having expressed that, telling myself that no matter what I do in my next relationship, don’t ever express jealousy on that level. Writing this here and posting this is not easy for me, because I’m afraid you’ll all judge me, and I’ve wrestled with it for some time, but here it is. The ugly truth.

When I was a kid there was a song that used to come on the radio by Dave Mason called “We Just Disagree,” and in it he sings, “There ain’t no good guys / There ain’t no bad guys / There’s only you and me and we just disagree.” We are each human, trying to make our way. Sometimes we eff up. It’s what happens after that, how we handle it, that matters, where the spiritual growth comes.

I want to give this article to whoever I get into a serious relationship with next time, to say, Look here, buddy. Shit’s gonna happen. Do you want to be in this together or not? And if dude cannot handle conflict—if we cannot handle conflict together—then it’s just not going to work.

So there you go. For anyone out there who’s been following my blog for these past several months, wondering what in the world I could’ve said that was so bad, there you have it.

Now I’d rather feel the occasional loneliness that inevitably happens at some point during a relationship than be single. It’s not that I feel lonely all the time as a single person—I enjoy my solitude. The prospect of being in another relationship feels scary because I don’t want to lose the time I’ve gained building friendships and focusing on my own growth. At the same time, I want to be able to do that while in a relationship. That would be the ultimate growth, or so it seems to me.

I’m on eHarmony because the guys there want to be in a relationship, and because we each get to be honest and open about who we are and what we want, up front. Not that I put on my profile page that I’m a sober alcoholic, but I did write that I don’t smoke, drink, or do drugs, ever, and am looking for someone who’s the same. A light or occasional drinker is okay but if there’s someone out there who loves to learn about craft beers or visit wineries, they can move right along and that will be fine with me. it’s not a secret that I’m a sober alcoholic but the guy can meet me first and then decide if he thinks I’m a train wreck he can’t deal with, because I know I’m not. Guys with small children or even teenagers are a no-go for me at this point. Honestly, there are a lot of no-gos for me at this point. The most important part is that the guy not be a commitment-phobe. Don’t drag me into something that you hope will develop into something more only to realize that not only can I not fix you but I have the power to destroy you—or rather, you may feel destroyed, but you’re not. I sure as hell felt destroyed in the end, but that’s just the point at which I hit bottom, which was the necessary place to go before I could emerge a stronger, more resilient person, capable of loving and being loved. Maybe one day he and I can forgive each other, and I must say there’s no way in hell I’ll ever tell another guy he hugs his kid too much or that it’s inappropriate, but I’ll probably say or do something else that cuts his heart, just as he’ll do for me, but I believe that it’s when you can grow together through the painful times that a deeper love can develop.

So maybe I’m codependent but I am determined to learn how to be in a healthy relationship, which is why I go to Codependents Anonymous. AA saved my life—faith in God saved my life—and I’m grateful to have found a new way of life compared to the hellhole I used to live in. Maybe online dating is a distraction for me to feel better about myself by looking outside of me when the solution lies within. And I am looking within, too. After having been rejected a second time, after the ex, by a guy who uses spirituality as a means of emotional detachment, I’ve decided to give eHarmony a shot. I don’t seem to have a good “picker,” as they say in the rooms, so I’m letting an online dating algorithm do it for me. Because my picker lately seems to choose men who do not want to commit, after having chosen men who put me on a pedestal, who I wasn’t that into but knew would never leave me. It’s time to find someone in between those extremes.

Today is a good day. I’m off to Zumba here in a few, and later I’ll get to hear Sharon Salzberg speak for Tara Brach. Salzberg has written a lot of beautiful, powerful words about loving-kindness, compassion, and living life on a spiritual basis, and I feel honored to get to see her in person tonight.

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Opening Your Heart and Finding Gratitude

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(The above quote was taken from notey.com.)

