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Healing Rites of Passage

During a discovery call recently the person on the other end of the phone gasped and suddenly asked, “Is that what this is? Is this a healing rite of passage?”

Yes. Yes, my love, that’s what this is.

Life is filled with rites of passage; expected and unexpected; wanted and unwanted; celebratory and grievous. Some, like graduating high school and college, turning 18, turning 21, getting married, and having your first child, are celebratory, wanted and expected. Intrinsically there are culturally recognized rituals that offer you the space and direction to navigate the passage into these uncharted waters, launching you into the new chapter of your life this rite of passage is marking.

But there are others, often grievous, unwanted and unexpected that have few to no built in rituals, leaving you standing at a threshold unable to move forward, with no option to move back. This is the place where healing rites of passage become necessary to shed trauma and build a bridge to the new pathway that lay before you.

Death is often one of the most grievous, unwanted and often unexpected events that challenges us to find our way through to the other side. Death is as much a part of life as birth and yet there is very limited time allotted for this rite of passage.

One is seen as a ‘new mother’ for a year, sometimes longer, after the birth of the first child. Those first few months people are calling, sending gifts, offering assistance and celebrating with the new parents. Forgetfulness, lack of focus, tardiness, and disheveled appearance are all understandable during the adjustment to having a newborn child in the house. You are given tips like ‘sleep when the baby sleeps’ to ensure you are taking care of yourself.

How long do we reference a ‘new widow’? Those first few days up until the funeral are filled with calls and supporters, but that quickly subsides after. Just weeks after a loss and the phone no longer rings, leaving a grey silence. Each day takes you further from the last day your loved one was alive. Further away from the last touch, the last kiss, and the last words. Deeper into the forest of grief you go. Is it not just as important to have support when you are in the middle of the forest of grief, and not just the first day you step across the threshold as a mourner.

Wouldn’t it makes sense that it takes at least as long to adjust to the death of someone, as it does to the birth of someone? In the US it is customary to have six weeks of maternity/paternity leave, but only three days of bereavement leave. That’s not even long enough for the shock to wear off! The only rituals we have to help us through the bereavement rite of passage is the funeral.

In the past it has been customary to wear mourning dress for as long as two and half years after the death of a spouse. Wearing mourning dress offered a buffer for the bereaved. Signifying to others in the community that this person is grieving and should be handled with care. Other people understood at a glance that a widow was in grief. Expectations and demands were lowered, even if nothing was ever said there was quiet sympathy extended. Even strangers could find empathy when a person was not at their best, having suffered a terrible loss. This is a ritual with great healing qualities. To be allowed time to mourn and be given extra support, comfort and understanding by complete strangers facilitates healing. Grief carried in invisible silence, brought out only in the privacy of one’s home, becomes heavy and overwhelming. Healing rites of passage lessen the load that grief can become when required to carry on with ‘business as usual’.

There are rituals one can do specifically for the loved one who has transitioned as well as for oneself, when grief seems to be relenting. Sometimes, a death can be so sudden, unexpected and tragic that the griever does not even start grieving until months after the funeral or memorial because they are still in shock. I, myself, cried for the first time after my mother’s death, about 2 months later while folding laundry on a Saturday afternoon. A rite of passage ceremony done at this time creates the opportunity for healing, that the bereaved couldn’t do at the funeral.

Grieving a tragic death has more challenges than an expected death, but navigating the grief of a loss through suicide is a totally different challenge. People are often left with so many questions but no answers. Constructing a specialized healing rite of passage can be just the needed self-care to begin to heal that grief.

There are other occasions when healing rites of passage would serve to facilitate harmony, as well. Occasions that are celebratory, wanted and also unexpected. When expecting, parents find themselves first wishing for a healthy child, and then having some sort of preference for a gender. Pink or blue things are bought, expectations and dreams are created, but what of a child who later shows signs of being transgender? What rite of passage can there be to honor the old identify and celebrate the birth of the new one? What rite of passage might help the parents say good-bye to their daughter and welcome their son? What rite of passage might help create new expectations and dreams while at the same time allowing the grief of the death of the old ones?

In our culture, as we age, there are fewer intrinsic rites of passage. Oh sure, there are ‘over the hill’ jokes when the front number of their age changes, but nothing much else. Yet, there are plenty of milestones and life-changing events that might better be facilitated if they had supporting rites of passage rituals.

Divorce, for example.

Divorce is the marking of the death of a living breathing relationship. A union that is being dissolved. An ‘uncoupling’ ceremony, can help start this new chapter with a clean slate. It can incorporate both parties or just one, but in cases where there are children, even adult children, a collaborative uncoupling ceremony can go a long way to heal, mend and transform the family into its new beingness. It is a healthy way to pay homage to the good times of the marriage and mend the scars the bad times left. I find it helpful, even when there are no children involved, because people find closure and can release the feelings of hurt they may be harboring.

Sobriety is another opportunity for a healing rites of passage.

12 step programs are filled with rites of passage. Chips and birthday cakes are just two examples. But what about conducting a rite that might acknowledge the shedding of the old behaviors/identity and make a commitment to the new life the addict is choosing? Something that has him or her make vows to themselves and their sobriety?

Somewhere around 1999 the idea of marrying oneself was first introduced. Initially it was scoffed as new age self help shenanigans, but quickly the wisdom of committing to oneself, vowing to ‘love, honor and cherish’ one own’s self before committing to another, became obvious. This, too, is a healing rite of passage.

This is why Healing Rites of Passage exists…to build bridges across divides.

What are some other opportunities for healing rites of passage that you can think of? Have you created your own healing rites of passage? Let us know!

So, You Want To Be An End of Life Doula…

Maybe you’ve taken care of your parents as they took their last breaths. Maybe you’ve taken care of your own spouse or another relative as they died. There is a sense of purpose that fills you. A higher sense of purpose than you’ve ever experienced before. As time passes, though, it leaves you wanting more. It’s important work and you want more of it. Then you hear the term, ‘End of Life Doula’ and it hits you: “This is what I’m called to do!” You had no idea that there was a job like this! And you ask the next question…

“I want to be an end of life doula. How do I start?”

