Friday, July 14, 2017

The Glass Jar

As I continue along this Dark-Night-of-the-Soul/Twin Flame journey of self-discovery, self-awareness, or whatever it is, I recently had an epiphany. Or maybe it was just an idea. 

The articles I’ve read and online support groups I follow regarding DNotS/TF journeys all suggest one thing; as difficult and painful this journey through the Darkness is, it will end. And there are moments of Light while on the journey. "We can’t appreciate the stars without the darkness.” That’s true. The stars are out during the day, we just can’t see them until darkness falls. After all, there's too much sunlight during the daytime.

I once attended a community event at the Griffith Park Observatory in Los Angeles, where amateur astronomers had set up their telescopes. Many were focused on where the moon would soon be rising, but one gentleman had his telescope pointed in an entirely different direction. He asked me if I wanted to see Saturn. Now this was late in a summer afternoon, approximately 4:30, so the sky was still quite blue. Sure enough, I was able to see Saturn-rings and all-through the telescope in a bright afternoon sky. We just don’t think of the stars and planets being out there during the day, but they are. We can't appreciate them until we can see them. For ourselves. We just trust they're there.

So, I should appreciate those moments of light I do see while surrounded by the Darkness. Or, conversely, I should appreciate the Darkness, because it reminds me the light is always there, even if it is temporarily obscured. Maybe both points are equally valid.

Many comments on these articles and groups suggest the readers and members are afraid of the Dark Night. Yet, a few commenters reply that without the night we will never truly find our Authentic Self. We must go through the Dark to find the Light. “It’s always darkest before the dawn"; "Every night has its day", etc.

So, I will get through this and emerge on the other side. And all will be better.

I recently had a down day. I have been learning to trust that the Universe will assist me in securing what I need for my greater good. Plus, I’ve been learning to surrender to the what is. And I felt I was in great place in my trust and surrendering. I've been trying to remain positive regarding a complicated situation, hoping it would work out for my greater good. After all, I had seen many, many signs and synchronicities supporting my hopes and beliefs. Then, I came across something that brought me down; and, all of a sudden I was filled with doubt. Darkness filled me once again. But, I was able to catch myself before I sank into a full-blown depression again. I simply allowed myself to be down without attaching to it. I was able to acknowledge where I was, what I was feeling/experiencing. This incident simply reminded me that I am human. I may try to live trusting that everything will work out for the best, even if the “best” isn’t what I perceive it to be for me. My marriage failed, and I’ve come to realize it has been the best thing for me. So, it did work out for the best, even if I didn’t think so at that time. But, I also have to face the fact that I am human and am subject to those pesky, but necessary, emotions. And they will be with me forever.

So, I have decided to embrace this Dark Night stuff.

Many psychologists speak of our Darkness, our “shadow self”-that part of us that we don’t like to acknowledge; our deepest fears and those ‘negative, undesirable’ traits and we all possess. These are the subconscious traits that can lead us into trouble. Someone who has been cheated on a few times might project that onto any future relationship. Someone who has been the victim of abuse might project a feeling of unworthiness onto themselves. In order for us to heal and make better, healthier decisions, we need to honor our own Darkness, or shadow selves.

I don’t necessarily mean just honor it and know that it’s there. No. I mean embrace it, and maybe address it in a way that it is somewhat controlled, but not invisible.

I’m going to put my Darkness in a little glass jar somewhere in my mind. I’m going to set that jar on a shelf and let it be. I may take it down, look at it, and return it to it’s place on the shelf. Because if I hide the jar in a closet, or drawer, I might forget it is there and get a shock when it springs out unexpectedly. If, however, it is in a glass jar and visible, I can still see it, observe it and know it’s ever present. And I can keep my eye on it. 

If I put it in a can or a box, I might forget what is inside and just ignore it, likewise forgetting what is in there. But a glass jar is transparent, I can see the Darkness in the jar. (I’m kind of picturing it as a misty blue fog. I don’t know where that image came from, but it works for me.)

While making a mental image of the jar and storing it on a mental image of a shelf in a corner of my mind is indeed an acknowledgement of my Darkness, it's still a bit abstract.