In A Path With Heart, Jack Kornfield writes:

As we notice our thoughts in meditation, we discover that they are not in our control—we swim in an uninvited constant stream of memories, plans, expectations, judgments, regrets. The mind begins to show how it contains all possibilities, often in conflict with one another—the beautiful qualities of a saint and the dark forces of a dictator and murderer…

…This dualistic nature of thought is a root of our suffering. Whenever we think of ourselves as separate, fear and attachment arise and we grow constricted, defensive, ambitious, and territorial…

…To heal, we must learn to step back from all the stories of the mind, for the conflicts of our thoughts and opinions never end… The mind thinks of the self as separate, the heart knows better.

Meditation and Buddhism in general can seem like a good way to detach oneself, to believe in the story of how none of this matters—and these things are true, to an extent—but I can use that as an excuse to disengage from others. But really it’s about getting in touch with the heart, which starts, or works in conjunction with, loving oneself while loving others more deeply.

And all these stories in our head are just that: stories. As I re-read Kornfield’s words, I’m reminded of how everyone thinks like this. Over the past few days, I’ve been feeling separate, all because of stories in my head, stories based in fear, fear that there’s a limited pool of opportunity accessible to others that, when they receive this opportunity, it becomes somehow unavailable to me. Comparing myself to others, sometimes in a way that’s self-aggrandizing and other times puts me beneath everyone else. When really we are all just people, each of us trying to make our way. If I were to get what that other person has that I want, I’d find problems with it. As Kornfield writes, we’re wired to be dissatisfied. From what I’ve learned over the years, the key is to practice gratitude, and to do so on a regular basis. As Kornfield writes, we never become fully successful. I have a short-term memory, and I’m a slow learner, and I don’t think most or possibly all other people are any different. If I want to gain self-love and self-compassion, I must practice it, and exercise it repetitiously.

Specifically, what I’m alluding to in my life is the fact that my fling with a guy recently ended. There are a few different ways to tell this story: I got dumped, he left me for his ex, it didn’t work out, it wasn’t meant to be. I found myself feeling isolated. Here I am, six months new to this area, beginning to make friends, beginning to feel more comfortable in my skin, and there they are, fixtures in this community, long-time members with roots. Where do I fit in? Do I avoid outings because they might be there? Do I go to different meetings, ditch these friends, and try to make friends elsewhere? And why couldn’t I have what she got: an old-timer boyfriend who scooped her up from the start of her journey into AA and took care of all of her needs and wants: love, shelter, food, community, entertainment. Somehow, they became stars of the community in my mind. A friend told me, If you had all of that you’d feel trapped. How true. Why? Because I didn’t do it for myself. I remember once, in the beginning, when we went out and I looked around and noticed most of the people there (really only a few) were his friends, that this was his world, and I felt like a disposable accessory. But one of my friends reminded me that I have friends in this community, people who want me around.

And how do I know for sure that’s how her life looks to her? Her being his former ex, his current girlfriend, or wife is more like it. How do I know for sure that she has everything she needs and wants? It’s just a story I made up about her to compare myself to an unrealistic ideal, based in fear that I will not be taken care of. Constantly I’m looking outside myself to be taken care of, when the very thing that will take care of me is inside me, and it comes from a higher power that I call God.

God takes care of me. I take care of myself. During this time I’m growing, possibly more than ever. It’s so painful sometimes. Growth for me doesn’t happen without pain. At first I lamented over the fact that my ex didn’t come back to me in the way that her ex went back to her, that I didn’t get from my ex what she’s getting and has gotten, which is for all of her needs to be taken care of. I kept thinking, God, I don’t want to do this by myself. In reality, I do want to do it by myself, and I am doing it by myself—with God’s help and the help of my friends.

All of this comes a few days after setting up profiles on Match.com and eHarmony. Because let’s be real, folks: I want a boyfriend. A husband, or partner really. I’m codependent, remember? But I’m also human, and humans are social animals. My therapist had suggested it, my AA sponsor agreed, and my CODA sponsor said no way, that I need to get comfortable with being single.

