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)

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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.

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...