Sunday, December 22, 2019

Feeling The Spirit of Departed Loved Ones

I had pulled out all the Christmas presents to wrap while the rest of the family was off running errands yesterday morning.  I am moving into the holiday spirit.  If feels like I'm getting a handle on the to do list.   It's time for some Christmas music!  This occurs every year just a few days before Christmas. I steal back my bluetooth speaker from my eldest and I pick a Rat Pack Christmas album on Pandora to listen to.

I have not walked this rainy day and I don't want to go to the crowded mall which is my go to for inclimate weather.  But this music by Frank, Nat, and Dean makes me want to move.  I wonder if I can get my cardio in this way?!  "Fly Me to the Moon", "The Way You Look Tonight", "I Love You for Sentimental Reasons", "I Could Write a Book" and "Fever" are the selections that are played after my Christmas album is over.

Pandora really knows Me  (Okay, yes, they have a good algorithm. )

As I'm wrapping the presents that only I know about,  I will be delighted to see the family's reactions when they open the presents.  I'm on a little high. I'm dancing and wrapping.

It's such a lovely delicate moment. 

And then it pops in my head and heart that I'm channeling my mother in law right now.

My mother in law, Mary loved Christmas and Frank Sinatra.  She had several of his CDs in her collection that we have now. Her parents did not have a lot of money as she grew up in a Pennsylvania coal mining town
with her six brothers.  Christmas presents were sparse for the Polish immigrants who came through Ellis Island.  Mary delighted in making a big deal out of Christmas for her children growing up and that spread to her grandchildren.

I had wondered why I loved to dance and clean the kitchen to this era of music that I did not belong to.   And it finally dawned on me, it was Mary.  Mary was my savior with our young daughters.  She delighted in spending time with our family, but she also would quietly wash clothes, clean the kitchen and loved ironing!  What?!! She also sat down and played with the kids, even climbing in the crib to do so.

There comes a time when you can feel your departed loved ones presence. It hit me that GaGa was with me as I wrapped.  Goose bumps arose when I put the two together.  I have heard TV mediums says those goosebumps or when emotions wash over you means your loved ones are present with you.

I believe it.

Mallory and I were in Piccadilly months ago, and there was an older gentleman playing a keyboard for the older crowd that was there.  My old soul youngest child loves Piccadilly mashed potatoes and friend chicken.  We sat down with our food and I started listening and I was overcome with emotion.  It was not my era of music and  I don't really remember what they were playing but Dad came into my mind.  He loved to dance and this was his era.  Blueberry Hill was playing when we left.  It's very powerful when these emotions come over you.  It cannot be denied, something is going on.

These moments don't last long but when they come along, I acknowledge them and the person they remind me of.  It's a bit of delicate mysticism and I embrace it fully.

The rest of the family thinks I'm crazy, but I want to visit a local medium.  I'll let you know what happens.


