Healing in Broken Times

It is 3:35 a.m. on the fourth night in a row that I have been awakened by lightning and thunder.  The big dogs have come slinking from their couches into the bedroom, much to the resistance of the small ones who are curled snug in the blankets.  Quieting frayed canine nerves at this ungodly hour under flashes of unearthly light could be a real drain.  But it isn’t.  It is the hour of the wolf after all.  The hour for intuitive work and self knowing.

Almost every night of storming I have dreamed of healing.  The first night I dreamed that I had awakened in the bright morning light and that the windows had been left open.  The sunlight covered my face in a wide ribbon ending at my chin.  I blinked at the brightness of it and had my first waking thought “MAN this is bright!  I could be sunburned right here in this bed!”  Then I noticed that the light was cool and soft in spite of being incredibly bright. Surprised and comforted, I closed my eyes without having moved at all and went back to sleep.  In the morning when I woke up it was dark in the room.  The bedroom blinds were drawn so tight that morning had to struggle to prove herself through the cracks.  There was no way I could have been bathed in sunlight or even moonlight through such windows.  That is when I realized it must have been a dream.

Tonight lightning woke me from another dream.  In this one I was waking from days in a coma.  It may even have been months.  I was not in a hospital, but somewhere beautiful surrounded by nature.  Two of my close friends were standing vigil over me and were overjoyed to see me awake.  The rejoicing at my return was so beautiful I got caught up in the joy of it.  And I was hungry.

These dreams coincide with a real life healing that feels nothing short of miraculous.  I have been so full of joy in my waking life that it makes no sense to me!  Over the past year I have battled dark thoughts and feelings, the depths of which I have never seen in any dark period before.  But quite suddenly this seems to have come to an end!  It was on Sunday night that I had my first fit of giggles sparked off by my God daughter throwing the funniest tantrum because she was trying to beat her playmate into wanting to play with her.  It’s ok – she’s three.  I laughed so hard that the tears were running down my face.  And then yesterday afternoon, in a training session hosted by one of my team that I had requested weeks before, on wry word became the most debilitating fit of giggles I have had in years. As the tears rolled down my face I found myself astonished at the well of bubbles, joy and mirth I had stumbled upon inside myself.  Against all odds, the odds that are killing people every day in a world that seems to have gone crazy, I have found healing.  It has been a revelation from God or the Universe and it has struck as bright as a bit of lightning.

Even now my front yard flashes an unearthly bright, giving glimpses of trees soaked to the skin on the slope now slick with sky water.  I settle under the soft microfibre blanket patterned with leaves and the word “Blessing” all over it and watch the show.  I am flanked by my four dogs, finding comfort in the closeness.  The rain washes the roof in a steady drumming heard inside the cabin like an army of marching faeries.  More and more time passes between the flashes of light and the air splitting sound – a sign the storm is moving on.

God heals and reveals in his own time.

MY HAPPY LIST – Things I have been doing differently this past two weeks…

  1. The CoolingListening to A Course In Miracles on Audible.
  2. Allowing myself to get angry with my ex boyfriend.  I’ve been avoiding anger, and maybe by doing so slowed my own healing.
  3. Spending three hours on Skype with one of my best girlies in Canada.
  4. Running frequently and longer and longer distances.
  5. Reviving this Singlestreaming blog.
  6. Reading my abandoned manuscript for the book I began two years ago.
  7. Ballsing up and having some difficult conversations in my life and in my work.  Turns out they weren’t that difficult.
  8. Voicing a heart-felt response to the killings in the world.
  9. Building my tribe with lunches and coffees and yoga classes.
  10. Finishing a new painting “The Cooling”
  11. Stocking my fridge with food regularly.
  12. Giving away the beer in the fridge that I bought for the ex.  I don’t even drink the stuff.
  13. Long baths and yoga classes.
  14. Reading my favorite book of poetry before bed every night.
  15. Choosing to let go of “low-life” love.  You know, the kind where they are doing the best they can where they are but it isn’t even a drop in the bucket of what you need or deserve?  It’s a term my girlie on above-mentioned Skype convo and I came up with about her ex cheating on her and being mean.  That love was probably the best he was capable of, but definitely not worthy of her.
  16. Calls with one of my favorite people in Jamaica.
  17. Sending stupid jokes to my brother in Canada and having him spit out his drink.
  18. Writing my morning pages (practices from the Artist’s Way) in the room that gets the best morning sun.

