Assignment from God: 1/13/08
Get out of bed NOW, and start writing
My Life In Boxes 1/13/08
By Kathryn O’Gould
Once upon a time, there was a little girl, who had a little curl, right in the middle of her forehead. And when she was good, she was very, very good, and when she was bad, she was awful.
I was so tiny…that as you glanced up at the sky, you would have imagined that I would fit perfectly onto a star in the sky up in the Heavens.
I chose to be born on Earth. And that is where my story begins.
From that far off place, I entered the home of extremely good, salt-of-the Earth people who lived on a farm in MI, and I chose this setting very carefully, for it would put me on a certain path of learning for the rest of my lifetime.
As for me, I had signed up for a lifetime that would teach me patience, compassion and acceptance. I included lessons that would give me the chance to learn power and abundance and vision and acceptance, and cooperation and balance, amongst many other lessons. As I was whisked from Heaven into the arms of my mother, I glanced back just in time to see a note go sailing by me. On it was written the words, “Oops, I forgot to tell you. You are “a sensitive”. That was my first inkling that I was in big trouble.
In The Beginning:
God: Do You See Me? Are you hearing me?
Me: Huh? OK. I HEAR you. Hey…who is this talking inside of my head anyway?
God: I think you know.
Me: Maybe I'm just hearing things.
God: I think you know better.
Me: OK then…Let me say that I’ve been writing to you for 7 YEARS in my diaries, from 30,000 feet up in the sky. I've shared my difficulties and have asked you many many questions. I always wanted to know if this is what you had in mind as "my life". Is this what you said would make me smile? Because I’m sort of frowning about now.
God: Yes…this is what I’m talking about.
Me: Hmmmmm…can I reconsider my request to you for great things to happen to me?
Me: OK, God…what do you have to say then, because its 11:34 p.m., and I’m sitting here wrapped up in a blanket, trying to stay warm, on a freezing cold rainy night in Seattle, and I’m wondering why you got me out of bed RIGHT NOW to chat.
God: Because I have something to say.
Me: OK…start talking then!
God: This world is ready to hear this now, so I’m going to speak through you, and I’ll let you know when I’m finished, and then you can go back to bed.
God: Wonder…where did the WONDER go?
Me: What wonder?
God: See what I mean?
God: Where did the amazement go, the WONDER on the Earth? Where did the imagination go, the wishing, the childlike innocence? Where did it all go?
Me: It got lost in brutality and futility and sadness, in my opinion.
God: I’d like you all to get that back. I’d like you all to sit in silence and in WONDER again, and contemplate the mysteries and magic of life, the miracles, the amazing happenings which are not at all circumstance, but instead are constantly created miracles happening all around you. I’d like to bring back the innocence, wash away all the FEAR, and see my children (ME) all happy again on the Earth.
Me: How do you propose we dig ourselves out of the amazing ditch we’ve put ourselves into, huh?
God: You start at the beginning.
Me: Does that mean you want to do one of those “wipe the slate clean” Bible things you supposedly did way back in the past…like the Big One, or the Big Flood, or whatever?
God: No. I want you to get the message peacefully.
Me: How do we do that?
God: We begin one person at a time…that’s how. First YOU achieve this in YOUR life, and then you pass the word. I want you to start this off.
Me: OK…so…first of all I….hmmm… do what again?
God: You start the ball rolling. YOU start it off…
Me: Sure God, put the weight of the world on MY shoulders.
God: It’s actually on MY shoulders…remember? I’m living THROUGH you, or did you forget that?
Me: OK…So God, YOU take it from here, then. I’ll just do what you say, but you better be quite clear in your directions. As it is, plenty of folks are going to think I’m nuts.
God: So, let’s start at the beginning
Me: Um…I’m 60. That’s not exactly AT THE BEGINNING.
God: It’s close enough. Time…you always got so hung up on time. STOP THAT! Anyway, where was I? OK…first of all, I want you to call up your friends, and tell them I’m talking through you. Problem?
Me: YES…as I said, everyone will think I’m nuts, and then that will be the end of me changing the world.
God: They won’t think you are nuts…they are used to you. Try it and see who says what. Then you’ll see what I mean.
God: Go to bed now, or you’ll hate me in the morning.
Me: OK. Goodnight God
God: Goodnight Kathryn.
We all have our stories…every single one of us…some locked inside our hearts forever, some we tell to others in an effort to understand ourselves and our journeys or perhaps to help others understand themselves. If you stop and think about it, our lives are lived from the daily conversations we have about our lives. If we say life is crappy, then, for us, it is. If we say Life Is Good, then, for us, it is. It’s just that simple. Our lives are lived in the conversations we have about them.
I was raised on a dirt road country farm outside of Eaton Rapids, Michigan, second of five kids in seven years. My parents got married when my mom was 17 and my dad was 20, and life began in our two-story farmhouse on 120 acres of beautiful wood lined fields. Julie was the first-born, followed by me and then my sister, Mischelle. Next came the boys, Rob and Randy. The five of us kids were our own little softball team, and we grew up being each others’ best friends for all of our formative years together. I guess many people had families of this size, or even bigger, back in the 1950’s. In this country farm community, my story begins, on a farm ten miles outside of a town of 3,000 people. You might say it was very far from everywhere and right where I needed to be.
I was always a sensitive, gentle, kind, loving little girl within this hard-working family. If you ask me, I tried to be a little too good. Was I ever bad? I didn’t think so. But there began my "Life Script", as they call it in the Heavens, which I remained unaware of for half of my life. Then I became aware…
My parent’s philosophy was “hard work never hurt anybody”, and “early to bed and early to rise” and "we could play when the work was done", although it seemed the work was rarely done. Friends were welcome to drive 10 miles out in the country to our farmhouse to fish in the pond, swim in our pool, and ride horses with us, but my parents wouldn’t drive us to town to someone else’ house. When my Dad built the swimming pool, it was a big draw for the church kids we played with on the weekends, and the air was frequently filled with squeals of laughter as diving competitions, games of “Chicken” and “Annie I Over” rang through the fields. We chose teams for Badminton and Dodge Ball from the various country kids who stopped over, and we always chose with an eye to winning!
My parents had a way of making sure they knew who we were with and what we were doing at all times. We challenged our friends to dirt road horseback races and played "chicken" in the pool, with competition running strong and smack talk flying back and forth.
No matter what happened during the day, after all the homemade pancakes with handmade maple syrup were eaten and the friends had all gone home, we would always end our days on our knees in prayer before bedtime each night. We were wrapped in the secure blanket of our parents love and our bellies were always filled with home-cooked meals from what we grew on the farm. Life was very simple and very good.
With five kids, about one year apart, there was a lot to keep track of. Living right next to Horner Woods Boy Scout Camp, my Dad kept a sharp eye on his daughters and yet he let my brothers run loose, after the chores were done, of course. He had no problem with us sneaking into the Boy Scout Camp late at night to pull out the tent stakes of those screaming city kids or dress up as ghosts and scare the living daylights out of them. Still, he had his rules about any boys coming around to see his girls when the priority was the work that had to get done on the farm first. Many possible suitors were scared off by the threats of shearing sheep or baling hay if they wanted to sit and look at the moon with this farmer’s daughters.
There were cows to be milked and fed, pigs to be slopped, eggs to be gathered from the coops of 7,000 chickens, and hay to be stacked in the barns. Whoever wanted to spend time with his girls would be working right alongside of us! Our neighbors helped each other out, and all business was conducted with a handshake. There were seasons for everything from planting the fields to picking up hickory nuts to threshing the wheat fields, to canning the garden’s overabundant produce. In our spare time, we were picking fruit and tapping the trees for maple sap each Spring, and gathering morel mushrooms in the woods behind the house. The days flew by, as we took turns stirring the sap and letting it boil down into the sweetest, best tasting concoction I’ve ever had. There were apples to pick and cider to press, and of course the weekly butter to churn from the rich cream off the top of our fresh milk. We had honey to gather from the bee hives in the back orchard, and June Bugs to run from if we went outside at night. I thought the hours of picking string beans and snapping peas would never end, but they always did, and usually with some homemade strawberry shortcake topped with hand-churned whipped cream as the reward. Life was homemade.
Finally, it was Fall, and we would begin our season of rest, after the wood was cut, split and stacked for the winter’s heat source. Once in awhile, we would splurge on a load of coal for the old furnace, and arguments would fly as the nightly duty approached of who’s turn it was to stock up the furnace with coal during the night. The person on duty had vigilance throughout the night so that the fire would not go out, and if it did, there was Hell to pay.
Make no mistake that there were “girl duties” and “boy duties”, and never the twain did meet. Nothing made me angrier than watching my idiot brothers walk across a newly mopped Saturday morning floor with muddy boots on. But we girls got even on the once a year night that my parents went out for their anniversary dinner. My sisters and I beat the living daylights out of our brothers and threatened worse the next day if they told on us. Eventually that stopped, since we girls got a thrashing when our littlest brother told on us and besides, the boys grew big enough to defend themselves.
As the quiet child of 5 who wanted to read, be alone, and hide under the barn to peacefully play with newborn kittens, I stole time to just daydream about life and about seeing the whole world. I would stay hidden for hours or at least until my mom would yell out for someone to find me. All I wanted back then was time alone to think, be safe, rest and read.
As with everyone who begins their life, I was taught by my parents all that they knew, which was the best of what they knew, even if I didn't realize it at the time.
My formal schooling began at Gunnell Road Country School, a K-6 one room schoolhouse a country mile away from our farm. My mom didn’t have a car, and we were the only house on our road, so my sisters and I walked the mile to school together each day, running up the steps as the teacher pulled the rope on the school bell one final time, glaring at anyone who dared be late for school. Our teacher, Mrs. Winslow, was a fiery gray-haired little woman who was a strong taskmaster who didn’t believe in sparing the rod. Rumor has it that she sipped a little whiskey from time to time from the metal coffee cup on her desk, while she administered our lessons. The milk truck would drop off cartons of 1 cent milk once a week, and the parents sent in home baked cookies for our snacks. As my particular class of three kids moved through the ranks of kindergarten, first and second grades, I quickly learned to finish my daily lessons so I could go outside and play with the older kids at recess in the schoolyard. Our schoolyard included the acres around the school, which were wide open to the imagination. Homemade tree forts and snow forts protected us from the imaginary enemies, and the old wooden merry-go-round got going fast enough to send me flying off it one day, and into a tree. This would be the first of four broken collarbones during my childhood. In the winter, we’d throw a bucket or two of water on the small hill beside the school in order to create a slick, icy sliding run. The three little girls in my grade were fierce competitors for who won at hopscotch, marbles and sliding races. Phyllis was the daughter of the local onion field migrant parents, and she’d come to school when her work was done, so it was mostly Kathy Gray and I, whispering and conspiring against the kids in the grades above and below ours. I’m still friends with her today, and we laugh about our early days together and our life-long friendship. Kathy lived on the farm behind us, on Gunnell Road. The back of her family farm touches the back of ours, and we’d whisper over the fence and taunt each other from time to time, knowing we’d have to stay friends, because there weren’t any other playmates for us. Kathy’s brother, Dan, was in my older sister, Julie’s, class but they couldn’t be good friends, because Dan was a boy. Girls and boys were yucky to each other in those younger years, so Julie had to play with other school kids, and then rely on her brothers and sisters for companionship outside of school. Little sister, Mischelle, was too shy to play with anyone. So she tagged along with us on our adventures.
The teacher, Mrs. Winslow, let us listen in on the grade next to ours, one chair row away, and “learn up”. I have always been curious since the day I was born, which I still am to this very day, so I found myself eavesdropping on the next higher grade of kids, and dreamed of growing up quicker. What an experience this school was. What a great place from which to launch my independence! I was excited to look at life beyond me and what I knew about back then. I still am that curious explorer.
By 3rd grade, the little country school became the Church of Yahweh, and we were bussed into the city schools of the nearby town of Eaton Rapids, MI. This meant getting up even earlier for the 1½ hour bus ride to school, with our chores still waiting for us when we got home. At the age of 8, I made friends easily, and I easily adjusted my thinking to fit this slightly bigger picture. This was the first big “move” of my life, and all it required was a new lunch box.
