What is Love, Really? (How My Youthful Ideas May Have Impacted My Perception of Reality)

IMG_5239I admit it. I am obsessed with love.

I espouse the notion that love can solve anything. Heal us. Make the world a better place. I look for it everywhere and in every person, place or thing.

But love can be a very difficult concept, or, at least we make it that way. When I was young and thought I was “in love,” was that really what true love is all about? The naive, flowery, sharing a soda, holding hands, dreamy, floating feeling? Kisses under oak trees with falling leaves, walking through the park, spending hours just gazing into each other’s eyes?

Did those notions cloud my perception because I was sure that that was real love and anything less didn’t qualify? (Besides the unconditional love my parents had for me and that I too, have for my own kids and grandkids.)

The other day I saw the following video online about David Cassidy falling off the stage during his concert: TMZ

I took it personally and couldn’t figure out why. I don’t know the man. Never have.

(Today, Cassidy is announcing that he has dementia, which is supposedly the reason for his not being able to remember the lyrics to his songs, and that may very well be true. But I’m not here to debate Cassidy’s mental health, or his personal issues. This piece is about love. The recent news about him is what got me thinking about all of this.)

I was “in love” with David Cassidy when I was a young girl in the ‘70s. I was going to move to California, become an actress, and marry him. Thousands of other girls had the same dream, I knew, but that didn’t hinder me one bit. I just knew that when he saw me, we would instantly fall madly in love and get married and live happily ever after.

That was before David Cassidy was a real person.

In my teenage mind, he was the epitome of the perfect boyfriend and husband. He was handsome, sexy, romantic, caring, sensitive, and had a beautiful singing voice. He seemed to respect women. He had kind of an androgynous look that wasn’t threatening, that was safe and protecting. He seemed smart and kind and all the other things I thought would make the perfect life partner.

Then one day, Rolling Stone Magazine featured an article about David and he appeared nude on the cover—and in the centerfold. I was flabbergasted. I was probably 14 or 15 at the time. The bubble of naïveté that encased my fantasy wasn’t just popped, it was sliced into a million pieces by shards of cold, thick glass and lay hemorrhaging at my feet.

I remember sitting on the floor in the drugstore and reading the article. I couldn’t tear my eyes from the words, “Aw shit man, take drugs,” and the words that spelled out what a “great fuck” he was and much more.

I bought the magazine and took it home with tears running down my face. It couldn’t be! This perfect man—he was all a lie???? Something the TV show and the fan magazines all constructed?

It was inconceivable to me that anyone would make up blatant lies about someone and pass them off as “the truth.” The media had me believing that David’s favorite books were “The Godfather” and “Siddhartha.” Reading “Siddhartha” made me believe that David was a deep thinker and it only endeared him to me more. Reading “The Godfather” at 14 caused me permanent mental damage.

Either way, David Cassidy became an important part of my life, of my newly-forming ideas of what love was all about. I had no concept of sex back then. I really was that naive.

After reading the Rolling Stone article, David was dead to me and I mourned for a very long time. I remember my dad using the experience to teach me that David was a human being just like the rest of us, something my young mind refused to accept.

But to this day, I still love to listen to some of Cassidy’s old songs—the ones where he croons in his soft breathy voice about making me his, and trips to my father’s summer cabin and holding me in his arms—being together. Impressionable young girls take these things personally. At least I did.

And now, seeing what a disgraceful performance he gave on that recent video, I am embarrassed for him. I know that his dad was an alcoholic and that he perished in a fire started from his lit cigarette which he dropped while sitting in a chair because he was too drunk to move.

I also know that David has been arrested for several DUIs and has been to rehab to help him overcome his addiction to alcohol. He apparently has a few issues, but then, who doesn’t?

I heard David, himself, say that those who managed him took full advantage of him, that he never got a cut of any of the paraphernalia with his name and picture on it—books, lunchboxes, bubblegum cards, pillow cases, you name it. I don’t know if any of that is true, nor will I ever. I do know, because Cassidy has said it many times, that he felt he could never measure up to his father’s standards—it seemed that Jack Cassidy was jealous of his son’s fame and fortune—and nothing David could ever do was good enough to earn his father’s love.

It just goes to prove that he is a person just like the rest of us. Just because someone is famous doesn’t mean they are happy or have it all together mentally. I can think of many examples, among them—Michael Jackson and Robin Williams. They had all the talent in the world, and money and admiration, but they had issues. Serious issues.

This leads me back to love.

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I based my idea of what love should be, on false impressions of a person I didn’t even know. And now that I’m older, I wonder if those ideas were really what love should be or if they were simply unrealistic fantasies of a young mind. Let me see if I can explain.

So if I have these raw, untainted emotions as a child, are those more authentic simply because they aren’t based on preconceived notions of what something should be? Or are they just fantasies? And, in any case, aren’t these the sorts of emotions that make artists great? Baring one’s soul and raw feelings and observances of the world in a way that provides a connection to others? The fact that the message conveyed is universal?

(To be continued next week…)

 

One Sky

 

img_2815If I could have slept the entire day away today, I would have.

You see, today was the day, eleven years ago, that my wonderful father left this world. Less than two months later, my mother died of a broken heart. And while my grief will never completely dissipate, losing the ones I love forced me to look at life in a new way.

I’m more tolerant than I used to be, and I see the many ways we all take our blessings for granted, how we fight amongst ourselves to prove who’s right, when, when it all comes down to it, what difference does it really make? We are all colors that make up one, beautiful rainbow. One sky.

