Where do I belong?


phoenix.jpg       The question of “Where do I belong?” has been a very live one for me lately.  I’m betting that it’s been somewhere in my thought process ever since Russell died.  But over the last 2 months it’s been pressing closer and closer to the conscious, awake part of my brain.  or maybe it’s that I have been becoming more conscious and awake, hmmm.

For as long as I can remember I’ve felt deeply grateful to be part of lots of communities that I felt I belonged to.  I’ve spent much of my adult life being part of groups of people that I connected with in some way or the other.  Belonging to something has always felt a part of my life, starting with my family.  Somehow I always find ways to be part of vibrant, exciting communities.

In the past 5-6 years I’ve felt most connected, like I most belonged to, a few very loving communities – my family first and foremost, my WOW group, friends with a few people I have known for decades, a family faith sharing group, and Avalon.  All of these to varying degrees have been threads of love and acceptance that have supported me through a lot of ups and downs.  In each of these groups I have experienced a very deep sense of belonging that included the freedom to truly be myself.

What is becoming clearer to me day by day is that I don’t really know where I belong anymore.  Oh I still feel in all of these groups and many more that I can be myself, and that my journey is always seen as important by others.  I still feel a great deal of love pouring forth from tons of people supporting and loving me.  I still experience people welcoming me and wanting to spend time with me.  I even am increasingly feeling fairly settled and content with portions my life.

But there is also a very real thread of my reality that the very places I’ve spent the most time and have felt most deeply connected to – specifically at Avalon and with my closest family and friends – now feel just a little off most of the time. It’s as if I’m there but not there, looking into the party through a window from the outside.   Some days it feels very off and disconnected from me, leaving me with feelings of “I just don’t fit here anymore. This isn’t where I belong.”

I still want to belong in those places that have been home for me.  I want to feel like I fit there.  I try to do the same things I used to do that brought me such great joy.  Some are good, lifting my spirits and easing my heart. These I allow myself to rest in loving the feelings of contentment that flow through me.   Other things feel like nails on a chalkboard and leave me cringing and wanting to flee as far away as possible.  During these times I realize I need to rethink my life, structuring it new ways.

The biggest change isn’t the communities and groups I am part of. The biggest, most mysterious change is me.  I don’t feel I belong because in many ways I don’t anymore.  I am not the same person I was 15 months ago.  In many ways I really did burn to ashes like a phoenix.  As I am reborn from these ashes some of the basic, core parts of me remain but there is much that is new or will be new.

I find it challenging to be patient with myself as I am reborn. It’s very, very uncomfortable to feel like I might not belong in some places in the same ways anymore.  My fear that maybe I don’t belong at all in communities I’ve loved for years wakes me up shaking at night.   When I give into the fear I go to a very dark place.

Thankfully, some very wise folks have caught me in some “I don’t belong” spinouts lately.  Seemingly out of nowhere these spinouts have left me stunned and crying as words just fly out of mouth.  These women have gently and bravely given me the messages “Yes you, as you were before, don’t belong anymore.  Because you are a new you. And it’s okay to be figuring out where and how you fit now.  We still want you here with us. You do still belong here; you’re just learning in a new way in how you belong.  And that is okay!”

To be able to speak in shaking, trembling and terrified words of my sadness over feeling I don’t belong at the places and with the people I most love is a deeply powerful thing for me. It’s speaking my deepest fears out loud to someone and having them say “it’s okay. You will find a new way.” that is freeing me to keep step by step inch my way forward to a newly created life, a newly created me.

I may not know where I feel like I belong.  But I am deeply, profoundly grateful that there are others in my life who say with words and actions, we love you and want you to be part of us in whatever way you can.  What a gift that is to me!

Changing things up

cropped-dancingangel.jpgIt is time for some shifts and some changes.  I’m playing with re-creating my blog site.  Figuring out how to reset things is a fun and also challenging undertaking.  I am working to keep an attitude of play, even as I navigate the inroads of design.

Watch for lots of new things to come soon as I step out in a new way.

Thanks for journeying with me!


Lashing Out or Reaching Out

Anger waves just washed over me this afternoon.  First anger at myself, then anger at the AC repair guy, then at myself, then at him – over and over again until I could no longer decipher which wave was which.  Just as I was catching my breath in between waves the biggest, darkest wave yet came barreling towards me – anger at Russell for not being here to change the damn furnace filter. Anger at Russell for not being here for anything.  Anger at Russell for dying.

