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 #5 – Living in the Past

    Author Jen Parker(Jen)
    Sometimes when I’m writing I feel as if I’m clinging to the past, dredging it up once again. I’ve read, and I’ve been told numerous times that the healthiest action one can take is to just let go. I remember for years nodding my head in agreement when my mom would say, “you just need to let it go.” In my mind and sometimes out loud, I would ask, “but how?”

    I never knew or even imagined that it was my choice to make.  I was triggered by everything that either happened to me, near me, or around me.  I spent most of my life feeling as if I had done something wrong, upset someone, or caused bad things to happen to others. I was an emotional mess and on some days I still am. The difference now is that I  know the choice is mine as to whether and how I want to react to something or someone.  In my early twenties I continued to melt down at the drop of a pin after I moved out of my family’s house. A huge wave of uncertainty loomed over me and would come crashing down when I was stressed from school or exhausted from work until one day when something made me realize there was a better way. It was a slow start but I begun the decade long journey of seeing counselors off and on until I found one that I learned to trust and lean into. At the same time I read hundreds of books from the self help genre and often dipped into the “new age” pool of awakening your consciousness.
    I had grown up under my father’s orders of, “do as I say, not as I do” and the consistent verbal belittling of any tasks, behavior, perceived accomplishment, or honor received. Nothing was ever good enough and I was either lazy, worthless, or pathetic. I quickly found my rock to crawl under. I was playing the parts of people pleaser and overachiever struggling to not be a victim or undeserving. I held onto the belief that my childhood built on emotional badgering was a huge motivational force in my life to do more, achieve more, and be more. Exactly what that would be always seemed to be a shifting goal post and still leaves me feeling as though I have commitment phobias as well as ADD. My past had taught me that nothing was ever enough and unless I choose to believe differently I am in for an incredibly disjointed life spent chasing my tail when I’m supposed to have it all figured out.
    Healing-the-Past
    So choosing differently, is it that easy? Yes, sometimes. When a negative thought rides in and begins to take root, I remind myself that it’s not mine to own and I consciously choose to think about something positive or someone that makes me smile. If I’m lucky the negative thought simply dissipates. When I’m not, the thought crashes in, stirs up really old shit, and sends me into a downward spiral until I can get a grip and just ride it out remembering that nothing lasts forever. Someone once told me to stop taking everything personally, that it isn’t always about me. Someone I care about might be upset or having a rough day but it doesn’t always mean I had something to do with it. I just always assumed if someone was off it was because of me. I would feel their feelings, read their body language, and know their thoughts. I owned whatever they seemed to be going through as my own. Just recently I read that it’s not our job to make our children or parents happy. We love them, support them, and are there for them but ultimately we can never make them happy. It is a choice each of us have to make for ourselves. Happiness has to come from within, it’s not an external force that can be bought or obtained from an experience or person. The question I try to ask myself when I am feeling most uncertain or worried is, am I coming from a place of love or fear. The choice is ours and nobody else’s. Does it always come easy? No. Is it always black and white? No. Is it worth striving for? I believe yes, more than anything else that we can either do, be, or achieve.
    I’m far from being able to fully let go of living in the past, regretting, blaming, and holding onto stuff that happened to me or that I did, but I know it’s my choice.  In this very moment and each moment after it’s my choice how I exist right now, no now, no right now. The past is never present, the only place I need to focus on is where I am in this very moment sharing with each of you. I’ll worry about the rest when I get there, or maybe not. Worry might just be left best in the past. So is it fear or love? Is it past or present, and is it always about me? Just some things I think about when I’m feeling stuck, uncertain and the past is nipping at my heels.

    Kevin St Onge(Kevin)


    I get it Jen!  More and more as of late, I am finding that I struggle with how often, and for how long, it is healthy for me to look over my shoulder.  It is by no means healthy for me to completely ignore my past and the experiences that have made me, me. But, giving the past too much of my attention seems to get in the way of me creating a happy and healthy present and future.