I’d like to tell people to allow others their own opinions and beliefs, to forgive those who may have wronged us, to let go of all the petty bullshit we fight over…

…to just be kind. To the earth, to animals and to each other.

I’d like to tell people to hold those you love close, to hug them, tell them that you love them, spend as much time with them as possible. Call them on the phone once in a while. But don’t wait to make that phone call or to get together with them because you’re too busy at the moment. Cliché; yes, I know, but so very true.

Today I wait on pins and needles for the phone to buzz with a call or a text announcing the death of my favorite aunt, Marilyn. She had a stroke a few days ago, and all I’ve been getting are brief texts from my cousin asking for prayers, but I have no real information other than the few words she sent me yesterday, telling me that her mom suffered a massive stroke and that she isn’t going to recover. She said that her mom isn’t responsive other than an occasional squeezing of their hands and that it’s going to be a matter of days. I have so many more emotions than just feeling heartbroken.

Eleven years ago, along with her two remaining brothers, my dear Aunt Marilyn made the inconvenient trip on Christmas Eve, to attend my dad’s funeral. I’ll never forget what she said to me. In the kindest, most loving tone, she told me, “Isn’t it wonderful? Jack is in heaven with Jesus to celebrate His birthday!” She meant Christmas. She wasn’t being superficial; she truly believed it to be the biggest honor bestowed on a human being.

And now, here she is, getting ready to celebrate Christmas in heaven with Jesus too. I pray with all my heart that she isn’t in any pain, but for my own selfish reasons, I also hope she will at least wait until tomorrow if she has to leave this world because this date is one of the worst memories of my life.

In my imagination, I can feel my dad’s spirit hovering over his dear sister’s bedside, and the spirits of her husband, who died when all their kids were still little, leaving my aunt to raise four kids all by herself in the ‘70s, something I always respected her for. I can feel the spirits of her other brothers who preceded her in death as well—my uncles. And the spirits of her wonderful parents, my grandparents—all waiting to welcome her into their arms and into the arms of Jesus and the angels, because that is her belief, and to stand in the shining presence of her Lord and God this Christmas Day.

But I am sad beyond words, for having to lose those whom I adored with all my heart. And it seems even worse for these things to happen at Christmastime—a time that for me, used to be the happiest time of the year, a time to celebrate those I love with all my heart. I still do, but there’s a huge hole in my heart for those whose physical presence had become part of my identity and made me feel whole.

I love you, Aunt Marilyn.

I love you, Dad. (And Mom.) I miss you so very much.

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Another Name for Fear

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I’m tired of living in fear.

I was taking a shower recently, when suddenly, those words popped into my mind. It was almost as if someone had whispered them into my ear, as if it were a new concept I’d never considered before, and my brain took the notion and ran with it. Thoughts tumbled out of me faster than the warm water washing over my skin—all the ways I lived in fear, commencing with my childhood religious lessons, which, incidentally, probably effected my psyche more than just about anything, beginning with the ubiquitous FEAR THE LORD which absolutely HAD to be at the very top of my list.

And then came:
fear of failure
fear of terrorist attacks
and tornados, earthquakes, floods and fires;

fear of having my identity stolen
fear of being in a car accident
of being alone
or misunderstood;

fear of having people know too much about me because they might not like me if they knew the real me,
fear of thinking that my health issues are with me forever just because I’ve had some of them for a very long time;

fear of not being in control
of pissing people off
fear of not having enough money,

fear of not being an effective teacher, speaker, guide, writer,
of not being a good enough wife, mom, grandma, sister, daughter, friend, citizen…

And as these fears tumbled out of my brain, my brain also said, Damn! Do I really have that many fears inside of me? I was under the impression that I’d been doing a pretty good job of managing my fears, my limiting beliefs, but apparently, there are things still imbedded deep in my soul that continue to have me by the throat. And I bet if I thought about it even a little bit longer, I could come up with a whole bunch more.

No wonder I feel like I’ve got one foot nailed to the floor; my fear is keeping me from moving forward. Believe it or not, there is also the fear of achieving one’s goals; I could probably add that one to my list as well. You know, because if you achieve your goals, what then? You’ll be a different person! You’ll have responsibilities you never knew existed! It’s safer and less-stressful to remain miserable.

Well, I’m tired of living in fear. It is not serving me. It has no positive ramifications. Anthony Robbins said, “Life is found in the dance between your deepest desire and your greatest fear.”

I love that quote. To me, that almost makes it sound as if fear and desire are made of the same stuff—just on opposite ends of the spectrum—and could very well be true. They are, perhaps, two flavors of the same sweetness, which is why it seems there’s a fine line between the desire to do something that elicits fear, in spite of the fact that it is terribly exciting—and the ability to exhibit self-control no matter how tempting the sweet, because in the end, the long-term payoff (living in fear) is sweeter than the temporary desire. And by desire here, I mean the desire to achieve your goal, or your lifelong dreams.

How can fear be sweeter than doing something one desires? Desire, combined with fear, is exhilarating, enticing. Which is why people do stuff like jump out of airplanes, go bungee-jumping or parasailing, ride rollercoasters, drive fast cars, etc. because it’s an acceptable way of doing something that goes against our better judgment of remaining safe at all costs. Under normal conditions, it’s against the law to drive too fast, to jump off a bridge or a mountain because if any of these things were done without safety gear, the result, obviously, is death.

