I recently participated on a Wisdom Council to create the first yearly Wisdom's Feast spirituality conference for women. It was a humbling and glorious experience. Those of us who served on the Wisdom Council were able to meet earlier this week and digest our experiences and learnings from the day-long Conference itself.

And what we all got out of it-- each with her unique experience and perspective-- was greater self-confidence. I have more trust for my intuitive knowledge. This council member realized it's okay to be loud and large and visible sometimes. Another woman expressed her boosted confidence in becoming a keynote speaker because she now KNOWS she has wisdom to share; and so on. Each of us suddenly has greater respect for our own abilities, and a stronger trust that we can grow to fill a larger space in the world than we previously thought. And this conference on women's spirituality made room for all of it.

My workshop was on Intuitive Wisdom and Tarot. The concept of opening one's self to self-knowledge and Universal Wisdom on a deeper, intuitive level. This was coupled with the reality that tools like Tarot exist to draw our attention to things we already know, but need to acknowledge or work on in order to move forward productively. And thanks to all the wonderful women who attended my workshop at the Wisdom Conference, the energy in the room was amazing. The workshop was amazing. And I was amazed to find myself a conduit for such a powerful and beautiful group experience that morning.

So I'd like to continue thanking the Goddess for that. For the opportunity to be me, and be enough, and participate in that beautiful learning/teaching experience. I look forward to participating again next year. Next November, at the second annual Wisdom's Feast Conference. It's beginning to look like next year's conference may have a focus on women's experience of transition. At least, I hope that's the direction we take. Women in Transition. Women as Bringers of Wisdom. Wisdom's Feast.

Whatever the outcome, I'm confident that She will order all things well.


Growing Up Good

I copied this post from the link below because it gave me such hope for the world. (Much-needed hope!)

I've been meaning to mention this one for a while, but...

To the two-year-old twin girls who come in with their mom, so well-behaved, and clean up the children's area when they're finished playing, and always push in the chairs, and wait until we're done with the patron on the computer before showing us that wonderful book they found this time, that they're so excited about getting to read... Thank you. May you grow up just as wonderful as you are when you visit us...and just as generous.

We actually have a whole bunch of awesome little kids at work, but these two really take the cake. They came toddling in one day with their mom, nearly bouncing, and came up to return their books, and handed us a bag. Inside was the majority of their joint sticker collection. One of the things we've had to cut back on is fun kid-stuff, like coloring/activity pages, and the stickers the kids get at the end of their visit, at checkout. These two little girls visit with their mom regularly, and always ask for a sticker, like the other little they donated their sticker collection from birthdays and other presents so that everyone could still get one, when they come to the library.


Creating Community

I spend a lot of my free time working as the Coordinator for a small organic farm and nonprofit foundation. The farm is operated by five generations of women and men, not all from the same genetic family.

The Elder of the household is 92 years old. The youngest is just under five months. Together, these eight people have created a family community on the farm. Even though only two of them are actually related. And last Friday, the farm Elder had a stroke. Since then, everyone on the farm has taken turns sitting with her in the hospital. And when she woke up this morning, she found one of the young men from the farm sitting by her bed. She ate a few bites of applesauce, which exhausted her. The doctors are calling it a miracle that she can function at all.

She turned to the young man, and said "Thank you for being here." Then she closed her eyes and went back to sleep. So he stayed. Until someone else from the farm could come to the hospital to take his seat by her bed.

Hearing about that moment-- about a young man refusing to leave an old woman he's only known for a few months-- reminded me just how important it is for each of us to know we are not alone. That someone out there cares for our well-being, and would worry if we didn't make it home or didn't respond to their email or didn't show up for lunch on Thursday. It's good to enjoy your own company, to be comfortable in your own skin. To take time away from the bustle of the world and really get to know your own motivations, desires, and expectations.

But it is also good to wake up and know that someone cares whether you live or die. And there are so many ways to create a caring community for ourselves. We can volunteer and get to know the folks we're helping or working with. We can join some group activity like a painting class or yoga or even organize a monthly potluck with friends. We can visit the local Retirement Community or find a communal living arrangement of our own. And Big Brother/ Big Sister always needs volunteers. It's amazing how big a gift we get back whenever we give.

In the case of our farm Elder, she gave her farmhouse to a younger generation-- a nephew-- so that he and his wife could fix it up, farm the land, and fill the old homestead with a new created family. A family that cares enough to stay by her bedside while she sleeps, so that when she wakes up, she'll know she's not alone.

I want you to know the same thing-- You are not alone. You don't have to face life and life's challenges without support and care. And you should know that you aren't the only person going through the bumps in your particular road. There are support groups, counselors, and life coaches everywhere who can tell you the same thing-- Sometimes life is tough. Here are some of the things that might help you cope, even get you past this particular bump in the road... And you're not the first person to experience that particular challenge. I can't make it go away, but I can tell you this: You don't have to go through it alone, whatever it is. Really.


