Six Degrees of Cuban Bacon

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Okay, so I realize this post is completely self-serving, and I’m okay with that. Sometimes, shit happens. And it makes me think and ponder and wonder… and these thoughts yell and scream at me until they are allowed out into the world. Sometimes through spoken word, sometimes through a blog post. It helps me process.

So there’s your warning. This may or may not resonate with you. It doesn’t matter. It just needs out. But be careful if you choose to keep reading. This MAY resonate with you, and cause YOU to think and connect some dots or raise some questions.

Two days ago, I had a kind of epiphany regarding energy, spirituality, life….and our connections with loved ones specifically. Because two days ago, I wound up in the hospital surgery “Family Waiting Lounge” …waiting. Waiting to get an update about my father.

Let me back up a little.

I have spent most of my life striving to connect to my spiritual, higher self…learning everything I could that might remotely relate to that topic, through workshops, live classes, coffee dates, “date” dates… you name it. I have learned so much and awakened so much, so much so that at times now I am often shocked at how quickly things “connect” for me. How quickly, or oddly, things manage to manifest in ways I never imagined.

A big challenge for me (as I imagine may be true for many on their own spiritual path) was clearing certain blocks that were hindering me in a few places in my life and spiritual growth.  That was something I was really, actively “trying hard” to do. I’ve taken quite a number of courses on this particular area in hopes of “mastering” it, because I “needed” to be done with those blocks.

One of these blocks was the grief I still felt at losing my mother when we were both too young to be ready to part. She was 49, I was 22. Cancer took her away, and I won’t go into the details because it honestly doesn’t matter. But for a good 20 years I held on to that grief (apparently). I was angry/sad/frustrated that she didn’t get to see me get married, to become a grown-up, to have my own child…and no amount of therapy or meditation or reading or anything made a dent in that grief. And we’re not talking sadness here, we’re talking true grief.  It nagged at my soul when I wasn’t even thinking about it, and really did a number on me during holidays, Mother’s Day, birthdays, etc.

It wasn’t until almost 2 years ago that I really got a true grasp of the energy world and how it functions, surrounded myself with my “tribes” of energy people, that I was truly able to release that grief. And it was almost effortless. Well not exactly, but it felt quite miraculous and instantaneous. I had an incredible encounter, and it was DONE. Once I grasped that we truly are all one, that energy never ends or dies, just transmutes and transforms…that we never truly “lose” our loved ones, they are very much “still there” and we can still connect with them (and when I finally embraced that this was my truth, that I was brave enough to embrace that & honestly & completely accept it and own it) it just fell away, and opened up a whole new world for me.

Apparently the universe wanted to test me as it has tested many of us during this last year, just wanting to make sure we really have our souls firmly planted in our truths and we can’t be shaken. So this past summer I lost another being near and dear to my heart, another great teacher to me, my faithful and fart-full long-time doggy companion Sammy Davis Junior Jr. It happened fairly suddenly, and the loss was huge for me and left quite a gaping hole in me for a while. But knowing what I know now, I was okay feeling all my feels and allowing myself the grieving process of losing his physical presence, knowing it wouldn’t debilitate me for long. So I reached out, used my tools & newfound knowledge….and lo and behold just about a month later, I had another encounter, and BAM, the grief was gone. I do still feel some tiny bit of sadness once in a while, but it subsides quickly and is usually also mixed with love and joy and wonder.

So I am learning still how to best deal with these energetic ties… how to learn from them, to use them for good and not to let them swallow me up or overtake me. And this past couple of weeks I had a great opportunity to practice with someone still living, my Dad. I realized just this week what an amazingly strong connection we have…. which had you asked me a month ago about our relationship, I would have had a completely different point of view.

You see, of course I love my stubborn, old-school, Cuban Dad, I always have, but we never really “connected” at all growing up together. We were very similar and very different in so many ways. We didn’t live well together, and our relationship did improve once I moved out on my own in my early 20’s. But we never really have a lot of common interests to discuss. He doesn’t understand my spirituality, my passion for following my dreams. He is ever the realist, firmly living on this planet, in the practical here and now. He doesn’t believe in stress, depression, anything intangible, or discuss emotions or anything of that sort. And that’s okay! I love him as he is, I just never felt very understood or close to him on a soul level.

