Friday, June 29, 2012

The smoke lingers

My ambition in life is to someday be the person my dog thinks I am. Emily Maughan

The last few nights have been rough.  Or more correctly, it’s the mornings that stink.  I seem to be harkening back to the early days and my pattern of waking up at 4am to get an early start on worrying.  My mind races with all that has to be done, isn’t being done, should be done.  All the things I keep forgetting.  The clock is ticking on the insurance paperwork and we are barely making any headway.  We do it in fits and starts and between David’s crazy travel schedule, relocating yet again, and general life busyness, it continues to fall to the wayside.  And, we have initiated the exciting (yes) and daunting (certainly) process of rebuilding.   

We need a home.  It is time to turn burgeoning thoughts into reality and break ground.  We need to have a future to live in to.  We have hired an architect and a builder and are beginning to get bids on our plans.  We hope this can be moving forward while we take our break from Colorado for the month of August.  Planning on being vagabonds through July, away for August, counting on cooler living in September and October when we return to Flame.  Then we will pack up again and go who knows where when the snow starts falling for real until our home is complete. 

Having never built a house before, we don’t really know what we are in for.  This reminds me of another faux pas in dealing with us fire people.  Yes, it is an exciting prospect to build a new house, yes we are lucky to get to do so, but don’t point this out to us.  We didn’t choose to do this so it is a mixed bag to say the least.  I harken back to my conversation early on with another fire survivor who declared years after building her “new house” she would still trade it for her old.  And, we are allowing some excitement anyway.  The first major hurdle will be seeing if we can afford our plan which is one of the things that wakes me in the wee hours.  “What if, what then, shit!”.  We are staying small, and relatively simple yet attempting to add features and touches that honor our beloved home.  Lots of tall windows to take in the view, decks across the front, an open vaulted great room, a cozy loft – and possibly an extra bathroom.  Wow.  What would we ever do with two bathrooms?  And, get this, a walk-in closet.  Not that I have clothes to fill it but after years of having to rotate closets as the seasons changed, a decent walk-in sounds lovely. 

Thoughts of this fill my mind.  Will we love it?  Can we afford it?  Will we get too much crap and lose our connection to things as they pile up in corners and in closets gathering dust?  I could argue that once you have more things than you could write down on any piece of paper at any time, you have too much.  I don’t want to accumulate.  I don’t want stacks of dishes, random kitchen implements, drawers full of junk, closets piled with clothes that hardly see the light of day.  I want simple. 

Just what is this new level of darkness that seems to be lying low like the smoke that fills the valley’s below our land?  It feels hard to smile, I am bone tired, and endless worry loops wake me up to tend to them.  Well, let’s see, there is having to move our of our cozy, albeit small, home in Flame; there are wildfires burning all over Colorado and I can’t have any conversation with anyone within 500 miles who isn’t impacted.  It is what is on everyone’s lips and in their minds.  We are no longer talking about “my fire” we are talking about multiple fires.  I can’t politely ask someone to change the subject as the issue has spread like hotcakes.  It's uncomfortable to talk about it and it's weird to not talk about it.  It’s not my issue, it’s the state of Colorado and the West’s issue.  Not that it was really ever just mine, just now it’s everywhere and it's everyones. 

Last night, I did peek at some pictures. I have wanted to stay informed but not overwhelmed so I have steered clear of images that are everywhere I look.  In these images, I glimpsed further into a world I know so well, seeing pained faces, flames coming out of windows, hugs between devastated women, animals fleeing.  I know what’s in the minds of these people.  I remember.  One of my friends exclaimed how awful it must be to discover you are on a list – almost as if I didn’t know.  I know.  I know.  I know.  I f-ing know. 

So yes, I am re-traumatized.  I see that as I type.  I feel the sob that comes up from down deep.  Our fire has faded into the distance as these new fires burn and are splashed all over the news.  But we have not faded.  We are raw and ragged and still here.  I am afraid of the next step. I don’t like being without a home.  I love my dear friends who offer basements but I want my own space.  We chose what seemed good on paper - to put our rental budget into a trailer and reclaim our land but now this seems like an expensive and limiting mistake. 

The couple tears I shed this morning (it was a somewhat stifled sob as I don’t want to startle the lovely 5 year old companion I have at the moment) provided some relief.  I am grieving.  Still.  I keep reminding you of that, but I need to remind myself of that.  That’s what is happening.  It’s grief.

I don’t want to build a new house.  I don’t want to live in a trailer.  I don’t want to live in a basement.  I want my house back. 

And, the truth that coexists is that I want this richer, rawer, edgier part of me that is claiming her place in my soul to live on as well.  And, I can’t have one without the other.  I will take my joys as they come and feel the deep pangs of grief too. As this 5-year-old angel peeks over my hands as I write not comprehending the words I type and god forbid, for a while at least, not comprehending the pain I feel or the darkness that exists in the world.  I will wash my heart for a moment as I listen to her running commentary on all things great and small.  “Did you know dogs can paint…. I met a dog named captain… How old are you…”   She tucks Tigger in a blanket as he lies on my feet and kisses his head exclaiming, “you have the best puppies ever”. 

Then I can say, yes, that is true.  At least, I have the best puppies ever.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Rolling with it

There is a lot to roll with these days. Panic fills the air as the smoke rises. 911 operators in neighboring counties throughout the state are inundated with midnight calls about the smell of smoke; fire departments are closing rank to protect their own backyards; rumors are flying; tourists are canceling their summer visits to our great state and the governor is attempting to calm the anxiety. Colorado is on fire and not in a good way.

Yes, it is re-traumatizing to those of us who have lost homes and loved ones. Yes, we wince at the latest headlines and cry at yet another tale of woe. Yes, we wonder if it could happen again to us in our rental homes or trailers. Yes, we gather together and look knowingly into each others eyes. Yes, we wish there was more we could do for all those who suffer as we struggle to keep our own heads above water. Yes, we lose sleep and question just what is happening out there in this crazy world. It is rampant. It is impacting thousands of people everywhere. It seems almost everyone knows someone who has lost a home or is evacuated. And, there seems to be no end in site. The weather continues to not cooperate, the soil is drying up, the grass withering. Storms roll through and flash their lightning strikes starting even more fires and leaving no measurable moisture.

