Dancing with Dad

My Dad in his 20's
My Dad in his 20’s

My dad passed away a month ago. He had struggled to hang on and stay here long past the point of misery, so his passing was a relief in many ways. But there are still days when I have images of him in my head all day, and I miss him a lot. And other days I don’t think of him at all. Grief is a strange beast.

This morning I remembered a time many years ago when my dad tried to teach me how to jitterbug. Tried is the operative word here – I never could hold my torso still and get my feet to do what his were doing so perfectly. In my defense, I am not known for my coordination. Besides, I had a glass of wine before the dance instruction began!

Dad loved to tell people the tale of how his Navy buddy taught him to jitterbug. I always loved that story;  Dad had joined the Navy at 18 and shipped out to California for basic training just as WWII ended.  He went from a tiny town in southern Illinois to suddenly being in the Navy on a ship with hundreds of other guys. I imagine that it was all quite a shock for a young geeky country boy. One of his older shipmates took my dad under his wing. He helped my dad settle in to life in the Navy. And he also taught Dad how to jitterbug so he could impress the ladies.

I love the image of my skinny 18 year old Dad with his baby face, dressed in baggy jeans and a work shirt, dancing the jitterbug with some big beefy guy in the tightly cramped quarters of a battleship! LOL  Life truly is stranger than fiction. The dance lessons definitely paid off  because  40 years later my dad was still an amazing jitterbugger.   🙂

I miss Dad. I wish I had danced with him more. This morning, as I flashed on images of the handful of times that we danced together,   I heard Dad’s voice in my ear. He said, “We’ll dance again.” And I suddenly saw an image of two energies dancing and flowing together and then apart, together and then apart. And as the energies danced, they morphed and changed shape, but I could tell that it was still the energy of Dad and I dancing together.

I think that image of my energy dance with Dad is actually a great lesson about the rhythm of life and death. We are energies that come together to dance on Earth, then part in death. Then we will come together again in a new place and dance a new dance. Over and over, we dance together in one form or another.

Later in the morning, I hike up one of my favorite trails, still thinking about my dad and missing him. I stop on a mesa to rest awhile. As I sit under the pines writing,  I am startled by a hawk’s cry above me. I look up and see two hawks soaring and spiraling just above my rocky perch. The hawks appear to be dancing together on the wind. It’s a beautiful dance,.

Another memory surfaces as I watch the hawks;  I flash on the image of my dad dancing with my mom.  In my memory, they are both in their late sixties and have been together for over 40 years. When they danced together, they were so closely in synch that it was like watching a single body move and flow to the music.

The hawks are gone when I next look up from my writing. But a pair of young deer soon stumble upon me. They freeze for a moment. But when they realize that I wont harm them, they relax and forage for food a few feet behind me.  Life dances on all around me.

I love you Dad. And I miss you. I miss your wide open country boy smile. I miss your stories. I just plain miss you!  But I know in my heart it was time for you to move on.  And I am ok –  I know that you and I will dance together again soon.

Queen of Me

Queen Cottonwood Tree
Queen Cottonwood Tree

I have decided that it’s time to be the Queen of Me!

Seriously. I have been exploring the Celtic concept of being sovereign. This was a foreign idea to me until recently; something I had never even considered. But being sovereign in your own life is a key part of the Celtic belief system. And being of Scottish and Welsh descent, I tend to naturally resonate with all things Celtic. So, a few months ago, I began researching Celtic sovereignty. And I have been slowly teasing out what sovereignty means to me. And that’s how I became the Queen of Me. 🙂

My Celtic ancestors viewed Mother Earth herself to be the sovereign ruler of all of life; in ancient Ireland, mere mortal men were made kings only after they acknowledged and honored the sovereignty of the land.  I completely agree with the idea of Mother Earth’s sovereignty; none of us would be alive on this planet were it not for the bounty of food, water and oxygen that our earthy mother provides. Mother Earth rules human life, whether we choose to acknowledge and honor her or not.

