Sunday, December 9, 2018

12/10/18—Being Born Again and Again

This post was originally part of an Easter blog hop in 2014 where the theme was supposed to be about resurrection and rebirth.  I have updated the content.

What are the stories we tell ourselves about our lives? This topic came up as I recalled an epic canoe trip I took with my dad when I was a girl. Until I recalled that trip, I had always told myself the story that I never had a special connection or memory with my father that was just between me and him. Thinking about this was a sad thought. It was also untrue. 

As I look back on my life, I can see a lot of similar unfounded stories I've told myself. Because I grew up overweight, I never had the endurance for sports. So I developed a story that I wasn't good at sports. Many years later I started exercising and lost weight. Then I discovered that I totally have "the eye of the tiger". I compete against myself quite effectively, physically speaking. I found I was good at a lot of physical challenges I had told myself I couldn't do and would even go so far as to say I excelled at power walking—my long stride, focused mind, competitive spirit and newfound endurance fueling the fire. 

Writing this, trying to think of the stories I've bought into, most of them are really sad and pathetic...the kinds of things that undermine confidence and keep me "small". Today's blog isn't about feeling sorry for myself, though, so I won't share those. But I mention them because somewhere in the dark corners of your mind, you probably have similar stories. Whether they were told to you through the thoughtless comments of parents, siblings and teachers, ingrained in you by societal boundaries or produced yourself to explain or assuage places where you might have fallen short at one time or another, chances are good they're simply not true. 

Here's an easy one to tell. I hate peas. I find them disgusting. And if you serve me peas in something, I will go to great lengths to pick them out. When was the last time I intentionally ate a pea? Well, maybe 50 years ago. So there's this story I tell myself about peas that may not even be true. What's true is that I love split pea soup. And even now as I think of buttery, salty, mushy peas, I'm thinking they're not all that bad. But I have this story that keeps me from ever finding out for sure. 

The unfounded stories and "lies" we tell ourselves are not absolute. What was true at five isn't necessarily true at 55. And we can just as easily continue stories about things we like or do well long past their expiration date, as we can stories about what we don't like or can't do. 

And what does all of this have to do with Jesus rising from the dead? In every moment of every day of every year of our life, we have an opportunity to be reborn. Somewhere along the line, the atheist inside me died and was reborn as a very spiritual person. The self-conscious, woman was reborn as confident. The fat girl was reborn as a hottie. Then the hottie was reborn as fat again...haha. Nothing is absolute. 

Our stories often exist only to limit us. And sure, we all have limitations. But our limitations aren't nearly as broad as we make them out to be. Just because we're getting older doesn't mean we have to turn into our mothers. Just because we have a physical or mental handicap doesn't mean we can't be agile. And just because we're not good at something doesn't mean we can't pursue it as a hobby or even a career. Those things are stories. Most of the REAL limitations we have are things we don't even care about. Like I will never play for the NFL. Cry me a river. 

Other things, when you really look at them, just aren't true. Like I might tell myself I'll never have children (in reality, I actually don't want children, so this is a hypothetical) but that wouldn't be true. I could adopt. I could end up in a relationship with someone with children. A child might land on my doorstep from some unforeseen source (hey, it happened with Moses, right?). So just because I'm past child-bearing age is no guarantee I will never have children. God forbid. 

So rebirth isn't just a story you read about in ancient texts. When I think back over my life, I don't even recognize the woman I was at 20...30...40. I feel like I've been reborn, reinterpreted and resurrected countless times in my life. And while we're on the topic of Jesus, being "born again" isn't just for Christians. It's for everyone. And doing so is not "difficult", unless that's the story you're telling yourself. It's just an intention away.

Sunday, November 25, 2018

11/26/18—Letting the Light In

I’ve been thinking a lot lately about the times I made some of the greatest leaps in my personal and spiritual growth…about the stories that brought about change in me.

While some came at the hands of age/time/maturity, most of the big leaps came in the midst or aftermath of struggle or adversity. I’ve been thinking about why this is.

For me, there are a number of reasons. Sometimes we see a repeating pattern in our lives and, at some point, the consequences of continuing on get kind of bad and we know the universe will just keep upping the ante until we learn our lesson. And sometimes crisis shocks us into recognizing that some behavior—or some aspect of our personality that we hadn’t recognized before—isn’t working for us and we need a change.

Some of the more game-changing shifts, however have come in the midst of some of my biggest crises and I surprised even myself with the leaps I’d made. They came in times of great loss or personal challenge. And I think I've pinpointed why this is, at least for me.  

Some moments in life are so jarring, we’re shocked out of our routines. We’re in crisis. Life is seen through a different perspective. We’re broken. We don’t have the strength or wherewithal to focus on maintaining our defenses. We’re cracked open. And those cracks let in both light and darkness.

In those times, we look toward either the light or the dark. But if we don’t look toward the light, the cracks will grow larger and larger or they’ll crack and re-crack until we can’t ignore the light. Sometimes that takes decades. Most of the time, the shifts happen quickly, though.  

When my father was murdered, for example, I didn’t have the energy to both hate and deal with the surreal circumstances of his death. So I made a leap in my ability to forgive. Another lesson I learned then wasn’t quite as high-minded. It was the lesson of how alone we are as individuals. Surrounded by the insanity of the situation, the differing emotional journeys of others, the dearth of precedent (in that I have never, outside of my siblings, met anyone else whose stepmother was a black widow) and the fact that the systems we rely upon for justice aren’t always just or fair, you definitely go home at night and realize that, while you might have support, sympathy and people who love you, you are nonetheless alone.

