My giant goes with me wherever I go

photo by Alexandra ValentiThis week I started a 4o day abundance journey to bring more opportunities for expansion into my life. About 10 other people are doing this work together, lead by Luke Simon, a healer who I worked with years ago at a yoga retreat. We have weekly calls to check in on our progress, but the daily work is done alone.

We’re working with “The Abundance Book” by John Randolph Price and asked to meditate on a Principle each day, really focusing on the idea that prosperity comes from the God within each of us, not money or outside approval or human-made constructs intended to make us feel less than or afraid. The idea that we are God and God is us, living within each of us, shining out from each of us, is not foreign to me. It rings absolutely true, so it is not a stretch to come to these meditations in a spirit of acceptance and belief.

I want to use this blog as a journal of my reactions to the daily Principles. It is interesting that, no matter how open-hearted we come to work like this, there are lingering blocks that point us to the shadows lurking within.

DAY 1

God is lavish, unfailing Abundance, the rich omnipresent substance of the Universe. This all-providing Source of infinite prosperity is individualized as me – the Reality of me.

“Lavish” brings to mind fin de siecle banquets and over the top wedding receptions and ennui. I think of it as wasteful and showy and not necessarily emotionally grounded, so I had an immediate reaction to the first sentence. I have never considered God as lavish, as overflowing or overabundant. My Protestant God values thrift and hard work for just what you need, no more. If you think you deserve more, you think too much of yourself. You think you are important, and that is wrong.

Remember that scene in “It’s A Wonderful Life” where the Savings & Loan customers are swarming around George Bailey, trying to get their money out during the run on the bank? And Tom wants ALL his money even though George pleads with everyone to only take what they absolutely need so his $2000 honeymoon fund can last until the bank opens? Tom, who wants his $242 and won’t settle for less, seems selfish and short sited, especially when Ms. Davis asks for only $17.50 and is hugged and kissed and celebrated for her selflessness. This is my God. My God expects me to be happy with $17.50, even though I have, and am entitled to, $242.

So the notion that God is lavish is hard for me to grasp. Why is that? I look at the beauty of nature and see lavish abundance everywhere. Sometimes the beauty is so overwhelming, so humbling, it is too much to take in. Is the difference because one is natural and one is material? That it comes down, in my brain, to human lavishness being all about what can be bought with human money vs natural lavishness being of God and therefore above money?

What if human lavishness is simply one of infinite giving? Like a buffet that provides everything you could ever want to eat or drink, forever? Imagine it is the provider’s sole purpose on earth to restock that buffet and so he/she does it without any doubt or boredom. Is it God’s purpose/our purpose to be that provider, that Source?

The thought that I, as the Source of that buffet… woah. That seems too much. How will I ever be able to be that unselfish? That giving? I can see myself as George Bailey with $2000 to share, but could I be the angel who gives everyone all the money all the time forever? Wouldn’t that get boring? Wouldn’t that reward selfishness? These are the thoughts I am having. They are giant and they don’t seem God-like at all.

DAY 2

I lift up my mind and heart to be aware, to understand, and to know that the Divine Presence I AM is the Source and Substance of all my good. 

Today’s Principle is easier for me to grasp. I am God and God is me and that God is the source of everything that is good about me — everything good that I do or think or feel comes from the God within. God made me in His image, so He must be as unique as I am. He must be as quirky as I am. As funny. As serious. I love that idea. That God isn’t one finite entity but an amalgam of all sorts of beings. There isn’t ONE Godly way to be because God is as different as each of us. When we are true to ourselves, we are true to God within us.

For the aforementioned Protestant, this is a lot to take in. Abundance seems quite cocky. Quite self-important. There are voices in my head telling me to hide these thoughts. That they are shameful and bad. Who do I think I am to put myself on par with God?

Well. I think I am a vessel for God and He made me perfect. He made me capable of giving with abundance (lavishly!) and receiving abundance with open arms and a shame-free heart. The title of this post is a favorite Emerson quote that helps me with this concept. My giant goes with me wherever I go is God both going with me and as me, always.

