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Posts Tagged ‘Growth’

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Already my new resolution is bringing me answers… big ones, the kind of answers that you might ponder for lifetimes. As I lay in that half-dream state this morning, I thought about last night. I’d worked a 16 hour day which is crazy, mind-rigorous because being a pharmacist is first and foremost about being accurate and making sure that the patients you are attempting to help are also keep safe from harm. Secondly, it’s about creating good regimens that will maximize the effect of necessary medications such as scheduling the antibiotic at the correct times, dosing the medications to boost effect but within the limitations of the patient’s liver and kidney functions, ensuring that the concentration of the cardiac drip is appropriate, watching for all manner of issues or concerns (other meds, patient’s normal biochemical processes, how much the patient weighs, their age, their baseline health conditions) examining the parameters of narcotics or sedatives to keep the patient comfortable but also not exceed the abilities of their body to distribute and excrete the medication.

But I digress… this isn’t about what I do as a pharmacist. I was attempting to paint a picture of my state of mind last night. Bottom-line, I’d been focused and busy ALL DAY.   Now, there have been many days that I’m similarly busy and I feel exhausted at the end of such a day. Last night, as I paid attention to how I was feeling, I realized that I felt more like a wanted a change, a shift, but it wasn’t due to true physical or mental exhaustion. This change, or shift, is what I’ve realized is the crucial point of understanding. In other words, what did I have all day and then didn’t have at the end of my shift? What I’d had all day was a sense of purpose, duty, a place or intention in the world. I woke up knowing what I had to do, that what I did really matters and felt fully competent in doing it. At the point of transition (end of my day of work), it was like a running a relay with the baton in my hand ready to hand-off, feeling great because I’d given my stretch of the track all I had but then someone had turned the lights off and closed the race down. There was no clear hand-off. The space of time in front of me at that moment was unknown, without purpose, detached.

It is this type of decision-point that I realized would usually cause me to experience a rush of pain, of deflation, of uncertainty that, in turn, would make me want to fill the void with something to alleviate the pain. All kinds of things will work… eating, having a glass (or more) of wine, interacting with another person, getting lost in a movie, going to sleep, exercising, working some more. The list is as limitless as any human being’s ability to come up with things to do. Where does the pain, the deflation, the let-down come from and why is it perceived as pain?

This is where it gets interesting. There is an exquisitely painful point within us, like a deep wound that holds our false sense of unworthiness. Within this cesspool of agony, we don’t believe we have what it takes to not be alone. It’s the part that is beyond the fear of separateness… it knows to the CORE that separateness is our only true reality and that there is absolutely something very wrong with us that makes this true. Now picture a magnet flipped over so instead of pulling another magnet closer, it twists, wiggles and maneuvers in an attempt to move away from the other magnet and the harder you try to push the two magnets together, the more violently they will repel. In the end, you can’t ever get the 2 magnets to connect. This is how our psyche relates to this core point of grief and ache within us. We will do ANYTHING to not get close to this so we either buffer or numb ourselves, distract or erect incredible fortresses in an attempt to create distance.

This explains our moods and our addictions or habits… when we are anxious, fearful, despairing; we are circling around the precipice of this wound. It’s almost like being in a room of glass shard walls that create a maze. Everywhere we attempt to move, we get cut on the glass, there is no moving into a soft corner, every decision or diversion brings a fresh cutting. When we feel accomplished, connected to other people, happy, free, we have only managed to move away from the wound by creating a world that makes us feel safe from the throb of our unworthiness. Highly intelligent people use their mind to create layers upon layers of reason and understanding, creative people spin themselves into an intricate world of beauty and inspiration, powerful people harden the space with walls of ingenious, control, manipulations, extroverted people bounce among and intertwine through their relations with others, introverted people withdraw and go inward into themselves, easily wearied from trying to find ways to “stay out there” in open territory. Every decision or movement of our life which gives us a perception of less lonely or self-importance gives us a sense of relief. Every decision or movement that takes us closer to feeling loss of purpose or separateness (being still, an unfilled space of time, feeling dejected, rejected, confused, fearful, lonely, bored, uncertainty) will cause painful feelings to surface and make us want to do things to alleviate the pain.

The kicker is that I don’t think the tender point is really pain. I think it is our true essence, our greatest sense of love and connection, the deepest wisdom of our worth but we don’t believe in it because every time we have ever gotten close, we misinterpreted that feeling as pain. Crazy, huh? This also explains why meditation, applied correctly, can absolutely work. This explains what Brené Brown (http://www.ted.com/talks/brene_brown_on_vulnerability?language=en) figured out with her shame and vulnerability research. The place that we would call a wounding is really an unimaginable space of peace and grace, an opening of acceptance and inclusion that negates the idea of separateness.   But don’t take my word for it. Start paying attention to your own feelings. When do you feel less anxious and alone? What do you do when you start feeling uncomfortable or vulnerable?

