Tuesday, July 26, 2011

All Good Gifts

Have you ever been in a frustrating holding pattern, waiting for the next goal in your life to come about? And the holding pattern goes on for well over a year?

This week I determined (and it was later affirmed by an older sister) that I must be putting up some kind of resistance...and resistance can only cause roadblocks. And roadblocks delay the goal.

My goal is finding a solid job offer in Portland, Oregon so that I can move back out west and resume the next chapter of my life. It's not the goal itself that I'm resisting, but everything that's standing in its way. I had hoped to flee hot, humid Ohio before the dead of summer, but here I am in the thick of it. Each day that dawned hazy and sticky, I silently cursed. Each week that ticked by with me no closer to Oregon made me want to cry. Each job I applied for and didn't get a response from, I would heap more frustration and impatience on the pile that was already higher than my head. Each "bad day" I had in my current caregiver living situation with my mother made me feel like the caged bird that flings itself against its iron-bar walls in vain, nearly injuring its wings trying to escape. The last thing I need, in order to fly, is injured wings!

So this week I decided that I needed to change things up. Not only would I quit resisting everything that is not my move out west, but I would get my trusty "Abraham Law of Attraction tools back out, and actively use them. These are spiritual tools--staying in alignment with my Source (who I call God) energy and actively co-creating the happenings and relationships in my life by keeping my energetic vibrations high (if you feel good, they're up...if you feel bad, they're down, it's that simple) and attracting the good stuff in--that I used to use every day with enough regularity to really make things happen in my life. Especially in my first move out west to California. Somehow, in the last 4 years, I had let the stresses in my life eclipse them. The good thing is, I can always pick them back up again at any time.

Every day I wake up and immediately go through my gratitude list. I play relaxing classical music on the drive to work, and think about how lucky I am to have income right now, and a beautiful new car. I am thankful for being able to work with some of the nicest coworkers one could ever have. Then I contemplate how good and secure it will feel to be drawing a large and lucrative paycheck at my new job. I imagine the contented smiles of my new coworkers, and the day someone shakes my hand and says, "Alexandra, welcome aboard. We are so excited to have you with us." I think about the job I really have my heart set on, being a New Media Writer for an organization that works for a children's cause, and I see all the faces of the children I would be helping. I feel how cozy and clean my new apartment is, and how sweet it will feel to reach down and pet my cat while cooking in my OWN kitchen again. I imagine seeing the majestic beauty of Mt. Hood on my drive to work, and I feel myself grin at the idea of getting a good morning text from the available new man in my life. Feeling these feelings makes me feel good. My energy level rises. Doors of consciousness open, and the goals/dreams can finally enter.

This week, I went to one of my favorite grottoes to pray and meditate. I sat on its brick terrace just before sunset, listening to the katydid choruses and the water trickling down the rock fountain. I sat smelling the spruce trees that kept watch overhead, and catching glimpses of birds and insects flitting among the flowers and plants growing out of the rocky shrine walls. I invited all the souls of my loving departed ones to join me in prayer....Dad, Tony, the aunts and uncles and 2 young cousins, grandparents, former therapist Maureen, Zochae, my high school buddy Dave, and the angels, of course. Tony was appointed my special guardian of this cause, since he had been planning to move to Oregon before he fell fatally ill.

I could feel the vibration of my heightened energy pulsating all around me. I felt a perpetual smile on my relaxed face. I sat there for a long time with an empty mind, just doing Zen sitting meditation, when the family walked in.

A South American mother, an energetic American father, and two sweet little girls with big brown eyes and dark hair. "Don't bother that woman," I heard the dad tell his girls quietly. "She's praying." But the girls were curious. They disregarded him and walked right up to me. They saw me smiling at them. To my complete surprise and utter delight, the littlest one opened her arms to me with a face full of loving conviction. I gave her a warm hug, and thanked her. I swear, I felt like I'd been hugged by an angel. Perhaps she was, only five or six years outside of heaven and fresh from the Creator.

Something about that occurrence moved me. It felt like a sign and an affirmation that yes--my vibrational energy was up into realms that would draw love and compassion and goodness. From seemingly out of nowhere. And delightfully unexpected.

