Comforting Words: 10/2009

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Too Late: It is Finished

Sitting at the dining table looking out one of the large windows of our four bedroom country home writing this post, the words of Ecclesiastes (3: 1-8) come to me:

"To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under the heaven:
A time to be born, and a time to die; a time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill, and a time to heal; a time to break down, and a time to build up;
A time to weep, and a time to laugh; a time to mourn, and a time to dance;
A time to cast away stones, and a time to gather stones together; a time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to get, and a time to lose; a time to keep, and a time to cast away;
A time to rend, and a time to sew; a time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to love, and a time to hate; a time of war, and a time of peace."

Today is October 18, 2009 and it is my time bloom.

Many years ago, soon after being introduced to the New Thought Movement, I came across an article that suggested that our lives evolve in 7-year cycles. Throughout each period we are developing in ways unique to that time in our growth. If this is true, I am currently in the second year of the 7th level of my 'training' on becoming a human being.

I tend to believe this theory is valid especially as I re-evaluate my life on this particular day. Even more so as I contemplate the time I spent with my daughter celebrating her 22nd birthday. Putting everything together – cell memory, life in 7-year cycles and parallel lives – more and more I believe that there are no accidents in life, everything happens for a reason, and that the Universe is really our biggest classroom.

Often something occurs in our experience and we tend to view it as an isolated incident and we miss the point of the lesson. That was almost the case with me when I received that first 'shout-out' email from that woman. Her words quickly distracted me from the essence of the experience and soon I was bogged down with the drama of her storming the doors of my life.

Writing clarifies – at least it does for me and having this blog is a way to put my thoughts down, as well as to share my journey. It is my honest belief that if I help one with my story – my job on Earth is done.

Another reason why writing is cathartic for me is that, as in this case, it really helps me to focus on what could possibly be gained, for example, by allowing this woman to enter my personal space.

When I write these articles (I know this might sound weird but here goes) they flow from me. I am not in control. Each peck made on the keyboard of my laptop comes from deep inside me. Spirit chooses the words. My heart determines the style that will be used to share the story. That first article "Too Late" was centered on one woman yet my heart had two in its lenses as the words poured out.

Parallels – that was the lesson.

Reading the feedback from friends – it was clear that many were on the same page but an equal amount of my readers where drawn into the drama – like I was a few years ago.

Nothing is an accident – was the other lesson.

This woman did not re-emerge and forcibly so simply because she wanted a piece of me. No. It was much bigger than that. My body was also evoking memories of a devastating emotional trauma, forcing me to acknowledge the residues from my past and finish it.

A few days before driving up to Edmonton I received another email from the woman. She was responding to the one I finally wrote to her. In my message I had written:

"You are right, life is too short and so I will not waste it on situations that obviously will bring me more heartache."

I had waited almost a week to write that message. Much prayer, thought, and more prayer went ahead of it. I second and third-guessed myself as to what was right. Looking at others and the relationships they have managed to develop with people from their pasts the thought that this might work – reconciling – was tempting.

Then before I could put my thoughts into words to her, she wrote me to say:

"I tell you what. You can always carry the bag of anger with you for the rest of your life for it seems as if you make up your mind to do so. I will not beg you anymore to communicate with me. I have done my part."

The laughter came from my toes as I read her words. "Yes you have done enough," I said to her picture. "I could not agree more."

What she had finally done with this last bit of passive-aggression – because that was what it was when you read the full message – was to close the door. Over the few weeks that this exchange of messages was happening something else was going on inside of me. Years of pain, shame, feelings of abandonment and self-pity was rising in my psyche and threatening to take up more space in my heart. Her wanting to tell me things that she thought would get me to better understand why I never heard from her until now was dragging me into the shadow of embarrassment.

Embarrassment about the circumstances of my birth, my mother, borderline poverty, the dark alleys that life had taken me down and my cry for help on October 18 (and again in December, 2006) when I attempted suicide.

