Friday, October 7, 2016

Ghost Town - Written 2/21/15

The city is a ghost town.

I don't mean that it is an abandoned, dusty relic in which the streets are deserted and the homes barren of life.  What I mean is that it is filled with ghosts.

I had the need to drive to Rohnert Park this evening by myself.  I was delivering a special order and didn't think anything of it, that is until I turned down Golf Course Drive and Steve Perry was singing "Open Arms."  Whoa, did everything shift.  The light changed, the air changed, and there I was remembering a different house, children young, friends loving - and leaving.

I was alive during those years, more fiercely alive than I have ever been.  From 1984 to 2001 my life was centered in Rohnert Park and Cotati.  As I drove toward my destination I flipped the channel to country music, and rather than dissipating, the feeling became more intense.  I gave up, gave in, let it take me.

Lost in thought, I dropped off my package and picked up the envelope under the door mat.  I was lost in memories and deep feeling as I drove away.  I was so tempted to drive around town, to all those places so fresh in memory, so intensely present in my heart, but I resisted the impulse.  Instead, those memories continued to crash over me as I drove up Snyder to my next destination, and that didn't help.  Snyder, that midpoint between the two main places I'd lived, past the virtual middle ground of the bookends of my first married life and the greatest joys and greatest pains I'd ever experienced.

Believe me there were highs.  I smiled as I remembered roller blading with the kids, sunshine and laughter, watching them learning how to ride a bicycle, cooking dinner, doing homework, playing games.  Walks at night when I could see my breath before me, hands tucked into pockets as I looked at Christmas decorations and smelled baking cookies.  Getting dressed for a night out, filled with anticipation and in the best physical shape of my life - a person looking back in the mirror who only exists in memory.  Sitting on my bed with my best friend, talking for hours and hours, laughing and crying and consoling and learning.  Pregnant and birthing and sitting with my new little one in the freshly mowed grass, looking to the blue sky.

Life was full.  It was an adventure.  It was extreme highs and terrifying lows.  It was confidence and love and joy and lots of great sex.  It was loneliness, hours on the phone, sitting alone, writing and writing, and working and fretting.  It was trying to find my way.  It was thinking I found it.  It was having it all torn from me.  Complete destruction in the wake of what I thought was the greatest story ever told.

It was flying across a dance floor.  It was laughing and singing.  It was finding myself.  It was losing it all.  It was feeling enveloped in love and then utterly destroyed.  I left Rohnert Park not scarred, but with deep unhealed and weeping wounds I still carefully hide.

Life changed.  I shut down.  I still laughed with my daughters, cared for my youngest baby, was present, worked hard, but I was more worried and less open.  My heart had broken open.  When I put it back together, it functioned to pour out love into the world and onto those around me.  It functioned perfectly well.  It took care of those I cared for.  But it did not receive.  It was closed, sheltered, protected, because no one other than family could really be trusted.  No one was let in.  No one would hurt me that way.  Ever.  Again.

I remember weeping while sitting on the concrete steps in my garage.  I remember wailing on the phone that I would never, ever, love another again.  I figured I'd get over it as I had before.  But not this time.

Driving home tonight the memories continued to replay as the radio sent me more memories and more messages.  I was really feeling again for the first time in a long time.  Even though some of it hurt, I felt more alive.  I wanted that back in my life.  To experience the highs and brave the lows.  A glimmer of resolution grew as tears flowed down my face, salt sliding onto my lips.

By the time I got home and got busy, the feeling was dimming and the numbing protection creeping over me like the deep river fog.  By writing this I'm fighting it, as I put music on from that era to remind me.  The losses still hurt.  The betrayals still hurt.  But the I miss the highs.  I miss living.  I miss the dance.  I miss feeling loved.

I still don't know if I am lovable or if I want to risk it all again.  But at least I'm thinking about it.  And maybe these tears are starting to heal the wounds that keep me from moving freely in the world as I used to.  At least I hope so.

Friday, February 26, 2016

Strong and Direct?

