July 2015 Flower Bowl/Finding My Compass

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Lion’s Tail, Azalea, Alstroemeria, Hydrangea, Osteospermum, Dianthus, Scabiosa

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Creative stagnancy-this is the shadow music that has been playing itself loud and clear these past weeks.  I have ideas, in fact I have come up with several art projects or writing topics, and good ones too.  Ones that in the past I would have jumped on and gotten to.  These ideas cycle through my head and sometimes get written down on paper, but after that nada.  Now I have little pieces of paper scattered all around my home, ideas begun but left incomplete.  And like any recipe a person endeavors to create, if you don’t complete all the steps, there ain’t no pie for dessert.

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I really want my dessert.  Getting a handle on my addictions has had an inverse relationship to my creative output.  I was truly the tortured artist who produced copious amounts of work while under the influence of this, that or the other.  Now that I have been living life with more balance (I have not become a nun, I assure you), it’s been difficult to access that passion that jump started my limbs to make, create, do.  It’s there, but it’s roaming around without a compass.  “Which way is writing?” it says. “Which way to free form art?”  So it goes around in circles, bumping inside me.  And the longer it moves without direction, without release, the greater the pressure build.

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Stagnancy makes me prone to triggers.  With so much pent up energy and emotion, the smallest thing makes me irritated, while bigger things push me over the edge.  In fact, the whole experience of stagnancy is actually not stagnant, as I have come close to blowing my lid a few times.  Writing and creating art, this is half of what keeps me sane.  The longer I wait to initiate, the harder it feels to start.  Like putting off homework or exercise.  The initial period of just doing it is excruciating.

I need my compass calibrated.  Any compass calibrators out there looking for a job?

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Yet I think…as I redefine my life on different terms than I have lived previously, perhaps my compass will magically calibrate on its own?  Is it not new patterns that are established once those that no longer serve are let go?  Does this not take time to create and become comfortable with?  So perhaps my stagnancy is really just transition, which can feel pretty lousy as neither the old or the new is firmly in place.  Like being pregnant or planting seeds in a garden.  Growth that happens on the inside, not yet manifest in the external world.  In fact, being in transition is one of the final phases before birth actually takes place, and is one of the most painful.  We are living beings after all, nothing is ever permanent or without movement.  Change is inevitable.  Even as I write this, I see a tiny, faint arrow beginning to appear on my compass.  It’s flickering and flashing, becoming stronger with each word I write and each moment I take to continue, stay with it, not give up.  I have needed to remember this!  I don’t think I will need that compass calibrator after all.

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April Aronoff

Photography by April Aronoff

February 2015 Flower Bowl /There Is A Burning Need

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(Hyacinth, valerian, nasturtium viola, nemesia, osteospermum, hellebore, jasmine, spanish lavender, geranium, pansy, rosemary)

There is a burning need

to get recognized,

seen in a way

that bares my soul

down to its

naked, dripping

essence.

There is a burning need

to merge soul to soul,

to exchange what

ignites my light

and fills me with love.

This is what it’s like

when I write,

share my story,

and in return

connect with you.

The exchange

is so ecstatic,

I hope to never

give it up.

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April Aronoff/Diana Ray

I Wish

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I wrote this poem more than a year ago.  Parts of this poem are no longer true for me.  Parts still are.  Felt good to work on it again and re-publish 🙂

 

I wish I didn’t feel like shit.

I wish that talking to my spouse

was an exchange of something good,

instead of The Battle Of Personal Issues

brought on by children

and stressful jobs

and buying houses.

 

I wish I could detach myself

from the constant barrage

of foul language

and horrible insults,

thrown around

by my very own children,

as if they were blowing bubbles

that pop quickly,

one after the other.

 

I wish addiction didn’t exist,

that the line you cross

was wide,

like the Grand Canyon,

instead of thin

and frail

and unstable.

 

I wish I didn’t have to dive deep,

to go where No Mans Gone Before.

Hidden treasures they tell me,

if only I dive deep.

But the Demon of Irritability

lives there too,

and to be quite honest,

I can’t stand his guts.

 

I wish I felt more inspired

like I do when I think of Her,

Mother Earth,

and the Little Girl

who rides the Elephant

wearing a sparkly pink tutu.

I smile from my bones

every time I see her,

this darling girl,

who blew into my life

one day

during a soul retrieval.*

 

I wish I were a spider

spinning my own

web of support,

and instead of

eating my prey,

I would invite them

to stay,

offering friendship

and comfort

and nurturance.

 

I wish I had more courage,

more faith.

My back is weak,

but what about my mind,

my heart,

my soul?

“You can do it,” I tell myself,

“You can do it.”

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Diana Ray/April Aronoff

Photography by Diana Ray

*Soul Retrieval refers to forms of shamanic practice that aim to reintegrate various parts of the soul that might have become disconnected, trapped or lost through trauma. (paraphrased from bodyspiritawareness.com)

Union

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These are my feet

now I must walk,

These are my hands

now I must create,

These are my eyes

now I must see,

this is my heart

now I must feel,

these are my wings

now I must fly.

Walk

Create

Feel

See

Fly.

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Diana Ray/April Aronoff

Photography By Diana Ray

This Is The Tree

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This is the tree that helps me touch down when I feel I cannot stand.

This is the tree that helps me reach out when I know I am not alone.

This is the tree whose leaves and bark have ignited creative fire.

This is the tree that helps me remember that I too, come from the Earth.

This is the tree that told me in embrace that in fact we are the same;

solid

capable of anything

full of love.

Yes, this is the tree.

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Diana Ray/April Aronoff

Photography By Diana Ray

November 2014 Flower Bowl/Seeding

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(rose, fushcia, heliotrope, valerian, rosemary, oak hydrangea leaves, pansy)

What I wish the most,

is to create enough space

within me,

for the fire and light

to grow.

May my wish come true:)

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Diana Ray/April Aronoff

Photography By Diana Ray

My Declaration

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I write this as a declaration, to put forth that which can be created simply because I have called it into being.  I hope to be held accountable (to myself only) for my ability to create change.

      “It is time to connect deeply with the world and all of the various environments I am a part of, to not just go through the motions but to be immersed in the making of each moment.  That is living.”

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Diana Ray/April Aronoff

Photography By Diana Ray

Self-Love #1

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I.

You are only ever one step away from

joy,

gratitude,

love.

Take it.

II.

Like life,

love begins

and ends

with me.

III.

To love myself is to believe in myself.

In times of success,

of failure,

of starting over.

I BELIEVE IN ME.

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Diana Ray/April Aronoff

Photography By Diana Ray

Oct. 2014 Flower Bowl/Manifesting With The Moon

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(dahlias, heliotrope, snap dragons, lavender, african basil, alstroemeria, penstemon)

I began this process one week ago, in the dark of the moon.*  As I sat in meditation the intention became clear almost immediately:  To love myself wholly and unconditionally throughout this next moon cycle from dark moon to dark moon.  In addition to the energies of the moon, the Goddess in her many different forms will evolve as the moon evolves, with different archetypes shifting with each changing phase of the moon.

Since then I have moved from the dark moon, to the new moon, to a waning crescent moon.  The Dark Moon corresponds to the Great Mother (i.e., Demeter, Gaia, Pachamama, Mary Magdalene).   Her message:   “I surrender, I receive.”  One opens to the query of an intention that wishes to be heard.  The New Moon corresponds to the Goddess of Compassion (i.e., Kuan Yin, Mother Mary, Tara).  Her message:  “I recognize I seed.” Taking that intention and planting it firmly in the earth and in your soul being.  The Waxing Crescent Moon began today, corresponding to the Priestess (i.e., Lady of the Lake, Selene, Vesta).   Her message: “I amplify in stillness.”  To sit in inward silence, imagining that intention fully blossomed and realized.

And here is where I am hitting a bump.

The first 6 days of this journey were wonderful.  The minute I tried to say anything self berating I stopped and said, “No!” nipping it in the bud.  Then I fueled myself with golden showers of self-empowering words, phrases, affirmations and prayers, calling in every spirit teacher, power animal, or goddess who could witness/support me.

It has been unlike anything I have ever known.  My heart is so full!  So much beauty around me:)

Now I feel the criticisms and inadequacies creeping in.  Some of this is around my issues with addiction, which I have decided to take a rest from confronting.  Some of it is other messy stuff.  My intention is to love myself no matter what…to know that I am whole, complete, exactly as I am, my flaws, my wisdom, my beauty, my big, hot, messy self.  All of it, whole.

It is this that I take in.  It is this that I amplify in stillness.

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Diana Ray/April Aronoff

Photography By: Diana Ray

*Manifesting with the moon is a practice created by the 13 Moon Mystery School.  See http://www13moonmysteryschool.org for more information.

More Thoughts on Healing

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Tonight I cooked shredded zucchini for dinner.  I browned the zucchini in piping hot olive oil and seasoned it with delectable herbs.  Soon a heavenly aroma filled the air.  Over high heat the shredded zucchini, quite juicy when cooked, gave off a warm steam.  That, in combination with the enticing aroma, prompted me to lean into this warm steam, eyes closed, and inhale.  The lusciousness of the sautéed zucchini had me:  I was going to bask in this incredible aroma for all its’ got.  To let my senses roam free as smell and taste and tactile (the steam felt amazing!) took me to an altered state of consciousness.  Then I came out of it.  It was delicious.

Last night I experienced my first sweat lodge.  The aromatic steam created from fresh water poured over hot rocks was incredibly healing.  Mixed with Bear Root, an awakening. Somewhere in there lies tonights’ dinner.  Aho.

Diana Ray/April Aronoff

Photography by Diana Ray

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Hello Sisters

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This is a facebook post I gave to my Priestess group.  Big stuff came up.  It inspired me to want to make it a blog post.

Hello Sisters,
I am reaching out because at our 1/2 moon last Monday I hid out. I am continuing to dance with addiction issues, and was afraid to speak; for fear of being weak, a bother, yet again bringing up something that is a struggle. I let shadow take over my right to belong, and for that night it got its way. As for what I want to say, it is this: I truly wish to lay my addiction issues, fears of the unknown, fears of change, to rest. To surrender to the Queen of Death and finally prune what is dying in my soul. There is a small part of me that can feel what it would be like if I did let go, and I can sense it huge and wonderful and expansive.

Some of you have seen my large garden. I have just begun to cut things back, to feel the pull to go inward, like every plant will in coming months in my yard.  I love my new word, “fallow” {thank-you sister for clarifying!) Fallow, that is me.

