The journey began on a rainy, cold, and dark November evening
Blacker than Black
Sheets of sideways rain and gusts of raw wind
Driving in circles
I misplaced myself
Still, I was determined to heal
Something was calling my name
When I discovered its source, I knew I was home
a sacred space
The challenge to stay grounded
The shedding of the stain of suffering and taint of living in a toxic world
The discovery of auras and energies and cellular spaces
that transform into a places for healing
and ways to move through pain
Once I walked in darkness, now I walk in light
Day 17: This poem came from a post in 2012 entitled: How Yoga Saved My Life https://wordpress.com/post/buildingalifeofhope.com/431. As with all found work, much has been transformed or changed. Yoga has been a tremendous gift to me on endless levels with-I expect- more to come.
The call for authenticity is a sacred path to the common good
Highway to a Higher Self
The Kingdom Within- not Without
Neither Hell nor Heaven
The Universal Truth
(Can You Tell?)
of what it means
to be Human
Day 2: Started before dawn, written during breaks at work, finalized just now. A collection of my own thoughts, quotes from books I was reading,and snippets from podcasts, TED Talks, and NPR that I jotted down in my writer’s notebook.
Have you heard that giant sucking sound?* That’s what you’re hearing as the Prevaricator- in-Chief, his pal The Grim Reaper, the Ayn Rand Adherent of the House, the Chief Perjurer Attorney General, and Commander for Copious Amounts of CO2 begin to whittle away at our fundamental rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. We are on the fast track to being denied our ability to breathe, vote and live. Preparations are already underway to throw us in the Pit of Health Careless Hell. The House pulled an all-nighter last week, working hard not to helpthe American people, but to hurt us-a sure sign of democratic decay in this country. And that’s just for starters, of course. The Prevaricator also sent Marines into Syria to fight ISIS. Yes, let’s keep repeating the same actions and expecting a different result! Speaking of destruction, the EPA is well on its way to evisceration. With less regulation and more contamination flowing our way, we are sure to perish from poorer quality drinking water, chemically poisoned fish and increased levels of air pollution before we can even get to a doctor. At best, we’ll probably be too sick to get to the voting booth come the mid-term elections. And if we do make it, we better be sure to show proof that we qualify, lest we appear to be committing fraud.
It’s easy to come undone with each onslaught of ominous news. In my gut, I knew this was coming. When I wore black on Inauguration Day, a colleague complimented my outfit. When I told her I was in mourning for our country, she was dismissive, stating that she didn’t like everything Obama had done but nothing bad happened to her. I wish I had the right words at the time; I knew the bad boys up on the Hill were waiting with bated breath to unleash their Machiavellian Manifesto.
I have spent much time reading and listening and watching this week, furiously taking notes each time important information presents itself. My scribbles are scattered about waiting to be more coherently transcribed. I supposed this is a metaphor for my own thoughts. And what I’m learning and discovering is mind-boggling. Like Congressman Shimkus, who doesn’t think that men should have to pay for prenatal care through their insurance (doesn’t he know how insurance works?) Or HR 1313 which supposedly preserves employers wellness programs but also may now require an employee to submit to genetic testing. (Since I am now on my husband’s health plan, we already have to undergo yearly biometric screening to avoid getting financially penalized.) Or worse, the provision in the Republican health scare plan that would end insurance coverage of abortion (sorry if you’ve been raped or a victim of incest or your life is at risk or the fetus is severely deformed -pay up!). This kind of “law-making” is reminiscent of the former Communist totalitarian regime under the late Nicolae Ceausescu of Romania who- among other horrors-made abortions illegal and banned all forms of birth control in order to increase his country’s population. He even went as far to forbid sex education(don’t forget we already lack consistent, comprehensive, quality sex education here). And his regime had their own form of biometrics as well. Women under the age of 45 were subjected to pregnancy tests at clinics every 1 to 3 months, having been rounded up at their workplaces for the procedure. If they did not reproduce, they were subjected to questioning and even a “celibacy tax”. Doctors were under pressure to keep pregnant women and their children as patients because their salaries would be cut if a child died. Under these oppressive laws lay a few harsh truths: inadequate nutrition due to poverty and chronic food shortages and inadequate health care. Estimates in Romania at the time were that 60% of pregnancies ended in abortion or miscarriage. Illegal abortions were expensive, costing 2-4 months’ salary. Exceptions were only permitted if a woman was over 40 or had 4 children. (If you had Communist Party connections, abortion was readily available.) Harsher still, were the many orphanages discovered after Ceausescu’s overthrow and subsequent execution. Parents were just too poor to care for their children.
