…where…

Where’d I go? Where’d I go?

I don’t know.  I. Don’t. Know.

A puzzle to solve…

The inevitable evolve?

Rhyming on purpose seems a bit trite, but in keeping with what I’ve started, let’s write…

Where’ve I been? Where’ve I been?

…you might ask and so might I…

I’ve gone within, I’ve gone within…

Time to become the butterfly?

Metaphorical sin.

I’ve been living in between for so long now

I feel that I’ve actually forgotten how

to feel, to see, to connect, to grow…

to do anything but hide, seems more apropos

I know better, of course I do – but still

here I am, hidden – yet not on a hill…

So where am I? where am I?

Oh won’t someone please…

Let me out of this prison with walls built by… (gasp) ME?

Oh, it’s me who must break the walls, you say?

It sounds so easy, so freeing, so grand…

and yet – I stay…

Safely tucked and locked in this self imposed land…

Not because I like it or can even begin to know…

How to let all the pain that holds me prisoner – go.

mother earth

I often wonder…

…if we are still friends.

After all the time shared.

The feelings expressed.

The skin caressed.

The passion unleashed.

The hearts touched.

The stories exchanged.

The dinners cooked and eaten together.

The notes written.

Till they weren’t.

Anymore.

Till they stopped.

Till you stopped.

Till little by little you pulled away to the point that you may have thought it undetectable.

No big deal.

Just, life evolving.

As it does.

The thing is.

I detected.

I noticed.

I felt.

I grieved.

And…

I still do.

Still.

After all this time.

And all this non contact or communication.

Hmm.

Interesting.

And sad.

And as they cliche say “it is what it is”.

But is it?

I guess I’ll never know.

But what a fucking cop out.

And a damn shame.

Connection is rare. Or at least it seems so.

Why do we throw it away instead of letting it evolve? Nurturing it into a next phase if what was isn’t to be what it was any longer.

It can certainly still be something.

If we were friends.

If it was something.

If we were connected.

If it was real.

Right?

I don’t know.

I don’t know.

I. Don’t. Know.

Who am I becoming?

Good question. There may be a variety of answers.

Someone I remember and had forgotten…and let go.  For others.  For preservation.  For safety.  For lack of knowing it was not only ok to be me, but essential for happiness.

That carefree little girl who never was but always is.

I remember her.

I remember me.

Where have I been all my life? Another good question.

These days, I take refuge in my place of absolute discomfort.  The healing power of swimming in the unknown.

My, my, the lessons learned in the past two months from my “sabbatical” from so called “real life” have been more enriching and existentially educational for me than I know how to describe. It’s been magical, shitty, beautiful, just perfectly awful, at times terrifying, and many times felt like downright despair ( a feeling I haven’t felt in decades). But here I am, micro-step by micro-step emerging on the other side, the sunshine side again.

My recent decision to jump off a virtual cliff into the abyss and leave everything and everyone I know and love and leap into the great unknown with my misguided mission to somehow help do my part to “save the world” has been my both my undoing and my salvation. Not a permanent undoing…mind you, but perhaps a necessary one. And no, also not a yet fully realized salvation, but I am seeing the dawn of it…and am grateful to have given myself this gift of completely liberating myself from familiarity and the great posh comforts of my Abu Dhabi lifestyle behind to get me on the path whose eventual destination has not yet revealed itself. That’s what it is all about though, isn’t it? We don’t ever really REACH a destination, for we are always on the path, a path, our path. That is a comfort and sometimes a source of sorrow in the ever changing and ever impermanent world.

It may well be that I needed to leave Abu Dhabi in order to return and fully appreciate her.

Or to know that I needed to be somewhere else.  Not necessarily South Africa after all.  Though I do LOVE her so.

And in that leaping, I have met myself at my core and in a space of primal (and quite unexpected) unhealed pain….my own original mother wound? Perhaps…and am learning to sit with that and to let it be what it needs to be for as long as it needs to be.

And no, it certainly isn’t always fun.  But it IS always, always, always beautiful.