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Take care and blessings with the full moon in Aries. I have recently joined a women’s new/full moon group and will be sitting in ceremony tonight. I know we will go into the woods in the dark, and walk down a long and winding path to get to a clearing in the Canyon. As I walk I will imagine going down to meet the Queen of Death.

Much peace, April

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September Flower Bowl

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Slipping in right at the end of September with my flower bowl.  After writing weekly all summer, I find myself with low creative energy.  I feel good in so many ways; I’m contented, notice beauty around me, feel soooo ready to let go of old patterns of living.  Yet my addictions rage on, clearly prepared to put up a fight.  I know I have to be patient through change; its highs and lows, agonies and ecstasies.  I am about to sit in ceremony with the Queen of Death, whose job it is to guide me down, down, down to the underworld of my own shadow.  It is through sitting in shadow that I know I will find ecstasy, for to sit with shadow is to show compassion towards the darkest parts of self.  There is a deep part of me that dreads this process.  Another part is expanding and making space for light.

Diana Ray/April Aronoff

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Part of Me

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I feel so much potent energy brewing beneath the surface.  Like the rushing sound of my two garden fountain’s, Cerridwen’s Cauldren hard at work.  Part of it feels epic and life changing, the full knowledge that I have the capacity to plug into my own beautiful, crystalline, grid network.  The rest of me is terrified, feeling completely the challenge that lies between here and there.  Part of me wants to up the ante, to expect more from myself.  This is in stark contrast to the present me who accepts any and every kind of vice.  I give myself over to the Goddess, at my worst and at my best.  I always shoot for the best, even when I’m at my worst.

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Diana Ray/April Aronoff

Photography By Diana Ray

Desires and Hopes

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One of the biggest challenges I face presently is balancing the needs of each of my children, alongside my husband, my job, my blog and my sanity.  I feel a bit fearful when I think about it, as I feel depleted by my job, leaving little energy left over.  But I am highly committed to both my boys and need to give them all I got.  My older ADHD+NVLD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder+Non-Verbal Learning disorder) son needs me as both advocate and guide, as he navigates what are sometimes challenging social situations (this has improved incredibly).  He needs me to be patient and compassionate as he struggles to control his body and language (again, so much improvement).  My younger son also needs me as advocate and guide, as he is a child who learns differently at school.  He needs me to be patient and compassionate as he manages having intense anger at the age of 8 years.

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There are a lot of appointments going around.  But this is how it is.

I want to stay grounded and give to myself as much as I can.  I’m going to take more days to myself this year.  I’m going to do things like go to Hot Springs Places or go for a hike with my husband while we both play hookie.  I’m going to take the time to sit in stillness, to let the Goddess/Spirit flow through my veins.  I’m also letting my addictions rage a bit, recognizing that they’re a bit helpful right now, and I don’t have the energy to make a change anyway.  I’m going to make this next year of job creation active and alive.  This might involve some ass kicking, as I can let myself take forever to get crap done!  I promise to myself to keep at least one foot moving swiftly.

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I have just started seeing a therapist and it feels really good.  How all the myriad of weekly mom/kid appointments will affect me will soon be known.  Next week my older son starts school and my younger son begins play therapy, an official start to the fast pace that will be my life for the next several months.  Wish me well.

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Diana Ray/April Aronoff

Photography By Diana Ray

Sitting In The Fire

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Sitting in the fire, this is the theme that has been on my mind for weeks.  It began with a desire to write a post about how to attend to depression and anxiety using a variety of alternative methods I had been exploring.  This was when I still felt like I was gasping for air as I sat within the smoky flames of extreme, anxious emotion.  I was relying on so much to help me breathe; crystals, essential oil, soothing music, meditation.  It felt like a long, unending uphill hike with a summit I could not see.

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Now I know that I can move around the flames, allowing the air that feeds the fire to feed me as well.  Discomfort is still present, rising and falling like the flames themselves, changing form as they are fed through my very own breath.  Can I sit within the fire of this discomfort, knowing that at any given moment it may intensity and become a large, roaring inferno?  After 8 weeks off, soon I will return to work.  After 8 weeks off, my 2 challenging boys will return to school.  The demands will be great and the stress high. I know this!  Yet I wish to soften it, breathe into it, let the fire that has felt suffocating become a source of primal energy and empowerment.  Fire can be many things; it can end life and give it fuel to grow.  It can destroy quickly and also restore vital energy through the heat that matches our own internal body signatures.  What is left after fire is ash, recognized as protection in many shamanic and magical circles of life.  I must sit in the fire of my discomfort and find nourishing, life-giving air.  I must let the heat fuel me vs. run screaming in pain.  I must find coherency as my body becomes attuned to the heat, becoming one with it, allowing the crystals of alignment within me to grow as flame grows with breath.  I cannot just wish this.  I must be this.

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I have moved away from feeling victimized by this body and the emotions that have often left me feeling helpless and unable to cope, yet this is recent and I have not gone far.  It feels terrifying as I walk head on into the flames that have once devoured me.  Yet it is Persephone who goes down to the flames of the underworld each year, only to reemerge as Spring Herself, full of budding life and growth.  I must have faith that as I consciously choose to sit within the heat of discomfort, that I will melt, change and transform.  Let all that has not served burn away.  Let the alchemy of fire change what has once been hard and painful, to soft, liquid Source.  Let the heat become the medium that transmutes myself from caterpillar to the great winged butterfly that flew inside my soul some time ago, waiting to be birthed.  May I stand within the flames that are my life with vigor, no matter the heat.  May I be the Phoenix rising.

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Diana Ray/April Aronoff

Photography By Diana Ray

Spiritual Express

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I received such an outpouring of love from so many beautiful souls with my last post (http://runninginwater.com/2014/07/22/love-letter/).  It made me realize how incredibly healing it is to express my complete essence and have it witnessed and mirrored by others.  I have experienced such an alchemical week.  It was only last Monday that I sat down and wrote my love letter, the conscious decision to walk toward the light vs. collapse into darkness.  Since then I have had a major shift with how I think and view myself.  It began as a string of events which I will share with you now.

The day after I wrote the love letter, I sat with my Shamanic teacher and shared with her my feelings.  She insisted we journey together, so I laid myself down on the sofa with music and headset, pressed play on a 10 minute drumming session, and closed my eyes.  The question suggested by my teacher was about the darkness and why it was there.

Immediately I saw myself in tribal wear, standing on the backs of crocodiles as we rode down the river.  A long line of these ancient, reptile creatures extended both in front and behind me as we flowed in rhythm to the moving water.  I felt strong and powerful as I stood tall, a staff in my left hand standing at my side.  I felt incredibly empowered, a feeling I had not experienced in a long time.

I sat with this experience for the next 2 days, not fully understanding.  I received an anointing (an ancient practice of using essential oils, crystals and tuning forks to move energy) from a priestess sister and afterward sat with the sister who had worked on my body.  As she talked my journey suddenly became clear, as if someone was narrating words to a short video.  She told me to wear my depression and intense feelings like a badge of armor, something to own and find power in.  As she talked I felt the empowerment rush in, that feeling of standing tall on the backs of crocodiles as we rode down the river.  I suddenly knew that I could handle all of it, the intensity of the ride in this human body, the depression, the anger, the anxiety.  I was not a victim.  I could do it.

The next day I set aside time to meditate and made a sand-painting, something I had been desiring to create.  Here is a picture:

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Like the journey, the sand painting is making itself known in bits and pieces.  There is a central vertical line running from top to bottom that has direct meaning for me:  the red rock on the bottom center is tiger iron, charged by an ascended master.*  It represents the first 3 chakras, those that need the most healing in my body.   Above that is my butterfly of transformation and above that my favorite crystal, pink quartz.  Pink quartz is special to me, as it represents the giver and receiver of unconditional love, something I am working on in this life time.  Above this is a rock that was a gift from my husband, a being I love deeply and want to deepen with.  The rest makes a beautiful design that is ultimately crowned by a dolphin and sea shells.  I saw dolphins yesterday at the beach and was overcome with tearful beauty.  It pierced my heart as it washed through me.

The next day I sat in ceremony with the Wise Woman/Crone.  Her message is one of letting go, of becoming a witness to one’s own ego.  It is a lesson in impartiality, as the Wise Woman/Crone does not get triggered by life’s many difficulties.  She knows that life is going to happen anyway so you might as well take it with grace and a sense of humor.   Today has been a day of high anxiety.  I sat down to meditate with Kuan Yin, the Goddess of Compassion, yet it was not She who heeded my call.  It was the Wise Woman/Crone who appeared, helping me dissolve my feelings of stress as her relaxed demeanor became liquid running through my veins.  It was She who helped me get through the day.

I am a spiritual warrior.  I live with depression, addiction and find parenting more challenging than I ever could have imagined (http://runninginwater.com/2012/08/11/my-story/ ; http://runninginwater.com/2012/11/18/my-storymy-other-son/).  Like many, I have a wounded past and have stood outside my life for most of my existence.  My quest this year has been one of total integration, of finding authentic presence.

I am going to continue to ride crocodiles down the river.  To call in the Wise Woman when I feel myself falter.  To pave this spiritual path I walk with my own footprints, no matter how frantic or angry or depressed are my steps.  I am going to continue to share my experience with others, for my life to become the mirror of oneness that binds us all as soul brothers and sisters.  I beckon you, walk with me.

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Diana Ray/April Aronoff

Photography By Diana Ray

*For info on charged tiger iron and the ascended master, go to : http:// tdjacobs.com

 

Love Letter

photo 1 (17)So, I have found myself holding hands with depression.  This is a love letter I have written to myself, in response to how I feel.

