As Night Falls

When I pulled up the long gravel driveway to the countryside home we are tending to this week, I paused. The sun was setting. The chickens were free-ranging around their pen, while an orange cat sat nearby. It was comfortably serene. The giant almost 200-pound dog was sprawled on the patio like a bear rug, while Sir Husband had his feet in the long pool, situated perfectly behind the big blue Colonial. He was so happy.

The animals have attached to Sir Husband, as if he’s their long lost relative, or favorite babysitter. That’s good, he needs that. His children and Scary Mrs. Ex moved far, far away this week, his life with them folded up and put in the back of their memories. You can’t always prepare for what appears along your path, or plan on the twists and the turns. But you can look around and decide how to proceed in spite of them. And sometimes it’s right in front of you.

As the sun slowly set, the lull of night set in. The cat went inside, the chickens filed into their coop like clockwork. The tiny red rooster who rules the roost squawked and stomped and called it a night for his brood. Sir Husband gathered the evening eggs and locked up their coop, the black outline of the woods caving in.

“I don’t know why, I just find it so peaceful,” he said.

For a couple of seasoned urbanites, this respite is welcome. Change of scenery, diversion from everyday life, it’s a break from thinking. The view is different from here, and we see it. Our paths are re-directing, toward a life more filled with peace.

Out the big picture windows the stars light the sky, an almost-full moon hanging low. The timeworn grandfather clock peacefully tick-tocking, we sit in the house of a large, busy family whose life is suspended, ours now a bit too.

Sir Husband pat the big dog sleeping at his feet, while the cat rolled a marble across the wood floor.

Ssshhhh. Can you hear that? That’s the sound of stillness.

Life on The Farm

I touched a chicken. I mean a real, live, chicken, not the meat from the store. Have you ever put your hand under a chicken? It’s a little daunting at first. Soft feathers, round and pudgy, warm and well…what is under there? The egg of course, fragile, also warm and a little gooey. It doesn’t really belong to me, it belongs to her, so I felt kind of bad for taking it. Them actually, she laid two, one brown, one blue.

We are hanging out at a farm at the moment…not really but it feels like one. Our friends are away and asked us to take care of their chickens, and rooster, and dog, and cats, and fish, and vegetables, and house for a week. We were pretty excited for the opportunity. It’s only a couple miles from where we live, so it’s like being at camp, with a free pass back to civilization. It’s not really that far, but the road changes quickly at the train tracks, from seaside village to rolling countryside, complete with deer and trees and big sky and, well, chickens.

I have always wondered what it would be like to live on a farm. But it’s no small task. The rooster crows at dawn and the creatures are up, barking and meowing and ready to eat. Hens want out of their coop, we have to collect the freshly-laid eggs, feed the dog, tend to cat bowls, litter boxes, and by 7 am are ready to go back to bed. I’m not a dawn riser, but Sir Husband is suddenly Old MacDonald. The evening routine is similar. Chickens file into their coop at dusk, rooster gives us one last crow, dog and cats come in, and we close up the farm for the night. One day in and I’m already tired.

I’m most certain this experience is good for me, although I’m not a farm girl. Dawn-rising is for the birds…and yes I scrunched my face and made a loud eeew when I reached under the hen….and I have some dislike for dirt. But the simplicity of caring for animals must have valuable lessons in it, and the challenge will have its rewards. Sir Husband is loving it, the bear-sized dog is his new best friend, and he has no aversion to chicken poop.

It’s easy to forget that there is life outside of our everyday lives. Our friends have given us the perfect setting to escape, we just need to figure out how. We’ve added this page to our storybook, the ending is yet to unfold. In the meantime, I’ll rise at dawn, put on my boots, gather the eggs, rinse off the goo and grasp the adventure. Ee i ee i oh. my.

Thanks for The Memory

Apparently my amnesia serves me well…the wise woman told me during one of our long curative conversations.

I’m not so sure.

