Filling the Void

Ever since the 2021 Inauguration, I’ve noticed a common thread in social media postings. Some have described their feelings as an “emotional hangover,” “the country taking a big exhale,” “exhaustion,” or “confusion.” In many examples, people express surprise about their state of mental confusion. There should be joy now that the main problem is gone. They ask “Why?”

Unfortunately, I recognize one possible reason for this awareness, coming so soon after recent national events. The abusive behavior has left the relationship. The narcissistic control has lost his voice.

I’m familiar with some of the behaviors that abusers employ, as well the survival techniques utilized by their victims. I know the feelings of living in a state of heightened awareness, of practicing caution so as not to garner the abuser’s attention, of “walking on eggshells” and being careful what to say or how to behave. I became skilled at anticipating what was needed and how to resolve problems long before they materialized… albeit useful skills in the business world.

A person can survive in such unstable and hostile environments for years. I know. I did. One must, when this way of living is all that is familiar … until it ends. Then what?

When the abuser is no longer part of the victim’s life – e.g., either because the child leaves home or the wife divorces her husband – there’s a void that must be filled. Instead of the abusive behavior, what replaces the tension of living under those conditions? It’s a void that is first filled with feelings of abandonment and confusion, a sense of loss, direction and purpose, and exhaustion and emotional depletion.

Whether the abuser has been someone close or a national political figure, the behaviors exhibited can trigger former victims in numerous ways. However, if the victims have done responsible healing work to address their PTSD responses, they will quickly see through obnoxious or insulting behaviors. They will likely implement methods to protect themselves, such as avoidance or distraction, to sidestep engagement with the abuser. I would turn off a television program or delete videos and photos from my social media, so I didn’t have to hear or see a certain government official. These methods can help.

Still, the void remains for a short time. It’s up to the victim to find ways to move forward from the dazed and confused state. To feel comfortable without the chaos. To trust they are safe beyond the abuser’s controlling behavior. To focus on their own healing nature and positive ways of living. To find purpose again through what they choose to create.

It’s taken me a couple of days to move beyond the void and find that purpose again. I’m no longer worried about what is going on in the White House. The hate has been replaced with empathy, compassion, and kindness. The words are respectful. Ideas and plans are proposed for the good of many and not the favored few of the top 10%. I can listen and watch and be informed without the fear. I’ve been able to let go of the tension that grew within me during the past five years. I have filled the void with joy, hope, and creativity. I can breathe again.

 

After the Insurrection

It’s been several days since a right-wing, domestic terrorist group, cleverly incited by the president and his accomplices, invaded the Capitol building and threatened our American Democracy with a violent coup attempt.

I know what it feels like, what it looks like, to have someone come into your home and wreak havoc on the space, safety, and occupants who reside there. The span of years passed has not diminished the emotional toll that lingers in my memory.

I know what it feels like to be stalked and physically assaulted by someone you trusted… even loved. To hear threats and lies told as easily as ordering food from a menu. To fear the lack of emotion in threatening words and promises of death that batter your psyche.

I’ve now seen enough photos posted of those Capitol marauders desecrating a respected institution and building. Investigations are underway and there’s no doubt much will be revealed. There are enough shares of blame and responsibility for all concerned to last for years. Karmic law will prevail.

So why am I still so emotional about this week’s destruction? Why break into tears or speak with a cracking voice about the event? My initial anger about the week’s atrocity has mostly dissipated, transmuting into a growing concern about what to do next as a country. I wonder what common ground can look like after so much disagreement.

  • What issues have priority in the minds of enough caring people that warrant time, energy, and creative ideas to bring them to fruition for the benefit of many?
  • What does it take to end systemic racism?
  • How can we work together – with all parties represented – to find the way forward for the good of this country’s citizens and not for local leadership rewards or Congressional greed and power plays?
  • What needs to happen to reestablish the integrity and credibility of this country?
  • Is it possible to elevate the consciousness of the majority of citizens to include compassion, equality, and mutual respect?

I don’t know what my part will be, but I have to try. I have to participate. I can’t stand idly by and do nothing. I live here. The work must be done. I have a responsibility to help my community to progress in its evolution and move forward into the future. All of us… together.

Cell Phone Blues

My ongoing quest to reduce living expenses, especially for items that I consider basic tools for living (AKA needs), has now impacted my choice of phone plans and the phone itself.

