Author, Speaker, Advocate, and Entrepreneur

Author, Speaker, Advocate, and Entrepreneur
Valerie Anne Burns


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Friday, November 20, 2020

How Do We Stay Sane in Trying Times, Especially Solo?

How Do We Stay Sane in Trying Times, Especially Solo?

Lilly Pond Zen Moment--Summerland, CA

I'm still trying to figure this out every day. There seems to be a perpetual delay in major areas of our world. I never thought that the pandemic would go on and on to an indeterminable time. It's become so taxing and enormously sad considering the suffering and loss that has occurred. One can not ignore it or 'guru' this reality away...not if one has empathy for a worldwide loss--a worldwide case of medical staff putting themselves at risk and working tirelessly for all of us. Does this sense of helplessness and isolation deliver a certain veil of malaise and/or loneliness to the majority of us humans? I believe it has.

I've experienced feeling isolated since I was a child and being single for some time now, isolation is a part of life. With Covid, there is a deeper isolation felt the world over. Even people who are coupled or with family feel isolated (perhaps for the first time in their lives) and cope pretty well or not well at all. I know how to be in my own company because I learned to do this beginning as a toddler. But it doesn't always make it easier.

The green, salty water on the island of Key Biscayne where I grew up embraced me like a warm womb, which helped me wash away the blues. I'd swim way below the surface where the water became cooler and search for seahorses, which endlessly fascinated me. I was a lonely child from losing my mother so young, and by a fascinating but complicated father who was not present and withdrawn into his own intellectual world and daily drinking. I felt free in the ocean and it always brought a sense of exuberance. Fearless in the sea, I joyfully swam below the surface with my eyes open holding my breath as long as possible, so that I was convinced I had been inducted into mermaid status. I'm yearning to escape in that tropical water right now.

Key Biscayne, Florida 
For the time being, we can envision where we'd like to find our bliss in times of stress and sadness by taking deep breaths, closing our eyes and pulling up a vivid memory of a place we felt exhilarated and peaceful. Imagine being there. See all the details in your imagination--sights, scent, and taste--if it's the sea, you can taste the salty air and water. Notice color and its magnetic abilities. 

I realize that some people have the ability to not let what's going on in the outside world effect their internal world, which is admirable indeed. I suppose I'd be better off if I could do this, but it would take a near lobotomy to succeed. I'm far too sensitive and often too fragile to cope well. I've also been an activist for more than half my life and much destruction has occurred the last 4-years and it hurts on a personal level.

Some of you who have been completely solo during Covid (as I have) may be having a hard time managing and chasing away the blues but may not have somewhere or someone to go to for all these feelings and/or embarrassed to admit depression in the midst of such unrest. I get it. While many of us have had no business income during Covid, therapists are thriving and working overtime. We all must do what ever we can for loving self-care.

The isolation has had some benefits. My writing time has increased and I've taken time to research literary agents and literary magazines to submit. I've also come to some very clear perspectives on my life and what's crucial for my sanity and well-being. These particular enlightenments have come from many mornings staring out my picture window at majestic trees. One milestone, is that I can no longer be the one to chase anyone where I'm the prime initiator of communication. Because I'm so painfully aware of what it's like to be single and lonely at times, I'm always so willing to reach out to others...go the extra mile for love or friendship. Over the years, I've gone so far as becoming the only one to initiate with certain friends, I've had to take a step back to realize a crucial fact that it is not a healthy path to stay on. 

By nature, I'm willing to bend over backwards for others and that's lovely if there is some reciprocation. Everyone has their own challenges and scrambles, which hinders staying in touch. It is all the more reason to be grateful for those friends who stick by you no matter what. I'm forever thankful to have exceptional friends that mostly live out-of-state now. I think it's the core feeling of loss, abandonment, and isolation that too often puts me in a vulnerable place--vulnerability not only from loss, but beating cancer twice and a damn long journey of 6 years with breast cancer. The 9th (and hopefully final) surgery was in January. When I began to recover and surface from pain and isolation, Corona virus hit the planet. We're reaching the 9--month mark. Time has sped up in the routine of things where I have to reach far into my brain to recognize what day it is. I've heard this referred to as Corona brain.

