It always feels good to do good, from homeless to a home in southern Colorado

Around a year ago, my brother-in-law drove down to Sedona Arizona to pick up my brother John. He didn’t drive and he was at the point where he could no longer live in a lean-to near Oak Creek. The weather was too cold in the winter and too hot in the summer, and the creek came up so high sometimes that it was too deep to get across for him to get into town. John has a bad case of emphysema and terrible lower back pain. He thought he would move up here to take care of my Mom after my Dad died last year.

A few weeks after moving in with Mom, he realized that that arrangement would not work long-term so he called me in Walsenburg. As luck would have it, a close friend had a house in La Veta that was empty for the winter, so John moved in to caretake. When spring arrived, my friend decided to rent that house out so John had to move, but where? He didn’t want to live with us. We have a thing about “being a burden” in our family, so he found what he thought would be a temporary place in a local motel. Being the perfect renter, the management of the place soon wanted him to act as night manager, but John wasn’t interested in that. He just wanted a small place of his own.

After he moved to Walsenburg we made sure he signed up for affordable housing asap, but were truly surprised when they found him his own apartment this past month. It is clean, quiet and extremely affordable, but had no furniture. Soon after that we ask our friends if they had any extra furniture. In no time John had a recliner, a couch, a nice rug and a bed. John is a humble man who does not expect much from those around him. He just wants a nice place out of the rain and snow to listen to NPR and play his guitar. Now he has that for the first time in years. We couldn’t be happier and we almost got him to smile!

The sunrise west of Walsenburg CO this morning!

I could tell when I first looked east around 6AM this morning that it was going to be a good one! The clouds were lovely…

First I saw the very beginnings of the sunrise…

Then a bit more with sunrays just beginning to show…

Next the early sunrays began to light up the sky!

Spreading colorful light over the Spanish Peaks to the south…

and then BAM, the full light of the sun appeared over the horizon!

Now do you see why I love living here? Magical surprises almost every day!

Imagine magically walking into your own future…

Last night I had a strange thought: What if we had been able to magically walk into our present home and living situation without having to create it from scratch? I’m certain now I wouldn’t have believed it, but it would have been so reassuring to me! I see now I had far too little faith in my husband’s power to create what we have created here out of one big dusty lot. Talk about a difference in visualizing and believing in our power to manifest it!

As I meet others who move down here to create new lives for themselves, I am constantly reminded of my own trials and tribulations when we first decided to move here to build our passive solar home over seven years ago.

Our sad little rental in Walsenburg for one year…

When we first moved into a rented dirty, dumpy 100-year-old miner’s home in Walsenburg in 2014, I was simply depressed. All I could think about was:

“How long was this going to take? Would it be as nice as we hoped? Was this a good idea or not?

First we had the slab, which took months to get approved and created properly for passive solar…

I had no idea how much work it is to create a home from scratch, even if you don’t actually build it… A million trips to Pueblo’s Home Depot and Lowe’s, 5 million decisions just about every day for a year or so, not to mention arguments with the builder about so many things, especially when is this house going to be done? I learned that the builders own your home until they leave!

But we kept at it through just about every obstacle imaginable until one day we had this…

When we finally moved in on the 1st of August 2015 we were practically paralyzed with the feat we had just completed! Did that really happen? Is this really where we live now? There were still a million little details to work out, like the smoke detector that went off at 4 in the morning soon after we moved in, but we were home at last!

I couldn’t wait to get started on my new foothills garden, which also took a few years to developJune 2019

  • Want to learn more about this kind of experience? I kept a journal leading up to our move from the suburbs of Fort Collins, to a three acre lot west of Walsenburg Colorado. Our new home is passive solar and this journal covers the full construction process as well as our thoughts after we moved in. My memoir is available on Amazon or just contact me directly if you wish to buy a signed copy from the author herself! — MidlifeCrisisQueen@gmail.com

Can we let go of a lifetime of pain & suffering?

I’m now witnessing first hand a concept from psychology that I have always believed and yet still wondered about. I am observing in those near death what seems to be an endless outflowing of anger and bitterness at the end of life. Both of my parents were what I would call uptight people. My Dad was definitely an angry controlling person and both of my parents could be called obsessive about getting everything ‘right’ and keeping up appearances for others. Everything had to appear ‘proper.’

Instead I observed that my Mom took mountains of criticism from my Dad throughout their nearly 70 year marriage. She rarely got angry or even replied to this barrage of constant critique. She would drink quite a bit of wine, complain to us, and then simmer in bitterness and rage, while she continued to devote her entire life to helping him reach his goals. The tension in our home was palpable. As you might guess, his kids were collateral damage, each absorbing their share of criticism, anger and love that was always quite conditional.

“Letting go of our suffering is the hardest work we will ever do.” — Stephen Levine

Where does all of that bitterness and anger go in the long-term? Can we resolve these tension in some way before we die? I am wondering about this for my Mom, who is extremely depressed and confused at age 88, after the death of my father last year.

At this point I will yield the floor to Stephen Levine, an American poet, author and teacher, well-known for his work with the terminally ill and/or those deeply affected by loss. Stephen chose to work with this population because they were most ready and even sometimes eager to confront their own deepest misery and, by doing so, heal life-long burdens of self-disgust and punishment. Stephen found that by first acknowledging our deepest levels of pain and suffering and then confronting it with love and compassion for Self and others, most found a way to finally let it go. What a marvelous burden to release before death. In a few cases, Stephen found that this gigantic release of emotional pain was so healing that his patients found remission from their cancer or other life-threatening illnesses.

He felt that our minds fight with our hearts, fear versus love, but by accepting all our past pain and suffering, the sensation in our heart may be that it will burst.

