Monday, May 23, 2016

Deprive, Survive . . . Thrive

I've used this term for many years, knowing that I truly wanted to make my way from Point A to Point B, but somehow kept getting lost in the midst of chaos, crisis and one emergency after another.  I've spent time in therapy, doing spiritual work, energy work - all moving me in the right direction, yet not quite making the mark yet.

During this past few weeks, chaos abounded on many levels - first the mechanical stuff broke down - computer, phone , car; then there was a pause button on the health report card - was Hairy Cell back or is it something else; for the first time the answer was no from the bank when I requested an increase in my equity line.  Then of course, there is watching over my Dad as best I can with support and compassion as he struggles with the inevitable aging process.  Wow - what a few weeks!

Well, all the mechanics are back in order, I do not have cancer, but do have some "other process" that has been known but unidentified for years, but hey, huge relief to not have the big C A back!  And, while the bank explained the "no", what they did say is that because I have had impeccable credit, I was able to get the loan last year and if my trend continues upward this year, I will be able to increase it next year.  I want to help my daughters achieve exciting things with assistance - a wedding later this summer and wheels for living off campus in the Fall.

Money has been a theme since childhood and it is a key metaphor for the many ways that I have lived in survival mode, yet wanting to thrive.  Most recently in my own discovery with an amazing spiritual counselor, we looked hard at the circumstances surrounding my birth and early years.  Much of my recollection has been blocked, knowing full well that this is a sign of deeper "stuff".  I'll only touch briefly on examples and plan to use more of this in a women's circle later this summer,

My Mom had an asthma attack during my childbirth process, left gasping for air and frightened.  My Dad had an episode of breaking furniture and losing it due to his own fear of change.  My early memories were of fighting, a lot about "money" and Mom, a beautiful seamstress, made many of my clothes, even out of old curtains!  She told me how the doctor put me on a strict schedule for bottle feeding and I had lots of "tummy issues" right from the start.

As life went along, I rarely asked for things that I wanted, as it did not feel right or OK to express a want, but desserts, food and going for ice cream after chores well done was what we did as a family.  There were money problems and my savings and bonds were cashed in for part of the rescue but the money never returned.  I recall needing to be in silence at the dinner table, in the car - no giggling or typical child-like behavior was considered acceptable.

I've tended to minimize the effects over the years, stating that I had food, clothing, shelter, but never sat in front of the mirror (part of the exercise I do now) to look into the eyes of my child self.  Wow, what an experience.  I am beginning to see so much that I had not been able to or was not ready for in the past.

It took these two weeks of combined "stuff" to really get me off my "____" in order to reach out and begin to demand of myself, standing in my worthiness, owning my value as a clinician and recognizing that I need to get paid for my services.

Before I was ill, I took the leap into private practice because it was part of my dream and I was becoming quite successful - balancing the responsibilities of being a business owner with single motherhood.  Life was going well!  Then sickness took hold.  As the income drained, I needed to sell my home, downsize, but I did move to where I've always wanted to be and continue to love it here!

As is in my nature, I started networking, building relationships, but there were roadblocks - the referral landscape had changed.  Doctors now had an allegiance to the hospital services, thus my pool was drying up.  A few months after the move, I became ill, hospitalized and mostly out of commission for months.  I had not really looked at my "numbers" until the bank told me about my ratio of income to debt.  OMG, what a reality check.

I have implemented strategies to "push me" where I have always resisted and I am holding myself accountable.  It feels strange, very uncomfortable, awkward, yet good, because I am really moving mountains.  I am stepping into my power and honoring who I am and what I have to offer.

My gift to you is my story - one of process, integration and continued perseverance.  Never give up on YOU - I won't!

With love,

Sunday, May 15, 2016

In His Eyes

This title has been with me all week, in fact for a few, but now, I am compelled to write about a topic that affects so many of us - aging, dementia, losing touch.  While exhausted from being up until 5am when my Dad finally arrived home safely, I continue to experience a myriad of feelings, mostly gratitude that he is okay.

My Dad was an amazing person with knowledge in many areas.  He could fix anything - electrical, mechanical and he was very creative with woodworking and remaking junk into something functional.  He was very intelligent about a wide variety of topics,but as the years have progressed, his world has become smaller and interests, limited.

After my Mom died, it became even more apparent that the dementia that he was diagnosed with many years ago, was taking hold more voraciously.  He has been getting lost more often, increasingly confused about dates and times, yet, there are also times of immense clarity.  In general, we hear the same stories over and over again and even his doc, a lovely and compassionate physician, has noted that he should begin curtailing some of his adventures in the car.

A few weeks ago, we were together for an overnight and as I looked into my Dad's eyes, there was a stark change - they seemed more blank, more empty - a feeling of losing who my Dad was came over me.  While it has not been easy to connect with Dad throughout much of my life, I do have fond memories and an appreciation for what he has been able to give me, also recognizing that he came from such dysfunction and instability in his own youth, knowing that he truly has done his best.

For me, I am usually able to put on my "clinician hat" and understand on a cognitive level, but when the child steps in, I feel sad, frustrated and somewhat helpless at how to help.  My Dad has always been independent - wonder where I get that from! - and there are the good/not so good aspects of being so damn independent.

It is very obvious that Dad needs some help at this stage and yet the walls are way to high to climb.  Last evening as we departed from a joyous family occasion, I took Dad to his car, directed him on the highway and went north as he went south.  When I checked in a few hours later to make sure he was home, he was lost.  Back and forth we went for hours,he not knowing where he was, until he recognized that he had traveled all the way to Rhode Island.  I called the state police at that time, then the cell lost service for a while.   All in all, he was on the road for 11 hours, arriving home at 5am.

