LOVE RECONFIGURED

“Love is what we are born with. Fear is what we learn. The spiritual journey is the unlearning of fear and prejudices and the acceptance of love back into our hearts. Love is the essential reality and it is our purpose on earth. To be consciously aware of it, to experience love in ourselves and others, is the meaning of life. Meaning does not lie in things. Meaning lies within us.”

~

Marianne Williamson

 

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I saw it in her eyes this morning. A connection between us that defies description. At an age when you begin to think that that aspect of life has passed you by and that you will never really know that again, if you’ve ever even had the opportunity to know it at all. We held each other tightly and yet, somehow, perfectly this morning and in that embrace we drew into ourselves such comfort, such feelings of love and connection and belonging that you almost dare not even breathe for fear that it might evaporate and you will be left holding onto nothing and it will have vanished as though it were some last figment or fragment of a late-night dream.  And then you realize that it is still there and you begin to believe that it is not a dream… that the person in your arms is real and that the feelings you are feeling are also mirrored in her eyes and in the curve of her lips and in the gentle sigh, the slight catch of an inhalation of breath… and then you realize that you are not dreaming… that it is real and you want, if you could, to hold her so tightly that she simply evaporates into your very being so that there is no separation between the two of you. That begins to describe the intensity of the moment… the intensity of the passion that is like a thread that connects the vital energy of both of your souls together.

 

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CHANGE OF DIRECTION

“As you think, you travel. As you love, you attract. You are today where your thoughts have brought you; you will be tomorrow where your thoughts take you. You cannot escape the results of your thoughts; but you can endure and learn, accept and be glad. You will realize the vision of your heart, not the idle wish. You will gravitate toward that which you most secretly love. Into your hand will be placed the exact result of your thoughts; you will receive that which you earn; no more, no less. Whatever your present environment may be, you will fall, remain, or rise with your thoughts, your vision – your ideal.”

~

Unknown

April 9th

 

I must confess, I have been on the most amazing journey. I think it started on the day that I was born. It is still ongoing, even as I sit here on a Saturday evening, typing away and wondering what I am even going to say. I will start by saying that my heart is full and more with a deep, deep Gratitude for the way my life has unfolded. I am also deeply grateful for all of the amazing teachers that I have had in my life. Truly, too numerous to name them all, just as I am certain there are many whose names I never had the chance to get because they came into, and moved out of, my life so fast that there simply wasn’t a chance to inquire as to name.

 

I chose the quote above to begin tonight’s entry because it is absolutely perfect for where I am in my life at this very moment. Shall I proclaim it boldly and uncensored? I am in love – deeply in love – and to be sure it is an experience that, for a time, I did not think I would know again in this lifetime. Or, perhaps it is more apt to say that I was not sure that I would ever find, again, the depth of love that I once knew. And yet here I am, standing on the precipice, or perhaps having already stepped over and into the ether of “not knowing” wherein I have found again that deep, deep connection with another being that is that thing for which we all yearn.

 

There are so many moments within this experience that are beyond the ability of mere mortal words to describe. Perhaps Rumi might have the appropriate verbiage, but it seems lacking in one so mortal as myself. I can only say that I feel deeply blessed and humbled at my great fortune in finding another person with whom I feel so connected and with whom I feel such a profound love for… a love that transcends the physical and becomes something so visceral in its intensity that to express in words seems almost an act of profanity.

 

[Pause]

 

Ok, so searching for Rumi quotes on love, it seems that even he is a bit challenged by the phrasing of it. I did however find a verse that I do like  –

 

When you find yourself with the Beloved,

Embracing for one breath…

In that moment you will find your true destiny.

Alas, don’t spoil this precious moment.

Moments like this are very, very rare.

From Thief of Sleep by Shahram Shiva

 

 

How well do I know the rarity of these moments. My own life is populated by family, friends and acquaintances for whom such a moment has yet to manifest, and for whom, perhaps, such a moment may never manifest. To what then do I owe my good fortune? I think it is captured in the quote that I have shared, to wit, that I dare to imagine, to believe and to think that I myself am deserving of such a destiny – that I may in fact be a kind of co-creator of the life in which I am ensconced and that through the power of my thought, hopes and intentions alone, I may affect a path for myself that will lead me to those moments that I believe are waiting for me.

 

I dare to believe that such things exist in the world and while I am humble enough to understand that such things are not a birthright of sorts, I am still encouraged and determined enough to believe that with sufficient persistence of vision, I will ultimately manifest that which I desire. And what is it that I desire? What is it that we all desire? Sometimes I feel that it is no less than my own personal quest for the Holy Grail. I have taken that most noble of pursuits and defined it for myself in a manner that meets the times in which I find myself. And yet, there are some things which are timeless, some stories which repeat over and over again throughout the course of human history. A hero’s quest, a fool’s errand? Who is to say? I search for no more than, nor less than, love – in its purest form.

 

And yet, what would that be? Forever it would seem that that is the quest of men, and of women. And forever it seems so elusive. Does perfect love exist? Perhaps it is found in this desire that we create a God who represents a kind of perfect love. Unconditional, unwavering love. Of course, not all Gods emanate this. It seems that only in our higher moments do we create a God such as this. It is a God that transcends the human condition of suffering and misery and greed and sadness and offers us a glimmer of hope that there is something that is all-accepting, that will take us in and heal our wounds and heal our grief and pain, no matter how egregious our actions have been.

