Consider drawing a comparison between the act of de-cluttering and washing dishes.  Here’s what Geneen Roth wrote about washing dishes in her book Women Food and God:

“…If you focus on getting the dishes done so that your kitchen will be clean, you miss everything that happens between dirty and clean.  The warmth of the water, the pop of the bubbles, the movements of your hand.  You miss the life that happens in the middle zone—between now and what you think your life should be like.  And when you miss those moments because you’d rather be doing something else, you are missing your own life.  Those moments are gone.  They will never come back.”

Whether our clutter is in the middle of the living room or hidden away in a storage unit, how often have we’ve told ourselves, “If I could wave a magic wand and get rid of all this stuff, I’ll be free!”?  Heaving it all into a trash bag seems like such a tidy solution, but it doesn’t solve the clutter issue.  In fact, it will most likely come back and probably with a vengeance.  If we are determined to deal with our clutter, we must immerse our hands in the stuff we’ve accumulated from the past.  We must pull it apart piece by piece, admire it or disparage it, and determine what to do with it.

When we focus on the present, the clutter right before our very eyes, rather than on the shame or embarrassment for having it, we have the opportunity to be curious about ourselves.  Roth writes, “You become curious about feelings and sensations.  You start listening to your body.  You stop bossing yourself around…”  We enter into the sensual moment, what she calls the middle zone.  We touch, smell, see, hear and maybe even taste the no longer fresh or crisp past.  Is it a bit stale, maybe even rancid?  Dusty or crumbling?  Wrinkled or torn?

The Crux of the Issue

Take the example of paper clutter.  Let’s say we’re dealing with a pile of disparate papers; some are unpaid bills and financial papers; others uncompleted drafts of short story we’ve written; still others are cards and notes from friends. Just looking at that pile can evoke a tightness in our solar plexus or an uptick in our heart rate.  These physical feelings we usually ignore, or if they’re too distressing, we’ll shove them into the deepest sinews of our body.

Many of us can’t wait to jump into that pool of self-condemnation, the leap from the physical to the mental.  How am I going to pay for that water heater?  I still have to update my will.  I’ll never be a good writer, so why even try to finish that short story.  All those cards from friends I must write to or at least call!  That harsh litany of self-castigation is painful.  We want to avoid it, and this is where we get stuck!

Roth nails this situation so well in her book:  “If you get stuck, it’s usually because you’re having a reaction to a particular feeling—you don’t want to feel this way, you’d rather be happy right now, you don’t like people who feel like this—or you’re locked into [a] comparing/judging mode.”

She distinguishes between feelings, which are in the body, and reactions, which are in the head.  “A reaction is a mental deduction of a feeling…In an attempt not to feel what is uncomfortable, the mind will often rant and ramble and tell us how awful it all is.”  And that is the crux of the issue!

The Energy of Feelings

Dealing with clutter often, if not always, evokes uncomfortable feelings.  It’s dealing with the undealt with—the stuff we didn’t want to deal with when it first appeared.  Not everything has to be acted on when it first shows up, but eventually action is called for.  And if we don’t handle it, someone else will have to.  You can choose.

But what if we allow ourselves to feel uncomfortable?  Why not honor the uncomfortable feeling?  Where does it show up in our body?  Does it have a color?  How big is it?  Is it moving or stationery?  Is it hard or soft?  Does it have a shape?  Ask these questions and any others that come to mind.  Give yourself time to sink into it.  Breathe into it.  When we do that, we are in the middle zone.

A feeling has energy.  By honoring it, we allow it free expression. If we were to anthropomorphize it, it would most certainly want to speak its mind.  Once it had its say (and one time might not be enough), it would lose the air it needs to speak, like an inflated balloon whose opening is no longer knotted.  It becomes flat and lifeless, allowing us to move forward.

Asking for Help

If it still seems difficult to face the feelings clutter evokes, then get help.  If you have a trusted friend or family member who can serve as an objective witness to your facing your clutter, enlist his or her help.  If you believe a professional de-clutterer will serve you more effectively, don’t hesitate to call on one.  But sometimes the feelings blocking you are deep and complex.  If they continue to impede your progress, seek the help of a therapist.

