To those affected by wildfires – those who have lost loved ones, animals and homes, or still wonder what you lost as you attempt to gather the fragments of information that are beginning to surface – our thoughts are with you.
There are no words that are adequate. I am sorry. It sucks. It’s horrific. It’s confusing and overwhelming. It’s all of that and more.
We who lost homes in the horrible fire season last year are with you. We feel your pain. We know the anguish. We wince as we read the news, see the pictures and smell the smoke that drifts into our burned up hills. We understand. We were there – and now we are further down this life-altering path. We aren’t far enough along to have forgotten anything – and truthfully – none of us will ever forget. We will remember that day forever. We will remember the sounds, smells and how it felt. The chaotic moments of evacuation – or of not being able to return to collect anything – will be etched in our minds forever. We remember the terror, the bewilderment, the not knowing, then the knowing. We wish with all our hearts that you didn’t have to go through any of this. Read More
I am honored to be a part of the “Make the World Move” International website where people come together to celebrate life and share wisdom. This article first appeared there on 5/2/13. Please check out the site: www.maketheworldmove.com
As we walk into an open air restaurant on a small island in the middle of paradise for our first taste of civilization in 3 days since flying over to the Bahamas and commencing life on a sailboat, headlines splash across a muted TV screen and we stop in our tracks. Reggae music plays over the din of happy travelers sharing tales from the sun-soaked day and on TV we see images of people running, smoke plumes and the headlines: “Bombs go off in Boston at the end of the Boston Marathon”. Read More
I sit this morning in the upper balcony of Papaji Satsang. On top of three story building it is surrounded by trees and covered with a Palapa roof and awnings. A small breeze blows through. The music in the air is of the Satsang singing chants, the honking of the horns, the banter of the lovely staff who are readying this place for our mid-day meal. I love the sound of their voices and their sweet faces have grown on me. Outside of this sanctuary we are surrounded by other parts of India – the grime, garbage, ribby dogs and cows that wander and feast upon the garbage, dirty children begging in the street, beautiful women wearing traditional dress in every color imaginable, men on motor cycles, smoke floating in the air.
The lovely faces of India
To take it all in is impossible. I don’t even try as it is futile. I have heard people from the group scoff at those who say they feel at home here. I don’t feel “at home” as in this is my home but I feel surprisingly non-resistant and non-reactive to what I see, hear and smell. The funny thing is, that news or interactions from home rile me more. Read More
“It’s a good day to die”, I say to my seatmate. Not my usual opening line but one I feel strongly about today. Tomorrow may be a different story, as normally, I am not a big fan of dying. A sense of peace and clarity is with me after my daylong shoot with Christina Morassi. I texted her saying, “I kept feeling like I was leaving something in my hotel room…” It happened again as I left the restaurant where I had breakfast and then again as I got out of my friends car at the airport. That odd sneaking feeling that something has been left behind as I cast about for what it might be. What I realized as I left my room after a final vigorous sweep: I left behind a part of me.
Enjoying the view
The experience with Christina was (to use a way over used word these days) transformational. Part high priestess, part shaman, part Diva, part business goddess, part rock star and part fashion photographer, well on her way to being a millionaire business woman, Christina helped remove parts of me as we brought others to the surface. Was I expecting all of that? No. Is it a surprise? No. I have seen her photos previously – ‘before and afters’ with perfectly stunning pictures by other photographers, placed next to those by Christina – and WOW! Crazy wild wow. She brings out an essence in people that is rarely seen or captured. I knew I wanted me some of that.
Having met her during my business expansion days in late 2011, I was instantly enthralled. Here was a woman in all her glory and power shining from stage, authenticity up the ying-yang and gorgeous too. Yowza! She pitched a free strategy session and I was buying what she was offering. A month later we had our call. I was in a down swing, about to make my fateful declaration to the Universe that 2012 was to be the year of “letting go of attachments”. Many whoopsies in that! Feeling dismayed, confused and wondering just how I would keep up the exhaustive pace I had over the year to reach the level of success I had in my business, I was not in my power at all when we spoke. She was gentle but fierce in her words and lacked concern in calling me out on my stuff. She said things that other coaches hadn’t suggested before. I felt challenged, and intrigued. I signed up for a coaching package, which included the photo shoot.
Fast forward 4 months later and my house burned to the ground.
Our first coaching session took a different tack then we had originally intended circumstances had been different. Christina was the first person to suggest something I will never forget. “Don’t come to form too quickly”, were her wise and influential words. “I won’t”, I thought, “I won’t”. And, for those of you who read my blog over the past year, I didn’t. And, I haven’t.
And, now I am. I am coming back to form into something new.
Still, I wouldn’t have done the photo session at this time if Christina let me have my way. I didn’t think it was time or that I was ready. I wanted to wait until after the anniversary of the fire, after my trip to India, after… But Christina had other plans. Not only had she kindly given me more time to use my package, she was transforming herself and I was to be her last official shoot. See, Christina has risen like the meteoric star that she is, shooting into the stratosphere, attracting people by the 100’s as she flies. Always one to recognize people’s essence before they see it themselves, she now focuses her multitude of talents in finding people’s “Ecstatic Brand”.
And, it is ecstasy being in her presence. She pulls something forth that we don’t even realize is there, or realize is in hiding. As was my case.
