Sunday, July 19, 2015

Just Another Everyday Hero

When I got sick back in 2008, there were a lot of things I didn’t know. I think we all are willing to say, on any given day, “Ya, I don’t know a lot of things.” I think what we are not so willing to admit, is that quite often, learning those “things” does not come easy. There’s the fun stuff we learn…how to build something new, how to make a new recipe, how to get somewhere we have never been. We know these things will be challenging, but because we make the choice to learn them - the challenge is sweet. But then there’s the stuff that doesn’t come so easy. The stuff we learn about ourselves and about the world that comes out of suffering, out of pain or even out of tragedy. If we stay the course long enough, if we see that anger and resentment and bitterness are but a passing guest, we find ourselves on another side of things. It’s the space where tragedy and loss blossom into something far greater. Beyond that which grasps to destroy us. Where walls fall down like silk off a wooden rail. Where vulnerability meets honestly and finds rest in the soft pillow of love. 
To list all that I have learned since 2008 - especially for the purpose of this small post - would be crazy. And I’m not even quite sure where to begin with the point I’m even trying to make right now because the magnitude of it seems too big for words. I write it and re-write it and each time it just seems like another Hallmark greeting card or sappy Facebook poster. But I’ll do it anyway; partly because without Facebook I wouldn’t even be able to say what I’m going to say. And also because without Facebook it would not reach even one tenth of the people that I hope it reaches. 
This is the big thing that I have learned. The life changer. The energy behind my life and the “thing” that I now base all that I believe in. It motivates me. It makes me compassionate. It changes my political view. I softens me. Ready? 
This world is filled - FILLED - bursting at the seams and overflowing - with absolutely beautiful people. Wonderful, creative, loving, humorous, compassionate, colorful, broken, lovely people. Who wake up every single day hoping for the exact same thing I do. To be loved. To be healthy. To be cared about and to be given the chance to care for others. They, like me, want to be celebrated, want to listened to, what to share their dreams and hopes and fears and to laugh the laughter of our common Joy. To find what binds us in the depths of our hearts - to know the commonality of our deepest fears and sadness and to run wild with our shared story of resilience, of courage…of hope. We long for these things. No matter our age, our race, our sexuality, our social status or the land on which we place our bare feet each morning. 
Since becoming sick I have gotten to know people from all over the world, thanks to the “world wide” web. From every state in our Nation to countries all over the world. I regularly communicate with people in Russia, in the Scandinavian countries, all throughout Europe, Asia and Africa. Some of these relationships have absolutely changed my life for the better. Have some of them not turned out so well? Yep, of course. Realizing all the good in the world does not somehow make all the bad go away. And it surely does not make you naive. It makes you compassionate…if you’re lucky enough to see it through. 
So why write about this today? To be honest, I contemplated not. Mainly because there are so many of “you” out there. You who have imprinted on my heart so significantly that you are part of my very fiber. I see your faces in all that I do and say. I hear your voice in my head, even though many of you have never even spoken to me - our relationships carried on the written word. And maybe I should just do this more often. Point you out. Show the world these everyday heroes in my life. Some of you are so quiet, so humble, so unassuming I fear offending you with my own willingness to be “public”. Yet, in a world so eager to make us all enemies, I want desperately to let them know about you. 
Philip Buttà, you are one such person in my life. Today I choose to celebrate you. I’m hoping you’re “okay” with this since you have been working so hard to promote your new CD and the causes you so passionately believe in. Phil came into my life just like many other of you - through the internet. To this day I’m not sure if it was I that was on his blog or he that was on mine! Either way, we met through words and it’s been words that have bound us together ever since. I’m pretty sure that if I actually meet Phil in person some day he’s going to look quite odd to me. I have this vision of a man whose heart is too big for his chest. That the enormity of his love for people and for the four legged of this world is just so colossal that it is impossible to hold within the frame of a normal man. I can honestly say, I have never known a person like him. And it’s this very passion that drives the words and the music behind his new CD. The minute he released it I could hardly wait to buy it. Separating the story from the man is impossible. And knowing some of Phil’s story as well as knowing what I know about his talent for music made this a complete no brainer for me. The fact that by purchasing it I also feeds a rescue horse a bale of hay…well, that not only is a perk, where Phil is concerned - it just makes sense. 
Thank you Phil for being my friend. Thank you for who you are, for saying it like it is, for taking risk and being vulnerable, for being one of those voices in my head that makes me a better person. Thank you for all of your inspiration, for being “out there” with your creativity and for sharing in the ups and downs of being an artist - as well as telling me when to get off my butt and get back to work. Thank you for keeping tabs on me when I’m sick, for giving me the dream of someday traveling to New York with Dave and surprising you at one of your gigs and for making my mouth water with your pictures of home baked bread! You are one of the heroes in my life and I am so privileged and honored to share your CD with my world. May we all have just a little bit of what you have in your heart. My, what a wonderful world it would be.