Two Values Where Love Blossoms

I have always been astounded by the power friends have to bring hurt.  Friends are people you trust to have access to your feelings, your thoughts, your information, on good faith and with love.  They are people you share yourself with, that you let yourself be known to, vulnerable to, and they have an amazing power in their hands.  And failing their consciousness around their own power, with some careless handling, this power can truly destroy.

Friendship has been a very strong theme on this blog.  There have been many hurts, many vents, many priceless moments, and many lessons learned over the course of the past (almost) year.  I have described the dangers of weak girls as friends, the impossibility of friendship with the man whore, the power of girlfriends, the need to be touched and comforted that is experienced by single women,  the honoured place of the platonic husband, the desire for someone to be nice to in every one of us.  This blog has been dedicated to everything BUT romance, but even in this dedication the need for togetherness is recognized as absolutely vital.

In recent days I had a challenging experience with more than one friend.  I use the term friend still because I am not sure yet what to do about any of it.  Forgiveness is in order… I acknowledge it makes no sense to hold on to hurt.  But is reconciliation?  Does it make any sense to hold on to people who hurt?  I realize that in each case my friend and I see friendship from very different vantage points.  I realize that we have two different sets of values.  And I realize that values in friendship are important.

In chewing on my environment I have learned a few things about friendship.  Two main values in particular jump out that are absolutely key.

1. The Values of the Friend

What is a friend?  In thinking this through and determining whether my friend is truly a friend I have come to understand that what is inside a person is what the person is.  I know this sounds simple.  And I know it sounds airy fairy as well.  But hear me out.  What is inside the person is what the person is.  A person’s actions, words, language, mannerisms all come out of their character.  Their character comes from the actions that they have practiced into habit and second nature.  The actions they have practiced into second nature and habit have come from decisions they have made to do this instead of that, go here instead of there, say this at this time and not say that at the next moment.  These decisions have been made from their values.  In what the person decides to be the thing they should do, “SHOULD” itself is defined by their values.

A person’s character is a dynamic thing yes.  But it is complete.  In this moment they are exactly what they are.  No more no less.  Their past is not here anymore.  Their potential hasn’t yet come into being.  Only what they are today is present with you.  What they value today is all that is.  Sure, they may have the necessary raw material to grow in a certain direction… but will they choose to?  Yes, they may have all the potential in the world… but what is potential other than a belief of what could be?  It certainly is not what is.  Sure, I accept that they could grow.  But they have not yet grown, not at this moment, anywhere beyond where they are.  And waiting for a person to grow and come around to a place of being where you feel you can have a relationship with them that is mutually fulfilling can turn into throwing years of time away, gambling with your most precious possession of life itself, and casting your pearls before swine.

Love Blossoms

2.  Alignment of Values is the definition of trust

Another thing I learned came out of a conversation with one of my brothers.  He said something that has resounded within me for hours, bouncing and echoing through the hallways and channels of my brain and my veins.  It came from something he had read recently on Trust.  The author of whatever it was put it to their readers that trust is what is present when values are the same.

Think about it before I go any further.  Chew on the phrase a little while.  Trust is what is present when values are the same. 

It isn’t some special ingredient or result at the end of a formula.  It isn’t something manufactured, packaged in plastic, and sold from the shelves to supermarket shoppers.  It doesn’t come from listening to self-help gurus and conjuring spells from witch doctors.  It isn’t the immediate result of an “I Do” or an “I swear”.  It only shows up where values are shared.

Let’s go back to number 1.  If it is true that “What is inside the person is what the person is.” And if  “A person’s actions, words, language, mannerisms all come out of their character,”  which is at the very foundation “determined by their values.”  Then the alignment of values, the sameness of foundation, is where trust exists.

Taking an example, there are two people who meet for the first time.  They are put in the same place to work on the same project together as a team.  The people are very different – one is tall the other short, one is a man the other a woman, one is from Africa the other from Asia.  But let us say that both have at the core of their being a value system based on honesty, directness, diligence and pride in their work.  How likely is it that they will be honest with eachother, appreciating the honesty in the other?  How likely is it that they will not be offended by eachother’s directness?  How likely is it that they will trust eachother more and more as they learn that they both take pride in their work and are dedicated to working diligently for it to happen?  At the end of this project how do you see their trust relationship looking?

