The Pantry.

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My Aunt Ruth’s death almost three months ago has stirred up in me many different emotions. I have deep gratitude for her presence in my life, my entire life. I am also grateful to have her beloved cat, Josh, in our home with us. I feel deep sadness, on and off, when I realize that I will never see her again, in this world. I will never look into her eyes or hold her hands. I feel deep peace when I sense her presence around me, when I talk to her in my car or feel her hand on my shoulder. 

 

Even though I rarely feel regret about aspects of my life, my way of focusing on the past is through longing. It is very common for me to feel a sense of longing about an aspect of past. Either longing for the way things used to be with someone in my life; longing for looking the same as I may have years ago; or longing for a place that brings deep feelings of love and connection for me. One longing that I have deeply in me is for my Aunt Ruth’s house.

 

When I was a very young child, the house that became my Aunt Ruth’s homestead was the home of my grandparents, my father’s mom and dad. My Nana and Grampa. I loved going to their house when I was a kid, to see them, and to spend time there. My Aunt Ruth lived with them throughout their lives, and when they both died, she continued to live there, until her death. It is the house and home that was the constant for me as I was growing up. There were homes that I lived in with my parents that felt special to me, but Ruth’s house was the deepest representation of home that I have ever experienced.  When I would visit there, I would enjoy spending time in various parts of the house. There are short stories living inside of me for each nook and cranny. One of those rooms was the pantry.

 

I had never been in another house, that I remember, that had a pantry. I thought it was so cool, that there was a little room right off of the kitchen, where so many different types of objects were kept:  food; pots and pans; tools; spices. There was plenty of storage space in there, but just enough room for one person to stand in there, turn around a couple of times in a circle depending on what you were looking for. For two people, you couldn’t move around much.

 

When I was very young, around 8 or 9 years old, and I would spend weekends and holiday vacations there, I would love to go in there and look around at everything on the shelves. I liked to look at the variety of spices, and medicines that were there. There was always a pair of scissors hanging by a hook. Coffee mugs that were the favorites of various persons in the house. Cookie jar that almost always had Oreos in it. And, so many other objects that I always remember being there. And, there was a big metal step stool, that had a seat at the top of it, and extra steps that unfolded out of the bottom. That would fit just under the counter top in the pantry. I remember my Nana, who was diabetic, going in there to inject her own insulin. I would often be in there with her, as she pulled out the stool, sat down, pulled up her dress and injected herself in the leg. It fascinated me that it didn’t seem to hurt her at all.

 

When my son and I went to Ruth’s house one last time a couple of weeks ago, I woke up early the morning that we were leaving, unable to sleep. I knew that I most likely, would never be in that house again. I felt a strong longing for time to be turned back, just to have one more day, one more weekend in that house. I walked into the pantry, touching objects, taking some with me, and feeling a deep sense of loss and grief. That room, the memories in it for me seemed almost palpable. They were lingering in the air. I tried to imagine other objects on these shelves, and that seemed impossible to comprehend. This is the only way that it should ever be, like in a museum.  

 

I feel so grateful today for the time that I got to have my Aunt Ruth in my world, and to be in a home that will never leave my heart and mind. And, even with longing, the bigger part of my memories is a deep feeling of love, connection, and peace. The pantry and all parts of that house will always live in me.11202856_1606994312902212_7038100225790313098_n

Sea of Change.

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My life has been a series of deep changes in the last few months. In the areas of my work, my play, my family, and my home, changes have been everywhere. And, for most of my life, I have made a determination in my mind and my heart of whether a change was good, or bad. Hardly ever have I encountered a change about which I felt completely neutral.

 

There are many reasons of why I feel a sense of judgment about change occurring in my world. One reason is that I believe that if things change, then what I previously believed about a relationship was an illusion or a lie; that if that person no longer speaks to me or is in my life, that maybe all along they didn’t really care about me. If the circumstances of my job change, I immediately feel like maybe this isn’t the right position for me, or I feel betrayed in some way that change has occurred. If a change happens that I label as positive, it is always because things have turned out the way that I wanted in some form. 

 

The main reason that I would ever feel upset or concerned about a change that happens in my life is simply fear:  being afraid for a new circumstance to come in. Afraid of what is going to occur next. Fear of the unknown. When I am coming from fear, it almost certainly means that I am resisting what will come whether I embrace it or not. I want things to stay the same, because in sameness, it seems like there is safety, security, familiarity.  I want my world to stay as it is in those moments.

 

However, whether I want it to occur or not, changes do come in my world, on a daily basis. I am in my little vessel on the ocean of life, floating along, and the ocean doesn’t stay constant. If you spend any time on the coast, the only thing certain about the waves and sea is that it is constantly changing. The tides, the size of the waves, and color and texture of the ocean, is always in motion. It never stops. 

