Sunday, August 30, 2020

THE BIRTH OF GINA



EDITOR'S NOTE: I wrote this piece in 2013, shortly after I started working with my spiritual therapist Mary Marino. I couldn't grasp this concept that I had to love myself as if I were a baby. Looking back, though, it was so crucial to my healing to learn the lessons Mary was teaching. 

Just this morning, after meditating, I wrote in my journal: "Today, be a loving adult to your child self." And so, I think I finally do get it. At least sometimes. While I might lapse now and then, I finally know what I'm supposed to be doing. But in 2013 it was all Greek to me!


What was this? What creature?

I wasn't sure, but wait,

Mary said, very clearly,

that I gave birth to her,

that I am her mother,

but how can this possibly be?

I AM MUCH TOO OLD FOR THIS

My children are long grown,

into fine adults, the three,

SO WHO IS THIS BABY

AND WHAT IS SHE DEMANDING OF ME?

 

At first, I think

I must be going out of my mind.

This baby is a figment

a fragment,

and these are the thoughts of a truly crazy person,

I am not thinking straight, I even spelled

crazy

craisy, crasy, craisy,

it wasn't until my husband pointed this

out now

I am shouting, I want out,

I want no part of this damned

child, the creature who seems to

want to

eat me alive starting with my heart.


But wait.

I jostle her,

her tiny butt,

I rock her I cradle her head

against the bare skin of my chest

Up against my saggy breasts.

Mary says

She wants only one 

only one thing from your

heart to your heart she

wants you to start to

LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE LOVE

her

from you

to you



I breathe in and hold my breath

and close my eyes and shudder

and Mary keeps speaking:

This child is you your baby your body

you 

and all things feminine in the youniverse

This is the daughter of your soul

and you must comfort her forever

The more you push her away the more

frantic she will be.

So love her no matter what.

 

So I caress and cradle

her head

and whisper to her me, I will never

ever push you away, do you

hear me? You are welcome here

as long as you want to stay

I will not run away.

 

These words soothe her rubbery limbs

she goes limp as I sit in the rocker

stroking her to sleep. Very quietly

I get up from the chair and carry

her into my bedroom and set her down.

I pile pillows all around her,

and tiptoe out of the room,

as it is time for me to go running.

 


I tie on my bright blue running shoes

and head out the door when

I hear shrieking!

I cringe

I hear Mary's words again:

She doesn't trust you,

she knows full well 

you were lying 

all along

you were planning your escape.


What can I do but return to

the bedroom and pick her up

and start all over to soothe her

to tell her how deeply I love her

How I never ever planned to

abandon her.

 

To show her my commitment

I strap her into the front of my

blue running bra and head out.

I ignore her fingernails

digging into my chest

her skinny feet

kicking at my ribs,

I never even flinch

when I feel her warm pee

soaking my shorts.

We slowly climb the first hill.

up and down the second hill

me panting,

me my

heart

pumping she

keeps her face buried in my chest

 


Until finally we are

back in the yard

to the pond where,

she smiles at me

I see myself in the mirrored surface

of the water.

 

As Mary said, she wants

Only love love love love

my love and my infinite

acceptance

from me.

To see, she said, that you 

will keep loving me

no matter what no

matter if it feels hard

I must feel deep deep regard

 

With her

against my chest

her tiny skull in my cupped hand

I lean back I

do the back stroke

We are

clinging so tightly each to each

me

we are one we love the water,

and then it occurs to

me, that if she is my baby me

then I must have a suitable name

ME LOVING ME ME ME ME

this is

as Mary

says this naming yourself

is the opportunity of a lifetime.

 

I close my eyes and gaze right into

the water and me calls out the name, 

a version of my own middle name I shout

JEANNA (pronounced GEE-NA.)

over and over and over

Jeanna Jeanna Jeanna Jeanna Jeanna

A fine name Mary whispers

And now it is time

to finish.

Finish? Mary, Mary,what do you mean?

Finish what? Mary remains silent.

I watch the fish wiggling through the cool green water.

I listen to the warm wind speaking

JEANNA JEANNA

Maybe GINA?

Out of nowhere comes the word.

Baptism.

Of course.

