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Archive for March, 2017

Installment 108

March 23 – March 29, 2017

 

Can we talk about your latest drawing?

Michael, my love, we can talk about anything you want to talk about. I have to admit, this latest drawing has been a bit of a revelation in many ways. I would love to discuss it with you, if you have the time. I have lots of questions.

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Caitlyn

[Michael laughs.] You always have lots of questions and I have nothing but time and nothing I would rather do. I think it is important that we discuss this for a lot of different reasons that we can get into later. But, first, tell me about Caitlyn.

Caitlyn was my little niece. It is one of my greatest regrets that I never met her due to my brother living so far away from me.

And what have we said in previous conversations about regret?

Don’t regret what didn’t happen then. Do it now!

Exactly. There is already here and then is already now. You don’t have to suffer regret. You don’t have to send your prayers back in time or anywhere else because you are already there and she is always here.

There is always an element of blame in regret; usually you are blaming yourself. Where you see a lack or an absence, don’t blame yourself. Don’t regret; do it NOW.

Caitlyn transitioned in the early days of our acquaintance, around 1994 or 1995, I think. She was a beautiful little girl who developed leukemia very early in her life. Of course, the discovery of her illness was a devastating blow to her mother and father, my brother and his wife.

At the time, it was thought that a bone marrow transplant would save her life, so the entire family was genetically tested for compatibility, including myself, but no compatible match was found. I’ve always felt badly that I was incompatible.

Ah, now we are getting to the crux of the matter. Why?

Why what?

Why would you feel badly about something that you could not control? Please understand … that is a rhetorical question for the purposes of this discussion.

I did this myself all the time; we all do. This is a very common experience in the human condition. We have a tendency to blame ourselves in situations like this and we make ourselves “wrong” or “less” than we are as a result.  I can understand you being disappointed; that is only natural. But it wasn’t your fault that your tests didn’t show compatibility.

I know.

Would you have donated your bone marrow if your DNA was a perfect match?

Yes, absolutely I would have.

You would have had the surgery?

Definitely.

Okay. Go on.

Well, from the discovery of her disease to her transition, little Caitlyn spent a lot of time in and out of hospitals receiving blood transfusions and treatments. St. Jude’s was a God-send to my brother’s family.

My friends and I sent balloons. My brother told me at the time that little Caitlyn loved to play with the balloons with her daddy and would smile and laugh as the helium-inflated balloons floated around her as he held her in his arms, despite being tethered to intravenous tubes. She would reach out and try to catch the brightly-colored balloons and laugh as they floated out of reach.

Little Caitlyn fought her disease bravely and was a happy, loving child until the very end. Her journey ended in her father’s arms as he rocked her in the rocking chair in her hospital room.

That’s where you’re wrong. Her journey did not end and I think you knew that at the time, didn’t you?

Yes, I knew, although I didn’t understand it as fully as I do now.

What did you do?

Well, once again, my friends and I sent a large bouquet of balloons to the funeral with the request that they be released into the air for Caitlyn to play with.

Then, I sat down and wrote a story about Caitlyn in which I entrusted her to your loving care.  In my story, I placed my little niece’s soul into the safest hands I knew … yours. My logical, rational brain thought this was a silly thing to do because you were still very much in the physical dimension at the time, but it felt like the right thing, somehow.

I don’t remember much of the story. It’s lost somewhere in the bowels of my first computer in the attic along with the electronic copy of my first book, but I know I sent the story to one of the European fan magazines. I think it was KING! Or Black or White, but I can’t remember which. The story was published in one of its regular issues.

So, you sent little Caitlyn to Neverland to play with me?

Yes, in a nutshell. At the time, I had not read a great deal about time being flexible and fluid or about how even though a part of us is involved in a human experience, there is still a major portion of our more expansive, vaster self that is always anchored in the spiritual realm. [Reference: Installment #40 – Volume 1 – Page 380] And I wasn’t blessed with these formal Conversations with you, although we did share a wonderful connection which was steadily growing stronger.

Despite all that, somehow, it just felt right to entrust her to your care, instinctively, if you will.

