Greeting Each New Day

Wow. I’ve been on a long, winding road of recovery and therapies. Honestly, I never knew very much about brain aneurysms before. Now I do. I’m doing really well. Therapies and therapists have mostly given me back a functioning body. Exhaustion, wobbly balance, a bit of confusion and an unsure memory are still my daily companions, but my arms and legs work!!

I struggle most with impatience and sorrow. I have “lost” so much time in my life. There are things I don’t remember. Even the moments that I know were filled with love and joy…some of them are just gone.

I reached a point where the gratitude of waking up in the morning in my own home and bed, with my sweet husband by my side was tempered with a lingering sadness. “Things” were different and in this case I didn’t feel like different was good. So, I asked Bruce to build me a small table that I could use as a personal “alter”. I draped it with the beautiful silk scarf from the 1,000 Goddess Gathering (information about the scarf from 1000 Goddess Gathering) (Gathering Information) Kwan Yin, the “Goddess of Mercy, One Who Perceives the Sounds of the World” silently keeps watch near by.

On my alter I have a gathering of things of personal and spiritual importance, and a hand drawn, framed picture I did with all the “prayers and blessings”, quotes and poems that have deep meaning to me…..things that help me focus on what matters most to me. I go through my own ritual in the morning that helps to set the tone of my day by focusing on blessings I have already received and reminders of how to walk gently, with humility and compassion through the day. After only a few days even my husband noticed a difference: he said I seemed less anxious, more calm/at peace, open and hopeful.

I haven’t even been able to do a blog post for the past two weeks as my emotions and fears are being so out-spoken. Here I am now, putting out there a very personal post about the spiritual side of me. It has changed me. And I am curious to know if others, you, do a morning routine to help set the course of the day. For me this is different from yoga, which also has a very healing effect on my mind and body. What I am talking about goes to a different place in my being.

Before I get out bed I give thanks: “with a grateful heart I give thanks for another day of loving.”

At my little alter I begin with some breaths. I shake my beautiful raku rattle with a butterfly on it. Lots of symbolism in butterflies and rattles are used in many prayer/spiritual circles to send blessings, prayers on their way. So I breath deeply and shake my little butterfly rattle. It was a tender, thoughtful birthday gift from my husband and children, and I just love it!

rattle

 

I begin with some of my favorite poems and thoughts:

Two poems from John O’Donohue:

May I rest in the silent moments, reach out to share joy and laughter. May I  pause in the moment to see and experience wonder. In this moment and the next, may I remember to give and accept love, to allow and rest in stillness.

May the nourishment of the earth be mine. May the clarity of light be mine. May the flowing fluency of the ocean be mine. May the protections of the ancestor’s be mine. And so, may a slow wind work the words of love around me, an invisible cloak to mind my life.

Then I move into the words of the Navajo Blessing Way prayer: ( here: Navajo Blessing Way) I change out the nouns, sentiments as I am moved to so so.

And then I do the Metta Prayer, sometimes referred to as The Loving Kindness prayer: it includes saying the prayer for yourself as well as others who touch your life.

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And this: “Hamsa”

Let no sadness come to this heart. Let no trouble come to these arms. Let no conflict come to these eyes. Let my soul be filled with the blessings of joy and peace.”

There are a few more words, prayers/poems I say, sending love and kindness out to others and the world.

I quietly set intentions for the day :  charity, sharing, taking care of others. I breathe deeply , letting go of any feelings of anger, resentment, disappointment, jealousy, fear.

Breathing in I calm my body. Breathing out I smile. Dwelling in the present moment, I know this is a wonderful moment.” Thich Nhat Hanh

Sometimes I do a few yoga poses or dance! to ground myself.

This is obviously all very personal and relevant to me, but perhaps not you. That’s okay.

This has been important to me on this path of healing and wellness….I am reminded about the many blessings I receive daily and reminded to see myself and others in a gentle light.

I will add this: while I would never wish this on anyone as it has been scary and difficult, I do understand that I have grown in ways I would not have otherwise grown. By necessity and peace of mind I have had to make friends/peace with my own pain/suffering, sadness, fears, loss and grief. I have learned to be open to being cared for and taken care of instead of being the one to do those things.  I have practiced over and over asking for what I need and not feeling like I am being a pest or bothersome. I have had to ask for help in tending to personal care and learn that it is neither embarrassing to ask for help, nor is it a failing or weakness. It just is. I have had to let go of wanting things to be a certain way, because they are not going to be. The house doesn’t always get cleaned up the way I want, but it is clean. The dishes and laundry get done and the floor gets swept, mopped and vacuumed. I have to graciously refrain from some things (driving, showering when no one is home, using the stars, going outside when no one is home) for safety reasons and abide by those things with a measure of gratitude rather than frustration  because I know they are in place because of love and concern over my safety and well being.

With a sense of awe and gratitude I have become very aware of the depth of the love and care friends and family hold for me. And my doctor who has made house calls to care for me! They are the “village” it is taking to heal me. ( Like: “It takes a village to raise a child.”) They are the friends and family who drive me places and to appointments, sit with me at home while Bruce works, plant my vegetable garden, take the cat to the vet, bring food, send story tapes over, play board games, set up baking days with me, come to my home to do yoga and embodiment with me, go grocery shopping for me, rub my feet, clip my toenails, scratch my back, help me in and out of twisted shirts and dresses, tie my shoes, call to ask if I’m okay in this heat, tend to me, asked and unasked, in a hundred ways, with full hearts and joyful smiles . They dry my tears and give me hugs. I am humbled. I take none of this for granted. I am overwhelmed and over flowing with love and kindness.

