The past is passed.

Screen Shot 2014-05-29 at 7.18.10 AMThe past is passed.

I’m reading a book called Hauntings by James Hollis. It’s not about ghosts, like dead people haunting you, but about ghosts of experiences haunting you. There are many words in the book that resonate with me, but 3 ideas are the most powerful. Paraphrased here: How often has our failure to show up in our lives revealed immaturity on our part, a failure to grow up, an active participation in victimhood? Wounding moments hurt, sometimes for decades, but our willing participation in those wounds perpetuates them. What new values or opportunities may appear if we stop serving the message of the haunting? Reflecting back on experiences shapes me and sometimes heal me. No knight in shining armor can do that for me, no one is going to come and save me, if I am not willing to save myself. Sure, people can help and people will help, but the hard work is mine. For me it’s about growing up. Looking at the past, using discernment to sift through what happened, why and how it impacts me or limits me now is not always easy, but in doing so I’ve found I’m able to live more fully. I’d like to look at all the good parts of me and ignore the “bad” parts. But at some point realizing that the bad parts aren’t actually bad, they are just parts of me that I’d like to change or maybe embrace or just let it be and move on. My hauntings are almost always based on fear. Sometimes a rational fear and sometimes an irrational one. I used to, and sometimes still do, start sweating bullets when I have to get my blood drawn. Why?  Well, rationally I can say it shouldn’t be a big deal, but when I think back – when I was a kid  – if any of us got sick or injured – my Mom’s “guts would start rolling” and she’d be out on the front porch puking, because we didn’t have any money to pay doctor bills or a way to get to the doctor without having to ask for help. Her anxiety about all of this and the puking and crying – THAT made me hate getting sick and pretty much made me deal with every illness, broken bone, blah, blah, blah as if it was no big deal. Nothing to see here, my leg’s falling off, but please don’t be upset Ma! Because of this and other instances related to medical issues, my fear was in overdrive. It wasn’t rational, but it was still real. I took on my Mother’s anxiety about it and eventually had to be held down to do a simple finger prick for a glucose test. Then I learned I could take a Xanax and I could tolerate the blood draw – IF I was laying down, turned my head, and I counted to 20, while they were doing whatever they were doing – which I could not speak of. I couldn’t walk through a hospital. I couldn’t think about going into a hospital. I could go to the doctor, but the mention of a blood draw would make me woozy. What did I do with that? This was no way to live, eventually I was going to need to get a blood draw and at some point visit a hospital, eventually there would be an emergency and I was going to need to be present. I needed help. I needed to take care of myself. I read somewhere that the Dalai Lama passed out once when he was having his blood drawn and started to have anxiety about blood work because of it. So each time before a blood draw he would visualize the needle going in his arm and also allow himself the luxury of passing out if he needed to. Give it up – go ahead and pass out. So, I took up the same practice, because I was having to get blood draws more frequently for a thyroid test. At first it stressed me out more, I was so worried about passing out. I also still took the Xanax. Sometimes we get stuck in a childhood memory or haunting that doesn’t allow us to let go, to face it, to grow up. So, I kept focusing on growing up, I kept facing it, kept understanding and sifting through all the memories of the instances that contributed to this childhood fear. I’d ask myself, What are you afraid of? What’s the worst that could happen? I’d remind myself, you have insurance, you’ve always paid your way, you always find a way through if you run out of money. I kept having the conversation with myself. I realized this haunting was holding me back. It took a long time to uncover it all, but in the last few months something has shifted, maybe I’m desensitized or maybe I’m willing to grow up a little more and say, I can do this and am no longer haunted and stuck in a childhood nightmare of blood and guts and dying and someone puking off the front porch. Now, I can get a blood draw without a  Xanax, sometimes.  And while I was working on this fear I realized that other fears were dropping away as well. I do feel more grown up. As if I evolved somehow, have a greater consciousness of this fear and how it haunts me and how to work with it and not against it. And at the same time work with kindness with my 10-year-old self, who still trembles at the thought of a blood draw, telling her that this fear has no place here anymore, I’m a grown up and I got this. Sometimes as children or after some experience as an adult, we make a decision to protect ourselves out of necessity, but we also need to know when that protection is now holding us back. What’s haunting you?

the opposite of survival – part TWO

Screen Shot 2014-04-23 at 7.22.17 AMSee part 1 - here

The story didn’t end there? Why? Because I was not ready for abundance – YET.

