My Faith In Humanity Restored Through Ballet (Stories Of The Camp Fire)

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Last night I had the privilege of attending the ballet and what an evening it was! Sure, the story was slightly delayed for the season but out of the ashes the most famous ballet in the world arose in all its glory, tradition, and pageantry in a borrowed theatre here in Northern California. And the story of how this production came to be is perhaps better than the beloved Nutcracker itself… because in this story my faith in humanity was restored.

Now I am not a huge fan of ballet. I don’t often attend performances.  Since I am a writer, I am a lover of words, and without those sometimes my attention strays making ballet somewhat problematic. Needless to say, attending what I thought was going to be an “amateur” performance; I suspected the night might be filled with pokes and prods to keep me awake. Was I ever wrong.

Last night I discovered the Northern California Ballet. Since 1983 it has been producing full-length classic ballets such as Sleeping Beauty, Cinderella and A Midsummer’s Nights Dream. Besides production, the studio has also taught hundreds of children dance skills that have led some to professional dance careers. It is a mighty place full of hope, dreams, and plain old hard work. There are no slackers, slouches or amateurs here!

As the holiday season was fast approaching Northern California Ballet was rehearsing their version of The Nutcracker when disaster hit. On November 9, 2018 the Camp Fire swooped through the town of Paradise killing 85 and wiping out the majority of this close-knit community. It goes on record as the deadliest fire in California history. But that is just the beginning of the horror. In addition to all the lives lost, almost 14,000 homes went up in smoke and so did the studio and storage shed belonging to the Northern California Ballet. With such a fast-moving fire no one had time to save anything. NOTHING. The kids no longer had clothes, school supplies, or a warm bed. They no longer had the comfort nor the routine of dance. Gone were their ballet costumes and their dreams of dancing on stage…or so they thought. Yet, when hardship and devastating circumstances arise somehow folks find the strength to fight back and find a way to turn tragedy into triumph which is exactly what Northern California Ballet did. And last night it showed. The dancers were talented, elegant and polished. They danced with real joy radiating from their faces. The world was their oyster and they were the pearls.

How did they accomplish so much in so little time? Just plain dedication and hard work. But an even more important ingredient was the global ballet community in general. As it turns out companies from all over the world donated costumes, backdrops and props. The Eugene Ballet Company, dancer Angela V Carter’s costumes from Ballet New England’s productions, and both large and small studios from Iowa to Florida found ways to give to their sister in need while volunteers sewed and stitched late into the night. And so, a vital community resource went from a studio of smoke and ashes to an on-stage performance in just a little over two months. Now that is what I call dedication. I also call it a miracle.

In addition to the dance itself music was provided by a live orchestra hiding out in the orchestra pit. These musicians were also from Paradise and many had lost their homes in the fire and their precious instruments as well. Yet, somehow they managed to come together (borrowed instruments and all) and play magnificently. Watching a ballet performed to live music instead of tape is an honor these days and I felt blessed to do so.

By coincidence I went to Paradise last week. It was my first trip up there since the fire. The devastation is immense. Unless you have survived living in a war zone you have probably never seen anything like it. It is shocking. It is horrific. It is incredibly sad.

 

Yet, after tonight’s performance by Northern California Ballet, I have hope for this world. People are amazing. Their resilience astounds me. Their fight to rise again gives me hope. Kids who dedicate themselves to their craft no matter what are inspiring. And the generosity of an arts community to their sister in need are exactly the kinds of acts of compassion and love that the world needs to see.

So fear not and have hope. There are heroes walking amongst us and tonight they were all on stage at The Nutcracker for the world to see. I wish you could see them too.

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Please visit the Northern California Ballet site to learn more. http://www.northerncaliforniaballet.com/?page_id=33

Also, they could use your financial help. Here is their GO FUND ME page. I hope you will give generously.

https://www.gofundme.com/small-ballet-studio-destroyed-in-paradise-fire?member=&utm_source=sendgrid&utm_medium=email&utm_campaign=contacts-v2-invite-to-donate

 

Letting Yourself Alone Or Self-Acceptance

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I sometimes wonder why it takes so long for most of us to get to the place where we just let ourselves alone in peace. Finally, we get to the place were we no longer pick ourselves apart, engage in negative self-talk, worry so much about what others think, or put so much emphasis on “what we should be” but instead accept ourselves for just what/who we really are.

I don’t know if it takes age to know you are tired of feeling crappy about yourself or if it is finally coming to an understanding that you are done with letting others treat you in ways that you don’t deserve. I am unsure if it is a greater self awareness or just the desire to experience positive change that finally allows us to say ENOUGH! I WANT MORE! I DESERVE MORE! But I do know that as I get closer to 60 that I have come to realize exactly that…that accepting myself is one of the most important things that I can do before I punch out on life’s time clock for the final time.