Like desire, fear is intoxicating, but it is also suffocating. Fear seduces us with its lies, then slithers into our minds like a serpent made of black smoke, then it smothers us. Like smoking, or a drug, it feels so fine as we suck it into our lungs and blow it out–in and out, in and out–and all the while thinking it’s comforting us, but before we know it, it rules us. Fear is a rotten, lying, deceitful drug addiction, and I’m so angry with myself for allowing it to control me all these years.

Not any more, baby.

From now on, I choose to use fear, not as a means to cause me to freeze in my tracks, to back off, or to run and hide, but as an opportunity to look at things from a new perspective. I’m going to use fear as a signal that I need to change my thoughts, my beliefs and my emotions instead of allowing them to control me.

I’m going to use my fear to change my life for the better. Methinks it will be a lifelong process, but then, that’s what life is for—learning and growing, and sharing what we’ve learned.

Cheers.

Rocker Lita Ford Rocks My World

IMG_2107I wish I could bottle the feeling inside of me right now and give you all a big swig. I apologize if this post is fraught with incongrity; I am still high from what happened the other night, but I wanted to share it right away while the feeling was fresh within me. WHAT A FEELING!!!! An effervescent, sparkling, dizzy, fizzy, in-love type of ecstasy!

Friday night, I met the indomitable Lita Ford.

How is it that rock stars can make me feel this way? Is it their celebrity status and the fact that they sometimes take time for little ol’ me? Is it their music? Music has to be the most effective tool in the universe for transmitting feelings and emotions—those of power, or those of destruction and depression. Those of helplessness or those of joy, accomplishment, self-confidence and of making a difference in the world. Like that of a true friend, holding your hand when you’re down and celebrating your achievements when you’re higher than a kite with joy. I’m not talking about drug use here. I’m talking about the sort of high that comes from living life to its fullest and appreciating every strand of it.

I can’t imagine my life without music.

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So… The rep from my publishing house contacted me the other day and told me that rocker Lita Ford, former award-winning guitarist of The Runaways, had just published her new memoir, Living Like a Runaway. He said that she and I wrote about many of the same things—abuse, rock and roll, the deaths of our parents, and a rebirth and re-emergence of sorts because of rock music, coupled with a burning desire to bring awareness to the issue of the crippling jaws of abuse and to make a difference in the world. Of course there are differences between Lita and me, I mean, she’s a rock star; I’m just a small town author, but we also know a few of the same people.

The world is a funny and small place sometimes, and I’ve learned, through the writing of my book, that celebrities are people just like the rest of us. However, the other night, when I offered to give Lita a copy of my book, Dance of the Electric Hummingbird, and she asked me to sign it for her, offering me her silver, thick-tipped sharpie and I went to write, my hand was shaking so badly I could hardly write. The thoughts going through my mind were, “I’m writing her name—To Lita!” and “There are a lot of people behind me in line and I’m taking up too much of her time. I shouldn’t!”

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But she didn’t seem to be in a hurry. We chatted for quite a while, and I felt like I could have talked to her for much longer than I did.

When I mentioned some of the things we had in common, and that my book was fully endorsed by rock star Sammy Hagar, she seemed impressed. When I told her that I, too, had been abused by my first husband, I could see the compassion and sorrow in her eyes. When I mentioned the names of a few of the people we both knew, she laughed. She knew exactly who they were, and she gave me a message to deliver to one of them.

“Breathe, Pat,” I reminded myself.

Okay, so I’m on the fringes of this rock music business; I’m not on the inside and that’s okay. I’m not trying to get on the inside. I honestly don’t want to be in the limelight, but I wouldn’t mind my work speaking for itself. However, I find it fascinating that I am where I am. Before any of this stuff happened to me (the events I wrote about in Dance), I was just a stay-at-home mom quietly raising three teenage sons in suburbia, driving them to soccer practice and viola lessons in my minivan and finding innovative ways to combine Bisquick with whatever I had in the freezer to make something for dinner each night that bore at least a slight resemblance to a healthy meal that tasted good. As Sammy Hagar so eloquently put it, “Pat was just a fucking housewife; she had nothing going on!” Ahem. Well…

While I was waiting in line for Lita to sign her book the other night, I met a man from San Diego named Robert Yehling. Bob is also an author, and he had planned to give Lita a copy of his book, Stevie Salas: When We Were the Boys that he co-wrote with rock musician Stevie Salas. Bob told me that he had been a journalist and had interviewed a lot of rock stars. He’d also ghostwritten many books for and with them.

My heart began to sing! I want to do this too! Right now, my book, Dance of the Electric Hummingbird, is lying on my garage-sale-purchased, pitted and beat-up wooden desk all by itself, (on top of all the clutter, I mean) and it’s been screaming for a companion for a very long time. I still get letters from readers all over the world telling me that my book changed their lives and asking me when I’m going to write another. And I need to because something is churning inside of me like a volcano ready to explode.

Chatting with Bob, I began to feel like I’d known him for years. He said I needed to get my book on the shelves at the Tattered Cover Bookstore in Denver (which is like THE biggest bookstore in Colorado; it’s like OD’ing on books for a book junkie) and proceeded to introduce me to one of the managers there so we could begin to make that happen. Bob said that he and I should do some book signings together since we both wrote about rock music themes. I replied, “YES! Let’s DO this!!!”With Robert Yehling

At the end of the evening, Bob and I bought each other’s books and had each other sign them, vowing that we would keep in touch. Holding each other’s books, we posed next to the poster of Lita Ford.

By the time I walked out of the Tattered Cover, I was so high, that my friend Carol, who was with me, had to catch me before I stepped off the curb into oncoming traffic as I went to cross the street. If I’d been hit by a car that night, I don’t think I would have even felt it; it would have bounced right off me.

