I Am Profoundly…Enough

If we were not so single-minded

About keeping our lives moving,

And for once could do nothing,

Perhaps a huge silence

Might interrupt this sadness

Of never understanding ourselves

And of threatening ourselves with death.

Now I’ll count up to twelve

And you keep quiet and I will go.

“Keeping Quiet” by Pablo Neruda

Stop for a moment, will you? Just wait a moment and listen.  Can’t do it, can you?  Me neither.  It’s akin to ‘mission impossible’.  Unless I’m stricken by an illness, struck by lightening, stuck in traffic or waiting in line at Disneyland for another ride on the Matterhorn, I’m on the move.  In all honesty, I think I’ve become addicted to being busy.  I’ve come down with some viral bug that’s taken over my body and made me chronically OTG (on the go).  I’ve become a speed freak of sorts; main lining speed, productivity and busyness as if my life depended upon it daily and habitually.

In my continual pursuit of authenticity I am going to own up and share with you an insight of sorts that has rocked my world.  One moment, please, as we pause, that’s right, we are doing nothing but waiting for the brass band to trumpet my ‘a ha’ moment…

The busy pursuit of “being” has become my primary vocation, and it sucks.  I quit!

I quit trying to justify my worth to myself and to others.  I am no longer interested in seeking the ‘always on the move,’ ever elusive approval from my mother, my family – be they blood or adopted — my friends, my neighbors and any and all strangers.  I’m officially letting go of the fear that I Am not good enough, nor that I have not accomplished enough so that I could be deemed acceptable.

Here’s the deal.  I accept me for who I Am right now in this moment of time.  I Am all there is, nothing more and nothing less.  I’m smart enough, skinny enough, worthy enough, kind enough, funny enough, happy enough and loving enough.  I Am simply, profoundly enough.  Sufficient, Adequate and Ample.  That’s me.

“Be still,” says the psalmist, “and know that I am God.”

So, take a moment and look for me.  I’m the woman sitting very, very still listening to the voice of my heart, teaching me what is true, what is necessary, what is healing, and what is loving.

Empty Nest — Souls Unfolding

Ever have those moments in life when you wish that you were someone or something else?  I’m reminded of the movie I watched as a child, The Incredible Mr. Limpet.  “I wish I wish, I wish I was a fish, ‘cuz fishes have a better life than people,” says Don Knotts who subsequently falls into the ocean and miraculously becomes a fish.  I’m not saying that I want to become a fish.  No way. I want to become a mother hummingbird and here’s why:  baby hummingbirds, merely three weeks old, start stretching and pumping their new wings readying themselves for their departure in the ensuing days.  Even when they’ve started their new, autonomous life, the mother hummingbird still feeds her babies for two to three days after they have left the nest.  With great care, she ushers them to the best places to catch insects and to gather nectar. Then, she chases them off to live on their own.  Evidently, she’s absolutely fine with the fact that they’ll never come home again for Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukkah, or birthdays; they’ll never call her on Mother’s Day; they’ll never, ever need her again in the span of their lifetime!  Think of it, she suffers no identity crisis, no depression, she has no need for extensive therapy, or weight gain due to copious amounts of food trying to fill the void.  Her empty nest is merely…empty.

Being the only daughter, and youngest member of my ‘flock,’ I was never allowed to wander too far from the family nest.  My middle brother, the proverbial black sheep of the family, moved to New York with his wife and infant son in tow.  My family was aghast, and my parents literally sat Shiva.  My remaining brothers and I stayed close to home.

The night my son was born and I witnessed the miracle of his tiny mouth suckling my breast at long last, I was reminded of the prose from Khalil Gibran:  “Your children, are not your children.  They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing itself.  They come through you, but not from you.  And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.”

In that quiet and gentle life affirming moment, I inhaled joy, and exhaled a profound sense of sadness.  I promised my son, Jacob, that his wings would not be clipped as mine had been, and that he would be encouraged to explore his own thoughts and dreams wherever that would take him.  And then I kissed his fuzzy brown head, and cried.  No longer holding him within my body, sharing, nurturing, growing, containing him, I realized he was his very own soul, complete unto himself, with his very own journey.  It felt like a small part of my heart calved like an iceberg off a mighty Alaskan glacier – a new Self was being born.

