Imagine All the People Sharing the World…

treeAfter I attended yet another funeral, I realized the power of our shared experiences as human beings.  At a time when our country feels so polarized, I am reminded that we are all born, live, and die in very similar ways.

After walking through the receiving line at the small funeral pallor, I was funneled into the area that held the various collages of family photos.  This part of a viewing is one of the most difficult for me.  Spread before the viewer is the unfolding of a well lived life.  There’s the photo of the deceased leaning on the side of the parked car.  He smiles from the top of the lifeguard stand on the beach long after the beach has cleared.  He stands behind his family with his arms draped on the shoulders of his two stepchildren, looking proud and happy.  I think back to my grandmother’s funeral, my best friends younger sister’s funeral, the funeral for my twenty-four year old cousin who died of Cystic Fibrosis and I remember the photos of their faces, lit from ear to ear with joy and life.  Pictures from proms and birthdays and weddings. Pictures from Christmases, Easters, and Halloweens all gone by and these moments stand in littered array at the end of their lines.  People pause and point at their favorites or they find the pictures that show occasions they also attended and they wipe the tears from their cheeks or they grin slightly at the memory.

We are all ushered into this world the same way.  A woman has carried us with her for many months and when the time was right for our entrance, we entered.  We live through holidays and celebrated experiences that were created by our society to remind us of our family or our unwavering traditions.  We live through ordinary days that are created by our jobs or our education.  Finally, we will meet our ends in whatever way has been determined and our visage will be only seen through the technology of the time that has preserved it.  How can we not see these major commonalities as a force that can unite us as opposed to divide?  Why can’t the knowledge of these things bring us together for the good of all and the view that all humanity matters?  Perhaps then people can stop being seen as illegals, or refugees, or welfare recipients or racists or pro-lifers.  We will never end bias by being biased.  It will only end when the things that make us similar outweigh the things that make us different.  It will end when we all support the other for the good of our world, not just our family, our community, our society, our country.

John Lennon sang it in 1971:

“You may say I’m a dreamer but I am not the only one

I hope someday you’ll join us and the world will be as one.”

 

 

 

Mortality and the Empath

Last night I had a really difficult conversation with my two little boys. I told them that I was going to another funeral.  This is my third funeral in just one month’s time, and I have to be honest, I am feeling a bit overwhelmed by the thin line that separates us from life and death.  As an Empath, I feel so many things, and the one thing I know deep within myself is that we are all connected. I know that when I die, the part of me that connects with this Universe will go back to its metaphysical state.  It is only my physical self that will be gone, but my physical self is doing a really big job right now: taking care of my boys.

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When I told them that I was going to another funeral, my seven-year-old looked at me with melancholy eyes, “I don’t want you to ever die, Momma.”  I put my hand on his cheek, and I wanted to tell him that will never, ever happen, but there was something in me that stopped the words from forming.  It was the piece of me that knows the stories of children who lose parents and they never recover, they never move on.  The death of the parental figure scars them for life, and they become stagnant and filled with fear.  My ex-husband was one of these people.  His father died suddenly in his sleep after his 42nd birthday.  My ex-husband was only 14 years old at the time.  He was damaged by this loss and also from the reaction of his mother.  She shut down and went into herself.  She convinced her boys that their lives had changed for the worse and there was no climbing out.  She taught my ex-husband that life is unfair and it needlessly takes the ones we love.  She taught him that the death was the end of everything and needed to be feared and fought.  She raised a man who was negative, dark and afraid.  I was scared that if something did happen to me, the boys would not be able to see the world in the right way again.  I felt that this was one of those moments that I could teach them something they could use if the worst happened.

“Well,” I answered, “I do not think that is going to happen for a long, long time, but here is what you can do if it does.”  My ten year old looked up from his Pokemon cards.  “You can know that you are not alone and that I am always with you.  You can know that all you have to do is say my name, and I will find a way to be with you, even if you can’t see me.”

“But how will we know you are there if we can’t see you?” One of them asked.  It was a good question.

“You will feel me there,” I answered.  They both raised an eyebrow.

“No, really, Mom.  How can we know?”  They both asked at once.  I had to really think and then it came to me.

