Just Breathe

I am struggling with faith. I feel confused, frustrated, worried, scared and disappointed. I want to pin my hopes on something… anything. Instead, there is nothing in my life which seems certain or sure today. The whole thing is up in the air and I am in a position where I am having to simply see how it all plays out. There is a vague working of a plan for the next couple of months and that’s about it. But even that is subject to change at any moment. It all depends. Everything depends. On what? I don’t even know that much.

I have always been able to have faith in one area so long as all of the other areas are stable. But now I am being asked to have faith with everything – sobriety, friendship, community, money, shelter, food, work, love, my children, the future. Each day I am being asked to wake up and simply do what is put in front of me to be done. There is no plan. There is no solidity to stand upon. I am being asked to be open to possibility and flexible to change. I must flow without flooding, bend without breaking. The level of trust which the Universe is calling from me is unlike anything it has called from me before and I am not liking it one bit.

But I always argue with God. I throw my little temper tantrums and get all pouty. I like to stomp my feet and demand my way. I angrily trudge along, muttering under my breath about how unfair the whole thing is. I am resentful and jealous that I don’t get to have the “easy” life that others seem to have. I am forever being put through the fires of transformation. I am always being stretched and I don’t get much of a rest period. The changes, they are always happening. They are challenging and demanding. The Universe expects quite a bit out of me it would seem.

Finally, I take a deep breath and just go where I am led. It always works out exactly right. There has never been a time that the seeming “bad” thing didn’t turn out to be exactly what I needed. I just had to be patient and trust. I had to go through instead of around. I had to move, face-forward, toward the experience instead of running away from it.

On the other side… it is always ridiculously wonderful. It is always completely worth it. I find myself expanded in ways I could not have imagined; capable of more Love, able to express the Light more fully and having an experience of Oneness which is incomparable to anything I had felt before. I am full of gratitude for God’s infinite wisdom and for leading me right where I needed to go. I have always been cared for. I have never been abandoned and I don’t think I will be this time either.

Some say faith is the absence of fear. Well, I call bullshit! on that one. For me faith has worked differently. I am always scared shitless of what may lay ahead. I am a planner and a controller. A runner of things. Relinquishing control and simply trusting is the hardest, scariest thing I do every day. In order to let go I have to dig deep and draw my courage from my faith. I find my faith in my history. The Universe has proven over and over again that Its plan is better than mine, that I am Loved, that I am never alone, that everything is always working towards the highest and greatest good of everyone, all the time. It’s ok. I can relax. The Universe is entirely reliable and can be depended upon at all times.

So today, I think I’m just going to let it all go and enjoy the exact moment that is being presented to me. Right now this minute all my needs are met. I am surrounded by love, I have wonderful companionship, I have fun work to do, all my bills are paid and there is food in the fridge. There is absolutely nothing to worry about right now in this moment so why not enjoy it? Why not soak it all up for everything it’s worth?

Just for today, just for this moment, I will breathe deeply. I will fill my lungs with the Light which surrounds me. I will express the Love which is who I am without reserve, without bounds and without limitation. I will Love unconditionally both myself and everyone I come in contact with. I will experience the moments ahead without judgment, simply allowing them to unfold as they are. I will face the future with happy anticipation. Why shouldn’t I? I have never been let down before.

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Love; Not-Love

The nature of love is that it brings everything that is not love to the surface.- Dance with the Beloved, Paul Ferrini

I think I should start with a big ‘ole disclaimer:  I don’t actually believe in “not love.”  I really believe that in the final analysis, when you step all the way back and consider the big, huge cosmic universal picture, there is only love. I say this with every ill-intentioned, gross, horrible, human thing I have ever done or ever witnessed or ever heard about in the forefront of my mind. War, poverty, illness, abuse, suffering and violence are simply the outcome of a systemic belief in the idea of separation between ourselves and God. Once the belief in separation is removed the so-called “bad” things cease to exist. In Reality (that capital “R” means something here!) there is no duality. There is only One. So yeah… we all get that “not love” is the fallacious deduction of separation.

