Dreams, NoBloPoMo, Reflections

Living “Debt Free”…

I had a dream almost a week ago in which my dream mentor told me, quite plainly, “all your debt is paid…

When the words were first spoken, shock set in, followed rapidly by disbelief, which morphed into thoughts of consequences and caveats…

“But what about the taxes?,” I asked.  “Has any provision been made for that?  I mean, if you write off that kind of debt, there are tax consequences…”

My mentor cocked his head and just looked at me, exasperated.

I didn’t say your debt has been forgiven; I said it has been paid…  You are now able to begin living debt-free.

As these words were spoken, I allowed my doubt to leave, watching as it burst into a tiny flame burning somewhere near my heart.  Slowly that flame grew into excitement, anticipation, and yes, even hope, spreading rapidly throughout my body.  The expanding warmth finally reached my head and toes, and with it came clarity…

Laughing, I said to him, “ohhh…  You’re talking about Karma, aren’t you?”

And then I awoke…

Ok, so maybe my financial debt remains, a holdover from when I believed I owed the world something, simply for taking up space here.  But still…  this “gift” is huge!!

Debt free, karmically speaking, what does that really mean?  How does it feel?  How does it translate into daily activity?  These are the questions driving my experiences today…

The first thing I noticed was a certain “lightness,” a lifting of an ever-present weight upon my shoulders.  I stood straighter, calmer, more confidently in my space.  I realized, with a growing sense of wonder, that I owed nobody anything (can’t figure out how to make that work, grammatically, but you get the idea…).  I understood that everything I do now truly is by choice, a choice freed of guilt and expectation.  What do I want to do, right now?

And the first thing I did was go to work.  Of course.  😉  Not because I felt I had to, but because I wanted to.  I looked forward to spending time with coworkers, to enjoying my work for its own sake, to doing something helpful and productive with my physical being…

Then I went for a walk in the woods, spending time with the trees and the animals who shelter and live there.  Only this time, I wasn’t there seeking messages, lessons, or learning, but simply enjoying the beauty of the moment, the sharing of time with Other beings, similar to, but so unlike my self.  It was quite gratifying…

And today…

Several days have passed, and slowly I revert to the “should’s” and “ought to’s” of life…

***

One of my “grandkitties” had to be euthanized two days ago, and I ached all over, for my daughter, her family, and the animal himself.  I know it was the “right” thing to do.  I struggled with what part I should play in that unfolding drama.  I offered myself to my daughter, whatever she needed.  But I understood that she was the “adult in charge,” and the decisions were hers to make.  I respected those boundaries, even when it became obvious she didn’t “need” me at all…  My baby is all grown up now, and I couldn’t be prouder of her, or the way she handled this unexpected tragedy…

But I had to catch myself, more than once, reminding my self that debt-free goes both ways; I may not owe anyone else, but neither do they owe me.  She didn’t need my “help” this time, and she did brilliantly!  There is absolutely nothing I could have said or done to improve that experience; she, quite literally, got the job done in the most compassionate, loving, and responsible way possible.  With no urging or guidance from me…

And it truly came home to me this morning, after two days of “grieving,” that this, also, is part of what it means to live “debt free”…

And being free just took on a whole new dimension for me…

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Dreams, Reflections

“Listen… And Learn.”

(This post is a follow up to one I wrote on another site.  It stands alone.  But if you wanted to know what prompted it, that answer can be found here… maybe):

http://bayart.org/shhh/

***

So, my dreams were very clear this morning, the message precise and to the point: Don’t waste time looking for causes or assigning blame these days; just deal with the consequences and move on

* ceremoniously donning my cloak of hypocrisy *

So I wake up on this glorious Easter morn with this message running through my mind, and the first thing I hear is an adult exclaiming loudly “what a ripoff!”

Three times I hear the message repeat, as it slowly dawns on me that they are referring to a commercially prepared “gift.”

Finally a child speaks up.  “I am so disappointed,” he admits…

“Are you going to complain about it?,” the adult asks.

“Yes,” he responds, hesitantly.  Then with more certainty, “yes I am!”

And suddenly I see myself, sitting with a group of adults, discussing the state of the world.  And we are complaining about how ungrateful and materialistic the youth of today seem to be.  We share stories about how “kids today” do not appreciate the act of giving, focusing solely upon the perceived value of what is given.  We shake our heads sadly as we lament the deplorable state of society today…

* shifting my shoulders under the uncomfortable weight of my hypocritic cloak *

Yeah…  Been there.  Done that.

Sigh…

Happy Easter to those of you who celebrate it!

