Post #10 – “What do you do?”

(Kevin)

“What do you do?”

 

Since opening the doors to Hawksbill Healing in July of 2018, I have found that the vast majority of my clients were already well versed in the practice of Reiki.  Lately though, that seems to be changing; a change that I find personally very exciting! It seems that more and more people are finding their way to my humble little practice asking me questions like, “What do you do?”  A simple enough question it would seem, but I often stumble a bit when put on the spot. So, I thought maybe I could try to answer it here.

Have you ever bumped your elbow, banged your knee, or whacked your head on something?  Besides muttering an expletive, what is your reflexive reaction? Most of us will find that we bring our hands to wherever we just hurt.  The same is true of a parent when their toddler inevitably comes crying with the day’s latest “owie.” But, why?

The answer can be found in the basic principle of Reiki:  we are all energetic beings. Put simply, a part from our flesh and bones, we also consist of energy.  So the foundational truth of Reiki is actually scientific fact, not some hippie, spiritual, voodoo magical fantasy.  We have energy within us and all around us. Reiki holds that there is healing power in that energy; that we can learn to channel it and use it to awaken the internal power to heal that resides in each and every one of us.

As a practitioner, I simply open myself up as a conduit for the universe to pass energy on to my client.  My client’s only job is to lay comfortably and be open, the Reiki energy does the rest. The result of the exchange?  Well, that can be described as magical.  I have had so many instances of “knowing” that someone was hurting and where my hands were needed to focus the energy and the experiences that my clients have reported have been amazing.

Before my training to become a practitioner, I went through a progression of acceptance with the idea of Reiki.  See, I am a healthy skeptic of anything that seems magical or fantasy based. I had great debates about all faiths in college as a religious studies minor and I have proudly carried my tendency to doubt into adulthood.  The term and concept of Reiki was first introduced to me in my mid-twenties. At that time, I was hungry to learn anything spiritual in nature that was a break from the Judeo Christian tradition I had been raised in and I was immersing myself in Buddhist principles.  I can see, now, how Reiki was a natural extension, but at that time it sounded too cooky. I am just supposed to lay there and something supernatural happens? I don’t think so!

Reiki and I didn’t cross paths again for another twenty years or so until my wife was in hospice and a volunteer offered to perform it for her.  Seeing no harm, Kristin agreed. Her mom, sister, and myself all stayed in the room and had a good laugh afterward: “Did you feel the energy Kristin?”  Yes, it still seemed too weird to me.

Unbeknownst to me, through my laughing and cracking jokes, I was also becoming more open to the idea.  Have you ever heard a word for the first time and then you hear it multiple times over the next few days?  That’s how it was for me and Reiki from that point on. It just kept showing up in my life until I finally acquiesced and made an appointment with a practitioner.

By the time I gave in, I was deep into grieving the loss of Kristin.  The pain I was feeling was palpable and I was struggling to release it.  Laying on that table as the practitioner gently moved her hands from my head to my chest, and on to my other chakras, I found a release.  I cried long and hard in a way that I knew I needed to but had been struggling to achieve.

Today, I continue to receive Reiki as well as provide to provide it, and while my emotional releases are not nearly as dramatic, it still helps me to achieve a state of healing and a feeling of balance that nothing else ever does.

As I conclude this blog I am eager to read Jen’s response.  I am so curious to know what her experiences have been like.  I am also very interested to hear from our readers. I would love to hear any testimonials that people feel comfortable leaving in the comments section, or to answer any questions that people may have.  Until the next blog…namaste.

(Jen)

My first reiki experience occured over twenty years ago in Madbury NH. I’m trying to remember how I first found out about reiki. My initial introduction to what used to be termed New Age spirituality was when I was in my early teens. My sister had given me the book, The Way of the Peaceful Warrior.  I grew up working in Pepperell Cove and as a young girl I worked with someone who began to experience a spiritual awakening and would share with us, often as we held back giggles or would raise an eyebrow with suspicion. Then as time passed and each of us witnessed certain happenings or received messages from loved ones passed, a certain sense of truth and acceptance began to take seed within.When  I decided to have reflexology done, I was nervous and even hesitant. Like Kevin, I remembered certain scenes from movies, conjured up visions of “voodoo” in my mind, and allowed myself to poke fun at the idea of it all. When I arrived at her home, the mother of a friend of mine, I was immediately put at ease and relaxed into a warm and charming home filled with beauty and kindness. As she worked on my feet  she educated me about the specific pressure points she was working with and why. She explained the correlation between the points on my feet and the organs of my body and how the energy would be affected and what she was working to relieve, activate, or calm down.

She later became my teacher when I took Reiki level 1. I experienced numerous reiki sessions with her as a client over the span of a few years. It was a turbulent time in my life and somehow the connection I had fostered with her and the energy work I received always seemed a bridge through the darkness to the next day of light in my world. There was something about her voice and demeanor that comforted me in a time of isolation and wanting to disconnect from the world after my father had taken his own life and I was going through a divorce in my early twenties. I was lost, gasping for breath, yet the rest of the world might barely notice as I kept working, taking care of my young child, and presenting a strong and capable facade.

I took a long hiatus from reiki once change came fast and furious as I was turned in a different direction. I never fully let go of it and would use my limited knowledge of healing with energy and lay quietly in meditation when I was alone or the kids had fallen asleep. It was always a way for me to regain mental and emotional composure and somehow allowing myself time and space to be in my body and to just be still was enough when during the daylight hours I was digging myself out of holes life seemed to make, or if I’m honest dug by the choices I had made. I came back to reiki four years ago when by chance I connected with a local practitioner and medium who has since become a dear friend. A an old friend of mine had also begun practicing reiki and I reconnected with her at just about the same time. They both reminded me of the incredible way it seemed to balance my emotions and bring my world back into focus.  One of them led me to Kevin.

I have had two sessions with Kevin. Energy work, like people have very unique personalities. It’s a strange thing to try to explain, although I think Kevin hit the nail on the head. It’s a quiet sense of ease one receives just like when a child is comforted by a parent. It’s often hands free, yet you can feel the sensation of the energy moving. The best that I can describe it is to remember in Karate Kid when Mr. Miyagi claps his hands and then rubs them together. Try doing that and then holding your hands slightly apart, palms facing one another. If you move your hands slowly back and forth you might feel the energy, the heat between them. Sometimes I do, sometimes I don’t.

Science has proven we are all made up of energy. Quantum physics is moving forward in leaps and bounds explaining the unexplainable. It’s connecting the dots between ancient medicines and healings to today’s practices and science. Reiki is being practiced all over our country, all over the world. It has become mainstream and accepted by most. For many it has become another tool in the tool box for self preservation and realization, for others there is still a veil of mysticism that keeps it at an arm’s length. It’s really about you and your comfort zone and listening to your inner voice and doing a good ole fashioned gut check. If you’re ready, you’re ready. If not? Then the world is an incredible cacophony of choice and consideration. We are lucky to be part of it.



  • Post #9 – Chasing the Storm Clouds Away

    Last night was one of the those delicious moments in life when you end up having dinner with friends in a place you love and it was never on your radar to begin with. As we stood on the sidelines in Saco watching our girls play soccer, grey clouds rolled in, the winds stirred up, and raindrops fell from the sky. We braced ourselves for a downpour but it never came, just lite sprinkles. The weather has started to turn and sixty degrees can suddenly drop into the high forties. Our bones were chilled, our cheeks rosie, and our toes becoming numb. The change in weather opened us up for a little midweek adventure. We ended up taking our girls out to dinner in Kennebunkport, yes on a school night.

    One of the moms said that she had read something that she thought I would love. I can’t remember the wording exactly and I’m pretty sure it was a quote from Brenèe Brown, but “don’t quote me.” It was something about not being shy saying no to things you don’t want so that you’ll be able to say yes to the things you do. When she shared it with me I smiled and nodded my head yes. “I love that.” I agreed that it was a good thing for me to hear. Today after falling asleep somewhere after three in the morning and waking up out of a dead sleep after eight, I think I needed to hear what she said. I not only needed to hear it, I need to now believe it and act on it.

