Don’t Live in Fear

The one thing I have really learned these past years as a single person and continue now to learn as a married lady (never in my wildest dreams did I suspect that I’d be married again) is that one must never live in “fear” in life.  When I say that I don’t mean that a person should go out on a limb and intentionally put herself in danger or be blind to another’s motives. One should always be cognizant of the issues of life with the forces of negativity on this planet. However, if one’s calling is to work with impoverished inner-city children in a dangerous neighborhood, then one should follow her calling.  If one has the impulse to go to Europe and has the means, then one should go. The traveling and the exploration of this world are not to be feared but embraced.  Does that mean bad things don’t happen to people? No, that is not what I am stating. I am proclaiming that if the human race is to evolve, love, not fear, must be the driving force in life. To stay at home and not take chances is the worst one could do in any circumstances. The real growth comes with facing the unknown and allowing oneself to conquer the initial anxiety and move toward the calling, the emotion of love and compassion and sharing those with others.

So, my advice to students or young people I have met and will continue to meet in life is to go explore one’s calling, one’s passions, one’s desires in this world. When a person knows himself well enough to do these things, then the entire human race moves forward with that person’s growth.

From the draft of COUNTING STONES, A Memoir of Spiritual Development

Chapter 3

Mothers of  a Different Flock —from a Stairwell to a Stairway

The pain and abandonment and the incredible need and drive to feel love comes from a place that must be healed. The healing really started to take place in me as I grew into my adulthood assisted by a very wonderful woman, my father’s hand selected psychology,  and a counselor who was older than my bilological mother, her first name was Sabra.  I adored her. She was for me, the mother figure, the father figure, that sought to help me heal my wounded child while I was still a teenager. Without her assistance, I know I would have been more wounded and possibly not made to my adulthood intact. She suspected the molestation even though I had no memory of it as a teenager. Ah, the gentleness of her therapy was amazing. Her strict boundaries she set for me just as amazing. I think in many, many ways I emulate her to this day in my teaching persona, and in many ways my mothering abilities. I remember one day showing up too early, as usual, for my appointment, and she sat in her office, door open, and had me wait on her as she sewed a patch, a badge, on her daughter’s Girl Scout slash. It was  elegant and a very simple boundary setting exercise, an example. Sabra was always gentle, tough as nails, when needed, but very gentle.  I didn’t show up quiet as early the next few sessions.

Sabra Stair —like a stair way to adult thinking for me, she was. She was, and is, to this day, a woman I see as a spiritual mother—full of honesty, passion, the ability to ask questions, and the ability to be compassionate with a half crazy adolescent girl.  I was so envious of her daughter at that moment, but also so very proud I was witnessing a working mom, who combined her love of her family and her career seemingly so effortlessly. I knew then when I had a family, I would somehow continue my service to others, somehow be more than just the mom stuck in the traffic of daily caregiving, smothering myself as I had seen my mother do.  However, what I did not fully see was that my wounding as a child had doomed me to a type of repetition of my mother’s smothered life for many years. We all have guideposts in our lives, and if we are lucky, they are living guideposts, not just words on a page, not just ancient wisdom passed down through the generations, but true people who live honest lives. We all need to see the wisdom exemplified, given credence by a human being walking the path, the path of pure intention and pure love. We then can see, with our eyes and our souls, the possibilities of life, the joy of life, the life well lived.

The healing humans all seek is there, but each human being must  be willing to dig deep, to let go of preconceived notions, preconceived way of living, and breathing—even existing. There are scriptures, ancient ones, and religions to guide and to soothe and possible direct wounded or confused lives. This aspect of innocent suffering is not a new aspect for human kind. This aspect of suffering with grace, with an intention of love, instead of resentment and revenge, a newer concept than some others, has been in existence a little over two thousand years.  There is healing for each trauma, for each hurt, and it begins with acceptance of the hurt.  Recognizing the pain, finding the source of the pain, then letting that pain have its day, its way with the soul for the necessary time it takes to really feel the pain, and then letting of the pain. This is the healing. This is the plan. No, it is not always a plan that is comfortable, at all. No one gets out of this life without some sort of pain, some sort of growth through pain. I know that for me, that this journey to myself, began as a child and continues to this day.  My dad told me multiple times as I grew up that if I ever stopped growing I would be dead. Well, Dad, I am here. I am growing. I am continuing the path you began for me.

As of last year, I was and in my mind still am a secondary teacher in an urban school with over 70% free and reduced lunch as my group of students. This past year I relocated to another district, rural, but still the same make up of assorted teens in need. I teach seniors, mostly, with sophomores and a few juniors scattered in the mix. I have the honor of being around some great kids, some excellent kids. I have the dubious duty of sharing my life with some great adults who are teachers and some teachers who are pretty selfish and self-promoting adults.  It is the same in all schools, and yet my school seems to promote a sense of safety and family more than most. I was nicknamed Momma Means one year by my senior girls. I accepted the appellation as an honor. Teaching someone to keep her head above water in life, whether as a teacher of writing or literally teaching someone to make it out in the real world, that is being a mom. I was a mom only for a while to my own daughters, it seems that I did a pretty good job as long as they were just this shy of teenage time. I was thinking that might have been because I was “mothered” well more by aunties and my father, and by age 12, my mom was too distant to really connect with me. My determination to stay home so long with my girls had roots in my mother’s suicide attempts when I was a child and her eventual self-inflicted death when I was just 27 years old.  My father, although completely dedicated to his job, was in many ways  an influence as a parental force for my future parenting of my two girls, and subsequent teenagers as a teacher.

When you learn to swim in any new place, work or a lake, remember this.