Some days you just want a recollection of your past, and I am lacking a bit there. Foreboding or not, it couldn’t have been all that bad. A childhood chum reminded me of that when she posted something on Facebook about a restaurant we went to back in the day. Remember? She said. Oh how I want to. But I only have a piece of pie-sized snippet. The mirage of memory left me sad.

It’s not just my friend, my boys will recall times, places and events, and my fog still remains. Sir Husband recounts details of our teenage years, the images are few in my old memory bank. Oddly, I do remember feelings, sounds and smells, and if I close my eyes tight I might get the view.

I don’t remember when it started, the amnesia. Maybe it’s been forever. But at least after I had children. From newborn hazes thorough autism…fibromyalgia and anguish…to the latest chapter of perimenopause…it doesn’t matter, there are plenty of reasons. The history of my past is history.

Even now I find it hard to remember things after a period of time has passed. Vague recollections remain, but exact experiences? I can easily remember other people, but the detailed narrative of my life is a bit locked in, except for the turmoil and the pain.

Seems paradoxical, I thought we blocked out the trauma. The wise woman said our minds have a way of blocking things out that do not serve us, until we are ready to remember. Ok, I get that. So what’s keeping me from remembering the good?

It doesn’t really matter she said. It’s all in there, I’m sure. I never lacked for much in my childhood beyond emotional stability around me and a life free of fear and shame. I suppose not knowing the rest will have to do for now.

You hear all the time about people having flashbacks of intense experiences long in the past, and it’s hard to understand that from the outside. But I actually had one at a friend’s wedding a couple years ago, it was eerie and came out of nowhere. It was a re-commitment ceremony, close friends of Mr. Ex and myself for many years. We had been through a lot, our families together. He wasn’t invited. Sir Husband was.

As I sat passively watching our friends re-unite, feelings bubbled up from nowhere, unstoppable images flashing before my eyes, crystal clear but turbo-speed. Almost out of my body, I watched myself experience this weirdness, tears streaming down my cheeks. Sir Husband a bit freaked out, silently squeezed my hand. I could not pause the movie, starring myself in my past. It was over in a matter of seconds. I suppose people who saw me thought I was overcome with joy, but in fact I was paralyzed.

Eventually I came out of it, caught my breath and settled back into real time. But I was haunted by what I saw. I have lived through a lot, as if I didn’t know that.

I feel like my life is hidden in the blank pages at the end of a book. There, but invisible. Ready to read. Sometimes when I look back at my randomly dated journals I am amazed. Who wrote this? I am reading my life as if it’s someone else’s. But it’s ok, I am proud of my heroine. Sometimes as I write I remember, the memories buried on the tippy-edge of my subconscious, revealing themselves as if by magic, through my hands.

So be it.

We are told to live in the present moment, and for the moment, that’s about all I’ve got. I better pay attention, there are lots of memories to be made.

Drawn to It

Determined to find time for some kind of fun, I bought an adult coloring book today. Recently touted on NPR, these beautiful paper coffee table books are filled with elaborate drawings to color – a very far cry from the Golden Books coloring books of the 1970s.

I had been eyeing these uniquely-designed coloring books at the bookstore for a few months now. Each one prettier than the next, they are not only eye catching, they are curiously alluring. I have never been one to color, maybe when I was younger. I do have some visual imagery, but I’m more of a word person, I actually see and hear words in my mind versus images. I also lack patience to use my hands for artistry. I used to hand write everything back in the day, and found that soothing and creative. Coloring, not so much.

Adults are buying these all the time. We recently sold several to an septuagenarian for a dinner party, where each adult was going to enjoy coloring with dessert. Interesting.

The bookstore carries several – Balance, Folk Art, Flowers, Mandalas, Enchanted Forrest (an appropriate draw for a Fairy Tale gal,) and Color Me Calm. That one made the most sense to me. A Zen coloring book, 100 Coloring Templates for Meditation and Relaxation, by an art therapist with a lot of letters behind her name. She must know what she’s doing, they are the national best sellers. So on my journey to wholeness I thought learning to color was appropriate. These however, are almost too pretty to color. What if I mess up? What if I don’t like how it turns out? What if I lack the skill to color? 

