How to Be Brave Again.

“In spite of everything, I still believe that people are really good at heart.” ~ Anne Frank

I used to be brave. I climbed in canyons alone and hitchhiked when I was a kid. I rode a bus across the country at 14 to go to Outward Bound. I rock climbed blindfolded.

I knocked on doors and did in-home sales for decades, going into strangers’ homes unafraid of anything but flubbing my closing lines.

I drove across the country numerous times and moved to Mexico once. 

Even after being raped by a boss at age 24, I held an invincibility at my core.

Things are different now. I’m different, but so is my country.

Years ago, my sister and I went to the Bahamas. On a walk along the beach, local men laid like lizards on cement walls and leered at us like we were meat. Their eyes on us felt animalistic.

I’ve seen that look in the eyes of some American men more often in the past few years.

There was the guy in the parking lot at the Mexican restaurant when I walked to get my jacket from my car parked next to him. I said hi and his eyes met me with hatred, enough to make me sprint back to the restaurant. I’d like to say he was the only one, a rarity.

But, in today’s society, being female is a vulnerability. Yes, it always has been, but not to this extent, not for a long time.

You can tell me I’m paranoid, or just devoid of logic. Logic isn’t what’s guiding our society. Even when it was, that left out female knowing.

I know too much, see too much, and feel too much fear.

It’s not just about the men who leer. It’s about knowing, due to our hyper-vigilant gun ownership, any altercation could turn dangerous. And it’s not just altercations. It’s concerts, movies, and children going to school gunned down in innocence.

This isn’t to point blame or suggest maybe we have a problem with violence. It’s acknowledging that the overwhelming presence of guns most places I go can make me want to stay home, to hide in safety.

My mom owned a gun and believed in gun rights and the NRA. Oh, what I’d give to have a conversation with her today.

Just like with pizza or beer, a little isn’t bad, but as a lifestyle too much can be devastating.

I’ve altered my lifestyle for safety and security. Certainly, this is in part due to growing out of youth’s invincibility.

However, even as an adult, I used to feel freer, just a few years back.

Isn’t America about freedom? I don’t feel as free and fear it will get worse.

Too many of our heroes have been revealed as dangerous predators. Too many more roam free, eager, and now, emboldened.

What’s a woman to do, but be afraid? Be brave! You say?

Yes, but not in the way of denial of danger. Not, for me, in grabbing a gun to be part of the society hell bent on rights beyond legitimate concerns.

We all agree mass shootings are bad, as well as individual ones. Cop killings are bad. Cops killing? Really bad.

What I fear is the structures we’ve come to count like the ground we stand on are crumbling. The rules have changed in every area. Truth is disputed.

Serious journalists, the likes of the New York Times and Washington Post, once the bastions of our civil society, who took down Nixon, have been framed as enemies.

Roger Stone has a tattoo of Nixon on his chest and the guy in the White House defends him.

No, I’m not bashing. I’m looking clearly.

As a nation, can we see, or shall we continue to be as blind as Camille Cosby?

No matter the facts, she chose loyalty to what she perceived as truth, to the man she knew as good. Who can blame her?

We love who we love. We put our faith in them. We lower bars to make way for them.

When it’s personal, like a marriage and family, it takes time to see a reality so in conflict with what we’ve been told and shown and believe in our core.

As a county, do we have time?

I’m fearful. I’m told to think positive. I try not to be cynical.

Shall we wait until global warming becomes unbearable?

Geez, this gal’s negative! Turn away. Or don’t. I understand the impulse.

What are you grappling with? Where is the collective personal and the personal societal?

Apparently, we need to learn from personal experience and until it touches us, let’s turn off the TV, call the truth fake, and for God’s sake, take care of ourselves.

Yes, I’ll take care of myself to the best of my ability. I’ll also care for loved ones and strangers when and where I can. I’ll speak and write truth.

I’ll be brave again. Courage is revealed in the face of fear.

