Reality

Last week I had an interesting comment on a post.  It got me thinking and I wanted to reply but chose not to.  I wasn’t sure if it was a sincere response or just someone trying to reel me in for a cyber-fight. Since he made such an interesting point, I decided to address it in a post.

The commenter expressed that he was an atheist and from what he wrote it seems he had some knowledge or experience with New Thought or New Age ideas.  He talked about meditation and “God is Love” and “Cancer isn’t real.”  This is all stuff that I’ve read and learned too.  It is a very hard concept to wrap your head around because Cancer is real and people battle it, sometimes successfully and sometimes not, every single day. I know people who have died from cancer and people who have overcome it.

The first part of this is death.  Our bodies die.  It’s simple.  Although our souls may be eternal, our bodies are not.  And I think that is a good thing.  But it is hard to lose people or pets that we love.  The suffering goes very deep.

The second part is the reality of it.  In the spiritual realm cancer, sickness, suffering, and death are not real.  That is the realm of “God.”  We all have access to that realm if we choose to connect to it.  I’m not sure anyone lives there though.  The great mystics have come the closest.  So even a great yogi or spiritual teacher can die of cancer or other ailments that are sometimes called “unreal.”  But regular people have been known to experience miraculous healings by aligning themselves with this spiritual vibration.

Finally there are the “laws” of nature.  One of those laws is The Law of Attraction.  I am currently reading The Master Key System and it teaches that law.  Supposedly this is a spiritual principle that is unwavering.  Just like 2+2 always equals 4, the Law of Attraction is always working.  In essence, whatever comes to you good or bad has come from your thoughts and consciousness.  So at some point you have knowingly or not set an intention and backed it up with enough emotional energy to make it happen.  This has been a hard one for me to believe because when I see a 3-year-old with cancer or hear the story of a women that was molested in childhood, I think how could they have attracted this to themselves.  If it is indeed law, the only answer is that their consciousness existed before their human form did, and they intended these events to take place for whatever reason.  And as morbid as this sounds if we do “create” our lives to a degree before we enter them, we see the big picture and know how each puzzle piece fits.  We also know how each experience contributes to our soul’s development.  So the suffering may in fact be necessary to help us grow or the souls around us grow.

“God” is such a charged word.  And I think that for the most part “God” is a neutral presence in the Universe.  I don’t think God punishes us with disease and devastation.  I don’t think God rewards us with success and health.  I think God is just an energetic part of these natural laws that we either follow blindly or follow knowingly.

Sylvia’s Click

Sylvia is someone I met through the Owning Pink Posse.  She is one of those inspiring souls that strives to bring out the best in others.  She is a writer, yoga teacher, artist, photographer, gardener and “blissed-out” babe!  I am grateful that she answered my call and shared this personal click story, that I know will touch many.  If you would like to hear or read more from Sylvia you can find her wonderful blog about living blissfully here, on Twitter here, and on Facebook here.

My click story starts in January 2001. My husband and I had heard from
my OB/GYN that the test they had done earlier that month showed that a
long treatment for restless cells in my uterus was finally successful.
We could finally work on getting pregnant.

I drove home with some mixed emotions. A little more than two years
earlier I started on a hormone treatment, and immediately got plunged
into a major depression, and gained about 30 kilo’s in weight in the
months that followed after.

So there I sat, deeply depressed, feeling utterly lost, and with a
moon cycle that was completely out of whack and very painful. A uterus
that was so cramped up I could hardly sit up straight and walking
around became more and more difficult. And my doctor told me that I
could get pregnant.

Two months later I was rushed to the hospital with what could be an
appendicitis. After a day of waiting for the two hour emergency
surgery, it turned out to be an ovary with a really bad cyst.

That surgery and the recovery from it was my click. It came in the
form of one single thought: is getting pregnant worth this suffering?
It didn’t take me long to say no. I felt like a crippled person, stuck
in 9 days out of 24 periods, and the rest of the time I seemed like I
was stuck in an endless seeming PMS cycle. I didn’t get pregnant, as
my wish to have sex had completely diminished. I felt a bloated up
mockery of who I really was.

