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Wednesday, October 4, 2017

Broken & Lost Things



          Over the past few days, I’ve shattered a plate and two glasses and maimed the dishwasher. The items slipped from my fingers or jet-propelled themselves mysteriously onto the floor, the dishwasher merely collateral damage from flying glass shards finagling their way into the story. Yesterday, I compiled the totality of destruction, after sweeping up, vacuuming, and scheduling a repairman.
As an exclamation point to a life run amok, the keys to my office vanish. They do this when I am in need of a certificate in my files to renew the letters after my name, signifying to strangers I know what I’m doing.
          That’s hilarious today.
          No, it isn’t.
          To game myself into finding the keys I announce that I do not have to go to the office.
There’s still a couple of weeks before they kick us out of the letter club.
          Within minutes, I remember there is another pocket in my purse, it having disappeared from my understanding for over two hours for no reason at all. The keys are exactly where they always are. This spontaneous discovery of lost things must be similar to what happens when an unleashed memory appears with taste, smells, and feelings attached.
          Today, a decades-old experience rolled in like a swell in the deepest part of the ocean, consuming the sight line until the only thing visible was an ice cream cone. It might have been the three-year-old I saw as I waited in line, his eyes glancing momentarily at me while the rest of him focused on the angle of his mouth circling his vanilla ice cream. Or it was one of those random moments that are embedded in a taste bud and the essence comes to the surface when it sees itself in a mirror. However it happened, I saw her. I saw me at three or maybe four, little black shoes swinging on my feet, an ice cream cone the most important thing in the world.

          Lost things can be found, and what is broken may be glued if all the pieces are collected, and they are patiently held in place. At least that’s the working theory.


  • Last week I was interviewed on WBOM radio by InPrint Writers in Rockford. It may be listened to on YouTube and may be found here. Topics range through healing, meditation, and the creative process. Here are two links for meditation practices I discuss in the interview, Meditation For The Squirrel Brain and 10-Minute Time Out For Stressful Moments.
  • I've found that music lyrics are a way to begin to discern a healing path for broken and lost things. Here is a link to one that I've found helpful. More Than Life by Whitley.

Friday, September 29, 2017

An Unfortunately, Unfortunate Personality Trait.



A riptide containing the past brings what could be expected, an unpredictable current that is ordained by an unmanaged ocean—if one gives a passing thought to red caution flags. 
At fourteen I learned the truth of this standing chest-deep in the water waiting for the perfect wave to body surf to shore, watching as a lifeguard hung warning banners from the tower. I imagined the riptide would grace me with minutes before forcefully ensnaring my ankles. I remember the almost imperceptible sway as the power of what could not be controlled enveloped me into an unbreakable caress, bringing the realization that there was very little between me and an endless walk on the bottom of the ocean.

Several weeks ago I had a dream where I was in a deep sea station, and for no good reason decided to leave through a hatch without diving equipment. In the dream, I came to realize what walking on a seabed with an ocean of water above me meant. There was a crushing weight keeping me pinned, and the awareness that I should be drowning. My lungs were not gasping for air, but the idea made me gasp for air.
Similarly, with healing, I unknowingly knew that as long as I didn’t see the enterprise big-picture-third-person, I’d fair better with hope and intention. Underneath everything, I understood that once I really and truly saw the full-read, there would be a spasm of “oh no” that I could not control.
Oh no, what does this mean?
Oh no, will I always be somewhat or mainly broken?
Oh no, how is this impacting my life and the people in it?
Oh no, there’s pain and suffering.
Oh no, will it last ‘til I die?
Oh no, oh no, oh no, oh no…
The full-read of an injury or illness is shocking, “oh no” is an appropriate response—unfortunately.
An “oh no” is powerful, it is awareness, it is a complete investment in whatever accident, trauma, environmental or DNA-infused, emotional thrashing a person is experiencing. And a full-read is unfortunately unfortunate.
Who wants to know everything?
I’m one of those who reads the end of the book to see if it's worth reading. I guess how a movie will play out to the consternation of people who watch with me. This is an, unfortunately, unfortunate personality trait. I have tried to hide from myself the big picture view of my own healing for decades.
It takes serious skill to play hide and seek in your own mind.
Which is why I dedicate this and most newsletters to healing. I get it. I get not diving in for the full read. No one wants to think healing will take longer than a couple of hours, a week tops. No one wants to walk on the bottom of the ocean without a diving apparatus for a single second let alone decades. But and this but is huge…healing is not just about a single person. It is never about a single person in the big-picture-full-read. It is about the tribe, the human population of this planet. If an aspect or aspects of the homo sapien organism is ill, traumatized, broken, depressed, stressed, or emotionally/psychologically not participating, then we are all at risk. Our children, our neighbor’s children, the children who are decades from being born are at risk of having lives that are less than what is possible.
I’m passionately invested in healing because it has been a life-long investment for me in time, money, and experience. Many of my days are spent pondering whether healing is a worthy use of a life…my life. And there are many of those hours that I believe it unfortunately unfortunate that I seem to need to tackle this beast of a question and walk beneath a mountain of water. As the one who reads the end of the book first, I am without a cumulative answer. Only the knowing that for some unfathomable reason I woke up on the bottom of the ocean and now I have to do something about it.


May healing be a guiding force for all people, and may this bring the endless possibility imagined by those who see the full-read-third-person-big-picture.

Sunday, October 1st @ 7AM I will be interviewed on WBOM Radio by InPrint Writer's of Rockford. The topics will range through healing, meditation, and the creative process. The link may be found here.

I've found music lyrics are a worthy way to discover a path on the bottom of the ocean. White Daisy Passing by Rocky Votololato is one of those. The link is here.



Friday, September 15, 2017

Pancake Girl Wins.