A few weeks shy of his first birthday, my video camera had become an appendage in my right hand.  It was more than apparent that Jacob wanted to walk, and I could literally hear Neil Armstrong’s voice, “One small step for baby, one giant leap for Jacob.”  And then one night, he let go of our round, pine coffee table and walked.  Camera in hand, you could hear me crying and laughing, as I got a great shot of our brown carpet – technical, I’m not.  I missed the first few steps, but once I gained my composure, I got the next few tippy toe strides.  Another piece of my heart calved; a new Self was being born.

It happened again on his first day of kindergarten.  I walked him to school, and brought him into his new classroom; a kiss, a hug, and off he went.  I waited outside with the other moms just in case he needed me.  I caught a glimpse of him playing blocks with a little girl.  After a while, he got up, walked to the classroom door and told me to go home.  I looked at the woman next to me whose terrified daughter clung to her leg like mussels on a pier piling.  “You should be proud of yourself, you did a great job.”  My eyes welled; another calving.

And so it goes with each changing cycle of my son’s life.  Graduating elementary school, middle school, high school, piano recitals, sleep-aways, Bar Mitzvah, school trips to Europe, proms, getting his driver’s license, buying his first car, going away (far away) to college, falling in love, having his heart broken…more pieces of my heart, suddenly falling and breaking away.  A new Self was being born.

The concept of an empty nest was painfully introduced to me on the first Christmas my ex husband took our son away to Denver.  Empty nest defined as: “The stage in a family’s cycle when the children have grown up and left home to begin their own adult lives.  Note:  For parents, the empty nest sometimes results in midlife anxiety.”

Jacob was five.  The divorce had been amicable up until the moment Jacob’s father announced it was time for his son to participate in a traditional Colorado Christmas — without me. Anxiety doesn’t begin to describe how I felt when Jacob left for a week.  I haunted the house like a soul trapped between here and the afterlife.  I cried myself to sleep every night.  I sat in his room, held his favorite stuffed animal close to me, and felt as if some huge shift had occurred, and that life would never be the same again.  Surrounded by Jacob’s childhood cherishables, I realized that NOTHING stays the same.  Every life experience carries the seed of change.  Right then and there I knew that in the blink of an eye Jacob would be pack up his adolescent life, and take off, leaving behind his beloved toys, his books, his loving dog, Bamsa, and me, soaring out of reach, out of sight to places unknown.  In that moment, with that undeniable, unquestionable truth, my resolve to hold my child with open hands, and a resilient heart, allowing for his inevitable flight, encouraging it, assisting it, insisting upon it…became my mission; like a kindred soul with the mother hummingbird.  And for both Jacob and me, a new Self is being born.

We’re All In This Together

I found our current home here in Ojai when I was staying with a friend of mine; think Ma and Pa Kettle, Green Acres and the Egg and I all rolled into one very old California Craftsman.  It wasn’t only the land, trees, flowers, vegetable garden, huge porch, peace and quiet, spectacular mountain views that sold me on this 103 year old dwelling, it was the adorable menagerie of animals that came with the house:  three bunnies, two guinea pigs and three hens a laying: Finally, instant fuzzy, feathery family for our empty nest.

As a child my neighbor had rabbits and I was given a guinea pig (instead of a cat in first grade) so caring for those critters was relatively easy.  Chickens, however, had not been part of my early life experience, but there they were — three hens happily residing in a lovely two story, indoor/outdoor coop near the vegetable garden.

The black and white hen was called Tina Turner.  Henny Penny was copper, and the Queen heir apparent was a fluffy, ample bosomed whiter than white hen named Marilyn Monroe.  Marilyn definitely strutted her stuff and was very, very vociferous.  She caught my attention, not just because of her incessant squawking, but also because of her story.  I had been told that Ms. Monroe had been attacked by the previous owner’s chocolate lab, who must have had a primal flashback of some sort in which he realized that he was not only a “bird dog” but a “retriever” as well.  With that a ha moment of what he deemed his ‘authentic self,’ he went after Marilyn with a vengeance.   Horrified, the woman of the house rushed Marilyn to her vet, and waited anxiously for several hours as the doctor struggled to save a chicken’s life; and so he did even though her chance of survival was next to none.  I felt a kinship to Marilyn, having had a ‘near death’ situation myself, and labeled ‘a talker’ since second grade.

