FINDING PEACE IN CHAOS ~ 12-1-17

As we move into the holiday season, once again I’ve decided rather than dread the darkness of winter I will invite it into my life as I would an old friend. While this time of year can feel heavy and dank, I have noticed that it is also embedded with tremendous opportunity. The most wonderous thing about it, especially these weeks leading up to the Solstice, is that the veil between worlds is thin. In my imagination I see it as a beautiful silvery mist that undulates between us and what lies beyond. If I listen deeply I can hear the voices of the ancestors and the spirits of those across the mist, and I’m often given precious guidance and always receive great love during these moments.

I love giving gifts and this season is laden with the opportunity to express love and appreciation in this way. I spend a lot of energy planning gift-giving. Last year I made many of them in the kitchen. It was messy but fun, and I was able to infuse love into each concoction. My gift-giving is always purposeful, so I’ve spent a lot of time making a list and checking it twice – three times – changing it – checking again and so forth.  I’ve loved the whole online shopping thing, though I can see how easily one can become “drunk with power” with a laptop, a keyboard and a credit card!  As a Leo that’s my kind of fun. A little scary, but a tons ‘o fun.

The impulse to slow down, be silent, and go within is probably running even with the gift-giving opportunity. I have a busy life, juggling many different pursuits. And while the weeks between Thanksgiving and New Years have been frenetic in the past, I finally realize that I don’t thrive in “frantic” and have adjusted my pace to reflect that truth. As an empath and a highly-sensitive person (HSP) this means that all the noise, lights, and pumped up energy can be detrimental to my sense of well-being. I’ve learned to manage my exposure by making conscious choices, like shopping online rather than hitting the mall with a gazillion shoppers and listening to the same Christmas songs blaring in my ears for hours and hours. (Don’t you feel sorry for the sales people?) I love stillness and the winter months have asked me to be still. So, I get still. I wrap myself in my cozy blanket and sip a warm drink or eat some fresh hearty soup. I may draw or paint, meditate or doze, read or watch a great movie. And maybe I’ll just sit and be still, watching rain or snow, stroking Sophie and allowing my mind to be the wandering fool that it is. Allowing these winter stillness moments gives me energy for my winter days activities.  It also allows me space and time to dream and contemplate. My thoughts often go to the people in my life and the blessings they bring. My primary spiritual practice is gratitude, and in the winter I find that practice enhanced. Perhaps it’s the extra space allotted for stillness.

I am also finding myself awakening earlier and earlier. Perhaps it’s the desire for more light, except I’m often out of bed before the sun. The early morning hours are my favorite. In these hours I feel closest to my parents. In these hours I also hear the heartbeat of the planet and can feel into the essence of what I call God. During this time I find I can open my heart and mind more fully to hear what the Universe wants me to know. And while I feel that every moment of every hour is holy, these hours feel infused with “extra”. I find peace.

As you move through the days ahead my prayer is that you find time to nurture yourself, to go within, to find your way to stillness and peace.

Until next time.

STRETCH:  As you move through the holiday season, consciously schedule time – even if it’s only five minutes or whatever is realistic in your life – to stop, breathe, be still and release. Allow yourself to relax the muscles in your face, the ones that become tense as you focus on all you need to do.  Notice where tension resides in your body and with each breath consciously release it, even if only for these moments. Allow your mouth to curl up into a gentle smile. This gesture relaxes the muscles of the face – and a smile is always better than a frown.  Do this as often as you can.   It will make a difference.

 

JE REVIENS (I Return) ~ 11-23-17

AUTUMN – pastel on paper by Franne Demetrician, 2017

Hello again. It’s been a long time. My last post was back on September first when I shared that I needed to take a sabbatical from my website and blogging. It turns out that was a wise decision since our life has been a whirlwind and the space was needed. But I missed this connection and felt the tug to return.  I’m not sure yet if this will be a weekly post or if I will simply act on impulse to write, but “I’m back, baby”.