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Acceptance. It’s easy to say we should accept ourselves…yet it’s hard to put that belief into practice. But I am finally learning that self acceptance involves being realistic about my good qualities and playing them up. It means giving those best parts of me the respect that they deserve. By honoring them and giving these positive attributes the opportunity to expand and grow, it is making me a better friend to myself and a better person in general.

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Acceptance also means that I reexamine my “flaws” by asking myself how they have helped me in the past. Then I look for ways to challenge my old notions and accept those parts of myself that I am less than comfortable with by giving them the opportunity to change and not by regulating them to a distant corner of my life. I let these “fixers” out so that others can see them and help me find the good in them too. Just like I accept my friends good and bad qualities it was wonderful when I began to grant that same grace to myself. Sometimes I find it helps to ask myself “Would I say to a friend what I am saying to myself? ” If the answer is no, I try to gently remind myself that negativity directed inward is not helpful, and then I find something positive to focus on instead. This is exactly how a good friend would act… they would talk you up not down. I deserve nothing less.

Another thing that has come to the forefront for me is that the concept that “Trying” to accept myself will not work. That is like “trying” to diet…I will fail miserably. It is only when I practice “seeing” myself with kindness and compassion that self acceptance can occur. And then, finally, one day I suddenly realized that my “bad” parts were okay and I finally embraced them.

Rituals can help promote self acceptance. Every morning I have taken to looking in the mirror and saying out loud, “You are wonderful just the way you are.” Somehow putting those words out in the universe makes me accountable to them and encourages me to find small ways throughout the day that make that statement true.

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I wish self acceptance came easier. I wish it came earlier. I envy those for whom self acceptance is just a natural part of their being. Yet, I am glad that this feeling of acceptance is working itself into my life now. I enjoy the freedom it brings. Freedom from pain. Freedom from so many worries. Freedom to be myself. But instead of concentrating on the “I should haves” I am now just being thankful for the “better late than nevers” no matter when they are discovered and put into practice in my life.

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I SUck At New Year’s Resolutions And So Do You

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I am not one for New Year’s Resolutions. It’s not that I don’t think they have merit. They  do…just for other people.

For me New Year’s resolutions are akin to yelling ” Fire” in a crowded theatre…only very bad things will come of it no matter how loud you yell.

In the past my resolutions have looked something like this…

2011…I will lose 20 pounds. Day 1 begins promisingly enough. I hide the Christmas candy while only sneaking one piece. I eat one banana, drink enough water to fill a lake and load up on enough salad that rabbits begin to terrorize me in my sleep. Day 2- First thing in the morning I step on the scale naked and am shocked to see my left boob laying on the ground as I bend over far enough to read those little led numbers that have gone up 10 pounds due to that fucking banana and the three pounds of lettuce I mowed through the day before. I am so tired due to my scales rather rude agenda and last night’s rabbit revenge that when I look out the window  I swear all I see are rabbits giving me the finger and laughing hysterically therefore, I sneak two pieces of chocolate in order to clear my head and give myself “I energy I need to make it through the rest of the day.”  Day 3- I fall off the scale as it registers 3 more pounds, hit my head and get a concussion. Of course, the only cure for that is candy…lots of it….and so it goes. By the end of the week I have gained 20 pounds and I have paid the garbage man a rather large ‘New Years tip to “accidentily” back over my scale 100 times.

2008. I would be a more observant and careful driver. I was but the 8 people who managed to run into my car that year were not.

2015. That my husband would find happiness once again in his life…he did in the arms of our Vietnamese tour guide.

As you can see, resolutions have never really worked out well for me. So for 2019 I have decided that I will wish for nothing and not try to implement any big changes in my life. No, this year I will just accept myself for who I am and offer myself forgiveness for my perceived failures . In the car and out of it. On the scale and off. I will have no expectations of others and I will expect nothing of myself in return.

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So here is to 2019! Nothing to be gained and nothing to lose. I think this will be my kind of year!

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Wild Fire

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When I left my house at 7:45 am I noticed a HUGE plume of smoke over the mountain. Checking the internet, I found that there was a wildfire burning about 25 miles from my house or 17 as the crow flies. Ten acres were involved.

An hour later the fire had grown to 100 acres. An hour after that it was at 1000 acres and about two hours later it was at 5000 acres. Now, five hours later this fire has grown to over 8000 acres and entire towns in the hills have been evacuated and there are over 100 homes that have already burnt to the ground.

