Dream. Letters. Thought and Memory.

I had a terrible dream last night.

In the dream, I haven’t been home to visit my parents for four years.  In the dream, they are still living at the house on Braemar (the one we moved into in 1977, the one before they downsized in 2004).  In the dream, they are both as sick as they were before they died.  My dad after his stroke, unwinding with bladder cancer.  My mom shrinking from pancreatic cancer.  I haven’t been home for 4 years and the realization happens as I am sitting in my car (which I don’t have anymore).  In the dream, I choke on panic and try to open the car door, but it so heavy as if pushing against water.  I finally get out and start running up Lonsdale… but it is like wading through mud and I am screaming at the top of my lungs but there is no sound.  I keep calculating in my head obsessively- it’s been 9 years and 4 months since mom passed away.  It’s been 5 years and 4 months since Dad died.  It’s been 15 years since we moved from the Sunshine Coast…  I keep lining up all the pets that have passed, calculating, calculating.  The crushing panic of not having visited mom and dad is drowning me…

I woke soaked in sweat.

I sit here now at the kitchen table…

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… staring at a package of letters.

I received the package in Dec 2013.

Recall:

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The first letter written 50 years ago this year:

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And I have managed to only get through one since receiving them.  For though the letters are likely optimistic, I know my mother’s pain.  And I am preparing, now that it is 9 years and 4 months since mom passed away.  It’s been 5 years and 4 months since Dad died.  It’s been 15 years since we moved from the Sunshine Coast… 50 years since we first moved here from Sweden, 40 years since we came back… preparing to finally to process my grief about mom by translating those letters.  My relationship with my mom was extraordinary and complicated.

As I start to work through the pile at last, I feel the (re)connection to my heritage.  The THOUGHTS and MEMORIES contained in those letters, in my DNA, are now ready to surface.

Huginn (THOUGHT) and Muninn (MEMORY)

The other day I found a photo in the big family mish-mash photo box.   I don’t recall ever seeing it before.  My mom and dad look happy and at peace.

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What about the dream?  In reality, I did caregive for mom and dad as best as I could.  In reality, I saw them almost every day.  They were my partners in crime on the Molly project, which is entering it’s 15th year and which is entering a new exciting phase.

Maybe the dream was some kind of cleansing.

A gift from mom and dad to let me know they are OK, and that I am OK, and that I am free now to flow with the current.  I made it.

 

Practicing neutrality.

I know anxiety.

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I know depression.

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And now it seems these days like I am practicing neutrality.

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Allowing things to be.  Just be.  Letting fear crumble through my fingers.  Sighing it out.  Letting the little bird free.

… keep some middle ground of neutrality amidst the chaos to stay out of other people’s drama.– Lena Stevens

I am practicing.  Every minute of every day until it becomes a habit.

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Gnight! Lay out your worries. Some you’ll pay down a bit every day, some evaporate upon being named. Don’t bring them into bed, they cast grotesque shadows and leave crumbs like a muhf***ker. Sleep easy. – Lin Manuel Miranda

A reminder that sometimes it is OK to do less.

I have been slow all day– I am trying to allow myself time to stop without guilt, to allow this feeling of weariness, this reminder that sometimes it is OK to do less.

What is this weariness?  Yes, I am recouping from a flu and yes, I have many multiple projects going at once, yes I have a long to-do and commitments, but is not physical, no, it is this familiar feeling of saudade.

Saudade is a unique Portuguese word that has no immediate translation in English.  Saudade describes a deep emotional state of nostalgic longing for an absent something or someone that one loves.  It often carries a repressed knowledge that the object of longing will never return.  It’s related to the feelings of longing, yearning.  

Saudade is the recollection of feelings, experiences, places or events that once brought excitement, pleasure, well-being, which now triggers the senses and makes one live again…  It can be described as an emptiness and the individual feels this absence…  In fact, one can have ‘saudades’ of someone whom one is with, but have some feeling of loss towards the past or the future.

I look at my to-do lists and I sigh.  I walk to the kitchen to make myself some coffee and it is an overwhelming feat today.

I have a precious day at home alone to catch up, but I really just want to sit.  To sit in this emotion, hang out with my parrot, and feel nostalgia.  To go inward, to regain some energy to move forward.  To embrace missing as a gift/reminder to rest.

