Present Tense

Anniversary….

One year ago today, I embarked on a journey that affected me so profoundly that I haven’t even processed it fully.

I packed a bag and left my house to drive 4 hours south to sit at my 96 year-old mother’s bedside as she died.

I wrote quite extensively about the process and the journey of being with my mom as she wound down toward death. I had been preparing for this for some time.

As I sat with her and listened to her breathing, I realized that I had been preparing for my entire life.

I was her last born, the last child that she shared her heartbeats and her breath with.  I was the one to be there and hold her hand as she left this incarnation.  The circle was closed.

My mom and I had a very close relationship when I was a child. All of my older siblings were out of the house by the time I was 5 or 6. My dad worked long hours. So, just mom and me.

As I grew up, our relationship, like many mothers and daughters was complicated and at times, difficult. I distanced myself from family; physically, emotionally and spiritually.

Whether it’s accurate or not, I felt abandoned by them. It was during my mom’s final years that I realized that the death of her father when she was 12, left her feeling exactly the same way.

He chose alcohol over his young family and he died right int the middle of the Great Depression, leaving my grandmother to raise and provide for 3 children.

My mother NEVER spoke of this until the last couple of years of her life, when her dementia lifted some of her inhibitions and she spoke much more freely about her childhood and the challenges of losing her dad.  And the challenges of losing my dad a few years earlier.

So, I was with her in those final few years and months, as was my brother who lived close by. My older sisters , who visited as often as they could, were with their families, kids and grandkids, last Christmas. As they should have been. My sense is that they were where they were supposed to be, just as I was.

As she lay sedated and dying, I felt so strongly that her ancestors were in the room with us. Comforting her, gladly leading her into spirit. My dad, my grandma, her beloved sister, grandparents and who knows who else. All of them were there.

I was told during meditation to stay out of the way; that she was in good hands and I was there to witness not a death, but the birth of a spirit.

This was all very profound and comforting at the time and has greatly altered my view of death, both my own and others.

However, over the past year, I’ve realized that I was ready for her death, but not for her absence in my life. Even though the last few years with her were challenging and scary and exhausting, I miss her.

I miss how happy she was when I walked through the door. I miss her loopy conversations and questions as her memory slipped further into the ether. I miss helping her and caring for her and yes, waiting on her:)

I felt weird and sad when my parents’ estate was settled; they left a nice little nest egg for us, which was great, but the trade off was being parentless.

2017 has been a wrestling match with my grief. Over losing my mom and the earlier shocking death of my dog, Ember. 2016 was a blur of activity, much of it difficult, but with a few magic moments sprinkled in.

2017 was the year to allow that previous year to settle over me and I admit that I haven’t handled it as well as I would have liked. I fell into some of my default escape and coping strategies a few times.  But, I feel much stronger now.  Shit happens, you know?

As all of you know, grief hits so suddenly and randomly. And it’s hit me pretty much daily this past year. Could I have done more?  Could I have handled things differently?  Could I have saved Ember?  The answer to all is: no.  Life unfolds as it does and as it must.  Regrets and second guessing only cause more pain.  Time to accept.

On December 28th, I’ll mark a year since her last breath. I’m not upset about losing her around the holidays. So many choose to leave in December, in the darkness and holiness of winter. Seems like a perfect time, doesn’t it?

Anyway…I’ve always loved Christmas Eve for it’s solemnity and quiet before the storm of frantic activity that often marks Christmas Day.

I will sit and watch or listen to Christmas Eve services at the Vatican, as I did with my sleeping mother last year and as I have done for many years. The consistency and beauty of that service nourishes me.

For those of you also remembering and grieving, I send much love and comfort. I get it. It is bittersweet as we carry on with our lives and legacy, knowing that we too, have limited time here.

Merry Christmas. The light is returning.

December 24, 2017 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , | 12 Comments

A Tipping Point…

We are swimming in the soup of enormous cultural changes and I worry that we will now slide into a gender war.

Every woman in the US has known that this has been going on forever. We have all known that we are considered ‘less’ than men.

We all know that there is a cultural knee-jerk reaction to believe the man when a woman makes an allegation of sexual abuse, molestation, harassment or touching.

We are told “well, that’s just him” or “maybe, you misunderstood” or “he was just joking around…where’s your sense of humor?”.

This has been our ‘normal’ for as long as I can remember and for as long as my mother can remember…and my grandmother and so on and so on.

Did you know that in many cases, women couldn’t apply for credit without a male co-signer until the 70s? So no credit cards, no mortgage. We couldn’t vote nationally until 1920, the year my mother was born.