So, as each new day rises up and my sleepy eyes open I give deep thanks for not only medical care, therapists and help around the house, but for being loved. Surely, it is a gift and a blessing to be loved to the depth I experience.  And that is why I also include a prayer of gratitude for being given another day of loving. I get to give love back!!

Thank you sweet family and friends, for supporting me on this journey with so much love and tenderness. I am blessed to sit in front of my alter and reflect on all of this.

That Which Is Timeless

First of all, salutations to all mothers and mother figures and women with the heart of a mother. Today is the day someone decided we should make sure to appreciate these women in our lives…..but I hope your love and respect for these women shines upon them every day.

mom and me mother's day

My mom holding me.

Today as I look out the window I see Nature is cloaked in chartreuse, the first color of spring. Although I have music on in the background I can hear the bird song. In these observations comes the gentle reminder of being grateful. Sometimes we have to make a conscious effort to remember the many blessings in our lives. Even the blessings that aren’t quite blessings yet because we are struggling with accepting them a little bit. Sometimes the reminder is a full on encounter as in the chartreuse colors. I couldn’t ignore it if I tried.

I have spent many hours and days in the company of gratitude—-recovering/healing seems  with brighter with the light of gratitude shining on it. It is a soft glow, but it is enough to wake up the over active monkey mind that sometimes puts blinders on so that the obvious is not always seen. In coming into these memories we have and apply the filters of  gratitude, prayer and blessings. We may experience a very tender softness in the perhaps quiet moments of an awareness of these. A space of renewal and comfort. We may feel the gentle rhythmic beating of our heart and be reminded that our body blesses us by beating regularly with no reminders from us. We are taken care of by a whisper quiet process with no extra thought on our part. In these moments we take a deep breathe and experience the gratitude we have for these things. In these pauses of gratitude we may also find ourselves coming into awareness of other things which bring joy, blessings, gratitude, mystery to our lives.

Who would think that recovering from and aneurysm would bring so many of these pauses of awareness? But here they are, sitting with me. There are numerous times during the day, and even at night in dreams, where this awareness whispers to me. Just softly enough that I have to pay attention and focus on what message I am receiving. Within this, it comes to me that this awareness is not the end of the message. The rest of the message is to go further. It whispers “Stop and taking a deep breath, open your heart up, see that the whole planet, and everything on it, is holy.”  The message gives voice to the desire that wants to bring the awareness of these beautiful reminders to everyone I  meet. In  making and taking the time to find or return to this soft whispering regularly, I  remember this is life fulfilling its promise to me. The mystery of grace is heard in these quieter moments.

In the quiet of sitting here now and letting the memories bubble up I think of my mom. I can hear her voice and see her beautiful auburn hair and remember how I loved to brush it for her. Like all of us, she had joys and sorrows. Sometimes the sorrows spilled out and her hurt became ours too. Today I reflect on what it has been like for me to be a mother, and as I honor who my children are, I find myself thinking of my mom and believing she knew my love for her as I knew her love for me. Perhaps not always patient or perfect, but full none the less.

So, on this mothers day I will make time and space in my day for the quiet and listen. And perhaps this will give birth to a stronger sense of community and our interconnected-ness to each other and the planet. Blessings are all around us, and if in the pause we can see, feel and acknowledge them, perhaps our own bubble of life will be brighter, softer and lighter. Perhaps we can rejoice in the understanding that we are not alone, that we matter just as other person matters. Maybe we will find a new gentleness that allows us to open our hands up in friendship, care and concern.

In my quiet times of healing I do a lot of thinking. I am here because a “medical village” cared for and about me. (As in “It takes a village to raise a child.”) I was not ignored, not left alone, not cared about. I was cradled in the deep love of family and friends. I was treated, bathed, fed, provided for, by a legion of people I didn’t know.

And yes, there are times I am impatient with the slowness, or what seems to me to be slow recovery. Yet, even on the most frustrating days, in those moments of pause I am reminded that there is so much to be grateful for and to ask for the peace of heart and grace to always have a sense of these blessings and to remember that I too can be open to hearing and sensing the needs of others and in reaching out through my own experiences, I will become one of the builders of community. And like my recovery, I may not always have clear sight of the community that is being created, but if I can remember to pause to hear the softer whispering, I will understand that connecting to others in big or small ways, is community building and it matters.

Gratitude is timeless. It is eternal and everlasting. It’s always there, but sometimes we have to be nudged into opening the door for it and to welcome it in to our lives and make room for it. The more we acknowledge it and make room for it, the more often it will come around. And just like the chartreuse, the first color of spring, we will welcome gratitude with open arms and generously share it with others in the bonds of community.

Snorkeling

Here I am in the 8th month of recovery from a ruptured aneurysm. Many months ago my family and doctors saw me with only a very flat affect. Doctors and therapists were always careful to state that there was no way of knowing if this lack of emotion would remain or fade.  To my loved ones it seemed a part of me had disappeared. There was no connection to others, not even my family. Survival mode was in full swing. That was all I was able to do: survive.

