“We have to dare to be ourselves, however frightening or strange that self may prove to be.” ~ May Sarton
After spending three months in Ireland and two months finding and settling into our new home in Mill Creek, WA, I’m back at my desk again. My “desk” is a comfy down chair with an ottoman. I’m sitting here with my feet up, my laptop balanced on my thighs, a cup of tea and my phone within easy reach.
I can’t tell you how amazing these past months have been. The time in Ireland worked me to my soul’s core. Challenging me beyond anything I could have imagined. I’ve learned so much about myself and what’s important to me at this time in my life.
It hasn’t been easy.
Not that I expected being alone with myself to be easy. I didn’t. I was anticipating and prepared myself for the usual suspects—shame, regret, and inadequacy—to have a field day making their opinions known as if for the first time. Those voices are not strangers. And, they didn’t disappoint, being the first to greet me as I stepped into the quiet.
I wasn’t prepared for what happened next.
With nowhere to go, no schedule to keep, no Internet or cell service, I was forced to stay present and learn to tolerate feeling uncomfortable with myself for more than five minutes. My vision of writing by the fire, rain lashing at the windows didn't happen. It was sunny most of the time. I went outside. And there I found what I was looking for. What I needed most.
I needed the sound of the distant ocean waves. I needed to feel the soft breeze on my cheeks. I needed to sit and watch the crows, gulls, and herons and listen to their voices. I needed to smile and say "hello" to fellow passersby. I needed the cup of tea with friends. I needed ten hours of sleep at night. I needed to not do a single darn thing.
I had to let go of feeling disappointment in myself for not writing as much as I'd hoped, and not living up to my expectations of what I thought I would accomplish while in Ireland. That my time there didn't shape itself in the way I'd imagined. Instead, the gift was found in a deepening of knowing myself by connecting with the natural world around me.
I re-ignited my passion for the work I do.
And, while I could choose to spend the rest of my days sitting in front of a peat fire, reading, and sipping tea, I am instead feeling an enormous desire to step more fully into my work supporting others in finding their deep wisdom, trusting themselves to know what they want and guiding them to live from their heart.
We don't have time for anything else.
From my chair beside the cottage fire, I imagine the coffin being lowered into the freshly dug earth, carefully cut pieces of sod stacked to the side, anticipating their return to cover my sister’s remains. A patchwork of earth and grass that would mend itself back together again. I envy that. I will be lonely for Jo the rest of my life.
I always knew where to find her. My sister was as predictable as clockwork and while I couldn’t imagine her life being mine, I often needed and took comfort in the familiarity of each other, the shared understanding of where we came from, though how that shaped us manifested in different ways. We drew from a deep well of humor. And while that often offered a detour from digging into uncomfortable places and the conversations I longed for, it also honored the best family trait handed down to us.
Random bits and pieces of times spent together have kept me company this week. I remember how my sister loved the musical Camelot. She had the album and I truly thought she would wear the vinyl out; part of me hoped so, except I loved hearing her sing and look so happy. I teased her about having a crush on Robert Goulet. George Harrison did nothing for her. We liked different music, our styles were different, we often saw the world from opposite points of view.
She was my sister. I loved her. She loved me. The love between us was always there. It was enough.
This week the tears keep coming, blurring my vision and choking my heart. I vacillate between holding them back and letting them flow. Someone who has been a part of my life forever is gone. I’m feeling numb against the finality of her death. To know I’ll never laugh with her again.
To not know, for the first time in my life, where to find her.
"I believe in intuition and inspiration…at times I feel certain I am right while not knowing the reason".~ Albert Einstein
There are inner nudges you can’t ignore. The ones that are nestled deep in your soul and eventually move beyond a whisper. They tug at your heart and no matter how you may try to push them to the side, they won’t have it.
This inner knowingness has directed me in ways that haven’t always been easy. In fact, most often I’ve been guided in directions I’d done my best to avoid. The unknown lies in wait, where too much courage is needed, and too much judgement handed down. Yet, without exception, when I allow myself to breathe through, and tolerate my feelings of fear, anxiety and downright terror, I move into a new part of myself. Life expands and my faith deepens when I say “yes” to following those inner nudges without fully knowing the “why” of it.
Two years ago, staring out our front window, I asked aloud…”What are we doing?” “Is this how we want to spend our days?” Those two questions unleashed all we needed to jolt us into knowing we needed to make a change. Our hearts quickening, we began a process of questioning, examining and exploring possibilities to shift us forward in a new direction.
