What do you do with regret?

Before I went to Montana for our July Soul Quest, I ordered a handmade journal from Mary Anne Radmacher. She makes a journal for each of my yearly soul-journs. I treasure her journals because they hold all the deep soul explorations that bubble up during the trip.   This year, Mary Anne outdid herself. The cover, as always, evoked the heart and soul of the adventure. But this time, she added pouches on the inside covers. What fun I thought–special places to hold little treasures from the trip. I noticed there was something in the back cover pouch. I pulled it out. It was an angel card–“The Angel of Forgiveness.”

That should have been a clue.

I was, I confess, a little miffed. Oh please, I thought, I’ve had my big forgiveness experience. I’m a bloomin’ queen of forgiveness. I lead people in deep forgiveness experiences in my courses. Surely, I’m not going to Montana to deal with forgiveness! I took the card out of the pouch and stuck it somewhere it in my office.

My reaction should have been a clue.

On opening night at our Soul Quest, I told the group, “You do not really know why you’re here. You think you do, but trust me, you don’t. Make a note of why you think you’re here and then on closing night let’s see what actuallly unfolded. You may be in for quite a surprise.”

I should have listened to myself.

The next morning, we learned about power by working with horse. The following day we learned about the opposite un-power of fish as we attempted to cast for mysterious and elusive trout. Later that day, we floated down the Missouri River in an Avon raft. I recognized the raft. When I lived on a sailboat in Oakland, we had an Avon raft. My husband said they were the best.

Oh boy, lots more clues.

As the day on the river ended, I realized my husband would have loved this trip. He would have loved fly fishing, and riding, and sleeping in a log cabin. He would have loved floating down the river in an Avon raft under the watchful gaze of eagle.

Then, it dawned on me I was wearing the water shoes he gave me, the Tilley hat he insisted every sailor have, and schlepping everything in his treasured but weathered 1985 Ghurka tote bag. I was surprised to discover that I had unconsciously created an experience my husband would have loved.

That should have been a huge clue.

The next day we participated in a Chippewa-Cree sweat lodge conducted by a lovely woman named Lillian. In the lodge, she led us through four rounds of prayer. For each round, hot rocks were brought in and doused with water. In the rising steam. she led us in traditional songs and gave us the opportunity to say the names of people for whom we wished to pray.  I spoke my son’s name in each round and many of my friends and partners. It was a beautiful experience and I felt honored to participate in such an ancient and holy form of prayer.

That night I woke with a start. “Oh my God! Her name was Lillian!” In that moment, I knew why I’d created this trip. And I’d come within a hair of missing it. It was not an accident that a woman named Lillian conducted our lodge. My husband, you see, was adopted. He was thirty-four when he found his birth sister and thirty-six when he spoke to his birth mother. They were unable to make peace and he died carrying a great wound around being given up for adoption. His birth mother died a few years later. And her name was Lillian.

Sitting up in bed in a log cabin in Wolf Creek Montana, I knew that I had been handed the opportunity to bring both their names into the sacred space of the sweat lodge and connect them in the grace of forgiveness. But I blew it.   But then, I stopped crying and remembered the great teaching of the angels in Check the Box, the course that brings us back in time to hear our soul’s purpose. The course ended just days before we left for Montana. The angels said that we can revisit any experience in our lives and make different choices. When we do, we literally–not metaphorically–alter the vibration of that scene for all time–past, present, and future–and we alter it for all parties concerned.

I closed my eyes and went back to the lodge in my mind. When it was our turn to pray aloud, I spoke my husband’s name and his birth mother’s. The fourth and final round is all about forgiveness, and with tears dripping down my face, I brought their names and their spirits into the lodge and joined them in a total state of forgiveness. In peace, I fell back asleep.

But that wasn’t the end of the story.

When I got back home, I had a toothache. A big bad toothache. My back molar had cracked, become infected, and had to be extracted. After the extraction, I felt exhausted. Even with 12 hours of sleep, I had no energy to work. On August 4, I turned to the Voice in my journal and demanded to know what my rotten tooth was about. In the next sentence I remembered that my husband had teeth problems his whole life. In deep soul writing I asked, “What needs to be completed, what else needs to be revisited like the sweat lodge?”

