The Month of September

Below is a post from September 2016. It is 11 years since our car accident, and this September also proves heavy. This entire month I have been dealing with the decline of my dear father. He has been hospitalized and now in a TCU (transitional care unit). It is why I have not been writing as much here, and why I thought I’d reshare this post. The lesson on love, death, change continues to deepen and unfold.

fall

Once, many years ago, while going through a particularly difficult time I got this idea in my head I would die on September 16 (0f that particular year). I was reminded of this today, September 16, on my walk. Suddenly, I smelled something foul. I looked to my right and there was a dead racoon in the grass. Several steps later, once I arrived in the woods near my house, a dead squirrel on the path. The bodies were still fresh. Was this a sign?

I thought: death is all around us. I remembered all the death that has surrounded my family and myself since December. On December 11, just as my kids and I were about to watch A Christmas Story, my dad called. He was not himself. He said, Mary Lou died. Mary Lou was my step-mother. Then, in January my husband’s last grandmother passed away. It snowed in April when Price died alone in his elevator. June took Uncle Mel and then, his wife, my beloved Aunt on September 6.

September 6 is now shared with September 24, my father’s birthday, when my best friend from Kindergarten died in a car accident when she was only 27 years old. Along with September 11 and September 29. On September 29th, 2011 I was driving my white Toyota Matrix on a Los Angeles freeway. My mother and 11-year old daughter were in the backseat, my 19-year old daughter in the front seat with me. We were listening to Enya and playing the alphabet game. Suddenly, a large truck with glaring headlights was in my rear view mirror. Before I could finish my sentence about what I saw, that large truck hit my car. The car flew and flipped through the air several times until it finally landed on its side. I remember wondering, am I going to die?

car

The Toyota Matrix

I have told and written this story many times, and this year, five years later, I notice the story no longer holds the emotions and trauma it once had.  Now, what seems to be unfolding are the lessons and awakenings from that day that changed everything. Death is all around us.

But, what does this mean exactly? And, is it death or just change? Here’s what is becoming clear for me— life. I think I have been so afraid of death and that impending shoe drop (in my case a tow truck that comes out of nowhere) that life has been cumbersome. I noticed this heaviness after I returned from my aunt’s funeral. Prior to her funeral, I sat with her for four days while she went through the process of death, of change. I had never been this close to the death of another human being or for so long.

flo

Me and Aunt Flo

Before I entered her home, I was afraid of what I might see. But, all my fear went away when she opened her eyes and smiled at me (and my dad and daughter). All I felt was love. I knew I loved her, but those four days I felt my love for her. I was able to tell her she mattered. This experience is invaluable to me now.  But there is a physical, mental and emotional price, at least for me, when going through something like this. That price felt heavy. It felt exhausted. It felt sad.

After the car accident, I carried heavy, exhausted and sad for nearly 5 years.

I feel lighter now. Life is becoming more clear, but not because I have figured anything out. But because I’m not taking it all so seriously and maybe because the desire to live life finally outweighs the fear of living life. I am moving, once again, toward curiosity, beauty, wonder and listening. Listening, as I did on my walk today, that I needed to get grounded. This looked like me stopping in the middle of the forest doing tree pose and volcano breath. This means committing to creating a life that will match my desire to stay in harmony with my higher self and nature, and not the day-to-day grind of this current culture.

I also intend to move more toward what my aunt taught me—love. And, believe me, I am a newbie to love. It’s always been inside of me, but it’s the emotion or state of being that I resist the most. At the least, it makes me feel awkward. At the most, it frightens me as if I might be swallowed by it. But, while my aunt was in  hospice I had a new experience with love. As I stroked her hair, held her hand and kissed her forehead as I said goodbye and I love you, love comforted me.

Love is a comfort, not a burden I need to protect myself from. So yes, death, the unexpected, change surrounds us—not to stop us or scare us or burden us, although it can, but to notice it, wonder about it, learn from it and let it guide us to more clarity of life, comfort of love and truth of being.

The Soul Reporter

Crisis

My body knew, for weeks, something was coming. Dreams were foreboding. The Power Path reported- September: Crisis.

I assume what is happening is the crisis. I really don’t want to go into it now. But at some point I will. However, I do want to share some lessons I am learning, not necessarily new ones, but occurring in a deeper and more impactful way.

