Is Your Soul in Touch With You?

A few years ago a trusted astrologer described a long-term natal transit I was having by telling me “Your soul is trying to get in touch with you.”   Intriguing.   But what did it mean?  I’d assumed my soul was an integral part of me, not something that could get lost – or, wait a minute – am I the one who’s lost?   How is that possible?  I thought I and my soul were one, inseparable until we both leave the body when I die.   We both……

So, okay.   If my soul is trying to get in touch with me then I should try to get in touch with my soul.  Maybe the astrologer is talking about that voice in my head that tells me I should or should not do things.  Although I thought that voice was my conscience, and it’s still there.  I hear it plainly, even though I sometimes ignore what it has to say.   Especially when it puts me on a guilt trip for things I’m not responsible for.   In fact, we argue quite a bit.   I believe much of this inner battle is due to changes in my beliefs.   When one has begun questioning old beliefs because they’ve become outdated or one realizes they were never true— the old beliefs will persist on arguing with the new.   Because the old beliefs have become a matter of habit.

 And we know how hard habits are to break.  Take smoking, for instance.   When I began smoking cigarettes as a teenager it was considered the cool thing to do, and I became addicted.  For many years this voice in my head told me I had to quit and I did, about fifty times.  But while I was quit the voice would switch sides and encourage me to have a cigarette, telling me it was okay.   So, in this case, it was not my conscience talking but my habit.

Finally, almost four years ago I was able to stay quit (although I did sneak a cigarette from time to time for about three years) through the use of nicotine gum.   But what gave me the power to stay quit was the desire to see my youngest grandchildren grow up, and the realization that my smoking may not only cut my life short but could also make my last years so miserable that I couldn’t be a loving grandmother. 

But what, I wondered, does that have to do with my soul?   My search continued.   In the meantime I’d established a goal of living as healthy a life as I could.   I already had old age problems, type 2 diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol.  Due to the possible side effects of medication and my desire to seek natural cures, the only medicine I felt comfortable taking was for high blood pressure, as it was most likely responsible for an eye occlusion I had.  As I was determined to control my diabetes and cholesterol through diet and exercise, I researched online for the right foods, quantities, and supplements that would help in doing so.

Not only did I get my latest A1C reading (three-month glucose test) down to 5.8, and my fasting glucose most mornings below 100, I also got my cholesterol down, the LDL (bad) to more acceptable levels plus I raised the  HDL (good) to a high level.  Since, simplified, the LDL lines the arteries with placque and the HDL cleans them out, the doctor is pleased with these results.

I get my daily exercise by walking Winston, my little Pooh-Chon.  Many times I’m reading or writing and don’t want to stop, but a sad look in his big dark eyes keeps me active.   I know just a word from me will make him jump up with a smile.  “Walk?” I say, as I grab his leash and we’re off.   Luckily, we live less than two blocks from the entrance to a beautiful park with trails, a large pond, lovely flowers, trees and foliage.  As we walk in the park my heart soars and I thank God for my many Blessings. 

And I feel I have found my soul.  I believe it wants me to be more authentic, to be myself both inwardly and outwardly.  Which sounded simple until I examined myself.  For many years there was the outer me, yielding to circumstances , afraid to reveal thoughts and beliefs others might not agree with, might criticize.   The outer me that wanted to keep the peace at any price.   I had to gain the courage to be myself.

As Blessed Mother Teresa said “Give the world the best you have, and it may never be enough.  Give the world the best you have anyway.  Because in the final analysis, all of this is between you and God….It was never between you and them anyway.”   God Bless.

Financial Crisis and Cashmere Hats

“I don’t like to be in this position, asking for things and, you know, answering to the American taxpayer,” Treasury Secretary Hank Paulson informed the Senate banking committee yesterday.”  I Come to You, Cashmere Hat in Hand  Dana Milbank

Some of the blame for the financial crisis obviously lies with the cult of “positive thinking”  which encouraged people to buy houses they should’ve known they couldn’t afford.  The greedy lenders did know better, but didn’t care.

I’m a strong believer in the power of positive thinking, but it only works if we’re also in touch with reality. It’s okay to have my head in the sky as long as my feet are still in touch with the ground.

The word “cashmere” in the title of Milbank’s column in the Washington Post immediately brought to mind a recent experience of mine (I, thankfully, still have a home with my daughter and her family while awaiting repairs to my own house, caught in the recent flooding in Cedar Rapids). All of my winter coats were sequestered in the basement waiting for fall, and of course they are now in the city dump.

Last week I happened into Goodwill, which has become one of my favorite stores, and a few winter coats had come in. One fit me perfectly and was in a color I like, and was also a perfect fit. The label said “manmade cashmere” which obviously means fake. But that’s okay, since I’m not used to real cashmere anyway and the cost of the coat fit my budget.