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Reflections

“Trust…”

Powerful word; shaky concept.  What does it actually mean to “trust” someone, or some thing?

Trust is a common enough word, bandied about in conversations, essays, politics, and video exposes (read expo-say-s; I can’t find that little carat character anywhere!)…  If we mention to someone that we trust them, they get all warm and fuzzy inside, but if we suggest we don’t, claws and teeth are a more common result.

We are told that relationships must be based on trust to last.  “In God we trust” somehow conveys strength and justice to our cause or country.  Trusted brand names are imbued with some mystical quality that makes them better than any other similar product.  And learning to trust ourselves is the penultimate spiritual goal…  So what are we actually saying here?

Taking on my role as devil’s “ass” (because I’m about to make a lot of assumptions), I’m going to say that most people define “trust” as that belief that the other will take no actions that would knowingly harm us.  We trust our parents to care for us.  We trust our partners to be honest with us.  We trust our neighbors not to steal from us.  And we trust our governments to act in our best interests abroad…

Perhaps, given that, trust might better be defined as naive or gullible…  But we keep trying to believe, don’t we?  We trust that eventually we will find someone who is trustworthy.  And we all believe ourselves to be that person…

Being trustworthy means we can be counted on to “do the right thing,”; it means we are moral people with an ethical code not easily abandoned.  “Yes, yes, you can trust me,” we insist.  “I can keep a secret!…  Now dish the dirt, please.”

“No, of course I would never cheat on you!  And I will always tell you the truth!”

“I didn’t do [that]!  I swear!!”

Well…  You get the point, I assume…

There is a difference, I believe, between morality and integrity: morality is what you publicly profess to be right and wrong, while integrity grows out of what you do when you’re alone.  Take stealing, for example.  Most of us have been raised to believe that taking something that doesn’t belong to us (without permission or paying for it) is wrong; such an act is a crime in both legal and moral senses.  And yet…

And yet, I went looking for silver crucifixes for a customer the other day, only to discover that 19 had been stolen in the last 3 months!!  Nineteen!  Crosses and rosary connectors – stolen?!  Am I the only one to see the irony here?

Or how about a roommate who uses your coffee, in a house where everyone buys their own?  Is that not stealing?  Deny it all you want, but if you take it, because it was there and you “needed” it, without asking for or paying for it, you are stealing!

Integrity, on the other hand, occurs when you’re staring at your roommate or co-worker’s creamer in the fridge, and your cup of black coffee, and the thought occurs to you that they’d never notice…  But you choose to drink your coffee black, because there is no one around to ask for permission…

Morality is an agreed upon set of ideals that allow us to live together in groups, but integrity is what allows us to live with ourselves, even when we’re alone.

And trust is just another word for expectation, one heavily connotated in my favor.  So yes, I trust people.  I trust people to be who they are, to look out for themselves, first and always.  And I am rarely disappointed.  When I say “I trust you not to hurt me,” what I am implying by those words is “so long as it serves you, and doesn’t conflict with what you really want in that moment of decision.”

Am I cynical?  Maybe.  But at least I am honest.  And when I tell you your creamer is safe with me, I actually mean that, because I do have integrity.  Trust me on that!

And when I look you rare few in the eyes, holding back the tear in mine, and say to you with all the earnestness I feel that “I trust you, and I need you to know that,” what I’m really saying is that I value the integrity I sense within you.  And that is the highest praise I can offer you!

And next week on “Lisa Preaches” we will be considering the topic: “Nice Guys Finish Last – True or False?…”  (HINT: if you cannot answer this correctly at this point, I’d ask you to go back and re-read the preceding article, and save me having to write another 800 words on human hypocrisy.  Please and thanks!)

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Reflections

“Blood…”

Blood…  Cold as ice, or in a boiling rage…

Pulsing through my veins…

Pumping through my heart…

The liquid of my physical life,

containing all the secrets of my physical existence.

I’ve never truly felt the “call” of blood, being so physically detached from the concept of family, and completely denied the knowledge of my own genetic history.

Except when I was young, and it was us against the world.  I understood then.  But “blood” back then was a battle cry used to separate us from the influence of others, to isolate, and protect our darkest secrets…

I felt it again when I birthed my child.  A fierce need to protect the product of my womb.  An innate understanding of my daughter’s needs and moods.  It was profound, pulling me out of my self-imposed shell to tend to the needs of another.  In that case, “blood” became a measure of sacrifice, for what wouldn’t I do to ennable her as she carved her own initials upon the world around us?

