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Man, this week is off to a rough start. I don’t know what’s worse — that my case of the Mondays leaked into my Tuesday, and is threatening to infect my Wednesday, or that I’ve had a pounding, crashing, pinching, blinding headache for as long. That’s a lethal combination, and I suspect both conditions feed off of one another… Hmmm…

It just feels like the Universe has been sending all sorts of “old” stuff my way — situations I thought I’d resolved, relationships I’d thought I’d dissolved, transgressions I thought I’d absolved. Every which way I turn, it feels like there’s something lying in wait, with bated breath, poised for the perfect moment to pop up in ninja-like fashion to throw me off my game. With a yelp and a shaky, “Well, hello there, didn’t expect to see you here,” I set off to figure out how it fits into a pattern of prior behavior, and to ascertain why (why, God, why) this is coming up for me again.

I’m starting to see how it all comes down to choices — I’ve made some very deliberate and clear choices in the past six months that were definitely life-altering (for the better) and which were far more in alignment with who I am and who I am choosing to become — and it’s almost like the Universe is saying, “Well, Carolyn. Let’s see if you meant what you said. Let’s see how much you mean what you said….” and sets me on a collision-course with a situation that is designed to make me choose between honoring myself or devaluing myself.

I find myself muttering, “Just for today, I will not be angry… Just for today, I will not worry…” a lot. I really feel like adding this to the Reiki Principles, in capital letters, bold-face print: JUST FOR TODAY, I WILL HONOR MYSELF. I think I will add it, actually (even though, if you adhere to all of the other tenets, you do honor yourself, it does me good to have that unequivocally stated).

The choices I’ve made up to this point have led me inexorably to this place, this specific square-foot of toe-bitten dirt on my path. I’m rather attached to this spot. Getting to this place demanded work, struggle, and shedding of that which no longer served me. It required me to look long and hard about stories I’d adopted or written that were designed to excuse things which I should never have accepted. It required me to rewrite those stories, and recast the characters.

It made me take a closer look at the plot — and how I wanted the main character (me) to grow and develop. How I wanted her to shine with the brilliance of the sun, instead of dimming her light to avoid standing out. How I wanted her to embrace all of her shining facets, her talents, her voice, her strength, her compassion, her creativity. How I wanted her to look at herself in the mirror and see herself as a moon-kissed dreamer, a bespectacled organizer, a goddess of both creative and destructive power, and to see herself as all of these things at the same time, and as more than them.

Just for today, I will honor myself.

Just for today, I will say no to others, so that I can say yes to me.

Just for today, I will break away from old patterns which no longer serve me.

Just for today, I will see myself shining with the possible.

Just for today.

Each fumbling step on this crooked path is fraught with peril and possibility. But I believe that I am supported. I believe that the choices I’ve made to this point have led me exactly where I am meant to be. I believe that I have the power and the strength to encounter these old foes and come out the victor. I believe that I have the wisdom and the power to make new choices which honor my becoming-self.

Tomorrow is a new day (a Wednesday, I hope) glimmering softly with the promise of new challenges, and new blessings. Tomorrow is a new day in which to practice my newly-amended creed, a new opportunity to find ways to honor myself.

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They left me

with your shadow,

saying things like

Life is not fair

 

& I believed them

for a long time.

 

But today,

I remembered

the way you laughed

& the heat

of your hand

in mine

 

& I knew that

life is more fair

than we can

ever imagine

if

we are there to live it

— Brian Andreas,  www.storypeople.com

 

I have lived here all of my life and have endured, to date, thirty-one Wisconsin Winters. I used to enjoy them more (I also used to own and wear snow-pants). The older I get, the harder it becomes to look at brown, brown, brown for nearly six months in a row, to feel the shrill bite of wind on my cheekbones day after day, to see the sky shrouded in mourning gray for weeks on end.

It used to be that, around March or so, I’d finally get weary of the limited palette around me, and start to long for the verdant greens of Spring – but this year, I was already longing for them a month ago, daydreaming out the window and remembering the way that the first gentler breezes of Spring carry the smell of new life with them.

