Monthly Archives: June 2014



I had a dream recently about my cousin who committed suicide in 2008.  We were sitting by her pool at her old house in Southern California, drinking iced tea on a beautiful, sunny day and talking about why she killed herself.  It was an oddly calm conversation.  No emotional charge at all, which, even in the dream, I noticed and thought was strange.  She was telling me that she just couldn’t fight anymore.  All her life had felt like a struggle to maintain control.  She felt she was always on the edge of a cliff hanging on for dear life.  Finally, she just had to let go.  I laughed and told her there were other ways to let go without leaving such a mess behind.  She laughed too and said she’d figured that out too late.  I woke up feeling a profound peace.  I had finally moved through the severe grief and was left only with the sadness of knowing we would never hang out like that again.

What happened prior to her suicide will haunt me the rest of my life.  I knew she was unravelling.  I could hear it in her voice.  I knew she was lying to me about what was going on in her life.  I never confronted her though.  She would go on and on about all the crazy in her life and I never told her what I saw.  And I saw it so clearly.  She was breaking apart.  What I couldn’t reconcile was the woman who was lying to me with the woman I had always known to be incredibly honest, sometimes brutally so.  Why had I been so afraid to ask the important questions, instead of cowering behind flippant jokes and flimsy support?  I remember so clearly our last conversation a few days before her death.  I replay it over and over in my head, wondering if I should have told her that I knew the truth of what was really going on in her life.  Maybe she would have chosen to open up to me about it.  Would it have made a difference?  Maybe…. Secrets are what killed her.  I’m certain of it.  Secrets, and the lies necessary to support them, are poison, especially for recovering alcoholics, which I am and she was.

I was one of the very few people who knew her well…. knew what was behind the mask.  To the rest of the world, she was a fighter, brave, strong and confident.  To me, she was all of those things, but I also knew her pain and where her scars were.  She was also fiercely private and strong willed (read: STUBBORN).  She stood up for injustice where ever she saw it.  She was incredibly intuitive and would always tell you the truth, however painful that was, and you knew it came from a place of deep understanding and love.  The more it hurt, the more you knew she’d hit the nail right on the head.  Funny… I could be describing myself.

We weren’t really cousins though.  Her mother and my mother were best friends since they were young girls and continue to be best friends to this day.  We grew up together like sisters, and a sister is what I will always think of her as.  Her father committed suicide when she was young and she never really got over it.  I think it put the idea in her head that should life ever get too hard, this would be her way out.  She never planned to stay on this Earth for very long anyway.  Her time here was short and she knew it.  That was another reason she chose not to have kids, I think.  She always said she didn’t have the patience for kids, but to see her around them was to see a woman completely engaged and in love with them.  It was like that with animals too.  She was truly an animal whisperer and saviour.  She was strict though.  We used to call her “The Warden,” as she was quite rigid once she made a decision about how something was going to be.  She knew that about herself and felt it would not be a great asset as a parent.  But I often wondered if having kids would have softened her, released a vulnerability she never fully expressed.

But she did express it…..near the end.  I think that’s why I froze up.  Her vulnerability was coming through so loud and clear….and it scared me.  She was my touchstone and I had come to depend on her strength.  I didn’t want to see her frailty.  But now it was my turn to be strong, to tell her the truth, however much it hurt, and deal with the fall-out.  Instead, I minimised and joked and tried to make her laugh.  I sent through the clear signal that I couldn’t handle her vulnerability.  If I had let her completely fall apart, and shown her that I would still love her and always be there for her, without judgment, would she have come clean and told me the truth about what was going on?  Would confessing her secrets to me help her to release the shame?  Would that have saved her life?  I honestly believe it might have.  She was surrounded by dark energy and I could have shined some light on her.  I knew, deep down, that was what she was asking of me.  Why hadn’t I listened?  Why had I let her down so completely?

Her funeral may have been a lovely testament to all the lives she touched in a profound way. I wouldn’t know.  I was too consumed by rage to notice.  The night before we had arranged to release her ashes to the sea, a place she loved best, I lay in bed wracked by grief.  I cried uncontrollably for several hours asking her why she had done this.  Why had she left me?  I asked for some sign that she was with me. I begged for some indication from her that she was here and aware of my immense anger at her.  The next morning, I went into the kitchen of my hotel room where I had placed a picture of her next to the ones I had brought of my husband and kids.  I had leaned them all against the wall.  My cousin’s picture was still lying perfectly against the wall, but it was turned around.  Her face now facing the wall.  In that moment, I knew she had been here and heard my cries.  Later that day, at the beach, we all came together to say goodbye and release her ashes.  Her husband took her on his surfboard and paddled out a distance.  After he dropped the box and started to paddle back, a pod of dolphins swam right to the spot he had dropped her ashes and began to leap out of the water, playing and putting on a show for us that went on for quite a while.  We all knew this was her doing and she was letting us know she was at peace.  Our beautiful mermaid was at home and happy.  We cried tears of sadness and joy, knowing only she could arrange such an amazing spectacle to communicate a clear message to us all.  I will never forget that day and my only regret is that I was too angry to fully appreciate the moment.