I haven’t felt angry at Russell very often over the past 14 months.  I know to the depths of my being he would not have left us if he could have changed anything that week.  Being sad is a common thread of life now.  Feeling confused is still a common thread. But being angry has not been one of the common threads for which I am very grateful.

Overall I have been feeling quite strong, hopeful, and clearer most of the time.  I have periods of feeling hollow and sad which can be quite intense. During these times I’ve learned to dive down into the deep to listen to what messages the dark has to speak to me.  Once I have stayed listening in the deep for awhile I’ve been able to pull myself up out of the dark places and embrace the light again.

With my increased strength and feelings of light and hope, I can be caught off guard by grief bursts.  I realized today that while I may feel stronger my outside skin/shield is still quite thin and easily penetrated.  So that punch in the stomach I felt in connection to the furnace filter easily triggered sadness and anger rising up inside of me.

My deeper reflections upon that grief burst of anger and sadness really started as I left my house a little while ago. Before I left the house all that was going on was feeling first the anger at myself, the AC guy and Russell and then feeling the first compulsion to write about what happened.  Then as I drove away from the house I started to play some of my power, healing  songs.  As the song   “Grateful” by Nimo Patel  played I felt myself breathe deeper, including exhales that I could down to my toes.   I began to dance in the car the 4 simple movements – hands raised to the sky, down to the ground, together at the heart, wide open – Carrie taught us at NIA to go with the song. Now I could only do it one handed so I could drive but as the words poured forth I could feel my heart open and the anger just slip away, leaving gratitude and love in its’ wake.  This song and the movements that go with it have a more powerful effect on me than any other song I’ve heard in years, including Rachel Platten’s songs which is saying a lot!   As my heart expanded, tears of love for Russell and all in my life just poured forth.

I sang and danced all the way to Target where I went to get furnace filters (smile) and a few other things.  As I walked around the store I thought of what had happened  and what that meant for me.  Then, as I stood waiting in line, the inspiration to write rushed through me like someone had just lit me on fire.  I quickly looked for any scrap of paper I could find and started writing.  I wrote the bits and pieces of this musing.  I wrote of the evidence of self-care and reaching out, rather than just lashing out, I had quickly taken when the anger first flared inside of me. The self-care of writing, talking with Kateri, putting stress away lotion and oil on, focusing on my breathe, singing along with a favorite song, dancing, crying, writing again, and staying open to receiving the mysterious more behind the trigger event.

I felt the power of my inner kraken awaken as I dove deep into the messages behind my anger.  I felt the power of my inner dragon awaken as I rose my voice to speak out loud.  And for the first time since this whole journey began I pictured in my mind and felt in my heart the twining together of Kraken and Dragon sharing their knowing and their power. They represent very different aspects of my healing and life journey, and yet in this they are twined together as one being. Both have the power to lash out in anger or reach out in hope and love.  The choice is mine.  Together they share their wisdom of the dark places and the light. They fly under water and through the air.  They hold it all as one. My heart fills with gratitude and love for the knowing that has washed over me on this day.

Wow, just wow. What a ride I am on!


Punch in the Stomach

Blech, I’ve just had one of those punch in the stomach kind of moments. I had an AC company out to look at my AC that’s been leaking. Mind you it’s the same company that came out late last summer and fixed a few things for the same problem. At that point there was nothing major wrong and they said the fixed it.

Well it’s been leaking again so I called my home warranty service to have them back out figuring it was all connected to the same issue from last year. I only owe a service call through my warranty service so as soon as I saw the leak I called them, not even looking more closely at the unit.

When they got here it was the same guys who came last year. The younger guy is super nice and he asked how things were at home and the farm. The older guy is much more abrupt and barely listened to me when I told him where the AC unit was. Just started walking where he thought he should go even though it was the wrong direction.

The younger guy went to look at the outside unit while the older guy entered the house to go downstairs. Didn’t wait to follow me just barged in ahead of me. Breathe Lara, just breathe! The mantra started right away!

Inside it was discovered a hose was disconnected somehow though we never touch it. So I felt silly with that discovery though honestly not too worried about it. The guy started sounding really judgy right away, or I heard it that way. Just took a breathe and didn’t worry too much.