Soon after what was the second surgery of the year I sat in the OB/GYN
office again for a routine checkup, still not pregnant, and even more
worn out than I was back in January, and I burst out in tears. I said
with a trembling voice I could no longer live like this, and that I
was ready to give up the dream of becoming a mother. It got replaced
by a much stronger dream, a will to survive, and to truly get to live
my life.

The doctors discussed my request, and it got granted. In June of that
year I went into surgery again, it turned out my ovaries could stay
but my uterus was removed. The uterus was tested, and the OB/GYN told
me that the cells were back to their restless state, and if I had
gotten pregnant, I would have had a baby and full blown cancer. The
moment he told me my decision was the right one, it felt like victory.

It has taken me a couple of very tumultuous years, stumbling, falling,
getting up again, to finally get to where I am today. I had a hard
time accepting the fact I no longer had a uterus, and struggled hard
with femininity issues, but I climbed out of it, and became the
strong, independent woman I am today.

I have no doubt that the journey I went through was one of saying
goodbye to my old self, to the dreams of that woman I used to be.

What I did gain though, was finding my passion. I had been a writer
ever since my early childhood, but lacked the confidence to do
anything with it. I found that strength again in the depth of my
depression, and for that I am forever grateful.

Complacency

This week, Mark and I watched the movie “The Cove.”  It was an incredibly eye-opening documentary about dolphins and what is happening to them in a town in Japan.  Every year, from March to September, thousands of dolphins are forced into this particular cove where (with the exception of the few that are sold to aquariums and “sea” parks) they are slaughtered.   Not only is it horrifying that they are killed at all, but they are also sold in fish markets for consumption.  In some cases the meat is purchased by people who know they will be eating dolphin, but in other instances it is labeled as fish such as Tuna.  And if that is not enough, the levels of mercury that are found in dolphin meat is off the charts.  It is a tragedy at many levels and for the most part people don’t know or don’t care that it is happening.

When the movie was over, I was all fired up.  I wanted to DO something.  The thought that followed that passionate feeling was yes, but are you going to do something this time? It was then that I was made ever aware of my own complacency.  I’ve watched many of these types of documentaries and it is always followed by that same feeling.  Initially, I want to change and make a difference, but rarely do I follow through.  I’ve watched movies like “Food Inc.” and “The Future of Food” and inwardly vowed to buy fresh food from the co-op or farmer’s market.  Always it is short-lived.  Lack of time coupled with mine and my family’s pickyness always seems to get the better of me, despite the frightening realities of the food industry.  I have made changes over the years, but there is still so much I know that I choose to ignore because it is simply easier to do so.

Today at church the theme of the service was “the courage to change.”  The guest speaker talked about the book “Ask Yourself This” and the various questions it challenges the reader to pose to themselves.  Part of the inward interrogation involves taking a look at what we are resisting.  For me, complacency is just another way that I avoid rocking the boat.  If I just nod my head and smile, I don’t have to face criticism.  Complacency is a way that the lazy side of me wins.  Assuming that the government and corporations only have my best interest at heart is much easier than taking the extra time, energy, and money to research and buy only the safest products for my family.

I want to step out of the comfort zone that is complacency and do something when I feel drawn to do it.  It only takes small steps to make a difference, and I want to take more of those steps.  Over the past couple of weeks I have been so inspired by a friend named Jenny (@IHavDefx) that I met through Twitter and this blog.  She was touched by the story of a family dealing with childhood cancer and instead of being complacent she decided to do something.  She signed up to participate in a charity fund-raising event, tweeted about it, and blogged about it.  Within a few weeks, Jenny raised $1500 for the Nevada Childhood Cancer Foundation.  She sent me a message the other day telling me that to honor a friend who was diagnosed with MS, she is going to run in a half-marathon that will raise money for research to find a cure.  So despite the fact that Jenny tells me I inspire her, she is the one who has become an inspiration to me.

It is time for me to get off my complacent ass…I’ll start by telling everyone to watch The Cove.  (If it helps, I just found out it won the academy award for best documentary.) Also, want to link up to Mama Kat’s blog post about The Cove, it’s excellent.  Read it here.

