Your Mother Is Always With You

“She’s the whisper in the leaves as you walk down the street, the smell of certain foods you remember, flowers you pick, the fragrance of life itself. She’s the cool hand on your brow when you’re not feeling well, she’s your breath in the air on a cold. winter’s day. She’s the sound of the rain that lulls you to sleep, the colors of a rainbow, she is Christmas morning. Your mother lives inside your laughter. She’s the place you came from, your first home, and she’s the map you follow with every step you take. She’s your first love, your first friend, even your first enemy, but nothing on Earth can separate you. Not time, not space…not even death.”

Mother”s Day is always a tough one for those of us who’ve lost our mothers. Several  of my friends lost their moms this year as well as over the last couple of years. And speaking from someone who lost hers 12 years ago, it never gets any easier. I often say that we simply learn how do deal with it, but  we never truly get over that vacant hole on our hearts.

Mother-daughter relationships are tricky. Some are stable while others are volatile. Some fluctuate and others are solid. Some are toxic while others are healing. Some are the things dreams are made of while others are a nightmare. Some are non-existent and others overbearing. Some seem to be “perfect” and others are perfectly imperfect.

There is no cookie-cutter recipe to what makes for a “perfect” mother-daughter relationship. And despite the range and types of mother-daughter relationships out there, mothers always fill a huge part of our hearts for better or worse…in life and in death.

Mother’s Day is tricky to navigate for us whether we like to admit it or not. Some of us don’t like to show our feelings, much less talk about them. Or we have shame around it. There is absolutely nothing wrong with feeling your feelings -all of them- especially when you no longer have a mom around.

We live in a culture that is not comfortable talking about death, much less expressing our feelings around how much we may miss someone who is no longer alive. The love we feel for someone never dies along with that person, If anything, sometimes that love gets   even deeper and more expansive over the years. Yet, there is a preconceived notion some people have that they are expected to “get over” their grief in a certain time period. There is no timeline to grief, no magic recipe, and not one path that is better than another. We all grieve differently because we are all wired differently. As we’ve all experienced, grief just comes out of nowhere sometimes and it shows up differently for each of us. Oftentimes, it’s that unwelcome guest at our heart’s door that we need to allow in.

And when we open our heart’s door, and when we allow ourselves to flow with whatever arises, we are sometimes  unexpectedly surprised. Memories suddenly show up, or something that was so insignificant now holds deeper meaning and significance. Sometimes we struggle to remember something to no avail, but instead we are gifted with a precious memory that was long forgotten…perhaps even painful at the time but, with the passing of time, we look at it through a different lens.

Coming from a generation where our mothers tended to never speak about “family” situations, what I advise anyone who still has a mom around, is to ask them questions…all kinds of questions: about their childhood, growing up, experiences, traumas, ancestors, romances, challenges, successes, relationships, wishes fulfilled and dreams unfulfilled…you get the idea. Record videos and take lots of pictures of them. Interview them, have them interview you and record these interviews. Be silly, go deep and don’t leave any stone unturned. These will be some of the things that will comfort you and make you laugh when you are longing for their presence -even if it’s for one more day.

I’m a person who values rituals and enjoys celebrating a person’s life. So, on Mother’s Day, my day starts with a gratitude filled meditation and yoga practice. I usually have my customary white roses and my Mama’s journal that I write in twice a year.  Some years, I look back at what I wrote in years past. I like this quiet time to reflect . It also allows me to see how, with the passing of time, I am growing into being more and more like my mother. And I am owning it. Sometimes I laugh, sometimes I cry. It’s all good though…I embrace it all!

My mama was all about love, generosity and service. She loved to dance, celebrate and laugh. She always ended her conversations with “Te quiero” and was very loved by all who knew her. Mama had a huge heart. As I look back, I can see how she felt all her feelings… maybe too much.  I have no doubt that she was an empath. She was compassionate, loving and kind to everyone. Don’t get me wrong, she could have a temper – that Cuban mother temper- but most times she’d end up getting over it- and herself- very quickly. Sometimes she’d even be concealing laughter while in the midst of an outburst. I just don’t think she had a mean bone in her body…it was all theatrics.

All I know for sure is that my mother is always with me. This morning I took out a box of old family pictures ,and l really took the time to look at them, look at the body language, the smiles, the joy and the sadness too. I even found myself looking at pictures of me when I was a baby and a young child and talking out loud to the little girl I was holding in my hands. Talk about powerful stuff! I also read through letters and cards that teachers had their students write and draw for my mom a few months before she passed.

