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Not long after I broke my arm last year I got a text from someone I’d started talking to when I met the Vanishing Act. Between the boredom and the Dilauded, we struck up a pretty good conversation, and eventually agreed to meet.  I was still a little hesitant and hurt, so we took it slow, but he was so enthusiastic that I let myself get comfortable.

On our first date he wore a bow tie, not for me, but because he wore one every Friday.  He was adorable, he was funny, and he was candid.  I felt immediately comfortable, and even after our date ended up just being dinner and a walk around the mall, I enjoyed being with him.  He brought me home, waited for Hubby, and the two of them hit it off like old friends.  That night I did something I never do.  I made a move and kissed him first.  It surprised us both, but he talked about it for a week.  Our second date was equally as relaxed.  We went on a hike, had lunch by a pond, and took a nap in each other’s arms.

Through it all we talked and shared our mutual geekery, but after our third date or so something changed. When he talked he sounded worried that I’d leave.  I tried to assure him I would not.  All I asked for is the same thing I always ask for, honesty.  I promised him the same.  Even so, our meetings got farther apart.  Then our communication got spotty, so I did what I always do, I tried to talk to him about it.

What I got from the conversation was his refusal to give me any priority in his life.  None.  I don’t consider myself an extremely needy girl, but once in a while I like to know I rank higher than a TV show.  I had known he was a bit self-centered, and I had accepted that, but was I asking too much.  Of course I convinced myself that I was.  I apologized and asked him to make an effort, sure if I voiced my needs again that he would disappear on me.  He even appeared to have taken it to heart.  I got one really good date after that where I almost felt like I could tell him I had started to love him.  I didn’t.  Something inside me said not to.  Something inside me knew I was trying to justify behaviour that I wouldn’t have accepted from anyone, that one night didn’t make everything right.

I grappled with this for a month while I was on a trip to Boston.  During that trip he called me, we texted, and things seemed to be heading in the right direction.   He even said he missed me once, and the part of me that needed to believe it acted like he’d written it in the sky above my head.  We made plans to spend a day together when I got home, and I felt like it was going to be the beginning of something new.

When that day came I waited patiently for him to let me know he was on his way, but he never did. When I finally heard from him he told me he’d spent the day with his ex-girlfriend.  In the texts that followed I tried to explain to him that I was more upset about not even getting a phone call than about getting blown off.  He told me how much he loved her, that an opportunity had come up, and turned my words around to make me look ugly and vindictive after I tried to tell him how I felt about him.  He never realized I’d told him I loved him twice, because he turned it around every time to make the conversation about himself.

It was at that moment that I realized that he was right, I would never warrant a place of any priority in his life.  I had given him the power to step on me.  I had held on to something that looked good on paper to the detriment of my own needs and desires.  I had let him make me feel fat every time he called himself a “chubby chaser” to my face.  I had let him make me feel stupid every time he reminded me of his IQ.  I had let him make me feel inferior by accepting a relationship where he was unwilling to give me a place in his life by allowing him to change plans when something better came up and accepting the excuse that too many other girls had taken him for granted.

The lesson I learned from James was to have some cojones.   I know what I want.  I know what I need.  What I didn’t know is how important it is for me to be able to stand up and either make those things happen or find somewhere where they can. No, it wasn’t his obligation to make me a space in his life if it’s not what felt right, but it also wasn’t mine to stand around and accept that he was the best I would get.  After that text conversation where I couldn’t even convince him that the decent thing would have been to call me to let me know he wasn’t coming over, we never spoke again.  I left that with no closure, feeling unsure about myself or how I handled new relationships.  It would be four months before I’d even let myself think about a date with someone new, even longer before I could accept a compliment without steeling myself inside for the backhanded insult.

I know now that this was a test to see how far I had come from the debilitating lack of self-esteem I had developed as a child.  I thought I had accepted my body and my personality as beautiful parts of my self, but I had only gotten really good at tolerating it.  This was the step I needed to really let it all go, and once I realized how much I had let this kid inside my head, how I had let him crush my spirit, and how little he deserved that power I was able to begin rebuilding the damage that had begun with the Vanishing Act.

No, I haven’t changed.  I’ve just stopped letting anyone else decide who I get to be.

Go now, be yourself.  You’re all you’ve got.

