42. How You See It

December 7, 2018

When I try to do something and fail, that seems to suggest that I can’t do it. Suggest, but not prove. This is where I have to decide, and choose between letting it go, or trying harder. If I try again and fail again, the suggestion gets stronger, so the determination must get stronger, or else rationally I should choose to let go of that endeavor and move on. Does that make me a quitter? Or a failure? That’s my choice too.

Everything that happens in life is open to interpretation, and ultimately the only interpretation/ opinion/ belief that matters is yours, because that is the only one that actually has any true power or influence on your life.

The children’s rhyme “sticks and stones may break my bones but words can never hurt me” is good advice, though not entirely true. Words can hurt, a lot, but can not conquer you, unless you choose to let them. You always have a choice. Are you going to let somebody “out there” set your course in life? Will you choose to let their opinion change your own inner knowing, that you are much more than they can see? Are you doing that now? Why would you do that?

Once in a casual conversation, a firefighter friend told me “you can do it if you set your mind to it.” I wanted to be a firefighter but as a woman, at 5 foot six and 112 pounds, the odds against it were enormous. Three years of hard work: pumping iron, running bleachers with a backpack full of sand, biking 40-mile-a-day rides, and many failures later, I became firefighter, and then an officer. Though I started late, I served eight years of active duty first-response Fire and EMS, with a remarkable record of work well done. My friend was right.

This is a truth: We can often learn more from failing than succeeding. The experience of failure is painful and humbling, but it is the ultimate challenge to our inner strength. It can develop character and courage, depending on how you look at it, how you choose to see it. Everything in life is open to an unlimited number of interpretations. The one that matters, is yours.

41. Who We Are

October 29, 2018

It’s Monday. I begin again. First waking thought:
I’m grateful for my life, grateful to be who I am.

And then, thoughts about how we are all, in our individual lives, each of us like a cell, with a “permeable membrane” as my physiology book says. A part of, but never apart from, the body. Each of us a conscious cell in the body of a conscious universe. And now, some of the most brilliant minds of our world have told us that there actually exist other bodies — other universes.

I think of us, each a conscious being, and yet how different. Like the cells of the body, each has a specific function and purpose for being. I have said we all come here, to this mortal life, both to teach and to learn, whether knowingly or unaware.

Myself, having often blundered and stumbled, but mostly moved innocently and trustingly along. There have been some dark and painful times. I came through them, and found that I was stronger and wiser because of them. There have been many times too, when I danced and laughed and loved, beautiful and young. In this lifetime, I think I  may have been too much alone, and yet I scattered my love anyway like wildflower seeds, all along the way. As a child I rejoiced, running through the rain.  As an adult, spiritually, I still do.

One of my sisters, “the family saint,” who has lived her whole life like a child, not consciously aware. But she is happy. Ignorance can indeed be blessed. She is a good person, a simple flower in a small protected garden, never exposed to very much life. She is a daisy who believes she is a rose, and so she is powerfully proud and satisfied. Believing truly is the master key, and is the capacity that most shapes our physical life and experiences, whether the belief is conscious or deeply unaware.

My brother, who never knew who he was, and now never will. Not like anyone else in the family, more like a miniature Donald Trump, he has always been unsatisfied, believing that life and people owed him much more than life gives, and no matter how much it gives, these personalities are never satisfied or truly happy. My brother has spent his whole life, since the moment of his birth, supported and sustained by women even though he could not love them, nor his children, nor anyone. Always a parasite, always a clever manipulator, a bully, a controller, and perhaps unknowingly, a predator. I have written in my book that he had learned this as a primary life-lesson when he was a small child, but I wonder now if it went deeper than that — maybe even a life-role decided before birth. If so, I am so grateful that my soul did not choose that life.

And my birthmother. My book is a hymn of compassion for her. Life was not kind to her, and she deserved beter. I never knew her, and she never knew me, and it seems like her purpose in my life was to give me a physical portal into this place and my first great wound, of unwantedness. There was surely no conscious decision on her part, no intention to do either of these things.

