Thursday, November 29, 2012

My Heart

In the November issue of O Magazine, Martha Beck has a column titled "You're Doing Just Fine."  She writes about that inner critic that we do battle with and need to oust permanently.  Her solution is an Everybody Committee, which only helps if you have the right people on your Committee.  The secret is to staff your Everybody Committee with people who accept you unconditionally.  Then, as Martha says, "You [will] be supervised, all day every day, by people who forgive your errors and believe in your destiny."

As I read the article I made a mental list of the names of those I needed to kick off my Committee.  It took more thought to create a list of replacement members.

Then it came to me.  You, you who read here, are on my Everybody Committee.  Your encouragement and support is what rings in my ears when I feel lost and unsure, when I question how I got where I am and what comes next.  Your insights enlighten me, your faith in me fills my heart.  I have chosen you as the mirror that reflects the "me" I can't see but most want to be.

For the past several days I have carried with me your positive comments on my last post.  I awoke on Saturday with a soreness in the muscles in my chest.  I had no symptoms of a heart attack, but the bruised feeling brought my awareness to my heart.  I thought about how hard I have been on myself, frustrated and disappointed and sad.  At night I went to bed worried and not feeling well.  What helped me relax were kind words to myself modeled after the reflections of my Everybody Committee

I promised to take better care of myself.

Tuesday  morning my heart started pounding when I sat up in bed.  I dressed slowly and laid down on the couch with the heating pad.  Hours later, when that hadn't helped, I called for a doctor's appointment.  I asked what would feel best while I waited, and the answer was a hot shower and a movie with subtitles [Where Do We Go Now?, which I highly recommend].

Later, after two doctors, two EKGs, a chest xray, and many blood tests, my heart was pronounced healthy. However, my ribs are out of alignment and need attention.

My daughter gently insisted I take her massage appointment Wednesday morning.  My massage therapist worked on my ribs, front and back, my shoulders, neck, and diaphragm for over an hour. We talked about images that came to mind: pliable ribs; a diaphragm that expands when I exhale and deflates when I inhale; loose shoulders; and a head gently perched on soft neck muscles.

I told her I have been hard on myself, and when she asked if I was done with that I said yes.  I told her that scenes from the movie Under the Tuscan Sun came to mind: the dry faucet that eventually runs with water; the strangers that become family; the woman who grows into a life different than what she expected but exactly what she wanted.  We talked about the challenge of living a luscious, juicy life full of what we want, not what we thought we had to accept.

Before Wednesday, when I imagined my heart, I thought of it protected by the surrounding ribs close by, rigid, and watchful.  What if those ribs relaxed and spread out, my lungs had room to breathe, and my heart had room to open?  What would that feel like?

The journey continues....  

Wednesday, November 21, 2012

My Gratitude

On Thursday Laura will post her Gratitude Quilt.  I encourage you to visit her site, especially if you haven't seen the Quilt before.  It is amazing.

I have contributed in years past.  I didn't this year.  I thought about it.  I would close my eyes, take a deep breath, and think about what I am grateful for.  Everything that comes to mind belongs to someone else: my kids are great, my husband loves his job, my friends check in when they don't hear from me, and so on.  When I focused on what is mine, I see my car.  I can say that here but I'm not going to share that with the world.

I continue to push forward like I always have.  I exercise, meditate, practice lovingkindness, and make an effort to do things for others.  I support and encourage family members and friends in their endeavors. Yet, I cannot gain any traction in getting where I want to be in the world.

I was thinking about this on Sunday while I made the bed.  One more thing is not going to work out the way I thought it would.  I let go of the expectation without a second thought.  I questioned why I am able to do that.  Am I hard hearted?  I looked at that question objectively, not judging whether it was good or bad but wondering if that could be an explanation.  Is that why I keep going?

Later in the day my daughter and I went shopping.  She came back to the house for the evening, and after dinner she and I lingered over coffee at the table.  We both follow bloggers who have children, and we regularly discuss the different ways people handle their experiences.  My daughter has friends who have children, and she is seriously considering what it means to be a parent.  She asked me how I did it.  More specifically she wanted to know how I knew how to be a parent to her.

I thought for a moment.  I was 23 when she was born.  I was overwhelmed with joy at her birth, while at the same time I was heartbroken at the loss of her twin sister.  I didn't know enough to know all the things that could go wrong.  I didn't have time to be scared.  I knew I had a tiny baby to care for, I was the person responsible for her life.

On Sunday I told her that she came first, that she survived and thrived were the most important things.  I always wanted her to know she was loved no matter what.  My sadness was mine and separate from her.  My living daughter was my priority, as were her brothers when they were born.  I would do what I needed to do for me on my own time.  I never wanted my children to feel responsible for my feelings.  I am the parent and it was my job to take care of them. 

Then my daughter thanked me.  She said she has always felt loved and accepted for who she is.  She knew I was sad sometimes but never felt that it was her fault or that she had to take care of me.  She watched me get better, and she thanked me for modeling how to work through problems. 

I told her that I would have missed so much joy if I had done it any other way.  I wanted to be present for every moment of my children's lives.

I asked her if she thought I was hard hearted.  Sometimes I pushed my children to keep going, too.  She said she always knew I cared, that I would be there for her no matter what.

I am grateful that I had this conversation with my daughter.  This is what I will remember about Thanksgiving this year.

Happy Thanksgiving everyone.  May your gratitude find you, too.   

Wednesday, November 14, 2012

Reflections On An Election

I have spent the last two weeks immersed in coverage of the 2012 election.  I gave myself over to it because it was on my mind every waking moment anyway.  I wanted to know as much as I could about every aspect ~ the candidates, the issues, the polls, the analysis, and the predictions.

I love politics.  I have had an interest since my earliest memory of knowing what the word meant.  I see a connection between my life and politics at every level.  I marvel at the changes in this country in my lifetime because of the people who have been elected and how they have worked for progress through leadership and legislation.

Anyone who said the 2012 election did not matter has not been paying attention.

Across the country there was much at stake ~ reproductive rights, health care, education, union rights, movement toward alternative energy and away from war, civil rights, jobs, our social safety net, fair and just immigration policy, the environment, diplomatic relations with other countries, and respect for differences within our own borders.

At one point on election night I realized I was holding my breath.  I was able to breathe in deeply and exhale with relief at 11:15 p.m. when Ohio was called for President Barack Obama.  As more results came in his margin of victory grew.  The final tally was 332 electoral votes for President Obama, as well as a majority of the popular vote, which made him one of a handful of presidents in history to be re-elected with such numbers.

It was also a historic election for women who will serve in Congress: There will be 20 women in the Senate, sixteen Democrats and four Republicans, and there will be 80 women in the House, sixty Democrats and twenty Republicans.

Maine elected its first Independent Senator and was one of three states to pass a law for marriage equality by popular vote.

I have been basking in the election results for a week.  I know that the political road ahead will be bumpy and that none of these numbers in any way promise that a consensus will be reached easily on any issue.  I also know that we have to start somewhere.  I am optimistic that we are in a good place to begin the work that needs to be done.