Wednesday, August 27, 2014

Cairns: Balance, Harmony & Holiness

Recently I was at an event at an independent senior living community. A group of local churches, and other organizations, lend support in a variety of ways to this vibrant community. The event included a worship service; my friend Carrie shared a message, which included a reflection on cairn building.

Listening to that message inspired me to build a healing cairn. During this message, Carrie stepped into the 

stream with me, handed me the first rock, saying: 

“trust me, it will be – amazing!”

Before I wade farther into the stream, a bit of background on cairn building seems appropriate. Cairn building has become a popular activity recently, but the history of intentional rock stacking is ancient. People have stacked rocks forever. Cairns can be found on the Tibetan Plateau, on the Inca road in the Andes, on the Mongolian steppe, series of cairns cross deserts on three continents. The Inuit people of the North American artic construct stone monuments called Inuksuk, these human shaped rock structures have been built for thousands of years. Cairns of all kinds have been erected and strategically placed for navigation, as spiritual offerings, or as remembrances. Intentional heaps of stone occur in almost every landscape that has loose rock.

Carrie talked about some of the ways in which the building of cairns is amazing. “When you balance rocks on one another, its an incredible experience because you can suddenly FEEL when the balance has been achieved. You know it - you can feel it!” As I was listening, I traveled on the stream of her words, to the stream where I would build my cairn; I saw a clear image in my mind of this taking place. My words here will call the folks who will be helpers in manipulating specific emotional / spiritual rocks with the intention of balancing – seeking that harmonic congruence.

Much like Carrie said, Spirit is always pushing me to look into myself, my heart, my desires, my motivations, sometimes it takes the hand of our Divine Beloved on my chin to gently turn my face toward the mirror. If I can be honest in these moments – I can ask myself “what are you DOING Lynn? How in the world, does this (the “this” of the moment) align, with who you were created to be, with who you are Called to be? In some of those moments, the answer is “it doesn’t… not even a little bit!”

I believe there is one path, which is experienced in vastly different ways by different cultures. We all walk, dance, scoot, crawl, and stumble our way along this path. It is the path to Spirit, to the Holy Love in the Center of All That Is. I experience this journey as a search for those moments of congruence, that agreement between my lived experience and what Spirit wants of me. Those moments of congruence, might be called moments of balance, harmony or holiness. Moments that every speck of me exalts "YES!"

Congruence is a state of agreement, when you are physically building a cairn with rocks, when you place one rock atop another, there is that moment of which Carrie spoke when you feel the congruence happen, there is a shift from instability to harmonic congruence between the rocks – a moment when they agree to support each other and the whole structure in this way.

When I am out of balance, when my cairn goes all wobbly, and falls into the stream with a horrifying ker-splash… then I have two choices, scamper upstream and just look at the dragonflies – pretending that my cairn has not just fallen into ruin… and/or that it doesn’t matter - or examine the thing that has just happened – figure out why, mobilize the folks I need to help, do the heavy lifting, and pray them back into balance. So what I’m doing here is recalling the words I heard in a different sermon, in which my pastor said, “remember, there is as much Grace in the stumbling as there is in running swiftly.” I offer prayers of gratitude for THAT, and I get to work.

What are the things that knock us out of that state of harmony and holiness, out of balance? For me at least, its so much easier if I can think that what puts me out of balance comes from outside of me – all of the crazy out of control factors out THERE!. Our culture has infused us with the habit of mind of looking elsewhere for the cause, the source, who is to blame for us being off balance – and to avoid looking in the mirror. It’s so much easier, when I don’t have to look inside myself… if I can just get rid of these things [wild gestures to something way over there]… everything will be alright. You know, if I can just get rid of that stuff, I can find that balance – achieve that state of holiness and harmony again. Many teachings point to the giant flaw in all of that, the truth being that my state of disequilibrium, my inability to build my cairn, isn’t about what’s out there, what other people do, think, feel, or bring, its about what is happening within my own heart – my own spirit.