I had a long conversation with my twenty-something self today. She woke up after a decades-long boring coma and wondered why we weren’t eating pancakes. After listening to her rant for over an hour I gave up trying to explain that pancakes are a bad idea for someone prone to a wider backside than was on hand back in the 1980s.

Twenty-something girl was right. Pancakes make life a bit easier to deal with.

She’s also right that waking up dormant selves could be an unpredictable and wonderful way to spend the next fifty-six years.

A therapist once told me that every person has multiple people inside them…the worker, the parent, the lover, the kid, the friend, the pissed-off teen, and we bring them out depending on the circumstances we’re in. It would be interesting to test the theory and notice when an awakened aspect giggles in the background, allowing a more spontaneous existence. The creamer aisle at the grocery store would certainly be more captivating.

This practice might allow the inner kindergartner to seek new friends and want to know how stuff works, the teen to vociferously advocate for those less fortunate, the lover to choose passion rather than Netflix, the worker to stay confined to a thirty or forty hour week so the parent can remember their kid likes to play catch at sunset. It could bring forth the twenty-something imaginative and witty flamethrower, who wants to explore the world and believes that life is worth more than sleep-walking.

Today I had lunch with Freedom Girl and damn she’s a hell of a lot of fun. I was informed between bites that along with pancakes, there will be long driving trips, dancing with my dog Pi until we're both nearly sick, hilarious chats with creative types minus a choke-hold filter, deep and lengthy musings on song lyrics, and great big guttural laughs that won’t stop until everyone pees their pants.

May all the kids within us awaken their feisty wisdom, humor, and whimsy to inspire a life with endless possibility.

Sunday, September 10, 2017

The Eyeball.



          Healing comes with instigation and instigation comes from awareness.

An ophthalmologist decreed that I needed drain holes lasered into my eyeballs…if I chose not to do this I would likely go blind between now and the dark ages. The idea of losing my sight forced me into a chair and held me in place for every nerve-cringing zap of pain. It was as bad as I had imagined and as worth it as I hoped. Working eyes are an ignition of perception; taste and touch another two.

Eyes see the world outside, a conduit to what is happening on the other side of our inner shenanigans.

An eye does not use fillers, it does not promote a camouflage of what is true. Eyes send pictures to the central nervous system, where the brain grinds non-corrupted information with stale crackers—producing a life prism.
It is difficult to recognize what is in our mish-mash, an at times beautiful mosaic unless a person has remembered when or if a filler was added. Since life happens at a rapid and at times confusing pace, crackers become commonplace, as though they were always in the original product…even though they weren’t.

Our perception is not born with fillers.

Our perception is the quizzical look on a babies face when pureed plums are initially tasted. The flavor is cataloged into tart or sweet, good or bad and the taste buds remember until as an adult the information can be managed. “I should like plums…let’s learn to like plums.”

Removing fillers from a mosaic is not an easy task.

I know this because I’ve been doing it for over fifteen years. This has been an undertaking that is not enjoyable, nor has it always appeared to have an end-game. The last of the crackers have lain obstinately hidden, their essence having been ground into what I termed the dust of  “who I am…who I would always be.”
A few months ago the crackers began revealing themselves quite stealthily so as not to inspire more subterfuge. They hid themselves in plain sight, as metaphors in my writing, crumbs for me to follow until I could see the entire mosaic created from the harm that was done to me as a child. The view was and is startling, discovering who I am beneath all that was.
Without the layers of subterfuge, it is a new world…one I’m not even sure I like. It is the taste of plums for the first time.

Instead of telling myself what is good or bad, tart or sweet, I am waiting. Waiting until the waiting is over and I am ready to see everything for what it is—shells, sea glass, and pinkened-umber tulle…the spirit that exists regardless of the life.

Sunday, August 6, 2017

Hunting Snipes

Photo by Deb Lecos

          An uncle sent me on a nighttime hunt for a mystical bird called a Snipe. He said that no one had ever captured the elusive nocturnal creature, so the details on what it looked like seemed to change depending on who told the story. For years afterward, I listened for rustling in bushes when the sun lay asleep, peering into shadows in search of the graceful movement of wings. As with most childhood enterprises, I gave up hunting for Snipes letting them fall into the depths of the ocean along with the memories of monsters who walk upright and look like normal people. Decades later the forgottens suddenly surfaced and nightmares screamed.
     A seemingly impossible task befalls the broken, traumatized, and besmirched. The ability for full healing; a tantalizing glimmer sparkling just on the edge of awakening, only to be hidden once again dropping into a silent darkness. Gathering the shards of a shattered heart and mending it requires an understanding of what one looks and feels like whole. This may be found deep beneath the scattered pieces, without fault lines or whisper flaws, the full nature of an unblemished spirit waiting to rise to take flight.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

The Tattoo.



