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The Journey from Sadness to Strength

Dragonfly the Symbol of Change and Power

The last night my dad was in the hospital in Tulsa before he was transported by air ambulance home, the brutal reality of his impending death really sank in for me.  I remember holding his hand, he had very strong hands, I also remember thinking how I needed to be present and soak up everything about him because I just didn’t know how much longer we had together.  I slept next to dad in a recliner so I could be right there if he needed anything.  He was having a restless time and I could tell something was bothering him.  My dad was a man of very few words and he never talked about his feelings, although, I probably pushed him slightly beyond his comfort zone more than anyone when it came to those kinds of conversations.  I am not sure what possessed me to ask this but it was what came to my mind, I said “dad are you sad, mad or scared?” 

He wept silently and said, “mostly sad.”  I hugged him and wanted so desperately to take his sadness away, he had been through so much.  I told him I was sad too, and we both sat there crying, it was the closest I have ever felt to my dad.  The emotions I feel when I recall that night are as real to me now as when I experienced them.  I was flashing back to that night because I caught myself a few days ago saying I am mostly sad about a situation I am experiencing.  It really doesn’t matter why, but the feelings are there and intense, very intense sadness.  What made the experience even more raw was the thought that dad’s sadness had to be so much worst than what I am experiencing now.  When I think about everything he was going through; he was in pain, severe pain, he could not eat or drink, he could no longer enjoy distractions like video games or music, it did not comfort him anymore, and then he was experiencing this incredible sadness on top of everything else.  I am ashamed to say in spite of that I was still feeling sorry for myself, and oh how I wish I could talk to him right now, he always knew how to make me feel better. 

Sadness is such a challenging emotion to be with, mad and scared are focused on the external, your mad at someone or scared of something, but sadness comes from within and is focused inward, its personal.   My friend, I can’t just call her my friend, she is my shamanic angel spirit guide, told me, “honey the universe will take care of you, trust, just trust.”  So as I was sitting there feeling sad and just trusting that is what I needed to be experiencing, a girlfriend calls my home number, she tried my cell and I did not answer so she persisted.  I answer, she hears in my voice, I am not my perky, happy self so she asked what is going on.  I told her I am feeling sorry for myself, by the end of the conversation I am laughing, my daughter picks up an extension while I am still talking to my friend and joins our conversation, and I told her to grab a funny movie I need to lighten my mood.  She says, “ok how about Spaceballs?”  I told her that was a perfect choice.  While she’s getting the movie and after I hang up from my girlfriend, another friend texts me, he has a wicked sense of humor and he is giving me his latest observations on life.  His observations are usually hilarious and caustic and always at his own expense, and always make me laugh.  The very next text on my phone is my neighbor she calls herself Gladys Kravitz, after the nosy neighbor from a sitcom in the 60’s called Bewitched.  I do have to say my Gladys Kravitz is nosy in the best way possible, she looks after everyone’s kids and property and she facilitates the great community we have here, always encouraging us to get together and celebrate.  So Gladys then texted me saying she was bringing over a gift and told me to have a cocktail ready.  This all took place in the span of 20 minutes, I looked up to the ceiling and gave thanks to the universe for taking such good care of me.  So my shamanic angel spirit guide, as always, is correct, the universe is taking care of me, and I am getting some distance from this sadness. 

I have always been fascinated by people who can hide their emotions, and we all know people like this, they can walk into a meeting right after received devastating news and pull it off as if they were having the best day of their life.   I say I am fascinated by them because I am terrible at that, when people ask me how I am doing I don’t always say good or great, I tend to wear my emotions like a Mike Tyson face tattoo.   As with everything in this beautiful life there is a light side and a dark side to that way of being.  The light side is that I tend to experience what I am experiencing and by letting it out as it comes is does not so adversely affect my health, the dark side is that I am fully exposed to my peers and can be in a very vulnerable position.  

Fortunately I come from a long line of strong and powerful women, and if you are wondering yes my shamanic angel spirit guide told me that, and I have to agree.  My mom used to say to me “just remember there comes a time when you have to stand up for yourself Marsielark”, and my sweet and loving grandmother who thought “my stars” and “for pete’s sake” were the most fowl cuss words a person could utter once told me during a difficult time in my life, “well don’t take any crap.”  When my grandmother gave me that advice at first I almost dropped the phone in utter amazement, to hear such a word come out of my grandmother’s mouth.  My grandmother was a person of very high integrity, she once found herself in an unthinkable situation where her integrity was questioned, she never wavered, she knew her values, her morals.  While that episode in her life was painful, and caused her great sadness, she was amazing in her strength…………I stopped writing my blog at this point and had to leave so I would not miss my yoga class, while in class this morning our yoga teacher Jan said “can you all see all these dragonflies out there?”  I could not believe it, there were hundreds of dragonflies flitting around outside the window, it was beautiful, and I instantly felt electricity shoot through my body.  My grandmother loved dragonflies and one of the last gifts she gave me was a pair of green dragonfly earrings.  I had this immediate feeling of love surrounding me.  So I knew she was reaching out to me today to feel her strength and sending me a message to feel my internal power and strength, which is what I intend to do. 

