AGING, life lessons

FROM A DREAM

Before I closed my eyes last night, after a good and hardy unexpected romp, I took several deep and grateful breaths. Flat out on my back, supremely satisfied with all my life is and has become, (I swear, no pun intended) I breathed in, saying my personal mantra that I rely on for a deep calm sense of peace,

I am in the divine right place at the right time, and I am always divinely protected and cared for.

Faith. I am so happy I have it as my secret weapon. Not the faith of a religious kind, but one of a spiritual one. The kind that stops me in my tracks when I spot a hummingbird in my garden on a bright pink zinnia. The faith that happens when I unabashedly use my scissors to cut the stems of my purple coned anise-hyssop plant as a swarm of bees drink their nectar. They seem unmoved by my presence, almost like they recognize me as their compadre, not their enemy, happy we live in a co existence both sharing the pleasures of their flowers in our own way.

I am not afraid. Clients and friends waiting for their luscious bouquets I happily donate to their kitchen counters, see me reach into the stems and comment, Oohh, Alayne, lots of bees…
Yes, I say with a slight touch of bravado, They are not interested in me, they only want the flowers. I know this because this has been my experience every season since I planted these flowers. I haven’t been stung yet. Don’t plan on it. We have an understanding, it seems.

Faith is a superpower for me. Anytime I have felt startled or dismantled in some way, I go to those two familiar lines and breathe them in. Even when I am not afraid, even when I am deeply satisfied in my life, I say them.
I am always divinely protected. Hey, whatever works as we spin through our short days in this life. I have learned that head speak is an important stress reducer and if a one line phrase can muster some good old fashioned peace and tranquility, it just has to be good for your soul.

Sometimes dreams have messages like this, too, and I had some beautiful dreams last night involving my dear friend, Jane. I woke up today happy to have remembered them so clearly. Sometimes dreams are like this, they create a vivid experience, so much so, that you question if they really happened. That was this morning.

I dreamed we were at her birthday party and our friend, Jen, was bringing in plastic sand toys, laying them on the floor as Jane sat at the head of the table with her head in her hands anticipating the surprise looming. Jen brought in three stacks of white boxes for Jane to have to open, the kind where there is a smaller one inside the next one and so on. They were wrapped with a satin bow and I knew that there was a gift of a trip to some place warm in the smallest one.

For some reason, in the dream, I felt the need to type a message and I quickly went over to my typewriter to type a note to put on the smallest box. As I went to type, I realized that the paper had already been typed on, so I took another piece of paper and realized that too had been typed on. I was trying to type this quickly so I could get it on the gift before she opened it, so I crumpled up those two pieces and woke up before finishing the note to these two phrases,

You are enough. You have enough. This is what I was intending to write before I woke up. That is what I woke up with as sharp as if someone was standing over me and saying it. Like Glinda the Good Witch or someone.

Whoa. What a way to wake up this morning.

You are enough. You have enough. I wanted to text Jane immediately to tell her I had this detailed dream, but she sleeps in, especially on a Saturday, and no matter how great this message is, she wouldn’t have been so elated to receive a six am text message. Instead, I decided to write this piece today to get it out of me so I wouldn’t forget.

You are enough. You have enough. Talk about a new mantra. Dreams are powerful. Like faith. They have those lovely messages sometimes that just sum up life in a neat little box with a pretty bow. Like the boxes Jane was going to open in my dream.

As I made my way downstairs to make some coffee and watch the sun rise I realized that there is a lot going on this weekend for me. This past week has been a week of leaning into allowing myself permission to give myself a break from my incessant need to accomplish tasks.As I opened the paper, I read a lovely essay by Jennifer Weiner, The Primal Thrill of a Cherry Tomato. I didn’t even really need to read the essay because the title was so aptly named, it said it all. But there was a perfect nugget of a paragraph I must share. She wrote:

These days with my 50th birthday looming, I think a lot about where the surprises are going to come from. Not the satisfaction, not the joy, but the unexpected delights — the didn’t-see-it-coming thrill you get from learning that your bid on the house was accepted or that you got the job offer or that you’re having a baby. At my age life doesn’t offer many firsts. It’s short on surprises, and the ones on offer aren’t pleasant. Instead of ‘congratulations, you’re pregnant,’ it’s more like ‘bad news, you need to get a gum graft.’
Which isn’t to say there aren’t upsides to being settled down. Chances are you’ve gained some wisdom. You’ve fallen in love and learned that no one dies of a broken heart, you’ve fallen on your face and you can almost always get back up.

