Healing by season

I love seasons. Every season.

And before you get all huffy and tweaky on me, I do realize that California doesn’t have the same sort of seasons as many other places in the world, ok.

I get it. It’s different here, but beautiful in it’s own subtle way.  It’s gentle in it’s reminders. SoCal is  never going to scream ‘WINTER IS HERE!!!’, which I have to say, I really don’t mind. Whispers are fine by me.

As are the 75-degree Saturdays by the pool in February.

Besides that, when I say ‘seasons’ I don’t just mean the weather, thats just part of it really. Seasons signify change and growth and movement, and they never leave us long enough to remain stagnant.  Weather simply reminds us that seasons exist. If the weather never changed, seasons still would I think.

Ever since I was little, I would write down all the parts of the year that I loved, giving me something to look towards and hope for on a continual basis, no matter what was happening around me. Christmas, summers by the pool, all the birds singing in the spring, the rain.  It was generated from a dark time of life, which, I find, is often the soil that yields deep thought and understanding.

Darkness doesn’t always beget darkness, as the old saying goes.

Anyway, I often find myself thinking in this same sort of way on a day to day basis.  What beauty can I look to today?  What brings me life and joy?  There is always something, you know, even in the darkest day.  Sometimes it’s a bit less ‘significant’ yes,  but the whole idea is that it’s not the thing itself, it’s what it represents in our minds. A larger Good that wins in the end.

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If you’re sitting there wondering what the hell I’m talking about and contemplating what level of crazy I am, I can’t say I really blame you. While I am an optimist, I also have a rather dark, deeper side to me that I have and always will carry with me.  It’s the part of me that knows the blackness that can live in people, it’s the scars I carry from wounds that I’ll never really forget, and it is that part of me I constantly fight to remain for and with the human race. To not withdraw into the deep dark hole of utter isolation and safety, where the only comfort comes from knowing that love, the same thing that can break my heart, is not allowed in.

After trying out that place and this, I have found the latter worth it a thousand times over.  So I find the sun, I look up to the moon. I cherish the words of a friend and the memory of those I’ve lost.  And I allow myself to love fully, to hope, and to live in and with the fight.

Every season helps me do that in small ways, reflecting light and life when darkness finds her way in. That beautiful siren of the night beckoning me towards a cold and lifeless prison of safety.

I choose the sun, even if her light can burn me.

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To the Other Side

There is something so undone about death. I find myself searching for the resolution in my soul to something I never find, and it makes my mind tumble and my heart ache.

I walked in with her last night thinking we’d walk back out together. But that moment never came. She never left, not her body anyway.   I stepped back out into the night alone, carrying only a collar covered in tears.

Once I got inside I’d never been so sure I needed to do something and so unsure of how I would do it.

 

After the initial sedation, it took at least a minute for her to feel it take over.

She fought it, she fought it hard.

Slowly her eyes became dreamily fixed ahead of her, as if in a trance. Ever so subtly, her head drooped lower and lower until she was resting on the blanket beneath her.

Her eyes flickered as she continued to remain with me, even though I kept telling her it was ok to let go.

But Lola was Lola until the very end. Fight. Until the end. Stand strong. Don’t give in to the pain or the struggle. Hold on. Protect. Stay with her.

And so she did. Her eyes didn’t close despite my tears and requests to let go.  When the end finally came, I felt her spirit give one last attempt to stay.

And then she was gone.

Her spirit rushed out of her body like a cool breeze. Where it went I cannot say, but the change in her presence was clear. She was no longer with me on that cold floor.

Leaving her body there was so painful, an experience that left me feeling like I was being asked to leave my hand or my foot behind.  I stayed as long as they’d let me and wept bitter tears into her fading brown fur, remembering our years together and the adventures I’d never forget. I knew she was gone, and all I could do was hope she understood.

Because I didn’t.

I don’t understand death.  It is foreign and cold. But it is real, and it undoes me.  She went into a place I’ve never fully seen.  But for one brief moment I was there with her in the inbetween. The chasm between this world and the next.

I saw it, or felt it, or touched it with her. Then I was there in the room and she had stepped into that new place.

I wanted to keep her here with me.   I sometimes wonder if she is.  I wonder if she thinks of me, if she’s happy or wondering why I sent her away. I wonder and turn over questions in my mind again and again. But there is a gap, a lopsided-ness that nags at me and it keeps me wondering and hurting.