As if by divine intervention, as I sit here finishing this blog, a friend of mine who  lost her mom a couple of months ago sent me a picture of a card she received. The front of the card was almost the same as the title of this blog, Your Mother Will Always Be With You. Go figure! Is that a coincidence, or what?

So….in honor of all of us who’ve lost our moms-whether physically, emotionally or mentally- especially if this is your first Mother’s Day without your mom, I will leave you with the beautiful sentiment expressed in the card my friend received:

“You’ll never forget her face, her voice, her love for you. You’ll never forget the traditions she handed down, the things she stood for… They are her gift and your legacy. You honor her every day in the way you live and the person you are.”

Sending you all much love and many blessings,  from my heart to yours!

Lead from the heart…always and in all ways, JTC

 

Scandalous Grace

“Joy is the gift of love. Grief is the price of love.” – Valerie Kaur

I have been reflecting a lot on life’s events from 10 years ago. It was one of the happiest times in my life yet one of the saddest. Light and dark. High and low. As I recalled my memories of the last few months of my mother’s life, I couldn’t help but also think of the person who was in my life at the time.

A person who was instrumental in bringing Mama and me so much joy.  A person who was by my side when we laid my mother to rest two weeks before my fiftieth birthday. A person who took me sky diving for my 50th. A person whom I have been reluctant to write about but did mention briefly in a couple of blogs last year. A person who I said I would “leave for a future blog” on multiple occasions. Well, I think this is finally the occasion and the blog. Allow me to introduce you to “Scandalous.”

Scandalous had many nick names….some given by me and others that friends coined. This particular one was given to him by a school secretary. Frankie came to school, where I was a vice-principal, to take me on a lunch date. Now mind you- this is a man who dresses to the nines, can sport conservative clothes as well as the most outlandish, is an engineer by trade,  has been truly gifted with the most logical, orderly, and organized left brain as well as the most creative, imaginative and artistic right brain. It’s no wonder we got along so well. There was never a dull moment between us….each moment was powerful and wonder-filled! But what did he choose to wear the day he came to pick me up?

Would you guess if I told you that he picked me up on his motorcycle!?!?!?! If you guessed leather chaps, you guessed right (and a leather vest, bandana on his head…the whole enchilada). I still recall Sara, the school secretary, calling me with a sense of urgency in her voice. When he showed up and “strutted” into my office, I understood why the urgent tone in Sara’s voice. OMG! Although I tried not to show it, I cringed when I saw him and immediately fast forwarded to how I was going to introduce him to my principal AND how I was going to get him out of the building without many people seeing him. Well, I did, and we did, and the rest is history. We often joked and laughed at the memories of that day.

So now you understand how the nick name “Scandalous” originated. On that fall Friday afternoon, we rode off on his LOUD, colorful motorcycle and, unbeknownst to me, the principal gathered  the office staff, and they crowded by the window to check out the entire scene as “Ms. Carricarte” got on a motorcycle (probably in high heels) and with a “scandalous” looking guy.

Scandalous and I had known each other for about 6 years or so at that time. We would frequently see each other at the gym on the weekends. During the summer of 2008, as my mother was in hospice and coming to the end of her life, I decided I would spend most of the weekends with her. However, I had to make sure I took care of Me first if I was going to hole myself up with her in the nursing home every weekend. And it was then that Scandalous and I saw each other after a while of me being absent from the gym. As with all things in life, timing and circumstances brought us together like never before.

Scandalous had always been a flirt, but I rarely paid any mind to it. Actually, I always found him entertaining. However, this time around was different. I found myself being the flirt…or overly enthused and happy to see him. Take your pick. Perhaps  I needed to laugh, as I was already starting to grieve my mother’s pending loss. And believe me when I say that laughter was a mainstay with me and Scandalous. No one has ever brought out my inner child the way he did. We were like two little kids whenever we were together. Talk about mindfulness and being present…..it’s as if time stood still whenever we were together. We were so engrossed in whatever we were doing, or whatever antics he would be up to, or we would be up to, that I could not help but be 100% engaged in any given moment.