To this Stephen responds: “Let your heart break. Let go of the suffering that keeps you back from life. Now your heart is so open and the pain right there. You are doing now just what you need to do, feel so much compassion for yourself and what you are going through…”

Stephen Levine died in 2016 just south of here. To learn much more about him and his work please consider reading his books. My favorite is “Healing Into Life and Death.” Here is a link to his webpage and his wife’s words at his death: https://levinetalks.com/

My experience has been that unless we commit to major emotional change in ourselves, all of the hostilities and suspicions we have held down within our psyche for our entire life, do come out in the end. Sometimes in some awful ways. For me, this type of emotional healing has taken some great re-parenting therapy through counseling and decades of learning and re-learning deeper levels of self-love and acceptance. This process continues as my parents leave behind their earthly presence.

Sometimes being with my Mom is too much for me, and I must respect my feelings about this. My Mom seems so lost in the contradictions of her life. Feelings of love, anger, pain and dementia confuse and overwhelm her such that she can see no way out. I just wish she could have come to some resolution and healing with Stephen by her side.

Academ-idiots, my term for those who intellectualize everything… I speak from experience here :)

I have wondered forever about what I call academ-idiots and how they survive their obsession with living in their heads. First of all I was raised by one and pretty much followed in his footsteps. To quote my first therapist in my early thirties, “I have never met a woman who intellectualizes everything like you do!” Yep, that was me… It’s hard to fight your upbringing when it’s all you know!

Hell, I didn’t even know I was different back then. I thought everybody read constantly and lived in their heads, filling them up with new ideas, new words and new meanings. As I grew up I found it more and more difficult to make new friends. They needed to be intellectualizers like me. When I started at Colorado College, the place where my Dad worked, I finally felt more at home. My friends were a little bit more intellectual, which came to mean out of touch with “the real world” like me. When I got a scholarship to Cornell University to study Chinese, I found myself in university snob heaven. What a trip! Through the years a few of my teachers told me how out of touch I really was, but in a good way.

Since then I have worked with many intellectuals in university settings and found so many to be academ-idiots. They lived in their minds and their disciplines, but did not know themselves at all. It was only years later that I separated myself from this identification with pure mind. Around age 40 I rejected mind without emotions thinking and decided to study psychology, investing for the first time in non-traditional education. I was still working at CU-Boulder, but running down the hill to study at the Naropa Institute, a Buddhist-based university. Only then did I see exactly how in-my-head I had become. What an inauthentic way of being in the world. In fact, it was a bit of a relief when I lost my last academic job back in 2004.

Goodbye academ-idiots, hello world!

A year later I met Mike, the absolute opposite of an intellectual or academic snob. He knew how everything worked and could not specialize or intellectualize to save his life. He was as well-rounded and authentic as a human being could be. He had tee shirts that said things like “Screw- U.” He balked at those who acted like they knew everything, but could not fix their own car or respect those who didn’t go to college. He got his skills training at his Dad’s garage and in the Navy starting at age 17, and treated everyone initially with respect, compassion, honesty, integrity. I find his finest quality to be his sense of loyalty to those he loves. Mike can sniff out inauthenticity from a mile away… not that we have a lot of intellectuals out here in rural southern Colorado 🙂

My life has been so much better since I gave up intellectualizing. It can be so toxic because it can create false illusions that I somehow control and can manipulate everything and everybody. Nope, that’s not how it works. Take it from someone who has learned in the past few years that she cannot breathe without a machine and her brain is damaged through no fault of her own. I am being forced to relax my mind! What an interesting challenge for someone so focused on mind…

Time and change happens to everybody!

My journey continues… My favorite song lately: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bST9VXknId0

The advantages of brain injury (Say what?)

Since my fate seems to be living with some fairly serious brain problems, I have been searching lately for the bright side of this apparently grim future I face. Some might find this attitude pathologically optimistic, but what the heck! If you can’t change it, why not go in search of the bright side?

First of all, I feel so just plain lucky to be living in this beautiful place with my loving little family, who understand endlessly my occasional forgetfulness, confusion and regular fatigue. My pup Rasta is especially sympathetic as he’s pushing 13 himself and can’t hear, can barely see or smell. He spends most of his days either sleeping or looking for a warm lap.

I have always run my mind a hundred miles an hour as a general rule, but not now. I tend to get busy early in the morning and wear out around ten or eleven. Then, for a change, I can be patient with myself… sometimes. I can settle down and meditate restfully for a while because I really cannot do anything else. I can now shut off my mind easier and just cruise mentally. I’m slowly learning my limits and now I try to only focus on one thing at a time.

Only so much brain space means less worrying and a lot less fear of death. Why? Because I have experienced hours of unconsciousness at this point and it isn’t such a bad thing. My mind simply shuts down with too much stimulation, and that limit is easy to reach. I have always enjoyed one-on-one conversations in my past, now that’s about all I can tolerate or enjoy. I enjoy focusing fully on others, just for shorter periods of time. After a nice talk with a friend, I love spacing out alone and contemplating our conversation. In fact I enjoy contemplating everything more.

I notice some of my senses are now heightened. My love of music, colors, and tastes are much more intense. I guess this is a function of where my head injuries were. Mine have been equal opportunity injuries both on the back and the sides of my brain.

Again I come back to one of my favorite quotes about the changes we may go through as we age:

“…we all know how this ends, so rushing through life is senseless. As our inner life grows ever more luminous, the chatter of the speed-and-greed world slowly fades, leaving us with greater peace, tranquility, quiet and contentment.” — Arthur Rosenfeld