Monday, January 31, 2011

Rushing in

Somehow the birds seem to sense when there is a storm forming on the horizon.  Their flight patterns change from smooth and flowing to erratic and haphazard.  They seem to whirl around in a vortex of confusion, riding solely on the currents of the incoming onslaught.  They stretch their wings as wide as possible.  They prepare.
The skies and seas change from grey to silver to a bluish, pearly, sterling.  I watch as all of this plays out before me.  I see the fury.  I see the beauty.  And there is value in all of it.  In all of it.
Yesterday, as I remained safely ensconced inside of our home, I observed as the sky darkened rapidly over the pier.  I thought about change.  I thought about transformation.  I thought about how the storm would rush in whether I wanted it to or not.  I thought about how life presents us with options and choices and paths to be taken, oceans to navigate, puzzles to unpuzzle.  But nothing is easy.  Nothing is easy.  I felt my own resistance curling, squeezing deeply within the core of my belly.  Fear?  Aversion?(The stomach flu?)  What is it that truly holds us back.  I wonder.  I wonder.  I struggle.
But like the birds, who eventually find their way out of the funnel of the storm, I breathe in, I let go, I spread my wings out further and farther than the discomfort seems to allow.  And I speak prayers of healing, of forgiveness, and of strength; out loud.  I allow them to get caught up in the whirlwind of the oncoming storm.  I squeeze my eyes shut.  I wait for the answers. And I know which is stronger.

Thursday, January 20, 2011

Submerged Rocks

I don't know what it is about the month of January that begins in a familiar darkness for me, but then very slowly moves my spirit into a lighter, more transformational place.  I am not sure at what point the dissension initially occurs, the moment at which the downward spiral takes its initial turn causing me to unknowingly burrow down deep, receding into what feels a bit like depression.(if I was a depressive type of person, which characteristically, I am not)  But it is something that I have come to acknowledge over the past eight years or so, ever since I spent six weeks during a particularly rainy January/February, sitting with my ninety year old grandmother in the hospital, watching her slowly whither away while not being able to give in to her wishes for me to "put a pillow over her head" so that she did not have to withstand anymore.  She was ready to leave, her ninety years on this earth filled with mostly productivity and fullness, and I was waiting it out by her side, saying farewell but not knowing when the end would come.  She and I were very close.  In many ways, she looked upon me more as a daughter than as a granddaughter.  I share her hearty laugh.  I share her generosity and her love of the written word.  I share her sense of humor and her sense of loyalty, her sense of duty to those we love.  And so, I shared in her responsibility, taking care of four young daughters who required my full-time attention while giving my grandma the rest.  We moved her out to a facility near where my father lives(two and a half hours away, much too far for him to drive on a regular basis) after we understood that she would need full-time care, and slowly, the time slipped away from her.  It began with the sad fact that she no longer remembered my two youngest daughters, and then, she stopped reading, stopped eating and slept for much of the day.  She was putting the proverbial "pillow" over her own head, wishing herself into no longer.  The entire process took six months, beginning in that early January and then finally releasing her on my birthday in July of that same year.  There is no irony lost on me when it comes to the fact that she made her final transition on my birthday morning that summer.  She and I had several interesting conversations in the week leading up to her death and I knew that where I was dropping her off on this side of life, her own mother would be picking her up on the other side.  I found it all, quite humbling.

The January after my grandma passed, my mother had knee-replacement surgery.  She behaved much like a spoiled child and gave me weeks of aggravation.  Let's just say that when she threw her food tray across the room because the doctor decided it was time to cut off her morphine supply, I decided that it was time for me to spend less time sitting with her in the hospital.  Good decision...

And then, three years ago on February 17, 2008, my younger brother died.  I won't delve into the details about that here as I have written about them many other times on this blog, but his death raised the bar to an entirely new level.
So while I began this by saying that I am not entirely sure as to why January tends to begin in a fairly dark place for me, by backtracking a bit, I admitted myself into a moment of absolute clarity.  By allowing myself to retrieve some of the more difficult pieces that I like to forget, I transitioned myself into a space of clearer understanding and even, compassion.  Compassion for myself.  Understanding.  Transformation.  Allowance.
Yesterday, I took a long walk on the beach.  Not a search for sea glass or sunsets, but a search for answers and understanding.  Each year, I try to come up with a word that will help to direct me and keep me focused for the year.  I do not remember what that word was for 2008.  That was the year that I lost my brother and I think that as a self-protective measure, the word left my consciousness.  In 2009, the word was patience.  Lord knows I needed a good dose of patience for all of the nonsense that was only just beginning!  In 2010, because there are no rules to any of this(except for the ones that I make up for myself), the only appropriate word that rang throughout my mind was once again, patience, and I went with it.  Yesterday, as I walked on the beach at a pace much quicker than my usual beach walk, the word floated into my consciousness.  Transform.  I rolled the word around inside of my mind for a bit.  Transformation.  I thought about what it means and how it pertained to who I am now.  I considered the somewhat negative connotation to the word. Change.  But more about the positive.  Metamorphosis.  And then I thought about the things which we submerge in spaces that we think will somehow protect us.  All of the stuff that we bury in those dark places, only to have them haunt us in ways that we have tried to hide from.  We minimize their importance, the strong influence of which they have upon our lives.
And yet, if we search a little harder and a bit deeper, we might actually find our way back up into the light, just by taking the time to acknowledge the darkness.  Just as submerged rocks can prove to be a serious danger when we are unaware of their presence, when we try to cover up the events in our lives which affect us so profoundly, they can only become dangerous obstacles to the evolution of our souls.  Of who we are and who we are meant to become.

