As many of you already know, I became a grandmother for the first time in December when my son’s fiancé gave birth to Allie Michelle. I spent the Christmas holiday cocooned in newborn love and wonder with the three of them in Washington state. It was the best Christmas present ever!
Outside, the world was still spinning, but inside, there was only the baby and this deep sense of gratitude and awe. Gratitude that mom and baby are healthy, that dad has time off of work to enjoy his first-born, that Grandma from California could be there to experience the joy. Gratitude that for the first time in years, my son and I were together without a single fight.
Being in the presence of a newborn is awe-inspiring. Here is this little human being who until recently was safely ensconced in her mama’s womb.
Everything about her is perfect. Tiny fingers with perfectly formed fingernails. Tiny little mouth, eyes, ears, nose. Working heart and lungs and the ability to communicate without words.
Aloha beautiful beings of light.
I am sitting poolside in a beautiful mountain home overlooking the Pacific Ocean on the big island of Hawaii.
Rain patters on the pool. A warm breeze blows gently through my hair.
A multitude of birds are singing their unique songs and enjoying a morning bird bath. (I wonder if birds call what I did earlier this morning a human bath?! lol).
I am overflowing with gratitude for everything that has happened these last many years that have brought me to this place.
Are you scared of love? I am. I’m scared of being vulnerable, scared to ask for what I need (much less what I want), scared of being rejected or found unworthy. I suspect that most of us feel this way more often than we admit. I also suspect that most of us have learned to be scared and love anyway.
Being scared and doing it anyway is the definition of courage. When we are sick or hurt or struggling, it can be especially hard to RECEIVE all the love that comes our way even though it’s what we need the most. So I wrote a song about standing in the center of the circle of love for a dear friend who had just been diagnosed with non-smoker’s lung cancer and was blown away by all the love and support coming her way. I wanted to remind her that she was doing a remarkable job receiving and to encourage her to keep going. Little did I know that it would do the same for me.
Pete Seeger always said that “harmony is when the person next to you is singing a different note.” I love the image this evokes. A group of people creating something that is more than the sum of its parts. A place where each voice has a place and each person is valued for what they have to contribute. The fact that it also describes my dream for our world is a big added bonus.
I’ve just returned from a four-day gathering of creative women and girls who are committed to exploring their own gifts and how they may embody those gifts to help create a world that works for everyone. I listened in awe as the young girls spoke about their vision of the future, about how they can contribute to the change that we all know is needed, about how we can support each other in our own work.
This gathering reminded me how precious each voice is.
There was a time when I didn’t have a voice to add to the circle. Insecurity, fear, shame and the deep conviction that I had nothing to add kept me bound in silence.
Thankfully, the voice inside me would not be silenced. It kept whispering that life wasn’t meant to be like this. That there had to be more. Sometimes those whispers turned into tears. Of longing. Of loneliness. Of outrage and anger.
Finally, in in the midst of the darkest night, I started listening. The more I listened, the better I heard. The better I heard, the stronger my own voice got. Slowly but surely, I found my own voice and my own beliefs. One step at a time, I developed the courage to add my voice to the circle.
The circle needs every voice. The circle needs YOUR voice.
It’s tempting sometimes to only listen to the other more critical voices in our heads. You know, the voices that say “I’m not worthy. I don’t belong. I don’t have anything worth contributing.”
Those voices are NOT yours. They belong to other people. They are telling a lie. Because one thing I know for sure is this:
If you’re breathing, YOU ARE WORTHY.
If you’re here, YOU BELONG.
The journey to worthiness and belonging begins when you decide to listen to your OWN VOICE. I get it that this is may be easier said than done.
That’s why I’ve created EMBRACE YOUR VOICE, an intimate weekend retreat for women who are ready to unleash their own voice, speak their own truth and share their unique wisdom. Together we will explore our inner landscape, listen to our own voice and create beautiful harmony.
You deserve to hear the sound of your own voice. There’s a place for you in the circle. You don’t have to compete for it and you don’t need anyone’s permission to join. All you need to do is say YES!!!
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Lift one foot. Surrender
Place the other. Claim
Step by step life unfolds behind me
The future beckons me forward
The path wasn’t clear until I chose it.
It will be gone once I have passed.
The gift is neither ahead nor behind.
The gift is in this choice to surrender and claim
This choice to create my life one step at a time.
The gift is right here where I am.
Happy Spring everyone!
What a difference the rain makes!! Here in Northern California we are experiencing a robust Spring for the first time in years. The rivers are full, the reservoirs are filling and there is a healthy snow pack. While it’s not enough to end the drought, it sure does help. I can almost hear the land’s huge sigh of relief. Surely, the gift is right here in this moment!
The Spring (or Vernal) Equinox, which we celebrated earlier this week, is a time of exquisite balance. The world stands poised evenly between dark and light. It’s almost like the earth has taken one big winter inhale and is suspended in that briefest of moments before it exhales into spring and summer.
