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Cass laid the keys down gently on the entryway table so as not to wake up her husband. From where she stood she could see that he was lying on the couch with the baby, their son, ten months old.

“Thank god for him,” She decided against a kiss on his forehead, the baby might stir and she didn’t want to risk waking either of them. On the other end of the couch, Daisy snuggled in deep with the family cat, her four year old daughter’s face looked exactly like the cherubs painted in some European church Cass toured as a college student.

“I’m so tired.” Her plane was delayed, she missed her connecting flight in Chicago, so her ten p.m. arrival evolved into a three a.m. arrival, home at three-forty-five.  And she was due at the office for an early meeting at seven.

Cass slogged her way to their his-and-hers bathroom and showered off airplane and airports and taxi cabs.   “I better not get in bed, I’ll sleep too deeply.” She made her way back to the living room and sat opposite the couch to watch her family sleep, and maybe catch a small nap.

“They’re so peaceful and secure.”  She was grateful to be able to provide for their safety.   Without her income as a sales assistant for a marketing firm, they’d struggle with just her husband’s meager teaching salary.  Especially here in San Francisco.   It meant, though,  that he was more involved with their children than she was because of the demands of her work.  She was surprised to find, one day not long ago, an inkling of resentment towards him for the way things were working out.   “Where the hell did that thought come from?” She checked it right away.  This was her decision as much as his, even when they dated they talked through the details.   His teaching salary wasn’t much, but the benefits made up for it, as did the long vacations, although Blake’s workload was arguably as heavy as hers.  She is the main bread winner instead, and he takes care of ‘home base’.   It seemed so progressive when they talked it over years ago, but living the reality was exacting a cost that Cass didn’t know she would be forced to pay.

She missed Daisy’s first day of pre-school thanks to a client who suddenly was ‘shopping around’ again at other agencies. Cass’ career took a hit when she became unable to fly because of her pregnancy with David:  A client needed assurance somewhere and an agent needed to fly there in person to allay their anxiety.  It was her account, but Phil got all the accolades because he could board an airplane.  She has only been to their son’s newborn checkups; Blake had so far taken him by himself since David was six weeks old. She was missing his infancy. “Shit.”  By comparison, Daisy was a big girl now that David was the baby and Cass found herself wondering what she was up to these days.  Was she still on her ‘I hate applesauce because its not a real apple!” kick?  She had a band-aid on her elbow, Cass noticed.  “I wonder what happened?”

Feeling herself at the beginning of a no-win, could’ve, should’ve guilt trip, she got up from her chair to get a bottle of water. “Breathe.”  The kitchen was a mess, there was a shut off notice for the electric bill on the table, and the dishwasher was full but hadn’t been run. Cass’ anger flared and she sat down to organize the pile of mail that accrued while she’d been gone, this was her chore since Blake took care of the house and kids. “Breathe.” Pre-school tuition was overdue, their student loans were overdue, there were doctor bills from her emergency c-section in arrears.  They let the housekeeper go (she came once a week) and long ago quit eating out.  Cass agreed to keep lunch-buying to a once a week deal, but many days she forgot to pack a lunch and so went without.  She was existing on office coffee and vending machine almonds. “Breathe.” The mail was organized, junk in the trash and a neat stack of bills brought a sense of immediate gratification.   She checked the bank account to see which bills could be paid, which would need to be juggled and fell apart at the low number in their balance. The second daycare expenditure was impacting their budget with disastrous results.  Bills would have to wait till her next check on the fifteenth because, for god’s sake, they had to feed the babies.  So much for a decent credit score. “Breathe.”

Heaviness broke through the exhaustion and weighed Cass’ soul down like an anchor.  She was frozen to the dining chair, she was unable to reign in her quickened breathing and her chest tightened. She curled her knees into it for comfort. “It’s gonna be okay.  It always works out.  It’s just a fucking credit score.  It’s not your identity.  And today is Friday and you have the weekend with your babies.”  It took several minutes and she finally let the first tear slip.  Once done, the dam broke and Cass wracked her body with quiet sobs as the stress from traveling, parenting, partnering, balancing, and working made its way out from deep inside where she kept it buried.

Blake waited until her sobs receded.  He watched from the doorway, having come upon her just as she was breaking down.   He knew she’d want to be left alone, so he stood and let his own tears fall from a well of love and gratefulness.  Once she began to quiet, he approached slowly and stroked her hair from behind and offered tissues from the counter.