Let’s start with what you mean by that. What does being an ‘End of Life Doula’ look like to you? What do you envision when you ask that?

The answers I get to that are some variation of “I cared for my mother when she was sick and dying and it was so beautiful. I want to do that for other people.”

I took one local EOL Doula training program, just to see what was being taught. Having worked as a hospice social worker from 1990 until 2005, I didn’t need a training, but I do like to know what the pool is filled with before I jump in.

Others in that class had come because they had a life-changing experience caring for a loved one as they were dying. Now they wanted to do that with other people. They had grand visions of coming into other’s homes armed with candles, bibles, and essential oils to be some sort of savior. That they would have just the right tools to take a situation and make it into something grand. Their visions were full of selfishness. Their visions were about them being not only the center of attention, but the center of control. Basically their dreams were of them saving the day. Yet, none of them felt capable of jumping into being an End of Life Doula after that completing that training course.

So when I ask, ‘what does being an End of Life Doula look like to you’, and the answers I get are self-centered, I understand why.

I understand because I understand human connection and human needs. What happened is that these untrained individuals had an organic life-changing experience and wanted more of that. They wanted more soul connection. More genuine human connection. More purpose in their life. And none of those are bad things…but, we can’t seek to recreate those things with other people’s families.

The whole key is that these individuals had those moments with their own family members! THIS is what we want, or should want, for others! The opportunity to have these life changing experiences themselves! With their own loved ones!! This is what an End of Life Doula should be about…creating a society where everyone is so comfortable in accepting mortality that they are all taking care of their own dying and having these organic life changing experiences.

There are so many ‘training’ programs across the globe with more popping up every day. At one point I even considered creating one myself, because the trainings I encountered are lacking. But I stopped creating that course because I don’t think it is something you can learn in a weekend or even a 16 week course. And definitely not online. That’s just my opinion. There are many who speak highly of one or two particular online courses, but I’m not willing to pay out that money just to investigate.

The best way to train to be an End of Life doula is to be a hospice volunteer. There is no better training than hands on experience and you have an entire team of professionals behind you.

The second best way to train and operate as an End of Life Doula is to volunteer at your local extended care facility. These are people who are not surrounded daily by family members and are truly at the ends of their lives. Providing these volunteer services will give you hands on quality time with those who are dying, without the weight and liability of a solo business.

If you are hell bent on becoming a professional End of Life Doula there are things you need to know.

First, the majority of End of Life Doulas are not making a living doing it full-time. Those few who are, have been fortunate to fall into organic circumstances that supported it.

Second, it is not a service covered by insurance so families/patients will need to pay out of pocket for you. Which means you are going to be serving an elite clientele. Not everyone who is dying can afford to purchase your hourly rate.

Third, there is a big push for End of Life Doulas to be accepted as a part of professional death care, by having it be part of hospice and reimbursed by insurance. While this might seem like a great idea, it isn’t all it’s cracked up to be.

At one time hospice care was not covered by insurances. I started in hospice when it was covered by Medicare, but not Medicaid, nor insurance policies. At the time, I worked for a non-profit agency so we took donations and were able to care for many without the ability to pay. Soon after, Medicaid came onboard, and then the insurance companies. It was a good time to be in hospice. We didn’t have things like ‘productivity quotas’. We were free to make our own plans with the patient and family, seeing them as often or as little as they wanted and for as long as we wanted.

But as hospice became recognized as a care model it became recognized as a business. And then it became BIG business. With that then came more and more expectations of staff to quantify their value. Things like ‘sitting at beside providing presence’ could not be quantified so neatly. Back then the caseloads of social workers was a maximum of 25-30 in a metro setting (patients closer together/less drive time). We saw each patient at least once a month unless they declined social work services. When our caseloads hit 40 we started talking about hiring an additional social worker.

Now I am seeing social workers posting typical caseloads of 45-65 in the same metro setting. With rural caseloads being similar, where a drive to one patient may take up to 1.5 hours, sucking up the majority of the forty-hour work week. All this despite the Centers for Medicare & Medicaid Services guideline of 24.7 average caseload. Can you do the math on this, how many quality visits does each patient get from each social worker?

In addition to these high caseloads, agencies make a practice to pull social workers, often at a moment’s notice, to do admissions, which requires rescheduling the pre-planned visits with existing patients. If those patients were looking forward to that visit and had things they wished to talk about, the message to them is that their needs are not important to the social worker and the rapport and trust that was building takes a hit. The median length of stay in hospice is 24 days. It isn’t compassionate to cancel any scheduled visits during that time.

It is my belief that if End of Life Doulas are incorporated into the hospice care model they will go the way of the social workers (and chaplains and bereavement coordinators). It will be welcomed and honored in the beginning and as time goes by it will lose its autonomy and flexibility becoming overexposed and improperly utilized. After all, if social workers, chaplains and bereavement coordinators had reasonable caseloads, and were being utilized properly there would be no void for end of life doulas to fill.

If you STILL want to be an EOLD here’s what I suggest…

If I haven’t talked you out of being an End of Life Doula at this point, congratulations. You have grit. The world needs people who are willing to hold the space for others who are dying and grieving. Not everyone who dies qualifies for hospice. We think hospice when we think dying and death care but the truth is that 1) people wait waaaaay too long to go on hospice to really get the full value of the service. 2) many people die everyday without a terminal prognosis of 6 months or less to live.

Just forget about trying to build a business out of it…at least for now.

Start your practice to be an End of Life Doula in your own circle. Be their EOLD. Teach your people what you learned from the experience that brought you such peace. Be brave enough to say, ‘do you think this decision will bring Aunt Vi more quality of time?’ Ask your elders questions about their desires for end of life support, treatments, wishes. Make your own funeral arrangements. Talk to your kids about dying as a part of the life cycle. Have deep conversations about your beliefs.

Then extend it to your circle of friends. Offer to help a friend take care of her dying relatives. Show up to provide companionship- not just to the dying one, but to the grieving one taking care of them. Do some laundry. Make some food. Offer to take a shift so they can take a break.