Believe it or not, I actually had to push myself to purchase it before I closed up shop at the bookstore. Would I even do it? What would that be like? Taking time to color? I haven’t had free time in years or more. It was actually a man who came in today to purchase one that inspired me to move forward. He was so excited about the choices and their beauty, full of carefree enthusiasm, and even for the adult markers, colored pencils, and oil pastels on the display.

I realized in that moment, this is ridiculous. I am way to serious about a lot of things. Maybe I need to lighten up and enjoy the freedom that comes with childlike play. I am tired of being an adult, or at least an adult who has had to take on so much responsibility, so many to-do lists, so much pain. I’m tired of enduring life. For just a few minutes I embraced the radical release of obligation…of everything.

I tried to imagine coloring myself calm, think about what that would be like, and it hit me. Why think. Could that be part of what’s dragging me down? Constant evaluation, contemplation, and fixing of our life? Sir Husband is better at shutting off his mind and settling right down into the depths of his soul to relax. I should try that. He said we will do it together.

Too busy for years seems silly. I guess I stopped stopping a long time ago. It’s time to make time, what does that even mean? To treat myself. To let the colors of life back in. No pressure. But I’ll start with a template just in case.

Hi ho Hi ho It’s Off to Work I Go

Call me a princess, perhaps that’s part true. I’m not familiar with the daily work grind, it’s been many years, like 25. Oh I have worked, but not in a go-to job from 9 to 5. I didn’t like it back then, but I did what I had to do, until I didn’t. Work changed. I became a mom, and that was just fine.

We define ourselves by our roles in life, a hierarchy dictated by society, based on misconceptions of what deems us valuable or important or worthwhile. I’m actually not that shallow. But I grew up with the importance of status around me, so I learned to pretend what supposedly matters – a white collar, more than six-figure income, Volvo-driven lifestyle, however you can get it. I had it, I married it. So I made the cut, stay-at-home mother or not.

Life changed. I traded money for love, and I love it. But now I have to work. To say it’s an adjustment is an understatement. Part princess or not, I won’t lie, it’s hard. Self-sufficiency kind of sucks, but it’s time to evolve. If I don’t learn it now, I’ll have to do it again in my next lifetime, and I prefer to just get it done.

Let me qualify that after a long life in the meat grinder, my body has been very tired. Fibromyalgia and cancer, bodily afflictions and pain, working has not been the easiest. It’s hard to understand unless you have lived it, the pain in your bones makes you weary, the side effects randomly hit. Some days you can’t even move, but you don’t know what days those are until they happen. “Wow you look great,” is a compliment of sorts…but oh if they only knew. I’ve mastered the art of “faking it.”

I’ve dibbled and dabbled in whatever I can the last few years, intentions legitimate and efforts executed. I sort of have failed, resisting the challenge. Autoimmune disorders are ugly, and the work world for me, felt the same. But I’ve tried. I have searched for the right type of option, the one that will mesh with my vibe, the one that will fit with my life. I’ve definitely worked but not for real pay, apparently I don’t really count. I live in the gap.

I can now safely say, the work world does not really give the gap on the resume a chance. But the gap is where it all lives – the hard-core heavy learning, skill-building, talent-magnifying parts of life that create the wise, seasoned, incredibly-adept-at-life candidate. Nobody seems to care.

When we moved to our seaside village, I was offered an opportunity to work at the little, local independent bookstore, quaint and picturesque. I took it, one day a week, Saturdays of course, no one wants to work weekends. But I have sustained this role for almost two years and in all honesty I am surprised. I have picked up more hours, but not the best ones, it’s ok I’m doing my part.

I’ve learned quite a bit but not about books. Well that too, but also about me. I am honing in on what I feel in my heart to be true, what my passions are, my strengths and my weak spots, and I am thinking about how to succeed. Success is not measured by dollars, but by our own internal barometer of how we value ourselves.