To do this work, to build a cairn that is testament to my spiritually infused Isness, the resiliency of my spirit, my ability to hold the tension of things that make no sense, things that break my heart, things that make me angry, or leave me feeling inadequate, a cairn that stands as reminder of who I am – I will need some help. This is community project  f’realz. I’ll need a few helpers along the banks, y’all can cheer me on, sing your traditional songs, chant, tap out a rhythm, or splash your toesies in the cool water… but some of y’all are gunna have to get your happy asses in the water with me – to help with the heavy lifting.

Carrie was good enough to hand me this first rock. It is lovely, amber coloured, big, solid – and definitely a two-person rock.  As we stand ankle deep in the water and settle it solidly on the riverbed, four hands shift it side to side, to let it hunker down good and solid. This rock stands for my past and the tenuous peace I have made with it. I am the person I am, partly because of my experiences. It will never be okay that I experienced the horrors that I have. However, being a survivor has equipped me to be fully present with folks going through or reliving trauma, to offer an ear and a shoulder, scope out resources, help pick a path through the gnarly undergrowth, or “go all Southside” whatever Spirit asks of me in that situation. Thanks friend, for the good solid start here. I wander upstream, feeling for rocks. It’s not so much of seeing the right rock for this spiritual cairn, but of feeling it.

The next rock, is rather blue/burgundy with a vein of quartz running diagonally across its face, as soon as my foot touched it, I felt the energy there and knew it to be the next piece. I worked quite a little bit to pull it free from the riverbed. This rock is much more than meets the eye on first glance. I finally heft it out of the stream, as crawdads skitter away from underneath. I feel the dual nature of this solid piece of the Earth element. This is a Two Spirit Rock if ever one existed. The thin vein of quartz that twists across the rock’s flat edge, is not a solid line, but dashed. Delineating a distinction, but not a barrier between the two aspects that coexist therein. A team of Ninjas - scampered from the banks unseen (hello - Ninjas) and were zipping around as this rock was approached and identified - and lifted from the water. Arriving at my foundation rock, I say prayers of gratitude for this aspect of me, this next component of my cairn (and for my Ninjas). Setting the Two Spirit rock atop the first one, I gently scoot it around letting the rocks get to know each other, and ask them to tell me, where their fulcrum of congruence lies. Oh! There, slightly off center, is the balance point they have agreed upon. Two essential pieces, past and identity are in harmony. [Note: My way of representing this rock draws from an actual rock I lifted from Mother Ocean].

My spouse has been exploring the banks, and calls me over. “Honey! check this out” she says, and points to an exquisite rock with many colors and splotches. "whaddya think?" Flakes of mica catch the light like tiny mirrors, reflecting the dappled sunlight. Together we lift the relationship rock in place and working as one, find that spot of alignment, of sacred agreement and the rock stands shining waiting to see what comes next.

The next rock was so surprising, wide and sturdy, looking remarkably like a turtle tucked into its shell. This one called to me, and commanded attention, insisting I pick it up. This is the rock of my Call – shaped like a turtle, a symbol of Creator, this rock, nearly laid herself on the cairn, the pull to the place of congruence was magnetic, unquestioned, solid.

Alright… you over there – swatting and cursing at the “cloud of a million gnats” and pointing at a rock – roll up those dockers, and come over and help me - wouldja?!  This one, is ours to manage. Initially we work in lovely companionship, taking this rock whose oddball shape, and wild colours drew your attention, and I eagerly agreed on this choice. We talk and we laugh as we look for the sweet spot, that balancing place, and suddenly, all I see is a retreating form. In my distraction I feel the full weight of the rock in my hands, the rock slips, slices my hand as I try to prevent the dislodging, it bashes my knee a good one as it splashes into the stream. So many points of focus at once, on the unbelievable sight of the departure, on my throbbing knee, on the drops of blood swirling into the stream. Initially, I just cry, and massage my hurt places – but before long – I’m also angry. I shout up the riverbed - “Hey! You said you were in this for keeps - you said… “no matter what!” My voice trails off and in the silence that follows, I realize I have to do it myself… the best I have is what I learned of rock lifting from this amazing guy - there's been much learning from this fabulous creature who sparkles with what I’ll call holiness – and pray like crazy that I can find the place of congruence in all of THIS, and hope I haven’t seen the last of this unique person from whom I’ve learned so much, this person, I recognized on sight, this person I love dearly. I take some calming breaths as I hold in one hand the gift of having that in my life for a time, and the hurt and anger over this stupid gaping hole in the other. I get the bless-ed rock to into its place of harmony with the others, but feel so off-balance inside. I just keep looking at it – hurting and angry and bruised, muttering. There’s a hole, in this work I am doing now, and a vacancy on my team of healers that is shaped in a very particular way, and that… friends and neighbors – sucks.