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My son’s teacher told me that his good friend lost everything in a fire several years ago. Today, when his friend saw flames a long way off from his house, he quickly packed his car. Having survived one fire he knew just how treacherous they couldbe. By the time this man and his family made it to the highway both sides of the road were on fire with lines of cars trying to make it out of the area.

It doesn’t help that we are having 30 mph wind gusts that are suppose to be around for another 24 hours.  The winds are spreading the fire here and there with spot fires popping up constantly. I fear for the people and wildlife who may not make it out of this firery hell in time.

Later in the morning I called my father who said, “Pack your car and go rent a trailer.”

I chuckled. He is over reacting I thought.

Later my cousin who lives in the area issued the same warning. “Be prepared,” she said.

And so, I went home and I handed two of my kids who are sick of the sofa  each an empty box and told them to fill it with those things that had meaning for them. I did the same while also creating boxes for each member of our family trying to determine what things were most important to their hearts and to their heads.

It’s a strangle thing putting your entire life into a few boxes. What stays and what goes is not as easy to determine as you might think. Of course, I put the box of important papers (birth certificates, adoption records, passports) into the back of the car. I took one painting that we obtained from my a few of my kids birth country and a bunch of old video cassette tapes that I have yet to put on DVD. The old family Bible went in as did a few photo albums, a necklace from my GG Grandmother, my writings, one of my stamp collection albums, our wedding picture, my husband’s bagpipes, my kids Eagle Scout pins  and an ancient Chinese incense burner. My GGGG grandmothers sleeping cap which sits in a shadow box in the hallway was included, as was my GG grandmothers vase, my kids early drawings, some of my daughters diving medals and a few souvenirs from our many travels. Most of the photographs I left behind, except for some of the older pictures, thinking that so much was online, that I could easily make re-prints if need be.

And so my car sits in the driveway packed and ready to go should we need to. I doubt that it will happen but with such a fast moving fire and such high winds I decided that it was better to be prepared than not.

Please pray or send positive vibes for those in harms way of this very dangerous fire. The fire is still a long way from us but it is burning so many others out of their homes in the mountains.

(Picture from my house)

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Update- It is now 2 p.m. and the fire has exploded to 17,000 acres

The Good That We Can Learn From The Bad

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Believe it or not sometimes I am beginning to see light shining on the path I have been forced down due to my husband’s infidelity. I am beginning to see a little clearer how I contributed to this debacle. NO, it does not mean that he was just in doing what he did. It just means that sometimes we unwittingly do things that help shift the tide of events to a road that was never meant to be traveled. For it is often NEVER just one persons fault when a relationship unravels. Let me explain.

Before B’s affair came to light I had not been enjoying my life for quite a long time. Sometimes autism took its toll. Sometimes my own negative thinking. Sometimes it was just situations involving me in things I shouldn’t have let myself get involved in in the first place. Other times is was a very low level depression and large amounts of stress that contributed to my thinking that life had somehow become a struggle. And while I recognized that life was never meant to be a struggle somehow it was turning into that very thing it was not meant to be. Often I felt I had lost control of my own life.

Recently, I have come to see that this pain of my husband’s betrayal  has brought good things to my life. When I came close to divorcing I was distraught and depressed. If I thought life had been a struggle before, now it felt like a 1000 pound weight had been added to the backpack that I carry on my life’s journey. All my self doubts rose like a tsunami and smashed my ego into smithereens like wooden boats thrown against giant breaker walls. I was a mess.

Yet, slowly I have come to see many positives that have come my way after this experience, one of which I would like to share with you. You see, in almost losing myself and my life as I knew it all of a sudden I realized what a good life I had. For the most part I have loved it and when taken as a whole it had made me happy and has brought me much more joy than sorrow. I had just forgotten the good parts and was concentrating on the bad. Trying to fix things that were not mine to fix or living for the future and not in the present which created suffering and unhappiness; discontent and anger.

And so, in almost losing everything, I have gained a new and positive perspective on my life…and when I got that back I realized that my remaining years are meant to savored, grabbed, and spent looking for the first buds on a tree. So now I stop and listen and look, recognizing and appreciating the pure joy I hear in the laughter around me, all the while enjoying brilliant sunsets that are best viewed when still and contemplative. For life was never meant to be a struggle and I am trying not to make it so.

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Returning Home

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Tomorrow I head back home after seven days away and sometimes I wonder what I am going home for and who I am going home to. You tell me that you are all fine. That things are going along comfortably without me. It makes me wonder what is the purpose of my being there when it is so obvious that my being there is not what you want?

