Tag Archives: the present moment

When Things Fall Apart: Learning to Lighten Up

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It was 9pm and my oldest son and I were raring for our rockin’ road-trip to MA, in the morning. Then I got the call from one of my dearest friends, Lisa, whose house we’d be staying at for 4 days. She says there’s been a miscommunication – she isn’t expecting us until the following weekend.

WHAT THE!?!?!

I’m STUNNED. My brain is DUMBSTRUCK. I’m trying to fathom this news. Recalibrate. I GOT IT WRONG!? HOW DID I MESS UP SO BADLY?!

My hubby has taken off work. My older son has been so excited to see his friend! We’re ALL PACKED!!! ACK! This is cataclysmic to me! Perfectionist me. Inflexible me. Unforgiving me. I manage my calendar like a hawk. HOW DID THIS HAPPEN???

I feel heartbroken and I’m starting to cry. But… Lisa doesn’t sound as demolished as I feel. That’s when my protective inner Mob Boss picks up her armor, knowing just what to do with my mortifying emotions. Shut. Them. Down. Lock & Load.

Rut row.

I’d better hang up with Lisa before the heavy-duty blamer BS (Belief System) starts misfiring. It speaks fluent Aim & Blame in dramatic CAPITALS and exclamation points!!!! Have you noticed?!?!

Crap. I thought I was past this. I’m all about taking responsibility for myself, my reactions, feelings and beliefs. But here I am acting like a full-fledged card-carrying defensive victim. Ugh. *Hangs head in shame.*

Growing up, I became slightly militant about the ways I should/could/would be RIGHT. About details, plans, times, people. I feared that my body and I were just wrong all over the place. Making mistakes made me even more WRONG and unlovable. My Mobster BS insisted I’d better be perfect, if I wanted to be kept safe from a heartbreaking world.

BS #2 (they run in packs) was also hibernating in the dark recesses of my mind. “I should be able to perfectly heal and release these beliefs, once and for all.” Hahaha. Apparently, there is no such thing as “done” while living in a sticky earth-bound-suit.

#3 on the BS hit parade is C-O-N-T-R-O-L. Or my illusions of having it. Nuf said.

Blame, criticism, intolerance etc are powerhouse viruses. They’re going around. When fear runs amuck inside us, but we don’t want to feel or own those feelings, it’s very tempting to deny, dodge and judge. Hot potato. Toss the blame at someone else!

But since we perceive what is OUTSIDE us in response to what we experience INSIDE us, we’re still glued to the gloom. No matter how we serve up that French-fried blame, we’ll be wrecked by the wrongness we feel around us, because it is also simmering within us.

I think we revisit these painful old wounds, circumstances and BS because there is always another silver lining to light upon. 

There is always more humanness to forgive.

If we can notice the fears, and just embrace the little darlings, question the BS, and love our silly selves anyway (imagine!) we won’t be as reactive when other people (children, spouses, presidents) do what they do or be who they are. We’ll feel more inspired to settle the war inside ourselves and radiate the peaceful warrior self, instead of the bossy blamer babe.

The following morning, still very mad at myself, my hubster Bill calls out, “Hon! Come see this butterfly on the stairs – INside!”

Aw!  The little girl in me is thrilled when I spot it. I carefully lower my finger down in front of the butterfly and she climbs on.

Be.

Still.

My.

Heart.

I bring her to my bedroom, where the dog and cat are less likely to interfere. It’s freezing outside, so releasing her isn’t an option. As I get close to the window, she takes flight and lands on the sunny lace curtain. The light pours through her gauzy body and I’m infused with joy.

But. What about food?

The flowers from Bill! Come to think of it, maybe that is how she hitched a ride inside? A Valentine Visitor?

I put the vase of cut flowers, every flowering plant we have, sliced oranges, bananas and a tray of sugar water, in the window. “We are now The Butterfly Cafe,” Bill says with a smile.

The internet reports she’s a female “Cloudless Sulfur” butterfly – an inch high, fragile as pale yellow tissue paper, with tiny black dots on her wings. In Native American medicine, butterflies are a symbol of personal transformation. “The ability to go through changes with grace and lightness.”

Their transformation from caterpillar, to liquid DNA goo, to winged confetti, is miraculous! Vulnerable and strong, weightless and free. They seem directionless, and yet they have quite the internal GPS.

“Perhaps the butterfly is proof that you can go through a great deal of darkness and still become something beautiful.”

My attention to the butterfly, brings me into the present moment, and breathes me back into grace. (Bug bus to the rescue!) How can my heaviness stand up against her lightness of being?

The following day, I take some honey water on my finger and slowly put it in front of her. She hops aboard. And then I watch in awe – her teensy curled tongue (proboscis) which is a hair-thin straw, unfurls and begins probing the sweetness. And then . . . DRINKING. WHOA. I’m feeding a butterfly!