    As I have already written about, my personal healing had to begin with an honest acknowledgment of my childhood trauma; that was healthy and necessary.  I then had to learn how that trauma was informing the manner in which I was interacting with the world. I think that through hard work and perseverance, I did all of this pretty well.


    In recent years, my work has been an integration of sorts, an assimilation of my life’s experiences into the man I have grown into.  I have had to take all of that information and figure out what to do with it. For so long, my “job” was to connect with my emotions, to be unafraid of them, sit with them, embrace them, love them, and let them pass through.  In order to make, and maintain, this connection I really had to time travel back to specific emotionally charged experiences. Often I was a victim in these experiences; times when I had to endure physical and emotional assaults.  It was truly healing to visit those places in my history and to cry those tears. I learned to understand how my emotional reactions to new experiences might, at times, be inconsistent because they were being driven by a remembrance of old hurts.


    But, at some point I had to make a choice, as you say.  I had to choose whether I would always be a victim to my past hurts, or whether I would become a survivor.  Intellectually, the choice is easy, of course I want to be a survivor! The choosing is not so easily accomplished on the emotional level.  You see, on my inside, I am torn and bruised, broken and bent, I have scars and festering wounds. I will never be as pure and as whole as the day I was born, none of us are I suppose.  But for me, there will always be something that stimulates one of these old hurts back into discomfort or pain. So, at some point, I just have to choose. I have to choose between the illusion of safety in retreating back into a victim self-image, or choose the strength in declaring that I am a survivor.


    Through my growing and healing, I have come to incorporate new terms into my vernacular; terms like space, power, and vibrations.  They have helped me to frame things differently, to see the world, and myself, through a new lens. When I choose to see myself as a victim, I give away my power, constrict my space, and lower my vibrations.  All of which leaves me feeling sad, lonely, and powerless. When I choose to be a survivor, everything expands, my space increases making room for the loving and caring people I have around me, my power increases because I am so much stronger than I believe sometimes, and my vibrations are higher which attracts more and more positiveness to me.


    A common interpretation of Robert Frost’s famous poem “The Road Not Taken” is that our lives will be fully actuated by choosing the less traveled road:  “Two roads diverged in a wood, and I- I took the one less traveled by, and that has made all the difference.” With all due respect to Mr. Frost, I would like to offer a different interpretation.  You see, at the beginning of the poem, he is stuck in indecision at the crossroads of these two infamous roads: “Two roads diverged in a yellow wood…and be one traveler, long I stood.” Perhaps, the power that he feels at the end of the poem came not from which road he chose, but from the empowering act of choosing itself.  While I am sure that each road offered different experiences, maybe the secret is not in getting it “right,” but in the power of our intention when we actively take control of our lives and make a choice for something rather than being paralyzed by fear and indecision, or ending up somewhere by default. Maybe in just the intentional act of choosing, Mr. Frost had already set into motion that which would “make all the difference”?



  • 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.”



  • Almost beautiful enough…Cricket & Tucker

    Sabattus, Maine

     

    As I learn more about Cricket and Tucker and their many adventures in Sabattus, Maine with Pam and her family, I find myself relating  their story to pieces of my own. I have a strong urge to somehow transform their journey into an adult novel but know that first it is a children’s book in the making. Cricket, a duck with a slightly misshaped beak was in line to be culled. It’s a deformity that one has to look intently upon to notice, it seems a stretch that it would mean that she was not worthy of being sold to a farm or as a pet. Still, having an unsymmetrical beak changed the course of Cricket’s life and in it’s own way would unexpectedly affect many others .

    Jamie-Rae Brown

    Color portrait of Cricket : Jamie-Rae Brown

    Cricket is a soft and loving supporting role in our series. She is noble and kind and never seems to ask for anything in return for the support and strength she offers daily to Tucker. Her presence in the barn in Sabattus, Maine allows for Tucker, born with a genetic defect like Cricket, to exist. He was hatched with a neck that is unable to extend and is bent over. Cricket is his crutch, his leverage to move about to and fro, from the barn to the yard and provides him with unconditional love, wrapping him in warmth and support as he faces many challenges each day.