There is that odd moment I can relate to she speaks of as I am in the in between space of my son just getting ready to graduate college this year, I am settled into my home, my career, my life, my partnership, my friendships are stable and life long, weeding out the ones that no longer serve. I sometimes find myself thinking with a micro speck of cynicism, What’s next? Where did the time go?

This week I learned, from my glorious and lovely bad ass Dr. W, that I no longer have to go for six month check ups for my previous breast cancer diagnosis and am now on one year check ups. I found out I have to have the entire duct work in my house cleaned and the only date they could do is on the first day of Rosh Hashanah which to some may seem blasphemous, but for me seems divinely appropriate for some reason. It’s like a full throttle house enema.

It’s like Jennifer Weiner said in her piece about surprises, but for me they don’t need to be the big ones. I am lucky I have experienced the big ones. I think aging is recognizing they don’t need to be exceptionally large and in your face. They can show up in your garden, in a one line essay title or in an unexpected lovely romp on Friday evening after a long day. They can show up in an abundance of monarchs on the result of fifty zinnia seed packets I basically threw with wild abandon this past May challenging them to prove the fittest survive theory (and it seemed like there were no weak ones this season).

This weekend my mother is visiting my son. We haven’t seen each other in five years and we just recently started speaking with each other again. And it feels redemptive and like part of the circle of life that is not a comma, but a solid semi colon that confirms there is a second part of what I am trying to say, but doesn’t need its own sentence, but also doesn’t need a gentle pause. We are in the early stages of accepting each other for who we are and more importantly forgiving each other for who we are no longer.

Surprises can be waking up from a dream with two beautiful phrases that I can take with me on my journey this weekend as I see my mother for the first time in too long of a time and know that healing stems from forgiveness and forgiveness and amends is exactly the calling of the Jewish New Year. Whether I go to High Holy Day services or go to dinner with my mother and my son, synagogue is what’s in my heart, not in a building, at least in my humble opinion.

You are enough. You have enough. Its message says loud and clear to accept myself and accept yourself. If this isn’t the simplest of surprises for this fifty five year old chick, I don’t know how it could be any better or bigger or more surprising than this.

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WATER IN MY DREAMS

WATER IN MY DREAMS

I wish I were the type of person who would write their dreams down when they woke me up, like today at 2:40 am, but this would mean that I would have to put the light on ensuring that I would remain awake. I always think I am going to remember my dreams when I wake up at a normal time, but of course time after time, they are never as vivid as they were just four hours before. I can have large spans of time when I don’t even recall if I had a dream, but for the past three weeks I have dreamt ever single night of water and family. Rain, ocean, lakes, all of my immediate family have shown up in each dream at some point. Grandparents, my parents, my son, my brother, my aunts, my former husband, my present partner. None of the dreams have been scary or nightmarish, no fear in them, more like an old friend showing up to remind me of something. I am not drowning in the dream nor is anyone else. There are lots of animals though. Last night it was seagulls, there have been squirrels, manatees and of course my old friend the snake. I have never dreamed like this before and I am struck by the themes. Interestingly, I have had some water spots show up in my ceilings from some leaks in my roof. Yes, I am aware that this comes with a house built one hundred years before I was born, 1865. 153 years ago, but I do find it interesting that it is water again. Also last Friday the fire alarms went off and I couldn’t get them to turn off when it occurred to me, maybe there is something going on besides a battery and promptly called the fire department. Thankfully they didn’t have to use any water, it turned out to be a faulty smoke detector, but still fire and water, the opposites, the yin and yang of it all did get me wondering what the heck is going on. I like the inner work of messages. Dreams have that ability to give you a story maybe before you are even ready for one. I have looked up “dreaming about water” and the meanings are all a little vague, a bit over generalized, and like a horoscope, I only want to see the lovely, not the worry. My goddess of a therapist, who is a Jungian dream analyst had her own take on the dreams involving my deep connection to creativity and something brewing, to pay attention and keep creating. This speaks to me especially since I am in the throws of new branding using typewriters and silliness as an excuse for creation. She had something to say about my new obsession with typewriters, the weight of them, the mechanics of them and the possibilities of what they represent. This is for another essay though, too complex to add and possibly too esoteric for even me. If I were to sit quietly and meditate on this perhaps I would have a sense. My instincts say, something is a brewing, go with the literal flow. My birth sign is Pisces and when I look up today’s message, it says,

It could be that you feel a bit of pressure today to start or create something that you aren’t quite ready for. There is hesitation on your part that indicates you should take it slowly and learn more of the facts before you jump into the fray… (where was this horoscope last week when I decided to lease a high end car?J

Then there is this one which I like better, A SWEEPING MOMENTUM carries you through the entire day and its quite a ride! But don’t get too caught up in the excitement or laughter that surrounds you. There are many details you need to pay attention to if you want to keep on a positive track. Thinking big or getting distracted by the long range ideas won’t help you right now. Listen to the words people are using and the dates being chosen. These small details will have a huge influence.