Suddenly I wrote this question:   “What do I regret?”

Instantly, I knew. There is only one moment in my life that I regret. And oh, how I regret it. It was the night my husband died. He’d been in a coma in ICU for a week. The hospital called late that afternoon to say they were moving him. After dinner, our son asked to visit his dad and I said, they’re moving him tonight, let’s go tomorrow. The next morning at 6:30 we received a call that he had died. I have regretted not going to the hospital for nine years.   OK, I wrote. I will go back and redo it. Just like the sweat lodge and just the way the angels taught.   On the page in deep soul writing, I relived the evening of October 5, 2003. When my son said, “Let’s go see dad,” we drove to the hospital. At the hospital, we found his new room. We walked in and saw him on the bed. We stood close together beside the bed and prayed aloud thanking him for the good he’d brought us and promising to hold only the good in our hearts. When my son and I felt complete, I blew a kiss and whispered, God speed. The next morning, the phone still rang at 6:30 and we still got the news that he had died. But this time I felt no regret. I had said goodbye and given our son the space to say goodbye.

When I finished my Regret Redo, I felt a wave move through me. All the exhaustion and pain in my body and mouth flowed out of me and into the ground. I felt a burst of energy and for the first time since I got back from Montana, felt excited and energized. Suddenly, I had to hold Mary Anne’s angel card. It took me an hour to find it buried under a pile of books. The message on the card is: “I choose to forgive all those who have hurt me in the past.”

“Choose” is the operative word here. I have chosen over and over again to forgive, not only my husband, but anyone I think has harmed me. And thanks to heaven sending a woman named Lillian, I was able to bring two unrequited souls into the blessed place of forgiveness. And then, thanks to a broken tooth, I was given the opportunity to experience the next and even deeper piece in the fathomless journey of forgiveness: Regret Redo.

If reading about my Regret Redo experience is activating something inside of you, here are a few questions to ponder:

  • Are there moments you wish you could relive?
  • Are you willing to revisit them and choose differently?
  • What do you think will happen?
  • What do you regret?
  • How is regret a living, if deeply buried, presence in your life?
  • What impact is regret having on you, your relationships, your work, your creativity, your health?
  • What do you think will happen if you consciously choose to forgive, and even redo, the past?
  • Are you ready to enter into the profound state of Regret Redo? If not, why not?

I invite you to enter into divine dialogue and ask these and other deep questions on the page. Then trust the Voice as it leads you into the profound experience of Regret Redo. Then, I invite you to post your experience here. Your words may change someone’s life.

Blessings on you and all your experiences, yes, even those you regret.

Advertisements

What lies beyond the Law of Attraction

 
How does The Lotus and The Lily process work? I know it does. I’ve lived it for two years. This coming January 1, I’ll create my third Intention Mandala and I know today without a doubt, that the result will be a 2012 I will love. And I’m not the only one. Hundreds of people who have gone through The Lotus and The Lily telecourse have shared their own miraculous results.
 
But knowing something works and understanding how it works are two different things.
 
 
 
If you’ve been following me for a while, you know that I’ve struggled mightly with prosperity and attraction. Like everybody else, I was impacted by the popular literature on changing your thinking and asking for what you want. I listened, learned, and tried. But despite my best efforts, by November of 2009 I was bankrupt. It hurt, but I made an appointment to see a bankruptcy attorney the next February. In the meantime, I picked up a pen and demanded help. I received instructions on what to do during the four weeks of December.
 
There was one creepy caveat: I was to blog every day, letting the whole word peek into my spiritual pain and practice. I didn’t like that part. But I did it. Please understand that I did not clearly know what I was doing. The process did not come from anywhere inside my conscious mind. And I couldn’t find anything like it in the literature. And, I confess, I didn’t have any particular confidence that the whole thing would work. Bankruptcy was looking pretty final. But I couldn’t see any other option, so on December 1, 2009, I wrote my first blog.
 
A month later, after thirty days of often surprising spiritual exploration, I woke on January 1, 2010 ready to call in a new year. I felt truly ready. I had made amazing discoveries in my month of preparation. I had uncovered hidden gifts in my past, become a real friend of ritual and prayer, emptied myself of any vestige of anger or resentment, and become clear on what I wanted next in my life. That morning, I felt a deep sense of peace and knew I was in God’s hands and all was well.
 