I didn’t get the chance to tell Lita everything I wanted to tell her. I wanted to tell her how I plan to donate copies of my book to women’s shelters and women’s organizations to demonstrate to abused women that they don’t deserve to be treated like that. To show them that there is hope, and that they have a choice. My book is the perfect example of how I went from being a victim of severe abuse to realizing my lifelong dream of being a writer, and if I can do it, so can everyone else.

But even if I never hear from Lita again, what she gave me Friday night is something I will never forget. I mean, a big star asking me to sign my book at the expense of taking up time for all those other people in line. Of her taking the time to connect with me… I felt like a star myself.

Sammy Hagar has made me feel like this before too—many times. If you haven’t read my book, you should. It’s all in there.

How I wish I could bottle this feeling and share it with you. Everyone deserves to feel this way at least once in his or her life, an ecstasy resulting from hard work, accomplishment, perseverance and from a belief in one’s self that transcends reality, combined with being recognized for having done so.

Here’s to YOUR joy! Cheers!

Order Lita’s book here: Living Like A Runaway

Lita is raising awareness for this cause: Parental Alienation

Order Robert Yehling’s book here: When We Were the Boys

All That Matters

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This is Honey. She is now about four-and-a-half months old. We adopted her from a local animal rescue organization about two months ago. All we know for sure about her is that she was rescued from a high kill shelter in NM. The rest, we can only speculate.

Last week, I took Honey to visit the family who fostered her when she was 9 weeks old, right before we adopted her. I’d never been to their house before, but when I pulled up in front of the house and put my car in park, Honey’s tail started wagging like crazy. She started whining and climbing all over me (she weighs close to 40 lbs. now); she could hardly wait to get out of the car. She never behaves this way when I take her for rides in the car.

She remembered! The house, the people. How could a four-and-a-half-month old puppy remember something that happened when she was 9 weeks old? Nine weeks?! I get goosebumps just writing this.

Some people think that animals are stupid, that non-human lives don’t really matter because, well, they’re just animals. (Same with our natural resources—our water, our air, our forests and deserts—we often take these things for granted as well.) But just because animals can’t use human words to communicate, they certainly can, and do, demonstrate their feelings and intelligence through body language, perception and instinct. I’ve always known this to be true, but I guess it never hit me so strongly as it did when my puppy obviously recognized the family who was kind to her and who so unselfishly became her stepping-stone to a better life.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again—love is all that matters. Not just love for our families and friends and those who are easy and convenient to love, but also for those who suffer from abuse and neglect, for those in poverty, for those in other countries, for those who think, pray, look, and live differently than us, for the weak, the dying, the depressed, the mentally ill, and for those who cannot speak for themselves but who are forced to live at the mercy of the rest of us—animals, children, the elderly, the severely disabled.

Hug your dog or cat or horse today. Your children. Your spouse. Your parents. Your grandparents. Your friends. And perhaps do something kind for someone you don’t even know, because obviously, even animals never forget kindness.

Love truly is. All. That. Matters.

Hope Opens Doors

 

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

I’ve never suffered from depression, but very recently, I found myself teetering on the edge and I wanted to share this story because lots of people suffer from depression. You see, two years ago, I had surgery on my ankle to repair a shredded posterior tibialis tendon (the tendon that goes under your arch and up the inside of your leg). It was a traumatic experience and the recovery has been long and painful.

A few weeks ago, I went back to see my doctor because I still have pain and swelling in my ankle. She told me that the surgery had obviously not accomplished what we had hoped, and asked how I felt about having more surgery, the procedure we should have done the first time, but because it was even more extensive with twice the recovery time, I opted for the less invasive one. It was now apparent that I had made the wrong choice.

Sitting there in the doctor’s office with my swollen, bare foot dangling off the edge of the table, the thought of having to undergo more surgery instantly plunged me into a suffocating darkness. I’ve had surgeries before, and my body does not take kindly to being cut on and stitched back together. It’s always a traumatic experience for me. Besides, there were no guarantees that the more extensive surgery would correct the problem either.

Returning home from my appointment, the crawling, bleeding, agonizing darkness sunk even deeper into me like thick black tar invading my soul. For days, I cried. I drank too much. I slept too much. I ate all the bad food I could get my hands on. I became lethargic. I couldn’t think. I felt very, very sorry for myself. I just knew that I was destined to be a cripple for the rest of my life. All I wanted to do was divorce myself from this rotten, messed-up body that keeps failing me. On the other hand, I had enough foresight to realize that if I didn’t watch it, I could slip into a bonafide clinical depression and I could see how easy it would be to go there, because the bad news was just one more addition to an already long list of negative and serious issues I’d been dealing with, so this new information didn’t just cause me to focus on foot surgery, it caused me to view my entire life through a lens of how terrible everything was. And I teach workshops on how to live the life of your dreams! How could I be an effective teacher if I was seeing nothing but the things that were wrong with me and my life?

But I was so down, I couldn’t see any way to pull myself out of the darkness, plus all those thoughts about not being an effective teacher only made me feel worse about myself. I needed to get my shit together somehow because I was sinking. Fast.

A friend then recommended a physical therapist in Boulder who specializes in foot and ankle issues as well as scoliosis. I knew I had scoliosis, and I wondered if perhaps that could be exacerbating my foot issues. My foot doctor concurred.

