The thief? His name is Fear.

“Fear keeps us focused on the past or worried about the future. If we can acknowledge our fear, we can realize that right now we are okay. Right now, we are still alive, and our bodies are working marvelously.” Thich Nhat Hanh

I was recently asked the question, how would I survive a night of fear, facing a dangerous situation. The scene was being involved in an avalanche, and rescue could not come until the morning.

I would face that fear as I have faced many fears in my life. I would focus on the moment. This very moment in time. Moments become minutes, minutes become hours, and hours will pass until day can brake.

I would also focus on my sense of ‘life journey’. I believe that there is a day to come to this earth-to begin my journey-and there is a day to leave this earth-to end my journey. Many times people escape what was viewed as certain death. Others die without any prior complication. If it is my day to go, I will go-whatever the portal of passage.

This belief comforts me. I know that when it is my time to leave, I cannot do anything to change that. Nor can others. So I mainly pray for strength and grace to accept that. That calms my fears. Fear is a thief. It robs you of peace. It steals your strength. It carries away your focus.

“Hope is the thing with feathers that perches in the soul-and sings the tunes without the words-and never stops at all.”  Emily Dickinson


Happy Holidays

“Blessed is the season which engages the whole world in a conspiracy of love.” Hamilton Wright Mabie

The 2013 census informs us that Ohio has a population of 11,570,808. That population has ancestry groups from Germany, Ireland, England, Poland and Italy. Our racial makeup is white, black, hispanic, asian, pacific islander, Alaskan native and mixed. Our religions are Protestant, Catholic, Jehovah’s Witness, Judaism, Islamic, Hindu, Buddhists, Mormons and unaffiliated.

As I walk through the mall, the park, or go to work I will encounter people from these faiths, cultures, and backgrounds. All of them live, love, and may have families. We are similar in many ways. They may celebrate days that I am unfamiliar with, but at that celebration, they are often with loved ones. It is often a day of sharing memories, and receiving encouragement and hope for the coming days.

The list of ‘special days’ and ‘events’ in December is rather extensive:

St Nicholas Day
Pearl Harbor Day
Bodhi Day
Feast of the Immaculate Conception
Virgin of Guadalupe
Santa Lucia Day
Las Posadas
Hanukkah-Festival of Lights
Winter Solstice
New Years Eve

If all I ever said to any person I passed was: Merry Christmas–or Happy Kwanzaa–or Happy Hanukkah I would be exposing my own arrogance that what ever it is that I celebrate; all others must celebrate that as well. It is to ignore the many festivities of the month.

What I am really wishing people is a time of good will. An opportunity to enjoy time with family and loved ones.  To say Happy Holidays is to wish them a month of good days. A season of fun.

Saying Happy Holidays is actually a broad respect for all people. It is not exclusive. It does not exclude Christmas. It does not exclude Hanukkah. It does not exclude any of those days.  It is inclusive.

Most importably I suppose is the way we send our greeting. The spirit in which we interact with others. Am I really wishing them good will? Or am I pushing my own agenda? People can tell.

“People may hear your words, but they feel your attitude.”   John C Maxwell

Wine and iPads

I am not so good at waiting. I move at a fast pace. I don’t like unanswered questions or open endings.

Rushing has caused me some injuries. If I bump into a table, or turn into a door frame, I don’t do so casually. I ram into them. Because I am flying. In a hurry to get it all done.

Some say ‘Good things come to those who wait.’ Maybe so. I suppose the people who say that also say, ‘patience is a virtue.’ Maybe so.

I am not so certain that waiting makes good things come to you. But waiting does make you appreciate them more. If I want something new and immediately go out to purchase it, I will like it. I might love it. But if I save my money, research my options and I finally get to purchase the desired, chosen, purchase, I cherish it.

Did the waiting make it happen? No. But the waiting helped me to cherish it.

Prayer is similar. Did the prayer itself change the event? No. But it changed me as it helped me to embrace it.