 

In those moments then, when we find this glimmer of love within another, we touch, for a moment, the possibility that this exists on a more intimate level that transcends our earthly existence and transcends our suffering and offers us the promise of the fulfillment of a yearning for which we all hunger. Perhaps we touch the very spirit of God itself. And then we know that such a state exists and in that knowing we find, however momentary, our soul’s salvation.

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LOVE

“Love is our deepest nature, and consciously or unconsciously, each of us searches for love. We often choose such false ways to satisfy this deep hunger. An excessive concentration on our work, achievements, or spiritual quest can actually lead us away from the presence of love. In the work of the soul, our false urgency can utterly mislead us. We do not need to go out to find love; rather, we need to be still and let love discover us.”

~

John O’Donohue (Anam Cara: A Book of Celtic Wisdom)

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I love this picture. I imagine myself reuniting one day with Laureen in the afterlife, and we will stand at the edge of the universe and be awed by its magnificence of color and light and limitless glory and I will kneel before her and shed tears of such inexpressible joy at our reunion.

 

And she will be as she ever was, and as she never could be on this physical plane. Filled with light and joy and love. We will be as two children standing on the shore of forever, with all eternity stretching out before us and the emptiness that I feel in my soul will vanish and I will be whole again and we will stand there in our innocence and in our unbounded happiness and I will see that magical sparkle in her eyes once again and hear the wonderful sound of her laughter once more.

 

And she will sing to me her Universal song and I will smile and know that I am home again.

 

Aho.

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LETTING GO

Are you searching for the river of your soul?
Then come out of your prison.

Leave the stream and join the river that flows into the ocean
~

Rumi

 

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I worked hard today; and I did hard work. In fact, I pretty much put in a twelve hour day as I got up around 8 AM this morning and it is now 8 PM in the evening and I have been going just about non-stop from beginning to end. Today I was working on letting go. If memory serves, I do believe I’ve written about this before but it turns out that letting go isn’t something that is done all at once. No, it is done in pieces, in fits and starts, a little here, a little there, perhaps even a fallback or two, followed by entrenchment, and then, forward progress once again.

 

I started this morning, well, after I took my shower, with the great paper shuffle. Although in this instance it is more than that. Laureen left many, many pages of research and notes, and diary entries and well, a life lived generates a lot of paper – a paper trail, if you will, and I am not one to throw away a piece of paper un-examined. I happened to find one of her many journals and as is so often the case, she only wrote on three pages of the entire journal. I took a photo of an brief entry she wrote on June 6, 2008 about things that make her happy and things that bring her joy –

 

Laureen JE - June_6_2008

 

Really, in a nutshell, these were the things that were the most important to Laureen in her life. Simple. She was always about being in the moment, being real, and being connected to each other and to the world around us. She loved all of the little critters that accompanied us on our journey – the birds most especially, but the chipmunks too. I think this one page summarizes the life that we lived together for the better part of thirteen years. And as I let this sink in now, I am reminded of a notion I once had that the doing thing is overrated. It’s the being with somebody and enjoy the quiet, reflective moments of life that are the moments worth pursuing and celebrating.

 

As is often the case on my stay-at-home days, I had multiple projects going on for most of the day. The biggest project, besides the aforementioned paper-pushing, was to clear out the rest of Laureen’s clothes and shoes from the bedroom, bag everything up, and donate it to St. Vincent’s. I always find that work so emotionally draining. I face it rather stoically as I am doing it and do not allow myself to make the emotional connections to a favorite pair of shoes, or that certain summer top that I know she loved. No, it all gets placed, quickly, into the black-hole of an 80-gallon leaf bag before I can stay my hand. As I was placing one of her winter coats into a bag I noticed many strands of her hair still clinging to the inside lining and thought that in another time I might have been able to clone her from such DNA scraps. But what would be the purpose? That spirit that I knew as Laureen is long gone and re-animating a facsimile would not bring her back.

 

It was three o’clock by the time I had my car all loaded up with bags of clothes, and shoes, and even a bag of her books too. And then off I went to give away more pieces of her. But they are not her of course. They are merely objects now and I hope they bring some simple joy to someone somewhere out there. I know she would want that.  Of course, I will admit to having a small stash of clothing that I simply could not give away because they remind me so strongly of her. Her “snow leopard” pajamas. I used to call her my little snow leopard and I believe she was wearing those that final Christmas day when we came downstairs and she wanted to take selfies. No, those I could not give away. Not yet anyhow. Maybe someday.

 

But for all of that, more and more her possessions are being given up and let go. All of her shoes are gone now. There is not a stitch of her clothing in my bedroom. I have bought all new bedding. Slowly the house is becoming a place that she would not recognize, were she to return tomorrow. But of course, she will not return tomorrow, or ever in this lifetime. And that is the truth of it and that secret hope that I held for some time, that somehow she could return, well, I am letting go of that too, and realizing that I am on my own now.

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LET IT BE

Above all, be at ease, be as natural and spacious as possible.

