Staying present, not pretending

In More Together Than Alonediscovering the power & spirit of community in our lives and in the world, Mark Nepo writes – – ” Staying present & not pretending allows a space of truth that others can join.” One of the great truths of all truths.

How different life would be if we & others didn’t retreat to the false safety of seeing & hearing what we want rather than what was done & said. While it is essential to always remember that we often don’t have the full picture, often mess up & mangle what we’re hearing or seeing, it is so terribly destructive when we reject a difficult present moment & twist it beyond recognition by pretending it is something else.

Consider my early life. My parents were put through the torments of hell by me in elementary school. I comfortably lied, pleasantly cheated & often ignored homework assignments. This was in the very early 1960s – still heart & soul The Fifties – when people feared looking into the dark depths of the spirit. Mom & Dad apparently never asked themselves, “Why?”

Looking back as best I can ~ impossible to really see those single digit days through the eyes of my 67-year old self ~  two dynamics stand out, both of which hark back to core others being ill at ease in a present moment & their apparent fear of any space of truth.

It’s important to know that my next-older sibling died on Easter Monday 1959, playing at his best friend’s house. He was eleven, I was seven. My mother’s way of dealing with her youngest son’s shocking, sudden death was to block it out of her consciousness. Unfortunately, what helped soothe Mom’s heartbreak  was disastrous for me, her youngest child; I needed to process the tragedy as much as she seemed compelled to bury it.

There was no grief counseling in the late ’50s. The grief-consumed were expected to set it aside & move on. Totally the opposite of what someone like me needed.

The other possible factor, one that didn’t occur to me until my forties, long after John (a natural healer) came into my life, was that I facilely lied because lying was as much my natural home environment as water is for a fish. Being all big talk & very little do was what I experienced from sibs who were praised as exemplary.

After Ian’s death, my surviving sibs were eight, ten, fourteen years older than I was. Peter & Mim were revered as the brilliant ones, the academically gifted, the golden boy & girl of the family. But both were always more talk than do. What I heard & saw were two people who talked a good game but rarely took the field. So I didn’t either. I came up with terrific ideas for school projects & assignments, just never followed through with the DOING.  Was clueless at the time – thought I was as much a lost cause as others did.

Oh, the damage done because people could not stay present, were compelled to pretend,  seemed unsafe with allowing “a space of truth to open that others can join.”

Praise be, that just might be my John’s great gift. Staying present, allowing a space of truth to open.

Will never forget my first experience with an open space of truth. We’d been married a short time when, upset by something he had said, I unloaded on John. He looked at me, stunned, and asked, in a loving, firm & genuinely curious voice – “What is the matter?”

Those four words, spoken in a tender yet somehow neutral way,  left me drop-jawed, speechless, totally flummoxed. No one had ever asked me to share my truth, distressed or not.  ‘Whaaaaaaaat?” is all I managed to get out. Instead of getting testy with my dense response, he simply repeated, “What is the matter?”

I sputtered the reason for my unhappiness, something he had said that had left me feeling raw, vulnerable. My Keet looked at me, soaked it in, then responded with, “Oh, you heard me say….” & repeated, practically verbatim, what I’d sputtered, then continued, “What I meant to convey was…”  & went on to say what he’d hoped to get across, without blaming either one of us for the misunderstanding.

Reading Mark Nepo’s words leaves me feeling profoundly blessed, on many levels. With the rare opportunity to be in a family that so clearly demonstrated what happens when fear takes root & sheds toxic shade over everyone. With being someone who didn’t quietly poison myself with internalized messages received (many not intentionally sent), but instead kept acting out my angst until FINALLY a teacher came along who told me, not just my parents, the mid-60s equivalent of, “Girl, you are one hot mess!” ~ ~ words I’d been desperate to hear for six long years. With realizing my natural state was some unknown but out there BETTER . With all the incredible voices who – from & in & through so many expected & startling sources – helped lay down fresh track where I went off the rails.  With the miraculous friends who see in me someone who was a stranger to my own eyes & heart. With having the love of someone who is a heart shaman, a tender healer of my tattered spirit.

