Monday, May 30, 2011

Toe Meditations ~ Or ~ Dipping Your Toe Back In Gingerly When You're So Overdue Updating Your Blog You Almost Forgot You Had One!

Dipping my toes back into the bloggy waters...

Well, this is embarrassing, but... sigh... when I wrote the last blog entry I had just lost my beloved 18 year old dog Moe, was preparing for a newcomer, a little 2 year old pug puppy named Tanner, and 3 weeks to the day Moe passed Harvey did too leaving my heart-pug, my precious little 12 year old Sampson, grieving so badly I was afraid I might lose him. He was very close to Moe and Harvey and we lost them both so quickly it was hard to get a grip anywhere in life. I thank God that Tanner's adoption was already in the works because he really has saved Sam. He got Sam playing, and active, and they are both asleep beside one another right now to the right of me in this chair. I tried to put one on each side as the right side has always been Sam's and I didn't want him to feel like this little interloper was trying to get in his spot, but Sam doesn't seem to mind and Tanner always waits patiently until Sam is up and settled before he jumps up. Sometimes however he does sleep on the other side and seems to have taken a shine to falling asleep on my laptop. It's hard to update a blog with a puppy asleep on your laptop...

The flash woke him up but 2 minutes later
he was sound asleep again and snoring, his
tiny face smooshed into the keys!

Then, the day after Tanner arrived, my beloved greenwing macaw, Flounder, who had come to me the previous October when his owner died, left me to go to his new forever home. It absolutely broke my heart and I would never have let him go any place that was not absolutely perfect. But these people are not only so wonderful, loving, have lots of parrot experience, and 2 other macaws, but they have created a veritable Rainforest for their macaws with trees to sit in, a fountain to bathe in and so much more, and they are constantly refining it to make it better and better. I think the parrot area they have created in their private residence is as big as half of my cottage. I could never have provided for him what such a big bird really needs. We really loved one another and were very attached to one another but when you love a rescue your first concern is what is best for them, not what is hard for you. I talked to the new owner the next day and she was delighted and he was doing very well. Now he is settled into his new home and very happy. It was perfect, but I will always miss him.

My beloved big bird. Oh how terribly I miss him,
and I will always know how blessed I was to share
several months with him. He left a big void in this
house right at the time the dogs were passing. Oh,
what heartache...

In one fell swoop I went from living with 12 animals to living with 6. I was in shock. I am still trying to get used to it but now it seems right. It's time for me to start doing a lot of work that has long been put off and it is so much easier with 2 dogs instead of 5, and 4 smaller parrots instead of 7. (Another little pair were adopted out right after Flounder.) There was so much loss, dying, leaving, swooping life changes, and then the 3rd week in May I left town to go to my son's wedding in Atlanta. I've been home a week now and it was just the most beautiful wedding and I had a wonderful time but now I am just ready to re-enter the world. I had a month of being in grief and shock and just needing to go back into the cocoon for awhile.

So here I have sat, embarrassed past all possible belief to be so late updating my blog, and making a promise to myself that not only would I finally get this blog updated but I am going to try to update it as close to daily as possible. I usually wait until I am inspired to write a long entry that I have been meditating upon and something that moved me deeply. I read, study, make notes and then one day the Muse moves and I will take hours or most of a day off and on writing a long entry. I can no longer do that because I am at work on two books and I really need to concentrate on them but I thought if I started here and did a bit on my blogs in the morning as kind of a warm up it would get me going and then I would move into my books. The thing is when it's been so long you get embarrassed and then you sit and keep looking horrified at the blog and how long it's been, well, I didn't know how to start. I couldn't get going.

And then I realized that I had to just do something fun and maybe kind of silly to get me going. I was sitting in my big chair here with my feet up on the recliner looking at my bare feet with my pretty painted mauve toenails done for the wedding. And then, oddlike, which is my usual mode of being, I just kind of went into a meditation. Looking at my toes. A toe meditation. I thought, "Now THAT'S a book for sure: Toe Meditations ~ 10 Little Chapters. And it made me giggle. And I thought that toes might get me back to this blog. And so they have. So... without further ado, deep thoughts, silly thoughts, and ten pairs of toes to meditate upon during this very serious and deep (ahem), one might say life-changing experience will hopefully help get me moving once more. (Being delusional is one of my strengths. Don't knock it!)

