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Archive for the ‘gift’ Category

Susan and I went to a funeral yesterday. It’s not something one looks forward to, but a sweet friend had lost her Father, and we wanted to be there to lend our support and love for our friend and her family.

Our friends father (Bill) was a very sweet man. We didn’t’ meet him until the rages of Alzheimer’s had taken over his body and his mind; and yet his sweetness shown through.

I had an inkling this funeral was going to be different when we arrived at the church and there were white chairs set up outside. They were placed on a hillside with beautiful green grass surrounded by trees and flowers with a view of the San Diego Bay that was simply breath-taking. I’d never been to an outside funeral, but after today, I can’t imagine any other way of honoring a loved one.

From those who spoke, I soon understood this was a man who was loving and was loved his entire life. His wife, his children, his grandchildren and great grandchildren. Love, love, love. He loved being outside, loved camping, loved sunsets, loved ice cream and coffee, and loved being the family “tickle monster.”

One of his daughters started to speak about his courage and how he emphasized to her the importance of being still, and it was in that moment I found my mind began to wonder.

I began to think of the death of my parents. My dad in 2010 and Mother in 2012.  I thought of the lessons they had taught me, and what it is I still miss about them.  Some days the image of them is so clear I swear they are walking right beside me. Other days, I don’t feel them at all.  It’s those moments when I am “being still” that I feel them most of all. When I have my tea in the afternoon, sitting quietly on my patio watching the birds, sitting by the San Diego Bay knowing how much my parents loved to sit in the same spot some 30 years ago.  Dad’s ashes are scattered in this Bay so that every US Navy ship that goes in and out of San Diego has to pass over him.

The thing is, I never understood my parents – ever. I thought of this today as Bill’s children and grandchildren were speaking of him so lovingly.  I never understood some of my parent’s decisions, their beliefs, their grudges, their never wanting to talk of anything.  So many things were left unsaid, unsettled, unknown. I love them, I just wish…

I left this funeral with the understanding that life is most certainly meant to be lived. It’s meant to be shared with those who love you unconditionally. You’re meant to be still, to be tickled. You’re meant to watch the sunset, and eat ice cream and drink coffee. You’re meant to laugh and love and share your thoughts and dreams and desires .You’re meant to make memories that will carry on long after you’ve gone. This is what your life is supposed to be.

We walked away from the service on that beautiful hill to the Reception Hall where an ice cream social in honor of Bill awaited us.  Ice Cream, every topping you could think of, whipped cream, cherries, nuts, cookies and coffee. For the first time ever, I left a funeral feeling upbeat and hopeful.

As a side note – the pastor who spoke at the funeral had a voice that simply drew me in. She was kind and compassionate, and spoke in a way that wasn’t condescending or judgmental.  As the pastor was speaking, I leaned over to Susan and said: “If anyone could get me back to church, I think it might be her,”  And it’s been many years since I’ve spent any amount of time in a church.

Bill must have been smiling knowing that I had been still and was listening.

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There is this perceived notion that we always have to be happy – that we always have to be up and smiling – that we have to show the world that all is bright and cherry in our world.

The thing is – we are not always happy – and the sun isn’t always shining in our lives – and sometimes just sometimes – there is not one ounce of cheer to be found – anywhere…

And you know what? That’s okay – you’re okay.

Life isn’t always happy. Sometimes life is quite complicated and happiness isn’t on the list of priorities we have. Sometimes our priorities are simply to get from day-to-day or hour to hour or moment to moment.

We don’t always wake up bathed in sunshine hearing the birds singing their sweet little tunes.  Sometimes – well – sometimes we just don’t hear the birds singing – anywhere.

That’s okay – You’re okay.

We don’t have to always feel inspired or always feel that we have the answers to everything in the Universe. We all have our dark sides – we’re all human. No one person can be happy and confident and inspired all the time. It’s the darkness that sometimes leads to the most brilliant sunshine.