I am back at Jessica’s after calling “uncle” on trailer living. The heat was too much for me, but I would have persevered. When my dogs began freaking, that was my breaking point. I cannot have my animals suffer. Not at all. Roscoe is staying at Jessie’s with her brood and Tigger is back with me. We are working on “Plan C, version 287.65” on where to live for the next month. Cool basements are being offered. Most likely we will spread our time between Jessie’s and Jessica’s. We just have to make it through July and then we will flee the state for the comfort of Florida, then the Bahamas. How can it be that Florida is having cooler weather than we are? Of course there is that most recent tropical storm but I am sure anyone in Colorado would trade the fires for a hurricane right about now.

I will go about my day as much as possible and attempt not to glance to the north or south. Driving up the mountain last night provided a terrifying view of both the Flagstaff fire and the Waldo Canyon fire. Eery, spooky, terrible, terrifying. Lives being disrupted, turned upside down. Living with the unknown - and then the devastation of the known. If you live anywhere near the mountains or foothills right now and you don’t have your possessions inventoried and videod, insurance up to date, evacuation list prepared and an ‘essential items’ bag packed, you are just plain crazy. This is the summer to be on alert.

So how do we live without living in fear? This is the question of the age. For those extra sensitive types, we need to find outlets and distractions from the angst. This morning, I spent time with Jessica’s angel girls. Pretending to bite off their noses, serving up their breakfast cereal, letting them feed Tigger, watching them strut around the house in their princess finery. The giggles, the hugs, the love, I soak it up. Buzzing energy fields of curiosity as well as tempestuous little goddesses in their own rights. I let them wash my mind of worry. I let myself be in the moment with them before they leave for their day of adventure. I absorb their goodness and their spunk. Now, in this quiet house that feels palatial after my trailer, I breathe deeply and read some headlines - steering clear of the pictures as those are already etched in my brain.

We went first this year. Going first is probably easier than going last. We got it over with by burning down already. We don’t have to worry about that anymore (well, as previously stated, it does come up as a vague worry... could we burn again? Is there enough fuel on the ground? Would “lightening” strike in the same place twice? Is the universe that cruel? Is someone up there making these choices for our fate? and on and on...) But really, most likely it won’t happen again. So instead of living in concern, we live on this side of things. First in a line of rocked lives. We wish no one had to feel this pain. We wish the state wasn’t on fire. We wish for the rain gods to smile upon us. Three months ago yesterday we were where so many are right now. So many thousands more. At the beginning, in the not knowing, in the early stages of panic, or in full-blown panic attacks. Life changed in an instant but it took a few more instants for this new version of our lives to be known.

The High Park people have been dealing with this awful reality for 18 days. That’s a long damn time to be in upheaval. And, no end is in site for dousing that fire. The Waldo Canyon fire is exploding, doubling in size over night, and the governor is saying, “we have never seen a fire like this in the history of Colorado”. I read headlines and I breathe. I turn back to my writing, my outlet, my sanity. I hope all those who suffer will be as lucky as we are with the support we have received and continue to receive. I hope all who wish to support those people will remember that this is only the beginning. This is the long haul. This will not be over even when the flames have finally breathed their last fierce breathe. This will not be over in a month or three months or six months or even a year. This will not be over when the victims smile for the first time, or say they are ok, or move to another home or another state. This will take a while. Possibly a long long long while. Please be patient with your people. Please give them the space to be however and wherever they need to be. Please know that just because we may look “good” on the outside, our insides are still crying out on layers we may not even realize. And, please read my blog from June 12th where I give suggestions for dealing with fire victims as we walk through fire.

We may be moving on. We may be rolling with it. But it is not a straight line, a neat progression or a stage to move through and check off a list. It is messy, ugly, scary and monumental. It has it’s beautiful moments where the world stops and we meet another human’s kind heart. It is a roller coaster. We roll up high and we roll down low. We roll through ash and muck and tears and anger. We roll with the waves of the next fire or the steam from the last. We roll in our sleep and roll through the day sometimes not remembering a thing. We roll in pain and sometimes we roll in laughter.

And, for those of you who are in the line of fire, let yourself roll. Don’t get off the roller coater until you are ready. Ride the ride. Be gentle with yourself, as gentle as you can be when you feel like you are falling through the earth into nothingness.

Just roll with it all. We are rolling with you.

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

Why does the bird sing?

A bird does not sing because it has an answer, it sings because it has a song. Lou Holtz

I woke up worrying. Or did I start worrying once I woke up. In those early moments before getting out of bed and way before coffee, it’s hard to tell. What I can tell is how my 60 minutes of worrying between eye flutter and first sip of caffeine made me feel. Like poop.

To escape the blistering heat at our lovely trailer, we stayed the last two nights at the Highland Haven in downtown Evergreen. A lovely respite from reality, the Highland Haven is a high-end B&B built around an 1884 homestead. A small river runs along the property, towering spruce provide ample shade, the gardens are tended but not over manicured. Our room is lovely and dark and one might have thought I could have slept in - but oh no, I need to get up early enough to begin my worrying. Well-worn grooves of worry were my focus. Challenging relationships, the heat, fires burning across Colorado our future, where to do the laundry... It wasn’t until I walked back to my room with coffee in hand that it occurred to me that I might choose something else and start the day over. Some of us are slow learners.

Looking deeper, below the worry, I see fatigue. These small retreats keep us going but our souls need a little more time to mend. Two nights at an expensive (albeit lovely) hotel won’t fix me. Darn it! We did have a lovely dinner by the river having picked up take out Thai. And, we had some much needed together time, away from it all. Later today, I check in with my therapist, my first appointment in a couple weeks. I will lie on her couch and tell her my tales. She will remind me that it’s all ok, to be expected, and that I am actually doing quite well.

Writing seems stiff this morning. More proof of what I tell my clients: you can be tucked away in a mountain retreat, by a river, all alone - and still not be inspired to write. There is no perfect time to write. It takes dedication, saying no to some things to say yes to this, willingness to sit through the discomfort, the ability to watch words that bore you show up on the screen and keep typing anyway. Don’t edit as you write is a mantra - yet of course, us perfectionists, can’t stand that! I attempt to follow my advice and type away, knowing I can come back. I could add this to my worry list - maybe I am running out of steam with my writing. Maybe there isn’t anything left to say. But I don’t actually believe that. I think it’s just often the same themes emerge and I get tired of saying it, tired of feeling it - and concerned that you might be tired of reading it. And, I am going to write anyway. Write regardless. Write on. That’s what I tell my clients - and I am telling myself that too. Over and over again.