Some slip into the darkness in situations like that. After all, the darkness is all around you and you’re mourning and dealing with whatever you’re dealing with. Emotions like anger, revenge and hate bubble up and keep acceptance and letting go at bay. For some reason, I was blessed with a spiritual awakening and some big insights that changed the course of my life for the better at that time. 

All I can sense about why that is is that, with all my defenses stripped and weakened, I couldn’t take on any more darkness. And also,  the more that's asked of me, the more I generally deliver. This was a large order and with the stuff in front of me I HAD to deal with, I didn't have much energy left to feed darkness and let it grow. So the same circumstances that may have shocked others into anger and hate, shocked me into a kind of understanding and forgiveness. It's like a switch turned on inside me that brought me clarity. A divine insight that couldn't have breached my defenses and gotten through so quickly under any other circumstances.

I noticed the same thing when I was sick. At times when I would normally protect and defend myself, I found myself making different choices, grounded in forgiveness and acceptance. Many (but not all) things seemed to just flow off my back. In some ways, I had enough fear to manage not knowing what was wrong with me or if I was going to be able to function tomorrow, that I didn’t indulge other fears so much. And interestingly, as I’ve gotten stronger and healthier, I’ve backpedaled a little on some that growth...haha. Things piss me off a little more now. But still when I look back, the net result is significant growth.

I can't say bad things happen to us so that we grow. I struggle with what things may or may not be fated to happen…or come “at the hands of god” or are karma or any of the other mystical reasons we assign. But I am certain bad things present an opportunity for us to experience big growth...if we choose to look for the light that comes in through the cracks created by whatever was broken. 

I think letting go is key. Letting go of wanting to control a situation out of your control. Letting go of needing to blame someone. Letting of wanting to fight back. Letting go of wanting to displace your anger. Letting go of fear. Letting go of denial

Like I said, I find this more possible the more severe the “crisis” is. So I’ll be less generous of heart to, say, a stranger who stole my parking space as I’ll be to a stranger who stole my wallet. Go figure. And, again, some of the letting go just comes with age, for much the same reason—we no longer have the energy to put toward the kind of emotions that drain us.

So there's something here to consider if you're in the midst of a situation like this. There is no shame in letting go or forgiving. It’s not a betrayal to the deceased, it’s not a matter of principle, it doesn't give anyone the permission to hurt you again and holding on is not what god or any caring human would want for you. Not when it’s painful or toxic. 

What's important is to take care of yourself. And sometimes we need to indulge ourselves in the darkness, at least for a little while. But remember we can choose differently at any time and turn our darkest moments into something triumphant and beautiful—a last gift left behind by someone who passed or the light at the end of the tunnel in a bad divorce or a valuable lesson that prevents you from being taken advantage of in the future, whatever the situation may be in your life. 

There is no shame in finding light within the darkness. And some of the moments in which you feel most vulnerable, actually hold the greatest power for change. 

Sunday, November 18, 2018

11/19/18—Feeling The Fourth Season

They say you have to go through four seasons of grieving before you can move on.

Of course, that doesn't mean you necessarily "get over" things after four seasons. And it also doesn't mean the thing you get over is the death of a person. There are many things in life to grieve.

But let's say you broke up with your lover of five years. You were going to get married, but it all fell apart. Even if you enter into another relationship soon thereafter, a spring breeze will remind you of that camping trip you took together. A hot summer's day will transport you back to that time you tubed down a river. Fall's leaves will inspire memories of a romantic night enjoying a fire outside. Winter's cold will comjure that time you got snowed in together. And all the memories will be bittersweet. All the memories will stab you that place that was once so comfortable and right.

The seasons and temperatures and breezes and sounds and other mnemonic triggers help you tap into what you've left behind. So you have to go through all of them before you can truly move on.

The same is true, even if you're leaving unpleasant things behind. Last year at this time was the last time I was able to go grocery shopping. I'd been having a hard time getting around the store for a while, but the Thanksgiving shop was nearly the death of me. Literally. I kept looking for a place to sit and rest and couldn't find one. I was covered in sweat. Completely out of breath. Weak. Exhausted. It was a bad scene. When I finally made it back to my car, I sat there and cried, wondering how I'd get the groceries into my house. Worried about how I'd get groceries—or go to any store—in the future. Blaming myself somehow for this physical hole I'd gotten into, because all the doctors seemed think my issue wasn't medical.

As winter approaches, I worry that my memories of last winter may taint the season's status as my favorite. All three times I was taken by 911 last year occurred in the bitter cold, late at night. It was cold and snowy through all three hospital stays and snowed during my weeklong nightmare in rehab. From November through April, there wasn't a night I went to sleep that I wasn't worried about dying or having an emergency. I had PTSD about all of it for months after my valve replacement...all the years of suffering, all the fear, all the misdiagnoses, all the being told I just needed to lose weight, all the close calls, all the hopelessness, all the suicidal thoughts and all the mistreatment in that rehab.

Winter last year was the absolute worst time of my life. Worse than the winter my mother slowly died before our eyes. Worse than the late fall my father's murderer was acquitted. Worse than the winter we learned my brother had lung cancer. Worse than everything.

And now I brace myself for what this year's bitter cold days will trigger. Will a picturesque snowstorm remind me of feeling trapped in that rehab with caregivers who steal my pills and won't give me my pain meds? Will feeling extra cold remind me of being laced into a gurney with just a cotton sheet over me as I struggle to breathe? Will a late season light snow remind me of being rushed to Arlington, lights flashing, on the anniversary of my farther's death, hoping it wouldn't be mine, too?