Dearest Beloved,

Let me be your ground, your deep and winding roots that are so established, there is no fear you will fall.  I am flowing water, washing away anything that is less than compassion, less than love.  You are a beautiful creature, created perfectly in My image; nurturing, fierce, full of love.  Why does your heart-break so?  Why does it feel like the highest of frequencies, one that is capable of breaking glass with one long, sustained note?  I can feel the anger, pain and fear that has settled in the path you walk as wife, mother and teacher.  Unplug, empty, and let it wash away.  Fill yourself with Me.  You are a chalice that is meant to hold greatness, a container for the many faces and layers of the One True Being Of Light, a Being that is nothing less than utter perfection, exactly as you are.  Lay yourself down and surrender.  Let Me cleanse all that does not serve the true nature of your heart; pure, unconditional love that is meant to not only give, but to receive.  You have bound yourself, cut yourself free.  You are no longer an abandoned, loveless child hiding in fear from an ancestry of hatred and pain.  You are the Goddess incarnate:  A Living, Breathing Beacon of Blessedness that wishes to wrap you up and hold you tight, fly you beyond anything that has been less than love.  Did you not know you had wings?  They are wet and wishing to open; like a long-awaited stretch let them carry you to the place you call home.  Sit in open-eyed wonder at the beauty of the world around you.  If you cannot find it, shift your gaze, turn you head, empty yourself.  Empty and fill with Me again and again, as many times in a minute, in an hour, in a day as you need.  Feel the love that is not just Me but You, as we are One.

Dearest beloved, put your hand over your heart and just feel.  Let the painful feelings flow.  I will take them, transmute them, free them to evolve into something bold and beautiful.  Creating space to allow more light, more joy, more love.  Sit in your garden as you sit in the light, and bask in the beauty.  And if this is the only place that beauty resides (at this time), sit in this space and let yourself be held.  Do it often and frequent, and let yourself be healed.  And if you feel that pull, that pull into darkness where there is no joy, no light, no love, sit with the darkness and hold it tight.  Soothe it and tell it it’s going to be ok.  Give it the love it does not want you to have, and let it experience the healing that comes from such tenderness.  Imagine that it is a little girl, and you a nurturing, loving mother.  I am the veins in your body, carrying away with ease the heaviness in your soul, bringing in pure, nourishing light.  Lay on my Earth and imagine a thousand fairies sprinkling their healing, magic dust all over your body.  Release and release and release into Me.  Give me your pain, it is mine to transform.

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Diana Ray/April Aronoff

Photography By Diana Ray

Re-Title: Finding Solace In Spirt

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As I struggle with what it feels like to be off antidepressants, to no longer consume numbing agents in order to cope with life, remembering that MAGIC IS EVERYWHERE has been my saving grace.  Walking through a magical portal, hugging my favorite tree and feeling its deep roots ground me into Earth, using these images to find peace within the chaos that once consumed me, that is TRUE MAGIC.  Holding this space for myself when times are hard is the alchemy I surrender to, for within this alchemy lies unlimited transformation.

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Diana Ray/April Aronoff

Photography by Diana Ray

April Flower Bowl/Full Moon Musings

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Impatience, Pansy, Passion Flower, Primrose, Dianthus, Delphinium, Viola, Cosmos,  Snapdragon, Peppermint, Spearmint, Sage, Parsley, Lavender, Rose

Tonight I sat in ceremony with the Lunar Eclipse/Full Blood Moon in Libra. I made my flower bowl this morning, and let my magic wand bathe in the energy of this powerful configuration all day.

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I do not know all the mysteries of this Full Blood Moon (although there is a lot of wonderful information out there!), and I often wonder what it means to be a modern-day Priestess or Witch; with our busy, individual lives, so different from the tribal life that was once practiced before much of it was driven far from the norm.

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Yet I do know this:  as long as I trust my own instincts and inner guide to connect me with the Goddess, to show me Her magic, I will soar.  It doesn’t matter how much I’ve learned or remembered from ancient times, that information is becoming readily abundant, and I’ve made the commitment to be a conscious part of it til I die.  But listening to my own instincts, and letting my own desires dictate how I worship, that is true connection to Spirit.

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I feel blessed to be part of such a beautiful planetary awakening.

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Diana Ray/April Aronoff

Photography By Diana Ray

Remembrance

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Mother Earth,

help me to remember

your ways of old,

the tides of the seasons,

the animals,

this body,

signatures that when joined

create a melody so sonorous

I howl with joy.

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Mother Earth,

help me to remember

the forgotten laws,

the marriage of Sun, Moon and Earth,

time that moves

when I close my eyes,

go in, drop down,

a pulsing so deep

I wish to crawl inside.

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Mother Earth,

help me to remember

when I knew

Your Will innate,

knelt in homage,

kissed your feet,

felt your blessing seal that caress,

spiral this life

a never-ending mixing

HER-SHE-ME!

without beginning

without end

an emblem of oneness

again and again.

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Diana Ray

Photography By Diana Ray

March Flower Bowl/The Muse

 

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(trumpet vine, primrose, wisteria, passion flower, azalea, verbena, viola,impatience, hellebore, clematis)

Mother (Earth)-

Show me your grace,

ease,

like thick liquid

pouring through every

space and crevice

of my anatomy,

scouring away

resentment,

anger,

fixity,

polishing what is light

and bright

and love

within me,

like a river whose flow

is so cold, and clean,

one drop anoints thee,

so what starts as desire

is embodied, embedded,

within this body,

as deep and familiar

as cells dividing,

memories unfolding,

dreams remembered,

of a life as She.

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Diana Ray

Photography by Diana Ray

Inner Knowing and Devotion

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December 2013 Flower Bowl

Happy Solstice/New Year!

May You Be Healthy and Well!

Inner Knowing and Devotion.

I have made these two Light Qualities, Inner Knowing and Devotion, a focus for this next month, and into January 2014.  My Devotion is to the Divine; beginning with Me, extending out to my Family, Community, and to the Oneness I call Spirit/Mother/That Which is Everything.

My Inner Knowing is the place deep within Me where all Wisdom resides, all Memory, all sense of Community, Creativity, Passion, and the Ability to stand in whatever is Present, be it Joy or Pain.

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Did you know Royal Blue/Sapphire is the color of Stillness/Deep Knowing?  I just learned this, and since then cannot take it off my body.

Have a Wonderful New Year!

Diana Ray

Photography By Diana Ray

Who Am I

Welcome To Running In Water!

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I am a woman, mother, writer, healer, student, teacher and lover.  I am deeply committed to sharing my experiences with my greater community and the world at large.  It is through the sharing of our stories, both joyful and tragic, that we come to know our true brothers and sisters, for it is not blood but spirit that defines family.

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Join me on this journey as I attempt to know the real me, the me beneath all the layers of protection and defense…

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Perhaps you will see yourself there too.

8/12/13 Diana Ray

One Year Later…

I began this blog one year ago, as a means of promoting myself as a writer. Over the course of 4 years, I wrote a memoir about my family of origin, something that was both liberating and incredibly painful to re-experience.  I am very thankful that I took this history of myself, that it is all in written word. My intention was and is to share this story with the world, if I am so blessed. I was a child of a Jewish middle class family through the 70’s and 80’s. This was complete with any number of atrocities that can happen within families: fraud, adultery, incest, eating disorders, mental health issues, verbal abuse… I am one of many who have lived to tell the tale.

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But one year later, this is no longer my goal. What started as structured (writing essays on my crazy family life with special needs kids), began to grow and grow, and morph and change, and grow some more. My blog, which is truly my heart’s desire, is full of many things; essay, poetry, children’s poems. I have delved into the deeply spiritual, and reflected it back in my writing. I am active with other writers through online media (new as of June 2013). I am putting it out there, that I would like to share more.

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This next year is going to be about my family of origin, that much is clear. This includes not only my parents and siblings, but ancestry as well. There is much pain converging presently with my family of origin, and I know that pain runs deep in our blood-line. So much pain passed down from one generation to another, never healed, always raw… This continues to live on today, in my sibling’s family, and of course, my own.
If you want to learn more about me, continue to read “Who Am I,” for specifics. Or, you can read any of my post’s….

photo (5)8/11/12 Diana Ray

Where It All Began

I am a young woman in my early 40’s, with 2 boys I love more than anything, a lively pooch, and a husband I cannot imagine life without.  I am struggling to find inner calm, and in the process, finding myself.  My goal is to find my way in the world, and to approach with much grace, the roadblocks and challenges that currently leave me somewhere between  breathless, and knocked off my feet.  I am struggling to forgive myself for my faults, to find a way to parent 2 very difficult children, to stay connected to my wonderful husband, my friends, my family, my community I hold so dear, both local and global.  I am struggling to keep my sanity a daily basis, with trying my damnedest to stay afloat, to reach out to others, to ask for help when I need it (and boy, do I need it!).  To find a piece of zen somewhere deep within me, that I can cling to everyday, like a pacifier.

photo (42)My Loves

I love to cook and have dinner with friends, to hang out in my garden, and to enjoy the throngs of hummingbirds I see in my flowers every summer.  I love sleeping in and going out for meals.  I love hiking, going to the beach, and seeing a good movie.  I love to hang out with my husband, my friends, and when things go well, my children.  I love to meditate and I love to write.  I love all things spiritual, and I love to help others.  I love things that inspire an altered state.

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I am really a teenager at heart.

top of plum tree

If you have read my post, you know I am writing under a pseudonym, until my parents pass away.  I have also changed the names of my husband and children, to protect their identities as well.

Journey On!

Photographs taken by Diana Ray

Sacred Prayer I.

Kwan Yin, Goddess of Compassion

Kwan Yin, Goddess of Compassion

This was an affirmation I said almost daily for many years. I wrote it sometime in 2005/6, when Louis and Aiden were babies and life was terribly difficult. It was my mantra, and the thing that kept me tethered when everything else was falling apart.
Diana Ray

Sacred Prayer I.

I pray to God
to help me dig deep,
to help me find
that place of inner peace,
inside me.
Patience,
calmness,
light,
love.
To help it flow
from my center,
and touch all of me;
my toes,
my fingertips,
all of my surfaces,
so I can carry this
out into the world,
touching everything I love,
and helping that too,
find peace.

One Year Later…

One Year Later….

I began this blog one year ago, as a means of promoting myself as a writer. Over the course of 4 years, I wrote a memoir about my family of origin, something that was both liberating and incredibly painful to re-experience.  I am very thankful that I took this history of myself, that it is all in written word. My intention was and is to share this story with the world, if I am so blessed. I was a child of a Jewish middle class family through the 70’s and 80’s. This was complete with any number of atrocities that can happen within families: fraud, adultery, incest, eating disorders, mental health issues, verbal abuse… I am one of many who have lived to tell the tale.

But one year later, this is no longer my goal. What started as structured (writing essays on my crazy family-life with special needs kids), began to grow and grow, and morph and change, and grow some more. My blog, which is truly my heart’s desire, is full of many things; essay, poetry, children’s poems. I have delved into the deeply spiritual, and reflected it back in my writing. I am active with other writers through online media (new as of June 2013). I am putting it out there, that I would like to share more.

