Sunday, March 26, 2017

Facing Mortality, Planning, Letting Go

It was early Friday morning and I was excited to visit with Dad, yet also feeling some apprehension about the visits to meet with his doctor and lawyer, initiated by me, balked at by him.

I get it - growing older has its own set of challenges - facing the end of life, confusion due to dementia, hanging on for dear life for what was and will no longer be.

My Dad has an amazing doctor.  She is caring, lighthearted enough and very realistic, not sugar-coating anything.  She started by saying that she had not seen me in a while and I remarked that Dad had cancelled our appointments, a great segway into the dynamics that have existed during my life.  I had decided prior to our visit and really prayed on it, that I would not judge his behavior - protection, love, disinterest - who knows and not for me to figure out.

I reviewed the items for safety and his refusal to move to elderly housing, his choice in not selling his home despite having few resources to financially support him.  My Dad needs the help, allows me, then refuses - a dance that we've played for years, as well as a familiar routine with he and Mom.  As we closed the session, she gently, but firmly told me this is his journey and choice and there is not much that I can do.

I hear it, understand it, yet wrestle with so many emotions - wanting to control the outcome, wanting a connection that has not been there, feeling frustrated and sad all at the same time.

Next stop - tires for his car - check.  Lunch - check.  And some nice conversation - many stories repeated for the 1000th time, but that's okay.  My kids remind me that I repeat myself quite a bit too!

Now, to meet with his lawyer.  This was by far the more challenging visit, as Dad had chosen throughout life to not learn about finances, insurance etc, and his views of what he has in the bank are very skewed - "I have tons of money" to "I have these big bills coming in and don't know how to pay for them".  While some heat and calm, overall, things were explained and I would call it success!

On the way home, I got to visit with one of my closest friends and we talked about the challenges of family dynamics and how to really let go, being in a place of loving acceptance.

By the end of an 11 hour ride from start to finish, I was pretty tired and as I chose my stones for my meditation and began to breathe deeply preparing for sleep, I thought back to one of my last visits with Mom before she died.  She was in the rehab center and my friend, a massage therapist, gave me some nice oil as I wanted to massage her legs and feet.  It felt so good to be able to do this for Mom and it reminded me of the Holy Thursday ritual at our church where there would be the washing of the feet, symbolizing Jesus being a servant to others, showing love and respect for his fellow men and women.

We had a brief conversation sitting on the edge of the bed and she asked about my cancer, telling me that this was a serious health concern.  I reassured her that I was doing everything possible to remain healthy and to learn about my illness.  As I drove away, I saw her sitting on the bed, waving out to me.  I cried most of my way home fro my visit with her, and as I lay in bed this night, I sobbed deeply.  At the end of my catharsis, I felt so much better, at peace and realized that this day represented the cycle of life and how powerful the process of letting go really is.

May you find peace in the process.
With love,

Wednesday, March 22, 2017

Steppin Into Another's Shoes

I"f you could actually stand in someone else's shoes, Julie, to hear what they hear, see what they see, and feel what they feel, you would honestly wonder what planet they live on and be totally blown away by how different their "reality" is from yours. 

You'd also never, in a million years, be quick to judge again. 

Just sayin' - 
    The Universe"

Each day as I go through my day, I am drawn to so many themes to write about.  I think its time to carry the recorder, but given my lack of tech-savviness, not sure I'd know what to do!  On the other hand, just being in the experience of allowing Nature to tweak my thought process and perception, is such a gift!  The birds, ocean waves, rocks and sunlight speak to me in so many ways.

This important theme has already arisen a few times this week - once with my daughter, Ashley, again with a client and then a friend.  I've also talked about this theme in the past, using the analogy of changing one's colored glasses.

My "go-to" position, learned behavior from about the age of two as I've been told by various healers, none of who knew each other, was to "fix-it" for the other person.  Of course, it is well-known in the healing professions that many of us do wonderfully compassionate work based on our own traumas and challenges.  At this time in life, I am more able to step back a bit before diving into the "fix-it" mode and to allow the discomfort of the other to pour out.