Aloha

I’ve written about the Vanishing Act a few times, and even a little about the lessons that experience taught me, but a year and a half later I still find him teaching me things about myself.  His name was Tim, and at first I didn’t want to let him in.  There was enough travelling distance in the wrong direction to make seeing each other an issue, and I could tell right off the bat that he had more walls up than I had the energy to scale.  I was on a temp assignment in New York when we met.  At first he was a way to pass the time, but one day he called me, and I answered.  I’m not a phone talker for many reasons, so the fact that I felt as comfortable as I did on the phone with him surprised me. 

Over the course of a few months we took it slow, but we were both extremely open with one another.  We had a couple conversations where he voiced concerns about being hurt, but he was on board with the poly thing, and he and Hubby got along.  He told me once that I was a little intense sometimes and that it caused the flight risk in him to perk up, so I altered my behaviour and agreed to let him set our pace.  Things seemed to be going extremely well.  When we finally spent time together the connection was stronger than both of us had imagined, but we still seemed to be on the right track.  I wanted him to kiss me, but he was sick.  Definitely next time, he said.  There wasn’t a next time.  There wasn’t even a goodbye.  He just stopped answering texts in the middle of a conversation about macaroni and cheese. 

I drove myself crazy for weeks, then months.  My worst fear was that something had happened to him.  There had been no indication that he was about to rabbit, but I prayed every day that he’d at least send me an email or a text, even if it just read, “I hate you. Never call me again”.  I just needed to know he was alive, but a year and a half later I have nothing to go on.  I still have no idea what happened or why he suddenly fell out of existence in my life. 

Even before he vanished, Tim taught be to stop pretending, to stop accepting relationships that only looked like love on the surface.  Before him I had let myself go through the surface romance of a relationship, but the meat was never there.  It was safer that way.  I got to have my warm fuzzy feeling and not risk too much disappointment when it ended.  My sudden powerful love for Tim and the way I opened up to him without even noticing it showed me what I could have if I let myself, and it caught me off guard. Tim taught me what I was capable of, what I wanted from a relationship, and how to open up to someone new.  While the end result was debilitating for a while, what I got from my short experience with Tim was invaluable. 

What did I learn from all of this after the fact?  I learned how to be heartbroken like an adult.  I learned how to process my sadness and pain while contributing to a functioning relationship, how to not take my frustration out on Hubby, and how to not close myself off to everyone.  I also learned how to not feed the mudslinging demons.  Everyone I spoke to told me what a jerk he was, to let him go as no good, and how the whole thing was probably a lie.  While I had to accept that those possibilities existed, what good would it have done to hate him behind his back?  I choose to remember Tim as a good memory instead of as someone malicious.  I choose to believe that he’s a good person no matter what the circumstances were.  I’m not blind or naive, but holding grudges hurts no one but myself, so why even go down that road?  I feel free knowing that I never spoke poorly about Tim.  For all I know he deserves it, but for all I know he doesn’t, and that makes all the difference. 

Let me tell you about the day my ethics and intuition were tested.

Let me start off by telling you that I have nothing against sex workers,  I believe there’s no crime in a woman doing what she wants with her body,  but at 19 years old I was ill-equipped for any of this.  After my rape I went through a lot of different theories about sex.  In many cases I either ignored it or I hunted it down with little to no grey area, and little to no standards for who or what I let have access to my body.  I went through more bad decisions in the span of a few months than I can remember, and I can only imagine what a miracle it is that I’m still alive and healthy.  What brought it all to a screeching halt was John.

I met John on the internet.  I know, you’re all shocked.  I was broke and fairly desperate.  My bills were due, and what passed for a kitchen in my small shoebox apartment was empty.  So, I answered an ad.  I had been giving it away free to anyone who seemed remotely interested, so my next logical step was to try to sell it.  My self-esteem had reached such a low that I considered it a boost that anyone would pay for parking to be with me, let alone pay for my time.  John offered me $100.

An hour later I calmly opened my door.  He looked decent enough.  He seemed nice.  I chastised myself for being terrified.  I had been known to let more than one stranger through that door a night.  What made John more of a danger?  Just suck it up, I told myself.  It’ll be over in an hour, and you can go grocery shopping.