This next year is going to be about my family of origin, that much is clear. This includes not only my parents and siblings, but ancestry as well. There is much pain converging presently with my family of origin, and I know that pain runs deep in our blood-line. So much pain passed down from one generation to another, never healed, always raw… This continues to live on today, in my sibling’s family, and of course, my own.
If you want to learn more about me, continue to read “Who Am I,” for specifics. Or, you can read any of my post’s….

Diana Ray

I Love Being Diana

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The first poem written at my new property. Its been an intense week, and my back is looking forward to less work, and a good massage! I hope you enjoy it! More to come…..

I Love Being Diana

I love being Diana.
That is not my real name,
yet she is the real me.
Fierce, connected,
rooted in Earth,
deep, maternal instincts (sort of).

I finally filled myself.
I’ts been days since I’ve connected,
been somewhere deep,
in vulnerability,
in meditation,
in power.
Its been tough.
Many things are a bummer,
but so many other profoundly beautiful.
I have faith that something will shift.
Metamorphasis is envitable,
at least for me.
Effected by those around me.

A thrust of emotions
coming from many a place,
some worldly, some other worldly.
Needing to be present for the ride,
small steps, baby steps.
Finding courage,
and taking giant steps.

What will next year bring?
A year ago
I would never have imagined
any number of things
that are true today.
I can’t wait
to tear down that wall
and dig my hands
deep in the Earth.
This is literal
(there is actually a wall),
but with me
metaphors run deep.

I don’t care what anyone says,
upgrading has not been perfect.
Is it ever?
Is it ever supposed to be?
From here,
I stay connected.
To meditate habitually.
To regain my schedule,
on new terrain.
I have no idea what lay ahead,
but I feel excited.

Can I handle anything?

Diana Ray

Photography By Diana Ray

Calling Mother Earth

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I want to practice,
to continue,
to learn to keep boundaries,
to be able to let go,
to meditate and open,
to explore the edges
that are sharp,
that have signs,
“Go away, not welcome.”
Fear,
in the pit of my chest.
There is a piece of me
that is unconnected,
that battles.
Here is where
I call in Mother Earth.

Diana Ray
6/17/13

The Garden That Grew From Within Part III

It looks like we are buying a new, bigger house!  It has been a long and stressful process that is almost over, with every bump in the road rearing its ugly head along the way.  I am sooo excited!  Our family will have more living space, a bigger yard.  We are not moving very far, and what we know as local and our community will not change.  We have the fortunate advantage of enjoying many beautiful updates the previous owners have done to the property.  Sooo excited, yes!   

Yet my heart has begun to break.

How do I say good-bye to this tiny plot of Earth that has flourished as I have flourished? 

Each of this garden’s lush plants and flowers has been a direct reflection of my own inner lushness.  I am beautiful, regenerative and self-feeding.  When dead leaves fall beneath a plant, they decompose, becoming food for the very thing that gave it life.  I love this life-cycle!  How can I feed myself from the parts of me that are dying, dead, or failing to thrive? 

Compost for the soul.  By nurturing myself as I would any plant in my garden, I can turn what is dying or dead into something lush and healthy.

That means facing it, giving it attention, and not being afraid of what comes next.

I have grown up at this house.  I have experienced some of the most profound suffering I have known, as well as pure, utter joy.  I have connected to spirit in ways I couldn’t have imagined.  I can feel the grief well up inside of me as I write these words.  Yet it’s time to move on.

Cerridwen has been coming to me.  Cerridwen is a Celtic Welsh Goddess, whose symbol is the cauldron.  She is the Crone, the wisest aspect of the Triple Goddess, with some stories claiming her to be both mother and /crone.  In her cauldron, which is also a symbol of the womb/creation, brews eternal knowledge about the oneness of life.  No fears, no inhibitions, just pure connection.  No hiding from issues when Cerridwen is around!  She will help you face what is hard, and when you do, she will reward you with knowledge, metamorphosis and transformation.  She is the second phase of why the butterfly has appeared in my life (see http://runninginwater.com/2013/02/15/a-story-to-tell/ for more about butterfly).  It is time to let go of negative patterns of living, to finally face what is hard with my family of origin, to open myself to intimacy and all of the painful feelings that accompany, to put both feet in the circle of my crazy family, and to completely open myself to Spirit. 

I feel tremendous energy.  I have done rituals that have felt so at home, they may as well have been family tradition.  I feel such old, old energy that is deeply connected to worshipping the Earth….so much is here for us, yet most of us remain unconnected.

This move is all part of metamorphosis.  My time at this house is done.  My garden is full; there would be no room to plant anything new, as every imaginable spot is already taken with something so beautiful, I couldn’t stand the thought of making a change.  I cherish this property, this garden, and the energy that has seen me through some of the toughest times I have known.  I went into this house 9 years ago barely liking it, noise conscious, expecting my first child.  The year was 2004, and by 2006 we had our second child.  The early years were hard, with Louis’s aggression raging full force (see http://runninginwater.com/2012/08/11/my-story/  for more about Louis).  The garden was created, although neglected during this time.  Then we made a small addition, just enough to give me/us breathing room, and slowly life began to change.  I gave the garden the attention it desperately needed, and it too began to transform.  During this time I began to write, create art, and meditate.  I went on medication, got my children into therapy, and got myself there too.  Metamorphosis trifold.  What will emerge from all of this, I do not know.    

What I do know, is that the transformation process is not over.

And that it will take more than one blog post to truly say good-bye.

 

Diana Ray

When I Was Really Depressed

Here is another poem from 2011. I remember it was the first poem I wrote that I felt proud of. Pride being one of the few feelings I was able to connect to at the time, as you will read in this poem. So funny- emotionally my life right now is extremely intense. Two years ago I was so depressed I felt almost nothing.


Untitled 2

By Diana Ray

I feel flat, flat, flat.
Pancake flat, envelope flat, mirror flat.
Except that mirrors reflect 3-dimensional objects
despite their 2- dimensional surface.
Where is my dimension, my depth?
My bumpy surfaces and intricate valleys
that catch both pain and joy?
It has been replaced by dull smoothness
and complacent boundaries,
my flatness blending into everything around me
leaving me numb,
like ice on a once throbbing wound
you can pinch but not feel,
the ice doing its job of easing the pain.
So what do I do?
I want to feel anything really
anything but this blah.
I will take it served up on a silver platter
even all the awful stuff,
a double special of grief served with extra anger,
I don’t care.
I’m just tired of feeling flat.
My smoothness and lack of definition
preventing me from clicking
into the edges of things I most love in life.
Connections that moved me and drove me so deep,
they may as well have been my veins.
So how do I stop being so flat, so reflective of this life
when all I wish to do is absorb?
If only I could reach in my pocket and pull out a chisel
and begin hacking away at all this flatness
till it is scratchy and rough.
Anything to catch anything, really.
Just to get me started
just to get me feeling
anything but flat.

The Garden That Grew From Within Part II.

Take a look at this:

front and back

back plot

This was the bane of my existance, this luscious, beautiful landscape that you are laying your eyes upon at this very moment.

Of course it did not look like this at the time, nor do I have any pictures, but the front yard I can assure you, was a mess.

Everyday I would come home, groan, and either ignore the deep critic in me who was insisting I do something about the front yard, or I would begrudgingly go out and pull a handful of weeds, nothing that would make any difference. I told myself that I would hire someone to do it, but that too seemed like a bane.  The back yard garden was my baby; the front yard, an overgrown weedy mess that I did not want to deal with.

So what happened?

This happened:

side front plot

And this:

front plot

and this.

tree mallow plot

back side plot

The more I pulled, the more I weeded, the more I walked toward the thing that I thought was the bane of my existance, the more I found beauty, both deep within me, and deep without, as you can see how much beauty I was able to reate with my own two hands.

I was in desperate need for this deep earth connection, this silent pull to just do just that, pull, weed, plant, water.  Grow.  I didn’t even this would happen, that this wonderful energy that I needed as bad as the body needs water, would just happen.  I have been criticizing myself for avoiding aspects of my life.  Now I know, I must celebrate.

Diana Ray

to read “The Garden That Grew From Within,” go to the archives of my blog.

In The Muck

Warning:  if you are the kind of person who does not enjoy listening to other people kvetch (Yiddish for complain), then this blog post is not for you.  Because that is what I plan to do:  complain, complain, complain my ass off.  If only you really could complain and tone your ass simultaneously…  That being said, the only redeeming caveat I can offer, is that I may try to make you laugh.

I have had looow energy for the past few weeks.  This is to contrast the incredibly hiiiigh energy I have been riding since I wrote the post about my experience with Alana Sheeren (an incredible woman who is pouring her whole being into the idea of self-love.  Look her up online at http://www.alanasheeren.com.  Imagine if we all actually liked ourselves.  World peace?  I doubt it.  But I guarantee you sex-toy shop sales would go up!).  I have been riding this wave of intensity for the past few months, all related to finishing my memoir, starting this blog, and being willing to molt, like a snake.  If I really were a snake, I would have half my skin hanging off, all papery and patterned from the life it had lived, while the top half of me gleamed in the sun, its beams reflecting the most incredible metallic green hues off my slithery, slippery skin.  Writing about the rawness of my life and my kids, has been like a favorite toy I just can’t put down.  There is serious irony here!  Exposing my life (both to me and you) has connected me with some of the most intensely passionate feelings I have known.  It has been soooo good, it’s been addictive.  It has been only 3-weeks since I posted for the first time with Reddit, an online social networking site.  I posted “Intimacy, Incest and The Need For Italics with Both” and got 448 views, 300 of which came from Reddit.  A week later, I am banned from the site, not having known that posting only your own stuff over and over again is a GIANT no-no in that world, and a permanent time out.  Doesn’t matter that I sent them 3-emails asking for help and they never responded, by the time I read their “reddiquette” rules, it was too late.  I walk with my head in shame, a giant “S” etched into my chest! “Spammer!” it says, and in case you don’t know, a “spammer” is someone out to sell a product or promote themselves in some way.  Do I fit the bill?  Maybe.  But those Mf’ers could have at least told me what was happening at any point during my 3 emails.  I had never even heard of Reddit a month ago; now I am banned.  I am such a bad-ass!