Wonderful! Great! One problem – we have to actually exist, at least temporarily, in this world of our creation which we call reality (catch that little “r” I used there). Why? What the hell is the point?! I think (and lots of guruesque, spiritually advanced people seem to agree) we are here to evolve our spirit. That’s the purpose of this particular manifestation of reality. It is a school to learn in and a lab to experiment with. As in school there are rules and as in an experiment there are controls, but as any good freethinker knows- rules are made to be broken and control is an illusion. It is almost as if they exist for the benefit of our challenge. Every construct and control that has been handed to us in this reality should be questioned. I hope that none of us would blindly follow the abundance of “mediocre social contracts” (as Rev. Michael Beckwith said this past Sunday) with which we are indoctrinated from the moment we exit the womb and are slapped into this consciousness on the behind.

But I digress.

My point. My point is this… we have to start somewhere, with some kind of language to differentiate the reality from the Reality. In Reality all is always Perfect, Whole and Complete. Which is incredibly super and amazing and lovely in ways I can’t even describe. But in reality, I think we can all agree, things get a little messier, a little imperfect, a little incomplete. They have to. Otherwise, what would be the point of being here? So it is in these spaces of incomplete, imperfect, messy humanness that we get to do all of our learning and evolving. Like I said, it helps to have language for it and the convention of “love stuff” and “not-love stuff” seems as good as any to me.

Whew! Glad we are all on the same page now.

Back to our quote! Mr. Ferrini says that it is love’s nature to bring not-love to light. This means that love cannot help but to expose that which is not of itself. It is as if, when love is being expressed, not-love stuff gets a nice, big, fat floodlight shone onto it. The helicopters are whirring overhead and the scent dogs are on the loose. Not-love cannot escape the scrutiny of love. When a light shines very brightly the depth of darkness which surrounds it is all the more evident. Then the question becomes “What do we do with all that darkness?”

For me, this is where all that schoolwork turns into a post-doctoral thesis on spiritual evolvement. Concepts like Karma, or the Golden Rule if you prefer, are kindergarten shapes and colors in comparison to how I handle it when not-love begins revealing itself amidst love. Not-love can rear itself up either from within or from the other person. It doesn’t matter which. If we are in relationship, we are both going to have to deal with it. How we deal with it, what we do with it, how we choose to experience, process and move through these moments define who we are separately as individuals and what our relationship to each other is all about.

As an individual, how I find myself handling the not-love experiences acts as an indicator of where I am operating from spiritually. It tells me who I am in this moment, who I am in relation to this particular experience (fear, insecurity, guilt, jealousy, resentment, etc.), and who I am when I am in relationship with whatever person I am having the experience with. Since each of those things change with every moment, situation and person every instance of not-love is an opportunity to learn a thing or two about myself and my journey.  The most groundbreaking thing I learned about myself in love moments was that I’m not great at receiving love. Big whoop. Most of us aren’t!  Oh, and that love, both giving and receiving, feels really, really nice!!

But the things I learn in not-love. Oh goodness!! When it comes to depth of awareness and richness of growth, not-love wins all of the trophies and awards. Straight 10s across the board. These lessons are the big, fat juicy peaches of spiritual growth. They can be bitten into over and over again, chewed on, juiced out and gnawed all the way down to that rough, imperfect pit which lies at the core of every not-love moment I have encountered.

So what do I do when the not-love devils come out to play? Well, sometimes I act like a complete ass. That’s the truth, though I’m happy to report less true these days than in the past. But it does still happen on occasion. I lash out, I retaliate, I get snarky and snotty or become distant and closed off. Armor on! Defenses up!

Here’s a spot-on example out of my distant past:

One summer, while camping in the hot and sticky Florida Keys my tent sprung a leak and flooded in a torrential downpour, all of my food got scavenged by rabies aggressive raccoons the size of cougars and my delight of a four year old child decided not to sleep the entire night. I was hot. I was wet. I was exhausted. I was dirty. I was hungry. A wonderful, sweet, kind fellow camper offered to let me use one of her fans so that my son and I could cool down, dry off and perhaps get a little sleep. Very nice offer! Not in my opinion. You see, she had the audacity to give me her box fan instead of her tall, oscillating fan which I felt would be far more effective in resolving my problems. How dare she?! I am embarrassed to say that I met her love with a snotty, entitled, and ungrateful attitude along with a few choice words. Love, please meet not-love! To her credit, this lovely woman allowed me to use the fan anyway. I believe I spent the remainder of that trip sulking in my tent.

