Waiting for Home

images13N17I32Barefoot, she stands, waiting. A restless breeze tugs at her hair before moving on, leaving behind the faint scent of the ocean; a scent that fills her simultaneously with a soothing calm and an unquenchable restless.

Head thrown back, she stands, waiting. Her eyes search the evening sky, watching as the stars wink into existence, as the golds and plumbs of sunset fade into a black velvet background worthy of a sky full of glittering jewels.

As the light fades in the west a silence falls across the yard; a pregnant pause as if a cosmic conductor has raised his baton and all of his musicians have paused, instruments raised in anticipation of the downbeat. A moment later, with a single croak from a large frog of advanced years, the evening chorus begins; frogs from the riverbank, crickets from the meadow, a low throaty hoot from the owl that lives in the forest behind her house.

And still she waits.

As if on cue a crescent moon rises over the tree tops, casting faint shadows across the darkling yard and glimmering silver off of the tears that flow freely down her face, dribbling onto the ghostly white of her shirt dampening the grass at her toes.

She does not cry for the gloriousness of the vast array of glittering stars or the spectacular evening chorus or for the lingering scent of the restless sea. She cries for many reasons, few of which she can put into words and most of which she knows she will never understand. But mostly she cries because she waits.

She is not even sure what it is that she is waiting for. Perhaps it is love. Perhaps it is hope. Perhaps it is a sense of peace, of belonging. She does not know what she waits for, only that when it appears she will know that her waiting is over. She will know that finally, she is home.

She waits, barefoot, gazing at the stars, kissed by the moonlight, caressed by the whisper of an ocean breeze and serenaded by a chorus written expressly to touch her heart. And as she waits, slowly the tears dry and the competing peace and restlessness combine into an expansive duet whose rhythm counterpoints the beating of her heart. Slowly the stars expand until they fill not just her eyes, but her very soul. Slowly the sound of the nighttime creatures fill her head to bursting and it is then, only then, that she ceases to wait.

At last she has become.

Finally, inside of her own skin, she is home.

An Honest Father’s Day Post

Dear Dad,

You  may not have been there for me while I was growing up.  Other parents manage to be around for their kid even if their marriage falls apart.  But I know now, that is not how you work.  You had to get away.  Start a new life.  I get it.

You may not have been an active part of my life as a child and teenager, but you always sent me birthday cards, usually with some money, and it was always appreciated. I’d buy myself fun things.  Pretty things, and pretend that my dad had picked them out for me.

You may not have been there to help with homework and to put the fear of father into my boyfriends, but you always sent christmas cards with more money, and sometimes you’d call.

And once every couple years you’d have me come to stay with you and your new family.  That gave me the opportunity to see you being a father to other children.  I would have felt jealous except that it never lasted long, and then you’d leave them too and start the process all over again.

You came to my high school graduation.  You came to my wedding, so I can’t complain.  But it was the birth of your oldest granddaughter that (I thought) finally caught your heart. 

From the time my oldest daughter was born I saw more of you than I had put together in the rest of my life.  Then the second granddaughter came and you fell even deeper.  You came to their recitals. You came to their functions.  You didnt just send cards you brought them gifts.  We shared holidays and you had us down for afternoons at your house or out on your boat. We went on cruises together, all of us, and over the years you became an integral part of your granddaughters lives.

I’ll grant you, seeing them so involved in their lives could sting a bit as I watched you interact with them in a way I never got to experience.  What a cool dad you would have been!

Of course you left again.  That was, as I understand it now, inevitable.  This time you didn’t leave just one little girl.  You  left me AND my daughters.  You left after they had come to think that they could depend on you to always be there for them.  You left after I thought you would always be there for me. 
You left yet another awesome woman who had devoted her life to being there for you. 

I could be hurt.  I should be hurt.  I would be justified in hating you.  But you know what?  I don’t hate you.  I cant.  I understand now that it isnt about me.  It isnt even about your grandaughters.  It isnt even about your relationships with women.  Its YOU. 

There is something deep inside of you that doesnt allow you to get too close to anyone on an emotional level. Something that doesnt allow you to form any sort of attachment that could hold you back or pin you down.

And this fathers day, I want you to know that in spite of everything, I love you.  You gave me life.  Because of you I get to see the wonders of life and explore the mysteries of love.  You made it possible for my awesome daughters to come into existence.  And for this, I thank you.

You have your own demons to battle with and are doing that as best you know how.  And for that I applaud you.

And even though the chances of your ever seeing this are slim to none, know that no matter where you go, no matter what you do, you are my father and I love you.  I may not be happy with the choices you’ve made, but they were your choices, not mine.

I choose to be here for you if you ever need me.  I choose to stay in contact with you no matter how far away you run.

I choose to love you.  For always.

Happy Father’s Day.

Tectonically Divergent

divergentSuddenly thrown together; violently torn apart; slow and steady buildup of grown and strength or a steady movement away from each other; a study of planetary plate tectonics is like viewing the development and decline of personal relationships only on a global scale.

Most people are introduced to the concept of tectonic plates in grade school. I can remember learning about how the plates moved and how two plates meeting head on caused folds in the land that we know as mountain ranges and how the sudden shifting apart of two plates could cause rifts and canyons in the earth’s crust; how two plates moving in opposite directions can cause earthquakes or trigger volcanos.

It was a fascinating subject, and I remember spending hours on my own reading about how the plates interacted with each other; about which continents rode on which plates and in which direction they were (slowly) moving, and about the currents of the magma underneath the plates that is thought to contribute to the continental shifts. Of course I got sidetracked by geysers and earthquakes and volcanoes and Yellowstone National Park basically being one giant Caldara. But it was the discovery that plate motions vary from 10-40 mm per year (or about as fast as fingernails grow) at the Atlantic Ridge to 160 mm per year (about as fast as hair grows) at the Nazca Plate that really got me thinking about the similarities between planetary tectonics and the human subconscious and its influence on the development and decline of personal relationships.

While each human person on this planet belongs to one species (just as the tectonic plates travel over and around the one core of the planet) each individual (plate) stands alone and moves in its own direction, intent on its own growth and development.

But, just like the tectonic plates, individuals come in contact with and interact with each other on a regular basis. Some merely pass by each other smoothly and with absolutely no friction or move together in the same direction, taking comfort from knowing that they are not alone, while others meet each other head on, neither one giving an inch and causing the upheaval of everything and everyone around them. Some people come together and meld in spite of the fact that they are moving in opposite directions, and when they finally move far enough apart everything around them comes tumbling down or an eruption occurs that burns down everything they had worked to build together. And some people – some people travel together for a long time, but unbeknownst to either, they are moving in opposite directions and it isn’t until the rift or ridge between them is too big to be spanned or climbed do they have to acknowledge that their time together is over.

I suppose that I am lucky.   Unlike so many marriages that mimic a Convergent plate boundary (meeting head on and causing huge upheavals) or a Transform plate boundary (the kind that result in frictional shift with resultant earthquakes and destruction of everything the couple has built) my marriage is ending as a Divergent plate boundary – the kind where two plates keep drifting away from each other forming a rift or ridge between them.

After 25 years my husband and I have finally acknowledged that the rift between us is too deep and too wide to be spanned. For years we simply ignored it, felling trees to serve as foot bridges, building rope bridges when the trees were no longer large enough, constructing steel and cable monstrosities when the ropes finally unraveled and at long last sending mule trains across when even the longest bridge could no longer hold up.

Mind you it wasn’t easy for either of us to acknowledge that it was over. There have been lots of tears (on my side) and plenty of defensiveness as both of us try to justify how we got here and who is to blame for the huge canyon between us that we finally had to acknowledge as existing when even the mules bogged down in the mire, dug in their heels, and refused to move another inch.

They say that hindsight is 20/20. And now that we are here; now that it is over; it is clear that had we acknowledged the rift when it first occurred; the first cracks in seemingly stable land, we could have halted the divergence in its tracks, for there is one major difference between plate tectonics and human relationships, and that is choice.

While the plates move together and tear apart in seemingly random dances of creation and destruction, humans can choose to move together; to mend the rifts; to quench the volcanos; to anchor themselves to something far deeper and stronger than themselves; to anchor themselves to their choice to be united and to stand together and to grow and change in tandem; a choice that prevents the random and chaotic upheavals that unanchored relationships encounter.

We did not.

Perhaps we were anchored once. But slowly, day by day, year by year, the resolve to stand together dissolved and we were left to drift apart on separate unseen currents tethered to each other only by our love and concern for our two beautiful daughters and our desire to make sure that they grew up with the love and attention of both parents on a 24/7 basis; a tether that, with our youngest turning 18 and graduating from high school has finally snapped, leaving us each standing on opposite sides of a grand canyon of disbelief and holding the frayed end of what was once a strong and beautiful relationship.