John tried to make small talk.  I tried to answer coherently.  He undressed me like a little girl undresses a new doll, making sure he sat the clothes somewhere neatly, taking his time to look over all the new details, scrutinizing as he memorized all my parts.  I watched him like a scientist, trying to divine his next move and what he expected of me.  I closed my eyes and took a deep breath as he slowly removed the thigh highs he’d asked me to wear.  I knew damned well what came next.  There was nothing left to remove.

Then John kissed me.  For some reason I hadn’t expected it.  In some ways kissing has always seemed slightly more intimate than sex, and there had been several men in my bed whose lips I had never touched.  The closer we got to what he was there for the more my panic response kicked in, and the more I tried to hide it.  He asked if I was alright, and I nodded, afraid of losing my meal ticket.

The second he pulled my body close to his I lost it.  Huge, childlike tears flooded my eyes, falling all over my face, soaking my nakedness.  I prayed for them to stop, but they wouldn’t.  John looked as if I’d smacked him.  He sat up and pulled me close, trying to compose himself and soothe me at the same time.  He stroked my hair and told me I didn’t have to do anything.  I told him everything.  He took me grocery shopping.  John spent over $200 on me that day.  In the weeks that followed he took me to dinner and bought me things I’d needed for my apartment.  He took care of me.  We never had sex.

That Valentine’s day I took a trip to NYC to visit a friend.  On my way home John called me, but I missed the call.  As I stepped from the escalator at the train station he was there.  He held a teddy bear and a dozen roses.  I wasn’t sure how he had known I was there, but it scared me.  I thanked him cautiously and told him we’d talk.  I was tired.  I was cold.  We’d talk.  He was upset, but he acquiesced.  The next day I told him I didn’t think I could see him anymore, and all Hell broke loose.  He told me he loved me.  He told me he would kill himself, or me, or both of us.  I tried to ignore it.  He’d disappear for a day or two, then he’d come back with a story about attempting suicide.  I had people come stay with me at night to make sure I was safe, and I watched my surroundings like a Secret Service agent any time I left the house.  John’s final contact with me talked about how he could have given me anything I had ever wanted.  He was right, and had I been able to just accept that I’m sure I would have been very comfortable.  Either that or I’d be dead.

What John taught me was to trust my instinct.  If something seems like a bad idea, it probably is.  My intuition has a far better decision-making track record than my brain does.

What John, my phase of no standards, and a subsequent foray into swinging with Hubby taught me was that “Just sex” isn’t for me.  Sure, it’s fun.  If there’s a new experience to be had, I’ll probably enjoy it, and if it’s with someone exceptional I won’t turn it down, but for the most part I must have some kind of connection with the other people involved.  I’m not claiming I need to have love to have sex with someone, but we have to at least have some kind of chemistry.  Without it, sex gets empty and unfulfilling for me.  It was after my experience with John that I stopped seeking any set of arms that would have me and started seeking some that cherished me and valued me even with my clothes on.  Could John have done that?  Maybe, but there was not a mutual connection.  Something about him set off a lot of alarms, and I have since learned that my alarms do not go off easily.

Yes, John could have given me anything I desired, but he could not give me everything my heart desired.  Love.  Trust.  Passion.  In the end, that’s all we get to take with us to the next life.

From all outward appearances, Tom and I were nothing alike. He was reserved, quiet, and conservative.  He was extremely laid back, a bit of a country boy, and spoke only when he felt he had something important to say.  It took me a while to get over the feeling that he didn’t even like me, but eventually the things we did have in common connected in a surprisingly strong bond.  Our first dates were late at night when he could drive to my apartment, until one night he convinced me to brave the Regional Rail system to his house in the suburbs.  I got off the train too early and wound up sitting around in the cold for an hour.  After that night he told me he had thought about “the L word”, but it worried him.  Unfortunately, I was not yet equipped or experienced enough to alleviate those fears. I wanted to express how I felt, but I just didn’t know how.

The night before he left for what was at the time a very young war he wanted to see me.  I agreed, but I had company, so it was a brief and slightly awkward goodbye.  I was concerned, I was a little scared, and I already missed him, but I didn’t want to either stress him out or say something and speak where I had no place.  This was not my experience, it was his, so I kept my mouth shut, hugged him goodbye, and let him leave.  It hurt. A lot.