As I got older, at bedtime, I would sneak a flashlight under the covers to read library books late into the night in the attic bedroom I shared with my two sisters, causing myself last-minute late start mornings, running out the door without my coat on to catch the early morning school bus, honking its horn impatiently. Weekends, I would sneak out at night and run back to the hillside overlooking our lake and lie on a blanket and watch the stars in the milky way, waiting for a falling star to make my wishes, hoping my wishes would come true. I would run back across the fields at dawn to slide into bed, with my deepest desires undetected. The frogs and crickets sang their evening songs, coaching me back to sleep.
Jr. High and High School brought the challenge of being a country kid in the small city of Eaton Rapids, which had me struggling to figure out new strategies for my life. I remember my first big realization was that the “popular kids” ran things, but I also learned that the school was made up of many “unpopular kids”, among them, me. The “Click”, as we named the popular kids, was a group of 8 who stood around in a circle outside of class, looking down their noses at the rest of their uncool classmates as we all walked quickly around them, hoping we wouldn't draw their nasty attention to us. My way of dealing with them was to be friends with everyone else in the school. It turns out this was a very smart move on my part, because it was the rest of the “uncool” school kids who voted for me as their Homecoming Queen in my Senior year, shocking the daylights out of my popular running mates as that announcement was made in 1970. I’ll never forget the look on their faces. I’ll never forget the feeling of that moment as I realized a little bit about the game of life and how to play it.
Shortly before turning 18, I quickly threw together my possessions in a single suitcase, in my hurry to get out of the family farmhouse because of a falling out with my mom. She’d most likely had enough of five teenagers by then. I was also instructed to take my horse with me. My Mom had decided at a very early age that I wasn't like the other kids. This didn't set well, as she already had too much to do to cope with me being different. I remember her telling me at a very early age that she "would break me into a million little pieces". She did within those next years, despite the fact that I did my best to be above reproach. I got nearly straight A's, was on the Honor Roll, 11th in my class, cheerleader, homecoming queen, and dated a Dr.'s son. I had developed a very winning personality designed to keep me out of trouble and gone most of the time. None of this appeased her, and by 12 years old, I knew I would leave, which turned out to be for 42 years.
My very first move took me into a basement apartment below a butcher shop in town, and my older sister, Julie, followed shortly after I left. We formed our own little home and we were happy together, and quite compatible, too. Life's big adventure in the world had begun.
In the Fall of 1971, I moved on to the big city of Lansing, MI where I attended college, while working for the Publisher of an environmental newsletter in order to support myself and put myself through college. I found that I could be the Resident Assistant at the dorm, take on a 25 credits per term at school, work part-time, and still get good grades. My farm work ethics paid off well. After graduation, I got my first full-time job in East Lansing at Michigan State University where I was promptly fired for tardiness. As was my nature, I resisted going to bed at night because I had so many interests and so much to do that mattered to me more than sleep. And besides that, I couldn’t figure out why the whole world needed to start work at 8:00 am, just when my best dreams and deepest sleep were taking place. I struggled to understand the world of grownups and rules and how to make life work as an independent young woman.
Life got more challenging when I married my high school sweetheart at the tender age of 19, and we packed up our boxes and moved to a little apartment in Dimondale, MI. He had another year to go at Michigan State University before we headed to Chicago to make his dreams come true of being an Optometrist. I had big plans for myself of becoming a Psychologist, but with his promise that my schooling would be next, I packed up our moving boxes again and we headed off to downtown Chicago which was a far cry from the little farm in Eaton Rapids, MI. As I unpacked the boxes, I wondered what would become of me. This was the biggest city I’d ever seen and the most complicated environment I had ever been in. I have to say I was truly scared as I tried to figure out how to adapt to my surroundings in the projects on the South Side of Chicago. I became the sole support of our household in downtown Chicago as a Mercy Hospital account representative in the Billing Department, working daily to make sure that Mercy Hospital's bills got paid, while barely affording the bills in our own household.
A year later, we moved onto the campus of IIT in Chicago. We couldn’t bring many boxes, as we were moving out of a one bedroom apartment and into a much smaller studio apartment on the 8th floor of a high-rise with a magnificent view of downtown Chicago’s skyline. Life was beautiful as we watched the city light up every night. Three years later, right in the middle of school mid-terms, I gave birth to my first child, a beautiful daughter, who we named Elizabeth. I was 22 years old and definitely surprised and scared. I had been told by my gynecologist that I could never have kids, so this arrival came as quite a surprise. I only had 3 months to prepare for her birth, as I had no idea why I had been throwing up non-stop for 6 months, losing weight, and suffering from weight loss. The Dr. confirmed that I was really QUITE pregnant, and even with morning sickness occurring up until my daughter was born, she arrived in perfect health via C-Section as a breach birth, 3 weeks overdue. This sweet little being came into my life, quietly asleep, and she opened my heart to love as I had never known it before. This baby girl, smelling of Johnson's baby shampoo and baby powder settled into our lives as if she'd always been there. My daily load got a lot heavier, as I was still the one supporting our household as well as maintaining our life, home. and this new child’s care. I worked at IIT, took on childcare after work and babysat on the weekends to make ends meet.
After five years in Chicago, I packed the moving boxes again for the move to Charlotte, MI. My husband told me this was the best move for us. He would get to work with a famous Doctor who could teach him all about the business of running an Optometric Office. School loans were coming due, and the pressure grew. Against my better judgement, I agreed to move back to a town only 7 miles from where I was born. It was around this time that I began to feel the first feelings of deep unhappiness inside me. I felt the beginning of something I couldn’t even name. I was 25 years old, and I felt lost in another person’s life as I began to wonder why nothing resembled the life I had dreamed of. Clearly, I hadn't spoken up enough for my version of life because my experience wasn't taking me anywhere close to it. Yet here I was, packing up moving boxes for a move to a town I didn't want to live in while I remained silent about my deepest desires for my own dreams.
After 6 years of putting my husband through college, I had definitely set my sights and daydreams on a much more glamorous lifestyle than living back in the area where I had grown up. As teenagers, my husband and I had agreed that I would support the household while he became a doctor, and then we would move to the place of MY choice to live out the American Dream. I envisioned driving an old Porsche, 1958 Speedster to be exact, living in the sunshine, definitely living at the beach, and I dreamed of becoming a famous Psychologist. Somehow, Charlotte, MI wasn't part of the dream. In fact, it didn’t actually contain any of the components of my dreams at all. But there I sat, silently, trying to adapt to being home alone with my two-year old, in a small country house, without a car, no job and deflated dreams. I stayed silent, and became depressed, gained 46 pounds over that next couple of years, as I lost my desire to get out of bed in the morning. I wondered if my life was over. As my husband of 7 years pursued his dreams, I knew I had to snap out of it, lose the excess weight, and get ahold of myself. I had to choose a direction for my life. I wanted to live in the sunshine, and I knew there had to be more to my life than what I'd seen so far. Who knew that the direction I chose would take me away from him, away from Michigan, and from everything familiar for over 40 years.
It was another icy winter in MI. We had been there 5 years when, in fascination, I watched IT happen. A big black 1977 Oldsmobile slid sideways toward our brand new tiny little Toyota Tercel, as it skidded on black ice outside of Big Rapids, MI. In that moment, my life flashed before my eyes as I braced for the impact. A very important thought suddenly occurred to me. “You are going to die, and you never even started to live”. I couldn't help feeling sorry for myself and for the life I never got to live. The last sound I heard before the impact was the crashing metal and busting glass. But I didn’t die. In fact, I wasn’t even injured. I opened my eyes to snow packed into my side of the car that had been torn in half. I unfastened my seatbelt and walked away from the car without even a scratch. The shock was that I was wide awake now, and I knew it was time to live before I died! The Universe had quite clearly intervened with this wake-up call. And I answered the call.
I accidentally launched myself into a new life in 1980, just a few months after that pivotal car accident by taking my first adult vacation I'd ever taken with three girlfriends to Siesta Key, FL, and I fell in love with the pure white powder sand beaches, the atmosphere of fun, and the late night swims in the ocean. By the end of the week, I decided not to return to my old life. I wondered if I’d gone off the deep end. My actions shocked me. It was as if someone else was in control of my new life. I had a 7 year old daughter, a husband enmeshed in his career as a doctor, and a house to take care of. My life was on track according to my husband’s plan. It just had nothing to do with me. I thought about returning to my old life, and as if I’d opened Pandora’s Box, I found I just couldn't go back.
I sat in the sun and wrote out a long Bucket List of all the things I wanted to do before I died. I quickly came up with 50 things, because I'd had quite a few years of waiting and hoping and praying for life to resemble my wishes and dreams. I realized I wouldn’t be going back to my old life ever again nor would I return to someone else’s plan for me. The beaches, the hot sun on my skin, and the freedom in my heart had me starting my life over alone.
Picture with me the sunshine on beautiful white Siesta Key’s sandy beach, where I sit alone, free and very happy. This was exactly how my daydreams had looked, so long ago, back when I was a kid. Day after day, the warm breezes and sunshine touched my skin. I felt truly alive for the first time in my life, like I had been awakened from a very deep sleep. I had time to read, to think about what I wanted to do, and to explore my life and my own wishes and desires. This was the first time I acknowledged that I had been pretending to be happy for most of my young adult life. I had been playing the role of pleasing everyone else, a role I had learned as a very young child in order to stay out of trouble. It had worked back then, and it had been working up until now. But my “life in boxes” had led me here, to this corner of the world, and I couldn’t give up my version of life anymore...not for anyone or anything. This place of my daydreams had finally appeared in front of my eyes and I wondered for the first time... "who will I be now"?
Realizing my life had been a very good act up until now, I was faced with the fact that I was also responsible for all of my choices. Up until now, it had been more important for me to be who my husband, friends, and family found acceptable. As I look back, I know I was too afraid of making choices for my own happiness, because I would have outcomes that I could only blame on me. Instead, I had created a person that everyone could love. Everyone, that is, accept me. I had abandoned myself completely, not feeling worthy of my dreams and by not making choices that gave me joy. Now, daring to begin my new life meant creating what my life might be like on my own, which I did quite happily from the position of a beach chair parked ON Siesta Key Beach in Florida. However, I still had my daughter back in MI and an unfinished life that I’d been living up until this point.
My husband called me after a few months to say he really and truly would
listen to me this time if I would just come home. He said we could move anywhere I wanted to move and he would find work there. I thought it over and thought it was worth a try. After all, I had to think of my daughter who wondered where in the world I had gone.
I came back to Michigan to place our house on the market and to help pack up the U-Haul truck and off we drove to sunny California, the place we had chosen together to start life over again. I was armed with sincere feelings that life would begin to resemble my dreams now. I felt hopeful. My husband got a job teaching at the Optometry college in Fullerton, and we rented an apartment close by. However, we were nowhere near any beach, but instead had settled in near where he worked. Once again, my version of life slowly began slipping through my fingers. I really began to question whether I was asking my husband for the things I wanted in a clear way, or whether I was being read and answered by someone who couldn't hear me, no matter how I said it.
I found I still wasn’t living my version of life, even in sunny California, and it seemed I wasn’t strong enough to stop living the compromised life that suited someone else. I’ve been told by many people that I’m just too nice. I didn’t think there was such a thing. But my life resembled this over and over again. Besides this troubling thought, it also seemed that the road I was on had already ended, and another had already begun. I felt distant and sad and unfulfilled, and I clearly realized I had no roadmap back to the way life had been before. Something in me had shifted forever during the time I had lived in Florida alone, and I found myself no longer the person I had been pretending to be. Pretending is a very hard thing to do for very long. In fact, it's exhausting. Strangely, I hadn’t planned on things not working out for us in California, and yet this reality faced us now. I began to slip back into a depression and faced the fact that it was time to leave home yet again. More importantly, how did I get so far off track to begin with, and how was I living somebody’s else’ life?