While all these strong and powerful women I have descended from have all passed on to the spirit realm, I know their love surrounds me and fills me with humility, courage and compassion, they are guiding me, so I am trusting; trusting the process, trusting the universe, and trusting my dragonfly spirit guides.     

    Out of suffering have emerged the strongest souls; the most massive characters are seared with scars. – Khalil Gibran  

The Bundle of Sticks

            There is a wonderful fable by Aesop called The Bundle of Sticks. 

Unity = Strength

A farmer, who had a quarrelsome family, after having tried in vain to reconcile them by words, thought he might more readily prevail by an example. So he called his sons and bade them lay a bundle of sticks before him. Then having tied them into a bundle, he told the lads, one after the other, to take it up and break it. They all tried, but tried in vain.

 Then untying the bundle, he gave them the sticks to break one by one. This they did with the greatest ease. Then said the father, “Thus you, my sons, as long as you remain united, are a match for all your enemies; but differ and separate, and you are undone.”

 I love this fable and it is so true. Over the years I have witnessed the power, strength and boundless possibility of unity, I have also witnessed when the bundle is broken, divided, and we are left weakened and vulnerable. My greatest example of this fable in action is my family over the last two years.  We were working as a bundle, no doubt about it, and we are still in a tight bundle and as strong as ever. I recognized this strength in numbers, as we navigated cancer, caregiving and ultimately loss. This unity has inspired me to keep my other bundles tied tightly. Those bundles or connections are; my friends, my neighbors, and my co-workers.

I wake up every morning and give thanks for all the gifts and blessings I have been given and all my bundles are high on the list. Those areas in my life where I feel like a single-stick; vulnerable and weak, I am working towards creating more unity and tying a bundle. We all have those areas where unity seems a bit more challenging and all we can do is recognize it and take action from there. For my action, and I feel a bit like the little engine that could, I have been reconnecting and reaching out to friends from my past and people I have wronged to clean up old messes. It was really scary to reach out to people whom I had things I needed to clean up, and honestly the result has been beyond my imagination. I definitely have not batted a thousand but I have created unity with several people I wronged in the past. I am very humbled and blessed by their compassion to forgive and their capacity to love. So never give up on unity. 

Anyone who knows me from my childhood would be amused at the notion that I see strength in numbers, I was a very independent little thing. I liked to do things my own way, by myself. I remember my goal from a very early age was to educate myself enough so I could get a decent job and totally rely on myself, I did not want anyone to take care of me or be responsible for me. There is absolutely nothing wrong with self-sufficiency, and I must confess I tend to do too much for my kids and need to let them do more for themselves, but while teaching responsibility one can also teach unity.

I was talking to a friend who has two boys and he was basically describing to me how important it was to him that his boys had a tight bond. He has taught them to never disparage the other in public and to always stick up for each other. I thought this was very intriguing because I feel the same way but never set out with the intent to teach this to my kids, I have just been reacting to behavior that does not support this philosophy.  Now, I realize as I write this how absurd that sounds and my strategy was flawed, but at least I recognized it was flawed, ok. It is kind of funny, we have things we want or desire and instead of educating ourselves or others towards that end, we simply react if we don’t get what we want. Well back to my friend’s boys, they got into a little trouble and basically would not nark on each other to dad, they backed each other up. They did not tell a lie, they just would not tell on their brother. My friend basically let them off the hook, he felt it was more important that he reward their unity than to punish their infraction. I took his lesson to heart. I am extremely close to my brother and I want my children to have that same close relationship, while I did not start out as early as my friend teaching unity, I am now.

When I see siblings that are treating each other badly it always makes me sad, when my kids treat each other poorly it hurts my heart. What I really dislike is to see parents pairing with one child over another, or disparaging their children in public, oh it hurts me right to the core. It feels like a little bit of the universe dies when that happens.  And in a sense it does, there is a loss of connection and energy that feeds our universe.