Well it’s too late now. I’ve already signed up, and I am single. I’m a single woman dating, and I’m taking my time. There’s no rush, and I’d rather take it slowly to find someone I really connect with, rather than try to force something to work that’s not there. Possibly it’s foolish to be doing this now, when I barely have time to do anything outside of school work in my free time while staying on top of my not just physical but emotional sobriety by going to meetings and doing the footwork and self-care that living a spiritual life requires. But honestly? This is my life. I can’t spend all my free time making a guy my higher power like how I did with my ex. I got shit to do. He should be taking care of his own shit in the meantime, and not smoking pot or drinking beer or being a workaholic or watching TV all day like my other exes.

Next week I have a coffee date with a bankruptcy lawyer who feels like he missed his calling as a therapist, who looks good in some pictures but just okay in others, and who, most importantly, has kind, familiar eyes. But Ted Bundy might’ve had kind eyes to some people too, and bankruptcy and law are boring to me, and a therapist could be someone whose crazier than the rest of us, in ways that I cannot deal with.

You may have noticed that I first defined this guy by his job, a common mistake. I hated it when people defined me by my job when I was working in marketing, and now I don’t even want people to know I work in a grocery store because I don’t want people judging me… all because I judge myself. Sometimes the things we can’t stand in others are the very things we can’t stand in ourselves. My goal is not to judge someone or define them by their job but rather by who they are as a person.

On a deeper level, I look for in a man what I want for myself, which is someone who has their shit together. I want to be on the right path. And guess what? I am. Maybe I’m still not quite where I want to be, but I’m okay with that in this moment. All of this is an ongoing process that doesn’t end until the day I die.

Today I am right where I need to be. I’m grateful to have woken up an hour early (just by chance! Thank you, God!), to write this post, to have my friends and family, to have a nurturing workplace environment, to have healthy food and a comfortable living space. I am grateful to be on this path, to have guides who help me along the way, to have an opportunity to be a guide for others. I’m grateful for my readers, and for your posts on self-love, self-care, spirituality, positivity. Most of all, I’m grateful to be aware of God’s presence in my life.

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Peace and love,

TCH

 

The Eye of God

This time a year ago I would’ve been sitting in my room, writing, oblivious to what would unfold 12 hours later, when my sister would call me at work to tell me that our mother had had a stroke and that the outcome did not look good. That was the worst day of my life.

Today I’m driving back to North Carolina again, this time to visit my stepdad, my sister, my best friend, and then tomorrow to South Carolina to visit my dad and his wife. Tomorrow we’ll look at the eclipse, a once-in-a-lifetime, awe-inspiring event. I think it’s so cool that tomorrow is the anniversary of mom’s death. I read in this article in which an eclipse enthusiast, Rick Brown, describes the solar eclipse as the “eye of God.”

Yesterday I came across this article that was in my school’s newsletter from tinybuddha.com. A good reminder to have gratitude. The negativity I sometimes find  engulfed in does not serve me, or anyone else. It just sets in my brain and keeps me down. What I like about this article is the idea of taking something that bothers me, and seeing the positives of it. Even if my job doesn’t pay much, I’m good at it, and I like my job, which is more than I can say for 99% all my other jobs. When I feel alone, I must remember that I have family and friends who love me, and who I love. Last night I got to hang out with my friends, and today I get to visit my family for a few days. I may be slightly stressed about visiting my family, but how lucky am I to have family. And I include my stepdad and best friend in that, and I love them all very much.

Now I hope to God for my dad’s sake alone that there’s not a cloud in the sky when this eclipse comes tomorrow because my father has been planning for this event—I kid you not—for about five years now. He rented a cabin years ago, bought the glasses and everything. He determined on a map the latitude and longitude of exactly where we need to be for maximum visibility, and he has a backup plan for where we can go if it’s cloudy (not sure how that will he, but he does have a backup plan).