Out of that questioning, my husband, Craig, and I created Eire Retour, which plays to our individual and combined strengths and joys. Eire Retour is a unique travel experience offering a time for renewal, reconnection and exploration. We’ve blended the elements we cherish in this beautiful life...lovely food, lively conversation, laughter and music in the mystical, breathtaking landscape of Ireland.
Each of us was ready to take another leap of faith that led us to where we are today ~ without a physical place to call home. After ten years living in Portland, Oregon, we’ve packed our belongings into a 5 x 10 storage unit and are spending time with our precious granddaughter and family before crossing the pond to Ireland.
We’re excited to host our second Retour and then plan on staying in Ireland on a personal retreat. Intuition and inspiration are traveling with me. I feel called to write and I’m excited about expanding my work with clients in a new direction that will shape itself over the next few months.
While in Ireland, I am setting aside Thursdays, beginning October 12, to continue working with you. I’ve added a Scheduling page to my website that will easily allow you to book a session on the calendar. The platform we will use for a session will depend on what’s easiest for each of us. Skype, FaceTime and What’sApp? are all possible options. I will be in touch with those who schedule with the details.
Here’s to holding each other in our hearts quickening ~
Here is the world.
Beautiful and terrible things will happen.
Don't be afraid. ~ Frederich Buechner
November 8th has come and gone and here we are one month later. My brain feels broken.
Waking early the morning after, I reached for my favorite mug, made tea and buttered a piece of toast. A quick look at Facebook, then on to CNN, Huffington Post, NYT, BBC, The Guardian and eventually scanning the local news. All this after having watched hours of the PBS election coverage the night before.
Already an avalanche of reaction to Donald Trump’s successful presidential bid had emerged--in the wearing of safety pins and calls for action to protect the civil rights long fought for over our country’s history. I found myself unable to engage from a reactive place. I needed to grieve, not try to make myself feel better, or try to make everything better right away. My way has involved extra cups of tea and a drastic reduction of exposure to FB and the news, lots of candles, quiet conversations with my other half and hours spent in stillness.
I needed to hear myself.
One month later, I am finding my way forward in this deeply divided political climate of mistrust and uncertainty; where facts appear to act no longer as the touchstone we relied upon as absolute. Where do we look to find voices we can trust to give us an expanded perspective? If we learn nothing from this election, please let it be that we must learn to listen to other points of view with genuine interest and respect. This begins with listening first to what lies within, deep within our hearts. Order should proceed from love, not from the reactionary chaos of righteousness.
I am praying for courage.
We don’t know what lies ahead. I may be called to a access a deep courage to support those who may be more affected than myself by what unfolds. These next four years are not about a Republican or Democratic administration. We’ve survived both many times before. The election of Donald Trump has given a permission slip for the shadow of our culture to emerge; for all that was buried beneath political correctness and our complacent personal comfort zone. Too many voices not heard in the very real erosion of what working class Americans held true ~ that a steady job provided for your family’s needs. Trump massaged the simple message ~ Make America Great Again. For some, this offered the opportunity to express their disgust for the “educated”, liberal Democrats and claim an equal voice. My hope is for an new middle to form ~ one defined not by one political party ~ but rather, includes many voices unified in standing against racism, bigotry and misogyny. I believe there are many Republicans who were willing to overlook Trump’s personality to support a conservative political agenda, but who do not abide hatred and bigotry. Maybe, we will be able to meet on that ground and begin to move beyond the polarization. Trump has succeeded in alienating folks across the political spectrum, and perhaps that has created a crack in the polarization as well. Maybe our elected officials’ votes won’t continue to be cast strictly along party lines. Perhaps we will move into a new middle.
I stand in love.
It’s time for love to be taken seriously. For love to count. Love is not naive. Love is a direction, an agenda, a way of living that is powerful. Every bit the equal of hate in its power to transform and create change. Choose love. All love ~ all the time. Love lies deep in our core. Go there...every day. Take time to examine your days...did you operate from love? Did you contribute in ways that make you feel at peace ~ less anxious? Or at the end of the day do you still feel worked up, angry and agitated?
If you do, then I would suggest you rethink your approach. This is your life. Make a difference where you’re able. If you choose to make donations to organizations you feel are doing good work in the world, do it. If you want to sign petitions you feel strongly about and let your public officials know how you feel with a letter or phone call, by all means, do it. I’m not saying those actions are wrong or ineffective; they are absolutely necessary. I am saying we also need to contribute closer to home, where we are able to make a difference that we can witness in a more personal way; supporting local business owners and organizations, making genuine personal connections with others. Don’t underestimate the power in simple courtesies of human care and connection ~ eye contact, smiles, manners, compliments...seeing others and letting them know you see them. These actions foster peace in your heart at the end of the day and may have contributed more than you will ever know to the people you met in offering comfort and strength ~ a reminder of compassion.