 

When I live my life in the past, through memory, regret or sentimental feeling, then any new circumstance or information that comes in that challenges that feels threatening to me. When I live in the future, in anticipation of what I want to happen, or am planning in my mind, when those plans get changed, I feel threatened and unappreciated or unheard. It may all sound very dramatic, but this is what occurs when I am not living presently, and I judge what happens around me as either good, or bad. 

 

The truth is, I will always be riding the ocean of life, always navigating my way through a sea of constant change. Life is ever changing; that cannot be disputed. How those changes impact me, or don’t, is always my choice, my intent. If I live my life as fully in the present moment as possible, watching life as if it were a movie, and understanding that change occurs whether I want it to or not, then I can be neutral about change. I can embrace that life, in all of its wonder and unique manifestations, can just be something that I watch unfold, and see the opportunities for learning and growth with every change in the waves. I can choose gratitude for every experience, no matter what comes my way.

 

Change comes to each one of us. We can enjoy the ride or curse the tide. I want to secure as much joy and peace as possible while I am on this voyage, so I choose this moment, as often as I can remember. 

 

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Seagull Island.

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During my walk this morning, and for many mornings this winter, I have noticed a flock of seagulls that hang around at the lake. Now that the weather is turning colder, and ice is beginning to form on parts of the lake, when they gather there, in the center, it looks like an island of sorts where they sit. They are huddled together and occasionally fly away. I often find myself wondering, why are they here? Where did they come from? Why in the winter would they settle on our local, homegrown lake?

 

As I wondered on that, I also wondered, on why I ask why. When I am asking why, about a situation or a person, it is most often because I feel scared. I might feel scared about why someone I love is upset with me, because that means, our relationship, in the way that I am viewing it, has changed. I might feel scared because I don’t know what is going to happen next, so I feel less secure about my life and where it is going. I might feel scared if I don’t understand the why of something, because that means I am not as wise as I might of thought, so I give myself room to judge and criticize myself.

 

For me, any why or wondering question comes from a place of fear. Even about seagulls on a lake, you ask? Yes. When I am wondering why something is the way that it is, I am afraid of something. Afraid of what I think I already know from the past. Afraid of what might happen in the future. Afraid to just let the present moment Be as It Is. You see, when I am coming from a fearful place, if I let the present moment be, then I feel as if I am letting go of control. And, when I am afraid, if I am not in control, that is terrifying. 

 

Maybe being in control doesn’t sound like a problem to many of you, especially if you are a control freak like I am. However, I can attest to the fact that it certainly is not a peaceful place to come from. Not at all. When I am in control, or needing to know the hows and whys of every little detail in my life, I am certainly not feeling at ease. I am feeling tense, and always waiting for the next thing that is about to happen. 

 

The deepest lessons of my life are occurring right now, and those are about how to bring Peace more consistently and deeply into my world. And, the beauty is, I don’t have to do anything special for that to happen; not at all. I just have to be in my world, without questions or judgments or rules. I can just let the world Be as It Is. Let Go of what I think it should be. Breathe deeply and take in what is happening Right Now.

 

Today, the seagulls on my homegrown lake are a great lesson in Presence, because instead of wondering why they are there, I get to watch them dance on the water, hear them communicate with one another, and appreciate their beauty and unique nature. I get to just Be with them, in this very moment.  After all, the Present Moment is all that there ever Is.

 

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I Am Hopelessly Flawed.

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I have always enjoyed learning something new. And, most recently in my life, I have come to deeply appreciate when I have personal breakthroughs. I have not always appreciated this, because to have a breakthrough to me, meant that I had either hurt someone else, been hating on myself, or learned the lesson through some other difficult or painful means. I now understand that the most painful lessons for me bring the most brilliant recognitions in my life.

I have always sought in my mind to be a perfect human being. I always wanted to look just right; lose the right amount of weight; measure my foods in precisely the right amount per portion. I always wanted to be right on time for work, for play, or for an appointment. I always wanted to know about everything that someone would ask me; I would want to be the expert in any field of study. I wanted to be the best friend, mother, sibling, daughter, and co worker that there ever was.

I guess there is no harm in wanting to be the best at something in life. The problem has been for me, that being the best was an obsession for me. I saw myself as having to be perfect at everything, and when I wasn’t, I would criticize myself, or the situation. It would bring out the darkest, most undesirable parts of me, my traits. 

