Listening to the Landscape of the Heart: What a Single Mom Does With Time Off: UPDATE!

I love to talk but, I am listening more. To others, yes. And mostly to the landscape visions of my heart. Three months ago, I got honest about feeling depleted: not knowing what to do with myself when my vibrant nine year old is off adventuring with her dad. When I attended my 30th high school reunion, I re-found my fifth grade best friend, Jenn. My heart stirred. I wanted to see her again. I wanted to recapture the fun, silly, “class dreamer” that thrived during high school — I wanted to see her (meaning Pamela) again, too.

So, I meditated. I listened. I got clear. And I planned.

I began to envision the things I love most: walking with a friend on the beach, farm fruits and flowers, nostalgic novels, memory making with my parents, and grooving to ELVIS (yup, I said ‘Elvis’).

Then, I pulled out the calendar, projected ahead, set dates, sent text messages, and penciled in the plans on the paper calendar (yup, I said ‘paper calendar’)

This past weekend was the realization of one of those projected “dates”: a morning outing with my friend Jen. Despite a cloudy day, Jen and I planned to eat breakfast, stroll, and reminisce at Front Beach in Rockport, Massachusetts.

It became our time to become chatty-giggly-preteen-girls again! 

 

We spent the morning revisiting over fluffy omelets in Nate’s Cafe, reimagining frolicking fun in a stone tower overlooking the sea, and recreating high school memories in a scenic garden: “We could play cards in the tower overlooking the beach…” I dreamed, “…or we could redesign our Senior Pictures, as they would look today.”

We giggled. And we did it!

This is our mini-senior-picture-photo shoot revised in present day! (circa 1987)

We laughed: “This is what forty-eight year old women do for fun; they  ‘photo shoot’ each other!”

We also deeply appreciate the roses,

the clapboard homes sitting at the shore,

and the open, warm hearts of one another.

Before we said goodbye, we projected our next outing (maybe camping with our significant others: her boyfriend Bruce and my daughter Grace). In our final conversation, Jen sweetly stated, “Pam, you were so cute. You planned this a month ago.  I am so glad you did.”

“It’s how I need to do things,” I stated,  “I have learned. If I want to enjoy my life, the moments I get to re-energize, then, I project out, plan, invite, and show up.”

We embraced. We let go. We now hold on to next time.

As I continue to explore the Landscape of My Heart, I realize that this is what living is really about. Yes, projecting and planning. But mostly, embracing, letting go, and holding on to next time.

We view our ‘unfolding’ life much in the way we gaze at an ocean vista, taking it in all at once, and then one sentimental section at a time. We then allow the memories to be re-lived like the foamy waves moving onto the shore…one at time. There’s then a gentle joy in placing our hands in that liquid-like dreaming. It makes us want to reach out and embrace again and again and again.

So to my gracious girlhood companion, thank you creating new happy-memory ripples this weekend. Thank you for projecting and planning with me. Thank you for embracing the Landscape of My Heart. I carry you there, forever, and I hold on to our “next time”.

With Blessings and Peace,

Pamela Rae

 

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On Taking Myself “Not So Seriously” and Undoing My Cultural Conditioning

I go “deep” a lot. In this intensity, I ask myself the big questions: “Why did I say that?” “Why did I do that?” “Why did I EAT that!?” Recently, I figured out that my answer is in “cultural conditioning”, a topic I plan to explore all year long with myself and with my grade 10 students.

Forgive me,  but I didn’t even know Cultural Conditioning really existed until three years ago when I first read the memoir Tuesdays with Morrie by Mitch Albom. In one of their Tuesday Talks, Professor Morrie Schwartz asks Mitch, his former student, and now a high profile sports writer: Why do people need to be number one? What is “wrong with being number two?” With this question, Morrie also completely silences a crowd of basketball fans cheering “We’re number one!”

That is a perfect example of “Undoing Cultural Conditioning”: Asking ourselves, and the crowd, “What if we believe the opposite to what the “standard/norm” states?”

Just “google it” (talk about conditioning!), and here is what will come up: “cultural conditioning is the unconscious process by which we are socialized to adopt the ways of thinking or behaving.” 

No, ‘Undoing Cultural Conditioning’ is not us playing the “Blame Game” for our life gone wrong.

This is the Conditioned BLAME GAME: “it was my co-parent’s (ex-husband’s) fault that we got divorced, my mom’s fault when my Italian temper flairs, and my teachers’ responsibility that my work was more important than goofing off for hours after school, and now as an adult I NEVER have fun.”

Playing into these resentments, anger episodes, and the “all work makes Pam a dull girl” life is just old news. Old News that can be re-vised.

Here’s HOW:

This year, is the year to see how it feels to entertain the OPPOSITE thought, TO TRY TO write a QUESTION in THE OPPOSITE of what society, the church, and even my beloved family have taught me (or conditioned me) to believe.

Then, I will try it on in my mind, and potentially an action, to see if the “new belief” feels better than the Conditioned one.

