In this fast food communication time period, people use shorthand/text speak to communicate what is on their minds. Yesterday, I was reminded by a new friend with whom I was on a Naturist (meaning clothing optional in this case) hike to celebrate the Summer Solstice, that we do indeed only live once. He was referring to his decision to live and love full out and appreciate the opportunity to connect with kindred spirits. The concept of YOLO (You Only Live Once) came to me courtesy of a heart attack that had me on my back, but not for long. In the midst of recovering physically, I had forgotten that there was a strong emotional component to the condition. It had me taking emotional risks and stretches that I had only dreamed about before. There was a time when I lived cautiously, often, as my husband would tell me, “looking over your shoulder to see if the propriety police were watching.” Sometimes they were and at others they were not even in the neighborhood. It didn’t stop me from keeping my own radar alert. What would someone think if I expressed my desires that were not in keeping with what I ‘should’ want and sometimes disdain for what was happening around me that other people were engaged in? Would they judge me as being too sensitive or just ‘too much,’ whatever that meant? As an out of the box thinker, likely since birth, I would often share observations that would have kid friends shake their heads and say, “Huh? What are you talking about?” They were more interested in the mundane than the metaphysical, while I had my own head in the clouds, pondering the nature of the universe.
It seems to me that a life well lived is one in which we risk putting our hearts on the line. One in which we stretch our comfort zones. One in which we are willing to laugh and cry in equal measure. There was a time when I would hold back tears in the service of keeping on keeping on. I would hold steady so I could be the rock on which others could lean. I would move away from ‘messy’ situations and people who stirred them up. That one was the most challenging, since my work as a therapist brought me in direct contact with folks whose daily circumstances could be wildly chaotic. Lately, I have engaged my emotional bungee jumping muscles and leaped off of symbolic bridges, really putting myself out there in the world. Scary? You bet! Rewarding? That too. With my heart racing, I have shared thoughts and feelings that I would have kept locked away in a steel enclosed box for fear that they would be misunderstood or judged, all the while pretending that I had it all together. These days, I am less concerned with maintaining the facade and more concerned with being real.
Who knows what today will bring that will allow me to live this one lifetime to the fullest?
On June 12, 2016, The Pulse, a Gay club in Orlando turned from a festive setting in which people were enjoying an evening of revelry, to a killing ground when Omar Mateen, a 29 year- old man used assault weapons against the patrons. 50 were murdered and numerous others were wounded. When tragedies like this one occur anywhere in the world, it is easy to see the victims as a group. As is always the case, these were individuals with families, friends, histories and potential futures.
At the We Are Orlando rally, organized by Sharon Fronabarger, I attended last night in the eclectic, inclusive community of New Hope, Pennsylvania, all of their names and ages were read aloud. I could feel a palpable, goose bump inducing presence of these folks. At the time, a group of 400 some of us were standing by the Delaware River on an overcast early evening. Birds were flying above the rainbow flag that was stretched behind the stage area as their memories were evoked.
Read their names and send their loved ones left behind, your love and prayers please. group of local clergy created the container for the experience. Reverend Michael Ruk from St. Phillips Episcopal Church and Rabbi Diana Miller of Kehilat HaNahar (The Little Shul by the River) offered blessings to comfort and inspire.
This one touched me deeply:
A Franciscan Blessing
May God bless you with a restless discomfort
about easy answers, half-truths and superficial relationships,
so that you may seek truth boldly and love deep within your heart.
May God bless you with holy anger at injustice, oppression,
and exploitation of people, so that you may tirelessly work for
justice, freedom, and peace among all people.
May God bless you with the gift of tears to shed with those who suffer from pain, rejection, starvation, or the loss of all that they cherish, so that you may reach out your hand to comfort them and transform their pain into joy.
May God bless you with enough foolishness to believe that
you really CAN make a difference in this world, so that you are able,
with God’s grace, to do what others claim cannot be done.
And the blessing of God the Supreme Majesty and our Creator
Two concepts jumped out at me immediately. The first was the idea of Holy Anger. I consider myself conflict avoidant, with anger being an unfamiliar emotion. I tend to keep it under wraps, unless I am aware of injustice. That’s when I become a protective mama bear, ready to defend whatever ‘cubs’ I happen upon.
The second was the paradigm of being blessed with ‘enough foolishness’ to believe that I can make a difference. When considering why it is an essential experience for me, I say that I do things for others/with others, simply because I have the energetic resources and sometimes compulsion to do so. I take my marching orders everyday and each one carries with it an opportunity to love and love and love some more.
I came to the vigil with my friend Julie Druzak and we offered FREE Hugs and carried signs that said such. Most people opened their arms willingly to accept the comfort that we were all needing. I noticed that all throughout the evening, I didn’t shed a tear. Not when the candles were lit one from the other. Not when the names were read. Not when witnessing others crying. Not when hugging folks. I wonder if as a bereavement counselor, I am so accustomed to holding space for the grief of others has become so natural for me, that my own stays at bay.
A few thoughts remain with me, that will call for follow up writing.The man who rampaged in Orlando is not representative of Muslims, any more than others who commit such hateful acts is representative of their religions. Islamaphobia over this tragedy will not assist in healing.
