Thursday, January 31, 2013

The Joy of WANTING again...

Over 20 years ago, I attended a week long workshop led by Jack Canfield, the "Chicken Soup for the Soul" guy, that changed my life profoundly.  I was in a huge life transition, moving back to Indianapolis freshly divorced from a short-lived crazy marriage with nothing but a truckload of debt; and struggling with obesity which was a byproduct of refusing to move my body in any way and being fiercely committed to binge eating on total crap food and drinking jugs of cheap wine or whatever I could get my hands on. I was at a low.  But I did have a new job and this stoked the possibilities for my life in a way that kept me going against all odds.

Call it a fated intervention by the gods or good fortune, I call it a Cinderella experience of transformation from the darkness of the cocoon into the butterfly spreading her magnificent wings and taking flight into new life.  Instead of glass slippers and a carriage ride with Prince Charming by my side, I was given the opportunity to attend this workshop.  One of the first exercises was writing out what I wanted for my life over the next year, 5 years and 10 years.  I know this is common knowledge now as we are all well-versed in and understand the importance of being intentional with our lives; but this was mind-blowing for me, as it was the first time that I had ever reflected on and grounded in the question: What do I want for my life? 

The instructions included NOT to limit myself, to think BIG, bigger than I had ever thought before.  This actually scared the shit out of me and excited the hell out of me.  I was struck with a pit in my stomach over the fear of being disappointed if what I want doesn't come to be  AND I was flooded with the thrill from new thoughts and ideas that hatched effortlessly. 

Nothing gets our pulse, our life force racing more than being scared shitless and being excited.  Both actually felt good because I was feeling again after being numb for so long.  The joy of wanting as I put it all on the page, scratching down line after line at a fever pitch helped me to BELIEVE in the beauty of my life again.  I wept.  This seemingly simple exercise was actually sacred, it was the miracle I had been begging for.

It was right there within me all along but the exercise gave me permission to want again.  The little girl who had dared to dream was awakened from her slumber and she was on fire.  Choice by choice, step by step, day by day, I created a life through effort and grace that has been far more than what I penned that day or ever dreamed of as a child.  It hasn't all been a fairy tale as there have been many hard knocks that have handed my ass to me, but there have also been moments that dropped me into sheer magnificence.

Following John's death, I stopped wanting and I was okay with that as the grief held me in a necessary cocoon.  After all, a lifetime can have many death and rebirth cycles and I was definitely in that space.  But suddenly, I found myself wanting again with desires stirring and churning deep within so just as I had done over 20 years ago, I put pen to paper listing my dreams and feeling an intense joy even in knowing there will be disappointments and detours along the way.  Much wiser at this point, I trust that life will unfold perfectly as I am comfortable in the mystery, living in the unknown and don't feel the need to control the reigns.  Oh, the joy of WANTING again... 

Wednesday, January 30, 2013

Weeeee...Look! No hands.

I was describing to a friend my walk since my husband, John’s death 20 months and my belief that moving on with life is getting up every day, facing what comes and accepting what was is no longer.  In meeting life on life’s terms, we can either go kicking and screaming or muster as much grace as possible or throw our hands in the air and let out a “Weeeeee” as we ride the twist and turns, ups and downs.  I have done all of the above and continue to oscillate between them. But I keep showing up, standing tall, whispering to myself:  HERE I AM.  And loving each day and living it all.
John’s band of brothers took me on an adventure to the Upper Peninsula of Michigan – a place I had never been but where John (known as “Buck” to his friends) and the boys had snow mobiled and ridden four-wheelers for years.  From the moment we hit the road, the bantering began. We told story after story and took every opportunity to tease and give each other a hard time.  The weight of the world lifted with each cackle and belly laugh as a constant stream fueled the weekend.  I had entered a fun zone that transported me into an innocence lost, an openness to play and enjoying the simple yet sacred exchange of friendship.
The next thing I knew with a helmet and riding jersey on, I was strapped into a side by side all-terrain vehicle with bars over the top and the sides to protect me from falling out or from the collisions with brush and trees.  These guys only know one speed:  FAST.  Pedal to the metal, we took off.  I was terrified and simultaneously exhilarated, closing my eyes and breathing deeply before surrendering to the joy of life outside the confines of my box. Gripping the steering wheel with all my might and letting out a thunderous “Weeee,” life showed me more of who I am as we explored the forest for new paths, jumped over ravines, splashed in muddy creek water and banged into trees.
These men familiar to me in their “roles” as business owners, husbands and fathers transformed into teenaged boys before my eyes, completely present in their bodies as they rode their four-wheelers with great force and even greater delight, cutting through the bush and turning on a dime as one road ended and another began. I could see John riding right there beside them and thanked him for his legacy of fun and friendship.  What a cool surprise that they awakened my inner teenaged boy, enlivened by the fear and the muck caked on my face and clothes.
Arriving home, we shared hugs and said our goodbyes yet we were connected as never before.  We had met new parts of ourselves and each other. On the other side of this journey, I am no longer just Buck’s wife and they are no longer John’s friends.  What a wondrous life this is.