I knew I would have fabulous pictures. I still hoped I would come out looking like Cameron Diaz, that somehow my nose would shrink and put its extra substance in my lips. Now, I don’t care about that. I know that the pictures are amazing. I would know this without seeing them, and I know this by only seeing a few on a 2×2 camera screen. I know this because I feel this. Because something emerged that wasn’t there before. Will it stay? I hope so. Will I chase it? No. Will I let it be? Yes.
The preparation began a month prior and I was instructed to “wear something that represents the me that I am becoming, not the me that I am now”. Blue jeans and cowboy boots is what I wanted to wear. Or maybe even my one pair of Jimmy Choos with the same pair of jeans. Mountain girl is what I am. Haute hippy, bohemian, eclectic – and comfortable, please. So what to wear, I wondered. She said shop in your own closet first but that posed a dilemma since the fire robbed me of my fine frockery. But I started there and gathered some pieces. Then I shopped on line, in the mall, in boutiques, trying on dresses galore. Nothing was quite right. Too formal, too chic, too elegant, too tight, too loose. After a consult with Christina’s trusted stylist I had a clearer picture. Sybil worked powerfully with me asking me questions about my brand. If she hadn’t been so sweet, I might have cancelled the call. “Brand, I don’t want to talk about my brand! I don’t know what it is!”, I fretted. I am far from where I was and don’t want to go back. I love my work but will not return to my driven-ness. Sybil coached me through my angst into free flow creation of what I am about and how my innate style represents that. Finally a few things emerged – two Nordstrom dresses and a $25 consignment store find paired with things to hippy-fy them up. No shoes with the long red dress, faux fur vest and Frye boots with the consignment store dress, and the Choos with the short dress.
I was ready to go, on the outside. Still I wondered, “Really? Is this really the time? Do I really feel up to this? Do I even want to go?” The fire-related dark circles under my eyes and a chronic feeling of fatigue still remained. If I could just waited until after my India trip I would be a new enough person to capture my essence, right? But this was a no go. Now it was. Or not at all.
The day before I wandered one of my new favorite areas of Abott Kinney. In and out of shops, a delicious salad, a Toby McGuire sighting, perfect sun and blue sky made it a glorious day. Almost 4 miles later I had walked my ass off and my ass was tired.
I slept well the night before and awoke with plenty of time to prepare for my first visitor. Sybil was to arrive at 8am, hair and make up at 9am and Christina herself at 10:30. To enjoy my morning, I took time to get in my body and used my fledgling shaman training to journey with my spirit guides. My power animals, guardians, wise council and I all gathered around a circle. Having started this practice in a course over the summer, working regularly with my shaman Julie Davis, and now being in a yearlong training, I don’t question its validity, I am merely doing it. What I am finding is the inner resource I have searched for all my life. I am finding my own path and my own journey in the world of spirituality.
Sybil arrived and approved my outfits. We parted with heart-felt hugs as I awaited hair and makeup. Then Jen arrived and worked her magic. Not recognizing myself in the mirror I wanted to cry “too much makeup! Too much!”. But I loved the soft ringed curls that fell perfectly around my face. Christina arrived next and commanded more makeup, whispering to me, “Trust me. I promise you it’s perfect.”
Ahhhh. I put myself in this woman’s practiced hands. Then it was just the two of us. She prepped me even further about getting more in my body, into my core. It’s a hard place to stay for me (and for many of us). I am absolutely fabulous about getting in my head. I intellectualize everything and want to talk it out. But body, that’s another thing all together. Sure, I will practice feeling my feet but staying there and inhabiting my body? Hmmmm.
There is no sliding with this woman. She knows when we pop away, even for a second. Intense, yes. Loving, yes! Brilliant, oh yes!
So we did a bunch of awkward and ugly movements to reprogram the system. She leading me, and then asking me to have my own experience. I am good at mimicking but get afraid when left alone. “What if I look stupid in front of this goddess?”, rang the dark voices. And we kept going.
Then the challenges started. What is it that blocks you? What is it that stands in your way? Will you fully be yourself and bare essence today or will you hide? Will you do it halfway or will you play full out? These weren’t her exact words but the sentiment penetrated deeply. She bore in and backed off, then bore in again. She made space, then held me tight, and then told me she was there to catch me.
Things came up I didn’t expect.
What does it take to show your essence? It takes a willingness to step out of comfort. She identified a hidden part of me that not many people see. On the outside I seem self-expressed and bold. And I am. Yet there is still a part I hide. Most people miss that. They see my actions and look quizzically at me when I say I was once painfully shy. Instead, Christina knew my shyness and knew where and how to look.
What part are you hiding? Why? Kids screamed from the other room as we talked where no noise had been before. Chaos breaking the silence we were experiencing. “Notice everything”, she said with a twinkle in her eye. “Everything”.
What I was hiding: I don’t feel feminine deep down in my core. Or I didn’t. Growing up, I got in to “doing” mode during a chaotic period. Death, divorce, loss, illness, moves across country all within a short period of time in my immediate family. I became good – and in some ways I became boy-like. Or at least I left my magical, mystical, ethereal, artistic girly self in the dust. Then my “Dorothy Hamill” cut on my slender 10 year-old frame clinched it as I was often mistaken for a boy.