Contemplating what to do – let her in, listen to what she has to say or shut it down – I turned to my spiritual resources, which these days are largely on the Internet. It was from one on line sermon that these words came to me:

"Pray a Benediction on your yesterday!"

And so I knelt and read this passage from the Bible:

"When Jesus therefore had received the vinegar, he said, It is finished: and he bowed his head, and gave up the ghost." John 19:30

I am finished with the shame and the blame.

I am finished with asking why and instead simply say why not?

I have fought a good fight – with the demons of my past – and I am finished.

I love you – my dear aunt and my dear friend and I always will love you both – but I am finished.

Yes, it was my long deceased father's sister who had been emailing me. I have not seen or heard from neither her – nor any other member of his side of the family in over 30 years. Last Christmas after been hooked up with them through Facebook, she wrote to me once. The rest of the story you know.

Her later emails though opened up other wounds over which scabs had hardened but the underbellies were still somewhat raw. If for nothing else, I am extremely grateful to my aunt for her timing and her unintentional poking at those wounds.

What the past few weeks have helped me to do is heal at much deeper levels than I might have without my aunt's prodding. As I responded to her, it became clear to me that she (and by extension my father's family) was not the only wound that a salve was being poured on. It was a parallel to other still oozing sores.

You do not love someone or yearn for a sense of belonging for many years and then turn the switch off overnight. I get that now – after 30+ years of wishing, praying and hoping that my father's family would reach out to me. I get that now after 3 years of being rudely awakened in the middle of the night by memories.

I also get that I am finished now.

I love you my aunt. I love you my friend. But I cannot stay where I was for 30+ years waiting to feel as if I belonged. I have moved on. Driving away from Edmonton yesterday I knew it was over – I knew that this was a new season. I was no longer scared of the ghosts from 30 years ago or 3 years ago.

As we sat in the restaurant celebrating my daughter's 22nd birthday and the fellows on the two red pianos played and sung Happy Birthday to her, it felt like they were singing it for me too.

In the company of my woman-friend who saved my life back in October 2006, her husband and mine, Abigail beamed as she and I sat holding hands.     Her pride, joy and sense of belonging were almost overwhelming.

This is my life now. This is my family. For me, blood is not thicker than water – love is and that is what I am experiencing now. The love of friends who never left my side; the love of my daughter whose eyes no longer hold fear that all is not well with her Mummy (she does call me that still), and love of a man who calls me Queen and Beautiful even when I have not showered – and means it.

It is finished.

Thank you God!



Thursday, October 08, 2009

Too Late: Intermission

It was the end of another two-day frenzy that comes every month in my line of business when the fate of others are decided and my recommendation plays a significant role.

Pooped, hungry and not too joyous that it was snowing, I still had to stop and collect the humongous organic chicken that might appear on my Thanksgiving table. Actually, it was three roasters and one will be travelling with me to Edmonton in a few days to grace my daughter’s birthday table.

Pulling away from my friend’s beautiful 100-year old house the knot in the pit of my stomach tightened as if to remind me it was there. That was a wasted motion on its part as how could I have forgotten it? Since my first cup of coffee at 5:15 this morning it arrived and it had my gasping for breathe several times throughout my presentations.

The tuna sandwich I had for lunch did not relieve the knot, neither did the fourth cup of coffee, nor the pack of Cheesies someone gave nor the mug of hot chocolate that I bought at the service station just prior to pulling onto the highway to head home.

Robert was on the phone wanting to know if he should start driving home now instead of early tomorrow morning as was the plan. He feared the worse as I described the sometime excruciating pain that had me doubled-over in the truck. We both tried to diagnose what could have been the cause and possible home remedies.

“Robert,” I tentatively said, “do you think this is psychological?” Not understanding where I could be going with that question or maybe preferring not to go there, he responded “How?”

“Well, you know I have been dealing with some stuff and it is the day, it is October 8, the day my downward spiraling began back then.”