Mary speaks

I will help christen you your child 

you two into one you

Kneeling at the edge of the water

I cup my hands and

lift

let the pond water dribble

over my forehead. I say a Hail Mary.

A feeling of pure joy comes over me

 

I feel my chest my heart beating

one two one two one two

an endless march and Mary

when I am looking up

she is smiling. Now the surface of the pond

is striped

in rays of sunlight

I wrap myself in a towel.

I walk back to the house

Thinking how happy I am

I am that I am

GINA.

 

Tuesday, August 25, 2020

Keep a Journal to Increase Your Happiness?

Editor's note: One of the last classes I taught at SUNY Albany before I retired was called "Reading and Writing the Happier Self," or just the Happiness class. What follows is a list of journal assignments I compiled for the class. 

This year's Happiness class doesn't start until January 18th, but ideas for the class are starting to roll around in my head like sparkling marbles, in part because students interested in the class keep coming to my office to ask me what it's all about. So here is a preview of some of the journal assignments that I will present to the students. I can't decide yet which ones will be mandatory. The Gratitude List certainly will be, maybe others too. I invite you to make comments and suggestions for other assignments. 

1) Start a GRATITUDE LIST being very specific about the things in life for which you are grateful: "I am grateful that I have eyes to see the sky. I am grateful that I have teeth to chew my food. I am grateful that I have food." See how long you can make this list. Can you make it a daily practice to write down three or four or five things for which you are grateful? 

 2) Identity the "small" moments in which you become keenly aware of something that makes you joyful. Be specific and describe the effects on your senses: e.g., “I saw a tree today covered in ice and the sun hitting it was so pretty, I just stood there in awe.” 

3) Turn these moments into Haiku? Longer poems? 

4) Describe specific SENSATIONS associated when you are really paying attention to what you are doing: "I enjoyed the smell of my morning coffee. I enjoyed the way the warm cup felt in my hands. I enjoyed the smell of the cool air when I stepped outdoors." 

 5) The next time you find yourself feeling calm, take a moment and "draw" the feeling associated with it. Find a color for it. A visual. Collect images from magazines that make you feel calm. 

 6) Identify one small thing you can do to help another person. Describe what happens after you do it

7) Make a list of ways in which you can show others what it means to be happy. 

 8) Have a conversation about mindfulness with someone, in which you try to explain what it means to pay attention moment by moment without judgement. Then write about that conversation and what it taught you. 

 9) Forgive someone for something small. Write about that. Forgive someone for something "bigger." Write about the idea that we should "Forgive everyone, for everything.” 
 10) The next time you get angry at someone, write about it. Write about why you are angry and how exactly it feels in your body. Be specific. Put the writing away and later come back and write these words at the top of the page: "What will this matter in 100 years?" See if you can “enlighten” yourself as to why that anger is/was there and why being angry doesn't really get you anywhere, except for more angry. 

 11) Do something nice for yourself and write about how that feels. Then, do something nice for someone else and write about how that feels. 

 12) Write about whether or not you are impatient. What does it feel like to be impatient? What prompts you to feel impatient? 

 13) Find a living object (flower?



 15) TRY LAUGHING. SEE IF YOU CAN LAUGH FOR ONE MINUTE. Then write about laughing and why you think research shows that laughter can help you be physically healthier. 

Monday, August 24, 2020

HOW A BLUE MAPLE TREE HELPED ME HEAL WAY BACK IN 2003

These days, I have healing on my mind. And that's why I'd like to tell you a story about the huge blue maple tree I used to have in my front yard.  As I explain why it is blue, I will ask that you to keep an open mind. 

The story of the blue tree involves faith.  And the belief in the power each of us has to heal ourselves.  If you’ve read anything about the so-called placebo effect, you will know what I’m talking about.  If you are told that you are taking a very potent medicine, one that will cure you, then oftentimes it works, even if that medicine is just a sugar pill. 

 

The mind is a very powerful thing when it comes to controlling the body.

 

OK.  So the tree in question was a giant old maple that used to tower over the front yard of my lovely old white farmhouse in Austerlitz, New York.  

 

Anyone who knows me know that I have a deep affinity for maple trees.  I wrote my first novel, Dreaming Maples, after I “saw” the main characters acting out their heartbreak beneath a set of imaginary maples up in Vermont.