His health has been deteriorating a lot lately, and at 83, he is battling all sorts of issues. We’ve had a number of scares within the last year, and this man has more than 9 lives it seems. On top of his “usual” daily health struggles, he has been dealing with debilitating back pain for 3 weeks now….and ironically (not really as it turns out) so have I. Granted, I have always had a bad back, but not like this. I had sought out the help of a dear, close friend who is a chiropractor, and that provided some relief. I have also played detective, trying to figure out what could be making me feel so much pain. This back pain is unlike ANY I have had before, it just feels different, and radiates down one leg. Ironically, my Dad’s pain was very similar. But unfortunately, due to his age and other issues, his was taking away his ability to stand and walk. His health care provider (aka CRAPPY CLINIC IN HIALEAH) leaves a lot to be desired, and the awful advice and care they have given him in the past have almost cost him his life a couple of times.  So here we are both trying our best to get help and treated for our back pain (and I hadn’t really even realized the connection yet at that point)… he has been back and forth from doctor to specialist to hospital multiple times, I have been from massage therapist to PT to chiropractor…. until finally last week my chiropractor suggested me getting an MRI to take a better look. I was desperate for relief and answers, so I took the steps to make it happen. Which meant heading to my primary doctor, a DO whom I adore, who coincidentally happened to have an amazing machine in his office which provided immediate (temporary) relief, and he also laid the groundwork for me getting a referral for an MRI. I shared all this info with my Dad and urged him to find a chiropractor to get a different perspective.

So what happens next is where it starts to get crazy. My Dad is now to the point where he can’t walk, or stand, or control his bowels or bladder, and his pain is so great he says he can’t go on another day, and heads to the hospital (all this from a man who avoids doctors & hospitals at all costs). They send him home within hours after running all sorts of tests and attribute it to a fall 3 weeks ago, his age, and his general health. One day later he is rushed by ambulance to different hospital in the wee hours of the morning because now he can’t even move his legs or get up into a sitting position. He finally gets taken to a “real” hospital, and they run tests. And you know what solves the mystery? An MRI of his back. Revealing a huge, deep infection pressing against his spine, compressing T9-10 to be exact. He needs immediate (Laminectomy) surgery if he hopes to walk again. So he’s transported to a bigger, regional hospital with a Neurosurgery department, gets examined, and indeed, they agree surgery is needed.  The infection has branched out and compressed his spinal cord and is the reason why he has had all sorts of issues for MONTHS. As have I.  I just didn’t know what my back was trying to tell me.

So oddly enough, now my back pain is virtually gone (without the MRI, or any further treatment since this all came to light). And he has answers, and has had surgery, and is on his long road to recovery, rehab, and learning to walk again.

Coincidence? I think not.  It’s like a strange “6 Degrees of Cuban Bacon” or something.  But what came first, the chicken or the egg? His back pain or mine? Did mine help save him? Did his help save us? Who knows.

All I know is the universe never stops communicating with us, teaching us, connecting us. We just have to be quiet and aware enough to listen.

Loss is Loss

Yesterday, we had a bit of a trying day with my family. Nothing major, just everyone being in a funk at the same time.

It seems the more people I talk to lately, it’s kind of like a cosmic epidemic of funkiness at the moment. Seems like realities are shifting, systems are getting upgraded, our world is changing and at times it feels like “forward progress is STOPPED” intermingled with “EVERYTHING IS FALLING APART” and a dash of “WHAT THE HELL WAS I THINKING”. I like to call these “growth periods” because truly that is what they are- an unraveling of the old, outdated systems that no longer serve us making way for a beautiful new, better reality. But the growing pains that come with them are no joke. So it’s safe to say due to this, as a highly sensitive person, my energy lately has been…..far from ideal. It’s kind of like a whirling dervish that just can’t settle down. I try really hard to use all the tools in my toolkit for keeping my own energy body protected, not allowing other energy that doesn’t belong to me negatively affect my own…..I always try. I don’t always succeed.