But instead of starting my customary Soul Day process, I picked up a library book lying at my feet that was due the next day. Why in the world did I do that? Looking back I can only think it was an angel nudge.
 
Whatever the reason, I am forever grateful. Because buried in Thich Nhat Hanh’s beautiful book, You are Here, was a simple sentence explaining the Buddha’s teaching on the relationship of all things. That sentence changed my life, gave birth to The Lotus and The Lily course, and started a snowball rolling down a hill toward a greatly expanded writing and teaching career. The sentence is: “When conditions are sufficient, there is a manifestion.”
 
I lept out of my chair. My hand shot to my forehead. I raced in circles around the room gushing, “Oh my God! Oh my God! Everything we think we know about the Law of Attraction is 180 degrees off.” Every fiber of my being vibrated in recognition of Truth with a capital T. In the time it takes to read eight words, I knew why I hadn’t been able to create the life I wanted: Because it isn’t about asking for what you want! It’s about creating the fertile conditions that automatically and naturally produce all you want and more. There’s a BIG, BIG difference.
 
A few days later, I went hunting for what Jesus might have said on the same topic. I was pretty sure the two great spiritual masters wouldn’t teach two different things.
 
I was right. In English we read: “Seek first the kingdom, and all else shall be provided.” But in Aramaic, Jesus is so much more eloquent and precise: “When you pursue a right relationship with the Universal One, and allow that relationship to realign your life, you produce a condition of receptivity, in which everything you need to fulfill your purpose in life will be supplied by the universe.” (Neil Douglas-Klotz, Blessings of the Cosmos.)
 
In a word, it’s not about asking for anything; it’s about creating conditions.
 
In the two years since that morning, I have embraced Buddha and Jesus’s teachings on conditions. I’ve taught The Lotus and The Lily five times, and written the book proposal. But there was a part of me that still didn’t really grasp just how profound the differences are between the Law of Attraction and The Lotus and The Lily.
 
So the angels sent Jason Howard. Jason is a member of Your Soul Wants Five Things. We were talking on the phone and he asked what was happening with The Lotus and The Lily.I told him about Larry Dossey’s wonderful endorsement:”The Lotus and the Lily is a healthy corrective for the ego-driven, materialistic interpretation of spirituality that is epidemic in our culture. Spirituality is not about getting your stuff. It is about developing a closer relationship with the Transcendent, however named, as Janet Conner makes clear.””Of course,” Jason said, “The Lotus and The Lily is about  giving, not getting; allowing, not requesting.” In that moment, a whole cascade of differences came pouring down. I had to write them quickly lest I forget. Here are just a few:
 
Law of Attraction                            Lotus and Lily
 
human at the center                     divine at the center
how to ask                                         how to live
things                                                  conditions
effort                                                   effortless
goals                                                    intentions
conscious mind                              higher self/soul
ego                                                      will
manipulate                                      allow
personal desire                              universal service
personal power                              step aside
fill the cup yourself                      “cup runneth over”
 
 
That’s just a taste. The differences are endless. Now, this doesn’t mean the Law of Attraction is wrong. It simply means that we’ve been focused on only a tiny corner of its true power and capacity. Jesus said, “everything you need” will be supplied by the universe. So why ask for this or that when if you put your energy into creating the conditions of your life, the universe will send everything.
 
In these past two years, I can certainly attest to things and people and opportunities coming my way that I didn’t ask for. It appears that a greater consciousness than mine knew I needed them and sent them effortlessly to me. My job, as I see it, is to say thank you and use everything that comes to me to fulfill my purpose.
 
So I say thank you to Jason and the angel that sent him. Thank you to Thich Nhat Hanh and the angel that nudged me to read his book. Thank you to Neil Douglas-Klotz for a lifetime of research into Jesus in Aramaic. And I say thank you to the hundreds who have joined me in this great adventure.
 
If you’ve been wondering what lies BEYOND the Law of Attraction, please come join me on November 21 for the only presentation of The Lotus and The Lily before the book comes out next year.  
 