    How do we get to that place in life where work equals play, passion is our motivation, and our intuition leads us to where we most belong? Throughout my life I’ve never been shy of taking risks, jumping out of my comfort zone, and willing to start a new venture or change careers. I seem to embrace change, the new energy it brings where anything is possible and it’s only our own imagination that limits our choices of what to do next. Inevitably I’ve always arrived at the place where the dark storm clouds roll in, I’m challenged beyond my perceived abilities and more times than not I throw in the towel before I’ve realized my dream or seen a project or goal all the way through. This is something I like to refer to as self sabotaging. It’s something that I’m really good at. No doubt storm clouds will roll in, they always do. I just have a way of letting them blow me off course. When my friend shared the idea that saying no to others can lead you to the things you want most out of life, something clicked.

    We all have that one thing that seems to cheer us up when we make time for it. Some of us might haven’t even tried it yet but there is something inside that assures us that it would fit perfectly if we did. Yet a lot of us continue to hold ourselves back, talk ourselves into a life profession, habit or routine that makes us miserable and leave us feeling unfulfilled. We do so in the name of financial security or being an adult. We have become accustomed to rationalizing the needs of ourselves and family to the point of putting ourselves in debt or leveraging our free time to where it no longer exists. I’ve just come off of three years of working seven days a week at multiple jobs and having virtually no time for myself or worse my family.

    Then I woke up one morning feeling exhausted, cranky, disenfranchised, and feeling like I was doing what everybody else needed. So I began to say no. Quietly at first, almost a whisper. I was like a toddler trying on my independence for size and not really sure how others around me would respond. Then I grew louder and bolder and pretty soon free time started showing up in my life. I woke up one morning and said hello to my home, after school practice pickups, and events for Anna I had missed the previous years when I was working weekends. This past Sunday Kyle and I jumped into the car for the first time in ages and found ourselves exploring, one of our favorite things to do together. Is my life perfect? No, but it’s better. I have time to breathe and experience life. There is a gift in the moments when we find ourselves able to sit and just consider life around us and  wonder what we would keep the same or perhaps we’d like to change. The gift is a sense of ease and lightness that begins to settle as we realize the sky hasn’t dropped, and the world hasn’t stopped turning. I’m still very much here and now seem to be finding a little bit more joy and enthusiasm in my day as it unfolds. I’ve been able to reconnect with old friends, make new ones, and be present for the girls and Kyle. It feels good and I’m looking forward to being able to say yes to the things that make me excited about being alive and here on this planet we call Earth.

    (Kevin)

    Saying no to things you don’t want, so that you are free and available to say yes to the things you do?  Huh? I have two thoughts that I am not sure are connected or not.

    First, My life is such that I don’t have nearly the demands on my time that most people do.  My job is one where I can mostly work from home and I can generally make my own schedule. I have no kids, only four dogs, and a very, very small social circle.  I can literally go days, if I choose, without any meaningful human contact. But, I once had a very different lifestyle. One where there was a spouse and stepchildren and a 9-5 career.  My life’s journey has taken me far away from that now, both by choice and circumstance. I can’t say that I miss it. I love the freedom I have to choose what I want to say yes to. Which brings me to my second thought.  What do I want to say yes to?

    There is my struggle.  Since my wife passed, I am not sure what it is I want anymore.  I had a long conversation with a friend about this recently. I am not sure that we resolved anything, but it did cause me to pause and reflect.  I don’t ever recall another time in my life when I couldn’t answer that for myself. I always had my idea about the next job I wanted, the next home improvement project, the next toy to buy, the next vacation.  My list was long and comprehensive of my “wants.” But, none of those will bring Kristin back and ultimately, none of those things mattered to her and I while we faced her cancer.

    So, what do I want to say yes to?  Anything that makes me feel light and brings me joy.  All of the aforementioned “wants” at times may have brought me a fleeting feeling of happiness, but I can’t say that any of them ever brought me joy.  Loving Kristin and feeling her love for me, was the single greatest source of joy I have ever felt. It forever changed my calculus. I feel as though living, and dying a little, with Kristin has afforded me a healthier perspective on life than I have ever had before.  I now understand what truly fills my heart and what I was using as mere substitutes before. I think when I figure out my answer to the question, “What do I want to say yes to?” it will be one of experiences and connections. I think I too would have chosen a rainy soccer game and a dinner with friends, even on a school night.

     



  • Post #8 – Selfcare

    (Kevin)

    In my last blog, I wrote about the need for balance in life.  To quote, “Light and dark are two sides of the same coin. You can’t have one without the other.”  While it is true that since losing Kristin, I have spent a disproportionate amount of time in the dark.  It is equally as true that it has been without exception the most painful experience I have ever endured and that there have been many dark days, but there is light too, so much light!

    Light was perhaps Kristin’s greatest gift to me.  A light that comes from the joy of complete, unconditional love shared between two human beings.  Through years of triumphs and tribulations, my life guided me to Kristin at the most perfect time in both of our lives.  We loved without regard, without restraint, and with conviction.

    Kristin didn’t just love me though, she taught me about love.  She taught me how real love, the purest and most enduring love, radiates from the inside, out.  You see, Kristin taught me how to channel all those life lessons and personal growth into a self-love that had always eluded me.  They say that love is not a noun, but a verb, it is an action word. So too must self-love; it follows then that the active expression of self-love must be self-care.

    What are you doing to love yourself right now?  What are you doing to take care of yourself right now?  We all know it’s important, we all know that wells run dry if they aren’t replenished, yet, far too often, when we need our own love and care the most, we neglect it.

    I want to thank each and every person who reads this blog, because you help me in my self-care.  Writing is a perhaps the single greatest element of me taking care of myself and without your readership, I’m not sure that I would always feel motivated to sit down in front of my keyboard.  I am a talker by nature, so writing is a way for me to talk through life’s ups and downs and eventually arrive at some kind of good place.

    The other component of my self-care is meditation.  That is a pretty recent development for me, but stopping, breathing, and just being quiet and listening has proven to be invaluable.  Maybe it just comes back to the principle of balance again? I spend so much time talking and writing, maybe in order to feel balanced I require quiet time where I shut up and just listen?

    Both the writing and meditation help me to keep my inner life in good health and in balance, but I can easily neglect my physical self.  For a stretch of time in my life I turned myself into a runner, then a weekend warrior triathlete, but that took a toll on my back, knees, and every other joint I have.  Swimming though? That is the last magical pillar of my trifecta of self-care. The pool is a place where I can exercise my body, my cardiovascular system, and not be riddled with pain afterward.

    When I can consistently engage in all three of those activities, life hums along pretty good.  It’s not that if I meditate, swim, and write everyday the dark days won’t come. Nope, those are just part of the deal as human beings.  But, by actively engaging in self-love I am better prepared to weather them.

    What do you do Jen?  How do you show yourself love and appreciation for the magically unique individual that you are?  I wonder what our readers do?

    (Jen)

    “If you don’t value yourself, how do you expect others to?” If I have an achilles heal, then I have hundreds. Self love, value of oneself just happens to be one of them.

    I remember standing at home plate, my wooden bat raised behind my head, my elbows up in the air. I looked over at the bleachers beneath the large shady tree and recognized faces, judgement, and disapproval. I looked down at the dust covering the white pentagon and my grey sweatpants loose around my ankles and simply waited for the next pitch to come.

    I knew that I would most likely get on a base. I knew that it would be a walk or a ground ball that happened it’s way through the shortstop’s legs as they looked over at third base. I knew that I could strike out if I reached too far and swung too hard trying to hit the stars, a place beyond my reach. So inevitably, I listened to myself and bet on getting on first. I patiently waited as pitchers took their time finding their stride warming up on me, the lead off batter. I was young, but I knew getting on base was just enough.

    At an early age I learned and believed that I was just enough. I was just enough to make the team, find myself in the advanced classes, and get invited to the sleepovers on the weekend. I knew that I wasn’t the mvp, the valedictorian, or even close to being the most popular but just enough felt okay to me growing up. It kept me in the thick of things without having to reveal too much of who I was or worse draw too much attention to who I should’ve been. Just as I waited for bad pitches to be thrown, I waited for people to value my effort, my work, and my being in order to decide where I fit best. I managed my way through life waiting to see how much of my light I should shine in each and every situation depending on who I was with and where I was. I allowed others to determine my place and what role I would play. I spent my time figuring out what others wanted and needed instead of allowing myself the space to be who I was and wanted most to be.

