Just Call it What it is!

‘Just start! Put the pen to the paper, or the fingers to the keyboard, and simply start’, says the inner writer in me. I wonder, ‘what has been holding me back from writing?’ I live deep enough to know it’s not writer’s block. This is avoidance and fear of being swallowed up by the magnitude of all that’s going on in the blurred background of my life. I’m at the crescendo of a tragic song that I can’t ignore anymore, walls and defenses crumbling, and the growing choir of emotional chatter getting louder. I ask myself, ‘do I dare face the music, uncover my ears, turn around and look it all in the eye?’ I already limit the news I watch because I can become so easily overwhelmed and I know there are mamas running with their babies from bombs and missiles, and many less fortunate people surviving unspeakable things. But turn around I must, for I cannot ignore the noise anymore. For whatever reason I have been born into privilege, this life comes with its own traumas and heartbreaks that must be reckoned with, as well. And here I am, on a Sunday morning, pouring my heart out. The only breaks I take are the ones where I refill my coffee, eat some of the bacon my husband always cooks on Sunday mornings, and to let my dog in, who has also decided it would be a good day to crap on the front stoop.

It’s the first day of May and Spring time in Wisconsin. The weekend has been gloomy, cold and rainy, good for watching the new season of Ozark, or like any other therapist, the only time to catch up on notes. In between these rainy-day moments are good times for good cries. The uncertainty of life has caught up to me. Yesterday it was walking alongside me and today it’s making strides ahead of me. This is my first post since COVID hit. So much has happened since then. People we knew and loved lost their lives to this pandemic, the political climate is a circus, people are unprecedentedly lonely, and the magnitude of this collective pain is finally hitting. I was considered ‘essential’ and kept working in the familiar way I’ve always done. I went into my office everyday to carry those hurting souls, with the Universe and God’s light as the wind beneath my wings. I also went for myself to stay connected to some higher purpose in all of the reckoning. I do not write with the desire for pity, but with the intent to honor my sorrow, overwhelm and sadness these past two years have carried for me. My father passed away in November, My husband’s parents are living out their final days. I beat another cancer, witnessed great suffering in the healing process with my clients, my own family and friends, and the inevitable reality we all face…that the world is forever different and life will never, ever be the same. 

However, we are evolutionary people, and so is the God I believe in. And I must balance the pain with the joy as I prepare to compose myself for another day. Here is what the ‘other-side’ looks like when some of the answers appear. There is nothing more heart-warming than to watch your eldest daughter marry her beloved under the golden sun on a beautiful September afternoon and to watch her make her mark as a warrior in the fight against cancer in mammogram radiography. The enjoyment of living with an exuberant and charismatic middle child who grows up loving the world, even when it’s cruel, refusing to be hardened. The blessing it is to witness her light up a room with her presence, or gift of song, and to follow the calling to become a clinical mental health therapist by returning to graduate school. The bitter-sweet reality of preparing your youngest child to launch into the world, a college student with the dream of becoming a surgical first-assist in the oncology world. I marvel at all the difficult Universal assignments of suffering she’s been given, the healing work she’s done, and her life of service to the world. The remarkable gift of love my husband and his siblings are experiencing as they fully show up for one another during this time with their parents. How fortunate I am to have been fully loved by my in-laws, who often filled in the gaps where the limitations of my parents existed. My husband’s attempt to live a life of service as he takes on a new career risk as a realtor. What a noble cause to help those longing for home. To be loved by a man who gives so much of himself to me, his girls, family, friends, the world…it’s a better place with him in it, even when he’s a challenge! The healing of estranged family relationships since the passing of my father and the spiritual gifts I’ve received since he’s been gone. These insights keep coming I could write all day! The gratitude for some clarity of the purposes for the tragedies in our life…it all warms my heart. We did our best to live the questions when nothing made sense. We now are seeing some of the answers arrive.

And so it is. Today and my sorrow…they just are! No need to attach any other meaning to it other than it’s just how life is done when we are simply being and living whole! Not an easy task, but definitely worth it. Answers do come in time and in the meanwhile we survive the best we can living those questions. Lots of Kleenex, good coffee, bacon on a Sunday morning, and trying to figure out the meaning of why the damn dog only craps on the porch when you let him out. It’s life and that’s living!

