My New Year’s Wish for You

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops a mandala of a sunrise over a sandy beach to represent her new year's wish for time.This year my wish for you, my dear readers, is for time.

Tomorrow the one I love most in this world will be on a plane headed far away to the other side of the world. The past two days I raced around to stock the refrigerator and cook him beef wellington for breakfast and rack of lamb for lunch. The weekend flew by, and on the last night I stayed up late, savoring my tiny cup of whiskey until neither of us could think of anything more to say. He hadn’t even left yet and already the vast desert of time before I’d see him again was stretching out ahead of me.

Time is slippery. Time is a tease. It carries me ever further from the days with my daughter who died. It extends endlessly, mercilessly, between the times I am with the ones I care about. Time is all around, regularly evident in my growing gray hair and nails; you can see it all over my face. It’s here ticking, marching, ruling our lives, running, …standing still. And yet, there never seems to be enough time.

So I’m wishing you time, not necessarily more time, but rather a greater awareness of the time we have. May we be more fully engaged in the moments at hand and cradle our time. And color it with joy.

Rowdy laughing time and quiet peaceful time. Time to accomplish all you want to do. Time to do nothing. Time to spare. Enough time. Time that heals and hugs you. Time that is rosy and shines like a sunrise.

I wish you the time to find yourself. I wish you time to glory in the here-and-now.

Share Button

How to Handle Holiday Stress

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops a cumulonimbus cloud of holiday stress, grief, sadness, and fear to illustrate how to handle holiday depression.
This is supposed to be a time of joy. Miracles. Magic. But for some of us the holidays are like dark cumulonimbus clouds gusting with severe turbulence, powerful updrafts and downdrafts, lightning, thunder, and large flying lumps of hail. It’s a season of stress. Sadness. And maybe even fear. It feels like something big is going to happen.

It’s not like anything has to happen at all. If you don’t want to face the festivities you can treat yourself like you have a cold: acknowledge your pain and pamper it. Curl up in a cozy blanket with a good book or a movie. Take a long nap. Have tea and cinnamon toast. If you tell people you have a cold they gratefully accept your regrets for not showing up and sharing. And those who love you might understand if you tell them the truth: holidays hurt and you just don’t want to do them this year.

No one needs to do the regular holiday routine, the shopping, decorating, baking, gifting, … partying. On these shortest, darkest, coldest days and longest nights of the year, go easy on yourself. Give yourself permission to opt out of the whirlwind of activity. Find what brings you comfort. What will give you peace, or some small private joy?

Have a Blue Christmas. Buy a box of chocolates just for you. Light all the Chanukah candles at once and plant them in the snow. Write a letter to someone you miss. Get out to see the stars, a sunrise or sunset. Sit with a ninety-five-year old. Watch a sleeping newborn. Give a dog a belly-rub. Take a walk in the dark with a friend and flashlights. Clean out the household catch-all drawer. Help serve food at a local soup kitchen. Or stay in bed with a hot water bottle. Celebrate whatever and whenever you get inspired.

So let the holidays begin. And when they get to be too much, do them Your Way.

 

What would you do on your ideal holiday?

Share Button

My Experience With a Medium

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops a healing mandala with images of bare trees and her daughter who died of leukemia.There are some things one should never do alone. Like get a tattoo. Drink expensive wine. Or die. Going to some stranger’s house to track down your child who’s been dead five years is definitely one of those things you need to do with a friend.

“I have a message from your daughter,” I’d been told by two different people shortly after Marika’s death. “She wants you to know she’s okay.” I’d ignored these “messages.” For years it never occurred to me they might be anything more than senseless remarks thrown at me to squelch my sadness.

Then one day I met another bereaved mother who, in all her grief, was disintegrating and dying right in front of me. When I saw her again, a month later, she was bright-eyed and bouncing. “I saw a medium,” she beamed. And even though I was skeptical about such things, I started reading The Light Between Us by Laura Lynne Jackson. I read After This: When Life is over Where Do We Go? by Claire Bidwell Smith, and other books about afterlife and contacting deceased loved ones. It made me wonder, what if they’re not gone? What if their spirits remain somehow?