Friday, July 26, 2019

The Mueller Hearing Should Have Had More Glamour

The bottom line from the decorated war veteran who kept our country safe under several Presidents, is that the current President committed crimes but could not be charged because of Department of Justice, Office of Legal Counsel policy. Russia interfered and continues to do so and our current President who is now beholden to Russia will do nothing to stop it because he benefited from it. So our Intelligence agencies do their jobs, and yet... it doesn't matter. (Also could there BE any more dichotomy between straight as an arrow, honest to a fault, full of integrity Mueller and then you knowTrump.)
I still don't understand why are Presidents above the law when they commit crimes to get to the office? Can't this policy be changed?
We have come to a strange sad time in this country where the law and order party means it's okay to welcome and use hostile foreign powers to win an election (and be indebted to that hostile foreign power). Then lie about it to authorities, refuse to cooperate and everyone looks the other way and lies about it. This happened during Nixon's time as well, and only until there was dramatic testimony after weeks and weeks of hearings did the tide finally turn. None of Trump's players will testify. It takes one brave person to step forth and tell the truth and no, it's not the fixer.
We evidently need a prime time glitzy broadcast to educate the general public, so that the facts and the law are presented in a way that everyone can understand, because plain spoken brief affirmations from an aging war horse isn't enough. We need razzle dazzle with female models who are tens only, and lots of American flags, and maybe tanks? It needs to be more like a reality show, with suspense, good lighting, a perfect television soundbite, and a studio crowd yelling "lock him up." That would get the job done, right?
The truth has gone by the wayside. The truth is pummeled every day to bits by this President and the party that stands by him.
I have sadly accepted that because of the Republican majority Senate, Trump will either have to be voted out or serve another four years. For my mental health, I have had to let it go.
And that seems to be the spiritual path as well.
But this is hard to watch if you believe in truth and justice.
And then there's God.
You know, you are not supposed to discuss politics or religion with others. This current situation combines both for me, because I can't fathom how "Christians" and their leaders support this lying, corrupt, egotistical person with no morals or ethics.
Who would be drawn to Christianity when Evangelical support for Trump has never wavered? A lying, corrupt, inarticulate, pussy grabbing, draft dodging, racist, dictator loving, fascist leaning President who needs to be the center of attention at all times. He uses and abuses race bating, patriotism, and qualifies for two different personality disorders. He paints complicated issues in broad strokes and continues to amplify the division in our country to new lows. All while never cracking open and reading a briefing. (That one really kills me LOL)
Trump is the ultimate black and white thinker.
And this is exactly what all Christians are called spiritually to overcome. Hold the tension.
Lose yourself and your ego and let go.
Trust in a higher power.
Jesus, the long haired brown skinned Eastern European Jew, did not reside in America or embrace Christianity but said love your neighbor as yourself. Take care of the less fortunate.
Hold the tension.
If we learn to hold the tension of the opposites, we are able to stretch and grow. When there is more space for seemingly opposite ideas, feelings and behaviors to peacefully coexist. We become less rigid and more flexible, less judgmental and more tolerant, less fearful and more loving.*
More loving.
Didn't Jesus say to love?
Laws are broken, there is no justice. Story as old as time.
I really work to see the other point of political view but I'm worn down.
Trump and his team broke several laws but yet, the only consequences will come after he leaves office. There are also emolument clauses, campaign finance laws and everything he boasted about for years and will any of that come to justice. His dad also gave him four hundred million dollars over time, much of it, was to bail him out of bankruptcy. Laws were broken to avoid paying taxes which are too old to prosecute. I'm sure there's more, but I'm too tired.
So tired of it all.
Sometimes things have to go really bleak, in order to become anew. Can the country do that? The arc of the moral universe is long but it bends towards justice. I must remember that.
All I know now, is that my part now, is to hold the tension and love my neighbor. Even those who love Trump.
Letting it go, holding that tension. Wave at the person who waves at me driving down my street while I walk the dogs. Smile at a stranger. Hold open the door for the next person.
*(With thanks to Psychology Today)

Tuesday, June 18, 2019

Father's Day Meal at A Men's Shelter

I have to remind myself not to look at Facebook on certain days like Father's Day because people will express their heartfelt appreciations of love and devotion to their father. And for years, I thought something was wrong with me because I didn't feel that way.  When Dad passed away in August of 2014, I wrote a piece about him and it summed things up pretty well.

I loved him but I didn't feel emotionally connected to him. I know he loved me but I couldn't feel it.  He was who he was, and he wasn't changing. I had to accept this and make peace.

It takes time to accept people for who they are even after death. (And accepting myself...)

On occasion, I am surprised by certain emotions that come to the surface seemingly randomly.  When I become verklempt or the hairs rise on my arms and legs, this means a loved one is around.   A few months back, on a weekday when Mallory was off from school, we went to her favorite place to eat at the time.   After we went through the Picadilly cafeteria line, we discovered a gentleman playing a keyboard.  We sat down and as I listened, my eyes began welling up. The ugly cry was just around the corner.  He was playing music for the "older folks" in attendance.  I can't remember the songs exactly but as we were leaving, Blueberry Hill was being played.  Dad was present. These weren't my songs, some of them were his. He loved dancing and that is how he and Mom courted. And she would want me to mention they won a dance contest on one of their first dates in the late 1950's!

Holding the tension.  Holding very dissimilar and opposite notions at the same time and being at peace with both of them.  This is spirituality to me.  This is what Jesus was teaching but his message has become very cloudy.  Mysticism...another topic for later. Except this writing is mysticism.

