Looking Back – Stepping Forward 2016~2017

Here we are, flirting with the beginning of yet another new year. As 2016 ticks its way down to the last moments we continue to experience the loss of one beloved notable person after another. It seems that this year such losses were extensive – more than any other. I came across a Facebook posting claiming that 2015 had more celebrity losses than 2016. I don’t know if that is true, but many of us are feeling these immediate losses deeply. Our beloved icons are leaving the planet and that fact taps into a host of emotions. In fact, 2016 is a year that is/was bursting with emotions that have run the gamut from extreme joy to frustration and anger, to fear and anxiety, to great sadness and very deep grief – on a global level and on a personal one. We’ve been through a lot and we’re exhausted.

I for one am ready for shift. Many of my circle are in fear of what’s to come. Many are anticipating a dark time ahead, and I’m not so naïve that I can’t see the basis for their concerns. I have those same concerns. And I will in no way allow myself to be complacent if or when the time arises that I need to tap into my stores of righteous indignation. I’m ready for that. However, I’ve decided to be more ready for dreams to come true, great things to happen, surprises to arrive, wonderful encounters to occur, new opportunities to make themselves known – I’m ready for a great year and I’m seeing it in my mind’s eye already.

I remember a conversation I had with my friend Lisa Zimmerman. Lisa was a ministry classmate of ours, now a dear and treasured friend, a spiritual counselor and gifted astrologer amongst her many talents. We were on the phone one evening talking about the state of our economy. This was during the 2008 recession when life in our country was looking quite bleak and so many people were struggling to stay afloat, many of them losing the battle. I was concerned about whether we would be able to plow through it and keep our heads above water. Lisa said something to me that I believe saved me during that time. She said, “My success is not dependent on the economy”. Just that short affirmation rang a bell deep inside me. A bell of truth. And I realized then that if I tell myself that the apparent conditions will absolutely dictate my personal outcome, it will be so. Contrarily, if I believe – and I do – that we live in the realm of Infinite Possibility, then those conditions may have absolutely no impact on my personal results.

All of that said, I have decided to place my focus (and this is a practice that requires effort on my part as the input from outside sources is relentless) on my intentions, on the things I have on the horizon, on the people I look forward to seeing, on the places I plan on visiting, on the experiences I will be having, and on the wonderful feelings these events will generate. Circumstances notwithstanding, I am in control of where my attention is concentrated, and the best part of this is that I can choose where to place my attention. I can choose. I’ve said this before, I’ll say it again, I can choose. You can choose.

Now, I realize it’s not that simple. We have some real challenges ahead, no doubt. And I believe we can and will meet those challenges with gusto and commitment. AND, while we are doing that we can also be focused on the great possibilities that await us each day. We can anticipate wonderful opportunities for success in every area of our lives. We can make choices that keep us healthy, that enhance our well-being, that nurture our relationships. We can make choices that insure success in our work and in our family dynamics. We can acknowledge that we have the power to navigate our days with kindness and graceful dignity regardless of the circumstances. We also have the power to reach out for help at times when our focus becomes a little foggy. We have power and we are at liberty to use it for good.

So, as we look back for a moment to honor and acknowledge what has been and those we have lost, let us also take a deep breath and with reverence release the past. Then take another deep breath and invite the future, with arms open to receive the gifts that are bursting forth. May we all be blessed with showers of blessings in the coming year. I thank you for your presence in my life. I thank you for taking time out of your busy lives to read what I share with you, and I deeply hope that is has been of service to you in some way.

Looking forward to our deepening connection in 2017. Happy New Year.

COMING OUT OF THE DARK REVISITED – Depression and The Dark Night

Last year I wrote a piece about depression and how this time of year often puts me into a dark place. While it may seem like “cheating” I’m reposting that piece again because I feel it bears repeating. I’m happy to report that this year I am in a much better place, enjoying the holiday vibes and feeling the excitement and joy of the season. I am focused on giving, I am focused on my family and friends and the gratitude I feel for having lived yet another year on the planet. I am focused on hope for the future. I’m focused on what is right in front of me. My prayer is that we may all live from the radiance of our inner light and that we shine that light out to the world to illuminate the dark places.