    Kevin, always cutting straight to the chase, asked me above what do I do to self nurture, self love. He of course assumes that I love myself and consciously choose to do things that will show myself love and appreciation. When I read his question I drew in a huge breath and held it, held on while I searched for an answer that would seem uplifting and inspiring to others reading this post. Nothing came at first. I exhaled and took in another breath as I encircled my thoughts and tried to connect to my feelings but I felt empty. The vast wasteland of self doubt, and self loathing left over from my childhood begged to be called on. It reared its ugly head in the most subtle way letting me know I still hadn’t fully let it go.

    What do I do to nurture and love myself? Maybe if I ask the question here to you and let my fingers feel the tapping sensation of the words as they strike the keyboard, the answer will seem apparent. I write. I write when I feel crummy, when I feel calm, when I am uncertain, and I write when I am inspired. Writing is my self love. YES! It is something I have done since I can remember. What else? What else do I do to show myself that I am worth it? I read. I pile books on my nightstand and give myself hours upon hours of sitting with myself and providing my mind and heart with endless journeys to places and thoughts not easily found here. I give myself time and space to wonder what if. I give myself the opportunity to wonder what would happen if I did swing hard and far enough to hit the ball out of the park. I allow my mind to create what that might actually look like and then I sit with the image and believe that I’ve already done it.

    I don’t run, walk, swim, or bike. Once in a long while you’ll find me on the beach, in the woods, or digging in the dirt but not often enough to say it’s something I do. Maybe Kevin’s right, maybe when you’re not loving yourself the darkness seems more formidable and tenacious and harder to take. Maybe if I were to simply choose to be and do the things that I love, life would be filled with a simple sense of ease and consistency. Maybe if I choose each and every day to do the things, be the person that most resonates with who I am and not with who happens along,  I will shine a little brighter and be a little more authentically me.

    I am happy and peaceful for the most part. I have found a place in life that feels comfortable and kind but in my heart of hearts I know that I am only getting started. In some way I am still looking for that validation from others to say, “Go” take your mark, get set, and Go! It’s this part of me that continues to wait, the young child in me asking for permission to create my own reality, that holds me back most from being in the brightest light each and every day. Or, maybe just maybe, all of the experiences I’ve had, emotions I’ve felt, darkness I’ve weathered has really just provided me with a knowing of what it is in life I don’t want and provided the knowledge that there is a part of me that is waiting for its day in the sun.

    If I have learned anything in this life I call my own it is the knowing that there is always something else up ahead of us. We are never done creating experiences, meeting new people, growing into the next better version of ourselves, or feeling the best possible emotions after enduring the most challenging tragedies. Each morning when our mind first speaks, our bodies stir, and our eyes wait to open we are given an incredible opportunity to choose how we want to start the day. Before we stir, roll over, and place our feet on the floor, we have the ability to choose how we intend to make our way through the day. It’s our choice and that’s incredibly powerful to acknowledge and to fully understand. Most days I will choose to wait for the pitch, the right pitch to ensure I will get on base. But then there will be those mornings that something inside of me stirs and feels just a little bit different. On those days, I will be ready to swing hard and far just to see what might happen.


     



  • Post #7 – The Darkness

    Author Jen Parker(Jen)

    I remember someone once said to me, “I don’t know how you do it. How can you stay so calm and have so much patience?”

    I smiled and changed the subject. Darkness is a funny thing. Once you’ve been exposed to it for a prolonged period of time, you simply adjust. You adjust to the silence, the unpredictable screams, and the tempest that comes on in an instant and blows off when least expected. When you grow up in darkness, it is your familiar. You know how to find comfort amidst its shards and volatility. The heaviness of its air becomes your blanket, your comfort if you will.

    It’s all well and good until that one unforgettable day when you get a glimpse of the light. Normal shows up on your doorstep and knocks, begging to come in. At first you breathe in deep. It is a whiff of fresh air, exhilarating and motivating. Then after a bit of time it becomes your unknown and you find yourself waiting for your normal to return, for the darkness to fall again and fill your life with all that is familiar.

    These past few weeks have been surprisingly challenging for me. There has been a raw gnawing at my bones, begging me to sink between the sheets and hibernate for a  while. I feel as though there have been weights attached to my limbs, making my daily schedule challenging and body set at a constant state of ready and alert. My mind spins in circles, searching for a reason why. Life is calm, settled, and filled with predictable love. Why then would my body be reacting in such a tumultuous way?

    I bumped into a friend this evening at the local market. We share one of life’s horrors in common. I blurted out that I’ve been off and she began listing off community, national triggers. I’ve never taken the time to go beyond myself. My ego can be strong when my spirit is week. I felt relieved in a way. We’re just past 9/11, our community is marking the one year anniversary of some major losses, and our country feels incredibly divided. How could I feel certain, secure in my stable home, when there is so much a foot kicking me into familiar territory of division, hate, grief, and uncertainty?

    CompassionThen Kevin sent me a meme after I messaged him saying, “having a counterpart who has survived the same life trauma’s is reassuring in a strange sorta way.” When I read the quote, I let it sink in and then smiled silently to myself. Having to put on a face, to be stronger than you feel, is exhausting. Having to fake it till you make it, leaves you wondering if you are a poser and often all the second guessing ends up with your insides tied up in knots. Trying to explain your reactions to certain life situations feels very much like you’re embracing the role of victim, even to the person you love more than the entire world itself.

    When you have the opportunity to connect with others who have traveled similar paths as yours, experienced the darkness in the way in which you have, there is a moment that makes space. It’s in this moment you find solace and knowledge that regardless of how many times you thought you were going crazy, you really are just finding your way into the light out of the darkness. Connections in life are invaluable and build bridges out of despair into joy. Look for these connections and embrace building the bridges.

    Kevin St Onge(Kevin)

    “Only when we know our own darkness well, can we be present with the darkness of others.” This is a portion of the quote that I sent to Jen last week. I sent it in response to her asking if perhaps we should be developing a goal for our blogging adventure, and if so, what would that be? Ironically, it is the very same question that I had put to me recently about another writing project of mine. You see, good writing should have a point. A writer should be able to easily articulate why someone would want to read your work. Since Jen and I sort of stumbled on to whatever it is we are doing here, we didn’t really spend anytime thinking about why we were writing. But through our process, our writing seems to have revealed the “why” for us.

    We are human beings. And as divided as our country is, as many screwed up things that fill our daily news feeds, the human condition is universal. We all experience darkness in our lives. We have all been touched by sadness and pain. We have all struggled. And, we all asked ourselves, why?

    So, I sent Jen that quote because I think our goal in blogging is to share our individual experiences with the human condition. To write with an implicit wish that others may find solace, comfort, and hope when they may find themselves in one of those dark places; to know that they are not alone. There are many others who have been there before and have found their way out. In fact, there are many who will go into the darkness with you; they will sit with you, hold your hand, and stay in the dark for as long as it takes for you to make peace with it.

    Light and dark are just two sides of the same coin. You can’t have one without the other. Every ancient civilization not only understood this, but celebrated it. It is only in our modern, western society that we somehow think that we should be exempt from the dark and live only in the light. The result is over diagnosing, over prescribing, addictions, and disorders. The fact that others have been there is little comfort though when the darkness falls and it completely and totally engulfs you. Darkness is disorienting, isolating, and often, panic inducing.

    I learned how to surf almost 10 years ago. It was one of those “bucket list” things for me and I was fortunate to have made friends with some guys I was teaching with who were avid groms. I honed my skills from May to August on the “ferocious” surf of coastal New England. Feeling like I was now an accomplished and seasoned surfer, I ventured out into the break with them during a tropical storm that had pushed up the coast in early September. Having successfully paddled out through the break, I was soon staring down the face of the largest wave I had ever seen this up close and personal. Needless to say, I did not survive the drop with my feet still on my board. I wiped out hard and I was in the “wash” cycle of the wave. At first, I felt panic. “I am going to drown,” my thoughts screamed! I wasn’t even sure which way was up. I just kept getting spun around and around, tossed, tumbled, completely disoriented, and running out of air. Not dissimilar to the darkness.