Slip quietly out of the noose of your habitual anxious self,

release all grasping, and relax into your true nature.
~
Sogyal Rinpoche

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Well, today is Valentine’s Day. This day happens to coincide with the 6th anniversary of the night that I finally proposed to Laureen, some eight and a half years into our relationship. It wasn’t that I didn’t want to propose sooner. Hell, I had bought her engagement ring back in November 2001. It just took a long, long time for her to get into a place in her mind and her emotions where she was ready to trust to another relationship. I always likened her to a wild horse – like a mustang. You never really tame such a spirit. But you do build a bridge of trust and eventually across that bridge love will travel. And it wasn’t that she didn’t love me sooner. She loved me from the get go. It just took her a long time to fully heal from the emotional wounds inflicted by others who had been in her life.

 

Tonight, that is neither here nor there. I am feeling more settled in her absence now. This is a very new sensation for me. The months of November, December and January were very, very hard months. In some ways I felt like I significantly backtracked on what had been nearly 21 months of very hard work. Only now do I see that it was a necessary evolution in the long path of grieving and loss. As I said to someone earlier today, the first twelve months were simply like a “what-the-fuck-just-happened” state of shell-shock combined with a “what-the-fuck-am-I-supposed-to-do-now” state of complete bewilderment. And inside of me was some small piece that kept alive the notion that somehow she might still come home and if she did, she would find our home more or less as she’d left it. Oh, I changed things around here and there, probably made it just a bit more masculine with some new decor, but overall most of it would feel very, very familiar to her. Indeed, this probably would have pissed her off – that I hadn’t moved further down the path of letting go.

 

I can only say that the “letting go” path is not an easy path to walk. I think the first thing I let go of, and one of the hardest, was my wedding band. Thirteen months after she passed away, on my birthday last April, which she always called our personal new year’s day, I removed my wedding band and put it away. I just knew that it was time to do that. I felt naked without it, and I also felt a tinge of betrayal as well – that somehow I was betraying her trust that I would be faithful and always be hers. Be that as it may, for my own emotional health it felt like it was the right thing to do. And truth be told, she would not see it as a betrayal. That was only my own emotions conjuring up that image. She would be happy that I had found the strength to do that.

 

And then of course it was just last November that I began to intuit that it was time to let everything go and “just be” for a while. No more classes, no more workshops – I even stopped my group meditations for a month and I simply let go. Let go of everything. . .  I got through Christmas still kind of okay although I could feel my sense of well-being quickly deteriorating. And then it vanished and I hit that dark night of the soul. Ok… I admit that may be overstating it a little bit. I wasn’t completely incapacitated by depression, but I was certainly considerably diminished and remain so even now.

 

That said, it didn’t take long until I began to see how my newly acquired negative attitude began to attract negativity to me. Like unto like. The contrary position being that no matter how I had floundered in the first 18 months after Laureen had passed, I somehow managed to stay positive and that had kept positive things, people, and events flowing to me. Now, with this crossover into the land of darkness, it wasn’t too long before negative things began manifesting. . . a car accident, a hurt knee, unexpected bills. . . I realized I needed to pull myself out of my tailspin or it was going to become one ugly plane wreck.

 

Still, it wasn’t the easiest thing to do as I was hitting some important anniversaries which included the day we found out that Laureen had cancer (Feb 1st), followed by our wedding anniversary (Feb 7th), and now today, the anniversary of our engagement (Feb 14th). I have one more anniversary to go after today – that would be the day that Laureen took her last breath and left this planet – March 8th.

 

[Pause for dinner]

 

So, where was I going with all of this? Well, somewhere along the way I began taking baby steps to change my direction a bit, and I also realized that what was going on here was that I was being asked to begin the process of letting go of Laureen, and letting go of that part of my life, and to truly begin to move forward again. And I think that because I saw how I was beginning to attract negative stuff to myself, I realized that this letting go would be an act of self-preservation.

 

One interesting side-note in this. For the 23 months that Laureen has been gone I have barely watched television of any sort. Over the Christmas holiday I finally sat down and watched the entire Firefly series and I found that very interesting. One of my friends had been talking about  it and it had sounded interesting and then I discovered I already had the DVD set of the entire series and so that’s what I had done. It seemed like there were messages in that for me . . . primarily about leadership and about taking care of your own, but also a few relationship matters as well.

 

I had started to rewatch the series in early January and then for some reason I stopped and pulled out a different series. . . one that I had tried watching about five years ago called Eureka. And instead of starting at Season 1, I started with Season 2 and that is highly unlike me not to start at the beginning of something, even if I’ve been through it before. Be that as it may, having now watched two seasons of the show I have come to see that there is a message in this series for me too – a message about how to move on from loss of one’s marriage partner after death. Two of the main characters in the series had their significant others die on them and it was not just a two minute blip and then let’s move on with the show. One of the losses has become a running theme of the show and features how the surviving character has found his way back from devastating loss just as the other character is still working on it now. I was sitting there watching it just the other night when this realization popped into my head – “Pay Attention!” – that there is a reason why I am watching this show. And so I am thinking that someone (Laureen?) tripped a little off switch to on in my head and got me to change direction with my television viewing and so now here I am, about ready to start Season 4 of Eureka tonight and it seems like there’s a lot of change in store for Season 4 – just as life itself is a continual process of change.

