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Lighting the Unknown Path

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As I have said before, it is the “unknown” that is always more difficult than the knowing. The waiting. The wondering. The wandering… of the mind as it tries to grasp on to something concrete.

My last several months have been spent in this suspended state. First we found out that our home of 15 years was suddenly being sold and we had to, in weeks time, find a (hard sought after one story) home, apply for a mortgage (which had become a Big Scary Monster in our heads), sort and pack through years of our life and family “heirlooms,” find the means to buy (and fix up) said house, move and settle, the list goes on.

The only way I survived this process was JUST doing the next right thing.  Nothing more. My husband’s anxiety would reach new and alarming heights and I would have to remind us both, “okay, let’s take a breath. Now, forget ‘The List; ‘ what’s Just ONE Thing we can do in this moment?”

And you know what? One (baby!) step at a time, we walked our way right through the scary terrain of the unknown and into our brand new home.

These are the lessons and skills I so desperately need to remember to apply to my life now.

Because just when I thought I was leaving the path zig zagging through The Woods of Uncertainty, I fell into a Bog of Burdensome Worries! (Didn’t mean to go all Tolkien on you!).

I’ve known since fall that my body was heading into unknown territory again. It’s both a blessing and a curse that I am so in tune with my physical being after years of severe illness and trauma, that I can tell as soon as I start to go off-kilter.

This time, I knew somehing major was brewing.

So, instead of going to the doctors with these worries  (although I didn’t sugar coat my concerns at my appointments either), I turned to internal pep talks, such as: ” Hey, dear body of mine, I know you are giving me warning signs that you’re failing in new and different ways, but could you just please hold on until March? And then I promise I will attend to all of your needs with the upmost of care!”

That wasn’t too much to ask, was it? Guess it was!

Because my “gift” for Christmas Eve was to wake up without the use of both my legs. Totally and completely, from the hips down (yep, includes the bladder, too!). What fun!! For two days, I could  not walk and afterwards, I had complete numbness, like my legs had fallen asleep and could not be stomped, shakened or rubbed “awake.”

Yet, did I go to the hospital? Nah! I had a host of “good” excuses… “It’s the holiday; it’s a weekend” and the creme de la creme: ” I just don’t have time for this right now!”

So my body went from flashing yellow to a blaring red : STOP!!!!!

A little over a month ago, I was reading when half the page disappeared. No joke. I could only see half of every word. A very strange and scary experience. So I shook Dave awake with a, “Honey, I need to go to the ED.” Complete resignation. No questions anymore.

The details since don’t matter as much as the lessons I’ve learned. But in brief, I am in an even deeper state of limbo… not quite knowing the true cause of my weakness and Optic Neuritis (the partial blindness ) yet (MS? CIDP?) and therefore not able to receive the right treatment aside from high dose IV steroids to abate my symptoms.

So nothing left to do but Surrender. Wave the white flag of blind faith (literally this time!).

And to reach out for help. I already feel physically vulnerable, so why is it still so hard to completely crack open and be emotionally vulnerable, too?

If anything, this move was a great practice lesson. My husband is the first to open his door to others when they need a helping hand, but he latches every bolt when it comes to receiving help for his own needs. This time I didn’t let his fear of “not seeming like enough” dictate our choices and I threw open every door and window wide with a sign hung proudly, “HELP NEEDED WITHIN.”

And my friends and family showed up. They packed, they listened, they moved, they cleaned and scrubbed my new abode. All with a smile and an encouraging hug. No expectation of return payment.

This move would not have been possible without this team!

So why should my health be any different?! I need to throw out the old skipping records that get stuck on the refrains filled with shame. Shame over my diseases, over my needs and inability to “do it all” for myself; shame over what I used to be like vs what I am like now; shame over always needing more.

But, most of all: FEAR. Fear that I won’t be able to give back. But we all have our own gifts to offer to the world. And for a long while, mine were coming in the form of my words; of being completely vulnerable through my stories. Through sharing with others and having them, in turn, share with me.

But as soon as life became overly tangled, I stopped writing. Which essentially dammed up my River of Grace… the universal energy that flows into, through and out of me… on to you… connecting all of us on this divine journey of life. So that WE ARE NOT ALONE.

So I think of Buddha’s quote, “if you light a lamp for someone else, it will brighten your own path.” And it helps me remember that whenever someone “allows” me to help them, it always feels like I am the one receiving the gift!

