A Ghost Story

Have you noticed all those ghosts walking around? They used to be mothers, full of life, full of warm, nurturing love. Babies snuggled up in the curve of their necks, their soft sweet skin smelling of Johnson’s baby powder. The babies grew and grew and learned to walk and talk and make their mommas proud when they said her name. As they began to explore, they outgrew their infant needs, becoming self-propelled. They began to learn grownup things. Like who to love and who to hate and some even learnt who to blame when things go wrong. Be it their teachers, the government or their mothers.

They used to be ordinary people like you and me before the miracle of motherhood changed them into bright shooting stars that lit the heavens with happiness for an all-too-brief moment that continues to warm their memory as they grow old.

Have you noticed all those ghosts walking around? The ones with their failing eyesight and tender smiles who fade into the background, soft-spoken and undemanding? They had their moment in the Sun and are content to watch the seasons change and the years fly by.

I hate to say it but they are not me.

Oh, how I loved my time of shooting stars, yet I refuse to be a ghost.

Make Room for Joy

A positive attitude can improve the quality of our life, often leading us to heights of joy. However, in finding our way as human beings, we are also vulnerable to emotional pain; even on the road to joy we become derailed by times of sorrow. One day when I asked my elderly mother a question about the past, she said, “I don’t want to remember the past, honey. It hurts too much.”

Now that I’ve reached my own twilight years and more fully understand my mother’s pain, I’ve also discovered something else. The things that hurt the most to remember now are the pains I numbed myself to when they were fresh. Even though I had this terrible ache inside, I refused to grieve. I told myself that, like Scarlett, I would deal with it tomorrow.

Some hurts I even denied, burying them so deep I’m shocked when they release fresh arrows of pain from the past into my heart. Others I rationalized by telling myself how lucky I was, that the hurt could’ve been far worse. That I had no right to feel pain because other people had it so much worse than I did. Counting my blessings.

I do believe in counting my blessings. Not by denying or ignoring my pain but doing so while also acknowledging that I have a right to grieve for my loss even while I feel grateful for my blessings.

“Weeping may endure for a night, but joy cometh in the morning.” Psalms 30:5
So, when your heart is heavy it is better to allow yourself to experience and express the grief until it has wrung itself out. The tears of grief are cleansing your soul, making it ready to once again receive joy.

Find Your Own Truth

To be a person of truth, be swayed neither by approval nor disapproval. Work at not needing approval from anyone and you will be free to be who you really are. — Rebbe Nachman

It sounds simple. To be a person of truth, be who you really are. But what if, one day, you realize what you’re reflecting is other people’s truth, not your own?. First it was your parents truth; you were thrilled by the light of approval in their eyes. Well, of course! What are parents for, after all, but to teach us their own truth. We have to start somewhere.

But deep inside us is our own truth. Which may conflict with our parents truth. You are not your parents; you are growing into your own person. Only you can know the truth of who you are. And the only way you can know your truth is by examining your beliefs. Where did they come from? Do they have the ring of authenticity or are they things you were told and accepted without question?

If you find some shreds of old beliefs that don’t have the “ring of truth” do you dare to explore the possibility they are wrong? Are you willing to modify them into what does ring as true to you? And then are you willing to resist being influenced by other opinions?

Rebbe Nachman says “Work at not needing approval from anyone and you will be free to be who you really are.” The key word is “work” because finding our truth is not easy for most of us. We have to dig for it, defend it, even suffer for it.

But in the end, to know your truth is to know pure happiness.

Yes, Mr. Sagan, We Are Made of Star Stuff

You know how the clichéd light bulb goes off in the middle of a thought? I had such a thought this morning, about how the real meaning behind a word can get lost when the word represents something controversial.

Take the word astrology, for instance. I won’t go into the misconceptions the word evokes for many people but go straight to the nitty-gritty: what astrology really is. It is proof that we are all connected; the earth, the planets, the cosmos. Even Carl Sagan, who pooh-poohed astrology, said we are made from star stuff. And as my dear mother quoted to me “the proof is in the pudding.”

What brought this thought to me is that someone dear to me has been experiencing difficulties lately that sent me off on an investigation. I finally turned to the solar and lunar eclipses we had last year, and saw that three of them were conjunct planets in his natal chart. I noted the dates the transiting Sun and Mars triggered the eclipse degrees and those turned out to be significant dates for the evolving problem.

Other such transits to those eclipse degrees are on the horizon, as eclipses are effective for an extended period of time. They indicate, at least to me, since I’m an optimist, that the problem is working its way out and will be resolved.

I mulled this over last night. So…..big deal, right? He already knew this problem existed. This is not news to him. But the big deal (and to me, the big deal with using astrology) is that it verifies once again that we are not separate from, but part of, the Universe. Perhaps God created us to be observers of the mighty wonders He created. Perhaps we are meant to study, not only the stars as astronomers do, but to observe their connections to each other and their connectedness with our own lives, in order to understand how we are all a part of the same equation.

