Tag Archives: Spirituality

A Day of True Thanksgiving

Almost ready for the feast!

Our 3rd Annual Thanksgiving in the Greenhouse was a blessed success! The food was delicious and perfectly timed; my six-hour cooking marathon utilizing two rugged kitchenettes was one of the smoothest I have experienced in my 39 years of Thanksgiving preparations. The weather could not have cooperated any better had I custom-ordered it.

An Early Start

Our Thanksgiving celebration was held on the Saturday after the holiday, as I was on call Thursday and other family members had work. Friday afternoon the prep work began: Scrubbing the kitchens and chopping up vegetables was my first order of business. I made the most awesome homemade cranberry sauce. Friday night, the stuffing went into the fridge to blend the flavors, and the still-frozen turkey (oops!) came out and was placed in ice water to thaw overnight (many water changes took place throughout the night; no danger of spoilage).

At 6:00 a.m. Saturday morning, the work continued. The now-defrosted turkey was stuffed and placed into the roaster. The rest of the stuffing went into a crock pot and was put into the greenhouse. Ten pounds of potatoes were peeled and cut up.

By 11:00, the turkey was done, potatoes were mashed and keeping warm, and it was time for the final push to get everything done at once. Our goal was to eat at noon, as Jenny had work at 3:00 (We sat down to eat at 11:56; I’m THAT good lol!). I pressed my sweet granddaughter into service preparing the crescent rolls, while I made enough gravy to sink a battleship. Brussels sprouts and sweet corn rounded out the menu, and the rest of the bountiful feast was carefully carried into the greenhouse.

Our first year doing this it was quite cloudy and cool, and we needed sweatshirts and jackets to eat our dinner. Our second year was cool and rainy, and moving between the two kitchens and the greenhouse was not fun and a bit treacherous. This year was perfect: Temps in the 60s, with a bright blazing sun warming the greenhouse so much that we had to leave the door open to keep it from getting too hot.

One Small Black Cloud

My sweet granddaughter Libby loves Thanksgiving nearly as much as I do. She was so eager to help me as I decorated and prepared dinner. Libby set the beautiful table for us and gathered chairs. Just as we were getting everything put into place to sit down and eat, she developed a massive migraine and started throwing up. Poor baby had to miss our feast! Fortunately, it subsided not too long after, and she was able to enjoy some incredible leftovers later that afternoon.

Counting My Blessings

A benefit of cooking the entire Thanksgiving dinner and being an old(er) matriarch is that once the food is consumed and I am unable to eat another bite, I have the privilege of getting up, putting on my jammies, and taking a lovely post-Thanksgiving nap! No cleanup for this grandma! The rest of the family cleared all the food away and did the dishes. Taking down decorations could wait for another day.

As I lay in my bed snuggling with my sweet Dobby, I reflected on how very much I am thankful for. The cast of characters may have changed over the years, but I feel so privileged to have been able to prepare Thanksgiving dinner for my family for 39 years now. After all of us suffering through Covid in July/August, I am grateful that none of my family was missing from our celebration. I know many this year who are devastated, looking at an empty place setting.

I am humbled beyond measure that I am living the lifestyle I have dreamed of for decades. No, things aren’t perfect. Money can be tight at times, work can be too demanding and stressful, and every project seems to take way more time and money than anticipated. Tiny space living can get, um, tense. But I am homesteading! I am writing, and growing food year-round. I am seeing some very big plans finally coming together which will drastically change the way we are living here.

I am blessed to be able to live with my grown kids and to watch my grandchildren grow up into amazing, brilliant, and talented young people. I am honored to have helped heal the generational dysfunction that had plagued my family for many years. To see my grandkids grow up without all the baggage that their parents and grandparents had gives me great hope for their futures.

May we all find more joy, bliss, and peace in this coming year!

How I Healed Myself Through Shadow Work

This is going to sound awful, but the day my mother died I felt nothing but relief. It was finally over: A half-century of living under the shadow of an alcoholic, histrionic narcissist who was never able to conquer her own demons. I was finally free. Or so I thought. I will preface this article by stating that today, after doing over a year of intense Shadow work, I can honestly say I have nothing but love and gratitude for my mom. And a lot more understanding of her history and the generational family dynamics that shaped our relationship. One story I grew up hearing was how, when my grandmother found out she was pregnant with my mom (child #7, 10 years after her last child’s birth), she got drunk and repeatedly jumped off the back steps in an attempt to induce a miscarriage. This was one of those “funny family stories” that was frequently told at get-togethers with the aunts and uncles. Or how my mom was sent to live with her two adult sisters in succession, as my grandma abdicated her parental role and effectively rejected her youngest child. 