Advertisements

Appreciation

Spider WebThere are many, many mornings where I wake up and acutely feel the absence of a child. But this morning, as I walked into the foggy forest behind the house and spent 45 minutes photographing dew-covered spider webs, was not one of them. I was out as long as I wanted, heard each leaf hit the ground as I realized where Fall got its name and walked without a plan or path. It was glorious and filled my soul.

This is who I am. This is my best self. My self showing up for beauty and nature and the glory of all of my senses. Thanks be to God. Thanks be to time. Thanks be to the mix that makes me, me.

The change in the change

It has been weeks since I felt untethered. Weeks since I crumbled into emotional dust. Weeks since I hated what I was becoming but couldn’t stop becoming it. I don’t know if the worst is behind me or still to come, but for now, I feel great. I think I may even be better than I was before: calmer, happier, more stable, more focused. I care less what people around me think and more about what I truly want.

So then why does walking through my neighborhood at 5:30, when the mommies are out in full force, pulling their kids toward home, still shake me at my core? Yesterday I went from feeling great to feeling dark in the course of 30 minutes and 15 Brooklyn blocks. It makes me crazy to feel invisible – a woman not admitted into the club everyone else belongs to – but I don’t think that is the real story any more.  There is a deeper reason why I can’t let the crazy feelings go, why I can’t stop the stabs of envy and sadness. It’s because with parenting, like so many other things, I did what I do so well – I walked away.

Why do I have so few friends from childhood, college, my 20s? Walked away instead of hanging in. Why has my career been a pinball machine? Walked away instead of challenging myself to grow. The first marriage? Walked. And why am I not a mother? Because I repeatedly gave up when the process of getting pregnant got too tough. When charting wasn’t working, I stopped — didn’t even try Clomid or acupuncture or anything my infertile ladies who really wanted a baby did — and told myself I couldn’t do it without Jeff’s support. Honestly, I was scared of failing and feeling alone and guilty for the one time I was pregnant and had an abortion. And later, when I wanted to get pregnant with Tom and discovered a (completely benign) brain tumor was reeking havoc with my hormones, I walked away again because I was scared again. This time of truly wanting to make a life with the man I love and not being able to do it. The fear of disappointment stopped me cold.  And the adoption? Another post for another day, but suffice it to say that if I really wanted to be a mom, I would have a child today. No question.

Walking away has been my defense against getting hurt, being left out or left behind. Of being disappointed or realizing I really am the nothing I think I am: unworthy and uninteresting and unlovable. That might be it. I walk away from love (of friends, of a child, of partners, of my potentially best self) because I don’t think I am worth any love. And I want to make sure to be gone once people realize that. So what now?

What normal feels like

Today was a good day:

  • I didn’t cry
  • I didn’t get angry
  • I stayed focused at work
  • I sounded smart when I spoke in meetings
  • I felt smart when I spoke in meetings
  • I didn’t panic when the subway didn’t move for a few minutes
  • I wanted to exercise when I got home and actually did
  • I was nice to Tom
  • I didn’t compulsively shop
  • I didn’t feel paranoid
  • I felt generally calm and happy

I was me again. For the first time since my perimenopause symptoms started in earnest, I felt normal. I remember this person! I like this person and I WANT HER BACK!

My first instinct, as soon as I realized a whole day went by without feeling crazy, was to catalogue everything I did in the past 48 hours to see if some little thing could be the magic cure. Yes, yesterday was an exceptional day spent wandering the property, gathering dandelions and self-heal for medicinal oils, and I did discover a crazy dark blue beetle in the yard called the American Oil Beetle that I researched and then dragged Tom outside to teach about. Maybe the freedom to wander and learn new things was the thing that made today, today. Or maybe it was the angle of light when I took Rabito for a walk this morning. Or maybe it was a convergence of energy. Who knows and who can know? If I put my hopes in something as a cure, I will only be disappointed when it doesn’t work. Perimenopause doesn’t seem to be anything curable, only endurable. And perhaps treatable.

To have a day like today gives me hope that I will not disappear during this hormonal potato sack race. I am still me, I’m still in there. I can get through this!