This is just one country’s disturbing history. Other countries surely have more depending upon their current laws:
Years ago during the Reagan Administration, I read Margaret Atwood’s A Handmaid’s Tale. The story, (which was adapted into a movie in 1990 and is set to be a mini-series on Hulu next month) is set in a dystopian future. Citizens live in a totalitarian theocracy where any remaining power women had is taken from them. I remember thinking it was the scariest book I had ever read. Given the times then and the times now, I am afraid it still is. For perspective on the book and current events in our country read Atwood’s essay here:
My friends, this is just the tip of the iceberg. The big bills make the headlines. Not so much House Bill 610 sponsored by Republican Representative Steve King of Iowa, which states: “To distribute federal funds for elementary and secondary in the form of vouchers for eligible students and to repeal a certain rule relating to nutrition standards in schools.” A step toward dismantling public education? ( Thanks to Izzy for this piece of news!)
What we are currently witnessing in this country is the continued creeping infiltration of corporations (disguised as government through the passage of legislation) into every aspect of our lives. Health care decisions are not left to the doctors, nurses and other professionals (as well as their patients). Health insurance and pharmaceutical companies call the shots. The science on climate change from NASA, NOAA and other qualified experts has been flushed down the toilet by greedy energy companies. Public education policies are not in the hands of classroom teachers, child development experts, literacy specialists and education researchers and professors. Investment in education is now moving towards private religious (aka Fundamentalist Christian) and/or a for-profit business model that misses the mark on what really works to educate all 21st century children from birth to age 22.
As I and millions like me continue to speak truth to power, I fantasize about that special place reserved for those whose narrow-minded ideas and endless greed and rabid hate hurts us all.
Image courtesy of: Google Images
*Ross Perot inspired this one. He said it during his presidential campaign regarding factory jobs going to Mexico if NAFTA went into effect.
For nine years I have been living outside my comfort zone. Previously, I had a steady vision as to how my life would proceed. But now I realize I was wearing rose-colored glasses most of the time! In August of 2007, my life’s plan was wildly disrupted and I was thrown into the turbulence of divorce. It was as if the earth had opened up and I was being swallowed whole into circumstances that were beyond my control. I spent the next five years in various states of unease and hardship as I navigated my way into an independent life. Along the way, however, I enjoyed moments of great peace, joy, grace, and a growing sense of inner strength that surprised me time and again.
As much as the independent life I had created brought contentment, it was unsustainable. In fact, it was becoming uncomfortable as the responsibilities of single home-ownership were beginning to become more taxing and overwhelming. Additionally, my boys needed to move forward into their own lives. The adventure was finished. I had done my job.
I am now literally in a whole new zone. I’ve said it before, I know! The climate makes me sweat profusely, and at times I think there are way too many sunny days. There’s a whole lot more traffic and this place seems so BIG to me.
Yet within this seemingly vast concrete jungle, there are delicious bits of paradise. (The paradise that brought people down here in the first place, the paradise that is at risk of getting lost for so many reasons). I have the comfort and contentment and continuity of a healthy partnership. A partnership that doesn’t pass judgement and is consistently patient and supportive, undemanding and full of humor! And, for the past year, I have spent many of my days way outside my educational comfort zone- teaching in positions that grew my brain cells and tested my creativity as an educator. It has been exhausting and exhilarating! But most of all, it’s been a gift. I found my community once again. A place which accepts and embraces me in all the ways I hoped.
