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post-carrying day 33


It's been difficult to write lately because I am so much immersed in complexities involving loved ones, yet I must protect their privacy. Suffice it to say though that every day is riddled with opportunities and encounters with Fear and Love both. 


Tonight I feel overwelmed. Each day I have worked diligently to listen to my own needs and taken care of myself as well as support those I love. Today I got a pedicure. Something I do perhaps once every 3 to 5 years. But I am in a strange city and am busy and distracted from the body maintenance; and my feet hurt. So a good soak, massage and nail clipping was nice. But I think the intensity of what I am doing to help and support my loved ones is requiring me to make choices to take very good care of myself which is new for me. So the self-care IS necessary; but it too is in a way taxing on me in that it is new behavior for me. 


Remember my struggles with being BIG, or being VISIBLE? Well, at this time in life I am finding that I simply MUST be very visible, very big -- to myself. If I don't pay very good attention to my needs, the people depending upon me will not have me. I will not have me, for I would be sick or tired to the point of depletion. It is a VERY tumultuous time in my life and in lives around me. It is a time of climbing great mountains in the midst of tumult. Every step is important. Every need is heightened. 


I am honored to be with these wonderful people on important treks in their lives. I am honored to be climbing beside them. I am grateful I have climbed mountains before (metaphoric and actual) to support me and remind me what is important on such journeys. 


Today I learned to step into the BIGness. Even perhaps to play with it a bit. I learned that if I breathe and just move forward, taking care of myself while caring for others is more a dance up the mountain than a slog. This is important. I had fun today taking care of myself. I had fun being visible. And it took not a bit from those I loved while I did so. Ultimately, my joy, my replenished self made me a better listener, a more human companion, a more joyful giver. My Fear of being big does create anxiety in me. This is true. So, perhaps, in the end, caring for myself earlier in the day makes me better able to handle the fall-out, the resulting anxiety. Yes, Loving myself makes me better able to Love myself....  :)

Post-carrying day 31


"Little Fear Chair/Little Love Chair" (see photo below). I decided to paint "Love" topside on the little totem chair. "Fear" is painted on the underside this time. My reasoning is that I have been exploring Fear quite a lot. The powerful nature of Fear, how and where Fear lurks, how it infiltrates our/my lives/life in so many ways. I thought it might be good to begin to turn my attention to Love. Not that Love has been out of the picture. It's been there all along as I investigate Fear. Otherwise, I wouldn't have gotten as far with Fear as I have. Believe me, this is deeply true. 


I found myself relaying to a loved one again today how the FCP helped me learn to dissociate in my relationships. She was concerned that I am taking on too much right now (had my blog from three days ago been saved, you would know more about this, sigh) with loved ones who are struggling and/or at crossroads in their lives and are turning to me. It has been intense. I have three loved ones in these positons right now. And tonight I am tired. But very soon I will do what I do when tired, I will go to sleep. 

The FCP created such a space between myself and others' reactions to my Fear/s (and my chair) that this space has remained a part of how I love people now. Because I no longer Fear their lives, their reactions, their actions, their needs becoming my own problem, my own --  period; I can listen to them, I can love them, I can BE WITH them in times of tumult and not take it all on. Even when the processing gets exhaustingly intense. And when I reach a limit, it is time to take care of my needs too. I eat. I rest. I write. I art.


In the lost blog entry, I likened their situations to being at the foot of their own mountains. I could not be their guide for they each need to find their own path. I could not DO the climb for them either, they have much to learn and it isn't my job. I could not even be their pack mule, for they need to find their own tools and supplies for their journeys. But, the FCP and the work I've been doing with Fear since has allowed me not only to see all of this clearly, but I can also see that what i CAN do is BE present with them. For I have a mountain to climb as well and perhaps being with them at this poignant time for all of them at once is part of my mountain. So I had better know what to pack in my own bag. I had better be certain to take rest when I need it. To eat when I need nurishment. To listen and to BE with them but also most importantly, to listen and BE with my self or I won't be around to BE with them!


This is all very humbling. I feel extremely human. Extremely limited to this aging body and brain. And I am extremely grateful for the energy my mind and soul bring to the task, yet every day, and most moments, I am listening for the presence and support that God/Universe/Source of Life offers. My Loved ones face immense mountains. My own mountain is enourmous. I could be overwelmed if I forget to move one step at a time. If I forget my focus in dealing with Fear. It must be on one step at a time. Each moment. And it must be a step taken in Love. Love for myself, Love for those beside me, Love for the journey and even for the effort itself. 


I am not a Christian but I hear/read/remember things Jesus is reported to have said and many quotes I do Love. "It will not be easy; but it WILL be worth it." Sounds good to me. One day at a time.