And IF I get serious, it looks like this (hold onto your chair and hair!):

  1. What if divorce is the beginning of the life we really want to live, instead of the ending of, or evidence of, the failure of a “commitment” we could not keep?
  2. What if Staying Single and Childless means we are adventurers! We love ourselves so much we want to nurture our own soul completely?
  3. What if when we have a temper tantrum, a mean streak episode, a negative thinking pattern, or finger pointing moment it is because we have triggers that are easier to nurture rather that nix? NOT the other person!
  4. OR, what if, when someone is cruel to us, we decide to go soft (and maybe silent for a bit) on them, instead of thinking about a 100 ways to get even? OR, what if I say to them, in the moment of their meanness, after taking a deep breath in and then a long breath out: “You are hurting my feelings, please stop.”? Then ask: “Why are we in this place of hurt?” And LISTEN.
  5. What if, before we go to work each morning, we spend 25 minutes in solitude and in breath. Maybe we add a couple yoga cat stretches — instead of hitting snooze 5 times? NOW, there’s an “Undoing”!
  6. Lastly, What if, what if, we wear “cat ears” to work? Even if we work on Wall Street! Even if it seems not ‘gender appropriate’ —

YIKES! Can we brave the storm of embarrassment?kittenearsNow, I am NOT saying we have to have “National Cat Ear Wearing Day”

(although that would be FUN)

or that we throw out the idea that first degree murder is definitely WRONG.

I am also NOT suggesting that certain ways to safely pound a hammer, confidently boil water, or strategically drive a car get revised either!

World chaos is not the goal.

What I am suggesting, is to take a look at our pain (or our pleasures) and try to figure out if we are living out a pattern because society, our parents, or our teachers placed it there.

And, one way to get there is to become “conscious” (instead of unconscious – as the definition suggested) of our “conditioning”. We can do this by taking time to breathe, stretch, contemplate, and EVEN HAVE FUN more.

Especially if we can get conscious in the moments

where we feel a triggered ‘rush of negative emotion’.

I invite you to ask yourself as we enter into this fall season: “What do I enjoy?” “Why do I say that?” “Why do I do that?” AND YES “Why do I EAT that?” And if your answer is something like, “I don’t really know” or “That’s how my dad did it”, please go to the next level of thought:

which means attempting a degree of intensity that might feel awkward…

…being silent in your breath. Try a full minute to start. Set the stove timer, close your eyes, sit up straight by elongating your spine, and breathe in and breathe out softly. Hold your attention on the breath.

When the timer goes off, STOP. Now. Open your eyes.

Then, whatever you discover, acknowledge it –

be nice to yourself about it –

be compassionate to YOU.

Love yourself no matter what the discovery may be,

even if no discovery happened today, at all.

And then, after this meditation I like to respond by:

  1. Giving myself permission to smile. After all, I made space for important ‘work’ here.
  2. Looking into the eyes of someone I love. Love is the Great Healer.
  3. Going someplace pretty in nature — or at least imagining a delightful spot: nature relieves my need to be so ‘serious”.

This photo initiates all three responses from my soul: Smile. Love. Delight.

sunflowers bridge 2017

I go “deep” a lot. Yet, I am going “light” more, too. Asking BIG questions of my inner self pulls out the need for this kind of self-compassion.

Ultimately, I am undoing my conditioned habits of mind, discovering who I really am, what I really believe and honoring Pamela.

The residual effect: becoming more compassionate of others.

My hope is to Gift my sophomores at least a comprehensive level of why they behave and act in certain ways. And to feel my compassion as they process it along the way.

In the meantime, I am still going to “google it” when I have a question, have Italian temper tantrum moments, and maybe even point a finger (or two).

However, the laughter and love I offer to myself afterwards will encompass my Being…

And hopefully, if you know me, yours too.

With Blessings and Peace (and a ‘cat eared’ smile),

Pamela Rae

 

 

To ALL Hurricane Rescuers, Responders, Rebuilders: You Are the Eye of the Storm

I had an evil dream on Wednesday night: I witnessed a young African American boy get shot, heartlessly in the back, in the most unsuspecting way. He fell to the ground and lay, helpless on his stomach, face down, and completely still. Although he bled profusely, his heart still pumped strong, sustaining his young potential-filled, innocent life.

After achieving this destruction, the raging, furious killer did not leave the scene. Instead, the killer hovered, trying to ensure that his victim, as well as several other innocent victims on this same scene, were most assuredly deceased. This hovering, relentless murderer had succeeded in stealing the life of all his victims, all except for this one strong child, who lay still, just about to rise, just about to crawl to seek help…

…and the furious killer approaches him again, ready to completely gun him down…

…but then a glimmer of hope appears. It is me. I show up to help him.

In this young man’s bloody gaping wounds, he teeters on being killed head on by this evil force, and when I appear, I appear, NOT as a person, though (remember, this is a dream!), but as a Calm Voice. Not fully as an angel. More of an energy source. A Rescuer.

I whisper in his Ear: “Do not cave in. Stay down. Appear dead. He will leave. Then, rise.”

As I speak this quietly, there is no panic in the survivor. With gratitude, he listens. The destructive force, satisfied, departs. The young man rises, moves to safety, and thankfully survives.