As I’m writing, I’m wondering where I should start talking about what turned me into a person who had no life of her own. I know what did it...but when should I say it out loud?
Have you ever gotten your first taste of freedom and then not been able to get that taste out of your mouth? Have you ever made a list of dreams, and then found yourself living someone else' dream? Welcome to my world.
I have to admit, that at this stage of my life, I decided to fling myself as far out of my life as I could, and I launched like a rocket! I began to experiment with new friends, a new profession, a few drugs and an uncompromising way of living. Off I went to Bartending School and I moved myself into a tiny 300 sq. foot studio beach apartment in Seal Beach, CA, where I decided to live alone. I bought a 1957 bathtub Porsche I had dreamed of while compiling my Bucket List of things I wanted to experience before I died, and I spent my free time strolling on a number of beautiful sandy California beaches, sipping cocktails, spending long weekends traveling with my girlfriends, dating wild men, and living my version of life. I began to understand how my version of happiness felt for me and I watched my new life play out. And I liked it a lot. I had my daughter for weekends and we began to get along quite well. Maybe she liked seeing me happy. We skipped and sang and boogie boarded and ate Haagen Daz Ice cream and slept peacefully in my tiny studio apartment together.
My old dream of being a Psychologist turned into taking the shortcut route to psychology behind a cocktail bar. At that time, I remember feeling that at 29 years old, I was too old to return to traditional school, so it seemed plausible to me that a bartender could listen to the problems of others and even help them, and perhaps inspire them to live great lives of adventure and happiness, too. And I dove in headfirst to help everyone I could help.
My first bartending job took me to a biker bar in Anaheim for my first taste of the real world of bartending. Somehow it wasn’t as glamorous as I thought it would be, but it was still a lot of fun. I served the rowdy bikers and learned to keep them under control. The strain of this rough and rowdy bar sent me scurrying back to Seal Beach where my next job was as the daytime bartender at The Irisher. This gave me a delightful mix of blue collar, white collar, and beach people, including the quiet older crowd who sat observing it all with smiles on their faces. I loved my “regulars” who came in every day at exactly the same time, expecting their drink to the hit the bar as they sat on their own personal barstools to tell me about their problems, their day at work, and their lives. I loved every single minute of it. I used to ask myself how they could pay me to do this for work, since it didn’t feel like work at all. I loved my new life. I divorced my husband and remained as the daytime bartender at the Irisher in Seal Beach for the next two years. I worked Tuesdays through Fridays, 12-7 p.m., with nights off and long weekends off to travel as much as my heart desired. I counseled people with all kinds of problems, mostly ones they were causing themselves. Life was fun and I enjoyed my simple life, filled with everything I’d always wanted to experience. I dated many men, traveled to exotic places in Mexico, and abroad and I spent weekends catfishing up in Big Bear Mountain. Those were days of great freedom, free from the opinions of others on how I should be living my life. I had only to show up for work, decide what to eat and where to go, and just live out loud! I look back with joy at those days and the simplicity of my life and I loved those days, with no one to please except me. I chose girlfriends that I'm still friends with today, and we experimented with life every which way.
During this period of my life, I woke up to myself, little by little. I peeled away the layers and layers of who I had been pretending to be so that I would be loved and I figured out who I really was and who I most wanted to be. I looked at the cost of giving up my life to try to earn the love of people unable to give it to me, and this made me sad for the loss of so many of my youthful years. But my first taste of being in control of my own life, with no input from anyone but me, was exhilarating. I discovered self-responsibility, making choices for my very real life, with all its pitfalls, joys and possibilities and it's total lack of excuses. I’d never been happier. I got acquainted with myself, my body, and my mind. My curiosity had me experimenting with everything I could get my hands on. I rode behind the burley bodies of Harley Davidson bikers, drove my 1957 Porsche down the scenic Pacific Coast Highway, took adventuresome trips with my new girlfriends to Palm Springs, Big Bear Mountain, Mexico, Hawaii, Japan, South America, Europe and the Caribbean and enjoyed a job with the work hours I loved and work I adored. I had my first glimpse of what it means to be very happy with my life. It turns out that I was kind of a bad girl, after living life as a squelched down compliant good girl up until then. Having been married as a 19 year old virgin, without a clue as to what to expect, I enjoyed learning about all of the choices that were actually out in the world, and I fully engaged in living and experimenting throughout my 30's! I even glimpsed some spirituality in those days, since I certainly felt the need to say thank you to a higher power for the life I was living and the happiness I now felt.
My "life in boxes" took me a few blocks away from my first Seal Beach apartment to an oceanfront apartment right on Ocean Avenue in Seal Beach, and I got up every single day with a smile on my face to greet my beautiful ocean view. I made great friends who actually liked me just the way I was. My life was very, very good and I was completely happy, despite making adjustments to fine tune life to what I wanted it to be.
After two years as a bartender at The Irisher, I moved on to work for Jet America Airlines as the CEO’s Personal Assistant, and I enjoyed free flight benefits and travels all over the world. My license plate holder read “Marry Me, Fly For Free”. I was still as happy as could be, and I loved being single and free. The new business suits I had made in Los Angeles by a tailor were fashioned out of men's suit material, the best on the market, and I fit right in on the Executive Row of Jet America Airlines, even though they figured out quite quickly I was a wild one. The President of the Airlines barely raised an eyebrow when I hung a thong bikini from Rio de Janerio up on the cubicle wall behind my desk after a recent trip there! He laughed and shook his head as he walked by. Exploring Japan's Nikko, Nara, Kyoto and Tokyo was one of my favorite trips! I couldn't believe how a country, intent on killing us 50 years ago, could be exhibiting the kindest welcome I've ever experienced to this day. What a beautiful, Zen, peaceful place to visit, with strangers inviting me to stay in their homes. However, I would have to say my favorite trip ever was to Maho Bay Camps in St. John in the Virgin Islands where I camped in a treehouse in July during hurricane season, when no one else dared to go. I sat enthralled as I watched the sky turn black as a summer hurricane passed overhead on its way to Florida; yet within a few hours, I easily resumed snorkeling with the giant sea turtles, as I sat in silence by the sea shore, and noticed that I was the only one who stayed on in the treehouse camp during this week of July. I didn’t actually speak words out loud for 5 days, as I remained in in my silent summer days while I basked in the sun, drinking rum and pineapple juice, with my beach chair parked in the crystal clear ocean. I loved this simple time of silence and valued the time to read and relax and rest. I recently returned there in this my 60th year on Earth, as I am told they are closing this slice of Heaven on Earth to build a single family home. It was sad to see it being disassembled and to see this delightful place come to an end.
But as life goes on, I've learned that nothing stays the same, including the life I had been living for the past 10 years. I wasn’t sure I was even ready for more changes. But whether I was ready or not, change was ready for me.
I began my next phase of life with the new adjustment of regaining custody of my 12 year old daughter, and I was lucky and blessed to have her return to my life after a prolonged custody suit. Her home life had desintegrated due to a new stepmother, and she wanted to come live with me. I gladly welcomed her back into my life full-time again, and after a lengthy and challenging court battle, I was granted custody. I enjoyed working at a new job I was well-suited for in Newport Beach, and I continued my version of life in the spare time I had between working two jobs to support us. I bartended on the weekends at the Rams/Raiders games in Anaheim Stadium and I had a ball.
It was right at this time in my life that I again watched myself, as if from a distance, slip back into the old habit of trying to clean up my act in order to be someone who could be considered a “fit parent” by the Orange County Court System, after my ex-husband had a private detective follow me around, taking pictures to prove that I was unfit. I watched myself start to adapt to what I thought of as the right person to raise my daughter. In other words, I began to play the role of pleasing everyone around me again. After 10 years of being mostly free of this old habit, I was shocked to watch myself slip back into an abyss of actions I neither recognized nor welcomed. My “List of 50 Things to Experience Before I Die” got tucked away somewhere behind the needs and wishes of others as I gave myself up all over again. I guess it started when my teenaged daughter insisted we must move off Seal Beach so that she could attend a High School in Irvine, CA where her friends were going to school. She thrived there. I didn't.
From this place of giving myself away again, I continued to date men that did not give me happiness, support or love. It was at this time that I met my next husband. I didn’t know this at the time. I thought I was just dating men I would never consider marrying, because I was single and free and not thinking about getting married ever again. However, I became pregnant at 38 years old. In the back of my mind, I’d always wanted another child. I've since learned that our thoughts are powerful enough to create exactly what we think about. I now know this in hindsight. But back then, I pondered whether or not to go forward and keep my baby. I thought about whether or not to be a single parent again. I asked my friends whether or not to marry the father, who was still just a kid himself, although 32 years old. I decided I would have this sweet child of mine and that I would align my actions and my thoughts to become what would work best for a new little family of four. So I married the guy.
I confess that I locked myself back up into the same cage I had released myself from ten years earlier. I completely forgot that I held the keys in my own hand and was my own jailer. I fell back into the habit of living to please others, allowing this old pattern of life to resurface in me. Was I nuts? Why would I have chosen to do such a thing? Is it here that I should tell you how powerful our thoughts actually are? Should I tell you about the absolute power of the subconscious mind and its ability to take hidden beliefs and turn them into reality? Perhaps you already know what I'm saying and what happens, because its happened to you, also.
I kept reminding myself that “what doesn’t kill me will make me stronger”, and this is how I entered the doorway to the next 20 years of my life.
My son, Zachary, appeared to me in a dream when I was five months pregnant with him. The dream was in color, and he was three years old in the dream. In this dream, I found myself looking down into the most beautiful blue eyes I’d ever seen, while running my fingers through his curly hair! I told him, “Zachary, Mommy’s going to teach you how to fish”! That’s how I knew I would have a boy and his name would be Zachary! And I did.
I had met my husband two years earlier in a beach bar in Long Beach. I later discovered he hadn’t portrayed himself with complete honesty, and perhaps he thought life with me would make his life better. Perhaps he saw me as his ticket out of the problems he was experiencing. Perhaps I had lessons to learn, and he was the perfect teacher for me. Sometimes you see what you want to see, and perhaps through rose colored glasses, I saw us as having a perfectly fine chance to get our acts together, be great parents, and move forward and upward in life together with our new son. What I know for sure is we all attract people from the beliefs of our subconscious minds. As for me, all I could think was 'you just did it again’. And I asked myself how I could have attracted the exact same scenario that I had left 10 years earlier! Couldn't I have learned what I needed to learn then? Apparently not.
After my son was born, and I looked into his eyes, something happened to me. I felt this intense need to protect him, to be his only caretaker, and I dove head first into changing my entire life into a life where I could do just that. I approached the daunting task of helping us get debt free from $40,000 in credit card debt, shockingly presented to me by my new husband, and I was determined to pay it all off and to live my version of a life filled with peace. This unfortunate decision stole another seven years of my life. My new three jobs included caring for my newborn son, and taking care of my teenager and several of her friends whose parents didn’t understand them, as well as operating a daycare for six newborns, while telemarketing during their nap times and bartending every weekend. My husband worked his regular job of advertising sales during the day, and another job part-time at night, doing store inventories. I was furious about the position he had put us in and wanted him punished. I think this doomed our marriage from the beginning. His dishonesty and hiding the facts that he knew would one day surface doomed our new marriage to failure, and I wouldn't let him off the hook about it. On top of everything else, I had a house full of teenagers on a daily basis, all of them starving and growing and experimenting with life. The next seven years flew by in stages of anger, confusion, and amazement that I had created this difficult life for myself all over again. But I managed to accomplish my goal of clearing away all of the past debts after seven year, and I began thinking that, perhaps, a happy life was still possible again.
However, once again, I had stuffed all of my dreams and all of my desires away for the good of my family and their lives came first. I let everything I wanted most slip into last place behind the needs of everyone and everything else, and no one seemed to notice this sacrifice except me. I think scenarios like this one have worked well for everyone around me, yet at what personal price for me? Depression and unhappiness came flying back into the empty spaces in my mind, where once I had been alive and living with my version of happiness. I had given away my personal dreams yet again, while everyone around me lived theirs.