Christina took time to distinguish between sensuality and sexuality. Sensuality she said “is what we are after. Get in your pleasure zone.”
“What?????” I fretted. “On camera? But I have a prominent angular nose and seriously lack Angelina Jolie lips…. I can’t do that!”
That little girl that I once was decided that free spirited sensuality was not ok and stuffed it down inside. Sure I have sexy moments, but I feel separate from myself as a sensual being so I have not fully owned my sensual power. It’s taken me almost 47 years to realize this. Actually, I knew this before but haven’t really been willing to do anything about it. Lazy, I thought. But terrified, is what I realized in Christina’s penetrating presence.
So out to Topanga Canyon we went, after grabbing Christina’s amazing assistant, Tina, and a stop at Whole Foods to fuel up. As we climbed the canyon, it seemed the day should already be over. Hadn’t I realized plenty? Wasn’t my familiar comfort zone of intellectually understanding enough?
We hiked in to a magical grove under a giant pair of trees. A spot that Christina had done shoots before, reserved for the wild women whose spirit called for it. We paused and asked permission to enter the grove. Christina, the priestess, leading the prayer.
The only thing between me and beginning was changing my clothes. The brown dress came first, my most “comfortable” choice. “In your hips, growl, don’t play to the camera, be in your body, feel your essence, move, move, move and breathe deeply!” were the reminders. She moved with me, she laughed with me, she was with me. She said she would be and she was. But I didn’t want to just follow because I am already good at following. I needed to be me but not be the me that is friendly, smiling, good, happy, nice – something deeper than that but some of that too. “Go deeper, go deeper, go deeper” was the mantra. My head throbbed all day, my neck ached, and at one point I wondered if I could keep moving. My thighs were burning from getting into my body, my voice was hoarse from growling. “Could I keep this up?” I wondered.
Then, in my long dress I climbed a tree and balanced on thinner branches than I should have been able too. I descended and lay on the forest floor, in the dirt in my gown. I wrestled Christina to the ground planting leaves in her hair that stayed for the day. I got in my hips, in my supermodel, in my diva, in my Marilyn Monroe. I let myself be all those things. I roared some more and stomped and pranced. I shook my hips and tossed my hair. I looked brazenly at the camera and looked as brazenly away. I channeled the rising moon and felt the power come in to me.
Yes, I left something in my hotel and in the restaurant and in my friend’s car. Will it come back? Who knows? But right now, I am complete. I die to my old way of being. I die to my fear. I die to my grief. In case the Universe is listening and hears talking about dying, you don’t need to test this one. I still choose to live and to live very well. And, indeed, today is a good day to die.
Fingers to keyboard is my mantra for my new authors. Fingers to keyboard. And keep those fingers moving. And keep your eyes on the screen. Not on Facebook as I am doing right now…
I have not blogged since the fall. I have been writing as I finally set (and met) a final deadline for myself and for my new publisher to turn in my re-write. But now, I am out of the blog habit and want to get back in. Blogging was a much needed outlet for as I walked through my fire. Your support during those months was astounding. Knowing you were there reading my words whether you commented or not, having you tell me you were reading me when we ran into each other in random places helped keep me sane in a time of severe wackiness. I am forever grateful. And now I am ready to reconnect to that outlet and to you.
So here I am, 3 days short of our 11 month anniversary since the fire. What a ride this has been. There is so much to say and I know I can’t say it all in this moment as I might never stop writing. And there is no mistake I am writing after my transformational journey to LA to be photographed by the uber-fabulous Christina Morassi but that is for another post as it needs to percolate more. For now, this is what I need to write.
To catch you up, after all the wandering over the summer, we finally settled and bought a lovely home in Evergreen. All summer long we planned to rebuild then after multiple dead ends in going way over budget on building plans and well-being, we burned out and called Uncle. Too much input, too few options, too much time passing by, we started house hunting – first to rent, then to buy. After moving in to our new/old home (a 1937 “cabin” near downtown Evergreen), life seemed to settle down. Then, for me, the darkness settled in too. For a brief bit I felt happier then I had in a while. Then depression leaked in and soon seemed to swallow me whole. Knowing “Depression” was one of the Kubler-Ross stages of grief, for some time, I remained hopeful I was moving through my pain. But then tired of treading water, as I struggled to keep my head above , I called Uncle again. I stepped away from my blogging, retreated in to my cocoon and tripled up on therapy. Throw in the surprise IRS audit (just where oh where was my paperwork? Oh yeah, fiery flames…) and I was plumb tuckered out.
At first it was hard to step away from blogging. For many months, it was my outlet for the conflicted thoughts, feelings, and angst – yet something started to turn. In the fall, when I wrote the darkness without a break in the darkness, I became more convinced (with the encouragement of my therapist) that taking a break was just what the doctor ordered. Sad, tired, discouraged was all I could write. As you know, I am not anti-darkness in the least bit, yet it was time to step away.
After some deep work, deep healing, another 2 weeks in the sun on our boat in the Bahamas, and celebrating the turning of the clock to 2013, I returned “home” not quite refreshed but ready to re-emerge. Having promised my publisher my entire finished completed polished perfected manuscript by February 15th, I needed to kick it into gear. And kick I did.
