Tuesday, April 22, 2014

John O'Donohue: For an Occasion of Celebration


Now is the time to free the heart,
Let all intentions and worries stop,
Free the joy inside the self,
Awaken to the wonder of your life.

Open your eyes and see the friends,
Whose hearts recognize your face as kin,
Those whose kindness watchful and near,
Encouraging you to live everything here.

See the gifts the years have given,
Things your effort could never earn,
The health to enjoy who you want to be
And the mind to mirror mystery.
 "To Bless The Space Between Us" ("Benedictus" in the U.K. and Europe)

Chief Seattle: Web of Life

 For Earth Day and every day...

Humankind has not woven the web of life. 
We are but one thread within it. 
Whatever we do to the web, we do to ourselves. 
All things are bound together … 
all things connect.
Chief Seattle

Monday, April 21, 2014

John O'Donohue: Easter Sunrise at Corcomroe

We don’t realise all the good we can do. A kind encouraging word or a helping 
hand can bring many a person through dark valleys in their lives. 

We weren’t put here to make money or to acquire status or reputation. 
We were sent here to search for the light of Easter in our hearts and 
when we find it, we are meant to give it away generously.

The dawn that is rising this Easter morning is a gift to our hearts and 
we are meant to celebrate it and to carry away from this holy, ancient place 
the gifts of healing and light and the courage of a new beginning.” 

-- John O'Donohue, Easter Sunrise service at Corcomroe Abbey

from http://www.johnodonohue.com/easter-sunrise-at-corcomroe 

John O'Donohue: A Blessing for Beauty

A Blessing for Beauty

May the beauty of your life become more visible to you,
that you may glimpse your wild divinity.

May the wonders of the earth call you forth from all your small, secret prisons
and set your feet free in the pastures of possibilities.

May the light of dawn anoint your eyes that you may 
behold what a miracle a day is.

May the liturgy of twilight shelter all your fears and darkness 
within the circle of ease.

May the angel of memory surprise you in bleak times with new gifts
from the harvest of your vanished days.

May you allow no dark hand to quench 
the candle of hope in your heart.

May you discover a new generosity towards yourself, and encourage 
yourself to engage your life as a great adventure.

May the outside voices of fear and despair find no echo in you.

May you always trust the urgency and wisdom of your own spirit.

May the shelter and nourishment of all the good you have done, 
the love you have shown, the suffering you have carried,
awaken around you to bless your life a thousand times.

And when love finds the path to your door may you open
like the earth to the dawn, and trust your every hidden
color towards its nourishment of light.

May you find enough stillness and silence to savor 
the kiss of God on your soul and delight in the eternity
that shaped you, that holds you and calls you.

And may you know that despite confusion, anxiety and emptiness,
your name is written in Heaven.

And may you come to see your life as a quiet sacrament of service,
which awakens around you a rhythm where doubt gives way
to the grace of wonder, where what is awkward and strained can
find elegance, and where crippled hope can find wings, and
torment enter at last unto the grace of serenity.

May Divine Beauty bless you.

- John O’Donohue, from Beauty – The Invisible Embrace

Saturday, April 19, 2014

My Mom Blows Me Away

My mom & me on my 63rd birthday - our first time
celebrating my birthday together in 40 years.
Matt & Grandma Nan
We gather to celebrate Matt's birthday.

Healing Hearts

We gather in different combinations off and on through each week. Sometimes it's just me and my mother. Sometimes it's Mom, Ron, and me. Often there's also a grandson or two. Sometimes it's five or six of us or the whole family. Last night we had a lovely time together over dinner at Glenwood Place. Just ten minutes from our home, Glenwood has been my mother's home now for nearly four months, ever since her second and permanent move back to the Pacific Northwest from Michigan just before Christmas 2013.

So much runs through my mind and heart...
"I am so grateful." 
"This is so hard." 
"Each moment is precious."
"This is scary."
"I feel so sad."
"I love her so much."
"My heart aches."
"I am powerless."
"I am so grateful for it all." 
"This is beyond a miracle."

For a few moments last night, there were no words. My eyes welled with tears. I broke my stunned silence by looking at Ron and asking, "Did you hear that?" Ron looked in my eyes. "Yes. Yes, I did." I looked at Mom. "That is so wise, Mom. What you said is so wise." Silence. Then I tell my mother, "Thank you."  And then it comes to me to compassionately mirror what I just heard my mother tell me... "I took things out on my children, too. Today we're doing things differently." Followed by getting up from her couch and going to kiss my mama, then kiss her again. And again.

I swear. She really said it. This is not a dream. Ron and Matt were there, too. Ron will tell you - "It was jaw dropping." That's what he tells me.

Sometimes things are hard, being a caregiver and a daughter and making up for 14 years of not seeing each other and a lifetime of experiencing rejection, projection, hurt, shame, anger, pain, a lifetime of not being seen. And learning about memory loss and this new parent who has forgotten how to be constantly finding fault, forgotten why she pushed me away for most of my life.

Now there are calendars to circle activities, other calendars to write activities and appointments on. There are mental health therapists, occupational therapists, physical therapists, doctors, assisted living staff, and Ron and my mom and other family and friends to plan and coordinate with and call and see and question and process with. It takes my breath away. Then I remind myself to breathe. Or someone else does.

After our lovely time together sharing dinner, Matt and I started to walk Mom/Grandma Nan slowly back to her apartment while Ron took a quick call from our step-daughter Alli. And then my mother's perseverating that had been absent over dinner resumed... 
"I just want to be dead."
"I'm so much trouble."
"I'm not interesting anymore."
"I just want to be dead."

Back in Mom's lovely apartment now furnished with all her furniture and photographs and decorated with the fresh flowers I bring every week or two, Ron and Matt and I settle into our seats to stay with Mom a bit longer.