 

The key maple tree in my book is one I referred to as the Mother Maple, because it was a pivotally-important tree for my characters (the novel is a mother-daughter story.)

 

Anyway, the tree in my front yard served as a model for this tree that inhabited my mind back when I was writing the book in the 1990s.  I spent five years writing Dreaming Maples, and a few more years revising it. So I had what you might call a very close relationship to this tree that was in my yard.

 

OK, so this is the part that’s a little hard to explain.

 

On a warm night in July of 2003, I had to leave my home to drive to New York City.  I had to go to Sloan Kettering for a biopsy.  It was the second summer in a row that I was dealing with cancer (Hodgkin’s Disease, a type of lymphoma.) The doctor at Sloan Kettering had told me a week or so before that I had a “new” spot of cancer, and that I absolutely had to have a stem cell transplant, a rather drastic procedure that scours your immune system, bringing you to the edge of death before restoring some immune function.  

 

The thing about the stem cell is that it can kill you just as easily as it can cure you.  And since I was feeling perfectly healthy, and had been for months, I was understandably reluctant to submit to the stem cell treatment.

 

OK, so I left the house with my husband under a perfectly clear blue sky that evening in July.  I don’t remember if I was crying or not as I left, but I know I had terrific heartache.  It was easily one of the scariest nights of my entire life.

 

My children stayed behind.  My children are the ones who reported the weird episode with the maple in the front yard. Within minutes of our departure, the kids reported that the blue sky disappeared and in its place, a vicious lightning storm whipped up out of absolutely nowhere.  

 

“Mom,” my daughter told me the next day, “It was the strangest thing I ever saw.  You left, and everything was absolutely fine one minute and then the next thing we knew, lightning and thunder came crashing down, and then, all of a sudden the tree just collapsed.”

 

Just as fast as the storm hit, it vanished.  The maple, a tree that had seen a century of storms, was split in two, the top half fallen across the yard.

 

When I got back home the next day, there were giant green boughs lying like mammoth arms across the lawn.  I started to cry.  To me, it was though that giant motherly tree I loved so much was reaching her motherly arms out to comfort and protect me.  She had seen me the night before get into the car and drive away, to do one of the hardest things I’d ever had to do.  It was almost as though she was calling out to me, throwing her biggest boughs  half way across the yard.  She had laid herself, her life, right down there for me in the front yard. 

 

To honor that sacrifice, I decided to paint the remaining portion of the tree blue.  

 

I hired a guy to come in to saw up the biggest boughs, and then I went to Home Depot to buy a gallon of sky blue paint.  I asked the salesman behind the counter what kind of paint I should buy for “outdoor use.”

 

“Well, so, ma’am, what are you painting?” he asked me.

 

I scrunched up my face. “I am...painting...a tree,” I said, hoping he wouldn’t laugh.

He smiled.  He sold me the right paint, and a long handle for my roller.  

 

Over the next few days, I painted.  Once I’d climbed as high as I dared on the stepladder, I phoned a young man in town and he donned a leather harness and hoisted himself up 30 feet and swung there, right above the main road, and he painted the very top of the tree blue. The neatest thing about the blue color of the tree is that it is exactly the same color as the sky, so that if you looked up, the top of the broken tree seems to disappear into the ethos.

 

Later in the summer, when my sister Karen arrived from California for a visit, she was so moved by my project that she asked if she could help me add a little extra color to the bottom of the tree.  Together, we used the roller to add sea green and sun yellow to the tree, using leftover paint we found in the basement. 

 

Painting that tree helped me face the trauma I had to deal with that summer.  It reinforced my faith in all kinds of ways.  It helped me find the courage to stand up to the miserable doctor at Sloan and say, “Look, I don’t care if you think I need a stem cell transplant, I disagree, and I want to get a second opinion.” (He was very arrogant and insisted I didn’t need a second opinion!  "Why do you need one? I'm the world’s expert in this area.")  

 

Painting that tree gave me the strength to go to Dana Farber in Boston to see a second oncologist. 

 

The night before I went to Boston, I held a healing ceremony beneath the blue tree.  I invited my closest friends and told them to bring drums and shakers.  We sat in a circle as the sun went down.  We lit candles.  We sang.  We banged on drums.  We asked for healing.  We offered up ears of corn.  We read Native American poetry.  We prayed for health, for me and for others.  We even had a woman there – a professional photographer— who insisted on capturing the event in pictures.