I blocked huge hunks of time in my calendar, said ‘no’ to many things, warned my loved ones about my impending absence – and most importantly, promised myself I would not suffer while writing. In the late summer and early fall, whenever I had attempted work on my book, the gremlins I often warned my clients about were blaringly loud. Each time I would open my manuscript, I would see shit, shit and more shit. My self-judgement was tremendous. Here’s what it sounded like: “This is pure crap. There is absolutely no way I can un-crap-a-fy it. It is beyond help. I am beyond help. Why did I ever agree to this. I am screwed.” Or some such loveliness. Each time on a subtle (or not so subtle) level, I let these voices win and closed my computer and slunk away. For a writer, there is room for self-doubt bouts but when it blocks all sun and stays that way it’s impossible to continue. I was simply drowning in it.
As promised, I started writing again on January 7th. Were all the voices of self-doubt gone? No. No, they were not. They remained yet I had some space between me and them – enough to remember they weren’t real and that I had a choice. The promise I made to myself not to suffer was one I took seriously. It absolutely could not go the way it had gone before. I had no time for suffering. I needed to be in action but not in miserable forced action. The weekend prior to the 7th, I wondered if I could do it. I would love to say I was high on life and ready to begin – but I wasn’t. I dreaded that Monday. I wondered if I was really ready and able. Then Monday, at the appointed time, I began. At first the words didn’t come, yet after a few hours the rhythm returned.
For as long as I have been writing, it always takes something to get in to the groove. I bless (or curse) those of you who sit at the blank page and channel God. For me, it’s slightly different. Most times, I need to sit through mucho discomfort and pain in order to get to the other side. Even when I have a good day of flow, the next day doesn’t seem to start there. I start back at the beginning, yet again. The difference was, I allowed all of that and kept going. I began to see new patterns. Usually a morning writer, I turned in to an afternoon writer, hitting my groove around 2pm each day. My calendar of blocked writing time continually reminded me of my priorities. A pretty purple color block showed me exactly how much time I had – and how much I didn’t. There was room for sleep, some W-A-L-K’s with my dogs, some visits with friends, a few calls with clients and not much more.
I did what I set out to do AND I turned my book in a day early – which turned out to be exactly one year from when I signed the contract and 9 months after the original promised date. I thank my new publisher Brenda Knight at Viva Editions for her tireless support and understanding after my house burned down, I drowned my computer, I lost files, I dealt with depression and then the IRS audit threw me in another spin of fear. I love and adore and worship my incredible editors. The godforsakenly brilliant Ellen Moore with whom I spent hours upon hours literally cutting and pasting hundreds of thousands of words to form this “new” book and without whom this never ever ever ever ever would have happened and lovely Mary Ann Tate whose gentle words, suggestions and perfect timing got me through a particularly sticky period.
And I thank YOU for welcoming me back to the world of blogging.
I have fallen out of my writing habit and now I wish to fall back in. The mornings I went straight to writing before beginning anything else were my favorites. Now, I have found a million other distractions and one missed day leads to the next. Yesterday I wrote a piece, worked with it for a while, became satisfied with its state yet never posted it. On some level I forgot to finish. I said what I needed to say, I explored the darkness I felt over the weekend – a reemergence of old heaviness, deep sadness, the sense of loss, feeling lost to myself. It was a perfect storm of hormonal surges; a short, lovely, yet emotional trip to see my family in Wyoming; and the first return to our “new” house where I am settling but not settled. But now, the tides have shifted. I am not where I am yesterday and am not quite sure where I am today either. It’s a bit disorienting.
Orientation is the process of becoming accustomed. Accustomed is about becoming familiar. Accustomed and familiar have been out of my vocabulary for a while. To what am I becoming accustomed? What is my new routine here? What is this new life I am creating? Who am I becoming? Who am I now? What do I do? What is my path? Where am I going?
I know where I have been. I know where I don’t wish to go any longer. The path forward is less certain. All along, I have said I will allow myself this journey. I will ignore my tendency to want to figure it all out now and I will politely ignore others influence (imagined or real) that I should be somewhere else. I swore I would let it unfold and develop as I gave myself this year to reconstitute into something new.
In our new home, things are finding their place. Most of the upstairs came together quickly with the exquisite help of many of our beloved friends. Boxes were unpacked and sent to recycling with speed, old items were lovingly placed, new items filled in the blanks. Upon entering our abode, friends exclaim it seems we have been here for a long time. It’s quite remarkable how well everything looks, how it all fits together, how it all came together so beautifully. It’s our psyches that need a little catching up time.
Now down in my office, I take a deep breath. In this lovely basement bedroom we painted dark purple, I have found my spot. Womb like and cozy, most of the floor is taken up by a full-size built in bed constructed over a large boulder that served as part of the foundation in 1937 when building codes were a little less stringent. (Our structural engineer gives it an F for aesthetics but an A for stability). I can’t see the boulder on which I perch but I know it’s there.
I keep the music going to drown the traffic noise and the occasional dog barking. I ease myself back into the stack of pillow until I find the sweet spot. My trusty Mac on my lap, I am ready to begin. My mind spins with questions: What should I say today? What is true? What is false? Can I be grateful and still mourn? Will we stay here? And, how did we get here?
