When Life is a Little Complicated...

When life is complicated, be open to the Divine...

Hello my fellow Pilgrims...

I got a text message from the Holy Spirit today. Did you know she texted? Well she does.

The Divine reaches out in ways large and small. Today she reached out to me in the fingers of my 4th-8th grade teacher, confirmation sponsor, the woman who proclaimed the reading of First Corinthians to us at our wedding 24 yrs ago. This spiritual teacher has also attended the baptism of my children and the woman I lovingly refer to as my second mom. I call her Momma G.... or MG. I wrote about her a while ago in a post about

amazing teachers

.

MG sent me a text late Sunday from the East Coast. Before I had my second cup of tea Monday morning we were on the phone having a lengthy conversation. MommaG had cleared the decks to talk to me. That is a gift. As with all her communications, the Sunday text was sweet and loving. To paraphrase,

Just checking in, want to make sure I haven't missed any of your blog posts and that all is well...

We don't talk often enough; because we don't know how to have quick chats. Jeff questions if I know how to have any quick chats! Calls and texts from Mrs. P are gifts, that I tie up into a little bow and get stored as

exquisite everyday moments

.

The text was sweet as pie; it was a check-in. A pulse check to make sure that all was well... The Spirit never fails to send you an invitation and an opportunity for connection.

I wish every person could have at least one person in their life who sees them as the best version of themselves. Who sees you as the Divine sees you, beautiful, whole, worthy of love. This person who looks past your imperfections to see them as the gifts that make you stunning, whole, loved and as a precious child of God. MG has been that guide for me since I met her at age 9. A remarkable gift to be loved so completely...

Perhaps you can begin to see why I call her a blessing.

MG was wondering what so many of you must... Where the heck is Kathryn?!?!

I haven't shared any of my journey with you for a while. It may be in fact the longest I have gone with out sharing a tale from the road.

It's not that I haven't been writing--I have been.

Can I just say...

Writing is hard.

It honestly is.

When you write, you are sharing your soul, it's intimate. I share with you what is in my heart, where my soul is and how I see the world. It can be a tad bit frustrating when you can't get out of your own way when you write. You must be able to quiet your mind and still be open to listen. Writing requires you to get to your truth, find your sacred space where your mind and soul meet your fingers on a keyboard.

Perhaps that's why you hear so often the stories of great writers (I don't put myself in their company) and how they all drank. Many of them also used other tools to try to access that place that generates the words. They weren't healthy either. Thank goodness I have chocolate, goodness if we have a world shortage of chocolate-- I'm in trouble.

I find my writing to be my safe place, it can also be a place of prayer for me. The things I share come from my own prayer life. What I have learned and what I still need to. This journey isn't easy, as a woman, wife, friend and mother. I too am plagued by insecurities, worries and get caught up in my own humanness. I petition the Divine for my way, for the outcomes I desire, not the ones that are best for me. I want the outcomes that I KNOW are the right choices. For some strange reason the Divine often has a different plan.

I'm currently in that space of jumping up and down, hurling profanities and having a 46 year old temper tantrum. Wondering why are things not going my way, why can't it be easier, why is life just so darned complicated some times!

That is where you meet me today. On the Island of Unacceptable.

Let's be clear, my life isn't any different from any of you. I don't have all the answers. I too am a Pilgrim. The only way I differ from all of you is I don't seem to mind publicly airing my foolishness. That is till recently.

After speaking with Jeffrey, I asked him why this time was different? Why was I having so much trouble putting my thoughts and feelings down in a blog post? Looking at me with a warm beaming smile, he answered:

"With you it's never just one thing--it's always a little bit complicated."

What Jeffrey is too sweet to say is everything with me is a wee bit more complicated. It's never just one thing, but a mosaic of a hundred little things that intertwine. My life is really hard currently. I will share the details in a second-- but it almost doesn't matter. Some of you will read my list and think...

Yep, that's hard.

Many of you will be in a far more difficult place.

UGH. My heart hurts that you are on your own Island of Unacceptable. I wish we could pull them all together and make a little community of unacceptable. I think that is why I'm finally sharing all of this with all of you.

MamaG listened to me share my truth and she paused for a second then said, "You are in transition."

