Radical Acceptance

I have been reading a book called Radical Acceptance-Embracing Your Life With The Heart of a Buddha by Tara Branch, Ph.D. It has amazed me.

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One of my issues over these last four years of heartbreak and betrayal has been resisting the experience I have had. I have wanted the situation to be something other than what it has been and have denied what was in front of me in order to give the benefit of the doubt or see B in the way he used to be but refused to view him for who he has become. I thought I was doing myself a favor trying to save my family the trauma of divorce when all I really did was just delay it.

And herein lies the problem. Resistance to what IS causes trouble for your body, heart and soul. It creates misery, health problems, and unnecessary suffering. It has made me physically ill. The last four years have probably taken ten years off my life and one reason centers around resisting what was in front of me instead of accepting what was. Given enough time I believed… I could change it…I could minimize it… and I could make B love me again…but of course, I couldn’t.

In her book, Branch advocates using guided meditation techniques and in this case something she calls exploring the POWER OF YES. During this exercise the author suggestions sitting in a quiet place, breathing deeply and closing your eyes. Then she asks you to bring to mind something in your life or a situation that produces strong reactions like sadness, anger or fear. She then asks you to access what it is about the situation that provokes the strongest feelings and be mindful of how that feeling feels in throughout your body…your chest or your stomach of any other place that you may feel tighten or get hard.

Then, and I quote from her book:

“In order to see firsthand what happens when you resist experience, begin experimenting with saying NO. As you connect with the pain you feel in the situation you have chosen, mentally direct a stream of no at the feelings….as you say no, notice what this resistance feels like in your body.” p87

So I followed her instructions  and immediately began to feel so stressed that I began to feel ill. My stomach clenched so hard that I felt nauseous. My head started pounding and my chest felt tight making the air flow to my lungs decrease. It was awful now that I was really paying attention to the reactions my feelings were provoking. How I had lived for all these years saying NO to my grief, NO to my anger and NO to my sadness? More importantly did I want to feel this NO for four more years, four more months, or even four more days? Obviously, the answer was NO.  Now that I was aware of and could really feel the impact that this denial or resistance to my emotions was having on my physical body I knew I could no longer live this way.

This now lead me to the second part of the authors meditation. After directing NO at your emotions she asks you to once again think about that painful situation and to remember the words, beliefs, and feelings that are associated with it. But this time stream the word YES. Say YES to the words, the thoughts and the beliefs that come forward.

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Upon doing this part of the mediation I immediately felt a shift… a lightness and lifting of the unpleasantness that I was feeling. My chest loosened, my nauseau disappeared and my mind became quiet… no longer racked in pain. And with this YES to the experience came an acceptance. It was not an acceptance that what B did to me was okay. It was an acceptance of this is what has happened. You can’t change it nor can you fight it and more importantly I didn’t need to rally against it anymore. As I allowed these non-judgmental YESES to come forth, I felt a release of some of the burdens, anger, anxiety and fears that I had been living with begin diminish as a gentle form of acceptance began to soothe those less than pleasant emotions. I found I could just BE and did not have to react both physically and mentally to all the emotions that I was feeling about the affair or my impending divorce. Finally, I felt a sense of peace.

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So this is how I start my day. Saying YES. Accepting what is. Finding understanding where I could not before and I feel good. My chronic pain has decreased and I find more joy. Sure I am still struggling but the struggle doesn’t defeat me. It has just become a small part of my life instead of the epic saga it once was. And for that I am thankful.

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AH-HA MOMENTS

Last week I bought this sign for my kitchen.

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Today, that sign played out in my life as an all-too-rare “Ah-Ha Moment” and for that I am grateful.

It all started with a beautiful sunrise this morning which morphed into a cool afternoon devoid of rain. I decided to take a hike on one of the numerous trails that surround my home. It was a beautiful fall-like day with crisp-clean air, sweet dew laden grassy smells and wildlife galore.

 

After visiting “The Point” my son, Paul, and I started back up the trail. As we turned the corner near the visitors center where a few houses sit back of the path; I heard a Swoosh- followed by a rather loud SPLAT. Looking up I saw two 10-year-old boys lobbing lemons in my direction.

My first reaction was, “those little assholes. Why haven’t their parents taught them better.” That was obviously not the thoughts of the 70+ yo ladies who were heading up the path while I was going down.

