My Momma’s Hippie

I woke up one morning recently and realized I’m where I always wanted to be.  And you know what happened to the girl who got everything she ever wanted? She lived happily ever after.  Okay, I might have stolen that line from Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, but it’s the first thing that popped into my mind.  Willy (the Gene Wilder one, not Depp) smiling at Charlie as he broke through the ceiling of the factory and soared above the pain, suffering and despair below him (and now in his past).  People tell you to be careful what you wish for but I didn’t just wish myself happy.  I didn’t just start to think happy thoughts.  I dug deep, cracked open and blossomed.  While positive affirmations are a big help, being receptive to change and setting the intention to change is very, very different.  I had to shake off things that no longer served me and while it was hard, I did it.

I’ve been thinking about my mom a lot. I became the hippie I am today because of who she was. Her struggles, her anger and her fear were catalysts to make me stronger, gentler and more accepting of myself.  That was her greatest gift to me; to allow me to become who I am and accept who I am.  Right before she died I was trying to get her to eat something.  It was diced pears (the last thing she ate) and she’d have nothing to do with them after one bite.  She was looking at me with those tired, tired blue eyes.  I now think she was burning my soul into hers so she would recognize it again when she returned.  Teasingly I said, “You never thought you’d raise a hippie, did you?”  She quickly said, “No!” with almost a proclamation of disbelief.  She’d always complained about my food choices (damned hippie) and how I raised my kids. I was (and am!) too soft on them.  But I could see she was proud of who I’d become.  I hadn’t been a failure after all.  And most important, she knew I’d be okay.  I had no other option. She had given me all her strength and determination, leaving none for herself.

The past year has been one hell of a journey.  Loss, acceptance, new love (not only my partner, but most importantly, love for myself).  I have gone on a tremendous journey of self-discovery, tearing down all I thought I should be and welcoming the person I am.  So many lessons run through my mind, body and soul.  Some seemed to hit me like a brick this morning; others have been brewing and bubbling to the surface one understanding at a time.

  • The journey happens whether you like it or not.
  • And whether you notice or not.  The days tick by and you need to be happy as much as possible. I have bad days–they pass.  I have good days–they, too, pass.  Each day passes no matter what.
  • I try to be as happy as possible and take the sad days as temporary.  I am a lot more aware of why I’m unhappy and if I don’t, my years of journaling have allowed me to crack open and get to the heart of the matter.  Which is usually my fear of not being enough one way or another.
  • I have the resources to heal myself.  Journaling, Brene Brown books, a little Agatha Christie and most importantly, quality (and quantity) time on my mat.  Going within isn’t scary; it’s peace.
  • I’ve learned to work through the stories I tell myself and put them to rest.  Too often I create scenarios on why someone said something or didn’t say something, and bring myself into a dark place. All because of the stories I’ve created in my mind.  They are self-inflicted.  I used to think it was because I’m a writer, but it’s because I’m human.
  • I’ve had a very long journey to get here and while not every day is a success, fewer and fewer are spent in pain.
  • When I live my passions, I am at peace. Reading, yoga, nature, writing and research.  When I make time and space for these five elements, I am being true to myself and am able to truly feel comfort and solace.

I love who I’ve become and I’m proud as hell that I’ve allowed myself to become her.  Her strength, love, understanding and acceptance is beyond what I could have imagined a year ago.  I am at peace for the first time in many, many years.  I live true to my nature. I am happy!



Love, Actually

Every year I relish the seventeen times Love, Actually is on television.  Indeed, I enjoy it so much I finally just bought the DVD.  Love, Actually is a British “Christmas” movie with some of the greatest stars: Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Bill Nighy, Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Kiera Knightly, Martin Freeman and for all you Walking Dead fans, Andrew Lincoln.  There are a few others you’ve seen before, but have no clue what their name is.  The storyline follows eight very different couples the month before Christmas.  But they aren’t all “couples”.  Liam Neeson and his stepson are one said “couple”, while the beautiful Laura Linney plays the sister who gives up any chance of a love life to be there for her brother.  As for love, the opening narration (done by Hugh Grant) sums it up.

“Often, it’s not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it’s always there. Fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, old friends.  When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know, none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge–they were all messages of love.  If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love, actually, is all around.”

We put such a narrow meaning on the word “love” that we forget it IS everywhere. It’s present in everyday exhibitions of caring and sacrifice just as much as in the messy, hot passion of a love affair.  Sometimes it manifests itself by simply making your children a paper mache lobster costume for the Christmas pageant.

