Wednesday, May 23, 2012

Acceptance Of One's Life ~ Writing The Book...

"Acceptance of one's life has nothing to do with resignation; it does not mean running away from the struggle. On the contrary, it means accepting it as it comes, with all the handicaps of heredity, of suffering, of psychological complexes..."
~*~ Paul Tournier ~*~

Dear Ones,

I have written here for a very long time about how I wanted to live a life of service, of giving to others, using the gifts and whatever talents and experiences I have gained over a lifetime. Primarily I am a writer, so, and especially since I live a contemplative life mostly apart from the world, writing would needs be my venue. This part was easy to come to, what wasn't easy was how to ferret out what to put in, what to leave out, what I was willing to share and what I was not, and how to approach it in such a way that I could help others without writing a self-help book, but using my own life in a way that could say to others, "This is how I have done this, you will find your own way, but know that you can, and that you are not alone, and that you are okay just the way you are." I am writing to the people, like myself, who live outside the norm by choice, chance, or circumstance, people who have not turned their back on the world, but on the parts of the world that keep them from being sane and whole and balanced and able to live a life of fullness, to feel whole when in the outside world only fragmentation is possible, to create a life without being judged, to accept and embrace oneself. What I hadn't counted on is how much of myself I would have to give away, release, open up and allow to surface, the parts of myself that no one ever sees, that I never write about, that is not comfortable for others who know me to read even though I never speak about the lives of anyone close to me there is so much that they don't know, and yet if I am to help others, as I know in my heart that I must, I have to release the demons onto the page as well as the joy and the sweetness, the incredible blessings in my life and the sometimes paralyzing fear when I sleep a good bit of the day as if going deep into a cocoon only safe to rise at night when day has passed and I am under the cover of darkness. This too is part of who I am.

And I need to write about mental illness. It is easy to rattle off my diagnoses, my past whose pain and circumstances led to a complex life that has been a balancing act I've not always been able to manage, but writing about living as an adult, sometimes terrified and trying to find the balance that I need to move forward each day, I'm finding is not only much harder, and the reason I have started and stopped this book so many times, but it is exactly what I am supposed to do. Mental illness in this country carries such a stigma with myriad problems and difficulties attached, especially if one is, for all intents and purposes to the outside world, literate, intelligent, and able to give of themselves, hoping to help others, and trying, with everything that they have in them, to make a life that has meaning and substance. The outcome of having both of these things, the dis-abilities along with the abilities, is that people expect things of you that you cannot do, and you are often not only a disappointment but also the cause of much anger and angst. This is much harder to deal with. None of us, I think, want to cause anyone any pain, we simply want to survive, and in doing so we sometimes have to make choices we know will have consequences that will be difficult to bear. And so it must be.  

I say this with no pity, I don't in the least feel sorry for myself or even wish I had a different kind of life. This is my life, and though hard for others to understand, especially in light of the dark and difficult times that I write about, I consider my life a gift, and the most important thing I can do is to reach out to others who, like me, carry a dark secret inside and try with all that they have in them not only to survive each day but to do it without being a burden to others, not wallowing on the hard days in an endless sea of fear, holding on to whatever they can to stay afloat, all the while knowing that it will pass and another day will come. I have more good days than bad and anymore the hard times are only part of a day, but they still exist. I believe I have too often sugar-coated it in my writing because I didn't want to be perceived as someone who did not appreciate all the good in my life, and I do, I really do, and I consider myself one of the lucky ones because I can accomplish things that I want to and build a life here that is full and purposeful, if much of it is hidden from the world. I do spend much time in contemplation, meditation, and prayer. I live very close to nature and very close to God. And those are the things that are my life raft when I plummet down, down, down as I did yesterday unable to even see the bottom and afraid there was none there. But that is what medication is for, and sleep, and the comfort of my animals, and the writing of my truth, because there are too many people like me who are living through this very thing, in their own way, and they need to know that they are not alone, and they need to know that they can survive.

I have struggled, too, with trying to figure out how to write the book and keep up with this blog because I tell my truth here as well, but I realized that it was important for me, a vital component of the experience of writing this book, to have a place to go to lean into, to breathe through the very experience of the writing itself. Since I have finally come to this, found this balance, I am able to write like I haven't been able to in years, and the sense of relief is greater than I know how to express. And so I will write here, and lean back against this blog to steady myself, before I turn to the book again and move forward. I am grateful for this blog, no matter who reads it, no matter how many might, because it helps me remember why I am doing this at all, and it reminds me that I can. It lets me see that I have come through another day, and that I have not lost my words, and I can carry them from one format to the other with greater ease. 

