I am Loving Right Now. . .

self expression : heart-of-stone

self expression : heart-of-stone (Photo credit: cauchisavona)

Facebook has allowed me to meet so many talented, interesting and amazing people. One of those people is Mary Costanza: A Woman’s Heart and Soul. Her page speaks to every woman and those who love them. It is a community wherein a woman is reminded of her strength, beauty, power and self-worth. Mary reminds women that within them is the key to every secret dream and desire.

Granted, I regularly find that it is as if Mary’s posts speak directly to my heart, but I found a recent one especially compelling. In it, Mary writes about self-expression, which is a topic that is near and dear to my heart. She writes:

self-ex•pres•sion
noun

The expression of one’s feelings, thoughts, or ideas, esp. in writing, art, music, or dance.

She slowly began the process of self expression. She had so much in her heart and soul that she wanted to share with the world. She was tired of being so damn passive, quiet and unknown, and hiding in the shadows. She had a voice and wanted to share who she was with the world. She didn’t want to be loud and obnoxious; she wanted to express herself with class and style, and a little mystery. So she said to herself, let’s go for it, let’s be brave and bold, and let’s step out into the unknown, and with a deep breath, she began to write what she was feeling in her heart and soul, and the creativity was unstoppable, it’s like the sky above opened up and just started pouring down on her. Idea after idea just keep coming, the ideas kept coming so quickly that she couldn’t keep up with them all. She said I am not afraid anymore, she said I’ll dye my hair purple, red, gold whatever color she feels like wearing that day, she’ll wear leather, cover her body in tattoos, buy a Harley, travel the world, have a beer for breakfast or whatever it may be to express what she is feeling inside. She knows that there are those that will judge and criticize her, but she does care anymore, she is old enough, wise enough and brave enough to admit she is a little wild, and wants to be free, and she now knows it’s time to free that wild woman inside, it’s time for her to come out and play, she not hiding her anymore. The beauty of self expression, it can’t be explained; it can only be lived.

Mary Costanza

For the most part, I discovered self-expression through my role as a trial lawyer. I expect that given the public mindset of lawyers as a whole, it seems odd that one equates the practice of law with self-expression. Nevertheless, as a lawyer, I was able to express myself through one of my favorite medium — writing. More surprising, however, was the extent to which trying cases allowed the actor in me to flourish and blossom. Although representing the client was my first priority as an attorney, doing so placed me at center stage with an opportunity to orchestrate a performance wherein the most compelling, persuasive, engaging and believable party was deemed the victor. In most cases, that party was mine and justice was indeed served.

After years of practicing law, fibromyalgia forced me to resign from my active law practice. I landed on disability. For a very long time, my health took center stage and the idea of self-expression was frivolous and thus banished. In illness, I lost myself and with it the need for self-expression. The passage of time silenced that part of me that delighted in or curious about the act of creation or self-expression. I came to deny that such a need existed. I was lulled into an existence where my thoughts and feelings were unimportant and the only thing that mattered was my ill health and all that it had taken from me. I was told repeatedly that this was an opportunity that few had — a clean slate upon which to create the life that I wanted. I wanted no part of it.

However, as time passed, I began to yearn for a creative outlet that allowed me to express myself in new and exciting ways.  With that in mind, I created a list of activities that I wanted to learn and incorporate it into my life as a positive and healthy form of self-expression; something to counter and out weigh the self-defeating thoughts and ideas that had become the norm.  I sought to banish the idea that I was not and could not be creative.

During the past year, I’m beginning to overcome the word “can’t” and surrender to both drawing and painting. I am allowing myself to explore various forms of self-expression, some new like photography, painting, and drawing, and others like journaling, blogging and even writing. I’ve come to realize that the move of the hips in dance, every line of a pencil in drawing, every mark or stroke of a brush in painting and every word choice in writing or song, conveys a particular thought, idea, or feeling. Through these forms of self-expression, we release fear and anger, as well as love, joy and happiness. Embracing self-expression can be an antidote to negative thinking, pain and sorrow and an affirmation of  forgiveness, physical, mental, emotional and spiritual growth and self-acceptance.

As I read Mary’s post, I found myself nodding in agreement with one sentence after another. She expresses, far better than I, my thoughts, the why and nature of self-expression, and its’ pull that once unleashed is self-fulfilling. Her words remind me that self-expression is yet another of the precious gifts given to humans as a product of being human, of being alive, and “that it can’t be explained, it can only be lived.”

Blessings, Lydia

 

Finding Peace in Forgiveness.

Forgiveness Mandala by Wayne Stratz

Forgiveness Mandala by Wayne Stratz (Photo credit: Nutmeg Designs)

This post is longer than is usually the case, but given the subject matter, I am sure that you will understand. Thank you for taking the time to read and experience it.

My father passed away almost two weeks ago. When a parent dies, it seems that most children feel a sense of sadness, longing, grief and in some cases, regret for missed opportunities and all that will never be. However, those thoughts and feelings are often tampered by the gratitude and precious memories that you shared with this man, your father.

A couple of months ago, one of my oldest and dearest friends called to tell me that her father had passed. Upon hearing the news, tears flowed and I was overwhelmed by a sense of grief, sadness and gratitude. The grief was present for obvious reasons; the sadness because a special man was gone from this world; the gratitude, because as fate would have it, I became best friends with his daughter and through her, was able to see and feel all that the word “dad” entailed, and the importance of the role of a father-figure in one’s life. Nevertheless, when I learned of my father’s passing, I felt a sadness, as I would when told of anyone’s death, but more prominently, there was a visceral void.