This situation is a perfect example of how one person’s love brought my not-love to the surface. In fact, it turned out to be one of my greatest lessons and has served as a reminder to myself over the course of the years of what a brat I can really be under all the right circumstances. My spiritual mentor at the time, who later revealed that she struggled to keep from slapping me, was able to use this experience to reveal some things to me about who I was (i.e., entitled, ungrateful, incapable of receiving love, fearful, selfish, self-centered, inconsiderate, lacking in grace and awareness, etc.). Surprisingly for who I was at that time, it really hit home. I saw it, I learned from it and I grew. I was actually ashamed of my behavior. That was kind of a new one for me. I am happy to report that in my current consciousness, when I am met with the love of a kind favor, I am usually able to accept it with grace, gratitude and dignity. I have also learned to just keep my mouth shut when I’m hungry and/or tired!!

These days, thankfully, I tend to react with a greater degree of maturity and self-control when not-love makes an appearance. Over the years I have developed a practice of mindful awareness and I am now more in tune with my mental, emotional and spiritual state. I have become more sensitive to the subtle (or not so subtle) internal indicators that let me know I have encountered a not-love experience. I know just what fear, insecurity, anger, or even minor irritations feel like inside my body. When I encounter these sensations I am able to stop, take a moment to acknowledge what’s happening and then begin asking myself some questions. What is the reaction I am having specifically? What is its source? What am I afraid of? What false belief am I subscribing to that is fueling this reaction? I get to process my reactions, figure out what it’s all about, learn from it, release it and begin moving from that space of not-love to one of love.

I don’t want to give the impression that this process is quick, easy or painless. Occasionally, that is true and I am always incredibly grateful for the grace of those moments. More often though, it is not. In fact, this process can be quite painful at times and some issues will come up over and over, seemingly never getting resolved but at least improving. Spiritual growth is never a straight line for me. It tends to consist of a lot of dips and loopty-loops and backwards marching but on the average of the curve there does seem to be some steady improvement. I am getting better. I am learning. I am growing. I am evolving. I am getting closer and closer to my Truth, to fully expressing the Divine within as the unique form which is me. I am becoming more peaceful. I am becoming more effective in navigating my personal relationships and in achieving the results that I truly want. I am becoming more love and less not-love.

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All You Need is Love

All You Need is Love.

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All You Need is Love

Lord, make me an instrument of your peace;

Where there is hatred, let me sow love;

Where there is injury, pardon;

Where there is doubt, faith;

Where there is despair, hope;

Where there is darkness, light;

Where there is sadness, joy;

 

O Divine Master, grant that I may not so much seek to be consoled as to console;

To be understood as to understand;

To be loved as to love.

 

For it is in giving that we receive;

It is in pardoning that we are pardoned;

And it is in dying that we are born to eternal life.

-Prayer of St. Francis of Assisi

Roughly two weeks ago I received a call from my father. He had been to the hospital again only this time he did not recover per the usual and they had released him to hospice. I couldn’t even make it through the call. That word. Hospice. My God. I was gripped with pain and grief so immediate and so violent, I felt my ribs pull apart, my heart collapse in on itself and all of the air inside me fled into this sound… I don’t even know what that sound was. Something deeply silent escaping through a mouth stretched open to its limits baring teeth and gums punctuated by small gasps of wailing anguish. Yeah, something like that.

I was at work. That kinda sucked.

I spent the next 24 hours indulging the grief. Descending into a desperately insane neediness, begging for someone to come and fix it. Make it feel better. Now! Anyone. Anyhow. I didn’t care! The rawness of the emotion fiercely intense and completely impossible to ignore. I even considered a chemical solution. A pill, a drink, a joint. Not to get high… but the oblivion of it. The relief that the darkness of blackout brings. Dangerous territory.

Then all of a sudden this thought came. Not even a thought. A word. God. It slowly descended upon my consciousness in a wave of peace gently erasing all that crazed terror in its path. My heart and my mind cleared. Serenity and sanity prevailed. I saw that I was suffering from a severe form of self-centered fear. I was afraid of losing my dad. I simply didn’t know how I would do life without him. He is my rock, my foundation, my everything. Me! Me! Me! Did it matter that he might be in pain? That he might be suffering? That his quality of life may have been so compromised that he was no longer even himself? Selfish!