The good thing about a divergent breakup is that there has been only a minimum of drama; no histrionics or flung accusations or eruptions of long vented anger and frustration, only the relatively calm acceptance of where we are now and of what comes next and the mutual agreement that our daughters will continue to be our priority and that even though we will no longer be living together, we agree to be there for them when they need us; putting aside our own differences in order to support them in whatever they decide to do and in any kind of life events that come their way.

So here we are, saying goodbye to a marriage that lasted a quarter of a century but somehow emerging with a level of mutual regard, of shared responsibility and goodwill for each other intact; something that defies the conventional concept of breakups and leaves us staring at each other with a sheepish smile and a half-hearted shrug. It may not be how things usually end, but this is where we are. Each of us staring into the canyon between us, seeing the layers of strata that have been revealed by the pulling apart of these two plates; the shared experiences and colorful memories and moments of a shared life and down; far down at the bottom of the canyon we can just glimpse the river of what once was; a river that continues to flow in spite of the towering canyon walls, and always will.

 

~SSHenry, July 2014

 

How to Heal a Broken Heart

broken heart“When one door closes, another opens; but we often look so long and so regretfully upon the closed door that we do not see the one which has opened for us.” ~Alexander Graham Bell

My heart was broken long ago.  The details don’t matter.  What matters is that instead of admitting that my heart was broken; instead of admitting that I was in pain and dealing with the trauma right then and there, I made a series of decisions that threw my world into chaos and that impacted my life for a very long time.

Mind you, the decisions that I made (one in particular) in response to the heartbreak were a way of protecting my heart from further injury; of insulating it against the pain that I had incurred.  But what I didn’t realize is that by denying the pain; by choosing to delude myself into thinking that I was all right, I was ignoring an injury which, when left untreated, never healed.  In fact, it began to fester, poisoning everything else I did.

And so to escape the pain of infection I wrapped myself in layers upon layers of mundane is-ness; sinking into a depression so complete that I was not even aware that I was.  I only knew that there was something wrong; something that continued to eat at me and that I couldn’t quite put my finger on.

As crazy as it may seem, six months ago, just as I was ready to give up altogether, it was the very one who inflicted the original injury that pulled me out of my despondency; enabling me to see exactly what I had allowed my life to become due to the choices that I had made and gave me the courage to acknowledge what I had done, accept where I am, and  to face the future without fear of what it might bring.

Knowing what might have been – what I have lost – what I will never have because of the choices that I have made – makes my heart ache as it has never ached before.  It is like peeling off the scab to clean out an infected wound; a throbbing ache that reaches right down to my soul.

Accepting that I will never have what might have been; accepting where I am and who I have become because of the path I chose to follow stings like alcohol poured into a cut; intensifying the pain to the point that it doesn’t feel as if I can take it for even one more second.  But it also kills the bacteria of despair and despondence and is the first step to healing.

Acceptance leads to an understanding of why I made those choices.  And understanding is like a soothing balm; a balm and a soft cotton bandage that covers the cleaned wound, protecting it from further damage.

But knowing and accepting and understanding is not enough.  I must also have wisdom; wisdom and courage to prevent any more trauma to my heart; not by burying it where it cannot be touched, but by leaving it exposed and choosing instead to make those decisions that will strengthen it.

I must have the wisdom to learn from my experiences and the courage to listen to my heart and, from now on, to make each decision based on what feels right to my heart – to my soul –not based on my fears; not as a reaction to pain that threatens to tear me apart, or in response to the pressures and influences of what those around me expect from me.  And once I have made the decision, the courage to move forward without fear, knowing that if I am acting from my heart – and for my heart – that I will be making the decision that is best for me and that will help me to become who and what I was meant to be.

~SSHenry~ March 2, 2014.

All Beginnings Are Hard

butterfly“All Beginnings are hard. . . . Especially a beginning that you make for yourself. That’s the hardest beginning of all.” ~Chiam Potok

 

It is not unusual at this time of the year to see dozens of posts touting an individual’s New Year’s Resolutions; posts about losing weight, finding love, getting their dream job.  The list is endless. And while I know plenty of people who scoff at the idea; people who say that making New Year’s Resolutions is pointless and meaningless, the concept behind it is really quite lovely; you are promising yourself a new beginning; choosing the turning of the New Year as a convenient marking point for tracking their progress.

The sad part of course is that most people renege on their promise to themselves fairly quickly.  In fact, the same people who will move heaven and earth to keep a promise to a spouse or a child; a parent, an employer or a friend will dismiss their promise to themselves with no more than a shrug and an amused chuckle.

Do we really have so little respect for ourselves that we can shrug away our chance to finally create the life we have always imagined?  Because when we fail to keep our promises to ourselves that is exactly what we are doing.  We are trading in those things we desire most in the whole world in exchange for convenience, or security or acceptance by those who don’t understand what achieving our goals would mean for our authentic selves.

I have no room to judge the person who gives in to those around them; who gives in to the demands of convention or of society and gives up their dream, for I am guilty of the same thing.  In fact, I am more guilty than most.  I gave up my dream.  I gave up my dreams willingly in the hopes that by doing so I could forget who I was; that I could bury my true self in normality and create a life for myself where I would not only not be hurt any more, but one where I would no longer hurt anyone else.

For a few precious years it seemed to work.  I was happy, or at the very least I was content.  But it didn’t last.

It was inevitable that one day I would wake up to the fact that burying my authentic self was the biggest mistake that I ever made.

Don’t get me wrong, I don’t regret the life I lived; it gave me two beautiful daughters and hundreds of lovely memories that I will cherish forever.  What I do regret is that I gave up my true self for the illusion of security and belonging.

It has taken me a quarter of a century to come around to acknowledging my mistake and in taking steps to rectify it; to unearth the true me that has been buried for so very long.  Unfortunately she has been kept under wraps for so long that no one recognizes her.  Well, no one except those who knew me before I buried her alive.  Her resurrection has resulted in any number of problems as I try to explain to those around me that this is who I am.  That the person they thought I was all this time was nothing more than a façade; a mask worn to prevent those around me from see who and what I truly am; a choice I made because I was afraid of hurting or being hurt ever again.

Some have supported me in this excavation.  Others have fought it at every turn, trying their hardest to convince me that going back to the self they always knew is in everyone’s best interest; especially their own since that person was the one they were comfortable with.  But going back to the person I was pretending to be is something I will not do.  And if becoming myself means turning their world upside down, well then, so be it.  I have kept myself buried for far too long.  It is time.

And so it is that I make my own New Year’s Resolution.  This year I make a new beginning for myself – for my true self.  I will take the steps necessary to free myself from those people and situations that would keep me from being who and what I truly am.

Of course this means that there will be some tough decisions to be made over the next 12 months; some very difficult choices and overall upheaval for myself and those closest to me.  But like childbirth, once the process has begun, there really is no turning back.  I have made myself the promise of a new beginning, and it is a promise that I intend to keep.

Chutes And Ladders

“It doesn’t matter how bad things get.  It doesn’t matter how dark the clouds are.  You have to believe, deep in your heart, that the sun is still shining, even if, right now, you can’t feel anything except the continual downpour.” ~ SSHenry

There are times in each of our lives; moments, days, months even; when we feel like giving up; when we feel that going through the motions of daily life are just too difficult and it would be easier to curl ourselves into a small ball and just wait for it all to end.

I’ve had one of those years.

The details don’t matter.  Suffice it to say that a year ago something happened to me that turned my world upside down.  It began with a single event and cascaded (as single events tend to do) into a thundering waterfall of circumstances that swept away nearly every aspect of who and what I was.

If you don’t believe me, go ahead and look at the dates on my writing here on the website.  You’ll notice that since a year ago the entries became fewer and farther between.  There would be months between entries.  That is because I was spending every last ounce of energy keeping my head above water; trying desperately not to drown in my own tears.

I was left clinging tenaciously to one thing and, oddly enough, it wasn’t someone or something outside of myself that I found myself clinging to.  It was an inner knowing; an understanding that even though it felt as if all of my insides had been torn out through my chest and kicked about by people in very dirty and heavy work boots before being randomly stuffed back in, it was going to be ok.

Somewhere deep inside I knew that even though it felt as if things would never get better, that this was just one of life’s weird twists.  It wasn’t the end.  It was more like the square on the Shute’s and Ladders board where you plummet back to nearly the beginning before picking yourself up and beginning the climb all over again.

Mind you, that didn’t make it any easier to handle.  That didn’t make the days any easier to face.  What it did was enable me to use my meditation and mindfulness skills to focus on the right here and now, as painful as it was; on getting through today.  Not looking towards tomorrow.  Not planning for the future;  just on getting through the day; through the morning; through the next hour.  I survived moment by moment until the hole in my heart scabbed over and reduced itself to an aching throb.

And after nearly a year’s worth of mornings where the alarm would go off and I would groan in disappointment at finding myself still alive and at the prospect of having to deal with yet another pointless and meaningless day; after nearly a year’s worth of days finding myself bursting into tears for no particular reason; one morning I surprised myself by waking up with a smile in my heart.  I could feel the sun again, and see colors.