I thank our Divine Beloved for this interesting piece I am putting at the top of this particular cairn. It is singularly beautiful in its defiance of the expected, one hardly ever sees a rock that is shaped like this, not chiseled or shaped by people hands, but by its very nature it is formed defiantly different. I am grateful for the solidity of this one’s shape, for the heft of it, and for the way that even though the rock beneath is so differently contoured in comparison, it seems eager to find balance with its peer. Somehow the contours of this rock, fit my scraped up hand – and paired like that… we get the job done. I offer grateful prayers for the presence and companionship of this one. After the crazy effort and emotion of the previous rockwork, finding and settling this one in place with such ease and comfort, helps achieve that harmonic balance, of which this whole cairn was to be the embodiment.

As I stand and look at the water swirling around this piece, one of many cairns I am to build… I feel a sense of peace that no matter what actions or emotions played into the placement of any one rock… the whole is supported by the harmony, the congruence, the agreement to coexist, that the constituent pieces have achieved.

I love and embrace each piece of this work; I see the outrageous beauty of each rock – and the beauty in the unbelievable agreement at which they have arrived. I see the rocks that have scraped me. I see the ones that are healing stones. I must believe in the integrity of the whole – or this living work of harmonic holiness will splash into the stream, denying that harmony amoung such diversity is even possible.

I believe in the radical power of Spirit to guide me as I build cairns to serve as monuments, spiritual markers, and guideposts on my bold journey towards Grace. I believe that it WILL be amazing – every time. I believe that each moment of balance – is holy. I believe that no matter what… when I am battered and bruised and collapse to the ground – I’ll receive comfort and encouragement, and when the voice says “now get up” – I will get up, and resume the work I have been Called to do.

~ Aho ~

P.S :  There are so many cairns to be built... but this work is a solid beginning. Alive, aware, and motivated - the work continues.

Sunday, August 10, 2014

A "Brautigan"

In other words, a poem in the style of Richard Brautigan, not by him:


Rage is an ill-planned vacation
Nothing to pack
Nowhere to go
The train
Has already left