I explained that I'm ALWAYS in transition. And without even seeing her face I can see her knowing smile. As we continue to chat, my heart becomes full knowing, that even while I struggle, this transition is part of my journey with the Divine. My life will always be transitional. I will always be the PilgrimageGal, I will never be satisfied. I am a seeker, I need to understand, to look, to go deeper, to understand the depths of the Divine that I will never fully grasp in this life. Please understand that doesn't mean I'm not happy. While this time is hard; it's also extremely joy-filled. Because while I'm struggling, my path is filled with so many opportunities to see God's hand in all of it.

My life has been a little complicated, which may in fact be why my writing is hard. Before I bore you with my details. Let me say this, the fact that I wrote this post is the reason that I will write another one. It may take me a couple of weeks-- but I will be in touch, that I promise.

Ready... Here goes:

I've been sick, actually really sick. My West Coast doctors have only known me fairly healthy, not nearly as sick as I was back East. And since I have been doing well, there were conversations with the entire team about me trying to ween off some medications that I have used for years. The hope? That some of them would no longer be necessary for my day to day wellness.

When you are a long-term chronic disease patient, you daily, monthly and yearly make choices about treatments/meds. Many have long term side effects, but with a skilled medical team; you weigh the options and make informed decisions. As a team, we all agreed to the decisions, I stand by them... the problem is that I'm the one who lives these decisions made by my team, it's my body. I can say without hesitation this process has been a a train wreck. Before all this foolishness, I would wake to my pain at usually lower than a 4 out of 10 and by the end of a bad day it would be a 8. For far to many days lately, I awake to pain north of an 8. There is no way you are going to turn around an 8 when you haven't even peed, brushed your teeth or seen the coffee pot. Two things that make me not so joyful---pain and my flipping cough. This process began in June and has continued through August when I had successfully come off all the meds in question. As I sit here in mid-October, we are sorting out the foolishness of these choices and hopefully, fingers crossed will have me better duct-taped together within a few weeks. This experience has been brutal.

 Insert sad face emoticon here...

Meanwhile while having ever so much fun, in mid-August my mother was diagnosed with a re-occurrence of cancer. It was clear in early August while she visited us in California that there was a significant issue. At mom's request, she differed treatment till she returned to the DC area and her medical team. Jeff and I weren't happy, out of respect for mom's privacy I won't go into the details. My mother is the toughest human alive, honest to goodness, and while she is facing a serious medical issue-- it will never slow her down nor do I anticipate that this will kill her... I may kill her for being stubborn, and foolish, but that is a totally different issue. I love you mama! You are the bravest and the best inspiration a daughter could ask for. xox

Thanks to the cancer diagnosis my mom got an emergency visit from her favorite daughter (I'm her only daughter) less than 8 days from her leaving California. The upside, I got to celebrate my 46 birthday alone with my mom. We went antiquing, had lunch, and watched old movies in bed eating potato chips and drinking classic coke! It was so incredibly special to spend my birthday with my mom-- That visit put life in focus.

My sweet little gig at the mission wasn't working for me and the family. The day after returning from my visit with my mom, I resigned. While visiting with my mom, she told me to walk away from the job. My mother has never told me to walk away from anything. When I told her I resigned; she was relived and happy.

"Good, it needed to be done. Focus on Jeff and the children."

I don't think I will ever work where I feed myself. I explained to one of my friends, you never want to work at your favorite restaurant. You don't want to go into the kitchen perhaps and see that it's a little dirty, or view your favorite romantic spot with the harsh florescent lights that come up at the end of the evening. You want the experience, not the reality. Meaning where I worship and work need to be two separate places. No words can describe how I loved the parish families and working with educating the children. The experience is the signal greatest joy in my life outside of my husband and Beauties. Nothing gives me more pleasure than incorporating my love of faith and sharing it with others. What I'm not good at is the humaneness of the church. We all know of her imperfections, I just didn't like seeing it. Let me be clear there was no crime, nothing illegal and nothing immoral taking place. Just the mundane bureaucracy, reorgs, budget discussions and other day to day "corporate" stuff, was not how I want to spend my spiritual life. In the corporate/business world it's easy to be political-- I'm not interested in doing that in a religious setting.

I mentioned joy a little while ago. There is a little jar in my living room that says: "It isn't Joy that makes us Grateful; It's Gratitude that makes us Joyful." What an apt description of how I see the Divine in my daily life. Gratitude for the text message from the Divine in fingers of someone who loves me for me. We are always being guided, listened to and directed to the path that was created entirely for us.

My journey has been a little complicated lately. I've made a promise to myself, that complicated or not, I'll document the journey a bit more frequently moving forward.

Thank you for walking with me on this journey...

Will talk again soon, that I know for sure. xoxo

The Divine in me bows and honors the Divine in you.