I recently sent an e-mail to my doctor letting her know I'd scheduled an appointment and to tell her what I planned to talk to her about.  Her response got me to thinking and recognizing that who I am today is not necessarily the person that I carry around inside of me.  Here's her reply:

No problem -- always good to confirm all is well, I appreciate head on approach, but that's who you are Laura - strong and direct :)
I sat and looked at that last line for a while.  "Strong and direct" is not something I'm used to thinking about myself, though when I think about my interactions with her, with my SO, with my coworkers, kids, employers, yeah.  I supposed it really does fit today.

Even though I recognize the truth in my doctor’s comment that I am “strong and direct,” it still took me a little by surprise to think that I am recognized that way.  I realized that that is a long and hard-fought descriptor that is far away from the girl I remember being.  That woman grew bit by bit over time.

For instance, this is representative of the girl inside.  This girl, here, daydreaming in the upstairs window of a Mission building in Ethete, Wyoming my first summer tour.  

She’s 14 going on 15.  She’s lived all over the place from the day she was born - from Southern California and parts East to Germany back to Southern California then to Denver and Franktown, finally settling in Northern California (two moves within Novato) the summer before she started 7th grade.  She left 2nd grade halfway through the year to go to Colorado.  She finished 2nd grade in Denver, then to 3rd in a one-room schoolhouse in Franktown while the new school in Parker was being built.  She made a couple of friends that first year in Franktown, but was the target of a much older boy bully who’d been held back, by the name of John B.  (I remember the name but won't out him.)  She used to pretend to be sick so she didn’t have to go to school and hid her fear from her parents and teachers until 4th grade, after moving to the big school (Northeast) outside Parker.  Finally, she told someone.  The school’s solution to the problem was to suggest that she stay in a classroom or library during recess so John B. wouldn’t bother her.  He left Northeast to attend the new school when it was completed the next year.  5th and 6th were easier, excelling in school, in band and choir, and she won the lead in the 6th grade operetta.

Then her dad was laid off and his new job at LAIR found them a new home in California.  7th grade was scary.  The girls were tough and she was country.  Her clothing, her way of living, didn’t fit with Marin County in the early 70s.  She was afraid to go to the bathroom except in the safer PE locker room bathrooms because the tough girls smoked in the others.  Another move from one side of Novato to the other brought her to 8th grade at a different school, where she was warned the drinking fountains were spiked with cocaine!  (Not true of course.)  Wind Children saved her that year.  The following year she went on this tour.

She was afraid of speaking her mind in case it lost her friends.  She wanted to fit in, and mostly she did.  She didn’t understand relationships and let the boys take the lead.  She accepted the first proposal she received because probably deep down she wasn’t sure she’d get another.  She grew a lot and learned a lot in WC, but not fast enough to be married at 18, just seven months after graduation.

So when someone says strong and direct - this is the girl that lives at my core, and I used to have a hard time reconciling them.  I’ve got it now.  I can still be kind and loving and considerate, because that’s the way to operate in this world of awful to try and make it better, but I don’t have to compromise my core ideals and ethics.  I can accept new information and reformulate my beliefs and reality, but don’t have to if it doesn’t fit.

And I’m not afraid of being alone anymore.  I handled that well enough for 18 years and know how to take care of myself and be alone without being lonely.  Which makes me honor even more the chance I now have to love and be in a relationship.  I get to figure out how to do that as this strong and direct woman, who knows how to love and how she wants to be loved, and how to form a solid partnership in which both partners are honored and respected, not just the bigger, stronger one.

I think that girl in Ethete would be happy about this. 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015


I'm beginning a huge new transition in my life.  Change is never comfortable or easy, and as my kids will tell you, change is awful for me.  If I initiate it, it's a little easier.  When it's happening as the natural course of life, I can kinda prepare for it, but it's still hard.  Let's not even talk about change that is foisted on me.

My youngest fledgling is getting ready to fly out into the world on her own.  We'll be relatively close by, within a couple of hours depending on the family member you're looking at, and in this technological age, phone calls and texts and even Skype shared viewing of our favorite television programs together will be possible.  But she'll be moving from our secluded country home into the big city on her own.

I thought this would be easier.  I think both of us thought it would be easier.  She is ready to go, she is eager and excited about living in the city.  She loves it, she eats it up, she wants to go back all the time.  She is ready to begin learning and working toward her BFA.  I think I'm ready to watch what I want on TV, run the vacuum and washing machine and play the piano at my whim.

