A Message for the Holiday Week

This holiday season is raw for me … my first one without my girl. I was tempted to wallow in self-pity as I walked through crowds busily celebrating the holiday. But to do so would miss the point entirely.
For what I know about this holiday season is that I am forever changed. And so I think I finally get the true meaning of Christmas.
When Luke and Teal were little I used to tell them a story I made up about the children who had all the toys in the world. The point was that no matter how many motorized scooters, tiny Rolls Royces or talking dolls they had, these two rich kids always got impossibly bored. Nothing was ever enough.
But … what was enough? That was a puzzle piece I could never quite get. In my telling, the two rich kids were always ‘amazingly content’ when they discovered an old bicycle rim they rolled here and there with a stick, just like little kids on Africa.
Yeah, right.
Somehow that ending just never seemed real. Instead it just seemed politically correct.
And that is because it wasn’t true. We don’t just magically open our hearts and instantly become enlightened souls with the values of Ghandi overnight. Even as children.
What I understand now is that we must know storms. And we must weather them before we can truly feel the clear, calm, lucidity of daylight.
Sometimes we must lose everything before we can truly gain anything.
Sometimes we must be reduced to smoking ash before we can rise up and embrace God in the entirety that is possible. And only then can we know ourselves as the God we are.
That would be the God we are when we help a stranger on the side of a highway change a tire in the pouring rain. Or when we sit and listen to a child tell us their own story, made up with the freshest of imaginations  … and we can feel the pure delight in it.
We are God when we settle up with ourselves. When we finally own our shortcomings in all their gory detail, and still decide we are not only okay, we are worthy of love.
And so we are God when we embrace the imperfections of those around us. When we can finally let go and forgive all of the old petty nonsense, because it’s not only the right thing to do … it’s simply what’s true.
And so we come forth in love and peace and take that other in our arms. And maybe just for that moment we know how blessed we are to have him or her in our life.
There is something so precious about every human life that we can barely grasp as we barrel our way through life. That preciousness is what God sees.
Our lives are fragile, and sometimes amazingly short. Yet, each day can be a Technicolor joy ride if we let it … if we understand that we are precious cargo, as are are all of our fellow passengers.
Just for today, would you consider treating yourself, and those around you, as sources of infinite wisdom? Perhaps as abrading surfaces you scrape up against, and so smooth your own rough edges. Or maybe just as fellow travelers who’ve been through a lot, too.
May this holiday week unfold for you in peace, restoration and clarity. I’m holding a candle for you to come back to yourself … just as God intended.