Namaste’

Lisa

Bringing Together While Being Apart

Ironies…truly what a time for these! However, my hope is that our global collective consciousness wakes up as we endure the Coronavirus 19 pandemic. Let us stay safe, healthy and well. May we also be called to love, to show up, to serve up, to light up in action in our own unique way. Not just that we be called, but be moved to answer the call and act upon what is being asked of us, even if it’s uncomfortable! I want us to see our collective humanity, our own vulnerability, and the power of helping one another, trusting that in doing so, we will receive much more in return than we ever thought possible? It’s true…this is how it works! Giving and receiving are like two sides of the same coin. All of us are susceptible to getting sick – regardless of one’s status, title or position, the size of your home or bank account (even if you have neither of these), how you look, where you come from, if there is a wall to climb over or glass ceiling to break…just ask a microscopic, tiny little virus that can collapse a Global society! Don’t ever think you are too small to make a difference.

I don’t believe God has given up on us yet. We must not give up on us either. Things fall apart so they can fall back together the right way! It is a Japanese tradition that when something of value breaks, it is glued back together with actual gold. The precious imperfection of the brokenness is honored. And imperfect we are! Splendid imperfection are we! While all this takes place, do your part! Keep it simple! You do you by opening your mind like a trap to catch the thoughts of God, allowing yourself to do what you are being called to do…quarantined, sub-quarantined, or not. Check up on one another. Send a letter, text, email. Make those phone calls. Be present…really, really present to those you’ll be seeing much more of. What ever it is, go do that! Push fear aside and simply show up to this moment, this reality and allow yourself to be thoroughly used. One day, one update, one guideline at a time. But keep that mind open and your spirit and energy in today!

The Tao Te Ching says, “To have peace in the world, you must have peace in the nations; To have peace in the nations, you must have peace in the towns; To have peace in the towns, you must have peace in the home; To have peace in the home, you must have peace in the heart.” World Peace starts with you, your heart, You! Use this time well! A heart needs a body and every body holds a soul…all bodies, rich and poor, able-bodied and disabled, every color of the race-of-the-rainbow, all kinds of lovers, every religion, culture, creed, and ethnicity, the chronically ill and fortunately well, big and small, all genders and expressions, everyone!

So through this Global crisis, remember that We Are One! The virus does not discriminate. Then go look for the helpers, like Mr. Rodger’s mom would say when anything bad would happen. Go be one of those helpers! May you embody and embrace this struggle and be light and love everywhere you go! We will get through this! And we will do it one breath, one moment, one action at a time. Stay in the Now! It’s where the power is always!! And it’s all that’s certain right now!

 

Namaste’

Lisa

Countdown to Launch Time

Hello Everyone,

Rarely is my house empty, but tonight it is and I feel called to my keyboard. Last night I was looking through photos on my cell phone, realizing that I haven’t uploaded them to my computer in a while. As a result, updated photographs rarely accompanied recent writings. A long time ago when I was in college I had a professor name Ken Morrison who taught me about phototherapy (yes, there is such a thing). I was mesmerized by his ability to tell what was happening in a photograph by the way people were positioned, reading subtle nuances of placement and facial expressions, and learning to see where I had not normally looked. His accuracy was always spot on. Oh, how I loved to watch him do his craft and to learn from him! Because he is no longer here in this physical realm, my relationship with him has become more spiritual in nature. As the years go by I am more convinced that love cannot be destroyed by death. He was my advisor, my professional mentor, and my forever friend. I hear his voice sometimes when I reflect upon life, relationships, the nature of time, space and distance, and the interconnectedness of everyone and everything. A simple glance at one of the only two photographs I have of him, given so thoughtfully by his wife Phyllis, is all it takes for me to feel the special connection we had and obtain an answer to a question I may be posing. Memories captured on photo paper, in the mind or in the heart matter and live on!

Inevitably, we try to hold on to people and things, but eventually the impermanence of life shows up. There is a time and place for everything under heaven. Letting go, releasing the need to know, win and be right can be some of the most liberating decisions we can make. If we have an attachment to a certain version of life that is different from the one that is showing up, we must let it go so we can embrace the one that awaits us! I am working to take my own advice this summer as we celebrate a college, high school and 8th grade graduation. All at once, there they go! Looking through pictures made me realize how much life we’ve already packed into such a short amount of time. And if it is part of the larger Universal plan, we’ll have so much more to experience and share. I feel enormously grateful to be here in this physical realm to be part of this ongoing and continual unfolding!