Scandalous’ life was “complicated,”  which is one of the reasons I never got involved with him prior to that point in time. However, it got even more complicated once our souls connected and our grand love affair took flight.  We spent as much time together as we could. It was easy, it was fun, romantic, he’d stay over, we’d go out all the time, and we’d go away quite a bit…until the time came when I realized this “complicated affair” was not serving my highest good… nor his. Our 15 months together were the equivalent of having been together for 10 years.

Throughout those first few months we were together, Scandalous got to meet my Mama and made sure she knew that he would take care of me when she was gone. Scandalous always had a very charitable and generous spirit and always knew how to handle things, so that just made him even more endearing. And during those last few months of Mama’s life, Scandalous brought a lot of love, joy, fun and laughter into her world. His sense of humor,  jokes, zaniness and thoughtfulness made her laugh, cry and also brought her a sense of peace and serenity. Mama even called him “mi segundo hijo,” which translates to “my second son.” In her mind, she was handing me off to him, and all would be well in my world.

Needless to say, he was there for both of us and was instrumental in helping me to  honor my mother in fun and creative ways. However, full-blown grief came out to play once I ended the relationship. Little did I know that I was about to embark on a period of grief that, compounded with other losses (which I’ve written about in past blogs), would amount to about six of the darkest years of my life.

The years that followed our breakup were times of much growth for me. Labels, ego, expectations and letting go of attachments was something I was working on at the time we came together. Scandalous taught me what unconditional love in a relationship looked like, along with compassion and patience.  When all was said and done, I learned acceptance – seeing, loving, respecting and honoring others regardless of where they are along their own path / journey. I also learned how to speak my truth clearly, calmly and compassionately without raising my voice, getting angry or heated. Most importantly though, I learned to value my worth and my own values.  However, it didn’t make the breakup, nor the six years that followed, any easier. Those post-Scandalous years were very difficult, painful, and dark to say the least.

At the time  our relationship expired, which was a year to the day after burying  Mama, we woke up together on what would be our last day of doing so. You see, I realized I was done. For the first time since we had gotten together, my soul felt compromised. Deep in my heart, I knew that I had learned whatever lessons I was meant to have learned at that particular juncture in my life, and so had he. But it wasn’t about him…it was about Me.

I vowed to myself to honor what my soul was guiding me to do. No more complications, no more hurts, and no more lies.  Even though the lies were on his part, I was still part of them and an active participant as long as we stayed together. I no longer wanted to be a part of the double life he was living. At this point, I was entrenched in my yoga practice, studying yoga philosophy and knew I was compromising my soul, values, morals, ethics and beliefs. I just couldn’t do it any longer. Authenticity was a MAJOR life lesson for me in my 50’s. I worked hard (and still do) at living my yoga, both on and off the mat, with intention, integrity and grace.

Ahhhh “grace”…those mindful and meaningful moments of grace were a constant after our breakup, as well as continued faith, joy, gratitude, inner fortitude, resilience, peace, calm……and grief. These were such dark and sad times for me. I tried to find the grace and joy in each of those moments no matter how I was feeling. Actually, I felt like a part of my soul was missing, I felt like I had lost my best friend. More than anything I missed, and still miss, our friendship more so than the romantic relationship.

For years after our breakup, I couldn’t listen to dance music, and I felt like a light had been extinguished in my soul. That’s when I started to experience the “grief is the price of love” thingI was grieving my mother, the breakup, and an injury that brought with it yet more losses, including the end of my career (not on my terms), and much physical, emotional and psychological pain. Through it all, my light-filled Treehouse oasis (which I moved to a few months after the breakup) became more and more of a sacred healing place filled with much love, light and joy.

The Treehouse became a place for me to  retreat to and pamper my mind, body and spirit. It was, and still is, where I leave the world behind and go within. I cook, read, write and reflect a whole lot at home. I enjoy the peace, quiet, serenity, tranquility  and ambiance within the walls and the nature that surrounds me.  Little did I know that Scandalous, as well as these last ten post-Scandalous years, would lead me to the place and the woman I am today.

One month shy of my 60th, I think its safe to say I have grown into someone who is brave and fearless yet vulnerable; wild and free yet responsible;  fierce and steadfast yet flexible;  compassionate and kind yet discerning; open and accepting, yet conscious of healthy boundaries; honest, truthful, transparent and unapologetically real….AND the bonus was I learned the beauty of leaving one’s ego at the door. It’s amazing how the universe is always presenting me with opportunities to use these skillful gifts. Yep, the lessons keep coming, deeper, with more layers and more complexities each time. Like the saying goes, “We can be a masterpiece and a work in progress.”