In our birth charts, the positions of the Sun, Moon and planets at the time of our birth documents our connectedness to the stars, the planets and all that is. Through Astrology we can find a pathway to Divine Truth.

WHO Are YOU?

“And WHO are YOU?” the older man in the black tux and argyle socks said as he shook my hand. I was being greeted by the father of the groom after the wedding ceremony.
“My name is….” I said, not feeling quite as ridiculous as I might’ve if he hadn’t been wearing the purple and pink socks.

He raised his eyebrows at me, Groucho Marx style, and I moved on. I figured he wanted to disconcert people with the socks because he was a psychiatrist, and liked to do unexpected things to see how people would react, but I was disconcerted because I had no ready answer to his unexpected question.

The thing was I was nobody. I’d been invited to the wedding through a friend of the bride, whom I didn’t even know. My friend had arranged the invitation for me, including my pre-school daughters, believing they should get their first look at a true-to-life fairy-tale bride. I’d set aside my discomfort to appease her but had felt completely foreign in such exalted company. My friend had been disappointed when Terry and Tammy, instead of being excited, watched the elaborate ceremony with a detached air.

So – who was I? Should I have said “I’m a friend of a friend of the bride?” or “I have an invitation but actually I’m a party crasher because I don’t even know your son or new daughter-in-law?” It’s bewildering to be asked “WHO are YOU?” and trying to think of an answer.

Perhaps, I thought later, I should make an appointment with him. Tell him he got me to thinking “WHO am I” as if I’d never thought to ask it before, and that I’d been searching for an answer ever since. I was lost. I didn’t know who I was. Wasn’t that what psychiatrists were for, to help us discover who we are? But psychiatrists cost money, and besides I kept seeing those wild argyle socks with the expensive black tux. How could I trust him?

So I decided to find myself, myself. Still looking.

God Makes No Mistakes

I was an arrogant child. I thought I was smarter than God because I could see where he’d screwed up. While my mother prayed every night with us children sitting on the floor around her (since we didn’t have that many chairs) I blasted God in my mind for the early death of our dad, for our poverty. Later, knowing God could read my mind, I feared the hot cinders of his wrath raining down on me from the sky.

But rebellion boiled inside me, where I secretly sneered at the preacher’s daughter while envying her for her pretty blue Easter dress. I softened my pain by wrapping it in anger and built a wall around my vulnerability. My anger was not allowed to be expressed in the face of my mother’s prayers of thanksgiving for God’s love and tender care (ha!) so I kept it between us two.

One evening while my mother was thanking God for getting us a load of coal to get us through the winter, my teenaged brother Andy called from the kitchen after having refused to join the circle, “I’m the one who got us that load of coal!” Mom did not acknowledge his outburst but I was thrilled by it. “There,” I thought. “There, God.” And I was content to know I was not alone

Of course I would grow through the bruises and heartaches of living to become grateful for the life I had, to recognize that it was granted to me by a loving God. Who also let me find my own way to exist in this strange life on his beautiful planet. But also to realize that his love knows no limits, that he loves each and every one of us.

My gripe today is not against God but against a society that doesn’t value its people as God values us. We have groups called minorities who have been bullied and excluded due to their differences from the mainstream of society—people who even dare to use the supposed words of God to justify their insufferable actions.

Some progress towards equality has been made with the larger groups of minorities but one group that has been blatantly excluded includes gays and lesbians.

In the beginning of my realization there were such beings in the world I too felt uncomfortable with them. It just didn’t “feel” right. But having learned to question my feelings since my first run-in with God, I asked myself how it would feel to love someone of the same sex in the same way one loves someone of the opposite sex, that merging into a couple that makes the world glow with an intense joy that lights up our spirit.

How would it feel to be born with that difference, yet be told I must “have” or “pretend” to have that feeling for someone whom I can’t love? Otherwise to be told I’m bad, depraved, and out of favor with God. Because gay people recognize early in life that they’re attracted to their own sex even if the full realization takes place much later, it is obvious to me that when God created them, he did it with love. He did not make a mistake.

Just Call Me Scrooge

Just call me Scrooge, but I have a love/hate relationship with Christmas. I love the love but hate the hate. Don’t preach to me about it being a celebration of Christ’s birthday. I know that. That’s the love part.

And I don’t hate the Santa Claus and gifts part either. It’s the memories that part brings up and the realization that many children will soon learn too early there is no Santa. That’s what I hate. And don’t preach to me about that part, either, about Santa being the spirit of giving, blah, blah, blah.

The memory of those children from the past blend with knowing that many children in the present will have no Christmas this year. They’ve joined the little ghosts that walk in the back of my mind. Like a Greek chorus. A mute one— because what can they say?

So now that I’ve made you indescribably sad let me add that phrase the elitists like to use: it’s the human condition. Distance yourself from it. What else can you do? Provide for your own and put some change in the Salvation Army’s bucket after you buy your Christmas turkey or ham.

But for God’s sake, don’t whine and carry on about it. If there’s anything I really, really hate it’s a whiner! Merry Christmas.