Sure enough, when I checked the scab that had covered the hole where my insides were torn out had finally fallen off, leaving new pink skin underneath.  Mind you, it’s still very, very tender, and painful when exposed to the air or vigorous rubbing.  But it’s whole.  And I can feel my insides carefully rearranging themselves.  I think there may be a few pieces missing, for there certainly seems to be an emptiness inside that wasn’t there before.

Or maybe there is nothing missing.  Maybe during this last year, while I was focusing on getting through the day; maybe I grew.  Maybe it is not that there is something missing.  Maybe instead it is that there is now room inside of me; room for more; more of everything.

Excuse Me, My Life is Waiting

walk“Surround yourself only with people who are going to lift you higher.” ~ Oprah Winfrey

 

Does purposefully surrounding yourself with people who will lift you higher; people who encourage you and strengthen you sound like a selfish thing to do?  Can you imagine the alternative?

No, most of us don’t have to imagine the alternative, because most of us live it.  I know I do.  Or, rather, up until now, I have.

When I was little it was family members who would discourage me from my dreams, telling me that I really didn’t have the talent or skill for this or that endeavor, or that what I was attempting was not something that a “good Christian girl” would do.  If I pursued my activities I would then have to put up with the disappointment of those same family members and see the hurt and pain in their eyes that I wasn’t living up to their expectations.  And so I would sigh and tuck away my dreams.

When I was older it was my teachers, friends or boyfriends that would discourage me from attempting what they saw as ill-conceived or inadvisable options.  And what did I do?  I would go ahead with them anyway, until of course someone looked at me again with that pain in their eyes, and then I would crumble. OK, ok.  I’ll fold.  Just stop looking at me like that.  I want you to LIKE me, to LOVE me, not to be disappointed by me. And then I got married and the whole process started over again. 

So why am I speaking in the past tense?  Because I have decided that I am finished with the negativity.  I have to be.

You see, the negativity of those who discourage, demean or belittle me and my desire to become the truest version of myself are not serving me.  And there – right there – is where I usually get a twinge of guilt.  The very term “not serving me” just reeks of self-centeredness, doesn’t it?

But there comes a point in your life where you realize that as much as you care about the people in your life; and as much as you want them to be happy, there is something that is more important, and that is that you be true to your real self no matter how others feel about it.

This isn’t selfishness; at least it isn’t selfishness in the traditional definition of the word.  No, this is taking care of what you need in order to learn and grow and become, and let’s face it, without growth things tend to stagnate and grow stale. That includes everything from your personal life to your relationships with others, so no matter what, there really is no point in spending your energy trying to maintain the status quo.

Of course those negative individuals in your life who encourage you NOT to change would be glad of change IF (and only if) you were to change in the direction that they wish to see you go.  What scares them is that you are changing in ways that make them uncomfortable, which is why they fight against it so hard. But a moment of reflection should show you that change to make someone else happy is actually counterproductive.  Yes, the other person may rest easier knowing that you will not break out in ways that they cannot or will not allow themselves to understand.  But you will be just as unhappy having changed into something that you are NOT as you were unhappy to remain in a stagnant or stale situation.

Actually, you will be unhappier having changed in a direction that is at odds with your soul purpose; even unhappier than you would be simply staying put and resisting the urge to become who and what you really are.

No.  The truth of the matter is that you HAVE to follow your instincts and intuition if you are going to truly live your life and not simply treat it as some sort of spectator sport.

At the risk of sounding cliché, you have to follow your heart.  If it leads you in a direction that others find uncomfortable enough, they will move on or move out of your life to a place where they feel more comfortable and where the people and things live up to their expectations.

So when I talk about surrounding yourself with those who will lift you up (and not pull you down) I’m not talking about walking away from people or situations that do not serve you.  Instead, what I am saying is that you need to stop giving those people and situations that you find energy draining or negative to the point of depression, your attention.

Just stop.  They are not worth the effort of either fighting their negativity or the effort of changing yourself in order to please them.  They do not serve you.

So focus on what does serve you; on those things that bring you joy and that fill your life with the wonder and mystery that feeds your soul.  Focus on those things that encourage you to grow and become who and what you truly are, and watch your life as it changes for the better.

The Dark Demon of Despair

“Have you ever dealt with the dark demon of despair? Have you ever invited him to walk with you as you wend your way through life? Has he ever held your hand as you balanced on the razor’s edge of sanity and seduced you with his promises of oblivion?” ~ SSHenry

Sometimes the demon of despair doesn’t need an invitation.  Sometimes he just appears out of the clear blue and swoops you up before you have a chance to protest.  One minute you are on top of the world.  The next minute you’ve been dragged down into a morass of pain so deep that you are sure that you will never find a way out.

And sometimes; sometimes it seems that the only way to be rid of the pain is to stop living.

Yes, I know despair is not the usual topic for this time of the year.  Usually we focus on love and romance and the promise of spring, but here is the thing; there are people all around you who are grappling with this demon even as we speak.  Who knows, you may be one of them yourself.  And it is times of the year like this; holidays dedicated to love and family and having a positive outlook on life that can be the hardest for these people because it emphasizes everything that they do not (or that they no longer) have.

The reasons why any one of us may give in to this demon are as many and as varied as there are people in the world.  Perhaps you’ve lost someone close to you to death.  Perhaps you love has left you for someone else.  Perhaps you’ve received bad news regarding your job or your finances or your health.  Perhaps you have simply become jaded by life and no longer see the purpose of it all. Does it really matter?  If there is one thing about the demon, it is that he is an equal opportunity employer and absolutely no respecter of persons.

And while we may not be able to predict when this demon comes to call or just how hard he’ll impact us when he does, we do have a choice of whether or not we will give in to the despair that is his dark inheritance.

Yes.  There are going to be days when it seems that we cannot take a single more moment; moments that are so painful that the thought of bearing one more instant is physically painful.  But there is one way to ensure that the despair will not consume you entirely and that is to find your anchor of joy.

Your anchor of joy is what keeps you tethered to the knowledge that this clinging fog of doubt and depression is not the way it always was, nor the way it always will be.  And while it may seem impossible to remember the good times when the darkness threatens to swallow you whole, if you can find just one moment of joy in each day and hold that close to your heart, it can be enough to keep you alive.

It doesn’t have to be anything big.  Perhaps it is the contented purr of a cat, the vivid colors of a spectacular sunset, the overwhelming awesomeness of your favorite piece music or the simple beauty in a budding flower.  It may even be something more mundane like the deep robust scent of your coffee, the way the sun slants through your bedroom window or the feel of clean sheets against your skin.

Whatever it is that brings you that moment of joy, however brief, hold it close.  Hold it tight.  As you slog through the rest of your day; as the cold darkness of despair threatens to engulf you, focus on that moment.  Relieve it in your mind as many times as you need to and know that there is hope.

And one morning you will wake up to find that the one moment has become two, and then three and, before you know it they will have multiplied and you will have banished that cold dark demon from your life and will be living in the sunlight once again.

So don’t give up.  And if you know someone close to you that is wrestling with this particular demon, don’t give up on them.  Help them to find their anchor of joy.  You cannot find it for them, but you can help them to recognize it for what it is and encourage them to hold it close to their hearts and hold tight to the knowledge that there are brighter days to come.

All it Takes is Gratitude

 “Gratitude unlocks the fullness of life. It turns what we have into enough, and more. It turns denial into acceptance, chaos to order, confusion to clarity. It can turn a meal into a feast, a house into a home, a stranger into a friend.” ~Melody Beattie

It has been said that gratitude is the real bread of life; that without it life becomes bleak and bare and lacking in so many different ways.  And yet, how many times do we actually stop to express our gratitude for what we have been given?

I’m not talking about common courtesy; saying thank you when someone does something for you and things of that ilk.  No, I’m talking about real gratitude.  I’m talking about a heartfelt appreciation for everything that you have in your life, no matter how small or insignificant you may consider it to be.

Believe it or not, even the poorest of those who will read this are better off than half the world’s population.  For starters, you have the free time to be able to get onto a computer and surf the internet, not to mention that you have access to a computer. You probably have a roof over your head, clothes in your closet and food on your table as well.  You have access to health care (or at least to an emergency room) and have more likely than not received some sort of an education and are able to read and write.

And these are just the fundamental basics! So many people don’t have even this, but that doesn’t stop them from being grateful!  And so many of us have so much more than the basics and yet we are always looking for more.

But what about the intangible things?

What about those things that can’t be touted up on an accounting sheet or listed on a home inventory list?

What about friendship and love?  What about caring and commitment?  What about courage and integrity and creativity?  Do we ever stop long enough in our headlong rush to be grateful for those things that lend the fabric of our lives such rich texture?

In spite of everything that we have; in spite of everything that we have been given, it is so very easy to take what you have for granted – until it isn’t there anymore.  And then, once it’s gone; once it is gone and you can never get it back again, you feel like kicking yourself at every moment that you wasted; every opportunity that passed you by without your noticing.