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Photo courtesy of Pixabay

Yesterday I went to see the new PT. She looked at the x-rays of my spine—curved in two places—nice. She checked my flexibility and told me that my foot issues were likely caused by my scoliosis, and even if I were to have more surgery on my foot, it probably wouldn’t solve the problem. She said that we needed to treat the whole body–not just one area, and very likely the foot issues would resolve themselves in the process. Wait.  Seriously? A small light went on inside my heart. Was she saying there was hope?

She told me that my tendon was good and strong, which was encouraging because my initial thoughts had been that the surgery had all been for nothing–a total waste of time, money and pain. But the surgery didn’t go so far as to determine the cause, which was now becoming obvious—scoliosis was causing me to put pressure on the arch of my foot, hence the pain and swelling. Ah ha! An explanation that made sense!

The PT gave me a few suggestions to try in dealing with my posture and they helped instantly. She told me that she was optimistic that their unique program for scoliosis patients could help me live a normal life again because it had helped lots of people from all over the world. It helped my friend.

I felt hope rise inside of me like a gentle kiss of summer rain—a kind of hope that had previously seemed unlikely at best. Suddenly, the world looked brighter and all my problems, not just my foot issues, but all my problems and fears seemed manageable. Tears ran from my eyes—tears of hope that I could be pain-free again. Oh my gosh! What pure joy that would be!

Hope. Opens. Doors. Hope gives us the tools to keep going when all seems lost.

I can’t remember when I haven’t had pain, and just to have hope that that day is coming, for real this time… I can’t even begin to tell you how much this means to me, especially when I saw myself spiraling down into the quicksand of depression and all because I didn’t realize there was another option besides more excruciating surgery.

Sure, it’s easy to think positive when things are going fairly well; it’s a lot harder when suddenly the ground gets pulled out from beneath you due to the unexpected death of a loved one, a serious health issue, or any number of other things. Hope moves mountains. It gives us the strength to take another step.

Please know that no matter how terrible or dark things may seem, there’s always another option, and that’s the reason I wanted to share my story. Because although it may not always be apparent, if we keep looking and don’t give up, we will find the perfect solution, maybe something even better than we ever could have imagined and perhaps in a place we never thought to look.

There’s hope for everyone. There’s love for everyone. There are good things for everyone because there’s enough for all of us; the Universe (and our minds) are only limited by our thoughts. Please don’t ever give up.

 

I’m Through Apologizing

sad alone woman in fieldAll my life, I never thought I was “enough”–not good enough, pretty enough, smart enough, tough enough, cool enough, whatever-the-latest-something-is enough. And because of that, I always found myself apologizing. I think a lot of us do that–apologize incessantly. I know I did it (and still do) because, God forbid, I disobey the rules or either accidentally or on purpose, (gasp) break the rules!

As some of you know, I wrote a memoir called “Dance of the Electric Hummingbird,” and in it, I bared my soul. It was perhaps one of the toughest things I’ve ever done–reveal to complete strangers personal details about my life, what I think, how I feel, and what I’ve done. Whenever one publishes something for the public, one opens one’s self to ridicule and judgment, and I don’t know about you, but the last thing I needed was someone else judging me when I already did a fine job of it on myself.

Before my book came out, my publisher had a hard time classifying which category it fell into. Was it best presented as New Age? Self Help? Spirituality? Music? Memoir?

All of these. Because, you see, I do not fit into any one category. (And neither do you.) I was under the impression that most spiritual books were written by authors who were so clean and nice that sugar could melt in their mouths. Well, that’s not me. I cuss sometimes. I have tattoos. I have my share of bad days where no matter what I do, nothing seems to go right.

In other words, I am human.

I thought that I should have to be like those other authors who were perfect all the time—and that I should never, ever have a bad day, and if I did, I surely would never let the public know about it. I wrote a book and got it published; that was a big accomplishment and people looked up to me. I had to set a good example; I had to put forth a positive image all the time and always do the right thing. Bullshit! That takes too much energy; and the older I get, the more I value having energy because tomorrow something mental or physical might hurt too much to warrant my even getting out of bed!

I have since learned to accept and embrace who I am—imperfectly perfect, or perfectly imperfect, however you want to look at it. And I’m here to tell you that you don’t have to be pure and saintly and positive 100% of the time to be a spiritual person, or to find self-realization or self-fulfillment or to make a positive contribution to the world. You are already perfect just the way you are. Uh huh, I said it.

Since I’ve already shared so much about myself, I figured why not share some more? Because by sharing parts of ourselves with the world, it lets others know that they are not alone and that, right there, is empowering. And since it’s my goal to help others discover their personal paths to self-realization, all I can do is point the way to “The Way,” then it’s up to them to find their own truths.

There’s a Zen saying that goes:

The way to enlightenment is like a finger pointing at the moon. If you focus on the finger, you won’t see the moon.

kickboxing silhouette

So here goes. I’m done apologizing:

  • for going out in public wearing sandals without painting my toenails (“Suck it, Trebek!”)
  • for wearing jeans and T-shirts and sometimes too-short shorts
  • for having tattoos and piercings
  • for no longer subscribing to all the tenets of the religion in which I was raised and for picking and choosing bits and pieces of other religions and philosophies to put together my personal spiritual belief system.
  • for saying “bad” words and laughing at dirty jokes
  • for not buying into your political stance or religion—and by the way—I don’t judge you; you’re entitled to your own opinion, just as I am
  • for believing that dreams really do come true
  • for being naive and unworldly sometimes
  • for being open-minded to a fault sometimes
  • for my shoes not matching my purse (or sometimes not even matching each other! Yeah, it’s happened.)
  • for practicing (and loving) the “unladylike” martial art of taekwondo
  • for liking kim-chee, merlot, good tequila, strong coffee, any sort of potatoes and milk chocolate (white chocolate is NOT chocolate in my opinion!)
  • for believing that gays and lesbians deserve the same rights as everyone else
  • for believing that women should be allowed to be priests and that priests should be allowed to marry and have families
  • for not wanting to eat or drink from anything made of plastic
  • for believing that there are good people and not-so-good people of every race, color and creed
  • for believing in magic and miracles
  • for playing my music too loud
  • for having a special place in my heart for bikers (the kind who ride motorcycles, have tattoos, and wear leather and do-rags)
  • for not always wearing the right clothes for the right occasion, i.e. overdressed for a casual event or underdressed for a special event—clothes just aren’t that important to me
  • for loving, loving, LOVING heavy metal music (the raunchier the better) and rock, hip hop, blues, and classical
  • for NOT loving the music of Celine Dion
  • for dancing or singing when I feel like it—so what if I’m no good? Don’t watch!
  • for focusing all my love on my family and friends—they come first
  • for your misunderstanding of what I said
  • for not needing a gazillion dollars to make me happy
  • for loving the smell, the feel, the sounds, and the sight of everything having to do with horses
  • for celebrating Christmas, Halloween, Easter and the Fourth of July
  • for abhorring sitcoms wherein is piped that insipid canned laughter. Ugh!
  • for believing in God, angels, saints, spirits and ghosts, and my Higher Self
  • for not presenting home-cooked meals in an artful manner—as long as it tastes good, who cares if it’s on a pretty plate? Serve yourself out of the saucepan. There’s less cleanup that way
  • or if you stay overnight at my house, your towels and bedding may not be color-coordinated, but I’ll give you the best I’ve got and they will be fresh and clean and super-comfortable!
  • for being nostalgic and romantic
  • for being able to relate to Eastern philosophies so much more than to most Western philosophies
  • for my house being messy if you drop over unexpectedly—I have a little plaque in my kitchen that reads “I cleaned my house yesterday. Wish you could have seen it!”
  • for spending too much time writing
  • for loving philosophy and deep conversations
  • for needing to feel appreciated
  • for spending countless hours just watching my babies sleep when they were newborns
  • for loving babies of any kind—human, canine, feline, equine, you name it
  • for thinking too much—mulling things over and over and over in my mind until I make myself nauseous (and believe me, that can take a looooooong time)
  • for being overly sensitive
  • for believing that people are innately good
  • for getting older
  • for wearing clothes that are “too young” for me. I love distressed jeans.
  • for enjoying reading about sex, writing about sex, talking about sex and engaging in sex
  • for hugging you full on, and with my entire being. It’s not sexual—I really do love you that much.
  • for telling you how good-looking, smart, or wonderful you are. It’s not a ploy; I sincerely mean it.
  • for believing that no one has the right to hurt another person or animal
  • for believing in the power of prayer
  • for using meditation and other methods of tapping into my mind and spirit
  • for believing that elderly people deserve respect
  • for knowing that “you” do not end with the death of your physical body
  • for being patriotic and loving my country
  • for believing that God is both male and female at the same time
  • for mourning my dear parents who have passed on
  • for teaching my kids to have manners
  • for having respect for those in my life, not just because they’re in a position of authority or because they’re famous, but because in my opinion, they earned it
  • for believing that every woman has the right to choose what happens to her body
  • for being needy for no apparent reason
  • for being kinky for no apparent reason
  • for being silly for no apparent reason
  • for needing to hear you say that you love me
  • for spending too much money on my kids and grandkids and spoiling them rotten. Isn’t that what kids and grandkids are for?
  • for drinking too much tequila sometimes (although not for a long time)
  • for loving you first, before I even know you, and giving you the benefit of the doubt until I am convinced that you don’t deserve it (and it takes a LOT for me to determine that you don’t deserve it)
  • for loving you too much. I don’t believe there is such a thing as loving too much
  • for trying to please/feed/clothe/house/protect you too much
  • for not wanting to be in the company of those who put others down
  • for not being phony. Yeah, I’d like breast implants, a butt lift, botox and a tummy tuck, but I’ll deal with what I’ve got. (However, I might be able to be persuaded on a few of those things…)
  • for not laughing at your racial jokes
  • for wearing my heart on my sleeve
  • for not holding down a regular 9 to 5 job—I’m a writer
  • for being a stay-at-home mom when my kids were growing up
  • for being friends with people you don’t approve of
  • for asking too many questions
  • for buying too many books (There’s no such thing as “too many” books.)
  • for anything I’ve said here that may seem contradictory
  • for anything I’ve said here that may offend you

Now—your turn. It’s a new year. What are you through apologizing for?

tiger face

Ode to My Dad

Snow Geese in Flight at Sunset

One life touches so many others: my Dad loved
his country
John Wayne and Jim Beam
my mom
carving waterfowl out of wood
camping
antelope hunting
goose hunting
elk hunting
fishing
telling stories and corny jokes,
restoring antique automobiles
taking home videos
baked macaroni and cheese topped with bread crumbs
German chocolate cake
smoking his pipe
watching wild birds
John Denver
WWII movies
God
his family
his church
cookies
Lay’s potato chips
his Ford F250 pickup truck, midnight blue
backpacking in the mountains
Dickies pants
Frank Sinatra
Patsy Kline
Johnny Cash
The Denver Broncos
Jerry Clower
old-time musicals like “South Pacific,” “Oklahoma,” “The Music Man,” and                   “The Carousel”
Chet Atkins, Hank Williams, Sr. and Waylon Jennings
classic poems
his grandsons
and me.