About two and one-half years ago my husband and I migrated from one major cell phone provided to another. This change, plus our “senior” age category, allowed us to go from $149 per month to $79 per month for two phones (unlimited talk and text, and sharing about 3GB of data per month). It meant we also had to buy new phones for the new provider system at a cost of about $600 per phone. We use Android phones.

Due to what I often refer to as “planned obsolescence,” my cell phone started dropping calls a few weeks ago – a phone less than three years old! I did make the trip to the cell phone store to see if they could resolve the issue; it worked for one phone call.

While this is extremely annoying, I had fortunately purchased a “burner” phone ($60) from a big box store several months prior on a pay-as-you-go plan (no contract, $25/month for unlimited talk, text and 3GB data PLUS Wi-Fi ready). I reactivated the plan when I started having issues with my primary phone. Thus, if I was on a call and it dropped, I would simply call them back on my burner phone. Even this became annoying.

The time had come to replace the dysfunctional phone, but I didn’t want to change my number. I’ve had it for years. It’s tied to all my rewards and accounts. I like it.

I “chatted” with a customer service rep (more than one, actually, just to verify) from the no-contract company about buying one of their more expensive phones ($149-$249) and transferring my number to it, and then being on the basic phone plan. After that, I could just cancel the burner phone plan, but keep the phone. They confirmed that this was possible and offered FREE delivery via Federal Express to “order online today.”

While that was a much more reasonable price, and moving from our current discounted “senior” plan is possible without affecting my husband’s line (which is also his business phone), it won’t really save us any money on a monthly basis now. However, it will be easier to track his business phone expenses separately from mine… AND… I will be the test case with this “simple” provider prior to his eventual retirement and transition to a less expensive plan, too. I told the “chat” rep I wanted to think about it overnight.

I also wanted time to transfer (back-up) all my photos to my cloud account and be sure I was ready to shut down this pricey paperweight.

I woke up with a new idea! What if I transferred my long-time phone number to the burner phone I already had in my possession? Just deactivate that existing number and replace it with my own? Then I wouldn’t have to buy a phone at all right now. I liked that idea a LOT! So I got back on “chat” with another rep, presented my questions, and YES, it was possible. (NOTE: I had asked staff at the big box store about doing this and they said it could not be done. Glad I kept asking.) The chat rep finally gave me their customer service phone number to contact them directly and for someone to guide me through the process.

I’ve come to believe that making changes to phones and phone plans is like buying a car. It takes hours to go through the process, and is sometimes frustrating with the slowness of how it’s done and all the details you have to have available and the voice permissions from the other account holder to leave the account and on and on and on. Finally, after nearly THREE hours on and off the calls, my favorite number was transferred to the $60 phone I’ve been using as backup. The text, talk, and internet tests succeeded, too.

The “new” phone pretty much has all the features of my former, expensive phone. It’s perfect for the way most of our family communicates anyway (via text). Some of the maneuvering buttons are in a different screen position, but no big deal. I had to reinstall some of my favorite apps and review the notification permissions, but I have limited them considerably to what I allowed before. The phone is lighter weight and slightly smaller in size. I can always upgrade to one of their more expensive phones – but still FAR cheaper than what we’ve been paying.

The next day I went through their automated phone service to re-establish my auto-payment account (to lock-in that $25/month plan), since the payment details on the account I had got wiped out when they deactivated the burner number. For some reason, I can’t seem to reactivate the online (internet) account like I had before. Perhaps I need to wait a few days for the system to catch up with my plans.

Meanwhile, I’m content with the transition to this new phone and provider and I look forward to reconnecting with family and friends.

 

The Rememberer

I am the rememberer.

The collector of stories and pain.

The recorder of wisdom and healing.

I am the bringer of light and carrier of peace.

The observer of love and conflict.

The knower of truth and the compassion in consequence.

I am the encourager through struggle.

The author of life and director of purpose.

The listener of the soul’s whispers.

I am a guide to the traveler and shelter for the weary.

The echo of footsteps and the meaning for smiles.

The calmer of fears and encourager of faith.

I am the place of eternal rest.

I am the energy of life in all.

I am the rememberer.

I am complete.

I am you.

