…he wasn’t my father.

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A man few people have ever heard of outside of the very small town of Raeford, North Carolina by the name of Melvin Chambers died yesterday. He was 79 years old and would have turned 80 on December 8. The story of his life as it has been imagined in my head up till now is very different than the story that I am going to tell you today. Pretty much entirely different. Why is it that death gives us the clarity to see and to understand things in ways we didn’t consider when the person was alive? Or maybe that is just me. I’m sure many of you have the capacity and the ability to see all the things that I am just now coming to realize. I’m a work in progress.

In the past, you may have heard (read) me say that I was “raised by wolves” and if you also know me and some of my story, you may believe that to be true. I apparently did. For almost all of my life.

I don’t anymore.

I was raised by a woman who though it is true did not know how to raise a child and probably had no business doing so, did the best that she knew how in her scope of ability and with the conditioning and emotional maturity that she possessed. I imagine she also has lived with mental illness of some sort all of her life and came from a time when people just didn’t spend money on psychology or on growing themselves. Or maybe she was just angry and unhappy. I’m not sure. I do know that she loved me. And loves me. I also know that it is enough to know that.

Now.

And if she knew how to make things better, she would have. I think she hated herself so much and for so long, it consumed her and colored everything she did, everything she saw, everyone she encountered or interacted with. Then again, that could just be another story by me about her, for I can’t really know her story. She’s shared so little of it, and I just know how I experienced her. She was a hurt and broken flower in a garden of weeds with no one to water her.

When she (my mother) was 30, she met and married a man (Melvin) who was 40. (He’d actually briefly dated my aunt back when they were teenagers, I think, but that doesn’t really count because my mom was just a kid then.)

When they met, I was 9 and I was convinced that he was OLD as dirt. My mother was young and beautiful to me, but they really seemed to be happy and I was beyond thrilled to see my mother happy. I had never witnessed her that way before. Not ever. She’d been dating men from all walks of life ever since I could remember. Heck, she didn’t even DRIVE when they met, but he convinced her to get her license and she bought her first ever car. It was a Honda Civic. The first one they made and it was light blue.

I remember being really excited because when they married, we moved out of one of the many dilapidated little rental houses we’d always lived in into a BRAND NEW HOUSE that he had built just for us. His mother had given him 5 and a half acres of land right next door to her home and they proceeded to build what I thought was a castle right in the middle. It was magical because it was brand new. I’d never even been in a brand new house before. I got my own room and they took me to pick out my own furniture for it. I’d always dreamed of a canopy bed and so that is what this little princess got. (mind you, this is the only time you will ever hear me refer to myself as a princess :))

….A beautiful double bed, dresser and chest of drawers that were this creamy white color and were, I thought, the most beautiful things I had ever seen. In reality, the house was a tiny, three bedroom, one bathroom brick rancher with absolutely no shape outside of a basic rectangle. But it was new. And BRICK!!! Are you kidding me? Brick!! We’d lived in so many broken down places made of rotting wood teeming with termites or weird siding made of asbestos, I couldn’t count. (Though, we did actually live with my uncle and aunt in a brick home once for a while, but that is another story and not a pretty one, so I’ll leave that one on the cutting room floor.)

Back to the story of our new house!! When it came to decorating and buying bedding for my room, I was allowed to choose again and sadly (or magically) picked the most impractical white, sheer, lacy-ish bedspread with matching curtains and canopy with tiny blue embroidered flowers all over it. Blue was my favorite color then, so I also got to help pick out this lovely shade of pale blue for my walls to be painted. The carpet was navy and my room was perfect. To me. My mother taught me to roll down my bed covers every night so that I could sleep with actual blankets and sheets that were conducive to sleep and not just decoration. It was the 70’s. What did we know?

They landscaped and planted azaleas all around the perimeter of the enormous yard along with a gorgeous circular rose garden that had every color of rose you could imagine. They were divine and quite sacred to me. (To see it today is heartbreaking.)

But that isn’t the story I came here today to tell you. I came to tell you about Melvin. My stepfather. He died yesterday. I’m not entirely sure of the cause. Likely a combination of kidney, lung, heart failure and his body just couldn’t do it anymore. Doesn’t matter now. He is gone.

