Bearing Witness

For twelve years I was an attendee of the local San Diego Society of Friends, more commonly referred to as the Quakers. Bearing Witness is an important part of their belief and practice.

“Bearing witness is largely nonverbal. It is being a compassionate observer to the unfolding of another person’s life or a particular moment or event.” The Power of Bearing Witness”-Judith Johnson

We, all of us, at some point or another in our lives come upon crisis, large or small, good or not so good, it really makes no difference. When crisis or trauma unfolds I believe that it is helpful to have those around us who can bear witness for each other. Sometimes we help each other sort through our feelings. More often we become someone who listens and observes while the other person speaks freely from their heart. Some times it is a quiet role of helping to hold the space so the other person can take care of the business at hand.

Guests at a wedding are bearing witness. Any time any of us gather in small or large groups we bear witness to that event in time. 

“When we bear witness, we lovingly give our attention to the other without judgment. We comfort without smothering. We play a supporting role — powerfully upholding the other starring in his or her life. It is not about us. It is about them. Yet, we make a profound decision when we do not try to fix their pain and suffering or share in their experience by telling how we had a similar experience. Bearing witness says, “You are not alone. I see you. I witness what you are experiencing. What you are experiencing matters to me. I surround you with my love.” The Power of Bearing Witness-Judith Johnson

Recently I was reminded again of the importance of bearing witness. A good and dear friend of mine received some painful news. Most of the day was spent on the phone and speaking with others. I began during this process to become aware of my role, bearing witness. Being in the immediate environment, as a witness to this time, I held the space so that she could make the phone calls she needed to. It felt important to let her know she was in a kind and loving space and she could take care of business. When and if she was ready, I was there for her to talk with. I was bearing witness.

One of my favorite quotes is “We are just walking each other home”. I believe we bear witness or honor the other person and know we are each on the same path, even though we may have different directions to get there. There is nothing more honorable and special in my heart than to help each other through all the different times in our lives.

 

Many have born witness for me over the past four and half years since my husband, Jim’s death. My community of friends has grown stronger. I am only now, beginning to recognize the importance that their role was for me in those first few years after he died. Most of these friends began to bear witness for me and Jim together when I was diagnosed with breast cancer. I appreciate now, how much each person has offered to me. Some gave me space to talk and cry. Others kept me distracted, playing games, going to the movies, seeing an art exhibit. All of this support offered me space to grieve and begin to heal. We do this for each other. Sometimes it is all any of us can do.

There are many sides to bearing witness. I have become more conscious of this roll as I have matured. Although Jim’s death was hard, I still see that time as something I am so grateful for. We were all right there in the moment. It was special, unique, sad, loving and every other emotion the world. All of us that were with him until the moment of his death were bearing witness to a very special moment in time.  I may not always be happy with the outcome yet I am so thankful for the moment.

Lately I have been having these flashes of the events of the day he died.  They arrive, quite unexpectedly and then within seconds they are gone. I am left sitting at a stoplight in wonder. I feel that I am finally able to sift through that day, those events, without pain. The fact that these moments come quickly and leave quickly is important. I feel that these moments have been creating space for me to consider such topics as “Bearing Witness”.

Today I am thankful for those who have actively and not so actively held the space for me. I am thankful for the times I have held the space for others. I am thankful for Bearing Witness.

Mountain Dulcimer

Mountain Dulcimer

Do you know what a mountain dulcimer is? I didn’t know what one was, until the day I walked into a gift shop and the owner was playing one. I fell in love with it. He told me that if I bought it and could not learn to play one tune, I could bring it back and my money would be returned. I took it home, learned to play Twinkle Little Star, and I kept this beautiful instrument.

Little did I know that chance encounter would change the direction of my world. I was in my 20’s, just graduated from nursing school and was looking for adventure. Every two to three years I would move to a new area of the country, get a job and explore the place I temporarily called home. I took that dulcimer with me every time I moved.

I lived in Durango Colorado for almost two years. Fort Lewis College, the four year school in town, offered a semester in, yep you guessed it, the Appalachian Mountain Dulcimer. I took the semester and learned to play reasonably well. Our teacher had the class perform at different events. It was fun. I made new friends and was introduced to folk music and dancing of all kinds.

