Maribeth Doerr

Shades of Healing ~ Creating a Wholehearted Life

My own brand of beauty

Bi2Right after Christmas, my local Barnes & Noble ditches the Christmas stuff and puts up a big display of diet books.  I know most stores and magazines do this since so many people start off the New Year wanting to lose weight.  The irony is this display always sits next to the Valentine’s display (you do want to lose all that weight to look sexy by Valentine’s right?) and includes lots of their Godiva chocolate gift boxes.  Starve yourself with diets but be sure to buy the chocolate to soothe yourself when you throw the worthless diet book away.

Now that it’s March, the display has moved to another part of the store (but still close to the front) and the sign reads “Diet and Nutrition” but there is NO book in the display that concerns itself with nutrition.  Not. One.

Why is our society so bent on eating everything it wants and then trying insane diets to lose weight?  I’m not pointing fingers.  Until I lost 55 pounds in my chronic illness of 2012, I was a yo-yo dieter.  I was thin in my teens until 35.  Then yo-yo’d for 15+ years.  I can trace my body image issues back to two major things.  The one I want to address today is  my mom’s persistent criticisms of my appearance.

My mother seemed to find fault with my appearance for most of my life.  She used to take great delight in telling me that my old aunties came to the house when I was a baby just to see my gigantic thighs.  The first bra she bought me was a padded one because, surely, I must be disappointed in my size.  I didn’t know what cellulite was until she pointed it out on my butt and thighs when I was 16 (I was 5’5″ and 110 pounds so how much cellulite could have been there???).  My dad nicknamed me Grace (because he found me clumsy) and my mom said I was as dainty as an elephant.  The adjective I heard the most often was PLAIN.  I was just simply plain.  Your average Mary, the band geek.

It’s true I was a late bloomer.  My husband wouldn’t have looked twice at me in high school but by 24, he noticed.  He says it was my confidence that attracted him more than anything.  I was supporting myself through some difficult experiences and that awareness that comes from knowing you’re strong enough to survive, take care of yourself and make it in this world was an energy he picked up on.  My mom used to tell me I better “keep myself up” or my husband would dump me.  It’s been 28 years and we’re still together.

Mom didn’t know everything.  Sometimes I think she knew absolutely nothing about me.  I know lots of daughters feel that way about their mothers.  And truly, how much do we really know about them?  What made her criticize her only (and beloved) daughter so much?  I KNOW she loved me.  I could put on my psychologist hat and give you a litany of reasons why she did this.  The bottom line is, it doesn’t matter what her reasons were.  What matters is how I view myself.

I struggled to let go of the crappy stories she filled my brain with, and I finally realized, ironically in the middle of a yoga class, that those gigantic legs are the two parts of my body that have NEVER let me down.  They are amazing with what they put up with!  And guess what?  I AM beautiful.  Perhaps not in the way my mom (or Hollywood) would define beauty, but really, as I said before,  it’s not her (their) story that matters.  It’s MY stories that matter for ME and I can rewrite the bullshit ones.

badassSo a big BOO HOO to those of us who had mothers that criticized.  Want revenge?  Be you, in all your glory, in your own unique brand of beauty.  To hell with magazines that advertise the latest diet craze on their photoshopped covers next to headlines about cookie recipes.  Walk right on by the Barnes & Noble diet book displays and the glam magazines.  Celebrate YOUR curves or your angles or your lines – whatever you’ve got.  Let’s dump the comparison monster and stop judging people for how they look, especially ourselves!

Yeah, I’ve got my own brand of beauty.  And so do you.  It’s called uniqueness.  We’re all unique.  Vive la difference!  My brand celebrates my weirdness; my ability to be big and small, quiet and loud, radiant and dark, all at the same time.  Plain?  Only when I want to be 😉

So go write your own stories.  Show the world your own unique brand of beauty.


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WriteGrief has launched and other less interesting tidbits

Can you believe January is nearly over already?!  It’s raining as I write this, I hear a plunk plunk plunk as it leaks through the ceiling into my office.  But it’s delicious moisture that my area needs so badly to avoid a more serious drought this Summer.  It’s also the new moon and so I’m happy to share something new with you . . .

