Put Another Candle…

“Put another candle on my birthday cake

We’re gonna bake a birthday cake

Put another candle on my birthday cake

I’m another year old today.”

(Sheriff John’s birthday song)

When I was a child, I couldn’t wait for my birthday to come soon enough.

Better than summer vacation, better than Santa Claus and Hanukkah, better than the Easter bunny and copious amounts of chocolate, better than the tooth fairy and fifty cent pieces, sleepovers, books and movies, soft served ice cream, dipped in chocolate, even better than our annual trips to Disneyland (whew, that’s a close call!).   I loved celebrating my birthday.  Dressing up for the party, friends and family gathered together in one place, presents, birthday cake, frosting, wishes that you believed with all your heart would come true…I love birthdays; yours or mine, birthdays are bitchen.  That’s my truth and I’m sticking to it.

Even as I tiptoe past menopause, (free at last, free at last…) my birthday is around the corner, and I can’t wait.  I still have that same eager desire to become one year older.  Shouldn’t this welcome be with us all our years?

I look at it this way:  if I hadn’t made it to my seventh birthday, I’d have never gotten to play on the big kids’ playground.  If I hadn’t made it out of the single digits into the double digits, I wouldn’t have my dazzling smile because starting around age six, my baby teeth were dropping like rotten tomatoes on the vine.  If I hadn’t made it to 13, I would never have been able to conceive my prodigal son and experience one of life’s greatest treasures, motherhood. Without 16, I wouldn’t be able to drive a car or fill out my bra. Without celebrating 18, I wouldn’t have ‘graduated’ the mandatory imprisonment called high school. Without my 20s I wouldn’t have been able to legally declare independence, start my own journey, make new, life long friends, drink, dance past midnight, party responsibly, start to become an adult, fall deeply in love, make love, make autonomous decisions, make colossal mistakes, work, play, create…Sans my 30s, I wouldn’t have gotten married, made a baby, have the baby, mother the baby, witness the growth of the baby, or become a mommy and me groupie.  If not for my 40s, I wouldn’t have been able to un-marry, fall deeply in love again and remarry, buy a house, mature, mellow, find yoga, meditate, pray, Bat Mitzvah, and grow spiritually.  If I hadn’t made 50 I wouldn’t finally take time for myself, get a master’s degree, accept myself, give to myself, live comfortably in my own skin, honor and care for my aging parents, watch my son graduate college, listen to my heart NOT my head, love myself, know myself, be of service and continue to grow spiritually.

I’m reminded of the wisdom a yogic teacher, Guru Singh, imparted during a Kundalini yoga class one afternoon.  He said, “Dispose of the fear of time, the fear of its passage and the fear of our aging because if we do not dispose of this fear, we will be constantly concerned with the passage of time…aging becomes the enemy rather than the messenger of wisdom.”

So, with only days away from my birthday I’d like to share with you the plethora of gifts that are waiting for me:

  • My ability to love others and myself has become more pliant having been taught by time.
  • The earth is more abounding in its growth.
  • All of G_d’s creatures have moved another step in their unfolding.
  • Human beings have left us with one more year of art for us to contemplate and revel in.
  • History around the world is one year more resonant with lessons.
  • The sunrises are one year more familiar, more promising, and the sunsets are one year less fearful…
  • And the peace of the night is one year closer.

“I’ll blow out the candles on my birthday cake

And when I do, a wish I’ll make

Put another candle on my birthday cake

I’m another year old today

(Happy birthday to you)

I’m another year old today.”

(Lyrics again by Sheriff John)

Happy birthday to me and to everyone!  Now, blow out the candles and make a wish, and if you believe with all your heart, I promise it will come true!

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.

Menopause – Cloudy with a Chance of Enlightenment

Who am I?  Now there’s a question I’ve been trying to answer since I made my way out of the birth canal and into my mother’s exhausted arms.  Five minutes into a workshop last weekend, the leader asked all of the participants the following three questions:  where did you come from originally, where do you reside now, and, drum roll, please…who are you?

“Honey,” I thought, “if I had that figured out, I’d sprout angel wings, prepare for take off, and head home to the astral realms where love reigns supreme, egos are strictly forbidden, and our souls are “free at last, free at last, thank G_d almighty, free at last.”

Who am I?  The answer to that question seems to change with Yankee punctuality each and every day.  At this very moment, I’m a middle-aged woman, shrouded in fog, with a chance of showers; in other words, I’m menopausal.  I’m not peri, nor post, I am in the throes of, which literally means “in the middle of doing or dealing with something very difficult or painful.”  (Think, Maria Shriver…oy!)