Kathryn

PilgrimageGal

The Lessons of our Pilgrimage...

I have always wanted to be that girl who traveled the world, to visit the holy sites of the major faiths. For twenty years I have longed to walk the "El Camino de Santiago" in Spain. In English it is known as the "Way of St. James". A holy pilgrimage that dates back to the Middle Ages where thousands walk through Spain to the Cathedral Santiago de Compostela.

Pilgrims walk on multiple routes to the cathedral. Along the way they pass through villages and stay in small hotels or inns. They travel in groups or alone looking for spiritual enlightenment. When on a pilgrimage you may travel for many different reasons, but at the end you are looking for answers, enlightenment and peace.

Along the Camino, pilgrims have taken to wearing or carrying scallop shells. The tradition of the shell dates back to the legend of St. James the Apostle. There are several stories that involve St. James and the scallop shell that have become part of the tradition. One is, that the grooves in the shell, which come together at a single point, represent the various routes pilgrims traveled, all ending at the same destination. The journey is epic, filled with mountain views and concludes with ocean vistas. You crisscross through towns and villages along the way, meeting new friends and also have time for self-reflection and exploration.

I loved the idea that you walk and meet fellow pilgrims and at the end of the day you find yourself in a small village drinking wine and making relationships to support you on this magnificent journey. You could make life long friendships. Imagine ancient villages with Spain's beautiful topography, the comfort of a meal, resting your tired feet, and knowing you were walking the same path that St. James had walked thousands of years before.

At the end, pilgrims discuss the physical and emotional challenges they encountered and overcame along the way. Many offering tales of life affirming and spiritual change.

I wanted to take that transformative journey.

But, I lacked two things, the financial ability to go for two months and more honestly, I don't have the physical strength to tackle such a journey. I don't have a nanny, a driver, a house manager, and I don't have a private jet. Listen if you do, God bless you, please invite me on vacation. I mean a private jet...seriously let's go! Don't get me wrong, I'm a girl with first world problems; honestly, I'm a princess and I know it.

This is a journey that wasn't going to happen for me.

I made peace with that revelation.

I realized that if I wanted that transformative experience, I was going to have to create my own. I would create my journey, listen to the pilgrims at the quiet rest stops the Divine put on my path. My path would not be in Spain, it would be in the coffee shops in my own town, the people I meet when I do public speaking, and the individuals I meet on my daily journey through this life of mine.

I would share the lessons learned openly and honestly. With the hope that my fellow Pilgrims would do the same. We would share this journey, the truth and our encounters with the Divine.

That my fellow Pilgrims is how PilgrimageGal was born. And in that process, I would create my own transformative journey.

I have always been transparent when the blog first began; I was worried about my mortality, that I wouldn't live to see my Beauties grow into adulthood. The blog was and is for them, but it's more than just a record, it's a journal of my life lessons as I transform. I won't lie and say those thoughts of my mortality don't still cross my mind deep in the darkness of night; but it's not my focus. My focus remains learning, growing in my faith and running down the path to see what the next mile marker will teach me about love. It is in that transformation that all of my fellow

Pilgrims

(that's you) help me grow and deepen the lessons of this journey.

The beauty of transformation is that you have no idea how you will be on the other side. That is why this journey is so meaningful, I'm learning in real time. Sure there are many things I know for-sure and I share them. But more than that, I lean that each mile marker my faith strengthens, my love expands, and I'm growing to love more deeply that person that I see in the mirror. That expanding love, makes me a better mom, lover, friend and better Kathryn walking in the world.

We all have struggles. Sometimes it's your broken down jet, other times it's laundry, crazy bosses, relationship issues, parenting troubles, your ex, money worries, dealing with doctors, stupid insurance companies and raising loving and healthy children. I don't know too many of us who have the luxury and I mean luxury to drop out of our daily life to achieve this transformation. That is why PilgrimageGal is here. We are on this sacred pilgrimage together, we bring our problems, our joys, our successes and failures on the journey. We do all of this while caring for our aging parents, our children, while we carpool, work and make Wednesday night dinner. 

We are

Pilgrims

in the trenches! We are familiar with the messy and the foolishness of life. That is why we are walking and laughing together, sharing our truth, our love and light, and waiting for the next mile marker for a bite to eat, a delicious glass of wine, and some time for reflection.

That is what I'm offering to you... So lace up your shoes and meet me here. When your life leads you to a mile marker on your journey. We will sort it out together and keep moving forward.