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Well, it’s been a long time.  Not sure why I’m not consistent with posting but I do know that ever since we were hit by the tornado in January 2013 my life has been reeling.  I learned the difference between replacement value insurance and depreciated value insurance that year.  Unfortunately we had depreciated value insurance and with a house that is 30 years old and 2 crushed vehicles over 10 years old, we ended up paying almost $40,000 out of pocket to get everything replaced and fixed.  And we still have huge tree pieces all over our land but we’ll at least have enough firewood to last for, I don’t know, forever

Last May I had several vivid, weird dreams and then one of those unexplainable events happened that I’ve learned to not try to figure out but instead be extra observant and ride through.  On this particular day I was leaving after getting home from work to go play tennis.  I had been playing tennis a lot for months, almost always with men who hit the ball hard and who wanted to play for hours, which I loved.  I’m very competitive and hitting the ball hard and pushing myself physically was a great stress reliever.  Our family had even planned our previous winter’s Christmas trip around me getting to go to a world-class tennis center at Hilton Head.

As I turned out of my driveway that day, I noticed a bright red car that was unusually small and unidentifiable, almost the size of a smart car but wasn’t… I still don’t know what kind of car it was.  It stood out to me because it was such an unusually bright red color and the driver reminded me of my son for some reason.  As I continued down the road, I started noticing that every other vehicle I met was a red vehicle and most of them were the same unusually candy-apple red color as the first car I noticed. After going a couple of miles, I could feel the hair on the back of my neck standing up. This continued uninterrupted the entire way to the tennis courts, a total of about 5 miles. I was dumbfounded but didn’t have much time to ponder what it might mean. I mentioned it to my tennis opponent, he laughed (nervously) and made some joke about it and we proceeded to hit balls for a couple of hours.

Leaving the tennis courts, I started thinking about the “red car” thing that had happened and wondered if it would continue. The first car I met was white. Right after, approaching a very tight curve, a rusty red truck came into view, obviously going too fast and fully over the middle line and barreling directly into my path. I could see that 3 men were in the truck, all looking disheveled and wild, and the driver was leaning against the steering wheel, appearing completely out of control. I held my breath, knowing that it would be impossible for the truck to correct itself and with an embankment on my side of the road, no where for me to veer off the road to avoid impact. The next second, I was around the curve and the truck was behind me. My body seemed to float weightlessly as I continued down the road in a surreal haze, my heart beating wildly in my chest. The next three cars I met were not red. I could feel my mind start to unwind in relief. It was over. I had no idea what any of what had just happened meant, but my senses were definitely heightened and I was completely alive and alert.

A couple of weeks later, my son graduated from high school and four days later I woke up at 3 in the morning with an attack of ocular shingles. Who knew that shingles could be in your ocular nerve and is the leading cause of infectious blindness? Even being in health care for 30 years, I’d never heard of it. The pain was agonizing and both my husband and I were in shock from me suddenly having something that was considered an ocular emergency. By the time it was over, I ended up having a full-blown flu/mono-like illness that had me out of work for weeks and left me weak and nauseated for months after.

I used my sick and recovery time for rest, reflection and attempting to bring balance back into my life. What I knew needed to come back into focus was my spiritual life. The prior year had been swallowed in work, getting through the activities of my son’s senior year and my own graduate MBA program schoolwork. With an intention to recommit to my spiritual practice, I reached out to a friend of mine at work who I knew woke up early every day to do devotions and asked her if I could text her for a while in the mornings so that I’d have someone I could be accountable to and hopefully would be less likely to quit. Getting up early is not my thing… I’m a night owl but I knew that this would be the most predictable time of my day so I started small, just waking 30 minutes earlier than usual so it wouldn’t be such a drastic change but enough time to be meaningful. It worked… months later I was still getting up, sending my friend a text (“doing it”) and meditating or listening to inspiring teachers (especially Pema Chodron who is amazing). And my friend was always on the ready to reel me back in line if I neglected to text her while on vacation or when I had an especially crazy week with work or school.

