Wednesday, May 15, 2013

The squeaky wheel...

gets the grease, or so the saying goes, and often it does.   Most often, I think, because it's just so darn annoying that we tend to it, whatever it is, just to get it to stop.  However, I'm noticing that if it isn't that annoying, I've gotten good at ignoring the squeak long enough for it to become nothing more than background noise, and when that happens, the squeaky wheel goes untended until it becomes a major blowup that I absolutely can't ignore.

My dad died in 1987, and several times before he died, according to my mom, she asked him to give me money for a down payment on a house.  He always refused, saying that he could give me the money to buy the house, and he knew I'd make the mortgage payment, but what was I going to do when something happened and the house needed repaired?  He said I didn't make enough money to take care of a house and felt I was better off in an apartment, where someone else was responsible if something needed fixing.  In 1993, six years after he died,  I managed to buy a house on my own.

Doesn't look that bad, does it? 

That's the house I live in now, the one that didn't sell because of all the things that needed fixing!  So when the home inspection came in with the long list of things that needed repaired, and the buyer backed out, my first thought was:  dad was right.  He knew what he was talking about.  The proof was in the twenty-eight page report sitting on my dining room table.  

I was angry, not at him, but at myself, and disappointed that I hadn't tended to the squeaky wheels over the years and now my inattention was coming back to bite me.  And over the past few weeks, as I've begun fixing some of what needs fixing in the house, I've been taking stock of other areas of my life and recognizing a pattern of inattention to those issues that aren't making enough noise to get my immediate attention, but will, and in some cases already have, cause me greater difficulty if I continue to let them go untended.

I let leaky faucets go for years, knowing that plumbers don't come cheap and convincing myself I didn't have the money to get them fixed.   And yet, when the hot water tank needed to be replaced, I somehow found the money to do so because not getting it fixed meant cold showers and that was something I couldn't tolerate.  Now that the faucets are fixed, I'm curious to see the difference it makes in my water/sewage bills. I have a feeling that I've paid for that plumber several times over in the accumulated cost of those bills each month.

My sweet tooth, and healthier eating habits, is something else I haven't addressed in any consistent manner either, and although I know that each extra pound I carry makes it harder and harder for my joints to do their best work for the longest time possible, I have a great deal of difficulty routinely saying no when there's a sweet treat calling my name.  I'll say 'just this once, or I'll do better tomorrow, or so and so made this especially for me, I can't say no.'  Always some 'logical' reason I can't maintain my good intentions.

Let's not even talk about regular exercise!  I regularly exercise regularly for about 2 weeks at a time every time my guilty conscience gets the best of me, or my body starts screaming in pain in one area or another and seems to demand that I do something, and then something happens that lets me make an excuse for myself, and my good intentions go down the drain.  Now with a hip and knee replaced, and some additional issues with my back, not to mention the upcoming surgery on my feet.... well, so many good reasons not to exercise!

Even my spiritual practice takes a hit from time to time.  As repairmen were coming to the house these past couple of weeks, the only 'appointment time' they would give was a window of time from 8 am till noon.  Since I routinely do my spiritual practice early in the day, it was the perfect excuse not to maintain it, because after all, it was only going to be interrupted anyway, right?   But I didn't ignore that for long, because I've learned what happens when I do.  When the hot water tank bursts or the furnace stops running, or the leaky faucet becomes a running faucet because the leak has gone untended for too long, or the house that I thought was going to sell, doesn't, without that spiritual practice to maintain me, I'm no good at tending to all the other stuff with any kind of equanimity at all.  

So yes, I was disappointed that the house didn't sell, and disappointed in myself for being the reason that it didn't, but I know it all happened for a reason.  A much needed wake-up call, a reminder that squeaky wheels are generally squeaking for a reason and really do need my attention sooner rather than later. So I'm working harder at paying attention to what needs my attention, discerning rather than ignoring.   I'm learning that some things aren't important at all, and others are more important than I might at first think.  And I'm also remembering, and smiling as I do, that if I had taken care of all the things that needed tended to in my house over the years, I'd be living in a new house in Nashville right now, the wrong house, according to that message from God in which He said that that house would keep me small.  So obviously, this was the perfect time for me to get the message that I needed to learn the importance of squeaky wheels!

Sunday, May 12, 2013

Digging deeper...

I went on retreat.  I decided I needed to get away from the packing boxes, the television, the all too easy access to the interstate and familiar escape routes.   I needed to optimize the chance that I would make a space to look inward more carefully, more intentionally. Optimize the chance that I would dig deeper, rather than finding an excuse to distract myself.
So I headed south, to Hamptonville, NC, to The Well of Mercy Retreat Center (

Sitting down in a small valley, isolated, serene, nurturing...

I’ve been there before, several times. I don’t remember exactly how many: more than two, maybe three, maybe four.  Each time was during a period of transition in my life:  a time of change, a time of unrest and uncertainty, a time when I couldn’t see clearly what was ahead and I couldn’t get comfortable with the uncertainty with the faith that I could muster at the time.  Just like now.

I took my lizard drum and two rattles, my journal, several  books that seemed to offer, through their titles,  the possibility of answers to my questions:  Taking the Leap by Pema Chodron,  The Naked Now by Richard Rohr, and Letting Go of the Person You Used to Be, by Lama Surya Das.  Of course, I also took a couple of fiction books, just in case, and my computer, so I could write if the urge came to me.