It is not easy to be in this place, but I am learning and being open to trusting that this is a part of what the world at large needs.  Let's talk a moment about my discussion with my daughter.  We discovered that she feels intensely, but has a hard time articulating it accurately into words, which can cause confusion, concern and a feeling of being misunderstood.  She's also a Cancer and I will come back to that in a moment.  I tend to think through and prioritize how to manage a stressful or dangerous situation, without feeling at the time.  I have been aware of this pattern for years, knowing the origins very well.  I grew up in an era where "good girls were to be seen and not heard", where feelings were invalidated and usually not allowed to be expressed.  I was often trying to save my Mom.  It has only been the past few years, where I can tap into feeling more and many times there is a sting or "ouch factor", that lasts for a bit, but the good news is that is does subside.  I am a Virgo!

The sun and other signs do give us clues about our personality and some of the challenges we are here to face and transform. Cancer is about feeling deeply, while Virgo is about analyzing and fixing.  

I used some of this discussion with my client, helping her to think about and feel perhaps a little differently about an uncomfortable situation and this became a breakthrough for her.

What is important for us to think about is being in the moment with the person, animal, Nature, stopping the automatic response or unconscious, thus allowing its true nature to become evident.  That often also requires knowing that we are not here to "fix things", but to honor them with the intention of the highest good for all!


Friday, March 10, 2017

A Beautiful Walk

My usual routine is to start my day with yoga, but today, I really wanted to walk with Tammie before the super cold settled back in.  It was invigorating and by the time we reached Fort Sewall, the snow was starting.

I love this spot along the water.  Up the hill to the left at Fort Sewall, is one of my favorite trees.  It is sturdy, has many limbs and stands majestically overlooking the harbor.  Trees for me have such meaning - life, stability, roots, adaptable with the seasons.

As I walked, I felt refreshed and renewed, feeling so grateful for having this time living in Marblehead.  I had dreamed of being here back in my 20's - my folks grew up in Lynn, not far from here - and I visited usually riding my bicycle through town.

While life has been anything but stable since I arrived, I nonetheless continue to love its natural beauty and my feeling of safety here.  Soon, I shall leave this lovely town, but the memories and connections I have made, will ever stay with me.

I've cycled through town and around the neck; I've kayaked the harbor; I've created a health series on the cable television; I write for the newspaper;  I worked on creating a 501 (c) 3 retreat and while it did not come to fruition, I learned so much about the process; my daughter was married at Crocker Park and we enjoyed an intimate wedding and party at our condo banquet room overlooking the breath-taking harbor; I have developed amazing relationships with healers, two in particular who are worth checking out - and

In fact, I could not be on the path that I am now with such confidence without the amazing support of both Dr. Ensworth and Kristina Landry.  I am truly grateful.

Lastly, my daily journey usually includes yoga and I have found such strength, grounding and support at The Yoga Loft, here is town.

With warmth and gratitude,

Wednesday, March 8, 2017

Letting Go: A Process

As I sit at my local Whole Foods, awaiting an inspection on the sale of my condo, I am recognizing the various emotions that I’ve held over these past few weeks.  I came in from shredding documents at Staples – Mom and Dad papers that are no longer needed.  I will weave in more on shredding a bit later.

Nothing in our family happens gradually – there is generally a flurry of major events, often converging at the same time.   This feels reminiscent of my life and the image that comes to mind is from Beauty and the Beast, when Beast is stabbed, about to die and suddenly, his body is morphed through time and space becoming a heavenly sight.

Now, I will not pretend that I am a heavenly sight – I’ll leave that to any beholder, friend or family – but the morphing aspect, shall I say metamorphosis, really resonates with my process this last number of years. 

I used to joke about not ever wanting to look into my crystal ball 30 years ago, because who knows if I would have signed up!  Knowing what I know now, I would say,” yup, I’m in”, but if I were looking into this unknown future, hmm, I may have been quite afraid.

Life, God, faith – all have given me tools to persevere. Coupled with a curious desire to look within, to do my work, to look at my less than ideal qualities – I have created an environment for growth.
Today is the day my Dad was to make his decision to move to senior housing and unfortunately, after a lot of effort to make this a reality, he has refused.  I have felt angry, sad, unable to control things and today, I am peacefully letting this go, even though the future may be filled with less than desirable outcomes. I realize that I am not in control of my Dad’s fate or destiny, that God has created a plan that will reveal itself at a later time.

This brings me to the process that I have been in with my Ashley over these last number of months.  While hoping and looking forward to an exciting senior year in college, the path took another turn, one that is now showing more hopefulness and a light at the end of the tunnel, yet nonetheless, one that has born pain.