Because this is a luxury I never allowed myself ever, growing up. My violent and unloving childhood instilled in me the very deep and basic instinct to RUN or ESCAPE when things were off kilter or felt unsafe and to never look back. And looking back over my 48 years of life, I have continued to do this over and over and over again.  The thing is, sometimes things weren’t actually so bad when I did this in later life.  And sometimes they were.  The gold has been in learning to finally discern the difference.

Patterns. They are marvelously useful tracking tools for us and can guide us into a more aware and peaceful self if we let them. Or they can absolutely madden us. Or at the very least become our “normal” so that if we don’t examine them, we simply keep repeating them because even when they are unfathomably painful or uncomfortable, they are “comfortable” because we recognize them.  They may be all that we know.

I texted this to an old friend a few days ago – “Patterns. Aren’t they the cutest things? Sent over and over again to teach the apparently unteachable”.

Many might read that sentence as me being too harsh on myself…or making too light of a situation by using the word “cutest”. Or they mayn’t have a clue what that sentence stirs up for them. I’m projecting just by suggesting what anyone else might think when they read the words.

The point for me, a few days later, and several deep conversations with my inner self and a few beautiful friends and it is nothing short of a revelation. Or dare I say revolution? You see, in the very saying of those words about patterns and the realization of the part I played in them, I was able to SEE me, and to finally really HEAR me…and to acknowledge the patterns that I have repeated time and again throughout life. Patterns that served me so well as that young child who needed only to find a way to survive. So thank goodness for that instinct.

The trouble is, if we don’t heal our traumas – and sometimes we don’t know we have traumas to heal, because again, they are our “normal” and we think this is jut the way things are….but the trouble with not recognizing our traumas…our patterns…our “work” is that we deny ourselves the gift of “stepping into our bigness“, a phrase my mentor Michael Trotta likes to use. (thanks Michael!)

I love that phrase. It says so much with language that can reach anyone and paints incredible pictures across my imagination. I mean, just imagine what kind of world we would live in if each and everyone of us, could fully step into our bigness? Or call it wholeness…realness…healness…core being…our magic…our medicine….our heart song, our soul purpose…our thing we were put on this planet to do to heal the world…whatever.

Just imagine.

I often think about the things I wish we could be teaching children in schools, not because the history lessons, language instruction, mathematics and sciences aren’t good for them in some way, but because we are not always modeling the things that are essentially critical to their overall well being and as a society, we seem to have lost sight of how very necessary they are to our survival.  We try to teach them success, but with a fairly rigid and confining definition of what success must look like.

I’m talking about things like love…boundaries…safety…gratitude…relationship to our natural environment and to those who came before us…Some parents are better at this than others, but let’s face it, the vast majority are not and cannot because no-one modeled it for them. They simply are not equipped because they learned to push for the material and societally accepted things and ways and education that are “supposed” to make for a “good” life because their parents did the same. And their parents’ parents…and so on.

Vicious cycle indeed.

Years ago, this way of being was just about survival, and as time goes on, we are taught to believe that survival means having the right car, the right job, the right address, the right circle of friends (this I believe is very true, though not in the way many think. Though it has become a bit of a buzzword of late, I do think the phrase “find your tribe” has a lot of value)

As Americans, we liken this back to pioneer days or the Great Depression and so many other examples, but I have seen it worldwide. But these modern behaviors are not about survival. They are so often about appearances…and so called reputation or standing or position in society…the way to be “accepted” by the status quo. but that isn’t survival. It’s not knowing any better. And perhaps neither is teaching about love, gratitude, safety, etc. But, those concepts are primary to our core well being.  (In my humble 5 decade in the making opinion…)

I feel like I am starting to write about something I might not well be able to explain, quite likely because I certainly wasn’t brought up to feel loved, to feel inherently safe, or to even know what gratitude was. Anyway…here I go~~

But I HAVE been paying attention, though it may not seem like it as I do seem to take a long time to get there. All these years, I seem to have often taken what seems like the hardest road to the gifts of learning about the paths of love and gratitude…but I reckon sometimes those lessons are the ones that finally bring me to my knees and subsequently to my biggest A-ha moments. Whispers of what it might mean to see enlightenment or awareness. Gentle dreams of what it might mean to actually live at peace and to share that with others.

So here I am.

On my knees.

Remembering that powerful dream of a powerful warrior woman who started out as a powerful warrior girl who came here to make a difference.