Overcoming Shame

I wear many different hats right now. As with a large percentage of the population, my plans and processes have had to change as our economic situation worsened over the last two years. My understanding is that we'll really start to see those improvements that everyone has started talking about... fairly close to Christmas time. I think it'll make a great present.

One of the hats I currently wear is that of Assistant to the Director for a small rural nonprofit. Our goals range from creating and using a functional accounting system to adding nutritional education to our menu of field-trip programs we offer to local schools. Today we had our usual monthly Board Meeting.

At past meetings, I've felt a little embarrassed to be the only paid employee in a sea of dedicated volunteers. I've been coming in about twice a week for a couple of months now. The rest of the Board has worked longer and harder on these projects than I have. Most of them are older, wiser, and they all have full-time jobs. The money I earn here has helped my budget immensely, and I'm proud of the work I do and the support I give to this fledgling nonprofit. But somehow, I always felt uncomfortable and unhappy when it came time to be paid for my efforts.

When I finally noticed myself feeling this way, I took a time-out (about an hour with the phone, the computer, and the TV turned off) to really examine the situation, and my place in it. I realized that the work I do is supporting a great cause, and that my goal in working for this nonprofit is to use all my skills to help it succeed. I love my job. Even the accounting. And I work hard every day that I'm scheduled to be there. Everyone else in that Board Meeting has a regular day job that they love and are paid to do, too. They volunteer for specific events or projects. I show up twice or even three times a week, every week, to make those events happen. And when I don't look at "what everybody else is doing" I actually feel that the money I earn as the Assistant to the Director is a fair trade for my efforts and energy expended. In fact, they're getting a really good deal out of me.

At the end of my hour, I came to the conclusion that how I feel when the Director hands me my paycheck is a choice. My choice. And I can choose to feel ashamed that I am not in a position to work for free, that I need those two days a week to make my budget work-- or I can be excited that they still think my contributions are worth contracting for. I'm choosing to feel excited and proud about my next paycheck. It may not be large, but it is an important acknowledgment of my commitment and skills. It is helping put food on my table and pay for the car I drive 90 minutes out to the office and 90 minutes back.

Shifting your relationship to the money you earn-- whether deciding to be grateful for the opportunity to support your family, acknowledging that you have in fact EARNED that money and can be proud of the work itself, or seeing it as an important step toward the life you plan to live down the road-- making that shift allows us to form a positive relationship with both our earning potential and our current job.

And once we intentionally add that bit of positive energy to our paycheck, it gets ten times easier to be positive about our finances and the budget that results from that paycheck. It may not be as much as we want to earn, it may not be the kind of work we want to do-- there are so many reasons to be resentful or unhappy. Once we begin to focus our energy and our attention on the things we like and can be proud of, we find that the shame recedes. We become more attuned to the possibilities that may have been there all along. We understand that this may be the end of what we had before-- but that is because it is only the beginning of what we will have in our lives next.

The more you can do to see these new beginnings as positive ones, the easier it will be to enjoy them, and to be encouraged by the possibilities and opportunities they bring. They may not be the outcomes and opportunities we planned on five years ago. Which means they may actually become something better.

Shame gets in the way. We tend to close down, stagnate, get stuck or get depressed and overwhelmed when our primary emotion is shame. Look for that one positive thing-- or even two or three-- that make your current situation okay. Those realizations or understandings about how you got here or what you plan to do now that you are here that will let you see past the shame and the fear. Once you've cleared the way, open to possibility. Make a new plan, and incorporate your new knowledge, your new budget, your new hopes and dreams into that plan.

As an example of how this works, I have a good friend who recently called me to share the good news: She has $7.00 in her bank account. And she is genuinely excited about this. To her, this represents another month in which she managed to pay all her bills without overdrawing the account. It represents success, and willpower, and a solid income, however slight. And she had even more good news to share. Her birthday is coming up, so a bunch of her friends have plans to take her out to dinner. Rather than all go at once, she's asked them to take her out one at a time. She'll get to spend a really meaningful evening with each of the people she most appreciates in her life-- and many of her meals will be paid for, allowing that $7.00 to stretch another couple of weeks until she gets paid again.

She could be in tears-- no money to spend on something frivolous for her birthday, a lower income than most women her age and with her education earn, barely scraping by from month to month, and it probably won't get any better for a while. But instead, she's found the things that she feels good about in the situation. She didn't resort to using credit cards. She didn't overdraw that account. She proved to herself that she has the discipline live on this income if she must. And unlike the last six months she spent job-hunting, she does have an income. All these wonderful realizations allowed her to overcome her shame at being so poor and having a job that doesn't make use of her education and skills. She was even able to look for opportunities to make her birthday something special; opportunities to make her tiny budget stretch even further. And she found them. I have to say I'm excited to hear about that $7.o0, too.