I’m happy to share that that flat affect has faded and now the concern shifts to my being less inhibited!!! My family seems to think that now I am quite entertaining!

I am not allowed to drive so my sweet husband has the job of driving me to all my various doctor and therapist appointments. I am not sure what happens, but when I ride in a car the world becomes so entertaining to me. Sometimes even down right funny. The smallest thing—-seen, read, witnessed, seems to set off my funny bone and the almost uncontrollable giggling begins. The kind of giggling where it becomes difficult to catch my breath. For awhile my husband mumbled “What is so funny?” Now he simply states “Here we go again.” One time as he was calmly ignoring me and focused on driving, a new source of lightheartedness struck me.  “DO you know what I’m doing?” I asked  with quite a bit of excitement. With a side ways glance he cautiously ventured, “What?”

Before I could even respond another wave of deep laughter wriggled through my body. Tears formed. It took a few minutes before I was able to blurt out “SNORKELING!!!” The expression on his face changed from minor annoyance at the giggling, to one of confusion….”Snorkeling?” he queried. In a car in the middle of winter in New York state, snorkeling seemed a nonsensical topic. I think he may have decided to ignore me again for a few minutes which allowed me to try to gain control of the humor that had taken over my brain. After a big breath and long sigh I innocently asked “What is it when you put a snort together with a chortle?” This of course caused me to again loose control all over again. The poor man had no choice but to simply continue focusing on driving. Occasionally he would glance at me sideways.

It took several minutes for me to pull myself together. Cautiously he glanced over to me. “You get ‘snorkeling’ of course!!” I exclaimed with an immense sense of self satisfaction. What made perfect, and hilarious sense to me seemed to fluster my poor husband. He may have muttered “Oh God.”

By the time we arrived at the physical therapist’s I had found the where with all to control myself. Wiping a tear or two I went in for my appointment.

I know this is really inside humor, but now “snorkeling” is an accepted behavior in our family. Moments of uncontrollable humor that take over the mind and body leaving others dazed and confused. “Snorkeling”.

My birthday followed a few months later and I was handed a gift that was an odd shape and weight.

The initial tearing of wrapping paper revealed no clues but did heighten the curiosity. Finally, success! I was holding a SNORKEL! I bet you can imagine my response!!! What a perfect gift!!!For me it meant first and foremost that I was loved deeply. Even in my wounded state of being, the ups , no matter what they consisted of, were met with gratitude. “Snorkeling ” as defined above made no sense to anyone but me, yet my family embraced and even actively incorporated it into our familial life. Coming from a dark and scary place of not knowing what the extent of my recovering would ultimately be, “snorkeling” seemed fairly promising to them!! And to me!!

snorkel2

 Birthday gift: snorkel!

They Have Enough Love

A few years back and posted on a previous blog I wrote about an article in Process Theology Here is the link to that entry: What kind of food….

I woke up in the middle of the night last night and starting thinking about what I was going to write about for today’s post. I had been thinking about a letter my son wrote to me during the touch and go days at the beginning of my aneurysm odyssey.

 

As I recuperate there is seemingly endless time to contemplate all kinds of things. At times these thoughts rest softly on remembering and thinking about significant people in my life. People who molded and shaped the pudgy infant and toddler edges into the more defined softer shape of an emerging “adult”. People who guided me, picked me up, looked me in the eye, believed in me. In the above article there is reference to how the people who “fed” me the “food” of their love and care allowed me to grow into the adult person I was to become. I am the product of the “food” I was “fed”.

As I moved into adulthood I married and had children. As my children grew the reality of them moving away from home for college set in. Sharing feelings about this with friends getting ready for the same, we all knew we would miss our children deeply. On occasion one friend or another would express how hard it was, for the “selfish” reason of missing their child, to worry and concern about how their child would fare without the watchful eyes of parents. I would try to express that yes, I would miss them, but I also believed in the young adults who were ready for this part of life. I believed my husband and I had raised our children in ways that had prepared them well for this chapter in their lives. The “selfish sadness” I did have was tempered by excitement for them, confidence in them, and curiosity as to what the future would gift to them.

So here we are, a couple of decades later. Children grown, successfully educated and employed, living their own lives in other cities and towns. Parental pride is an understatement. I am in awe of who these two adults are and what they offer to our world and to others.

Then, world seemingly crashed around us when I experienced a ruptured aneurysm and many things became not only unknown, but also uncertain. My family: husband and children, as well as siblings and extended family, found themselves in the precarious and sometimes dark space of just not knowing how things would play out. Each day became a balancing act……The “unknown” and “hope” performed together in an unsure juggling act. I was nestled in a foggy, drug induced sleep state and remained unaware of the of the goings on and the falling tears.

Months later, here I sit trying to come to terms with the missing months of my life and at the same time experiencing a new sweetness in my life as if I am being wrapped cozily in a soft blanket of grace and love. There were some instances when I felt giddy, as if I was falling in love with my husband and children all over again. As I become aware of time again, and the days turn from weeks to months my family and friends help me continue to process what happened. Tears of joy as well as tears from past fear fall and we take turns wiping each other’s cheeks dry.

My siblings and children ventured back to their lives, friends headed home and everyone just hoped we/I had gotten through the worst of it all and that the days might become softer for us all. Eventually I was cautiously allowed to go home under the protective wings of several therapists and the loving, patient care of my husband.