If I'm to be honest (no other way for me), this last 4-years with Trump has aged me. Since voting at the age of 18, this scenario of an autocrat and his unlawful behavior and threat to our sacred democracy has been unprecedented. The lies, deceit, corruption, theft, sleazy scandals, and an utter failure in qualified leadership whether to contain a pandemic and protect the people; dismantling all policy that protects our planet, wildlife in the midst of global climate crisis; transparent racism; or motivating autocrat sycophants and supporters to shout 'voter fraud' in order to tilt the election in Trump's direction when no such thing has occurred. It's flat out worrisome to not witness this person who had no business being in the White House refuse to concede. Just who is guilty of voter rigging--Trump and his enablers. Can you imagine if Obama had done something like this or any of the other offenses Trump is guilty of--the GOP would've shouted treason and impeachment day one!

When these stressors come up, I head out for a cardio power walk to work out my anxiety and anger...quite frankly. We must be aware and honest of reality.

Back to being solo, I have to cope with all this distress and stress daily and there are times when depression hits me hard. I'm an air sign and someone who stays in her head a lot with thousands of thoughts running amok. It would sure be helpful (as a Libra air sign) to be partnered with someone (who's an earth sign) that could help balance my scary, runaway thoughts and deep concerns...someone to pull in this untethered woman to being grounded again. I suppose this is what hope and faith are about...even if it does feel like a far off fairy tale. 😘

Speaking of daily stress, a few days ago in the middle of this Trump insanity, I took an easy stroll (not an easy venture as a power walker) to breathe and clear my mind. I came across this burst of fall color and have always loved the autumn season for its beauty in color and crisp air. Living in CA so hard hit from drought and raging fires this year due to climate crisis, I am also so grateful for rain, glorious rain mixed with fall color is an ideal combo to lift my heavy heart. 

What do you feel is the best way to calm your spirit or restless nights? As a beauty seeker, it's nature (particularly color in nature) that grounds me and delivers perspective in crazy times. Taking a walk, binging Schitt's Creek/ light funny films like, "The Birdcage"; talking to a friend, getting in the car for a drive and entering a sacred spot as I did last weekend that provided a zen garden, (lily pond photo above) which took my mind off things for a while. Brief moments of beauty in nature and connecting with beloved friends feed the soul. 

Let's face it, 2020 has been a taxing and even dark year. I am looking toward a saner more kind and intelligent 2021 in the White House. My heart goes out to all those effected by corona virus and the medical workers who work so hard for all of us. 

Feel free to let me know what your moments of bliss are whether something you visualize in meditation or visit physically with your mask on to nourish your soul. I wish you a blessed Thanksgiving whether on your own or in a bubble with family and friends. Let's all look toward a safer, healthier-(physically/mentally/emotionally) and more connected and peaceful year ahead.

Be safe. Be well.

Keep on swimming through life,

Valerie Anne

Tuesday, October 6, 2020

Birthday Blog 2020, What a Difference a Year Makes

 Birthday Blog, 2020
What a Difference a Year Makes

While I won't reveal my age, I can say life is passing by faster than I'm comfortable with. Last year on my birthday, I was in Firenze enjoying Italy and all the beauty it has to offer. I hadn't traveled there since I was 19 on a fashion study trip with college, and I felt more myself away from what I grew up with. At the age of 19, everything is possible so I predicted that I'd return frequently. Life presented many paths and unexpected hurdles but the opportunity to journey back to Europe took decades to arrive. I began to write about the steep hills and winding roads of life and suddenly, I'm back in Italy just as I wrote about in my book, "Caution Mermaid Crossing, Voyages of a Motherless Daughter" where in one of the essays, I describe feeling more at home in Italy than I ever did in my own family home. I wrote how I longed to go back and recapture that sublime feeling once again.

I actually manifested in real-time what I wrote in my book. I never could have imagined that it would take decades to get there and how going through the unimaginable life threatening crisis, which not only led me to completing a book, but would lead me to an organization that sponsored my trip to Cortona (Tuscany) to share my workshop, "Healing and Living Through Color" with sister survivors.

When my ticket was presented by a sponsor who donated miles and my friend and director of the organization asked when I wanted to return, I quickly replied, one month. It became the adventure of a lifetime. Although I had a very small budget; the airline lost my bag for 5-days and I had to retrieve it myself at the Florence airport; jet lag followed me for several days; got lost quite a bit in a foreign country, I was in heaven. Before departing, people asked me about how I'd feel spending my birthday on my ow in Florence. I said, "Who cares, I'll be in Italy." And, it's true. I've spent plenty occasions on my own in Santa Barbara and thrilled for the change of scenery.