Here’s where the punch came. The guy then looked at the rest of the unit found the unchanged filter. I almost threw up when he mentioned it and had all I could do to hold back tears that had been nowhere all day. I said yes I will get filters as he said half a dozen times I need to change it every month. Over and over again he said it, completely ignoring anything I said to him.

You all know that I am quite a capable person. I can fix waterers, fencing, carts, jump start a car, do my own taxes, even do a few things with my lawn tractor, and handle a lot of things very competently. However, Russell ALWAYS changed the furnace filters. It was one of the few maintenance things that he was 100% in charge of so I NEVER think about it. It simply isn’t on my radar no matter how important it is to do. All I could think as this guy just kept being a judgy ass (again my perspective and triggered feelings) was “It’s not my job. Why the fuck did you die Russell?”

Thank goodness for the younger guy who chatted with me again as he finished up payment. He was as compassionate, understanding and encouraging as the other guy was none of those things.

I’m writing and focusing on my breath so that I don’t collapse into a full tear attack, refuse to leave the house, and then eat every piece of chocolate in my house. I refuse to have food be my comfort item anymore. And I refuse to collapse into a pool of tears over an insensitive person and furnace filter.

I often think of the need to create an online service for people who are grieving that could be a tracking system/reminder service for paying bills, changing furnace filters, renewing car registration, making dental appointments, etc, – all of those things that aren’t daily happenings but need to happen on a somewhat regular basis. People would be able to sign up for as long as they felt they needed reminders. I have several people who continue to send me email reminders when a quarterly bill is coming up. It is such a gift to help remind foggy brained grievers of things that otherwise might fall off the radar. I don’t know how to go about creating this kind of a service but I am 100% sure it would help a lot of people.

I’m going to get furnace filters today and marking my calendar for the rest of year to change it at the end of each month.

Let’s all be gentle with one another. We never know when a simple, easy item could be a punch in the stomach to one another.

All is sacred

“Bringing grief and death out of the shadow is our spiritual responsibility, our sacred duty. By so doing, we may be able to feel our desire for life once again and remember who we are, where we belong, and what is sacred.” (Francis Weller from The Wild Edge of Sorrow)
Yesterday, we had all of our in town family over to the house to celebrate the April birthdays of Kateri, Demetri and also my nephew, Sequoyah.  It was a lovely afternoon and evening of conversation, yummy food, kids playing, and lots of laughing.  It was one of those gifts of a day that I love. A day in which I feel connected to myself and my primary community of my family.  I love spending time with them.  On days like yesterday I am able to talk about Russell and my own life with ease, like it’s a seamless whole instead of jagged parts thrown together.
This morning the joy and gratitude for the day lingers.  There is also a thread of deep sadness and missing Russell that just rose up in me and poured out of me in racking, sudden sobs. Missing him and wishing he could have been part of the fun in this house yesterday is racing through me.
My sorrow caught me completely unawares as I am prepping to leave the house for the day.  I’ve been moving through my morning tasks with ease and feeling excited about my upcoming work day. In fact, I had no intention of writing this morning and was getting ready to walk out the door soon.
Though why my sorrow caught me unawares is also a curiosity. Because as I think about it this is part of a pattern that feels familiar.  I almost always end up with a “crash” day or period of a day after a party, big farm event, or communal event that I know Russell would have been at.  In the moment of the party or the event I easily pick up on the celebratory , happy to be together energy of the group.  That energy lingers for awhile. It’s in the coming down that the tears start to flow.
My desire for life again and remembering who I am holds all of life’s experiences as sacred and something to be spoken of.  I will readily speak of the joy and gratitude I feel everyday for the wonderful things happening in my life.  I will also speak of grief with as much passion because it is part of my life’s journey.  All of life’s experiences are sacred and deserve to be lived out loud.  None of it will be left in the shadows by me.
When I remember this and I live this as honestly as I can, my life is made richer and more whole.  It is in those moments of living my life out loud in every time and in every moment that I am most alive.  So I carry with me today my joy at being with my family yesterday and my sadness that Russell wasn’t here with us.  All of it is sacred.

Woman on fire


I can move again!  My feet, my mind, my entire being feels like it has been lit up from the inside out.  The frozen stagnation of the past year plus is starting to thaw.  In bits and pieces, here and there, my body and mind are easing.