And so, below is COMING OUT OF THE DARK, take 2. I hope in some way it offers hope and comfort. Thank you for reading and thank you for walking alongside me. I see you. I love you.

FD
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I’ve read many articles and books on clinical depression. Thankfully it’s a topic that is addressed more and more openly in our culture. Yet there is still a stigma surrounding it in terms of speaking about it. Unlike a condition like diabetes, or COPD, or even cancer, depression carries with it the aspect of shame and something to be hidden or whispered about.

I’ve been managing clinical depression for decades. This condition has its tendrils throughout my family. In my nuclear family my brother, my mother, father and daughter all have battled with at one time or another. My understanding is that it is commonly hereditary. It certainly seems to be in my case. The phenomenon is far-reaching.

It has been a battle for most of my life. I can trace it back to early childhood when I would feel the need to isolate myself, or would have long bouts of tears for no apparent reason. I had very low self-esteem at a young age, which went hand in hand with the episodes of depression that began early and followed me into adolescence, early adulthood and into my middle and later years.

Ordinarily I am known as a pretty vivacious and gregarious person. I love to laugh and spend time with family and friends. I’m a good listener and a compassionate presence. My husband and I have a wonderful life and people who know us often envy our marriage. Materially we have everything we need and more and enjoy our life tremendously in spite of limited financial resources. My work is a great gift and I’m blessed with the time to pursue many of the interests and passions I once had to set aside for other more pressing pursuits like a fulltime job and parenting. I’ve certainly have had my challenges, ups and downs, gains and losses and continue to work at navigating the curveballs that often come. I’ve gained wisdom over the years and continue to be curious learner and a spiritual seeker.

All of that said, when the clouds of depression gather it’s easy to look at the wonderful state of my life and wonder how on earth I could ever be depressed. In fact that thought often exacerbates an already blooming bout of depression. As many like me report, the onset often accompanies the changing seasons from summer into the winter months. At times it begins like a creeping fog around the end of August or early September barely noticeable and often ignored since the symptoms are subtle at that point and easy to blow off as little rumbles. That’s how it started this time.

The creep began in late August when summer was waning. I began to notice some changes in my energy, extra sensitivity to my surroundings, some sadness at the end of long days and short nights, flowers dying off and trees beginning to change. I love the colors of Fall, yet this year it was reminding me of the tremendous challenges we were facing a year ago and I felt my emotions reflecting on the loss, sadness, chaos and anger that were all part of last year’s events, the events that subsequently brought us to this point. Thankfully I was about to start working with a new therapist and I felt hopeful that I would bypass any sort of downward spiral from “anniversary syndrome”. Ironically our 25th wedding anniversary was on October 14th and we fully expected it would be celebrated with a bang. We were also anticipating a 10-day trip to Sedona at the end of the month as our gift to each other, so there was much to celebrate and anticipate. Unfortunately my expectations were far greater than the reality and the day came and went with very little “bang”…it was more like a little “poof”. I made the mistake of creating some unrealistic expectations that fell flat and when they fell they took my teetering emotions with them. Any hope I’d had of avoiding the spiral was dashed that week and I could feel my footing slipping all over the place. We did go to Sedona and it was a wonderful trip, one of the best we ever had. Unfortunately, the spiral came along and while it wasn’t dominant, it was there and felt. Upon our return it began to spin and the pull began. Shortly after we got home my husband learned that the job that saved him and us a year ago would be coming to an end and he needed to reignite his job search. This brought up some old feelings for both of us and I began to worry that it might usurp the progress my beloved husband had made in recovering from a nightmare experience he’d had in his previous job. I knew my own emotional
well-being was teetering and held fast to the hope that his was more firmly rooted. Thankfully he was/is in good form and is well along the way in his search, with a great attitude and some real prospects.