I am forever the champion of allowing everyone their journey with the universe. Of trusting the universe and It’s Divine Wisdom implicitly. Except it would seem when it came to Dad’s transition. For some reason I seemed to think that I get to have a say in that one. I saw then that this was just like every other moment in my life when I simply had to trust. Trust that my father and God could make this decision without the benefit of my input. In reality this had nothing to do with me. My job was to support him and love him and be present for him in this moment. Nothing more.

It was then that I found myself in a state of merciful grace which upheld me and carried me through this journey. I was now being carried by God and I knew it. For the first time I understood, really understood, what it meant to have God work through me and for me. The pain remained but was accompanied by a state of peace so deep and complete that the pain no longer moved me. Instead, I began to move it. With conscious intention it was acknowledged, valued, breathed into and purposefully breathed right back out.

I got into action. Calls were made, information was gathered, flights were booked. Then another call came. “Rachel, it’s worse than we thought. He wants to die. I’m not sure he will hang on much longer. The doctor says it could be tonight. You better come right away.” Once again I was overtaken. Sobbing.

Will I not even have the opportunity to say goodbye to my most beloved relationship? This man did not just father me. He saved my life. He loved me when no one else would. He never, ever turned his back on me. Not in the depths of my addiction. Not when I stole from him, mistreated him, yelled at him, abused him. Not ever. He only ever welcomed me back home with open arms and a loving heart. He loved me right where I was and never expected anything more or less than I was willing to give. His love was never accompanied by strings, expectations, guilt, or grievances. He is the very definition of unconditional love. And now he is going away forever. Will I make it in time?

A friend reminded me that the God was in charge of that. Big sigh of relief. Oh that’s right. I forgot again. My job is to take the next indicated step and leave the rest of it to God. I’m not in charge here. This is not about me.

Flights were rearranged. It was then that I really began to think of his legacy. What is the gift my father leaves with us? How have we all benefited from knowing him? What can I do to honor him every day? I realized that he treated almost everyone with the same amount of compassion and love that he gave to me. In fact, there was an entire team of people back home in Miami that were running around like mad to do everything possible for him. They were advocating for him, moving him into their home, making his arrangements, watching over him, sitting up with him, feeding him, making sure I was being kept in the loop, wishing and praying every moment, right along with me, that he not be taken from them just yet.

I hopped on the plane and I began to ask God what It would have me be in this situation. What could I bring? What could I give? The prayer of St. Francis came to me. I clearly saw that my purpose was not only to be there for my father but to also be there for the people that love him and are so willing to give every last bit of themselves to care for him. All of their time, all of their resources, all of their energy. I was to be a bringer of love, peace, light and comfort to the very best of my ability. I was to face calamity with serenity and I was to do my best to keep God at the center of this experience.

I arrived in Miami on Tuesday morning at 7am and left on Friday at noon. The events that transpired over the course of those 3+ days have left me filled with an incredible sense of the Universe always at work… in every breath, moment, experience, person… in every everything. The sheer volume of “God shots” or “Godincidences” cannot even be recounted. I can’t even remember them all! There were so many, one right after the other. I carried with me this persistent sense of being guided and directed in a story the Universe had already written. A story which was brimming with the power of love and the effect of faith.

In fact, it began on the car ride from the airport. Having just come off a red eye, being exhausted and needing to get awake we made coffee a priority. Luckily Miami produces a coffee that is the equivalent of rocket fuel. Cuban coffee (Colada), is so potent it comes with a stack of shot glasses. We made a beeline for the nearest gas station (Yes, that’s right. This delicious nectar can be found at just about any gas station!) More importantly, I walk through the door and the very first person I see is J. Who is J? Well let’s see… long-time family friend and top notch member of the daddy recovery team… that’s who. And what is J doing at this completely random gas station in Miami that is not anywhere near where my father is? Why… he’s there to get me coffee!!

I’m sorry… WHAT?!

It was like this the entire time. It never ended. The constant reminder that God is at work, that everything is being taken care of, there is nothing to worry about, everything is happening exactly as it should.

I finally arrived at the location where my father had been moved to. Even though he almost didn’t survive the move it had to be done. My dad is poor. Like really poor. He lived by himself in the equivalent of a shack that got robbed at least once a month. He just couldn’t be left there anymore. So another friend offered her home and resources to him. A beautiful four bedroom home on the water with plenty of space not just for dad… but for his entourage that came right along with him. Just so happened that daddy got his own room, with his own bathroom and two extra beds in the room for my oldest son and I to sleep on. It all worked perfectly.