Thanks mom for the reminder!


post-carrying day 30


Shit! I just discovered my really long post from last night is lost! I must have just closed out without saving it!!! It was a hard one to write too. And I was happy with it. ... So sad....


I had a painting teacher who always reminded us that we must be willing and able to "kill our darlings." Well, even unintentionally I guess. Sigh....


As my sister said, I must have needed to write it but it must have needed to not be posted. Sigh....


Will try again later... will try to remember to save.... oddly the post was all about helping loved ones as they face their mountains while insuring that I remember my own tools and self care.... it was about struggling with not being able to save people I love from pain and adversity.... ha ha,... then I didn't "Save" the blog,... god that's dripping with irony... lol

Post carrying Day 28


Missed last night because I had to get up at 3 a.m. to drive to the airport and catch a string of flights (ok, two) that took me to Atlanta and a 4 hour drive to Savannah. It is now 11:22 p.m. and I actually woke up at 2:30 on my own and so am thoroughly exhausted. Had a day filled with mindful encounters with Fear and with Love. And in the word of a ticket checker in PDX, my day was "MAGNIFICENT!" (he said it all caps too actually and with a glorious smile)


I have seen the daughter and am ready to sleep. Will write more tomorrow. I promise...

Post-carrying Day 26


Flying out day after tomorrow to see my daughter. She's having a pretty rough time while also working hard at art school. She's an only child, so no siblings to turn to. She's many states away, so her local support system is other college students and lets be honest, college students are and have to be wrapped up in their own lives. So, no consistent support system. She's doing great but hit a rough time. So I'll go for a week. See if I can help her find stability or at least support her efforts to do so. And just be there. Just be present. Someone who loves her always.


But first, tomorrow I'm stopping by my hairdresser for a dye job. Just to lighten things up a bit, I'm going with teal and purple highlights. Always been curious about this. Why not now? A little levity...  


Today I was mindful of my encounters with people, strangers and acquaintences. Noticing again when Fear took me back a step from connecting. Then stepping forward again, letting people into the circle I create out of Fear. Looking them in the eyes when we spoke, no matter for how long or short a time span. It was wonderful. I found myself saying frequently to myself as I went on my way, "people are beautiful." 


Mindful encounters with strangers result in feeling as if all the world contains is friends.

Post-chair carrying Day 25


Primed the little Fear Chair today. Will paint tomorrow. 


Reflecting a bit on the whole FCP. Partly because I've decided to get this "little Fear Chair," and partly because I just went through a few days of Feeling quite a bit of Fear in response to knowing a friend is in a rather unstable place then not hearing from her for days (heard from her today, she's fine). My sister is very good at reminding me that 99% of what one worries about never happens. I know this. I get it. So, why then did I sometimes feel overwelming Fear before hearing again from my friend?


I Love my friend. I Love her very much. I believe Fear is the opposite of Love. But they are flipsides to the same coin. Opposites are not unrelated. If I didn't Love so much, I wouldn't Fear so much at the thought of something happening to harm my friend. I wouldn't hurt so much when she is hurting. I wouldn't be moved to care or to reach out. But the price of Love does not purchase the subject of our Love. Those we Love do not belong to us. And someday, someday, ... someway, that person we Love will be lost by us. This is frightening. When I am able to (or caused to) look at this, it stirs deep Fear. Of course. 


We spend the vast majority of our lives going on as if death doesn't happen. As if loss isn't in our future. Inevitable. We get pets. We fall in Love. We have children. We bond with friends. We fight and make up. We work at our relationships, growing deeper and deeper in our connections. And all will someday end. Somehow. Yet we connect. This is a scary thing to think about. 


I remember a friend, I think I mentioned him a time or two. He was my mentor and he passed away two weeks after turning 80 in 2005. I was his medical representative, which meant we were very close and that we had talked about what my being his representative might mean. And we had talked about his arrangements for after he would die. Yet, of course, when the time came, I still felt as if nothing could have prepared me. I just went over to his house the day after Labor Day and he looked like hell, still in his pjs at noon. I could see he was not well and took him to the emergency room. It turned out he'd suffered a heart attack over the weekend sometime. He spent the next week in the hospital. Received a splint on Wednesday and was slated to leave the Hospital on Friday. We'd made arrangements for him to stay with my family in the front room until he was fully recovered. Friday, early, we were on our way to pick up a "hospital" bed when the hospital called that he'd gone into cardiac arrest, twice. They revived him and he was in ICU. We went immediately to the hospital. 


