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.

prflg_gr_metta

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.

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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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Of Being In The World

“We have places of fear inside of us, but we have other places as well—places with names like trust and hope and faith. We can choose to lead from one of those places, to stand on ground that is not riddled with the fault lines of fear, to move toward others from a place of promise instead of anxiety. As we stand in one of those places, fear may remain close at hand and our spirits may still tremble. But now we stand on ground that will support us, ground from which we can lead others toward a more trustworthy, more hopeful, more faithful way of being in the world.”  ~~Parker Palmer

Horton Bay heron

drawing by me, Kathryn Howlett. Heron in Horton Bay, MI.

We don’t have to “BE” our fears.  You may be  familiar with ” be not afraid” . There are two dozen examples in the Bible.  It doesn’t tell us not to fear. It means we don’t have to “BE” our fears.

‘Fear’ feels like my middle name these days. It follows and haunts me. I feel as if my body and brain have betrayed me with this aneurysm. Some days I feel as if my fears weigh heavily on me and I am sinking. I don’t know how to toss the weight overboard. Sometimes it feels like I am holding on to a bouquet of helium/fear filled balloons and am being swept away and carried here and there with no control. To contemplate letting go of the fear only presents as another fear, falling and crash landing.  So, how do I get across the fault line of fear and to move instead to firmer ground of trust, hope and faith?
I look for places and time in the day where I can stand on steady ground and regain my balance and perspective. From these vantage points I can look out at the world and life around me with hope and trust.
To be aware of these places and times, I have to pause now and then to create a place of non movement and silence or near silence in order to be aware of them and to allow them to come to the forefront of my thoughts. In so doing I move gently towards a place of promise, away from fear.
“Sometimes the most important thing in a whole day 
is the rest we take between two deep breaths.”
Etty Hillesum
Sometimes I close my eyes and listen to music, or just close my eyes in silence. Sometimes I draw. Sometimes I read, but often that makes me think even more!! Focusing on my breath helps. Whatever aid I enlist has to come from a birthing point of awareness. I have to be mindful to create these spaces because they do not always give birth to themselves!!
These spaces of rest and quiet between my breaths nurture something deep inside of me. They set in motion self care and healing .
Within this space come the words and thoughts “Allow this to be a learning experience that you will grow from.” I don’t have to live from the place of, or to be “fear”.
I have to do three things. One, be mindful of the pauses and allow them to bring me a sense of peace and grounding. Two, to rest in those pauses. Three to look around and reach out to those who are near.
There are some days, or moments in the day when I forget and get wobbly and off balance. In those moments I have to call upon “trust” and reach or call out to those near by to steady me or maybe even catch me. It is okay for me to do that. Not only don’t I have to be perfectly balanced all the time, I need to give up the thought of possibly even being balanced all the time.
I am coming to understand that while I may not be able to be even keeled all the time, there is a centering that happens through the awareness itself. When I breathe deeply and regain my balance, there comes an easy awareness of the pause between breaths and I can rest for a time in the presence and grace of that pause. And healing comes forward wrapped in a gentle blanket of quiet, trust, hope and faith. And when I am wrapped in that blanket the whirling of my thoughts slow down, and I am able to “be” in a space of less worry and fear. A place of balance and awareness where allowing just being to be enough.
Awareness allows me to have days that do contain moments of the healing pauses. The softer hours of sunset and sunrise seem to be the more fertile times for the pausing to arise. The slowing breaths, the quieting of the mostly ever present endless commentary of dreams, thoughts and worries, opens the door and allows for the stepping out into quieter, less kinetic places in my mind. And here, not unlike being out in Nature on a mountain top or standing next to the lullaby of ocean waves greeting the sandy beaches, I find myself in the places Parker Palmer refers to : places with names like trust and hope and faith.
Signing off now to go visit one of those places for awhile. Going to reflect on the way I want to choose to “Be” in the world as I recover and recoup.
A previous post: The Pause Between Breaths

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.

jan 2013a
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?