Because I’m still here and she isn’t.  She’s in that place that seems kinder, and fuller and warmer.  I want to reach out across that divide and touch her sweet face, but I can’t. And my heart can’t quite reconcile that at the moment.

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You and I will meet again
When we’re least expecting it
One day in some far off place
I will recognize your face
I won’t say goodbye my friend
For you and I will meet again
~Tom Petty

North Star

Life has brought so much the past year, I could easily sit down and write it all out for you in great detail.  But I am not going to do that to you, mostly because it would be dreadfully sad to read, I should think.  As it turns out, most of what has occurred has been rather cheerless to say the least. It has been a season of surprising sadness, which happens to be, for most of us, the most dreaded of sorts.

On the other hand, I have also been strangely comforted and filled with deep peace amidst horrific pain. As I have said many times before, it is the darkest nights when we can see the stars shine most brightly, and what is white without black to show us it is there?

I don’t mean to be cryptic with what’s been going on, I just don’t want to spend too much time fixating on the actual events, because I don’t think they themselves are ever the point.  I think they are there to show us something, to remind us of what is true, both in ourselves and beyond what our eyes tell us is there.  These moments of heart-wrenching sadness, they are our north star.

Watching mom lose her job last February after 17 years

The call in September telling me mom has cancer

Staying up  all night watching the California fires come a street away from my brother’s home earlier this month.

Watching mom get sick, lose her hair, and sometimes her hope. Sitting next to her while she cries without the ability to fix it, to save her, or offer anything more than a hand to hold

Watching a friend I love more than the world itself go through the deepest pain I think exists in this world since the summer.

Getting the text from sister-in-law telling me their dog was killed by a coyote in their yard a week after the fire, and knowing my brother had to see it.

Losing the treatment that brought me relief and hope for 3 years because of dangerous side effects occurring this month , watching my body deteriorate back to a place I dread with Lupus.

Recent grief that we may never have a child of our own.

Those have been some of my north stars the past year.  I have cried a lot, my sailor’s mouth has gotten even more sailor-like, and I have felt the burden of my family’s pain upon my back.  And, I have never been more aware of God’s deep care and love.

My mom is sick, but she’s alive and fighting.  I get to sit with her and make her laugh and watch ridiculous movies together while she gets chemo.

My brother’s house didn’t burn down and his family is alive and well, though they do miss their four-legged friend.  Praying for them all night reminded me how much I love them.

I get to watch the person I love learn to heal, and I am again reminded how much I love her.

I have an amazing husband who has proven to me that I can trust again and reminds me to laugh and play every day. We have the same dream to move to a place filled with land, dogs, horses and life.

My dear Mr B is still here with me, and brings comfort I cannot put into words.

I have a meaningful job that I love. I get to bring hope to people every day, which is to me a reward in itself.

I may not have the strength or health I wish I did, and maybe I’ll never have a chid of my own, but I will always have hope.  I get to get up today, and if I died tomorrow I would have no regrets. My heart is more alive and filled with a richness most can only dream of.

It’s not about the things happening around us, or even to us, it’s what they point us to.  And what we choose to fix our eyes upon.

Life can be so savagely painful that we may want to give in and and lose ourselves in it’s blackness. And sometimes we do for a while.

But something inside knows that is not the end of the story, and what is happening to me is not the point.  There is something much bigger to be seen, and when I allow myself to stand back up and look back into the darkness, it is then I see the stars.

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Chemo should be a four-letter word

To watch someone you love go through the horror that is chemo is a torment all it’s own. It is like watching from a distance while the person you love is mercilessly tortured, and you can’t do a thing to stop it.

Suddenly you realize why people wear ‘fuck cancer’ t-shirts to drop their children off at school and smile as they go.  Because you know what, fuck cancer.

I did all I could to brace myself for what was coming, I knew it was going to knock her down and everyone she loves with her.

It did.

But there’s not enough preparation in the world to ready someone for this.  You’re never ready to watch your mom cry by the toilet as she dry-heaves for hours.  Never strong enough to keep your heart from breaking when she says it’s so painful she just wishes she could let go and not go through this.  There’s nothing to prepare you to watch her age 20 years overnight or wait for her hair to fall off while she tries to smile.

The truth is, I wasn’t ready. I couldn’t have been.

Mom has always been physically strong.  I could count on my right hand the number of times I’ve actually seen her sick in the past 30 years.  She’s a tough cookie, and not much knocks her down…..but this has.  And I don’t know what to do with that.

