You’ll never know…

…until you have actually and fully been there.

Until you have actually walked this road in a way that leaves the soles of your shoes worn out and developing holes, and your feet blistered and bleeding twice as much as your heart pumps through you and until you have not only seen but had no choice but to actively participate in the sights and scenes DAILY, because there literally was no one else, for so long that you feel like you’re in a Stephen King novel, no – you will never know what it’s really like.

How it can wear you so thin that it nearly destroys you, the way water seems to work like acid and melts cheap toilet paper.

How it can tear you down to a level that you, as compassionate and kind a person you are or try to be, think, “the next time someone tells me I should smile more, or I should look on the bright side (which is what? That eventually she’ll die and I won’t have to do this anymore?) I’m going to punch them in the face.”

How you start avoiding people because you’re sick of their hypocritical judgments and comparisons, OR the way they pretend to understand when you know good and well they have no clue so you just stop talking about it and pretend it’s easy and everything is fine…

100%. Until you’ve done it, you’ll never understand completely what it’s like. I shared a lot of our journey. Even then it was only a fraction and what I did share was picked apart by completely irrelevant, inexperienced people. But I will keep sharing this until we have real reform and raise the standard of care for caregivers and their loved ones with dementia. (Thank you, Martina.)

When my mom died, it broke me. It wasn’t the grief that broke me, it was the RELIEF that broke me. Because I had no idea what to do with it. And I felt guilty for feeling it in the first place.

Finally being able to breathe and stop and rest after SO LONG of being a full time care giver going between two homes and three people (wait, four – but I never really thought of myself, lol) and dealing with doctors and being sick myself…?

THAT almost killed me.

I’m not exaggerating or trying to be dramatic or draw attention, which is what people always love to say when you share thoughts like this (which reallllly doesn’t help so just shut up because that kind of thing can drive someone over an edge you will never understand when they’re grieving loss after caregiving).

I just finished writing a whole chapter about this. Maybe I’ll share it via my blog… For now, here’s the thing I want you to know and remember:

If you’re in a situation like this or are grieving after a situation like this, know that you’re not alone. Know that there ARE those who see you and feel you because they’re there, too, or they’ve been there before.

I pray not one of you ever has to go through it (or go through it again).

If you are forced to go through it, I pray you get the resources you need (financially and otherwise) sooner than a month before your loved one dies because the only thing that finally saves the day is hospice.

I pray if you do face this situation, you have less people than more coming at you with what you need to do and how you need to act but NEVER actually doing anything to help you do what they think you should do and regularly acting the same way you’re acting despite not being in your shoes and instead having everything they could ever want or need.

And I pray that if you ever find yourself in those shoes, you give yourself grace and you forgive yourself daily, before the day begins, for the fact that you’re never going to be perfect. You’re not going to get it right and keep your cool and manage your emotions well EVERY DAY. You’re just not. Period. So accept it and be gentle with yourself and just keep doing the best that you can. You’ve got this. You really do. You don’t think you do or feel that you do, BUT YOU DO. 🙏💜🙏

And if you’ve never been there at this level and never have to be? I pray you don’t take that privilege for granted. Because you ARE privileged.

💜💙💜

Another Spirit Dream

From my dream journal (01/12/22), for those who don’t believe that working on your spirit self and spiritual focus opens doors for a spirit to communicate and that you can actually hear them:

I have never been a skeptic because as a child I always had experiences and while the belief system I grew up in called that, “evil,” I never stopped communicating. I never stopped hearing or seeing. I never stopped believing. In fact, they believed it, too – they just contradicted themselves with double standards like, “spirits are evil,” but, “we worship the Father, the Son (let’s be real, SUN), and the HOLY SPIRIT.” No, I never “let it be,” I just learned to be quieter about it. I have, since my mid-20’s, learned how to speak up again.

My Daddy came to me last night. I didn’t want to wake up, if I’m honest. I never want those dreams to end. They’re few and far between as I continue to heal and grow, so I savor them. This one was different than most, and thankfully not the recurring psychological nightmare that I had for months after he died and that still comes around every so often.