Please consider supporting Phil and his campaign for Lucky Orphans Horse Rescue



Tuesday, February 17, 2015

Soft Whisperings

I've always considered myself someone who adapts fairly well to change. Part of the reason, I think, is because I get bored. I remember as a young girl, loving to rearrange my bedroom and the feeling of things being different or new when it was all done. Same old stuff, just moved around a bit, made my world exciting. I've never been stuck on routine (sometimes to my detriment). Changing plans on the spur of the moment feels like a fun little shot of "possibility" to me. And the quip, "because that's the way it has always been done" is the biggest motivation for change that there is in my mind...until I got sick. Getting sick not only rocked my foundation, it picked it up and moved it somewhere else.

Maybe change has never been easy for you. Keeping things status quo feels safe, brings comfort. It's one of the reasons why holidays are steeped in tradition. Trees adorned in ornaments from the 1960's, green bean casseroles and the smell of cinnamon in the air all tell us we're home. I have a hutch in our dining room that has combination wood and glass shelves. On those shelves are an assortment of old trinkets, my grandmother's dishes and at least three different varieties of incomplete wine glass sets. Our dining room floor slants directly west by about a quarter of an inch, towards the outside wall. When you walk by the hutch there is a distinct rumbling that waxes to a fevered pitch the closer you get and then wanes upon your departure. It used to drive me crazy. About three years ago I had enough. I emptied the hutch and lined all the shelves with a soft rubbery shelf liner and replaced my menagerie of assorted glassware. It worked! I could walk past the hutch in peace. In fact, I could even dance in the dining rumbling! I was so pleased with my accomplishment. My children, on the other hand, were not. They immediately noticed the difference and preceded to tell me that our house did not sound like "home" anymore! Needless to say, they got used to the change. This one I was not going to give in on.

Last July I wrote a piece entitled When Chronic Illness Makes You World Weary. (If you haven't read it, you may want to do so before continuing on.) A lot has happened since July. A lot of change. It was during that period that my long term disability company was putting me through some very challenging times. I had been under review since the previous March, and had since been under video surveillance by their team of private investigators. To put into words how violating that experience was is impossible for me to do. At some point, I plan on writing about it to you. In fact, I plan on writing about it a lot. It's what I need to do in order to do my part in creating change. But until then, let a general synopsis suffice so that I can get to the heart of the matter.

Long term disability companies (of which Hartford is one of the worst) have one very important goal and that is to make money. I say important, because it should be first and foremost in the minds of those insured by such companies. Despite what you read in their propaganda, they are not committed to fulfilling their promise of payment throughout the life of your disability. And, in fact, the longer one is disabled, the higher the bar becomes in regards to disability criteria. I joke, although there is truth to this, that at the two year mark if you can lick envelopes from a hospital bed, you are fit to work. Despite the validation of twelve medical specialists and recognition from Social Security Disability, Hartford has denied me my disability claim. Just like that.

The roller coaster that ensued was quite a ride. In the end, I ended up with two very renowned attorneys from different parts of the United States, both willing to fight for me. Both feeling confident in my ability to not only win an appeal, but if the case would have ended up in court, it would have leaned strongly in my favor. But something odd happened along the way. Something very strange and very unexpected. Something I definitely did not plan on.


And that change was in me.

My case file had arrived - all 2000 pages of it, including video footage. The attorney I had decided to go with had an unexpected death in the family and because it was around Christmas, there was a significant amount of "wait time"before we could get back together. Wait time during which I was officially and legally no longer considered disabled by long term disability. And more importantly, disabled by The Hartford, who had, for the past five years, been harassing me relentlessly. Constantly requiring unjustified paperwork to be filled out by myself and my doctors, showing up at my home for recorded interviews and consequently following me around, unbeknown to me.

