By Edie Weinstein
When I gaze over the past 52 years, I am gleefully able to acknowledge that I have lived a AAA life. There have been moments that seemed to last for years, during which I have not accepted and sometimes fought, figuratively speaking, kicking and screaming, what is. I have been less than appreciative of the gifts that life circumstances placed before me, because they didn't always appear the way I thought the “should”. Now, achievements, that's quite another story.
I was born into a nurturing, working class Jewish family in which learning and responsibility went hand-in-hand with literal and spiritual/emotional chicken soup. I came face to face recently with a startling revelation about that. My father died in 2008 and my mother just joined him a day after Thanksgiving 2010.
I am the executor of my mother's will and have also taken on the mantle of the queen of unpacking the personal items that represent the five decades of my parents' lives together. Dishes, books and family photos sat for weeks in boxes that I had methodically packed in my mother's car and auto-trained and drove from Florida to Pennsylvania. I avoided opening the boxes as if they bore the name Pandora and all manner of sadness and grief would come issuing forth once the tape was peeled back.
When I did begin to unwrap the newspaper cocoons around dishes on which were served Passover meals, I could feel the tears welling forth like the salt water on the Seder plate. I found myself just as methodically rinsing and then stacking the dishes in their new home in my cabinets. I carefully placed my mother's first books; dog eared versions of A Child's Garden of Verses and Little Sally Mandy On The Farm on my bookshelf, nestled up against books about spirituality, creativity, sexuality, healing and transformation. At this moment, there are still a few things that remain ensconced in their boxes. As I am writing these words, the rainbow hued blanket that my sister had crocheted for my dad is across my lap, as if wrapping me in his energy. As a bereavement counselor, I know that grief is just as elaborate and interwoven as the threads in the blanket and I will experience it as it comes…a work in progress, just like me.
Last week, I visited my friend Ondreah who is training to become a hypnotherapist. I volunteered to be one of her practice subjects and in preparation, we had an information gathering session. Three thoughts I shared with her that had been indelibly burned into my brain, were “I always do what is expected of me., “I can't do it right.” and “I can't keep up.” I knew immediately the source of those nagging messages…my own oh-so-active inner critic.
This aspect of myself interpreted what she observed my parents doing; each holding down jobs, co-parenting two active girls, socializing with friends and extended family members, going to synagogue, volunteering and maintaining a loving life-long marriage, as something not only to aspire but to emulate perfectly. My parents were not demanding or disapproving; my subconscious mind decided that the approval I received for excelling; whether it was school, swimming or making friends, was life sustaining and if I wanted to keep receiving it, I had better keep achieving. Not always an A student, but close most of the time. My room was filled with blue ribbons from swim meets; my social calendar was usually full.
I also witnessed my mom being the consummate caregiver, describing herself as having “broad shoulders” that could carry others' burdens for them, at least for a time. My father, regardless of how tired he was after a long day's work as either a bus driver or milkman, always had time to be with us. No surprise that my relationships looked quite like a co-dependent dance routine, being enmeshed with the various partners I encountered on the ballroom floor of life.
In my fifth decade, I am learning to let go of the beliefs that no longer serve; most especially the one that tells me that I need to be “all things to all people” and instead, welcome in the blessings that arrive, special delivery daily. I am learning to fully love and accept the Goddess in the mirror, who has qualities that seem to be juxtaposed: the yin/yang of existence. I deeply appreciate the treasures that are my family and friends; those who 'keep me sane and vertical' in the midst of stormy times.
I give myself kudos for saying yes or no at my own discretion, not simply because other people have expectations for my behavior. I have surrendered the idea that I will lose love and acceptance if I am my own woman. That in of itself is an accomplishment.
In 2008, a few months after my father died, I had the opportunity to live a 20-year-old journalist dream, of interviewing His Holiness The Dalai Lama when he came to Philadelphia. I wonder at times if my father had pulled some strings to arrange the audience, since in life, he seemed to know someone everywhere we went.
In keeping with Identity’s mission of Accept Appreciate Achieve, below are some more questions that fit in with that theme:
What have you accepted in your life that took time?
I have accepted that there will be times in which I miss the mark for that which I am aiming; knowing that this or something better manifests for the highest good of all concerned.
How would you complete the phrase “I Love My…?”
I love my friends, the 'anam cara' (translated as 'soul friend' in Gaelic) those sweet souls who so enrich my life and warm my heart.
What do you appreciate most in your life?
That miracles show up each day, for which I set intention. I know that the divine force that surrounds and enfolds me, has delightful surprises around each corner.
What is one of your most rewarding achievements in life?
Supporting myself and my son after my husband died in 1998 and re-creating my life in extraordinary ways.