So while my path is now being illuminated by the inner light and energy from other’s  (as I write a dear friend is coordinating meal help for us; fulfilled by those who know me and others who are doing so purely as a random act of kindness); I am holding out my own candle in hopes of lighting just one other’s dark path of the unknown.

There is so much going on beneath the surface of each of our lives.  Let’s look just a little deeper inside.

I know I’m grateful someone stopped and did so for me. All while holding a candle to help light my way, as I take just one next step forward along the path. For as long as I’m moving forward, I’m heading in the right direction.

Namaste.

Healing Through Pain

We have all experienced post-traumatic stress (PTS) from intense life experiences. It can come from a variety of sources: a near-brush with death; the impact of battling intense and painful illness; losing a loved one; a difficult childhood; or breaking off a long term relationship; to name just a few.

The event itself doesn’t matter so much as how it influences us.

This PTS can manifest itself in a number of ways: fear of future life-altering events; free-floating anxiety; newly formed phobias, unrelenting grief; unbidden tears; loss of affect; isolation; and withdrawal from activities. Many times the symptoms are insidious and creep up on us. We don’t even recognize the impact this life event had on us; or we are in denial of it.

We don’t want to admit we are vulnerable.

And, let’s face it, there’s a stigma around the acronym “PTSD.” Oftentimes, we associate it with major catastrophes and/or assume it manifests itself in ways that prevent the sufferer from engaging in life at all.

But once we take away our generalized perceptions of PTSD, there is much that can be gained by recognizing it in our lives, and working through it instead of avoiding it.

Let me give an example…

A dear friend suddenly lost her pet dog last fall. Using the descriptor “pet” seems to diminish the importance of their relationship. She, too, battles with chronic illness and her beloved dog (“L”) had been by her side and been her main partner through some of the toughest years of her life… those days she didn’t think she would ever get out of bed again. But her dog provided love, licking away her tears, and motivation to move, even if just slightly, because eventually she had to be taken outside.

Pets can be important companions to many of us, but I think they hold a special place in the hearts of those with chronic illness. They are the one being in our lives that love us no matter what… unshowered, in pain, grumpy, disheveled, confused, and lonely. They’ve seen the all of us and love us unconditionally.

I witnessed my friend experience months of unrelenting grief. I felt lost and powerless at ways to help her. All I could do was hold the space with her as she traversed this process at her own pace, and in her own way.

Then, one day a couple weeks ago, she had a revelation.

She was walking at the local reservoir, a favorite spot that her and her dog would wander. And she suddenly no longer felt alone.

She reflected on all the times L greeted her with unabandoned adoration, even when she didn’t feel like she deserved it herself. She remembered feeling so down all she could do was lie prone on the couch, too fatigued and depressed to even lift a hand to pet L. But her pup didn’t care, she would climb right up on that sofa and comfort my friend instead. She chuckled as she recalled 10 hour days away from home, rushing in worried because she hadn’t even stopped in to let L out to pee. But, again, her pup didn’t care; she greeted her with enthusiastic excitement just because she was home. No judgement. No shame.

She realized that all these negative thoughts she was having about herself were in direct contrast to what her dog had felt for her. That the best way to honor L’s life was to treat herself with the same unconditional acceptance and love that her pet had.

And then she said the most remarkable thing: “If I could find meaning in her life, I can find meaning in her death, too.”

She went on to say she had fallen into the victim role, angry at her pet for not being here to help her through this grief. Knowing this is an irrational thought, but her heart aching because L had been the one to help her through every difficult emotion over the last decade+. And this was the most painful emotion she had ever faced.
But, another “a-ha moment” had come to her: before L died, she only had her there to help her when they were physically close. Now, she had her with her all the time, and could tap into that unconditional love and understanding whenever, and wherever she needed it.

“To live in the hearts of those we love is never to die.” (Thomas Campbell)

She concluded by realizing that by taking care of herself, she is better able to be there for others. She won’t reach out if she isn’t making life choices that are in her own highest good.

And I have witnessed this transformation… she is now providing support to others that are grieving, because she is authentically speaking from her own experiences.

And by sharing her experience, strength and hope with me, she affected me deeply. It demonstrated the importance of living through the PTS until you can see a purpose in a difficult situation.

