Thursday, December 3, 2015

Pulling a phone out of the wall

I can't quite remember which came first: my mother's eye or the dog.

In the fall of 1995, shortly after I graduated from college, my beloved Nikki, a Siberian Husky who was my 9th birthday present, was 13 and failing; on Halloween, we said goodbye.

I think my mother's eye happened before that, late summer or early fall. One day, her eye was totally red; the doctor said a blood vessel had burst, which happens, and not to worry.

Around the same time (or was it the same day?), my mom was giving a presentation at work when she suddenly had blood in her mouth.

Soon after, she had an appointment with her endocrinologist to check on her thyroid. Her blood pressure was so high that he didn't want her to leave the office. He sent her straight to her regular doctor. The testing began.

~

My first job out of college was doing layout and page production in a commercial printing department; I worked second shift, and every other week, I interacted with a client who would call with changes to their many-paged booklet that we printed.

The client was a character. He would chew gum the whole time he was talking to me on the phone. "Eh, Kristina," he said one day (chomp chomp chomp). "Long time, no talk, eh? That's a pisser."

One late afternoon, after my parents got home from medical appointments, my mom called me at work. Her kidneys had only about 30% function and were failing, she'd been told. I had an electric feeling throughout my body — raw fear and disbelief. I interpreted my mother's diagnosis to mean she was dying, sooner rather than later.

Soon after (a minute? an hour?), the client called, and my coworkers shoved a big bowl of popcorn in my face — so I could chew in the client's ear for a change. I waved them off and switched phones to one that was closer to the counter where the proofs were. The cord was tangled, I was frazzled, and I tugged at the cord — until the phone ripped out of the wall. I dissolved in tears, handed the phone to a coworker and fled.

Twenty minutes later, I walked in the door of our house, not sure what I would find.

What I found was normal. My dad sitting on the loveseat. My mom sitting in her chair. The woodstove burning. Wheel of Fortune or Jeopardy on the television. I sat on the floor in front of the fire and read the newspaper.

I was outwardly normal but falling apart inside. That became my normal.

~

This morning after my shower, I looked in the mirror. I saw 22-year-old eyes, pained and scared, and the discolored patch of skin on my 42-year-old left cheek — like my mother's cheeks as she aged.

If I could give my 22-year-old self anything, it would be someone to have her back. Someone to help carry the load, physically and emotionally. Someone to lean on when her foundations were shaken.

I would give my 22-year-old self the unconditional love and partnership that Paul gives me.

Paul and I knew each other then; for those of you who don't know, Paul is the oldest brother of my best friend from college. I think we met when I was 19. Paul was interested, but my best friend didn't want me to date her brothers, so I didn't — for 16 years.

I couldn't have managed a lasting relationship with anyone in my early 20s, so I'm glad Paul and I didn't get together then. But I think it would be comforting for my 22-year-old self to know that she wouldn't always feel alone, that she'd someday have someone to lean on, that someday she could face this unspeakable fear and that she wouldn't be alone.




Wednesday, December 2, 2015

Revisiting the past

I graduated from college in the summer of 1995, moved home and found a job. Five months later, my mother was diagnosed with kidney failure. The next month, my mother's mother (who moved in with us when I was 8) fell and broke her shoulder. A few months after that, my father was diagnosed with esophageal cancer.

I was 22 and scared out of my mind. My parents were older when I was born (my mom 37, my dad 60), and growing up, I was always afraid they would die. Now my worst fears seemed to be coming true, and there was nothing I could do except watch it happen.

I don't remember much about that time. I know that I was highly functional; I drove my parents and grandmother to doctor appointments and cancer treatments or kept up our huge house and yard during the day, and I worked second shift. I had friends, but I didn't feel like I could talk to anyone about fear of my parents dying. Or about how it feels to watch someone you love suffer from cancer. Or about the realities of being a caretaker. 

With the clarity of twenty intervening years, I'm sure there were people who would have listened. There might have been people who tried. The real issue was that I couldn't talk about it without crying, and at that point, I tried my damnedest to not cry in front of anyone. (Funny how important that seemed.) I believed I needed to be able to take care of myself, by myself, and that isolated me more.

Scared. Overwhelmed. Isolated. (Depressed? I can't remember if these were the few years I was off anti-depressants.) Going through the motions but not processing my thoughts or feelings.