But what exactly do I mean by sovereignty?  The dictionare defines it as:

Sovereignty  n.

1. Supremacy of authority or rule as exercised by a sovereign or sovereign state.
2. Royal rank, authority, or power.
3. Complete independence and self-government.
4. A territory existing as an independent state.

Hmmm, yes to governing myself,  yes to being independent and to holding royal rank, authority and power within myself. And the terms ‘state’ and  ‘territory’ imply set boundaries to me, which every human is expected to honor and respect. Yes to honoring boundaries. A BIG Yes to sovereignty over my self and every part of my life.

When I dig further, I discover that ancient Celtic Shaman placed sovereignty at the center of the Celtic wheel of life. In many depictions of the Celtic wheel, the Tree of Life sits sovereign at the center or axis mundi of the circle. The Celtic Tree of Life holds the center, reaching limbs up and roots down to connect heaven with earth. And the tree spreads out horizontally from the center of it all, making connections with the 4 directions of north, east, south and west. I find it so beautiful and appropriate that my Celtic ancestors chose the tree to symbolize holding center and being sovereign.

A Celtic spirit wheel depicts the Celtic view of life in much the same way the Native North American medicine wheel depicts their view of life. When I look at one of these sacred wheels, or physically walk within one,  I get a visceral sense of sovereignty; I understand in a deeper way how important it is for each of us to consciously own ourselves; to claim ownership of our bodies, our thoughts, our emotions, our actions and our beliefs as we live and interact in the world.

In their book, Goddesses Who Rule, Beverly Moon and Elisabeth Benard link the word “sovereign” to the Sanskrit word  sva-raj, which means “self-rule”.  Another meaning for raj is “luminous” or “radiance.”  How fitting – embracing sovereignty is not just about ruling over one’s self but also allowing our inner luminous radiance to shine in the world. When we are sovereign, others are not allowed to control our fate. We empower ourselves. We give ourselves permission to shape ourselves and our fate and create the life we truly desire.

What would it look like if I were truly sovereign in my own life?  Nelson Mandela comes to mind when I try to think of a person that embodies my idea of sovereignty.  Nelson was never Celtic by any stretch of the imagination. But when I look back at his history, I see a man whose entire life revolved around being sovereign; he stayed true to himself and held on to his own knowing and dignity during decades of imprisonment. And after his release from prison, Nelson tirelessly championed the cause of the black people gaining sovereign rule in South Africa long after most men retire from public life.

Ultimately Nelson Mandela became an icon; a symbol of the transformation that is possible when a simple human being lives in the knowing of their true wisdom and worth. He held onto himself and his knowing, even when ridiculed and abused for his views. And he transformed his world. For me, Nelson embodies sovereignty in every sense of the word. As he, himself once put it…

“I am the captain of my Soul.” ~Nelson Mandela

I claim sovereignty over my Self. I choose to captain my Soul through this life in the quiet, eloquent way that Nelson Mandela embodied.  I claim sovereignty.  And  I understand that just my intention of claiming sovereignty over my life changes everything. My journey shifts and deepens. This is another turn along my spiral path.

celtic-tree_of_life_by_jen_delyth

Celtic Tree of Life

an original design by Welsh artist Jen Delyth  ©1990 
www.celticartstudio.com

☾ ☽

Invictus

Out of the night that covers me,
Black as the pit from pole to pole,
I thank whatever gods may be
For my unconquerable soul.

In the fell clutch of circumstance
I have not winced nor cried aloud.
Under the bludgeonings of chance
My head is bloody, but unbowed.

Beyond this place of wrath and tears
Looms but the Horror of the shade,
And yet the menace of the years
Finds and shall find me unafraid.

It matters not how strait the gate,
How charged with punishments the scroll,
I am the master of my fate:
I am the captain of my soul.

by
William Ernest Henley

Just Right Goldilocks

Dad
My Dad

My Dad passed last week. And this week I have many memories coming up about him; things he said and did, what I loved about him and also a few things I didn’t like so much.  One of my favorite memories is hearing him call me Goldilocks. Goldy or Goldilocks was my Dad’s nickname for me. Even in his last days, when I would visit him, he would look up, smile and say, “It’s Goldy!” when I walked into the room.

