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TMW Juan Gabriel Dies and Your Parent(s) are Dead. aka Recuerdos de Juan Gabriel

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Artist: https://www.instagram.com/medusczka/

Yesterday I wasn’t able to listen to his music. It was too soon for me to hear his voice, those chords, the intensity of his declarations. For some reason it felt more comforting to see his interviews on Univision and watch people paying their respects to him. I’m guessing I just needed to feel accompanied in my sadness at the death of Juan Gabriel.

For many Mexicanos and Chicanos who grew up in the late 70’s and 80’s, Juan Gabriel’s music was a staple in our households. He hit the music scene big with catchy pop tunes and tear-jerking ballads that evoke emotions usually reserved for tequila shots. He knew how to craft songs that perfectly captured the bitter sweet realities of life.

Today, I tuned my car radio to a local mexican station so I could hear his music. I thought I was ready. Then immediately, and to my surprise, the tears began to flow. I’m not the type of Juan Gabriel fan who followed his career attentively or kept up with his recordings. Instead I respected him as an immensely brilliant songwriting and singer, who had a big presence in my community, my childhood, and in my family. As I heard his music, my body remembered what it was like to be 9 years old, singing along to “El Noa Noa” in Juarez, Mexico with my niece and cousin.

Since my parents were raised in Juarez, Mexico; Juan Gabriel was naturally respected as a home town hero. Most summers our family would drive from Salinas to Juarez, and I remember passing “El Noa Noa” nightclub, and seeing Juan Gabriel’s posters plastered everywhere. His music seemed to be playing constantly.

It’s a silly video, but when I see it I can feel the hot Juarez summers with my parents, and remember my brother going out to the clubs.

 

I felt such sadness today as I heard Juan Gabriel’s songs on the airwaves. Hearing him released a flood of childhood memories and ripped open the wound of my grieving. Then a more recent memory came, which always hits me like a ton of bricks.

After my mother died, my father listened to Rocío Dúrcal’s rendition of “Amor Eterno” a lot (in case you don’t know, “Amor Eterno” is pretty much the anthem for those grieving a death). I remember seeing him sitting on the edge of the bed, with the portable CD player in his hands and headphones on. He looked up at me and asked me to help him skip to the “Amor Eterno” track on the Rocío Dúrcal CD. Something about that memory shakes me to tears inside and out.  My father lived 19 years without my mother, and those words crafted by Juan Gabriel must have helped him grieve that loss that never left his heart.

I just realized that this is the first time I’m hearing “Amor Eterno” since my father’s passing in March, and my god, que dolor. Ugly cry complete with all the tears, mocos, and vavas.

 

For us Mexicanos and Chicanos with parents who have passed on, hearing Juan Gabriel’s music is not only filled with the reality that he will never create or perform again, but it also re-awakens a grieving of family loss. With both my parents gone, these memories of childhood visits to Juarez, and other family memories hurts on a deep level. Today I felt the knot in my gut turn into a a twisting fist. The tears kept coming and I felt myself slipping into a dark place. Then I decided, that instead of falling into a pit of sadness, I’d make some room for  gratitude too. Gratitude to be able to have such memories of family in the first place, and growing up with the presence of a Mexican singer that was celebrated by those young and old.

A Deeper Call to Being Child-Free

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Artist: Katie m. Berggren

I knew from the age of 4 that I did not want to have children. “I’m going to have puppies!” was my declaration when someone imposed their kid-wanting assumptions on me, when I was just a kid myself (why do people do that?). Throughout my childhood, I didn’t like dolls and preferred stuffed animals. It is believed that children hold the most genuine of truths, so I am happy to say that 40 years later, I have no regrets about being  child-free.

Throughout my teen and early adult years, the desire to have children did not present itself. “But what if you regret not having kids?” was the common response I received from others. As I grew older, I kept my mind open to the idea that I might meet the right person who would pull this maternal desire out of me. But that never happened. Except for two situations that lasted about a week, I never came up against a desire to have kids.

One of the situations where I did, was after a painful and disappointing relationship ended. I was in my late 20’s and believed that I had so much love to give, and needed to give it to someone who needed it. As I said before this lasted for about a week. I realized that, for me, this wasn’t a good enough reason to have kids. This belief was simply another co-dependent belief akin to my preexisting beliefs of: “if I only had the right relationship (job, home, lifestyle, etc.) then I will be whole and happy.” I think I knew then that replacing a baby for a relationship just wasn’t the answer.