I’ve been hibernating in the woods next to the ocean for the last two months. I’ve had lots of time to marinate in the silence and isolation that always calls to me when the nights get long and the natural world sleeps. I’ve also learned a lot. From my woodpile, no less.
The house I’m in is old and the walls are full of love and life well lived. It’s also cold. And damp, especially in the winter. A wood-burning stove is my primary source of heat. Fortunately, the house comes with its own seemingly endless supply of wood. But the wood is out back and there is no one here to help me move it inside.
When I first arrived, I was totally overwhelmed just by the idea of bringing enough wood inside to heat the house. Thinking about it made my back and head hurt. So, for the first few days, I simply turned up the old thermostat and added another layer. I pretended that I was warm enough.
I love this time of year when the darkness is brightened by Christmas lights and warm fires. I feel the call to hibernate. To go within and reflect on the year that is coming to a close and begin to set my intentions for the year to come.
All of this is happening a little late for me this year because of the recent passing of my dear niece, Songja Ono, who released her struggle with brain cancer on December 5, 2015. A very bright light in the world went out and a new star was born that day. I will miss her presence in my life.
So given the time of year and the state of my own heart, it feels very fitting to share the poem that came from my Black Madonna painting, She Hears Our Cries. I feel like I transcribed this poem more than I wrote it. I sat quietly with her at the end of the process and asked her if she wanted the pen. Her message is below. I made an audio version for you, too, in case you would like to sit quietly and allow her words to wash over your heart.
There are times in life when it seems that I’m living on a see-saw. One day, life is wonderful and I am full of energy and hope for the future. The next thing I know, all I can manage is to keep putting one foot in front of the other. To keep taking one breath after another and having faith that this too shall pass.
The last month has been one of those times for me. The night of the Paris attacks was the Opening Artists Reception at the first art show I’ve entered in San Francisco. A long-awaited night to celebrate community and creativity had also become a night of deep pain as once again we faced the affects of rage and hopelessness and asked ourselves “why?”
How do we do this? How do we hold what feels like polar opposites and not tear ourselves apart? How do we remain present to the reality of our world AND not let the darkness overwhelm us? The only answer I know is choice. We have to CHOOSE to live in the light, to be the light. It’s not always easy, but with every breath, I choose love. Over and over and over again.
So at the Opening Reception, I shared the message from my painting, She Hears Our Cries. It’s a message about light and darkness, about holding both and it brought great comfort to many who were there that night.
“Be more curious than afraid.” -Ishi
I am calling BULLSHIT on fearlessness. Fearlessness is a myth. A set-up. An illusion. On the other hand, fear is a natural, often healthy response that arises deep in our reptilian brain. Evolutionarily speaking, it got us here. It helped our species survive in a world that really wasn’t safe, when “not belonging” to a family or a tribe really was a matter of life and death.
While there are no more saw-tooth tigers threatening us, our reptilian brain – and its fear response – is not going away. Trying to get rid of fear is like Sisyphus trying to roll the stone up that mountain. It’s a no-win. That’s why I’m calling BULLSHIT on fearlessness.
If fear is here to stay, how do we move beyond it? Here’s my current fear challenge. I long to move out into the world. To give what I know I came here to give. Yet, when it comes to acting on my desire, I am often paralyzed by fear. It feels like I’m on my own personal see-saw. One breath, I’m up, ready to take off. The next breath, I’m down, so scared I can’t move. It’s crazy-making.
Does this sound familiar? How often do we find ourselves here? Too many to count right? Sigh. Each time I wake up in this place, I have to re-remember that I can be scared AND move forward at the same time. I can choose to move through – and beyond – fear, if I’m willing to practice – a lot! – compassion, curiosity and courage.
I’m sure you’ve experienced it before. That sudden horrible realization that you’ve forgotten something really important…like, um, your best friend’s birthday. One moment you’re fine, the next it feels like the floor has opened up and swallowed you whole. The flush of shame comes over you and all you want to do is curl up into a ball and disappear…or slink off while no one notices.
It sucks doesn’t it? Being hit in the gut with the realization that you messed up BIG TIME. You can apologize. You can call and text and email. But no matter how hard we try, there is no way to undo what has been done. No way to “fix it” or “make it better.”
As I’m sure you’ve guessed, this happened to me recently. Yup. Me, the queen of it’s-not-possible-to-make-too-big-a-deal-over-birthdays. I forgot my best friend’s birthday. (For the second year in a row, she now tells me – god, can it get any worse?) Sure I could fall back on excuses (aka “reasons”) that may actually be true, but the stark reality is that I Messed Up. Pure and simple. I hurt a woman I love dearly, a woman who has not just walked beside me, but often carried me, literally and metaphorically, for more than 20 years.
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