During this semester we had a guest teacher come for a few days and help us improve on our skills. I was rather shy about playing in front of someone who could play so well. I would sit off to the side and play very quietly. Every time Neal, the teacher would come close I would stop playing. I don’t remember exactly what happened but he gave me a 6 string dulcimer to “try out”. What I remembered later is that the six string instrument was louder and he no longer needed to come too close when I played.

Enter the second dulcimer in my life. I now have a three string traditional dulcimer, made by Clifford Glen in Boone, North Carolina and I have a six string made by Blue Lion from California.
Even more important than the instruments, Neal Hellman, the dulcimer teacher became my friend.

Neal and I have been friends since the early 1980’s. We never lived close but we traveled in the same circles. He taught at music festivals and I attended them. The two of us would catch up over dinner or if time was fleeting I always took time to sit behind his sale table, and find out what was the latest happenings with my friend. I always enjoyed our encounters. E-mail also helped us stay in touch.

Neal and I are not too much alike. I think that may be what makes me like him. He is the only person I know who is able to make a full time business out of music. He plays, he records, he produces for other musicians and he sells a wonderful selection of music. He is the owner of Gourd Music. (click on the link to see his web site). He is funny and smart and fun to be around. He is a kind soul.

When he is on stage or teaching he is gregarious and entertaining. He makes everyone feel like they are the best musician in the room.

Over the years we stopped communicating. There is no reason for this, it is what sometimes happens with friends. Our lives move in different directions. Yet even though that happens, when friends get together again it is like we just saw each other yesterday.

Neal & janet

Neal & janet

Neal lives in Santa Cruz. Three days ago I reconnected with Neal. We visited, rode our bikes to Wilder Beach State Park, had dinner and watched the DNC that evening. I camped in his driveway. It was a great moment on this trip. I love seeing my friends. I especially loved seeing Neal after all these years. I have no idea why friendships happen and it really is not important to know, but I am certainly glad that he and I became friends. I am glad we remain friends still.

Friends support each other. I think they can bring out the best in each other. We can laugh together, share sorrow together and grow together and just have fun together. A lot has happened in both of our lives and I am glad we have had time to catch up. I am glad he is my friend.

Neal sitting on his deck in the Redwoods.

Neal sitting on his deck in the Redwoods.

And…You should see his yard. He has three redwoods in the yard. I am kind of enthralled by these trees.

Since this post I have been meandering up Route 1. When everything east of here is pretty darn hot I don’t mind being along the coast, in the redwoods and it maybe is 70 degrees. I am now camping near Crescent City, CA. It is near the Oregon border. Tonight I am meeting up with another good friend. No more solo camping for me, for a while. A new adventure is about to unfold.

Today I am thankful for friends, new and familiar. I am so glad Neal and I connected once again.

House Sold-Feeling Thankful and Exhausted

imagesFriday, my house closed. I no longer own a “sticks & bricks” home. Now it is Elsie, me and the Roadtrek. It has been a very hectic and emotionally fraught month. And…it is done. The new owners were already there when I dropped my friend, Phyllis at her car.

The closing on Friday went smoothly, but Thursday night, whoa. As I stood, to get ready for bed, I just sat back down and sobbed. It is not something I do often and it is a bit over whelming when it happens. I felt like I was releasing the whole spring, from the moment I injured my ankle and forward. Although I have not been too focused on the fact that this was Jim’s and my home for 21 years, this certainly is signifying a closing of this chapter in my life.

I have been on a very busy and hectic path, first getting the house ready for sale and then working like crazy this past month after it sold, culminating in today, and the closing of the house. And it is done.

Where am I heading? I am not sure. I will be in San Diego until the third week of the month. I am giving myself time to recover and I am waiting to sell my car. I will be heading towards the northwest and from there, well, it will unfold a bit at a time. In other words, I am not sure. I am taking my time to nest into my new tiny home. Elsie the cat is doing the same.Friends-Text-Design-Facebook-Cover-Photo

I have amazing and wonderful friends. I know I may have expressed this in past posts but at this moment in time, I want to share with you some of my friendships.

