My Soul Songs #15

I’m going to make mistakes sometimes.

I might even lose my way.

But I keep going.
I’m going to fail sometimes.

I might even cry.

But I keep trying.
I’m going to  fall sometimes.

I might even hurt.

But I keep rising.
I’m going to be scared sometimes.

I might even falter.

But I keep singing.
This is my soul song, and mine alone. And it must be sung.

Pink Tube Socks 

I never understood the reason to be just “sugar and spice and everything nice.” How limiting it seemed! Of course I told everyone that. I could play house, play school, play with my dolls and do their hair. I could dream looking through the JC Penney catalog at all the princess dresses I dreamed to wear with my long golden blonde hair cascading in waves over the back. I could sing lullabies to my sisters and give eskimo kisses to soothe souls.

But I could also climb a tree higher than anyone I knew and win every race on our bikes. I popped the best wheelies and had the best hot-wheels collection in the neighborhood. I could dream of being a stunt driver. I could scare the other kids with spiders and snakes and worms and any creepy crawly. I could be dared to do just about anything. And I never lost a game of dodgeball! I loved my “snips and snails and puppy dog tails” side.

I was lucky that my family supported my supposed contradictions in my tomboy/princess persona. I remember months and months of my parents going store to store to find a pair of pink tube socks for me. This gesture exemplifies the love and dedication my mom gave me. And this very specific fashion need exemplifies my true nature.

My mom would have done, and did, just about anything for me possible. No desire was ever considered silly. The countless hours caring for my hair and learning new styles so I could feel like a princess in a fairy tale as I ran around in my green baseball tee, nike shorts and pink tube socks are cherished memories. My beautiful dollhouse and coveted race car track for my shiny hot-wheels weren’t the most expensive toys in the neighborhood but they were exactly what I wanted. And the yards and yards of fabric for me to make clothes for my barbies stored next to my sports equipment fed my imagination and boundless energy. My mom made all of this possible.

I was encouraged to be uniquely me and proud of my complexities and gifts. Pink could be my favorite color even if I loved sports. I could be a tough princess. And I could be very clear on what I wanted and fight for it with a loving heart.

I was artistic and athletic. I was adventurous and nurturing. I was a peace maker and a leader. I was loving and driven. I was tender and strong.  And I was always supported.

No matter how many struggles life threw my way–hospital visits, abuse, lost friendships–I never doubted I was loved for just who I was.

Like many women, the world challenged my strength and my unique nature. I subscribed to magazines that advertised very specific ways I should act and feel. I listened to music about how I should love and dream. And I lost myself a little bit more each year.

The path of least resistance was the path of suppressing some of what made me uniquely me, until I forgot just what made me special. But life sent me a wake up call a few years ago that I couldn’t fully appreciate until recently. When you realize life is short you realize you need to make the most of it.

We have to do what makes us truly happy. We have to be true to who we are and make the most of our gifts. This is our mortal cause. Every year we must become more and more who we truly are.

The world needs our unique contributions and will love us for who we are, if given a chance. My mom taught me this and I’m finally learning to believe.

And, today, these pink tube socks remind me of this.

How do you remind yourself to be bravely true to you?

 

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My Soul Songs #9

Who Am I?

When I imagine the way in which others see me, I still think the shy, smart, sad, and painfully quiet little blonde with glasses is all there is.

But I was the bubbly blonde who talked and laughed all through Sunday school. I was the girl who was everyone’s friend. I was the girl who could outrun and out arm wrestle any boy. I was the girl who had boys vying for her attention. I was the girl who could sing like an angel. I was the fashionable girl who made her own trends.

Still I became the shy, quiet, but smart little blonde with glasses. I cried every night. I lost my voice and stopped speaking up. I learned to blend in, not wanting to make waves or risk attention. I feared making friends I would just have to leave.

It hurts me even now to realize I learned to suppress my laughter, my strength, my energy, my very needs and goals. But what hurts even more than acknowledging the forces to which I was responding when I learned to hide my true essence is the fact that I allowed myself to be only half alive for far too long after those forces ceased to be part of my life.

I have decided to stop responding to those forces, now long past, and to live fully, true to myself.

I am brave and strong. I give voice to the voiceless. I sing songs of joy and love. I put myself out in the world. I take risks. I fear no one. I live for no one’s approval. I live to love life and make a difference.

