When I was a child, I literally had no real friends – you know, the kind with whom you laugh and share your paper dolls and who are sad when you cry.  And, I had  no social skills either.  My parents virtually never invited anyone to our home.  I don’t remember helping prepare a meal or a party.  Since Mother was angry much of the time, my belief was that something was very wrong with me, unrealizing she had some heavy concerns to bear. 

Anyway, I was relieved to marry because I identified with a name that suffered the very visible shame of feeling unwanted and unloved.  With a new name in a new city, I thought I had a better chance of being liked, at least until people got to know me well enough to then quit liking me.  I knew I had the ability to attract people, just not keep them. 

Bringing this to mind recently brought to me the most delightful epiphany.  That was then, a product of my own mind; this is now.  Lacerating myself every time someone responded to me differently than I had intended no longer applies.  Second guessing myself and then deciding I have embarrassed myself publicly once again is a perception that is no longer useful.  

The ‘Today Truth’ is that I have lots of friends – happy, loving, caring, sweet, kind friends – people who find joy in having me as a friend and who brighten every corner of my existence, people who love me when I’m a jerk and when I’m a gift from God.  This camaraderie reminds me that there are even more times when my God Self can show up and touch another friend or friend-to-be. 

Please know that your friendship is an incredible gift for which I have continual gratitude.  I don’t measure who does what for whom because anything that happens between us is for both of us.  Your love and wisdom surround me in every moment.  I think about you and smile.  So I thank you for expressing your love for me so eloquently and for knowing I love you back. 

You may say you don’t know me.  Yet I experience the energy of love and caring you share with others.  It embraces me at the grocery store when a clerk smiles and tells me of a grandchild visiting.  It greets me in church when your friends welcome me with a hug.  It brings surprise when you send your child to shovel snow from my walk.  I thank you for loving with such heart that the entire planet vibrates with joy.

Something is awaiting you.  Here’s the secret to embracing it.  This is what Bob and I teach and walk people through in our one day workshops.  Feelings.  The feelings you want to experience every day are what attract the special something that is just yours.  When you go into quiet, bring the way you want to feel into your body.  Amplify it until you find yourself feeling the joy you wish for yourself.  Feel your body warm and relax.  Feel the smile come to your face.  Feel the light grow in your eyes.  Do this frequently, asking only that the most auspicious and beneficial gift show itself to you.  You will know when it arrives by the way you feel.  Then knock yourself out showing  immeasurable gratitude and sharing the joy.

Dear Reader Friends,
I have a long distance friendship with one of the world’s most beautiful spirits who lives in Oregon.  We share the most intimate pieces of our lives.  Knowing my parents passed away fairly recently and knowing she can tell me anything and knowing I will be honest and support her and her faith, I received a letter outlining the pain of not being able to get the care her Mother needs after a serious stroke.  Her wealthy step-father has cut off communication and won’t get additonal therapy for her Mom.  Here’s my answer, both pragmatic and spiritual.  May it speak to you if you have found this for the same reasons.  Blessings to all.

Oh my, dear Friend,
Here’s the pragmatic part:  Get a lawyer in your Mom’s state.  The reason I say that is laws vary.  In Indiana, half of his money is hers and she has a right to it.  On the other hand, if she appointed him her health representative, he may be able to make any choice he wishes.  If you can prove that he is mistreating her or refusing her treatment that would make a difference, you can go (still best with an attorney, in my opinion; sounds like he packs some weight) to Adult Protective Services and file a complaint against him.  I think you can actually make an anonymous complaint.  Either that or they would keep you anonymous.  They would investigate and, if finding her maltreated, take away his powers and assign them to the court.  The downside of this is that it can tear apart the family if that hasn’t already happened.  It’s always hard to know if the invalid will live long enough to reap the benefits of this action.  In addition, the court-ordered guardian may move too slowly for your taste.  Another good reason for legal advice.  If you haven’t, you can make an appointment with her physicians, specialists as well as family doctors who view life differently than specialists, and get a written prescription for additional therapy along with a note stating the potential benefits to her as related to her case.  That would support action against your step-father.  I do believe your step-father cannot come between you and your Mother.  That may be another issue for an attorney, and it may be the one that causes him the most grief legally.  What I have told you may not be true for her state, but it is the basis for some very important questions to be answered.