Take another pair.  They are both men, both American, same height, same home town, speak the same language, and they shop at the same store.  But say one has a value system based on honesty, directness, diligence and pride in his work.  And the other has a value system based on creative diplomacy, expedience, politeness, and pride in his paycheck.  How likely is it that directness will butt heads with politeness?  How about expedience and diligence?  Honesty and creative diplomacy?  How well will pride in ones work fit in with pride in ones paycheck?  Can you see how this might be a recipe for disaster?

Out of the values of a person springs the seed of who they are and what they do.  Out of shared values sprouts trust.  Out of trust grows friendship.  And out of friendship blossoms love.

Flashback V: Fantasies

Around the time of that last haircut this piece was written.  This numbness persisted until the fight to the surface began on the Singlestream.

Morning walks with Julius and Lola are becoming a little haven in my day. The evening walks are different – a part of my routine of chores – and I’m begging Lola pleasepleasePLEASE just pop a squat. But in the mornings the sun has been rising early and by the time I’m out there with them hell bent and arrow straight on their taut little leashes the cool of night is a whispering ghost and the air is moist with the breath of summer. In the shade of the odd little tree on the walking circle the smell of rain lingers and the dew lines are cut clearly by the bright sun spots. The dogs focus on the task at hand – Julius smelling and then obliterating every marking of every other stud with yellow streams and Lola’s special mission of pulling till she chokes with the odd burst of speed after a wild chicken.
In between the poop stops I wake up in increments. I wave at the neighbor who seems to have the same dog walk programmed into his smart phone. The dreams of the night before shake out with each sleep-heavy step like dust. I fight the creaking knees to bend and pick up the odd spot and my mind wonders.

It is on these walks in recent days that I have come to realize that I have no fantasies.

From my experience and in the experience of every woman who has shared pieces of her life with me I have concluded that a woman is driven by love. As a child she dreams of Cinderella dresses and glows at the thought that a handsome someone will think her beautiful and want her for his princess. As a teenager she struggles with the fight between her innocence and fear and the messages of society that tell her that with inch of skin she reveals she shall be repaid in love. As a young woman she will go to sleep at night re-living the attentive conversation of a nice man looking for clues and snuggle warm into her fantasies of what could happen if he were to turn out to be “the one”.

And so it is easy to feel myself somewhere in the neighborhood of the shadow of death to feel no thrill and to find no fantasy waiting at the end of the day to rock me to sleep…

Have I finally taken the bullet square in the chest by my last heartbreak that I have been taken off the battlefield entirely? Has the last healthy nerve ending been soldered off so completely that nothing and no one has the power to move me? Is this God’s answer to my prayers that “if it is not Your will for me Father please take away the desire”?

If so, it has come with more pain than I imagined. I imagined a clean break and inner peace. Now not only do I feel the void created by loves lost but by the loss of the ability to love itself. The death of the idea, if this is in fact what it really is, is infinitely worse.

Perhaps it is more like a coma. I think I would prefer to believe that. It must be! Death would leave a ghostless void wouldn’t it? Not an echoing chamber of voices and photographs of loving moments frozen in time. The heart still has its ears. Isn’t hearing the last sense to go? Isn’t that why families hold on to hands with desperate grip and pour out their souls’ secrets to their loved ones laying white in hospital bed and gown with the only sign of life the beeping of a monitor?

The heart hears still. It is frozen, waiting, listening for words warm enough to melt, real enough to slice, and strong enough to last forever. The lock on it’s casing has a code that only one other soul should know and many thieves may attempt to simulate. Many will speak to it, beg it, cajole it to no avail. Like Excalibur it waits for one hand – the right hand – to dip into the icy stone and pry it free.

I much prefer this to the thought of a death of a piece of me. I suppose the preference is in itself evidence of some truth to it.