That little girl, who though born into a shit initial situation, knew without any doubt that she was here to do good things and to make the world a better place.  And the realization that those parents and other well meaning adults in my early life did the best they knew how to do based on the tools and patterns passed on to them.  Yes, that is freedom.  That is liberation.  And that gives me —- E V E R Y T H I N G ! !

and, maybe, just maybe – making the world a better place doesn’t have to be something grand.

and maybe, just maybe – that simply means remembering who I was to become her again.

And doing little things, each day, to build a relationship and trust with myself in order to be as whole and of service as I can be to my fellow earthlings.  I could say Authentic…Genuine…Vulnerable…RealSafe Space…and yes, all of those things would be on target.

So much meaning gets lost in the overuse of today’s self help words du jour, that I really do prefer to think of it as how can I show up as whole, of service to humankind and the planet and yes, in my bigness.

So, who am I becoming?

Me.

The one who finds absolute solace and peace in the trees and the birds and the landscape.

The one who can lie awake talking to a likeminded soul till dawn. (Though I have only done that in recent memory through the power of text messaging)…

The one who loved a boy once with all her heart and soul and knew that their strength was not in merging into one, but in embodying and being a glorious celebration of the gifts and strengths they (we) brought to each other. Their (our) ability to learn and grow and mirror and challenge and argue and make up and be a at peace in the knowledge that within their union was impenetrable love and safety.  Even when she (I) didn’t yet know how to believe it.

Original love.

The one who has come to realize that the original love is the same love that has been projected on others through the years, but the source was the girl herself and the boy who taught her what it meant.

Original love.

But she didn’t trust it.

Because she didn’t have any evidence of it in her own family.

So the pattern prevailed…

and, she tossed it aside and kept looking.

Again, and again.

How sad.

And now? Today?  I know that original love still lives. Of course it does.  It can’t die.  Nothing real can die.

And my evidence is me.  My journey. My path. My life.  My truth.  MY BIGNESS. And all the pain and heartbreak endured to get here.  And the desire to share those gifts with others in whatever way I can to help them in their own transformation and healing.

So, who am I becoming?

Original love.

 

 

I’m a life coach??? Says who?

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…well, says the 4 years of intensive and extensive life coach training and real life practice I have been through and been doing with clients, for starters, (which of course means I am still in life coach infancy) but seriously?  Who do I think I am to call myself a life coach??

As I was running up what felt like the world’s highest mountain a few days ago (in reality, it was JUST a 45 degree angle hill that went on for about two minutes)…but anyway, as I was running up that hill, I had a little moment of panic considering my current life circumstance.  Ok, maybe it was a big moment of panic, but I’m entitled.  You see, I recently quit my well paying job with great benefits and tons  of vacation in a very reputable university to pursue a dream of hindsight enlightened misguided philanthropy that died right there on the vine with a quickness I did not see coming and sure as shit wouldn’t have pursued said dream had I any idea that it would disintegrate so quickly and so fully.  Yes, that was a mega run-on sentence.  And YES, this life circumstance is completely of my own making, responsibility, ownership. But still…a complete life change calls for a bit of panic, second guessing and whatnot from time to time.

It has occurred to me many times since that perhaps I needed just such a complete upside down turn of events to give myself the proverbial kick in the ass that was needed to start “walking my walk” and taking that leap into becoming a full time life coach as is the ultimate goal at some point.  So, why not now?

But still – again…what the hell qualifications do I bring to the table that give me any kind of “validity” as a “real” coach? Why should or would anyone hire ME? And just as I thought that thought, my sweet and scared little inner child gave way to the mighty lioness that has been with me as the defining spirit essence of ME all my life.

I’m a goddamn warrior, ya’ll. I’ve done my self work and will continue to do it daily. I’ve been to hell and back more times than I care to  remember. I emerged from an abusive and incredibly dysfunctional childhood that included physical, mental and sexual abuse at the hands of those who were my caretakers and blood family – to move away from home at 16 or 17 to save money and save myself and ultimately put myself through college. I could easily have become a drug addict, high school dropout or committed suicide.

I did not.  Not even close.