“Staying present & not pretending allows a space of truth to open that others can join.” My thanks to Mark Nepo for draping language over what I was born believing, yet could not – until now – fully express. What a blessing!

 

the sweet spot of the generous present moment

One of those life altering moments arrived quietly this a.m., calmly alighting out of the blue, changing EVERYTHING. Not a dramatic upsetting of an archaic apple cart or rejiggering of reality, just a peaceful slide closer to wholeness.

Two friends, both exceptional & successful writers, urged me to open up to my writing gifts & graces, to build a client base editing & helping people speak more fully in their unique voice, which has long been a very real & personally dismissed talent of mine.

Their tag team urging arrived on the heels – the next day! – of my announcing beginning work on Miz Deevious, my account of savoring a remarkably rich life in spite of being a very poor woman. It was as if last night’s post became a dividing point, between the me that was still connected to, slighted by the past -and- someone centered in what Joe Dispenza tags “the sweet spot of the generous present moment,” hallmarked by simply stepping out of my own way.

As I read – was it just last night?! – in Becoming Supernatural, “As you become pure conciousness, pure awareness, & change your brain waves from beta the alpha & even to theta, the autonomic nervous system – which knows how to heal your body much better than your conscious mind does – steps in & finally has the opportunity to clean house. That’s what creates brain coherence.”

This morning, I read the “You go girl!” comments from two highly respected admired beloved friends. A scant hour later, having completely forgotten what I’d read less than twelve hours before, I cracked open Becoming… & was gobswoggled to read:  “If in this state you are no longer reaffirming the known ~ your same life ~ and instead you keep investing your energy into the unknown (as you would invest money in a bank account), then you are able to create new, unknown possibilities in your life. Just as the material electron expands back to immaterial energy in the quantum field once scientists stop observing it, when you no longer observe your pain, your routine life, and your problems, they will return back into energy – and into an infinite number of possibilities, into pure potential. Only once you are truly present in this potent place beyond this space & time – the place from where all material things come – can you begin to create real change.”

It felt downright Harry Potterish, as if some wizardy hand had scribed those words just for me!

When the disciple is ready, the master will arrive ~ ~ When the spirit is primed, the sweet spot of the generous present moment will open.

Miz Deevious – the very rich life of a very poor woman

It was the leaking pipe that started dribbling & drenching a corner of the basement – again – on Thursday (& we can’t get fixed until the affordable plumber is available sometime in the coming week) that sent me over the edge & soaring into flights of ideas. It’s when my book – Miz Deevious, the very rich life of a very poor woman – took full root in my mind; that was when it hit me that most people who are financially stable have no idea of the costly realities of being chronically on a short financial leash -and- I’m the one to address it since my life is rich even though my income streams have currently gone dry. Praise be for Social Security, but the challenges we face daunt folks far younger than us, who don’t have that safety net to lend a hand.

Forty years ago, I was happy as a clam, doing the work that had beckoned me since 7th Grade – by now, I expected to be a teaching elder, looking down the road a few years to retirement. Not to be.

Thirty years ago, I found an unexpected niche at Prudential Healthcare, as a writer & marketing professional. Everyone knew that you had it made once you nailed a job at Pru – could practically plan your retirement party way down the road. Except not.

Twenty years ago, garnered employee of the year honors at BISYS Financial Services, the person execs turned to when a client group started talking about leaving. Apparently not as irreplaceable as I thought.

Someone recently asked me, “WHY are you poor?” I answered, “That’s a question for the ages.”

There have been three times in my life when it like like my career path would take me to retirement – all came to naught, although what was learned in each is still very much with me.

Why am I poor? Better yet, can I turn things around so I have work that matters, that makes a difference, provides a dandy income? Am I willing to move beyond “very poor woman” to financially stronger & fiscally fit? YES! And big a part of getting there includes giving a tip of the hat to those who got me here – the former selves who sought beauty in ashes,  gladness instead of moping, praise in place of despair. Who helped place my feet firmly enough on solid ground to take glorious quantum leaps to new places, inward & outward. A tribute to all the wonders that led to this most wondrous time.