Back to the addiction…right before I got booted from Reddit, I was at a point where I was checking my blog hits 15x a day (possibly more), and thinking about it all the time.  Do I sound like a beacon of spirituality or like some crazy junkie in need of a fix?  Perhaps it was a good thing that Reddit kicked me off (Not! Those mf-ers).  None of the other social networking sites have even come close to providing me with the hits that Reddit has.  And I know this because Reddit attempted to delete all of my submissions, 7 in total, but they missed some.  These posts get hits every day.  Thank-you Reddit!  Thank you for helping my story go from one end of the world to another.  Why you have to be such shits, I don’t understand.

And speaking of the “S” word, let’s talk about my 2 “S”pecial needs kids (you can figure out on your own which “s” word I mean).  Damn I love those kids, but DAMN are they driving me crazy!  I have Louis, the ADHD+Non-Verbal-Learning-Disordered=%#$!!!@!! kid, and Aiden, the learning disabled+incredibly angry=%^&$#@!!! kid.  Aiden, after having taken a nice long break from ticking, is backing to ticking nonstop.  Mostly vocal tics, that sound like a gulp, many times a day.  Of course Louis and all of his sensitivities can’t stand it.  Louis will scream at Aiden, call him a bad boy or worse, maybe even get physical.  Aiden will respond by screaming back and always getting physical, until the two of them have to be separated.  It’s been miserable….I just ordered noise reduction headphones for Louis, which I am desperately hoping will help this situation. 

Family life has been intense.  We just returned from a 6 day vacation in the sun with Paul’s parents.  Our rooms were adjoining, and luckily, Aiden was thrilled to be around grandma and grandpa.  He slept with them, and was in their suite almost half the time.  That saved us.  It was last July when I swore I would take a looong break from all of us vacationing together, as our recent trips involved more fighting, crying and tantrums than Paul and I could bear.  Works much better when we vacation separately, with Paul and I swapping kids to the various places we travel to.  I was so immersed in family life, I was beyond saturation.  And it was on this trip that I became crazy with checking my stats, and crazy with posting to Reddit.  I am fucking crazy, I see that clearly now.   

Yet on top of this, at the very tippy top, continues to reside my deep desire to strip away, to completely go bare, to face my nakedness with courage and strength.  When you’re naked, there’s no place to go, no place to hide; you have to see yourself for who you are.  This includes that which is painful, and that which has been hiding.  Anybody interested in getting naked with me?  I am reading Ana T. Forrest’s memoir, Fierce Medicine.  (Incredible book, and I’m only half-way through!).  In this book, she talks about the Death Meditation:  a ritual where you take your mind and spirit, and even parts of your body, to the point of near death.  It is here that one finds what is truly important, what is the heart’s desire, vs. all the other crap we carry around, because this is what we think we need.  We you read about near death experiences, they almost always involve personal life transformation in some way.  I totally dig it! 

So I wrap up here, with a heavy heart and incredibly low energy.  Part of me wants to fight this, to make it go away, but I know this is not the way.  I need to be where I am, with my low energy and heavy heart, and let that be ok.  I think of a quote that I came across a few years ago, written by anonymous:

 

Peace.  It does not mean to be in a place

where there is no trouble, or noise, or hard work. 

It means to be in the midst of all these things,

and still be calm in your heart.

That is the true meaning of peace.

 

Diana Ray

A Story To Tell Part 2

2/2/2015   Two years later, I am finally ready to go down the hole.

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2/15/2013     Last Sunday I attended the most yummy yoga workshop; a combination of yoga and guided meditation, with the intention of helping us meet our power animals.  Power animals cross many traditions and cultures.  They can be anything from the animal or insect world, a creature that makes itself known to a person, typically for the reason to guide.  Their message it always the same:  “I have a gift for you, a message, a way of thinking and feeling about the world that you must see! ” It’s been three years since I’ve come to know the hummingbird and the whale.  The hummingbird reminds me to find beauty and joy in a life that has always been full of pain.  The whale is the recorder of time, stories, and one’s lineage.  A few years back I collected a family ancestry, going back as far as my great-grandparents and great aunts/uncles, on both sides of my family.  It was fascinating and heart-breaking: On my mother’s side, my great-grandmother shot my great-grandfather, likely with the intention of killing him, although he survived.  My grandfather was 12 at the time, and had to testify at this trial.  I can’t imagine.  In searching further, there are 4 other court cases from that period, all involving some kind of domestic dispute.  So much family history of pain….. This is where my mother comes from, where I come from.  No wonder I feel it on such a deep, cellular level.

So I arrived at this workshop with a few animals in tow.  The yoga part was great, and I felt warm and open as we delved into the guided meditation.  There was drumming, rattling and singing; the drums giving off that wonderful, low, rich sound so lulling to altered states of mind; the rattles producing high frequency sounds from sharp, to staccato, to active.  It was like being settled down and fired up simultaneously.

We laid down, cozy and comfortable, and imagined a place in nature that was familiar.  For me this was a place along the coast, where forest meets the ocean.  In this journey I am sitting on the beach, the forest directly behind me.  I turn around and see a tree, as tall as a redwood, with alternating branches, but no leaves.  I begin to climb it, up and up and up, and when I get to the top, I see that it is dark and hollow inside.  I sit there for some time, knowing that I am supposed to climb down, but do nothing.  Then I see there is a nest on a branch nearby, filled with birds (all birds are sacred to me), and one of the birds begins to accompany me as I climb down the dark, hollowed out tree.  So together we climb down, down, down, down, and when we emerge we are in a place that feels akin to middle earth.  There is a river to my right, which is running slow but steady, and we begin to walk alongside.  A snake appears, and begins to dance, the rhythm of the rattles and the drums shaping its every move; up and down, side to side.  I dance back, my body also in rhythm. Then I know:  the snake is not my power animal.  We walk some more.  Off to my left, a Giselle emerges, with horns as long as a unicorns, yet coiled, like the snake.  We look at each other, and I also know:  it too, is not my power animal.   A crocodile rises slowly out of the river, its giant jaws dripping with large gobs of water, its mouth opening and closing so near, I can see the white gleam of it’s teeth.  Again I understand:  it is not my power animal.  Then I see it:  a wonderful glow off to the left.  I move towards it, and then I am there:   immersed in a beautiful field, wildflowers all around, the sun shining down as hundreds of white butterflies land all over, covering me from head to toe.  They are my power animal, I know this innately. 

This is not the first time the butterfly has appeared before me, and I have been wondering about its purpose for quite some time.  And while I honestly can’t remember if it was before or after this workshop that I came to understand its message, here’s what I know:

The butterfly is metamorphosis, transformation, the ability to turn from one thing into another.  Facing my father’s molestation of my sister, and possibly my other sister, or even me, is the start of this process.  (For more about this story read  runninginwater.com/2013/01/29/intimacy-incest-and-the-need-for-italics-with-both/

Then myself, the bird and the butterfly, go back to the path along the river, and it is here that I see him:  A giant brown bear, as big as a car, his endearing energy drawing me towards him.  I had been given a bear 20 years ago, although only recently came to know him as a guide.  The bear is courage, both protector and warrior, the ability to go deep into the dark cave of the unconscious, and face what’s there.  I hugged this bear many, many, times, and lay across his soft, brown back.  With him I knew I could face anything!  We all hung out for a while, the bird, the butterfly, this beautiful bear and myself, until I see it again:  another opening at the base of a tree, very dark, but much smaller. We all stop and look.

 This time I do not climb in. 

IMG_2843

Diana Ray/April Aronoff

Photography By Diana Ray

Growing Hair On My Chest

I am fragile, walking the line between choices, having difficulty listening to the one voice inside me that is my own advocate.  I’ve toyed with this idea before, revealing something so personal and shaming about me, to my readers.  Thus far I have not.  BUT…..if my goal is to tell my story, then how can I leave out such an important issue?  I suppose I could talk about it as “X,” or some other code word, without actually revealing “the thing,” but does that make me less genuine, for not being entirely honest?  I hope not.  Because what I want to talk about is struggling with the vices and addictions we use to cope, and while it may be entirely too revealing to say what my evil addiction is that tethers my growth, I still want to talk about it.  It’s part of who I am.  So code word here I come.

How about eating M&M’s?  Watching porn?  Really awful, cheesy reality t.v, such as Toddlers & Tiara’s?  Any of these work for me, although I suspect if I choose porn some of my readers might have a hard time taking me seriously, and I don’t think I could take myself seriously if I said I couldn’t keep myself from watching  “Toddlers and Tiara’s.”  So M&M’s here I come.

I eat too many M&M’s (Can you imagine if I said I watch too much Toddlers & Tiara’s?).  It’s been happening slowly, over the course of the past couple of years.  I do not want to give up my M&M addiction, but merely reel it in a bit.  In actuality, I don’t even mind eating M&M’s; a little chocolate soothes my active mind, and settles the frustration, anger and anxiety that reside so easily in my soul, when it comes to my 2 special needs kids.  But eating M&M’s every moment that I am not working, and sometimes all throughout the day on the week-ends, has made me feel sticky and sugary and fat.  And like a failure.

What good am I to anybody If I feel like a failure?  I know how this goes; I can continue to ignore the little voice that is trying very hard to advocate for my success, if only I didn’t squash it so far down with M&M’s, or; I can take a break from M&M’s.  Not a long break, but maybe long enough to let whatever it is I am avoiding, surface.  Life has been difficult, and M&M’s have helped tremendously.  But too much of a good thing can turn quickly into burnout, if left unmonitored.  I am near burnout with M&M’s.  It is time to take a break.

Something I have realized as I have been pondering the M&M situation, is that I am no longer in full blown crisis.  Crisis meaning:  completely reacting to life, bursting with pain, and unable to find the ground beneath my feet.  I still walk that line for sure, feel myself teetering frequently, and even have one foot down on that side on a semi-regular basis.  But even if half of me is there, the rest of me is not.  Even if the rest of me doesn’t feel so good about things.

Crisis has been weaving its way in and out my life since Aiden was born 6 years ago, got sick, and spent 6 weeks in the hospital.  Once he came home, all Louis wanted to do was hurt him and us, and this lasted for years.  By November of last year, Louis teacher was calling for a meeting regarding his serious behavior.  Around the same time, it became apparent after meeting with Aiden’s preschool teacher, that he would not cut it in regular kindergarten for the next year.  By January, both kids were going through assessments to gain more information about their developmental skills.  I put out a serious S.O.S to the universe to give me an emotional hand.  I was also eating a lot of M&M’s.

