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In 2003, I went to Ireland for three and a half weeks over the Winterim through a program offered by Mount Mary College. We had to choose one of three courses to take during our stay — I chose Irish Literature, no surprise there. I’d have taken theoretical mathematics and failed it miserably if it meant I could go to Ireland (thank God it didn’t come to that).
I had wanted to go to the British Isles ever since I could remember. And at the start of the semester, I walked into school, and saw the flier taped to the wall: Winterim in Ireland. My heart absolutely stopped. I marched straight down to the office and made an appointment to find out just what I needed to do to get there. They only had two spaces left, and they needed a deposit today in order to hold my place. I wrote a check, asking that he give it a day or two for the deposit I’d need to rush home and make to clear in my account.
I didn’t discuss it with my parents. I didn’t consult my then-husband. I didn’t tell anyone about it. I just did it.
I think now and then about all the what if’s — what if I hadn’t had that overage check from tuition socked away in my underwear drawer? What if I’d consulted my parents/then-husband and they’d tried to talk me out of it? What if I hadn’t seen that flier? What if I had and the trip had already been filled? But that didn’t happen.
What did happen was that I told my friend Char V. about the trip, and she signed up. We went together on an adventure that cemented a friendship into a sisterhood. I fought a little bit with both of my parents about going so far away — something they didn’t really like, because they didn’t really understand my need to do it. And then I went out and got my passport. I fought with my then-husband, knee-deep in the ashes of our failing marriage, a day before I left to go, after no protest from him whatsoever for four months. And then, at one in the morning, he helped me finish packing.
I cannot describe to you what it felt like for me to just go off and decide this, to follow through with it, despite all of the opposition. I’d been such a good daughter, and such a good wife. Always looking to please others. Making this decision, and going through with it was the first hammer-blow to the chains I’d bound myself with. I left here a girl, and came back a different woman.
The moment we landed in Dublin, we boarded a bus that would take us to our lodgings for the first week. There was something flapping wildly in my chest — which I thought then was just a reaction to the way that the busdriver was navigating the busy streets of Dublin (he, and everyone else I saw, drove as though they were driving a tank at breakneck speeds on open roads…even when they weren’t).
That feeling wasn’t a result of being imperiled by a rogue busdriver. It wasn’t nerves, or fear. It was the most powerful sensation of coming home that I’d ever had in my entire life – to a place I’d only ever been in my dreams.
The moment we got our room assignment and toted (by hand) our incredibly heavy bags up the two flights of narrow stairs, I grabbed Char’s hand and said, “Let’s go!” To which she replied, “Where?” Anywhere! I wanted my feet on the ground. I wanted to smell the air. I wanted to stand there, knowing I was in Ireland, feeling the fluttery joy of homecoming in my chest.
From that first foray, through the entire trip, I struggled to swallow that feeling. I couldn’t understand it. I’d grown up in Wisconsin. I felt at home at my parents’ house. I loved it there. In the intervening years I’ve learned that some things aren’t meant to be understood. They’re only meant to be felt or experienced, without attaching reason to them.
The president of the college — a woman who I had a bit of hero-worship for – had married an Irishman, and used those contacts to craft a truly incomparable journey for us. At one point, she told me that I looked like I’d been born there, I fit in so well. I’d seen that myself — no one knew I wasn’t Irish until I opened my mouth and my Midwestern accent flowed out, exposing me.
I savored each minute. I took 33 rolls of film. I went to every single talk and presentation we were offered, and went along on misadventures with our smaller group of cronies every night. I barely slept – I didn’t want to miss a minute of it.
And there are times now, here, when I walk out the door and something about the day triggers a deep and inconsolable sense of loss and homesickness. Something about the moisture in the air, or the freshness of the breeze, or the quality of light shining through overcast skies. And I could just weep.
I don’t though. I swallow that longing, and store it away. Because I know that someday, I’ll go back. Someday, I will stand on the shores of the home of my heart, and feel that fullness again. Someday, I will stand on a bridge spanning the Liffey, and look around at the low buildings that feel so familiar and know that they’re mine. Mine, whether I’m there on the Liffey, or here in Wisconsin longing for them.
I was feeling nostalgic today. Something about the way the air’s so fresh coming in our apartment windows. Enjoy the pictures. And wish me luck on, someday, getting back home.
Hello world! I got the best surprise today! I had a wretched day — well, to be more precise, the day itself didn’t do anything, exactly. More accurately, I somehow found myself in a real stinker of a funk, and no matter how I tried to logic myself out of it, I was stuck in ….. a ‘mood.’ It did not help things when I overheard another driver disparage my driving skills and malign my character by comparing me to a female dog (I had a little vision of leaping from the car like a cheetah and going crazy on him. I restrained myself. Barely.) It was, all in all, a not-great day. Bleargh.