So back to yesterday. As we returned home from a quick dinner out, we noticed that a pair of turtledoves had built a nest right above our driveway/garage in the rain gutter, and a bunch of debris had fallen down onto the driveway (which is how we realized there was a nest). There was a mama bird proudly sitting on her nest, unfazed by our movement close to her as we made our way in the house. We were excitedly talking about the nest, wondering how many eggs were in it, when they would hatch, etc.  To me it’s a kind of blessing when an animal decides to set up birth shop in my vicinity, like it’s good mojo or something (that could be the doula in me, or the woman in me, or the mom in me….). Anyway it’s safe to say it was a much needed bright spot in my day.

Then this morning, as I walked outside to take my 5 year old to preschool after a not-so-smooth morning routine that left us both rattled and grumpy, I found this:

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My heart at that moment was a shattered as the egg. No mama or papa bird to be found anywhere. The nest had been abandoned. It was done. Over.

And for whatever reason, a deep sense of loss came over me. I felt it in my soul. As if I was connected to the bird, the egg, everyone on the planet at that moment that was hurting. I don’t know if my son saw it (actually I’m pretty sure he didn’t because he would have been in tears after realizing what had happened), but suddenly his mood shifted and he apologized for the crappy morning we’d had and his part of it, and asked if I was okay, if he could see my big smile. I was honest. I told him I couldn’t show him that smile at the moment, I wasn’t feeling it. But I would work on finding it. He responded “Okay mommy. Let me know when you’re ready and then you can show me”. Thank goodness.

I needed a moment to grieve, to explore what I was feeling, what it was bringing up in me. I didn’t want to fake a smile and pretend it was all fine. I also wanted to teach him that it’s okay to have bad/sad feelings and acknowledge them. And he got it, and accepted it, and let me have quiet time the whole ride to school.

That shattered egg  brought up all sorts of stuff. Of personal losses I had felt, big and small. Some that I have finally cleared and move on from, finally feeling healed and whole in that aspect (my mother’s death). Others that apparently I had not.

Such as my miscarriage 6 years ago. It  was my first pregnancy ever, and brought my husband and I so much joy initially. It was unexpected, but more than welcome. I had always wanted a large family……but since life loves to throw us curveballs and provides plenty of opportunities for growth & patience & accepting that things don’t always go as we might want them to, I got started late in the baby-making game. I was “almost 40” when we got pregnant that first time. We had imagined so many possibilities with that baby, so many hopes and dreams and visions. But that egg, just like this egg, shattered early on as well. I had an early miscarriage at about 8 weeks. My world was rocked. Our world was rocked. I allowed myself time to grieve, and processed somewhat. Hearing how “common” it was for women, how “nature has a way of weeding out what isn’t developing correctly”, of how the statistics say that 1 in every 4 pregnancies results in miscarriage did nothing to comfort me. I do truly believe everything happens for a reason in the grand scheme of things, but that doesn’t make going through the process any less painful at the moment.

I have learned that loss is loss, no matter how big or how small. That what may cause insurmountable grief for me might cause you nothing but a brief sad thought. That doesn’t make my grief any less valid, nor make you a monster for not feeling it the same way. Because loss represents a dream we had that will no longer be allowed to live. We have to accept that particular dream is not possible, and somehow be okay and be able to move on from there. Even beyond that, to understand that we are not in control, and that ultimately life unfolds itself just as it should, whether we like it or not.

So I understand and accept that need to grieve, to honor that feeling of loss.  To look at it head on, in the eyes, and feel it and move through it even though our society tends to belittle certain losses and make them seem common place and therefore lesser deserving of grief.

But loss is loss. And it hurts. And it’s okay to accept and feel it. It’s more than okay, it is necessary in the healing process to do whatever you have to do to feel it and get past it.  The key is not to stay in that dark place for too long, otherwise it becomes harder and harder to climb back out to the other side of happiness, acceptance, joy and inner peace.

