Digging Deep

I was so startled at this realization that a tear spontaneously formed and released.

Continued from Transcendent Study

“The past beats inside me like a second heart.” ~ John Banville

If you’ve never spent a week with people focused purely on love and transcendence, you’ve missed an extraordinary experience. It was easy to wake up and shower in a two-foot square cubicle knowing that my day would be spent in a room full of that amazing energy. I got better at talking to the people sitting in my immediate vicinity but I ate most of my meals alone – only because it was the comfortable thing to do in the absence of someone else specifically encouraging me to join them.

I met a Shaman from Colorado who told me that my Solar Plexus (third) chakra (where confidence and the perception of who you are) was full of dark energy and blocked – basically confirming everything that I had been experiencing in my life regarding self-esteem. I was only vaguely familiar at this point with the chakra system with limited exposure to Eastern philosophies. Even with as much meditation, I had engaged in, I had learned it more as an extension of what I knew of prayer versus true Eastern traditions. How had he seen into my core by merely assessing my body’s energy?

He offered to clean my abdomen of the energy blockage and promised it wouldn’t hurt and so… I let him. I laid flat on the floor fully clothed as he moved his hands softly across my belly in a gesture that implied he was wiping something off and then he started a pulling motion. I have no way to accurately describe what happened next. He was pulling at air – not touching me – but I instantly felt nauseous. Within a moment or two, I wanted to cry and eventually tears flowed freely across my cheekbones and into my ears. I experienced a gagging or choking feeling and wanted to roll over to make it stop but he gently touched my forehead with a comforting stroke to keep me flat. He spoke soft and encouraging words in between others that was I unable to interpret. I have no idea of how much time elapsed while this happened, only that it felt like it was but a moment in one minute but an eternity in the next. I couldn’t stop crying although it wasn’t a balling, or a shoulder shaking cry. It was more like the remnants of that… an ending cry – the kind that comes when you know something is over.

Sometimes it quite difficult to believe in things so mysterious, the things we don’t understand and may not be able to see. And yet, we believe in God. There are people who believed in sub-particle physics long before it was proven and so, I chose to allow for the possibility that this man whom I had never met, could ‘clean’ an energy center in my body that would allow me to ‘flow’ and become more balanced. As the day went by, I distinctly remember how calm I felt. Perhaps it was psychosomatic but it didn’t matter, it was great. I again was intrigued by this new experience and I didn’t want it to end. I felt like such a baby – an infant in my lack of knowledge about these ideologies surrounding me. They were so far out of the mainstream of my Mid-Atlantic suburban existence that I was at a loss of how I would foster more growth. It was a challenge I was excited to embark upon.

We continued to practice our hypnosis training. Dr. Weiss demonstrated a number of induction techniques (getting people into a hypnotic trance) and had us practice them on each other. Hypnosis is simply a state of focused concentration and I find, highly misunderstood. Under hypnosis, you are totally aware – just not judging or questioning. It’s the purest state of ‘observing’ that I know of. And “no” – you will not take all your clothes off if someone directs it, unless of course, that is something that you ‘want’ to do. Your subconscious is still very active and you are still completely – you. If you wouldn’t do it in day to day life – you won’t do it under hypnosis.

It was time to break into small groups and do regressions. This time it was my turn to be regressed…

I came ‘out of the mist’ to see trees – everywhere. There was a river in front of me, actually… I was on the river but standing up high. I realized I was on a ship – I was on the upper deck of a ship on a river with vibrant dark green trees on both sides and I could feel the movement, a slow roll from side to side – very gentle and barely noticeable. I was directed to look down, at my feet and the first thing I became aware of as I glanced down is that I was wearing an open white shirt. It was open to my waist but … wait, I realized I didn’t have breasts… what? There was a lot of chest hair and I was sweating. I could see perspiration running down my skin. I saw my shoes and they were large, black, dirty, and they had buckles – square buckles. I noticed that my pants were short and I looked up again. I could see the ship now, the planks and banisters. The sky was blue with a few clouds and I could see birds – practically everywhere. I could hear their calls. There was a dock, seemingly way down there… people were unloading crates of something and I could see barrels stacked on the edge of the pier. There were a lot of sounds… voices, yelling, but no machine noise. I was asked to identify the year but it wasn’t clear to me.

Then, I was asked to move forward in time and suddenly I found myself in a small room. I could see it as if I was there, looking straight ahead. There was a huge fireplace to my right and I could see sunlight coming in from a window. It felt as if I could move my head and I saw two children sitting on the floor. They were sitting on a round rug – much like the rag rug that had been in my old house; a boy and a girl. The boy was young, maybe five or six and I couldn’t see his face clearly. The girl was older, perhaps eight or so – she had her back to me. I could see that her hair was long, past the center of her back and she had on a small print dress – something you might see in the 1800’s … I could see a taller woman, again her back was to me and she was also wearing a long dress, small print. She was off to my left in what appeared to be another small room although the doorway was large. She was wearing an apron, I could see the bow at her waist. Her head was bent down as if she was cooking, or working with her hands. I knew that this was my family.