I annoyed myself, in fact.
And then, after a day of labor, and laundry, and lament… there it was. Just lying there, waiting for me. A box from Amazon.com. In the lobby under the mailboxes. With my name on it. (There is really nothing better, unless it’s from Barnes & Noble — then it’s just as good. *smile*).
The best part of it? I won the book through a contest on one of my favorite blogs — Ordinary Courage — by a phenomenal woman — Brene Brown. That’s partly what made it special — I never win anything, and I won this. More though, it felt like a present, like a gift.
And the appropriate thing to do when you recieve a gift is to thank the giver. Thank you, Brene Brown, for choosing my TGIF that day. I own your books, and I’ve read and reread your books, and am walking down a path that leads away from the futile quest for perfection (in part, because of you). Thank you for putting into words the niggling thoughts and dastardly patterns that swirl us down a purposeless path seeking perfection — you have a way of putting things that speaks to me where I am (and hits my ego where it lives).
Another appropriate thing to do? To recommend, heartily, to all I know, that which I’ve appreciated: Go check out her blog and her message.
And Dr. Brown — thank you. You had no way of knowing it, but today was the best day to get that gift in the mail! I’m sitting down and cracking it open as soon as this is posted!
I think that the majority of the Midwest took a collective breath, and sigh of relief yesterday. The oppressive heat and humidity that for weeks had been turning us all into vaguely damp and listless shadows of our former selves has finally broken.
I was able to turn off the air conditioning for the first time in weeks (thank you, thank you God – our checkbook, which absolutely flinched at the last utility bill thanks you, too).
I was able to throw open the windows and draw in cool, fresh air – the kind of summer air that lights, soft as a kiss, upon your skin (as opposed to what we had before, which was air that lay on your skin like some kind of wet tarp, smothering you).
I am such a lover of fall! Every year, at about the end of May, I start to look forward to September. Some people, like my fiancé, not only enjoy the summer and its hellish barrage of heat, but revel in it. He loves it. He wallows in it like an otter in a river. I fade. I go utterly transparent – all my sass and fire melt out and pool around my feet. All my ambition runs out, all my joie de vivre dissipates. And I spend the summer months (especially this summer, which according to the forecasters, has been the hottest summer in a decade) longing for fall.
I love fall. I cannot be alone in this: people loved this season so much, they christened it twice: once descriptively (fall), once poetically (autumn). Mmmm. Autumn. (Imagine Homer Simpson drooling over a doughnut…that’s how I feel, anticipating fall!!)
This morning, with the windows thrown open, has felt like a benediction. Like a promise, a foretelling. Like a lifeline, telling me to just hang on a bit longer, because soon every day will feel like this.
I love the clear cloudless blue skies of fall – I don’t think that they look quite the same any other time. I love the crispness of the air, the freshness. I love that it feels like something to be appreciated, since you know what’s coming after. I love the way the leaves always seem to turn all-of-a-sudden. Every year I watch and watch, trying to make sure that I catch the trees segueing from one palette to the next. No dice – somehow, I always seem to walk out the door to a world awash in brilliant sunset colors, having somehow missed the turning.
I love the mood of fall – a little bit pensive, a little bit joyful. I love pumpkins. I love tall fields of cornstalks rattling their dry and dusty bones in the crisp fall wind. I love leaves bunching, blown into corners and doorways. I love them carpeting streets with brilliance and jewel-toned color. I love the crunch they make under my feet. I slosh through them, kicking them up, like a kid.
Today, I am loving exactly what is: sweet summer air wafting into the windows, filling the house with the best of summer (wildflower smells, soft sunshine). Today, I am cherishing this brief reprieve from the kiln of summer’s torments. Hope the rest of you are enjoying it, too!!
These are little scraps of magic & when you paste them together you get a memory of something fine & strong, she said. Sometimes it takes till you’re 40 to see it though. (Brian Andreas, Storypeople)
This is Abby, my niece. She’s three. She’s enamored of glue. She reaches into my bag every single time I see her and grabs out the gluestick I keep in there, and begs me to do ‘arts and crafts’ with her, because one time when she was over, she asked what all the stuff on the table was for, and her Auntie (me) told her that’s where she did her arts and crafts. You never know what little tidbits will stick there, forever, in their minds.
On the day this picture was taken, I relented. I dressed her up in one of my dad’s old shirts as her artist’s smock, and let her hold the gluestick. I papered the table. I pulled out all the supplies. And I turned around to see her gazing with adoration and amazement at this glorious thing in her hands…the fabled gluestick. The look on her face is one that I need to remember – that look of childlike wonder and excitement.