I’ll continue to capture life moments in photographs, my writing, and my heart. I’ll try not to miss anything. However, distractions are inevitable and redirection to what matters most is crucial if we are to continue to evolve into the best version of ourselves. So as I look through recent pictures of these milestone moments for my girls, here is what I’m realizing. I want for them to know their own soul and to feed it well. I hope they take time to listen and make friends with silence, so they can go into the empty moments and learn to be at peace there. I hope they stay connected to their truth and speak it, even if their voices shake. I hope they never forget the power of kindness and a smile. I hope they share love freely everywhere they go, embracing each moment with their whole heart, risking involvement because it’s worth it, regardless of the outcome. I hope they never fail to remember how interconnected we are. I want to remind them that they are part of a larger community that they can return to as needed for a safe place to land or catch their breath. I hope they trust that their life is unfolding exactly as it should and if they do right by themselves and others, all will be fine. May they keep the faith and a solid connection with their God. I hope they can eventually bless everything that comes their way, even the hard stuff, in whatever form its delivered. Even suffering can be a catalyst for change and part of why joy can taste so sweet! I hope they step into their own magic, stay fearless, and live unapologetically with their hearts wide open!

In the end I can only hope they know I did my best to live in such a way that they will be proud of where they came from. In all honesty, I gave to them what I felt was missing inside of me, in all its raw imperfection and discomfort. Mistakes were made along the way and repair work became part of the process. Regrets are painful realities! Even though they hold great potential for learning, I still have some regrets! Mothering for me has been the most wildly joyful and profoundly stressful job all rolled into one. I continue to heal my heart and forgive myself. I hope my daughters feel free to solidly launch and know what an honor and privilege it has been for me to be their mom. I have thoroughly enjoyed watching them grow, sharing and learning alongside of them. I’ve had a front row seat at the best show in town watching each of them build a self fueled by their unique life force, energy, wildest dreams, disappointments and sorrows, their passion, and their desire to make a difference and the world a better place. May they always keep their minds open and their arms outstretched wide, and a reminder that although the world is their canvas, it is also in desperate need of their gifts! Our work is never done and our love is everlasting!

Looking forward to rockin’ it this summer with you all! Here’s to full-on living!!
Love, Meme

Longing for Home

Fred Rogers  said that one of the strongest things we have to wrestle with is the significance of longing for perfection…in ourselves, the people bound to us by friendship, or parenthood or childhood. Along the fruitful journey of psychological excavation in my role as a psychotherapist and a human being, I’ve learned that we face many unanswered questions long before the answers are discovered.  The great poet Rainer Maria Rilke encourages us to be patient towards all that is unsolved in our hearts and to stretch our comfort levels by actually learning to love the questions themselves. That’s a big stretch.

How do we love the questions, none-the-less gravel with the process of actually honoring our feelings once the revelation occurs. Our ego searches for answers to surpass the pain of emotion. We are surrounded with messages about staying positive, thinking right, and choosing our attitudes about given situations that it makes me wonder where the fine line is drawn between these and the messy process of baring witness to our pain and suffering. Without realizing it, we’ve divided emotions into “good” and “bad” categories and become people committed to “not seeing”, which only gives power to the unresolved issues of our past or the repressed emotions we have yet to identify and work through.  Where do we go from here?

Finding meaning in all our life experiences is the hallmark of existential living. We must embrace everything we face, or as some would say, ‘the good, the bad and the ugly.’ The work is simple, not necessarily easy, and most definitely worth the expansive effort. Practicing gratitude for all that unfolds, for the lessons we learn, and the ways that we grow, is how we continue to evolve. Along the way, something magical happens and we begin to see how the story really goes and fits together.

So today, I turn to Mr. Fred Rogers. The man who first came on the airwaves 50 years ago today being a friend and neighbor to so many of us. A man who simplified the complicated with his kindness and gentleness, candidly talking about love and respect, friendship, conflict and relationships, feelings, and being true to our unique self in ways both young and old could understand. His capacity for understanding, forgiveness and embracing the splendid imperfection in all of us (ourselves included) seemed endless. So today I honor you, Mr. Rogers! You welcomed me into a world full of love that legacies on. I am so glad you showed up and created a neighborhood where everyone belonged, no matter what! Imagine my surprise to learn of your favorite quote by Mary Lou Kownacki, “There isn’t anyone you couldn’t love once you’ve heard their story!” I guess I really shouldn’t be surprised at all!

This Magnificent, Magical, Messy Life…


It has been some time since I’ve posted. As is usually the case, it takes a number of people asking about me before I realize that an update is warranted. These are beautiful reminders of the love so many of you offer and the accountability I have to you, and the community in which I reside and belong. It’s a lovely realization, actually…to matter and know so many care. Thank you!

So I recently finished my second antibody infusion of the 12 rounds I’ll have over the next 20 months.  I have been tolerating it well, with minimal side effects. I’m on a bimonthly schedule for these infusions, so I’ll return for another at the end of November. Just last week I started having trouble with the blood return with my port. Sometimes blood filaments cluster around the end of the port line, so they needed some dissolving with medication that acts like Draino. Like magic, the filaments dissolved and the port is functioning well again. My liver numbers have finally returned to normal. I have to watch my intake of foods containing Purines (which is just about everything), as they affect Uric Acid levels, which remain a bit high yet. Otherwise all my numbers are normal. I’ll have a CT Scan mid-December to see where things are at. And hopefully the news will be good…I have no reason to think they won’t!