As everyone’s days slowly became more focused on healing, time allowed us all the chance to process the past weeks and months. Slowly I think we all began to believe I had made it through the toughest part of recovery and began to look forward to continued progress.

A few weeks ago my son emailed me a letter he had written to me when he had become stranded in Pittsburgh and couldn’t get home in time for one of my earliest surgeries. Prognosis was unclear and the uncertainty weighed on him heavily.  His heart felt, emotionally full words, while hard for me to read, have helped me in my coming to terms with some parts of this experience. First and foremost, his words let me know that while he had been in a dark and scary place bordered by walls of uncertainty, fear/worry, those walls were coming down and perhaps there were even some openings that led to a clearer view of the horizon.

Rewind to the link at the beginning and how we are nourished by others in our lives. As my son was explaining what was happening and how sad he was feeling, he wrote : “I keep realizing so much of me is you. Big stuff and small stuff. Good stuff and not-so-good stuff. But I have so much of you in me.” As I read this I of course cried, but at the same time knew the truth of what he wrote, we are made of parts of important people in our lives. In his heart the pain of not being able to be with me, not knowing the outcome of the surgery was almost unbearable, yet he also knew the power of love : ” But dad and Caitlin will be there and they have enough love to make it work. It will work. It has to work. I’m not ready for the alternative.”

They have enough love.

love with all your heart

They did. And here I am. Each day I rest and walk in the embrace of love that was more than enough to carry me through.

It’s very hard to think about all this, but the point I am trying to make is that we all do matter to each other, and we have a responsibility to each other becasue of that. Also, sometimes important lessons and insight come through turbulent times.

a morning offering

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Finding Beauty

“The most liberating thing about beauty is realizing you are the beholder.
This empowers us to find beauty in places others have not dared to look.
Including inside ourselves.”
~~Salma Hayek

It is easy to become bogged down in negativity and disillusionment. Sometimes life becomes overwhelming and we become lost in the ever looping cycle of disappointment, desire, longing, comparison, worry and maybe fear.

Winter is thinking about giving up it’s hold on Nature. It still is in the teasing phase of backing off for a day only to return the next with snow and cold. At these times we grumble through the house commenting on how cold it is. We dig the sweater out the drawer where it had carefully been put to keep safe until next winter. Looking out the window we are struck by how gray and white everything is, longing for color. Bleh. Winter. What is ever good about winter we wonder? We long for spring, sunshine, warmth, blue, green and yellow so we can feel good and cozy and energetic. Ahhhh, to be again in the Light.

Many years ago on a rainy, very cold and bitter Halloween a friend and I were with our children as they made the rounds of the neighborhood. My friend commented on how uncomfortable we all were in the chill of the night. As she spoke we passed under a street light that illuminated a web glistening with frozen crystals. I paused and marveled at the beauty of Nature’s art. My friend laughed as she passed me and wondered how I managed to find something of beauty to marvel at in the cold dreariness of the evening. She ended with “You seem to always find the good and the beautiful in everything.”

I laugh now remembering that night because I do not always remember to see the beauty of the moment. Honestly, sometimes it takes a great deal of effort to push passed all the wallowing. With mindfulness and being present, finding beauty can be some what effortless and always calming. Beauty is everywhere. Beauty helps us relax and find rest, hope and peacefulness.

“Beauty” is a word that has positive connotations. But “beauty” is in the eye of the beholder and we all have different definitions of beauty. My friend from Halloween did not define a sparkling web and a cold wet night as something of beauty. I did see it as such and acknowledged without the night and cold, I would possibly have never seen the beauty there in the light of a street lamp.

For me, the act of being present and mindful, in that situation, allowed me to see the inherent beauty in something separate from the moment in time that was physically unpleasant.

Honestly though, I am not able to do this all the time, but I do try to look for beauty, the goodness in a moment that may initially want to go down a different path. By pausing and taking note of any small, wonderful part of any moment my overall mood changes.

” A thing of beauty is a joy forever.” ~John Keats

The definition of beauty includes: ” gives pleasure to the senses or pleasurably exalts the mind or spirit.” While the weather was miserable that night, the glittering spider web was visually beautiful and spoke to my spirit as something magically beautiful.

For me this is all just a reminder to pause to be aware of how we are viewing or approaching something during the course of our day. If we meet something with upset, regret, disappointment, hurt, the overall result is a negative feeling. If we pause and sit with whatever it is for just a little bit, perhaps we can find the pearl in amongst the discarded broken shells.

I am definitely working on this daily as I try to find any moment of beauty in the last 8 months recovering from an aneurysm. There was so much that was dark and scary. So many things that made me feel fear, anger, confusion, worry. Yet, with a deep breath and with pausing, I was able to find a few pearls. First there was the proof of love’s strength and courage. I have no doubt the love of my family and friends was key in me being able to surmount the dire possibilities of having an aneurysm rupture. I experienced the power of love. Oh, I most certainly had been aware of the power of love, but this was a new dimension of understanding.