Saturday, August 2, 2014

Ode To The Best Dog Ever

Chief was born on our farm almost 15 years ago (Sept 19th). His parents were farm dogs ~ HE is a farm dog. Chief is catahoula / lab mix. Chief's mom, Dixie, was pure catahoula, his dad, Bear, was a lab mix - but looked like every pureblooded black lab you ever saw. When this litter was born, my spouse, Jen selected Chief as a pup she wanted to keep. So when the pups were weaned and adopted out to other homes, Chief stayed. Chief was not a chained dog, he was a dog that lived outside, had an enclosure he slept in at night and was free ranging for most of the day. We worked with him to learn his boundaries and he was a quick study. He loved tagging after us as we went about life on the farm. We live on a 29 acre farm, so there's a lot of investigating, a lot of patrolling that needs to be accomplished in the course of a dog's day. 
     One day, Chief wandered in the wrong direction, crossed his boundary, and found himself in the road, and was hit by a pick up truck. He was rushed to the vet who told us he would live, but may well lose his left front leg. He could not extend that foot enough to get the pads on the ground, therefore he dragged the top side of that foot on the ground. Chief had a crack in his shoulder blade, and possible neurological damage to the leg. The vet gave us options ranging from taking our boy to Purdue (we live in Indiana, huge Vet school at Purdue University) - and maybe they could save his leg. We looked at each other knowing we could not afford the Purdue vet school surgery bill, and asked about other options. The other option was, take him home, crate him, keep him calm and immobile for a while, only out of the crate for food and potty breaks. We were so sure, that Chief would 100% hate this, he was a bouncing off the walls ball of energy (If you know Chief - stop laughing, he really WAS). The crate seemed the most viable option, and against the odds, Chief recovered quite nicely, he was able to use his front paw again, and walked with a limpish gait for a while. He never did regain fine motor control over that leg though, if he is playing with you, its rather like a club he wields, than an actual living appendage as far as control is concerned. During his convalescence - Chief became a house dog, and a housedog he has remained. 
Chief loves his life on the farm, he absolutely must help with whatever we are doing, fixing fences, digging in fenceposts, moving animals around, landscaping... he is right there, helping. Of course to the casual observer, it might look like the dog is totally crashed out in the grass near the job site, but rest assured, he's helping. 
Chief has always been fantastic with the kids, the grandkids, and visitors to our home. He lets the kids lay all over him, dress him up, put barrettes in his hair - actually clipped to his skin. One dress up episode he had a row of tiny claw clips running over the top of his head, he totally looked like a Klingon! He just looked at us while his beloved Ayanna inflicted this on him - as if to say "really? geez make her stop would ya?" Never a snarl, a snap, or a growl. 
     Chief has so many fans, people who know him personally, people who have walked with him on charity event walks, and, people who have only seen him on Facebook. He is a dog of many names. Chief, Chef, Chiefy, Weefy, Weefles, The Chiefster, Sparky, and The Original Log Dog. Chief's temperament is amazing, he has seen so many animals come and go from this house... dogs and cats that have been fostered or nursed back to health. Hedgehogs and birds that have lived here... a fawn that lived in our house for a couple of months and swore Chief was its mother.
Baby goats who came in when they needed TLC after a rough entry to the world. Down in our barn, we have rabbits - as in - we raise rabbits. Every now and then, a kit will get out of its cage, and be aimlessly wandering around on the floor... Chief picks it up in his mouth, very gently, and brings it to us - unharmed - all dog slobbered up - so we can get it back where it belongs.
     Over the past year or so the old boy has really slowed down (that's why I started calling him Sparky in truth). He's having more and more trouble getting up, his hind quarters are not very sound any more. Chief is rather lumpy in his old age, with growths of various sizes in multiple locations. The vet says they are fatty tumors and removal would be more traumatic than helpful. 
     Our sweet boy is getting grumpy, he and the other dog, a 5 yr old pug named Olive, were having words almost every night over nothing. There are times, when you look in his eyes, it just looks like no one is at home there. I think that doggie dementia is setting in. He has meds to keep his pain under control, but about 2 weeks ago, he just stopped being cooperative about pilling. We tried it all, cheese, hot dogs, liver sausage, mixing in his food. He just would.not.take.them. If we tried the bit of pushing it down his throat, even though the pill really went DOWN... he tried like the devil to hack it back up. He! So we kept on with the liquid med that he doesn't mind, and just stopped the pills. We could see his pain level increase. His tolerance for Olive, and the feline housemates, went to near zero. 
     The vibrant bouncy 90 lb ball of exuberant loyalty, was fading out and the situation was untenable. A week ago, we made an appointment to have our devoted companion euthanized... that appointment was cancelled earlier this week, due to a death in our human family. Saying goodbye to both of these beloveds at the same time was more than we could deal with. 
     Its been interesting, since the appointment was cancelled, I happened on a way to pill him that is working. Now Chief seems more present with us, he looks like he is "at home" in his eyes, and the nightly quarrels with Olive have ceased. I had him outside with me yesterday as I was doing chores and he kinda scampered part way to the house.

