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Posts Tagged ‘transformation’

Cat carrier with child

During a trip to the vet, Britain (at 20 months old) decided to change places with the cat in the cat carrier. Such incidents were routine in “Britain’s World.”

Our 30-year-old son, his cat, and his dog just left after a 20-hour, 43-minute visit. The house echoes in silence as the whirlwind of energy he brought with him dissipates into stillness. My senses register profound emptiness. I take a deep breath, settle before my keyboard, and realize I’ve never given myself enough credit for parenting this amazing creature, who is my antithesis in many ways.

  • I am an introvert; he is an extrovert
  • I cherish my alone time; he invites friends everywhere (even into the bathroom with him when he was a child)
  • I examine the instructions; he intuits where things go and how they work
  • I love reading books; he loves playing Ultimate
  • I am always cold; he is always hot (except when I was pregnant with him; I was always hot)
  • I stroll; he bounces
  • I follow a plan; he flies by the seat of his pants
  • I’m early; he’s late (except he was born 6 weeks early because he couldn’t wait to get out of such a cramped space)
  • I play it safe; he is the poster boy for Balzout
  • I save; he spends
  • I claim to want more adventure; he claims to want more order

Parenting such a soul from birth to 30 has been the quintessential adventure (be careful what you claim to want). For years, I felt like a failure because nothing I did with him seemed to work out as planned. I couldn’t get him to read a book, sit still, be quiet, do his homework, or remember Mother’s Day.

I thought it was my job to teach him my way of doing things, to pass down my perspectives and values, to mold him into an acceptable human being. I realize now that it was his job to drag me, kicking and screaming, out of my certainty into the Land of Endless Possibilities. He took me from a world of two-dimensional black and white into high def, 3D, full-spectrum color. The experience of being his mother has shaken me to the core and challenged every last thing I thought I knew about myself, life, and the Universe.

When he moved away and left us with an empty nest, a sense of order and calm returned. Life became more predictable, the pace less frantic. There has been more time to reflect on what I learned from him.

So, when he visits and brings with him the ADHD Vortex, every cell of my body begins to vibrate at a higher frequency, and my world turns upside down within the first 30 seconds. Instantaneously my mind and body return to the altered state of Britain’s World.

This morning, as he drove away in a cloud of swirling, joyful energy, eager to meet up with his wife for a week in Cleveland, a tear escaped as I breathed a long sigh. I am so grateful for you, Son, and I love you so very much just the way you are. I also hope we never have to live under the same roof again.

Live long and prosper, Beloved Teacher! And never stop coming to visit.

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Injured deer

A single gunshot and I’m weeping. What is this immense sorrow? The fawn had two broken legs and no chance for survival in the wild. Putting its suffering to an end was the compassionate thing to do. So why all the tears? Why the sick feeling in my stomach? Why the pounding in my head?

The story is a short one. I found a baby deer on the path to the cottage this morning. I could tell she was hurt, but in the dark, I couldn’t see how badly. When I went back to the house, she was still there. As she fearfully used her front legs to pull herself away from me, she went tumbling over the hillside to the brush below. That’s when my tears started. My good intentions had sent her over the cliff!

I found her down below hiding behind our garbage cans. Again, she scrambled to get away from me, wedging herself between my son’s truck and the hillside. As she moved, I could see that both of her back legs were broken, bones sticking out. It was a brutal sight. I couldn’t even imagine how much pain she must be feeling, and it amazed me that she made no noise. Her mama was pacing on the hill above. I put my hand on the baby’s neck and felt her racing pulse. I spoke to her in hushed tones, and she calmed down. I covered her legs with a sheet to keep the flies away and then left her alone as I searched for help.

I posted on FaceBook and then started making calls. After several unsuccessful attempts, my friend Linda found someone at DNR who was willing to come out. It didn’t take long for him to assess the situation, and he asked my permission to shoot the deer. I said yes and thanked him for doing the hard things that most of us would find impossible.

