Soul’s Guardian

“Mom, I don’t know how to say this, but…”  I was tucking my ten-year-old son into bed.

“Go ahead.”

“Well, I don’t want to hurt your feelings, but you know how if there is a sale on at Eaton’s, you want to get there early.”

“Yes?”  I wasn’t sure where this conversation was going.

“You want to get there early because the best stuff gets picked over first, right?”

“I suppose so.”

“Well, no offense, but you’re not getting any younger.”

“What are you on about?”

“Maybe you need to get out there before all the good ones are picked over.”

“Are you saying I should start dating?”

He nodded solemnly.

“Well, I’ll give it some thought.”  It had been over six months since his father and I had separated, and dating was the furthest thing from my mind, but there was wisdom in those words.  Still shattered from the unexpected end of a seventeen year relationship, I coped by going to bed early every night, and staying away from people.  My son was probably right – avoiding life was not the answer – life was passing me by.

‘Obi-Wan Kenobe’, one of my friends called my son.  From an early age, he has had an uncanny wisdom, well beyond his years.  He’s my soul’s guardian.

(Image from: www.kidscreativechaos.com)

Wrestling With The Unknown

A dark shadowy figure passed the door of my office.  It moved on all fours and had a very feline shape, like a panther.  I followed it down the hallway and into the empty room at the end.

I knew this was no earthly creature, but I did not expect the force that hit me as I entered the room.  Doubled over in pain, my chest was drenched in sweat, and my head was reeling.   A foul odor filled the room, rendering me nauseous.  I stumbled to my knees, then collapsed on the floor.

“Mom?  I saw something that looked like a cat come this way.”  Marie had been working reception in the foyer.  I heard her just outside.

“Stay away!” the words came out gurgled, as if I was choking.

“Are you okay, Mom?”

“No!  Something’s attacking me!  Stay out!”

“What should I do?”  A good question, and I was wondering the very same thing, but the violence of the attack overwhelmed me and I couldn’t think straight.

“I just feel so sick!  Get a bucket.”

I’d never encountered anything like this before.  I was certain it was some type of demon, but what, I didn’t know.

“Throw the pail in here, but don’t come in,”  I advised my daughter.

“Mom, I’m scared.”

“Don’t be!  Whatever this is likes fear.  I’ll be okay.”  I only wish I felt as certain as I sounded.  I heaved into the bucket as the pain ripples through my midsection.  I felt like I was on fire.  What was this thing?

I tried to focus on my breathing and center myself, but the waves of nausea and the sheer physical pain made it almost impossible.  I was determined not to let this thing get the best of me.

Night was coming on and the only other person still in the building would be leaving soon.  I didn’t know how I was going to drive home.

“Get Robert,”  I called to my daughter.

I could see that Robert was alarmed when he saw me.

“I need to get home, Robert.  But I can’t get there in this state.  Can you take us?”

I don’t remember the ride home, but I do remember Robert’s helpless look as he left us in the driveway.  Inside, I left Marie to explain to her father as I closed myself away in the bedroom to battle it out.  I steeled myself for the fight, but it seemed the more determined I was the greater the force that hit me.  I wanted to unleash my growing rage on this unseen foe, but somehow I knew that would only add fuel to its fury.  The more I fought, the greater the suffering.  I was growing weaker by the minute.

Then I remembered a book I had read in my last year at university:  The Man Who Wrestled with God, by John Sandford  It was recommended by my religious studies teacher, and tells the story of Jacob, who is about to ascend the ladder to Heaven when he is tackled by an unseen opponent.  Jacob fights and fights, until he realizes that he is wrestling with God, and that the only thing to do is surrender.

I knew my only hope was in giving over to God.  I’d had a dream once, where God picked me up and cradled me in His hands.  I needed that now, so as I centered myself, I imagined that my mattress was the hand of God, and that with each breath I surrendered deeper and deeper into the hands of a loving force.  I imagined myself falling through the blackness that had threatened me, and landing in a place of comfort and love.

Love yourself, were the words I heard to guide me.  Love yourself just as you are. 

“I can’t,”  I wanted to cry out, but I knew the message was right.  I didn’t love myself.  The nausea washed over me again.  “Okay, okay,” I thought.  “I love myself.  I love myself.”  And suddenly, I realized that I could love myself.  That if I could see me through God’s eyes, I wouldn’t be so critical, but would behold myself with forgiveness and acceptance.  So for the first time in forever, I felt okay with me.  And as this new sensation dawned, the darkness receded, and with it the pain and vomiting.

The battle was over.

I had found calm in the eye of the storm, and it saved me.