With my necklace clasped around my neck – shouting, but delicately shouting, because I was not yet ready to be shouting anything so life affirming: “I call for your abundance like an armor of ships.”  ~ Leonore Wilson

I wore it everyday. So proud. I also wore it next to my other Jeanine Payer necklace: “She looked at her own Soul with a Telescope. What seemed all irregular, she saw and showed to be beautiful Constellations: and she added to the Consciousness hidden worlds within worlds.” ~ Samuel Coleridge

I wanted abundance, there is no doubt about that, but I was still looking inward. WHY? Because I needed to make some changes to be able to BE in abundance, but I didn’t make many changes when it came to abundance. I went back to doing what I was doing. And THREE times that necklace broke. And I could say it was just shoddy workmanship, but I have other Janine Payer pieces and none have ever broken, only abundance.

Life’s metaphor for me. Abundance – kept breaking. As beautiful and horrible as it was there I was breaking abundance. I didn’t get it.

The first time the necklace broke, I was miserable. What is the meaning behind this? I thought to myself and I discovered, I was not living in abundance, I was afraid of what bad thing might happen, I was worried about worry and still trying to protect myself from being hurt, killed, or fail – old habits die hard.

I was surviving. So, I continued to look inward. Things don’t change until they change, so all I could do is keep looking. I got the necklace fixed and it broke again.

I left it broken for almost a year.

Each time it broke, I had it repaired by Jeanine Payer’s studio in San Francisco. I’d send it back to them. They’d repair it and send it back to me.

This time, I put it back on and it broke almost immediately, within minutes. This was too delicate of a subject for me. Man, what is the lesson here? What do I need to know about myself that will allow me to believe in abundance and not fear it. To live it?!  I was in a miserable job, I was not living the life I really wanted to live, I needed to change, but I was stuck.

I sent it back again and after a few weeks, it came back to me and I wore it carefully. This time, I also removed the other necklace – the looking inward necklace. I stopped wearing them together.

It’s not that I stopped looking inward, but I stopped dwelling on the looking inward. Something shifted, it always does, but it took time, took patience took me doing the work to get there, shifting my thoughts from surviving to abundance. Not standing still but GOING and DOING looking to change. Not at a frantic crazy pace, but at the pace I could do it.

Sometimes your friends push you to be a better you, like my friend pushing me to get that necklace and sometimes, most times – you have to do the work yourself to actually live what you’re pushed to do. When you’re ready. You’re ready. Don’t stop trying.

Boom. Again. A message from the universe. The necklace has not broken since.

What do you want?

Screen Shot 2014-03-26 at 9.00.08 AMWhat do you want?

You have to do things for your family, your friends, your work, your life, but What do you want?

Someone asked me once – What do you want in life? My reaction – a blank stare. I couldn’t come up with anything and me being me – I spouted off a bunch of things and while doing that I realized all of them – EVERY single one was not what I wanted, but what my work wanted, what my family would have wanted, what my mother would have wanted, what my partner wanted, what I should want and what I was doing in life to get the things THAT I DID NOT WANT! I was not living my own life, but someone else’s. I don’t know whose life I was living, but it definitely wasn’t mine.

That was a moment I’ll never forget. I had lost myself. Lost it all – in the mess of the day to day. I believe that’s why people get depressed. It’s not the only reason, but one of the reasons. Life becomes meaningless.

I’ll quote Joseph Campbell again, he’s one of my go-to guys for wisdom about getting clear on things.

“People say that what we’re all seeking is a meaning for life. I don’t think that’s what we’re really seeking. I think that what we’re seeking is an experience of being alive, so that our life experiences on the purely physical plane will have resonances within our own innermost being and reality, so that we actually feel the rapture of being alive. That’s what it’s all finally about, and that’s what these clues help us to find within ourselves.”