The sorrow and tears persist. They seem to be springing from my conscious choice to allow myself to acknowledge just how vulnerable this whole thing makes me feel. As I open my heart in compassion, I open my eyes to the truth: Everything,  everyONE dies, eventually. Pain is real. Suffering is real. The deer did nothing to “deserve it.” Sometimes, stuff just happens: to deer, to strangers, to those we love. I know it is impossible to selectively numb feelings. We cannot numb sorrow without also numbing joy.

And so I will sit here, grateful for the depth of today’s sorrow, knowing I have the capacity for equal measures of joy. I will hold myself gently and compassionately as I recommit to living life fully, with my heart wide open. Tears and laughter, sorrow and joy, death and life. This time around, I’m playing full out: Show Up – Be Seen – Live Brave!

Vulnerability is the Birthplace

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watercolor painting

A Time To Heal (watercolor and ink by Barbie Dallmann)

When I was a senior in high school, I broke my left knee playing flamingo football–boys against the girls. After six weeks on crutches, my leg wrapped in plaster from thigh-top to toe-tips, the day came for cast removal. I vividly recall my first glimpse of the leg. I say, “the leg” because it really didn’t resemble MY leg. The leg was shriveled, dirty, and hairy! But even worse than how it looked, was how poorly it functioned. The knee didn’t bend, and it couldn’t hold any weight whatsoever. It was a useless, pitiful little thing, just hanging there with no cast to protect it.

After weeks of physical therapy and excruciatingly painful exercises, I was able to take my first tentative steps without crutches. It was over a year before I could attempt running and even longer before I could operate the clutch pedal of our extended bed International Harvester pick-up truck.

Now, over 40 years later, there are still times my knee “acts up.” It’s not particularly fond of steep, downhill descents on rocky trails. For the most part, though, I go through life, walking three or four miles a day without giving it much thought. I climb stairs, ride bicycles, and easily deploy a clutch pedal. Once healed, it’s hard to remember the process of recovery: limitations, pain, frustration, and wanting to give up.

I think the same is true for healing emotional wounds. For a little while, it’s okay to wrap ourselves in protective armor while the worst of the injury heals. But the longer we wait, the more we atrophy and the harder it is to return to normal. And it’s no more realistic to expect instant emotional recovery than it is to remove a cast one day and plan to run a marathon the next.

Sometimes the recovery period feels worse than the initial injury, and certainly some wounds are worse than others. The more traumatic the injury, the longer the recovery period.

Ultimately, I believe in the wisdom of the body and heart when it comes to healing. If we take our bruised egos out of the picture, surrender to the reality of the situation, release whatever needs to be forgiven, and listen to the small, still voice within, we will heal. Healing–both physical and emotional–calls for patience, kindness, self-compassion, and self-love. Lots and lots and LOTS of self-love. And maybe a trusted friend or two to lean on while you’re learning to walk again.

 

 

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20150418_082154-2(Originally Posted May 11, 2010)

In March 1993 two bad things happened: (1) My kindergarten age son’s favorite riverside play area, “Magic Island,” was flooded, and when the waters receded, the area was covered in garbage. (2) Someone shot the windows out of my car, which was parked right in front of my house.

I was so angry about my car. I didn’t even bother with feeling worried or scared. Natural fighter that I am, I went directly into rage. Adrenaline was pumping through my body, and my heart was beating through my chest. I was shaking all over, ready to find the culprit and pound the crap out of him! That was my first reaction.

Through the inner roar that demanded revenge, I managed to hear a small, quiet voice: “You have a choice. You don’t have to respond with violence. You can choose peace instead of this.” I listened, but I didn’t know what to do with all that “violent energy” surging through my body. I NEEDED to hit somebody!

Then I remembered the playground, and it occurred to me that I could use my surplus energy to pick up garbage. I thought, “I’ll just pick up as much as it takes to get rid of this emotional super charge.” And so I grabbed a box of garbage bags and loaded my son and his friend into our truck, and we headed for Magic Island.

All I can say is that it took a long, LONG time to dissipate the energy. In fact, I filled over 20 giant garbage bags as full as I could get them. Add to that the work the boys did, and we pretty much cleaned up the flood’s footprint from Magic Island. When it was over, I was so tired and so happy. I had turned my violent rage into something useful and helpful and hopeful.