See the sugar water on my finger?

HEART.

BLOWN.

OPEN.

Did you know they can taste through the bottoms of their wee feet?

After a spellbinding minute, my feathery friend re-curls her tongue and stands like a quiet statue. Both of us are satiated.

The week flies by, and it’s time for my son and I to take the trip we’d planned! Bill is on butterfly duty while I’m away.

Soon after we arrive in MA, my son and his friend have a major miscommunication about a pick-up time and place. We land at his friend’s mom’s house (an hour from Lisa’s) while his friend is at the dad’s house (another hour drive.) WHAT?!?! My inner GPS is still MIA.

Rinse and repeat.

Guess who grabbed the wheel first? I wanted to blame his friend, then the dad, then my son, who wasn’t sure if his friend HAD given him the right address. I said I wanted to smack him.

Ouch.

After some wild texting with the dad, we were back on the road and I was breathing easy again. Quick turnaround! Phew.

But my son.

I noticed he was quiet and asked if he was ok. He said that NOW he understood why I cried over the previous mix-up with Lisa. He added, “I think of myself as a smart person, but this mistake makes me wonder.”

Oh boy can I relate!

Even our positive qualities can become limiting if we’re overly attached to that identity and too hard on ourselves when we ‘fall short’. I apologized to my son about my “smack you” attitude. Several times. We had a great talk, connecting over our shared BS. It felt freeing to be imperfect together. We don’t have to go it alone.

Humanness unites hearts. 

There is always more to love.

If Lisa and I hadn’t miscommunicated the week before, I might have missed the heart to heart with my son. I might have missed the laughter and openness with her.

I might have missed the butterfly.

I might have missed the walk in the woods when faeries seemed to send up <– rainbow flares from my camera.

I might have missed the opportunity to see more of who I am. Pimples and all. And to blossom anyway.

I might have missed the chance to draw closer to the divine. To flutter more like the butterfly, in and out of these changes and challenges. Isn’t this the everyday nectar of life on earth? Learning to grow with the flow – with butterflies, blamers, and mob bosses. They prepare us for the bigger dance – when life doesn’t do what we want it to do. When things fall apart. If we’re ready to release the heavy baggage – to step out of our comfortable cocoon, to let go and to trust our untested wings – then the soul offers abundant opportunities to lighten up and fly.

A female “orange Julia” landed on my forehead! At the Butterfly Conservatory, ONT Canada 2015

with love, lightness & more fun,

 Keep Calm and Shine on,

Julie

 

“When was the last time you sat and talked with a butterfly?” Pat Rodegast

My oldest with two butterflies (one is a “blue morpho”) at the Butterfly Conservatory 2016

 

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My youngest with a “banded peacock” at the Butterfly Conservatory 2011

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The Queen of Autumn: Leaf Piles and Present Moment Magic

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How beautifully leaves grow old(Originally posted at my Huffington Post Blog in 2011!)

As my neighbors grumble about the leaves covering their lawn, my boys wait wide-eyed, with mighty rakes in their hands. The time is here; our delicate Japanese maple has finally shed enough of her red robe for a ginormous leaf pile.

Our maple stands on duty, everyday, a quiet nanny to a neighborhood of fast friends. She stoops down low for even the smallest of sneakers to scale and reaches high enough for the bigger kids to walk on air.

As the seasons move past, dependable and reassuring, she’s alive in our photos: summer kids dangling like earrings from her limbs, green leaf stew at her feet. There are winter snowmen around her waist and a count down to Christmas in her ears.

But her infamous time of year is Now, when ruby-red leaves dance and drop from her skies. The dogwood nearby offers a generous contribution and the old oak by the street throws in her golden leaves. But no one is fooled. We all know who is really Queen of Autumn.

autumn maple n snow

Our autumn maple in an early snowfall, 2011

“We can rake now, right Mom?” my ten-year-old asks as he watches a squirrel tight rope through our bare maple. “Yup we definitely have enough leaves,” I answer, as he breaks for the garage. “C’mon Ky, let’s get the rakes!” My six-year-old scurries behind him, a bagel in hand, no shoes on his feet.

I grab my camera and step out front. Long rake handles appear first, bobbing above our front bushes, taller than both boys combined. As the work begins, our maple occasionally catches their hair in her branches or snags the wooden handles. Nothing inconveniences the boys, though, as they move with purpose and enthusiasm. Spencer tugs at the glorious crimson carpet, sweat beading on his forehead, as our maple exhales oxygen and inhales CO2 in a beautiful exchange.