In this one, we were in some strange, very flat place that reminded me very much of the plains, and there were animals everywhere. My father loved all animals, so it makes sense that he would appear in a spiritual way surrounded by them. It was like a cross between Kansas (not “Wizard of Oz” Kansas, more like agriculturally beautiful Kansas) and Noah’s Ark. Very weird to me, that, because my dad loved woods and mountains. “Whatever,” I thought, just being so happy to see him.

He apologized for some things – namely leaving me with the burden that was mama after he died, gave me this motivational speech about not beating myself up anymore and knowing that she was happy there (she was quietly waving from the background, which would in life be be quintessentially my mom if my dad was around) and that my hands had been tied in both situations.

He told me that I had actually fared much better than I imagined that I did. That was something I had needed to hear specifically from him since my mother died, though I hadn’t realized it until I awoke from this dream. I have dealt with a lot of guilt since my mom died, surrounding that. He told me that I was in a place most people don’t find themselves in when he died – young, career and goal driven, raising a child, and managing my mom (which he knew about when he fell into this coma, but hadn’t told me, and I didn’t realize it until she died and I found and read things he had written) while he was, for lack of a better phrase, literally rotting away in the hospital bed.

Bit of backstory: his feet were dead (literally) and about to fall off (metaphorically) when I signed to remove life support. They were scary and disgusting to see – they were freezing cold, solid blue and black because of his kidneys shutting down, and they’d stopped dialysis because they were getting ready to move him to another unit to remove life support, AND YET THEY WANTED TO AMPUTATE THEM.

In this dream he laughed his truest laugh, which had a deep, guttural beginning and ended with a more high pitched, fast paced giggle, and he said to me that he heard me say to the doctor, “are you out of your mind? What’s the point in that? You’re an idiot if you think I’m going to approve of you chopping his feet off when he’s about to die anyway. Why don’t you go fix somebody who can be saved instead of trying to rip off more money from my family and his insurance company? He fought to make it this long with both of his massive, size 15 diabetic feet and he’s managed to keep all but a single toe. You’re not cutting a damned thing off except this ventilator tomorrow so that he can finally be at peace.”

He quoted that to me verbatim, and thanked me for standing up for his feet, semi-pun intended because he was goofy like that with his dad jokes. I forgot I had even said that to that doctor, but upon waking I remembered it vividly and I remember being so angry that they wanted to argue with me about it and my mom wasn’t there. You see, she wasn’t there most of the time after the first day, but I had left only once (even showering in the shower of his CCU room) and when I did leave that one time, I didn’t want to.

It was only because she had asked me to come back to their house to get things FOR HER so she wouldn’t HAVE to leave that I had left, and then she left anyway. She would come for a couple of hours a day. She almost slept through his passing and J had to force her to understand what was happening. I was FURIOUS. I realize now that it was because she was already sick with the late-early stages of dementia then (hence the stuff I later read that my father had been taking notes on), and that’s why the doctors pulled me aside to that cold, dreary “counsel room” with her and told me that I had to make all the decisions and tried to explain that to her. Terrible experience.

I remembered the anger at him not taking care of himself better, in my eyes just willingly giving up his life and that somehow meant he didn’t love me as much as I thought he did. I remembered believing that if he’d loved me the way he had made me believe he did, he wouldn’t have treated himself so poorly. Flash forward to the last couple of years and what I have put my own son through with my health. That’s a bitter pill to swallow.

I also remembered something I didn’t consciously know existed: the resentment I had toward my mom because she thought he was just sleeping and left him for two more hours and when she came back to check, he had seized and stroked and there was no bringing him back after that. They tried. I pushed them. I argued. But I finally had to accept that they couldn’t fix his brain and he was never leaving that CCU bed. After five excruciating days of denial, I had to let him go, and I had to make that decision alone. I realized that I was SO ANGRY at my mother for being the reason we were there and for being sick and making me have to choose.

For what it’s worth, here I will insert the inspirational realization I had and the absolute fact that NO MATTER HOW IN CONTROL YOU THINK YOU ARE OF EVERYTHING IN LIFE, YOU ARE NEVER IN CONTROL OF ANYTHING. PERIOD. END OF STORY. More on that later…I digress.