Feeling Green

I enjoy a monthly Journaling Group comprised of fellow healers, counselors, and educators. This year, we've chosen to learn more about energy. How it inhabits the body, and carries memories or emotional imprints in the form of patterned behaviors, much as energy from a battery follows a proscribed circuit of wires. We're looking for ways to rewire, to learn new and healthier behaviors and responses.

With so much information and wisdom available on the topic, we've decided to start by learning and writing about each of the seven primary Chakras, and their basic function in maintaining or healing our life energy patterns. We've decided to look more closely at the connection between energy and story. Chakras are defined as biophysical energy centers in the body, first explored and named by East Indian philosophers and healers over four thousand years ago.

As I work-- and write-- my way up through the Chakras, I've noticed some profound changes in my own relationship to energy. Energy, according to both secular and spiritual sources, fills all living things. In fact, we are made up of energy. Hearing the stories and "ah-hah!" moments of my Journaling peers has also reminded me that we each have the opportunity to combine our energy and our willpower and change the way we live-- change our life story. This was particularly apparent in our most recent Journaling session about Fourth Chakra.

But first, let me recap:
In our first meeting several months ago, we focused on the energy of First Chakra. Located at the base of the spine, this energy point in the body is related to one's sense of security, both physical and emotional. As the "Root" Chakra, this is where we draw most of our energy, find our balance, and work through our day-to-day needs and challenges. The Root Chakra is most often associated with a deep red color.

Second Chakra, or Sacral Chakra, is located below the belly button. The energy of this Chakra relates to our emotional health, sensual self-awareness, and comfort with self. It is considered the "Relationship" Chakra, and in journaling about it with the group, I recognized all over again just how common it is for women to be blocked or uncomfortable with this particular kind of energy in our bodies. Heck, most women I know (and many men as well) are just uncomfortable with their bodies, regardless of the kind of energy involved.

Third Chakra is the personal power and creative life force energy center in the body. It is located over our solar plexus, below our ribs. The color most often associated with this Chakra Energy is yellow. For many of us, this is the most functional of our Chakras simply because there are fewer risks involved in acknowledging our creative energies. We like to paint, or sing, or dance. We see that each person has unique strengths and unique personalities.

This brings us to the Fourth Chakra-- Heart Chakra. This is the month my Journaling Group has chosen to focus on our Heart Chakra, which just happens to be green. It is the center of the seven Chakras, providing a link between upper and lower energies. In our group, we talked about different meanings and representations of the Fourth Chakra's energy in the world. I was surprised to learn that it represents both healing energy and wealth. Deep self-knowledge, as well as the ability to reach out to others. Forgiveness, understanding, and bringing into harmony that which is separate. It relates to generosity, prosperity, imagination, and willpower.

Sitting with the group, I realized it's been a long time since I saw those words together in one sentence-- generosity and prosperity. Imagination and willpower. And in examining my reaction to the idea that love and money might be connected in some positive way, I began to understand just how deeply scarred our relationship with money has become. We often think it controls us, and we begin to fear taking risks and trying new things as a reaction to our perceived lack of control. Many of us are so desperate to find or earn or win enough money to feed our family or avoid foreclosure, more money, any money at all... That we've forgotten how important our own awareness and energy is to the process of creating or maintaining our own well-being. We've forgotten both how to give and how to receive with integrity and intention rather than with fear.

We have forgotten how many forms generosity can take. We have forgotten that prosperity is about something more than money-- but that money is a vital ingredient in maintaining health. Yes-- Money, like healing medicines, promotes HEALTH! The green energy of healing, of the Heart Chakra, is the same energy we can use to change our relationship with money from that of despair and exhaustion to that of determination and awareness. It's a daunting suggestion, but one of the few I've found that acknowledges our personal power to create positive change in our own economic situations. Maybe if enough Heart Chakras are unblocked and strengthened, we can extend that healing of individual financial outlooks and reclaiming of individual dreams and goals to that of our economy as a whole.

As our Group Facilitator pointed out, "At the essential center of Heart Chakra is the statement, 'the story must be healed.'"



I've been working to strengthen my Root Chakra lately. (Strength is important-- particularly when you've got a cat lying on your arms and you're trying to type.) It has been a roller-coaster couple of weeks, and the timing for having my Root Chakra nice and strong couldn't be better.

The Root Chakra, by the way, is the one in charge of our connection with the Earth, our sense of security and belonging, our financial and physical well-being, our safety, our solidity in whatever we are trying to accomplish with our lives, and our groundedness. (is that a word?) Each chakra also has a specific "human right" attached to it. For the Root Chakra, you have the right to be here; and the right to have.

Calamity comes in all shapes and sizes, and a bunch of my dear friends have been faced with one calamity or another in the past week or two. It's a relief to support them all without having to also feel all their pain for them. At this point, I've done enough work as a Life Coach to be able to separate what *I* am feeling on my own behalf from what I am feeling on SOMEONE ELSE'S behalf.

