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.”

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.

WEEKLY STRETCH 6-10-17 ~ Woman On Fire

The last two weeks I’ve noticed contrast more than usual, doing my best to take a clinical look at it rather than allowing myself to become emotionally caught up in it which is my usual M.O.

The world situation is daunting to say the least, and my position in relation to it is now more as observer. This has happened organically over time as I my energetic body gives me feedback saying, “back off” when my reaction to the news of the day causes emotional and physical responses that are less than healthy. I have consciously filtered the news and social media so that I have become skilled at skimming right by anything that might disturb my hard-won sense of personal peace and stability. That is not to say I am uninformed or uncaring. It is simply that I cannot allow myself to be exposed to the endless stream of disturbing information. I have set limits and sought balance. And so it is.

My personal news stream is very exciting and positive and my focus there is much more satisfying. I find that the unfolding circumstances of my life are a great help in finding balance. I’ve been called to create. I have felt a tug toward creativity all my life and I am now able to surrender to that tug fully. The Universe has aligned my dreams and I have manifested the right people to walk alongside me and to collaborate with me to make things happen. Last year I was given the opportunity to collaborate on creating a new publication called The Owl. That collaboration and the work of creating something new has encouraged me to continue to step out of my comfort zone to embrace the call to create even more. I’ve been making art for the last few years; I’ve been taking pictures too. And now I’m showing my work to people whose opinions I value and respect. This is a huge step for me – to identify myself as artist and photographer – as a writer – as a creator. Another huge step – taking myself to Florida to answer the call to create with others. In the face of all that is happening around me, my work is to create something beautiful; something that reflects the sacred gifts of Creation and Creator. And the Universe, in its infinite wisdom, has brought me the angels who will walk this journey alongside me and has shown me the depth of my intrinsic courage to create.

My journey continues to unfurl itself. My inner fire has been stoked into a fierce blaze. I feel a sense of freedom and spaciousness that seems new and fresh, unlike I’ve ever felt before. Something has changed in a big way and I am filled with a powerful sense of possibility and potential. I will head to Florida to step fully into that something, confident that Creation awaits. I am blessed. More to come.

Something’s Coming – Leonard Bernstein/Stephen Sondheim

Could be!
Who knows?
There’s something due any day;
I will know right away,
Soon as it shows.
It may come cannonballing down through the sky,
Gleam in its eye,
Bright as a rose!

Who knows?
It’s only just out of reach,
Down the block, on a beach,
Under a tree.
I got a feeling there’s a miracle due,
Gonna come true,
Coming to me!

Could it be? Yes, it could.
Something’s coming, something good,
If I can wait!
Something’s coming, I don’t know what it is,
But it is
Gonna be great!

With a click, with a shock,
Phone’ll jingle, door’ll knock,
Open the latch!
Something’s coming, don’t know when, but it’s soon;
Catch the moon,
One-handed catch!

Around the corner,
Or whistling down the river,
Come on, deliver
To me!
Will it be? Yes, it will.
Maybe just by holding still,
It’ll be there!

Come on, something, come on in, don’t be shy,
Meet a guy,
Pull up a chair!
The air is humming,
And something great is coming!
Who knows?
It’s only just out of reach,
Down the block, on a beach,
Maybe tonight . . .

STRETCH: Can you tune into your passion and imagine yourself living into it? Can you take a step toward one of your dreams? Just one tiny step that affirms the potential – the possibility – that your dream is attainable? Think about it.