Given the reality of cancer, tumbling from time-to-time back into the trauma of it all, I have to remind myself that it is unrealistic to think that letting go of the deep sorrow associated with this illness is a simple process. Healing is never linear and as we rise to each new day, our insights are morphed and integrated into the never-ending process of becoming. Just as we continue to write our life story, we have obstacles to transcend and for some of us, more grieving to do. Over time, the impact fades but never goes away…it is just what it is!

I look back 12 years to a seven-year-old little girl who was mesmerized by learning there were machines that could take pictures of the insides of the body. That same little girl is now in her second year of clinicals in the radiography program at MPTC. I see a four-year-old little girl who joined me for chemotherapy because the people there “needed” her. She drew pictures, gave hugs, sang songs, and performed cartwheels for folks waiting for the taxi to pick them up. She learned at an early age that she could bring happiness to people who might be sad. That same little girl is now deciding which college she’d like to attend so she can be a social worker, psychologist or counselor. I see a seven-month-old baby girl who is now finishing her last year of middle school, trying on new identities and going on adventures, using her life well and coming into her own self. For the most part, it isn’t the incidents in our lives that create problems, but the meaning we attach to them and the story we tell ourselves about them that matter most. The tragedies we endure have silver linings and opportunities to grow us in ways we might never, and our work is to meet those challenges with a strong and solid trust in this knowing.

So we keep on growin’ and trustin’ and tryin’ to gain clarity of what God’s Will is for us through this time. I am in awe of the resilience of the human spirit in the people and care-givers we are meeting along the way. Although Steve says he never wants to “get good” at this cancer stuff, he will attest to the contrasting realities that play out in Cancer Care Centers all over the world. As we meet people, hear their stories and share in this cancer journey, we are humbled by the realization that sorrow cannot exist without joy, fear without love, dark without light, and beauty without agony. It is in this knowing that makes the human experience so magnificent and messy, all at the same time.

May you bask in your own magnificence and mess, allow it to take you to a greater depth of living, and be moved and changed as you maneuver through it all. From the bottom of my heart, I am so very grateful to you all!

Namaste’
Lisa

Reminiscing and Recycling

Good day, Friends!

I remember as a child, going to my local library on Saturday mornings and thumbing through the vinyl record, 8 tracks and cassette tapes available for check out. I felt so grateful living in a city with a library that allowed me to bring these home for a week. I’ve always appreciated the various genre’s of music to choose from, learning along the way every time I checked out an artist I had never heard about. The more I listen to Pandora, the more genre’s I learn about. It’s an exciting time to be living where the diversity of art in all it’s expressions can be easily and instantaneously accessed through the Internet, a simple google search, or a trip to your local library. During my last chemotherapy weekend, I decided to hunker down with all the movies that won academy awards this year. So I checked out the movies Lion, Fences and Collateral Beauty to watch during my recovery time. I am once again reminded of the power of the creative arts to move and deeply change us. These films were passionately brought to life with fierce acting, Universal truths, and story telling of real life bravery. Despite this being only my opinion and not a professional movie review, I strongly recommend you see these films.

Here are some pieces of insight I’ve gained from watching these films. We all long for love. We all yearn for more time. We all fear death. We all know about collateral damage. In fact, we could all learn more by considering the collateral impact of our choices, preferably before we make them. People tend to pay more attention to worry, negativity and fear than we do their opposites. We’re not in the habit of attending to the positive, the good that can come from adversity, how pain has the potential to pull us closer to one another and grow us in ways we’ve not considered. This is known as ‘the collateral beauty’. This kind of beauty grows from the place of experience…a place we arrive at through the challenges of our own assigned suffering if we choose to allow it. Our assignments often differ. Yet, if we meet them with raw honesty and vulnerability, we too will arrive where the collateral beauty abounds. Life can be hard…really, really hard! This second cancer journey has been hard. However, the things of life that bust us wide open can lead us to a profound sense of connection to everything and everyone. That’s where the beauty and magic happen!