Most times it is easy to be grateful.  Indeed, when you have everything that you need; when life is sweet and full of interesting people and experiences, gratitude seems to come as naturally as breathing.  We don’t even think about it.  It is simply there.

And yet, there are times when being grateful is the last thing on your mind; when the pain is so deep and the darkness and despair so dark and suffocating that it seems that there is no way that you can ever find your way out.  At these moments gratitude can seem as far away as the surface of the moon, and just about as helpful.

But what if I were to tell you that that is when you need it the most?

Because if you can’t remember the good things in your life, if you can’t bring to mind the bright moments of laughter and life and love that make everything worthwhile, those dark and depressing times can suck you down so far that you may never get out.

This is why it is so very important to practice daily gratitude.

I don’t care how you do it.  Buy a journal, start a blog, post it on Facebook, Tweet it to all of your friends, send out a text message – whatever!  But start today.  List all the things that you are grateful for.  Don’t just do this one time, do it every day.

In fact, make it a habit to find at LEAST five things to be grateful for every day.

On an awesome day you may take up pages listing all the things you are grateful for.  On bad days you may only be able to list a handful.  But believe it or not, this handful can make all of the difference.

You see, there may come a particularly bad day when those things that you have listed are the only things that keep you from giving up altogether; when one or two of the items on that list are all that keep you tethered to life. Those things will become your focus; your reason for living.

And believe it or not, if you can make it through the day; if you can focus on that handful of things that you DO have instead of those things that you do NOT have, eventually it will get better.  In time the good things will begin to multiply again until once more you find your life to be overflowing with life and love, friendship and good fortune and once more life will be worth living.

All it takes is gratitude.

Personal Note:  For me 2012 ended on a tragic note when I found that a close friend had killed themselves just after Christmas.  I cherished every moment that we spent together and even though I had given them all the support and advice that I could – it wasn’t enough.  In the end the pain and sadness that they felt overwhelmed them. They simply couldn’t find a reason to keep living.  This is why this message is so important to me.  Life is fragile and far, far too short; don’t let a moment of it go by unappreciated. 

And please – PLEASE – if one of the things you are grateful for today is someone else; a friend or family member, let them know!  Don’t assume that they already know.  Just tell them.  One day you will be glad that you did.

Joy to the World and Pass the Eggnog!

 

I don’t know about you, but this time of the year can be stressful for anyone who celebrates the season.  In fact, there are days when I feel that Ebenezer Scrooge had it right before the spirits ever got a hold of him, particularly the part where he tells the gentlemen collecting for the poor that “I wish to be left alone!”

Just think of all of the things that you are ‘expected’ to do.  There is the holiday decorating and the baking, the gift buying and wrapping and party planning.  Then there are the concerts and end of school performances and recitals and drama productions and work parties and neighborhood celebrations, church celebrations and the addressing of about a million greeting cards and all of this in the four weeks between Thanksgiving and Christmas.

With so much to do and so little time to do it in (not to mention even less time to actually kick back and relax) is it any wonder why so many people get so stressed out?

Here is a question for you.  With all the expectations attached to the holiday season, is it possible to live authentically; to be exactly whom and what you are in spite of everything that you are expected to do?

The answer, of course, is yes.

No, this doesn’t mean that you have to become a Scrooge and lock yourself away behind walls of cynicism for the duration of the holiday season. What it does mean is that you take a good hard look at those responsibilities and activities that you have agreed to take part in and ask yourself whether or not they bring you joy.

If they DO bring you joy, then by all means keep them!  Yes, I know that baking four dozen cupcakes for your child’s end of school winter holiday party may not be a joyful experience in and of itself, but the look on their face when you walk into their classroom with the cupcakes may be worth every moment you spent in the kitchen.

On the other hand, if you find yourself dreading the very thought of attending one more Messiah sing along, then don’t go!  There is nothing that says that you have to say yes to every invitation issued during this time of the year.  There is nothing that says that you have to bake all of your sugar cookies from scratch.  There is nothing that says that you have to reciprocate every gift you receive with another of equal or greater value.

What it takes is weighing each agreement that you make; every invitation that you accept against how much joy it will bring into your life.

Does that sound selfish? Perhaps in a way it is.  After all, at this time of the year especially we are encouraged to think of others first; to put our own wants and needs aside in order to provide for the needs and wants of others.  But what never fails to astonish me is how anyone can expect that a person can keep giving and giving without every running out of energy.  It can’t be done.

In order to care for others we must first take care of ourselves, and one of the most effective ways to do this is to pay attention to our joy.  If everything that we do comes from our heart and brings us joy and happiness then each thing that we do for others – which we WANT to do for others – each thing we do for someone else that brings us joy will be magnified tenfold.

It won’t be how much we do, but the quiet intent; the joy inherent that will fill up our lives, and our hearts this holiday season and every day of the year to come.

 

 

Boiling Frogs

“A Miracle is a highly improbably or extraordinary event, development or accomplishment (usually welcome and highly valued) which is not entirely explicable by natural laws. Some people attribute these to divine intervention. Others simply say that they are the result of natural laws which we simply don’t understand yet. One thing is for certain – sometimes it takes a miracle to make you believe in the possibility of them occurring no matter what their origin.” ~ SSHenry

I never used to believe in miracles; not even the kind that can be explained by as-yet unknown natural laws.  I always used to think that either something was possible – or it was not.  Oh I’d heard of miracles, certainly.  But even things like spontaneous cancer remissions could, in my mind, be categorized in the “as-yet unknown natural law” category.  But there is nothing like actually experiencing a miracle to understand its true power.

I can’t go into details; the events that led up to this particular incident are still too raw and close to my heart to share openly.  Suffice it to say that I had found myself in a situation that had become intolerable.  It was like the proverbial frog in a pot of boiling water.

You know the story; a frog is placed in a pot of tepid water on top of a stove burner.  It doesn’t resist being put in the water because the temperature is comfortable.  Then slowly, bit by bit, the temperature of the water is turned up until the frog quietly boils to death; never complaining or attempting to escape because it acclimates to each miniscule change in the water’s temperature.

I was the frog.  I had, over the years, allowed my life to reach a temperature just short of the boiling point.  Yes, it was a bit uncomfortable, but I simply thought that was the way things were supposed to be.  I didn’t fight it.  But then, rather abruptly, someone pulled the lid off the pot and prodded me into leaving the pot, and I’ll tell you right now, the change in temperature nearly blew my mind, as did the realization of just what I had allowed my life to become as well as what I had been living without; things that were my right; things that no one should have to live without. Then someone tried to put me back into the pot of near-boiling water.

Well, you can imagine what happened; water everywhere; the pot caroming off of cupboards and bouncing around on the floor like an ill-tempered poodle that has been ignored for too long. No, I did not go gentle into that good night.  In fact, I refused to go at all.  In the process of refusing to simply slip back into the boiling water I made a mess of everything around me and scalded those around me in the process.

It wasn’t pretty, and I’m not proud of the mess I made or the pain that I inflicted, but there is something good that came out of it.  No, there is something miraculous that came out of it; not only did I realize just what my life had become and refuse to be prodded into an acceptance of the way things had been, one of those I scalded – in spite of being in intense pain and extremely angry at me for upsetting the pot, was shocked into the realization of just what had been happening, of the pain and discomfort they had been inflicting as well by turning up the temperature (though it wasn’t a calculated infliction of pain). In fact, they were so startled when they realized what had been happening that they tossed out the pot as well as the stove and replaced them with a pond replete with lily pads and soothing reeds and lots of bugs where we can both kick back and relax and forget about things like stoves and pots and even kitchens.

The long and the short of it is that the atmosphere has completely changed.  I didn’t think it was possible.  I regret that it took such an upset and that people got hurt in the process, but the change is, not to put too fine of a point on it, miraculous.

Will it last?  I don’t know. I’d like to think so. But in the meantime, I am definitely going to enjoy the pond and being with someone who appreciates me and is willing to share this lily pad with me in spite of the burns I inflicted; burns that have to hurt like the very devil when immersed in the pond water but which will eventually heal when exposed to the warmth of the sun.

Too Much Love and Not Enough

“I can only Love. That is all I can do. That is all I can be because that is what I am.  I AM Love.  I am what encompasses you; moves through you and allows you to be everything and experience everything that makes you who and what you are; everything.  No exceptions.  It’s all here; all a part of the totality that makes up existence; that makes up life.  It all exists inside of Love.  And all of Love exists inside of Me.”

~ SSHenry

Does that sound like something out of a new age self-help book?  Does that sound like some sort of sentimental clap-trap? Perhaps it does, but it doesn’t make it any less true.

Before you throw up your hands in frustration and decide that I have indeed gone over to the dark side, let me get one thing straight here.  I’m not talking about generalized love; you know the kind of love that a person refers to when they are talking about “loving” a certain kind of soda or brand of clothes or sports team.  That is such a watered down and punk-ass version of the real thing that it really doesn’t deserve to have the same word applied to it.  Come to think of it, we do use that word an awfully lot, don’t we?