Several years down the road I had my own break-down.  I entered the early stages of menopause, which seemed determined to tear down the thick walls around my own vulnerability.   I was a mess, unbalanced, closing in on myself while pushing everyone away.  Luckily, I recognised the signs and reached out for support, otherwise, I may have gone down the same path as her.  I had some very dark moments and I began to understand her anguish on a much deeper level.  There were times when I perfectly understood her choice to check out.  Had I shrouded myself in shame and embraced the dark, pushing away the people bearing the light and love, I’m sure I would’ve made the same choice she did.

The true empathy I finally shared with her allowed me to release the anger I felt towards her for leaving the way she did and the wreckage she left behind.  I had been angry at her for so long and now I could finally understand.  I knew I needed to let go of the shame and guilt and open my heart to the love around me.  She taught me the importance of sharing my feelings, openly and honestly….that being tough and stoic serves no one.  Expressing pain and asking for help is actually an act of courage, not a sign of weakness.  They say you’re only as sick as your secrets.  Today, I keep no secrets.  I share it all.  This enables me to be of much greater benefit to those who are suffering.  If I boldly speak my truth, holding nothing back, and stand exposesd in front of the world, perhaps it will inspire courage in others to do the same.

Imagine a world where no one felt shame or hid their true beauty….if all our hearts were open and we only spoke the truth.  Honestly, it sounds a bit scary, but I vow to honour my cousin by living in that world….always.

Rest in peace dear sister.

Newton’s Laws of Drama….I mean, Motion.

Lately I’ve become very interested in Physics and how they relate to my marriage.  Newton’s 3 Laws of Motion seem to coincide nicely with the nature of drama.  Bear with me as I explore this further.

Newton’s 1st Law of Motion, called the Law of Inertia, says that an object at rest stays at rest and an object in motion stays in motion with the same speed and in the same direction unless acted upon by an unbalanced force.  Newton’s 2nd Law of Motion (Force=mass x acceleration) says that an object with a certain velocity maintains that velocity unless a force acts on it to cause an acceleration, which means to me:  Love=emotion x drama.

Here’s an example of how these first 2 laws apply to my relationship:  When everything is going smoothly in my marriage, and I actually allow that to continue, my marriage is a happy one (at rest = no drama).  However, my nature is to not let this last for very long.  I can become quite an “unbalanced force” (thank you menopause!) and will abruptly change the speed and direction of our lives without any consultation, whatsoever, with my husband.  This acceleration greatly changes the velocity of our relationship.  He’s expected to just keep up, no questions asked.  As you might imagine, this creates a wee bit of tension.  I’m not entirely sure where this insatiable need for drama comes from.  I get that a lot of it is just simple hormonal surges, but surely there’s more at play here.  I know plenty of menopausal-aged women who seem quite balanced and content.  Are they all great actors or is there a tendency toward drama that’s more pronounced in some and less in others?

I spend a great deal of time analysing this drama phenomenon.  I’ve discussed this with a lot of my girlfriends, who all agree there is something quite seductive about a good dose of drama, although as grown women we’re not supposed to feel that way anymore.  In the absence of any real drama in our own relationships, we find others’ drama quite delicious.  I guess that helps to explain the gossip connection.  But what is the actual (or perceived) payoff in engaging in a good dose of drama?

Historically, for me, it served many functions.  It staved off boredom.  I was taught well by chick flicks that contentment and an easy friendship with a man are NOT sexy.  Nice guys who adore and cherish us are booorrring. I was trained to believe that lots of conflict and drama in a relationship creates passion, which in turn equates to true love. And let’s not forget the thrill of the chase.  Being unsure about how someone feels about you and the insecurity that comes with it causes that flip-flopping feeling in the stomach which is often mistaken for love. When, suddenly, all that adoring and cherishing goes away, it is all you can think about and all you want. The animal-instinct to chase it ensues.  Then there good old-fashioned self-doubt.  I had the very wrong idea that I didn’t deserve adoration and cherishing.  I thought, eventually, he’ll figure out that I’m not so great after all and split.  I decided the best answer was to drive him away by being the worst version of myself and then I would get the added benefit of “victim” drama.  This is where I get to whinge to all my friends about what a jerk he was (and they would all agree) and I never had to look at my own culpability.

