This morning, I received an email newsletter from my friend, the living-life-with-full-out-audaciousness, Junie Moon Schrieber. Like so many people I know, she takes all kinds of leaps into unknown territory. She inspires me to do the same. The theme was exploring the empty spaces in our lives and deciding what will go into them. A clear and clean white board was the focal point. I think about how many times I have wanted to fill up mine since it was too frightening to imagine nothingness.
Writing, speaking, counseling, ministering, coaching, editing, promoting, volunteering, seed planting for future events and projects…and that’s just in the professional realm.
Working out at the gym, time with family and friends, classes for fun, nature respites, travel, housekeeping, shopping, paying bills…I’m sure there’s something I’m missing.
When faced with veg time, in the past, I have panicked since it meant coming face to face with….feelings! Sadness, anger, resentment. I have played hide and seek with them for years, thinking that I could avoid them indefintiely. It’s like the little kid who thinks she is invisible because she is burrowed beneath a fuzzy blanket. If I can’t see you, you can’t see me.
Lately, I have been more willing to leave room for what I want to enter. Clearing space around and within me. Emptying out. Tears and laughter.
This past week, I was in the presence of the kind of transcendent love that melted my tendency to hold on to old patterns and self sabotaging patterns. You know how when you issue an invitation to the Universe, it responds in sometimes suprising ways? I had cast out like a fishing line, the desire to get my work out there in the world and have someone as the wind beneath my wings, as I had done for others for many years. I had been in emotional upheaval since last fall and was ready for major shifts to occur. And shift they did, seismic in nature. A kindred spirit from the other side of the country (Portland, Oregon) reached out and life is irrevocably changed. Tom invited me to visit, stay in his home, meet his tribe of friends and family, (that included four legged furry felines), speak at Zen Garden (his beautifully cared for yard, resplendent with flowers, trees, fruit and veggies) and helped arrange for me to teach at New Renaissance Books. At first, I thought….”What the heck am I doing?” Since the heart attack in 2014, I have been taking all kinds of leaps into a new life. This felt like one of them. Despite understandable concerns voiced by a few people, I felt totally safe. Tom and I have gotten to know each other long distance, as I have been editing his second book titled Taming the Anger Dragon. His first, called The Department of Zenitation ushered me into his world that is filled with spiritual delving. When I set foot in his home a little more than a week ago, I witnessed that he walks the talk and is constantly going deeper, excavating his own cave, not know what he will find, but bravely facing whatever shows up next.
Paradoxically, the most challenging part of our time together was the most healing. He insisted (as strange as it sounds) that I receive. Allowing a man to take care of me has long been difficult. Still not sure of the root of that emotional infirmity, but I knew that I had the perfect opportunity to release it (hopefully, once and for all). Hours of intense and profound conversation, enjoying the fruits of his labor in his garden (grapes and plums), a flower in a vase on the tray table on which sat my laptop computer each day as I wrote articles and edited his book, nurturing hugs, being served when I wanted to get up and fend for myself. He dared me to get raw and real with long supressed emotions and memories. On my last night in Portland, we co-created a healing ritual in which I purged two decades plus, of memories that I had allowed to plague me. The decadent treat of s’mores sealed the ceremony.
He made me promise (to which I responded with a pinkie swear) that when I returned home, I would allow others to take care of me too.
Now, two days after walking through the threshold of my home that awaited my return, I am not the same woman who had packed her suitcase and headed westward to embark on a new life. The slate is clean, as I have wiped away the residual markings of a past that best remain behind me, rather than being hauled along into my future. Eager to see what I will write on my own internal white board each day.
As a yoga practitioner, I like to think of myself as someone who ‘goes to my edge,’ and then a wee bit more. This is something I have been doing off the mat as well. Sometimes easier to do the former than the latter. As I am typing these words, I am aware of the hum of the dishwasher, the rapid spinning of the ceiling fan, the soul searing soundings of Loreena McKennitt, the lush greenery of some very happy plants who have become accustomed to the sweet sonics that are playing most of the time to encourage their growth. I am ensconced on the sofa in the Portland, Oregon home of my friend Tom Ziemann, author of The Department of Zenitation, who, early this year, invited me to wing westward to stay in his home for a week, and offer a presentation at a Satsang in his own personal garden of Eden that he refers to as Zen Garden. When 2016 began, I had no clue that he and his family and friends (kindred spirits all) even existed and that they would become family of choice for this spiritual wanderer.
We planned for me to speak last night and then do two days of workshops at a local bookstore/center, called New Renaissance. My heart started racing at the prospect, both with anticipation and trepidation. Could I swing it? Would I be able to allow this kind and generous soul to be the wind beneath my wings that I had prayed for? Was I totally off the wall thinking that I could have what I wanted in my life and that it could be easy? Was it possible that a ‘stranger’ (albeit one with highly attuned intuitive sensibilities) could see in me what I couldn’t always see in myself? Yes, yes, no, and a final hardy and resounding yes.