I’m not melancholy, precisely – it’s more that I’m inspired to be introspective during these winters. You can’t really help it – going outside is not appealing most days, so that means you stay inside – with everyone else who is also not going outside, together like this, for months. *Sigh*

I get a little maudlin. I start missing the people I’ve loved who’ve gone. Which leads me to think about all of the good times we had together (which is a good thing), but which makes me miss them so much that my skin hurts with the ache of it, and I cry in the shower so that no one sees.

And I don’t bemoan the unfairness of life, the unfairness of them leaving me behind (or at least I try not to). As Dani says, “I didn’t ask ‘Why me?’ when any of the good things happened, so why should I ask ‘Why me?’ when the bad things happen?” And she’s right. All of the ‘Why me-ing’ in the world has never brought anyone back to us, never undone a flat tire, never unspilled the milk.

So, instead, I try to be present in the missing of these people I love, and let my sorrow – my ache over the holes they’ve left in my life – be a testament to being human. To knowing, in the most inescapable way, brevity. I tell stories about them to remind the others I love that our sorrow is shared and that it is sacred to share the joy in the remembering, too. I let the Winter inspire in me a desire to spin tales out from the past, and bring them into the present, invoking the power of the love I have for my dearly departed in each breath.

And then I step back and realize that this is what it means to know that life is more fair than we can ever imagine – we get this shot at it. We get to make each and every day of our time here into whatever shape and color and tone and vibrancy that we want to. We get the opportunity, in each moment, to fill that space with a creation that comes solely from us, original and infinite.

The trick of all of it is to be present in it – to miss and mourn my loved ones, bringing them forth in time, and learning them anew. Feeling the pain and the joy of it as a part of what it means to be human, to be ephemeral, to be inescapably brief – but not to let it keep me from moving on and moving into the coming moments with vibrancy and awareness and intensity.

It means that, even in the cavernous yowling morass of the bitter Winter, when every time I turn around I see and hear another mopey-moperson bemoaning their fate from birth to today, I choose to turn it around. To feel the feeling in the moment, and let it be part of my present, and then let it go so that I can move on. To dial-down the volume on the moaners and the ‘Why me’-ers around me and recast my pain and my challenges in a new light.

To see not the oppressive steel-gray skies and scudding snow-laden clouds, but instead, see the way the Winter light falls soft on everything, turning the very air into shimmer and translucence. To see not the dour countenances on the pedestrians trudging past the window, but the child on the sidewalk in the bright red jacket whose mittens hang from strings threaded through her sleeves, face tilted up, mouth open, tongue out, waiting and giggling as crisp lacy snowflakes christen her face.

The idea of home has always captured my heart and imagination. I have always been fascinated by those people who are adept at creating inviting spaces where you immediately feel welcome and at peace. And being on the Path of Reiki Mastery, I was naturally led to think about the energetics of those people and the home-spaces they create.

My grandparents’ house was like that for me – I am certain that the love I felt for them colored my perception of all of it, but that has been one of the few places where I immediately felt a calm and sense of peace just walking through the door. Their home was in many ways, very World War II generation-ish, and maybe that held part of the mystique for me. More so, they had a loving home, and welcoming hearts, and when you walked in their door, you were greeted warmly and fed and coddled – no matter who you were.

I have not had that kind of home space since I first left my parents’ house. Time after time, I had this impulse to just wait it out and keep things in boxes. I never allowed my energy and self to fill a place in a genuine way. And for the past two years especially, it was more like prolonged “camping” – and in many ways I felt like a squatter in the apartment we shared with our roommate.

As Wittler and I prepared for our new glorious abode, minus the roommate, I started to give a lot of thought to what it would mean for both of us to create space where our presence was felt, and where each room was filled with welcome and warmth. And then I came across this from Denise Linn:

Our homes are mirrors of ourselves. They reflect our interests, our beliefs, our hesitations, our spirit and our passion. They tell a story about how we feel about ourselves and the world around us. A home is more than a place to lay your head and seek comfort from the elements. It is a place where you can interface with the universe. It is a crossing point in time or space that can attract or repel energy.