Lifelines

The forest is thick with the smell of new leaves, tinged with the lingering winter musk.  The trees here stretch endlessly upwards, their trunks a testimony to the timelessness of the place.  Rays of warm sunlight reach downwards, creating pockets of warm glow.  The soft moss and dry earth beneath my feet cushion my steps.  Birdsong fills the air, adding to the aura of enchantment.  I come here to meditate.  This is my oasis:  a calm, nurturing retreat where I can find renewal.  I breathe deeply and allow all my senses to revel in the beauty.   A crackling of twigs alerts me to the presence of another.  A horse and rider come into my line of vision and stop.  The young man’s eyes meet mine, and there is a rush of recognition.  He is young, maybe mid twenties, with thick dark hair, and dark eyes.  I feel that I have known him many lifetimes, and that ours has been a relationship of deep and abiding love.  “I am coming back to you,” is all he says, and I feel my heart leap with joy. 

The unexpected vision and accompanying emotional surge forces me back to consciousness.  The meditation had been so deep and relaxing that it find it hard to shake off the drowsiness.  It was so real.  I open my eyes to find my friend, Sam looking at me.  “It’s a boy!”  I blurt out.  “You’re going to have a boy!”

I was right about the boy, but the message was not for my friend who was so desperately hoping for a child.  It was for me, who although I thought I was finished my childbearing, was about to discover myself pregnant again.  My dark haired, brown-eyed boy was born the next fall.

Mothers know that there is an unseen cord of consciousness that runs between them and their children.  It is first experienced when they wake up seconds before their sleeping baby.  Or maybe earlier, in the dream time.

Abuse of Power

Although I never met the man, I can imagine him as somehow mesmerizing, with a captivating smile, a soothing throaty voice, or sparkling dark eyes.  From all descriptions he is an average middle-aged man, slightly balding, and plump around the middle.  Without a doubt, he knows how to charm.

I first heard about him at a conference for healers.  A reputable woman was promoting his work as ground-breaking, and rooted both in science and spirituality.  His workshops carried a hefty price tag, but were reportedly worth the sacrifice.

I didn’t go.

“He’s very mysterious,”  people reported back to me.  “And very powerful.”

As always, I listened without commenting.  New Age workshops were popping up everywhere, each one proclaiming to offer the answer.  I liked to bide my time.

“He only works with women.”

My ears perked up.

“And only if you are chosen.”

Why is that?  I wondered.

One by one, I watched the women flock to him.  “He gets us,”  one woman explained.  “It’s like he can look inside and he knows exactly what each person needs.”

“He’s seeing my wife at three in the morning,” a distraught husband told me over the phone.  “What kind of therapist meets with clients at three in the morning?”  I was wondering the same thing.  “I feel like I’m losing her.”

I agreed to talk to his wife.

“He’s helping me cleanse myself of the past and all the bad relationships I’ve had.”  True enough, she’d had her share.  But why the middle of the night?  “It’s the time of the day when there are the least physical distractions and the psychic energy is stronger.”

Looked like red flags to me.

Then I met Kay.  Kay was young, and beautiful, and highly intelligent, but something wasn’t right.  She had enrolled in a therapeutic touch class, and while she seemed to be enjoying the course, I noticed she seemed agitated.  I pulled her aside to ask if she was okay.

“Yes.  The course is great and all.  It’s just……..”

“Kay, if you have concerns, talk to me.  It’s not my intention to make you feel uncomfortable.”

“Oh, no.  It’s not you.  Not at all.  It’s just that I’m not sure I should be taking this course.”

“Does it conflict with your beliefs and values?”

“No, no.  It makes so much sense.  It’s my mentor.  He doesn’t like us to study with anyone else.”

Why on earth not?  I must have looked dumbfounded.

“Eventually, obviously……but for now, he doesn’t want us jeopardizing the work we are doing.”

A realization was dawning on me.  I offered her the name that had come to mind.

“Yes, I work with him!  Do you know him?”

“I know of him.”

“He’s amazing, so powerful, and he’s helped me so much.  I just don’t know why I feel so guilty about taking a course like this.  It feels so right, so why am I scared?

“Explain to me why you shouldn’t.”

“It’s part of the process.  In the beginning, he requests that we set aside all doubt, and questions, and trust solely in him.  He’s helping us gain faith.”

And he control, I thought to myself.

The next time I encountered Kay, she was visibly shaken.   “Can we talk?”

Ushering her into a back room, I pulled up two chairs.

“I’m not sure whether he followed me or not?”

“Would he do that?”

“He knows everything.  I can’t get away.  I tried, but he found me.  He says there is nowhere I can escape him.  I am so afraid.  I don’t know what to do.”