And so I was tired from all the energy I (gladly) used in support of my friends and my clients coping with life-crisis stuff... but I wasn't emotionally overwhelmed or incapacitated by all the grief. And I'm really proud of myself for that. I'm also really proud of my clients and my friends for allowing themselves to be supported by their community when faced with a tough situation. Nobody should face their personal challenges, their grief, or their fears alone. Allow the loved ones in your life to love you back. Friendship is a two-way street.

In working with my Root Chakra over the past few weeks, I realized that many of us-- particularly those of us with families to support-- spend our lives working really hard to make other people look good, and help other people (or children) achieve their dreams/goals/successes. Sometimes we end up not really believing we have a right to our own success, or to use our skills and experiences and abilities to make OURSELVES look good. We don't realize that the right to have also applies to us. No wonder it's so hard sometimes to find a good supportive relationship, or a job we love that also pays the bills-- We don't feel like we deserve it!

I've made a point of focusing on my Root Chakra, and being grounded in my right to have, for a few minutes every day. And I can feel the difference. I'm a lot better grounded than I was a few weeks ago. I'm slowly re-claiming my own rights and my own opportunities. Thank goodness, considering all the challenges that have come up.

My hope for you is that you also allow yourself to be here, and to have the situations in your life that make you feel secure. Take some time out to light a candle on your hearth, or go for a walk in the trees and the rocks and the hills-- and think about your connection to the Earth, and to creating your own home-grown sense of security.

OH-- and for those of you suffering from mild to moderate seasonal allergies? I finally bought some freeze-dried nettle leaf capsules and they are SO controlling my allergies with NO side effects!!! (Though I can't predict what'll happen if you take them, they might be worth trying.) They even cost less than the Alavert and the Cleratin I usually take. YAY for uninterrupted sleep!! That and nutritious food and healthy physical activity are the three legs that form the tripod of good Root Chakra health. It's all about creating solid foundations to use as a basis for growing dreams and making them come true.

Welcoming Changes

I recently realized that each new social context we inhabit has its own special set of unspoken rules. And that it can take quite a while for us to figure out just what it means to hold hands in a given situation-- when we don't have anybody telling us what those new rules are, or how they apply.

I think this kind of confusion comes up a lot in new dating situations-- Do you hold hands with all your female friends, or am I special? Did you kiss me because it was New Years or because you want to start a committed relationship with me? And what did those kisses mean to me?? Are you giving me a ride home because this was a date, or because it's raining and I walked, and you're just nice like that? How many people do you date, or kiss, or give rides to at any given time? Do all your friends already know that about you, or am I the only one whose shocked?

It also comes up in new work environments, when we move to a new city or state, even when we ride our bicycles in some part of town we haven't experienced this way before. The boss says our team is all about feedback and personal growth, and everything is a two-way street... Does that mean he's open to hearing my suggestions about things he could do better as a boss? My neighbor invited me out to a bar with some of her friends, and I showed up in heels and a slinky tank top... everyone else is wearing sweatshirts and jeans...

It can be a real challenge to navigate all those unspoken expectations, or to have the courage (and foresight!) to ask questions about those unvoiced norms in a new situation. Often, we put our foot in it, feel stupid, worry that we'll never fit in. Sometimes we even give up and go back to what is familiar and easy-- whether it's healthy and helpful to our personal goals or not.

I have a good friend whose spent most of her life moving from place to place for her work every couple of years. She tells me it takes her a minimum of six months to start making friends and find all the right places to buy her groceries and take her dog to the Vet. Six months of feeling like an outsider. But she keeps going with her plans, and asks questions when she has the courage (and a likely resource person to ask)... Eventually she doesn't want to ever leave her new home, and the friends she has here, because it has actually become a home.

And from my own experiences with picking up and moving someplace new, I've learned to view moving as an opportunity to set new standards for myself. Nobody in the new place knows that I never vacuum. So if I suddenly start vacuuming every Tuesday night after work, nobody is going to give me a hard time about it. Nobody knows I never invite friends over for dinner... and I've always wanted to... Change your hair style or try wearing bold colors instead of beige at work-- nobody's going to comment because they don't know it's a big change. They don't have any set expectations of who you are or how you go about living your life.

Nobody in the new place knows I used to be an awesome golfer who spent every evening on the golf course (I'm borrowing this example from a friend), so if I decide to take up water skiing instead, I can start from scratch, and nobody here will expect me to already be an accomplished athlete, or will worry when they learn I'm only golfing once a month now. A new place is a chance to find that new grocery store with even BETTER organic produce than the one you always shopped at before. It's a great opportunity to live better and be someone you always wanted to be-- even if it's deciding not to do something. Not seeking out all the local bars since there's nobody to give you a hard time if you don't show up for a pint or three after work.

At least for me and a few of the people I've asked, it is often easier to start a new habit or break an old one when you don't have anybody whose good opinion you value more than life itself watching and worrying over your shoulder. It was easier to relax and learn to drive with the nameless driving instructor at school than it was with Mom holding the break lever in her left hand and jerking it every time I forgot to push on the clutch.

