Bellyache

Niagara Falls w:Skok

Have you ever had the experience of not realizing how much pain you are in until the pain is gone? Being accustomed to frequent pain, specifically back pain, I’ve had this experience a few times. We become so accustomed to pain, especially pain that sneaks up on us as a result of repetitive motion due to daily tasks that must be performed, that often times we don’t even realize we are in pain until the pain is gone. It’s an odd feeling to be without pain when you’ve experienced it consistently for such a long time.

I’m in my late thirties now so I’ve lived a little bit of life. This past week, I packed up all the belongings I could fit in my car, as well as my dog and my sister (who selflessly joined me for the road trip) and drove 3,200 miles, from Northern California to Buffalo, NY (we had a few detours due to weather and wanting to visit family along the way). For most people, this would be acceptable if I were moving for work or something similarly logical. I have moved for work reasons in the past but this time I moved for love. So cheesy, I know, and, I’ll give it to you, kind of crazy as well. Especially since we have only known each other for a year, so not long in the scheme of things, been dating for 4 months and had spent less than 20 (not even full) days together in real life before I moved.

The morning, for me, has always been the time of day when I’m the most honest with myself. When first waking up, honesty is really the only option. It pounces on me without permission, forcing me to look at decisions I’ve made and the true impact they have on me and the people around me.

Since day one of starting to spend time with my beau as something more romantic than friendly, I wake up every morning at peace. This is not a caught-up-in-the-moment, head-over-heels kind of feeling. It is pure peace. With that peaceful feeling came some confusion. I couldn’t quite put my finger on it at first but, after awhile, I realized what was missing; a pit in my stomach. In the past, I had never experienced a romantic relationship without some kind of feeling that it wasn’t right. Always waking up in the morning with that tell tale knot in my stomach and then shoving it down and explaining it away to myself, “It’s just me . . . it’ll get better in time. . .  everyone feels this way . . .” It hasn’t been until now, until that ill feeling has been completely absent, that I am able to see how wrong I was. That feeling may be normal but it doesn’t exist when things are right. When you’ve truly found your person, your whole body is at peace even in those very first, uninhibited moments waking up. Even with knowing that I would be moving across the country, far from family and friends, that feeling of discontentment has never crept up on me upon first waking. I can’t help but, out of habit and past experience, wait for the other shoe to drop but, it seems, sometimes things are just right and it’s okay to accept the peace that comes with pain no longer being present.

I’m Not Perfect and I Love Me That Way

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We created this universe so we get to decide our preferences
It seems we created it in such a way that anything goes
And why not?
How uninteresting would it be if we were all living up to some ideal?
Especially one created by someone other than ourselves
Besides being uninteresting, perfection does not exist
At least, not in the way we are led to believe it does

Clouds are perfect
Animals are perfect
Nature is perfect
As part of creation, and as the creator, we are perfect

We are intended to have flaws
To make mistakes
To learn and grow
We are intended to be something other than “perfect”
Not less than “perfect” but other than perfect
And that is where our perfection lies
In just being exactly as we are intended to be
Accepting ourselves, “imperfections” and all, is the best way (maybe the ONLY way) to give ourselves the perspective of Spirit so we can start changing the aspects of ourselves that we truly desire to change

You’re perfectly imperfect and I love you that way.
You can too.

It’s not about how LONG you spend, it’s about HOW you spend

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How you spend your time in this body
On this world
Whoever planted the idea in our heads that we can and should all change the world, on a global scale, did us all a serious disservice
If you can, and you do, then that’s amazing. Keep it up and thank you!
But when you put an, for most people, unrealistic expectation on a person
An expectation they know they can’t live up to
The tendency is to shut out the possibity completely
Or risk breaking our psyche over feeling useless on this planet

What about the fact that we all DO have the potential and PRIVILEGE to change the world?
Our world
On a local or even intimate level
By spending our time expressing kindness
Expressing gratitude
By sharing LIFE
By being in this moment, as often as possible
In this moment, we don’t have the option to doubt each other or each other’s intentions
Overthinking has no place in this moment
When we live right here, right now, we can take life at face value and enjoy it for what it is
Which can be really incredibly lovely

Why Did I Leave Me Here?