Now I think it's time to do that processing. Twenty years is a long time to have buried this. I don't know if I'm ready (I don't feel ready, but I don't think I ever feel ready to tackle something big) — but I do know that I have strength and knowledge gained from years of therapy and intense energy work. If that's not enough to get me through, my husband will share his strength.

So in this darkest time of the year, I'm going within to face my fears and my darkest pain. I'm going to spend time with my 22-year-old self. I can be the listener she didn't have, the person to whom she can say anything. I can be the one she doesn't have to be strong for. I can be the person who's not afraid to cry with her. (Okay, that last one is a lie. Crying with people makes me really uncomfortable. But fear and discomfort won't stop me.) Let's begin.


Wednesday, November 18, 2015

Tipping the scales


When I was about 10 years old, I discovered the Narnia Chronicles. The Narnia Chronicles were written by C.S. Lewis — who, I found out many years later — also wrote for adults about Christianity.

In the first book, “The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe,” four children are sent from London to the countryside during World War II. They stay in a big old house, which of course they explore.

And what do they find? A magical portal, through the back of an old wardrobe, that leads them to a magical kingdom called Narnia. They meet an evil witch who has cast Narnia in a hundred-year deep freeze, and a lion called Aslan, Narnia’s true king. (At one point, Aslan gives himself up to his enemies, knowing he will be killed; he sacrifices himself to save someone else. And then he is resurrected. Sound familiar? Now it does, but at age 10, I didn’t recognize the allusions to Jesus Christ.)

A few years later, I found another series to read. The Dark Is Rising series, written by Susan Cooper, doesn’t feature a magical portal — but it does feature magic.

On one side: the Light. On the other side: the Dark.

The Light is led by Old Ones, mystical beings who wield magic in service of the Light, of the greater good. 

The Dark is made up of Dark Lords, the counterparts of the Light’s Old Ones. The Dark Lords also are mystical beings who wield magic — but they serve the Dark, the evil.

The Light and the Dark have been in a struggle forever, in a series of battles, each seeking final and complete dominance over the other. Sometimes one side wins and the scale tips a little in their favor… and then the other side wins a few battles, and the scale tips the other way. The Light versus the Dark. Good versus evil.

Co-existing with the Light and the Dark, and generally unaware of the constant struggle and magic around them, are regular humans. Sometimes the struggle between the Light and the Dark spills over into the world so that the humans are affected (although they remain unaware); in one book, the countryside of England is blanketed in a dangerous snow storm. Snow keeps piling up, closing roads, isolating the weak, falling heavier and heavier on a bewildered country of humans.

I will confess that last winter, at some point in our record-breaking snowfall, I wondered if there was a battle raging about which I knew nothing: some epic struggle between two unseen forces.

~

Last week in bible study, we played a game called “Cross the Line.” We all stood on one side of a line taped on the floor in the parish hall. The rector read a series of statements one by one. If you identified with the statement, you were to walk across the line. After a pause, everyone who had crossed went back to their starting place for the next statement.

One of the last statements was “I believe I can make the world a better place.” Almost everyone crossed the line for that one, with a few exceptions, including, I was surprised to see, a woman I know slightly. This woman, probably in her 60s, has a warm, calming presence. I was startled that she doesn’t think she can make a difference in the wider world because I believe she makes a difference simply by being herself. 

~


The children’s animated movie “Finding Nemo” takes place mostly under the sea. Dory, brilliantly voiced by Ellen DeGeneres, at one point helps a school of fish caught in a fishing net. She urges them to each swim downward as hard as they can. Ultimately, when they all work together, they’re able to exert enough downward pressure that the fishing net snaps and they’re all freed.

Working together, they accomplished the seemingly impossible.

~

Lately, with stories of violence more common than ever — with attacks in Paris and Beirut, with a bombed Russian airliner — with fear and hatred dividing us… I wonder again if we’re witnessing the effects of some epic battle.

If so, what can we do? Seemingly nothing.

At first. On closer inspection, though, we’re not helpless. Together, we can spread light in the world. We can smile at the person checking us out at the grocery store. We can call to check in on an elderly person. We can invite someone who might otherwise be alone to Thanksgiving dinner.

I believe each small gesture of light, of love, of faith, matters. I believe each contributes to that scale that tips back and forth between the Light and the Dark. Unseen battles tip the scales, but so does the concerted efforts of many people. One individual sending light out into the world ripples outward. We know this. When we join our efforts together, we can accomplish the seemingly impossible — we can, in the face of so much darkness, tip the scale back toward the light.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Another step forward

In the midst of inner struggle, inevitably, comes a breakthrough. I never know where that line will be, that line that will take from me slogging through to stepping lightly. And of course it's complicated when I'm working on multiple things, as I am now. But I realized recently that one thing has become clear.