The house was warm and I realized that I was in a rocking chair… now I could sense the movement – back and forth – back and forth. I realized that I felt tremendous satisfaction and comfort there. It was peaceful. There was a discrete awareness that this was my home. I believe the children on the floor were mine. The girl turned toward me and I could see her face. It was young but something tugged at me… there was a familiarity there – in her eyes. It only took a second but I knew instantly; without hesitation, I was immediately cognizant that I was looking at the same soul that I know today as my oldest brother.

I was so startled at this realization that a tear spontaneously formed and released.  The profundity of this understanding was instantaneous and resonated intensely and genuinely deep within my being.

 

Trancendent Study

I hear enough critique in my own mind, in the real world, and I didn’t need it to come from the afterlife too.

Continued from Such Diffidence

“Learning the lessons of life can be so simple if you believe in immortality.” – Brian Weiss

There is a phenomenon of picking the same seats, day after day in college classrooms. It is a psychological mystery. Interestingly enough, it doesn’t just happen in college and it was apparent there, in the conference center at Omega, full of adults ranging in age from 25 to 80 – that we were also subject to this tendency. The good part was that I could ask that guy next to me – eventually known as Michael – about his regression yesterday.

The resolve I had started the day with, the resolve that quickly waned as I went relatively unnoticed at breakfast, had not walked into that room with me. I sat there, silently, as Dr. Weiss asked us all if today was in any way special. I wanted to say “It’s my birthday” in hopes that he would use me to demonstrate a regression; something I had fantasized about ever since I began reading his books. It was a simple gesture to just raise my hand and make that factual announcement but something heavy and solid inside of me prevented my arm from lifting away from my side and the day got started. I sat there, of course, interested in the unfolding of what I could learn but also disappointed in myself again for not being willing to take the risk, for not allowing myself to be vulnerable. I was still not convinced that my voice, my energy, my input – was worth hearing.

We broke off into groups of two or three several times that day, offering me an opportunity to talk with people and yet even then, I waited for people to come to me or I waited to see ‘who was left’… it was a self-fulfilling continuation of those many times in grade school where I was the ‘last pick’… relegating myself to the benchmark of my youth. There was a woman behind me who appeared as quiet and as low profile as me, she became my go to… my escape when it was time to pick partners. If I chose her, I didn’t feel unchosen. It was a good compromise. What I really wanted was to choose Michael but he had already formed a ‘group’, the popular people… the ones who were bold and confident. I didn’t belong to that group no matter how much I wanted to, I couldn’t find the moxie to wedge myself in there. It was one of those adult moments that seemed as though we (or at least I) had transported back to middle school for a short time and who in their right mind would do that?

This woman who had become my serendipitous partner was so ‘in tune’ with the Universe that when it came time to practice listening to our souls, she read me like a book. We had the task of taking an item from our partner and holding it – concentrating deeply on the story of the item, it’s history and then share any insight with the owner. I handed her a ring that I had been given from my Grandmother’s estate. It wasn’t old fashioned looking, in fact, I’m not sure it was old, only that it had been hers. She gave me a bookmark. Dr. Weiss directed us through a process whereby we were to consider the object and its energy. I felt way, way out of my league at this point. I was still an infant on the regression thing and reading energy was for Spiritual Masters, wasn’t it? I tried to concentrate on his voice, on the direction but my feelings of inadequacy were too strong. They overruled almost everything that came through my mind. The only thing that I could say I ‘felt’ was God. That is the word that kept coming to me.

When the challenge was finished, we shared with our partner the information we had received about the item we had been holding. I told this lady that I wasn’t very good at this yet, that the only thing I sensed was “God”. She smiled softly and informed me it was the bookmark from her bible and pulled it out of her backpack. It was a worn, King James version that appeared to be well read. As she slipped the bookmark back into the pages, I felt a shiver run up my spine. ‘Whoa’, I thought. Next, it was her turn. She informed me that the ring had belonged to an old woman, perhaps my grandmother – she asked with a question mark. I nodded in agreement. She said that my grandmother had come to her and spoke about all the sadness in our family, that there had been too much loss but that they were all together – the shivers intensified dramatically. And then, she said, “your grandmother said to forgive your sister.”

I sat there stunned and silent. Why would I always have to face this? Can’t Abee just be a non-issue for a while? “Wow, that’s amazing,” I said. “Thank You”. I wasn’t sure I liked the idea that people could talk to me from the grave. I didn’t want to hear what they had to say, actually. Isn’t it odd, perhaps misfortunate, that we only want to hear the things that are supportive and validating?? I hear enough critique in my own mind, in the real world, and I didn’t need it to come from the afterlife too.

We spent a fair amount of time hearing more from Dr. Weiss, details from his sessions with Catherine, in the early regression years. She had channeled some spirit masters who spoke about love, learning, and the ultimate goal of serenity. Those masters indicated that sometimes, we stay in soul form so that we can be guides for people we’ve left or for future generations. Other times, we reincarnate into the same family to continue working on growing in an environment we know is ripe for us. He led us into a regression where we were to connect with our spirit guides, asking them to come to us in an identifiable form. I saw a picture frame on the wall with three ‘windows’ – room for three photos – but they were blank. The more I focused on the frame, I came to realize that there were forms in the squares but they were blurry. I stayed with it. One of the frames became clear and I saw a face. It wasn’t a face that I knew completely but it appeared to resemble my oldest daughter. When I looked closer, I experienced a distinct knowing that it was indeed her. There was something about the eyes that make it obvious and believable. I was a bit confused because she was here… in my life, not just existing in the spirit world somewhere. Was it possible she had come into this world to guide me? I was pleasantly surprised at the prospect.