“Kay, back up a bit and tell me how you met him.”

“A friend of mine was part of his inner circle.  He told her to bring me to him.  He said he could help.  I was having difficulties.  I thought it was worth a try.”

“Did he mention you by name?”

“No, but he knew she had a twenty-three year-old, blonde friend at the university who was going through a hard time.  My friend knew it had to be me right away.”

“No offense, Kay, but this is a university town, and the chance of anyone having a friend that fits your description is pretty good.”

I could see that my words had hit their mark.  “Oh my God.  You’re so right!  What a fool I was.”

“No.  You just wanted to believe there was an answer for you.  It felt right at the time.”

“What about all the other things?  Could they be made up to?  But, no, not possibly.  You have no idea.”  The look of terror reappeared.  “Oh my God, he’ll kill me for talking to you!”

“You are okay, Kay.  We’re safe.  What else did he tell you?”

“He can command nature to do his bidding.  He has spies everywhere.  One woman went canoeing, off by herself, in a remote area, and he sent a hawk to greet her. She saw it!”

“Also possibly a coincidence.”

Searching my face for some reassurance, Kay continued.  “He told me once that he sent a bear to follow me.  I saw it’s shadow.”  Before I could say anything she added,  “Do you think that was just power of suggestion?”

“I think that’s a real possibility.”

Kay leaned back in the chair and let out a long groan.  “Oh my God, I slept with him.”

“You what?”

“I slept with him, and he’s gross, well you know, old.”

“How did that happen?”

“He made me meet him in the middle of the night.  He had all these candles and incense burning.  The lights were dim, and there was meditation music playing in the background.  I felt like I was in an altered state.  I didn’t want to at first, but he convinced me that this would be good for my soul; that it would cleanse me of all my past sins.  How could I be so stupid!”

I’d heard enough.  This man was going too far.  With Kay’s permission I called a friend who worked with the Victim’s Unit through the local Police department.  Kay’s story was not new to her.

Kay moved away two weeks later.  Unfortunately,  she was not the only woman I would encounter who had fallen under this man’s spell.  All of them attractive, intelligent women, whose only sin was the desire for enlightenment.

 

 

 

Riding Without A Handlebar

I have retrieved my old bicycle and am happily pedaling down the street when I realize that the handlebars are missing.  How could I not have noticed that my handlebars are missing?  What have I been steering with?  On closer examination, I notice that there is a partial bar protruding where the handlebars used to be, which seemed to be working for me, but how precarious!  How did I expect to manoeuver over bumps without something solid to hang onto? 

The question that arises for me is not whether or not I can “surf” the chaos – I know that I can – but how does someone raised in a pattern of chaos and dysfunction, learn to ride the calm of normalcy?

I am strong in the face of adversity, but not so strong when things are going well.  There is an underlying anxiety, or nervousness that something is not right, or just around the corner.  I would love to be able to embrace the joy of life, without fear of its instability.

The bike in my dream is reminiscent of the one I received for my ninth birthday.  It had a big banana seat, and long looping handlebars, that rose up above the front tire, in a sweeping ‘u’.  My first wheels of independence, I rode that bike everywhere, confident that I could outride anyone in the neighbourhood.   I still have visions of myself leading a pack of riders down some of our best hills.  Such a feeling of freedom!

In those days, when my handlebars were intact, I was confident of my abilities.  I had a strong sense of purpose, and felt ready to face the challenges ahead of me.  I had a vision.

According to the dream, I gave that bicycle away at some point, and have only just now retrieved it, a little worse for wear.  Amazingly, it still fits me.  The tires are intact; and the seat supportive, but the big sweeping ‘you’ is missing.  So, it is.  Life’s bumps, and times where I no longer had ownership, have eroded that very mechanism that helped me navigate.

I don’t want to be nine again, but I would like to regain the momentum that allowed me to climb those steep hills and soar down those hills, fearless, impassioned, and in the moment: free.

If this bike is going to work for me, I’ll need something new to hang onto.  Something more conservative and practical.  Something that gives me stability and control, and supports me when choosing a direction.

 

 

Win or Loss?

A cousin of my mother’s, and her husband, won a considerable lottery well into their retirement years.   From the outside, it was a dream come true.

Mom and I ran into this cousin while shopping at a local mall one day.

“Hello, you lucky duck!”  My mother greeted her.

After brief small talk, Mom’s cousin confessed that winning the large sum of money was not a blessing.  “I don’t mean to be ungrateful,”  she explained, “but it has caused a lot of trouble in our lives.”

“Lots of people calling you up?”

