Everyone should have a mentor; someone to inspire them, to challenge them, to hold them accountable and help them laugh their way through life challenges. I am blessed to have one such in the form of a British born, Brixton raised, humor driven thriver who has been through life stuff that might make you wonder how she remains, as I like to say ‘sane and vertical’. Dr. Yvonne Kaye, uses humorous anecdotes as an antidote for whatever ails you; body, mind and spirit. In addition to being a psychologist, she is an interfaith minister, educator, author, speaker and former radio talk show host. For many years, she had a Phildelphia based Saturday night sojourn on 96.5 (WWDB). Her listeners would gather, as if around a campfire and listen to her wisdom, call in and share theirs, ask questions, offer prayers. When Michael was in the ICU in the last month and a half of his life, Yvonne would ask for prayers for him and we would receive cards and letters from her listeners who had never laid eyes on us, but offered their love. Her specialties are addictions recovery, women’s empowerment, loss and grief, working with parents of murdered children and spirituality. She has been a companion through many a dark forest with her clients.
I like to say that she ‘kicked my butt into recovery from co-dependence’ and got me into treatment for my savior behavior and chronic people pleasing ways. She used to tell me, whilst in the throes of it, that “discipline is freedom”. “Huh?,” my airy fairy, cosmic foo foo social worker self queried. “Whatchooo talkin’ bout?” my incredulous, I don’t wanna be in a box, rebel spouted out. She explained that within structure and a framework, we can create all of the magic we want. Not sure she used those words, but it is how I chose to take it in. I use that invaluable concept all these years later.
This past Sunday, Yvonne spoke at Circle of Miracles on the subject of New Wisdom: The Power of Laughter. No surpise that this seasoned woman who says she is not aging, but instead is ‘ripening’, had us rolling in the aisles. She finds that too many people are ‘terminally serious’ and she is inspired by two doctors who offered a dose of humor in healing; Dr. Seuss and Dr. Elisabeth Kubler-Ross. The first a profoundly wise poet, the second an icon in the field of thanatology (death and dying).
One of the places Yvonne used to offer her own brand of rowdy, raucous irreverence is in the prison system. She regaled us with a story about what happens when American English and British English collide. In the midst of a session with a group of inmates in a maximum security setting known as Graterford (if you are in the Philly area, you know the kind of place we are talking about), she noticed they were “apathetic” and not paying attention to what she was saying. Turns out that there was a basketball game on that they would much rather have been watching than to sit there and listen to her…imagine that?! She then said that if they weren’t going to be attentive, she would just pack up and leave and see them next week. As a parting comment, she said “Keep your peckers up,” which sent them into roaring laughter. One of the guards came in and asked what was going on and she repeated what she had said. His response was “We want them to keep them down.” and Yvonne couldn’t understand why, since it is British slang for “Keep your chin up.” He explained that in America, it referred to something a bit farther down the body. Fast forward a few years and Yvonne is standing on the street in Philadelphia with a professonal colleague. Three of the former inmates who had been paroled were standing across the street, spotted her and called out “Hey, Yvonne, how’s your pecker?” At that, I think she said the man to whom she had been talking, walked away, she imagined, wondering if she had been hiding something from him and if what you see isn’t what you get, with her. They treated her to lunch after that and they all had good laugh about it.
When Yvonne became ordained as a minister via The New Seminary, where I attended as well, she chose to refer to herself as the Irreverent Reverend. That she is as she looks at life, including her losses (a daughter with MS, a grandson with Tuberous Sclerosis, sons in-law who have had Cancer, and her Life Partner who has three different types of Cancer, herself with Arthritis) through the lens of happiness, not just in spite of, but also BECAUSE of her challenges. She teaches by example and is as real as they get.
Many blessings on you, Irrev Rev.