The clues are how you feel and the way you are behaving or the things you are doing to succeed or to sabotage yourself.

Sometimes it’s best to give up on things you should want, but don’t. It’s hard, but necessary. That moment for me was 11 years ago.

Start today. It’s just one day, but the first one in the rest of your life. It’s crazy how doors start to open when you finally decide what you really want and agree to begin that conversation with yourself.  What do you want?

february. two years time.

Screen Shot 2014-02-24 at 7.32.34 AMTwo years ago – I was fired. In FEBRUARY. Some part of me is still shocked by that, but I’m grateful. Grateful that the end was a beginning, as it always is.

A shove, over the edge, to the right direction.

Even a year after being fired, I dreamt about my old job, the people I knew there, the work I believed in. I would wake from dreams feeling terrible about myself, feeling that somehow I had failed. Consciously I knew that it was all okay and that I was going to be fine, but that still small voice in me was afraid. Afraid. Afraid that I couldn’t make it on my own and that amount of fear means only one thing to me – that I am on the right track.

It was me who dodged the bullet. I got out early. Many people who worked for that company for many, many years have now been laid off, doors have been closed – an era has ended and they too have started over. Did any of that have anything to do with me?  Sometimes a moment in time – changes everything for everyone involved.

After all of that I kept my focus on the goal – work for myself – has to be awesome – work from home – has to be awesome – work is not life – has to be awesome.

Last year I started my own business – IN FEBRUARY. And then two weeks later, my dog Wonder died – IN FEBRUARY.

What is it about February?

This year I moved into a dream home. IN FEBRUARY. We found this amazing place to live. One we couldn’t have imagined, or maybe we did imagine all along. I walk around everyday thinking – who lives here? Oh, I do.

And if you had asked me two years ago, after being fired, or last year – after starting out on my own – Would I be here in this moment today?  The answer would have been YES and NO. Yes, because I’ve always worked hard, always thought I could do it even when others thought I couldn’t. I always imagined this. But no, because who comes from places like me and makes it? Someone once told me, sometimes you have to go first. So, here I am going first – or at least trying. First to tell you that you can do it too and that is not bullshit. No bullshit. You can do it. Whatever it is you want to do. You can do it.

You’re going to get knocked down, knocked back, but you can keep getting up. You can learn the skills to make, to do it, to change your life.

There is no time to stand still, change is inevitable. This year is going to be better than ever. Imagine it exactly as you want it. It might be as beautiful as that.

2014. LOVE

Where will you be next FEBRUARY? What can you do in two years? Where will you be two years from now? Do you need help getting there? ask! GO!

What if it’s all true

Screen Shot 2014-02-17 at 8.43.04 AMWhat if it’s all true?

What if every bad thing someone has ever said about you is true? Or has some truth to it.

What if you let it in? Consider it? There is truth in all of it. Might not be my truth, or yours, but there is some truth there. The choice to believe it or dismiss it, that’s what’s up to you. I most times want to go on the defense when I hear something negative about myself, but what if I let if sink in? What harm could that do? Am I obsessive? Am I micro-manager? Can I go with the flow or do I always need a plan? Am I contrary just to be contrary?

On the flip side, what if all the good things anyone has ever said about you is also true. Am I ambitious, tenacious, smart?

That’s the balance of life. We are both – and – only we know the real truth about who we are, but everyone else sees it every day. You can hide the good or the bad, but people see it and so do you. And maybe it’s not “BAD” of “GOOD” at all. Maybe it just is. Maybe our strengths can also be weaknesses.

What if I let the comments in?

Freedom. Freedom from trying to be someone, freedom to be yourself. The good, the bad, the best. We’re all of it.

and the holidays

Screen Shot 2014-01-20 at 9.12.08 AMWhen I was small, I loved the thought of Christmas and the thought of getting gifts. We never got much and it was almost always the off brand when we did get something, but I always hoped there was something spectacular under the tree.

Some might say, I should have been thankful for what I received. But me, at 10, 12, 16, or even now at 43 – I’ve always thought we could do better, save more, get just one nice thing instead of 10 terrible things.