Physical feelings and mental reactions are all part of the de-cluttering process.  Deciding whether to throw our clutter into a trash bag or “donate” box is just one aspect.  To get at the root of the clutter issue, a holistic approach is needed.  Even though our goal may be a clear, clean, clutter-free space, we benefit the most when we immerse ourselves in the present, letting the past drift off into the ethers and the future approach at its own pace.  We live our richest life when we’re in the middle zone.  Maybe we should all wash more dishes to get there.

This is the third in a three-part series on seeking life purpose. The first was posted on April 7 and the second on April 18, 2017.

A friend of mind came to me asking about her life purpose. A favorite way for me to explore complex issues like this one is using Tarot cards. She picked seven cards for a spread called “My Blind Spot.” Three, in particular, caught my attention.

In my first blog of this series we looked at the card she pulled for the position of “Blind Spot” – the Eight of Pentacles. The second blog examines the position of “What I don’t know, but everyone else does.” For that she pulled the King of Pentacles.

Even though these cards relate directly to my friend and her question, they may hold relevance for you as well. Since the cards and their meaning are all connected to each other in a spread, you may find it helpful to check out the two other blogs in this series.

At Last—A Feminine Counterpoint

The third card in my friend’s spread was the Queen of Cups. It landed in the position of “Insight.” Insight is the ability to see intuitively or to understand the inner nature of things. A card in this position can help us discern a deeper understanding of what was uncovered in the previous two cards and causes us to look at the situation through a different lens.

How interesting that a female figure shows up this time, and instead of a pentacle, she holds a cup. She is quite a contrast to the men in both the Eight and King of Pentacles. Let’s explore the differences as well as the details of the card.

First, she’s a queen! She has power and it resides within her. She knows what she wants and how to get it. How does she do that? With love! Cups represent emotions, intuition, love, and creativity—the intangible stuff, within and between people. This queen is also maternal. She’s sensitive to not only to her feelings, but to those of others. Cups are quite a contrast to the pentacles that showed up in the previous two cards. Pentacles represent things material like houses, jobs, cars and relationships (having a partner, friend, or colleague, but not necessarily loving him/her).

Listening to and Loving Oneself

At first blush, the Queen of Cups implies my friend could benefit by spending more time with and by herself. She may see this as a radical shift from how she spends time. The Eight of Pentacles is working, working, working while the King of Pentacles is doing for others or making sure others are taken care of on a material, tangible level. What if she were to simply love others, instead of doing for them?

The Tarot suggests she turn her focus inward for that is where the answer to her question resides. This queen stares intently at the ornate cup she’s holding. A.E. Waite, one of the creators of the Rider-Waite Tarot deck, describes the cup as one that she has created. He goes on to say that it “symbolizes achievement brought about through using imagination.” (Pollack, Rachel, Seventy-Eight Degrees of Wisdom). In other words, this queen, when she allows herself to imagine what she wants, can make it real. The message to my friend might well be, “Indulge yourself. Love yourself. Give yourself time to imagine what you want. You can create it.”

Imagination Coupled with Love

Another important aspect must also be considered. Sheer will is not enough to create this cup. She must infuse the process with love—love of herself, her imagination, and her ability to create. This focus is starkly different from that of the pentacle cards. It’s not so much about doing (i.e., getting things done) or taking care of others, but letting oneself dream and getting excited about those dreams. That’s a form of self-love.

Maybe my friend hasn’t allowed herself this luxury of dreaming lately. Filling one’s day with a to-do list can easily block the tender dreams of a beginning life purpose seeker. How many times have we filled our day with tasks that don’t nourish our spirit or encroach on our alone-time? Probably, way too often.

The Insight

When it comes to answering the question of life purpose, this Queen must relinquish her role as King of Pentacles, that guy who spends most of his time overseeing his kingdom—the out there. It’s time for her to go inward and tend to her spiritual self.

In her book mentioned above, Rachel Pollack describes the cup this queen holds as having “a church-like shape.” Apparently before the modern age “all art expressed and glorified spiritual experience.” You see, for my friend to even ask the question about life purpose, indicates her spirit is nudging her for more attention. That elusive life purpose she seeks is within her. Spending more time meditating, walking in nature, and being by herself will likely lead to the next step of her self-discovery.