Increasingly over the last several weeks I have felt myself transforming.  I feel stronger, wiser, clearer, more balanced, and more ready to face the world than I have in longer than I can remember.  My hopes for healing and taking back my life are starting to be evidenced in the reality of my life.  I truly feel like I am a Woman on Fire, transforming like a phoenix from the ashes of my grieving.

2 things have stood out for me like great flare ups of the fire burning brighter and brighter inside myself.  While each day there are baby steps forward in this fire dance, these 2 things I write about today leave me feeling so excited at the powerful testament they are of me finding me again.

1.)  MY FEET CAN MOVE AGAIN!   I mean really move, not just shuffle forward forced by sheer will.  They are moving with purpose, joy, rhythm, and ease.  I first noticed this a couple of weeks ago when I returned to NIA after a 4 month absence.  From the very first song on the playlist that night, “Girl on Fire”, I was awed at the fact that my feet could actually move to the beat.  Anytime I had been at NIA in 2015 my feet just couldn’t do it.  I would try so hard to get the steps right and pick my feet up to move through the routine but it always came out as this awkward, stumbling shuffle of a movement.  I could move my upper body but there was no way to get my feet moving.

I felt such pure, giddy, childlike joy as I felt my feet springing through that hour of NIA.  Each and every movement that night was easy and more fun than I could have possibly imagined.  I truly felt on fire that night, my body moving like flames in a large bonfire – bright, bold, and free!

This ability to move my feet and really my entire body with more lightness and energy is growing.  I’m dancing, walking with power, riding my horse, cooking, seeking new ways to exercise, and simply loving feeling my body strengthen and flow.  Amazing, simply amazing!

2.)  MY MEMORY IS RETURNING!  One of things that is most deceptive and all consuming about grieving is the fog that settles into our brains.  While somethings are more clear than we could ever want, the ability to remember things that once came easily is lost.  I’ve always had a great memory for details, schedules, events, etc. and have been able to do so much from memory.  During the first year of grieving I almost completely lost the ability to remember anything that wasn’t written down. And even if it was written down I didn’t always remember it.  Literally I had times that I would have a thought about something I wanted to do and within the span of taking just a couple of steps I would have forgotten it already.  As patient as I tried to be with myself, I felt moments of deep frustration and even despair that I would ever be able to function well again.

During the application process for setting up long term disability insurance (I’m working hard to cover all my bases these days), I was interviewed twice – once over the phone and then a month later in a person by a nurse who came to my home.  It’s a long interview process to determine how physically and mentally fit I am right now.  Part of that process is a memory test in which 10 words were read to me.  I then had to repeat as many words as possible in order.  This was done 3 times with the list being read to me first and then the 4th time, after several other exercises, I had to recite as many words as I could remember without having the list read to me first.

The first time I was interviewed over the phone was right around the year anniversary date.  I laughed throughout the memory exercises because it was so hard to do.  I think by the end I could recite 7 of the 10 words but it was a struggle.   As frustrating as it was for me at least I could laugh about it.  I’m pretty sure the interviewer was baffled by my reactions even though I explained that I was grieving and had a foggy brain.

The second interview was in our home almost 1 month exactly after the first.   Going into the interview I felt more focused and clearer than I had during the first.  I was determined to do better with the memory exercises.  I told the nurse about my first experience and shared that I hoped to do better.  She smiled with encouragement.

Not only did I do better, remembering all 10 words by the second round, the nurse was stunned when I was able to consistently name all 10 words in order.  She said in all the years she’s been doing this she’s never had anyone be able to repeat all 10 words in order several times in a row.  Woohoo!  I almost leapt for joy around the room.  I love being one of the rare ones.  But most importantly it was a powerful sign that I really am taking my life back and I am healing.

Daily I am seeing more and more evidence that the fog is lifting and my ability to remember is returning.  I still have moments that things are just beyond my grasp to mentally do but it feels more like a normal part of life.  In the foggy times I try to be patient with myself and just wait for the fog to lift.  And then once it does I practice strengthening my mind so I can remain clear for longer periods of time.

Movement and memory.  Regaining these two things leaves me fired up and ready to try new things. Many moments occur every day that I am caught by surprise at what I can do again.  More things than I care to mention that I had forgotten how to do or simply couldn’t connect the synapses in my brain to make it happen.  In these surprise moments I am first stunned and then filled with such joy that I am regaining access to my entire being.  Awakening bit by bit, I am daily able to move my mind and body just a little bit better.   Soon I will be ready to fly!