Forgiveness Found in Unusual Places

Walking into the dental office that morning was more difficult than running a marathon.  My palms were wet with sweat, my legs felt heavy as lead, and my breathing was quick and strained.  As I reached for the door, I braced myself for the smell of anesthesia and the sound of drills grinding teeth. The thought sent a wave of nausea over me.  The next steps were blurred as I entered the waiting room and approached the registration desk.  I was greeted by warm, smiling faces who immediately escorted me to the chair of impending doom. They knew I was “one of those patients.”

I was slightly dazed as the assistant secured the dental bib around my neck and asked if I wanted headphones. We agreed the noise would help drown out the sound of the drill.

As the chair reclined, my body tightened as if life-sustaining oxygen was being squeezed out of my lungs by a boa constrictor. Regardless of the nitrous oxide being pumped through my body through a small masked funnel across my face, my anxiety level was at an all-time high.  Inhaling deeply, I attempted to relax my mind and my muscles to endure a routine dental procedure.

Without warning, my sobbing began.  When the assistant left me to gather my thoughts, I scolded myself and questioned why I was reacting like a child.  As the nitrous drunkenness took hold, memories flooded my brain.  I was under the lights of an ER strapped to a table.

I was six years old and my mom and dad had scheduled a night out, leaving us with a high school-aged neighbor girl.  My parents had given us specific instructions to stay in the house and obey the sitter, but the weather was warm and I was aching to be outside. I lied to the sitter and convinced her to let me go for a bike ride.

My bike was sweet. It sported a yellow banana seat, chopper-style handlebars and glittered string confetti hanging from the handles. My dad added reflective lights to the spokes and mounted a fancy orange flag on the end of a white stick to the back of my seat.  When I peddled fast, the flag would whip in the wind and make a whistling sound.  I pretended to be Evil Knievel soaring across Grand Canyon when I jumped curbs. I felt daring and free.

The alley behind our house had a storm water run-off drain that was covered by a metal grate with bars about two inches apart.  I had cycled past it a dozen times before, but that day I decided to ride over the top of it going top speed.

Unfortunately, the tires on my bike were smaller than the distance between the bars on the grate and when my front tire hit the grate, it slide between the bars and locked up.  The intertia continued to propel me forward and threw me onto the concrete.  With my hands on the bars, I landed directly on my face. Then I blacked out.

When I regained consciousness, I was in a frightening room with bright lights, muffled voices, white coats, and the realization that I couldn’t move my arms.  They had been strapped down to a table so the doctors and nurses could do their work.  My mom stood nearby watching them stitch me up. Beyond the physical wounds, my heart hurt the worst. I told myself I was a terrible, horrible, awful kid for having ruined my parent’s night out. I thought the accident was God’s way of punishing me for lying to the sitter.

I didn’t realize it then, but that moment shifted my entire existence. I had appointments with doctors and weekly appointments with the dentist. Not only was each visit a reminder of my offense, but the accident also changed the shape of my mouth and jaw.  My smile was never the same.  I once resembled my sisters, but was never again confused as a twin or triplet when we went out.  I felt like an outsider in my own family.

In the dental chair that day, I realized why I was subconsciously – and consciously — terrified by the dental chair. It wasn’t the smells or the sounds, while still unpleasant, it was the reminder of the negative messages I told myself as a six year old.

After my appointment, I stopped at a state park and gave those messages back to the universe.  Odd as it sounds, I forgave the little girl for being human and adventurous and thanked her for being courageous in a frightening place.  The little girl with the broken mouth and face was finally at peace. I put her to rest inside my heart.

Driving home that day, I questioned how many other negative messages I had inadvertently carried into adulthood and decided to recycle them, too. I chose to re-shape my belief system and dwell from a place of power.

When we operate from a place of awareness and pay attention to the messages of our soul, it gives us an opportunity to dwell in possibility and live in a Powerful Perspective.

To learn more about the Powerful Perspectives coaching process, or schedule an introductory coaching appointment, kindly email: SamanthaBluhm@icloud.com

Crayon Stained Stories

My favorite slacks were a well-worn pair of khaki capri’s purchased on sale at the Gap. They were casual and comfortable and often became my default weekend-wear.

One weekend when my son and I enjoyed breakfast at a greasy spoon, the black crayon he used to play tic, tac, toe ended up in his pocket, and eventually found its way into my dryer.  In the heat, it melted into chunks of black gunk.  The lovely black glue adhered itself to every piece of clothing in that load, including my favorite khaki capri’s.

When I discovered my khakis covered with melted black crayon, I had a melt down of my own.  I threw an adult-sized temper tantrum and yelled at Cameron for being irresponsible and spoiled. I stomped around the house, carried on about the tragedy and ranted about how impossible it would be to replace them.