Another friend had taken charge of tracking medications, nurses, aides, social workers, agencies, medical equipment and had taken it upon herself to stay up with him all night keeping watch. She had written everything down and had it all ready for me so that I could jump right in.

J had taken charge of errand running, packing up dad’s house, and handling general affairs. Yet another friend brought food, kept dad company and took charge of planning the arrangements for his final transition.

Despite the complete selflessness of his friends I could see right away that they were stressed and exhausted. I could tell the fear was weighing on them just as it had on me. I could feel their worry and the effect that it was having. They were getting worn down by it and some defects of character were coming out to play. Things were getting a little tense. All pretty normal in a situation like this but I knew that I was here to offer relief. I could see that behind the tension was fear and behind the fear was a loyalty of love so fierce they were willing to sacrifice themselves (and put up with each other! LOL) in service to my father. He had loved each and every one of them the exact way he had loved me. I understood how they felt. It didn’t take much to release the tension and restore some balance. A gentle reminder of how my father loved us all and the suggestion that we should all love each other in exactly the same way was all that was required.

Everyone kind of started to chill out. We worked together to care for dad and to facilitate the non-stop stream of visitors that came to see him. I heard “Your father saved my life.” at least fifty times in those three short days. The outpouring of love and service from his community flowed through the home like a torrent carrying with it a healthy dose of good vibes and healing energy.

On Wednesday afternoon I received a message. A good friend and spiritual practitioner from my church was stranded at the airport in Miami and needed a place to stay.

I’m sorry, WHAT?!

I hopped in the car and got him straight away. Upon our arrival to the house I received a slew of calls and felt myself beginning to succumb to my temper. I hung up the phone and practically dragged my friend outside for prayer. There we sat in the warm drizzling rain holding hands, talking and praying. I am so very human and full of all of my own failings and so the Universe aligned to provide me with exactly what I needed, right when I needed it to keep me on the beam.

That evening we were all out in the living room. A motley crew of loved ones coming together from all the parts and pieces of me and dad’s life filling this home with love and holding a space of healing and joy. We were laughing, joking, talking and being loud because we refuse to take anything to seriously, even death. All of a sudden we look up and who’s standing there? Daddy. Hands on his hips, twinkle in his bright blue eyes, looking around and checking out the action. Everyone cheered! He didn’t stay for long. Just a minute then he had to make his way back to bed. But I knew it right then. He was going to be okay. I collapsed against the wall and sobbed. Big, huge, gushing sobs of relief and gratitude.

He improved just a bit each day that I was there and by the time I left we had gone from making plans for his final arrangements to making plans for his long term care. I had thought that I would return home with a broken heart but instead returned with a heart full to bursting with love, hope, awe and gratitude. I find myself cemented in the knowledge that the Divine Plan is so much smarter than my own. I know in the very depth of my soul, in that secret place where Truth makes its home, that my father’s recovery is entirely the result of the outpouring of love and support from his family and community. My father has given so much love to others and his efforts came back to serve him. This is the way the Universe is always at work. If we pay attention we can always see it. We can find the Divine Plan at work in every nook and cranny of our experience. It is always there waiting to be noticed.

It should be said that my father is an atheist. He does not believe in God and if he ever reads this post it will be accompanied by quite a bit of eye rolling, I can assure you. He too is so very, very human and that is my favorite thing about him.

Before he fell ill my father had a daily practice of sending “good morning” messages out to a whole slew of people. It was a thing. We all talked about it and joked about it and when they stopped coming I felt a sense of loss at their absence. Before I left I reminded him not to forget his “good morning” service work. I let him know I fully expected to see one soon.

This morning I got it. The first one.

“Morning. Think I’m getting better.” 

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Don’t Leave Before the Miracle Happens

“I am the miracle.” – Buddha

On March 23rd I celebrated 14 years free from alcohol and drugs. Each year when this landmark date passes I take the time to consider the journey. And it has been a journey. I wish I could say that all I had to do was put the substances down and get on with life. That was not the case for me.