“Gasping for breath is to be avoided,” my father instructed.” It is the sign of a weak swimmer. “Try to take in even breaths, every three to five strokes,” he instructed. He flipped on his back and then turned gracefully over in the water like a pale pink dolphin. He glided down the length of the pool, popping his balding blond head up above the water line every so many strokes, opening his mouth just enough for a breath, and eyes closed continued to swim in a perfectly straight line. Then he stopped, ducked under the water momentarily, and rose slowly up, facing my fascinated 5 year old face. “Come on,” he said. “I will hold you under your tummy while you practice your strokes and breaths.” The water was freezing even in the oppressive Arkansas humidity of mid-summer. The sun had set behind the oaks and hickory nut trees surrounding the pool at Devil’s Den State Park. I skidded off the rough cement coping of the edge of the pool. I plopped contentedly into his waiting arms. Small, pale, happy in the water, I felt my feet leave the floor of the pool, as my dad lifted me into the appropriate position.

My mother hated swimming. She was petrified of the water. Somehow, she had learned from someone, I suspect my father, how to simply float on her back, but that was all. No real ability to swim a stroke existed in her, but she made sure that my brother and I could swim like proverbial fish. In the 1960’s kids didn’t learn to swim as infants, as my daughters both did in the 1990’s.  I had my first lessons in the arms of my father, and then a year or so later, Red Cross lessons at the public pool in my home town. After those were over, my mother was motivated to hire one of our favorite Red Cross instructors to teach David and me to swim in private lessons. My mother paid hard earned dollars per hour to the young beautiful raven haired life guard named Barbara. She loved us and we adored her.  She taught us more complex strokes, diving, and how to hold our breath for minutes at a time. We dove for pennies in the deep end of the pool, and later on we dove for pennies in the twelve foot diving pool.  It was a magical time. Blue water, chlorine in our eyes and nostrils, bleached out hair, which for me meant white hair with a light green cast since I was already so blond.

If I got my mouth full of water, or my nose, or swallowed half the pool, as my dad used to say, it never helps to struggle. Just get up to the top, rest, hold on, regain strength. Struggle is part of learning, but so is rest, so is regaining strength, so is being a stairway for someone to climb up to his or her next level. The deep end of the pool is always deep, but humans can float, can swim, and can learn how to manage the struggle. That is the point, I guess, I want to make, be the stairway not the stairwell.10349878_705970222825497_4641290809203357945_n

Snowbound.

It is winter in Northwest Arkansas, and for the past four days I have been snow and ice bound inside my home in Fayetteville. It is a nice place to be when it snows, and when the power stays on, and the coffee is hot.  I haven’t been this inactive since the winter my  East Fayetteville home, in the posh neighborhood of divorced doctors and real estate agents had 17 inches of snow and an ice storm, and at that time I lived in a mentally and spiritually different neighborhood. I was not just on the opposite side of Fayetteville, I still was bound to a way of thinking just coming out of its frozen state.  I was and am still on the journey to self. That last huge ice and snow storm winter was a time of recovery –just recovering surgery,  from three moves in two years and a botched divorce,  —my fault, not my beloved lawyer’s fault. Shakespeare said “kill the lawyers…”  I say “kill the institution of marriage” from the standpoint it rests today. So many men and women—angry or confused or sad— stay past the due date has expired. It has been a transition of not only place in physcial space this snowstorm, but a transition of mental and spiritual space as well in this last six and a half years of my life. And,  being snowbound is one way to assess the temperature and state of my journey within. I am no longer frozen, a bit stiff, but certainly in the later stages of a glacier’s thaw.

This journey of my  seeking my temporate and warm Spirit started with a planned family vacatioin in June and July the year my oldest turned 17. The family trip was aborted due to too many “conflicts” with my then husband’s work and my children’s varied summer commitments. I felt that this  aborted family  trip was the sign for me to strike out on a journey alone, as many other things had been in the past–this trip was not to be denied–I was to go, regardless of my family’s wishes,  a sign of personal choice, a sign of impending growth and mistakes and joys and recovery.  This would be the true beginning, the true watermark of my journey that had began when my daugthers were merely toddlers as  I read for the first time A Course In Miracles and the series, A Conversation with God. Their innocence and my beginning in that moment, would change my life and theirs forever. From the realizations of selfhood as I saw it in 1995 to the realizations of selfhood in 2006, on that trip to Montana, I would take strides that summer that would change that present time’s stagnant status,  and that journey would be a miracle of sorts as seen in the future.  I hit the road to Montana alone that summer.

Faith gets us a lot of places in life, and during that mild June, in the  summer of  2006, I was in a place of not having a “google maps” or a Siri to guide me in a “soothing mechancial voice”  in my truck; what I did have was just an old fashioned Atlas, my mind, and faith that I could drive the 1698 miles to East Glacier Park Village, Montana alone and be okay. I had God. I had my map, I had my tears. I took off. Never did I even look back once that first trip. Not looking back, not turning around when I hit the main road from the narrow county lane that veered off in curves and swoops from my rock bound lake home, became the first step in a journey of 10,000 steps. I was alone, alone, alone.  I was going to experience a Blackfeet Sweatlodge, a Pow Wow, a friend who spoke brutal truth, and big sky. That was the apex of the beginning of an ending that birthed a newer way of belief and of thinking. That trip resounds in my soul, a church bell calling the community on an Easter Sunday. That journey was the toning of my heart toward the Om of my soul.  As Buddha says,

“On life’s journey faith is nourishment, virtuous deeds are shelter, wisdom is the light by day and right mindfulness is the protection by night. If a man lives a pure life, nothing can destroy him.”

My purpose here, in this post, and upcoming series of posts ,  is to begin to explore my joureny in life— a chronical  of experiences… not a pure and unstained journey, but a journey of love, compassion, and acceptance. A journey that leads the self from destruction into a place of contentment.

Namaste.

Shannon