Is it HERE that I figure it out?
I can’t say I was 100% unhappy, because of the true and precious love of my children, 17 years apart, along with my happiness in seeing that even with the space in their ages, they still fought in the backseat of the car! I laugh about this today, as I recall hearing the words, "he's touching me" and "why do I have to go here with him".
I can definitely say that I wasn’t the person I had been during my ten years of single life, and I struggled, once again, to figure out how my dream life had slipped away from me. I had moved back into the role of cooking, cleaning, and juggling while holding everything together by sheer effort and personal willpower, hoping this would all be worth it some day. I kept saying that if I could only get to that place where I felt safe again from the problems my new husband had presented to me and continued to present non-stop, all would be well. I asked myself, deep into the night, how could my life be repeating itself all over again. Had I really not learned a thing? Why was I back where I started again?
Is it HERE that I wake up?
As I packed up our life up in boxes again, we thought a move to Seattle away from CA might bring a new purpose and dimension to our life, and it seemed like a great place to raise our new son. After a quick visit to Seattle, where the sun didn't stop shining for a whole week in May of 1993, I thought this could be the answer. I learned later that this was fine weather was a fluke. During one non-stop 90 day period of rain that soon followed, I asked whether this was, yet again, me putting on another pair of rose colored glasses . Two weeks after my daughter graduated from high school, we were driving to Seattle to find out. In my mind, we would try again to define what our life together could be. It appeared we were coming from two very different perspectives, with two very different sets of values, but the desire to create a great life for our baby son overcame any idea I had about my own personal happiness, and I dug in again, feeling that I could turn our unhappy marriage into a happy one, if I just tried harder.
Is it here I wake up?
In my mind, I still fantasized about living on a beach, riding a Harley Davidson Trike, and experiencing my personal wild version of freedom and happiness. In reality, we ended up in a small apartment on Alki Beach, with me thanking God that there was at least a beach town in Seattle. I found myself back in my first married life, all over again, with a two year old at home with me, no car, and no job, yet again. If I had had a sense of humor at this point, I probably would have laughed, covering up the sound of the constant Seattle rain.
At least my child had wheels, even if they were on his little stroller. Off we went for our daily three mile walk on Alki Beach’s bike/walking path to a beautiful park overlooking the Seattle skyline. What a sight, and what a wonderful experience to have with my young son. We’d stop and play in the sand, look for shells and various other treasures, and head home for his nap. Raincoats were the answer, and I chose to think of life as very good, as I looked into his beautiful face each day. That was my version of happiness then. In a moment of inspiration, I took over West Seattle pre-school in an effort to continue to be my son's main influence in life, and I enjoyed this wonderful little venture for the next two years. My focus was on the connection of my preschool to the West Seattle High School, with a mission to curb teenage pregnancy by having the Home Arts students (mostly boys trying to get out of harder classes) as my daycare helpers. By the time I was done strapping crying toy babies to their backs for two weeks, and having all of them interact with 2-5 year olds for two hours a day, NONE of them had the experience of teen pregnancy. There's just nothing like real life as the best teacher of all. I certainly had this outcome. My mission was accomplished with these teens.
At this point, my husband decided that life wasn’t what he thought it would be in Seattle, and that he would be happier back in California, even though we had moved to several different apartments and townhouses during the previous five years and had now become owners of a house in West Seattle only a year ago. It seemed that, for him, happiness just HAD to be out there somewhere. Within a couple of weeks of discussing a change, we were once again packed in boxes, with a plan to head back to Southern California. But after he took a business trip to Los Angeles, and looked at housing prices, he changed his mind again. Here we sat with our lives in boxes, with our own home already sold, and with no plan in place at all. He decided that the Eastside of Seattle must surely hold the happiness we were looking for.
Where was I during this decision making process? Had I gone somewhere else, perhaps out of my mind? Had I merely abdicated all responsibility to myself and my own happiness to the whim of another? Clearly I had. In my attempts to hold my marriage together, I had once again allowed myself and my desires to disappear, while I blandly followed along with someone else’s version of life. I had been somewhat happy on Alki Beach, at least, yet off I went, helping this man’s dream of happiness take precedence.
As I look back, I realize I was trying to simply adapt to whatever worked best for my son, and by now my strongest point had become my ability to adapt to anything anywhere. Or is this my weakest point? At 45 years old, I felt that old grey fog of sadness and depression surrounding me again, as I slipped deeper and deeper into losing myself entirely.
My husband’s new job meant he worked out of our home, for a company based in Michigan, where we both were from, as he half-heartedly sold advertising. This left him with lots of free time to play around with his own publishing ideas and put together a couple of projects that interested him. I was very unhappy to be off the beach and living in a Seattle suburb, but I forced myself forward in a spirit of cooperation. I had gifted my preschool to a qualified woman in Seattle, and then took on selling the advertising for my husband's newly created projects, as well as organizing the sales efforts for a Seattle yacht company on Lake Union. Along the way, I discovered I had a true talent for sales, and I really liked working for myself. We only lasted about 1½ years on the Eastside in Kirkland before I noticed that my husband's attentions had wandered to a newly divorced neighbor woman who was his graphic designer. I couldn't believe I had sacrificed years of my life and monumental effort on behalf of our family, only to see the attention I craved going to someone 15 years younger than me. At this time, my husband's employer decided he needed more supervision and they would return him to the home office in Detroit, where the company was based. Since my entire family lives in Michigan, and since I wanted him away from his new crush, I put a positive spin on things and began packing up our life in boxes, yet again. I welcomed a change that might bring new life to our life together and maybe new possibilities of a closer relationship to my own MI family. Out came the boxes again, from storage. I had decided not to toss them anymore, since we were on the 10th move together.
By now, I had developed a sense for just how many boxes it takes to pack up a small house, and I knew the drill quite well by this time. There is a science to it, actually. As a person of great organizational skills, I rose to this challenge time after time, getting this particular aspect of our lives down to perfection. When I saw my "life in boxes", moving to the next possibility of happiness, I wondered if the moving would ever end. Was happiness really “out there” somewhere? My husband thought it was. That means one of us was sure of something. My son was 6 years old, and quite adaptable, also. He thought that he would make friends anywhere we went, although he hated leaving the 3 Montano boys in Kirkland. You might ask "where was I in all of this?" In looking back, I wonder what I was thinking, why I wasn't doing the deciding instead of putting our lives in the hands of an unhappy husband?
We lasted precisely three months in Detroit, where we moved somewhat near my husband's office. Barely unpacked, Detroit was followed by a second quick move to South Lyon, MI, where we purchased a house across the street from Silver Lake. During that first particularly bitter cold winter there, we took a trip over Winter Break to Lido Key, FL beside Siesta Key. Imagine me back on the beaches I had moved from 20 years earlier, after leaving my first husband. The thought arose in my mind that I could live here year round, if I chose, very near the beach I had previously enjoyed, and not even have to leave my husband and child this time. I felt that perhaps happiness was just around the corner if I forced this decision, and I felt it was also worth another move. And as I gained momentum, this move was my sole mission! I was certain that my happiness was right where I had left it about 20 years ago on a beach here in FL.
As I packed our lives up in boxes again, we made an agreement that Florida would be our final move. Life would just have to work out for us there, because all this moving had to stop. Our son was now eight years old, and had already attended five different elementary schools at this point. My husband was able to keep his MI job and could represent the southern territory for his company. So we moved to Lido Isle, and rented a house on the water, putting our life in boxes into a storage unit while looking for the perfect house to buy, on the water, with space for our growing eight year old son…and we found it. It was a For Sale By Owner, and it was on a canal leading to the Intracoastal Waterway, with a boat dock, room for a pool, a big yard for our athletic son, and palm trees swaying in the breeze. I loved it at first sight. Even though Florida has very hot summers, I loved the soft warm breezes on my skin, the tropical casual atmosphere, and inexpensive waterfront living. Home sweet home, at last. For sure we could all be happy here.
We packed up the moving truck and took our boxes out of storage into our new little house in Osprey, FL. It was October of 1998 and life could now settle down and begin again for us. Within a few months, my husband began to complain about his discomfort with the heat. Next he really didn’t like the way people drove, or the number of elderly folks sharing the area. Even though our son was in a gifted school and had his idea of a dream life with baseball three seasons out of the year, and after I had become a successful real estate agent, my husband decided he wasn’t happy in FL after all. I had just designed and installed a fabulous swimming pool and hot tub and had placed a boat at our dock. To me, how could anyone want anything else in order to be happy? Key West, the island of some childhood vacations, was at our fingertips, and the white beaches of Siesta Key and Casey Key were a few minutes away. I was happy and successful here. And we were all healthy, had incomes that were more than ample, and we had free time to jump in the boat and explore the Intracoastal Waterway, fish to our heart’s desire, and find those hidden private beaches accessible only by boat! I was finally living my version of my dream life. We’d sit in our hot tub, sipping cocktails from our own tiki bar, and look up through swaying palm trees to watch the stars and moon pass overhead. Life was very, very good for me, yet happiness eluded us and he continued to pressure me with his unhappy comments and his unhappy face, asking to leave our little paradise behind. He just knew for sure that we should be living in California with those kinds of people, instead of leading life in Florida.
He began to take business trips to see what opportunities were in CA, and he managed to find what he felt was the perfect, strategic move for his professional career. How could I deny him this opportunity? After all, I reasoned, I could be a real estate agent anywhere, couldn’t I? My married daughter now lived in Sonoma County, CA and her husband had a great job with Bontterra Winery in Hopland near San Francisco. She really wanted us nearby, since she was marrying her dream guy out there and would settle in. My son and I looked at each other with sadness. We knew our life would be in boxes again soon. Even he had discovered by now the ability to adapt to life on the move after attending six different elementary schools by the age of 9. What was one more?
The strangest thing happened while putting on a yard sale during my husband’s next interview in CA, and I know it was a pivotal moment in my life. As the yard sale day progressed, all had quieted down suddenly. A middle-aged black woman got out of her car and walked straight up to me, and then proceeded to look me up and down and circle around me several times. I asked her what she was shopping for, but she didn’t answer. Instead, she stared at me, around me, behind me, and apparently through me. She was accompanied by another middle-aged woman and both women looked deeply at me. Finally, the black woman said to me, “you haven’t done what you came here to do. You haven't been paying attention to why you are actually here."
Next she demanded that I show her what I was selling inside my house”. By this time, I had speed dialed 911, and with my finger on the SEND button of my cell phone as I walked into my living room, bedrooms, and patio pointing out all the items that were for sale inside my house. She finally stopped, gripped my arm, and said “you give the biggest parts of yourself away. Why do you do this? You haven’t been doing what you came here to do this time around, and I’m here to tell you this. Do what you came here to do. Walk toward that which you fear.” After stating this, she and her friend abruptly turned to leave. As she walked away, with me standing there with my mouth hanging open, she said to me, “Remember…I’m only The Messenger”. And then they drove away.
Is It HERE that I could have woken up?
These words have stayed with me since that time twelve years ago and they echo within my mind today. Was she “the messenger”, as she claimed to be, and do we get messages and help and information all along the way? I told many of my friends about this incident, right after it happened, and none of them could come up with answers as to what it meant. No one else had ever had this happen to them. As for me, I have thought back on this event often, even as I packed up my boxes, yet again, for the move to Walnut Creek, CA. I hadn’t even bothered to get rid of them from the last move, as it seemed I would need them again some day soon. With the house rented, we drove away from my happiness into the unknown.
The movers came the next day for my boxes, and we drove off to California to pick out an apartment in Walnut Creek, a suburb of San Francisco near Berkeley, where my husband's new job awaited him, trying to beat the moving truck there. The drive across the country with our son in the backseat, and our cat, Callie, sleeping on a pillow between us, took us across the U.S., giving us a look at the world between the East Coast and West Coast. We passed through the rowdy streets of New Orleans, the Texas Rio Grande, and experienced Albuquerque’s red-orange sunsets. When we arrived in front of the moving van, with about two hours to spare and minutes to finalize an apartment costing three times what our house payment was in FL, I wasn’t too sure life would actually be better here at all. As it turned out, it wasn’t.
