Be in this world but not of it. -Jesus of Nazareth

bridgeI love this quote.  It has become my mantra over and over again when I feel myself getting tangled in the web of the world around me.  Sometimes the strings in my life have barbs and they tug and snare, and I think of these words and feel instantly calm.

I said them once to my father as he went on a tirade about some commotion with his family.  He was sad because after his mother’s death his family was squabbling about what to do with certain items, money, and property.  The emotions he was carrying with him were heavy, and I often have a difficult time in the presence of them.  I wanted a way to calm him, soothe his fears and anger, so I said, “Be in this world but not of it.”

He quieted for a moment, then asked, “What does that mean?”  I explained to him that it’s the thought that we are created to be in this world and a part of its manifestations, but as soon as we lose ourselves in the mastication of events, we are lost.

“Think about,” I said.  “We are physical beings.  We are in a physical reality much of the time.  There are events and things that transpire that we cannot control nor should we.  As soon as we start to believe that these events and things are who we are, we lose the thread.  We are spiritual beings living a physical experience.”  He looked at me like I had three heads.  He nodded and continued driving, no longer lamenting the affairs of his family. I felt generally soothed by the fact that he was at least mulling it over.

After a few minutes he turned to me, “So which one of your psycho babble new-aged philosophers taught you that idea?”

I laughed.  “Jesus,” I said.  He paused again.  His deep and abiding love for Catholicism kept him from going any further with this his derides.

“So tell me again what this means,” he said. I did, but I am still quite sure he didn’t get it, and truthfully, that’s okay.

The quotes I remember, the mantras that keep me going, the words of wisdom that help steer me in the right direction day after day are here for my journey.  The understanding that we are all here to learn our particular brand of lesson is never lost on me, and I try to remember that before I get frustrated by lack of understanding.  We are all on our own paths and we are shown constant signs to help guide us through, and perhaps showing others our sign posts help them or maybe it just helps us.  As we reaffirm an idea for another, it travels more deeply into the core of us, and there it becomes lodged and more of a truth than it was before.  Either way, it is good.

Trust. Trust. Trust

Finding My Passion

landing-stage-sea-nature-beachYesterday I sat on a park bench on a beautiful beach in Cape May, New Jersey engaged in a phone therapy session with my meditation teacher.  I often seek her guidance when I cannot wade through my own personal mind fields.  She is always extremely helpful, and that morning was no exception. I am still reeling from my previous relationship, not sure how I am going to finally move on or continue to hope for something more.  Everything was going extremely well until she asked me what I am passionate about.

“Wait, what?”  The question threw me.  I was silent after she explained that I should dig deep and find the things that light me up and help me to feel happy and fulfilled.  My only answer burped to the surface of my mind: romantic relationships.  I instantly felt ashamed as I described that the push and pull of men and relationships have been my main focus outside of my two children, my job, and my own health.

“You need to go deeper during your meditations,” she said.  “You enjoy writing.  Is that a passion for you?”

“Yes,” I answered excitedly.  “Yes, I do love writing.”

“How often do you write?”  She asked.

“I have just started making myself write fifteen minutes a day.  I read somewhere if you do something that way for forty days you can make it a habit,” I answered proudly.  She laughed.

“That’s not very much time to develop your craft, Kelly,” she responded.  “If I only painted for fifteen minutes a day I would never accomplish anything.  Perhaps you are not passionate about writing.  So would you say you spent more time obsessing over your previous relationship than you’ve spent thinking about writing?”

So now, hours later, I am contemplating my passions.  I have sat in silence this morning and each time my mind wanders back to relationships and love.  Could I be passionate about finding out about love?  I do love to write despite the fact that I am only doing it for a few minutes a day.  I love reading and learning about the stories of people around me.  I also love cooking and traveling, but all of these passions take time and energy and as a full-time working, single mom who really just wants a beautiful, loving, partnership where does one find the time?

In addition to finding my passions, she also put my in charge of individuating myself and finding my soul path.  She insisted that true contentment can only exist in me and it cannot be found in others.  It is a message that has been repeated time and time again.  I don’t know why it is so hard to hear.  It seems too easy and too hard all at the same time.

If all journeys begin with a first step, I guess I am making mine.  I will work on staying present because true power is only in this moment.  I am asking the Divine to show me the way to my soul path because I think I am a bit out of alignment.  I am going to find joy in this minute instead of chewing on past decisions and plausible future scenarios.  This is a start.


Abuse and the Empath

loveWhen I was child, I was abused by my father. When I did anything wrong, I was beaten with either a hand or belt. I was most scared of the thinner belts.  They hurt the most.  My father has a “funny” story that he used to tell when we would be sitting around the dinner table.  It went something like this…

I was four or five and I had wandered around the block.  This was wrong. I was not allowed to go past the house with the big white pillars and the small porch.  This was a rule, but I had broken it.  Perhaps I was chasing a butterfly, maybe I just wanted to openly defy the rule. I don’t remember why I broke this rule; I just remember that I did.  As a cycled back around the corner, I saw my father’s angry eyes.  His mouth was twisted and I knew that he was furious.  I knew that I was caught.

“Don’t beat me, Daddy,” I cried as I put my hands across my behind to try and save myself from a subsequent beating.  My father’s face changed as he glanced at the few neighbors who were watering their gardens are putting out their potted plants.  He smiled and bent to the ground, supporting himself on one knee.