    But then, somehow, I gained control of my thoughts just as they were running away from me. The prevailing cognition being, “slow down.” I told myself, “you’re ok.” As my mind began to quiet, even more encouraging words began to form: “You’re a strong swimmer, you’re smart, relax and think.” Panic makes it very hard, if not impossible, for us to think rationally and problem solve our way through the difficulty: the darkness. In relaxing my mind, my body had no choice but to follow suit. A relaxed body slows the heart rate which in turn utilizes less oxygen. In all of this calmness I had cultivated, it occurred to me that I still had a massive stick leashed to my left ankle. And then…I felt it. My surfboard had floated toward the surface and was tugging on my leg, showing me which way was up.

    So you see, if we can learn to cultivate our minds to remain calm in the midst of a storm, or when our darkness descends, we can find our way out. We can find our way back to the light either through serendipity, the help of others, or on our own accord.



  • Post #6 – Living in the Struggle

    Kevin St Onge(Kevin)

    Hello friends, hello Jen. It is my turn to initiate our writing and I am struggling. It is not the infamous “writer’s block.” No, I have plenty to say, too much actually. You see, I have had a bumpy week emotionally. I feel like whatever is going to come out in this latest blog entry is going to meander a bit, but, hopefully, eventually arrive somewhere of substance. Here it goes…

    Ever have a crisis of faith? Whatever your particular faith is. Whatever truths you hold close in your heart. Whatever it is that gives your life purpose and meaning. Ever lose faith in that?

    I think that I had one this week. In order to protect those in my life that I love and care about, I am not going to share the particulars of my life’s events right now. Suffice to say that in the last week or so, I have seen a meaningful friendship end, had a close family member drift away and disappoint me, experienced setbacks in business that have caused me once again to question what am I really supposed to be doing with my life, and someone very dear to me faces uncertainty in a potentially very serious health matter.

    I am just in one of those places where it feels like everything is going to shit. Where it feels like I just can’t catch a break and get on a roll. When I get feeling like this, I ask out loud to any god, or higher power, or whomever will listen: “What the fuck”!!!??? I truly want to give up or, at least stay safely tucked in bed with the blankets pulled tightly down over my head.

    Over the last year and more, since Kristin died, I have been engaged in an epic battle to get up off my knees and embrace this odyssey of self-discovery and growth; trying to figure out who I am without her and what I am meant to be doing with the rest of my life. I have tried to not feel the victim, as I have written about before. I have tried hard to expect that love and happiness are meant for me and are on their way. When they start to arrive, I have try even harder to accept that I am worthy to have them in my life.

    faithI have placed my faith in my power as a spiritual being who, as we all are, is connected to all of the universe’s infinite energy. I truly believe that not only are we solely responsible for the joy, or lack thereof, that we have in our lives, but we possess the power to create it. Our ultimate happiness is not out there somewhere, it resides within each of us. I have come to really believe that all I need to do is to live my life with integrity, pure intentions, in alignment with my higher-self, and trusting that my life’s journey will lead me to the best possible places and outcomes. But, when your life’s experiences do not seem to be reflecting that ideal, it gets awful hard to maintain such a rosey spiritual perspective.

    I can recall with crisp precision the crisis of faith moment I had when Kristin was sick. I was talking, more like yelling, to whomever, or whatever, it is we talk to in those moments. I said, “If you want me to believe in you then heal her”! That, of course, did not happen and yet somehow I didn’t lose my faith, but rather, I have been transformed into a more spiritual, faith based person. It is as if my pain has been the fire in the forge, and I the stubborn, unbending, obstinate chunk of steel that has been smithed into a far more useful tool. (Yes, I just called myself a tool.)

    So, where does all this spiritual growth leave me when when life gets hard and I’m doubting the very foundation upon which I am trying to rebuild my life? Well, I freak out! I mean really lose my shit for a minute, or longer, and I write something like this in my journal to Kristin:

    You know what? You were right! This IS it! You live and die, and that’s it! There isn’t more! You’re fucking dead! You’re gone! Your spirit didn’t live on, there is no point to any of this!

    We just make all this shit up in our heads because for most of us, life sucks so bad that we need to believe that enduring the suck will get us somewhere. For others, we just can’t fucking comprehend how insignificant our lives actually are and we need to believe that there is more. We need to believe that “love conquers all.” When? Show me! Show me when love has ever conquered. It doesn’t. Greed, self-centeredness, anger, and hate, that’s what conquers all.

    You’re fucking dead! You aren’t with me, you don’t “watch over me” you’re fucking gone! Someday, I will be too. People might shed a tear, but then they have to move on, they can’t linger too long or else they will come face to face with their own mortality and that scares the ever loving shit out of them.

    So, we cling to our Neighborhood of Make-Believe. An elaborate fantasy world where no one really dies, our energy lives on, we are in another dimension. Fuck that!

    We develop further fantasies about how we can be in charge of our own happiness through the power of intention. Well, my intention was for you to not die; how did that work out?

    All of this New Age Bullshit is just that, bullshit! It makes you weak so that life’s inevitable hurts just sting all the more. Fuck that!

    We demonize the “I got mine” attitude in our society, but that’s because most of us aren’t strong enough to go make it happen; it’s like spiritual Darwinism.

    I have swallowed people hurting me and letting me down for long enough! Fuck them, and fuck this shit! They are weak mother fuckers! Not me, I am going to embrace my anger and use it’s strength to go get mine!

    I love you Baby, but you’re dead. Just like you believed. I tried to convince you otherwise, but you were always smarter than me. This is it, this is all we get. So fuck it! Fuck everybody! Life wants me to be angry and be an asshole, you got it!

    Well! That was something, wasn’t it? I really hesitated to share it but my goal for myself, and this blog, is to be real and authentic. That journal entry is as real as it gets. My pain, and crisis of faith, put into words.

    I have friends whom have many different talents and creative outlets, I wish I could play an instrument and write a song, or maybe paint or draw a picture, but those aren’t where my talents are, and they don’t serve me well as an outlet. Writing does. I seem to be able to tap into the rawness and complexity of my emotions and through sharing my words, I’m told that people are touched and find value in reading them. And so, I offer you this blog.

    Writing helps me to purge myself of the flood of negative, angry, hopeless, despairing feelings that build up when life starts to turn to shit. Writing helps me return to my center, regain my balance, and embrace my faith in the power of love and all that is good.

    Despite my earlier outburst, I don’t believe that it is fake and I don’t think that I blindly believe. I feel the truth of it, that a divine white light burns in each of us. We are all connected if only we would allow ourselves to be.

    I called this a crisis of faith, but what is faith if we only believe it and trust it when life is great? There is a tremendously motivating video by Inky Johnson making its rounds on social media. Inky was a star college football player who suffered a career ending injury just 8 games before he would have been drafted into the NFL. In the video talks about commitment, I believe that one could easily substitute the word “faith” and his message would still ring loud and true: “Commitment is staying true to what you said you were gonna do long after the mood that you have set it in has left. You see, people think commitment is saying yes, I’ll do it on days when it feels good.” If faith is to be the bedrock of our lives, if I am going to build a new and improved version of Kevin on set of beliefs, then I have to trust them in my darkest hours.

    So, why must we struggle? Why is there so much hurt? Why is life just so hard sometimes? I know for me, it’s because I’m learning, healing, and growing. The intensity of the pain, the degree of difficulty, the level of challenge, is always in direct proportion to the lesson, the wound, or the skill I am acquiring.

    How do I know all this is real and true? Because my love for a woman endures. I am as in love with her, if not more, as the day we said our last goodbyes. So you see, love does indeed conquer all because it endures.

    Crisis over. What’s next life? I’m ready!