My Mom also couldn’t speak for herself…I don’t know when I have felt so impotent as when I just wanted to help Mother.  It has taken me until just recently (she died in Jan) to get over the pain of not being able to make her more comfortable or read her mind or make all that shitty stuff just go away so she could pass on.  

Here’s the answer:  (You are going to hate me for this.)  You have to assume that this stuff that makes no sense and eats your insides out is in her best interests.  I mean YOU MUST Assume that you don’t know what she needs to pass into the next dimension.  Now, I know that if anyone knows, it is you.  Nevertheless…you have to give up the idea that you know what is best for her and what the outcome would be under other circumstances.  And, furthermore (if you didn’t hate me before, you will now.), you Must Assume that she and your step-father have a contract to behave in certain ways to clear her karma so she has peace when she leaves.  And you Must Assume that your step-father is doing the absolute best he can under the circumstances.  And when you get so crazy you can’t stand another minute, you can call me and rail and wail.  So the trick is to get from goddammit to peace in as little time as possible.  You will have to do that over and over, sometimes more than once a day.  If you linger, like I did sometimes, you give away all your power and drain yourself so you can’t be of any service to her or anyone else, especially you and your honey.  

My whole challenge in life is to get to acceptance and peace more quickly.  I just didn’t take the time away from caregiving to take care of myself.  Most people think that means go to the gym or eat well or take a walk or love your husband.  What that really means is go to God and be there, just be there, knowing you are God and God is you and everything is in Divine Order even though it feels like it sucks your life away.  Have a big cry, throw some stones in the lake, smile, get up and call your Mother’s home.  They can hold the phone up so she can hear you tell her how much you love her and how much you want to be with her every moment.  Then promise you will call again soon and tell her to rest well. 

Now, as far as your step-father goes, the only way you can get support from him is if you support him.  Perhaps you can call him and acknowledge you guys are at odds.  Tell him you know how much he loves your Mom and  how much you have always thought of him so you know there are good reasons why he is making the choices he is.  Ask him what he knows that would be helpful to you in understanding how you can be behind him during these difficult times.  Lie if necessary.  Ask him how you can help him.  Call or text him every couple of weeks or less just to say ‘I’m thinking of you and am here for you.’  That puts you in The Big Person role.  You will always be proud of yourself for having done so.  And, you will also be doing it for your Mom, who needs both of you in her life. 

I love you too.

Where are you stuck?  What is keeping you there?

After the passing of Mother on January 9, I couldn’t seem to feel comfortable that she had completed her crossing.  Regardless of the vocabulary we use, many people feel, as did Mother, that somehow those who are departing this world join with loved ones who have already passed. I’m a healer and can feel energy bodies.  She and I agreed a couple of years earlier that I would help her spirit meet with those who came for her, so I stayed very attuned to what was happening with her.  I’m speaking of traditions that facilitate those who request a partner in their dying processes.  That was what Mother and I were planning on doing together. 

After her breaths subsided, I began the ceremony.  Then I bathed and dressed her, walked her gurney to the hearse and helped place her body gently in the back of the vehicle.  Her death was not sad for me.  The Mother I knew had been gone for over a year and my grieving was nearly finished by the time her breaths were also gone.  I believe in the continuation of a life form, so loneliness or abandonment never entered my thoughts and feelings.  She had such a long struggle to get free of her stroke-bound body that I felt a quiet joy for her.  Yet weeks and weeks later, I carried the physical and emotional weight of uncertainty.  Her spirit did not seem totally free.  