Note: I wrote this on Tuesday. Today is Thursday and I am so pleased to report that I continue to feel strong and positive and calm. Three days without crying or rage or paranoia! Hurrah, huzzah.

Two steps back

I found this in my drafts folder from last October. So much has changed since I wrote this, I am posting as a reminder that heavy days are temporary, but the mood swings caused by sugar are forever.

Life is funny. I’ve moved forward, thinking I got through some rough times and emerged on the other side to happier, lighter days, but then, inexplicably, I’m right smack dab back in the mire. Why is that? I am exercising, which creates good endorphins. And I haven’t quit, which makes me proud. I am working, though not at what I want to be doing, but working nonetheless. We’re still in the running for the house in the Catskills, overcoming obstacle after obstacle with a fair amount of grace. Tom and I are doing alright. It’s a rough patch, but we’re muddling through.

I have been feeling so left out of life lately because I am not a mom. Last night, we went to a birthday party for one of Tom’s friends and I felt so odd. The women there were either new moms or newly married and planning already for their kids. It’s difficult not to be defensive when I explain why we don’t have kids. And when someone asks, I definitely feel like I have to explain. Maybe women don’t give it another thought. Maybe they aren’t judging me at all. Maybe it’s all in my head because I feel less than great about our decision. I think I will always feel less than great about it. It is rough to be excluded from the mommy club, especially when there aren’t many people asking to spend time with us and New York isn’t a city I particularly want to go out in. Will it be different upstate? I hope so.

My malaise could also be a product of the massive amount of sugar I’ve been consuming. I drop down to nothing and feel vulnerable at the core after I eat candy, but I eat it anyway. Halloween is filled with so many memories and I want to keep making more, but it is a hard one when you are too old to go party and not able to enjoy as a parent. There must be another option. Tomorrow we are going on a hike, which I hope will shake out the cobwebs and negative feelings and flush the sugar swings. A bit of nature will help things out. It always does.

Heartbreak for a long ago heart breaker

We all have people from our past who rattle around the darkest corners of our brain. I have made great progress exorcising some specters in the past few years and even more progress figuring out why they were rattling in the first place. Taking memories out of dark corners and looking at them in the hard light – the eyebrow plucking light – has a way of making phantoms smaller and more transparent. 

Strangely, I am most haunted by thoughts of my ex-husband’s family. I left him and they, therefore, do not like me. I get that. I understand that. I moved to Europe after our divorce to avoid facing that in Portland supermarket aisles. But even while I got, understood and avoided, I still thought they might come around eventually. A few months before my ex and I separated, I confided in my sister-in-law that we were having problems and I was considering leaving. “If that happens, I will be so sad,” she said. “But I promise I will stay your friend because I remember how horrible it felt when Fred’s family suddenly shut me out. And he was the one having the affair!” I held on to that story and thought maybe, with time, she and I might be able to be friendly. Or, more realistically, that she would someday acknowledge my existence if I ever did run into her in a Portland supermarket. 

That never happened, and when my ex-husband died last year, the antipathy they had for me hardened into pure hate. I don’t know why. He died a few miles from home, on his way back to his soulmate — the woman he met shortly after I left. By all accounts he was happy when he died and I know he was riding his motorcycle as carefully as he always did. His death was an accident that no one witnessed and no one caused. A true, pointless act of fate. I grieved quite hard; even though we weren’t married any more, I had loved this man enough to marry him. I thought we would be together forever at one point. In the midst of the grieving, it never occurred to me that the coldness his family showed me after our separation would manifest itself in complete Katie negation. Suddenly I didn’t exist to them, had never existed to them, and therefore photographs of the ten years he and I were together didn’t exist either. Not that I thought I would show up in a memorial slideshow, but no pictures of the decade were shown at all. I was poison. I was the one who was dead. Even after that clue, I pushed myself back into their circle, sending each of his brothers, his sister and his mom pictures of their brother and son, from my photo albums. No pictures of me, but ones of him with his nieces and nephew, on family trips, hanging out doing his thing, both with them and alone. I thought they would want to hold onto images of him and felt they deserved them much more than I did. That same sister sent her photos back to me, unopened, with a typed note that said, “Do not ever attempt to contact my family again.”