It is so hard ( #impossible ) - to know when it is truly time. My spouse is so bonded with this dog, and he to her... that I know it will be a devastating scene, this parting. I love him too, he's been with us his entire life and he seriously is THE BEST DOG EVER. He was born on this farm, and when it is time, he will be laid to rest here. 
     As I type, the old boy is crashed out on the floor, and I wish that he could just go peacefully in his sleep... sparing us the decision, and sparing him the trauma of loading up and traveling for that final vet visit.
     I guess the point of me doing this writing ~ is to stand as witness to the life of an amazing dog, an amazing friend. I have no idea - how we will do this when the time comes. no.idea.whatsoever.

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

Shared Spirit / Parting Gifts

This is a Re-Posting, by request:
~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I used to be on the writing staff of a blog called Our Big Gayborhood I wrote a piece about Cindy, But that blog is no longer online, so I couldn’t send you a link – I have the document in my archive.

My relationship with Cindy is unique there is shared spirit, shared knowing that isn’t really explainable, and an ability to feel what the other is feeling.  That sounds – and is wonderful, but wonderful… isn’t all it ever is.

When I was eight years old, I received an unexpected gift.  Her name was Cindy.  My Aunt June had passed away 2 years previous.  When Uncle Les married Aunt Arlene, Cindy and her brother John, joined our family. Cindy and I were the same age. From our first meeting, we just clicked.  It didn’t take long before we were co-spirits. Cindy had five brothers, no sisters and always wanted one. Although my given name is Linda, and am Lynn to my family and friends… Cindy dubbed me “Lindy” creating the dynamic duo of “Lindy and Cindy.” No one before or since, has ever called me Lindy. As we grew up we remained confidants, co-conspirators and to say we were close is such an understatement! We shared spirit. Our family had a tradition that amoung the three families of cousins, we could take turns staying in pairs at our Grandma’s house, but the rule was never could it be two from the same household.  It was always… Lindy and Cindy that paired up. During one such visit, we forgot to shut the back door and a blackbird got in the house.  Grandma chased that bird from curtain rod to windowsill, upstairs and down throughout the Chicago bungalow with a broom, as we laughed and we laughed and we laughed!  Normally our little Dutch Reformed Grandma was pretty reserved, but she was LIVID! She would quit the chase - every so often - long enough to chastise us - enunciating “ sit on that couch… it’s not FUNNY, stop LAUGHING” which only made the situation MORE hilarious – we collapsed against each other on the couch and just dissolved into each other’s laughter! For the remainder of our lives “remember the bird” was sure to reconstitute the moment and a guarantee a retelling of the tale.  When we were 15, my father died unexpectedly. When Mom remarried, my family moved to Indiana while Cindy’s family remained in suburban Chicagoland.  Even with the changing family dynamics, our bond was unchanged.  We stayed in close contact, but didn’t see each other as often as we would have liked.  This of course was before cell phones, before email… we would send each other long letters, or silly cards and clippings, sometimes just one or two liners, quoting favourite lyrics, usually the Beatles.

As we reached adulthood, we were there for each other through marriage, Motherhood and divorce, through celebration and despair. Cindy was there for me through the devastating loss of my Mother, and called me every December 27th to give me a long distance hug and let me know that it mattered to her that I was hurting that day.  I was there, when her beloved brother Butch died of AIDS.  When Cindy’s son Zach got into a little bit of trouble, she made the difficult choice to send him to live with his Dad, because she felt Zach needed a male influence… she thought she would just die without him at her side each day. I stood with her and we breathed together and cried together and tried to figure out the next right thing to do.  When I divorced and later came out, Cindy was by my side and she embraced Jen as if she had always been in my life. That is who she is in her innermost being.  This is who we are.

There would be days… that one or the other would just stop – in our tracks “Oh! Gotta call Lindy / Cindy – she needs me!” and we would – and it was a lifeline moment.  One of those moments November 2005, I was furiously packing for an emergency trip to California – my son Josh had been in a horrible accident and I had planned to call Cindy from the airport. She called with “what’s going on… is Josh okay?”  I nearly lost my son to that accident, and Cindy was an amazing source of support. That is who we have always been to each other.