I cannot wait to stand beside you as you too discover just how rich and delightful life can be beyond the Law of Attraction.
  
 

I finally found my religion!

I’ve taught thousands how to activate their wise loving Voice. That’s my job. My soul’s purpose. What I love to do. I’ve taught new soul writers in indie bookstores that know every customer and giant chains that don’t. I’ve spoken in tiny churches that meet in hotel rooms and large ones putting up new buildings. I’ve talked with intimate groups in living rooms and crowds at major learning centers.
 
No matter where I am, I tell my story–my wacky, wild, naked story–and answer any question I’m asked. I figure if I’m honest about my situation and how deep soul writing saved my life and transformed my world, then perhaps my listeners can have faith that the Voice is real and ready to help them, too. I know they get the message because they come up to me in corners and bathrooms to thank me for being so open and honest.
 
And I thought I was open and honest. That is until a Sunday afternoon in a packed hallway in Raleigh. I had just given the closing speech at the Body Mind Spirit Expo. The crowd and I were headed to the book signing table. Everyone was jabbering about soul writing and theta and the Hafiz poetry I’d read to them. Suddenly, a woman asked in a clear voice, “What religion are you?” 
 
The hallway got quiet. I paused. I did not want to answer that question.
 
Here’s why. Most of my readers are New Thought or Spiritual But Not Religious–the fastest growing sector in publishing. I personally love attending a Unity church and I adore speaking at Unity and Religious Science churches around the country. But deep soul writing is not limited to any religion or belief. If I know anything for certain, it is that everyone has direct and immediate access to the Voice of Spirit within. Everyone. Many of the people who come to my classes are New Thought or SBNR, but they’re also Jewish, Catholic, Protestant, Buddhist, Wiccan, Agnostic, and everything else. I was raised Catholic and love Christian and Jewish sacred texts, but I love and honor all the ways humanity worships the divine.
 
I wanted an answer that would somehow honor all that.
 
I thought about how Suzy Maldonado would answer the question. Suzy was in my very first soul writing class. She shared something from her pages. She’d been exploring what she believed with the Voice and wrote: “Ask me if I’m Jewish. I’m Jewish. Ask me if I’m Hindu. I’m Hindu. Ask me if I’m Catholic. I’m Catholic. Ask me if I’m Buddhist. I’m Buddhist….”  I was stunned by the beauty and truth of Suzy’s answer. And I’ve repeated it many times when asked about my personal faith.
 
But in that cramped hallway, that isn’t what I said. I had my mystical poetry books in my hands. Without thinking, I held them up and said, “Mystical Poetry is my religion. The mystics of every religion and century say the same thing: It’s all God. And God is Love.”
When I heard those words come out of my mouth, I thought, Wow, what a great answer! And that’s how I’ve answered the question ever since.
 
That is, until three weeks ago.
 
My friend and facebook buddy, Rev Lauren McLaughlin posted a TED talk by Dr David Eagleman, neuroscientist and author of the new NYT bestseller Incognito. I love TED talks. I’ve included several in these newsletters. She said it was a great talk, so I clicked and listened. She was right. This is a GREAT talk, Dr Eagleman starts out with the Hubble Deep Space experiment and ends up announcing he’s a “Possibilian.”
 
I leapt out of my chair. That’s IT! I’m a Possibilian! I posted the link to the TED talk and told everyone, starting with my philosopher son, that I was now an official Possibilian.
 
That is, until last weekend.
 
I was the guest speaker at Unity of Melbourne on Sunday June 12. On the three hour drive across Florida that Saturday, I kept mulling over something a woman in Costa Rica said at our closing ceremony. We’d just spent ten days nose to nose with the outrageous beauty of mother nature. As we went around the table, each traveler spoke about the gift she received from Costa Rica. When it was Mary Jane’s turn, she said, “A couple months ago, I heard Mary Oliver, the great poet of nature, speak in Dallas. At the end of her talk a woman in the audience asked, What should we do? Mary Oliver said do three things: Number 1 Pay Attention. Number 2 Be Amazed. And Number 3 Tell Someone. The gift I received in Costa Rica is I paid attention and now I am thoroughly amazed.”
 