    Author Jen Parker(Jen)

    I found a small little book years ago when I was in the midst of one of many personal crisis. I was in a chaotic downward spiral, wearing an anchor of uncertainty, shame, and guilt. The book was so small that it could rest on my hand with its edges barely moving past the outline of my palm and fingers. Its vibrant colored hard cover and simple title made me pause. The Four Agreements by don Miguel Ruiz presented itself to me in a time I needed it most. I picked it up and made my way to the cashier. I hadn’t even looked inside to see what it was about.

    I’ve lived my life in a sea of apologies. With a strong sense of self buried under years of people pleasing, and unwillingly starting off life in the role as a child victim. I’ve spent most of my time walking a tightrope of activism for change and smoothing of feathers. There were years that would go by when I would fall silent, finding it much easier and calmer to sail through if I didn’t stir up the waters around me when something just didn’t feel right or add up. Inevitably against my own better judgement, my gut would win out and I would act impulsively. I would find myself speaking out against something that wasn’t recognizing all the participants, or worse keeping some out of the game. These moments found me bringing my hands up to cover my mouth, wide eyed and frustrated that I couldn’t keep my own voice down, I felt vulnerable and sympathetic to those I may have opposed or worse offended. This is my achilles heel, the incessant need to apologize and smooth over words or actions taken in favor of ideologies I very much believe in as my own truth.

    It was one of those times that I found it most difficult to just simply float along that I turned the key in my new front door, carried the small book up the stairs to our living room and collapsed on our couch. It had only been a month or so since I had left my home, having made a major declaration that I was no longer going to take part in a loveless marriage and was ending what most likely should have never been started. I pulled the small book from the bag and sunk into the corner of the sectional. The book was divided into four easy to read chapters. There was a brief bio about the book and author, explaining his journey and how he came to write The Four Agreements. I felt my body relax, my wrinkled brow ease as I allowed myself to breathe and somewhere deep inside know that everything was okay.

    Here is the magical little book in a nutshell:
    1. Be Impeccable With Your Words.

    Speak with integrity.
    Say only what you mean.
    Avoid using the word to speak against yourself or to gossip about others.
    Use the power of your word in the direction of truth and love.

    2. Don’t Take Anything Too Personally.

    Nothing others do is because of you.
    What others say and do is a projection of their own dream.

    3. Don’t Make Assumptions.

    Find the courage to ask questions and to express what you really want.
    Communicate with others as clearly as you can to avoid misunderstandings, sadness, and drama.
    With just this one agreement, you can completely transform your life.

    4. Always Do Your Best.

    Your best changes from moment to moment.
    Your best is different when you are healthy as opposed to when you are sick.
    Simply do your best in any moment to avoid self-judgement, self-abuse, and regret.

    The book offers a logical explanation of why each of these agreements will exert a positive force unto your life and help get you to a place of balance and ease. Having returned to it many times over the past ten years, I realize that one of the most important attributes each of us may possess is compassion for ourselves and others. Compassion brings patience, kindness, and understanding. It gives us space to make mistakes and allow others to do the same. Compassion knows that we are human and will make mistakes, it holds our hands when we are loneliest, it lifts our spirits when we feel downtrodden, and it melts our hearts when we see adversaries suffering and allows us to be multidimensional.

    I am human. I make mistakes, some days a lot. Just like you, I feel. I feel joy, sadness, love, and fear. I am trying to do my best in each and every moment but some days I come off as a hot mess and I feel as though I’ve washed ashore without hopes of being rescued. When Kevin so eloquently shared his moment of feeling as though he had lost faith, I could only nod my head and agree with every emotion he allowed to pour out onto his keyboard. We all live in the struggle of life but without the struggle we wouldn’t know happiness. Compassion for ourselves and others is what allows us to wake up each new day and start over, hit the reset button and be on our way to self discovery of what truly makes us happy and allows us to be fully present in the moment.

    There are days that my faith is stronger than myself and then there are days that I question if all of this love, compassion, and kindness is just another line that we feed ourselves to feel better. I choose to have faith in love not fear, but if I can’t and fall into fear, I allow myself a second, third, and fourth do-over.

    Do I lose faith like Kevin? Yes. I would add to his incredibly authentic voice that for me, it’s never really that far from where I am, I just need to reposition myself back in the sunlight sailing on waters I choose, and headed for places I want to be.



  • Post #4 – Self Worth

    Kevin St Onge

    (Kevin)

    Themes of self-worth and self-confidence seem to be popping up all around me lately, both in my life and in the lives of those I care about.  I have come to wonder if the first doesn’t feed the second. How can we expect self-confidence if we don’t feel worthy.

     

    Last week, I met someone who is reading these blogs.  Initially, it caught me off guard. I suppose I thought that aside from my family and a few close friends, no one would be interested in reading my pontifications about life.  Who the hell am I to have anything important to say?

     

    Well, apparently there is at least one person out there and she graciously complimented me on our blog and encouraged me to keep writing.  I didn’t take the compliment very well, I kind of deflected it. It’s not because I’m humble; in fact I can be quite impressed with myself at times.  No, I didn’t take the compliment well because I didn’t feel worthy of it: that’s different than being humble.

     

    I have always struggled with self-worth.  If you know me, or have known me in the past, you might not guess that.  My “mask” is pretty convincing. You see, I have a big personality that I can wield to great effect when I want to.  I am one of those people that can walk into a room full of strangers and own it. I can project confidence, and in earlier versions of myself cockiness and arrogance.  As I have grown and matured a bit that has morphed into an ability to engender feelings of interpersonal connection with people. But yet, as open and as vulnerable as I can appear, that public face belies the hidden inner truth:  I struggle with poor self-image and truly feeling connected to others.

     

    I think that I have come to use my vulnerability, and now maybe this blog, as a shield to protect myself.  I “out vulnerable” people and it keeps everyone at a safe distance. It’s like an emotional game of chicken, most people will only want to go so deep before they will pull back, so I just have to be willing to outlast them and I’m safe.  (Ya, I’m not sure what happens if someone ever calls my bluff.) You see, I only let you in so far, it may feel like I have let you deep inside, but you are really only seeing what I feel safe enough to let you see, if I let you get too close, you might wander into my truly vulnerable places, into the authentic depths of my being where I doubt everything, where I have no confidence, where I keep every hurt, every embarrassing moment, and every rejection locked safely away.  There have only been a few select individuals in my life who have been given access to this treasure room, and fewer still who I have open that box for.

    self worth

    I want to though, I want to take someone there and show them.  You see, I brought someone there once and I showed her every artifact and every keepsake.  It was magical! She was unrushed and unconditional in the loving care with which she walked down memory lane with me.  Like a proud mother who is overjoyed to see her child’s distorted Play-Doh coffee mug or the imperfect watercolor. Kristin didn’t see the flaws in my momentos, she saw them as a splendid mosaic of my life:  what made me, me. She taught me how to see myself and the world through that lens.

     

    I remember talking with my Dad about this once and he said, “She helped you to see something we all saw, but you never could.”  It’s true, the love with which Kristin would look at me disarmed me. It melted away my defenses and my mask. I used to think, “If this incredible woman loves you like that, maybe you need to take another look and try to see what she sees.”  I don’t think that I ever felt worthy of her love until after she had passed. Only then did I feel like I passed the test, I kept my promise to love her and care for her to my utmost ability, with an integrity of spirit and a selflessness that I never knew I possessed.  Only when her life was over did I truly feel worthy.

     

    Well, that might not be entirely true, I still have my moments when I might let some low-self worth sneak its way back in and taunt me.  But, that’s where my work is now, in the nurturing and cultivation of the seeds of worth that she planted in me. In Kristin’s physical absence, it is now my job to keep learning and growing and to honor her love by believing that I am worthy.  So, with a thought of why not me? I am worth it. I mustered up some courage this week and I asked an amazing woman out to dinner; she said yes! Too soon to say if I will one day feel safe enough to show her the man behind the mask, but I want to, want to, so that’s a start.

     

    Lastly, to the kind woman who went out of her way to say a nice word to me, I apologize and thank you, old habits die hard.  Next time, I’ll remember that I am worthy of your compliment and appreciatively accept it.