When I was a little girl, I wanted to be a teacher. I used to pretend teach with my stuffed animals and sometimes relatives; when an older cousin wanted to be teacher and I had to yield, it was a tough swallow.

In my early twenties, I went to Japan and worked as assistant English teacher. I always assumed that if I taught, it would be English; I'm an English major, someone who loves reading and writing.

It turns out, though, that what I'm supposed to teach is much different.

For several years, I've wanted to share my knowledge of healing. I haven't been sure what that would look like, but over the past year, it's become crystal clear: I'm going to share "Energy Awareness as a Life Skill."

Energy work, chakras and auras can sound abstract, but I want to bring them into the every day. What does your energy system look like? How does it affect you every day? How can you take care of your energy system by yourself, at home?

Friends who attended my fall presentation at St. Anne's in-the-Fields will recognize nuggets. This is an expanded version, and I'm so excited to share it. The first presentation will be a Monday evening this summer and will take place in Flint Hall at St. Anne's in Lincoln, Massachusetts. Cost will be $25 in advance or $30 at the door.

Interested in learning more? Please email me at sprucecovehealing@gmail.com. I'd love to have you join me in this exciting next step!

Thursday, May 14, 2015

Quick to criticize

One day last week, as I was pulling into the parking lot at the church where I work, I saw the rector walking in. "Kate walks to work," I immediately thought. "Why don't you?"

Um, because Kate literally lives next door to the church, while I live 15.3 miles away.

Ridiculous, right?

Of course. And yet it interested me because it showed just how willing I am to judge and criticize myself.

My depression has been up this spring, which is unusual timing, but as usual, this episode is giving me lots of good stuff to think about and work on. It means thinking about where I've been, where I am and where I want to be. It means being gentle with myself whenever possible (rather than criticizing for the ridiculous or the legitimate) and spending time processing.

"Evolution is a slow process," one of my favorite Agatha Christie characters says.

 Change is hard. We all know that, right? I can feel remarkably comfortable in the discomfort of something that no longer works, because what's familiar is comfortable.

Change is scary. Exchanging what I know for something I don't know? Yikes.

Change is necessary. To stay exactly the same is stagnation — and death.

I'm blessed (and cursed) to have a personality that simultaneously longs for change and evolution and fears it. It's a messy combination.

But it's mine, and so I trudge on. Sometimes it really does feel like trudging — slogging through mud or high water, messy and tough. Sometimes it feels easier. Occasionally I skip ahead with joy. I'm in the trudging phase right now, and that's okay.

"Evolution is a slow process," but the process moves forward nonetheless.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Listening

Last night the Lenten program at St. Anne's concluded with an evening of practicing listening. Once again I was impressed with people's willingness to not only show up but to truly dig in and open up deep parts of themselves.

For multiple people who received healing in the half hour before supper each week, a theme was expectations. When I studied polarity therapy, we learned Expectation Release. This was one of the many times that I doubted energy work. I was fascinated by energy work, drawn to it — but skeptical.

According to polarity, expectations build up on our shoulders — right where most of us, including me, have muscle tension. That day in class, when it was my turn to receive the work, I released the expectations of my parents, my brothers and myself. I was shocked when I got off the table to feel how much the knots in my shoulders had released. 

My favorite part of the work is the end, when you affirm "My only expectation is to trust the truth within me."

But how do we find the truth?

One way is releasing our junk. I believe that we're born with a divine core. As we go through life, we accumulate junk around that core. My goal as a healer is to help people shed their junk so they can get closer and closer to their core, to their true beautiful self.

Another part of finding the truth is listening for it. Listening can be complicated; the voice of society's rules and the voice of our expectations can be louder than the voice that comes from our core.

It takes practice and experimentation to find what works. Sometimes it helps if I separate out the voices and examine them one by one, seeing how they feel. If I feel a sinking or a dullness, that voice is not speaking my truth. If my energy lifts, I encourage that voice to be louder.

Right now, my job is stressful. That's usually not true, working in a church, but we have a huge fundraising event next week, followed by Holy Week and Easter, the busiest time of the year. I'm working a lot. I'm stressed. I'm irritable. How do I remember to listen? How do I find time for stillness and reflection? 