“It’s ok, baby,” he said soothingly.  “I am not going to hurt you.” I smiled and ran into his arms.  He hugged me as he carried me into the house.  I buried my tear-stained face into his neck and sighed.  I did not notice that we were walking back towards the house.

And this is the part my father always thought was most amusing, the part that he would chuckle while saying,

“So here she thinks she got me,” he would continue.  “She thought she could manipulate me and embarrass me in front of the neighbors, but I showed her.  When I got her inside, I spanked her so hard she didn’t even know what hit her, and I made sure she really knew I was serious because I really laid into her.  She never did that again.”

And I didn’t do that again…throughout my life, I don’t think I ever did that again.  How terribly did that scar me?

I find it difficult to trust men.

I believe all men lie to me or are going to hurt me if I give them an ounce of trust.

I fear men and the things they are capable of doing to me.

How does a person have an intimate relationship with a person of the opposite gender when this is just one “story” in a vast sea of abuse?

How long will it take me to walk away from these stories to find myself in the rubble of a broken childhood, a broken marriage, a broken life?

I know that dwelling on this past and sitting in these stories detract me from the present moment and feed my victim story, so I am trying to relinquish them to a time that is no longer here, but I do feel a sense of loss when I think about letting this story go.  I do feel like this story shaped me, but at the same time I also feel like it is keeping me small.  It is keeping me from freedom.

I am not that five year old girl holding her butt in front of her angry father.  There are no large men lurking in the distance waiting to beat me for my wrongdoings, but I still act as if I am.

How do I let go?  By writing it here in this sacred space?  Maybe by telling the truth about my past, I can let each story go with a touch of the “publish” button, shedding each layer of skin one story at a time.

And perhaps I need to be reminded of the following:

“You have to be larger than thought to realize that however you interpret “your life” or someone else’s life or behavior, however you judge any situation, it is no more than a viewpoint, one of many total perspectives.” – Eckhart Tolle

The Cooperative Divorce

My ex and I had a cooperative divorce.  Tonight we signed the final paper that would insure that our divorce decree was in the mail.  As an English teacher, when I write “cooperative divorce,” I can only think oxymoron.  As the mother of two little boys, I am thankful that such a thing even exists.

When my mom and dad went through their divorce, it was a bitter, knock-down fight to the death.  Everything a couple should never do during a divorce was done.  Every wrong word and phrase used.  Parent pitted against parent.  Children in the middle to be fought over and used as bargaining chips in the least fun game on the planet.  My grandparents entered into the game, too.  They picked teams and waged bloody battles from the sidelines even years after the divorce was final.  They wanted to make sure the other side was good and dead.  Needless to say, but I will say it anyway, it scarred me for life.

As a child I realized that my parents were wrong for each other.  My mother is this waif like woman who loved the Beatles and wore flowery skirts.  My father is a blue collar working man who liked his dinner at five on the dot and didn’t like women to work outside the home.  He was domineering and it almost killed her.  I got it.  Even then I knew it was too much for her to be married to a man like that.  What I didn’t get were the harsh words and the screaming and the fighting and the leaving.  The way they made us fight for them to even be in the same room together over a decade later.  The surfacing discomfort when they ever had to even hear about the other was often too much to bear.

When I realized I was going to divorce my husband, he loved to say, “Oh, so you’re just going to repeat the cycle?  Your parents divorced and look what it did to you.  You want to that to our boys?”  And the answer then and now has always been no.  I did not want to hurt them or ruin their childhood, but I also knew the same thing my mom realized: I could not continue on in the life I built.

When I broached the idea of a cooperative divorce, I think my ex believed it was an idle threat.  So many of my words have been idle over the years.  I was not surprised.  We tried to use a mediator, but the seven thousand dollar price tag was too much for us.  When I did some more research, I found that divorce could be done through one lawyer.  This was really all that I needed.  A lawyer to be my scribe.  I included my ex on every part of the decision making process and I gave him everything.  The only thing I really cared about was joint custody.  I also wanted to keep my pension, but was willing to let it go if it became a sticking point.  I won’t go into the logistics of everything he was given, but I walked away from our marriage with nothing after  I was the only income for six years.

Many of my friends give my empathic ability credit.  Our friends and family cannot believe that we have gone through such a healthy divorce.  I don’t think my being empathic has anything to do with it.  I could not have done it if my ex was not on board.  He did not want the divorce at all, and if he had let his pride get in the way, it would have looked very different.  Our love for our children’s childhood circumvented our own feelings.  When my resentment was at an all time high and I couldn’t even look at him for fear of wanting to hurt him, I remembered my children.

Now it is really all over.  Our marriage is officially done, and I am still very confidant in my decision.  Cooperative divorces are possible, but it takes self-sacrifice from both parties.  It takes an ability to put your wants on the back burner sometimes.  It takes putting your emotions in check to achieve the higher good.  Yes, it was important and necessary for me to get a divorce, but I decided up front that it was not always necessary for me to get my way.  My ex decided the same thing, and our final gifts to one another is our ever-lasting friendship.  Yes, friendship.  This is necessary as we continue co-parenting these two little boys who are growing up so quickly.  I hope someday they will be able to understand what I did and why I did it and the amount of sacrifice it took to make one of the greatest decisions of my life.  I hope they are proud of their father and how he was able to be so loving in the face of something that is never connected with the idea of love.  Perhaps as they grow, they will understand the complications of love and what happens to a relationship when people no longer know how to make a marriage work.  If nothing else, I just hope they can forgive me.