If that isn’t enough, then go on to volunteer at your local hospice and extended care facilities. Serve where it is needed most if you really want to serve.

End of life doulas don’t need to be a recognized profession. They need to be a recognized foundational part of communities caring for their own.

Life’s A Beach

I’ve seen this cute little phrase on home decor for years now, but the deeper meaning only just now struck me. Am I late? Is this what it meant all along? I really just thought it was a cute positive reframing of ‘Life’s A Bitch’. Did you know?

My daughter went on a little trip and brought me back this pot of flowers. At first glance it’s cute, but something about it drew me in deeper. As I gazed at it I couldn’t exactly put my finger on what was so captivating. Initially, I saw the flowers and the pot as a whole, but as I continued to look at it, I noticed that everything in the pot was made of shells. Even the soil, which I thought were small pebbles, are actually shells. The creativity and care in this piece of artistry are masterful.

As my daughter searched my face for validation that she had made a good choice, all I could tell her was that it was resonating deeply and that I would write about it.

The next day during meditation it all came flooding in.

Life is a beach.

Beaches are comprised of water, sand, rocks, shells, driftwood and sea glass. The precise make-up being completely unique depending on the currents and tides. In general, though, the basics of a beach are the same.

As I studied this little shell bouquet, I pondered the shells’ origins. Left by the tide upon a shore, whereby it was seen as purposeful, as meaningful or as beautiful. Enough so the artist, or perhaps another collector, gathered them up in order to end up in this collection. Out of all the things that washed up, these were chosen.

In my meditation I heard, “Life’s a beach” and suddenly the phrase took on new meaning for me. And maybe I’m late to the party. Maybe the rest of the world got it before me.

In the the great experience of Life, our individual life is the beach upon whose shore many things wash up. What washes up depends greatly upon, not only the currents and tides, but also what was in the water; Some of which we put there ourselves. No matter what, we all have those same basic components, though the proportions of each are completely unique. Some might have more rocks and sea glass, while others might have more sand and shells or logs. And most assuredly some toxic debri will find it’s way to everyone’s shore at some point.

Geography plays a part as well; A Grecian beach will be vastly different from a North American beach. Some beaches are surrounded by high cliffs while others are enveloped by thick greenery.

Yet still, even though we all have the same materials, we don’t all make the same art of it. Some take the sand, sift it and wash it to create sand art. Some will remove the toxic debri, then arrange rocks into a beautiful mosaic or zen garden. Some will create beautiful carvings out of driftwood, while others might build a fire with it. Some will make jewelry of the sea glass. Some will take the shells and make a flower bouquet.

However, there are others who will sit on their beach not seeing anything beautiful at all; gazing at another’s in envy, telling themselves they got a crappy deal. They see only broken glass, weathered wood, empty shells, and sharp rocks. They might feel cheated that their beach is on the Florida coast instead of in the Greek Isles. They see only what they do not have, not what they have, and definitely not what could be.

They compare their raw beach to manicured beaches, seemingly unaware of the energy other’s have put towards shaping their beach shores. They look at another’s groomed beach, not comprehending that the owner spent years painstakingly picking up the debri. They look at someone else’s rock garden, assuming the sea placed those rocks in that formation. They look at the sea glass not realizing it was once a discarded bottle now transformed by the tide. They look at the beautiful bouquet of shell flowers, not realizing it is actually made of skeletons.

Each person gets the same opportunity to make something beautiful out of what shows up on their shore…or not.

Just like a beach, all our lives have the same basic components; love, joy, grief, tragedy and uncertainty. Everyone has them all.

That is Life…but what we decide to pick up and carry with us makes our life, our Art.

Who Would I Be?

I think a lot about a lot of things. Sometimes those things become blog posts; sometimes they don’t. It’s anyone’s guess why some make it and other’s don’t. It just depends on my need to get it out into the world. There is no rhyme or reason beyond that.

It’s all in an attempt to understand the world around me better, and to understand the purpose of life better as well.

Today’s thoughts revolve around my daughter.

Becoming a mother was instrumental in facilitating my pursuit to understand life. Being a mother created this need to make sense of everything. As I grow older, and my daughter grows older, I reassess earlier understandings because my perspective changes.

Being the parent of an adult, for me, is a greater challenge than being the parent of a minor. No longer in control of the decision making for her, I find myself looking back at the decisions I made as a mother and contemplate things I would perhaps do differently now.

This thought train led me back to my own childhood, as I can see easily now how the mother I have been was born of the girl I used to be.

Mixed with these musings are the musings regarding the state of the world I currently live in. How did we get here, exactly? And how can we change the ending? That thought then led to this one…

What woman would I have become if the girl I used to be had known her worth?

I imagine I would be very very different and had a very different life.

I imagine I would not have been raped, because 1) I would’ve known how to say no to things that weren’t saying yes to myself; and 2) I would have learned to trust my intuition. Not being raped would’ve opened me to more possibilities in choices of men. I would not have seen myself as damaged and therefore not had the perspective that I was ‘lucky anyone wanted me at all.’

I would’ve studied to become a writer, because I would’ve believed in my ability and trusted that my passion was worth pursuing, instead of caving when my parents said they wouldn’t pay for it. I imagine I would have written several books by now.

I imagine I would’ve done better in school because I would’ve asked more questions instead of ‘being no bother’ and fearing my questions were stupid. I imagine feeling confident to share my voice and sharing my unique perspectives that would’ve led to interesting and educational conversations.

I imagine that, with the increased self-esteem that comes from knowing my worth, I would not have been bullied about the way I looked and the clothes I wore. Or I would’ve had the courage to stand up to the bullies. I imagine I would have just the right come back for any snide remarks and put downs.

I imagine I would’ve pressed charges instead of burying the trauma in shame. I imagine I would’ve believed I knew my daughter better than that teacher. I wouldn’t have been caught in an abusive marriage at all. I would’ve never dated a guy who hit me. I wouldn’t have been a target for my college professor. I wouldn’t have been a repeated target for predators, period. I wouldn’t have looked at my face and body to see only flaws.

