Inspirational

This picture of an archway in the Alabama Hills of California was taken by my husband on a recent photo expedition. It suits this particular blog because it is a natural bridge. I see “no” as a bridge leading to “yes,” when the proper intention is applied. Although the arch is stone, it seems softer in the early morning light.      

NO: IT’S THE NEW “YES”

In spite of what Webster’s Dictionary has to say, I don’t view “no” as a negative answer when the question or situation does not have a positive energy. I have been a people-pleaser most of my life. My therapist told me that this behavior is typical for childhood abuse victims. I have volunteered (and been volunteered) for thankless jobs that no one else wanted, agreed to do time-consuming projects for others at the expense of my own time, and have even considered suicide on more than one occasion when one simple word would have saved me: NO.

I am a changed woman now. I still maintain a compassionate heart, with one strong addition; my compassion now also extends to me. It is not healthy to hangout with energy vampires or people who have no intention of helping themselves. Being an enabler does nothing to help either party, if either person is not making independent choices and accepting the consequences of them.

I have also had to learn to say no to myself, the ego part of me that would love having a piece of chocolate cake, skipping yoga or a walk, watching reruns of Murder, She Wrote instead of meditating. Sandy, a dear friend, said it best: “Never give up your power to food, another person, or any idea.”

I do believe in surrendering to God, because that is saying no to the part of myself I would like to cast off in favor of something greater. Some of my best friends are angels, which I will blog about at a later date. When I listen to their advice, I find I don’t have to say no as much to others or myself.

It’s hard to make a Heaven on Earth if I don’t feel it myself. I like to grow my own “Garden of Eden” and invite others to join me. (I even wrote a song about it.) I can accept some unpopularity with popularity, because this is a dualistic world. I also allow others to say “no, not interested in joining at this time.”

Recently I found that I was overbooked for my life. I had too many writing contests to enter, too many singing engagements to do, and too many events to attend. Instead of losing control, I took charge and made some choices. I chose which contests I really wanted to win, what gatherings I felt happy to join, and I left the rest for another day. I even postponed my blog for a couple days. There rarely is a “one and only” time to do something, and seldom a “one and only” person to meet. That is a grace I am grateful for in life.

This week, I also learned that when doors say no to me, I have options. Do I have the right key for the door, or do I need to learn something more? If it’s an unfriendly keyhole, can I find another like-minded door that is already open? Even if I have a handful of keys, how do I know what doors they unlock? Are they doors I wish to enter?

Closing some doors may also be necessary to get to the vista I wish to see, the person I wish to become. Sometimes saying no is saying “go” to the person, the situation, the plan that is not working anymore. While this can be a step into the  unknown, it is the only way I know of to get to the new “yes” for me.

 

 

 

Bob’s photo of the pelican captures the moment when the bird leaves Earth for some place higher. 

 

MAYA ANGELOU: THIS BIRD HAS FLOWN HOME 

When I read the news of Maya Angelou’s passing last week, I started to cry. Although I was sad, I hadn’t even cried at my own mother’s death. I began to analyze what touched me so much now. Was it words she might still have written? Was it the words she had left behind? Was it her grandmother-like embrace of the world that I felt was forever gone?

I reflected on my own maternal grandmother. There are no replacements for wise old grandmothers, at least not the ones that weave love into the discipline and disappointments that life gives them. My grandmother kept a family together during the challenges of the Great Depression, made my growing up more pleasant, and ignored her “terminal” cancer for almost forty years. Maya Angelou and my grandma, Ethel Lucille Potter, were two beyond-strong, super women.

The autobiography of Maya Angelou is beautifully expressed in I Know Why the Caged Bird Sings. Her self-imposed silence lasting for years, following her childhood rape, was an unnecessary punishment for the murder of her violator. Silence in a social setting can be a slow form of suicide. It can also lead to an epiphany from the dark night of the soul.

Maya Angelou definitely had epiphanies throughout her difficult life. There were strong lessons of survival. But to transcend survival mode, a person needs to balance life’s blows with beauty and compassion to be found and fostered. She had a definite gift for that, which she willingly shared in her words and actions with others.

I said to a friend after Angelou’s death that the main reason I felt so sad was that there was a hole that no one could fill. My wise friend reminded me that there are many undiscovered or little known people like Maya Angelou all over the world. Perhaps they are even in their silent mode and are just waiting for the right time to speak.