The trick is to take the good with the bad – feel however it is you’re feeling – talk about how you’re feeling, write about how you’re feeling; cry, laugh, scream, whatever you need to do. And then you need to move on.  And by move on I mean really let whatever it is go.

If 10, 20 or even 30 years down the road finds you still talking about something – you haven’t let it go. You’ve actually let whatever “it” is run your life for all those years.  Let. It. Go.

Mostly – just be gentle with yourself.  Understand that you’re human and life isn’t always about what’s right in the world – life is sometimes all about the messy bits.

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I asked Susan this question this morning while we were enjoying some quiet time in front of our beautiful Christmas tree.  I asked her: “Why can’t we just let people be?”

And now I ask all of you: “Why can’t we just let people be?”

I ask because I don’t understand the whole judging people by what they believe or don’t believe thing.

Why do we care if a person believes in the little baby Jesus or if they don’t? Why do we care if a person believes they hear and see loved ones who have passed on? Why do we care if someone lights a menorah or prays to Allah or believes in absolutely nothing?

Unless any of these beliefs affect your life in any way – why on earth do you care what another person believes in? And why on earth would you make them feel less-than because they have such beliefs?

Who’s to say you’re right and they’re wrong?  Seriously?

To me – it just comes off as annoying arrogance when someone tells me that what I believe is wrong – how do they know? And more to the point – why do they care?

Does my belief in the paranormal affect your life in any way?  Does it interfere with your daily day to day living? Does it have any bearing on what you believe?

If you don’t believe in something – fine – don’t believe. But – don’t think that because you don’t believe you have the right to judge and mock those who do.  Be silent and just let them be…

Do we mock and judge others because we are insecure in what we believe?  Or do we mock and judge because we believe we are smarter which somehow gives us some sort of judgmental rite of passage?

Whatever the case – we just need to let people be…

When you find yourself wondering why someone believes in something you don’t understand – don’t judge them – just let them be…

And when you have the urge to tell someone you think their belief system is all wrong – be silent and just let them be…

We don’t know what another person faces from day to day. We don’t know unless we are living their life – you can’t judge what you don’t know – and really – what give you the right to judge?

You don’t have to agree with someone in all areas of their life to support them and love them and encourage them.

Love them for who they are – and just let them be… If you want to change them – you don’t really love them for who they are – it’s not about who you want them to be – it’s about who they are…

Just let them be…

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I recently read this Native American tale that tells the story of a young boy speaking with his grandfather.

One evening an old Cherokee told his grandson about a battle that goes on inside people.He said, “My son, the battle is between two wolves inside us all. “One is Evil – It is anger, envy, jealousy, sorrow, regret, greed, arrogance, self-pity, guilt, resentment, inferiority, lies, false pride, superiority, and ego.“The other is Good – It is joy, peace, love, hope, serenity, humility, kindness, benevolence, empathy, generosity, truth, compassion and faith.”The grandson thought about it for a minute and then asked his grandfather: “Which wolf wins?”The old Cherokee simply replied, “The one you feed.”

It’s easy to feed the Evil Wolf – Blame everyone in your life for your troubles –that way you don’t have to take any responsibility for anything you’ve said or done because – well – it’s not your fault – it’s the way you were raised, or taught, treated or whatever excuse you can make others believe is responsible for your behavior.  You can be this arrogant, rude, unkind person who skips through life unaware of the hurt and despair you’ve let in your wake.  You’re unaware – because you don’t care. Why should you – it’s not your fault.

The Evil Wolf is the easy way out. It’s simple, it takes no thought, and certainly allows you to hold onto old hurts, self-pity, anger and grudges for as long as you like – it’s what I call wallowing…

I will admit to feeding this wolf many years ago…

The Good Wolf – well – that takes some work. Joy, peace, hope, humility, kindness, generosity, truth, compassion… these things involve others – and emotions and a sense of belonging.  This means you have to show up – emotionally and physically.

Serenity comes only when our soul is untroubled and at peace. And we are only untroubled and at peace when our lives are lived for the common good.  At least – this is what I have learned about my life.