I've gotta run, the laundry basket is overflowing... 

Till we meet again.

Namaste... The Divine in me bows and honors the Divine in you always.

Much love always,

Kathryn the PilgrimageGal

PS. I love to hear from you, so don't hesitate to send me a note with an update of your journey.  You can leave a comment, or friend me on

Facebook

or

Instagram

 or send me an email using the form on the right. Only my eyes will see the email, so please reach out and share your truth. I will do my best to get back in touch. 

photo credit:

Scallop Shell

via

photopin

(license)

Happy 3rd Birthday Pilgrimage Gal...

I started my little blog on June 1, 2012. I then spent days looking at a blank screen wondering what to say.

Pilgrimage Gal has evolved in three years. I have grown in confidence, witnessing my health dramatically improve and along the way I found my voice. This space began with the support of my Jeffrey and my dear friend Jessica; both encouraging me to share my truth. What began as a sick and frightened women's journal, changed into a place to find hope, courage and little faith. Back in the beginning, I wasn't scared of sharing my truth, I was scared of

dying

.  In my heart, I felt death chasing me and it was terrifying. The blog became a place to share the fear that filled my heart in the darkness of night.  The worries that didn't go away when I woke. I needed my Beauties to know their mom. So as adults they would have my truth of their childhood. The blog would allow them to see in my own words that I loved them with everything that I had. That I fought everyday for their Dad and them.

When I left this world, they would still hear my voice.

A record for the Beauties of what my life, our life was all about.

Total truth.

I never honestly expected to be here to celebrate this blog turning 3. While I was making peace with my death, the Divine was creating my way to life. Each doctor at every turn was a tiny grain of sand to wellness. You never see the beach when you are focused on individual grains of sand, you can't find the ocean--you can only see the grains.

No one has had access to better doctors. No one. I have fought, challenged, cajoled, and laid out a few. I have listened, cried and screamed when I needed to, I did what I was told, and I never stopped fighting. Never given up. Have I had dark moments? Good Lord, yes.  I looked at my Jeffrey and my Beauties and knew NO ONE would ever love them the way I do. No one possibly could. They are as much part of my soul as I am theirs.

I have meet brilliant minds, doctors who love me more than they should. I have given too many of them sleepless nights. My husband who never once has said it's too much. A doctor, Harvard, who stood next to my hospital bed in the darkest moments and who wound't give up on his most unique patient.  I know no person on earth that has more loving friends, soul sisters, more perfect Beauties and my mother who drops everything to support me.

My riches are too vast to imagine. I may never win the power-ball, but I have won more than my share of grace and love.

So as I step back and give thanks for medical interventions that keep me stable. Teachers who love my children as their own, friends no matter my geography that have my back, a husband that loves all of me, every broken part and every super power.

I know one thing that is true, that none of this is possible without my faith. A faith that humbles me. That in all of my abundance, I have been able to walk with LOVE. My greatest gift in all of this is faith that is built on love.  I have a faith that never falters. That faith has enabled me to see love hidden, love flourishing, and how to find it, keep it and make it grow.

It's all of these gifts that make Pilgrimage Gal my safe place as I hope it is yours too. The Divine gave me the love of all of you. My Pilgrims near and far. Thanks to technology, I have virtual tea dates around the globe. Someday the Divine will connect all of us, in London and in Finland and too many of you to mention in Canada and the States. Each and every one of you take a moment out of your busy daily life to walk with me. To share your truth, to give me insight in your life. You share your Beauties, your dreams, your faith and struggles. Thank you, for walking with me; sharing your exquisite every day moments. My life is richer with your love.

Jeffrey surprised me with a huge Pilgrimage Gal birthday cake, chocolate with salted caramel, no words for the yummiest cake ever. The cake was from the talented cafe and my newest Santa Barbara friend Gillian of

Lilac Patisserie

. I washed the cake down with a toast and small sip of champagne (I'm on crummy antibiotics) toasting each and everyone of you. Without you I would just be some lonely girl jotting musings in her diary.

Your loves, your likes, your comments, your shares, and your amens have made me productive, open, more honest and the best version of myself.

I'm beyond humbled by my life and look forward to celebrating all of our joys, celebrations and struggles for years to come.

Cheers, to you all! To Jess and Jeffrey, I love you both with all that I have, thank you for encouraging me in the darkness. You both give me more than I ever give you!

Peace be with you all.

The Divine in me bows to the Divine in each and everyone of you.