But that wasn’t the end of the story. The next morning while driving to work, the Mayor noticed the change on Magic Island and called the Parks Director to thank him. Of course, the Parks Director knew nothing about it. Enter the local press with the front-page newspaper headline: “Mayor wants do-gooders to come clean.” My best friend in Illinois turned us in. I had shared the story with her, and she’s the one who ended up calling the Mayor’s office to tell the tale. A couple of weeks later, the my son, his friend, and I received a Mayor’s Award for Community Spirit.

The best part, though, was the follow-up newspaper article in which I told my story about turning something negative into something positive in order to stop the cycle of violence. For many weeks thereafter, local pastors used the story in Sunday sermons, and something amazing happened as people began spontaneously getting together to pick up garbage all over the city. I’m still amazed by it all!

And so, next time you hear a quiet voice from inside telling you that you have a choice, believe it. We always have choices. We can choose to react out of fear, revenge, or self-righteous anger . . . or we can make choices and take actions that will lift us into a higher place, into a new, more peaceful way of being.

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Full Moon

After I slipped down a muddy hillside, I sat in the mud and shot pictures of the moon. Some things are worth getting dirty for.

There is no doubt about it. Summer is winding down. Although the trees remain lush and green, an increasing number of dead leaves decorate my cottage deck. Sweeping them away this morning, I realized the days of denial are over. My intention to Create A Summer I Loved was fulfilled. Is it any wonder I’m dragging my feet a little? When must I officially declare summer over?

As a child, that happened on the first day of school. But here in Charleston, school started on August 11; I wasn’t even back from summer vacation yet! So, that doesn’t work. Labor Day? Well, that’s come and gone, and I’m still in a summer frame of mind. So, no, Labor Day isn’t the end of summer.

What about September 22, the official beginning of autumn? But I’ll be in San Antonio training with Brené Brown to become a Daring Way Facilitator. I can’t officially end summer while I’m still out of town. Nope. Can’t be done.

Yet, I know the leaves will turn and fall. The days will grow shorter. The nights will get cooler. Air conditioning will be turned off, and I’ll switch on the electric fireplace to combat the morning chill at the cottage. Perhaps I’ll be ready to say goodbye to summer when we set our clocks back to standard time.

It’s not really about summer being over. It’s a reluctance to release my “summer way of being.” I have enjoyed moving at a slower pace, skipping the morning make-up-and-hair routine, and being more spontaneous, adventurous, and fun. My summer has been a delightful balance of meaningful work and nurturing play.

But there are a lot of things that didn’t get done. I didn’t blog much; I didn’t write much. I haven’t put any effort at all into marketing my book. My website remains inadequate, and I have not yet cracked the owner’s manual of my new camera.

What did get done? Well, I worked 40 hours a week and completed all of my projects on time. Bills got paid. Grocery shopping done. Meals. Dishes. Dog walking. I watched the moon rise, hiked for hours in the woods, occasionally lounged in the sun in the middle of a workday, painted outdoors as the sun was rising, and sat talking on the deck late on a work night just because I didn’t want the time with my son to end.

If I’m going to move into fall and winter happily, I’ll need to take some of summer’s lessons with me. New priorities. New pleasures. More flexibility. A slower pace doesn’t mean nothing gets done. I want to continue to trust myself to get things done when they need to get done. Even blogging.

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memorial

Memorial in the Woods for Mom’s Ashes

I spent a couple of hours this morning reading journal entries from the year after my mother died. What a story they told. Grief stitched its way through the tapestry, leaving knots of sadness here and threads of gratitude there. In awareness of my mortality, I frantically set out to live life more fully.

The busy-ness of that year was both comforting and numbing. I traveled nearly 20,000 miles (by car, by plane, on foot), perhaps trying to outrun the pain, but more likely simply because I could. After nearly five years of care giving, I was finally free to come and go as I pleased, and, boy, did I ever come and go as I pleased!

This grief retrospective was triggered by present circumstances as my husband prepares to travel to Phoenix to attend his step-mom’s funeral. Our son is accompanying him, the ever strong, compassionate, resilient one.