I don’t know how to do this….how does anyone?  I’ve cried myself to sleep,  begged God to offer relief and keep her safe.  I’ve taken her every good thing I can think of for comfort, and any food that she thinks she might keep down.  Since yesterday I have been running a high fever myself, which has kept me from having any contact with her for fear of giving her whatever I have.

This morning I left what I could on her front porch, and watched from behind my car window as her frail body slowly picked it up and waved back at me. I couldn’t hug her or tell it was going to be ok.  We were only 30 yards apart from each-other, but it felt so much farther. I never want to have to do that again. Ever.

If you’ve been through this, my friend, God bless you and the one you love.  May you find comfort down the road.  I hope to find it there too.

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Behind the Red Herring

I’ve always had this sixth sense, ever since I can remember.  It’s allowed me to see through people in ways I can’t explain and often don’t really try. The good, the bad, and all the in-between in people has often been clearer to me than what my eyes can tell me.  True intentions, ulterior motives, kindness of spirit, sadness, joy, suffering, peace, strength, danger, false fronts, deep souls, and even those about to leave this earth.  I see them.

I learned to trust it a long time ago, and trust it deeply.    Most of the time I am grateful for this part of me, it has served me well and armed me with deep understanding of people.

But there are days like today when I wish I didn’t know the things I know.  That sort of knowledge can bring such sadness when you see truth in someone you wish you hadn’t.  When you know things you can’t explain but fully understand inside yourself.  Things that make you just want to shut your eyes, but when you do you see it all even clearer.

There are times I know something is going to happen before it does.  I can’t explain how, I just know it’s often played out that way.  It’s beyond being an empath to seeing an entirely different realm of life occurring all around you simultaneously in people.  When I go out I don’t notice the type of shoes someone is wearing or their hairstyle, I see souls and whatever they are made of staring right back at me.

Today my heart is tired and I want to hide from the world.  I am struggling, and am fighting what I’ve always fought- the urge to run away from the world and the things I see in it.  I am fighting to not drown in the ghost of souls hiding beyond the shells of faces and smiles and distortion.

I rarely speak of any of this, as so few understand it.  But today, today I just can’t.

Friends that know me well have often joked that I must have been a dog or some similar type creature in another life, so easy it is for me to communicate with animals and understand them.  I guess there is something to that,  I do see the world around me much like a dog does.  I sense things before I see them, and I trust that instinct much more than what I am told to see.  You cannot fool a dog into believing a man is good when he is evil. The dog knows, no matter how you dress him up, or how the man may smile and charm those around him.

But it’s the days you see what you would have rather been blind to that are hard.  It’s the times you pass by a suffering soul and feel like your heart just dropped as their spirit of grief washes over you. It’s those moments when you know someone is close to the other side and their soul peers into your’s with questions you cannot answer.  And it’s those days when you see something about someone you love that you cannot ignore and that you wish you hadn’t ever witnessed. It all makes life so much more complicated, and today my soul is weary.

Most days I would not complain.  It’s made my life richer, my soul deeper, and my heart larger.  It is a significant part of me that most of the time I am glad to have. But it can be isolating and heavy,  a burden I don’t aways want to carry.  Sometimes understanding is harder than they say it is, and sometimes I’d rather just see the smile and not what lies behind it.

 

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Angels in the shadows

Life is a strange thing. Sometimes it happens in ways we can’t explain, but something inside tells us there is someone who could, if we could only get them to talk.  Maybe none of this makes any sense to you, but I think of it often, most especially on days like this….strange days.

It started on Wednesday afternoon as I was coming home from work.  I had stopped at the corner grocery store, one I don’t often visit, but seemed the most convenient choice at the moment. After grabbing a few items, I made my way to one of the lines and put my things down on the cashier’s counter. Directly in front of me stood an older lady unloading her cart of groceries, immediately offering to let me go in front of her.

I thanked her for her kindness but declined the offer, as I was in no hurry and she’d already moved a good portion of her groceries out of her cart.  She looked a bit rough around the edges, worn out in a way that only comes from the inside, cultivated by life being less than kind.  There was a strength of spirit about her I couldn’t help but notice, and it made me smile.

As we stood there and she continued to unload her items, she began giving me brief commentaries on her grocery choices.

“Do you know, this is the best stuff ever?”