After the presentation that was a meandering journey that I call Opti-Mystical Musings and an exquisite meditation that Tom led, that had us all transporated to bliss-land, a small group of us sat around and mused ourselves about life, the Universe and everything. Tom encouraged folks to ‘stump Edie,’ with questions that he felt would challenge me to stretch those comfort zones. I call it, ‘picking my brain,’ what there is left of it after a long day. For so many years, I have wanted to have all the answers and thought I was expected to have them to dispense. Not so, but try telling it to the aspect of myself that wants to be the go to person, the wise woman, the expert. What I have learned is that when I step aside, Spirit comes up with them for me.
This morning, over a glass of blueberry juice, Tom called me on it even further. He encouraged me to continue to be willing to let go of self imposed limitations and beliefs and really go for it! I need to be willing to risk it all for my dream.
One of the most challenging things for me is being in receptivity mode. That is more of a stretch than being asked questions that may come out of left field. I talk a good game about wanting certain things; whether it is well deserved remuneration for my work, a loving, mutually supportive life time relationship, or opportunities to do that creative endeavors that so tickle my soul. When offered, we always have a choice about whether to open the package or say ‘return to sender, address unknown.’ I much prefer the first, but too often, do the second.
How are you stretching your own comfort zones? It is so worth it. I think I am now actually taller as a result as I stand up inside myself and claim the love, wisdom, nurturing and gifts that a generous Universe holds out before me.
by Mary Oliver
“One day you finally knew
what you had to do, and began,
though the voices around you
their bad advice —
though the whole house
began to tremble
and you felt the old tug
at your ankles.
“Mend my life!”
each voice cried.
But you didn’t stop.
You knew what you had to do,
though the wind pried
with its stiff fingers
at the very foundations,
though their melancholy
It was already late
enough, and a wild night,
and the road full of fallen
branches and stones.
But little by little,
as you left their voices behind,
the stars began to burn
through the sheets of clouds,
and there was a new voice
which you slowly
recognized as your own,
that kept you company
as you strode deeper and deeper
into the world,
determined to do
the only thing you could do —
determined to save
the only life you could save.”
This poignant poem reached out to me this morning, following an intense and deep conversation last night with my friend Tom who has become a dear one in my life and whose soon to be birthed book I am editing. We had been talking about a common pattern of what I call ‘savior behavior’. With a shared Libra healing and peacemaking sensibility, we have noticed a tendency to draw people into our lives who are facing major life challenges. In my case, whether or not they request it, I offer support, encouragement, ideas, advice and in the past (not as much anymore, blessedly) direct intervention. Sometimes this comes to my own detriment.
The origins of my excessive co-dependent caregiving came by way of my parents who modeled it exquisitely. In addition to raising my sister and me, working, having a life long loving marriage, a social and spiritual life, they each also volunteered in the community. My dad was a firefighter, led a Sunday morning breakfast/prayer gathering at our synagogue and did what was then called Patterning, which would be considered a form of physical therapy with a young girl in our neighborhood. My mom volunteered at synagogue as well, was a homeroom parent, helped out at our swim meets; our kitchen was a kind of Girl Scout cookie central when it was time to vend the decadent treats. In addition, the front window of our home bore the the red and white Helping Hand sign that told neighborhood kids that ours was a safe haven to come to if they were in danger. Holiday tables included friends and family from various circles.
They were reliable and seemingly on call 24/7. They appeared to be able to do it all and were universally loved. I wanted to emulate them. My mother would say that she was a rock and would hold it together in a crisis and then would fall apart afterward. Funny thing is that I never saw her fall apart. I would sometimes say to her, “You know, mom, rocks crumble.” It wasn’t until many years later (2014) when I experienced the horrific pain of kidney stones when my own began to crumble, that I realized how much like her I truly was.
My personal and professional resume calls me out and has reflected these patterns. Social worker-therapist-minister-coach-mom-wife-friend-lover-daughter-sister-aunt. Each of these designations carried with them the belief that I needed to be all things to all people.
So, back to the conversation. Tom had commented that it was time to rescue and save myself. I remember my lifeguard training back in the 1970’s that taught me to wait for someone to stop struggling before going in after them, since diving in immediately would likely have them pull me under with them. Then there is the oxygen mask metaphor. While traveling on an airplane, the flight attendant instructs that if needed, put the life giving equipment on yourself first, since you can’t help anyone else if you are passed out from oxygen deprivation. I can’t count the number of times I have attempted to do just that while physically or emotionally crawling and gasping.
I cried when I realized how exhausted I get at times. I cried to all the times when I gave support when I wanted to receive it…hard as it is at times to admit that I actually need it. Who me, human? Who me, vulnerable? Nah. Wonder Woman at your service.
As I am listening to the sweet soothing lullabye sounds of Enya wafting through the air, taking in the sunlight streaming through the windows, the sprinkler offering nourishment to the lawn, the planets soaking up the rays, breathing a sigh of gratitude for my friend, his kindness and generosity and the ways in which he mirrors me.