At least one person in my life will say, "Tierney, why do you put yourself through this?" First, I can't control spontaneous thoughts that creep into my mind. I can choose not to acknowledge or indulge them, yes. That is commonly referred to as denial. The four seasons theory suggests that I have to experience those feelings as they come naturally in order to move through them. That makes sense to me.

You wouldn't expect someone to just forget about a past love, a deceased loved one, a divorce or other major life change. Those are things you have to feel your way through. And so is this. By next spring, my memories will be of the return of hope. But there is darkness to go through before I get there.

And, for me, this isn't about major surgery. It's about the years of decline I suffered. And the medical neglect from doctors. And the head job they did on me, making me doubt what I knew to be true about my health. And the feelings of being alone in this. And the way the walls of my life closed in on me. And the debt I've incurred. And the many thoughts I've had about rather dying than continuing to endure. And all the times I threw up or was too drugged and weak to function. And how I had to go back to work immediately just to earn money.

I can be grateful about the resolution and all the good care I had during that time, the way certain people came through for me and the way I feel now. I can be grateful for myself at the same as I'm grieving for myself. I've had many gifts come from this experience. I could focus only on that, but I need to heal the other part. So I have to focus on that, too.

So, here I sit in my favorite time of the year, at once excited and intimidated by it. In one way of thinking, I have a new body and have to experience the changes physically, too, as the seasons progress. I can already tell you my feet get colder faster than they have in years. Same with my body. The inflammation I had for so many years from the faulty valve seems to have kept me warm. So I'm appreciating socks more than ever before. There's that...haha.

Usually when I dread something it turns out to be less of an issue than I fear. Maybe by this time next year, I'll be remembering the breakthrough that came this winter as a result of all my past suffering and fear and I can share that with you instead. Let's hope that's the case! :)

Sunday, November 4, 2018

11/5/18—Clearing The Fields

This week's post is a classic one from all the way back in 2012 when I used to blog about tarot. But it is always a relevant, cylical lesson in my life, so I think about it often... 

Maybe 10 years ago or so, I drove past a farmer's field that was smoking from a recent fire. I had never seen this before, so I thought something tragic had happened. But then a few miles down the road, I saw another burned out field. And another. This was the first time I realized that farmers occasionally burn fields to kill all the old growth and weeds. Then, I suppose, they turn the soil and plant something new. It's like a clean slate. A field that used to grow soybeans can now grow corn. 

The same concept is used by nature. Forest fires, for example, are actually necessary to keeping the forest healthy. Too much vegetation can prevent seeds from germinating, stopping the growth of new trees—and thus endangering the generational growth cycle. Also, the denser the forest, the hotter it burns and the more destructive the fire becomes. So occasional fires in the forest are mother nature's form of self-care and even damage control, keeping the forest at a healthy density.

Usually when we see a Ten of Wands, it's depicting someone so overwhelmed, burdened or oppressed that they can't move. They feel trapped in the fire with no way out. Whether it's work or financial matters, family or relationships, we all feel that way at one time or another. Then once the flames subside, whether we wanted it or not, we're left with a fresh slate upon which to write. 

Over the past year, I have been caught a couple of times with fires burning all around me. And the ash they've left behind has exposed some things still left standing that no longer have a place in my life (along with a number of good things I want to keep). Some of them are the things I've written about here...attitudes toward others and the way I handle my own self care. But there are other things I haven't spoken so much about...thoughts about how I spend my time, who I call friend and where my energies have been misguided. 

Sometimes fires happen to you. And sometimes you set them yourself, clearing what no longer serves to make space for new growth and a more evolved life.

As a new year begins to come into focus, there are a few places in my life I feel a need to douse in gasoline and set ablaze to continue to move forward in my life. Anyone else out there need a light?

Sunday, October 28, 2018

10/29/18—Contemplating The Tree

Back in 2015, one of my big dramas was the decision to cut down the tree in my back yard. I could have cut it down to a tiny stump, but decided, instead, to cut it into the shape of a "tree god", complete with a face I faux painted to match the tree. His arms are eternally reaching upward, summoning spirits to the backyard, like the lady who materializes in my backyard fires and the cardinal that chirps my name (see image and video below).

Fact is, the tree had been a danger for many years. The limbs overhung three yards and two roofs and I worried about it with every passing storm. Though it kept growing fiercely, it also seemed to deteriorate at the same pace. As you can see from the picture on the left, it tried to regenerate by pumping out new growth. But the picture below reveals that, in the past year or two, it has given up entirely. 

Tree in decay, losing its bark.
As I said, I cut it down because it was dying. So it's probably dying because it's dying. But I can't help but look at the deterioration in the past year and wonder if it's dying because the energy around it—energy from me and my thoughts and from the many birds that have drilled holes into the tree to create homes—says it's dying. I wonder if it's dying because it has come to believe it's dying. 

Most mornings I'll go out back and sit and will inevitably contemplate the tree. The dogs like being outside better when I'm out there with them, so I'll go to make sure they do all their morning business. If I didn't go, they would pee and rush back in to me, having not gone on the lengthy hunt for the perfect poopy spot. It behooves us all to get that done before I dig my nose into my writing for the day. 

So I'll contemplate the tree and wonder if it has voluntarily given up on life because everyone believes it is dying. Or I'll wonder if it's just coincidence that the tree's decay began just as my decay ended. And I'll ask myself what I believe to be true about my own situation. I know that when I believed I was dying, I was. And when I believed I was "cured", I was. Of course there was medical intervention to create that change, so it wasn't all in my head. But there have been other, more subtle thoughts—Do I believe I'm worth fighting for, or do I want to give up an succumb to my darker fears?—that the tree has inspired me to consider, too. 

