Looking for answers to life's questions

Archive for April, 2012

In Search of Spiritual Awakening

I sat in front of the television yesterday to have my lunch and rest after cutting the back yard. It’s a massive expanse of weeds that I have yet to eliminate without the use of chemicals, which are not an option for me.
I had taped Oprah’s Super Soul Sunday and she had Ram Dass as her focus this week. I’d heard the name repeatedly from Dr. Wayne Dyer and others in my spiritual journey. I’m sure I’ve mentioned somewhere along the way that I have over 100 books on spirituality as this is a search in earnest. Ram Dass had not been on my radar but I thought this might be interesting. When I realized he’d had a stroke and I watched as he struggled to find his words, I related completely. Then he went on to explain how the stroke was a gift of spiritual growth. Dr. Jill Bolte Taylor said the same in her book “My Stroke of Insight”. Why do I relate to these people so deeply?

Most people when they first saw me after I came down with Bells Palsy asked if I’d had a stroke. When I said no, they asked if I was certain. Well, the doctors weren’t sure either in the beginning and they did a CT scan followed by an MRI to rule out stroke. That left only the severe damage to the seventh cranial nerve. I always tell friends that it was my last nerve and my husband got on it. I snapped and voila, Bells Palsy. The damage was so profound that I could not form complete sentences for a while. I’m still have difficulty with that even now when I get tensed up. How on earth can Bells Palsy affect your ability to think clearly? No one has an answer. I can guarantee you that by all that is holy, I never want to experience an actual stroke, though I know it’s a real possibility.

So I listened to Ram Dass explain how the stroke took him to the next level of spiritual growth. That’s what Bells Palsy has done for me. It was a gift to awaken me and I know I’m not done yet or it would be gone. What’s left for me to do and learn from this? I’ve had to learn to accept help from everyone which is something I’ve never been good with. I’ve been the care giver always. I’ve learned to let go of relationships that drain me and be comfortable alone and with uncertainty. Of course, I’ve always known that fear and faith cannot reside in the same space. So I had to give up fear. Anger and resentment had to go as well. They no longer serve me. When my portion of my husband’s pension check came up so much shorter than anyone expected after 25 years of care giving, my friends and family were more upset than I. Somehow, it will be enough.
My focus in life has always been a spiritual one. I was raised by an agnostic and an atheist. Now that’s a real lesson. So how did this path start and where will it lead? It started when I was 7 looking at my parents and wondering why they couldn’t remember where they came from. I have no idea where that thought came from since I had a clear impression of where I was before being born. It was followed with me finding a church I could walk to and taking all the neighborhood kids with me. As an adult I went to any kind of church available. But I found there were pieces missing so the search was on. Every once in a while I get another piece of that puzzle. Buddhism has a lot of answers for me as well as Kabbalism. Jane Roberts “Seth” books were an eye opener 30 years ago and now the material of “Abraham-Hicks” adds a few more pieces to the puzzle answering more questions.

Health challenges are mountain movers. If you don’t move that mountain, you’ll be buried under it. I’m not done yet so I’m building my spiritual muscles.

Watching the video with Ram Dass back in the 60’s I saw a bit of the style I have been looking for as well. I think there is still a little bit of hippy in this old woman finally hoping for a chance to be freed. I love the soft, long, flowing look with a wide brimmed sun hat added. Who knew? I was too busy in the 60’s to notice what was going on but I’m thinking maybe I’ll go retro and see how that feels. While I’m planting posies, I’ll collect a few more pieces of the puzzle. If you have any, send them on. Just remember, I’ll never be a fundamentalist of anything. My dad always said “variety is the spice of life”. Pass the herbs please.

From my heart to yours,
Marlene
My Mona Lisa smile

In Search of a New Identity

My thought is there comes some point in each person’s life where they want to re-invent themselves. It may be when the status quo simply doesn’t work for you anymore. Usually, it comes on the heels of a major change in life. For many of us it comes with the change of a relationship or a change in work or health status.

I’ve never had a clear definition of who I am. When you start out in life refereeing parental fights from the time you could stand, to changing, feeding and disciplining your siblings as they came along, the definition of who you are is laid out for you. That was my definition of myself for more than 45 years. Then the care giving shifted to aging parents and as always, the spouse.
Now the parents, children and spouses no longer need care giving . So that leaves me in a quandary. Who am I without those roles? I never had the time or opportunity to make plans for this situation. I also never expected to be so debilitated by Bells Palsy that I would need my children’s help at this early age. This isn’t how I expected life to go.