To call upon mine, I’ll reread Anne Frank’s Diary of a Young Girl and Viktor Frankl’s Man’s Search for Meaning.

Like Frank and Frankl, even if the worst is upon us, we can be diligent in our faith, seek purpose, and imagine ourselves being a part of a better world, or at least paving a path for future generations.

We can be brave again. We must be brave again.


 

How to Welcome Change.

“There’s little more satisfying than the feeling that at last you’ve taken ownership of yourself.” ~ Marianne Williamson

There comes a time.

You set yesterday aside,
Softly.

The thing you held;
Coveted.

Soft addictions cling like
Teddy Bears carried
Into adulthood.

Until you leave them.
Without tears.
Or fanfare.

There comes a time.

You pick up new habits
The way you used to
Lovers in bars.

It’s a new day.
You delight in what’s
Sweet, soulful, and true.

Your radiance.
In the mirror.

How Good News Ignites Us.

“Finally, brothers and sisters, whatever is true, whatever is noble, whatever is right, whatever is pure, whatever is lovely, whatever is admirable—if anything is excellent or praiseworthy—think about such things.” ~ Philippians 4:8

Our family received some lovely news yesterday. It’s not mine to share, but I can tell you joy rose in me like it does in a child at Christmas.

We seek to grab the good, get on our mats and stretch into it, get on our knees and pray it in, work, affirm… It all helps.

Nothing like Kundalini, but that’s just crazy me.

Yesterday reminds me: Sometimes the best gift someone can give is their own good news.

Joy over another’s fortune is as pure as music that moves us.

With the announcement, I felt surrounded by our families’ ancestral lines smiling and celebrating. Happiness fell on us like confetti.

These days, we need good news to compensate for our outrageous political and chaotic social climate, and the bombardment of media and technology we’re addicted to.

As a female citizen in the United (now acting divided) States of America, it’s my civic duty to pay attention to the occurring conversations and decisions affecting us culturally, while aligning my activist inclinations with truth, compassion, and action.

There’s an allegiant mindset determined to fix our problems. First, we must face them. Yuck!

Recently, a girlfriend said, “I don’t watch the news. I like to stay positive.”

That’s how I felt in my 20s and 30s. I suppose some people weren’t rivetted to the news as Watergate unfolded, either.

In our 50s, in these #metoo times, women (and men) can’t afford to go back to sleep. And the young people are showing up fully awake.

I don’t want to be the person who isn’t paying attention while history is making a solid mark on humanity.

For decades, through helping myself to personal growth and positive thinking, I learned the art of positive denial.

I rode it like a skateboard. Then, I crashed and came face-to-face with all I’d refused to look at.

Positive denial is still denial.

Now, I’m into facing life head on, because I may not have time to circle back to see what I left under the bed.

There’s a balance, isn’t there? In previous scenes in my life, I practiced playing Pollyanna, but I’m not her.

I like being educated and informed, and yet information, understanding, and truth-seeking can be heavy.

Oh, but that good news! It ran through my blood like a happy drug. I want more.

In turbulent times, joy still dances.

People fall in love, get married, and have babies. Promotions are granted, new jobs landed, homes purchased, and travels taken.

Sometimes, when we talk about our own joys, it feels like bragging. Sometimes, I hold back–as if my joy diminishes another’s or dismisses their pain.

We must share our good news—in spite of and because of the personal and collective challenges of our times, which we must face with courage and character.

Although serious, let’s not be joyless. Let’s share good news like juicy gossip.

How to Know When You’re Getting to the Better Side of Grief.

How to Know When You’re Getting to the Better Side of Grief.

When drinking out of that one striped coffee cup (his)—which you relegate to a special place and celebrate sipping from, holding the connection to him the way a child holds her Teddy Bear—no longer feeds you an emotional feast.

Of course, you still choose it the way you’d still choose your beloved were he alive, but its existence, meaning, and memories don’t grip as tight as they once did.