Happy Birthday from the Pilgrimage Gal and our journey continues.

xo,

Kathryn

Photo Credit: Mr. Pilgrimage Gal

Yellow Living Room...

When I was growing up, I had goals. Plans. Ideas. I had a road map for my life. I had expectations of what my life would look like, including my husband and children. In my dream, I pictured my husband and I living in a white colonial with bright shutters and door. We would have a large sunny yellow living room that looked out onto a beautiful cottage garden. I pictured us sitting on matching sofas with our coffee cups, listening to music; all while reading the Sunday paper.  I have no idea where my children were in this dream; but I had them! That was my idea of domestic bliss as seen in my 12 year old mind.  I could create my own stability, calm and security. When I thought of this dream; I always smiled, because I felt loved and cherished.

Children of divorce never feel settled; we are always on the move, sharing time with all the individuals we love. The dream became more of a mantra after losing both my father and stepfather at 15. I never for a second thought I wouldn't go to college. I had to; I had to support myself. I worried about losing my husband, so the dream became a mantra. He couldn't smoke, not be a heavy drinker or do drugs. Smoking killed the two men I loved. In my eyes drugs and booze just increased the chances for mortality. I would make THIS yellow living room world. It would be mine. It would be my reality. As I look back on my 23 years of marriage;  Jeffrey and I have created that life. I have stability. I have calm and security. I'm deliciously happy, in my soul, in my heart and most of all in my head.

I need that world. Jeffrey and I have had some dark times in our early marriage, 22 is young to jump into marriage without tools. I didn't grow up with good marriage models, so I had to teach myself, I learned on the job how to be married. God Bless Jeff, he just needed to learn I was beautifully high maintenance, that isn't a criticism; it's just truth. I needed to talk all the time; about everything, and he just needed to put his arm around me, love me, and tell me it was going to be fine.

I needed to learn that Jeff was exactly what he appeared; a good, honest, trustworthy man. That he loved me and I was good-enough to be loved. Jeff also had to learn to negotiate and to communicate. But, what kept us together was the yellow living room; we both really wanted the same things. We wanted that safe place where we were loved and that we both were all in, not kind of in; but all in.

We learned as a couple what our currency was; what was our truth, what were our deal breakers as a couple and where was the wiggle room. We also created our own tool box as a couple, the short hand that worked for us to make our life work in the ups and downs of the journey. We are very honest and direct, but we do it with humor and love. Our toolbox is the same as the one I have shared with you and it's why we are resilient.

Resilience is the superpower that helps you through the tough times. We are hinged on faith and one another. Everything else is a bi-product of that. God and Jeff are always at the table with me, then it's the Beauties, then it's everyone else. When we work, it all works. For me there is nothing without them. That is how I remain resilient, I focus on that image, that feeling of the yellow living room and the visual of sitting with Jeff and the Divine having a meal talking it all through, laughing and sharing the breaking of bread.

That image and concept is how I stay strong on the Pilgrimage. I use the tools that we have spent Lent honing, shaping and sharpening. When you learn to treat the stupid shit that happens in your life as irritants, and foolishness as obstacles to your happiness you learn how to pivot, to knock down and get around them. That is how you keep your eye on what truly matters...

For me that is enjoying the exquisite everyday moments with my Beauties. This week included a fantastic family meal at the Beauties' favorite white table cloth restaurant on the beach. Also included some moments during Holy Week when I wanted to flick my Beauties for not getting-it during Stations of the Cross. But, more often than not, we had delightful and touching faith filled moments during Holy Thursday, Good Friday and the Easter Vigil. We had our first ever lovely California Easter Dinner with Jeffrey's parents, a backyard Bocce tournament with Norah and her "Poppie" (which is her grandad), we dyed eggs, made some ridiculous good cupcakes, we stayed up too late, got up too early. But even with Norah getting yet another nasty cold, and my pain being excruciating, Ian having a seasonal allergy attack, we had much more joy than sadness.

So that is where I will leave this series of posts on Resilience...

You CAN become more resilient.

It takes effort, practice using the tools and the willingness to never surrender.

But, the more you do, the stronger you get, until it's your super power too!

Kathryn

PilgrimageGal

I love hearing from you, and I miss it when you don't reach out! So leave comments below, connect with me on instagram at 

PilgrimageGal

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PilgrimageGal

 or send me a private email by sending me a note in the form in the sidebar.

Photo Credit: Mr. PilgrimageGal

Tool Five: Faith...