When I was 11 my parents left me with my two brothers – I’ve written about this before in TODD. As we approached Christmas, I began to work on this piece about Christmas, but couldn’t finish it until now. It’s not that I hold onto these memories and dwell on them, it’s more like they hold onto me.  The Holidays are hard for me, but not as hard as they used to be. Instead of avoiding the memories, I now embrace them in this way or that and they are only a part of the story I have lived.  They don’t rule my life, they don’t define me now, but they are a reflection of my experiences and I can’t help but think about them from time to time.

~

Mom calls once a week and talks to Bobby and Johnny, I sometimes talk to her and sometimes I don’t get a turn.  When I do talk to her, I don’t know what to say. I just listen to her breathe on the phone. I wish she were home and I want to tell her that, but I don’t know how to make the words come out of my mouth.  She sounds happier being away, she laughs, she’s fishing, going to the flea market and visiting with people and Dad is working. I like her to be happy. So, I don’t tell her anything about me or how I’m feeling, because I don’t know.

It’s a few weeks before Christmas and I’ve long stopped wishing for something spectacular under the tree – that’s just not how it works – we don’t have the money. So, I hope for snow and trips to the library and good TV shows that I’m allowed to watch.

Mom is on the other end of the phone and she says, “We got you something you’ve always wanted for Christmas. You’ll love it. We’re sending it in a box with some other things and it will get there right before Christmas.” As I look back today, I wonder what I thought she was sending. Love? Safety? Security? What had I always wanted? That’s what I needed, but I couldn’t say it. I didn’t know how and back then – I didn’t know that’s what I wanted.

I say – “Wow! I can’t wait until it gets here!”

A week or more pass and Johnny and Bobby have decided they will get a Christmas tree, but not put it in the living room where we usually have it when Mom is here, but they will put it in Mom and Dad’s bedroom, which they have turned into the living room and the old living room is now the sitting room. Looking back, none of us belonged in that life, I wanted to be spectacular and they wanted a sitting room. We were made for better times and things.

We tromp through the snow and the woods to find the tallest tree that will fit in the house and they chop it down – because they love to chop things, kick things, build things, fix things. They drag it back to the house and get it into the stand and decorate. I don’t like decorating, because whatever I put on the tree is not right and not in the right place – according to them. So, eventually I give up and sit on the couch. I eat some chewy Christmas candy left over from last year. They string the lights, put ornaments on, throw tinsel all over and then decide it is time to decorate the GIANT pine tree outside.

The tree outside is so tall that I cannot see the top when I look up, I have to go out into the yard to see the top. I warn them about climbing that tree. “Remember Johnny – how you broke your arms climbing the tree across the street. Mom says don’t climb trees.” They laugh as if I’m crazy and get a ladder and a big mess of lights and go out into the yard. The way Mom tells the story about Johnny’s fall is: “You were in the bathtub and I had to get you out fast because someone ran up to the door and said Johnny was hurt. So I pulled you out and told you get dry and dressed and ran to the front door. When I got there – I saw his arms and they were all crooked. And I took a deep breath and said someone run and get Ardis and see if she can drive us to the hospital. And then Johnny said “I’m sorry Mom.” That’s all he said. That’s it. Broken arms and all and he said he was sorry. He didn’t cry one tear when they set them back in place. He was so brave.”  All I remember was I had wet hair and was running a comb through it and I peeked out at Johnny and his arms were all twisted around, his wrists going in the wrong direction. I felt light-headed and sat down and combed my hair some more. He came home with casts up to the elbow on each arm and laid on the couch for a week or more and someone had to help him pee. I’m glad it wasn’t me. That’s how I tell the story.

They work for hours on that tree making sure every bulb is in the right place and when they are finished it’s the best Christmas tree I’ve ever seen in person. Big red, green and blue bulbs light up and shine bright. We laugh and it’s fun being out with these guys in the snow putting up Christmas lights, even though I’m only watching. I would like to be a dare-devil and climb that tree, but there is no way I want to break my arms so I’m not doing it.