“I will send you a sign,” I said.  “What should it be?  If you call for me, I will be there and you will know you because I’ll give you this sign.”

“Hmmm,” my oldest started.  “You mean like a street sign?  How about a stop sign?”

“No,” I said.  “It has to be something like a bird or a penny in the street. ”

“Oh, ok, how about a butterfly?”  He pointed to the butterfly tattoo on my ankle.  “Whenever I see a butterfly, I will know it is you.”  I nodded in agreement, and we all determined that this would be the sign.

“So this way you can know that I will always be with you and looking out for you no matter what.” The boys seemed okay with this idea and we moved on to talk about simpler things. The next day was a play date with my son’s friend, Jake. Ellen’s 60th birthday special was on again today.

The conversation moved on, but I am still stuck in my head.  Is it wrong to discuss these types of things with two young boys?  Does it do more harm than good to have conversations about morbid what if scenarios?  Will I truly have the ability to send a sign when I am gone?  I still don’t have the answers, but I hope that I in some way made a tough situation a bit better for them.  Perhaps someday, many years in the future, when they are grown and old and I pass on, they will be sitting somewhere sunny and a small butterfly will land next to them and they will think of me.

What’s Your Language?

Yesterday I took the Love Languages Test.  I found it really interesting and truly accurate.

I few years ago, I read the book and made my best guess as to which language was my top one.  For those of you who are unfamiliar, here is description I took from the Love Languages website:

  1. Words of affirmation: These are things you say that are encouraging and affirming. I imagine that they are complimentary in nature as well.  Things like, ” I am so proud of you.”
  2. Acts of Service: These are things one can do for other people: cutting the lawn, taking out the trash, making dinner.  These acts service help the other person in some way with seemingly mundane tasks.
  3. Quality Time: This is time spent with another person where each person is actively listening and engaged with the other.
  4. Gift Giving or Receiving: This involves a tangible object that is given as a gift. It does have to be something big and expensive, but it shows thought.
  5. Physical Intimacy: The site was clear to state that this does not have necessarily involve sex, but it could include hand holding, hugging, cuddling.

Before I took the test, I already knew that a big one for me was Words of Affirmation.  A score in any one area can go as high as 12.  Words of Affirmation scored a 9.  This was followed by Acts of Service which scored an 8.  The final of the big three was Physical Intimacy with a score of 7.  Gift Giving/Receiving ended it all with a 1.

Again, I was not surprised by the way my scores played out, but it did start to give me additional clarity.  Some of my miscommunications with my boyfriend and children may stem from the fact that Gift Giving/Receiving is probably a much higher number for them.  My boyfriend gives me gifts all of the time, but he often finds it difficult to verbalize his feelings.  It’s important for me to put my feelings in check after I write him a detailed message about the reasons I find him so amazing and all I get is a t-shirt.  It also helps me to explain to him why he may feel like he is doing everything he can to help me feel loved, but I am being needy and distant all at the same time.

The other part of this text that I absolutely loved is the idea of a Love Tank.  We all have one and it is on various levels of filled and empty through the course of any given day.  My son running up to me just to kiss and hug me “hello”- Love Tank full.  My other son complains about the dinner I just made for our family- Love Tank empty.  It is not only important to know which language makes you feel like your tank is full, but also the language of your partner and children so they can feel full.

Overall, when we look at love as a reciprocal thing that has pre-conceived conditions for each person, it can give us more control over how we feel in our relationships.  Perhaps my not feeling loved is merely a matter of perception.  Or when I see how my son feels love simply by a small gift I procured at the store, I can know that his Love Tank is full.

And isn’t that what it’s all about?  Giving and receiving love…what could be simpler?

Click on the link below to find out what your love language.

http://www.5lovelanguages.com/

Additional Resource from fiercemarriage.com:

Single Mom Life Part 2

In his novel The Five People You Meet in Heaven, Mitch Albom writes, “All parents damage their children. It cannot be helped. Youth, like pristine glass, absorbs the prints of its handlers. Some parents smudge, others crack, a few shatter childhoods completely into jagged little pieces, beyond repair.”