But, I’ve always regretted never getting to know my beautiful, brave little niece and I’ve always felt that I wasn’t much of an aunt to her, felt guilty that I wasn’t there for her during her short, little life.

Felt guilty.

Yes … felt guilty.

This guilt thing is a real issue with you, isn’t it? You felt guilty that you were not able to save her life by donating your bone marrow even though you knew that there was nothing you could have done to change that; you felt guilty because you never knew her; you felt guilty because you didn’t measure up to some picture you have in your mind of an ideal aunt, whatever that is. That’s a lot of guilt.

As we’ve said so often before, guilt is one of the most damaging emotions in the human emotional arsenal. One of the things that makes it so damaging is that often what we feel guilty about is something over which we had no control, like not being a compatible genetic match to save your little niece’s life. Could you have changed that?

No.

Of course not. The other is that we bury these feelings of guilt behind everyday busyness and we never deal with them in a healthy way. Then, we defend the walls we built around all those little hurts like one would defend the walls of a castle under siege from the most fully-equipped, battle-ready army.

Using you as an example, you have carried this burden of guilt for more than twenty years buried beneath all the things you do every day and all the walls you have built around them to protect yourself from them. It has been there, lurking in the shadows until very recently. It’s  kinda the monster under your bed (and it is NOT alone under there), waiting to eat you in the night until someone takes a flashlight and shines it under the bed to show you that it’s just the shadow cast by your shoes.

So, what happened to bring little Caitlyn out of the shadows?

Well, while I have often thought of her, she would have celebrated her birthday in March and my sister posted a photograph of her in memoriam. As soon as I saw the photograph, I knew that I wanted to attempt to draw it. I mulled the idea over for a few days, but it scared me. I have never tried to draw a baby before and the thought of attempting it first with my perfect little niece frightened me.

Eventually, I overcame my fear, got out a piece of paper and made my first attempt, which was NOT a success. Drawing a baby is a lot harder than I thought it would be and I spent a couple of days trying to talk myself out of this project … but failed and tried again. On my second attempt, I had a little more success and I think I captured her sweetness.

And … now … the rest of the story. [Michael does a perfect imitation of Paul Harvey and laughs.]

Well, I sent a photo of the drawing to my sister-in-law and brother, hoping that they would not be offended by my no doubt poor attempt at capturing Caitlyn and they think the painting is beautiful, so I will be sending the pastel painting to them in the mail.

That is not what I meant and you know it. What has been happening in your inner world every time you close your eyes since finishing this piece of art?

I have been seeing my story, which I wrote over twenty years ago, coming true. I have been seeing Caitlyn with you at Neverland. The first and second day after completing it, I saw you holding her in your arms, with Caitlyn straddling your waist and playing with your hat.  She was laughing and your smile was HUGE and your giggle was so heartwarming.

Yesterday, I saw her running up to you and holding her arms up to be lifted up as babies do with people they trust. You bent down to pick her up and kissed her little cheek and she giggled and knocked your hat to the ground. You laughed and snuggled her close.

Yes! That’s what I’m talking about!

I have never been able to visualize her before at all, much less at Neverland with you, but now I see her every time I close my eyes. You are always with her and she is always full to bubbling over with joy.

And what does this tell you?

I don’t know how to interpret this change, really. Perhaps, my drawing has freed her to finally be released into your care?

No, although I can understand your confusion. Sometimes it’s hard to tell the mirror image from the real thing … at least, until you change your perspective.

She was always free. She has been a frequent visitor to Neverland since you wrote your story. I have held her in my arms many times both during the times when I was physically present and since. She has always been a light in my world. She is such a pure and innocent soul; I love her very much. You can neither free nor bind her because she is beyond such restrictions and limitations and always has been just as you can neither free nor bind me and for the same reason.

The truth is both much simpler and much more complicated than that. By spending time and love in drawing her, you have freed yourself to perceive her joy.  You have dismantled the walls you built around your hurt at not being good enough to heal her little body and you have begun to forgive yourself for your failings.

You have gotten out the flashlight and dispelled the darkness under the bed (at least in the case of this issue … there are still LOTS of monsters lurking there … don’t worry too much about them, though … we will be working with them as they arise.)