I, on the other hand, in spite of bringing forth all of the tools I know to employ when the darkness looms, have been making a slow and consistent slide downward, accompanied by the always present guilt and anxiety that goes along for the ride. I thought I was hanging in there and could possibly minimize the trip to the “dark side” when I had a deeply disturbing encounter with a friend that essentially pushed me over, and I landed fully in the downward momentum of my spiraling emotions where I now find myself. I can sense that light is nearby, but right now I simply can’t seem to reach it consistently. The holiday season carries its own challenges and I have been plodding through the dense fog of depression in order to try to be present with my family and friends in their celebrations, even coming up a bit and poking my head out of the dark cave. Yet when I do, it seems as if there is a vacuum that pulls me back into that place and wraps me in a swirling energy of doubt, sadness, suspicion, and negativity.

Luckily, this isn’t my first go with depression. I’ve been in this cave before and managed to crawl out. I know the drill and in some ways I am luckier than others since I know I’ll survive it. Some people call an episode like this a “dark night of the soul”. I remember hearing this term during my seminary training and wondered if some of my trips to the cave qualified. I’ve since learned that for me episodes of depression that take me this deep absolutely qualify as “dark nights of the soul” and have a slightly different quality than those that come and go and hover somewhat higher in depth.

themystic.org defines The Dark Night of the Soul this way: “The dark night occurs after considerable advancement toward higher consciousness. Indeed, the dark night usually occurs like an initiation before one of these special seekers is admitted into regular relationship with higher consciousness. The dark night also occurs to those who do not seek relationship but immersion or unity in the higher consciousness. While the term dark night of the soul is used broadly, its general meaning — in the field of higher consciousness — is a lengthy and profound absence of light and hope. In the dark night you feel profoundly alone.”

It goes on to describe various characteristics: “You see the principles of a higher power at work in your life. Yet, all in all, you find yourself somehow painfully on the outside. You feel caught between your old way of living, your old tendencies and associations, and this nebulous, unreachable realm of higher consciousness.”

The article continues with great accuracy to describe how this way of being manifests, and depression certainly is a worthy tagalong for the process. I’ve been here before.

For me, there has been a notable difference between deep clinical depression and the Dark Night experience. Twice in my life I have found myself in deep clinical depression. This is a place from which it seems there is no doorway out. And for some there is no real desire to come out. That’s how it was for me. I had gotten so far away from light that being in the darkness was where I wanted to stay. It felt safer than the alternative. It was pathological and dangerous, and I was quite ill. Thankfully I had the right people, the right support, abundant love and a great doctor to help me find my way back. It took time and after the second episode I made a solemn promise to myself that I’d never go there again and haven’t. This means I have chosen to recognize the symptoms, acknowledge them, and treat them with respect and appropriate measures. I will not go there again.

And yet, depression is part of my make-up as are some other maladies that I routinely acknowledge and accept as part of the deal. Acceptance is the first step in healing. And by healing I don’t mean curing. To me healing is a term that applies to the ethereal body rather than the physical body. And each time I emerge from a state of depression or Dark Night, I emerge healed in some way. This healing brings with it wisdom and peace. I’m looking forward to that.

For now I’m here in my Dark Night/Depression cocktail. This condition does not respond to platitudes and slogans. How did I arrive here? It’s a long laundry list of circumstances that brought me, beginning about three years ago when my father passed away, followed by a series of circumstances that lined up one after the other and simply didn’t allow me the “luxury” of a full blown breakdown. Instead we installed the “keep going” program to get through it all, putting any sort of breakdown at the bottom of the “To Do” list. One platitude that I will coin here is this: “What you resist persists”, hence the Dark Night of the Soul experience makes it way into the picture and voila, we stop and the spiral takes hold. It feels in some ways like a Law of the Universe. Sooner or later we must stop and be there, wherever “there” is, which will be unique for each person. I am “there”.