Tip the Wait Staff

I’ve said before that Mark and I take the girls to the same restaurant every Saturday.  This has been our tradition for at least four years now- as soon as Bella was old enough to order off the kids menu.  Over time we have had our favorite waiters and waitresses.  Our most consistent favorite has been one of the guys there.  He is probably the best waiter we’ve ever had.  He remembers us from week to week.  He always speaks to the girls by name and listens carefully as they give him their orders…even though it’s the same every week.  He never lets a pickle touch their grilled cheese sandwiches and always keeps the coffee coming for me.  I’d say having him as our waiter is almost as important as the meal itself, so his absense over the past couple of months has been disappointing.  We’d come to the conclusion that he had moved on to something else and that our Saturday lunches would have to move on without him as well.

So yesterday I was in Border’s and sat down in a chair across from a guy reading a magazine.  When I looked closely I realized it was him…my all-time-favorite waiter!  I immediately told him how much we’d missed him and asked him where he had been.  He responded by telling me that he had had surgery on his foot to remove bone cancer.  CANCER.  He’d been out of work because of Cancer.  He hadn’t made the transition from the restaurant world to the business world, or finished grad school, or any other theory I had had.  He was out somewhere going through treatments to save his health and his life, while I had been wondering who would fill my coffee cup on Saturdays.

I came home and told Mark about him and I couldn’t help but think about the way I move through my life.  I come into contact with so many people everyday and so many of them are probably going through major stuff.  I have been known to get irritated at waiters or cashiers or receptionists because I had to wait longer than I wanted to or my order got mixed up and in those moments it has always been about me and how I’m feeling.  I never stop to think about what that person might be going through that is distracting them or interfering with their work.  I am going to keep my favorite waiter in mind when I interact with people from now on.  Before I get too caught up in what is happening to me, I am going to try to be empathetic to what the other person might be feeling…especially with people who take on the jobs that bring them face to face with a demanding public all day long, like waiters.

So remember to be nice to the wait staff and tip them well!

Life is Precious

I’m writing this on Tuesday evening.  Today I found out that someone I went to high school with lost his battle with cancer.  He left behind a beautiful wife and a toddler.  Last year a young father in Tallahassee died in a car accident, leaving behind his pregnant wife and 2 daughters.  In January 2008 my sorority sister, Susie, lost her battle with cancer as well.  At the time of her death her daughter was 3 and her son was 5.

Death is something that is supposed to happen to the elderly.  It’s something that should come as a kind of reward for putting in your time, working hard, watching the generations beneath you grow, and meeting your goals.  When it happens to people my age or younger we pay attention.  When it happens to people who have young children and are seemingly just building their lives we stop and take stock.

That is what I am doing in this post.  I am so grateful for my life.  I am grateful for my husband and daughters and the way that we take care of each other.  I am so proud of what Mark has acheived in the years we’ve been together and that his accomplishments have allowed me the opportunity to stay home with our daughters.  Not only have I been available to my girls but I have also learned to be available to myself.  I’m not sure that this would have happened if I was still in the classroom teaching.  I am grateful for writing and learning.  I love that when I walk into Border’s and inhale the scent of the books something comes alive inside of me.  I am thankful for my friends, the ones I’ve re-connected with, the ones I’ve always had, and the newest ones.  I am grateful for the family I grew up with, my precious loving mother, hard-working and honest father, my organized and faith-filled oldest sister, and my caring, doting, and forgiving older sister.  I have learned and am still learning so much from them.  I am grateful for my spirituality.  I am glad that I did my own searching and found God in my own way.

There is so much to be thankful for that this post could go on for days.  I’m sure I will revisit gratitude in the future.  What I know today is that life is precious.  It is great to have dreams and fantasies about our futures.  I definitely believe in putting in time planting those seeds.  But like plants need water and sunlight, I think our dreams need to be nurtured with gratitude for what we already have.  I believe that the more time we spend being grateful, the more things arrive for us to be grateful for.

What are you grateful for?  If you have it, take the time to comment!

