Author: Christine McDonald
Roots of Endurance
A mighty wind blew night and day. It stole the oak tree’s leaves away
Then snapped its boughs and pulled its bark until the oak was tired and stark.
But still the oak tree held its ground while other trees fell all around
The weary wind gave up and spoke, “How can you still be standing, Oak?”
The oak tree said, “I know that you can break each branch of mine in two,
Carry every leaf away, shake my limbs and make me sway.
But I have roots stretched in the earth, growing stronger since my birth.
You’ll never touch them, for you see, they are the deepest part of me.
Until today, I wasn’t sure of just how much I could endure.
But now I’ve found, with thanks to you, I’m stronger than I ever knew.”
Trash girl and muffin lady
It happens often, around the same time and usually on a Sunday night, reminding me that I didn’t get to say goodbye.
Placing one’s trash curbside is usually an uneventful experience. So why at times does this mundane task have my heart fluttering and memories flashing across my mind?
It’s because of Edna.
We’d been summer neighbors for seven years prior. But when I arrived lock, stock and barrel, we became bosom buddies.
Edna was sporting 90 when I arrived on Cape Cod with all my wears and woes. Limited family, friends far and wide, and a life, I would slowly discover, that would be changed to unrecognizable proportions.
When summer was on things were good. Streets were filled with life, laughter and seasonal traffic. But when summer was gone it was just Edna and me at the dead end of a street and the dead end of our lives. Hers literally, mine figuratively.
So we bonded. Over award shows’ red carpets, belly laughs, barrels and muffins. Edna loved her muffins. They were a staple in her diet and a constant on her counter. Sometimes we’d share one over afternoon tea and girl talk. Other times Edna would share one as a thank you for some simple task I’d performed.
I’m not sure when it happened but eventually I found myself dragging my weekly waste to the curbside, followed by retrieving Edna’s to do the same. Her barrel was light weight, dark blue and unknowingly about to have a lasting effect on my life.
I tried tending to the trash without disturbing Edna but she often appeared at the garage door beckoning me in for a muffin upon completion of my dirty deed. It wasn’t a tit for tat type thing. It was a private entree Edna and I savored.
I was trash girl and she was muffin lady, mutually agreed upon nicknames. It was the lighter side of a failing memory as “trash girl” was Edna’s way of finding me amidst the fog of dementia.
Edna lived alone yet fearless. She loved her independence but appreciated knowing I was around. So I checked her nightly making sure she was tucked in and locked down. And truth be told, she was doing more for me than I for her.
Four years into our foray found my life moving forward and Edna’s into assisted living. We locked eyes, swallowed hard and bravely held back the threat of tears.
Ninety miles apart but joined at the heart. I would visit her whenever I was in her part of the world and, of course, bring muffins. We would sit and reminisce over the good times, a period Edna captioned “that chapter in my life”, the kind you can never reread.
Sometimes I would arrive unannounced, surprisingly knocking Edna off her walker in the hallways of her new home. Sometimes I’d call with a heads up. This was one of those times. I was planning a Thanksgiving visit and dialed that familiar number to let Edna know I was en route with muffins and memories.
“The number you have dialed . . . is no longer in service.”
I collapsed at the harsh sound of reality. I knew Edna was gone. An online search sent a spear through my soul. Edna had been gone a month.
Flashing memories turned into flashing regrets for how busy I’d become and how sporadic were my visits. I locked eyes in the memory of my mind with “that chapter in my life” but I wasn’t bravely holding back tears. Not this time. My tear-soaked face was the only consolation I had for the empty echo in my heart.
So now when I get that curbside funny feeling I know it’s Edna saying hello. And I retreat into the house, enjoy a muffin and take comfort knowing Edna’s spirit is with me in this “chapter of my life”.
If you never try, you’ll never know.
What happens when one makes a decision without knowing the facts . . .
She was 17, a delightfully joyous young lady, a friend of the family. As I prepared the evening’s meal it was an honor to set a place for her at the table.
Then the truth came.
As she glimpsed the evening’s culinary creation she hesitantly confessed – in an almost subtle voice of repentance for what I could tell she felt was a disrespectful reply to dinner – “um…I don’t like scallops.”
“No problem,” I assured her. “There’s always a refrigerator full. We’ll simply prepare you a different dish.”
Her silent sigh of relief filled the air…and amused me.
But I wasn’t letting her off that easy.
Teasingly I inquired … “Have you ever had scallops?”
I grinned. She gulped … hard.
“Then how do you know you don’t like them?”
“I don’t like squishy foods,” she delivered with ligtening speed.
“Oh!” I accepted.
We both turned to go about our business…me with dinner preparations…she socializing with my son. Until…
I beckoned her to the kitchen.
