Saturday, December 31, 2011

On The Eve Of The New Year...

"For last year's words belong to last year's language
And next year's words await another voice.
And to make an end is to make a beginning."

~T.S. Eliot, "Little Gidding"~

Dear Ones,

We are in the last hours of 2011. My, how fast a year goes. And it is true that things end, a year passes, some things, some people, we will never see again. Some of us will have lost a dear one. Some will have lost jobs. Some will be in such drastically different circumstance at the end of this year that they would not have believed possible at the end of 2010 as the clock neared the near year. But here we are, where we are, on the verge of where we will be. And the one thing we can always count on is change, and as the poet T.S. Eliot so wisely wrote, "To make an end is to make a beginning."

I am not alone in my tradition of spending New Year's Eve taking stock of the past year -- lessons learned, mistakes made, joy experienced, people who have left my life and others who have entered... someone whom I still long for, deeply, who has been gone from my life for a few years, but whom I have learned to carry in my heart and carry on, animal companions who have crossed the Rainbow Bridge and others who have arrived, a book not written, lessons I hoped to learn not yet learned, and joy so great it breaks the bounds of every expectation I might have held, and so much more. -- Yes, an old year is passing and another is about to begin.

I do not regret any of the hard times, or disappointing times, for they have brought me to where I am today and we can never regret who and what and where we are in this moment. We have a whole new year to carry on toward the goals we will set for ourselves, not the typical New Year's resolutions (Does anyone ever keep those?) but the goals we set for ourselves, the ones we feel deep inside even if we have not yet fully acknowledged them. We know what we don't want to repeat, we know what we want more of, we know the changes we want to make and those changes that we have begun to make that we want to settle into more deeply. These things needn't be spoken, we carry them inside like a woman pregnant with a child, these things that are full of potent possibility abundant. I have always, even in my darkest hours, been a glass half full kind of woman, and so I shall always be. I believe my loved one will return, I believe that this year I will finish my book and that it will change my life, I know that there will be roads not yet taken, roads I could never imagine taking that I will indeed take with joy and delight, filled with surprise and wonder, and I know that there will be hard sad times that I'm very glad I cannot foresee. These things, all of these things, are part of the human experience. And so I reflect back over the last year, and feel the excitement of the year to come.

Too, I treasure the present moment and all it holds. I am not out celebrating as many are, I am in my humble home, listening to the washer going and clothes tumbling in the dryer. I am sitting in my desk chair writing with my four beloved pugs all snuggled together on blankets under my feet. My air filter is humming away next to me, and the dogs and I have been out and will go out again and as they wander around the yard and do their business I will look at the garden, barren now, but I see next year's garden in my mind -- vegetables, herbs and flowers -- and one thing I will do this night is order seeds. That feels very significant. There are seeds I can plant and scatter in our warm coastal region teetering back and forth this year between freezing and temperatures in the seventies, because they need to be planted in late fall or winter. I will plant them at the beginning of the New Year, and the spring garden will begin even when I cannot see it. Gardens are an enormous act of faith, as is life. I have faith that this year will be full of so much that will fill me and change me and no matter what comes this time next year I will be grateful for it all. It will not all be easy, there will perhaps be grief and sadness beside joy and wonder, but it is all part of life moving forward. The beginning of the new year will find me planting seeds in my own life, with hope, and faith, and the determination to carry through even when I cannot yet see the results. We are all gardeners in our own lives. Having faith is the key to yielding a good crop. Some things won't sprout and grow, but there will be plenty of things that grow in such abundance it will take my breath away. That is how I see the new year.

This year I am 57. In April I will turn 58. In 2011 I finally hit the tipping point, my menses stopped and I am now in menopause. Many women dread it. I am simply delighted. I am now a crone. I will grow in wisdom and appreciate life more everyday. I can use the wisdom I have gained and that which will come to help those younger ones around me, and in spring I will have another grandchild, another daughter giving birth, a celebration unparalleled. I feel a deep sense of peace as I grow in faith. I embrace the tenets of many faiths and my life is all the richer for it. I am more and more open to the richness and diversity of the world, and my life expands accordingly. I walk around my house doing my daily round of chores whispering "Thank you," over and over again, to God, to all that I hold sacred, to the angels and spirits that companion me on this journey, and I grow more and more filled with gratitude for the smallest things. These are abundant riches for if we can celebrate the smallest things, those things that come along that are bigger than we could ever have imagined send us over the moon, into the cosmos, we can touch the stars.