I am hopeful my friend is correct. I like to think that our beloved grandmas leave a nest of words for our eggs … eggs that will hatch into fledglings, never to be in a cage, always to have something to sing.

 

 


This photo of Bob’s is one of my favorites, because I love the green hills with the backdrop of the California coastline. My mother, who is the topic of this week’s blog, dearly loved greenery. She never got used to the fact that she lived in Southern California, not wet Washington. Tacoma was always in her heart, if not under her feet.

 

HELLO, IT’S ME: GOOD THINGS ALWAYS HAPPEN WHEN IT RAINS

 

Last Monday was Memorial Day. I did the usual honoring of the all the male members of my family who served in the wars. I also thought a lot about my mother, her private battles. She never got much recognition for the heroic efforts on her part to raise two children as a single mother after three marriages. She was already battle-scarred and wasn’t emotionally or economically prepared to raise my older brother and me on her own. Fortunately, her parents let us move into their home. I was six at the time.

The house had lots of idiosyncrasies. The electricity worked in strange ways. The plumbing had its own style and rhythm. I am sure the attic was haunted, if not by spirits, then by old dusty memories. I didn’t care. It was home. It was a relatively safe place to live. My mother must have thought so, too. She died in that house, in her favorite chair, during the early morning hours of October 2006.

Mom had lived in a few other places in Monrovia, but she came back home to take care of Grandpa when he was ill. She moved back in permanently to help Grandma, until my grandmother passed away at the age of 92. I would call Mom every day, several times a day. The conversation always began the same way: “Hello, it’s me.” It was a comfort for me to be able to say that without her ever wondering who “me” was. Her mind remained sharp until the day she died, a major blessing these days.

My mom was a lady (she liked that word) of contradictions. She always wore a dress, but deserved the name “mechanical mama” for times when she would try to fix things herself. I remember her crawling under the car on a desert road, banging away trying to fix “vapor lock”. I still don’t even know what that is. She was churchgoing, but believed in ideas that were definitely not mainstream.

She liked to tell me about the happiest time in her life, when she lived in a tent by a stream in a Washington forest. She was a little girl then during the Great Depression. Grandpa would fish every day. Sometimes, they ate fish for every meal. Nobody complained and Grandma would add something to change the flavors. Mom told me the best part was playing in the forest with the fairies. I think it was a great disappointment to her that I never saw them. My life is not over yet, and I still keep an open eye and mind.

Unlike others who live in Southern California, I am happiest when it is a gray day and raining. I inherited that from my mother. One of Mom’s favorite sayings was, “Good things always happen when it rains.” We walked for miles in the rain when I was young. I miss that. I could still do it, but I think about the mess of getting wet. I need to revive the part of me that could care less about being muddy. Mud washes off. The joys of rambling in the rain linger in the mind. Those joys are the “good things.”

 

 

 

Above is another Morro Bay scene with a solo fishing boat and a sunset by the rock. It sets the tone for Part Two and parting from my father, who loved to fish. His ashes may even have made their way to this beach where I stood to reminisce of sunrises and sunsets gone by.

SUNRISE OR SUNSET: IT’S ALL IN YOUR POINT OF VIEW, PART TWO

The best part of the day, as far as I am concerned is the sunrise. Since I am not always awake for that, I will settle for an equally beautiful sunset. Sunrises and sunsets, however, seem to be the most fleeting times of day. That does not diminish their beauty. The shortness of time makes the moment more precious, and the light becomes ever so much more special. Such was the relatively short time I had with my father on this Earth.

We did not talk much about the past concerning why he and my mother had separated. (Neither of my parents ever said anything bad about each other.) He did like to tell stories about his adventures in Bolivia, some appropriate (and not-so-appropriate) memories of France in World War Two, and some tales of his side of the family, including details about my sisters. The stories about my grandmother shooting at rattlesnakes from a stagecoach may have been embellished, but I laughed anyway.

He had sad stories, too, about being homeless for a while after his second marriage did not end happily. Perhaps it was some of his less than happy memories that made us connect at a deeper level. He was philosophical after the loss of my first pregnancy and the subsequent nervous breakdown. He was just as comforting after the next two losses and other breakdowns. He would pat my head as if to impart some kind of secret knowledge into it. Perhaps he knew at some level that he would be the one to raise my family when he went to Heaven a few years later.