Forget just the generalized over-use of the word “love” in general conversation.  There are so many other uses for the word that it is no wonder that sometimes it feels as if it has been spread way too thin.

We use the word “love” not just to express intense like in an object or for an experience, we also use the word as a way to describe everything from intense romantic desire (falling in love) to the sexual act (making love) to the intensely deep and protective feelings for a child (paternal love) the abiding camaraderie of friends (platonic love) and even the all-encompassing acceptance/salvation/forgiveness attributed to God in whatever way you define him (divine love).

And any way we slice it, the word “love” has come to be associated with certain expectations.  Think about it.  When we talk about “loving” a product or an experience, that ‘love’ depends on the product or experience continuing to produce the same feelings in us as it always has or by producing the same result that we find so awesome.

When we talk about romantic love, falling in love or making love we assume that the other person in the scenario is going to return our feelings or that we are at least going to get some sort of physical satisfaction out of it.  The same concept holds true for parental love, filial love, the love of friends and any other sort of love that you want to define.  There is always some sort of expectation; always something that you get in return.  Even divine love has its expectations.

Yes, in spite of those who claim that “God is love” and that is his love is unconditional, there is still the problem of why it is that the rewards of his love (eternal life) are dependent on the one receiving his love accepting and returning it or showing their appreciation for it in an appropriate manner, otherwise you don’t benefit from the love (at least not in the long term).  I hate to say it, but that is not unconditional love.

True unconditional love knows no limitations and has no expectations.  It not only loves everyone unconditionally, it also bestows the benefits of that love on everyone regardless of whether that love is appreciated, returned or even acknowledged – ever.

There is no differentiating those who accept the love from those who do not.  There are no special rewards for those who acknowledge or return the love as opposed to those who do not.  One simply LOVES.  Not because there is anything in it for you, not because you are obsessed with the people or things that you love, but because you have no other choice.  It is simply who and what you are.  It is what you do.  You get to the point where you cannot NOT love even if the people do not appreciate, return or even acknowledge the love that you give them.

It may seem as if it happened over night.  In fact, you may wake up one morning with this love in your heart and wonder how the devil it happened.  But chances are if you look back at your life, you’ll be able to see its progression; how opening and re-opening yourself up to love (in spite of the pain of rejection), how focusing on the positive even when it seemed that the negativity was suffocating, how reminding yourself over and over again not to become attached to people and outcomes all paid off.

But let me tell you something; in spite of the fact that when you get to this point; when you find that you cannot NOT love the people around you (regardless of how stupid they behave or even if they ignore you completely); that you want the best for everyone (even those who have hurt you), it can almost be lonelier than it was when you could compartmentalize; when you could put people into categories of those you loved, tolerated, ignored or hated.  Because in order to love at this level; in order to love at all, you have to open yourself up to that love; including being loved (or not) in return, even if the amount of love you receive is not equal to that which you are giving out.  And there WILL be those who love you in return, even if it is not with an unconditional love. On some levels, that can be the scariest thing of all.

Why?  Because when a person returns your love; when they acknowledge the unconditional love that you are sending them and reflect it back to you, it can be so delicious that it can be addictive.  And you will be tempted to become attached to what it is that they are offering; to feel as if they are supplying you with that love when in truth it is only a reflection of what is there in your own heart.  If you can remember that; that there is nothing they are giving you that you do not have access to yourself, then you will be okay even if they decide for whatever reason that they no longer love you.  If you can’t remember that, you are opening yourself up to a world full of hurt as you slip back into the addictive and painful world of love that is wrapped up in attachment and expectation.

But if you can resist the urge of attachment; of looking to one person or experience that you crave; you will have found that in every person; even those who do not acknowledge or return the love that you give out without question; that there is a reflection of the love that you give out without prompting; a love that is then reflected back to yourself threefold enabling you to become even more than you already were.

Indeed, loving unconditionally will not only be your biggest challenge, but its own tremendous reward.  And even though this may not make complete and total sense to you now, it will.  Oh yes, in time it will.

Always In Joy

Do you remember when you were a teenager; when there was a guy (or girl) that you really liked and who you wanted to notice you. Do you remember how you reacted?  Do you remember what you did?  Do you remember finding out everything you could about them and then getting interested in it yourself?  Sometimes you’d give up your own interests in order to pursue theirs in the hopes that by insinuating yourself into their world; by showing an interest in their interests, they’d be more likely to notice you.

Maybe it even worked.  Maybe they did notice you.  Maybe you hooked up and had an awesome time of it.  Perhaps for a while you felt like true soul mates; perfect for each other in every way.  But chances are that somewhere along the line something went horribly wrong.  There came a point when you realized that it was all about them.  Everything was about them; all of it; everything that you did together; everything that you talk about; everything that you ‘share’ is really all about them.  Well, of course it is.  You created it that way.   And chances are that you started to feel shorted; slighted even.  You may have even attempted to start introducing your own interests into the relationship in the hopes to correct the imbalance.

Then of course there were probably misunderstandings and miscommunications due to the fact that the other person simply could not comprehend what was happening.  Weren’t the pair of you happy?  Didn’t you both enjoy the same things; enjoy talking about them and spending time together doing them?  Weren’t they the same as they had always been?  Why was it suddenly that what they were giving you was no longer enough?  Why have you suddenly become so demanding and dissatisfied?

And that of course made things worse didn’t it?  Because how do you tell someone that your entire relationship was based on your desire to get them into your life in whatever way possible?  How do you explain that you were never entirely open with them; that when you met it wasn’t on equal terms because you didn’t want them to get scared off or to lose interest?  How do you explain that what you really wanted, more than anything – what you still want – was and is to have a relationship of equals; where both of you were interested in what made the other person tick, even if you didn’t necessarily share all of the same interests?

I know, I know, it seemed like the natural thing to do at the time.  After all, how could you possibly have known that you were selling yourself short in order to get their attention and bring them into your life?  It’s a very easy trap to slip into.  In fact, it’s so easy that chances are, if you stop and take a good hard look at your life right now and at the people in it, you will find that one or more of the relationships that you are currently in are based on the exact same principles as those high school relationships.

It doesn’t matter which side of the equation that you are on; whether you are one of those people who gave up their own interests in order to capture the attention of another person, or whether you were the one who was enamored by the person who seemed to fit your life so perfectly in every way.  Be honest with yourself – is this truly a relationship of equals?  Is it?  Because if it is not, a relationship of equals you need to brace yourself; you see, there will come a time when one or both of you will realize that the relationship is lopsided and will want to correct that imbalance.

Better to take the time now to find out what makes the other person tick; to make sure that you are giving – and receiving – equally then to wait for things to fall apart.  Hopefully you will find that openness and honesty with your partner are enough to clear things up and to recreate your relationship as a partnership of equals; individuals who are truly interested in each other and in where your personal and spiritual journeys are taking you.  If not, well, it is never too late to become the person that you were always meant to be; to take the steps you need to put yourself firmly on your own path to authenticity.

If your significant other chooses to join you, or at least support you in becoming that authentic self, fine and good, you have nothing to worry about and the journey will be a joyful one because you will have the support and company of the one with which you share your life; a choice that true soul mates (or soul mates destined to work together for long periods of time) will do.

If they are not interested in joining or supporting you, do not allow their incredulity or anger with the changes in you to halt your own development.  Do not force them.  Do not feel that you have to hold onto them.  If it makes them too uncomfortable, they will leave (physically or emotionally).  This is not a reflection on you, and it is not your fault if the relationship disintegrates.  It is their decision whether or not they wish to include the person you are becoming;  your authentic self;  in their own view of reality.

Who knows, your authentic self, your path, may not be the one that is right for them and they may feel that to join you or even support you is undermining their own integrity.  Do not fight this if it happens, and do not allow it to influence your own becoming.  If another person’s path leads them in a way that does not bring you joy you do not have to follow out of loyalty for the joy and purpose that you once shared.

Move forward in joy.  Always in joy, and always in the direction that makes your heart smile.

One Perfect Life

There is no ‘one perfect life’ out there waiting to be lived.  What there is are a series of moments, each one complete and perfect in and of itself no matter if it contains joy and wonder or sadness and sorrow; each one lived fully and completely and in total awareness.  That is the definition of a perfect life, and that is the life that I am living.”  ~SSHenry

I don’t know about you, but there are definitely days when I feel as if I am spinning my wheels.  I’m not just talking about not being able to get anything done (though that may be a symptom of the larger issue).  What I’m talking about is the feeling that there is something I should be doing in order to bring the life that I was meant to live into my reality besides just visualizing the life that I want to have.

Oh come on, don’t tell me that you haven’t considered how your life could be better!  Most everyone has a picture in their heads; a picture of the ‘perfect life,’ the one they would be living if only things were just a little different.