 

When the evening ended, I felt at peace.  I knew I had to go to see another oncologist the next morning.  I knew I was probably going to get the same message from him that I had gotten from the doctor at Sloan, that is, that I needed the stem cell transplant, that I would have to be in the hospital for months, and face the dangers associated with the most invasive high-intensity chemotherapy possible.

 Despite this looming reality, however, the healing ceremony beneath the blue tree filled me with peace, and hope and love and a deep certainty that I would be cared for. That somehow, some way, I would be healed. I felt I had the arms of all of my friends, and my blue Mother Maple, supporting me.

 

The next day, the most amazing thing in the world happened. Sometimes I still cannot believe how things unfolded. My sister (who is a nurse), my husband, my daughter and I drove to Boston, and when we finally got in to the examining room to see the doctor at Dana Farber, he told us that he knew the doctor at Sloan, and that he disagreed completely with his opinion.

 

I didn't think I was hearing correctly.

 

But he was saying what I thought he was saying.  He said that the doctor at Sloan had treated me the summer before with an experimental chemo regimen (called the Stanford Five.)  He said that he suspected that the radiation that I had endured in 2002 probably didn't do the trick.

 

As my family and I sat there in total shock and amazement, he said that he would need to review my CT scans, etc., but that in his opinion, he was pretty sure that I would not need the stem cell transplant after all.

 

It’s hard to put into words how I felt when I heard this news.  If you have ever faced a life-threatening illness, or know a loved one who has, then you might have some idea. I know I sobbed tears of joy.  I know my husband and my sister and my daughter did too. And I know even though there is no proof that the blue tree helped, in my mind, it gave me the faith I needed to make it through.

 

Well, so, it turned out the doctor at Dana Farber, a remarkably kind and wonderful man named George Canellos, was right.  I did not need the stem cell transplant.  I can't say how grateful I am to this day in August of 2020, to that doctor.  I also can't say how grateful I am that I have enjoyed enormously good health since 2003.

 

In 2015, we sold the old farmhouse, and by that point, most of the blue paint had worn away.

 

But I can't think about my beloved blue tree without stopping and saying a prayer of gratitude: thinking, "thank you, thank you, thank you, thank you, for what you did for me."

Thursday, August 20, 2020

Here is Another Miracle

In the category of miracles, or coinkydinkies, this is one of the most puzzling. I present it here just as it happened.

Three nights ago, I dreamed about having a hamster. Or maybe two.

All night long, I was looking for a home for the hamster. 

Was it going to be a dish of some sort? A box? 

A cage?

I woke up before I found the right place to keep my pet hamster. 

I didn't think much of it until I got to my sister Holly's later in the day.

I had gone to the nursery to buy my sister a Rose of Sharon. 


I did that because my dad adored that flower more than just about any other.

And August 15th marked the one year anniversary of Dad's passing.

Holly and I cried together thinking about Dad. And how much we miss him and Mom.

So that day, I presented Holly with a Rose of Sharon. She loved it.

And then she said, "Come with me, there's something I have for you."

And we went into the house and she went to her closet and came back with this:

A tiny hamster sitting in a rose.

She said, "It's for your meditation table. And I'm giving it to you because I love you."

I was speechless. My heart felt like it was going to melt.

I've always said my sister has psychic powers. That she is connected to Divine energy. That she calls me at very special moments. That she always pulls me toward miracles. 

Like the time at my Grandma Mish's funeral when she handed me the rhinestone heart. And then a rainbow appeared overhead.


Well, now, so I have a home for my hamster. In a rose, which is a symbol of love.

Thank you to my dear sister, whose tiny black statue sits near my meditation candle every morning.


Wednesday, August 12, 2020

SUCKED ALONG BY THE NARRATIVE

Dripping wet. Sweating so much right now that I'm slippery, sweat dripping from my eyes and my nose, my chin. I can't possibly touch the computer keys like this. So I am dictating into my phone.

I took another walk today. I'm up to 4.8 miles. I walked up a very long hill, in the beastly sun and heat. I walked by the cornfields that just go on and on.