What can I say?  Thank you, Universe! Thank you, Scandalous!  While I feel these are pretty healthy, balancing, abundant and harmonious gifts, I also know they constantly need tending to, chiseling and polishing. Our work is never done! One thing is for sure though: taking the time to “do me” these past ten years have blessed me with these endless gifts of grace….Scandalous Grace. 

I guess I should mention that, on a few occasions over the years, Scandalous has even shown up at my door…unexpectedly. We’ve spoken about the “void” and have even tried doing “the friend thing.” Although the energy and soul recognition / connection will always exist between us, the “friend thing” just does NOT work for us. Especially when it’s apparent to you that you are not on the same playing field, nor on the same page, and you realize the woman you have grown into will not compromise her Soul ever again. There’s no turning back. Now that is scandalous grace!

So, my darlings, there you have it. Scandalous 101- done and done!

Inhale Love & Light…Exhale Grace & Gratitude, JTC

PS- For more on relationships, you may want to check out two of my previous blogs, Relationships Expire and You’re Not Alone. As always, thanks for caring and sharing!

 

 

 

When Bad Stuff Happens

“When we meet real tragedy in life, we can react in two ways; either by losing hope and falling into self-destructive habits, or by using the challenge to find our inner strength.” – Dalai Lama

Bad stuff  happens to good people. Bad stuff happens to bad people. Bad stuff happens.  Period. And when bad stuff happens, we either fall, or we rise. We either weaken in the face of fear and uncertainty or become strong in the name of love and hope. What would you prefer to do?

Challenging, difficult, painful and heart-wrentching times remind us of what is really important in our lives. It’s a basic tenet of the privilege of being alive. When we take a bird’s-eye view of things, we can see a common thread running through the hardest times – the worst times bring out the best in us. The key, is to have an open heart and to be grateful for the teachings, lessons and blessings these times are bestowing upon us.

Just take a look at everything swirling around in our country and in the world today. I think we can all agree there’s a whole lot of darkness and bleakness that, if we allow it to consume us, will swallow us up entirely. It  will destroy us unless we tap into our inner fortitude and rise above it. We must take action, be patient, steadfast, and wholeheartedly bring our understanding into the world along with our compassion and empathy.

In spite of all the darkness, we can see the light in the cracks that are starting to happen more and more. We see how people are stepping up, coming together for a common good and/or a common purpose. We can look back at tragedies that have occurred throughout history and see the good that ultimately came of it. Destruction must occur in order to rebuild. When bad stuff happens, change occurs. Change that must occur if we are to move humanity forward. And that collective energy that moves us forward is the collective consciousness that is on the rise. We each play a vital role in it, so this is’t a time to lose hope or fall into despair.

We can look at hope and strength as two pillars that build resiliency. During the darkest of times in our lives, hope and strength allow us to keep going…to keep putting one foot in front of the other. And I am not implying that we not allow ourselves to feel pain and sorrow for, if we didn’t, we’d be unfeeling and unloving creatures. Pain affirms that we are alive, that we love, that we are loved, that we are human, that we matter, that we all have pain, and that we all suffer. During these times, we can feel the interconnectedness of a shared humanity.

Challenging times are the greatest teachable moments should we choose to look at them in that light. It’s a time to affirm that we are powerful beyond measure, and tap into that knowingness. It’s when we dig deep, we feel deeply, love harder, and challenge ourselves to rise above…..to empower ourselves with that sense of hope and inner fortitude and be grateful that we have the skills, tools, loved ones and resources to guide and support us. This isn’t a time for self-destructive habits to consume us – for it is the antithesis of self-love, self-respect and self-care. I would hope that we all have people around us that would throw us a life-line if they saw us falling into self-destructive habits. Be grateful if you do. And be sure to hold on to that lifeline should you ever need it!

Here’s a little affirmation /  prayer for you from the May You Know Joy Meditations for Everyday Living book/cards.

May You Know Power

May you know your own power. This power comes from standing firmly in your truth and expressing yourself in the world from that place. It is not about the ego and is never about minimizing others to achieve this. In fact, power comes from recognizing that lessons are constantly presenting themselves to you. Look at every person and event as an opportunity to learn more about yourself and your values. These are the seeds of your own self-love, self-respect and empowerment.