And Mother, my rescuing Angel, who did not give birth to me, but gave me life. She was always meant to be my mother, and truly was, and is, and evermore shall be. I am so grateful for this immense life-gift of grace, my loving mother. My heart aches with joy at the thought of it, the remembrance of her love, and the certainty that it still goes on even now.

My Dad, a good man, beautiful both in body and soul. Always a private person, nobody really knew him well, except Mother, until her love brought him out into a new openness and expression to all of us who loved him.

I could name, if I chose to, all the people who came and went through my “permeable membrane” of existence here, but I don’t need to. And that would be too many books to write in this brief lifetime. Besides, all that they taught me, all that they gave me, is absorbed and assimilated into my Being now, some of it consciously, and some not.

Oh Life, what a magnificent mystery you are. with infinite numbers of stories. Some are beautiful and some are terribly not, and only the Author of you, knows their full meaning.

40. Let It Be

July 26, 2018

After so many years of trying to be better than I am, stronger than I am, I have finally learned to let myself cycle through the emotions that come, including the ones I don’t want, the ones that hurt, the ones that are unworthy of the person I want to be that I know is the greater truth of me.

In the decades of my life, sorrow, rightful resentment, anger, even hate, have taken hold of me more times that I dare to say, and cramming them down into the dark bottom of my mind did not extinguish the feelings. Instead, it gave them the perfect environment to wretchedly quirm and fester there. That did not feel good, and did not heal them.

After a lifetime of doing battle with unwanted and unworthy emotions, I have come to the acceptance of the reality of the human state: I am imperfect, and big parts of me are wasted on battling the truth that I am only a traveler here. I am unwise but teachable, and we have all come here to learn. I am abundantly flawed with attributes I wish I didn’t have, which provide me with learning opportunities to become less of what I don’t want to be, and more of what I know I can become.

The truest and best parts of me have never been sullied or changed by the upstart flashes of the worst parts of me. When I remind myself of this, it sets my feet on solid ground, and I can accept that in this moment’s storm of ugly emotions, I am not stuck and God has not abandoned me, I can and will ride it out, and I will return again to the essence of me that is really who and what I want to be.

If I must rage for a while, I let myself. I give myself a private rant or a private “pity-party,” whichever I need, set a specific time limit (10 minutes, 24 hours… as appropriate.) And then when it’s done, I forgive myself for it, and I re-set, re-boot, and start over.

Knowing that I will be stronger and kinder the next time, I begin again every time I need to, but I make myself do it without holding onto any residue of shame or guilt. Forgiveness releases me and everyone else involed from the trap of whatever it was. The ugliness has vented itself and dissolved into the nothingness from which it came. It was a temporary flash of something that is not true of who and what I truly am at the depth of me, that the world may not see.

Each time I surrender to my sorrow, my rage, my resentment, my self-pity, I may dissolve in tears for a while. I let myself. When my little drama of spirit, my dark night or dark moment of the soul has expressed itself and passed on, I comfort myself. I forgive myself and release all feelings of shame or weakness for these eruptions, the kind that I used to judge and punish myself for.

In my secret heart I accept, forgive, and pledge to love this part of me, even with its imperfections, just as I would forgive and love the little child within me who never really meant any harm, but just didn’t know any better, and has not learned everything yet.

With every honest acceptance, repentance, and forgiveness I give myself, it gets easier to love the person I honestly am, and the miracle of this is that I am enabled, almost effortlessly, to be kinder, more respectful, and more forgiving to almost every other soul-expression and mortal being that I meet in the journey of my days.

This does feel good. It does feel happy and stress-free, the polar opposite from those other suppressed emotions I squashed down inside myself before. Now when those feelings come, I know how to handle them and they do not handle me. I acknowledge their realness and validity, and I accept that this is expressing in me, and I forgive myself for feeling what I feel.

I go to a private place where I can let the feelings come, I let them come, and then I let them go. They cannot stay, as long as I don’t give hidden harbor to them. I have learned now, that I can purge them. For a little while, with a reasonable time limit, I can let myself rage, I can let myself cry, and when that’s done, I get up feeling a lot lighter, and surprisingly clean and refreshed. When I go on about the business of my life, sure enough, I do better.