So, as we traverse this new territory where suddenly, we are seemingly in the middle of some cultural epiphany; where we are learning that men seem to think we are property or playthings. We are in grave danger of further division.

Obviously, all men are not abusers. Obviously, all men do not look at women as potential conquests, and yet, I find myself wondering what exactly DO men think of us?

I spent my career surrounded by and outnumbered by men. That was just the nature of broadcasting and media for most of my career that I entered in the early 80s.

It has changed some and I suspect that MOST women have worked with more men than women and the things we’ve heard come out of their mouths were often shocking and at times, painful.

Things like, “She’d be so much better looking if she grew her hair” as a woman left the room. Or, “No wonder, she’s not married” or “I’d hit that”.

Yup….over and over and over and over, day after day after day. Guy after guy after guy.

So, for the men: when we hear things like this come out of your mouth, is it any wonder why we feel angry and unworthy and yes, frightened?  Or when you sit by and let another man say these things without calling him out?

Is this how we are judged, even though we are competent professionals?

It’s all about who is fuckable, right?

So, yes. The pain, the humiliation, the fear and the overwhelming feeling that nothing that we do matters, because, well….’you’re a girl’ is suffocating.

Now, some brave women are coming forward and saying “Enough”. We are asking to be treated with little more respect. We don’t have to be adored or worshipped or put on a pedestal.

In fact, I have found that men who tend to claim their adoration and worship of women, are often the worst offenders in treating us like trophies or playgrounds.

The danger right now is that this will pit men against women (again). As women, we have to be careful not to paint with too broad a brush. To not demand too harsh of a punishment for men who just acted like a jerk. There is a difference between criminal and abusive behavior and being an asshole.

That is a very thin line, I know. But, in order for this to really begin to change, we have to muster what we women are best at: compassion and balance and love and nurture.

This is our wheelhouse. Let’s not allow ourselves to tip over into the default reaction of male energy: punishment and anger and domination.

This is but another test of our times. Jupiter is in Scorpio and that is a time to dig up the secrets. These things have been happening forever. All of the horror that we are seeing on the news every night isn’t new.

It’s just been buried and now, we are unearthing these dark secrets and behaviors. It is very hard to look at, but we HAVE to SEE it and acknowledge it. All of us. This is the time we have chosen to incarnate and it is both exciting and overwhelming.

It’s okay to be angry. I certainly am. And frustrated. And overwhelmed. This is hard, but we have to guard against becoming hardened.

Practice compassion and empathy and intellectual honesty. This is non-partisan. It is a human problem and if we divide into our tribes, we perpetuate this behavior.

How we reacted in the past (Bill Clinton, etc) is not relevant now.

The cosmos is asking us to grow up. It’s time.

November 22, 2017 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , | 10 Comments

On ceremony

Last night, there was a drum circle at my house.  A gifted friend suggested that it was needed for me and for our land. Since she is usually right about these matters, I was all in.

We gathered around a substantial fire with our drums and no real plan other than to drum into a nice, meditative state.  For ourselves, for the land, for the ancestors.

Drumming is healing; it’s a primal and sacred beat and if you really allow it to take you over, it’s like feeling the heartbeat of God/The Divine/Source/Gaia.  It is ceremony.  It is what we are meant to do.

Another gifted and wise friend of mine recently said “Life is ceremony.” Meaning that we have to pay attention to the small rituals of our daily walk on earth.  Why do we do certain things; why do we NOT do certain things?  Are we treating our time here with the necessary gratitude and honor that is our birthright?

There is a lot written about mindfulness anymore.  It’s a tired buzzword that has mostly lost its meaning.  We equate it with doing things slowly and gently or piously and that’s not always the point.

The mindfulness of ceremony is realizing that everything we do emits energy.  Everything we do has an effect on everything.  We don’t live in a vacuum or a bubble.  We affect and are affected by every other human and non-human, not only on this planet, but in the entire cosmic plane, both past and future.

So, if you ponder and absorb that concept, you see that pop culture mindfulness isn’t enough.  It’s good, don’t get me wrong.  But, we need to gather and meld our minds and energies.

Decades ago, most folks attended church in the US.  Okay, here’s the obligatory eye roll from some of you who reject and mock organized religion.  I get it.  I haven’t regularly attended church since I was 6.  What I’m saying is that the weekly (or more) visits to a church service were a time to gather in ceremony.  And even if you squirmed or fidgeted or counted the seconds until the service was over, it had an effect.