We watched a couple more regressions that day and by the end of the afternoon, I was tired. I ate a quick dinner and headed back to my room where my roommate, was resting. I tried to be quiet but of course, she woke as I came and unpacked my bag. She was from Pakistan and spoke very broken English but we made it through conversation pretty well. It turns out she was known, in her country, as a medium and was there training with someone renowned in the US. When she discovered it was my birthday she offered to ‘read’ me. She used only my date of birth and jotted down several things. The one I specifically remember is that I would meet a man sometime between holidays, before Christmas; I took that to mean after Thanksgiving. It was still only July so I didn’t get too excited but it was fun to have something to look forward to – maybe.

I had to drive off the mountain in order to talk with the girls who had been waiting all day for me to call so they could wish me a happy birthday. For a few minutes, as I sat by the river in a park across the bridge from Poughkeepsie, I missed them terribly. I considered just leaving, going home to my kiddos and forgetting all this transcendent stuff but I continued to be pulled toward the things I could not rationalize. The week had just begun.

Such Diffidence

I backed away and threw on my invisibility cloak, walked back to my room and spent my night alone.

Continued from Going to the Mountain

“It’s not what you are that holds you back, it’s what you think you are
not.” ~Denis Waitley

The experience seeing one’s self, intrinsically knowing it is ‘you’, but not because you look like what you do in the mirror, but because there is a sense of familiarity that only comes from seeing your reflection, is surreal. There was no doubt in my mind that I was experiencing this vision in the first person. I sensed that the hands I was looking at were mine even though they were smaller and denser than the ones I was used to seeing. I was dark skinned, the color my mother would turn after a summer by the pool, a rich brown color. I was standing in the sand, outside, and the air was warm. I was wearing something rough in fiber but I couldn’t really identify what it was. There were small round buildings in the background with thatched looking roofs. In the distance, I could see a tall, dark-haired man and he was walking toward me. Again, I felt a sense of recognition, a realization that the large hunk walking toward me was my husband, my mate. He didn’t get close enough for me to look in his eyes but I knew that he protected me, that he loved me. I felt it. And then it was over.

In a group, large-scale regression you don’t get much more than short blips before the hypnotherapist is bringing everyone back to current time, to reality. There isn’t an opportunity to investigate the memory, only to experience it. It was the second time I had been regressed and I was absolutely amazed at the explicit cognizance it evoked. The vision in my mind was as genuinely real as the memory of what I had for dinner the night before. And yet, there was a part of me that was skeptical; a small part of my psyche that wondered about its validity. I stayed true to my self-promise that I remain open to all possibilities and allowed the doubting thought to pass by.

Dr. Weiss taught us that it wasn’t necessarily important whether or not our memories related to literal events, but to be open to what the memories were representative of… what insight they offered about our life here, now. Since we simply cannot prove their authenticity – or lack thereof – it is important to contemplate their relevance. I considered the short recollection I experienced and what was most dominant in that memory was how at peace I was. There was an overwhelming sentiment of comfort and of being loved. Why did that matter to me now? I couldn’t help but wonder and it set the stage for the rest of my week-long foray into regression work.

As I allude to in one of my very early posts Sand Castles, I grew up with relatively low self-esteem. It was masked by my need to please and my theatrical character, the one that believed it much safer to be in the world as someone else… pretending to embody the girl detective character Trixie Belden, the teen heroine of my favorite series of books when I was young. It was a huge oxymoron – I put myself ‘out there’ as confident and outgoing but inside my own mind, I was – always – fearful of judgment, of not being accepted, or more concisely… of being rejected. If I was the one to rule the room, then I could determine who I had eye contact with, who I paid attention to and when I should leave, and under what conditions. If I wasn’t ‘in charge’ or the focal point, then it was possible to be diminished or to be rebuked and that was my biggest fear. If I was leading the conversation or presenting, it appeared as if I could command the room but if I was just there – just present – then my preference was to blend in and go unnoticed. In that way, I could observe and find a safety net; perhaps a corner or a like-minded person, or a connection with the person in command. It is the one thing that most people truly don’t understand, believe, or know about me as I’ve spent fifty years now attempting to hide that insecurity. I am a wallflower inside. This feature about me was validated years ago by an Astrologist; my birth (sun) sign is a Leo (describes my ego) but my moon sign is Cancer (how I feel inside) and my rising sign is Libra (how others see me).  If you have any interest or knowledge in Astrology, and you know me – this will make sense.

With this information, it won’t come as a surprise that the minute we were released for lunch, I bolted out of the auditorium for the safety of open space and anonymity. I kept my eyes down and walked quickly whenever people were around although I do always smile and say hello when I occasionally meet someone’s eyes. The family style dining room was daring me to break through my shy – or avoidant – shell. I made my way quietly through the buffet line with Vegan options (way before I even knew what a Vegan was) searching futilely for something fried and greasy as I also quickly scanned the room for the least populated table. I was cornered into eating healthy or starve. And just so I’m clear… if the choice was tofu or starve… I would meditate through the hunger.

