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"I'll Never Be Happy Again."

Have you ever thought to yourself I'll never be happy again?

Did you accept your situation and regardless continue to work at the job you hated, stay in the marriage that became a prison, do nothing to change  the body you couldn't bear to look at?  Maybe you lost a loved one and felt that a piece of yourself died with them and didn't come back.

After months and years and more years of living in this way,we forget what happiness is altogether, and then we can no longer imagine it.  And if we can't imagine a thing, we can't attain it.

I remember a time when I had given up on happiness so completely that I was convinced happy people were faking it!  I used to think they are full of shit, why are they over there laughing, wtf? Nobody is THAT happy!

After my son was born I was miserable.  Not for lack of loving him or gratitude for my beautiful child, but because I felt so horrible in my body and mind. I had no idea how I was going to get through most days.  I would literally ask myself how am I going to get through this day?  I don't know how I did it, but I know I was very unhappy.

It's not the kind of unhappiness most people can notice in you, where you are happy today and then suddenly tomorrow you don't get out of bed.  It's a gradual overcast, a cumulative effect of dragging days, subtle losses, and little disappearing joys.  You don't even notice you are there, losing bits of yourself, until it is almost all the way gone.  And many of the people this happens to never really notice.  We have all met someone like this.

I spent the first two years of my my son's life just surviving, barely keeping my nose above the water line.  I knew it was postpartum depression deep down but I was scared out of my mind to take medicine or seek help from a doctor, (Iatrophobia, the fear of doctors, a not-so-pleasant after-effect of my Christian Science upbringing) so I tried yoga, meditation, acupuncture, cranio-sacral, St. John's Wort, talk therapy, walking, jazzercise, skin brushing...you name it, I tried it.  I would feel a tad better for a little while and hope that I had found the answer but then the crushing defeat always returned.

Years passed while I tried to claw my way out of that hole.  Knowing as I did that my children deserved to see their mother happy, to feel the warmth of my true joy, I fought for it even though I truly doubted I would ever win.   I fought hardest to maintain my faith that happiness and joy were my birthright, and that I would one day own them again.

It has been almost six years since I was officially diagnosed with PPD.

I can honestly say today that I have never been happier.

So how did I get from misery to happiness?  Was it an epiphany?  A revelation?  Did I find Jesus or develop a drug habit?

Daily vigilance.  Leaping into the unknown of divorce.  Following bliss and remembering how to have fun.  Doing it anyway, even if I was too tired or too down or too broke.

Some battles don't have a clear beginning or end.  My battle with depression and unhappiness felt like a lifetime in the trenches of some far off field.  The most important thing is, never ever give up.  Never stop fighting for happiness and health.

I promise, you will be happy again. 

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In the Aftermath of Divorce, an Unexpected Sisterhood

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=n1bcQMCZ5gU] It was a slow unraveling while inside the tapestry but in reality it was rapid, just a few short months.  Once he moved out I realized I couldn' t keep up with the chores involved in a wood-heated 5-bedroom farmhouse and maintain my full time job, mothering, and my sanity.  Not to mention the bills would be too much for me to handle now while paying child support to him.

Even though I knew it to be inevitable, it was hard to imagine downsizing.  We had dreamed of buying this gorgeous home on  20 acres, even signed a contract.  I loved the quiet of the country and the space.  We had picked up a new puppy just a week before I asked for a divorce.  I loved running each day on the back roads and watching the kids play for hours in the yard on the trampoline, skidding up and down the long country driveway.  Friends came to play and the children adored their home too.  It was idyllic.  It was part of a larger dream that had crumbled.

Eventually I realized that liberation would rise like a bird in the wake of letting go, and so downsize I did.

I moved with the kids into a small 2-bedroom ranch duplex one block from where I worked.  We were 4 blocks from the elementary school and one block from the daycare they attended afterschool.  No more stoking the woodstove at 5 am and 10 pm to stay warm and survive in the frigid Wisconsin winter, no more hauling kindling from the yard and firewood from the deck in my robe and gloves.  All I had to do was push the button on the thermostat and it was warm.  It made sense.  I could actually afford it, and the lifestyle would be much easier.  Here the kids shared a room and our furniture was sparse, and I slept on a single bed for the first time since college.

On the other side of the house was an aquaintance, a single mom whom I had met months before through work and had coffee with a couple of times while the kids and dogs played.  She was almost ten years younger yet had been raising her daughter on her own for five years already without much support to speak of.  She had fled the city after an abusive relationship, lost a job then found another, and hers was one of the most stressful jobs one could possibly have as a mother, in child protective services.  I admired her strength and tenacity, her faith in herself and her ability to keep going under more stress than I had ever known.  She had already learned how to reach out and ask for help, even from people she hardly knew like myself--it meant survival.  The night I kept her daughter after school last minute when she transported a child to detention far away I was amazed she asked and I was glad to help.  I didn't know then just how much she would eventually help me, and the many ways her friendship buoyed me in that ocean of uncertainty for months to come.