I worried about him for months, searching the internet anytime they mentioned local troops or casualties, until I realized that I had to let it go.  His family most likely never knew of my existence.  If anything would have happened to him, I’d have never known.  It was a hard pill to swallow, but it had dawned on my too late to be able to ask him what I was supposed to do.  Did he want me to wait?  Was I investing too much in such a young relationship?  Was I being silly?  I couldn’t even imagine he was thinking of me, so I let it go.  I dated a little, but he stayed in the back of my mind.

When his name popped up in my instant messenger window one day, I sang.  He seemed happy to hear from me, but he seemed cautious.  He asked if I was seeing anyone.  I told him I wasn’t, but that I had been dating someone for a little while. I still remember his response.  “It’s not like we were dating or anything.”  The response stung, and at the time I shrugged it off and tried to act like it didn’t bother me, because I didn’t realize that’s what he was doing.  I just figured I hadn’t mattered as much to him as he had to me.  I probably still had a chance to speak up at that point and make things right, but I didn’t, and we were never close again.

This story is probably one of the hardest ones for me to write, because I’ve never done it before, and it’s something I avoided for a long time.  Unlike the immature infatuation I had held for Ian, Tom was my first real love, the first person to challenge me.  The first to be worth looking past my own ideas to accept someone else’s.  He taught me how to interact with someone who had opinions that didn’t always match mine and ways that I didn’t always understand.  He taught me to be patient, but he also taught me to follow my heart instead of talking myself out of love.  The person I am today would have told my company to go home and taken a chance in lieu of uncertainty. The person I am today simply would have asked what he wanted me to do.

The biggest lesson here was accountability for my own heart, for my own love.  As a lover, it’s a lesson I needed to learn early to prevent myself from becoming jaded or bitter.  Not only was this the first real love I held in my heart, but it was the first heartbreak that was entirely my fault.  I could have prevented it.  I could have fixed it.  I didn’t, and I believe it drastically changed my course.  Years later I would email him an apology for how I handled the situation.  He seemed to appreciate it and told me to learn from it.  Little did he know how much I had almost immediately.  I just didn’t yet know how to fix it.

Go no, and think.  Where was your first change in course?  Have you been able to make amends with your heart?

butterfly_effect

I’ve posted the story before.

It’s the story of my virginity and not only to whom but how it was lost.  It’s the story of a girl with a lot of dreams and ideas about how the world worked, how love worked.  It’s the story of a young, stupid kid who changed all of that.

In 2001 the words “date rape” were trending, but none of the definitions seemed to apply to my experience.  It took me a long time to be able to say the word out loud, even longer to tell the story from beginning to end.  I just didn’t know.  He was sometimes a friend, because he spoke to me.  He sometimes more than a friend, because he was the only one who paid any attention to the fact that I was a female.  We were both seriously misguided and inexperienced in life.

“Technically what I did was rape,” he typed to me after I’d ejected him from my dorm room.  Technically? I thought to myself.  No, ACTUALLY, but I was not fully convinced.  Some friends told me I was overreacting.  Some told me I was underreacting.  I didn’t deal with it for days.  I couldn’t even begin to fathom how to do so.  The first time I spoke to anyone about it in person it took me 20 minutes to stop beating around the bush, and even then I spoke about it like it wasn’t a big deal.  I was afraid of sounding silly.  I was afraid of people being concerned for me.  I was afraid of being labelled or being accused of “crying rape”.

This is not the story of my rape.  We all know how that story goes.  I cave to the need for the only human contact I’ve ever known, and I go back to him.  I become what I am most afraid of, I am consumed by my PTSD, I make a decision that changes my life forever, and I hide for a long time.  I hide from sex.  I hide behind sex.  I cocoon, but I do not chrysalis for a long time.  This is the story of that chrysalis.

When I started writing this blog, I knew I would have to write about my experience.  There was no way around it, and it if helped one person get through his or her own rebirth, because that’s what we all go through once we’ve processed and decided to live after a rape, then I would write the story as many times as I had to.  The first time I did I had mixed feelings, but it got easier.  A few months ago I wrote a poem about reclaiming my sexuality after the experience.  To read the piece I had to give a backstory.  Aside from friends and lovers, I had never told my story out loud.  I was terrified of my own reaction to hearing it out loud.