Feeling forgiven and off the hook, she returned with the innocence and energy of a budding young adult.
Then stopped short and in horror of the sight before her.
There sitting alone on a lunch plate was a scallop. I handed her the plate, a fork, a napkin and these words of wisdom…
“Go into the other room. Try the scallop. If you don’t like it, spit it into the napkin. But when you return you will be able to say with confidence whether or not you like scallops.”
I could hear her sweat.
We both turned to tend to our business.
Shortly she returned. Plate empty. Napkin … full.
“I don’t like them,” she shivered.
We both laughed.
“Well, at least now you can say ‘I don’t like scallops’ with confidence and experience.”
She giggled in agreement then thoroughly enjoyed dining on…her favorite leftover pasta dish.
A Painless and Pleasant Procedure
It was truly a painless and pleasant procedure. She was hesitant … she experienced … and now she knows.
Have you ever been hesitant to try something new? Share your experience.
Addiction: a deep holistic disease with many unanswered questions
As heroin rushed through her veins I wonder what rushed through her mind.
Was she relishing in the notion of temporary relief from a demon who’d challenged her years ago?
Did the thought cross her mind she could be ingesting a drug so potent she could find herself in the depths of delusion but unable to find her way out?
Did she care?
Or was the pain so strong, the demon so dark, the burden so heavy and relief so elusive that she Just. Didn’t. Care?
Did she know others did or did she feel abandoned, ashamed and alone?
She. A lovely young lady who passed through my life; yet without permission to publish her name I can only call her a pronoun – she.
After the comment “addiction is a decision … and a very stupid one” sparked an outrage and outpouring of response among friends on social media not too long ago, I became concerned whether we as a society have become so close-minded that we refuse to entertain the possibility that there’s so much more to addiction than a user’s bad choice.
Feeling “there was something more going on beyond just the chemical factor” Johann Hari, former journalist and author of “Chasing the Scream” questioned, “What really causes drug use and drug addiction?”
The culmination of fully immersing himself into three year’s research, Hari states in the book’s Introduction and in interview with The Fix that “Drug addiction is not what we have been told it is and punishing and shaming drug users only makes them worse – and creates a blizzard of other problems for society.”
So as her body lay limp, her brain lay idle and her organs send signals to a myriad of monitors, I wonder, if she could view herself lying comatose from overdose would she have put the needle down? Did she wish someone had intervened?
So many questions. None of which blinking monitors can answer.
They’re not comforting, those blinking monitors. They’re like the final symphony of struggle this victim lay bearing. Yet I can’t help but wonder if where she lie is relief from the burden that delivered her there.
Machines continue to blink. I continue to wonder.
Is it the misfiring, cross-firing or hard-wiring of cerebral chemistry that sends one into the depths of addiction yet not another? Is one born with this malfunction or does life lace it as struggles? Did she reach out for help and none was forthcoming? Could her friends see a problem yet unable to reach her? Did she have a parent standing bedside, flashbacks of their little girl filling the void of the reality that lay before them? Does she really want to die or is she simply unable to outrun this demon?
So many more questions. None of which blinking monitors can answer.
In “A three-part path out of addiction” published March 6, 2015 in the Cape Cod Times, 38-year sober, Harvard-trained certified addiction specialist and 30-year CEO of Pathways to Freedom Inc., John Paul Nickerson shares, “Addiction is a disease, a complex, holistic disease. Substances are not addictive, people are. We need to switch focus from substances to people, from punishment to treatment, prevention and education.”
A helpless observer to a story I can’t begin to understand I offer the only thing left one can give to a body lying in wait – prayer. Prayer, that the deep desires of this burdened soul be granted. Prayer, that she feels saturated by the Lord’s mercy. Prayer, that she forgives herself. Prayer, that should she depart, that those left behind be granted strength to carry on and guidance to uncover answers.
Prayer, because there’s still so many questions. None of which blinking monitors can answer.
From the looks of things, I’d say she has struggled to survive the unplugging of life support long before now. But the moment of truth is upon her. Will she make it? Is the choice even hers anymore? Has she used her last trump card?
The wait was short.
She lost her battle.
As statistics continue to rise and addicts continue to fall, I can’t help but join in Hari’s quandary, “why do we carry on with the strategy we’ve got when so many can see it doesn’t work?”
“It’s a girl!” may have been how this young lady made her debut, but she deserves more than a statistical farewell as a pronoun in a drawer in the coroner’s office.
Let’s silence the blinking monitors and listen to addiction’s victims
because there’s so many questions, some of which they might help us
Do you think there’s more to addiction than a user’s bad choice?