September was indeed a jam-packed month. I attended two reunions, one of which was my fiftieth (really?) high school reunion. It was surreal to say the least. I approached it with some trepidation, as I think many of us would for some obvious and some deeply personal reasons. High school wasn’t my favorite time of life.  I felt awkward, unworthy, and very much “less-than” in those years. I certainly didn’t want to re-live those feelings, but I wanted to see some old friends again – so I went. It was wonderful, and I had the joy of reconnecting with three very dear people who have remained deeply embedded in my heart all these years. That was a gift!

The reunion with our seminary family was also joyful and Bob and I had the great honor of being keynote speakers for the very first of these events. It was a first for us in many ways. For me, I finally hit my stride as a speaker and felt at ease speaking from the podium. Of course, the fact that most of the audience had been one of our students at some time or other helped greatly, but I feel that once and for all I have cracked the code on my relationship with public speaking. Was I nervous? Yes? Was I freaking out nervous? No! I feel liberated from the mind-numbing fear that almost kept me from attending seminary 15 years ago. That’s big.

So much more, and I won’t bore you with details, but life has made all of its usual twists and turns.  A most significant turn for me is that my artwork has now become a major focus of my time an energy. As with most things I have been known to doubt myself (Duh? Really? Never heard of such a thing!) and my artistic ability was high on that list.  But a few years ago, I decided to jump back in and see what I had going, if anything. I was surprised to find that not only did I still have something going, but it was – is good. I’ve had the blessing of being taught by a master, mentored by another master/mirror-sister, and supported by the most generous family and friends anyone could want or need. My work is evolving and growing and the artist in me is emerging as the full-on being that has always been there and kept under wraps.

What I’ve learned and will soon be helping others learn, is that I’ve reached an age that allows me to explore myself more deeply and more fully than ever before.  Things I’ve kept hidden or untapped in are being given their due.  Reaching this time of life is like coming from a slightly overcast day into a bright sunny one. Things that were shaded and cloudy are now brightly illuminated and visible. Many of my fears and apprehensions have fallen by the wayside because – well – they were in my way. And frankly, I just don’t have time to look at them anymore because I have stuff to do! That’s not to say I don’t have fears or apprehensions. I just don’t have time to hang with them for too long. I have decided to move through them so that I can keep doing what I love.

Recently my family lost a giant of a man. He was one of our revered elders, the father of my sister-in-law and someone we all hold very dear in our lives. He was a wisdom keeper, a scholar, a “do-er”, a change-maker, a highly respected man in the community and in the state. He was a father, a grandfather, a great-grandfather and a friend. He kept going and doing until his 93 years came to an end. He inspired and will continue to inspire me to do what is mine to do until the fates decide it’s time for me to stop. I thank you, Ernie Reock, for being the gift you’ve always been in my life. I miss you already, but I know you are soaring on the other side with all those you love, watching over us and continuing to inspire. I love you.

More will be revealed in coming posts about what is next for me and what I and my collaborators will be offering others. Take a look at our new website www.intimatepossibilities.com, see what we’re up to and like us on Facebook at InTimate Possibilities – Discovering The Golden Triangle.

So happy to be back again and invite you to share if you are so moved.

STRETCH:  Think about the obstacles holding you back from realizing your deepest desires. Imagine taking steps around one of those obstacles, moving closer to your desire, or even reaching it. Baby steps work.

WEEKLY STRETCH 8-3-17 ~ On August

Ah, August. I have a conflicting relationship with this month.

As I mentioned, August is my birthday month. My awkward relationship with August began in childhood, specifically once I started school. You see, August comes before September, and September means SCHOOL! And there is my birthday, smack dab in the middle of August, two weeks before the beginning of SCHOOL!