People were nice and I am not ignorant or rude, so if someone sat next to me or if someone was already at the table, then I would at least say hello. I, of course, would be happy to answer questions and keep a conversation going but I wasn’t going to be the originator. It just wasn’t in me and as soon as I finished eating, I’d smile, encourage them to enjoy the day, and leave to find a bench in the sun where I could daydream or read. If only they had served wine with meals…

The rest of that first day was Dr. Weiss taking volunteers and demonstrating full blown regressions. We watched two or three experiences that were completely debriefed afterward and I was almost spellbound. It was captivating and immensely interesting and I just wanted to know more and more. One of the volunteers was a guy that had sat next to me all day. I discovered that he was there for the second time, having attended a year ago. He was a therapist with an interest in using regression therapy in his practice. He seemed like a nice guy, tall and attractive, but wearing a gold wedding band. Oh well. After his demonstration, I was anxious to ask him a few questions but as soon as we broke, he was bombarded by other people. I was just one of a dozen who wanted to know more. Instead of standing my ground and listening as the ‘group’ formed, I backed away and threw on my invisibility cloak, walked back to my room and spent my night alone.

I reflected all evening on how absurd it was for me to be there, in the company of so many kindred spirits and not take full advantage of their curiosities and knowledge. I woke up Monday morning – my birthday – resolved to do something about this quirky ‘shyness’ that I was embodying. I began to be annoyed by it. With renewed commitment, I attended breakfast and asked to sit at a full table with only one open seat. “Is this seat taken?” I asked as I pulled out a chair… it seemed that everyone was involved in conversation intently enough that I was barely noticed. Ok, “it’s ok”, I said to myself. I looked up and kept a smile on my face attempting to make eye contact with people close enough in which to spark a conversation but no one else turned or acknowledged my presence. This wasn’t going to be easy.

Going to the Mountain

I listened to his voice, guiding me back into childhood, back through time before I was a child, before I was Leslyn…

Continued from Dating OMG

“No matter how you arrive at the awareness and belief that you’ve lived before and will live again, the most lasting healing benefit will be the change in your attitude.” ~ Lianne Downey

There were so many things during the year after Hubby left that impacted my life… dating was one of them and I will come back to it. Another was the continuation of my interest in reincarnation, and the idea that my life here – in this persona – was intentional for my soul’s growth.

I was extensively intrigued with the work of Dr. Brian Weiss, a Psychiatrist – the Chair of Psychiatry at the Mount Sinai Medical Center in Miami, Florida. He was educated at Columbia and Yale Medical school. Impressive credentials. Dr. Weiss used hypnotherapy in the process of traditional psychotherapy and through the experience of his patients, realized that some of their ‘memories’ were not from any experiences in their current existence.  Upon further evaluation, he explored how deciphering the stories of patients from other lifetimes, could heal their maladies in current time. I remained fascinated and inspired by his client examples. I read every book that he had written to date and developed an evaluated curiosity about my own stories. Essentially, I was obsessed with the idea of past lives.

I remembered past conversations with my brother and my excitement, a deep resonation – that just wouldn’t go away – regarding the concept that our souls were eternal and timeless. In my mind, the idea that we came back again and again in human form so that we could learn how to love unconditionally, to become Christ-like, made perfect sense. I knew that in my own life, so many lessons unfolded that correlated toward loss – I couldn’t help but wonder what this lifetime was destined for… what was I to learn from all the loss, the abandonment? If I thought about my ideas, what I knew about the life of Christ, I knew that he would have loved through the loss, he would have honored that journey, the path of the person that left.

I remember thinking after Rocky died that he was only ‘on loan’ to me… that perhaps we had come together for the sole purpose of creating Francis and then his time was done. Christ was the ultimate champion of ‘letting go’ and my life was constantly being challenged with the need to ‘let go’… could that be my lesson in this lifetime? One afternoon talking about these ideas with my Aunt we considered our belief that ‘everything happens for a reason’. IF, that is true – then THIS MOMENT IN TIME – in its INTENTION – must be perfect… divinely designed. No matter the moment, no matter what is happening … if you believe that everything happens for a reason then – there must be a reason for THIS. It seemed so true. So significantly harmonious with the rest of my esoteric ideologies.

I wanted to know more and discovered that Dr. Weiss was conducting Past Life regression training in New York – close enough for me to drive – and I qualified to go as a Psychology student. It was a week long and so I registered, forked out a thousand dollars, and made arrangements with Hubby for him to have the girls seven days in a row. I drove myself to the Omega center in Rhinebeck, New York in late July, just before my birthday.

I drove up a long road, up in the mountains outside of Poughkeepsie, into a compound of sorts that reminded me of summer camp when I was a girl scout. I had selected a ‘shared’ room in a bunkhouse – one building with four rooms and a bath off of one small hallway – but my roommate hadn’t yet checked in. I picked a bed and unpacked then headed out for a look around.