Understanding the Shadow

Obviously, I could fill pages with the backstory, but let’s get to it: Just what is the Shadow and why do I need to work on it? 

“The shadow is a moral problem that challenges the whole ego-personality, for no one can become conscious of the shadow without considerable moral effort. To become conscious of it involves recognizing the dark aspects of the personality as present and real. This act is the essential condition for any kind of self-knowledge.”

Carl Jung, Aion (1951)

Discovering My Shadows

For nearly 60 years I had an Inner Critic who was brutally judgmental of me. Every perceived misstep, every social interaction, every relationship issue unleashed a scathing inner dialog which outlined my worthlessness. This Inner Critic was my mother’s voice. Now, I know that my mother loved me deeply. But I also know that her own life did not give her the tools she needed to love a child in a healthy way. One would think that once this toxic person was permanently removed from my life, everything would sort itself out. But it didn’t, at least not immediately. For nearly 10 years, I let her live rent-free in my head, still shaping my perception of who I was from beyond the grave. Then about 2 years ago I began a Spiritual Awakening. It was at this time I realized that unless I dealt with all the dysfunctional programming I had absorbed, I would never know true satisfaction and joy. It was time to face the Shadow.

Shaken Foundations

As I began delving into my relationship with my mother, I began to see her as more than just a pathetic alcoholic who needed me to give her a sense of worth. As I picked at the façade of our relationship, I discovered what I perceived as a darker, more sinister underbelly:  She deliberately undermined my confidence in myself. She discounted my feelings to the point that I simply shut them off. She lied. She manipulated. She triangulated my sister and I, effectively destroying any chance of a loving sibling bond. All my childhood memories were suddenly being viewed through a new, disturbing lens. What was once seen as an extremely close mother-daughter relationship was now understood to be emotional enmeshment. I was always so proud of the fact that I could accomplish difficult tasks without ever thinking of asking for help. I was a star pupil, always striving for perfection. Anything less than a 4.0 GPA would throw me into a tailspin. Slowly I began to understand that many of the stoic traits that I was so proud of were actually a trauma response to Childhood Emotional Neglect. Dr. Jonice Webb coined the term, and you can learn more about  it here.These new realizations plunged me into what can only be described as an existential crisis. I began asking some big, seemingly unanswerable questions: Who AM I really? What is reality? Was everything a lie? How can one know Truth? I felt adrift, unsure whether my perception of every single thing and relationship in my life was accurate or skewed.

Here Comes The Blame Game

After realizing that everything I believed about myself and my relationship with my mom was not what I had thought, I got pissed. I mean, REALLY pissed.  That Woman was the cause of all my unhappiness, all my poor life choices, my devastating social anxiety and my unending feelings of worthlessness. I allowed myself to wallow in this pit of self-pity for several weeks. It took a while to wrap my head around the myriad ways I had been wronged. It may sound counter-productive, but this period of blaming my mom was quite helpful to my healing process. For the first time, it took the onus of my deficiencies off of me. Hey, I was a victim here! I was a small baby, unable to see what was happening to me or to do anything about it. Eventually, I tired of this newfound victim mentality, Suddenly I had a novel thought: OK, so I have a new understanding of my childhood and why I am the way I am. Now what? Am I going to stay in this place? I knew I wanted much, much more for myself. And at that point I decided to try to heal this deep Mother Wound and get on with the rest of my life.

Blessings Via YouTube

I began looking for more information on Childhood Emotional Neglect online. Eventually my search led me to a lovely woman on YouTube: Lisa A. Romano. I binge-listened for weeks on the hour-long drive to and from work. So often I would be moved to tears or would suddenly yell “YES! EXACTLY!” to no one in particular.  Lisa taught me so much about the complex relationship I had with my mom. But instead of heaping blame on the abuser, Lisa’s greatest gift is her ability to help people understand (and overcome!) the roots of their pain and dysfunction. Her comforting and loving words were like a balm to my soul. She became my stand-in mother, giving me the emotional support I had never had, and the strength to continue on my difficult healing journey. Another great discovery for me was the audiobook, “The Body Keeps The Score” by Bessel A. van der Kolk. 