What seems very clear to me now, with the gift of looking back, is that one can’t move to a new location and successfully leave any problems behind. They simply get packed up into your boxes and accompany you to your next stop. I discovered that I couldn’t really change anything by changing my location. The issues and problems of my relationship definitely got packed up with our possessions, and they reappeared just as surely as grandma’s teacups and mom’s homemade quilts appeared as the boxes were unpacked. I know this is true, because at this point I had experienced this over and over again by now. I just didn’t know what to do about it.
What I did unpack, along with our boxes, was the deepest depression I had ever experienced. I experienced dark hours of wondering why my life was so messed up. I slept in late, wanted to nap during the day, and went to bed earlier and earlier each night in order to escape my circumstances. After this latest move of ours, I began to understand that a happy life isn’t a matter of where you live, but instead a matter of how you live and that it really matters whether you have been packing up happiness on all these moves or merely just your possessions, because you end up unpacking what you have packed up as you move on. I discovered that happiness isn’t “out there” anywhere, and it didn’t matter how many times I moved, while trying to establish it; happiness is an inside job.
I would have to say I hit rock bottom there in Walnut Creek, CA in 2002. This depression, which had also been in my life at 28 and 42 now hit me even harder at 49. It was a familiar visitor by now and I felt a deep darkness descend upon me and I began to wonder if this world would be better off without me. I remember thinking during a hike up a mountain that it would only hurt for a little bit if I happened to step off the edge of Mt. Diablo, the mountain in Walnut Creek just south of where we lived. But what would happen to my son? I didn't ever want to hurt this sweet child of mine nor my beautiful daughter.
In hindsight, this particular depression contained the gift of waking me up once and for all. It seemed that this time my heart's yearnings would not be ignored and set aside if I was to pull myself out of this depression and begin to live again. In this darkest of sad times for me, I read a book written by Dr. Phil entitled “Self Matters”. As I think back, I actually bought it for my husband, who shelved it to be read later. Instead I was the one who ended up picking it up one day, and I began to read it myself. This book took me by the hand to begin exploring things about myself that I hadn’t been aware of. It helped me see through the fog in my mind as I looked at pivotal moments and pivotal people in my life, all of which had formed my outcomes. It walked me through homework designed to awaken the dead parts of myself and to begin to understand how I had come to this point in my life, not at all by accident. It introduced the "victim" persona to me, which I had indulged for my entire life up until this point.
As a novice explorer, I made the first big decision of my life by saying NO to my husband when he proposed our next move to Anchorage, AK where a new job awaited him, after the Berkeley job let him go. I told him he'd be going alone, and that we would be separating at this point in our marriage. He left for Anchorage and I began to sort out what I wanted to do for my son and our life together.
I felt free for the first time in a long time and also very sad and scared. But there was something alive in me at the same time as I packed up my life in boxes that I had unpacked only ten months ago. I said goodbye to precious new CA friends and put everything we owned into a storage unit in CA, with a plan to give myself time to think about what I really wanted to do next. I decided to temporarily move back to MI to stay with my sister, Julie, on Townline Lake while I read more books, had the support of my family to sort out my life, and while I figured out where to go next and what to do. My daughter, Lizzie, really wanted us back in Seattle, where she had recently relocated with her new husband. And I truly loved Alki Beach, and so did my son, but I wanted to be sure this time.
The three months I spent on the lake with my sister, sailing, laughing, swimming, seeing old MI friends and reading and studying changed my life. I read "Seat of the Soul", "The Power of Now", "The Dream Book", "You Can Heal Your Life" and several other inspirational books, all of which inspired me to look into myself. and my deepest desires. I realized how passive I had been, how I had allowed someone else to dictate my life, my happiness, and how I lived. What had I been thinking?
The separation went forward, with distant communication, which gave me an emerging sense of self. My son was occupied with fishing, kayaking, and learning to ride a jet ski. I experienced an emerging understanding that I had married from the standpoint of "wishful thinking", instead of marrying a person who had matching values. I had married a man who I knew was not grown up, even though I had thought he would eventually grow up and transform into the actual person I desired. Twelve years with him had clearly taught me this lesson well, even while I stubbornly refused to see that you can't change anyone. I reasoned that he could still change, if only he wanted to. I used anger and displeasure to try to influence him, which was also a losing proposition for both of us.
It became clear to me that I had also tried the same thing in my previous marriage. I had married a cold, unaffectionate man who I believed I could influence to be warm and outwardly loving. I thought we could end up with a deep sense of emotional connection, because that was what I truly wanted. When I was unable to change him, I left him, feeling like a total failure. I didn't have the understanding at that time to know that when a person shows himself/herself to you, one simply should accept and believe what they hear and see! I realize now that I didn't have to choose that person for my life partner, but could have simply learned the lesson of acceptance, rather than attempting to transform someone into who I wanted in the first place.
What in me ever came up with the idea that I could change anything or anyone? Or that I even had the right to try? I had apparently brought the practice of using sure willpower, a trait I developed as a child, to try to control the circumstances I lived in. On the farm, we had been taught to suck it up and make the best out of everything, and I had brought this belief forward into my adult life, and had thought that I could always turn lemons into lemonade. When I think back on my childhood, it hadn’t necessarily worked then either. I sure wish I had learned sooner, though, but of course, that would be me trying to change what is, yet again!
After the summer, I chose to move back to Alki Beach, WA where I had two things going for me. My daughter lived in the area, and this beach town was very familiar to me. So I made the choice to move back across the U.S. and resume life in an apartment right beside Alki Elementary school, where my son could walk 20 steps to his 5th grade class. He was happy to be back near his sister, and to be back where we had spent five years walking the beach trail and playing in the sand, and he was happy to be back to familiarity. The school had it's own challenges going on with predominantly low-income students, many of whom had working parents and who had no supervision. I was unemployed, trying to figure out how to get my life back on track, and knew there had to be answers to the massively huge problems spreading themselves at my feet with no solutions. I had a FL house that was about to go into foreclosure due to renters who had suddenly vacated the premises without notice. There was an insurance bill due in the amount of $5,000 for flood, wind, hurricane, fire and house insurance, and hurricanes were also predicted to hit my area down there in the next month. I felt like I was watching my life fall apart yet again. I had no employment, no income, and rent was also due on my Alki Beach apartment, as my savings account quickly drained away. The stress began to engulf and overwhelm me and waves of panic settled in when I was told that I also needed an operation to stop the hemorrhaging from six fibroid tumors. Since we had no health insurance either, that wasn't a feasible option.
So far, this spiritual path I had begun had left me with nothing but questions and a good deal of panic, and I felt more anger creeping into my mind daily. Finally, after many weeks of ranting and raving at God and a non-stop inner litany of what was going to happen to me due to my latest choice of moving back to Alki Beach, I literally said, "God, if you are so great, why are you failing me"? I dropped to my knees and said, "if you are really there, you better answer me right now with miracles, because I need several of them, and I need them now". I don't know if God likes a lot of sassy talk. I would have been backhanded across the room, if I had spoken to my parents like this during my childhood, but I was pretty angry at this point. How could the rest of the world around me just keep moving along, while I was stuck in reverse and in fear, as I watched in horror as our lives were slipping down the drain? This not only didn't seem fair, it seemed WRONG. It was what I call "piling-on"!
At about this time, I picked up Louise Hay's book, "You Can Heal Your Life". I opened this book, and it poured out its wisdom about how our bodies end up with the end results of what we've been thinking and believing. I read about biting my fingernails, which were down to bleeding nubs now, and about bleeding fibroid tumors. I figured that my fingernails could wait. In this book, Louise Hay states that the cause of fibroid tumors is "nursing a hurt from a loved one. A blow to the feminine ego". I thought back to when I was first diagnosed with fibroid tumors, and I realized that my interpretation of my husband's interest in another woman and my beliefs about myself and about him could be at the base of the appearance of the tumors. I had nothing to lose by trying her affirmation about releasing these thoughts, which was to be practiced daily by saying "I release the pattern in me that attracted this experience. I create only good in my life."
After all, what did I have to lose by trying this new thought and this new practice? After consulting with my doctor, she scheduled an ultrasound and then informed me she was scheduling me for a hysterectomy. I told her about my desire to heal myself and I asked her if it was even possible. She paused for a minute, looking strangely at me and then she said that she had witnessed things she could not explain, but she stopped short of saying that it actually was possible to heal myself. She did, however, grant me six weeks to "experiment" with myself. After that, she said she would not be held responsible for my outcome.
With six weeks to work with, I began a daily ritual of walking along Alki Beach, stating the new affirmation hundreds of times while I walked. I have to admit that I wasn't actually nice about it at first. My raging ego had plenty to say during these walks, constantly interjecting lots of blame for God and for my husband, and for my circumstances. Time after time, I silenced my ego and walked on, affirming a new truth for myself. I kept releasing the old patterns in me that had attracted this experience, and toward the end of the six weeks, I actually stopped in my tracks and stared at my abdomen, because it felt like it used to feel when my pregnant belly would flip flop with the movements of my unborn child. I wondered what had happened, and felt so strange for the next few minutes that followed. I continued to walk and to attempt to heal my body.
I knew I couldn't have the impending operation, nor did I want to have this operation, from a physical nor financial standpoint, but I had decided to let God handle the details of this for me, whatever the outcome would be. This behavior was very new for me. At this point, I didn't trust myself, God, or anyone else...yet I felt compelled to do things differently than I had before. That meant I had to be different. Up until now (three words that have turned my life around), I had done everything my way. I definitely had the results of what my knowledge, vision, actions, ego, and outcomes were. I didn't want more of what I'd already been through. This meant turning to the unknown, which really scared me deeply. But I reasoned that I had to do something, ANYTHING, differently!
The day for the pre-op ultrasound came, and I showed up on time for my appointment with the experts. Two male doctors came into my exam room, while I waited in a gown for the ultrasound to begin. They smeared the gooey gel on my abdomen, and began their tests. It didn't take long for quizzical looks to cross their faces, and it didn't take long for them to decide on a second test. Next was an ultrasound on the inside of my body. Both ultrasounds showed absolutely no sign of any fibroid tumors. They even went as far as to angrily ask me for proof of my identification, which I happily supplied to them. They ranted at me that the previous ultrasounds showed 6 huge tumors, and they produced the previous test records to show me. Then they said they couldn't explain this, as fibroid tumors never disappear. They grow, they shrink, but they do not disappear. They said they didn't know how this was possible. I hopped off the table, and simply said "I know how it's possible." I got dressed, walked out of their offices, reported the results to my personal gynecologist, and she was speechless. Perhaps I was her teacher on that day. Perhaps she will include the possibilities of creating miracles in her practice, but that will be up to her. As for me, I was astounded and happy. To say that my whole life began to turn around that day would be a great understatement. I only knew that this new path would be one that I would stay on after what I had just experienced.
I decided to form a little partnership with God. It's amazing what one miracle can do in a person's life. How could I ever think differently, once I had experienced my healing miracle? I knew that I had opened up an incredible possibility for my life when I took the chance, even if I had been backed into a corner by it, of believing in God and in the power that operated within my life. I've never been a religious person. I have experienced many religions, and I have seen the drawbacks within each religion I had experimented with. Some religions had shown me that they only take place behind four walls, and then no one walked their talk. Others were steeped in traditions, all of which seemed silly to me, as I watched people mindlessly go through the words and motions, while their minds were somewhere else. Others provoked great thoughts, but turned out to be only about money. Where was God in any of these places? The God I had started to know wasn't inside of any building, but had actually addressed me personally as I walked the Alki Beach trail. This God seemed to be able to personalize itself in my experiences...and I definitely wanted to explore this further.
There seemed to be no shortage of reasons to come back to the new experiences of this God of mine, as I needed a couple more miracles, and I needed them both quickly. With my new healthy outlook and my new body of evidence working quite well, I moved on to my FL house that was about to go into foreclosure.
