A Fresh Start

Photograph by jackiebabe.

Don’t you just love the new year? For me, it’s very much like a promise — the promise of starting something fresh and clean. You get to choose what you want it to be about. It’s like wiping the slate clean. In New England, it’s not uncommon for the new year to begin with snow. I remember the hush and beauty of seeing a blanket of freshly fallen snow on the ground, before anyone had stepped on it – no footprints, no mud – just a quiet, serene, and silent promise.

Do you remember what it felt like on the first day of school each year? I don’t know about you, but I’ve always loved having a brand new notebook! All the pages clean, unwrinkled, unused, just waiting, inviting, enticing me to begin writing. And what about the new pencils and pens?? The pencils were sharp and the pens full of ink and ready for whatever I wanted to do with them — they, too, held the promise of new creations!

Remember when we were younger still and what having a brand, new box of crayons felt like?? OMG, that was just about the best thing in the world!!!! What would I colour and what colour would I choose to use for the “perfect” picture?!

And there it is — the curse!!! “Perfect”!!! This very word holds us to an impossible standard. We’re defeated before we’ve even begun. For me, the pursuit of perfection has plagued me my entire life and for some people the, “Shoot for the moon and you’ll always land among the stars!” is a fantastic approach to life and their pursuits, but for me (and, perhaps for you, too), the pursuit of “perfect” has paralysed me and kept me stuck when really, I have so much I want to put out in the world. Soooo…

I have declared this year to be a fresh start!!! I will start: I will take one step at a time toward being my “Perfectly Imperfect Self” because, after all, that’s what we’re really all called to be in this world: perfectly imperfect. I declare that I am “perfect” in my “imperfection” and invite you, too, to connect with and love your perfect imperfection. The way I see it, our “imperfections” are the spaces in our Selves where others can enter. They are the places where connections can take place and we can best love our Self, as well as others. In the spaces of our “imperfections”, we find healthy compassion for our Self and for others.

Hallelujah, I’m perfectly imperfect!!! Let the celebration begin!!!!

My First Christmas without Mom

Sadly, I am feeling disconnected from my passion. I feel sad – just very, very sad! This is my first Christmas since Mom passed. I didn’t think it would hit me so hard. To be honest, I hadn’t really thought of it at all, but all of a sudden, I became aware of a certain heaviness in my soul that I realized was nothing more, nothing less than a soul-deep sadness. I  simply miss  Mom!!!

I miss knowing that I can pick up the phone and hear her voice. I miss just knowing that she’s sitting in her chair at home. I miss being able to consult some cooking question with her!! I miss her laughter and her sense of humor!! I miss so many things about her!!

I wish she had taught me how to make my eyes twinkle! She knew how to do it and it never failed to tickle me when I saw her twinkle her eyes! I wonder… is that something you can learn or are you born with it? Nana, Mom, and her sisters all knew how to twinkle their eyes. I wish I knew how, too!!

I will choose to think of Mom looking down on me and loving me. When I see the stars twinkling in the inky black, winter, nighttime sky, I choose to think that they’re all Mom – watching over me, accompanying me as I go about my day-to-day!!

I miss you, Mom!! I love you!! I am forever grateful for all that you taught me and gave me!! I am proud to be your daughter and I know that you are proud of me!! May you forever rest in the peace you so deserve and may you twinkle your eyes down on me forever as a sign of your unfailing, forgiving love!!

I feel better already!!!

[Special thanks to sister Judy for sharing this picture with me!! This was the last sunrise that Mom enjoyed.]a-winter-sunrise


If I Close My Eyes and Open My Heart

If I close my eyes and open my heart, what will I see? Will I see the color of your skin, hair, or eyes? Will I see your religion or gender? Will I see your sexual orientation or your political stance on relevant issues? Will I see how much you weigh or how much money you earn?

I think that if I close my eyes and open my heart, I will see someone who is not so different from me — someone who seeks to be seen, heard, felt, loved, accepted; who knows tons of things in their head, but even more in their heart; someone whose heart can be broken by a cruel word or look and mended by a kind word or deed.

We all know that we have infinitely more in common than differences, yet too often we choose to focus on what makes us different, rather than what makes us the same. Yes, we are all unique — that’s right, even our “uniqueness” is something we share!!! A conundrum, right?

We have lots of expressions using the word “heart”. Someone who is “heartless” is someone who’s cruel. We talk about sitting down and having a “heart-to-heart.” What does that mean? It means sitting down with each other resolved to speak with one another in all honesty. We talk about the “heart of the matter.” What does that mean? It means getting down to what really matters and what really matters, what’s truly important, is not the trappings of gender, religion, politics, sexuality, etc. What really matters is precisely what can be seen by the heart, not the eyes, the head, etc.

The human heart is such an amazing thing!! It enables us to see the things that are truly of consequence, without any disguise or camouflage. Through it, we can see another person’s pain and their joy and can even feel them as if they were our own. Our heart is where we resonate with the arts, music, dance, the highest expressions of what it means to be human. It is our most treasured gift!!! It is strong, yet fragile at the same time.

Please, let’s not take it for granted or leave it to atrophy for want of use! Let’s all resolve to exercise our heart as our “seeing” center and make this world more like the one we want for our children!

World Day against Gender Violence

This beautiful and telling illustration is by Matthew Bray.