On Father's Day, I signed Riley and I up to make and serve an entree with other National Charity League moms and daughters at Bishop Ott Men's Shelter.  We went to a bleak part of town in a run down building and found thirteen men in need of an evening meal.  These were men who had no where else to go.  Part of me wanted to sit down and engage with them and the other part of me wanted to get the job done and escape back to the comfort of home.  My heart is a bleeding one.  I root for the underdog. I put myself in their shoes. I remember listening to a woman from Connections for Life talk.  She had been in jail and was in a transition program to learn life skills to rehabilitate her life. All I kept thinking was, wow, that could be me except I was afforded the opportunity to go college.  College doesn't change everything but it's a major leg up.

Dad really wanted his children educated.  He and mom sacrificed for private school in our small community, and for college educations for my siblings and I.

I came home from Bishop Ott and felt affected. As the men ate, the group of moms and daughters discussed ACT exams and Junior and Senior years. The future.  One man walked off with his belongings in a trash bag and waited for a ride at the bus stop.   The contrast between the two groups stayed with me.


These men were appreciative for the meal and expressed it.  The supervisor of the site, prayed over our meal, for us ladies in particular and our travels, as well as for the men there.


Later that night, I read my sister's FB post about my dad.  She had a different experience of him having lived close by each other and Dad's ability to fix or create almost anything around the house and property.  I didn't have this experience and for a brief moment, I felt longing.

And then it came together.

I thought of the day's experience and holding the tension.  My experience can be different even with the same person.  Even though I very much wanted to be emotionally connected to my dad, I can hold that tension and be grateful that Dad showed his love in another way.  He wanted me to be educated.  That opens so many doors and opportunities.  I can feel that now.

Dad put me in a position to be a helper.  I can be with a person in a very different situation than I, look at that person in the eye and smile and serve a meal. It is a small service but it is one that I can do.

Holding the tension, being in the present moment.


Sunday, May 5, 2019

Allowing Persons (and Dogs) To Be Who They Are

These are my buddies.  I never had an inside dog that I bonded with until this beagle, Annie, on the right.  A year later, we adopted the mixed breed, Brinkley because Annie was fearful of George.  Brinkley has taught me unconditional love and Anne, well, she has increased the amount of laughter in the household immeasurably.  In the past year plus, the teenage girls in the house obsess over Ann (the name they began calling Annie)  I have to send pictures when they are away from the house. They come and greet her, and ignore Brinkely. I don't try to understand it, I just roll with it although Brinkley is so much more responsive in every way unless it's the food bowl.

It is my job to walk them in the morning. My husband, George walks them at night. Sometimes on the weekends, he walks them both.  We had a brief conversation that I would walk them today.  I became busy with stuff inside and George was busy outside.

And then I tried to walk the dogs.

Brinkley was raring to go in his youthful self. Annie not so much. After her vet appointment yesterday and with the evidence of her ever whitening fur coat, we know she's reaching her elder years.  We don't know her exact age, but now there is a heart murmur ( And an every present cherry eye that no longer ruins my appetite.)

So Annie very reluctantly comes to the front door when I call, but we don't get very far in the walk and she is not budging.  Brinkley is way ahead of me, and Annie is lagging way behind.  A jogger going by, laughed and said, "Resistance." I laughed, and said yes, she is resistant.

And then a magical thing occurred... I accepted it.

I accepted Annie for who she was in that moment.

Why fight her on this? I will be home this morning and let her outside to relieve herself. George will be home this afternoon. She obviously doesn't want to walk.

So I accepted it.

I know this is a dog but you know ... I have fought with this dog a lot, early on. She peed on my carpet and ruined it on one side of the house. I did not like her for a long while.  She tried to escape several times, and it came to a point, that if it wasn't for the chip that identified her as ours, I would have let her go.  I had to learn boundaries with her.  And once that was established, LOVE.

Also, she might be sore from her shots. So I dropped her off back at the house and continued with Brinkley. But he was acting weird too.  He was choosing to lay down on the ground and rub his back on the grass multiple times.  He looked ecstatic in these actions.

Then I get the text from George and it all made sense.
So much for communication. 

What I took away from this little escapade. People (and dogs) will show me who they are in the moment or on an ongoing basis.  I am learning to believe them. Even bigger is to accept them for who they are and know that it is not a reflection of who I am.  