I worked 3 jobs before college and 2-3 jobs the majority of the time I was there to pay my way through 100%. I walked away from my first semester with a GPA of 1.7 and a suspension warning that if I didn’t bring it up to a 2.5 the following semester, I was out. So, I did. I think I made a 2.8.  And every semester after that? Dean’s List or a 4.0. I just had to find my groove.

I joined the work force in 1992 in a recession in the hotel business as a catering secretary and managed to work my way up within one year to Catering Manager and then went on to have a successful leadership and operations career as Director of Catering and Convention Services and even Assistant General Manager until I realized I was burned out on the 90+ hour weeks and wanted a change. I left the industry at the top of my game and as a star.

What I did next surprised even me.  I joined the recruitment business without knowing a thing about it.  And not just as a recruiter, but as a recruiter whose salary came from 100% commissions.  This meant, I made no money until I found people to hire my people, went through the full interview cycle with them, extended offers, got acceptances (or didn’t), waited for them to actually start work, billed the company who hired them, THEN got paid whenever their accounts payable departments processed the payment.  I was not an overnight success to be sure.  Actually, I was…but that’s a longer story.  I was damn good at what I did.

At one point earlier in the game, I had to do a role play call with the owner of the company, Shaun Bradley.  I screwed that role play up so bad because it had a formula and a script and at the end of it, Shaun told me as gently as he could that he didn’t think this job was right for me.  I WAS DEVASTATED.  I cried.  A lot. I told myself I was crap for a few days.  This defining moment could have gone many different ways…And then I remembered who I was, and what I was good at, and I set out to listen and learn as much as I could from Shaun and so many other leaders in the company, (Tim Best, Craig Griffin, Chris Stevens, Sandy Morris, Jason Cook, so many others…) added my own style to it and became the #3 person in the company.  And I was never below #8, which is no small feat, thank you very much.  The ranks are based on your billings, and yes, as you can probably figure out, those who billed the most, made the most money.  I was with the company for 9 years until a large contingent of the hiring company leaders who had been my loyal customers for years started losing their jobs in the big recession of 2008-2009 and started coming to me to see if I could find THEM a new job.  At first I was excited, but quickly realized the economy was not my friend at that point.

From there, I stayed in recruiting and did some time as a corporate recruiter with great success…moved to Kuwait to work for a military contractor as a recruiter with great success…moved to Abu Dhabi and joined the higher education sector as a recruiter and also had great success.  In my final year at NYU Abu Dhabi, I was seconded to the Academic HR team and became an Academic HR Business Partner and had great success there as well.  Along the way, I got the opportunity to “teach” or facilitate a class of first year students in what is called a “First Year Dialogue” course that is required for graduation, based on the recommendation of a few colleagues in different departments across the university.  At the end of the course, a colleague who took in the evaluations from the students approached me in the coffee shop one day to tell me how very much my students had enjoyed our class.  (I’ll tell you a secret…I rarely followed the “script” for the course, but I sort of mirrored the things I was learning and doing in my NBCT {Nature Based Coach Training} course that I was taking in tandem with The Sagefire Institute and the beautiful Lynn and Michael Trotta and Margaret Webb.)  The students loved it and responded very well and quite deeply to it.

So, what does all this mean?  I’ll tell you…it means I’ve never NOT been successful at anything I have done.  It means I have changed industries and not only survived but thrived.  It means I could so easily have ended up as a drug dependent pregnant teenager based on my upbringing – but I DIDN’T.  I put myself through college instead.

Has it been easy? Hell no! The best rewards certainly don’t come easily…

Has it been worth it? Hell YES.  Every single time.

That’s sort of just the tip of the iceberg, but THAT in a nutshell folks – is why I feel pretty damned qualified to put the words “Life Coach” beside my name.

That’s not all, of course, but the long and the short of it is that in all of the jobs and industries I’ve been in – my strength and my superpower of sorts has always been my sense of empathy for those I work with…my attention to detail…my desire to help others intensely whether it was to make their wedding reception the most special day ever or to make sure they hired the right person for their job and to help both the company and the candidate feel like they were a match made in heaven or to make my university partners feel that they mattered to me and that I took their needs and concerns seriously.  Through all these career moves, I have built relationships with people from all rungs on the ladder and from all over the world.  I have earned their TRUST.  They have told me so.  And in earning their trust, I have earned their LOYALTY.  And in earning their loyalty, I earned their confidence in me to be their partner.