Cameron apologized for the crayon, but I was too upset to notice his grief and regret until his sobbing jolted me back to reality. I saw the reflection of my rage in his eyes and realized how my words were impacting his world.  I felt awful. I scooped him up, hugged him, and apologized for being mean spirited.  I asked him to forgive me for my temper.  I was still upset, but promised to find another way to express my anger. We agreed to look for a solution together.

We scrubbed, soaked, bleached and purchased every creative concoction that promised to remove challenging stains, but nothing worked. Every failed attempt sunk Cameron’s hopes and sparked guilt for my human, but horrible reaction.  When we exhausted our resources, we acknowledged defeat.  My favorite pants had become black-wax khakis and were destined for the dump.

With the heart and wisdom of a child, Cameron timidly told me he liked my khakis better covered with black gunk. He thought they made them look interesting and unique. He’s a sweetheart optimist, but I recognized it was his attempt to make everything ok and realized the distinctive flair of our hand-made pants provided a unique opportunity for me to be a better mom.

Later that week I volunteered at Cameron’s school and showed up in his classroom wearing black-wax pants. When I walked in, Cameron noticed my pants and instantly smiled his precious smile. Later I overheard him whisper to his buddies that my outfit was unique and hand-made. He said they made me look pretty. I secretly celebrated our crayon-stained story had a better ending than its beginning.

A regrettable reaction gave me the opportunity to create a new and powerful perspective with my son.  I don’t wear them anymore, but I’ve kept the crayon-stained pants to remind me that some things are more important than pants and story endings can be re-written.

Letting Go

The buzz of the alarm jolted me to life at 4:30 a.m. Barely awake and aching from the previous day’s workout, I debated with myself to roll over and go back to sleep, or get out of bed to meet my friends at the running track.

Against my body’s wishes, I shoved off the warm blankets, got out of bed and walked toward the bathroom. I splashed cold water on my face, looked into the mirror, and asked myself what the heck I was doing. This was the kind of morning where the will to succeed outweighed the desire to give in.

Along with two other friends, I was following a training plan for an upcoming 10-mile race and that day’s workout called for mile repeats. A mile was four laps around the track and the goal was to run a mile at top speed, take a minute to recover, and then do it again. On the first lap of mile 4, I noticed on one side of the track was the full moon and the other side was the rising sun and in between were magnificent stars. It was a spectacular feeling of smallness that momentarily distracted me from my effort and made the other three laps zip past. When we finished our run, we cooled down, stretched and went our separate ways.

We would meet four or five times a week to vary our distance and speed and keep each other on course. More than once I gave thanks for the team waiting at the Y; and begrudgingly became accustomed to the 4:30 alarm. I wasn’t always pleasant and admit to cussing them out when they suggested we get up at 4:15 to run long before work. That was the day I discovered my threshold. With the encouragement of my partners, though, I pushed through and later felt gratification for mustering the strength.

Our runs weren’t just about running. We spent hours together and crazy as it might sound, it became my Prozac. We honored each other with the promise that what was said on the run, stayed on the run. We vented about work and mourned painful loss. We shared stories about mutual friends and chatted about weather, moon phases and shooting stars. We shared stories of our kids and observations of the insanity we call humanity. But mostly we celebrated each other’s success, regardless of how large or small.

It was during those runs when I felt most alive. I felt I had purpose and control over one area of my life.

We trained for several months and never missed a scheduled run. We tapered our distances, rested and felt confident for our big day. We traveled as a team to the race and joined others who were running for the cause. The temperatures that morning were cool enough for long sleeves at lineup, but warm enough for short sleeves after mile one. It was overcast, but clearing, and I was feeling well prepared to meet my goal. I had hydrated and slept well and had my favorite pre-race meal the night before. I was shoulder to shoulder with 2500 women who were all pushing beyond from where they had come. The national anthem brought tears to my eyes and life in that moment, was perfect and complete.

The horn sounded and the sea of runners moved across the timing mats in waves. For the first mile, I weaved through the crowd, hoping to clear a path. Miles 2 and 3 went by in a blur and I started to get in my groove. Somewhere between miles 5 and 6 I realized that I was off my pace and my heart began to sink. I continued forward and at mile 8, forsaking modern day miracles, I knew I wouldn’t make my goal.

Every finish line has its story and it is powerful every time. More often than not, the finish line represents victory, but on that day, it represented defeat. I replayed each mile, wondering where I had gone wrong, and with each reiteration I cursed myself more. I had no good reason and it didn’t add up. I had nothing and nobody to blame but the day. I felt disillusioned and wondered why I tried.

The finish line haunted me and the miniscule five minutes defined who I was. I had lost my perspective and was focused on the result. My energy had gone into my training; something I thought I could control. As it turns out, I have no control at all.