 

Clarity, Gratitude

How many people look over life’s arc, seeing all the big & little moments fitting together like a glorious jig saw puzzle, the outer edges incomplete because those moments haven’t yet been lived? Am I the rarity or the norm? I know for certain sure that I am blessed by the retrospect & a firm belief in the wonder of what is ahead – if all that came before, however shitty it seemed at the moment, turned into a WOW piece of the puzzle, why fear even the most ferocious present?

Last year – 2018 – was the most ferocious of my life. From the week after Christmas 2017 to early January 2019,  my personal life lay in the grip of powerful forces that seemed to spotlight every sharp point & challenging pinnacle in my relationship with John.

What was clear to me from the start of 2018 was that, by the end, we would be together or apart  – if not physically,  then emotionally.

It was a rough year, a roller coaster of argh as I was ripped up by disappointment over how little true connection there seemed between the two of us, over how much I’d evolved over thirty years of marriage & how little he had.

Christiane Northrup warns that the personal work we do to gain a greater sense of our true self can move us away from longtime others in our lives – would this be true with my husband? Would 2018 be a year of healing paired with terminal disharmony?

It turned out to be a year of clarity & gratitude, not in spite of all the torture & turmoil, but because of it.

I will always remember the moment it hit me that we might not be destined to be love partners, but that John is forever my best, dearest friend. That realization changed how it felt being churned with unhappiness, let me take a modest step back & appreciate who he IS in my life & will always be. While it didn’t diminish, dismiss the very real cause of my despair, that sliver of unshakeable reality was, is, a stabilizing anchor in the midst of angst.

In 2004, three years after Mom’s death, John & I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary with a renewal of our vows. Writing mine brought my first full realization of the reality that while I’d expected to open up my beloved’s spiritual life through mine, the opposite had happened – – his untutored, terminology-free, just-there spirituality informed expanded enriched mine.

It turns out to be true in our inner growth life, too. I was not the impetus for deep change in John’s life that he has been for mine & that was part of what riled me up in 2018. His inability to have the sort of aha moments that shifted my life back into its original whole felt grossly unfair.  What a slamming injustice to be paired with a man who shuts down his processing mechanisms, who hears every third word I say!

What I also came to realize last year, thanks to regularly attending a spiritual discussion group, was that my experience of John changed. It is clear he does not attend, as I do, for deeper understanding & fresh perspectives- – he goes to experience the people who are there, their energies as well as their ideas. When we went around the circle, each sharing what we feel is our core, I had no problem coming up with relationship, but John could not do it  had no idea what was meant by “core,” let alone what his is. Len Rose, the discussion leader & deep soul,  sent my world reeling when he offered, “John, I think I know what’s at your core – it’s love.”

So utterly true. John is all about love. And the just-right bloke to weather the storm of being married to a person constantly working to set herself right, to get back on the life track she was created for, who sought healing from years of being emotionally bumped bruised battered. I wanted to be some form of the savior to John that he has been to me. And I am not. Can hear Cherry Hoffman saying, “Get over it!”

Turns out that 2018 was about accepting John as my key person for restoration & growth, just leaving it at that. Not seeking more, not seeing that as less.

From our earliest days, it was clear that John is, in his gentleness & interest in others, very like my brother, Ian, who died when he was eleven – I, his baby sister, was seven. Am reminded, writing this, that the minister who delivered Ian’s memorial service commented on not being shocked that B-Boy died young – he was so very innocent, tender-hearted, emotionally open. That could describe my John. And how deliciously RIGHT that the very  minister who knew Ian so well would be, with his wife, one of our most treasured friends, his widow among our very nearest & dearest – full circle, from Ian’s religion teacher to our personal friend.

Life is all about coming full circle. Sometimes that includes storm & mighty winds, upset & upheaval. Last year’s argh  was necessary to get to here, where it’s possible to see the wonders.