The last couple of weeks I have picked up several shifts for my counterparts who are traveling world-wide. I would love to have the chance to travel someday, but for now that is not my role. So I’ve been working almost daily – a new experience at this stage of my game.  I have fought my way there each day, body and mind pulling me back, commitment and courage pulling me forward. I feel like I have no choice, our income demanding my help. I don’t really like that, it’s un-preferred pressure on a struggling body and enervated mind. But I’m doing it. I’m doing it. This is a big deal.

I’ll always be part-princess, of this I am quite sure. My path undetermined, my determination quite clear, I am learning so much although so much later in life. We can learn until the end if we allow it. And I surprise myself when I say this…I’m in.

Finding the Flow

I’d love to say I waved my magic wand and took the weight of the world off my middle son’s shoulders, but he did that himself. Just a few weeks before fall college tuition is due, he scored free room and board.

This news of the day was sunshine after the storm for us, behind another round with his father over his ongoing unpaid bills. My boy has been working hard to free himself of that noose, and today he may have succeeded.

I’m watching as son #2 continues to demonstrate how going with the flow really works. He flows through his life in tune to the world around him with a steady determination to succeed. No worries, no doubt, for as long as I remember he has gotten what he wanted. He thinks about it, believes he will get it, he feels it and he manifests it. The law of attraction really works, and I’m thankful to see it in action.

Been thinking about that for myself, for years. Effortless co-creation with the Universe. What does that mean? I have studied and read every Hay House book, determined to make my life work. Transformational, inspirational, self-help, health and healing, I work hard on my levels of consciousness. My boy, not so much. For him it just happens, and since birth. His channels are always open, confidence, determination and drive, he’s empowered and discards his fear and his failures.

Perhaps that’s the benefit of youth – energy, motivation and acceptance, their mileage from struggle is minimal. The trick is to keep the momentum going, even when things go bad. When life hits your most vulnerable spots, when you have been knocked down, you must pick yourself up and continue to believe, right where you left off. Hard to do for many, but some have got it nailed.

This boy may be just one of those. He has never let life get in the way. Environment and genetics, family patterns and pressures, we can lose our focus and trust. But he still perseveres and succeeds, open to wins regardless of the odds.

Thank God. Because now his college bills are paid. That’s not to say I haven’t helped. He leads from his heart like his mother.

Last winter we sat down together and worked through his application for resident assistant. He had to talk about himself. Not hard for him to do, he’s full of self-love and charisma, and his love for himself and for life shines through. He truly believes that he will be where he needs to be without doubt. Can you imagine?

I certainly have doubted life, but I have never doubted my children, and I have instilled that into their spirits. Bright souls in the world making their own unique way, as much as I am their mother, they are actually my teachers. I watch and I listen and I learn. Inspiring and surprising, perhaps what I see is me, my old self reflected, just now disconnected. The flow was right here all along.

Behind the Blog

You sound so happy in your blog…you are doing so well…so glad you are finally happy. 

Sure, ok. But I have not been completely forthright, and some days are better than others. A trusted mentor summed it up pretty well the other night when we chatted about our lives.

Everybody’s got shit on their altar, and in order to feel better, they need to take it down and stop worshiping it.

Well said, and so true. The varying degrees of victim-mode that we find ourselves in from time time, or all the time, depends on our ability to dismantle the debris from our lives.

I’ve been hiding the shit on my altar, trying to pretty it up in my blog, dousing it with fairy dust, hoping that will somehow quell the smell. But I’m denying my authenticity if I continue to believe that simply by finding the positive of my life and sharing it, it will magically disappear. Nope.

A few close to me know the reality of my day-to-day, trapped on several levels, held captive by my own life. Still a victim of my circumstances, it’s the physical reality of my life that has my hands tied, the basics like income and health, and car.

It goes something like this… 

Stay at home mother, three children, a big-salary household, I devoted myself and my life to my family. I didn’t have to work but I worked my ass off, and had the ability and energy to do what I loved – raising my boys with all my might. I had a social tribe, a thriving blog, a healthy yoga practice, and a car. I didn’t have to struggle with survival per se, that is until I learned who was supporting my life. A gambling addict.