Prior to all this, I knew nothing about chickens.  I’m a vegetarian from way back so I don’t even eat them.  The day after we moved into our home, I went to our local feed store and here’s the advice I got:  You feed ‘em, give ‘em water, collect their eggs, and eat ‘em.  First the eggs then the chickens, that is.  Not too helpful for a vegetable loving, novice caretaker. Then I went to Google to learn specifically how to care for them, clean their coop, and feed them.  Honestly, I felt a little out of my comfort zone.

But one day, I was tending my garden, and Marilyn was screaming at me.  I’m not kidding.  She was screeching at the top of her lungs and I think she was using profanity.  Seriously.  So I ambled over to her and found the watering pail completely bone dry.  And one thing I know, all God’s creatures need water.  It was a hot summer’s day, and she was right to get mad even though I thought that she could have asked nicely.  I felt terrible as she kept cackling at me even though I had filled the watering pail and put it back in its rightful place. Once Tina and Henny quenched their thirst, she stopped yakking and drank up.  I apologized saying out loud, but more to myself that I had much to learn here, and I swear she stopped guzzling, walked right up to me, cocked her beady brown eye at me as if to say, “You got that right, sister.”  And that’s when our friendship began.

Marilyn was talkative, opinionated and a fighter; she was also incredibly loving.  She cared for her girls, and she accepted me more easily as a caretaker, while the other two ran from me and paid me no mind.  She spoke to me when I fed them, and squawked at me whenever I passed the hen house, as if to say, “Take a moment and visit with me, you’re running the world.”  She was the first to take food from my hand, and although chickens are supposed to eat everything and anything, Marilyn was, well, downright picky about what she liked and she told you so.  She also made very appreciative clucking sounds when you showed up with good eats.  She was the first to jump out of the hen house when I swung the door wide open, and the last to go back in without a fuss, always shepherding her flock.  When I cleaned out the coop, she’d come up to me, give me a critical look, and then a cluck or two of thanks.

I’m sad to say that Marilyn died last week.  By the time my husband and I figured out that she just wasn’t herself, she was very, very sick.  We actually brought her to a vet who gave her a shot of antibiotics and gave us a prognosis of a 50-50 chance of survival.   But I knew she wasn’t going to make it.  We brought her into our home, made a special coop for her and I watched her, excuse the pun, like a mother hen until my husband insisted I get some sleep.  I awoke in the middle of the night and went into check on her.  She sat perfectly still, her breathing labored.  She looked so frail and so alone so I sat before her, opened the cage door, and gently stroked her silky, white feathers.  I experienced a deep sadness about the fragility of life, the wounds inside of us that feel as if they’ll never heal, and vulnerability beyond comprehension.  I told her that I loved her, that if she didn’t want to fight to live I understood, that I wanted her to live, but it was her decision, not mine.  I’ve been here before mind you, but never with a chicken.  I would have stayed up with her, but my dog, Eli, came in and interrupted our stillness, so Eli and I went back to bed. The next morning she was gone.  And I cried.  I cried because I felt responsible, I cried for the loss of her, and for the grief her hens would feel at losing her.  I cried for all the times I’ve lost someone I love; a part of my life one moment, and then not.

I know what you’re thinking…she was just a chicken, after all.  But here’s the thing; and I believe this with my entire being: we are all divinely connected, divinely guided, and divinely loved.  Each and everyone, everything on this earth is a unique gift; a gem, a jewel, some rough cut, some polished, but all a part of God’s Glory.

We buried Marilyn in our backyard.  I scattered rose petals where she was laid to rest and I was reminded of this:  that even in times of profound sorrow I am blessed by having loved, and having been loved.

Thank you Marilyn for reminding me that love is not lost through loss, but found more fully.

Our beloved Marilyn Monroe

A Marriage of Heaven and Earth

All you need is love...