“No,” said my husband who sometimes refuses to acknowledge that I am not super-woman. “You are just stressed from the presentations and all that was weighing on them.”

Then as only my Robert can conclude he said, “Furthermore I would have heard it in your voice.”

“Heard what in my voice?” was my comeback to that.

“Depression,” he said matter-of-factly and I could just imagine his green-blue eyes with that man-boyish gaze that he has that penetrates deep into me.

When we first met, Robert and I, after noticing that he was a somewhat of a red-head, the next thing that caught me were his eyes and that impish smile that reside deeply in them. His eyes were so irresistible to me that throughout our first dinner together at Mongolie Grill in Edmonton, I could not look away. The restaurant wasn’t well lit so I squinted through my glasses to focus on his.

Taken by them, a few hours later as we were about to pull out of the parking lot, I reached over and grabbed him, pulled him in to me and kissed him. Not caring whether he thought I was a crazy ‘black’ woman, I kissed him again.

His eyes made me do it.

And over the year and months that we have been together, all he has to do is to turn those eyes on me and I know that everything might not be the way we want it, but we are not where we were as individuals and all will be well.

Robert knows things about me that I do not and he is not afraid to share them with me – even when I might not want to be informed. He also knows that October 2006 was a crazy-making month for me and that Thanksgiving that year did not find me being grateful.

He knows that this October came with its own set of additional issues – with the emails that I have been processing.

That is why we are both glad that he is on his way home for our second Thanksgiving together – to help make new memories.

It is funny how you can experience such joy and pride in one aspect of your life – like I did today when three out of my four presentations went very well and the individuals have another chance. And then there can be near chaos in another aspect of your life – like this woman trying to ease her way into my personal space.

What is more magnificent about life is finding someone who is what I prefer to call a wounded healer to walk the course with you – seeing your flaws but loving you through green-blues eyes.

I am truly blessed.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Too Late? Part 2

Cell memory“a theory that states the brain is not the only organ that stores memories or personality traits, that memory as a process can form in other systems in the body and can be stored in organs such as the heart.”

As I grow older the idea that the cells of my body have stored occurrences and experiences that had a profound impact on me has grown.

What else could account for the deep sense of loss and pain that reoccurs even when life is ‘going good’? This happens to all of us – say on the anniversary of the passing of a loved one many years ago. Intellectually you might have come to terms with this passing, you might even have come to recognize that the pain and suffering your loved one was suffering has ended and they have moved on to a ‘better place’.

However, either approaching the anniversary of the death or what would have been the person’s birthday – you sense yourself going into what at first felt like an inexplicable place of sorrow. And then, “ah-ah,” you look at the calendar and realize why.

I have also come to believe that for each place of brokenness inside of me (and you) that memory calls onto itself an event or a series of event for the sake of healing. The energy within me attracts what it ‘knows’ my soul needs, even when I think “all is well.”

October is a month of trauma and tragedy for me and every year something happens to remind me of those places of brokenness in my life that are awaiting attention. Life is so amazing that if you do not get the message, it will send it to someone in your inner circle causing a mirror to be held up to you.

I did not think about my pursuer in this way until on my drive to work this morning. “Why now?” I asked myself. “Why doesn’t she just leave me alone?”

My annoyance grew as I recalled opening the new email from her and the sting of her words zapped me in the face. The first thing was her calling me Mrs. McLaughlin. Why the hell that bothered me is still a mystery but coming out of her virtual mouth did.

Then she wanted to explain some of what happened as maybe then I would not hold such a beef against her.

“Really now?” I thought. “Now you want to explain, I don’t think so!”

For some reason she sent two emails this time, something about being kicked of the computer. She should have left it at one. The second email confirmed that patience is a virtue that I still need some lessons on.

“Let’s just forgive and forget about the past,” she wrote and then went into a bi-polar routine and said that I was full of anger still and that is not good for my health.