Today celebrates week five of our resilience tool box discussions. Tool Five is faith, and for me it is the linchpin that holds everything together. You can't function without faith in something.  I see faith, like your body's skin, the largest organ in your entire body and without it the rest of your body would fall apart. Faith holds you together no matter the success or trauma, faith goes with you everywhere and just like your skin, it can't be separated from the rest of you. It is in every part of your life.

I find when my faith life is working, everything is working. I heal faster, tolerate the intolerable, and live better when I take care of my faith life first.

When I speak with my tribe, I inevitably ask them all the same question.  "How is your spirit?" The answer offers insight into so many areas. It provides me with what I need to know, which is: "How are you, at your core, how are you living?" When your spirit is wonky, your faith life and the rest of you are too.  If you want to be the healthiest you, have a rock solid faith life. It just makes all of you, work at your best.

I have had some dark times, sometimes when my health was teetering, when I had lost confidence in myself, didn't trust my body. Even during the darkest times, I still held onto my faith, because I knew that even in the worst of times, God was with me and making my path.

The Divine is revealed to us all a little differently and one needs to be open to the path that lies in front of each of us. The hardest part is understanding that you may not like the path that is being paved for you. Hello, California?!  Even when we share the same faith tradition; we both will meet the Divine in a different place. It is the greatest mystery, how the Divine is revealed to each of us. What that revelation is for each of us is different, but what we share is that we are all called to do something in this life, to find what our unique talents and gifts are and then to use them the best way possible.

We all have folks in our life who try to hide from their faith. Who think that they don't need a faith journey or who question why the rest of us have one. But, the friends that my heart hurts for are the ones who say, "If I walked into a church, God would laugh at me or the walls may fall down because; I don't belong in that place."  It is often said tongue firmly planted in cheek, but the intent is all the same. They claim that it is not the place for them.

Why? The Divine is waiting for you. Patiently sometimes, often not not so much. The Divine provides us opportunities time and time again. All you need to do; is listen to the invitation and come along. Perhaps you misunderstand how the Divine is calling you. I find comfort in Church. In a community of folks who share similar comfort in the order of celebration that I call home. How you meet the Divine is up to you, do you meet in your meditation, in your contact with nature, or in your art? Do you meet the Divine in others? All of these are acceptable, but my question for you is how are you strengthening that relationship?  It takes practice and dedication, to have the fluidity to meet the Divine. As with any relationship it requires time and attention.

I have found in my travels that the folks who seem the most at peace are the people who have a titanium inner core of a faith life.  Are they good people? Sure. But in addition to being good folks they have a peace that only comes from an active faith life. It makes sorting through the difficult somehow tolerable. I have found my home in the Catholic church, by no means does it need to be yours. But, what I have learned, is that my dedication to this path, has provided me the quickest connection to the Divine. And to be able to hear what I'm being called to do. Yours will likely be different, but I encourage you to find the right one for you.

So the final question, how does it make you resilient? If faith is the skin that holds you together, then your faith life keeps you together when the world falls apart around you. It enables you to get up, get dressed and move on. Maybe it's the trust in a universe bigger than you... Or maybe it's just understanding that you are never alone and that a more Divine being is looking out for you.

Whatever the case may be, it works for me.

And I hope it works for you, too.

Kathryn
PilgrimageGal


photo credit: Sonnenstrahlen via photopin (license)

Tool Four: Wrapping Up Love and the Hidden Tool...

Wrapping Up Love...
Can I just say, I'm delighted that you have made the stop on week four of our journey to resilience. This week, we are mixing things up a bit! I have created an activity, it's part meditation and part reflection.  Like everything we do together, it's easy and approachable.  I have even done this exercise with my Beauties, who didn't even complain. That is a miracle in my house!  I will call on you to use your imagination; then I will tie the exercise into the fourth tool and show you how it fits into the tool box.

Let's begin with the exercise:

You need to create a few mental images. I think we will call it, "day dreaming for adults!" Easypeasy. To begin, image yourself alone in a quiet and beautiful space. This should be a place you feel peaceful, safe and loved.

Where are you?  The beach?, or maybe it's simply your living room? Or a mountain top in Hawaii? A tulip garden in Holland? A quiet lavender field in France? For some it may be a place of religious significance.

The key is that it should be the most sacred and calming place that you can imagine, the place you feel most peaceful and connected with yourself.

Got it?... Good!