WriteGrief has launched following WriteGrief for the holidays.  If you enjoy writing or exploring your innermost self and you’re grieving, you’ll find WriteGrief helpful (although, it’s not always easy, it’s not always fun, and I know some of you will call me names with some of these prompts 🙂  It’s okay; I won’t get offended!).  Even if you don’t enjoy writing, these prompts can work for you because you don’t have to be a writer to do them.  In fact, it works  best when you’re NOT fussy about editing and spelling and grammar and all the rules I’ve just abused this sentence.  Letting go and digging deep without regard to grammar or any other rules can make a cloudy merky grief filled mind find clarity as you see your words in black and white.  It’s been a lifesaver for me, and I hope it will be for you as well.

So without further ado, here are the details for WriteGrief over on my Permission to Grieve site:  I am SO excited about finally offering this to you.

What else am I up to?  I am a yoga teacher in training!  Can you believe it – and at my age??  Some days I think I’m totally nuts.  It is my dream, though, to teach yoga to grieving folks and those struggling with whatever it is they’re struggling with.  Grief has such physical symptoms that we don’t realize; we tend to furl up into ourselves hiding our hearts from further pain.  Yoga and movement can help us unfurl, unstress, and connect with your hearts again.  It’s a gentle opening and that is so very healing.  We can learn to breathe with our entire lungs again instead of taking sips of air with the very tops of our lungs.  As you can probably tell, I’m passionate about this and I can’t wait to bring it to you.

Last but not least, a beautiful share from David Gilmour as he sings Shakespeare’s Sonnet 18 . . . Enjoy

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NDEs, Death, Dying, Grief, and Lots of Joy!

I had the privilege of being the guest on Martha Atkins’ inaugural BlogTalkRadio show, Light After Death.  Martha is amazing, and it’s because of her warm loving encouragement that I’m finally able to talk openly about my near death experience in 2004.  I had one of the “non-dramatic” kind that I was embarrassed to talk about because I didn’t think anyone would take me seriously.  It’s not like I was pronounced clinically dead and woke up with a sheet over my head. Many many people have such experiences similar to mine and feel as I did, that no one would take us seriously.

BUT . . . we need to talk about it because the experience has the opportunity to profoundly change us.  For me, I was gifted with the knowledge that my babies who died are still with me, are still my babies, and that they matter . . . and that there really is life after death.

Here’s the interview which runs about 30 minutes.  Even if you don’t listen to the show, bookmark Martha’s show on BlogTalkRadio and become a regular listener.  The more we talk about death, dying and life, the more comfortable our culture will be with it . . . which it makes it so much easier to grieve in compassionate community.  We will ALL (bereaved or not) be healthier for it.  Let’s take it out of the closet!

BlogTalkRadio Show with Martha Atkins

Click the link to listen in. I’d love to hear your comments and your stories.

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Interview with Square-Peg Karen!

I know – it’s been forever since I’ve posted anything.  I AM alive, and it’s been an interesting 2013.  My health is slowly coming back after two surgeries in February, a week long retreat in March, and a new diagnosis of pancreatic insufficiency.  I’m working with that in several ways, and I plan to be back to work July 1.

In the meantime, here’s an interview I did with Karen Caterson of Square-Peg People.  Karen is a hoot and oh so wise.  Our interview was a gigglefest and I hope we get to do it again sometime (with me interviewing Karen!).  I’d be honored if you checked it out and feel free to post a question if you’re so moved.

And thanks Karen! ♥

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Choosing And . . .

I made this video for a class I’m currently taking.  The assignment was simply to tell a story.   The quality of the video was not a factor in the assignment, and as you’ll see, quality it is not 🙂 – but I do tell my story of birth, death, sorrow, joy, the holidays . . . and choosing AND.  It’s really called Wholehearted Living!

Please overlook the bad hair day and the pasty-still-sickly skin, not to mention the poor video quality.  Just listen with your heart. ♥


In This Moment


It’s been nearly four months since I’ve gotten sick.  I am much better than I was two months ago but this is one of those days where the brain fog is thick and everything I eat makes me sick.  EVERYTHING.  I am tired and so frustrated.  Life would be easier if I never had to eat.

It’s so easy to fall into a pit of despair on days like this, when I wonder if I’ll ever be able to function normally again.  Is my brain forever compromised by the summer of medication, painkillers, and anesthesia?  I get cranky that my coping method of comfort food is gone (and it’s a blessing that that coping method is gone but it still makes me C R A N K Y !!!).