Janet & Phyllis on moving day

Janet & Phyllis on moving day

Phyllis, has been amazing. This woman has been helping me with the house and the sale since last February. If she wasn’t there on her own, all I had to do was ask, and she was on her way. When I felt a bit directionless, she came over and helped me organize and move ahead. The day I broke my ankle she met me in the driveway and drove me to the hospital, staying with me until they sent me home. With the help of Dee, another good friend we dismantled the house, so work could be done on it, and then the three of us put it back together again.

The best part of my friendship with Phyllis is that we can get really angry at each other and then become friends again. This type of interaction is often seen in families. I have two sisters and I remember moments with them, similar to the one described above. Phyllis is one more sister, not by blood but by kind. I am glad to have such a selfless person as a friend.

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The beautiful pine

I am currently residing at Yvonne’s house. We work together, as tour guides in San Diego, and she is a friend. While she is off traveling she offered me a corner of her driveway, full hook-up included, for me to camp in my RV. The best part is the use of her home and the most amazing back yard. It has a huge pine tree which is where I am sitting as I write this. Even better is that Elsie is here with me, enjoying her much needed outdoor time. Even though it is warm, the wind is blowing gently and I am loving every minute of it. Somewhere in the distance mariachi music is playing. This is the perfect place for me to have some recovery time.

When I first broke my ankle, Yvonne came to the house, with food and good company. She used to work for Jim at Grossmont College. Now she and I are friends. I appreciate her generosity and support.

UnknownBarbara, well what can I say?  She was my realtor and is still my friend. I appreciate her high tolerance level for anxious moments in her clients lives. She was there every single step of the way, starting in February when the work on the house started. Barbara has continued to be there for me in person, by text, phone and e-mail. She made me feel respected and honored. I appreciate that she gave me the illusion of control. Without her, I would have been lost. I feel like our friendship has deepened through the whole experience of selling my house. We made quite a team. Thank you Barbara.

Me & My Kayak

Me & My Kayak

Nancy is storing my kayaks, and motor scooter. We have been friends for as long as I have lived here. When I asked for her help with these items she never flinched, just said yes and there they went. Sometime before I leave, we will create a pulley system in her garage and hang the kayaks. It will be fun, as many adventures with her are. Even though her life is busy we always seem to find time to spend together and I know I have her full support for the adventure ahead of me.

I could continue, yet hopefully you get the idea. It is important to have good and valued friends. I feel fortunate that there are several in my life, close by and at a distance. As I prepare to travel I will be visiting and spending time with some of my more far-away-friends. Having friends scattered to the 4 winds makes my adventure a bit less daunting. Friends make life more manageable when things are tough and more fun when life is running smoothly. Every day I am thankful for my friends. I am especially thankful for those who have so strongly supported me over the past month and the past three and half years since Jim’s death.

 

 

IMG_3060Sold, Sold, Sold! Oh my God, my house is sold!!!! It went on the market late last Monday afternoon. Late Tuesday my house was sold for the asking price. I am stunned and every other emotion as well.

I had no idea this would happen so fast. I am walking around in a bit of a daze. There are moments I find I am happy and excited. Then there are moments where I am scared and wondering “what have I done?”. And then there is the daze. So many emotions and they show up at the oddest of times. I am not sure which one will be there until it presents itself.

I feel a bit overwhelmed with all the prep work that needs to be done. The paper work is huge. Today I received all the paperwork from the escrow company. There are times I wonder, where is Jim? It would be so much easier with him. I will forge ahead alone, though. It is hard to be single and do something so big. I feel so tiny.

I find I am doing the same thing I did, right after Jim died. I make a list of all that has to be done and then I pick two or three items to do a day and then I stop. I try to remember to leave the house and go do something fun. I find fun can be huge or as simple as an afternoon at Santee Lakes, taking photos and laying on the grass. It is good to remember to breath and relax.

An Afternoon at the Lakes

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Just after the first of the year I began to work on the inside and outside of my house. It is not that I haven’t been busy, yet in the next month, I feel overwhelmed with the thought, of the amount of work that needs to be done. What do I keep? What do I sell? What do I give away? When is the garage sale?