That is the kicker. 

It is not a reflection of who I am. 

I didn't even get mad at George.  It was funny. 


Thursday, March 7, 2019

A Retreat Like No Other: Holding The Tension

I went on a spiritual retreat this past weekend.  I attended the same version of it at least ten years ago.  I thought I knew what to expect.  I was in for a surprise.

The retreat is a boundaried place so I am going to speak in generalities.

The first night, I looked around the group of ladies sitting in a circle and I spotted someone who I thought was the person that I had a bad encounter with years ago.  My body turned to mush because I had been more on the receiving end of the encounter.  It was the same person.  I was never recognized yet I kinda wish I would have addressed it.  We are both in different places now I think.

But I let it go.  There were other things I had to chew on instead.

On two other occasions, I heard words spoken by one person that was moved in the moment and then another spoke of spiritual concepts that jarred me. And after a few moments of agitation, I thought, I can detach from this. And when and if appropriate I can speak up and give my truth without negating what these other person's experiences are.

For so long, when I was growing up and in adult years as well, I would not speak up. I did not voice my experience around certain people or groups.  I learned to get along by staying silent and going with the flow.  That silence when I wanted to talk, ate me up.  And this blog for the last ten years is helping me to write my way out.  (Thank you Lin Manuel Miranda!)   It's a skill to learn to express oneself verbally assertively without aggression or passivity and I have bumbled my way through at times. But to be honest, the skill set is one thing, what it's really about is not caring what others think.

Learning to let go of that too.

Back at the retreat, on another occasion, issues of a political nature were brought up in casual conversation, in the very last place I thought I would have to hear it.  My entire body turned to mush once again.   I politely said I was finished with the task at hand and got the heck out.  I did try to mumble that we shouldn't talk about politics, and the person said we weren't, but the topic was very much a current political one.  Why on earth would one bring this particular subject in casual conversation at a spiritual retreat?   It was progress for me to get up and leave as I would have sat silently years ago.

So now there are three persons I'm trying to avoid sitting by at group.

Relaxing retreat. Ha ha ha!

Growth is not relaxing.

I phoned a friend as I walked around the campus, and calmed down. I knew I wanted to stay and dang it, I was going to get something out of this retreat, other than dodging persons or sentiments that pushed my buttons.   We had a lovely afternoon break and I took not one but two naps.  I knew that this experience was about holding the tension.  The idea of holding the dark and the light at the same time with equal respect was first introduced to me by Father Richard Rohr when he visited our church many years ago.  It's not seeing the world in black and white, but in grey.   In the first half of life, we have to know good and bad, right and wrong to not get burned by the stove or drown, etc. But at midlife, we can wake up and embrace that not each person or issue or experience is all right or all wrong, or good or bad. It's a lot of ego work.  It's all about the ego.

And in holding that tension, there can be spiritual breakthroughs.

By letting go of my ego reactions to all of the above mentioned so-called "negative" situations, I did have growth.  At the proper time, I spoke up when I had the opportunity to express a different experience with the same issue than what someone else did.  I also said it was okay that we have different experiences.

I was telling myself that as much as I was speaking to the group.

I also requested time with those in "charge" to discuss a matter that had been lying on my heart for months. I was heard, understood, and acknowledged.

I also watched the participants whom I differed with, have their own strong aha moments.  Sitting with the tension spurned me to come to the conclusion that all those attending were here for their relationship with God as was I.  My initial ego reaction would be to slam these other people, try to find someone to back me up.  We just have different words, mannerisms, paths and theologies.   Most importantly is we don't all have to be on the same page.  (Living the tension at it's finest here!) It is heavenly to find those in the same book, and thrilling to find someone in the same chapter though.

As I have learned what methodologies spur a deeper faith, trust and relationship with God and all of creation, I can't ignore that which works for me and that which doesn't.   I know it to the core of my being what brings me deeper, as do these other folks but of course, these can conflict.  I know certain words, phrases, and sentiments that I experienced in my past, are language that does not bring me closer to God.  The critical point is the recognition that people have different ways of achieving a similar end.  I can notice the buttons pushed in myself and work to be non-critical, and curious both of myself and the other person.  It seems as though this act of detaching from the button pushing will always lead to growth.

Leaning in to the tension.