There have been other deaths in the last two weeks. My friend said goodbye to her father. My former neighbor lost her precious aunt.

As I approach my inventory to choose yet another sympathy card, the cycle of life appears scrawled on the sides of small greeting card boxes: Birthday … Graduation … Wedding … Anniversary … New Baby … Get Well … Sympathy. I sigh deeply as I notice the words Mother’s Day and Father’s Day. Why do I still have those? No parents, but I still have the boxes of cards. As I think about throwing them away, tears trickle down my face. Oh, I remember now why they’re still there. Maybe they can stay a little longer. Not ready for that step quite yet, it seems.

The grief journey takes as long as it takes. That first year was incredibly difficult, as I embraced and moved through the pain, one step at a time. Just last month I sorted through Mom’s recipe books and cards, put a few in with mine, put a few in storage, and threw out the rest. The process was full of smiles as I remembered the dishes she used to make. I joyfully baked her “Easter Cake” and shared it with friends. No tears, just happy memories.

Today as I stand on the fringes of the wordless grief of those around me, I breathe deeply, close my eyes, and envision their inner spirits being rocked in the arms of angels, comforting, protecting, loving. I pray they will find the strength and courage to work through the grief, however long it takes, and that they will be gentle with themselves on the long and winding road to a healed heart.

 

Mom's Ashes

Still missing you, Mom. XOXO

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August 2014

these are my doodles as I dream about bike riding in Volcanoes National Park in Hawaii on my 60th birthday

 

I’ve been thinking lately about what it takes to create a memorable summer. Seems like the sort of thing Adventure Barbie might enjoy though, don’t you think?

If asked to pinpoint the best summer of my life so far, I’d be weighing carefully the summers of 1967 and 1984. Both deviated from the norm; each changed my life in important ways.

Go Lite Travel TrailerNo more than two days out of 7th grade, Mom and I packed the Go Lite camping trailer, hitched it to the back of an International Harvester pickup truck and headed for Indiana, the farm country where my mother was raised. We spent four weeks visiting my aunts, uncles, and cousins before heading back to Nebraska so that Dad could join us for the next leg of the journey.

We spent the entire month of July exploring Colorado, Wyoming, Arizona, New Mexico, Nevada, and Utah. I swam in the Great Salt Lake and hiked in the Grand Canyon. I waited impatiently for Old Faithful to erupt and enjoyed playing cards with new groups of kids as we changed campgrounds nearly every night. I wrote post cards to my friends at home and learned many ways to entertain myself during the long drives between sites.

Go-Lite0002In August, Mom and I traveled alone once again. I remember visiting Brookfield Zoo in Chicago, my uncle’s candy store in northern Michigan, and my twin cousin in Minnesota. On my 13th birthday I was diagnosed with pneumonia, and I struggled to prepare for my impending demise. No, I didn’t feel THAT bad, but I was convinced it was a terminal illness and that people were just being kind by saying I would be okay.

Thirty years ago this week in 1984, I voluntarily left employment as a secretary in corporate America. After Memorial Day I officially began full-time as the owner and operator of Happy Fingers Typing Service, the first secretarial service in our city to offer cutting edge “computerized word processing.” That, too, was a summer of adventure as I took on the many challenges of self employment.

The experiences of both of those summers are important to the person I am today. In 1967, I had plenty of time to imagine what I wanted for myself as an adult. I believe many of my ambitions and dreams were planted during that summer of discovery. I’m also immensely grateful to my 29-year-old self for her determination, courage, and resourcefulness as she set out on her own. My life has been shaped time and again by the challenges and opportunities of owning my own business.

Now, as I count down the weeks to my 60th birthday in August, I’m determined to make this summer memorable, one with ample doses of discovery, challenge, and adventure. This summer I am committing to stepping outside my comfort zone; to making choices that will boost my levels of courage, compassion, and creativity; and to allowing you, my readers, to hold me accountable for Creating The Best Summer of My Life (so far). Stay tuned for Regular (dare I commit to weekly?) Progress Reports.

 

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