Where do I go from here? In the middle of this past week, the check engine light in my RV went on. Now I am also in the middle of getting new nox sensors and dealing with Mercedes Benz and Holland Motor Homes. Sometime I get tired of being strong and holding on. But strong and holding on, I do.

On My First Hike

On My First Hike

This past weekend I had a last minute opportunity to go camping up in the mountains east of San Diego with a good friend, Pat. It was a good weekend. I did my first hike since my broken ankle, 1 mile. I am still practicing. Pat and I share an unfortunate common experience, the loss of our husbands, way too soon. I am glad she was there because on Saturday afternoon I hit an emotional wall. It has been a long time since I have cried and it felt so good to have a moment of release. I am glad I have friends who create a safe environment for me to feel vulnerable and loved.

When I look at my house, I realize with this sale and moving into my RV, I am closing a chapter of my life. This is one chapter I had always hoped I would not have to close. It has made my vulnerability and emotions ride close to the surface. I will miss the house for a while until new adventures unfold. I know I will always carry Jim close to my heart. Just because the house is gone does not mean he will be forgotten. There is no way I could ever forget the valuable time we shared together. The house is only a symbol and when I can sweep all the emotions aside, I feel good about the sale. I feel good I am moving forward, even if I am not sure where I am going.

Now I am heading for the attic. Marking one more off my list. Yep I am adventuring into the unknown. And what an adventure it is going to be. I hope you continue to come along for the ride.

 

 

 

Acts of Loving Kindness

imagesThis past week I finally met my new neighbor. Gavin Jay was born about two weeks ago. I had to wait until I was over a cold and my broken ankle casted before I could venture next door to meet this little one. He is such a new baby, all soft and warm and, well, new.

JJ and Athena are developing into such loving parents. While I was visiting, Athena prepared to breast feed. JJ came up behind her and pulled her long hair back to help in the preparation. This was a small moment in time. This one small and rather unremarkable act drew my attention. It was such  loving thing for him to do. In that one small act I witnessed the love they have for each other. It made me think of all those moments that we easily let slide by without acknowledgement.

It doesn’t necessarily have to be a couple doing these touching acts. I believe these acts are given to us every day, sometimes by total strangers. Because they are brief moments in time, frequently they go by unnoticed. I wonder what our individual worlds would be like if we acknowledged each of these acts.

Jim and I had a very strong and loving relationship. As I look back I believe both of us took the time to acknowledge these small daily acts. I feel that this was a part of what made our relationship so strong.

Since I broke my ankle I have begun to take the time to acknowledge the large and small acts that my friends and people I don’t know well are doing for me. I am overwhelmed with gratefulness for these on-going moments. What have they been doing? Here is a sampling.

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  • Janet has been kindly driving me to my orthopedic appointments. We use the driving time to catch up. I hope she finds it as enjoyable as I do. She also borrowed a wheelchair from her church so it was easier for me to get around my home.
  • Nancy came over right after this happened and fixed the netting on the fence in my back yard so Miss Elsie the cat could go outside without leaving the yard. I don’t know if Elsie is thankful for this, I know I am.
  • Yvonne showed up the Monday after my event in the desert with a sampling of foods from Trader Joes and good conversation. She also took over a three day tour I was suppose to do the week after I broke my ankle. I am so thankful for her willingness to take this on at the last minute.
  • Phyllis has been coming over about twice a week. She has been helping me pack boxes and moving them to the shed, so that I can clear the house before the painters come in early April. She also has been schlepping me to doctors appointments. It is another good time for us to catch up. She continues to be a good friend.
  • A New Way to Get Around

    A New Way to Get Around

    Gary, who I had not met until last Monday, offered up his knee scooter so I could get around even easier. I love this scooter. I need to make sure that I am careful on it. It is kind of fun to go fast. Gary and Penny drove down from Orange County. We went out to lunch and the time flew by. I felt like I had known these two for much longer.

  • My neighbors are taking in and out the trash cans. I go to visit Kelly and Jeff and their two toddlers. I am always welcomed with open arms.
  • JJ, my other neighbor (with the baby) has offered to help finish up a couple of projects in my yard, started pre-broken ankle.
  • Tomorrow several people I know from work, yoga (the teacher), and long time friends are coming to help me move things out of the house for the paint job. I have learned that if I ask for what I need, people are more than willing to give of their time to help out. I feel very fortunate.