I remembered so many things when I woke up, details I think I had purposely blocked and I think my dad triggered them on purpose, even though they are SO difficult to think about, because after all of his preaching (sweetly) to me in the dream, he said to me, “when you wake up, turn on the radio and don’t you stop singing, girl. Don’t you DARE avoid the one thing that makes you feel true purpose just because of some certain things you might hear that hurt you! Let the hurt drive you!” He was irritated about that because music had always been our most powerful bonding agent (again, upon waking and considering it, I realized I haven’t made music in three or more months)…and then he sang to me.

I knew he was getting ready to leave me then. He always sings to me right before he leaves me in dreams. He sang the bridge of this old song called, “I’m Moving On,” by Rascal Flatts. There is one lyric that is supposed to go, “And I have made up my mind that those days are gone,” but he sang it, “Girl, make up your mind that those days are gone.”

“Well, I’ve been working on it,” I thought, “but anyway, point taken.” He somehow remixed into “Let It Hurt” as he turned and was walking away. He was apparently on a Rascal Flatts kick (yeah, he listened to stuff besides WDJC – a local Christian only radio station – when my mom wasn’t around…he listened to EVERYTHING, especially musical theater stuff).

Anyway, so I turn on the radio – yes, an actual radio app and not Spotify or Apple Music on shuffle – as I was getting coffee ready and guess what song was playing and barely into the first verse when I chose the radio station and it finally tuned in? Yep. ⬇️

So, there’s that… I listened intently, and of course I shed tears when that certain part of the song arrived, and I sang it just like he had, using the rewording of the lyrics he had used. I went on with my day. I say with it for a long moment.

I showered, I did a few things in the bedroom and moved on to the kitchen where I washed the dishes and cleaned the counters (I do this ritualistically every morning and most nights, now that the kid is older and dirtying so many dishes with his “bottomless pit” eating habits…). And then, I sat down to write this. I listened to the other song Daddy was singing/humming in the dream as he was leaving before I opened WordPress, and I took it in – as difficult as it is for me to listen to that song lately, for a number of reasons), and I cried some more. And as those tears flowed, so did my words begin to…and here we are.

Grief is like a strange and living creature, and it’s grips are never ending once it touches you (though it waxes and wanes in its intensity), but so are those soul connections that we think we can’t live without. Whether we lose them through death or living circumstances, the universe knows what it’s doing. That’s what you need to take away from this post. And, I think that’s where I’ll end this one.

Sit with your grief. Let it do its job. Allow yourself the gift that grief really is, even though you may not realize it’s a gift at all right now… One day, you will make friends with it. Eventually, it will cease to be a monster and become a friendly companion that helps you rather than tortures you. But you have to allow that transfiguration to take place, and in your own time you will…because it is an inevitable process.

I know that if you’re struggling with grief, you’re going to be ok. One day, if you just keep going, you’ll know it, too. You’ll look in the mirror and see yourself and just as suddenly as you didn’t recognize who you were seeing at some point after grief came, you’ll begin to see yourself again, and you’ll realize that all along your grief was there to help you. I know it may sound crazy, but I promise you, it’s true.

“May not be what you want, but it’s what you need
Sometimes the only way around it
Is to let love do it’s work
So go on
Yeah, let it hurt…”

Love to you all.

~C.

Lesson From a Nope Rope

I believe this is a hybrid rattlesnake – the product of a timber rattler and a diamondback. I could be wrong.

So, this is raw. I never edited any of this. I have so much b-roll stuff from our hikes and stuff and I pick and choose bits here and there when I produce something. This is some of that footage that I came across when getting my stuff together for the project I’m working on.