Meditation:  Do you have preconceived ideas about who you are that limit the joy of your life experiences or are you open to the surprises?
Action:  Do something out of your comfort zone that inspires you to put your hands in the air and let out a “Weeee.”

Tuesday, January 29, 2013

I Am A Dangerous Woman

My business partner, Tra and I were leaving the attorney's office where we had just drawn up the terms of our legal agreement for our new venture.  I was driving and she was in the passenger's seat when out of nowhere I confessed to her as if I was warning her and stripping naked before her, "Tra, I'm a dangerous woman.  I don't have the fears or shame that used to bind me."

Her response was priceless, one that could only come from a fellow dangerous woman, "I LOVVVVE IT!" she said without missing a beat with the enthusiasm of a miner striking gold.  We began to crack up laughing as I explained that I had no forethought of expressing that declaration and truly had no idea where he came from. 

I wanted to shout it out to the world:  "My name is Kathy McHugh, and I am a dangerous woman."  And I wanted to begin a movement and invite all the dangerous women to rise up and join me in this stand for freedom; all women who refuse to be motivated by our shame-based culture and who have the courage to take fear by the hand and befriend it instead of letting it rule them and their life choices.

The word "dangerous" verses "courageous" denotes a sense of excitement, a sense of the great Odyssey of going within and drinking from the well of soul that is eternally free from the conditioning and constraints of this human life.  Whitman poetically invited us to "dismiss whatever insults your soul," as he understood that following the herd, going along to get along, fitting in to the status quo simply isn't possible for all of us.  And it must be said by this dangerous woman, committed to a shame-free way of being that there is nothing wrong with those who find a sense of home in the conventional life.

The truth of who each of us is cannot be fully met when we are ashamed of
our thoughts, our desires, our beliefs, our actions; causing us to censor our Self, to be who others need us or expect us to be and dull the aliveness that longs to come out and play.

Learning to fall in love without conditions with our Self, appreciating our Self, flaws and all, owning and delighting in a sense of our Self wholly as human and divine, letting go of abusive perfectionism is a liberation like no other.  The more each of us can appreciate ALL that we are as an individual, all the unique aspects, quirks, mannerisms that make us who we are, the more we can appreciate others instead of projecting how we think they should be onto them, shaming them into submission so we can be comfortable instead of threatened by what is different. 

Yes, I am idealistic and I am pragmatic.  I realize that those two words aren't usually found in the same sentence, but I am a dangerous woman so I am not afraid to be both idealistic and pragmatic.  I understand that some will read this and feel the stirring to join me in this liberation and some will think I am just plain nuts.  I am okay with both.  I have no expectations projected on to you.  This simply comes from a deep desire to always share my truth.

All roads lead us back to the Self; to heal, to let go, to reach for more.  Here's to the dangerous women who dare to stand up and rock the boat AND here's to the women who have no desire to do so.  Making room for both, for all, living an inclusive life is essential for me.  Anything less than this insults my soul.

Monday, January 28, 2013

What If Playing It Safe Is Killing Your Spirit?

The inquiry around safety, playing it safe to the detriment of my vitality, my own sense of adventure is never-ending.  My mind will always justify my choices to play it safe instead of stepping into the unknown, experimenting and navigating new paths.  But my body never lies.  When I feel myself dragging my body around fulfilling my daily grind, I check in and see what choices I need to rethink in order to free my spirit.