My eyes rest on photos that line the shelves. My aunt on her wedding day, my mom in the cockpit of a 727, me at 6 years old, my dad as a boy, David and me in front of our now scorched totem pole. Many of these photos were destined to face a fiery death until Joleen (who acted as part of my brain on a day where my brain was failing me) filled bags full of these now precious things. Others came from the Rhode Island house and now the old melds with the new. Old and new swirl around, photos meet for the first time, images blend and for a moment, and I don’t know where I am.
Tigger finds me in my new spot in my purple room. For the first time, he leaps up onto this bed and curls up at my feet. Always touching me, he gets close enough to have contact yet maintains his space. Try to snuggle him too much and he will pull away. I know what’s good for me and let him rest wherever he chooses. Now, my shin rests on his back. We are tucked together, him snoozing, me contemplating the words I write, contemplating my disorientation. I can sit here and enjoy this new space and still have a deep aching missing and longing for my old space. I can feel gratitude for the gifts I have now and miss the gift of that beloved place.
Then I stare back at the screen and it challenges me. As I fill it with barely formed thoughts or unresolved conclusions, I see the blaring red typos, incomplete sentences, and dangling ideas, and I wonder what will stay and what will go. In this journey of writing my way through fire, one of the greatest gifts has been my willingness to write regardless. Knowing the next day I might write something completely different as I view the world anew, I allowed myself to commit words to paper anyway. Being out of the habit, it’s trickier now. Yesterday’s piece is not where I am today, yet I never posted it and today I struggle for the willingness to post this. On the eve of Thanksgiving, I wonder if I am being thankful enough. Will the God of thankfulness strike me down if I am not? Will you determine gratitude is missing in my expression?
I sit here and write anyway as I have found my home in writing. I have found an outlet that works for me. I have found something I care deeply about. I write the stuff that clogs my mind, and my mind stops spinning. I risk sharing the ugly and untransformed and incomplete and if I do that, when I am finished writing, it lessens. If I edit too much of the raw truth out of my prose, it is hollow.
I look around again at this purple room with a snoring dog warming my body and see the gifts. I see the gift of my angst, the losses, the uncertainty of life, the love of my people. I hear the traffic hum in between cords of music and I see the gift in that. I feel the heaviness that remains in my heart and am willing to accept that too. I feel the lightness that exists there at the same time. I feel the curiosity of living a life full of ups and downs, gifts, and what doesn’t initially feel like a gift. I see the sun on the trees above the window shades that block my new view of neighbor’s houses. I smell the fart that seeps into the air from my sleeping companion. I feel my bladder telling me it’s time to get up yet I fear if I don’t finish today, I won’t post again.
Bladder threatening to burst, I hastily recommit to my path and know I will not please everyone. I will worry some and annoy others. And, my words will find their home in the ears and hearts of those who grapple, those who dig dark purple and dark days as well as love the light that shines always even when we can’t see it or forget it’s there. I will rest on my boulder that I may never see, knowing that the foundation exists. And now, I will post to have the breakthrough in getting my words out there. Or maybe just so I can pee.
A candle flickering, the sun rise turning the distant hill pink, Kirtan music playing on Pandora, a fresh cup of coffee at my side, my Mac warming on my lap – ahhh, the perfect way to start a morning. I have to peak between houses and over cars to glimpse that pink mountainside, but I can see it. Nature is out there. David just returned from the pool, now 5 minutes from our house, fresh and ready to start the day. We are living our new life in our sweet Artisan’s bungalow in the middle of a small mountain town. My system is settling and I no longer startle awake and wonder where I am. Many moment of fear gripped me in the first week in this house – what had we done? Where were we? How did we get here? Panic would fill me as I questioned every step that led us here. After being in transit for almost 7 months, to suddenly stop throws the system into confusion. In the weeks leading up to our move here, I was bursting with excitement – and yet I am sure it’s “normal” to experience the drop and question everything once again.
We don’t know what we will do going forward. We are trying on a life here, beginning to enjoy the conveniences of a life in a town. Finally exhaling. Yesterday, one of our builders sent us a picture of a dream house with soaring ceilings, walls of glass, beams throughout yet small in footprint. Suddenly, my settling system began to crave something else. Returning over and over to the picture, I wondered, “here? Are we supposed to be here? Are we supposed to be there on our land now so far away from this little hamlet?” And, then I gently remind myself, we don’t need to know right now.
Yesterday I finally turned in the first three chapters of my re-write to my ever-patient publisher for review. I grappled with crafting the ever-important opening to this second take on the topic of waiting. What do I really think now, so many years down the road and a lifetime of upheaval in this year alone? What can I really say that is new about waiting? Then, I realized I miss-placed my favorite red shawl and I took a detour.
In my gradual accumulation of clothing, there are a few items I have branded as “I would carry this out of a fire”. The shawl was one of these things. Much more than a measly pashmina, I discovered it in Santa Monica on my spring trip. The brick red seemed to work with everything, its weight comforted on airplanes and drafty rooms, it served as a light jacket whenever necessary. Suddenly, I realized it was gone, and began my feeble mental search for where I might have left it. Feeble I say as I have noticed (to my dismay) a certain decline in mental faculty. Simply, I cannot remember certain things and have moments where I completely blank out. So racking my brain, I couldn’t recollect where I might have left it. Vague notions started to come and I texted all my friends with whom I had spent recent time. The responses started coming back – “no shawl here”. I watched my reaction. I watched the roller coaster begin to roll. “Noooo. I don’t want to lose something I care about. No. No. No.” Glancing at my now meager closet, thinking of my past over-stuffed closets full of years of collecting a wardrobe, I see things that already I will put in the Goodwill pile. I have no desire to accumulate as before. Having a few fine pieces is enough. And yet, those few things seem to really matter. A lot.