  1. Crisis points: serve many opportunities for healing and expansion.
  2. Patterns: one of those opportunities is noticing psychological patterning. This is important because some patterns at one time served a protective purpose but eventually can and will destroy in one way or another if consciousness is not brought to them.
  3. Stress: fear/anxiety based programming/thinking only creates stress. The answers/wider paths and perspectives don’t live in this superficial, chaotic space.
  4. A quote from Olivia Newton John: Optimism is a choice. I’m aware of the bad; I just don’t choose to tune into it. I am aware of the fear/worry based thinking. At 50 y/o I am very aware of what it creates. I know it is there, I am learning not to engage with it and instead move into the deeper, wider space.
  5. Acceptance: is an important salve to suffering and anxiety based thinking. It creates space for possibilities that could not be seen in tight thoughts and creates space for grieving and feeling what it is we are trying to avoid.
  6. Writing: it helps me slow down the hits of life that just keep coming, to ground, to process and to share and hopefully help.

~Nikki, The Soul Reporter

You Were a Deep Player

Back then you didn't take on the world's problems
You knew they were there
And set out your worry dolls down on your windowsill at night
Sometimes you were visited by an elf 
Who squeezed your hand tight and 
Told you bad things. 

But you also played

It settled you
At day you explored and refined 
At night the worries surfaced 
And you knew what to do. 

If life is about balance for you
Where is the play now? 


~Nikki, The Soul Reporter
Photo Source: https://www.wiscnews.com/opinion/columnists/stellpflug-column-worry-dolls-are-for-everyone/article_65717998-8115-5936-b473-d9e47df9290d.html

Tell Me Everything

A poem.

Tell me how much you love him

Tell me how much you want to leave him

Tell me how he hurts you

Tell me how he loves you

Tell me why you’re afraid to stay

Tell me why you’re afraid to leave

Tell me why you fear you’ve been replaced

Tell me what you still want with him

Tell me how hard this has been

Tell me how this love affair began

Tell me how he holds you back

Tell me how he lets you drown

Tell me how you hold yourself back

Tell me how you let yourself drown

Tell me how you suffer

Tell me everything until there’s nothing left to tell

Tell me everything so we both understand and can move on.

~Nikki, The Soul Reporter

The Screened in Porch

I travel to this space— a retreat space about an hour from Duluth, MN. A place, I heard Cheryl Strayed wrote a part of her book, Wild. It used to be run by nuns, the Sisters of St. Joseph of Carondelet, the founders of my alma mater. Then, they’d prepare simple meals and leave them in your kitchenette prior to your arrival. Now, with the new owners, it is BYOF. Now, it’s less “we are here to acknowledge and support your retreat” to more “you’re on your own, but here’s the same space.”

There are seven cabins to choose from. Over the years I’ve stayed in three— the smaller ones because I always visit alone. Traveling here began as an escape— to run away from kids, my marriage and suburban life. This is the first time I am not here to escape anything (well maybe the instability of our world right now). Since the world events, my fantasy of a cabin in the woods has increased.

I am in an empty nest now and my marriage is more neutralized and maybe not having anything to escape from is why this visit feels different. This time, I chose The Woodlands, a small cabin that is more secluded within the forest. Immediately out of my car, when I arrived, I was swarmed by insects, and after a short hike I picked off at least 10 ticks. This is disappointing because one reason I came here was to hike the several miles of wooded trails. So far they’ve all been short lived and cause more stress than rejuvenation.

This brings me to where I’ve spent the majority of time so far— the screened in porch. It is modest, rustic and cobwebby. It supplies one small round table and a camping chair. But I don’t seem to mind. I listen to the wind through the trees, watch the sunlight sparkle and fade on their leaves and feel relieved when I hear the loud buzzing bugs have no way in. While I sit, I wonder why I am here if I am not escaping something. I don’t quite know but I sense I need to be, even if I don’t venture far beyond the screened porch.

I brought a lot of notebooks, along with my project calendar and my computer with the intent to write and schedule my summer writing projects. But, so far I’ve only opened my computer to buy a book and to watch Netflix. I just finished J Lo’s documentary. Now there is a woman who knows what she wants and go gets it. I finished it feeling slightly depressed. I went back to the warm porch. I’ll journal, I thought. Maybe draw and certainly finish the book I am reading. Then, I got on Twitter….