But we're both scared and nervous and sad at the same time as we're looking at the positives of this transition.  I think we both try to avoid talking about it, looking at it, so it comes out in random blips, such as a short response to a routine question, feelings getting hurt rather quickly, hugging more, talking more, wanting to spend time together more, and then snappy remarks at small things.  It's the dance of separation between parent and child, and it's normal and it's to be expected and it's short-lived and it's painful.

The smallest thing causes me to burst into tears.  I am easily distracted and feel like I'm going to jump out of my skin at times.  I have had recurring panic attacks the last couple of weeks.  Thankfully, I do know how to breathe through them and out but it's tough and unexpected.  And frustrating.  And frightening.

I started a mental countdown in my head last night, one that I hid from my daughter.  But she revealed this evening that she has started her own countdown.  Mine was, "Only two more Tuesdays after tonight."  Hers was, "Only three more weeks."  Both ended with, "Before I start missing you.  Before I am apart from you.  Before you will not be here next to me whenever I need you."

I realized that I've been a parent for nearly 32 years.  That's well over half my life having kids in the house at all times.  And this kidlet and I have been a dynamic duo for the majority of her time on this planet, her sisters having moved out when she was about 5 and 8.  It's been just the two of us.  Thankfully for me, her sisters moved out nearby.  She's going a greater distance.  Thank god it's not New York City.

So what are we going to do in three weeks?  Yegads.  It's going to be thrilling for her and scary too.  I am thankful that she found a school that has such a great support network in place for her.  Things that a parent really needs - 24 hour security, rules that are safe and sane, free shuttle service to classes, a meal plan so I know the kid won't go hungry and will have good food available to her.  She'll have a roommate and I hope that they get along.  I think they will, and it's a good thing that they're starting together - the two in the room and all of them in the building newbies and learning their way around at the same time.

I don't know what I'm going to do.  I figure most things will stay the same, though there will be more phone calls and more time on my own.  A new chapter for both of us.  Her setting her own alarm, and me missing waking her up, no matter how grumpy she is in the morning.

So if you pray or light candles or hold good thoughts, please do that for me and this baby.  We can use all the love and support and help you can offer.  Thanks. xoxo

Monday, March 16, 2015

Breezy's Nighttime Adventure/Scare

Saturday was a long day.  Or rather, Saturday through Sunday morning.

We woke early Saturday morning after staying up late Friday night.  We had a craft fair to attend and needed to be there by 8am.  We packed the car, grabbed some coffee and snacks and cash for change and headed out to the fair location.  After struggling with setting up the "pop-up" canopy (anything but!) we got everything set up and pretty and ready to go.  It was a fun day, if long, meeting a lot of nice people and making some good contacts.  By the time 5pm rolled around and it was time to head home, we were beat.

We'd eaten a late lunch so headed home, unpacked half of the items in the car, and just collapsed for a little bit.  I drank a ton of water and ended up falling asleep on the couch.  I woke Bex so we could bring the goats in and milk, and then ended up falling asleep on the couch AGAIN.  It was 10pm when I woke up and brought Breezy, our Shar'pei/American Bulldog mix dog, in for the night.

She didn't dash for her food as she usually does but I thought nothing of it because she went directly to it.  I happened to be sitting on the "throne" when I heard a crash in the kitchen and the sound of dog paws/claws skittering around on the floor.  I yelled "Hey!" thinking she'd knocked something down and was sliding around in it.

I walked out to see what had happened and was shocked to see her lying on her side on the floor, unmoving.  I called her name and when I got closer could see vomit at her head and feces at her rear and all she could do was barely lift her head to look at me.  I forced myself to calmly stroke her head and clean the mess, then woke Bex and told her as calmly as I could that we had to get Breezy to the vet.  I asked her to comfort her while I called her oldest sister Jessica to find out the nearest 24 hour pet hospital.  Jess offered to meet us and go with us and to call ahead to Rohnert Park to let them know we are coming.  I put a blanket over Breezy to keep her warm and Becca stayed by her side while I cleared the rest of the craft fair from the back of the car and onto the side of the driveway so she could sit in the back seat with Breezy, who was still not moving.