“Everyone, but that’s not the worst of it.  Our family won’t speak to us anymore.”

“Why ever not?”

“We paid off the kids mortgages, bought them all new cars, and took them on vacation, but apparently, it’s not enough.  And our brothers and sisters are mad we didn’t share the wealth.  So, we’re building a big million dollar home that no one will come visit.”

“Well, call me up, I’ll come visit,”  my ever-cheerful mother responded.  Then more kindly, “I’m truly sorry to hear that Carole.  No one deserved this more than you and Carl; you worked so hard all your life.”

My mother and I walked away startled by this turn of events.  How odd life is.  Here was a family whose lives were touched by good fortune, now divided by greed and jealousy.

Yet, I wonder how many others would tell the same tale?

 

Laughter: Mother’s Medicine

“I’m so mad!”  My nine-year-old self slammed the front door and stomped down the hallway to the kitchen, where my mother was constantly positioned.  My little sister sat at the table, her legs swinging contentedly as she finished off a fresh baked cookie and glass of milk.

“Well, hello!” my mother responded.  “Not a good day?”

“That Chet Tesney makes me so mad, I want to kill him.”

Mom looked me up and down.  “Looks like you already did.”

“Not today.  I got in a scuffle with some kids at the bus stop.”

My mother sighed.  “There are cookies or muffins, but you are not to touch the pie until after dinner.  I’d wash up first if I were you.”

Catching myself in the mirror, I saw that I was a real sight.  I pulled a twig and a piece of leaf out of my matted hair, and washed the muddy scrape on my cheek.  Both hands, caked brown, were red beneath.  Looking down, I saw the stockings I had put on this morning now had a big hole in one knee, and mud was caking on more than one place on my clothes.  Stripping off the dirty clothes, I ran upstairs to change.

“How was school today?” My mother asked cheerfully as I helped myself to a warm cookie and pulled up a chair.  My sister had wandered off.

“Okay, I guess.  We were picking parts for the class play and that Lesley Mann got the main role again.  I hate her, it’s not fair!  Mom!  Jane has my favourite Barbie!  Put that down you little brat!”

“Girls!  Play nice.”  Mom seldom skipped a beat from her dinner prep.  She wouldn’t intervene.  I sighed.

“School is so unfair!  Miss P. said we’d be able to pick our topics for the history project, but Michael and David picked the same as me, so now I have to choose something else.  I hate school!  Now, she has my Barbie car, too!  Moooommm!  She’s going to break it!”

“Shreeeeeeaaaakkkkk! my sister screamed as I tried to retrieve my treasures.

“She won’t hurt it.  Let her play.  Why don’t you play with her?”

“It’s not fair!  You always take her side.  Why don’t you support me for once?!”  I could feel the rage inside me boiling over.  I wanted to hit someone and fast.

“Tee hee.  Ha ha.  Ho ho.”

“Don’t you start, Mother!”

“Ha ha, ho ho, he he, ha ha ha.”

“Mom, I mean it!”

“Ho, ho, ho, ho, ha ha ha ha ha ha, he he he he he he, ho, ho.”

Giggle.  “Mom, don’t make me!  He, he.”

“Heeee, heeee, hoooo, hoooo”  The laughter was so contagious I couldn’t help but join in.  Soon we were laughing so hard we could hardly catch our breath.

“What’s so sunny?” my four-year-old sister couldn’t say her ‘f’s, sending us into another howl, until the tears rolled down our cheeks.

“It’s not sunny!”  But it was!

“Oh, I’m going to pee my pants!”  Doubled over, my mother ran for the bathroom.

We laughed some more.  By the time the laughter subsided, I couldn’t remember what I had been angry about.

This is the gift of my mother.

 

The Nature of God

I heard a story years ago that merits repeating here. (These are my words, not the original.)

A three-year-old asked to be left alone with her newborn sibling.  The parents, obviously, denied her request, but when she kept persisting, the grandparents suggested that the baby be put in the crib, and a monitor in the room turned on so that they could listen in.  The adults were curious.  As soon as the little girl thought they were alone, she whispered to her new brother:  “Quick, tell me about God.  I’m forgetting already.”

Imagine if we could all remember where we came from.  If God was not a mystery, but one evolving, omniscient force to which we all were consciously attached.  Imagine how that would change the world.

Yet, we do not have such memory.  We have opinions, speculation: faith.  Some would kill for their convictions, even without proof.  God is a super-charged, elusive concept that can empower, or stifle life, depending on human interpretation.

I don’t know anymore than the next person about the nature of our origins, but I do know this: looking into the eyes of my newborn granddaughter there is a presence of something beyond the innocence of her being.  Watching her approach life with such enthusiasm and hunger, makes me believe that there is an innate wisdom there that surpasses our mundane knowing.