When I close my eyes and focus I can actually see that life.  I can see the house that would perfectly suit me.  I can walk around and touch the things I’d have in it.  I can see the people that I would be sharing my life with.  I can laugh at the conversations and the experiences and the humor that fill our days.  I see myself in a position of being able to make the world a better place through my words and my example and the feeling of knowing that I am living my life to the fullest.  I can feel the peace that is in my heart and the love that weaves itself through every moment of this life like a bright and glittering gold thread unobstructed and unimpeded and stretching off into an infinity of tomorrows.

I’ll be honest.  The picture of that perfect life is seductive.   It calls to me at the oddest times; tangling me in a lover’s embrace; whispering words of undying devotion in my ear.  It is what I want most; my heart’s desire; and there are days when my heart cries at the thought of having to do without it for even one more minute and when I look around at the life I have and see just how far from perfect it is.

I told this to a friend of mine once, and they said “okay, so now you know what you want, so go out and GET it! Make it happen!”  And I tried to explain it to them – at the time I failed miserably.  Maybe I’ll do better with the explanation today.

You see, while my heart has set its goals; while it knows where it belongs and what sort of a life it would best be suited to, there are still aspects of my reality that I have to deal with right here and now due to decisions that I made yesterday (or years ago) that were not in alignment with that vision for my perfect life.   Those decisions have created situations and have brought people and circumstances into my life that may not be part of that picture of perfection, but they cannot simply be tossed aside either.

Yes, there are some people, who would drop everything to pursue their heart’s desire; who would drop all of their responsibilities and obligations to pursue that perfect but elusive life.  But that is not something I can do.  Not yet.  You see if I did that; if I dropped everything and went out looking for it; once I found my ‘perfect life’, it wouldn’t be perfect any more due to all of the pain and drama I had to go through and that I put other people through in order to get there.

What I can do is to stop being something that I am not.  I choose to be exactly who and what I am at every moment of every day.

This is perhaps one of the hardest things to do; ever.

Go ahead, try it.  Close your eyes and picture that perfect life.  Feel the love and the joy that course through you when you imagine yourself immersed in that life; the places, the people, the experiences that fill you up.  Imagine how you respond to the people and things around you.  Now open your eyes and take a good hard look at the life you are living.  My guess is that most of it doesn’t match up at all.

Now, instead of moping about what you don’t have in your life; about what you are missing, instead of sighing and saying “I’ll just have to wait for heaven,” there is, as I said, just one thing that you can do to change it right here and now; one thing that you can do to bring that life that you were meant to live into existence and that is to change the one thing that you do have control over; yourself.

How?  That’s easy. Stop trying to be something that you are not.

You’ve seen who you really are; that person that occupies that perfect life.  You’ve felt how passionate and enthusiastic they are about life.  You’ve experienced (if only in your heart and mind) the fullness and richness of the life that they lead.  Now stop pretending that you are not capable of living that kind of a life right here and now and start making the kinds of decisions and taking the kinds of actions that they would take in the same situation; actions and decisions that would support and encourage that perfect life and not a continuation of the life that you are currently living with all of its drama and angst.

It’s really not as difficult as you may think.  Actually, it only requires one thing; Attention.

Start paying attention to yourself; to your thoughts; to the beliefs that you incorporate into your life as a result of those thoughts, of the decisions that you make because of the beliefs that you hold and the actions that you take as a result of those decisions.  Are these the thoughts and beliefs and decisions and actions of the person in your perfect life?  Is this how your higher self would act in this situation?  Is this a belief that would support that life that your heart yearns for?  Is that a decision or an action that the person living that perfect life would make?

If yes, then go ahead; entertain the thought, accept the belief; make the decision and take the action.  If no, then slam on the breaks.  Do a 360 if need be and choose something entirely different.

Yes, you may get some astonished looks and some frustrated people who expected you to behave in the same way that you always have.  But remember, this isn’t about them.  This isn’t about fitting into their expectations or about maintaining the guise of you as the person they always thought you were.  This is about being exactly who and what you are in order to manifest your perfect life.

It will not be an overnight transformation.  Most of us (myself included) have far too much baggage stored up to be able to simply change things overnight.  It is going to take time; time and infinite patience and the ability to see that baggage drop to the side of the road and not do the instinctive thing and pick it back up again but to let it go.

As you become more and more yourself you are going to lose things.  You will lose the respect of individuals that you thought were your friends (but who obviously aren’t).  You will lose influence with people who liked the fake you; that persona that you cultivated and who find your authentic self to be absurd or irresponsible.  You may even find that relationships with people close to you crumbling because you are no longer living up to their expectations.

But remember, it is all a part of the process.  And in truth, when it comes right down to it, it’s all about the process – all of it.  Because even though your heart feels the pull of that perfect life, even once you find it, it is not something you simply have.  It is something that you do; something that you are; something that you continue to be, voluntarily, on a day to day basis.

Yes, there are days when I become impatient; when I think that the life I was meant to live will never become a reality.  Then I have to laugh, because I am LIVING the life I was meant to live.  Each moment – including the impatient ones – is part of the process.

Each desire for something more; each longing, each yearning that spurs me on to thoughts and beliefs and decisions and actions that lead to change to bring those things into my life, each new person and experience that brings me another moment (or series of moments) to savor- it’s all a part of the life I was meant to live; the life I AM living.  There is no ‘one perfect life’ out there waiting to be lived.  What there is are a series of moments, each one complete and perfect in and of itself no matter if it contains joy and wonder or sadness and sorrow; each one lived fully and completely and in total awareness.  THAT is the definition of a perfect life, and THAT is the life that I am living.

The Empty Shell

“You can’t ask a butterfly to scrunch herself back into her chrysalis or to go back to being a caterpillar just because you’d gotten used to her like that.  What’s worse is when you try to get her to go back because you fear the freedom given to her by her wings.”  ~SSHenry

There are some experiences; some moments in time; that change your life forever.  Perhaps for you it was a major life event such as the birth of a child, the death of a loved one or a close call that shook you right down to the foundations of your soul.  Or maybe it wasn’t a large event at all.  Maybe it was something much more subtle such as a kind word spoken when it was most needed; the touch of a lover’s hand or a breeze that not only ruffled your hair but stirred up something deep down inside you that simply could not be contained.

I’ve had many life-changing moments.  All of us have.  Sometimes it seems as if these moments come so thick and fast that they threaten to overwhelm you.  At other times you feel as if your entire life is on “pause” and all of the moments having stepped out for a drink or something.   At some points in your life it is as if the moments of realization and wonder and change are so few and far between that you’ve pretty much forgotten what they are like before the next one begins to play itself out and have to remind yourself what exactly it is that you are dealing with each time you encounter it.

My most recent (and not surprisingly most profound) life-changing moment to date came the moment that I walked into my house after a two month absence and realized that there was no way that I could go back to being the person I had been when I walked out that door eight weeks earlier.

The details as to why I ended up gone for two months (illness in the family) or what happened while I was gone are not important.  Yes, I had some interesting experiences while I was off on my own for two months dealing with unexpected issues and meeting people I might not otherwise have encountered. But what really matters is that for two solid months I was detached from the life that I had been living up until that moment.

For two months I was separated from all of the small niggling everyday details that we label “reality” and which demand our attention and catch us up in layers upon layers of drama and expectation; layers that we gladly pull around us like a cloak and call “life.”

For two months I was free of those layers.  Getting rid of them was not pleasant. They got stripped away from me rudely leaving me rather raw and feeling as if I had been flayed alive and then washed down in salt water and I felt as if was being completely inundated with issues and problems and responsibilities that I really didn’t want to deal with at that moment in time.

But the point is that for two months I was not just a wife.  Nor was I just a mother or a daughter taking care of her own mother.  For two solid months – I was me.

Just me.

I was not free of obligations or responsibilities (caring for a sick family member brings with it its own responsibilities and expectations).  But for two months I was free of the obligations and responsibilities and expectations in which I had wrapped myself up for the last 22 years; those responsibilities and expectations that come from being a wife and mother and homemaker extraordinaire.

For two solid months was completely and totally myself.

It dawned on me as I was driving home, to wonder just how I would ever be able to go back to living my old life.  But when I pulled into the driveway and saw my house for the first time in eight weeks; when I walked through the door and took one look around me, I knew that it was patently impossible.

I can’t go back to the way things were; ever.  The person who lived that life is gone.

I could feel the shell of her; that old me; waiting for me around every corner.  “Come on” she whispered, holding out the old life as if it were a soft but comfortable pair of sweat pants. “Don’t you want to slip back into this?  This is where you are comfortable.  This is where you belong.  Life doesn’t get any better than this.”

“Oh yes it does sweetheart” I whispered back “you have NO idea!”

You see, the old life has a lot going for it.  There are many things that I would like to keep and incorporate into my new reality, but not if it means having to go back to being the person that I was.  The person I have become cannot possibly fit into that old skin. Not without giving up who and what I have become.

It would be like asking a butterfly to scrunch back into her chrysalis.  Or better yet, to turn back time and become a caterpillar again.  It’s not going to happen.  I could pretend, but I’m tired of pretending.