It was during this time period that I began to notice a change. Not just the obvious changes, like being able to walk out to my mailbox or stop for lunch on the way home from a doctor's appointment without wondering who was watching me - which is what the video footage was actually of (I guess sitting at Noodles & Co. with your family is not allowed if one is truly sick!). But a more important, more subtle change. I was beginning to feel what it was like to let go of an identity, of my identity as Disabled Person. And this letting go was quite different than the letting go that came along with getting sick.

But this is what I find so interesting. When I first became sick I really struggled with who I was. So much had been taken from me. So much that I strongly identified with, that is. My "type A - marathon running - career women - super mom - outdoors person" image was no longer looking back at me in the mirror. It had been replaced by a very tired, sick looking women I hardly recognized. And she wasn't going to go away.

When I spent the month waiting for my attorney to get back from her family emergency, what I came to realize was that I was gradually letting go of yet another identity and it was the best feeling I have had since becoming sick.

I was letting go of being a Disabled Person.

It doesn't matter what your identity is. It's shaky ground at best. The minute we begin to identify as something, we risk losing part of ourselves when it's gone. What I did not also realize is that the minute we begin to identify as something, we lesson who we truly are and what our full potential is.

As Pema Chodron writes,
"Our identity, which seems so reliable, is in fact very fluid, very dynamic....Your sense of yourself - who you think you are at the relative level - is a very restricted version of who you truly are. But the good news is that you can use your direct experience - who you seem to be a this very moment of time - the sound you are hearing, the smell you are smelling, the pain or comfort you are feeling right now - by being fully present to your experience, you contact the unlimited openness of your being." 
In letting go of my identity as a Disabled Person, I was beginning to feel the enormous expanse of the unlimited possibility which is me.

I'm still sick. Best I can tell, that's not going to change much. My letting go of Disabled Person is not going to miraculously make me well (although I do not underestimate the possibility). And my days are still full of pain. But it has a significant effect on the amount I suffer. I did not realize how limited my thinking had become. Partly because of my fear that Hartford was lurking around every corner and that my actions would be misinterpreted. That's just one of the many ugly facts needing some serious federal legislative changes. But I take full responsibility for taking on an identity and then making sure I stayed well within the confines of it's expectations.

It's funny what started to happen during that month. All of a sudden my world just opened up. Instead of giving into what I can't do, I began to think about options. Ways around things. Modifications. Situations that seemed like "all or nothing" softened. Possibilities started seeping in around the edges and under the doors of my mind. I began to contact the unlimited openness of my being.

How is your identity limiting you? What rumblings are you not listening to? We do all these wonderful things with our lives, and we keep doing them because we believe they somehow reflect who we are or what we think we are suppose to be. I would urge you to find quiet space in your life to listen to the soft whisperings of your heart. So often we are a reflection of an identity and not our authentic selves. By letting go of those identities, if just for a moment, we can peer ever so slightly into our own unlimited openness. It took a couple of really nasty situations that were beyond my control to cause me to take a second, third, fourth... look. I hope that by reading these words you "get it" a bit quicker than I did.

In the end, I chose not to fight The Hartford. I consider myself blessed and extremely fortunate to even have the ability to entertain that option. Some (including my attorney) may think that's just about the dumbest thing I could ever do. Me, well, I'm just learning how to paint again. And it's absolutely wonderful.


Tuesday, November 4, 2014

Plum and Level

“Now, since our condition accommodates things to itself, and transforms them according to itself, we no longer know things in their reality; for nothing comes to us that is not altered and falsified by our Senses. When the compass, the square, and the rule are untrue, all the calculations drawn from them, all the buildings erected by their measure, are of necessity also defective and out of plumb. The uncertainty of our senses renders uncertain everything that they produce.”
Michel de Montaigne (1533–1592), French essayist

Sometimes my husband drives me crazy. It's an odd kind of crazy though. It's a completely frustrated, want to scream kind of crazy that almost always makes me laugh in the end. Sometimes I laugh right away. Sometimes I hold back that laugh just to be sufficiently crazy to make a point. And sometimes the laugh comes much, much later. The latter is most unfortunate and I'm working on that one. We are both very artistic and passionate people, romantics at heart. What makes our life so fun is that quite often, most often, we travel along the same path. Walking through an art gallery or down a city street with him is one of the most enjoyable things in my life. But there are also those times when our ideas, our visions, our passions seem like they are polar opposites. Or maybe we just don't share the vision at all. The above photo, prior to its creation, when it was simply the formulation of my husbands (sometimes wild and wonderfully abstract) imagination, frustrated the hell out of me. Pure and simple. Every time he made mere mention of it I shuddered at the (what I thought was) simple and obviously lacking in substance artistic nature of it. Completely deprived of depth, about as subtle as a knock-knock joke. (Yes, I can be that harsh!) I assumed it was a silly idea and that was it.  