Your home can be a place of renewal and hope. It can be a sanctuary within which you can retreat and recharge during the changing times, and oasis of peace amidst turmoil. Homes can be places of healing and regeneration. Not only can your home help to strengthen and heal you, but your home can be a template of harmony within which you and all who enter can be invited to step up to a higher level of spiritual frequency.

…Like an echo heard throughout infinity, your home can be a transmitter of luminous energy. The energy radiating from your home can be like a small stone dropped into a still pool of the universe, whose ripples will be felt at the farthest shore of the cosmos.

(from Sacred Space, by Denise Linn)

And then, I realized that we were already creating that homespace together – Wittler and I – through our commitment to one another, our genuine enjoyment of one another, our similar commitment to acting lovingly in a sometimes harsh world … All of that combines with our optimism and positive outlook on things, our sense of shared burden and willingness to reach out to others. Our homespace is creating itself beautifully out of who we are, and who we are becoming.

Dani recently “reclaimed” her space at the shop, making it into a place that she found soothing and relaxing – a place that she found sacred. As she did this, I found myself really relating to what compelled her to do it, and to need it. And all of the people who walk into the store, or come for a group and gather in that space comment on it, and bask in it. When they do that, they are basking in her.

Instead of allowing worry about how our home appears to others, I am going to focus on wanting our home to appeal to us – and allow it to grow its own energy and beauty and peace out of that. And rest secure in the knowledge that this is how those homespaces I’ve so enjoyed were created, and know that we are creating ours with every moment and breath, with every shared laugh, with every conversation at the kitchen table, with every meal prepared and consumed in love.

And even more, we will bask in it. We will be at peace in it. And those who will enjoy that space will find us, and come to bask, too.

Today, I felt like one of the bespelled humans who finally emerges from Faeryland after lifetimes spent amidst the glittering throng, who sets foot on human soil, and has all of their years come upon them all at once – who in that instant is crushed by the sheer weight of the passage of time, and the pressure of reality returning. Is shattered by the magnitude of every memory of every laugh, of every conversation, of every person that they have ever loved and who has ever loved them – and with that, the knowledge that all of it is so fleeting, so transient, so ephemeral – that life is slipping past them all in inches and miles, and that they are powerless to stop it.

Today was a tough day. And a long day. And by the time I got out of work, I was done. I felt raw, and tender – as though the slightest hurt would reverberate within me like a bell’s deep sounding, echoing off the walls of my heart. I drove to my folks’ house after work to pick up a package, and in the car on the way there, I had a talk with God. (This actually happens pretty frequently).

I started off pretty much bemoaning our state of affairs and ending with a kind of whimper. Then I sucked it up, and mustered forth to my folks’ house (I hate them to see me like that – they’re worriers and me a sobbing mess would not help).

You see, Wittler and I have been attempting to build our empire out of the ashes of our old life, and one of our main issues is that if all of the dollars in our account were good little soldiers, it’s pretty much been like this: recruitment is down, and far too many others have gone AWOL. *Sigh*

It’s hard to build an empire – we’ve been scraping for awhile now, and all of it aiming towards the goal of reshaping our life together into something closer to what we’ve both been longing for. We saved and moved into our own apartment – the first time as a couple that we’ll have our own space and our own energy there, and no one else’s vibes to muck it all up. It’s been absolutely deliciously wonderful.

In the midst of all of this scrimping and saving, and what I irreverently refer to as “poverty rations” (no slight intended to those who are truly suffering…) – dinners that consist of instant mashed potatoes and biscuits out of the popping cans – was the hope that we would finally find ourselves a leg up on all of the challenges that we face.

But, no. first the brakes fell off my car. Fell OFF. I didn’t know that was possible, actually. Even in that situation, I had to look and see how we were protected, how we were held in the palm of God’s hand, even then. They fell off blocks from the shop where my uncle (the mechanic) works, and fell off when I was not in dire need of stopping the car, but when I was only pulling slowly out of a parking space. They fell off the car the day before our ex-roommate was due to give us a check buying us out of our old security deposit. Even amidst what appeared challenging, we were supported.