    Author Jen Parker

    (Jen)

    UGH! you always pick the tough ones, this topic just happens to be the reason I self sabotage, only let myself get so far, and why recently I was called out, “Parker, I think you have a commitment issue.” Alright Kevin, if you can, I can. As far as letting people in? If I’m an open book then there is never  a need for anyone to  look any deeper. Well good morning, Kevin. I wasn’t expecting this prompt, but why not?

    My insecurity, never feeling enough to simply allow myself to be still, has plagued me since I was a young child. My quest for self worth has brought me all over the world, across this country, through three marriages, countless careers, and recently a short stay in politics. The one constant in all of this has always been writing and sharing. In some strange way the release of negative emotions and feelings through streaming my thoughts and experiences onto my keyboard was never enough, so I began sharing my writing on platforms without walls. My search for self worth has felt much like my addiction to sugar, high highs and low lows. It’s always gone a bit like this, if my self conjured approval ratings seemed to be high in the moment than I’ve been able to breathe freely and even have a bit of an excitement buzz. If I felt as though I have disappointed, wronged someone else than hives appeared and I begun to go inward,  taking myself out of the game.
    We live in a world that touts equality yet when there is skin in the game, humanity often seeks to divide and , people into succinct groups. We are divided by age, gender, color of our skin, religion, economic class, life accomplishments, and ability to stand out in a crowd among many others.  So is our self worth something that is supposed to spring internal or is it evaluated by the extrinsic factors of the world we live in? It’s enough to drive yourself mad if you spend too much time thinking and dwelling on it. For most of my life I have allowed my self worth to be determined by external factors and have found myself responding and reacting to the evaluations in many different ways. I became a rule follower who would rebel in isolation. I would ultimately strive to please but struggle silently as I leaned in another direction. It wasn’t until recently that I chose to do the opposite knowing that it would cause others to pause, think differently of me. I had finally come to the place in life where that suddenly becomes okay and being true to your internal compass outweighs approval from others.
    So where does that leave me today in this moment? I’m a middle aged woman, some may think past my prime, with new ideas and expectations about life and all it has to offer. Is 46 middle aged? I guess that would only be determined once I have kicked the bucket and my physical existence has ended. I would like to believe that I have a lot left in me, a lot of new ideas emerging about how I can go about life simply being me. It’s probably one of the scariest ideas I’ve had, even more so than starting new businesses or running for an elected position. It has already changed how I reacted to being asked to do something not in my lane or something that makes me feel uncertain rather than inspired. I’m beginning to know what it feels like to lean into being me: I’ve been writing more, focusing on my newest business, and spending time with the people I love. So far, simple feels good. It’s just the unexpected moments of deciding to share a blog with someone I’ve only just recently met and being challenged to stick with my newest life choices. It’s almost as if life is daring me to be more of my true self than I ever imagined.
    Am I worthy of all of this simple bliss? Is it okay for me to sink into balance and certainty without guilt or worry? I remember Oprah once said if you want to know the condition of a woman’s psyche, just take a look at her bedroom. For years I lived in beautiful chaos. My clothes were strewn across my floor, my bed never made, and books piled randomly throughout the space. Just weeks into finding and living my simple bliss, laundry is caught up, the bed is made, and books have been stacked neatly on a side table or bookshelf waiting to be read. This is new for me. This never used to feel comfortable or safe and while Kyle struggled to keep our room tidy in the midst of my indecisiveness it almost made me feel uneasy. In making the choice to simply be me and saying no to an opportunity of a lifetime I have found a little more space to work with Kyle in keeping our home and building our future together.
    I am far from feeling worthy but I am further from feeling unworthy. In a small way progress has been made and comfort found in my uneasiness of making different life choices. We’ve formed lots of habits along the way, most are difficult to break, others yet to be discovered. As my dad used to say, “Rome wasn’t built in a day.” It makes me smile to remember there were moments of light in his life and maybe he made the only choices he knew were available. Rome wasn’t built in a day and neither will be my realization of self worth and certainty. Still, I can choose to step in a new direction towards feeling worthy and having value in this fractured world of one. I think I will, I know that I have, and today that is enough for me.

     



  • Post #3 – Isolation “cutting yourself off from the world”

    Author Jen Parker(Jennifer)

    It was the space in between the confrontation and rage that I remember the most. We would count the days of quiet silence knowing that it was inevitable that the jagged words and flying fists would return. It was in his periods of isolation that I found my own solace and time to lick fresh wounds. He would retreat into himself, staying away, avoiding eye contact, and being non respondent. It was in those times that he was the victim and we all became the healers trying anything to draw him out of his funk, to sweep the egg shells from our floor.

    One of my greatest fears is becoming the person he was. The angry, paranoid man who raged at all of life’s injustices clearing anything that happened to be in his path.  He created a wake of destruction, self doubt, insecurity, and denial. It’s not that I am a violent person or even physical in nature. It’s more that I retreat, withdraw from life when I am uncertain and feeling less than worthy.  It’s in these moments of self induced isolation that I question all that I am and who I ever may be. I question my abilities to parent, to be a wife, a business owner, or a  contributing community member.

    I believe it was the isolation, not the physical and emotional rages that did my dad in. He retreated later in life from all of us, his wife of thirty nine years and moved up north to a place in Maine where he once found bits of peace and joy. It was in Houlton where he pulled the final trigger and ended his isolation and created an eternal silence which now lays heavy on us all but has brought an end to his suffering.

    Isolation VII pc: FatZebra

    When I isolate, retreat to my bedroom, pull away from my loving husband I am reconnecting with my father, the man who taught me most about life and how not to live it. My cells pull in, my mind takes over, and my heart closes up. I replay all of the times I went right and should have gone left. Images of choices made out of fear not love envelope me and leave little room for light or hope. I lay still and heavy and allow myself to be battered one more time, aware of days passed and experiences endured. I count the reasons why I’m better locked away, separated from those I love, and simply exist in that moment of heavy darkness.

    In that quiet isolation, something inevitably takes seed and my mind shifts with new thoughts formed. I catch my breath and take control, breathing deeper and aware as the air travels down my windpipe, into my lungs, out to my fingers and down into my toes. I slowly remember the choices I have made that make me feel whole, worthy, and a magnet connecting with others. I see myself in a different light, someone worthy of love and sweet moments of grace. I become aware of my body and feel connected once again. The need for isolation slowly seeps out and takes with it the thoughts that I am my dad, burdened with his fear and traumas.

    The times in which I seek isolation are shortening and growing farther apart in occurrence. The fear of becoming my dad, the man he was is fading and little by little I am letting go of my own triggers. As I allow myself to open up to my husband, my family, my community I am becoming a stronger magnet to all that resonates with who I’ve always wanted to be, or thought I could be. People are popping into my life, out of nowhere, offering incredible opportunities of insight and self growth. Music on the radio brings just the right solace in the moment to heal a thorny memory and books fall off the shelf into my hands providing insight and assurances I need to take the next step on my journey.

    Don’t get me wrong, I require a lot of space where I can decompress, relax and fall back into myself for peace and regeneration. That space is so very different than the isolation that pulls me down and anchors me to a place where all my old demons reside. There is a vast difference and we all know it and recognize it for what it is. When we are strong, we are balanced and content. There is a certainty that rests within our heart and supports our ability to just be.  This is what I strive for everyday and choose to focus on and step towards even in the moments of greatest vulnerability and self doubt. 

    Kevin popped into my life just a couple of months ago. He has become a mirror of my childhood and journey through the darkest moments of my life. Last night Kyle had the opportunity to meet him, spend time talking with and getting to know him. It was strange, not because the space was awkward but because as I listened to us getting to know each other, hovering above in quiet fascination, I realized something. Kyle in his infinite ability to love unconditionally was allowing for a new direction in our lives. He has embraced Kevin and I sharing our most intimate details about our childhoods and lives as survivors of suicide. In Kyle’s most beautiful grace is again making space for the healing of my wounds.

    So in honor of non isolation, Kyle and I are inviting Kevin and his friend to dinner at our home, to meet our family our animals. Instead of retreating to our private space we’ve decided to open it up a little bit more for the unknown, for what the future may hold.