I liked being called Goldy. No one except my dad has ever called me that. So, the nickname passes on with my dad, which is a little sad. But I had many years of being called Goldy or Goldilocks, and the name still makes me smile.  Goldy actually referred to the golden blonde hair I had as a child. But Dad also used the name because he said, like Goldilocks, I would search and try out new things until I found the one that was “just right”. So true, so true!  I still do that.  Apparently I was picky and unwilling to settle even as a young girl.  🙂

I still search and push to find that one “just right” thing. I have found amazing houses to live in because of my constant quest for “just right”. And I love finding just the right restaurant, hiking trail, lawn chair or vacation spot. Searching for “just right” also led me to shift careers and try a lot of different jobs until I zeroed in on a profession that truly suits me. And my inner life is so much richer because of all the spiritual traditions I have explored over the years while searching for one that was just right for me.

But searching for “just right” can also be problematic. I have to be careful that my “just right” search doesn’t degenerate into a search for perfection. Yes, there is a difference between perfect and “just right”. Perfect has an obsessive-compulsive energy to it. When I get locked in perfect mode, it feels absolutely necessary to attain perfection. For example, when writing I sometimes get sucked into searching for the perfect word or phrase. And I feel compelled to keep trying and trying long after a reasonable person would quit. I can waste a ton of energy and make myself completely miserable when I fall into perfect mode.

The search for “just right” is more relaxed than perfection – there’s nothing necessary about finding “just right.” In the fairytale Goldilocks could sleep in any of those beds – she just wants to optimize her comfort! So Goldy takes a few extra minutes to try out every bed. There’s nothing OCD about it. “Just right” is about exploring all the options. “Just right” is nice to have, but not necessary.

My Dad is gone now, exploring in other realms. But while he was here with me, he taught me a lot about life and myself.  I love that he found my “just right” quest interesting and amusing.  Another parent might have turned this personality trait of mine into a problem. But Dad embraced me and my “just right” quirkiness.  I love remembering that.

Happy Travels Dad.

Love –
Goldy

 

Recreation Pants

“These are my recreation pants.”
~Nacho, AKA Jack Black

We have a “recreation pant” tradition at my house.  What exactly are recreation pants, you ask? Think loungewear. Think pajama bottoms. Think baggy, comfortable and elastic!

Recreation pants go on at my house when it’s time to  leave the problems of the day behind.  We will even announce to each other that it’s time for recreation pants!  It may sound  silly  to you, and it did actually start out as a joke. But the idea of putting on my recreation pants has come to mean much more to me.

The idea of recreation pants came to us after watching Jack Black ham it up in his irreverent and hilarious movie Nacho Libre. In the the movie Nacho, AKA Jack Black, wants to impress the hot young nun (yes, I mean nun). So Nach0 puts on his tight white stretch pants (think Saturday Night Fever pants). Then he poses against a pole and flexes his glutes for the nun. Seriously! It’s a bit of Jack Black comedy genius.

At my house, recreation pants still make us smile, but it’s not remotely about looking hot or impressing people.  Just the opposite.  Around here, recreation pants are all about being relaxed and comfortable and not needing to impress anyone.  Besides, who can look hot and sexy in old, baggy pajama bottoms anyway?

Recreation pants signify that I can let my hair down and just enjoy hanging out with people I love. Doesn’t everybody needs peeps that they can wear their recreation pants in front of without losing face?  I wonder if the problem with most politicians and public figures is that they NEVER think it’s safe to put on their recreation pants. Who among us can stay “on”  24 x 7?  It is impossible. At some point we all need to stop worrying about looking the way we’re supposed to look and saying the things we’re supposed to say. Sooner or later, we all need to don our recreation pants.