I tried though- went back at my computer, preparing to write a letter, and as I was searching online for something specific, I came across an old blog post I wrote in 2013.  And I knew, this old post was a reminder again to stop today, to allow the feeling of saudade.  

Look who is saying hello in that old post!  How precious to see my dog Tobey (who passed away Dec 23, 2015), walking in the forest. 

A walk in the forest August 31, 2013.

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A GIFT.  So I share this here, pack my bags for tomorrow and STOP for the day- for sometimes it is OK to do less.

“About five years ago I saw a mockingbird make a straight vertical descent from the roof gutter of a four-story building.  It was an act as careless and spontaneous as the curl of a stem or the kindling of a star.

The mockingbird took a single step into the air and dropped.  His wings were still folded against his sides as though he were singing from a limb and not falling, accelerating thirty-two feet per second per second, through empty air.  Just a breath before he would have been dashed to the ground, he unfurled his wings with exact, deliberate care, revealing the broad bars of white, spread his elegant, white-banded tail, and so floated onto the grass.  I just rounded a corner when his insouciant step caught my eye; there was no one else in sight.  The fact of his free fall was like the old philosophical conundrum about the tree that falls in the forest.  The answer must be, I think, that beauty and grace are performed whether or not we will or sense them.  The least we can do is try to be there.

– Annie Dillard, Pilgrim at Tinker Creek

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CHECK OUT THE POWER PATH:

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Journal exercise: self-care and self-compassion

Journal exercise:

What does self-care and self-compassion mean to you?  How are they different?  How are they the same?

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Inspired by conversations of late, I am intrigued by the differences between SELF-CARE and SELF-COMPASSION.

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In health care, self care is any necessary human regulatory function which is under individual control, deliberate and self-initiated. [source]

Self-compassion is extending compassion to one’s self in instances of perceived inadequacy, failure, or general suffering.  Kristin Neff has defined self-compassion as being composed of three main components – self-kindness, common humanity, and mindfulness. [source]

CARE implies an action, a verb: effort made to do something correctly, safely, or without causing damage, things that are done to keep someone healthy, safe, etc., things that are done to keep something in good condition…

Taking good care of yourself means the people in your life receive the best of you rather than what is left of you. ― Lucille Zimmerman

COMPASSION implies a noun: pity, sympathy, empathy, fellow feeling, care, concern, solicitude, sensitivity, warmth, love, tenderness, mercy, leniency, tolerance, kindness, humanity, charity…

Don’t ever allow yourself to forget how incredibly special you are, even for a single second. Without you, the world would not be as magnificent. Let yourself remember to love again, starting with you loving you. ― Miya Yamanouchi

Self-care implies a to-do.  That can trigger.  Exhaust.

Check out:

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Self-compassion is immediate.

But hey, both important.

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I am getting better at self-compassion.  Self-care will take some more work.  In my own time.  In that statement lies self-compassion- take your time.

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So I will continue to practice self-compassion first (immediate), then self-care (commitment).

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This post is dedicated to my self-care/compassion soul-sisters:

Laura Mack, Patti Henderson, Beverley Pomeroy, Cher Thorsen, Maud Kerzendörfer, Cat Webb and Emma Varley…

and to Frida Kahlo.

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Check out:

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We could also say that this month is all about love; transforming fear into power through love, transforming doubt into confidence through love, transforming old emotional wounds into great wisdom through love. It is an opportunity for us all to learn our lessons through the tough love of spirit and to finally begin to love and cherish ourselves deeply and unconditionally… Make sure this month to take time for yourself in the area of self-care.  How can you best support your own priorities?  How can you take better care of yourself as your own most valuable possession?  Remember to have compassion and forgiveness and to be in love with yourself. July 2016 Forecast, The Power Path

The heart of it.

Practicing being heart-fully present and health-fully detached.  And checking in regularly with my own heart journey.

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Getting up a bit earlier.  Gentle time before facing each day.  Then practicing stepping into the day with

OPEN

boundless

bountiful

boundary-full

HEART.

And always reminding myself to nurture the heart of my passions and gifts.

“I’m filled with burning passion to experience life as fully and as madly as I can and I’ll always, always follow my heart. I am constantly evolving, learning, growing — life is a series of adventures tied together with the thread of friendship, experiences, lessons and love.  I am listening to my heart, I am noticing the subtle ebb and flow of my life as it unfolds before my eyes. I am open to change, I am vulnerable to the call of my soul but above all I have absolute faith in where I am going.  I am a firm believer in noticing synchronicities and letting them guide you on your path — noticing ‘signs’ directing you in a certain way can be magical in transforming your life. I also believe people come into your life for a reason, and that chance encounters can change your world.”