I’m now ready for cold weather and the leaves have begun to change to gold and brown. I’m watching for the red leaves, my favorite, to begin highlighting the foliage, as I walk Winston.

And while I walk Winston I think about things. Like what in the world is this country coming to, and what is going to happen on November 4th, after all the mud-slinging is at an end, and we have to make a – Gasp! Choice!

I’m merely a retired woman with hopes and dreams for my grandchildren and their future. Thankfully, my own children have done well – on their own, I might add–and are great parents. They will handle whatever comes up in the future. My own time will be drawing to a close so I’m resting from my labors, and just trying to fit the pieces together.

My children were born in the Sixties, during the Uranus conjunct Pluto generation, and, like Palin and Obama, are in their forties. I’ve always been amazed by them, their independence and involvement in the larger world, and always enjoyed listening to them debate at the dinner table, sometimes heatedly, exchanging ideas.

But I’m getting away from my subject. The “cashmere hat in hand” to cover Paulson’s bald head, I presume, speaks eloquently to the current crisis created by greed. I have no gripe with anyone preferring and/or being able to afford a cashmere hat. I even enjoy shopping at Goodwill. But I’m glad to see a little humility expressed, at least in a small way, by one of the greedy.

For All the Women Who Feel Trodden On

If a woman makes herself a worm she must not complain when she is trodden on. — Immanuel Kant, German Philosopher 

Of course I changed the gender. Kant may have been one of the foremost thinkers of the Enlightenment but since he spoke during the Eighteenth Century I’m not sure he meant to include women.

As for myself, I gave up worm-hood a number of years ago. I started working on it when I realized one day that, in order to be walked on, I had to acquiesce by lying down. If you’re standing tall, they have to knock you down first (so you should also learn self-defense).

After lying prone for so many years (I exaggerate, of course) I found it took awhile to get back up. But I finally made it because I had to be a role model for my daughters and granddaughters, and even for my son and grandsons, because I wanted them to respect me and thus, to respect women.

So I was delighted recently by my granddaughter Emily’s reaction after her motorcycle accident (which of course I was not delighted about as she had a broken leg). After Emily’s surgery I asked Cathy how she was doing and her Mom replied “She’s really p-ssed!”  “That’s my girl!” I said. “When life hands you a lemon, don’t make lemonade, spit it out!”

Now that may not be the way a grandmother should respond but I had asked the question solicitously as I was concerned about Emily’s low spirits. So I was pleased to hear that, instead of moping, she was mad. Emily definitely does not embrace worm-hood. Although in this instance she may have come close. She had just gotten her motorcycle operating license and was feeling pressured, by the line of cars waiting behind her, to pull out into heavy traffic. Thus she hugged the curb too closely and hit it. (You’re learning, Emily, but next time let’em wait).

I agree with Kant that I can’t complain about my days of worm-hood, especially since it was my own self who let the trodders trod on me. But no more! So this is for all the women out there who feel trodden on. It’s time to stand upright! Shock the heck out of the trodders. They will really flip!

Back to the Present: What the River Really Left Behind

Love thy neighbor as yourself, but choose your neighborhood — Louise Beal, Silent Screen Actress (August 8, 1867 to November 18, 1952)

On Friday night vandals came out of their murky holes to roam the dark alleys where our empty houses sit and sigh for our return. After cutting the screen they broke the upper pane of glass in my kitchen window, but apparently did not gain entrance as the window was still locked and we found no sign of the intruders inside. Directly across the alley John’s house peers darkly at mine through other pieces of shattered glass as if the neighboring houses are commiserating with each other.

When I arrived at the house on Saturday, John had started mowing my lawn, refusing to accept payment from me even though he does professional lawn service as a sideline. “I wish I could move to the country away from people like that,” he exclaimed, after telling me about his window. It was only later that I discovered my window had also been broken.

While I waited for Cathy and Jim I admired the new front door they had installed on Friday. The door is a glistening white with a half-moon window at the top which mirrors the shape of the overhang, although we had no idea that it would when we chose it. Sometimes serendipity comes in seemingly trivial ways.

I have often called my house another Blessing from the Universe, ever since I moved into it after my retirement eight years ago. I was filled with new hopes and dreams of living out my later years in peace while I became more acquainted with who I really am–before I am no more–at least in this earthly body. I’ve always craved alone time to think and read and ponder, and during the past years in this house I’ve learned to let go of many old perceptions and to make room for new understandings.

As the shattered windows of mine and John’s houses sadly contemplate each other across the alley, I speak to other neighbors, here on this Saturday afternoon working hard to restore their homes to livable conditions. Hoping to either return to their homes or getting them ready to sell so they can move on from their current temporary shelters to other permanent places.

