Category Archives: Grace

Not Knowing Where to Start

This is one of those posts, kind and gentle reader, that is at this moment as much of a mystery to me as it is to you. All day I have been thinking about what I wanted to tell you, what I had to say, to share, without being sure exactly what I would write. There is a big shift happening in my life right now but it’s not entirely clear to me how this is going to work out so I haven’t formed a neat and tidy way of communicating it. All I know for sure is that I want to tell you the truth.

I finally had an appointment with my new doctor. I have been struggling with fatigue for the past few years, have hypothyroidism and a family history of diabetes, (all kinds, on both sides), am most likely perimenopausal, and don’t get enough rest. I am a highly functioning food addict who has struggled with disordered eating for 30+ years, having gained, lost, and regained the same 20 pounds at least that many times. I want to be free of it, this struggle and dis-ease. I want to be strong, healthy, and whole, with the energy and stamina necessary to do the work I long to do, to live a full life.

Things have to to change. A series of unfortunate incidents with my previous doctors made me realize that I wasn’t being cared for as well as I should be, that I needed to seek out a new perspective, someone who would view me as a whole person (not just a body) and consider all the potential healing modalities available. I chose someone who practices Integrative Medicine, which according to her, “evaluates the patient as a whole. It does not view the patient as a chronic disease, an illness, a list of medications, or a recent hospitalization–but rather as a complex being made up of physical, mental/emotional, and spiritual parts all interdependent and woven together. All of these elements are respectfully addressed in developing strategies to treat illness and more aggressively prevent disease.” Sounds great, doesn’t it?

It was good. But, we have some work to do. I have something to teach her about dealing with people who have a history of dis-ordered eating and self-loathing. For starters: don’t call them obese, no matter what the BMI chart says. And for heaven’s sake, don’t call them obese repeatedly. Call them curvy, solid, voluptuous, thick, full, well-rounded, sturdy, slightly heavier than optimal, weighted down–but don’t call them obese.

Brave Belly

I get it. I need to lose some weight. It’s the same weight I’ve been losing and gaining for years. I already knew that. I get it. It’s there, in part, because I am an incredibly sensitive and porous person, without natural thick skin or any other kind of protective barrier between myself and the energy of my environment, the suffering of every person I encounter, the meanness and brutality of life. I am easily hurt, and I eat my feelings. This in turn makes me bigger, more stable and substantial, heavier, harder to knock down, safer, calmer (at least in theory).

What she said hurt me. I’m pretty sure she thought I was confused about my situation, didn’t realize it was serious, and that this “truth” would motivate me to change. In reality, it sent me into a shame spiral. Thank goodness that same afternoon I was leaving for a retreat with Susan Piver, had a safe, supportive space to go in which to process what she’d said. I truly believe that without my practices, the support and wisdom I have access to, she would have only made things worse with that one word. I’m hoping the next time we meet, I can effectively and kindly communicate this to her so that she is better able to help the next person like me, a person who might not have the support, the tools I do to process and cope.

whole

For now, I get back to the work of educating myself. Along with Susan Piver, her support and wisdom and our shared practice, I am so grateful for the work and friendship of Rachel Cole. Both of these amazing women, (along with such writers and healers as Geneen Roth and Tara Brach), remind me to always approach myself, my struggles, with gentleness, to give myself space and compassion. In this way I can face this transition, which is going to be so difficult, with wisdom and lovingkindness–because this is so much more about loving myself than about what I do or don’t eat.

I can also count on the people in my life who love me to support me, encourage and help me, to make me smile, to laugh. Like my trainer, who after hearing what my doctor had said was extra encouraging to me when we worked out, telling me much more often than normal what a great job I was doing, (seriously, it was adorable). And my husband, who told me “we’ll figure this out, you’ll know what to do, and I’ll help you,” who loves me, is more concerned with the size of my heart and how much I love him back than a set of numbers anyway, who won’t judge me when I eat a cinnamon roll the size of my head. And my courage circle and other friends who reminded me of how much I am loved, of my real value, my truth worth. And my friends who gave me recommendations when I asked them for a kind and gentle therapist who works with dis-ordered eaters.