I suppose that you can say that our relationship was complicated. You see, he turned his back on our family when I was only five years old. When I say that he turned his back, I mean that his leaving was so complete that it was as if he disappeared from the face of the earth, certainly from my world. In fact, he did for about 11 years. At the time he left, I was the oldest of three girls and my Mom was left to raise us by herself, with no contact or support from my father. As a young child, I didn’t have the tools necessary to comprehend my father’s actions, so for the most part, I was confused, and even guilty, thinking that his actions were my fault. As I grew older those feelings transformed into resentment and anger, feelings that failed to change even after he began making the occasional appearance in our lives. He came bearing gifts, but none that I wanted or needed.

The truth is that I didn’t know this man and I knew no more about him than the passing stranger. What I did know was that he wasn’t there to give us food, shelter, clothing or love. He wasn’t there when I had measles or chicken pox, to pick me up when I fell or to soothe my tears over some perceived devastation that all children endure. Complicating the matter is the immutable fact that he is the man who gave me life, and my rational and logical mind knows that were it not for him, I would not be writing this post.

As is expected, people continue to express his or her sympathy at my loss. I’ve noticed that people use the words “father,” and “dad” interchangeably, and when the word “dad” is chosen, I feel very uncomfortable.  I find it impossible to apply that word to our relationship. In fact, I feel wrong even trying to do so. My mind keeps returning to the same question: what is the difference between a “father” and a “dad?” Why have I always been unable to refer to this man as anything but my father? In fact, more often than not, I instinctively referred to him by his first name, John. Yet, this is a topic for another place and time.

In reality, I’ve been pulled between the angry, confused and sad child that my father deserted, and the older wiser me that realizes that his actions were about him, not me, and that the anger and resentment has harmed me much more than it hurt him. I don’t know how to feel about a man who is a virtual stranger to me, but is a primary cause of my presence in this world. The icing on the cake is that as one of his next of kin, I am the one who has to make post-death arrangements, as well as pay for them. My inner child is stumping and screaming that life is not fair.

Yet, as often happens with life, a sense of closure occurs in the most unexpected ways. In my case, I was standing in line at the pharmacy after having had an amazing experience with my yoga therapist, which I will write about in a later post. I was next in line and I casually noticed that someone had gotten in line behind me. It is a dapper elderly man whom I later learned was a young 82 years, and  a transplanted Californian who moved to Austin five years ago. He said, in a friendly and sincere voice, “How are you today?” The question moved me because so often these days, people don’t take the time to concern themselves with others. This man was different. I turned toward him as I answered and politely asked, “And how are you?” His response took me by surprise. He said, “I am better than great. I couldn’t possibly be better!” I suppose that his answer intrigued me because I can’t recall feeling that way in some time.

As we continued our conversation, I learned that he and his wife had grown children, with lives of their own. Five years ago, they decided that with their children gone and they had no reason to tie themselves to California. They decided to set out to discover a new place to live. Serendipity brought them to Austin, Texas and he is, by all accounts an amiable and happy man. For reasons that I didn’t understand at first, I felt an undeniable bond with this stranger, this man who I’d never laid eyes upon. Before long, it was my turn in line, so I started toward the counter. All of a sudden, I experienced one of those proverbial ‘light bulb’ moments, and in my heart, I knew both why I’d met this man and why he’d affected me so much.

I turned back to him with intense curiosity. Although I hadn’t realized it before, there were definite similarities between him and my father. He was the same height and build with a similar hair cut and the same quick smile for strangers. When I was a kid, this was the type of man who I’d always imagined my father to be. I believe that there is a reason for everyone that we meet and that they arrive at the exact moment when we most need them. Even in his passing, my heart yearned for a compassionate, loving and attentive father who loved and hugged me liberally. I longed for a father just like this man, and I believe that this man represented all that I did not have in a father, and that, if for only a short while, he was God’s blessing to me.

Unconsciously, I reached out to him, grabbed his hand, and thanked him for his kindness. For reasons that I still cannot explain, I felt compelled to explain to him that my estranged father had just died and that meeting him was the balm to my soul that I’d desperately needed. He expressed sympathy and thanked me for bestowing such an honor on him. He hugged me in a fatherly way. I turned back toward the counter, picked up my scripts, waved goodbye and continued on my way.

I was aisles away from the pharmacy picking up a few items when I heard someone call out to me. It was my new “friend.” He’d searched the store for me because he wanted to properly introduce himself and learn my name. He told me that “When he thought about our meeting, he wanted to know my name,” and believed that every experience was a gift to treasure. We exchanged introductions, shook hands and turned to go on our ways.

As I walked away, I felt a weight lifting from my shoulders and an overwhelming sense of peace filled that hollow in my heart. I experienced a letting go, and a sense of forgiveness that eluded me during my father’s life, but now was possible at his death. It is true, forgiveness is more for you than the other. I do not claim to have let go of years of anger, resentment, disappointment and longing in a matter of 15 minutes. Yet, I’ve begun the process and to me, that is profound. As I attend to my father’s post-death arrangements, I intend to extend him the peace and respect that I never received from him. Doing so, brings me peace. It seems to be coming together, as it should be.

Blessings, Lydia

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Quote Tuesday

English: Each Path to its own success and New ...

English: Each Path to its own success and New Beginnings… (Photo credit: Wikipedia)

As I read a recent Kelly Rae Roberts blog post, she reminded me of this William H. Murray quote that I love:

“Until one is committed, there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back. Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation), there is one elementary truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too. All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred. A whole stream of events issues from the decision, raising in one’s favor all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance, which no man could have dreamed would have come his way. Whatever you can do, or dream you can do, begin it. Boldness has genius, power, and magic in it. Begin it now.”

Blessings, Lydia

Quote Tuesday

path

path (Photo credit: Elephant wearing striped pants)

Just move one step in the direction of our soul’s longing. Do not worry about where it leads. Don’t try to imagine the specifics of what you will eventually create; it will come.

~Ann O’Shaughnessy