I am not shy and quiet. I am bold and vibrant. I am no longer hiding who I truly am.

 

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Extraordinary Girl, Part 2

I pull out my American Idiot tee, hoping to feel sufficiently badass for strength training at the gym. But it happens again. I relive everything in the moment it takes to pull it over my still-sturdy shoulders.

I request Siri begin playing “Extraordinary Girl” to get me pumped, and to process the pain of the memory. And I travel back in time.

It was December 2, four years ago. I stood in line to purchase my commemorative tee, and one for my husband and son of course. I was giddy with anticipation before the show.  The reviews had been solid, but that didn’t matter. I’d wanted to see American Idiot for years. It had been a feat to get tickets and coordinate our schedules, but everything had fallen into place and now, there I was, buying mementos to mark the moment.

Following the sing-alongs, the tears, the groans, the laughs, I stood for the ovation. “Well, crap.” I thought. “I can’t feel my back. That’s strange.” I walked out to the car, pounding my side, trying to bring the feeling back. It never came.

Ruston drove home as I tried to calm my nerves. I noticed, instead, that it wasn’t just my back. It was the whole right side of my torso. I wasn’t as scared as I should be, but I was mentally playing the odds like I always do. “What are the odds this is cancer? Circulatory? Spinal? Neurological? Just a pinched nerve?”

Two weeks later, it was worse and the pinched nerve theory was eliminated completely. After a course of steroids and ant-inflammatory drugs, so was the spinal theory. Something wasn’t right. I began researching. I knew what was wrong, but the odds seemed so slim! How could God allow me to have this condition? The same condition that claimed my step-dad’s first wife? The condition I had donated funds to for more than a decade so none would have to watch their loved ones deteriorate as he and my stepbrother and sister had.

How could it be?

Time passed and I visited clinics and doctors a few times each week. 9 MRIs later, the diagnosis I had given my self four weeks into the ordeal proved irrefutable. MS.

Insert favorite curse word, tears, anger, regret, complete frustration with statistics and probability–my beloved logic… all of it.

“I wish it was you” I said, as horrible as I knew it was. I am good at taking care of people. I like it, even. I hate being taken care of.

So I dedicated myself to caring for others while I could. “I should do this. I don’t know how much longer I’ll be able to…” That warped sense of depreciating value shifted, though, and I’m thankful.

I increased my attention to my own health and wellness. And I realized that not knowing how much time I had left could be an important reminder to enjoy life, live as I had always wanted to–and not wait!

I run to the car now, chilled by the frigid 20-something weather and lightly falling snow. Fully present, no longer dwelling and processing on my lessons learned, I start the engine. I have places to go, people to see, things to do!

Heading to the gym tonight, I’m reminded of my strength and the power of living fully. My choices determine my destiny far more than any “condition” outside of my control. And, so, here I am, on my way to laugh with friends as we lift, squeezing in an extra strength session between travels.

This is the life I want. I want fun, fitness, friends, and the family I’ve made around me of those who treasure joy as much as I do and never take a moment together for granted.

 

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Silver-Linings

“You’re playing the Polyanna Glad Game again, Honey. There doesn’t always have to be a silver lining,” she smiled her sad, sweet smile as she looked through the rearview mirror back to me, seated in back of our old Honda Civic.

I half-laughed, half-sighed at her silliness. “But, Mama!” I exclaimed. “It doesn’t matter if it has to be or not. It’s just that there IS always a silver lining!”

It was that day I realized how sweet and sensitive my mama was. I worried she was too beautiful and too fragile for this world. To me, she was practically perfect, in the way a delicate work of blown glass might be. Dainty and delightful, her laugh tinkled, her bright blue eyes danced, her freckles played across her face, and her arms were always outstretched ready to give or receive a hug. But she was also sad. If only she could see all the good!

I thought of that scene in the musical Peter Pan when Tinkerbell’s light was fading, she was dying, because not enough children believed in fairies. That’s how my mama seemed to me at my brash, bold ten years of age. Mama even looked like the Disney version of Tinkerbell with her short strawberry hair and tiny figure. At just under five feet tall with pixie-like humor and a child-like voice, the cartoon could actually have been based on her.

She was going through a rough time, I knew that. And her heart was hurting. So much in her life had changed and she was questioning how to move forward. She was also worried about me. I never really understood that, but I do now.

