WEEKLY STRETCH – 7-20-17 ~ For The Gamblers

My Dad was a major risk-taker. He was an amazingly positive glass half-full guy. In fact, despite a very difficult childhood and a tremendous amount of disappointment during his lifetime, my Dad almost always saw the glass overflowing. He was one whose attitude was, “you don’t know until you try”, and he tried. He tired so many different things, took risks, rolled the dice and held his breath to see what he could accomplish. My Dad didn’t go to college, though I’m convinced if he had gone to law school he’d have made one hell of a lawyer. Instead, upon graduation from high school, he enlisted in the Army with the intention of making a career of the military. After following him around the world for eight years of their young marriage Mom wasn’t terribly happy with that idea, so he left army life as a Captain and found his way into the lumber business. Without going into detail, he had a variety of ups and downs, maybe more downs than ups. But he persevered in every way, and never wavered in his devotion to making a living for his family. He loved a challenge and didn’t shy away from coloring outside the lines when it came to trying new things in spite of my Mom’s conservative and fearful worldview. While in truth he was what we would call a workaholic, he was my greatest hero and one of my greatest teachers. I adored him – always will.

There is a scene in “Indiana Jones and the Last Crusade” where Indie must take a step into a seeming abyss to recover the Holy Grail and save his father’s life. An ancient story says that there is a bridge to the portal that will lead to the grail, but Indy can’t see it. At a critical time, he must make a choice to take the step and trust that the bridge will be there or allow his father to die. He chooses to take the step and lo and behold, the bridge was there all the time, only hidden from view. He recovers the grail and saves his father and they live happily ever after.

My Dad exemplified for me what it meant to take that step into the seeming abyss especially when the time came to make some of the most difficult choices of my life. Divorce, work life, single-parenting, relationships, and navigating life in general were all influenced by my father’s example of trusting that the bridge would be there. Not to say that I haven’t fallen, scraped my knees and elbows and needed to recover my equilibrium. But more times than not, taking that risky step has brought me to my life now, which is pretty wonderful.

My brother, Hal, is a bass player and singer and the other night, while attending a function where the band was performing, he sang an old song that was very special to both of us. It was particularly significant to us when the song was released back in 1974. We were both going through some painful growth at the time and the song had significant meaning for us then. Whenever I hear him sing it – and he sings it really well (no bias of course) – I cry. Listening to it last week inspired this posting. I realized, through the tears welling in my eyes, that it’s about my Dad and me and Hal and all that we have risked to bring us forward in our lives. In that moment, I felt the strong presence of my Dad telling us, “You did good, kids”.

To all of you risk-takers reading this, here are the beautiful words Dan Fogelberg wrote all those years ago that continue to remind me that there’s a place for me and all of us. If you don’t know this song, I encourage you to check it out on YouTube. Have some tissues ready.

There’s a Place in the World for a Gambler – Dan Fogelberg

There’s a place in the world
For a gambler
There’s a burden that only
He can bear
There’s a place in the world
For a gambler,
And he sees
Oh, yes he sees
And he sees
Oh, yes he sees
There’s a song in the heart
Of a woman
That only the truest of loves
Can release.
There’s a song in the heart
Of a woman.
Set it free
Oh, set it free
Set it free
Oh, set it free
Set it free
Oh, set it free.
There’s a light in the depths
Of your darkness
There’s a calm at the eye
Of every storm.
There’s a light in the depths
Of your darkness.
Let is shine
Oh, let it shine
Let is shine
Oh, let it shine
Let is shine
Oh, let it shine.
Let it Shine

STRETCH: Think about when you have taken a risk, or stepped out of your comfort zone and the growth that resulted. There’s a place for you and for the song you want to sing. Take another step.