(poem written by Carla Ryan 7/11/2020 during labyrinth meditations)

Re-defining Spiritual Community

After more than a year of planning, 2020 began with great expectations for launching New Thought Grand Valley as a new Religious Science spiritual community. Since January, however, interest in creating the organization has ebbed and flowed in the hearts of our core founders. I’m familiar with the efforts involved to build such an organization from the ground up… not something I want to do alone.

I continue to nourish the vision of a vibrant, community-based, mission-centric Religious Science home, one that welcomes all who wish to participate and contribute their time, talents, and treasure. In order to start where I am, I began holding a weekly discussion/class night at my house. Participants came each week to grow in consciousness. Two students expressed spiritual education goals toward seeking specific credentials.

Then COVID-19 arrived.

In the midst of this unplanned retreat, the expansion of possibilities appeared. The weekly group now meets via ZOOM. We’re gaining more technical skills, staying connected, and growing in consciousness. We connect in the cloud, face-to-face and heart-to-heart in the digital realm. A spiritual community is taking shape.

I like the ZOOM format. And because there are no transportation issues or geographic limits for student participation, it’s become my preferred teaching method. I’m doing what I love best as a minister – teaching. I’m developing more curriculum and will submit courses for consideration as part of Emerson’s Distance Learning list. Also, I’ve been accepted by Emerson as a member of their “Faculty.” That page on their website should soon be updated. In this way, I can serve both local or remote students and even mentor some along their spiritual path.

Learn. Study. Teach. Share. Repeat.

The next series (“The 5 Love Languages”) originally scheduled for the last half of May HAS BEEN CANCELED. This is an easy, yet meaningful, three-week series to offer since the author (Gary Chapman) provides access to all the materials via his website (study guides, profile/quiz, books for purchase). With so many people “forced” into quarantine, it seems like a good time to re-examine our personal relationships.

What about the future of the new church? I don’t know. I remain somewhat detached from the outcome.

Meanwhile, there is nothing lacking in my life. While I’ve published two books in the past two years, I have several other manuscripts in development. I’m part of the leadership team for a local, 43-year-old Interfaith group, which is entering another stage of expansion and evolution. There are multiple projects around the house.

COVID-19 caused the world to slow down in many ways, but not here. This time of reflection and contemplation, of re-evaluating what’s important, of what’s mine to do, has brought my life new energy and focus. I am in constant gratitude for the time and space this retreat has provided… to make new decisions and to consider another meaning for “spiritual community.”

# # #

Gardening Experiment – Day 16

In the 10 days since my last post, the garden has really progressed. In fact, it’s in!

I thought the radishes grew fast. O.M.G. Did they ever! However, the garden project accelerated when next to the radishes the corn seeds started piercing the dirt – 22 baby corn stalks made their appearance within a week!

And then the green beans started popping up, too. The first and tallest one (so far) was growing an inch each day!  I don’t remember a plant ever  doing that. It wasn’t long before other bean sprouts began busting loose from their pod seeds.

Since we had a bit of a cold spell for a couple of days, I wouldn’t put the tender, little plants outside. They stayed on the counter in front of a north-facing window. That didn’t seem to slow down their growth. It was fun to turn the plantings around every hour or so and see how the bean stalk turned back toward the window’s light. The corn stalks were slower-growing, but within a few days they were a couple of inches above the dirt.

All this growing made me realize we needed to get the raised garden beds installed as quickly as we could. I did some online research and found kits made of pre-cut cedar boards with dowels inserted at the corners to secure the boards into the rectangle shape. I ordered two garden beds and they arrived in less than a week… just as the weather started warming up.

As the weekend approached, we prepared the ground. We removed some of the grass in a sunny (but dead) spot away from the house (a change from the original plan), filled in low spots with old soil from miscellaneous plant pots scattered around the property, and pinned down weed-block cloth over the selected area. We bought bags of dirt and PVC pipe to construct the simple, arched frame for the netting. Then we tackled the assembly of the raised garden bed kits.

I just want to say that I’m grateful for my husband’s brute strength and his give-me-the-hammer construction method. The dowel holes barely matched up with the ones in the side boards. Each corner had to be muscled together with hammer and screwdriver and even a bit of re-drilling. Once the corners were together, the rest was easy. We poured in the bags of dirt,  constructed the PVC frame, and attached the netting.