Melvin was a hardworking man all his life. He was also completely selfless. I can’t think of a single example where he EVER put himself first in ANY situation. I used to think that made him weak. Henpecked. Abused by my mother. But maybe that isn’t the way he saw it. Or experienced it. Maybe he just loved her. I am now inclined to think that was it.

For me, growing up with a newly acquired stepfather (after the initial phase was over) went like this. My mother screamed and yelled and called him names (and me as well) and I could go on ad nauseum, but through it all – every single day of his life (or of my life while I lived there) he was kind and did everything in his capacity to make her happy and comfortable.

Yes, he was kind. He was selfless. He was helpful. He gave me rides to school when I missed the school bus, even after working 3rd shift in the local textile mill. 3rd shift means you work 4PM-midnight. He taught me to drive. He trusted me. He teased me about boys. He took me to see my first Disney movie in 1979. Sleeping Beauty. It felt so awkward going to a movie with him, but he really wanted to take me. My mom had no interest in going.

He never raised his voice or his hands to me or to my mother. He worked that late 3rd shift for decades to take care of our family which became a family of 5 when my two brothers were born. He never complained. Never. Ever.

And I thought that made him weak. (if you’re thinking that I suck right about now, you are not alone.)

And when I was 14…and my mother decided to quit her job because she just didn’t want to work anymore even though there were 5 of us and he made $18K per year? He didn’t complain. Didn’t nag. Never said a disparaging word to her or about her. He supported her. And me. And my two brothers. Unfailingly and always – and still with kindness and humor.

He was peaceful, good humored – always, always ALWAYS making jokes and trying to make people laugh. He loved his children and his wife faithfully. He loved his mother. His sisters. His brothers. He taught me sign language because his brother Clyde was deaf and this enabled me to communicate with Clyde.

He dropped out of school in the 8th grade to work on tobacco farms and help support his family at the time. Then he joined the Army. I don’t remember how long he was in or what happened in between then and when he became my stepfather.

And the whole time I lived with him, I judged him because I thought he was henpecked…unhappy…weak…(this is what my mother taught me)…because he only bathed once a week and was proud of it…because he smoked…because he was brought up as a racist and sometimes said things that upset me about people of color. Looking back…he never said it in the angry way many of my fellow Americans say things today. Or the way many of my relatives still do today. Not to excuse that action in any way. I’m just remembering that there was never any malice or animosity or hate behind his words. He didn’t have that in him. He simply repeated words he grew up hearing. His actions spoke much louder.

And while I judged him for not standing up to my mother and for a million other things, he just cooked me breakfast, gently called out to me to wake up for school every morning – even though he’d worked till midnight the night before every night because my mother wanted to sleep. He cleaned our house (or I did). He cooked. (or I did). He watched his boys (bathed, changed, fed them) or I did. Oddly, I don’t remember ever seeing him play with them. I’m not sure if he knew how. Or maybe I don’t remember. He certainly did love and protect them.

As the years went on, he taught me about Elvis, Johnny Carson, Buddy Holly, Bing Crosby, Cary Grant, Liz Taylor, Kate Hepburn, Jimmy Stewart, Humphrey Bogart, Audrey Hepburn, the Everly Brothers…and so many more legends. He made sure I always had food to eat and a roof over my head….and he dealt with my moody, introverted, shitty attitude, confused and very disrespectful teenage self with humor and kindness. Always. Seriously – always.

I’m not sure if he ever told me he loved me, but I know he did. He most likely thought I didn’t love him because I made sure to remind him that he was NOT my father. Regularly. I was an asshole.

Wow. Let that sink in.

Nope. That’s right, folks. Melvin was NOT my father.

My father was an abusive alcoholic who beat my mom and then my stepmom and who knows what or who else. He was a hard man who almost never had a kind word to say about or to anyone. He could kill you with his silence if you weren’t in his favor and almost seemed to get off on it. He judged me (and everyone around him) relentlessly and was never there for me, not even when I begged. He didn’t show up for anything in my life…again, even when I begged him to.

So, no, Melvin Chambers…you were NOT my father.