But that was then and this is now.  It hadn’t even occurred to me to reflect on how much I’ve grown and changed in just the past 12 months, let alone the past 6 years, and once I did, the realization hit me like a ton of bricks:  I’ve gotten through these past 6 years, and didn’t just survive, I grew hair on my chest!  Even if I did gain 10 lbs in M&M’s everywhere else.  And it wasn’t the M&M’s that got me through, it was me.  Me, me, me!  Reaching out to others to share what’s hard, meditating, gardening, writing or doing art.  Anything and everything I could think of to ease my pain, give it a voice, let it be heard.  I didn’t even know how much I was supporting myself at the time, the pain was so bad.  But now I see how much I accomplished, and I feel proud.

Sometimes it takes awhile for our minds and hearts to catch up with the details of life, and even if they do, letting down our guard long enough to take it in is hard.  It’s much easier to look over your shoulder and expect the worst, especially if the worst has become what’s familiar.  But it’s worth it; even if things are only incrementally better, be on the look-out.  These are the moments that nourish and regenerate and get us through.  The moments that grow hair on our chests.

So it is now that I make an intention:  to take a 1-week break from M&M’s, like my own mini lent.  I will find other ways to soothe myself, to find the calm amiss the chaos.  It might be terrible; it might be no big deal.  Either way, I welcome the growth of more hair on my chest.  Halloween is coming up anyway.  I welcome it with pride.

Diana Ray

 

Pondering Simplicity

A few weeks ago, I was reading email as I waited in the waiting room, while my son Louis saw his therapist.  Typically Louis goes in without me, but it had been a pretty upsetting car ride over, and if I hadn’t gone in, it wouldn’t have happened.  Louis had a meltdown over paying for parking near the Taqueria we always got dinner at on therapy days.  Louis’ anxiety around this issue had been worsening over the course of several months; he was deathly afraid I would get a ticket, and nothing I could say or do would relive him of this fear.  So I forwent the weekly walk I typically did at this time, and spent the next 40 minutes hashing it out with Louis.  As disappointed as I was not to exercise, it was actually a breakthrough session.  Louis had been unwilling to talk directly about most of his serious issues, especially the OCD/Sensory ones, which he claimed were too embarrassing.  For example:  loosing it when his family was eating, or; protesting restaurants that required paying for parking.  But his therapist threw him a curve-ball and left him little choice.  Louis was refusing to let me leave, which was fine as per his therapist, as long he was willing to talk about “parking.”  If he didn’t want to, fine, but I would have to leave.  So……. Louis chose me over his anxieties, and we talked about “parking.”  It was miraculous!  The last 15 minutes I slipped away and sat in the waiting room, reading my email.

I was at quite a low.  As I surfed my mail, I saw that one of my recent blog subscriptions had a new post.  It was from Alana Shereen, a woman who wrote about grieving and pain and self-evolution.  I found her writing inspiring, so I signed on.  This weeks post was about a tele-retreat she was having.  There was 1 spot she was giving away, and if you wanted a chance to win it, you need only sign up for a free shift session.  A free shift session?  I was intrigued, so I clicked on the bolded words, and it took me to an instant description of a shift session; a 15 minute phone call, where one can share any of life’s pains or difficulties, and then not only be held emotionally, but be given a definitive “next step ”  in life.  Now I was more than intrigued, I was in wonder.  Getting to tell someone that I am struggling deeply?  A definitive next step in just 15 minutes?  What a gift!  Before I could really think, I signed up for a “session” the next afternoon, shortly before I got the kids.  I felt a light excitement.  A person I had only read but never met, would call me to talk about me, with promises of a light at the end of the tunnel.  I was at a low.  I needed some light.

The next day at work I left myself a sticky note on my desk, so I wouldn’t forget:  Alana Shereen- 4:30.  The light excitement stayed with me for much of the day.

When I got home, I decided to write, and my most recent post, “Diary of a Serious Dip” was born (I told you I was at a low!).  As I put the finishing touches on the post, my phone rang, and startled me.  I had been in deep writing mode, and was feeling proud that I had completed another essay.  It was Alana Sheeren.  I put my computer down and we spoke.

It was strange-me talking to someone I barely knew personally, yet knew intimately through writing.  I told Alana how I came to sign up for the session, and that I was looking for anything she could give me, even if it was just empathy.  She asked me questions, and I answered.  Then I started talking more, and a dam broke inside.  Tears streamed down my face as I told her about my difficult ADHD+NVLD child (to learn more about NVLD, go to http://www.nldontheweb.org ), my sweet-angry-sick of his older brother-learning disabled younger child, all the therapy my husband and I deal with alone (6 a week last year!), my full time job, my woman’s group (did I mention I do this every other week or so?), my deep, deep, desire to become a writer.  In the midst of talking, it suddenly struck me:  I am tired.  I never knew I was sooo tired.  And then Alana said the magic words, words that have helped so much in the past 14 days:

You need to simplify your life.

You need to go somewhere quiet and alone, and let the answers come.

 Simplicity.  Something so simple as simplicity, had never occurred to me.  I knew instantly at least part of what this meant, and I told Alana.  Then we talked some more, and then it was over.

I thanked Alana honestly, and profusely.  Alana did everything she said she would; she listened, she held me, she helped me find my way back through the dark.  All in one, short, phone call.  That is one amazing woman!  And the tele-retreat, which I did not win, sounded incredible when I finally looked into it.  I had been so wrapped up in the shift session, I never even knew what I signed up for.  Like a shift session times 10, it sounded like, and I had to admit I was bummed it wasn’t me who won (to learn more about Alana, go to:  AlanaSheeren.com).

Simplicity.  This sounded achievable, I could do this.  For now, quiet and alone meant time spent at home, as I rarely went away sans kids for extended periods.

 Here is what I have realized since speaking with Alana 14 days ago:

Simplicity means letting go of some of the attachments I have for my children (back to Buddhism!):  for Louis, that he get his social therapy somehow, someway, even though we have not an extra dime; and for Aiden, that he see a play therapist, someone who can help with the anger and pain he feels toward his older brother.  These are things I have felt strongly must happen, no matter what for the betterment of their lives.

But it’s been exhausting me.

There is no money for more private therapy for Louis; I could let this go.  Or, we could swap the new therapy for Louis’ current therapy, which we already pay out of pocket.  You can’t have everything.

I could let my husband Paul do all the leg work to find a therapist for Aiden.   I know it sounds crazy, but I am ok with driving Aiden to and from therapy.   I just don’t want to make any of the phone-calls or visits required to make it happen.  I did this extensively with Louis.

I could let these things go, I really could.  I could learn how to love my life the way it is, all the sludge and all the sweet, in this moment.

So I began to let the answers come.

Here’s what I know:  One of the difficulties I have with mindful living, is that desiring to make a living as a writer pulls me into the future.  I have found (rather recently), that you can think about the future, while still aspiring to accept the present.  The trick is to let go of any negativity felt towards any aspect of present life, for it’s this negativity that keeps one from feeling Zen.  For me, it’s my job and my kids.  All I want to do is write, write, write, and I can’t, as we are a 2-income family.  But, I am lucky that I have had the same job for 12 years, and that I get 13 weeks of vacation a year.  It’s during these times that I write the most.  And my kids are my kids, I love them to death.  No matter how much mental anguish or physical/bodily damage they cause me (I am serious, by the way).  I am fortunate enough to know, through my day job, that there are children in the world worse off and more afflicted then mine.  I will do my damndest to celebrate Louis and Aiden’s strengths, and hopefully, the rest will fall into place.

Besides, it’s not like I can give them away, although my husband and I have had our fair share of Craig’s List Moments (aka: CLM’s) of threatening to post…. “Rotten Children For Sale:  $50 or Best Offer.”   Making peace with my kids and my job are a big deal for me.  I feel moments of it, and it feels good, although I am nowhere near whole.  But I know someday I will get there; I am determined.

So simplicity, here I come.  I call your name, as I hear the hummingbird singing in my yard.  Simplicity, simplicity, simplicitysimplicitysimplicity…..a beautiful name you are.

Diana Ray

9/21/12

The Houseguest

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When I returned from Cape Cod, where my family and I got to spend some wonderful (and chaotic,crazy and loud) time with our various family members, I became angry.  This was the kind of anger where one minute your fine while the next involves flashing lights, demonic screams, and appalling acts that leave you both 3 inches tall and full of unspeakable guilt.  This is the kind of anger I experienced and was markedly disturbed by.  It was 2 years ago that I was on the verge of a nervous breakdown, where my life became so bleak it felt like a giant rain cloud was living in my head.  I heard those demonic screams emerge from me on a daily basis.  I committed appalling acts frequently.  I would tell my husband, my primary champion, to get the hell out of my face.  I was a mess.  But through a combination of meditation/prayer, medication (yes I am a fan!) and returning to my beloved therapist, I got through it.  For most of this summer I have been calm and patient, taking in stride the frequent tangles that involve both my special needs boys.  Then I returned from the Cape and it all fell apart.

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I had a glorious summer.  I wrote in my backyard daily, my new puppy at my side, surrounded by beautiful flowers and endless hummingbirds.  I picked up my kids early from camp and spent time hanging out.  I finished my memoir and was fueled by the charge that comes from accomplishing such a feat. I was in love! I knew by the end of the summer that all I wanted to do was write, a realization I had known for some years, but completing my memoir amplified this so fiercely that it became a giant neon sign flashing,  “You must write!”   I also knew returning from the Cape that my regular work schedule was imminent.

So I was quite troubled to realize that the “houseguest” anger had returned, uninvited, and was leaving messes everywhere.  I sat down to write this post and got as far as the first two paragraphs before I put it down for several days.  And in that period something magical happened.

I stopped being angry.  It wasn’t that my anger just up and went, because we all know the most unwanted house guests never do that.  I was reading a book about Buddhist parenting that talked about the concept of “dukkha,” a state of suffering where one is anxious, stressed or dissatisfied.  Louis and Aiden were both wild and difficult and I was suffering horribly, something I see as an invitation for anger to come and high-jack your house.  But how does one stop suffering when their 8-year-old can’t control their body or words and is hurting others, either verbally or physically?  Much of what Louis does is not his fault  (read my previous blog entry, “My Story/My Son,” to read more about Louis).  But still I needed the endless fighting and noise to stop, and it didn’t.  And then the anger came and made it worse.  So I had “dukkha.”