This may seem frivolous to a lot of us doers out there. When we are doing, we usually see the tangible results of our work. Spiritual work, however, doesn’t necessarily produce the tangible results we doers aim for. Instead it nurtures and nourishes our spirit. When that happens, life looks and feels different. What didn’t seem possible becomes possible.

The Tarot’s advice for my friend: “Seek the riches that lie within your spirit. The answer to your life purpose question will be revealed, especially if you listen to your spirit.”

For a Tarot reading, e-mail me at bev@alignyourlife.net or call  703.998.0880.

“You picked HIM!” That’s what a therapist said to me as I was licking my wounds from a failed relationship when I was in my twenties. My reply, “No, I didn’t!” Then I went on to explain that HE approached me and that some kind of chemistry enveloped me. I couldn’t escape. I was caught in the magical web of attraction.

Now more than 40 years later I finally got it—what the therapist was trying to tell me. I did choose HIM. I chose to write his name on my dance card, and then I chose to dance with him until he decided to dance with someone else. He left me. I was left holding the detritus of a fantasy.

I writhed in the grief of abandonment and victimhood for a good long while…actually too long. I claimed my victimhood, made depression my best friend and shrouded myself with self-protection. As much as I wanted another relationship, I wasn’t going to let this scenario happen again. The sad thing is that it happened several more times.

And why was I seeking a relationship anyway? I didn’t realize it at the time, but I was operating under the false premise that if I had a relationship I would be complete. It was the tangible proof I was lovable—a necessary notch in my self-esteem. Without it who was I?

Are You Really Taking Responsibility?

Taking responsibility is not an easy thing to do, especially if you’ve been ignoring its role in your life or worse—thinking you’ve been taking responsibility all along when, in fact, you haven’t been.

This notion started coming clear to me just a few years ago. The story begins in 2005, when I started a new career as a Tarot card reader. As destiny would have it, I quickly met and became friends with a Tarot entrepreneur in my area. I was hungry to learn. She offered classes, workshops with renowned Tarot experts and opportunities to read at Tarot parties. Why wouldn’t I befriend her?

About a year later, she suggested we teach a class together using Tarot cards and essential oils to unlock blocks to prosperity. It was a cool idea and since I teach and create classes, I was in. As we developed the class I started noticing her sidelining my ideas. She named the class, wrote the marketing materials and developed the agenda. My job was to say yes and carry out the role she had slotted for me.

Sacrificing Integrity

That insidious feeling of “being controlled” started inserting itself into my psyche. I expressed my concerns, but timidly because I felt beholden to her for all those opportunities previously mentioned that she appeared to offer. Ah, the classic case of sacrificing your integrity in order to get something you believe you can’t get on your own. I saw her as my doorway to new people, experiences and business. Arguing with her that my ideas merited attention wasn’t going to work. I couldn’t jeopardize the relationship if I wanted to get more of the “goodies” she offered.

I am not proud to admit this. On the other hand, this friendship did give me many opportunities to learn more about who I am and how I choose to live my life. We had a friendship for at least nine years and during that time I learned a lot, not only about Tarot but about myself. The control factor, however, became intolerable. I found I didn’t trust her. I didn’t want to share my thoughts and feelings with her. I wanted her to go away. Eventually I went away.

Two years later I learned about the Emotional Freedom Technique, known as EFT or tapping. Because I kept stewing about this relationship, I decided to tap on it. (For those who don’t know about tapping, check out www.thetappingsolution.com.) I held no expectations that anything would happen when I started the tapping protocol.

Midway through lightning struck—a moment of blinding clarity came through. I saw my complicity in this relationship in a way I had never acknowledged before. It was visceral. I had to admit that once again I had written a name on my dance card and chosen to dance with that person. I had been feeling victimized and controlled when I was just as much a player as she. I had agreed to the tacit contract we both signed.

Here’s the Secret

Feeling like a victim takes time and energy. It can suck you dry. I spent an inordinate amount of time perseverating over the shards of this friendship gone awry, resenting her, feeling hurt and, yes, struggling with its loss. The moment I learned of my complicity in that tapping session was the moment I freed myself from those painful emotions. I could move on. I could take responsibility. I could claim my power again. I could independently blaze my own trail in the Tarot world.

