My journey to self healing and
discovery began with a natural curiosity to know the purpose of life. As a child
I was fascinated with all things mystical, from the teachings of Jesus Christ in
our Lutheran church, to yoga and meditation classes taught in charm school. My
grandmother was a psychic who channeled departed spirits and read the future. It
wasnít until I was in grade school that I learned these werenít ďnormalĒ
activities. I adored my grandmother and she taught me to love God first and not
get too carried away by spiritual powers.
I loved literature and the arts.
I played the piano and wrote poetry. I discovered Shakespeare as a young teen
and found that many of the characters in his plays were asking the same
questions that I was. Who are we and why are we here? I made frequent forays to
the public library, finding books on occult subjects like witch craft and
hypnotism. I read the existentialist writers who said that life had no meaning
but deep down I hoped they were wrong.
I grew up in the 70ís and was
heavily influenced by the spiritual, idealistic and rebellious music of that
era. Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens, and the Beatles were some of the
artists that dared ask the questions I was burning to find answers to. I got
involved with a group of creative high school kids and choreographed musicals.
It was such a relief to meet people my age that wanted to express fresh ideas
and didnít care about following the crowd.
I needed this positive experience
in my junior year to give me heart for the events that were to follow. That
summer my dad announced that we were being transferred to Houston, Texas. I had
to give up my beloved dogs and cat, my boyfriend, and dear theater friends to
move to a place where I had no roots. We moved a fair amount when I was a kid as
my dad climbed the corporate ladder but this move away from Glendale, California
really sent me into a spiral of self pity.
I have a letter written from my
father to me at that time. He, like my mother, was a deeply spiritual person. He
expressed compassion at my plight and reminded me that he had faced the unknown
as a young man leaving the shores of the United States to fight in World War II.
He was not much older than me when he had to leave everyone and every thing he
knew behind. He encouraged me to look at the big picture, to think unselfishly
and to love the Lord.
Over time, I managed to fit in to
the new crowd in a strange place. I joined the theater company and got a part in
the senior play. I also found a new boyfriend, and learned to drink and
ďparty.Ē I made good grades and got accepted into the University of Texas. I
had adjusted on the outside but inside I was lost. My dad, an inspiration to me
my whole life, was sinking into a deep and what turned out to be irretrievable
depression. During this period he would express suicidal thoughts and returned
often to Los Angeles to meet with a therapist recommended by our pastor back in
Glendale. By the end of my first semester at UT my dad decided to quit his job.
He resigned as Vice President and General Manager of a large metals company. He
had worked his way up from floor sweep to executive but old boy politics mixed
with middle aged challenges were too much for him.
I dropped out of college and
returned with my parents to figure out a new life in California. We ended up in
Huntington Beach. I enrolled in junior college and worked a series of jobs,
helping my mom to hold my dad together. I often heard him express urges to kill
himself, so uncharacteristic of a man who had inspired others most of his life.
My mother and I commiserated and prayed. I looked for answers in the writings of
Carlos Castaneda and Joseph Chilton Pearce. I tried to reach out to my dad and
give him hope by suggesting that the world he was so upset by was a construction
of his thoughts which he could change. He had brief periods of respite from his
mental suffering. He took a new job in a smaller company, played golf, and
started attending church. I would play the piano and he would sing along in his
beautiful tenor voice. My mother and I would breathe a sigh of relief and hope
the man we loved would return. There were more bad days than good and by age 19
I wanted to escape my fatherís roller coaster moods that were worsened by a
deepening dependency on alcohol.
I found my get away car in a 27
year old surfer. I excelled at academics and he excelled at fun. He was good
looking and self starting in the construction trade. He made me laugh and forget
my troubles. By the time I was 21 I was hell bent on marrying this poor guy even
though he would have rather kept me for a girlfriend. I persevered, thinking
that a big white wedding would turn the tides for me and my family. Deep down I
knew I was making a mistake but I couldnít stop the momentum. On July 23rd
1977 we were married in Newport Beach with a grand reception at Big Canyon
Country Club. Three days later, on July 26th, my father put his army rifle in
his mouth and pulled the trigger.