In one fell swoop, every penny from 20 years saved, all gone in a day. When I confronted the culprit, Mr. Ex beat me up, because I caught him in his addiction that crumbled our lives, our futures. Torment, punishment, and financial devastation, I went from one reality to the harsh reality. I was never on my own two feet, and now I was on my own.

The sad part is, Mr. Ex missed the boat on the 12-step program he claims to practice, and lives only by the steps he chooses. The past is the past let it be. He has cleared his shit off his altar, but has put it right onto ours. He is paying back his creditors, but not those he stole from. The past may be the past, but the future is now, and it’s hard.

I got mighty sick from Mr. Ex’s transgressions, my body still weary from the strain. It impedes my ability to work and to thrive, my self-sufficiency left in the dust. When we are physically un-well, it impacts our abilities, our moods, it drains our life force and blocks our joy.

I hope I don’t sound like a victim, and instead I just sound human. Not everybody is happy every day, some of us have to work harder than others, especially when others held the cards for so long.

I don’t have a solution yet. Perhaps it’s simply the day-to-day reality of our struggle wearing me down – no car, tiny income, huge bills, and contentious players. The pile on the altar is heavy. I’m trying to remove it with what I’ve got. But at least I have stopped worshiping it, and that’s a good start.

That Sweet Smoky Smell

There’s something about the smell of a campfire on a cool summer night that is soothing. I didn’t wash my hair last night, it was covered in smoky residue from the Summer Solstice gathering Sir Husband and I attended earlier in the evening. We had hung around a brightly burning fire on the first evening of summer, cleansing ourselves and our souls from the icky residue of our past.

We had never done anything like this before, a ceremony and rituals welcoming the cleansing heat of summer, a time to slow down and focus on our intentions to manifest our dreams. Cool grass under bare feet, burning sage, chimes and chanting, followed by dinner, we were all over it even though we barely knew a soul. Whatever it takes to bring on the blessings, it’s time.

We had a great time soaking up the vibe of the creative, energetic tribal-like group, an enchanting evening for sure. The rituals must have worked, we felt calm and peaceful, unfamiliar sensations after the past several years.

I somehow thought if I left the smoke in my hair, it would magically change my life overnight like the poof of a magic wand. But the soothing sweet smell only lasted a night. The busyness of life re-ignited with the sun…jobs, children, commitments…the lazy days of summer are a mystery to me.

Our souls are now cleansed ceremoniously through the mystical realm of the sacred Solstice. The turning point will come when we can also cleanse our environment to embrace the sweetness of summer, daydream about dreams, and play without interruption.

I asked Sir Husband to build a fire pit in our yard, that we can light each night and  fuel with our intentions. Because if all it takes is some summer smoke to manifest our dreams, I’ll let down my hair and soak it right up.

Sage and the Summer Sun

First day of summer, Summer Solstice, and it poured rain. Not just drizzle, but downpour, menacing sky, blowing wind, 100 percent chance of rain all day kind of day. It was also Father’s Day. This particular day comes loaded for Sir Husband, and even for myself and my children, for different reasons. The juxtaposition of these two events, both natural and cultural, made for an interesting day.

Sir Husband is truly a wonderful father, but was removed from his children by the hands of their troubled mother. He is also a wonderful step father, ironically filling a void left by my children’s own father. The meaning of Father’s Day for us is obscure. We had our children a lifetime ago with spouses we did not prefer, but without each of us there would be no children. So we recognize that with what it’s due – a special day celebrating ourselves and our children.

Not exactly a beautiful summer day however, the welcoming of the Summer Solstice. But the rain is a needed cleanse of sorts, Mother Nature washing the residue of our busy, complicated lives away. The science behind the Solstice says it is the longest day of the year, the sun reaching its highest position in the sky. The earth’s axis tilts, and the point on the horizon where the sun appears to rise and set reverses directions.

We were invited to a Solstice party, during the extended twilight of this special occurrence. It was an intimate gathering with people we barely knew, but for some reason that didn’t matter. We can feel our lives are shifting in a different and welcomed direction, and we are following.