Meanwhile the empty moments before sleep are not filled with fantasies. They are not hopeful and trembling, not listless and lusting. They have no images of smiling faces and quiet moments and beating hearts. No sounds of sweet nothings. Memories have been completely banished from these moments – they are even more painful. The minutes passing are simply… empty. For a few days now they have weighed heavy and empty – so heavy in fact that I am moved to fill them with wine and company or stories of “How I Met Your Mother” and “Two and a Half Men”.

Is this what you would have me do?

Deep down, after passing through the flailing of a despairing brain short now of balance from its emotional counterpart, after passing through the stress barrier of the demands of my work and of my life obligations, past the frozen silence of my nighttime moments and the dew spots of my morning walks, under all that sits the knowledge that this is a time with a purpose. It has to be.

Every moment of despair in my years has been used by my Father to prepare me. He has used childhood grief to bring reason to my life even if from the strange starting point as a vehicle through which my dying friend could live vicariously. He has used failure to open doors that success would have persuaded me to ignore. He has used heartbreak as an earthquake to move me from a place of danger into safety. Illness has been the medicine used to bring me back to spiritual health. Loss has brought me moments of intangible and incalculable wealth. This knowledge is my foundation, my rock bottom, a low past which he will not have me go. It is the hand in which my world rests and as deep as I dig I will only go this low and no lower than his hand. This emptiness too must have a purpose…

Today, with a cup of coffee in one hand, the sheen of the morning’s walk on my brow and the dogs sat by my feet still panting after coolness, I am praying for guidance. I cannot see the map but I will take instructions from Your satellite navigation system. Turn me right, bear me left, teach me, stretch me, trim me, make me. Serve through me. I will trust You to fill my emptiness.

Be my Fantasy.

To see the other Flashbacks in this series, visit the links below:

Flashback IV: Little Favors

Oh boy, was I ever in trouble.  Before the haircuts there was (perhaps) something to be grateful for.  There is a mix of feelings that I probably couldn’t have faced without bitterness a mere six months ago when I read this.  But now I read it and feel as though I am reading the diary of a younger sister.  My feelings are rich and colorful for her – pride in her eloquence, sorrow for her innocence that would inevitably be lost, and protectiveness for her heart.  How adult she sounds, thinking of her 15 year-old self!  How readily she embraced hope!  How amazing was her confidence!  How naked was her writing!  This is the woman I was when I could use my hair as a scarf around my neck and it hung to just above the top of my jeans.

This is the flashback that pains me most.

I didn’t realize how much I worry until this moment. This single instant. I didn’t realize how much time and how much of me I have wasted on inward chewing until this second. It’s been a gradual process, this realization, but I HAVE ARRIVED!

These past few months I have been taking stock of my time. How much time do I have left in this job? How best can I enjoy the time with you before the distance starts? How much time will it take for the architect to draw plans? How much time will be left with my teenager after she turns 18? How little time I have in the evening to de-stress… how little time in the morning to be ready… how little time I have to spend with the people who matter most…

My baby cousin called today on the first Sunday I have had to myself in what feels like years. I had opened one eye, walked the dogs and come back to bed until her afternoon call. “May I stay with you tonight and you take me to school tomorrow?”

She is one of the loved ones much neglected in my time-budget to date. So, with no other plans but to catch more snooze hours, I said yes. She’s a darling, a giclee of my 15 year-old self, an eerie but delightful echo of my voice.

My awareness of my time-failings has grown every day thanks to you. You made me conscious of my worry, my intense focus on future problems and my failure to appreciate today. It’s a form of ungratefulness, you taught me. It is also a form of doubt. We worked several years ago to be here where we are now so how dare we scorn our previous efforts and not enjoy what we have been blessed with and worked hard for? Why waste it with singleminded focus on a future moment that we might not even stop to enjoy as we fail to stop and enjoy here and now?

And so I tried, channeling some of that intensity to the now, focusing on getting today right. At first it was difficult, seemingly meaningless, but you were patient and persistent. And little by little I saw pieces of me that I had sliced off to better focus. They came back to life, sprouting like new leaves on a fall Poinciana.
I remembered the joy of exercise: one evening after you and I fought and parted in anger I hit the road and remembered. I sweat and I turned red, I beat furiously at the pavement, each step opening my heaving lungs again and reminding me.
I remembered the joys of sport: focus on something completely unrelated to the future. So I drove to the other side of town to watch you play football every Saturday of the season in boiling sun and driving rain. Mrs. No. 16 remembered herself and screamed first at your quarterback and then beside you in the games to follow for the day. You reintroduced my competitive spirit to myself sitting against my knees on playoff weekend and cussin’ the ref’s terrible calls.