I’m glad I came across this. I’d forgotten about it. It reminded of something about myself that I think a lot of people tend to misjudge. Don’t be led astray by my mostly nice, friendly, patient and overly kind demeanor. Don’t think I’m as ignorant as I might look. Don’t think I don’t know things just because I don’t say them out loud. I’m kind – not stupid. I am not afraid of much, not even poisonous snakes in the grass. Thing is, the worst snakes in the grass are people – it’s really the wrong phrase to use to describe a sneaky, lying, abusive human fool. Kind of an insult to snakes, if you ask me…

You see how calm this nope rope is? Maybe it just ate (doesn’t much look like it). Maybe it was a little cool (doubt it because I was sweating like crazy – this was a humid, warm July morning). Actual snakes don’t want to bother you. They really don’t. Maybe this dude just didn’t feel threatened by me. Animals rarely do. Only God knows why that is. But I can tell you this:

I wasn’t afraid of getting close to this guy, even if maybe I should’ve been, but I also was not stupid enough to try to handle it. No – I’m only that stupid when it comes to people. I never used to be the “once bitten, twice shy” type. I used to let them strike me and just forgive and pretend things were fine. I would give a person every reason to believe in me and make sure they knew that I still believed in them and cared about them. I would be willfully ignorant to the point that I was breaking my own heart.

But you know what people do? Even “family?” They don’t see that. They don’t see your heart. They don’t see your actions. They don’t see what you do for them because you love them. They just see what they want and take it from you and go on. Many times they don’t even need be provoked. They’ll strike out of the blue, with no warning at all – unlike this guy, who would have at least warned me. Thing with people is, you have to let them do it more than once. So don’t let them, because if they continually behave in ways that hurt you and refuse to respect you? They’re never going to change. Have no doubt – I have finally learned that lesson.

Today? Once bitten? I’m absolutely going to be twice shy. Still kind, with the same heart beating inside of me, but I’ll never trust you again. Once I’m done, I’m done. And if I ever reach that point with you, you have only yourself and your own behavior to blame. Just ask my father in law. His life wasn’t in vain. He taught all of us this lesson.

The Mighty Oak Will Kill You

I mediated this morning on something that I told my child last night when he asked for advice about why someone in his life did what they did and about why it hurt him. I told him that this the person who had hurst him was not yet coursgeous enough to heal himself before he broke someone else, and that it hurt him because he cared about this person.

He depended on this person to not hurt him. He believed in this person. And for a child, that’s really scary and difficult because as a child you’re still learning to process emotions and understand what emotions are. It takes maturity at multiple levels to remain calm and to not hurt a child with you words. I suppose the same is true for adults – especially the way we treat and speak to ourselves.

So, I went on this very deep, very enlightening almost hour long soul journey with my own meditative backing track (coming soon, shameless plug) and it was one of those meditative experiences where you’re doing your meditative thing (eyes closed, body relaxed, going within your deeper, inner being and connecting with it) and it hurts.

It burns. It stings. It aches. Tears roll down your cheeks even though your eyes are closed. You feel every needle the porcupine of life has shot into you. But you keep going and you find yourself at the edge of your inner self and inner peace and you step into it, and you bathe in it’s light. While you’re there, you see things about yourself for what they are.

What did I see within myself? That being strong doesn’t require being fearless – it’s facing the fears that create the strength in the first place. That protecting yourself doesn’t require meanness, it requires patience and love. And, that being guarded and angry doesn’t deflect the things you don’t want to see as much as it blocks your blessings and wastes valuable energy and time.

This is hard. This process is one we are faced with numerous times in our lives. My son was faced with it for the first time last night, and I shared some of my experiences with him and it helped me to remember things that current shadows have been hiding: We learn as we go, but we don’t learn unless we put in the effort to do so.

We all know it takes more strength to be kind and to love anyway than to run. But if I didn’t run from my demented mother who randomly beat me with a cane because of her disease, if I handled that and still did my job as a daughter and in the role I was thrust into as her death doula…and I did it mostly on my own (because I was dealing with absent people and also still blocking spirit and blessings for so long), I can handle just about anything, right?

((Please note, there is a difference between running from yourself because of self-doubt and walking away from toxicity because of self-confidence. There’s always two sides to these memes. There’s always two sides to everything – and often a lot of gray.))