When you flirt with other men because you want to, not just to prove to yourself you still can.

When meeting potential suitors, you no longer seethe from your soul the words that rolled off your tongue fresh after his death: Every other man is going to be such a f*cking disappointment!

Although each one will say or do the wrong thing by virtue of not being the man you called Fire!.

He lit you, warmed you, melted you, and went out in the night while you each slept snuggled in the peace you’d longed for your whole life.

Yet, you remember you once gave him a hard time, too–even considered him unqualified.

Until he shattered your walls with his Southern, all-in, “I’m not those other guys” determination and dedication without expectation.

Damn. He showed you how a real man steps in.

So, you might be getting to the better side of grief when you believe maybe there’s more than one emotionally courageous man on this earth, even another for you.

You stop banking on your beloved coming back, although you still secretly believe.

Your fascination with the other side, psychics, and signs subsides.

Sure, the songs still come, like Summer Nights for your sister, the flash from her first date with her husband some 35+ years ago, before he died after decades of love and a devoted family foursome.

That same night in the Bahamas, gals sing and slaughter Ice, Ice Baby, the song that originated Fire’s nickname for you in 1988 when your friendship began, as playful as a paintball tournament.

You’re getting to the other side of grief when these songs, reminders, and hellos from heaven break a smile instead of your heart.

You find yourself fully present vacationing with your sister, letting the alligators in the Everglades and lobster on the beach in the Bahamas own your attention.

Easy, one might say, but to grieve is to always wish you were elsewhere: with him.

When every breath isn’t I wish you were here; I miss you so much! Although the thought still indulges your days, it’s not every. single. moment. Progress!

Now, you’ve done 30 Days of Meditation, cleared everything from your chakras to your lineage, and found your heart bursting with love.

Determination isn’t only in your head; you embody it.

Goals and dreams matter, rather than just trying to convince yourself they should.

You might be getting to the to the better side of grief when birds singing and feeding at the feeder that belonged to your beloved goes from bittersweet to simply sweet.

Morning air and the wearing of his KISS robe isn’t ripe with flashbacks of early country mornings, arising from his bed and arms to let your dog out, hearing your favorite holler, “Come back, Icey! Come back!”

When you stop betting 100% he will.

Once again, you start finding two pennies repeatedly. Then a nickel and a penny, hearing him say, “For your sixth cents,” laughing, and you laugh, too.

Your own laughter rings as real and unrestrained as it flowed back in 1989, before your brother died, when you called The Fire! only Kevin, and he helped you pack your Honda CRX hitched with a U-Haul, so you could haul your ass out west and run away from husband number one.

You no longer want to run away from your own life.

Instead, you lean into the laughter and how it feels in your belly and looks on your face reflected in the eyes of your sister, friends, and strange folks you’ve yet to know.

You could be getting to the better side of grief when gratitude doesn’t feel like false affirmation, when you look forward to time with friends, and frankly, you stop wishing you were dead.

When you don’t keep your eyes on the clouds, begging for the heart shapes so prominent and clear in the first year after he died.

You begin looking at all that is before you.

You stop carrying conversations on autopilot like your decades spent in sales. You listen to others’ pain as more than pacifier for why yours isn’t so bad.

You still yourself and speak from your soul without the deafening echo of his goneness.

You hear joy—theirs and yours—and let it rise like a favorite song you sang in your 20s. Passion!

I find I’m getting to the better side of grief when I want to grab every morsel of life.

I don’t want to miss out on one grand, or even mundane experience, like savoring coffee, because I’m so damn busy missing my beloved, my Fire!, although I always will.

I crawled through the dark tunnel of grief after experiencing the ecstasy of sacred love.

It hasn’t died. His love lives in me. I’m forever his Ice Baby.

I’m all that he fell for—broken, vulnerable, smart, strong, feisty, funny, and beautiful.

We were crazy, sexy, cool. He still is; I still am.

