Thoughts in a Pandemic: Elephant or Dandelion?

April 11, 2020

I don’t know what day of quarantine this is. I’ve purposefully not tracked it. I’m discovering there are competing voices in my head. The first says, “Just keep living. Everything’s gonna be fine.” The other says, “What the hell are you thinking? The world is ending and you have no idea.”

I wake at odd hours with nonsensical thoughts like, “Do you want to live your life as an elephant or a dandelion?”  And these questions keep me awake. There’s an urgent desire to come up with an answer to questions I don’t even understand.

The feeling follows me into the morning when I wake to a mixed bag of happy and overwhelming sad. There’s no separation between the emotion, just one rolling wave of extreme. Like standing at the edge of the ocean, my feet in wet sand, each wave causing me to sink a little deeper until I’m no longer able to maintain my balance and the intensity knocks me to my knees.

This pandemic is a calm ocean at rising tide. Ripples kissing the shore softly. Castles melting slowly into the sea. Beachgoers inching their chairs to avoid the waves, quietly denying the inevitable.

I want to scream, “Move your fucking chairs! Go to the dunes! It’s the only way to avoid the waves.” You’re teasing yourselves with the inching of chairs. The waves are kissing your feet and gently lapping your toys. You think they aren’t hurting you until randomly a bucket is swept away and you’re left to run into the ocean to fetch it. Now you risk the undertow. The lucky ones avoid it. The weaker ones are sucked under. Rescuers swim out to help. Some of them are successful, others not.

All the while, I’m screaming, “Just move your fucking chairs!”

We can all sit on the dunes and watch the waves, separately together, from our chairs. And soon the tide will change. The danger will subside. It will once again be safe to sit by the ocean. But for now, “Move your fucking chairs.”

The desperate, anxious, helpless feeling is familiar.

The knowing that danger lurks. The desire to ignore it. The inability to forget. The constant internal struggle to relax, let go, enjoy, savor, trust. There is no relaxing when the rising tide threatens to wash away your children.

I know how to do this. Be aware of the danger. Stay vigilant. Keep calm. Stay silent. Shield others. Like an elephant, standing watch over her herd.

I think perhaps I live my life as an elephant, a sacred role for which I ‘m grateful. But the current state of affairs is overwhelming. My herd has grown. It’s no longer possible to round them up into a circle I can contain.

I can’t move all of their chairs.

Instead, for just a moment, I’d like to be a dandelion, roots reaching deep into the earth, grounding, nourishing, sustaining, and steady. My bright yellow face soaking up the sun in the middle of a mountain meadow, far from the reach of the ocean waves.

Nearby, I watch my children lounge on blankets under the shade of age old trees. The sound of laughter fills the atmosphere with life that I soak in through deep green leaves and release back to them with gratitude.

In the distance, my grandchildren run, climb, and squeal with joy. They grasp the wispy seed fluffs of the dandelion plant and with deep full breaths, make wish after wish. Filling the universe with childlike innocence and hope for a brighter day.IMG_E5726

This pandemic is exhausting. The elephant in me is tired.

Today, I choose dandelions.

https://www.elephantjournal.com/2020/04/thoughts-in-a-pandemic-elephant-or-dandelion/

 

 

Sister, I see you.

ChooseLoveSister, I see you.

Holding your handmade signs and shouting words of anger and frustration at the young woman walking past, using your voice to inflict pain on another wounded soul. I wonder if you’ve given any thought to the woman who might hear the words coming from your mouth.

The scared teenager, desperate to break the cycle of abusive relationships and poverty, trembles under the weight of her decision. She has for the first time, seen her own value and taken responsibility for herself. In that instant, her path shifts and her purpose solidifies. She will eventually go on to impact the lives of other young women but first she must lift the blanket of shame your words have thrown over her.

Sister, I see you.

Hiding safely behind your computer screen, sharing words of condemnation for women you have not met, using your platform to spew hate. Blindly sharing words you have not validated, written by someone you do not know. I wonder if you’ve given any thought to the woman who might read what you have written.

The young mother with the precocious toddler who has just been told her unborn baby has not developed a brain and it matters not at all how very much she wanted this baby or the many months she tried to get pregnant, he will not survive birth. Laws in the state she resides force her to leave her little boy and stay overnight at a hotel in order to safely end a pregnancy she would give her life to save. It is during this horrendous drive that she scrolls her facebook page for distraction and reads your words labeling her a murderer. She will not conceive again and will eventually find joy in the child she has but your words will forever echo.

Sister, I see you.