I grabbed a tiny pad in my purse and wrote the three things down. They’ve been cooking in my head ever since. The more I think about it, the more convinced I am that Mary Oliver has it all wrapped up. And it’s so simple. To have a rich joy-filled life, all I have to do is pay attention. And then, be amazed.
 
Be amazed is the easy part. I am constantly amazed. I’m amazed at how my life has unfolded. I’m amazed at the glorious souls who find my book and me. I’m amazed that I’m a writer. (I’m sure everyone who knew me in my CNN or headhunting days is amazed, too.) I’m amazed each time the Voice shows up on my pages and on yours. I’m amazed by the vibrant presence of angels in my life. I’m amazed at how ideas come to me in the morning. (I teach this, but I’m still surprised.) I’m amazed by my animal friends: the ospreys, grasshoppers, and snakes who come to call. I’m beyond amazed by how heaven sent the Icon Owl for my covers. I’m amazed by my body and how it works. I’m amazed by art. Sometimes I just sit and stare at my favorite painting by Denis Gaston, “The Awakened One.” I’m amazed by the books I love. I’m so amazed by Anam Cara that I know I’ll cry when it ends. I’m amazed by my son’s precious heart and mind. God, how I love him. And considering that my husband and I had zero plans for children, I’m amazed–stunned actually–that I have been so blessed.
 
I am constantly amazed. And I think you are too. If we pay attention, how can we be anything BUT amazed.
 
And then it hit me. Somewhere east of Orlando on FL 528: My religion is the Religion of Amazement. I laughed out loud. YES! I am a devout member of the Religion of Amazement. Now all I have to do is tell someone.
 
When I got to Melbourne, Paulette, my host, was cutting her daughter’s hair. I sat at the counter watching and had a cold glass of water. When her daughter left, Paulette started telling me about the church. I don’t remember what we were talking about, but she said, “I am continually in amazement… I am in a state of amazement all the time….” In two minutes, she used the word amazement five times. I had to stop and tell her about the Religion of Amazement. I felt Spirit had moved her to say that exact word. To me it was a little God-wink.
 
Paulette looked at me. “I don’t know why I said that. I don’t think I’ve ever said “amazement” like that before. But now that I’ve said it outloud, it’s true. I am always amazed at how spiritual principles work.
 
So now I have to tell someone else–YOU.
 
Everyone is welcome in the Religion of Amazement. Temples are on every corner of the world. Services are held around the clock, wherever and whenever you like. Just go outside and look around. Look at a cardinal. Listen to a woodpecker. Smell a gardenia. Stare at the moon. Watch a sunrise. Touch a river, an ocean, a pond. Look in the eyes of someone you love. Play with a baby. Pet your dog or your cat or your goat. Watch a wild bunny on the side of the road. Read a book with your eyes wide open. Say your prayers and watch what happens. Welcome the Voice and let the words pour onto the page. Savor your food. Then move. Notice how your body moves and digests and sees and hears. Pay attention. And be amazed.
 
Now, go tell someone. Because I’m quite certain that YOU are a member of the Religion of Amazement, too.
 
__________________________ 
 
Want to be even more amazed?

December Plan Day 18: The one person you need to forgive

Have you noticed that when you set the intention to connect with your divine Voice on the page every day, those ten or fifteen minutes morph until it seems every moment becomes a vehicle for guidance, wisdom, and grace — even the most mundane?

Like running errands. After mailing three orders for Solarzar’s Theta Music CD at the post office yesterday afternoon, I drove to the library to return a book. The library is on the same street as my son’s high school. I’ve driven it hundreds, probably thousands, of times. Nebraska is an unremarkable street of typical Florida cement block homes. But yesterday something remarkable happened there.

Nebraska is a fun street in December. Many of the neighbors decorate for the holidays. As I passed one candy-cane filled yard, my eye fell on the plain brown house next door. The yard was overgrown, the roof layered with leaves. I know that house. It belonged to my first post-divorce boyfriend. He sold it before we went out, so I’ve never been inside, but he pointed it out once when we were driving somewhere. In the moment it took to drive past that house at thirty-five miles an hour, I felt a little twinge of neglect. He should have loved me more.