I can find and accept help, but more importantly I can trust myself.

Full Snow Moon

From Jamie’s post: “Sometimes we bury our dreams and desires deep within, as though hiding them under layers and layers of snow. Protecting them. Protecting ourselves. Waiting until the time is right for them to grow. Now is the time to tune into your heart, to let your intuition and your dreamboard express and reveal the dreams that are hidden inside. Let the creative process take you below the surface, beneath the layers of safety and protection, guiding you to the innermost dreams sparkling in your soul.”

The Full Snow Moon asks: “What desires lie deep within?”

fullsnowmoon2013

Ganesha, lord of beginnings,
remover of obstacles,
master of intellect and wisdom.
The elephant is a symbol of luck, fortune and protection,
and thought to be a blessing to new projects,
able to clear obstacles from your path.
An elephant represents strength, honor, stability, and patience,
and specifically the power of the feminine,
a guardian and protector.

Move with ease, with grace
and a thirst for knowledge, understanding.
Everything’s in reach.
Your garden, your earth, your heart, your deepest longing.
The art of loving, of living
lies in a fine mingling of letting go
and holding on.

Where the spirit leads the feet will follow.
Down distant paths for unmapped miles.
Transformation, as from a caterpillar to butterfly.
A mandala made of dreams and breath and dirt.
Heads forget but hearts remember.
The art of living, of loving knows no bounds.

Kaun Yin, the Bodhisattva of compassion.
She who hears the cries of the world.
She holds a lotus flower, the innate purity of Buddha nature.
She holds a sutra, the enlightened wisdom of the Dharma.
She holds a mala, the vow of the Bodhisattva to save all beings from suffering.
She holds me.

Whole life, whole health.
Community is our heritage–
being with ourselves,
practicing with friends.
Noticing the quintessential nature of things, their origins,
in memory, meditation, emotion, and pure delight.

Sanctuary in practice and place,
space for rest and calm, refuge.
Stay, relax, let go, surrender.
I make a vow, a commitment to dedicate my life
to keeping my heart and mind open,
and to nurturing my compassion
with the longing to ease the suffering of the world.


This video is Deva Premal chanting the Ganesha mantra, intended to remove obstacles. May it make way for a new beginning for all of us, a fresh start in which suffering is eased and love grows in its place.

Breathe In the Longing, Breathe Out the Wish

lastretreat

Breathe in the wish, the longing to take away the suffering; breathe out the wish to send comfort and happiness. ~Pema Chödrön

I am allowing myself space on this retreat. As I mentioned yesterday, I dropped the plan, and am instead seeing how things might naturally arise. There is wisdom, clarity that will emerge if you allow it room and time. I am trusting in this.

Today I was very aware of suffering, in the world and in myself. I was touched by the suffering of others, those dealing with illness, death, loss, grief, self-hatred, fear, abuse. I was softened by my own suffering as well, so similar, so much the same. I gently contemplated my regrets, my failures, the ways I’ve lived in the shadows, stayed hidden away and closed off this past year.

Rather than beating yourself up, use your own stuckness as a stepping stone to understanding what people are up against all over the world.

Breathe in for all of us and breathe out for all of us.

Use what seems like poison as medicine. Use your personal suffering as the path to compassion for all beings. ~Pema Chödrön

I practiced Tonglen for all of us. In a video I watched, Pema Chödrön talked about how in Tonglen, we “relax into the outbreath,” and how the practice is about sending space, relief and comfort and ease, so that those who are suffering will know that their hearts and minds are indeed big enough to accommodate their discomfort, their fear, their despair, their anger, their physical or emotional anguish.

And today there was also so much joy and gratitude. I experienced compassion and comfort through the connections I’ve made in the past year, long conversations about important things, short exchanges that make me smile so big my face hurts from it, sharing our experiences, cheering each other on. So many brilliant and beautiful women who offer their support, wisdom, kindness, strength, and good humor, who fill my life with so much grace and laughter.

And later into the snow on a walk with my little family, I feel the cold air as I draw it into my lungs, warm it and release it. I feel the strength of my lungs and legs, the willingness of my whole body, my whole self to move. I revel in the company of my three boys, the beauty of the world around us, and wonder at my luck.

