The Mother to Heal All Wounds

The Mother to Heal All Wounds

I’ve been down deep in a cave, hiding out from the whirl and sheer velocity of a brand new year, a brand new season. In years past it seemed like there were so few people in the world debating their word for the year, deciding on their intentions, filling their hearts, their souls, their minds with as much spirit and soul as is shining in the world these days.

Times are changing.
Can you feel it?

I’m in this space of needing rest, needing quiet, needing privacy. Wanting the intimacy of knowing looks, gentle hugs and the companionship of long walks, no words. These are not things you can get on the internet, no matter what your word is. These are things we must experience in our real lives, in our real relationships, in the real eyes of the ones whose eyes meet ours when we wake in the morning. In the gesture of those who turn away when we wish so badly they would lean in.

It’s a point that must be made.
This medium, these letters, these classes, these videos, these Facebook statuses…they might be our lifelines, our medicine, our vitamins, but they are not our salvation.

The only thing that saves is the warmth, the connection, the strength, the wisdom, the fearless courage of Mother, that sense of being in the world that reminds us we can risk, we can try, we can rest, we can cease from all our striving and be found once again at home in the place where we first started.

This is horrible news, I know.
Whether your mother was an angel or a devil.
Whether you are the mother now with such an impossible task to even begin to try to do for another.

How could anyone ever give us all of what we ever needed?
Isn’t it too much to ask?
Isn’t it better to just move on? Do the best you can? Forget it ever happened?

I wish I could say yes to these questions. It would make everything so much easier.

But the truth is that without the Mother there is no home for our weary hearts.
Without Mother there is no confidence in our first tentative steps.
Without Mother there is no joy in our silent quiet triumphs.

And so without saying, even as we gently release our human mothers be the mothers they are and not the Mother To Heal All Wounds, we go on our quiet secret searches for the rest and reassurance we need. And in so many ways we find her. In the feel of the brush against the canvas, in the coziness of a freshly made bed or in the excitement we feel when a song or a dance or a story makes us feel like something amazing and bigger than us really can happen after all. We see glimpses of her in art, we feel the magic of her in our bodies, alive and awakened to longing, the same way we did as fresh born babies rooting for the breast.

She is bigger than us. And so tiny.
Hidden in everything intricate and beautiful, juicy and alive.
She is underneath the surface, down deep in the earth where we don’t feel silly to sway or open our eyes to the rising moon, the setting sun. Where we feel so free to just be ourselves.

This year in Hopeful World, my dream is to honor her and to be close to her and to find all the ways I have pretended she hardly ever mattered.

To seek her out like a precious ring, rife with memory and meaning, that is hidden somewhere in the house, that time you decided to put it someplace “safe”.
To look under all the rugs and behind all the curtains and in the basement and in the attic and all those other places in life or society, civilization or history, that you place things you can’t deal with right now, because they are too messy or simply don’t yet have their proper place.

This journey, I can see so far, will mean a lot more writing for me. More travel. More love. More rest. More tenderness. More honesty. More quiet. More fun. And even though I know deep down it’s a journey I have to take on my own, as always, I never really want to do anything like this without a tribe, without a family to come home to, without a community of people who care about these things, too.

So if you’ll have me this year, I hope to share some quiet hours in the real-world with you. In simple gatherings of heart and soul where we don’t have to say too much, but just looking in each other’s eyes is so much more than enough.

I want this, and I want you to hear, while I’m being quiet, words and wisdom from so many more of the people who are home to me, the ones who embody Mother in ways that give me confidence, freedom, acceptance, challenge and grace.

Some of these people are my sisters, some are my dearest friends. Some are men, actually, who have somehow managed to hold the feminine in their spirits without altering in any way their kingly masculine souls. Others are real mothers of the most divine proportions. All are so honestly on their own journeys and feel like I do, that no one of us has the corner on anything, we are so solidly in this thing together.

To do this, we might need to actually come see you–I have my eye on a handful of US cities right now–to either drink tea, go on a long walk or enjoy a deep conversation about the way things can be. How does this sound?