When I first read this, I was in my early 20s, savagely blaming both of my parents for my myriad of hurts.  I felt as if I were the final description, the shattered glass on the floor, broken beyond repair.  I have since learned that this damage is reversible.  I have painstakingly tried to glue the pieces back together in a pattern of my own.  I choose to look at the glued pieces or scars in a positive way, knowing that the light would refract differently off of me if I were still one piece.  Perhaps the repaired cracks are stopgaps.  I am more caring and empathetic to those who are also looking at their scattered remains.  If my glass was clear, I might not be so open.

Now that I am an adult with two little boys, I read this quote differently.  I wonder with each misspoken word what my smudges will look like. I can only pray that I have not nor will I crack a part of them.  Despite my eloquent twistings above about my repair job, I hope to leave this life without causing such damage.  I want only for my imprints to be easily cleaned away with some Windex and a fresh paper towel.  The rest of the world can leave its mark on my little guys, and I know that it will.  Their glass will be bumped and jarred and marked up by a multiple of hands that I may never even meet. Their first love, their bosses, their teachers, their friends…all of these individuals will have a chance and when they do, I want my sons’ glass to be as intact as possible.  There is a strength that can be had in the cracking of the glass.  There is a benefit to knowing how hard you can be hit before you crack.  Both of these things are true, but I believe that my job is to help them through the hits, not be the one who is doing the breaking.

I am sure that I will continue to make my fair share of mistakes.  Greasy, peanut buttery fingerprints will be streaked down their glass from my fingers. I am sure of it.  At the end of the day, I still want to be able to say that the damage I did was wipeable, washable, dissolvable.  I only want them to truly know that they are loved.

The Single Mom Life

 

My closest family is made up of my two little boys.  They both bring a level of contentment to my life that is unmatched. Kissing their little cheeks before I leave for work at 6:15 am is the single most favorite thing in my life.  The warmth of their skin and the sweet smell of their breadth as they exhale upon being slightly jarred by my kiss is joy.  My little one whispering, “I love you, momma,” before he rolls over to snuggle deeper into his blankets makes me smile.  I think it is the way he says “momma.” He gives it a long, two syllable draw which causes him to sound younger than he is.  After I get my fill of him, I going over to the older one.  His blonde hair is all I see and I push it away to kiss him goodbye.  He is less likely to talk, but sometimes he shoots a sudden arm into the air to give me a hug around my neck before I go.  He draws me in and pulls me so close that I fear I am going to fall over, but I let him do it anyway because I fear the day it ends.

This is my morning.  I go off to work to make the only paycheck our family will see.  I am the breadwinner, the bill payer, the laundry doer, the food shopper, the ear cleaner, the band aid giver.  I feel blessed to be part of the thirty percent of single moms above the poverty level.  I feel defeated in the fact that my ex-husband gives me no financial support because one cannot get blood from a stone.

Being a single mom is the hardest thing I have ever done, and I dread the consequence of each painful mistake I make. I secretly pat myself on the back when I have a parental win.  I know many people look down on single moms.  The way I see it there seems to be two concrete stereotypes that exist in our culture.  First is the single mom superhero stereotype.  She is capable of doing everything and anything for everyone.  She takes care of her children and does the job of two parents with ease.  She may even be working two jobs and going back to school.  I have heard of these moms from adults who were raised by them. I have not actually seen or met one in real life. Of my friends, I am the only single mom.  I hope to be viewed as this type of single mom, but I feel I fall short on many occasions.

The second stereotype is the single mom mess.  This is the woman who is more preoccupied with dating than her children.  She clings to her ex for money and support, but she ends up using that money on herself.  She misses school conferences and doesn’t drive her kids to soccer practice.  She would rather troll dating websites for her next man than make dinner for her kids.  She smokes, has tattoos, drinks too much and talks loudly and disparagingly about her useless ex-husband.

I know I am somewhere in between these two worlds.  I would be lying if I said that there haven’t been moments where I was more concerned over my boyfriend’s text message than helping my son put on his cleats before soccer practice.  Sometimes I just want there to be other things in my life than caring for the boys.  I also know that if effort in anyway accounts for anything, I put in a valiant effort every day.  I care more about raising my boys to be kind, respectful young men than I do anything else.  The days that I peel myself up and get them to bed and make sure that they brush their teeth and are all snuggled in are taxing.  They exhaust me beyond words.  But I know the importance of building memories and of being a stable force.