    Tears formed gently in the corner of my eyes as I read Pam’s text describing one account of how Tucker would be lost without Cricket, that no other duck from any flock will accept him. Tucker not only has Cricket, he has Pam and her family. Pam is humble and would never say that her animals would be lost without her love and caring. She shared with me that due to her own struggles in life she gravitates to animals that are “unwanted” and are pushed aside as if they are disposable. Sharing these thoughts here, there is a lump in my throat and a heaviness sitting in my stomach. Is it possible that certain groups of animals and people in our world have become disposable, a population that doesn’t seem to matter or share the value of others. What makes certain animals or people less desirable or worthy?

    As I begin writing the story of Cricket and Tucker, two undesirable ducks, I find these questions swarming and asking me to check my own compass to see where I sit with these matters of heart and mind. There were many times in my own childhood in which I felt cast off or on my best days, almost beautiful enough to fit in and be a part of the whole. What causes each of us to create these invisible standards for ourselves and others and why do they apply them to animals?  Cricket is a special duck who seems to be able to rise above it all.  She runs out to greet Pam or Christian, Pam’s son, when they come to the coop to feed the ducks or change out their straw. Tucker is slow and always last. He takes much longer to greet Pam and Christian but he never stays behind, he always makes the effort to be a part of the flock. Cricket lovingly waits for Tucker while the other duck have departed, long before he can get there.

    While Cricket’s only difference is her slightly misshaped beak, Tucker is severely handicapped and is vulnerable to predators. Neither duck can fly, they are too big. Tucker makes a unique whistle sound with every breath he takes because of the position of his neck being in a constant downward slump since being born. He can’t lift his head or even stand up straight and needs Cricket’s body to help him stand up or lay down. Somehow Cricket knows that Tucker needs her to survive and she makes herself available to him, always sticking by his side. Both were born with a genetic defect which will prevent either of them ever being able to be used for breeding are finding their way through life with the help of Pam. If not for her saving them both from being culled their story wouldn’t even exist. Pam’s ability to love all animals gave the two ducks a second chance at life, at being able to be each other’s support and companion.

    It’s this innate knowing, unconditional love and admiration that we are going to place in the heart of the Cricket and Tucker series. They are not the only animals that Pam and her family watch over in Sabattus, Maine. How could they be? As I begin to learn their names and hear their stories from Pam, the urge to write their stories into books for children grows stronger and stronger each day. This journey has just begun but it has already taken over my heart and I hope to do their story justice as we share it with all of you.

     

     

     



  • On Our Way…a special side of Cricket and Tucker

    Sometimes at first glance, everything seems normal just as it should be. We are accustomed to sizing up life and quickly placing each of its pieces into compartments giving us a sense of organization and relief that somehow we are in control of our days.  Yesterday I asked Pam if she could send me some information about Cricket and Tucker, her two ducks.

    I had intended on finding pockets of time in the store to write but was pleasantly surprised by visits from friends, family, and shoppers who were just coming in to check us out for the first time.  Throughout the day my phone would light up alerting me that I had a new text from Pam and as I glanced over would see that she was sending me information that I couldn’t  ingest or even respond to properly with people in the store. It made my heart beat a bit faster knowing that I would eventually be able to sit down and begin ready about how Cricket and Tucker came into Pam’s life and how she had saved them both from being culled.Cricket and Tucker

    When I first heard her use the word cull, my mind pictured  a lobster. I grew up working in a restaurant in Pepperell Cove and quickly learned about one armed lobsters that were used for their meat in lobster rolls. I admitted my ignorance and asked her what she meant by culled in reference to the ducks. My stomach sank a bit, I knew it couldn’t be a pleasant thing. As she described the process, the dark side of farming emerged. It’s the side of having a farm that mostly goes unspoken; when chicks are born with splayed legs, predators get into the pastures and barns, and animals become ill or hurt beyond repair.