Cindy’s hadn’t been feeling herself for some time, but had kept it from me because of Josh’s situation… she continued to work full time at a low paying job with no health care benefits. Uncle Les had a sudden stroke in December 2005, and although she was increasingly certain that something was amiss with her own health, postponed pursuing answers because in her words “this is Dad’s time.” At the funeral, I made her promise she would go to the doctor.  One look told me things were not right with my Cindy. When the dust had settled after the funeral, she went.  I remember the call, and hearing her tell me “it’s ovarian cancer Lindy, stage 3, they need to do surgery, then I need to get on public assistance. I don’t have any insurance and the treatments are really expensive.” Cindy employed the tenacity of a bulldog and the patience of a Saint cutting through the bureaucratic bullshit, and she got it all arranged. I prayed for insight and skill on the part of the doctors, for energy and healing for Cindy, and for an understanding of what I could do to help her.

After the surgery, while she recovered, we talked constantly, and I took on a new role.  She turned to me to research treatments that were being proposed.  Cindy didn’t have a computer and proclaimed herself to be technologically illiterate. It was easier for her to have me find stuff and funnel it to her.  So when the doctors would propose a new chemo cocktail, she’d get the names of the drugs and call me.  I’d search out the most accurate and up-to-date information I could find and get it to her via fax or snail mail. It helped her to know what to expect going into her treatments.  It helped me to feel like I was helping her walk this difficult path in some way.  Cindy confided in me how long and boring the infusion sessions were.  I offered an iPod, but Cindy thought it sounded complicated, so I bought her a personal CD player and commenced making CDs of music that she liked to help her pass the time.  I combed by digital collection for songs that spoke of life and love, songs from the profound to the silly.  I compiled an assortment of musical journeys to help her pass the time and to help her feel my presence during her treatments. 

Over the course of three years, hope waxed and waned. What a blessed gift the summer of 2008 was! Cindy got to share some great adventures with her son Zach, even tooling around on Zach’s bike a time or two.  She LIVED for that boy, that they had this wonderful time together was so awesome!  She was feeling good, and her counts were in a good place. My prayers at this time were those of thanks for the healing and the good times Cindy was experiencing with her son.  Zachary was her life, she would move Heaven and Earth for him.

From the time of her diagnosis, Cindy asked me to be there for her.  “You’ll know what I need, when I need it… you always do” she said.  Although I sure didn’t always feel like I knew, looking at it now, I suppose I did. As various treatments did not bring about the result we all prayed for, she called on me again.  “Lindy” she said “I can’t talk to Zach about this – I don’t want to hurt him any deeper, and I don’t want him to worry, and I don’t want him to feel he has to come home!”  Zach was in Austria as part of a prestigious international education program.  She continued “I can’t talk to Bill (her fiancĂ©), I can’t talk to Mom… they won’t LET me talk about death, and I really, really need to, can you come?” We made a date and I went.  Driving to Chicago I prayed, I asked for Cindy to be blessed with healing, but if that was not gunna happen, I prayed for more good days than bad, and minimal pain. I prayed for days of sunshine, and the physical ability to be out amoung her flowers. When I got there, we talked about death, we talked about fear, we talked about faith, and we talked about love.  She asked me to help with some household chores, changing throw rugs, and scooping the cat boxes and stuff, and then she asked me to do a very difficult thing.  Cindy asked me to help her get out her jewelry boxes, and to pick out something for myself.  Inside I was screaming, part of me wanted to run from that apartment, get in my car and drive far away from all of it!  But that was not what she needed; so we went into her room, laid stuff out on the bed and lounged around together as we picked out a turquoise and coral ring that she called “twisted sister.”  She said “Look Lindy, I’m the turquoise, you’re the coral, and we are all twisted together.”  We hugged and we cried and cried. She said she was going to wear it for a while, load it up with her energy, and then tag it for me.  I assured her that I was in NO hurry and we laughed.  We actually laughed… in relief I think, that even this… could not keep us from being the giggle twins that you see in the picture.  Then she asked me to look at what she had picked out as her funeral clothes. [internal scream “RUN – run from this place!”]  She held up the swirled blue and green skirt and made it swish.  “I always felt like a butterfly in this, I know it’s too big now, but they’ll make it work.” I told her it was beautiful and perfect.  We put everything away, and went to grab some lunch.  She was exhausted by that point in the day, but wanted to get out into the sunshine and fresh air, so we hit the drive thru at Taco Bell.  I will carry, all of my days the spirit memory of her leaning over as we waited in line to pay and go, and saying “Thank you for today – for always being my Lindy. I’ll ALWAYS be with you Lindy!” 