Right now I'm seeing the tree shedding its outer layer and becoming something different. I'm on that journey, too. For both of us, it's an inevitable evolutionary step. Gone are the familiar, uniform brushstrokes of bark and they're being replaced by long streaks of unpredictable form and color. Those streaks have been in there, forming, all along. But they've only had the wherewithal to show themselves recently...after both of us came to terms with death and our own transformational rebirth.

Click on the image to make it larger.
Do you see the lady gazing at the camera, chin resting on
her hands? She is in the smoke to the left of the flame.
Is this change the sign of the real tree god coming out? Or is the god falling apart, having long lost all that once made him powerful? I'm thinking that, in my own case, it's the former. Which is actually the scarier option. Dying and decaying don't really take much effort. But bringing out a powerful part of you that never saw the light—or saw the light so long ago it's a distant memory—requires you to engage actively in your own fate. And that's some scary shit, especially after being dormant for so long.

The universe got so tired of waiting for me to voluntarily engage that it is forcing me to step into the light and leave my comfort zone. Well, I still have a choice, but I know I have to choose to leave my comfort zone. Fate seems determined to not only change the course of my health this year, but that of my work, family and social lives. Like the tree god, I lifted my arms and summoned change and now I've got it. I thought it would come in slower and more gently, but it's not. I'm almost afraid to ask for anything more from the universe, because it is delivering so quickly and surely these days. 

So these are the things I think about as I observe the stump in my back yard. Never let it be said I don't possess a talent for overthinking. :D But it does beg the question—What do you think about yourself and how is that manifesting in your life? And, if that perspective were to change, what kind of change would that create in your own life? Personally, I'm never "ready" to tackle change, so I'm glad change has come to tackle me. What about you?


Sunday, October 21, 2018

10/22/18—Asking A Sasquatch Out To Lunch

I have this weird thing. I don't seem remember much about who I was in the past. It's like I'm totally detached from previous iterations of myself and I don't even feel like past "mes" were me at all.
There may be something deep and psychological to this. Or maybe everyone feels that way. But when I look into the eyes of the girls in this picture I know they all look like me, but I'm not sure I can say who they were. I just know I'm a very different person now. 

They all liked to write. They all had a sense of humor. And they were all on a journey of self discovery. But to one degree or another, I was always working to leave a part of them behind me where I would never have to look at it again. That's what growth is in many ways...a constant shedding of skin in search of the ever more luminous iterations of "me" hoping to reach the surface. Or maybe that's exfoliation. I'm not sure. :D Because, like exfoliation, the minute your "new skin" reaches the surface, it begins on a course of death and flakiness until it, itself, is shed. Just exposing it to the world to interact with outside forces sends it careening into certain obsolescence. 

The girl in the top row was really just trying to figure out who she was. The woman in the middle row...she's not someone I liked so much. She fell into a superficial trap and cared more about how others viewed her than how she viewed herself. The woman on the bottom row, well she's more like the woman I am today. Still searching. But looking more inside herself for the things she needs to be happy, rather than outside of herself.

Still, it bothers me in some ways that I can't identify with any of those women, not even the most recent—the one in the sparkly fortune teller's turban in the lower right hand corner. None of them seem to have captured the essence of me, not in photos or in reality.

Back in the days of the middle row, I used to feel like there was a "me inside of me" that was curled up in the fetal position, crying. Sad, I know. She would mostly come out at night, in the quiet moments as I lay down to sleep. She used to really bother me, because she felt trapped and I didn't know how to let her out. So I ignored her for years. Pretended she wasn't there. Those last two girls in the top row used to feel like her sometimes. It's like I swallowed them up and contained them within a new, shinier container, thinking it would make the pain go away. And it seemed to. For a while.

I did eventually make peace with her, though. I had to. She became to pained to ignore. So I nurtured her. I stopped a lot of negative self talk. I got rid of toxic and abusive people in my life. I learned how to handle my fears. And today the me inside of me is uncurled and living peacefully within me. But I still feel like she's captive to a degree...silent, content, but hoping to feel the air on her skin just once before she dies. She hasn't been fully integrated yet. She's just led by a kinder master.

Sometimes I wonder if "the real me" or the "authentic me" is elusive like a Sasquatch. You might catch glimpses of it, but you can never quite meet it head-on and ask it out to tea. No matter how times I've felt like I've finally reached my authentic self, I shed my skin again and that woman is lost to history. But with each layer shed and with each new iteration, I do feel like I understand my true self better. That "me inside of me" seems to fill out my skin more and more over the years. And I come more to peace with what I find inside of me, which brings me more to peace with the people and situation I find outside of me as well. 

I think we've been led to believe that "our true self" or our "authentic self" is a destination that we reach one day when we have amassed a lot of wisdom. But I'm coming more and more to believe that it doesn't exist. I think "authenticity" is more like a continually evolving journey. Sure, there's a core to us that remains constant throughout our lives. But that core is surrounded by a continually changing and evolving ether that, like quicksilver, is difficult to hold or contain. And I'm good with that. It makes life interesting. And I'm certain that if I ever stopped seeking—if there is a destination to ultimately reach—then life would lose its purpose. I've invested too much in this journey to ever be satisfied by reaching its end.