This is my life right now. These are my thoughts, my days, my breath, my fears, my tears, and I need a place to go with all of those things so that I can write another page, and now I will move from this page to that one, and I just took a deep breath and sank down deeply into my chair. I can do this, I will do this, and if I help even one person it will all be worthwhile. This is what I carry in my heart as I move forward.

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Diving For Pearls...

"When the waves close over me, I dive down to fish for pearls."
~*~ Masha Kaleko ~*~

Dear Ones,

Yesterday morning I found the above quote and it has been resonating deep within me, like a pearl forming in the very depths of my soul, as I come to the realization of how many times in my life I, too, have fought frantically the waves closing over me instead of looking down, swimming deeper, seeing what was richer, what was now possible, because the door to the past had closed.

I think it is not in our nature, as human beings, to let go easily of that which has been, of those things that formed us, either with sadness, melancholy, or even tragic circumstances that filled our childhood, we want to cling to what we know. In life we are far more likely to cling to the familiar, even if it hurts us, or is not healthy for us in some way. We are constantly perplexed by the abused wife who will not leave her abusive husband, and yet we will walk with the albatross of the past weighing us down so far that we cannot step lightly into all that might be. Too, those who had very happy childhoods, joyous, full of love, seemingly unfettered and free of hardships, at least in their child's mind, often measure everything in their adult lives against these happy memories and their present life cannot help but be found wanting. In either instance we are jeopardizing what could be an amazing and glorious future because we have such a firm toehold in the past. Whatever your past was, let it go. 

I know this all too well. I spent nearly 30 years of my writing life with a good bit of the writing tinged or perhaps imperceptibly colored by childhood abuse, and in doing so I was never able to let go of the past. One of the most important parts of my journey these last two and a half years has been to cross a line in the sand and step over it. What was, was. It is past. It cannot serve me in any way now. But the future is radiant, shimmering with possibilities, and if it has been a long journey finding all the parts and pieces that I am now moving into, once I crossed that threshold my whole life was, is, being transformed into something far beyond my imaginings. I am absolutely trembling with elation and the expectancy of a child at Christmas as I look toward my future. I believe it will be full of pearls.

Pearls come in many colors you know. Just because I can see the strand of pearls before me in my mind's eye does not mean that I live with rose-colored glasses on and am not realistic enough to know that there will be hard times, difficult days, and perhaps tragic losses. It is good that we cannot see our futures, because we must live through them as they come, and the worst of these experiences, those that we fear might kill us, will indeed hold the most powerful lessons we will learn in our lives. It may and most likely will take years to discover the the gifts that we will have received, that will have altered the course of our lives, even when a deep sadness remains in a corner of our heart and washes over us again from time to time, but we will be unalterably changed and experience a greater depth in our relation to the world, we become more compassionate, more empathetic toward the hearts and lives of others. No, this is not always the case. There will always be those that will remain tightly closed like the oyster whose shell will not open, never realizing the beauty they have inside, but it is not our job, our purpose, nor is it possible to change another. We can only chart our own course, and in doing so, in opening our hearts to all of the beauty, the richness, and the lessons that life has to offer, we grow enormously and have more to offer ourselves, and if, which is my own goal, we wish to live a life of service in the world, in whatever capacity that might be, we need to allow the waves to close over us and dive down to find the pearls, and then, finally, to swim upwards and break through the surface of the water in a whole new place with the sun casting golden ripples on the water all around us.

A new life is possible at any age, growth and expansion, making choices for our lives that we heretofore never dreamed possible, it's all there, waiting for you. Look for the pearls. They're there...

Monday, May 14, 2012

The Return Of The Sun...

"A leaf fluttered in through the window this morning, as if supported by the rays of the sun, a bird settled on the fire escape, joy in the task of coffee, joy accompanied me as I walked..."
~*~ Anaïs Nin ~*~

It has been a long while since I updated this blog. Not long after the last entry I tore a ligament in my knee and since then I have had to keep it elevated and on ice leaving me only able to hunt and peck with the finger of one hand, with a tiny pug insisting she be in my lap the whole time. It doesn't make typing easy, but I have thought of all of you, and all of the blog entries that I would write, and then life would sweep along and carry an imagined entry with it.

Wee little Penny on my chest at the computer...