I used to be rather ingenious, and my multi and tri syllabled words were peppered with wit, and wisdom.  I possessed a razor-sharp memory, which was constantly honed, as a child growing up with a mother whose drug addiction seemed to twist and bend reality.  I was always an emotional little girl; I still haven’t seen Bambi or Dumbo in its entirety, and in high school when “Old Yeller” was required reading, well, I got the cliff notes.  But, with the onset of Ms. Men-oh-pause, I find myself crying at the slightest provocation.  I’m constantly upset by the life choices Lindsay Lohan is making, I cry oceans of tears when anyone is voted off Dancing With the Stars, and when Donald Trump announced that he would not run for the office of President of the United States, I had to schedule an emergency session with my therapist!   It’s all so painful, really.

Thanks to the majesty of menopause, I find myself at a loss for words.  My husband and son are ecstatic with that turn of events, but when you’re trying to ask the young man at Starbucks for “a tall drip,” and all you can say is that you’d like a cup of, cup of ‘em, and three people behind you shout, “coffee,” well, it’s unsettling, to say the least.  Unlike Little Bo Peep, my words ain’t coming home, waggin’ their meanings behind them.

Here is a list of other things that the magician of menopause has artfully vanished into thin air:  my keys, my glasses, my cell phone, any and all interest in sex, sleep, dreams, short term memory, synaptic ability to send messages to my brain regarding body temperature, my ‘B’ cup breasts (now you see ’em now you don’t).

If you’ve read any of my other blogs, you know that I see the world with “the glass is a little more than half full” consciousness, so I want you to know that my menopausal life isn’t all about loss. There are some gains:  abdominal fat, irritability, vaginal dryness, increase in allergies and mood swings, to name a few.

So, who am I?  I am a woman who is learning how to open up to the abundance of love that exists inside of me.  I am a woman who is melting the armor of fear that imprisons my heart.  I am a woman who believes that every moment of life, menopausal or not, teaches us about love, forgiveness, and the balance of being both human and spirit.

Embrace the miracles of being a woman.

Concentrated Stillness — A Path to Healing

"Nothing in all creation is so like God as stillness." Meister Eckhart

I woke up a few mornings ago with the whirlies.  Technically, it’s called, Meniere’s disease, which is an inner ear disorder that affects balance and/or hearing.  Here’s how this dis-ease manifests itself in me; I feel as I’ve been living on a small boat adrift at sea for months on end. Even though I’ve been given permission to come ashore, my sea legs carry me like a drunken sailor and the horizon becomes one big teeter totter, moving up and down, to and fro.  My stomach goes on the fritz, the wiring in my brain gets tangled, and I become terribly, terribly tired.  My ‘To Do’ list is replaced with a ‘Can’t  Do’ List.   I can’t: read, write, cook, practice my healing arts, do yoga, ride my horse, drive, care for my family or friends, tend to my animals, take a walk in nature — can’t really participate much in the doingness of my life.  With no fuel in the tank, no wind in the sails, unmoored, and shipwrecked on an isolated island called, the Duxiana, I sip peppermint tea and water, peck at Basmati rice, and rest.

Concentrated stillness. I read those words in a book by Sue Monk Kidd.  She writes that stillness can be the prayer that transforms us. Maybe the whirlies show up to get me to stop spinning like a top, and become motionless; to stop doing and start being.  With nowhere to go, with no place to be – where can I go but within? Inside myself I come face to face with my anxiety, I greet my restlessness and I give sadness a hug.  I reacquaint myself with judgment whose vitriolic voice chides me for taking time ‘off.’  I let these feelings flow through me, and work diligently on NOT beating myself up; I see that medieval club I’ve used for most of my life, sitting there, calling me, but I ignore it’s song.  Okay, maybe I do pick it up, but thank God for the whirlies, (did I just say that?)  I don’t have the strength it takes to lift that weighty stick and start pummeling myself. I resolve to remain in concentrated stillness; to just wait in the moment and do nothing.  Zilch, zip, nada, this is my morning mantra.

Three days later, I awake with great care and open my eyes.  My dog Eli, lifts his head and stares at me.  The room is still, I smile at him, he wags his smile back with his tail.  I get up and I walk a straight path to the bathroom.  I Am back on terra firma and it feels wonderful!

Mid day I meditate on my beloved porch and ponder the teachings bestowed upon me as I navigated the turbulent sea of the whirlies.  This is what has been brought to my awareness:  Perhaps our greatest healing manifests itself in stillness.  Perhaps in stillness we can truly touch our heart and spirit with a hushed reverence.  Perhaps there we can hear the voice of intuition whispering to us that which is true, necessary and healing.  Perhaps in stillness we reawaken to our Divine strength and wisdom.  Perhaps.

So, it is back to life I go.  Back to the doing of life, but even in this world where achievement rules supreme, where drive thru experiences take too long and instant manifestation is a spiritual practice, I will rest.  And do you know why?   Because “In six days God made heaven and earth, and on the seventh day rested and was refreshed.”  And if it’s good enough for God, it’s good enough for me.