Replacing my Inner Critic

I believe the month or so I spent countering my Inner Critic produced the greatest amount of healing in this entire process. Once I became aware of how damaging it was, I decided to stop it in its tracks every time it reared its ugly head. I was absolutely flabbergasted at how vicious and unforgiving and impatient this voice was. Spill a cup of water? Fucking useless asshole! Look at this shit! It was exhausting, but every single time it spoke up, I purposed to consciously give love and understanding to myself instead, essentially “re-mothering” myself.  So as soon as The Voice would start, I would respond with, “Everybody drops cups on occasion. It’s not a big deal. Human beings make mistakes. Dropping a cup has nothing to do with my worth as a person.” Over and over and over. Then one afternoon I bobbled a piece of paper and it fell to the floor. And I chuckled as I picked it up. And then I started crying.  Because that little chuckle was THE FIRST TIME that my Inner Critic ceased to lambaste me for a small  mistake. It was at that moment that I absolutely knew I was on the path to healing and becoming the person I was always meant to be. I continued to work on silencing my Inner Critic.

I soon realized that every single task I performed in my life was done with a sense of urgency. I never knew what it was like to do something without hurrying. One day I was washing dishes and I realized that my shoulders were tensed up around my ears, my stomach was in a huge knot, and I was urging myself to “hurry, hurry, hurry.” Not that I had any other pressing matters to attend at that moment. It was simply my go-to pace.Light bulb! I was holding my mother’s constant impatience in my own body. I decided at that moment to stop rushing. A few deep breaths, a conscious relaxation of the knotted muscles, and a reminder that there is no need to hurry was the beginning of my ability to release the emotional trauma I had been holding in my body for decades. I even stopped playing games on my phone which required a race against the clock, as they would often trigger me into a nervous mess.Soon, things that would have previously induced anxiety and stress became almost a meditation for me. For example, preparing a meal with a little glass of wine and some beautiful music is a fun, creative process that brings me a great sense of calm and satisfaction now.  

‘Months later, while I was at work I suddenly realized that my lifelong anxiety-induced stomach tension was completely gone! These amazing physical changes have taught me to pay close attention to my body. When my neck starts to hurt, or I feel that familiar knot in my stomach, I am able to pinpoint what is causing it and take steps to alleviate it before it takes hold.

How I Knew I Was (Mostly) Healed

I harbor no illusions that I have completely and fully dealt with every issue I’ve ever had. It is simply an implausible expectation. But I am totally fine with that. If I have to revisit something down the line, I know for certain that I now possess the tools to pick that scab and start the healing process.  Around six months ago, I noticed I was listening to my YouTube trauma healing videos less and less. I simply didn’t need them anymore and it felt like rehashing old news. Then one day I looked at my adult son and said, “That’s it. I’m done with this. I am ready to look forward now. I want to know what’s next.” Since then I have experienced the most incredible Spiritual growth, peace, and satisfaction imaginable. I even like myself now. Hell, I LOVE myself!  I sincerely hope my story has been of benefit to someone. Everyone’s healing journey is different, and I would love to hear yours! Feel free to comment below.

Natural Perfection

Dewdrops hanging from poke berries

The other morning I took an unplanned walk around the property. Didn’t even take the dogs like I usually do. Just me, and for no reason other than I felt like it. I was so glad I followed that gentle urging. I was richly rewarded with beauty everywhere I looked. Dew turning the most common patches of weeds into shimmering fields of diamonds. Spiderwebs (LOTS of spiderwebs!) looking like lace doilies strung up between branches, sagging under the added weight of the water. Tiny tree frogs and bumblebees.

Serenity

Each place I walked was unique and contained different beauty. The pond had cattails and frogs and Red Winged Blackbirds. The tree line had pokeweed and elderberries and some stubborn honeysuckle remnants. The pines were quiet and still, with soft pine needles and pinecones covering the path. All different, and all perfect.

I slowly made my way around the property, stopping frequently to appreciate the exquisite perfection that surrounded me. I thought about how each season causes the homestead to “change clothes.” The delicate violets, wild chives, plantain and clover we would add to our spring salads are gone for now, along with the daffodils and tulips. Daylilies, irises, and white elderberry blossoms have given way to purple elderberry umbrellas drooping with fruit and the lavender fireworks of milkweed. And far too soon, they will all sleep for a season, but they will awaken again at their perfect times.

I’m sure many people drive by and see a wild, unkempt, unmanageable yard. And I will admit, things got away from us this summer with COVID and all. We are finally feeling a bit more like ourselves again. It has been a struggle to keep up. Yet I am so thankful that even in the midst this neglected mess of a yard I can choose to find perfection, beauty, and satisfaction.

Selfie in the woods. I had to carry a long stick and wave it in front of me to knock down the spiderwebs in the path–they were everywhere!!