I want to have that look on my face when I pull out the art supplies and get to “work.” Maybe I should stop calling it work, and start calling it play, instead. I want to have that look on my face each time I do a Numerology Chart for a client, or meet with a new group for Reiki Share, or gather a new class for Reiki Training. I want to have that look on my face when I show up to do what I do.
In my heart, that’s how I feel about it – so, I should let it shine outward. Let it permeate who I am, and what I show up with every day.
I want to cultivate that wonder. I want to feel the magic when I hold the tools in my hands and set to work.
She tapped her finger & nothing happened & she thought she had lost her magic, but it had only changed & it took her awhile to figure it out. (Brian Andreas, Storypeople)
Tonight I facilitated another Reiki Share, and as I left, it struck me again how grateful I am to be who I am, doing what I am doing, where I am doing it. It struck me again how wonderful it’s been to have this opportunity – how wonderful it feels to be doing something that feels so exactly right for who I am and who I’ve longed to be.
I know that I write a lot about the discomforts of the path of mastery…and not a lot about the blessings. Tonight I thought about those blessings – and about how they are ever-present in my life.
I used to have moments when I felt utterly bereft, as though there was no solace, no corner of comfort for me anywhere, in my entire life. I haven’t felt that way in a long time – I have found my solace, I have found what gives me succor.
Tonight we talked about the Reiki precepts, and we talked about walking the path of mastery and what that means. I think that anyone who’s ever embarked on any kind of spiritual journey, or a journey to self-mastery can say that, at least once, they wished they’d been the kind of person who was content not to question every bloody thing. That they wished for a ‘normal’ and ‘quiet’ life. And tonight I said, “But that is not what it has been given you to do.” And as I said it, I realized that that statement was for me.
There is no way on earth that I could live another life than the one I have. There is no way I could just decide to derail this path, hop off, and get on another one. It is not given me to do. There is no way, because I would be miserable. This is what has been given me to do.
I asked for this – longed for it, in fact. As a child, I was fascinated by the Christian mystics, by the hermits, by those who heard a call deep within their souls to take up their banner and march down a rockier, steeper, bendier path than the others around them. I was intrigued by those who held aloft a lantern to light the way for so many others who trudged similarly fraught paths.
The conditions of the path are really immaterial – whether I was a nurse, or a police officer, or a nun, or a coal miner, or a Reiki master, what I could not forsake is this need to look deeply, to question, to ponder, to explore. That is what has been given me to do.
When I finally was able to pursue Reiki training in the way I’d longed for so long to do, it was like a homecoming. It was like some fretting bird finally quieted and was soothed in my soul. Because I’d found it, finally, the lantern I would bear for others, and for myself.
Those who danced were thought to be quite insane by those who could not hear the music. (Angela Monet)
In one of my previous blogs, I wrote to the realization that I’d spent the majority of my life actively working to sterilize myself (metaphorically, and somewhat literally). It wasn’t until this bend on my path – and the discovery of my creative self, and my inner, passionate and unrestrained soul – that I was able to see clearly what all of my perfectionism was working so hard to achieve – utter and complete annihilation of my ‘messy’ emotional self.
If there is no great passion in your life, then have you really lived? Find your passion, whatever it may be. Become it, and let it become you and you will find great things happen FOR you, TO you, and BECAUSE of you. (T. Alan Armstrong)
One of the major struggles of my life has been to embrace and rejoice in my femininity. From my earliest memories onward, I greeted and engaged life with a very masculine approach. And, I was very good at it – I very ably ‘wore the pants’ and was better at being the head of household than most men. I was a go-getter, I was assertive, I was forward and direct. I was a very capable linear and rational thinker. I was raised to be my father’s ‘little buddy,’ and in many ways, I was expected to fulfill the role of the ‘eldest son.’ My female self was subjugated, made small – my womanhood was stifled and denied.
My emotionality, my femininity, my creativity, my passion were locked deep in the darkest corner of my heart. I allowed them release in my private journals, or in the bedroom, or in poems I never showed to anyone. I allowed myself to experience the power of them seldomly, and with purpose and control.
We all need to look into the dark side of our nature – that’s where the energy is, the passion. People are afraid of that because it holds pieces of us we’re busy denying. (Sue Grafton)
Smothering those elemental energies is a recipe for combustion – passion is not meant to be kept confined. Deep within, I knew that it would only be a matter of time before one of two things happened – my passions rode free, or I managed to kill them completely.