Gregg Braden in his book The Spontaneous Healing of Belief, Shattering the Paradigm of False Limits (Hay House, 2008), underscores the point I am making:

“The fact that someone else did what they hadn’t been able to do themselves plays right into their subconscious beliefs of limitation.

When this happens, people tend to look to someone or something else to intervene where they feel powerless. They’re looking for a savior, whether it’s a drug or another person performing a miraculous healing. If we’re convinced that we’re powerless and dependent upon something beyond ourselves in order to have the experience, then we’ll also feel the need to return to that “something” again and again to get what we need. We will, that is, until we realize that we can do for ourselves what is being done by someone else for us. It’s at this point that the savior is no longer needed and we’re truly healed.”

In both cases with the boyfriend and the Tarot entrepreneur, I was seeking completion outside myself. I handed my power to them and deemed them my savior. These may seem like easily reached conclusions, but they’ve taken years to solidify in my mind. I can now pick them up, look them in the eye and claim responsibility for how things unfolded and turned out.

This is the second in a three-part series on seeking life purpose. The first was posted on April 7, 2017.

A friend of mine came to me asking about her life purpose. A favorite way for me to explore complex issues like this one is using Tarot cards. She picked seven cards for a spread called “My Blind Spot.” Three, in particular, caught my attention. In the first blog of this series we looked at the card she pulled for the position of “Blind Spot”—the Eight of Pentacles. Check out the first blog for a more thorough discussion of the card and how it relates to my friend’s quest for life purpose. You may find it relevant to your own search.

How Others See Her—As a King!

The second card that caught my attention was the King of Pentacles. It landed in the position of “What I don’t know, but everyone else does.” Another pentacle card, but this time the figure is a king, not a worker! What does the notion of a king conjure up for you? Someone powerful, with authority, who rules? Someone with a kingdom?

Keywords often associated with this card are responsible, resolute and unshakeable, and competent, no-nonsense approach. Sarah Bartlett in her book The Tarot Bible describes this king as having “The Midas Touch.” To me this means able to resolve the problems that come up—the benevolent problem-solver. Let’s explore the details of this card.

Bogged Down with Responsibilities

In contrast with the Eight, her blind spot, this card spoke volumes. First, my friend doesn’t seem to be aware of how powerful she truly is. She is the person who commands not only her household but her life; this king is how others see her. Family members and most certainly friends come to her for advice and direction. She knows what to do and makes sure it gets done, if not by her, by someone else.

The challenge of being king may be that she is called on way more than she would like. Look at how bogged down this king is. Even though his robe is covered with grapes, a symbol of abundance, it looks heavy and cumbersome—an impediment to getting out of that throne. How spontaneous can this king be? He isn’t free to jump up and leave.

Could the responsibilities my friend has assumed prevent her from being spontaneous? Spontaneity carries energy, sudden creative urges and little to no planning. When we are fulfilling our life purpose, spontaneity sprinkles itself in between the plans and projects we embrace. Whimsical ideas, humor and fun get integrated into the process. Our King of Pentacles, however, feels the weight of his authority and may not be quick to inject humor into the mix. He is, above all else, at least in this context, responsible.

Making pentacles is like honoring commitments. Those commitments can blind us from seeing what’s best for our own spirit and well being. If we lighten our load, we can create the necessary space for finding and defining our life purpose. Like the Eight, the King is preoccupied with the pentacle he’s holding. He’s not free to go to the castle behind him. Instead he sits on this throne maintaining the authoritative, responsible role that a king assumes.

What’s Missing?

Pentacles represent things tangible and material like money, cars, houses and even relationships. If we are seeking our life purpose, where are our emotions, passions and plans? Life purpose without passion seems pretty dismal. How can you go after your life purpose if your emotions aren’t engaged?

The fact that my friend’s blind spot is the Eight of Pentacles, how she sees her situation, and others see her as the King of Pentacles seems limiting. An emphasis on being responsible can curtail the excitement and enthusiasm that a life purpose inspires. Other suits in the Tarot, like Wands, Cups and Swords, reflect these aspects.