In the nine years that my life turned in an unexpected and vastly different direction, I have learned a lot about myself and about who I really am. I have met and continue to meet some truly outstanding and amazing people. People whom I never would have crossed paths with if not for that dastardly day in August all those years ago.
Moving forward is a path that is rarely straight. But if you’re willing to allow the way to unfold before you, the detours may bring you unforeseen adventures!
Do you ever notice your shadow when you’re outside on a sunny day? I’ve never paid much attention to it; perhaps because cloudless days are fewer in New England or perhaps because I no longer have that childish wonder at the sight of it. On a run last week, I noticed the full and extra long length of mine and it got me thinking about my current life’s path.
I still remain surprised that I live in a place of palm trees and low lying land. I drive to work as the sun makes it debut (it rises just a bit later on this side of the Gulf) and wonder, “How did I get here?” (A line from the Talking Heads “Once in a Lifetime” comes to mind https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=98AJUj-qxHI.)
Then I start to think about the 2016 Lenten theme of my faith community up North. “Walk with Me” is the one for this season. Admittedly, I missed the deadline for getting it published in the booklet so I decided this post would be an alternative means to share some thoughts.
I am old enough to know and accept and embrace that life’s path is never straight. Even if you operate under the illusion of the straight and narrow, sooner or later you wake up to the fact that you actually may be going nowhere. (Again, cue another Talking Heads classic “Road to Nowhere” https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=AWtCittJyr0.)
It occurs to me that the precursors to the seismic changes in my life came about on walks with friends or other loved ones. I distinctly recall a question posed by a friend back in 2005: “Are you spiritually hungry?” Realizing that I was in fact in great need of fulfillment, I entered a community that opened my heart, mind and spirit and, in turn, helped my sons gain some safe ground in a time of severe turbulence.
Then I think of the long walks I took with my husband before we were even dating. First, a morning hike in the woods and later, a longer walk on the beach (the very same one we were to be married on years later!). Intense, open and honest conversations took place that day in late 2008. Our lives were never the same after that time together; we began a journey that overcame distance and trying times in our independent lives.
A steadfast and true walking companion will always be Emily. My heart warms at the memories of Sunday afternoon ambles in the bird sanctuary with her dog Blaze. These trips were never wholly planned; usually a text or call to drop whatever and go. Things were shifting both in small and large ways during those times. Mother Nature allowed for openings in the clouded spaces of our thoughts and worries.
Surely, I would be remiss if I did not speak of those wondrous mountain hikes with my youngest son (joined on occasion by Emily and older brother). I have written about all of them in previous posts but in looking back, I believe they were symbolic of a relationship that had come full circle. The rough patches were behind us; we could manage the toughest and steepest paths knowing the reward was waiting for us at the summit.
Still, there was something larger at play, I think. A force or spirit or a higher power that reminded us to stay present because it was present. The moments became richer and sweeter as a result.
So here in this new place and space, I bring my full self. Each day is different; I feel as if I am in a tremendous labyrinth with many paths I can follow. So I do. I remain open to new possibilities along the way, knowing my journey and my destination are one and the same.
In my long running career, I have often been asked why I run. Or, are you training for something? ? Do you have goals? The answers have varied depending upon my age. In my teens, I was competitive. Therefore, I was ALWAYS training for races. In my twenties, I was either rebellious (refusing to run) or so injured it was impossible at times to even walk. In my thirties, I ran to get back in shape after my second son was born. In my forties, I was running to stay sane, struggling to function in a disintegrating marriage and an ugly divorce. I reached fifty. Free and forging new paths in my life and setting new goals that included competition once again, though never nearly matching the intensity of my teen years.