While in high school, I finished cosmetology school and eventually got a license. My parents were convinced I wasn’t college material because of my vision limitations. Hairdressing just needed a strong body. Never mind that I didn’t have passion or real aptitude for it. I was a good student and my mother never paid for a haircut again. But my first husband found it humiliating to be married to a hairdresser so I was not allowed the money to renew my license or to work in that field. Don’t you just long for the good old days.

At some point when my children were young, I went to the adult school to study typing and shorthand while they were in school. I was adequate but not excellent. At the end of the course, I could not lift my right arm. Shorthand was not physically possible for me to produce. Wow! How can you not be able to take shorthand? Next I studied color consulting and I definitely had passion for that. I could help people reflect their own personality with colors and styles that suited them individually. Unfortunately I had no self-confidence. I couldn’t sell myself to people for something I believed in so deeply. After moving to a remote location where there was no shopping and few cared about their own self-expression through style, I let that dream go. It still creeps in when I’m in a store and see someone try on something that either looks hideous on them or would be stunning should they choose it. Along with the dream of happily ever after, all my dreams and definitions of who I am vanished into the ethers.

So now what do I do? I do not want to be defined by this debilitating illness of Bells Palsy. I still get the comments from strangers that “it goes away pretty quickly doesn’t it”. I’m thinking 26 months and counting isn’t quickly.
So how does one come up with a new identity? Who do I want to be? What a rare opportunity I have. Lots of questions, only a few answers. I went shopping one day with my daughter and saw a dress that reflected part of the person I see in my mind’s eye. Now, I don’t wear dresses anymore. I usually work too hard for dresses and I have to wear sensible shoes that just don’t look good with dresses. But the style helped let me see part of who I want to become. So what needs to change? I cut my hair after my first divorce and am looking for a new style once again. Now I need something low-cost to maintain. Pigtails under a brim hat would be an interesting look for a woman of advanced age, wouldn’t it?

I’ve read every self-help book out there and they all say go back to the happy place when you were a kid. Well folks, I was never a kid. I’m learning to become one. I bought myself toys to play with like sewing machines, computers, a droid cellphone and lots of fabric and craft supplies. They were an experiment to see what felt good. Music was something I found later in life as well. I’m the appreciator of music, not the producer.

A new identity requires more than new looks. It may require an attitude adjustment. What kind of attitude do I want to have? I have always wanted to be perceived as friendly with a good sense of humor. Somehow, only droll comes through.Here is where I’d insert a smiley face if I could. I think I inherited my mothers dry German humor. In my heart I feel quite witty.

Life with all it’s turns and tumbles shape us. I’m hoping it made me softer and kinder. How does one become the person they want the world to see? How does one find that person that is only in their imagination? Where is that person that doesn’t need a cane to walk and drives a car with a real smile on their face. I’m open to suggestions.

From my heart to yours,
Marlene

In Search of a Bone

I’m missing one. You know the one I’m talking about. We say it all the time. I don’t have a creative bone in my body. Well, I want it. Where is it? Why don’t I have one?

I seem to be missing a funny bone too. But for some reason I wound up with more bones to pick than most people. Why these bones aren’t more evenly distributed is a mystery to me.

I have tried my hand at all manner of creative endeavors. It started out with paint by numbers at age 12. There was more paint on my clothes than the canvas. I enjoyed it immensely but my mother was so upset she made me pay for the clothes I ruined. I earned the money by unpacking new neighbors on base.
Then I finally managed to afford my own sewing machine after years of seeing the phenomenal garments my mother turned out on hers. I was never allowed to touch her machine and she didn’t have the patience to teach me sewing. I learned a few basics at school and the rest was trial and error. Mostly error. But even with the struggle to understand the directions or get the proper fit, I enjoyed the process of making things.

Needlework seemed a wonderful option for many years. I could take it with me everywhere and it was a great conversation starter. It relaxed me during long flights till they took the scissors away. How can you do needlework and not snip your threads or ribbon? Reading a book said to my seatmates that I didn’t want to be disturbed. I did want to be disturbed and I missed having my hands too busy to put food in my mouth.

The hand needlework was much like paint by numbers. Just follow the lines and use the assigned thread colors to fill in the spaces. It seemed a natural progression to try my hand at machine embroidery when those fancy machines came out. I was too fearful to try freeform but letting the machine do the work looked like fun. It was, but nothing, just like with the sewing went according to plan. Everything I took it upon myself to try, ended up beating me up. I could sew for hours in the evening, only to spend hours in the morning taking it back apart. The books always made it look so effortless. Liars!