The interesting thing about a life-threatening illness is that the mind goes on auto pilot and you lose all track of time. My birthday came a couple months after my diagnosis July 2013 resulting in a radical double mastectomy. I was not so stable. My friends gathered for a celebration at the Biltmore by the sea and I remember wearing heels to feel better about my femininity since the loss of one's breasts tends to lower self-esteem; something I've struggled with my whole life. I felt off-balance in self and in heels. But I was grateful to be alive and with good friends. That was September 29, 2013 and what I couldn't have imagined that the complications from staph infection would result in 9 surgeries over a total of 6 1/2 years. So, finding myself in Italy before that final surgery January, 2020 was the best gift I could've had bestowed upon me.


When challenges came about traveling on my own in Italy, I carried on with the same attitude--Who cares, I'm in Italy. I felt more included and more myself in a foreign country. Why is that? I've been contemplating it ever since. I do know that the lifestyle suits me. I was on such a high when I returned home but I hit the ground running putting one fire out after the next. Challenges prevailed. Another big surgery in January where I isolated in recovery for weeks and as I started to get past brutal pain, a pandemic hit and deeper isolation ensued. We had no leadership with proper preparation and a plan, but one who ignored the warnings, displaying a blatant disregard for the seriousness of Corona virus and certainly no hope for the US being a leader to other countries where we united to contain the virus in a timely manner.

In the year that I've been back from Italy, I've been worn down and worn out from the worst administration I've witnessed in my lifetime. Corruption, collusion, fraudulent acts, shameful racism, laws of the constitution broken, and Democracy crushed barely hanging on. Between the isolation completely on my own, and an authoritarian administration wreaking havoc on this country and causing more than half its people to be in a disturbed and distressed state-of-being, I'm ready to escape--escaping to either a deserted island where my mermaid essence shines or back to Italy.


My birthday in Italy was a day of wandering and presenting me lively conversations with waiters that treated me to an espresso and a shot of an interesting liqueur-like drink to celebrate my day; a tremendous exhibit by Leonardo Da Vinci showing his scientific/botanist genius, to an accidental destination at the Ponte Vecchio where I stared at ancient beauty and history for an indeterminable time, and then walked over the bridge to Piazza Santo Spirito Square for an early birthday dinner. Calorie awareness was not a part of my ordering decision. I was in one of the more romantic cities in the world on my own for my birthday and I was content, happy and grateful to be alive. I listened to the chatter amongst crowded tables and the sound of a lovely fountain in the middle of the square. Sitting with a lover to enjoy the moment instead of a table for one where I'd gaze at the love of my life sitting across from me to celebrate my birthday may have been preferable but I felt embraced by the warm day, the warmth of the people surrounding me, and the warmth of my own spirit ignited by adventure and possibility.


In the time of Libra and Corona: A social distanced birthday this year was spent at my favorite Italian restaurant in Santa Barbara by the invitation from a friend. It was my 2nd official outing (don't count Trader Joes, pharmacy, Dr appointments...AKA necessities) in seven months. I was thrilled to order inside with a mask, sit in the corner of the patio with my friend and have a conversation with an interesting, like-minded friend for a yummy 
meal where the owner of the restaurant (a friend) comped me a glass of Rose wine. Before I went out, I said to myself, "I'm sick of quarantine yoga pants, I'm dressing up!" And, I did. I wore a dress, heels, and makeup and it felt so novel and I felt so human... and feminine

What a Difference a Year Makes

A few days ago in the early morning hours, while the fog lay thick outside my door and sitting on my sofa with tea, I felt a distinct thick layer inside. It dawned on me that it was a layer of loneliness so palpable, I could cut it with a knife. I sipped my tea and stared at trees.

In-the-time-of-Libra-and-Corona, most of us have been isolated. But, many are isolated with family or a partner (a bubble of friends) but some of us are solo isolated, which is my scenario. I've had corona brain and Trump stress causing me to lose track of time and not be as productive or sleep well. Can anyone relate? It's been a couple months since I've written a blog essay and I attribute it to what I mentioned above. 

According to Trump, we heard that it's just a flu that would magically disappear, a Democratic hoax; displaying casual disregard for an infectious disease, intentionally and proudly not wearing a mask, dismissing medical experts who disappeared from the scene, purposely and dangerously downplaying and continuing to downplay a pandemic leading to more than 200,000 deaths, all of which didn't pay off so well when the GOP gathered at an event Sept. 26th without masks or social distancing, which resulted in Trump getting Corona along with many other GOP 'non'-leaders. Does everyone struck with Covid airlifted to the best hospital and surrounded by 20 medical experts with the most advanced drugs??? NO!

