MS: My Strength

MS reminds me how strong I truly am. MS reminds me that life is good. MS reminds me that time is short.

I don’t know why my immune system attacked my nervous system and left me with multiple scleroses. I don’t know if everything really happens for a reason. I’ve learned that I don’t have to understand. What I have to do is live fully, faithfully, believing in joy and love and my body and mind’s own desire to heal.

By nature I am loving and peaceable, and also incredibly competitive with a tendency toward judgment–especially of myself. Last night, for example, as I did my workout. I went from celebrating my strength and honoring my body for continuing to progress to cursing my weak triceps. I completed multiple sets of 30 military push-ups, which could be considered an accomplishment for anyone—let alone a 40-something fighting MS. Then, as I wobbled during my tricep push-ups, I momentarily gave into frustration.

 

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After 3 sets of 30 military push-ups I chastised myself for my lack of strength… really?!

“Why can’t I do these?”

“I’m so weak!”

“Why?!”

Really. This was my thought process at the end of a beautiful day that had included teaching yoga, working a productive work day supervising school administrators and supporting colleagues, connecting with friends, getting in a strength workout, spending time with my husband, and even just completing my gratitude journal for the day. How quickly and easily I went negative even after what, by all accounts, was a great day!

Nataly Kogan’s book Happier Now: How to Stop Chasing Perfection and Embrace Everyday Moments (Even the Difficult Ones) explains the neuroscience behind our continued obsession with finding fault, seeing the negative, and how that’s led many of us to strive destructively toward perfection. And I’m far from a perfectionist. But I understand that our minds are programmed to see problems. This is meant to help us avoid danger. We must avoid the danger of magnifying those problems, however, and, as HeatherAsh Amara coaches in The Warrior Goddess Training Guide, we can, instead, observe it, name it, and PUT A PERIOD ON IT. it is what it is. We must acknowledge it and then choose, free of judgment, how we will–or even if we will–respond.

So. I struggle to complete ten tricep push-ups in a set. I CAN DO TRICEP PUSH-UPS. I can move and keep strengthening my body. I have the luxury of time to dedicate to reading and learning, stretching and growing. I lived a great day and then had time to reflect and give thanks.

MS reminds me that some can’t move their bodies. Some don’t have time to rest. Some don’t have resources to heal.

My God, MS reminds me how much I truly have and truly am. I am blessed.

So today I give thanks for my strength. And I give thanks that MS reminds me that every movement of my body is a miracle not to be taken for granted.

I can’t wait to see how I get to celebrate and embrace my blessings today.

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My Soul Songs: Optimism

There doesn’t have to be a silver lining in all things. But the blessing is that there’s one anyway–if you look for it. That doesn’t mean we have to be thankful for all challenges and tragedies. But we can be thankful for the learning, for the response, for the deep breath when we realize we are still here and we can move forward positively or negatively. It’s our choice. I choose to be optimistic. I choose to make something good out of every experience I can.

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My Soul Songs: All I Was and All I Am

All I Was and All I Am

I thought all I was, all I had going for me, was being smart. At school, I had an identity and an escape. No one knew anything else of me or my life.

Then I learned that I was strong. I overcame illness and wowed everyone with my gymnastics and my spirit.

And when I prayed I knew I was happy. I knew I wasn’t like so many I saw around me. My energy was different. Silver linings filled my view and hope filled my heart.

My tear-stained pillow would be replaced with a bed of my own making. I ventured out to find my place in this world and I found myself.

I wasn’t “the pretty one.” I wasn’t “the creative one.” I wasn’t “the funny one.” I certainly wasn’t “the popular one.”

That’s okay.

I was so much more.

If I was to be just “one” I wanted to be “the joyful one.” But I realized none of us is one-dimensional.

I had to be shown my own reflection in the hearts and healers who came into my life over the years.

I had to help others find out who they were and what made them special before I truly knew how special I was.

Through prayer I learned I am loved and loving.