The computer was my downfall, not surprisingly, and my saving grace as well.  My first night at the Well, after dinner, I did some drumming and rattling and chanting (all with the doors and windows tightly closed, as silence is the rule at the Well), and I did a fairly long spiritual practice, and then began to do Reiki on myself, and just like when I do Reiki for others, I began to walk:  small rhythmic circles, clockwise and counterclockwise, round and round in my tiny living room, my hands and arms moving in a variety of ways, occasionally speaking in  tongues. (Usually when I stay at The Well, I only have a bedroom in one of the guest houses and a private bath, but all those rooms were taken, and the only option left to me for these dates was one of the cottages, which are in actuality, small trailers that the nuns used as their living spaces while The Well was under construction.)  The extra space and the separation from the other guests was a blessing I hadn’t realized I needed until I was there.

So after being so ‘good’ and doing all those spiritual things, I decided to reward myself with a little time playing a computer game.  What started out as an hour , became four, and before I knew it, it was after 1 am!  So much for leaving distractions behind.

I slept poorly. My left knee was extremely painful, and I rarely sleep well the first night in a strange place and unfamiliar bed anyway.   I tossed and turned for quite a while,  finally giving in and taking two Tylenol PM.  I figured there was no reason to get up early in the morning, so it didn’t matter if the effects of the Tylenol kept me in bed later than usual.

I woke up feeling hung over from the medication and ticked at myself for giving in to the distraction of the game when my reason for going to The Well was to increase the chances that I would focus on the issues at hand and find some clarity.  After breakfast I sat down with my journal and began to write.

As the words poured onto the pages, a host of old messages from the past came up: You’re not good enough. You’re never going to amount to anything.  You never finish what you start.  You’re never satisfied.  Jack of all trades, master of none.

As I wrote that last phrase, I felt a wrenching in my gut and the tears poured down my cheeks.  I quit writing and just sat there, staring at the words but not seeing them, hearing my mother’s voice repeating them over and over as she shook her head in disapproval and disgust each time I left one job to go to another, and there were many:  coupon counter, switchboard operator, document handler, craft consultant, Tupperware sales manager, personnel recruiter, manager of an S&H Green Stamp Redemption Center, retail store manager… the list is a long one. 

Each time she said it, I’d feel like a failure, like I let her down.  And she wouldn’t stop there:  “Why can’t you just stick with something?  Why do you always have to change? You just keep looking for something better, but you never seem to find it.  You’re never satisfied.  What’s wrong with you?”  The litany went on and on. 

From what I know now,   I recognize that much of my mother’s criticism of me had  more to do with how she felt about herself than what she really thought about me. We’re often very good at projecting our feelings about ourselves onto others without recognizing what we’re doing.  I’ve done a lot of healing work through the years and have come to terms with much of the past, however, that phrase, ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’ has stuck with me, resurfacing from time to time, usually when I make a change of some sort in my life.  But when it’s surfaced before, I’ve just kind of laughed it off.  It never had teeth.  It never hit home. 

Wow!   In my mother’s eyes, each time I left one job to move to another, I was a failure.  There was something wrong with me.  The message I seem to have taken on was that to be successful,  I needed to find some kind of work to do that I could be good at, master it, and stick with it.  Because my mom saw moving from one thing to another as failure, does some part of me hold that belief too?  Is there a place somewhere deep down inside of me where that old refrain of hers has taken hold?  There must be, because thinking of that again left me feeling like I’d been hit by a freight train!

In becoming a therapist and doing Reiki, I have found something I’m good at, and even something I’ve mastered!  (I have to laugh as I write this and really think about it, because now I even have certificates to prove that I’ve mastered something:  a Master’s Degree from Pitt in Social Work and a Reiki Master certificate!)

Wanting to go higher, I’ve been digging deeper, and I think that I’ve hit pay dirt!  Because it feels so big and has hit me so hard, I know it’s important.  I also know it’s an old belief from a time when I knew no other way, nor did my mother.  Back then, when the belief took hold, neither of us could have conceived of the idea that we leave things behind when they have nothing more to teach us, or when they have served whatever purpose they came into our lives to serve.  My mother couldn’t even entertain the possibility that each experience I left behind was the springboard for the next, and the next, and the next, all eventually leading me to exactly where I was supposed to be.

I’m fortunate that I have changed, that I have healed, that I have a different perspective than I used to.  It’s allowing me to own that in order for something new to begin, there has to be a space for it to come into being.  So as I leave behind the way that I used to do things in my Reiki practice, I’m not failing.  I’m not bailing out.  I’m not running away.  There’s nothing wrong with me.  I’m moving forward into something bigger and better, something that will be a better fit for the person I’ve become over these last thirteen years since I’ve begun my journey with Reiki.  In my head I know this to be true.  I’m not yet sure I own it in my gut. 

 I’m not sure what more I need to do with this knowing I’ve uncovered.  Perhaps just uncovering it and sitting with it is enough to move it out and free me from its hold.   I guess I’ll just have to wait and see.  But one thing I do know is that things only get uncovered when we’re ready to deal with them and have the tools to do so.  So God must think I’m strong enough now to face this and heal it.  Amazing what comes up when you have the courage to pick up the shovel and dig a little deeper!