Saturday, August 30, 2014


To make a play on Christina Valters Paintner’s article title, this has been a summer of “unraveling” for me. Pema Chodron’s words ring clear inside of me:

“We think that the point is to pass the test or overcome the problem, but the truth is things don’t get solved. They come together, and they fall apart. Then they come together again and fall apart again. The healing comes from letting there be room for all this to happen, for grief, for relief, for misery, for joy.”

Unraveling so something new can be knit together. Things falling apart, so that they can come together again.

All of the “unraveling” revealed something I’ve always wondered about, but had no “facts” to inform me.  I have been in a defensive posture most of my life. In the years since my first fibromyalgia flare up, it’s been really obvious to me that my physical posture on the inside of my body is defensive, but in my heart, in my mind, in my thoughts, in my words when I’m anxious – I always feel compelled to defend myself. Why? Most of the time, I don’t really need to, but it’s as if I’m compelled, driven to defend – why? What am I defending? I’ve been wondering that for many years.

And I think the answer came up a couple of weeks ago as a result of years of inner work and the gift of iRest Yoga Nidra. The next morning after one of our sessions, this picture came to my mind before I really woke up.

This photograph is over 65 years old. It’s a photograph of my dad’s oldest daughter. Through circumstances beyond his control, he was never able to have a relationship with her, and I have never met her, but this picture hung in our living room from before I was born until I was about 4 years old. When I look at it I feel a huge sense of sadness, and I “feel” memories of my dad weeping over this picture, which my mother validated as factual before she died. She told me that Daddy spent a lot of time holding the photo, looking at it, and crying because he missed being able to be a part of her life.

Then came the day he had to pack the picture away because it wasn’t something a young Baptist preacher needed hanging on his wall. Divorce and children from another lifetime weren’t helpful to his career, and he was advised to put the photo away, which he did. When I was 11, I found it hidden in the bottom of his dresser drawer. That’s when my mother told me the story. That’s when I was made aware of our “family secret”, and I was simply reminded that we didn’t talk about it, as she re-wrapped the photo and put it back in the drawer.

I realized a few years back that I had competed with the girl in this photo in my own mind and heart. Some children have an imaginary friend; I had an imaginary "nemesis". And I always “lost” when it came to capturing the heart of the King, my dad. The stories in my mind were false, but still, I believed them and have lived most of my life competing with this phantom “princess”. But in the last couple of weeks, I’ve come to realize that the real competition was for “place/position”.  The need to defend my place or my position is a first chakra need – a very basic human “right”. The threat of losing my place has been with me since before I was born. I’ve never felt secure in “my place”. And I’ve never known why until now.

Earlier this summer, I had made plans to drive to East Texas to the Chandler Cemetery and “visit” with my mother and daddy. I’ve felt particularly nostalgic this summer, and I’ve known most of that was remembering the loss of my mother who died and was buried this time last summer. But as the time drew nearer to go, and this new information made its way up from my deepest self, I also knew that this could be an opportunity to begin to resolve the issue of “my place” and now was the time to begin healing this part of my heart.

When I was talking to my husband about all this, it came to me that a healing “ritual” might be to “cremate” the photo and take the ashes back to East Texas with me, to sprinkle on Daddy's grave, so that’s what I did. 

My precious priest and friend, Liz Parker, blessed the ashes before I left, offering me some prayers from the prayer book to say as I sprinkled the ashes.

As I shared my intention with a couple of friends, another friend simply christened trip this as my “Trip to Bountiful.” Even the sounds of the words made my heart sing, and I knew that this small pilgrimage back “home” would begin to set me free.

I woke up Thursday morning to thunderstorms – a August treat in our dog days of summer, so I took my time getting ready to leave. But the rain followed me off and on for the next two days. I also had made plans to stop and “visit” with Jim’s parents at Ryan’s Chapel Cemetery in Diboll. As I drove through Cleveland, the thought came to do rubbings at the Cemetery, so I quickly pulled off the freeway and got directions to the nearest Wal-Mart and purchased paper and chalk. 