Next, I want you to imagine your LOVE. All the love that you have in your being. Do you have it? Good. Scoop it all up into your arms. You need to imagine it in an inanimate physical form. Maybe it's a heart, maybe its the word love carved in a stone, or just scrabble letters of L-O-V-E , or a piece of red paper cut into a heart, a charm from a necklace, or a vessel of some kind that can hold all your love. Just get a physical image.  I imagine love as the word. The letters carved in little rocks that I can fit into my hand.  Now place that object, your "love" in a box. Let's be clear, you are not losing love, you are for lack of a better description, cloning it.  A strange idea, I know.

My LOVE, I put into a beautiful square box. The box is cream and I have some airy cream ribbon to make a beautiful bow.

So imagine yourself, holding your box of love. You are sitting in this beautiful space you have created. In this place you are positively beaming, you never have been more relaxed, happy, safe, secure, practically giddy, just you and your box. I would have a glass of champagne, because well it's a celebration of me and my big O' box of love.

Now, turn and look around. You have company. You are not alone. Next to you is the Divine.  Yep, the Divine...

How great is that. Right?!

So let's talk about your image of the Divine. Who do you see?

Do you see George Burns from the 70's movies?  Do you see an old wise fatherly figure?  Or Morgan Freeman?  Some will see Jesus, others will see a woman. Some may see some sort of super angel. I'm fine with whatever physical form you use to meet the Divine.  I feel strongly that the Divine comes to all of us a little differently, so what you imagine is perfect.

Keep in mind, that you are not nervous, you are at peace sitting with your Creator.  The Creator that knows you intimately, that created you in the image and likeness of the Divine. So bask in the attention. You are home.  It's the BEST.

Great.  Now hand over that beautiful box O' love to the Divine.

So you give this gift of love to God.  Now what--right? Hang tight for a second.

Why are we doing this exercise?  I know for sure that God is in all of us--each and everyone of us. Sadly, sometimes we tune God out.  If we agree that love is how we connect to one another and to the Divine, then it may be worth considering how we use love.  Should we use it a little bit more? Do others need to stop treating love as a toy?

Recently, I have needed to remind myself that there are three of us in every relationship; you, me and the Divine.  I can't claim to have a relationship with the Divine and not acknowledge that you do too. So the folks who push my ever loving last button; they are in the same relationship with the Divine that I claim to have.

Imagine you just gave the Divine your box O' love and said, "Could you help me with this love business?" Would your relationships look different? If you let the Divine direct you a little bit, how would the Divine use your LOVE with others?  Would the Divine steer you away from some relationships, and shine you in a new direction?  Would the Divine, push you out toward some folks, and give you great insights into others?

This my fellow Pilgrims is the very definition of our fourth tool: Vulnerability.  The definition is simple: It's the ability to give and receive love in its most honest form.  Vulnerability is a two way street. In order to share where you are on your journey, you have to be willing to let others share with you.  As I like to say, love is messy.  Being vulnerable means you are saying, "yes" to the messy. You peel back that protective layer that we all like to keep covered.  Will others think my messy is too much?  Will they discover that I'm a hot mess or too broken?

All fair worries.

You are risking that someone you have given your trust to, may hurt you.

Is it a risk?

Yes.

Will you be hurt?

Perhaps.  But I have found that for all of my hurt in this life, the true members of my tribe far outweigh the few trolls who have hurt me on my journey.

Honestly, I have found that the better I use the tools, the more likely I am to find someone who is a perfect fit for my tribe, not an imposter!

So how does vulnerability allow you to be resilient?

Being vulnerable allows us to walk away from unhealthy relationships and toward healthy ones; which is a key component of resilience.  Choosing what is best for ourselves and our spirit. Vulnerability allows us to find others who "get-it," who will ultimately make up our tribe.  As you continue to build your tribe, your ability to use the tools improve.  The tribe members hold you accountable and you them. You create a safe-haven of trust, where you share and grow, you learn, listen and you get stronger in your own truth. When you peel back that layer; you create a space for vulnerability.  It's only when we are in this place (of vulnerability) that we connect on the deepest level and it's then that we see the Divine in each other.

If you are using your tools as keys to resilience; you can look with a loving eye at all your relationships.  You may find that perhaps the healthiest place for you is in fact not with the person you have chosen.  If you are in love with someone who has over time turned the Divine out; you may need to love yourself more and let go. Loving yourself means that you recognize that the Divine created you as a most precious beloved gift.  Love doesn't mean that you are trampled; love means you are treasured.

Which brings me to this question for you: How well are you using your love?  How well is your loved received? How much of your love do you share? How willing are you are to trust and be vulnerable?  Do you give your love away haphazardly?

