Sunday, March 18, 2012

Not what I planned to write next.

I couldn't sleep last night. Maybe it was a writer's high, well, maybe a writing high would be more honest, since I'm not actually a writer. But there certainly was an adrenaline rush of some sort after I wrote that last post that kept me tossing and turning all night long, until finally at 3 am I took a pain pill left over from the surgery to replace my right knee to try to help me sleep. It took a while, but eventually I did get to sleep, and because of the pill and the lateness of the hour when I finally did fall asleep, it was after 9 before I woke up. And I'd had such good intentions of starting early and getting my taxes done. Even though the weather was supposed to be gorgeous, I had promised myself I wouldn't talk myself out of it this time, because I've done that too many times already, and time is getting short. So today's the day.

But as soon as I woke up, these thoughts were going through my head about what I'd write today. I knew I had to change the title of the blog to better fit what I thought I'd be saying over these next days and weeks and months. So different titles kept running through my head, and then different places to begin after that. And all of a sudden my head was filled with ideas and parts of sentences and paragraphs and old memories started flooding in and so here I am. And I really wasn't even supposed to be here yet, because I was heading upstairs to go to the bathroom and just thought I'd at least open up the blog before I went to show my intention to continue, and here I am, writing. Something's up!

I've tried writing things down before. Here and there on my harddrive, both on my laptop and my computer at work, there are bits and pieces of my attempts scattered here and there with various titles on them. I have a feeling that even if I carefully attempted to gather than all together I'd probably miss one or two because there have been so many over the years and I'm so computer challenged that they are just helter skelter in a variety of locations and files. But I'm sure I'll find the important ones when and if I need to.

As I've thought about writing things down in the last couple of years, I've occasionally picked up a book or two about how to write, and in one of the books, ( I just stopped writing long enough to try to find the book I was thinking about and during my search realized that I've accumulated many books about writing over the years! ) Natalie Goldberg's book, Wild Mind: Living the Writer's Life, she says that you just have write and not edit. Just let the words flow without judgement or criticism and then go back and find the nuggets that are right for what you want to say.  And as I write that I realize I am interpreting my thoughts about what she had to say and that she may not have said it in exactly that way, but that's the drift of it in the way that I perceived it. So I apologize to the author if I've misquoted, but my perception is serving me well as I really am just letting whatever seems to be flowing through my mind right now travel down the length of my arms and out through my fingers. So I'm going to go with it. And in truth, I'm not really even sure I'm quoting the right book , though I'm pretty sure I'm quoting the correct author.

So I'm just writing. The story that I sat down to write originally this morning was going to be called "My first good God story."  Growing up, my experiences with God weren't so good. I was raised Catholic and we went to church every Sunday and holy day, and I went to CCD classes, but I never felt comfortable in the church. I've talked to others on a spiritual path who said that as children they were entranced by the rituals of the church ceremonies, the beauty of the music, the stories of the saints. I never felt any of that that I can remember.

When I was really young the mass was in Latin and it didn't enthrall me at all. I was bored and restless and just wanted to get out of there. And when we sang, I was embarrassed by my mother and my aunt's singing. Neither of them could carry a tune, but in the spirit of their religious fervor, they often sang at the top of their lungs, their discordant voices standing out above all the others around me. I just wanted to crawl under the pew and hide until it was over.

When I got older, I was just usually angry at God, if I even gave God credence at all. I can remember standing in my bedroom as a teenager, arm raised, hand clenched into a fist, shaking it at the ceiling, at the heavens, shouting at God : "Why do you hate me so much? What did I ever do to you that you put me in this family? I hate you too!" Tears streaming down my face, I'd collapse on my bed, curl into a fetal position and sob.  My father was an alcoholic and my mother had her own issues, which caused her to take her anger at my father out on me, when he got drunk. It wasn't pretty. It wasn't nice. It wasn't easy. But it's what it was. And I tried so hard to be good. Tried every way I  knew how to be just a little bit better: a better student, a better daughter. I thought trying to be better would make my mom love me enough to keep her from hitting me, but no matter what I did, nothing changed.  And I couldn't be angry at her because she'd just get that much angrier with me, so I was angry with God instead, when I even thought there was a God.

When I've thought about writing a book before, it was the details of my history and knowing how much of that I was supposed to share, that always stopped me in my tracks. I've read so  many stories of abused kids who are now adults and who include all the nasty details. When my mother was alive, I hesitated to do that because I didn't want her reading the story and yelling at me for it. When I started working with a really good therapist and she told me to try to talk to my mother about the things that had happened, my mother accused me of making up the memories. She said she couldn't understand why I'd want to make up  such horrible awful memories of her. She denied everything. Said none of it ever happened and told me I was an awful daughter for accusing her of such awful things. 

So the idea of having to write my story and put down all those details really didn't appeal to me. After I worked to heal myself, it wasn't about my mother getting angry at me if I wrote them, it was not wanting to hurt her any more. She had obviously 'forgotten' all those details in an attempt to keep herself safe ( what mother wants to admit that she hurt her own child, not just once, but over and over again over a long period of years?), and who was I to crack that shell if she couldn't handle what would come out? So I shied away from writing anything.