This time, I told God, in no uncertain terms, that I needed a cash buyer for my FL house and it had to sell and close within two weeks. I prayed quite clearly to God, very explicitly explaining what I needed to have happen, and also said to God "you helped me before, so help me again". I know...You are probably thinking "who do I think I am". At that point, I didn't know who I was. I merely needed another miracle, and I wasn't afraid to ask for it after the amazing healing I had just been through.
My belief was that God works miracles, even when I can't, and a cash buyer made an offer the very next day, and my FL house sold and closed within two weeks. How in the world would I ever be the same again? The answer is that I wouldn't.
After two back-to-back miracles, I had my third request. I asked God to help me find a job. I even answered two or three different employment ads, asking that I have the right job to support my son and I. My husband had been fired from his Anchorage job, and had come back to live with us, and he was also unemployed. We had overdue rent to pay, and a lot of catching up to do on our bills and promises. I needed a job that would handle this big agenda, and I sure wasn't afraid to call on God at this point. I still had no understanding of God, nor did I have time to think much about it. I was reeling from the magnitude of what had just happened in the previous few weeks, and I knew that I was finally on the right track. That was all I needed to know right then.
I interviewed for what seemed to be a good job as the front office manager for a chiropractic office in West Seattle. It paid only $12/hour, and I didn't see how I could make life work on that small amount of money. It was the only place that had actually offered me a job.
I told the doctor of this office that I needed a few days to think it over, and I would get back to him. Meanwhile, I checked in with God.
I took a long walk on Alki Beach's walking path, and I asked God for an answer as to whether I should take this job that had been offered to me. I explained how desperate I was feeling, and how I didn't know what to do. I told God I didn't want to make any mistakes, so I was asking for guidance.
Continuing what I now called my spiritual journey, I had just finished reading Ram Dass' book "Journey to Awakening", and I read that it was possible to hear direct communication or messages during meditations. I decided that after my two previous miracles, I would use my Alki walking time as a walking meditation. I had no idea what I was doing. My only instruction was to stop the constant voices in my head from yapping away at me, terrorizing me, torturing my mind with comments on how bad the world is, how bad my life was, what terrible choices I make and how much worse things were about to get. How could I even hear God, with all this racket going on? It would be a very big job to quiet this loud ranting voice I had heard all of my life, but I persisted anyway. I have to say that it took me six weeks, three hours of walking each day, before I could hear the first gap of silence. Words came to me in a very still, calm place of pure silence, and it was peaceful. I actually experienced complete silence. Now I knew it existed, just as Ram Dass' book had told me it did. I was in "the gap", where I could hear God speak. Of course the voice of what I now knew as my ego started back up again almost immediately, playing out it's well worn tape I knew so well. But the amazing thing I experienced was a few moments of pure silence, and I wanted more of that.
On my next attempt, the very next day, I got another opportunity to ask, "what do I need to know". And then it happened. I heard the very first message I ever heard in my life. I knew it wasn't the usual voice I'd heard for years in my head. It actually shocked me to hear the unknown quiet few words, in a tone I didn't recognize at all. It stopped me in my tracks. I heard the message "The Truth".
Now, I didn't know what “The Truth” meant, and I wouldn't know for a very long time. What in the world did this mean? What is "The Truth"? I pondered this message for the rest of the day, as I cooked dinner, prepared for the end of another day, and went to sleep for the night. I had added another book at my bedside table. This is a book I use to this very day by Betty Bethards called "The Dream Book" written over 30 years ago. Since I had always remembered my fascinating, sometimes terrorizing dreams for most of my life, I learned from this book that there are messages in my dreams, and if I chose to pay attention to those messages, there would be valuable information for my life's questions.
I had a dream that night, where a ticker-tape message came across my mind. That message came flashing through my mind again and again, until I quickly grabbed a journal that I kept under my pillow and wrote it down in my sleepy haze. The very interesting message was "when you stop dancing, the dance will stop". Once again, I had no idea what this meant at that time. But I knew it was important. I had begun a journal of messages given to me, and I continued to track my dreams, to keep writing them down, to use my Dream Book to decipher them, and to eventually become an expert on what my dreams mean in my life. They ARE messages!
I realized that I was gaining some very important tools that I could use in my everyday life, and I started to feel more calm, even though I still didn't have employment. This brought me back to the practical application of my meditation as a tool to know what to do next.
On my next Alki Beach walk, I asked a specific question, "should I take this job in the chiropractor's office". I walked along, listening intently, hoping for an answer...and I got one. The message was "Don't Limit Yourself". What a shock this was. I thought I would hear "grab that job and get to work". I didn't.
Not that I was angry at God, this God of great miracles, but the bill collectors were started to be a bit unpleasant, so I decided to tell God off a little bit. I said "what do you expect me to do here? If you have an answer as to what I should be doing, you better bring it to me quickly". I heard no more messages that day.
The next day, I was scheduled to babysit for a good friend's three boys for the weekend, which put me over on the Eastside of Seattle. She left me magazines to read, wine to drink, and I had time to sit in the sunshine and time alone. My son could stay home with my unemployed husband, and I grabbed the opportunity to be alone while my friend's three boys were in school. The magazine I picked up to read was Oprah's brand new "O" magazine, and the front cover said "DREAM BIG". I opened to that article, and it ended up changing my life. As I know now, there are no accidents.
This article explained that we are all here on this Earth to share our natural gifts. It talked about how most people simply get a job, and then wonder why they feel unhappy and unfulfilled for years, while they work their lives away. It went on to give amazing tests to help the reader figure out what her natural gifts might be. It went even further with helping each person to sum it all up into creating work that shares one's natural gifts, in a way that doesn't feel like work, and for which one would be well-paid. This peaked my interest, so I walked myself through all of the tests, and came up with the fact that I had many natural abilities, built up over the first half of my life through so many scenarios and places and moves and people, all of which hadn't made any sense to me until that exact moment.
I realized I had been building up a body of evidence and experience that summed up my amazing talents for organizing, flexibility, and wisdom. After working as a crop picker, egg gatherer, horse trainer, high school principal's secretary, secretary to many others along the way, personal assistant, bartender/psychologist, daycare and preschool owner, seller of real estate, advertising, yachts, and products, I had developed a skill set of such variety that I truly felt I could walk into any situation and meet anyone and know at least a little something about quite a few things. Not only that, but I could walk into a huge mess, as witnessed by two marriages, and many offices, and I could personally whip these people and their situations into perfect shape, but then wish to move on to the next challenge. My resume looked like the lives of 10 people, all combined into one. I had travelled the world, lived here, there and everywhere, and had been able to pack up houses in two days, move and unpack in one day, presenting a house that looked like I'd been there forever. What did all these talents and experiences add up to?
In my case, they added up to becoming a Personal Organizer. According to "O" magazine, I needed to have my own business, which seemed impossible to me, yet exciting. I didn't know the first thing about being a Personal Organizer, but the thought would not leave my mind. Is this what was meant when I heard "Don't Limit Yourself"?
I decided I had nothing to lose by exploring it. When I went back to the little Alki Beach apartment, I got out the yellow pages and looked up Personal Organizing, and came across a woman's name who lived a few blocks away from me. Kathy Johnson said she would meet me for breakfast the next morning, and would tell me how she worked and what her work entailed, but that I wouldn't be working with her, because she worked alone. I also liked the idea of working alone, so we met and talked for hours. We are still friends to this day, and we recently worked on a friend's house together. We work very well together, as it turns out, but we mostly work alone.
Kathy pointed me to The Women's Business Exchange in downtown Seattle, and they happened to be meeting the very next morning at 7:00 a.m. Since I had no car, I needed to be up at the crack of dawn, catch a bus downtown, and walk into their breakfast meeting without even having business cards. I decided to take a leap of faith and do it anyway. As it turned out, just showing up was enough. I got my very first client that morning, who begged me to come with her and straighten out her office. I did. And that is where my current business began. Suddenly other clients started calling me. When I asked them how they heard about me, they didn't know. Then others began calling me because of word-of-mouth, and my business took off with great energy and very happy outcomes, and I made double what I thought I would.
What I learned is that as I ask, it is given. When I asked for an answer, a miracle was delivered. I finally found a perfect way to use my natural gifts, and it doesn't ever feel like work. Some of my work is very heavy, moving furniture, shoveling out the homes of obsessive/compulsives, and fine tuning beautiful homes into master showpieces. Some of my work is organizing offices, events and homes, and much of it is organizing the habits of those who are not having a very good experience with how they have been conducting their lives. My job includes teaching my clients that change is inevitable, and that it is very very good. We all will constantly change, and we will go through continual changes. Embracing this makes it all a lot easier.
Every client has their own willingness to move through changes they wish to make in their lives. Some will drag their heels, some jump right off the edge, and some turn around and retreat. As I follow this path that I chose, I fall in love more and more with my life, with my work, with the service I offer to others, and with the change I see happening right in front of my eyes on behalf of every client in need. I love the fact that I never know who is going to call, but I always know that there is something for each of us to learn, which excites me every single day. I approach each new situation with the certainty that I have something to learn and that my client in my teacher, as I am theirs.
As I began to wake up from what I call “the sleep”, I felt like I had been asleep for most of my life. I discovered that my step-by-step journey had unfolded in the only way it could have, with me figuring my life out one step at a time. Lao Tzu states that "the journey of a lifetime begins with a single step", he couldn't have been more right. Even though, up until now, I had chosen to lead my life based on somebody else’ ideas of life and also by their agendas, I couldn't get that time back now. I chose what I chose. While this realization has caused me deep grief, pain, sadness, and years lost, I know that my passive stance on making choices for my life took me down long and difficult paths because I had simply gone along with someone else' ideas and plans instead of taking responsibility for making my own life choices. Despite this realization, I decided to give up my sadness because I know that I did the best that I could do, during my past years. I understand that I could only know what I knew then, and I couldn't have done anything differently than I already did it. I did the best I could with the information and belief system I had at the time, and I am now in a state of humble forgiveness for myself and everyone who played their parts to help me wake up. Everyone of us are playing parts, in order to help each other during this lifetime. One master I encountered told me, "there's no one out there...only you". She told me that I had only been encountering myself over and over again, looking in mirror after mirror to show me what I have been thinking and believing. I can only see reflections of myself…and if I don't like what I see, than I have to change ME and what I'm saying, doing, thinking, and feeling.
I now realize that if I choose to live my life passively, trying to please someone else, I won't get to actually lead my own particular version of life. I now understand that I can't even take the advice of anyone, including my parents or friends, because this journey is of my own choosing, through the free will granted to me when I was born. I had to learn exactly what I have now learned, bringing me right to this day of my 60th year of my life, understanding that I willingly choose it all. If I don't participate in my own life, I will wake up years from now living someone else' version of life again, and my life will have slipped away, used up by someone else. Life is meant to unfold, a little at a time, lifetime to lifetime, giving each of us time to really understand ourselves fully, and to learn to express our possibilities, gifts, abilities, and outcomes as we grow. We need to actually experience everything, as everyone in order to have deep compassion for our fellow travelers. I feel as if I've been here for many many lifetimes. Maybe that "messenger" who came up to me in FL knew something I don't. She said I hadn't done what I came here to do, and this would be my last time around. I wonder if she's right…or if I'm just getting started.
When I think about it now, I wonder what took me so long to begin to look inside myself. Couldn’t I have read the right book a long time ago? The answer for me was obviously no, because I didn’t. Some of the very same books that I have recently read, that have helped me so tremendously, were actually sitting on my bookshelves years ago, moving with me from place to place, but I couldn't see them back then. Then again, my life has unfolded in perfect timing and it's not necessary to judge how it could have gone otherwise. I have no power to change the past. That much I’m sure of. I know that this has been a very tricky area for me...to let go of the way I thought things should have gone. I guess I had some big ideas, like going to medical school, or becoming a famous psychologist...none of which happened because of my choices to help ex-husbands, kids, friends and others to achieve their dreams instead. Who would I have been if I had concentrated on my own dreams? Where would I be now? That is something I will only know in hindsight, as a perfect soul when I return to the light. But I certainly know who I am and can be today, and can choose to focus my energy on my own work, service, and my own life right now. Yes, the power of now. We all have it, but sometimes we don’t choose to give up focusing on past mistakes in order to use the power in this present moment. This is yet another trap.