I stayed in the hospital as close to him as they would allow, sleeping on the (purposefully?) uncomfortable ICU waiting room platforms every night in case he needed someone or incase a decision needed to be made. Late Friday he arrested again, and they estimated a rib broke in reviving him again. At this point I had to listen to what he'd told me a long time ago, that he didn't want extreme measures to go into keeping him "alive," if it meant he would be tied to machines. When he was stable, Saturday morning I talked with him about what to do if he arrested again. At this point his kidneys were shutting down. (His heart doctor took my husband and I late Friday evening, into the bowels of the hospital to where we had to don gowns and booties to show us what my friend's heart was doing. We saw video of his heart arteries literally constantly  blocking and constantly creating new pathways to get blood where it needed to go. His doctor was astounded, we were astounded. And we all knew it would not last and was not enough to keep the rest of him going.)


My friend's name was/is Ralph. He agreed there should be no more "code blue" for him. So we settled into just being with him. He had many friends and over the next 2 1/2 (yup) days, dozens of people were buzzed into ICU to see him. Ralph was the kind of person who never met a stranger, everyone became a friend. He told jokes. He reminisced. He rested with friends near and dear. He was so completely himself even as his body continued shutting down. I slept when I could and ate when someone would give me food. But my focus, my complete focus was in making certain Ralph didn't die alone. He had told me once that that was his greatest Fear. 


Ralph was a WWII veteran who served in the South Pacific. As a matter of fact, he was in the Marines through three wars. He married 5 times and the final was the love of his life. She was from Japan. Her family adopted Ralph and he them. She died in 2001 when Ralph was in surgery having 3 stints put in for his heart. She had an anurism burst and died before he woke from surgery. It devastated him. His friends rallied to insure he get through the first critical months without his lovely Harumi. But he missed her like crazy. Two months later Ralph's best friend and fishing buddy's boat capsized just outside Tillamook Bay. He hit his head and drown.


On Ralph's last day, he was freed from all the machines but the heart monitor and an IV. He'd called for me at 3 a.m. to sit with him as he was feeling agitated. I sat with him. I massaged his forehead. I read to him. We talked a bit. We sat quietly. At one point it seemed he was nodding off so I lay my head on the bed, still holding his hand. I felt him stir after maybe ten minutes. I looked up. He was watching me. Smiling but with a sad sleepiness of a little boy who just wants to go home but has to wait.


Later that morning, he was moved to his own room out of ICU so people could come and go (there WERE that many) to see him. He continued to hold audience but it was clear he was growing confused and tired. We let him rest frequently. Always making sure someone was with him, until around 3:30 he asked if he could be alone. I assured him someone would be right outside his door if he needed anything. And for the first time since Friday, I left him alone. I did post a friend just outside his door to let me know if anything changed. Around 4, everything changed. She called me and we went in to the sound of a flatlining heart monitor. The nurse ran in at the same moment from the desk. He was still breathing but his heart was stopped. All of us there circled Ralph's bed. I took my place just to his right and held his hand as I had all weekend. We wrapped him in our love and our presence and we prayed and I whispered in his ear that it was time for him to let go. It was time for him to rest. That I, we would love him forever and now it was time he go where Harumi is.


In the wake of his death, family and friends who lived far away were called. Arrangements were made. Another of his good friends stayed the night in Ralph's room with his body. I had fulfilled my promise to him that he would not die alone. So I went home. In a stupor that lasted at least another week, I went home and prepared to publicly say goodbye to my friend. 


But a funny thing happened. Family flew in. The wake was small and private. Ralph had not wanted a viewing but some of the family insisted and one very good friend had been away the weekend he'd died. I was there through everything. But I was as if only an observer, though I was very involved in arrangements and activities that needed doing. And when it came time for the service, culminating all we had been through, I only read a letter from Ralph's heart doctor who was back East but was so moved by the man he wanted to say something to family and friends.  I prefaced it by acknowledging how much I'd learned from Ralph, most recently and perhaps most importantly was how to "die Living rather than to live dying." but also something I'd learned in the last week after his death, that "We do not own those we Love." We hold them close, we LIVE with them, we watch them grow, we Love them madly, and we even may watch them die, but we do not own them. We only own our Love for them.


I needed to tell this story again. It opens my hands. It opens my arms. It allows me to let go the Fear in Loving someone deeply.

Post-chair carrying Day 24


I found my little Fear Chair! It's very cute. Needs to be primed and painted. WILL go on my keychain. I WILL post a photo when it's painted. Will write about what it means as I go along...