Yesterday, a life changing event occurred. My 51 year old sister called to tell me that she had, in her words “a mild heart attack”, which, as it turned out, was indeed, as she corrected as “a big boy”, that could have taken her out of her corporeal existence, had she not had guardian angels looking out for her. Perhaps my parents who are on the Other Side, had a hand in keeping her around as well. I was shocked, but not surprised, as bizaarre as that sounds. The possibility had been there and building for years and as much as I believe in the power of thought and intention, her circumstances may have felt like they were closing in on her, just as the artery that needed propping up with a stent was constricted. Her husband has had ever worsening health problems and as is the learned way in our family, she kept on keepin’ on, running back and forth to the various hospitals in which he was getting care, maintaining a full time job in retail sales, and doing the daily household chores with the support of my teenaged nephew and (when she is home from college) young adult niece. This morning, after the procedure, she is in the ICU and is recovering, surrounded with the love and prayers of those who know her and those who know of her via the marvels of modern technology and the phenom of Facebook. I posted a call for healing energy in whatever form people had to offer and the response came pouring in. People love to pray for others and feel as if they can make a difference, so all who are reading this are invited to join us.
It occurred to me that this is a wake up call in so many ways, beyond the obvious need for her to slow down. Our mother’s death certificate diagnosis was CHF (congestive heart failure) two and half years after our father passed, but I think she really died of a broken heart. The heart is a resilient muscle in the biological sense but also in the emotional sense. Jan is adept at opening her heart to others, but when it comes to self compassion and love, not so much. Our parents modeled taking care of others, sometimes to the neglect of their own wellbeing and she and I learned all too brilliantly from their example. It is so insidious and sneaky that I sometimes am not even aware that I am doing it and I wonder if it is the same for her. It doesn’t feel intentional most of the time, yet there are moments during which I think, “Oh, I’ll just get by with a little less sleep or rush through dinner, so I can get this other task done.” There is a certain degree of hypocrisy in that, since I teach people about good self care that I don’t always exhibit.
I saw my sister today and when I walked into the ICU room of a suburban South Jersey hospital, she was garbed in fancy hospital finery, being a lady of leisure in a lounge chair with all kinds of tubes connected to various body parts. Monitors did their jobs keeping track of her vital functions. She regaled me with tales of the adventure that lead her to this point. I wagged my finger at her; the first of several times in the three hours we spent together, since she had waited more than 4 hours from the onset of the symptoms until she called 911. When I was leaving, I reminded her that I was still the big sister, even though smaller in stature than she is, and I could kick her butt if she didn’t take care of herself and stopping running herself ragged. She winked and said, “You could now.”
Ironically, I am teaching a class tomorrow for social workers on co-dependence and boundary setting. So much of the ‘savior behavior’ that co-dependents exhibit, grows out of the denial of self care. What if we took as much time and energy to nurture the woman or man in the mirror as we do our loved ones? Nothing selfish about it and if caring for others is a priority, it will enable you to show up even that much more fully for those in your life. As I like to remind folks ‘you can’t give whatcha don’t got’.
Please don’t wait for your own kind of wake up call to pay attention to what your heart wants you to know.
Prayer is a moment to moment practice for me, since I have come to sense that it is related to thought. What if prayer wasn’t something that only or primarily occurs in a structure such as a church, synagogue, temple or mosque? When I was a student at The New Seminary in NYC, I wrote a paper called Prayer Is Portable and the focus was on the idea that it is as everpresent as the air we breathe. Many people consider prayer intercessionary; asking for something that on some level, they are unsure will happen, uncertain that they even deserve. What if we could turn it into something for which we could be grateful even before it arrives on our ‘doorstep’? In this moment, I am waiting for my car to be serviced and I am grateful that it will be happy, healthy and road worthy for the price I was quoted. This afternoon, my HVAC professional is coming to my ‘chilly in Philly/brrr in Bucks County’ house to get the heater back on track for a reasonable fee and that I will be cozy tonight as the snow will be wafting down. For that, I give thanks in advance, seeing it, hearing it, knowing it. I set intention for easy flowing writing this afternoon, smooth sailing with putting the finishing touches on a class I am teaching on Monday, organizing my house to accomodate the various facets of my work/play.