Tonight I will go out with the dogs and I will reach for the stars, the stars that sparkle in the firmament of my life even though they are still far far away. I am content to wait, because there is so much to do along the way. Everything will unfold as it should, and the very thought of that delights and excites me. I wish you a new year filled with good health, peace, contentment, and all good things that life can bring. I wish you the strength and people to support you lovingly through the hard times. I see so much that is possible for all of us. Let us plant our seeds, and watch our gardens grow.

To the New Year and all it will hold! Let us bow in gratitude for the old year as it passes and open our arms wide for all that the new year will bring. That is how I will say goodbye to the old year and greet the new year ahead. To 2012! To life and all it brings..

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

A Very Brief Christmas Post From A Very Tiny Girl...

From Penny Pug and All The Rest Of Us! 

Thursday, December 8, 2011

Dear Ones, If You Are Sad And Melancholy For Times Past During The Holidays, Make New Memories, Write New Stories...

“When one door closes another opens. Often we look so long so regretfully upon the closed door that we fail to see the one that has opened.”
~ Helen Keller ~

This piece is dedicated to my dearest friend, the woman who is the sister I never had, who once again brought me out of the darkness and into the light with her good counsel. Telling her that I was sad and melancholy, as I become every year during the holidays, stuck in the memories of Christmases past, and how now, divorced, children grown, the hub-bub, excitement, secrets and surprises, decorating the house and more no longer exist. I get up on Christmas morning alone, save my menagerie of animals whom I dearly love, they who make my lives richer, and make me feel loved every day, but still it is not the same.

My dear one said, "Okay, that was then, this is now. You need to write new stories for your life right now. What new rituals can you create, what new delights can you bring into your life that you can do just for you that will create a new narrative for what the holidays can mean for you now?" Of course I am paraphrasing, she said it much better than that, but her point was well taken and set me to thinking. So I am making new rituals, I am dreaming new dreams, I am living in the now, and all of a sudden I am finding myself delighted, joyful, giddy-happy and doing things just for me that I never did before because those around me didn't want to or it wasn't their cup of tea. It all began, about 6 weeks or so ago, with bad plumbing.

I hired the brothers of my best fella friend who do amazingly beautiful work at very fair prices. They fixed the plumbing in both bathrooms and the kitchen. And then we stood in the kitchen and one said, "You know, I could get a used sink that is practically new. It would be $500 new but I can get it for $50 because it was in a new house that the new owners didn't want. It was my dream sink. Old fashioned white porcelain with white handles. A big open sink, deep, and beautiful. I looked and looked at that sink, and it looked so grand that the old worn white speckled counter-top looked drab and everything in the kitchen was painted white, with white appliances, an off-white tile floor, and all circa 1970. I sighed. I had to have some color.

The one thing colorful in my kitchen was the old vintage wooden booth that I had purchased when moving in nearly 2 years ago. Everything I bought for the house, my beloved cottage, was old, used, vintage, cozy, the things that I loved dearly, and I brought some old things with me that I had purchased in years here and there since my divorce. Charming, says everyone who comes in, but it was not yet quite right. Never mind that before I moved in not only every room was painted a different color but every door down the hallway was painted a different color. My studio was painted a bright pomegranate peachy-orange and I had the ceiling painted sky blue. I just love it. When I sit here writing it's like looking up at the sky.

So we three stood in the kitchen with a beautiful new sink. A very, very white kitchen. And they looked at me and laughed and said, "She's got that look in her eyes." They were the dear men who did all the work when I was moving into the house. They painted the life-size Magic Ship purple, orange and pink; an old aluminum shed lime green with a bright pink roof, painted a nicer shed on the other side of the huge fenced back yard the colors matching the ship, and put a picket fence next to it that they painted a bright candy pink. They have just built another picket fence for me, a large one for the garden I will have next summer, a bright green which matches my green shed. More than one person has come into my yard and said it looks like a Dr. Seuss book. I will be taking pictures of my kitchen to share but you can see my color sense in the back-yard work!

The incredible Magic Ship which I had restored and painted when
I moved in. The guys said, after they restored old boards, built the
stairs, and so on, "We suppose you want it painted. What color?"
To which I responded, with a twinkle in my eye, "Purple, pink and
orange." They were about to begin an adventure the likes of which
they'd never had, and they loved it!