Today I put the baby plants in the ground. All of them. I added a couple of tomato plants, purchased shortly before the install. I added new soil to a few empty pots and planted even more seeds. I figure if nine-year-old seeds can grow, so can seeds from 2020. Now it’s hoping the weather forecast is accurate and these plants have a good start before summer arrives.

More updates are sure to come. Stay tuned.

Gardening Experiment: Day 6 – It’s Getting Real!

Day 6… and I’m starting to panic. The radishes are growing so much faster than I anticipated. I thought I might have at least a couple of weeks before they grew to this height and thickness. When I look back at all the gardens I’ve planted in the past, I doubt I EVER actually counted days until seedlings appeared.

When you compare the photos from yesterday to today, it’s like these seedlings are in a growth race. I’m stunned! They certainly like the amounts of water and sunshine they’re now getting on a daily basis. Time to plan the raised garden bed.

We went outside to look at the yard and what direction the spring sun hits it. Since we have a couple of spots where the dead grass is an eyesore, it makes sense to position the raised garden beds over those spots… but not block the sprinkler heads. We’re trying to find the sprinkler heads now. The grass is really thick.

Since I’ve built raised garden beds before, I quickly drew a sketch, but at half the size of my previous construction. Next, I’ll go online to order the materials.  We can do a drive-thru pickup at the local lumber/hardware/garden store. I’ll have to go back later for manure, soil, and bird  barrier netting. Also to keep out the dogs.

We’ll likely build one garden bed for the seeds and plants I’ve already planted. We can do another later for the herbs. The far end of the yard (garden) has a bit of dappled shade, which will be better for more delicate plantings.

Looks like I’ve got work to do.

Garden Experiment: Day 5 – Coming Alive!

On the second day I snapped a picture of the dirt in the egg carton. A sunny day meant that the seeds could be warm outside. Zoey, one of our dogs, kept watch for birds. None appeared. After a couple of hours, I brought the mini garden back inside.

Today is Day 5 (4/8/2020). Last night there was an explosion of growth! Look at the radishes! I’m excited mostly to know that the seeds – as old as the envelope said they were – are still able to produce a plant. How exciting is this already!?

These little seedlings got to go outside today for the morning and early afternoon. Perfect spring weather. The sun really dried out the soil. Once back inside I re-watered the radishes and their sleeping buddies for the night. It’ll be interesting to see how much they grow overnight. I’m now looking forward to the morning and more garden growth. Stay tuned.

Gardening Experiment 2020

DAY 1:   I planted seeds.

Since we made eggs this morning and used up what was left in the paper egg carton, I decided to use the carton to start a vegetable garden. First, I dug through my garage supplies and containers to make sure I had seeds. Success! They’re pretty old. 2013 seeds. I’m starting with the seed packs that are already open. Green beans, yellow corn, radishes.

I crumbled up the four eggshells from breakfast and broke them into bits, the remainder of the white albumen and all. I put a bit of this chunky mess into each of the twelve egg slots of the carton as fertilizer. I used wax paper to line the bottom of the open top cover (didn’t have any freezer paper) and put eggshell bits on that side, too.

Then I added the garden soil from a bag I had in the garage. I love my garage supplies. It’s always a pleasant surprise to see what I’ve managed to save or recycle for “someday” projects. Dirt is a garage supply staple in my opinion. I even have some potting soil for cactus plants… another project for later.

I heaped enough garden soil to fill the carton egg holes to over-flowing, knowing the soil would likely shrink when I watered the seeds at the end.

I really over-seeded this tiny start-up garden. Instead of two or three seeds per hole, they got six to eight. If they actually sprout – and it’ll be interesting to find out because the seeds are so old – then I can transplant the seedlings later into my many empty pots in the garage and use more of the big bag of garden soil that I still have sitting there. I’m not willing to put this baby garden outside yet, except during the warm sunny days. Fortunately, the large tray I have helps me carry the egg carton back and forth from the outside to inside. It also catches any water overflow.

The seeds all received a generous bath of water and the soil shrunk down like I thought it would. I left the empty seed packets near each section to identify them later. Since it’s a bit chilly outside today, I’ll keep them inside on the counter near a window for a couple of days (see photo).

It feels good to be planting something. I haven’t had a garden for several years, as evident by the date on the seed packets. And since this “quarantine” makes it possible to stay home for an extended period, I might actually be able to attend to these plants regularly and watch them grow. All I need to do is make sure the seeds get sunshine, stay warm, and be somewhat moist until they sprout.