This morning when you told me that you asked the kids whether they missed me it made me wonder whether you had an ulterior motive. I mean, who asks their kids that? Kids always miss their mothers. Or were you hoping that they would say no so you wouldn’t feel guilty about what it is you appear to want to do?

But more importantly, the fact that you could not and would not give me what I needed…love words…speaks volumes about where our relationship is at. It crushed my soul that you feel such distaste for me that you could not say you missed me and you loved me. Whether you wouldn’t or your couldn’t…neither one is acceptable for is shows a lack of respect, caring and obviously the type of love that is needed for a marriage to flourish. Shutting down only allows you to keep yourself shut off and to reflect back any love that is directed to you which then allows you to convince yourself that I don’t love you. And it is all because you don’t want that love…at least from me. Or so it would appear.

Even more importantly, I wonder what parts of myself I should bring back and what parts I should leave behind that would help you to love me again. Which parts do I leave at the door because they are no longer desired or is it a matter of just not stepping over the threshold at all because there is nothing there that appeals to your sense of what a marriage should be. And it makes me resentful that I feel that I have to leave the best parts of me at the door to get your approval. That I have to drop off that introspective part, my inquisitive nature, and the part that believes you when you say “I love you” at the prompt.

After we talked this afternoon you said that the letter I sent you made you feel that you always disappointed me but to me telling your lover what it is you need is giving them the opportunity to create a better relationship. And me too. Yet, if the truth be told I think you USE that fact that you feel like you disappoint me as an excuse to be bitter and to prove to yourself that you are right. That nothing you do will make me happy. But I should be able to state my thoughts without being made to feel like if I do that you will think that you disappoint me. Often I believe that if I just smiled and never told you how I felt about anything that would make you happy and comfortable because you would never have to look at things that you didn’t want to. You could live in la-la land being happy while I became more and more miserable being something I am not. I mean if I can’t say in the kindess way I know how what I need from a relationship then I think that a life size blow up doll is your next option. Probably a skinny brunette.

As it is I wish you would ask yourself why you could not and would not assure me of your love? Why would you not say you missed me? Are you withholding because you no longer love me? If so, I can tell you that it feels cruel and inhumane. It feels life taking not life giving.

Yes, I know that yesterday I discussed that fact that holding onto our hurts only increases our own suffering and it does. I know this to be true because yesterday, I did let them go and they left leaving behind the lessons to unpack and contemplate. Yet, here they are back again and this feels like a major disappointment to me because it feels like I have failed myself as I pull out this hurt once again. But I hope in writing all of this, that by seeing my words in front of me, I can let it go and start concentrating on the lessons that are presenting themselves so I can grow.

Maybe it is all baloney. Maybe I can never be that type of person. Maybe I am just kidding and deluding myself but I  would like to think not. I believe that I can and will be able to re-train my brain into seeing things in a new light. And that if I can start to apply what I have learn from these lessons that I find myself intertwined in at this moment;  that someday in the not so distant future that I will finally not allow myself to give you such power over my own emotions. That I will learn to let go of things I cannot control and accept those things that I cannot.

Acceptance isn’t instantaneous. Learning how to allow acceptance to float throughout your life takes practice. Learning that you will not get everything you want from your relationship and you might have to find other ways to fill the void is something I am beginning to seriously consider and am searching for ways in which I can have my needs meet through my own actions rather than yours. It will take a while more. I am still learning. How long it will take I cannot say. But I know that when I come to accept you and myself that things will improve dramatically.

Until then I know that I am doing the best I can working with what I have got at this moment in time. If it is not enough for you then I am truly sorry. If it is, then I hope you have the courage to give me the time that I need to complete this journey that I am on, on my own terms and at my own pace. If you cannot, then you will lose out on something wonderul in the future. I may not know much but this much I know to be true.

 

 

Letting Go Of Suffering

I have to admit that I have struggled since I wrote B the letter I shared in my last post. In this letter that I wrote to him, I told him exactly what I needed to hear from him…love words. I have yet to receive a comment from him about what I wrote nor have I heard the words that I long to hear. Frankly, it hurts and it has been bothering me for the past few days. Instead of enjoying what I have been given here in Michigan; I have been ruminating on what I don’t have back home.

Luckily, I woke up this morning to find something meaningful on my Facebook wall and it was exactly what I needed to see. It read:

“If you focus on the hurt, you will continue to suffer. If you focus on the lesson, you will continue to grow.”

What wise words! Suddenly it took the sting out of this disappointment that I had been feeling for the past few days.  I realized that by allowing the hurt and disappointment I was feeling to cloud my day; I was indeed suffering and I was creating this suffering of my own accord. In fact, I was suffering more as every hour went by wishing for some sort of something from B…anything. So instead, I began to focus on the lessons I might find through this instance and found that there were many lessons that I could learn from if I chose to do so.