And then, again, as each of my grandchildren were born.  “Blood” once removed, it’s call gentled, but deeper somehow.  A strong sense of the profound, continuity, as three generations stood together upon the same ground…

But then last night came.  And went.  But as it passed, I came awake, if only for a moment.  Sitting there, three generations complete, in blood, bonded in a way words cannot convey.  Those children “knew” him, their grandfather they’d never met.  Something in them recognized him, and responded, as only family can do.  No hesitation, no holding back; tears and laughter merging without fear or shame…

Comfort…

Contentment…

Completion…

It must be something in the blood…

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Essay, Reflections

(Soul) Family Dynamics… A Tribute

Family dynamics is a subject of much professional research, especially with regard to dysfunctional families, like those associated with alcoholism, mental illnesses, and the cycle of abuse. While much good has no doubt come from such research, it implies that these family dynamics differ in some way from “normal” family dynamics. Having only ever met one person claiming to come from a “normal” family (and he with some chilling tales to tell), I cannot help but wonder if such a thing even exists, and if it doesn’t, then where does “dysfunctional” truly fit on the spectrum of normal to not?…

I only ask this question rhetorically because the answer does not truly matter in my mind; it merely lays the groundwork for what I really want to talk about, and that is family dynamics on a soul level. There are those who believe that a soul, once “created”, is eternal, and that it chooses to wear many forms in the course of its existence. Such people, myself included, believe in reincarnation, in the idea that a soul will choose to live in mortal form over and over again, although the question of why, or for what purpose, is often left open to debate. But for those of us who believe this, most will also accept that we often incarnate in the presence of familiar souls, those we have somehow “known” before, from other lifetimes and other relationships. We may choose to be family, lovers, friends or enemies, but we will encounter one another across the vastness of Time many times.

In my mind I see the Source/One/God as a giant sphere (or perhaps an exceedingly tiny one), made up of interconnected cells held together by some energetic binding. Each of those “cells” is a unique soul, separate and distinct, yet still a part of the whole. During the course of our incarnations we will encounter many of those cells in their chosen forms, and the fact that we are all part of the same whole makes us related. But there are those, closest to us in this cosmic gathering, with whom we have frequent incarnations and interactions with, and those souls comprise our “soul family.” There is such a strong bond of Love and Trust, grown through lifetimes of work together, that it is with these souls that we entrust our most challenging soul “lessons.”

So back to dysfunctional…

I grew up in a classically dysfunctional home, as evidenced by the three most widely attributed dysfunctions: alcoholism, mental illness and abuse. And I grew up hearing that my childhood, my family was an unfortunate tragedy. I even believed it for a long time, owning the role as victim, and using it to justify my poor life decisions. But I have grown now beyond that limited understanding, and as I’ve taken up a “longer” view of my family interactions (one that covers “soul time”), I have come to see things quite differently…

The “lessons” my family and I chose to learn were harsh, and yet, each of us played our role to perfection. When I see these people as soul family, I realize what a wonderful gift they have shared with me. Three of the five of us are now gone from this mortal lifetime, and with today (or yesterday now) being my brother’s birthday, I find myself reflecting again on how lucky I have been…

Consider my mother first. As an active alcoholic (no doubt raised with it) who was psychotic with bipolar tendencies, as a military spouse during wartime who was left alone in the states for long periods of time, as a woman trying to raise three living children while dealing with the ghosts of two who didn’t survive infancy, she was under incredible pressure! She acted out her pain in self-destructive ways, and became abusive towards us children and my father. Many claim she acted selfishly by abandoning all of us, but I cannot help but wonder if that was true. How difficult must that decision have been? To simply walk away, and never look back? To never contact them, or anyone who might tell you how they fared? And yet…

And yet that decision likely saved my life and my sister’s as well. My brother was 8 when she left, but my sister and I were still babies, as yet only partially damaged by the experience of living with her; my brother would never recover from the years he spent with her, and the suffering that followed her loss. But my sister and I did! From that perspective, was her leaving not an act of kindness, the greatest kind of selflessness, an act of courage and love? For all the consequences of living motherless, I know that I had a better chance of survival without her than with her; so I choose to see that primal rejection, that betrayal, as an act of motherly sacrifice and love…

And in the process, my soul has grasped a new understanding of Compassion and Love, while transcending Betrayal and Abandonment…