I live in a place where every year someone decorates a few of the trees along the trail. I live in a world where people open their hearts to each other, sharing our stories and our pain, a world where people offer each other support and help. A world where every day our hearts are broken, and yet once they are, we see that there is room for all of it, the suffering and the joy, that there is so much to love, to live for.

I’m so glad you are here with me, kind and gentle reader. Life is tender and terrible, beautiful and brutal–may we keep our hearts open to all of it, may we know that they are big enough to hold all of it.

Three Truths and One Wish

1. Truth: Letting go of something you love is difficult, one of the hardest things. But, I will survive it. I have done this before, watched someone I love die, been separated even though the thing we both wanted the most was to stay together always, and I am still alive, even without them, even with no guarantee I will ever see them again, heart broken but still bound, tethered to an invisible but tangible love.

2. Truth: I can’t change the facts, but I determine how I respond. It’s staying dark later in the mornings now, that’s a fact of nature. This morning, so dark that I’d need to wear a headlamp for our walk, I was feeling grumpy, resistant, wishing away the dark. And yet, a few blocks from our house I looked up at the still dark night morning sky and saw stars. I thought about how on the way back, I’d see the sunrise, how I was taking this walk with two of my dogs. Instead of being cranky that it was dark and cold and early, things I can’t change, I noticed. I felt gratitude, thankful for the grace of one more morning to be awake and alive and together. I can’t alter nature, can’t keep Dexter from dying no matter what I do or how I feel about it, so instead of resisting or wishing things were different, I choose to open my heart to all of it, to be fully present and alive, wakeful and wise and compassionate.

3. Truth: It is okay. As I am surviving this loss, as it washes over me, passes through me, there will be messy moments. I will feel panic and cry in public. I will get angry and fall into despair. I will blame and accuse and rant and regret. I will wish and hope for things to be different. I will vow to never love again. I will hold my grief like it were a physical thing, with warm breath and sharp teeth. I will numb out, sleep and eat too much, say I’m okay, insist on it when I am anything but alright. This is the way love goes, the way the physical form where we focus our love leaves us. There is nothing to be done but to surrender, to be wounded. Eventually there will be another dog, and I’ll do the same thing again–open my heart knowing full well it will be broken. This is the way love goes. It is what it is, and this is workable.

One wish: My single wish underneath all my other wishes right now is that Dexter has an easy death. But, I also wish that those of us in this process of letting go feel some peace, some relief, and have faith in our innate wisdom and kindness and strength, being certain that we’ll know what to do and that whatever arises, it’s all workable.

Wishcasting Wednesday

Who do you wish to give (or send) a hug?

All the vets, techs, office staff, lab technicians, etc. who helped care for Dexter, and also for Obi and Sam. May they continue to have patience and practice kindness. May their skill continue to grow and manifest.

Susan Piver, for the support she provides, to my practice and to my tender, sad heart, when she is aware of it and even when she’s not. May she continue to be confident and brave, an open-hearted warrior, a kind-hearted and wise teacher.

All the people who’ve offered their good wishes and support as we navigate whatever is going on with Dexter. My they continue to keep their hearts open and to offer help where needed.

My mom, dad, brother, and nieces, my family far away, because living 1200 miles away means I can never do this as much as I’d like to. May they be happy and safe.

The people who first rescued my dogs and cared for them until they could come home to me. May they be rescued, cared for and loved in equal measure.

The women who have helped me believe I can write, who helped me to claim my life as a writer: Cynthia Morris, Anne Lamott, Laurie Wagner, Andrea Scher, Susannah Conway, Natalie Goldberg, Julia Cameron, Cheryl Strayed, Susan Piver (yes, her again), Geneen Roth, Patti Digh, Jennifer Louden, Jamie Ridler, Cheri Huber, Tara Brach, my WILD writing group, my Artist’s Way group (with an extra big hug for Joyce, our facilitator), and so many more. May these women continue to tell the truth, to shine their light so I can see my way through the dark.

Anyone waiting for biopsy results, or other news that has the potential to change their life, break their hearts. May they be well.