I have more questions than I’ll ever have answers.

Risking Excellence

I am with my son’s friend, and we are headed to meet John downtown where he will be competing in a skateboard competition.  John is a very gifted skater and the odds are good that he will win, but he is nowhere to be found.  As time passes, I feel more and more anxious that something has happened to him, and begin to search in closets and corners, anticipating I am going to find him dead.  Suddenly, a car pulls up, dumps a body, and squeals away.  A crowd gathers, and as I make way through, I know it is John.  He is not dead, but severely beaten, enough to stop him from competing.

I wake up,  immediately afraid for my son, but once I am conscious enough to remember the focus of today’s writing, I realize the dream is about me.

I was eight-years-old when school officials began to pull me out of class and subject me to a series of tests.  “She is gifted,” they told my parents,” and we would like to accelerate her one grade and enroll her in a special class with her peers.  She will have to attend school across town, and transportation is not provided.”

My mother didn’t know what to think.  I was a girl, and according to her, girl’s who were smart did not do well in life. (Doing well, in my mother’s eyes, was being a stay-at-home mom with a husband who made a lot of money.)  My father supported the decision.

Gifted children often feel like an anomaly, and I was no exception.  I knew I didn’t fit in at the regular school, but I somehow always felt like they made a mistake with me and I didn’t belong in the gifted class either:  these kids were so smart and, well, geeky.  I didn’t think I fit the mold.  Academically, however, I thrived.  The self-contained classroom was far more engaging and intellectually stimulating.  I loved school!

After school was another matter.  While I was driven across town each morning, I had to take two city buses home each afternoon, arriving long after my old classmates had been dismissed for the day.  The bullies waited for me, and I soon became game for their taunting, and physical abuse.    When we moved out of town in the middle of grade eight, I was thrown in with the regular population and the rift was apparent.  A town thug was hired to beat me up one day after school.

I learned to hide my abilities, and refrained from competing with others.  I developed the expectation of being beaten, both literally and figuratively.

As I’ve mentioned before, John shares my introspective side – that part of me that doubts, questions, and turns things over and over.  The friend that accompanied me in the dream suffers from depression and delusions.  I have that side to myself also.  Combine the introspection with the inability to see beyond negative thinking and there is an expectation of futility:  why try?

John is a gifted skateboarder, and if the dream was real, I would encourage him to hire a bodyguard and go for it.  By objectifying the issue, is the dream telling me the same?  While you may have been beaten at times, you still hold the same bright potential, so don’t give up.  Just let go of the expectations.

A Serene Marriage

I have been invited to Scott L’s house and even though I haven’t seen him since high school, I am excited.  I first met Scott in grade school, and fell in love immediately.  While we would be best of friends throughout our school years, our love would never blossom. I am hoping the invitation now means that he is ready to reciprocate feelings and we will be together.  I arrive at his home to find my cousin Serene.  I am delighted to see her, and surprised that she and Scott know one another.  Scott is not here yet, and while we wait for him, we are connecting the dots.  How they know each other and why Serene is here. It turns out that they are about to get married and that is why I have been invited.  I try to be happy for them, as I love them both, but I can’t help but feel disappointed.  I have wished for this for so long.

We’ve all had those dreams of unrequited love from which we awaken sure that we are missing something that only the other person can give us.  Wishful thinking is one of the evils that spiritual teachers will caution against.  While the emotional pull is so strong, the temptation is only that:  a threat to the self.

There is no moment but now, and how we respond to what we have is all that counts.  The more I dream about a love that never was, but could be, or wish for that perfect job, or dream home, or other life, the less I am contributing to my current circumstances.  I am unhappy because I am choosing to be.

When we remember an old love, we are remembering a person frozen in time, unchanged.  We have not allowed for the fact that they, like us, have lived life, suffered losses, had successes, and built lives for themselves.  We are not considering that their current life and self may not even resemble the person we once knew.  Wishful thinking is all about the ideal and nothing to do with the reality.  It is wasted energy.

If I look at the dream metaphorically instead, I will consider what I loved about these two people and how fitting this dream is for my life today.  Scott was loyal, straightforward, and trustworthy.  Serene is bubbly, optimistic, and warm.  If the Scott part of me, the loyal, trustworthy side, were to marry the fun-loving, warm side what possibilities could that open in my life?  Well, I finally made the commitment last night and joined Weight Watcher’s.  Could this mean that with the right level of commitment and attitude, I can make it work?

Sounds like a marriage of success!  Now, that I can get excited about.