Forgiveness on the Mountain

This poignant reflection was written by a friend of mine who chooses to remain anonymous. Her story is so beautiful, I feel compelled to share it with you this week. Here is a tale of how one woman found a way to release the past.

It was January and surprisingly warm in the mountains for this time of the year.  But the air was still cool enough to make her gasp each time she pulled in a breath.  And though it hasn’t snowed in weeks there were still patches of white frozen in place.  There she sat, at the top of the hill where the wise woman had sent her to talk to Father Wind.  To seek his forgiveness and her own, to let him cleanse her of her sins.

There were two, she admitted to very few.   Two times she was stupid.  Two times she sought to clear herself of the responsibility.  And though she could rationalize the reasons, that didn’t stop the guilt nor the grief at what she’d done.  And so on this beautiful blue morning she sat on a boulder, all alone.  With only the wind calling out from the trees.

And she let herself sink down, into the past.

To a time when she was 19, in love with her first partner.  So grateful to have him, so overcome by the sensations of her body, the freedom she felt in letting herself go in the moment.  She gave in to her desire, to her lust, to her need for him.  She let herself believe it was safe, and she took him inside of her – hot and pulsing, and hers. 

And so, she could find forgiveness for the first.  For being young and naive and in love.  In need of him.  But he had no interest in being a father, and so she gave in.

The second time she held him in her arms.  This time she let herself believe it would be safe if he pulled out and released his seed beyond.  Her love for him, need for him, had only intensified over the years.  How he would beg her to let him be inside of her with no barrier.  To feel her heat, her wetness, her desire for him.  He wore her down, and so she let him. 

For a brief time, it was perfection.  He loved her, his hot breath on her neck, his thrusting filling the longing inside of her.  In his arms, she was desired, beautiful, his.  She was swept up, tossed about, before landing back down as he pulled out and she felt the warm fluid pulse on her belly. 

And so for a second time, she lay on the doctor’s table, looking up at a ceiling with a poster of a forest. Legs splayed, belly cramping, brain cringing as they sucked out blood, and tissue.

So  up on that mountain she sat that afternoon, as warm tears streamed down her face.  And she let them go one at a time.  Let the wind gather up their sweet spirits.  Spirits that had hovered around her all those years because she could not let them go. 

Deep in the pine forest that afternoon, the wind surrounded her, caressed her cheek, as she called out to it.  Called out to it to carry them carefully away, to let them find their peace here in the mountains.  And as the wind grew in strength and power, she called to it again. Swirling now, whipping at her face, cooling the hot tears, filling her lungs and pores with its cleansing. 

And the ones she would never hold in her arms were slowly released from her soul.

One by one, they opened their arms as the wind eased them out into the wilderness. Drifting further and further away.  Free.  At peace.

She sat there for a while longer after the wind had stilled, breathing in the cold air.  Deep full breaths that filled her lungs. 

And for the first time in so many years, she felt a little lighter.  She had found her way to forgiveness.  Up there, on the mountain top that afternoon, she had set them, and herself, free.


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The Dance and the Do-Si-Do

Do you remember your first love? I know I do. With spring fever in the air these days, I have been reminiscing . . .

I had the best first boyfriend a girl could have back in high school. He was smart, kind, and cute – a geek, an artist and a jock! Creative, brainy and attractive, we had some great times together. We dated for most of our junior and senior years of high school. He saw me through some rough times including my sister’s cancer diagnosis during my senior year.

It was a beautiful thing while it lasted… and heartbreaking when it ended.

That relationship served a major purpose in my life. The thing is, as with most major love-life events, when you are in the thick of them it’s hard to see them clearly. It didn’t take long after we broke up for me to find the man of my dreams at college. He was a senior when I was a freshman, and my heart just about stopped every time I saw him. My tongue tied up in knots, my face got red – the whole romantic whirlwind. Eventually I started to flirt with him, but either he didn’t get it or wasn’t interested. I never saw him with other girls on campus as he hung out mainly with a group of guys who were smart, hysterically funny, and a bit out of synch from the normal crowds.

So I chased him until he caught me. Almost a year after his graduation, after sending him a letter (this was the OLDEN days before e-mail!) he called and asked me out. He was living an hour away, but drove to the campus to pick me up to take me to a Neil Young concert for our first date. 

Alone together, I discovered he was just as wonderful as I had imagined. Our relationship was effortless, even with the ups and downs of living in separate cities. Until this last year, I would have said that was the best time of my life. I felt loved, accepted for who I was, and carefree. Life was good for those two and a half years. 

We became engaged around the time I was to graduate college. He was my forever man… or so I thought.

By the spring of my first year in the business world, exhausted from tax season and three months away from our wedding, something no longer felt right. We were out of synch on almost everything. The humor that had lightened and enriched our relationship disappeared, seemingly overnight. Just at the time when we should have been at our happiest anticipating our upcoming marriage, I felt like we were a million miles apart. Another man at work suddenly appeared very attractive to me and I thought, “Wow! Something can’t be right if I am thinking about someone else when I am getting married in a few months” so we postponed the wedding, never to reschedule it again. At the time, it was the most difficult choice I had ever made. The pain, embarrassment, and confusion were excruciating.