Here's what I've decided and it's a statement laced with a bit of sarcasm. According to my chart done by a professional, I have three planets in Scorpio (including my moon) so I'm extending my birthday until November 3rd and asking for an extended present: Vote and vote Trump OUT--Save our country and save OUR Democracy--Vote Blue & Vote Early (drop ballot at secure drop box instead of strained USPS) to not only vote Trump out but for qualified leadership who'll do right by the people during a pandemic, take action on the critical Emergency issue of Climate Change so evident in California with extreme fires (the worst in history-2020), supreme court justices, social justice, health care for all, women's rights, black lives matter, minimum wage increase, education, etc.!

Let's get out of this mess and look to better days ahead with truly qualified, respectable, progressive, and dignified leadership where America is once again a country other countries respect and look to US for guidance. I look forward to my next birthday being one of less stress and worry so I can breathe easy again and sleep better, as well as enjoy deep connection, ability to gather and travel; and a time where I feel proud of this country again. 

Be well. Be safe. Vote well.

Keep on swimming through life,
Valerie Anne

Monday, July 20, 2020

Endlessness of Current Times and the Comforting Endlessness of the Sea

Endlessness of Our Current Times and the Comforting Endlessness of the Sea

There is a feeling of endlessness in my orbit...perhaps felt in the world, very likely in this country and perhaps by you. I'm in a perpetual state of losing sleep. I am worried and rightfully so. It is my deep desire to be back in my bliss--swimming and snorkeling in the warm turquoise ocean. I long to feel innocence, even oblivious but that's never been who I am. I simply can't hide my head in the sand but I so desire to be temporarily set free in my bliss--a respite in my second home--the tropical ocean where there are no boundaries and a welcomed endlessness as far as the eye can see. Thankfully, from my patio, I can see the Santa Barbara sea where I can look to the horizon that goes on forever and walk on the beach. But for a tropical island girl, swimming in the SB ocean is too cold for this mermaid.

Additionally, there is my endless thinking, contemplating, concern, and stress. What do we do at this time, this place in history? The country has gone mad. The Corona virus has surged with no end in sight. Many of our conservative states want to be up and running (Covid-19 be dammed), attending Trump rallies and to hell with the masks. Now we're paying for it. Far too many Trump supporters actually believe wearing a mask is a Liberal act. This insane thinking is mind-boggling. Wow, what year is it? What century are we in? During the plague a hundred years ago, wearing a mask was the thing to do. Everyone did to prevent death to themselves and others. Recently, when I social distanced myself during a power walk on Shoreline moving several feet away to get around two women I heard one of them say, "Some people are so uptight." Really? I think the more appropriate word she was looking for was "polite".

One might say that there's an endlessness of feelings this time around in my blog.

Racism is endless. We have a White House that promotes white power instead of the Constitution stating, "Liberty and Justice for All." John Lewis, a giant in civil rights movement left our planet and Congress when we need him most. We need all the brilliant, courageous, diplomatic, fighting spirits to continue their path and purpose of speaking out and fighting for what's right, that would include rule-of-law. And, the endless attack by Trump on journalists and media for intelligent investigation and the TRUTH (Trump dismisses any journalism that doesn't make him look good) needed to inform citizens (including science & medical experts) must end. We are in dangerous territory of becoming a country run by fascism that is growing by the day. Today, the most critical issue is Trump's appalling (admitted to it) voter suppression agenda--It is a perfect example of movement toward the destruction of our democracy. This is what I can't turn away from and this is what we all must be aware of and vote out.

On a personal note, my path of health challenge to do with all I've been through as a twice cancer survivor and dealing with the symptoms of a genetic autoimmune condition feels endless. But I manage it pretty well. Stress doesn't help. I find myself in this endless need to check-out, which comes in the form of my bed. I crawl in early and watch animal videos (while my foster cat who has become a fixture cat in my home is curled at the end of the bed) to distract my mind and make myself smile from cuteness overload.

I am tired all the time, which can feel endless as does depression. The feeling of being tired is something I've heard is a common experience in the time-of-Corona. I was telling a friend that it feels as though a veil has dropped over the world with a pandemic that has no politics and relentless in nature.

There is also a positive endlessness by those who are doing good in the world. They are the dedicated front-line workers, service workers, protesters that are speaking out against police brutality toward those of color, environmentalists and animal advocates who are fighting harder than ever since Trump is determined to lift all bans that protect mother-earth and wildlife. I've been an environmentalist and animal advocate my whole life and never thought we could end up here when science has warned of climate crisis for decades. We have an endless amount of public servants in DC fighting for a better country. Bless them.