As my body (and mind) heal I see the beauty in the strength of the human body to overcome obstacles. I find great beauty and blessing in having a warm bed each night that embraces my weary body and soul and allows me to sleep and be healed. I understand the beauty and gift of life each and every morning as I am aware that I have opened my eyes to a new day. I experience yet another level of beauty and joy in motherhood as I embrace my children. I look upon my husband and see the beauty of his love and selflessness as he walks side by side with me every single step of the way. I see and feel beauty in the cold of the morning because I feel it. There is beauty literally all around me. Within the act of acknowledging beauty I am becoming healed and whole. I experience gratitude and am humbled by the beautiful, nurturing power of love.

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Beauty comes to us all the time in so many ways. It is left to our interpretation of things to define experiences as beautiful or something different. It takes work and is sometimes difficult, but the payout is peace of mind, a full heart, and the promises of possibility, joy and hope.

I also know there are very bad things that happen to people and that beauty hides. This is my story, my walk with beauty. If you are in a dark and lonely place I will hold you gently in love and light.

 

 

 

 

 

After The Rain

Good morning. There is about a 6 inch covering of snow on the ground so no, it is not raining here. The rain in the title refers to difficult times in life. We all know these moments….times when we can feel such intense emotions that we feel as if they are raining down on us and we attempt to seek cover to prevent us from becoming soaked or washed away.

If you have been following this blog you know I am recovering from a ruptured aneurysm.

 

“When after heavy rain the storm clouds disperse, is it not that they’ve wept themselves clear to the end?” ~Ghalib

lotus

Grief is our response to loss. Through grief we can feel the depth of our loss and resulting pain. We process to the degree to which we feel the truth of the pain, from not only loss, but what occasionally feels like betrayal. By allowing and feeling the process of grief we slowly begin to recognize, integrate and eventually accept these truths that come through grief. As we slowly integrate our thoughts and feelings there comes a time when we are ready to let go and the time has come to grieve. We can only let go and go forward if we honor and allow these feelings and to experience grief.

One result of the aneurysm has been the loss of memory. As I slowly came out of a drug induced  twilight of mostly sleep I became aware of the absence of the people I loved dearly. My husband and children, my sister and sweet friends flowed in and out of my hospital room, but where I wondered,were my parents and step mom?

In the course of inquiring about these missing loved ones I was told the three of these loved people had passed on years before. I assume the degree of shock and sorrow I experienced at this was not so different from the first time around. Writing this and recalling that shaking grief, I sigh heavily at the thought of experiencing it twice. How could I not remember my parents dying? Anger and sadness burst out of me. It was easier for me to believe my family standing in front of me were lying than to believe my parents and step mom were gone.

What I know to be true even without recalling the old memories is that I came to a point in time when it was time to let go and to grieve (again). There was absolutely nothing for me to do but to let go of the sorrow and feelings of loss and to grieve.

As I have worked with various therapists and as time has become a natural healer, I have regained some of these memories. I have a deep sense of gratitude in having them once again because, even as the first time, there was such healing and insight as I walked down the path of saying good bye and burying my parents. Yes, the deep, soul wrenching sorrow was there, but in coming to the point where I was able to honor the flood of feelings and emotions, I was then able to move forward.

Right now I feel as if I am going through a similar experience. I experience grief over having lost who I was. The aneurysm has left my body and my mind different, changed. Strength, stamina and coordination are off. Memory skills are weak….I live off a calendar so I can remember to take medication, doctors appointments when my children are home and when they are leaving. Because of both I feel dependent and fragile in ways I am not used to feeling. There is a sense of loss, grieving and often confusion.

Sometimes, when I am in the quiet space of just falling asleep or beginning to wake in the morning I understand on a tender, inner level that I can only let go and go forward if I honor and allow these feelings and to grieve, again. By allowing this I also have to allow myself to feel, come to terms with and release my grief about my going through the experience have having an aneurysm and all the associated medical procedures and surgeries with all the varying physical results of pain, discomfort, bruising, tiredness, and loss of independence. Most certainly this a different kind of loss and grief than of loosing a loved one to death, but in many ways I feel I have lost part of myself. I have “lost” the memories of the experiences that molded me to become the person I am, I have lost memories of love and tenderness.

Still, it is time to take in a breath and survey where I am mentally, physically and emotionally and to take the first steps to moving forward.

Some memories are returning. Although they linger behind a soft fog, they are there, peeking out and I hope one day they will walk all the way through the soft curtain of “forgotten”.

To all my family and friends who have walked next to me these past 7 1/2 months I thank you for your love and presence. I hope you will continue to stay by my side and help me regain my physical strength and my emotional health. Memories that we once shared may now be yours alone, and with time and nudging I hope those memories will become shared again.

To the blog followers who are not personal friends or family, thank you for the opportunity for me to share these feelings, thoughts and stories. I know they are an important part of my healing.

“It takes courage to grieve, to honor the pain we carry. We can grieve in tears or in meditative silence, in prayer or in song. In touching the pain of recent and long-held griefs, we come face to face with our genuine human vulnerability, with helplessness and hopelessness. These are the storm clouds of the heart.” Jack Kornfield

“Releasing the grief we carry is a long, tear-filled process. Yet it follows the natural intelligence of the body and heart. Trust it, trust the unfolding. Along with meditation, some of your grief will want to be written, to be cried out, to be sung, to be danced. Let the timeless wisdom within you carry you through grief to an open heart.” Jack Kornfield

 

 

This Path

“This is my wish for you:
Comfort on difficult days, smiles when sadness intrudes,
rainbows to follow the clouds, laughter to kiss your lips,
sunsets to warm your heart, hugs when spirits sag,
beauty for your eyes to see, friendships to brighten your being,
faith so that you can believe, confidence for when you doubt,
courage to know yourself, patience to accept the truth,
Love to complete your life.”