I vow to shine.
I invite you to join me. We all have gifts we bring to the world. Now is the time to step fully into being your highest, brightest self. Not all of us are called to be activists, yet we all have the ability to change the world. We do this by thriving from our deepest passion. For those of you who make music, make the most glorious notes ~ our hearts need to hear them. For those who write, write with raw passion and truth and delight in the creation ~ we need your words. If you grow flowers and gardens, cultivate prolific and beautiful abundance. Allow your imagination to soar. Do something to make the world more beautiful in the simplest and most natural of ways. In times of darkness, truth and beauty are our touchstones for survival. We need what your heart brings to the world.
My husband, Craig, and I are opening our our home on the second Sunday of every month for a simple soup supper. This idea emerged from our hearts as a way of sharing our love of gathering people at our table and our need to see and be with others in a meaningful way ~ not on social media. You are welcome at our table. We hope you’ll join us.
“I'm so glad I live in a world where there are Octobers.”
~ LM Montgomery
I’m not a fan of temperatures above 75 degrees. I live for that first hint of cooler air, knowing that soon it will be sweater weather, warm homemade soup on the stove and tattoos will hibernate until spring.
The extroverted energy of the summer season softens into the quiet season of autumn, signaling - for me - the feeling of a new year when all things seem possible, even probable. I feel called to a slow turning inward and I am able to rest and reflect in the quiet waiting for me. I find my balance again.
Autumn is witness to life returning to the earth, a portal for dying and yet I am baptized by the dazzling fire color of falling leaves, delighting in the gift of the summer’s garden bounty and turning my eyes upward watching the migrating birds fly south across the sky. We put our gardens to bed; our days shorten as the darkness comes early, and I feel a surge of aliveness that is a joyous dance. Is it in dying we feel fully alive? Does one ignite the other?
The quiet whisper of farewell calls me to those things I love most ~ music, flowers, being in my kitchen, and candles lit everywhere. If I am destined to be met with a conscious dying, I can imagine I would dust off Bob Dylan’s Blood on the Tracks, turn up the volume, open the windows wide, for once not caring about disturbing the neighbors. I would surround myself with flowers and all the books I’ve yet to read. And I would bake my favorite dishes, but let someone else wash them. I would hold my beloved’s hand as much as possible. And I would smile and cry at the same time. Dancing between two worlds, each taking turns leading me from one home to the next, until I take that final twist, when all I’ve loved is no longer enough to keep me here.
This year has me dancing life in all its colors ~ coming to terms with my sister's reckoning with leaving her earthly home and then anticipating the joy of greeting my first grand-baby due to arrive in February. I do not know what the world will feel like without my sister in it. I wonder about that as I am knitting a sweater for the wee one coming in. Knit one, purl two, the tears blur the stitches and I have to unravel the yarn back to the place where all was well, something I can not do for my sister. Sitting by her bedside, I leaned forward to hear her soft whisper ~ “I watch all of you get up from your chairs and I can’t. I won’t ever again put something in my crockpot for dinner.” I nodded and said a quiet “yes” that I hope held an ounce of what my heart was feeling. Witnessing her letting go of these simple, yet suddenly precious acts of ordinary living.
Wedded as I am to participating fully in this life I’m living, I feel every bit of the tenderness in both saying goodbye ~ how can that possibly happen? ~ and saying welcome to the world, baby girl. Loving both of these beings, one who has shaped a part of my heart and another who will.
So, this October, I will play all my favorite music while wearing my apron and sing into a spatula as I blend a chocolate batter sure to bring good smells and wide smiles. I’ll light all the candles and have extra cups of tea and curl up with a book. I will step into a brilliance of being alive and embrace all that I love about being here. Not because I have the answers. But instead, because I can.
I’ve always loved Rilke’s quote, “Being here is so much”. These days, though, I feel being here is almost too much. I don’t know about you, but I’m tired. Tired of the political climate of this election year and the senseless shootings that have left families and communities shattered; where we barely catch our breath before we hear of yet another tragedy. In the midst of all that leaves me weary, I tap into a deeper place of knowingness that everything we are witnessing is reflecting and revealing the patriarchy working in its shadow, allowing us to see without question the polarities of love and fear. I choose love. Every day. Again and again. It’s all I know how to do in this climate of black and white thinking. That, and I would suggest we all take a nap. The whole world needs a nap.