A few days later, when I get home from school Bobby and Johnny are busy doing something, wrapping something and laughing. It’s the last day of school before Christmas and I am home now for the week, it’s Wednesday and I only have to wait two days until Christmas, but really only one day to open presents – on Christmas Eve. That tradition started because my Dad used to be with his other family on Christmas day. The one he was married to and not us and that is an entirely different story for another time. I’m happy to be off school, but bored because I know I’ll be listening to a whole lot of Billy Joel and Foreigner on my Dad’s 8-track player that is now in the sitting room. These guys listen to it non-stop, so loud that I can’t watch TV.

They tell me “Stay out of here, we’re wrapping Christmas presents from Mom and Dad.” Laughing and laughing, rustling paper, I watch a rerun of Brady Bunch and there’s a small part of me that is excited and thinks maybe, just maybe this year something spectacular is going to be under that tree.

They come out of the living room and say, “You can take a look now.” I don’t care anymore, but that small part of me that hopes for something special goes to take a look. The tree is full underneath with what looks like 30 or more presents all wrapped with bows and some even have a ribbon around them. There is one giant box in the back corner of the tree, almost behind it.

Bobby says “That one is for you.”
I smile and say “Really? What it is it?”
They laugh “Stupid, we aren’t going to tell you what it is, go pick it up and shake it.”
“I don’t want to.” I say.
“C’mon just try it.” I walk around and it is so heavy I can barely lift it. “What is it?”
“Guess.” I’m really not into this whole thing of guessing. I’m never right, so I don’t guess and sit on the couch again.
They laugh and say “Don’t you wonder what it is?”
“It’s heavy.” I say
“What could be so heavy?” Bobby yells grinning ear to ear.
“I don’t know, maybe it’s a bowling ball?”
“You don’t even like bowling.” Johnny says.
I can’t figure it out.

I’m excited, but I’m not telling anyone, so I sit on the couch and wonder and wonder.

On Christmas Eve, Johnny says “Let’s open presents on Christmas morning like normal people.” Bobby says “Yeah, that’s what normal people do.” I do not want to do this so I grumble around and get mad and punch the couch, but I know they are not going to change their minds. So, we watch some TV and drink soda, eat candy and eventually I fall asleep on the couch.

When I wake up, I don’t really want to open presents but Bobby and Johnny are so excited. They say “You have to wait and open the big one last!”
“Can’t I open it first?”
“No, we’re saving the best for last, Mom said.”
“Mom’s not here, so who cares.” I fire back.
“We’ll tell.”
“Fine.”
We open socks and underwear and I open a new nightgown and some other things that don’t matter. There is wrapping paper everywhere, all over the living room. Bobby brings me the big box. My stomach flutters as I peel back the paper and pull back the tape on the top of the box.

I close my eyes and open the box, it’s full of packing peanuts. I scoop handfuls out and onto the floor and then I see something. Gray and dark, so I dig on and I see more of something gray and dark and I stop and tears flow and flow and flow. I scoot back from the box and cry. “ROCKS!” I scream “They sent me rocks?”  I can see on their faces – they realize – they were playing a joke –but I do not think this is a joke and it is not funny.

“Amy, Amy, it’s okay, really there is a present in there, we just thought it would be funny to put rocks in there. There really is a present in there Amy, seriously.” I scoot back further. “I don’t want it. I don’t care. You are the meanest people I have ever known” I sob, sniffing snot back.

“Amy, really, look, it’s something you’ve always wanted it. Look Amy.” they plead.

I look and they have a brown plastic box in their hands. I rip it out of their hands and open it. It’s a silver watch with digital time – something I have always wanted.  I pull it out of the box, it has a stretchy metal band on it. I pull back the band and slide it over my wrist. It feels cheap on my arm, like a play toy. I pull it off and throw it down. “I don’t want it. It’s like everything else, cheap. They probably got it at a flea market.”

I put some jeans on, pull on a sweatshirt, two pairs of socks and my boots. Put my coat on, slam the door and walk to the woods where everything is quiet. In the middle of the trees and snow – I stand and cry again, the cold feels good on my hot wet face.

~

While my brothers are villains in this story and Todd, I adored them and loathed them.  They were kids themselves trying to take care of me in the ways they new how, like teenage boys.