“What was that?” the woman asked.

“Lemons,” I answered.

The woman looked over at the young lads and exclaimed loudly, “LEMONS!!!! I JUST LOVE LEMONS!!! CAN YOU THROW SOME MORE MY WAY?”

The boys looked at one another with a total look of surprise on their faces. Then they smiled and gently tossed more of the yellow fruit to the two old ladies who picked them up from the ground with the delight of 10 yo girls playing baseball on a summer’s afternoon.

AH-HA MOMENT…the sign…when life gives you lemons make something sweet…or funny… lighthearted and enjoyable. Why, I wondered, do I use the lemons life throws my way to leave a sour taste in my mouth instead of finding the sweet that is embedded in the moment? Why go to negative first instead of finding and embracing the positive? Why not ask, “Can you throw some more my way?” and be pleased to have them land at your feet?  Yes, I could definitely infuse many parts of my life with more sweet and less sour.

I thought about this as I walked home…tired but enlightened. And later, as I was munching on some of the best lemon bars I have ever made, I was grateful to realize that making something sweet was much more satisfying than being an old sourpuss.

 

Coming Home

Make no mistake about it. We are the lucky ones. With so many families displaced by the Camp Fire (over 45,000 people, and over 13,000 homes burned to the ground) I am lucky that the only thing we have to worry about is a slight stench of smoke which has permeated our home.

We have lived out of boxes for two weeks and I feel incredibly lucky to have had those boxes with us at so many points during this crisis. So many people did not even have time to grab their valuables much less simple things like toothbrushes and a change of clothes. They literally ran with the clothes on their back into the thick black smoke to get away from the flames that were whipping from tree to tree above them.

Today, I started unpacking the car. What I realized was that everything I had packed had deep meaning for me and most were old family things belonging to relatives I had and had not met during my lifetime.

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I saved that 1893 stamp, worthless to anyone but me. It is the one that was taped together by my grandfather and I down in his basement after an epic failure at removing it from an envelope destroyed its purity. Along with it,  came my fifth GGrandmother’s lace sleeping cap and the christening dress that was my 4th GGrandmother’s wedding dress repurposed.

I took my kids adoption records and their citizenship papers, my third great grandmothers carnival glass salt and pepper shakers, and the pot we bought at the souk in Morocco; the one where we almost lost our daughter, probably never to be seen again.

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I took as much artwork as I could fit into the car. Pieces that we have collected during our travels like the deity from Argentina, part of the collection of Japanese woodblock prints and the breastplate we bought from the potter in my husband’s town of origin in Ireland on our 25th Anniversary holiday.

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I took old photographs, the Civil War Sugar bowl belonging to my 3rd maternal grandmother and my GG grandmothers white calling card bowl. The Buddha rode shotgun guarding the collection of celadon pottery that I bought while in my children’s country of origin.

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Everything I took had deep personal meanings and connections to the past. Everything had historical/familiar significance to me and to those who came before my time. And while these items are only “things” and I can’t take them with me when I die; they bring meaning to my life now and I am grateful to have them.

I am glad to be back home. In a home lucky enough to remain untouched by a fire that killed so many. I can’t imagine having nothing left of my life but ashes and soot. I can’t even wrap my head around how that must feel. But this I know…it isn’t the collection of things that we have that are the most meaningful, it is the collection of people, our tribe, that we call our own that bring us our greatest joy.

Now go and give someone you love a hug. Then look around you and think about what you would take if you had to flee. It only takes a minute to determine what is of value to you and unfortunately sometimes a minute is all you have. So be prepared.

Home Alone Horror

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Home Alone is one of the most seen movies in the world. Although it was made years ago, you can always find it on one channel or another because it is a family favorite. It is funny and it makes you laugh out loud…unless it comes to roost in our own life. Then it ain’t so funny!

B and I were heading home from New York the other day after a wonderful weekend anniversary trip. Though we had been through two years of a “maybe” divorce, this weekend felt like we were in love again. That is when the sitter texted me.

I JUST LOOKED AT MY WORK SCHEDULE AND I HAVE TO WORK TONIGHT. I WILL NEED TO LEAVE AT 10 p.m.

“THAT IS FINE,” I texted back. “WE WILL BE HOME FROM THE AIRPORT AROUND 10:15 .SO IT ISN’T REALLY A PROBLEM”…until it was.