Male versus Female

Once again the male figure as in the Eight shows up. Even though the Tarot has a Queen of Pentacles, my friend picked the King. Kings represent a dynamic force for change or choices to be made. Coupled with pentacles, this King has reached a level of maturation. He’s made his dynamic choices. No longer impatient to achieve his material goals, he can relax and enjoy them.

What a conundrum for my friend! The King of Pentacles is how others see her, yet on the inside she feels restless and seeks her life purpose. If the card she picked for this position were the Queen of Pentacles, others would see her peaceful and relaxed at where she finds herself in this world.

The masculine energy of the king is practical and pragmatic. Whatever the issue will be handled and resolved. Once handled, he will wait for the next one. In contrast, the feminine energy is typically more sensitive. Rather than quick to take action, the female is attuned to her feelings and those of others. It’s likely she’ll address those feelings before taking any action.

Let’s remember my friend is the one feminine voice in a family of men—her husband and three sons. Outnumbered. It makes sense that after years of being immersed in male energy, she might acquire some of it for herself. No surprise that others see her as the King of Pentacles.

In Short

The King of Pentacles is telling my friend to take off the kingly robe and get off the throne. Another way of saying this is “Just say No!” “No!” to taking on others’ issues. “No!” to believing it’s her responsibility to solve others’ problems. “No!” to always being available to others at the expense of her own peace of mind. She must be her Number One Priority. Her dreams, desires and urges need to see the light of day. Honoring them will open the door to life purpose.

My third blog in this series will address the third card that caught my attention, the insight my friend can glean from this reading. Read the rest of this entry »

Starving and Obsessed

May 13, 2016

As a Tarot card reader, I am given the privilege of hearing people’s deepest desires, searing hurts and glorious dreams. I am honored to be privy to such intimacies.  In the searing hurts category, many come with a broken heart or one that is breaking.  More often than not I wish I could wave a magic wand and say, “You’re healed.”  But it doesn’t work that way.

Countless times people come to me stunned.  Someone they shared intimacies with has now blocked their calls and  texts. That “other person” has vanished without a goodbye or any indication they’ve chosen to recede into the annals of the past.  No discussion, no declaration that “We’re done here!”, no leaving in a huff.

This, to me, is a cowardly, despicable act, and it is so painful to the one on the receiving end.  Maybe the best way to describe the anguish my clients feel is being thrown out of a moving car and left by the side of the road—pretty much like roadkill.  The one left behind asks repeatedly, almost addictively, “What did I do? Why has this happened to me?”

The most asked question clients who’ve been through this scenario want answered is “Will I get back together with him/her?  Is there a chance?”  Some of the more wounded will bark, “That person will never find anyone as good as I am!”  Angry and bereft, they’re left starving for something they thought they had and obsessed with the disbelief they don’t.

The answer is not as simple as many would believe.  Subtleties, nuances and denial come into play.  By the time someone in this state of anguish comes to me, it’s likely it’s not the first time this has happened.  So, what transpired for this to happen again…and again?

Jumping the Gun

Perhaps it’s haste in making a judgment.  I, too, have had such experiences.  Finally with the help of a therapist I discovered I was the common denominator in each scenario.  Switching my focus from blaming the other person to taking responsibility was not a pretty picture.  You might think it was easy to flip the switch, but it wasn’t.

I had to ask myself, “What caused me to pick the wrong person time and time again?”  First, I had to accept that I PICKED the person.  How could this be?  I was always looking for that magical zing.  The zing consisted mainly of the externals.  Was he good looking?  Did he have a good job?  Was he fun to be with?  Was he nice?  When I would meet a Mr. X, the zing had to be there and pretty instantaneously.  I concluded I wasn’t the one choosing Mr. X, but rather it was just a synchronous, albeit magical, encounter.

For the longest time I couldn’t admit I was making a choice based on external factors without getting better acquainted with the internal factors, the true makeup of his character.  I would attach myself to a person I didn’t really know.  I’ve since discovered it takes time to know someone—to really know.

Patterns Set By Our Parents

Now, this is where it gets tricky.  A good therapist can help you see how patterns set by your parents play a role.  For me, my father left an indelible imprint—he died when I was 10.  As an adult I would consistently choose partners who couldn’t be there for me either emotionally or physically or both.