Sometimes You Have To Make Space
For New Dreams To Grow In...

Before you laugh -- oh, go ahead and laugh, I sure am -- this set of toes spread wide open, after a good chuckle, make me realize how cramped my toes often are, practically over-lapping in places. We get like that, so set in routine, just getting by, afraid to change the tiniest thing for fear that it might turn our world on it's ear that we will not be able to comfortably move forward with our lives as we have. Heaven forbid anything might change! Well, I had a month where so many changes knocked me on my keester and then one day I realized that with all the unwanted loss and pain something else had happened. Everything that had been swept away had left spaces for new things to enter my life, things I had long put aside saying, "Someday I will get back to that..." As we all know, some day never comes. We have to make that some day, or life will do it for us. Life did it for me and it was not pleasant. Now I am going to take some initiative and make spaces for the changes and revel in them. Oh, this feels so good.

I have been taking a hiatus from teaching my journal classes for the last several years. I taught them for 30 years and they were a very healing experience, for myself as well as my students. I have taught literally thousands of people including 5 years of also teaching large groups online, but finally I needed a break. Ballantine Books almost published the book coming out of my classes, but finally, as so many writers know, things fall through. There were many versions before and since but finally I laid the book aside. Maybe I just wasn't supposed to teach anymore. And then one moves through divorce, coming into middle age and being swept along through many life changes. In the last few weeks when so much has happened, and my toes finally stretched open and made some space, I could see through those spaces into what I am supposed to do. I am going to teach again, and while the classes, workshops and more will be based in the thirty years of teaching, the last decade I have grown so much in so many areas that it will be a whole new experience. I am going to spend the summer finishing the book for the new classes, publish it, and then begin to teach in the fall or winter, whenever the book is in print and I have steadied myself firmly in my new approach. I am very involved in a healing center now and part of the personal work I am doing there is also fueling my journey with the book and preparing for the classes. I feel such joy.

So stretch your legs out and spread your toes. It's amazing what you will find there!

 Sometimes We Forget To Love All
Of Ourselves, And We Suffer For It...

How often do you think about your toes? Really? Our toes, in fact our feet, are one of the most important parts of our body and the things we most often forget about. We worry about maladies all over our bodies but unless you do have serious foot problems they are often one of the last things on our minds. Not so, for me.

In 1997 I had a surgery to remove a tumor in the arch of my right foot. Birthing 3 children was a snap compared to this surgery. They also had to remove something from the top of my foot at the same time. When finally the numbness wore off I was in the most godawful pain I had ever experienced. They had to cut through muscle, nerve, tendon all the way through to the bone in the arch of my foot. I was in a wheelchair for sometime, then a walker and then, dear Lord, crutches. Within days of getting the crutches I fell breaking the same foot. My foot doctor almost had a stroke. He threatened to tie me to a chair. Back I went into the wheelchair. Long story short, it was a year before I could walk unaided, and I have been walking pretty much like Chester in the old program, "Gunsmoke" ever since. (You young whipper snappers, Google it!) I limp and kind of walk crookedy and lopsided, and at this point I was just getting started.

Between 1997 and 2004 I sprained my ankle once and tore a ligament another time. My already wonky foot started wobbling more. This would not serve me well. Oddly, the bottom of my foot where the surgery was no longer hurt, but for some reason my foot would just buckle at the ankle and I have taken so many falls I've lost count banging about spraining things, getting bruises on half my body, and wobbling about so I was afraid to get out of a chair. The doctor told me that it was scar tissue from the bottom of my foot up to the inside of my ankle. This caused the ankle to just collapse in on itself at times. Such an odd string of events. Then came that infamous night in December, 2004.