The gathering was at an antique farmhouse just a few yards from the sea. We pulled up the long, gravel driveway and parked next to the three-story barn and even taller silo. An old-fashioned swing made from two ropes and a piece of wood hung 20 feet long from a giant, old oak tree that had to be a couple of hundred years old. The rain had turned to barely a mist, there was a fire going in the fire pit made from stacked field stones gathered from around the old property. It burned in the center of the yard, thick, green grass almost like a carpet around it.

A few minutes of introductory chit chat and establishing connections with other guests, we all headed out to the fire where we made a circle around it, and participated in a ceremony significant to this important day.

The rain had miraculously stopped, the clouds drifting apart with peeks of pink sky revealed. Our hostess initiated rituals to cleanse the past and welcome the new. Summer Solstice is a time to shed our old skins, and move forward in more wholeness. We set intentions for our lives, our hopes, our dreams, for manifesting the next chapter on our journey, and wrote them on small pieces of paper and ceremoniously tossed them into the fire. We burned sage, and soaked up the healing smoke, along with the smoke of the fire, our intentions now absorbed in the embers. We chanted and sang, Tibetan bells chiming, the cool sea breeze blowing gently, we invited healing and peace and joy. Then we ate dinner, a lovely potluck of healthy contributions.

Sunset is longer than usual on the Solstice, and after dinner we watched the colors of the rain-hued sun softy dip into the horizon. This was a turning point. Not just the earth on its axis, but for ourselves. This is the season we shift towards our intentions and focus in the direction of what we are trying to achieve, personal to each of us, but a culmination for all of us. We are reversing directions, away from pain, turmoil, confusion, and hurt. So much cleared in those moments, so much became clear.

Father’s Day melted away, nothing really mattered anymore, except our newness.

Our Birth Day

Isn’t it interesting when our kids’ birthdays roll around how easy it is to forget the day of their birth. That was probably the best day of our lives…the day we birthed our babies. I remember the immense discomfort swallowed up by the immense joy upon their arrival. Months, years, maybe a lifetime of anticipation, and there they are, swaddled up in our arms, nothing else matters. We carry that joy with us, along with exhaustion, soreness, and wonder about what the future will hold. Or even the next hour.  La la land.

I found it incredibly pleasurable to raise my children for many years after their birth. Little tykes warm and snuggly, amazed at their existence in my life, watching them, teaching them, loving them, it was pretty neat. I was fortunate to be a stay-at-home mom, and I’m not ashamed to say I reveled in it. I wasn’t a determined career woman, nor a classic soccer mom. I just had the opportunity to be myself as a mother, and I not only lived it, I loved it.                                                                                               Unrealistic.

But as the years went on and the children grew, so did the complications. The reality and commitment of motherhood became challenging. The chores, the lists, the messes, the consumption of time and energy, efforts required unique to each one of them, the sweetness of baby days were over. But I still loved my “babies,” I loved being able to to be home with them, and I appreciated the strain in spite of it.  Devoted.

Those days…those years of raising my children…are blurred and are now muted memories buried under the tired layers of my life. But their birth days are not. I remember their entrances into this world and recognize the occasion with fanfare each year on their special day. It’s my special day too, I worked hard to get them here.

My youngest just turned 15. Not interested in much celebration – a couple of friends over, pizza and cake – he casually embraced his day with the verve of a teenager. Nonchalantly. But I didn’t. A dozen helium balloons, special treats, a pile of colorful gifts on the decorated table, I still want to feel a few minutes of special joy that links me to something wonderful, their birth day.                                            Nostalgic.

Not so sure they care. Gifts yes, money of course, treats sure, balloons, no. But I do. Maybe it’s just the festivity, a day different than the rest, a holiday of sorts. Our personal history celebrated, trauma forgotten, memories honored, memories made. I’m proud of them, their growth, their uniqueness. I’m proud of birthing them, my expansion because of them, my achievements as their mom.                  Happy Giving Birth Day to me.