So, we weren’t a leg “up,” but we were “even.” And then Wittler’s car started behaving in a horribly inappropriate fashion – when he tried to back up, one of the wheels just locked up and wouldn’t turn. Joy. So, today, my uncle calls me with the cost of the parts to fix that brake problem, and my heart just sank.

The reality is that I have a crap-ton of student loan debt, both of our cars need replacing sooner rather than later, we had intended to get married this year (quietly and inexpensively), and the prospect of starting a family seems awfully far off. I just shifted gears into this new life path in the not-so-distant-past, and we just shelled out a ton of cake to move.

So, I arrive at my folks’ house, attempting to suppress the urgent need to bawl and have myself a proper pity party, only to see my beautiful niece dressed in half of a Disney princess costume and sweatpants and waving a plastic faery wand around her head, and dancing throughout the house. I see my father – whose presence is so comforting to me that I cannot not cry if the urge is there. And I scamper off to “look” for something in the basement (code for: I went down to the basement to bawl my eyes out, attempt to expel the demons, and return upstairs as though nothing had happened).

Mid-way through my bawl, I can hear Abby (my niece) calling for me, and I realize that I am too raw, and too far into the ugly cry to suck it up and saunter casually in there with these people who have known me my entire life. I get out the worst of it, and come upstairs. My mom’s asking me if I’ve eaten, and then they all notice I’ve been crying. And they want to know why. And I don’t want to say – I don’t want them to worry about me, about us.

And my mom follows me. There have been plenty of times in our relationship where we haven’t been able to meet one another on the same emotional plane, couldn’t be what the other needed in that moment. Today though, she just let me cry and spill out all of my worries to her. She just listened. She didn’t trivialize what I was feeling and going through by telling me that it would all be alright. We both knew it would be alright, eventually – the important thing was that right now, it was not alright, and that I could not see my way clear of it. And then she offered to help us out with the money, and I told her no.

And then we walked into the house and she went into their pantry and packed us a bag of food, and went into her “magic” purse and pulled out the money we needed to fix Wittler’s car. And I put aside my pride and my stubborn will, and accepted the help. I let her take care of me, because she needed to, and I needed her to. And because I am learning that I need to let people do things for me, to accept their generosity with grace, and thereby honor their gift and their desire to give it.

Sitting here in the kitchen of our new apartment typing away, with Wittler in the background learning songs to play for me on the guitar, I can see how even through the rollercoaster of the past days and weeks, I have been supported in all that I have done, and in all that has happened. I can see God in the timely handing over of a check from our roommate, and in the compassion and love my mom showed me tonight.

And I can stop my railing, my worrying, my fretting. I can see the way clear, in this moment, how to allow the empire to build itself, and to sit in the quiet knowledge that it may not happen in the manner which I had conceived – but that it will happen, and in the manner in which it must unfold. I can see that – of course, silly girl – there will be those along the path to help you out of the muck when you’re up to your ears and sinking fast, and that all you have to do is have a grateful heart, and reach out when they’re reaching for you.

I’m pretty sure that this won’t be the last time I encounter this little basket of conditions on this path I’m on, but that’s the beauty of it – to remember, to allow the weight of memory of what’s come to inform what I intend to do the next time.

Come have a look through my kaleidoscope eyes. Come walk with me, as I make my way down the Path of Mastery (complete with fits and starts and pitstops and potholes). Our very impermanence is what makes us burn so brightly, and struggle so valiantly, and feel so deeply – it’s what makes us seize the day, and the moment. Come in, settle in, share a moment with me.

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"Who are YOU?" said the Caterpillar. This was not an encouraging opening for a conversation. Alice replied, rather shyly, "I--I hardly know, sir, just at present-- at least I know who I WAS when I got up this morning, but I think I must have been changed several times since then." (Lewis Carroll, Alice's Adventures in Wonderland, Chapter 5)