WEEKLY STRETCH – 7-14-17 ~ The ABC’s Of Me

A dear friend just shared a Facebook post entitled “21 Things People Don’t Know You’re Doing Because You’re an Introvert”. I read it voraciously since I find that for the most part I do all the things listed and often feel very self-conscious about them. The article was validating and made me feel less alone. I’m also what is called an HSP – “highly sensitive person” – and an empath. These things often go together – being some version of an introvert, highly sensitive, and an empath. The triple threat so to speak. I’m that person and becoming more patient with myself as these types of articles come to light so that I can feel like less of an anomaly and more like a whole person who is not alone with this special temperamental triune. It’s a relief to know that others get the complexities of walking around in the skin I’m in.

So many times, I’ve felt like the odd one out, just wanting to stay quiet, not go running around filling every moment of every day with things to do, or places to be, or people to be around or better yet, to please. As a younger woman trying to figure out who I was, people often labeled me “over-sensitive”, “shy”, “not outgoing”, and other unflattering and judgmental descriptions. It’s not that I don’t love socializing. I do. It’s sort of up and down for me. Some days I feel gregarious and open, ready to play outdoors with others. Some days not so much. One day the vibration is high, another day it’s lower and another somewhere in the middle. Wintertime is especially challenging as I’ve shared often. During those months, the vibe is low and I feel the urge to hibernate, be still, and stay quiet. Generally, when it comes to situations involving large groups of people, noise, conversation, and socializing I prefer deep, meaningful conversations for the most part; and small groups, one on one relationships based on mutual interests and depth of feeling and experience, filled with laughter and humor of course. There are days when the thought of making small talk is so exhausting I’d rather just stay at home and read and I will choose to detach from the world. I love my alone time. And yet, I dearly love my friends and family and the time we spend together is so very precious to me. Sometimes the trick is finding ways to honor where I am and still make time and space for those I love.

An even bigger trick is the fact that my life often brings me to noisy crowded places. My husband is a musician. It goes with the territory. I love the music and especially our music family. It’s rare that I don’t look forward to dressing up for a gig and enjoying a night of rock and roll with people I love. And yet, when it comes to the part when the crowd has had enough to drink so that their lowered inhibitions have them dancing like crazy people and dragging others on the floor to do the same, I often head for the hills – looking for a place to hang along the fringe so that I can choose my time, if it comes, to step onto the dance floor with as much dignity as possible, on my terms.

I’ve reproached myself often for all my “rules of engagement” or as my husband Bob says, “the ABC’s of me”. But that’s the deal. I need to navigate my whereabouts emotionally and physically, assess where I am on my “triple threat” continuum and move accordingly. And, I need to be OK with that.

My work here is to make space and friendship with these temperamental variations, such as they are, and accept them as a loveable part of me instead of something to feel shame over or that I need to apologize for. I know in theory that self-acceptance is the key to making peace with this part of myself. And yet I still wonder if those around me can accept it and continue to love me without the judgement, spoken or unspoken (and when you’re an empath with strong intuition you can feel the unspoken judgement), and if I can love myself enough to accept these ABC’s of me fully. What I want to be able to say is, “This is me. Love me or leave me.”, but I wouldn’t be honest if I didn’t share my fear that some would simply feel like it’s too much trouble and make the choice to leave. The fact is that it hasn’t happened yet that I know of, and for that I am so deeply grateful. There are probably some for whom it takes effort and patience to hang in there. And some understand it all and accept me with all the extra stuff that comes with the package.

What has become clear is that this is indeed a part of me that I cannot realistically change, part of my makeup, like my height or the color of my eyes. It may not be easy to manage, but that is exactly the task – to manage it rather than extinguish it. As difficult as it is, I know that those who truly see me and accept me will accept all of me as I am. And those who do not will eventually fall by the wayside and that will be OK in the long run. I do my best to manage my expectations of others based on who they are. It’s easy with some and less so with others, but it is my responsibility to see them and love them the way I hope they will me.

To those of you who share all or any part of the “triple threat”, I see you and I know how your day goes. Hang in there.

STRETCH: Take time to notice the qualities that make you unique and celebrate them. Look in the mirror and tell yourself, “I see you. I love you. I accept you.”