I, too, am in the grieving process right now. I am not grieving a specific person or being, but then again, that’s not entirely true. I am grieving someone. I am grieving myself. The person I was pre-illness. And I realize I have been living with the silent stalker of PTS for years, because I haven’t allowed myself to fully open up to this process of grief yet. I thought I was “okay,” that I had moved past it, that I was accepting of my situation. And in many ways I am, but that doesn’t negate the need to grieve what was and what could have been.

I need to look at that “lost Tam” with unconditional love and then give my current self that same gift of love and acceptance.

What experiences in your life have left a residual stain on your soul? An echo of yesterday that you haven’t completely been able to let go of yet?

I realize PTS doesn’t just go away by wishing it so. The passage of time doesn’t necessarily allow it to fully fade into the sunset. And pushing it to the recesses of our minds, tucked away in the box marked “things I’d rather forget” doesn’t work either. The only way to move beyond the experience and the left-over PTS, is to move through it. To dust off that box, open it up, and feel every ugly, painful, sad, angry, resentful, shameful emotion until we are spent. Until there is nothing left except an empty box to start re-filling with healing thoughts of love.

And, remember, this process can be big and scary and overwhelming. But you don’t have to go it alone! In fact, it’s advisable to find people that have traveled this journey before you to light the way. My friend experienced all the stages of grief with the help of support groups, hotlines, and friends. And she is now paying this gift forward by helping others. And I’m reliving my past with the help of a mentor and my friends, no longer holding these feelings in secret.

May today mark the beginning of a new healing journey for us all!

Little “Seeds” of Hope

friendship-quotes-picturesIn the darkest of hours, a small beam of light will appear at the end of a long tunnel of pain, suffering, and sadness. Two choices lie before you: 1 – face this light, walk towards it, and let it grow into a beacon of hope and faith. Or 2 – turn your back on the light, shrouding yourself in darkness, the known place of suffering seeming safer than the unknown possibility of hope… of taking a leap of faith.

I experienced this very cross roads just last Saturday. I woke once again in deep, unrelenting pain, with a throbbing sadness in my heart for all that transpired over the previous 10 days.  I felt defeated. I felt lost. I wanted to move forward, but I didn’t know how. And, let’s face it, there was that part of me, as well, that wanted to stay stuck right where I was. I felt tired of “fighting,” of constantly pushing through the pain and misery. I witnessed others embracing this place and dwelling in it. And I actually saw benefits to this option.  The biggest of which would be that people would finally recognize, that just because I can see the beacon of light in the darkest of times, doesn’t mean that I don’t also experience pain, and disappointment, and suffering. They are not exclusive.

I had just settled into my comfy chair when the doorbell rang. Upon answering, I discovered an unexpected visitor on my porch.  A supportive friend and champion, she intuitively knew to take a moment out of her day to bring lightness into mine. She hadn’t intended to bother me, only wishing to leave a small package and note in my mailbox. But my mailman had foiled her plans, ringing the bell just before her arrival.

Exactly as it was meant to be.

Inside this “Delicate! Do not squish” package lay three, half-dollar size, whelk-egg-cases-and-teeny-contentsoval seed pods. Transparent, with a little seed inside. Shake. Shake. My friend takes one and gently begins to coax this “seed” out. And lo and behold, it is not a seed after all!  It is this miraculous gift from the sea, the teeniest, tiniest conch shell I have ever laid eyes on (a mere 2-3 mm long!).

I gasp in surprise as my heart swells with wonder and awe.

She explains that upon discovering these years ago on the beach, she researched their origin, learning that conch shells are born by the thousands in connected translucent “cocoons” (often called a “Mermaid’s Necklace”). After a dozen years, they mature into the large conch shells we all covet finding on southern beaches.

conch shell symbolismLater, I researched them further and found that conch is also one of the Eight Auspicious Symbols of Buddhism and “represents the beautiful, deep, melodious, interpenetrating and pervasive sound of the Buddhadharma [“natural law”], which awakens disciples from the deep slumber of ignorance and urges them to accomplish their own welfare and the welfare of others.” (Wikipedia)

And that’s how I felt; as if I was awakening from a deep slumber of depression. And for the welfare of myself and others, I needed to face that beacon of light.

I was reminded of Helen Keller’s wise words: “Keep your face to the sun and you will never see the shadows.”