I know there is an endlessness to those with big hearts and intelligent minds that will beat out the sociopath as much as this last 4-years has felt endless. My heart is and will always be as big as the sea. It's sensitivity that causes my restless nights and sadness in my heart for the depth of destruction, divisiveness, and discourse in this country.💔

And, there is an endlessness to loneliness. I don't think I've ever felt so lonely in my life. I know this is true for many, which is why I'm going to be truthful and write about it. While I've been on my own and experienced loneliness throughout my life, this moment in time has hit me hard. I began a partnership with loneliness beginning as a baby when my mother grew sick and died. I've lost a lot of family, friends, and lovers at a young age. I went through breast cancer and multiple surgeries over a course of several years beginning in 2013 on my own with little help or company and certainly felt isolated but I was also on auto-pilot, which is a blessing we've been bestowed because it's enormously beneficial--It numbs you out to get through and survive. Unfortunately, since my 9th surgery in January, and feeling as if all 9 surgeries hit me at once, I've felt so alone in processing trauma and getting through physical pain that held on without letting up...specifically the PTSD easily triggered. Once I began to feel more physically recovered after several weeks moving into March, we all went into isolation. There are many who struggle with isolation even when they have family in their household or a bubble created with family and friends nearby.

But there are also those of us that are completely alone in the pandemic isolation where the disconnect is absolutely palpable. Don't forget us. You may know someone going through this where family or friends are far away or perhaps you know someone (like me) single and without family that you may want to reach out to. A masked social distancing get-together or a simple phone call can go a long way.💕

Meantime, I seek the boundless ocean with endless rolling waves to comfort me and set my sights to get to the tropics (or the Italian Mediterranean sea) and swim in warm, turquoise water with balmy breezes that embrace me so I can escape the madness for a little while. Until I get there again, my walks, staring at the magnificent trees outside the living room window, watching my hummingbirds at the feeder, looking out to the pacific blue ocean from my patio provides the brief reprieve so needed for my spirit.

I trust you find your escape and respite in the beauty of your garden, a walk by the ocean or in the woods, catching a beautiful sunset, swimming in a blue sea, observing hummingbirds buzzing around your feeder or bloom-to-bloom, listening to beautiful music such as Four Last Songs by Strauss--; hugging your pet or enjoying a great cup of coffee. I send you love and best wishes to stay well and safe.

Keep on swimming through life,
Valerie Anne

Sunday, May 24, 2020

Is Anyone Listening?

Is Anyone Listening?

Does anyone else feel as if the world has been flipped on its axis? Does anyone, perhaps those that are in self-quarantine completely alone and experiencing an even deeper isolation feel that anyone is listening? Are we listening to what mother-earth is telling us? Have we noticed that the birds seem to be singing louder and more joyfully this spring while we are in the #stayathome mode allowing for a cleaner and quieter environment? Is anyone listening to the ultimate message in our extended time of Corona? These have been a few of the many questions that have been running through my head. More than a couple of months in isolation has my mind not only working overtime but in overwhelm.

Most of us have been in self-isolation due to the necessity of safety and the protection of others during a pandemic. Isolation is not new to me. As humbling as it may be, I've been on my own for some time. Granted, it's not just being single but getting through a long journey with breast cancer and the 9 surgeries that ensued from complications tends to set you apart--to live in a parallel Universe where life and connection starts to get blurry and you feel as if you're disappearing and risk becoming obsolete.

But I've survived and have always wondered about anyone really listening. Is anyone paying attention to opportunities to connect with others more vulnerable in the most authentic way, even if it's not pretty or pleasant? I understand that difficulty is repelling to some. A person's troubles or illness can be off-putting but it's a reality of life. Is there someone in your life that might be going through this all alone, struggling without income, or burdened in other stressful ways that you can call on? Yesterday, for the first time in more than 2-months, a friend dropped by. She wore her mask, we kept our social distance and couldn't give each other a hug, but a short visit with her and the little bag of treats she brought was so meaningful to me. It did my heart good.

Our world may be forever changed. Will we listen to the message in the big picture? Wildlife have been coming out bravely in the streets, air and oceans. After all, they were here before us. Swans and dolphins have been appearing in the Venice canals. All over the world (even in the most polluted cities), wildlife are feeling free from people and pollution to be themselves. If we listen to one another and mother nature, perhaps good can come on the other side of this. The planet is, (like all of us are) divinely designed and created. When the natural order of things is being destroyed, illness

and a continued sad demise will be the result. Will we listen? Did it take a pandemic for all of us to wake up? There's an incredible opportunity here to show more care and hear the cries of a planet hurting and the discourse that has developed not only in the world, but our own country is damaging to the soul. We can listen to what the planet and wildlife need. We can treat our planet and fellow-man with care. We can treat ourselves well by eating sustainable and organic, which builds our immune system and takes better care of the earth.