But, what if it weren't abstract? What if it truly existed? What if it were actually on a shelf in my house? What if I wrote down those Dark qualities I'm working on and how I turned them around? 

For example, I recently stood in line behind an elderly couple in a casual ethnic restaurant. It became apparent they had never been in before and had lots of questions regarding the food. And being elederly, they had health concerns: cholesterol, sodium, foods they can't or shouldn't eat. I'm hungry, I want to order, they're indecisive. I'm impatient. I have two choices here: 1) allow the impatience to build, then frustration sets in, and my mood alters and I get upset thereby having a worse afternoon; or 2) recognize they are in a new place and allow them their time to make the choice appropriate for them. They are elderly, I'm on my way there, and I can give them the respect they deserve at this time in their lives. I chose to accept the situation as it is; after all, I can't change it. Why allow something to affect me that I have no control over?

If my jar were set up, I then could go home and write down a brief note for my jar: "Today I chose patience over impatience when I was in the restaurant behind the indecisive elderly couple. I had no control over their actions, but only of my reaction to the situation." Or something like that.

I'd just have to keep up on it.

And learn to recognize when the Darkness is creeping in on me and how to turn it around in the moment.

This could prove very empowering.

Or, at the very least, enlightening.

Saturday, July 8, 2017

Judgments vs. Assumptions

We all make judgments and assumptions about others. But what exactly is the difference? And I'm not talking about legal judgments, either. 

To me, a judgment carries an emotional connection/reaction whereas an assumption is based on supposed evidence or experiences in the life of the one making the assumption. I think of it as a heart vs. mind matter; judgments are made from the heart, assumptions from the mind.

In thinking about this blog, I am reminded of a story arc in an episode of one of my favorite shows, Friends. One of the characters, Phoebe, is dating two men; Vince is a firefighter while Jason is a kindergarten teacher. Through the development of the arc, we get all the traditional comments about hunky firemen and their lack of sensitivity. We also see the sensitive side of the teacher as he comments on how wonderful it is to make an impact on a child’s life. Phoebe decides that a sensitive man is better in the long run, and chooses to break up with Vince. He doesn’t take it well, says he has more to share and sulks off to write in his journal. Phoebe then decides to break up with Jason, as she has just discovered Vince’s sensitive side which is now an added bonus to his “burliness.” She then goes to break up with Jason, who is working shirtless in his apartment when she walks in. He turns around revealing washboard abs and a nicely developed chest.

Assumptions usually lead us to making difficult and often regrettable decisions. And we all know what happens when we assume.

I remember a judgment I’d made as a teacher. One day, a new student was brought to my second-grade classroom. She had long, brown unkempt hair, a dirty pink sweatshirt, and a torn skirt. My heart went out to her because of her appearance. Her sense of unease suggested a lack of schooling, and my teacher-heart told me I’d probably retain her. Yes, I judged her based on her appearance and behavior, all in the first five minutes of meeting her.

She entered the room and I found a place for her to sit. In the diagnostic tests I administered to all new students, she did indeed test very low for a second grade student. Throughout the remainder of the year, she continued to struggle with basic concepts she should have mastered in Kindergarten or first grade. It seems my initial judgment was correct. Perhaps it was also based on experience, plus I did feel a sadness for her at my first impression.  So, I began the procedures for retaining her.

I also recently made an assumption while out grabbing a bite for lunch.

I entered the establishment and, while waiting in line to order, I quickly scanned the crowded dining room. This was a ‘fast-casual’ place where you order at the counter, they give you a number and then bring your order to your table. As I scanned for a place to sit, preferably inside as it was a very warm afternoon, I rested my eyes on a very handsome man. He had a full, dark brown, neatly trimmed beard, very broad shoulders and chest which stretched the t-shirt he was wearing.  He also had cantaloupe sized biceps. So, he obviously worked out. A baseball cap rested on his head and he appeared to be in his mid- to late-30s. He was seated with a group of men, so it appeared they were on their lunch break. 

I feel that some of the assumptions I made were justified-the size of his chest, shoulders and biceps were clear indications he worked out. The time of day, approximately 12:30, and the busyness of the restaurant clearly indicated a lunch rush was on. He wasn’t alone, so he was probably on a lunch break with his co-workers who seemed more involved in their conversation than he was. 