At one point, I saw a big swimming pool behind a farmhouse. I had all I could do not to run across the fields and their lawn and jump into the pool and explain to the owners later what drove me to it.

When I get back to the house I turn on the cold water hose and spray it all over my head. I am drenched. I feel my body throb with heat and with fatigue. It feels wonderful.

Eckert Tolle says stay in your body.

That's the way to stay close to God. 

That's the way to stay healthy, physically and mentally.

My sister Holly just put in a gorgeous above ground swimming pool at her house and yesterday she and I and my  husband and my daughter spent an hour or more soaking up the cool cool water. Just floating. Just floating.

I want to tell you this next part of the story but I am afraid to. BUT SOMETIMES YOU HAVE TO DO THE HARD THING.

I told Peg this morning that suddenly writing -- after three decades -- feels dangerous. Like it's a powder keg waiting to detonate. Or a searing probe that can go places I'm not sure I'm ready to go.

And this book. Whatever possessed me to think that writing this book, a healing story, would be easy? Why was I so naive to think that talking about the past would, in a flash, take away all the pain?

My daughter was in a bad mood yesterday and she was giving me and my husband the cold shoulder.

I woke up in the middle of the night feeling desperate.  All I could think was, it's back to the way it was in the old days, when she wanted nothing to do with me because I was so deeply depressed.

I could hardly blame her. She was in her early twenties. She saw her mother go into the hospital for electroshock treatment. She didn't understand. And she was petrified, as I would have been.

Oh please God I want to go back and erase that awful awful time. 

But here instead I'm writing about it. No one is forcing me to tell this. But I am getting sucked along by the narrative. THERE IS A VERY STRONG POWER IN WORDS AND IN STORIES. THEY TAKE OVER. THEY TAKE ON A LIFE OF THEIR OWN. THEY TAKE YOU DEEP INTO PLACES YOU HAVE KNOWN AND ALSO, MIRACULOUSLY, TO PLACES YOU'VE NEVER BEEN.

I saw this writing my novels. The story ballooned and took over. The characters became real presences in my life. They consumed my imagination.


OK enough stalling. 

It was mid-August 2012. The light. The sky. All of it feels like it did then.

Beastly hot. The grass at the psychiatric hospital was burnt to a crisp in places.

I WASN'T ALLOWED TO GO FOR A WALK. I wanted to jog. I was used to jogging four or five times a week. But I WAS FORCED TO STAY INSIDE ALL DAY EVERY DAY.

We had to walk as a group from the house where we lived to the cafeteria. Three times a days. Brown plastic trays. Bland food. I had no appetite. 

My husband came almost every day, making a drive of more than an hour each way. He played cards with me. He supported me like only he could. I don't know what I would have done without him.

I knew only one thing: I was deeply unhappy. I was willing to do or try anything that might make the depression go away. And that included being wheeled into a room three times a week where they placed me on a bed and attached electrodes to my head and sent electricity sizzling through my brain.

I wanted out of that  place. I wanted no more therapeutic circles of people talking about their mental illness and their coping strategies. I wanted no more arts and crafts hours. I hated arts and crafts. I hated the whole place -- considered an upscale psychiatric hospital-- with every fiber of my being.

GOD WHY DO I HAVE TO RECALL ALL THIS PAIN?

IS THIS WHAT IT MEANS TO WRITE A HEALING TALE?O ONE THAT RIPS YOUR INSIDES OUT AND MAKES YOU DOUBT YOURSELF ALL OVER AGAIN?

It forces me to stay in the moment.

It forces me to COME TO TERMS WITH THE FACT that I went through something awful, but I survived it. And eventually a medication took me out of the depths of despair. And a very skilled therapist helped me realize that what I needed was -- and is -- a deeply spiritual life in which I call on God and the angels every day to guide my way.


And I am here today and while I have my moments, I am healthy. I keep my focus on the now as often as I can. 

Like right now for example, I am sipping this cup of spicy turmeric tea. I combine it with Tension tamer. I make a cup every afternoon and add spun honey and oat milk. And when necessary, meaning, when my anxiety gets uncomfortable, I lie on the living room rug in the corpse pose and do a relaxing yoga nidra sequence. I highly recommend it.