I’m sure you did what you could, now do what you actually want.

@_moimichelle

Instead of bad news, I saw the quote above and it interrupted my amnesia (the whole who am I and why am I here thought pattern) and I burst into tears. This “tweet” is a two-sentence summary of where I find myself— a crossroad I have been on for quite some time, since the kids left the nest. I said: I still don’t know what I actually want. Seemed legit, but there’s more, another truth emerged both silently and loudly: yes you do. That is true. I do know what I want. But I’m playing like I don’t.

There is a comfort in the longing for what I actually want, but not actually doing it. But imagine if J Lo was only longing. I’ve longed long enough, haven’t I….?

If I actually want what I want, it is time to surrender the longing and relax into the doing, being and expressing. And I suppose, also risking and trusting.

It has been a long road of doing what I could, and it was exhausting. Hence, the retreats. But, now, like me in this one room cabin, there is just me now and the naked truth of what I actually want to do and the opportunity to do it.

The transition from what I could do, and did to what I actually want to do has left me wondering who am I? Where am I? There has been enough life, now that I’m 50, where scrambling to figure that out, making lots of missteps and mistakes along the way, is not necessary. Now I can be still enough to let it all settle— what was, what is and what I might actually still want.

This is why I am here at the Woodlands in June, in the heat with the insects— to settle.

I met a woman here, briefly, that was alone, staying in one of my earlier cabins. She stopped me on one of my short walks. I noticed her when I checked in. She told the owner there may be another person joining her, but when pressed she could give no details to when, or even if. Not long after her check in, she was packing up her car and that is when she stopped me.

“Have you been here before?” I gave her my stay history. She chocked up a little and said someone she knows is in the hospital and she might have to leave. “I’m a frontline worker and this is the first break I’ve had.” When asked if it was family, she said it was a co-worker and she’d have to leave to cover their shift. Seemed believable, but I sensed something more: fear.

It is not easy to go on retreat alone, in a cabin with no TV, where at night it is so dark you can’t see your hand in front of you. In my younger days I came with luggage full of anxiety, along with all of my OCD traits acting up, organizing my retreat and worrying about what was happening at home. Before I spoke with the woman, I watched her start down a walking path by my cabin. She stood there looking down the path, then turned around and walked away from it. I too have impulses to turn around and instead go where it is safe and known. But, more often than not, I listen to the part in me that understands in order to expand I have to keep walking the path, even when there are insects that might give me Lyme Disease. I understand I have to give myself space to stay in a place that is dark and unfamiliar. I need to be here, even if I am not writing or scheduling the writing. Even if I am not escaping anything.

I’m still not sure exactly why I am here, but what I do know is, this time I did not bring as much baggage. I’m unconcerned about what the husband is doing at home. I took a nap at 2 pm without writing one word. I have not OCD’d my retreat, and the anxiety that was once an intrusive roar is now a dull pant.

I’m okay and I am going to be okay. Also, if what I actually want is to create my fantasy cabin in the woods life, there MUST be a screened in porch. 🛖🌲🕷

~Nikki, The Soul Reporter

Fear of Adults

Did adults teach love or fear?

A few mornings ago, a deeply rooted fear approached the surface of my awareness— it may be a major source of my anxiety— the fear of adults.

Adults— these taller, authoritative and not always welcoming figures who literally, and often figuratively, look down on us when we are small. I guess it is one reason why it has been weird to be one and why, in many cases, especially in parenting, I got it wrong.

Who taught me to adult, and how was I taught?

I tried QNRT (Quantum Neuro Reset Therapy) recently and the practitioner asked— what happened between ages 9-11? Searching, mostly I came up blank, as though this entire span of my life I blacked out. However, what I do recall, an image that also came up in an EMDR (Eye Movement Desensitization and Reprocessing) therapy session: little me is standing in line outside Ms. Odegard’s 3rd grade classroom. This image of my small self, being towered over by Odegard, folds inside of itself head first, as if choosing at that moment to go some place no one else would see me— EVER. Odegard was a mean, witchy-looking woman (more witch of the west, not south). She scared me, and away, inside myself, I went and stayed. Early experiences of bullying only solidified my existence there, with the added compounding affect of: I’m ugly and weird. I’m too much and I bother people just by being me. But it wasn’t me— I mean maybe the vulnerability of me likely made me a target, but it was also what I wore.