There has been a lot of work to do over the past 14 years and for the most part I have been up to the task.  What really struck me when I took the time to think about this 14th year was just how big my God truly is. I hold God entirely responsible for my sobriety. I know that I would not be sober without this Power. But to be perfectly honest putting the booze down was not the hardest part for me; living without it has been the hardest part. When I got sober it was never my intention to become a better person, a person of faith or even happy and successful. I just wanted to quit drinking! But in my efforts to stay sober what I have gotten in return is the opportunity to overcome all of my demons. Not just substance abuse but anger, fear, guilt, selfishness, dishonesty, and every other human failing you can think of.

I look back and I can honestly say that I have embraced that opportunity. I have faced my demons as squarely as possible and with all the courage I could muster. However, some very deep things have continued to linger on. In another post: Intersections I describe in detail one of those things. And in yet another: Found Here I also describe another of those long struggles. What I realized is that this year… BOTH of those things have FINALLY been relieved!!

I wish I could express to you how many times I have just wanted to throw in the towel. I have thought on so many occasions “I will NEVER really get over this. I will NEVER be truly free of it.” I have had many professionals and laymen fully support that notion. I have been told “No, you probably never will be 100% free from this hurt.” And yet, here I am. Totally free. And not just free… GRATEFUL!! Grateful for the opportunity that all of my life experiences have given me.

This year I have experienced levels of forgiveness and peace that I have never thought possible. I have had deep realizations of Wholeness which have completely shifted the way I see myself and the world. My understanding of God’s universe and my place in it has been revolutionized. Again! I continue to be in awe of how spiritual progress is always at hand; it is never done so long as I continue to work for it. The miracles never seem to stop coming. Sometimes I wonder what I did to deserve this ridiculously blessed life.

I am not a rich person. I don’t have an “easy” life. I struggle with life on life’s terms just as much as anyone: I get short on cash, my kids get sick, my car breaks down. But what I do have is FREEDOM. Despite everything that has been done to me and everything that I have done to others, each night I get to lay my head on my pillow with peace of mind and a quiet heart. I get to look my children right in the eye and when I look in the mirror I can look myself in the eye. My heart is filled with love and all I ever want to do these days is help others and bring love as much as I can to the people around me.

I have no idea when this angry, hateful girl consumed with selfishness turned into the woman I have just described but I know it has happened. Others have told me that they see it too. We have a saying in our fellowship: Don’t leave five minutes before the miracle happens! I have thought many, many times “It’s never going to happen for me. I’m just too damaged.” I’m so grateful that I never gave into that thought. I have been healed. I have been restored to the knowledge of Wholeness that was my Reality all along.

If you are struggling with your own demons I hope my story can give you hope. Never give up on yourself. Keep the faith! Hold the line! Miracles happen. Every. Single. Day. They have happened for me. DON’T LEAVE BEFORE THE MIRACLE HAPPENS FOR YOU!!!

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C’mon Baby Tomato, Ketchup!

When I was 18, I was pretty much a loser.  I won’t bore you with all the details but in a nutshell I was a strung out drug addict, in an abusive relationship, barely graduated from high school, living in a less than desirable situation and I was pregnant.  I had little hope and no ambition.  I was resigned to a life in the gutter.  Perfectly content to mete out whatever kind of awful life I could until finally, I died of an overdose or was killed in some unfortunate circumstance.  Not really the kind of girl anyone was looking to bring home to mom or really bring anywhere for that matter.  

Hold on! Hold on! I already know what you’re going to say.  You were not a loser.  You were sick.  You suffered from a disease.  If that’s true then it follows that there is no such thing as a loser.  Arguments could certainly be made in that direction.  But let’s just say, for the sake of this article, that losers exist.  And if losers exist then at the tender age of 18 I met every qualification available for that designation.

Fast forward nineteen years.  I have battled my demons, raised my kid, went to school and became fully employed.  I pay my own bills and take full responsibility for myself and my kids.  I am not looking for anyone to save me because I have already saved myself.  I am a smart, funny, happy, resourceful and empowered woman.  I am even fairly emotionally balanced.  In other words-NOT A LOSER.  I am about as far from a loser as it gets.  I am a winner!  And I have been for quite some time now.  In fact, the one and only area that I might not consider myself a winner in is my romantic relationships.

You see, I’m what you might call a serial monogamist.  I switch relationships about every 2-3 years without much of a break in between.  Each time I inevitably choose a man who is completely inappropriate for me in some way.  For example not one of my last four relationships was a fully self-supporting dude.  They were all living off of someone in some way.  For a single mom, this should be a red flag.  But not for me.  Paint it green I say!!  Full steam ahead! 