“Thank you.”  She let him hold and comfort her, fix her a pot of coffee and caught her up on how the babies were doing. David was beginning to pull himself up to chairs and Daisy can print out her first name. She filled him in on the success of her trip.  After half-an hour, at five-thirty eight, Cass made her way upstairs again to dress for work.  At six o’five she kissed her sleeping children good-bye and grabbed her lunch from her husband. “See you this afternoon.”

She stepped outside to catch the train to work.  “Breathe.”


Happy New Year! My Year of Being Open

Happy New Year to all.  I hope this post finds each of you inspired at the bright shiny twelve months ahead of us.

As we recollect on 2016 and make out our calendars for 2017, it does some good to reflect upon where we are and where we’d like our year to go.

This year my reflections are upon the concept of ‘openness.’   The notion stems from the tenant that ‘like attracts like’:  if I am open to energy and resources that are positive and helpful, then those things will attract themselves to me.  Cool!  But it’s a bit of a concerted effort to be conscious about openness.   Our everyday lives, the news, some health scare, or just the fast-paced society we live in can remove our focus and daunt our thoughts.  Being open is a state of being, a constant choice,  because life is busy and it’s too easy to get distracted.

There’s another element to being open that I’ve been thinking upon as well.   It’s about being open to change, and changing.   If I am willing and consciously open to the universe and it’s positive energies, then I should expect some of those energies to illicit changes in my behavior by enlightening me to better ways of doing and being.

It’s one thing to become aware of something needing my attention, but quite another to enact the change necessary to bring about improvement.  I need to be open, therefore, to a willingness to change, grow, evolve.  After all, we’ve only gotten this far as a species because of our very ability to adapt, that is to change.

Being open is also an important trait to utilize at this particular moment in US history.   Tensions are high within our society and our instincts would have us ‘build walls ‘or  ‘stay inside’, but these actions only tend to further our  problems and they certainly prevent any kind of translation or communication across social lines.  Openness requires a kind of strength in this case since we are forced to override our instincts to close up.

Openness takes some effort.  But our brains are great at rewiring themselves if we’re willing to exert enough conscious energy, so it’s only a matter of focus.   Yet openness itself isn’t quite enough.  We must be willing to adapt and change to new information as it comes along and inspires us.  In our current social/political climate, openness feels opposite to the actions our instincts might have us take.  Awareness and attention will allow us to keep our spirits malleable instead.

May the year be as gentle as possible.

Yours,

Frankie


Memory Games

Oh memories!

Snapshots of going places,

Recollection of shared laughter,

Connective moments of time –

Weave their threads through my soul

with indifference as to their deposit.

Yet when I reach back to effect a withdrawal,

I am met with a bittersweet welcome.

Shiny and cherished, those memories

Tug nostalgically at the heart:

“That was a quaint time.”

“Wasn’t it a beautiful day?”

“My babies were little once.”

Turn the past psychological pictures over and see

How their initial viewing changes

To one of pride and treasure:

“I am glad to have had that time.”

“That day will always stay with me.”

“My babies are fine young men now.”

Memory Games.

The twofold experience of pain and pleasure.

 

 

 

 


“Hey Girl” A Lesson About (Self) Compassion

It’s a rough world.   Life is hard.  There are no guarantees. So, we need each other.  We need others to let us know it’s going to be okay. We need someone to sit beside us and hug us and validate our fears, our failings.  That’s why we have friends and why we take care of each other.

The song “Hey Girl”, out on Lady Gaga’s newest album puts this notion to a musical twist.  It’s a collaboration with Florence Welch and the track is musically reminiscent of Elton John’s ‘Bennie and the Jets” with a hit of a bridge containing some heavenly harmonies.

But, as usual, I look for the deeper meaning and found that the song works well when you sing it to yourself…

“Hey girl, we can make it easy if we lift each other…Hey girl, we don’t need to keep on onein’ up each other…If you lose your way, Just know that I got you..” is some powerful stuff to hear yourself tell yourself.

I’ve recently been turned on to Dr. Kristin Neff’s work concerning self-compassion.  It’s about becoming a friend to yourself, instead of the critic that we all grow up with.  You know, that self-talk which typically admonishes and scolds, instead of helping and caring.  It takes work to change that gig around, to come to the rescue of your self in a moment of hurt or anger.   Most of us go right for the throat of our selves:  “If you made this choice instead, you wouldn’t be in this mess,”  “You deserve this because (fill in the blank).”  “Why can’t you figure this out?”