Personally, I am really struggling with a lot of negative and toxic emotions toward my body right now – and with a lot of negative and toxic energy surrounding me. The things my body and I have faced in the past two years have been unforgiving at times, almost suffocating at others. They’ve been so difficult, and continue to be in some moments. But that’s the thing. It’s moments. You learn to rest in the moments that you have to – especially in the moments that you NEED to – but not give up completely.

You learn to be ok with the fact that venting your fears and anger and concerns about things is NOT always “just complaining” and it’s not being ungrateful. It’s COPING. It’s figuring things out. It’s keeping your own balance. Because you can’t thrive in ANY way without balance. You learn that a response of kindness and empathy and gentleness is more powerful than a response of coldness and lack of depth.

After all, look at nature – what’s more beautiful and pleasant? The colors, the beauty, and the warmth of spring and summer and fall or the harshness and bone chilling cold of winter? Can winter be beautiful? Sure. But is it as pleasant and comfortable and conducive to joy? No – that’s why so many people struggle with seasonal affective disorder.

You very literally see that the people who told you throughout your life that you have to be good with yourself before you can be good with anyone else, and that you won’t have true peace until you do the work to heal yourself, was telling you the truth. You won’t ever find peace of mind and true and lasting joy in your soul until you learn to sit in the darkness and kill it with your own inner light and magic. And you have that. You ARE that. You are magic. You are made of literal “stardust,” for Christ’s sake.

Shine like you’re supposed to. Don’t let your circumstances and your old wounds or should have could have would haves or even the opinions and actions of others put out your light and stop you from sparkling like the diamond you’re supposed to become under pressure. If my mom’s stuff taught me anything, it was the harsh reality of that. Pressure and pain can grow you into a brilliant diamond or petrify you into a bland and plain stone.

Don’t let it be the latter. Don’t let your heart become petrified and your mind become stagnant. You aren’t here to be a rock, or you’d have been created as a rock that just lays there on the ground and does nothing. You’re here to LIVE. Not just survive, LIVE. In order to do that, you have to mind the diamonds – you HAVE TO DO THE WORK.

As I find myself struggling with my body, and with random triggers of mom grief (that’s a whole other blog) I’m not making the same mistakes I’ve made in the past and choosing to hide away or beat myself up (and thus, others). I’m going to continue to grow and one day I’m going to bloom, and y’all are all going to watch me do it. Actions speak louder than words, even as loud as words can be screamed.

I’ve been here before but I’ve learned and grown. After my last episode with my health, with depression and the thoughts that ran through my head, I’m terrified of only one thing: dying knowing I haven’t given all I could give or done the work I needed to do to live well and in peace and thus bring peace and joy to others. But, that work I can only do that for myself, with my own choices and actions. It’s a conscious choice we have to make over and over in our lives.

It was a conscious choice with a lot of conscious effort behind it to fight my body’s BS before, to fight depression, to fight my self doubt, to heal traumas and wrongs inside myself – especially around my mom so that I could care for her when there was no one else to do so. The shadow work had to be done. I took my little soul chainsaw and cleaned out the vines and the poison ivy and the dead trees of my past and my experiences and do you know what I find, over and over again? Baby trees. New growth that needs room to become.

There are stumps and scars in the garden of my soul that still feel tender sometimes but they remind me that I CAN heal and I have many times. The more times you go through this process, the more you learn to listen to spirit and see the signs and open up the natural spiritual gifts that we all have, the more you realize that nothing is ever in your control and that most of the time, when you stand like the oak, you’re standing in your own way.

You realize that when you break, that oak is gonna fall hard and it’s gonna crush anything in its way, and you’re going to be the one who has destroyed all the good you couldn’t see while you were fighting for more more more and fighting to look strong and hide your truth and avoid other people rather than to be your authentic self and to SHOW UP, for yourself AND for those you care about.

Vulnerability bends. Vulnerability can move with the moment – it can handle the pressure without breaking. It gives, it sways with the energy. And when the hurricanes and tornadoes and even the weight of the winter ice come, it can withstand them, because in reality? Softness is stronger than hardness when it comes to humanity and the soul.

It’s a metaphor we’ve been presented with eleventy hundred times in eleventy hundred ways in our lives: The oak is the ego. The willow is the soul. Don’t let your ego break you and those you care for. Don’t let your ego block your blessings and destroy your soul. Your peace and your heart (and the peace and hearts of others) are worth way more than that. Keep it open.