Sunday, October 14, 2018

10/15/18—Letting Go

A. Reaves Photography
Spirituality. Personal growth. Oneness. Transcendence. All the stuff we talk about on this blog comes from one thing. Letting go. 

Now, granted, it's far more complex than that. But pretty much everything you want to achieve, can be achieved by letting go.

Say, for example, you want to become a published writer. The list of things you have to let go of could include fear, excuses, limited ideas of what you can be, a relaxed work ethic, some outdated definition of who you are, naysayers, expectations...the list could go on and on. 

If you want to change a thought, you have to let go of the old thought. If you want to open your heart, you have to let go of the fortress you've built around it. If you want to be at one with others, you have to let go of the notion you're in any way different from them. If you want to move closer to god, you have to let go of needing to "know" and just trust. 

If there is something eluding you in your life right now, ask yourself what you have to let go of. There is something you're holding on to—an attitude, dream, goal, outdated notion, belief, emotion, stubbornness, resistance, fear, concern, excuse, knee-jerk reaction, insecurity, thought pattern, paranoia—something. Of course, you have to be self aware enough—and honest enough—to recognize the things you're holding on to in the first place. Ultimately, the only thing that ever stands between us and the things we want out of life is ourselves. 

If you've ever had a massage, meditated, practiced yoga or done any sort of relaxation exercise, then you know that your body holds on to tension in places you didn't realize. And you also know how hard it can be to let go of certain muscles...or to even know if you've let go of them...or to even know those muscles are there. Then, when you're "fully relaxed", you find another level of holding on beneath that. And you loosen that. And then, eventually, you're satisfied you're fully relaxed, even if momentarily.

This is the same process that happens on our personal journeys of growth. The more you let go of the muscle of the ego, the tighter wound you realize it is and the more places you see you're holding on that you never knew existed. And then, if it's even possible to reach a place where you think you've fully let go, you become conscious of a whole other nuance of holding on that you never knew existed.

If you're angry with someone, you're holding on. If you're sad or lonely, you're holding on. If you're stressed, you're holding on. If you're pursuing a goal, you're holding on. Even if you're happy, you're holding on. In fact, if you're alive and conscious, you're holding on...haha. Even monks hold on to their practice and devotion. We get glimpses of letting go, but we can't stay there, partly because trying to stay there would be holding on and partly because our journey on earth counts on us holding on to something. Holding on is our gravity. It's what keeps us tethered to this reality. 

As you begin a practice of self awareness and letting go, you also begin to see what's working for you as far as attachments go. A wise friend once told me "move toward that which makes you feel larger" and that principle applies here. If something is keeping you stuck or making you feel small, it's time to let go. 

For a different perspective, Buddhism believes that attachment is greatest source of suffering amongst humans. They define attachment as seeing the thing you're attaching to as separate from yourself. In their way of seeing things, it's possible to transcend attachments by being united with all things. So, in that way of thinking, letting go is actually the opposite of non-attachment. In non-attachment, there is nothing to let go of because there is unity in all things. In essence, you let go of your resistance to accepting this thing into your being. So that's another perspective on the situation. It doesn't make our journey as spiritual seekers any easier, though. It's just as hard to come to a place of non-attachment with something as it is to let go of it. 

I estimate that some of my letting go is letting go and some of it is non-attachment. I know that the more I understand and embody something, the less impact it has on me. And I also know that I frequently feel like I'm fighting upstream with some struggles and I often visualize letting go and letting the current take me...surrendering to it. Two sides of the same coin, really. 

For the vast majority of us, there's never going to come a day when we'll be here on earth without having countless attachments or things to hold on to. But we can lighten our loads, which is what the spiritual journey is about. It's about being as clear a channel as possible to transcend suffering or to receive and transmit grace, God's light, universal energy, the goddess...whatever speaks to you. Whatever your beliefs, however, the path to God or happiness or whatever you're trying to reach, can never be found by reaching toward something outside of you. It can only be found by clearing a pathway toward it within. 

Sunday, October 7, 2018

10/8/18—Passing Trauma Along

My mom went to her grave with a secret.

Well, knowing my mom, there might have been many secrets. But this one was big. She never told her children she was sexually abused by their grandfather. She may not have even told my father. If she did, he brought it to his grave, too.

So how do we know? It's really just an educated guess. But to begin with, from time to time she would talk about her younger sister, who was sexually abused by him. She would allude her brothers were abused by him, too. So you gotta wonder—if he abused all of them, how did she get by without it happening to her? As the oldest, it probably happened to her first.

She also hated my grandfather. I never met him. I never even knew his name. He was officially known as "that bastard". We know a lot of her hate comes from him cheating on her mother and leaving her mother alone to care for five children in the midst of WWII England. That makes sense until you realize she really didn't like her mother, either. One of her complaints about her mother is that she didn't respond the way a mother should respond when she found out about "her sister's" abuse. Most of the other complaints had to do with how her mother enabled "the bastard" in various ways.

I remember as a young child of maybe 8 or 9, my mother got a phone call. When she hung up, she walked past me and I heard her say, "Thank god that bastard is finally dead" and then she went about her day.

Beyond that, my sister says she remembers her saying, "If any man touches you, even if it's your father, you tell me and I'll believe you." Which is an odd thing to say, considering that my father wasn't anything like that. There were a lot of little mentions about protecting oneself from men, most of which I found normal. Moms warn children. But there was an energy or vibe behind it that made it a little less normal.