Mulling this over for some time and knowing it was time to retrieve clarity, I attended a group wherein the leader-mentor asked two questions.  ‘Where are you stuck?’ and ‘What is keeping you there?’  Immediately my answer emerged.  I am stuck with regard to the manner with which Mother passed.  I know what she wanted for herself and I wanted it for her too.  Disappointment and lack of resolution keeps me stuck there.  I wondered if my concerns were holding her back.  That is the absolute antithesis of our relationship.  So, I put a sacred cloth on the floor and brought out reminders of Mother – her stuffed cat, candles, pictures of various stages of her life, flowers, incense, items she loved, her wedding picture (if you read earlier posts, you know Mother and Daddy were married 70 years), anything that brought her spirit into the room.  Candles were lighted.  Prayers of unwinding and harmony were offered.  Gratitude abounded.  I sat in the near dark with Mother for nearly two hours, after which I was free.  And so was she.

Where are you stuck?  What is keeping you there?

My husband, Bob, and I were married on New Year’s Eve 20 years ago this December in Paris where I lived in 1989 and 1990.  Bob had lived in Vienna with his first wife in the early 1980s and always dreamed of showing me Vienna through his eyes.  We decided to combine that trip with a visit to my Parisian friends. 

Bob approached the trip quite romantically.  He wanted to visit the church of our wedding and take our friends back to Chez Les Anges (basically, The Angels’ Place), the restaurant where we originally had the dinner-reception for all 7 of us – Valerie, Fabrice, Anne-Marie and Claude, Christiane who came from Lausanne, Bob and me. 

After an absolutely gorgeous meal of lovely presentation and beautiful wines, I excused myself to the ladies room, ‘je vais aux toilettes’.  The toilettes were down a hall, one end of which opened into the restaurant near the servers’ area.  The rest room was also nice – all marble…..floors, walls, ceiling and door.  It was about 3 by 5 feet.  I went in, turned the dead bolt,  completed my business there and thoroughly washed my hands.  I then turned the deadbolt the other way and attempted to pull the door open.  Nothing happened.  It didn’t even budge.  I tried it again, turning the knob the other direction.  I turned the knob in conjunction with the door knob.  More nothing.  I pushed and pulled.  I sat and waited for Bob to come for me.  I worked the knobs.  Did I mention the room was all marble including the door?  Did I mention there was no ventilation?  It got hotter and hotter. 

I began knocking on the door, a futile attempt in that it was then 10 pm, peak dinner hour for Parisians and the restaurant had gotten rather noisy.  The servers couldn’t hear me at all.  I began to wonder, ‘is hyperventilation a self-destructive response to this situation?’  Deciding ‘yes’ to that question, I grabbed the two knobs with both hands and began banging the door against its frame and, alternately, slamming my palms against it.  Now, one would think that the other members of the party would notice if one hadn’t returned within nearly half an hour. 

En fin!  A waiter came to the door and I told him in my best English – to hell with French at that particular moment – that the door wouldn’t open.  ‘Un moment, madam,’ he said, departing.  A few minutes later he returned and worked on the door lock for a while.  Finally, you’ve seen this in movies, I know, he turned his shoulder to the door and ran across the hallway, about 6 feet, slamming into the marble slab.  Again and again and again.  I didn’t know exactly where to stand in the tiny room in case of his success.  The door gave about 1/8 inch.  Again and again until he triumphantly crashed into the bathroom, having knocked a chunk of marble from the door frame.  ‘Si bon’, he declared with a big grin on his face. 

By that time, Bob and my friends were in the hallway gaping at Monsieur et moi in the bathroom.  Someone who was possibly taking his life in his hands mentioned that it’s probably not a good idea to lock the ladies room door after entering because it’s possible the bolt will not return, it will be hotter than a sauna in there before they come to retrieve you, and some guy will break into the bathroom and proudly declare ‘si bon’.

NO, not si bon.  Not at all si bon.

It has been graphically demonstrated to me that physical pain is a lack of love to that specific location.  Emotional pain might be lack of love in our thinking.  So this probably isn’t a new idea.  Nevertheless, it’s useful. 

I recently was asked, ‘where are you stuck?’ and ‘what keeps you there?’  What intrigues me about these questions is that I was able to immediately answer both of them.  The answers had been rumbling around in my mind and body for some time, awaiting the moment when I would surrendar to releasing the ‘what’ which keeps me there.  That moment was Sunday evening of Labor Day weekend. 