I am simply going to be myself.

My whole self.

I will start again.  Here.  Now.  As myself.  If that is not enough, or more likely if that is too much, then so be it.  I have wings now baby. There’s no reason for me to go back to crawling when I can fly.

Take My Breath Away

Sometimes the wonder and beauty of life can be so overpowering that it takes your breath away.  In those moments; in those pauses between heartbeats when the world holds its breath in ecstasy; the joy of being alive wells up from that quite place in the core of your innermost self and floods your body, mind and soul with wonder and, for an instant that contains an eternity, you have no choice but to believe in magic.”  ~ SSHenry

Sometimes the beauty of existence really is too much to take in at once.  Sometimes it is so beautiful that it makes your heart hurt.  Of course there are other times when you feel as if your heart is being ripped out of your chest and the pain of it is enough to make you want to die.

But even the pain doesn’t discourage most people from sampling all that life has to offer.  In fact, most people treat life as if it were an all-you-can-eat buffet.  They skim down the line taking samples and tastes of those things that interest them.  Sometimes they go back for seconds of something, but more often than not they try a small variety of things and call it a meal, and most tend to focus on those foods that they are comfortable with; foods that they have had before and enjoyed or that are filling or that at least didn’t disagree with them.

Interestingly enough there are seemingly only a limited people who choose to experience all of what life has to offer. Have you ever noticed that?  Look around you some time. How many people do you see that truly throw themselves into their lives with sheer unadulterated abandon and enjoyment?  How many people do you see that take advantage of everything life has to offer them; who jump at the opportunity to go to new places, meet new people and have new experiences?

Not many.  Most people manage to find a comfort zone; an area where they feel safe and protected; where they feel as if everything is as it should be, and there they stay.  They may include occasional forrays into areas that trigger awe or wonder, but for the most part they walk a fine line; an admirable and successful balancing act.

And yet there are thousands, maybe millions of people who each devote an entire lifetime to understanding just one little aspect of the wonder and awe of creation.  They become enamored by and immerse themselves in one small piece of the puzzle and focus on it to the exclusion of everything else.  It’s like going to the buffet and only ever eating macaroni and cheese or spaghetti even though there are dozens of dishes available to choose from.

Don’t get me wrong.  It is important that we have those who can understand each of these interlocking pieces of creation.  The knowledge and expertise of those who study just one area or who devote their time and efforts to adding to one particular field are to be commended.  Their knowledge and expertise is priceless in the grand scheme of things, but I have to wonder how they do it.  Their ability to focus on their one particular area to the exclusion of all others never ceases to amaze me.

Try as I might, I simply can’t focus on one aspect; one piece, one part of the picture; I never could.  It’s not that I get distracted and can’t, but there is so much out there; so many beautiful and wonderful things vying for my attention; so many things begging to be understood and experienced that it seems a waste to focus on only one aspect to the exclusion of all others.

And so it is that I find myself sampling everything. Yeah, I’m one of those buffet eaters who will go down the line taking a sample of everything just because it’s there, especially if it is a dish that I have never tried before.

I actually had someone tell me once that they didn’t know how I did it.  They couldn’t understand how I could have so many home improvement, gardening and organizational projects going all at once while simultaneously running my own business and keeping up with all of my other interests like playing the piano, writing, singing, learning guitar, painting, photography and reading nearly 200 books a year (yes, I do read that many, I’ve counted them).  They told me that they couldn’t imagine doing all of that, that it would give them a headache to even imagine doing it.

I don’t remember now exactly what I said to them.  I hope it was something nice, or at least polite.  What I do remember is being astounded when they said that they felt uncomfortable doing more than one or two extracurricular things at a time.  That they read at most a dozen books in a year and most of those were fiction.

To me the idea that there can only be one or two interests outside of your work and family (and those interests usually related somehow to the work that you do) was as baffling as my seemingly mish mash of a life was to them.

Now this in no way means that either of us is “right” in our approaches.  I mean, without those dedicated to one particular aspect of creation there wouldn’t be nearly as many things for me to learn; not nearly as many fascinating books to read.  As I said before, I admire their ability to focus; the dedication and commitment that they show to their work and the passion they bring to their area of expertise.

It also doesn’t mean that those who are only comfortable with one or two extra activities or those who aren’t big fans of reading don’t have a lot to contribute to our world.  In fact, chances are that they’ve got more to contribute than I ever will.  The house they built, the car they put together with their own two hands, the awesome food they cook that makes me drool when I smell it; I can’t hope to compete with that.

But man oh man; what I can do is to stop worrying about what other people think about the life I life.  So they may not be ready to live the way I do – to experiences that I do. In fact, chances are that they have found their comfort zone regardless of whether they are focusing on one particular field or whether they have struck their own kind of balance between those activities and interests that appeal to them.  This too is not “wrong,” it is simply how they choose to live their lives. But it is not how I choose to live mine.

I can’t.

I take one look at the buffet life has put in front of me and I have to try it all, or as much as I can get my hands on (and there are always those few people who seem to be hogging certain sections of the buffet, aren’t there?).  I’m not saying that I pig out.  I am not addicted to any one thing (such as food or sex or shopping, extreme sports or other addictive activities)  I simply have to sample everything, even if it is only a taste.

Hell, sometimes I don’t even eat it; I simply put it on my plate so that I can admire it for its sheer aesthetic beauty because you see, I never know what is going to trigger that breathtaking moment of awe and wonder; that sudden sweep of sensation that floods you with wonder and makes the magic of life come alive and there is something; something that drives me to experience that moment over and over again and in as many ways as is humanly possible.

Come to think of it, maybe I’m not as different from those who dedicate their entire life to one area of research as I originally thought.

 

Living in the Moment

Do not dwell in the past, do not dream of the future, concentrate the mind on the present moment.  ~Buddha

When I first heard the phrase “living in the moment” I found myself laughing sadly and shaking my head at the gullible fools who would buy into something so inane.  Live in the moment?  What fool would settle for living in the moment?  Man oh man, talk about boring!

I didn’t want to live in the moment.  What I wanted was to live my dreams, to achieve my goals; to make something of myself so that when I died the world would remember me!  Forget about this living in the moment stuff. Obviously it was a cop out by those who hadn’t done anything with their lives; people who perhaps had once dreamed big but who had failed to follow through and were now regretting it; something to fall back on in order to make themselves feel better.

I knew better.  I knew that if you wanted to be anything in life; if you wanted to make something of yourself, you had to remain in control; not only of yourself but of everyone and everything around you.  Leaving anything up to chance was just plain foolishness.

If you wanted to get anywhere in life you needed to focus on your goals and break your projects down into small steps that you could accomplish and then, when all of the steps were completed, presto, your goal would be achieved.  Well, that was the plan.  And hey, it worked for businesses, why not for me?

There was just one problem. The goals that I had set for myself were not in alignment with my soul purpose.  Hell, I didn’t even know what my soul purpose was.  I had created a nice neat fiction for my life; a belief that when I attained a specific level of financial security or professional achievement that I would, at last, be happy. Well, that was the plan anyway.

And so it was that even when I had achieved each goal there was always something missing.  It was like baking a cake.  I’d followed the steps – added all of the ingredients in the proper order – and had a perfect cake sitting in front of me, but even though it looked perfect, it didn’t taste quite right.  What had I done wrong?

Over time, however, I have discovered something; I found out what was missing, and it was far simpler than I could have imagined and all the more difficult because of that to implement.  What I was missing was living (dare I say it?) in the moment; enjoying what I had already achieved without the expectation of what came next; of what I could do better next time around.

For all of my lists and my schedules; for all of my hopes and dreams and plans; for all of my visualization and projection; without being able to step aside and get out of my own way I ended up with a picture perfect cake that had little if any flavor.

This isn’t to say that we can’t dream.

This isn’t to say that visualization will not bring you your heart’s desire.

All this means is that we need to take the time – right now – to enjoy the moment that we spent all of our yesterday’s dreaming of and visualizing.  It is the enjoyment of the moment that we have created that brings us the flavor of our days. And it is here, in the quiet of appreciation and the letting go of expectation where we will find that happiness has been waiting patiently for us all along.

 

 

Living In The Moment

To take each day as it comes

To live each moment as it arrives

To hope for nothing

To fear nothing

To expect nothing

Makes each moment a priceless gift;

A gift from the universe

Straight to your heart

A gift to be treasured and adored

A gift to be enjoyed, experienced

And then released.

~SSHenry

 

Swish and Flick

THE MAGIC OF MANIFESTATION

Wouldn’t it be marvelous if you had a magic wand?  Some sort of device that – if used properly – would bring you exactly what you want a la Harry Potter?  Just swish and flick and bingo, it’s yours!  Did you know that you actually possess the ability to do just that?