Standing in the crappy line with a GROUP 6 boarding ticket while annoying, is not a problem. Usually. Unless, you step on everyone’s toes and piss them off, while trying to maneuver yourself  back to the cockpit to get your suitcase checked because all the overhead bin space is taken. Placing your belongs in the overhead bin…no problem…for the GROUP 1-5 passengers. GROUP 6…FORGET IT! Fastening my seatbelt was easy as pie as my anti-anxiety “fear of flying” pill kicked in.  Everything was going as expected until these words were uttered by the cute and spunky stewardess whom everyone suddenly looked like they wanted to slap:

” PLEASE RETRIEVE YOUR BELONGINGS AS EVERYONE WILL NEED TO DEPLANE. THERE IS A PROBLEM WITH THE EMERGENCY SLIDE AND GROUND MAINTENANCE HAS TO BE CALLED TO FIX THE ISSUE.”

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Now I will confess I try to keep positive in these types of situations. I mean, after all, it is better to be riding on a “fixed” plane than a “broken” one. But an emergency slide? Really? I mean how often are they used anyway?. Hell, I thought, if there turns out to be an issue, I will gladly stand at the open slide-less door and just toss people out onto the ground below. Problem fixed. Now, let’s get this freaking show on the road!

A collective groan so loud it nearly popped the rivets holding the plane together ensued. This was followed by a sound reminiscent of a herd of lumbering and pissed-off elephants starting back up the gangway.

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Faces that had been smiling only 5 minutes previous were now pinched and drawn. The variety of cuss words I overheard was astounding and during the race to the customer service center several people nearly lost there lives. Frankly, there was not enough free alcohol in the entire terminal that could cheer up this downcast and angry crowd.

As B and I stood in the wrap-around line waiting to talk to that poor unlucky agent who had been plucked by the previous 50 ticket holders; it finally dawned on us that we had a problem. A serious one.  We only had an hour layover after we landed before we were to catch our final plane home. Unfortunately, this was the last plane for the night we were soon to discover.  Suddenly, were having our own HOME ALONE moment and nothing about it was the least bit entertaining.

Now being home alone is okay in our household during the day but certainly not overnight. We knew that Andre wouldn’t care as long as he could lay around in his underwear eating chips without being bothered by anyone. Change is hard for kids with autism but as long as there is food available and no one around to boss him around; Andre was happy.

Paul started crying over the telephone. The unknown is difficult for him but an unexpected change of plans is a catastrophe. . Let’s just say this didn’t fit into his scheme of things and the breakdown started.

Gracie…well, she isn’t one for being away from her Mommy and Daddy…especially at night. But we knew she would suck it up if she had to.

And so we started calling everyone we knew as the minutes started ticking away. 10 minutes late. 20 minutes. 40 minutes. 50 minutes…which was the point of no return. We were now officially screwed. Finally, an hour and 40 minutes later we lifted off unsure of what the future held…except that most likely Children’s Protective Services might be giving us a visit in the near future.

As nicely as I could I explained our situation to the stewardess. HOME ALONE.  TWO WITH AUTISM. MELTDOWN.

“Would you like a beverage?” she responded cheerfully.

I was tempted to ask for a double scotch on the rocks but decided that a drunk absentee parent was most certainly worse than a sober one when talking to government officials. Therefore, I took my seat,  bought the WI-FI service for $29.95 and sent out a plea for help on Facebook. I am happy to report that by the time we landed, I had three friends offer to help and a neighbor who informed me that she would take the kids to school. These are the times in life when “do unto others as you would have them do onto you” suddenly takes on a whole new meaning.

Flying five hours across the country we still had hope that we would make our flight but it was not to be. So we took our food vouchers and ate dinner in the airport, then took the shuttle bus to our hotel and finally settled in to watch a movie. When we turned on the t.v, guess what was being shown? Yep, you’re right… it just happened to be HOME ALONE. That apparently is the way we roll.

 

 

 

It’s Been A While

So it’s been a while since I have blogged. Life has gotten in the way. One of the reasons I have not been blogging is because I have been so ill and when you feel that sick just putting one foot in front of the other is sometimes the only thing you can manage to do.