 

And so it occurs to me that I am learning, ever so slowly and at times, painfully, to release all grasping at how I want things to be, and how I remember that things were in the past, and simply relax into my true nature as a child of the Universe.  Sometimes the image of a chrysalis comes to me as I quietly ponder these past few months. I have been sitting in a darkness, a void, and on the surface it feels as though time is both flowing and standing still. I am not “doing” anything in particular, and yet I feel that somehow I am changing. I am beginning to feel the slightest tingling of a sensation of emergence, but an emergence to what?  That I do not know. But if I just let it be (funny, since I just saw a Beatles tribute band last weekend), then somehow I know that it will be what it is meant to be.

 

Aho.

 

 

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ACCEPTANCE

The Unbroken

~
There is a brokenness
out of which comes the unbroken,
a shatteredness
out of which blooms the unshatterable.
There is a sorrow
beyond all grief which leads to joy
and a fragility
out of whose depths emerges strength.
There is a hollow space
too vast for words
through which we pass with each loss,
out of whose darkness
we are sanctioned into being.
There is a cry deeper than all sound
whose serrated edges cut the heart
as we break open to the place inside
which is unbreakable and whole
while learning to sing.

~
by Rashani

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I find myself in this odd muted zone between grief and not-grief these days. It was the same seven days ago on February 1st, which was the 3rd anniversary of our finding out that Laureen had cancer. And now here it is, our 3rd wedding anniversary already and I have been missing her, and grieving for her, these past two years now. And of course, on February 14th a confluence of events will occur – my mom’s birthday, my parent’s anniversary, and not the least, the anniversary of the day I finally proposed to Laureen.  That was back on February 14, 2010 – wow, almost six years ago now. I remember sitting on the couch that night with her in our sitting room. We had waited until late in the night to open our cards and gifts to each other and the very last thing Laureen had opened, sometime around 11:30 PM or so, had been her engagement ring. And I had asked, rather simply and somewhat nervously, because I wasn’t sure if she was ready for it, if she would marry me. And she finally said yes!

 

Last year Debbie had sent an email to me around our engagement anniversary and she had included the following snippet of information –

 

I had forgotten you and Laureen were engaged for five years …I do know she was super happy to be married to you and I recall our conversation  when I asked her if she felt different now that she was married to you . She had said yes that being married really made a difference to her [and] how she felt; she was really happy and wished now that she could have had a family.  I was so happy to hear her say this as I knew her change in wanting a family was huge.  She probably already told you this but thought I would share it with you in case she did not.  

 

I think about that sometimes now. What it would have been like if Laureen and I had had children and I still had our children around us – perhaps a daughter with Laureen’s same fiery, stubborn determination to face the world her way. And a son too. Maybe even three or four children.  It is all only dreams now, and possibilities that didn’t happen for us in this lifetime. Perhaps somewhere in a parallel universe Laureen and I are leading a happy life, filled with the laughter of our children and the heartaches too. No matter the locale, this universe or another one, I believe that heartache is always as much a part of life as joy is.

 

And having been through both, such great joy, and such deep heartache, it seems to me that it is meant to be that way. You cannot fully live, or appreciate the richness and depth of life, without having experiences in both realms – blissful heart-bursting joy and deep heart-rending sadness. It is the nature of our existence that we are meant to experience both aspects – the Yin and the Yang of life. During my first mediumship class last week, as we were engaged in our encounters with our first entities – the ones meant for us – we were instructed, through the guided meditation, to ask our guest for a symbol and for a brief moment nothing presented itself. And then I saw the Yin-Yang symbol and it was perfect. It was not something that my mind made up – for a moment there was simply nothing there because I had no expectations of anything, nor much thought at all for that matter, and then I saw the Yin-Yang symbol – it simply appeared and was present.

 

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I like this interpretation of the symbol. When it was presented to me by Laureen during the meditation, I saw its Truth. It is the ultimate symbol of who and what we were, and remain – two parts of a whole, perfectly united. We always commented to each other when we hugged or cuddled that we fit each other perfectly. Every nook and cranny of our bodies just folded into the other – no separation, no gap. And in each of us we always carried a spark of the other such that we did not exist absolutely in a vacuum. And somehow in the midst of the maelstrom that became our life, we found our Wu Ji – that still-point where we accepted our path and let it unfold as it was meant to in the greater scheme that is the natural cycle of all things.

 

I believe that I still exist at the Wu Ji. I allow my grief to find its expression because that is its purpose. Were I to bury it deep inside and try to ignore its presence I would plant a seed detrimental to my own well-being and deny an experience that was meant to deepen my appreciation for this gift of life that we have all been given. At the same time, I allow myself to continue to walk my path. . . to find beauty and joy in the world, to express my creativity, my curiosity, and to cultivate new friendships and navigate new adventures.

 

And I have been so richly blessed to have had many amazing experiences over these past two years of my life; some of them even life-changing experiences. And I have met more amazing people then I think I can even count now. It would appear that Life rewards those who are willing to take risks and those who stand back up after being knocked down and say, “I am not done yet.”

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FLASHBACK

When there’s someone, one someone, who makes your days brighter, makes your joys greater, makes your heart lighter..
Someone, one someone, you want to share with, do everything with, go everywhere with..
Someone, one someone you want to live for..
You have something called love.

~

Kahlil Gibran♥

 

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Three years and two and a half hours ago, on February 1, 2013, I was sitting in the living room when Laureen hung up the phone and turned to me. A half hour earlier, on a Friday evening, we’d just sat down to have our dinner together and watch a little television. It was just after 8:00 PM when the telephone rang. I went over to look at the Caller ID and saw that it was a call from the Marino Center so I answered the phone. It was Laureen’s doctor, Dr. Wedda. She asked for Laureen and so I cover the mouthpiece and told Laureen that Dr. Wedda was on the phone.

