Health Issues Require the Kind of Attention I’m Not Used To

(c)2013 Sarah Elizabeth Malinak

(c)2013 Sarah Elizabeth Malinak

Post-menopause and a variety of health issues have conspired to force me to take some time off and get some much needed rest. Rest is the most important commodity and the hardest to come by as a many years’ struggle with insomnia threatens to undo me.

So. I’m taking time off to focus on taking care of me. And I kind of hate it. It’s crazy to hate it because I happen to have the luxury of being free to take time off and slow down. The problem is it makes me feel purposeless.

The fact that it makes me feel purposeless is also kind of crazy because what’s more important than our health? Without it life gets stripped away – perhaps forever! With our health we can accomplish anything we set our sights on, or so we’ve been told. It’s a good idea. It keeps the hope and energy going to accomplish things. So why isn’t accomplishing better health, even if it requires slowing down and focusing on my needs and desires for the time being, something meaningful to be accomplished?

(c)2012 Sarah Elizabeth Malinak

(c)2012 Sarah Elizabeth Malinak

While processing my discomfort with all this freedom and seeming purposelessness, I found myself contemplating how I’ve spent my adult life barreling through it. I reckon it’s natural to barrel through life. Certainly barreling through childhood and youth is a natural outpouring of all that youth and energy.

Barreling through life can also be tied up in dysfunction, though. Being a supportive personality type I spent years barreling through the self-imposed requirement to make my beloveds happy, meeting their needs, desires, wishes, whatever-it-took-to-make-them-happy-so-I-could-be-happy. This included not only family and friends but employers, preachers, teachers, spiritual leaders, transformational leaders, and even pets. Hmmm…was I barreling through my life or theirs?

The hardest question you can ask me, the one I cannot answer, is “What do you want?”

I don’t know.

Tell me what you want and then I’ll have something with which to work.

Some people ask themselves what they want every single day – every hour –  even most of the minutes during their waking hours! I can’t fathom that.

I can give you a long list, a very long list, of what I don’t want; which a therapist once told me was a very feminine way to be. That’s never helped me figure out what I want, though. The list of what I don’t want just gets longer and dearer.

(c)2012 Sarah Elizabeth Malinak

(c)2012 Sarah Elizabeth Malinak

I’ve decided that I believe the question, “What do I want?” is best asked in silence. It’s best asked in silence because the best answer to it must come out of the silence.

So with this processing and musing over the need to slow down and focus my energy on myself and getting well, I decided I needed to give me permission to embrace solitude, creating the silence from which the answer to any question might arise. I am, after all, not only a supportive type but I am an introvert and I love to be left alone for at least a little bit every single day. Also, embracing solitude, rather than feeling purposeless, is a viable spiritual discipline and that helps me come closer to accepting what presently is – and that is it’s time to slow down, focus on me, and get well.

Embracing solitude, welcoming silence and casting questions into it, waiting for the answers; these things are not done in a hurry – not accomplished while barreling through my own or anyone else’s life. Nor are they a waste of time. In fact, although this is not how I’m used to spending time, it is likely some of the best use of it.

Window in Barn at TLA reflecting Pink Sky and bare tree Branches

Downsizing Downright Hurts

Downsizing is painful. It’s no wonder people sometimes put it off until it becomes someone else’s responsibility.

Christmas Angel beige Mom's

Following the loss of both parents last year, I got inspired to downsize – to simplify my lifestyle by beginning the process of letting go of as much of my stuff as I could bear to so that getting rid of the whole of it would never become someone else’s responsibility. I don’t have my own children to pass my things down to; and though my step-children might like a few things, this collection of stuff that I’ve made sacred in the collecting of through the years shouldn’t have to be theirs to dispose of one day.

More painful than letting go of my own stuff is Mom’s. As much as I love her, I can’t keep holding on to her childhood tea sets, for instance. I’ve had moments of overwhelm going through her various collections, art work, craft work, clothes, jewelry, pots and pans, trying to decide what I want to hold onto, what can be given away, and what needs to be thrown away. Sometimes it feels as though I’m throwing away and giving away pieces of her. And with what I choose to keep, the choice for those things doesn’t adequately express her value in my life – the woman who gave me life.

Cybis bust shotAnd then there’s my own stuff. This downsizing of the things I’ve collected – much of which she contributed to through the years on birthdays and at Christmas – represent the various decades (epochs) of my life. I really don’t need to continue to hold onto everything but letting go of any of it feels like a stripping away of identity. If this collection of books, that collection of prints, and countless knick knacks go out the door – even if they might bring pleasure to someone else – won’t part of me, part of my heart, expressions of me and who I believe myself to be and to have been exit with those things?

I’d love to procrastinate this job, never actually getting it done, except that the thought of leaving it for someone else to handle bothers me. And my modus operandi is to not be a burden on others.

I will admit I sat down to write this essay in order to take a break from packing up a certain amount of my stuff. (A “certain amount” that is – I’m not giving everything away!).