I have never had a scare like this with a pet before.  Without Jess and Bex I think I might have been paralyzed, not knowing what to do next.

It took three tries to pick her up off the floor in the blanket, but I was finally able to do so and very carefully carried her heavy, unmoving body to the car.  As I gently laid her down on the back seat, she suddenly stood up.  I was shocked!  Despite our encouragement, Breezy would not lie down in the back seat and preferred to sit next to Becca as we drove toward town.  When Jess got into the car, Breezy was back to normal, trying to get to the front of the car to greet her.  I couldn't believe the change!  I was grateful for a witness in Bex so I didn't think I had been imagining things.

We arrived at the vet hospital and Breezy was close to normal, though somewhat subdued.  The tech who first examined her wondered what had happened under her tail - it was all swollen - and she wondered if Breezy had been bitten by a bug and suffered an allergic reaction.  It later turned out that Breezy was "holding it" for as long as she could and let go a big "3 pound" pile of poop in the examining room later.

Her vitals were good though she has lost weight over the last couple of months that I have not been able to get back on her as I usually can.  Recommended tests and x-rays showed nothing abnormal and we are awaiting the blood test results.  Breezy was described as a "rockin' grandma" because she is lively for her age.  After she karate-punched a vet tech (accidentally) while being maneuvered onto the radiology table, she became known as "kung-fu grandma."  She is also the first dog the vet has ever seen able to throw the sand bags off her paws that were supposed to keep her still for the x-rays, and sit straight up while being restrained to the padded table, lifting the padded trough she was lying in.  Every time they got her situated and ready for the x-ray, as soon as they left the room she would throw the bags off and sit up.  It took 7-8 tries to get the pictures.

At the end of it all, and at about 3am, her collapse was still a mystery.  She got some Benadryl in case it was an allergic reaction and we headed home.  After dropping Jess off at her car and arriving home, I allowed Breezy to finish the dinner she hadn't eaten before her collapse.  We headed to bedrooms to get back into pajamas, and came back out to check on Breezy.  Then discovered that in the five minutes we were out of her sight after our arrival home from the vet, she had gotten into a large bin that had been sitting on a chair filled with items from the craft fair, and had found the remnants of Bex's chocolate bar and ate it!  The vet tech was laughing her head off when I called to let them know and to find out if she was going to be sick again.  Luckily the dose was too small to cause her trouble.  She was back to her old self!

So far there is no sign of the problem and no definitive answers as to what caused it.  One of the test results turned out wrong so we're going to recheck her (at no charge thank goodness).  The vet thinks the sample was mishandled at the lab because the glucose level was so impossibly low Breezy would have been having seizures at the time the sample was taken, and that didn't happen.

So we watch and wait and enjoy our Rockin' Kung-Fu Grandma for a while longer, and I hope a good long while.

Wednesday, February 4, 2015

Love One Another

I had the opportunity to visit San Francisco yesterday.  After the drive and walking around a museum and then driving deeper into the city, I was able to find some time to sit quietly on a park bench in a peaceful square in Japantown.  San Francisco during the week is delightfully sane (outside of downtown).  It was a beautiful spring-like day, and I spent some time observing people while enjoying the perfect mild warm weather.

I'd noticed a couple of pigeons high on a tall arch (shown in the photo) earlier, then saw them sitting on the ground about three feet from me.  I watched the birds, admiring their colorful feathers and bright watchful eyes, especially one that stayed near me while its companion wandered about pecking at the ground. I noticed it seemed to limp a little and then saw its left foot was terribly deformed, with barely one claw where there should be three and a strange painful looking lump at the base of the leg. The other foot had three very short claws and it was clearly difficult for the bird to get around.

As I wondered if this was a birth defect or terrible injury, the other bird came back and walked in a circle around the lame pigeon. I worried it was going to pick a fight, perhaps fearing I might drop food and it would miss out.

The two birds locked beaks and began moving about a little as if struggling, though not moving their bodies or feet.  I wondered if this was a fight or mating ritual or what.  Then the healthy bird stepped away and the lame bird ... swallowed.  The healthy bird was feeding the other who struggled just to walk!