And then I wonder . . . can I get curious enough to figure out a plan for days like this?  I’m a creative grief coach; it’s time to get creative!  Can I don my lab coat and just notice without judgment (as Janice Lynne Lundy so wisely advises)?  Yes, well, let’s start with the fact I’m not a bad person for feeling frustrated and whiny over this situation.

I took my new J.K. Rowling novel out to my deck and sat in the sunshine – those last few rays of summer.  But my brain is too foggy to read.  It’s making me more nauseated and the construction noise is distracting.  What can I do in this moment that would make me feel better – another wonderful question Jennifer Louden suggests.

So I took a shower and rubbed lotion on my very dry legs.  That felt so nice.  I stepped onto my yoga mat, but I knew a lot of movement would not be good for the nausea.  I sat down on the mat and breathed deeply.  Eric Klein’s removing obstacles MantraWave flowed into my brain and I breathed . . . coughed (asthma seems to be cranky today too) . . . breathed . . . coughed . . . relaxed . . . breathed . . . breathed . . . breathed . . .

Meeting myself on the mat, right where I’m at, without judgment . . . that’s loving-kindness.  And I’m okay.  Right here in this moment.

I won’t think about the next moment or the one after that.  I won’t think about my filthy house which hasn’t been cleaned since I got sick.  I won’t think about the massive to-do list that is crushing me.  I won’t think about our shaky financial status.  I won’t think about how I’ve failed my business.  I. won’t. think.

Breathe . . .

I’m okay.


Getting REALLY Personal – Cultivating a New Body Image

Mari at 15

Me at 15. I thought I had the fattest thighs on the planet.

Anyone who has known me since before I turned 50 knows I struggled dearly with my body image. It probably started when I was little, and my mom enjoyed telling me stories about the aunties coming to visit us when I was a baby just see the size of my thighs. I know lots of you have similar stories of growing up thinking you were the biggest/fattest kid on the planet. I was the first kid in my fifth grade class to hit 100 lbs (boy or girl!). I can’t remember how tall I was because nobody cared; I weighed 100 lbs that’s all that mattered! When I graduated from high school, I was 5’ 5” and 118 lbs. Yeah, real fat. But those old stories were so embedded in my psyche that my mirror told a different story.

When I was 23, I had an emergency c-section. They had lost the baby’s heartbeat while prepping me and all hell broke loose in the operating room. Suddenly I was being ripped open from navel to pubic bone (I felt it since they hadn’t had time to knock me out yet) and my 9lb 13oz son was born not breathing. He was resuscitated and taken to NICU where he died 5 ½ days later. The incision was long, the baby large and putting the skin back together was messy. Too much skin, not enough space to make a flat scar without the baby to hold it up. It healed, but it looked bad by anyone’s standards. Every time I looked at my body, I saw a scar that was a potent reminder of how I had failed to bring a healthy baby into the world. Losing Mark Adam was my second loss; Andrew was lost at 19+ weeks three years earlier. Not only did I think my body was ugly but I believed it had betrayed me in the worst possible way, twice.

More losses, another baby in NICU (he survived!), a hysterectomy, constantly yo-yoing weight, and in 2004, I nearly died from pancreatitis and a gallbladder infection. More body betrayal. Was I broken or what? I started wearing baggy clothes and forgetting what I looked like naked. It’s not important if you have a guy who loves you, right? (Don’t buy into that, okay? We look good for ourselves, not others, and we also can look bad for ourselves. I was making myself look bad because I thought that’s how it should be.)

As I hit 50, I began to make peace with my body. I think that’s a common denominator for women over 50. Maybe it’s an I don’t give a rat’s ass mindset or maybe it’s just realizing that life is too short to worry about the size of our thighs! It was a VERY slow process for me but it was progress. In February 2012, I started the Creative Grief Coaching Studio’s certification program. One of our “tools” was to create a body image painting (on our body!) and video the process. It was optional but I felt it would be a wonderful opportunity to really make peace with my body. It was amazing! It was truly life-changing, and I don’t say that lightly. I had a huge aha moment at the end (and making the video was fraught with so many technical issues I nearly abandoned the project several times!). I shared my video with my classmates, and they were so incredibly supportive. I am taking a leap by sharing it here with you now which also shows how much I’ve progressed with my body image. Gulp.