I miss you, Daddy.

I am Jazzed!

Since returning from my month-long book tour recently, I hit the ground running; but it’s all been good. No, not just good, INCREDIBLE! (This is what happens when you follow the path you’re meant to travel in life.)

The weekend of June 23-25, I participated in INATS (International New Age Trade Show) in Denver. What a fantastic experience.

I did a book signing on Saturday, then got to work the booth with my publisher, Robert Friedman of Rainbow Ridge Books and his friend Beth. Bob has published many famous authors, including Richard Bach (“Jonathan Livingston Seagull”) and Neale Donald Walsch (“Conversations with God”), so to be in the company of such accomplished talent is a tremendous honor for me.

Another highlight of the weekend was speaking with representatives from the Self-Realization Fellowship based out of Los Angeles, CA, the organization pioneered by Paramahansa Yogananda, whom I wrote about in my book. I hope to visit to the center some day.

I also hooked up with the good people at Satiama.com and am excited to announce that they will soon be offering my book for sale through their website. (I’ll keep you posted on that.) At Satiama, they dedicate themselves to “Enhancing Life’s Journey” in many ways, so it is a thrill to have them selling my book. Please check out their website; there’s something there for everyone, including children.

I also had several people tell me that I would be very successful in my life and that I would write a lot of books. They said they saw me speaking before large audiences and that I would be a leader and an inspiration to millions! Millions! That’s hard for me to fathom.

In retrospect, I guess the most important thing I got from the three-day event was the ability to finally accept my role as a leader, a role in which I have previously felt uncomfortable and inadequate to assume, because even after all the incredible things that have happened to me, I’m still skeptical sometimes. I call it “keeping my feet on the ground.” But being around all those wonderful people energized me and made me realize that I have to stay true to my purpose in life, and that is to be ME!

And I don’t know about you, but I’m drawn like a moth to a flame to that which energizes me anyway. When it feels like it would take more effort to resist than to accept the path that seems laid out for me—that which motivates me and brings me joy—and comes to me so effortlessly, maybe that’s my first clue that God or the Universe is telling me that it may not be in my highest good to resist. And that I should trust myself to recognize what’s right for me.

Blessings of love and light.

 

On the Road Again…

I just returned home late last Sunday night after a 15½ hour drive from Wisconsin and nearly a month on the road promoting my book. And being the writing-type person I am, I feel I have to sort out my feelings and the lessons I learned along the way, so thus far, I have 16 pages scribbled in my notebook.

Nevertheless, if I had to sum up the trip in one word, I’d have to call it “bittersweet.” And if I had to name the most important lesson I learned from it, it would have to be that I need to be more patient and humble and less selfish. Now I’m not a selfish person by nature, but I sure learned some humility on that trip.

The first stop was South Lake Tahoe, California, where my husband and I attended two concerts by Chickenfoot and I did a book signing at the beautiful Marcus-Ashley Fine Art Gallery. I sold quite a few copies of “Dance of the Electric Hummingbird” that day, and Sammy Hagar personally bought all the books I didn’t sell at the signing. He had me autograph them and I was told that he was going to add his autograph to the books and sell them in the Cabo Wabo gift shop there in Tahoe. He also gave me a shout-out during both shows. There was no lack of humility on my part in those instances.

I returned home for a few days, then attended the Chickenfoot concert in Denver. It was Chickenfoot’s next stop on their US tour, and Sammy gave me another shout-out or two during the show. Again, no lack of humility on my part there either. I was deeply honored.

The following weekend, I did a book signing at Barnes & Noble in Denver and there was also a pretty good turn-out there. One of my fans actually traveled all the way from the UK to attend my book signing! How can I relate what an honor that was? No bitter stuff yet–all sweet!

The next week, I found myself on an airplane headed for La Crosse, Wisconsin to visit friends and do a book signing there. After that, my friend and I hopped in the car and drove. Forever. We were headed for St. Louis, Missouri. Enter the much-needed patience and requisite selflessness.

The mid-west is tantalizingly beautiful: mile after mile of rolling, green hills, magnificent trees, farmhouses with barns and cattle lolling in the sun, deer on the hillsides and gorgeous evenings where the shadows are long and warm and intoxicating like the scent of the trees and the freshly-mown hay. And mile after mile there are small towns that look exactly alike with their main street churches, houses with birdbaths in the front yards, gratuitous gas station/general stores and small parks and cemeteries festooned with American flags because it was Memorial Day weekend. There were always one or two cars on the road, but other than that, the streets were pretty much vacant. And calm. Like the fast-approaching nightfall.

I loved it. Loved the tranquility and the small-town feeling. I grew up in small towns. But as our 8 hour drive to St. Louis began to approach 11 hours, I started to get impatient. And I sometimes worried that we might be traveling on the wrong road, especially since we were at the mercy of the GPS, which was fast becoming “affectionately” known as “Genevieve Partially-Correct Steward.” I think we saw every small town between La Crosse and St. Louis, and although we arrived at our destination when most people were likely in bed for the night, my friend and I got to see some incredibly beautiful countryside along the way. It was also my first lesson in cultivating more patience. You see, the roads didn’t always go through like Genevieve thought they did and she became quite distressed when she thought we were going the wrong way. And sometimes there were detours, or road construction or tractors pulling farm equipment that took up the entire two-lane highway. And sometimes deer would jump out in front of us, or there would be stop signs on every block in the 20-mph center of each small town. But it was all good. Patience, my dear. Isn’t that one of the Seven Virtues? If not, it should be.