Huh? Where did that come from? I had no idea I was carrying any regret for that relationship. He wasn’t even the one who ended the relationship. I did. And I ended it ten years ago, for heavens sake! So why on earth was I feeling even the slightest speck of sorrow?

I know why. It’s because of this December Plan. This particular week of the December Plan. My old boyfriend’s old house had a message about forgiveness for me. And its not the message you might expect. The message is not about forgiving old lovers.

I realized as I drove past his house that any time anyone pulls away, even a little bit, and even for all the right reasons, and even because we ask them to, we feel at a subterranean level that somehow it was our fault. Somehow we were not enough. Not attractive enough, not smart enough, not clever enough, not rich enough, not organized enough, not focused enough…. Somehow we were not enough.

It’s a demented logic loop, I know. Here’s how it basically sounds:

If I were good enough, everyone would love me. They couldn’t help it.
So, if someone does not love me totally, madly, and completely…
I must not be good enough.

It sounds pretty comical laid out like that. But please don’t laugh. Look instead for the truth inside the loop. Go ahead, test it for yourself. Pick a relationship that didn’t work out. Even, or especially, one you chose to end. If you peek behind the door, I think you’ll find that at a deep emotional level, a deep irrational emotional level, you feel that somehow you didn’t hold the other person’s attention. If you had been just a wee bit more __________ — something — then he or she would never have turned to someone else, or fallen out of love with you, or simply stopped being interested.

Why is this such a big message? And why is it so important for this week? Because it proves that there is really only one person who needs forgiving.

You.

Not the other guy. You. It’s always you. The wound is inside of you. It’s not about what the other guy did. That can and will be forgiven, but the first wound, the greatest wound, and the hardest one to heal, is inside of you.

Have you noticed that?


Even bugs are messengers

cockroach In Follow Up, the fourth step in Writing Down Your Soul, I talk about several ways to confirm or clarify your guidance. One of my favorites is to pay attention to the messages that come through animals. (p 183-185)

I was raised strict Catholic. Trust me, no nun or priest ever mentioned animals as vehicles for divine guidance. But in 1992, I took a Women’s Spiritual Empowerment class from Charlotte Starfire and my eyes were forever opened to the constant stream of messages in the air and on the land coming to me (and to everyone) in the form of animals.

Charlotte learned about the medicine, or healing messages, of animals from Sun Bear, the great Native American shaman and teacher. Since Charlotte’s class, I’ve kept my Medicine Cards close at hand and turned to them often to understand why a snake crossed my path or an osprey died a few feet from my door. I love my beautiful animal messengers and I welcome their messages.

But last night at 5:00 AM I got a new messenger and I didn’t love it at all. I was awakened by a cockroach crawling across my forehead. Instinctively, I threw it across the room and sat up in horror. I turned on the lights and pursued that thing for thirty minutes. I simply could not fall back asleep with a cockroach somewhere in my bedroom. This is Florida, and I know roaches are everywhere, but thanks to my pest control company, there’s never been a moving one in my bedroom before.

Well, this morning, when I did my deep soul writing, I asked, “What’s with the bug? If I perceive your divine messages in other more delightful animals, don’t I have to recognize the message this creature delivered, too?” It took me a few pages of writing to get the message. The bug had been on my forehead, my third eye, the seat of my knowing. So it was letting me know that I had bugs in my thinking, bugs in my programming.

And of course, it was right. I’ve been wracked with fear lately, fear about finances and fear about my son’s well-being. I desparately need to debug my programming.

“How do I do that?” I wrote. And the answer instantly appeared: “Ask the cards.” But this time, instead of going to the Medicine Cards, I went to a new deck my publicist, Jennifer Hill Robenalt, gave me when I met her in Austin: The Answer is Simple by Sonia Choquette. I love these cards. And they are, as the name implies, incredibly easy to use.
The Answer Is Simple cards
So I took a deep breath and prayerfully asked my question: “How do I debug my programming? How do I get the fear out?”

I drew three cards and laughed at the answer — and yes, it’s simple, clear and simple:

1. Say Thank You.
Suspend your fears long enough to recognize and appreciate those who are helping you. I recognized immediately that I’d been taking the small army of people who love me and my book for granted.

2. Reclaim Your Art
I didn’t even have to read this to know the answer: get back to my creativity, my writing, my love, my joy.