Within a short time after I moved in we were cooking meals together, having wine on our shared back patio late nights after the kids went to sleep, and I found she had a shoulder I could cry on.  The friendship we formed took the sting out of the loneliness of raising my kids on my own, and if I needed to run to the store or work late, I knew I could count on her.  We laughed until tears streamed down our faces and watched bad reality T.V. together.  We connected in a way I had never experienced before, and within the four short months we lived next to each other I swear she saved me.

Soon she would be married for the first time and so happy.  I watched her realize a dream she had had for so many years and find a man who would erase the bad memories and disappointments of her past relationships, a man whom she could finally trust.  When my kids and I moved away to Ohio we both cried, and I realized for the first time that what we had given each other was a community amongst ourselves when we needed it most .

Now she has a new baby and we talk less on the phone, I know she is enjoying her sleepless nights and her beautiful new family.  But that's okay with me.  We got through to the other side by holding hands and laughing, emerged anew as sisters who helped each other shine. [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QGJuMBdaqIw]

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I Wish I Could Eat a Rainbow

I wish I could eat a rainbowI wish I could eat a rainbow, Mommy.I would grab it in my fingers and slurp it like spaghetti, rainbow juices dripping down my chin.

What would it taste like?, I asked her with a smile.

It would taste like clouds and sunshine and mist and M&M's, lemonade and cherry with strawberries and whipped cream. It would taste like flowers and the green of spring-- maybe for you the purple would taste like wine, but not for me-- for me it would taste like grape popsicle. It would be very filling.  My belly would be full from eating that rainbow.

I wish I could eat a rainbow too, I said.

You can, Mommy! There's one for you, grab it quick before it flies away!

And so I closed my eyes and reached up, pulled the rainbow to my lips, and tasted a miracle.

©Heidi Howes 2012

What would your rainbow taste like?  Let me know in the comments below...

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On How I Never Wanted to Be a Mother and Why it's the Best Thing That Ever Happened to Me

MotheringWhen I was young, I never wanted to be a mother.  As a little girl I was a tomboy, worshipping my older brother and following my dad around. I don't think I ever even owned a Barbie doll or a babydoll.  I wanted to climb trees, play baseball, wrestle, and I never wore dresses.  Dresses mortified me.

Looking back I see the complex reasons why I wanted to associate with the male persona more, reasons like freedom and    going shirtless in the summertime (though that was forbidden after I was five).  Even as a child, especially as a child, I sensed the limitations and the lack of respect towards mothers held in our society.

Most of all I didn' t want to have my own children.  No, I wanted to travel the world and follow my own dreams and the message to me in my childhood was loud and clear that children are a burden and they keep you from your dreams.  Children limit you and hold you back and make you incredibly exhausted and disappointed.  No room for dreaming once they come along.

And so I lived for myself, for my own devices, going from thing to thing until one day I was 26 and suddenly I felt THE CLOCK.  Nothing so overwhelming as the urge to have a BABY.  It was a strange occurrence I never could've seen coming, until it was there smacking me in the face.  I had found my mate and it was time.

There is so little to prepare us for the complete life-alteration that is parenting.  The journey is mind-blowing to say the least, and sometimes I think so chaotic and insane that only in retrospect can we see how amazing it is.  My children are 8 and 5 respectively now and just as everyone tells you from the minute they are born (and man is it annoying how often people say this) it goes by so quickly, so painfully and heart-wrenchingly quickly.

Because I never rehearsed as a little girl nor dreamed of the children I would one day have, perhaps I bloomed late into my embrace of mothering.  But embrace it I do.

My children are my opus, my everything.  They are my reason for waking and my reason for collapsing.  I want to hold on to every second of their lives and remember, remember, remember.  This moment, gone.  That moment, so sweet.  A series of moments tied together by this rushing river of unbounded love.

How could I know?  Was I so naive to think there was any other miracle meant for me?

So if mothering these two children is the biggest thing--the only thing--I ever do, no matter how imperfectly or awkwardly, if this is my great body of work in this world--I am 100% at peace with that.  If I never write that book or screenplay or finish the album I feel compelled to record, I will be just fine.  If I never see Africa or South America, I will be fine.

Why is it the best thing that ever happened to me?