Come along for the journey. Prayers and good vibes welcome for these baby plants.

Our Responsibilities with Death

Today my husband and I had one of those “difficult” conversations. In the midst of the coronavirus pandemic affecting the globe and hearing about thousands of people dying, I insisted that we review our Wills and other final documents. While there is some comfort in knowing we made certain arrangements a dozen years and five house moves ago, clearly it’s time for an update.

The subject of our eventual death need not be one we avoid nor approach with overwhelming emotion. The fact is we are all going to die at some point. It’s just a matter of when and how. We may not have control over either of those decisions, but we can make known to family, friends, or an attorney our wishes about certain things being done upon our exit from this life. It is the responsibility of each individual to determine his/her final wishes in the last chapter of one’s life story.

Eckhart Tolle said, “Life has no opposite. The opposite of death is birth. Life is eternal.”

Let me make something clear: I love my life. I LOVE my life! It is better now than it’s ever been. While certainly there are some experiences I would never have consciously chosen for myself, I’m grateful every day for the journey that brought me to this place and time.

And I take care of myself in a way that supports my body for a long experience on this planet. I still have much to do and be before I make my transition from this plane to whatever is beyond this earthly existence. Any fear of death I carried into adulthood continues to be replaced by decades of studies in world religions, death traditions, rituals, beliefs, and spiritual growth. And, yes, I do believe the soul or essence of who we are continues in another realm or dimension. It’s a mystery and a future adventure.

Meanwhile, as we practice social distancing, personal retreats, or self-quarantines, and follow the guidelines to keep one another healthy and safe, I believe it is also important to be practical, responsible, for any unforeseen (but possible) situations… death being one of them. As the number of deaths from this virus increase each day, it can be difficult to consider we could become part of those statistics. However, currently we’re part of the living and that provides us with an opportunity to be responsible adults.

Ernest Holmes, founder of Religious Science, wrote in the Science of Mind textbook in the chapter on Immortality some of my favorite lines of this philosophy: “And so we prepare not to die, but to live. The thought of death should slip from our consciousness altogether; and when this great event of the soul takes place, it should be beautiful, sublime . . . a glorious experience. As the eagle, freed from its cage, soars to its native heights, so the soul, freed from the home of heavy flesh, will rise and return unto its Father’s house, naked and unafraid.”

For me, preparing “not to die, but to live…” means that I take care of those tasks, documents, directions, expenses, etc. that are mine to do. This includes my funeral arrangements, cremation, designation or distribution of personal items, and so forth. No one can guess what I have in mind unless I write it down and offer some directions. I believe my wishes will be honored by those who I’ve entrusted with such requests. And, the thing is, once everything I need to clarify and list and label is recorded and shared appropriately, I can focus on Life and all it still offers.

A few years before my father died, he shared with me certain things he wanted to have done after he was gone. His list was not a long one. Unfortunately, he didn’t write down what he had shared with me. Then another family member took control of his life and finances in those final months. While more than two years have passed since he made his transition, I intend to honor him and his verbal requests as best I can, and in more ways than he originally suggested.

The 2017 experience with my father’s death and his unfulfilled final requests inspired me to create a “Funeral Planning Workbook.” It has since been published (on Amazon) and used by a growing audience of folks, like me, who are willing to address their eventual death and consider what final arrangements are desired. In so doing, we are being accountable to ourselves by taking care of tasks NOW so that our families won’t need to be burdened with them later.

Whether you choose to purchase and utilize such a planning tool or start handwriting your list on a notepad, I encourage you… in these days of isolation, reflection, self-care, and with a focus on your health and longevity… give some thought and direction to what you can do to ease the burdens of those you will leave behind. You might discover ways to simplify life even further.

As we’ve seen on the news or in social media, this virus doesn’t care about your age, gender, social or economic status, race, profession, or where you live. So if you’re reading this, you still have time to complete a very important life task… and let someone (or two) know where to find your final documents and instructions. Research online. Download templates to get started. Consult with legal professionals. File whatever forms are necessary by mail or email. And once it’s done, having considered the worst that could happen, you will have a better appreciation for this awesome experience called Life and can joyfully look forward to the best it has in store for you.

# # #