So write to us, will you? Let us know where you live, and what kind of gathering might be a beacon and a light of your own hopeful world journey back to Mother. Tell me what you wish I would say if I wrote for days and days and if you feel called in your heart, tell me that I can do this, because the time for real in-the-world, bodies and soul connection, feels like NOW to me, and I want to do my part. I don’t want to miss it.

With so much love,
Jen

If Your Parents Don’t Get You: An Experiment

Some of you are going into a warzone today. Others a wasteland.
For many it will be more like an arcade where all the games are fixed and the outcomes already determined. A few of you will feel like you won the lottery. At least one of you will declare and then recant 364 days later: We are never coming here again.

No matter what your situation, I’d like to throw out the idea that this holiday can be different than any of your other holidays, and not because your family suddenly realized who you are and has decided to embrace you fully, but because you yourself are not the same person you were last Thanksgiving, and that simple fact has the power to change everything about today and then some.

Take a minute if you can to really register that fact.
You are not the same. Your heart is a little bit more worn. Your mind is a little bit more open. You know things about yourself you didn’t know before. You broke through some patterns that were difficult to see for so, so long. And in the places where you are spectacularly stuck, you know it now. You see blocks where there are actually blocks. And that’s huge.

Today when you sit down at that table, remind yourself. I’m not the same. I’m changing.

So many times when we’re growing and working through our stuff, we use this fact to alienate us from those we love. We see our parents as fixed points on a horizon, never moving, never changing. We see ourselves as ships moving farther and faster past them, while they wave (or turn their backs) from the shore.

But the truth is they’re changing, too. They’re getting older. They’re getting more sure about their stories. They’re making the decision on one level or another to embrace the life they made, crappy decisions and all. And as much as we hate that, because we’re still hoping for them to change and be the people who can love us the way that we think we need to be loved, the truth is, as we get older, we’ll do that same thing, too.

And that thing will steady us and stabilize us and help us get ready to let go and be part of history and not the center of the story anymore. For all their flaws and shortcomings and all of ours, we are part of them. We came from their line, their lineage. They have imprinted on us their dreams and their griefs and we bear them now, for better or for worse.

Today when you sit down at the table, consider this. These people will someday no longer sit here. They will reach a point where their time on this earth will end. They will not be here to be the walls we push up against, the people we seek to surpass or the ones whose choices define our own.

You owe no one anything for this fact. But we owe it to ourselves to feel whatever we feel on these difficult days and to find compassion for how complicated it is for us to be sons and daughters to mothers and fathers who are so far from perfect. We owe it to ourselves to remember how much we don’t know and how far we’ve come and how far yet we have to go, until we ourselves are old and sitting across the table looking at people we in our own hapless ways loved, and realize we won’t always sit here at this table, too.

Thank you for reading these messages. I have a candle lit on my windowsill this morning, as I write, for you. That you will be fully present today with the truth and wonder of this wicked and wild thing we call family, and that you will know you are beloved, without anyone else having to say it’s true.

With so much love,
Jen

P.S. Come dance with me and Melissa if you’re really feeling the holiday blues or just know you need to move. It won’t cost you a fortune and it’s going to be so good to let ourselves have something emancipating for the holiday season. Sign up is here.

P.P.S. I’m checking email at least once today, so feel free to hit reply and blurt out the whole story if you need an SOS or a witness. I’m happy to be here for you.

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Remember that none of the material provided by Hopeful World is intended to take the place of firsthand support, evaluation, and advice from trained medical and mental health professionals.

Crowdsourcing Hope

Crowdsourcing Hope

I’ve been in a little cave over here, without many words.
Do you know that place?
The only things that make sense are simple. Like making oatmeal in the morning. Or taking your time to really scrub the kitchen sink.

Still, the sun disappears every night and reappears like magic the next morning.
Darkness. Light. Hopelessness. Hope.
It’s what it means to be human, I’m finding more and more. Try to avoid that hopelessness and you automatically incur more. Try to stay in the light and your shadows grow monster-like and long, waiting for a chance to overtake you.