Most kids dream of their birthdays. Am I right? And like most kids, I dreamt about mine, in living color. Cake, ribbons, wrapped surprises, games, all kinds of fun. And yet, the specter of SCHOOL was always breathing down my neck in the form of some hideous monster who would show up to ruin it and scare the bejeezes out of me and everyone else. I’d wake up in tears and disappointment. In my waking life I’d think, “Oh boy, my birthday is coming!”, feel a quick sense of excitement and delight at the prospect only to have those feelings diminished the second I would compute the timing and what would inevitably come right after. It didn’t help that some of my birthday gifts might include school-oriented things like fall clothing, a bookbag, or a new pencil case. Such a mixed bag for a kid to manage.

As an adult, I developed what one might call “unrealistic expectations” around my birthday. I think on some level I had hoped that adulthood would negate the conflicting emotions since school was no longer an issue. The end of August was only the end of Summer (bad enough actually, but not as bad as SCHOOL), and I love the fall season so it was not so bad. Subconsciously (maybe not so “sub”) I expected the day to be extra special somehow. And sometimes it was. But most times it was average or less. I often felt let down and sad. It just never measured up to what I had hoped it would be. My birthday continued to be a mixed bag emotionally.

I love being a student and eventually – you guessed it – went back to SCHOOL!! And guess what – that old anxiety returned and I would measure the month of August (and my birthday) against the impending beginning of my school year and eventually my child’s. No matter what I did, I couldn’t separate my birthday from what would arrive shortly thereafter.

As I’ve grown older and more mature I’ve worked at my relationship with August. I am a proud Leo woman, and I’ve educated myself about what that means. I have made peace with the placement of my birthday on the calendar and celebrate the radiance, color, and light that August brings. I pay close attention to the beauty of it and get myself to the beach as often as I can to enjoy the warmer ocean waters and the golden sunlight that is unique to the month. School is a constant in my life. I am always taking classes, teaching something, supporting my family who are teachers and/or students, and I’ve come to embrace the onset of the school year. I see it as a beginning rather than an ending – or at least that is my intention.

I’ve also taken the time to look up the definition of the word august. Here is what I found: respected and impressive. Synonyms: distinguished, respected, eminent, venerable, hallowed, illustrious, prestigious, renowned, celebrated, honored, acclaimed, esteemed, exalted; great, important, lofty, noble; imposing, impressive, awe-inspiring, stately, grand, dignified.

OK, maybe not dignified, but I’ll take the rest and add in some of my favorite Leo traits: kind, sunny, passionate, creative, generous and loyal. We’ll just leave it there.

My birthday became an even more poignant day on August 16, 2012. My father died on that day. He fell into a coma and was in grave condition on August 13. I think I knew then that he would die on my birthday. There is something about that fact that was comforting then, and continues to be. It seems to have some sort of cosmic significance, though for the life of me I haven’t been able to figure it out. I only know that on that day I feel great reverence and peace, along with genuine sadness at the loss of my beloved father and hero.

The day my father died my daughter made me promise that I wouldn’t spend my birthdays grieving. I don’t, but I find that the day has taken on a different energy. I no longer have lofty expectations and anxiety around it. It’s now a day for me to reflect. I think of my Dad and that day five years ago. I also think about how grateful I am to be here on the planet and celebrate life. I enjoy time with my family, but it’s not a requirement. I’m also fine with passing the day alone, doing something I love. This year I plan to take myself to the beach.

My Grandpa Louie used to tell me, “Never be too happy or too sad”. I wasn’t quite sure what he meant by that when I heard it as a young child. But, his words stayed with me and as an adult I finally get it. My birthday is a great metaphor for that advice. It’s a wonderful day of celebration and gratitude – for the magic of birth and the gift of my life. Happy. Juxtaposed with all that happiness and joy is the opposite – my childhood dread of school, the sadness at the end of summer, and the inevitability of loss and death. Sad.

So, with Grandpa Louie’s advice in mind, my birthday is “never too happy or too sad”. I’m OK with the mixed bag. It means I get to have it all. I like that.

STRETCH: Take time to think about where you may have “unrealistic expectations”. Can you imagine removing them? Can you imagine how much more at peace you will be when you do?

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.”