Life is all about change. And while I know that familiarity-- old friends, dad's cooking, the way you always hit the ball over the fence, or that one bar where everyone knows your name-- that's important and worthwhile... Sometimes finding new ways of being opens the door to Abundant Living in a way we hadn't even known was possible before. Sometimes setting a standard for how we want to be treated in our next relationship, or choosing to take that dance class that none of our old friends was interested in trying-- It brings a depth and a beauty to our lives that we didn't even know we were missing.

Hey, it's Spring-- Everything is growing, and changing, and blooming, and pushing out little green shoots of something new in places it's never grown before. Maybe it's time for you to give Change a chance, and see what good things pop up in your life.


Natural Processes

So February was the month of the Cat Scare. March? March is, apparently, the month of the flu. As in, I caught it, and here we are ten days later, and I'm still not fully recovered. And I'm tired of it. Seriously. I have a life I'd like to be living-- or at least pursuing.

So I decided to pretend I was all better, in the hopes that believing would make it true, and because my parents were going to be in town for a visit, and I wanted to enjoy their company.

We decided to check out the Da Vinci exhibit. And it's pretty cool. They've recreated a few pages from his personal notebooks, one of which explores the way that a planet and a sun affect the light on another planet. VERY COOL to see that!! And they've rebuilt a bunch of the machines and concepts of flight, motion, and energy into little wooden examples-- with the same tools and materials that Da Vinci himself would have had access to. And you even get to play with some of the gears!! There are reproductions of his sketches and studies of the human body. And a whole room devoted to his painting, particularly the Mona Lisa.

Da Vinci was a pretty cool frood, really. He believed that we could learn to do anything that could be done in nature by observing how Nature does it. And so he spent hours and days and months observing the way birds fly, the way people exert force on a lever, the way toes are made to wiggle through their attachment to bone with fine sinews and fibers that direct movement. For Da Vinci, Mother Nature was the ultimate teacher, and he devoted a lifetime to Her lessons.

A room full of musical instruments and war machines later, and I was barely shuffling along, trying to put one foot in front of the other. I actually fell asleep in the restaurant over lunch, I was so exhausted by the outing. Three hours of standing around, and I slept the rest of the day and a full ten hours last night. I'm ready to have my energy back. I'm just not sure how to get it.

Well, to paraphrase Da Vinci's classification of people, there are those who understand, those who can be taught to understand, and those who will never understand.
...I'm learning.


Ways of Being

I had an interesting conversation with a friend this weekend. We talked about the difference between having goals to work toward, and working on new ways of being in the world. She had a pretty convincing argument, so I thought I'd share.

We often talk about our latest goals, or the goal we are focusing on in the moment. Somehow, this places not only our efforts but also our accomplishments outside of ourselves. If you want to earn top ratings in your company this quarter-- whatever your company rates-- that's a goal.

It's you working on something totally separate from your SELF, and with both a goal and a reward that are pretty impersonal. They might give you a year-end bonus that you can spend on a trip to Maui or something... but they don't really change who you are or how hard you'll have to work next quarter if you want the same results. Losing weight, getting up earlier-- these feel like similar goals. Things you can measure by looking at the scale or the clock or the nightly news. Looking outside yourself for both expectation and outcome.

Ways of being are harder to measure, harder to change-- and yet when we do improve our way of being, every aspect of our life gets a little bit easier, clearer, more functional. Several years ago, I wanted to change my way of being-- I wanted to be healthy. And I really examined what that meant for me. How I would be in the world, and what about my lifestyle or my thought process or my daily activities needed to change in order for me to live in a way that feels healthy to me. And to be honest, I'm still working on it.

I wanted to be pain-free in my body most days. I wanted to be able to lift moving boxes and heavy bags of kitty litter without hurting myself. I wanted to feel that I had a chance of defending myself from harm if I were ever attacked in a dark parking lot at night.

I wanted to feel connected to the Earth. I wanted to be connected to my own feelings and intuition so that I could USE them to keep myself healthy, safe, sane. I wanted to respect myself enough to pay attention to my needs, and work on meeting them. I wanted to get rid of my adult acne, and keep up with my friends on long hikes in the hills without complaint. These, to me, were the measuring sticks of my improved way of being. If I could do these things, I'd be living the life I want to live-- the way I want to be in the world.

So I took time to examine my lifestyle, and look for things I could do with very little money and no health insurance-- to improve my way of being healthy in the world. I started meditating. I read about the root chakra that is our connection to our physical body, to the earth, and to our internalized messages of security and sturdiness. I bought essential oil of clove to help me meditate on my root chakra and improve my sense of groundedness, my sense of security, my awareness of my SELF and my physical needs.