With all this said, (and in absolute sane honesty) there is also a virus called Trump, and he has caused massive destruction not only from his corruption,  narcissism, ignoring the warnings of a pandemic crisis, the health of the planet, wildlife; as well as decency, dignity and democracy itself. When many are looking at the message our lockdown has given us and the distraction of the Corona virus threat, Trump lifted ALL the EPA restrictions...restrictions that protect our fragile environment, health and well being.

It has been a struggle for many, financially and otherwise. I include myself in experiencing periods of stress and deep sadness. I will always express raw truth in my writing because I know that there are others that are going through great difficulty and either unsure how to express it, feel all alone in their challenges, or embarrassed to show their vulnerability. Some of us are totally alone, lost loved ones, challenged with more responsibility, or loss of work and income. Even when lockdown lifts and we go back to a somewhat normal way of life, it will take a long time to recover in our grief, economy, as well as our minds and hearts.

Be well. Listen well. Live well.

Keep on swimming through life,
Valerie Anne

Saturday, April 18, 2020

Masked and Zooming

Masked and Zooming

By Tuesday night (4/14) after excessive Zooming, Google meetings, WhatsApp face-time for far too many hours and far too many weeks, a rejection letter (that all writers are supposed to expect), and several days before that, receiving a rather unfair and hurtful message, I found myself shouting to the inner walls of my abode, that's it, I need a break offline! I stepped back and cancelled everything I had in the way of online meetings scheduled the following day. I desired quiet, a true peaceful silence. That, and hiding under the covers.

This may sound odd in the (necessary quarantine) isolation of Corona to pull away from virtual connection but it was exactly what I needed. Admittedly, I have been getting up a little later than usual... because, why not? Life isn't the same. Trader Joe's and Lazy Acres used to be a chore and now I look forward to my two outings a week. It's a chance to see human beings and converse, even if words are rather muffled through masks. My mask, (in photo) was generously gifted to me by a talented costume designer of the State Street Ballet where I volunteer when the company is performing. But most everything has been cancelled and closed the world over--A mask pulled down over the arts, businesses, and the faces of most citizens throughout the globe.

I do find masked people waiting in line or wandering the aisles of stores a little kinder; more understanding. Getting out for basic needs is a break from the internet and my own company only. It's a small unit of time to connect. Last Saturday, after calling TJ's 4 early mornings in a row to ask if their 12 pack recycled toilet paper had come in yet and only heard, "sorry, no, and not sure when", I rolled out of bed at 6:00 a.m. and arrived at Vons (a market I rarely enter) at 7:30 where I scored the limit of two 12-pack of toilet paper. I nearly jumped in glee along with a masked mom shopping after 3-weeks inside her home with kids. 

Although the internet has been a necessity for decades, it's become the end-all-be-all. It's a remote work world and we've moved to Zoom (or something similar) for majority of meetings and all student classes, which would include my Italian 101 through City College. I much prefer the in-person connection participating in the classroom. Now, we Zoom with the instructor and I zoom with the tutor for many hours of the week. 

This brings me back to the day I needed a reprieve. I woke up and didn't exactly get up for, well... a while. I felt exhausted, wrung out, fussy-headed and discouraged; a need to cry. There is a pervasive anxiety and sadness vibration running through the world that I feel wrapped in like a heavy cloak. Decades ago, on my first visit to a psychic out of pure 20-something curiosity, she made a point of telling me to be very careful to protect myself since I had the ability to pick up on others' energy. I actually found that to be true. I am sensitive and can feel the hurts of the world. This includes people, but also a vulnerable planet and wildlife 

The Internet presents us with immediate news of severe suffering and tragic death that the Corona Virus has caused in Lombardy region of Italy, New York City, in other areas of the US and all over the world. There is also the undeniable constant horrific and distressing news of the US Dictator-in-Chief destroying decency, diplomacy, and democracy 24-7. It's overwhelming for all of us.

I yearned for solace...block out the noise of bad news and incessant internet. Isolation is something we're all sharing as is endless zooming or other means of internet meetings and face-time to keep life, schooling, and business going. I'm used to isolation after surviving breast cancer and nine surgeries (a result of complications) and long, lonely recoveries over a seven year period. I'd just begun to re-enter our world after recovering from #9 all through February and then thrown back into isolation along with millions of others beginning in March during our pandemic.