World Day against Gender Violence

Today is November 25th, the date the UN has declared World Day against Gender Violence — a truly black Friday (though not in the commercial sense of the word). Gender violence is a fact of life in virtually every country worldwide. While, I don’t know what the answers are to these crimes, I do think it worthwhile to look at it in all its ugliness and think about what it says about us as a world. So, today’s post is to reflect on the issue, share a bit of personal history, but above all, to send a message to the girls, teens, and women who are suffering or have suffered gender violence and to the whole world.

Since I live in Spain, I will cite the figures I am painfully aware of. As of yesterday, 40 women in Spain have been murdered by their (ex-) partner or (ex-)spouse. FORTY women — 40!!!! These women had families and friends; they touched the lives of hundreds, possibly thousands of people, and they were loved — by their parents, children, friends, relatives… Every life they touched is a little bit more impoverished for their death, and we, as a society, are still unable to come up with the strategies capable of overcoming this plague.

I suffered sexual abuse in the home as a child-adolescent, though I do not speak on behalf of anyone. I speak only with my own voice and my message is just that, my message. I’m hardly an example, much less a role model for anyone, and I do not purport to know what the answers are. What I can say is that the abuse I suffered then marked my life in many, many ways and has taken me more years that I even know to overcome. These are years of my life that affected how I saw myself, how I thought about myself, even to the point of erasing my “Self” from my own awareness.

To avoid the reality, I sought refuge in many other things and it wasn’t until I was in my 20s and returned home with my baby daughter that the flashbacks of what had happened to me brought the reality of my past to my awareness so I could deal with it. Still, it would take me many years before I felt strong enough to actually face up to what had happened and take it out of its box — I was terrified and it took me more years than I care to admit, but I have finally stared down the monster that is abuse and made peace with myself.

  • The messages I want to share with other women, adolescents, and girls who suffer this violence in its many disguises, and with the world as a whole are that:
    It’s not your fault. Let me repeat that so that you can let it sink in. It’s NOT your fault!!! The sufferer is never, NEVER to blame. Forget about what your abuser tells or has told you. IT’S NOT YOUR FAULT!!!
  • Gender violence is about the perpetrator, not the sufferer. Heart in hand, I never saw my abuser as a monster — what he did was monstrous, but he was not a monster. He was a very tortured soul who suffered tremendous emotional pain. I have nothing but love and compassion for him. That being said, I will not justify the unjustifiable!! He may not have had the emotional resources to act any differently, but that did not give him the right to abuse me!!!!
  • Perhaps, most importantly, I want to shout out loud and send my message of hope to everyone — THE HUMAN SPIRIT IS STRONG!!!! It — we, as humans — can withstand horrendous, heinous acts and survive. We do it everyday!! If you are suffering violence, believe in your strength and know that you can find your way out!!!

With the strength of our spirit, let us all stand strong and say “NO” to gender violence and violence of all kinds. We are capable of doing infinitely better!!!!! We are one Humanity — one and the same!!! There can be no “us” and “them” if we are to make the world the kind of place we all deserve to live in!!! Please, take time to reflect on this regularly: the Human Spirit is both sensitive and strong and we all, each and every one of us, belong to the same Humanity; we are all members of the same human family!!!World Day against Gender Violence

At the Beach

As I was walking along the water’s edge at the beach this summer, I came upon a little boy on his way to the water, crabbing net in one hand, colorful watering can in the other. He wore the look of intense focus on his 5-year old face — he was on a mission and on task!!

A few meters further and I came upon a little girl. She looked to be about 2 years old. Her blond hair was very curly and she wore a  cute little pink bikini bottom with a ruffle across her bum. She was standing in the water that came up to her little ankles. She spotted a wave coming at her and pointed excitedly at the approaching wave — the thrill of water in motion filled her entire little self!!! She watched it as it swirled around her ankles before fading away and, as she lifted her gaze, she was enchanted again, pointing at the new wave in the distance. Once again she was over-the-moon as this new wave repeated the motions of the one before it.

The next time I saw the little boy, I found him on his way back to his “base camp” on the beach. He still carried the crabbing net in one hand, watering can in the other. This time, though, he had entered into a more complicated phase of his mission. The incline of the beach was now an upward one and his net tended to bump into the sand as he ascended. He was still on task, but, whereas before his focus was placed solely on the water ahead of him, he was now faced with a far more complex set of tasks. He had to keep his destination in sight to orient his movements. He had to keep the net from bumping into the slope as he moved toward his “base camp” and all the while, manage to keep the water from spilling out of the watering can. Nevertheless, he was up to the task and I marvelled as I watched him as, with fierce determination, he went about accomplishing his “mission”.

Coming back upon the little girl with the golden curls, I couldn’t help but smile. Her ability to be ecstatic with each new wave had not diminished in the slightest! Each new wave was just that — it was new and it totally tickled her again, before disappearing at her feet!

Two delightful, yet very different and ways of being in the moment. Neither one was “better” than the other. They both gave me food for thought.

I think I’ll hang on to the image of the fierce determination and focus of the little boy to call on when I’m feeling a little “scattered” and have a project I want to finish. I will also hold on to the image of the little girl to conjure up the perfect image of what giving in to the wonder of the present looks like!