She held up a jar of what looked like peanut butter, but she told me it had honey added to it.  I smiled and told her PB was indeed one of the best things in this world. As she picked up a few bags of carrots and a small pineapple she continued on, explaining how she’d begun juicing and, though she hadn’t been able to the past few weeks, felt so much better when she did.

At this point her commentaries ceased and I turned my attention to a nearby magazine, and began to turn the pages looking for something interesting to read. Before too long I realized about 5 minutes had passed and the cashier was still scanning her rather small pile of food.  Suddenly, I couldn’t help but notice the cashier reporting her total amount to her every time he scanned an item. Sometimes she would nod and he’d place it in one of her worn down plastic bags she’d brought, and sometimes she’d shake her head sadly and ask him to put it aside.

It became very obvious to me at this point what was going on, that this dear sweet lady did not have enough money to pay for what she had.  Trying to determine what what to keep and what to leave, she looked tiredly down at her credit card, remarking that social security gave her a mere 67 dollars and this wasn’t going to make it.  She began telling the boy to put back the carrots and the pineapple and a number of other items.

My heart broke at this scene, I could not bear it any longer.  Not today, I thought, not today.

“Put it on my card”  I said, waving my hand at what was left to try my best to convey how small a gesture it was.

She looked over at me in disbelief, her big blue eyes filling with tears. She asked why I would do that.

“Why?  Well you have to get your juicing done, silly”  I grinned at her and pointed to her carrots.

She told me I was an angel, I told her I wasn’t and it was nothing (and honestly, it was nothing.)

“But if you only knew what I’ve been through the past year, if you only knew what you just did and how much it means to me. I lost my job, my husband died, I had a stroke, and now I am losing my home.  This is all the money I have in the world,  and it had to last me all month. How did you know to do that for me?” 

“I didn’t”  I told her, but someone didSomeone is watching over you my dear, and He just reminded you of that”

Tears streaming down her face, her tired smile radiated hope from within as she turned to leave.

I left that store knowing that something beyond this world had happened in that grocery line.  What I did cost me a mere 10 dollars. It was nothing- nothing at all, and it certainly wasn’t because I am a good person or I was looking to do something nice. I was tired and wanted to get home.  Something had drawn me towards her from the moment I had seen her and I have no doubt in my mind I was led there for her, to remind her that Someone far more beautiful than I was looking out for her.

Twenty-four hours later I got a call from my mom telling me she had been diagnosed with cancer.  She was to start radiation and chemotherapy almost immediately, as well as surgery to remove the tumor growing like poison inside her.  This call was entirely out of the blue, as most of them are I suppose, prefaced without warning or comfort.

Or was it?

As my mom cried on the phone, and I with her, the moment in the grocery line came rushing back to me.  He didn’t just do that for her, he did it for me.  He cared enough to give that sweet old lady 10 dollars to get her through the month and remind her she was loved.

He was going to take care of my mama too.

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Living on the sun and why we love the Fall

Whhhhaaat, where did summer go?  Yeah it’s gone. Except the sun. The sun is still here in full force, making us folks here in Southern California wonder if it would be that weird to start wearing ice packs in our pants.

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In fact, I think the sun has suddenly realized that summer is on it’s way out and has decided to have one last hurrah at our expense. You know, sorta like when kids find some deranged interest in watching bugs sizzle on the sidewalk under the heat of a magnifying glass.  That’s what we are now, sizzling bugs.  What is it outside, 194 degrees?

But fall will be here in no time, bringing it’s own mysterious sweetness with it.  And why do we all love Fall so much?   I think it might have something to do with the memories it evokes from childhood with the beginning of a new school year.  It’s sort of untouched in that way, a new day so to speak….yet simultaneously quite old.  It’s death in nature, a dying of leaves and life, which is rather morbid I suppose.  But also so natural we are drawn to it at our deepest core and probably aren’t even sure why.

I was born in late October, and was often envious of my friends who had summertime birthdays.  But despite my resistance to it, fall always seemed to run true inside of me, resonating in a way I could never quite describe.  It still does, and I think it might have something to do with the knowledge of light, darkness and depth inside my own self and the world. The need to illuminate the reality that beneath the soles of my feet there is an unfinished-ness about this world, a rawness that cannot otherwise be felt or known, and that there is some strange beauty intertwined in it all.  It is mysterious and strange and naked. Whatever it is in those leaves, wind, or that damp and dying earth, something inside me understands.

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Or maybe it’s just the smell of new school supplies or those damn pumkin spice lattes that take over the world every second of September. You never know.