My true home is a place filled with people that enjoy my company – even when I’m wearing my recreation pants.  🙂

Resistance is Futile

Flame Tree
Flame Tree in Snow

Change is inevitable. Nothing stays the same for very long.

I take the same trail beside the St. Vrain river almost every day, and yet it is never quite the same path two days in a row. One morning last week on the trail, I was surrounded by tree branches filled with fiery autumn leaves. A few mornings later, snow completely blanketed the flaming trees and the sights and sounds of winter engulfed me.

Life is filled with cycles and shifts. From the passing of seasons to the aging of my body, change surrounds and engulfs me. And life continues to shift and change every day, every month, every year. Grasping at the old form, resisting change, makes today hurtful rather than joyful. I learned this lesson the hard way;  years ago I owned a property south of Kansas City that I loved.  I adored every inch of those 3 acres – every tree, every bush, every blade of grass was special to me.  The property was so significant and special that I wrote an entire book about the place (my first book, A Still Place).

And there was nothing bad or wrong about my love of that little parcel of land. The only problem was I clung to it and vowed to live in that spot until I died.  Silly, silly woman!  Well, life happened; I got divorced from one man and married another. I had a second baby and still I held onto that property. I refused to even think about moving. Then my husband’s job dried up and we faced a move cross-country to Chicago. And I had trouble letting go; I resisted leaving my lovely little property. But we needed to move!  The only thing my resistance caused was a slow, slow house sale and a ton of pain and angst.

We eventually sold the property and moved to Chicago. I was so sad, missing my little plot of land, wishing things were different, wanting to roll back the clock and undo the move.  But gradually, I let go. And when I finally stopped holding onto my past, I “woke up” and discovered that I was living in an amazing spot.  I found myself LOVING this new place and my new life.  All it took was letting go of the old life.

That experience left me knowing that my life is WAY less painful when I allow things to change and shift without resisting or pushing against the change. Resistance is futile! Resisting change only leads to pain and misery. 

I seem to periodically have to revisit this lesson in letting go and allowing life to unfold organically.  I can still make myself miserable trying to force today to look like some “perfect” day long past – or some fantasy day that I’ve never even experienced.  I can be so stubborn!  But when I remember that little piece of land that I adored so many years ago, I remember the value of letting go.

It’s odd; I have so many fond memories of that land south of Kansas City. 🙂 But now, I also remember all the amazing and wonderful stuff that happened to me when I let it go and moved on with my life.  And you know what? Today, I live in a space that is even more amazing!  And I would have never ended up here, if I hadn’t let go of that old place.

Life is a river; it keeps flowing and changing and moving. And in every moment I have a choice;  I can cling to the riverbank and wear myself out trying to stay right here in this spot. I can fight and resist moving downstream. Or I can let go and allow the flow of life to take me. I can let go and trust that  life can be even better around the next bend.

☾☽

Can I stop resisting and be grateful for change?

Can I let go of my urge to control and push and grasp?

Can I allow life to unfold and shift organically?

Can I just breathe and allow today to be?

 

Safe Travels, Dad

My Dad

I spent a lot of time with my dad this weekend. Dad is 85 and lives in a locked nursing home unit. He is locked in because my mom is fading away with Alzheimer’s, and my dad cannot wrap his head around the idea of letting her go. Dad literally cannot conceive of allowing her to go without him. He has had multiple strokes as his body-mind fights against the inevitable.

Dad obsesses about my mom’s deterioration, he yells at her and even smacks her because she no longer knows who he is. All this craziness from a calm, gentle soul who adores his wife. This from a man who rarely raised his voice before my mom got sick. Now Dad tries to guard my mom. He constantly worries that someone on the nursing home staff will hurt her or kill her. His behavior has gotten so bad, that my siblings and I reluctantly moved him to a locked unit. Now Dad rarely gets to see the love of his life.

This move has been another heartbreak for Dad. And it is heartbreaking for me to watch. Now that he’s separated from my mom, he is rapidly deteriorating physically. This man who never took medications and was always strong and tough as nails is fading fast now that his last job – the job of protecting his wife – has ended.