This past week or so I have observed a number of painful "situations" on the internet. As we all well know, the internet can be a really wonderful thing, but it can also be fertile soil for the growth of misunderstanding and suffering. I remember when my mother tried to have a facebook page. Every misplaced punctuation, every short sentence, every lack of response sent her into emotional panic. No matter how often I tried to tell her that she should not "read into" these things, her heart continued to break. I saw the same heartbreak this past week when the mother of a child with cancer was devastated by the comments or lack of comments from a life long friend. A friend that I know deeply cares for her. 

Another situation I witnessed was in regards to the comments left on an article a good friend of mine wrote. The article was pertaining to an incurable chronic illness and the devastating toll misdiagnosis can take on one's life. An assumption was made by a person commenting that the author's illness not only could, but mostly did stem from unacknowledged emotional pain. The commenter made this assumption based on her own experience and the success of her treatment. No matter how often the author replied that she had researched that possibility and emotional factors were not the cause of her illness, the commenter accused her of being in denial and therefore creating her own illness. She simply could not see that the author's situation could be different than hers. 

Which brings me back to my husbands picture, Plum and level. Thankfully David Ralph Johnson is also not only artistic, but quite strong willed. In fact, he often says, if you want me to do something, just tell me I can't. And I am so happy that he did. First of all, the minute I saw the picture I fell in love with it. For so many reasons I don't think I even know them all. Secondly, what a profound lesson I needed to learn...again. How quick I am to assume. How quick I am to judge based on my own experience. As Michel de Montaigne states, "Nothing comes to us that is not altered or falsified by our senses." Ahhh, so true! 

To be plumb, an object is exactly vertical or perpendicular. It also means things like "precisely, directly, absolute, to examine closely to discover the truth and out of or off true". I like the irony here. In light of the things going on in my life right now, the picture begs a deeper question of me that I am not so sure I know the answer to. A far cry from "simple and obviously lacking in substance"! But what I do know is this, it's hard not to make assumptions. We go on what we have, and what we have is our very own, very personal life experience. It takes conscious work to step outside of ourselves and look at things from a different perspective. And maybe, if you're lucky enough, if you happen to be plumb and level, you'll find yourself laughing in the end.  



Tuesday, August 19, 2014

The Summer Day

My sunflowers!

Who made the world?
Who made the swan, and the black bear?
Who made the grasshopper?
This grasshopper, I mean-
the one who has flung herself out of the grass,
the one who is eating sugar out of my hand,
who is moving her jaws back and forth instead of up and down-
who is gazing around with her enormous and complicated eyes.
Now she lifts her pale forearms and thoroughly washes her face.
Now she snaps her wings open, and floats away.
I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?
Doesn't everything die at last, and too soon?
Tell me, what is it you plan to do
with your one wild and precious life?
~ Mary Oliver

“So, what do you do?”

I’ve never really liked that question. Even in my “un-sick” years, this question has always carried a sort of responsibility that made me uncomfortable. Even in those years when I loved what I was doing, when I was at “the top of my game”, when asked this question I felt the need to make the answer sound good. I had my spiel. What I did was a bit complicated to explain, so my sales pitch carried with it just the right amount of verbiage to make it understandable, yet sound like I had arrived. I always envied those who could get it over with in three words. “I’m a doctor.” “I’m the President.” I’m fairly certain my own personal baggage in regards to feeling not educated enough played a pretty strong role in my career quantephobia, but I do believe it’s a question that makes even a brain surgeon a bit edgy. It feels like a “set-up” question. We all have our preconceived notions (albeit more a reflection of our media sources than actual reality!) about the various professions. So there arises in us something in between a defensive guarding and the upholding of ego. For me, as I look back now, I think it was a little bit of both.