How state of mind affects perception
An open and curious state of mind allowed me to experience this view from the pew the way I did. As is so often suggested, it’s not what you look at, it’s what you see. Perception. Yet perception is affected by so many things that are going on in our lives at the moment of our observation or experience. Our emotional, physical, medical, professional, personal, financial and spiritual states of mind at the very moment we experience something influences our perception of the event.
Squirming around in my sleepy stupor I silently declared to myself that I was not going to church. I was just too tired. Sunday morning, a day of worship, but also a lovely day to stay snuggled amongst the pillows. But then my gratitude angel whispered in my ear and reminded me how God never tires of helping me so surely I can drag my awesome life off the sheets and go give thanks.
Moments later someone suggested, “Why don’t you go to mass at the chapel”, a quaint little place of worship on the banks of the Falmouth Harbor.
What an odd suggestion, I thought. I hadn’t been to the chapel since 1998 when a family member got married there. And yet two weeks ago while attending mass at my parish church I was short the money needed to purchase a couple of books in the lobby book sale. Not to worry, the attendant shared, the books will be available next week at the chapel. You can catch us there. And yet I never did make it to the chapel book sale.
So as I prepared to attend Sunday service on this gorgeous July morning, it was foggy yet clear I was being guided to the chapel.
Cruising the short ride to St. Thomas Chapel, I mentally acknowledged my gratitude and openness to whatever the day brought. Though admittedly my spiritual curiosity was piqued, I relinquished all thoughts of “why” I seemed to be guided to attending mass there and just enjoyed the adventure and chatting with the locals perched on their harbor-lined decks soaking up the morning dew and their morning brew. I even offered to fill a few empty Adirondacks I noticed some folks had.
Sliding quietly into a pew, I looked slightly right from my kneeler and froze in awe of the view before me. The pew that I chose (or I think chose me) boasted an expansive view of the boat-filled Falmouth Harbor through the side door I’d just entered. Mass hadn’t yet begun so I discreetly retrieved my cell phone and captured the visual magnificence. Admiring the view, I slid back in my seat and thought what a view. It was all so breathtaking I wanted to share my photos on Facebook but then felt a strong nudge not to. I leaned back continuing to soak up my surroundings and heard the words “view from the pew”.
Shortly thereafter, the homily served more symbolism – parables the priest spoke of making comparison to life, talks of attitude being 80 percent of everything, to plant seeds, reap what you sow and be open.
Lingering in my pew for a moment at the conclusion of the mass I ruminated on the myriad of messages delivered in the last 90 minutes of this day. The most profound of which was the phrase “view from the pew”.
For a while I’d been tossing column title ideas around in my head but hadn’t really settled on one. I knew the type of content my column would contain. I love alliteration and metaphors. And I love the rhythm of words. And well, I simply had not been able to come up with a title combining all those attributes.
Yet there I was, dragged from my Sunday sheets and guided to a place where the precise metaphorical title I was searching for would be served.
I saw a breathtaking view from the pew. I heard the phrase “view from the pew”. I whispered the words “view from the pew”. But I perceived so much more.
Have you ever had this kind of unexpected experience? Please share your story and allow it to uplift and inspire readers.
“View from the Pew™” – my column title – is my sharing of what I see from where I am physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually, at the time of the experience. I hope my view from the pew™ inspires you to open your lens.
Have you ever had this kind of unexpected experience? Please share your story and allow it to uplift and inspire readers.
The Outcome Still Amazed Me
I’d been so busy preparing for my new writing class that it never dawned on me, I had no idea if anyone would come.
New ventures often bring uncertainty about how and when results will arrive. And I believe that by being prepared and putting out the thought “I’m ready” invites opportunity to use that readiness. But the spiritual revelation that resulted from my focused preparedness surprised even this guru.
Admittedly, I wasn’t consciously working from the spiritual mindset of “prepare and it will arrive.” I was thinking more on a tactile level of responsibility. My therapeutic journal writing course, Journal It! your Write to Release™ was being offered through the local community school’s program. However, I would not know until three days before the first class if anyone had signed up. I had not taught the course before so a lot of advance preparation was required: a manual, journals, class curriculum, class assignments, handouts and homework, because surely three days beforehand wouldn’t allot sufficient time to prepare.
I engaged my brain in planning, my butt in my chair and my pen to paper. With laser focus I outlined what the course would involve then created a student manual, complete with instructions, stories, quotes and anecdotes. I developed a class curriculum, assignments, handouts and homework. I purchased name tags, journals, pens, folders, created word games and writing prompts. I’d proofread the galley copy of the manual, made corrections and placed the order for printing.
Journal It! your Write to Release™ was ready for roll call. The closer it got to class time the more excited I became. My focus and energy were off the charts.