Saving myself today.
As I am typing these words, I am curled up on a comfy couch in a B & B (or more appropriately ‘bee and bee’) called The Hive. It is located in the Ontario Canadian town of Leskard. I trekked up here on Friday from my Bucks County, Pennsylvania home, taking to the roads at 8:30 a.m. and arriving (three potty stops and one gasoline stop later) at around 5:00 pm. The roads were clear, with minimal traffic as I listened to music, sang, danced (yes, I dance in the car sometimes…and as I was doing so, I remembered a story told to me by a Canadian friend who was stopped by a police officer here in the states for doing that!) and enjoyed the brilliant summer scenery en route. I was excited to arrive to celebrate the wedding of my friends Shayne Traviss and Tim Emberley who embarked on their relationship 18 years ago when introduced by a friend.
Shayne and I cyber-met back in 2011 and then he introduced me to his partner at a conference all three of us attended that year. At the time, Shayne was launching additional radio shows on Vivid Life to enhance an already stellar line-up. He offered me the opportunity to create my own show, called It’s All About Relationships. As we worked together, albeit long distance, we got to know each other well. When he told me that he and Tim were tying the knot, I was thrilled and began making plans for heading Northward.
When I stumbled out of the car, I felt as if I had stepped into a faerie land paradise as I was greeted with a hug from Elsii Faria who is co-owner, with Kevin Craddock of The Hive. I breathed a sigh of surrender as I entered from drivetime into playtime. This eco-friendly haven tucked in the woods has a European country side elegance to it, with natural touches, such as river rocks around the wood burning stove, polished to a high finish hardwood floors, plush bath towels, big bottles of shampoo, conditioner and body wash in the spacious showers, rather than the rather wasteful mini bottles, as well as my favorite, peppermint soap at the sink. The breakfast, which is self serve, includes organic juices, almond and soy milk, cereals, eggs, fruit and bread. The Hive is also a holistic retreat center where I will be teaching next year. What makes the place all the more wondrous is the love that goes into it.
Over the weekend I met hug to hug, friends I had only known via the marvels of modern technology and the phenom of Facebook: Crystal-Lee Quibell , Sharon Quirt, Jodi Clauss Salata, Jeff Brown, Susan Frybort and Milana Vinokur. I had the joy of re-uniting with another friend Eloise Morrison and my angel-agent Raquel Benavidez. When I checked into my room, I found a lovely Canadian care package from Shayne and Tim that included a mug with a bear on it, maple syrup, votive candles, a box of Smarties and ketchup potato chips, as well as a beautiful card that had me in tears.
After a bunch of us arrived, Shayne led us on a tour of the grounds and showed us where the ceremony would take place the next day. The wonderland includes a clear flowing over rock tumbling stream. Icy cold, it chilled the heat from the drive and the mud between my toes was a welcome relief. Gathered on the deck were the families of Tim and Shayne and together we dug into pizza, salad and a rainbow decorated, sparkler bedazzled birthday cake. In addition to celebrating nuptials the next day, Shayne was turning 41.
The morning of the wedding dawned bright and breezy, as requested, rather than the possibility of rain that was forecast. Clearly, the weather devas were with us. Country chic decor highlighted the festivities, as patchwork quilt blankets, with bottles of mineral water, goblets and picnic baskets were scattered across them.
The ceremony was officiated by Spiritual Minister Sharon Quirt who created a sacred space in this impromptu chapel in the woods that began with cleansing, with the burning of sage, coming from a Native American tradition. She then spoke of the relationship between these two men who have seen each other through joys and challenges. They were garbed in black jeans, white shirts, suspenders and bow ties made of bird feathers, as were their male attendants, with the women wearing flowing white with earrings and hair clips similarly embellished and Sharon having donned a pale blue print dress as she presided over the ceremony. A handfasting ritual incorporating a Tibetan scarf that was wrapped around their joined hands reinforced the idea that their lives were bound one to the other and that with each knot tied, they hearts were as well. They acknowleged that although it was not their intention, they might inadvertantly hurt each other. They affirmed that it was indeed their intention to love and support each other for the long journey they were on. Sharon asked us all to join in the bond with them as we suppported their marriage. We all enthusiastically agreed.
The music that enhanced the service and the celebration that followed, was offered by a sweet couple named Sarah Frank and Luke Fraser who call themselves The Bombadils, so named after a characted in the Lord of the Rings series. Celtic-folk-mystical-magical is how I would describe them.
The food was phenomenal and simple. Cheeses, bread, fruit, sweet treats abounded. The wedding cake was a luscious vanilla with custard filling shaped like a pineapple, enwrapped in gold fondant.
Far and away, the sweetest treat was the love fest that occurred all weekend long. I will carry the residual energy with me as I make the trip back home.
For Shayne and Tim (change the lyrics a wee bit), wishing you a life long loving relationship. You are off to a grand start. <3