What if the hatred this man spewed was considered a mental illness? It isn’t in the DSM-V, but it ought to be. What if the antidote is love?
Let us all stand together.
You have no idea how hard I’ve looked
for a gift to bring You.
Nothing seemed right.
What’s the point of bringing gold to
the gold mine, or water to the ocean.
Everything I came up with was like
taking spices to the Orient.
It’s no good giving my heart and my
soul because you already have these.
So I’ve brought you a mirror.
Look at yourself and remember me.
As I am writing this article, I am in bed, which faces a mirror on the dresser. Reflected in its surface is the pale yellow wall behind me. I can see pictures mounted on its surface. Many are gifts from beloved friends. One is a butterfly painted by a high school classmate with whom I re-established connection after many years. Two others were brought back by another on a trip to Ireland. Yet another came from a former co-worker when I left my hospital job. Suspended from the ceiling are a dream catcher, two angels and a faerie. They are solid symbols of relationship with these people and with the energy the objects contain.
Mirrors are meant to be tools into which we gaze for the purpose of seeing beauty. That’s my story and I’m sticking to it, because often we use them to find fault. When I bring a mirror into workshops I teach and pass it around, asking people to ask themselves, “Who’s in there?” they often grimace as if looking for imperfections. Louise Hay encourages people to do mirror work and instead, tell themselves how wondrous they are. Not always easy.
Consider fun house mirrors which distort the image intentionally. Many live their lives as if that is reality. Stretched and out of proportion with the truth, which is that beauty resides within and radiates outward. Sometimes, even that radiance is too much for others to take in.
I have come to accept that each person in my life is a mirror, reflecting my own magnificence and yes, sometimes mayhem. There have been instances where their looking glass and my own are smudgy, as if finger prints have been placed on them and not cleaned off. When that happens, I turn within and ask myself what part of me are they bouncing back that I find distorted. So much easier to blame another for not being the way I might want them to be. So much ‘truthier’ to accept that they are me in that moment.
I woke up this morning to discover that a man who epitomized standing in confidence and standing up for what he believed in would stand no longer. Muhammad Ali passed into the land of his ancestors at the age of 74 on June 3 , 2016. Parkinson felled him when opponents couldn’t. A few years back, I had written an article about him for Beliefnet, entitled The Greatest. In it, I shared how boxing had come into my life with the experience of my father who was a Golden Gloves boxer in the Navy; something he was proud of. Being a pacifist, I never understood the allure of beating someone to a literal bloody pulp in the name of sport. At the risk of sounding like I am dissing his athletic accomplishments, know that I am not. I much prefer the idea of martial arts as a means of self defense, used with discipline and an element of spirituality. This is so of those in my life who practice the various forms.
It wasn’t Ali’s prowess in the ring that impressed me, rather it was the way he used his notoriety in the face of bigotry and his values to express a sense of integrity.
Even after retiring from boxing with the diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, which also took my father’s life, so I am aware of how incapacitating it can be, he devoted much of his time to philanthropy. He revealed the diagnosis in 1984, and helped to raise money for the Muhammad Ali Parkinson Center in Phoenix, Arizona. He was an ardent supporter of Special Olympics and the Make-A-Wish Foundation. As I did some research, I discovered that the doctor who diagnosed him, indicated that ‘pugilistic brain syndrome’; getting hit in the head one too many times, is what caused the debilitating condition.
I also valued his vocal expression of his own abilities…the line “I am the greatest, ” was no empty boast. He really was the best at what he did. I imagine that this mantra fueled his purpose and spurred him on. He owned his greatness and used it in service to the world. I asked my social media circles to share what it is they are willing to offer the world with their inherent greatness and was delighted with their responses.
- “To be the best version of me I can possibly be each day….hopefully better then the day before.
- “My Golden Glove is to support clients and students around the world with my movies and mentoring.”
- “Called out by the Bliss Mistress in public! Whoa! I have two Golden Gloves! Takes two to be in the ring right!? My first is I help people pinpoint and release core subconscious blocks so they can bring forth their best into the world and the second is with my music. I am a voice that stands for the people, the planet and for peace!”
- “I shine my love light.”
- “I forgive. I cheer. My love is forever. And the world can count on me to sing the truth of hearts.”
- “Trying to find the positives in situations.”
- “My mother loved Cassius Clay (as she called him). As a child I listened as my mother sang his praises and watched him with just as much awe when he had a boxing match. No wonder I still love boxing today. This past week the universe extended to me something that I felt and saw as expanding my greatness – my gift to the world. “Oh goody” I was clapping my hands in delight – “I’ve arrived.” “Not so fast” the universe said. “We aren’t sure you are ready yet”. Of course in these situation one wonders, I wondered, why something would be placed before me and then taken away. And after I read this article, it hit me. Am I to dream bigger? I don’t know what my gift is in one word. All I know is that I’m able – willing – ready to live it.”
- “To share through an open book our shared story of humanity. Within these books, in someone else’s story, is our own path home.”
- “To be the reflection of you – your greatest Joy, your greatest Love, your greatest Truth.”
- “My compassion and kindness to those in need of healing and my love for my family.”
- “Sharing the gifts I have been born with.””To look for the ‘pearl of wisdom’ in every situation.”