Minimal Monday

I have been very fortunate in motherhood with three wonderful, grown daughters whom I adore. Mother’s Day is a happy, celebratory occasion for me.

But last night as I was going to bed, I was thinking of all the moms who have been alienated from their children after a contentious divorce, as my mother had been when I was just four years old (the topic of my memoir-in-progress). I personally know a few of these mothers, and occasionally hear from others whom I’ve never met. They are loving, kind, deeply saddened mothers who desperately want to reconnect with the stolen hearts of their children.

I will not go into detail about ‘attachment-based parental-alienation’ because it is beyond the scope of this blog post (*It happens to dads too). But what I do want to tell you is that last night, without overthinking it or even pre-planning it, I reached out to a large number of these parents on a private online group, and shared my heartfelt thoughts with them. I just couldn’t let Mother’s Day go by without offering my understanding, empathy, and love. And they deeply, sincerely appreciated it.

What does this have to do with decluttering or minimalism? When we are doing our best to get rid of all that does not serve our best lives, including old beliefs, fear, and overthinking our heart’s desires and impulses, often what comes through are the most natural, aligned and effortless words and deeds.

Love isn’t hard.

Minimal Monday

Recently, I had the opportunity to be interviewed for a podcast about healing. This particular episode was about the ways in which decluttering can be a tool for healing. I can easily talk about simplifying as a means to free up your space, mind, calendar and creativity. I am a fervent proponent of the many benefits; the freedom, the momentum, the lightness….

But when asked to speak of decluttering as a practice for healing, I have to take a deep breath. The topic goes straight to my heart and conjures up the experience of navigating my own core wound. Indeed, I do believe that decluttering is a tool for allowing and uncovering what needs our attention. Freed from distractions and clutter, we are left to face ourselves, to come home to ourselves.

The conversation took that deeper dive, and if I had to summarize it in one passage, it would be this:

If there is too much inner and outer extraneous matter, we will avoid – or never find – the way to healing. On the contrary, it is hard to be uncluttered and remain lost, because the way forward is revealed in the open spaces. Clarity will lead you home every time.

THE UNCLUTTERED MOTHER: Free Up Your Space, Mind & Heart

Minimal Monday

The wound is the place where the light enters you.” -Rumi

This morning I awoke feeling especially committed to finishing and seeking publication for my memoir. It is my writing project that requires the most vulnerability, risk, and the biggest investment of time and heart and mental strength.

Several years ago, I took first place at Boston MOTH live storytelling event while performing a piece from my memoir-in-progress. I was recently able to obtain a recording of this event, although I haven’t played it yet. I had been very encouraged after that night at the MOTH – elated even- and I had high hopes for my memoir. But then everyday life and fear and the distractions of other projects kicked in and it was just so easy to deny how much time was slipping by without making a lot of progress. I had excerpts published here and there, but too often I let the work go untouched for weeks, and often months, at a time. Those months turned into years of a project that rarely saw the light of day. I was moving it forward, but at a snails pace.

I guess it has taken me until now to finally give myself the permission that is required to complete such a thing. I think that permission has been building, coming from many sources, both internal and external, but the bottom line is that I finally accept that this book is part of my purpose.

Shining a light on our wounds while also showing how we are transformed by the wisdom that is granted, or the knowledge, or healing or forgiveness, is the gift of memoir. It is one way, my way, of being of service and finding meaning in a world where suffering happens.

Perhaps I’ve been a slow learner, or a fearful participant, and am finally embracing the work is that is mine to do. I am grateful to be all-in on this project once again, and this time to see it all the way through to the light.

Happy Monday!

***

I write a bit about healing old wounds in my book, The Uncluttered Mother.  https://www.amazon.com/dp/0875169163/ref=cm_sw_em_r_mt_dp_NF90YHKDCJ2K3WSGB0VF

If you have read and enjoyed this book, please consider leaving me a reviewIt would be greatly appreciated. I want to share my book with hardworking, overwhelmed moms far and wide. Reviews are an important part of making this happen. Thank you!

Review here: http://www.amazon.com/review/create-review?&asin=0875169163

The Wolf at the Door

October 31

My husband receives a call from the doctor who has his biopsy results. The small lump at his jawline is not uncommon- the doctor has been optimistic- cavalier even- but it turns out that his is not benign at all. It is a rare cancer of the parotid gland.

We are about to find out that getting a cancer diagnosis causes one to enter the stages of grief. First stop: denial. How can this be? He is healthy. His medical reports have always been perfect. He is active, a young fifty-five and never felt better.