Zoe Quiney

Opened TextEdit to find a surprise note to self…

 

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Frida and the Chakras

Prepping for a session tonight with young women, around the theme of sisterhood using collage techniques, I opened TextEdit to collect pertinent quotes that may inspire dialogue tonight.

An untitled document opened with a note I wrote to myself from my future self last year.

Dear me,

You now stand fully naked, fully present, fully you.  Gone are the shackles that pulled you downwards into self-doubting, crippling anxiety.  No longer do you hesitate before expressing.  But most importantly, no longer do you collapse in shame and doubt after you expressed yourself.  

Speaking your truth used to cause you to feel like you were choking on amniotic fluid.  Felt like it came at a price.  

Now you can breathe in and breathe out with open mouth, open nostrils, open sinuses, open throat, open heart, open eyes, open mind without fear.  

You release your truth, your art, your work onto and into the world and receive back the conversations/communications with an open and fearless heart- a heart that is ready to dialogue.  

Your work used to require boundaries.  Your life used to comprise of self-imposed boundaries to protect your heart from rejection and loss.  But now you are boundless.  And so the work you have built on awakening creative expression in others- a gift you truly were born with and have worked so tirelessly to deliver- takes on a new level on a global scale.  You are not in need of accolades.  You are simply expressing, thereby allowing others to feel the same freedom.  It need no longer be frontline work (in person), it is a new principle and way of living.  

Full presence.  

You have taken all the heartache, all the joy, all the blood and guts of life and built a mission and vision that has created true abundance.  

You will never be anxiety-free and you will never not have heart-shattering challenges, but you now have a giant delicious toolbox with which to meet those challenges and easily process, die into them and rebirth from them.  You are truly living with ease.  

All is as it should be.  

Congratulations.  

Love, me 

Recall Peter’s pep talk: “THE BOOK WILL BE A SUCCESS. THERE IS NO OTHER POSSIBLE CONCLUSION TO THIS. ALLOW THE SUCCESS TO HAPPEN.  CONFIDENCE.”

What a lovely surprise to find this note on this lovely day.  We can be our own worst enemies, but also our own best friends.

Dedicated to my dear mentor/agent/friend, Peter Breeze:

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And so, the vulnerability shakes set in…

Hi.

As you may know, I’ve been fully immersed in process in the last month or so- working on my book presentation for my agent to shop around, and I have LOVED the process, trying to cross all the t’s and dot all the i’s.  Exciting to be at the next stage.  Ready to share.  So ready.  But let’s be honest- there is still a safety in the preparation.  The not quite ready for prime time mode.  The holding back to get it right.

Safety because it is still just mine.

And I’ve been enjoying working full days in my PJ’s and torn cardigan and worn out socks, wearing a scarf made by a dear friend, counting “pennies” (nickels now I guess), eating “poverty sandwiches” (which are very tasty, by the way- rye bread from No Frills, toasted, with No Name mayo, Spike spice and a generous topping of spinach leaves).

But the time had to come.

Shit or get off the pot.  So finally releasing the private presentation, sharing with a particular list of people for feedback, has been liberating and exhilarating.  But there it is… UGH… the old vulnerability hangover, as Brené Brown calls it.

The shakes.

What does it look like from in here?

Do this for me- wrap yourself completely in a blanket, preferably in a room with a window, preferably daytime, so it’s bright out.  Huddle in a sitting position or lie down- now just expose one eye.  Look to the light.

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Look out at the world from this place.  Listen to the loud beating of your heart and feel the acidic pit in your lower abdomen.  The endless self-attacks and doubt.  That’s pretty much me right now- or my frame of mind at least.  Oh yes, I know, I know, I KNOW that

The worst enemy to creativity is self-doubt. – Sylvia Plath

I have done so much self-work, and gathered so much support around me, yet the racing mind is back.  Oh my God, what have I done?   The what-if questions.  The fear of failure.