     “My son traveled from Baltimore to get a tattoo in Denver.”
     Annette’s statement comes late afternoon during a pause in our conversation as we’re crossing into Colorado. Since I’m the one driving, I sideways glance a surprised look and response.
     “No one knows how to tattoo in Baltimore?”
     “He Google-researched a good one and decided it was worth the trip.”
    Annette grows wistful as she continues.
     “I’ve always wanted a tattoo.”
     This is astonishing news. My Aussie friend doesn’t exude “tatness”.
     “Really? What would you get?”
     “the sun for my son.”
     Her giggle is contagious and we laugh for a while. Annette and I are a day from Denver on an epic journey through the southwest. A tattoo begins chanting in my fifty-six-year-old ear.
     Get one, get one, get one…
     My co-pilot must be hearing the same thing.
     “Do you think the tattoo place would have any openings tomorrow?”
     We must be mind-melded after only three days of one-on-one companionship, I’d already put the idea through the mulling station.
     “It’s a Saturday, anyone who’s available is probably not someone we’d want poking us full of holes.”
     Contrary to my words, I glance at the Thelma to my Louise.
     “What’s the name of the tattoo place?”
     Adolescent grin in place Annette contacts her son and the next day we walk into Ritual Tattoo & Gallery rubbing our sweaty palms on our behinds, telegraphing newbie-ness to Crystal, who warmly welcomes us.
     “How can I help you?”
     Curiously looking for a response, we grapple silently with the unspoken question—are we really doing this? As the non-elected pack leader, I finally cough up a reply.
     “We’re interested in getting tattoos if someone is available.”
     I’m hoping that the intensity of my eyes, hard emphasis on “someone” and our obvious oldness signals the additional descriptors I’ve avoided, pro, best of the best, and tattoo artist extraordinaire. Crystal must be telepathic too.
     “Ladies, you have perfect timing. David is one of our top artists and he’s completely open, which never happens on a Saturday. Do you have pictures of what you’d want the tattoos to look like?”
     We shake our heads in the negative, guts clenching with the reality of what is happening.
     “Let me see if I can reach him. He hadn’t planned on coming in today. While I do that why don’t you both go out for coffee and come back in an hour? You can use the time to decide what you want.”
      For sixty minutes, we caffeine up and freak. Annette changes her original design and goes with a Gingko leaf. I devise a vague description of a few feathers floating across my chest.
     Back at Ritual while waiting for David to arrive, we anxiety-chatter with a young woman who’s appointment is about to begin. Annette fast-talks questions from how much it hurts (that depends), to the reasons for getting a tattoo (across the spectrum). The pretty girl shares how she reached her own decisions, a few we see peeking from behind her summer clothing.
     “I probably got my first one to annoy my parents. But after that, getting a tattoo turned into a statement. Something to me about me.”
     Annette follows up to get more information.
     “Can I ask if they each have a different meaning? And what do other people think about them?”
     “Well my parents just don’t ask anymore or at least pretend not to notice and my boyfriend, though he doesn’t have tattoos, gets it. And other people outside those who know me? ...who cares what they think.”
     Her tone quiets before finishing, one hand resting on the low half of the other arm, the place she’d mentioned that a collage of flowers will soon exist.
     “Each of them represent a piece of my life. At different times it just felt like I needed a tattoo. I’m not sure that answers your question.”
     Another young woman walks up to our companion. Her arm is bandaged with clear cellophane and she appears euphoric, the two women apparently know one another. The new arrival speaks first.
     “Hey there, how have you been? So funny to run into you when we’re both getting tattoos again.”
     “I know...right? Can I see?”
     The girl rotates her arm and a colorful design is easily observed through the plastic protection.
     “Oh wow...that’s awesome. How long did it take?”
     “All morning. Now I want to go home and let it sink in...let everything become real.”
     As the stranger’s words prick me with their depth, a heavily tattooed man roars up on a motorcycle and parks close to the floor to ceiling windows. I assume correctly that this is David. Annette and I grip each other’s hands while drill-staring the person who will soon perforate our skin at our behest.    
     David is tall, early thirties, and serious or at least that’s how he presents himself when greeting two women who are a couple of decades older than he is. David asks what we want him to create. As he studies the images on my phone, I ramble on about a breeze blowing two or three feathers from my left shoulder toward the right and when it’s her turn, Annette goes back and forth about the sun or Gingko leaf. The artist has opinions, which he shares.
     “I think the leaf will present better than the sun in the hollow of your shoulder.”
     Annette nods her agreement and David turns to me.
     “As for feathers, I don’t think they should look too Pinterest, more natural and less contrived. How about I draw them free hand and you decide if what I come up with works.”
      He leads Annette and me toward the back of the busy room and I’m led to sit for the sketching process. David doesn’t speak for close to twenty minutes, his paint marker motioning across my chest without rest. I wonder about the detail he must be including with the few feathers I requested. Annette’s wide eyes reflect that perhaps detail isn’t all that’s happening. When he’s finished, a spectacular succession of feathers swirl on my shoulder and gracefully float across my chest. Stunned, I am unable to count them. David silently watches my face in the reflection of a full-length mirror.
     “It’s beautiful David.”
     “It’s a lot more than you asked for.”
     I low-breath respond.”
     “Yeah, it sure is.”
     “We can leave off anything you don’t like. I’m not sure how this came up, but the breeze grew from your shoulder. I could sense the feathers…I don’t know. It just happened.”
     David stares at his artwork thoughtfully as though wondering if it erupted from my skin on its own. Spontaneously, I grin.
     “So, can we do this today?...in one session?”
     Without smiling, he replies.
     “That depends on you. This is a big undertaking for a first timer, it would be hard for someone who’s gotten tattoos before. They can get intense, especially during the fill-in process and when we’re at the sternum and collar bone. How are you with pain?”
     Flashes of physical trauma methodically troop from the archives, each shouting that they have prepared me for anything. Odd that old hurt would consider itself a badge of honor once wounds have scabbed over and the shock waves have diminished into ancient air. My eyes meet David’s in the mirror, a serious undertone, contrasting with more colloquial word choices.
     “Pain tolerance is one of my mad life skills.”
     The artist catches the current beneath the conversation. A couple of beats pass in silence as a rare connection between strangers converses incognito. Neither of us notes anything aloud, shifting on to the business of changing the outward appearance of my skin forever. I warn my family via text what is coming, my daughter and husband applauding long distance while my twenty-three-year-old son calls me instantly.
     “What the heck are you doing?”
     “Getting a tattoo.”
     “Obviously. Are you out of your mind? You’re fifty-six years old and you’ve said that you ‘know’ you’re going to live to hundred and thirteen. That’s a long time to have a tattoo. Can you imagine what those feathers are going to look like in fifty-plus years?”
     I laugh.
     “Probably not too good. But neither will the rest of me.”
     “Come on Mom...I’m serious. Why are you doing this?”
     “I don’t really know yet.”
     “Then why not wait? Do it when you’ve thought about it more.”
     “That sounds logical...it’s something I’d probably say to you, but I’m still getting tattooed today.”