And the gift didn’t stop there; she nudged me to read her note …

“When I’ve been through tough times, I have trouble seeing anything besides my pain.  These [shells] can’t heal your suffering, of course, but I hope they remind you that the universe is full of joy and beauty and awe inspiring creations at the same time.  I hope you find moments where you can access that joy.  Please know that, even in your toughest times, you yourself are a source of joy, inspiration and an example of how beautiful God’s creations are to me and to countless others.”

I felt shaken awake. Flashes of beauty and moments of grace began to pass through my mind and heart. Just in the past week, during the period of my deepest pain, I was gifted access to that Universal Joy; I had not fully shut down. There was a crack in my soul just waiting to be re-opened. And, here was an unexpected angel, pushing her way through!

Her words brought welcomed tears and memories of past experiences where life and death, beauty and sadness coexisted in my life. I shared with her another time of deep sadness, when my mother in law collapsed suddenly from invading cancer and passed away 10 days later. My husband and I rushed back from Boston and never left her side. During this time, we would find ourselves sitting outside at the hospital staff picnic table, all hours of the day, situated right outside the birthing center. As my beloved second mother was lying 7 floors above in hospice, we were witnessing couples and families rushing in to bring new life into the world just below her.

And we couldn’t help but feel peace in the light of God’s grace, the universal cycle of life and energy.

There is no pleasure without pain.

There are two sides to every coin.

I made a choice on Saturday to walk towards the light.  This does not mean that my pain, or frustration, or anger, or sadness are gone.  It just means I no longer give them permission to consume my life.

I am actively seeking out moments of grace, of joy, of hope, and of healing. These are the foundation blocks to my continued survival.

I did not arrive at this conclusion alone. Because my “God” wears skin; meaning I see the God in you as I see the God in myself. And when that spirit knocks on my door, I am choosing to answer it.

I am choosing to let the light in.

An Award That Got Me In Touch With My Roots

I’ve been away from my blog for well over a week now.  It’s been a challenging week.  I recently read a blogger refer to her days as either “Green Light,” “Yellow Light” or “Red Light” Days.  She uses this as a communication system with loved ones. When the inevitable, “How are you” pops up, she can respond with the appropriate stop light… indicating: “Not too bad, proceed ahead,” “Rocky road ahead, proceed with caution” or “STOP! Body under repair, do not enter!”  Well, I’ve just come off a string of “Red Light Days.”

But after this rocky week, I returned to my blog to discover that I had been awarded not one, but three Blogger Awards!!  This is a huge honor and I am humbled by this gesture.  Not only was this a surprise in and of itself, but I received these awards from a blogger I wasn’t previously aware of.   Someone who just recently discovered my blog, and was so touched that she chose me for one of her ten nominations. Remarkable.

After the initial shock at receiving these awards faded, I started to buckle under pressuring thoughts: “What did I do to deserve these?” and “What will my next ‘inspiring’ entry be to live up to these nominations?!”

I forgot to stay in the moment and just feel the happiness and hope over receiving these awards.  To know that I have touched others as they have touched me is the true reward.  Especially coming form a new-to-me blogger… the “silent” readers who find comfort and connection in my words.

And, in the end, isn’t that the point of blogging?  Not to feed my own ego or to feed others; but to grow roots in a community of like-minded, supportive people.

When ecologists look beneath the surface of a forest floor, they discover an interconnected web that holds up the entire colony of trees.  One tree cannot stand alone (for long)… it needs its forest.  Just as I tried to stand alone with my own shallow roots for far too long; I was afraid to reach out my branches for help and to admit my daily struggles with chronic illness and pain.

Thanks in large part to the blogging community, I no longer feel alone.  Unlike Darwin’s theory of “survival of the fittest,” plants in a forest system do not survive individually.  They actually help each other survive.  They will share nutrients back and forth according to who needs it the most at any given moment.  And they will help each other withstand unexpected events (storms, fires, disease).  They do not discriminate; they help each other “inter-species.”

Not only do we provide a root system for one another, I feel like we all play the role of ecologist, as well.  We look beneath the surface (the “oh, but you look so good on the outside…”) to get to the root of things that lie beneath.  We accept each other (as I like to say, “warts and all”).  We trust each other.  We believe in each other.

