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.

The Caterpillar Girl

THE CATERPILLAR GIRL

She was going nowhere, this caterpillar girl.  Every day the same.  Inching along her barren  branch. Trying to make sense of a pointless world.

Every day she would wake up and do it all again.  And every night it seemed that she was no closer to her goal (whatever that might be ).  Every night she would curl herself around the stem of a leaf and fall asleep gazing at the stars and dreaming of a future where she had a purpose, where her life had meaning.

And then there came a day when the caterpillar girl knew that it was over.  She couldn’t stand being strongany longer.  That night she curled herself around the stem of a leaf, and this time she allowed herself to let go.

Inch by inch she used her outer skin to weave herself a shell; an armor against a purposeless pointless life.  And once she was enclosed in her safe space she allowed herself to fall apart.  She held onto nothing, allowing herself to finally let go, dissolving into the quantum foam of pure possibilities.

And it was there, in the quiet and the dark of her chrysalis that something began to take shape.  It was here that the caterpillar girl’s  hopes and dreams finally loosened from their mundane routine, began to take on a life of their own, and the foam of possibilities coalesced into exquisite form.

Finally, gasping for breath and still damp with the dew of creation, she climbed out of her self imposed prison and lay quite still, wings spread to dry, basking in the warmth of the sun and ready at last to make her dreams come true.

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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.

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.

The White Knight Complex

“Don’t get dependent on that Knight in Shining Armor.  All being rescued does is remove you from your immediate circumstances.  It does nothing to address the question of how the devil you ended up in that situation to begin with.”  ~SSHenry

Why is it that in every fairy tale that features a princess there is always a knight in shining armor (or sometimes tarnished armor, black leather or blue jeans and a cowboy hat) waiting right around the corner to rescue her?

God I find the princesses annoying; all perfect hair and fluffy dresses (usually long to inhibit freedom of movement) and more often than not under some sort of a spell that keeps them from escaping on their own or even realizing that they are just a pawn in some dark and evil chess game.

Yes, yes, I know, the princess is symbolic of innocence and purity and the knight is supposed to symbolize the noble instinct to protect and preserve those qualities.  But honestly, as a culture we’ve taken this to heart so deeply that we’ve ingrained the idea of the noble knight; the belief in there being someone or something out there that will “save” the princess (or the innocent child, or the weak and willful sinner) into our collective unconscious.

More disturbing to me than the idea of a savior, however, is the thought that so many people who are capable of saving themselves believe that they need someone to do it for them.  Why is that?  Why can’t they see that they have the power within themselves to not only to take care of the problem at hand but to take responsibility for themselves; for today’s thoughts and beliefs; these choices and actions that will become tomorrow’s reality?

That is how it works you know.  It is the thoughts we entertained yesterday; the beliefs we held to be true; the choices we made and the actions that we took that determine where we find ourselves today.

Every thought that enters your head (and more importantly, those thoughts that you tend to dwell on) impacts the beliefs that you hold to be true.  These beliefs in turn affect the choices that we make on a day-to-day basis.  And, just as one domino is responsible for knocking down the next in the line; the choices that we make directly impact our actions; actions which determine the look, feel and flavor of the reality that we will find ourselves in tomorrow.

Ah yes, I know there will be some of you that say that this is far too simplistic of a view; that it can’t possibly be this easy.  It can’t possibly be that all a person has to do is to pay attention to the thoughts that are passing through their minds and to select those that they want to bring into their reality (this is called mindfulness by the way).  I can hear the questions now; “What about the bad things that happen to us; those things that we have no choice in?” or maybe “What about the influence of god or the devil; of good or evil?”

It is true that we do not get to choose all of yesterday’s circumstances (well, true that is unless you believe in reincarnation and soul destiny, but without going into all of that we can still address the issue).  There are things that happen to us that we have no direct control over.  But even so, this does not mean that choices we made in the distant (or not so distant) past may not have some impact on whether or not we put ourselves in a position to have those particular experiences.

And yes, there are some things that are done to you; things over which you have absolutely no control.  But what we do have control over (at least outside of those extreme situations where the trauma is so extreme that the mind disconnects from reality altogether and makes it impossible for the person to change their thought patterns) is how we choose to react and respond to those experiences that we did not consciously choose to participate in.

We can choose to react from fear; allowing those circumstances to control our lives and seeing them as obstacles on our path to happiness, or we can change our perspective and choose to see those circumstances as opportunities to prove that we are in control of our own destinies.

Of course if we do not acknowledge the fact that it is our thoughts as well as the beliefs that are spawned by our thoughts, the decisions we make due to these beliefs and the actions that we take that even in regard to those circumstances that are beyond our control, then it is perfectly understandable that we would look around desperately for someone or something that will rescue us from the tangle our lives have become; a white knight in shining armor who will cut through the crap and free us from the mess that we have gotten ourselves into through our thoughts and words and actions.

Of course relying on these knights opens up its own can of worms; like dealing with the fact that until we learn how to take responsibility for our own lives we will continue to revert back to those thoughts and beliefs and actions that got us into trouble in the first place (and we’ll have to call on the white knight once again to work his magic).

How much simpler to simply acknowledge the fact that it is ourselves and ourselves alone that have the power to change our lives for the better; that by accepting responsibility for everything our lives are right now at this moment in time that we can take positive action to ensure that today’s thoughts, beliefs and actions will work together to create a tomorrow that is everything we could have hoped for.

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.

On Awakening

There is a moment; a moment in time when everything falls into place and it doesn’t matter what you believe.  Suddenly you know, and the knowing makes all of the difference.  It all makes sense; all of it.  Everything that you’ve been railing against finally slips into its niche and you can see for yourself why things are unfolding the way they are.

There are people who stuggle all their lives to reach this moment, and there are people who were born knowing.  Sometimes it comes to you in a rush of trupets and buglehorns, or with the happy bumbling of a playful puppy.  But sometimes it comes upon you gently; a gradual knowing that suddenly blossoms like a rose opening itself up in the morning light.  And sometimes; sometimes it steals into your heart like a lover’s kiss and leaves a searing mark on your very soul.

The important thing is that you have finally experienced this moment for yourself, and once you have, it doesn’t matter what anyone says or does, that moment can never be taken away from you.   People can make fun of you until they are blue in the face and you’ll just smile and shrug it off.   They can demand proof that what you say is true and argue their point until the cows come home and you find yourself sitting back and smiling at their enthusiasm.  They can claim that it is all in your head and that you must be suffering from some sort of mental illness and you’ll l augh.T

The knowledge that comes in that moment; that knowing; it doesn’t make you better than anyone else.  It doesn’t make you smarter or more worthy. It doesn’t get you any brownie points with any deity.  It simply marks a rather momenteous milestone on your own personal journey; one that you will wish that you could share with everyone that will listen, but which you will instinctively understand can only be experienced in order to be truly understood.

ON AWAKENING

Somewhere in the space between one blink of your eyes and the next;

When your heart is poised between heartbeats;

It is there that awakening occurs.

In that moment you open your eyes and the world has changed;

completely, totally and irrevocably.

You are seeing everything for the first time and exactly as it is.

And when your heart deigns to beat again

The wonder of it breaks you wide open.