The good news about a Dark Night experience, and my present combo plate is that, primarily, I have a support system that is impeccable. I have my best friend and Love who understands and supports unconditionally; I have exemplary medical care that incorporates all manner of healing modalities; I have close family and trusted friends who understand my process and see me and my unique process; and I accept that the process is unfolding in its time and I am allowing the time and space for it do so. The dichotomy here is that this is both the hard part and the easy part. Hard because it’s lonely in here and I feel disconnected from pretty much everything. Easy, because there is nothing else for me to do but surrender to the process. Some days I can go through the motions. Some days not. But, life goes on and my heart still beats, I breathe, I live. I am grateful. History has shown that the light does return and with it comes insight, wisdom, and transformation.

In closing I offer another quote from themystic.org: “You, in passing successfully through the dark night, enter the realms of higher consciousness. You’ve been cleansed of the most deep-rooted sickness: your ignorance of your true nature and your inadequate, often totally wrong opinion of who you are. You now cease your inner conflict and abide serenely in your true nature. The night is over. The dawn of a new life in higher consciousness transforms your bleak life of the past few months into one with a heavenly nature. You have been delivered of the intolerable bondage to ego. Henceforth, you will walk the earth seeing others afresh, living a new life, and abiding in your true nature. You have become a son or daughter of higher consciousness. Now your words and actions will be attuned with your true self. Now you express inspiration and comfort.
The dark night has passed. It is over.”

My hope is that discussions about mental health, the challenges of depression, and The Dark Night of the Soul will increase so that care becomes easily available and consciousness is raised. We are all on the Path in one way or another and when we meet we can honor each other’s trials and triumphs with a deeper understanding.
In the meantime I remain in my cocoon until such time as I emerge with my wings extended fully and I fly once again.
Peace and blessings. ~ FD

WEEKLY STRETCH 12-14-16 ~ Hiding In Plain Sight

Anyone who knows me knows I have certain, ahem, affinities shall we say. I’m a Leo Woman. I wear that banner proudly. And as such I love all sorts of things and like having them around me. To name a few, and in no particular order – shoes, jewelry, clothes, cosmetics, decorating, accessories, crafts, hair products, art supplies – get the picture? I love playing with these things and giving them to others to play with. It’s part of the fun of my life.

Something I love passionately, and collect, are scarves and shawls. I have many. Lots of colors, sizes, shapes and lengths; and I love wearing them. I do have one favorite, though as many mothers know, that’s breaking the “you can’t have a favorite” rule. But in this case, I admit I do. It’s a rare one as scarves go, at least in my life. A Betsy Johnson number. A real find that is fun, sophisticated, goes with everything and is the one I reach for most often.

A few weeks ago, it went missing! I was frantic to find it, called around to places I could have left it, tore the closets apart…no scarf. After having a full-blown little kid tantrum (can you believe that!!) I did what I usually do when I lose something I really like. I let it go. I told myself it was meant to be mine for this amount of time, and now it will give someone else pleasure and I let it go. In my travels, I would look for one with the same allure but to no avail. Mind you, there are many more scarves in my possession and I’m wearing some of those, but I was REALLY missing my old faithful and perfect friend.

Finally, last week I completed my letting go ritual and felt comforted by the thought that someone else had it and must be enjoying it like I did. I was fine with that. Yesterday, quite by accident (yeah, right) I went into an area of my pantry closet where I have some fleece jackets and vests hanging on a hook. One of them had fallen to the floor and as I bent down to pick it up I saw little white and pink stars peeking out from under the heap. Be still my heart, it was my beloved Betsy Johnson scarf!!! I grabbed it, hugging it to my chest, and did a happy dance, looking up to the Heavens with joy and gratitude. I hadn’t lost it. It was hiding in plain sight. I had been in and out of that closet constantly. I knew those jackets and vests were there. I even looked through them. I simply didn’t see it. Somehow I just couldn’t see it until the time was right.

So, my friends, is this really a story about a lost scarf? Well, yes. But after my happy dance died down I thought long and hard about what I could glean from this little event (and in the grand scheme of things it is very little). For me it was a lesson in non-attachment. It was a lesson in looking and seeing; in timing and trusting; in willingness to move forward and allowing and accepting what is. And it is a reminder that ultimately the Universe always has my back even in the little things. Do I need that scarf to be happy and go on with my life? Of course, not. And maybe this little incident isn’t so little when I look at all the embedded wisdom and lessons. And in the end I am so grateful for all of it.