There is so much water significance to these. Go with the flow, don’t get bogged down, don’t jump in. Of course we all know how much we can read into horoscopes to have them fit our own ideas of how they should read, but this is the fun. I can feel something though, my need to meet like minded women and take them to lunch, to create. Just yesterday, I met a fabulous new superchick and we made a connection that felt old and wisdom filled. It was like we had known each other for many years and it felt immediately comfortable and rich. As I write this I am moved by the awareness of creating the space for new female friendships. I have written about and spoken about old female relationships moving on and out and through knowing that as painful as it has been it has also created space for new loving and meaningful ones to enter. Perhaps the significance of all of the water in the last three weeks is movement, cleansing, and some form of rebirth. After all, we come from water, water is what we are made up of, water is what is the majority surrounding us. Water is cleansing and purifying. All of this is a nice way to interpret these dreams. And to consider that when old friends move on, perhaps it ultimately is for the right reason allowing both of us opportunities for new births to take place. After all of this rain the past week too, the flowers continue to bloom and the grass gets greener by the minute- just in time for a beautiful October. What lies ahead is out of my hands, but what is behind serves no purpose any longer. If this is what my dreams are letting me know in their own unique way, then I am satisfied.


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SNAKES DON’T LIE

SNAKES DON’T LIE

“You are fearless,” a long term client said to me as we met this past week. She had asked me for my thoughts in reflecting back on my early years of starting my own business and this was her kind and very welcomed comment.

“Yes.” Pause. “I am.” I said this aloud and I was surprised at the confidence in my voice as I bathed in the accolade. The BC me, the before cancer me, would have likely minimized the compliment shrugging off its meaning as something to describe someone else. Fearless? I mean I own a facial business, how much fearlessness does one need to sell potions and creams?

Of course, this is not what she meant. For the first time, I acknowledged this without contemplation. I accepted the kind word with deep consideration for its tone as the exchange was passed.

Progress. Again.

My fearlessness comes from resilience. I enjoy resilient people, especially resilient women. Resilience is relative though- life comes at all of us and we all process how and what we do with the trauma in our own ways. I had a friend who’s mother was a deep alcoholic when we were growing up. Like the type of drinking that made her not do the laundry or grocery shop or pick up her daughter from school alcoholism. The bad kind. My mother drank too, but she was a ‘functioning’ drinker, whatever the hell that is supposed to mean. I was always provided for, at least on the outside looking in. With my friend’s mother, her drinking was apparent from the outside looking in and the inside looking out. Over the years of learning about my own family’s trials and tribulations, I found myself comparing these levels of drinking, minimizing my own struggles in living with alcoholism to my friend’s. Comparatively speaking, who was I to complain or think I had problems? My friend didn’t even get to have a refrigerator full of food or get to go shopping for school clothes. These are the material outward coats of armor we kids of “functioning” alcoholics protect ourselves with. I have learned though that our problems and life challenges are only relative to our problems and life challenges. We prevail or curl up and hide and everything in between to figure our shit out. Sometimes other people’s issues help move us along at a quicker pace, but we all still have to march forth. I march forth. The experiences make me march forth because what is on the other side is always the reward for the work. Never disappointed. Always eager for the lesson. And there is no shortage of lessons.

Walking on a beach from one end to another, but the two are not connected. Sachusest Point in Middletown turns into Potters Cove in Jamestown. Climbing over rocks on a beautiful day, making my way easily. I come upon a golden colored snake about ten feet easily. Thick body about the size of my calf. I notice it as I walk by and am relieved to notice that it is likely not alive as there is no movement. Like more than resting, but not dead either. Almost REM like. I am not afraid, but I am not unaware. The snake is really long and thick, golden like mustard with a whisper of muted green, but barely. Not dull and not bright either. Rusty brown, more brown than red, spots along its body.

I walk by on my way. Leaving lots of slithery eel like black snakes where I came from and there is a bucket somewhere. Am I carrying one? Did I leave one behind? Did the bucket have snakes in it? I can’t remember. I walk back past again. The snake is still. Resting or dead- not sure. Turn around and walk back again. This time though, She pokes her head up with no body movement, just her large solid head and takes a good look at me like she is trying to tell me something important. I am not afraid, I don’t feel confronted, I feel noticed by her, not in a way that is vacant, but deliberate. I realize that I didn’t wake her; she was not sleeping nor was she waiting for me. She was commanding. She put her head back down and I consider that now I know she is definitely not dead, I am going to have to walk by her again to get back to where I was and I had a bit of worry about that.