Vitality comes not from morning coffee (even though I am drinking mine as I type) but from our spirit, our connection to our own life and to all life, our passion for living.  This sense of aliveness is a way of being that creates an inspired life even when we face life challenges. 

10 days ago, I shocked the hell out of myself by redesigning my website, blogging, tweeting and getting back onto facebook.  It was simply time.  Pausing to check in and listen to my Self, I have experienced a great surprise in the joy of getting back OUT into the world in a new way.  This risk may seem small to others but to me, it is big big stuff. 

Letting the new in requires us to let go of preconceived ideas that box us in.  What a boring life to think we have it all figured out and the way we are today is the way we will be tomorrow.  I have adopted the mantra, "Surprise!  Surprise!  Surprise!"   This has awakened the great explorer within me, inviting more of me to come out and play.

I invite you to reflect on this question:  What If Playing It Safe is Killing Your Spirit?  Sit with this.  Tell the truth to yourself.  The truth will set you FREE!

Sunday, January 27, 2013

Adopting the Attitude of Jellyfish

Offering encouragement to me a few years ago during one of life's storms, my friend, Lois emailed me:  I recommend the attitude of the jellyfish which rides out the seas because it goes along with them.  She added that I do this so well, far better than most which felt true even though there were definitely moments of fighting the currents, resisting what was, kicking and screaming, cursing the gods.

Yesterday, a note arrived from her which is always a treat when I see her handwriting as I sift through my mail.  She just turned 85 and moved over a year ago to an assisted living community in Maine with her husband of 64 years, Ken.  In spite of Ken's deteriorating health which forced this move, Lois's vitality is undeniable, palpable, leaping from her words and handwriting.  At Christmas, she sent a picture card of she and Ken, both beaming with delight as they stood bundled in winter garb with snow-filled pine trees in the back ground.  Her note to me:  Much love, Kathy dear - and a snowball or two with a smiley face.

The circumstances of our lives don't dictate the amount of joy and happiness we experience.  Our ability to accept what is and be present to life, riding out the seas wherever it takes us creates a sense of aliveness like nothing else.  Unexpected joys rise when we are in the moment whether in stormy waters or calm.

Lois's note yesterday says it best:  This place is plum full of "jellyfish" - takes a while for most of us to catch on...Ken is enjoying himself at 89 - that is all one wants...We're watching a 3 day gift of snowy skies.

I invite you to join me as well as Lois, along with her friends in the assisted living community, in adopting the attitude of the Jellyfish and experiencing the magic of being unconditionally present to your life.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

Cutting Off My Arm

2 years after the death of my beloved husband, John, an image of me cutting off my arm flooded into my psyche.  Like a rock climber with an arm pinned under a boulder, I had to find a way to cut off my arm in order to live.  I pulled out a dull pocket knife and did the unthinkable in digging deep to find a way to cut off my arm.  Slice by slice, I experienced a pain that I didn’t know was possible to feel.  I watched from outside my body doubled over on the floor, wishing I would just die or be free of this pain.  Both happened.  I died.  And in my death, I was set free.
It didn’t happen all at once and there is no way I would attempt to instruct anyone in cutting off their arm.  I simply did what was in front of me, what organically came forward moment by moment.  There was no strategy.  I lived the answers, allowing my soul to instruct me as I never had before.
John was the happiest person I had ever known.  He lived each day as if it were his last and reminded me daily, “There will never be another day just like this one so enjoy it.”  I would return the favor reminding him that there will never be another human being just like him.  And there won’t be.
He was my hillbilly Zen master, appearing to be ordinary in his camouflage pants, T-shirt and baseball cap.  But embodying an abiding sense of joy no matter what life brought his way and sharing wisdom in one-liners that opened my mind, heart, body and soul. 
Our meeting is the reason I believe in fate and destiny.  John gifted me in his life and has gifted me in his death, showing me how to be alive, living the passion, freeing the spirit and reminding me that we can live many lives within a lifetime.
John was no stranger to heartbreak, witnessing at age 3 his little brother’s death following a car accident where he walked away without a scratch.  His dad died when John was only 10.  And he left for Vietnam when he was 18 seeing the horrors of war take the lives of men, women and children.
He teetered between this life and the afterlife countless times in his 60 years.  We used to tease that he had already used his 90 lives, ten times more than any cat.  He knew that life is now and someday may never come.  Knowing there was no promise of tomorrow, he didn’t wait to enjoy life when everything was going his way.  He loved each day as an adventure and lived it all playfully, walking in a field of kindness that engulfed all who experienced him.
Now, I am living life in the way John did because I know that my death will come but as long as I am here, I am going to LIVE.  I like all that I am even the ugliest parts of me and love my life more than I knew was possible in the wake of John’s death.  His legacy is the love, the passion that lives in me and fuels my new life.  I have had other women whose husbands have died challenge me, saying that I can’t say that I now love life more than I knew was possible in the wake of John’s death.  They fear others will think I don’t miss John and that I shouldn’t love life more without him here.  To this, I respond that the heartbreak opened me to a depth of Self that didn’t exist before and in that depth, I found a well of abundant peace, love, joy.  This doesn’t mean that I didn’t love life before but the well is deeper than I knew and I gratefully rest in it.  In this space, I am unconditionally present to life.  This is a wondrous way to be in the world!  And it cost me EVERYTHING to know this.