I’m alive, eager for the moments before me, and excited for the chapters unfolding.

I feel like me again. I’m a woman who loved unbounded and grieved with every fiber of my being.

I’m not a fool. Grief will grab me again. She can knock me down with the power of a colossal ocean wave. I accept her power, her nature.

But, we may be getting to the better side of grief when we once again feel our own power and God’s grace within this brutiful life.

And giddiness! There’s no such thing as giddiness in the grip of grief.

So, if you’re in it, I extend my hand in hope to hold with your honorable despair.

There’s another side to grief. May I see you there.

How to Own Your Destiny.

“We have to stop waiting to wake up.” ~ Sarah Entrup

I am my destiny. When I came into my mother’s womb, I restored hope.

I radiate the fullest source of my being. I always was my destiny.

I float in a lavender bubble and sparkle from within whenever I let my light shine.

When I almost died as a baby, but didn’t, I showed the world resolve. Even the nurses were amazed; I had a remarkable destiny.

I learned to ride a bike, color, climb trees, play hide-n-seek, spend time alone, and write stories about this crazy, beautiful world. I was always my destiny.

I wrote stories about squirrels, stole money, and broke rules by ditching Camp Fire Girls. I got into trouble for living my destiny and being free—and I loved it!

Later, I attracted men and love and left them to be my destiny, not my karma or drama. I had sh*t to do!

In my last life, I learned the price of contorting myself and playing it safe. Now, I live into my destiny.

I’m health and nature and joy.

I’m bringing sexy back over and over as many times as I like.

It’s my destiny, like laughter, the woods, words, and even getting hurt. Those are my growth spurts!

I am my destiny. I’m not resistance or stuckness. I’m F*ck yes! and Hello, life!

I’m knocked down; get back up.

I’m: here’s what I learned when I was down there, in there, back there, over there. Now, I’m here.

What? You say I look different? I sound different? No, baby, I’m the same. I’ve always been my destiny.

I dance with my history and lineage. There are no limits, only gifts.

The opportunity to shine into the full line of me.

You thought I forgot who I was? Ha! I tricked you! Tricked myself, too!

But, I’m back to my destiny, twirling and swirling and smiling.

Through all my lifetimes, I’ve screamed delight flying on the swings with my sisters.

And lovers? Boy, have I been lucky!

I experienced the legendary love I longed for in my last life—the one I gave up my life force for, back when I went dark.

I had to make a choice then with what I knew and the times I lived. That’s when and how I made a vow to my divine destiny.

The me that I kept hidden away behind the protocol of that time protects me now.

When I walk down yesterday’s path or slip into somebody else’s destiny, mine whispers, “Not that way, this way.” Suddenly, where I was once unsure, I’m certain.

I am my destiny, not my habits or quirks. That’s just personality.

I’m royalty walking as a commoner, kissing the sweet sunshine of freedom. Incog..neato!

I breathe deep. I do Downward Dog, Upward Dog, and Destiny Dog.

I’m my destiny the way my Black Lab Phoenix exhibited the full loving expression of herself without apology, pretense, defense, or need to analyze.

I know people need love, light, laughter, and listening. Hello, destiny arriving! No problem. Pure joy. No inconvenience.

My destiny is not to be mean—even to myself. I’m kind and cool and lean into joy.

I let sadness flow through me when it comes, knowing it’s part of my destiny to fall and rise and realize new insights about myself and life.

This is my nature: to be transformed, shaped, and radiate today’s femininity.

Beyond definition. The divine feminine ignites birth, braves motherhood, raises people, owns beauty, and beholds grace. She makes way for messy blood and medicinal hugs.

Feminine spirit is raw, as destined as the apple seed to the apple.

She respects and dances with, but will never bow down to masculine musculature.

Because she’s not supposed to! That’s not her destiny.

That’s not my destiny. I am my destiny. My destiny is change and transcendence.

My destiny is growth, wisdom, and light. If we have to light this world on fire with hope and spirit and compassion combined with sisterly and motherly love, so be it.