I started walking a couple of times a week, looking at trees and birds and clouds when I walked. And I tried to change my sleeping habits so that I got a fairly reliable seven hours of sleep a night. Then eight. Then nine. I really feel rested if I get nine hours of sleep a night. I don't always manage it. And I know most people don't need that much. But I do. And I'm learning to respect my body's needs and my self enough to acknowledge what I need in order to be healthy. I also realized I had formed an unhealthy dependency on pain killers and sleeping pills to manage my pain from an old car accident.

Usually, we do need those pills for a little while, but at some point, we either need to heal the pain, or find non-chemical forms of pain-management and sleep-management. Some folks do legitimately need medicine, and if you need it? TAKE IT. But so many more of us take meds we don't need because it is easier than dealing with the problem that the meds help us ignore. I decided to consult a doctor on the healthiest way to reduce my dependence on my particular prescription medicines. I knew it would be dangerous to stop cold-turkey. Then, I cut my dose by 1/3 on a Friday, so I'd have the weekend to cope. The next Friday, I cut the daily dose in half. And because I was so cranky by then, I told a few people what I was doing so they wouldn't take my attitude personally.

I stayed at that level of dosage for almost a month. This wasn't about meeting a goal. This was about finding ways to be healthy. So I didn't have a set timeline. Instead, I waited until I wasn't so scared by the side effects I had with reducing my dosage. I picked a time when I knew I didn't have to do any driving or anything important for four or five days in a row. And I had some non-chemical pain-management options ready to use.

I started on those new things the first day. I stopped taking pills the second day, with an over-the-counter pain med just to ease myself into it a little more. By the third day, I was using pain management techniques, an no pills. By the fifth day, I felt better than I had in years.

I'm still working on the acne. Managing it requires overcoming my addiction to sugar-foods. I like chocolate and ice cream and and and and too much to let go easily or quickly. But I'm also proud of the progress I've made in listening to my body's needs, and maintaining some sort of regular exercise. And when I exercise, I listen to my body so I don't over-do or re-injure myself. If I start to feel tired, I take iron pills and vitamin C and garlic. I try to manage my body temperature, and give my body extra sleep and extra water to help fight off any virus germs. I'm not sick nearly as often as I used to be. And I feel more alive. More connected to the Earth and to myself. I even keep up with my friends when we hike.

I guess improving my health wasn't so much a goal as a way of being in the world. It wasn't about crazy diets or binge exercising. It wasn't about denying myself or punishing myself. It was about getting to know myself better, and then making informed decisions. It was about learning to accept what my body needs to be healthy-- and not what I think it should need, should look like, should do for me. It was about learning to be compassionate-- at least about my health-- with my SELF. And it's one of the hardest lessons for a person to learn. To be good to themselves, without punishment, judgment, or unhappy indulgence.

Be compassionate with your body. Honor your feelings. They are trying to tell you something important about your well-being in the world. Find those connection points between you, and the universe at large. They do exist. Isolation is only ever self-imposed. The grass really is greener on the other side.


The Vet let me take my kitty home last night, with some pain medicine and a vague hope that maybe she'd eat something once she wasn't in pain anymore.

So I was hopeful. Until the Vet called this morning. The final test came back, and it turns out her white blood cell count is horribly low. So We made an appointment to take her back into the doctor's for another test. This one was to see if she had either feline leukemia or kitty AIDS. Those being the most likely reasons for a low white blood cell count, apparently.

Apparently, she was also much calmer about getting her blood drawn this time around. And it only took ten minutes to get the test results back. She is evil illness-free, as far as we can tell. Luckily, it is NEITHER feline leukemia NOR kitty HIV. Unluckily, we still don't know what it IS. I have strict instructions from my Vet (who also owns a tortie) to call her with updates.

And LUCKILY, I have a very wonderful update to report. As soon as we got home, she got out of the cat carrier, wandered over to the wet food that has been sitting hopefully in my room for the past few hours, and licked it a few times before wandering back to her blanket in front of the space heater. FOOD!!! She ate a bite of FOOD!!! That's more than she's eaten of her own volition in three days! WAHHOOOO!!!!

And I have finally got some hope back that she'll recover from this insane trip of hers.
Thanks for all your good thoughts, everyone. We both needed them for a while. Maybe we still do. But at the moment, Abbigale is curled up on my bed in the sun pretending that her little fore-arm isn't shaved and listening carefully, just in case I venture over to the pain medicine again. Because, well, she REALLY LIKES that pain medicine.

So, basically, the only thing we know for sure is that she had some really painful gas, stopped eating, got really dehydrated, and is now hooked on pain killers. Not necessarily in that order. Life can be such a trip. ...sigh.


Loving Abbigale

My cat is in the Animal Hospital today. They're trying to figure out why she stopped eating and drinking two days ago, why her chest hurts, why she has a build-up of gas, why she's been puking and other grossness for the last 24 hours, at both ends. And how to make it all better.