I would’ve taken more chances on myself.

Then this thought occurred to me-

We could change our entire world in just one generation if we simply treated little girls as worthy.

If we ceased sexualizing them in the marketing industry. If we stopped using the phrase ‘like a girl’. If we stopped gender qualifying anything. If we stopped convincing them they ‘simply misunderstood’ when they tell. If we stopped using ‘pussy’ and ‘cunt’ as insults. If we stopped re-victimizing them in the justice system. If we stopped blaming the victims instead of the predators.

If we started teaching ‘my body, my choice’ at the age of three when she doesn’t want to hug strangers or creepy old Uncle Fester. If we encouraged her voice instead of silencing her when she shares her truth.

If we celebrated their differences instead of forcing them into some kind of socially acceptable mold. If we taught them to believe in their intuition instead of discounting it because they can’t ‘justify it with logic or reason’. If we encouraged their passion no matter what it might be.

If being at home was as valued as being in the board room. If social work was valued more than social influence. If liking yourself mattered more than others liking you. If bold wasn’t bitchy and confident wasn’t conceited.

If we stopped using shame as a weapon and started presenting self-reflection as a tool. If we stopped vilifying their organic nature and started validating their emotions, development and processes.

What if we treated all little female beings as beans of magic?

We would grow women who see the necessity of saying yes to themselves. Who feel comfortable expressing their wisdom. Who’s first impulse is to lift another woman up. Who are more comfortable standing out than blending in.

Who’s spirit of compassion outweighs the spirit of competition. Who make more room at the table, rather than just substitute faces at it. Who’s influence increases productivity, by increasing job satisfaction.

Who’s energetic gifts alter the trajectory of the world.

And oh, what kind of world would that be…

Joy On!

Let’s talk about ‘intentions’ and ‘manifesting’ for a minute.

There are a lot of forums, posts, books, movies, affirmations, classes, master classes, workshops and retreats all about manifesting everything from the love of your life, to abundance, to weight loss, to employment and the list goes on.

I myself designed a 30 day release program to make room for manifesting your desires. It wasn’t a bad thing, but since then I’ve learned a thing or two. It is important to release what no longer serves you, in fact, it is imperative, but there was one component missing.

Joy.

There is a saying, “Do what you love and you’ll never work a day in your life.” I have followed this most of my career. When I stopped loving what I was doing, I moved on. I also followed it in my marriage…though, maybe not as soon as I could’ve. I also followed it when considering purchases; if I didn’t LOVE it then I didn’t buy it. If I loved it once and then stopped? I gave it a new home.

So, tell me why I didn’t realize this applied to EVERYTHING in life?

I had an epiphany this week. A little backstory, a few weeks ago I discovered something called Body Groove. If you haven’t heard of it, I HIGHLY recommend looking into it if you are looking for something to change your fitness (physical and emotional) routines. I have tried many things over the years, aerobics, Tae Bo, Tai Chi, Chi Gong, weightlifting, yoga etc. All with the intention to lose weight, or the euphemism, ‘get healthy’. This Body Groove on Demand app comes with a Facebook (support) group. I have never found such a large collective of genuinely supportive women EVER.

As I’ve been Grooving something clicked.

I realized that I have spent the last 30+ years intending and attempting to lose weight. I have done different ways of eating with the intention to lose weight-at least 10. I have done certain exercise programs with the intention to lose weight – at least 10. Nothing EVER helped me lose the weight. I lost weight ONLY when i had to take a medicine who’s side effect was appetite suppressant. THAT is not weight loss success in my opinion.

With each new “intention” was the underlying premise…”This is broken. I’m broken. This will fix me. I’ll be happy then.” Even though I was extremely happy with who I was. I was not extremely happy with what I looked like.

I ‘tried to love my body’ as it was, but because I was so dedicated to clean eating and exercise I confess I was a little pissed off at my body for not responding as I thought/intended it should. The truth is my body may be broken. I took a medication at the age of 24 that seems to have destroyed my endocrine system only no one identified that until decades later. Decades of running on fumes. The damage may be irreparable. I can’t be pissed at my body for being broken if it had nothing to do with it! My body isn’t frail, it was betrayed.

The last few weeks I’ve been contemplating all of this and then it hit me. If you know anything about me, I place a high value on intention. Intention, however, is a tricky thing. The things I have done with the intention to ‘make me money’ haven’t made me money. The things I did with the intention to make ‘this or that’ happen actually didn’t make ‘this or that’ happen.

You know what did? Following my joy.

Following my joy, my passion, my heart…led me to the love of my life.

Following my joy, my passion, my heart…led me to raise a daughter to become someone really special and amazing.

Following my joy, my passion, my heart…led me to retire from a three decade career, move across two states, get married and which led to improving my health by 900%.

Following my joy, my passion, my heart…led me to start a new business.

I realized that my greatest successes have come not from my intention to gain a specific outcome, but from following my passion, my joy, my heart. THIS is the intention I have going into Body Groove. the intention to create more Joy. Body Groove makes me happy. Truly. It is like a drug now and it hasn’t even been that long. But between the dancing, the philosophy and the sisterhood I am witnessing THIS is my joy. Maybe, just MAYBE following my joy to Body Groove will lead to weight loss. But it doesn’t matter. If in 6 months I haven’t lost anything it won’t matter because I will STILL keep dancing. Because that isn’t my intent! My intent is to be joyful!

Joyful leads to successful!

So, if you are asking here, there or just asking yourself if this or that will lead to losing weight (or find love, or make money, or etc.), scrap that crap and ask yourself if what you are doing creates joy for you.

If it doesn’t, then move on and find something that does! But if it does, then by all means joy on!!!

This applies to everything! EVERY THANG!! Apply the intention of joy to every aspect of your life and see what manifests!

394Tammy Hogenauer, Chrissy Prebish Kuchta and 392 others99 CommentsLikeComment

What Is Happening???

In case you’ve asked yourself “What is happening??” There is a current energetic force of purging. This energy is bringing foul things to the surface. It is bringing things up and out for release.