Sometimes yoga nidra puts me to sleep. Most of the time, it makes my psyche feels cleaner. Fresher. More organized. More relaxed.

"I am healed."

I say that and then I wonder.

What does healing look like?

I hope it looks like a woman who is walking almost five miles a day. A woman who is writing to try to stay sane. A woman who takes photos and paints canvases. A woman who is blessed to have two healthy grandchildren and a wonderful family. And incredible friends.

One of whom, Peg Woods, is holding my hand as I find my way through this book. I think about that and I feel a flood of goosebumps. And gratitude.

How did I get so lucky?

Thank you God, for guiding me to this place, and giving me this serenity.

Monday, August 10, 2020

NO CRAVING AND NO PUSHING AWAY. STAY IN PRAYER AND LOVE.

This is what happens when you try to write a book about healing.

It looks like it’s going great guns, until you wake up one Monday morning and you can’t for the life of you get in touch with the DIVINE FORCES that you thought were

carrying the book

forward.

Ordinarily you would say you’re stuck. So what. Just be patient.  That’s what you would tell a fellow writer. You would quote from Brenda Ueland’s amazing book, If You Want to Write.

“Inspiration comes very slowly and quietly,” advises Ueland, for whom writing is a supremely spiritual activity. “When I wait with inspiration, my time is not wasted.”

But you quickly ignore this advice. You make the mistake you don’t have to make.

You panic. You don’t want to feel frantic but you can’t be sure how to stop it, the feeling that here now is a vast chasm between you and divine inspiration.

You wonder this: maybe I have said all that needs to be said. Maybe this was never a book to begin with. Maybe you won’t write one more word.

Or not.

That’s no reason to descend into the dread zone. Is it?

Your husband suggests you paint. 

IT COMES OUT DARK BLUE AND RED,

With twinges of white

And light blue.

Painting takes some of the pressure and insecurity away. All that bad energy that gets bottled up has got to go somewhere.

It helps to recall what the Buddhists say,

Avoid all craving and pushing away.

Stay in the mode of

ACCEPTANCE.

ACCETTAZIONE.

Strive for serenity.

SERENITA.

Feel the air flooding in and picture it running up through your ten fingers and both hands and your two arms and elbows and shoulders. 

Fill your chest. Let the pillow of air rest there.

Repeat.

Lie down on your back on the floor.

Inhale to the count of four.

Hold it for the count of seven.

Exhale for the count of eight.

Don’t hate where you are. Don’t push it away.

PRAY FOR ACCEPTANCE.

PREGO PER ACCETTAZIONE.

Just stay in the moment you’ve got. FEEL ALL THE LOVE YOU HAVE IN YOUR LIFE. Breathe.

And then take a vigorous 4.2 mile walk up Baldwin Hill Road. When you get back, feeling like a pool of sweat, turn on the cold water in the outdoor hose and spray it all over your head.

When you finally get inside, and take your shower, your frustration will have faded significantly.

Make a vow: that you won’t drive yourself so crazy tomorrow!

Saturday, August 08, 2020

FINALLY I UNDERSTAND: ACCEPT EVERYTHING!

FINALMENTE HO CAPITO: GRAZIE DI TUTTO!

THE SWITCH WENT ON ABOUT 9:23 THIS MORNING.

During meditation.

I sat there, staring at the angel cards. Staring at the purple flame. I stopped to read from 

THE POWER OF NOW

page 182: You have only to "live in complete acceptance of what is, that is the end of all drama in your life."

At exactly 9:23, I wrote:

"I accept the non-creative feeling. I accept the wordlessness."

At 9:25 a.m. I translated that second sentence into Italian:

"Accetto l'assenza di parole."

I accept the absence of words.

9:26 a.m. I write in my journal: Finally I understand. I MUST BE WITH WHAT I AM.

I am Italian American. I am Claudia. I am Gina. I am Leah. To my sister Holly, Hawzy, I am Cawzy. (Because she couldn't say Claudia as a child she calls me CAW!)

Finally I understand. 

FINALMENTE (A WORD WHICH DEE USED TO SAY WITH GREAT SPIRIT. 

When someone finally arrived, or something finally happened, Dee would say "FEEENALLLMENDE!"

YOU ARE HERE DEE YOU ARE HERE!) 