I may have grown up in the seventies in California but I was more or less the farthest thing from a ‘hippie’ and completely disconnected from the ‘bohemian’ lifestyle. If I am to describe that in my mind and seriously, no disrespect intended here… it is someone eating all organic, potentially vegetarian or vegan, wearing cotton with a focus on naturopathy. I don’t mean to stereotype but to fully describe the environment, completely foreign to my suburban soccer mom identity. No one ever described me as ‘earthy’ and yet – here I was, surrounded by the calm, serene, wholesome, earthiness that was the Omega center, and I felt as though I had stepped into a slice of heaven.

I must be honest and admit that it was the first time I had seen tofu. It looked like a brick of cream cheese and I agreed with myself that I would try it. I grabbed a piece that had been sitting in some kind of gravy and sat down at a large round table with three or four other people that I had never met before. I sat there in my Banana Republic button down blouse, toting my coach purse containing my L’Oréal lipstick. The only thing missing were my Sperry’s but I was wearing my hipster flip flops so at least my feet fit in, well… with the exception of my cherry red toenails. I’m not sure I was the typical Omega visitor and yet, I felt at home, just very afraid of being judged. One bite of the tofu and I knew I was part of the minority. Yuk.

The environment was serene. There were benches, gardens, and pathways every direction you looked and I was anxious to explore. I discovered vegetable gardens galore and learned that they grew much of the food that was served in the dining hall. There were small ponds and fragrant flowers; fruit trees, and yoga spaces. No matter what direction I walked, the aura was peaceful and loving. Within hours I knew I wanted to stay for a long time.

My roommate didn’t speak much English. She wasn’t there for the same workshop as me, apparently, they ran several simultaneously and so our schedules were different. Our agenda was fairly rigid… breakfast before nine – sessions until noon, lunch, and then long afternoon workshops before dinner. My first day – in quintessential fashion – I sat up front, in the first row. There were big pillows and we sat on the floor (hippie’esque) as Dr. Weiss walked across the small stage only ten feet in front of me and began to introduce himself. Of course, there was no need on my account, but there were just over one hundred other people in the room that maybe hadn’t read ‘every’ book he’d written as I had. Indeed, I had listened to his regression CD so often that almost as soon as he began to speak, I relaxed – having already been accustomed to the sound of his voice.

He began by telling us about Catherine, the initiating client that had spontaneously accessed past life memories and introduced him to the world of regression therapy. Even though I had already heard the story through his books, I was enthralled to hear him tell it in person. And then, he did a group regression. That afternoon he had us get comfortable and relax as he proceeded to induce us all into a pleasant and easy state of concentrated focus on our past – going wherever we wanted to go – whatever time might be meaningful to us.

I listened to his voice, guiding me back into childhood, back through time before I was a child, before I was Leslyn, to a time when I was someone else and I saw mountains. They were green and sharp rising against a large lagoon of beautifully blue water that was a deep sapphire color, a place that I seemingly was remembering vividly as if I heard the breeze through palm trees overhead. I was grinding something with a pedestal and mortar and I realized that I was short and round with long black hair. I was remembering another life.

Dating OMG

I wasn’t necessarily looking for love but I was looking for a good match of compatibility.

Continued from Accomplishments

Online dating is just as murky and full of lemons as finding a used car in the classifieds. Once you learn the lingo, it’s easier to spot the models with high mileage and no warranty. ~ Laurie Perry

In the twenty-eight months after discovery day, I graduated from college, I settled an estate, prepared Sara for college and managed to start dating a little again. After fifteen tumultuous years with Hubby, I had sworn off ever – EVER – falling in love again. I was finished with men and was not shy about announcing it for the first year after I first saw all of his emails. By the end of that first year, my resolve began to soften as I realized that my celibacy left me feeling lonely and in need of adult companionship. I had wonderful friends who included me in most every activity and yet, I lived in a world of couples. Even walking through the mall on a Friday night had me lonely for that whole ‘family’ thing that no longer existed.

I lived in suburbia, a rural area surrounded by soccer fields and subdivisions of four bedroom homes. There weren’t any single men, at least none that I knew of. I wasn’t into the bar scene, nor were any of my girlfriends and so meeting someone that might offer a sense of camaraderie seemed impossible, or at the very least, improbable. I decided to try an online dating service. I registered on Match.com, it seemed to be the most popular at that time and I had hoped that paying a fee meant that people there would be serious. I spent countless hours perusing profiles of wanton men who couldn’t spell and or thought that watching football was, by itself, a sport. There were others, professional men who were seeking female counterparts but I soon realized that most of the people in my age group were seeking younger women.

I reached out to a few people with a ‘wink’ and received a few in return. I had a brief conversation with one of the fellows through email but didn’t have the nerve to take it any further. Online dating can be excruciatingly detrimental to one’s ego, perhaps more so than face to face dating as even an electronic ‘wink’ goes ignored. There is no way to produce a multi-dimensional description of yourself that embodies a relative snapshot of who you are. As such, we all take a chance that the person reading the profile information will be left wanting more information but too often, we turn away because there just isn’t enough there to be enticing. I wasn’t looking to fall in love, just hang out with someone who was also divorced.