It is true that there is a plus side to reducing the amount of stuff in my life – something for which to be grateful and that is making life simpler – emptier of stuff but fuller with living.

Between beginning this essay and editing it, I took a load of stuff to a local charity and while there chose to bring back one of the things I was going to give away.  (For clarity’s sake, the thing I brought back would neither feed nor clothe anyone. It is something of sheer sentimental value.) I told myself, “I can do this in stages. It does not have to happen all at once.”

windchimesIn other words, I don’t have to prepare right this very minute for my eventual demise…I can tackle it in stages, every stage making it easier for whoever comes after me to undo what remains.

Perhaps with each successive stage I will unravel less and less as I get used to this shedding of self, of ego, of the things outside myself that I have made sacred.

Why put myself through the pain and hurt of getting rid of any of it? Because I know how it feels to be left with a loved one’s countless belongings to make decisions about and because with the spiritual path I’m on, why not? Why not embrace another and an especially large opportunity to allow the ego’s hold on me to soften and weaken. And finally, I never did need the number of things I’ve collected, held onto, and made sacred. It’s time. If not now, when?

Gratitude on My Awakening Path

one peach flower full faceI am at my best when a sense of gratitude permeates my being. No matter the circumstance, when I feel gratitude I feel comfortable in my own skin. (My happy place is my grateful place.)

For me the opposite of gratitude is either feeling sorry for myself or feeling resentful. The two are closely related as reasons for self-pity, if not resolved, lead to resentment.

I find anger is not the opposite of gratitude because it comes and goes quickly. Feeling sorry for myself and resentment, however, hang around and around and around. Nor is grief the opposite of gratitude as it serves a purpose, even a sacred purpose, especially when it does not lead to self-pity. Grief well spent has a cleansing quality.

Eckhart Tolle and other enlightened teachers would point out that feeling sorry for oneself and resentment are evidence that a person is focused on and living in either the past or the future. Those two emotions clearly come from the past because they require a list of wrongs suffered to even exist. They can also come with focusing on the future when a person expects to receive similar bad treatment in future situations.

salmon colored flower dripping water

They say, and I have personal experience of this, that imagining a worst case scenario can flood a brain and body with stress hormones every bit as real and damaging as actually living through the experience. For those of us who use imagining worst case scenarios as a medicine against future stress, I believe we do it because, for instance, if I make myself feel the worst possible outcome for a future circumstance, then whatever outcome occurs in reality, I’m assured I’ve already felt as bad about it as I can feel and the real thing won’t be as bad. The ego loves that logic but the body, and perhaps the soul as well, is damaged by that seemingly harmless activity.

Thistle in the BudOn the awakening path I have discovered that neither feeling sorry for myself nor resentment can exist in the present moment. Whenever I feel sorry for myself or resentful, no matter how badly I feel, I am hands down living either in the past or the future.

On the other hand, if something is going on that makes me sad, being present means I feel sadness, not self-pity. If something is going on that brings up anger, I feel anger, not resentment. Then as I deal with those present tense emotions circumstances and relationships shift and change, bringing me back to a state of balance and gratitude much more quickly than simmering in resentment or being stuck feeling sorry for myself ever does. When a relationship is involved, balance and gratitude may be several hours away from occurring because, well, relationships are messy. But balance and gratitude arrive more swiftly nevertheless.

One thing I’m learning about the awakening path is being on it does not lead to bliss and happiness 24/7. In fact it rarely ever results in bliss! On this path God uses absolutely everything – even us at our worst most stuck selves crawling through the ego’s mire – to help wake us up. Nothing is out of bounds.

Dove Cross Lissa & Paul gave me On bricks with a little bokehWhen I was younger I thought feeling sorry for myself and resentment were “better” feelings than sadness and anger. I mean the former two can get really lit up with righteous indignation, something religion is prone to approve of. Sadness and anger are raw and in-my-face emotions. They can have me questioning my character, feeling uncomfortable about myself, and judging myself quite harshly. But God uses all of it to wake me up to unity with God and with everything and everyone around me. Not in a punitive way – again, that idea comes from the influence of religion that says we’re “bad” if we’re not all light and goodness. I don’t know how it works I just know that when I am in the present moment, especially if I am grateful but even if I am angry as a wet hen, there is this clarity and a felt sense of unity and unconditional positive regard.

04-dark purple flowers (trio) with blue centersFor many years (for decades) I used my religion as a measuring stick and whipping post in an effort to keep me in line. Somewhere in the past decade, before I understood that I’d begun this awakening journey, I realized (woke up to the fact) that I was most comfortable in my own skin whenever I felt grateful. It could be gratitude for something specific or just a general sense of gratitude that felt like ease and peace, but it was clear that this was the only way I felt comfortable.