It is showing you who YOU are, who YOU are NOT; as well as who is and who is not your people.

If things have been going awry and you find yourself wondering ‘what is happening?’ or “Why is this happening to me?” This is why! YOU are in alignment and all that is not in alignment with YOU is falling away. It may even be falling away in a rather violent manner.

Stay true to you. Don’t let them change who YOU are. Stay true to YOU. Be YOU. Let them be them and move on. You’re going to see this in people you just meet as well as people you’ve known for years. It will come out of the blue. You are evolving in one direction at great speed and they are evolving in a different direction at likely equal speed. This is not a ‘drifting apart’ kind of situation. This is more like a warp speed ripping a tear in the Universe kinda speed. Like ripping off a band-aid. Ouch.

And like that band-aid you throw it in the trash. You do not go back for it. You do not try to salvage it. You do not try to reuse it. It has served its purpose, so extend gratitude towards it. It served its purpose and now it is done.

Take time to grieve the losses of relationships that were once important to you. Then take a moment to express gratitude for them falling away! Take a moment to express gratitude that YOU are NOT those people!!

Afterwards you might experience some side effects:

  • Lightness in your being.
  • Higher vibration.
  • A humming sensation in your body.
  • Increased self-confidence.
  • Increased general well-being.

Sometimes I like to think of this process like the birthing process. This squeezing through the darkness is like traveling through the birth canal…it is necessary to get to the Light.

A Little Light House Keeping

Hello and thanks for joining me here. My blog is undergoing a bit of revamping, polishing and what I hope is organization!

Thus far this blog has been a documentation of my evolution as an individual, as a writer, but also as a professional. I have embraced various themes over the years with different focus. The thing is they felt like boxes and I don’t fit well into boxes.

So, I’m destroying the boxes and creating an open space where anything goes.

So welcome to The Foul-Mouthed Woman Blog where we will be talking about living, loving, dying, death and grief. I think that covers just about any topic you can think of, right? Well, that’s what I intend to do. You will never know what you find on here.

The Foul-Mouthed Woman and The Death Witch started as a podcasts but ran into some technical difficulties, so I’m going back to my original format. Good ole blogging. I’ll be happy to resume podcasting, because I really enjoyed it, so if anyone out there can help a sister out… Until that time my podcasting is on hold and I’ll be putting all efforts into the blog once again, combining both podcasts.

So, let me know what you think!

Is Death The Meaning of Life?

I was listening to a podcast and heard an end of life doula say something she felt was very profound…that “death is the meaning of life”.


I’ve heard it before. It’s not new. But today was the first day I actually stopped to think about what it meant. And is it true?


Death as The Meaning of Life?


Explain this to me, because I don’t understand how Death is the Meaning of life. Does it really mean death gives life meaning? Cuz that I could KINDA understand. But death AS the meaning of life? No. That doesn’t make sense.


Death is the meaning of life. No, sorry. I don’t think so.


But it is true that life would have no meaning without death. The finiteness of life is what causes us to not take it for granted and when you don’t take something for granted you tend to find meaning in it.


Birth and death act as a container for life. “You have this moment called life and we mark it at birth here and at death here.” Life is not just what happens in between those points, but it includes those points as well.


It is because of that container, that finite space, that as humans we believe we must fill that container with meaning. So in that respect I can see how someone can think that death is the meaning of life. But only if they are talking about death creating the need for meaning in life.


Speaking of Finding Meaning in Life


Here’s one of the most primal existential questions of all…


Where does the need to find meaning in life come from? Why do we as humans feel the need to have our lives make sense? Or to mean something?

We are existential beings. Spiritual beings having the experience of being human. I used to think we were human beings having spiritual experiences, but that shifted as I aged and my perspectives changed.


Because one’s Soul or Spirit is immortal, it makes sense that it is the Soul that has a Human Body not a Human Body that has a Soul. The two together: human body and Soul make up the Human Being. Thus we are Spirit having the experience of being human.


This is where I think the need to find meaning comes.


I think it is the Soul that sets the agenda for the lifetime and it is the Soul that prods and urges the Human Body -cuz the mind is part of the body, right?-to find the meaning in life. It is in the place of meaning that the Human Body intersects and integrates with its Soul.


Now where does the need for meaning in life stem from if one is Humanist for instance? Or Atheist? That is a great question. One I cannot answer since I wear the goggles of Spirituality, so I will open up the floor to any Humanist or Atheist who would like to come on to discuss that very thing. We could do a YouTube interview!


While I think WHERE one surmises the prodding comes from might be different depending on religious, philosophical and cultural views, I think the meaning of life is the same for everyone.

The Meaning of Life According To Me


You all are going to think this is corny as hell and trite and maybe even cliche´ but I’ve thought about this for a very long time.

Death causes us to appreciate Life, by making it limited in time, Death makes Life more valuable. Something to be cherished and embraced. Thus Death gives life meaning, but is not the meaning of life.


The meaning of life is Love.

That’s it. That is the meaning of life…to explore all the aspects and wonders and powers that love holds in its many forms. And it would take several lifetimes to explore all the aspects of love, don’t you think? I mean there are self-love lessons, love of community lessons, romantic love lessons, love of others lessons, love as a healer lessons etc. etc etc

Everything boils down to experiences of love. How to love in the most challenging of circumstances. How to love yourself. How to love someone who’s hurt you. How to love unconditionally.


Love in the face of fear. Love in the face of hate. Love.


The whole point of life is love. To create and develop a life filled with love and then that love multiplies to others.


Love Is Simple But Not Easy


When someone does something unloving towards us, it’s hard to imagine feeling loving towards them. Yet when we are in our pain and we lash out at another, we often want that person to understand where we were coming from. We want them to show us compassion. And compassion is just another word for love.


So, why not start the trend of sending love to someone who has treated you unlovingly? You don’t have to date them. Or even engage with them. All you need do is take a minute to get yourself connected to Source, allow your heart to fill then send the overflow to that person who treated you unlovingly.


