Monthly Archives: May 2014

Keep Breathing…

Today, the newest Heal My Voice book, Harmonic Voices, True Stories of Women on a Path to Peace launched.

To keep it real, I will share that I am more than a little nervous. Part of me is scared sh*tless. Keep breathing…

My story is titled, “Confessions of a Starving Fat Girl” and my stomach is doing back flips. My secret pain is no longer a secret. Anyone in the world can now read it. Even though in previous books I wrote about my sexual abuse, health issues and the challenges of parenting post-institutional kids, this story is the most disclosing and was by far the most difficult to write.

‘Confessions’ is about emotional eating and lack of self love. Deep breath.

In this Heal My Voice group, we started with the goal of writing about peace in the world. Generally, when one is ready to do the work, everything keeping you from the work comes up. So it was with the Voices of Peace group. Everything that was NOT peace presented. How can you focus on peace in the world when your life is blowing up, when all sorts of stuff is hitting the fan? Ahhhh….insight…..

Peace is an inside job. There can be no peace on the outside when there is no inner peace. How can I practice the Golden Rule when I treat myself badly? Yep, what came up was not flowers and fairy tales. It was a messy, painful wound that was ready to be cleaned out so the healing could begin.

We looked inside, healing parts of ourselves that were ready to be healed by sharing, feeling the feelings and learning how to accept what had been. No rewriting the past. Being honest with oneself is the work. What happened is fact. I can choose to judge or to view my past through the lens of understanding and compassion.

Coming to an understanding of this part of myself took work, seemed illusive along the way and was a conscious choice. I continue to integrate the learning.

I am, in many ways, an open book. Some family members think I am too uncensored. Transparency, no secrets. I am used to sharing with friends and being frank during interactions. I guess this book launch is the next step, into the world showing who I am.

What a Year

Today is the one year anniversary of my father’s passing. The anniversary effects have been working on me this week. I have felt anniversary effects from many traumas and losses. It took many years to realize that my August sickness, some malady or other that disappeared after the 11th passed was my body holding the trauma of rape and the onset of my first period.

Losing my mother in 2002 gave me another anniversary to acknowledge and remember. Now I am remembering my dad. This week has been rough. Anxiety has never been a major symptom until now. Breathing through what felt like the onset of panic attacks is how I have gotten through each day this week. Fuzzy-head and slowed word retrieval is more common for me under stress.

My father’s decline and death was relatively rapid. He was under hospice care for less than a week. One month to the day of his death, my sister-in-law, Peggy was diagnosed with AML (leukemia) and died nine months later.

It feels like my job this past year was to deal with Dad’s estate, what there was of it. I was the executor so it really was my job. I did not anticipate the emotional difficulty, the guilt, regret and sadness I felt over and over. Too many decisions. I had a standing weekly date with Reggie from Objects Found in Catonsville for her to come with a van and some weeks a van and truck to take items for resale. I gave metal objects to my friend Dottie for her folk art and vintage items to my friend Vanessa for her shop in Federal Hill. Thankfully, my husband took charge of some major cleaning out. Two dumpster later, four trucks of donations, freecycle give-aways and scrap metal pickups, the house, garage and out buildings are empty. Repairs are complete. The house is ready for a new family.

Dad’s death marked the beginning of the year in which the most difficult work was supporting Peggy, my brother Dan, and their adult daughters. I had helped my mother, my aunt and my dad in their dying. I spent a lot of time with Peg in the beginning, in the hospital right after her diagnosis when the reality of limited time was present but there was hope of additional time if she could receive a bone marrow transplant. Once the possibility of more time faded and the discussions shifted to quality of life, I said what I thought Peggy needed to hear and focused on Dan and the girls so they could do what they needed to do during Peggy’s final weeks.

And life continues. We had two bathroom remodels for our hundred year old house. We took a fabulous trip with David’s family in and around Italy. My sons, Anton and Sasha are finishing their degrees and interviewing for jobs. David was able to check off ‘seeing the Northern Lights’ from his bucket list. Birthdays, Christmas, Mothers and Fathers Days celebrated in a different way. Keeping some rituals, letting go others.

A year filled with receiving diagnoses and learning how to cope and manage, getting loved ones through broken bones, surgeries, betrayals and heartbreak. Normal life. Learning to navigate each year and each day as the new normal. Life without parents, life with loved ones creating their own lives and others coping with their current lives with diminished capacities and capabilities.

This indeed has been some year.

Ordinary / Extraordinary

One never knows when, where or with whom one will have a meaningful interaction. I wasn’t prepared for the depth of the question or response I had with a checker at Trader Joe’s.

After the usual, “Did you find everything you were looking for today?” and “So how are you doing today?” he followed up with, “What plans do you have for the spring?”

Not one for perky repartee, I answered, “Nothing extraordinary.”

Well, one person’s nothing extraordinary is another person’s incredibly extraordinary.”

Okay. Great line and so true. I was thinking of the usual tasks that are on the unwritten to-do list, to grocery shop, cook dinners, keep the house tidy, fold laundry, maybe look for some flowering annuals to plant.

I had not considered our just having returned from a trip to Iceland. Seeing the Northern Lights was on David’s bucket list. I did say, “I will be visiting a friend in San Francisco in a couple weeks.” He asked for how long and if it was for business. Then I added, “And I will be going to the Maryland Film Festival this weekend.” We talked about what will be showing, what I planned to see and the benefits of being a Friend of the Festival.

Pretty cool when I thought about it. I tend to get stuck in the minutia of the moment or lost in the overwhelm of everything to be done. But actually stopping to think about where we were just a few weeks ago, the adventure and pleasure of another film festival weekend and looking forward to visiting my California friend and having tentative plans while I am there is pretty extraordinary.

Add to that, Mothers Day is coming up. I have two amazing sons thanks to two brave women, their birth moms so on Mothers Day I can celebrate the gift that motherhood is for me and honor the other moms. I wrote stories for the three 2013 Heal My Voice projects. The first, Harmonic Voices, True Stories of Women on the Path to Peace, is coming together now and the launch has been scheduled for May 30th. We will be visiting family in Seattle sometime in the summer and we are talking about getting away in the fall.

When I stop to think about it, my life is quite extraordinary. Thanks to a conversation in a grocery line, I had the chance to reflect and acknowledge that and truly appreciate how fortunate I am.