The above list is just a small demonstration of what others have been doing for me. I am so grateful for each and every act of kindness and caring. It makes my heart feel full and brings emotion forward. I am grateful.

I want to remember to do this for others. If I find it so touching, then others may also. Sometimes I believe that small daily acts of kindness and love are all any of us can do. We are all in this world together and sometimes all we can do is give of ourselves to each other. And I end here with a quote from Ram Dass.

“We’re all just walking each other home.”

Baba Ram Dass

Baba Ram Dass

 

A Break in Time

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4 Desert Divas

This past weekend I met up with a two other Roadtrekers, Mary and Linda,  in the Anza Borrego Desert. There were four of us for part of the weekend as a local friend of mine, Phyllis came out for Friday night. We hiked, we toured, we laughed and had wonderful conversations. The wild flowers were in full bloom. It was a great time for photographers to be out in the desert.

As we were returning from our last hike together, I slipped on some loose scree and fell hard. The results? I fractured my right ankle. As I am lying in the middle of the jeep road, well thank my lucky stars, here comes a jeep. The couple in the jeep lifted me on board and drove me the two miles to the trail head and Linda’s Roadtrek. I crawled on board, laid on the floor, with my foot elevated and iced. Thank goodness for the RV lifestyle.

one break on the outside- one break on the inside

one break on the outside- one break on the inside

After double ace wrapping my ankle I actually was able to drive home. (Maybe not the best idea but the most convenient). Phyllis met me in the driveway and drove me to the Emergency Room. It was orthopedic night. I guess everyone shows up from their adventures over the weekend. Ah the weekend warriors.

Now I sit with my foot elevated, splinted and wrapped until after my appointment today. I am also on no weight bearing. I am getting used to crutches.

I have had my share of injuries over the past six years. Jim was still alive when I injured myself before. Now I am on my own. It is different. When someone is around on a daily basis, there is always help when I need it, someone to prepare meals, drive the infirmed, me, places. Now I have to figure it out on my own. It makes it a bit harder and I have to be a bit more creative.

I am re-discovering again, the fact that I have good friends. Phyllis was supportive and patient during the initial wait in the emergency room. She also helped me clean out my Roadtrek. Yesterday some work friends, Yvonne and Annie,  showed up with food and conversation. Today, another friend, Janet is driving me to my first appointment. Oh my goodness, I am so thankful for friends. All we can do is help and support each other. Every day I am thankful that I am cared about.

I am trying to do as much as I can on my own. I feel a need to challenge myself to do my daily life. My desk chair has become a good friend. It has wheels, I can wheel it around the kitchen to prepare my meals. I also wheel it around the house when I weary of my crutches. I am not immune to crawling. I have found that is a good way to get around too. It is OK to be humble.

The dilemma of a single person is certainly in the forefront of my mind. There are many of us out there, in the world. When you have a partner there is often a false sense of security. I always assumed Jim would help me out. Now that he is not here I have to be creative in figuring out solutions. In the next few days I plan to start investigating services that might be of use to me. Some of the local grocery stores have home delivery. How do I get around? What if I want to go to the library or a coffee house? Unfortunately I live in an area with limited bus service. Uber might come in handy.

What about exercise? I am not one to sit around. I don’t mind having my foot up for a few days but then I want to move. Gary, has offered me his knee scooter and I think that would be a good solution. A scooter is certainly a better solution for me to go a bit further afield, down to the end of the street to get my mail. I can do some yoga poses so I will continue to practice. Maybe I will even adventure to the gym for some upper body work. I hope they will let me in.

I am so glad that the house has not gone on the market yet. I can delay that. Thank goodness. Right now I am set up in the living room in Jim’s and now my favorite big red Lazy Boy chair. I have the computers close by, the phone is my best companion, and I can see the finches at the feeder outside. I also have four library books sitting next to the chair. Now that is what I call a good set up.

Living alone is easy when one is healthy and able to take care of themselves 100%. With on little slip that can change in an instant. So here is what I know.