So despite my worries and my fears, I know I must always go back to my mat and trust, trust, trust.

 

 

 

 

Sacrifice and the Empath

227ee509c5e3e38ce616f7650340cf52I woke up this morning thinking about the idea of sacrifice.  As an English teacher, I know what the word the means.  I can define it, identify it as a topic in literature, or point it out as a lesson to be learned in the myriad of television shows my boys watch.

Recently I heard the story of Chiron.  Chiron was a centaur (half man/half horse) who was born to the Titan Kronos and a nymph.  A weird pairing, I admit, but their subsequent relationship created a different kind of centaur. Chiron was wise and faithful.  He was known as a healer and a speaker of prophecy.  Chiron was immortal, but he was wounded by a poison arrow, and he decided to give his immortality away to Prometheus.  He was the guy who sacrificed his life to steal fire from the Gods to give it to man.  This single act changed humanity forever.  When Zeus found out, he chained Prometheus to a rock and a vulture ate his liver everyday.  His liver then regenerated every night and the torture began anew.  Chiron gave his immortality to Promotheus thus saving him from this fate.  Despite Chiron’s incredible healing powers, he was unable to heal himself and died a bit later.  Zeus was so touched by this act of sacrifice and he turned Chiron into a constellation in the sky.  If you know anything about astrology, you may know which sign your Chiron is in.  Mine is in Aries.  This represents your deepest wound.  The part of you that must heal if you are to understand your soul path and chosen path.  Strangely enough, Chiron in Aries means that I have deep psychological or physical wounds that I hide from others.  I have difficulty believing in myself and my self-worth.  Yep, all of this is definitely true of me.

T20.1PrometheusSo what does this all have to do with me?  I am not entirely sure.  Why did I wake up this morning with the story of Chiron and sacrifice coursing through my over-active mind?  No idea.

I do know that my deep wounds are being touched on at this time: my fears of not being a worthy mother or partner.  I am still working on healing these every day, but I feel like it is getting better.  Perhaps, like Chiron, some wounds are too deep and I just have to give into the idea that they cannot be healed in this lifetime, but this thought seems too morose.  Perhaps I am Prometheus, and my good deeds will eventually be rewarded despite the suffering that transgressed before.  Either way, I will think about it in silence and see what happens when I take to the mat.

Trust. Trust. Trust

On Being a Lighthouse

220px-SplitPoint_0072I believe in signs.  The Universe always seems to send me messages through objects that are around me.  Somehow my mind connects a person in my life or an idea about something that is happening to an object, so when I see this object, I immediately know that the Universe has my back.  The list just gets longer and longer.  Elephants, butterflies, anchors, and now lighthouses.

At first I thought the message was that I was supposed to be a lighthouse for others.  I was reading a book that used this lighthouse analogy when explaining love.  Sometimes people get lost.  If one person acts as a lighthouse for the other, the person can sometimes find his way back.  He can look for the light as he tosses on the storm of his own troubles.  Later that day, the movie Jerry Maguire ended with Bob Dylan’s Shelter from the Storm.

Then I went to the beach.  A large light house perches at the end of the cove in the center of Cape May.  I saw lighthouses everywhere I went and continued to believe that this was my sign that I am lighthouse for others.  My mom sarcastically reminded me that we were in Cape May, which is known for its lighthouses, but I just knew that there was a deeper message here.

But then, in the middle of one of my meditations, an thought arose: I am the lighthouse for myself.  My inner being is the light within that leads me.  It is my inner light that is guiding me through the darkness and tumultuous waves of thought.  If I follow this guiding light that exists in me, I can get through my storms.  How arrogant of me to think I could be this for someone else.  They are their own lighthouse to follow, their own beacon in the dark that guides them to the truth that can only be found inside themselves.  If my truth can only be found inside of me, why in the world did I believe that I was here to be that for them?  This is not to say that the light we shine from within cannot sometimes act as an awakening for others, but in the end, these tall, bright structures that sit at the edge of pain and despair our own connection to Source.  It is the individual’s job to search in the endless black for the glimmer of light that gleams within us.  Until we do that, we are lost.

amazing-lighthouse-landscape-photography-3Trust. Trust. Trust