Upon waking, in a state of concern, I decided to process this dream. As, this dream was part of my homework assignment as a Light Writer.

You see, I have been taking a writing course with Martha Beck ( a writer and renowned life coach) called Be the Light, and my assignment was, “after a meditative state (for me it was sleeping and a dream), return to consciousness having received a gift of knowledge.”

My dream was my meditative state.

My “A-HA Moment” was when I became The Rescuer.

The ‘Knowledge Gift’ is:

 as a teacher

I offer a place of refuge, calm, and hope

for my struggling, and often very troubled students.

As a teacher, I am always a Rescuer, a Responder, or a Rebuilder.

Hope is found in my classroom.

That hope is my voice.

That hope is me.

However, Much like the Eye of a Hurricane,

The hope is not a permanent solution.

It’s a RELIEF…

A place to learn, process, and believe that life can and will get better.

And isn’t this true of anyone who comes into our life, offers genuine kindness when we are surrounded by the worst, caught in a tangled mess, that we have fallen victim to?

People who are kind are the EYES of the “Hurricanes of Life”.

They whisper sweet musings, offer a cup of water (or tea with honey), or they may even say something that, many years later, as we lay face down wounded, is whispered back into our memory and saves us.

Or, in the midst of a real hurricane like Harvey or Irma, The EYES may literally be the ones who pick us up from swirling waters and become our heroes, as they lead us to safety. And the ones who show up later to help pick up refuse and rebuild.

So, as the raging Hurricane forces continue their relentless harm, I am sharing with you, my readers, the poem I wrote originally dedicated my students (based on my above dream).

I wrote this poem as a reminder:

together, in the solidarity of helping and learning,

by offering one who is weak our strength,

we can and will overcome all darkness.

I now, on this September 11, 2017, include in the poem’s dedication  ALL literal and metaphorical Hurricane Hope Holders. ALL Rescuers, Responders, Rebuilders of Hurricane Harvey, Irma, and those yet to pass us:

Thank you for being the eyes of kindness, strength and care in such fierce times.

You will not cave in.

You are our Pause of Peace. Our Glimmer of Growth. With you at the helm, we will not only rebuild, we will heal.

Here’s OUR Declaration of HOPE (written as a poem): 

The Eye of the Storm — by Pamela Rae

The storm is descending;

Ocean and earth swirling with a ferocity of wind, water, and waste.

Intensified by gripping fear, biting panic, and bitterest of evil…

How is it that Inspiring Seas and Clouds of Clarity become Devastation Demons?

This is the nature of the Hurricane.

 

Then comes the Eye:

An angel’s voice in the midst of the chaos,

Singing a momentary song of solace,

A refuge from tangled intensity.

The Eye is a slice of what is desired:

Meaning in the most un-meaningful;

Relevancy in the ripping irrelevant;

She is the pause of peace.

 

What is the Eye of the Hurricane?

A sign of hope in the midst of destruction.

The glimmer of growth in gashing, gaping wounds.

The calm voice in recklessness of rage.

 

This is the Eye:

Temporary shelter for all who are truly unsheltered.

Harmlessness in hissing horror.

This is also the Eye:

The center of a hurricane.

A portal the heavens open,

As a singular signal of hope.

Just before the worst crushes down and around.

 

Take warning:

In the presence of the Eye do not rummage through the rubble.

Wait.

Breathe.

Watch.

Learn.

 

Although the Eye speaks of peace,

She warns that life will still go haplessly wrong…

Heed her warning.

 

 

Not a permanent presence, the Eye acknowledges:

Pulverizing brings purging. Then peace.

But first,

Trauma will hunger for Healing,

Homes for Rebuilding,

Communities for Renewing.

 

To some, the Eye intensifies anxiety.

 

Do not fear the Eye.

The Eye is not the ferocity.

Though she stands at the storm’s center,

Here is where her power lies:

The raging storm surrounds her.

Yet, she caves not in.

She prevails in what would seem to crush her,

Because she is the energy source in the darkness,

She transforms the rage into rays.

 

Who is this Eye?

I am this Eye.

Because,

I am your teacher.

I overlook your tragedy,

By creating a celestial calm in the worst of your conditions.

I am this Eye,

By soothing corruption through my whispered words of sanctuary.

I am this Eye.

 

As your teacher,

Let me be the Eye of your Hurricane.

Let me stand at your pain’s center,

Offer you a poetic pairing to match your misfortune,

And tell you a tale of others who have gained glory, gorgeousness through despair.

 

I will not cave in.

 

The storm is touching the edge of this earth.

Yet, I am the Eye who longs to look into your eyes.

From darkness of devastation, we will bring light.

Together we will weave whisperings of hope.

We will be the Eye.

 

I am your teacher.

At the center of our hurricane, as the storm descends,

We will weave whisperings of hope.

As this is the nature of the Eye,

This is the nature of the teacher.

I am the Eye.

Be the Eye.

 

In the days of repair and renewal ahead, may we continue to pray for the deepest of healing caused by all the literal and metaphorical hurricanes in our hurting world.

And I pray that healing, that rebuilding will truly come.

Blessings and Peace,

Pamela Rae