My mom gave love through buying me expensive things. She didn’t have a lot of money, just credit and expensive taste. Let’s just say I was the first person in 6th grade to have Guess jeans— the infamous triangle on the back pocket I exposed by keeping one part of my shirt tucked in at the back. Every bullying event was around something I wore from the barrettes that were pulled out of my hair and stomped on by dirty blonde-haired Allison, to the pink hat that matched an entire pink outfit that was snatched off my head by Jessica. The next day she gave it back to me in a brown paper bag. My hat was in the bag and a big clump of dog shit was in my hat.

Said pink hat and the outfit to match

I easily learned it is not okay to “show off— ” as if that is what I was doing. I was wearing what I had and loving it, until that happened.

I understand that these stories aren’t about the scary adults, but about mean kids, likely acting out because of the scary adults in their lives. Which brings me back to them, and what they mean to us when we are little.

The source of (pretty much) everything is in these young, developing years, and all around us are adults, these taller people that are supposed to know more than we do. So, we listen to them. We watch everything they do and because we are so spongy during this time we absorb a lot. In a way, we absorb them.

We can absorb their unprocessed and unregulated emotions. We can absorb the actions, behaviors and words that are done and told to us. Therefore, depending on what we are absorbing, we can believe that we are good, bad, worthy or unworthy, not enough or too much….And we can learn patterns of behaviors and thought that protect us and then as adults, harm us.

When there is a problem, there is not something to do, there is something to know.

Dr. Raymond Charles Barker

Many seem to be returning to this childhood time, realizing this is the source of the pain, the repetitive and protective patterns and habits, the suffering. Once understood, which is a process, the more pure, real parts of ourselves can risk showing up and we welcome in a new experience of adulthood. One where, instead of feeling tight and constricted within ourselves, we feel more spacious and free. It is from this spaciousness that we present as an adult that won’t scare and shame away the smaller people.

❤️🧡💛💚💙💜

Thanks for showing up,

~Nikki, The Soul Reporter

Declarations, toxic masculinity & protecting our feminine borders

This Father’s Day I declared that I no longer hold, accept or take responsibility for the insecurity of men, or the ignorance about their sense of superiority and dominance over women.

Whether that insecurity and ignorance takes the form of verbal, sexual, emotional, or physical abuse or is just a mindset, I am now one less woman to create a safe and generous space for it. This occurred to me on my daily walk yesterday. I wore a romper. As I walked across the street, a man in a truck waited at the stop sign and (in my head) watched me walk. Instantly, my head dropped down in shame- hoping he was not noticing my menopausal belly and find me unworthy. The next instant my mind flooded with all the times I do this on my walks. And then it flooded with all the major and minor abuses women and girls, including myself, have received by men.

As a young girl, my father made a pig sound when I ate. He also did not talk to me much when I was young and that made me feel ignored and unseen. I have watched male family members treat my two daughters differently— where once they were adored as children and then abandoned once they grew breasts and hips. I have heard stories of fathers laughing at their daughter’s “mosquito bites.”

Girls gain their sense of self-worth from their fathers so what do we think is the message a girl receives from a father who makes fun of her developing body? A father who oinks when she eats? A father who doesn’t say, “Hello, how are you” after a school day? A father who works all day and then is angry at the dinner table? A father that only disciplines but does not love? A father who is absent?

These girls become women and some of them marry men. They marry men who cheat. Men who ignore. Men who abuse. Men who laugh at them. Men who drink too much and do drugs. Men who try and find ways to make them wrong. Men who dismiss their experiences and do not think they can come up with ideas of their own. Men who call them crazy. Men who are silent about other men who abuse or worse, defend them.

As anger, regret and sorrow filled me, I further declared that my sense of worth no longer comes from a man be he a stranger or someone I sleep next to every evening. My sense of worth comes from me. And further, my body, mind and surrounding energetic field will not support, sustain or allow the projections of man’s insecurities.

Men have a lot of work to do. A lot of inner, introspective work. I dare anyone to show me one man who does not have ANY toxic masculinity running through him.

If we women continue to protect men, which is more about how we protect ourselves from possible abuse or abandonment, then I have little hope men will awaken to their ignorance and insecurity on their own. I say this because I believe it is an unspoken expectation that women are here to either accept or enable a man’s toxicity or it is her duty (a false belief we might have) to love or teach him out of it.