My dad’s family was a tight bundle, in spite of, or possibly due to the fact that, growing up they lived in a very dysfunctional situation. My dad would not disparage his parents nor his siblings, my dad would not disparage my mom even after their acrimonious divorce. He did not want to affect our unity. I remember hearing my dad talk about his sister and brother’s and you could feel the unity and strength of his ties to them. While I may not have mastered this skill as well as my dad I know he planted the seeds with me because I feel it to my core when I see unity and when I see division, particularly in families.

We have so many horrendous role models out there in the public arena untying bundles left and right (pun intended), that many of us need to remember the result is a weakened society and a weakened universe. We need unity for strength, and it really begins at home. We need to model unity at home if we do not have unity at home how can we have it a work, in government, in our place of worship, in sports or anywhere else. Share this fable with your kids, grandkids, cousins, nieces or nephews, what a marvelous and powerful gift of love and unity.

 “Alone we can do so little, together we can do so much.” – Helen Keller

Responsibility

Mom, who is responsible for this mess anyway?

Being responsible is so powerful.  So why is it so damn scary sometimes.  I have no problem taking responsibility for some things but when relationships go awry – well lets just say that little girl inside me comes out.  Hey, I didn’t do it, they did.  Uh-uh it wasn’t me, it’s their fault.  Exit stage right, save my seat on the Avoidance Express.

I am great about taking one for the team when a project goes bad, although as a manager the buck does stop with me so there are no heroics at work here.  But ask me to take one for the team in a relationship that has gone south soooorrry ain’t gonna happen.  (Ok for those folks that know me; Shane and I are still happily married, and Geri and I are still happily partnered.  This tail has nothing to do with them.  Ok for those folks that don’t know me; Geri is my business partner.  There, that should clean up any housekeeping related issues.)

So going against my typical grain, I recently took responsibility for my part in a very uncomfortable relationship.  And lets just say while I may have gone kicking and screaming to this end, hey I eventually got there.  The amazing thing is that even though I had to admit some uncomfortable truths about myself, I can’t believe how great I feel, that hair shirt I was wearing is gone, that loaded pack has been shed and I feel more like myself than I have in a long time. 

Does that mean that there has been some miraculous change no, not really.  I mean the change for me was in my perception of the situation.  Why do I go right to other people’s intent being malicious?  I am not big on the hair shirt thing so I am asking, not to flog myself, or make myself wrong, but to really understand what drives that interpretation.  What switch deep inside me gets tripped when I go down this road?

Well if you are waiting for some profound cathartic insight that I have discovered, I am going to disappoint you.  I haven’t quite figured out why I do this, but I can share that my awareness helps me recognize when I do this.  You may be asking, ok, so what the heck does that do for you.  Think of it this way, we don’t know why tornadoes strike but when we are aware that one is on the ground we can take action to try to minimize injury.  Similarly the moment I recognize or become aware that switch inside has been tripped, it’s almost like a short-circuit occurs, and the energy going to my destructive response center is cut off. 

Having awareness and being responsible still takes will power and personal integrity and in the spirit of transparency I admit I still have moments where I am aware and yet still choose to be a butt head.  Hey I am a work in progress, hmmmm just like everyone else.  So I have to develop my muscle around personal responsibility, by exercising it regularly. 

The moment I recognized the power of taking responsibility it was amazing it really woke up all my senses, it reminded me of when I step outside on a clear, cool, brisk morning and I take those first few breaths of that cold air filling my lungs and I look up at that blue sky and feel so alive and grateful.  That alive, light, refreshing feeling is the motivator that drives me to do better. 

That and a good laugh at myself keeps me moving in the right direction.  I think the best thing anyone can do for themselves is really laugh at their follies.  I think we all take ourselves too seriously which in turn drives us to take everyone else so seriously.  For heaven’s sake we are all flawed.  I am saying this as is if it an absolute truth I accept, however, my essence has to remind my ego of this everyday.  So as I traveled this recent path of recognizing my responsibility I also had a good laugh at my myself.  Not to minimize myself but to minimize my objections, that in the end really were not what was or is important.

I think all of us have at least one example of a relationship gone bad in our lives.  This creates toxic energy that is harmful to us and possibly the other person involved.  If this is bringing to mind a relationship you want to shift, I invite you to explore your responsibility in the situation.  You do not have to take any responsibility for someone else’s behavior, I am only speaking of your own.  You are only responsible for your actions.  Take ownership of your part. 