Their partner for planning their event.

Their partner for choosing talent to hire into their organization.

Their partner to share concerns and troubleshoot solutions with them as an advocate.

And in more cases than not – I became their friend.

So, who do I think I am to call myself a life coach?  Maybe even YOUR life coach? The approach I’ve taken to my life and my career choices and changes over the years is the approach I take as a coach.  I listen.  I care.  I get it.  I understand.  I see you.  I hear you.  I have felt the fears.  I have known the regrets.  I have leapt and leapt and leapt again into the unknown and the uncertain…and I have followed my gut (and sometimes not, which I learned very valuable lessons from). I never stop learning…I have had dreams.  And they have sometimes been scary.  But I’ve pursued them and have made them come true.

I believe I know a lot about how to help you make yours come true too.  As your coaching partner, I come equipped with successes and failures and all the in betweens and the certainty that at the end of the day, I will be just fine.  And you will too.

My areas of training include Martha Beck Life Coach Training from 2013 (incredible!); an Adult Child Apprenticeship with the fabulous Judy Klipin (a model of coaching based on the Adult Children of Alcoholics model – very powerful tools here!) and am a graduate of The Sagefire Institute’s Nature Based Coach Training from 2015 and am currently working with them all over again as an apprentice  with new students through December of this year.

They all speak to me in various ways, but I find myself most alive and in joy and my happy zone most with the tools and teachings of nature. I’d love to share them with you, if you are so inclined to navigate  your way to fulfilling that dream you’re not quite sure you can reach either because society told you that you can’t…or you think your family situation is too demanding…or you’re just scared…or don’t quite believe you can do it…or just don’t know how.

If any of this calls to your soul, I am always just a message away.  Skype works everywhere, so geography is not a hurdle.

Thanks for your love and company throughout it all.

It’s a great big magical world out there,  ya’ll.  And a great big magical life.  Let’s explore it together and expand what we think is possible.

Let’s blow your mind!

 

 

 

 

 

On leaps of faith and other madness…

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Well now, it seems rather time for a bit of writing to update at least the old blog for record keeping sake.  So much has happened and there is so much to catch up on, it’s damn near criminal that with all the time I have on my hands, I actually have NOT been writing.

That’s not entirely true, of course.  I have been writing daily…sometimes a cover letter for an intriguing job…other times an email coaching response to a soul seeking some insight….yet still other times updating close friends and family on the “haps” that have led to my present day life…and more often of late,  reassuring folks (trying to at least) that I am, in spite of the complete reversal of circumstance, worlds and intentions that have come to pass in the past month – that I am truly and in fact, doing very well, am at peace and am happy.

I am SO grateful for all the love and concern that has been shared by you.  Your support, kindness, offers of shelter and assistance has been extraordinary and restorative.  I am beholden to you.

An update is part of what I hope to address here in my typical likely too long missive, but I find it so cathartic to put my thoughts in writing.  And sometimes, I’ve been told – it helps some of you too.  And that, my dears, is everything.

So, what’s going on these days in my world?  Oddly enough, a LOT.  My days are rich and full of beauty and connections with the loveliest souls, wanders through prehistoric nature, (plants and trees so damn big, you know they have been here since the dawn of time!) tough as hell, soul feeding runs up hills that seem to go on forever and straight up into the sky… and the ever inspiring and ever changing ebb and flow of the glorious Indian Ocean.

…and so, what’s GONE on recently in my world?  Well, that’s a longer story that I’ll try to make as brief and digestible as possible.  After five years of living quite happily in Abu Dhabi and traveling as much of the world as my vacation time would allow for, I made the very difficult decision to step away from a guaranteed paycheck, a great job surrounded by colleagues I trust and care for and students who inspire me and awe me every day to move to the South African bush to work with a fledgling foundation with the hope and mission to offer my assistance and my love to a greater cause to help educate, preserve culture and bring compassion and love to an impoverished community mostly without electricity and running water that is so rich with beautiful children with spongelike minds that simply need to be shown there is another way, and how to get there.