Yeah, I know it sounds crazy, especially when things seem to pile up around you and circumstances (like a broken down car and a crumbling relationship and a pile of bills) tell you otherwise. But what if I were to tell you that you have the ability to control every aspect of your reality; that you have the power to swish and flick that metaphorical wand and create the kind of life that you have always wanted instead of being controlled by circumstances and by those around you?

I still remember the absolute freedom that came the day that I realized that every aspect of my reality was under my control.  That I and I alone was responsible for the reality that I was living.  That there was not some unknown quantity determining whether I would be rewarded or punished for the things I do or thought or said and that everything I was experiencing was the result of those thoughts, feelings and emotions that I had been entertaining.

I’m not going to go into details, not here and now, not yet.  But to suffice it to say that it happened.  After years of searching; after years of attempting to understand how things worked and how some people always seemed to get what they wanted no matter what while others while were always dreaming about it; after reading piles of books and listening to hours and hours of sermons and self-help books and praying to God and charging the Goddess and drawing down the moon, I woke up one morning and suddenly knew.

Talk about totally liberating!  The realization that there is no one that I am required to appease or avoid in order to create the life I had always dreamed of; no one and nothing (but myself) standing in my way; I literally sat down and cried for about a week.  Amazing!  I felt totally liberated.  Simultaneously I had never felt more afraid in all my life.

Yes, it was frightening.

Think about it.  Instead of being able to go ask mommy or daddy or the spirits of the earth or air (depending on your particular religious beliefs) to help make things better or to give you what you want, you suddenly realize that you are both the one doing the wanting and the one who is passing out both the rewards and the punishments.  You are the one who is giving out the gifts and the one who is receiving them.  You are the individual that is dependent on specific needs– and you are the universe that has an unlimited supply of everything and will give to whoever asks you.

This is not to say that there may not be gods or goddesses or elementals; beings that will bring you what you ask for if you ask in the right way or if you do something for them.  Plenty of people believe in them.  My point is that there is something far bigger than any of them; something much larger that contains us all and that we are all equally a part of.

This largeness; this bigness that contains us all is not one entity with a personality and an ego that has to be appeased before it will grant our requests.  It is the power, the source that binds us all together; that gives us life and animation.  It is also the source of creation; all of creation, not just the light and love and purity or innocence, it is also the source of anger and fear and darkness as well and it is readily available for anyone that knows how to tap into it regardless of what they are planning on using it for.  There is just one catch; this power is magnetic.  That is, whatever you create out of it will attract more of itself to you.

Call it Karma; call it ‘cause and effect’; call it the law of attraction; the result is the same.

If I (the individual) dwell on the negative; on the worst things that could happen, then I am going to draw those things to me.  The more I focus on the dark and the negative, the more dark and negative things will be drawn to me. If I dwell on love and light, or on the highest definition of who and what I really am and strive to bring that into my existence, then it will come, bringing more of itself with it; drawing more of the same energy to it.  There’s just one problem.  This source of creation that you or I tap into in order to bring these things into our physical reality, it knows what we are really thinking.

I can’t trick the source (which includes my higher self).  I can talk love and light and happy chirpy birds until I am blue in the face (or until I manifest Snow White, whichever comes first though I know which would send my sanity over the edge) but if in my heart of hearts I don’t believe that it will happen; if I think that it is all a crock; if I am reserving judgment until I see proof, or if (most importantly) I feel that I somehow don’t deserve what it is that I am asking for, then the source, the universe (a.k.a. my higher self) knows it, and since it doesn’t know the difference between expressed thought and unexpressed thought, it will simply give me what it is that I am focusing on the most (either consciously or unconsciously).

This is why mastering everyday mindfulness as well as emotional mindfulness is so very important, because it isn’t just enough to realize that you have the power to control your reality, you have to be constantly aware of your thoughts and feelings and emotions and beliefs in order to bring them into alignment with who and what you really are.

Without awareness you are not in control of your life, but you are being controlled (though not by an outside entity, but by your own beliefs and limitations).  You are not creating situations that will serve you and that will help you to achieve your highest potential and to be a benefit to those around you, you are reacting to things that are happening around you; knee jerk reactions that make you feel overwhelmed and powerless and victimized to the point that you are desperate for someone or something to take the reins and to make sense out of it all.

There is no question about the universe (a.k.a. your higher self) bringing you those things that you are most focused on (whether consciously or unconsciously).  Seriously, take a look around yourself right now.  Take a long hard look at your life, at the people that are in it; your job, your house, your car, your beliefs, your attitude; everything.  Right there at your fingertips you have a snapshot of what you were focused most intently on yesterday, last week, last year or even ten years ago.

If you think carefully about where you were and what you were thinking, you’ll see that I’m right.  You created this reality.  Every aspect of it reflects yesterdays (or last week’s or last year’s) views and hopes and dreams and, yes, fears.

No, I’m not saying that every genetic defect and every illness were called into being by your higher self. We are human animals after all; inhabited by spirits, (souls if you will) but still subject to the laws of physics, of thermodynamics and the impulsive squirts of hormones that our brains get doused in on a regular basis as they respond to physical stimuli.  It comes with the territory and those are things that we do not have any control over but which we have to learn to live with and to understand.

Where we do have the control, however, is in how we perceive the life that we are living and in what we consciously and intentionally choose to experience and those people and situations that we choose to let into our lives.

Yes, I know, it sounds like some kind of new age mumbo jumbo; some sort of psychobabble or, at the worst, like some kind of magic, though in a way it is magic, just not the kind of magic you might think.

This isn’t the kind of magic where you wave a wand and something suddenly “appears” in your life because you said the right words or mixed up the right ingredients in your cauldron.  This is the kind of magic that works on a far more subtle basis.  This magic is the magic of belief; a magic that works its spell on your mind and, through your mind, makes its impact on your surroundings; aligning things and people and circumstances in such a way that a year from now, or a week from now, or maybe even tomorrow, you will find that what you have been focused on has indeed become your reality.

And if you do look around yourself and you don’t like where your focused thoughts have brought you there is a simple solution; change your focus.  It’s that simple.  Mind you, it requires that you be aware of your thoughts and emotions until they become focused on what you want to create in your life, but once the technique clicks into place you’ll find yourself laughing uncontrollably at how simple it actually is.

So much for magic wands!

Swish and flick baby!

Dances With Butterflies

Do you know how hard it is to ask the universe for something and then to let it happen without trying to help or hinder it?

Yes, I said hinder it.

Heaven only knows that on some level even those who are perfectly clear about asking the universe for what they want; who have mastered the art of creative visualization and who are able to picture clearly and accurately the life that they want find themselves (even if it is on a subconscious level) scared out of their wits and inadvertently (or even intentionally) trying to undo what they have done by sending that energy out into the universe.

Why?  Because they are deathly afraid of getting what they want.  At some deep down level they know that in order for them to get what they have asked for (however necessary it is and regardless of whether or not the time is right) is going to entail change on a very profound and fundamental level.  It is going to shatter their world (a la Humpty Dumpty) and that no matter how many horsemen they assign to the job, things are going to be a bit scrambled for a while.

This is where I am right now.  And I have to admit that I am in danger of getting in my own way.

A while ago I asked the universe to make a change in my life.  The details don’t matter, not really.  What matters is that I thought long and hard about what it was that I wanted. I sketched everything out in writing after I had meditated on the issue. I then used the tools for visualizing the final result and sent the energy out into the universe.  Almost immediately I started seeing results and the first thought out of my head wasn’t “wow, how amazing” or “isn’t synchronicity incredible?”  But rather “Oh my God, what have I done!” This was followed immediately by a wave of worry and concern and “what if’s” that threatened to overwhelm me and succeeded in giving me more than a few sleepless nights.

It was as if suddenly I had been seized with a sudden need to undo what I had done; to scream at the universe to ignore my request, but not because it isn’t time, and not because it isn’t needed, but because in my heart of hearts I understand that things will never be the same again.

In addition I have found myself having to sit on my hands in order not to sabotage the universe at work as it brings me exactly the changes I asked for.  On more than one occasion I have found myself confronted with a situation that was/is the result of the changes being brought about by the universe (at my request).  Usually these present themselves as conflicts and uncomfortable situations as the people involved in the shift adapt to the changes.  Thanks to conditioning and upbringing, my first instinct is to smooth the situation over; to do something to make everyone feel better; to make everyone comfortable.  But that’s just it you see.  Change is anything but comfortable.

Like anyone else I had gotten used to things being the way they were; too comfortable.  My soul had moved on but my body had gotten stuck in its routine, hence the request for change.

You always know when your spirit has moved on (or is trying to move on).  When you focus on your problem or your issue there is no joy.  It feels as if you are wearing a suit of clothes that are too tight.  They itch.  You want more than anything to shuck everything off and go running naked through the rain in order to catch up with your soul which is out dancing with the butterflies.

And so it is that every time I feel the urge to make things better; to make them easier for everyone involved I have to forcibly remind myself that I asked for this.  It’s time.  I need to get out of my own way and let the Universe do its work. The butterflies are waiting.