***

I’ve forgotten all about Halloween and now it’s getting dark, the time that little ones will start showing up at our door, looking for treats. We have no candy and are in no mood for visitors. We turn out most of the lights and sit in the near-dark living room, allowing this new reality to sit with usWe’ve kept the trick-or-treaters at bay, but we are not alone. There is a wolf at the door, and it is Cancer.

I call our daughters and deliver the news.

My husband is very concerned about disrupting mine and the girls’ lives. Always confident, capable and available, he feels he is failing us with this new and shocking title: cancer patient. Usually such a logical man, this makes little sense. Of course he did not choose this, no one does, and all we care about is him getting better. But the love and protection he has always given us, above and beyond what is expected, is one of the things I love about him. And now I want to protect him, to cure him, to save him. I am simultaneously aware of my inner strength and my mortal limitations.

November 8

It is our 31st wedding anniversary and also the day of my husband’s surgery. The surgeon removes the tumor as well as many lymph nodes in his neck. The doctors call it a neck dissection, but my husband prefers to call it a neck fillet. Even in his current state, he maintains a bit of his sense of humor. I am relieved. The past week has been emotionally rough to say the least, but we find reasons to laugh too.

November 22

We follow through on our plans to host Thanksgiving dinner at our home. It is a day of family and food and also of forgetting, for a few minutes at a time, that we are awaiting the next day’s pathology report.

November 24

We stop at the second floor of Boston’s Dana-Farber Cancer Institute. We are fortunate to be just an hour drive away from such a reputable treatment center. We ride the elevator to the second floor. “Welcome to the land of the fucked”, my husband says as he looks around.

The oncologist is impeccably groomed and impossibly thin. He’s also friendly and kind but maintains the necessary level of detachment. He delivers the pathology report. It has been a successful surgery. No facial nerves were damaged. But cancer was found in one of the thirty-one lymph nodes that were removed. We discuss treatment options.

November 25

I gather books and food; I read and cook and freeze and clean. My husband makes calls and fills out paperwork. He deals with insurance details and prepares for his leave of absence from work. He is a pilot and I wonder if the radiation from the cockpit has contributed to this misfortune. Friendly skies my ass. I make a mental note to research this.

We update the people closest to us. We are grateful for their kindness, and for the resources that we have to get through this great challenge as best we can.

December 14

Treatment begins. There will be six weeks of daily radiotherapy and weekly chemotherapy. We have had every discussion, imagined every scenario, asked every question.

The technician brings me back to the room with my husband so I can see the radiotherapy equipment. They place the custom-made mask on his face and lay him down on the table. A giant machine looms above, like something out of Star Trek. The technician is explaining things to me, being both thoughtful and clinical, just like the oncologist. I glance over at the table again, at my husband strapped down now, and my eyes start to fill. I silently demand of myself not to cry before I look back at the man who has been giving me the low- down on radiation. I cannot make his job harder, I think. I cannot make any of this any harder.

December 25

Our daughters, sons-in-law and baby granddaughters are all gathered at our home. We are genuinely happy, our hearts full. My husband has a few days off from treatment, which feels like a gift.

January 1

One more month of treatment. It will get progressively more painful from here, affecting his teeth, his mouth, his swallowing. I was made for hard things, but watching a loved one suffer is not one of them. I want to curl up in the fetal position at the thought of his pain, but mostly because of the shadow of uncertainty that Cancer has cast upon his life. I gather my strength though, doing my best to stay in each moment. I recall words from Eckhart Tolle, author of The Power of Now: “Whatever your present moment contains, accept it as if you had chosen it. Always work with it, not against it.”

Cancer arrived at the end of 2018, unannounced and unwelcome, an intruder in our lives. With all the love and strength and hope we can muster, along with all that modern medicine can offer, I believe we will send Cancer away. I picture my husband and myself, our amazing family, thoughtful friends, and the team of medical personnel, leaning on the door, all of us with all our might. We lock the door.

The new year brings healing, life, and glorious days. I will welcome those moments, those days, eagerly as if I had chosen them, and God knows I have.jonas-jacobsson-344604-unsplash

Memoir Excerpt

I told a story at a Boston Moth live storytelling event and after taking first place, I went on to perform it at the Moth GrandSlam the following year. It is the story of reconnecting with my alienated mother, and is now an excerpt of my memoir-in-progress:  https://herviewfromhome.com/the-stranger-i-call-mother/

Parental Alienation is a form of pathology in which one parent alienates the child from the other parent, typically after a divorce. I have been writing and speaking on this topic as a way to spread awareness and education and to be a voice for the alienated child.