We learned last week that I am in complete remission. We have one treatment left and two years of monitoring, so we aren’t at the end quite yet. However, our hearts are light and full of gratitude for so very much. We’ve met some wonderful people through this journey. And we’ve been stretched beyond our comfort zone, as well. However, we are better for all of it. Our hearts are bigger, too! And we will keep paying it forward. It’s been a gorgeous day today, sunshine and calm winds, in the mid-to-upper 70’s. I’m listening to a variety of music and reminiscing. I am always amazed by the power of a song to take me back, a smell to recycle a feeling, how vividly I can remember by the sights and sounds around me. These happen when I am mindful and present, focused in the moment and paying attention. I finally took the Easter decorations down and am replacing them with my Spring decor. We have a chickadee nest, now with six little eggs (there used to be four) laid in one of my wreaths hanging on the exterior of our home. Spring is coming, new life abounds and the promise of Easter has just arrived. During this Spring, may God’s light guide your path, may God’s love grace your heart, and may God’s sacrifice strengthen your soul!!

Namaste’
Lisa

Providence and Paradigms

Hello everyone,

Round three of six chemotherapy treatments is done! I’m home resting after an amazing dinner generously made for us by friends from church. All my labs look normal, with the exception of my liver numbers being a bit elevated. My oncologist decided to reduce the amount of chemotherapy I’ve been getting (I received only 77.8% of the total amount I had previously received – I wonder how these numbers are determined). He’s taken me off all the supplements and oils I use to boost my immunity, just to rule out their influence on these elevated liver enzymes, or even if there is any. My liver will be monitored closely to decide the adjustments to my medications that may need to be made. Today we learned the PET scan results from last week. They are showing radio-graphic remission is occurring, so we are on the right path! We were so relieved to discover this.

Sleep has been elusive for my husband, as he’s been unable to shut his brain off. Managing fear and worry is difficult for him at times (for all of us, actually). He’s a prideful man, so when folks ask about him and what they might be able to do for him, he usually denies there’s anything he needs. If I could speak to this, I’d say, “”come visit him and have a beer, take him out for one, or if it’s a Tuesday or a Saturday, bring him a Buster Bar (long story)”. For me, I wasn’t as nervous because it wasn’t a diagnostic test, and I’ve been using mindfulness, prayer and intentional, present-focused living to get me through. I’ll also admit that staying busy and distracting myself works well some of the time. I’ve had my sleepless nights, too! I’ve taken advantage of the Integrative Medicine Department and doing Reike weekly. I feel spiritually lifted and deeply convinced that your thoughts and prayers are lifting me, too! Either way, this news today has lightened our hearts!

My oldest daughter joined us today, taking an interest in the radiography part to cancer treatment, as she is considering a career in this area of medicine, among others. This experience plays a role in that decision, I believe. And she simply just wanted to be there. It’s always nice to have her company. She’s such a beautiful and grounding soul to be around. I’m enjoying her as an adult so much, but miss the little girl often! And she inspires me to stay strong as she manages her studies, work, her friendships and relationship with her US Marine boyfriend.

We learned yesterday that our youngest child is struggling more than we realize with everything going on. Despite this difficult realization, we are really trying to listen and hear, affirm and validate, provide a safe space to share her feelings, providing necessary support for her and keeping the lines of communication open. The staff and families in her middle school have provided a loving incubator for her to be where ever she’s at, offering support and assistance when her brain is full of worry thoughts. We keep our energy focused on trusting that she will grow in ways she’d never be able to if she wasn’t enduring this with us. However, it’s not something I’d choose for her. And it makes me very, very sad!

Today is also my middle daughter’s 17th Birthday. When I initially learned one of my treatment days would fall on her birthday, my reactions were a mixture of disappointment and heartbreak. In as much as I’d prefer to shield her from the stress of this journey, I am unable. I cannot save my other daughters, my husband, my friends and extended family from the stress of this journey either. The truth being that in any community in which you reside, what affects one of us affects all of us. This is OUR cancer. And like most moms, I’d gladly take the illness on if there was a choice involved to spare the suffering of a loved one. However, it doesn’t work this way. These random “assignments of suffering” force us to dig down deep to find strength we didn’t realize we have. It’s turned us inward to examine our own existential struggles and mortality. It’s brought to the forefront how precious and fragile this life we’re living truly is.

So the day started off with an early breakfast with the birthday girl. It was during breakfast with her that I recognized something powerful. If it is true that we are made up of a culmination of all of our experiences, than each and every situation and person we’ve met along the way holds a piece of our story and a place in our heart. There are some pretty special and unique ways to our middle child and how she lives her life and loves others. Those that truly know her can attest to this. And if I really get honest about what has influenced her, I have to bless and honor the two cancer experiences she’s witnessed and experienced with me during her lifetime. It hasn’t broken her. She is deeply rooted in her faith. She knows her home. She’s learned to bend with the winds of these storms and allow them to move her deeply. She gives to whomever, whenever and however she can, as she knows deep in her heart that always makes her feel better when she struggles! What a beautiful blessing our life story has been for her. And if we tweak the paradigm a bit, then we say “what wonderful news for her on her birthday! Mom’s heading into remission!”