When I hold fast to loving fiercely I feel better; taking time to walk daily, allowing the flowers and trees and seeing God in the eyes of the people I meet to soothe me and remind me not all is lost in the midst of the injustice and darkness that seems to greet us these days from the time we wake up to when our heads finally rest on our pillows at night. Issues that require our attention to learn and listen and claim our responsibility to contribute to what is in alignment with our integrity.
Holding to this path of loving fiercely in the midst of divisiveness, where anger and frustration can so easily eclipse compassion and respect can be challenging. In addition to my daily walks, I find myself needing to be sure I’m truly “in my body”. When we’re keeping company with fear ~ it’s so contagious! ~ it’s easy for us to “check out” of our bodies. It’s a natural way of coping, of surviving trauma. This “checking out” also allows fear to have its way with us and suddenly we’re “up to ninety” as my Irish friends say. Stressed and afraid. Overwhelmed and feeling powerless.
I’ve learned to check in with my body throughout the day, paying close attention to how my body is responding to the outer world. Your body is your constant companion, ready to act as a buffer between you and the world. Your body holds deep wisdom and will never lie to you. It is in our best interest to pay attention and listen to the messages wanting to be heard and learn the ways our bodies communicate their wisdom. My clients recognize this strategy as “taking your temperature”; intentionally stopping for a few moments, tuning in, breathing deeply, holding steady and really feeling your physical self. What is your body trying to say to you if your shoulders are raised, your stomach is tight, or your jaw is clenched? Having spent the vast majority of my life out of my body, it was a wonderful gift to embrace this inner relationship, to allow acceptance, gratitude, trust and self compassion to become the foundation for all the other relationships in my life. And how effective and empowering it is to listen to your body and then respond accordingly, with a mantra supporting you to relax and come back to center, come back into your body. To ground yourself.
When we’re grounded and fully present in our bodies, we are better positioned for whatever curve ball may come our way. That, and a strong cup of tea, will do wonders for coping in these uncertain times, this in-between time in our spiritual evolution. Hold fast to Love. And take a nap.
I am always amazed and touched by the generous spirit of the people I’ve had the pleasure to meet while traveling in Ireland. Whether I’m in a supermarket check-out fumbling with the unfamiliar coins in the palm of my hand, taking too long at the ATM for a simple withdrawal, or struggling to understand what I just heard even though it was in English and having to ask yet again, I am met with patience and kindness ~ traits which I have come to recognize as key aspects of Irish hospitality. Though I may be the source for a good laugh or frustration, I’ve been spared any embarrassment in the moment.
Kindness is a lovely balm for vulnerability ~ especially in those moments when we’re feeling uncertain, apprehensive or anxious. Traveling opens us to those tender places in ourselves and to be met with a smile and a generous spirit is such a gift. The kindness and hospitality of strangers truly defines our experience and shapes our memories. It’s what we take home with us in our hearts. It’s what we remember most.
I always say, “There’s something about Ireland”. Hospitality and kindness define part of that “something”. I’ve wondered why the Irish are so welcoming and generous with smiles and quiet kindness. I imagine it may have something to do with having so many family members over the years emigrate to other countries and hoping their loved ones will be met with kindness and comfort as they arrive and make their way in an unfamiliar place. Perhaps living through so much turmoil in their history they have cultivated kindness and hospitality along with a natural resilience and ability to laugh and have a bit of fun whether times are good or bad.
From wide smiles, an abundance of thoughtful gestures and genuine concern and support, in Ireland I feel I’m held in a climate of kindness. It is this kindness I remember when my heart is burdened. I unpack memories of shared laughter over pints late at night and the tender reminder that we’re all together in this pilgrimage of being human. Walking each other home.
“Out of clutter, find simplicity.” ~Albert Einstein
What is clutter?
From Websters Dictionary…“to fill or cover with scattered or disordered things that impede movement or reduce effectiveness.”
My eyes glazed over by the end of the sentence. I would consider this definition a perfect example of clutter. Please! Don’t buy another vowel…
I have come to define clutter as anything you do not use or do not love. Clutter is also too much stuff in too small a space; too many utensils in the crock by the stove, too many socks in a dresser drawer or the ever-expanding knickknacks collection that is causing the shelf to bow.
It’s interesting, too, how our stuff seems to migrate. I once found a set of drill bits in the piano bench while looking for the Christmas music that eventually turned up in a box of recipes. So, clutter is also living in a disorganized space. From piles of laundry left unfolded to stacks of mail sitting on the counter to coats and shoes scattered in the hallway.
There is a direct connection between our physical surroundings and our inner world. Our thoughts, emotions and experiences are mirrored in the spaces in which we dwell; our homes, offices…even our vehicles. Each is a direct expression of the other.
