Family

Phoenix From The Ashes

Shadow.Ash.Spirit.Flame. - Gabriel García Márquez

Last November I finally told my Dad about my decision to give up alcohol. He’d never really known about my binge drinking or about everything that had happened because of it, mostly because we were not really close for most of my adult life and did not see each other that often. There were a couple of times when in desperate need for peace I asked him to take me to see healers or guides but I never really told him why and he did not ask. So, last November I explained to him that February 2nd, 2016 would be the anniversary of a life-altering decision I made in 2014. I asked him if he would have a thanksgiving hawan (prayer) for me. He said yes, simply and quietly.

Two weeks before Christmas Dad fell sick with pneumonia. It was really bad and on the fourth day the doctor told him there was nothing more he could do. Now, my father is very stubborn and may have decided to fight his illness just to prove the doctor wrong. For whatever reason, he pulled through and even though extremely weakened and still on oxygen and drips twice per week, he was up on Christmas Day, enough to have a few pieces of fruit on the family lunch table. As the days in January rolled by I had decided that I would not burden him with having the hawan for me, so when he called a week ago to ask if I would still like to have it, I was surprised and very moved. I asked him if he was sure he was up to the task and he said that he believed it would be good for him too. It would be a thanksgiving for both of us.

A hawan is a sacred purifying ritual, in which a sacrificial fire is built in a kund, and specific ingredients are burned according to Ayurvedic tradition. These fire ceremonies are performed for all types of occasions: to let go of patterns and obstacles in our lives, for healing, purification of the environment and ourselves, to pray for success with a particular venture, or to express gratitude. Before we began my father welcomed our guests and started to explain why we had gathered together. But the only words he managed to get out were “my daughter” before he was overwhelmed with emotion. I think it moved him that I’d struggled and ‘come home’, perhaps proving him wrong in believing that he failed as a father by never providing a “home” for his daughters to return to. I spoke up and explained that I’d made a choice two years ago which turned my life around and that I felt it best to honour what I’d been given. With my second chance and Dad’s health, our ceremony was a thanksgiving for my life and for his.

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Having not been brought up in the Hindu faith, even though my father is Hindu, I don’t remember much from my childhood in terms of the significance of the ingredients used and of the meaning of the mantras (prayers in Sanskrit) but my stepsister sat right next to me and guided me along.

The mango tree is a symbol of love, prosperity and fertility, and on Sunday it provided the kindling for our fire. Ghee (purified butter) was used to feed the fire and signified light being brought into our lives. Several little blocks of camphor was burned throughout the ritual. Camphor represents the negative qualities in us and when camphor burns, it leaves no trace. Guggul is a resin formed from the sap of the guggul tree, and has been used in Ayurvedic medicine for over two thousand years. It too, shrinks and removes negative energies. Sweet rice was added to the kund too as rice is symbolic of wealth and success.

Samagri is a mixture of spices and each item of the samagri is significant. Ashoka, considered to be sacred tree, is also a herb that fights disease. Loban (frankincense) creates positive energies, creating a seal locking out the inflow of negative. Harmal seeds crackle on being heated, acting like grenades and explosives in the energy field, and drive away the negative astral energies in the environment. Specific Sanskrit mantras were chanted and sung too and these, together with the offerings to the fire create purifying vibrations that are beneficial to all present.

As the fire burned, the fragrant aromas triggered happy childhood memories of running through bamboo arches with deyas full of light, of delicious food and lots of family.

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Can you see the Phoenix? 🙂

I stared at the flames as they danced in the kund, charring the mango wood black then white. Dad spooned ghee over the ingredients yet to burn and pushed the camphor into unlit corners to ignite. There was forgiveness in those flames and hope in the heat I felt on my face. It is said that the smoke that rises from the kund contains a powerful healing energy, and as it rises to the heavens it purifies the atmosphere, both physically and subtly, encouraging peace.