You won’t likely know whether or not this affects change in that person, though metaphysically speaking I can tell you a change happens, but a more significant change happens within your own self. It won’t just be a mindset shift, but an energetic shift as well. And what happens when you create an energetic shift is that everything energetic around you is shifted too. It is a true ripple effect because all energy is connected in this Universe. Just like all the water in an ocean is connected.


When you affect one part you are affecting the whole thing.


I lived the first half of my life thinking I needed to earn love. That I needed to do something to deserve it. That I needed to MAKE people love me. And That it was a commodity that could be and would be rationed, doled out, and withdrawn at another’s discretion.


I was a passive participant in love. I begged people to love me and when people loved me whom I didn’t beg, then I didn’t value it. If someone loved me easily, then “It didn’t count”, somehow.
What I now know is love is infinite. Love is abundant and I – yes I in big bold capital letter I- am the Source of it. Love starts with ME. I don’t wait for love to happen, I just love.


Is it easy? NO. I still struggle, for instance, with trying to send love to my ex-husband’s “widow” who married him 21 days before he died with brain cancer, who stole my daughter and step-daughter’s house and inheritance, who tied me up in court for years costing me tens of thousands in legal fees, who hasn’t returned my possessions that my ex was keeping for me, etc… I am still struggling with that. I am angry. I am hurt. But every day that I think about the situation and her I put effort into connecting to Source and sending her love. If I can help her be a better person to someone else down the road then I feel it is my duty.

BUT DAMMIT TO HELL IT IS A CHALLENGE!


The thing is I feel better after spending that time sending her love, than I do when I spent the same amount of time stewing and cursing her existence. I feel better. Again, capital bold face I.
Know what else happened? When I started doing that, I stopped thinking about her and the situation every day. Now it can actually be a month before I think about the things she stole from me and my family.

Looking For Love In All The Wrong Places


I wasted so much time, looking for love in all the wrong places. Searching for it in the eyes of men, of my family members, of my friends, of my elders. Always seeking for it outside myself.
What I found instead was a lot of rejection. I was basing my value on how many people really loved me, but because I kept associating with people who treated love as a commodity I never experienced real love at all. And instead of looking at those people as the reason they didn’t love me, I deemed myself unloveable for many years.


This self-imposed unloveable label only served to further drive home the narrative that I was incomplete, inept and ineligible for love. And that energy kept drawing more of those same kind of people to me. And it kept me in a loveless marriage. After all, if I could just fix myself to be lovable then all the pieces that I had gathered would suddenly fall into place.


Instead, I had to realize that I had collected pieces that weren’t even part of the puzzle I was putting together. It was never going to work with those pieces.


Loving myself enough to start over, start from scratch and start with me, made all the difference in the world. That’s when life started changing. First just the way I saw things changed, then I changed, and then slowly, one by one, things in my life started changing.


Death Creates an Urgency


Without death, there would be nothing to compel members to find meaning in life, because they would literally have all the time in the world. There would be no last chances, last dances or last words. There would be no good-byes. No ‘see you laters’. There would just be an endlessness of everything. There would be no container.


Love is the meaning of life AND love gives life meaning. All the love in the world won’t matter though if you don’t love yourself first, because you won’t be able to recognize love from anyone else if you don’t establish the standard with your own self-love.


And what would love be like with no death, I wonder? Would the absence of death change the experience of love at all? I think it would. At least for those widows/widowers who went on to find love again. Could people remain with the same spouse for all eternity on Earth?


No. Death is an important part of life on Earth. It is a necessary part of the cycle of life and needs to be revered as such, not denied. I haven’t figured out all the mysteries of life, for sure, but I’m certain of this. There is a purpose for every being and event in life. We may not know what that purpose is until long after we’ve crossed the veil, but I do believe we will one day discover it.


Death Lends Perspective


The finiteness of Life lends perspective. When we contemplate death we often can put things into a different perspective simply by asking ourselves how we will feel about this moment when we are on our deathbed.


Many years ago, after having worked in hospice for a number of years, I started to end each day asking myself how I would feel about it on my deathbed. Would this day matter? Would I even remember it? Will I be proud or have regrets? This afforded me the opportunity to begin to live differently thereby changing the circumstances of my own death no matter how many years or decades yet to come.


This, I discovered, is the secret to a ‘good death’. It isn’t where you die, or who you die with or without; who’s in the room, who’s not; if there are candles lit or music playing. It won’t even matter if you die being struck by a semi-tractor trailer at age 35 or die an old lady, an old lady warm in her bed (to quote Jack from Titanic).

A good death is a death with the least amount of unfinished business. It’s a death without regrets.

The only way to ensure that is to live a life of no regret.

And that is a great topic for another post so I’ll leave it right there.

On Being Not Worthy

In March of 2021 I started two podcasts, The Foul-Mouthed Woman and The Death Witch. I ran into technical difficulties however, and have thus decided to take my musings back to the blog and YouTube.

This is the first episode of The Foul Mouthed Woman to be done in blog.

I spent half of my life feeling unworthy. Unworthy of love, of money, basically of all the goodness life has to offer.


As a holistic health practitioner I know now what dis-ease this can cause and how this feeling caused some of my health problems.


And as a holistic health practitioner now I would say feeling unworthy is a pandemic equal to CoVid. It causes problems in relationships, in employment, and is directly related to death by suicide. Yet no one is talking about it.


This is a big topic. I’ve covered Being Too Much and Being Not Enough, but how is Not Being Worthy different? That’s hard to explain, really, but I’m going to give it my best shot.
Not being worthy, to put it simply, it’s is about self-value, while being too much or not enough is about how we feel others value us.
Feeling not worthy reveals itself in insidious ways. Foremost on my mind today is
something I refer to as …

The Suffering Games


What are the suffering games?

Professionals call it Comparative Suffering. It is the process or either exalting or diminishing one’s trauma comparative to another’s. It is when survivors seek recognition for their suffering by either justifying why their hurt is greater than another’s or conversely, by downplaying their own traumatic woundedness.