The late Bernie Mac had this line he would use in his television show, “America…let me tell…” Well, to paraphrase, people…let me tell you…the words coming out of my mouth was not becoming of the professional woman that I am. “What the f… she cares about my health! She hasn’t concerned herself with me when I needed help, and now she is? !@^%”

Then again, look at where I work; what other words could come out of my mouth when told that after being abandoned and forgotten with nary a word from her for this long I should “calm down?”

Who the heck is she to decide what emotions I should be experiencing at her appearance in my life, providential or not, demanding room in my personal space?

Calm enough I was to know that that was not the time to reply to her latest emails. So off to bed I went and the face appeared in my dream again. This happens every October, almost every night for the month. My daughter also had a not so pleasant experience about this time of the year. And it was in October that my life almost came to an end.

I believe it was also an October that I prepared my Memorial Service several years ago. The entire service was planned, music chosen and the programme printed. My daughter teased me when it was done that she will have nothing to do but plug the removable disk into a computer and let it run come that time.

One of the other songs I chose for my Memorial Service was “I Just Can’t Give Up Now” and it is one of the songs that helped to bring me back from the brink of death one October not too long ago.

Which brings me back to cellular memory. My body is talking to me again – another October is here – as this woman attempts to re-enter my life. It seems to be saying to me that I can choose whether the healing will take longer and be harder.

Or I could dial the telephone number she included in her second email.

“All I want is for us to be reunited and start communicating in a more friendly manner and not like we are enemies,” she closed.

All I, Claudette Esterine-McLaughlin, want is more time to feel these emotions that have surfaced for another October and think this through some more…

Maybe I will drop her a line…tomorrow.

Monday, October 05, 2009

Too Late?

A woman is pursuing me.

She will not let up. Try as I may to give her the cold shoulders, she ‘attacks’ from another angle.

We met again by chance and although my pulse raced with joy initially, my desire was to take things slowly. She waited for a few months and then she struck. “It’s time to talk,” was the sum total of the very public message she sent.

Angry that she aired our business so publicly without my consent I shot back a long message to her, detailing not only my vexation but venting my residual baggage.

Then she went silent and for weeks I heard nothing in response.

Yesterday, another Sunday in solitude as my husband is away, a response finally popped up on my laptop.

“You have been on my mind,” she wrote.

I read her words with a heart as cold as the early winter in Southern Alberta. There was no apology in her letter. She said she did not feel she had anything to say sorry about, except that she has loved me for so long.

“Too late for us…” was my terse response to her. “I have no time to waste.”

Who could blame me? I was not the one who walked away without a backward glance. How many years have gone by and nothing from her and now through one email she thought everything was okay?

I thought. “It requires much more than that.”

How many sleepless nights over the years I have spent, praying and wishing for even a word, a card, something, anything that would say she loved me?

The pain and suffering endured at the hands of friends, lovers and strangers alike with no one to turn to but my shadow, my sad reflection in the mirror.

And now that my heart – battered, broken, shattered – is slowly healing through the Grace of God and with the love of my daughter, husband and dear friends, she turns up and wants a piece of me?

Hang on…hold it…wait a second…."Could this be part of God’s Grace?"

That thought flickered through my mind only momentarily. My fingers moved faster. I drummed out another cold response. I was getting better at this – hardening my heart towards this woman and all she presented.

As I drove home from work today, a CD of songs that I want played at my eventual Memorial Service was on. I had made it years ago, in another place, in another time.

“It is well with my soul, it is well, it is well, with my soul…”

Really? The Voice in my heart asked.

Then why are there a couple empty places…spots quietly earning to be held, softly and still needing to be healed?

Why did you cry yourself back to sleep last night after awakening from a dream that felt so real? Why does that face that you only now see in dreams appeared last night sharing with you her struggles, her pain and asking to be understood.

“Ping!” my laptop gave out as it announced the arrival of a new message. It was another from her.

To be continued.

Photo by Renato Gandia