I got hung up on focusing on the other persons bad behavior, but once I took a good look at my response, I discovered I was also engaged in my own bad behavior.  I enjoyed when others would “prove” or “confirm” my judgements.  So I would engage in evidencing my justification of my disapproval or dislike.  Some people call that splitting and pairing, some call it gossiping, some call it passive aggressive, any way you look at it or describe it, I think we all can agree it’s not very empowering.

I am certainly not advocating anyone should engage in a relationship where they are being treated poorly.  Just take responsibility for your actions.  You will be amazed how you feel not only when you are with that person but about yourself as a result.  And what if the other persons behavior does not change?  That’s ok, this is your awareness, your journey not theirs.  I can promise you that at least half of the negative energy fuelling the discord will be gone, and that is better than the alternative.

Responsibility is powerful, awareness is powerful.  Remember people and events that challenge us are lessons that we are here to learn.  It is a challenge to see difficulty as a blessing or gift but they are the gifts that remain with us throughout our life.     

“I have learned silence from the talkative, toleration from the intolerant, and kindness from the unkind; yet, strange, I am ungrateful to those teachers.” – Khalil Gibran.

Karmic Law

Hope This Thing Floats!

It’s interesting how something can seem so solid one minute and melt through your fingers like ice cream in July the next.  I have been grappling, with myself really, over something I felt right about.  As a matter of fact I felt so solidly right about it, I was feeling self-righteous.  And as I was swimming in my sea of self-righteousness, I was feeling really bad.  The longer this went on the heavier the burden and the more weary I felt.  And finally a good friend asked me a simple but profound question, “ok, so you feel you are right, so what is the cost of being right?”

I thought about people in our country today on either side of the political spectrum and they each think they are right.  So they espouse their rightness and are frustrated and angry that the other side does not see how right they are .  While the other side is aghast at the wrongness of their wayward opposition while basking on the glory of their rightness.  What is the cost?  The cost is: loss of dialogue,  loss of connection, loss of compassion, we no longer see ourselves as part of the same human family and sadly eventually we lose the ability to love one another.

My daughter and her friend and I went to the movie the Big Miracle this weekend, it was wonderful.  One of the best parts of the movie for me was the way the environmentalist, the oil baron, the Inupiats (Eskimos), the military officer and the Russian soldiers all put down their being right about their own agenda, and instead developed compassion and connection for each other.  They saw they were all connected.  As with all things this too was not permanent, but at that particular moment and at that particular place, some pretty divisive parties united for a common goal.  And the real secret is that they all had and understood a common intent.  Their intent was to free the whales. 

So back to my wise friend and the cost of being right.   Well as I said the solid ground I thought I was standing on turned into water and I fell in.  As I dragged my sorry butt out of the water dripping wet, and I was all wet, I saw what I was doing.  I lost my intent and after I lost my intent, I lost my way and clung to being right.  So I had to get clear about what my intent was and after I got clear about what my intent was, lead a life of compassion and joy and fulfill my purpose, the self-righteousness faded and things became very clear, the load felt lighter and I no longer felt weary. 

I am a faithful and fascinated student of my own human condition, so when I go through a cathartic episode such as this, I love to understand it.  As I was exploring this it was very interesting how I noticed that being right is so disempowering.  I felt like I was coming from a position of power but I was not, literally my physical energy was being drained, as well as my spiritual and emotional energy.  But the other observation I made regarding this experience, was that I have found myself in this same situation at two previous points in my life, that I am aware of, there are likely more.  That’s when the light bulb went off.  Oh my gosh this a karmic relationship, this is a lesson I need to learn.  

There is a philosophy or body of thought called karmic law, that I believe is so, it basically says we all have a life purpose and we are to discover that purpose and fulfill it.  And in order to discover and fulfill our purpose we progress through a series of lessons, we are free to choose to learn the lesson or not, if we choose not to, we will repeat the lesson again and again until we finally learn the lesson so we can fulfill our purpose.  These lessons are not fun, they challenge us, are difficult, painful, and uncomfortable.  So karma says we will continue to attract the same experience again and again until we learn the lesson.  So the real dilemma here is admitting to myself, YOU ATTRACTED THIS EXPERIENCE, AGAIN!  It’s like a cosmic, “I tried to tell you, but you wouldn’t listen,” message.  So I created this, wow, what a concept, and I know it is true, I did.  My intent with my life is to ultimately become the person my higher power intends me to be and share the gifts I am intended to share and if I am going to fulfill this I need to check this lesson off my list and move onward.  So it is with immense gratitude and appreciation that I feel I can check this box.