There are sweet spots in the day where I imagine writing emerging themes and insights and beauty. I want to share all of it with you but then the moment passes and I don’t remember. Last night had quite a few. A conversation with two dear friends as we do a Vision exercise that I give to all my clients. Part of an Abundance circle, we three are creating the next year of our lives. In a flash of inspiration, I sent the assignment with a rallying cry to complete it. I have done Vision exercises over the years, the first time being when I read Jack Canfield’s The Success Principles and let ‘er rip which (unbeknownst to me at the time) began my adventure in book writing. I know magic can come from the willingness to throw our hats over the fence and create dreams so big they scare us. And, I have done these assignments, creating castles in the sky and never quite following through. This time, it’s different. The usual instructions are to “dream big, think big, stretch, allow wild imagination”. Now, at the beginning of so much, I am allowing something (for lack of a better word) smaller. I am tired of pie in the sky lingo, I just want to be willing to dream of something. Like any good resister, I put off the assignment for two weeks and began working on it an hour before our call. Talk about putting rusty fingers to keyboard. The resistance was screaming in my ears. “That’s stupid, that’s a terrible, that’s boring, that’s unrealistic...” And, I kept the fingers moving anyway.

Something started to emerge. I wrote about the house that is taking shape, the lifestyle we are creating, how the fire brought us closer. Each sentence I wrote, I questioned. “Really? Do you want that really?” When the three of us came together, it turned out that we all had variations of the same theme. It is common lingo in the circles we travel to say, “when we declare something, what often shows up is not that.” Meaning, the challenges often rush to the surface to fill the space that is created in declaration.

With my powerful friends, I urged the permission for all of it. The glaring “not that” that has shown up, our mutual pissy-ness, dashed hopes and dreams, financial concerns (real and imagined), relationship challenges, and more. And, without having exact words for it, I urged us to do it differently. All of us have created before. What will make this one different I queried? We are all around the same age, have done a lot and seen a lot. We have transformation up the ying yang, we are self-aware and moderately successful in our fields. What will make it different this time?

I have been in this conversation a lot lately. I was on an inspired fast-track with my business last year, movin’ and groovin’, launching programs and products and astounding myself. And, I ended the year bone tired, realizing that even though I adore my work, I was still trying to prove myself. The old “when I get there, I will be ok” bullshit. Yes, I wrote a whole book about this, and YES I was still doing this to myself.

I want for these women like I want for myself. And, what I really want for all of us is to find peace. Peace within our hearts as a starting place. Then we can choose our dreams from there. So quickly my lofty goals turn to a proving ground for my worth. So quickly my admiration for another turns to what they have that I don’t. So quickly my success turns to not enough. So quickly inspiration turns to driveness.

Yes, we all have this and do this. Now, much of my motivation and push has burned away with the fire along with stacks of books telling me how to be better, stronger, faster; binders full of notes from my Masters degree, massage training, personal development work and all the business training I ever did; CD’s and workbooks of teachers offering their wisdom to entrepreneurs in the form of list building, business management, tele-seminar creation and more - all turned to ash. I implemented much of the training, yet many “to-do’s” continuously sounded their alarm from my shelves. “You are not doing enough” was their call. “You need to, you should, you have to, you must. Hurry up, don’t forget, don’t miss out. Don’t mess it up. You are missing opportunities. Now is the time. Hurry hurry hurry.” I hear their ghosts still singing to me. No, I say. I won’t listen. I won’t buy the garbage. And, I am certainly not saying it’s all garbage. I think you know what I mean.

It’s time to take it down to the bare bones. Just what is really going on here? How can so many of us go through life dissatisfied? We are smart, savvy, educated, talented, beautiful, yet it’s never ever enough. And, it never ever will be.

What I am asking now is:

What do I care about?
What do I really want?
How can I have goals, commit to move towards them yet not become over-identified with the outcome?
Can I let go of needing to prove something?
Can I really, truly be ok with who I am and where I am right now?
What if this is as good as it gets - can I be ok with that?

Do we judge the bird for not having answers? No, we let it sing its song. What does it try to tell us? Maybe nothing. Nothing at all. Maybe there is no message. Maybe it is merely singing.

Sunday, June 24, 2012

A Touch of Grey

Fires are raging all over Colorado and the West. Smoke clouds fill the sky. With record breaking heat and winds blowing like stink, more and more people across Colorado are being evacuated from various fires and the High Park fire, still growing, is far from contained. Mother Nature is not cooperating one bit.

It might be easy to get discouraged about the state of the State, or the state of the world. It might be easy to slip into the darkness and the funk. Well, yes, I have to say, it is.

California was a lovely break from reality. I realize reality lives there too, but for me over the three days, reality was suspended. Someone cooked for me, I slept in a real bed, showered standing up, flushed the toilet at whim, hung my clothes in a spacious closet - and the best moments were wandering in and out of shops in the California breeze. The weather was perfect; the respite refreshing; the trip worth the trip.

Since arriving “home” the past few days have been a bit bumpy - and yes, I have had a relapse and am adding quotation marks again. Yesterday began well. I attended a 6:30am 12-step meeting. The crowd was small and we all had a chance to share. I acknowledged my fragile state of mind coupled with my desire to not be as ‘thrown’ by things as much as I have been. I have to admit, I have been gathering some compelling evidence for things not going exactly my way. Besides the obvious, not much has seemed to “flow”. Last week I drowned my Mac; the troubles continue on the trailer (leaking water pipes, leaking sewage, mouse infestation); then I left my new precious journal on the airplane. And much much more but right now it feels like blah blah blah to write it - and to say it.

Later in the day, my mettle was maxed as the temperature hit 90+ degrees in Conifer . And in Flame, well, let’s just say two words “convection oven”. And for some strange reason, we have more biting flies than ever before. These dive bombing buggers buzzed and bit mercilessly, leading to welts. Coupled with the oppressive heat my boys panted and paced the day away. The moment it cooled enough, we huddled inside until the wind picked up and they became convinced something lurked outside that was coming to kill us all. Soothing them with words of love and wisdom had no effect and even snuggling on my narrow bed didn’t cut it. Will these sweet dogs bounce back once they return to a ‘normal’ living environment? Have I taken years off their life? Have I taken years off my own?