I’m uncomfortable with my level of discomfort, a friend said to me recently, eyes shining in the park with a smile on his face that can only mean you feel like crying.

And yet, this is life.
We shine.
Even when everything is more than enough to bear.

Today as I write to you, I’m aware that while there’s a way we have to face these dark nights of the soul on our own, there’s another way we do not.

We’re allowed in the dark to ask for light.
We’re allowed in the light to remember what it feels like in the dark.
We can turn on the light for one another when we’re too weak to reach the switch.

We can slide down to the bottom of the hole and just be together until one of us has the strength to show the other where there’s a handhold to get back out and up.

I have a dear one in a hole right now. And I’m wondering if this isn’t the moment to crowdsource a little hope for her, since the very idea of light is too much at the moment, the darkness feels so thick.

Here’s what I think we can do. Let’s send in a handwritten sentence along with a self-addressed envelope to Hopeful World Headquarters (address below). Just one thought, one simple line of wisdom or truth that you yourself try to hold onto when you’re losing your hold on hope. We’ll take each one and put them in a giant jar for this dear one, and whenever she’s feeling low, for however long as she’s in that dark space, she’ll be able to take a note from that jar and remember that she’s not the only one who ever wondered if she should keep going on, if her life even matters. Your light will be right there. And it will help her make it through.

And then, because you need that jar, just as much as she does, we’ll send you back in your SASE (self-addressed envelope) a page full of all the simple sentences we’ve received, and you’ll be able to cut them out and make your own jar, and you’ll know, too, that in so many ways you can never be on your own either. And that, on your cloudy days, will help YOU through.

What do you say?

I know it’s a little bit more effort to mail these in, but that’s the kind of hopelessness we’re dealing with here, people. The kind that requires just a little push, so that we can remember all the ways light comes and goes, along with the necessary darkness, no matter what’s happening on this or that particular day in your hopeFULL or hopeLESS world.

With so much love and light,
Jen

P.S. One of the things that is absolutely transforming my silence and my summer is listening to the audio meditations that are part of the Mother’s Guide to Self-Renewal Online Experience we are doing with our dear friend and ally Renée Trudeau this fall. Early bird registration is open here and I’m happy to help you decide if it’s a fit for you, if you want to send me a message at help(@)hopefulworld.org

P.P.S. Send SASE to Hopeful World, P.O. Box 9191, St. Louis, MO 63117

Broken

Broken

We’re surrounded by positive messages.
I should know, messenger of hope that I am and have been.
We are instructed/invited/encouraged to embrace our fabulousness!!!! double-smiley face.

But what of our brokenness? Is there room in the embrace for that too?

Sometimes I don’t feel like being a good soldier, of making lemonades out of lemons, of looking on the bright side, and searching for the silver lining.

Can’t it be okay to accept the weight of it, sometimes? … the burden of all the ways that I’ve messed up, picked the wrong door, said the wrong thing at the wrong time, took the easy way, hidden behind some poor excuse, or let someone down — my kids, a friend, probably most especially, myself?

Yes, I know, there are gifts there, there’s growth and connection and beauty… blah, blah, blah, blah. But there are days when all those broken pieces of me don’t want to be repurposed into something brilliant and helpful and productive. They just want to be picked up and held for what they are — fragile, lost, tender, discarded, awkward, scared, and yes, broken.

So if there really is connection and humanity in our brokenness, and your heart is saying I so get you right now… I invite you to sit with me and share just one moment of not fixing or picking up the pieces and soldiering on but instead, honoring those parts of ourselves which are never celebrated…

the parts that is tired;
the parts that is frail;
the part that is frustrated,
overwhelmed,
stuck,
easily hurt,
afraid,
resentful,
threatened,
angry,
judgy,
feels powerless,
can’t quite go with the flow,
wants to give up,
wants to complain,
… and is hurting.

I give that part of you permission to not want lemonade. Maybe what is called for is just a moment of leaning in, instead of walking away. Maybe our brokenness just needs the nod. And a simple acknowledgment is just the balm that can begin the healing.

If there is such a part in you that is calling out to be embraced and you feel you can’t hold it all by yourself right now, send me a message at help(@)hopefulworld.org with BROKEN in the subject line.