Regrettably, after only two and a half weeks, I realized that my dream and vision for what this life and my contributions were intended to be to the community I came to serve, were not going to come to pass and that I wasn’t going to be able to engage as expected. The specific details are part of a shared story that I don’t truly feel comfortable sharing publicly, but I can only ask that you trust me when I say (as I had to ask myself to trust the same) that it was not a decision that was reached impulsive or lightly.  In the end, my physical body rebelled against my being there.

In my many years of life coach training, one of the most important things I have learned is that our bodies hold emotions and truths that sometimes our minds don’t hear or comprehend yet.  But if we learn to listen to them, they will lead us towards our truth and what is right for us.  They will also lead us away from whatever does not serve or is harmful to us.  My body spoke to me loudly and clearly in a voice that said, “You are suffering needlessly…and if you stay in this situation, you will suffer more and more deeply. You are not safe here.”

How did it do this?  Quite unpleasantly, actually. At night when I lay down to rest, my body would shake violently for several hours before I could get to sleep, and then my slumber only lasted a few hours at best.  I’d awaken, try and calm myself with yoga…journal about the events that transpired the day before…meditate…converse with friends in different parts of the world…anything for sense and normalcy.

Other times, throughout a given day, it became a regular occurrence for my body to start to visibly tremble whenever I found myself not following my truth and my voice.   I wondered if I was going crazy…wondered why I was so damned isolated…wondered what the hell I had done and what the hell I was doing there?!?!  (Wondered why I had ignored all the signs? another story for another blog…)

Then I remembered other times in life that my body had reacted this way.  It was always in response to an injustice, an abuse (from my mother, from my narcissistic ex husband, from that former boss who brought me into his office that time to accuse me face to face of doing cocaine with other employees whom he had just fired that morning, but was keeping me – I fear for unsavory thoughts in his head that most certainly never came to pass.) For real, ya’ll – that shit happened.  WTF? Had he MET me? Cocaine? I had forgotten about that until just now. Oh well, it is so good to be able to laugh about that decades later.  It’s all information, in the end.

I digress as usual, but the moral of the story is I decided to listen to my body and to GTFO as quickly as I could. And that leads us to today…

Or first it led me to three days and nights with a dear friend on her family’s crocodile farm. I wasn’t sure what to expect when I was en route to said farm, but when I arrived, I was more than pleasantly surprised.  The place was tranquil, extremely well laid out and operated and the crocodiles extraordinarily well cared for.  Ultimately, I know they aren’t going to die of old age, but since I own a few leather items and eat the occasional meat now and then, I figure I can’t be a total hypocrite and suddenly become a crocodile rights activist.  So, yes, I was very pleased to see that they were as lovingly cared for as one could hope.  I understand there are many other farms where the conditions and treatment are not in any way so thoughtful.   Words can’t begin to express how grateful I am for the love, kindness and care given me by my dear friend, Claire there.  Thank you, my angel.  Your medicine is strong.

And THAT leads us to today.  I’m in a lovely Bed and Breakfast overlooking the Indian Ocean where I am nourished body and soul daily by the an amazing breakfast,  fresh salty sea air, heart-quickening steep hills, the incredible bird and plant and animal life,  my nature coach classes and practice and the time to gently and deeply reacquaint myself with myself. And the owners of this place! Wendy and Kelvin…they take such loving care of me that I feel like protected family.  What a gift!  There are no more violent shaking, mostly sleepless nights.  I tend to sleep 10 hours or more every night now and dream beautiful dreams of the magic that dwells there.  No more body tremor warnings of danger during waking hours.  Just time. And beauty.  And space.

What’s the takeaway from all this, you ask?  Or maybe I ask, but I am guessing some of you ask as well….I’m still discovering them, but the obvious one as already mentioned is LISTEN TO YOUR BODY.  It does not lie.  It will tell you what is good and what is not good for you.  Choose not to listen at your own peril.  Many injuries and diseases can manifest after months and years of not listening to the body’s wisdom and intuition.  Listen.  Be gentle.  The old adage “you can’t pour from an empty cup” speaks volumes here.