My mother died in 2008.  I don't have to worry about making her angry or hurting her anymore. (We never had a really detailed conversation about all the things that happened during my childhood, but one day when my mother was laying in bed in the nursing home, she reached for my hand, and quietly said, "I wasn't very nice to you."  It wasn't really an apology, but I knew it was the best that she could do. ) I don't really see the need, or feel the need, to write down all the nasty details anymore. The details aren't really important. What's important is who I've become because of where I've been, and how I got here.  So those are the stories I will share and if some of the details  of my childhood and my experiences with my mother have to come through to make a point or help in the understanding of my journey, I will share them then. But if I can tell my story and make my point without the nastiness, I'll do that. It's just what feels right to me, and I have to follow my heart if what I'm to share is to have meaning for others.

Saturday, March 17, 2012

The first step....

They say every journey begins with the first step. So what is the first step? Is it the first intentional step I take as I begin a new phase in my life, or is the first step that first contraction that began to push me from the womb? Or is it both? And which one is the most important? Does it matter?

I'm taking a step now. A step out of my comfort zone, because my comfort zone, although it's very familiar, has become uncomfortable. I guess you could say I'm birthing myself anew....and the loneliness, the fear, the uncertainty, the anxiousness of these last weeks has been the labor that has pushed me into this new place of being. I'm not really there yet, but I'm making progress. I've at least stopped resisting.  I've decided to move forward and I've even taken a few baby steps. Ok, maybe not such baby steps, but the first steps that will take me to wherever else it is that I'm meant to go at this point in my journey.

Why do we resist?  Why would we rather stay in the discomfort of our familiar zone rather than take a risk and venture out , at least attempting to get out from under that which no longer feels good, that which no longer fits?  Why do we try to convince ourselves that it isn't the zone that doesn't work anymore, it's just something wrong with us? Something that if we could just find the key to what it is, we could fix it and then we would still fit in our comfort zone.

I've been trying. Trying to make it fit again. I've worked so hard to get where I am, and now where I am doesn't fit any more.  Not because it isn't good, not because it isn't serving, but because I've outgrown the need to be where I am, and I have a need to be elsewhere. My soul has a need, a yearning to be more, to do more, to get on about the business that it came here to do. And me, this human being that I am, I'm holding my soul back from flying. I'm holding back because I'm scared; because I can't see where I'll land, because I'm not sure what's waiting for me. And so I resist.

I've resisted so well for so long that the muscles in my legs have become so tense and so tight that just the lightest touch causes me almost unbearable pain. The muscles are pulling so tight that they are pulling my feet inward, so my toes don't even point straight ahead anymore. How can you walk a path when your feet can't even point to it? I'm really scared.  Or I was......

Now I'm done resisting. Somehow, somehow, I've turned the corner on resisting. It happened just yesterday morning, when I finally decided that I had to start doing what I'm doing differently, and took action to make it so.  And when I thought about what I had done, I reached down and ran my hand up and down my calf and the pain was so far diminished from what it had been that I wondered if perhaps I had imagined how bad it had been. But I knew that I hadn't.  I had just had my feet so firmly planted on Terra Firma that the energy it took to hold me in place had caused my muscles to alter their positions in the effort to keep me there.

Now I don't mean this literally of course. I've been walking around just like normal , just like always. No one looking at me would know that I was stuck. But energetically, spiritually, I was as tied to Mother Earth as a gigantic redwood whose roots are sunk deep, deep , deep into the earth and spread far and wide beneath the earth's surface. I was that rooted in my comfort zone.  I was determined that I wasn't going anywhere.

After all, I turned sixty on my last birthday.  I'm a bit overweight, I don't exercise, I've been using food as the drug to  numb myself from knowing that it's time to move on. I've had my hip and knee replaced. My back isn't all that it should be. I should be thinking about my retirement, not thinking of packing up shop, or at the very least, changing the look of the shop, and starting something new, something bigger, something that I can't even imagine what it will look like.

I feel like I'm being called to do  more, and yet I wonder how I can possibly do more than I'm already doing, when what I'm already doing has gotten me so exhausted that I can't hardly get out of bed in the morning. When what I'm doing is taking up so much of my time and energy that there's just nothing left. And I'm being called to do more? Really? That's just crazy.

No, it's not crazy.  Well, ok, it seems crazy because I'm looking at it from a rational, logical point of veiw, and there is nothing rational or logical about following a spiritual path. Following a spiritual path is mystical and magical and doesn't have anything to do with how things should logically work out.  Because really, if it was all about logic and reason I shouldn't be where I am today. I shouldn't have a successful business doing something as illogical as talking to dead people and speaking in tongues and beating on drums and shaking rattles in people's faces.  But I do! Yes, I do.