39. Snapshot: Three Women

June 12, 2018

There’s a little photograph I keep on my refrigerator door. In it, three women are sitting in a porch swing on the plain unadorned wooden porch of a farmhouse, somewhere in rural Illinois. The women pose with proper grace, smiling for the Kodak camera, with their hands folded neatly in their laps.

The house is quite small, made of clapboard neatly painted white. It’s summer. Emerald green fields of corn stretch out behind the house and seem to go on forever, all the way to the horizon. This is the front of the house, and the two windows that face the road are plain and functional too, and there are no curtains. The porch shade is more than enough from the midday sun, and there are no neighbors near enough to look in.

It’s Sunday after church, and the women are my mother and my two sisters. They have traveled all the way from Dallas Texas to Bloomington Illinois for Mother’s 50th high school reunion. This house is a place where Mother lived a long time ago as a child, and the current residents have welcomed her to the old homestead and invited all of them to stay for dinner.

In this small snapshot I can see through time, to past generations of strong farm women, practical, hard-working and generous. I love this little picture for its sweetness, its honesty and simplicity. Mother has left us now, gone from her place here on earth to a higher calling. Both of my sisters still live in Texas, both have grown children now. My own path has taken me from Texas to the East Coast, to the Midwest, and finally to the West Coast of Northern California where I call home, a long long way from Illinois. I take the picture down from its magnet on the fridge door and hold it in my hand for a moment. I hold these women in my heart forever.

38. Grace, The Gift Unasked For

May 29, 2018

Sometimes we’re given an unexpected unearned unasked-for gift that is God’s Grace. For me, more than once it has come in the darkest hours, to rescue me when I could not help myself. I’ve been blessed by Grace by unknowing angels. Like the cold bright almost-spring day in Minneapolis when a young couple, strangers, passed me on the sidewalk They were striding along with their arms around each other’s waist, obviously in love. It was a time when my life was broken, and I the loneliest I had ever been. I was just-divorced, and the hopes I’d had for that love, and for the career I had chosen, both now were nothing but ashes. As they swung along down the city stidewalk, they both glanced at me at the same moment, and smiled. Their small gift lifted my heart so profoundly that the moment transcended the deep sorrow I was carrying, They had no way of knowing this, but they had lifted me out of my feelings of hopelessnes with the simple openhearted act of spontaneously sharing with me the love they felt for each other.

In the recession of the 1980s, I went through a time when my life was financially, physically, and spiritually at rock-bottom. I was on my own, out of work or working temporary part-time jobs, struggling just to survive. I lived on oatmeal, boiled cabbage, and brown rice, I was in danger of losing my apartment for overdue rent, and I wore my coat indoors because the cost of heat was a luxury I simply could not afford. I had been desperate for more than a year and I felt helpless, alone, and devastated. I couldn’t see any way out, no matter how hard I tried.

Tears stung my face as I walked home from the bus stop on a bitter-cold November day, after applying for another job that I knew I would not get. It would have been a steady job in a doctor’s office, a new field, a new start – too good to be true, but I didn’t have any experience. I was thinking about my life, and about Life “with a capital L” and I was unable to hide the tears of hopelessness tracking down my face. A car drove by. I happened to look up and see its bumper sticker that said “Expect Miracles.”

There are lots of those bumper stickers around now, but at the time, I had never seen that phrase before. It struck me like a bolt of lightning, and in an instant I knew that this simple message was intended for me, exactly at this moment in time, when I needed it most. It was not “by chance” and somehow I knew it. I felt a sense of release, and I just let go of it all. I felt a strange moment of peace, and I decided  to trust God for whatever came. A few days later, I did get that job, I began a new career, and my life would never be the same.

Coincidence? The book “A Course in Miracles” says “There are no accidents, and no coincidences.”  I had been given a little glimmer of Grace, through a stranger who never even saw me, and he never knew that he had been used by God to bless me and to promise a beginning that would change my life.

Grace is the gift unasked for, even undared to hope for. Grace is the often undeserved, but deeply needed and longed-for reprieve. Grace is the unexplainable moving of God to bless us in spite of ourselves. Grace is when God cheats a little, to help us pass the test, lifts us out of the quicksand we have blundered into, and sets us on a higher ground where we can have a better place to begin again.