Friday, January 25, 2013

Nothing Left Unsaid

On November 17, 2010, my husband, John, died of a heart attack.  One minute he was laughing with friends and the next minute he was dead. 
I was driving towards downtown Indy when I got a call saying there had been an accident in front of our houseboat on Lake Cumberland in Kentucky and they were working on John.  I jumped on I65 South with the single focus of getting to him.
My phone lit up with calls from concerned loved ones; but the call from the hospital came 20 miles south of Indy, “We’re sorry but there was nothing more we could do.”   
Forces beyond me took over driving my car, getting me safely off the interstate and parked at a gas station.  I exited my car screaming hysterically to perfect strangers that the love of my life just died.  An angel held me as I shattered, staying with me until my sister arrived.
In the midst of the trauma, I whimpered, wailed, and let out sounds that I had never heard come from a human; and then I heard myself say, “There was nothing left unsaid.”  I didn’t know my husband would die so abruptly and there was nothing left unsaid between us.  This is the great blessing that continues to sustain me.
20 years ago, we were reluctant and guarded.  John used to tease, “How did two mutts like us come together and heal a bunch of sh#%?”  We were astonished at how our love washed away the wounds of the past, lifted us to heights unknown before, and made safe space for truth to come forward.  I am grateful that I knew how to appreciate all of who he was and how he showed up for life.  I learned to love the idiosyncrasies that could make me crazy as well as the things that were easy to adore.  It was an exchange of mutual admiration because we really liked each other as human beings.  We were friends.  We were lovers.  We were partners on this journey.  There is no one else that I would want to be in a foxhole with more than John because I trusted him with my life and he trusted me.  We learned to share not just our hopes but were vulnerable enough to share our greatest fears. 
We give our hearts and risk it all for the adventure of couplehood.  This is such a bold act of sincere bravery.  The heart chooses and won’t be silenced, compelling us to throw caution to the wind in favor of the potential hatching from within us.  How alive loving another makes us.  Nothing enlivens us more than loving.  Writing this, my heart widens causing physical sensations that know this truth intimately.  How grateful I am that this love is still with me even though John is not.  There was a merger of my heart with John’s, a melting that sealed the connection that continues to fuel my life.  This joy is worth the heartbreak.
What if when it's all said and done, you've left nothing unsaid?  Belt it out.  Don't hold back.  Let it rip.  No regrets!

Thursday, January 24, 2013

It Aint Over Till It's Over...

When I was 10 years old and announced to my parents that I would be the next Jane Pauley (being the host of the Today Show, she was the most famous person I knew from Indianapolis), my dad told me I was a dreamer and dreamers don't go anywhere in life.  Even though he hurt my feelings with his harsh tone of voice and sucked the wind out of my sails, I didn't believe him. 

As a child, I was obsessed with reading biographies devouring one after another.  Reading the stories of people throughout history who experienced unfathomable struggle but persevered against all odds and reason reminded me of the potential within me.  They were kindred souls who cheered me on in spirit and filled me their energy of hope that remained long after their time here on earth.  And they still do.