Travel Epilogue ~ 7-8-17


St. Bonaface Cathedral, Winnipeg, Canada, 7/17

Home again from our most recent voyage I am grateful to be safe and sound, snug in our little nest with Sophie. She certainly enjoyed her days with her human sister, brother and nephew and her furry nephews too. So grateful that she was loved and happy while we were away. We managed to survive a variety of travel challenges, somewhat the worse for wear, but more experienced for future travel. Wish those lessons had been a little easier, though.

I find my thoughts drifting hither and yon right now. So much has come into my life these past few months and I feel the urge to be still. And yet there is so much to do. My sixty-eighth birthday is in six weeks. Sixty-eight! I can barely type the words much less wrap my mind around that reality. In so many ways I feel like a young woman with my whole life ahead of me (though the mirror would belie that notion). I remember being in my thirties, making plans for my future, thinking I had all the time in the world to try this or that. I thought I might go back to school and become a graphic designer or a therapist. I had time to do that if I wanted to. I remember feeling like there was always going to be time for things I might have had to put off for one reason or another. Time was on my side then. More ahead than behind.

This week I was reminded of the fragility of life and the passage of time. On one hand it was deeply saddening holding space for dear ones who have lost a beloved family member. It reminded me poignantly of my own losses, specifically of my parents. I felt the depth of our friends’ sorrow and grief and couldn’t help but be reminded how it was for me and my family when we faced the same process of letting go and resolving my parent’s lifetime of worldly goods and possessions. It’s a dichotomy – we have possession of a lifetime of memories that bring us tremendous joy and yet break our hearts and bring us to floods of tears at the loss of those days and the people we love at the very same time. Such events bring on the melancholia that goes along with living a life that is full, and if we are lucky, long. And if it is long, one of its inevitable gifts will be navigating the losses that accompany lengthy time on the planet. Those of us who are older are now facing the departure of the elders, yes; but we are also facing the loss of friends and workmates and people like us, requiring a reality check that may feel a bit uncomfortable.

So I am reflecting even more on what is still on the table for me to do with my time here. It’s even more valuable with each passing day. I am resisting the urge to hurry up and “do” and the mentality of trying or striving to get it all done before it’s my turn to move on. Rather, I am choosing to step mindfully and consciously so as to touch those I love and those I encounter as gently and lovingly as I can. I am choosing to create beauty with my hands, with my brush, with my heart, with my words. I pray to leave behind a legacy of love and good work so that my memory is one that brings smiles, inspiration and laughter more than the inevitable sadness of loss. I know there is still time and I plan to use it well and with an active sense of humor about it.

It strikes me that I may need to go walking in nature, re-invent my meditation practice, stretch my body and still my mind and heart. I am in that place of reflection and will be asking my Guides to show me how best to step into each moment of each day so that my being may be a blessing. And as I do I hold in my heart the memory of all of our dear ones and the gifts they have left for us.

WEEKLY STRETCH 6-29-17 ~ FEAR OF FLYING

More travel coming tomorrow. I feel so lucky to be traveling more than ever, though this will be the last trip for a while.

Once upon a time, not so long ago, I was terrified of flying. My fear (like so many of our fears) was irrational and out of control. And yet, I desperately wanted to travel and see parts of the country and the world I had only dreamed about. I was being called to visit Sedona and I needed to face the fear unless we were going to drive the many days it would take to get there and back. I love the idea of a driving tour of America but when vacation days and funds are limited, flying is the way to go. Honestly, I don’t know how or why this fear developed. I had flown to Europe, the Caribbean, California, Columbus, and several other places earlier in my life. Fears are often nonsensical, and this one was the Queen of Nonsense. Somehow it became paralyzing and I knew I needed to conquer it.

Luckily, we have a very close friend who is a pilot. Michael knew of my fear and often tried to explain the science oF aerodynamics, trying to quell my anxiety with facts. His mantra at the end of his science lessons was, “it can’t NOT fly”. I listened attentively each time; grateful for his patience and desire to help and doing my best to take the facts in and let the fear go. I wanted to go to Sedona, dammit. In true Infinite Possibilities fashion, we took a step in the direction of our dreams and planned a trip to Arizona. One way or the other I was going to get on an airplane and fly west. Also, true to the Infinite Possibilities philosophy, I remembered that I have flown before, it was fine, I survived and even enjoyed the experience.