I'm trying to figure out how I'm going to cope. She is a fixture in my life. She is one of my best friends, and my life-companion. She is only ten years old. And if she needs surgery to remove an obstruction in her bowels, I'm not sure I can pay for it.

I'm trying to figure out how to make my situation go away. How to have a job, or another credit card, so that I could have a hope of paying for this. I'm trying to figure out how I got so desperate financially that I would even consider NOT getting this $800-$2000 surgery for my Abbigale. I'm looking into donations from animal-rescue organizations. I'm looking into my credit card totals to see how bad they really are. I'm looking into payment plans. My vet is looking into some possible other cause for her illness.

I'm trying to cope with my sudden reality that I've already spent $600 on her medical care today, and that I really don't want to wake up without her tomorrow... and that it costs less to put my best friend to sleep than to heal her... but even that would be expensive. I'm really trying to cope with reality, but failing.

Because the reality is that she is my one ability to keep coping with my life. She gives me a reason to get up (even if it's a half-hour earlier than I wanted to get up), and she helps me sleep at night. She loves me unconditionally, and forgives me for being selfish and stupid from time to time. Nobody else does that. How can I weigh her life against something as stupid as two or three months' worth of rent payments.

I have some wonderful wonderful human friends-- and some of them have really been there for me when I've been in tight spots at various times. But believe me-- I've spent more time being content because SHE was content to be with me than I have just happy on my own account. So here it is.

The last few shreds of hope I have are that maybe the problem is something that can actually be fixed without surgery... or that I won the lottery last week and just don't know it yet. Because as much as I want the opportunity to earn my way-- I'm going to feel like shit if I get a good-paying day job within a few days or weeks of putting her to sleep for lack of funds.

I know that my desires are purely selfish here-- the desire to keep her alive, and the desire not to go into debt to do so. And I've realized, that as much as it's going to hurt-- whatever the outcome-- what I really want is for her to know I love her, and for her not to suffer. Whatever that means, I think I can make my peace with it. Eventually. After the heart-hurt eases a bit, and the empty spot starts to heal. I know I'm never going to fill her place in my heart.

Today, I'm just sitting around waiting for news, researching dead-end financial options and grant moneys for emergency pet care, and crying. At least, after I made the vet appointment last night, she and I had the whole night to lay together and cuddle on the bed. And even though she had to get off the bed to vomit and have diareah about five or six times, she always made her way back up to where she could sleep on my arm, curled into my side.

God, Goddess, please let her live.


Getting to know yourself...

It's an interesting challenge, slowing down long enough to make friends with ourselves. Usually, when we get into stressful situations at work or in our marriages, we try to ignore them by being too busy to care. We are often so afraid that the situation that is "going wrong" is somehow our fault. Nobody wants to be the bad guy.

So we hide from this imagined truth by adding more activities and commitments into our day. We take on more responsibilities, and we try to be "everything for everyone" in a few more peoples' lives. We watch more TV, and we stay up too late so we aren't awake enough to lie in bed and actually THINK before we go to sleep. We don't want to know.

We don't want to know our marriage is failing, or our work situation is unhealthy, or that our eating habits have brought us to this situation where we hate our bodies and indulge in comfort foods to feel better about everything. My dad doesn't want to know he has Alzheimer's. So after the first three tests came back clean, he decided he's FINE, and has refused any more tests.

With Alzheimer's, you keep doing the same tests over time to show deterioration of faculties, memory, etc. And it's a process of elimination. You take tests for everything else, and when you don't have any of the other diseases that involve memory issues, you have Alzheimer's. But my dad doesn't want to have that disease, so he tells me he's too busy to keep taking all those tests. And they cost a lot, too.

I find that we often use the family budget as another reason to let the status quo remain. We worry that being divorced, we wouldn't have enough money to support ourselves (and our children, if we have them). We worry that our partner wouldn't be able to take care of him or herself-- either physically or money-wise, or even emotionally-- if we weren't there with them.

The truth is that we are enabling unhealthy situations. My dad's mind is worth spending money to preserve. It's easy to make choices about our lives by refusing to act, by refusing to pay attention. And yet, by refusing to take responsibility for our own happiness, our own fulfillment, our own future... We are being complicit in our own suffering.

And what we THINK we would know about ourselves if we actually stopped to think about it-- stopped to look at ourselves clearly-- isn't always the reality. Maybe the marriage just needs more attention, and maybe if we stopped to notice what was missing, we could find a way to add it into the relationship. We could actually improve our marriage instead of ending it. We could actually value ourselves enough to make a healthier choice about our bodies or our food or our embodied stress or our right to be treated with respect.

Getting to know yourself is different from sitting down for a hate-fest of self-abuse and self-recrimination. That is called a pity-party. And it can be very destructive to sit and dwell on all the things we THINK are wrong with ourselves-- over and over again.