Well, you can't have a rickety old aluminum shed right
close to a magic ship so it got painted green and pink. Now
we were on a roll!

And of course there had to be a pink picket fence with
a crookedy purple door...

And then there's a giant fish named Albert who hangs
from a tree and flies through the air. (Well, there's a
Magic Ship for goshsakes. There surely should be a

And so the guys that made all this colorful magic happen, even though they couldn't believe they were doing it, were back with me with the pretty white sink, and they knew, they just knew that this kitchen would not stay white. I had been living in a house. I was making it a home. A place of my dreams that I could live in, really live in, and write my new stories and dream my new dreams. So in the last six weeks, the cabinets were all painted yellow and blue, the refrigerator and dishwasher painted a bright orange. A little shelf was built up high all along the wall with the sink and down the side wall to the refrigerator, painted bright yellow with blue trim to match the cabinets, and it is filled with my collection of vintage teapots. An old 1915 cabinet I got really cheaply because it wasn't in good shape and the back was falling off got a new back and sturdied up, and a new cabinet was built in an "L" shape and attached to the old cabinet so the two cabinets make a perfect "L" and go down the wall and fit perfectly behind the big old wooden booth bench. The cabinets were painted sky blue with orange shelves and the "L" shaped cabinet is open so you can see the brightly colored shelves. A new counter-top is a "denim blue" and finally (yes, we're finally getting to Christmas) we needed something to finish it off. The boys got that "Uh-oh" look in their eyes again and waited for my next idea to burst wide open. "What if..." I paused for a second because the kitchen opens down into the little room I call "The Cozy Room", 2 steps down from the kitchen, all open to one another. It is pine panelled all the way around circa 1970 which I love but it is really pretty dark in there because there are no windows in the room.

I looked up. They looked up. The said, "You're kidding, right?" I said, "No, I'm not." They knew that I wanted the ceiling painted and it couldn't just be the kitchen because the kitchen and the cozy room share the same ceiling, so the whole thing got painted a beautiful pistachio green." Yep, a green ceiling. Which leads through a big open doorway to my studio with pomegranate walls, a sky blue ceiling, and windows all the way around. The green looks gorgeous in the kitchen, brightened up the pine-paneled cozy room, and it is really lively looking from the colors in the studio to the cozy room and back again. The guys were getting a big kick out of all of this. The said, "There's not another house like this in this town." I said, "There's likely not another house like this in the world." They laughed and said it suited me. and now here we are, finishing up, three weeks before Christmas. And my Sissie said, "Write new stories for your life to make the holidays bright and cheery and NEW for you." And all of a sudden I realized that's just what I'd been doing from the time that white sink got put in my kitchen. I had flung the doors and the windows wide open and done what I wanted for a change. I was making a dream come true. I have been making a magic house. And the boys said they would stay on and help me with Christmas decorations. We sat and we laughed and we planned.

They know it's hard for me to leave the house so their help was much appreciated. And herein my new Christmas story begins...

"Write new stories for yourself. Do things that delight you..."

Okay, so I wanted a big fresh tree brimming over with blue lights. They went and got the tree and the lights and put it up for me. I didn't have time to be lonely for the holidays. We three were too busy planning and conspiring to think about being lonely. At the end of the days mostly I was just plain tired and fell asleep early on the couch with pugs all over me sleeping and snoring. They were pooped too from all the activity!

I said I really want sparkly lights all around. My studio has always been dark, and they had also built high shelves all the way around the room and floor to ceiling shelves on one wall for my massive amount of books which I've never had anywhere to go with. They got some 70' of white LED lights and put them up all around the room attached to the shelves. Now, ahem, these are not little twinkly lights. They are not as big as the old fashioned Christmas lights but they are, well, biggish compared to the tiny lights I had imagined. But the LED lights are cool and run on very little electricity saving on the power bill and brighten the once dark room up no end. At first I was so startled by the lights I felt like I was in Vegas! But they are so bright and cheerful and really make the colorful room shine so cheerily that you just want to giggle when you see it. And an old, very old  ver large mirror (I'm into collecting really old mirrors that are somewhat flawed so cheap!) got hung on the opposite end of the cozy room which -- la di da di da, I am bouncing with delight -- is so big and placed just where the Christmas tree chock full of blue lights reflects all the way into the studio so as I sit here typing and can only see the corner of the tree, but I see the whole thing down across the room reflecting in the mirror. Heavenly days, I am living in a magic cottage and  to top it all off a woman came in, took one look at the kitchen and said, "It's like a doll's house!" He he he, that thrilled me to pieces. But it's Christmas now, and I got "that look," in my eyes again. I looked up, the guys looked up, I looked at them, they looked at me, I said, "Wouldn't it just be GRAND to get green twinkly lights and put them all around the ceiling in the kitchen/cozy room! Today the green lights went up and I tell you they are so gorgeous, the bright green lights against the softer pistachio green ceiling that you nearly swoon when you look at them. It's very Christmasy now, but after Christmas when all of the decorations come down, the green lights will remain and the rooms will just be enchanting.