However, I also made some assumptions about him that were not necessarily justifiable. Yes, I was drawn to him based on his appearance, but I also came to the conclusion that 1) he probably wasn’t gay, and 2) if he were, he probably wasn’t the sensitive type.

Let me explain. First, I can’t be completely sure he wasn’t gay. My gaydar has been so broken lately, it’s not funny. But, it was just a feeling I had. Just because a man works out doesn’t make him one way or the other. There are plenty of straight men who are bodybuilders, too. But, very few of my gay friends wear baseball caps. His being rather withdrawn from the conversation with his co-workers doesn't define his orientation, but gay men are usually a bit more animated than he appeared to be. Plus, my experience with muscle men has been that they aren’t as sensitive as I like my men to be and they seem to be after just one thing. 

I'll never be sure about Muscle Man, as I’ll probably never run into him again because I rarely head down to where that restaurant is. So, I’ll just let it all go for now.

As for Phoebe, both guys ended up dumping her.

As for my student, I discovered she’d already been retained once, so I could not retain her again. I can only hope that somewhere, somewhen, everything clicked for her.

Thursday, June 15, 2017

Detaching or Letting Go?

Many of us talk about letting go and detachment. But, what is the difference? Or, is there one?

I believe there is.

Neither is ever easy. I’m finding it very hard to learn how to detach or let go, whichever it is, and more so in certain areas of my life.

But, one particular area has taught me the difference and one strategy that can help. 

And that is my classroom.

I often have a very difficult student who loves to push buttons, test limits, etc. and in most cases I can remain calm and not escalate the situation. Later, that student may need help and I need to be there for him or her all the while forgetting what had transpired earlier. I am detached. I am not letting the past influence the present moment. Have I forgotten what transpired? No, because I often need to write down anecdotal records for parent/teacher/student conferences.

At the end of a school year, I dismiss the class for the last time and we all head to a nice summer break. I let them go into their future like balloons into the air. Gone, but not necessarily forgotten. Well, I can't actually remember any particular balloon I've lost, but I can recall certain students I've taught.

In terms of letting go of a situation or a person, it no longer affects us. It is gone. 

Yet, detaching and letting go is often harder in other situations. Take families/friends and politics/religion. In some instances, I can sometimes detach when a friend expresses a different point of view on a political or religious matter. In other areas, it's not so easy. Yes, we are all entitled to our opinion and the right to express it. But, when it comes down to my civil rights, my safety or possibly my life, I feel I must speak up. I find it difficult to accept a point of view which subjects or subjugates others to a lesser state. Aren't we all human? Don’t we all deserve the same rights? Doesn't "We the People" mean everyone?

The current political situation is unlike any other in my lifetime.

Tensions are high and beliefs are deep. Things have been said which have stirred long-held yet, submerged feelings. Friends, colleagues and even family members have found themselves even more divided across a political chasm. How do we move on from here?

I tried expressing my points of view over various aspects of this political circus. If I felt the person listened to me, I felt successful even if they didn’t agree with me, and still chose to vote against what I believed. Yes, it was harder when it involved something like same-sex marriage or LGBTQ rights because it did affect me directly. 

But, I learned one important thing which also stems from my career as a teacher. 

I can do everything to make a lesson relevant, interesting, focused, engaging, and fun. If the student isn’t ready to “get it,” the student won’t. If I express my point of view, and the listener isn’t ready to understand my side, they won’t.

I once taught a student in fifth grade who was a good kid. He was bright, articulate and enjoyed language arts. He struggled in math, but was still determined to try. I tried my best with him, but he never managed to get better than average grades. I later ran into him at the middle school where he came running up to me with a recent math test (Algebra, no less) shouting, "Mr. Ballam, I got a 96%!" I may not have been the best teacher for him for math, but he did get it later on.

And I have to be okay with that, and with the fact I, at least, tried. 

So, maybe I’m not the right messenger for that particular recipient. Or, the time is not right for the recipient to "get it."

And sometimes it still hurts. Especially when the topic is important to me.