In light of recent events–and just because–I’m mildly anxious about visiting my family next week. My dad loves Robert E. Lee and the Confederate South, though I will say in his favor he doesn’t love the slavery and racism of it. Probably like many Southerners he dismisses that crucial piece of history as being something white people just did at the time. I’m not saying it’s okay or that I agree with it, because I do not, and for the record, I do not love Robert E. Lee and I’m glad the South did not win. However, I do not want to get into a discussion or argument about it with my dad (or anyone else), nor do I want to hear him rant. An innocent person got killed, many others injured, and Trump’s reaction(s) was/were horribly inappropriate, and that’s just my two cents. But again, I’m not interested in talking about this with my dad, who’s crushed that people want to take down memorials of his hero. I love my dad. We just don’t see eye to eye on most subjects. He’s a bit of an Archie Bunker, but he’s endearing and quirky in his way. And he’s my father.

School starts back soon and my free time won’t be free anymore, so I’ve had a bit of the end-of-the-summer blues these past few days. But isn’t this a wonderful time in my life, right now? My job’s not that stressful, and I get to learn so much every day. Now I get to see the eclipse, which my dad planned for, making it so easy for me. Otherwise, I’d have stayed home and probably worked. I’d have missed out on this.

I miss the people who once were in my life but are no longer anymore. But I believe I’ll see my mom again one day, and she lives forever in my heart, today. As for my ex-boyfriend, who I loved more than any other guy I’ve ever dated or married–and there have been a lot–I know that one day I will find someone I love just as much or more, and who will love me the same. Right now is time to focus on me. On learning and growing. School. Spirituality.

I know this post is all over the place, and I want to write more, but I haven’t even started packing, and I don’t want it to be dark out by the time I get to the middle of nowhere western North Carolina tonight. Everyone on this side of the country seems to be driving to South Carolina today so traffic will probably be heavy.

I just want to say one last thing. It’s significant to me that my mom died a year ago tomorrow, the day of the solar eclipse. What a powerful time for the one-year anniversary of her death. Not that her death is anything to be celebrated, but rather, her life is. Rest in peace, Mom. You’ll be forever loved.

rumi

The Meaning of Life, Part III

Last night there was a little frog hopping about in the parking lot of the church where I go to a 12-step meeting on Saturday nights. I almost stepped on him when he caught Jay’s eye at the same time he caught mine. Jay’s like a hawk when it comes to spotting wildlife. When we’re riding down the road, he’s already seen three groundhogs, bats, and a family of deer while I’m lost in my own world, making images out of the pink clouds before me. I love staring at the sky. It’s different every day.

So this little frog hopped right by, heading straight for impending death, towards the exit where everyone was driving their cars, and I’ve got my mini-flashlight to light the way, and someone’s like, “He’s gonna get splattered!” A couple of the other women and I decided this could not happen, so I just reached right down and picked him up. “He’ll pee on you!” someone warned. I picked up frogs all the time when I was a little girl and never once did one pee on me, but I decided to bite my tongue since this wasn’t a contest to see who was the most outdoorsy, though I’d already decided I’d won, in spite of the fact that I haven’t picked up a frog in years.

Something about picking up that frog really touched my heart. I kind of wanted to kiss his little head and tell him everything would be okay, not to be scared. His little heart was pounding in my enclosed cupped hand, where I hoped he felt safe. Imagine just walking along one day, on your way to work, minding your own business, when suddenly a giant hand scoops you up and next thing you know you’re basically teleported to another world. Turns out it was probably his home, being the woods, and I made sure to walk far enough into the woods (I hope), away from the parking lot so that he wouldn’t be tempted to go back out there and meet his death sooner than necessary. I set him down on the earth, and he just sat there, not moving. I wanted to wait and just watch him, but I decided to leave him alone. That was probably enough craziness for him for one night.