I’m not saying the Evil Wolf never gets fed – I’m saying I try and keep it to a few hors d’oeuvres every now and then – because well – I’m only human.

The Good Wolf is the one I try and feed on a daily basis.  Love, Hope, Compassion – these bring me Joy. I don’t want anger, envy, jealousy, regret, resentment or ego in my life. Why would anyone?

These wolves – This good and evil – It’s a choice we all must make in our lives. At some point, we all have to look around and realize that the common denominator in all of our tails of woe is – you/me. And the common denominator in our tales of happiness? It’s also you/me.   It’s our choice – it’s our life.

So… Which Wolf Do You Feed?

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Lots of “stuff” running through my mind this morning – you know what I’m talking about…  Nothing in particular, just a whole bunch of jumbled up thoughts that didn’t seem to have comas separating them.

I decided to take myself to my favorite spot by the Pacific Ocean in La Jolla to just clear my head, and place some comas in the thoughts that were running amok in my head.

On the drive over to La Jolla, I was listening to my Frank Sinatra station and there was Peggy Lee singing:   ♫ “Is that all there is, Is that all there is? If that’s all there is my friend, then let’s keep dancing – let’s break out the booze and have a ball, if that’s all there is…” ♫

Of course my mind went there… Now, Theresa Caputo – The Long Island Medium – tells me every week on her show  that this most certainly is not all there is, and the noises and voices that happen in my house tell me that this most certainly is not all there is, and my Christian upbringing tells me that this is most certainly not all there is – but still – my mind went there as I was singing along with Peggy Lee.

What is this really is all there is.  What then?  What have I done with my life?

Once I had parked the car, my camera and I went for a long walk. We saw birds and flowers and seals. We listened to the ocean and seagulls and the wind as it hit me in the face. I put my camera in the car – grabbed my lawn chair – and I sat on one of the cliffs by the water, and I simply listened to what the Universe was telling me.

I’m going to be 62 years old this year. I haven’t always lived a life that was good and honest, and I haven’t always been the best person I could have been. When I look at my life now and know that I have more years behind me than I do in front of me, I think about things in an entirely different way.

What’s done is done. I can’t change anything, and honestly, I’m not sure that I would. Every decision I made, every mistake I made, every turn in the road – it’s brought me to where I am right now and made me the person I am right now.

And right now – I’m a happy girl. I have the love of a wonderful woman who makes me happier than I ever imagined I could or would be. I have friends that love me unconditionally and make me feel special, cherished and cared for. My brother and I have contact with one another – it’s not constant – but you know what – it’s contact – and I’ll take that over no contact at all. My ex-husband and I are friends – as we have always been. My biological family who disowned me – well – they still disown me – and that’s okay. It’s okay because my family, the biological ones who have stood by me,  and my friends who surround me, they love me big time!

I try to live a life now that is filled with love, peace, joy and happiness. I try and be there for my family and friends, and I try to make things as easy as possible. I don’t like drama – I don’t like conflict. I love my friends, my family, and my Susan more than they could ever know.

So Peggy Lee – If this is all there is – I’ll consider myself lucky and blessed to have had so very much…

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For her Birthday my friend Ann asked that we spend some time loving someone who is difficult for us to love. She said we didn’t have to forgive or hang out with them – she just wanted us to think loving thoughts and humanize someone we dislike for whatever reason.  She ended her request by saying: “Nothing would make me happier than imagining a bunch of you spending even 5 minutes focusing real love, compassion and understanding on an enemy.”

Somehow I believe it would have been easier to just send her flowers!

However, I respect this friend so very much so I decided to focus my energies on someone who betrayed my trust over 20 years ago. Someone I believed was a friend – someone I loved as a sister – someone I trusted with the deepest secret I had.