When we de-clutter our physical surroundings, we feel lighter, freed from the responsibility of caring for things we do not truly need or want…we’re less stressed because there is an ease in locating the item we’re needing…we take pleasure in enjoying those things that are beautiful or pleasing to us. We can finally “see” them! The energy has lifted along with our hearts and our way of being in the world changes as a result. We feel more at peace, carry a greater sense of clarity and open ourselves to living a simpler, happier, healthier life.
Are you ready to simplify your life? Find relief from feeling overwhelmed and not knowing where or how to start? I’m offering my De-Cluttering Your Life workshop on Saturday, January 14th. I’ll be sharing my tried and true tips for getting rid of the stuff you no longer need in your life. Visit my Events page for the details and to sign up
Come have a bit of fun with others who are ready to lighten the load!
“It is not the answer that enlightens, but the question.”—Decouvertes
How often we postpone our desires. Our hearts whisper longings hoping that we’ll listen. Too often we choose to ignore the messages; we distract ourselves with busy bits of life. To be sure, we make life choices that require our attention and responsibility. However, over time we begin to convince ourselves that there is no room, no time for those things we truly want to do, to be who we desire to be. We then step up the pace of the busyness and disconnect ourselves further from our longings. The imagined and self-imposed “Time Thief” holds us hostage. We live disengaged from the truth of who we are and how we long to be in the world.
The whispers become more persistent, shifting to shouts we often continue to ignore, until we’re knocked sideways: the only way we finally “wake up”. The “wake up” call isn’t usually welcome or pretty. Often the call comes in a physical way, with illness that demands our full attention and focus. Or we become paralyzed with panic from a deep knowingness of next steps that we must take, but lack the conviction or faith to take the first step. We go kicking and screaming, sensing that while we are terrified of what lies ahead, we know we will–we must–follow the path we’ve done our absolute best to resist.
And so begins the soulful journey of questioning. A pilgrimage of carefully examining what is sacred to you. Asking yourself what holds genuine meaning and purpose. What does that still, wise voice inside want you to know? What truths are genuinely yours? Where does your heart find shelter? Are you held in the beauty and truth of your inner landscape in tandem with allowing yourself to be held by the beauty of the natural world that surrounds you? What needs to change? Are you willing to tolerate feeling uncomfortable while integrating these changes, these shifts, this slow turning toward your heart?
All the questions you’ve been afraid to ask amount to fear trumping love. When we choose to dive into the deep end of the pool, to face the questions that lie beneath, we begin to realize that our belief-driven fears are not the Truth. The relief that follows makes way for renewed energy borne of freedom.
When fear falls away, a climate of love emerges to shelter and awaken your Imagination to support you in creating your life–your life as a genuine reflection of what brings you alive and allows you to thrive in the world.
“These are the days that must happen to you.” ~ Walt Whitman
There is a rhythm to dying – breathing becomes a dance of letting go. An effort is demanded of the body as it lets go of the life it has known – the places fed, nurtured and touched, the people we’ve loved, the beauty of color, textures, music, letters, smells, glorious sunrises and evening birdsong. And for those in the place of witness, holding space for the letting go…shared memories, regrets, joys, and remembrance – a sacred circle of love forms, often trumping familial patterns not always so loving.
Where do we go when we die? Not far, I’m thinking. I like to imagine those we’ve loved – who have shared life and being human with us – remaining close to us beyond their last breath. That the veil is thin between the worlds and an infinite sacred thread connects our spirits always and forever.
As their human presence turns to absence our hearts must adjust to this change in our lives. Grieving begins – allowing the ache of loss to have its way with us. Time stands still, dazed as we are by this inevitable loss, we realize that life goes on…the world outside our window knows nothing of this grief. How is that possible, we wonder?
A soft tenderness invades our hearts as we go about our days, at first buoyed by the details of dying that demand our attention…obituary to write, memorial service to arrange, the endless stream of cards, flowers and consoling phone calls. Relatives and friends gather, a life celebrated and remembered in an hour’s time on a Saturday afternoon. As the last car pulls away from the curb we are left alone with our grief raw and aching, our bodies bone tired. I close my eyes and imagine the thread wrapped around me and I keep breathing, not knowing what the next moment will feel like.
Life, though forever changed, beckons us forward – bit by bit we find our way back into the groove of living. We come from Mystery and we return to Mystery. It’s the living in between that offers us the joy of a life worth living – a rugged landscape of adventure and wonder that is over all too soon.
Rest in peace, Ruth and Jack. I’m a better person for having known each of you.