A colleague was very supportive of me after my divorce and openly expressed her desire for me to find a new partner, but she drew the line at the 'sacred rite of marriage.' The 1,100+ Federal Benefits that accompany those two words, "I Do," didn't seem to faze her. I knew my argument would go nowhere. You can only hammer a nail into a fence so far before the nail can go no further and any further hammering would be fruitless. I had to detach from her as we still needed to work together. 

So, I tried to focus on where I felt I could be more successful.

And that helps me detach from other difficult moments.

Like these:

I've recently had many people tell me that I should get a dog. Or how much I need a cat. Or perhaps a roommate. Or that I shouldn’t eat this or that. I simply thank them for their concern and go about my business.

Because only I know my life, my path, my situation, myself.

Yet, I know where they are coming from.

I am truly grateful that they care.

Thursday, April 13, 2017

Journeys or Chapters?

Some people say life is a journey.

Others say life is a book.

I say it's a matter of perspective.

Sometimes I feel like I'm walking along a path in a forest wilderness experiencing all that happens around me.

Sometimes I feel like I'm done with this adventure and ready for a new one. And I change the scenery-maybe a nice quiet walk along the California coast.

Changing the scenery sounds refreshing, something new and different to see.

Or sometimes I feel like a chapter in my life is coming to an end and it's time turn the page and see what's in store for me.

A new chapter sounds like something exciting and different is about to happen, maybe something unexpected-a plot twist.

And that's exactly what I feel is happening in my life-a major plot twist.

Lately I've been paying attention to many signs around me, signs pointing to the importance someone is playing in my life. I've come to realize that I've also been ignoring other types of signs in a different area of my life and suddenly I'm beginning to accept that I need to do something about that.

So, I am.

There's one relationship where I haven't felt as fulfilled lately. (That's one indication something is wrong.)

So, I tried making changes to be a better me. (They haven't worked as well as I would have liked or hoped.)

I feel I have overstayed my welcome. (Indication number two.)

I haven't known what to do, or felt comfortable letting go. (Number three.)

But, I also felt financially and emotionally insecure to be on my own.

In the end, I realized I had to do what is right for me, so I have decided to take that step.


I am announcing my retirement from teaching.

It has been 34.5 years since I stood in front of a class. I have taught grades 1-6, all in the same school in the northeast corner of Los Angeles, about 15 miles out of downtown LA. I have seen many changes over the years, some good, some not so good. And many were downright questionable.

In those many years I have also seen children change, either in my classroom, or during their years at my school. Some changed for the better, some did not. I saw some in need of encouragement and I offered it. I saw some who changed later on, and came back to thank me. I have taught gifted students and some who have yet to discover their gifts.

And, unfortunately, there are those whose lives ended all too soon.

The children of today are not the same as when I first began. While there are indeed good students, the disrespect shown to us by students as young as six is appalling. A colleague once told me she has first grade students who roll their eyes at her-boys as well as girls. And they see nothing wrong with it. Respect for teachers and the school has dropped tremendously.

Parents, too, have changed. It seems this latest generation expects more from the school than my generation did. Schools are now expected to be social service providers, in addition to educators. Many parents ask for help when needed, but some demand it. Others feel entitled to it.

Teaching is not a profession you leave at the office. Teachers are mentally planning all day long. Even at home. Papers often come home to grade when the school closes for the day. (Besides, its more comfy to grade in pajamas, with your feet up, shoes off, and enjoying a glass of something you might get in trouble for at school.)

The last few years have been hard as we were asked to do more with less. Things began to change, and the situation improved. But, the winds are shifting. And they seem ominous.

All of this has taken its toll on me.

That, and getting older.

As well as the other developments in my life.

It's been a difficult decision to make, yet I feel confident I've made the right choice.

And I know the Universe will support me, as it's all for my greater good.

That's what the signs tell me.

Sunday, April 9, 2017

Synchronicities 6

As I share my experiences with the synchronicities (the repeated sets of numbers, 1111, 444, etc.) I’ve been seeing on clocks, on billboards, in phone numbers, on license plates, or as addresses, a few of my friends have asked, “Haven’t those numbers always existed?”

Well, yes and no.

The time appears on clocks only twice a day, once in the a.m. and again in the p.m. Billboards do get changed from time to time. And it depends on where I encounter the phone number, which may appear on a billboard, a receipt, in my caller ID, or when written down by someone. 