  1. The first lesson I discovered was that by acknowledging my feelings and then casting them aside I didn’t have to urge to carry them around with me like a suitcase stuffed full of heavy negative emotions. Yes, I was disappointed. Yes, his lack of response made me feel abandoned and scared. Yes, his withholding something from me that I plainly laid out that I needed from him made me feel anxious and wonder if he would still be there when I got home. Yet, by learning to view these feelings dispassionately; I was able to put the suitcase down and walk away from those hurtful actions and the resulting feelings I was experiencing. The lesson was much much valuable than the suffering could ever be.
  2. The second lesson I thought about was that I didn’t need B to acknowledge my heartfelt letter to be happy. Instead, I went about my day appreciating all of the people and things that I found around me. I was happy and didn’t need his lack of response to elicit any sort of reaction one way or another within me.
  3. The third lesson I concentrated on was that B will never be able to give me what I need because that is not who he is and that I have to learn to find happiness in what he can give instead of what he cannot if I want to  stay married to him.  B saying loving words is about as probable as a frog being able to bark like a dog…it isn’t going to happen.

 

After these discoveries I spent the day with my 82 yo father and 92 yo aunt. We went down to Lake Michigan and enjoyed the water, the waves, and the boats as they cruised through the canals.

I really treasure spending time with these two when they are together because they bicker like little kids. Nothing long and hard but just snippets like from when they were children. The things that they gripe about tickle my insides and I always break into a big smile as it happens.  Why, I wonder, is it easier to listen to them than to my own children when they go at it?

As I watched the two of them it occurred to me that my aunt has gotten to the place where the small hurts no longer effect her. She realizes that we all have flaws and for the most part she recognizes that we all do our best with what we have within us at the moment. But she wasn’t always like that and that in itself gives me hope that I can still change into the person I envision myself being. Someone who is at peace with the world and more importantly herself. Someone who grants grace rather than find fault. Someone who does not expect things from others and is disappointed when they don’t appear. Someone who wakes up each day grateful to have the opportunity to learn and grow some more.

So as the day winds down I am counting my blessings. Glad that I am here with two people who are willing to share what they know and the love that they have for me willingly.

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What I Need From You

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I talk to B everyday I am gone. Perhaps it is a mistake. Perhaps he needs to “feel” my absence instead of my presence for a while. Perhaps he needs to miss me…if he ever would.

I say, ” Love You.” He repeats it back when what I really want to hear is:

“Well, Dad and I had a good day today. Blah-blah-blah.”

“Honey, I just want you to know that we are really missing you here. Especially me. What I wouldn’t give to have you in my arms right now. I  love you and need you here with me, now and forever.”

What I wouldn’t give for those kinds of loving and reassuring words. Words that say that I am appreciated, treasured and loved. Words that tell me I am still his girl and he is damn glad that I am. Words that make me feel his love for me here in Michigan or Paris or anywhere I happen to be. Words that he would say during my eulogy to pronounce to all in attendance that I was who he loved and letting go will be hard.

Why is it so hard for B to say them? Is it because he doesn’t know how or that he can’t because he doesn’t feel that way and saying them would be a lie?

This 30+ year love affair shouldn’t be so difficult. It SHOULD be easier than ever to whisper sweet nothings. To let a person who feels they are teetering on the edge of your life to know how much they mean to you, how much you desire them, and that their absence makes their heart ache.  For we are getting to the age where death begins to watch you from the shadows and you never know when you might be taken. And of this I am sure: When you leave this earth you should know without a doubt who loved you to the end of the rainbow.

Perhaps this kind of talk is unrealistic. Perhaps it only happens in fairy tales. But if those things are true then I want to re-write my story because this is what I need. This is what my heart longs to hear and my soul craves. Words that are meaningful, loving and make a future with B obvious. A future that is mutually desirable, sought-after and protected.

Do you love me B? Then let me hear the words. Let me hear them said from that place in your heart that is occupied only by me and that is reserved for my love only. That place in you where I anchor you to our love both past, present and future. That place that says I am still the only woman for you. That place that says you want me to be the one holding your hand when you pass into another realm.

Let me know. Before I forget and slide into a place where I can no longer feel your heart connected to mine or feel our souls slide gently together throughout the day. Let me know so when I lay my head down on my pillow tonight I can rest so peacefully that angels would come and I would not fight them. Let me know so when the sun rises tomorrow that I know your love for me has risen with it just like it will the next day as well as the next.

I need your love but right now I need your words more than I ever have. For they are a gift that is not meant to be withheld but given freely and in love.

So be it!