As I look back, I am so glad I never became a mother. I know myself too well. I love my freedom and free-time. I cringe when it comes to unsolicited obligation and hate stopping what I’ve started. I know most people do, but when I have to sacrifice these things, I become depressingly miserable.

More importantly, I believe my life’s journey has been about growing and healing myself to the point that I truly needed to know how to mother myself. A few years ago, when I mentioned my decision to be child-free to a woman (that I have a lot of respect for), she replied with “You were too hurt”. I was immediately angry inside as my brain scrambled as if I had been clocked in the head. I didn’t know how to respond, and I didn’t want to ask for clarification. Now I know what she meant. This part of me that was hurt has always been here and wasn’t going to make room for anyone else, and I respect that. This hurt part in me needed me to be its mother, and being a mother to anyone else was not going to work.

I am grateful for my 20-something self that knew I couldn’t solve my heartbreak with a baby. There was a wisdom there that would reveal more of itself later. Yes, I do have so much love to give, and yes, there is someone who needs it. That person in need is myself, and I have more than enough on my plate when I take on that task.

Am I saying that you can’t mother yourself if you have kids? Absolutely not. I know many women who do a lot of inner-healing while raising children. Am I saying that every child-free person has a deep pain that needs healing? Definitely not. The decision to be child-free is an individual one, and I can only speak for myself. I have no desire to have children and  I truly believe that my decision to be child-free was born from a deep need for something else. There was a core place in me that was screaming for care, and needed all of me to attend to that care. Truth be told, I wouldn’t have it any other way.

Re-Adjusting: Resurrection and Transformation

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Source: pexels.com

If you have ever experienced the death (or loss) of a loved one, you know that your life becomes a series of firsts. First birthday without them, first holiday, first year, and so on. So here I am in my first month without him.

These last 30-days have been a slow drip through the surreal. My emotions have ranged from acceptance to anger, but mostly I just want to be in silence. My hospice grief counselor says I am right on schedule for feeling all the feels. She mentions that after 2-3 weeks the shock usually wears off and the emotions begin to rise. This feels about right, because it has only been recently that I have felt more anger and irritability mixed in with the pre-existing sadness.

I wish I could go on retreat, somewhere in the hills or forest, and just be in silence with every emotion that arises. This feels like the ideal thing to do, but instead I go to work, and mostly it has been okay. After a full day I am exhausted and do nothing (and I am grateful for the ability to do nothing). Sometimes I get a burst of energy, but as quickly as it comes, it slips away (I guess that’s why it’s a burst).

Being in my grieving life, and “old life” has had it’s consequences. One day, I came home form work to suddenly feel a horribly paralyzing anxiety that left me feeling physically, emotionally, and mentally agitated for hours. I realized that being in both my grieving life and my “old routine” life felt like a schism, and that living in both worlds was/is probably too opposing for my psyche.

The flashbacks have been the hardest. At times I can’t stop thinking about my father’s last days. I remember the lightness of his thin body, his agitated body movements, the pained expressions on his face, and the sadness in his eyes. The inability for us to verbally communicate haunts me as I wonder if he was in more pain that we knew. I wonder if he was scared. I wonder if dying was scary for him.

Then there’s the wondering. Wondering if he really had dementia. Wondering if there was something else going on and that we could have helped him more. Everything happened so fast that we didn’t get a chance for a decent second option or tests. This helpless experience has made it easy to feel guilty for not doing more, especially before he became symptomatic.

On most days, it’s the experience of a routine that no longer is. I never realized how much my dad was on my mind. Like an idling car, he must have been a constant hum in my subconscious. I still wake with the thought of calling my dad to see how he is doing, or spontaneously have the desire to tell him what I saw that day. If I have a really good cup of coffee, I think of him and sending some to him. One afternoon I sat in a medical lab waiting for a blood draw. I imagined the many times he did the same. Even though he was relatively healthy, he had routine blood draws and doctor visits to monitor his health. I imagined how this must have been so tiresome for him.

Despite all this, I trust that both he and I are well. I trust that I will land in my new normal. I trust that dreams of him are our way of staying connected and I trust he is with me in my waking life.