And when one of us is too weak to weather the next inevitable storm, we hold each other up.  One day I hold you up, and the next day you return the gift with encouraging, validating words of kindness.  We remind each other why we need to stand strong and try again one more day at a time… why we should never give up.

Ecologist Suzanne Simard states, “AMAZINGLY, WE FIND THAT IN A FOREST, 1 + 1 EQUALS MORE THAN 2.”  Isn’t that also true of the WordPress Family?! (and our supportive readers!)

In my heart, these blogging awards are for each and every one of us; for every blogger who has the courage to tell it how it is, to be vulnerable, and to stand in their own truth.  I wouldn’t be here without all of you.  And I wish I could nominate all of you in turn…

I have been instructed to nominate 10 bloggers to pass these awards on to.  I want to be thoughtful in my choices… to recognize others as well as to give everyone an opportunity to explore a blogger they may not yet have discovered on their own.  As well, I want to think of the introspective questions I have been asked (as a nominee) and post those separately so you can get to know me even better.

In the meantime, I want to sincerely thank Life Beyond My Window (click for link) for passing these awards on to me.  And for giving me the opportunity to discover another inspirational blog!

Role Reversal~Another Challenging Adjustment

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My husband and I have reversed roles; and I am still adjusting to this change even after 5 years.  I still see myself as the one who held our home together, juggling work and household obligations.  And doing it all with aplomb, I might add!  But when I truthfully look at “today,” I see that I am no longer capable of doing it all, being a 21st century women who has eight arms and three brains.   And I miss that old me; the one that everyone relied on, most of all, my husband.

Sometimes when I think back to the women I was (not so long ago), I feel like I am thinking of a character in a story.  I couldn’t possibly have been capable of so much, could I?  Yet, I was.

While living in Boston, I remember waking in the wee morning hours and getting dressed in the dark so as not to disturb my ever-sleeping husband.  Out the door, I would truck across lanes of traffic, deftly moving out of the way of on-coming cars (that feat alone amazes me; I can’t even imagine having to cross the street at anything faster than a limp, drag, stumble these days!).  Climbing a steep incline I would arrive at the transit stop to catch the cross town bus.  On the days I just missed it, I would merely shrug, hold tightly to my (heavily loaded!) briefcase, lunch sack and ever-present coffee mug and hoof it a couple miles to the B.U. bridge, crossing The Charles over to Cambridge where my office sat overlooking the serene waters.  And I wouldn’t even break a sweat! Arriving at the job I truly adored, Director of a large child care center (135 kids and 35 staff!) I would begin work at 7a.m. and continue non-stop through my days until, many times, 11 hours later.  I was constantly on the go; up and down the stairs, up and off the floor from playing with the children who made every day worth the effort, interacting with staff and parents, juggling financials and accounts, trainings, meetings, the list goes on and on. I excelled at my job and was often rewarded with company bonuses. This “excellence” came from a deep passion for my career.  The company I worked for emphasized the fact that “the buck stops with the director.”  And I loved this responsibility.  I adored working with young children and creating an environment where not only the children, but the staff would thrive and grow.

And my day didn’t stop when I locked up the doors for the night.  If I ended any later than 6:15 (which was often), I missed the last bus and would return home by foot, once again.  Then it would be a stop at the market where I would load up with groceries (how in the world did I lug bags laden with water and milk jugs along with all my work gear?!).  Arriving home, I would clean up, make dinner, do work projects as well as squeezing in social activities almost nightly… getting together with friends, playing pool in the league, going out to bars or to dinner, seeing live music.  How the heck did I do it all?!  Week-ends were equally filled, many times including spontaneous trips to hike the Appalachian Trail or overnights in a quaint New England town.  And everything was planned by and implemented by me.

For many years, my husband battled debilitating depression and I was the one-woman army that held our unit together.  Fast forward to today where the tables have completely turned.  Something I would never have predicted.  I watched my mother growing up hold our family together and having this seemingly unending supply of energy to complete a multitude of tasks (she’s still this way, working almost full-time at 67).  This was my inherited role, and for many years, I confidently filled it.

No doubt, there’s a part of me that wonders if this contributed to the development of my autoimmune illnesses.  It’s not uncommon to read reports stating that the common denominator in people who develop these types of chronic conditions (from Fibromyalgia to Multiple Sclerosis to Migraine Disease and Lupus and of course, Polychondritis) is: “women in their late 20’s to early 30’s that are Type-A personalities.”  Sound familiar?!