Anyone who thinks they aren’t enough, who believes they have to earn love, who is smashing themselves to bits. May they know love, be filled with it, flooded, overwhelmed, and may they know that they are basically, fundamentally good, wise, kind, and powerful, and nothing can change that.

Anyone trapped in the confusion of their own thoughts and feelings, caught in a sense of being a victim of their life, feeling powerless, helpless, or cheated, feeling angry and hurt. May they wake up, become aware of their ability to choose, to let go of judgement, blame, and suffering. May whatever trauma is weighing them down quickly and easily dissolve.

Anyone suffering from addiction, stuck in habitual patterns and discursive, obsessive thinking that is poisoning them, their mind/heart and their body, their environment and those others in it. May they be released, set free, and may the poison turn to medicine.

Anyone who is convinced of complete despair, who is trapped, stuck, caught in darkness and depression. May they see the light and know joy.

G is for Grace

Grace is a word, an idea, a state of being that has been with me for awhile now. About six months ago, I was asking myself “What is my heart hungry for, what does it crave?” and I got an answer, one morning in that moment between asleep and awake: grace.

I am reminded of that moment today, and I also remember all the times since then that grace has found me, revealed itself, nudged it’s cold wet nose into the palm of my hand, or bloomed so big there was no way I could ignore it.

Gratitude Friday

“Life is weird. Hard. Also beautiful.”
~Estrella Azul (41 6-Word Days).

On Friday’s, I do a “Gratitude Friday” post that’s a mash-up of Joy Jam (“Join us to radiate the energy of gratitude, thankfulness and celebration of everything that gave us joy this week. Together we will help send positive energy out into the world”) and The Little Bliss List (“Every Friday, the Little Bliss List provides a chance for us to celebrate the little things that brought us hope and happiness this week. I do believe when we focus on the sweet stuff of life, the sweet stuff multiplies. And by sharing those small gifts in our lives, we help others notice the gifts in theirs”).

This week was a rough one for me, so concentrating on what’s been good is especially important.

The List

1. Nice cops. On my way to my mother-in-law’s this morning, to be there with her when our beloved Rocky died (and to be with him), I got pulled over for speeding in a school zone. It would have been even nicer if he’d just let me go with a warning after hearing where I was headed, but he was nice enough to give me a bit of a break. And who knows, maybe the Universe was taking care of me too, keeping me from something much worse by delaying me for ten minutes? I haven’t had a speeding ticket in over 20 years, and that one was the first and only until now, so there’s that to be grateful for too.

2. Good dogs who are no longer in pain. I was so lucky to have known, loved and been loved by Obi and Rocky, and we are so lucky that there’s a group of vets like those that work with Home to Heaven who can come to help when our dogs are just too sick and in too much pain to go on suffering. Both Obi and Rocky went peacefully and at home where they were comfortable, surrounded by those who loved them most. I am grateful for that.

obi and rocky, the very last time they were together

3. Spring in bloom. This week I’ve seen bright yellow forsythia and daffodils, and the crabapple and cherry trees are also in bloom.

4. I have the best husband. He brought me back a sprig of blooms this morning from his walk with the dogs, and left them for me with a love note, because he knew I was going to have a tough morning, and because he’s just that good and kind.

5. Vegetarian corn dogs and organic tater tots with lots of ketchup. All of the yum with none of the yuck or guilt.

6. Birds singing at dawn. This is one of my favorite things about Spring.

7. The Dalai Lama running on a treadmill. I saw this in a Russian documentary “Sunrise/Sunset” on Gaiam TV, and this clip includes the scene, towards the end. He’s shuffling more than running, and he’s wearing a white cotton tank top, with a large, fluffy pink bath towel belted around his waist. Too cute. I also realized as I was watching this film that when the Dalai Lama is starting to giggle, but still talking, he sounds kind of like Yoda. So cute, he is.

8. Two healthy, happy dogs. I know this was on my list last week, but it is worth repeating.
9. Danielle Ate The Sandwich. I am going with some dear friends to watch her play and sing tonight. A happy end to a hard, sad day.

10. I get to finally meet Roxie!!!