Today, I am a bit numb - some laughing, some sadness, a lot of exhaustion - a lot of gratitude that he is safe.  Tomorrow is a new day and my hope for all who follow my blog is to stay in the moment, being thankful for the gift of each day, knowing that time will pass.   As you look into the eyes of another, feel love and compassion for that person and be sure to hold onto some for yourself - you'll need it for the ride of life.

With love,

Sunday, May 8, 2016

Happy Mother's Day: To All Women

Today is the day to honor our mothers and for me, I like to honor not only my Mom, but all women because nurturing comes in many capacities.

I began my day as usual, finishing the week's bills and billing for my business, while listening to my jazz station.  It was soon time to go to my exercise class.  I've recently decided to do more cross-training since my strength is slowly coming back (from the dead it feels like!).  I was brought back to reminiscing about the days when Mom and I would go to the House of Health in Lynnfield for our exercise, sauna and steam.  We would head out for a healthy dinner afterwards.  She always loved joining in on activities that I was involved in.  My mom had struggled with her weight for her entire life, but was eager to go to the exercise groups or be a part of weight management classes that I taught.  She became one of my "groupies".

A few hours later,it was time to get ready for the 5pm mass back at my old church, St John's.  Our "rock band", as Fr Tom used to call us (and he loved our group) was playing at this mass in preparation for Tuesday's Confirmation.  This, too, had become a tradition for many years.  I usually cantored the 5:00 mass on Mother's Day and we would go for dinner following mass.

As I dressed for mass, I put on a beautiful turquoise blue pin and earrings that Mom had picked out for me years ago.  She always gave me such fashionable jewelry and scarves and even today, I received compliments on my set.  She had an eye for fashion and as children, Lindsay and Ashley preferred Grammy to pick out clothing and accessories.

Mass was beautiful and the music so appropriate.  In fact, Mom's all-time favorite song was chosen for the Offertory, Here I Am Lord.  Instead of feeling sad and emotional, I beamed with happiness and felt her loving presence while we sang.   My Dad has continued to support us, loving to come to St John's when I sing there and it was comforting to have him there with Lindsay.  Ash texted me a bunch of flowers as she completes her last trip in Spain while studying abroad in Amsterdam.  Time is getting close for her arrival home - and we are so excited!

As I continued to think about Mother's Day, I remembered my wonderful mother-in-law, Mamon, as I called her.  She was a loving woman with so much wisdom and while she spoke Polish more fluently than English, we had a nice bond.

Throughout the day, I thought of my beautiful daughters, Lindsay and Ashley, and how they have grown into caring and loving adults, each embarking on exciting futures of their own.  I feel blessed and send love and thanks to the many women in my life who have provided support, caring and love to me and my family.


Sunday, May 1, 2016

Oh What A Week: Lessons In One Day At A Time

It started with car maintenance – the usual upkeep and some areas needing to be fixed.  Brought work, kept busy for 4 hours, feeling confident that I’d be ready for a long round trip to NJ, NY and back home next week. 

Two days later, tire issue unresolved  and now my cell phone was not working properly.  Ugh, back to the dealership, only to find that they could not take care of the problem at that time – had to inconvenience clients, rearrange meetings etc

Oh, then the bank misappropriated charges and deposits into the wrong accounts, resulting in a negative balance.  Luckily, their customer service is helpful.  Now back to the car and the phone. I felt like a juggler – not an uncommon place for me to reside.

In the process of feeling overwhelmed by this added stress, I was also really paying attention to meditation every night, separating my thoughts and feelings from who I am and the real reality.  Not an easy feat, but I kept bringing myself back to the fact that I am OK, I am safe, and this will pass.
Next day, ready to head out to NJ with my Dad – this was to be his birthday surprise along with a business aspect for me.  We were going to visit Fr. Steve, a lifelong friend, mentor and someone who is quite frail and ill in the nursing home.  Oh, how I want to see him at least once more before he leaves the earthly plane.

I’ve talked about Fr. Steve and Graymoor in past blogs, but a brief review is in order.  Fr. Steve is a member of the Franciscan Friars of the Atonement, an order whose mission is “that all may be one”, bringing people of all faith communities together for the common good.  This mission aligns with my initiative to create the retreat center in Marblehead.  Part of my visit was to meet with the director in order to discuss potential collaboration.

Dad and I were on the road at 6:30 and stopped about 1 ½ hours out on Mass Pike.  When arriving back to the car, it was dead!  Calmly, I called AAA, got a jump, but was told that the car could die at any point along the trip.  Of course, the decision was to head back to the dealership for the 4th time in a week.  I called ahead to apprise them of the situation.  The service manager felt so badly and they completed this service, providing a new battery, as it may have had a short (somewhat of an unknown reason for the malfunction) and replaced my tire for free.

I continued to feel calm (hey, the meditations are working!), grateful to have some time with Dad and also to recognize that while this week was stressful for sure, we were safe and merely inconvenienced.  I took Dad to Legal’s for his favorite clam chowder and in usual demeanor, he joked with the waiter and manager.  She enjoyed his banter and gave him a large bowl to go for his birthday.

All is well in the world and what really brought it to a place of completion was my taking time to journal last night.  I wrote freely without censoring my writing and man, it was a few pages of complaints, feelings of stress and anxiety, but by the end, I felt free.  I knew earlier in the week that I needed this catharsis, but felt too busy to stop and pay attention.  Luckily, I caught myself and am back on track.

May you find peace in the chaos of life,