I’ll write it on a slip of paper and add it to this bowl to honor it and you — in a small ritual to being together in our brokenness.

with love and togetherness,
Ria

p.s. I struggle with blogging publicly still so it’s a rare occurrence for me to be so raw in the wide open but I invite you to join me here, where I share my musings more regularly on the art of embracing your truest self.

photo credit: henry lohmeyer

In Case You’re Feeling Fatherless

In Case You’re Feeling Fatherless

For years we’d call each other the weekend before Father’s Day and say, “Don’t forget about dad!” After years of long travel and even longer absences, it was easy to do. Many times my father felt like a loving uncle more than an actual father — the time spent together more akin to warm but distant relatives.

But then he got older and I got older and the distance shortened and it was about a year before he gently pointed out that he’d been calling me every single week for a year, whether I picked up the phone or not.

Oh. I said. I hadn’t noticed.

He understood and was not offended. I thought twice after that before I let the phone go to voicemail. My dad would still contend that it’s hard to get me on the first try, but in my defense, I can’t wait to call back now. Because I understand now, too.

Life is long, a teacher of mine once told me. And so is love. It takes time.

It sounds like the most reassuring thought ever, until we apply it to fathers, husbands, brothers or other men in our lives that we waited for far too long. Men that we wish would lean in instead of back away. And I’m not just speaking to women. How many men have I met who never really had their fathers the way they needed them? Too many that I can mention or name.

We are all in one way or another in the process of missing someone we love. Someone we don’t quite know how to explain how important they are to us. Someone who we never quite find the words to say exactly how much we long or how much we need all those things it seems now we will forever miss.

Maybe in this regard, fathers know best.

Because I’m not sure there is a more misunderstood or underestimated population on the planet. The heart of a father, unless that man was blessed with a naturally warm mother and a very attentive demonstrative dad himself, is rarely expressed. That heart, under layers and layers of hurt, wounds, losses and misunderstandings, still feels.

And so, so deeply.

And this is I believe what that father would say if he had an unshackled heart to speak his truth:

I wish you knew how much I love you.
I wish you knew how much in my own ways I tried.
I wish you knew how many times I just didn’t know what to do.
I wish you knew how much my distance or my silence had nothing to do with you.
I wish you knew how much I wanted to do this right.
I wish you knew how hopeless it feels sometimes, after all the mistakes I’ve made.
I wish you knew how clear I am that this is way too often about my pride.
I wish you knew how proud I feel when I see you do your thing, even from a distance.
I wish you knew how I much I see me in you, and how much I feel pride that you came from me.
I wish I had protected you.
I wish you knew how much my pain before you even got here destroyed my chances of getting this right.
I wish you knew how much I wish I had the strength or knowledge or something to get things right.
I wish you knew how ashamed I am.
I wish you knew how much I wish we were closer now, and how much I wish it didn’t have to be the way it is right now.
I wish you knew how much I regret about it all.

I know, I know. Not my dad, you say. And I believe you, maybe you’re right.
But today, on a day where you can’t get away with forgetting and it’s too painful to remember, it’s not too late for you to get it right. To say outloud what you wished for, what you wanted, what you still need and what will never be the same because you didn’t get what mattered to you most.

We’re grownups now, some of you might argue. There’s no time for this. But I would like to propose that this is all we have time for. Because each one of us in our own ways is still walking around like a seven or eleven or seventeen year old kid inside. We’re organizing our lives around our hurts and wounds, doing things at work and at home that feel strangely similar to the way it was back then, and the only way to break the chain is to speak your truth.

What better day than today?

Today, because fathers are so important and need to be loved so much like all human beings, and because there’s no way around how much each and everyone of us need them, we’re inviting you today to do two things.

One, if you’re someone who is really feeling the pain of this particular kind of missing, please send us an email at help(@)hopefulworld.org with MISSING in the subject line. We’ll be so happy to send you a short audio blessing back from the fathers of Hopeful World… a dear collection of men in our community who are the actual voice of love, strength and compassion when we need them most.