Little hands.  Sneaking into my bed to sleep next to me.  Laughter.  Screams.  Swinging in sunshine.  Playing for hours.  Pretending.  Seeing for the first time.  I love you, Mommy.  Little feet.  Bathtime.  Learning to read.  Prayers for strangers.    Why Mommy?  When Mommy?  Where Mommy?  Candy. Treasure Hunts.  Legos.  Spontaneous dancing.  Jumping on the bed.  Skipping.  Hopscotch.  Bedtime stories.  Lullabyes.  Backrubs.  Hugs.  Kisses.  Snacks before bed.  Climbing trees.  Sleepovers.  Playdates.  Skipping rocks.  Throwing ball.  Picking up from school.  Walking to the bus.  Waving goodbye.  Running to greet me.  Kisses.  Hugs.  Good morning.  I love you, baby.

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Is There Hope in Divorce?

hopeful divorce: field notes from a friend As with my journey through Postpartum Depression, my journey through divorce has been hard to talk about, and even harder to contextualize for my friends whose marriages go on while mine ended.  Bring into the equation the juggling of self-care, work, household duties, and 2 children now being managed on my own, there is little if any time to talk about it even if I wanted to.

I remember distinctly the day after the decision had been made.  I walked out into my small town community of about 2000 folks,most of whom knew about my divorce the second I did (as things go in small towns, word of mouth is still the most powerful marketing strategy).  There was a party at the local theater and a couple hundred of our mutual friends and acquaintances were there.  This was the first time I realized that marriage was something that held all of us couples together in a tenuous circle, that the dissolving state of my marriage was somehow,if only very subconsciously, threatening to those who were still maintaining theirs.  I tried to smile and engage and assure my friends that this was the best thing for all of us, because in these awkward social moments we must keep it together.  I spotted a woman who had been a single mother all these years among us very cliqueish couples, and I felt the weight of single motherhood drop like an anchor to the pit of my stomach.  I no longer belonged to the neat and pretty togetherness of marriage and family.  I was alone, de-husbanded, de-familied.  Suddenly the reality of it smacked me in the face and I felt utterly alone.

But at this point I was sure there was no going back,  and so I pushed forward reminding myself that fitting in was not going to bring me peace or happiness or anything.  I held my head high in public, though the inevitable sides were drawn and yes, there were those who shunned me.  I was demonized, gossiped about, judged and questioned.  I felt like I wore a scarlet letter everywhere I went.  Especially when messy decisions were made and life went on.

Even in the face of all the hardship that came with choosing the divorce, I continued to remind myself that better things were surely to come for all of us, and that divorce could be a way to truly finding those things we most needed but weren't able to find within the marriage we had created.  I made my own hope, in my heart, even when faced with excruciating decisions and questions involving the children I love so dearly.

It has been a little over a year since the beginning of my divorce process, and I can say a lot of it was very lonely.  But I have made it and I continue to make it.  I wish I had heard of a Hopeful Divorce then, but it is a brand new course from Hopeful World Publishing, and even though I am already past my first year, every field note I receive in my inbox helps me move forward, stop looking back, and breathe more easily knowing there are friends out there who understand.

So yes, there is hope in divorce.  Lots of hope.  And we are gonna make it okay after all.

hopeful divorce: field notes from a friend

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The Burning Question: What Would you like to Stop Doing?

Stop already.  Stop thinking you are less than,

stop saying your dreams don't matter, your desire

will wait.  Stop burying your muse under the mattress.

Stop believing that you are damaged, you can carry

the weight and therefore you should though you long

to be light, to be en-lightened, to walk in sunlight.

Stop making yourself small so others feel okay

in their smallness.  Climb the sycamore tree

in the ravine, take the kids to India, allow yourself

to make love to whomever, whenever, wherever.  Stop listening

to the fears that disquise themselves as wisdom.

Stop keeping your silence when you know what you want

from the world.  If this person won't listen

stop giving away your time and speak up

until you find the ones who hear you, who

want you to say more.  Stop thinking

that being a mother means you can't.

Stop limiting, stop regretting, stop wishing.

Stop thinking you are not enough.  Stop already.

You are everything you've ever dreamed of.

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The Year of the Water Dragon

  • The Year of the Water Dragon

    Photo by Oimax

    I have a very special relationship to a certain water dragon, I wrote about it all here, and I am inspired to dive into the water and journey with this awesome creature again this year.  Sometimes all we need is a powerful symbol or nighttime dream to catalyse our movement again.  There will a be a lot of motion, water flows uninhibited this year, and I for one am stoked for the wild ride.

    Today I plan on cleaning up some old business to make way for the new.  I will be freshening up the sacred spaces in my heart and my home to make room for my dreams to move in with their stunning surprises.  I don't know just what they will look like but I want to welcome them all the same.  Below  are some ways you can follow along with the celebration yourself.

    Special thanks to my dreaming friend Anna who reminded me of this important celebration of Losar, the Tibetan Buddhist new year on February 22 which ushers in the Year of the Water Dragon. Traditional (Tibetan) celebrations begin on February 19 and end two weeks after February 22.