This is the video and the password is markadam.  It is a HUGE leap for me to share this video publicly so please be kind. ♥

Since this video was made in March 2012, I have lost over 30 lbs, unintentionally. I posted about my illness here. I was hospitalized again in August, had a surgical procedure on my bile duct, and am doing much better. My intestines and liver were very traumatized by the illness and vomiting for over two months so it’s been a long road to recovery since the surgery. I’m getting there. I still battle nausea and some pain but it’s much better. I’m still detoxing and the medications really do a number on my head. Sometimes I feel like my brain has completely atrophied! I am starting to get some quality sleep finally, which helps immensely with my thinking abilities. I hope to get back to work full-time sometime next week or at least a solid part-time. It will depend on how many mistakes I make the first day 😉

Through this, I thought about body betrayal a little bit.  It used to be such a huge thing in my life and it’s not a surprise that it would pop up again.  With everything else going on, why did I have to lose my health as well?  However, most of the time, I think about how this experience has taught me many things . . .  good self-care, patience with myself and for those who are tired of a very slow me (sorry StorkNetters), that there are ways to comfort myself that don’t involve food . . . I have to eat a rather restrictive diet but I’m learning to accept what a gift that is. I can’t put preservatives or poisons or processed food into my body anymore. My allergies are amazingly better when I don’t consume grains! Who knew?! I’ve been on allergy medication for 30 years and now I don’t need it.  Maybe my asthma will go away in time as well.  I have to be honest though and say I did fight this HARD. I wanted to eat what I wanted when I wanted because food was a comfort and with everything else going on in my life, I felt entitled to that one thing and damned if it wasn’t taken away too!!!! Whine, snivel, moan and COMPLAIN.  When that feeling fires up inside, I’ve learned to sit quietly somewhere and just sit with it – no judgments – just leaning into it a bit (not falling into it mind you). It would seem that feeling just wants to be heard and when I acknowledge it without judgment, it quietly moves off into the sunset. It tends to come back, but I just wash, rinse, repeat . . .

In case you’re thinking I’m lucky to have lost 30 lbs quickly, please don’t. I made a very short video on that too . . . meant to be silly. I can be VERY silly. But, this is also a sign of how I’m learning to embrace my body, bitch-slapping arms and all!

Because I have lost so much muscle with this weight loss, my strength and energy have much to be desired. I started a weekly yoga class to start building back some of that muscle. I do my best to keep up but I also honor where my body is at so I don’t overdo – another exercise in listening to my body and good self-care.  I tend to sleep for two days after a class!  Yesterday while we were in a supported shoulder stand, I looked up at my legs and a few tears started to flow down my cheeks. I was struck by the feeling that I LOVED my body. I’ve NEVER said that to myself – EVER. It was such an overpowering feeling. Despite the losses, scars, illnesses . . . it’s MINE and it has served me well.  It’s a beautiful body, warts and all!

And so is yours!

So please remind me of this post when I forget 😉  I would love to hear your body image stories and how you’ve cultivate love for your beautiful body.  ♥


A New Challenge and Gratitude Revisited

If you’ve followed my blog for the last year (or tried to – I know the postings have been sporadic), you’ve been aware of a very stressful period for my family along with my deep-seated need for gratitude. Now, 12 months since my mother’s death and 8 months since my father’s, I’m finding myself looking towards gratitude with almost a sense of desperation . . . It’s my light, here in the middle of the tunnel, where the end isn’t really in sight yet.

I am still working on closing my parents’ estate. It’s been complicated by many factors that I’ll share at another time. My husband hasn’t earned any commissions since August 2010, and my business income goes down every month. How can a business thrive with such a lack of attention? In short, my family has been caught up in a lot of STUFF that sounds rather like a bad country western song. We ALL have a lot of STUFF from time to time; I’m certainly not unique in that but it’s been a year I don’t care to repeat!

And then when I felt like I was about through that tunnel . . . I woke up one night in mid May feeling like I was having a gallbladder attack. My gallbladder had been removed 8 years ago so obviously that wasn’t the source of the problem. It was painful but I didn’t get sick and it didn’t escalate. I was that way for two weeks. Just as suddenly as it came on, I woke up one fine day with NO pain, NO bloating, and an amazing joyful attitude. I was thrilled because I had planned a little retreat for the upcoming weekend – 4 days and 3 nights on the beach at Lake Tahoe. I haven’t spent more than one night away from home in over 12 years!! Waking up that morning feeling great meant I could really jump into catching up my business work and home chores so I could go on my getaway without any guilt. Oh the cheap thrills that gave me! I started answering emails and updating content, feeling SO productive . . . and then I started to feel some pain. I ignored it and kept working. Within 30 minutes, I was in so much pain I couldn’t sit still. I asked my son to call my husband. By then, I was moaning and starting to cry. By the time my husband got home, I had one terrified son and I was screaming. It’s a good thing the hospital is only 10 minutes away from us when the lights are all green.