You were the unfailingly faithful and loving husband to a wife whose own demons ate her alive most of her life…doting father to your two sons, Clay and Andy – no matter WHAT they did.

And you were the man who raised me with kindness, respect, gentleness, trust and love. The man who RAISED me.

I used to think that I survived my childhood because of my grandmothers. They played a huge part, that is true.
But you played a bigger part. Much bigger because you were there every day.

No, you weren’t my father. You were my Dad.

It’s absolute shit that I am just now realizing this, but that is another story for another time.

Today – this story is about you. Melvin Chambers. My Dad. And about honoring you. And thanking you. And loving you. Being grateful to you for being in my life.

It was my honor to be your daughter, Melvin. Though I never knew how to tell you that. Or how to understand it myself. In the belief and hopes that we are all connected in the now and in the after – I will trust that you know now. And I know now. And maybe that is enough.

I wish you peace and so much love on your journey.

Thank you for being.

Judging my journey~

cure for pain

Judging my journey
Comparing and despairing

All this ancient wisdom
Has got me swearing

What’s my original medicine?
Why am I not better than?
Why’s it seem so easy…
Really nice and breezy..
For everybody else?

So now I’m judging my journey
and judging my journey’s judgment

what?

Now I’m thinking of Steve Perry
Which is kinda scary

I reckon I digress
Maybe I’m not such a mess
Or maybe I am…
And who cares?
It’s all good.

Lynn taught me to step into anger
Boy am I’m stepping and now I’m pissed as hell at her
Pissed about menopause
Pissed there ain’t no Santa Claus
Pissed I’m still scared of Jaws…
Pissed I’m not achievin’
All the stuff I’m believin’
That I am meant to do…

Been running from the anger
Been pushing away the pain
Been doing this so long now
Thinking it made me sane

Truth is, quite the opposite
You can’t escape the pain
Can’t outrun the anger
Those efforts are in vain
They know where you live
and will only come back again
And again

We think they’re the enemy
So we pretend we aren’t home
and don’t answer the door
So they’ll leave us alone

But, I’m discovering that I can invite them in
maybe for some for tea
And let them say their peace
And you know, just let them BE
Then this just makes me love them
And understand they’re ME

Here’s the magic, kids
Here’s where it all comes together
As I learn to love them as myself
I find that I am free

journey

…and then she said “it never happened”

Last night, I called my mother to see how she was doing and recovering after her mastectomy and radiation treatments for her recent journey with breast cancer.  It’s been around a month since the radiation ended and she said she is doing much better.

Then the conversation took me to a place I didn’t expect it to go. She’s always been a master at button pushing with me, most likely because she sewed all the buttons on with unbreakable threads herself long ago. She asked me what was going on in my life. Well, she didn’t actually “ask” so much as accuse me of never telling her anything.  I’m sorry to say that I took the bait and said “well, you’ve never asked, so tell me what would you like to know?”

She didn’t have anything specific to ask, so I gave her the mundane rundown…”wake up, meditate, yoga, shower, work, home, cook, read, sleep…lather, rinse, repeat.” “I travel when I can…hike where I can…hang out with likeminded people when I can.” etc…

Then she said I never told her anything personal, like if I have a boyfriend…(I have to admit, at 47 the word boyfriend sounds absolutely foreign to me…and funny).

So, I told her that I didn’t share a lot of myself with her because I didn’t really trust her and didn’t feel safe with her.  I said this all very calmly because it was/is my truth.  She seemed surprised and said “why??”.

My reply was simple and in two words, “My childhood”.

Her counter reply puzzled me as she said “I’m sorry”.

I said “Thank you, do you know what you are sorry for?”

Her: “No. I don’t know. What was so bad about your childhood?”

Me: “You don’t remember?”

Her: “I remember some things, but what are YOU talking about?”

Note, this is where I should have stopped the conversation. 

Me, as calmly as I could “well, you kinda used to beat the hell out of me, Mama”

Her: “I did not!! I never beat you..that NEVER happened!!!”