To say the least, I have been questioning the wisdom of my push to live in a trailer. To say the most, I question my sanity. As these fires burn all around, we ‘homelosers’ (as we affectionately call our group) can’t help but be affected. It weighs on our hearts and in our minds. It reminds us of where we were, how far we have come and how much further there is to go. We send love and condolences to people all over the west who are dealing with fires - living in the unknown for extended periods of time; catching the first glimpse of the devastation of their dreams; the monumental loss and sadness buried beneath the layers of shock and disbelief. The early days of this adventure are a blur. Now in the “whatever these days should be called” stage, we are no longer numb. We are tired. We are fried, really.

With all the sadness floating through the air like soot, I grasp for the small miracles, such as the 7-year old in the airport singing proudly, “I am doing the happy dance, I am doing the happy dance.” A lovely moment for sure. Then quickly the question emerges of why we sensible adults don’t we do that. We all know that at some point in the not too distant future a “shush” from his parents (or some other authority figure or peer) will really shush him and he won’t sing aloud in public ever again, and maybe even in private either. But for this moment, I smile broadly at his parents in celebration and with the hope of encouraging their encouragement of his bold expression.

Last night before the wind kicked up, I soaked in the setting sun as it melted into scorched trees against bright green grass. Later, on 3am pee dash outside, I caught the moon - a sliver of what appeared to be burnt orange. I am looking. And, I am seeing. And, as I have said all along, this is a fine line. I simply will not force myself to be somewhere I am not in this process. And, a little looking for silver lining never hurt anyone.

Shortly, my women’s group will be here breakfast. I will ask them to remind me of what is beautiful as they oooh and ahhh over the loveliness of Flame before the heat takes over and cooks our brains. Sitting on my bed and writing, ipod playing, coffee at my side, blanket on my lap, I remember what I like about my cozy little trailer. In making my music choices this morning, my ipod stuck on “Touch of Grey” by the Grateful Dead playing it no less than 5 times in a row. I listened carefully each time, a sign sent from above.

Then I hear a whoosh of an email arriving and I read words from my dear neighbor saying the same things I was feeling. Happy to receive her words but not happy to hear that she is in pain, I write back sending love, understanding and gratitude. And, I may call her back and sing out-loud, in honor of that little boy at the airport.

Sorry that you feel that way, the only thing there is to say is...
Every silver lining's got a touch of grey.
We will get by, we will get by, we will get by, we will survive.

Thursday, June 21, 2012

A Summer solstice - and sojourn

The longest day of the year. I think I have had others that have felt longer. But the sun promises to shine longer today than any other day. Maybe I will rise to the challenge and join it. Maybe not. Two sips of coffee in without enough cream to make it just right, I say, it's too soon to tell. I will certainly enjoy the last few flushes of a modern toilet as I return to Flame whose toilet is, once again, on the fritz. Thank God for Shirley Septic and my now semi-permanent portapotty. I don't mind it so much during the day (when no workmen are milling around) but those middle of the night pee times that have become status quo of my mid 40's, well, that's another story. Pledging to keep the leaking tank empty for our next professional opinion, I will stumble through the dark to my plastic throne - or I may just squat along the way. It's hard to imagine all of that as I sit on my plush hotel bed a mere eight feet from a fabulous flush. And, yes, one more standup shower for this girl before I return to the seated bird bath. How different tomorrow will be from today. Did you just say 'at least you are writing regularly again'? I think I heard you say that...

I watch my roommate pack her bag for her return to England. A wild-child entrepreneur at 25 with a shock of blond hair and a sweet soul, Jo Westwood was the perfect roommate. We met virtually, on the Facebook page for the course and skyped for our first meeting. We have mostly passed in the night but our interactions have been memorable. She is launching into the stratosphere with her social media business and already is working for our fearless leader, Christina Morassi. It's because of my commitment to be Jo's roommate that I came - and it's because of Christina that I even considered it in the first place. The promise to Jo kept me driving east to the airport as I railed and seriously questioned just why I was about to jump from one silver bullet to another and hurtle through the sky before I felt ready. I even wondered if my PTSD might suddenly escalate into a full blow panic attack on the airplane. It didn't, I slept.

I met Christina at a workshop last fall. Impressed immediately by her extreme full self-expression on stage, I said 'yes' to the offer of a laser coaching session. Christina is beautiful, sassy, full on woman, and fricken real as shit. She drops the 'f-bomb' from stage as ravishingly as she wears her full length ball gowns that are her signature style. Sometimes I don't actually listen to her words, I just watch with awe at her full embodiment of all of what it means to be a woman. Also quite brilliant, a former fashion photographer, turned healing professional with shamanism and other energy modalities sprinkled in, she brought an alchemical reaction to her gifts and morphed into a mega success in a short time. She is magnetic - and a true inspiration. At this point in my journey, I would not have flown across half the country for just any old workshop. Early in my adventure, Christina and I had a few sessions. Hers was the first voice that insisted I not 'jump to form too quickly', that I shouldn't hurry my process - I have taken those wise words and run with them. Thank you Christina.

For those first few hours among 'normal folks' in the workshop, I felt like a leper. I didn't belong or fit in among these shiny (and clean) classmates. Yes, I had bathed but the stain of ash still remained on my feet and in my heart. I couldn't not talk about the fire as we shared why we were there and what we wanted to get out of the course - but the words were stuck in my craw. I chose a few steady souls and asked them to go first. Without drama, I then shared my tale. It began to ease. Christina is far from a 'normal' workshop leader so she brought all sorts of expressions to our sharing. We even danced our response to our partner at one point which was one of the most lovely moments of the workshop. I noticed myself to be more free than usual in these things I might normally label as queer. And, I also took breaks. Normally a 'good girl' and a 'good workshop attendee', I don't miss a minute as I don't want to miss THE thing that will make THE difference and alter my life FOREVER. Instead, this time, I let myself be in the room when I wanted and out when I felt the need. Then, yesterday, I stepped way out of the room. A chance opportunity to have lunch with my college roommate who just happened to be in town led to a lovely meal, then a long stroll around most of the cute shopping districts in the area. I wandered all afternoon, asking for a few pointers from shopkeepers to know if I was heading in the right direction. The perfect California weather was my companion with that cool ocean air and a warm sun. I changed clothes as I went, shedding my workshop outfit of my leopard wrap dress (sans tail for your faithful readers) and fortunately low slung heels, morphing into flip flops, burnt orange corduroy cut off shorts, and one of the best bell sleeve hippy shirts I have ever owned.