The more you give, the more you receive – even if it doesn’t come from where you are directing it. Life will surprise you. Let it surprise you with gifts, not problems. And remember, you create so much of both in the tiniest actions and choices you make.

I Chose the 4D/5D

It is fundamentally and intellectually RIDICULOUS to see the truth in front of your face and continue to convince yourself to live a lie.

It’s one thing to not have proof and to question and seek and try to find clarity. It’s another thing completely to KNOW and to still defend something that has proven itself over and over again to be false…and so many things are.

If you can’t get out of the thoughts of the 3D and into the flow of acknowledging the feeling and truth in the 4/5D long enough to realize that everything is not as it appears in a physical sense then you’re never going to find your actual truth and live an authentically happy and peaceful life.

“There has to be balance. If you can’t find that, it’s because you’re not trying. And if you’re not trying, you have only yourself to blame” (that’s me speaking to me).

WE ARE NOT SEPARATE FROM EACH OTHER, no matter how badly we want to believe we are, in the 3D experience of life. If you haven’t allowed yourself to experience any thought pattern or existence other than that, you’re really missing out – you’re not authentic at all. It’s not all about you. It’s about the collective.

Lest we forget we have extremely short physical lifespans and we live on one of many “big rocks in the sky.” There is a whole universe – physically and spiritually – to explore. Yes, there is order in the natural world but that order comes from complete chaos. How is that not abundantly clear and obvious?

I don’t understand a “black and white” existence. I will never be convinced that’s all there is because I have experienced so much more. I have seen – and lived – in the technicolor realms of the “more” that so many people roll their eyes at. Once you go there, you can never go back to the mundane. And you’ll never want to. True story. The mundane will never again be enough.

“You perceive the world through 6 senses and your intuition starts to grow and expand. You seek a deeper meaning to life and you can start to see the synchronicity/magic of the Universe.” That’s where I prefer to be – I don’t live from my mind. I live from my soul. It’s not always easy but it’s always more fulfilling. Always.

Understanding the 3 States of Consciousness: 3D, 4D, and 5D

I learned…

You have the power to overcome conditioning –
especially conditioning you’ve done to yourself…
Patterns.
Obstacles.
Regrets.
Even fears.
It takes bravery, but it rests within you.
Be compassionate toward yourself,
Believe and see – you have the ability to heal the wounds that bring your anger,
that slice you open,
that feel like ghosts who just won’t follow the light and leave you be…
Forgiveness of self,
understanding is yours…
Now take the reigns and seek the changes,
do not doubt,
do not fear.
Know that you can change these patterns –
thoughts,
wants,
expectations of self…
You can do so much,
you can pray so much,
you can love so much –
others and yourself.
But
life will always happen
on life’s terms.
There is no other way.
Understand that no matter what you have chosen
or what you choose,
what you know,
or think you know,
what you wish for,
or what you loathe,
life will rise and fall,
come and go.
There is true peace to be found,
and felt…
but only within yourself,
and only when you let go and allow it…
only when you give yourself the opportunity
and the gift you need…
Only you know what that is.
It’s the only way.
~C.

Thoughts from 1993

Ahhhhh memories. Snowmageddon in Alabama, this week in 1993.

I was 14, and I remember my dad yelling at me because I would not come inside once it started snowing. I had never in my life seen snow like this snow – I was completely fascinated. It was different snow. I swear it was physically different than any snow I’d ever experienced up until that moment in my life.

I remember being out there in the backyard, in the dark, at something like 11:30PM, bundled up and just sitting there letting the snow fall on my face and consciously feeling the snowflakes melt on my skin in a way that connected with my soul. I remember thinking about magic and all these ideas I had that were “sinful” according to the cult I was raised in but that were so beautiful to me and how it WAS magical, even if the biblical God created it.

Like, how could those two things not go together, in my mind? They believed in a “holy ghost” that they willingly allowed to possess them and speak in unknown languages through them that wasn’t supposed to be real unless someone in the immediate vicinity could interpret the message.