I had lots of tests, the doctors had lots of theories which were all disproved by the tests, the massive amounts of medication they gave me irritated my liver and made me sicker, and they sent me home three days later with no diagnosis and a prescription for heavy duty pain medication. It’s been two months, and I’m still having pain attacks followed by days of nausea and vomiting as my body works out the pain medication. It’s a vicious cycle. I haven’t been able to work very much, and that is ruining my little business of 16 years. I feel exhausted and nauseated much of the time while trying to cultivate patience with myself and those who keep nagging me to update this or do that. I’m sorry StorkNetters . . . I’m really doing the best I can and I am SO grateful to the many many of you that understand and tell me to take care of myself first! I’m a staff of one and I don’t have the funds to hire the work out so . . . it is what it is.

That’s a lot of whining and complaining, isn’t it?! And that is why, in the midst of this additional upheaval in my life that I have to remember what’s good. It would be so incredibly easy to get sucked into depression right now. I don’t need that on top of being sick.

To keep me reminded of my gratitude attitude, I decided to take this year’s November gratitude month and make it into a separate website. I had the domain name picked out and when I went back to register it two weeks later, it was taken. So what did I get? What I most need now – healing and gratitude. So sometime this fall, look for! Thinking about and working on this website will help me focus on what’s good in my life, and there are many things.

Truly, there are positive things arising from this challenge as well, and I’ll be talking about them soon. It’s an amazing learning opportunity but I won’t lie – I’d rather not go through this. The pain attacks suck the life out of me, I’ve lost 30 lbs, and not knowing when the next one is coming is scary. I’d rather be caught up with my StorkNet work, starting my creative grief coaching practice and spending time with my family this week enjoying Reno’s Hot August Nights classic car festival. But as I said before, it is what it is and I have a tentative plan as I take my health into my own hands. My business work will all get done at some point. The timing isn’t really up to me so as I cultivate patience for this, thank YOU for being patient with me.

He who knows patience knows peace. ~ a Chinese proverb


The choice is mine

My dad died on December 2, 2011. I was with him as he passed from this world into the next. He struggled and fought hard. I held his hand and told him it was okay to go to Mom. I told him I forgave him for everything and I hoped he forgave me. I combed his hair because he was so very fussy about his beautiful hair; he wouldn’t have wanted to die with messy hair. When he died, his struggle ended; mine gave way to a different struggle, one I will need to walk through in order to heal.

The trauma of Dad’s accident affected him physically and in an elderly person with dementia (even the mild dementia Dad had at the time of his accident), trauma will upset the brain in ways that we cannot fathom. Dementia truly is a terminal disease and it does its deed very insidiously, inch by inch. Physical compromises are not easily seen because we all focus on the mental changes and how to work with those. Trauma ramps up those physical changes which in turn causes serious mental changes which in turn . . . . you get the picture. Trauma can be mental or physical and it might not even look like trauma to a younger person.

In my dad’s case, his trauma started when he lost his wife of 65 years and leaving his home of 20 years. The three months from the time my mom died until Dad’s accident were challenging but we were all adjusting and learning how to live together. We were “growing” into the situation and that is quite amazing for an 87 year old man with mild dementia. He could still learn new things even when he didn’t really want to. It takes a lot of patience and we were just at that point of figuring it out. At the time of his accident, he was settling into his new digs, laughing, eating well, and still enjoying golf three times a week. We’ll never know why he took off in his truck without telling us or where he was going. He did remember his accident and praying someone would find him (he probably laid outside his truck for several hours before anyone saw him in that ravine), but he had no idea why he was where he was.