Through friendship I learned that I am a listener and I am heard.

Through work I leaned that I have both heart and mind to contribute equally.

Through illness I learned that I am beautiful and brave and won’t be beaten.

Through loss I learned that I am free to live this one life with all I have, to hold nothing back.

Through it all I learned to be true to all I am. I am so much more than smart. I am not just strong. I am blessed.

I head into 2018 knowing with all my heart that I am beautiful and brave and strong and true and free. I choose to live as I am for all of my days. I have so much to give and to receive. Blessed be. IMG_0187

My Soul Songs: Not Another Success Story

Mine is not another one of those stories of our struggles making us stronger.

I’m not saying struggles can’t make us stronger. But what about when they don’t? We’re somehow made to feel like failures if we can’t appreciate our trials, our sicknesses, our loss. Seriously? Sorrow shaming! Why do we do that?

… So this isn’t a story of gratitude although I’m grateful for every new day. This isn’t a success story although I’ve achieved more than I ever thought possible.

This is just my story. I’m not healed. I’m also not broken. I’m just doing my best to love and be  true to myself, scars and all. My struggles have simply revealed the strength I had within me all along and reminded me that time is too short to be anything but my best. IMG_5053

I Pray*

This is for all the little girls who learned silence and co-dependence. I pray you let yourselves heal. It will take years. And it will hurt. But it’s worth it when you realize how strong you really are. You’re amazing.

I don’t understand. He told me not to call again. But I thought he was my dad.

He’d raised me for nine years. He’d carried me out of movie theaters when my tears wouldn’t cease. He’d carried me to clinics and ER’s. He’d carried me through my advanced math classes.

He’d told me the whole room lit up when I smiled.

He’d also hurt me. He’d shown a temper like none I’ve ever seen. He’d crossed boundaries I couldn’t explain to most people. He’d taught this vivacious little girl to be silent. He’d shown me everything I wasn’t good at.

He’d said I was his little girl.
There’s a sad sort of beauty in the fact that I was always such a daddy’s girl. Every art project was a sort of homage to one of my father figures. These were usually of him, not my birth father or any other male role model in my life. They were of him. They were for him.  I wanted him proud of me. I wanted him to know how much I loved and needed him.

But he told me not to call. He wouldn’t be my dad anymore. So I cried, just once. Then I made a plan to move on. And it worked. I stopped being silent.

But I still remember. And, in the past few years, I’ve let myself cry some more. I was always a daddy’s girl. I loved him. I still love him, that part of him that carried me. But now I know I never needed him. I pray he understands.

*Praying by Kesha inspired this piece, and so many memories.

My Boy

I would give you everything.

For you, I would do anything.

I have lived for your every potentiality.

I have vowed to be available to you for all time and eternity. 

Even though you no longer need me, I need you to love me. 

And I’m so thankful that you do. 

You will always be my boy. 

Parables of Love, Part 2

Part 2: The Guiding Light You do not need to search for the light. It is already there. You just need to open your eyes to see it break through.

Yellows and oranges and pinks swirled across the cover of a thick clothbound text. Parables of Love for the Seeking was sewn in rich green threads around the front edges.The pages had those nice soft, uncut edges with tabs and flags marking favored quotes and sections. A rainbow of ribbons and bookmarks overflowed from the manuscript. But she knew just which one she wanted.

“We start our official lessons today, sweet Sarah,” Emma began.

The clouds parted and revealed bright, glowing godlight in the distance behind where Emma spoke. The big gallery windows of the yoga studio yielded completely to the rays, their panes invisible as the morning fog lifted. The sky still glowed gray beyond the reach of the beams radiating from the pale yellow orb, but the clouds no longer seemed threatening.

I checked my phone and the forecast no longer called for rain. Maybe the April showers were finally coming to an end and spring sun showers settling in.