And two, if you’re a dad, who is able to speak to this pain… either to help us understand or to alleviate our suffering, please feel free to share your own honest words in the comments. We love you and welcome your voice to this important conversation.

Maybe the missing eases a little bit, if we each take one step closer to each other and stand in the places where others cannot, for the sake of our shared hope and healing.

With so much love,
Jen

photo by Patience Salgado of kindnessgirl.com

P.S. Will you share this around? We know there are others who need this today. And if you know you appreciate things like this, please sign up for our weekly messages at hopefulworld.org/join. Our hope is that everything we send out with love brings radical acceptance for who you are and eases your suffering.

Everything Happens

Everything Happens

I have the hardest time being gentle with myself.

Maybe it’s because I can see how deeply responsible I am for my choices and the life I’ve created. Maybe it’s because I think when I’m suffering as a result of my mistakes or missteps I deserve punishment more than any comfort or companionship.

Are you ever hard on yourself in this particular way?

I wish I could tell you I’ve got this great new trick I do that helps me not isolate or hibernate like this, but I don’t. What I can say is that I’m beginning to realize there are so many people around me who can see my dilemma and are willing to offer me solace if I’m willing to admit things are not okay.

Choosing to acknowledge that we are loved more than we can sometimes say breaks down the case for thinking we are alone. It gives us back our power to open up and acknowledge the host of people around us who are trying to get through, the dear ones who want to be near even though we can’t imagine why and had our sights set on others who were more distant and elusive.

Last June, during a particularly painful time, my dear friend Corinna Robbins came to visit me for a weekend of making art and hanging out. My oldest friend Maya Story flew in from Portland to stay with us in the big yellow house. We didn’t realize at the time that this would be the very weekend that my housemate and dearest family friend Rachael Maddox would see the final break in her marriage and agree with her husband Brian to part ways.

Brian and Rachael more than any other two people I know believe that even at the darkest moments you can experience hope, connection, comfort and light. We spent the weekend filming both their last moments together in between bouts of crying, laughing and being quiet with each other on the couch. The whole weekend was surreal. It wasn’t until we were in the editing process that we realized every single person you see in this video was living through a major life transition when we filmed, even the kids.

It’s been almost a year since we were all together. I had to leave the big yellow house. Brian and Rachael have forged an honest friendship. The little boys you see who were like brothers to my son have moved far away to Turkey. The woman celebrating a birthday is beginning a new life. Corinna is on the cusp of breakthrough as a filmmaker, and I’m not nearly as low as I was that day Corinna filmed me, sprawled out on my bed saying all the things I myself most needed to hear.

Everything changes. And when we can remember that during the low times, our hearts can fill with hope. And when we can tell each other this in the good times, our hearts can fill with gratitude. No matter what, we can be gentle, we can be kind. And we can remember, that even in this, we are never, ever alone.

Here’s the link to our first Hopeful World short film here… we know this content is not for everyone, but for those of you who are walking through big changes or who are feeling the pain of loss and regret, please accept it as our acknowledgment of what you’re going through and of the hopeful future that awaits you.

With so much love,
Jen

P.S. Thank you so much for sharing our Mother’s Day post. Ria and I were so honored by the way this message of comfort spread far and wide, in part because of you. We hope you’ll continue to share anything we create that you know will speak to someone who is hurting.

Thank You and Goodbye

Thank You and Goodbye

It was December 30, 2006. We were facing each other on the driveway of the house my grandfather had built soon after what their generation referred to as “Liberation,” — when the Americans freed the Philippine islands from the clutches of the Japanese. If you ask any historian, you would discover that the process of liberating Manila was one of the most destructive battles in all of World War II — worse than Stalingrad, worse than Okinawa. Even though the city was declared an Open City, it was reduced to rubble from bombs and mortar fire from both sides. This was how Manila and the Filipino people were stripped of their historic buildings and churches. Inside the structures that remained standing, hundreds of people, including women and babies were shot, gutted, and beheaded. This is why Manila is full of ghosts, or so they say. But these are scenes of another story.