We’ve been the recipients of so much love and kindness coming in a variety of ways where we are challenged to simply accept them, realizing that by doing so, we are actually giving an important gift in return! Learning to receive comfortably is one of the hardest lessons to learn. Giving and receiving…the Yin and Yang of life…the living, basking in the joy, enduring the suffering and rising above our Universal assignments. It’s all a magical, messy, chaotic and lovely adventure. My friend Rebecca Ryan once said to me once that when I can’t accept the gifts that people feel called to give me, it makes the motivation for my giving all the more questionable. Raw and real friendship advice can be brutal at times. She is right! She is so right!

Providence does shine bright, regardless of the outcome we desire! The definition of “Providence” is, the protective care of God or of nature as a spiritual power; timely preparation for future eventualities; God conceived as the power sustaining and guiding human destiny.

Yep, pretty much sums it all up, doesn’t it!

Impermanent Things

It’s late, about 12:30am on an early Wednesday morning. I’m restless, unable to settle myself in for the evening. Music, stretching, meditation, some reading and prayer are my night time rituals, usually done when my family is sleeping and I have some alone time in the house. However, none of these feel sufficient enough to end the day for me tonight. I asked the Universe to help me understand what it is that I am looking for in this moment. And I am pulled to this page and feeling a strong urge to write..

So here I am…my soul needing expression, the spirit moving me to bring my longings, questions and revelations once again, and to work the writer’s process. I feel moved to share the many small and sacred experiences that have come in the last couple of days, leaving me very emotional, sometimes tearful, but spiritually busted wide open. I’ve cried a lot, but not from a place of sorrow or fear. These tears are shed from a deep place of mystery within me. I feel like a soft, cool rain has cleansed me, offering me a sense of newness as I journey forth in the spirit of allowing the life that awaits me, even as it differs from the one I had hoped to have.

So much has happened since my last post in September. I’m feeling gratitude for life, the chapters in it, and this amazing gift of desire to rewrite my story from a more truthful place. I can humbly sit by the broken ruins of certain relationships, knowing I’ve participated in the damage and be ready to bear witness to the pain this may have caused. I can offer up my desire for reconciliation, knowing that it may not be reciprocated, as I’ve come to accept that people may have a strong need to see things, people or situations in certain ways. The power of story, ours and theirs, even taken in the context of the same event, can be processed and deemed wildly different. People are experiencing their life from their unique reality and worldview, and if we argue about who is right, we’ll always be at odds. I would rather be at peace, which then requires me to give up the need to be right.  And that’s okay! It’s times like these that remind me that the Universe has not given up on any of us. If it is true that the Universe is always conspiring on our own best behalf, then we must trust the Universe’s timing, as well…and keep our focus on what we are being called to do…and on that piece only! So, I pray for peace and ask for patience as the process works and the Universe orchestrates.

I was recently diagnosed with Follicular Lymphoma, a white blood cell cancer. It’s my second bout of cancer, my first being an appendix cancer back in 2004. I survived that ordeal and it looks really good that things will go just as well this time. I’m handling the treatments very well, which are a combination of chemotherapy and antibody treatment, and trying to maintain as much normal as possible.I’ve had two treatments thus far, and have 4 more to go over the course of the next 5 months. In the process of wrapping my head around this, I find myself living more intentionally, mindfully, staying present in the moment and not getting too far ahead of myself. The experience has humbled me, forced me to keep my attention on the most important things, and seeing the small, sacred acts that are occurring all around me. Little things…a smile from a stranger, noticing someone, being fully present, sharing how much I love and adore my family and friends, helping others in need. These are powerful, sacred acts of love that carry with them such great rates of returns.

So, with all of this said, I wish for you trust in the Universal timing of everything in your life. May you practice patience and gratitude and trust in the higher order working of things. The most happiest people are those able to manage fear and keep their energy and focus in the “now”. They stay in the present moment and they live vulnerably. It is a radical and vulnerable act to love, expose feelings and risk involvement with others…keep doing it! It hurts sometimes and It’s so worth it! Finally, embrace it all…the good and the not-so-good. They all hold promise and possibility, even when the assignment of suffering arrives and you are reminded of how impermanent most things really are…

These are my wishes for you…I guess they are my wishes for me, too! And just what I needed to hear so I can finally close out this day. Have a good sleep, everyone!