Flowers in the Garden

Here in central New York state, Memorial Day is when I can seriously get to work in the garden. In theory, it is a time that will be free from frost. But, I can never really be sure!! Hopeful, always.

I also have to come to terms, every spring, that I cannot have one of those House Beautiful gardens. My soil is poor. The wildlife seems to depend on my flowers and plants for general sustenance. Over the years I spend the early spring just watching my garden while reviewing notes from the previous year. What survived? What did the animals ignore? What seemed to be able to suck enough nutrients from the soil? Which plants tolerated whatever rainfall Nature provided? I go from there.

I have a beautiful swath of ferns. Graceful, lacy leaves are happily settled in front of a slightly unstable stone wall we built from the rocks we excavated from the foundation holes for our house. Many people who visit wonder why I have let them take hold in my garden. Because they grow….nothing eats them. They don’t get disease. The thrive on whatever Nature provides them.

The next patch is Comfrey. Large, floppy, invasive. I do have to keep it is check. The small purple flowers are tall and graceful, so the plant remains. Then comes Cranesbill, True Geranium. Low and delicate. Soft and romantic. They spread freely, but are easy to contain.

Intermittently there are patches of Tansy, Lady’s Mantle (Alchemilla mollis), Yarrow, Day Lily, Four O’Clocks, Autumn Sedum, Coreopsis, Hosta, and….even Golden Rod. There’s a sad peony that offers one or two glorious blossoms, but no more. In the corner is a huge Wegelia that blooms in a riot of red that seems too risque for the rest of the garden. There’s a bit of Lavender and some soft Lamb’s Ears. In a smaller garden there is a patch of Bachelor Buttons, Solomon’s Seal, and Ajuga. Under a lilac tree there is a small patch of Hepatica that I never planted…I don’t know how it got there. That’s what grows in my garden.

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photo by me of my garden

I have learned through a stubbornly slow process that I can plant a few annuals, but not many. A few Geraniums and Petunias.

Yesterday was a picture book perfect day in May. Sunny, almost warm, cool enough to work pleasantly in the garden. A slight breeze tickled my skin. As I weeded, dug, divided, replanted, planted I began to think about people. People in my life are not unlike plants in my garden. Some people I am given, like my family. Some just show up and make themselves at home. Some people I choose. And some people come and go. They provide me with comfort, beauty, serenity. Also the occasional bout of frustration and confusion. I am there for both the people and the plants: when they need some weeding done, or some extra care during a drought or other extreme circumstances, or to marvel at their blossoming. But, sometimes I support and nurture both in waves rather than on a regular basis. Perhaps not the best way to be a gardener or friend….. Somehow, for some reason, they both mostly stick around. They do both bring gifts into my life that I am grateful for.

There are some flowers that just appeared out of no where in particular. Others have been around from the very beginning, hanging in there with me and always giving and never giving up. Some flowers I have to divide….I have to portion them out, move them. It is hard to admit, but I need them in doses here and there and not as an over zealous clump pushing others out of the way. Some I have to just remove altogether. Then there are the stalwart perennials…tenacious and dependable. Some are like my Solomon’s Seal…strong and vibrant one year, thinned and struggling other years. Others, like my Bachelor Buttons all but disappear one year, only to return the following year in vigorous glory. And, there are the tentative annuals, unsure and fleeting. It’s the same with my friends.

I sit and dig, and weed and plant. I think of friends and flowers. I think of flowers that offer up so much beauty and bring life to the senses. I dig some more and plant a new flower, wondering if it will grow. I can offer some encouragement and care, but I cannot control the weather or the animals. I think of friends. One far away that I don’t get to see often, but the love between us grows and grows. Those here, who I share laughter and hugs with. A few from long ago that I don’t tend to enough. Family that I always try to meet the needs of.

Here’s to spring. And, to the flowers, friends and family that brighten and bring joy to my life. Thanks for sticking with me.