A few times panic arose as I was playing hooky. I am a bad girl! Then, I would inhale deeply, and choose to be where I was. I needed this break. I needed to be outside wandering in and out of shops. I didn't hurry. I let go of the story that I was missing something. I connected with strangers - and met one of the most fabulous dogs ever. First, I glanced at his rear as he gazed out the window. When I finished my loop around the store, I caught site of his mastiff face curled against his ladies leg and I had to stop. Turns out, she found him at a shelter. At 2-ish, he had spent most of his life on the street. Yet this was one of the biggest babies I have ever seen - and he adored her. Rolling around her feet like a cat, belly in the air, then raising his massive head for a lick on her cheek, he stole my heart. How lucky they found each other. She lost a love of her life dog shortly before finding him. With the LA lifestyle, this big baby gets to go to work with her daily and has no desire to run for the open shop door. If I could have gotten away with stealing him, and if David wouldn't divorce me for bringing home a third dog, that honey would be in my hotel bed with me right now.

Today is the last day of the workshop. I will be amongst my entrepreneurially minded peers as we soak up the last day of Christina's wisdom and love on each other. Then, I will board another silver bullet that hopefully will stay in the air for as long as we need it to then return to my very own silver bullet on my charred land.

Early on, after catching my tears and holding my pain, Christina asked me to stay in a place of wonder. Just for today, on the solstice, I can commit to that. And, because sometimes things metaphorically tie themselves up into neat little packages for a moment before they are blown apart by our next human reaction, I quote myself in the last line of my book:

 And I am restored to wonder...

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

Blogging through Fire

Day 4 no Mac. Adjustments. Thinking I would waltz into Apple on Monday on my way to the airport and drop off my Mac and purchase the Mac air that I have coveted, instead I was thwarted when the girl with the clip board said, "no appointment, no service". After a day of record breaking heat in Colorado - and in Flame - and attempting to pack for a trip where the packing instructions were "dress up, dress to shine" all the while wondering why the hell I was leaving, this was a show stopping moment. I crumbled. I couldn't even bring myself to beg for mercy. I simply turned on a dime and slouched out of the store. David and I had a whamdinger of a fight the evening before on our way back from our lovely reprieve of camping in southern Colorado. Who knows what starts these things. Two tired and stubborn individuals both anticipating traveling the next day, add in a normal case of Sunday blues but 'on crack' in our case. He said something, I said something, we began to do the familiar dance. He was sure he was right - and I was convinced I was. Unfortunately neither of us had the perspective to pull out of our nose dive and instead steamed for the rest of the ride home. My steam turned quickly to spiral. A house doesn't make a marriage but it creates a sanctuary where marriage resides. You already know that our house was a sanctuary to us. Without it, we feel a bit unplugged to say the least. In this particular moment, I felt a cavernous hole where once was our life. Without the house as glue, would we stick? Could we stick? In these moments it is crystal clear why many couples blow apart in times of crisis. One thing quickly leads to the next and before you know it you are saying damaging things like "it's over" and you actually really believe that. Those words didn't leave our lips but they swirled in our heads. And, yes, all of this kicked up my abandonment issues. It times of great distress with another human being, the first place I go is "you will leave me." Yes, I know the roots. Dad "leaving" when I was 7. And, yes, there were all sorts of extenuating circumstances in his decision but try telling that to a 7 year old - and try telling that to a triggered 46 year old... Fortunately I do know better than to inquire in those heated moments, "so, you gonna leave me?" Certainly a heat of the moment answer would bring any comfort to my angsty soul. I practice the spiritual principle of "shut up" and I at least don't say that. I am not claiming I don't say anything to make matters worse, I just don't say that. We both continued our dance of making matters worse until something began to lift as we drove up our road. I felt a laugh of the ridiculousness of it all wanting to emerge. When the laugh began to reach my lips, I couldn't quite stick with it. I pondered how to begin the conversation. I wish I had been "well" enough to simply allow the laugh. Instead, it was an attempt at something but still weighted down with our yuck. It didn't go horribly when I began to talk as clearly David was ready for something else too. And, he was attempting to bring our trailer safely to its resting place while navigating the last 1/2 mile of our treacherous road. To his great credit, he both paid attention to me and brought us to safe harbor. Then we hugged and cried our frustration - and because we have a great big tool bag we didn't have to rehash ad nauseam. We were exhausted though. Dirty, tired, hungry, sweaty and anticipating the monumental task of getting Flame plugged back in and settled as well as readying ourselves for our next day travel. Moving like zombies we somehow put one foot in front of the other with love and kindness. Awaking exhausted and wondering what the hell I was doing - why was I traveling, why was I leaving my dogs, why was I attending a business seminar, why was I attempting to dress for success from my fire-ravaged wardrobe - I limped through the day. Oh, and did I mention that I messed up the time for a live interview? For months I had 1pm MT in my calendar... I actually planned my entire departure around this important event where the lovely Michele Casto would be interviewing me as part the Abundant Change agent series of ( I was to talk about my experience hosting my radio show - and how this contributed my greater mission in life. At 11ish, I headed to the gate to pick up the trash cans. Seeing a neighbor along the way, I stopped to chat. As I passed through the gate where the cell signal picks up for a moment, my phone bleeped. Hmmmm, I thought. Glancing down, I saw a text from Michele. Glancing at the clock, my brain suddenly began to fret. 1pm Mountain... was it 1pm Mountain? Or, was it, oh no, say it's not so.... Please... 1pm Eastern. I called her. They had been live on air with participants, waiting for me to show up. It was 1pm Eastern! Oh my god I messed this up. Big fricken' time. Seeing the spiral approaching, I apologized as best I could all the while being stuck in the 10 feet of cell reception where I was. Michele, a generous soul and consummate professional, offered to do the call anyway and put it up on the line up as a recording. I gratefully agreed and begged for 7 minutes to get back to Flame and to clearer signal. Those 7 minutes were long ones as I admonished myself all the way back. How could I have made this mistake??? It had been in my calendar for months... How could I have missed it? What a fricken' loser I was! All I have post fire is me - my reputation, my word, my relationships. Here I was doing serious harm to all of the above. Could I rally in time? Could I pull out of this nosedive? How could I have let all these people down? All of Michele's hard work, the other faculty members, the patient audience coming to learn more about their own self-expression. Arrrrgggghhhhhh went the not so silent scream in my head as I drove the 7 minutes back to redemption - or possibly annihilation. It was up for grabs in those bumpy moments. And, when people are generous and others are responsible, miracles can happen. Michele accepted my amends, she was ready to roll, I rallied - and we used this example as a teaching point. We brought authenticity to the interview that would have been there before but now was so glaring you couldn't miss it. These things happen. We don't want them to happen to us, or be the ones who make it happen. And, they happen. Since we were discussing radio, it was the perfect segue to talking about how to roll with the punches as you are live on air. The interview was beautiful - and Michele was lovely and I showed up. I mean that in a deep way. The me that I know I am emerged from the funk and fog of wanting to fold and quit. I watched it happen, I felt the scales scrape off as I dragged myself from my earthen cave to face the sun. And here's the thing - and more of what I want to say to all the High Park fire people as well as anyone going through trauma. We will have these moments of severe darkness, then we will see the light. And, just because we see the light, doesn't mean we stay there. It would be so lovely to say that the rest of the day was smooth sailing. It wasn't. I have already told you about my death row march into Apple and my subsequent retreat back to the pit of despair. It's not smooth sailing just because we have a patch of calm. If you are going through any type of trauma, please don't expect that of yourself. I beg that of you, as I learn to give permission to myself. There will be a ride, you might as well ride it. And, I promise you, we fire walkers get it. You are not alone. Sitting in my cushy hotel room in Marina del Ray where I attend what is turning out to me a fabulous business seminar, I write what is there to write. After forgetting my bluetooth keyboard which is the ONLY way I can write on my iPad, attempting to use the hotels computer to no avail, I cabbed it to the nearest Apple store and bought another keyboard. Now a few hours into the day, I re-read what I wrote and am in such a different space and place than when I began clicking away this morning. This is what I needed to say then. Tomorrow (or later today) I will say something else. When walking through fire, we will be in many places and spaces. As old stuff burns away, we will be raw and unformed. As challenges arrive and assault our brand new skin, we may wince and flinch and retreat to darkness. As we continue walking, bright moments will appear and we will like who we are becoming. Then a cloud will roll through and we will be back at the beginning - for a moment or more. Then, the world will turn on its axis again, and we will smile for no reason. As I walk through my fire, I am settling in to this new version of me. I surprise myself in moments and am discouragingly predictable in others. Yet, there is something new taking shape. The woman I have always wanted to be is showing up. I bleed when I need to, I wail when I want to, I retreat when I have to, and I shine more brightly then I have ever let myself shine before. I will walk with you. Will you walk with me?