It was in the aftermath of this devastation that my grandparents were officially betrothed and finally married. Lola would point to their wedding picture, which I will always remember perched on her dressing table in a black iron frame, and explain that her veil and her dress were improvised from the only materials that were available at the time, jersey and netting.

“There was no silk or tulle back then!” She would exclaim.

Right after the war, they moved into one of the four apartments that my great grandmother, Augusta had managed to keep out of Japanese hands.

“Our furniture? All wooden crates!” My Lola Daisy would shake her head in recollection.

I used to marvel at all she had been through, what inner strength it had required to stay in the battle zone of Manila instead of fleeing to the surrounding hills like so many others.

So understand that on the day I was scheduled to leave for the States again, the day before New Year’s Eve, I had expected nothing less than the austere countenance of the Lola Daisy I had known my entire life, the woman who did not flinch when she looked a Japanese soldier in the face and refused to relinquish her deceased father’s fountain pen. People were bayoneted for less.

My suitcase was in the trunk. The car was already running. All that was left was goodbye. We stood in front of the iron gate, the same one I had opened and shut a thousand times through all the years of my life. As I reached out for her, I was taken aback when she crumbled in my arms. Then we both knew what we refused to say out loud… that this was the last goodbye.

“Thank you.” was all I could barely whisper in that moment. As I held her close, I smelled the familiar scent of her prescription sunscreen mixed with the Revlon hair coloring she used to keep her thinning locks an auburn brown. I made a pact with myself to remember the fragrance forever, and the feeling of her skin against my face — a loose, delicate soap paper that threatened to dissolve in an instant.

What I meant but could not bring myself to say for fear that a deluge of tears would engulf us both was, “Thank you for my life. Thank you for saving me too. Thank you for letting me go, in order to save myself.”

So I shut the heavy gate behind me — between us — my heart collapsing in the process. The country of my girlhood was on the other side of that gate and in that moment, it too was closing to me forever. I climbed into the car and said nothing as the driver took me ever farther away from my lola with each mile. In thirty-six hours I would be on the other side of the world. In seventy-two hours, I would receive an email that confirmed what was impossible for any of us to really know then.

Lola had cancer. She was given four to six months to live.

“All of the lines to the country you are calling are currently busy.” Said the automated recording, over and over for the next 24 hours. I was informed later that the under sea phone lines had been damaged by the recent typhoon which was why, despite my frantic efforts, I could not contact anyone in Manila.

I fell asleep frustrated and restless, dreaming that Lola called me instead. I had a wall phone, I remember because as I listened to her, I twirled the black cord around my finger. In the dream, Lola was very pregnant and she asked me if I would be her doula, assisting her in the birth of her new baby. “Of course,” I said.

I interpreted this quite literally. My dear lola was preparing to cross a threshold, to be born into her new life and I was the one she had asked to assist in her death and rebirth. Later, I also came to understand that her death was in many ways, the beginning of my journey back to myself.

When the real phone lines were finally re-established, I was able to get the details of Lola’s illness. It was cancer of the liver. It had been less than a year since her husband, my Lolo Miguel had succumbed to pneumonia. As physically strong and healthy as she seemed, at least for 89, I knew she would not outlive him long. In fact, at his funeral in March of the previous year, I begged her to wait for me to come home again.

I said as an incentive, “Look! I already booked my ticket for Christmas. I’ll be home for two weeks.”

It was just days after my return from this holiday trip, after that last goodbye, that I got the news.

Our family began the process of preparing her and ourselves for her death. My aunt traveled the nearly 8,000 miles between Wisconsin and Manila four times between January and April. She took care of most of Lola Daisy’s physical needs, making sure she was comfortable. But my aunt asked me what her mother had essentially asked me in a dream.

“Can you help her?” Tita asked me on a real phone this time. “There are some things that she can only hear from you.” This was true.

The most difficult words were best exchanged between two people who spent years exchanging no words at all, when understanding passed only through cool towels placed on feverish foreheads, and steady hands that plucked stray eyebrows. Trust was painted on in layers and hours spent next to each other in cars, in beds, and at tables. Comfort was wrapped in a silk scarf from Hong Kong that guarded against the chill of air-conditioned restaurants, kept in a purse specifically for this purpose.