Namaste’

Honoring Injustice

We all have it handed to us at times…Injustice! Perceived or real, it’s delivered in many ways, forms, circumstances and situations. Most of us know the rules…dealing with the blows the Universe assigns us needs to be done in accordance with abiding laws of society and guided by strong ethics, and we learn to deal with this reality over time. It’s human nature to want to defend, protect, and right the wrong. Living in a civilized society requires us to resist the natural temptation to wound back, to resist the initial and natural temptation to seek justice. Sometimes the disappointments in life become the hidden appointments of love. And we wait until that revelation occurs! And like the great Theologian Kierkegaard once said, “Life can only be understood backwards.”  

However, when injustice is served to my kids, there’s an added amount of pressure to tame the natural instinct to revenge.  The flip side of this struggle can be summarized by the famous Jean Piaget…”Childhood has it’s own way of seeing, thinking and feeling. And nothing is more foolish than to substitute ours for theirs.”  The bottom line…kids deserve their own experiences, without the intrusion of our own stuff, as it pertains to our shared childhood or life injustices. When I studied counseling under the direction of the brilliant Dr. Kenneth Morrison at UW Oshkosh, he would use baseball analogy to describe concepts of power, control, and basic life in general. Fortunately for me, this was not new language. I grew up on baseball, so I could identify with where he was going when he’d ask, “Who’s in your bullpen? What’s the slump all about?”

I’m in a slump, alright! For being a generally positive, bright-side-lookin’ individual, it is unusual for me to be in a slump for too long. However, there are enough reminders and triggers available in the day to keep the drama alive in my head. Sadly, I have yet to meet one parent who doesn’t have a story rooted in frustration and disappointment with organized sports, a referee or umpire, a coach or a child’s athletic career (and by the way, it’s not a career!). We’ve become so “specialized” in our focus, hungry for winning, where perfecting skills and abilities become the major task instead of developing athletes and people. This “early initiation” into the rigors of adult competition and the de-emphasis on fun and play has serious consequences. However, it doesn’t appear that others are listening. And damn it…I want to be heard on this topic.

One of my daughters committed four years of her high school to Fastpitch Softball, only to be benched the last game of her senior season. Call it ‘strategy’ to replace the lead pitcher to throw off the other team, but don’t throw my daughter a bone and place her in right field for an inning and call it real playing time. She deserved greater respect than that. This kid was voted MVP and won an honorable mention for her hitting her junior year. She stepped up to the pitching mound with integrity and character at every game, even when those behind her didn’t have her back. She kept the other seniors ‘in line’ when the coach asked her, and gave her blood, sweat and tears to her teammates, her coaches and the game. Each and every time! Unfortunately, loyalty didn’t flow both ways for her. She deserved to truly play in that final game!

Another one of my daughters was recently denied the opportunity to play varsity volleyball this year. The head coach wanted to ‘strategise’ for the future of the program. So, she brought up five freshmen players and decided not to take players from the JV team…not one! My kid spent her summer conditioning, weight lifting, practicing with, and fund-raising for this team. Previous to that, she played on the JV team her first two years of high school, was nominated as the ‘most spirited’ player two years in a row, and was notorious for her energy, on and off the court. She had plenty of talent, was definitely committed to the sport and known as a spark-plug of a player.  Most important, she had all of the makings of the kind of player coaches love to coach. She has sportsmanship, integrity, leadership skills, love of the game, respect for authority, and so much more! This feedback has been continuous since she began playing sports at eight years of age. At over three dozen calls thus far from parents, coaches, and referees expressing their shock and disbelief that she’s not on the varsity team, the injustice becomes solidified for me. She deserved her spot on that team!

These stories go on and on. I realize by posting this that I risk sounding like a bitter and jaded parent. No need to speculate, because I’ll be the first one to admit that this has been me for the past few weeks. It’s hard not to recycle my own stuff in moments like these. However, I don’t have to look far for examples on how best to deal with this sense of injustice. I find them in my daughters, the ones who’ve been wronged, who still choose to do right! They’ve become better, not bitter.  My eldest is so good at staying grounded, making choices about what gets her attention, and in moving on. This is her advice…”Mom, let it go!” My other daughter, on the day she was cut from the team and after she had time to compose herself, had decided that the way to feel better was to go someplace where she could make a difference, where she was needed and wanted. So, she collected the little money that she had and purchased some canned goods at Aldis. Then she drove to our local food pantry to donate those and picked up an application to volunteer. She also took a job as a nanny, and of course, they love her.  Despite the sting, they both have moved on, in their own timing and ways, letting go and trusting that these disappointments have brought them gifts. Those gifts have become the hidden appointments of love…powerful life lessons on how to transcend and rise above!