For me, believe it or not, another takeaway is to always follow my heart and my call…and even if it does not turn out to be what I thought, imagined or hoped it would be, trust that the leap of faith was not in vain and that it will indeed lead me to somewhere even more magical than I could imagine.  I do.

I am trusting.  I am honoring myself and this time, this brilliant gift of time and rest that I have now.  My body and mind have worked pretty hard for more than 40 years (I started early), and I do feel incredibly lucky and grateful to be in a position to take the time to rest and heal and dream and just be that many may not be as readily in position to do.  Not forever, but for a while.  I am leaning into this gift…laughing softly at the old stories that sometimes try to discourage me.  They really ARE just stories, you know.  Old programming…old wiring…making way for what’s new and true at the core.

My life is and always has been a series of magical serendipitous events.  It could have easily gone another way…a darker way…a more destructive way…a helpless, impoverished, fear-based, from a victim’s viewpoint way.  But it didn’t…Sometimes I am not sure why.  But, at the risk of sounding like I am tooting my own horn (TOOOOOOOT, TOOOOT!!! I actually have no problem with that), I think it has so much to do with that little girl survivor in me who always believed, nay KNEW there was something better out there than the life I was born into.  And I chose to work my ass off to get there. To get here.

Today, at almost 49, I live my life from a lens of wonder, love and gratitude and the knowing that though my circumstances can and will change, fortunes have been made and lost, leaps of faith have and will be made, my heart has and will be broken, my body has and will continue to change, my wrinkles will deepen, hair get greyer…yet I trust.  I trust me.  I trust in my ability to rise like a phoenix and carve out new paths that will lead me into more wonder and magic and to make connections with amazing souls I haven’t met yet, while deepening the connections I have with those who are a part of my life already. What an honor.  What a joy. What a ride!

I’ve said it before and I will say it again with gusto – I am in love with this great big world and all the lessons and experiences that she holds for me.  Thank you Universe.

Those lessons and the gold are here for all of us…as are the heartaches and shadows. In the end, every day – I have a choice.

To succumb.

Or to rise.

I’m going to RISE, ya’ll. Or as Mother Maya Angelou said it best, “Still, I rise.

How about you? What’s your choice today?  Your life will go on either way, until it doesn’t anymore.

Knowing you have the choice, and that you have this one life...what are even the smallest ways you can RISE instead of SUCCUMB, every day?

I’m cheering for you.  I believe in you.  I love you.

Rise, ya’ll.  Rise.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

uh oh…I’ve missed a few periods…

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Fifteen periods. At least, from when I started counting. And since I am pretty damn sure that I am not pregnant (that would require serious divine intervention), I have therefore concluded that I have reached a new era in my life—MENOPAUSE. Funny sidebar, the first time I typed that word, I spelled it as “menpause”, which is also apropo. These days, I have taken to thinking of myself as celibate. Or on a sexual hiatus. Or in a long term relationship with myself. No, it’s not a “dry spell”, it is a choice as there are certainly opportunities to “get it on” with fellow singles, but for at least a year now, I find that I just don’t WANT to.

Scratch that…reverse it. I actually really DO want to, (I mean REALLY, REALLY, REALLY do) but somewhere along the way, I have become self aware and self loving enough that I am simply not GOING to get undressed and share my naked body unless I can also share my soul with another who is capable of doing the same. A deep and conscious connection, if you will. Yes, I will have that, please. (psssst – Universe, I know you are listening, girl ;))

But even more than the acknowledgment of the end of my lifetime of fertility and my extended period of unpartnered solitude, there are other more subtle, gentle and even beautiful differences in the woman I am today. I am not entirely unlike the younger version of myself, but I am not like her either. Bless her sweet heart, she thought she was really onto something several years back when she started blogging and traveling and talking about loving freely and forgiveness and choices and living her life without apology. And, well, she was, of course…she was. But, there’s more. Because she was still viewing things through the eyes of the romantic maiden. And that was lovely. But now, she has (I have) the eyes of the crone.

I think I might have skipped over the mother archetype altogether and lingered far too long in the maiden arena. You know what? I take that back. I lingered there as long as I needed to in order to learn some things I needed to learn. Or maybe I was a “mother” in ways I can’t easily see. I think this whole thought process is in the evolution phase and will sort itself out one way or another.