Then my eldest daughter had her first baby, a little boy, my new little grandson, on the 3rd of April, and the excitement, flurry of phone calls, and sheer joy were all I could think about. Leg up in the air and on ice, there was a smile on my face that would not fade and in the weeks to come I scheduled my trip to see my new tiny grandson. I made it when he was 5 weeks old, just last week, wheelchair and all, and if I came home with my knee a little a worse for the wear I wouldn't have missed that trip for all the world. A new baby reminds you of all of the miracles that abound in this crazy world of ours, and to see my daughter being such a sweet mother to him moved me deeply.

Pierce's feet, one day old...

Between the birth and the trip I had my 58th birthday on April 30. I love my birthday and have never feared getting older. Each birthday is like New Year's Day to me, a time to take stock of the year just passed, as well as imagining the year to come. I dreamed of all the things I want to accomplish but this time I didn't just dream. I have started to make concrete steps toward realizing my goals. I think, as I approach 60, I realize that every day is precious and there is no time to waste. Even if I live to be 100 in the years to come I want to treasure every moment, the precious little things in life like the wild birds at the feeders, my little pugs and parrots inside, a good book to read and the one I am writing, laughing with friends, and most of all cherishing my family, loving them with all my heart, and feeling gratitude for them every day. And I wake up every morning thanking God for all of the blessings in my life, even the hard times which have been great teachings, and the joyous times which fill my cup to overflowing. I am deeply grateful for every thing in my life. It is a time of grace, and not one bit of it is lost on me. 

Too, as much as I have been able, in fits and starts, hobbling about the garden for short periods, I have planted thousands of seeds, and I have had help getting plants and roses in the garden that I had planned on doing myself, but they are in now just the same. And the 500 daffodils planted last fall were such a glory in February and March it left me breathless, luminous sunshine everywhere even on the darkest days.

It has been a year of sweeping change, broken hearts, and the jubilation of new life. In February there was a suicide in the family, and in April the new baby. There has been so much to take in that it has colored everything, everyday, adding to the knowledge that I want to live every moment with great love for those around me. I knew it before but it has become more poignant this year and my life will never be the same. Nothing is taken for granted now and everything has taken on the radiance that new possibilities bring. And life has brought more than I could have imagined.

In 2008 I lost my beloved African grey parrot, Henry. He was my soul mate, my constant companion, and I have never gotten over the loss. I was contacted by my dear friend Jeffrey while I was visiting my daughter, son-in-law, and new baby telling me that there was a grey and two other small parrots if I would accept them into my life. The grey, a small girl named Sparky, was badly plucked, and while she was much loved the couple who had her were both gravely ill and could keep her no longer. I agreed to take her and she arrived here even as I was flying home. I arrived with a new grey waiting for me, and my heart nearly leapt out of my body. I renamed her "Miss Scarlet," and she is precious beyond words. I am already working on the task of helping her grow her feathers back and keeping a log of the journey. She says nearly 300 words and phrases and is such a delight I simply can't tell you how she has already changed my life. A new light is shining here at Dragonfly Cottage, brighter than the sun, and she is part of the beginning of this 59th year of growth, change, and delights I cannot yet imagine. What a way to start this new year.

Miss Scarlet, a bit raggedy but on her way to
becoming fully feathered. She is already giving
me kisses and is amazingly sweet for a grey,
usually wary and temperamental.

And so I am back to the blog, and it has a new look. It was time. And I am excited about blogging more, of publishing little books throughout the year even as I write the longer one, as I watch my garden grow, snuggle with my 4 rescue pugs, love this houseful of parrots, and watch the days unfold, looking forward to what life may hold. I hope you have been well these days, and I wish you joy and love from this little crew of mine and myself as we forge ahead in the days to come. I removed the comment sections after the posts which were scattered and often, I'm ashamed to say, not answered. In lieu of the comments section I invite you to leave notes on my message board at the top of this blog and I will answer every one. It is easier this way, and communing with my readers is important to me and a delight. 

It is past 7 and my daughter that lives here will be here by 8. Mondays are our special time together when she leaves her 8 year old son, my precious grandson, and her sweet husband, to have a "girl's night" here with me. I look so forward to these special nights, times of laughter and good talk, of sharing and watching something special on t.v. (Right now "Dancing With The Stars." We love it and call in feverishly for our favorite contestants. cheering them on!)

As I close little Penny pug is barking indignantly because she wants to be picked up, and Miss Scarlet is telling me rather insistently that it is time to go night-night, and the other little ones are ready for their evening time when mom is away from the computer and in the cozy room on the couch where she belongs so they can all get up and cuddle with me. Off I go to get the parrots to bed, and I wish you all a pleasant evening. I'll be back soon, and think of you fondly until I return.

Warm Regards and Deepest Blessings to All...