I hydroplaned to the printer’s to pick up my student manuals when the truth threw me back in the driver’s seat. I was fully prepared to teach this course not knowing, until moments before leaving for the printer’s, that six student’s had signed up, a wonderful start for a brand-new course. I sat for a moment and soaked up the reality of what had happened. The laws of spirituality, energy and reciprocity put students before me because I was completely prepared to receive them.
That success reminded me of another venture I’d set out on years ago. I was ready to receive yet results never knocked.
After extensive experience, I had decided to teach Reiki and hung out my teaching shingle. But all it did was bang in the wind up against my house of unfulfilled desires and I couldn’t figure out why. I had trained, done years of free clinics and demonstrations, had an office, a website, business cards, brochures, all sorts of handouts and collateral. But no one was signing up and scheduled sessions were scant.
One day I had a good reflective discussion with myself. Just what was going on, I wanted to know? I was completely prepared to teach Reiki. Why wasn’t it happening? As I ‘discussed’ things with myself I got an answer. My student manual wasn’t quite ready because I wasn’t quite ready. Every fiber of my being knew that that answer was the truth. And it was keeping me from receiving what I was striving for – students.
As I took necessary steps, I could ‘feel’ my physiology changing as if my inner knowing was confirming, you got this. I no sooner finished my manual when out of the blue students had come upon my website and enrolled in class. Yes, as soon as I was prepared I received.
It’s often advised to envision the end, to prepare for something as if you already have it. But the first time you set out on that type thought process, it may seem a bit off kilter to those with a strategic mindset.
Remember, concentrate on preparedness without worrying about how things will happen and you are sure to witness the laws of spirituality put the object of your desires before you.
I’d been so busy preparing for my new writing class that it never dawned on me, of course students would show up.
Every Day is 12-21-12
~ December 21, 2012 ~
What a remarkable day. For years many feared 12/21/2012 would be the end of the world. But here it is 12/22/2012 and the world is still here.
That should tell you something . . .
December 21, 2012 was not the end but the beginning … it was the end/beginning of a new Mayan calendar. Yes, according to the Mayan calendar it is the beginning of ‘The Age Of Enlightenment’, the end to their ‘Age of Darkness’. Strangely, for us, it is the beginning of the Winter Solstice. And while to some Winter Solstice may seem like the dark season, it’s actually the end of the darkest days and the beginning of days staying lighter longer. And hopefully and most importantly, 12/21/12 was the beginning of your realization that giving in to fear causes hardship, worry, stress and anxiety. (Not to mention, our calendar ends yearly. Yet, we do not fear it, we celebrate it with a New Year’s Eve celebration)
I have to admit, though, I’m stumped. Really. For so long, so many people feared that 12/21/12 was going to be the end of the world. They heard about it, read about it, watched documentaries about it and feared about it … mostly feared about it.
And that’s one of the things that stumped me. If indeed there were any truth to the end-of-the-world notion, personally I’d be running at full speed taking it all in. The last thing I’d be doing is “worrying” about it. Seriously. Think about it. You can’t STOP the end of the world from happening. There’s no sense in tidying up your affairs, for there’d be no one and nothing to tidy them up for. If indeed the end of the world was a date known to you, all you can do is … live it!
Now, a bit perplexing is the paradox that every day is 12/21/12. Think about that for a moment. None of us knows exactly when OUR WORLD, our life, will end. At any given moment of any given day you could be called home. Yet I’ll bet you haven’t marked every day on your calendar as the end of your world. And you shouldn’t.
What you should be doing though is keeping that notion in mind – that every day really is “12/21/12” – that every day we are counting down to the end and you should live each day, each moment, to the fullest because while we don’t know when our last day will be, we are assured of one thing, ONE of these days IS OUR LAST. So, wake each morning with gratitude for another day of living your life, loving everything around you and leaving behind the legacy that “you took it for all it’s worth – and gave even more”!
So, HAPPY December 22, 2012 – YOU MADE IT ! The world didn’t end. And I’d like you to join me in a celebration because not for one minute did I ever think or fear that the world was coming to an end on this prescribed day. In fact, I “knew” for sure that it wasn’t coming to an end. Why? How could “I” be so certain?
It’s really fairly simple.
I listen to my gut (my intuition, inspiration, guidance). And my gut told me that the world would not be coming to an end on 12/21/12, that in fact I would be here in grand fashion on December 22, 2012 to …
Celebrate a new beginning, a winter solstice and MY BIRTHDAY!
Yes, today, December 22, 2012 is my birthday and I’d like you to join me in a celebration. Let’s hang out and chat here. Tell me, what is it that you are going to do to celebrate your life now that you are fully aware that 12/21/12 was NOT the end of the world, but that every day is 12/21/12. What do you plan to do to embrace the “Age of Enlightenment”?