My father has been telling me since I had my first child that any guy I date should have a job, a car and his own place to live.  “Bare minimum requirements.” he says.  And it always sounds like good, reasonable advice to me.  I mean, it IS reasonable advice.  Uh.  Until that cute guy with the winning smile and a sad story to tell comes along.  Then it suddenly seems to me that a car, a job and a place to live might be too much to ask.  Do you not see how vulnerable he is?!

There are always all kinds of red flags.  They are there staring me down right from the beginning.  Things like: He’s 50 years old, been married three times and lives with his mom.  (I married that one! HA!)  I ignore them.  I rationalize them away, make excuses or use “compassion” as a tool to make these things ok.  I think to myself “I’m a crazy druggie with a kid.  Who the hell is gonna date me anyway?  Not those awesome guys over there with their shit together.  Guys like that don’t date girls like me.”  In all sincerity, I married that one guy because I was turning thirty and I was sure that no one else would ever want to marry me anyway.  And besides, he seemed nice enough! 

And he was.  He wasn’t a bad guy.  Only a couple of them have been truly awful.  Most are perfectly nice guys that were simply not a good match from me right from the start but that I insisted on dating because I somehow missed the part of my life where I became a winner.  A clear and present lack of knowing my own worth. 

Over the holidays I was laying on the couch with my new baby.  I was cuddling him and looking at what a precious and perfect little thing he is and for some reason I had a very deep realization of my worthiness.  I realized that I deserve, as much as anybody, to be happy.  I am worthy of every desire of my heart and that includes a partner that is a good match for me.  I am no longer that 18 year old girl.  I haven’t been for a really long time.  

I have been operating all these years from the consciousness of that 18 year old girl instead of from the consciousness of my current 37 year old self.  Get current.  That’s exactly what I needed to do.  Current with who I am today instead of living from who I used to be.  It was time to stop making choices based upon this idea that I was not worth anything more than what I had been settling for all these years.  It was time for me to catch up!

I also realized that I had been causing all of these men a great harm by not operating from my current self.  Doesn’t the worthiness of each of these men also demand that they be partnered with someone who is choosing them from a place of worthiness?  Why should they be stuck with someone who is settling for less than what is perfect for her?  They too get to be with their perfect partner and I am sitting here taking them up and keeping them from their potential happiness.

My dad has another piece of advice he likes to give me.  Don’t be with the wrong one when the right one comes along.  I am their wrong one and they are mine.  It is up to me to release the relationship the moment I see that this is the case and not a minute later.  Or else I may be robbing us both of our ultimate happiness. 

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Intersections

“In life, we each walk our unique path, and yet, our paths intersect; through time, circumstance, tragedy, accomplishment, and spiritual evolution.” – Rev. Joshua Reeves

At church this month Rev. Josh has been focusing on intersecting paths, those places in our journey where some person or event comes along and forever changes us. As I think back through my life I can easily identify all of those intersecting lines. I can see all of the people, situations and events which have crossed paths with my own and left me different in some significant way.

It is easy enough to celebrate the good stuff.  Things like the birth of my children, being released from the bondage of addiction, and meeting each of my spiritual mentors are all things that spring to mind as life changers and are immediately met with a great surge of joy and gratitude.

But what about the not-so-great stuff? That stuff leaves you changed too. How do I honor or even feel gratitude for the so-called “bad” stuff? Truthfully there has been so much of that on my journey. These things are just as much a part of who I am today and my experience of this lifetime. So I think it is equally important to pay attention to these intersecting lines as well. They are admittedly more painful to recall and can certainly be harder to appreciate, but I love who I am today and the fact is… these experiences count as a part of that. They count for a lot! In fact, one of the most altering events of my life was a pretty awful one.

When I was 11 years old I went to live with my father and his girlfriend K. Let’s just say that K was not a nice lady. I spent the next year enduring levels of physical, sexual and psychological abuse that no child should ever hear about much less experience first-hand. In the spring of the following year the authorities finally stepped in and forcibly removed me from the home. At that time all the hair had been cut off my head, I was severely malnourished, covered in welts and bruises, my nose was broken and pus was leaking freely from the wounds to my eardrums. I would need three surgeries to repair some of the more grievous damage. The doctors proclaimed that they had no idea how I had survived the roadmap of abuse they saw on my body. But as anybody who has been through something like this could tell you, it is the psychological scars, the ones you can’t readily see that affected me the most.