Back then, whenever I felt sorry for myself or resentful, I would work really hard to find something to be grateful for to combat those feelings. Now I realize that this was an exercise in duality as I made gratitude a “good” state to be in with self-pity and resentment “bad” states to be in. Then there were the years where I tried to cathartically find and heal the deeper underlining reasons for the resentment and self-pity – but that didn’t work either. Since then psychologists have discovered that, though catharsis can feel good, it doesn’t really heal anything.

Daisies 1960's filterThe real deal is being honest and present about whatever emotions occur within the self, no matter how ugly or uncomfortable those emotions are. That present tense welcoming of what is true and real in the moment opens the gateway for the Self – that divine part that is already one with God and all that is – to come forth. When that happens, unconditional positive regard and gratitude swim to the surface.

These days one of the simple pleasures of my life is when I notice that in a moment that may consist of any number of things – laundry, writing, involvement in a home improvement project, puttering around the house – that inside my body and spirit where the soul resides all is well and I feel grateful.

Grateful for what? I don’t know. In those moments it seems to just be gratitude for nothing in particular. Or, perhaps, it is gratitude for no-thing because it is gratitude for being, for life, for life moving through me.

What happens next is more gratitude because it just feels good to feel good.

One thing I do know is gratitude for no reason at all or just because it feels good to feel good is heart and soul filling.

08-great big Daisy face

Ego’s Tap Dancing on the Way to Enlightenment

gilda-grayMy ego is a 1920’s flapper wearing tap shoes, dancing like mad, and singing at the top of her lungs trying to pull my attention away from soul work, back to the illusory dream.

I quit school six weeks ago. Life is just now settling down to the new normal and my ego is protesting. Down on one knee singing and pleading with me to just go back to sleep! Just let her lead the way and everything will be all right.

The program I withdrew from was a Master of Arts in Clinical Mental Health Counseling. At fifty-three with a Master’s of Divinity degree under my belt and a Bachelor of Arts in Religion prior to that, quitting school doesn’t carry stress and guilt. I weighed the decision very carefully before I made it, I sought counseling and support for it, and I can always go back to it. However, whereas before I made the decision I was conflicted about staying in school, since having withdrawn, I have only experienced peace and contentment about it.

Here’s the kicker though that has my ego wanting to kick me in the tushie. I haven’t replaced school with anything requiring that level of focus, concentration, and seriousness. I have intentionally and with forethought not replaced school with some equivalent goal and my ego’s been pitching a fit about it. If I’m not striving after a worthy goal, if I’m a Master’s level drop out, I’m “nobody” as far as my ego is concerned.

And, truth be told, I am no-body. Though I haven’t yet had a robust experience of it but have only had tiny glimpses – just enough to get my attention – I know that who I really am is one with God, in unity with all that is. I know that I am not this body or this mind or anything my ego or others can latch onto that puts me in a box with a label. I am not “the striver” or “the woman who’s made a career of returning to school.” I am not the sweet, kind, funny, sometimes silly person people perceive me to be. I am not even “the writer,” “the author,” “the relationship coach” I’ve set out to be. What I am, the thing I’ve tasted every once in a blue moon, is the love that naturally feels compassion for all.

Gilda Gray elbow on knee head in handThe ego doesn’t like this conversation or the decision to quit school. But the weakening of my ego (the ego’s death) began long before I started school. It’s just that quitting was big medicine – enormous medicine – on this awakening path.

She’s stopped tap dancing…stopped singing at the top of her lungs. She’s sitting on a wooden box with an elbow on her knee and her head in her hand. She sighs and smiles a knowing, mischievous smile. She will accompany me as long as she can and that’s fine. She too is medicine on the journey of awakening from self to Soul.

 

 

 

GILDA GRAY. "SHIMMY". BY ALFRED CHENEY JOHNSTON. 1920's

The photos are of Gilda Grey. I actually developed the metaphors for this entry and then found photographs that were a near perfect match.

Gilda was a Polish immigrant who was a famed dancer in the 1920’s, she created a dance called “the shimmy” that was widely used in theater productions in the Roaring Twenties. F. Scott Fitzgerald references her in The Great Gatsby when her understudy shows up at one of Jay Gatsby’s parties. She went on to have a movie career and has a star on Hollywood Boulevard’s Walk of Fame.

( IMBD. Gilda Grey: http://www.imdb.com/name/nm0336660/bio?ref_=nm_ov_bio_sm)

 

Spring Flowers 2014

If this arrives in your inbox, it is mostly photographs so you might need to click on permission to view the photos.

Well I just created my own gallery all by myself with these photos…This is an experiment, so I don’t know if it will go out as a newsletter or not. Since I subscribe to my own newsletter, I’ll find out in the morning. :-)

Increasing my learning curve on my computer and on the Internet always takes my breath away but it’s fun learning new things.

Whether this does go out as a newsletter or you find the page online, I hope it finds you enjoying the spring, finding healing in the new growth outdoors and within yourself, and peace of mind and spirit in the warmth and heat of the season.

Blessings,
Sarah Elizabeth