    The Year of the Water Dragon  is a time when powerful forces will culminate to transform our reality. We can use this time to make great changes, dismanteling destructive habit patterns in order to estabish greater virtue and wellbeing. Or, if we are not prepared, the forces may overwhelm us and create chaos and upheaval. Tibetan astrology offers great insight into the forces at work as well as the elemental forces at play.

    February 19 is dedicated to cleaning the house, in particular one's personal shrine or altar. This is the time to clean out the clutter in one's home, get rid of things one does not need, and especially giving one's shrine a thorough cleaning. Removing any last vestiges of the old year's residue, making way for renewed energy and potential.

    February 20 - performing rituals to cleanse negativity

    February 21 - decorating and beautifying one's house, preparing goodies to eat and drink.

    February 22 - celebrating with friends.

    The first two weeks of the new year - known as the moon's rising time - are considered especially auspicious for undertaking any new activity, particularly practice and retreat. New business ventures, marriages, travel, etc., etc., are favored at this time.

    Will you be celebrating Losar?  How will you clean house to make way for the Year of the Water Dragon?  Let me know in the comments!

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As if Noone is Watching

[vimeo http://www.vimeo.com/18446531 w=400&h=225]

Girl Walk // All Day from jacob krupnick on Vimeo.

Have you ever lived a period of your life in which you remained trapped in a certain mindframe or paradigm that didn't serve you?  You were doing everything you were supposed to do yet still you were unhappy?  Do you know how long  it took you to break free?

We can become prisoners of our own reality, prisoners of our own misconceptions about what life is and should be.  We make assumptions and take conventions as truth rather than following our heart's call to what we truly want.  The heart sings a song and we don't listen because our mind will not budge from its rulebook.  Our mind says things like I have to work full time, I have to make x amount of $, I have to give my children these things, I have to have this large house, I have to have a car, I have to relinquish my joyous hobby for the day to day grind that sucks my soul...I have to stay here because of family, I have to stay in this marriage for the kids, I don't have time to eat healthy, workout, declutter, play music, write poetry, laugh, cry, write letters to my best friend...

I remember my mother taking a long time to recover from leaving my father.  She knew it was the best thing to do and it had been a long time coming, but she struggled for years to come to a new place of peace about her decisions.  Then years later, in my own marriage, she told me I didn't have to be in a situation where I struggled and fought and felt unhappy.  I remember being angry with her because I felt that stepping away from something I should stick with was a ridiculous notion.  Even though it was eating me up.  She could clearly see my unhappiness, which I was unaware of because I had forgotten what my happiness looked like.  Now I see that she was right.  When the pain became too great, I finally made the change I needed to make.  And it was as simple as making a decision.  Unbelievably simple.

When you forget how it feels to be happy or free, you also are unable to envision such a life for yourself.  Without vision, we cannot alter our reality to become what we wish for.

I know many people who are trapped in this kind of mindset.  Again, it is the shoulds which enslave us, or as they say in "The Neverending Story", it is The Nothing.  It is the numb and stark position of forgetting who we truly are and what our heart truly yearns for.

I suggest we take it by the hand, that Nothing, and let it be our most beloved teacher.  I suggest we stare our unhappiness in the face and smile.  Find your bliss and the Nothing will disappear.  We have forgotten how to feel joy.  When we find it, a revolution ensues.

The longer we stay in our self-made prisons, the harder it is to get free.  But the freedom is all the sweeter, and it can happen whenever you decide to step outside the unlocked gate.

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Bliss is...Dancing.

This is the official beginning of The Ananda Project wherein I will explore 12 different paths to bliss over the twelve months of 2012, and this January I have decided to DANCE. There wasn't a lot of dancing in my house when I was growing up, although I wouldn't say there was no dancing.   Music and athletics were my parents' main inspirations, so I did dance but minimally, and never in a class or in any formal way.  I think some part of me wanted to dance more, but now I long to dance.

This awakened in me most after the birth of my son in 2004.  After a good many years of enjoying, abusing, and taking for granted the health and strength of an active body I experienced the stress of pregnancy weight gain, some emotional trauma, and finally an emergency cesarean which left me in an unbearable amount of physical discomfort.

There are women who weather a pregnancy easily and bounce back immediately--and then there are the rest of us.

My body was a house of pain.  I felt as if I'd been split in half.  Split Open, a song I wrote in 2002, seemed to be a prophecy come true.  In my eyes a web of pink scars across my foreign belly and a mutilated midriff remained in place of a once smooth palette.  I couldn't bend or touch there without a stab of regret and shame.

And then, the most unlikely thing happened.  I signed up for a free jazzercise class.