Sitting in the café, surrounded by friends, chatting righteously about your virtues. Pontificating the holy difference between you and those “other” women. I wonder if you’ve given any thought to the woman sitting next to you quietly absorbing the weight of your judgment.

The friend you assume to know, secretly raped by a man she thought was safe, a well-respected man who wielded power in the community. His power used to silence her much like your words. Holier than thou postures shaming misunderstood choices, building walls where bridges should be.

Sister, I see you.

Sitting in fear of the truth that we are all the same, working furiously to build the case that we are different. Doing our best to navigate this human experience, we are faced with choices designed for our growth. We rank choices as if they have varying levels of value, as if some lessons are more important than others. This is not true. All lessons have value to the learner. It is not our place to judge the lessons of another person. Judgment comes from a place of fear. The ego uses this fear to drown out love, because where love exists, the ego dies. To recognize the connection between us would mean recognizing our own shadow parts and sitting in a space of vulnerability. It is in this space that love exists.

We are the same you and I, created of the same Divine energy, often in need of reminding. We stumble our way through this life doing the best we can at any given moment. Not one of us knowing any more than the other, our obstacles become our foundations, the building blocks on which we stand. Let us not use them to stand against each other. Judgment is a hate filled tool. Lift it not, for its purpose is not to build but only to break.

Together let us end the cycle of division that feeds on labels of judgment. Let us dare to stand face to face and look into the mirror of our sister’s soul seeing the Divine light that joins. And when asked to choose, let us be brave and choose love. For we are more alike than we are unalike.

-namaste

 

“Holding Tight while Letting Go”

I picked up “Live What You Love” by Bob and Melinda Blanchard to read yesterday morning. It was a random selection, something I do occasionally when I’m in between purposeful readings. The process: I stand in front of my bookcases and scan titles until the book I am meant to read jumps out at me. This book is orange. I don’t remember buying it, which is often the case – one of many impulsive book buys in my life. Trusting the Why will be revealed, I buy the books that speak to me. I don’t always read them until years later.I love the moment I understand the Why. This morning it was clear.

Timothy left for Utah last night and my heart is crying a steady stream of sadness, a whole body feeling that weighs you down from the inside. The outside can smile and express how excited you are for him. You can imagine his adventure and beam with pride at the young man you’ve raised. You can know with certainty that you have done a good job and prepared him well. You can know without a doubt that he will be better than okay – he will grow in so many ways. You can feel all of that incredible, positive, exciting stuff and still your heart will cry. Inwardly, knowing how much you’ll miss his smile, his laugh, his hugs, his sarcastic wit, and insatiable thirst for life.

You’ll feel like you should have paid more attention along the way. You should have realized the day he first left he wasn’t coming back. When was that day? It feels like it was the first day of Children’s House. He was three. I didn’t want to take him. It feels like it started then, his pull to leave – my pull to hold on.

Maybe I did pay attention but I didn’t listen. Maybe I’ve known for twenty years that he would leave me. My gut trying to tell me all those years ago, “Get ready. This one is going places. Prepare yourself. This one will love you fiercely but he’s gonna need you to love him enough to let him go.”

That is the Why of this book. As I read “Live What You Love”, I’m reminded of exactly what this child of mine is doing at this moment. He is living the life he loves, stepping bravely out there into his dream and I am blessed to be the mom who witnesses it. It is my honor to be the mom who encouraged the boy to draw geometric designs for hours and days and to love Frank Lloyd Wright to the point of obsession. Something inside me planted within him a seed that has grown into a passion for architecture and a spirit of adventure.

How lucky am I to be the mom who for years watched the passion he felt each time his foot touched the soccer ball, his enthusiasm and energy filling the space, allowing me to feel the excitement vicariously through him, that moment when his body, full of adrenaline pushed itself to be all that it could be. Now, that same young man has found a new passion for the outdoors and he’s moving to Utah to hike and explore a place he has grown to love with the girl he has chosen to share his life with. How lucky am I to be the mom of this young man?

So I’ll let my heart cry as long and as often as it feels the need. After all, I will miss him. But I will feel gratitude for all that this next adventure is with this boy of mine. Together we are growing as I learn to hold tight and let go in one grace-filled movement.

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How lucky am I to have something that makes saying good-bye so hard.

My Dream of Dreams

One day an old woman with short silver hair, I’ll view life quite differently, without any care.  

Through blue eyes that sparkle, I’ll cherish the groves of my velvety skin each new smile improves.

My soft cushy places, pillows they’ll be, supporting wee heads so the stars they can see.

We’ll lay on the riverbank warmed by a fire, watching as stars go higher and higher.

