Monday, March 25, 2013

Take Care of You for Me

When I was a child, my mother had a Pat Boone recording entitled “Take Care of You for Me.” The specifics of his message are foggy now but I suspect it was something like, “Take care of yourself so that you can experience a long and happy life with your loved ones.” That phrase has been hovering at the edges of my mind for weeks and here is what has manifested...

I listened to that record until the grooves were deeply worn and Pat’s voice went from silken to gravelly. My young heart wished and hoped that my mother would follow those simple instructions so that our time as mother and daughter would not have been the roller coaster that it was. As previously stated in other posts, she unfortunately blamed the state of her health on others, including me. I stood by and watched her lose track of all her inner beauty, all her talents, and all the amazing gifts that she truly possessed.

As a result I eventually dedicated my life to my own health of body, mind, and spirit. At first I did it just for myself, to show myself that I could reach a new paradigm - I could reach for fulfillment, joy, and self-love. There has been the usual share of obstacles and hurdles to overcome, that often felt like climbing Mt. Everest as I worked through weaknesses and shortcomings. Though some of those foibles still occasionally threaten to impede my progress, what always remains is a steadfast determination to keep working toward bettering myself, to discover just how far I can stretch, what new frontiers I can unearth, how aware I can become.

Along this ongoing journey I arrived at a fresh understanding that was greatly influenced by a collective of Native American traditions. In comprehending the cultural view of the “web of life,” I understood how each action we take, each word we speak, each breath we take affects all other beings in some way. Finally this philosophy evolved into the recognition that each of us, each earthly component, may be seen as a cell in a larger body, therefore our individual triumphs and obstacles are intertwined, enmeshed. I started identifying ways that the health of my “cell” was indeed affecting the health of nearby “cells.”

From there I started to see my own affect on the immediate environment – rocks, water, plants, and so on – and how my ever renewing self affected other humans. I noticed that some people were asking questions on how I got to the state of health I’m in because they wanted to change something about themselves for the better. I realized how much joy I felt when I shared things that propelled my own healing journey. I wanted to pop champagne corks, throw confetti, and sound horns over another’s attainment of some new-found freedom in reaching a goal, just as much as I celebrated my own!

Why do I care about you taking care of you and becoming all you can be? Because I know the absolute anguish of watching my mother waste away and later have tearful regret for the things she didn’t do. Mom was a gifted artist and singer in her teen years but gave both up, thinking she wasn’t that great, her gifts not important. I care because of the beautiful sketch I shed tears over in her living room, the night of her death – a sketch that she finally started after her cancer diagnosis, one that may have become a painting if she’d had a few more months…or started sooner. I wish on stars and dandelion fuzz that there is something better in store for you.

I care because I know first hand how excruciatingly difficult it is to change, even though you want to in the worst, hand-wringing way. My legs have quivered, my stomach rolled, and my eyes teared when I’ve faced immense, seemingly impossible challenges. I have worn bare spots in pillowcases, chanting uncountable mantras and affirmations that I thought were going nowhere as I drifted in and out of fitful sleep. It’s a wonder that I haven’t floated away on the oceans of tears cried on the deserted beach of futility that inhabited my distressed mind. I care because I know the absolute thrill of, once and for all, overcoming a fear and reveling in a success, however small. I care because the skin of my knees has been worn thin praying for the next bit of inspiration that will spur me or a friend on to the next level.

Many times I have said, “I wish I could give you this on a silver platter” - “this” being comprehension of your spark of divinity, your light, and your magnificence. I can’t give it to you, but I can show you that it is possible because of my own untidy evolution. If I, who has suffered the persona of a scared wallflower can transform parts of myself, anyone can because we are ALL made of the same stuff. We may each have different starting places, yet we can all hold the same finish line in our vision. Every one of us is living, breathing, starlight brilliance.

Take care of you for me so we can cheer each other on! Do it so that we can be there for each other to rejoice in our victories and support each other when we run into stumbling blocks! And yes, do it because as the Dalai Lama says, one thing we all share in common is that we want to be happy. May we appreciate the happiness created as we journey…together.  