I know, you are probably all , WTF Heidi!, but they had childcare and they were the only ones in town with that necessity.   I have to tell you that first day sweating it out and shaking it to Britney Spears' "toxic" I literally broke down and cried with joy.  All the tension and numbness and swelling and hurting down to the nuclei in my cells came pouring out of me in that goddamn step ball change grapevine combo.

You see, my body was a stranger to me.  I couldn't stand being inside of it, let alone connect with it.  Movement was painful, and to add insult to injury, I was supposed to feel blessed and happy.  I couldn't feel that if I paid attention to the pain so I tried not to pay attention.  I was disconnected and felt an emptiness in my center that was both physical and emotional.

Jazzercise may seem cheesy to you, but that day it was pure enlightenment.  I felt my body come alive again and with it my soul awoke tiny bits at a time.

This is the gift of dance, that we can live wholly in our bodies and awaken the soul.  Dance heals.  Dance enlightens.  Dance is ecstasy.

I dare you not to be inspired by this:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eodhdLOElvU?rel=0]

and this: [youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Co56jucR_Q8?rel=0]

Stay tuned while I explore different dance experiences this month, the first of which is pole dancing.  What is your relationship to dance?  How do you practice it and can you share your most memorable dance experience?  Feel free to share with your friends on Facebook and Twitter.

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The Purpose of Fog, or When to Leave a Bad Relationship

When to leave a bad relationship When he calls, her heart flutters.  And it also sinks.  He swept her away. Away from many things she dares not think of.  And into a whirlpool of other things she dares not mention.

Life has been easier since she stopped talking to him, since it ended.  Her walk is lighter, the days are clearer, and happiness erupts lightly from simple moments.

And yet the urge to hear his voice is overbearing, like the need to smoke a cigarette--nagging, nagging, nagging until you finally relent and take a drag.  When you are jonesing, virtually nothing can stop you from finding your fix.

It's the heart sinking part she doesn't pay attention to, though she should. She pushes it aside and answers anyway, just to feel that feeling one more time.  One more hit.  Maybe this time it will be different.

I miss you baby.  Come back to me, he says.  I've changed.

You know she's heard this before.  Too many times to count.  He says he loves her so much it makes him crazy, makes him do stupid things.  Hurtful things.  But only because he loves her that much.  Only because he can't live without her.

It's so foggy here.  Let me make it up to you.  Give me ONE MORE CHANCE.

The chances could go on forever.  She feels herself slipping.  Her head gets heavy with her heart, she listens to him talk and feels the arm of their fucked up past pulling her down.  He is a sweet talker, her favorite kind.  Funny and smoothe and sexy.  She is sliding in the gravel of his empty promises.

Her best friend says he doesn't get to treat you that way. Her sister says he is such a loser, I thought you already moved on, stop talking to him.  Her girlfriend says I'm sick of hearing about it.

Why does the heart sometimes gravitate towards this foggy road?  Why not take the high road, above the mist?

Have you ever experienced this or watched someone go through it?  Let me know in the comments and feel free to share on facebook or twitter.

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Solving the Problem of Suffering with a Song

Life is suffering.  I know I need to accept this fact in order to overcome it.  But I want more,  I want something bigger and brighter than sitting down with my fingers in a mudra and thinking life is suffering, just 'assept' it already. I want to solve the problem of suffering, and this blog's unwavering aim is to do just that.  Because yes, bad things happen.  Yes, we suffer. But can we see the beauty in it?  And in doing so, do we not overturn and transform the aforementioned slug of suffering into an awe-inspiring praying mantis?

The discontent I carried for many years has now given way to a newfound freedom and happiness.  Perhaps only temporarily, perhaps because of medical advances, but I will take what I can get!

Quiet desperation is the enemy.   Life is meant to be relished, rejoiced, enjoyed.

The Summer Day

Mary Oliver

Who made the world? Who made the swan, and the black bear? Who made the grasshopper? This grasshopper, I mean- the one who has flung herself out of the grass, the one who is eating sugar out of my hand, who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down- who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes. Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face. Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away. I don't know exactly what a prayer is. I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass, how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields, which is what I have been doing all day. Tell me, what else should I have done? Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon? Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?

What are you planning to do?  Are you beating the suffering, killing the blues? Click the link to see me sing about this :)

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Big Ideas and Tempting Fantasies

TAURUS (April 20-May 20): "Not to dream boldly may turn out to beirresponsible," said educator George Leonard. I certainly think that will be true for you in the coming months, Taurus. In my astrological opinion, you have a sacred duty not only to yourself, but also to the people you care about, to use your imagination more aggressively and expressively as you contemplate what might lie ahead for you. You simply cannot afford to remain safely ensconced within your comfort zone, shielded from the big ideas and tempting fantasies that have started calling and calling and calling to you.-- Rob Breszny

So this  year was a real bitch, but I am ready to take 2012 and make it my love slave.  How 'bout you?