 

I returned to the sofa while Laureen went into the kitchen and sat at our little table and commenced a conversation with Dr. Wedda. I guess I can let my journal entry from two days after that moment carry the rest of the story . . .

 
February 3, 2013 – Sunday

 

Laureen is the center of my soul.  She is every bad clichéd phrase from every romantic comedy we’ve ever watched. I could not imagine my life without her – she is my heart song and the reason I do battle in the outside world every day – so that I may provide us both with a better life.

 

I was driving home Friday night thinking about our weekend.  I was hoping for a quiet, relatively healthy weekend.  I’d taken Laureen down to the hospital just this past Thursday night for an MRI to clarify some readings from an ultra-sound she’d had a week earlier.  Nothing in the doctor’s notes indicated that this was anything but a routine check just to make sure everything was okay.  Laureen had been a nervous wreck for a few days leading up the MRI – mostly due to the claustrophobic aspects of the test.  We ended up getting her a prescription of Lorazepam to take the edge off of her claustrophobic anxiety and that seemed to work.

 

Of course, I’d also been pretty sick earlier in the week with a cold/flu.  I actually stayed home for two days feeling pretty miserable and Laureen took wonderful care of me, especially on my worst day, Monday.

 

So, driving home Friday night I was just looking forward to a quiet weekend. And our weekend started quietly enough.  We were sitting down, having our dinner, when the phone rang.  I got up to check the Caller ID and saw that it was the Marino Center – home of Laureen’s doctor, so I answered the phone. She asked if Laureen was available and so I handed the phone over to Laureen. It was nearly 8:00 PM.

 

Their conversation ended about 25 minutes later.  Laureen had at first seemed rather stern but as the conversation had progressed she had seemed to become more “conversational” so I waited anxiously to hear what the results were.

 

I was not prepared for what she told me next.

 

“I have liver cancer.”

 

We sat there in shock. At first, I felt nothing.  I didn’t know what to feel. I still don’t know what to feel. We were both just shocked. This isn’t the kind of thing that happens to US – it’s what happens to other people, not us.

 

We’ve spent the last day and a half trying to process what this means, and crying, and worrying, and then, at times, being surrealistically normal.

 

We did make one decision.  We plan on getting married this week.  Tomorrow we will go down to the Sudbury Town Hall and file for our marriage license and after a three day waiting period we will pick it up on Thursday and go to a justice of the peace and get married.  It’s not the way that either one of us wanted to do it. I wanted it to be so special for Laureen.  She’s had so few special moments in her life – I felt like she really deserved to have at least one. But by getting married it will simplify my absolute legal rights as it pertains to her medical care.  Her mother will not be able to say or do anything and that is just what it is.

 

We have already decided that once we come out on the other side of this cancer journey that we are about to begin, we will do a real marriage ceremony.

 

And for now, I think that’s all I can say about this.  We acknowledge the need to stay positive throughout whatever this process will be and we send out our prayers and requests to the Universe to send us the doctors and support people that we will need in the coming days, and for loving healing energy and prayers from all our friends and acquaintances.

 

 

Sadly, we never got to have our “real” marriage ceremony. I never got to give her that special moment. We had other kinds of special moments, and we had one last summer where we still had hope left. I think I need to go seek some peace now. And let this memory wash over me and fade away.

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INCOMPLETE

Take a deep breath in … Feel the full presence of the Light within you. It is complete. You are complete.

~

Universal Light Workers

 

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The trick is to find peace with the process of life rather than with specific results. Listen to your intuition and relax a little more. Practice allowing.” – Kathy Freston

 

I was off-site today, meaning that I did not go into the office. Rather, I attended a committee meeting, of which I am a member, and in which we select the health insurance offerings that will be presented to the 30 independent schools that participate in the association sponsored health and benefits consortium. That makes it sound rather complicated, but honestly it is nowhere near as complicated as the entire health insurance quagmire that is our nation’s heritage. In short, it is extraordinarily complicated stuff and not for anything (after all, I am a bleeding heart liberal), but the ACA, affectionately known as Obama-care, has made a complicated system infinitely more complicated.

 

The committee itself consists of about a dozen or so business officers and HR professionals representing a dozen or so of the forty schools that participate in the program. Our goal is to do the best we can to control annual rate increases on health insurance for our member schools while not giving away the store. Not that there is 100% congruence in that purpose among the committee members. Independent schools are independent for a reason, we all tend to have different outlooks and different concerns. Some schools are very focused on the business aspect of the school and cost, and cost containment, is everything. Other schools try to achieve a balance between controlling costs both for the school and for their employees, and yet others simply want to offer the best insurance benefit they can to their employees, cost be damned.

 

Today’s meeting was five hours long. Finance and business gurus that we are, even our heads start spinning after a couple of hours. Lots of numbers and financial scenarios and discussions about using insurance benefit adjustments to modify employee and institution behavior in an effort to instill more “consumerism” into the process.  And if the health care industry were strictly a free market enterprise then I might almost accept the trade-off. Almost. . .