Which brings me to New Years and resolutions. Reflecting on what I’ve learned about myself, feeling good about my commitment to my spiritual growth, I realized when I woke this morning that I need to pay particular attention to ways that I numb myself and resolved to make an effort to be in my feelings instead of using things (wine, food, work, facebook, watching movies) to quiet or escape whatever I might be feeling. As soon as I decided to do this, I felt a wave of sadness, like someone had taken away my comfort blanket or teddy bear. Right behind it was a sense of deep-seated loneliness and fear of being in pain. I told my husband about my resolution anyway, starting with not drinking wine every night and voiced my concern that I would substitute my nightly wine with food instead. I can say that I don’t look forward to being so acutely awake and unmuffled but the wise part of me knows this is important, that this is what all humanity struggles with and I’m just curious enough and courageous enough to actually see this through.

So here goes… 2015 is the year of taking the wooly blanket off my senses and fully experiencing what each moment brings. And, I almost forgot, I would like to start writing more again because I know it is healing for me. So here’s to a year of more frequent writing and posting. What is your 2015 New Year’s resolution??

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DSC02179Crazy year so far… tornado hit our house at the end of Jan. and now having 10 of my my teeth recapped (took tetracycline as a kid and it ruined my teeth) but the restoration process has stirred up dormant issues apparently and have had 2 root canals in the last week.   Worse news… my teeth still hurt!  Afraid to call the endodontist and let him know because he’s most likely going to want to drill again.  YUCK!!   Mostly, I ask myself, what does all this mean?

Also considering going back to school at 50 years old and getting my Masters in Health Administration because I want to move out of pharmacy and work more in consulting or in a more global position such as a chief operating officer.  Really don’t want to spend the time or money, but also don’t want to be stuck in the same position of being a pharmacy director for the next 15 years.  So much to consider, so many choices, such a fork in the road, so to speak.

I’ve started working on an online program with the University of Spiritual Healing and Sufism to assist in connecting with divine guidance but also have a healing scheduled with one of the graduate students from there this week to expedite getting some much-needed answers.

Right before all this started, I felt led to start a new “Women Who Pray” movement with daily scheduled praying for “self” at 0830, 1230 prayer for someone who you don’t consciously pick but are led to pick by your heart and 1630  (second person you are led to pray for) daily.  I’ve been amazed at how many women are interested in joining this very contemplative prayer (no agenda, no specific request, no desire for results, no judgments) movement.  I plan to start a every other week meeting for us to get together and share our stories.  Women need connection, I definitely know this.  Here’s to the new movement of “Women Who Pray” and also to me getting some answers!

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What makes a person special?  I guess you could say we are all special, but what I particularly appreciate in people is when they rise to the occasion, overcome situations, are curious, exploratory, contribute and are engaged in life. The first time I met Connie, she was cutting my husband’s hair.  I had just moved to this tiny Georgia mountain town, feeling culture shock and wondering whether I had made a mistake moving to a slow paced, almost claustrophobic-in-size place to live.  Her blonde hair is the kind that would make you notice her all the way across a Walmart parking lot.  Long, usually worn straight and very blonde.  Up close, Connie’s eyes are the feature that draw you in, make you wonder how eyes can be that color, seem to be connected to a otherworldly wisdom that is beyond this small town, beyond her simple upbringing, beyond her life time experiences.  And believe me, that is saying a lot because Connie has had her share of life’s handouts and a couple of truckloads full of someone else’s.

            Connie was born somewhere in the middle of ten kids, now 45, but her impoverished story reminds me of my mother’s who was the youngest of ten, dirt-poor, farm-raised in a blip of a town not far from here.   Because of hearing my mother’s childhood stories and falsely imagining that things must have improved for the next generation, it is startling that someone almost my own age could have a nearly identical hardscrabble start in life.  Sitting in Arby’s, after agreeing to let me interview her, Connie lists off her siblings to me, scattered from Alaska to Philadelphia to Oklahoma, struggling to remember their ages and order of birth.  Four of her 5 brothers are dead: car accident, stabbing, gunshot, accidental overdose.  Her sisters, one married to a gypsy, one lost her daughter after 3 heart transplants, married a younger man and moved to Alaska leaving her other 3 children behind, one married to an Indian in the hotel business, believes her oldest sister was her mother in another lifetime, the oldest with 5 living children, lost the first child to crib death.  Drug abuse, gambling, alcoholism, obsessive-compulsive disorders, depression, poverty, tragic death, homelessness; Connie’s family has not been untouched by any of these.

            The mountain road on which she grew up used to be called Hunching Holler Road by locals; it was the place teenagers would park to make out.  Her parents still live in her childhood home; a split-log home built by her grandfather, set a mile or so off the main road down a tree-tight, dirt trail.  Now the type of land property that would be coveted byAtlanta’s elite seeking a second, mountain-home retreat, then was the cast-off property of poverty, no plumbing, an outhouse, no hot water, dirt yard and glaring gaps in the house wall planks.  “We used newspaper for wallpaper inside, mostly to cover the cracks.  The outhouse was over there (she pointed next to the stream on the back side of the house).  At night we’d use a pot on the porch or pee off the side of the porch because the snakes were so bad and we were scared to go in the dark.  We did have electricity, though, and television.  My mom cared about cleanliness, even without hot water.  She made us sweep the dirt yard.” 

