Falling

Continued from And the Kissing Begins

“All love stories are tales of beginnings. When we talk about falling in love, we go to the beginning, to pinpoint the moment of freefall.” —Meghan O’Rourke
After only a few dates I knew I could easily love this man. We were able to talk about almost anything and we shared a number of important priorities. I could also tell that we were different in a lot of ways. I knew now that a good relationship is one where we celebrated the similarities between us while at the same time, embracing and respecting the differences.  When we weren’t hanging out with one another, we were talking on the phone; and still – the conversation flowed.

On the next kids weekend with their dad, Harlan came and stayed at my house. We built a fire in the fireplace, rented movies, opened a few bottles of wine and created a blanket / pillow heaven reminiscent of our childhoods. We slept there – in front of the fireplace – participating in an adult style sleepover as if we were in our twenties all over again. It was romantic and loving and relaxed. For approximately 48 hours, we ate, slept, and chatted at will… no schedule, no interruptions, no expectations. It was magical.

Eventually, we got into more nitty-gritty things, what had happened in our marriages, the imperfections of our extended families, the challenges that we grew from. One of the many things that really attracted me to Harlan though is his heart. He appeared to be intensely compassionate and considerate of others – an empath almost. I could tell that he would literally ‘feel’ the experience of others and sometimes, there was simply no benefit at all in that.

We talked about him meeting the girls. I had introduced them to Jay too soon but then, I had never felt this way about Jay. I felt something stronger and growing for this man. I wanted to see how he would be around the girls.

That desire made me think about myself as a mother… how many mistakes had I made? How many had I learned from? What had I learned exactly?

The girl’s father hadn’t been discriminate in his choice of partners and had no regard for the girls’ thoughts on the matter, telling them to ‘get over it’ and ‘it was his choice, not theirs’. Consequently, the girls certainly didn’t have the relationship with him that I had always envisioned. There was a strain on the father-daughter rapport almost constantly because of his relationship. I didn’t want the same outcome. I wanted to find a way to balance a personal romantic relationship with that of my role as a mother and I wasn’t willing to sacrifice the latter.

I knew from my own childhood that when moms and dads begin dating again, they can get too absorbed in the new partner – way before the kids have a chance to ‘catch up’ with their feelings and that, wasn’t the best scenario either. I wanted the girls to like Harlan and so, I invited him for dinner.

It wasn’t as smooth and as easy as when Jay came… even though Harlan had daughters, he wasn’t up on Gilmore Girls or Hanna Montana because he mostly watched sports or public broadcasting. He wasn’t a reader of Harry Potter or Nancy Drew. He attempted to connect with Swimming but eventually found that they like many of the same movies. Harlan likes practically any movie; chick flick, adventure, or animated. It didn’t’ matter too much, he had seen all of the trailers if he hadn’t seen the actual movie and so he was able to foster a conversation on that front, easily.

My oldest daughter Sara, being a bit more mature and perhaps more present and considerate of her surroundings – attended to Harlan like proper company by engaging him in conversation as she could. Erin seemed indifferent and Emily stuck to me like glue. I watched each of them carefully and at one point, noticed that they were watching me. This was a new thing for us and we were all in unchartered territory. No one knew the rules or how to play the game so we were just ‘winging’ it but it was going ok – at least for now. He didn’t stay long after dinner; I guess we were thinking we would ‘ease’ into having him around.

And that’s what we did. Harlan made it very clear to the girls that they needed to come first – he wanted them to know that if they didn’t like him or want him around – it would impact our relationship negatively. He knew- he realized that for US to be happy, they had to accept him in my life. It was his philosophy in that regard that opened the door for me to fall head over heels in love with him.

I told him one evening when we were at his house. We were standing outside, under his carport and I was attempting to leave but each time I took a step toward my car he would lean down and kiss me, stealing my breath and preventing me from moving further. I knew I had to go but it was so difficult sometimes – tearing myself away from him. I loved all that kissing. I reached my hand up to his chest to hold him back, keep him at bay for a minute… I had to breathe. “You know”, I said… “I am falling hard for you. No doubt. I am falling in love.” As if it was some kind of competition and he knew he had won – he replied “Oh yeah? I already fell. I love you.” He was one up and I was too weak to prevent an all out swoon. He caught me by placing his hand firmly and strongly on the small of my back as he pressed me to him again, for another kiss – this one full of love.

Later, I’m not sure if it was a week or a day in an austere conversation we were having for the sole purpose of filling in more details about our previous years of life, he mentioned that he thought he was going to die. He had been diagnosed with malignant melanoma and had a significant mole removed from his shin. It had been nine or ten years at that point and he said it in an unremarkable manner as if had been just another day. And yet, he spoke about it as if he had thought his life was over, the melanoma had been considerable enough that he somehow believed his life was in danger.

My heart lurched as memories of my step-dad and his slow, agonizing death from malignant melanoma inundated my mind. He too had found a mole and his life ended because of it. My thoughts also went right back to Rocky’s death and the excruciating emotional pain that I felt when he died. I felt as if I was on a merry-go-round, noticing all of the love and loss in my life as it went faster and faster while the seat I was on went up and down, creating a chaotic sensation so intense that I found it difficult to catch my breath. No way… I was not doing this again. Nope. Thank Goodness I found out early… while it was still easy to get out.