It was only right that I test the idea out. It would be an adventure. It could lead to joy. Wasn’t that my mission these days – to find joy? But when it came down to actually setting up an appointment, I kept finding excuses to put off the call. And I realized I was terrified. Because not knowing for sure meant anything was possible. Seeing a medium could verify that part of my daughter was indeed still here with me. But if I went to a medium and had my doubts confirmed, I could lose all my hope.

Another friend agreed to share a session with a medium. She sat next to me on a small couch in a cozy room while a lot of “spirits,” visible only to our medium, hung out in the space around us. At each question or communication I turned my head to see my friend nod and smile. Our eyes met only a few times, when what was presented didn’t apply to her, “No one I know.” “Not for me either,” I said.

No one and nothing “came out” for me. Except that I was an artist. The medium was adamant, I should explore my artistic abilities. And in my head I was screaming, “I’ve been an artist over half a century. But can’t you see I’ve lost my daughter? Where’s Marika? I want my father, my Omi Rosie.” They didn’t show up. I almost cried.

“I want to go back again for another reading,” my friend said as we got in the car.

 

What experience have you had with mediums or contacting loved ones who have died? Do you believe our spirits live on after death?

 

 

 

Share Button

Cleaning House for the Holidays

savebunpostIf you have no heart for the holidays, give yourself a gift of light and space. Gentle glowing light. And nothingness, emptiness, silence. Peace.

Last year, instead of a Christmas tree to brighten the house, I bought one of those digital frames, loaded it full of my favorite photos, and put in on the counter where the lit tree used to stand. Every five seconds the frame flashed a different picture. Colors splashed all over, lighting the place up like Christmas. It worked so well in lifting my spirits that I kept it plugged in all year.

This year, to brighten the upcoming holidays, I’ve been clearing the house out top-to-bottom. I wanted home to look like a scene out of Martha Stewart Living, in holiday-less May. Only more subdued, like a meticulously appointed hotel. I wasn’t going to survive the season with my house full of stuff crushing me. It was time for a major purging.

If you were on a desert island and could only have ten things, or if you were getting buried beneath all your belongings and could keep only a fraction of them in order to breathe – what would you hold onto?

In the depths of sixteen years’ accumulation, I came across countless photos and precious possessions from my daughter who died. Soccer balls. Stuffed animals. Costumes I’d sewn for the kids and myself. My old tent and sleeping bag. Maps of France. Assorted remnants of my past lives. I found fifteen electronic candles and ten forgotten flameless LED tea lights.

The hardest things to let go were the stuffed animals. The squishy-soft polyester puppies and bunnies had glinting plastic eyes that followed me around the house as my helper and I gathered a step-van’s worth of papers, defunct electronics, kitchenware, old luggage, toys, teaching materials, art supplies, and house parts. “Someone else is gonna love this,” I kept reminding myself, as I tossed things in bags.

I saved the battery-operated candles, the photos, a cape of pink polka-dot tutu fabric, a bunny garden ornament and six stuffed rabbits. The tea lights. And when the two days of purging were over, when the house was silent and still, I sighed with relief at the almost bare shelves. Something in my soul sang out and danced in the empty spaces as I filled them with electronic light.

 

What do you do when you’ve had your fill of holidays? What do you hold onto in this season? What do you toss?


Share Button

Cleaning Out the House

Robin Botie of Ithaca, new York, photoshops a mandala of an avalanche of papers and books falling from her closets when she cleans out her house.“Don’t give me anything unless I can eat it,” I keep telling family and friends as holidays approach. Meanwhile, the health club hounds me to participate in some program where I can win prizes. “No more stuff. Please. I have too much.”