Over the next several weeks Cindy’s condition continued to deteriorate.  We talked on the phone often and Jen and I went to see her at the hospital.  “I’m so scared Lindy” she whispered as I hugged her.  She didn’t want her Mom, my Aunt Arlene who was sitting at the foot of the bed, to hear. “Me too Cindy” I replied.  We held each other and cried so hard we shook.  Aunt Arlene said “what are you girls laughing about NOW” which did make us laugh and we cried in unison “the BIRD!”   Hospice came in and Cindy went home.  She wanted to be at home amoung her flowers, and with her beloved Bill, and with her cats.  In those last days, Cindy and Bill exchanged vows; they were never able to marry. Bill was self-employed, with no benefits, but his income would have made Cindy ineligible for the assistance that paid for her treatments and for hospice care. 

One Tuesday afternoon Cindy called with an update.  She said that the hospice nurse was concerned about her rapid weight loss. “I’m a stick, Lindy, and I hurt so bad.  I’m just so scared Lindy, don’t tell Bill I said that, he worries so much as it is.  They’re going to try a different medication to help with the pain, so give me a day to let that kick in, then call me on Thursday… we’ll schedule a visit.  You give Jen a big hug for me and tell her I love her for making you so happy… I love you Lindy!” I told her that I loved her and assured her that I would call on Thursday.  My prayers shifted again.  I prayed for it to be over, for her suffering to end.  I asked our Divine Beloved to take my Cindy home.  I felt like a shit to be praying that… but it seemed to be what she needed and I had run out of prayers.  I called again on Thursday evening – I was on my way home from teaching a night class – I often called on the drive home.  Bill answered. I was alone in the car, on my cell and driving. I asked him how he was, he mumbled something I couldn’t even make out.  I asked “hey is Cindy awake, can I talk to her?” “Honey, Cindy’s gone, she died this morning” he blurted out. “I’ve been on the phone all day, I thought Mom called you” was his reply. That call on May 28, 2009 changed my life. 

I don’t remember the rest of the drive home. I could have been teleported home for all I know.  When I walked in the door, Jen took one look at me and knew something was wrong.  I told her about the call and we clung to each other as we each poured out our grief.  When I walked into the funeral home a few days later, Aunt Arlene accosted me, and said “I have something for you, Cindy made me come and get it near the end – it was SO important to her, if I forget to give it to you, she’ll kick my ass!”  It was of course, the twisted sister, with a little paper tag hanging from it that simply said “Lindy.”

I had bariatric surgery 3 days after we said Toksa Ake (until next time) to my dear co-spirit. This pic is from one of our last visits, Cindy was very sick, so was I, just differently so. When I admitted to the hospital they asked how I was doing, the usual questions. I didn't tell them I was emotionally and spiritually devastated. I didn't want any of my medical team to think I was too unstable for the surgery. I realize now that the buttoning up I did at that time was not without repercussions. Of course I grieved for Cindy in those first days, I mourned my loss, I cried and I wailed, I wrote and I raged right up until the morning of surgery, but then I had to just bottle it all up and put it AWAY, at least until I came home. Once I was home, it hit me hard! My loss, the endless well of grief related to her passing, the feeling of having part of my spirit yanked out – were not great tools for healing from major surgery.

All of those emotions are still.right.there.

There are times that I cannot make my brain REALLY comprehend that a world exists without Cindy's physical self in it. It hurts my heart... daily. At the most unpredictable times, it just wells up and bubbles over and leaves me as hollowed out as a jack-o-lantern.

I cherish the twisted sister, and have it on always, but the gift I cherish more is the gift of walking alongside Cindy as she faced her biggest challenge, and helped her meet her death, on HER terms.  That is a rare and precious thing, and a thing that changes those who walk that path… forever.