The title of this blog entry comes from a song from the musical Godspell, and one I used to love singing ever since I was a child. It's been stuck in my head all week. Whether a believer or non-believer, its lyrics are compelling and make one take stock in the gifts that are surrounding us every day, even when we don't notice them.

I haven't made a post in a long time, due to being caught up in my resistance. I'm not sure who's even following this blog these days, but I hope there was something in this message that someone needed to hear today.


Sunday, June 5, 2011

Puzzle Pieces and Friendships That Keep On Giving

I had two themes to write about today, born of the same experience, and so I hope I wove them together in a way that's easy to read.

Back in the 90s, I started going to Adult Children of Alcoholics (ACOA) meetings, and it changed my life. It had so much to do with the person I am today. In this group, I met many amazing people who had been through the most unbelievably tragic experiences and lived to tell...and who had the same common denominators in their life as me and everyone sitting within those walls. Meetings felt like crawling into a warm, safe lap. These people had a lot of experience, strength, and hope to lend if we wanted it. But there came a time when I needed a more personalized group....of just women. Don't get me wrong--we loved our ACOA brethren (some of my friends even married a few), but there were things we needed to discuss sometimes, in the privacy of our own gender.

And so, I asked a core group of trusted women friends if they'd like to form a women's spiritual group, in which we could discuss our life path, our challenges, our solutions, and our enlightenment. Our age range spanned forty years, but we were all in the same place as far as emotional and soul growth. We held these gatherings every other Sunday for about ten years. Ten years of life, trusting one another with deeply personal things. Sticking together through changing careers, changing relationships, painful breakups, family deaths, marriages, births, serious mistakes (and what we learned from them), victories and achievements...everything. We were like war buddies.

After the group ran its course, we still kept in touch. But the times we all got to see each other, all in one place, were few and far between. The last time was just before I moved to California in 2005.

Today, our eldest member held a reunion. Not every single person made it back, but most of us were there...sharing great food, love, laughter, and memories. We all said a little about where we are today and what's been going on...and it was all so beautiful. Lots of changes, lots of water under the bridge, lots of life  lived. We were all a little older and wiser, and better for it.

I came away from this gathering with many gems of wisdom, like the old days, but two of them really sank in the deepest, for me.

Our eldest (now 64) said:

"This getting older thing is kind of cool. You start seeing the biggest puzzle pieces of your life coming together at last. Things you could never figure out about your past, your issues, or your inner workings, start to make sense. And things start feeling more complete and whole than they ever have. And the stuff you used to get in your head and worry about all the time just doesn't matter anymore."

I loved that. I think I feel a few puzzle pieces clicking together with each passing year, and it makes me glad to be the age I am. (I have more to say about aging, but I'll save it for another journal)

And what someone else shared (and everyone agreed), was that even though the times we spend together in person are few and far between...we carry one another around in our hearts, remembering the little sayings we've shared, seeing some little gift we've received from another in the group that still sits on our windowsills, or glancing at our group photo refrigerator magnet taken one Christmas. It's living proof that friends need not be in close geographical proximity in order to be "with" us or close to us. This is, perhaps, the start of how someone becomes eternal to us, even after they die.

Tuesday, March 15, 2011

Asking For a Sign

Normally, I don't make a habit of asking for signs from my Creator...solely on principle. Because I need to practice trust. Trusting that everything is in divine order at all times, and that answers or clarity will come exactly when it's supposed to. And the more in tune with divine presence I am, the better.

But there are those days. We've all had them. Days when we find ourselves at our wits' end. Crumpled in a heap at the end of a long day, completely drained physically and emotionally. We've dropped our basket of hopeful ideas, positive mantras, and inspirational quotes...and they're strewn all over the floor. But we're too tired to pick them up. We're so frustrated that we can't even speak or cry...we just sort of go numb with despair.

Yesterday was one of those days. Not only was I experiencing a huge disappointment (I'll spare the details) over something I had to let go of in a big way...but I felt I'd hit the hard, jarring bottom of my Patience Tank.
Patience over my life situation.