It just made me think of how small we are in the world, how vast the universe, or multiverse really, is. How can someone know for sure this is all there is just because this is all we have proof of, all that we see? This is why I don’t kill the lone ant or bug I see crawling around in my house on occasion—though I must admit that a few years ago I engaged in a battle with an army of ants who thought my kitchen was their home, and many had to die. I have to keep this blog honest. And I felt guilty since their ancestors probably had been living on that land for centuries before someone came along and built a house on it, but I was kind of like, Hey this is my house now, my turf, and there’s just not room for you, not if you’re going to eat my food and dirty the place up. Had they wanted to stay underground that would’ve been fine with me, but they don’t speak English and I don’t speak ant, unfortunately. Hopefully one day we can all speak the same language and learn to live in harmony. As it was, they were probably carpenter ants, which will destroy a person’s house, and well, sometimes it’s just a Darwinian world (and in the grand scheme of things, that probably means that ultimately the ants will win… or at least cockroaches, as we all know).

But every now and then I’ll see an ant or a spider just marching along, say, in my bathtub, and I wonder where he came from, and where he’s going. Ants can live anywhere from 15 years to 30 years, and not the 24 hours many of us attribute to the life cycle of an insect. What happens during that time? What does the world look like when you’ve spent most of your time traveling along the earth, doing your thing, helping the family, building your home, mating, finding food, contributing to the community with whatever job you signed up for. All you can see is the earth beneath your feet, and the sky’s so far away it just looks like a vast blue, pink, orange, or black, depending on the time of day. Is there an ant somewhere with a tiny laptop, so tiny humans can’t see it under a microscope, sitting in her bed banging away on the keyboard, pouring out her heart to a community of ants, pondering the meaning of life? Is there a giant creature out there observing me as I type on this laptop, someone so big that the edge of his hand looks like nothing but a star-studded sky? And maybe someone else bigger than that creature, observing him, and so on.

Did that frog go home to his family and tell tales of how he was catapulted from the parking lot to the woods, how he’d been saved by one of the benevolent humans, while other frogs ruminated over loved ones who’d been smashed by “natural” disasters, giant wheels that bulldozed right over them? Here one minute, gone the next. Maybe the frogs had such limited knowledge of humans that many of them did not believe it, only the few who’d had exchanges with humans, and maybe all the other frogs thought the believers were crazy. Yeah, right, you were somehow picked up by a giant hand. And the hand prodded at you with a giant log and a light beamed down on you brighter than any light you’d ever seen. Maybe some of the frogs make up stories because they want so badly to believe this spiritual experience, or maybe they dreamt it and thought it was real. Maybe they just have a feeling that there’s more to life than this but they just don’t know what exactly it is.

In Man’s Search for Meaning, Victor Frankl writes about his life in a Nazi concentration camp (the italics are mine):

“But in robbing the present of its reality there lay a certain danger… Such people forgot that often it is just such an exceptionally difficult external situation which gives man the opportunity to grow spiritually beyond himself. Instead of taking the camp’s difficulties as a test of their inner strength, they did not take their life seriously and despised it as something of no consequence… Naturally only a few people were capable of reaching great spiritual heights. But a few were given the chance to attain human greatness even through their apparent worldly failure and death, an accomplishment which in ordinary circumstances they would never have achieved… there was an opportunity and a challenge. One could make a victory of those experiences, turning life into an inner triumph, or one could ignore the challenge and simply vegetate, as did a majority of the prisoners.”

I would argue that anyone is capable of reaching great spiritual heights, should she want to, should she seek it, and that we are all given opportunities to turn something beautiful into life’s struggles. What I think part of what Frankl’s saying is that this opportunity becomes greater the deeper one’s suffering. Living in a concentration camp is something I can only imagine, not having lived that life, but my suffering has been just as painful for me as yours was for you.

It also made me reflect on how I approached my most recent pain, after Mom died, and the ex broke my heart. Like Frankl I began to look at it as a thing of the past, something to grow and learn from, something from which a butterfly would emerge. That helped tremendously.