Anna Mary Moses, known as "Grandma Moses" didn't begin painting until she was 77 years old.  When asked if she had never painted what she would have done, she answered with the highest sense of Self, "I would have raised chickens.  It's all art."  Now, that is wisdom.

Life is our art.  Our individual life is art uniquely expressing through us all our days here on earth.  We get to choose, moment by moment, day by day what we want to create.  Not all of us are here to paint masterpieces but the way we live our life is our own personal masterpiece. 

Dreams continue to unfold until our last breath.  Daring to explore our wants and desires, experimenting with and reflecting on our gifts and how we want to use them at various points in our life, and using our precious life force to see it come to fruition reminds us we are here to LIVE!...And it aint over till it's over.

Grandma Moses died at 101 years of age.  She didn't plan to die as we are culturally conditioned to do at certain stages in our lives; she planned to live for as long as it lasted.  And she did just that.

I am proud to be a DREAMER.  At 44, I feel a sense of surprise that comes from being open to my dreams and the art of living this grand adventure with wonder and awe.  There are dreams that I had delayed that were waiting for me to show up.  Every morning, I say:  Here I am.  And do what I must and allow the graces of the universe to do their part.  It will be fun to see all that comes through before my time here is no more.  After all, it aint over till it's over.

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

A Lifetime of Happiness Lies Ahead of YOU

Christmas eve 2010, five weeks after my husband, John's death is a blur but one moment is burned into my heart forever.  I went to PF Chang's to meet a couple of dear friends.  At the time, I couldn't eat much due to grief sickness that came in the form of irritable bowel and nausea.  But when the fortune cookies came, I kept with the tradition of reading it aloud and for a little comic relief, I couldn't forget to add our favorite line  "in the bedroom."  My message said:  A lifetime of happiness lies ahead of you (in the bedroom)."

The three of us burst out laughing.  And then, I began to weep tears of gratitude and knowing.  This was a message from John, from the heavens and it was the best gift, as it was just what I needed.  It was a reminder that a lifetime of happiness lies of ahead of me regardless of the unhappiness I was feeling; and even in the midst of the numbness and aching, I absolutely knew this was true.

When I returned home, I taped this message on frame that displayed a wedding photo of John and me.  It remains there to this day.  I want this message in front of me every day to fuel me with hope and possibilities for my life.

What I have come to know is a lifetime of happiness INCLUDES unhappiness.  I can hold both.  Life is not always HAPPY-HAPPY-JOY- JOY!  I don't have to deny the pain or unhappiness and I don't need to wallow in it.  I can be unconditionally present to what comes up.  In allowing both or allowing all that I feel, I am happier than I knew was possible.

Everyone has the worst things that have ever happen to them, causing immeasurable pain and heartbreak.  This is part of the human journey.  In experiencing the depths of my own pain, I have empathy for all of humanity.  No one goes through life unscathed.  Everyone has moments that take them to their knees AND moments that lift them to heights that could have never imagined.  The worst things that happen to us can lead to the best in us.  This is life.  Be with it.  And remember:  A lifetime of happiness lies ahead of you!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

We ALL Need a TEAM

I LOVE football so this past Sunday with the championship games I was glued to the TV even though my Colts and Peyton (Denver) weren't playing.  Football for me is such a great mirror of life:  The players prepare and practice.  They show up on the field not knowing the challenges and the triumphs they will experience.  They exceed limits and shock the hell out of themselves doing what they have never done before AND they miss opportunities fumbling plays they thought they had perfected.  In the end, only one team can be declared the winner, but I am always in appreciation for the courage they all display over the 60 minutes of play.

Ray Lewis, a 16 year veteran for the Ravens, was interviewed after he and his team defeated the Patriots.  He is known and loved not just for his athleticism but for his heart that was born to inspire on the field and off the field.  The broadcaster interviewing Ray was focused soley on "Ray Lewis" (the man, the myth, the legend) and his accomplishments.  Overcome with emotions, he was crying as he said, "It is all about the team."  You could feel his deep appreciation for each player, the owner and the coaches.  He went on to say that without the team, he wouldn't be who he is or where he is (going to the SuperBowl). 