I’ll paint for them pictures of far away places, of decadent dishes, and welcoming faces.

I’ll make sure they know fear is a four-letter word, an illusion that fades when the truth is heard.

I’ll share with them stories, the good and the bad. I’ll teach them to know happy is less without sad.

I’ll share my adventures, some grand and some small. I’ll explain without love, life’s no adventure at all.

We’ll sing and we’ll dance, reservations thrown far, knowing we’re perfect just as we are.

Together we’ll laugh til our tummies are sore, til our eyes are crying, then we’ll laugh some more.

I’ll be certain to see them for all that they are, beautiful souls made of dust from the stars.

And through their sweet eyes, I will finally see the beauty and grace that has always been me.

Connected through lifetimes, our hearts are like one, these magical creatures, grandchildren, my Sun.

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Our Light is The Way

It’s a feeling of desperation. This overwhelming need to love harder, bigger, louder, as if not only my life but all of humanity depends on it. Gone is the anger. Frustration is difficult to muster. Outrage and disbelief are things of the past. Sadness appears but serves only as a reminder to be happy.

News of torchbearers outside a synagogue throws me off balance. Plunged into deep water, struggling to surface. Disoriented, my soul kicks and flails desperate to right itself.

“This isn’t who we are.”

            “Look for the helpers.”

Like a buoy bobbing to the surface, gulping air, filling my lungs, clearing my head, reminding myself, “All is well.”

Stay in this moment. Hear the birds in the trees. Feel the warmth of the morning sun peeking over the rooftop, the tickle of a gentle breeze. Breathe in. Breathe out.

The only thing more powerful than hate is love.Do Good

“Be love.”

Be love in every moment. Breathe in compassion for the haters. Breathe out loving kindness that might encircle them, lift them, soften them, save them. This is The Way out of darkness, the path to the Light. The Truth is that only love can heal the pain and suffering caused by hate.

Look inward for the answers. Feel the flickering spark of Divine Light that exists in every living creature. Seek to understand the power we have to heal the Universe. Imagine peace. Feel compassion. Express gratitude. Be Love.

“If you want to awaken all of humanity, then awaken all of yourself. If you want to eliminate the suffering in the world, then eliminate all that is dark and negative in yourself. Truly, the greatest gift you have to give is that of your own self-transformation.” – Lao Tzu

Pause Button

IMG_4701Recently my grandbaby sat in a highchair for the first time. I snapped a photo and sent it to his dad.

He texted back, “My heart needs a break!!”

I thought, “Hold on tight baby boy. That feeling never goes away.”

The saying goes, “Being a parent is like watching your heart walk around outside your body,” but it’s more than that. It’s a constant feeling that life is happening at warp speed and you’re desperate to find the pause button. Except for those days following sleepless nights, if only those days would speed quickly by so you could catch a few hours of precious sleep then things could slow down again, but even those days are treasured in hindsight.

Being a parent is having your heart stretched wider and wider. It’s thinking you couldn’t possibly love someone more and the next moment you realize in fact you do. It’s a constant opening and growing, not always of our own choosing. Seldom is there time to relax comfortably in the space of our growth before the next life event happens. One day you’re holding this helpless little human and the next day he’s sitting in a highchair and banging his spoon on the table.

Precious moments come and go and you will your brain to remember them all. The way his little body curls around my middle when he falls asleep in my lap. The pudge of his checks and the rolls on his thighs, the feel of his little hands when he grabs my face and plants an open mouth slobbery kiss on my checks, that flirty little smile as he pulls away and laughs, all of it you hope to remember in detail but deep down realize you won’t. Perhaps we aren’t meant to.

Imagine if we were capable of storing every little detail, our minds would soon become too cluttered with the past to be present in the now and what a shame that would be. Imagine a home overfilled with stuff, floor to ceiling stacks of memorabilia, shelves piled high with papers, pictures, trophies, magazines and newspapers all saved in an effort not to forget some special moment in the past. Eventually, the home becomes so filled with things there is no space left to enjoy the company of people, to sit and talk, to laugh and play, no space for living, only space for holding memories. Occasionally, our homes need to be de-cluttered so we have room to make new memories. Perhaps our minds are like this too.

With age, I’ve come to know the reality that I will not remember every little detail and so I find myself slowing down, listening harder, noticing more. In the moment, I am more present because I understand that I won’t be able to easily retrieve these memories in years to come. The present moment is a gift that will only be unwrapped once and I want to savor every layer of its essence, immersing myself in its beauty, and living only in the now of it all. I believe being fully present has the power to transform mental memory into soul memory. What my mind may not remember, my soul will never forget. Years from now, I may not remember the words that were spoken but I will know the love that was shared because I sat quietly with my heart open wide and allowed it to soak deeply into my soul. This is as close to a pause button as you’re ever going to find.