Through this tragedy, my family
tried to pull itself together. My eldest brother Chris helped my mom manage my
fatherís estate and offered to let her live with him. My middle brother Jeff,
like me, was stunned and we would sit with my mother, remembering, crying and
asking why? My mother and I sat in the driveway of our house and sold every bit
of furniture to passing strangers. My mother moved in with my brother Chrisí
family, leaving her job as a successful realtor to answer phones in a real
estate office. On Thanksgiving Day 1977, she moved into her new condominium and
we planned a celebration feast. My grandparents and brother Jeff gathered. Every
one was intent on having a good day. While the turkey roasted, my grandparents
strolled the grounds arm and arm while the rest of us played tennis. Iíll
never forget how golden that day was after so much grief. After dinner we sang
songs and reminisced. My grandparents had decided to spend the night to welcome
my mom into her new home. At around 11:00 pm I was awakened by the phone. My
grandfather had suffered a massive coronary. He died before my motherís and
grandmotherís eyes before the paramedics arrived.
What could this story be about?
Was life just full of tragedy, loss and despair? I needed to know if there was a
purpose to this suffering. Everything I loved felt so impermanent. My marriage
didnít survive this disaster. My then husband wanted to escape my sorrow as
much as I wanted to escape it myself. My dog was run over and killed in the
midst of all this. I didnít even have him to hold as I sobbed myself to sleep
night after night. I didnít have any real friends and none of the people my
age could relate to what I was experiencing. No one in my age group had
experienced the death of a parent and Iíd never met anyone who had lost a
loved one to suicide. I felt like a rain cloud had permanently settled over my
head. I was careful to not make others uncomfortable by talking about my losses.
I signed up for classes at Cal State Long Beach and poured myself into my
studies. As bad as I felt for myself I felt worse for my mother. I remembered my
fatherís advice to think unselfishly in a crisis. I needed her to survive
this. We would support each other and make it through the storm. I turned my
attention to making funeral arrangements and helped my mom care for my
grandmother who was out of her mind with grief. I needed to live for others and
to lean on God. But who was God and why was He turning our lives upside down?
Even though I was asking these
questions Iíd had a powerful encounter with Spirit the morning I learned of my
fatherís death. Iíd been on my honeymoon in San Francisco and had called
home to talk to my parents. Our home phone number had been forwarded to my
brotherís number and he told me the tragic news. I was numb as I walked into
the bathroom of our shabby hotel to splash water on my face. I looked at the
girl in the mirror. She looked back at me but I wasnít her. There was a huge
energy emanating love and reassurance from deep within me. It was the ďpeace
that passeth all understandingĒ that Iíd learned about it church but it also
contained a power and exaltation that is beyond words. I knew that this presence
would stay with me and guide me. I realized in that moment that there was a
presence behind the scenes of my life that was revealed to me in that desperate
time. I was aware that I was a soul on a journey and now the journey was really
set in motion.
On July 26th 1987, ten years to
the day after my fatherís suicide, I was in down town Los Angeles waiting to
take the orals part of my licensure examination to become a psychotherapist.
This coincidental timing allowed me to see how far I had come in a decade. By
choosing to become a therapist I was turning my tragedy into an opportunity to
dedicate my life to a higher calling. In the early hours of the morning, I
awakened from a fitful sleep. I turned on the bathroom light and splashed water
on my face. It was still dark outside and my body was buzzing with anxiety. The
examiners were notorious for asking tricky questions that only a handful of
people could answer to their satisfaction. Slowly, I became aware of a
reassuring presence standing next to me. It was my father.
I often tell my clients that when
they are in chaos and everything is falling apart that something new is being
born. There is often pain in the birth process. If we can know that we are in a
birthing process it helps us to endure the suffering and hold our vision. If we
can keep our heart open and allow Spirit to lead us we will see that we are
being led to the next level of our heroic adventure. The powerful experience of
Spirit that I had in my early twenties birthed in me the desire to live a heroic
life. I realized that I could choose to fall into self pity but that would be
interminably dull over the long run and not attract the kind of experiences I
desired. I have met the best people, studied the most intriguing subjects,
traveled to places I dreamed of as a child and been able to channel Godís
grace as a therapist. I wanted a life that would inspire me and in turn inspire
others. Even though the challenges can be exhausting, I want to live for the
adventure of seeing how it all turns out with Infinite Intelligence at the helm
As our children grow up and our elders pass on we realize that we are the elders
in the making. We grieve the losses of our parents and accept that we are
continuing the journey of growing up and growing wiser. This is your choice no
matter what you are going through. It may seem harder or easier than what I went
through but it doesnít matter.
What kind of story do you want to
make out of your life? Itís your choice, itís your adventure, and Spirit is
waiting to show you the way.