When I lived in New England, much of my running took place in the early hours of the day, often in that space when it seemed darkest, minutes before sunrise. I would rarely see a fellow harrier. I didn’t mind and I always felt and was safe. These days, my route is different. We live on a city park that abuts a bike and running trail.
But sometimes I take the short drive to the beach and run with just the sound of the Gulf surf and forgiving sand.
I run as early as I am able to safely do so. No dark starts here for a lone female. However, there are benefits to these delays. I see many more runners, walkers and cyclists. And the more I’m out on the trail, the more regulars I see. For a small town New England chick, it brings a sense of comfort as I continue to adjust to a more densely populated area.
And there’s a terrific variety of fleet footers out there as well. All doing their part to stay in shape, work on their goals and maybe even achieve a little peace of mind. One of my favorite groups to observe is the FAB 50 women who run on Saturday mornings. All shapes, sizes and ages out there working really hard while clearly enjoying the camaraderie. Whenever I see them, I am always brought back to the times when the sport was closed off to women. (Heck, I remember when many sports were non-existent for women!) I know and understand the history behind the fight to participate in and create sports for girls and women and I appreciate the battles won, even more so as I get older. If it weren’t for the efforts of those unnamed many, none of us would be enjoying the right to discover and uncover parts of ourselves that we never knew existed.
It would be easy for me to write a political opinion or cite the landmark court cases and laws that allow me and other females to throw on our running shoes and shorts, enter races and compete against men, each other and ourselves. Simply put, this right to participate happened as a result of long struggles and hard won legal battles that in some instances seem to have little to do with running. But every single one of them is connected to each other and the present day independence from which women and girls continue to benefit.
Running gives a woman positive bodily integrity. The sheer act of it is an example of how women should not be controlled by restrictive laws or narrow thinking that seeks to put us in our place or shames us into choices that someone else is making for us and our lives. Running restores broken spirits. Running returns control of one’s own life to the person it matters to the most-HERSELF.
So why do I run? I run to stay EMPOWERED. My goals? To remain a FREE and SELF-DETERMINED WOMAN. And what am I training for? MY LIFE.
This post has been churning for a while. The final push came after listening to Terry Gross’s Fresh Air interview with Gloria Steinem (ww.npr.org/2015/10/31/453029648/fresh-air-weekend-gloria-steinem-the-witches-carrie-brownstein), a heroine of mine since I was a teenage girl in the 1970’s.
Photo courtesy of D. Jacavanco (jacavancostudios.com/blog)
I’m writing this piece looking out at my new back forty; a verdant park is now my backyard instead of the long expanse of grass and thick woodlands. The journey to my new life is at once complete and just beginning. We were married in late June on the beach with the roar of the Atlantic and soft tunes of a love song in a circle of friends and family.
The day was picture perfect-the bluest of skies, the warmest of suns and greenest of grasses. The party was held outside in the backyard, a culminating celebration and the best way to say goodbye to my house and land that survived loss and was revived by love.
The boys had moved to a beautiful apartment on the other side of town earlier that month. We had time to adjust to being apart before my own big move a thousand miles away. Although I had been in the house alone before, it was never so empty. I had trouble sleeping, not out of fear but in the sense of knowing it was permanent. It was difficult to work with all the emotional upheaval that comes with making five life changes at once. I was saying good-bye to everything.
I went for one last big hike in the mountains with my youngest during that time- a necessary reprieve from the planning of the wedding and packing whatever I needed to bring.
I said good-bye to my therapist- a woman who provided me with strength and courage for a decade and helped me get back myself.
So, two days after the wedding, we hit the road with everything I had- and all that I needed- packed in the car. Books, clothes, photos, paintings and two cases of wine arrived safely three and a half days later.
And, two weeks after the wedding, my house was sold. My husband and I are at last making our own home together. At times, I feel like a stranger in a strange land. The climate is different-and I am not just talking about the humidity! I will leave the details of my observations for future posts; they are stories unto themselves.