This morning, with still one more place to check, I mourn my shawl. Will it turn up? Will I move on? I feel its warmth as a missing, craving the comfort of its weight on my chilled shoulders.
Has its substance dissolved into nothingness, as did my home and all my possessions? Are they floating out there in space to one-day reassemble into something else? Where do the ashes go? What do they become? Once solid, now particles in the air, my mind still searches for their form. Today, I place the dog dish on our Mexican tile floor and think of where I placed it in my old house. I see the splash marks from the water on the tile in a house that no longer exists. I hear a door open in my mind, yet know that door will never open again. Going downstairs here, my fingers run across the handrail that feels nothing like my old stairway. It seems each time, something clicks in my brain, “not that” it says. Usually, I leave this between my fingers and the rail to work out, and I continue on, but occasionally it stops me. Not that.
We have created a home here. I glance at all these possessions we have been lucky enough to accumulate and see my already formed attachments. Can I be with that it all is temporary? Can I be with that anything that brings me comfort can and will vanish into the void? Can I be with the change that is the only thing that is certain in this uncertain universe?
Can I be without my red shawl? Will I miss it like a limb? Will it turn up and lull me into the belief that I might not lose again? Will I search for it forever thinking maybe one day it some strange place it will reemerge perhaps in a different form but familiar nonetheless?
It happened to me. I didn’t think it would cause I was oh-so careful of where I clicked and where I spent my time. No oddly formatted links for me, no random sites, and certainly no strange games. No, I steered clear of the underworld as I saw it and believed that would keep me safe. Then, three days ago, it happened out of the blue and rocked my virtual world. I was hacked, and not just hacked but hacked publicly on my favorite social network which has been my play ground for years and my lifeline during these last 7 months.
It began simply with some confusing messages coming through from facebook. Then soon, the kind warnings began, “looks like you’ve been hacked better change your passwords”. Then, the more stern warnings started, “Stop sending me this crap. Why are you doing this???” I jumped into action, changed my passwords on google, facebook and even changed my username for good measure. I then disabled any apps that had permission to post, locked down even more tightly all my security settings, followed protocol and crossed my fingers. And, there was no way to find the source of this rotten email being generated from my account. I sent reports to facebook, I began posting on my wall acknowledging what was going on, I reached out for help from experts.
Leaving for the afternoon, but still monitoring the fallout, I made what felt like a true statement to Dusty. “I would have been so much more upset about this before the fire.” Chuckling at seeing my “growth” show up here, I didn’t realize I was uttering primo bullhockey.
As the night went on, more and more emails came through choking my inbox, the thoughtful ones being watered down by peoples inane insistence that is truly was me doing this and that I was seriously bad and wrong. Jessica then spoke the unspeakable, suggesting perhaps I should deactivate my account. Promising it as a temporary condition and not the complete freeze those words carry, I followed her coaching and pushed “deactivate”. Then, I put my smart phone to the side and continued to be with my friends.
Feeling virtuous about my ability to let go, on the way home, I promised Dusty I would let it go for the night and might even leave my account deactivated for the next day and just ride out the storm as it seemed that all that could be done had been done. We decided a boycott of facebook was just what the doctor ordered….
I lasted until I got home.
Justifying (like any good addict) just one more check, I was aghast to see my inbox flooded again with the mix of warnings, even with my account deactivated. How could this be still happening, I wondered with a head full of fog and fear. One warning message stuck in my craw, “How could you be sending this crap out when we are in the midst of dealing with a hurricane?? You are being so thoughtless. I demand you stop!”. Oh my. I was beginning to let it get to me. I changed my passwords again, deactivated the account again, and went to bed hoping for miracles in cyberspace.
At 3:30am, I woke up with thoughts running wild and, yes, succumb and checked my email. Even more messages, railing about my insensitivity, mixed with a few kind ones suggesting I might have a problem and might want to change a password or two. Up for an hour and a half, doing just that (again), as well as googling solutions, I finally returned to bed for a brief sleep until dawn. Now exhausted and full throttle in my obsessive drive to fix the unfixable, I worked all day barely getting up to pee, eat or drink water. Even my dogs began to roll their eyes at me. I begged for help from experts, followed all suggestions offered, downloaded McAffee even though I have a Mac (which 18 hours later is still running in the background, slowing my machine, having found nothing…). Two patient angels helped me, taking time from their busy days, with their way above average expertise, Pam Finn and Adryenn Ashley to whom I am indebted. We made some headway with more changes and lockdowns and setting modifications. Yet, later on, the emails kept coming. Were they slowing? Was it choking out its last rancid breath? It seemed so, and then another message would come through.
A few times I became willing to pull the permanent plug. For most people, this would be the obvious solution, far preferable to losing sleep, and spending a day in exaggerated stress response. Alas, not for me. As an author, platform is gold and I have painstakingly over the years built my social media presence. It’s what had a new publisher be interested in me as a writer, but more importantly, since the fire, facebook has been my way to communicate with you, my readers of this blog. Unplugging from that source felt devastating. So I continued to try to save a sinking ship. Many advised that a permanent wipe of my account was the only option, while others swore it would run its course and begged me not to jump ship to soon.