I used my own methods, derived from indigenous peoples and my healing experiences, to create a quiet place which had items, such as photos and mementoes which represented all that is wonderful and was painful, for both me and Mother, in her dying processes and life experiences.  Did you notice the shift in tense?…. all that IS wonderful, WAS painful.  My physical pain evaporated along with my emotional pain and my old story.

Now I see the beauty of her in what appeared to be an agonizing process.  We were both freed – Mother and I.

We  just returned from the moving play, The Year of Magical Thinking by Joan Didion, reliving the year in which both her only daughter and only husband died.  I cried most of the way home.  Fontaine Syed brought Joan to life and let her anguish visibly hang out.  When I read Joan’s book during my own parents’ journey into their passing, I was an observer, unemotional.  When Fontaine became Joan, witness fell away and became identification - the difference being Joan’s angst came from wanting to keep her husband and daughter.  Mine came from wanting to help my parents die.  Joan seemed to get her strength from denying her husband’s death (magical thinking), determined he would come back and ‘would need his shoes’.  My strength came from beautiful moments with my parents and feeling/knowing that our true relationship, our spiritual beings would never be separated.  My parents did not die, even though all three of us use/used that word.  I am literally my parents physically.  Spiritually, we are still together.  They didn’t go anywhere without me.  It simply doesn’t take a 45-minute drive to get to them now.

The most unexpected thing occurred during the last years of my parents’ lives.  Our roles shifted enormously.  My parents, as they cruised closer and closer to the ends of their lives, dropped their filters and their persona.  I had the, perhaps rare, and delightful opportunity to be with their true selves, perhaps even more so with Daddy, who had a big persona until his last weeks.  Mother and I yakked about personal stuff for years, but Daddy was more reticent and somewhat reclusive, especially about his feelings, although he did become an inveteret story teller in his 90s.  I was with his full vulnerability and innocence as he  moved into the next phase of his life.  He went from God to childhood to adulthood to childhood to God.

That fine line between compassion and selfishness is a big blur these days.  Decisions about euthanasia or terminal illness graphically illustrate the lack of clarity between wanting contentment and quality of life for the ill and not being able to watch them suffer without suffering myself.  Fortunately, this is true of my family situations, not my client experiences.  And, fortunately, my client strength bleeds into and sustains me in family sadnesses. 

As I watch Mother fade in and out of life, failing rapidly, continuing to breathe with awareness of what is happening to her, I go from solid, loving support to abject distress – for her, I think.  Really, it is for me too.  Thank goodness Mother’s memory loss keeps her from carrying the indignities of  living in long-term care into the moment.  Her disappointment for right now is only immediate, although it repeats itself frequently.

This is my Mother.  She is the Mother who has been my best friend for 45 years.  She is the caregiver who took care of Daddy until her massive stroke last year, yet worried about him as he declined toward his body’s demise three months ago.  She is the homemaker who, just this time last year, at age 90, was washing double-hung windows and storms outdoors from a ten-foot ladder, soaking up the cool air and pleasure of clean glass.  She wanted to work, to be independent, until she died.  Perhaps she died as the clots raced through her clean, healthy arteries and piled up where her memory center kept her in touch with the beauty of former years.  She was the backbone of her church women’s group, the community help program, a philanthropic helping young people get to college.  And she was the best friend ever – always listening, sometimes gripeing, ever calling to say, ‘how did your ___ go yesterday?’ 

And she is still who she is.

Am I hurting for her or me?

Staying sane. It’s the only good revenge on life’s trials. True sanity…how elusive in this society. Sanity bespeaks of grace, allows grace, snubs its nose at empowering heavy and cumbersome, incorporates restorative quiet and lots of laughter. Another word I like comes from the French. Sang-froid (san-frwa) is a state of calm and composure.
There we go again…aspects of grace. Staying connected to what is right and true, foregoing engagement, offering gratitude, forgiving and accepting forgiveness, finding the joy.
Grace is omnipresent. It is knowing all is well, held gently and safely in God’s love.