Monday, June 18, 2012

Mourning my Mac

Please say a prayer with me this morning for I may have drowned my Mac.  I am attempting not to panic or to think of the hefty price-tag that accompanies such a drowning.  I am attempting not to add it to my list of "one more thing" that isn't exactly turning in my favor.  I am attempting not to think of the few things that I didn't save to dropbox but were hanging out on my desktop.  Like the vaporous list of items lost in the fire, I can't quite recall what was there.  It happened in a foggy moment, I was stumbling to get some airflow in the Airstream, opening a curtain, knocked something with my elbow and it didn't register quickly enough just what had happened.  It didn't seem like a lot of water, it coated the bottom of my Mac and I wiped it dry.  But then I opened the lid and a little water was on the inside too.  Again, I really thought it was fine - and my additional early morning errors continued.  I began to attempt to boot it up.  Thinking that the battery was dead, I plugged it in and hit the power button.  Thinking it was in a loop due to a lack of charge, I gave it a few minutes then tried again.  Apparently, that's the wrong thing to do if your computer gets wet as David told me much too late.  For the first couple attempts, it sounded like a fan was running, then some sort of screen image flashed a few times, then nothing.  Nothing.  Nothing.  I should have let it dry out first, perhaps even broken out the hairdryer.  Starting it wet can short the whole system.  Apparently that's what I have done. 

And, I wonder, seriously?  Seriously?  My Mac?  My lifeline to the world, my outlet for my writing, my connection to you?  Seriously?  Did I need another "lesson"?  And, an expensive one at that?  I have a small Netbook that I travel with - turning to that to write, I realized that either I have misplaced the power cord or I never carried it out of my know, the one that burned...  So no go there.  I then thank the good Lord above for my other Apple product, my iPad.  Never sure where a file actually gets saved on my iPad, I have not tended to use it to do much writing.  Yet write I must, so I click away at my bluetooth keyboard as I pray silently for the resurrection of my Mac.  Tomorrow I will stop at Apple on the way to the airport to determine it's fate - and the fate of my pocketbook. 

It feels better to write about it - as everything has - along this journey.  My acceptance level is much higher after those few short paragraphs then it was lying in bed and thinking of my stupidity.  How could I have done that?  How did I ruin my precious computer?  Why oh why didn't I let it dry out first?  Why did I leave the water there in the first place?  Can I go back in time and change that outcome?  Please????  Writing the upset gives me space to breathe.  For those who have ruined precious pieces of equipment, you sigh with me.  For those who are overly attached to their computing devices, you shed a tear for me.  For those who are the proud owners of Apple products, you wail from the mountain tops.  Oh no, now I have started a turf war...

The thing about Apple is it's not that cheap.  I could run out and get a perfectly adequate laptop for around a grand yet to replace my Mac it will be three times that.  Yet once you have gone Apple, you can't go back.  Ahhhh.  Breathe with me.  Inhale that number... At this point, I can't help but think what $3k would buy me in the re-build of my house.  When replacing everything and starting over it is out of one fund and into another. 

What I really want to talk about today is resilience.  I have been thinking a lot about my first real teacher on the road of recovery.  Susan Hansen, a powerhouse of a human being whose wise words I can still hear whispering in my ears.  "Stop scaring yourself, honey."  Oh, Susan.  I am trying.  And, I keep trying.  One particularly impactful lesson was Susan's teachings on Resilience.  Resilience is our capacity to recover quickly from difficulties.  Toughness.  An ability to bounce back.  Now, "quickly" is a relative term.  I have been touting the importance of being where I am and not hurrying through this process - and I still am sticking with my guns.  So the way I interpret this is the knowing that we will bounce back.  And, I will bounce back - eventually. 