"I'm so much trouble."

I ask my son, "Matt, what would you say if I were old and struggling with memory and mobility and loneliness and I had many needs, what would you say if I told you - I'm so much trouble?" Mom's youngest grandson didn't miss a heartbeat before spontaneously responding, "I'd tell you you're not trouble. You're my mom and family takes care of one another and we love each other unconditionally. That's just what family does."

Just the fact that any of us are having this opportunity now in this last chapter of Nancy's life to reflect the deeper truths of family and love to my mother is a gift greater than words can convey. 

Mom will be 88 in just over a month and what are the odds that a lifetime of tragic, ingrained belief systems can even be touched by kindness now? I had been trying for decades, especially as I got sober and got help and my own heart began to heal and grow stronger. Still, today I try. We all try. Again and again and again we reflect to Mom-Grandma-Nancy what a loving family looks like, feels like, acts like, thinks like and believes. There's no image management or buying love or pretenses or conditions to loving one another. We're simply there. We simply love. We endure, persevere, and offer patience and love and forgiveness and compassion and empathy and respect as best as we each can through the messiness and breached boundaries and hurts and forgetfulness of the love of our greater selves. We chip away at our individual and collective and generational wounds. We are all in this together.

"I'm too lonely."
"I'm just a nuisance."
"I want to be dead." 

And I reflect on the little girl my mom once was and the stories she has told me over the past year of how it was with her mother and her father. My heart aches.

"Mom, it seems like when your mama spent so much time lying on the couch in the sunroom with the rag over her forehead when you were a little girl that you learned that your needs weren't okay, that it wasn't okay to need, that you were alone, that you were too much trouble to tend to. Today, it is different. We love you. We are so grateful you are here. We are making up for 14 years of not seeing one another..."

"Fourteen years? Did we really go that long?."

"Yes, Mama, we did. And I cried and grieved and spent a lot of money on therapy and missed you so much. Having you here now, today and each day, is just so precious, so very precious."

"How long did we not see each other?"

"Fourteen years."

Mom, looking sad, "It was way too long..."

The room feels permeated with loss and individual and shared recognition of a sadness that is beyond words. At the same time, never in my life did I ever dream in my wildest dreams that I would ever be able to share this great sorrow for our shared loss with my mother face to face, heart to heart.

"Why didn't we see each other?"

I swallowed. My heart raced, then calmed. Mom had been asking me this lately, but I had been avoiding answering. The last time she asked was just this past week 1-2 minutes before the end of her therapy session with Dr. Halaby. I told my mother that we were about to leave and we could talk about it another time, when there was time. Now, there was time. And intertwined with the great sorrow held in all the hearts in the room was tenderness and love. Still, I never, ever thought I would tell my mom any of what happened while sitting in the same room breathing the same air. I had never dreamt that she would forget all the reasons she thought she hated me. And then ask me to help her remember what happened.

"Well, Mama, you were pretty critical of me. My hair was too long. There were lots of things you were pretty critical of me about." I didn't even try to go into a lifetime of rejections. I just touched on the tragedy that has been the ocean of tears and loss in my heart that I have learned to live with...

Mom looked right at me. "It must be something in me. It must have been something in me and I was taking it out on you."

Flashes... Pillow being placed over my face when I wouldn't stop crying as a one year old and nearly being suffocated to death. Being spit in the face. Having my head slugged into a wall. Years passing without so much as a card or call or acknowledgement of my existence or that of her only grandchildren. Not being capable of saying the word love to me or about me. All the therapists over the years working to help me remember, embrace, heal, transform such total abandonment by my own mother. As her mother had once abandoned her.

Now here we were, in this moment in time. Three generations, and perhaps also ancestors long crossed over and there on the other side holding us all. There was no blame, no judgment, no rejection, no projection, no denial. There was instead this connecting of hearts, this experience of truth-telling and depth, of healing and tenderness, of words held in silence for decades now being spoken and embraced. Only this was never supposed to happen. This was supposed to be impossible, totally beyond the realm of possibility. Personality disorders are the prison which never release one into the possibility of seeing and experiencing oneself and others. Self-hate and toxic shame spew out endlessly and forevermore and there is no hope that there will ever be any sort of self-reflection, insight, healing, consciousness of reality and love...

Everything is impermanent. Even what I thought was permanent. I was wrong.

Thirty years of the deep inner work of healing and awakening has prepared me for taking care of my mom at the end of her life, no matter how hard, toxic, painful. What I wasn't prepared for are these moments that I thought were impossible. I cannot say, simply cannot find the words to express what it is like to be able to have my mother - my mother! - be part of our family's healing. It is beyond miraculous.

My life's greatest passion has been to break the cycle of tragedy, addiction, violence, and loss for my children and myself. Today I can add my mom to our family's transformation. Not that there is any "fix" for well over 80 years of not attending to one's heart, of looking for love in all the wrong places, of not recognizing the consequences of unconscious choices around bitterness, of not making friends with our own shadow, our own suffering. This time is no walk in the park. And I am grateful for it all. So eternally grateful.

We can heal our hearts. We truly can. And perhaps the ripples created through our awakening can at least be one part of making the impossible possible and in ways we can not begin to imagine. 

May the highest good for us all be what we nourish in our hearts. May we be that brave. My little mom is very wounded, and she is very brave. And she is very loved. 

"I love you with all my heart and soul." That's what my mom and I tell each other today. Miracles happen.
Love & blessings ~ Molly

Celebrating 3 birthdays - Marita, Carlena, & me!

With my mother as sunlight radiates through her apartment.
A photograph I took in our garden of
Kuan Yin, Bodhisattva or Goddess of Compassion