For the last mantras (the ones I am the most fond of because they resonate with me, reminding me of a forgotten time) we rose to our feet. As the others sang I was very quiet, focused on the kund and what was left of the fire. I felt all my mistakes and my shame, guilt and remorse about them, reduced to black ash. I felt a surge of gratitude for all I have learned, for the courage and strength I was given, for all the new blogging friends I’ve made and the relationships with loved ones I was given the chance to deepen. I looked across at my father and he smiled at me. I am so thankful for this second chance. Late morning breezes began to blow, stirring the coconut and fruit trees in our garden into action. I felt love and reassurances all around me, from family, friends, the sky and sunshine, from myself.  Through tears I watched as the wind swirled, picking up the ash and carrying away everything I no longer needed.

“Happy New Year Phoenix, Year 3 is going to be even better.”

Love and light to you all, Phoenix

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It’s Never Too Late For Daughters

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For what it’s worth: it’s never too late or, in my case, too early to be whoever you want to be. There’s no time limit, stop whenever you want. You can change or stay the same, there are no rules to this thing. We can make the best or the worst of it. I hope you make the best of it. And I hope you see things that startle you. I hope you feel things you never felt before. I hope you meet people with a different point of view. I hope you live a life you’re proud of. If you find that you’re not, I hope you have the strength to start all over again.” ~ Benjamin Button to his daughter.

A few months ago I participated in a metaphysical workshop which taught me how to sever ties with people and events that have caused pain. These ties, or cords, connect us with people, places, objects and situations that have meaning to us. They are made of astral and etheric energy stretching between the two, very much like an umbilical cord, and transfering emotional energy and chi, no matter how physically far apart we are from the person or how long ago the situation occured. We create these ties because it is a natural way for us to interact with other people and communicate with the surrounding world. Some cords are beneficial and create a nurturing sharing of energy and information, as with healthy relationships between family members and good friends. The more energy is being exchanged (healthy or unhealthy) through a cord, the stronger it will be. Sometimes when we end unhealthy relationships or move away from unhealthy situations these cords remain, painfully binding us on an emotional and energetic level. Most of us find these cords, or ties, very diffcult to remove. We carry around hurt, pain and anguish because we are still connected to the source of that pain.

When I signed up for the workshop I knew I had a cord to sever with my father. I wanted to sever the tie that connected my heart to his judgmental words and to the emotional indifference that I remember of our shared past. There were more cords to sever as well which tied me to other people and situations, but I had decided beforehand that this one with Dad had to be dealt with first, and then I’d allow whatever / whoever was next to reveal themselves to me. (That story is for another day!)

The Best Relationship

I was open to the experience, wanting more than anything, to heal myself and allow our relationship to improve. Six months prior, at a Closeness, Distance and Intimacy in Relationships workshop, I promised myself that I would do my part to develop the relationship I wanted with my Dad: a loving, supportive and open one with reassurances of love and affection; where we would enjoy each other’s company and have freedom of discussion without judgment; with acceptance and guidance from both sides and I wanted us to feel proud of each other. I wanted us to forgive each other and appreciate what each could bring to the relationship.

What We Were

I did try. For the first few weeks. I remembered my promise to myself to reach out more, and to be more patient and understanding and accepting of him. I knew it would not be easy as when it comes to my father I’d carried around particular fears for so long: fear of judgment, fear of rejection, and the fear of effort without reward or appreciation. I actively worked to think more positively about our relationship but to be honest I was not giving my all to do my part. It was because in the back of my mind, and locked away in a box in my heart, I still stored those fears and pain from the past.

Letting Go of Dad? 

So, when the opportunity came to get past those fears and blocks I took it. During the workshop, we prepared ourselves through meditation and when the time came to cut the ties participants were encouraged to visualize the person we wished to sever ties with. I closed my eyes and pictured Dad walking toward me. I saw the fine threads that connected us and I began to weep. Tears streamed down my cheeks and I just could not do it. I was afraid that I would lose him altogether. But I knew that it had to be done. I had to cut the ties between us that were harmful to our relationship. I took a deep breath and repeated the required words until I felt calm. All was quiet in my mind and you know what? He was still there, but there were no more bad feelings, only love. The workshop took a lot out of me but I was hopeful.

In the weeks that followed, little by little, things started happening.

I started back calling to say hi, how’re you doing. With my sister and little nephew now living abroad there are spaces left in his life. He has been calling to check up on me too.
Dad does not come to my side of the island often but now when he does, he calls and schedules lunch or asks to meet so that he can give me avocados from the tree at home.