Over the past few years I have always done a little retrospective in December and along with my bff made my Mondo Beyondo list.  Some of these big dreams have come true and some have fallen behind, but as we usher in this new era I feel more and more compelled to follow my dreams in a radical new way, despite all of the IFs I feel I have.  We all have those things holding us back, but I intend to make 2012 the year I conquer the excuses and move into the life I want to create for myself and my children.

If you haven't noticed,  there is a massive movement of brilliant people creating the lives of their dreams and at the same time spreading the word online about how they are doing it.    People who believe we can change the world by doing work we love.  Like Leo  and Scott, and Chris and Kelly and Danielle and Kate and so many more of my online heroes who are rocking my world with their insights.  Every day I receive inspiration in my mailbox, and my favorite topics revolve around the things I am working on as well such as getting out of debt, weight loss and healthy living, finding bliss and happiness, dreams, and whatever else comes to mind any given day.

The Ananda Project is all about expansion.  What we focus on expands.  I have not officially launched the project yet, I am still in preparation here on the blog, but this coming year it will be one of my main focuses up there with feeding the fam, getting out of debt, and some other things I am narrowing down to.

If you could have your ideal life, what would it look like?  Not what you think you should have but what you really want.  I am envisioning mine and working towards it,  and in a couple of posts I will be setting my intentions.  Wanna join me?  Post yours and let us know about them in the comments.

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Sibling Love: From Dawn to Dusk

sibling loveOur brothers and sisters are there with us from the dawn of our personal stories to the inevitable dusk.  ~Susan Scarf Merrell

Ask me who I am and inevitably the conversation quickly turns to my three siblings.  The people they have become, and the person I am becoming, are thoroughly intertwined, and I couldn't be happier about it.

I realize that not everyone beams about their siblings the way I do.  I see myself in my mind's eye stacked in order of our birth.  I am the 2nd child, the oldest girl.  As we have aged, however, we have become equals, and the best of friends.

This year our Thanksgiving brought us all together in one city, in one home, around one table, and my sister and I were blessed to cook for and host the feast.  This was a special occasion, as in years past we have been scattered about the country or the world, and in this day and age it is amazing we are all centrally located.  Moving "home" with my children earlier this year was in large part due to my desire to be close to these amazing people I am honored to be related to.

What I know is I never feel so whole as when I am surrounded by my siblings.  When we are together the energy of our togetherness alone propels us.  When we laugh, it is with years of common history, the chorus of laughter echoing behind us.  No one else can understand the intimate threads of my past as they can, and only rarely is that a bad thing.  Perhaps it is because the common tribulations we have endured brought us closer rather than tore us apart, as it may have other families.  Perhaps it is that we can make each other laugh so hard that we cry.  And we've had exciting adventures to round it all out.

Certain memories of each of them stand out in my mind as solid metaphors for who they are, and how I love them.  I have written poems for each of them, and songs, and they are my lifetime muses.

When we were young, my older brother was my complete idol.  I worshiped him as much as he dismissed me.  Anything he did, I wanted to do.   I remember laying on the floor outside his bedroom, listening to him play the violin, year after year.  He and the sound of the violin are one in my memmory.  The beautiful music of my big brother.

My younger sister is like my heart outside of my body, walking in the world.  We possess an understanding of each other that no outside relationship could ever rival.  Attending the same college, we were roommates, and now in our 30's we are roommates once again.  Whether cooking the Thanksgiving meal, watching reruns of Sex in the City, or visiting our father, together we flow smoothly.  Still today my image of my sister as a child remains how she found her own happiness in every moment, no matter what was going on around her, her world was filled with beauty, and she still lives this way today making people's special life moments perfect.

My youngest sibling, my little brother, is a hulking gentle giant whose hyperactive affection and infectious enthusiasm will make him live on forever as his 7-yr old self in my mind.  He was everywhere as a child, neverending energy, and his sweetness and literal love for sugar are the cornerstones of my memories of him.  He now spreads that sweetness and enthusiasm all over the world through his work.

A sibling may be the keeper of one's identity, the only person with the keys to one's unfettered, more fundamental self.  ~Marian Sandmaier

I feel blessed to have my brothers and sister as a part of my life, and the closeness we share is such a gift I will never take for granted,  for all this I am so grateful.

Do you have a sibling story to share?

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The Daughters of Spring

Don't Mess with Mama Bird by www.lisauntitled.com

You are now three and my struggle is rushing , remembering to hold on to your tiny words, pulsing between my daydreams of pressing thoughts and the image of your silly faces in the rearview mirror.