For me, waiting for the right time to act on a new course has actually helped me develop a degree of patience and decidedness that I never knew I had before. While my idealized self imagines that I can instantly act out my ideas, plans and goals, the self living inside my skin sometimes gets stuck when it comes to moving ahead. My ego still flares up and warns me not to make changes, and yet my life and my work and my outcomes are ever changing anyway, whether I like it or not. At this stage in my life, I’m only just now learning to love and accept myself, and I’m still working on loving others, just as they are, without trying to change them or their circumstances. I am only now beginning to develop compassion for myself and for others who attempt to move through their own fears and into action steps that will bring them the life of their dreams. When it comes to making life choices, each person’s journey is their very own, and they are entitled to it, with all the outcomes that come with the choices they make. Yikes. Making choices is sometimes enough to make me pull the covers up over my head and stay in bed for a month, because what this really means is that I am responsible for my life and all of its outcomes. I must break old habits and behaviors or endure an unfulfilled stalled life that takes me backwards, yet again. Yet, isn’t this life? I'm in "Earth School", as I affectionately refer to it. Every single day that I am lucky enough to wake up and breathe, I get to make more choices, see more outcomes, and experience more of this amazing thing called life. I get to see the outcomes and my power to create whatever I desire! Most days now, I throw back the covers in gratitude and spring from my bed ready to jump into the day, filled with optimism and excitement, and other days I feel overwhelmed with life and the unknowns coming my way. It's such a huge responsibility to create my own happiness, yet I deeply feel that each of us is actually fully equipped to handle life and to make it magnificent, if we could each just move through our fears to the absence of fear. We have all the power in the world, when we refuse to listen to the limitations of our egos and the messages of this world. We must wake up and use this power wisely!!!
At this point in my life, I'm ashamed to admit that some of my deepest fears caused me to lash out in anger at the people living with me and to those who are friends with me, while my ego tries it's best to manipulate everyone and everything in ways that it tells me will keep me safe. What a massive illusion we all live in, while we all dance like puppets to the ego's tune, afraid to be fearless flyers. "Who would you be if you knew you could not fail" is the message on the little purse mirror that I bought at The Plain Hardware, where I stay in a cabin in the mountains to contemplate this question. I always discover that my fear goes back to when I was just a small child, truly dependent on the goodwill of others for my very survival, and it shows me all the hidden beliefs and all of the conclusions I drew from my childhood that I told myself were The Truth. As a 5 year old, I told myself stories about how life really is, and then continued to live out that little 5 year old's stories and beliefs about people and life. This is the trap of the ego. This is when the ego invents itself, and that voice inside our heads begins to counsel us on how to stay safe. That voice is the ego’s voice, and it is telling lies. It exists for us to overcome, and it is the ultimate test. What I heard is that I must try harder to be loved, and that I must do whatever it takes to please those around me in order to be safe. When I look back on my life, I see that those were the beliefs that made all of my decisions for me. Those limiting beliefs guided me into every corner that I painted myself into, and it took me half of my life in order to discover that this is what was running my life. Pivotal moments and pivotal people set the stage for ego to run my life instead of the creative God force that is inside of me and everyone else, for that matter. It took me 50 years to wake up, question my beliefs and outcomes and to grab my world and reverse its direction, with Spirit's help. When I finally asked for guidance, I discovered it was there all along. My coping skills were just so strong, that I kept thinking that if I just tried harder, or tried something else, I could overcome. What a struggle my life has been, up until now. I wish I hadn't been such a Warrior when it comes to giving up a losing battle. However, as I've said a few times now, I know that this loss of time is merely a drop in the bucket of eternity…my guides tell me I'm right on time and have done very well. Thank you, my messengers.
Visionaries tell us that the ego’s voice talks to us about 60,000 times a day. This voice is so seductive and powerful that we actually think we are hearing the truth. We are not. We all think this voice is OUR voice from our own mind…it is not. It is the voice of the ego, invented through fear, telling us it is here to protect us, yet trapping each of us in its prison of lies. The ego is invented through the very first incidents that register in our minds as real. It creates itself by our perceptions about these incidences as young impressionable children. We believe in the conclusions that we draw and we believe in the interpretations we hear ego state to us, and begin to form our worlds around the beliefs about what happened. These beliefs are set very deeply into the subconscious mind, and remain tucked away, sometimes for lifetimes, slyly operating our lives for us. This innocent time of our lives called childhood is when we get sucked into the mind of ego and its insistence upon its own Truth. This is the time we fully engage in the work we came here to do and where we work on the lessons we signed up to learn. We came here to wake up and to know The Truth, and to release anything that isn’t The Truth. I am taken back to the answer to my question on Alki Beach 10 years ago…”What Do I Need To Know”? Answer: The Truth.
In studying A Course In Miracles, I've come to understand that we are asleep and dreaming that we could actually be separated from God, which isn't actually possible. But we think it is, and that is where the fear sets in. We think of our God as an angry God, one that judges us, punishes us in this lifetime and beyond, and one who is usually displeased with us. No wonder we are afraid. But we are merely asleep and dreaming this. And in order to awaken, we must bring every one of our sleeping brothers and sisters with us into The Truth. There is only God, and that powerful being experiences life AS US, THROUGH US, without any judgement and condemnation. We are the God stuff itself, individualized as us, with all of the attributes of God. Only we don't fully realize this, or we would act like it from the beginning, instead of being asleep to this for most of our lives or for lifetimes.
The true voice of our soul and the wise one within is known through pure silence. It is the absence of any thought and is the wisdom of the higher self, where nothing is wrong. It is the place of stillness and certainty and creation. It is God within, and the power over ego. We can only know this through silencing the ego and listening for God's communication.
It appears to take about half 0f a lifetime to question our outcomes and to begin to ask “isn’t there something more”. No wonder we call this the mid-life crisis. Sometimes we get forced into realizing that we've been living a lie when someone leaves us or hurts us, or we experience sudden changes and sometimes we don't ever realize it, and will perhaps come back to a new lifetime to try to wake up yet again. It doesn't matter, if you think in terms of Eternity. It does matter if you think that this is your only shot at life, happiness, and fulfillment. Either way, you are here to be happy, and are entitled to your version of what that is.
When I experienced my very first meditation message, as I asked "what do I need to know", and the answer was "The Truth", it sent me down a spiritual path over the past 12 years that I am still on. I continue to try to understand that this message asked me to see past the lies of my ego, to stop listening to that imprisoning voice, and to discover what The Truth actually is. It isn’t the first time that I’ve received a strong message, but it was the first time I chose to listen to it instead of ignore it.
For me, this message didn't mean “the truth” I had decided on as a child; instead, it means the actual truth. It's not the fear-based information and warnings that the ego has been telling me all these years, out of it's place of deep fear, but instead it is the REAL TRUTH. I realize that in the past, I have fretted and stewed about what I couldn’t do, due to my own fear, and I never gave myself the chance to act on my own desires and happiness. I didn’t give myself a chance to see what I was actually capable of doing because fear was running my life. Uncovering what I fear, shining a bright spotlight into that dark place of black nothingness is where it gets tricky. How brave are you?
WHAT SHALL WE DO ABOUT THIS?
Seven years ago, I told my counselor I thought it was time to leave my marriage so that I could begin to live as I wanted to, and she counseled me to stay. When I asked her why, she told me that if I simply left, without making any changes within myself, I would go out into the world and attract and create exactly what I had already been experiencing, and I would continue to experience what I had not chosen to learn during this marriage. I stayed, and I now know she was right.
PATHWAY TO CHANGE
In order to experience a new path in life, I had to BE different inside of my head. My counselor suggested that a person could begin by making small changes. In her kindness, she started me off by telling me:
1) Begin by doing any little thing differently, and it can be anything at all. You simply choose something you usually do, and begin to do it differently.
I thought this was very good advice, so I started with something small and rather insignificant, and I did this one thing completely differently. I chose to wake up the next morning, and say what I was grateful for. It doesn’t sound like much, but just beginning a new habit put me in a positive state of mind which started my day off differently. It felt good to do something new and different, and I began to experience hope that things would begin to change for the better.
However, I quickly noticed that when I would walk out of my own private bedroom, after time spent in gratitude, I could easily see that no one else was playing the roles I had imagined they would, allowing me to easily enjoy my day that I had envisioned and expressed gratitude for just a few minutes earlier while still in bed. I immediately got angry and asked myself why this was happening. I had just stated that everyone else would treat me with respect and give me what I needed. The actions I received from my family didn’t match at all.
As I came across challenging people during the days that followed, I became acquainted with “the judge” in me. I wondered just how long she’d been on the job, because she seemed pretty good at it. I'd go so far as to call her thorough and relentless!
It became clear to me that I believed that another person’s actions or words could determine what kind of day I would have. I easily judged that this person was wrong, or that person was an idiot, or at least a very cruel human being. I would then rationalize my judgements, be angry, and then set out to prove just how wrong the other person actually was in their thoughts and actions! I would tell my story as if it was the utter truth. The compelling evidence I could gather in support of me being right was astounding. I, quite apparently, had been practicing this behavior for a very long time also, perhaps even lifetimes.
My intelligent mind is constantly organizing itself to come to certain conclusions, and I’m now learning that it is really up to me to see everything without judgement. My daily full-time job is to remove the blocks and obstructions in my own mind which hinder me from knowing the actual Truth. I don’t wish to interpret my world through my own perceptions and my own opinions, but instead to be in a state of allowing for the variety of people and situations that present themselves daily. It’s a waste of my life to judge others, simply because they don’t fit in with how I view life. Choosing to focus on myself is the only way out of this behavior for me. Yet choosing to see everything as good and in support of me is still my greatest challenge.
Why is it that we become so accustomed to looking at the glass as half empty, thinking we are seeing reality? Why, even when we learn differently, are we still tempted to forget what we’ve learned and to return to the comfort of our discomfort? Do we forget because we have experienced a lifetime of interpreting the world through fear and judgement, or is it because we have years and years of practice judging everyone and everything, through our own perceptions and filters? Have we convinced ourselves falsely because we haven’t learned to see past the past? Are we actively depriving ourselves of true happiness and peace, just for the chance to be right?
I am learning that my reality is whatever I make it, and my reality will change when I choose to think, see, and act differently. The changes in me sometimes seem so slow and subtle that I feel I will never wake up. Yet I know I wake up in both quantum leaps and sometimes just a little at a time, with the tiniest almost imperceptible feeling that something has now shifted and is finally different. It seems to take forever to reflect a pattern that is different from how I used to think, yet I don’t want to quit trying. I’m sure this is my lesson in Patience…
I continually choose to read books about subjects that will enrich my life and help me with personal growth. I study various forms of spirituality, and read about the beliefs and experiences of others, and I practice staying still. Sometimes I’m tempted to jump in and prove others wrong, but more often, I find happiness in letting others in, because everyone has valuable things to add that I hadn’t considered up until now. I get this great sense that I am returning to a state of wholeness as I choose a state of allowing for everyone and everything to express without judgement.
As I write this chapter, I’m actively planning the next stage of my life. I’m a big believer that our lives change every seven years, and we cycle through stages of our lives and the changes that come with those stages. As I reached the age of 56, I became acutely aware and excited that I am entering my next seven year cycle of life. At this time, I’ve decided to be much more proactive in choosing what this stage will be about. I feel hesitant and excited and scared and uncertain, because my life is in my hands and I’m responsible for the outcome. I contemplate the upcoming seven years with a sense of hope for the unknown, even though I’m afraid. There are so many things I’ve yet to accomplish, and goals and dreams I’ve yet to realize, and I feel both anxious and afraid to begin. I’m creating a year long sabbatical, for travel and enrichment in both experiences and in possibilities during my 60th year. In all of this uncertainty comes the fact that what I’m contemplating doing isn’t widely encouraged in this world of ours. One doesn’t just up and leave her life and venture off into parts unknown, or does she?