As if compassion is finite and one’s right to it, to sympathy or to empathy is determined by a Suffering Score. The internal dialogue might go like, “Well, I think my experience is 6 and Harold’s is a 12 so he wins all the compassion chips this round.”I tend to think this line of thinking is introduced in the early developmental years by parents. The following phrases introduce the pattern that one’s needs, conditions or experience are relative to another’s rather than being self-determining.


Phrases others may have said to you, to plant this seed,
“Quit crying or I’ll give you something to cry about.”
“Clean your plate, there are starving children in Africa”


Enter ‘not being worthy’.

The stand that you are not worthy of compassion, understanding, nurturing, grief etc. unless your suffering measures up to invisible standards of reference.

That’s not how it works. Trauma isn’t a contest.

There will ALWAYS be someone who’s experience seems less traumatic to you and there will ALWAYS be someone who’s experience seems more traumatic to you. The irony is that many times the one you see whom you’ve judged to have a more traumatic experience is looking at you thinking the same thing.


The Suffering Games is actually a symptom of trauma.


It was a survival skill you developed to keep your head above water and make it out alive. Do you ever remember saying to yourself “it could be worse”, or “at least it’s not as bad as so-and-so’s thing”, or “at least I’m not…” or any variation of the aforementioned?


It was good when it helped you not give up, not give in and not give out. But you are no longer there and it is time to recognize the strength it took for you to make it out alive, regardless of anyone else’s journey!


When People Are In The Midst of Suffering They Cannot Feel Privilege


You might call these people ‘Negative Neds/Nellies’. No matter what positive thing you try to present they just focus on what is not optimal or what is outright wrong in their lives. They cannot let go of the victim identity forged by their trauma and seek to confirm that narrative with every event in their lives.


I call them “yeah, but…” people. No matter what positive thing you try to point out they have a ‘yeah, but…” retort.


I think this is why some white people react very strongly to the term ‘white privilege’. We tend to think of privileges as being positive in nature, ‘it has been an honor and a privilege…’ We also tend to think of privilege in terms of something we’ve earned. Children earn privileges by behaving well and achieving target goals. Adults earn driving privileges. Adults can even buy certain privileges like memberships. Wealth grants a lot of privileges not available to mainstream America, also.

While most privilege can be lost, white privilege cannot. So, you might begin to understand how this is difficult to process for some. I actually think that ‘white fragility’ might be a symptom of trauma more than it is a symptom of racism.


People are used to FEELING privilege. We have the sense that privileges are earned or bestowed and are not guaranteed. Privileges can be lost.

White people can’t FEEL white privilege because it is something they were born with, not something they earned, and not something that can be lost, like all other privileges.
For those in the midst of The Suffering Games, their trauma prevents them from feeling privilege at all. So it makes sense to me that the term ‘white privilege’ could be triggering for those who have an unresolved traumatic history and identify strongly with their suffering score, because what they hear is ‘you are privileged, therefore you haven’t suffered’.

We could probably do a whole exploration of that topic, but I’ll leave it there as food for thought.

Feeling Not Worthy Reduces The Appearance of Available Choices


The state of mind of unworthiness creates a blindness to options. It creates a conditioned passiveness.


We see it most often in women who will ‘settle’ for a man, even when the relationship does not meet her needs, because the man chose her. Her underlying believe is that she does not get to choose anyone, she can only choose who chooses her.


This is a tricky one, because of course good relationships only exist when both partners choose one another, however, the difference is that one who is unworthy is settling rather than actually choosing. Her unworthiness has her believe this is the best she will get because this person chose her. The internal dialogue goes something like, “He likes me. I don’t dislike him. I guess I like him.”


Her underlying feelings of unworthiness have her believing she can only choose from that which comes to her rather than believing she has the right to choose pro-actively. Under those conditions, one would be hard pressed to say no, not knowing when someone else might come along.


We were married about seven years when my husband and I separated. I was devastated and completely heartbroken. I was very much in love with him, even though he wasn’t really a very good husband/partner/father at all. At the time I couldn’t see that. I was so steeped in my unworthiness that I was frantic to get him to want to continue the marriage.

In talking with our therapist about this limbo we were in and why wouldn’t he make a decision to divorce or to try again, she looked at me and said that I have a choice too. I couldn’t see it. What choice did I have? He held all the cards.


But did he?


Of course there was the choice to not choose someone who wasn’t choosing me, but I couldn’t see that. When you feel unworthy, you can’t see that. I was continuing to choose him even though he wasn’t choosing me, and putting my whole life on pause while he played the game with me. When I finally made the choice to go ahead and start living my own life, guess who suddenly was making the choice to try the marriage again?


It should go without saying, but this makes those who feel not worthy prime targets for predators.

And this isn’t just a problem in romantic relationships, but also family’s of origin, in friendships, and in employment.


Workers in this state of feeling unworthy will not ask for raises, Don’t use their vacation time, take more responsibility without asking for an increase in pay, stay late, and sacrifice home life for work life. These workers are also subject to more sexual harassment and bullying. Wouldn’t it be interesting to note if feeling unworthy even plays a role in on the job injuries?


Feeling Unworthy Makes Your World Small


You don’t feel empowered. You don’t feel confident. You don’t believe in yourself. And you don’t feel like you have choices. So, yes your world is very very small.
You are literally waiting for things to land on your doorstep and you accept whatever lands there because you have built a world of lack. Nothing lands on your door step without you ordering it in some form or fashion.


So paying attention to what you are ordering by the activities you engage with, the relationships you have, the treatment you accept will start to change what comes to your door.
More importantly though, start identifying your feelings of unworthiness and work to build up your self-value. No one can do that but you. No one can help you with it either. It’s all on you. And I know you can do it, because I did it.


It’s literally a simple choice to value yourself. To turn off the programming that says “It doesn’t count unless someone else says it.” But if you need that…here I am saying it.


You are of value! There is a gift that ONLY you have to give. NOTHING takes away from that gift. Not mistakes you’ve made. Not circumstances you’ve created or found yourself in. Not what you’ve done, nor what’s happened to you.


YOU are the only you and when you stop trying to make yourself into something else. Something you feel would be ‘more acceptable’ than the real you, then you will start to see how truly fabulous you are!