Subconsciously the unavailable man was attractive to me.  I told myself that if I couldn’t keep my father alive, perhaps I could keep my relationships alive with the unavailable man.  I would do this with what therapists call—manipulation.  Unbeknownst to me until I finally wised up, I used manipulation as one of tools in my arsenal to hold onto a relationship.  When I did this, I was a shocked to discover I wasn’t being true to myself.  And I was  exhausted doing this time after time.

The Big Kahuna—I Must Not Be Worthy

The biggest reveal I learned from all this was my sense of self-worth.  If asked whether I was worthy of a wonderful, loving relationship, I would respond without hesitation that I am.  All my clients are, too.  But the subconscious is a stealthy predator.  For reasons we don’t always know, our subconscious self tells us we aren’t and then keeps directing us to the choices that are the perfect fit for fulfilling our diminished sense of self-worth.  For me, that would be choosing the unavailable man time and again.

For most of us, it takes time to understand this.  As our awareness grows, the kinds of choices that didn’t work for us in the past are not worth hanging onto.  We can choose to no longer passively stand by and wait for the other person to direct the relationship.  Instead we decide for ourselves and take whatever steps are necessary to end an unhealthy relationship.  In fact, once we’ve figured it out and we are ready to engage in a healthy relationship, the available partner will show up.  Not always on our timeline, but at a time and in a way that works best for both parties.

 Why Can’t We Bypass All This?

It turns out we all come into this life with specific lessons to learn.  These painful relationships are a catalyst for us to grow physically, emotionally, mentally and spiritually.  The sooner we get the lesson of each painful experience, we can move on.  Other lessons await us.  We progress.

Sometimes, though, we get only a piece of the lesson.  We may feel as if we are back where we started.  We aren’t.  Through each experience in intimate relationships we become more aware of our role in that situation.  We have choices at all times.  Knowing this, we are empowered to change, for the better, for ourselves.

Many people are averse to taking responsibility for what occurs in their life.  Looking within doesn’t seem to be an option.  After all, it’s got to be the other guy’s fault.  Introspection, however, is a necessary step to seeking and keeping a happy, healthy relationship.  Gaining awareness as to why we make the choices we make is essential.  A Tarot card reading can help us go within when we are in a relationship turmoil, or when we are ending or beginning one.

No Response is A Response

October 21, 2014

Have you ever written someone an e-mail message asking a question and never gotten a response?  Or left a voice mail message requesting a call-back?  I can answer a resounding “Yes!” to both.  In most cases the person I am writing to knows me.  We have been friends or had a business relationship, and he or she has never expressed dissatisfaction regarding our connection.  This kind of communication roadblock drives me crazy.

I agree we’re all bombarded by texts, e-mails and voice mail.  No matter what, I still think I merit a response.  One therapist I went to a long time ago, when I was bemoaning a man I was dating who hadn’t called me back, told me the scoundrel had answered me.  It’s called “No Response” or as Greg Berendt and Liz Tucillo so aptly titled their book He’s Just Not That Into You, The No-Excuses Truth to Understanding Guys.  

I must be delusional, because I thought those people I wrote to or called were into me enough to write or call me back.  I thought they were into me enough to open and read the e-mail I sent, but my best friend informs me they probably deleted it before opening it.  That shocked me.  And, of course, it could have even gone into their Spam folder.  This saddens me more than I am willing to admit.

Why Be Sad?

But, why be sad?  Perhaps one reason is that I gave more meaning to a relationship than it was due.  I feel deeply enough about the interactions I have had with a person that it feels worth holding onto.  In the past I credited myself as a good judge of character.  I thought I knew when a particular relationship was worth my time and energy.  Lately, though, that’s all changing.  Relationships I considered close are not so close.  People’s interests are shifting.  Demands on our time are relentless.

I keep thinking there’s more to it.  When people don’t respond to e-mail messages I send just to them, I start questioning the nature of the relationship.  Somewhere along the way a judgment was made and I wasn’t in on it.  The other person has moved onto other things more tantalizing, fulfilling, and worthwhile, or new demands, even a crisis, may have usurped their time.  He or she no longer sees the need to pump energy into our relationship.  Here’s what’s so disconcerting:  The decision probably wasn’t conscious or arbitrary.