At the time, a friend of a friend who had been widowed was also doing some online dating and we had an opportunity to exchange stories. She told me about running across a profile of someone in the community whom she knew – someone who was married. She told me as a measure of caution so that I would be sure to ask the right questions and exercise prudence. It made me wonder if Hubby ever had an online portfolio while we were married… she went on to describe a few deplorable dates from her personal experience, one where a guy showed up, handed her a list of characteristics he was looking for and asked if she was open to complying. She said she stood up and walked out and I sat there with my mouth open, listening to the stories, not sure that I wanted to pursue this much further.

Another friend had tried a personal dating service, It’s Just Lunch – where someone interviews you in person, takes photos, and then calls you with a scheduled blind date lunch.  It seemed harmless enough but it was grossly expensive. At least, I told myself, that the people there were probably more financially independent than perhaps those who were on the internet. In the spirit of YOLO, I decided to give it a try.

I actually went on a couple of those dates. The only thing that I had to do was show up and have a conversation. The first guy was nice and tall but super thin. He explained that he was a marathon runner and asked if I was athletic. I’m pretty sure he could tell just by looking at me that I wasn’t athletic, each one of my thighs was the size of his waist. If he stood in front of me, I would have spilled over on each side. I instantly felt insecure and all of those old mental thoughts about not being good enough because of my body shape came flooding over me. I knew right away that I wasn’t willing to face that challenge every day and so, I said goodbye to number one.

The second date was almost as strange. We met for lunch and had a really nice time. He was seated when I arrived and didn’t stand. I thought that was odd… I recognized immediately that I expected a certain level of courtesy, of manners. I was taught to stand when being introduced.  Strike one.  I recall having a nice lunch, building hope that this may turn into a second date and then we stood to leave… um. No wonder he didn’t stand – he was at least two inches shorter than me – which was weird because it was one of the major deal-breakers that my interviewer knew – I wanted a man taller than my 5’10” frame. I was instantly disappointed but tried not to show it. He walked me to my car – very gentlemanly of him – and then tried to kiss me; on the lips. Ugh! First date buddy! Strike two.  You should have asked – strike three, I thought.

My interviewer explained that she didn’t have many people to choose from in my geographical area and so she had to compromise on a few of the ‘items from my desired list’. We agreed not to ignore my top three… tall, professional, and younger than 50.  I didn’t think that was too much to ask.

Date three… really nice guy handsome, tall, 46, and within an hour’s drive. I was instantly attracted until we began talking about family.  It seems that he didn’t marry until he was 40 and had been widowed when his wife passed away during a complicated childbirth. Well, we had widowhood in common. And then, the dropped the bomb – he had 4-year-old triplets. YIKES!! So sad really, but no way… I was absolutely not, raising someone else’s kids; not for twelve more years. Holy cow, I would be almost sixty before I had any freedom – that was a deal breaker that I hadn’t thought I had to specify.

I took a break, letting my interviewer know that we just weren’t on the same page. I wasn’t necessarily looking for love but I was looking for a good match of compatibility. It was a couple o f weeks later when IJL called and scheduled another date… “This one”, she said, “met all of my criteria”. Ok, now I was excited. I met Jay for lunch and while he wasn’t the most handsome man I had seen, he had all of the other qualities that were important to me. He was tall, charming, smart, professional, the right age, the right demeanor… it was all off to a really nice start and we agreed to have dinner next.

I drove home like a giddy teenager. I amazed me that no matter your age, meeting someone new had the same impetus that it had at any other time in life. I was anxious to call my girlfriend and share the experience with her. Sherry had been a friend for a number of years, she knew Hubby and me professionally and somewhere along the line, our business dinners morphed into pleasure as we enjoyed getting to know she and her husband personally. About two years prior, I had connected with her because of business but somehow connected – woman to woman – and we became personal friends. Since then, she had been one of the most supportive people in my life, always there. Together, we imagined all kinds of possibilities that more dates with Jay might offer.

Accomplishments

I was still five or six years away from being able to call myself a Licensed Professional Counselor.

Continued from Finally Free

“I am only one, but I am one. I cannot do everything, but I can do something. And because I cannot do everything, I will not refuse to do the something that I can do.”  ~ Edward Hale

Now that Hubby wasn’t at the house when it was his time with the girls I had the house to myself. There is a certain confusing pleasure about having every other weekend to yourself. I didn’t usually like to be in the house when the girls weren’t – it was a big house, meant for family and walking by their empty bedrooms was almost disheartening. However, being a single parent is undeniably the most difficult job I’ve ever known and so, on those weekends, I recharged – rejuvenated my energy. I did homework and spent time with friends. I was usually fielding a few phone calls from the girls, predominately the youngest one who was more dependent on me but encouraged them to turn to dad – I wanted ex-Hubby to develop his own relationships with the girls and be the dad they needed on those weekends.

This goal worked in total conflict with my ‘control’ needs and my ‘fixer’ genes… it was a true learning process to ‘let go’ on the weekends he had the kids. I had so much to learn about letting go – even though I thought I had done a lot already. I practiced opening my hands and counted on my meditation routine to help me. I wrote … and wrote… I didn’t call the writing I did ‘journaling’ back then but that’s what it was… I was just writing the thoughts that came to my mind, emptying my head onto the paper. I think I had been trying too hard to journal something specific. I found that just writing from the mental prompt of ‘I’ve been thinking about…’ or ‘I worry about…’ was most effective in parlaying what was on my mind to the paper. I often burned or shredded the words I wrote as I was a little paranoid that someone would read them. I wasn’t yet ready to experience the vulnerability associated with letting others view my internal reflections.