I’d like to tell you I’ve matured and have no more need for all this drama.  Well, that’s just not true.  I don’t engage in it the same way I used to, but it’s still a factor.  This leads me to Newton’s 3rd Law of Motion:  For every action there is an equal and opposite reaction.  I like to call this, “The Pissing Contest.”  It looks something like this…..  He’s being grumpy and I ask him why he’s so grumpy and he says he isn’t grumpy, that I’m being the grumpy one.  I tell him I was perfectly happy until his grumpiness caused me to become grumpy.  He says he was perfectly fine beforehand and is simply reacting to my grumpiness.  On and on it goes until we’re not speaking to each other anymore. Hours turn to days and days turn to weeks.  The drama phenomenon has been activated.  My husband knows me all too well and that I’m likely packing my bags in my head.  Old habits die hard, I reckon.  He’s come to expect that and no longer really worries that I’ll actually leave.  At this point, I’ve usually forgotten what I’m even angry about, probably because there was no good reason to begin with.  In my head, of course, I’m using the tried and true anthem of the 4 year old…. “but HE started it!”  My overdeveloped pride keeps me from just calling a truce and apologising, although for what I’m not really sure.  I’m ashamed to admit that it’s generally him who puts down the sword and comes forward with all that annoying logic and reason saying that it doesn’t matter who started it.  Isn’t is more important to just be happy?  Isn’t that what we all want?  Ironically enough, we were happy before all this unnecessary drama started.  Why this ridiculous detour?

There’s only one answer…..Physics!

Yes, please.

Two small words that pack a big punch!  It seems silly that I would struggle so completely with allowing others to help and care for me.  What is that about?  I guess it’s time to point this high powered perception on myself and discover the true origin….

What immediately springs to mind is not wanting to be a burden to others.  Another thought is my incessant need to be independent.  Relying on others makes me feel vulnerable….a feeling I’m not at all comfortable with.  And if I’m really honest, I don’t want to feel indebted to anyone.  Is anyone even keeping score? Oh, and let’s not forget about good, old fashioned pride.  I don’t want to look and feel weak.

Recently, I was hospitalised with sudden onset and severe blurry vision. Not to worry…..the doctors ruled out all the scary stuff.  However, being unable to see was incapacitating.  I couldn’t work or drive.  Reading, writing and even walking around my house was extremely difficult.  My husband and kids were amazing though and took great care of me.  When my son asked if I was going to die and was reassured that I wasn’t, his next question was, “Are we still going to Australia?”   I’m happy to know I came first in his list of priorities.… (and we did make it to Australia).

When all this vision stuff happened, I was quite dependent on my friends and family.  I had no choice but to suck it up and allow others to help me.  This feeling of helplessness, combined with an inability to distract myself from it by way of work, reading, Facebook, etc. was tough.  I am usually a master at the art of distraction.  But that’s a story for another day.  At times it felt like forced meditation.  It’s ironic that I’m always wishing for more time to meditate and when given nothing but time for it, I ache for distraction.  

I think the biggest issue is pride and vulnerability.  Why do I resist love?  When I’m able to love and care for others, it feeds my soul.  By not allowing others to give back, I realise I’m actually being quite selfish.  I’m robbing them of that feeling that comes when we’re able to really be of benefit to others.  It creates imbalance in my relationships, where I get to do all the giving and no one ever gets to give back.  Control issues much?!  

So, my mantra is:  “My Heart Is Open.”  I will allow love to swirl through me and fill my heart, thus fuelling me with more loving kindness to show others.  Isn’t that ultimately the point….to be part of the flow of loving energy instead of the flow of negativity or hatred?  It should be easier as our true nature is love, but somehow we’ve been taught to believe otherwise.  Am I really less deserving of love because I mess up, fall down and behave badly sometimes?  I’ve learned that these moments actually serve to provide a path to strengthen love and compassion.  If I never screwed up, than how could I learn compassion for others who do, and how to overcome these obstacles?  To see these moments as gifts, instead of failures, is the challenge.  I will practise this daily and I invite you to do the same.

Om mani padme hum.

P.S.  To all of you who came forward and spent your precious time hanging out with me in hospital, driving me and my kids around and all your words of love and support from near and afar, I offer my most sincere gratitude.