About this time my teenage daughter joined me on the bench. I showed her the birds and explained what I'd witnessed.  We wondered if it would happen again, and sure enough it did.

If the wild creatures can care for each other like this, what's wrong with us? I used to feel like I did my share when I could, but I now know I can do more. I'm thankful to the pigeons for sharing a story of true love and caring today.

Be good to each other.  Love one another.  Right now.

Tuesday, September 23, 2014

All I Know

Over the last couple of weeks I've been sharing thoughts on forgiveness, and reconciliation, and reunion versus re-union, and examining the past from a different perspective.  I’m giving people chances, overcoming fear and hurt, and more, with several dear friends.  I've spent a lot of time thinking about their stories and experiences, their fears, and reflecting on the pure healing energy of love that I feel with them and that I felt at the last two retreats with the Wind Children at St. Dorothy's.  Some people have told me how they overcame their fears and reservations about joining us at the retreat, others are still considering whether to go to the next or not, some feel that they don't need it and can shut the door on the past, some say they just cannot open that door.

I wrote to a couple of friends recently, "Reconciliation, full circle, and forgiveness are a big part of this group.  It's part of our DNA.  This is more than a high school reunion party."

Don't get me wrong, there is plenty of party at these gatherings, with laughter and joy and memories.  In fact, re-treat is a good term for them due to the shared goodies that are consumed!  However, anyone who's been a part of this group and survived at least one tour knows that there's no escaping the lessons learned and the high experienced when one has successfully navigated the Full Circle Experience.

What I’ve discovered through these last two weekend retreats is that the reunions are more than the superficial happy gatherings of people from casual relationships that were generated through school or work experiences.  When you were in the Wind Children, you were in a much more intense emotional relationship with everyone.  We chose the Wind Children and didn’t just fall into the community through family, the school district we happened to land in, or the college we decided to attend.  Even if we did start off in the group as the pal of a member, our participation was completely voluntary and it took a significant commitment on our part.  As a result, these recent gatherings are more than a simple reunion.  They are a re-union, a re-connection of people at a deeper level who shared experiences that no one else we know has had.  It’s been an opportunity for healing and discovery.  Having a full weekend to dig in, especially at a place as special as St. Dorothy’s, brought about a more meaningful experience than I could have ever imagined.  When I started thinking about an SDR weekend gathering, I thought it would be a great way to have a good time reminiscing.  What happened surprised me.  People let their hair down, and in their 50s they are more courageous and willing to be honest about their experiences, good and bad, their memories and lessons learned, and to seek understanding and reconciliation.  It has also been an opportunity to give thanks to those who inspired, taught, or loved us.   There are lots of those people present, as well.  Many of us discovered that we had touched the lives of others in ways we were not even aware of.
I bruise you, you bruise me
We both bruise too easily, too easily to let it show
I love you and that's all I know

We touched on that love and fear thing in my last blog post, eh?  Well, it's an ever present problem.  And that fear, when it's tied to experiences in a group this intense AND during our teen years when everything is intense, is a tough thing to overcome.  Here are some stories about love and fear and re-union and re-connection.
All my plans have fallen through,
All my plans depend on you, depend on you to help them grow 

Those plans, those plans!  They are so essential, especially on tour.  During tour, the group had to come together more than ever.  It required every person to be committed to taking responsibility for their own part of tour, to work together, to respect each other, and to reach their goals in a safe and (mostly) responsible way.  (We were primarily junior high and high school students, after all.  There were mistakes.)  When problems arose, we had to work together to resolve them.  When we screwed up, we had to learn to accept responsibility for our actions and make amends.  Through these efforts, we learned about personal growth (Personal Growth Points!) and stretched what we believed our limits to be and became better people.  Mostly.  When those ideals were ignored or forgotten, when the group failed to come together, and when the group did not have the core support that was needed to be successful, things went awry.  Sometimes in a seriously messed up way.  (I wanted to use the f-word there, but refrained in order to keep this at least PG-rated.)