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What’s the struggle?
Why the struggle?
Because it’s what you think you deserve.
You struggle with money, with substance abuse, with body image . . . most of all with wanting someone to love you when you have not yet decided to love yourself.
All things of this world.
You are not of this world. You are of ALL worlds.
You are of all galaxies, all stars, all energy.
THE energy.

So why keep focusing on these things that don’t determine you?
Because someone taught you to?
So what?
You know better now.
You understand in a way you never thought you could.
You are open to all of LIFE now.

Embrace it.

When will you decide to love yourself?
When will you decide to have compassion on yourself?
When will you decide to scoop up all the love that is available to you and share it with everyone you come in contact with?

You have access to all of the LOVE that has ever existed.
You have access to THE LOVE that created existence.
When will you allow that to be the love that you crave and accept?
When will you understand that is the ONLY LOVE THAT EXISTS.
And, therefore, the ONLY LOVE THAT MATTERS.

YOU are NOT tortured
Your mind only thinks it is
Spend less time in your thoughts and more time enjoying this existence that was created FOR YOU
That was created BY YOU
Especially spend time in nature
None of life is good and none of it is bad.

It JUST IS

Enjoy every moment of it for what it is
Enjoy as many moments of it with those you love
No matter how long or short of a time you are here, in this form, on this planet
No matter if you have one life partner or many people you share your being with
Enjoy life with those you have been fortunate enough to be set into existence with
To be placed in this moment with
You placed yourself here with them
They placed themselves here with you
You are in each other’s lives to share LOVE between each other, to fully embrace this life together
That looks like nothing except LOVE
It looks like GOD
Being GOD together

Mean Grandma

One of my childhood memories, that stands out to me most, is a visit to my grandparents’  home when I was probably somewhere between four and six years old. We were there for Thanksgiving, I believe, so it would have been fall and the sun would have been setting early so we arrived after dark.  I remember taking a paper bag full of toys out of the car and attempting to walk into the house with it only to be stopped short by my grandma who was blocking the entrance to the house with her body. We called her Grandma but you’d think she would have insisted on being called Grandmother. She was that kind of stern. She promptly told me that there was no way I was bringing those toys into her home and informed me that we would actually be sleeping in the barn. Ouch.

Sleeping in the barn isn’t as terrible as it sounds. Or maybe it was. We weren’t sleeping on hay or anything. It’s a huge barn with a finished floor and normal beds but open to the natural barn ceiling where bats flew back and forth all night. At this stage in my life, I mostly played with one of my older brothers so I was of the mindset that I was much tougher than I actually was (you have to be if you want to hang with older brothers). So I convinced myself that I was not afraid of the bats, or the dark. . . and that I was totally okay without my mom, who was sleeping in the main house with one of my sisters, still a baby at the time.

I wasn’t alone. I had four of my siblings with me. But more than the bats, the thing that haunted me the most was how unkind my grandma seemed to be, even to me, a little kid. I thought grandmas were supposed to LOVE little kids. My best friend had the perfect grandma. She was short and stocky which made her an excellent hugger. She was a great cook and always cooked huge breakfasts with tons of choices. She smiled a lot and made you feel welcome. She even sent my best friend money in a card for her birthday! How come I couldn’t have gotten a grandma like THAT?!

My grandma was standoffish and private. She seemed to speak only directly to my mom. If she did speak to us, it was to enlist us to help with chores. That was about the extent of our interaction. Even though we only lived a couple hours away, we didn’t visit very often and, when we did, I made it a point to spend most of my time outdoors where I wouldn’t have to encounter her. I spent my entire childhood calling my grandma “Mean Grandma” to my friends. It seems that mean grandmas are indeed pretty rare as I have yet to meet anyone who shared this experience.

As an adult, looking back, I see that my grandma is just kind of reserved and not necessarily a great communicator with children or adults. And that’s totally okay. Everyone communicates differently and not everyone is in tune with the needs of children.