But I didn’t heed any warning call and slow down before it was too late.  I came to a screeching halt upon facing the train-wreck that is my current life.  God put the brakes on for me.  And just like suddenly coming upon an accident that you have to immediately react to, I had no transition period between being “the woman who can do it all” and “the woman who can barely do anything.”

For a couple years, our home fell into a state of complete disarray.  I was far too sick to even think about cleaning up my external environment when my internal landscape was rapidly being consumed by raging fires.  An apt analogy, because during those years, that was all either my husband or I could do, put out one fire after another, with no energy left to put towards clean-up efforts.  We relied on friends and family to help.  But, for the most part, we just ignored it as dirty dishes and un-paid bills piled up. (Did I mention I was also responsible for all our financial book-keeping, too?).

Then things changed.  As I got sicker, my husband got healthier.  And he started to step up to the plate and take responsibility for our home.  I have to admit, at first, it felt good. To be the one sitting back while he juggled all the tasks required in maintaining a home.  His eyes were opened to all the things I had been doing, mostly unrecognized, for over a decade.  And I soothed my anxious mind over doing nothing, by reminding myself that it was “his turn.”  Of course, that’s when I thought it was temporary!  I figured once I got better and more able-bodied, we would be able to divide the labors, both acting as equal participants.

But, at least so far, we’ve never reached that equilibrium.  Now, it is my husband who truly does it all.  And, oh, how I struggle with this!  Of course, I “look” able-bodied on the outside.  But even the simplest of tasks can throw me into a flare.  For example, I decide to try and cut and prep the veggies for dinner and I end up with cramped, swollen hands, shooting pains in my back, and deep fatigue.  And then I am disappointed when the cheering section doesn’t pop out of the closet, with a “Rah-rah! Sis-boom-bah! Hooray for Tamara. She’s the bomb!”  There is no one celebrating these minor accomplishments that I view as major achievements.  And now that Dave is “super hubbie,” our family and friends see our home clean and our bellies fed, and assume we are handling everything just fine.  But I know the strain this puts on one person.  All I want to do is talk my body into getting off this chair and going into action mode!  Alas, that is not the answer either.

So, I bring myself back to “just for today.”  Obviously, I don’t know what the future holds so there is no reason for me to try and figure it out.  Instead of focusing on all the ways in which I feel “lacking,” I am choosing to focus on all the ways my husband is excelling.  And this fills me with gratitude.  I am extremely blessed to have someone to care for me.  And that’s really the most important thing, after all, isn’t it?

The Miracle of Music ~ To Heal Mind, Body, & Spirit

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Music is curative.  It soothes the soul and quiets the mind.  It awakens the senses and reminds you that you are alive.  It makes the heart sing and the spirit swell.  It can lull you to sleep or jolt you awake. It can be enjoyed alone or with others. It is free.

It is an elixir that has been known to man for millennia… yet we so often forget to utilize this healing tonic!

As soon as I turn on music, I can feel every fiber of my being relax into living.  It does not discriminate me because I am disabled; it reaches out its fingers of cohesive notes to massage all of my senses.  It stirs pleasant memories from the past and teases me with the prospect of creating even more memories in my future.  And, that’s it: to me, music is filled with possibilities.

I’ve recently been reading a powerful book by Paulo Coehlo (author of The Alchemist) with deep purpose.  This book is the chronicle of a woman who lived life fully, and freely.  Unfortunately she died before reaching 30, but one can tell by the interviews in this book that she left an indelible mark on the people she met.  Most of her passion was in experiencing life sensually.  And I don’t mean sexually, I mean by engaging all of her senses, and encouraging others to do the same.  One portal to the divine that she patches into over and over is music, as well as the expression of music, dance.  At first, I felt sad reading her account.  For I was a trained dancer growing up and then danced my way through life until my body could no longer keep up.  If there was music to be heard, my body couldn’t help but physically respond!  I started to feel less than and got stuck in the “woe-is-me’s.” Then I reached an acceptance point.  I can still move my body (maybe not as fluidly as before, but movement is movement!).  And I certainly can remind myself to incorporate music into my daily life.  It has once again, become one of my most important therapies!