It has been twenty-eight years since that spring in 1986 when I knew deep inside that something was wrong. And although I still may not know all the forces that came to play into my decision, it makes sense now in ways it never could have back then.

Years after we parted company, I finally realized the truth. Neither one of us were ready for marriage, both of us having deep childhood issues we needed to address before we could bring real maturity into our relationship. But at the time, all I knew was this feeling in my gut - that nauseous feeling that wouldn't go away that something was wrong. That was a pivotal moment, listening to my body, even though there was no logical reason behind what it was telling me.

At the time we called things off, I had no idea whatsoever what might have been going on. I only knew in my gut that our relationship wasn’t right. 

Lately, I have found myself seeing my abortion and subsequent miscarriage in the same light. Both losses were traumatic. There is no question about that. At the time, I had no choice but to listen to my gut (when it came to the abortion) and ride the wave of grief as to both losses. In the thick of the all the emotional turmoil, it was impossible to see the bigger picture.

But with hindsight being 20/20, I can now see that both experiences were for my highest good. These experiences led me back to my own beginnings and where I needed to find healing, wholeness, and love. Thanks to my unborn children and the self-reflection their presence has inspired in me, I have been able to uncover my true nature and the things that truly matter beyond all the traditions and rules I was raised with as a child. It has been a rollercoaster ride, but I am finally awake, alive and free! There is no place else I would rather be. 

I wonder about all these past relationships – human and not yet embodied. Perhaps the dance and the do-si-do are all a part of our growth process. We need to practice and learn our lessons before the right “one” comes along, whether it is a partner or a child. Perhaps all these experiences which we are so apt to label as “bad” are really just part of the process.

What has been the dance of souls through your life and what have you learned? Can you imagine that your unborn children want to help you with that dance? What would they be telling you, reminding you? Will you continue to bury the secret or let the gift of the lesson they are bringing to you out into the light to be transmuted? It’s up to you. What will you choose?


Teenagers and Tattoos

Do you remember what it was like to be a teenager? I didn’t think I did until I realized I was still stuck in one aspect of that part of my development way into my forties. The long-held belief I had carried forward was “How do I learn to be me without needing approval first?” 

My kids are often my best teachers as they bring me back to my own lessons on this school of earth over and again. In the last few weeks, one particular lesson has been giving me a knock upside the head!

When we were on vacation in Hawaii last month, my teenage son discovered that there was no age limit for getting a tattoo if he had parental approval. In California, where we currently reside, you have to be eighteen before you can get “inked.” Since I had a convenient law in place, there was no need to discuss this issue any further with him…until we went on that vacation. 

I suppose I could have said no to his request while in Hawaii. I am sure there are reasons for the age restriction in many states. I imagine it has to do with a teenager being developmentally prepared to make a decision that will impact them for the rest of their lives. How well does anyone know themselves at age fifteen to be able to choose a permanent marking for their body? It’s one thing to let a body piercing heal over later in life, but to erase off the ink is a whole other mess.

Then I thought about my friends and family, many of whom are very conservative in their views about body art. Coming from a traditional Catholic household, I used to fall into those ranks myself. I knew what their opinions were, so much so that I was mentally preparing myself should I get a call from Social Services upon return to California when the school system saw a tattoo on my son. 

My own battle for approval has been an internal war for most of my life.

Feelings of rejection from my own father were deeply rooted in my body. I remember trying to do all sorts of things to get his attention as a child without success. I was not particularly athletic, but I would constantly try to weasel in on games of catch he and my sister played in the backyard. There are other memories of chopping down trees with him for wood for our fireplace. I would have done anything to be close to him back in my youth. Not surprisingly, I even ended up at his alma mater for college, majoring in economics and accounting as a way of inching closer to his emotionally corded off persona. I hid my abortion and I stayed in my difficult marriage far too long because of not wanting to disappoint my father and having him think less of me.

I still remember telling my parents that I could not stayed married any longer. I was 43, almost 44 years old. My father suggested I “hang in there” for another ten years or so, until my kids were older and almost through college. It wasn’t until I announced my intention to divorce that I realized how much I needed and craved his approval. Had I not been spiritually dead, I might have endured, but by the time I told them I was done with the charade of my marriage, I knew there was no other hope for me but to leave.

Despite my father’s feelings, though, I did file for divorce. And one of the ways I marked my own freedom was to get “inked” myself on the first anniversary of my divorce. I knew neither my ex-husband or father would have approved of my new piece of body art, and somehow that made it even more compelling. It was a beginning for me in learning to break free of the ties that bound me my whole life. It might be considered a baby step for many, and others might have chosen a different avenue for self-expression, but for me, the new butterfly I sported on my left shoulder was exactly right.

I thought about my experience and where my son was in his life, and what I wanted to give to him as a parent. Do I want to teach my children not to do something because of what other people think? Isn’t the goal of parenting to teach them to make their own choices, follow their own hearts, and learn to fly, even if they sometimes flounder? My son and I talked about him getting a tattoo for several days. He was very clear on what he wanted. He was willing to do the reconnaissance to make sure he found a legitimate and hygienically safe establishment to do his tattoo. He was willing to pay for it and do all the things he needed to do to care for it afterwards. It was not a spontaneous decision, nor did either of us take it lightly. Our final step was to talk to the artist before making the final decision. 