Michael proposed to take me up in a small plane. His theory was that after that flight a commercial airplane would feel like flying in my easy chair. I trust Michael completely and decided – fearfully I will add – that I would just do it. OK, picture this: A beautiful sunny day, a small airport in Princeton, New Jersey, an airplane that barely fit three people crammed in like sardines, me in back with my “cans” on shaking uncontrollably. We took off with me screeching and wondering if this was the day I would die. As we climbed higher I was certain that I’d left my brain and my stomach back on the ground. I was grabbing at the side of the plane as if it could save me! Pretty laughable now, but instinct said, “hold onto something”. That’s when I realized that the sky was just beyond the wall I was using to keep me safe-probably about 2 inches away from my trembling hand. Yikes! What was I thinking? Mike kept telling me it was OK, to keep breathing, feel myself in my seat and trust him. He, of course, was in his heaven since flying is his greatest joy. So, I got hold of my breath and slowly began to calm down. Long story short, after the initial trauma I began to relax and look out on the beauty before me. Michael calmly explained the effect of heat from the ground on the plane, how high we were, what we could see ahead and below and when I caught sight of the Jersey shore in the distance and got into the groove and rhythm of flying I started to love it. We landed and took off twice that day and the fear became more of a thrill. By the time I got home I was elated and filled with enthusiasm for our trip to Arizona. I felt like Rocky climbing the steps of the art museum. I had done it! And in a tiny airplane of all things.

Fast forward to our trip to Arizona, sitting on an airplane burgeoning with jet fuel and energy to burn it, the fear is at its peak, knuckles white as bone, breathing labored, eyes wide and “what the hell am I doing here?” blaring in my head – my husband petting my hand trying to reassure me. I was hyper-focused on everything. “What’s that noise?”, “Why are they doing that?”, “Where’s that life preserver?” (no water this trip, but I needed to know!). Poor Bob! And then the inevitable revving of the engines, only to get us rolling toward the runway! Every step was another step to freedom from the fear, but every step was sheer terror. We finally took off, my head exploding and my lips uttering every prayer I knew with very bank, every change in altitude as we climbed, every sound, every movement. What got me through it? “It can’t NOT fly!”. I heard Mike’s voice telling me that despite its huge size, loaded with luggage and passengers, it can’t not fly. And so, it flew with me and who knows how many others inside, and we arrived safely at Phoenix Sky Harbor airport four hours later. (I will spare you the landing drama, but you can imagine.)

Many flights later I can say that I still get some butterflies when the engines rev up, and there’s some anxiety when we start our approach to land. I have my little flying rituals. I always kiss my hand and pat the plane when I enter, with a tiny prayer of protection in my mind. I always fly with my sacred mala around my neck and fondle the beads and crystal as we take off and land. But all in all, I love to fly. I claim the window seat so I can watch everything happen. I look forward to that thrill feeling; you know, the one when you can feel the build of energy just before the plane starts to move forward toward take-off. There’s an amazing rush of excitement and expectation that can be addictive. And it means I’m going somewhere cool, somewhere I want to be, exploring the planet and living life a little differently for a bit. Michael was right, and I remind myself of the mantra he taught me from time to time when I feel a little uneasy up there.

The story is about facing yet another fear. It’s about saying “yes” and taking steps toward dreams and desires. It’s about making choices and taking chances. It’s about flying as high as possible and getting where we want to go. There are so many more places I want to go – geographically, internally, emotionally, spiritually and in so many other ways. When I get scared I use this airplane story to remind myself, as Dr. Seuss says, “Oh the places you will go.” I just need to say yes and take that step.

STRETCH: How high can you fly? Can you take one step toward a dream or desire you are holding? You are like that airplane – you can’t NOT fly. Try it. One step.

PS I will always be grateful to Mike Jackson for his skill, his patience and his love. I owe you Mikey.