Betrayal and struggle without resolution or reconciliation is a tough thing to handle.  When those things are never discussed or addressed, when people walk away without acknowledging (or perhaps even being aware) that they screwed up, that can leave lasting damage.  Even though it may be harder to go full circle after 30 years, I think that it's still necessary.  It's probably even more frightening to confront that moment now than it would have been at the time it happened.  After all, we rationalize that we should just get over it and let it go and tell ourselves that it doesn't matter.  But it does.  And then we tell ourselves that we don't need it because we'll just run into the same problems with those individuals that we had before.  But I haven't seen that happen yet.  And then we tell ourselves that no one will care anyway.  But that isn't true, either.
I love you and that's all I know.

Yeah, there's that L-word again.  And it's still a bright and shining force overcoming the fear and the hurt and the anger and the betrayal.  Love grows stronger as people recognize their part in the problem, or realize for the first time what they have done, and make amends.  Even if reconciliation is not possible, having the rest of the group there to support and nurture you helps.

I have truly great memories with individuals I knew and loved - but an organized reunion or retreat is pretty much a non-starter for me.
I have great memories, but a lot of bad ones too. I am not sure I want to go to a reunion.

In selecting who we want to see, we are trying to create the only positive experience that we can imagine, which limits the boundless possibilities of a potential experience.  If I had chosen only those people I wanted to see at the last reunions, I would have had a predictably pleasant short vacation.  Instead, I was surprised at the connections I made with people that I hadn't had an opportunity to get really close to.  I was blessed to be able to have discussions with people I'd thought didn't like me or I thought I might have hurt.  I was amazed to learn that some saw things in me that they appreciated and had remembered through the years.  I had been wrong all this time in my perception and could have missed out on these opportunities to develop brand-new and renewed relationships that will endure and benefit each of us for years.

From 1977 in Ethete:
Very quickly, the Wind Children went into one of those sessions where they hash out their problems with one another. At the end of this session, we again saw some 60 odd Wind Children holding hands in that inter-weaving chain that we saw when we passed the rock during communion.  ...  Everybody wanted to go to bed that night after going to the people they had been having trouble with. It was a time of going full circle with arguments, a time of forgiveness, and a time of massive hugging.

And from 1978 in Dogellau:
We gathered in the barn at 11:00 am to hold the service.  The spirit of this group began in a communion service on a wind-swept cliff in Utah and it seems that we need to come together in this way in order to keep our perspective.  It is hard to describe just why communion services are so healing with the Wind Children.  The experience is so intimate; I would compare it to spiritual group therapy.  We passed the rock and this can take quite a long time when ninety-three people speak their inner feelings, one by one. But out in the wind and cold, we felt warm as we took time for airing our inner feelings. It seemed that many had a need to get rid of some "garbage" as people confessed of jealousy, petty feelings and anger.  There was a real healing of relationships through ventilation and forgiveness.  It seemed to me that we pulled together in our tour community through this service.  We can get so caught in the whirlwind of activities that we lose our center, but we are always brought back together through communing.

One thing we discovered during these last two retreats is that even though we had planned to pass the rock, it wasn't necessary for these healing moments to take place (as shown in the example from Ethete, above).  We've learned a lot over these last two retreat weekends so I believe that we will pass the rock next time.  However, that is not an absolute necessity for healing. 
And we felt hit by this mighty wind rushing us. Doors flew open, window shutters slammed; there was light, fiery light, like tongues of fire on the people's heads. And we were together, we were one, and we were a moving force!
Do you remember those times?  Do you remember what it felt like to be as one?  Do you remember that it takes work, and that taking the easy path doesn't lead to great reward?

I asked another friend this recently:  Do you want to allow a small percentage of your WC experience to obliterate the overwhelming majority of the good?  

One participant this year shared with me:
Whenever I come back from a visit to CWC friends, I am a changed person…. A significantly changed person.  [My spouse] and people at work notice it and comment on it.  It is a good feeling.  To apologize is good….to be forgiven is even better….to forgive someone else…fantastic!

When the singer's gone let the song go on...
But the ending always comes at last,
Endings always come too fast,
They come too fast but they pass too slow

What if we don't act on those opportunities to address old wounds and allow them to heal?  We could never attain the gift of understanding and forgiveness and healing, and could carry those old "bad memories" into the future and beyond the grave.  What if they weren't really bad?  What if our perspective was skewed?  What if we miss an opportunity to hear an apology from the person who hurt us?  Forever?