            Connie and her closest siblings, Johnny and Jimmy, played all over the mountain, sometimes roaming until dark, never really worried about the wild boar and bear.  “We dreaded the snakes more.  There always seemed to be a lot of snakes here.”  They fished with lizards, ate wild berries, hunted honeysuckle and used their ample imaginations.  Connie had dreams of being an archeologist, digging in a shed behind the house, finding old horseshoes and not much else.  “My childhood was sort of innocent and idyllic, in a way, besides my father’s alcoholism, my mother’s self-absorption, their frequent fights and the lack of almost every material thing.  I still feel a deep connection to the woods and the mountains.”      

            Creating a family of her own has brought its own story of adversity.  Connie divorced her first husband, a drug addict/alcoholic and father of her four children, after staying for too many years.  She remarried a good-looking cop, the adopted, only-child of doting parents.  “He was raised in a nice home.  His family is so normal and safe compared to mine.” Connie explained.  They were a “Godly” family and I felt like my life was “Drug, sex and rock and roll.  My family was definitely NOT normal.  The truth is, I’ve learned to prepare myself for bad things to happen.  This way I’m never surprised by what life is going to hand out.”  Connie’s kids have not been spared either, son in prison for meth abuse, daughters kidnapped and assaulted by a deranged, drug-crazed stranger, left with traumatic nightmares, low self esteem, poor choice-making, the youngest son a life-drifter, purposeless and still living at home.  Peering at me intently across the table she says, “Do you think some families are just cursed?  Do you think we can ever break that spell?”   I don’t know how to answer her, the heaviness of her life like a tangible thing, like a body bag shackled to her heart. 

            “I think other people’s impression of me as a child was that I smiled a lot, seemed happy.”

            “Were you happy?”

            “I guess, in a way, but I hid things so I could fit in, I listened and learned about people that way, I laughed to get along with everybody.  I was pretty competitive growing up.  And I liked to have fun.  I started getting into trouble in middle school, like the time we were playing battle ball in a mud hole.  We used to mess with other kid’s lockers, cut-up in class.”  One of her hand-drawn pictures collaborated with a friend depicted “My dream boat drowned in a puddle of mud.”   The picture was posted in the school hallway by the teacher for punishment.  “We didn’t care.”  By high school, Connie had an older boyfriend (her first husband) who introduced her to grown-up excitement.  “I cut school at lunch to go to Cleveland, met my boyfriend, smoked pot and had sex.”  By 17, Connie was married.  “He made me feel special.  He was good-looking.  I thought I was in love.  I had my reservations about getting married, but did it anyway, probably because I didn’t have any better plans.” 

            “What made you decide to become a beautician?” 

            “I think because I never felt pretty, never felt smart enough, never had enough of anything.  I wanted to help other people feel better about themselves because I know how bad that feels.  It’s almost like I want to protect other people because I see their vulnerabilities.  I’ve always been a very naturally giving, caring person.  As a child, I would read the bible to my younger sisters; I wanted things to be good for other people.  I like figuring people out, what makes them act the way they do, why they feel like they feel.  I love my work.  I can’t imagine doing anything else.  My work is who I am.” 

            I asked Connie why she thought she had made some of the choices in her life that may not have been the best for her.  “I think I keep looking for approval, wanting to be good enough.  I never felt like my mother was a safe place, she sort of had a “meanness” about her.  My dad was more caring, his family was more regal, mannerly, “they ate meals at the table,” they weren’t yellers.  My mother’s family was chaotic, loud, gossipy.  Mom could be very hurtful with comments, shoving me in the middle of her arguments with dad as if she was jealous of me “Why don’t you ask her?”  When mom would leave after fights, I would be put in the position of being the mother.  My dad would say things like, “Don’t you know how to make coffee?”   I felt inadequate, unprepared, unprotected.  There was no one there to comfort me, understand me, share some of my burden.”

            “What things did you hide to fit in with other people?”