When I started coming to Three Sisters’ Spirit over a year ago, I sought Reiki training – a modality that is all about bringing balance to the body, emotions, mentality, and spirit. I know, with bone-deep certainty, that my path to becoming a Reiki Master Teacher has been essential in freeing those trapped parts of myself. Reiki has been absolutely instrumental in helping me to find and seek balance for all the parts of myself.
I also started attending the MoonCircle groups facilitated by Dani. I showed up hungry for something I could not name. I found a God who looked like me, felt like me, breathed and sang and danced like me. I found a way to see myself in my own Divinity. I discovered the power, the beauty, and the passion that resides in the Goddess of the trinity. I was able to make the final leap from rejecting a male god, and rebelling against my upbringing (which left me alone, yowling, and bereft in the desert of the Dark Night) to finding a spirituality and conception of God that I could embrace (and one which embraced me back).
Tonight I attended another MoonCircle group. I am a lot further along my path now than I was when Dani first handed me the manna for which I hungered. Lately, I find myself welcoming and helping other women feel at ease in our circle. I am coming full circle. Full. Circle. (Beautiful, beautiful). I have become a handmaiden to the priestess. I have become a Eucharistic minister, of sorts.
I wish that I could say that my appreciation for my woman-self came rushing back to me with trumpets and flames and joy and accolades. It didn’t. I always say that you can choose to do a thing with grace, or you can kick and scream and be dragged along to your fate. Because some things are fated – and we just choose the manner of our acquiescence.
It was more of a slow blossoming – a process that I feel now is really just starting. I had to get past the fear of showing the world my own beautifully messy soul. I had to get past and over the idea that to be feminine is to be weak. I had to discover in minutes and miles the grace, power, and transformative energy of stepping into my woman-self. I had to allow my passion to leak out at the corners, slowly and almost imperceptible. I had to let it dip its toes into the waves, before I could open the floodgates.
There is no end. There is no beginning. There is only the passion of life. (Frederico Fellini)
I am coming to a plateau – in the best of possible ways. I really feel that I am coming to a place where I can allow and encourage my masculine and feminine selves to exist in equality within me. I am arriving at the place where I can enjoy my own formidable nature – when I exhibit it with masculine tendencies (for me, very lingual) or with a feminine manner (which I am still discovering).
I want to get to the place where I can wear my luscious, passionate, juicy woman-self on my sleeve and let the world see and marvel at it – without a single trace of shame and fear. I will get there. Now that I’ve opened the doors to the inner sanctum, and experienced how good it feels, I know there is no going back – only forward, into the mystery. (Thank you, thank you, thank you, God).
Be still when you have nothing to say; when genuine passion moves you, say what you’ve got to say, and say it hot. (D. H. Lawrence)
Tonight, we gathered in a circle of women. We set the sacred space. We shared our women-stories. We held one another in the grace of the moment. We knew we were safe here. Cherished, and admired and celebrated. That’s part of what MoonCircle is about. Another part, especially for me, is allowing all of that to come into being – to find expression – in our lives (especially this month, with the new moon in Gemini).
We made Soul Collages, clipping hurriedly the things that caught our eye. Snipping bits of sentences, and cutting carefully around the images that spoke to us. I decided to share mine here on my blog – because I can look at this expression, this song of my soul, and rejoice.
Passion, it lies in all of us, sleeping…waiting…and though unwanted…unbidden…it will stir…open its jaws and howl. It speaks to us…guides us…passion rules us all, and we obey. What other choice do we have? Passion is the source of our finest moments. The joy of love…the clarity of hatred…and the ecstasy of grief. It hurts sometimes more than we can bear. If we could live without passion maybe we’d know some kind of peace…but we would be hollow…Empty rooms shuttered and dank. Without passion we’d be truly dead. (Joss Whedon)
My Soul Collage Poem:
In with the good
Delight at the serenity
Room to grow.
The surprising life,
Some relationships are meant to be.
I write my own magical name,
It’s nature’s secret.
It is a(n)
There’s something like a line of gold thread running through a man’s words when he talks to his daughter, and gradually over the years it gets to be long enough for you to pick up in your hands and weave into a cloth that feels like love itself. (John Gregory Brown, Decorations in a Ruined Cemetery, 1994)
Each year, I struggle to meet both of my father’s rules for gift giving:
Rule #1: Don’t spend any money.
Rule #2: Don’t spend any time.
Each year, in one way or another, I fail to meet those criteria. Except this year. This year, I made my father a keepsake art book — and told him that the money I’d spent I would’ve spent anyway, and that the time I spent was such a joy, it shouldn’t count. His birthday is today.
Happy birthday Dad!