For the last year, I've been diligently looking for work back in Santa Barbara so that I can return to the part of the country where I'm happiest, healthiest, and where my writing thrives. For the last three years I have felt more and more trapped by my financial situation, in a living arrangement that has me being primary caregiver to an aging mother with dementia. The progress of my writing goals and dreams have taken a back seat, with my creative spirit getting drained by the aforementioned living situation, and this is the most critical thing in my life right now!

I have been yearning to get back west, back into my own place, and to simplify my life again so that I can write uninterrupted. I want to get busy publishing the two novels I've had finished for years. Develop better marketing and promotion plans.

But last night....after all this waiting and disappointment and frustration (and it's been building like this since last summer), I just collapsed in despair. I thought about the spiritual counseling I'd had two months ago, and why I didn't seem able to carry out the helpful advice I was given.

The spiritual counselor who is also an Intuitive (I don't like to use the term Psychic, because it tends to turn some people off) said my writing was fantastic and that it is INDEED supposed to be my one, thriving career in time. He said my one obstacle was believing in my own ability to make it happen. He told me to pick a bird and contemplate it soaring through the sky---daily. "When birds fly, they are unlimited. They can see everything and go anywhere they want to."

I told him I felt like a bird in a cage.

Last night, I felt like it more than ever before. I felt like my wings were just broken from bashing against the side of my cage. In my tears of frustration, I asked God, "Would you please give me some kind of sign tomorrow? I really, REALLY need a sign this time. That I'm getting close to moving...that deliverance is near...that I can move forward with my life. SOON." After lying there awhile, I thought of my bird. I tried to imagine it flying, but I just didn't have the heart. As an afterthought, I said, "And make it some kind of BIRD sign, God, with a specific message--so I'll know it's really You."

Today, when I got home from work, I opened the mailbox and found this.

                                               Photo by Randy Jennings

I stood there, mouth agape, and then a slow smile spread across my face. I hadn't had that clear of a "sign" for a long, long time. Wow.

So I guess I'll be taking off. Real soon. God will take care of the details, I've no doubt. Maybe some of those sweet jobs I applied for in my destination city (I've expanded my horizons beyond just Santa Barbara) will call for an interview. My hope is renewed.

So don't be afraid to ask for a sign. Even if you're not a believer...ask for a sign without concerning yourself about where it came from. Everyone deserves a sign when they're at a difficult crossroads and when their patience is gone.

And now to give credit where credit is due.....this bird image was on an invitation from my friend and her husband for a photography exhibit that will showcase his work taken with a Holga toy camera! Please visit this website, check out his stuff, and attend the show if you're local. Thanks Randy & Jenni. I needed that more than you will ever know. And thanks, God.

Sunday, January 23, 2011

2011 - The Year of Sweet Surrender

Thank you, Sarah McLachlan, for the phrase in my title. "Sweet Surrender" is what has been coming to me over and over as I look ahead to yet another New Year.

In years past, I've always sat there on New Year's Eve making all sorts of positive intentions and visualizing things I would like to see happen in the new year. And many years, things did indeed move and shake and change my life. But in the last 3 years, I have to honestly say that--with the exception of publishing my novel, which was a HUGE milestone and personal victory/dream come true for me--very little has "come true" or changed. In fact, I would have to say that for the last three years my life I have felt trapped in an unmovable glacier.

2010 wasn't the happiest of years for me. It was a year of loss. Coping with the loss of my late brother. Losing my business, because of the loss of full use of my right arm tendon. Loss of my savings, as I lived off them during a long period of unemployment. Then when I did land a temp job, I still didn't quite make enough to change my living arrangement, which I've felt "stuck" in for way too long. Loss of consistent and quality writing time. There were other minor losses and disappointments here and there, but they're not worth going into.

The three things that kept my spirits up this year...were my dearest loved ones, running the Air Force Half Marathon, and my hiking club--which was something I could always look forward to on several weekends out of the year.

So yeah...I will be very glad to see 2010 go. Arrivederci, baby!