            “Underneath my laughter and smiles is sadness, a deep grief.  I’ve come to be okay with that.  I don’t really want to burden other people and I know I can handle anything.  And I want so much for my kids to make positive choices, to be free from the chains of fear, anxiety and unworthiness; the chains that I want to be free of myself. I want to be FREE.”  Tears well up in her deep-blue eyes.  “I’m so tired of dragging around this burden of grief, taking on the whole family’s wounds; it’s like my soul is crying to be released.  Sometimes it’s hard to get out of the bed in the morning, the endlessness of it all.” As I watch Connie’s face, I see her eyes blaze with a quiet confidence, a battle-scarred defiance of evil and hard-times. “One thing I KNOW, though.  I can deal with anything.  I’m the strongest person I know, except for Sheila, maybe.”  Sheila owns the beauty shop where Connie works.  “Sheila is really strong, but I see her vulnerableness because she hasn’t had that many bad things happen to her.  She doesn’t KNOW because she hasn’t had to deal with everything. I KNOW because I have.” 

            It takes a moment, but the sadness passes as Connie sips on her coke. A ray of sunlight spills through the window and illuminates her face. “I love sunshine.  I like to wake up in the morning knowing I have a purpose.  If everything I’ve had to go through in my life was for a purpose, I would want it to be to help other people.  You can help people with just a smile.  A smile is a huge gesture.  I want people to know, especially my kids, that life is what you make it.  I have loyalty towards people; loyalty is being optimistic about other people’s potential.  This is what Sheila did for me.  She saw my potential, my strength and how hard I work.  When people don’t believe in themselves, it makes me sad.  I want people to see that there are many opportunities.” 

            We leave Arby’s and stop at a Conoco on the way back to her work.  She looks tiny, a teenager’s body as she climbs out of her husband’s big, black Chevy truck to pump gas.  Women drive huge, four-wheel trucks in this town, I’ve noticed.  Some older men stand around the crude, hand-carved wooden bench outside the store.  She speaks to them and you can tell she brightens their day, gives them a feeling of being noticed and cared about.  Back in the truck, driving off, she mentions that she comes here every morning to sit on the bench and drink coffee with the “old fellas.”  “They are so interesting.  I love hearing their stories.”

            “You come here every morning?”

            “Yeah, I try to time it so I get here early enough to talk to them but before the younger guys stop here on the way to work.  I don’t want anyone to think I’m available.  I just like hanging around the old guys.”  The image of her meeting them here every morning, chatting over coffee, warms me. 

Back at her shop, I watch her cut a little boy’s hair, his first hair cut.  His father had brought the boy and his older sister, dressed impeccably, the girl complete with ribbons in her hair.  “Who fixed her hair?”  Connie asks the father.  “I did, all by myself,” he said beaming.  Connie is quick and expert, cutting the boys hair before he starts wriggling.  Her touch is kind and soothing, like a loving balm. 

Watching her in her element, reflecting on our talk, I am reminded of the massive stone with a perfect round circle indented on the top she showed me earlier today in her childhood yard.  “My grandfather tried to crack and split the rock to get it out of the yard when he was building the house.  See where they ground into it with a chisel?  It wouldn’t crack though.  As a child, I used the hole it to crack open walnuts because it held a walnut perfectly.” 

            Connie’s challenging childhood, her tough life could easily have splintered her, shattered her, leaving her feeling bitter and lacking.  Many people make the easier, non-caring, victim-mentality choice.  Instead, she’s interested in people, feels purpose in helping others, wants others to connect with their potential, likes to help people discover their beauty and worthiness.  I asked her why she thinks she is different, why she still cares, is so giving.  “I feel like my faith, my belief in Jesus has helped me, although I feel more spiritual than religious.  I’m getting stronger in my heart because of my faith.  I believe in my heart.  I know it is pure and kind and I can trust myself to care about other people.  My kids will never doubt my love for them.  I know that, for sure.”  As you spend time with Connie, you know that for sure, too.  She will not break, her heart is true and she makes room for all your imperfections.  Her wounds have created purpose, like the stone in the yard, unwilling to be destroyed and later used for cracking walnuts.  Connie’s life embraces and nurtures; she gives smiles away freely.  Her dream to “just be free,” heal her wounds, let go of fear, is coming true, one kind gesture at a time.  This is why I feel honored to know her.  This is what makes Connie special.

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Inside

It’s a river now

Black and mildewy,

Like sludge that runs

Through the gutters at night.

You aren’t through with the race

Of your life.

You appeal to the light

Like a cracked-open gash in the earth,

With insects swarming

And noses sniffing your raw earthiness.

Ready, set, go,

We’re all standing here

In the shifty shadows,

Waiting for your signal

To go deeper or bail.

It’s up to you,

You can stand at the cave-mouth

And let the rush of cold air and wetness

Chill you to the bone,

Paralyzing you,

Or you can wrap up and go in,

Holding your light

Bravely in front of you.

The meadow is certainly seductive,

But your song is sung

Inside, inside, inside.

We’re waiting,

For you.

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