It’s hard to be patient and allow change to take place when we are in a hurry to ‘be better’. Sometimes it feels like a cruel Universe joke to need patience when we perfectionists are generally ‘not’ patient people. It’s often coupled with the need to remember – bring into our constant awareness – our inability to change others. And then, there’s the frustration of recognizing that even if ‘we’ make changes, the entire situation may not… leaving us needing to either make concessions or decisions.

I successfully settled my grandparent’s estate but only after addressing a lawsuit that had been initiated by Abee and Emma. Receiving that announcement in the mail was mind boggling because it created a direct conflict of interest for me. Essentially, the language of my grandparents will was unclear and ambiguous regarding the distribution of assets – whether or not Mom’s share of the estate was to be distributed to her siblings or to her direct heirs. Initially, the attorney advising me stated her siblings but the lawsuit contested that decision and I had to hire another legal opinion. Essentially my sisters were suing for a share of Mom’s share – taking money out of the mouth of their less fortunate relatives. I will never understand that motivation but in the end, I benefited because the ‘third perspective’ ruled that it was to be distributed ‘per stripes’… Mom’s share would be split among her children. It wasn’t a ton of money but it felt weird to award myself part of the estate. Our aunts and uncle were rather salty about the ruling as it diluted their distribution and frankly, with one exception – they needed it more than we did.  I’m afraid to think what my grandparents would have said / felt over that whole ordeal.  To fight it further would have just wasted more money from the already reduced estate. We paid the funds out and called it a day but not without further splintering of our extended family.

In the fall I returned to school. I loved learning about human behavior and continued to be amazed at how much about myself I was learning. In many aspects, I used my own life as an observational laboratory for the information I was acquiring; a rich environment of detailed data. I also learned to research. One of my ‘classes’ was apprenticing with a professor who was conducting studies. I chose Dr. Brown, the professor who had taught me about emoting. Her area of expertise was how environmental and socioeconomic stressors affected children. My job was to search the bowels of EBSCOHost (the academic database of research papers) to find other studies to substantiate the work we were doing and/or to find measures that we could use in our work. As strange as it sounds, I loved this job! It was a little bit like looking for puzzle pieces and finding something useful or affirming was the reward. Additionally, I would see something interesting and read, read, read. I learned to love reading journal articles about the ways we think, act, learn, etc. Learning this particular skill – research – was particularly helpful when I got to Grad school.

It was also my goal this year to make decisions about Grad school. I had several professors urging me to go on… Another suggested I forgo the graduate degree and become a Life Coach. I knew by then that counseling was the direction I wanted to go and that I would more than likely just open a private practice. My state didn’t require counselors to have any – actually none – credentials as long as they didn’t put themselves out there as ‘licensed’ and so I didn’t ‘have to’ get an advanced degree but… who would go to a therapist that wasn’t educated?? I don’t believe that most people are aware of all the different routes there are to obtain counseling certification – I certainly did not. There are several designations that allow people to eventually qualify for state licensing. First of all, most states require at least a Master’s Degree either in Psychology, Counseling, Social Work, or Mental Health. Certainly, there are also doctoral programs in each of those areas as well as the newer Psy.D. – a Doctor of Psychology (as compared to a Ph.D. which is a Doctor of Philosophy), then there are licensing exams and post grad supervision. I was still five or six years away from being able to call myself a Licensed Professional Counselor.

Since I wasn’t entering academia, a Master’s would fit all the requirements. I didn’t want to take the Social Work avenue (LCSW) although many counselors have that designation. I wanted to focus on Counseling and clinical components within the Individual, Family, and Marital arena. The only program within driving distance for me consisted entirely of night classes. Being a single mother of three made that completely impractical. Even though Sara would be leaving for college in the fall, Erin and Em still depended on me and I didn’t believe that leaving them alone for three nights every week over a two-year period was truly an option. That left me investigating newer online Universities that specialized in Psychology degrees. I left no stone unturned in understanding accreditation and the rigid standards that my state expected their counselors to complete.

In the meantime, I finished my undergraduate degree – finally – at the age of forty-seven. I wasn’t the oldest person to graduate that spring but I felt like it. I managed to leave there with a 3.8 GPA, having received only two B’s. My family celebrated with me on a scorching hot May afternoon by throwing me a surprise party (that wasn’t really a surprise thanks to someone’s well intended big mouth) and I felt accomplished and happy roughly twenty-eight months after discovery day.

Finally Free

I clearly didn’t understand how or why people I loved drew a line in an area so obviously contrasted to where I would have drawn it

Continued from Escape Route

“Every woman that finally figured out her worth, has picked up her suitcases of pride and boarded a flight to freedom, which landed in the valley of change.” ~ Shannon L. Alder

Our aunt returned to Granddad’s house after mom’s funeral to find him in disarray. It appeared that he had had a stroke while everyone was away as his language was garbled and he was looping his thoughts. He refused to go to a doctor, though. She was going to stay with him for a week or so and stay in touch. So many things happening all at once in one family. He lost his wife of 66 years and a daughter within a week of one another and now, he was disoriented and unable to be understood.