John has not changed. He still mangles processing information, still hears every third word I say, still zones out instead of zooming in. But a his core, my beloved Keet is LOVE. And that is everything.

It is not easy to be married to me nor is it a walk in the park being married to him, but how wondrous beyond imagining that from our union, the dross & the gold, I’ve gleaned the clarity to see all that we are & the good sense to be forever grateful.

 

 

Coherence

For almost forty-one years, I was on an active quest for the sense of alignment that seemed missing in my life.  It still amazes that the final click to feeling a sense of the elusive IT, a feeling of homecoming town inner place I’d never been but always knew was waiting, was so clear & strong. The end of July 2017 was when I first felt a beautifully defined,  wondrous sense of my different selves lined up in a WOW whole.

Instead of sending me along on my celebrating way, the Universe took me aside, draped its ever-lovin’ arms around my shoulders & confided, “Now, the real work starts.” Okay, not literally – the Universe doesn’t have arms, but you get the picture.

To be honest, over the subsequent five years, I’ve often felt like Sam Beckett in the last episode of Quantum Leap, when – Spoiler Alert! – he discovers his next leaps will be more difficult. Turns out those forty-plus years were my training ground for deeper, richer work. Where once I sought alignment integrity authenticity, now I seek coherence. Brain coherence. Heart coherence.

Bringing my subdivided brain into a whole-brain state is my current grand task, the different neural communities coalescing into greater communities – synchronizing, organizing, integrating. As Joe Dispenza writes in Becoming Supernatural, “Once your brain gets coherent, you get coherent. When it gets orderly, you get orderly; when it works well. You work well. In short, when it functions more holistically, you feel more whole.”

And that’s just briefly considering the brain – was introduced to the power of of heart coherence at my very first conference, 2014”s  Leading To Well-Being Conference, where Rolin McCratyblew my socks off by praising me – ME! –  with “Stars to you!”,

Am I feeling let down that the end of one long road turns out to be the start of a new, more difficult path? Nope – it’s goosebump time! Brain coherence, heart coherence,  life coherence – – the quest continues, deeper richer boldet.

Greyed

It’s been a long time since I’ve written regularly here, am even more remiss with Caregiving4Caregivers. Am greyed out.

Bravo to my dear buddies who have, for 20 years, scooped up their family – sometimes four generations – at the tag end of January, the kickstart of Feb, for two weeks in Hawaii. Way to break out of the doldrums of a prairie winter.

But here I am, in southeastern PA having suffered through a grey wet 2018, feeling like we are crawling through Winter 2019. Blech blech & blech.

Had hoped that last week’s quick nip down to DC would have given of spring – just as cold, dank & dull down there as here.

Learned a lesson – – if I want to be a serious writer, I have to get over myself & get writing, even when I feel blech & blah. Even if THAT is the topic,

I’d like too be a version of Linus’ blanket – dependable, comforting, reliable – which is only possible when I show up.

Am still greyed. Still scanning the horizons for signs of warmth & fresh buds in the fptrees, for snow drops & crocus. Even if spring continues to do a slow jam in coming, I will show up to lend whatever light warm color I can.

It’s not Hawaii, but it’s what I can do. And that means everything.

For love of …

Although raised in a faith that had as a guiding precept love of use, I came to learn that a lot of people, even in my own birth church, had a funky belief on working for love of benefits.

Over my life, I’ve held an array of jobs, including 25+ years in Corporate America with its steady income & what now seem like the very Cadillac of benefits. But as 2001 rolled past, an intersection of multiple traumas & tragedies marked the end of my corporate days.

By 2003, I came to realize that my career would be what I fashioned, not as a company’s employee.

Over & over, what came up was work that was as low in income as it was high in usefulness, work that mattered to me & the people I served, but unvalued by the fiscal powers that be.  Friends shocked at my fall from financial grace would take me to task – – “You need to get a job with good benefits. You OWE that to yourself.”