My parents died 4 months 2 days apart. Mom died two weeks before their 65th wedding anniversary. I believe they were always meant to be together and things are as they should be. This doesn’t mean I don’t grieve. I miss my mother terribly, and I have a lot of challenging thoughts concerning my dad and his hospitalization to process and release. During those first three weeks of his hospitalization, he bit me, slapped me, balled his fists up to punch me several times, threw a filthy bedpan at me, screamed at me constantly, and flipped me off and other assorted hand waves. Even the things he’d say to me in a calm voice were ugly. I’d run home from the hospital and cry, have my own tantrum, or beg my husband to take me to a restaurant where people were laughing and having a good time. I needed to be where there was positive joyful energy!

During Dad’s last week, he had calmed down except for a few hours in the late afternoon when he’d be sick of laying in bed and being restrained (and who could blame that!). This is when his body began to shut down bit by bit. The trauma of being his object of rage changed to being the decision-maker for him and every day was filled with it. In December 1982, I made the decision to terminate life support for my 5 day old baby son. The week before Dad died, I was once again discussing end-of-life options with doctors—and during the holidays. It seemed an impossible choice for my own child, and yet, it was more challenging with my dad. He wasn’t on a respirator, there were no machines breathing for him and he wasn’t brain dead as my son was. Dad was still very much alive and talking to us (and to many people we couldn’t see!). There was no clear cut choice so each little medical decision was discussed with me and I would constantly ask myself what Dad would want. I found his medical directive and that helped a great deal as it took the much of the onus off me; I wasn’t truly making the decisions but speaking for Dad based on his wishes. And yet, not everything was totally written down in that directive so there was a lot of guesswork and assumptions. I hope I assumed correctly Dad . . .

It’s now been 8 months since Mom died and 4 months since Dad died. I am stuck in family trust executor hell. There is so much to do to settle Dad’s bills and legal issues, sell his house in a lousy real estate market, and sort out the extra furniture and “stuff” we acquired when we moved him in with us. Trying to manage his trust has been a comedy of errors, and the way things have worked out, I cannot legally fulfill my parents’ final wishes. This pains me greatly.

Some days I feel those angry thoughts grabbing hold of me and shaking the sense out of my brain. I’m learning to notice this pattern and go with it, rather than against it, remembering to breathe life into my hurting heart and overwhelmed brain. My husband hasn’t had a commission in 20 months. My business has been neglected since Mom died and it shows terribly in my monthly income. My business server went on the fritz yesterday and I will need to spend an entire weekend with an OS reload and reconfiguring my sites. We are on some seriously shaky financial ground. We have health issues, stress issues, and our poor house is falling down around our ears. We’re feeling assaulted on all sides except one . . . we’ve grown closer through this and closer with our sons. It’s a blessing we’ve accepted with full grace because something positive MUST come out of this chaos.

Last week, someone who heard my story of loss for the first time (5 babies, both siblings, both parents 4 months apart) asked me how it is that I’m still standing. This question always surprises me because I don’t think I have a special trick for it. My answer is simply because I CHOOSE to be. It’s a conscious choice I didn’t have a choice in losing those 9 significant people in my life but I have a choice in how I live the rest of my life. I can choose to wallow in self pity or I can choose to remember them with love and joy and incorporate their memories into my life in a loving joyful way. When the difficult feelings consume me as I deal with the family trust mess, I try to remember that my attitude about it can make it easier or harder. I can chronically live in flight or fight mode through this or I can remember to breathe, do what needs to be done, be thankful for my blessings, and keep in mind that this isn’t forever. The choice is mine.


When the Going Gets Tough . . . or How I Became a “Bootstraps” Woman

I think it’s a common denominator for those who have had multiple losses or tragedies to feel as though a Pandora’s Box opens with each new loss/tragedy. No matter how much we resolve or work with our wounds, there is always a bit more healing that needs to be done and these things tend to gather together in Pandora’s Box just waiting until the scab is picked at.

When my mom died nearly six weeks ago, the box opened again but it hasn’t – and won’t – swallow me whole. My Reiki attunements and training have kept me out of the box this time. I’m better equipped to deal with the scab picking and allow healing rather than resisting the waves of emotion. However, when my brother died five years ago, I was swallowed by the box for awhile. I got out of that box, finally, because I’m a bootstraps kind of gal . . .

I spent my teenage years in Wyoming and one of my favorite expressions from that time is when the going gets tough, pick yourself up by the bootstraps. You know those straps on each side of the boot that you use to pull the boot on with? Those are bootstraps and it can take some work to get those boots on – one at a time. When you think you can’t go on, pull on those boots and trudge through the muck to the other side. I became a “bootstraps” woman in 1983, and I’d like to share my story . . .