I stood in front of a group of people, most of whom I only knew peripherally from our monthly readings.  I told my story, and my voice cracked as I began my piece, but then something amazing happened.  A trace of victory could be heard, then another, until I was triumphant!  I was  powerful!  I was flying!  By the time I was done I was yelling, my chest heaving as I tried to catch my breath, a smile of absolution spreading across my face.  I was free.

On my way back to the table people stopped me and hugged me.  Two people thanked me.  I was floored.  Not only had I talked openly about rape, but I was accepted.  I wasn’t judged, nor did I have to prove myself.  I was accepted, I was uplifted, and I was allowed to experience what happened to me completely and heal in any way that worked for me without any of it being questioned.

This experience taught me that I am often stronger than I let myself believe and that I never have to defend my emotions or validate my experiences.  Over the years I had let myself believe that I needed Hubby to take care of me, that I needed my friends and lovers to help me through the hard times, and while it helps, it doesn’t do all the work.  I needed to stand up there alone and finish my healing process.  I needed to be in front of all those people, knowing none of them were there because they felt bad for me or because I asked them to be.  None of those hugs were friend hugs, they were survivor hugs, and I had finally survived.

 

Go now, stand up and reclaim your self.

Aloha.

 

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For the first, we will start with the one before the first.  It’s a story you’ve read before if you’ve been following long enough or been brave enough to go back far enough to find it.

He was a road warrior, early 20’s, with a street name I refused to call him and a real name I had to sneak out of him like a pickpocket.  I was 17, even less socially inept and more self-conscious than I am today, and either brazen or stupid depending on which side of a body bag this particular adventure landed me on.  After graduation a friend and I took a trip to Nashville for the biggest Country Music Festival around at the time, and by the end of day one he had already upstaged Kenny Chesney in my mind.

I couldn’t tell you now if he was as cute as my memories have made him since then or if my attraction was based on the fact that he looked at me like he adored me and spoke to me like no one ever had.  You see, at 17 years old I had not had a guy as much as ask me for my number or a dance as I awkwardly tried to act as if it were no big deal to be ignored.  But here I was, on my own in a strange city, and not just one, but a handful of guys were there bending over backwards to make me feel like the Gypsy queen of Nashville.  We danced in the streets in the rain.  We spent a night in the back of someone’s pickup singing American Pie.  He introduced me to one of my favourite drinks, SoCo and Diet Coke, and I saw my first insulin pump.  We snuck him in to a concert or two, and he helped me gather the nerve to go in to a store that sold souvenirs, fudge, and bullwhips.  I smuggled him into my hotel room where he was my first kiss, then I chickened out when he tried to do anything more than kiss me.

The experience in Nashville taught me a few things besides how to be thankful in retrospect that my body was never found floating in the river.

First, it taught me to come out of my shell and believe that I am a fun, interesting, attractive woman.  I mean, if I could keep anyone’s attention as a gothy, inexperienced, SAT obsessed teenager afraid to show the world anything about herself in fears of being rejected, imagine what I’m capable of now when I let down those same self-defense shields.  Had I never had a chance to learn to disarm them before the decimating traumas I experienced in college, I may never have done so.  Who would I have become?

Second, it taught me to live in the moment and not in the fear, to take chances and live life instead of just surviving it.  I left Nashville knowing I’d never see him again, and it didn’t make the experience any less valid or wonderful.  It simply was what it was meant to be, and it shook me from that societal training that tells a girl that every man she feels anything for has to be there forever.  My only regret from the trip was that I let fear hold me back from experiencing him in all the ways I’d wanted to.

I waited a long time to open up to the world and all it had to offer me.  While I occasionally wonder what became of the first man to ever give me a chance and the others who each made me feel worthy in his own way, my experience in Nashville was just what I needed.  I have no negative parting to soil the memory of my first kiss.  Instead, I have a fantastic story and a bullwhip that came with a pound of fudge.