I have blogged about my own sexual assaults before. Not to minimize those episodes, but they were nowhere close to what most women experience. I think I can confidently say that the sexual assault that most marked my life was the never-spoken assault of my mother. It colored so much of my life. It sounds silly to say, but I have often felt my weight issues were much like that of a victim of sexual from men. I've asked my older siblings, just in case I don't remember. I wasn't assaulted as a child. I believe I somehow absorbed my mother's trauma to that degree. But if not to that degree, it has certainly impacted my life. I also feel I've absorbed some shame from her, too.

On the other hand, to my knowledge, neither of my sisters have been seriously sexually assaulted either. A lot of women lose their naivete and trust around men through sexual assault. Our naivete and trust, to a certain degree, was bred out of us. So we weren't trusting enough to put ourselves in certain situations with men. Not that it couldn't have happened anyway, but we had a leg up on other girls who weren't impacted by a mother determined to protect us from her own fate.

Lately, we've been talking a lot about how sexual assault impacts a woman's life. But the reason I'm writing this blog today is because it also impacts the lives of her children, too, creating behaviors, attitudes and defenses they pass down to their children. And so on. This probably also works in reverse, too, creating sexual abusers from men who were abused or boys who emulate their abusive father's misogyny.

In the past couple of years, the blatant misogyny and "let's not ruin a good man's life" attitude of our lawmakers has brought a lot out in the open. But don't misunderstand: Men are not the victims here. They created this for themselves and perpetuated it since the first caveman took liberties with the first cavewoman. This legacy is a birthright entitled young men claim without any care of what it does to their sisters, brothers, sons and daughters. Without any sense of what a cancer it is on our world.

I don't have any answers here. I can say, "This has to stop." I can even say it emphatically. But I have clues as to what will stop it. It is bred in. Certainly, consequences for entitled white dudes will help. It feels like we're on the cusp of that actually happening in our society. But then it will still take generations to heal. After 150 years, black people are still healing from the generational impacts of slavery at the hands of racist, sadistic white people. And until the white people stop it with their sadism and racism, the black people can't fully heal. Because it's still happening. Same thing with this.

The answer lies with men. The men who do this crap often find themselves with women who hate women...women who agree they are secondary to a man's wishes. So picketing with our vaginas won't work. Since we can only bring consequences with our vote and voice, we need to come out of the darkness, which we're doing. We need to heal ourselves for ourselves, regardless of whether or not men heal and evolve. We need to stop fearing men. Because the only way to help heal our daughters is to heal ourselves first. And we must raise our voices, as is happening in elections across the country.

One of the things I learned from my mother, who was ahead of her time in this regard, is that equality isn't something you wait on being given. It's something you assume in every move you make. It doesn't matter if men let you. What matters is that they have no choice. We need, as a sex, to stop assuming "the weaker sex" role. Fact is we are not the weaker sex, because the weakest person in any room is the one who doubts himself. That's not a male/female thing. They want it to be a male/female thing. We've been socialized to believe it's a male/female thing. But it's not.

Assault is about domination and control. It's about fearful, insecure, misogynistic men who need to dominate and control women to feel right about themselves. Certainly, most men are physically stronger than most women. That gives them a leg up. But the fact that women don't want to hurt or offend or make too much noise makes it easier for us to be dominated in other ways. The fact that we hope equality will be afforded to us, instead of just being equal, makes it easier for them.

These men need consequences. Women need to stop holding in the pain and shame, thereby protecting their aggressors, whether they speak up 5 minutes or 5 years later. We need to stop enabling them. And we need to stop trying to keep the peace and be nice. Which is not to say it's our fault. It's not. But there is more we can do to make domination and control less worth their while. The roots of their need to dominate and control lie in fear. Let's give them something to fear.

Sunday, September 30, 2018

10/1/18—Growing Miracles

Lemon Tree, very pretty and the lemon flower is sweet.
Miracles happen every day on my back deck. 

For the past two weeks, I have been watching in awe as the green "grenades" on my lemon tree have turned to yellow. I have five of them this year, a bumper crop. Way more than I would expect from the rather small potted tree that I drag inside every winter.

I'm assuming it's a normal thing, but it loses its leaves every year and grows them back immediately. It blooms into fragrant flowers. And some of those flowers turn into lemons. The tree itself is pretty much exactly the same size as it was when I bought it 8 years ago. It doesn't seem to grow. It just regenerates over and over again. And, holy crap, I have lemons growing on my back deck! REAL LEMONS!!!

Patchouli smells like patchouli.
I know what you're thinking: "Yes, Tierney. That's what lemon trees do. It's how all lemons are made." I don't care. When you make something like that happen yourself, it seems like a freaking miracle. I buy my food. I don't raise it. But next week I will have the need for a lemon and I'll go and pluck one from my tree and it will be incredibly miraculous and gratifying. It's not something that happens easily and automatically like a chive. It's a freaking lemon!

Stevia, parsley and mint.
My herb garden is pretty nice. I think I counted 25 different herbs out there one time. I have multiple kinds of mint, which always amazes me because it smells and tastes just like mint! In fact, I've had container herbs for 20 years and some things never get old:
Aloe grows so big.
  • Patchouli, which I grow for fun and to combine with the white sage I grow in smudge sticks, smells just like patchouli. I don't know what else I expect, but the plant smells exactly like the perfume. It freaks me out every time.
  • Stevia is sweet as can be in plant form. Biting into a stevia leaf is like eating candy. There is a huge burst of sweet in your mouth. A green plant! Sweeter than sugar!
  • Aloe, which used to be in a tiny seedling container, grows insanely fast and out of proportion to its container when you repot it in something larger. Most plants would die in a small container for so long because of their roots. And they would need very frequent watering. But aloe is "set it and forget it" and it thrives. Each time I look at it, it's larger than the time before.
White sage: DIY smudge
It's not like I'm completely naive. I've had my container garden for a long time. It consists of maybe 50 containers and more than a dozen Buddha heads to pray over them.  Rosemary, thyme, chives, tomatoes, basil and parsley are the items I use most. I grow perennials and annuals. Some of the containers hold flowers. So I'm not new to the phenomenon, but it amazes me every time—nature provides, growth happens, and with only minimal tending, miracles happen. 