I’ve come to realize that Powerful Perspectives are not about control; they’re about letting go. And not just finish times, regret, sorrow or loss. It’s about experiencing and embracing what’s in front of us that matters the most. Yes, goals are important and they help us define success, but the power is in the journey, not the finish line at all.

An Extraordinary Pumpkin

With each skin cream treatment, the pink blemish on the side of my face appeared to sizzle like eggs frying in bacon grease.  The center of the blemish turned brown, rimmed in swollen auburn and orange rings. The blemish was a form of skin cancer and was being treated with cream, instead of surgical removal. The removal process involved five days of treatments for six weeks.  Halfway through the regimen, what was a tolerable light pink blemish had become a hideous fried scab the size of a cigar burn.

I consider myself healthier than average and take care of what I’ve been given, but it seemed to be vain to be focused on physical appearances that morning.  As I prepared to make my way out the door, I was not my typical life-coach self. I was feeling ugly and self-conscious and my hair had been styled to hide my swollen face.

Feeling sorry for myself, I inched through the morning and avoided as many people as possible.

At lunch, I took a hike along a beautiful nature trail and found a bench over-looking the city. I sat and let the hot tears of shame come. Between sobs, I pleaded with the universe to give me a sign and help me make sense of my life.

When I had exhausted the tears and gathered my emotions, I walked with my head-down and crunched the fall leaves beneath my feet.  On the path a few feet away, I noticed an oak leaf glimmering with the stunning colors of autumn — burnt orange, auburn and brown.

As I admired the rich colors and breathed in the crisp air, it occurred to me the colors in the leaf were similar to the patch on my face and I began to cry again. This time the tears cleansed and helped me realize that beauty comes in all shapes, sizes and colors. I carried the leaf to the end of the path and released it to the wind as I thanked it for its message.

Later that evening as I finished up dinner dishes, I got a call from  a client who owned 40 acres of land north of town.  His love of the land and gardening led him to plant strawberries, rows of sweet corn, melons, cucumbers and pumpkins.

This client has become a dear friend and had kept my son and I stocked with fresh fruits and vegetables all summer; including more sweet corn than a family can eat in a year.  We were so blessed by the abundance coming from his generous and prosperous green thumb.

This call was to inform me he had another surprise for us and asked if he could drop it off at our house.

Moments later he showed up and handed me a mammoth 50 lb. plus pumpkin with an over-sized handle.  The pumpkin seeds, he said, were genetically engineered to produce an extra large stem to hold the weight of the pumpkin. He thought this pumpkin would be good for Cameron.

Then he handed over one of the most unusual and special gifts I’ve ever been privileged to receive. It was a 30 lb. pumpkin that had unusual markings in the skin that read “Samantha, Happy Halloween!”  When I asked  how “the pumpkin grew those words,” he told me the following story:

“Before I planted the seeds in April, I blessed them.  In June when the pumpkins turned green, I took a sharp nail and carved gently into the skin of the pumpkin. As the pumpkin continued to grow, it healed itself and scabbed over, leaving a  small reminder of the wound sustained earlier in the season. The scab is a sign of the pumpkin’s endurance and strength.”

As he finished his story, I stood in awed silence for the timing of the pumpkin delivery and the magnificence of this marvelous gift.  The tears that came for the third time that day were now healing tears of gratitude.

My client and friend had scratched the skin of that pumpkin months ago to produce a magical pumpkin for the Halloween season.  He would have had no idea back in June that my skin would be wounded and scabbing in much the same way that day.

This gift was more than a remarkable pumpkin, it was a miracle and the sign I needed to renew my trust and faith in the universe.

My skin, ego and scars were no longer the focus of my day. My attitude instantly turned to Powerful Perspectives of awareness, appreciation and love of a particular pumpkin and precious act of a friend.

Each fall when the pumpkins arrive, I stop and give thanks for the special gift of friendship — and the power of signs and miracles.

When we look for miracles, they find us and make us aware of their power to heal and bring us to a better place.

What may be an ordinary pumpkin, becomes extraordinary in an instant.

Parenting the Precious

Maggie was born with cerebral palsy and would never walk, talk, feed or dress herself. Her parents were told she’d be lucky to live past the age of two.

Maggie grew and was nurtured by an incredibly strong, courageous and beautiful mother and grandmother who never complained about the circumstances of Maggie’s life. They loved her and treated her as they would any child. They shared stories of her victories and progress and they bragged like any proud parent or grandparent would. The condition of Maggie’s body was secondary to the condition of her soul.  They saw Maggie for the love she brought to their lives.

She communicated with her family in a way they understood and brought a sense of celebration to every single day.  When she turned three she was transported by a wheel chair to make it easier for her mom to move her around. As fate would have it, Maggie defied the odds and continued to thrive.