Finalmente ho capito. Devo stare con quello che sono.

9:26 a.m. Grazie per tutto.

9:34 a.m. FOR ALL MY BLESSINGS.

At this moment, I realize I don't know the Italian word for blessings. So I pick up the ITALIAN ENGLISH dictionary that Holly gave me a while back. I open and find the book has been inscribed:

"To: Mom, From: Holly,  XMAS 1994." I took a photo and texted it to Holly and wrote:

"Dearest HAWZY, I was sitting in meditation a few moments ago and finally realized that I have to accept everything just exactly as it is. Eckert Tolle says that over and over in his book, THE POWER OF NOW. So I came up with the phrase, "Grazie per tutto" and then I wanted to see what the word blessings is in Italian. So I picked up the dictionary you gave me and I opened it and I saw that you had given this dictionary to our beloved mother, DEE. So you see you are here with me and so is Dee. I love you so much and I wish you a most pleasant day! Happy swimming in your new pool. Love, Cawzy"

9:36 a.m. GRAZIE PER TUTTO LE MIE BENEDIZIONI!

THANK YOU FOR ALL MY BLESSINGS!

9:38 GRAZIE DI TUTTO.

9:42 I accept everything the way it is.

9:43 ACCETTO TUTTO COSI COM'√©. 

I accept everything, the sadness, the anger, the hurt, the uncertainty and yes, even the moments of TOTAL DESPAIR THERE WILL BE THOSE MOMENTS WHEN YOU SCREAM I HATE THE DEPRESSIOIN

but don't think for a moment they ruin you, NO, as Mary says, they pass when you let them run through you like a river.

9:44 a.m. ACCETTO TUTTO

I accept EVERYTHING.

MILLE GRAZIE CARO DIO! A thousand thank yous dear God

SCREECHING, AGAIN

Here I am so tied up in knots that I feel like I cannot write. Why has the frozen feeling come back after all these months? Why now?

Once again, I turn to Italian. So soft. So comforting. I type in:

HERE I AM SO KNOTTED UP THAT I CANNOT SPEAK AT ALL.

Qui sono cosi annodato che non posso parlare affatto.

A few minutes ago I was feeling so frustrated I walked down the hall to the guest bedroom.  I stood there looking in the oak mirror and suddenly I started screaming at the top of my lungs. "I DON'T WANT TO BE DEPRESSED ANYMORE. I HATE IT! I HATE BEING DEPRESSED AND I DON'T WANT TO LIVE THAT WAY ANYMORE." I probably screamed for two or three minutes.

In a bizarre way, it felt good to scream. To get the feelings out.

Soon, Richard walked in and hugged me. And then he said, "The most amazing thing just happened while I was meditating. This very large, very plump black and white bird with a red splotch on its breast came right up to the door."

I was astonished. "Oh my God, you just saw a rose-breasted grosbeak, honey," I said. The red splotch is heart shaped. Love.

I haven't seen this bird at our feeder in years and years and years. 

Knowing that splendid bird had visited our house made me feel better. More alive.

I choose to see the Rose-breasted Grosbeak's visitation as a sign of DIVINE LOVE.

Mary tells me to live in love and acceptance.

Mary tells me to get in touch with all of my feelings. To feel them and let them flow through me like rain or ocean waves. And in the end, she says, I have to love them.

So I text her. Tell her about the grosbeak. Then I say,

"I am going to focus on love and acceptance today." 

I am going to accept this low mood.

Having a low mood is part of being a normal human being.

I AM GOING TO FOCUS ON LOVE AND ACCEPTANCE TODAY.

Mi concentrerò sull'amore e l'accettazione oggi.

Mary writes back.

"Yes!!! You are blessed. May you receive all the love that you already have."

I sit here now staring out at the new garden. It is practically empty of flowers. But that's OK. It's beautiful just the way it is.

EMPTY.

It's OK that I am feeling empty of words today.

VA BENE CHE OGGI SONO SENZA PAROLE.

I will focus on acceptance. I will say the Italian over and over again like a mantra. 

I glance over at my meditation pillow. Poco has climbed onto the pillow and is lying there all curled up.

I go to the pillow and gently pick her up.

I hold her soft warm body against my chest, where the rose-breasted bird displays its heart for all to see.