For me, part of the answer is being as close to my core as possible. That voice gets louder the closer I get, and it gets louder the more it's allowed to speak.

Monday, March 16, 2015

Openness and vulnerability

Last Wednesday, the Lenten program at St. Anne's in-the-Fields was "The Sacred Art of Healing." Kate, the rector, began by giving a brief history of healing in the church. She talked about the early church's focus on mind, body and spirit and how there's a shift back towards that now. She also talked about how publicly asking for healing makes you vulnerable. "Are you willing?" she asked. "Am I willing? Am I, your priest, going to stand in front of you and admit that I have broken pieces, that I need healing?"

And the beautiful thing about Kate is that she did.

One of the interesting things about doing energy work is the difference between what someone presents to the world and what their energy says. There are parts of ourselves we emphasize and parts we try to hide away, or at least minimize. Here's a minor example. Most people think of me as pretty organized. In some ways I am, but let's not talk about my home office, that messy, sloppy, unorganized, dirty, cluttered space.

For a while, only my husband has been allowed in that room; he knows me, all of me. Somehow I don't want other people to see that piece of me, the me that is so dysfunctional that entire rooms of my house are unusable. But recently I took pictures and sent them to a friend; we were having a contest of sorts about whose office was worse. And you know what? Nothing bad happened when I showed that part of myself to a trusted friend. In fact, something good happened; she called and we laughed and argued about who won the contest.

I think the key piece there is trust. Notice I'm not posting the pics here for the whole world, trusted and untrusted, to see. I'm a work in progress.

Yet Kate opened herself to the group last Wednesday, and then again yesterday in her sermon. I admire much about Kate: her loving heart, her faith, intelligence, sense of humor. I admire that she's brave and willing to be vulnerable, willing to dispense with trying to present a facade, willing to live from her soul.




Tuesday, February 24, 2015

Lenten practices


Blog

One of my intentions for this Lenten season was to write every day. I'm doing that, but not always coming up with something to publish; I think that's okay.

Diptychs

My friend Tricia and I have a collaborative Lenten creative practice. Every week, we each write a haiku and take a photo; then we create diptychs of her haiku and my photo, and my haiku and her photo. Here's the first week:


















Healing

Back in Advent, Kate, my boss and rector of the church where I work, and I had talked about doing another weekday meditation/prayer series for Lent, and adding healing to the mix. We've been extremely busy, though, and suddenly Lent had begun. The solution: Offer healing for half an hour before the start of each Wednesday evening program.

The program is called "Listening for God" and continues last year's theme of mindfulness. Each week, I'll offer hands-on healing from 6 o'clock until the soup supper at 6:30 pm, which is followed by the talk at 7. I'm so excited to share my gift!

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Holding the light

Everything is energy, vibrating at different frequencies. When two different energies come into contact, one will align with the other. This, I explained at a talk a few weeks ago, is how crystals work. When my energy comes in contact with the crystal's energy, my energy will align with the stronger, steadier vibration of the crystal.

Lately I've been wondering: What if I could become a stronger, steadier vibration so that people's energy could shift in a positive way just from being near me? What if, like a crystal, I could hold the light purely?
https://www.flickr.com/photos/packofhuskies/15719070984


Of course, I'm not pure — I'm human. But I believe we each have a divine core. As we go through life, we accumulate junk around that core. For years, I've been trying to shed my junk so I can live from my pure self, from my soul. It's a long process, but I see glimmers.

Holding the light helps me shed more junk. Holding the light helps me be centered in my heart, rather than distracted by the chatter of my mind, and it helps me be clear. Holding the light helps me share my work as a healer.

And holding the light helps me be a better person. I never have to apologize for my behavior when I'm holding the light and acting from my soul.

Friday, February 20, 2015

Holding the light

I used to think I could transform the world in some kind of grand gesture, affecting many people at once. Then I learned that the best way to change the world is to focus on my corner of it — starting with making myself the best I can be. From there, I can affect the people I come in contact with: I can smile at the person working at the gas station; I can let a car turn left in front of me; I can offer an ear or a hug to a friend having a bad day.

It turns out it's easy to do those things when I come from my heart and soul. It gets harder when my mind gets mixed in — my mind that says, "She didn't smile at me. Why should I smile at her?" And "I need to get to work; get out of my way!" 