From across the street, our twin nine-year-old neighbors, Manuela and Thomas, spot the fun and rush to join the leaf brigade. Thomas refuels the effort where Ky has petered out. “We can make a pile as high as the house!” he yells with glee. Spencer’s tired rake is reluctantly passed off to Manuela, who moves with invigorating new purpose. A monstrous pile is built.

autumn 1

Can you find all three faces…

My maple and I smile with motherly pride. Appreciating the present moment, I remember where peace and joy resides. “I jump first!” Spence yells. “Second!” Ky pipes in. “Third!” “Fourth!” Thomas and Manuela add. Our eight-year-old neighbor Danny suddenly runs into the yard yelling, “Fifth!”

I balance my smiling camera as Bill comes to enjoy the spectacle. Like our maple, the kids stand ready for the joy ahead, for snuggling in next year’s shade, for the long upward climb into adulthood.

We watch as Spence backs way up to begin his debut run. He takes off with a bang and then, with an enormous leap and a giggly shout, he dives head first into the autumn womb.

“Laughing is jogging on the inside

With laughter spilling around like sunshine, I feel reconnected with it all. The smell, the crunch, the gratitude for a world breathing in and out. I have the boys to thank. They won’t let their childhood pass us by too quickly. At least not today.

Soon our maple will be hailing the holidays, branches lined with elegant white snow. Although I may get distracted by the busyness, scurrying to get it all done,  I can count on our maple to etch our lives in peace.

In the years ahead, as our sons find new joy and work in this world, Bill and I want to be there with them, celebrating each new season of their lives. All the while we’ll remember the days of autumn leaf piles when friends and family (and an elegant Japanese maple) were there to steady our souls.

Be like a tree, let the dead leaves drop. .....~Rumi

“Everything I let go of has claw marks on it.Anne Lamott

Let it go,

let it be,

for love,

XO

Julie

Mama Maples – Finding Peace Amidst the Fast Pace

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Three gentle giants wait for me in the backyard. Eighty feet tall or so, my magical maples watch over our home, guard our dreams. They stand in a curved row, committed back-up singers, ready to harmonize with those who’ll listen.

Daily, I feel them calling me away from the computer, out of the rush, past my worries. Humming, encouraging, being. They know when I’ve forgotten to breathe again. Meditation has fallen away this week, as I push for more book promotion, more people to contact, more life to live. I’ve been captured by the pulse of perfectionism.

I search for what’s missing in my post-its, my emails, on my to-do list. I’ve forgotten that joy and gratitude are productive companions. The kids call, the laundry moans, and the phone screams my name. I plug my ears. I can’t hear myself over all the questions. So I answer the maples.

I step out the backdoor and we sigh in unison. They are the quietest of teachers and it is their peace I seek. “There you are,” they whisper sweetly. “Come sit down with the dandelions.” The lawn chair scoops me up and I rest in it’s arms. I stare at the maples, waiting.

In the front yard, someone is crying. Drat. I get up, unlatch the gate and walk away from my sanctuary, knowing I may never return today. Down our drive, I spot the two five-year-old friends facing each other. I check my son Kyler’s face, but the hurt isn’t his. I switch to our neighbor, Jeremiah. His mouth is wide and wailing. Both boys are sitting on the sidewalk, scooters flung to the side.

Just as I’m about to call to them, I see Kyler raise his finger and gently, lovingly, touch Jeremiah’s nose. I catch my breath. A tiny giggle spurts out of Jeremiah, defying his tears. Ky blesses his friend’s nose again, light as tinker bell. They both giggle more. I back away quickly, not wanting to disturb the vision, the sweet sharing, the love being passed on. I walk back to my place in the sun with a heart open wider.

As I sit back among the maples, I remember an email I must return. My busy train chugs out of the station when I hear a firm and penetrating, shhhhhhhhhhhhhh. My body freezes. My mind dumps it’s contents. Did anyone hear that? But no one is there. The maples are definitely addressing me. Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh. Whoa, there it is again. They are swaying inside their own message. They are perfect in their tone and their lullaby. Shhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh they coo, as their leaves wave and laugh. The sky is rocked clean in their easy, soft spell. My smile sails across the yard.

I hear the clank of the gate unlatching and I turn to tell the intruder that I need time alone. But before I can, Ky asks brightly, “Mommy, wanna a piece a gum?” My smile surprises me. “Sure,” I answer. “Jeremiah had to go home,” he reports, as he hands me a soft piece of Bubble Yum. We unwrap the pink puff and eat our gum together, in silence. Kyler rests so naturally, cross legged in his chair. His breathing is free, his spirit, whole. The maples say shhhhhhhhhhh one more time and I remember what I’ve forgotten. I close my eyes. The magic sits before me, within me, like a wide-eyed child. My son, and the mama maples, have settled the breezes inside me, again.