Today, on the dawn of day three of my deluge, my facebook future is still uncertain. Emails are still trickling in with whacked out links attached. What is certain is my tender psyche is far from mended. Yes, I have always leaned toward the obsessive side of things, but my reaction yesterday was extreme. I missed a glorious sunny day. I didn’t go outside. I was a very bad doggy momma, ignoring my furry loves for most of the day. I trashed my house, felt chaotic, and did not like who I was one bit. Not one bit at all.
Fortunately, I called uncle at about 3pm yesterday. I finally left the house and left my mood. The fog began to lift and I felt human again. Viewing my obsessive ride on the brink of cuckoo (and perhaps falling into the cuckoo puddle), I see a desperation in holding on to what I think I need. In this crazy world full of fires, random violence, horrible murders of children, and now Frankenstorms, many of us grasp at the straws. There is so much chaos in so many lives right now. Cancer diagnosis, parents dying, money issues, sick children abound. Instead of taking on the angst of the world, I take on the angst of being hacked. Add in, being hacked is a violation of some sort. It’s not personal, but it is ugly and mean. Some twisted human designed something for the sole purpose of messing with others and causing them strife. At Landmark Education where we often create our own meaning out of words or even create brand new words that sound like gobblygook, there is a term called “unmessable-with”. This means what it says, the ability to not feel messed with even when messed with. I can say with all certainty, I ain’t there. I let myself be messed with for an extended period of time. I gave away my power, my peace of mind, my sanity. I was tunnel vision and taken out. I was hacked, hook, line and sinker.
What you can do to protect yourself from hackers:
1) Don’t show your email address publicly on your facebook page
2) Don’t allow 3rd party apps to link to your account and post on your behalf
3) NEVER click on links that seem suspicious in any way, shape or form
4) Browse only on “https” setting for security
5) Don’t use the same passwords on all your accounts. Use a password with characters, symbols, numbers, letters that is not easy to figure out
Also, a last request, be kind to your fellow “hackees”. At some point, it will happen to the best of us if we play in the land of cyberspace.
As we settle in to our “new” (c. 1937) house in Evergreen the cracks in our foundation become more evident. Relief is here, all our stuff is finally in one place, and we are breathing some sighs of relief. Almost 7 months of living out of trailers and basements and bags left hairline fractures in our souls. Now here we are with a place we can call “home” without any twitches or jolts. Now we have an address for all of those casual or careless who require this delicate information for their various purposes. The countless times I froze when asked, “Address? I don’t have an address!!!!!!!” the scream creeping up from down deep. Even our old “Rocky Top Trail” address was no longer after the county demanded a street name change for safety purposes. So how to answer that question? The P.O. box? The current basement? The pile that was accumulating at our local post office? Just where was this phantom address that was absolutely necessary for whatever business to continue in that moment?
We have an address now. We have a front door and a kitchen and drawers and a dining room table and a roof and four walls. We are grateful. How long will we have this address? We don’t know. Will we rebuild? We don’t know. We have decided to put all major decisions on hold about our beloved property.
So how have we been in the last week in our new home? Good, happy and more content than in months. Does it mean we are through and out the other side of this process? On some level, I had hoped so, but alas no.
It’s new, it’s amazing, it’s beautiful, it has so many cool things – and it is very different. Due to a crew of our beloveds nary a box remains and our possessions are carefully placed throughout. The truck from Rhode Island arrived without a hitch and unloaded what once belonged to that dear house into this dear one. Magically, things found their new places and spaces and these familiar items created home where there wasn’t one before. I glance around and truly marvel. I am filled with gratitude for this space and the people in my life and the timing of things. Selling Rhode Island when we did couldn’t have been better for our creating a future. Having to start over (as most of my neighbors must do) by buying all new things although it may sound fantastic is a great pain. We were spared the numerous and sundry trips to retail heaven that my neighbors still have to face. I look around at things that mean something as they have belonged to my family for many moons.
I can say I love this space, this place, and this home. And, like any place, there are things I don’t like. As former boonies dweller, the proximity to neighbors is at times beyond disturbing. Waking to their heated conversations outside my door, seeing in their windows as I know they can see in mine, dogs barking all around, the politics of parking spaces… and yet the novel notion of our proximity to a cute mountain town evens that out. My new obsession is going to the dump now 5 minutes away. Yes, we have trash service but I want to get rid of things immediately. Some deep cleansing drive demands daily trips to empty us of detritus. Moving boxes, packing paper, boxes holding our newest trinkets in the way of office chairs, a printer, a computer monitor and more, I must get rid of it all right a way. The movers suggested we keep the oh-so valuable moving boxes that we paid a pretty penny for as one day in the near future we might need them again. Dreading the notion of holding on to boxes, I asked David what he thought. With our future still uncertain of when or if we might move back to our land, did we want to keep them? To my relief he said, “no” and he knew what that no meant. We need to be here. Right here. Right now.
So, I purge boxes and anything else I have accumulated that is now irrelevant or less than desirable. Even some items of clothing that weren’t just right went to Goodwill. We are throwing out the old, bringing in the new.