I remembered the freedom of a Friday night out without fear for my safety.

I was reminded about the exhilaration of a good fight over a table of dominos (obnoxious as you could be).

You introduced me to hitherto scorned and now highly developed taste for Irish cider.

You gave me someone to cook for after years of single and functional 5 minute meals, shaking off the rust and remembering the joy I used to find in creating something scrumptious and new.

And then you had to go away and leave me in my day to day. It had to be done. But part of the devastation of parting at the airport, apart from my love for you, was the fear that the parts coming alive would go right back to sleep. My joy was leaving, or so I thought.

This is my first full weekend on my own and I have realized in this one instant that that isn’t it at all. My cousin turned on my computer and went in search of music. Digging in folders I haven’t seen in months. She put on an old favourite I haven’t seen in even longer, a KT Tunstall song – Little Favours – and colour just BURST into my brain! It was like the skittles rainbow!

“I slip softly through.. your slim fingers… feel the traces… our embraces… feeling that lingers”

And there I was feeling like ME again – the Pieces matching up to make a whole puzzle – with hairbrush in hand and head bobbing in a half-crazed beat with the rhythm guitar sliding around on the kitchen floor like the pro Michael Jackson WISHES he was.

So take me faaar away…”

A vision of the me before the worries and the day I first bought the CD…

“…and hold me cloooose to your heart…”

a discovery of who I was again, a person full of colour and life and love and verve and ‘ganas’

…do me just this little favour…

A woman who loves her music and loves to dance, loves red wine and silver, loves to paint, to dream, to fight, to work, to sweat.

…for I do… yes I do… LOVE YOU

Loves LIFE.

To see the other Flashbacks in this series, visit the links below:

Opening old wounds

I can’t believe how raw this post today has made me… how naked it makes my heart feel.

But it turns out that the heart is still there, beating under layers and layers of scars.  Perhaps it is better to let sleeping dogs lie, let the scars be, and the fresh scabs become keloid.  It certainly would be easier.  Healing hurts too much!  And it isn’t guaranteed.  Is it?

A wise friend and I spoke recently about pain.  He has studied James with me and we have spoken at length about Considering it Joy.  He has found himself in a place of total brokenness – his body, his work, his family, his reputation, all broken.

But in it he has found peace.

I explained to him that I am completely unaware of any other way of dealing with pain other than attacking or running.  The fight or flight in me is strong when it comes to pain.  There is no middle ground.  Or is there?

He said to me embrace the pain.  Be with it.  Ride it out and let it take you to the lesson.

Hmmmm ok.  I kinda reacted with a flip mmm hmm.  But he didn’t move.  He meant it.  Savor every emotion.  Get to know it and let it know you.  He patiently waited for it to sink in to me.

Embrace it, eh?  Will give it a try before I trash the idea.

Today is a step in that direction.

Flashback I: Truth and the Shell

It has been a hard day of grief and pain. This time he is heeding my request to please stay clear and allow me to do my growing and grieving alone. But oh does it hurt!

“What hurts?” I have asked myself. It is the sucking drain of the disappointment drawing back the wave of joy that flooded over me at the realization that “I have found someone who I can love for the rest of my life!” It is a pain that tells of the stripping bare of the garden that bloomed in my heart, watered by that wave of joy. New leaves and fresh blooms all viciously uprooted in their youth, torn from my bosom. Holes that once held clutching roots and ground that was not so long ago shaded by trees are now dry and cracked and gaping, assaulted by a burning sun of Truth.

Truth that reveals every weakness in blinding, sweltering brightness. Truth that cuts through the beautiful words and whispered dreams passed lips-to-ear by the seaside. Cuts through the mirage of lies and folly-happy belief. Truth that burns away chaff. Leaving grief. Grief that the leafy ferns and tender orchids were not real but a bedtime story that needed to be grown out of. Grief at the loss of the cool, damp earth and fragrance of jasmine under a bright full moon all lost to truth.