We are here. This is our destiny.

We’re the firefighters of our time.

We are willing to burn for better things.

We’ve been here all along. Oh, you just noticed? Well, welcome to the party.

Destiny is always on time, even when she’s late!

I am my destiny. I am words and footsteps, connections and creations.

I’m poetry and art, travel and speaking, books and teaching.

I’m as loud as hawks squawking, quiet as sunshine, and vibrant as a song called Life.

Destiny is as undeniable as the color purple, as heavy as gravity, and as well-designed as a hummingbird.

She is me and I am nature.

I smell of lavender and sway my hips like a front porch swing. I sell you truth smoother than Tennessee whiskey and make you forget time before you knew me.

I am destiny. I arrive with the current of the ocean and all the treasures within. You can pollute me, but never contain me.

I am my destiny. I am fulfillment.

I’m stories told for generations and values held by women around the world.

I’m education, expertise, respect, and truth.

I shall not yield. I need not fight. Watch me rise.

I am destiny. Unstoppable.

I storm in like winter and blossom like spring—just when you thought I was in the ground.

I am life. I am death. I am peace and anger. I am hope and happiness.

I’m the first time I roared down a dirt road alone on a four-wheeler, dust everywhere and a grin so big I caught bugs in my teeth.

Nothing you say matters, but I hear it all. Clearly. So clearly now.

I am destiny. I always have been.

 

How to Bring Crazy, Sexy, Cool Back.

“Your heart is the conduit and radiator of your multidimensional self.” ~ Sarah Entrup

One moment I knew joy, light, laughter, and the peace of a clean house and freshly rearranged bedroom.

On Friday March 4, 2016, my sister and her boyfriend, my nephew and his wife, and I awaited my boyfriend’s arrival and anticipated a night out at The Melting Pot.

After his non-arrival and numerous calls completed with the final words of the officer explaining unresponsive meant dead, I shifted into a sh*t storm of sadness so deep it felt like living below the earth.

I twirled, swirled, fought, and finally gave into the mourning. The tears shocked me with shrieks and howls fit for an animal.

I was an animal in pain.

I lost my will to live as quickly as I learned of my beloved’s death.

I had to live for my sister, who’d experienced the death of her husband just four years prior. I couldn’t intentionally inflict this pain on anyone, but my choice would’ve been to go to sleep and never wake up, like my boyfriend Kevin did (heart attack in his sleep).

Often, people who’ve lost loved ones worry about them in the afterlife. That’s never been my concern. Not with my brother, mother, brother-in-law, or beloved.

I know they’re in a better place. Not la-la-la harps and angels, but beautiful beyond our imagination. I believe the afterlife multiplies everything a person loves.

Like my brother Bill can ski soft, deep powder, fly off jumps, and never break skis or bones the way he did on earth. I envision my mom sewing costumes for better-than-Broadway plays. Tom Gerlach, my brother-in-law owns all the cars he wants, and the 50s car shows he felt so fond of here are bland compared to the ones on the other side. As for Kevin Lentz? Rock-n-roll means musical ecstasy and star showers are light shows.

I also believe our loved ones go on with other purposes in the afterlife.

However, these beliefs only make me jealous and crave to be with them even more.

I gave way to the whirlwind of grief. I let it spin me, slap me, pound me. Over time, my grief transformed from a tornado I was caught in to an ocean in which I tried to swim.

I may have looked cute in my suit, but I always wore the grief. It engulfed me.

Until it didn’t. I’m not saying I’m over it, but maybe I’ve moved my blanket to the sand beside the ocean. I see both the power and beauty.

I respect grief’s strength and don’t delude myself that I can control it any more than I could fend off my loved ones’ deaths.

There will still be days when grief arises and surprises me like high tide takes down morning sand castles.

I’m on the beach of life, the land of the living. Storms exists. Affirmations don’t dismiss.