I hear the voice of my grandmothers calling me
I hear the voice of my grandmothers calling me

They say wake up wake up, they say wake up wake up

Listen Listen
Listen Listen

-Voices of the Grandmothers chant

* please note: I didn’t write this, but there are conflicting sources online as to its original writer, and it has been shaped and changed by the many communities who have used it.  My apologies for not properly sourcing it. *

     Memories are like little lessons planted for us in advance by those who might not be around when we need those lessons.  I am learning this more and more as I grow older and remember things about my mother that I haven’t thought about in over 17 years.  Every year, as Samhain rounds the corner, I am inundated with these memories and reminded of what a rock my mother was.  A giving, loving, laughing, 5 foot nothing, rock.
Every time the movie Steel Magnolias is on TV I am reminded of how lucky I am to be a diabetic in 2013 and how hard it was for my mother.  Diagnosed in the early 60’s, she was told she’d never see past 18.  There are stories about her difficult years as a teenager with a death sentence, but there are also stories of her thriving and living to the fullest despite it.  As a young adult she was faced with the same choices, one of them being to have me despite the damage it would do to her body.  When I was faced with the same choice at 18 I could almost imagine what she had felt.  While I am pro-choice, it’s not a choice I could make, no matter what the situation was.  For the next thirteen years my mother would make these decisions again and again, and there wasn’t anybody she wouldn’t try to help if she could.  My memories of her have her smiling to through the very last one.  Despite her disability and increasingly more severe health conditions her spirit thrived, and this has what has kept me strong through my hardest decisions and toughest battles.  Even when I was planning my wedding I had conversations with her in my head and in my dreams, and my memories of her always knew what I needed to hear.
When I met Hubby’s grandmother I was warned that she hadn’t really liked his girlfriends in the past.  I put on my bravest smile and humbly entered her house as a guest, but I left as a friend, and by the time she left us I felt like a granddaughter.  We would sit at her kitchen table talking, and she would tell me stories even Hubby hadn’t heard.  The strength of her faith in her god and love for her family was unmatched.  Her last request to me was to take care of her him, and I was honoured that she thought me up to the task.  In the end I helped with her care, and I felt grateful to have had the chance to know her.  Now that I’m taking care of Hubby and his grandfather I sometimes have to stand back and as her how she did it for 55 years.  It is at these times when I think back to conversations I forgot we had or little notes I found stashed around the house when we moved in after her passing.
The voices of our ancestors have great things to teach us, whether or not we agree with their beliefs, their words, or their actions.  While they were no more perfect that we are, they lived to the best of their abilities.  If we don’t listen to the lessons they offer, they didn’t just die in vain, they lived in vain as well.  My mother didn’t have to keep giving to others.  She didn’t have to try new things or learn new skills.  She didn’t have to instill in me a belief that every day is sacred and full of wonder no matter what it holds or how I feel about it.  She didn’t have to have me at all, but she did all of that and more.  Every time I feel stupid I think of my mother learning to play the piano by touch.  Every time I feel overwhelmed I think of Nan caring more about the people she was leaving behind than herself because there was no doubt in her mind that she was headed to meet Jesus.  Every time I feel like giving up I remember those before me who fought on and still had strength enough not to give up on me.
This year at Samhain, when we honour our Ancestors and invite them to our tables, take a moment to really hear the messages they have always been sending through the memories and lessons they imparted in life.  Then thank them, even if those lessons were hard ones to learn.  Even if they made mistakes.  Remember they were human, and thank them.
Aloha and Blessed Be in the Coming New Year
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English: Feeding the Giraffes at Miami Metro Zoo

My mom used to love to feed the giraffes at the zoo.  She couldn’t see them, but she knew they were there, and she loved the experience.  Looking back, my mother had that spirit in all areas of her life.

I can not remember a single challenge or occasion in life my mother didn’t rise to.  When she lost her site she learned braille and newborn care in the dark.  She got a Guide Dog and eventually a job teaching computers to the blind.  I have days when I can barely remember how to tie my shoes, but this woman thrived no matter what was thrown at her.  This is what I remember when I feel like I just can’t fight anymore.  That my mother did not just survive her life. She lived it.  

When faced with significant things like motherhood and love she dedicated all that she had to give, and she never turned down a friend in need.  At times it let people take advantage of her kindness, but it never stopped her.  If she could help, she did.  If she couldn’t help directly, she found a way.  I grew up knowing my mother loved me and would give anything for me to have a good life and a happy heart.  I never knew anything other than acceptance and support, never doubted she believed in me, and that unconditional love has carried me through many points in my life where I’ve veered from the beaten path to find myself.