With today being Easter, I find myself more aware of resurrection. It’s everywhere all the time! A resurrection is an awakening, and re-birthing, a renewal, and a transformation. On my dad’s final days, I was well aware that he was in his own transformational journey. It was intense to feel our lives changing and falling into deep stillness. At that time I wondered what both our resurrections would look like.

Today I still wonder, and yet know, that resurrection and transformation is happening in it’s own slow and gentle way everyday. Anxiety attacks and all.

Speaking of Winter…

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Winter is my favorite season, however there is a bitter taste in my mouth about it now. I feel betrayed by the season which I usually find so much comfort in.

This winter was a colder than usual one for both my father and I.

This winter I turned inward to feel through and gestate what is important about my career path, as well as my use of time and energy. I was giving quiet reflection to how I would emerge in the spring as an adult embarking on purpose, into her life, her career, her finances, and so on.

This winter, I symbolically married my career, with my father’s blessing, and his request that my career take good care of me.

Meanwhile, my father was turning inward as well. Withdrawing from others, being less active, wanting to complete his time here and be with loved ones on the other side.

As the chill began to wear off, winter ever so gradually stole my father from me. Winter cloaked my father and gradually prepared him for departure.

I understand this, and yet, feel so incredibly angry at myself for not noticing what it was doing and where it was taking him. I thought spring would help my father find purpose again. But winter had it’s own plans for him.

Earthquakes and Landscapes: Day 1 without Dad

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Today I awoke on my first day home without my father.

I had spent the greater part of February in his home 3-hours away, in an unexpected whirlwind of emotional chaos, intense vulnerability, and the eventual release of him as I watched him being taken away for cremation.

I know enough to not expect that I’d return home to life as I knew it. “Now back to your regularly scheduled program” does not apply here.

I know that my life is now altered. Yes, everyday, our lives change. Each day is unlike the next. But this is different. There are these life-altering events that completely changes the landscape. Subtle shifts become earthquakes and aftershocks.

Upon waking, I take it slow. “What’s next?” in every moment. I try some “old life” on by checking e-mail (that felt okay, let’s try…) listening to a recorded call from a training I’m in (yeah, not quite feeing it. Let’s try…) suddenly it’s too much. My heart aches and I feel my energy in my belly. I remember a song that feels the way I feel now.

I listen to “Winter” by Tori Amos on repeat and break down sobbing just as I need to. Every part of me vibrating in grief. Why does life seem so stupid. All the things that took up space in my life seem so ridiculous. I should have spent more time with him. Should have, should have, should have….

 

Mercy

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Edvard Munch: “Death and the Child”

Most people say “When my time comes, I don’t want to be hooked up to machines! Pull the plug, just let me die!” Oh, but it is not that easy when you, as the family member, have to make the decision for your loved one. In my case, my father.

To treat or not to treat? It is a gut-wrenching, sleep-depriving, desperation grasping, doubt-filled, guilt-ridden nightmare. It’s the Serenity Prayer incarnate.

Sometimes, death doesn’t stare you in the face and take charge. Sometimes death dares you to dig deep down beyond your own existence, beyond everything you thought you knew. Sometimes death calls bullshit on your spiritual capacity to allow, surrender, and trust. Sometimes death turns you into a terrified child lost at the department store, worried she will never-ever go home again or see her parent’s face, or feel their embrace. Sometimes, death just sits back, and watches you writhe, like an earthworm in the dry daylight, as you wrestle with your humanness.

And then there is the one who breathes an inconsistent breath, whose fate is in your hands. And all you can offer is the the most tender mercy that arises from a place beyond the psyche and without words.

2/26/2016

The Gifts of Darkness: An Invitation for Self-Care and Connection

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Image by Catherine Hyde

Image by Catherine Hyde

During the Winter Solstice we experience the shortest day and longest night of the year. This time of extended darkness (the longest of the year) can bring about mixed feelings depending on your situation. For some, having longer nights brings about little disruption to daily life. However for others, this time can brings discomfort on many levels.  In either case, the Winter Solstice can serve as a time to ground and honor where we have been, and where we would like to go.