But – what happens when we approach our self from the side, with an arm around our soul and a voice soft with support?   “Hey girl, if you lose your way, just know that I got you.”

Magic happens.

Suddenly, we become our own best advocate.  Think about how we will pretty much drop whatever we are doing and go help a sister.   Now consider how that same energy can be channeled into self-compassion as we learn to drop everything else and go help ourselves. There’s a peace that is acquired.  More than that, there is a kind of neutrality that can empower a person.   If I know I can comfort myself for my deepest, darkest wounds, then no matter who comes at me or what stands in my way, I will muster through because I know that I ‘got myself’.   I know that I can come to my own rescue.  I know that even if I am experiencing the worst imaginable pain, I can be my own source of solace.

Yes, it is hard.  Damn this life is difficult.   But there is a way to manage, and it begins with self-compassion.  Try it out, at least once….”If you lose your way, Just know that I got you.”

Yours,

Frankie

 


Election Reflection: Turn Inward

This was intended to be a general ‘life is rough’ article, but as events unfold and we reel from the recent election, it seems prudent to change the angle a bit.

I mean, after all, we are a hurting nation at the moment.

Many fear for the security of their lives since it has been threatened, and like most humans, allow their ‘fight or flight’ instinct to overcome reason.   I understand the protests.  I will never condone the violence.

Many are in shock at the idea that a bully could have garnered enough support as to be elected to the highest, most respected office in the land. They are concerned about international politics and fear permanent damage to allied relationships  as well as world economic functions.

Many are happy.   They wanted change (I completely understand this sentiment) and they got it.   Whether it plays out in their favor or not, time will tell, currently the president-elect is filling his cabinet with very cozy Wall Street employees so I personally don’t hold out any hope.

Some are gloating.  In my hometown a high school student was passing out home made ‘deportation notices’ to the minorities in his classes.   An elementary lunch room in Michigan was the scene of chants of “Build that wall,” instilling fear and shame into Latino children.

On top of all this, we each have our personal problems to deal with.  A friend of mine is a recent widow.   Another friend just lost her sister.  My niece is bound for lung surgery this week.   Someone, somewhere is going through a divorce.  Someone, somewhere was just betrayed by their best friend.  Someone, somewhere is dealing with a child who is struggling with a heroin addiction.

Life is pain, meanwhile we must be kind to ourselves.

What does that mean?  It means giving the world some space.   We can’t control everything (we can control very little) so quit trying to control everything and turn inward towards yourself.   Allow  yourself to validate your own feelings, allow yourself to accept shortfalls as part of the human experience rather than some defective character flaw, allow yourself to just be and gather strength from ‘mental stillness.’   It is empowering.

Go for walks. Getting in touch with nature never fails to put things into perspective.   The

mtshasta

photo credit to the author 11/09/2016

leaves are turning and littering the earth right now, another summer is over, another cycle consummated, time goes on, we are but a mere speck within it’s marching.  In this bigger picture, our troubles are less taxing.

Meditate.  Shut out the world, listen only to your breathing.   Connect with the universe as a part of it, not separate from it.  Speak gently to yourself.

We must be kind to ourselves at this moment as we reflect on the election and what it means to us personally,  so that we have the capacity to be kind to others.

There are many who need it.

Yours,

Frankie


Acquired Strength

Against my back is the rough texture of oak tree bark,

I give it my entire attention, for it is here that I find my strength.

Fragile spine against a layered trunk of experience and trials,

I am inspired by it’s sturdy habits.

At times, strong winds bent it nearly to breaking, yet it remains upright;

Reminded of the forces that have threatened my own grounding,

I am reassured that I too will stand tall once more.

Long limbs reach down and like a crone’s overgrown nails

scratches the itch within my soul, their shadows hug me close to the earth.

Invisible cocoon that welcomes and nurtures,

I sit with my back against the rough texture of an oak tree,

and there acquire the strength to live.

 


Embrace

“You don’t know my mind, you don’t know my kind. Dark necessities are part of my design.”  RHCP

We stood in the hallway of my mom’s little home, saying our goodbyes. My mom, observing my sister and I, made the comment that we were as different as light and dark.  The silence that followed needed no explanation:  we all knew who could identify with which description.   I was the dark one.