What the Children of Sandy Hook Have Taught Us

You are a vessel of light … did you know?
You have unlimited ability to connect to the other side. To call in all the angelic souls who are gathered in your support, and find your way back to joy – no matter what is going on in your life.
I am writing this in the aftermath of a school shooting that left twenty children dead between the ages of five and ten. A shooting that opened every heart in North America and many around the world as we all remember, yet again, that we are love.
We are torn asunder by this event … we wonder how such an unspeakable thing can happen in a good and loving Universe.  And we feel our mortality and our helplessness powerfully. Yet, contained within this event are the critical seeds that can lead us powerfully back to ourselves – and most of all, to each other.
Because nothing in this mortal coil happens without purpose. And the purpose, first and foremost, is always to help you know that God is alive within you.
The way back to God is to remember love. This is true whether you are a politician arguing the laws around gun control, or just another person feeling helpless, confused, grief-stricken and lost in our uneasy world.
Dear friend, you have the ability to give and receive love far beyond your wildest dreams – but only if you choose it. For it is a big responsibility to share such love …
First, you must let go of your ego’s striving for one-upsmanship, for control, grasping and the needy subterfuge of defense and hiding. You have to release the desire for drama and conflict, and let life pass by you, unimpeded.
And then you have to take that gorgeous state of emptiness and ask for God to fill it with correct purpose. Make time and space to receive that purpose, and then open up to take right action.
Mind you, this process is a work in progress … we are not expected to flip a switch and suddenly turn off our too-busy minds. Instead, it is the work of a lifetime and it happens gradually, as we expand bit by bit.
For the more you open, the more you receive.
This information from the other side comes in dreams, images, journaling and sudden hits of inspiration. It can happen in the shower, while driving, exercising or speaking to another – or simply when you least expect it. It is a warm, glowing ‘knowing’ – a transcendent state of bliss that leads us again and again our deepest love.
This divine abundance is simply waiting for you to slow down enough to receive it. Certain activities help.
Journaling and meditation lead the list. Regularly focusing on a flame, a photograph or mandala, or perhaps an image from nature can help still the mind back to emptiness. Even walking in a meditative way can help as well. And playing certain soothing music that has a vibration conducive to the mind-state you wish to create is always wonderful.
There is nothing to ‘do’ here, dear one … but rather a place to be. For in that place of love, looseness and non-attachment you can receive the healing energy that is abundant and present.
And then you can turn right around and share it with others.
That is where the bliss is, right here on earth. Go ahead and ask for that special angelic presence you identify with – such as your deceased loved ones, or possibly Archangels such as Michael and Metatron – to come pouring through you.
Those who are now disembodied, like my daughter Teal, who died in August, can be everywhere at once. There are no time-space restrictions in the afterlife. Our spirit guides can even morph into  energetic force fields that wrap around the earth if necessary. But they will not mobilize unless you, or we as a nation, call them forth.
For that openness and willingness is what is needed most of all.
Be mindful that there is no ‘testing’ this concept. You are either in or out in terms of your belief and your ability to receive. It is a little like being a radio. You cannot tune in a clear channel if there is static in your airwaves, such as an inquiring mind want ‘proof’ before the ego finally lets go.
So here’s the Catch-22: there is no proof, friend. None beyond the extraordinary joy that pours through your body like melted honey when you connect. Which is all it takes for the transmission to take place.
And so … to experience this divine power on a conscious level, you must suspend the need to know there is divine power available at all. It’s a perfect design in that our ego must finally step aside for a little while we get to know God.
The big question is this – not can you connect. Rather, it’s this: Are you willing to connect? To let go and surrender enough to know you can receive true joy – and that you are worthy of such?
To do so is to allow the peace that passes all understanding to flood your consciousness. And so to return to a simpler, less complicated way of being that makes the world just a little more loving.
This is one of  the lessons provided by the twenty children who died in the Sandy Hook School this week …
Can we hold deeper compassion for ourselves, for each other and for the world at large?
Can we believe that we matter enough to change the world … even just a little … with our own healing power of love?
Can we finally let go and ask for divine help in getting through this narrow passage in time? This place of both excruciating pain and unlimited transcendence?
Can we embody love here and now? And what can we do to share that love with another right now?
I let go and and fall into this bliss as I write this.
Will you?

The True Nature of BFF’s

Yesterday one of my daughter’s oldest friends, her original childhood best buddy Shana, died after six days in a coma. Like Teal she collapsed with a cardiac arrest and never regained consciousness. And like us, her family also had to make the agonizing decision to remove her from life support.

At such times, one has to wonder what’s at play – is there some grand design to such things? Why would two girls not even yet 24 years old be taken only months apart? And why would two who were once so close die in such similar but completely unrelated deaths?

And what is it about the invisible links we all share, the permanent, on-going connections that bob and weave between us all? For not only were Shana and Teal dear friends, so were their brothers. And her mother has been one of my own closest friends for nearly 30 years.

Together Laurie and I were once gadabout girls in Big Advertising in New York who knew how to live on Happy Hour hors d’oeuvres for days at a time. And like our daughters we both dreamt of being discovered some day – making it big in the calling of our dreams.

But none of that matters so much now.

When Shana and Teal were little, they were the kind of friends who ran towards each other down Greenwich Village side streets, eagerly screaming each other’s names in their eight-year-old enthusiasm.

Once they were both in a professional play together in which Shana played the daughter and Teal her understudy. And for years ever after they laughed about how Teal left the prop teddy bear on stage in her one big performance, so it sat there prominently all through the next scene.

Once they were both Uno-playing card sharks who went to Spice Girls movies together, and always managed to talk some parent into candy after. And then Teal moved to the country and Shana stayed in the city. The world beckoned and they followed, the strands of their dreams trailing behind them, weaving them together invisibly for the rest of life.

Because that is what happens to best friends. They drift apart but something always brings them back together.

No matter what passes between them in life, best friends always have a resonant tuning with each other. It’s the result of all those hours and hours of shared Barbie dress ups, or lovelorn conversations, or whatever their special magic is.

Some best friends stay forever – and some grow up and move on. And yet, the resonant tuning remains. It is this way with all of our significant relationships.