Next I tried my hand at quilting. Not because I wanted to cut beautiful fabric into a thousand little pieces and put it back together again but because I wanted a quilt. My husband said the 4 or 5 hundred dollars they wanted for one was just ridiculous. So I bought the fabric, spent a year cutting, sewing, ripping out, swearing and sewing again until it was adequate enough to use. By the hour that quilt was a grand or more. The fabric alone was almost the price of the finished quilt I wanted not to mention the cost of all the extra tools real quilters need. There were days I almost threw all the machines away. Instead I sold the older machines. Now I’m down to one and if I don’t get well soon, it’s going to rust up from lack of use.

Turns out I was adequate at borrowing others ideas, though very dense at coming up with my own. There is so much creativity around how could my little mind surpass what was already bountiful. Maybe I’m just destined to appreciate the creativity of others, which I do indeed.

So here is where the funny bone comes in. I think it’s THE most necessary bone in the body. If it’s not missing entirely, mine seems to be quite out-of-place and not in usable form. I love to read funny things that make me laugh. It’s a joy I would seriously love to pass on. We get funny things e-mailed daily and forwarded as quickly. My favorite authors are those that can make me laugh. But everything that comes out of my mouth or off my pen is way too serious for words.

How can a person survive in this world without a funny bone? I swear I’m looking for a surgeon who will install one in me. This darned Bells Palsy has made all attempts at creativity difficult since my eyes are not tracking together right now. So for me a sense of humor is vital to getting though the day while my eye droops enough that I see the lid all day. A sense of humor would help while I get on the bus or walk through the mall like I’ve had more than my limit at the local pub and it’s only 9 a.m.

So where the heck are my bones? I could sure use them. If anyone locates them, I can be reached at 00 2 short. Yes, there are a few brain cells missing as well. I’m certain they are long gone and are never to return.

From my heart to yours,
Marlene

In Search of Altruism

With this extensive search for health and everything thing else I’m on the hunt for, one would get the impression that it’s all about me. I would appear to be a true narcissist.

It’s crossed my mind more than once to be quite honest. How can my life right now be just about me and getting healthy, taking back my power and all the rest I’m searching for and not be self-centered?

Then I remember that without the strength of mind and body there is no way to give to anyone else. I have been depleted and must refuel. I think that’s the gift of any illness. I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again, if we don’t pay attention to what’s not making us happy, our bodies will make sure that we eventually pay attention. So now I get to look at how this practicing nurturer can give back to the world without being drained dry.

I enjoy making things on the sewing/embroidery machine to give to people. But right now sewing disturbs my vision and makes me dizzy. I want to find ways to be of service in the world. The most important thing for me is to have the ability to give and expect nothing in return. I have noticed in myself that being appreciated is a big deal. Going out of my way to show appreciation for others kindness I thought was just good manners. It seems to be some basic need in most of us. Marriages fall apart when partners don’t feel valued. Children run from home for quite similar reasons. I think it’s essential to show the people in your life, even the strangers who pass through daily that you value them. Their smile may be just the thing you needed at that particular moment.

True altruism is giving without expectation. So how do we continue to give of ourselves in times where there is little left over energy or money-wise? Do we look at our motives when we give? I know when I do things around my son’s house it’s because I want to repay him for housing his sister and me during this time of transition. The things I do make me feel better as well. So we both get something from that. He doesn’t expect anything from me but I tend to feel a sense of indebtedness. Again, I’m looking at my motives here.

So what would true altruism look like? It’s clicking on the Animal Rescue Site each morning to help feed shelter dogs and cats. It’s tossing a chew bone over the fence to a lonely, bored dog. It’s offering a hand to a stranger whose car is stranded in the middle of the road. It’s the random acts of kindness you do each day when all you get is the knowledge that you’ve helped move the world in a more positive direction for a fraction of a moment. It’s listening to someone as they pour out their hearts in a time of challenge even though there is nothing you can do. Real listening is the hardest thing to do.

As I woke this morning before Easter Sunday, I have a sense of wellness approaching. Cautiously, like a cat stalking its prey. Checking to see if I am ready to be well and I think it’s time. I have finally learned several big lessons. First and foremost, helping isn’t always a good thing. Although my motives may have been pure, helping may have upset the natural balance of how things were intended to go and the recipients of that assistance built up a great deal of resentment. They had their own agendas of which I was not aware.