My material possessions are weighing me down. They’re increasing my carbon footprint. And having cleaned up after several deceased loved ones, I can’t bear the thought of anyone I love having to clean up after me. So I’m unloading the contents of my house.

I used to be a tosser. For every new thing I brought home, I’d toss out two things, or ten. But then they started charging for garbage disposal. I began to stash things. My house, designed to have no wasted space, had closets and cabinets built into every soffit, staircase, and odd-angled corner, for maximum storage capability. And over the years I stuffed them to the gills.

I’ve read The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up book by Marie Kondo. And each year I’ve done spring-cleaning rituals, but stuff comes in faster than I can remove it. I needed help.

I was embarrassed to ask. Friends think my house is clean and orderly, never having opened one of my cabinets to then be blasted by an avalanche of books and papers. My sister, with brutal sisterly honesty, would accuse me of being a closet hoarder and point out the relationship between hoarding and obsessive-compulsive disorder. If only I could hire some young adventurous person just starting out in her life, at the collecting-stuff stage, I thought. Someone who was my size so I’d be inspired to give away more of my clothes. Someone who wasn’t afraid of mice. Who could cart away all the things that threatened to bury me. Who’d say, “Why do you need this?” and “Does it really bring you joy?” Someone committed to redistributing and recycling, not simply ditching it all at the dump.

“Do you know anyone I could hire to help clear out my closets?” I asked the guy sealing my windows with shrink-wrap, who had gathered boulders and built a patio next to my pond this past summer. The one who had calmly walked away instead of strangling me during one of my most obnoxious hissy-fits. The Buddhist.
“Yes. Me,” he said. And it took a moment to let go of the image of the young clone of myself I’d imagined, and it took another minute to remember how Buddhists believe that attachment to material things is a major cause of suffering.
“Can you deal with mouse droppings?” I asked.

 

Are you a tosser or a hoarder? Can we gain more happiness from having less?

Share Button

Caregiving

Robin Botie of Ithaca, New York, photoshops a mandala of the supermoon and trees in a kaleidoscope of tears.It was late when we got the discharge papers and I drove my friend Annette home from Cayuga Medical Center. Even my son was fast asleep by the time I pulled into my own driveway. But I was wide awake, my head pulsing with something like pride. With memories: home from the hospital. It transported me back to the times in and out of hospitals with my daughter during her almost-three years of cancer. Strong Memorial Hospital in Rochester is the place I last “left” Marika. The hospital is where I first learned I was a caregiver.

When one you love becomes sick, you become a caregiver. No references or prior experience necessary. You learn on the job. Patience. Attentiveness. Compassion. You learn to let go of what you cannot control. You learn how much there is to lose: breath, balance, mobility, independence, …hope. The certainty of being able to go home.

“When can I go home?” is what everyone asks in the hospital, sitting around waiting, watching the world pass you by while you’re stuck there. The goal is to get out. But for me, for almost three years, my whole world was right there in the hospital. Whenever I left without Marika, my heart was tethered to that place. Maybe it still is.

In the end, I did not bring my daughter home. Instead, I dragged home the heartbroken remains of who I was, and the beginnings of the person I would grow into over the next years: one who loves life and doesn’t discount it by who or how much she’s lost, but rather gauges good living by what she can put right and save.

“It feels good to be needed again, to be able to help,” I’d said, when I delivered Annette to her apartment and she thanked me like I’d given her gold. Then the waning supermoon followed me home across two hills and a valley, peeking through clouds and bare branches. It made a giant mesh of moon-shadows in my driveway. Almost midnight, everything was silent and still. Except for me. I felt like skipping. Dancing in the moonlight. And I don’t know if I was speaking to the moon, my daughter’s spirit, or God when I whispered, “Hey. I brought someone home tonight.” The moon, the branches, my pride, longing, love, and gratitude were all kaleidoscoped by my tears.

 

What makes you want to sing and dance in the moonlight at midnight?

Share Button