I sat with my dad as he slept this weekend. I watched him sleep and thought about everything that he has been through. My dad is strong willed and tenacious; he doesn’t give up easily. As a young man, he pushed and worked and became the first person in his family to go to college. Then he pushed and he worked and he became an award winning engineer with patents in his name. He pushed and he worked and he went much further than his parents every dreamed was possible for him. And then life threw something at him that only got worse when he pushed against it. Life threw something at him that demanded surrender and allowance.

I have not seen my dad for about  6 weeks, and there has been a big shift in his appearance and his behavior; he has transformed in just a few short weeks. He has stopped trying to halt my mom’s deterioration. He has finally stopped pushing. He has let go. I sat and looked at my dad’s body that has aged so much in just a few weeks. I sat with Dad and watched his peaceful face as he slept. I sat with Dad and I knew that he will soon let go completely and leave this body and this life that had become so painful for him. I sat with my dad and I cheered him on; YES!  Let go, Dad. Surrender. Allow life to be however it is. Let go and leave all the pain behind.

This could be a story about the pain of love lost or the harsh realities of aging and dying in America today. My Dad’s past few years have overflowed with both of those things. But for me, this is a lesson in how life can deteriorate into pain and pure misery if I grasp at it and try to hold it still. My Dad’s story teaches me what can happen if I resist and refuse to flow with whatever life throws at me. It’s a lesson about how I can create huge problems and pain when I resist the change that is an inevitable part of life.

I love you, Dad.  Leave this painful place.  Let go and go.  I will miss you so AND it’s OK to go now. Safe travels, Dad.

Blowing in the Wind

Lyons, CO

Wow – it’s been almost 3 months since I spouted off here in my Blog.

That’s a LONG time for me to go underground. But I have a very good reason for going all “Turtle” and disappearing from view – I moved cross-country this fall. Moving from one state to another is tough even for a flexible, go with the flow type chick like me. (My husband is laughing hysterically right now about my “go with the flow” description of myself. But hey! This is my Blog and if I want to view myself as easy going, he should just learn to hush up… 🙂

So, more about moving. Any change is tough – most humans do NOT like things in their life to shift around or change much at all. But I have always prided myself on enjoying change. I used to do corporate change management work, for God’s sake! This move cross-country was a change that I pushed for and WANTED. And yet… this move was unsettling to say the least (pun intended).

It always takes me awhile to find ground and establish a new routine whenever I move, even just across town. But, silly me – I thought a much anticipated, much desired change would be easier. Hah! Maybe it’s because I’m an Earth sign (Taurus); I tend to root deeply into each place I live. Or maybe all those therapists are right when they claim that moving is one of the top three stressors in Life for everyone. Even good change is hard and stressful.

After our move, I felt unmoored, ungrounded, unsettled, off-balance. Like the least little breath of trouble might blow me right off my feet. It took me weeks to feel at home and truly relax in this new place. I knew what I needed – I needed to find gound. Hah! So it’s time to practice what I preach all day long to my clients, huh God?! I’m supposed to know how to do this, right?

What finally worked for me? What helped me find ground and settle in this new place? Meditating and consciously grounding my legs and hips helped me immensely And walking in the mountains was a God-send for me. The energy of the Rockies is very grounding (go figure!). And oddly enough, the simple act of unpacking our treasures helped a lot. Having boxes everywhere is very unsettling for me.

Yesterday I came across an essay named Finding Ground that I wrote a few years ago And I laughed to myself as I read it – if only I could have accessed all the wisdom I expressed in it during my “unsettled days” this fall.

My new home is good – I’m the one grinning from ear to ear every time I look outside and see the Rockies. It’s going to be years before this “flatlander” takes living in the mountains for granted.

Life is good here. Probably because I am finally completely HERE.
Much love and hugs from the mountains.

I encourage you to also read  “Finding Ground”, with the hope that it might help you
face the chaos of change in your life.