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So I made a decision, inspired by what I was reading.  If I could just detach myself from this suffering for just a bit, stop trying so hard to make Louis something he’s not, which includes dropping the desire for him to have more self-control and empathy than he’s capable, than perhaps I could walk with less anger.  Attachment is a big concept in Buddhism, as many lessons involve letting go of the attachment of how we thought life would be.  So I let go of my attachment to how I thought Louis should be, and the anger went away.  Returning to a place of compassion, something I have worked quite hard to cultivate towards Louis, led to a more positive path of dealing with his behavior.  A route that anger never crossed.

If you can muster up any amount of compassion for those in your life who leave you consistently triggered, cultivating compassion will almost always lead to a smooth road.  There’s simply less charge and more understanding.  Life is still pretty challenging with these boys, and I continue to find myself frustrated, and sometimes even angry.  But the possessive anger that moved in and held me hostage in my own home is gone, at least for now.

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Diana Ray

8/24/12

Photography By Diana Ray

My Story/My Son

8/10/2012  Diana Ray

Last month, I finished a memoir that has taken me 4.5 years to write.  At times I didn’t think I would finish, and for long periods I put the project down.  But it is only so long a person can ignore a big elephant in the room, and back to the project I went.  In actuality, writing the memoir was a kind of life-cycle, one that had distinct developmental stages.  Getting started was like laying the egg, while telling my story became the larvae, one that grew with each page of words I wrote.  Taking long breaks were a form of hibernation, where transformation was occurring inside, while finishing the memoir was the final stage of metamorphosis, where the desire to set my wings free coated my body and soul from the inside out.   There is such a thing as ‘sympathetic magic,” an old way of thinking where people felt that eating the heart of a lion would make them brave.  I fully believe in magic, and wear an emblem of my fairy friend around my neck to prove it.  Writing my memoir, and thus re-living my childhood and life up to age 33, has been a kind of consumption, one that has nourished me beyond belief.  I also know, like the person who ate the heart of the lion, that telling my story has healed and opened up my life and made me brave in ways that are also beyond belief.   

Where to go from here has been more challenging.  Advice started coming from my therapist, who knew a bit about how to get published these days.  She suggested I start a blog, and use it as a platform for my writing.  I loathed the idea of writing a blog, and cringed every time she brought it up.  When I finally finished the book, I had other ideas of how to make myself known.  I told her I might try to intersect with a very famous author who lived not too far from me, introduce myself, and then ask if author X might like to read my book.  My therapist kindly but firmly told me that trying to approach a public figure like author X would likely not bode well, and I might want to see if that person had email, or was on face-book.  She also re-iterated the idea of starting a blog. 

That night I searched the Internet to see if author X took email.  After a long time of getting no-where, I stumbled upon a google heading that had “I emailed author X” in it, so I clicked on.  It was a blog by a woman named Erica Staab, where across the top of her headline was written, “Seeing beauty in all things…Living life as a prayer…Creating a meaningful life”  It turned out that Ms. Staab had met author X, at a local book signing.  She also had her own e-book she had written, “The In-Between.”  I began to read Ms. Staab’s writing, and could not stop.  Her words about healing and love and courage touched my soul.  Her site took me to another woman’s blog, and then another, all about the transformative power of grief, loss, love and courage.  That was it, I was fully sucked in.  If these woman could put themselves out there to the world, offering what they had so that others could heal, then so could I.  Once I decided to start the blog, the first entry became clear:  I would write about my children, who are a source of tremendous pain and joy, and also, the topic of my second memoir, which I have yet to write.

So here I am.  Another woman out in the world who wants to get a book published.  Or put another way; another woman out in the world who wants to make a difference, and is hoping that through my stories and experiences, some of us get healed.  I have found that putting myself out there, even when I am overloaded, and my critic is raging, and I am scared to death that I won’t be able to handle it all, comes back 10 fold.  It’s as easy as going from Ms. Staab to 9 other woman, who together through their words, cheer me on.  So thank-you Ms. Staab, for your blog, and for everyone on the path I read along the way.  You keep on writing, and I will keep on reading.

I have one more thing to mention about myself:  I am writing under a pseudonym.  I could never reveal my true identify as long as my parents are living, as I say hurtful, damming things about them throughout my memoir.  As an adult in my 40’s, I have made peace with my parents who are now in their 70’s, and do not wish to cause them more pain.  So for now, I am writing under the pseudonym, Diana Ray, one that I can take with me if/when I get published. 

So here is my first entry.  I would love feed-back.  My husband tells me that it is slow in a couple of places.  As my goal in life is to give up my day job and write for a living, any feed-back about my writing or stories would be much appreciated.  Thanks!

Diana Ray

This Is Louis

Last month my 7-year-old son Louis had a swim play date with his friend Kyle, from school.  I and Kyle’s parents planned to meet on a Sunday afternoon, at a pool Kyle’s mother reported was open until 6 pm, as listed on their web-site.  We arrived at 4:30, only to discover that the pool was closing at 5pm, and that the pool’s web-site was wrong.   After a fierce smart phone race between me and the other boy’s father, to see who could find an open pool first, we settled on a pool approximately 20 minutes away.  We got there in time to enjoy the last hour of a hot sun, highly chlorinated yet cool water, and semi-healthy snacks purchased at the swim center.  My son Louis and his friend Kyle, both newly independent swimmers, had short swim races to the ladder in the shallow end, did underwater tricks that bumped a few kids, and generally had a good time.  By the end of the play date, the two boys were laughing like old pals, and grumbling about having to leave.  We all said our good-by’s, then headed our separate ways for dinner.

This scene will be familiar to many of you.  You are nodding your head as you read along, and think, “Yeah, that sounds like my kid.”  This is the kid who adapts reasonably well to change, gets along mostly well with their peers, and often has a week-end birthday party scheduled.  This is the kid that falls in the middle to far right of the bell curve; that beautiful area delineating average to exceptional skills in the areas of behavior, emotional intelligence, self-regulation and social development.   If this is your kid, pat yourself on the back, you and your child are doing well.  But what if this is not your kid?  What if your kid fell below average, or even far to the left?  What if the bell curve was describing your child’s cognition (intelligence), ability to function at school, their health, their ability to grow up as self-sufficient contributing members of society?  What if your child fell to the left of the middle then?

I haven’t told you the whole pool story.  While everything noted above is true, here’s what I didn’t include:  My older son Louis, was having a bad day, which for us, his mother, father, and younger brother, meant having a very difficult day.  Louis was formally diagnosed with ADHD in November of 2011, with co-existing Non Verbal Learning Disorder added in January of 2012 (to learn more about Non-Verbal Learning Disorder go to http://www.nldontheweb.org)Louis also has anxiety, ranging anywhere from mild to profound, and has been noted to obsess on topics that are of interest, or generate deep emotion for him.   

That morning, Louis had taken his daily Ritalin, in addition to a new medication we were trying, to further help Louis get a hold of his impulses.  Poor impulse control has been rampant since Louis was young, and includes the impulse to use a wild, out of control body, with no knowledge of the size or strength of that body; the impulse to use rude, foul, or teasing language, and, when angry, the impulse to lash out at his family with such aggression, the other person is left bleeding, scratched or bruised.

The day began with an argument over swim class, which Louis did not want to attend.  As I prepared for yoga class, something I did every Saturday morning, I listened to Louis complain about why he did not want to swim.  Swim class was always mixed for Louis; if he had a calm, soft voiced female instructor, he was great, and would finish the class with much pride over his accomplishments.  If he had an instructor who was male, or pushy in any way, it sparked his anxiety, and he would refuse to go.  This past series had not gone well, as Louis had missed a few classes, and had a one-time sub who was pushy.  This happened to be the last swim class of the series, and also the first day of a hip-hop class I was taking Louis to in the afternoon.  Hip-hop, or dance, was something Louis had a deep interest in.  It was also something he felt incredibly anxious about.   My husband and I told Louis he did not have to swim that day, knowing that 2 classes in one day would likely be too much, although he did have to go and watch his brother swim, as I would not be home.  After much whining, fussing and relentless teasing of his younger brother, who generally responded to Louis’ behavior by screaming, hitting, or throwing something at him, Louis consented.  We all agreed to meet back at the house at noon, and went our separate ways. 

At noon, we re-convened quite hungry at home.  Both kids ate in different rooms while watching television, something my husband and I had been reluctantly doing, to keep peace in the house.  Despite this separation, scuffles ensued between the two boys that made it impossible for my husband or I to do anything more than shove food in our mouths.  On the way to hip-hop, I made plans to meet Louis’ friend Kyle and his parent’s at a local community pool, just few hours after class.  Louis was excited about meeting Kyle at the pool, and having dad and Aiden join. 

At hip-hop class, I noted that Louis was the only boy, out of 8 kids.  Some of these kids had taken this class before, and were romping comfortably around the room.  Others were more hesitant, and stayed close to their parent’s, similar to Louis.  Finally a firm, but clearly engaging and talented dance teacher, called the children to come sit in a circle.  The children were instructed to say their name and share their favorite food.  Most of the kids reported pizza, burgers and burritos.  Louis mentioned his love for salmon, something I knew was unusual for a 7-year-old, but the teacher responded that it was her favorite food as well.  Then it was time to learn some moves.  Louis stood in the back, with his “I’m growing it out” hair helmet in place, and moved awkwardly around the room to the teacher’s moves.  Louis seemed tired, out of it and disengaged.  He was one step behind every move, and stiff as a board in motion.  This was not the same boy who danced all over our living room to Kelly Clarkson and Victoria Justice from Nickelodeon!  Louis had been talking about going to a performing arts school for some months now, despite his lack of any developed performing art, and I was pretty sure teasing, foul language and unpleasant body noises would not count.  Louis seemed most interested in dance, something my husband and I had been trying to get him involved in for several months.  But despite the strong interest, over-riding Louis’ anxiety about starting something new, was no easy task.  We did eventually get him to try hip hop at a different studio, with promises of a Pelligrino Limonata upon completion of one class.  This worked well, and morphed into a weekly ritual of class, followed by Limonata.  While Louis had fun at a few classes, he had joined late and had to sit out for a portion of the class, while they prepared for a performance in a parade.  This unstructured time led to moments of teasing and berating the other dancers, something his young 20-year-old teacher could not handle.  We decided to take a break until the next session in September, when Louis could start at the beginning with everyone else.  The current studio we were at had no final performance, had a larger mix of kids from different backgrounds, and was taught by a kind, but no-nonsense teacher.  All in all a better fit.