Me: ~crickets~ gulp…I have to admit, she sounded so convinced that for just a moment, I actually questioned my own sanity. Don’t worry, I recovered and said “Umm, yes ma’am, you did.  With belts and flyswatters and switches and the back of your hand when you bloodied my nose…not to mention calling me awful names like bitch, slut, whore…things I couldn’t fathom as a little girl”

Her:  “That. Never. Happened!!  I never bloodied your nose.  I never beat you. I never called you those things!! That is just some story you made up about yourself.”

Me: (still quite calmly while thinking ‘right, because that is the fairy tale every little girl dreams of’) “Yes, you did.  And I’m sorry, but that is why I don’t trust you and don’t feel safe with you.”

Her: “You’re lying. That never happened.  Maybe we should just agree to say goodbye for good, now”

Me: “Actually, I think I did that a long time ago.”

Her: “Goodbye, Michele”

Me:  “Goodbye, Pat.” (the word or name “Mama” just didn’t and couldn’t come to my lips)

Click.

Damn.  I think I was in shock for a few minutes and poured myself a glass of wine, which just didn’t appeal to me at the moment, so I decided to crawl into bed instead.  I was instantly exhausted and my body wanted to rest, so I listened.  (I’m learning, ya’ll). Sleep took me to some lovely healing dreams. I’ve been having a lot of those lately. Very vivid, very kind, very beautiful and very healing. Must be going through a spiritual growth spurt :)…How marvelous!

After years of trying to make sense of it all and to reach a place of healing and self love, I realize I am already there and have been for some time now…and that’s when I realized that the only thing I can and do feel is compassion for her and for whatever she has gone through in her life to make her who she is. I know she suffered tremendously as a child herself.  My grandmother took all 6 of her children to an orphanage for awhile when she couldn’t feed them in order to work and save enough money to go and bring them home- which she did within a few months.  I don’t know what happened in that orphanage, but I know that my mother never forgave her mother. I’m sure she felt completely abandoned and that sort of experience at such a young age is beyond traumatic for anyone. For Grandma, it was an act of love and the only way she could be sure her children were safe, had a bed to sleep in and could have food to eat.

I have no idea what else happened to my mother, but she went on to meet and marry my father who was a physically and verbally abusive alcoholic.  She was 22 when I was born and had already lost my infant brother and sister, Paul and Paige, so she must have married at around 18 or 19. After I was born, she had another daughter named Heather who also died as an infant. Those experiences alone had to be very dark and soul crushing for her…how very sad her life must have been with all this tragedy and pain on her shoulders.

Today, this morning, all I can think about her is that she never “wanted” to hurt me, she just didn’t know any other way.  She was a child herself in many ways.  Maybe she still is.  I am sure that those times that she did hurt me were very traumatic for her as well. Maybe that is why she doesn’t remember. A human being cannot cause that kind of harm to another without feeling the trauma themselves unless they are psychopaths.  And I truly don’t believe she is a psychopath. I believe she is just still a very wounded little girl who never learned to love, to trust, to heal. And for that I am so very sorry.

I’m so grateful, through it all, that she did give birth to me and that I have been gifted with this gorgeous life of mine.  I wish her love and healing.  And peace.  It sure sounds like she could use it.  I can’t give it to her, and I know her well enough to know she won’t pick up the phone if I call again.  And she’s never called me, so no worries there.  Honestly, I don’t want to call again. I’m relieved to know that I don’t need to feel obligated to do it anymore. Not that I ever needed to feel that way. I just did. And now I am giving myself permission to let that shit go. Sweet release!!

I AM going to write her a letter today. The good old fashioned handwritten kind and thank her for bringing me in to the world.  And tell her that I forgive her.  And that I love her and whatever else feels right in the moment.  I’m guessing no one has ever really SEEN her and that she has never really felt HEARD. That’s so critical in this world. To be seen and heard. To be accepted. To be ENOUGH. I want her to know that I have seen her and she HAS been heard.  And that I am ok.  Golden, actually.

If you read this far, thank you.  I hope this experience helps you heal or forgive in some way if that is what you need.  It really seems such a shame that in school, they teach us science, math, history, grammar, foreign languages, economics, etc, but they don’t teach us much about self love, empathy, compassion, unity, connection, love for others, acceptance…all the things that really make the journey worthwhile.