First of all, why couldn’t God just give it to them straight, and secondly WHY? That was me from about age 2 until the day I die. WHY? What? Constant curiosity. Constant trying of new things. Constant exploration of self and soul and consciousness and the physical earth. None of it ever made sense to me from a religious aspect. Why couldn’t it all just be signs and magic and the fates and wonder and beauty? I still want to know that – where do people go in their life experiences that makes them forget the magic? The spark? The music…?

And yet, here I am. Deep in the depression and what to others seem to be mere suicidal thoughts when those thoughts are really so much more than that. But, we will visit that notion a bit later on…

I remember the “good” things but I remember the “miserable” things, too. And in reality, they weren’t miserable things to me. No power? That’s fine. We had kerosene heaters and propane gas in a tank outside that I used to pretend was a horse and I couldn’t tell you how many cows I roped that were actually logs I’d stood on end or how many criminals I’d captured by shooting them in the leg with hip shots that were actually soda cans I was shooting with a BB gun. We were warm. It was fine.

I remember not having power because I remember the coolers on the back deck that were buried in the snow with all the cold stuff in them, and I remember my dad being a smart ass and using the BBQ grill with an iron skillet to cook eggs just because it was “a fun new way to grill chicken” even though we had a gas stove. Ha! But I remember being completely unbothered by the lack of power. Why? Because of the time I spent with my dad. I remember my dad building a snowman with me that he named Larry and making a tiny one with me that I named Mo.

Curly never got made (built) because that was my mom’s choice but she never came outside and my dad said that if Curly was being built she had to make him with us or her snowman wouldn’t be magical (without her energy in him), so there was no point building a snowman with no magic in him. My dad was an evangelical deacon and that was the first time I ever heard him mention magic from the perspective a kid would and not from the perspective of evil. My mom said to my dad, “oh, fiddlesticks. Magic is not reality.” I will never forget that. It crushed my soul in some way. What happened to the “magic” that had brought me into her life? Did that not exist anymore, or had it ever existed for her at all? That was heartbreaking to me.

My mom did play the piano, though. And instead of being filled with the sounds of Andy Griffith and Lucille Ball and Perry Mason, I was surrounded by the comforting sounds of old (what I thought at the time were just) Southern hymns like, “It Is Well,” How Great Thou Art,” and “I Surrender All,” and classical “hits” from Pachelbel’s “Canon” and beautiful Beethoven’s “Moonlight Sonata.” I adored Beethoven. I adored romantic era classical music. I adored music washing over me. I adored my dad’s voice. I adored singing with him. There was that…and laughter. Not so much my mom because she was busy with needlework and knitting and incessant organizing, but my dad and I were having a ball.

I remember walking in the woods behind where my grandmother’s giant garden always lived in a path he cut out for me in this deep ass snow – we walked to this specific place that he would often visit just to sit and reflect on life in the quiet (and magic) of nature, crossing the frozen and snow filled wet weather stream and climbing over mounds of snow on fallen limbs and logs on the way and me being glad the fae that lived in the holes in the bank had “moved away,” as my grandmother had told me, so that they weren’t blocked inside their little fairy houses and if they were ok (the fae in the holes turned out to be snakes, I later learned when I tried to catch a fairy at the age of 7 and ended up pulling out one of those little grey ring neck snakes that I tried to keep as a pet but that went suspiciously missing overnight, only later to learn that my father had let it go – I was so distraught and depressed by this reality that my grandmother literally told me they’d just moved away or gone on vacation and the snake was protecting their homes…ha!).

I digress – as usual… Anyway, we got to this specific place and my dad and I sat there on a log he had cleared of snow. He proceeded to have this talk with me about my religious beliefs and the difference between that and spirituality. He didn’t yell at me for being a sinner or for not believing in or for questioning the cult (obviously, he never thought of it that way but I always did – even before I understood cultism – it NEVER made sense to me how this was love and freedom). He simply quoted to me for the first time in context two scriptures that have always stuck with me (hey, the literature of the Bible is really rather brilliantly written – it has everything good and terrifying in it).