*Ralph Waldo Emerson

As I have wandered down this path of recovery I have done so hand in hand with family and friends. Holding me tight so I wouldn’t trip and fall at the uneven parts, each companion offered physical support, but more importantly spiritual and emotional encouragement. My unsteadiness, which caught me off guard, was anticipated and brought to balance again and again by the mindfulness of my companions. While the pace slowed and turned cautious at times, I did find the courage to know myself and to have  the confidence to trust and reach out and a faith that glued everything together.
My wish for all of us mirrors the poem. That each of us have a source of comfort when we face challenges, smiles that can soften sadness, a glimpse of the beauty that is ahead, laughter to lighten the weight, arms to circle us, open eyes and heightened senses, others to shine a light to show the way for us, belief in a higher plan, the knowledge that we are stronger than we may think, to sense what is true and to know and share a love that binds everything together.

Being in a place of uncertainty and dependency I have learned that there is grace in vulnerability. This vulnerability teaches me  to let go of the uncertainty and fear of the unknown, and to spend less time working to control that unknown. As I remind myself to slow down a bit in body and mind, to savor the flavors of this moment rather that looking too far ahead especially with expectations and longing. Right now is what is and when I slow a bit I find great comfort and even security in the moment. I can feel myself wrapped in a blanket of love: the love of the moment, the past, and yes even the future. A love that allows this moment to be full and enough.

Before the aneurysm I had had several experiences that I knew had come from a place of grace and love. Things that at first were difficult to explain, yet held recognizable truths for me. The “message” or “lesson” was clearly for me at that particular time.

In the course of difficult days there is a comfort that comes when I am open to receiving. There are tender smiles for me when sadness intrudes.
When I look up and outward there are rainbows that do follow the clouds. There are smiles and  laughter lingering on my lips.
The sunsets do warm my heart. A hug is always available when my spirits sag.

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Beauty is all around me. Friendships brighten my life.
In my heart there is a faith that sustains me. Tucked inside there is a confidence to lean on when I have doubts.
As I grow I find I do have courage to know and honor my true self. It comes with a patience that is able to accept the truth of what is.
I have been blessed with many great loves that are all a part of the greater circle of love that surrounds me.

Today. at lunch, my husband, daughter and I talked about my recent time in the hospital and rehab after the aneurysm. So many thoughts and feelings surfaced for each of us. Memories and emotions that we each are still processing. Contained in all of these were tears, smiles, and soft laughter. The balance of awe and awareness that could only be witnessed at this moment. We each had a palpable memory of the uncertainty, fear and helplessness that comes at such times. As we looked at each other, the power of the moment, THAT one moment, there was a whisper of understanding, grace, love and gratitude. We were lifted up. I felt so full.  Here, around a table looking out over the lake, a love that is so enduring bound some of the worry and fear and placed it to the side. This moment was for being in the loving presence of each other and breathing in the gratitude that nourished us body and soul.

I am on some kind of a journey. One I had not planned nor was I prepared for. The ride has been bumpy and I have strayed a bit from the path, but have been guided back on course.
Each day I struggle to see the same progress those around me see that I have made. I think I am beginning to allow myself to see the same healing and change as the fear and worry fade a bit to the back ground. I know I am so much more aware of the blessings in my life and am able to give them their rightful place of guiding lights on this amended path.

Writing this I might even go so far to say that I see and understand this aneurysm , as terrifying and scary as it has been, has brought me to this day, on this path, with a new perspective on many things. Now, I ask to be given the strength and courage to find my way on this path. I believe it will lead me to opportunities to explore the rawness of a powerful love, the parting of the fog that covers what is right in front of us, and a inner strength that goes forward with a brighter light showing the way.

 

A Place of Love

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I currently have a lot of time to explore new authors and books, music and poetry, recipes and art. In exploring a topic for this blog I came across a TED TALK by Valerie Kaur, link here: Revolutionary Love . Her words brought me hope, some tears, excitement and courage. This, I thought to myself, THIS is what I want to write about this week.

The quote above from Parker Palmer popped up next and voila! I had a solid theme for a blog post.

The fundamental premise is to look around and ask yourself “Who have we not yet tried to love?” What are each person’s individual stories that we need to hear because those the are stories can help us see there is no stranger among anyone we meet.  

One of the greatest gifts I have been offered/given in my life has been the opportunity to travel and even live in places all over the world. Some of the time I traveled with friends, my father, my husband, and most recently my children. But some of the time I traveled alone. Taken out of the comfort zone of what I was familiar with I found myself experiencing some worry and anxiety. Some of this arrived at my door step even before I began the adventure. What would happen if….? How do I…….? Is there…..? Who will……..? Questions based on uncertainty and a little bit of fear and worry. I was entering a realm of the unfamiliar, even the unknown. I would be my own source of comfort, courage and ingenuity. I would be in places and situations where I did not speak the language that might have been required for me to ask for help or direction. Off I went! First I traveled to India and Nepal. My father, an Episcopal minister had been asked to be part of the team traveling with a group of college students. He was able to make arrangements for me to go with him. After that we were off to Belgium for The Second World Conference on Religion and Peace. Before going to Belgium we stopped in Denmark where I stayed with a Danish family for almost a week. I no longer remember what my father was up to! With in this same trip I went to Iceland, Norway, Switzerland, France and Germany with my father.

