Shall We Dance?

After-63

I feel like I’m doing the Cha-Cha these days.

2 steps forward , 1 (okay, maybe 2) steps back.

I think this is what might known as the “Post-Treatment/Get To Know Your New Normal” Phase.  I’m not completely done with treatment (after this morning, only 4 IVs to go!) but the Herceptin doesn’t hit me like the chemo.  At least, not that I can see.

On any given day I go from full speed to nap time, all within the span of about 8 hours.  And that’s just in my head.  My body tends to want to slow much sooner than that.

The New Normal.

Once I look for work in the mornings, I have more free time than I am used to.  Since booking from Facebook a week ago, my mind is freer as well (all those endless loop “conversations” in my head are gone! Whooya!)

Now, I spend as much time as I want doing things around the house, in the garden, in my office.  I was feeling pretty good about that until 3 days ago, when my daughter got laid off – this for the second time in 3 months.

…..”Goddamnitcutusafuckingbreakwillyou?”

……”I’msorryIdon’tmeanthatI’mjustscared.”

…….”Thankyouforallofyourblessingsandyourgrace.”

………”HowcanIbeofservicetoday?”

THAT is The New Normal, too, apparently.

Thank God for a God that isn’t as easily offended as are a goodly number of the humans I know.  Thank God for a Goddess who knows me – who knows my fullness, and who doesn’t judge me on 130 characters. Who knows what makes my heart-break, what betrays it, and what strengthens it (whether by the hand of another or my own).

When faced with things like illness, layoffs, deaths, separation –  what are my options here?  I can either sink to the bottom of the Victim Pool  and drown under the weight (I might have to take a number, though, ‘cuz it’s crowded down there).  That won’t help.

Or I can remind myself – and my girl – that every Life has challenges.  Always.  These things are as part of the natural cycle of life as births, marriages, promotions, and vibrant well-being.  They come and they go like cycles or seasons, and we don’t have to face them alone.   We get through these hard times together, pulling as a unit, with the Divine energizing and blessing our prayers, our efforts and our progress.

There are so many things a parent wants to do for their children, no matter how old they are.  I, for one, want to make their worlds safe for them.  SAFE is a big word for me this days. But life isn’t about being “safe”, and they are on their journeys as well with their own Souls and their own Soul Contracts.  I can’t “protect” them from the very thing Life may want to use to mature them.

After all, It’s  the wind and the rain that strengthens the tree.  Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes calls it the “hardening off”.   We develop things like patience, fortitude, courage, faith and grace during the storms of life.  We last.  We keep standing.

We learn to Rock the Cha-Cha.

Good thing I like to dance…

( the photo is of me and my son, dancing at his wedding last March. BEST. DANCE. EVER. )

Still Here, Still Standing

14557_1308787279173_1215328008_30948435_7422599_nSome days I hardly recognize myself.

It’s not just when I look into the mirror and see some bald chick looking back at me.

Or that I spend an inordinate amount of time laying around and watching TV  because I don’t have the energy for much else, or may be experiencing a low grade depression.

It’s not my preoccupation with what’s going on with my body, or what’s going into my body, or what’s coming out of my body (yeah…maybe a little TMI there…sorry.)

It’s not even that my world has become so very small, cloistered as I am for the most part within the confines of my home.

No.

It’s that so many of the ways in which I identified Who I Am seem to be falling away, like it’s all up for grabs right now.  Everything from my employment to my appearance to my activities to my health.  Seriously, all of it.

And I’m learning to be OK with that, in a very “Shit, are you kidding me right now??” sort of way.

My biggest challenge is to feel safe while going through this disintegration phase. It’s kinda tricky.  A lot tricky, actually.  It’s forcing my roots to shoot deep deep deep into my foundational beliefs.  To actually question what is is I believe in – Who I believe in – and why.  Because right now, these beliefs are my grounding.

I love trees.  I’m a tree hugger from way back, and I’ve always related more to being a tree than a flower. (I started this blog back in 2007 because of my connection with a tree …you can read about that here.  And wrote again in 2010 about identifying as an Oak tree here.)

Picturing myself as a tree is actually beneficial.  As a tree, I remember to bend with the storms of life so I don’t break.  And if something does break off, it doesn’t mean I’m finished.  Dead leaves and dead wood should fall away.  Pruning is healthy for me.  Hardening off my bark ensures strength to endure.   Deeper roots help me to stand.

And this is good.