Yeah, bad stuff happens, but I am here to remind you that your are powerful beyond measure!

Inhale love & light…Exhale grace & gratitude, JTC

PS- I will be on holiday this month and disconnecting from social media as much as I can, so my blogs will publish only on Wednesdays throughout the month of March. I will be “defrosting” and allowing the waves to nourish and infuse me with inspiration xo

 

 

 

 

The Pain of Death

“Opening up to the pain of death, our own or that of someone we love, is one of the most mysterious blessings of life.” Marianne Williamson

Marianne Williamson goes on to say that nothing focuses us more clearly on what matters, helps us drop our defenses more quickly or gives us more compassion for human suffering – that death has become one of our greatest teachers. This, I know to be true. Why? I guess because I have been up close and personal with death my entire life.

What got me thinking about this? Well, allow me to back track. Just a few  days ago, very dear friends of mine suffered the double, mind-boggling and incomprehensible loss of their soul sister and her husband. Another dear friend of mine lost a life-long soul sister a couple of weeks ago. Over the past year, numerous friends and acquaintances have lost a loved one as well: mother, father, brother, best friend, soul sister, spouse. The thing is, most of the people who passed did so unexpectedly. I don’t know what is more painful, an unexpected death or a diagnosis and watching someone wither away very quickly. That’s a tough one!

As a result, I’ve spent most of today thinking about death, loss, grief, pain, suffering and resilience. That’s what the pain of death does to us. It makes us have conversations with ourselves. Conversations that make us explore the mystery and intrigue behind this so-called rite of passage. A passage that is so beautiful and marks the end of a soul’s purpose here on earth, yet one that is so painful and sorrowful for those who are left behind, ones who’ve never been taught to talk about death or have never been up close and personal to it. Today, I shed lots of tears for the human suffering of my own friends who are trying to process their grief. Today made me examine my life and reflect on my relationship with this rite of passage called death.

My intimate relationship (and fascination) with death started at an early age. I lost a couple of classmates when I was in elementary school. A dearly beloved cousin of mine passed away when I was in 8th grade (he was one year older than me). From there, it was my only living grandmother, uncles and aunts, their husbands and wives, cousins and, ultimately, my parents. Over the course of my career, there were a few students and several co-workers that passed away too. And when people who are our own age, and who are our contemporaries, come to the end of their life, we really turn inward and examine our own lives – whether we want to or not. A key factor for us is to get comfortable talking about death.

Is being up close and personal to death a blessing? Is having experienced all these losses the reason I am able to show up hold the space for others to grieve? Is being fascinated with the afterlife, reincarnation and research stories of near death and out-of-body experiences what enables me to have conversations with the dying and help them cross over peacefully? Is having gone though my own out of body experience and being in a place of pure love, consciousness and bliss the reason why I can so freely talk about  death and dying? Is my understanding of the many aspects and changes the body undergoes as it prepares for that final breath what helps me comfort and prepare someone for their transition or the transition of their loved one? Is my passion for organization and event planning why I can so readily help someone to organize their end of life affairs, wishes and celebrations? Is embracing and working through the stages of grief what helps to build resilience? Is gratitude what has made me so resilient? Questions, questions and more questions! No wonder my head, heart and body were screaming for attention today!

Though today’s tears, reflections, and heartfelt pain for shared human suffering, I realized that all this death, loss, grief, pain, suffering, life altering moments and resilience have shaped my spiritual and healthy relationship with the dying process. It is a gift for which I am grateful. I would be remiss if I didn’t mention that a few of my friends held the space for me to make sense of all this today……infinite love and gratitude for your presence, love and support……and for yoga, foot reflexology and amazing dinner with friends! Our Tools and our Tribe are a must go to in life and in death. These are our blessings!

Like any other rite of passage, I believe end of life is something we must plan for and celebrate. And that includes our own end of life! After all, we are all terminal! This is a date we all have and cannot cancel, reschedule or postpone. We must have a say in our own planning and celebrating. However, much of the planning, and many of the conversations, fail to take place. We must fix this, my darlings. We must reshape the way we think and talk about death, and allow it to be our greatest counselor, mentor and teacher.

Next up……THE Conversation!

Inhale love & light…Exhale grace & gratitude, JTC