Thanks to the hair helmet, I couldn’t see Louis’ eyes, but based on his body language, Louis seemed tired and uninterested.  One of the pitfalls of Louis’ new medication was that it lowered his energy level.  While Ritalin upped it, his new medication lowered his blood pressure, and in theory, lowered his energy level.  He seemed mighty low to me, so I spontaneously joined him on the dance floor.  It was fun doing the teacher’s dance moves, with Louis at my side!  I figured anything I learned, I could teach him at home.  I learned how to do a baby-freeze, a balancing pose where you lean on your arms while sticking your legs out to the side.  Having done yoga, I picked it up immediately, and proceeded to do it 5 times in a row.  Unfortunately, hip hop teachers are not yoga teachers, and I had no idea that I was playing accordion with my neck until the next day, when serious pain kept me in discomfort for close to a week.  Then the class was over and we headed home, with approximately 1.5 hrs of down time before the swim.

At home things were tense immediately.  Louis, whose mood went from irritable to irritable++, insisted that only he and I go to the pool, after having invited both his father and little brother earlier.  This happened frequently:  a change in plans based upon Louis foul mood, anxiety or rigidity, with little regard to how others are affected.  Fortunately, Aiden became involved with Lego’s, and didn’t seem to mind.  I was not thrilled about the change for 2 reasons:  change usually involved some other party being grossly unhappy, although both his dad and little brother seemed okay, and; I would have to continue to be on and attentive to all of Louis’ demands and anxieties, something that could have been shared with my husband.

While bummed, I plugged on.  Louis sat on the couch and whined about being bored (we finally said “no” to t.v! ).  I changed into my suit, all the while checking in to see if Louis changed his mind about dad and Aiden joining, another character trait we often contended with.  He had not.  While dad and Aiden had moved on, and were happy doing other activities in the house, I hadn’t.  I did not want to take Louis to the pool alone.  Unless I wanted to bow out of this play date altogether, which would only cause Louis even greater anxiety, I would have to take him alone.  I said a quick prayer, threw kisses to Aiden and my husband, and left.

Louis zoned out in the car to music, giving me a short respite.  It was a 15 minute drive to the pool, with 13 of these minutes involving a quiet Louis in the back seat.  Then, just as the pool became in view, things changed.          

Louis suddenly remembered he would have to change into clothes after the pool.  That would involve going into the mens locker room alone, as he was too old to come with me in the women’s.  Although Kyle and his father would be there, Louis had never changed with them before.  It was always his dad who helped him change after swim class, as I never took him.  Louis began to whine, his voice charged with fear, that he needed dad to come after all, that Aiden could come too, and could I please call, because he really, really, needed dad to help him change.  I pulled over, and quickly tried to calm him: Louis did not have to go in the locker room at all, he could wear his wet suit in the car, or, I could hold up a towel and he could change, something he typically did at the beach.  Neither of these options were acceptable, and Louis continued to beg me call, his voice so high with tension he could have belted out an aria.  I didn’t want to give in, as he had already invited and then taken away his offer for dad and Aiden to join, but felt trapped.  I did not want Louis to get into full-blown anxiety mode, as I had dealt with that frequently in recent days, and felt burnt out.  I called my husband, who said Aiden was knee-deep in Lego land, and did not want to stop.  He encouraged me to continue on, that hopefully things would change with Louis, as they often did.  Louis and I pulled up to the pool, with Louis now engaged in a complete anxiety attack.  He screamed and yelled that he had to have his dad, and that I had to call again.  Then he threw his shoe at me from the back seat, which hit my arm and hurt.  I tried to talk to him, to calm him, as I had success with sitting and talking about his fears when he wouldn’t get out of the car to pick up Aiden at his preschool last week, although for the life of me I can’t remember what those fears were.  Then I saw Kyle start to walk over to Louis window, and I got out of the car.   Louis screamed for me stay in the car, and threw his other shoe, which hit the windshield.  I asked Kyle where his mom and dad were, and he said inside paying.  I told him that Louis needed a minute, and could he please go and wait inside, which he did.  Then I went over to the side of the car where Louis was sitting and opened the door.  I got down to his level and looked at his tear-stained eyes, trying desperately to think of anything that might make this situation change, but I was beyond tired, and at a blank.  I again suggested he change with Kyle and his dad, or wear his wet suit in the car, which was no more acceptable now then it was 5 minutes earlier.  Louis grabbed my arm and scratched me hard, trying to sink his teeth into my flesh in the process, but I slithered my way out, and slammed the door.  I told Louis I would be back in a minute, and to sit tight.  As I started to walk in the pool, Kyle and his parent’s walked out.  The pool was closing soon they told me, and their online schedule was wrong.  I quickly told them of the events that had transpired in the past 10 minutes, as Kyle’s mom understood and accepted Louis’ Jeckle-Hyde behaviors.  We stood outside trying to come up with another plan, which you know from the beginning of this story, we did.  The change in plan, something I typically dreaded, was exactly what we needed.  Louis managed to calm himself in the time it took to find a different pool, and agreed to try it out.  Half-way there he agreed to change by himself in the locker room, or wear his wet suit home.  I breathed a huge sigh of relief.

At location B, Louis made no eye-contact with his friend or his family, despite their attempts to engage him, and would not leave my side.  I swam with him in the big pool, where he finally joined his friend in short races to the pools edge.  While I was happy about him playing with his friend, I sensed his continued anxiety, which came out in teasing, competitive remarks such as, “I won; I got here first; I’m better then you.  I spoke in soft tones, encouraging him to replace his competitive remarks with supportive ones such as, “It was so close; that was fun; let’s do it again.”  Then some aquatic acrobats which released more of Louis’ tension, until finally, he and his friend fully connected, hanging out in the pool together until the last second before closing, talking and laughing like old friends.  Then it was over.      

My husband and I have been dealing with a wide variety of serious behavior since Louis was a young 2-year-old, behavior that began shortly after his brother Aiden was born.  Prior to this Louis had been a sweet, but semi-aggressive toddler, who would hit, pinch and bite other children sporadically.  He could also play extremely well with other children, and appeared to enjoy their company.  Louis was on track with all of his early milestones, from motor to language, to social skills, and I knew many toddlers who profiled like he did.  I chalked his less than desirable character traits to typical boy energy, although my day care provider at the time told me frequently that 1 of Louis, was equal to 2 or 3 other children. 

Louis has gone through a variety of changes since then, some positive, a few spectacular, many terrible, and has been assessed or treated by a total of 9 different developmental specialists since the age of 4. Seven of these professionals worked directly with Louis, while 2 child psychologists worked only with his father and I.  At 4 years, Louis was assessed by a speech-language pathologist and occupational therapist, and while he never qualified for speech-language therapy, he received occupational therapy for 2 years, focusing on increasing delayed fine/motor skills, and sensory processing skills.   At 5 yrs, Louis saw a developmental pediatrician, who gave him a diagnosis of “Anxiety Not Otherwise Specified,”  and felt hopeful that because Louis had always done well in preschool, the deck was stacked in his favor.  Louis currently sees a child psychiatrist, who after 2 years of therapy that began shortly after we saw the developmental pediatrician, gave Louis a diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), in collaboration with his parents.  He is also the doctor who prescribes Louis medication.  Louis began a boys group last November that meets during the school year, with a focus on social skills, and is led by two child psychologists.  A neuropsychologist assessed Louis last January in the areas of cognition, academic skills, behavioral/social skills and emotional intelligence.  After several sessions of working with Louis and of writing a long report, this doctor also concurred with the diagnosis of ADHD, and in addition, added the new diagnosis of Non Verbal Learning Disorder.

Living with Louis is difficult, and some days, almost impossible.  It has taken me a very long time to come to a place where I can feel hopeful about this child.  I have always loved him, but have gone through long periods of not liking him, and even longer periods where I made it my mission to try to change him.  I blamed Louis for his difficulties early in life; I shamed him, told him he was bad, and when past my breaking point, I have hit him.  I am deeply ashamed of these behaviors, and of how I handled the early years, especially after his brother was born.  While I am presently able to maintain more control when angry with him, I still struggle with my words and my hands.  I still say things I regret, and still handle him too hard sometimes, leaving marks on his skin and causing tears.

Now I struggle to find peace within myself.  I am full of grief and loss, that Louis is not the child I had hoped for, full of continued frustration and anger at the chaos in my house.  But it is through this struggle that I have connected to the most elemental parts of myself, parts of me that I had glimpsed, but never lived.  I am opening, ever so slowly, like the flowers in my garden, despite the hail and storms I have endured.  Louis has been my gift.  It is because of him that I am writing this today.

I did a lot of therapy before I had kids.  I also wrote and did a lot of art, as a way of expressing myself.  I have been deeply spiritual all of my life.  I lost these skills during the most terrible years when I gave Louis every ounce of energy I had.  Yet it is these very outlets; therapy, writing, art, and spiritual practice, that have saved me. I was so miserable when my children were small, that it compelled me to put my thoughts on paper, which eventually evolved into my memoir.  When Louis was not quiet 3 years, and had been trying to kill his brother for almost 6 months, I realized that he was just a little boy and not my volatile mother, and that Aiden, my second child, was not me, someone who helplessly endured different forms of abuse and neglect growing up.  This brought me back to therapy.  I started a women’s group last year, that while struggling to find an identity, is something I created from me.  I meditate or pray almost every day, which has soothed my soul in its worst hour.  I am surrounding myself with inspirational writings, quotes and blogs all written by women, who have survived the hardships of life and gone on.  We got a dog last June that I never believed in my wildest dreams, could be so healing for this family.  I refuse to give into hopelessness, and despite my difficulties with Louis, try my best to focus on his talents and strengths.  He is a loving, tender child, who can be funny, creative and incredibly helpful around the house.  I continue to struggle on, even in my lowest moments, to find joy and beauty where I can.  Even on my worst days I can walk into my backyard garden, and likely find a humming-bird zipping around, flying so close I can see its metallic green feathers and red plume on its neck.  The hummingbird is a totem animal that represents beauty and joy, something I need to be reminded to find each day, no matter what darkness is happening in the world.

Take care until next time, and remember; while there is always tomorrow, or the next hour or the next minute in life, it is this moment that is to be lived, no matter the joy or pain.  It is this moment in time that can nourish you if you let it, that can take you through the stages of transformation, much like a butterfly. There is not much to it, except to be present, now.  The rest will happen on its own.

Diana Ray