I am able to dance on the brink of the abyss because deep down in my bones, I know I will be ok.  And, the knowing doesn't mean I always know.  There are many moments where I forget.  Yet, the knowing remains.  I return to it.  It's a quiet voice, or simply a sensation.  I know I can and will walk through anything.  Please don't test me on that though.  I am certainly not asking for any more fabulous life lessons for the near future.  This morning as I was mourning my Mac, I rolled over in bed and looked first at my sleeping dogs, one at my feet and the other curled up on his bed.  Then I looked at David.  These creatures are all that really matter.  My Mac is replaceable.  They are not. 

Even having lost so many "things", I still have a few favorites that would test my mettle.  My Mac was certainly on that list.  My stuffed leopard (that yes, at 46, I sleep with nightly), my woven blankets that I carried out - and now I have a light down jacket that I particularly like, my cozy pajama bottoms, a certain pair of chandelier earrings, a knitted beanie cap, Jessica's green scarf - of course my most fabulous purple purse.  The list could add up.  If my house burned again, I would carry at least these things out.  Yet, if I didn't have any of them, I would be ok.  Even if I didn't have my dogs and David - ultimately, someday in the far, distant future, I would be ok.  Can I really say that?  Do I really believe that?  Therein lies the depth of the human spirit.  We are resilient creatures.  Our minds will tell us otherwise, but in our bones we know that.  We have to nurture this part of ourselves.  My eclectic spiritual path is my way of nurturing this. 

The will to survive, for most of us, is greater than the desire to annihilate.  It is born into us and has been the reason our species has continued to thrive.  And "survive" can look like different things for different people.  Merely surviving is not enough.  That could look like a life of victimhood and 'woe is me'.  For those that hear the echoes of something bigger, something greater than just us alone even if we don't know who or what it is and even if we curse it by any name - we won't settle for mere survival.  We demand to thrive.  To me, thriving is seeing the great mysteries of life.  Hearing the early morning call of the dove, seeing golden streaks as the sun sets through a forest, enjoying the first sip of coffee, stopping to talk to a stranger - as well as weeping deeply about yet another loss, railing against the apparent injustice in the world (whether it's my small world, or the world at large) and, of course, questioning the meaning of it all. 

I heard a partial tale of another great spiritual leader who was diagnosed with a disease and then absolutely decided he wasn't going to have that.  I cheer him on - but I find no room for all of humanity in these kind of tales.  It leaves me thinking that we mere mortals who stumble and fall are doing it wrong.  One day we will be able to cure all that ails us by the mere change of a thought.  And, maybe if we ALL believed this to be true, we could do it right now.  I am not bashing the power of prayer or of positive thinking.  But I want to hang with the dark angels for a little while longer.  I want to stay in the trenches - all the while, knowing on a deep deep level who we all really are.  I will not abandon the grapplers.  I will no longer make myself wrong for being one.  I will give voice to those who struggle while at the same time shining the light of who we really are. 

And, right now, I am missing that great piece of modern technology, my Macintosh.  I shed a tear for it and for myself for the one more loss that this tired human has to process through.  I turn my head towards the blue sky that I glimpse through the skylight in Flame and see eternity, then I turn my head back to my silent Mac and wish it weren't so. 

Sunday, June 17, 2012

An Ode to the Fathers

Life can change in an instant.  We know this.  And, yet when it happens and we lose someone we love, we know it deeply.  Lately, I have watched many people lose their loved ones.  I hear their words, read their tales and feel their tears mixed with my own.   When we lose a loved one, we never wish we had said I love you less.  We always wish we had said more, listened more, and loved bigger.  This Father’s day, let’s acknowledge the dad’s we know – whether they are ours or simply those we observe.  Today, go find a dad to love.  They are everywhere.  Grab one if you have to.  Tell him what he needs to hear.  Appreciate the heck out of him.  And, of course, love your own if you are willing.  

Some of us are lucky and have the best fathers in the world.  Others may not consider themselves so lucky.  How about for this Father’s day, we celebrate the perfect – as well as the imperfect fathers.  Let’s celebrate those that strive to do better as well as those who believe they can never measure up.  And, let’s cheer the spirit of what it means to be a father.  At it’s core, and whether or not it is “done well”, fatherhood is a miraculous mission. 

To the fathers out there,
As the first male figure to turn your attention to us, we bathe in the light of your love.  We hope to follow in your footsteps as we march in your shoes around the house.  We linger in the smell of aftershave that you leave on our cheeks as you kiss us goodbye.  We rub your whiskered face and have questions about the world.  We hear the base tones in your voice as they etch permanent music in our hearts.  You show us what it means to be strong.  You demonstrate bravery, courage and chivalry.  We learn how to relate to other men as we grow under your tutelage.  We form our views of the world based on your teachings.  We learn about the masculinity of love. 
I have been blessed to know many great fathers.  Starting with my dad who brings wit, intelligence and the ability to see the richness and depth of the world.  Who allows the troubles that exist to break his heart and form his soul.  Who is able to love deeply and still be strong.  Who is funny and warm to all of those he meets.  My stepfather who loves us like the children he never had, who calls me out of the blue to offer a solution (or two) about something that is troubling me.  Who loves my mom the way she has always wanted to be loved.  Who is smart and funny – and has a twinkly rebellious streak too.  My brother who is big, brawny and brave yet let’s his heart crack open cavernously with his two beloved boys.  He tosses them in the air and hopes they will find their wings to fly in the future.  He knows the struggles he has faced in his life and wishes those boys could be spared any pain.  He constantly strives to be a better dad – yet in the wanting, already is. 
And, then I watch the husbands of my best friends’ father their pairs of girls.  I see heartbreaking love so great and patience so vast it catches my breath.  I observe private moments, the brushing of fine hair into pig tales, grappling with a homework quandary, or tucking these precious souls in bed for the night with vows to protect them from anything ever that might come to harm them. I watch them both weep with concern as they watch their girls fall and laugh uproariously at their spicy antics. 
And, last but not least, to my father-in-law who brought me the best husband I could ever hope to have.  Thank you for giving my man a love of the open water, a talent for figuring things out and a heart as big as the woods of Tennessee. 