So, yes, they have always been in existence, just not in my line of sight.  

“So, if they’ve always existed, why are you seeing them now?”

I don’t know. I think it’s like reading a book, or seeing a favorite movie-for a second, third or fourth time. You pick up on things you may have missed before, a detail you weren't ready to see.

And they just seem to happen to me. I can’t control when they appear. For example, I recently made a purchase totaling $22.25. Within twenty minutes, a car with 222 on the license plate passed me on the freeway, which in turn, was followed by a big rig truck with 2222 contained in its Department of Transportation number on the cab door.

I can't control that I wake up in the middle of the night, glance at my clock and see 2:22, or 3:33. Or that I check my phone during the day at 11:11.

I couldn't control the time that the last three numbers on my odometer matched the last three numbers of the license plate in front of me, and five miles later matched the last three on the plate next to me. (Twice in five miles?)

I couldn’t control the time when a car pulled up alongside the car in front of me, to see the last three numbers on both their license plates matched, only to have the second car speed off and another speed up to ride parallel to the car in front of me, only to have their license plates also share matching numbers. (Three matching license plates in the space of about five minutes?)

For me, just seeing the numbers isn’t the biggest question I have, it’s the timing, and the quantity. And then there are the other coincidences. 

I couldn't control that I dreamt of meeting a certain celebrity I strongly admire, only to have her name appear in my daily crossword puzzle the very next day when others have appeared at least twice in the five months I’ve been doing this daily puzzle. (Oh, and I rarely remember my dreams.) 

I couldn't control the time a colleague and I were trying to figure out what a certain insect was when the Los Angeles Times ran an article the next day explaining what they actually were. We were both wrong, by the way.  But that doesn't matter, the timing of the article caught my eye, along with the timing of these other "coincidences."

I usually stop for coffee to keep me awake, and therefore alive, during my long commute home. It’s a two mile drive from my work to my favorite Starbucks. One day, I counted six sets of triple numbers in that short drive. And then another six on my longer drive home. Curiously, the only digit I didn’t see that afternoon was a 5. But, it later turned up in my solitaire game when my total points were 15,550! 

I had an epiphany the other day. Not about these numbers, but about something else.

I may have mentioned, once or twice, that I have met someone I believe is my Twin Flame. We are in separation now, meaning we aren't together or in communication. I've come to the decision I will not settle for a relationship that doesn't offer the depth of connection he and I once shared. I admit that every relationship is different and I can't expect to find someone exactly like him. But to settle for a relationship where the connection isn't as strong, yet the relationship itself may be more stable does not appeal to me. I need that depth. Right after I had this epiphany, and realized that it was actually coming from a form of self-love which all seemed to make perfect sense to me, immediately a car pulled up next to me with its license plate ending in 555! I took it as an affirmation of my self-acceptance. 

The latest in the line up of synchronicities has been birthdates. And three in particular seem to jump out at me-mine, my mother’s and, not surprisingly, that of the man I believe to be my Twin Flame.

I have given up trying to figure out what it all means, or I would drive myself crazy. Trust me, I’ve been very close. The sheer volume and timing of these coincidences suggest, to me anyways, that something greater than anything currently on this planet is trying to get my attention. Believe me, they have it.

I’ve come to believe it is all an affirmation that I am moving towards my greater good.

I’ve come to believe I must trust that this is a hand being held out to me by the Universe as it leads me through this change in my life. 

I’ve come to believe I’m entering, or have entered, the Dark Night of the Soul.

I’ve come to believe there will be a New Dawn.

So, maybe that’s why I'm seeing them now.

Sunday, March 12, 2017

A Fable

Once there was a young kayaker. He eagerly anticipated each and every journey along the various riverways he traveled. He savored the rushing sounds of the rapids, the tranquil moments of the smooth waters. He strengthened his skills when encountering stronger, difficult currents, regaining his breath in the calmer stretches.  Every river was a different adventure, a challenging experience.