A new Christmas story... Give yourself the gift of living the life you always really wanted to even if it mainly means painting everything wild bright colors (or whatever colors you like... I once saw pictures of a woman who painted her whole entire house bright pink and black and it knocked me right over. I have been looking for her ever since but can't find her. I'd love to see pictures of that pink and black house again...).

I live in an enchanted, magical cottage just made for Christmas. And I am not going to worry about feeling like I have to get gifts I end up spending too much money for, I am going to get things that are wonderful and will be dearly loved and that I love buying and I am not going to stress over it. I have given myself a little cottage filled with wonder and delight, and it has set the stage for writing all new stories for myself all year round.

I would love for you to sit down and write a list of everything that would change your holidays, if they aren't already all that you would dream them to be, things that you can do, and start doing them. And make a list of things for the whole year. And dream big dreams. And stop looking at the closed door and throw all the windows wide open. It's time, for you and me and everyone in the whole wide world. 

It all reminds me of a book that I read to my children when they were young. I always remember the lines, "The time has come, the time is now, Marven K. Mooney will you please go NOW!" It's Dr. Seuss of course. Dr. Seuss would have loved my house. And I am over the moon with the very thought of it.

This Christmas will be filled with cheer and joy. I know it will. I'm writing the story right now...

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Writing Your Heart's Truth ~ The Thing You Think You Cannot Do...

"You must do the thing you think you cannot do."
~ Eleanor Roosevelt ~

Writing from my heart...

I've been having a wee bit of trouble with my book, or rather it's been having more than a wee bit of trouble with me. They taunt you, you know. You write your heart out with your stomach kind of going flibbity-jibbity because you know that while you are almost saying what you wanted to say you are somehow skirting the truth because:

a.) You're scared.

b.) What will people think?

c.) What if you offend someone and they don't like you anymore, even if they didn't really know you in the first place, or even more to the point, even if they've always known you and never liked you anyway.

d.) You're scared. But you're pretending like you're not. But it shows, like when your slip hangs down beneath the hem of your skirt and you keep twisting this way and that and trying to yank it up when you think no one is noticing (of course they are) but it always shows anyway. When a writer is scared and doesn't say what she was meant to say, what she knows she should say, that slip is hanging down in neon colors.

Of course there is a solution. You get online. You dilly-dally on Facebook, perhaps throw out a word or three on Twitter. Stare around the room. Play with the pugs. Finally, you decide to write a blog entry because at least its writing. Well, that's what I'm doing anyway. Just get it all out in the open, take the dang slip off, throw it across the room and go back to my book. Yes, this is the tact I've chosen. Is it working? It's too soon to tell, but since I am here doing this and the pugs are running between my knees like 3 little hooligans being boys as boys will and tossing toys and hollering and carrying on, it's at least taking my mind off of the fact that the last thing I wrote sounded so bizarre it terrified me. I thought, "Either no one will buy this book or they will cart me off to the loony bin." As no one has bought one of my numerous books in decades and I've already been in a loony bin (Okay, it was a nice hospital for a month after a nervous breakdown but that counts, doesn't it? I mean my room-mate was having electric shock therapy which scared the hoo-ha out of me.) You see, dark memories come up that you don't know what to do with when you are writing a book.

I've tried the, "Oh, I've had decades of therapy and I'm dealing with my past and I'm so much better I will encourage people by writing about the fact that we can live through trauma and go on to have wonderful lives." thing Well, it's not that that's not true, and it is a message I want to get across, but I wanted to skip over the elephants in the room and not write about the abuse, and all of the things that led up to me being me today, good, bad, wonky and otherwise. All of it had to happen, you see, or I wouldn't be me as I am today and as odd as I do seem to most people I'm quite happy with who I am now. As happy as one can be.