The sun is shining brightly today.  It is warm, about eighty degrees and I can hear a bird calling in the distance.  I have allowed myself to spend some time in the darkness, thinking, exploring, contemplating and just being.  It is now time for me to climb back into the light, step by step, moment by moment, breath by breath.  This is a choice that I am making, this climb, this transformation.  We all hope to transform ourselves but most of us also fight change.  I am giving up that fight.

Do you have a word for 2011?

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Tides Change

I am thinking back about a year ago.  I am thinking about where I was almost exactly a year ago to this day, and where I have been over the course of the past three hundred eighty some odd days which have carried me to where I am now.  I have been wrapped inside of the thoughts both consciously and inadvertently, sometimes surprising myself with sobering contemplation and at other times, stopping to whisk back to a thought that seemed to whisper in and out without notice.  Cogitating and ruminating...And missing the heck out of those two wonderful children.

A year ago, on January 4, 2010, our attorney went before the Court to obtain a trial date for which we would plead our case as paternal aunt and uncle of my two young nieces to attain visitation.  I wrestled with this idea for the better part of two years but when my brother's wife, my sister-in-law, told me that she was going to keep my nieces from me and my family without any semblance of sanity, my thoughts became action.  It was necessary and loving and fiercely loyal on my part.  It was cruel and calculated and filled with hate for my SIL to keep the girls from us and us from them.  The lack of reasons we were given, strongly enforced the importance of doing everything within our power to remain positive, caring figures in these children's lives.  We couldn't, nor wouldn't, give up on them.  They had already lost far too much.  And so, at the start of 2010, our fight to stay in our nieces lives began.

In April of 2010, we went to the courthouse fully expecting to go through a trial.  Sadly, my SIL's attorney barraged us with irrelevant and unnecessary requests for personal information(that of which we always provided), canceled court dates, and did everything he could in order to postpone the date, time and time again.  My SIL was VERY insistent that she did not want a court order.  Her attorney made us an offer while we were sitting in the courthouse cafeteria while awaiting our trial time, and after some back and forth, we came to an "agreement"(for lack of a better word) that was neither binding nor court ordered.  We reluctantly settled because we were told that we could go back to plan A if at any time, things were not going well.  Things did not go well.  Tomorrow(1/11/11), our attorney will stand before the Court once again, requesting a date for trial.  Another year gone by, only five visits with the children in 2010, and more stress and money to be expended.  But here is the thing.  Whereas last year, I was feeling wrung out by this whole situation, I now find myself approaching what is to come, with a new found resilience and strength that wasn't as apparent before.  My center is calmer, I am clear about what I must do, and this is not the first thing that I think about when I wake up in the morning, and the last prayer on my heart at bedtime.  Like the pains of childbirth, I can cognitively remember the deep-seated physical anxiety that I felt at this time last year, but, like the pains of labor, the memory is no longer causing any physical discomfort.  I know what it feels like, I know that it was worth the effort, and hopefully, like labor, my efforts will be well worth the expenditure of pain.
I have come to a place in time at which I can consciously evaluate the growth and transformation which has taken place over the course of a year.  And instead of constantly bombarding myself with self-depreciating scare tactics and unnecessary angst, I feel change in the way that I am responding to something that is greatly disconcerting.  I feel as if I have come a long way in accepting what is, even if "what is" is extremely unsettling.  I am not expecting to go through this trial without experiencing some anxiety or difficulty or pain.  But I am pleased with the knowing that I will be able to handle those feelings in a different way.  A clearer way.  A way that will not put as much undue stress and strain on my mind and on my body.  

Have Faith
Moons Change
Tides Change
Times Change
We Change

*Post-Script-The Court assigned a date for something called a "Mandatory Settlement Conference" which is over seven weeks away.  If we do not come to a settlement on that date, then a date for trial will be assigned at that time(another six-eight weeks past that date).  I am allowing myself to "feel" this for the next several hours and then no more. No more.

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