 

We sat there listening about “high cost” claimants. . .  you know, those medical issues like cancer and organ transplants that can easily go into hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars of claims and oh boy… if we could only nudge them into making different health care choices then maybe our rate increase this year would be 10% instead of 11%.  Numbers and more numbers and attempts to instill policies and benefit modifications which I affectionately call “shifting the cost to the employee” to inspire “behavior modification”. Hell, if we shift enough of the cost enough to the employee then maybe some of these “high cost claimants” will shift their behavior sufficiently so as to decide to forego treatment altogether and simply die and get off our plans sooner rather than later. Not that we break it down to that level – no, we simply stay focused on the numbers. That’s just the thought running in the background in my own head.

 

After four hours I couldn’t take it anymore. I tried to sit on my hands and be a good committee member and think of the best financial interests of the participating schools but dammit – these aren’t numbers we’re talking about here. These are people. People like you and people like me. So when you nudge a prescription benefit so that instead of someone having to pay $50 for a ‘script’ that might have a “full cost” of $25,000 so that now they have to pay $5,000 (that’s on a 20% co-pay) um, what might the result be?  Oh, well, maybe you shaved a half of one percent off the rate increase to the schools, but what about that one person who needs that prescription to live and now you’ve adjusted their cost from $50 to $5,000 for one fill in the name of “behavior modification”?  And so now they can no longer afford that prescription and, well, “so sorry”, little Johnny has to die for the sake of the bottom line of 40 schools.  Oh, and yes, there are prescriptions that cost $25,000, per fill, and more in some instances. And yes, I did say this in the meeting. Someone has to remind the rest of the committee that there are honest-to-god people behind all of these numbers.

 

I do a lot of mental squirming in these meetings. It’s not like there is any one person, or group, that you can blame. I’m beginning to think that the insurers are among the less culpable. Right now the bogey man, front and center, are the large pharmaceutical companies. It is an industry that screams for federal regulation. But even that is only a part of it. The whole system is corrupt, overly complicated, unfair, and all-but-broken. It is yet another example of the “Wild West” mentality in that, lacking regulation, everyone is out there grabbing as much as they can for themselves and while there is probably a lot of individual concern on the part of healthcare providers for the health and well-being of individuals, it is simply not organizational or social policy.

 

Now our nation’s Declaration of Independence includes the following statement –

 

We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just powers from the consent of the governed. . .

 

So then, when do we, as a society, implement a social policy that includes the right to fair and equitable access to health care for all? And if it has to be regulated by our government to make it so, then that is what we should do. I think it is really that simple. The purpose of government is to provide certain “essentials” that provide for the common good. In that spirit I would certainly include other fundamentals here as well. . . housing, food and health – all fundamentals of Maslow’s Hierarchy of needs. Ensure the “survivability” of people and let them figure it out from there. I swear, if we, as a society, were more concerned about the health and welfare of all people, and less concerned about profit and un-ending growth, we would live in an entirely different world. The world we live in today, in this American society, is simply not sustainable and unless we change it we are most certainly going to find that out one day.

 

So that was my day today.

 

“All we ever have is this very moment, so the only thing we can do for sure is be present. The more present you are, the richer your experience will be.” – Kathy Freston

 

Ok then. . . while in the midst of this five hour meeting today, I received a message from my dear friend and her husband that their beloved dog had been diagnosed with cancer of the heart and was suffering badly and so they had made the very, very difficult decision to have the Vet come over this afternoon and end her suffering. I honestly had all I could do to not cry in the midst of today’s committee meeting. How very, very sad. I know how much they loved Diva and how hard that decision must have been for them.

 

When I got home tonight I knew I needed to do something to help them, as small an act as it might be. I felt like the best thing I could do would be to send them some distance Reiki for gentleness and healing and love. As I prepared my meditation room and drew my Reiki symbols, the tears that I had held back earlier, in the meeting, flowed freely. I know that Laureen will be there waiting for Diva and will see her in a different light than how she presented on Earth. I set up a gentle meditation using my meditation teacher’s CD (she is such a gentle spirit) and smudged my meditation room and myself before sitting down and proceeding to meditate and connect with Reiki and with Laureen. It was a good ceremony.

 

And now, I am sad, but I understand that this is the way of life. As Kathy Freston says in her book, “The nature of life is that things are always changing. Nothing stays the same for long.”

 

And that is the ultimate truth of it. If we go back a scant 3,000 years – none of the primary Gods that we take for granted today even existed. Buddha didn’t show up until about 2,500 years ago, Jesus 2,000 years ago, and Mohammed about 1,500 years ago.  Rough timelines, but meant to bring some perspective. So 3,000 years ago the dominant gods were Egyptian and Greek, and probably the Roman Gods just starting to take off as Rome began to emerge roughly around 800 BC, or about 2,800 years ago. Of course there were a plethora of other Gods too, but the fact is, that the Gods we talk about today, and hold so sacred, and quite willingly die for with alarming regularity, didn’t even exist 3,000 years ago. Being a curious sort, I tend to wonder who our Gods will be in another 3,000 or 4,000 years from now and I’m going to hazard a guess that it won’t be the ones we hold in such high regard today.

 

All I am saying here is that everything changes, over time. Even our Gods change. Civilizations rise up, fall back, and disappear into the sands of history. Perhaps we need the drama of it all in order to stay engaged and interested. If nothing ever changed, and no one ever died, I suspect it would be an extraordinarily boring and stagnant existence. There are times when I yearn for an oasis of stillness and a sense of permanence wherein nothing ever changes. But sooner or later, when I do achieve that state, it begins to feel stifling and I seek to welcome change back into my life.