He continued to kayak for many years. He approached each new river, or each river he had previously traveled, as a new and different learning experience though he used the same skills to navigate different rapids, different curves. Some trips had higher water levels due to a denser snowpack. Other times were not so plentiful. He learned to appreciate the different scenery along each riverbank; towering forests, majestic canyons, open deserts, grassy plains, all beautiful terrains. 

In time, the rivers seemed to grow stronger. He felt he battled longer and didn't get any further, though that wasn't really true. Sometimes, he felt as if he were paddling upstream, when indeed he wasn't. The rivers seemed to be fighting him, pushing against him-even in the calm stretches.  Each journey seemed to exhaust him more than before. He sadly realized he no longer enjoyed kayaking as much as he used to.

On his last trip home, as he unpacked his gear, storing it neatly in his garage, he knew. He had made the right decision. 

While he knew he would miss it, he accepted his decision to give up kayaking. Yet, he eagerly looked forward to finding a new interest, a new hobby, a new adventure.

Sunday, March 5, 2017

Dark Night

They say you should be kind to everyone because you do not know what they are going through.

If you only knew what is going on in my head and heart right now.

My emotions have been on a roller coaster lately. There are days it takes everything not to scream out of frustration. Yet, I can't pinpoint what is frustrating me so much. There are moments I want to collapse in a sobbing heap. Yet, I can't figure out what is making me want to cry.

I experience bouts of extreme fatigue which I think only adds to the frustration and sadness.

There are times I just want to stay home and avoid people altogether, but I remember I have a job and also need to run errands; grocery shopping and teaching definitely involve other people.

Then there are times where I am feeling better and ready to get on with life.

And I can't pinpoint what is causing all this. Perhaps it's simply the current Venus Retrograde while the Sun is in moody, emotional Pisces. But, that just began. My roller coaster has been going on a bit before Venus turned on us.

Or, perhaps it's something bigger.

They say everyone experiencing spiritual awakening goes through a Dark Night of the Soul-a shedding of old beliefs, thoughts and behaviors to prepare for a higher level of consciousness; a separation of the Ego from the Soul. That may be where I am now. I thought I had gained some understanding or some comprehension of all of the synchronicities I'd been experiencing which led me to a positive revelation. I thought it signified that a reunion with my Twin Flame was in the works, but then I went into a panic-what if he really did come back? After realizing I was not ready for or even wanting a relationship (for now), the thought of him possibly coming back made me begin to question what I really wanted. What was I ready for? What did I really, truly want? I don't know. True, he's let me down, and I accept that he wanted and needed to find out about himself as he told me he wasn't ready. He was too young. Now I realize that if he does come back, the possibility exists that he will let me down again and that triggered an avalanche of negative feelings toward many people and areas in my life; dating post divorce and after this particular break-up has been extremely disheartening, friends have recently let me down, blood family also has let me down time after time after time. I can only keep opening the door to these people so many times before grabbing a hammer, some nails and several sturdy 2x4s and nailing that fucking door shut!
I find that constantly putting my faith, trust and happiness in other peoples' hands has only lead to distrusting, to being guarded, to being closed to anything because they keep dropping it. So, why should I bother? The only person I can fully rely on is myself. Aha! Maybe that's the lesson, or at least one of them, that I'm to learn in this long Dark Night.

I realize all of this confusion and unlearning of past behaviors is an important part of the Dark Night of My Soul. And it seems to have been triggered about the time I met this young man I believe to be my Twin Flame.

The Journey of the Twin Flames is characterized by tremendous growth-both emotional and spiritual, leading to the healing of deep core wounds-abandonment issues, self-esteem issues, self-love issues, among others, because the Twin Flame is the mirror you see yourself in, all the bits and pieces, both good and bad. Therefore, the Twin Flame Journey is more about oneself, than the joining of the two. It is possible, and sometimes happens, that Twin Flames do not end up together because one, or both, of the parties is not yet ready to handle the intensity of their own healing in order for the relationship to flourish, therefore leaving one of the Twins in a kind of limbo.

This Dark Night of My Soul seems to be lasting a long time, like an Arctic Winter night. But, shedding such beliefs, thoughts and behaviors can't be rushed. And, as they say, it's harder to teach older dogs new tricks.

But, they also say, every night has a dawn.

Even an Arctic Winter one.

And, I'd like to add, "take no shit."