I had been appointed his executrix, much to the chagrin of one of my Aunts who had taken my appointment as a slight to her position as the oldest child. As it turned out, it was a blessing. Who would have thought there would be so much grief all at once? A family can only take so much. He lived three hours away from me and as a single mom – for all intents and purposes – it wasn’t an easy feat to get a whole day free from immediate responsibility but my amazing support system was cooperating fully and so, I took the time.

It was heartbreaking to see this person who had been a strong, virile, Marlboro’esque man trying to communicate in loopy garble. He became extremely frustrated when we didn’t understand him and I’m sure he realized that he wasn’t making sense. He did allow me to help him pay bills and go through the mail, managing to communicate to me where things were and that it would fall into my hands soon enough. I drove up there every other week and each time, he was a bit worse but still refused medical care.

On June 1st, Mom’s birthday, we five siblings again gathered to honor her by committing her remains forever in Arlington National Cemetery. As a Veteran, she qualified for burial there and so we went to Washington, D.C. and for another segment of time, managed to act as if we were collectively united in our grief. I don’t specifically recall making eye contact with Abee but I remember not wanting to. It was specifically my love and respect for mom that kept me there in the presence of a sister who was emotionally dead to me.

The last couple of months had put the proverbial nail in the coffin for me. Hubby and I sat down with the girls while he told them that he was in love with their Aunt, and asked them if they would try and accept his decision. None of them reacted well, and for a time, they chose to avoid him altogether. Eventually, they established strong boundaries stating that they loved him but they weren’t willing to be tolerant of his choice in partners. They begged him to move on to Jane Doe or Mary Smith, anyone but a family member; their plea fell on deaf ears. Consequently, they stood strong on the line that said we accept a relationship with you, and you alone. It was a compromise that was exceptionally difficult for them and while I was remorseful that the kinship I had imagined between my children and their father would never exist – I was fundamentally proud of them for honoring their hearts.

Our divorce agreement was effective on that same day. While we memorialized Mom that day, Hubby was moving out of our home. I had signed all the paperwork a couple of days prior after negotiating final details that make it possible for the girls and me to stay in the house until our youngest graduated from high school; seven years into the future. It was unusual and I believe, highly opposed by Hubby’s attorney but I held out and refused to sign away my half of the company until conditions that guaranteed the girls best interest and comfort, were in writing and indisputable. I was rather unrelenting and in the end, Hubby wanted what was best for the girls to… at least in terms of their comfort and home life.

It was a bittersweet transition as I left the cemetery knowing that I was going home to the official ‘death’ of my marriage. On the way home from Washington, I stopped at the hardware store and bought new door locks. I knew that as soon as I got home, my priority would be to reprogram the garage doors and change the hardware on the front and back door. It was MY house now and Hubby wasn’t invited. It took a long, long time but I was free.

I wasn’t home long enough to unpack the bags before the phone rang to tell me that Grandad had passed away. Within three months, one-half of my mom’s family had died. Six had become three. The magnitude of their loss was overwhelming for my two Aunts and an Uncle, life is just completely unfair at times. There was still more sadness to get through and we were all – over it. We all needed a break from the deep, dark, drama that had overshadowed our lives for such a long period of time. It was simply… too much and I was surprised that none of us had ‘officially’ lost our mind.

It was the last time that I was in the same company as Abee. She came to Grandad’s funeral with Emma and they interacted some with other family members but left right after the service. I was too wrapped up in executrix duties and warding off the negative energy building among other family members to be too focused on my old baggage. We were barely tolerant of one another. I knew I just needed to move on. It was sad, though – all those years of ‘family’ down the drain. It was too easy to remember her as a little girl curled up in my lap reading, or the times I would help her with homework and school projects, the times she did the same with and for my children and then the adult relationship that we had enjoyed… twenty-five years of family – gone because she and Hubby wouldn’t deny themselves some kind of convoluted ‘love’ they claimed to have.

I’m not sure I believe that we are supposed to act upon all the feelings we have.  There are times I’m so angry that all I want to do is spit (the most disgusting and awful thing I can think of to do to someone) but that doesn’t mean I do it.  I’ve felt attracted to friend’s husbands but I would never act on that attraction. I’ve wanted to do lots of things that either weren’t socially or morally acceptable and so, I didn’t do them. Isn’t that what we teach our children?? Isn’t that what we expect from society at large? I suppose that somewhere in the principle I am describing is a line that each of us draws and it is obviously different for each of us. I clearly didn’t understand how or why people I loved drew a line in an area so obviously contrasted to where I would have drawn it… apparently, we weren’t like-minded at all.

Settling Granddad’s estate meant disposing of a herd of cows, a couple of horses, barns full of equipment and tools, as well as sixty plus years of marital accumulations. We found love letters that have the potential to be an entirely new book, utility bills from the 1960’s and photographs that were meant to be private. We were closing an era and the eccentricity of personalities that defined my mom’s siblings made it challenging from time to time but ultimately, considering they had lost exactly half of their family, it was all good. We got through it.

As a student of psychology, it was fascinating to experience, to watch. I observed extreme grief reactions inside a family dynamic that challenged everything I knew about bereavement and it formed the foundation for the rest of my academic work.