     Sighing heavily, like an exasperated parent that has realized an adult child isn’t going to take well-rendered advice, he finishes with one of my time-worn favorites.
     “Well...then it seems like you’ve made up your mind. Hope it turns out like you want. I love you.”
     “I love you too. I’ll call when I’m on the other side.”
     Bewilderment resonates in his last sentence.
     “I can’t believe my mother is getting a tattoo.”
     Giddy, I laugh.
     “Me either.”
     David and I begin. At first, the pain is not much worse than a minor burn or scrape, though the continuous nature is something new. When sixty minutes pass, I’m confident I can make it through what David says is likely to take the rest of the afternoon. Two hours later I’m not so sure. Closing my eyes I coach myself.
     This pain is short term. You’ve been through worse. Isn’t there a meditation practice that can override nerve receptors?
     The high-pitched whir and barrage of tiny jackhammer pricks from the designing tool disrupt my ability to go into a meditative state. I breathe deeply, pressing a fist in my side to distract my awareness like a magician holding a hat in one hand while the other plucks a bunny from a cage. It’s necessary to continually increase the indentation to have even a nominal effect. A moan-groan perches on the edge of escaping.
     On top of a tattoo, I’m going to have a huge bruise. A kidney is surely going to squirt out and smack David in the face. Holy shit...this hurts.
      Perhaps everything reaches a particular intensity or the three-hour mark closing in has absorbed all sense of a timeline, whatever the case memories begin erupting without volition. These are on a pain scale ranging from a seven to ten million, four hundred and six. I see events from childhood and adulthood, each sharing what it was like when my body experienced trauma, an invasion, a blow or something as seemingly innocuous as a pregnancy exam by a thoughtless doctor. Some are events that I remember, while others arise from a place I cannot name, but once present are easily acknowledged as having happened.
     When David starts imprinting my sternum I swiftly suck oxygen past my lips, pressing myself into the table so as not to thrash.
     Stay still or the feather will look like it's screaming. Well, maybe that’s what it should look like. Oh, my God.
     Just as I am about to lose my ability to stay still, a space magically opens up. It is a quiet spot, behind what a day presents, a closet or a cave, back where the unconscious and the conscious chat. A familiar voice speaks.
     “Don’t move.”
     Are you trying to be irritating?
     “This is what you asked for.”
     Is that a statement about being a masochist?
     “You asked to know what it felt like when you were hurt.”
     I know what the Voice is referring to. I’ve said plenty of times that my memories are often flat, hazy, and without the filling and if I am truly choosing healing, I need to know all of it.
     During therapeutic recovery from trauma I’d discovered that bad stuff I’d experienced had occurred while conscious me rode in the backseat—I’d “apparate” minus Harry Potter’s Floo powder and wait until the coast was clear. In the psychology field, they call this “dissociation”.
     The Voice is still waiting for a response.
     Is this tattoo recreating the past?
     “It is giving you the option of fully knowing.”
     Option means that I can opt out. As the staccato vibration of the tattoo needle drives into another bony protrusion, I decide that it is only appropriate there is choice when there once was none.
     I cannot change what happened to me or how I coped in the past. I can only do what is right for me in this moment.
     Instead of asking David to stop, to finish the tattoo on another visit, I settle in to be present with what I wasn’t able to handle as a child. Unfettered, memories and emotions instigate a light brush of tears. David respectfully stays silent until we take a break so he may change tools and get something to eat.
     “Are you okay? Do you want to continue?”
     I nod without speaking.
     “You’re doing great, it’s making my job a lot easier. There are people who get tattoos regularly who can’t stay still in these areas.”
     Not sure if this is something to be proud of, I remain silent as David rolls his shoulders and stretches his back.
     “Are the feathers about something important?”
     I repeat the question to myself.
     Why am I doing this?
     Ten years of focused, intentional healing reflections fan out like flipping through the pages of a calendar.
     “It’s about overcoming a not-so-nice childhood.”
     “So this isn’t just some wild idea to stir your life up.”
     “No. It’s a statement about a long healing journey I’ve been working through.”
     David sighs and is quiet for a few seconds before speaking.
     “Tattoos can make a statement about what life means and help make sense of shitty things that happen.”
     As he stands I reply.
     “I think you’re a tattoo shaman.”
     David laughs.
     “A what?”
     “A shaman. Someone who pays attention and then helps people realize their own healing.”
     “That’s a stretch. I paint on skin.”
     “Anyone can be an artist, David. What you’re doing is much more than putting a drawing on my skin. Somehow you’ve connected to what my spirit wants to say. From now on I’m calling you the, Tattoo Shaman.”
     His laughter exits with him into the backroom. Annette and I whisper like schoolgirls until it’s time to resume and David motions that he’s ready to continue. An hour later, well beyond what I imagined my pain tolerance, the whine of the inking tool stops. David helps me from the table, my legs unsteady and my head swimming a little. I wobble over to the mirror, Annette close to my side. Her inflection gentle, the Australian accent more noticeable than ever.
     “That lewked like it huhrrt.”
     I know she’s asking if it’ll be the same for her. Not wanting to frighten or dissuade my courageous friend with a backwash of wails and grimaces, I keep it light.
     “At certain points, but overall not intolerable.”
     Which is true if the value being considered is laid against the nightmares I have carried since childhood. When I face the mirror I see my history behind my eyes. I also see relief for having survived. Eventually, a smile envelopes the old pain. David comes to stand beside me.
     “What do you think?”
     “It’s pretty awesome.”
      He stares at the feathers as they seem to imperceptibly motion across my chest.
     “When a tattoo is absolutely right it seems as though you were born with it. This one suits you.”
     Ten days later, the epic driving trip to the Southwest comes to an end and as the tattoo is introduced to daily life I come to the realization that the spontaneous impression I’d purchased resonates in ways that go beyond an image on the surface. The awareness begins when my daughter comes to see me.
     “Can I touch the tattoo?”
     “Sure.”
     Her hands gently move across the feathers, relating the second-hand impact of my choice.
     “I had to see it in person. I remembered as a little girl putting my face on your chest and now it’s not the same.”
     As I tear up she leans in and places her cheek against my tattooed skin.
     “It’s beautiful, Mom.”
     Later, when we’re alone, my husband adds a more spousal comment, whispering that he’s never had sex with anyone sporting a tat and while I’m out in public I receive several long sideways glances and pursed lips that state there are quite a few people with judgments about skin art.    
     Four weeks after walking out of Ritual freshly splashed with feathers, I feel I’ve assimilated the experience, but am still a little surprised at my response when someone asks if I know that "instead of looking at my face people will be unconsciously drawn to the tattoo."
     “Good.”
     Instead of leaving it there, a stream of words tumble out, each vying to be heard first.
     “These feathers speak more of me than the DNA reflection of my face. When I walk up to someone I want them to know who I am...not what my parents look like. This tattoo tells the story of how I got to be in the place that I stand. Nothing represents me more than feathers floating on a gust of wind.”    
     Nearly breathless as I finish, a sweet sense of calm stays with me. I know that when I’m asked about the tattoo, I’ll answer with a swirling hand motion across my chest and “This represents who I am.”