After I was finally freed from K, the following months were spent in and out of examinations, evaluations, depositions, court hearings and interviews. It was a whirlwind of appointments and activities which led to absolutely nothing. K was never prosecuted. Eventually my mother was able to earn custody again and I was sent home from foster care. By the time I was 13, life had gotten back to “normal.” My hair was already down to my shoulders.

But of course, I was changed. Forever. My path intersected with K’s and I would never be the same. All that was left was a big black hole. Nothingness. A bleak fog of hopeless apathy descended and was followed by 10 good years of drunken, rage-filled self destructive behavior. I often say that during this time drugs and alcohol saved my life. They were the only thing that made life worth living.

Eventually I got sober. I learned to take responsibility for who I am today and to stop blaming the past for the present. I found God. I was able to take my experiences and use them to help others. I crawled out of that pit of hopelessness and despair and found Life. With a capital L!! Healing from my intersection with K has been a long, hard road. There has been a whole lot of trudging with small leaps of progress where a ray of light beams itself straight into my soul and I can actually feel a shift towards forgiveness. But those are kind of rare. Really, it’s just been trudge, trudge, trudge!

A few years ago the ear infections started up again and I once again had to face up to my past. I went to a series of doctors and finally a few months ago I found one that seemed to have a real answer. It looked like I would be facing surgery again. 25 years later and I am still dealing with the consequences of this woman’s path crossing mine. The anger welled up in me in a way that it hadn’t since I was young in sobriety. I knew I had to move through this resentment because it would poison me if I didn’t. But man was I pissed!! I was so SICK of this woman being in my heart, in my head and in my soul. These black patches of emptiness that I kept having to battle through over and over and over. UGH! When would I ever be rid of her?!

I was stuck. Big time. I could not seem to pull myself out of the quicksand the way I usually do and it was eating me alive. Finally, a friend suggested that I write K a good-bye letter. I balked for a good three weeks. If I were being real I would tell you I was kind of enjoying my justifiable rage. It was providing a sense of power over a situation which had once again left me feeling completely powerless. But I knew that this power was a false one. Like fool’s gold it draws me in with the glimmering promise of salvation only to leave me bankrupt and empty.

So I sat down to write the letter. I assumed it would be full of hate and rage and cussing. Lots and lots of cussing! But it wasn’t. Instead I found myself speculating about what motivated her to do such awful things to a little girl. I started thinking about all of the horrible things that this woman must have endured herself in order to become the monster I knew. I started to see her as a human being, once a little girl full of innocence that somewhere was lost. I saw her as a child of God, as a sister. I experienced a sense of Oneness with her. I thought about all the pain she too must battle with every single day and I felt compassion. I realized that she was just like me. That she felt all of the things that I felt. That she had been through everything that I had been through.

Then I started thinking about the people who did these things to her. Suddenly I could see the whole line of pain reaching back through the generations beginning with some long ago forgotten hurt. I saw how that pain was transmitted from person to person. Passed on along from him to her to him to her to me. I knew then that K was simply the unwitting vehicle of dark energy that had been given to her and being spiritually blind as she was, she had no choice but to transmit that darkness to me.

And that is when I saw the tremendous impact of that intersection. You see, everything I really love about myself I discovered as a result of that meeting. I discovered my true strength, my tenacity, my courage, my insistence that I enjoy every bit of my life, my honesty, my compassion and empathy for others, my relationship with God and most importantly my ability to help others just like me. K had given me her darkness and with the help of many friends and God’s power I transformed it into Light. Now that energy is transmitted from person to person as a healing and it multiplies exponentially throughout the world.

I told K in the letter, that she didn’t need to worry anymore. That it stopped with me. That a miracle had been performed within me and all of her darkness is now nothing but Light. What else could such a transformation be if not a miracle? I felt grateful that I had been chosen for this transformation. I set her free and by doing so I set myself free.

Today I live in Love and Light. The darkness is gone. Whenever I think of K these days I only think of the miracle. I meet this intersection with all of the same joy and gratitude that I do the “good” ones. This intersection changed me. Forever. It helped me realize who I truly am: A vehicle for miracles, a transmission line for the Power of Good.

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