We were all of course in "Getting Ready For Christmas" mode and I was baking cookies and making and wrapping gifts. I went upstairs in my then little cottage to get something, oh, say, a hand towel or something, and coming down, you got it, I made it all the way to the last 4 steps where there was a turn in the staircase and I fell. Not so much fell as flew, landing on my tippy toes like a ballerina, and then not so much like a ballerina, and with the tips of my toes planted firmly on the ground, I fell over, the tops of my feet hitting the floor with the toes still on it. You could hear the godawful splitting and cracking noises amidst me screaming bloody murder, as much afraid as in pain. I lived alone. My only phone was down the hall in the living room, and I was flat out with 2 broken feet on the floor in horrendous pain. I lay there for quite awhile crying, my poor Big Dog Moe was going nuts and kept putting his paw on me and licking my face and he was just a wreck. I crawled, finally, dragging myself by my arms into the living room to my phone. I called for help. I ended up in the hospital half the night. The doctor, looking at the x-rays said, "Honey, you didn't just break your feet, you shattered them." And so I did.

For many months I could not get out of a chair by myself. I was in two casts. My daughter came in the morning and helped me get to the bathroom, made my breakfast, took care of all of the animals, and left me with lunch made. My son, who just got married and now lives out of the area, came over every night after work. He took care of the animals, got me to the bathroom, made me dinner, did the grocery shopping, and they both did so many things I can't even remember but I will never forget the tender care they took of me. My mother arrived for Christmas and as she was staying with me she took over the household and took care of everything. Two months after Christmas she was diagnosed with the cancer that finally took her in December of 2009, but I will never forget how sweet she was as she cared for me then. It would be another year, with a few mishaps again along the way, before I could walk unaided. In several years I spent 2 years of them off my feet and I will have foot issues for life. So I know what I'm talking about when I say --

Don't forget your feet! They take you everywhere and trust me, you don't appreciate them until you can't use them, and when they have become Shamanic wounds, long painful unimaginable journeys which teach you lessons you would never have otherwise learned, you don't forget. I am forever changed because my feet are. And it's not that I'm happy about it, but I am very mindful, grateful to be able to walk at all, and though my feet are constant reminders that if I don't pay attention I will fall and get hurt again and be kept from living life, I am grateful for the lessons learned. I am now doing a lot of holistic healing with wonderful practitioners who are working on my feet, which are of course the seat of all the pressure points to the different areas of our bodies.

Love your feet, treasure your feet, they support your whole body, they take you many places, they make walking in the world possible. And while you're busy loving your feet, love the rest of you too. There's a price to be paid for any part of your body, your life, or the persons in it who are important to you but feel unloved and are indeed not cherished as they should be because they are forgotten in the midst of too much, too many, too fast, inotherwords life as the tornado it can be if we don't slow down and become mindful.

Love, always love, and watch where you step.

I think I will stop here now, and tomorrow I will carry on with more toe meditations. There are far too many toes to explore in one entry, but trust me, I will not be away so long again. Why who knows where I will go after I get through all the toes?

... who believes that toe socks are the bomb!!! I sure wish I had some!

Thursday, May 5, 2011

Interstices ~ The Spaces In Between...

"Life lurks in the interstices..."
~ Maria Reinecke ~

"Accept Loss Forever."
~ Jack Kerouac ~

Dear Ones, 

I am sorry that it has been so long between posts but it has been a very hard time in my personal life and just when I thought I was recovering I was blindsided by another loss just a couple of days ago that I am having trouble recovering from.

Everyone who knows me, and those who have read my pieces here, know that I live a very quiet contemplative life, seldom leave my cottage, and that my animal family are my daily companions that help me walk through life. I take in rescue animals and they rescue me as well. 

Three weeks ago Tuesday, after having lost my wee little black pug Babs, my first little pug from the rescue, who died last June, and then in January my precious little Coco died on the operating table, my "Big Dog Moe," the leader of the pack, died. He was 18 and had had cancer for some time, having all kinds of treatments and pain medication that gave him a few more months but he had been our family dog, adopted as a puppy from The Humane Society, and though he has lived with me since 2002 he was our family dog and the whole family took his death very hard. He died, as all of my dogs have, with me kissing him and telling him how much I loved him, and I sang "Somewhere Over The Rainbow" to him until he closed his eyes for the last time. I cried for days and just ached inside. Having lost Coco such a short time ago and Babs just 6 months before that, it felt like too much, but just a few days ago, on Tuesday, three weeks to the day that Moe passed, I lost my beloved little Harvey, the precious funny little pug that I simply adored. He, too, died in my arms and I sat with him for some time after he had passed, his little head on my chest with his eyes still open gazing into mine, though he was gone. I stroked him and cuddled him and kissed him and sang softly to him, telling him what a wonderful boy he was and how much I loved him, and when I finally handed him into my vet's arms I thought I would collapse. I don't even remember driving home. Sampson, my sweet "velcro" pug, and I drove home shaken, and still, there was more that would make the grief expand to fill all the spaces so that I could not see the places in between, the places where there is no loss, the time when there is hope and light and greeting each day with gratitude and a smile. A dark cloud has descended here. 

