…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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Tonight, I grieve….

And when I say grieve, if I can paint a picture for any of you visual folks out there, let me say that as I type, I am sobbing…and also sober.

I don’t know what the catalyst is exactly, only that I have needed it for so, so long. Tonight, as I grieve, I feel as though I am grieving everything that has ever been lost to me. Every death. Every lost love. Every lost moment of myself. Every wasted second of my oh so precious life. Everything.

My dad died two years ago. I haven’t grieved. Not really. Not fully. Not even at all, in fact, more to the point, it’s been like a story I tell. Not a story that happened to me, but one that I witnessed or heard about. Not about me. Not about my father. Because, I don’t even know my father. Or I didn’t. Not really, ever. I knew his name. His face. His voice. His scent. His moods. His mother who loved him so dearly and always spoke of him. I knew him on Christmases when he drove to my Mimi’s house to visit for a few days. Oh how I waited nervously and joyously for this man who fathered me. I so craved his love and acceptance, that I didn’t know what to do with myself. And when he arrived, always late, after dark, when the orange electric candles were lit in my grandmother’s window…and everyone else was stuffed from the ham and the sausage balls, cheese ball, stuffing, pumpkin pie, sweet potato pie, green bean casserole…then he’d arrive. And I was joyful…reunited at last with this man who was really just a figment of my imagination. A few days would pass, he’d often be irritated with me. He slept a lot. He was angry a lot. He drank. A lot. My stepmother was this effervescent ray of sunshine always around, always singing his praises, always making excuses for his behavior. She, my Gladys, was truly a saint.

Years went by. I started dating, my dad didn’t like this and said I had become a snob because I dated a “yankee” from a well to do family. He said that I thought I was too good for my family, when all I heard was him saying I wasn’t good enough to be dating someone from the other side of the tracks. My grandfather died when I was 16…my dad came to the funeral and barely spoke to me and it was the last time I saw him for over 10 years. He made excuses for why he couldn’t make my high school graduation or then my college graduation…or my first wedding.

The next time was when my grandmother had a stroke and was hospitalized. I was barely out of college and in my first job and came to see her with my then husband. When I arrived in the room, he left and didn’t come back till I left.

The next time I saw him was several years later. When she died. My grandmother. He spoke to me more then, and was nostalgic…acting as if he knew me and I played along. I remember that I cooked for him, along with my aunt and my cousin. I’d never cooked for him before. He loved it, they all did. And we drank wine together and pretended we were normal. After her funeral, I didn’t hear from him much, but did occasionally. Then his wife died…around 9 years later, I think? I moved heaven and earth to go and be there for him and for a while he was responsive and told me how sorry he had been for not being a better father over the years. He even asked me if I ever thought of moving to Asheville (closer to him.) He seemed almost to plead. My heart yearned for the connection I had always wanted to have, but my head said not on your life, buddy. I am not uprooting my life to move to Asheville to be near some guy who has barely spoken to me in 20 years.

I married again and he dropped completely out of sight. He would respond to the odd email, but never answer a phone call and when I got the phone call that he was hospitalized in 2012 and not doing well, I booked a flight home to go and be with him with the hopes that we might yet have that longed for father-daughter moment. He died while I was at a yoga class the night before I was to fly. I flew home to pick through the debris and carnage of the broken down trailer he lived in.

After 10 minutes inside the first day, I left…threw away my clothes and went to Home Depot the next morning to buy one of those head to toe painter suits with a face mask and everything. My father’s place was infested with fleas. Cockroaches. Filth. There were frozen dinner containers everywhere with uneaten food in them. Stacks of newspapers and magazines and bills…medications…oxygen tanks…the stove was covered with hardened food. There wasn’t a spot on the floor that wasn’t covered with either garbage or clothing, shoes, mail, boxes…you name it.

And all the while, all I wanted was to find evidence of myself there. To find that he had thought of me. Missed me. Cared. Loved. I didn’t. Not a letter, a journal, a diary…none of my letters….in fact, I found every photo of me crammed inside a box, some with broken picture frames, and others just loose and askew inside the box. There were other photos around the trailer. Photos of him, of my grandmother, of his wife, Gladys. Of my cousin, Karen. Of my step sister Sandy and her kids…of my stepmother’s parents and siblings. But of me? No…all shoved in a box behind a cabinet long ago forgotten.

As I sifted through things, looking for personal papers that I wanted to be sure to have so that noone else could access his personal records…I felt nothing. I started to feel things, but I shifted completely into business mind and only noted the things that I felt were odd. I felt it odd that my photos were shoved in a box and there were no letters for me or to me as I had imagined. But, I simply noticed that it felt odd, and then went on with the sifting through things. And that was it. No reaction.

While in Asheville collecting his things, I met with a lawyer who told me what to do…talked to a broker to sell the small piece of land and trailer that I felt certain I should have torched as it was surely a health hazard…and met the loveliest people at a little biker bar around the corner from where my dad lived who spoke so well of him and who loved my father….and spoke of him honestly. They KNEW him. Not just his face, but they KNEW he was an asshole and a judgmental old bastard who didn’t like anyone and who yelled at everyone, but he came to their little bar and drank his beer there every night, and they LOVED him. They became his family.

I can’t tell you what a gift that was, because they told me stories of a man I had never met – and yet I had. I loved him too, even though he was an asshole and a judgmental old bastard who yelled at everyone. I left his ashes there, promising I would come back to spread them some more — but I didn’t. And they had a memorial service for him a few months later. They released balloons…planted a tree…had a party. Beautiful. And they sent me pictures of it and made me feel close to my father for just a bit.