     I’m not certain when I stopped looking into a mirror. It was long enough ago that I’ve forgotten what I used to look like as a younger woman. I wonder, on the very first occasion when my eyes looked down instead of straight forward, what was I attempting not to see? Was it the normal avoidance of newly born silver hair and slow slide of skin escaping the structure of my body? Or did the sight of my DNA ripple old wounds like the screech of an owl on a moonless night?
     I cannot say because now that I have resumed bringing my eyes up to their reflection, all I see is a splash of hard-earned feathers floating from here to there, a declaration that I am finally ready to claim my life as my own.

Friday, June 16, 2017

Thelma & Louise Minus Brad Pitt And The Cliff Dive.

Photo by Author at Marble Canyon, Arizona


Be forewarned. When a writer goes on a mythic journey, no one can stop them from blabbing a mile a minute with superlatives.

A bestie and I drove 5500 miles, weaving in and out of ten states over thirteen days. No one was killed. Not even the skunk, prairie dog and butterfly who tried to commit suicide using the wheels of my car. I don’t include bugs in this equation since they have a short lifespan that mainly involves chowing on the leavings of animals and the body parts they filch from that spot a tail can’t swat.

The bestie (who shall remain nameless in case the stories I tell make her so famous and sought after she'll only have time for a vacation with me if I book ten years in advance), is Australian. Everyone should have a friend who grew up in Australia. They are fun, saucy, hysterical, raunchy, and can dream up bigger and badder ideas than I can and I'm the ground water for the big, bad, and the epic.

Road Trip 2017 was a hilarious, madcap, old chicks remembering being young chicks event and it included the intentional healing of ancient pain. Ancient is a good word to use when memories sidle alongside dust bunnies and the name of that teacher in sixth grade who was a hippie and the girlfriend of the class co-teacher (that last bit might be the wild fantasy of a hopeful little girl and it stuck).

Ancient pain is worth revisiting if it involves healing. For the first time, I’m able to state that without my middle finger in the air.

Perhaps this change was brought about by endless sandwiches, a crow posse, arrow symbolism, meeting Destiny, tailgating in a Days Inn parking lot, “yoga” in the lukewarm hot springs, angel encounters, wetting my pants giggle marathons, wide open destiny is dignity, a tattoo (did I mention Aussie’s have a penchant for epic?), run Forest run, Moab has no guarantees unless you need to cancel a reservation, a man loves his horse, cowboys(!), wild ponies, feathers, hiking the narrows, canyon wall paintings, drumming, full Circleville, Robert Redford’s very good massage, sleepovers, letting go of the pain stick, rainbows, saying goodbye to ghosts, butterflies, Bonneville County, a giant bear dressed like a fourth of July parade, that weird moment in a truck stop bathroom, and at the top of the world there’s a medicine wheel and when a breeze blows through the heart of a mountain it's a magnificent thing.

As the wind from yesterday unfurls behind, the memories of the spiritual odyssey my Aussie friend and I engaged in will entwine with the roots I always carry with me, nourishing the process of living and healing. And if laughter cures all ills, she and I will arrive safely at death's door decades in the future and will only cease breathing because we decide a new adventure on the other side seems like a journey we're ready to embark upon.

May your own journey be filled with laughter, the healing of ancient pain, and may a beautiful Aussie with a smile that can melt glaciers come along for the ride.


Tuesday, April 18, 2017

Healing Squared

   