He is not my oldest child. He was born less than two years after his world-traveling sister. While she has been away in Israel, I have seen him stepping up in a bigger way into his own life. I want him to continue to do that, with or without her presence. I know from my own experience that it’s a hard thing to do, to step into your true self without the need of approval from others. Despite their different genders, due to the closeness in their ages there has always been a bit of competition between them. When would he get a chance to do something “first?” When it got right down to it, knowing the level of his commitment as we went through the logistics, but feeling into his deep need for self-expression, how could I possibly say no to his request?

I have been learning this lesson my entire life. I don’t want that for my kids. If I do nothing else right as a parent but see them grow up to know their own hearts and live accordingly, I feel I will have succeeded as a parent. They will always have my support, but approval . . . none of us should go any deeper than our own hearts to get that much needed validation. I want my kids to enter the adult world feeling confident in their abilities, not incapable of making their own choices.

So… what was the end result? My son got his tattoo. He chose it and put it on his right foot, just below the ankle bone. It is the word LOVE, written in Arabic. Now he is symbolically rooted even deeper into the truth of who he is. And I love watching him become the courageous young man that both he and I want him to be. 


Three Pebbles ReuniteTomorrow

Tomorrow on Creating Calm Network, two of my co-authors from Pebbles in the Pond Wave 2 will be joining me to share how telling our stories has changed our lives. Join Janis Fossette, Marcia Ullett and myself as we talk with Ann White, rabbi, author, radio host and co-author from Pebbles in the Pond (the first wave!) to find out where we are today. Click here for link to CreatingCalmNetwork. The show starts at 1:00 PST, but this link will be good for the replay.

Looking forward to the reunion!


What Would You Do If You Had A "Do-Over"?

“You’re on vacation and nobody knows you!” The tour guide boomed over the microphone of our tour bus. I don’t remember much about that particular vacation, taken at least twenty years ago, but those words of wisdom have stuck with me.

A couple of years ago when my children and I made a cross country move from Massachusetts to California, a friend said to me “Christina, you are so lucky! You can completely redefine yourself with this move. Nobody will have a preconceived notion of who you are and what you can or cannot do. What a gift!”

I don’t remember feeling so lucky at the time. The move came at the end of a tumultuous divorce, and my stress levels had never been higher. Reinvent myself? Seriously? I was just hoping to get out of town in one piece and keep my head and those of my three kiddos above water.

The idea of reinventing myself was not on my mind at all. Getting my kids enrolled in new schools (three different kids, three different grades, three different schools) – elementary, middle, and high school, was my top priority. Then connecting them with activities that would help them transition was my second goal. Just finding my way around the unfamiliar grocery store was a monumental task. Despite having three Safeway grocery stores within three miles of my house, none of them were organized in the same way. My GPS could help me with the roads, (thank God for that!), but it literally took me months to navigate the grocery store in less than an hour. Good grief!

By the end of the first year, we all took a deep breath and reassessed our lives. I was finally starting to make a couple friends of my own after having focused most of my energy on getting my kids settled. School was not working out well for my oldest, so we made a change in her routine. The little bit of family that I had in the area had their own way of doing things that was very different from mine, so some tweaks with those relationships needed to be made. Yet a funny thing happened as we got settled and started to evaluate our lives. Suddenly I could hear my friend’s words being whispered into my ear. I was given a clean slate and a perfect opportunity to take a deep dive into what really mattered to me.

My girlfriend was right – I was lucky and still am. I think back now to my life in Massachusetts and I wonder how easy would it have been to break away from my old life as an accountant to become a writer and a coach if I hadn’t made this move? I remember telling my divorce attorney as well as my best friend how much I really hated accounting. As wonderful and well-meaning as they both are, when they said I would not be able to do anything different career-wise as long as I had kids at home, I wanted to burst into tears. I felt stymied and stuck. The rules of the world combined with my family and friends’ ideas of how it and I should work in it seemed already firmly established. Bucking the norms to listen to my inner voice and be myself would have been virtually impossible had I stayed in Massachusetts.

My life now is nothing like it used to be. Logistically, perhaps, it relatively has remained the same. I still have my three kids and a dog, but emotionally, it is completely different. I wake up happily and easily every day. Whenever someone asks me how my day is, I say “great” and mean it. Coming into alignment with my true nature has ignited me in a way I never thought possible – especially at the age of 50!

Transformation is possible if you want it strongly enough, and when you listen to that inner voice inside you telling you to wake up and follow your true path. Your past is a lesson to help you cope in the future, not a mistake that needs to be corrected. Who you are today shapes the person you will be tomorrow. Plus who knows who you will you be in a year from now?

If you were able to wake up tomorrow and not worry about what anyone else’s expectations were, if you could start with a clean slate and get a complete ‘do over’, how would you choose to live?

Like the tour guide said, pretend you are on vacation and nobody knows you… and let me know how you make out!