I mentioned shredding and this has such significance in my life over these past two weeks, as I chose to shred files that I held onto for 27 years, beginning a year after Lindsay’s birth.  It was during this time that my husband’s illness really took hold and after months of begging for couple’s work, we separated and a long, very frightening period of time overtook our lives.  I was stalked, threatened, held three jobs to pay bills, was pulled into court numerous times.  I often slept with the phone in one hand and my keys in another and at times, had to flee to stay with friends.

Many people told me to write a book, to share this for a movie and I held onto this metal file box for years. 

Following Ashley’s birth, seven years later, we endured a different set of circumstances, not scary this time, but very sad, overwhelming and financially devastating all over again.  While I held onto files, there was not the movie material, but “proof” of my gullibility.
Shredding these documents felt so healing and cathartic because I really get it.  This is not about me being “right” or “righteous”, but it is about understanding that every experience in life and every person we come in contact with, is a child of God or Spirit or of the Universe, meant to help us to heal, to vibrate at a higher frequency.  (God is no longer the man with the white beard, but is this loving universal energy).

This process of letting go will continue and I will write more as I learn and peel the layers of my onion, but for now, I am filled with peace and gratitude.



Sunday, March 5, 2017

Illness: Mind and Body

As I write this entry and article, I am choosing to look at not only the endemic aspects that pervade our society, but the intimate challenges of facing mental health challenges within my own family.
Upon doing my own “work” over the years, I have learned that I was born a very sensitive being, one who absorbed much of the negative energy that surrounded me within my family system.  At a young age, I learned to read others’ feelings and actions quite well and would do anything to gain safety and approval.

While there is the “blessing” in this, as coined in the Ennaegram (an ancient way of looking at personality), there is also the “liability”, in that I was emotionally unprotected, learning how to survive at a very early age.  This story will ring true for many.

As a result, I attracted needy people into my life, knowing how to care for them, helping them to feel loved, supported and able to function.  There was an aunt with bipolar who often stayed with us and I loved her, connected with her and became one of her caretakers later in life.  I went on to marry two brilliant and charismatic men with similar tendencies, my second husband tragically dying from a brain injury.  As I’ve continued my self-discovery, I see the lineage in my father and some of his family.

Interestingly, I am now faced with my younger daughter experiencing a major life crisis at age 21 – not an uncommon time for self-reflection, fear of the future, wondering “who I am” and “what am I meant to do” – the big existential questions.  I have taken on this challenge that she faces coming from a very different place this time.  There is no fear, no anger, no resentment, but instead, a deep compassion and desire to really assist her in working the mind-body-spirit components.

Given who I am personally and professionally (I often state that they are rolled into one with no separation between my personal and professional self), I have sought out professionals who view life with a wider lens, taking the best of each discipline and allowing the suggestions to sift, with those revealing themselves that “feel” right.

Our path has been to use traditional therapy, extensive labs (I am awaiting the full genome results), shamanic clearing, mind-body therapies such as yoga and meditation, medications, supplements and psychoanalysis.  None of these broader approaches and long-term programs are insurance covered.  Looking at some of the labs, there is a significant vitamin D deficiency, a snp (single nucleotide polymorphism or gene abnormality) in MTHFR – these can lead to significant depression in some. 
Backing up a bit, my daughter was born into chaos – a Dad who was ill and died when she was four years old, multiple moves due to financial distress, my illness and disability with a move to a new community followed by my hospitalization for many months.  We needed to move from our last community where we had a very strong connection to our faith community for financial reasons.  We have had occasional visits back to sing and be part of this congregation, a place that I often referred to as my second home! 

My daughter has also experienced minor neurological challenges over the years that improved dramatically with high dose fish oils, probiotics and a special diet used upon food sensitivity testing. 
Bringing together the elements to create the perfect storm, our family is yet again faced with an “opportunity”, one that I know will be a healing one, wrought with pain on all levels, yet one that can bring about healing for others when the time is revealed.

I continue each day to feel blessed for the many gifts – supportive friends and family, life lessons that I choose to see as opportunities, my convoluted education (traditional dietetics, functional medicine, counseling and psychology, yoga, reiki), my unending desire to learn more about myself and others – and the list could go on.   I thank my spiritual mentors from a variety of traditions and for me, Jesus, is an example of how I want to live life.  I grew up learning about him and while I draw upon other spiritual traditions, I know his examples best.  I also find yoga to be an essential, grounding force in my life.

May you explore with an open heart and curiosity, the many lessons that life brings.

With love and blessings,