Anyone who knows little Sampson, now 13, who has been with me for 3 1/2 years, knows that he is practically glued to my body most of the time. If I'm here in my big over-sized chair he is in it with me, snuggled closed and sleeping, his soft little snore making me smile with a tenderness I had never known before these little pugs came to me, one by one, four in a year. I have had just about every kind of breed imaginable from some rescue or other all through my 57 years, and I loved them all dearly, but it wasn't until I gave that first little pug a home did I fall so in love with a specific breed. I will have pugs from the rescue (Mid-Atlantic Pug Rescue) for the rest of my life. Sam sleeps with me too, and to go to bed with a small boy who feels like a soft warm teddy bear and snuggles all up to me making me feel warm and loved in a way I never have, is precious beyond my ability to express it.

Sam was the only pug that Big Dog Moe would have anything to do with. They played together, they laid together, and when Moe went outside through the doggie door into our big fenced yard, Sam followed him, the two of them meandering around the yard like "The Jolly Black Giant and The Little Nibblet." It was so cute. My heart danced every time I watched them together...

You can't see Moe here but he was just
opposite Sam...

Sam, who never leaves my chair if I am in it, took to jumping off from time to time just to lay in Moe's bed. It was so sad. But three weeks later he seemed to be recovering. He and Harvey were very bonded and often snuggled and slept together in Harvey's bed...

Tuesday, after having gotten up seemingly fine, eaten his breakfast and gone out to the potty with Sam, Harvey took a nap next to me but when he woke up he was not right. His back legs collapsed out from under him, he couldn't hold himself up and he was breathing funny. By the time we got to the vet he was very bad, breathing terribly hard and in obvious pain. I couldn't see him like that and so it was time for his passing as well. I loved that little boy so much...

Though he had passed on I couldn't stop hugging him and kissing and kissing him, crying so hard that my eyes were almost swollen shut, but worst of all was little Sam. I tried twice to get him up in the chair with me but each time he jumped down and went over and laid by Harvey's bed, just staring into it, finally, climbing into it and burrowing his face into Harvey's cover and going to sleep. He slept for 5 hours and I couldn't rouse him. Finally he got up and got in the chair with me but he hasn't been the same since. People who think that animals don't have feelings should witness what I have been witnessing. This little pug is experiencing full blown grief.

Time will pass and I have already made arrangements for my first adoption so that Sam will not be alone. Pugs need each other for company and Sam who a year ago was one of a tribe of 5 is now alone. I have been committed to adopting the seniors but my daughter and others begged me to adopt younger ones, at least for awhile. My heart cannot take so much loss. To that end in about three weeks a little boy named Tanner is coming to live with us. He is 2 and just adorable past belief. He will be a little energetic person for Sam to play with now that he has lost his Big Dog Moe, the only one he played with. Here is little Tanner...

In my commitment to open my heart and home to the little ones in need, this is my mission, and my heart is full of so much love, and little Sam, the pug that is part of my soul, needs our family to expand as well. And so by the end of the month a wee little boy will join us and I know he will bring us much joy.

There have been very few interstices in the last year when grief fell upon grief, closing the path before me, but one must always open their heart for others in need, make space for those to come. My heart is still aching, tears run down my cheeks at odd times, and little Sam follows me and cries if he can't see me, something he has never done. We are both clinging to each other during this sad time, my little pug and I, but we will shoulder on and the sun will once more glisten through the spaces in between.

The lessons of love, loss, letting go, and finally moving forward seem to be some of the most powerful in life. I am still transitioning slowly through these phases, but the door to the cottage is opening again. I am ready. It is time.