I’ve noticed many schools are starting to teach meditation now, and I sincerely hope that is a movement that goes “viral” as they say in this worldwide webby connected planet. What a wonderful world that will be…I think the Dalai Lama said it best when he said “if every 8 year old is taught meditation, we will eliminate violence from the world in one generation.”

Ma’salaama, ya’ll.  Be good to one another. And remember, another person’s pain isn’t your own.  When people lash out, they are hurting.  They aren’t meaning to “hurt”. Give them love if you can.

And if you can’t, then give yourself love.  Same thing.

child-meditation

Recovering my zen in Sri Lanka

sri lanka

Where to begin…

I am almost two weeks into my Sri Lankan yoga journey and truly don’t know where to begin in this well of love and connection and healing that I am sharing with my fellow yogis and myself. As I write, I am sitting at my dream writing desk surrounded by windows and nothing but lush green as far as the eye can see in a gorgeous room with open windows listening to the healing and magical sound of the rain.

They say start at the beginning with a story, but that tends to imply that time is linear and I don’t think I subscribe to that philosophy anymore, so maybe that won’t work. What would the beginning be anyway? Birth? Death of an old life and rebirth into a new one? The day I discovered yoga? The day I discovered myself? The day I discovered what love really is? The days and nights I keep discovering it? Or that we are all so beautifully perfect and connected that sometimes (often) I just need to weep to take it all in and let it all out? I know, I’ve already lost some of you who are reading with this woo woo talk, but that’s ok.

So, perhaps for this passage of sharing, I will start with the experience of the journey to Sri Lanka itself, and what it has been for me so far.

The last couple of times I have traveled, I have done so with a really heavy heart and not being really ready to go for some reason, even when returning to places that I have already left pieces of my soul that are home to people that I have fallen in love with (as you may know, I tend to fall in love with people everywhere…not the romantic love, but the big “you, you, you!” love that Martha Beck and Liz Gilbert like to talk about.) Maybe then it was work stress and the imminent return of that same stress that I knew would still be there when I returned and that actually followed me away on holiday or maybe I was having one of those dark soul times that I just needed to get through. I think it was a combination. But, to my great delight, this time when I was packing to travel to this absolutely stunning tea plantation in the mountains of central Sri Lanka, all I could feel was pure love and the sensation that I was answering a call of my soul. (Those are the best calls, you know...)

The travel here itself was a bit less than stellar with a late night flight and early morning arrival followed by a 4 hour twisty, windy ride through the mountains —- but my arrival at the Ashburnham Plantation was warm and welcoming and full of bright shiny faces fresh from their morning’s mysore ashtanga practice. I arrived just in time for breakfast. Seriously, I could dedicate an entire blog to the otherworldly deliciousness of the beautiful and mostly vegan (occasional dairy or egg) meals that have been prepared for us here. It’s colorful, full of many veggies I’ve never seen, spicy and prepared with such love by the wonderful Reegie, Sylvie and Vish who are the staff who have become family in this piece of heaven.

After that first breakfast, I pretty much shut down for about a day and a half due to sleep deprivation, a condition I am sad for now because I missed precious time with many of the beautiful souls on this retreat, 7 of whom left last Wednesday morning. Many of them in tears and many of us as well. Ah, the sweet release of emotion and love. We will meet again, I know this— Christina, my soul daughter; Esther, sister of my soul; Marta, Michaela, Laura, Melena, and George – beautiful, kindred spirits who showed me immediately exactly why I had chosen this place in Sri Lanka without even knowing… We will meet again.

Even before this mass exodus, the beautiful and inspiring Eva from Prague left us to return to her life of teaching there. I wish we’d had more time Eva, but thank you for your grace and warmth and for sharing that first sunset with me after meditation. I will see you again, also.

At this stage in my life, I can now say with solid gratitude that I now have 3 yoga teachers that I would gladly travel the world to practice with.

Peter Askew who introduced me to Ashtanga in Portugal in 2012 and gave my ego the utter lack of attention it needed so that I could actually learn to listen to my body and my soul.

Olivier David, who gave me the opportunity to break down my ego once again when I learned exactly what a Mysore practice meant in Thailand in 2013 (then again in South Africa 2014).