He explained his thoughts on death and salvation to me and I remember very specifically and vividly him saying to me that it didn’t matter WHAT I believed, really, about religion. What mattered was that there was, in his perception, absolutely life after death because how could there not be? Our souls had to exist before we were born in order for them to enter our bodies, he said, and so we must logically still exist once our bodies died. That made sense to me.

That was the day – maybe two days after the snow had fallen – that he told me that the only real truth was the truth in my heart, and that was always the truth I should follow – and seek out, and sometimes chase in times of great despair. “Wherefore, my beloved, as ye have always obeyed, not as in my presence only, but now much more in my absence, work out your own salvation with fear and trembling.” It’s Philippians. Chapter two I think (I’m not looking it up, I’m lazy right now).

And then he told me – at 14 and a fourth years old – something that I remember very clearly but am struggling with since he (since they all) died. “We all die, but we never leave the ones we love. I will always be with you. Our Gods may not have the same name but they are one and the same being – love (which I questioned deeply and still do because the God of the Bible is only rarely ever what I would call “loving” – he has to invent a son before he becomes that, which to me is kind of this whole personification of the experience of growing and learning and becoming better and letting go of who you thought you had to be in order for life and your world to work).

Then he quoted another scripture to me that has been my north node for the past five and half years since his death. “And Ruth said: “Entreat me not to leave thee, or to return from following after thee; for whither thou goest, I will go, and where thou lodgest, I will lodge. Thy people shall be my people, and thy God my God.”

I want to believe that they are still here. I used to be so faithful to the idea of spirit and energy that it didn’t matter whether I could see the energy with my eyes in a physical manifestation of itself – it was just there, even if it wasn’t, in some form. Now? I don’t know what I believe anymore. Do I still believe that? Absolutely. Scientifically. I mean, hello, gasses that can’t be seen or smelled but can still kill you. Energetic, invisible death.

But in that sense of spirituality and magic? How does that energy put pennies in my bathtub or place heart shaped rocks and leaves directly in my oath where there should not be rocks or random fallen leaves (like in paved parking lots or on concrete pathways in well manicured city parks? I don’t know. Where do the random smells of bacon cooking or the paper mill or even jasmine and smoke when no one is smoking (Dorie) come from? Where does the audible sound of the piano or a typewriter come from when there are no working typewriters in my house (a couple of broken ones, though) and no one is there but me and I’m not playing the piano?

Are these experiences a mere wishful figment of my imagination? Or are they my people, who are still in some way my people, that have not left me? DO THEY still dwell where I dwell, just in a different dimension?

I want to believe that. I choose to believe that. But sometimes that belief hurts…because when I “feel them there,” it’s not enough. I want to hug them and hold them and say the things I didn’t say to them and apologize for things I did say that I wish I hadn’t said. I want to feel their warmth and hear their breath and their voices. I long to just sit with them for a moment and hold their hands in mine. To sing with them. To laugh with them. To feel the safety and the gratitude of their physical presence. But none of our bodies are safe. They will die. They are literally dying now – and have been from the moment we were born. But what about our souls?

I want to go there. I want to know. So when I say I’m ready for that trip? It’s curiosity and it’s existentialism and it’s wonder and in all of my thoughts about it, that place is so much better than this one. It’s not that I don’t deeply love and want to be around the people I love and call friends and family now. It’s missing the soul connections with those people because the physical gets in the way of that in this society and in this world today. It’s not as magical as it used to be.

Things are no longer filled with so much color and shine – although for a moment they were again, for a recent moment…a moment I sometimes wish I’d never had now because the taste of that and then seeing the mirage that it was…that hurts almost worse than losing my people to death, because maybe, just maybe, they still exist where that never did.

These are the thoughts in my mind tonight – or this morning – at 3:33AM. I know they may sound a little delirious and maybe they are. Are my thoughts any more or less real than my soul? Or are they one and the same? This is why I studied and continue to study human behavior and human cognition and spirituality and philosophy. Because I NEED to know. And one day, I will. But not today – because today things need to be cleaned and washed and taught to the boy. So not today…and I should try again to sleep.