I was always sick. I missed so much school. Something was always wrong with me and I had to see specialist after specialist to try to decipher the genetic code destroying my immune system. But in my mind, I was strong. I was amazing. God was good. Life was a gift. And no matter how bad things got, somehow, it seemed, they always worked out for me and I was okay. There was always a silver lining.

As we drove to the doctor’s office, yet again, I know my mama was worried that someday I wouldn’t be able to find a silver lining and I wouldn’t know how to deal with that. And I was worried my mama would miss out on the joy life had to offer.

Fast forward thirty-some-odd years, and not much has really changed. My world view is still informed by the search for a silver lining. And Mama is still trying to remind me that life is more complicated than that.

As we debriefed my last appointment with my new neurologist tasked with caring for the MS trying to take over my nervous system, I cried as I admitted this disease did not have a silver lining and I didn’t think I got it to learn some sort of cosmic lesson.

“MS just sucks. And that’s the way it is” I gulped between sobs. She took my hand and held me, no words needed.

But, true to form, I moved on and found silver linings. I found the lesson to live life to its fullest. I found motivation to get stronger and eat better and achieve my goals. I realized how healthy and fortunate I was compared to so many. Somehow, I’ve been able to make the glad game not just an appreciative process of gratitude, but a way to get through the hard times–even ignore them.

A few years later, Mama sat across the table from me and held my hands again. This time she asked, “When are you going to stop playing the glad game, sweetie?”

I broke down in tears. I’d been listing all the evidence I could that everyone in my life was doing their best, the evidence that things were good enough, that I needed to be thankful. But I wasn’t just focusing on the good.  I was deluding myself into thinking everything was “just fine.”

A silver lining doesn’t mean there isn’t a cloud. I was ignoring the clouds. And I was in the middle of a storm.

My mama, the sweet, sensitive soul I once worried was too fragile for this life showed me what real strength is that day as she let me cry. Real strength is acknowledging what is and moving on with a smile through the good and the bad. I can still find a silver lining but I cannot pretend the clouds aren’t there.

This will be my work this year. I will seek joy and love and light and all the silver linings I can. But I also deserve some sunny days. So instead of pretending the clouds aren’t there, I’ll seek cover, even bluer skies. Because there isn’t always a silver lining, but there don’t always have to be clouds overhead either. silver-lining2

 

 

Meditation for a New Year

The scent of lavender oil and sandalwood incense intermingle as they waft about the small, dimly lit room.  I breathe it in and let the healing begin. I offer a silent prayer and set my intention for the day. As the sun begins to peak over the mountains in the distance I begin my meditation, my role in receiving the answers to all my heartfelt prayers.

“I will do as much as I can for as many as I can for as long as I can.” I repeat the mantra as I meditate. I’ve never been able to sustain meditation without a mantra.  I go to this particular mantra often. It focuses me.

A gift from a dear friend one birthday many moons ago, I have kept this little saying in my office for more than a decade, and in my heart and mind always. It is one of my Soul Songs that reverberates with each breath and vibration my existences sends out into the universe and its pure light, my tiny ripple in the waters of life.

I am only one, but I am one. I am all that I am, nothing more, nothing less and that is enough.

Breathe in, breathe out. A deep, healing, falling out breath. I release all the negativity and fear. I let it go.

“I am enough. I will do as much as I can for as many as I can for as long as I can.”

None of us know what the future holds and that’s okay. What we are capable of is ever-changing and often far greater than we ever give ourselves credit. I take another deep breath and I remind myself of this.

“I will do as much as I can for as many as I can for as long as I can.”

I breathe in and out along each chakra as I visualize my core and every place of strength and weakness along the way, scanning my body in my mind’s eye. I send love and light to each crack and fill ache each with gratitude for doing their best to hold together the strength needed for me to continue each day with a smile. I am so thankful.

These mortal vessels we’ve been given to carry us through this life experience are amazing, delicate and strong. I am in awe of all I can do and all I continue to become. So I give thanks.

I refuse to believe that our bodies become diseased or weakened for a reason or lesson to learn, but I do insist on learning something from every experience. The succumbing of my nervous system to MS didn’t bring any great lessons; I have chosen, however, to take it as an opportunity to focus my efforts, my purpose. My purpose is gratitude and joy.