At age five, Maggie started kindergarten. She was the same age as my son. They went to the same school and attended many of the same school functions. I got to know Maggie’s mom on a friendly basis.  While I watched Cameron play with his friends or race from game-to-game at the school carnival, Maggie’s mom wiped drool from her face and fed her from a spoon. Maggie would give her mom a sideways smile.

In the time I spent dropping off my son at the playground and waving goodbye, Maggie’s mom would face weather conditions and curbside snow to haul the wheel chair out of her van.  As I zipped past, Maggie would be strapped into the chair and her mom would be carrying her backpack and supplies into the school to meet the special assistant.

Maggie’s mom always waved and smiled.  I rushed to my next thing, giving silent thanks for my son’s perfect health.

In the third grade, Maggie’s body began shutting down and she was admitted to the hospital. Her schoolmates rallied around her and sent personalized cards.  They created a poster the length of the hallway and each student and faculty member signed a get-well greeting.  They collected hugs for Maggie in the form of monetary donations and they hoped she would return to school quickly.  From home, my son and I would check Maggie’s caring bridge website and send good vibes for healing and peace.  We looked forward to the day she would return to school. Maggie’s Spirit was stronger than her body and later that spring, she passed away.

On the last day of school, I saw Maggie’s mom in the hallway and my eyes filled with tears of compassion.  I hugged her and told her I was sorry for her loss.  Her response was gracious and bold. “I didn’t expect her to live past the age of two,” she said. “I was blessed by every moment, every day.  I had the privilege of spending an extra 7 years with my angel.”

I thought about our children’s paths and how different our experiences had been. Maggie’s mom and I had been pregnant at the same time and given birth a few weeks apart. While I was busy rushing off and giving thanks for perfect health, Maggie’s mom was giving thanks for the blessing of another day.  While I watched with sympathy as she wiped Maggie’s drool from her face, Maggie’s mom was happy for one more moment with her child.

I began to question why I was comparing my relationship with Cameron to her relationship with Maggie and determined that in my sympathy, I was judging; in my gratitude for perfect health, I was judging; and in my compassion for her loss, I was judging.

She was happy simply living in the moment and being with her child.

I wondered if I were truly the lucky one for having a son with perfect health, or was she the lucky one for having a child whose presence was a constant reminder of precious time and small joys? Was I genuinely “compassionate” for her loss, or was I thinking her burden had been lifted?

I don’t have the answers, but I suspect we were both lucky, and both right.  I’ve come to believe that any time we compare, we judge.  Because when we compare, something must be right, and therefore something must be wrong.  I’ve come to realize that the universe doesn’t make mistakes and nothing is ever wrong, just different. Anytime we think something “should be” we judge and dishonor “what is.”

Inside of awareness are gratitude and forgiveness and the Powerful Perspectives that teach us self-love.

Transforming Darkness into Light

We met at a function that called for business casual conversation.  He worked the room like a professional, making small talk and thoughtful introductions to colleagues.  It was clear to me this wasn’t his first networking event.

His hazel eyes were intense and deep, but I can’t say I was attracted to him at first glance. In fact, my first vibe was one of mistrust and deceit.  It wasn’t until he emailed me several weeks later that I was able to get a better read.  His energy, via email, was softer, kinder and inquisitive. He had read my work on-line and was curious which rivers I had fly-fished, a hobby he also enjoyed. I responded to his inquiry with an intrigue of my own and thus began a journey of discovery.

Hundreds of emails and several months later, we met for lunch. We talked about the industry, but other motivations took over and the conversation became more personal.  No longer did I see a man motivated by greed and power; but instead saw him for his soul.  He was a global thinker with big energy and I admired his perspectives on people, politics and process.  His life experiences vastly differed from my own, but he listened with intent when I spoke of my truth and history.  He loved good stories and reveled in the drama that was my specialty.

We found reasons to contact each other on a regular basis and our friendship and connection deepened.  We met for coffee, shared stories of our adventures, stole moments throughout our day and spoke of the desire for more time alone.  I lost track of time and space when we were together and basked in the first and last communication of each day. I found myself magnetized to a man who didn’t make sense to my mind, but seemed to make sense to my heart.

Our relationship had several factors working against us including what we valued, the trajectory of our careers, and our significant age difference. But because my heart was experiencing bliss, my mind dismissed my doubt. I broke my own relationship rules and made excuses to friends for reasons he said he was unavailable to meet.  What he called code names, I called flirtatious fun. When he didn’t respond to messages I sent while he was traveling, I chalked it up to him seeking adventure.

When I wasn’t a priority when he returned, I refused to believe it had anything to do with me.  Sadly, I ignored the glaring red flags.

It wasn’t one big thing, but a compilation of several small things that led me to face the reality that where I was headed wasn’t a shared path. It took tremendous courage to ask the questions I knew the answers to, but with resolve and support from friends, I found the strength to speak my truth and seek his.