I’m hardwired to be of service. It’s in my DNA, my birth chart as well and the numerology outcome of birthdate and name. Just for the fun of it I thought it was worth the look-see. If they all say the same thing that my heart says, it must be so. The second thing I’ve had to learn from this illness of prolonged Bells Palsy is how to set boundaries. I had none. Now they are slightly more firmly in place. I can be giving without being gotten. Yes, I know that’s not a real word. My health depends on it. So now my morning meditation is following my morning prayer to find ways to serve without being served up. I’m looking forward to wellness. I’m looking forward to seeing how you see and express altruism.

From my heart to yours,
Marlene

In Search of My Power

I just realized that after 26 years, I’m back to square one. I’m once again divorced. I really did not want that more than anyone can imagine. I wanted the fairy tale. It looked like I had it most days. Then once in a while I would wake up and look around and say to myself, “I sold out”. Yup, that’s what I did. Finally 25 months ago this illness (Bells Palsy) woke me with a sledge-hammer. After over 2 years, it’s still pounding on me to wake up and get with it.

My brain has never worked exceedingly well for a variety of reasons. I won’t explain because it’s not nice to speak ill of the dead. I have worked around that to some degree by having a large portion of common sense. Intuition helps me a great deal when I listen to it. It’s the listening part that usually trips me up. I’ve given meditation a half-hearted try on numerous occasions but always find a walk or working in the yard, when I have one to work in, are more meditative than sitting. I’m a list maker and quiet time releases very long lists. But I haven’t given up on the sitting, breathing meditation. It seems to work best if I do it before I have my coffee.

I guess my point here is that my life feels like it’s moved to the outhouse. It started out tough enough then just did the roller coaster thing. Lives can be viewed from many different perspectives. Anywhere I look, I see tougher and supposedly easier lives than mine but right this minute, from my vantage point, I’m in the outhouse. It is indeed not in the cardboard box under the bridge. Heck, I have computer access, what more could a person need? That access keeps me going forward if I let it. I also have with me some of the books that have always been my lifeline.

Growing up in a generation that said children should be seen and not heard taught us that only others could decide what was best for us. If we had a thought, it was dismissed as worthless and useless. So was it any wonder that I would choose to partner with men who were dismissive of me. Worse still, I agreed with them and continued to allow it. So here I am at retirement age with nothing to retire from or with and my health compromised. I made some serious mistakes but it’s not too late. Now comes the time to find out of what stuff I’m really made. It’s time to take back My Power. When things hit the fan, I always allow myself 10 minutes on the pity pot and then I have to pull myself together and come up with a plan.

So what do I do to get my power back? First I have to stop giving it away. Then care enough about myself to restore my health. Intuition and common sense say no wellness and no quality of life come from eating too much of anything. I finally started listening while I’m meditating. So the food has cleaned up once again but not with as much rigidness this time. And I’m walking more again. Even without the dog. Yes, my knees hurt so I take a pain reliever. So far the cane has kept me from falling when my balance fails me.

I have daily motivational e-mails from Daily Om, Neale Donald Walsh, Abraham Hicks, Nightingale-Conant and Mike Dooley’s notes from the Universe. They start my day after I click on the Animal Rescue Site to donate a cup of food for strays. My life is better than theirs so I want to pay it forward in a way that only requires moments. Then I usually get a giggle or something thought-provoking from one of my e-mail friends or family. I get lots of e-mails about all the writing courses out there I can’t yet take advantage of but save for some time in the future. I’m assuming there is a future for me.

I have set the EX and his family’s phone numbers to go automatically to voice mail. That means I get to choose when to have that conversation and have my support in place before being attacked. Lessening exposure to toxic people is a beginning. Then I watch my own toxic thinking and speaking. Thoughts as well as words can carry a powerful impact. I can express my disappointment without character assassination. I didn’t do it with the first divorce and I will not do it now. I’m thinking the EX must be running out of pins to stick into my voodoo doll because I’m starting to get better. Soon, I know it will be soon as long as I watch my stress levels and my thoughts.

I had considered taking a writing class at the community college when it occurred to me that an instructor may decide I’m really not good at this and I would most likely quit. That would again be giving my power away. Interesting how things light up when you pay attention. I’ll have to be very careful with that now that I’m aware. I’m open to all ideas of how to find my own power and how you found yours. We are all in this together, even the EX’s.

From my heart to yours,
Marlene