I wrestled with this, and only now that I’m ‘middle-aged’ am I finally getting a handle on its meaning.   Darkness is often, in our society, associated with everything bad, revolting, and horrible.  I know myself not to be that kind of person, yet it’s obvious my choice in movie and book genres always portray dark forces that cripple the hero so that he or she must overcome monstrous challenges in order to declare victory, rather than finding my entertainment in comedies or romance.   I know that I tend towards sadness more than happiness, pain more than pleasure, and I’ll almost always choose the unknown adventure over promised security.

Yet, it is a necessity to have such darkness in our midst; this is an age old philosophical idea.   We would not know those among us who tend towards the light, for one thing. Could my family identify my sister as the ‘light’ if she were also compared to ‘light’?  And without a measure of darkness to strike against, how do we know how light it really is and to what degree it exists…is it bright against the dark like a welcoming porch light in the winter storm, or is it a small glimmer that only elucidates the next step of the path?

Besides embracing the notion that I personally have a bent toward the darker aspects of life dynamics, I’ve also navigated the difficult task of embracing the darkness that dwells within.   This is some of the most important time of introspection I have experienced.  It is difficult to look in the mirror and finally notice the shadow behind my eyes; the feelings behind some of my moods.  It is even more difficult to hold the image and acknowledge it for what it truly is – a part of me as much as my happiness.  It is even more difficult still to wrestle with that part of me and accept it, to find a place for it to sit within my soul; to understand that it doesn’t make me a ‘bad’ person for doing so.  In fact, it makes me a better person as I am more inclined to sympathize, more conscious of my self.

There’s a relief in it for me as well, I confess.   Coming from a Christian upbringing, I was taught that anything ‘bad’ was to be blamed on demons or the devil, some outside force over which I had no personal control or even understanding (hence our societal perception of ‘bad’ mentioned earlier).   The comprehension that ‘bad’ exists within as a means to compel me towards goodness rather than the idea that I am subject in some way to an outside boogeymen gives me a sense of control precisely because it enlightens me to certain undercurrents in my personality – awareness is everything.  And, I think,  when we can balance within ourselves the daily struggle most of us undertake to do the right thing and be ‘good’ against the inherent ‘bad’ we all possess, it’s not a stretch to claim that we gain a kind of confidence and strength, our steps become surer, our actions more and more deliberate when we do so.   Therein lies relief – and empowerment.

Embracing our own individual darkness is not a new concept either.  Luke Skywalker’s venture into an unknown cave revealed the face of his enemy instead…Harry Potter closed his eyes to see Lord Voldemort…Jesus’ forty days of wandering tested his personal weaknesses…The story line runs throughout human history as clearly as our DNA can be traced to certain areas of the world.

When considered at a personal level, and embraced as a necessary “part of our design”, darkness is not so scary and becomes a natural component of our world-view – this awareness empowers us in very real ways.

Yours,

Frankie

  • this short audio clip was helpful to me when working through the process of acknowledging my own darkness, it speaks of Carl Jung’s ability to do so within himself and how it empowered his world view.

Partner, Instead of Master

I have been training a puppy for the past two years.It’s no small feat considering the

dozer2

“Dozer”

handful of personality and energy that he encapsulates: he’s a combination of two parts lab, one part st. bernard, one part border collie.  We’ve had our ups and downs; he’s wont to make his own decisions at times but he’s done well overall, and, like most dogs he only wants to please. In the past three or four months, just after his second birthday, he’s gone through a bit of a maturity spurt and has earned my confidence in areas where before there was conflict between my desire for his behavior and his own independent impulses.  As a result I’ve shifted my position a bit with him in terms of our relational dynamic.  I’ve stepped off from the role of Master position and stepped beside him in a role as a Partner.

Its a feeling of accomplishment to be able to do so.  It means there’s a deeper level of trust between us:  he understands that I trust him to behave a certain way and have given him considerable freedom because of it. He trusts me to treat him more as a team mate, on somewhat more equal footing and his wont to please rises to the occasion – if I am his Partner, then he’s going to put his heart and soul into doing right.

The dynamic of shifting from Master to Partner was never so clear to me as it was in this instance and it got me thinking about other relationships and where it might apply as well.