Crone. Many see it as a derogatory term. I do not. I see it very emphatically as an “arrival on the threshhold” and a time of life that I was made for. I mean, obviously I was made for it as here I am, but on a much deeper level. To say I’m a fledgling crone might even be a better term as I am just getting started which is so exciting and feels somewhat like I just got a full scholarship to the 50 year “warrior – goddess academy”, which is something I just made up because I can. And because I can feel that it is going to be a beautiful and long and magical journey towards….what? Wisdom? Peace? Enlightenment? Hmmmm, nahhhh…

I’m not enlightened. Not by a long shot. And I’m sure as shit no guru. I don’t have all the answers, hell I am not sure I have ANY of the answers. But what I do know for certain is that I am AWAKE. Or at least waking up. (Awakening?) That could mean any number of things to any number of people, but to me and the people that dwell in my tribe, I reckon it means fast forwarding (finally) – (oxymoronism at its best, people) into understanding, nay demanding of myself that I live the life that I came here to live. Not the life I pretended to live with a husband or 3. Most def not the life I’ve been living and giving to corporations and organizations under the guise of making proverbial ends meet in various workplaces over the decades.

What it means simply for me is this. There’s a life I’ve imagined and dreamed of since childhood. A life and fantasy of sorts that may more easily be imagined by a child with an abusive and rather painful childhood and upbringing. But, the impetus of it all doesn’t make it less real. Perhaps it even makes it more real and possible.

And that life is a life that somehow heals the world, or some fraction of it. And I know to do that, I have to heal myself…which has been my life mission. I grew up apologizing for myself. For my very presence on the planet. Feeling less than and unworthy and like I had to prove myself to everyone and every situation I encountered.
This crone wisdom brings with it the absolute conviction that I do NOT have to apologize for BEING. And I will not ever again…not one more step will be made that diminishes me.

And that life I’ve always dreamed of? Well I always imagined would be in Africa. Growing up in the rural south in a very impoverished home, I thought the only way to get to Africa was through the pages of my Mimi’s National Geographic magazines. Oh, how I loved to live on those pages for hours and hours on all the countless weekends I spent with her. Later, I dreamed that my only way to get there was through the Peace Corps, which may still yet be in the cards, but maybe not. Then I lost sight of the dream. Listened to others who said that I was a dreamer and my head was in the clouds and that I couldn’t be whatever it was they said I couldn’t be if I didn’t get a job, marry, have kids, buy a house and a couple of cars and work myself into the grave towards retirement so I could travel…If you know anything about me, you know this story didn’t really sit well with me and though it took me quite a few decades to get the chutzpah to say “fuck it” and do my own damn thing – here I am living in the middle east with quite a few travels under my belt I never thought possible with friends all over the globe who are mystical game changers.

Damn. Sometimes I am astounded by how far I have come and who I am becoming.

How about you? Did you “become” who you are today because of some story society or your family or the television or your culture told you that you had to be in order to be “successful” and “acceptable”? That’s ok. Most of us were. I think there’s something else evolving in the world, though. A new mentality. And a new understanding that it isn’t about accumulating stuff and making as much money as you can before you die. (Not that there is anything wrong with money. Nothing at all. It just maybe shouldn’t be the end goal.)

For me, because “me” is all I can truly speak for, I’m walking towards something else. I feel on the cusp of something so big I may not yet have the capacity to understand it, let alone express it. Something that is being “dreamed into being”. I love that phrase. Who said it first? I heard it from the magical and wildly intelligent Martha Beck. I digress….

Coming back full circle on the pseudo-topic of this blog, I feel like this crone archetype of mine will be fluid and will flow back towards the mother side as I dream of Africa and the life I’m ready for there. And her children will become my children. Though my physical eyesight is failing as I age, the clarity with which I can see my life unfolding now is pretty extraordinary.

So, what’s next? How do I wrap this post up with a tidy little bow? (smile)

Maybe I don’t. Maybe for now just sharing these thoughts and dreams with you is letting the universe know I am ready and am in the mood to manifest.

So, come on Universe…Let’s get it on 😉

abu dhabi 902

…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.