It surprised me how quickly I was able to get back on the freeway. The whole diversion took me less than 20 minutes, and as I pulled my car back up onto the highway, the radio rang out these words

“songs of freedom, redemption songs, that’s all I’ve ever had…”

Those are words from Bob Marley’s Redemption Song. When I looked the words up just now, these lines were my gift:

Emancipate yourselves from mental slavery;
None but ourselves can free our minds.

That’s what this trip was meant to do – free my mind.

And right on the heels of Bob Marley’s song, came BrettDennon’s  Don’t forget:

Don't Forget, Don't Forget
That I believe In You
Should you forget, should you forget
Let me remind you
That I am behind you

I knew even more and once again, that Divine Love’s Grace was orchestrating my Trip to Bountiful, and by this time, my heart was really soaring.

When I got to Ryan’s Chapel, storm clouds were hanging very low, and within moments of parking the car, they let loose, so I remembered my mother’s mantra, “Adjust and adapt,” got back into my car and made plans to stop by for the visit on my way home.

I had made plans to meet and spend the night with my Facebook friend, Sandy Bunch in Brownsboro. We’ve been FB friends for a while, but never met, and I had been really excited to finally meet her and her sweet Maggie. 

She has a beautiful place deep in the woods of East Texas. Turning up her road was like driving onto the grounds of a silent retreat center, and she’s got a rich spiritual life that’s made evident in every nook and cranny of her beautiful place. She and Maggie met me, loved me, fed me, and took care of me through the evening as we talked and talked like old friends.

And the talks continued the next morning as we both woke up early, got our coffee and “retreated” to her big beautiful porch to watch the day begin. And we laughed as we watched rain clouds gather, pass by, sprinkle a little, then regather. East Texas is also in a drought and as much as I thought I needed a dry morning to visit my folks, it was apparent Love thought otherwise.

I finally packed myself up and left to head back to Chandler Cemetery.  The road to that little country cemetery is beautiful, quiet, peaceful – bounty-full. I had no problem finding Mother and Daddy, and as storm clouds gathered, I sprinkled the ashes, talked to my dad, loved on my mother, made really quick rubbings, finishing up as just fat raindrops began to fall.

I sat in the car, waiting for the rain to end. I didn’t feel like I had “finished” my time there, but the rain wasn’t ending anytime soon. Then it came to me that the rain was part of the ritual. It was my christening, my baptism welcoming the new way of being that I’m reaching for, so I got out of my car and walked slowly, with rain pouring down back to the gravesite. And I stood, letting the downpour wash away all the “muck” from the past, washing me and making me clean again, inside and out. It was a precious time for me – the perfect ending to my time with Mother and Daddy.

I walked back to the car in the rain, toweled off, and drove the short drive to the houses that my daddy and built for my mother and my grandmother, and left. 

I had thought about driving into Tyler and taking more pictures of my Bountiful, but the rain convinced me otherwise, and I headed home.

By the time I got back to Diboll, the skies were clear and bright blue, and the typical dog days of August were being felt. I made my rubbings, visited with Jim’s mom and dad, and made my way back home.

I have long “hated” East Texas, and I’ve long felt a sense of dreariness when I’ve thought of going back there, but that’s all gone. That shift began last year as Jim and I drove home after burying Mother.  And now, I know inside of me that a great work has been done. Something inside has shifted. I expect I will still feel “threatened” occasionally, and I know it may take time for my body to let go, for my defensive fists to release and lay down. But there’s a knowing that day will come. My heart has found its place, and I am free. I don’t need to defend my place. I never needed to defend my place.

As I was rounding the bend to make the last part of my ride home, this rainbow shown in the sky so brightly reminding me of the "new day" in front of me, the clean slate. My mind and heart are singing Redemption's Song, and Divine Love is right here with/behind me. I won’t forget.