  • Ask for help. Be as independent as possible but never, ever be too proud to ask for help.
  • It is good to have friends.
  • Get a good rolling chair in your house, seriously, it helps so much.
  • Ask your HMO for services to help you out. I plan to do that this morning.
  • Investigate your resources.
  • If not on a good diet make yourself get on one. Food heals. This is an important one for me. I have not been very good regarding eating as a single person. Now it will become one of my focuses.
  • Drink plenty of water. That helps heal too.
  • Apple TV helps. I can watch a lot of current movies and documentaries.
  • Get some good books to read.
  • Now is the time to catch up on the chores I don’t want to think about, update all the financial stuff, balance the checkbook, pay bills, clean the desk off while sitting in my rolling chair.
  • Have the phone nearby so I can talk to friends and make calls with minimal effort.
  • Keep the spaces clear in the house so I have a good path for said chair and crutches.
  • And don’t mope, it could always be worse. I haven’t done the moping part yet and I don’t plan to.
  • ASK FOR HELP-this is the one I need to remember most of all.

    Linda, Phyllis, and Mary

    Linda, Phyllis, and Mary

I always thought that as I got older personal growth would slow down. I would have reached “it” whatever that is. Instead, every day I am growing as an individual on this planet. This is one more life lesson for me. Why I needed it might not be clear and that is OK. I find I need to accept this latest incident as just another place to discover thankfulness and gratefulness. Even though it has only been a few days, already, I am soooooo…..grateful to so many. Grateful to Yvonne who stepped in at the last minute to take a tour I was suppose to lead this week. Grateful for Nancy who fixed my fence last night so Miss Elsie the cat can still venture into the yard. Grateful to that couple who picked me up and drove me two miles down the hill. Grateful to Linda and Mary for all their assistance. Grateful to Phyllis who is always there when I need her. Grateful to Gary who is going to loan me his knee scooter. Grateful to everyone else who is out there loving and supporting me as I continue to explore the life of the single person. Sigh.

And here is why I was in the desert in the first place.

Desert Sun Flowers

Desert Sun Flowers

Sand Verbena

Sand Verbena

Desert

Desert Primrose

 

Desert Liliy

Desert Lily

Valentine’s Day

imagesJim and I never really observed the holidays, official or made up. We felt that if we wanted to celebrate something why not do it when we thought about it rather than wait for a special day. The holidays, our anniversary and more was not that important to us. What seemed more important was to acknowledge the unique friendship and relationship we had on a daily basis.

Now that I am on my own I still feel little need to mark the holidays. I do try to make it to Jim’s family on Thanksgiving or Christmas because it is important to them and I enjoy the camaraderie. It also helps me get into action and make plans, which I am not always good at doing.

If I did not have any family near by I know that celebrating these events would probably just go on by. I would be good with that. Maybe this has something to do with working as a nurse and then a tour guide. With these careers, I worked the holidays. I have been working holidays for most of my adult life.

Valentine’s Day was always one that I have shunned. Too many people go out. The restaurants are crowded. It is a sham holiday made up by the card companies. Blah, blah, blah. Oh my head at work.

Why am I commenting on this? This year I was invited to go out to dinner with a friend and 4 of her friends on Valentine’s Day evening. The final enticement was that we would be going to Albert’s at the San Diego Zoo. It is a lovely restaurant in the center of the Zoo and the meals are delicious. And…it is really cool to be in the zoo after dark with no one around. We could only walk from the entrance to Alberts but it was fun to hear the night noises and know those animals and birds were close by.

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Last night I went out for a Valentine’s Day dinner and I had a wonderful time. The food was delicious and the company superb. It was an easy, relaxed evening. I always worry about being excluded. Nope, none of that. All these folks were delightful conversationalists. I felt very included. The bottom line; It Was Fun. We talked, we laughed and ate good food and drank good wine. What more could I ask for?

This year I have committed myself to move out of my current comfort zone and be with more people. This was a very good result of pushing myself. I was not comfortable, yet as soon as I met Vinnie and Gary I knew it would be alright. Then everyone showed up and all their personalities just firmed up the fact that it was going to be a good evening.

Each time I take this tentative step forward with good results, I look for the next opportunity. And maybe, just maybe I won’t shun the holidays as much. Well, maybe.