Photo owned by Author


     In 2016, at fifty-five I went on hiatus from work that I love. As a facilitator for healing, I am fortunate to be doing for others, what I am also doing for myself.
     Healing squared.
     Clients hear me say repetitively, to the point of wearing a tread into the sentence, that “We must put on our own oxygen mask before assisting others." To this day, every single time I say this, I whisper to myself "What about you dear one, are you walking the talk?" My answer before the hiatus was "mostly". A blank calendar taught me that "mostly" isn't ever enough. 
     I started babysitting at thirteen, going straight from graduation to restaurant labor. Paying my own way, I worked sixty to eighty hours a week, only taking an eight-year break to pop out twins, make sure they knew where the refrigerator was, go to school for massage therapy, and then open a practice.
     But not working for an extended period of time meant no income and that isn’t easy to do no matter what condition the bank account is in and ours wasn’t in the green zone. But aside from solvency, work said something about who I am, whether I’m productive or lazy, and the level of dependency there was on my spouse paying the bills. What I do had become a definer on the kind of person I am and that meant I never really listened to what I needed first.
    For the first few days of the hiatus, I bit into the loony side of nothing to do. I nearly caved after ten days but knew that quitting on hiatus would be worse than staying. When I announced that the hiatus was for my deep-dive healing, clients, friends, and family, gave me their unequivocal support—going back early would be a disservice to that intention. Once, my kids who from birth had been told that I am adamantly opposed to theft and lying, caught me stealing their Halloween candy. Though I got sneakier and was never caught again, they've looked at me suspiciously on November first ever since. With the hiatus I'm not referring to how anyone else would have felt if I quit, it's what it would've meant to me and my body, emotions, and my spirit. I made a commitment to me and for once I honored what I originally set out to do for myself.
      With months of blank screen, my mind was startled into stillness. In typical fashion when I stop mindlessly dancing, a transition had the opportunity to begin. The music ceased and I sat in the chairs along the wall, letting other people dance while I contemplated my life. There was a lot to contemplate; the state of my physical and mental being, relationships that I had left one hand on while the rest of me frenetically danced, and ultimately my long-given-the-scraps-of-my-time spiritual connection.
     Throughout the nearly six-month break, I listened. There was the drip of melting ice from the eaves, a gentle breeze setting off chimes, the rustle of feathers from birds in the feeders, and words as they sashayed one by one, from my inner wisdom to a newly awakened self.
     It is long past time to heal.
     Survival is not enough.
     Being whole is enough.

     I have learned how to hiatus. The experience unsettled me, it uprooted old thinking, old habits, and misplaced items. It shook up my dance card leaving me my only partner and that was the point.
     We are here on this magnificent planet for a very short or very long time, depending on how we look at it. Either way, life deserves the respect of our attention, our participation, and our breath. 

Monday, April 3, 2017

The Bandanna Shaman


Photo Owned by Author


 **This healing story is from six years ago.
 
     There should be a rule about healing (says the girl who doesn’t follow any rules).
    
     Deb’s Rule: Someone must tell someone who is choosing (yeah even the half-assed version with fingers crossed behind the back), to heal, that healing will change everything.

     I’m pretty sure I wouldn’t have known what that meant, so an addendum to the rule is:

     Someone should explain to someone choosing to heal, what “everything” means.
 