And now that I've finally said 'yes', now that I'm finally taking steps to move forward, I feel lighter than I have in weeks and weeks. I'm making jokes again and laughing. I'm standing taller and walking straighter; my stride is longer and my arms are swinging more loosely at my sides. And I know I'm doing the right thing.  And I  know, somehow, don't ask me how, but I know somehow that it will all be ok. Even if I don't know where I'm going or how I'm going to get there. I'm just going to keep taking one step at a time, putting one foot in front of the other, hoping that the loosened muscles in my calves will let my toes point straight ahead so I can stay on the path, and I will just keep walking until I get there. Wherever there is.

Friday, November 7, 2008

A Mother's Passing

My mother's funeral was yesterday. She had alzheimer's, but she didn't die from alzheimer's. I think she died because she was ready to leave. She never wanted to be in a nursing home; never wanted to be totally dependent on others for her care. She was a very independent lady -- when she was well. And to be unable to walk, unable to know where she was, who she was - well, that wouldn't be acceptable to her.

I know, because years ago she told me that my 'job' was to do whatever it took to make sure she never ended up in a nursing home: "use a gun, put a pillow over my face, give me pills. Just don't let me be in a space of not knowing." Of course, there really wasn't any way I could ensure that. And I told her then that she better have her own plan to take care of that, because I couldn't do what she was asking me to do. And so I think she did just that. And what I did was to support her decision, her choice and her right to make the choice in the only way that you could. She decided to stop eating.

So she lost weight, but not enough to cause her death. Enough to weaken her, certainly, but not enough to cause her death. I truly believe that she just simply decided it was time to go, that she'd had enough, and so she asked God to take her and God obliged. Because on Sunday evening she was in the 'country kitchen' at the nursing home and I was feeding her dinner. She hadn't felt well that day - a little sick to her stomach, but nothing serious, or so it seemed. They gave her some compazine for nausea and she ate almost a whole bowl of tomato soup. And in between bites, which she took willingly enough, she said, very clearly: "I want to go home." "You want to go home?" I asked, making sure that I had heard her correctly. And she said, "Yes, I want to go home." ( When we talked about her dying, we talked about her going home to God. ) And I told her if she was ready to go home, she could. And she said "I'm ready now. Let's go." Then her mouth opened and everything she'd eaten just came up and out, as if her body were saying "Well, if I'm going home, I don't need this stuff." It was just an easy purging. Nothing harsh or violent. No apparent effort at all.  It was 5:20 PM when we left the dining room and I took her back to her room to get her into bed.

While we waited for the aides to help her into bed, she was talking softly to herself as she was most recently accustomed to doing and her breathing was a bit rapid, but nothing alarming. She still knew who I was. By the time the aides got her into bed, her eyes were sunken, and half closed and all I could see were the whites of her eyes. Her skin was a different color, and her breathing was labored. (Looking back now, I think her spirit was already gone, and her body was just doing what it needed to, to complete the physical passing.) They gave her oxygen, and some adavant to relax her. She was breathing through her mouth in gasps, with long pauses in between. And she couldn't rest her head on the pillow for some reason. I placed one hand on the back of her neck and one on her shoulder and began giving her Reiki to help her relax. "Just let go, Mom, don't fight it, just let go." She rested her head back on the pillow, took a few more breaths, and a few minutes later, she was gone. I looked up at the clock, and it was only 6:10 PM. Those last few minutes seemed endless. But how quickly she was gone.

No real medical reason. In fact, the director of hospice had been in to re-evaluate her for hospice benefits on Thursday and told the hospice nurse that "She doesn't look like a woman who has only 6 months to live." But one of their criteria for benefits is that the patient must lose 5 - 10% of their body weight in a month. My mother had lost 9 pounds in the last two and a half weeks, and the hospice nurse verified that she had become much more lethargic. Because of that, the doctor agreed to recertify her. He was right, she wasn't someone who was going to be gone in six months: she lasted only three more days!

I had planned for my mother's passing; I was ok with her leaving. I didn't want her to suffer and I didn't want her to be in that place of unknowing that she so didn't want to be in. I just wasn't ready for it to be so unexpected, so quick! I thought surely there would be some warning; a day or two of never being out of bed, long periods of sleep, the complete denial of food - something to prepare me, to let me know that she had decided her time was here.

But there was no warning. She was just gone. And when I tried to reach my son, my brother, my boyfriend, none of them was available by phone. It was a difficult time. The nurse was quick to tell me there was paperwork to fill out and that I would have to remove her things from the room "not tonight, but as soon as you can." And they called the funeral home to come. The hospice chaplain came and sat with us; he made a space for me to talk about her, to tell her story, and that was a great help. And then the phone messages I had left began to be answered, and I began to share the news. My boyfriend came, and that was a great comfort.

It was more than two hours before they came for her. I sat by her side, gently touching her arm, needing to keep contact with her, giving her Reiki to help her finish her transition. And then they were there. They asked me to leave the room. I walked past the gurney with the grey body bag on it , empty, waiting for her.......and then she was gone...