The entire neighborhood is being remolded by the aftermath of the flood and the neighbors who eventually return will feel the loss of those who leave. But rebuilding is a long process; it will be awhile before we all settle down into normal living once again. It helps to count the little blessings each day brings, such as the sandwiches and drinks thoughtful souls from churches and organizations still hand out, showing they haven’t forgotten us.

But for today’s little blessing, I’m reminded of when I first saw the house, the porch light shining beneath the overhang, welcoming me to this new stage of my life. So tomorrow I will get a new light to go with the new door and let it shine even brighter than before.

Back to the Future: The Grownup Club

There is always one moment in childhood when the door opens and lets the future in — Deepak Chopra

When I was a child I thought grownups knew everything, they just weren’t telling. I also thought that when I grew up, I too would know everything. For that reason I looked forward to someday belonging to the Grownup Club. Then I would know what the grownups meant when they gave each other those strange looks that I judged to be a secret code, especially when I asked such important questions as: What are we all doing here (on Planet Earth)? Isn’t there someplace else we could go? Are we stuck here?

My mother said we were here because God had made us and put us here, that He also made the Earth to be our home. When I asked why this place and not some other, where things might make more sense, she looked off into the distance and shook her head. Since I knew my mother was already a member of the Grownup Club and that I would someday become a member too–growing up being the only requirement for membership, I assumed–I realized she was thinking up a fairy tale to tell me, which is the only way kids were allowed to learn important things. Since I already knew I’d be let in on the secrets once I was old enough to become a member of the Club, I told her to forget it (in my mind that is, otherwise I might be punished for sassing) and pretended to lose interest. I could see she was relieved.

That was okay because by the time I was sixteen, I knew much more than my mother. As a young adult I found out the Grownup Club, or at least the one my mother belonged to, had not kept up with the times–or else my mother’s membership had expired. The only way to learn anything now was to find the experts, so that’s what I decided to do. However, since none of them lived in our old neighborhood, I was forced to turn to books. Although most of the books by experts were written by the Old Farts who lived long ago, thankfully their language had improved a bit since biblical times.

(Of course my mother had a book by the biblical experts, called the Bible, which she said was written by God, but she admitted that although all the words in it came from God, men had actually penned it. On trying to read it I couldn’t help but wonder if they hadn’t gotten God’s words wrong. But since my mother said it was blasphemy to question the Bible, I realized this was yet another question I was not supposed to ask).

I found the experts hard going as they tended to answer questions I wasn’t asking and didn’t answer the questions I did ask. But my real problem came after I married and had my first child. I got a book by Dr. Spock on raising children as he was the known expert on the subject. Then I made a mistake of buying a book by another childcare expert (I don’t remember his name). The second book disagreed with everything in the first book and I ended up throwing both of them out. If the experts couldn’t agree, then how was I to know whom to believe?

What did other mothers do? I consulted some in the neighborhood but that also fell through when I learned there was an early potty-training trend going on. Mothers were potty-training their babies at the age of six months by running to put them on the potty when their little faces turned red. Then they gathered for coffee and bragged about their successes in potty-training their babies before they learned to walk (some were carrying them to the potty even earlier than six months old, implying their babies were geniuses).

This didn’t make sense to me because I figured a child should at least be able to walk to the potty before s/he was trained. All these mothers were doing was hurrying to catch the do-do. Which, of course, did save on diapers.

But my disillusionment had truly begun. I finally realized I couldn’t depend on other people to guide me and every time I found an expert about anything, another expert came along to disagree with the first one. It came to me that, as much trouble as it would turn out to be, I had no choice but to try to figure things out for myself. And hang the experts.

Now I know why my mother kept quiet. Who wants to admit to a kid there are things even the grownups don’t know. And that even when so-called grownups gain a bit of knowledge they just fight with each other over who’s right, and confuse people like me who are trying to understand.

At my age I know people expect me to act like a senior member of the Grownup Club, but by now I’ve entered my second childhood. I would not even join the Club if they asked me. In fact, when I see the long sad face of a Grownup, my first inclination is to whistle Dixie and thank God for my escape.

One Month Later: the Cedar Rapids Flood

Once the city’s hold on building permits was released a few days ago for those of us living in the 500 year flood plain, I finally quit holding my breath (which is good as I was turning blue) and realized I had been up to my old tricks again, balking every time I heard the words “flood victim“.

I blame my mother, because she taught me that although everything had a reason, only God knew what it was, and that it was all good even when it was bad. God never makes a mistake. Thus she espoused throughout a lifetime of poverty, having been left a widow with eight children at the age of forty-two. And although I’ve often felt guilty for having so much when she had so little yet I also remember our family prayers and how she thanked God every day for what little she had. She never owned a home of her own and lost most of her material possessions after our dad died.