Why do we ask this question? And why do we ask it so quickly? If I think to what my conversations are like with people I have just been introduced to, I would say that it gets asked within the first five minutes, almost without fail. If we are truly trying to get to know someone, is asking them what they do for a living really one of the top questions? It makes me feel like I’m in the beginning stages of Milton Bradley’s Guess Who. Have kids, don’t have kids? Have a house, don’t have a house? Went to college, didn’t go to college? Married, not married? And the questions continue until we tuck one another tightly into convenient roles in our minds. Okay, it’s not always that bad. And I don’t mean to sound cynical, but just think about it for a bit. Why do we do what we do? Why do we ask what we ask? Why do we think what we think? It’s good to stop and “think about the thinker” sometimes. Like Socrates says, “the unexamined life is not worth living”. Why?

When I woke up this morning, for whatever reason, I felt extremely unsatisfied. This happens sometimes. What am I doing with my life? I’ve gotten much better at not letting this little demon have a voice in my head, but there are just those days. I think we all have them, but for the chronically ill, disabled, it’s a haunting question mixed with a heavy dose of grief and guilt. It sneaks into my mind when I least expect it. Especially when I’m tired or more sick than usual. And especially during the winter when I am more home bound. Its companions - judgement and comparison - usually tag along. Actually, when I think about it, they arrive first, quietly through the back door.

Gratitude is much friendlier visitor! 
I don’t think that this is what it’s all about. Life, I mean. When Mary Oliver asks, “Tell me, what is it you plan to do with your one wild and precious life?”, I don’t think she’s asking what our career choice is. I really don’t. I think it’s bigger than that. I think it’s much less tangible than that. I think it has far more to do with the size of our hearts than with the size of our bank accounts or the houses we live in. Discontentment is a relentless debt collector. As long as we continue to borrow our self esteem from others (or other things), discontentment will keep knocking at our door.

I had another lovely conversation with my health psychologist at the U of MN last week. I’ve been seeing her for the past four years and I have yet to walk out of her office without having become a stronger women for it. We were talking about our desire as human beings to find solid ground. We love security. The problem being that security is only an illusion, and that the key is being able to love the shakiness of it all. To learn to live with un-solid ground, for in fact, nothing stays the same. The essence of life itself being change. That got me thinking about my need for answers. Answers are the solid ground we hope to find. Whether it be in regards to ourselves or in regards to others. Answers give us the illusion of control. Can you see the problem here? The minute we think we own something, it’s loss creates a tremendous amount of suffering for us! From something as insignificant as “I finally spent a lot of money on sunglasses and now they’re gone!’ to “I thought I knew who you were and now you’re gone!”

I’m not saying that the key to life is to live so unaffected that we become numb. Quite the opposite! I just think that we are missing the boat if we think the answers are what bring us happiness. Think of all the great scientists and inventors throughout time. What inspired them? Think of all the great painters standing in front of blank canvases. It was the questions of what could be that moved that first stroke, that mixed that first color, that began that first journey. These days of unknowing, these spaces we desperately want to fill with something, can be beautiful, beautiful days. Don’t think for one second  that they are moments stuck in time. All things change. This moment you and I are in is moving us somewhere. The manner in which we move with it will greatly impact the direction we go. Rilke could not say it any more gracefully,
Towards all that is unsolved in your heart
Be patient
Try to love the questions
Do not seek the answers
which cannot be given
you would not be able to live them
Live everything
Live the questions now
you will then gradually,
without noticing it,
Live into the answers
Some distant day.

I think that when asked, “What is it that you do?”, I’m going to work at making my response a verb instead of a noun. I suppose, to get it over with, I’ll still have to say something like, “I’m currently disabled”, because, well, I currently am. But this disability has given me a tremendous opportunity. The opportunity to slow down, to learn every day how to “let go” and how to live beautifully on shaky ground.

I don't know exactly what a prayer is.
I do know how to pay attention, how to fall down
into the grass, how to kneel down in the grass,
how to be idle and blessed, how to stroll through the fields,
which is what I have been doing all day.
Tell me, what else should I have done?

Today I opened my door and walked out...

Green surrounded me.

Bee-ing okay with things just as they are. 

Thankful for another sunrise.

Laughing at the volunteer maple tree in my flower garden.

Enjoying the unconditional love of my four legged friend. 


Monday, August 4, 2014

Wild Abandon

Today, when responding to the recent "flurry" of events associated with Toni Bernhard's publishing of my piece in her Psychology Today column, I used the terms "wild abandon" when describing how I felt when I originally wrote the article. Having just received notice (after months of being harassed) that my long term disability company had been taking video surveillance of me, I was frantically spinning in circles with energy. And it wasn't good energy. Feelings of anger, fear, violation, shame, panic, judgement, humiliation, mortification...were so intense I found it difficult to even breathe. It was the kind of news that if not for a nearby chair, would simply drop you to your knees. 