When my brother died, I could not find our Wind Children family easily.  I despaired because I could not find our tribe. That anxiety compounded everything else that I was dealing with, and Wind Children were my salvation.  Because of the presence of the many Wind Children who were there, I was able to mourn Tim not only with our biological family, but with our spiritual family, as well.  Erik and Kirby saved me.  Everyone there did.  And the thought of those I could not reach slayed me.  I have had to break that news to Wind Children family years later too many times, and it broke my heart to do so.  After Tim's death and this struggle, I began gathering contact information and vowed that we would no longer see each other only at funerals.  

I love you and that's all I know

One participant told me that when she heard another member was coming to the reunion she internally shrugged.  "Whatever."  She wondered where that feeling came from because they used to be very close.  Then she remembered that those indifferent feelings had been deliberately sown by herself because the other had started dating her ex-boyfriend.  As she reflected on where that feeling of disdain had come from, she had to laugh at herself.  She seriously set aside a valuable friendship because of a boy?  And one whom neither of them were even remotely involved with today?  When she saw this person at the reunion, she was able to let go of that old memory and enjoy renewing that friendship.  That opportunity could have been lost if she'd held onto that emotion without examining it.

As for me, I have at least one person that I feel I need to talk with, but without these opportunities old wounds are going to remain unresolved and unhealed.  My sense is that all parties are feeling hurt.  I have a deep need to find out what happened to cause the rifts, to share my own pain, and to find out if I did something so I might be able to make amends to heal the relationships.  Sometimes I want to write a letter to be delivered upon my death to some (yes, I consider these things!). What is in that imaginary letter changes, so it never gets written.  One version is "I forgive you," and the other is "I never forgave you."  Neither one feels right yet, though I yearn for the first.

I have lots of forgiving to figure out how to do and it's tough to do that without an opportunity to talk with them.  I still love these people. I still want to figure out what went wrong and how we salvage what I believe are valuable friendships.
Are those "bad memories" really "bad" or were they simply difficult teenage/young adult times that never got cleared through that full circle moment?  Is there an opportunity for shared understanding and forgiveness and reconciliation?

It's a fine line between the darkness and the dawn.
They say in the darkest night there's a light beyond

One absolute truth that people discovered from these last two re-union retreats has been how wonderful it was for every participant, in spite of them having to overcome their own fears about being there.  I can guarantee you that each and every person was hesitant the first time they attended a re-union.  They worried about how they would feel seeing some people.  They were afraid of rejection or feeling left out.  They were concerned about the reaction of an old lover.  Or more than one.  Or their spouse.  There were as many concerns as there were people, and each person was able to overcome those fears and recognize that this is family.  We speak the same language, have experiences so similar they may as well have been the same, and share the same music, memories, and story.

A whole weekend to see your high school friends?  But just like on tour, things take time to unfold. A coffee reunion, a picnic = polite, safe, catching up.  A weekend?  Reflection, re- union.  It's okay to talk, to listen, to observe.  There was no forced sharing.  You really don't know the effect you'll have on others, how something you might say or they might overhear, someone you weren't even close with, might have an impact.  (One person whom I'd never even met in CWC, profoundly affected me through conversations last weekend.)  What are you avoiding and why?  If you are avoiding with respect to this group, where else in life does that also emerge?

All of us found acceptance and affirmation at the re-union.  It is pretty much a given that you will be "in the club."  You will probably not even be able to make it out of the parking lot before you hear joyful greetings and are embraced again and again by people who are genuinely happy to see you.  As any participant at the last two reunions will tell you, they were mobbed on arrival in a very good way.  People stopped what they were doing, paused conversations, to physically get up and greet each person as they arrived.  That love continued throughout the weekend until it was time to regretfully say goodbye.  Until next time.

When the singer's gone let the song go on
Do we keep taking the easy way out and then live with regret when it's too late?  What will our lingering song be?  One of love and light and lives changed for the better, or grudges and regret?
Forgiveness and Grace are wonderful tools that I am just beginning to understand.  Especially with what we have all been through.  We are too old to let something from 30 years ago prevent us from restarting friendships…..
Indeed.  Let's let this be our song.  Let's remember the reward gained from honest reflection and love and forgiveness and understanding.  Let's be brave enough to go to the reunions so we don't only see each other at funerals or memorials.  Let's make room for the good things and let go of the bad.  Let's do the work because the reward is so, so sweet.