Who knows what the future will hold. I certainly hope that we may have smooth waters for a bit. But we all know that there are no guarantees. Just because this happened, doesn’t mean that won’t. We need to buckle our seatbelts for this wild ride called life. I can choose to let go of my white-knuckled grip on the armrests and actually look out the window. My world rocked on March 26th, life, as I knew it altered, and everything changed. I am not who I was on that day, and I still don’t quite know who I will be. I can let that be ok. There are things I don’t need to know, and I practice letting go of what might happen and what changes might be just over the horizon – or even later on today.
It’s just life. It’s just what happens and how we react. The ground will continue to move under our feet. We count on the sun rising each morning and the day going similarly to the day before. We have to count on that otherwise we would lose our center, yet down deep we know we can’t count on anything. It’s all up for grabs as we spin through space in a Universe we can barely grasp in a world that might not ever make sense, until it does.
Dare I say, I have experienced some contentment as of late? Dare I say it? Well, there, I just did. Now in our final stretch of 2012, I can say I am happy that these digits will turn to the next (as long as the Mayan’s weren’t correct and we don’t blow up in a fiery plume or whatever it is they predict at the end of the year, or whatever it is that certain members of our current population say the Mayan’s predicted…). The fall has turned glorious. Beautiful clear blue skies and crisp temperatures that mark a perfect Colorado autumn. I happily missed the first snow and dreary cold of the season while I was still in Rhode Island – and I will enjoy all I can of this picture perfect weather.
With the change of seasons, comes a change of heart for us. We have chosen to settle, for now, in downtown Evergreen, a lovely mountain community where we can walk to everything we might need or want. In temporary housing until later this week, I feel the tides are turning. We have officially decided not to decide (or chosen not to chose, whatever your poison). We will let the dust settle, the season transform, our hearts mend further. We will put our now blossoming amount of stuff in one centralized place. We will also have a delivery of furniture and housewares that are coming from my family home in Rhode Island. The “stuff-less” will suddenly have stuff. So how does that feel?
Awesome, exciting – and scary. My dream in the early waking hours was of returning home and finding David tied up after thieves had robbed us of everything. Waking with dread, I shook off the concerns as best as possible. But the amount of times I have closed the door to leave the house and had the question, “will it be here when I return” is one too many to count. The trauma may continue for a bit. I probably will always have flashes of concern never present before. Right now, sitting in the sweet house, looking out at a nice view, I flash to my view and those last moments of a morning that changed everything. I like to write and then glance around finding thoughts in the green of the trees or in the vapor of the clouds. So, I glance at this view and feel myself in my old home, on my old perch, listening to the same music I am hearing now, fingers clicking on the same keyboard they did then and cozying into the same blanket that I carried out of my home. Flashbacks, imprints, memories swirl around in the air. Nothing catches in my throat right now, but also, I don’t want it too. I need to breathe instead. I will always miss our forever home that didn’t last forever. I will always cherish the time we had there and know in my soul that we soaked up what we needed to. We never took that place for granted and always felt blessed to live in such a perch with one of the most magnificent views around.
A few days before my trip to Rhode Island, I spent some time at the land. As I have described before, I can see the new and harsh beauty, but the devastation is present in every glance as well. The absence of any shade makes a once nurturing environment harsh and unrelenting. The ash that still covers all the blackened trees is daunting.
Yet, miss my home, I do. I miss it very much. I crave the sounds, smells and comfort of its nooks and crannies. For now, I close the door on my memories and settle in to this view and this perch, right here, right now.
Two weeks before the fire, we bought a new couch. After attempting many life saving maneuvers with our old couch, we called it quits and indulged in leather – a thick Italian leather, mind you, with the knowledge that our dogs would make it their own and their toe nails couldn’t puncture the tough hide. Tigger loved that couch and in the short time we owned it, I snapped quite a few of his different sleeping and resting poses while he lounged in leather. After moving to our temp housing, one of the first stops we made was to buy a carbon copy of our lost couch and Tigger hasn’t missed a beat in making it his own. That sweet boy has certainly shown the wear and tear of this time. Once playful around all dogs, he has been aggressive and even gotten in a few fist fights. Now, he is labeled ‘a problem’ when he goes to the kennel and isn’t allowed to socialize with the others. Add in, after both boys returned from their last kennel trip, they came back with kennel cough. At our “new” house, they will have their very own yard in which we can open the door and they can wander. .14 of an acre might not compare to the 37 they had before, but it will be theirs. And, we will find a nice doggy whisperer who can work with our boy and help ease his newfound angsts. Right now, uncoils himself and uses the height of the couch as a better vantage point to peer out the window at the neighborhood activities. He seems to be settling.
Settle is the name of the next game. Settle for a while until we know what to do next. We jumped from the fire into making plans for building and headed down a few frustrating dead-end roads in the process. We spent the summer in limbo and lived out of bags and basements. Now, we will have an answer to the question, “what is your address?” And, we will be able to respond without twitching or wanting to scream or strangle the person doing the asking. When we say “home”, it will no longer be a figure of speech; it will no longer be a moving target, it will no longer trigger deep angst and grief. Instead, home will be an adorable artisans bungalow in the heart of a town we have been fond of for a while. Saturday morning we will wake up there and the next chapter will begin.
I am ready to turn the page.