Here are the passages that stirred my soul into action:  an excerpt from a conversation between Pavel Podbielski and Athena, the divine female focus of the novel, The Witch of Portobello:

 “Everything moves, and everything moves to a rhythm.  And everything that moves to a rhythm creates a sound.  At this moment, the same thing is happening here and everywhere else in the world.  Our ancestors noticed… [that] things moved and made noise.  The first humans may have been frightened by this at first, but that fear was soon replaced by a sense of awe: they understood that this was the way in which some Superior Being was communicating with them.  In hope of reciprocating that communication, they started imitating the sounds and movements around them – and thus dance and music were born.”

“Yes, when I dance, I’m a free woman, or rather, a free spirit who can travel through the universe, contemplate the present, divine the future, and be transformed into pure energy.”

I find that quote supremely beautiful.  It shows how music has the power to get us in touch with the root of our being, that which is entirely Pure Energy.  We become the people we are meant to be.  Music touches me in such a visceral way, that it’s hard to put in to words.  I read the above passages during the days I was in the throes of my neuropathy situation (see previous posts!).  And I couldn’t imagine how to even begin utilizing the curative force of music, let alone dance.  But, I was both desperate, and open. I had gotten on my stationary bike to gently move and free up my stiffened joints.  I had music on softly and was reading when I realized I needed to just close my eyes and let the music take me to wherever I was meant to go.  I tried to free my mind of thoughts and just listen to the purity of sound, to feel the music resonate in my body. A clear visualization of a chrysalis lying on stones came to me. As I leaned in to inspect, an exotic butterfly emerged, stretching her wings.  She floated up into the air and silently begged me to follow her. With no mind, I discovered that I was gracefully flapping my arms like the wings of the butterfly; each beat a mirror of the music’s tempo.  My journey of flight took me deep within, to the base of my spine, to my root chakra.  I intuitively knew I was completely out of balance, and the power to restore harmony to my body was in my hands and mind alone.  That butterfly, floating on the wings of music, helped me to shift and align each chakra, travelling up and down the spine that just minutes before was in the midst of a spasmodic episode.  But I no longer felt any pain; my body was floating, light as air through the universe, both in the present and in all the time before and yet to come. My journey ended in the middle of my forehead, at my third eye. I visualized what I can only describe as the “Superior Being,” more beautiful and radiant than anything I had ever seen.  We became one, and in that moment, my journey was done.  I opened my eyes, and looked wearily around. My pain was not gone forever, but for the next hour my third eye tingled with life and energy and I felt at one, at peace.

And since this experience, I have been consciously placing music front and center in my days.  I allow my body to move at is able, just like I did when I imitated the graceful path of the butterfly.  It may not be dance in the “traditional” sense, but it is my body harmonizing with sound, which is the purest from of dance.  No matter who you are, with your unique combination of abilities and dis-abilities, you can harness the Miracle of Music!!

~ MUSIC HAS THE POWER TO CREATE “ECSTASY”:  WHICH ORIGINATES FROM THE GREEK AND MEANS, “TO STAND OUTSIDE YOURSELF.”  AND THAT’S THE MIRACLE OF MUSIC TO ME… TO STAND OUTSIDE MY AILING BODY, MY ACHY LIMBS, MY ANXIOUS MIND, MY POST TRAUMATIC THOUGHTS… TO EXPERIENCE FREEDOM, IF ONLY FOR A SONG ~

Curious about the scientific evidence re: the curative powers of music?  Look for more on this topic in my next post . . .

Finding God in a Piece of Beach Glass

woman mediating

I question the presence of God in my life; but it is only because I have shut myself off from accepting his/her messages.  When I am in pain, it’s hard to see clearly through the haze of it!  But after sharing my difficult journey yesterday, people didn’t shy away from my mini-meltdown.  They did the opposite; they embraced me.

And, through it all, I was reminded that I am not going through this alone.  The love of God is by my side always… I just have to look.  So, I started a mission to document “all the ways God presents in my life.”  For me, my God wears skin.  Meaning, God’s loving, healing energy works through the people in my life; they are the messengers.  Many times my God is not a physical person, it is a warm, pulsating, swirling vortex of bright light… a warm embrace, a loving hand, an encouraging nurturer, an energy force that heals me and holds me up.