My 21 year old son, Zachary, has just entered his 3rd year of life on his own, filled with college, two new businesses he has started with partners and he’s planning his own big adventures in life. He has met a wonderful young woman who he loves deeply. My daughter, Elizabeth, is now 38 and has a 2 year old daughter of her own. I love Lisette very very much, and I can see that she will be treated with gentle loving care by her parents.
As for me, I divorced my husband of 20 years, sold my house, moved in with a friend to await my granddaughter’s birth outside of Seattle, and put my few precious possessions back into boxes! I know I will be moving forward into my own newly created reality. I hear the voice of fear as it speaks up loudly. “What if you fail, or get killed by a serial murderer? Who do you think you are? This is so unacceptable! Women who travel alone are stupid. This is a scary world, and you are taking big chances, missy!” The voice in my head goes on, and on, and on. Shall I let it stop me or thwart my big adventure? After all, does a woman simply walk out of her life and go exploring all of the new possibilities, and try out new adventures and ideas? Can she just leave?
When I recently announced my plans to go on sabbatical from my current life, it was met with some concern by family members. Some were more pronounced in their opinions than others. However, as time goes on, after giving my one year notice of my plan to do so, either the parties involved are keeping their thoughts to themselves, or the newness has worn off and a sense of acceptance is settling in. Or they think I’ll change my mind, and that this was just a wild hare! Either way, I continue to make my plans to spend a year or more of my life exploring myself, the places I haven’t seen in the U.S. that I am drawn to, and I am contemplating my own dreams and desires. After raising two children, 17 years apart in age, I’ve realized that my whole life has been about the caring and feeding and consideration of others. I love my children dearly, and they have been priceless and worth trading my life for. This includes my new granddaughter. But I’m worth tending and special care also.
It simply can’t be too much to ask to have a few of my years all to myself, to do with as I please. I know I’m not the first woman to think nor to act on this. After reading Anne Morrow Lindbergh’s “A Gift From The Sea”, and then reading Joan Anderson’s “A Year By The Sea”, and Elizabeth Gilbert’s “Eat, Pray, Love”, and “The Female Nomad” by Rita Golden Gelman, I feel certain and excited that they must have felt the same things I’m feeling. After a lifetime of service, isn’t it time for a break?
My big idea is to experiment with living in four places in the U.S. After moving 37 times thus far, some moves only a few blocks apart from where I’d been previously living, and after wandering around the U.S., always in a hurry and never allowing time to be curious enough to stay in the places I loved, I now desire to just meander a bit, and to move around this U.S. slowly and thoroughly. I’m choosing to take it one mile at a time, to explore, to talk to people, to photograph beauty, and to eat when I’m hungry and sleep when I’m tired.
After making moves that mostly suited the other people in my life, I am choosing to thoroughly explore my four most favorite places in the U.S., out of all the places I’ve lived. They just happen to be in four different sections of the U.S. Lucky me! That means a roadtrip, and lots of exploring and wandering in between. In all of my travels and moves, my favorite places are Alki Beach in West Seattle, WA; Townline Lake in Lakeview, MI; a Beach in FL; and my very favorite place of all, sunny CA. These four places touch my heart, and they are places that I’ve continued to visit every single year for the past 30 years, so I know I love these towns best of all. I want to live in all four. Why should I have to narrow it down to just one place? Is it possible to create a life that allows me to live in all four places? I aim to find out! But then again, this is a big beautiful world! Why limit it to just four places…I also want to see all of the National Parks, and go back to St. John and stay in my treehouse, and I want to do some of this while riding a Harley Davidson red trike!
After Lisette was born, a strange and wonderful series of things happened, straight off my Bucket List, which I'd been reading, re-reading, contemplating and dreaming about for the past six months, while living with my Seattle friend, Julie.
My Vision Board that I had created from my Bucket List, was filled with travel ideas, my perfect mate, prosperity and money as well as hopes and dreams of being a writer, spiritual teacher, organizer and builder or a Women's Retreat on a lake.
I got a call from my sister on Townline Lake in MI saying that a cabin I'd been interested in was back on the market at a much reduced price, and that if I wanted it, I'd better say YES today. And that is exactly what I did. I drained all of my savings, checking, and coin jars and I paid cash for this 1955 cabin I now live in, on the lake, across the street from her. It is so perfect for me, that I couldn't believe my eyes. I had originally been bidding $20,000 OVER the value of another smaller log cabin down the road, but all of my offers had always been rejected. I finally asked God to choose the right place for me, and here it sit, writing this book from the new back deck of my cabin, while watching the swans bring their babies by to say hello, while listening to the Loons sing each evening at sunset, and I am very very happy. This purchase left me $700 in the bank, not quite enough to move across the country with the items I had put in boxes 6 months ago, so I stayed and worked 18 hours a day with very flexible clients in order to save my moving money. During this next 2 months, I worked with a client named George who has single-handedly changed my life.
I call George my Earth-Angel, as he has helped me nonstop to achieve my dearest dreams. After my team helped get his Lake Sammamish house of 37 years ready to sell, following the death of his daughter and his wife, it sold in 2 weeks. He felt that I was instrumental in getting him going down the path he chose, which was a move to Missoula, MT. I think I was simply doing my job as a personal organizer. His house had been pretty well packed with collections of every sort on 2 different floors, and it was packed with years and years of life, all of which he wanted to downsize into a 6 X 10 trailer to hitch on the back of his Jeep to head to Missoula. He also had a 39' motorhome that he would live in there until he decided on a house for himself.
I ended up not having a car, as I left mine for my son to use in Seattle, so I hitched a ride with George to Montana, after the movers picked up my boxes to take them to my cabin. We had a blast, rolling past the rain and into Montana, and I enjoyed getting to see a few sights after we arrived, such as Glacier National Park's "Going to the Sun" Road, and the beautiful mountins and sights surrounding Missoula. Then I flew from Missoula to Chicago where I rented a car and spent a special birthday there with my friend Carol, who was celebrating her big 60th with a party, a ballgame between the Sox and the Cubs, and I got to meet many of her friends and her family. Then I drove on to my cabin in MI, turned in my rental car, and began a simple life there. My sister gave me rides into town to buy groceries, which turns out not to be a lot because of the bountiful local gardens nearby.
George came to visit me, see my cabin, and see what I call "Heaven on Earth" where I live. He felt I deserved a real estate commission equal to that of his agent, since it was my team that prepared the house to sell. I was able to buy a great used '08 Jeep with this generous check! I decided we would be great friends for the rest of our lives and we planned more visits back and forth, future travel adventures together, like fishing on the Missouri for trout with a guide, a month in New Orleans followed by a week on Anna Maria Island in FL…and 4 months in Arizona to see many of the most beautiful National Parks in that area like Grand Staircase Escalante, Bryce Canyon, Zion, Arches, Canyonlands and Moab. We saw Times Square and New York City for 10 days over New Years Eve and the days that followed, and four great plays. We ate in wonderful places and saw all that this great city has to offer! We also got to spend 10 days in my St. John Treehouse before they tore them down in May of 2013. What a great adventure we've enjoyed as travel companions and friends. I look forward to many more adventures ahead of us, despite his 80th year approaching rapidly! I tend to pack things in, though, and since he hasn't travelled hardly anywhere, everything I suggest goes over well. And some of those adventures will be on the Harley Davidson RED trike he bought me last year, as he truly feels I should have everything my heart desires, and he will do whatever he can to help make that happen! He bought himself a Trike, also, and he painted his army green. We look like Christmas going down the road! Life is so good and so fun, and I am truly blessed with an Earth Angel who has decided to have fun in his life, even at this late stage. There is never a perfect time like the present time to enjoy life, and we are here to be happy and feel good now. May I never ever forget this, ever again…and may all of my choices reflect this always.
Meanwhile, my plan is to drive the ‘blue highways’, stay off the beaten path, stop when I am delighted with an area, see friends along the way, explore everything thoroughly to my heart’s desire, and move on when I’m ready. I read a great book called “Blue Highways”, written in the early 80’s by William Least Heat Moon. He delighted me with his attention to the small details of tiny, almost hidden towns within the U.S., acquainting himself with the best 4-calendar diners (his theory on places with the best food) and with the people who inhabit these tiny towns. My plan is to leave from my cabin on my Trike, packed for a cross-country road trip and camping along the way with Sneetches the Wonder Cat, who was left on my doorstep in a shoebox as a 5 week old kitten last June. As it turns out, we share the same birthday. She turned one in June, and I turned 60. She's a great little traveler as my passenger on the Harley, as I took her with me starting at 8 weeks old, and since she didn't know she wasn't supposed to be on a motorcycle, she adapted perfectly, thinking this was normal. She will accompany me on all my big rides, as she is very adaptable, a great little camper, and an overall good sport about the noise. The goal for my big ride this summer is to see more National Parks, such as Teddy Roosevelt National Park, the Black Hills, and then to ride into Sturgis, South Dakota to see all the other adventurers on their bikes during Bike Week there. Its on my Bucket List, and I'm not going to miss this opportunity to enjoy that wild show! After Sturgis, I'll meander over to Montana to see George and other friends there, and to welcome my friend Linda who will fly in to hop on the back of my bike to go see Glacier National Park and The Going To The Sun Road with George and I on a Harley ride across that National Park, with a quick visit to Banff and Lake Louise also before my solo ride back to MI.
This will give me just enough time to pack up my new backpack to take off for a 6 week European adventure which will take me and my friend, Carol, to Lisbon Portugal where we will see the local sights and then begin a pilgrimage from Portugal to Santiago Spain on The Way of St. James, walking hundred of miles as the saints used to do, on their spiritual quests to know themselves and therefore know God. Only time will tell how this will all turn out, but I'm in this life for the long haul, and I intend to have the next 50 years be purely delightful.
I create my reality, and I'm busy designing it to dazzle me. We each have the same exact power within, no matter who you are or what you've done or where you've been. When we awaken to this power within, we discover that we are limitless and that we are here to learn, to grow, to experience, and to be happy and feel good. We are GOD itself, individualized as our amazing selves, and we have the greatest responsibility ever to WAKE UP and start using our power wisely.
Most people focus on the things that grab their attention, those compelling things that scream at them to pay attention to just how bad life is. We all focus on things that aren't happy things. However, it is ultimately advisable to turn our attention away from these fearful creations of ours and continually focus all of our creative attention on the things we DO want more of. Its a huge responsibility, and we are the only ones who can do this for ourselves. This has been the biggest thing I've ever learned and it is what I teach others now. My whole life has changed for the better, and it is because I quit listening to the fearful tapes the ego plays over and over again, and I declare The Truth…that I am God and I can create whatever I desire.
What do I take with me? I’m a Personal Organizer, so I don’t think organizing one small motorcycle vehicle can be that hard, but it will require me to choose what is really important to me and my roadtrip journey. I know that means making a packing list: Here’s what’s on mine:
1 Nikon Camera and various digital cards and lenses
1 laptop, new and ready to go wireless
1 iPhone 5 and charger
1 travel bag of clothes, and all-weather rain gear
1 cooler, tent, mini camp stove, and container of necessities
1 sleeping bag, pillow, and 1 self-inflating mattress pad
3 credit cards and cash
1 sheet liner for the sleeping bag
zip lock baggies
portable toilet and toilet paper
Will it be hard to actual stop what I always do in order to start out on the right foot for my journey. This is new for me, because right now I watch my days slip by in my old routines, I notice that I'm waiting for some reason. I find it is necessary to have lists of to-do’s for myself right now, because I slip into my old behavior of helping others around me to realize their goals instead of choosing to pay attention to my own. Note to self: WAKE UP!
This upcoming journey requires me to BE different now, to pay attention to my feelings, to ask myself questions, just as I have asked my kids for years. I pray “help me help myself”. I fear that I might slip into old patterns of ignoring what is right for me in favor of old habits of doing what is best for others. I pray for the strength to speak up for myself, to do what makes happy and to move forward on this my spiritual journey.