STRETCH: Can you look at things more deeply? Can you open your vision to things that might be just outside of obvious perception? What is hidden in plain sight in your life?

I cannot leave my weekly posting without commenting on the atrocity that is happening in Syria. My heart is broken at the idea that humanity seems to be a thing of the past in Aleppo and in many other places on the planet. I hold the entire world, the planet, our country, all of us, in prayer for a shift in consciousness that allows us all to live and be in a world of peace…of respect…of honor.

Another Tango 12-8-16


Photo by Lysandro Trotta

In the process of creating something altogether new I find myself in unfamiliar territory and it is scaring the crap out of me. It’s amazing that at this stage of my life I am once again at a starting point which is rife with all the questions of worthiness and enoughness that seem to arise at a time like this. In artist-speak I’m looking at a blank canvas wondering if I have the right stuff to make a piece of art appear and I can feel myself shaking and quaking at the thought of failing. I keep asking myself, “When have I felt this way before?”. The answer, “Many times.” And I see each one of them percolate up from my memory banks into my consciousness so that I can review them and remember the terror.

Most vividly I recall my first day of seminary. By the end of that day I felt completely defeated and unworthy. I was quite certain that I’d made a mistake in judgement and who was I to think that I could be a minister. I feel that way right now – and who am I to be what I’m trying to be this time?

The massage therapist in me is aware of the gathering of tension right at the top of my shoulder blades then slithering its way up my cervical spine to make a nest just under my skull at the occipital area. I can feel the beginning of of a headache, you know the one that makes your head feel like it’s been blown up like a balloon and the pressure of all that air inside wanting to find a way out. In general I’m wound up like a tight spring and frankly it doesn’t feel great. All of this drama because my old friend, Miss Unworthy and her pal Lack of Confidence, have decided to stop by to remind me that they only went on vacation – they didn’t move out of town.

After a fitful night of sleep, still feeling uneasy about my new project, I asked for help. I allowed myself the luxury of being totally vulnerable and admitted that I need to find my center with this work if I’m to be be able to do it well and enjoy it. I feel that there IS a way, I just haven’t discovered it yet. The fallout from my night of anxiety and tension is the way my body feels. My neck is extremely tight and sore, my back and shoulders ache, and I have the obligatory headache that accompanies tight neck and shoulder muscles. I feel like I was in a bar brawl. And I guess to some degree I was. I was brawling with myself. I was fighting with my inner critic, the one who says “You’re not good enough to do this. You don’t have the skills. You should know how to do this. You are not going to succeed. You will let people down. You’re small.” This sort of unrelenting negative self-talk has been a nemesis of mine for many years. I have clocked many hours in the therapist’s chair working on it. I thought I had conquered most of it by now but here it is again. Me and my shadow doin’ that famous tango.

What the light of day has brought with it is the realization that I am indeed dancing with my shadow again, and I have had enough of this particular dance. I’ve reached an age where I feel like I’ve earned enough gold stars to be free from this sort of angst. And it’s because I CAN look back at times in my life when I’ve felt this way and can see how it all turned out. I am a great mother, I have taught myself a great many things and am proficient at them-without a college degree, I am a talented massage therapist and have helped many people heal themselves, I have been a successful minister and mentor not just formally but all of my life, I am an intuitive and a psychic and I trust my inner knowing, I CAN speak in front of people-coherently- and not die. This is a small fraction of my list of triumphs. And in every case I was sure I would be a flop, a big ole’ failure. Like the little engine that could, I think I can. In fact I know I can. I also know that I can find my center by asking the questions that need asking and by insisting on having the appropriate information and tools to do what I need to do so that the project will be successful and I can leave an imprint I will be proud of, all without feeling pressure and tension that make me ill.