And now, Jacob Handwerker who is my new teacher I’ve come to really appreciate here in Sri Lanka. Jacob has achieved expert level safe space holding status with gentle guidance and peaceful energy that is both soothing and encouraging allowing you (me) to push myself to (your) my edge without judgment, without injury and with deep respect. There aren’t enough thank you’s, Jacob. But thank you from the bottom of my heart just the same.

I actually have a 4th teacher in the beautiful and radiant earth mother, Sue Billington in Portugal. Sue has guided me to deepen my Ashtanga practice and my connection to myself in general on many an evening with her very nourishing Yin practice. Love you, Sue.

Best of all, I can truly call each of these wonderful teachers my friend as well.

As I continue to write, I realize it will be impossible to adequately encapsulate this experience, and I am sure I will be processing much of it for some time to come.

The days here are so simple and so full at the same time. I wake…I meditate or do pranayama or both, have a little walk, eat an incredible breakfast, then either read or hike to the private waterfall and have a swim and a healing lie on the hot rocks there, or even have a swim in the pool before a shower, evening meditation and then another vibrant and nourishing dinner. In between, connection and conversations with the remainder of the group here. There are fewer of us with a different energy than when our mostly Spanish and Czech contingent was here, but they are some of the loveliest souls I’ve encountered. There’s our beautiful, healing love goddess Anna from Dublin who sort of floats through the world bringing joy and light wherever she goes. And then, there’s our gorgeous Aussie friend, Phil who brings an energy and an edge that help to keep it all real and who makes me laugh. Jonas, from Czech, deeply sensitive, kind, loving and happens to be an incredibly talented circus performer who moves from the heart wanting to connect to the audience and all who he encounters. Joanna left us on Sunday and we miss her (we will meet again, too Joanna). Joanna is a generous and caring soul from Holland who looks like she belongs on an old Hollywood movie set. She oozes glamour, confidence and calm and looks like Katherine Hepburn.

And who can forget Fabian from Germany…a curious young fellow with a passion for acro yoga, long solo visits to the waterfall, eating 4 or 5 meals in a single sitting and making videos of things that I’m sure there’s a market for somewhere…(smile) I’ll never forget the evening when Reegie and Vish came around the corner en route to the waterfall saying “we are going to find the boy!” as Fabian had been gone since breakfast. He was found safe…perhaps overexposed to the leeches, but safe nonetheless.

Then there’s David, who owns the Ashburnham Estate we are all so fortunate to be living together in, and his beautiful wife Indie and their 3 gorgeous children. David is an accomplished astute business man who likes to solve problems and listen to new ideas and who manages to make us feel as welcome and at home as if we were old friends from University. He also likes to hike and accompanied us at the beginning of an 8 hour hike through the tea plantations and jungle last Saturday. (He’d have completed the full hike, but he had guests in for lunch, and managed to spend 4 hours hiking anyway.) Then there’s David’s terribly handsome young nephew, Max, who is the temporary manager for the place while we await the arrival of the newly hired full time manager. While Max hasn’t yet joined us in morning yoga, I believe he has really enjoyed the peace and calm energy the group has brought to the estate. His sense of humor and complete dedication to making sure we have whatever we need whenever we need it have rounded out the experience.

It’s funny, whenever I leave for vacation and tell people I am going on a yoga retreat, they usually give me puzzled looks and ask what on earth is “vacation-like” about going on a yoga retreat? Before this trip, I actually had someone say “how could THAT possibly be relaxing?”

WHAT??? I am not sure I understand the question. I have so little interest in lying on a beach with an umbrella drink in my hand and waking up dehydrated and hungover every day…or traveling to some place with an agenda to see as many tourist sites as possible that ends with a return home and the lingering feeling that you “need a vacation after your vacation.” No thanks. I’ll take yoga, no agenda, peace, quiet and the beautiful souls I meet when I journey – every time.

I could go on and on, and am sure I will revisit, but for now – this little piece of inspired sharing feels complete. I have only two days left before I return to the land of sand in Abu Dhabi and the beautiful and shiny souls that I love so dearly there. You know who you are.

I can wrap it all up with a gratitude bow and with a return to the peaceful and grounded happiness that I recognize as my true essential self and that I met for the first time in 2012. My big takeaways are remembering that we are all connected, and we are all love, and we all need and want and often feel the same things.