Years later I traveled with my dear friend AnaLisa to attend a 6 week college session in England, and then I traveled to Corfu, Greece before meeting her again in Athens where we made arrangements to live in Iraklion, Crete. Years later, married, I found myself traveling to Japan with another friend and her young son. Eventually my husband would come and join me and we would remain in Kyoto for another 6 months. In each and every place there were people who reached out with their heart and hand when there was no shared spoken language. Yet there was love, care, respect, help and trust.

It’s true, as Parker Palmer writes, we all have places of fear. Right next door are places of hope, trust and faith. They are just a step away from the place of fear, yet the first step to leaving fear behind sometimes seems like such a huge, wide one and we falter and pause, wondering if we can get across the chasm. if we would but only take a moment to look up instead of towards our feet, chances are we would find another on the other side reaching out to lend a hand. We are guided and supported by probably hundred of people through out our lives. Those who will reach out to us offering the very best of our humanness. If by some chance we still stumble or fall they are still there to pick us up and dust us off.

As I have been on this journey of healing and recovery I have stood at the edge of that chasm. Frozen by the unknown and fear. It has been a mind game of sorts, and a tug of war with my sense of pride as controlled by ego. Voices in my head yell “You shouldn’t need the help and support of others. Take care of yourself for heaven’s sake.” The dreaded “shouldn’t s”. BUT, if as Parker says I am able to instead, begin from a place of promise, a place of hopefulness, I will head in a direction not so scary and uncertain. And maybe, I will not travel alone. Perhaps now that the foundation is more stable perhaps others will follow me towards a more trustworthy, more hopeful, more faithful way of being in the world.

I can remain stuck in the quagmire of self pity, uncertainty, cynical thoughts and feel all the accompanying feelings and emotions which may only add proof that I am in fact stuck here forever. Or I can gather myself up and step just next door to faith, hope and trust. From this place stepping forward is not so intimidating, so impossible looking.

Sitting here, having walked through a door I never even saw (the aneurysm) and finding myself frozen in disbelief and fear, I am humbled. Humbled by what I now understand is a kind of strength, promise and hopefulness. It comes from deep inside of me, upheld by the foundation built from the love of others. There is no weakness or shame in reaching out to others. It may just be that they are in fact the bridge that connects us, me, to a more trustworthy , more hopeful, more faithful way of being in the world. A place where we heal, grow, love, share, offer, receive, nurture, trust and discover and gain the strength to reach out to others in return.

I put a lot of time into thinking about all this because it is my path to healing and regaining pieces of my life. I am not blind to the goings on of our world. There is much pain and suffering. There is divisiveness and mistrust, anger and fear. When I am quiet in my heart I understand some of this mistrust, anger and fear because, for a moment I am able to put myself in the proverbial shoes of the “Other”.

I am in a place where I feel out of control of the situation, at the mercy of things I cannot control, scared and worried, unsure and uncertain of the future, and sad. When I can understand the situations others are in that may cause them the same feelings and reactions, I am able to feel connected to them, as if I am standing next to them rather than against them. It is possible we may look at each other in recognition of this and reach out towards each other, helping one another.

It’s been difficult to see the silver lining of the past six months, but it is there. It is the cloak of hope and love. Both hold a guiding lantern up to the perceived darkness of not knowing and soften the fear, the uncertainty as they guide us to our place in the world were the light shines on trustworthiness, hopefulness and faith. And it is in this place, understanding there are no strangers, we rest in the arms of others, where we may find comfort, pause, healing and growth. We will discover the one we have not yet tried to love is not so different from us. We need only to care enough to listen to their story with an open heart and then reach out to them with compassion and empathy.

So, this Sunday I contemplate my own way of Being in this world. What guides me and sustains me?

The Treasure Map

Good morning!! As I continue to heal it is ironic that I have ordered a dozen books to read, but still struggle to read because of short term memory failings. As soon as I turn a page in a book I have to go back because I have forgotten what I just read.

Yet, here I am using a quote from a book I am reading because it struck a chord that held long enough for me to remember it!! The book is: “Magic In Plain Sight–When acceptance is the healing” by Patricia Heavren.

“Waiting, hoping, (listening) for the “map” to reveal itself. The human narrative, etched by the soul, never fails to tip its hand by exploring a kind of treasure map, a place where “X” marks the spot where something of value is buried. It isn’t the kind of map used to plot a path from one place to another. It’s more the type found behind smooth glass in kiosks stationed at a mall entrance where “X” has an accompanying message;”

“You are here.”

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I AM here!! Friends we hadn’t seen in years stopped by yesterday and it was wonderful. Joanie had recently had a similar experience with a cerebral hemorrhage. As I answered the questions she had for me, I saw the switch of complete understanding click on behind her eyes. I wasn’t going to have to go into babbling depth about what I was experiencing. She had experienced it herself and understood exactly what I was describing.

As I wander around what does kind of  feel like the mall of my life, big and little compartments of various experiences and memories, I do sometimes get lost. I don’t seem to be able to get back to the place I want to be. It makes me frazzled until I find the “guide” and stand  rigid in front of it almost demanding that it do it’s thing and get me to where I want to be.