ONE DAY WHEN I WAS OLD

by Clarissa Pinkola Estés

I remember one day when I was young,
forty-five years or so old,
I woke up an old woman that morning.
Not quite in body all the way, but close.
And also in mind.
And I thought, “This is good.”
For also, in the face I was changed,
a little bark-chipped and creased,
like a tree long-lived enough
after having been planted so long ago
by some winged bird
accidentally letting fall a semi-sacred seed
into some almost impossible place,
precisely the way most of us came to earth–
unplanned, and yet sticking to the place
where we were dropped,
growing, growing flowers and fruits
set into our DNA–
and this too was good.

I leaned through the window
of my bathroom mirror,
and touched her old, cracked face…
I soothed back her black hair
with fire opals
in its strands of white.

And I saw as I leaned in,
There were permanent diamonds
in her tear ducts,
those gotten from years of use
and pressure in dark places.

And I gazed at the body
she and I share,
and I saw that rubies
had grown into all my cuts
and that tiny mirrors shone
in all my widders and spalls…

and I saw that I was old
and strong
and delicate
and fierce, like a queen
who has ruled the lands within her reach,
not perfectly, but despite brutal winters,
she was still alive,
the heartwood hardened off just enough,
the tender capillaries still able to carry
the juice and the warmth.

And then, twenty-some years later,
I crossed the crone line,
wearing the tissue-paper crown
with the sacred words “Still here,
still standing…”
engraved upon it.
These words of triumph for all of us elders,
these words “Still here… Still standing,”
they’re the ultimate royal “Ha!”,
the ultimate para la vida “Ha!”,
to life, with life, all of life, filled with life.
Us, crossed now, the crone line,
para la vida, filled with life.

I remember one day when I was young,
forty-five years old or so,
I woke up an old woman that morning.
Not in body quite all the way, but close.
Also in mind, and this was good.
And also in the face I was changed
with all the marks of rings like a tree,
and this too was good.

I looked at my body
and saw that rubies had grown
in all my cuts,
and mirrors shone in all the widders and spalls.
And I saw I was old and strong,
like a queen who had ruled herself
not perfectly, but well.

And I leaned in and touched her old, cracked face,
and I saw the permanent diamonds in her tear ducts
that were gotten from years of hard use
and pressure in dark places.

I remember one day when I was young,
forty-five years old or so,
I woke up an old woman.
And I have been more and more free
ever since.

______________________

CODA

And so may it be for you.
And so may it be for me.
And so may it be for all of us.
Amen.
And as my grandmother used to say,
“Amen… and a little woman.”

_______________________

“One Day When I Was Old,” a blessing-poem by Clarissa Pinkola Estés, Copyright ©1990, 2010, All Rights Reserved, including but not limited to electronic, performance, theatrical, musical, graphic, film, commercial, derivative. Uses: You are welcome to use this blessing poem in non-commercial ways without adding to nor deleting any part, just using the work in its entirety along with author’s name and this copyright notice attached.

Growing In The Garden of God

Years ago, a decade or more, I had a friend describe herself to me as a hot house orchid type of woman.  She was convinced that we gals are all like flowers…each of us identifiable with one type of flower out of the plethora of beautiful choices available. A floral representation of our spirits.

When I told her I didn’t feel like a flower at all, but like an Oak Tree, she offered to pray for my self esteem and any feelings of unattractiveness or lack of feminity I had.  And so, with tears in my eyes and head hanging down, I thanked her, because oh!  How I wanted to feel…to BE….beautiful and feminine, exotic and lovely, fragrant and desireable.  And Oak Trees, apparently, weren’t any of those things……

Fast forward to another lifetime.  To Now.

I’m am just finishing the last few tracks of Dr. Clarissa Pinkola Estes CD series on the wise woman archetype called, “The Dangerous Old Woman”.  My God!  If it were possible to fall in love with someone by their voice alone, I am totally in love with Dr. Estes.  She has this amazingly warm, honey-toned voice filled with passionate expression and wisdom.  Sometimes I get so engaged in the sheer sound of her voice, that I have to shake myself out of this ‘zone” I get in, so I can really hear what she is saying.

I don’t have the time to do a complete review on this incredible, life changing work right now.  Maybe I’ll write more posts on it later.  However, let me say this:  For someone like me, who had almost no familial history passed down to her (all of my grandparents were dead before I was born, for example), this series has been gold! For the longest time I felt like I had no “past” to draw upon.  My parents were a somewhat typical 50’s generation couple: dad was a young and upcoming executive for a major manufacturing company and mom was all about creating the right appearances – both in our home and on our persons – to support that.  Even though I had something like 14 aunts and uncles, and more cousins than I could count, half of them were in the Midwest and completely unknown to me. The other half – the California contingent from Mom’s side – were busy doing what they always did at family gatherings:  The adults ate, drank and partied together while us cousins were stashed safely away in another part of the house to play.