Life is just a bowl of…Choices

Easy Choices…

Paper or plastic?

Is it for here, or to go?

Rare, medium or well done?

Tall, grande, venti?

Tap water, bottled water, fuzzy water?

Margarine or butter?

Soup or salad?

Dressing on the side, or tossed in?

Dessert or just the check?

Manicure, pedicure, or both?

Credit or debit?

Relatively Easy Choices…

Gas-guzzler, diesel sucker or hybrid?

Mommy van, or family wagon?

Breast feed or bottle?

Public schools, or private?

Organic or not?

Spend the night, or go home?

Plastic surgery, or au naturel?

Western medicine or Eastern?

Wait for it to go on sale, or buy it now?

Make love, or not.

Fight or flight.

Say I’m sorry, or stand my ground.

Marry or not.

Place the blame, or take ownership.

To see the glass half empty, or half full.

Difficult Choices…

To believe there is strength in weakness, or to ‘be strong.’

To judge ourselves for whom we should be, or accept ourselves for who we are.

To be a Human Being, or a Human Doing.

To believe that God exists outside of us, or to believe that God exists within.

To strive to hold on, or to let go into stillness.

To believe that what we do is who we are, or to believe that who we are is simply who we are.

Just let life unfold, or strive to make it happen?

To meet ourselves with mercy and love, or meet ourselves with judgment.

To resist the inevitability of change, or to embrace the inevitability of change.

To see the face of God in all, or not see God at all.  (Yogi Bhajan)

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.

Trees – A Dance Between Heaven and Earth

We experienced a horrific storm here in Ojai the other day.  I knew we were in for some ‘weather’ because I had broken my ribs on the right side of my body many years ago, and they get achy hours before it grows damp outside.  I’m a walking barometer!  I awoke that morning to the sound of gale force winds and falling rain banging on our bedroom windows as if it had to come inside or perish. Personally, I don’t like the wind.  I’m like my horse that way; it makes me feel like there’s some type of danger lurking around the bend.  I feel chaotic inside my body and I go into hyper alert mode.  I’m not much of an alarmist, but I definitely had a foreboding feeling as I stepped outside with my husband to attend to our animals.  Our dog, Emma, God’s purest expression of joy, was glued to my side, tail tucked, head down.  She usually romps with such exuberance and freedom.  If I hadn’t been feeling apprehensive myself, I’d have thought that Emma was abducted by aliens and replaced with a ‘walk in.’ It took us several hours to clean, feed, and settle the critters, (chickens, bunnies, guinea pigs). Battening down the hatches with tarps for extra protection made me feel like I was on board The Andrea Gail preparing to face ‘the perfect storm.’

All day long, the tempest raged.  Even in the comfort of our home, Emma and I were behaving like nervous Nellies.  Right before sunset, the winds stopped, and the rain fizzled to a drizzle.  We stepped outside to check on the animals.   It was eerily quiet, and the yard looked as if it had been through a blender; bits and pieces of tree limbs and shiny, newly sprung leaves were strewn everywhere.  Walking the entire property, we discovered that we had lost a pepper tree and a pine tree, but what brought me to my knees was an uprooted oak tree.  I love, love, love the mighty oak.  They grow abundantly here in California.  This particular oak was probably well over 100 years old.  It felt to me that she had intentionally missed our barn by inches.

After the initial shock of seeing this magnificent, old tree felled, I walked over to her, touched the trunk of this fallen angel, thanked her for gracing our home, for being, and then I cried at the sight of her demise.  For me, losing a tree hurts like hell.  I’m a tree climbing, tree hugging, tree planting nutter.

Trees ground me. They’re a perfect balance of heaven and earth.  Trees reflect an uncanny willingness to join earth and sky through their roots, trunks and branches and channel the energies of both. They dance with the wind, change with the season, grow tall and strong, quietly, devotedly — embracing their beauty, and realizing their potential.  They’ve mastered the fine art of ‘give and take.’  Their roots absorb from the earth what they need, taking in moisture from the soil, returning it into the air via their leaves.  They welcome with open arms the light from the sky, using it to nourish its foliage, converting carbon dioxide into oxygen, promoting good, clean air for us to breathe.  They are a shining example of an ever-evolving ecosystem with an easy-going, co-operative work ethic that we can only hope to model some day.  They give us shelter, fire, fruit, lumber, soil, paper, and shade, and house many a critter.

Please don’t tell my girl, Emma, but…a tree just might be man’s best friend—the most noble and giving form of life here on earth!

Do yourself a favor…Sit beneath, beside or in front of a tree.  Now wait, wait, and wait some more.  Be still, very still. For here you will find the possibility of growth.