After a few shots of Templeton rye and a fitful night’s sleep in cheap motel beds that were as comfortable as stacks of plywood (selflessness be damned; sometimes you just need a shot of good whiskey!) we then attended the Chickenfoot concert in St. Louis and had the privilege of riding to the show with friends in a huge Hummer limo. No extra humility needed on my part there. Wow. I felt like a celebrity. A very grateful one.

The concert was lots of fun and I got to rekindle old friendships; even made a few new ones. I also had the honor of being interviewed by Michael St. John of DRUMline, who happened to be waiting to interview Kenny Aronoff, the drummer of Chickenfoot. I told Mike about my book and he said he wanted to read it and write a review of it for his website, so he whipped out his camera and taped an interview with me on the spot. Very nice guy. I’ll let you know when the interview is posted online.

I then did a book signing at Barnes & Noble in Des Peres, Missouri, and there was a pretty good turn-out there as well.

Then came more traveling. My poor friend would wince every time we’d get in the car and I’d start singing Willie Nelson‘s “On the Road Again” but I just couldn’t help myself; it seemed so appropriate!

After another long drive, we paid a visit to my dad’s hometown. Dad grew up on the Mississippi River and I was only just beginning to get an appreciation of its might and its size as it wound and roared and slinked beside us at nearly every turn. I swear I felt Dad’s spirit everywhere—in the buildings, the streets, the riverboats, the locks and the dams. This was when the bittersweet feelings began to enter the picture.

The peak of bittersweet though, was visiting my aunt. Well, she isn’t technically my aunt; she was my mom’s best friend for almost 60 years. I have always loved her like a second mom. She’s 88 years old now and lives in an assisted living facility.

It had been a long time since I’d seen her—years before my mom died—and I knew she probably wasn’t going to be around much longer herself. So I just had to see her.

My friend and I walked into her room and there she sat, like a cherished, long lost spirit from the past–the last-remaining human aspect of my youth and connection to my mom. My heart leapt in my chest. She was sitting in an overstuffed chair next to a window that overlooked the parking lot–a few figurines displayed on the window ledge. Next to her was her walker within easy reach, the TV remote and her basket of yarn with a half-crocheted blue and yellow baby blanket in it. To my friend and me, it felt like it was about a hundred and fifty degrees in the room, but my aunt was wearing a cream-colored thick sweater and a pendant which was really just a button to push in case she fell. And although she suffered a stroke about a year earlier and had trouble speaking, she was sharp as a tack, which is maybe not such a good thing, bless her heart. Maybe it’s better for the mind to go before the body, I don’t know. Because if you still have your mind, and you’re 88 years old and can’t walk and you’re living in a facility like that, what have you got to look forward to besides dying? At least that was the feeling I got from her.

“It’s hell to get old,” she told me as if it were an apology. Her eyes were full of love, but at the same time, I could tell she felt embarrassed for me to see her like that. My heart broke like a flower opening only to wilt as quickly as it had bloomed..

I wanted to spend entire days with her, reminiscing and telling her how much I loved her. I wanted to tell her all about my grandkids and what my sons were up to. I wanted to hear about her life and how she felt about her circumstances because I could sense all the emotions she fought to keep in check.  And I wanted to ask her what I could do to help make things a little better for her, but it wasn’t long before I could see that she was growing tired.

So I hugged her, but it was difficult because I had to contort myself in order to reach her in her chair. I didn’t want to hug her like that. I wanted to hug her full on–feel her body against mine and send her all the love I had for her like a blood transfusion. I knew I would probably never see her again and she knew it too. She said it several times. Then I kissed her wrinkled face as tears ran from my eyes. I didn’t want her to see them, but I couldn’t stop them. She had always been so good to me, like a treasured second mother.

Here was where the real humility came in. Jesus, I have nothing to complain about.

I wished so badly that I could take her home to live with me, but I had also planned on taking her out for dinner, and she wouldn’t even leave her room for that. “Bittersweet” flowed like the Mississippi River into every cell in my body.

And that was another lesson I learned on my trip–that things don’t always go to plan. Sometimes you have to accept what IS and allow life to come to you instead of always trying to control things. And sometimes you have to stand back meekly as you watch those you love fall because despite all your plans and well-meaning intentions, there is nothing you can do to help them; they have made their own choices.

Maybe this is the truest test of love–you feel it with all your might and that love carries you through–no matter how hopeless things may seem.

The trip wasn’t all bittersweet though; there were sweet moments too, like getting to visit friends and relatives–not to mention the cheese. You can’t visit Wisconsin and not O.D. on cheese; at least I can’t–cheese curds, smoked cheese, aged cheese, string cheese, Swiss, cheddar, brick, Havarti… you name it, they have it. And cheese heads. Everywhere. (They’re very loyal Packers fans. We even paid a visit to Lambeau Field, home of the Green Bay Packers.) And their sausage, bratwurst and local beers are to die for. Seriously, these people know how to eat and drink! It’s good for the soul sometimes.

And speaking of souls, my soul must be restored and over-the-top now too because while I was there, I ate like there was no tomorrow. So much cheese, so little time… I’m not getting on the scale for weeks. So yes, my soul was restored in so many ways—bittersweet and now dancing like a hummingbird. (Well, after I lose a few pounds, that is!)