Dream Deferred by Langston Hughes
What happens to a dream deferred?

Does it dry up
Like a raisin in the sun?

Or fester like a sore–
And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over–
like a syrupy sweet?

Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

 

 

 

“It’s Not You, It’s Me”

Something will grow

Today I want to stretch your spiritual muscles. Stretching is good for you, although it can be difficult at first, and will leave you (possibly) sore for a bit. But think big picture here! Think a little discomfort now for big personal growth later. Are you with me?

Let’s start by playing pretend. You know, like you used to when you were a little kid and you played superheroes using sticks as swords, or played dress-up or something. Good. Now that we’ve suspended our disbelief, anything is possible. So let’s go with that. Let’s pretend that you have the power to create your own reality. That everything you say and do has an impact on the physical and energetic reality of the world directly around you. Your words literally create your truth. Your emotions, which are linked often times to your words, create your truth.

Okay. So given that, let’s look at a scenario…a difficult or painful interaction with someone you love, like a family member or very close friend, that went badly in the past. Let’s re-examine it with fresh, new, childlike eyes. Let’s have a do-over.

Replay the scene in your mind. But this time, try and identify where it went wrong. Maybe the other person got really angry and yelled at you for some reason, went off the deep end, went ballistic… STOP. Hit the pause button and freeze-frame it. Take a deep breath. Now try and connect with that person, I mean really connect, like to their soul. See what is hurting them to cause them to react that way towards you. What is the underlying need behind their behavior? What are they REALLY angry about? What need is not being met? Maybe they are lashing out as a knee jerk reaction to what they perceive as a wrong being done to them and their reality. They are in pain, they are hurting, and the only way at that moment (for whatever reason) they know how to express that pain is through a show of anger. They may shout, they may hit, they may walk away and slam a door, or they may shut down emotionally. Take a good look at them. And then breathe and shift. See past their actions to the root. They are asking for love, for help, in the only way they can at that moment.

So now you have a choice. Match their emotion, and escalate the interaction to an even higher/angrier interaction, OR, realize that YOU are responsible for YOUR OWN EMOTIONS AND FEELINGS. You don’t have to react!!!! You can choose to stay present and calm in your own space! You have your own energetic field around you, and NO ONE can “make” you feel a certain way, unless you let them! You have a bubble of “you-ness” that surrounds you at all times. Some people call this an aura. Call it what you like. Sometimes this bubble is big and happy and huge, sometimes is tiny and quiet and can barely contain your body. But it’s always yours, and no one has the right to take it from you or infringe upon it. They can’t. So it’s all about you maintaining your boundaries, your energetic and emotional boundaries. “Did you forget you had a choice?” as one of my favorite teachers, Jeffrey Allen, says. Choose peace at that moment. Choose to connect with them at a soul level, see them as being in pain, and instead of matching energy, find a moment to send them peace. And love. At that moment, all that might mean is you being quiet. Not reacting badly. Not yelling. Even just taking a breath and letting it out without a word.

Then wait and see what happens. If you can maintain your bubble in peace…a change will come. Either the other person will erupt in fury for not eliciting a reaction, and it will all come out and flow out like lava, then calm down, or, the other person will see you remained calm, and this will help talk them down from the ledge of anger/pain. Mind you, I’m not saying give in to crazy, unreasonable demands here. I’m saying just take a look at the reality of the situation. Don’t paint yourself into a corner. Find a way for you, or the other to save face. Look behind the scenes at what is fueling the fire. Is it really a fire? Or simply a match that was lit, and in your eyes, or his/her eyes, has taken on a new/bigger/more dramatic appearance?

It’s YOUR choice, how you react. And that choice will most definitely define that moment in time, and even the moments that come as a result of it in the future.

Try to remember that we are all humans here, trying the best we can in any given situation. We are all learning to some degree. Some of us need more practice or are more new to the process than others. Some of us have more baggage or more unhealed past hurt than others. But we ALL need love. And compassion. So we all need to give love. And compassion. Let those ripples of kindness and love and compassion extend out beyond our own “bubbles” and vibrate to other bubbles…. and start a chain reaction.