Writing is finally about one thing: going into a room alone and doing it. Putting words on paper that have never been there in quite that way before. And although you are physically by yourself, the haunting Demon never leaves you, that Demon being the knowledge of your own terrible limitations, your hopeless inadequacy, the impossibility of ever getting it right. No matter how diamond-bright your ideas are dancing in your brain, on paper they are earthbound. – William Goldman

So what has happened since I started sharing the presentation?

The feedback has been incredibly positive.  Wow.

Truly!

And I’ve tried to share with a wide variety of reader types.  And I’ve received some great and valuable suggestions, which I am working on today.  And I have the greatest support from my agent.

But I want to be real about this feeling.  It is SCARY.

It’s the life of the artist.  Or just simply the human condition, I suppose.

I’ve got to take my own hand and pull myself out of this, if I truly want it.

Do I want this?  All that lies ahead- even if what lies ahead is HUGE AND GREAT?!  

Yes!

I look to my guides.  What are they saying, experiencing?

Aligning with this cosmic energy and really feeling my vulnerability and frailty. Embracing it and being clear for it so I can properly navigate it and not cause any added self suffering is challenging but I’m determined to ride this spiral wave into the depths of my own insecurities and come out with a renewed perspective centered on gratitude and a deeper sense of self love. I know there is a divine reason for being this empathically sensitive to everything around me. Sending love out to anyone being challenged right now with loneliness or feelings of unworthiness and to anyone being tempted by old cycles that don’t serve their highest selves. We really are in this together, all connected, all one, so I know I’m not alone when I feel this way. Blessings to us all. Faith, love, community, and courage will get us through this! Through anything! One love! – Terry Tsipouras, November 29, 2015

Ah, Terry.  Ok- that makes me feel understood!  Terry Tsipouras always posts the most soul-touching wisdom just when I need it the most. Deep gratitude for this magical human being!

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So I take off the blanket:

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Gather the affirmations!

If you hear a voice within you say you cannot paint, then by all means paint and that voice will be silenced.”  – Vincent van Gogh

I look to the birds!  The herons are back on the roofs on neighboring buildings.

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Head high!  Invite it in!  Be ready!  Enjoy!

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My retreat journal Part 2 of 6: Into the labyrinth

I experienced a life-changing weekend as I co-facilitated Creativity and Connection Retreat October 17-19, 2014 on Bowen Island with Laura Mack at Xenia Retreat

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Here are some journal excerpts so you can get a small glimpse as to how powerful the experience was for me.

Recall: PART 1 October 17, 2014 FRIDAY INTO SILENCE

Part 2 October 18, 2014 SATURDAY MORNING:

Photo credit: Xenia on Bowen Island
Photo credit: Xenia on Bowen Island

6:30 AM The darkness did not overwhelm me last night.  The porch lights from next door were enough to illuminate to make me feel calm.  At times my heart wanted to race but I breathed through it.  Amazing.  

My sleep was like skipping stones though.  Perhaps tonight I will feel safe to fully fall asleep.  

Laura woke everyone up with a GONG!  We are still in silence.  The breath I felt in the sanctuary was one of the best moments of silence- felt like the deepest heart-est breaths.  

Laura just came back with a surprise cup of coffee. Bliss.  

At 7 am we have breakfast in silence then at 8 meet for walking to the labyrinth (still in silence) then to the yurt for opening circle…  

Before breakfast I walked with my coffee to the yurt.  I keep being pulled to it.  Set up the archetypes using iPhone compass to fully align with NSEW directions.

I then stood for a long time leaning on the fence looking out over the meadow, feeling Mamma and Pappa.  

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Ready to let go of pain and unhappiness.  Just allow the joy of my childhood to be what now lifts me.  I am loved and I am deserving.  I am a daughter.  A woman in very aspect.  I am “the mother.”  There is no power or fear in that.  I full step into me.  Let go and start fresh yet carry on.  To be in this childhood summerhouse-type setting is powerful.  I have a ball in my throat and tears behind my eyes that need to burst forth but sitting at breakfast now.  

Kitchen in the lodge.  Photo by Laura Mack.
Saria at work in the kitchen in the lodge. Photo by Laura Mack.

Recalling dinner by Saria last night.  Exquisite.  Shepherd’s pie, mixed salad (with everything from the garden), beets in orange juice and vinegar… baked glazed pears with whipped cream, fresh muffins.  I just want to keep writing but I need to pause.  Grab a cup of coffee and make sure I eat.  The breakfast spread: everything including grilled avocados with egg.  I had muffins, granola, yoghurt, fresh fruit.  A participant sits beside me.  Voraciously reading about the history of the property.  I love her curiosity, and tireless quest for knowledge.  A kindred spirit that needs to ingest, to feed on life through research.  