It’s been while listening to the stories that Dr. Estes tells in her series that I realized just how much I missed out on.  For eons, peoples of  all cultures, all over the world, have passed down their collective experience and wisdom through the art of Story Telling…the elders to the youngers.  They did this while they worked in the fields, or around the pots hung over the campfires.  They did this while they did handcrafts and woodworking and tool smithing.  There were stories that covered every aspect of the human experience – from life to death to beyond.  I honestly can’t remember any wisdom stories shared with me as a young person.  Well, there was that drunken uncle pinching my newly forming breasts at Thanksgiving one year, offering his bit of wisdom:  “THIS is what the boys will be after!”

Sure, my mom – who was orphaned at 17 when her folks died a day apart – would frequently wax sentimental after a few vodkas.  I occasionally heard about Grandmas’ sewing, or Grandpas humor.  But no “Stories”, if you know what I mean.   Not like the ones Dr. Estes shares, from her own culturally rich heritage, nor the stories she’s acquired through her studies of indigenous peoples.  For example, the world is replete with fairytales that are shared – as if by magic – by many cultures, with only little revisions here and there.  They ultimately relay the same Truths.  The same Cautions.  The same Hard Earned Wisdom.  My youth was filled with the stories I got from books.  The adventures of Nancy Drew.  The occasional Bible story from children’s church.  And tales of life on the high seas, mostly lived by men like Captain Horacio Hornblower, and Captain Bly.

I’ve found myself soaking up the stories and myths on this CD series like a desert soaks up the rain! They’ve nourished my soul – touching me deeply in places that I didn’t even know I buried, and causing new life to bloom.

Back to being an Oak Tree….which I still feel like is a pretty good representation of Who I Am, only now – years and hard won experience later – I now celebrate and embrace!  Even more so after hearing Dr. Estes tell the story of the old tree from her village…a magnificent 100+ year old tree that – after finally succumbing to an incredible lightning strike that split her from top to bottom – ended up being filled with treasure.  Literally!  Countless numbers of items…from cards to tools to clothing to toys…that had found their way (either by winds or human hands) into the deep crevices of her limbs and trunk and roots over the years.  Some of these precious treasures – spanning entire generations of the village – had wood literally growing around them, as if in the safe keeping of a mother’s palm.

Women, Dr. Estes says, like Trees, are the Keepers of  Treasures.  Women, like trees, mature and harden and grow stronger through wild storms as well as gentle showers.  No longer frail, thin sapplings, the older Tree  – sturdy, scarred, shading, more fruitful – stands like a powerful Guardian of the woods.

Women, like trees, are the holders of Ancient Wisdom….

Last week, I had a dream.  In the dream, I found myself travelling through a village towards a steep hillside.  On the hillside, was a grove of giant trees – like Red Woods (my favorite) nestled close together.  As I got closer, I could see that the red bark on their massive trunks had been roughly hewn away and there were faces on them!  Gentle, heavily lidded eyes and strong, powerful noses.  Lips curled in almost smiles and eyebrows shaped like bridges.  As I climbed, I used these beautiful, magnificant faces as handholds and footholds to help me.  Up and up the hillside I went, my steps sure and quick.

When I reached the very top, I found myself on a path that wandered into the distance.  Within the first few steps, I came along side another tree – a smaller tree with thick greenery – that was absolutely buzzing with hummingbirds!  One particular hummer – as big as a sparrow – left her perch and flew right in front of my face.  I could see that she was an older bird…thicker than the rest…a little scruffy around the feathers, but her eyes were bright and her beak strong.  Her eyes!  They looked INTO me, not at me, and as if making up her mind that I was satisfactory, she allowed me to touch her…practically purring like a cat as she enjoyed my fingertips stroking her.  She tilted her head and pressed it against my palm and then quickly jumped to my shoulder where she nestled in my hair, and became my travelling companion.  I swear she was smiling.

It was here that I woke up, with a lightness of heart and a vibration of such pure happiness, I didn’t stop smiling for hours.  My dream told me a story that night.  An encouragement, of sorts, to use the ancient “wise woman” wisdom that was available to and in me, to  guide and support me as I continue  on my life’s journey.  I felt a knowing that everything and everyone I needed would be there for me – available to me so that I could take Joy with me as my companion.  Never alone.  Never without Help.  That even the Impossible was possible!

With the help of the Wise Old Trees.