I'm fully aware that you can't stay mucking about in the past and ever live fully in the present, but you also can't deny it or hide it or the full picture can't be appreciated. I can't show you how I've healed and have any impact if I don't tell you the truth about how I was wounded. And not just the abuse. Throw in a little thing, perhaps, like finding your biological mother at 26 simply to find out if there are any medical issues you needed to worry about for your children -- I had a 3 year old and a 6 month old at the time -- and we were very discreet in the search and I swore I didn't want a mother, I had a mother, I simply wanted information for the sake of my children, but she threatened to kill me, tried to sue me, and, well, let's just say it wasn't the storybook ending that adopted children long for when they are in that, "If I only found my real mother she would love me and take me away from all of this." Not so much. You know there are things like that that I can throw in, but this is the first time I have ever even mentioned this last part publicly. I am far past the fear and the sorrow, that was more than half my lifetime ago now, I just feel sadness, for her, and for all of our tender gentle wounded selves that soldier on as best we can against a tide of people who on top of whatever we went through are hell-bent on giving us grief about being or not being any and everything they think we should or shouldn't be. No, I'm done with that, and that's why I'm writing this book. I want to help others who have had lives that for whatever reason held them back from the full and satisfying and even glorious life that we can live. Notice, I did not say perfect. There is no perfect, but there is good. We can live a good life. I am.

I must do the thing I thought I couldn't do. Some of it is not pretty. None of it comes from a place of seeking pity, nor because I can't stop wallowing about in it like a pig in the mud because it feels good to have an excuse to hide from life (been there, done that) but I'm a big girl now and if I don't own my past I will never really get over it. I keep inching up to the precipice, looking over it, and running back from my life thinking that surely I can just write a book about gardening or pugs or something that I know a fair amount about and that would be fun, but that's not who I am as a writer and it's not why I'm here. Writing is my spiritual path. There, I've said it. I've written all kinds of things here about my spiritual journeying and everything I've written is true, but if we are going to truly live our path we are sooner or later going to have to have a long dark night of the soul as St. John of the Cross did, and we are going to have to face our demons in our darkest hour. I know to my core that I am meant to live a life of service. I also know that as a borderline agoraphobic that the way I will achieve that is not by going out into the world. There's only one way to do it and it is best summed up in the words of William Butler Yeats in his poem, "A Coat."

"I made myself a coat
Covered with embroideries
Out of old mythologies
From heel to throat;
But the fools caught it,
Wore it in the world's eyes
As though they'd wrought it.
Song, let them take it,
For there's more enterprise
in walking naked."

I have been trying to write this book for years, fully clothed, hiding the dark places, the lumps and the bumps and the scary, hidden things. And I shall not, now, go into the specific details of the abuse. It isn't necessary, it isn't the kind of writer that I am, I truly am no longer in that place, and yet I, like any other survivor, am marked by it. We don't tell our story without telling our truth. For such a long time, like Yeats, who is one of my most beloved poets for only one poem that I long ago memorized and sing in my sleep as if it is a long ago song from a time when I could really voice my experience and in tears and on my knees offer my humble story to you. I no longer need be on my knees. The tears are long dried. I am healed in so many ways I cannot tell you, and yet I wear the scars of a warrior, but I am a warrior with a tender heart, and the only reason I will tell my story is so that other survivors can know that it is possible to survive, and, in our own way, and in trying to please and appease no other, no matter how much we genuinely love them and care about their feelings, we must be fully who we are, and love as we can, and give what we have to offer, in whatever way that manifests. To try to live otherwise is to never live a full life, never be able to give to the world that which we have to give, never really be able to help others in the way we so dearly wish to do. And so I will go back to my book, and I will tell you my story. I will do the thing I thought I could not do. It is time, and I am ready.

Tonight I will leave you with my favorite poem, the one that lives in my heart and speaks to my feelings more closely than anything else I have ever read. I leave you with these words, I send you my love, and I will return to my pen and paper...

"Had I the heavens' embroidered cloths,
Enwrought with golden and silver light,
The blue and the dim and the dark cloths
Of night and light and the half-light,
I would spread the cloths under your feet:
But I, being poor, have only my dreams;
I have spread my dreams under your feet;
Tread softly, because you tread on my dreams."

~ William Butler Yeats ~