Work?  Yes, this applies to my work life directly!  I am privileged to work with teenagers, and this year my colleagues and I find ourselves interacting with a more high maintenance, high energy group of kids.    As usual at the beginning of the year, I set very clear, immovable boundaries and at first will err on the side of being more harsh than soft when it comes to enforcing their validity (a lesson I learned from my own jr. high school teachers and seems to be fairly effective).  This year I am taking a slightly different approach and utilizing my newfound epiphany: I’ve made the boundaries clear, but I find that if I take a moment to consider the one on one relationship with each student and conceive of some way to Partner with them instead of try to Master them, I get a much better response and they seem be settling in with more ease.  The element of conflict that can inherently exist between a Master and Student is replaced with a mutual trust and common goal; sure I am still the authority figure but my willingness to engage from the side instead of from the front assures them that, on some level, they have a certain amount of respect and trust from me at the outset.  They seem to be responding by rising to the same level of respect.

Partnerships seem to work better than Mastery on the creative level too, I’ve observed.  I’m sewing a quilt for my niece at the moment, she’s beginning her freshman year in college, away from home and family.   If I employ my newfound nugget of wisdom and work with the machine and fabric on a Partner level, as a team mate instead of a Master, I notice a difference in the process.  There is a sense of enjoyment in the mix.  It’s holistic in a way; it’s not just my energy but the way I work with the energy of the machine as well that effects a kind of harmony, instead of subjectivity, and together something new and meaningful is created.

On an intrapersonal level, the idea of trading a Master for a Partner has, for me, been one of the most important adjustments I’ve made in my life.   I don’t know about you, but I am much harsher with myself than I am with others and I’ve definitely had a Master approach when it comes to self-discipline and correction. If I step aside though, work WITH myself instead of against myself in my head and heart, I find a peace I hadn’t experienced before, and whatever issue I am wrestling becomes manageable instead of a kind of drudgery. Furthermore, I find I have more trust in myself to do the right thing where before I might have contradicted the ideal simply for the sake of outdoing my harsh ‘Master’.

I understand this idea doesn’t work in all relationships and I also concede that there are some instances where we must always be “Master.”  But whenever possible, from now on, I will look for ways to Partner instead.   The benefits are mutual and more vibrant, and much more satisfactory to the soul.

Here’s to Partnerships instead of Mastery.   May we find ways to morph some of the latter into more of the former…

Yours, Frankie


Live, While I Wait….

I am

In space.

My energy freed from a fragile shell of skin and bones.

I am.

More than I’ve ever been, I am now.

Time is of no consequence,

It’s iron chains no longer weigh upon my conscience.

Part, now, of the infinite universe.

Free as I once was, returned to my original state.

live

photo credit to n a s a

No longer tied to a planet,

No longer driven by the sun.

Holy stillness.

Peace, pure and perfect.

Silence, beautiful and consoling.

This is the death that awaits me,  and I live for it.

 

 


Examination of Death, by an Atheist

Just a few days ago, my siblings and I gathered together at an idyllic place in the mountains and, one by one, scattered the remains of our beloved mother.

Many of my family take solace in the thought that they will see her again someday ‘across the River Jordan’.   Yet as my husband and I discuss heady topics such as parallel universes and quantum entanglement, I am instead, solaced by the thought that my mom is more alive now than she was while bottled up inside a frame of skin and bones.   This is the examination of death, by an atheist.

Energy can be neither created nor destroyed, so sayeth science.

restingplace

Photo credit to E.W.

This is the reality in which we live. It is incontestable, it is there in the math as assuredly as one plus one equals two. So when the essence of a soul, whatever energy is caught up in our being, is no longer caged by the laws of physicality, then we have to conclude that our energy is dispelled and scattered again throughout our universe, to be employed for newer enterprises (nature is brilliant at recycling and repurposing).   There is great comfort in the thought that my mother is not relegated to just here and just there.  She is all around now, freer in a manner that none of us can conceive, able to effect any number of possible outcomes.  She is life, and that more abundantly.

I will miss her, make no mistake.  I have keened for her passing and will do so again in days to come, I am sure. I will never again feel the sweetness of her kisses upon my lips nor hear the admonishing tone of her voice when my wild nature conflicted with her demure soul.  And while in days past, I might have taken comfort in the hope of ‘seeing her again,’ today I am pacified by a more solid idea.   My mother is ever with me, in every breath I take, in each word I write – in all manner of ways that her energy is now part of the universe itself, I am ever a recipient of her freedom.  Though I may be heartbroken; I am content in this examination.

Yours,

Frankie

In Remembrance:  HEA