     

    Kevin St Onge

    (Kevin)

    Isolation, alone, seclusion, words which evoke powerful feelings of sadness, hopelessness, and despair from deep within me.  The first “goal” of my therapy, with the aforementioned Sharon, was to connect with my emotions. To feel something beyond anger, something more painful, and more vulnerable.  The anger was just the mask, the defense system I had built up. My journey had begun and my quest was to find, and connect with, those hidden away emotions. Little did I know that I would not only find them, but that they would come bursting out in an uncontrollable fashion when I did.

     

    Throughout college I always commuted, preferring the isolation of whatever crumby apartment I was living in to the “togetherness” of the dorms.  You could generally find me up in a quiet corner of the library or in a seldom used room off of the main cafeteria that would eventually become the school pub.  On one particularly unremarkable day, I was eating my lunch in my “secret room” off of the cafe when I noticed that one of the “lunch ladies” had invaded my private space.  I would guess her to have been in her early twenties and clearly differently abled. Again, I’ll guess, but she looked as though she may have had Down Syndrome. She was also having lunch, but not the splendid cafeteria food that I was eating, no really, we had pretty good food.  Her lunch was far more modest and brought from home in a nondescript brown paper bag. She too was sitting alone at a table. I couldn’t stop watching her and I began to develop a narrative of her life. I imagined it to be so sad, one of complete isolation from her family, alone with no friends, living a secluded life away from society.

     

    As my story for her grew, so did a sadness deep inside of me.  The kind of sadness that cannot be held in by mere mortal efforts.  As the sadness escaped through my tear ducts, I asked myself, “What the hell are you crying about?”  The answer was clear, I wasn’t crying for her, her life was probably just fine, she was probably well loved by her family, had tremendous friendships, and she was most likely very pleased with her life.  No, I wasn’t crying for her at all, I actually crying for me, for my loneliness, my isolation. I was estranged from my family, few real friends, and mad at the world.

     

    I had never really done that before:  cry I mean. Well of course I had cried before, but not therapeutic tears.  As a kid, I didn’t have that “luxury.” I was constantly in fight or flight mode.  “No rest for the weary” as they say; there was no telling what was going to set Mum off next.  So now, I could cry. It was safe to. Those tears that started that day, would flow for years.

     

    I remember the first time I cried in Sharon’s office.  It was not too long after my “brown bag” meltdown and they came with the same force and determination as those lunchtime tears.  I started to wipe them away, “Don’t,” Sharon said, “Leave them on your face, let them heal you.” A technique that I have since stolen and used with clients of my own.

     

    More than once it has happened in a crowd of people, not like a busy mall, but a legit crowd, like at a sporting event, or a concert.  It used to amaze me that we can feel so alone and isolated while crammed shoulder to shoulder in an inhuman mass of human beings. Now, I have come to understand how isolation is more than just a geographical concept.  We can feel isolation anywhere at anytime.

     

    I know that I felt it as a child, a teenager, and young adult.  I am certain that my Mum felt it when she took her life. I even felt it recently with the loss of my wife.  But, it’s different now, its a necessary part of my healing, I now choose isolation sometimes.  But, I don’t call it that anymore, instead I use words like space, privacy, and solitude.  My alone time no longer brings forth feelings of sadness and despair, but rather joy, comfort, and peace.  The lens by through which we choose to view life, the power of our perspective, never ceases to amaze me. Maybe that’s a good topic for a future post?

     



  • Post #2 – Giving and Receiving “it’s not just about a free ride”

    Kevin St Onge(Kevin)

    I think it is interesting what is valued and undervalued in our society today. Even more intriguing to me is how those imposed values affect us.

    For instance, we value independence and self-sufficiency. From the youngest of ages we are taught to do for ourselves and not to be looking for a “handout” or a “free lunch.” Ain’t nothing comes for free in this world. Right?

    Admirable to be sure, but could all that independence and self-sufficiency that has been preached at us had some possible unintended consequences?

    I’ve been pondering this question more and more in the last year or so. For me, it started as a result of my wife’s cancer. The cancer was ravaging her body and the care that I needed to provide her at home increasing. Then, eventually came the grieving from losing her. But, the latest teaching moment came under far less dramatic of circumstances. My lawnmower broke.

    Yup! My lawnmower broke a few weeks ago and despite my best efforts at resembling a mechanic, I could not resuscitate it. Money has been a little tight lately, and I couldn’t afford to go buy another just yet. So, my lawn began to grow like a weed. (See what I did there? Sorry, I’m a little punchy tonight.) In fact, it was getting so bad that my female dog was now having accidents in the house because she didn’t like the long grass messing with her girly parts when she peed. I was seriously beginning to question how one goes about selling hay.

    I considered all of my options, but they all included asking someone for help, ugh!!! We weren’t raised that way. You don’t ask for help, you pull yourself up by your bootstraps and carry on.

    That’s my question: why is that? Why is it undervalued to ask for help? Most things that are valued are held in such high regard because they aren’t easy. We value that which is hard to achieve. Well, asking for help is fucking hard!!! So why isn’t it valued???givingreceiving

    Once Kristin’s care required round the clock hydration and pain management, I needed help; I had to suck it up and reach out to our family and friends and ask. When she passed, and the wake and the funeral were over, and everybody had returned back to their lives, I was left all alone with my pain. At times it became too much. I again had to ask those that love me, “please help me?”

    Oh, the lawn? Yup, I had to ask for help with that too. I asked my neighbor to borrow his mower. And, Abbie can now pee again without the tickle of grass on her underside.

    But, despite my eventually asking for help in all of these instances, I am still left to ponder why is the asking so hard?

    The best answer I have come up with for me is pride. It’s humbling. It makes me feel inferior and that I have somehow failed at life.

    But, I don’t think that’s actually true. I think that all those years of having self-sufficiency drilled into me put that lie there. It doesn’t make me weak to ask for help, it’s actually a testament to my strength. I am strong enough to recognize when I don’t “got this” and I need help.

    A thread that you will find weaved throughout my thoughts and writings these days is the interconnectedness of the universe. We have different ways of approaching it, explaining it, and experiencing it, but all spirituality and all religions speak to this universal truth. We are all sourced from the same universal life energy.

    I think about this as it relates to helping one another. If our energies are really all interconnected then doesn’t it make sense why you feel so good when you are the helper for someone who needs it? I think that maybe that “love” that you put out into the universe when you have turned you intention to the betterment of another just comes right back to you. In other words, we are ultimately the receiver of any love we send out, even if it was intended for another. Maybe, by asking for help, we are allowing another to feel that love come back to them?

    So, can we start to value that more? Can we start to value the strength it takes to ask for help? Imagine what the world might look like if it were full of people getting what they need and people feeling good about helping them get it?!?!?!

    So, the next time you need help, ask! Who are you to deny someone that reciprocal love? You might just make their day by allowing them to make yours.

    Author Jen Parker(Jennifer)

    As I read Kevin’s post a zillion images came flooding in. I’ve struggled with this concept as well. No place more than sitting on the oversight committee for Health and Human Services in state government where money is always at the crux of the issue. As we listened to hundreds of hours of public testimony on various safety net programs, the opioid crisis, mental and behavioral health needs, hospital and health management, public health, and prevention of all types, the common response was that individuals need to take responsibility for their own situations, dig in, and pull themselves up. The state is not in business to provide handouts to those not willing to do for themselves. I spent the better part of two years as a State Representative in hives. It was as if my father had returned from the grave and was painting his broad stroke on humanity which he charged was built from freeloaders, beggars, and the undeserving. As much as it physically affected me to sit on that committee I knew there was a reason I was one of the lucky thirteen.

    Giving has been raised to the level of sainthood in our society. At an early age we are taught how important it is for us to share, to assist, to give. It’s a lesson that begins with toddlers and continues on throughout our education system. We share our feelings, our snacks, our toys, we learn to take turns to give others a chance to experience an activity. As we grow older we are encouraged to give can goods to food drives, coats and toys to tots during the holidays, and hours of community service in order to get our diploma from high school. Yet, the one thing we are not taught is how to receive whether or not something is a gift or a helpful hand up. If we cannot receive than how can we give? It is a circle, both existing in the same moment yet somehow we have landed in the place where we very much value one action and denounce the other.