You make me laugh, sing along sweetly to the radio, tell me a story about how Winnie the Pooh dies and then goes to jail. I am supposed to drive, steer, pay attention to the road stay between the yellow lines, and make enough money to fill this damn tank-- not to mention all those dishes in the sink at home.

I try to fit it all into this drive to school, so afraid to lose or fail, and when we arrive, when you flit from the car and float, fairy-like, to the curb you are not looking forward, only into this moment, the blossomed petals on the concrete.

Your eyes sparkle up towards mine and quick as a wink you wave your hand into the pile of  ivory petals, fling them into the air so they drift in the breeze and swirl back to the ground.

My heart rips open like a seed who knows spring is here, right now, and we are her daughters.

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The Heart of the Matter

It's hard to imagine that a year ago I was living in northern Wisconsin in a spacious 5-bedroom farmhouse on 20 acres of pristine land.  We were visited by coyotes and black bears and foxes and too many deer to count.  The kids spent hours on the trampoline outside the patio door, chasing the new puppy up and down the long gravel driveway, wading through the creek that ran just feet from the back of the house. That farmhouse seems like a distant dream now, though I haven't thought much of it nor looked back to reflect on the decisions that led up to leaving it.  Life sped up, our little world shifted, and we rode like hell to try and keep up with the turn of events that I myself had set in motion. I had a dream one night that I was singing into a microphone that was strung to the top of a giant tree.  Three of my students were singing with me and when it came to my solo I was surprised to find that I didn't hold back at all, I belted with everything I had as if it were my show, not theirs.  When I woke I struggled to find the song in the foggy waters of my waking mind, but later in the day the song came to me, and once I found it I couldn't stop singing it:

[youtube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6I5d6pa3EcE?rel=0]

When I leapt into the unknown, finally honoring the empty ache in my heart where something had been lost for a long, long time, it didn't matter anymore what surrounded me or how many bedrooms I had.

What mattered was coming alive.

There are conventional and condemning views of what I did, leaving my marriage in the time and the ways that I did, and those are exactly the same views which had kept me confined for so long in a place that shut down my heart.  I imagine that when you wake from a big sleep, there is a lot that needs to be sorted.  You've aged.  Your muscles may have atrophied, and in my case I lost a sense of strength that had previously defined and informed me.

When you are sleeping, your loved ones hurt.  They miss you, they wait for you to wake up. When my father was in a coma for 3 months, every day was a cloud of emotions and prayer.

One afternoon a year ago I spoke candidly with my best friend about my choices.  After all, we have led virtually parallel lives at times, sometimes running ahead or behind but always finishing together.  His words couldn't have hit home more when he said "You're back. I feel like I got my friend back."  He was right.

When you wake up, your loved ones hurt.  

There is no way that I could deny then or now that my awakening caused pain in my loved ones.  My little family was taken apart, though without too much screaming or slamming of doors or fighting over custody.  It was relatively calm, mature, and business-like.  Nonetheless, when I took my son to counseling and she asked him what he wished his life could look like if he could have it any way he wanted, he said "Mom and Dad, me and my sister, back at the farmhouse." And that is the heartbreaking reality a parent faces when divorcing.

My children have gone through more than just the divorce and moving over the past year.  Their dad has been seriously ill on top of everything else.  But even through all of that, I know that what I did in following my heart's desire was the only thing that would wake me up.

When Dad woke up he had to relearn everything.  How to speak, how to write, how to eat.  It has been a mix of grief for me and my siblings since, having our once dynamic and charismatic father become an almost entirely new person, living with traumatic brain injuries.

I've been relearning too.  Even before the upheaval, I knew that forgiveness would be required.  I knew I would most of all need to forgive myself for the pain it would cause my little family, and that was the scariest part.

Now my kids and I reside in 2 bedrooms in my sister's house and I can count the number of possessions we own fairly quickly.  We live in a metropolitan area where instead of a creek running by, it's a freight train every 20 minutes.  Even as I write this I have a huge grin on my face.  Because I am so happy that sometimes I burst out in song.  Because I can laugh with my kids and give them so much of this happiness I have found.  Because I love what life is becoming.

From the outside it may seem to others that so much has been lost.  Yet if you peered into my chest, opened it up and looked into its crystal clear well, you would see that it is deep and full.

Finding our bliss sometimes means making very difficult choices and jumping the canyon we've been skirting once and for all.

Even if we hurt the ones we love.  Even if they never forgive us.

Even if it takes a lifetime to forgive ourselves.

Are you in need of support around your divorce?  

What if divorce were an opportunity to discover and claim the truest parts of yourself?

What if you had a friend who wrote you every day reminding you that you are not alone?

What if your children needed to see you this way to know what courage looks like?