And since then, I’ve been going through the motions…just living my day to day. Doing whatever. Working. Yoga. Trying to figure out where I fit in. This all led to the life changing Martha Beck life coaching course that I took in early 2013 which led and still leads to so many unspeakably beautiful things and places and most importantly PEOPLE in my life who I am quite certain have helped to save it.

So, wow – that was a long story and not even what I was feeling when I sat down to write, but it seemed the place to start as I grieve tonight.

I allowed myself a few tears in South Africa talking to the beautiful soul mother, Susan Bainter Baghdadi, who solely due to her own personal magic said just the right things to allow me to feel for a few moments the grief I felt for my father. And for the life I never had with him. And for his passing without ever getting to say goodbye.

I know that none of this is about me, but the very rationalization of that thought that has become the staple of my existence since childhood has created this outside observer in me that retreats into a place where feelings cannot touch me so that I can survive.

When my father died and I was on the plane to go and deal with the aftermath and the unknown – I wrote a letter to the man who I can only refer to as my love, regardless of where life leads us or doesn’t lead us. He is simply, that to me.

My letter went like this…exactly like this:

Joe, I don’t know if I know how to do this. I’m like you. The observer. I don’t really participate. I don’t get close. I don’t know how to do emotions. I certainly never did them right. I’ve lived my life on the outside looking in. It’s a defense mechanism. Or just the only way I know.

I feel like I can say and share anything with you, so I’m trusting that. I trust you. Completely.

I’m terrified I don’t know what I’m going to find on the other side of this. I don’t know what mysteries will be solved or what closure I’ll gain. I hate that word. Closure. Bullshit word. I don’t want to do this. I don’t know why I AM doing it. I am so afraid to feel the pain. Afraid it will completely engulf me and I’ll never get to be free of it again. I’ve been hiding or running from it all my life. Those people. My family. My father and my mother hurt me so much, so deeply and on so many levels. I’m just realizing it all again and what I’ve buried.

I’m fucking terrified. I don’t know how to do it without losing my mind. My self. I don’t know how to do it without losing sight of the light. I don’t seem to know what else to say other than I don’t know what to do. And I’m afraid. I wanted to say all of these things to you yesterday morning. But I couldn’t find the words. I’m afraid of the words. The words alone seem like these scary monsters that will devour me. I don’t know how to love. I don’t know how to grieve. I don’t know how to feel without having “feeling” steal my soul. I’m afraid. It’s why I live alone. Why I travel alone. Isn’t it? I don’t know anymore.

You are a complete miracle to me. I’ve never been able to open myself up the way I have with you. I’ve never felt the calm and the peace and the absolute certainty that everything is going to be ok the way I feel when I’m with you. I’m beholden to you for that. Safety. I remember telling you in the beginning that YOU were safe with ME. I didn’t really know why I said that. Maybe I was really saying I felt safe with you. That’s the greatest gift I’ve ever received.

But I really don’t know how to do this. And I’m scared. How do I do it? Amazing how your own nature can reveal itself to you and the story is completely what you fear most.

Is that the secret? Accepting your fear? Becoming it? Embracing it? Telling it to fuck off?”
(written sitting on the plane en route to NC…God, I need a run, yoga, reiki trifecta)

All I know as I look back on that letter, is that those are some of the truest words I have ever written. And the reason I still wear the yak bone from nepal around my neck with the nepalese inscription “and the lotus shall arise from the mud.”

And no sooner did I write that letter, those words…did I sweep them aside as another act of self preservation, which leads me to the moral of this story, which is this…

I’m sort of winging it here, so bear with me…

cinque terra

We have to feel our feelings…and trust ourselves…and trust those we love…and surrender our so called dignity sometimes in complete vulnerability in order to be fully human and to heal. I so believe and have always believed that we were put here on this planet to love each other and to heal ourselves and each other, all of us.

As I look out into what is going on in the world today, I feel a bit selfish and indulgent to be thinking of myself and allowing myself to grieve when there are so many other things that need attention right now. But the very simple truth of the matter is that I need my attention right now. And I need to feel my feelings. And I need to grieve the father I never had and his passing and everything that means to me. And I need to grieve the loss of myself. And it’s hard. And I don’t want to. It fucking hurts. And I would so much rather help someone else through their pain than acknowledge mine. But I realize, that I am no good at healing others or loving others or being there for others if I am not first healing myself. Loving myself. Being there for myself.

What a journey. To hell and back and then some, it seems sometimes. But, it is time. Time to feel. Time to allow. Time to grieve. And then maybe in time, to truly heal.

What Jack Kavanaugh said when he peeked inside my soul…or more accurately his own. It resonates.

“I am one of the searchers. There are, I believe, millions of us. We are not unhappy, but neither are we really content. We continue to explore life, hoping to uncover its ultimate secret. We continue to explore ourselves, hoping to understand. We like to walk along the beach, we are drawn by the ocean, taken by its power, its unceasing motion, its mystery and unspeakable beauty. We like forests and mountains, deserts and hidden rivers, and the lonely cities as well. Our sadness is as much a part of our lives as is our laughter. To share our sadness with one we love is perhaps as great a joy as we can know – unless it be to share our laughter.
We searchers are ambitious only for life itself, for everything beautiful it can provide. Most of all we love and want to be loved. We want to live in a relationship that will not impede our wandering, nor prevent our search, nor lock us in prison walls; that will take us for what little we have to give. We do not want to prove ourselves to another or compete for love.

For wanderers, dreamers, and lovers, for lonely men and women who dare to ask of life everything good and beautiful. It is for those who are too gentle to live among wolves.”
― James Kavanaugh, There Are Men Too Gentle to Live Among Wolves