I love you, and that's all I know.

Lyrics:  "All I Know," written by Jimmy Webb and performed by Erik Swerrie in The Spiritual (and by Art Garfunkel)

Tuesday, September 9, 2014

Get Together

Love is but a song we sing
And fear’s the way we die
You can make the mountains ring
Or make the angels cry
Know the dove is on the wing
And you may not know why

I just spent the weekend with some very special people in my life at a very special place.

Located in Camp Meeker, California, St. Dorothy's Rest and Retreat Center is a haven from the hustle and bustle of the world.  Cell signal is spotty for most and the cool redwoods, quiet and beautiful ancient grounds, and kind and passionate staff make for a wonderful weekend retreat.  Add in a special group of people, and you can create magic.

A California Wind Children reunion retreat is always something special with lessons learned, relationships deepened, renewal of spirit, and/or a new appreciation gained for others or for ourselves.  This group is too complex to try to describe in a single blog post and defies understanding even for its members who were a part of the Wind Children experience from 1975 through 1983.  Hundreds of newspaper articles about the group published across the United States, Canada, and overseas cannot even touch what the Wind Children are.  We learn something more each time we sift through our memories and experiences and share them with each other.

For me, one of the most important lessons learned during the teenage years I spent with this group was the concept of "Full Circle."  Learning to share with another human being when you have been hurt or have an issue to address with them is difficult to learn at any age, and especially in high school.  It's a way of living that is always challenging, no matter how often we practice it.

C’mon people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another right now
What we learned is that when we approach each other with respect and love and share our individual experience, we allow the other person to see through our eyes and to learn and grow.  As they share their view, we learn as well.  If all are open, honest, and trusting, forgiveness and a renewed and strengthened relationship can grow.  And yet time is fleeting...

Some may come and some may go
We will surely pass
When the one that left us here
Returns for us at last
We are but a moment’s sunlight
Fading in the grass

Thirty-plus years after the Wind Children disbanded as an active group, we are losing members to accident and disease at an increasingly rapid pace.  We honor Tim Bohler, Abigail Shippey, Mark Mueller, Gerry O'Halloran, Stella Haight, and David E. Fritz as we strive to live in the moment and take every opportunity to be with those we love and share this special bond with.  I have often said that feeling gratitude or love for another and not expressing it is like wrapping a gift and then not giving it (quote from W.A. Ward).  We have a need to share those thoughts, memories, and feelings with each other, and to also address the old hurts and allow them to heal before it is too late. 

If you hear the song I sing
You will understand
You hold the key to love and fear
All in your trembling hand
Just one key unlocks them both
It’s there at your command

It takes courage to come full circle.  One must overcome the fear to bring up the hurt, accept the challenge to become a better person, and experience forgiveness for things that we often didn't even realize we had done.

Sometimes someone isn't ready for that full circle moment, and we must learn to be okay with their decision.  In that moment we let go of our need to control others, and we learn that the greatest gift we can give ourselves is forgiveness.  Holding on to resentment, hurt, and anger is only diminishing us, our lives, our potential, and dims the light of love that we hold for the world.

Some members of the group had not yet attended a reunion retreat or any gathering for over 30 years. Some shared with me that they were nervous coming, all that teenage angst and fear trying to hold them back after all these years.  Some described how just driving up the hill to St. Dorothy's created a sense of calm and anticipation in them, and once they saw people as they entered Main House, and were enveloped by joyful hugs and sincere loving greetings, all of their fears fell away.  They left with a sense of renewal, reconnection, and greater strength, knowing that this community is with them always.  They left knowing that they are loved and always have been, that their contributions to the whole of Wind Children are important, and that there is a need for them to be present in the future. 

So push back the fear and reach for love.  Forgive others, and forgive yourself.  See the humanity in all and bring out the best in them.  Love one another.  Right Now.

C’mon people now
Smile on your brother
Everybody get together
Try to love one another right now

Credit to Chet Powers (aka Dino Valenti) for the lyrics to Get Together, recorded in 1967 by The Youngbloods