Darkness of all sorts serves a purpose. Seasonally, the darkness allows for rest and rejuvenation. Emotionally, the darkness can facilitate a stillness we can harness to turn inwards, dream, connect, and reflect. Like the plants that feed on the sun’s energy, so do we need a break from the light. This break brings about balance, rest, and an opportunity for deep connection to ourselves. Dreams are born here in this place of darkness. The Winter Solstice becomes an invitation to access these gifts that darkness brings by taking a pause, turning inward, reflecting on what is, and birthing dreams of what can be.

The day after the Winter Solstice, we begin to see longer days, and shorter nights. We slowly begin to feel more of the sun’s light and energy allowing us to move forward from our dream state. In these days after the Winter Solstice, we can be in the planning stage of manifesting our newborn dreams, and begin to take action on bringing them to light.

I also like to think of this time as a reminder that, no matter how dark our days, there is the promise of light. When in the darkness, it can be hard to imagine anything different. However nature always serves as a living example of how life works.

If time allows, I invite you to take this opportunity to connect with yourself, especially if you are about to step into holiday festivities where you will be surrounded by family and/or friends. A moment of connection in any manner (prayer, mediation, silence, journaling, etc.) is a beautiful way to practice self-care as it can really help ground you before stepping into relationships with others. The added bonus is: others then get the best you available.

If you live in the Northern Hemisphere, this year’s Winter Solstice will be on December21 or 22 (for your exact day/time go to: http://www.timeanddate.com/calendar/winter-solstice.html).

Here are some suggestions on ways to acknowledge the Winter Solstice and connect with yourself:

 Simple Activities:

  • Make a big pot of soup rich with grounding vegetables (i.e. potatoes, carrots and other root vegetables) and warm spices. If possible, eat early

  • Drink warm liquids, ideally something sweet, spicy and grounding like chai

  • If you have a fireplace, light a fire and spend time in prayer, mediation, or silence

  • Light those special candles you have been saving (use fire-safe precautions)

  • Spend time in contemplation through journaling, drawing, or other creative outlet. Explore your year and write down what you’d like to see in the new year.

  • Hang an evergreen wreath on your door (evergreens are a symbol of protection, prosperity, renewal, and the continuation of life)

 Rituals:

 Intention Setting Ritual:

  1. Clear the space by smudging sage, or by noise through clapping or ringing a bell 3 times.

  2. In silence, settle into your body by taking a deep breath in and exhale slowly.

  3. Allow yourself to let go of the day’s thoughts and worries.

  4. Ask yourself, “What do I want to manifest in the next six months?”

  5. When you have several intentions, write them down on small pieces of paper.

  6. As these intentions come into being, place them into a container. In 6 months, open your container to review what dreams you manifested.

You can also do this ritual at every New Moon and collect manifested dreams throughout the year. At the end of the year, open your container to review what dreams you manifested.

 Releasing Ceremony:

This ceremony is best done out doors, or indoors using a fireplace. An indoor option is also offered in the instructions.

  1. Light a fire outdoors in a grill or fire pit, or use an indoor fireplace.

  2. Light candles and clear the space by smudging sage, or by noise through clapping or ringing a bell 3 times.

  3. In silence, settle into your body by taking a deep breath in and exhale slowly.

  4. Allow yourself to let go of the day’s thoughts and worries.

  5. Ask yourself, “What do I want to release? What does not serve me?” This can include habits or patterns that get in the way of manifesting your intentions.

  6. On small pieces of paper write down what you want to release. At the end of each item write “Be Gone!”

  7. Read each item out loud (or to yourself silently) and toss them, one by one, into the fire. If indoors you can use a fireplace, use s shredder, or cut into small pieces using scissors.

  8. Give gratitude for new beginnings and the light that is on its way.

 Welcoming the Light Ceremony:

  1. Place one large unlit candle at the center of the table, and several smaller unit candles (such a tea light candles) near you.

  2. Turn off all the lights and spend a moment in darkness, as a symbol of honoring the gifts of darkness and welcoming the light.

  3. Light the large candle and offer a blessing.

  4. One by one, light each small candle from the main flame and place each one in a circle or spiral around the main one.

  5. When all candles are lit, give gratitude for new beginnings and the light that is on its way.

Are you a woman who would you like deeper, more personalized guidance in letting go of what no longer serves you, and bringing in more of what you do want into your life? I offer 1:1 coaching programs designed to help women release emotional blocks, and step into their power and voice. To apply go to: http://www.medicinanepantla.com/#!strategy-session-request/s57j1

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