Like all incredible stories, I’m able to take away a new outlook with every viewing.  Whether it’s something as superficial as recognizing one of the stars for a new role they’ve done or just realizing how funny certain lines are, I never watch the same thing twice.  I am able to relate to one of the stories and see how my life, my love, is being reflected in myself.  This year was no different.  But for the first time, I related to Laura Linney’s role as caregiver. Her character spoke volumes to me and I love her for it.  I respect her for it.  I respect myself a little more.  Her character, Sarah, is very much in love (lust?) with Carl, a handsome guy at work.  However, Sarah is constantly tied to her mobile phone, the connection she has to her disturbed brother who lives in a home.  He always comes first.  His call brings her back to reality, back to the harsh responsibilities of a real life caregiver.  When finally given the opportunity to be with Carl, she has to make the heart wrenching decision to push him away in order to fulfill her duty to her brother.  It’s not your average, feel good story about love. It’s the story of sacrifice and love for family, yes, but it’s also a bit eye opening as well.  I wondered why she pushed Carl away.  She could have let the phone ring and her brother would have been okay.  He was surrounded by people taking care of him.  He was safe.  But when she reached for the phone instead of being present with Carl, she was reaching for a crutch as well.  She was choosing the safety of the known (her role as caregiver) over the unknown (was she good enough to be loved?).  At first I thought it was because of her overriding sense of family that made her give up the chance she’d pinned away for.  But when she said, “I don’t deserve him” it made more sense.  The story changed from the love of sister-brother to the love of one’s self.

There’s something about being in love, or loving, that creates a fine line between confidence and the fear of inadequacy.  Perhaps it’s normal to have fears and doubts when faced with the one person you believe makes the world go around.  When you look at them and think, “wow, they’re amazing!”,  perhaps it’s more normal than not to question your own worth.  It’s only when you love yourself enough, have enough self confidence and acceptance of your own worth that you are able to truly love another.  All obstacles will fall away and make room for it, if you’re ready.  Suddenly, I saw the theme in all the couples.  Confidence and trust within themselves was the only way to truly find love.  Once they found that, they found everything.  So simple. And it’s been there all along.  Man, I love good movies (and books) just for this reason!

So this year I may have continued to swoon over the love of Colin Firth (because, well, he’s Colin Firth) but I paid a bit more attention to the real love stories as well.  The love of the self.  Even Colin needed to overcome his own demons and try again at that frightening prospect.  He had to realize he was worth it.  I saw how each character struggled with their own insecurities and failures.  Some winning, some losing.  Because actually, love can only start with the self.

Mastering the Can Opener

It’s a simple thing.  The hand crank can opener.  A kitchen appliance that’s been around forever. It’s simple, it’s cheap and it’s easy to use. Right?  Wrong.  I have never been able to use one.  It gets stuck, falls off the can or just will not cut.  Stupid things!  But recently our electric one died and I opted to purchase a hand one for a couple of reasons.  One, it takes up less room and I’m on a mission to remove the clutter from my life (and more precisely, from my kitchen counter); two, it reduces our “carbon footprint”.  I’m a hippie remember.

Well, it still didn’t work.  Mind you, my husband and both my teenage kids have no issue using it, so thankfully the inability was not passed down to my children.  But I kept trying.  Not like I really had an option, after all.  Either use it, or skip adding the tomatoes and beans to the chili, making myself a tuna melt or some other treat packed away in the fortress of a can. It always ended the same way; a family member coming to my frustrated pleas of help when cans were mangled and I was ready to chuck the opener across the room. They would stroll in, open the can and stroll out giving me a look of mingled pity and annoyance.

The other day I finally figured it out. It wasn’t an epiphany at the time, but it certainly made me happy!  After opening several cans effortlessly, proving to myself that, yes, I indeed had mastered this feat, I called my family in to prove it!  After all, they stuck by me all those years when I couldn’t do it.  “Watch!!!” I was so proud of this new found talent! They smiled, patted me on the back and said encouraging things like, “Wow.” and “Finally!”

Sure, I suppose practice was at the root of why I can finally, at the age of 46, open a can with a hand opener.  But I think it’s a lot more than that (of course I do…it’s how I operate).  I finally understood the key to making it work.  I stopped trying to force it.  All these years I’ve been holding on for dear life and trying to force the cutter around the can as if it didn’t know how to perform without my guidance.  Once I let it guide me, it worked perfectly.  Hmmm.  Now, if that isn’t a metaphor,  I don’t know what is!

This is truly where I am in my life right how.  I’m having a zen moment with my can opener and letting it teach me another lesson in my relationships.  I’m tired of trying to force them to work.  It’s frustrating and unfulfilling.  While I know I need to participate and be part of the function to make it truly work, I can’t do it all myself.  The opener knows its role and does it well.  The can knows its role and also complies.  I was the only one that never understood that it’s a joint effort; only when you stop trying to control the situation, everything works as it should.

Yup, all that from successfully opening a can!