I put my phone away to attune my energy and attention on my teacher. Emma had been my yoga instructor for three years now. Her group classes brightened my weeks, especially our Sunday morning sessions. We all came to class seeking rejuvenation for the week and we found it, Sunday after Sunday, as our energies merged and the music reverberated off the studio walls and mixed with our own frequencies.

Three weeks ago, I asked about private lessons. I just needed more. I couldn’t explain it, but I followed the prompting and I asked if she was available.

“I’ll only agree if you’re really ready,” she’d replied to inquiry.

I didn’t know what she meant at the time, but, of course, I said I was ready. Last week all we did was breathe and practice listening, so I was curious to see what this week would hold.

“I want you to look at the light. Focus on its subtle movement. Just look. Focus.” Emma lowered her voice bit by bit as she spoke, growing increasingly serene. I knew serenity should be my goal too. But…

I couldn’t help it. I laughed.

“Focusing is not really a strength of mine.”

She just smiled. “Focus, Sarah.”

The light then seemed to dance a bit as I looked at it. Nothing is ever completely still, I thought. Maybe I shouldn’t be so hard on myself for my struggles sitting still or even with lying in savasana. We are always moving. Forward, I added to myself. I am here, in fact, to move forward.

I felt a calmness begin to overcome me.

“There you are. Now tell me what the light makes you think of?” Emma prompted.

“What do you mean?” I asked, “Like a flame, or like something deeper… I don’t know what your’e after here.”

“Sarah, I mean the lesson it teaches you. That’s what you’re here for, right?”

I nodded.

“Well, the lesson is yours. You already know it. So tell me what you’re thinking about.”

This was not what I expected. Not what I signed up for, I thought.

But then, for some reason, it came to me.

“It makes me think of a poem I wrote for my mom years ago, ‘The Ballad of the Guiding Light’. I gave it to her for Mothers Day. It had been a rough year. I’d been in and out doctors’ offices. I’d changed high schools again. She’d been considering remarrying and was filled with self-doubt. We both were. There had been a lot of tears that year, mostly alone in our rooms, never shared, but we’d known there’d been tears nonetheless. So…”

I paused, a lump forming in my throat as I remembered. I really hoped I wasn’t going to cry now.

“So… you wanted to give her a lesson in love, and tell her that she had taught you that the guiding light was still and always there,” Emma concluded.

“Exactly.”

“That’s your first lesson, Sarah. And it’s one you’ve already learned but sometimes forget. The light is always there. Tell me the lesson, Sarah. How do you know the light is always there. Remind yourself.”

So I began to explain how what had begun as night-lights and bed time songs and family prayers and transformed into something greater. I had learned, through my mother’s love, to see the light in others. At first, it was just her. I saw the twinkle in her eyes and how it never faded. I saw how she beamed when she was talking to children.

Soon, I could see it in the children themselves. Eventually, I learned to see it when she wasn’t even with me. I realized it wasn’t even her light. It was more than that. It was universal, pure and loving. Godlight, I called it, after reading that phrase in a book once in which the author described luminescent rays breaking through clouds. It was always there, somehow, even if forces tried to hide it.

Not clouds. Not sorrow. Not loneliness. Not pain. Nothing could put the light out.

And my mom taught me that. From night-lights to godlight, I knew the darkness could not endure. Light always breaks through.

I was crying by now, but smiling somehow.

“We’re almost done, sweetie. But you have more to say. Tell me more about that guiding light,” she paused, “godlight, I like that. I want to know what you’re not telling me. Something powerful happened in a moment when you knew forever that light would be with you. And, if you tell me, the lesson will never be lost.”

I came to Emma because I was lost. I knew she was right. I knew I had within me all the lessons I needed. I’d been given a rich and complicated life and so many blessings, but I was so unhappy. It  was time to remember what I already knew.

The guiding light is still there.

“About two years ago, I had the most amazing experience. And what I remember most was the light streaming through the windows, surrounding me…”

 

NOTE: Part III was published as Soul Songs 22 and immediately follows this section of My Soul Songs, Parables of Love