Circumstances had forced me to leave the cocoon of my lola’s care when I was thirteen but this meant that our trust remained intact, even through my teenage years. As she was dying, I was able to talk to Lola on the phone almost daily, somehow channeling the words that she needed to hear to gently let go of her life.

“When I lie down, it hurts. When I sit up, it hurts.” Lola complained to me during one of our last phone conversations.

“Are you getting tired of this?” I asked.

“Well… I must admit it’s getting a little old… like me!” She joked.

“You’re funny!” I laughed a courtesy laugh in return, my heart pounding inside my chest. I was apprehensive about whether or not I had the courage for my task. “Well… when you are ready, all you have to do is turn your attention away from your physical body… you know this, right?”

“Yes… I think… I do know.”

During such conversations, I myself would feel disembodied… as if I was watching someone else deliver instructions I had no business knowing. Afterwards, I was overwhelmed by the unreasonableness of it all. I hung up the phone once and realized I was shaking involuntarily on the overstuffed purple couch I loved so much, because my rational mind could not explain what was happening.

“What is happening?!” The words I said out loud echoed in the living room, empty except for me and the dog curled at my feet.

At that moment, in response to my unreasonable demand, memories of my life appeared in a mental slide show, each scene as if selected and placed in the carousel in a specific order so that I couldn’t possibly miss its significance. This is how I came to understand that if only I had believed I was safe, if only I had belonged, if only my mother had asked for what she needed, if only my father had chosen love over filial duty… if each and all those things had been true, I would not be who I was in that moment.

I was the daughter of a grandmother, her midwife, holding space for her to birth her new life. This must have been one of those occurrences I had read about – a Sacred Mystery — moments that your rational mind cannot understand that your whole being knew to be the absolute truth.

The following week, I casually asked her on the phone, “Are you ready?” as if she were just going on one of the many three-month long European trips that she took with my grandfather when they were younger.

In an equally surreal way, she responded, “I suppose so. I’ve asked your uncle to transfer all the funds from the joint accounts. That was the last thing.”

“So… sayonara!” she quipped, trying to add some levity to the situation.

We were there again, on the precipice of goodbye.

“I love you, Lola.” I said slowly, letting the words sink in. And before we ended the call I added, “Thank you.”

“For what?” She asked.

This time I said it out loud, “For my life.” And let the tears come.

“Ay, my dear… having you grow up with us… they were the happiest years of my life!”

And with that thank you and goodbye, two days later, she was gone.

* * *
Tomorrow is the last day of 2013 The Grandmother Power Blogging Campaign but I invite you to consider sharing a story about your own powerful grandmother. If you know of, were cared for, nurtured by, loved or changed by a powerful elder, consider sharing this post.

P.S. If you are moved by stories like this — of unexpected blessings and hope and, you want a peek into my secret musings on the art of embracing your truest self, join me here.

In Case Mother’s Day is Hard for You

In Case Mother’s Day is Hard for You

(with my mom, who understood so deeply the pain and beauty of mother’s day)

Let’s be real. Mother’s Day can completely blow sometimes.

You want to be cheerful. You want to be with the program. But some years there are all these little points of pain that will not go away.

The baby you never had.
The one you gave up.
The kid you lost to something bigger than you.
The child that slipped away before you ever held her.
The one that was never born.
The one you worry you’re failing.
The one that failed you.

The mother who’s so close and yet so far.
The one you loved so much who couldn’t love you back.
The one you could never love because it hurt too much.
The one you lost too soon.
The one who is slipping away.
The one you can never please.
The one you wish you could live up to.

There are no cards to honor these children or these mothers. There are no holidays to contain all the parts of you that fall outside the lines of generally understood sorrow or celebration.

But there is this moment, this incredible moment, where you can feel it all. Where for once you can’t stuff it down or forget it. Where you have to be with it, because it is not going away.