What else has my mother’s spirit lived on to each me?  That no matter how hard things get it’s always alright to laugh, to play, and to dream.  As a kid I watched my mom bowl, play Frisbee, and beat the pants off of everybody at Monopoly.  She decorated a giant tree every year for Christmas, dusted around ridiculous decorations at Halloween, and dared to wear pointy little heels to work.  She rode roller coasters and went to concerts, Disneyland, and, yes, the zoo.  Nothing was ever off-limits or too much trouble.  If it sounded like fun, my mom was there before anyone.

Which brings me back to the giraffes.  My mom never had to see them to know they were there and to experience their beauty.  We spend so much of our lives looking for something, and quite often it’s already here waiting to be experienced, waiting to be loved, or waiting to be nurtured.  Sometimes I close my eyes and the world becomes a very different place, one with more potential than I can see with my eyes.  It’s all so very simple, but it’s something many of us spend our entire lives trying to learn.  My mother knew. If you hold the food out, the giraffes will come.

Aloha.

Go now, feed your giraffes.

There was supposed to be Rapture last week.  There wasn’t, but people spent their life savings and waited for the world as we know it to end.  People tried to cram a lifetime into a day for fear that time was up for us all, a reality people with terminal diseases and chronic conditions face every day.  What causes this panic?  What causes people who have sat around complaining about life and never taking a chance suddenly try to change it at the last minute?  Furthermore, what if that moment of living was what ended the world as one knew it?  If you knew that the experience of a lifetime would cause your death would you relish the moment or risk never living?

This is not a simple question.  It’s one we would all like to say we know the answer to, but would we all have the nerve if we knew for certain what the end looked like?  If Amelia Earhart had known we’d be pondering her disappearance decades later would she have ever learned to fly?  Would Abraham Lincoln or John F Kennedy have become an accountant instead of President of the United States?  Would any of us take the chances and risks for our passions that we do?

I’d like to say I would, and there have been times when I’ve made decisions that could have lead to some terrible end for me.  I’ve hitchhiked, I’ve followed complete strangers through unfamiliar cities for a fling, and I’ve done some pretty stupid stunts on a dare.  In retrospect, maybe those decisions were ill advised, but it brings up another realization.  At some point in my life I started to fear the world instead of embrace it.  At some point I let everything cause me anxiety.  Who knows how many opportunities I’ve missed.  Gods only know how often my head jumps to the worst case scenario.

In the last few months I’ve been faced with some pretty tough decisions and realities, and I have come to the conclusion that if it all came crashing down tomorrow there will have been moments I haven’t lived because I’ve held myself back.  This is unacceptable.  This is not who I am.  This is not who I want to be on my deathbed, wherever and whenever that may be.

Because of this realization I have instituted changes.  I have been completely honest at times when maybe I should have kept my mouth shut.  I have let my heart be broken and my pride be hurt.  I have left myself open and vulnerable, and I have fallen.  On the other hand I have a new girlfriend and some wonderful memories.  I have had the opportunity to love without fear and the comfort of knowing I survived the only possible result of that love.  I have taken control of my career and refused to let indiscretions slide.  I have spoken my mind and been validated.  I have been open about my lifestyle and how I choose to live, and even if I have been negatively judged I am confident and free.  If my life ends tomorrow, I will end it knowing I have been true to myself and open to the world.  I may not yet have experienced all I want to in life, but I will have taken hold of the moments to me and lived them.  In between the mundane responsibilities and chores in life I have made the memories that will sustain me in my last moments.

My answer to the original question.  Yes, I would relish the moment.  As I recently told Hubby, you’re not a failure until you stop trying.  Never stop trying.  Never stop living.  Never stop experiencing life.  Of all the risks, don’t let the one you take be the risk of regret.

Go now! Make a memory!

Namaste

My tradition’s yearly installment of a ritual honouring Cernnunos always hits me somewhere deeper than I walk in expecting, but this year his message may as well have come with a gift tag with my name on it.  It was one I wish I’d been able to hear a week sooner, but one I may have needed a little pain with to really absorb and appreciate.

