We all have lessons to share, thru the stories from our past. The lessons have value, the stories do not. So it is with hesitation that I will share my stories, with the intent that you will glean the meaning from the lessons.
For those who saw the Movie "The Big Fat Greek Wedding", it serves as a fairly accurate backdrop of the "noise" I recall from childhood. While I am 3/4 Italian and only 1/4 Greek, it captures the family dynamics of love and angst - with the demands to live up to cultural expectations of how and when to marry and move through life, respecting elders. I followed none of the expectations, though I did get roped into a larger than intended wedding at barely the age of 19. Later I delivered the family shame of divorce as I turned legal at only 21. I was 42 before committing again to marriage, having missed the window of opportunity for the large Catholic Italian family that would have met with familial praise.
What have you done under the pressure to please? Seriously, we had an oversize guest list to make Mom happy. Every Mother dreams of her daughter's starlit wedding and the pats of approval for her birthing and raising a princess. I look back now at how beautiful a bride I made, but felt none of it then, riddled with insecurities. Hormones took center stage and I was zeroed in on sex without judgment. In that time and place, this meant Daddy's blessings, counseling by a new young priest clueless on relationships, and a shindig harrowing to the shy young bride. Living together without marriage never crossed our Catholic conditioned minds as a possibility.
Second only to sex, was my desire for babies. Not grown up costly, disrespectful kids, just cute cuddly babies. Disregard the fact that my groom expressed no interest in rug-rats. Did I expect to change his mind? I really don't recall what I was thinking - and suspect there was no thinking at all. No worries, the pre-marital counseling prescribed by the Catholic Church would surely resolve the dilemma. And there it was, explicitly directed in our session with the newly ordained priest at The Shrine: "Do you both commit to raise your children in the Catholic Faith?" Yes! Of course said I." Then without any sign of obligatory Catholic guilt, my fiancee says "I don't want children". Holy crap! In this vestibule of sanctity I expected he will be struck by lightening. Or at least a serious reprimand from Father Ed. But nothing. Worse than nothing. With only two weeks until our vows, the Priest says "you will work this out with time. Well, I gave it approximately two years - with no forward progress. We loved each other, but with zero concept of how to talk without defensiveness, we quickly compromised our way out of the marriage. Have you ever wanted to please someone so much that you second guess what they want, disregarding your own desires? We both did so daily. And now I see how far explicit communication, adapted to our differing MO's, would have gone.
Chalk this wedding up as my greatest episode of denial of every spark of intuition firing in my brain. I could have cancelled the wedding and returned gifts, but oh how I loved the treasures. Especially Aunt Mamie's hand painted casserole - used only on Thanksgiving and taking an entire shelf to store. Finally I have even let that go - to someone who will love it. I'm thankful for the wonderful time we did have together, and baffled that he then quickly remarried a woman who had a child. Wow, those little things in life are ouchies. And confusing. But, the fact is, we don't always get to know the answers to every "why?". We do get to embrace the perfect sequence of our lives.
"Everything happens for a reason", he says. And it did. Jim Antonopulos, my Father, was the quietest Man I've ever known, then he says something this simple and profound to me. He told me he is quiet to allow Mom to talk so much - and because he had only one vocal cord. His right side was left paralyzed following removal of a brain tumor, when I was only three years old. I only knew the quiet man. My Sisters and Brother knew the Businessman, Athlete, Hunter that he was before the 1957 surgery that left him long in a coma. Mom was barely 40, with 5 children and now a husband in rehab. Every one of her children has a completely different memory of those years.
As life marches forward, at an alarming pace, I continue to look backward to the patterns that don't serve. It is amazing how many decades they have crossed. While life is more fulfilling now than ever, there remains a mountain of molehills to be cleared. Forgiveness of myself, God and others is ongoing. Gratefulness for the amazing journey this has been is immense. And all the credit goes to Jim & Clara. I do so Love my parents, and recognize what a gift we all had in them. - Pam
Waking in dis-comfort, throughout this long night, I have added a layer of self judgment. Since my teens, episodes have been triggered by food, chemical, stress and sound sensitivities. Great wellness teachings, yoga, nutrition have controlled the responses, but occasionally an un-stable day presents itself.
This is not setting a good example, having committed to using my own transformed life as the bedrock of the ATAP offerings. First and foremost, I believe in the power of language. I will now sling hyphenated words at an unusual pace, in the erasure of our dis-empowering terms. (Fade out: Pain-Fear-Hate-Angry, Replace with dis-comfort-no faith, really really dis-like, very very un-happy) Negative affirmations are OK in my book - so long as attached to empowering words. It is my experience that the universe/God/Force Field (you choose) ignores the have nots. "I'm not as well as I would like" attracts wellness. I'm not sick, attracts sick.Call me un-stable if you don't see the logic. Do it and see. Who said it? Do, or don't do. There is no try.
Even in the best of lives, we experience the hurdle of moments. News that uproots our grounding, as occurred yesterday from a friend. How we deal with those challenges will improve - and regress throughout our lives. Take note of what does, and does not work, specifically for you. Expand your mind to allow new possibilities for a better outcome, when it seems no doors remain open. For those who live in deep faith, turning challenges to higher powers of God is a response that supports good health. Even then, when a loss is too great to bear or a dis-comfort too intense to ignore, we dance with demons of un-certainty in our mind.
As I write these words, the morning cries of disappointment by a neighbor's toddler are piercing the calm sunrise. I am envious. A loud sobbing wail about now (by me) would really clear the air. Tears would be cathartic. But they don't come easily after a lifetime of "chin up" and "be strong". Yeah, orgasms are a great wellness prescription. But it is a different clearing to reach into the depths of un-happiness, sorrow, and accept that we do not have the wherewithal to fix every in-justice.
Advances in science make it possible to test and predict with pinpoint accuracy the type, location and source (in the body) of cancers. Yet there is little advance in cancer prevention since my Mother's diagnosis in the 60's. New tests even predict probability of recurrence and metastasis (spreading to other organs). Some Doctors, with all good intent - and often pressure from the family, still offer a prognosis timeline for survival. Our minds are powerful, and the majority of patients will comply and pass away on schedule - some precisely to the day. Is this serving us well?
My dilemma today is this certainty in my heart, that our friend has the ability to beat the prognosis delivered to her yesterday. I know this. I am sending healing prayers. Yet I feel power-less to ease this new layer of trauma for her.
Our Western medicine approach is rarely faith based. "If you don't do this, you may not live". "When you follow these treatments, there is the possibility of these side effects". The placebo effect is validated - wellness follows our belief in a pill or therapy, even when the healing agents are absent. The nocebo effect is just as real, but rarely discussed. That is, the patient's info flyer full of possibilities...un-healthy side effects, actually has the power to influence a patients reactions and anxiety at un-safe levels. Does this mean ignore the warnings? Well, no, but do take on the belief that these are suggestions for someone else, not you. You are perfect. You are well. -Pam
Writing to you, knowing how unique our viewpoints may be. When resisting, ask yourself "What Else is Possible?". My experience and personal truth in any moment is just that - mine for you to consider. All Things are Possible - ATAP