One day an ex-boyfried from two decades ago sent me a photo via a whatsapp message. It was a copy of the Dictionary of Quotations and Proverbs, that looked strangely familiar. His message stated that he believed the book to be mine. I asked him if my name was on the inside (back then I put my name on all my books). His next message was a photo of the inside cover. It was inscribed: “To Phoenix, Love Daddy, Christmas 1985.” I cried. I would have been 13 years old when he gave this book to me. Maybe back then I’d already fallen in love with words. 1985 was before my parents split up and I took it as a reminder that there were moments of love between us and that those are the things I should remember.

The Dad who was there all along

And I did. In the following weeks I remembered things that I’d forgotten about: the two-story dollhouses he built by hand, one yellow and one green, for my sister and me; the many times he drove for over an hour after midnight to pick us up from nightclubs when we were in our late teens, before we learned to drive, and when we did learn, he still drove for an hour to meet us and follow us home, (we lived too far for friends to give us a lift you see); the time when in his own way he offered wisdom and comfort after my first breakup with my best friends. Stories I’d overheard of his difficult childhood also surfaced in my mind and my understanding and compassion for him grew. I recognized the meaning behind him saying that one of his regrets in life was that he did not provide a safe home. He had said it was important for fathers to do that for their daughters, should they ever need a place to return to.

About six weeks after the cord-cutting workshop I went to visit him and we had a really good conversation, about life, purpose, philosophy mostly. We’ve had these discussions in the past but I’d always been tense, feeling unheard and foolish and very sensitive to perceived criticism, even if he merely had a difference of opinion. This time I felt more relaxed and comfortable sharing my views and ideas because I was no longer equating agreement with his acceptance of me. I was calm in my thinking and speaking and there were no signs of the the old desperate need to say something that he liked so that I could prove that I was worthy of love. I was very happy. The most incredible thing of all? When I was leaving that day, as I got to the door and turned around to say my goodbyes he reached out and pulled me to him, embracing me as he kissed my cheek. My father – the emotionally distant, prone to withholding affection, uncomfortable with expressing emotions other than anger and frustration father – hugged me. It was a brief hug but meant so much.

When my sister and I hosted an art exhibition last October, he came. And after he left I saw that he’d signed “So proud, Daddy” in our guest book. That was huge for me, for my sister too, as they are words he’d never said to us before.

Clear the way of negatives, so the positives can rush in.

There is still room for improvement but I guess the point of my post is this: If you can clear the way to better relationships with the people who matter to you, it is possible to heal. We can’t change events and situations that happened in the past but we can change how we react to them now. We can change the value we place on them and we can choose to let go. When we cut ties that no longer serve us, the healthy ties remain, and with openness and love can become definitive and grow stronger.

“I don’t know what frightens me more, the power that crushes us, or our endless ability to endure it. It’s forgiveness that makes us what we are. Without forgiveness, our species would’ve annihilated itself in endless retributions. Without forgiveness, there would be no history. Without that hope, there would be no art, for every work of art is in some way an act of forgiveness. Without that dream, there would be no love, for every act of love is in some way a promise to forgive. We live on and because we can love, and we love because we can forgive.” ~ Gregory David Roberts

~*~

On February 6th 2014, four days after I stopped drinking alcohol, I started this blog. My two-year soberversary is fast approaching and my January posts, inspired by thought-provoking quotes by fictional philosophers, is a way of celebrating my journey. I hope, in turn, to inspire you on yours.

If I Should Have A Daughter

B (If I Should Have a Daughter)
by Sarah Kay

Instead of “Mom”, she’s gonna call me “Point B.” Because that way, she knows that no matter what happens, at least she can always find her way to me. And I’m going to paint the solar system on the back of her hands so that she has to learn the entire universe before she can say “Oh, I know that like the back of my hand.”

She’s gonna learn that this life will hit you, hard, in the face, wait for you to get back up so it can kick you in the stomach. But getting the wind knocked out of you is the only way to remind your lungs how much they like the taste of air. There is hurt, here, that cannot be fixed by band-aids or poetry, so the first time she realizes that Wonder-woman isn’t coming, I’ll make sure she knows she doesn’t have to wear the cape all by herself. Because no matter how wide you stretch your fingers, your hands will always be too small to catch all the pain you want to heal. Believe me, I’ve tried.