Prior to that, prior to my sober life, I spent years ruminating over the meaninglessness of it all. Every morning I got up, dreaded the day before me, despised my commute into work, played a role at work all day of being normal and happy, or at least not too miserable, obsessing all day about how much I could not wait to get home and drink. That was my purpose, all I lived for.

Now when I wake up, I look forward to my day. I love my job, my co-workers, my friends. I enjoy learning about new things. It’s also nice to have a day off from work and enjoy nature. And I love writing this blog.

Today life is good, and today is all we have. Yesterday may have seen tragic times, and tomorrow may hold worse disaster—heck, right now, here today, could be hell on earth. But it’s in how we choose to approach it that matters. I have no idea if there’s a God out there watching after me, any more than that frog knows how exactly he made it into the woods again back to safety. And for all I know a snake came along and ate him minutes later. I’m not God, even for the frog. But I like to think that little frog felt safe, that he told his friends that he’d survived impending disaster, that he now had a new lease on life. I like to think he woke up today and showed more love and zest for life, and had deeper connections with his fellow frogs. That he somehow had a feeling that there’s a reason for all of this, a beautiful purpose, something he’d been missing all along even though it was in front of his face, so big he can’t even see it. And that reason is to love and grow and to make the most of today, wherever you are in life. Call me ignorant or unscientific, but I believe in a higher power, which I call God. I believe there’s someone or something watching over us all, a benevolent force that wants us to be happy. For me, if I didn’t believe that, I would see no point in any of this. That’s just me. Just my two cents. It’s not a belief for everyone, and that’s okay. Whatever floats your boat. My boss, for example, is an atheist and she’s one of the most spiritual people I know, in that she has a compassionate heart and is always kind and patient with people. I believe in good.

And that, my friends, is what gets me through the day. Belief that there’s something deeper in us all, and some of us access it while some don’t, but it doesn’t matter who doesn’t. All that matters is that I do, that I access this deeper part of myself, the soul, the collective conscious, or whatever you want to call it. And that I have gratitude for today, and an ability to turn life’s struggles into gems. It’s a crazy world we live in today with all that’s going on in the news, and I hope that America isn’t turning into a Nazi Germany, but I try to leave the politics out of it for the remaining few of you who still believe that the president is a sane and well person. Just follow my mom’s advice: do the best you can, because that’s all you can do.

I’ll leave you with this song that I sent to Jay yesterday, a tribute to how I felt last week after obsessing over… well, him really. “Flight of the Conchords” was one of my favorite shows, and I love all the characters. Huge crush on Jemaine. And I love Kristen Schaal. Can’t believe this was 10 years ago.

Peace and love,

TCH

Love

I found this website and so far I like this quote:

it erupts from the soul, then subsides. that’s when you make the decision. work it out and stay in it til the end because it’s inconceivable, just the thought of being apart. it’s not necessarily the breathlessness, or the excitement, nor the sex involved. it’s not laying awake at night, imagining how those kisses felt. it’s all those things, plus the hope, that deep down feeling burned into you after that initial rush. its that weird thing people fall into when the find someone with a weirdness compatible to theirs. they call that love. it’s what you and i have. it’s not something measurable. but instead something inconceivable and you can’t even imagine not having it even when you’re fighting. as some say “Love is the irresistible desire to be desired.” others claim its a friendship set on fire. There are so many definitions, you kind of have to figure it out yourself. but the one thing I can tell you for sure is when it happens, you’ll know.

It’s true what they say, all the clichés that I thought were lies, like the one about knowing when it happens. I’m almost 40 years old and never felt as intensely as I do now for the man who came into my life almost three months ago. I thought I felt this for my ex-husband when I first met him, but I now realize it was part lust and part mania from leaving my first husband and going out on my own. While I considered him a good friend and a good person, I realize now that the love I felt for him didn’t hold the spiritual connection I have with Steven.