What if you had a place to tell your stories with other divorced and divorcing mothers?

What if divorce were actually a bridge to your hopeful future?

What if there were an affordable way to care for yourself for the next year?

You are not alone.

Join me in having a Hopeful Divorce--click below for more info:

hopeful divorce: field notes from a friend

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Chasing the Muse

I used to take long walks with her, we were lovers

laid side by side.  I fed her with offerings

of strawberry words, avocado melodies.

I floated in the mist of her tears. Her lips smelled

of bergamot and lavendar.

Men and children came and went and she became the distant

memory of my desire.  She walked away through the rainforest

in my dreams each night, fled from neglect.

Now songs choke at the pit of my throat, poems drift off

on stormy clouds.

And how will I lure her now, you ask?  After all these years

and no reunion to speak of?

I will type, I will strum, I will pray 

to whichever goddess hears, and never again

never again lose sight of her.

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Are you "Trying Hard" to be happy?

I tried so hard to be happy, I maxed out the dosage on my antidepressants. I tried so hard to be happy, I meditated for hours, days, years at a time.

I tried so hard to be happy, I read books about how happiness is an illusion and life is suffering.

I tried so hard to be happy, I decided lovemaking was overrated and quit it altogether.

I tried so hard to be happy, I decided happy people were faking it.

I tried so hard to be happy, I thought I could eat my way into it.

I tried so hard to be happy, I told myself that someday it would all make sense.

8 years later it still did not make sense.

So I started running.  And running.  Not running away.  No, running to shake out the stuck.

I ran a marathon.

I stopped doing the things I had told myself I should.  I stopped trying to keep other people happy at the expense of my own.

Ever so slowly, I started to remember what happiness was.  I had been searching for it high and low with nary a sign of it. Then it would sneak up and surprise me out of nowhere, welling from within, starting at my belly button and oozing like warm syrup to my heart.  Spontaneous happiness!?  What?

Seemingly impossible decisions were made.  A marriage died and was buried.

Children were sat down and informed in the gentlest way possible.

Hearts broke forever.

There is no easy way to realize you have been lying to yourself for many years.  But if you are "trying hard" to be happy, it may be a clue that you have forgotten what really makes you happy and gotten stuck thinking this thing SHOULD make you happy.

Have you fallen into this same trap before?  How did  you find your way out?  

Please leave a comment and let me know!

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Bliss, Burlesque, and a Green Goddess

This morning I ventured quite a ways down the i-net rabbit hole and found a lot of goodies to share. I am more than excited to begin this very goddess-y exercise class here in Columbus to get in touch with the natural ecstasy of being in a human body.   I can't wait to check it out!  I guess you could say I'm bored of my usual workouts.

Interested in following my bliss in a profound way, I have been researching women who have discovered their happiness through honoring their desires, not suppressing them.  Burlesque dancing is the perfect example of a woman reclaiming her beauty after too many years of Cosmo and Vogue-impressed body hatred.  For enlightenment on this topic, I have found these amazing resources:

Olivine Charm School

The Goddess Guidebook

Gala Darling

Mama Gena's School of Womanly Arts

Kitty Cavalier (be sure to read her very inspiring story)

Oh my, and I am sure these are just a drop in the bucket of the amazing resources out there for ladies needing to discover their womanly bliss.  As soon as I can I am going to go out and get myself lipstick, lingerie, and more self-love with the help of these powerful women!

And my newest obsession is green juice!  I call it my green goddess nectar, but it's seriously addictive and amazingly energizing.  You need a juicer, but here is my fave homemade recipe:

Juice together:

1 cucumber, 2 c spinach, 1 heart romaine lettuce, 4 stalks celery, 1 apple, 1/2 lemon

Pour over ice and prepare to be dazzled, makes enough for 2

P.S. One of my all time favorite entertainment goddesses Candye Kane is coming to town!!!  I am so excited, if you are in Columbus join me for what will surely be an awesome night (and yes, she plays the piano with her boobs!!!  You have to see it to believe it!)

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Comfort Food

"Safety" by Lisa Kattenbraker

Nothing about this past year has been comfortable.

No, it's been divorce, family illness, the smack in the face of single motherhood, and to add insult to injury, I gained about 10 f-ing pounds!

I have bawled my eyes out more than I ever remember. I have been confronted with challenges I never knew I could face.

And you know what?

It's AWESOME.

In the midst of it all I feel a welling of joy, tiny moments of bliss, snapshots of the beauty of life.  Like the smell of my children's hair when I kiss them goodnight.  The re-connection with my innermost self.  The arms of my family welcoming me home to comfort me.

There is great liberation in starting over.

Even after a long-hard stab at a certain recipe, we can always return to our comfort food.

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