And that is why they haunt me. Like putrid fumes, they show up. I find myself talking to them, yelling at them, explaining my side of the story to them. It’s guilt, manifest as ghosts. I don’t know if they will ever go away, but I hope they do, someday.

Another ghost in my brain is much nicer — the memory of the first man I ever loved in a grown up, nothing held back, passionate, tragic way. The love found in movies and song lyrics. Ironically, he made me the best mix tape perhaps of all time — because the songs were perfect for me, not songs he wanted me to hear. It was a fast relationship that came on the heels of my parent’s separation and my coming out of lopsided relationship with a man way too old for me. I was a mess, 23 and undamaged. He was charming, handsome, funny and he really seemed to like me. Me! He was also bipolar and a classic “At this moment” guy who does love you 100% at the moment he says it but not so much when someone else is around. I believed him wholeheartedly and allowed myself to fall, hard. It was glorious. And then it got messy and I got needy as he struggled with his own darkness and it ended in the Burbank airport with him singing me as song and me walking across the tarmac and up the stairs to the plane without turning back for one…last…glance. Sigh. I didn’t realize when it ended that I would never love that freely again and didn’t believe when I was hurting that I’d grow to have nothing but fondness for that firefly of a man. Not love, not regret, not in any way wanting, but fondness. 

I so rarely get visits from that friendly ghost that I was startled when his face flashed in my head during reiki a few weeks ago. No accidents, no coincidences, especially when Spirit is active and energy is moving, so I followed up about a week later with a Facebook search, fearing the worst and wondering how, if he had died, I would know from a profile page frozen in time. He was alive (good), but clearly struggling, as his posts were filled with trauma and pain. Social media is both beautiful and disgusting — by following his retroactive timeline I learned he’s been sober for several years (yeah), that he loves where he works and who he works with (also good), that his friends are his rock (yes), that he has a band again (always good) and that his wife died last year. What the hell. What the? And why was I spying?

I knew who she was, from a very brief period when he and I were friends on MySpace, years ago. They were an epic couple and were so in crazy for each other that it oozed out of the computer screen. Their love was the third person in photos of the two of them. It was a thing of wonder and I was happy for them — how could anyone not be? Love like that makes you happy to be a human (it’s possible to find! it’s possible to nurture!). Is it weird to admit that there were times when, if I thought I was taking Tom for granted, I would focus my energy and shout my love to the mountain tops, much like they did? And it always made me feel better — and I know it made Tom feel seen. Maybe that’s what they did so magically. They saw each other.

That was nearly 10 years ago, and I hadn’t checked in on them for a long, long time. And that brings me to this post. My heart breaks for a ghost. For a man I do not know. For a couple I never met. For a woman who couldn’t stay. I cannot imagine the pain and anger of being on the other side of that death. I cannot imagine keeping up stupid social media while mourning. He is still big as life to me, still bipolar, still the ghost of the my most meaningful romantic failure, but he cannot live in my real life and mourning for him feels strangely real life to me. He is impossible to compartmentalize, even after all this time. 

And that ends my stories of death and heartbreak and betrayal and grudges and ghosts. And love. It is also a story of love in all its messed up guises. The love is the light in the darkness and the only thing worth anything in all of this meaninglessness. Thank you for reading. xx

Look up and smile

My friend Alexa was in town from South Africa a few weeks ago and tried looking up and smiling while here. It’s a brave thing to do, looking up and smiling, especially when in New York, where eye contact alone can be viewed as (1) an invitation or (2) a threat, but she wanted to see if it made a difference, so she did it.

It isn’t lost on me that she tried this while on vacation, not in her hometown. Tourists look up anyway, showing excited, expectant faces to the locals hurrying past them. They are taking pictures, figuring out street signs and searching the eyes of the people walking by for some bit of recognition. I am no different. When I used to go to Paris, I watched everyone, hoping to see a flash of outfit approval from a real, live French person. On a recent trip to Mexico, I was much brighter, much more curious and friendly than normal (but not too curious and friendly because all-inclusive resorts still have a whiff of “I never thought this would happen to me…” about them). With nothing to lose, it is simpler to put yourself out there, but no less scary. No less brave.