 

It is at those times that. . . “the soul whispers, ‘Wake up! Look at what you are doing and change your ways.’ “

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DREAM FRAGMENTS

To sleep, perchance to Dream; aye, there’s the rub,
For in that sleep of death, what dreams may come,
When we have shuffled off this mortal coil,
Must give us pause.

~

William Shakespeare

 

Mom Austin 03

 

I saw mom this morning. She was in the last dream fragment that I had before waking up fully. I’d been having one of those tossy-turny mornings. I think I first woke up around 7 AM or so, but I was feeling very lethargic, even after nine hours of sleep and so I kept falling back to sleep and waking up again, taking fifteen minute catnaps.

 

In my very last catnap we were both standing in a living room. It was late at night and only mom and I were in the room. Mom was in front of me and I immediately knew it was her. She was older… like the late 50s / early 60s version of mom. There was still a kind of tiredness around her. She kind of had her back to me but she was turned a bit to her right so that I could see the profile of her face. There was a sofa to our right too, and she was in the process of stripping a set of sheets off the sofa, as though preparing to do laundry. I immediately said to her, “let me help you with that” and I took a few short steps over to the sofa and pulled the remaining sheet off of the sofa.

 

And suddenly I was infused with this almost overwhelming sense of love for mom. It was coming from me, but it was also all around us, so that it was coming from her too and just suffusing the whole space that we were in. The room was pretty dark so that all I could really see was her and the sofa. I felt this sudden urge to tell her that I loved her and I approached her (the sheet that I had just removed from the sofa had mysteriously vanished at this point) and I reached out and touched her right shoulder with my hand with such a strong intention of telling her I loved her but the words never came out and they didn’t have to. The sense of love between us was so strong and tangible. I just had this sense, inside of me, of hearing, “I know”.

 

And the final, and only thing, that she actually said to me was, “I just want to finish what I was writing. . .”  I noticed that there was a hint of regret in her voice.

 

And then I woke up, the echoes of love still filling my soul. I was still groggy. I got up, went into the shower, and I could still feel the tendrils of love around me. I wandered through the memory of the dream as I washed my hair with my eyes closed and I started to feel both glad that she had finally appeared solidly in my dream, and sad and as the sadness washed over me I cried a bit for the loss and let the water from the shower wash my tears away.

 

Angel 01

 

A short time later, and before leaving the house for work, I did a quick check-in on Facebook. The first message that the great Facebook Oracle gave to me was a message from my sister, Ellen. It was a post that the medium, Deb Livingston had put on Facebook (see above) which was appropriate since Deb was the medium that Ellen and I had gone to, to talk with mom. So only now, as I am sitting here writing, does it hit me that mom is letting me know that she is around.

 

The second message that I got from Facebook this morning was –

 

“The most important thing in life is to learn how to give out love, and to let it come in. The only time we waste is the time we spend thinking we are alone. You’re not a wave, you’re a part of the ocean.”  – Mitch Albom

 

And I admit, I have been doing a lot of “thinking I’m alone” stuff lately so I guess mom decided it was time to suffuse me with a dose of love. Wow – I am just so glad that I got to see her. It does make me wonder where her journal is because I know she had a significant one somewhere and it sounds like it wasn’t finished. Not that I am the only writer in the family. There is my niece, Maddie, and my brother too, the proverbial tortured poet.

 

And so now I am just shortly arrived to work this morning, rather late I might add, and I needed to write this all down, now, before it disappears. So while I am at it, I do still recall one other dream fragment. . .

 

I had been in another dream, and then suddenly I was in a new place. . . starting a new job. I was low man on the totem pole again. I’m not quite sure what the job was. It was for a very small company. I actually think Don Nichols was there (which would qualify this as a nightmare) and in fact, I think it was his company. Don was someone I had worked for back in the 1990s. . . my one foray into the world of publishing but he was one crazy motherfucker. I had to quit after a year because he was so messed up.  Anyhow, I never really saw him in the dream, I just sensed his presence. There was something electrical about the place, like I was going back to one of my former professions of being an electronics technician. It was the end of a work day and I was around my workbench area and they were drinking coffee, or maybe wine or something, and I had to sweep up around my bench with a push broom. Everything in this dream was vague – I never really saw anyone clearly, I wasn’t sure what my job was, and then I think I had woken up briefly and that broke the thread. . . The only thing I vaguely recall was that I was there to “fix” things, to somehow make it all work. And it wasn’t so much the physical work that would do that, almost more like just my presence, or that I would know where to plug in and make things heal and work better. That was my sense of it.

 

So, on to real life now. I was pretty tired last night. This getting up super early and working late takes a toll these days. In my laziness, I ordered a pizza for dinner. Pizza definitely weighs me down.  Anyhow, after I ate dinner I felt like I was done with Facebook and I just didn’t have the energy to write. It was time to play with my last hope for trying to record my own music at home. I had ordered a new microphone a few days ago. . .  a Yeti USB Blue Microphone. Supposedly just plug and play. For a hundred bucks I figured it was worth a try.