We need these gatherings.  We need ceremony.  We need a time to lose ourselves in spirit and the energy of that spirit or consciousness that animates us.  A time to allow our analytical, western minds to shut the hell up.  A time to go inward and quiet the fears, monkey mind, anxiety, cravings and grasping that comes with modern life.

About a week ago, my family gathered to bury the ashes of our parents.  They had requested a very simple graveside gathering.  In my mom’s words, “no preaching”.  And so we did exactly that.

We gathered; kids, grandkids, great-grandkids and a few other friends and relatives.  My brother spoke, I read a short eulogy, my uncle said a short prayer and then we talked.  Anyone who wanted to share a fond memory of my parents spoke.  We laughed a lot and that felt good.  We were able to honor our parents’ lives in an informal, loving way, just the way they envisioned.  Ceremony.  A gathering of love and closure.  It was cleansing and necessary.

To me, ceremony is about healing; it’s a way to nurture ourselves and all of humanity.  Heck, all of everything.  So, if we begin to live our lives as ceremony, it would force us to look at what we do.  Is this activity/thought/belief nurturing or is it harmful or an escape?  Does this make me feel good and full and nurtured or is it merely a habitual way of masking my pain or unworthiness or fear?

Get a drum, grab a rattle.  Hell, grab a couple of sticks and walk around your yard banging them together.  Go inside, find that trance-like state of feeling safe and connected to all that is.  Gather some friends and sit around a fire.  Try to catch yourself within your daily habits and routine and see if you can make it into something sacred and nourishing.  Let’s all look for meaning in our actions; then let the toxic stuff go.

That is ceremony.

July 23, 2017 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , | 9 Comments

Time for the grief to go

I made a conscious intention a couple of days ago to let go of my grief.

There has been so much over the last 3 years, culminating in my mom’s death in December.  When we suffer profound loss, we tend to revisit it for a period of time afterwards.  Sometimes, for the rest of our lives.

I started wondering why?  Why do I keep bringing back these feelings of pain and sadness, not only in my mind, but in my body.  I can feel the pain as if it were happening all over again.  It’s like picking at a wound that has scabbed over, only to make it bleed again and again and again.

How can it heal, when it is re-opened?

I realized that part of it was guilt. Guilt that if I don’t keep thinking about these deaths, that I’m not properly honoring them.  A belief that I need to remind myself of their loss and their absence on this physical plane.  That I can’t talk to them or hug them or apologize or encourage.  And I feel guilty that their absence also gives me a certain freedom. Especially from parental and family expectations and obligations.

Another part was fear. Fear that if I don’t revisit and remember, that they will fade from my memory as if they were never here.  Fear that I will forget how profoundly they affected me and how fiercely I loved them and they loved me.  Especially with the dogs, since I have other dogs now.  It becomes difficult to keep the dead ones in my consciousness; they all start to meld together.

So, I’ve been picking the scab; often in the quiet of  middle of the night.  I would wake up and remember.  They are gone.  Then move on to the day they died and the circumstances of their deaths and then I felt it all over again.  Almost as if it were happening in that moment.  And it felt terrible, but I rationalized it by telling myself that I have to keep their memory alive.  I have to feel that pain.

No more.  That scab has to heal. No more picking.  No more bleeding.  It will most certainly leave a scar.  But, scars don’t bleed and we often display them with the stories of how we got them. Usually, with a smile because we know that we survived and no matter how awful the wound, we did heal to a certain extent.  We healed enough to tell the tale of that scar.

I’ve shifted over to positive memories.  Funny, joyful, instructive, emotional, happy, silly and yes, sometimes sad or challenging memories.  A well-rounded remembrance of our lives.

So, that’s where I am.  Healing.  Isn’t that where we all are?  Everyday?  One wound may still be fresh, while others have scabbed over and many are well earned scars.  This is our life on planet earth. It hurts, but we get another day to make a life…and then another and another and another.

Allowing my grief to move into a new stage involved a release and an emptying that leaves me open and ready to what is coming.  It’s been a long process, with so many losses piled on top of one another in a fairly short time.  I’d never really had to deal with death in such an intimate way until 3 years ago and I was ill prepared.  A very steep learning curve that culminated in the honor of seeing, hearing and feeling my mom’s last breath.

But, it’s okay.  Lives end. They begin.  And what we do in between is what matters to humanity.  Make a decision to heal your wounds.  Ask for help, seek out tools and practices.  Don’t keep making yourself bleed over and over.  We have an innate ability to heal physically that is so apparent.  What may not be as apparent is our innate ability to heal our spirits as well.  The first step is intention.

I wish you well.  Feel free to reach out.

April 18, 2017 Posted by | Musings | , , , , , , , , , | 15 Comments

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