Locomotive Holidays and the Christmas Train

Santa Claus boarding a holiday decorated train

Loco Emotions

Have you noticed how emotions buildup steam around the holidays, emulating a runaway train? Far reaching stressors often halt the holiday joy ride — be it time with difficult personalities, over-spending, trying to mirror picture-perfect celebrations, too little rest, dashed hopes on a “Dear Santa List,” and of course alcohol consumption (usually in excess at this time of year). But those unscheduled stops don’t have to become your final holiday destination.  

Switching point of train tracks
Original photo by Frans Van Heerden from Pexels

Board the Observation Car

This may be a time of traditions but it can also be a time of breaking them. Are you the caboose chugging along well-worn tracks, or the engine choosing more fulfilling activities? Only you know how you feel around the family contrarian, when you over-indulge in special holiday treats, or struggle to pay bills. No matter when or how holiday difficulties appear, step back to see how to handle them differently, rather than traditionally.

 


Challenging opportunities can be unexpected sources of strength when initiating change to rise above them.


Photo by Joan You on Unsplash

Using the Communication Cord

When approaching a disquieting juncture, try the unfamiliar. Respond instead of react. Shorten the visit at difficult family get togethers. Politely walk away from an argumentative platform to an affable track. Prioritize time-sensitive tasks on the schedule, and include self-care on the timetable. Ask yourself if overloading on those tempting holiday sweets is worth risking diabetes. Good old fashioned discipline still works. Set a budget for gift giving and stick to it. Better yet, offer a gift from the heart. Most of all, be kind. To yourself and others.

love trainProven Tracks

A few sayings I find helpful, and particularly at this time of year:

  • Insanity is doing the same thing over and over again and expecting a different result.
  • Nothing changes if nothing changes.
  • Let it begin with me.

May your holidays fill your heart with joy, peace and love.

Olive branch
Olive branch photo by Janine Joles on Unsplash

Xing Out Holiday eXpectations

Christmas shopping list replaces expectations with gratitude

Want to have happier holidays?

Give up eXpectations.

Cross them right off the list and out of your mind.

Tell yourself you are going to be open and grateful for whatever comes along.

Play the game of life and look for the gift. No, not the ones tied with pretty bows sitting under the tree — the ones that are wrapped in all things, pleasant and not so pleasant. The ones not so readily seen. Simply adjust your sight to see.

The best gift you can give to yourself or anyone is Xing out eXpectations.

It’s free. No racking up credit card bills or standing in return lines — for anyone.

Set the tone, the jingle, the merry, the happy in your holiday.

It’s as easy as making a choice.


Xmas…the other meaning

When seeing an X in Christmas, use it as a reminder to eliminate those self-defeating and disappointing holiday eXpectations. You may find it’s one of your happiest holidays yet.


 

The Giving Circle

Black and white border collie lying in the snow intentlyawaiting a Frisbee toss

via The 2019 Christmas Charity Appeal – Help Me Raise £250 For Battersea Dogs & Cats Home By Leaving Me Links To Your Blogs and Books

As I’ve posted in the last few months, my beloved border collie Bess was the love of my life. She gave me 14.5 years of unconditional love, companionship, and fun. As I continue mourning her loss, I reach out for other canines (and four-legged friends) in need of help because there is no one to speak up for them.

At this giving time of year the tag line at the end of my e-mails asks folks to consider donating to a pet shelter. This morning, I read this very worthy post on a 2019 Christmas Charity Appeal for dogs and cats that also offers to help bloggers. Seems like a wonderful circle of giving.  I hope you will join in too.

Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays

to You and All of Our Beloved Furry Critters

Clearing the Way

Snow covered pathway toward sunshine

“You spend the first half of your life acquiring

and the second half discarding.”


Red pick-up truck loaded with cabinets, chairs, washing machine

Loading the pick-up truck with things too good to discard, I recalled traveling this multifarious path before. Most of my life actually. From Mom setting up our apartment after my parents divorce, to my returning home from college…to storing relics in my barn while building a dream home…to housing family memorabilia upon my father’s death, then brother’s divorce – one and two, and mother’s passing. Soon my life became crammed with mementos of everyone’s past. Things too good to discard. Things once thought they couldn’t be lived without…have become things forgotten about.


Reuse and recycle is anything but new.


Materialistic I am not. Scottish resourcefulness and being raised by parents of the Great Depression indoctrinated me with environmental concepts early on. That includes donating gifts I’ll never use (but also means holding on to some “just-in-case” items that might not get used).


If something comes in, something must go.