I can’t explain why the obvious was surprising to me, but I found his truth difficult to reconcile with my own. Perhaps I was hoping he would see how his words had not aligned with his previous actions and intentions.  Or maybe in my fantasy world, I was hoping to be swept away by his sudden awareness of our potential possibility.

That didn’t happen and over the course of the following weeks, I found myself feeling used and misled. I went to a dark place of hatred and regret and wallowed in the self-pity of stupidity for many moons.

I took time to vent, then took the time to heal.  As a storyteller and believer in all things mystical, I wanted to believe in Disney’s depiction of the “once upon a time tales.” I now believe that true love is much more than fictional fantasy.  Love is what motivates the heart; logic is what motivates the mind. Relationships are a balance of both and call for an “and” to be successful. Dismissing one for the other is operating from a place of “or” that will eventually self-correct.

Balance is the natural consequence of time and nature, and if we wait long enough, anything can realize its potential. It wasn’t until a new relationship entered my world when I recognized my role in the former.

Odd as it may sound, through the heartbreak of other’s participation in my path, I transformed my relationship with self.  I’ve learned to follow my heart, but also trust my head. I’ve learned to stop expecting others to live up to their potential and instead accept them as they are and hope they see their own potential.  I’ve learned not to make somebody a priority when they only make me an option.

I’ve learned that transformation and powerful perspectives are not typically found through the everyday mundane. It’s inside of fear or love where the greatest possibilities exist.  These experiences give us strength, enrich our lives, and gain us access to wisdom only found in sadness and grief.

I wish I could say that life is meant to be joyful, but the truth is, I have no idea what is meant to be. I only have the power to recognize what is, and that is enough.  Inside of “what is” exists the power to create the potential of what will be.

Lessons of an Ordinary Life

I tend to think of my childhood as something I survived. It’s not to say my parents didn’t do their best, but unlike my siblings, I wasn’t born with obvious natural gifts, and I struggled to understand where I fit in.

My oldest sister, Tiffany, was highly intelligent and walked well before her first birthday. She took to reading early and consumed books whole.  She had a great memory and her energy seemed to flow best through the pages of books.  This gift served her well in school where she earned straight A’s with what seemed like little effort.

My sister Mardy was the family comedienne.  She was dramatic, quick-witted and a master at repeating jokes. She was a social butterfly and once won a look-alike contest for her physical resemblance to Reba McIntyre.  She could also captivate a room, Chelsea Handler-style. She was also born with outstanding rhythm and style and rivaled Prince with creative dance moves and attire. I still think she has a future in Hollywood.

Leslie was my parent’s undisputed favorite.  She was easy going and pleasant and didn’t inherit the drama-queen gene.  She had more athletic talent and intelligence than her three older sisters combined. She was confident and comfortable in her skin and could have conversations with teachers and coaches as easily as her classmates. If my sisters or I muttered or thought about using words like stupid or gay, my mom would wash our mouths out with soap.  If we talked back to our dad, we could expect the wrath of the Incredible Hulk. Leslie could throw a fit of profanity at my parents and they would embrace it as family entertainment. My sister’s and I still call her the golden child.

The youngest of this tribe was the only boy, my brother Timothy.  He was born with soft, focused, intense energy and was nicknamed TR.  We thought of him as a real-life doll and took turns dressing him up in little clothes.  Our mother announced that having a boy meant the end of the babies in our family, and I think we secretly appreciated TR for ending the streak. When he entered kindergarten, he politely, but firmly, changed his name from TR to Tim. He excelled in sports and had inherited the linear mind of my father, giving him an edge in math and engineering.  When he was thirteen, he scored so high on the ACT that he was invited to attend a military academy near Chicago.  The rules and curfews that applied to his older siblings didn’t apply to him and his full name has yet to be used in our house. In fact, we tease him and call him “baby boy” because he still has our mother wrapped around his little finger.

I was the second born and arrived six weeks early. I was a pigeon-legged preemie and needed leg braces and special shoes to learn to walk. My parents thought I had special needs because I didn’t speak until I was three. When I finally talked, I muttered the phrase, “more Jell-O please.”  I may have been a late bloomer, but at least I was polite and continue to enjoy talking. When I was six, I was in a terrible bike accident that changed the shape of my face and jaw, giving me a different appearance than my similar-looking siblings.  School didn’t come easy and I was told I would never be the student my sister was.  It was said to alleviate the pressure of living up to my sister’s academic accomplishments, but my mind translated it to mean I would never be as smart.  I played sports, but wasn’t the superstar my siblings were, and I was more comfortable standing on my head than on my feet.  I couldn’t tell a good joke to save my soul and a nun at my high school told me I should have a back-up skill because she couldn’t see my future writing career.