I began to cry as I knew exactly what he was feeling.  We all need a team!  I have a team.  They have been in the trenches with me through the darkest moments of my life AND they have celebrated with me over victories great and small.  They have stood with me in the pain of life and in the joy of life and their presence has given me the courage to keep putting one foot in front of the other.  Their laughter and sillyness has invited me to come out and play even on days when I didn't want to.  Their willingness to risk, set out on adventures into the unknown have fueled me to throw caution to the wind. 

My team makes life richer!  They allow me to stand on them when my foundation is shaky and stand with them borrowing from their energy and I return the favor.  This is an exchange, a dance, divinely orchestrated to ever-changing rhythms.  This is life.  Wondrous.  AWEsome. 

Monday, January 21, 2013

Grief is a MUTHAFer!

Last night, I got a text from my nephew's wife, Jan.  She had attended funeral services all day for her cousin, Matt who was like a brother to her.  He was only 33 and after battling cancer for 7 years, it was time for him to return home to the heavens.

Jan is heartbroken but even in her heartbreak, she was most concerned for Matt's wife, Carrie who is shattered by his death.  Well-meaning people had told her that it never gets better but it gets easier so Jan turned to me for some words of wisdom since I know grief intimately.

2 years, 2 months, 3 days and 22 hours ago, my beloved husband, John died.  I still track the time as this is evidence that I am here, still alive and kicking.  His death is a part of me AND so is his life.  I have been made anew.  Grief swallowed me and has graciously spit me back out with a deeper sense of Self, a reverence for all life, an abiding joy and peace that I had only read about from the writings of the mystics throughout the ages.  I live each day with a sense of wonder and awe that would not have been possible had I not allowed the grief to do what it does.

Being with the pain, the unknown, the darkness as well as the joy, the peace, the miraculous FREED me.  All that was inessential has been stripped from me.  I KNOW in a way I never could have that this is MY life, it belongs to me and I get to decide how to live it, moment by moment, choice by choice, day by day.  I am not the person I was.  The moment John died, my death began.  GRIEF is a MUTHAFer!  It is.  And it is necessary in order to extract the nectar of the tragedy.  I witnessed and experienced my own death so not only was I aching and longing for my husband, I simultaneously ached and longed for who I was and the life we shared.  Initially, everything still looked the same but nothing was the same.  In time, nothing looked the same because nothing was.  This isn't good or bad, it is what it is, as in nature, the flowers die and go to seed and come up anew in perfect time.

Wailing became my friend.  I would ask my sisters and friends to leave me alone so I could let the wailing rip, echoing throughout my empty home.  I would scream out to John, to the heavens and to life for being so F***ing unfair.  I gave myself permission to have what I call "Widow Terrets" where I belted out curse words in a blurry chain of seeming nonsense: FUCKYOUMUTHAFUCKFUCKFUCKTHISFUCKTHATFUCK!!!  Oh, how this served me well and moved energy through me.  This was good medicine, indeed.  Life aint all pretty and I no longer pretended it was.  Rage boiled up and I welcomed it as never before.  We became friends as I was no longer afraid of it and no longer wanted to control it.  The TRUTH set me free!  I knew that if I didn't FEEL this pain, all of it, it would kill me.  My soul informed my choices now not my ego that had controlled and avoided pain throughout my entire life.  There was no strategy to get through this - no 5 step plan to getting OVER it.  Run the other way if you hear or read about strategy or plan or the way to get over great loss!  Live the answers, live the way for your Self.  Be inspired by others who have walked a similar path but don't allow anyone to tell you how to feel or what to do or shame you for feeling and being where you are.  I have embraced taking the grief WITH me, being vulnerable and unconditionally present to what comes up in life.  Now, this is a fierce way to live.  This is the legacy John's life and John's death has gifted me with and I say THANK YOU all day long.

Freedom and rebirth into my new life would come from BEING with it, feeling it all and holding myself with unconditional love, zero judgement and complete understanding. At first, I looked to others to understand and soon realized that I had to give myself the understanding, only I knew the TRUTH of my experience, the depth of my pain.  I had to make the pain and this experience SACRED in a culture that doesn't let life touch them.  This not only saved me, it freed me in ways I didn't know I was repressed.