 

So it arrived on Wednesday and I decided to open it up last night and see how complicated it was going to be. Well, I have to give it to them. . . it literally was “plug and play”. There weren’t a zillion pieces to put together – the microphone was already on the stand. Literally all I had to do was plug the USB cable into the microphone on one end, and into the computer on the other. And it worked!!  And not only did it work with the Audacity software, but it also worked with the Ableton software too.  And I even figured out how to add multiple tracks to a recording using Audacity, almost by accident. (Yes, Master Oogway, I know, “there are no accidents!”)  So I recorded my flute first, and then recorded some drumming, and then put them together. Total and complete awesomeness!!

 

In the Audacity software, the flute records as it is played, with no embellishments, but it is a very realistic recording of how it sounds. In fact, it is the best that I have been able to achieve so far. The microphone itself has four modes :  cardioid, bidirectional, omnidirectional & stereo.  I only used the cardioid mode last night and it was really awesome!  Very realistic sounding. I did have to add in reverb after the recording, which is relatively easy to do in Audacity.  Ableton is a much more extensive piece of software. I was able to record while working through one of their built-in tutorials on recording and the nice thing about that tutorial is that it had the reverb built into that tutorial and it was pretty damn close to the type of reverb level that I would have tweaked it to anyhow. So I did a few takes of the song, “What Child Is This”, on my flute. Very, very cool!! I am very excited about this. Alas, I simply ran out of steam last night but the preliminary indications are that this is going to let me do what I have been wanting to do, and in a rather simplified manner, which is exactly what I wanted.  Awesomeness!

 

And so, for now, that’s all I’ve got. Time to let this day unfold.

 

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STOP

“Within each of us there is a silence
—a silence as vast as a universe.
We are afraid of it…and we long for it.”

~

Gunilla Norris

 

Image 01-13-16

 

This feels like an apt portrayal of my current state of being. It is dark and gray and I am standing in the graveyard of my memories. I am alone. I weep for all the things that once stood as bright and shining possibilities and which now reside beneath solemn stones that, in time, will decay and crumble back into the earth from whence they came.

 

In November I received the message that I needed to stop. To stop doing, to stop pursuing, to just stop and be quiet. My ego told me that this would not be a good thing to do. That I was inviting catastrophe to pay a visit. Despite my misgivings, I realized that I was beyond exhausted and that regardless of the consequences, it was time to stop.

 

Of course, December is a month of holidays, accompanied by all manner of associated and necessary preparations and so I was able to keep myself busy right on through to the big day of December 25th.

 

And then I did just stop. Well, it did not take long for the world to collapse in around me. The external grayness of the skies only accelerated a process that was no doubt overdue. I would set the date at December 28th as that day in which the dark clouds rolled in and whatever faint flicker of optimism for my future that I’d been holding onto finally surrendered to the darkness. Indeed, I can almost pinpoint the exact moment – 10:45 AM.

 

In point of fact, it was a rather inconsequential incident in the larger scheme of things. I was sitting in my car, digesting a bit of disappointing news and waiting to pull out of my parking space. I could sense a certain feeling of chaos in the air – I tried to back out once, only to catch another car pulling out so I pulled back into my spot and let them pass. Certain that things were now clear, I backed out again, successfully this time, and in that one particular moment when my car was still stationary as I was in the process of shifting from reverse into drive, a car parked directly behind mine pulled straight out and I could only sit and watch, frozen, as I knew with a certainty that she was going to hit me and there was nothing I could do about it. It was a microcosmic reflection of that very same moment wherein I understood, just from the look on the doctor’s face, and before he even said a word, that Laureen was going to die and there wasn’t going to be a damn thing I was going to be able to do about it. In fact, it was the very same experience.

 

Sometimes you just have to give in to the inevitability of a moment and your soul just knows that there is no recourse, there is no other possibility. There is only that one certainty that is staring you right in the face and you just have to sit there and let it be whatever it’s going to be.  So that car accident, as minor as it was, triggered a whole series of emotional events from which I am still reeling. Laureen always said that it is the small things that are the big things.

 

Earlier tonight I was talking with a good friend (and very talented artist) who suggested that . . .

 

“. . . perhaps, if you’re at such a low point, it’s a point of transmutation. Going through the worst of it before it transforms… I can’t really put that into words as much as I’d like, but I hope it still makes sense.”

 

My response to her was:

 

“. . . it does make sense. I was just sitting here thinking that same thought before I read the last piece you wrote. I am wondering if I am starting a new kind of grieving process as I struggle with the notion of selling my house. This [house] is kind of like my last strong connection to Laureen. This is the center of everything that we dreamed about, and everything that we did together. To let go of this house is a really big, big letting go of her and then I’ll be at the edge of the world… actually I will have stepped off the edge of the world and will be… well, that’s just it – I don’t know where I will be. And I think I’m very afraid of that, and very afraid of letting go of this huge piece of what was our life together.

 

I am at this point of, like, what am I supposed to do with my life now? I think that the final realization is setting in that she is never coming home again. Like, if she showed up here tomorrow, she would still recognize our house, she would still have clothes to wear, she would still have her nail polish and her brushes…. man, I cannot tell you how much this sucks.

 

It is a step that I have to take, and I don’t want to take it.  Our 3rd wedding anniversary is coming up on Feb 7th. We only got the chance to celebrate one anniversary together and then she died a month later. I honestly still can’t wrap my head around it all.”

 

[cue]

 

. . . Hello darkness my old friend . . .

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