Nothing, and I mean NOTHING is permanent, and that is ok. It is good to embrace until it is time to let go. And in the letting go, space is created for the beautiful embrace of whatever is next on the journey. There’s an incredible gift in that. Priceless.

Sure, there are always going to be stresses and day to day quandaries to solve, but it is and ever will be true that all is well, all will be well.

A mantra of mine has often been “if you get a chance, take it…if it changes your life, let it.”. You have chances every day. Take some.

Yeah…that feels really good.

Namaste, ya’ll.

self honor…listening to my body…and remembering that “I can’t go home again”

I’ve learned tons this past week about myself and the work that I have done. It would be accurate to say that I have also remembered tons this past week about myself and the work that I still need to do.

There’s nothing like a virtual trip back to a shattered childhood to bring one squarely right back into the terrified body and mind of the little girl trying to survive and make sense of the world she lives in. In this case, that little girl is me and that shattered childhood was mine…(is mine).

I’ve written about it before, but repeating it is currently on topic. Growing up with my mom was no picnic to say the least. She was very abusive physically, and verbally. I suppose she was a very tortured person in a lot of pain and had her own demons to fight, but when you make your own child the demon, that fight wreaks havoc on that little child’s soul.

Day to day life for me was divided into “how can I be good enough to win my mother’s love?” and “how do I stay out of her way so that I stay safe from harm?”

I never did win the love, I was told I reminded her of my father and because of that she hated me. And because she hated me, there were merciless beatings and name callings, random punishments for wrongs not committed, overly harsh punishments for normal everyday wrongs. (you know, like cleaning my room, back talking, not wanting to go to bed, not wanting to do my homework – normal kid stuff). There was also the time she bloodied my nose for excitedly wanting to tell her about my fun day at school when she was cooking and wanted me to be quiet (I was in 2nd grade) and then that other time she held a knife to my throat and said she was going to kill me till my step dad intervened. I think I was 12 or 13 for that one.

So, when I learned this past week that she had been diagnosed with advanced stages of breast cancer and was going to have surgery to remove her breast, I started to worry and fret that I needed to help somehow. The family members and well meaning neighbors who reached out to tell me about it helped to add to my angst. Some of them just simply told me so I would know. Others insisted that I needed to “let bygones be bygones” because “she is the only mother you have” and that you “will regret it forever if you don’t come home to support her”. “She loves you”. “She’s sorry”. “That was a long, long time ago.” Oh, and the classic, “it can’t have been that bad, you seemed to have turned out alright.”

Really? Things are not always what they seem, let me assure you of that if you had any doubt. If I had turned out “alright”, I doubt I’d have been married three times and moved to the other side of the world to put as much distance between myself and my childhood as I could.

With each pull for me to cross that ocean and go to what everyone calls “home”, I found myself losing sleep, emotionally undone and quite literally at a loss for what I should do. The guilt and shame side of my inner lost child said “you must go home…make amends, be there for her…be the bigger and better person…reach out…forgive.”

Then a wise and cherished friend reminded me that I can forgive her, certainly (and I have), but I don’t have to honor her. He also reminded me that I don’t have to go there to forgive or to be the better person or to get closure. He was right. And I think the word “closure” is just a bullshit, psychobabble term anyway.

Bu then when I made the decision that I would in fact fly home and be there for her on surgery day, that terrified little girl from all those years ago inhabited me once again. Day and night. And she was fresh in the moment from those days from long ago. When we experience trauma, and something comes back to trigger that trauma, it all comes back as if it is happening all over again. In that moment. Your body doesn’t know it is a memory because it is experiencing the pain and trauma and whatever emotions you felt back then all over again in real time.

Both parts of that abused little girl showed up. The one who so desperately wanted to win her mother’s love by traveling across the ocean to be by her side while she undergoes surgery for breast cancer. And the one that literally shut down emotionally and physically for a few days at the mere thought of going back there. My whole body shook violently when I thought of it or talked about it. But somehow I thought I HAD to do it.