Fatherhood. It’s ALL of it. These fathers won’t do it perfectly, yet they are perfect becausethey do it.
Today, I invite you to write a letter to your dad telling him all the things you love about him.  If you have to dig deep to find words, do it anyway.  If you are estranged for any reason, consider being willing to write to him.  Even if your father is the worst in the world, consider sending it anyway.   
Life is unpredictable.  You may not get another chance.   Today, of all days, let’s give thanks for ALL the Fathers.  

Note: I was asked to write this as a guest blogger on the site a lovely site that I hope you will visit.  I thank them for the opportunity. 

Friday, June 15, 2012

Calling all Grapplers!

Ahhhh.  That first cup of coffee.  There is nothing like it.  Actually, the perfection is in the first sip of the first cup.  Yum.  I could not, would not, live life without coffee.  Today we head south – to southern Colorado, that is.  We pack up Flame for her maiden voyage with us – she was born in 1967 so has been on many trips with many people over the years.  We only know some about the trips with her previous owners.  They shared photos of Flame in front of mesas and great vistas around the desert.  Their love apparent through the multitude of shots. I would love to know of all her jaunts around the country.  What sights has she seen?  Who have been her passengers?  What were they like?  What were their hopes and dreams as they took to the open road? 

Yet instead of packing up, I am sitting here.  David knows that I need to write before anything, so he will begin packing and I will join him after.  After how long, I don’t usually know.  Typically, I sit for about an hour.  Settling back in bed, hair in a pony tail, pillows propped up behind me, coffee cup to my side, I position my laptop opening the lid with anticipation of what’s to come, never quite knowing what I will say or who I will be.  I have tales to tell and they seem to keep coming.  I am going with it. 

Writing is my practice and my therapy.  I won’t skip more than a day in a row and don’t skip many days at all.  It’s my quiet time.  For so many of the early days, being quiet was a bad thing.  Being alone with my brain was not something I wanted to do.  Yet, by beginning to write about it, I had an outlet.  I could write the confusion, the darkness and the angst and not feel alone while doing it.  I was speaking to you, you were listening.  I am still speaking to you – and you tell me you are, in fact, still listening.  This means the world to me.  It is what matters most in my life – writing this journey and writing about ALL of it. 

This has been the place where I formulate who and how I am being about all of these changes.  I can vent the yuck here, share the moments of beauty, cry and rail, laugh and write my truth.  This process has cemented something that has cried for formulation for many years.

Another well-meaning friend offered wisdom as I walked through the doors of Fox news to be on live TV – in the studio, next to the anchors, watching the teleprompter – all of that.  I have been on TV a few times during this adventure but it has been taped interviews that are later picked over for the nuggets and my lengthy narrative has been reduced to short moments that illustrate a story.  This was different.  And, they had read my blog and knew about my book, so I was going to be able to speak about that.  My friend said, “you can share how you are dealing with this so differently after writing your book about not waiting”.  I felt myself brace, “No. That’s not true.  I want to share how it’s messy and not linear and unpredictable and doesn’t have to be anything other than it is, and yet, still, there are moments of beauty.”  I think I went on a short rant about expectations of how we should be, our cultures discomfort with grief, how we celebrate the empowered, etc. 

I am about the messy these days – and may be forever.  I bare my soul, share my ugly and angst as well as telling you I can see a flash of green on my tree, or a hawk flying low, or when I pat the velvet forehead of my dog my heart breaks with love.  It is ALL of that.  The concept of a straight line where you neatly move through stages and emerge victorious – is bull hockey.  The idea that you create an empowering context and always, unwaveringly live from that.  Gag me.  I am not going to say that, no how, not ever ever. 

And by now you know, I am not purporting that people stay in the muck forever either.  If you know what I am talking about, you know what I am talking about, capiche?  Let’s just embrace messy, write it raw – disrupt the ordinary in that way.  I am committed to not knowing, to letting myself not figure anything out, to be where I am and not come to “the other side” a moment too soon.  I will not emerge from the cocoon before I am ready.  The permission I have given myself is freeing.  On some deep level of my psyche a small, quiet voice whispers, “finally”.  It’s a full deep breath and a level of acceptance I craved before but never quite knew.  And, when I am completely in an obsessive loop of negativity, it’s strangulating.  But if you dance in your darkness, you know what I mean.  You know the paradox – the relief I of letting yourself be in it yet not always of it.  And, you know equally that “this” state is not a fixed state.  It changes too – with the wind, with the bumping up against another angsty human or even with a bad case of gas.

Some might label this as a lack of choice.  Not at all, I say.  I am choosing to be here.  I am choosing to ride the wave as it carries me to a soft sandy beach to be bathed by the sun. Or as it tosses me against a jagged rock jetty and I am bled dry.  I will see where this ride will take me.  This ride where if I truly let go, and can stay in this place, and not try control the outcome – where might I end up?  I’m not even describing curiosity; it’s more like plain vanilla willingness.  Nothing fancy, just wanting to see. 

Did I communicate any of that live on air on Fox news?  I hope so.  I spoke what was there to speak.  I spoke from my heart to the hearts of those who are beginning to ride the ride in the High Park fire.  Now, I speak it to you, perhaps a little more lucidly since cameras are not rolling and I can go back and edit a bit for more clarity.  Yet, as I re-read my words, I am not sure I am communicating what I want to say.  I think if you know, you will know.  Otherwise, it might not make sense.  Part of being willing to be in the unknown is the challenge of recounting it.  And, I can’t be separate from it right now, so I am describing the experience from down in the trenches.  I am telling you about the blood and the guts and the mud and the bullets whizzing overhead with glimpses of the blue sky.  I am not telling you about the battle that was fought 20 years ago and the wisdom I gleaned and now want to pass on from a place on high…  No.  I am not doing that.    

What I want to provide is peace of mind and heart for those who grapple with life.  I want ease for those who struggle.  Not to get to “the other side” but to embrace being in the midst.  Then we can meet each other there with knowing looks and a warm embrace.  We will see the flotsam and jetsam of darkness and recognize a fellow traveller.  We won’t brush things over but we will know what deserves our grapple and what doesn’t. 

Are you a grappler?  Well, then I write for you.  Do you thrive when you see the rich fabric of the world?  Then, I call to you.  Do you scream to know you are not alone in your angst?  Then, I scream back.

Let’s grapple together – grapplers unite!