You have laid your blame and guilt aside with every stroke, taken the blinders they represent off, and opened your spiritual sight. You have taken her out of the shadow of your guilt and regret and allowed yourself to see her with me laughing and playing despite what you have perceived for more than twenty years as your shortcomings in the “aunt department.”

Do you see how your vision has been distorted through the lens of what you perceive as your shortcomings? We all do this all the time with everything we see and all that we experience. We view people, situations, and circumstances through our individual lenses and interpret them accordingly. Since our perception is distorted our interpretations are similarly misaligned.

We don’t see “reality” at all; we see our perceptions of “reality” and, often our perceptions of reality are distorted through the lenses of our experiences, judgments, and definitions of ourselves.

You and I were never separate
It’s just an illusion
Wrought by the magical lens
Of perception

Those “magical lenses” affect everything we see and, therefore, everything we do. Often those lenses are grounded deep within the experiences of our childhoods as we talked about in a lot of detail in one of our very earliest dialogs. [Reference: Installment 3 – Volume 1 – Page 21]

Now, do you mind if we talk about this “ideal aunt” concept that you have yourself convinced that you don’t measure up to?

No, I don’t mind at all, Beloved, but I don’t know how to describe it.

Never mind about that. We’ll get there eventually.

Being from a large family, let me just preface this section of our Conversation with the observation that “aunts” come in all different shapes and sizes. Some are very “hands on” and some are not. Some are nurturing and supporting and some are not. Some are demanding and want to shape you into their idea of the perfect nephew or niece and some give you the space to find your own way.

In other words, as many descriptions as apply to human beings apply to aunts. Why don’t you begin by telling me about your aunts.

I would be happy to, Beloved, but I don’t have any. Well, that’s not exactly true. I believe I have them, but I have never known them. When my mother married my stepfather, she moved to a large city several hundred miles away from her family and severed all ties with my father’s family. I only had her mother and father as an extended family and never knew my father’s brothers or any of my cousins on either side at all. We were pretty isolated. Although I have recently become acquainted with a cousin through social media, I have never met her.

However, she has told me that her father (my uncle Earl) was an artist whose art hangs in a museum in San Juan and that he inherited his artistic ability from our grandfather, which was news to me. Imagine being 67 years old and not knowing something like that. It’s an odd feeling.

When we left my mother and stepfather’s house, my brothers and sister and I all ended up living hundreds of miles away from each other as well.

So, you’ve never really had any extended family nor the examples they could have provided, particularly in the area of “aunthood.”

No, not really.

Being from such a large family I could almost envy that. [Michael laughs.]

Well, during our “participatory therapy sessions,” [Installment #86 – Volume 3, page 39] one of the insights I had has a direct bearing on this situation. Do you mind if we talk briefly about that?

No, not at all. Please explain.

Well, back in the 1950s, the line of demarcation between religious affiliations was much more finely drawn. My mother’s family was staunchly devout and their allegiance was to the Roman Catholic Church, which was adamant in its assertion of being the only TRUE church. Back then, if you weren’t Catholic, you were destined for hell. I don’t think it has changed too much since, except Pope Francis seems to be a much more open-minded and ecumenical kind of Pope, so I have hope that, perhaps, this exclusivity issue will change in the not-too-distant future.

I believe my father’s family was Protestant as they hailed from England. Back then, good Catholic girls did not marry into Protestant families; good Protestant boys were not easily accepted into Catholic families … and, generally, if such marriages occurred, it was against their parent’s wishes. Any children from such “mixed” marriages were considered illegitimate, in other words, bastards.

Do you see what we do to each other with our judgments and prejudices? Even in families, which are supposed to be loving, caring, and supportive, we harm each other with irrelevant judgments.

It’s similar to the black/white racial issues. Children are children and they are harmed by these kinds of judgments and prejudices. You were severely damaged for many years by beliefs that were probably passed down to your grandparents from their parents and grandparents and great-grandparents for generations. In this case, the “US” and “THEM” mentality was promoted by a church, which was intended to bring all people into oneness.

It is so sad.