And this year, rather than making resolutions or hopefully intending that this will happen and that will happen....I will just laugh and admit that I haven't a CLUE what's going to happen. I surrender. Not in a complacent way, but in a letting go kind of way. A "trusting that my Higher Power (who I call God) will shine a light" kind of way.

I'll accept the things I can't change, I'll put on my Big Girl Pants and change the things I can, and hopefully I'll have the wisdom to know the difference. And I will take ALL the divine inspiration I can possibly get. (Please and thank you)

Bring on 2011, I say. Bring it! (Makes me giggle and think of the guy in Spinal Tap..."Ours go to 11.")

I'm ready to move forward....in sweet surrender.


Midlife Awakenings

In the past couple of years, after sitting across the table from friends and acquaintances in cozy pubs over a good microbrew (or over a good latte in a coffeehouse), I have come to a huge realization. Oftentimes, there is no such thing as a Midlife Crisis. What I see are Midlife Awakenings.

Let’s back up a second…

Growing up, I remember adults tsk-tsking and shaking their heads as they listened to shocking news about other friends of theirs who had suddenly done some sort of monumental, sudden (and often unacceptable), change-up in their lives. “He’s finally gone off the deep end.” “I don’t know what’s got into her, all of a sudden.” “Don’t they know what this is doing to ____?” “She’s acting like a teenager.” “Doesn’t he know he’ll never make any money at that?” “Are they crazy?”

And always followed up with, “Maybe it’s some kind of midlife crisis.”

The stereotypical 45 year-old who buys a Harley for the first time in his life. The woman who gets a divorce after 30 years and moves in with someone else. The person who chucks their high-salaried corporate job and starts some little small business. These are just a few examples of what society has labeled “midlife crises.” (And admittedly, there are some who do make careless and foolish mistakes that they later regret because they did not think things through. But I’m not talking about them today. I’m talking about all the rest…)

Flash forward to when I myself become “middle-aged.” (Holy crap! Already??) A lot can happen to friends when you live in California for three years and then come back to re-join their lives-in-progress. Their children grow up. They turn a little grayer up top. They have suddenly realized that we only have about thirty to forty more years of life left (if we're lucky). And that is a serious, sobering thought.

What I see happening, is people start recognizing what means the most to them in life, and what doesn’t. What is slowly destroying them and robbing them of their soul, and what is more life giving and worthwhile. Some have been living a life that they thought would make them or others happy, but really they either hadn’t yet discovered their true bliss or talent or personality….or knew what it was all along, but suppressed it because their mate or their families did not approve. I myself had my “midlife awakening” kind of early when I quit my corporate job, moved across the country, and devoted most of my time to being a writer. It was there that I found my most peaceful, happy self.

This past summer, I attended my high school class reunion (25 years!) and I saw a bunch of 42-43 year olds who looked more beautiful and more content and more wise than I’d ever seen them in my life. They were finally comfortable in their own skin. They cared not if others approved or disapproved. The hardest part of parenting was over for most of them, and they were starting to live life for themselves again. Some (like me) had changed careers a few times and finally found their best niche. Things that used to be major issues once…we could now chuckle at.

Right now, some of my friends/acquaintances, both male and female, are going through (or have gone through) some serious transitions. The changes they want to make in their lives are not easy, because they will affect other lives, and maybe not in the best way. But I’ve never seen them so alive. I’ve watched them shed the final layers of what they were “supposed” to be all these years and uncover their true, authentic selves. They’re taking up crafts no one knew they could do. They’re starting to speak up for themselves more and express their desires when they always used to fade into the background and just go along with things. They’re realizing what living with passion is, for the first time in their lives. A couple of them are carefully, with utmost regard for their spouses, deciding how to leave a marriage that happened for all the wrong reasons. And while the huge changes they’re about to make will seem shocking, erratic, and unacceptable to a lot of people…what they will be doing is loving themselves more than they ever have before. Being the most whole and fulfilled people they can be, in the time they have left.

And I think this is a thing of beauty. It’s been hard watching them struggle…but it’s good to know (in the modified words of writer Anais Ninn) that the pain of staying locked in the bud has become greater than the pain of blooming.