After I crawled out of bed, I went straight for the espresso instead of beginning with my special concoction of green/black tea with a splash of cream and rice milk and topped off with raw honey. I sat with my espresso and stared out my big picture window to the giant trees, blooming plants happier from the blessed spring rain we received last week, and all the birds singing in a harmonious orchestra. My hummingbirds buzzed around on the patio from the fuchsia plant to the feeder. I just sat and stared. Sat and stared. Then I did my ritual of tapping and breathing. I stared out the window again. The sun was shining so I moved to my chaise to stare up at the sun-dappled trees. I made my Magic-Bullet veggie drink. I sat in contemplation for a need of healing in my being and the globe.

I stepped away from the hummies to wander on a splendid day. As a power walker, it's challenging to slow the pace for a stroll. After being in Italy for a month last fall, I was taught the 'art' of a slow stroll through a village to soak in the day; connecting with people, culture, and beauty known as una passeggiata. (From Google: "As one dictionary describes it, una passeggiata is a traditional evening stroll in the central plaza by a town's residents.” It's a word that's very much associated with leisure and ease, and the feeling of having plenty of time.)

So, I took an una passeggiata through my landscaped complex and felt the fresh breeze embrace my body and the warm sun on my face. There weren't any residents around but I did stop to smell the flowers.

Back on my patio, I experienced peace to be in the presence of hummingbirds zooming around me rather than zooming on my laptop. I highly recommend stepping away for a natural breather (una passeggiata) in the natural world for a couple hours, a day, or longer.
Be well. Be safe.