It's been almost a month now since that letter came in the mail; about twenty-five days and just as many emotions. In those first days, one minute I would think I have the whole equanimity thing figured out (if it turns out good, I'm okay and if it turns out bad, I'm okay...) and the next I would feel paralyzed by the stories spiraling in my head. Many nights completely unable to sleep. "How can they truly know how sick I am and how this disease affects me if they only video tape me outside?? I only go outside on good days! How do they know by looking at me how many times I have thrown up or if I have been unable to leave the bathroom due to unexpected diarrhea? How do you see cognitive disfunction or migraine on a video screen? Where are they every evening when I feel so ill that taking my medication and falling asleep is my only reprieve? Yes, I drove myself to that doctor appointment, but what about the thirty or more that I was unable to drive myself to this past winter? Maybe I shouldn't drive anymore. Maybe I shouldn't get the mail. Maybe I shouldn't water my flowers on a good day. Maybe I shouldn't go out to eat with my family..." It's been a crazy roller-coaster ride and it takes a tremendous amount of mental work to make it stop. 

But this is what I have figured out about myself throughout this whole ordeal thus far. And believe me, I'm still a work in progress. 

1. I don't believe I randomly picked the words "wild abandon" out of thin air (like I felt I did) this morning when describing my frantic writing episode after receiving that letter. It was wild abandon. There were no rules when I wrote. In fact, when I did it, I had actually planned on using it as a journaling exercise to try and rid myself of the physical side effects I was feeling from the panic I was experiencing. Definitely wild. No one's looking kind of wild. A complete lack of inhibition or restraint kind of wild. 

2. If you look in the dictionary under abandon, the first definition reads something like this, "to give up completely (a course of action, a practice, or a way of thinking), discontinue". That is exactly what I needed. It's what my body was begging for. For that horrible sensation to be gone. I didn't want it any more. And for some reason, I felt that if I just let my fingertips go on the keyboard I could somehow find a way to release things. To let it go. To give it up. I didn't care what I was typing or who was going to potentially read it or if I would somehow let my viewers down. I had simply had enough

3. The second definition, although similar to the first, says, "to cease to support, take interest in or look after; desert. Leave empty or uninhabited, without intending to return". To me, this means that not only am I giving up something, I'm not planning on taking it back. And by doing so, at least in my situation, I am leaving this "thing" empty and definitely uninhabited by me. I am putting my foot down and refusing to allow this situation to take up any more space within me - or I within it! 

4. The third definition is where I am at now. It's the very thing I talked to my health psychologist about during our time together today. For me, it's almost a byproduct of the first two; "to allow oneself to indulge in (a desire or impulse)". The minute I hit the "Post" button on my blog account there began an immediate change in my internal circumstances. At that very moment I was done being scared. (Not that fear hasn't returned at times, but with much, much less ferocity!) This was the first moment I truly felt the presence of equanimity. Once I let go, once I no longer let these "things"(fear, anger, my long term disability insurance, whatever is making me miserable) have power over me, or in me, or in my future plans... my world felt bigger. It wasn't really a change in my circumstances, but more a shift in how I was looking at them. I allowed myself to indulge in a desire or impulse. And my desire was to let this all go. Quite a task for a control junkie like me!

The picture at the top of this post is that of an abandon house in Kensett, Iowa. It stands (barely) just down the road from the Izaak Walton League where my grandfather was the president for many years. I was so fortunate to be there recently for an old-time family reunion, which is when this picture was taken by my husband. Years ago, when I was healthier, I walked down the railroad track about a mile or so and carefully made my way through the old front door, which now no longer resides on it's hinges. If you've ever done such a thing, there's a feeling that goes along with it. That feeling can range anywhere from a sort of "spookiness" to a grand sense of days gone by. It's fun to look at light switches and wallpaper and envision what it used to be like way back when. But for me, the minute I walk into an old abandoned house I have this intense feeling of Holiness. Like I'm stepping on sacred ground. Outside the door, old abandoned house. Inside the door...a home. Where the rooms and walls are filled with stories of life and death and everything in between. Just like those stories and the people that lived them turned this old abandoned house into a home, so, too, do our stories turn you and I from flesh and bone into compassionate, spirit-filled beings, beautiful and holy.


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