So if you are feeling sorry for yourself because your always getting the shaft, this is a tough one but look inward, not outward for the source.  If a  particular uncomfortable experience or a particular difficult relationship seems to be a reoccuring theme in your life, try this one on, you may have attracted it to you.  Humbling huh, it sure was for me.  I love this quote by Wayne Dyer – “How people treat you is their karma; how you react is yours.”  Powerful stuff.  Live, love, breathe.

The Pause

Over the last year I have done a lot of soul-searching, self discovery, accepting of those aspects of myself I was not very fond of, basically peeling  back the layers.  Like an onion some layers fell off easy, others I had to pry off while tears were streaming down my cheeks.  All this work and learning how “to be”  along this journey really comes down one very important practice, pausing.  That’s right hitting the pause button.  When you hit the pause button several things happen and more importantly many things don’t happen.  What does happen, you stay present, what doesn’t happen, you don’t say or do something that is not in alignment with your intention.  I am so amazed at how quickly a well-intentioned encounter goes awry if I don’t hit pause.  I leave feeling like, what the heck just happened?  I am amazed at how well things go when I do hit pause.

You all know what I am talking about, let’s talk about the time you went to talk to someone about something you thought was no big deal.  You start the conversation and all of a sudden things get tense, maybe even confrontational.  Rather than pausing and considering what is happening we react in a similar fashion.  – Well screw you I came over to tell you we got some ice cream how the hell did I know you were lactose intolerant.  No we didn’t get any sherbet.  You know what I will make sure I never invite you to any parties we are having, you jerk. – Now let’s go through the same scenario and pause.  Hmmm I told this guy we were having ice cream and he is really getting worked up, I feel my face getting flush and my heart is racing, isn’t that interesting.  – You know I feel my face getting flush and my heart is racing because I am sensing this is an upsetting subject for you, listen my intention was to make sure you felt welcome to our celebration.  Will the testy lactose intolerant dude defuse?  Maybe, maybe not, the point is your fuse wasn’t lit.  We can’t control how others “are being” along their journey, we can only chose for ourselves. 

The pause is so powerful, many great philosophers and teachers think that when we meditate or pray, the pause between thoughts when one thought ends and before the next thought begins, is when we are closest to God.  If you think about it, it really makes sense our thoughts are tied very tightly to our ego so the pause in our thoughts is when we have a direct line to our essence, and our ego is bypassed.  When I make the choice to pause, to be mindful and become an observer of my own actions, it creates a calmness in my being.  It sounds crazy but if I find myself starting to get spun up if I take a step back and witness what is happening I can stay present and mindful.  I had a recent encounter where I wanted to get a point across and the person I was speaking to told me some negative traits about myself, it struck a nerve at first (ah hello Mr. Ego there you are) and then I paused yes they were correct I have these negative traits and I have positive traits that is what makes me whole (remember Mr. Ego we discussed this in detail a blog ago!) and that makes me like everyone else perfect.  The exercise of hitting the pause button has helped me understand that my self-worth, as with everyone else’s, is intrinsic and not determined by others. 

Hitting pause has helped me to be a better listener I find myself talking less and listening more.  If you are like me or at least like I have been in my recent past, you may feel the need to talk when you walk in the room, the silence feels awkward, notice that impulse to fill the silence, pause be present, relax and enjoy the silence and think about only breaking the silence if value is added.  It is a very powerful exercise.  If you are a shy person and would never consider breaking the silence but sit in quiet suffering hoping another will break the silence, be present relax and enjoy the silence, you may feel less inhibited to break the silence if value is added.  I love this quote by Abraham Lincoln – “It is better to remain silent and be thought a fool than to open one’s mouth and remove all doubt.”  And what amazes me is he was such a great orator, of course as I said if you can add value then speak and if you have read the transcripts of his speeches and debates it was certainly true in his case.  Of course in my own case I have on many occasions removed all doubt.  The pause has helped me not only to avoid removing doubt but it has done more, I am, in very stressful situations, witnessing them, almost observing myself and the events.  

Life is so much more interesting when you become the observer and not the actor.  If you have ever been on a stage you know what I mean, the actors cannot see the audience, only what is happening on the stage, the audience on the other hand can observe the actors as well as the rest of the audience, they have a more complete picture of the moment.   So the next time you lose your train of thought or forget your excellent comeback, just pause, don’t judge yourself and witness your thoughts, trust me you are seeing more, experiencing more than if you did get that awesome comeback,  it’s powerful. 

Mahatma Gandhi said “In the attitude of silence the soul finds the path in a clearer light, and what is elusive and deceptive resolves itself into crystal clearness. Our life is a long and arduous quest after Truth.”  Remember we are all on a quest for truth, how powerful. (pause).

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