It reminds me of a buffet.  The buffet’s first course has been well picked over and now a second, more delectable course replaces it.  Those people I wanted to hear back from have gotten up to get the second course.  Meanwhile, I’m still eating the servings I loaded on my plate from the first.  I’m not ready to return to the buffet table for the second course.  Or worse, the helpings I took when the first course was served were just too big.  If I had taken smaller portions, I could have gone back for the second round when the others did.

Decision by Others

What troubles me the most is other people’s decision to move on without some sort of closure, without informing me things are changing and what we have will be different from what we had.  This makes me remember the day I came home from school (I was ten) and learned my father had left our house on a stretcher by ambulance.  A neighborhood friend, someone I wasn’t even that close with, told me she had witnessed his departure.  No one told me this would happen.  How could someone else I didn’t even know that well see what I should have seen?

My father hadn’t been feeling well all summer and couldn’t join me for Father’s Day at day-camp.  He was beginning to spend a lot of time in bed away from his medical practice as an obstetrician/gynecologist.  Unbeknownst to me, he was diagnosed with cancer and it was progressing.  Occasionally other doctors would come to the house to see him.  Since I knew these doctors as my parents’ friends, I thought the visits were meant to give support, not to diagnose the progress of his disease.

Things started changing.  Out of the ordinary gestures became routine.  Instead of my mother driving us to school, one of my brother’s classmates picked us up each morning.  People brought casseroles to the house.  Friends stopped by for no apparent reason.  Relatives started showing up.  I thought I heard people whispering, but no audible sounds were heard.  Something was being said, and I knew deep-down it wasn’t good.

Time to Move On

My mother made decisions that affected my two brothers and me.  She took us twice to visit my father during the four weeks of his hospital stay.  The second and last visit was the most disturbing.  One part of his hospital bed was tilted so he appeared sitting up.  An oxygen tent–something I had never seen before I walked into his room–encased him.  I remember he was lucid and carried on a normal conversation, but nothing about the visit was normal.  I couldn’t hug him, kiss him or snuggle up to him.  He was untouchable.  I didn’t understand it.  I was ten, unable to ask questions or figure out what was going on.

On October 13, 1958, my father died.  I knew my father was ill, but I didn’t know he was dying.  No one informed me his situation was so dire.  How could this have happened?  What happened?  If only I had known, perhaps I could have done something about it.  I would have written him letters that might have consoled him.  Or I would have asked to visit him more.  Perhaps I could have been a participant, rather than a side-lined child.  More importantly, perhaps I could have prepared myself for a loss that has colored my entire life.

Those same feelings of being a side-lined child surface today when people don’t answer my e-mails, calls or letters.  I am aware something is no longer as it was, but no one told me what that is.  People are so busy.  Finding the time to let me know that a situation or a level of relationship has changed is not their priority.  I can ask.  I can keep sending e-mails or make repeated calls, but when the answer is “No Response,” I must remember what my therapist said long ago, “No Response is A Response.”  I must somehow come to terms with the silence, accept what is, and let it go.  I know it’s time to move on and be open to what presents itself to me now.

Do you have a junk drawer?  Most Americans do.  If I were standing in front of you right now, could you tell me the items that are in it?  You would probably give me a general listing of things, but I suspect if you were to go there right now, you would find something you’ve forgotten you had put there and haven’t used in years.  And I hesitate to ask how long ago that was.  Perhaps it’s time to peek inside that drawer you rarely open and review its contents. 

And if I were you, I’d have a little trash bag by my side, just in case you discover a tidbit of clutter. 

Sarah Ban Breathnach’s words on simplicity from her book Simple Abundance, A Daybook of Comfort and Joy gave me pause, especially when it comes to junk drawers.  Perhaps they will do the same for you. 

“I began to search for the common thread in the lives of the world’s great spiritual teachers and traditions:  Jesus Christ, Mohammed, Buddha, Lao-Tzu, the Hebrew prophets, the Moslem Sufis, the Catholic saints, the Hindu rishis, the Shakers, the Quakers, the Amish.  None of them had junk drawers.  That’s because they all embraced simplicity.  Spirituality, simplicity, and serenity seem to be a sacred trinity; three divine qualities of the orderly soul.”