Somehow we get the idea that there is an ideal way to be in this world. This is subliminal brainwashing by marketing firms across the world who sole premise is to convince you that you are not enough as you are, and that you need what they are selling to be whole.


Narcissists in your life will continue that message to convince you that you need them too. The truth is that they need YOU. YOU have all the power!


Embrace The You You Hide


What parts of you do you hide? What parts make you embarrassed? Make you feel unsure? What parts make you feel weirdly? Or that make you stand out?


These are all parts of your uniqueness and those are the things that need to be revealed!! Embrace them! Don’t dress to hide that belly fat under a big tent! Find styles that accentuate your figure! Don’t walk with your head down! Make eye contact with strangers! Say hello to others first! Initiate conversations in shopping lines.


Look at others who are ‘different’ than typical standards of beauty and see how beautiful they are when they are not hiding in shadows. I’ve seen models with skin pigmentation afflictions! I’ve seen women embracing their saggy boobs!


It’s time to take back the rigid standards of beauty and display what REAL beauty looks like…confidence!


I promise you, your world will open up 1000 percent once you start this practice!


There is nothing unworthy about you. NOTHING.


And I think that is a great place to end…

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Compassion

This word has been on my mind lately. Mostly because the world needs more of it. The people need more of it. The animals need more of it. The planet needs more of it.

As a part of my spiritual practice, I recite five principles every day. The one I end with is “Today, I treat myself and others with compassion.” I love the word compassion. It is a deeply moving word for me requiring me to be more than merely kind, but compassionate. So when I actually looked up the definition I was more than a little disappointed; “sympathetic pity and concern for the sufferings or misfortunes of others”.

I don’t know what I expected, but that wasn’t it. “Sympathetic pity”? I KNOW what compassion feels like for me, but I never took the time to define it. But I know ‘sympathetic pity’ wasn’t part of my definition.

How would you describe Compassion?

My definition would go something like this, “deeply felt care and concern for the wellbeing of others, in times of need.”

I debated even putting that last part in there because I think we all need compassion whether we are in the midst of a crisis or not. However, I think when not ‘in need’, kindness suffices. I think when one is in need they do need something more profound than simple kindness.

When I worked a full time 9-5 job, I had paid time off and I took it when I needed it. I took vacations regularly and stayed home when I was sick. But there were other days when I needed to just take a mental health day and I did that too. Now that I work from home, for myself, there is no paid time off. In addition, some of my work requires I be on call 24/7 for my death and dying clients. Add to that I LOVE what I do, it’s hard to really comprehend that I still need time off.

Running your own business- let alone three businesses- takes discipline and I have that in spades. So much so that I had to build in a ‘day off’ each week, but I may have been too late in doing that. Last week when I was feeling some kind of way and struck with severe back/shoulder/neck/arm pain it caught me off guard. I had worked virtually nonstop to get The Foul Mouthed Woman Podcast launched, AND get started on The Death Witch Podcast. Amidst that I was writing feverishly to complete a few Oracle Cards for the deck I’m co-creating. Everything I do is on the computer and this pain rendered me computer impotent. As I took some time to tend to the physical issue, it was clear to me that something emotionally was working it’s way up and out as well.

I decided to stop looking for a work around the pain and just surrender into it. I’ve taken sick days before when I’ve caught a virus or something. I’ve taken days off when I just felt I needed to take a break. This was different. This was compassionate care. I was taking a Compassionate Care day.

It was a sick day for my soul.

I tended to the wounds of my soul that were on the mend, as well as the physical knotting in my back. I watched movies that made me sob. I took walks. I took small excursions out in public as needed. I made nourishing food.

For four days.

The most important thing I did for those days though was to not feel guilt, or shame and not ‘should’ myself. Like I said, I have tons of discipline, and it would’ve been easy for me to tell myself that disregarding my regular schedule was breaking my commitments; But my most important commitment is to myself. I can no longer do what I did before, because ‘before’ wasn’t working. ‘Before’ was breaking me.

For 27 years I pushed passed my breaking points. I was taught certain rules about being a good employee and how business works. For 27 years I felt powerless, complying with directives without voicing dissension for fear of being fired. Until it made me sick. So sick that at 46 years old I felt 75 and could not fathom how I could go on another 30 years. I didn’t even know how I’d make it another 10.

I didn’t realize it was the job/career making me sick until I quit my job, moved to another state and got married. I procrastinated getting my social work license in the new state. The thought of starting all over in a new state in the same old career felt heavy. My husband put no rush on my finding work and so I settled into taking care of myself…really taking care of myself for the first time in a long time.

Simply moving seemed to give me some relief from my suffering, and with each day I felt a little better. I found new treatments, new care providers, new ways of eating, which all helped. But mostly it was finding myself that really started to heal my body. Moving away from what I ‘should’ do, towards what I ‘want’ to do, improved my health ten fold. It will be 7 years this summer and I feel better than I did 15 years ago. I still have a few issues that are left over, due to the extreme pressure I put myself under, but I have faith I’ll find the answers to those also.

What’s important now, I realize. Is to not adapt the same mindset in this new situation. Pushing myself so hard that I bring on physical immobility in order to get my own attention is simply using the same patriarchal business model in my own business. So, I’ve switched to four work days and one self-care day per week. The weekends are sort of a hodge podge of things depending on my husband’s schedule or if I am pressing a deadline. I have always been one to take a sick day, but the truth is I don’t get sick that often. So offering myself Compassionate Care days on a more regular basis, might better suit my bottom line.

Compassionate Care days have to go above and beyond normal Self-Care days. I have self care built into everyday; at least 1/5 hours, sometimes 3. So Compassionate Care days are going to be luxury self-care days. There’s going to be more treasure hunting, spa days, walks in nature and baths in the middle of the day.

I think we are all in need of compassion regardless of our current situations. Compassion doesn’t have to be reserved for ‘justified’ times of pain and suffering! I think treating one another and ourselves with deeply felt care and concern for our/their wellbeing across the board would serve the Greater Good and mend the world’s hearts.

Peace Be With You