I am a consistent seedplanter in my personal and professional lives. Many’s the time, I have requested certain outcomes and have been both delighted and disappointed, wondering why people haven’t made the choices I would want them to since, after all, I in my infinite wisdom know what is best for everyone. Then I remember spiritual powerhouse Michael Beckwith’s voice ringing through the majestic, high ceilinged Tindley Temple in Philadelphia back in 2009 when he and his divinely diva-listically talented wife Rickie Byars Beckwith came in via Common Ground Fellowship. He encouraged us to accept that “God’s delays are not God’s denials.” This, while it is comforting, is still frustrating for this gotta get it done, overachiever. I contemplate the myriad miracles that have come my way, when I trust in Divine Timing. Sure, I want what I want when I want it and sometimes the gift comes with the reassurrance that the Highest Good will prevail, despite appearances at the time. In the last few months of her life, my mother would express what I called her Que Sera Sera attitude as she would say “What will be, will be, babycakes.” I think she found comfort in the acceptance of what is, rather than having to do anything. I am learning that as well, despite my best efforts to cling to tried and true, if not always soul satisfying behaviors and attitudes.
I have found that prayers are always answered, perhaps not always as I would have had them be at the moment, but have yielded treasure beyond measure.
http://youtu.be/xMVkf5xu8as We Let It Be by Rickie Byars Beckwith
There isn’t a person on the planet who has escaped loss, challenge and change, since it is the nature of human existence. Nothing stays the same, impermanence is the name of the game. The question is “how do we face it?” Is it with grace and grit or whining and worrying? If we are conditioned with a particular mindset, then it is up to us to decide if we want to maintain it if it is serving us, or shift it if isn’t. There are three perspectives from which to view the world and its occurrences:
Victim- Feeling as if we are being ‘done to’; at the mercy of someone elses’ choices and behaviors. Blame and shame is the name of that particular game. While it is so, that there are some circumstances in which someone in power causes harm to those who are weaker and more vulnerable (such as child abuse), it is when a person recognizes that they have the power to change their circumstances and their beliefs, that they are able to transcend their victimhood.
Survivor: Characterized by a willingness to take that step away from limiting perspective; changing the story that may have had someone succumbing to their fears of how life ‘has to be the way it’s always been’ because that’s all they’ve known. Accompanying it is a sense that they are triumphing and moving forward. Taking responsibility for their feelings and perceptions. Often, I equate survivors with the flexibility of a willow tree that bends in the wind, rather than simply standing solid like an oak tree. I have physically witnessed a 50-60 foot tall oak tree topple in the midst of gusts, while surrounding willows remained when the tempest subsided.
Thriver: A winner’s perspective is a hallmark of this stage of evolution. Exhiliration that is contagious; since it is noticeable in the demeanor of this resilient one. They are able to gaze back and see how far they have come. Reaching out to others who may need encouragement and guiding them along feeds the collective soup pot of existence. Bill W. and Dr. Bob who established AA and Alex Scott (Alex’s Lemonade) are examples of such powerhouses who took misfortune and transmuted it into magic. Think about the numbers of people positively impacted by their decisions to step beyond victimhood.
I saw this term ‘rebel thriver’ on Facebook this morning and it so resonated with my intention to rebel against anything that holds my heart and soul hostage, including my old worn out beliefs that I can’t have what I want in my life. Although I am generally an opti-mystic who sees the world through the eyes of possibility, there are times when the black out curtains come down and I am sitting in a dark room that has me stumbling around, feeling my way through the shadows. I wonder what it is that has me facing these gremlins that sometimes howl their ‘not good enough’ litany. It is in coming up smack dab against them that has me stretching my resiliency muscles and exhibiting gracefully flowing willow-ways.
http://www.rebelthriver.wordpress.com Rebel Thriver
http://youtu.be/1Y38fOQ1Byc Resilience by Thomas Newman