Note about finding ones purpose in life. When it was clear to me, and it was OH SO clear to me that I should carry the original chair around symbolising Fear, the Universe/God collaborated in such a way that, as I drove to the thriftstore, I was 100% certain there would be a chair there. AND when I told the Universe/God it could only cost $7, because that's all I had in my pocket, I was certain I'd be able to afford it! And when I got to the thriftstore, I walked straight back to the corner of the store where I "knew" it would be. And, there were actually TWO identical chairs sitting there. Six ninety-nine apiece. There was zero Fear in that experience. There was 100% belief. And it went off gloriously. And the whole FCP was glorious (though not all easy-peasy).


Why do I not learn to Believe 100% and leave Fear at zero more often?


Actually, since doing the FCP I am happy with how low the Fear factor has been. But that Belief factor. That needs to come up a bit. A serious bit actually. And, I know they are related. 


I think I need to do something to take care of myself. It's been a while. I'm not very good at that. There's been a lot of taking care of others lately plus the health issues. And I think I am a bit depleted. I tend to be much more courageous and Trusting when I take care of myself better. Hmmm.... 


It's been 3 years since I had a massage. That thought's been trickling into my consciousness lately. I think I'll call tomorrow. Writing it on my hand as a reminder right          now....




Post-chair carrying Day 23


Nothing is quite so riddled with potential potholes of Fear like being a parent.  And when your child/ren get older, the owies get bigger. I am SO gaining understanding for the agony I put my parents through. Letting go of Fear around your child's life and well-being actually doesn't stop when they move out. It actually becomes more difficult in ways because you don't see them or hear from them as frequently and because you have zero say in their choices. When I was pregnant someone told me deciding to have a child is like deciding to live with your heart outside your body. When that heart takes itself out into the world and lives on it's own in another city many miles away, I begin to understand the person's point on a whole new level.


I had to get that out....


Wanted to mention a conversation snippet from yesterday. Talking with Carol, she mentioned she'd walked past a church and seen a poster in the pastor's office that read (she thinks, but what does it matter if it really did or didn't say this?) "God is Power." We two agnostics sat with that for a moment then began dissecting it. For some reason it struck both of us (she for a week longer than I since she's the one who saw the poster) squarely at the center of our experience. 


Not, "God is powerful." This is something I'd heard all my life, being raised Catholic. But "God IS power." Carol and I are both reading about quantum physics lately and so we are very keyed into this because of that as well. The thought that God   Is     Power resonates. So I shared with Carol that because of the Fear Chair Project, I lately have gained deeper and broader understanding that Fear is HUGE. Fear is POWERFUL, far beyond what we can even know I think. It reaches so far back in our history, in our individual and collective psyches. It finds it's way into FAR more interactions and reactions, I think, than people realize on a day to day basis. Fear, unbenounced to us often shapes our lives. Fear Is Powerful! I believe Fear and Love have come to be the MOST powerful agents/things in existence in this human experience. BUT, to contemplate GOD IS POWER, makes me realize that as ginormous as Fear and Love are, there IS something bigger, something that trumps "Most powerful" and that is "Power" itself.


For years I have replaced "God" with "God,Universe, Spirit Source of Life (G.U.S.S.)" I believe I will revert to the use of God again more frequently. "Universe" is not power. Universe is BIG but it is not power. And if I must call the Power that IS Power, why not use the word "God." 


This also sparked a conversation about whether at the level of "God is Power," there is, can be, must be an equal and opposite. Must evil be AS "Power" as God? According to science balance is what the universe is dependant upon. Equal and opposite reaction and all that. Then there is the religious dualism and yin yang perspective as well. And I am all for balance. I LOVE balance. Yet. Yesterday I found myself wondering if .... if "God IS Power" is beyond the most powerful things we can comprehend, wouldn't the properties of God also possibly be beyond the limits of our comprehension of properties? That is, could evil be ginormously powerful but ultimately God would be beyond this as God IS power? So, perhaps, God doesn't need a balance point? Evil can try to match God but God being the positive force is beyond powerful. God IS power. And, yes, out understanding is that power has positive and negative forces within it. Can God be power beyond this understanding as well and be purely positive? I don't know.


Anyway, related to the FCP because these questions of God would not have been approachable for me a few months ago. I was too wrapped in Fear. The FCP has blown my world wide open. So many thoughts I was afraid to explore are now very possible for me. All my life I have watched people ask very good questions and I have sat by the sidelines thinking "I wish I knew how to ask good questions." I see now that Fear stood before me much to closely for me to open my mind to questions. Not that I was afraid of the answers, I literally didn't know how to ask questions very well, so of course discovering answers has always been extremely strenuous. I am beginning to see that opening up to my Fear and my Fear OF Fear allows me to be more present with life and with the questions that answers require. Knowing Fear and  being comfortable in it's presence, my curiousity, my hunger for growth and learning are no longer buried or silenced by it. And Love gives me voice.