We have soul links to all sorts of people that we can only guess at – yet there they are, as invincible as the steel ropes pulling the cable cars up Powell Street.

Which is why you and a dear friend can pick up twenty years later as if not a day had passed. And why Laurie and I have been fated to travel this incredible road together – of loving our girls more than life itself … and then having to sit by their hospital beds as they slowly slipped away.

This is the nature of our destiny. It is something we create with each person we touch. For our destiny is nothing more than the interweaving of lessons between lives.

Laurie teaches me as I teach Laurie – and our children teach us both. As do our mothers, fathers, employees, bosses, teachers, lovers, and even the guy who flips us the bird in rush hour traffic. These people all around us are our everyday Christ figures – those in whom we see ourselves reflected. And so moment-by-moment, we have the opportunity to grow.

For me, I am learning a whole new level of compassion and humility from this experience. For destiny is not to be messed with, basically. It is a mysterious force unto itself that is not even to be understood or fully comprehended. Doing so is insignificant.

Instead, destiny is to be accepted, and worked with, and felt into … and ultimately surrendered to. That is all any of us can ever do in our limited mortal coils.

What a privilege it was to know Shana, a beautiful spark of talent and sweetness. And to know her in her gorgeous whirl with Teal, the two of them dancing through childhood with unfettered glee. I can still see them walking down the street, hand in hand, and I am grateful.

That memory alone is enough to last a lifetime.


Learning to Trust Again

Once upon a time … long ago … you and I trusted people. We were childlike with that trust and full of the wonder and awe at all the world could bring. We believed in magic and expected the people around us – specifically the big ones – to be magical as well.

And then it turned out they were only human. And sometimes not even very nice humans. That’s about when our trust got replaced with despair.

In this brand new, ripped-wide-open, cleaned out life I am now living since Teal’s death, I notice my lack of trust and my infinite despair. It can be a wonderful place to curl up in and suck my thumb.

Because even though I know it’s the right thing to do, it’s hard to trust God.

And yet that essential trust is the one precious thing I have. I dare say that’s true for all of us.

I write this from the rented room in a house that is a far cry from the big, rambling house that I once lived in with my husband on Lake Champlain.

And my days now are spent lying in state, contemplating life in between tears — a far cry from the busy, successful days I knew as a business coach. I gave up that work as well shortly before Teal’s death.

Even my big bed … empty now except for me … has unaccustomed space. I’m substantially alone with no desire to change that for the first time in my adult life.

So in all of this emptiness, I am being forced to trust in God like I never have before. And perhaps this is true for all of us right now.

Because no one out there is going to ‘save us’ any more than the Tooth Fairy will be making deposits in our Roth-IRA’s. Were I to meet Mr. or Ms. Right tomorrow, that still wouldn’t save me from my emptiness.

Nor would it save you.

Only one thing can save any of us from the black pit of our despair … and that is our faith in something far more infinite, more gracious, and far more forgiving than any of us.

That grace is our ticket back home – the way to surrender to the infinite vaguaries of life. For God can take Teal, a soul so pure, simple and deeply compassionate, yes. But God can also send me, her mother, this message from her voice teacher when she was at Berklee College of Music.

It’s a message I only just found recently, nearly four months after her death.

“Teal was one of those students you always looked forward to seeing walk into your office–not just because of her musical gifts and professional attitude, but because she had that knack of lifting other people’s spirits wherever she went. I remember thinking, in the middle of many a lesson with Teal: ‘What a sweetheart.’

“Teal was strongly into the blues. Though my impression of Teal was of a sunny, positive-minded person, she connected with blues through her compassion for other people’s struggles. And this was what gave her blues interpretations such passionate authenticity … Teal brought a powerful sense of joy to her music, and her greatest pleasure was sharing that joy with others. She sang with heart, soul, spirit, and total commitment.”

I am not meant to wallow in pain for the rest of my life, any more than you are … whatever your struggles may be. Instead we are all meant to live like Teal did.

With grace, courage and infinite appreciation and compassion for the person next to us, whether they be our teacher, our guide, or the stranger on the bus.

This is Teal’s greatest message to me that I am living now as a result of her life, and her death: It’s safe to trust God. It always has been and it always will be.

And so the miracle of life goes on.

(To see Teal sing the blues, go to http://www.myspace.com/tealbarns )