The other reason I have been absent is that I just returned from South Korea. It was a blast. That is not to say that autism didn’t rear its head like a dragon…it did but we managed to keep the fire contained within the dragon’s mouth.

I love Korea. Not just because it is where my children were born but because of the numerous surprises that greet you while you are there. Like it raining and someone just hands you their umbrella and continues on their way. Like the fact that my children are now old enough to sit away from these two big white folks so they can blend in and become part of the majority instead of always being part of the minority. I wish I could give them that freedom every day of their lives. And I like the fact that pumpkin is valued and eaten in so many different ways.

I love seeing the small boats out with the huge freighters as they ply the waters for fish along the coast. I love the hidden temples and that sort of foggy mystical reverence that permeates the air.Riding the bullet trains are almost orgasmic with their down the the minute time tables and the snack carts that sell dried squid. I also love the open markets in which you can find the mass-produced and the antique amongst all the noise that radiates off of the stalls. And the smells of noodles of all kinds, ginger, kimchee and steaming hot bean buns bought just as they come out of the molds are to die for.

There is something about Korea…a people who have been taken over by invaders again and again. Who have known war too often the results of which allows them to then hold the holy and the beautiful above all else…even their pain. Same goes for my children whose understanding of their short lives here is bittersweet. Joy and pain sometimes it is one in the same.

And then we came home and I immediately went in for an endoscopy because I have been so sick with severe reflux for so long. And while I await the results I decided to try the anti-reflux diet and stop drinking coffee…and the next day feel so good that I don’t take the prescription medicine that never makes me feel great. And the next day I feel great. Better than great. And so I stop coffee and pills and one week later I feel better than I have for the past two years.

So now I rejoice. For travel. For discovery. For the happiness of my family. And for my health. And for the oh-so painful re-discovery of myself, my husband and my marriage over the past 18 months.dsc04814

I’m thinking that 2017 is going to be a pretty great year! I hope it is for you too!

 

Sparkle

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Several months ago I wrote about the chandelier that has been sitting in my garage for the past year.  You can read about it here Assigning Meaning To Things

The fact that B knew the emotional significance to me about having this hung and it never was done still stings a little but for the most part I have let it go. He is busy. We are busy and he hates doing electrical. I am giving him the benefit of the doubt that not hanging the chandelier is not an indication as to the depth of his love for me or how he feels about our relationship. It is all I can do.

All this week B has been up at Boy Scout Camp with the boys. He takes a week off of work every year to make sure that they have that experience. It is hot. It is dusty and he has to work very hard to make sure that Andre’s autism does not get in the way of him having fun and building memories. It is a fun week but an emotionally tough one too. Sleeping on cots in tents is no longer my idea of fun so I am grateful that he does this because he loves our kids and wants them to experience all that they can.

While B has been gone this week, I decided to make myself happy. I decided to take a chance on the goodness I see in our relationship and where I think it is headed. So I called out an electrician and…HAD THE DAMN CHANDELIER HUNG!. It looks beautiful. It is shiny and looks perfect in the room. And it makes me happy which is the best reason of all to have hung it. IMG_9903

So there you go…happiness in a box; happiness within me.  May it inspire me to sparkle and shine everyday as it does. For it no longer matters to me who put it up; I am just happy that it is there.

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Lhasa, Tibet-Meeting Compassion Face-On

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There are places we travel to in our mind wishing with all our might that we might one day arrive at this “in-our-dream” destination. There are spots we travel to and remember every sight, sound, smell and voice that we heard. There are places we visit that forever remain stuck in our soul try as we might to pry them out. Tibet is that place for me.

It was a hard journey. Two airplane flights totaling 18 hours and altitude sickness that brought the youngest members of our small group of seven to their knees. Luckily, being a tough old broad, I adjusted quickly except for the times I would wake up in the middle of the night feeling like there was an elephant sitting on my chest. Shivering in our freezing cold hotel room, I would quell my panic by counting sheep and meditating to slow my breathing as I tried to gulp the thin air like a person who suddenly comprehends that they are drowning at sea.

I could see my breath in my hotel room between the hours of 8 p.m.-9 a.m. which is when it finally warmed enough to remove all traces of “morning breath” haze exiting my mouth. All my past medical training threatened to overwhelm me with anxiety as I checked everyone’s nail beds for signs of cyanosis. The constant dull headaches, sinus “pops” and lack of energy taking its toll on some in the group. That is what 11,975 ft/3650 meters does to you. It makes you temporarily miserable and somewhat nuts while time slows down to a crawl as you wait for your body to acclimate. But then I visited Jokhang Temple and suddenly everything slipped into its proper perspective.