Recently a friend commented that I am lucky because whatever I wish for, the Universe provides for me.  And my initial reaction was, What? Are you kidding me? Really?!?  All the (perceived) negative experiences in my life flashed before my eyes: illness and pain, loss, financial hardships, inability to have children, never owning a home (or a car younger than 10 years old!), no longer being able to work, the list could go on and on.  But, then a switch went off, and my eyes opened to all the glorious things that have happened in my life; an extremely loving, and supporting partner-husband (of 21 years!); travel; art; friends; my amazing kitty; my nephew; sobriety; empathy for others; an eye for the beauty in life; acceptance; this list, too, goes on and on!  And this is the one I choose to focus on today.  Another friend reminded me that this is my greatest gift… that I do not dwell in the negative, in the things I cannot change.  I look to things that are positive in my life; I change my attitude to one of gratitude.

So, today I’m sharing some beautiful Moments of Grace that have happened in the last few days…

live it license plateShining Example #1: Friday night I went with three close girlfriends to a monthly women’s meeting.  At the meeting (after noshing and chatting!) we sat round robin style to discuss a topic.  Tonight’s was “turning our will and our lives over to the care of God, as we understand God.”  I am not alone with my struggle with this.  Finding this implicit trust in a higher power; knowing and not question that my life is going in the direction it is meant to go.  The conversation was deep and enlightening.  On the way home, the discussion continued.  We were talking about that “intuitive voice” inside each one of us. I was sharing that when I listen to the “one true voice,” I am always guided in the right direction. It’s when I question it, second guess it, or ignore it outright, that I struggle and stumble and fall.  I’ve just finished when my friend says, “Oh, my gosh! Look at the car in front of us!”  Three pairs of eyes looked forward and saw a license plate with just three letters: “G-U-T.”  And I couldn’t help but laugh with happiness… we were following our gut!!

Shining Example #2:  One of the activities I enjoy engaging in is jewelry making.  The meditative task of stringing complimentary natural gemstones is extremely healing.  Recently, I’ve discovered great joy in creating jewelry from our found treasures of polished lake stones and beach glass.  An added bonus is that my husband is my partner in this venture; he helps me search and gather, he tumbles and polishes, he drills.  Well, I wasn’t the only one enamored with this new venture, for all my creations sold out in one week-end sale.  Which leads me to the now… I wanted to make more beach glass jewelry but had depleted my collection, gathered over dozens of years! But, I wanted more now! After appealing to friends to see if they had any caches they were willing to part with (or trade), my husband and I decided to go to the local beach on Lake Ontario just to check.  My expectations weren’t high; I hoped to find a couple useable pieces.  So I decided to focus my energies Glass Beach site2closeupon the trip to the beach with my husband on a perfectly sunny 80° day and not on the collecting of glass (lowering my expectations…).  Well, as soon as eased off and embraced the now, the Universe listened.  I stood in a sun salutation pose of gratitude and let the waves bring the pieces to me, rather than chasing them down.  We left that day, after a one hour hunt, with almost 100 pieces of sparkling sea glass in shades in frosted white, green, amber, and even a few coveted blues!

Shining Example #3:  Is all of you!  I opened up my soul and showed the world the raw off me yesterday.  Not only did I receive virtual *gentle* hugs (talk about “getting it!”); I got validation (I am not alone!) and support.  I received an unexpected beautiful hands-make-a-heartcall from my sister-in-law (“I am not going to attempt to understand.  But I just wanted to call and say, ‘I love you!’”=simply perfect).   And I was given two clear messages that were exactly what I needed in the moment (without me even knowing it).  The first was from a friend who said: “I will psychically take it away by imagining you floating in the cosmos, on a soft cloud with a slight breeze. The faint smell of flowers, and music.”  This has become my new visualization tool for when I need to “travel outside my physical wall of pain.”  And secondly, a friend whom I deeply admire; she travels through her own physical challenges with such strength and grace, said: “one minute at a time. Breath in God, blow out all the yuck.”  This is now the second half of my meditations; the yin to my visual yang.  I love, “breath out the yuck.”  Perfect.

Thank you for shining your Soul Beacon on me so that I may shine my light back to others.

After all that, how can I question that God is working in my life?   I just need to remember to pray each day so that I am an empty vessel waiting to be filled up by the gifts of the Universe.  And not to place any predictive expectations on what these gifts will look like.

“God, please help me to keep my mind clear, my eyes open, my ears hearing, and my heart feeling

so that I can embrace all the ways you are working in my life.”