WEEKLY STRETCH – 6-26-17 ~ The Gift of Sabbath Time

The following was written on Saturday night, just before heading up to bed.

It’s been one of those rare days. No obligations. No plans. No appointments. No urgency to get anything done. A perfect June day of sunshine, low humidity, and gentle breezes. I can’t remember the last time I felt this sort of spaciousness for an entire day. Early this morning we had a wild and crazy storm that seems to have cleared away an array of toxins in the environment and left us with this beautiful clear day to stand in Creation and enjoy it.

My husband and I spent the early part of the day running a few errands after dropping Sophie at the groomer. We lollygagged (is that a real word) around the neighborhood getting a few odds and ends done and came home to decide how we would spend the rest of the gift of the day ahead. We desperately needed this sort of day. Bob loves his job, but it is mentally and physically taxing and his days are exhausting. After the winter we had, with my health problems and Bob caring for me, and the active life we lead, we desperately needed some time to just be home, doing what we do, without running hither and yon. Today was the day and the Universe provided us a doozy.

Don’t get me wrong – we love our life. We have great jobs, a multitude of interests, spectacular friends and family, and so many wonderful ways to spend our free time. Today, though, we had the spaciousness to be still. We did things we rarely do. Bob wanted to go to our pool. In the two and a half years we’ve lived here we’ve visited our pool exactly twice. I wanted to stay back, sit on our deck, read and nap. Another very rare occurrence. So that’s exactly what we did. After reading my book and snoozing awhile, I created a wonderful summer dinner for us. Bob came home from his pool time and as the sun hung low in the sky we sat on our deck, sipped our wine and ate our yummy summer dinner. We talked and dreamed and planned. We listened to our favorite music – Pat Matheny, Earth Wind and Fire, Eric Clapton, Steely Dan, Jackson Browne and rehearsal recordings from the bands Bob’s been playing music with the last few years. We relaxed. We celebrated. It was Sabbath.

Wayne Muller is one of the authors whose wisdom has informed much of our lives since we began our ministry sixteen years ago. In his book, Sabbath: Finding Rest, Renewal, and Delight in Our Busy Lives, Muller says, “Like a path through the forest, Sabbath creates a marker for ourselves so, if we are lost, we can find our way back to our center.” Today we gave ourselves the gift of Sabbath Rest. In Judaism we wish each other, “Shabbat Shalom”, which translates as “Sabbath Peace”. Sabbath is considered Judaism’s most sacred day. It’s the one day we can put down all our work, our responsibilities, our concerns – and just rest. It’s not an easy practice to maintain in our busy lives. But it is a wonderful concept to consider and great gift to give ourselves. Today I was reminded how much I love Sabbath time and how important it is to integrate into our week. Sabbath time can be as simple as a designated time to share a meal with loved ones each week, or a weekly walk in the woods or along the beach. It can be designated time to sit in contemplation or time set aside for self-care. The key to taking Sabbath time is to make it habit and take the time to rest and replenish our stores of physical and spiritual energy. It is a time to make space for peace.

I am so grateful for the blessing of today’s Sabbath. It’s been a day of rest and renewal after what seems like a very, very long stretch of time. I am mindful of how much this time is needed in our lives and will make it a point to bring it back as a true weekly ritual in whatever way works for us.
I leave you with another quote from Muller’s book.

“If busyness can become a kind of violence, we do not have to stretch our perception very far to see that Sabbath time – effortless, nourishing rest – can invite a healing of this violence. When we consecrate a time to listen to the still, small voices, we remember the root of inner wisdom that makes work fruitful. We remember from where we are most deeply nourished, and see more clearly the shape and texture of the people and things before us.”

STRETCH: Sabbath is gift you give yourself. Create Sabbath time in your week. It can be a morning, a few hours, an evening or a whole day. Give yourself the gift of Sabbath. You deserve it.

Postcript: I had a perfectly wonderful, restful, restorative night of sleep for the first time in weeks. Sabbath time works on many levels.