Last night my fear of failing was getting the better of me. The self-imposed pressure was making me feel sick. I will not allow myself to feel that way again. I deserve better. My body deserves better. There are many stresses in life that are out of our control. I get that. This, however, isn’t one of them. I will find the information I need to move forward with my new project and I will once again see that I can do whatever I set my mind and heart to do – without long visits from old friends. In fact, I think they need to go on a much longer vacation, preferably very far away.

WEEKLY STRETCH 12-1-16 – IT’S DECEMBER!

color-pencils

This time of year, I am usually flirting with my tendency to go into long-term cave time. I’m a light lover and once we change the clocks here in the northeast, I want to hibernate and not come out until the sun returns. I’m usually the biggest humbug around, resisting the whole winter holiday vibe and everything that goes with it. Don’t get me wrong, I love being with friends and family and I LOVE planning what gifts to give the people I love. But usually the vibe around the holidays makes me really cranky and I want to go underground until it’s all over. Yesterday I saw a posting that called people like me “ambiverts”, which means I’m a combination plate of introvert and extrovert. Yes, it’s like being the rope in a tug of war. Go to the party, but don’t engage too much. Want to go out tonight, but yuk it’s cold and rainy and it’s going to be noisy so let’s stay home. There’s an amazing sale at the mall, but it’s so crowded and everyone is loud and pushy – I’ll order online. Blah, blah, blah.

Something is different so far this year. I’m not feeling quite so humbug. In fact, I’m enjoying the vibe (so far anyway) and feeling the Spirit of it all in a way I haven’t in quite a while. Colors are more vivid, I’m looking at and seeing life more clearly. Maybe it’s the world situation and the need for connection and open-heartedness. Maybe it’s the sense of community I’m feeling and the impulse to be part of something bigger than myself that is stronger than ever. I’m even making things, with my own little hands, for some of my extra-special peeps. Going to extra effort to make something that came from my heart and hands with consciousness and mindfulness. And I’m actually enjoying the process of preparation and anticipation. What happened?

I think it’s all part of the way my life is changing. It’s been a subtle change that began when my husband and I made a huge shift in our way of life. The shift included many great changes that shook our foundation in all directions. When I look back a year we were still finding our center and Bob was about to start another new job. The Universe was at work lining things up for us, getting things into place that would eventually surprise, delight and challenge us in good ways. But a year ago we didn’t know what that would look like and we were holding on for dear life as the ground beneath us was rocking and shaking.

One thing that has influenced this season is the way creativity is playing a major role in my daily life. It started when I took a writing class about a year and a half ago. I loved the class and started to write more and more. The next and even more important step was deciding on art classes as well. Suddenly I was expressing my creativity with more comfort and joy than I ever have. As a result, creative energy has been flowing freely and I am now involved in one of the most exciting and creative projects of my life (more to come on that in a later post). AND the writing continues along with the photography, drawing and painting. I’ve discovered aspects of myself that up until recently were asleep. Opportunities are arriving that I never could have anticipated and while I’m surprised on one hand, I know that Bob and I have been “working the system” the Universe has provided and we have manifested the life we are now living with the power of our intentions and willingness to simply keep going. We are living the epitome of our favorite mantra, “Thoughts Become Things”.

I’ve read or heard somewhere that when we reach “a certain age” our creativity kicks into high gear. I feel that has happened for me in the last few years as I’ve become more and more engaged in artistic pursuits. I find I am more at peace with certain aspects of myself, specifically the gifts I’ve been given by my Creator. My inner art critic is not as loud as it once was. I’m more able to express my truth and live from that truth without apology. I’m more authentically “me” than I’ve ever been and am leaning into that “me” with more and more ease. Spirituality and connection to Source Energy is a driving force that guides my steps, and intuition illuminates those steps. I am more and more aware of blessings and even more grateful for them.

Of course, we don’t know what’s around the corner and things change rapidly these days. But right now, in this moment, I’m enjoying every day and welcoming each new experience and opportunity to grow and express, and more than anything to Love; because these new and wonderful pursuits are founded on Love and Service in one way or another.

STRETCH: As the holiday season gets underway, see if you can engage people with eye contact, even if only for a second. Make connection with the light of every being you encounter knowing that at our core we are all One Light.