I rebelled through most of my late teens and early twenties, meandered through my mid-to-late twenties, and attempted to conform in my early-to-mid-thirties, all the while searching for my gifts and a place to fit in and feel normal.

It wasn’t until my life hit a dead-end that I decided to take the time to reflect on the values and messages shaping my life.

I went searching for the truth and realized that being different was my natural gift.  I didn’t know it then, but my quest for normal is what makes me normal.  The older I get, the more I understand that the quest is what life is all about.  I’ve also learned that fitting in is over-rated and comparing your life to others is futile.

I’ve learned spontaneity and unpredictability keep life interesting and I’ve learned a child-like perspective is creative and healthy.

I’ve learned the gifts of my childhood were rich and have learned judgment of self and others destroys the here and now.  I’ve learned life is a series of ordinary moments and to remove the word “should” and honor “what is.”

I’ve learned that Powerful Perspectives turn the ordinary into the extraordinary and begin with awareness and move upward toward acceptance and love.

The Kitchen Table Club

Contrary to what Disney or the storybook fairytales would have you believe, I’ve come to realize that most human relationships are not destined for forever.  I am not a pessimist and I don’t like to think of anyone as a lost cause, but sometimes taking a stand and walking away from a relationship that no longer empowers you is as difficult as choosing the familiar, yet uninspiring routine.

I was reminded of this kind of courage as I sat around a kitchen table drinking wine with women who were finding their way through life’s challenges; some of which they had chosen; some of which had chosen them.

Their stories were unique, but the principles of learning to trust another were commonplace. One of the women shared stories of betrayal and mixed messages of hope for reconciliation.  Another struggled with the exhilaration and exhaustion of entering the dating world; and the third wrestled with the guilt of her decision and the impact it had on her family.

My heart ached from missing important time with my son. He was with his father when I called to say goodnight. I learned another woman was reading him a goodnight story.  The thought she had the honor and privilege of holding my son and tucking him into bed nearly ripped my heart in two. I had prepared myself for this woman’s existence in my ex’s life, but hadn’t considered her role in my son’s; a reality I would be forced to reconcile from that moment forward.

Over the course of many months, this group gathered at various kitchen tables when the weight of the burden was too heavy to carry alone.  The kitchen table became the place where we shared our sorrows and encouraged each other to continue moving forward.  I don’t mean to make it sound like a man bashing pity party, because believe me when I say it was not. We challenged each other when the wallowing became more evident than the strength and we cried together when the loneliness and responsibilities overwhelmed. We discussed what it meant to maintain our power and debated when it became clear we were selling ourselves short.

At the time, those friendships were the most important people in my life. But like the marriages that ended to bring us together in that place, the relationships that formed around the kitchen table were never meant to be forever. Our informal meetings were intended to reveal the mystery of who we were becoming while we safely shed the skin of who we had been.

One by one, we found our new normal and the kitchen table club was no longer. My mind wanders back to those days and the lessons I learned and think that when we allow something to end as effortlessly as it began, we give it wings and set it free. Life and relationships are continually changing, and as long as we trust ourselves to recognize an ending as simply a new beginning, we live in a state of power instead of fear. We relinquish control and expectation and therefore dwell in the moment of now. We begin to see things as they are, instead of how we want them to be and we learn that we have access to everything we need. These gifts may be wrapped in unusual packages, but the ways of Divine are not ours to know.

The gifts of acceptance and awareness are Powerful Perspectives I learned from the kitchen table club, with gratitude and love.

Message of the Owl

When I woke that morning, it wasn’t apparent to me what was wrong, but my body and mind were unusually heavy and I was unable to shove off the covers and put my feet on the floor, an attribute not typical of this early-morning and enthusiastic riser.

While I waited for my body to inch to life and my eyes to adjust to the 5 a.m. darkness, I realized tears were pouring down my cheeks, wetting my pillowcase and sheets. The tears were hot and filled with grief and fear. Overwhelming anxiety filled every cell of my being and imprisoned me inside my mind, and my heart was so sad and heavy, I wondered if I had died and gone to hell.

I had felt emotional darkness in my life, but those times had been typical human response to an injustice or tragic abuse of the mind, body or spirit. That morning however, I didn’t know what triggered the imbalance and I was perplexed by its force and timing.

My head throbbed, my body ached and experience told me the day was going to be a challenge to navigate alone. I grabbed the phone from my bedside table and dialed the number of one of my dearest and closest friends who has walked with me through previous days like this.

Her initial response to my cracked voice was concern for my wellbeing. In her wisdom, she allowed me to sob without judgment of my tears. She didn’t move to fix or question anything; she simply sat with me on the phone and held me gently in her energy of caring compassion. When my tears subsided, she suggested I go back to sleep and promised to check on me later.

I fell into a fitful sleep with the intellectual knowledge I had a friend who cared about me, but the emotional presence of isolation and abandonment.