When I was a child my mother told me that love was conditional, in spite of how we want to say that it’s not. She told me these words – she had learned them from her therapist. You do what I want you to do, then I’m happy (and I love you). You don’t do something else that I want you to do, then I am disappointed and I’m unable to find happiness, and I will eventually leave you because you’re not giving me what I think I need. That definition of love was confusing to me then, and remained confusing for years. To this day I’m not sure if I misinterpreted what my mother said, or if she misunderstood her therapist, or if her therapist was just bat-shit crazy. If I were to ask my mother about this today, I doubt she’d remember or agree that this is an accurate definition of love.

Because the problem with that broken idea is that there is no God in it. It’s limiting and full of expectations. It places dependence upon another person for one’s own happiness. The real meaning of love is the opposite of all of those things.

I got a lot of old ideas about love from my mother, my grandmother, and the rest of my family that people will not love you if you don’t do what they want you to do and be who they want you to be. That people will talk about you behind your back if you don’t help with the dishes when you go to visit them, forget their birthday, don’t make up your bed, drop out of school, don’t get a good job, go to jail, get diagnosed with mental illness.

Looking at my mother today, it’s a different story. She’s married to a wonderful man she complains about sometimes yet loves and is committed to. She talks about what a good man he is, and how he’s always trying to help others though it’s sometimes inconvenient. She showers her grandchildren with affection, her time, and gifts. She loves her community, where she does volunteer work for the poor, the sick, and the aging. It took her a long time to grow up, just as it’s taking me a long time to grow up.

My grandmother still loves my grandfather, who died decades ago, and she never remarried or dated any other man after his death. She talked about him like he was a saint, and she kept the secret that he’d gotten another woman pregnant while he was in the war, and had married the other woman while he was writing letters to my grandma professing his love for her, which she kept to this day, over 70 years later.

True love, to me, is less about a “desire to be desired” and more about loving the other person without expectation of getting anything in return. It’s knowing that no matter what happens, even if that person leaves, that now I have the knowledge that my heart was true and open, and that I was given a gift from God to have an ability to open my heart and allow someone else in.

We all want to be loved. But for some of us it’s harder to love than to be loved. Maybe my perception is incorrect, maybe I really do have such a deep desire to feel loved and accepted for who I am, and maybe there’s this old wound that feels unloveable, and is so afraid to be rejected for not being the person I think the rest of the world – especially the object of my desire, or affection – wants me to be. Now that I am writing these words I’m seeing how this is true.

The old belief that I’m unloveable is what causes me to have difficulty in loving another person. In the past, if I felt hurt or rejected, I closed my heart and withdrew. That kept me from getting close to people. For years, for most of my life.

In order for love to grow, one cannot allow fear to take place, or to be the cause of my actions. My actions must be based in love, faith, and honesty. I have faith that no matter what happens, if he dies or leaves me, I’ll be okay because God is taking care of me. If I cling to the fear that I’ll lose what I have, I’ll miss out on what I have today, in this moment, because I’m too worried about a future that may never happen. If I cling to a fear that things won’t turn out exactly the way I want them to, again I am not focused on the present moment, nor am I appreciative of all the gifts this time brings. The biggest gift for me is to love someone else with a pure and true heart. To accept them for who they are, flaws and all. To turn those thoughts inward and see that I am loveable too, in spite of my flaws, or perhaps because of them. To be able to forgive them for their mistakes, and to also be able to forgive others for their mistakes, and to forgive myself for my mistakes. Because harboring grudges does not serve me, or anyone else. I’m thinking of my friends who I haven’t talked to in a while – my best friend specifically, who I think of as a soul sister – and who I hope to reconcile our differences with. I don’t know if she’s ready to accept me back into her life, and I have to be willing to accept that. More on that later. The point is, I have so much gratitude for this moment in my life, and I have learned so much, all because I fell in love.

Here’s a song that’s been in my head for a couple of weeks now, which speaks to me about loving someone through tough times.