    I’ve been fortunate in life. I’ve had extraordinary experiences, traveled to far away lands, achieved successes throughout the years, and met some of the most incredible individuals. I’ve also fallen into some of the darkest recesses where I felt as though I was drowning and isolated from the rest of the world. There were nights when before I could read I wanted to scream out for help in the dreaded darkness but was left silenced unable to escape. As I grew older, I ran from what I didn’t remember had happened and wanted to end the pain but remained isolated in fear of being judged or shamed. As a single mother during the recession, I scraped to keep food in the cupboards while working three jobs but struggled to ask for and receive help. It was always my mom that seemed to show up when I couldn’t stretch myself any further and felt myself ripping from the stress of trying to hold it together. Since my earliest memory it has always been her consistent rhythm of stepping one foot in front of the other without doubt or worry that life won’t work out in the end. Yet as many times as she came to my aid, I never quite felt okay in accepting her hand up and often shamed myself as being undeserving or unable to figure life out.

    It wasn’t until I met Kyle that I began to realize there was a different way of experiencing giving and receiving. Just as I believed I finally had my life smoothed out and I was sailing through with my head above water instead of constantly being dragged under, Kyle appeared out of nowhere. I had determined that life as a single mother was where I wanted to be and dating was more of an albatross than anything else. His bright eyes and generous smile appeared and after a month of back and forth dialogue he asked if I would meet him for dinner. We met, it was good but not earth shattering. He was kind, gentle, and understated. A second date was planned, I had already decided we would be friends at most but something connected us in a way I wasn’t prepared for. Now six years later I am still learning that giving and receiving is very much a dance and requires two willing partners to be all that it can be. Where I am guarded, he is giving. Where he is weak, I am strong and in the places we both fall short, we are united. I still struggle with receiving. It’s most difficult for me to lean into his unconditional love which never falters or waivers. He is always there committed where I am always waiting for the ax to drop, the earth to open up and swallow me. Our love can only be as great as I am able to receive it and then return it back to him. I realize that now. It’s been an incredibly hard lesson to endure. To own up to the fact that my experiences are a direct result of my conscious choices as a person, wife, mother, and friend. I have no one other than myself to determine to what extent I will allow myself to exist in the fluid motion of giving and receiving and to what extent I will continue to block the magic of it all in my life.

    Kevin, thank you for shining light on the need for us to value receiving just as much as giving. This has been helpful to wonder out loud how they exist and have existed together in my life.



  • Post #1 – It all starts here

    (Jennifer)

    Author Jen Parker

    I’ve always been a seeker. Since my earliest memories, I’ve known there was something more, something that I couldn’t describe or touch but wanted so desperately to find. I never felt quite enough or that I was who I was supposed to be. It was as if my skin didn’t fit and I knew that there was a another way to live life, another way to be.

    The Way of the Peaceful Warrior by Dan Millman was given to me when I was a young teenager. That book sparked decades of an unquenchable thirst for self discovery and healing. I found myself on every continent reading works hundreds of years old and a lot that had just been written. They offered a glimpse to a way of living I never knew existed, a peaceful loving way which instead of being built on chaos and fear it was nurtured and enriched with love and grace.

    As I read more, I began to bump into people in airports, the grocery store, and other unexpected places that would have just read what I did or were asking some of the same questions. A close friend of mine and his mother introduced me to reiki and reflexology in my early twenties. One day I looked up and a little less of the fear and anxiety was taking up space in my life and although I was far from figuring it all out, I began to breathe deeper.

    Decades later, now in my late forties, I have multiple friends who are mediums, psychics, and healers. I am in a loving relationship and have established goals of peace, certainty, and allowance in my life. It hasn’t been a cake walk to get to this point but there have been extraordinary moments within the struggles that encouraged me to take just one more step forward until I was ready for the next.

    In my early twenties, my friend Joe was receiving countless messages from my father who had recently taken his own life. Initially I refused the messages, I was still very much in a state of fear. I would hold up my hand with my palm facing Joe and say, “no, I don’t want anything from him.” Joe was relentless and would blurt out that he simply wanted me to write every day, just write every day. That was the repeating message I received from my dad for years. It angered me, made me resent him even more. It felt like a total disregard for the way he had treated me as a child and young adult. The years of abuse had taken a toll on me and the last thing I wanted from him was advice.

    Now as I sit here in my forties, I realize he was trying to connect the dots for me. It was his apology. It was his way to help me get to my authentic self, a writer who shares. So I began writing every day and as I did life began to change in the most extraordinary way and continues to do so. Just recently I was introduced to Kevin, a reiki practitioner. In just a few weeks we discovered a couple of common threads. We’ve both experienced a parent committing suicide and we’ve both used writing as a way to find our way through.

    So now in this moment my intent is to write along with Kevin to share our worlds of healing ourselves through thoughtful actions and choices and share our ups and downs, struggles and triumphs as the choices lead to love not fear, healing not disease, and building connections instead of isolation. We hope that you will join us as we continue to move forward and create the lives with our loved ones and families that we have always dreamed of living.

    (Kevin)

    Kevin St Onge

    From our first wobbly baby steps, to our last whisper of breath, I’m starting to think that maybe T.S. Eliot was on to something when he wrote, “We shall not cease from exploration, and the end of all our exploring, will be to arrive where we started, and know the place for the first time.” Maybe that’s what it’s all about, maybe that’s the secret?

    Maybe this life is just a journey back to self, an inward odyssey to find that purest, most authentic version of “us” that we hide away and protect from the harsh, unforgiving, unrelenting world? I know it has been for me.

    My journey began in earnest when a caring man named Joe took a wounded, and angry young man, under his wing and sent me to a clinician in my college’s health center named, Sharon.

    Having never “done” therapy before, I sat down on Sharon’s couch (I just assumed that’s where the one needing therapy sits.) and I began to tell her about Mum. I told her how she was diagnosed with bipolar and how she would exorcise her anger and frustration with the world by beating on me when I was a child. I told her about how my mother’s favorite, and most stinging, line was, “You’re a hateful little shit.” She just sat there and listened. When I was finished, she looked at me and said, “Kevin, do you know that you were abused?” Of course I didn’t, that was the only way of life I knew.

    Years later, Sharon and I were reflecting back on that first meeting. She said, “You went on and on, story after terrible story, never once showing an ounce of emotion.” How could I? Life had taught me to build an elaborate defense system, complete with what we colloquially call “walls” and “masks.” My public face was one of confidence; only now can I truthfully say that it was cockiness, not confidence. Internally I was a mess and I was building a mighty fortress to protect my true self; brick by brick, every hurt added to my defenses. The strange part about building walls, is once they get big enough and strong enough, you either lose contact with what is outside of those walls, or you lose contact with that which you were trying to protect in the first place. For me, it was the latter. I spent a long time and a lot of heartache walking around those fantastic walls, having long forgotten who that beautiful soul was that I was trying to protect.

    After lots and lots of time on that “couch,” and the unconditional love of my beloved wife, Kristin, I have found my way back into my fortress and began its disassembly. Through Kristin’s love, and my healing, I have come to believe that we have unlimited untapped power within us as individuals and collectively as a species and a planet. That power is the purest of love, it is an energy that binds us across genders and races, across sexualities and religions, across the confines of time and space. There is a common energy that flows through us and around us, and with it, we are capable of manifesting a true heaven on Earth. We need only to find our way home. Back to our true selves.

    But, we need to clear the debris that lies on our path, we need to begin to dismantle our walls. Each of us has had so many constraints placed upon our true self. From the time and places of our birth, where we inherit the yoke of societal rules and expectations; to the individual family units we are raised in. Each life event brings yet more potential obstacles. It is my intention to explore, and overcome, as many of these obstacles as possible through a written dialogue with my co-writer Jennifer Parker. Reiki and energy work will surely be among the threads with which we will weave our tapestry, but in the end, all roads lead home, “and we will know the place for the first time.”