Alexa had a great story to tell from day 1 of her experiment. She was walking down a street in SoHo, consciously looking up with a smile on her face. Halfway down the block, she heard her name called. “Alexa?” She turned around and saw a man she’d known in New York more than 30 years ago. After a squeal-filled reunion, they went to a cafe to catch up, where she asked him how she recognized her from across the street, so many years later. He told her that he didn’t recognize her at first, but instead noticed a confident woman who was radiating lightness. It was only after he saw her that he realized he knew her.

Confidence and lightness were beacons, preceding her down the street and drawing people to her. How amazing is that and what a great lesson for all of us! When you look down, or furrow your face into your own head, the universe gets nothing and no one sees you, simple as that. And sometimes that is what’s needed to survive . I’ll admit to weeks where I focus downward and inward, even though I know I shouldn’t. I know it’s bad for my soul, bad for my posture, bad for my life, but you can’t shine outward always.

But when you can muster the bravery, give it a try. Even if it’s just when you walk down the frozen food aisle at Trader Joe’s, look up and smile at the air around you. It does no harm and may be the first step in a long-overdue reunion.

Mother’s Day

Today is Mother’s Day and I am rising above my sadness. Two years ago, I was sure that I would be well into being a mom by now. Last year, I thought it was still a possibility. This year, I am at peace with not being a mother, but I dreaded the day. There are no greeting cards or brunches for the “almost” mothers.

There are moments where I feel the absence of a child acutely. The other morning, while walking Rabito, a little boy was in the park with his mom. “Mommy…mommy…mommy,” he said. His mother said, “Yes, love?”, and I felt the loss deep in my belly. You could hear that she was his universe  – that she was the sun and moon to him – in the way he called to her. To know that I am not going to be on the other end of that love is sometimes painful. Not always, not usually, but sometimes.

It has been less than a year since Tom and I decided not to pursue adoption, and it has been a journey of acceptance that continues to unfold. I am so grateful that we went through the process and tried to become parents because, though it didn’t end up the way we thought, we bared our hearts to the Universe. To want something so much, to love a phantom, to dive into the unknown — these were gifts from Spirit. And to not break down or break up when the phantom didn’t become a reality and the dive was into dark, thick helplessness made us better partners and nicer human beings in the long(er) run.

There were a few months where I couldn’t look at parents walking down the street with their children, and in my baby-filled neighborhood, that was a problem. It seemed so unfair – so arbitrary – when I passed a heavily pregnant woman pushing a stroller holding a sleepy toddler, strolling next to her husband who was holding the hand of an adorable four year old going to dance class. Why her? Meanwhile, Tom and I had our little girl waiting for us in an orphanage in Moscow, but Putin had made it illegal for Americans to adopt Russian children, so we couldn’t go get her. And later attempts to adopt domestically felt forced and fake and not right. We had our daughter and she was taken from us before we got to love her. I was filled with resentment and envy and didn’t think to ask Spirit for help.

The good news is that Spirit doesn’t particularly care. Help is there. I didn’t get over my resentment, but I accepted it. It was unfair. It was arbitrary. It was also the path I was walking, and after a while, wanted to stop fighting. I had every reason to be resentful, but no business holding onto it. What good does envy do, out in the world? What good does bitterness do for a marriage? A friendship? Unbeknownst to me, Spirit planted the seeds of change inside my furrowed head. Lately, instead of wishing I was the mom, I try to be more supportive of the moms around me. I let myself laugh when I overhear a funny thing a kid says on the subway. I ask, “Do you have kids?” at cocktail parties — something I never did before because I didn’t want to have to answer the inevitable, “Do you?”

And that brings me to today. Mother’s Day. In keeping with the theme of this blog, I want to celebrate the women who rise as moms every day, those who continue the struggle to try and become moms and those who have found peace in childlessness. We can all shine by showing compassion for the others, whose journeys are different than our own and live the lives we may not have seen coming but have been gifted.