A few years ago, my grandma had a stroke and lost most of the mobility on her left side. My parents take care of her in her home so that she doesn’t have to stay in a facility with strangers. Although the few times she has had to stay when recovering from an injury, the people that take care of her in the facility are really great, loving people. I’m not convinced it would be that terrible but she misses home when she’s there. The home she lives in is the home she spent most of her growing-up years in. It’s also the home she took care of her own mother in, until her mother’s death. It’s been in the family for over 70 years. She feels safe there. Which is extra important because she also has dementia. That feeling of security is vital for those living with dementia because so much of their world can seem out of place and confusing at times.

Just a few months ago, my mom was diagnosed with cancer. She is going through treatments and doing well. She’s tired sometimes but her spirits are always high. The cancer did attack her bones in her hip area so, while the bone strengthening treatments are working and enabling her to walk without support, she is still not quite able to do everything she was able to do before. Which is why, and how, I have come to be the one that showers my grandma.

If you would have asked me even five years ago, I would not have been able to predict that showering my mean grandma would be on my to-do list.

Almost exactly four years ago, I was fortunate enough that the company I work for agreed to allow me to work from home. I was living in Austin, TX at the time, as I had followed my job there but, since I was now able to work from home, I was also able to move anywhere in the U.S. that I desired. I had been living in Austin for five years and felt I was missing out on time with my parents, now in their 60’s, so I decided to move about ten minutes away from where my parents (and grandma) live. When I first moved back, Grandma was a little more mobile than she is now so we were able to, not so easily, take her out to eat and on little adventures in the area, like to one of the local historical homes that they treat as a museum. I’m pretty sure my grandma actually KNEW the people that had lived there when it was still occupied. Through these adventures, I was able to connect with my grandma, not as who she had been, but who she was right now. While those who had been close to her most of their life felt they were losing her to dementia, I, on the other hand, was developing a relationship with her for the first time.

Over time though, of course, our bodies decline and Grandma, almost 88 years old now, is not as able as she was even four years ago so our adventures are now turned more toward watching old movies, coloring and reading books about Thomas Jefferson establishing the world (according to Grandma). Our newest adventure, of course, being shower time.

Shower time is not easy. Shower time involves lots of bending, scrubbing, lifting, sweating and splashing water on the wood floor (to both my parents’ and Grandma’s dismay – Maybe you shouldn’t put wood floors in a bathroom, just sayin’).

But there’s also something really special about shower time. It’s our quiet bonding time. We talk very little but communicate so much. It’s gentle and safe and, right now, it’s just ours.

No one jumps for joy when selected to be the one to give their elderly loved one a shower but experiences like this can often be great revealers of truth and I’ve found that I’m learning quite a bit. I’m learning about caring, selflessly, for another person. About helping that person feel supported and safe. About feeling closeness without words. About doing something for someone else with absolutely no expectation of receiving some kind of award or acknowledgement. My grandma does acknowledge me though. She simply looks me in the eyes and whispers, “thank you,” when it’s just me and her. It brings tears to my eyes every time. I can see what this means to her.

One of the best things I’ve learned through spending this time with my grandma, I learned through repetition. I started noticing that she was calling me her “little baby granddaughter” to all of the hospital staff during her appointments. At first I didn’t think much of it. She’s old, she has dementia, this is probably just something she says. Besides, I have two sisters. They are also her little baby granddaughters, surely. But then eventually she expanded on it. She went on to tell me about the first time my mom brought me to visit after I was born. How my great grandma, her mother, had made a special dress for me. She even described the dress. She described how excited she was to meet me and how tiny I was. So when she was describing me to the hospital staff, she was describing me as a literal baby. The baby she remembers meeting, vividly it seems, for the first time. Then it hit me, that I am the eldest granddaughter and what a treat that must have been for her and her mother, as it was for my own parents. This is not something she is saying without meaning. This is a special moment in her life that she is looking back on and cherishing. She’s cherishing ME. And she’s been cherishing me since that day, back in 1981, when we first met.