We all are made up of various traits and characteristics, that make us who we are. The ones that I tend to focus on are the ones that are most appealing: being kind; loving; compassionate; forgiving; patient; open; and honest, for a few examples. Yet, there are other traits that are always present within me that I don’t like to acknowledge live in me. And, when they show up, I get scared. I get defensive. My fists come up. And, I criticize and berate myself for having them appear; it is some of the darkest moments of self loathing for me. So to say that they live in me has been a challenge during most of my life.  Here are a few of my top traits:

I am a know it all. I am controlling about the slightest detail. I am judgmental to anyone who isn’t as “evolved” as I  am. I am arrogant. I am naive, to the point of feeling offended when my illusions are shattered. I am bossy. I am not willing to be a team player. I am dramatic. I am a gossip. I am stubborn about looking at things in news ways. I am unforgiving and resentful. I am selfish about my own needs. And no doubt, there are more that I could list here. 

These traits aren’t always how I am in the world, yet they do live in me. I was recently reading a book by SARK in which she was not only listing her various traits, she was celebrating them!  I was stunned, amazed, and confused. Why would one want to focus on them? Why not focus on the positive parts of ourselves?

I came to understand why a bit more deeply this week. I know that I have these traits that I see as more negative, and I am even pretty savvy at catching them when they pop up in my life and my relationships, at least most of the time. And, I most often choose the more positive, loving traits in my world. But, even if I didn’t choose those more often, I realized, SO WHAT? Really, so what? Loving myself means loving all parts of myself, the parts that I praise and the parts that I loathe. The Light and the Dark; they are all me.

Today, I am renewing my commitment to letting go of perfection and embracing my Perfection as I Am. Even though that may sound like the same idea, with the same word, it is completely different. It is the difference between conditional love, the need to be a certain someone in this world in order to love and honor myself; and Unconditional Love, the loving, honoring, and Celebrating who I Am, in all of my delightful, human ways. It is the difference between living according to our domestication, of how we have been carefully taught; and living in accordance with our true nature, our deepest, most authentic self.

Today, I announce, declare, acknowledge, and Celebrate every aspect of who I Am.

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Grief.

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I have spent the last several days experiencing and thinking about grief. About what it is, and what it is not. About my own grief and how I express it, now in my life, and in the past. I am amazed and at peace at what I seem to be discovering.

 

When I was in college, my grandmother, my father’s mother, died after being ill for a long time with cancer. I had spent school vacations at her home for years, kept her secrets of eating forbidden foods at lunch, and laughed with her. I was so sad, and hurt, and lost when she died. I didn’t want it to be true. I didn’t want to care about college classes anymore, for months. I thought about her all of the time and couldn’t envision a life without her physical presence in it. 

 

Ten years later, my older brother died, after a long illness. He lived on the west coast, so he was far away and I hadn’t seen him in years. Our relationship had been very close for a period of time in my life, but his last few months had been strained between us. I was the person that he had his caretakers call to report his death. It was surreal and a deep hurt. I grieved in many ways when he died. I cried, a lot at first. I felt guilt at our being somewhat estranged. I felt anger that he had me be the one that had to tell my parents that he had died. And, I felt like a martyr, in a way. I wore my grief like a shroud, feeling very embedded in it. That lasted for a long time. 

 

There have been many persons that I have known since then, friends or family, that had died. My responses to each one have been different. Yet, none so different as the deaths of two persons in my life in literally the last three weeks. First, my beloved aunt, my aunt Ruth, who was as close to me as a family member as my own parents. She lived with my grandparents when I was growing up, and I spent those school vacations with her as well, and many happy times after that. I would go up to her house for a weekend, just to spend time and talk with her. Her heart was so open and filled with love. I thought she would be around awhile longer, if not forever. Her death has been hard to bear, although manageable at the same time.

 

Only a few days after her death, my father in law, my wife’s father, died. I had not had the opportunity to build a longstanding, deep relationship with Ben, but I had felt a deep fondness and love for him, and enjoyed our times together. He gave Brenda away at our wedding. He had many of his own demons, yet I saw the light in him that was love, even though he didn’t see it in himself, it seemed.

 

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What grief represents to me now in my world is much different than I have ever experienced before. Even though we may share grief and the expression of it with others that are close to us, grief feels very personal to me; meaning, my feelings of loss are not going to be like anyone else’s about the person, as no one else’s will be like mine. In essence, I can feel whatever I feel, without any need to compare myself to others. I get to just move through it in the most loving, gentle way that I can. I also don’t feel like I have to express it in any certain way. Whatever seems to help me and bring me comfort and support feels right.

 

Grief also looks like Peace to me now. I don’t know how to best explain that, except that even when I am sad that my aunt Ruth is gone, or longing to spend another day with Ben, I feel at Peace when I accept things just as they are. Accept that they are absent. Accept that I miss them at times. Accept that life will go on without both of them in this physical realm. Letting Go and Acceptance bring me Peace. Bring me comfort. And are deep expressions of Love for me.

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