When I lost Cindy, something deep, something of me, was ripped loose and just flew away with her.

“Blackbird singing in the dead of night.  Take these broken wings and learn to fly.  All your life, you were only waiting for this moment to arise.”

Monday, January 20, 2014

What Does It Take?

Today is day 3 of the 30 Days of Love campaign.  This is a space of opportunity, by Standing on the Side of Love, where people are reflecting, contemplating, writing and harnessing our passion to bring about peace, justice, and reconciliation by mobilizing the tremendous power of  love to bring about change. Todays topic of reflection is considering a world where the human family lives whole and reconciled. I have been journaling each day, but wanted to lift up todays reflection here.  Today is the Martin Luther King Jr holiday.  A day when we remember, and lift up the myriad ways in which Dr. King lived into the possibility - and affirmed the inherent nature of the human family. 

The human family is - in my belief - whole and reconciled by nature. It is how we are made... we are unified in that we are of the same Source. The Holy Love in the Center of All That Is - is the taproot of the human family, and all of us - ALL of Us - have sprouted from this root and are nurtured by it. In this reality - we are whole - we are reconciled.  When I live in this truth, when I am able to breathe in the peace of that and connect to my human siblings, known to me and not known to me - I am uplifted, I am encouraged. There have been so many people, places and events that remind me that this is so.  Living in wholeness and reconciliation with the kaleidoscopic points of brilliance embodied as my human family - is connecting in the most basic yet the most beautifully complicated way.  

There is another perspective that comes to me in this contemplation, and it bears examination.  Watching the news, or scanning my social media feeds can be like being steeped in toxins.  There is never a shortage of stories of suffering, division, and dysfunction in the human family. It is easy to become jaded, to be cynical and to believe that we are built for conflict, that turning upon our sacred siblings - is just what we do. Mayhem and chaos are at the center of what the media and our fellow beings serve up for our consideration. Detailed accounts of shootings, trafficking of people and substances, imbalances of power and privilege, and the obscene extremes of wealth and poverty form the core of the information stream with which we are bombarded.

I examine each of these today - these two seemingly polar opposite views.  As I hold the tension of knowing that each is real - the question emerges - "what is the essential difference between the two?" For me the difference is a matter of what we do with our armour.

Woven into the fabric of the human family, are threads of conflict, strife, anger, hatred and fear.  There are two ways to respond to that reality - either by "perfecting" our ability to armour ourselves - or by doing the very hard work of creating, nurturing and growing spaces into which we can step with all our vulnerability, and set aside our armour.

The history of the human family has often brought us into violent interaction, a dynamic where we hurt one another.  In an effort to avoid being hurt we have woven a complex fabric of defenses - we have been trained towards - and equipped for - battle. By donning thicker, tougher, and more sophisticated armour and by wielding a numbing arsenal of weapons - blades, guns, resources and privileges - we lock ourselves into a certain dynamic - where we stand in our armour - and brace for the conflict.  When we take this position, we find ourselves at a place of great separation from our sacred siblings, and work in opposition to reconciliation. 

When our arms are full - of the things we have been trained to believe - keep us safe - we cannot pick up tools that forge relationship - we cannot open our arms to embrace.  

I believe that our common connection to the Source - the All - is imbedded in the very core of who we are.  Are we bold enough, to actively look for that in others - to see that Presence in their faces? Can we access our innate fierceness - and unfold? Not if we are standing in full armour, weapons in hand - daring the world to strike. I think we can be fiercely loving of one another. I believe we can be wildly inclusive and work boldly together. I know we can, I've seen it, I've experienced it. If we desire wholeness and reconciliation, we must have the ability to move, and arms that are open.  We must be vulnerable, and find ways in which, we can set aside the armour, and open our arms to the reconciliation and wholeness that only openness and lovingkindness can achieve.

~ ~ ~
"Will you let your armor crack, and let the light shine through, can you see it streaming out, as well as into you?" (Terry Gonda)