I wake up.

Dreaming about snakes can be unsettling, but this was not my first snake dream. The last snake dream that graced my night was before I was diagnosed with cancer the first time, before I turned fifty, when I first bought my magic kingdom I call my home. Thankfully I happened to have a therapist who is Jungian dream analysis trained among other talents, she helped guide me through the process of discovering some meaning. I drew that dream on paper and it was a piece I really loved. It represented discovery and as dreams unveil layers of truths so often there is a transformative quality to some of the more powerful ones. Transformative? I ‘d say. This dream had the same snakes in them as last time. A lot of black slithery ones and one main chieftress visiting me again. I am trying hard to not read, more cancer on the way, into the dream, but the dream did not alarm. I felt protected and safe, but alerted.

It is no accident that I am wide awake at three am writing this. I have not written for a few days and like not getting to the gym for a few days (that too), the pull of the writing overpowered my need to return to sleep. So, Here. I. Am. This dream was not last night, though; it was this past week, Sunday? Tuesday? I can’t remember now, but this dream felt significant.

Now today we come upon Passover’s first night and there is a blue moon, though not as rare as given credit for, but indeed symbolic and tidy as it lands on the last day of March. I love neat month endings. Snakes visiting me in a dream as the moon’s belly grows in the sky, the peony shoots are awakening through the cold dirt of winter. The bright shrill of the cardinal is singing “Pay Attention! Pay Attention!” And now that the famous woodchuck has no longer taken residence in my garden, wild turkeys have decided that my back yard is their new favorite place to hang out with their own tribe.

Last Passover, I didn’t have a Seder because the first night of Passover was also the day I came home from the hospital. Even my own overachieving love of gathering the tribe would not be possible. I had not missed a Passover since the year before I got married, but for some reason, I was ok with it. What choice did I have? Let’s see, double mastectomy recovery with double drain bags hanging off my body or Passover celebration. I am guessing God would forgive. Passover is a transformative holiday. It symbolizes freedom, movement, birth, death, self discovery, trust, new beginnings and shedding old thinking, starting anew.

It is the story of Moses (and please let’s not forget Miriam, she was really the one who took the first step, but we know how these stories of our history go), escaping enslavement in Egypt and leading the tribe across the Red Sea as it parted for their escape. Miraculously it closed back up so the army of Egyptian soldiers couldn’t follow. They tried and drowned. This miracle was God’s doing and as The Israelites looked back at the drowning Egyptians who had tried to chase them into the sea, the newly freed Israelites danced and sang, mocking the Egyptians. God said, “How can you sing when my children are drowning?” Of all of the metaphors in the Passover Seder, this is one of my favorites because it reminds us to stay humble, a lesson that never gets old. The Germans have a word for rejoicing in another’s bad turn, called Schadenfreudethe experience of pleasure, joy, or self-satisfaction that comes from learning of or witnessing the troubles, failures, or humiliation of another. The word is really one of those perfect words that can’t be defined in any other language. Comparing our own traumas to another’s to give your personal pain less potency is in some ways a little schadenfreude.

The Israelites learned their first of many lessons in humility as they began their dark and stormy journey into the unknown looking for the Promised Land.

Aren’t we all looking for The Promised Land in our quests for fulfillment? I wonder at the significance of this recent dream in the timeliness of its arrival. I have shed layers of myself in the deep intense process of recovering from early stage breast cancer twice. I have minimized the trauma every time I define it as “caught it early,” “early stage,” like somehow it is “not that bad.” Kind of like “functioning alcoholic.” It is almost like a personal schadenfreude.

This snake appearing in my dream has messages for me that will come soon for sure. This is the unveiling and unraveling of the core parts of me as I allow full transparency in my vulnerabilities. Nothing to hide and everything to gain. Full head on literal and figurative exposure. Just like Miriam put her toes in the sea first and only recently got the credit for it at our seders, just like walking by the snake and allowing the two of us to meet with only a small but healthy amount of trepidation. In all of the other life coming at me moments, I have learned humility in the process. The humbling lessons of awakening and transformation from these lessons stop me in my tracks and I am a better human, a better woman and most importantly, a grateful and humble one.

This is Fearlessness.


This was a photo I had taken before my 50th birthday, the last photo of me with real boobs. I love the significance of this. Fearlessness. Yep.