I’ll get there eventually. If I pride myself on anything, it is the level of integrity I seek in all situations. Do I succeed every time? Absolutely not! Have I failed at this? Absolutely and unequivocally, Yes! Am I committed to studying where I’ve gone wrong or mishandled situations? I absolutely am! It is in these circumstances that I turn to one of my favorite Buddhist sayings. “When unsure of the path, do nothing…and let the path unfold!” My friends, that’s where I am. I’m hunkered down where the path divides, allowing my feelings, honoring the process, and trusting the timing of the revelation of the “next step”. Those are fancy ways of saying, “shut up, stay put, do nothing!”. In short, I am working this through, cultivating patience as a daily practice with one hell of a context to get it right this time.

In my office, taped to my desk is a beautiful affirmation. It feels fitting to share.

“Today, may you come to acceptance. What is, is. May you find blessed relief in seeing – without judging, being – without having to become, knowing – without needing to change a thing. Then, should you be healed, it will be a gracious, unexpected surprise. May you soon arrive at perfect acceptance.”

Namaste’, dear friends!

Namaste’

 

The Power of Noticing

Good beautiful Thursday morning to you! There’s a calm breeze in the air, a soft blanket of warmth from the sun that has touched my skin, and this wonderful gift of a summer morning before my work day begins this afternoon. Summer is flying by, evidenced by the numerous flyers for ‘back to school’ supplies that accompany the mail every day. As me and my husband were returning home after dropping off our youngest daughter for her last day of technical camp,  Steve summoned me to notice the elderly man on the corner we had just passed. He asked me if I recognized him. As I turned to look back, all I saw was his silhouette against the backdrop of the rising sun, a fragile, aged man with a slightly bent stature. I vaguely noticed a familiarity in what I saw, but could not identify him in that moment. And then my husband gently said, he’s the ‘Lone Ranger’ of ‘The Gentlemen.’

We’ve been living in our current home since our oldest daughter was in Kindergarten. She is now nineteen years old. Every morning, a group of elderly men have walked through our neighborhood. They walked in every kind of weather, be it rain or shine, heat or frigid cold, gusty breezes or calm winds, sleet or snow. Rarely did they miss a morning walk! It started with one of them leaving their home, collecting friends along the way until the group was complete, just around the time they’d reached the old hospital in town. Their destination…a room in the basement of a corner office building where they would share coffee and stories. Afterwards, they would return each other to their respective homes, one-by-one, in the same manner they began, only in reverse fashion. In fact, they were so timely, we always knew how late we were by where these guys were on their route. We respectfully named them, ‘The Gentlemen’, who animatedly greeted us every morning on our way to school with enthusiastic warmth and genuine love. The girls would light up when they saw these grandfatherly men. I’d like to believe those men lit up too when the girls would reciprocate the same intensity of ‘good morning’ greetings.

Last week we attended the funeral of one of these ‘Gentlemen’, the man who would start the route, often carrying the carafe of coffee that would later be shared among friends. I’ve known him since high school, as he was the father of one of my sweet friends. He was also the guy who decorated and road his Vespa in our small town parades, a man who seemed larger than life. I also practice psychotherapy out of his first childhood home, so there’s a kindred connect I feel with him every time I head to my office. He’d often pop in to check on the place and ask that I give the building owner a list of repairs he felt needed to be done. Needless to say, I’ve had a great admiration for this man who was so loved by our community. I will miss seeing him!

Over the years, the group of gentlemen reduced in numbers. Yet those that remained still kept their pace, and our morning ritual of salutations continued. However, it seemed the group disbanded in such a slow and gradual manner that until recently, we failed to notice they weren’t walking anymore. And then it hit me! The man on the corner my husband had just pointed out was the last of ‘The Gentlemen’…and apparently still walks. I was filled with thoughts and emotions, asking myself questions like “Why does he still walk?”, “Where is his destination now?”, and most importantly, “When did I stop noticing?” I suddenly realized that we’d been participating in a sacred ritual with these guys since the beginning of our time in this neighborhood. The site of this man this morning, his silhouette against the rising sun, has been imprinted on my heart as one of the best curtain calls for a story with a bunch of old guys in an experience that really mattered! Even though there’s only one of them remaining, he keeps walking! Good for you, Mr. Gentleman! Bravo!!!

‘The Gentlemen’ were such a gift to us, becoming part of the fabric of our every day lives each morning. They were how we started our day! I wish I could say ‘thank you’ to all of them, but that opportunity is gone now. But for the one remaining, I promise you this…I will watch for you, I will notice you, and if the chance affords me, I will thank you! Whether you are walking for your health, tradition, in honor of your friends, and/or for reasons I may never be privy to know, you are a huge testament to the power of small, sacred acts of love, friendship and loyalty, and the power of ritual. I will be forever grateful for you and your friends and those lovely morning treks!  Walk on, sweet man! Walk on…