    A beautiful sketch of Crickett  - Jaime-Rae Mason

    A beautiful sketch of Cricket – Jaime-Rae Brown

    Cricket was born with a deformed beak, barely recognizable upon first glance and Tucker with a broken neck.  As Pam described them both her eyes lovingly painted them in a way that could be nothing but endearing: Cricket’s beak seemed normal to her and Tucker reminded her of the hunchback of Notre Dame but she would never refer to him by the name not wanting to draw attention to his slumped over neck. As I listened to Pam unravel how she couldn’t let the two ducks be culled just because they weren’t perfect something caught in my throat. My mind began to wander as she delved deeper into her journey bringing the ducks home and taking gentle care of them as the grew from ducklings into full fledged ducks.

    As we sat and talked about Pam’s animals and the reasons she took them into her home, I couldn’t help but acknowledge the urge to write her words into a story and in that moment a new project emerged. Pam’s incredible journey of nursing special animals into a safe, loving space and her incredibly talented daughter, Jamie drawing them into memory. So here I sit in South Berwick in our new store sharing a new adventure of Cricket and Tucker and their many friends from Sabattus, Maine.



  • We’re On OUR WAY…a journey of love, hope, and the pursuit of happiness

    Unwanted and waiting to be culled

    Unwanted and waiting to be culled

    The magic of life often happens when we least expect it.  Out of nowhere, it suddenly appears and gives off the feeling that somehow it has always been there. Why should I expect that on a hot, humid Thursday in South Berwick, Maine, it should be any different.

    I left our farm earlier than usual and drove the short distance to our new store in town just off Main street. The girls were at their dads house and Max and Sophie had both stayed at friends’ houses. I pulled into the furthest space to the right and turned off my ignition. The heaviness of the August air met me as soon as I opened my door and stepped out onto the pavement.  I brushed a loose strand of hair behind my ear and grabbed my briefcase and keys.

    I’ve created a simple routine to opening the store each morning; the lights, music go on first and fill the store. Then I carry out the bright pink and deep red geraniums along with the open flag and old wooden deck chairs to welcome people in. I flip the open sign and place it over the bright yellow wreath on the door and then finally heave the white tent sign with our logo down to the busy corner to catch a passerby’s eye or two.

    I opened my laptop armed and ready for a slow day of sales, determined to psyche myself up to charge into bookkeeping and marketing. I had even promised myself that after I had gotten caught up in QuickBooks I would dedicate some time to writing. As my computer powered up, I talked myself into a large cup of coffee from Madison’s. It would only take a minute and it felt good saying hello to my old friend and new neighbor. I love cutting through the alley and simply  appearing on her side patio always walking up to customers having breakfast alfresco. Before I can even see their faces I am almost always greeted by the wafting scent of fresh maple in the air. It feels like I’ve somehow come home.

    After getting a freshly brewed cup of morning blend and saying hello to an old friend and making two new ones, I quickly stepped back through the charming alley to our store and opened the cash register and returned to my laptop. Before I could even get the program open the door alerted me to a visitor and I was off in friendly conversations for the better part of the day. It wasn’t till after lunch when I found myself sitting with Pam and her daughter Jaime,  having a conversation that would not only just change the direction of my evening, but curiously seem to have an affect on the next few months as well.  As they sat in our “comfy community chairs” we caught up on life since we had last parted and I was able to listen and get to know her amazing daughter who looks like a new teenager but is actually in her twenties.

    As conversations go, ours took an unexpected journey towards creating a story about their two ducks, two dogs, and cat named Homey. The idea dropped down from nowhere in between us and began multiplying, growing, and becoming its own living, breathing project. That is where I find myself tonight, laying in bed next to Kyle as he listens to Jerry and I’m typing feverishly to get everything out and down before I forget the many delicious details. A blog post already much too long doesn’t even scratch the surface of the magic that continued to unfold this afternoon born from a story of two  ducks who were to be culled. I can tell you that they were rescued and are living and breathing a beautiful life. Tucker and Cricket are their names and their story dark, horrid, and inspirational beyond words is still left to be told. I sense a new blog coming on…well suffice to say that I will be back soon to begin the story of Tucker and Cricket and their friends Sadie, Sully, and Homey. Please join us on this new magical adventure of love, hope, and the pursuit of happiness.