I'm talking about getting to know yourself. Looking past all the stories you've told (or been told) about how unkind, inconsiderate, passionless, closed-minded, stupid, fat, etc etc etc we supposedly are. Looking at our lives without the drama for a few minutes. You went to school, and did well there. You are a wage-earner for the family. You budget well with the money you have. There may not always be enough money, but your budgeting is not at fault for that. You are loving and you put others' needs before your own MORE often than is actually healthy for you-- and there is nothing selfish or self-centered about that. You value your friends. You have tons of awesome skills, and a really great sense of humor. You are worth knowing.

Often, the foods we eat (or don't eat) when we are feeling bad about ourselves and our lives are not indulgences-- they are punishments. We try to punish ourselves for "failing" by giving ourselves reasons to be unhappy with our choices. Eating too much, eating unhealthy foods, refusing to eat anything at all. We express our discontent by contributing to our own physical deterioration, as a punishment for being imperfect. For being human.

And the truth is that we are all human. That perfection is boring. That there are valid solid serious reasons to love and appreciate each person on this earth-- including you. Do you kill for fun? Do you have a spare-closet-full of expensive clothing you've never even de-tagged so you could wear it? Do you eat puppies for breakfast and drink the blood of virgin sacrifices for dessert? Do you tell evil lies about your coworkers to get them fired? I think not.

What does your mental picture of a good, likeable person look like? Don't think about you for a minute here-- I know you've got that ready list of dislikes in your back pocket, and we're circumventing those for the moment. Jumping right past them without looking down. What are traits you value in your friends and/or mentors? Write a list of things you appreciate in real-live people around you. Yes, we like Mother Theresa for her selfless life... but it's hard to say what made her likeable as a person if you didn't actually know her personally.

Remember to add in those silly jokes your son makes just in time to break (or distract) family tensions-- the ones that keep everyone from arguing about who spent more on the credit cards this month. Remember how much you enjoy that one friend who says outrageous things and makes you laugh. Remember the guy at work who ALWAYS brings his lunch, and then gives his cookie to the girl at the front desk. Remember that the things that make a person lovable aren't always super-human.

Have your list? Okay. Now, add five numbered spaces at the bottom. Here is where I want you to pull out the "what I hate about me" list from your back pocket. What five things about yourself are you most annoyed or disappointed by? What do you most wish you could change about yourself? What do you spend the most time being angry or disappointed in yourself about? Just put down five that you're really dwelling on this week. We numbered the spaces because you have to pick five. Not six.

Don't agonize over this. It's an exercise in getting perspective. This is not the list that God will use to decide if you are worthy of heaven. (I don't mean to be flippant or derogatory-- and I don't mean to be exclusively Christian. I'm giving you perspective on making your list of five things you wish you could change about yourself.)

Now take that list (the list of things you'd like to be, and the things you think you are) to a few folks who love you, and who you trust to be brutally honest with you anyway. Ask them how this list compares to the way they see you. Trust their responses. Trust that THIS IS HOW YOU COME ACROSS TO OTHERS. You may be shocked to discover how many good traits people already think you possess. How strongly they disagree with your list of five negatives about yourself. You may notice how badly out of proportion you've blown these supposed faults of yours, and how little credit you've given yourself for your accomplishments and good traits.

Our self-awareness, our ability to see ourselves and judge our own merit realistically often gets thrown off-center. The more we dwell on our short-comings, the more our minds turn them into monsters. We may occasionally indulge in a latte or a new pair of winter shoes. This does not make us spend-a-holics. We may occasionally express a preference to our spouse. That does not make us selfish or mean.

In fact, it's pretty hard to be self-confident and proactive about our lives if we don't know what we do and don't want-- if we fail to have preferences and set healthy boundaries for ourselves and our interactions with others. If we don't know who we are, nor acknowledge what we are capable of. Self-confident successful men and women have opinions and a strong sense of purpose. They have goals, and they succeed because they make decisions and take actions accordingly.

We can be considerate of our partners and coworkers without being subservient-- without being slaves to their preferences and opinions. We can be gentle and loving without basing our lives on the premise that we are here to make someone else happy. The only person who can make you happy is you. The only person who can make your grumpy coworker happy is your coworker. It's okay to ask for-- or offer-- help. It's okay to have bad days. We all do. But it's vital that we don't give away our power to make positive changes in our own lives.

It's vital that we acknowledge our own success, our own skills and abilities. It's vital that we befriend ourselves enough to forgive--and learn from-- the occasional mistake. Would you expect of your most loved and respected mentor or friend the perfection and strict adherence to certain "rules" that you expect of yourself in your daily life? Maybe it's time to be your own friend. To give yourself a break, and acknowledge all the things you actually do right.

You are an amazing person. Take a few minutes to slow down and find out why the people you appreciate also appreciate YOU. And then decide if your marriage is over or your work situation is hopeless or if you don't deserve to have nice friends. Maybe all you need are some tools to help you take responsibility for meeting your own needs, expressing your own truth, reclaiming your own power to make positive changes in each of these situations.

Get to know yourself. You're worth appreciating.