While I was growing up, my mother’s early teaching made it hard for me to complain, and I still guiltily reprimand myself when I grouch, although it happens less and less as I grow older, since, like my mother, I realize how much I have to be grateful for. “God lets mothers grow old so they can pray for their children,” she told me not long before she died, “always remember to pray for your children.” And I do, and I also give thanks every day. As I’ve said before, my children are truly my Blessings from the Universe, and if they hadn’t taken charge after the flood as soon as they were allowed to get into the house, I would’ve floundered.

Unlike Candide, I do not believe this is the best of all possible worlds. Heaven knows it could be much better than it is (although that is a subject too broad to broach) but most of our problems are caused by our own decisions and indecisions and their consequences. Many consequences, however, cannot be foreseen. How was I to know when I bought my house that the “500 year flood” was only eight years away and my house was in its path? And who would’ve dreamed the river could be so horribly destructive?

But I refused to be a victim. If I blamed the river, the fates as it were, or whatever else was at hand to blame, I would’ve been accepting victimhood. So (in my own mind) I took charge by seeing the flood personally as a sign for another change in my life. Not that it wasn’t true, but it changed my attitude, which is where everything begins. (Naturally I also had the luxury of doing this because my children were dealing with the awful mess the river left behind). It’s also true there were astrological signs in my progressed chart and transits which fit but they could’ve been manifested in a number of different ways. Even Astrology, which has been most helpful in my life, did not help me foresee this disaster.

What use, then, is Astrology? It’s useful because, along with what I learned from my mother I also learned from Astrology a very different way of looking at my life than at what is most obvious.

Many times we get in a rut and it takes something earthshaking to snap us out of it. Yet, once we get past the necessary actions and the grief for what is lost, we often see something new emerge. For some of us this may take years, but some day we will look back and see the flood as a turning point.

In my last post I was thinking of simply repairing the house, selling it and moving to an apartment–wondering out loud if I should. Later I saw that my anti-victimhood had taken hold, making me a victim of my aversion. I had also described how much I loved the house.

After reading the post, Cathy said to me–cautiously, in case I’m living in LaLa Land–that with the newness of everything we have to replace, the house won’t be the same. The same old house, I said, just with new stuff in it. Sort of like me.

The worry lines left her brow.

After the Cedar Rapids Flood: Making A New Choice

Last night we went to my daughter Cathy’s for a family gathering and a spaghetti dinner. In the living room she showed me my curio cabinet, cleaned up but empty since, after washing everything carefully, she had wrapped each treasured item and stored it for me–except for the beautiful clock her brother had brought me from Germany several years ago, which graced a place of honor high on a bookshelf nearby.

My youngest grandchild, Teresa’s son, who is four, pointed to the clock with excitement. “Grandma! Your clock!” He had always enjoyed watching it through the glass doors of the cabinet as the small balls, swinging from delicate chains, moved in a circle beneath the clock’s face. It was one of the few things in my house he couldn’t touch, although I would sometimes take the clock out of the cabinet so he and his five year old sister could watch the movement reflect the light on the mirror below the balls.

My military son, his wife, son and daughter, were with us as we celebrated being together again. This morning they headed back to Florida where he is stationed, and later Cathy called me to say the city has finally relented and will be issuing structural permits so we can fix the basement in order to proceed with other repairs to the house.

For several weeks I’ve been full of questions–for myself. I must, of course, repair the house and FEMA has, thankfully, provided some money towards that. But afterwards–is the destruction to my house a “sign” that it’s time to make another major change in my life? Fix the house and then sell it? Move to an apartment? Where I won’t have to buy new appliances? After all, I turned sixty-five four years ago. My children worry about the stairs. But I love the house and can be quite sentimental about the things I love. I love older homes, the taller than average ceilings, the sense of other lives that have been lived in those same surroundings–perhaps giving me a sense of times past. One might call it an aura that surrounds old structures.

Maybe it’s because my fourth house of home in my natal chart is ruled by Saturn and as a Capricorn I am very familiar with Saturn. In many ways its astrological significance has guided my life until now. On the phone a month before the flood I said to my son that sometimes I felt as if I had already lived three lives. I reassured him I felt no premonition my life was soon to end, although, let’s face it, the road has grown much shorter, but only that I was picking up vibes about a possible new direction, also shown by transits to my chart. My children are used to such comments from me.

So I wonder now, since the flood, if it is decision time again. Many things from the past have been cleared away including much of my genealogical research. Some of it I could reclaim if I was motivated to do the mind-boggling work. But I’m almost relieved to let it go. When did it all become a burden and why didn’t I recognize this and move on? Of course much of the research went into my family book. But many of my Astrology books are also gone. Had I already gleaned what insight they held for me?

I wonder if others who suffered losses from the flood question its meaning in their lives. If for them too, a new choice lies on the horizon, one that will fit with what was left. After the flood.