While crazed Black Friday shoppers raced toward the acquisition gate, my wish list focused on meaningful experiences — engaging time with dear ones, sensational restaurants, bucket-list travel, living theater, musical concerts of varied genres — non-materialistic things that proffer a pleasing energy without depleting space. Kind of like “green giving.”


Face unused possessions with, “Do I really need this?”


Tidbits of loyalty complicate clearing away. How could I discard my mother’s high school class graduation photo? It feels disrespectful to give it to the Salvation Army (Would they want it anyway?) and Heaven forbid, I could not throw it in the trash. I just couldn’t. Yet, what am I going to do with it, except store it in the basement…like the dusty china and crystal rarely used…or my dad’s wartime souvenirs, drawings, and bosun’s whistle that I’m still secretly hoping some organization would want to display.


Stuff carries personal and planetary responsibilities.


When I pass, will my remaining belongings wait for a stranger to unload...along with numerous other keepsakes and prized possessions of each person in my life? Is that the usual way out…leave heaps of stuff for someone else who holds no attachment? It would be easier emotionally for them to clear out but an unfair and monumental task. Besides, what about the planet?

Like the environmentally-conscious youth culture who rejects using existing quality made, real wood furniture, opting instead for put-it-together junk composed of compressed wood chips and plastic veneers that won’t last — it doesn’t make sense to me (or for our rapidly filling planet).


How we deal with stuff can mirror how we deal with life.


Boxes of hats, shoes, purses, furs, evening wear to get rid of

After decades of carrying boxes from place to place, and shuffling moments from one building to another, I’ve realized I often compartmentalize emotions in challenging times, putting them in boxes until I can appropriately deal with them. Same holds true for family stuff. My mom became a hoarder who couldn’t let go. My brother tossed things from his immediate sight. I’m the organized one…with the boxes.


Saying, “It’s served its purpose,” makes it easier to let go.


When it gets too much, and the clutter of memories swallows up my space, I need to let go. Now, that I have so many of my brother’s belongings I’ve begun clearing more of my mother’s past. The evening gowns, furs, and hats that she could never vacate from her apartment are leaving my home.


Mother Nature naturally knows how to clear the way.


After delivering 17 jam-packed carloads of my mom’s stuff and 15 of my brother’s to charities, and a lot of my dad’s history to the auctioneer, I’ve sworn I would never do this to my benefactors. Making arrangements for one’s personal belongings — no matter how small, is a loving but often forgotten piece of estate planning. Even Mother Nature, when overloaded with piles of leaves or debris, sends in sheets of rain or a gust of wind to clear the wreckage of the past.

Colorful autumn leaves blowing in the forefront of an evergreen forest

Do you consider what comes into your space? Have you cleared out family possessions? Are you in an acquiring or discarding mode? 

Collections of Recollections

Colored photographs hanging above colored clothes on a rack
Wrapping up porcelain plates in newspaper to protect for moving
Protecting porcelain plates in newspaper for moving

 

Boxes of newspaper wrapped dishes,

and shielded glass in picture frames

reminds me

I’ve resided here for half my life.

 

More frequent moving in more youthful days

not needed or necessarily desired —

right now.

Unless I could turn my back

and be there

immediately

without sorting through stuff.

Taking only recollections with me

in the boxes of my mind.

Woman's hand pulling back clothes on rack to see dress
Original photo by Becca McHaffie on Unsplash

Thumbing through stored clothes

my consciousness wanders

through seasons…styles…

Is this too vintage?

Is there vintage vintage — like my racy aunt’s 1940’s blazer that I’ve preserved for another 40 years…

…or my mother’s creepy high heels that mimicked the Wicked Witch of the West’s?

Time periods,

events,

come running back

like a long ago lover

I’ve forgotten to miss.

Each dress recreates a juncture,

a feeling,

that I don’t want to discard…

doing so feels too dementia-like.

Protective plastic covers up

confectionery scenes —

that captured job interview,

unforgettable party,

spellbinding date…

Colored photographs hanging above colored clothes on a rack
Photo by Shanna Camilleri on Unsplash

…preserving

a lifetime of memories

dangling

in the closet

of my mind.

 

Angels without Wings

Human girl standing in between a set of painted wings on a building.

Grief can be the garden of compassion. If you keep your heart open through everything, your pain can become your greatest ally in your life search for love and wisdom.

                                                                                                                                              —Rumi


Leaving the funeral director’s office, I silently expressed thanks to God and the Universe. I met a real angel. No coincidence our paths crossed.