He spoke of hard times, both ones we’ve endured in the past year and those yet to come.  He spoke of the fight we must be willing to put up to keep our spirits alive.  He spoke of enjoying life despite hard times, using the light and energy from those memories to recharge us when life seems bleak.  Sometimes it’s not the moment of the belly laugh we need as we’re short of breath with tears streaming from our eyes.   Sometimes it’s the memory of that laugh, with whom it was shared, or how it felt not to care who heard or saw us or what they thought about it that inspires us in the moments when we most want to scream, cry, and give up on life.  It’s these moments that make that laugh a beautiful gift.  Our ability to remember and relive is magickal and transformative, but only if we use it.

My four-year old stepson is in crisis mode every time he leaves our house.  In his mind the world is ending.  He’s leaving us, and that thought takes over his young mind.  It’s a heartbreaking routine, but every week we remind him of all the fin we shared that day and assure him he’ll be back to do it all again before he knows it.

Oh, how we adults have convinced ourselves we have grown past this type of behaviour.  Frankly, we haven’t.  In fact, we have made it all even more complicated with complexes”, excuses, addictions, and people who enable and feed our negative outlook.  The four-year old moves on with life.  The :mature adults” dwell, hold grudges, and give up on those “fun” moments.  We forget how to live and begin to merely survive, or worse, give in to self-defeat and stop worrying about survival altogether.  I won’t let the four-year old handle my “good china”, but I will take a lesson from him on what’s really valuable.

This leads me to wonder why adults tend to use our ability to remember only to dwell in the negative past.  Why do we readily dig up abuses and even the most petty arguments we had as children but not remember the hug or kind word we received just yesterday?  Furthermore, why do we forget how far this fight to keep the spirit alive has brought each one of us?

Yesterday I stopped myself short of complaining about lugging my overnight bag to and from work everyday.  Merely two years ago I would not have picked the bag up, let alone carried it for 20 minutes.  I realized then how much I fall prey to this mentality.  Had I forgotten the long road I’ve taken to get here?  Had I forgotten that I could not walk to the bathroom let alone the thirty blocks I walked today to run errands?  Had I forgotten the days I spent bracing myself against counters so my customers would not notice I was unable to stand on my own?  Had I forgotten that up until recently I had been one sick day away from derailing my career path?  I am not functional, working overtime, planning a wedding, and thriving.  I found the fuel to learn, research, and execute a plan, all while stuck in a constant fog of confusion and exhaustion.

In the worst days of my illness I had never given up, but a little stress was going to break me?  Why?  How?  The memories flood back to me even now.  On my darkest days, when I was tired and weak, I was reminded by everyone around me that the sun was still shining, I was still loved, and there was still joy to be found in life.  Every time Hubby tried, with tears of helpless frustration in his eyes, to make me smile and laugh, every time a friend took me to the mall or sent me a silly text message, or every time I had a rare good day and was able to forget the pain gave me fuel to keep going, keep fighting, and keep growing.  I never lost faith, and I never let the spirit die.

That fact, above all else, is what hit me when I heard Cernnunos speak to me.  I had forgotten the long arduous road behind me.  I had forgotten the scars, the landmarks,a nd the victories that were no small feat to overcome.  I had forgotten every moment I had been a warrior, and I had dismissed the belly laugh, the sunny day, and the touch of a lover for insignificant everyday hassles and annoyances.  I was throwing a tantrum over a broken crayon.  I certainly would never accept this behaviour from the four-year old.  Why on earth was I accepting it from myself?  It certainly wasn’t helping my in any way?  Help, not hinder, Autumn!

The message Cernnunos gave was not a bubble wrapped, candy coated assurance that everything will be copacetic as long as we think happy thoughts and keep a firm hand on the pixie dust.  It was to remind us of the reality that bad things will happen, probably to you and me, and we will be miserable and strained if we refuse to find some reminder that those bad things do not rule our lives, nor can we relinquish our responsibility to the earth because we’re tired of the bad days.  The message was, you might as well find some enjoyment in it and let that enjoyment get you through the rough spots.

You’ll be pleasantly surprised how many more of these recharging moments you begin to recognize once you start to acknowledge and appreciate them.  They’ve always been there. You’ve just been too wrapped up in a tantrum to notice.

Go now, whistle while you work.

Namaste.

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