This process is not easy, not in any way, especially at first. But it’s like a muscle. A spiritual muscle we have to retrain, to stretch out and work on so it feels better. So that eventually your whole being feels better as a consequence of it.

I encourage you to try it. Go back and have a mental do over. And then next time you have the opportunity to practice it in real life, in present time, try it. See what happens. What do you have to lose? You’ve done it the other way a million times and it hasn’t worked out great for you, has it? Aren’t YOU worthy of love, of compassion? It all starts with you. Be gentle and compassionate with yourself, and those around you. That is not a weakness; it is the greatest strength.

Will you have the courage to try it? I would LOVE to hear your comments, especially after you’ve given it a shot…

“Be the change you wish to see in the world.”  -Ghandi

And yes, I know, it’s not all just as simple as that “bumper sticker quote”. But it’s a damn good place to start.

East-over at the Temple of Juniper

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I am spiritual,  not religious. I find myself saying that more and more often these days, as it really does best describe my position. It came out of my mouth out loud for the first time as my 4-year-old, always questioning, got upset the other day because he said he had “no religion” and was angry and crying about it. I guess it was being discussed at school with the upcoming holiday, and he has heard references in the past of his Daddy being “Jewish” (not practicing, only kind of sort of) and me being “Buddhist” (I take a lot from Buddhism but wouldn’t consider that a religion). I tried to explain it was something personal, that he would learn about all religions and philosophies in his life.  It is something he could decide later when he was older if he wished. He wasn’t happy with that answer. The explanation that worked for him, for now, was “In our family we are spiritual not religious. We are good people, we try to do the best we can, and we take care of each other, the people, the planet”. Which leads to our “holy” trip.
We had the chance to spend the Easter/Passover (= East-over) long weekend camping at Juniper Springs, FL, which is inside Ocala National Forest.  Being there in nature made me feel more connected to Source/Nature/God than any church, or temple, or any other building ever did. The luxury of having nowhere to be, surrounded by trees, nature, and the natural pure springs solidifies for me that life is too short. We are only on this Earth, in these bodies, for such a limited time. I want more time to spend with my family, enjoying nature. As much time as possible. I’m done with the hamster wheel of work work work, hurry hurry hurry, wash, rinse repeat. I want more nature and simplicity in my daily life.  Less alarm clocks,  less complications….more time paddling a kayak surrounded by the sights and sounds of nature, jumping off ledges into a pristine watering hole,  dancing around the fire pit with my family, sharing wine with new friends with kids just the perfect age to play with my son while we all got some “grown-up time”…just a plain, over-all slower life.
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Life certainly doesn’t have to be “painful” or “hard” or “fast-paced”, although sometimes it seems like that. Nope. Not my world. That doesn’t mean it’s perfect in any way. But we forget moment by moment that we have choices. Choices on how we perceive things, how we handle things. For example, the last day of our camping trip, right before evening and after supper, a big thunderstorm rained out our last campfire play date. We had to retreat into our tent and throw as much as possible back into the car to keep dry as quickly as possible. And we sat together in the tent and waited. And waited.  And read books. And played games. And dealt with the many, many leaks from the roof of our not-so-water-proof-it-seems tent (who knew you had to seal the seams?). It could have turned into a big, frustrating downer. But we chose not to let it. We made the best of it. Eventually, when the rain turned into a drizzle, we put on our rain gear and took a family night hike with our flashlights, exploring the wet forest which looks completely transformed by the rain. Washed clean. We jumped through puddles, searched for fireflies, attempted (and succeeded, yay, Daddy!) to make our final fire, our blaze of glory with the rest of the firewood.
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So I am grateful we got to spend this particular, significant weekend at our own spiritual place.  That in a sense, we were baptized by the clear waters of Juniper Springs. The possibility of our souls being reborn into a different reality of our choosing had begun.
Happiness.
Peace.
Love.
And although I felt a twinge of all too familiar heaviness as we returned driving back to the big city, I hope we can all maintain some of the clarity of the water to help us stay clear in our vision.
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Shift Happens