With Much Love,

Thursday, March 14, 2013

"Hope" is the thing with feathers—
That perches in the soul—
And sings the tune without the words—
And never stops—at all—

And sweetest—in the Gale—is heard—
And sore must be the storm—
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm—

I've heard it in the chillest land—
And on the strangest Sea—
Yet, never, in Extremity,
It asked a crumb—of Me.
Emily Dickinson

So lost are we on that strange Sea, when fear rages and wracks our vessel against any hope of saving ourselves. I’ve been saddened lately as I see so many who are in fear, forgetting the little “bird” that stays with its owner and never asks for anything in return. The storm becomes less threatening and the music resumes only when we open the doors to the cage and let the sweet bird out to warm us, often for the first time in our lives. To further demonstrate how fear is our greatest adversary, I’ve taken the liberty of using Miss Dickinson’s poem as the framework for it’s opposite:

“Fear” is the thing with anchors,
That keeps us in our place,
And steals our native melody,
And hides us from all grace.

And darkest in the Gale is heard,
That rainbows bring the Light,
And raise our spirits, set us free,
So we crush what’s warm and bright.

Anchors will surely pull you down,
Just as you start to float,
Always, forever in Extreme,
They hunger to sink your boat.

The anchor of fear kept me at bay for the better part of my life, yet so often did the small bird of hope sing softly in my ear. I was good at playing small and scared and unworthy, not because I wanted it that way, but rather because I’d been taught from an early age that these things were true and on many levels I believed it. It was drilled into me that my needs, wants, and hopes were either ridiculous, non-existent, or unimportant. This happens to all of us in varying degrees when the adults in our world, who have never seen themselves as completely worthy and whole, continue to pass down the hurt and pain in unconscious, sometimes subtle ways. I challenge anyone who tells me that it can’t be stopped, that the chain can’t be broken, the bird freed…

For 22 years I lived in a relationship that was lop-sided. I thought it was all up to me to set things in balance. And so I lived without intimacy, affection, sex, the children I so wished to birth and raise, or even a fulfilling job.

At the time I thought it was only my husband that kept me in the proverbial pumpkin shell. I kept up a good front with family and friends and we appeared on the outside to be a long-standing, happy couple. The anchor of fear grew heavier and heavier and the little bird grew larger and sang louder. Hope had been patient for so long, until one day she began to peck and claw at the cage bars. My eyes and heart finally opened to the fact that I was scared out of my mind and afraid to face life.

The bird had outgrown the cage and she knew that if she didn’t fly soon her feathers would fall out and the cage doors would be forever rusted shut. She commenced to slashing at the anchor rope with her small but determined beak.

Instead of accepting a role that made someone else comfortable and pretending to be happy, I started doing things that called to my heart. Instead of wishing I could write like John Boy Walton or Emily Dickinson, or Elizabeth Barrett Browning, I started to BELIEVE I could. Instead of propagating the lie that my husband told me (literally) – that I was just “arm candy” and had no value beyond my teenaged occupation at Burger King – I put complete trust in God and myself and found a rewarding part-time job that supported me through training for a career that called to my heart. I reached down into the vast recesses of Robin and like pulling a rabbit out of a hat, started radiating my true, vibrant self and all the inner beauty that had been there all along. I left behind the superficial friends of my feigned life and found real friends; friends who lifted, supported, cheered, and offered spiritual tools for advancing my authentic self while repealing the lies and feelings of hopelessness.

This sweet, joyful, brilliant, shining bird appeared mostly as a loathsome monster to my husband. He worked desperately to put it back in the cage. His put-downs escalated until for one brief, encouraging moment, the bird rested on his shoulder. There was a glimmer of light in his eyes and the tenderness he once knew. But Fear was too strong – that he could not sustain a self-assured wife - that some things would have to change. With fire in his voice he declared that he liked things the way they had once been and there was no room for the new “me” who welcomed music, life…and birds.

It was difficult at first, weathering the storm that swirled around the cage. Many times I wanted to creep back inside where I once convinced myself it was safe. But the door had been opened. I liked my new self and the happy feelings that urged me further away from my inner confinement. It was startling and remarkable to experience the expanse and breadth of my wings!

Sometimes, on rare occasions, I still want to crawl back into some protective cage when storms hit. But I won’t…I can’t. To anyone who has caught even a glimpse of this rare bird called Hope, I invite you to let her perch a bit longer. Let her sing you a song that transforms wishes into realities. Hear her music rise above the din of the tempest of fear. Though you ache, let the music pull you from your melancholic cage into the dance of freedom. In that dance, allow the notes to fill your heart with joy and may you be ever warmed by your closer alignment with the Sun!