Worthy guidance, a smile, understanding…from friends and those I do not know.

Shutting the door to my brother’s apartment one last time, I turned around to give thanks for the angels who swooped in to help me. And him. All seeming strangers. Like the folks I’ve connected with on WP but never actually met.

Out-of-the-blue kindnesses as powerful as an angel’s wings lifted my weary spirits so I could also pass the kindness along. I’m grateful, so grateful, this Thanks Giving for kindness.

A stone engraved with the words "Angels Gather Here" sits under a pot of vinca vines.
The long standing greeting at my entryway…

And you? Have you been graced in a time of need by unanticipated kindness? What’s on your list for this holiday week of giving thanks?

Opening the Door to Transformation

Photo of long hallway with door at the end

Synchronicity delivered timely and profound guidance to me before my mother’s passing. Surprisingly, it originated from a talented Spanish guitar musician (and yoga instructor) whose concert I attended just months earlier. Johannes Linstead’s message radically shifted my thoughts about death and erased any long-held fears. Since that time, it’s become my mainstay. I’ve included his epistle in sympathy cards and received numerous responses that his message also eased their grief and sorrow. In asking this guitar guru for permission to share his words of wisdom, he kindly replied:

Thank you for reaching out. I am so touched that my writings helped you through such a difficult time. To have experienced 15 deaths in such a short time is not easy, especially losing your brother. So sorry. I would be happy for you to share my writings as hopefully it can help others. By the way, my writings are being compiled into a book which I hope to release next year.

Thanks and blessings,

Johannes

Single chair in barren room with bright lights and windows above and bright and dark entrances and exits
Original photo by Alessandra Onisor on Unsplash

May this original message from Johannes help anyone else experiencing loss and processing grief:

“The End is Transformation”

All that is here and within you is sacred. All that is here and within you is divine. The earth, the animals, the waters, the trees, the rocks, and every human share the same sacredness and divinity. Even with this inherent sacredness and divinity each will come and go in accord to its own destiny and cycle. In life and in death, there is no difference and there is no separation, only transformation.

All in the phenomenal world is birthed into creation, has its lifespan, and its death. But this death is not a real death. The word “death” evokes a feeling within the mind that denotes finality and finality causes a fear. Many people are afraid of the cessation of life, whether it be their own or the life of a loved one and this fear subtly suppresses the ability to truly live. To truly live is to be fearless, to embrace each moment with a complete joy, and to rejoice with a sense of abandon. 

The fear of change and the fear of death are two things that if one can learn to accept will make life a benediction for they are the two things in life that cannot be changed. Resistance only causes anguish. To change your relationship to these two supposed enemies requires contemplation, and contemplation requires courage. The spiritual path is a path that requires great courage, which is why some people call it the Way of the Spiritual Warrior, for it is a fight, a daily battle to not get trapped into the trenches of the mundane but instead fight with every breath of your life to reclaim your true domain – the domain of the soul where love, light, truth, and kindness prevail.

If you can reach the breakthrough point of acceptance then your life will be forever changed, joy and peace will enter your heart and fill your being. Being filled with joy and peace no room will be left for delusion, anger, hatred, jealousy or greed. As you transform, the world around you will also transform. The only death you need concern yourself with is welcoming the death of the darkness within you. 

Sat Nam,

Johannes ~ Sevaji

As you can tell, Johannes Linstead is a deeply spiritual person. He is the founder of Divine Earth (divineearth.org), a humanitarian organization promoting meditation, yoga, holistic living, and the healing power of music. Johannes says, “I use music as a way to express what words cannot say. Every note contains a part of me and all the love, joy, hope and compassion in my heart. I believe that music has the power to uplift humanity — I see it all the time at every one of my concerts. To be able to bring happiness to so many people is a true blessing.” Here’s just one of his many expressive songs:

To learn more about Johannes Linstead ~ Guitar of Fire! please visit his websitewww.johanneslinstead.com

 

Open gate to illuminated pathway
Original photo by Pixaline from Pixabay

Messages from the Brightest Stars…

Golden beams of sunshine through an autumn forest

10-30-19 026cThe garden rests under November’s grey skies and already freezing temps while I practice morning Qigong inside. Looking up, I notice this solitary tree glowing amidst bare woods. It reminds me of my brother, Robert — my last living immediate family member and only sibling, who recently passed.

Years ago, when one of my dogs tragically passed, my brother consoled me by comparing that young dog to a bright star, explaining that the brightest stars have shorter lives. A contemporary Doctor Doolittle, Robert had an extraordinary talent for connecting with animals and particularly canines. He is the one who gave Bess to me.