I take a small step back as the words next to the “X” scream out at me: “YOU ARE HERE”.

Lights flash and bells whistle in my mind. Of course I am “here”. And suddenly, understanding where I actually am, that frustration and fear fall back. I am here. I am ok. I will be able to get back to the treasure…..where I will be healthy and healed. I understand there are “Maps” that will help guide me: therapy, will power, family, friends and doctors. But, I have to, at least for now, have a shared, agreed upon safe spot where we can meet if we become separated or lost. That place is the place marked by an “X”,”You are here.” I can only go forward from where I am.

Just like that mall guide I stood demandingly in front of, waiting for it to tell me how to get “there”, it instead told me where I was, “HERE”. And that was the map. I had to understand where I was in order to figure out how to get where I wanted to be otherwise I might stay lost, wandering, searching. Knowing where I am (recovery) is the first step in reading the map to get to where I want to be (healed).

I get tripped up sometimes and take a wrong turn here and there, but I’ll get to where I want to be! For now I am here. Looking around I can see in all directions. I know if I stay grounded in being “Here” that I can get to “There”.

So many of you help by lining up along the path waving me forward in the right direction. You are beacons for me, holding me true to the way, making sure that I always remember that to get to the finish line I must know the route. I’ll get there thanks to your guidance!

Sustenance

Here in the Northeast Punxsutawney Phil saw his shadow so we have a little more winter ahead before Spring wakes up. If you’ve been following along you know I am recovering from a ruptured brain aneurysm. If you’re new to this blog, I am now in the 6th month of recovery from this. I spent many weeks in the hospital and many months in rehab before being  able to come home.

Memory was significantly affected. While much seems to be returning, there are things that remain fuzzy or cloudy. Things one might think you could never forget, like the death of loved ones.  Alas, those tender moments of deep sorrow needed to be retold and relived.

Recently I was looking at a site I follow, Gratefulness.org, and came across this question to ask myself in their “Practice Space”: “What memories sustain me?” The word “sustain” jumped at me. What keeps me going?

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I think it caught my attention for two reasons. Firstly because of the targeted loss of some memory, and two, because thankfully I retained/regained many powerful memories. A whole line-up of memories fell into place as if on cue. As I reflected on those memories I came to the train of thought that wondered how this played into the mindfulness concept of being present in the moment and not wandering back to the past or longing for the future. The past is over and the future is unknowable.

Working with this I began to see that while I did not try to linger in or relive the past, I had walked that path once and the experiences and people I met challenged me to grow and to continue along to discover what was up ahead. I value the lessons of those experiences and now, as memories, they do continue to have a profound effect on the person I am now.  I am now most certainly different from the person I was then. To my mind the memories are significant because they reflect events that did in fact mold this person I am now.

These stories that are now memories were significant in me developing into the person I am today and have been incorporated into posts on this blog. You can read of few of them here:

Sounds of Life,   About That Box of Photos Under My Bed ,  Every Single Day,  

There are other posts as well that contain stories about my memories and how they influenced who I grew to be.

To be clear, there are memories I do not share because they are not happy ones and I do not see how my sharing them would be of value. At least right now. There are no deep, dark secrets, but there is profound sorrow, the endless lingering and looping of the “What If?” thoughts and questions and a few embarrassing moments too!

Blogging presents an interesting conundrum: what is okay to share and what is not?

As I sit here now writing this I am focused on healing and recovery. There is some awareness of learning and transformation,  but much of my focus is only on physical and emotional healing.  I have come to understand how some things in my past, now memories, built up and created the person now delegated with this task of lifting “me” back up and dusting off my shoulder before sending me forward.

I have found myself in positions where I have been confused and scared. I have experienced pain and hurt. Because of the aneurysm there I things I do not remember. With my family by my side I made it through all of it and while my body is still weak, some thing in my heart and soul is ready to burst forth with new growth and blossoming. Something almost sacred, that was seemingly born and fertilized from this difficult medical event.  The sign posts along the way towards recovery and healing asked “What memories sustain you?”

There are too many to list but the common thread is that they are all so different. There are memories of being loved and nurtured as well as of being worried or afraid. There are memories I would just as soon forget as well as ones I am sure I could never forget. “Good” or “bad/painful”, each one was part of the construction team that built the person who is writing this. Without each part of the story, each memory, I would not be who “I” am. Yes, “I” would still “be”, but “I” would not be the “I”  am now.

So, as I meander along memory lane in the hopes of reaching my destination of “Healed”, I take comfort in any and all of these memories. Turning each one over and over again like a newly received gift. Each one a part of the mystery puzzle that manifests as Kathryn. Along the way I do not need to linger long on any one memory. Instead I only need pause to take in the view and then, looking forward, take a breath and continue one foot in front of the other.

Memories are a little fickle in general. If I am honest with myself I generally discover that while there may be memories I would just as soon delete from all files, they are also, if I am being honest, a tangential piece of a “good” memory. The place of origin did not begin as something sad or painful, it usually was the result of diverging from the path intended. This is a long, round about way of saying I am trying to make peace with this aneurysm. Each day I work to give my body the time, space and support it needs to heal and to allow the aneurysm to be a short term visitor in my life, not a boarder who needs tending to.

Would you like to share the things that sustain you?