That last point is key. Too much attention and tending, then it's not a miracle. It's more like you made it happen regardless of nature's intent. Too little tending, and it goes wild. But when you remove the weeds that crop up, water the plants, prune effectively and respect the natural process, miracles can happen. The same that's true for lavender and strawberries is also true for you.

Look at your life. How many amazing, miraculous things have happened without you even trying? Some may have come in the form of victories and some in the form of lessons. But look at you now. If you're reading this, everything you are is a result of both divine intervention and the pruning and watering you've done thus far to get here. In my experience, the universe doesn't always bring us what we want—my lemon tree wants sun and water every, single day—but it brings us the resources we need. We do this together with nature. And that's pretty cool.

If you just confined yourself to my back deck, you could understand our role in nature and in our own lives. We are here to live cooperatively in nature. We can plant and eat what we grow. We can tend and respect. But forcing and controlling are not natural. They are not part of the universe's ways. Better yet, if you just stand out of the way and let the universe do its thing, exerting minimal control over the processes, life will give you lemons. And lemons, my friend, are miracles.

Sunday, September 23, 2018

9/24/18—Dreaming Bigger

I have a secret shame. 

I like to look at the real estate listings that pop up on my social media feeds. In fact, I often go on Zillow and check out homes in cities I will never even visit. I'm not in the market for a home. I just like to look at the pictures and poke my nose into other peoples' houses. 

Is there some feature I envy about the home? Do I like the way the kitchen looks? What does the back yard look like? Is there a big, stone fireplace? Do I suspect it's haunted? Can I imagine living there?

But that is not my secret shame. My secret shame is that I'll only look at houses I can afford. Intellectually, I realize how ridiculous that is. As long as I'm just playing around, why limit myself to a particular price range? But I do. 

I've recognized this before, but basically what this is is restricting my dreams based on a rule or limitation I make up in my head. It's like I'm only allowed to daydream realistically. Which is fine. But if I believe I can only achieve what I'm willing to believe, I'm limiting myself. And while I'm not consciously closing myself off to more, I'm not keeping my mind open to the miracles the universe routinely performs. The "order" I'm placing in the universe through my thoughts is narrow and limiting. So the results I get are narrow and limiting, too. 

And here's the thing...I consider myself a powerful manifester. The life I live now was (more or less) once a conscious or unconscious dream of mine. Twenty years ago I lived in a tiny efficiency apartment and decided I wanted dogs, so I manifested a different home for myself and a different lifestyle fell into place naturally. So why aren't I doing a better job of that now?

Fear. Insecurity. Breeding...haha. Growing up, I somehow learned that if you don't ask for anything too big (such as a pony) you're likey to get it (and by "it", that might mean a bicycle). If I don't want for more than my parents can afford, then I will never be disappointed and I will get everything I want. This was a practicality that was innate in me. I was born fiscally practical, with a dash of impractical purchasing thrown in...but just a dash. My mother was the same way. And since the main breadwinner in the family, my father, was on a fairly limited career path (military) most of my life, we knew our means and kept to them. 

Somehow all of this crept into my daydreaming and placed limitations on me. (It also benefited me in that I believe I can get anything I want. I just have to learn it's ok to want more.) Which makes wonder where else am I limiting myself? Romantically? Socially? Career-wise? Physically? Where else do deeply ingrained beliefs and habits serve to limit what is possible for me in the universe? Maybe it's not such a silly belief as "I can only enjoy dreaming of houses I can afford." Maybe it's not as "obvious" as that.

I know some people believe there are limited resources in the universe and they don't want to take more than their "share". Some women believe all the good men are already taken. Some may believe they're not smart enough or special enough to have the things they want. And some, like me, could just, plain dream bigger. <--- If you follow that link there, you'll see this is not the first time I've gotten this message. 

These things work like the proverbial layers of an onion. Once you learn to dream bigger in one regard, you discover another place where you're holding yourself back. For me, at least, I'm going to start browsing real estate that is beyond my means, but not so opulent it makes me want to barf. And I'm going to envision a maid and caretaker, too, while I'm at it. :D  What simple little change can you make in your life to dream bigger?

Sunday, September 16, 2018

9/17/18—Battling Myself

Tonight as I hopped in the shower, I realized I've been feeling frail lately. And, as the hot water poured down upon my head, I questioned myself, "Am I frail or am I stronger than I ever imagined?"

In my moment of fragility, I wanted to answer, "I am frail". But even then I couldn't. I am alive and better than I've been in years. I'm stronger than I ever imagined.

I can't count how many times I came close to death in the 2010s...times I was in significant trauma that I can only now see how serious it was. The first three months of this year was a festival of those moments, with multiple hospital visits and ambulance rides. I slept with the door unlocked in case I couldn't make it to the door in an emergency. Turning over in bed left me breathless. Crying fatigued me, so I couldn't cry. I waited while my heart valve told me I was dying and my doctors told me my valve wasn't as bad as I thought. When they finally looked at it when I was moving, they were literally horrified by what they saw (I know this because my cardiologist told me as much afterward) and scheduled surgery immediately. The horror they saw was the horror I had been living with for years while they considered me everything from a hypochondriac to overly dramatic.