Of course, I don’t know for sure that this religious difference is a hard and fast fact; I am surmising. It feels right. This could have been a factor in my grandmother and grandfather’s refusal to help my mother take care of my brother and I when she needed to enter the workforce, something that was not common in 1955.

It could also have affected the complete severance of all ties with my father’s family after his death and resulted in my lack of extended family life.

This insight occurred to me during our therapy sessions over a six or seven week period back then (April and May 2014) when we were processing my grandmother and releasing her to “Go with God.”

Yes, I remember this one took a little longer because your hurt and defenses were very strong.

Well, I had always viewed my grandmother as perfect in every way. It was hard for me to realize that she, too, was human and as much a victim of the religious, cultural, and ideological prejudices prevailing at the time as was I.

And I think you’re right. That could very well be a major factor.

But I think the relevant point here is that you have nothing upon which to base your ideal of “aunthood.” You are separated by hundreds of miles from your brothers and sister and have no knowledge of aunts or uncles from your childhood. So, tell me … what does your ideal aunt look like?

Promise me you won’t laugh.

I promise you faithfully and with full conviction that I won’t laugh AT you … I will only laugh WITH you. Is that good enough?

Yes, thank you, Beloved. Well, she looks a little like the fairy Godmother in fairy tales. Kind, there when needed to turn mice into horses and rags into dazzling gowns, and able to dispel all hurt with a wave of her magic aunt wand.

Well, it’s pretty easy to understand how you see yourself as not measuring up to that. I mean, who could? And, of course, she is able to leap tall pumpkins in a single bound and cure leukemia in the blink of a DNA test.

Yes, pretty much.

Can I laugh just a little bit now? Never mind, I’ll save it for later.

You are so hard on yourself. Your love for your little niece is very evident in this piece of art. Your determination to do whatever you could do to help her, regardless of distance, also proves your love.

Now that you have dispelled the darkness under the bed (at least, in this instance), do you see how your guilt over what could not be controlled is just an illusion you created as a defense against your lack of self-worth and, then, defined yourself accordingly?

Do you remember when you told me that “plants don’t like you?”

Yes, of course I remember. [Reference: Installment #96 – Volume 3 – Page 235]

Do you still hold the same view?

No, I don’t.

What has changed?

Well, I have begun having a little bit of success with plants. My first gardenia (which we spoke about in Installment 96) did die, but it survived through the winter months last year and actually got a blossom on it in around March.

However, my husband bought me a beautiful, full gardenia this past summer and we set it outside in a nice, sunny place and it flourished, blooming several times. In addition, we found a lovely jasmine at a nursery and set it out during the summer months and it, too, flourished. When fall arrived, we brought them both in the house and they are both alive and healthy, awaiting spring when we will set them outside again.

Further, I got a huge peace lily and one of the girls gave me a phalaenopsis orchid, which also appear to be flourishing. As a matter of fact, there are seven long flowering stalks on my peace lily and five beautiful blossoms on my phalaenopsis orchid. It has re-blossomed after being dormant for months, literally.

Needless to say, that has never happened before!

And what have you been doing differently?

Well, I have designated Tuesday as “watering day” and have stuck to that schedule consistently. I have placed the gardenia in a southern window for more direct sunlight and the jasmine has a more muted eastern exposure. The peace lily and phalaenopsis orchid are on my desk in my north-facing art studio/sanctuary and benefit from the music and meditations that occur here regularly. I send all my plants loving, peaceful thoughts and, yes, I do talk to them when I water them. They all seem to be thriving.

There ya go! And what did I tell you when we discussed this issue in our earlier Conversation?

You said, and I quote:

All living things respond to love and encouragement. No exceptions.

Good … and you are discovering that this is true in your living plants … as well as in your living eternally niece.

All things thrive on love. It’s the way the universe was created. Even hurtful memories blossom into beautiful flower when paid a little loving attention.

Now, we will work on a change in the direction of your thinking. Instead of thinking, “I suck as an aunt,” we will begin thinking, “I am a loving aunt.” And instead of thinking, “Plants don’t like me,” we will begin thinking, “Even plants burst into beautiful flower in my presence.”

Love is always the answer. No exceptions.

 

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