It still shakes me, remembering the many times I heard that from people raised, as I was, with the heart & soul teaching of use over honor glory gain, who were looking out for my own good, doing their best to protect me from what they saw as an overly idealized code & canon.

My belief in doing the work before me remains inviolate, whether it fetches a pretty penny & provides gilt-edged benefits or leaves me scratching my head how to pay federal state local taxes.

FACT: I was not put in this place at this time to work for benefits. Oh, I look forward to the day when I boast a roster of Cyber Access for the Technically Timid clients, to tootling older friends out to lunch or dinner or for a beer, to putting on weekly Coloring With Sinatra & Friends sessions at local retirement communities. But I am not going to nab a job that brings in money but depletes my time & energies, offers benefits but isn’t beneficial to either my own or others basking in more full & fabulous lives.

This longtime line of thinking was jogged by hearing Alain de Botton’s TED talk, A Kinder, Gentler Philosophy of Success. So many terrific points!

His definition of snobbery – – when a person sees a small part of who we are & uses that to come up with a complete vision of us.

That we live in a culture that pegs emotional rewards to the acquisition of things; that people don’t want that McMansion or BMW or exclusive private school for their children – they want the feelings they attach to those things.

That too many people stay focused on the next rung of their success rather than enjoying this moment in their career.

About people who seem less satisfied with who they are & instead long to be Bill or Melinda Gates; who court aspirations outside of the realm of the realistic, actually achievable.

Alain speaks about how, in a society that believes in meritocracy, where anyone can succeed by merit of their talents & hard work, not making a tidy income, not being recognized or not having decent benefits can be taken personally. What does it say of our merit if we aren’t high flyers or even decent gliders?

The gods or circumstances are no longer responsible for our lack of fortune – we are. We get to own our own successes -and- anything that is less.

I’m with St. Augustine – “It’s a sin to judge any man by his post.”  Wish I’d had that on a card to hand out to people braying at me about benefits.  It was weird, because, then & now, friends comment on the importance of my play time with all ages, my community building & bridging, my blogs & other writing, then they turn around & say I gotta get an income-producing job, taking me away from the very things that give me value.

Three cheers for Alain’s point that we must balance our belief in the importance of justice with awareness & appreciation that life is haphazard, that things happen that are wildly unjust – –  a wretched person lives to ripe old age while a virtuous, community-service, family-loving one dies young; someone without any ambition other than his own pleasure makes a fortune through some inane idea he got during a college kegger while millions of hard workers can’t find full-time positions, their constantly changing part-time work schedules leave them unable to get a second job.

One thing is a sure thing – – I intend to know on my deathbed that I was a success at LIFE.  That what I did, in every waking & sleeping hour, was for the love of use.

Meanwhile, I work toward the day when John & I give presentations at conferences & workshops, publish books & articles on the importance of play across & integrating the age spectrum; have numerous income streams & financial resources providing stable, secure funds that enable us to enjoy a rich rewarding fun life.

I believe we are created to be prosperous on every level.

And I love great benefits!  I offer up thanks that my mother taught me that less expensive in the short run might be catastrophe in the long, so she never went cheap on Medicare coverage – – we’d slash our spending by eating stewed tomatoes atop peanut butter smeared whole grain toast for dinner rather than give up our Medicare Part B plus supplemental coverage.

About those friends who bleated to me about working for benefits – – several of them were knocked out of their jobs by the Meltdown of ’08, quite a few took a financial hit in investments & savings,  a lot saw the value of their house plummet. Ones that held onto their jobs saw their work loads increase as companies downsized & watched as their benefits were gutted over the past ten years. Now, they ask me about how to craft their own work, how to live confidently without the structure of a traditional job, how to be their own safety net.

The #1 message I tell them is this – – do what you love that is of use. It’s a lovely thought but pretty much a fallacy that if you do what you love, the money will follow. THIS should be emblazoned across every heart – – honor glory gain might not follow, but a sense of prosperity will, a finding of who you are, of your unique place & your place in the larger world. And THAT is the greatest benefit packages we’ll ever earn!