Keep on swimming through life,


Thursday, February 27, 2020

My Nine and a Half Lives

My Nine and a Half Lives

      I can’t help but ask the higher power, the gods, or the departed why I’m still orbiting with our Mother Earth. What makes one soul continue, and another one not able to cope with whatever harshness comes their way? Does each dark mark to the soul travel to the light and into the next life?
     I'm just recovering from my 9th surgery last month (a doozy) and feel as though the trauma of all eight surgeries landed on me in the 9th and final surgery. It seems as if I've lived nine lives and embarking on a new one now. Although the diagnosis of breast cancer is far behind me, infections and complications resulted in multiple surgeries. Cats are known to have nine lives and my cats have had the most fierce spirits, which have been incredible teachers. I'm certain that my strength and deep desire to be a dreamer and seeker of beauty has kept me living on this spinning planet but I wasn't always confident that I'd survive. The spirit can push forward with purpose but the heart can feel bruised...if not broken.
A token of advice from personal experience: If you know someone going through difficult trials and tribulations and they are someone you assume to a be a person (like a cat) who always lands on their feet, consider how isolated they may feel in their ordeal. Reach out with love and support. You can't imagine how far that act of kindness can go to a person who may be alone and reluctant to reach out for help or comfort.
     When I look around observing other human beings, whether at the doctor’s office or in a coffee shop, I wonder if deep scars have been left on those human beings. Have most of them used up their nine lives fighting health challenges, and experiencing other great losses through life’s ongoing trials? Maybe it comes down to accepting that there are no answers and that not all of life’s painful adventures happen for some bigger cosmic reason.
     Beauty has marked my soul forever and I rejoice in those out-of-body sensations where worries fall away, and poetry begins—such as when my head is thrown back in laughter with a friend; the feel of warm saltwater on my skin and diving to the cooler water beneath transforming into a mermaid searching for seahorses; strong embraces and sexy kisses; the magic of hummingbirds sitting on my finger; closing my eyes to take in the feel of my departed cats--Nika’s (in photo) regal Blue Russian face and fearlessness, Lenie purring against my heart, or the way Gracie looked at me when I rescued her off that porch; and all the cats that cuddled with me through childhood.
     Was losing my mother at the age of three to breast cancer one of my nine lives? I wouldn’t mind if those sad memories erased permanently when my ashes are scattered one day out in the cyan sea. I would consider it a blessing to be free of the dark places within my spirit, and the relief it would be to have them carried away on the wing of a soaring hawk and dropped into ocean water to dissolve.
     My health challenges were the result of genes inherited from my mother, and I didn’t have the privilege to have known her. It’s highly possible I sensed her pain as a toddler and still hold it in innocence. I can only imagine how different I might be if she’d lived a long life. If my mother reincarnated to live another life, I hope she’s lived an enduring one, completing nine heavenly incarnations where she’s happy, loved, and healthy.
     I have concluded that the truest of truisms voiced from country-to-country is that it is the briefest moments of grace that count. After staring into the abyss more than once, I have embraced this truth. I’ve known this all along, but particularly in the first few years of my cancer journey when I received pure affection in the remaining months of Gracie’s life. She did not care if I happened to be looking haggard or feeling upset. She purred and nuzzled against my cheek. And, when I stepped outside, it was from my resident hummingbird’s wing vibration entering my body that sent me into an ethereal reprieve or sinking my face into the scent of fully bloomed jasmine or gardenia. I’d happily carry these sentiments when I travel to the other side.
     There’s something about the popular phrase, “Let go,” that irritates me. It’s overused. Its significance is huge while being complex; not so easy to let go…holding onto remarkable blessings of beauty and ditching everything else that muddies the water. However, a mermaid believes in her divine essence far past the horizon’s visibility.
     As I’ve played guardian over my beloved cats or hummingbirds, it has fulfilled a need to be kind…and to be needed. In some way, I felt like I was increasing their nine lives. My nature, instilled as a young girl, imbued me with a hummingbird and cat’s fierceness, sweetness, wiliness, and well-honed survival skills.
     Hummingbirds are wild, but they’ve trusted me to be a part of their lives. I’m diligent about supplying them with continuous nectar in their feeders, and I’ve come to know the intricacies of their life patterns. They are the epitome of dynamic nature in a package weighing less than a penny. With what hummies face, they live nine lives in a single season; tiny beings that show substantial strength. They connect, fly fast, sing, protect, survive, and they thrive. I can relate.
     After deciding to take the lead from Saint Francis, where I began to hand-feed them to deepen our connection. I sat in patience with a washed out, red cap from a spice bottle, and the yellow plastic flower from the feeder. There was the usual hovering while staring at the cap, circling me, and flying away. Eventually, a braver one came to my hand to receive the gift of homemade nectar. This incident caused a sensation to pour through my body, creating perfectly formed chills. To see the bold colors, just inches away, of these magical little beings was something I held in awe. The various greens on their backs, magentas, oranges, reds, and golds of their throats were colors Van Gogh and Gaugin strove to create. They are the colors I’ve been inspired to use to decorate and include in wardrobe accents.
     There were weeks though, when hand feeding was of no interest to them. It could be a little discouraging because I missed them. Seasonal migration brought more to my door. One day, like any other, near sunset when I lived up in the hills, I sat in my chair with the red cap in hand while the feeders were being washed. A mere few minutes later, a scarlet-throated beauty flew to me. I grew still. Within minutes, there were four hummingbirds all unique in personality and color flying around my hand. The scarlet-throated one sat on my thumb and another on my pinky finger taking nectar. Then there were six flying and circling taking turns zooming in.
     Soon, my hand was crowded with their determination, and I could feel a breeze from the speed of their wings. We were forces of nature together creating a sphere of energy. It was super-magical. The hum entered my hand and moved through all of me. I kept whispering, “Oh my God, oh my God,” and told myself that no matter what, I’d always have the memory of another wondrous sensation. The sun had set, and the freeway action of the hummingbirds calmed down.
     I sat afterwards in reverie. I knew that there was a greater meaning to being one with the hummingbirds in absolute trust. Angels showed up for me in the hummingbirds. Their unique vigorousness expanding in a frenzied energy for a need of nectar before their night torpor filled me with elation and satisfaction. I was taken by surprise and after weeks of no visitors to my hand feeding, they all came at once.
     Abundance all at once. I came to an epiphany that rang true in my own energy force and spirituality. While scarcity and difficulty may seem endless, a shift can come without warning. When my hummingbird friends gathered all at once to take nourishment by an open-hearted human soul, my life was pure and generous. Maybe, just maybe, what life has in store for me (in my nine and a half lives) will take me by surprise and come in a burst of bountiful blessings.
     We many souls may have the challenge and gift of living nine lives in one present lifetime. We have an undeniable will, a robust will we may not even be aware of, that propels us forward with an invigorating breeze of power. Awareness of fragility, animals wild and domestic, a blossomed pink peony, precious nature at our feet, a sumptuous kiss, human connection that fills us with a sizzling aliveness, feeling weightless in the turquoise sea, and catching the perfect wind that keeps our sails up can all blaze a trail toward the free-hearted curiosity of what’s next. I look forward to the next adventures where I blossom in fulfilled dreams and swim in oceans around the world.

Keep on swimming through life,