I decided to meditate on it, because it just didn’t feel right. In fact, it felt so wrong, I was debilitated. Then I remembered to listen to my body. You see, our bodies ALWAYS know what is right for us and what is not. If your body has a negative physical reaction to something you are thinking of doing or an action you are taking, it’s a pretty good bet that whatever you’re contemplating or doing is not right for you. If your body feels great, alive, free, even with the good butterflies, light, unencumbered…then most likely you are on the right track for yourself.

The mere idea of going back there did not feel safe. It felt like terror. It felt like shame. It felt like guilt. And I couldn’t see a positive outcome at the end of it.

So let me tell you when I made the counter decision to NOT go, I felt absolute release and relief. I started sleeping again. I felt free. I felt safe. And I realized that was all I needed to feel to know that NOT going was the right decision for me.

Please don’t get me wrong, I don’t wish her any harm. At all. I wish her well. But I wish her well from over here. Not over there. And that feels best for me. I realize a lot of people will disagree with me and will not understand. My loving, sweet and very well meaning aunt reminded me this morning that my grandmother would want us to be there for each other and that my mom had a hard life. I know she did and I can appreciate that, but I also realize that it isn’t my job to try to make anyone understand or to convince them I am right. It is simply my job to make sure that I do what honors me.

I didn’t intend for this to be a tale of woe, but hopefully a reminder that we have to honor our selves and care for ourselves first and foremost. That is what many refer to as “selfish”. Well, if so then I think the word “selfish” gets a bad wrap. I believe we have to be selfish. It is primary. It is sacred.

If you find yourself in any kind of situation that doesn’t feel right to your soul, please try to remember to honor yourself. And if other people don’t understand, that’s OK. Remember it’s not your job to make them understand. Just send them love and know that they are coming from their own stories and experiences and memories, not yours. Honor yourself. Honor YOUR safety. Honor what makes YOU shine. Remember, you’re the only one who really can.

…here’s a little pic of that little girl…she was kind of sweet.

m young 2

beautiful impermanence…

“We die to each other daily. What we know of other people is only our memory of the moments during which we knew them. And they have changed since then. To pretend that they and we are the same is a useful and convenient social convention which must sometimes be broken. We must also remember that at every meeting we are meeting a stranger.”

~ T.S. Eliot
we were together

Right now…

I am resisting the shift of a lifetime. I don’t even know what the shift is yet really…I just feel and finally recognize what I’ve been going through for quite a while now….resistance. Total and complete and entire. And I recognize the need to let go, but I swear to whatever that as much as I know I need to surrender and release, I have no idea how to do such a thing. None. Whatsoever.

Why? I dunno. It’s in my nature. Like that old adage about the scorpion and the frog. You know the story?

A scorpion asks a frog to carry him over a river. The frog is afraid of being stung during the trip, but the scorpion argues that if it stung the frog, both would sink and the scorpion would drown. The frog agrees and begins carrying the scorpion, but midway across the river the scorpion does indeed sting the frog, dooming them both. When the frog asks why, the scorpion simply says “it’s my nature”.

But, nevertheless and be that as it may, there’s a change gone come…a shift, whatever you want to call it…my soul is calling out at all of the most fundamental levels and it is not letting go. Things I never dreamed myself capable of sabotaging…..done. Sabotaged. All accounta because I am in supreme death hold lock resistance. The conditioned human spirit is nothing if not resiliently hellbent on preserving the holy sanctity of what it believes to be true because, well, it doesn’t really know what because…it just knows it is supposed to fight to the death for the right to…..to…what? Be miserable? Be right? Be stuck? To validate why it can’t….whatever???

Oh my f’ing G….I am so done, done, done with this line of thinking and believing and being that has been my undoing since birth it seems.

The thing is, it is actually exciting in many ways. I’ve had more training than the average bear, and yet still not nearly enough…but maybe just enough to at least recognize that this is a cool point to be in, but for the ever f’ing love of all that is holy..it most certainly does not feel like rainbows and unicorns at the moment. It feels like an existential shit storm.

At this point, I could explain…over speak…analyze…etc., it I think I’m just going to let this marinate and be what it is. An acknowledgment. And perhaps in the acknowledging…I’ll help myself get out of my way and find clarity on the path… Here’s hoping!

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