Willie Kate

I just ran into my neighbor, Collin.  Seeing him made me think of his mother, Willie Kate.  Willie Kate and Collin moved in to the house across the street about five years ago, just a few months after we moved into ours.  Willie Kate was constantly working in her yard and when she did this she would usually leave the front door standing wide open.  One day I was in my front yard with my daughter and two dogs.  My dog Oscar saw Willie Kate across the street and couldn’t resist introducing himself.  He ran to greet her but didn’t stop there, instead he ran into her house where he discovered her cat.  In the process of retrieving my dachshund from her guest bedroom, Willie Kate offered me an open invitation to bring my daughter by for visits whenever I wanted to.  I took her up on her offer and along with playgroup and storytime, Willie Kate made it onto my weekly calendar.

Bella and I would visit her once a week.  She’d feed Bella homemade cookies and tell me the stories of her life.  They were always the same stories…her first husband who died in the war, her two daughters that had their babies in the same week,  the baby she had that didn’t make it, the lady who made poor little Collin think that he was being replaced by the newest sibling in the family, and her years of working as a nurse.  In between my visits, I would watch her outside planting flowers or raking leaves and marvel at the way she moved that 85-year-old body of hers.

When Callee was born and Bella went to preschool, I found myself with less time for visits to Willie Kate’s house.  Around that time, Collin was diagnosed with cancer.  When we would visit Willie Kate, she would talk often about how concerned she was for his health.  I know she feared the worst…that she would outlive yet another child.  I began to notice a difference in the house at that time.  It seemed to be sick as well.  I visited less frequently, always using the “too busy” excuse, never knowing that Willie Kate was getting sick too.  The last time I sat with her in her living room, she was recovering from a surgery to remove skin cancer.  She was confident the doctors had gotten it all and she would be fine, but not so sure about Collin.

Then one day Collin knocked on my door.  “I just wanted to let you know that my mom has cancer.  She could go anytime.  We’ve called Hospice.”

I thanked him for letting me know and wondered what to do.  I knew he had told everyone that knew her and that they would all be calling and visiting.  I watched the cars come and go from the house, but I didn’t cross the street.  I called her one afternoon and told her that I had wanted to let her have some peace and that’s why I hadn’t visited.  The truth was, I was scared to visit.  I didn’t know what to say, how to act, or even how to be next to someone that was dying.  She asked me to visit.  I went the next day and no one came to the door.  That was it, I’d made the effort.  I think I called her one more time.

About a month after Collin stopped by, birds started flying into my windows, tapping on the glass with their beaks.  They tapped on the bedroom window when I was working on the computer, the living room window when I was watching TV, and the dining room window when I was eating meals.  They tapped and they tapped everyday for a week or two.  Then one day I looked across the street and saw a black ribbon on the mailbox.  I went to the funeral a few days later.  There hasn’t been another bird tapping on my window since then.

I often wish I’d known what those birds were trying to tell me.  I wish I’d gone over and said goodbye.  I wish I’d taken my precious daughters over to make her smile, instead of being afraid to show them sickness.  I think of her often and she will forever be an inspiration to me.  I hope she knows how sorry I am for not visiting one last time.

Funeral Songs

The last funeral I attended was in January 2008.  It was for one of my sorority sisters, who died too soon, and left behind a husband and two beautiful young children.  She had a long battle with cancer, and it seems she took the time to think of the right song for her funeral.  The song she chose was “Soak Up The Sun” by Sheryl Crow.  “Soak Up The Sun” is another one of those songs that I had heard over and over, but never allowed the message to register until I was sitting in that chapel.  We were all there to pay our respects, say goodbyes, remember the good times, and mourn with others whose lives were touched by hers.  I’m not sure, though, if anyone expected that we would leave her funeral with such a special gift.  By choosing that song she gave us a message to walk away with, that if taken to heart, could make all of our lives a little easier to live.

The song I want played at my funeral isn’t something I’ve put a lot of thought into.  I suppose it should be something that represents me somehow, but more importantly it should lift people up when they hear it.  These days whenever I hear “Soak Up The Sun” I get a little rush of energy.  I imagine Suzy’s beautiful smile and know she’s close by reminding me to cherish this life, but not to take it too seriously.  Her life was a gift to so many and she found a way to leave us with just one more.

“I’m gonna soak up the sun, gonna tell everyone to lighten up

I’ve got no one to blame, for every time I feel lame I’m looking up”