Even when you tried you lied. Your lies covered my days with painted colours, a full garden of imaginings. Now all swirled and sucked into the vortex of the drain. If only I had not believed. If only I had not allowed you, time and again, to deceive. Truth tugged at me, peaking through the sky-flung Poinciana branches and so I slipped to the side to a greater comfort, deeper in your fanciful creation each time. Until the midday of my heart came and truth, right over my head, burned the matrix away. I am the one. The one who has to see and now must live in TRUTH.

And now… in the glaring light of the Truth that destroys all lies, I sit on a real stump of a real old tree – solid, dry, dead wood with the reprieve of Certainty that comes in the presence of Truth and the sound of the sea. Julius keeps coming back to check on me, walking only so far with the girls before coming back.

The darkness I battled with threatens to return and my mouth calls out for numbing rum. Things of the past. Tears come at awkward times, tugging on my composure and pealing the edges of my theater mask, my warrior mask, my happy mask. No mask sticks to a slick pair of cheeks! I sit with myself, in myself, smothered under myself and vomit onto the page every bilious thought that steals my quiet. And I glance down and see a piece of something shiny and pink. Shining through tear-chafed eyes. A gift, simple and rugged. A full and pink conch shell! If I had not sat there with my tears I would not have seen it.

After seeing the shell I put my book down and stooped to get it. But it was stuck. I dug around it with my fingers clearing the sand away between the roots of the old dead stump. The points at the top of the old conch shell were buried in the dead roots, cured by salt and covered with sand and thoroughly stuck. Stuck so fast that no amount of wiggling made it give. And so I searched for a piece of stick and dug with the stick. My right hand had already gone raw by now and threatened to bleed. I lost track of time in my focus and dug furiously. Hand and stick, hand and stick, wiggle here, tug there, still no give.

And so I called to the girls down to beach to come and help me.

Thus the shell had become my only focus, a symbol of happiness. I dug in relentless pursuit of it, the dig itself a fierce determination not to give up my hope. A struggle that brought blood to my hands and tears to my eyes.

The girls didn’t hear me and I began to get frustrated. Why didn’t they pay attention? The sky was darkening and the fireball to the west had begun a low, dripping, over-ripe mango-sticky descent through the clouds. I called out again and they began to walk ever so slowly to me. It angered me that they weren’t there and didn’t care, that they couldn’t hear my calling out. Didn’t they know how important this was to me? Couldn’t they see me and my gestures and waves saying hurry?

And plain as day I got it. THE POINT. Like a dream that gives such aching clarity to a situation obscured by daylight wakenings I saw. This is the purpose of my pain.

To bring me to call on Him, the Most High. The One who can answer all my questions, cure all my ailments, and dig out all of my shells. And right there I looked up and said to him Father, the girls aren’t going to hear me. They aren’t here where I am right now. And they probably couldn’t help me anyway – I am stronger than they are. Please help me get this shell out.

And so I bent over again and began to dig. It wiggled more and I dug some more. I stepped on one side to turn it loose and dug some more. I took my hands and scooped under the shell with sand cutting into my raw flesh. By this time the girls had strolled over to me. One came and reached down to help as I straightened up.

It came loose in her hands. First try. No struggle – out it popped.

MADNESS

But it was my struggle. There was a reason.

Later at home I took that shell into my bath tub. There it will always stay pink and fresh with constant watering. It will also remind me at least twice a day, at my most naked and exposed moments, that my God is with me in every struggle and will be my armour when I feel exposed.

And so I prayed into my little book. Father, please put that gem and hide it in my heart like that shell. Stick it in there and never let it wiggle free I pray. Please remind me that You are never going to leave me and that You are so much better than anything else I could ever find. Help me remember to call to You first because You are always right here, right now, where I am. Help me remember that when my friends are far away, or when they are up close – it doesn’t matter! They don’t have Your power.

Please also use these struggles of mine, these battles I face, to strengthen the people around me. Help my struggle to allow them to find their own shell loose and ready for them to just pick it up. Take my writing and use it to Your honour and glory I pray.

Amen

It seems I knew once how to deal with pain.  I knew once how to reconnect to the core of me and commune from that core with the Source of all things good.  I am so blessed to be reminded of that knowledge today.