The other day my husband and I celebrated our 15th wedding anniversary; we have been together for a total of 17 years.  Outside of my family, that’s the longest loving relationship I’ve ever been in.  Today, as I waited for our oatmeal to cook, I began to think about what my morning was like 15 years ago, the day of our wedding.  My six year old son, Jacob, was so excited about his tuxedo and bow tie, that he stood at the kitchen table, wolfing down his cereal, begging for a bath.  Skip was too nervous to eat and the only thing keeping me connected to my body was my inner dialogue with Mother Nature begging her to stave off the rain gods for just one more day!  Nine hours later, Skip, Jacob and I were married at the Hotel Bel Air; the swans gracefully skimming along the pond, our friends and family gathered together outside as the clear blue sky changed into a purplish hue of reverence — witness to our vows.  After 40 years on this earth, my brand, spanking new husband gifted to me a beautiful wedding and one helluva party afterwards.  I reference back to that magnificent day all the time for soulful nurturance.

So fifteen years later, I’m in our kitchen making oatmeal and I turn to my Prince Charming and this is what I see – a middle aged man, with a bit of a Buddha belly (good for rubbing), thinning hair (styled to mimic a cockatiel’s distinctly erectile crest also known as bed head), and a thin wad of tissue shoved into his right nostril, (a very functional and inexpensive way to eradicate the flow of mucous from one heck of a cold.)  Gerard Butler, look out!  I smile at Skip and beg him to allow me to photograph this beautiful image before me.  He studies me for a moment, letting me know with the blink of his hooded blue eyes that I’m a vision to behold as well, and says quite lovingly, “Yes, you may take a picture of me, but if you do, I’ll have to kill you.”  Please take note, this is my husband’s warped sense of humor; Skip ushers spiders out of the house via Kleenex or glass jar.

A friend of mine asked me if I see myself married to Skip for the rest of my life.  Had she asked me that last Tuesday, I would have said yes, but my fingers would have been crossed behind my back, but as I write this, 24 hours after we celebrated our anniversary, the answer is yes, yes, emphatically YES!  Has it been bliss?  There have been moments, long moments of bliss, but there has also been interminable moments of pain.

Truth be told, I really believed that once I found the right man, fell in love, and married, that I was set for life. I was going to live in the land of Bliss on a mountaintop overlooking a beautiful lake, called Security.  Growing up, I had a serious crush on John Lennon, so when he sang, “ALL YOU NEED IS LOVE, love…love is all you need, it’s EASY” I believed him. 15 married years later, a lot of tears, a lot of laughter, a lot of pain, a lot of pleasure, a lot of making love to make up, a lot of not making love to stay unloving and unlovable, well, let’s just say that belief is limiting; actually that belief sabotages the spiritual truth that love is – drum roll if you please – transformational.  It requires that we CHANGE.  It insists that we accept being VULNERABLE.  Why vulnerable?  Why change?  Because when you live with and love another in an intimate, conscious way, that person constantly illuminates those dark things that dwell inside of us; our worst fears, our habitual patterns, our neurotic ways of being that make us feel “safe,” but really limit us and disconnect us from our ability to love and be loved.

This is the good news, bad news bears …Our partner shines this gigantic searchlight into the very core of our humanness – our pain, our fears, our sadness, our confusion, our aloneness, but if all of that “stuff” isn’t illuminated, then how can we meet ourselves just as we are, find compassion for ourselves, flawed, imperfect, a work in progress, and develop a truly loving, kindness toward ourselves?  And that requires self-acceptance, which I believe to be the foundational building block for self-love.  Because if you’re not loving yourself, than how are you loving someone else?  And bigger still, how can you possibly feel worthy and open to the love coming toward you from another.

I read a beautiful quote from Wayne Muller that said, “No more is required of us than this:  that we love ourselves and one another with gentleness and mercy, for we each carry within us the tender heart of God.”

Happy anniversary, Skip.  You are a heavenly mirror for me to see – really see –who I Am in this exact moment of time and who I’d like to become.  With you asmy life partner, I hold a tremendous desire in my heart to be an unconditional source of kindness and love for myself and for you.

Perhaps my marriage to Skip is heavenly bliss manifested here on earth after all.

The way we were...

The way we are...