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I woke up today, startled by the alarm clock. I was shocked out of a dream I was having. Again. Twice in 2 days. Actually I should say it was a nightmare. I can’t remember the exact details, but I do remember it had to do with my Mom (who passed away 20 years ago) and my Dad (who is still alive but not doing well). This is noteworthy because in 20 years, I can honestly say I have had maybe a handful of dreams where my Mom was involved. So when I do, I try to pay attention. It was a painful, difficult, frustrating nightmare…..I was supposed to be doing something for them and I wasn’t, or couldn’t understand what they needed me to do……either way, it wasn’t good. And it kept me hostage all night long. I was kind of in between the dream state and the awake “What the hell is this dream about and what are they trying to tell me?” state. It wasn’t restful sleep in any way, at the aftermath of daily savings time, which makes sleep that much more elusive.

So when the alarm went off at 6a.m. I didn’t exactly wake up chipper and bouncy and ready to go. I was pissed. Why do I have to wake up this early and rush to a job I don’t even like? Why can’t I stay home and tackle the projects I actually WANT to tackle? Why can’t I eat gluten? Why can’t I drive through Starbucks and feed my caffeine fix? When I am going to be able to make that phone call to deal with that bill? Shit, I forgot to pull out that other paper about that other important phone call I should have made months ago…….all these thoughts whirring through my head, all within the first 10 minutes of my day.

That’s not how I want to start my day. That’s not how I want to live. That doesn’t work for me.

Breathe.

So I have to make a conscious effort to shake it. To shake the grogginess, and read an affirmation about what I SHOULD focus on and retrain my brain. To suck it up and make a healthy spinach/almond butter/fresh fruit smoothie-that-will-take-me-15 minutes-to-make-very-quietly-on-my-tip-toes-so-I-don’t-wake-my-sleeping-family-when-I-really-want-a-Chai-Tea-Latte-and-a-breakfast-sandwich.

I get to school and rush and suck down my healthy smoothie (grumble grumble) while I write the lesson for the day on the board. I go through my first couple of classes with all the energy and information I can muster. My dog and pony show is met with crickets chirping in the classroom. Nothing. Nada.

So I decide to get serious, pull out the big guns and use my planning period to meditate, to cultivate peace, awareness, gratitude, generosity, kindness, connection of some sort. I manage to catch the corner of a glimmer of something of the message from the nightmare/dream, then it’s gone. Yet still I feel a connection, a message running quietly, subconsciously, like a program running silently in the background, bringing me a sudden…..peace. And just like that…..shift happens.

It’s subtle, but it’s there. My next class comes in with a bit more kindness. A student gives me a compliment even. Okay……I’ll roll with this. Next period I manage to keep it going, engage more, crack a few jokes, have fun even if I am the only one laughing. Which sometimes I am. But that’s okay, at least I’m laughing.

The work day ends and I hurry home to see my family. The days I leave my husband home with my son all day, I never know what I’m going to get when I arrive home. They are like oil and water. But this time, the magic continues. I am greeted by smiling faces playing outside, “washing the car” which looks a lot more like my husband soaking my 4-year-old son with the hose, and him running and squealing with delight. I decide to change into my “playclothes” (every time I use that term I suddenly feel like Maria/Julie Andrews in The Sound of Music) and join the family car wash.

Is it all magical/perfect/roses after that? Of course not. Things go wrong. There’s whining from both me and my son (him because he’s over-tired and had a long day, me because I can’t have that glass of wine I really, really want because did I mention I am also back to no sugar?). But I keep moving forward, with a small smile. Because today, it’s almost if I am walking around with an invisible arm around my shoulders. When I meet the next “crossroads” moment, I breathe and remember the universe has my back.

So for today, for this moment, I choose to tackle the next learning opportunity with a smile. And that’s what I do. That’s what it’s about. Choices. Tiny choices, moment by moment, that add up over time to create a better reality. It’s definitely not easy, but isn’t it worth it? Aren’t you worth it?