     Healing changes everything. By everything I mean well, everything; relationships, the view of the world, what is true, what isn’t, beliefs (did I mention relationships?), have tos, priorities, passions, creativity, preferences, acceptables, relationships, relationships, relationships. People come to expect a fifty-something person to be what they’ve most always been. In our society those are givens. But people aren’t givens.
      I have come to understand in eye-popping-I’m-losing-my-marbles-fashion healing means several relationships are likely done and if not done, irrevocably different. Because of this, I hit the pause button. A breather for healing—time to consider whether I want to hit reverse.
     Can there be a reverse after jumping off a cliff? That’s probably a no.
     I’m sitting on the dividing line of yester-me and I-don’t-know-me and I don’t like the perspective. Un-doing is way harder than do-ing. Discussing this with a longtime friend Brenda, she suggests a particular woo-doo doctor.
     “Maybe you need a soul retrieval done by a shaman.”
I look at her with wide eyes imagining a bloody mess and a Deb doll with pins sticking out of it.
     “What is a ‘soul retrieval’?”
     Brenda relates the drill.
     “A person has a body, a mind, a soul and a spirit. All except the spirit can get injured by trauma. Parts of the soul splinter off at different stages depending on if or when bad stuff has happened.”
     I picture myself as a jigsaw puzzle missing several dozen pieces and someone with weird hair rescuing them from under a sofa.
     “That’s irritating.”
Brenda laughs and shares more.
     “This shaman I hired to collect my soul parts is the real deal. He’s doing it all long distance through dreams and email.”
     The petite woman looks earnestly at me. Silence ensues for several long seconds until I have a reply that won’t sound overly rude.
    “You’re seeing a Long Distance Shaman.”
     The ruder statement I whisper to myself.
     What a load of crap.
     My laughter is kept under wraps but not my smirk. Brenda notices.
     “Seriously, it works.”
     Now I can’t contain my sarcasm.
     “Yeah for him it works really well. He sits at home in a comfy chair in front of a computer and what links up through the cosmos? How the heck is that possible?”
     Brenda shrugs.
     “I don’t know, does it really matter if it helps?”
     The internet shaman is Googled as soon as I’m online. As an impostor, his website is pretty good. Included are articles which had to have taken more than a few hours to write, as well as media interviews and testimonials. I see that the man lives in Sedona, less than four hours from where my husband and I are vacationing the last week of December. Feeling a surprising nudge-shove to participate, I toss a resistance curve ball to the Universe. With a cackle of glee, I send an email to the shaman inquiring about an in-person session the four days before, during and after Christmas. No way would this guy spend part of a religious holiday healing me. Ten minutes later the shaman’s response arrives.
     “I am delighted to meet on any of the dates mentioned.”
     The medicine man finishes with an informative aside.
     “Shaman’s don’t celebrate Christmas.”
     Maybe not, but apparently they’re mind readers.  
     In the following flurry of emails, I receive an address, the session cost, plus a stipulation that I bring a particular brand of tobacco. I am certain the place will be a tee-pee with glass beads covering the entrance accompanied by a huckster standing outside with a serious expression.
     Welcome. You must be in need of a shaman. Your aura is in the shape of a thundercloud.
     When the appointment date arrives, Sedona is clear and beautiful. My husband, Bill, determines it isn’t a good idea for me to wander into a strange guy’s house alone even if he calls himself a shaman and tags along as my protector. When we reach the destination it is a non-descript house, like someone’s grandparents over winter there. I’m not sure why I preferred the vision of a tee-pee, but this boring abode seems somehow less believable. I loudly question the veracity of the situation.
     “I bet he’s a fake.”
     Married close to a quarter century, my husband knows better than to disagree. He mumbles something about getting a margarita if it’s a bust.
     When the door opens the man is and is not what I expect. The shaman has a long Fu Manchu mustache and braided hair cascading down his back. Taking my hand in greeting, his palm feels like the inside of a buttercup. Our skin separates with no discernible impression of an energetic signature, other than he shakes hands like the tooth fairy thanking me for donating teeth. Giving him a squinty eye, I detect nothing but a man with weird hair. I need more information.
    “May I use your restroom?”
     Pointed in a direction, I step past dust bunnies peeking around legs of furniture to enter a much lived-in bathroom. There is a glob of toothpaste on the counter that screams “fraud” and the toilet seat is propped up, verifying we are encountering a “manly man”. Having determined the woo-doo doctor has different approaches to housekeeping than I do, there are no more clues to gather about his qualifications.
     Apprehensively returning to the entry way, the shaman leads Bill and me to a large room. Inside there is a small table beneath a large dream catcher hanging from the ceiling. The Shaman motions Bill toward a folding chair near the door, directing me to sit across from him. Once I’m settled, the Shaman handles an eagle feather and other unusual items on his side of the table. Without looking up from what he is doing, he addresses business concerns.
     “I ask that we settle up financially before we begin. And did you bring the tobacco offering? It is traditional that aside from the fee, the Shaman is given tobacco as I requested in the confirmation email.”
     There had been a specific instruction on the correct brand, but it was elusive, thus I hand over close enough. Limp Handshake Guy mutates swiftly, giving me a narrowed look before placing the inferior tobacco out of the way and then pulling out his own more refined stash. Rolling a cigarette the shaman lights up. Lots of smoking, chanting, whistling and brushing with a bundle of herbs follows. Soon the rhythmic sounds lull my nervousness.
     Even if he doesn’t heal anything, maybe I’ll get high.
     The shaman passes the smoking tool a few times over a bright red bandanna laid out before him. The musical cascades cease and the fabric is tied around his head.
     *!*Shabang*!*
     Dude becomes another dude, shape shifting into a healer who takes up the entire room with presence. In one motion he is everything and nothing at the same time. With a barely noticeable smile, Bandanna Shaman starts the session. He has our attention and knows it. Expelling an age long breath he pauses in the smoking display.
     “Why are you here?”
     Bandanna Shaman gazes deeply into my eyeballs. Swallowing, my throat suddenly dry, words stutter out.
     “U-h-h-m, t-t-o heal my family?”
     The shaman waits a long moment before responding.
     “Are you here to heal your family alone or the family of the world?”
     If I could heal the world and my family in one session that would be pretty cool.
     My lovely thought is run over by the low self-esteem train.
     Who am I to ask for something so enormous?
     I answer what seems the appropriate response.
     “For today, I am here to heal my family.”
     It’s obvious the minute the words are out, I should have chosen B. The air feels charged. The shaman slams his palm on the table.
     “NO! Every time you ask for healing of one family, you ask for healing of all families. There is no healing of only one.”
     My cheeks are red as though I’ve been slapped. I squirm in the chair, already wishing the session were over. The shaman resumes.
     “Do you think you are being haunted?”
     I picture little hitchhiking ghosts at the end of a ride at Disney Land. Embarrassed-filled maniacal giggles threaten to erupt.
     Get a grip on the waistband of those big girl panties.
     “Uhhh, no?”
    “Does this family issue go back generations?”
     I side-look my husband who offers the universal “I dunno” gesture meaning maybe yes, maybe no.
     “Ummmm, possibly. Uh yes…I think.”
     The smoking tool goes back into operation.
     “Then we shall begin. I will travel to the Dreaming Place to get information about your problem.”
     Woosh!
     He disappears. Not like a vanishing act. His body sits before us and yet does not. Moments pass. It could have been ten minutes or thirty. In the interim, I go through the rest of the day’s itinerary, wonder about margarita’s, and am creating a mental list of items to buy when the shaman pops back into his chair and resonantly states the view from the other side.