In my fast rush to get through the daily demands of my life, I think it is helpful for me to be reminded to wait. To pause. To breathe. My tendency when called upon to wait-even 10-20 minutes-is to pull out my iPad, pour a glass of wine and say I am waiting. But I am still being active. True waiting, is silent, reflective, and restoring. It gives me a chance to catch up with myself.

So, in that vein, the saying, ‘good things come to those who wait’, I would agree. Waiting lets me catch up with me.

“The sea does not reward those who are too anxious, too greedy, or too impatient. One should lie empty, open, choiceness as a beach-waiting for the gift from the sea.”  Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Soul Hug

I’m feeling pretty worried and sad as I sit in the hospital coffee shop. My father is down for a lung biopsy as the PET scan had indicated that his esophageal cancer had spread to his lung and bones. I know I am about to lose my last living parent. As a nurse I know the loss would involve pain and suffering.

I am unsure if my hands can hold up my head. They are on either side of my face, covering my eyes as the despair has nearly taken my breath away. Our family had just lost our mother , who died after suffering from Pick’s Disease. Now my father. I remembered that there was a small garden court area at the side of the hospital. I decide perhaps if i sat out there a while my head could clear and I would gather some strength and perhaps some insight as to how to go on.

As I get to the garden a beautiful lady is sitting on a tree bench. I wanted to be alone, but I don’t really feel disappointed. I feel somehow drawn to her.  Then she looks at me, and her smile is so soft, and warm. Her eyes are looking at me with so much compassion I feel my throat constrict and tears well in my eyes.

“Hi, my name is Semesia. Will you sit with me a few moments?” Semesia offered as she gently placed her palm on the bench next to her. “Hi, thank you, I will, but I don’t know if I will be very good company.” I say in return as I sit down beside her. As I sat, I felt an odd energy. Not a tingle really, but some ‘awareness’ that I can’t really describe. It was ethereal.

“I know. Your father is upstairs having more tests. I have been allowed to see you and to encourage you. I know that you have never felt so troubled. You are right, your father will pass. But he will be active until his last couple of days and then he  will be in a coma. You are going to be able to help him. He will feel great love and comfort as you do.

However, the toll on your life will be transforming. I am also to tell you that it will all get worse. Your husband will seek friendship elsewhere. A year after your father passes, you will be divorced from your husband.”

Somehow her words do not knock me off my bench. On some level I think I knew this. I was changing. I was challenging who I had been told to be and discovering who I really was. My husband of 30 years did not like that. It was unsettling to him.

“You have wondered if you are on the right path. Your path to question and seek other ‘truths’ and learn of other cultures. You are doing exactly what you should. While you will experience a couple of years that will be the most challenging in your life, great reward is coming. The freedom you will feel will terrify you at first, but then you will experience its marvels. You will find peace.

Then, I am happy to tell you, that you will have a story book wedding in a castle in Washington State.”

I had never been to Washington. As I was growing into myself, my husband made me feel very bad about myself. I knew helping my father was right, and was determined to continue. I feared the loss of my husband. I was fifty. Who would love me. I had grown up with my husband. How would I ever meet anyone. How would anyone love me, I continued to struggle in my soul.

“I know your struggle. That is why I was allowed to come. My time here is short. Remember, your greatest challenge is in front of you. You will manage it and it will build your strength and your resolve to continue in your quest to become who you really are. And you will do so. It will be your greatest reward. Then your marriage to a wonderful caring man will take you on many fun adventures. From the Castle wedding to voyages, to open conversations and laughter throughout your day. You will no longer have to ‘make fun happen’. It will occur naturally all around you. He will hug your soul.”

She placed her hand on top of mine. And she looked at me-right into my soul. I started to cry. Semesia knew me better than I knew myself. I raised my hands to wipe my eyes and when I opened them, she was gone. I was left with a strange mixture of sorrow and hope.

“Hope is important because it can make the present moment less difficult to bear. If we believe that tomorrow will be better, we can bear a hardship today.”  Thich Nhat Hanh