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Imagine rounding a corner and being swept away into the mass of religious pilgrims forever circling clockwise around the large outdoor square surrounding the temple. Colorful prayer wheels whirling, canes of the ancients clacking on the stone, babies crying and old men chanting as you are pulled into something deeper than yourself and what you momentarily comprehend as a “life force” which sweeps you all together for a greater purpose. Imagine the pungent smell of incense catering to believers and non-believers seeping like coal dust into your pores and pouring into your soul. And imagine in all your disbelief and mesmerization almost tripping over a pilgrim who is two years into his journey and only 1,000 ft away from his goal of achieving a better future for himself and his family; this accomplished by devoting himself and his life for those years to the Buddha. You watch as his scraped and dirty hands first clasp together at his head (to think of the teachings of the Buddha) then at his mouth (to listen to the teachings of the Buddha) then his hands moving to his heart (to feel the love and compassion of the Buddha). And then, I watch with morbid fascination as the man soars like a bound eagle just a few meager feet forward until he crashes prostrate on the ground. The only thing moving now are his charcoal black bare feet which twitch in anticipation of rising once more so that he may move ahead only as far as his body length to start the entire process over…day after day, week after week and year after year. Truly, if he can show this sort of dedication I can surely see that my slight “suffering” is nothing compared to his. Suddenly this cold ache I have been feeling since I arrived never felt quite so alive and warm.

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Dinner is yak. Yak milk tea (yuck!), yak cheese soup (double yuck!) and hot right-out-of-the-oven pastry stuffed with yak (mighty tasty). I think of the faithful outside of the temple wondering if they will have anything warm to fill their bellies tonight as they circle the temple three times to complete their journey. And I finally comprehend the importance of alms in this era of “ME, MONEY and MORE” as I think back upon the times I could have showed greater compassion. Because in the end (according to the Buddha) in order to alleviate suffering (both our own and the immense suffering within the world) compassion must be practiced. And for compassion to develop we must be willing to open our eyes.

So here I am Tibet…my eyes are open…show me what I need to see, teach me what I need to know, and let me experience those things that will shake me to the core. Thuk-je zig.

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A Few Of My Favorite Pictures of Tibet

I am just too tired to write as we just arrived home several hours ago so I decided to post a few pictures. Of course, the Chinese government does not allow people to access Facebook and Word Press so I was unable to write about our trip but here are a few pictures until I wake up from the living dead.

 

Monks Debating

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Girl From Countryside in Tibet

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Man Carrying Yak Skin Boat After Crossing River

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Mt. Everest Base Camp

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Listening for Buddha’s Wisdom

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Woman Waiting

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Mt. Everest At Sunset

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Woman and Yak at Receding Glacier

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The Christmas Party

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The company Christmas party was last night. I usually dread these affairs because I do not do “president’s wife” well. While most people would probably not guess, I am fairly socially inept. I spend the night trying not to put my foot in my mouth or wanting to kick someone’s ass if they get a little too drunk at the party. A fine line I walk trying to remember names, number of kids and spousal occupations; then I go home and start counting the days until the next one.

This year it was different. Many of the employees could not find babysitters for their children so B told them to bring them along. This meant I got to spend a lot of time at the table coloring with them and looking like a saint when in all actuality they were saving me from myself. Afterwards, B said that was great maybe we should have kids next year…ya think!?

One of the things I love about B’s office is it represents a side of the USA that I love…diversity. There are professionals from Africa, Asia, the Middle East, and South America all working for this fairly small company. It is a true melting pot of people, ideas, and understandings. And that is the thing I do love about the party…hearing about their cultures, their families, and the way they celebrate their particular and unique holidays. Talk of grilling a goat at a company function, going on Safari and having family arriving for extended stays were just a few of the tidbits I enjoyed hearing about. I just reinforces to me how similar people are, and while they may go about things differently, they all want to be heard/seen for their  unique perspective on things that matter to them and their adopted country.

And so this morning I bask in the glow of a beautiful evening as I begin the countdown until next year…only 364 days to go!