But I'm human, and sometimes I get bogged down in worries and stress and pettiness. So the question is, how do I stay clear so I can spread good in the world?

I know some pieces of the answer, and some I have to figure out. But it seems that the overarching answer is "Be the light of God." In Advent, my goal was opening to the light. Now my goal is holding the light — being a clear container so that I can hold the energy of love.

That doesn't mean I actively love everyone; I don't love the woman at the gas station or the driver opposite me — but I can come from my heart when I'm interacting with them.

When I come from my heart, interactions are more satisfying. I feel happier. I feel calmer, more centered.

Today I'm focusing on staying in my heart. That's easy to say, sitting here drinking my tea by the fire; we'll see what happens when I venture out in the cold, snowy world and head to work.

Thursday, February 19, 2015

searching. finding.

In December, I told a story at church about finding light in the darkness. My story began when I was 10 years old. My mother told me one day I was too negative; hurt but honest, I realized she was right. I headed out for a walk with our Siberian Husky, determined to find something positive before I went home.

I had no idea where to begin.

I started with the weather. If it were sunny, that would be a positive thing, I thought. But it wasn't sunny. In fact, everything was soaked from a recent rain. I walked on, looking around — past the little pond and up the hill across the street, to the tall grass along the roadside. Suddenly I noticed the way the light caught in a drop of water on a blade of grass, and I thought, "That's beautiful."

I learned some important lessons that day; I learned that if I can't find light inside of me, I can look outward. It might be physically small, as small as a drop of water, but it will be there, somewhere.

Winter, this year, is hard. It's cold. We've had something like 100 inches of snow in 4 weeks. The days, thankfully, are getting longer, but there are no signs of spring outside. We're in a deep freeze — 14 of the past 18 days have been below freezing. People are cold, tired, drained. Worried about ice dams and roof leaks. Sore from shoveling paths and raking roofs.

A week ago, I started paperwhite bulbs by "planting" them in stones and water. Paperwhites are gloriously gratifying because they shoot up impossibly long green leaves and gorgeous clusters of white flowers. Seven days in, the green shoots have gone from about 1/2 inch high to 2-4 inches high, and several of the bulbs have buds bursting forth from the leaves.

In this cold season of still-long nights, when my depression tends to spike, having paperwhites growing is an anchor. It's a constant visual reminder that no matter what it looks like outside, spring will come.
 
https://www.flickr.com/photos/packofhuskies/16583744815/


Wednesday, February 18, 2015

Bloom where you're planted

When I was 17, I decided I would live in Italy someday. The person I felt like in Italy was more me than the person I was back home. You know how different friends match different pieces of you? Italy matched more pieces of my soul than the United States.

But "Bloom where you're planted," the saying goes. At 41, I haven't lived in Italy, and I'm firmly planted in New England. Now I'm figuring out how to integrate the different pieces of who I am.

In my heart, I'm a writer. I'm a healer. I'm a photographer. 
In my soul, I'm a partner with my husband.

Those things sound easy enough to integrate, so where does the problem come in? I think the problem happens when I think.

When I think, I'm in my head, not my heart or soul.

In my mind, I should have a full-time job that pays very well.
In my mind, I shouldn't have depression.
In my mind, I should be perfect.

See that? See those shoulds? Yikes. It sounds like I'm using a lot of energy on thoughts that aren't helping me move forward.

Today is Ash Wednesday, the beginning of Lent. I was raised Catholic and although I haven't considered myself Catholic for many years, I often give up something for Lent. My mother told me once the thing you give up for Lent should be difficult. One year I gave up picking my nails (which might sound trivial, but at 15, was a serious commitment). One year I gave up chips, my favorite snack. Another year I gave up alcohol.

This year, in thinking about a Lenten practice, I decided I don't want whatever I do to feel punitive. I don't want to focus on giving up something — rather, I want to focus on something.

Last Advent, my amazing boss Kate, an Episcopal priest, and I led weekday guided meditation and prayer at the church. The theme was "I am open to the light of God" (if you're not religious, just drop "of God" — "I am open to the light" works perfectly). Each week connected with the Advent themes of the adult formation program, a version of NPR's "The Moth Radio Hour": light/darkness, expectation/birth and giving/receiving. We interspersed a chakra/aura guided meditation with scripture readings and silent meditation.

For Lent, I also want a theme, and I've settled on "I am holding the light of God." My Lenten practice will be writing, thinking about ways I can and do hold the light.