On December 11, 1982, I gave birth to my second son. My first was premature and stillborn three years earlier so I was naturally scared of losing another. I went nine days overdue before I went into real labor with an infection. Everything went wrong during labor and Mark Adam was severely asphyxiated due to birth trauma. We made the decision to terminate life support which is a horrible decision to make for your own child. Two minutes before the respirator was scheduled to be shut off, Mark died on his own in my brother’s arms; he was 5 1/2 days old.

During the gravesite service, each of my brothers had a hand on the back of my chair. They were shaking so much I was sure I’d fall into the grave with the baby! I was struck by how wrong it was to be burying my own child when he should be burying me. I really wanted to just fall into that hole with him. My mom, who thought she was being helpful, told me I probably wasn’t meant to have children since I’d now lost two.

After the funeral, my family went home (all in different cities and states), and I was alone with my ex-husband who got drunk the day before the funeral and stayed that way. He was a violent drunk at times, and I was too afraid and ashamed to tell my family.

Within nine months after baby Mark died, my ex-husband’s alcoholism (and physical abuse worsened), I was raped by someone I knew, and I had an early miscarriage. The day after the miscarriage, I just didn’t think I had it in me to go on living. It was too much, and my coping skills were non-existent. I was 24 years old, and I just didn’t know how to make it better or go on.

I gave up, called in sick to work and planned my death. After sending my goodbye note as a telegram to the ship my husband was on (he was in the Navy), I hung up the phone with incredible peace and was prepared to do it.

At the exact moment I turned away from the phone, there was a knock at my front door. I was going to ignore it but something in me made me go to the door anyway. I answered it and there stood a co-worker who had heard about my miscarriage. I will never forget the look of concern and compassion on his handsome face.

I should back up and explain that four months earlier, I had started a new job. On one of my first days, I passed by a man in the office courtyard and instantly KNEW without any doubt whatsoever that I would marry him some day. I clearly remember shaking my head and telling myself that that was nuts because I was already married–unhappily so but still married. I later learned that this man worked for the same office and we became friends. It was this co-worker who stood at my door with a single flower in his hand saying he thought I could use a friend. How could he have known?

I let him in and we talked. He let me go on and on and cry my eyes out without trying to fix anything. I felt completely safe which was amazing considering I’d been raped a short time before and my comfort zone with men was nil. He listened and he cared; he cried with me. And I forgot all about my plans to end my life. Why would I want to when there truly was goodness in the world? You see, that was all I needed to know – that there truly is goodness in this world.

I know an angel sent him to me that night – or maybe he’s really an earth angel – and we’ve now been married 25 years.

That was the night I decided to pull myself up by the bootstraps; that was the night I decided to LIVE; that was the night that giving up was no longer an option I cared to entertain.

The way back wasn’t easy . . . I had another miscarriage four months later. I left my ex-husband and telling my family was HARD. There was shame involved. I felt like a failure, but I honestly couldn’t live with someone I was terrified of. I deserved better than that; we ALL deserve better than that. He refused to get help so I had to help myself.

I flunked that semester of college, and I nearly lost my job with so many absences. I decided to stay in San Diego instead of running home to my parents. I worked harder at my job, talked to the Dean at school and got the F’s removed from my record, I found an apartment I could afford which was in a horrible part of town but I survived it, and I worked hard to pay off my share of the bills I got from the divorce (my ex charged thousands of dollars while he was deployed). I started to feel better about myself because I was taking care of myself for the first time EVER. I didn’t need a man to do it for me; I didn’t need my parents to do it for me. Those boots were carrying me through the muck and it sucked while I was doing it but it was the best education in the world. I learned that no matter what, I could take care of myself and that life is absolutely worth living.

So for me, when the going gets tough, I pull out those boots and yank ‘em up by the bootstraps. They carry me through the muck until I get to the other side. They never let me down because they were sent by an angel who knew my shoe size. 😉 They’ve carried me through losing both of my brothers, some serious injuries and illnesses with my sons, financial woes, a near death experience . . . they’re a thing of beauty, those muck covered boots! Sometimes I forget them for awhile, as I did five years ago when I lost my last brother, but they appeared when it was the right time. That’s the thing about my boots, they have divine timing too.

If you’re a bootstraps woman, I’d love to hear your story. Shoot me an email and let’s chat!

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