     “I see.”
     I sit up quickly to act as though I’ve been paying attention.
     “The guides have told me that in the last few months you became a great she-bear protecting her family. The journey has brought your people to this place at this time for healing. They also have something to say to Bill.”
     The Shaman shifts in his direction. My husband looks unnerved. He’s come here as a TV viewer, not a reality show participant.
     “About a year and a half ago you received a wake-up call presenting truth. Everything believed before this time was not truth. You know now. All has changed for you.”
     Bandanna Shaman knows things no one knows.
     “The reason for healing is unknown to you. The issue appears as many things, but the long and short of it is you have not been celebrated.”
     The shaman speaks directs the next part to me.
     “I realize this session is because you requested a healing Deb, but the guides are very intent on sending a message to Bill.”
     Scooby-Doo and Shaggy give a big ol’ shake of their heads.
     Ruh?
     Profoundly irritated, it is small comfort Bill looks shocked and scared. I grumpily settle deeper in the comfy chair to hear fascinating bits of teachings directed at my husband.
     “For you Bill, a lack of spiritual celebration manifested as a life experience of making an agonizing, grueling trek up a rock wall. Each day it is a struggle to find a handhold, while dragging your body up an incline, gasping with grinding exertion. Slowly moving up the mountain, you see another climber alongside who has someone beneath him ready to catch if he falls. The man is also aided by grappling hooks and a safety harness. Another person waits at the top to encourage him at each stage.”
     Bandanna Shaman leans closer toward Bill.
     “You ask yourself, “What about me? Why must I work so hard, while another man scales life with little of the effort I must utilize?”
     My husband is stilled of breath. His eyes glisten with the awareness of being heard and seen. For the first time, someone understands what his existence is like. The shaman shares more.
     “People who have not experienced a celebration of their life do not know how to celebrate others. Because of this, the wounding can last for generations. This same aspect has traveled through both your families for a very long time.”
     Bandanna shaman pauses to collect his drum.
     “This can be healed during a drumming ceremony. It’s quite simple. While I drum for about seven minutes, I will take you through different levels of healing. We go in, get the job done and come back.”
     The shaman smiles.
     “You could go to therapy; it works for a lot of people. Usually, that takes at least a few months to figure it all out, but for me, seven minutes seems a lot easier.”
     The Shaman settles in to begin.
     “Close your eyes. When your mind gets in the way, find the space between the beats.”
     Boomboomboomboom…
     The sound of the drum is timeless, endless and expansive. Its tone weaves into the floor, through my shoes, up leg bones, reaching the bladder and intestines to finally resonate throughout my body.
     Is it working?
     “Find the space.”
     Boomboomboomboom…
     Flying, flying, soaring through blue sky
     Traveling to a land visited long ago
     Boomboomboomboom…
     Up, up to the light
     Feathered friend is waiting
     Ruffle, ruffle wisdom in the motion
     Boomboomboomboom…
     Down, down into the earth
     A space of nothing and everything
     Black, dark waves of smoke
     Boomboomboomboom…
     Light, light wisps of white
     Drifting up high into the night
     Stars, shining collecting wisps for the moon
     Boomboomboomboomboomboomboom.
     Silence.
     Our eyes open. The shaman looks to me first, having been the one who came in with the cash.
     “Is there anything you would care to share Deb?”
     Like an over-eager child with wild tales to offer, I speed date him the details.
     “Well, first there was an eagle cleaning tail feathers and then black smoke covered everything as though there was a great fire and then the smoke got white as it traveled up to a night sky and slowly disappeared leaving bright stars behind.”
     Excitedly I wait for the sage to encourage more details and rave about my revelation. Bandanna Shaman’s expression does not change.
     “Thank you.”
     He looks at my spouse.
     “Bill what did you see?”
     The interloper hesitates before responding.
     “I didn’t see anything like Deb. There was a large landscape of bones, bones upon bones everywhere. It was kinda disturbing.”
     The shaman's eyes widen, appearing anxious to hear Bill’s answer.
     “And then what?”
     Bill sheepishly continues.
     “Well, the bones disappear and then I saw a bunch of colors. That’s it.”
     He looks like he failed the final exam. Bandanna Shaman, however, seems thrilled. His smile oozes across the table.
     “That’s great Bill. You had a wonderful journey.”
     I roll my eyes as quietly as possible. The Bandanna Shaman reaches up to remove the red cloth. The dominating force of energy leaves the room.
     “Well guys, how do you feel? Think you have what’s needed to heal your family?”
     The man tidies bits of this and that, straightening the eagle feather and gently setting aside the smoking apparatus. Still, in a state of wondering what happened, digesting pieces, not yet ready to see the whole, my mouth has something else to say.
     “Yes, I think we do.”
     A flicker of emotion crosses the interesting face, with perhaps a glisten of moisture in his deep brown eyes.
     “You have come a long way for this moment. Most of us will do whatever it takes to help the people we love.”
     I answer him as he leads to the front door.
     “There isn’t anything we wouldn’t do or try to find a way to get through this difficult time.”
     Bill and I both sigh in unison. The Shaman follows up with a long expulsion breath of his own, his response sounding timeworn.
     “Love is not possible without pain. What is, is.”
     We thank our host and leave the dusty house. The sky is bluer than remembered, the air full of minuscule smells separate and yet one. Everything is truer, more vibrant, coated with a crisp edge of realness. While Bill speaks of the events, my mind echoes with silence.
     “I feel different, but maybe I’m imagining it? That was crazy weird. Something shifted inside, outside, I don’t know. What about you?”
    “It seemed like we sat in those chairs for ten days and now the world is different.”
     Bill nods, still looking a little shell-shocked. As we walk, I notice an element is missing.
     “I’ve always lived with a low-level thrum of anxiety. Like a pilot light of nervousness, setting the stage for a full blow up if one more thing happened. It’s never left, not until right now.”
     In complete agreement, Bill takes my hand.
     “I know what you mean. Everything seems quiet.”
     A few weeks later, when Bill arrives for a meeting to sell a computer system to a college, above the main door there is a large sign.
     “Robert Morris University Welcomes Bill Lecos”
     Approaching the front desk, he wonders if his cousin with the same name is being honored or perhaps someone is screwing with him
     “Hi, my name is Bill Lecos and I have an appointment.”
     The receptionist smiles warmly.
     “Oh yes, the director is waiting for you in the cafeteria. Go right down the hall, you can’t miss it. It’s great to meet you!”
     At the next door, a duplicate sign is posted.
     “Robert Morris University Welcomes Bill Lecos”
     Perplexed, he cautiously enters the room where a man greets him.
     “Hi, you must be Bill, welcome.”
     The administrator introduces himself as he heads to a table. The two men discuss their backgrounds which happen to include matching spans of time at a college. Knowing many of the same people, they enjoy reminiscing about the school. An equally engaging period is spent discussing the computer system, the original reason for the appointment. There is no mention of the banners until the conversation comes to a close.
     “So Bill, what did you think of the signs?”
     “Uh, they were…cool? I didn’t know what to think. It was surprising and nice.”
     The school administrator fills in the blanks.
     “Waking up this morning, a thought popped into my head. Welcome signs sure would make a guy’s day. So I had them made for you.”
     Boomboomboomboomboomboomboomboomboom...
     Bill is transported to the Southwest. This is how to celebrate people.