3. Say Yes
“The ego gets fearful…it waits until it’s absolutely sure that it will be safe before it acts. The trouble with this approach to life is the ego never feels safe, so it never acts, it reacts…. Don’t allow the ego to hold you back from the gorgeous opportunities in front of you. Take a chance and trust life as it unfolds.”

The cards perfectly diagnosed the fear “bugs” in my programming and showed me three simple steps to take to get de-bugged. I’m on it right now: I am grateful, I am writing, and I joyfully say YES! to my life’s purpose.

And so, I have to say once more to all my messengers, from the majestic birds to the creepy bugs, thank you for your words and your wisdom, your guidance and your grace. I see you. I hear you. And I learn from you. I am so blessed. And thank you to Sonia Choquette for her fabulous cards.

I am not special or unique. The animals are talking to all of us all the time. Consider this: What animal is delivering a message to you right now? What’s the animal? What’s the message? And what are you going to do with your message?


Loving the not-so-lovable mother

Holidays drive a lot of us nuts.

Or at least I want to

Or at least I want to

The fantasy of the happy family around the table at Thanksgiving, the joyful family at Christmas (or whatever winter holiday you celebrate), the loving couple on Valentine’s day. Gaaak! For many of us–maybe most of us–these lovey-dovey holidays just make us feel less loved and less lovable.

Especially Mothers Day. For those of us who were not exactly the apple of our mothers’ eyes, the greeting card image of the devoted mother and child makes us wince. Yesterday I watched the adorable video of Kelly Corrigan’s mom rearranging Kelly’s books in her local Borders so no one can miss them. Kelly said, “That’s what mothers do.” I thought, “Oh yeah? Not my mother!”

I had a prize-winning mother. She scared the bejesus out of all my friends, especially boys. They would cower in the doorway feeling her frosty judgement from twenty feet away. They couldn’t get “Good night, Mrs Conner,” out fast enough.

But here I am approaching another Mothers Day feeling love–and nothing but love. Mind you, not because of anything my mother said. Not because of a deathbed declaration of devotion. (Never got that.) Not because of anything my mother did. I stand in a pool of love because of something I did.

When my mother began her death march through dementia, I picked up a pen and had the first of many long, intense, soulful conversations with the Voice about Laurene and about our feet-on-broken-glass relationship. I laid our story out on the page, episode after episode, wound after wound, slight after slight, asking hard questions as I went. One of the richest was “What gifts did I receive from my mother?”

Well, ask and ye shall receive, right? The page filled with an array of precious gifts from relentless focus (I can sit at the computer till midnight), to reliance on prayer (don’t get me started, I love prayer in all its forms), to the image of a woman as a writer. Although, I didn’t agree with a single word my mother wrote. (Her obsession was saving the Catholic Church from the evils of all that wasn’t orthodox. She even reviewed papal encyclicals for how well they toed the line.) But at seven, I watched her chain smoke and pound the typewriter, and that image of “woman as writer” (without the cigarettes, thank god!) cemented itself into a possibility–and eventually a reality–for me. And for this, I am eternally grateful.

So, if this Sunday, Mothers Day, is not your idea of a delightful holiday, if you shake your head when you think of your mother, if you dread the thought of another brunch of cold food and artificial smiles, tell the Voice. Tell the Voice in full-throated cry and three-dimensional color, but then, ask. Ask the hard questions. Ask the painful questions. And at some point, ask: “What gifts did I receive from my mother?”

Then, write fast. So fast that you can’t read what’s coming out. Let the words flow on their own. The gifts will cascade onto the page, even–or especially–the “bad” ones. From this rich soil, you grew. Perhaps, you had to grow yourself, but you grew.

And that, is your soul’s true story. You simply could not be who you are, where you are, and headed in the direction you’re headed without that wacky, cold, judgemental (pick an adjective!) woman. So, say Thank You!

For me, I say, Happy Mothers Day, Laurene! And thank you for your many, many gifts.

Want more? Here are two of the UPI columns I wrote about the gifts from my mother. If you want the whole series, send me an email at janet@writingdownyoursoul.com.

Your best birthday gift, unwrapped
Oh no, we really are one!