Yet, we each decide how we’ll engage our days on earth.

Looking down the beach at the crowds, I’m far from alone in what it’s taken to get here, back to appreciation and celebration of my own heartbeat.

I’m not referring to the positive platitudes we say to make ourselves feel better.

No, it’s magical metamorphosis, the beautiful beyond that calls us to crack out.

Before Kevin’s death, I studied self-development, personal growth, positive thinking, and pop psychology religiously. I was a believer.

After, it all felt fruitless.

The whole you can get anything you want if you just affirm, believe and work at it doesn’t apply to bringing back the dead (although I still try).

Life felt like a rigged game, as random as roulette.

I felt ripped off—after numerous relationships didn’t fit and then finding ourselves blessed with the deepest fulfillment either of us had known—our crazy, sexy, cool was cruelly snatched by sudden, unexpected death. WTF?!

Now, two years later, I’m reminded of a trip years ago, (before the time I went with Kevin). When visiting Wrightsville Beach, I was told the waves were strong: Watch out!

Nevertheless, my sister and I stood in waist high water chatting—safe with our feet solid on the sand.

In a blink, a big wave knocked us both on our butts. When I came up, my Maui Jim sunglasses were gone.

Just gone. Like Kevin.

Now, I’ve come to respect nature’s power and know I’ll lose both sunglasses and people in my life. Doesn’t mean I like it!

Maybe I’m a little wiser now. For years, I resisted getting another pair of expensive sunglasses because I despised the disappointment of loss. I went for dozens of pairs of cheap sunglasses.

Recently, a friend gave me some high-end super spectacles. Just putting them on gave me a case of coolitis. My vision is sharper. They fit like a favorite pair of jeans. Wearing them makes everything brighter.

Of course, I’m careful not to lose them.

Maybe I’ve done the same thing with love—been afraid to invest, or even believe in, having the high quality again.

That’s no way to live. Not for me.

When my road ends, I intend to be able to repeat my grandfather’s experience and words: “I’ve had a lot of loss, but I’ve had a lot of love.”

So, I’ve booked another trip to the beach. With or without Kevin, I’m bringing back my crazy, sexy, cool… self.

Why We’re All Seeking the Same Thing.

“Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen.” ~ Hebrews 11:1

You might think it would be easier if your wife had died—
Rather than trying to kill something in you by sleeping
With other men, even those you thought friends.

I could be tempted to say, At least she’s alive.
I wish my man was, even if he betrayed me
And tried to break me. At least I could
Hear his voice and look in his eyes.

A teenage girl tells her father,
“This ear infection is so bad
I’d rather have the flu for a year!”

Yeah, right.

Some say divorce is as difficult
As losing a loved one to death.
Having experienced both, I beg to disagree.

But, then I remember that’s just me.
My divorces (yes, two!) weren’t brutal.
No one got betrayed or dragged through court.

But, hey—I bet both those men would say
It was the worst experience of their lives.

What else could it be when the woman you love,
The one you intend to invest all your years with
Chooses to walk away?

Maybe there’s no easy.
Not when it’s yours to bear.

It wasn’t easy for my sister to lose her husband
To cancer after 33 years in a marriage many envied.

I’m still reeling from the loss of my beloved
Who went to sleep and never woke up.

My sister and her husband had history
And prepared to sail into the sunset.

My beloved and I were blessed with sacred love
Finally, in our 50s! Hope coursed through us.

Whatever we must face, it’s ours. That’s what makes it hard.

Heartbreak is our puzzle of life,
The beautiful picture shaken
And scattered on the floor.

Pieces disappear. Emptiness arrives.
Previous pieces don’t fit. Everything is a jumble.
Where did these odd, misshaped ones arrive from?

Life. Life. Life.

It’s a series of pictures coming together and falling apart.

We make new pictures.

Mine is not harder. Yours is not easier.
Yours is not harder. Mine is not easier.

It all a puzzle. We’re all seeking the pieces.