It was not a total surprise when my father got lung cancer. He had smoked for years. I would come up to Palo Alto and take him for the radiation treatments. We would have bouillabaisse at my motel. He had trouble eating but could still talk about poetry and politics. Sometimes, he would strum his old guitar, the one I now have in my bedroom, and he would sing French ballads. He got better, but he did not quit smoking. Perhaps that was the greatest lesson he inadvertently taught me: if you keep doing the same things, expect the same results.

I think I was the only one who understood why he did not want to go through chemo and radiation for the brain cancer. True to form, he read all about it and knew what was coming. I had wanted to take care of him, but was too ill myself. His sister kindly took him in. The hospice care was not long, just long enough for my sisters and me to say goodbye. One day, I leaned over and gave him permission to die on my upcoming birthday. I would be forty. As if to honor me, he died the night before.

We read parts of The Little Prince, by Antoine de Saint-Exupery, at his simple service. I was playing the part of the fox, saying goodbye. He had to go Home to take care of “my three roses,” which I know that he did. It was a sunset for me that I will never forget. It was a sunrise for my children. Either way, the sun is still shining.

The peaceful picture at the top of my blog was taken by the love of my life, Bob Haine. He shot it in San Francisco’s Golden Gate Park last March while I was attending a Hay House convention where Doreen Virtue was the keynote speaker. The photo is a beautiful lead-in to my first public writing of my very private life. The green of the old oak and the green of the stream present the balance I look for in life. That is the theme of this blog.


FINDING BALANCE: SOMETIMES YOU JUST HAVE TO LET GO TO KNOW IT’S ALREADY GONE

I did something rather amazing this week. I changed my name. No, I did not make up a new one, or create a pen name, or even change my name that much. I decided to go back to using the name that I was born with: Kathleen. Not Kathy or Kathi, the names I had picked up along the way. But my real name, the name I was meant to be.

Why do this, one might ask? Simple. I realized why I had changed the name in the first place. It was an unconscious attempt to get rid of my past. Many people have a past they would like to forget. My mind was very accommodating in that regard. Except for a few, limited memories, I had pretty much forgotten the scenes of my childhood. This week, however, I started to remember. More importantly, I learned how to put it in its place, pick up the pieces, integrate it, dump out the garbage, and claim the parts that I still loved. Nothing was wasted in the experience.

I have two reasons for sharing this in text. I find it cathartic for me. But I think my main motivation is to help others who may have had similar situations in their life, or are going through it now, or who are really earnest about getting empowered to be the person that they were meant (and CHOOSE) to be. I realize that I am mainly writing for women, because my experience is from the female point of view. Yet, I speak to the needs of everyone, because giving and accepting love, being peaceful, having boundaries, and knowing we are powerful beings who are never alone, are things we all need.

If anyone is offended by what I have to write, let it roll off their backs like the rain and water someone else’s garden. The people who would be most upset or embarrassed by my words are dead and buried. I wish them nothing but love. Forgiveness costs nothing but the peace of mind is priceless.

I was given a “rose” of a life. Roses have thorns. One just needs to learn how to cultivate a rose while avoiding getting stuck. And every true gardener knows the oldest, thorniest roses have the very best fragrance.

Back to my title…finding balance. To live life completely NOW I have decided to put the past away, keep the lessons and love I got from it. I plan to restore harmony to my life in my way of seeing things, doing things, and being however I choose to be. I know that accepting who I am now is the first step toward becoming who I want to be. Others will benefit by the ripple effect of this change. Even if everyone else doesn’t notice I am different, I will know it. The inside relationship is what really matters.

Yesterday evening, I did a little ritual to finalize my departure from a previous life and entry into a new one. I burned some old photographs in a pretty abalone shell, I buried the ashes in the dirt, I said a few prayers, took a warm, salt bubble bath, and had peaceful dreams all night.

This is not a journey that ends here. Perhaps you would like to take it with me. I invite you to do so. I will be writing every week in the coming year. My birthday is next week. Writing is the present I give to myself. I will be sixty-two, a senior citizen. As far as I am concerned, I was just reborn and I am very, very young at heart.