And my father? Also an alcoholic, non-confrontational in the extreme, always accepting what life had to offer without fighting back… Except once. Because back in the 60’s when all this occurred, single fathers did not get custody of children, even if the mother abandoned them. And single fathers in the military simply did not exist! My father fought the courts, the military, the social welfare system, the opinions of the public, all to try to keep us kids together, while simultaneously dealing with his own sense of loss, betrayal and abandonment, his alcoholism, and his obligations to the military which kept him overseas! For a wuss, which I believed him to be through much of my childhood, he was probably one of the most courageous souls I knew! Of course, I wouldn’t see that until much, much later…

Because my father was also on a path of self-destruction, and while he would ultimately succeed in getting his family together, he would suffer many more losses and many more betrayals. And he would act out his frustration at home, behind closed doors, because what else is family for? But many years later, it would be my father who took the first tentative steps toward sobriety, who would later lead each of us children to the path, and then have the courage to step back and let us make our own choices, regardless of what was best for each of us. And each of us would take very different paths…

And by doing so, my soul would come to understand Forgiveness and Unconditional Love, while growing beyond Victim-hood and Possessiveness…

And my brother? Ahh… my dear brother, so severely damaged by life, but so noble in character! His was probably the most difficult life path, being victimized so young, and so continuously through his life. “Forced” to raise two infant sisters, to keep us together through the long battle for reunification, and then after, being the only reliable parent while still being only a child. Emotionally ill-equipped, scarred, and desperate for help that would never reach him, he fought through most of his life, a silent warrior who never complained, but never healed from any of his many wounds. He taught me three life lessons I would never forget, though I would one day transcend: 1. Never, ever trust anybody, because everybody is out to “get something” from you; 2. Never let anyone on the outside know what is happening on the inside, because if they find out the truth, they will know how to use you (this lesson applied both to hiding our true feelings about anything, as well as our family secrets); and 3. If you’re going to be forced to live in a world where rules 1 and 2 apply, you’d better learn how to drink, and hope you die young!

It was my brother who taught me to drink, and it was my brother who provided the alcohol, until my father took over when I was a teen. It was also my brother with whom I made a pact that we would not live past 40; he honored that pact, but I did not. And the abuse my brother dealt out was just a mirror of his own pain, and confirmation that life was about suffering…

Because I was the youngest, I was the most “protected” in a way. My abuse was more subtle than what the others were put through, and more insidious. Because no one in their “right” mind could believe my father guilty of the crimes I accused him of, nor could my noble brother be guilty, for surely everyone could see how valiantly they fought to keep the family together, how much they loved each of us! And when my own self-destructive behaviors finally brought the authorities to our door, it was a unified wall of denial that greeted them; a sad admission that Lisa had a very active imagination and a tendency to make things up…

But it was my brother who set me on the path I’m on today…

The last time I saw him alive was after a family therapy meeting. He was so drugged and so damaged by his alcoholism, his mental illnesses, and the scars of over-medication and electroshock therapy, that he was barely recognizable to me. We all went out to lunch, where he sat and stared uncomprehendingly at the world around him, until a single spark lit his eyes, and he asked me to step outside with him. It was then he took me by the shoulders, stared deep into my eyes, and I saw that he was more lucid, clear-sighted,and full of conviction than I had ever seen before. Had I not already believed in the concept of a soul, I would have been convinced there and then, for what stared at me through my brother’s eyes was so much more than human; it clearly bordered on Divine! And that being said to me: “Everything I ever taught you was a lie! And everything that you remember is the Truth! Don’t ever, ever let anyone convince you otherwise!”

For several seconds he held my gaze, and then I saw the fog slowly descend again into his eyes…

That was the day I walked away from the mental health system, understanding for the first time that my mental illness, or at least the paranoid schizophrenic diagnosis, was a mask designed to protect my family’s secrets at my own expense. I would come to trust my own perceptions, my own memories, regardless of whether anyone else believed me or not. And when my self-doubt would surface, I would remember that light shining in his eyes. And I would seek, with renewed vigor, that light within my self…

And having, indeed, found it eventually, nurtured it, and watched it grow within me, I have now been able to cast it upon my own history, seeing not the tragedy of my youth, but the blessing of it. For how much was I loved that these three courageous, noble souls would choose to incarnate with me into such difficult circumstances, each of us playing our terrible, tortured roles, so that each of us could grow in our own ways?!

Dysfunctional? I think not! My soul family is strong, united, and fierce in its love and commitment to one another! Like a tree, we come together as separate beings with needs, roots becoming a solid trunk, strengthening and guiding each other to branch out, each in our own direction. But I know we will meet again, as we have so many times before, for we each have much yet to learn about our selves, and about our Self…

And to these three who have passed on to some other form, please know that you are loved and cherished still, and always. I am humbled, honored and grateful to have shared this life with you!

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