Bess and Robert’s bookend deaths these last four months, along with too many other friends and co-workers, feels as insurmountable as piles of autumn leaves. So thick, I can barely see clearly on this course of 15 deaths that presumably is meant for deeper understanding. Striving to find meaning in all of this, I seek out any comfort I can find. Too late, I hear Do not let anger ruin a relationship. Time is shorter than we think…forgiveness is key. 
Broken branch
Original photo by Manfred Richter on Pixabay

 

As with the duality of the Tao, my brother and I had another side to our relationship. Several years ago we mutually agreed to sever contact out of opposing values and a need for self-care. After recent minimal communication we were to meet in person but he passed before it came to fruition. It’s come to me that “The soul knows when to go,” and “Everything happens exactly as it is meant to be.” I feel grateful my brother and I requited resolution and forgiveness in the month before he departed.

A caring guy with a zany sense of humor, it’s no surprise that Robert chose to pass three days before Halloween. But, finding Reese’s peanut butter cups on top of a chest containing my own dogs cremains that morning was surprising.
Reese's peanut butter cups

Seeing this orange/black package gave me an odd sort of comfort — my diabetic brother loved this candy…and he promised to give me a sign.  Later on Halloween night, I pulled in a radio station from afar. The guest spoke about Houdini’s wife, Bess, who made a pact with her husband to give a sign from the other side. These seemingly coincidental gifts gave my heart a lift.

Understanding it’s helpful for the deceased and those surviving to express gratitude for their presence in our lives, I offer some sentiments my brother once shared with me…too bad we forgot them in these last eight years:
  • The happiness of your life depends on the quality of your thoughts.
  • Be kinder than necessary because everyone you meet is fighting some kind of  battle.
  • Life is too short to wake up with regrets. Love the people who treat you right. Forget about the one’s who don’t. Believe everything happens for a reason.If you get a second chance, grab it with both hands.If it changes your life, let it.Nobody said life would be easy, they just promised it would be worth it.
  • A sharp tongue can cut your own throat.
Golden red leaf with a heart in the middle
Photo by Rebekka D from Pixabay
  • Friends are like balloons; once you let them go, you might not get them back. Sometimes we get so busy with our own lives and problems that we may not notice that we’ve let them fly away. Sometimes we are so caught up in who’s right and who’s wrong that we forget what’s right and wrong. Sometimes we don’t realize what real friendship means until it is too late. I don’t want to let that happen so I’m gonna tie you to my heart so I never lose you.
  • The heaviest thing you can carry is a grudge.
  • One thing you can’t recycle is wasted time.
If this post touches your heart, my brother and I encourage you to make amends with the person who broke it.

Nature Teacher: Hanging On…and Letting Go

Two autumn leaves hanging on...one on the window glass; the other on the trim with a reflection of the blue sky and trees.

This little guy was hanging on to my window for the last month. He didn’t want to let go. But I knew he would when the time was right.

window leaf 001BC

I didn’t want to post this photo right away. It made me think about my brother who, only days before, told me his quadruple heart bypass failed. With 30% heart function, I didn’t know how long he could hang on. Strange, the things we think about or tell ourselves when dealing with death and stressful events. Perhaps that fantasy thinking is part of bargaining — if I do this, then that will occur…or we’re fearful to do certain things as if it’s a bad omen.

The little leaf has left my window. And this week my brother left his life here on earth.

Autumn trees reflected in a pond with a memorial to my big brother

 

 

 

 

Halloween’s Other Side of Life

Intricate spider web in black and orange Halloween colors

Looking out my window during morning Qigong practice, I glanced up to see this intricate spider web. Amazing to view its work up close…a meditation in itself.

Intricate gossamer spider web hanging between branches with insect bitten burgundy leaves of a Ornamental Plum tree
Seeing beyond the spider web…

With Halloween approaching, I dug deeper into the curiosities of this scary holiday. I never understood Halloween‘s color combination of orange and black but now it makes more sense. Orange represents autumn, and black signifies death (of summer). I realize, as in how I choose to view life’s transition to death, that this holiday does not have to evoke fear as popularly promulgated. 

And those spiders serving as long time mascots for Halloween? There’s a pleasant tale indicating they are the spirit of a loved one watching over you. How befitting in my summer of bereavement, and a more pleasant thought than frightful ghosts and goblins.

Who knew a simple spider web would give new meaning to Halloween for me? It’s become a holiday for recognizing life’s natural transition rather than scaring me to death.