Nobody heard me. Nobody seemed to care. Meanwhile, I was terrified all the time. It was like a waking version of that nightmare where you can't scream. No matter what I said or how bad I looked, nobody heard me screaming.

When you're sick like that, you learn to cope by being frail. By being aware of your frailty, you make choices to protect yourself. You avoid drains on your energy. You sleep a lot. You cocoon. If you refused to acknowledge your frailty, you'd overextend yourself and make yourself sick. It's more than just a state of health, it's a state of mind.

I suppose I have been feeling frail lately because I got some sort of chest cold or something and it's taking a long time to clear up. But I also realized I had become comfortable with frail. That frail had become one of the ways I saw myself. And I also realized it had become outdated.

On the other hand, when you've been defined by your limitation for so long, it's scary to come out of that. You have learned to live with your prison. And you believe in the prison because when you tried to go beyond your limits, your limits stopped you. So, even though I'm well, it intimidates me to go beyond those previous limits. I've done it, of course, but my brain hasn't been reprogrammed to "stronger than I ever knew" yet. 

It's not just the feeling of frailty that I'm confronting lately. I'm confronting a lot of things. My mindsets of feeling unloved, not worth spending time on, and like nobody cares has come into question. So many stepped up to the plate for me once they knew I needed help. And, of course, my dogs understood my situation and took good care of me. So I don't get to go through life thinking that anymore...not without my higher self reminding me it's not true. 

And I also gave my power over to we all are trained to do. The fact is, they can perform miracles and can save your life, but if you're feeling horrible and they're telling you you're fine, it's your duty to your body/self to tell them to go to hell until you find one that listens. I have definitely learned to trust myself over doctors through this ordeal. So another fallacy I am challenging is that I have to defer to others who are "smarter than me" about my body. Turns out, even overweight and out of shape, I'm more of knowledgeable about how my body is feeling than they are. 

And beneath these things are other truths I have to come to terms with. The world doesn't think I'm frail and vulnerable. I do. So I see the world through those eyes. And it's not necessarily the world that doesn't care about me or listen to me or see me unworthy (though those people do exist). It's me who does that. And I greet the world through those eyes, so it's no surprise I get that in return. In addition, I'm the one that enabled the doctors to tell me I was fine when I wasn't. They didn't trust my accounts and I didn't trust myself enough to make them. My lack of trust in myself supported their lack of trust in me.

Maybe it's what I've been through the last few years, or maybe it's just my age, but there is a reckoning of sorts going on within me now. I'm battling myself and it can be nothing but good for me, as painful as it is to abide in the short term. 

So consider the things you feel about your world right now. Maybe you feel insignificant. Or unloved. Or betrayed. Less than. Over the hill. Hopeless. Or incapable. Challenge those beliefs. Is it possible you're the one that perpetuates your insignificance? Do you actually betray yourself? Are you the one focusing on your limitations and not your possibilities? 

In all my many years of spiritual exploration and looking inward, I have yet to come across a problem anyone else could fix for me. Except for my heart valve. :D But I'm talking about my beliefs and my issues with others. All of those things can only be fixed and healed by myself. Even when it's clear someone else is to blame, I find that I played a role myself. And when I start to heal the reasons why I believed something or put up with something for so long, the problem disappears...or I move beyond the problem. 

So what's bugging you and what do you need to change to heal it? It may not be a fun process, but at least you can take comfort in knowing that I and many others are going through it alongside you.

Sunday, September 9, 2018

9/10/18—Waiting For Fall

I'm fortunate to live in a part of the US that has four distinct seasons each year—beautiful, miserable, breathtaking and reflective.

I have declared summer (aka "miserable") over a number of times in the past month, only to have it return uglier than ever. I hesitate to do so again, but it is cold and rainy outside and I have hope…a NEED…for autumn to be here at last. It’s my favorite time of year and I believe it's especially spectacular in the mid-Atlantic. The temperatures are perfect for being outside, building fires, hiking on trails, leaf peeping. And as the leaves fall, they lay the branches bare, prompting us to do the same within.

For me, spring and summer coax my energy out of my body. Fall and winter lead it within, toward the core of my spirit. As days grow shorter and nights get cooler, the presence of spirit seems to grow stronger in me. To me, that means not just being "in good spirits". But it also means a deepening connection and communion with that energy or source that we are part of, yet is greater than us all, whether you call it God, nature, Buddha or something else.

I can’t deny "waiting" for a spiritual connection to find me, instead of going after it right now. I've been feeling disconnected for a while and nothing seems to "take" lately. While there have been times connection feels effortless, we still have to show up...and show up in the right frame of receive. We can't expect spirit to beam into us while we're returning emails, running errands or watching TV. In fact, for me, I am most connected when I am fully in the moment, and even more when I am fully in the moment in meditation or prayer.

Autumn has a way of supporting that connection in me. It’s cool. It’s beautiful. I want to be out and about. And the prompt of having those leaves falling off the tree triggers a shedding for me, too. It leads me within. While I’m always led within, there’s a different quality to it…creative, surrendering, safe.

There has been a lot of heavy stuff on my mind. Some of it I’m not ready to tell. Other stuff I can’t speak of to protect the privacy of others. All of it leaves me uneasy because I have dropped my connection and am counting on fall to bring it back to me. It sounds a bit lazy and silly, I know. But fall has a way of bringing healing to these kinds of things for me. It can’t get here soon enough.