And “Baby,” I’ll tell her “don’t keep your nose up in the air like that, I know that trick, you’re just smelling for smoke so you can follow the trail back to a burning house so you can find the boy who lost everything in the fire to see if you can save him. Or else, find the boy who lit the fire in the first place to see if you can change him.”

But I know that she will anyway, so instead I’ll always keep an extra supply of chocolate and rain boots nearby, because there is no heartbreak that chocolate can’t fix. Okay, there are a few heartbreaks chocolate can’t fix. But that’s what the rain boots are for, because rain will wash away everything if you let it.

I want her to see the world through the underside of a glass bottom boat, to look through a magnifying glass at the galaxies that exist on the pin point of a human mind. Because that’s how my mom taught me. That there’ll be days like this, “There’ll be days like this my momma said” when you open your hands to catch and wind up with only blisters and bruises. When you step out of the phone booth and try to fly and the very people you wanna save are the ones standing on your cape. When your boots will fill with rain and you’ll be up to your knees in disappointment and those are the very days you have all the more reason to say “thank you,” ‘cause there is nothing more beautiful than the way the ocean refuses to stop kissing the shoreline no matter how many times it’s sent away.

You will put the “wind” in win some lose some, you will put the “star” in starting over and over, and no matter how many land mines erupt in a minute be sure your mind lands on the beauty of this funny place called life.

And yes, on a scale from one to over-trusting I am pretty damn naive but I want her to know that this world is made out of sugar. It can crumble so easily but don’t be afraid to stick your tongue out and taste it.

“Baby,” I’ll tell her “remember your mama is a worrier and your papa is a warrior and you are the girl with small hands and big eyes who never stops asking for more.”

Remember that good things come in threes and so do bad things and always apologize when you’ve done something wrong but don’t you ever apologize for the way your eyes refuse to stop shining.

Your voice is small but don’t ever stop singing and when they finally hand you heartache, when they slip war and hatred under your door and hand you hand-outs on street corners of cynicism and defeat, you tell them that they really ought to meet your mother.

You can find this new book by one of my favourite poets here: http://bit.ly/K_Bhbg

Or you can find it at any of these booksellers:
IndieBound: http://bit.ly/K_Bib
B&N http://bit.ly/k_Bbn
Amazon: http://bit.ly/K_Baz

My In-Case-Of-Emergency Person is Leaving

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Going through the envelope of documents my sister left for me in the passenger seat of her old car (my new car), I could not help feeling a rush of emotion. She was so organized. The car was spotlessly clean, of course,  with a full tank of gas, of course. The envelope contained all relevant ownership docs, service records, transfer docs, even a traveler’s prayer. She gave me her moon key-chain too.
Today she leaves with her baby for a new life abroad. My mother, who also lives abroad, has been here for the past week, in order to fly back with my sister today.
While I am 100% supportive of the move and very happy for my sister and nephew, I can’t help but feel lonely. I know I have many cousins here who I am close enough to, but my sister is leaving.
I know we will skype and keep in touch on whatsapp, and we will visit each other when it’s possible,  but my sister is leaving.
She grounds me. She has grounded me the most throughout this past year. And not in the form of a shoulder for my sober journey woes, but as a sounding board, fellow philosopher / psychologist, clown, ocd partner in crime, and trusted friend. We talk every day even if it is just to touch base. We get each other. We understand each other’s histories, motivations and wishes. I was in the delivery room with her when my nephew was born three years ago. When I quit drinking a year ago, it was because she forced me to face the demon. While this past year has been wonderful and growth filled for me, it has been a year of struggle and frustration for her. I endeavoured to remind her to see life’s beauty and to always have hope. We are a pair. And my sister is leaving today. 😦

Update:

Thanks for all the support friends. I am doing much better. My sister and I have been keeping in contact and we are both adjusting nicely. I do miss her, especially this last week as my ex and I have been talking about our recent break-up. But I am looking at this experience as an opportunity to learn how to become more self-reliant. I’m okay. Hugs to all.