When I woke for the second time that morning, the heaviness in my heart made it difficult to breath. I forced myself to get out of bed, walked to the shower and soaked in the hot stream until it ran cold. Dried off and dressed, I called my friend and asked her to meet me.

At the coffee shop, I handed her my calendar to review and cancel my appointments.  As she flipped through the month, the reason this particular day was so dark was instantly illuminated.  The day was March 24 and it was the anniversary of the day my divorce was finalized. Coincidentally, the same date three years later was when a man I considered a great love exited my life.

My intellectual mind had processed the breakups; but the subconscious and spiritual elements of my being had not yet found the grace and wisdom to release the negative self judgments left behind by the “failed” relationships.

I sat with my friend and let the sobs jar loose the stories and cultural imagery of who I am supposed to be and what I am supposed to want. I had been telling myself for years that I was different and unworthy of love because of where I’ve been or what I’ve known.  But through the tears, the story that I didn’t deserve to be fulfilled revealed itself as the great lie.

I recognized this reality no longer had a place in my life and I decided it was time to set the story free. It was time to invent something new. I wiped my face, gathered myself, hugged and thanked my friend and left the coffee shop. With newfound awareness and strength, I chose to let my schedule stand and meet with two potential clients.

I stopped at my home office to gather materials and contracts and center myself before my appointments. I sat in quiet meditation and asked the universe for courage and a sign of hope.

As I drove out of my development, an enormous and unusual bird caught my eye.  It was flying low and close to my window and seemed out of place in that time and space. I didn’t recognize the species but watched it curiously flop its wings, thrusting forward in an awkward movement.  I pulled my vehicle to the side of the road as the bird flew upward to land on a low branch.

I stepped out of my vehicle and walked toward the tree where the giant bird perched. As I inched closer, the bird’s head turned 120 degrees and its eyes fixed on mine.  It was a gaze that made the darkness of the day melt away; a human-to-owl connection that cannot be explained, except through the power of a story.

I had never witnessed an owl fly in broad daylight and I knew the message of this beautiful creature was intended for me. I returned to my office, curious about the significance of its presence in my life. I learned the following:

“… An owl teaches us how to embrace our personal darkness without fear.  Active at dawn and dusk, owls are sometimes referred to as the night eagle, a messenger from the darkness and a guide through all the mysteries that it contains.

Owls are sometimes thought to come to those that are about to die.  This does not mean a physical death as much as it means the letting go of some part of yourself that is not serving you.

Owls guide us through the dark tunnels of fear, change and uncertainty to the brilliant light shining at the other end.

If the owl appears in your life thank it for its willingness to guide you through its shadowy realm to the other side of promise and joy.” (www.sayahda.com)

I honored my commitments for the day, found the courage to manage my appointments, and ended the day with two signed contracts.  One of those clients later became the bearer of a magical and mysterious pumpkin that makes this story more meaningful and profound.

That evening, I buried the past and what I had made it mean. I wrote in my journal that I was lovable and worthy of great love.  I must have written it a million times before it finally sunk in. I realized through that exercise that I am not a piece of property; I am no-more-or-no-less-than any other human; nor am I crazy because I have an opinion or an idea and can see and understand things others might not notice.

I wrote that I am not a contaminated by-product of failed relationships; nor will I allow myself to be labeled according to the people in my life or defined by the things I do or do not own.

I shifted the part of my story that made me believe ending a relationship meant I was a quitter and incapable of trust or commitment.

The truth is that recognizing, speaking and acting on our truth is what makes us powerful and honorable, even when it goes against the grain of what our churches, families or society tell us is appropriate or acceptable.

I now viewed the end of those relationships as powerful new beginnings.  I let go of the judgment and embraced the powerful perspectives of acceptance, forgiveness and gratitude.

March 24 has become a day of celebration for me. I take a moment to pause and give thanks for the lessons of those relationships and the subsequent “owls” that have entered and exited my life.

Living as a Gypsy

I applied for a job with an “adventure company” and found myself in a hotel conference hall with several other applicants.  Joe, the manager, was our interviewer and began the demonstration with a motivational pep talk that rivaled speeches given by Martin Luther King Jr.

This “adventure company” called themselves JLM Promotions and were recruiting people who could easily strike up conversations, wanted the freedom to travel, sought adventure, and were comfortable taking risks.

If the truth in advertising rule applied to recruitment, the demonstrations and ad would loosely translate to: “fly-by-night company seeks people willing to cold call, live out of their vehicles, travel to Mississippi and Arkansas, and potentially get arrested for soliciting.”

In my youth, however, Joe the Manger’s motivational approach had me leaping out of my chair with excitement as he offered me the position of new recruit.  I was instructed to report to in the following morning at 7 a.m.