BELOW IS A DIARY ENTRY 2/9/12, My husband's birthday and 1 year, 2 months, 23 days after his death: 
Letting life touch you takes courage.  To go into the experience of any given moment is to be transformed, enlivened and surprised.  The moments of our lives bring what we most need but busyness and our need to control everything robs us of this.
Grief is SO ALIVE!  It moves through.  The repression of the feelings shuts us down, depresses us.  The trauma of the loss literally rocked my body, mind, spirit.  I had to be with this.  I didn’t want to but the grief insisted.  This was sacred time and the way to be transformed by it was to be with all that came.  In learning to be with it, wherever I was in the moment and not judge it or try to force a change, miracles happened.  I knew myself in a way I never had.  The life I had constructed, the self I had constructed was no more.  The sky had fallen and I let it fall.  There is freedom in this experience.  Trying to hold up the sky is exhausting and drains the precious life force.  Surrendering to the experience liberated me.  New skies come.  The old skies merge with the new.  It is a continuum.  To learn to love life, the ever-shifting dance, is a magical sense of the mystery each moment brings through.  The possibilities birthing through me, through others, through all of life excites the hell out of me.  I pause to say, “Thank you.”  Gratitude in the midst of any life circumstances brings the light that is eternal.  This gratitude is from a heart-based life where I cannot help but acknowledge the gifts, the richness, the beauty of this life EVEN when I want things to be different, other than they are.  Even when I want John to come home NOW and tell me this has been some horrible nightmare but now, it is time to wake up, I am grateful.  I am grateful for the life we shared, the person I became wrapped in his love, the miracle of our love to heal the wounds from the past and transform each of us.  I am grateful that I appreciated who he was, the crap that annoyed me and the parts that made me laugh and the parts that elevated me to heights unknown before.  I adored my husband as he was.  I wouldn’t have changed a damn thing and thank God, he wouldn’t let me as he was comfortable in his own skin.  He never belonged to me.  He was far too universal and belonged to everyone.  I gratefully shared him.  He went out into the world and lived his life, bringing all the joy, all the discovery, all of the aliveness back into our home and our life.  His love for life infused my love for life.  Every day was an adventure, exploring the divinely mundane, discussing our greatest fears and hopes, loving each other through whatever came.  This is a rich life.  This is the miracle.  Our love is the miracle.

Friday, January 18, 2013

I have always been in awe of the legacies created by my personal heroes like Elizabeth Cady Stanton, Eleanor Roosevelt and Oprah Winfrey. But I had never given any thought to my own legacy – what I wanted my life to say. Each hero stirred me deeply over the years, urging me not to live the expected life – a life that was about pleasing others but left me feeling empty, burned out and joyless. I viewed my heroes as larger than life and believed myself less than them – After all, who was I to think I could leave my mark on the world?
On January 1, 2004, instead of a New Year’s resolution, I simply wrote: Please let me live authentically and passionately. I didn’t even know what I was inviting, as this desire came from a place far wiser than me. It was a call for liberation from the cage that I had created – a cage that I had hoped would finally prove my worth as I manically strove for perfection, a cage that displayed all I thought a successful person was and all I believed would make me more acceptable.
Shortly after I asked to live authentically and passionately, the veil began to lift as life showed me the more I had been longing for in heart-wrenching and in glorious ways.
My brother was diagnosed with cancer. There was nothing I could do to fix this so I had to let go, accept what was and be present. I learned that my presence was the greatest gift that I could give – not just my brother but everyone. In a world that consumes us with busyness, it is miraculous when we fully connect with another. I also came to know that life is now and some day may never come so if I want to live the life that I came here to live and give all that I have to give, I must understand my worth.
After my brother died, I read the influx of cards – notes from kids he had coached, former classmates and colleagues. Each of them said that my brother’s smile and kindness towards them affected how they now coached and lived their lives. No one spoke of anything superficial. They spoke of the heart connection that they had made with him in the seemingly ordinary moments.
My brother had no idea how extraordinary he was and the mark he had made. This led me to ask, “What am I leaving in the hearts of others?” as I believe in the end, this is what matter most. The way we show up for our lives in the ordinary moments (when no one is watching except us). The way we comb a child’s hair, kiss our loved ones, listen to someone who just needs to be heard, care for someone in a time of need or lead an organization.
To be mindful of what we want our lives to say and what we are leaving in the hearts of others is no easy task yet it fuels my life with possibilities.