In a moment of bearing my soul – I told this friend I was gay. I told her how I have struggled to live a “normal” life but I wasn’t happy. I told her I had always known I was gay but also knew that I could never talk with my family – well because where I come from – being gay is simply not done.  I told her that as much as I cared about my husband – I just couldn’t love him. Certainly not the way he deserved to be loved – I was trying – I just couldn’t do it. I was struggling on what to do – and how to do it.

My “friend” decided that her loyalties were really with my husband – and she told him everything I had told her.  She outed me to my husband – my father – my little community where I grew up.

My life exploded – and I ran away.  From my husband – from my hometown – from my family – from my friend. I’ve never seen or spoken to her since the explosion.

It wasn’t her place – It wasn’t her life – It wasn’t her secret…

Life didn’t end – but for a long time it was hard and hurtful as many people who I thought loved me – apparently didn’t love the gay Barb – they wanted me to be who they wanted me to be and anything other than that person wasn’t welcome in their world.

I have heard through the hometown grapevine that this person’s life the past 20 some years hasn’t been easy.  Her husband divorced her and she’s had to start over.  Every time I heard something bad about her life – I thought that she deserved everything bad that has come her way.

I thought that way until Saturday when I was sitting silent and thinking of her.  In was in those moments of quiet clarity that I understood that this person did betray me in the worst way – but in another way – her betrayal was a gift.  For all the running that I did lead me to where I am at this very moment in time. It lead me to this complete happiness – to this life I only dreamed existed.

So – I thought of her with kindness and released my anger and felt gratitude for this life I have – for the friends that I have – for the love which surrounds me and fills my life.

In my moments of quiet clarity, I also thanked my friend for wanting us all to find some peace and love on her Birthday. In my mind I sang Happy Birthday to her and was happy I could give her what she asked for.  It was a gift for her – but really – it was more of a gift for myself.  Happy Birthday, Annie – and Thank You. ♥

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This morning I found myself reading a poem call “The Waking” by Theodore Roethke.  I not only read it – I read it over and over and over.

… I wake to sleep and take my waking slow.

I feel my fate in what I cannot fear.

I learn by going where I have to go.”

… “I learn by going where I have to go.”  Think about this for just a moment.  To me this is saying that you can’t learn before you set out on any journey – You have to set out on the road that is your journey and learn as you go where it is you are supposed to be going.

So many times the journey’s we take in our lives are not ours.  They are our parent’s journey or our spouse’s journey or our children’s journey.  We believe we are happy and yet there is that nagging feeling in the back of our mind and that little ache in our heart that maybe – just maybe there is something more.

Of course there is more – more for us to learn because we haven’t gone where it is we have to go. There’s more for us because we haven’t done what it is we have to do – we haven’t lived our life – we haven’t walked our path. As long as we have breath in us – it’s never too late to begin the journey.

Some of you might be thinking – but Barb, I have no idea what it is I want to be doing… I don’t agree – I believe you do know.  I just believe you’ve spent so many years telling yourself you can’t do whatever it is – that you have chosen to not listen to that voice in your head and that aching in your heart.

I understand that Mothers want and need to raise their children and any thought of doing something for yourself is not even on your radar – but one day – those children will be gone and you will be wondering what it is you’re supposed to be doing. At some point your children will need to stand on their own and learn how to survive in the world and they will learn by going where they have to go and learn along the way.

And isn’t that what we all must do – mustn’t we all go where we have to go and learn along the way?

I lived almost 50 years of my life going where I was most certainly not supposed to be going. I was going where I knew my parents wanted me to go – it was the path that was expected of me and the only thing I learned was how to lie and cheat and be grossly unhappy. I hurt people, I hurt myself. I was most certainly a lost soul.

The moment I started going where I had to go – everything in my life changed. I’m still learning – but I’m learning as I go where it is I have to go.

No one – absolutely no one – deserves a life filled with anger, hate, despair, angst and no love. It’s not where anyone is supposed to go. You may believe there is no way out – but as long as you breathe – there is always – always a way to happiness. You have to believe you deserve it – you have to believe it’s yours for the taking – and then you have to take it.

… “You learn by going where you have to go.”

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