I met Joe and six other sales people at the hotel breakfast bar. They were mapping out “territories” and talking about their adventures from the previous day.  Joe introduced me to the crew and assigned me to train with Tim.

Tim wore a cowboy hat, jeans with cowboy boots and a rodeo-style shirt with snaps.  He left the top three snaps undone, exposing too much chest hair, particularly for digesting scrambled eggs and toast. He spoke slowly, drew out his vowels and pretended to be from the south.  When Joe introduced us, Tim leaned in, tipped his hat and called me, “ma’am” with an exaggerated southern drawl.

He held his cigarette in between his forefinger and thumb and blew his smoke out of the corner of his mouth.  He bragged that he was the best salesman with the adventure company and told me how much money he made.  When his breakfast check arrived, he handed it to me, winked, and said, “ya’ll take care of that for me, won’tcha ya hon?”

Startled, I looked him in the eye and said “cowboy, did you just call me hon and ask me to pay for your breakfast? He smiled and said, “Thanks darling, you’re a peach.” He sauntered away while I wondered why somebody so rich and supposedly talented needed to be so arrogant.

I paid the breakfast bills and walked out to the parking lot where his blue sports car was parked.  His hatchback was filled with boxes of the bakeware and his Iowa plates confirmed his phony southern accent. He told me to, “hop in and hang on for the ride of my life.”  From the passengers seat I listened to him brag about his charm and uncanny ability to sell his “goods” in less time than the other guys.  He promised we would have plenty of time to soak up the sun.  I wasn’t particularly thrilled with the idea of spending time with Tim soaking up the sun, but thought it best not to burst his enormous ego bubble. On the way to his “territory” he practiced his pitch and told me how the business worked.

The idea was to stop at random businesses and give them the line about an overstocked product and the good deals the company was offering to avoid the cost of shipping the product back to the warehouse.

His pitch went something like this: “Howdy darling.  We had a show down the road and this here bakeware was left over.  Instead of taking the time and expense to ship it back, we’re ‘letting it go’ for only $38 bucks a set. He would only talk to women and feed them garbage lines about their fantastic cooking.  He would flirt and flaunt and I couldn’t believe this guy thought he was smooth. He would finally reach the point in the talk where he asked, “how many would you like, ma’am?” I wondered to myself if this really worked.

At noon, he had smoked his way through a pack of cigarettes, but hadn’t sold a single set of the over-stocked bakeware from the show down the road. He blamed the town for the lack of sales luck, so we left his original territory and drove an hour to shake it up.  We found ourselves in a smaller town where Tim told me it would be easier to sell “less worldly and less educated” folks.

By nightfall he still hadn’t sold a thing. Agitated by the cigarette smoke, his phony southern accent that disappeared when he smoked, and the constant yammer and bragging, I asked him if I could try my hand at sales.  He mocked me, but pulled into a gas station and handed me the glossy pitch sheet.

I approached the man behind the counter and had a brief conversation about the gas station business. I modified Tim’s pitch and showed him the glossy sheet.   I told him about Tim and the dilemma I had found myself in.   When I went out to the sports car to grab a sample box, Tim was smoking a cigarette and seemed annoyed that I had gotten my foot in the door. I took the box inside, showed the guy the goods and negotiated a price for the bulk.

I went back to the car and unloaded the boxes.  Tim refused to help carry boxes, which only strengthened my case with the buyer. When I had delivered the last set, I asked my new friend if he could throw in a soda and a candy bar because my boss in the sports car was too cheap to buy me lunch or help me carry the boxes.

He glanced at Tim and encouraged me to take whatever I needed.  I returned to the sports car with a Kit Kat and diet mountain dew and handed Tim the check for the goods.  He asked if I had gotten him anything and I said, “yep, I paid for your breakfast and sold all your goods. Take me back to my car.”

When we pulled into the parking lot at the hotel, Tim thought it best we leave the details of the day to him and keep the secrets of the day between us. At breakfast the next morning I listened as Tim described the “guppy” who bought all the goods, giving no credit to the gal who made the sale.  When the other salesmen asked how I liked the gig, I told them I thought I could handle it.

When the waitress delivered the breakfast checks, I pushed mine across the table to Tim and said, “you’ll take care of that for me, won’tcha hon?” I winked and walked out to my car.

I was a member of the “adventure crew” for more than a year and look back fondly on what I learned through my travels.

I’ve learned the United States is beautiful and diverse and affords Americans the luxury of prosperity and freedom half the world may never know.  I’ve learned that people can spot a phony and relate to the authentic.

I’ve learned that the pursuit of money should be secondary to the pursuit of purpose and that life is too short to avoid taking risks and looking for adventure.

Recently, I’ve learned that operating from a place of arrogance or fear is never powerful, but acceptance, forgiveness and gratitude are powerful perspectives.