I breathe in gratitude and prepare myself to give and receive greatness. I want to live a full and fulfilling life.

“I will do as much as I can for as many as I can for as long as I can.”

I have learned from MS and from each of the challenges, lessons, and gifts along my life’s journey. I have learned that I want to live a life full of laughter, smiles, hugs, music, memories, and those who feed my soul. Such a life aligns my purpose to my actions and empowers me to remember the difference we each make. I can make a difference.

E.B. White is said to have proclaimed “I get up every morning determined to both change the world and have one hell of a good time. Sometimes this makes planning my day difficult.” This is how I choose to live and create a life of my choosing.

“I will do as much as I can for as  many as I can for as long as I can” and I am one of those. I am fulfilled and energized by interacting with and giving to others. I have a contribution to make.

I can only fully make that contribution, though, if I honor myself and my needs. I will rest and restore and refresh. I will seek support and assistance too–from all sources, temporal and spiritual, for these gifts are for me to use along my journey so I stay strong and accomplish all the good I can do. It is with joy in my heart that I make the biggest difference. And the source of my joy is that “hell of a good time” I have. So, I will have a great time. And I will change the world. Today.

The incense is nearly extinguished. The sun is aloft. The world is aglow with daylight sparkling on snow. The meditation chimes hum.

Another deep breath and I am ready for the first day of this new year. It’s going to be a good one.

“I will do as much as I can for as many as I can for as long as I can.”

Namaste.

 

 

 

 

My Soul Songs #1

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Take these wings and learn to fly.

I already am all I hope to be.

My best self is with me at all times.

I am open to unfolding and revealing

my beautiful wings.

The’ve always been there.

I was just afraid to stand out and reveal

my greatness.

For when one soars, one risks falling.

Still, I choose to soar.

I already am all I hope to be.

My best self is with me

and she is ready to fly.

Reaching for the Sun

It appeared out of nowhere, like something from a modern fairy tale. As the sun began to rise it caught my eye. Well, how could I have missed it, really? Coffee in hand, I pulled open the heavy drapes to begin my morning meditation and there it was.

The stalk was more than four feet high and the golden petals circled a seed-pod large enough to drop a garden’s worth of seeds to spring to life in the coming year. It’s massive leaves, unfolded, sparkled a bit in the early light reflecting off the morning dew. I stood in awe, mug poised, paused, just before my parted lips.

Somehow, a stunning sunflower had sprung up in the middle of my roses–my carefully cultivated rose bushes. For years I have cared for and photographed my 24 rose bushes. Their fragrant layered petals and prickly stems have kept me company since we moved in more than a decade ago. I had dealt with the random stray weed, the circling bees, and cobwebs from friend and foe. But I had never had anything like this surprise sunflower.

Truth be told, I am not a huge fan of roses. They had been planted before my time but I cared for them. I loved their scent and their bright colors outside my window, surrounding my porch as I sat and studied. I would have planted wild flowers though, free, untamed, varying heights and colors and needs. But I live within the boundaries of my HOA and knew roses were manageable for this chronic allergy sufferer to care for with limited time and effort, and huge reward.

Roses had always seemed too predictable though, too typical. And those thorns! So uninviting to the photographer stepping in, leaning in for the zoom on a perfectly poised honey be in the center of the bunch when–“ow!” If roses were people, they would be the admired and cooly popular girl who didn’t want a hug or offer a smile to those she didn’t know. Not the type I would be friends with!

But this morning, in the midst of those cold beautiful roses, stood this reminder of not only the kind of person I would befriend, but the kind of person I want to be. This singularly strong and vibrant sunflower in a bed of roses, not looking down on them but looking up to the rising sun, turning to face it’s golden god-light breaking through early morning clouds. “Wow.” That was all I could say.

I don’t know for a fact that this sunflower was sent as a message to me, but that’s how I chose to take it. I sat and meditated on love, light, and the strength to grow into the fullness of who I am meant to be even amongst those who might prefer something more typical or traditionally beautiful, or something that seemed less out of place. I gave thanks as I watched the rays of light unfold from behind pale clouds. I felt a little taller, a little bolder.

I will never be traditionally beautiful or sweet but I have my own appeal. I am so strong. I am so full of life. And I refuse to stop growing, no matter where I find myself. I just keep reaching for the sun. sunflower-closeup-480x294