None of this is our job as women. It is up to men to love and teach themselves out of it. The only thing keeping toxic masculinity going is fear and ignorance- fear of the truth that men actually are not better, smarter, stronger than women. Fear of the truth of their own pain of having to be better, stronger, better. Fear of being equal and what that mean for them as far as sacrificing their unearned privileges. Fear of all their insecurities being exposed once women stop protecting them.

Donald Trump is the poster child of toxic masculinity. Only those men that are like him, and the women who protect them, believe in his bravado. The rest of us see what an insecure, wounded and sad little man he is. We see that what he does is all a cover for how insecure he is, how shitty he feels about himself and how full of fear he is. The role of Melania and his children is to protect him. They create a facade that this man deserves a wife and children by his side. They shoulder the burden of his shame because he cannot face it. I wonder how many men use their wife and children for these same things….

Let us take take pity on that, and yet know there is no excuse!

Men, put your burden down of upholding the lie that you are better, stronger, smarter. You’re not. You’re human, just like we women. We are more than capable and do not need you to be anything but equal, to be humans. We need you to reflect upon your unearned privileges, to take inventory of all the subtle and not so subtle ways you have hurt women and to show up having experienced and atoned for all of that.

Women, set your boundaries, protect your sacred borders and no longer allow the insecurities, the wounds of men, to infiltrate you. You need to mend, to heal, to love yourself, to know you are worthy because you declare it to be so.

~The Soul Reporter

COVID-19: An Intervention

Guest Post by Louis DiVirgilio

An intervention is an action becoming intentionally involved in a difficult situation, in order to improve it or preventing it from getting worse.  The Universe is moving to set the ground rules for a face to face reconing, with the assistance of the corona-19 virus, for us humans to take a deep look into the manner in which we have been living our lives. The virus is squeezing and tightening our boundaries, condensing our movements and freedom to the point of straggling our ability to move with freedom and ease within our own neighborhoods, while, trauma, fear, anxiety, and stress has unleashed its destabilizing affects upon our mental health.

This virus has opened and exposed the fact we humans are largely inwardly empty; we are relatively empty vessels.  There is no inner fullness from which to give to others, no inner richness of understanding through which we may receive and solve the problems confronting humanity, and thus helping ourselves and others.  Instead of unity and understanding there is opposition, strife, quarreling, and inevitable wretchedness, combined with rampant poverty, and unrelenting pain.

Continue reading here.

Tell me how you’ve changed. If you haven’t, tell me why.

I was immobilized by shock and fear when Trump won the election. That week, it took a lot to get moving again. When I did move I went on a bike ride to one of my favorite spots. I got off my bike and realized something fundamental had changed inside of me.

Usually on visits to my favorite spot I reflected upon concerns surrounding myself, my life and my relationships. But not anymore. A new, more menacing concern was with me- concern about my larger home— our country, our world, our planet and its people. This isn’t to say I had none of these concerns before, but now, the weight of them was heavier. It was almost too heavy and I wanted to go back to the days of only trying to manage my issues. Unfortunately, living in the west with my head just above the middle-class lifestyle, I had no idea this was a privilege.

Since those early days of November, I have since accommodated to this change. The shock has worn off and my fear has dimmed to a consistent concern for the broader context in which we live. Sometimes these concerns are in the back of my mind, and sometimes they are front and center. What I do in my life hasn’t changed all that much. I still get up, do my yoga and meditation. I do my homework, go to classes, spend time with family. I still get on my bike and go to my favorite spot. But now, when I drive up to order my half-caf iced coffee with almond milk or sit at a restaurant deciding if I want a salad or a burger, I realize the freedom I think I have to do these things can shift dramatically at any time. Think, The Handmaid’s Tale (for anyone who watched it or read the book). Watching it felt all too possible.

So, now that I have shared my experience I want to know yours. Tell me what you have noticed since Trump was elected.  Are there changes in your life? Your mind? Body? Emotions? Relationships?

When I look around it seems on the surface everyone is doing just fine, and I wonder is everyone asleep? Aren’t people concerned? Then, I think if they looked at me while I ordered my half-caf iced coffee they would think the same. So, where are you with all this- if you like Trump or not- how has it changed you? And if it hasn’t, tell me why.

Thanks,

The Soul Reporter