I had to end the phone call and collect my thoughts. I couldn’t find any logic or rationale that correlated to my willingness to take the risk that yet another man I loved, would die on me. At least it hadn’t gotten very far and it would be easy to end. Shit. I really fell for this one.

Such Diffidence

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

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.

Another Goodbye

Continued from No Such Thing as Perfect

“A daughter without her mother is a woman broken. It is a loss that turns to arthritis and settles deep into her bones. ”  ~ Kristin Hannah

My aunt was rather frantic about not being able to get ahold of mom but after explaining she was in Mexico, she agreed to call and talk with Abee who would know how to get through to mom. Not long after that first conversation, she called back to tell me that she had just learned that mom was in the hospital in Cabo. Wait, what?

Why hadn’t someone called? What was wrong? She gave me the phone number that Abee had given her and I proceeded to call myself. It took a few hours until the phone I was calling to get answered and the woman who said hello resembled an extremely weakened version of my mother.

It seems that she had come down with what she thought was the flu. She had believed that if she just rested, she would feel better and two weeks went by before she realized that she was in trouble. By then, she was so weak that she couldn’t take herself to the bathroom and her cousin insisted that she be taken to the hospital. Upon arriving, they realized that her blood disease had escalated, it had spontaneously transitioned into secondary acute leukemia. Mom explained that they wouldn’t let her fly but that her cousin was attempting to get a helicopter to transport her to the closest US city – San Diego. She was simultaneously attempting to cope with the grief from losing her mother who had been a guiding force in her life while feeling crappy and worrying about being in a foreign country. Sometimes, life sent the sourest lemons.

I discovered that Abee was communicating with the cousin in order to meet mom’s transport in California. Within a couple of days, they were both in San Diego and I was speaking directly with the doctor who was caring for mom. It wasn’t good. Her white blood count was in the hundreds of thousands and clogging her organs. He explained that this was a result of the radioactive treatments she had had after her diagnosis of Polycythemia Vera several decades ago; it had just been a matter of time.

I immediately began researching doctors who were experimenting with this problem and found one at Penn Medicine in Philadelphia who agreed to see her immediately if we could get her back to the East Coast. The West Coasts doctors explained that it would be challenging due to the condition of her lungs but that they were making every effort possible. We were waiting with bated breath.

A couple of more days went by and by then, my other two sisters were at my house, thinking that mom was going to be arriving in Philadelphia any day. After a couple more conversations with the physicians caring for her, it was obvious that her condition was far graver than we had hoped. We collectively decided that we would go to San Diego as well. We, three girls, booked flights out of Philly and our brother arranged to meet us there. It was rather hectic getting everything organized and choreographed for an immediate departure but we did it even though I have a distinct memory of arriving at the airport late, running through security by begging people to let us advance crying ‘our mother is dying, we have to make our flight’… two of us got to the gate in advance and made quite the scene as we waited for our other sister to get there; she has a physical impairment that made running impossible.

We made the flight.

So, there we were, all five of us at the hospital, camped outside of mom’s room, realizing that we hadn’t all been together in years now. In fact, I hadn’t talked to Abee in almost a dozen or more months and there were varying degrees of relational disturbance between each sibling combination. We put our personal differences aside and sat outside the room as the children of the woman within. An outsider would never have known how much dysfunction existed in-between us.

Mom was in pretty good spirits but the mere presence of every one of her children was suspect for a good outcome. She realized how sick she was and the doctors were not holding back at this point. Her goal was simply getting strong enough so that she could fly home and die there. She didn’t want to leave the world from the berth of a hospital room. We took turns staying with her, making sure to get at least some sleep every few hours. It was apparent after only a day that this was our time with her. Even though they were running her blood through a machine to separate out white blood cells, her body was making them faster than it would filter. As her body became overloaded, the kidneys couldn’t function properly and she settled into renal failure.

During one awake period when I alone, was sitting with her she beckoned me up on the bed. I scooted up along the side of her, resting my head in the crook of her arm just as I had done a gazillion times. It didn’t matter that I was a forty-something-year-old woman with children of my own. I was struggling to be courageous, to hold in the deluge of emotion that had been damned so haphazardly over the last ten days but I could not. Tears silently unloaded themselves across my cheeks and onto her shoulder as she said: “it looks like I’m not going to make it out of this one”.

“Oh mama”, I cried. Unleashing sorrow beyond comprehension.

This woman, in all her contradiction, was my post, the anchor, the nucleus of everything that I knew to be. She had left, come back, diverged, and suffered a devastating splintering of familial dreams over and over… she was also tired and sought relief. We chatted a bit, reminisced, and tried to laugh about things that were completely inconsequential and then she offered some final thoughts. “You are strong enough to live without Hubby” and paused, “Abee isn’t,” she said… “but if you want him, go get him”.

 

By morning, she was delirious as the organic poisons took over her body. She lost consciousness soon after and we moved her into a Hospice facility that sat high up on a hill so that the entire city of San Diego was visible. Her room overlooked – way in the distance – the Pacific Ocean and if she had been awake, she would have been completely satisfied with the view from her bed. For the second time since the turn of the century, we were navigating the experience of end of life care for a parent and we were crushed with the reality.  Just days ago, her own mother had left this earth as if mom needed an escort into the beyond. We would be mourning two of the family’s most treasured souls.

She slipped away before all the paperwork could be completed, before all of us settled into her space and we stood there – all five of us – not believing that this day had come, wanting it to be undone, wishing that life worked differently.

I was officially an orphan.