Doing vs Being

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Walking onto the back porch before the sun has made its way over the roofline and the dew is still glistening on the grass, has a way of instantly relaxing the built up tension in my shoulders from a restless night. As I drop into a corner chair with coffee in hand, a huge sigh releases. A welcome feeling of gratitude emerges as I recognize the gift of the next few minutes I’ll spend quietly reflecting, sipping the perfect cup of coffee, listening to the birds chattering away, and taking stock of how blessed I truly am.

It’s easy to get lazy when life becomes busy. The busier I am, the lazier I get. The more productive I am at doing life, the less energy I put into being alive. It’s easy to believe I have no choice. I have obligations, responsibilities, people depending on me.

  “If it were only me, I’d do things differently. I would eat healthier, exercise regularly, go to sleep earlier, read more books, write everyday…”

It’s easy to convince myself that this is my reality when in truth, reality is what we create for ourselves. Each day I make a choice as to how I spend my time and energy, how I direct my thoughts, and how I feel about what I am doing. It’s easier to “do life” than to truly “be alive.”

What does “doing life” look like? It looks busy, stressed, hectic, productive, important. It looks like long To Do Lists with a lot of check marks, a calendar with no empty space, and a day that zooms by without conscious attention to exactly what is taking place. It looks like events to plan, clients to serve, family to care for, parties to attend, causes to champion, letters to write, phone calls to make, houses to clean, and no time for reflection, gratitude, or rest.

We convince ourselves that our purpose in life is “doing” and the more “doing” we accomplish, the more successful we are. We believe doers are the strongest and most successful in life but this is simply an idea we choose to believe. In reality, doers are lazy. Those who are busy doing are afraid of being. To do is easy. We can be taught to do most anything and if not, we can find someone to help us. Most doing takes little conscious thought. We perform tasks robotically, efficiently, and routinely. Systematically, checking the boxes on our to do lists. Driving the same route to work each day oblivious to our surroundings. Doing can be exhausting but doing does not require strength and it does not equal success. Doers avoid the hard work by staying busy with the mundane.

Being alive is not for the faint of heart or the lazy. Being takes courage. Only the strong are able to sit in the quiet, to look inward at the darkness and see throughto the light. It isn’t easy to consistently make conscious choices, to listen to intuition and ask ourselves the Why before planning the How. To trust that fulfilling life’s purpose is tied to something greater than ourselves and to allow intuition to lead us on the path to fulfillment is hard. It can be scary and extremely uncomfortable. It’s much easier to fill our time with work and obligations, all the while believing we have no choice.

This morning I realize I’ve recently fallen back into the trap of “no choice” and it isn’t the first time this has happened. In fact, this is a fairly solid pattern I’ve created. Over the past six or so years, I’ll dive deep into the area of self-discovery for a period of time. Doing the hard work, I’ll connect with inner intuition, glimpse life purpose, and taste my true passion. Coming out of the experience, I’m energized and determined, feeling I know what I’m here to do and excited for the journey ahead only to be distracted by the busyness of life shortly thereafter. Often I’ll beat myself up for falling into the trap of doing yet again.

  “What’s wrong with me? I know better. Why can’t I do better?”

But trying to do better is exactly the problem. Life isn’t about doing and the harder I try to do, the further I am from actually living. Life is about allowing, letting go of expectation and trusting the Divine path that is set before us. We are all part of a universal stream of energy that flows swiftly and effortlessly toward our life’s purpose. Being aware of this energy and trusting our place within it is all that is required in order to participate in the abundance that life has to offer.

Imagine this stream of energy like a river with each of us in our own little canoe. If we are so busy paddling our canoe that we don’t take the time to notice the direction of the river’s flow, we might spend our lives paddling furiously upstream, never making any real progress. But, if we pick up our paddles and sit quietly long enough to become aware of the flow of the water, we soon feel our canoe floating along swiftly in the flow of universal energy. Life isn’t meant to be a struggle but picking up our paddles can be scary. It means giving up what we see as control and letting go of the belief that busy equals success. It means trusting in something greater than ourselves. This takes courage and it takes strength. It takes forgiving ourselves when we get scared and start paddling furiously again. It takes the courage to pick the paddles back up and to sit quietly. It takes the occasional gift of a morning on the porch with a perfect cup of coffee.