This experience is intensely safe.  Comforting.  Excited about the day ahead.

"Xenia Retreat. Feeling full. Awed. Peaceful. Expanded. On purpose." - Laura (Walking to labyrinth, we paused at Opa.  Photo by Laura Mack.)
“Xenia Retreat. Feeling full. Awed. Peaceful. Expanded. On purpose.”
– Laura (Walking to labyrinth, we paused at Opa. Photo by Laura Mack.)

The labyrinth walk in silence.  Profound.  The walk in, I had scattered thoughts, breathing into this early morning musings by the meadow.  In the centre, I felt peace and clarity and white light.  I cried throughout the walk outward, grieving, mourning, letting go.  Holding, releasing, allowing.  

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 “The poet Marianne Moore famously wrote of ‘real toads in imaginary gardens,’ and the labyrinth offers us the possibility of being real creatures in symbolic space…In such spaces as the labyrinth we cross over [between real and imaginary spaces]; we are really travelling, even if the destination is only symbolic.”
― Rebecca Solnit, Wanderlust: A History of Walking

Photo by Laura Mack
Photo by Laura Mack

I picked up two mottled leaves as I started to walk outward.  They represent Mamma and Pappa as they entered the last few days before their hearts stopped.  

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But did they stop?  Did the family not just pick up the beat as we synchronized with them?  I had my ear to mom’s chest as her heart stopped.  But I beat with it and carried it on for her.  

How could I not consider this life that I have truly miraculous and worth living?  Truly miraculous and always worth living.

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Opening circle and breaking silence in the yurt at 9 AM.  We reflected on our dreams, our experience in the sanctuary and at the labyrinth.  Laura introduced the Symbols Way and the 4 archetypes that we will focus on this weekend- encouraging us to ask ourselves: 

Where are you now?  

What archetype are you not so in touch with? 

Our first art-making session included mark-making and revisiting the labyrinth by tracing our steps on top of my drawing.  Delicious.  

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“Show not what has been done, but what can be. How beautiful the world would be if there were a procedure for moving through labyrinths.”
― Umberto Eco, The Name of the Rose

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Stay tuned for Part 3: Saturday late morning- Cyclops Goddess and the Matrilineal question to set the stage for Symbols Way…

“THE MOTHER-DAUGHTER RELATIONSHIP is at the headwaters of every woman’s health. Our bodies and our beliefs about them were formed in the soil of our mother’s emotions, beliefs, and behaviors. To become optimally healthy and happy, each of us must get clear about the ways in which our mother’s history both influenced and continues to inform our state of health, our beliefs, and how we live our lives. Every woman who heals herself helps heal all the women who came before her and all those who will come after her.” – Dr. Christiane Northup

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And for information on more workshops and retreats!

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The Giving Tree- is that me? Time for #selfcare

PRACTICE REFUELING, COCOONING, CELEBRATING YOURSELF, EXQUISITE SELF-CARE.

A few years ago, my therapist was helping me through a particularly rough patch as I was being pulled in a million directions in my role as caregiver.  She gave me The Giving Tree to read and asked, “Which character are you?”    It was obvious to me that I was the tree, and I still am.  She considered the book brutally sad and a warning.  I agree.  Today, in this moment, after many months of anxiety and struggle and changes and learning new ways, I feel like there is not much energy left.  Even my Dad called me to say I’m doing too much.

“I am sorry,” sighed the tree.  “I wish I could give you something… but I have nothing left.  I am just an old stump.  I am sorry…”

I need to refuel and cocoon.  To celebrate all the amazing things I have accomplished but learn what I can do less of.  What I can nurture and do more of.  To rest for the next projects.  I am so excited about the next adventures ahead, but if I don’t pay attention to the body signals like chest pains, and headaches and exhaustion, I won’t be the most present, vibrant me I can be!  I don’t want to be a dead tree stump.  It is Spring, and I want to reach my branches to the sky and grow, while providing shade and love and beauty!  So sorry, main character kid, this weekend build your own damn house out of recycled wood, please!  I’m busy growing more apples.

Cool tattoos though!