And here, my friends, is where something important happens. This is where we connect, where we understand we are frail, where we are human. Where we see in new ways what life means. Where we are issued a compelling and persistent invitation to mother ourselves. To cut ourselves the breaks we didn’t get. To ask for the help we always needed. To let tears come and say, This is how it is. I’ll ask in this one tiny moment, for the courage I need to let everything just be.

No matter what your point of pain or challenge today, I want you to know that you are not the only one. Somewhere over a silly Mother’s Day breakfast, there is a woman faking a smile who feels just like you do. Somewhere in a very silent house with no one to call, there is a woman who is tending the ache of her loss, just like you. Somewhere standing in a shower there is a woman who is feeling it all and letting the tears come, just like you.

As you go about this day, know that over here, Ria and I have candles lit for all these unspoken things, and that we are holding the space and thinking of you. You — the faraway, soulful you — will be in our meditation and in our warmest thoughts. We are sending you light and love and the deep wish that you would know today of all days, nothing is wasted and we are together in ways we cannot always see but are just as true. That the night can never last. That even in our darkest moments, there will be someday, the surprise of a laugh, a comfort, a dawn.

With so much love, hope and light,
Jen

P.S. Will you share this around? We know there are so many women who are feeling it today. And if you know you appreciate things like this, please sign up for our weekly messages at hopefulworld.org/join. Our hope is that everything we send out brings radical acceptance for who you are and relieves your suffering. Thanks!

photo by Patience Salgado of kindnessgirl.com

What to Do In a (Soul) Emergency

What to Do In a (Soul) Emergency

It’s Wednesday morning and as far as we know, no one knows who’s responsible for the Boston Marathon bombings.

In some office building somewhere a hundred investigators are picking up clues like puzzle pieces, wondering who masterminded the explosions in Boston yesterday afternoon. Meanwhile, families explain to their little children what happened while loved ones receive treatment and help for wounds seen and unseen.

One flash, one choice and everything changes.

In times like this we tend to look at how things are falling apart. We see what’s broken in us. We rage at whatever wounds or wickedness would incite another human being to wield harm on another.

But on Monday, in the flash, in the horror, some people chose to run toward the wounded. Some did everything in their power to help. And receiving that help I am positive required a particular kind of courage. When you’re terrified and in pain and confusion, it’s hard to let someone touch you, especially if at first you might feel that pain even more.

Not every helper is skilled. Not every wounded soul is gracious. Sometimes we rail. Sometimes we cry. Sometimes we resist or run away or refuse. Even when everyone around us is doing their very best.

Today, as a part of the human family, you and I both have an opportunity to make connections that make a difference. We can move toward the wounded people in our lives. We can let in help where we are hurting. We can say we belong, that we are together, that we are not leaving, no matter how scary it gets. No matter how helpless or awkward we feel when it’s not clear what to do.

Not every bomb makes a sound. Not every wound generates a cry. Some injuries are silent. Some souls never ever say where it hurts. Some tragedies happen without either party saying a word.

Today I’m tying a little string around my wrist to remind me to receive when someone comes close to a place where I am hurting. I’m doing this to remind me to give when I suspect someone might be suffering, so I can be part of the rising contingent of souls who stay and don’t run away when we need or are needed the most.

As always, feel free to pass this on to a friend…the little bits of goodness below might be particularly helpful for families or anyone you know who’s feeling scared or anxious from the week’s events.

Love and hope,
Jen

Not sure where to start? Download this easy-to-follow family friendly PDF to help you and your loved ones practice giving and receiving for the soul emergencies that are happening everyday all around us in our world.

Terrified by the violence? Overcome with fear? Listen to this soothing seven-minute meditation from Jen to ease the troubled mind, especially designed for the worried five year old who lives in your heart.

Where Hope Begins

Where Hope Begins

It begins when you haphazardly pick out a bright pink floral top on an early evening in April to meet a long lost friend.

It begins when you ask yourself, as you lean in to apply lip gloss, why you would be nervous. And proceed to dismiss the feeling entirely.

It begins when, as you assess yourself in the mirror, you think that maybe, possibly it would be better not to have plans. And not to think too much. [Read more…]