Here is the kicker: Would the Divine use your love the same way?

O'my, right?

Really think about this: Take a few minutes to really consider it. We know that no one is better at loving than the Divine. So how would the Divine use your love in your life?

Please carry that question around this week. Own it, consider what that means to you and where you are meeting not only your tribe, but the Divine on this portion of the Pilgrimage.

So that is the exercise, everyday you and the Divine, sitting in your special place reviewing your day. Having a snack, or a cup of tea, or maybe even a cocktail.  A chance to look at your day with the Divine, one on one. It's the opportunity to check-in and see how your love meter is working. How you are managing the love around you. It can also be your first step into meditation. At the end of each day to sit in silence, creating the room for you and the Divine and listening to the reflection. If you and the Divine have time to meet up in the morning, even better...

So tool number four is vulnerability, check. You are doing great, really. And I love you!

Can't wait to hear how it works for you this week.

xo
Kathryn
PilgrimageGal

I love hearing from you, and I miss it when you don't reach out! So leave comments below, connect with me on instagram at PilgrimageGal or on facebook at PilgrimageGal or send me a private email by sending me a note in the form in the sidebar.

photo credit: PixaBay/blickpixel

Tool Three: Community and Tribe...

Well done.  I love you more...

Week three of our Pilgrimage on the road to Resilience. We have covered Humor, and Love, and today we will spend some time on Community and Tribe.  Community for me is your larger world, your acquaintances and friends. Your tribe is your close and core group.  People can move in and out of these circles over time.

If you accept the concept that living well is a direct correlation to how well you love. Then those who you love best and most authentically will organically become your community and tribe. The size of your circle is a direct result of how open, vulnerable and truthful you are about yourself. I hear often from folks that they aren't good at making relationships.  If you find your circle lacking, you need to ask yourself some tough questions.  Since it's almost Spring and we are working through Lent, perhaps it is time for a Spring cleaning of your emotional house.

Here are some questions to ask yourself. Some days we are better at these than others. I guess the real question is; in the last month can you feel good about more of these answers than not?

How free are you to love?  Are you positive in your world view? (ie: The world is filled with more good people than bad?)  Are you tolerant of differences of opinion?  Do you judge first or love first? Do you enjoy the company of people who have a different worldview than you do?  Are you willing to try new things?  How willing are you to sacrifice your wants for someone else?  Are your actions more thoughtful?  How easily do you let go of other people's failings?  Do you expect perfection in others?  Do you forgive?  Do you listen?  Do the rules apply to everyone, but you?

A sobering set of questions... I know.  None of us are perfect and I certainly know this list of questions makes me acknowledge that I'm a work in progress.  The questions are designed to make us stop and think.

Real relationships require balance; and the better your balance; the better your tribe.

Relationships that matter may require work; there is always some heavy lifting.  Often in this world of instant gratification we forget how to be thoughtful and kind. Simple kindness of a note in the mail (something I stink at doing) makes people's day. For the record, basic thoughtfulness goes a long way.

If I had a dinner party of the twenty most influential women in my life (and it would be tough to limit it to 20), the table would be very eclectic. The table would include grade school friends, teachers, high school girls, some family, several soul sisters, folks met while working, some girls battle tested by my health foolishness. My tribe is diverse; some share my catholic faith, others don't.  I have friends that aren't so sure about this God business, too.  I love that my female tribe members are all over the political spectrum and the world. Are they different? O'my, yes. Beautiful, honest, funny, battle tested, willing to call me on my foolishness, each one has a special spark that stops me in my tracks. Each and every one makes me better, pushes me to be a better version of myself.

I'm thinking I need to have this dinner party!

What I know about my tribe, is that you need one quality to join. Only one.  You have to be able to share your truth with me. I need to know who you are; who you really are; not who you want to be, not who you think I want you to be; you need to be yourself. And everything else will fall into place. Every woman at the table could tell you my truth, as I can there's. I hope that each one would say that they always know that they are loved completely by me and they love me likewise in return.

Everytime I end a call with someone in my tribe, I say the same thing, "I LOVE YOU."

Because I always want them to know, that they are loved.  I never want that to be in doubt.

To some, my circle of friends seems to be random. I make friends easily. True. Why? I think partly because I'm interested in other people's stories. Who are you, where are you on your journey?  I'm drawn to people who are honest, who are willing to not give up, who have that titanium inner core, who see the world as beautiful and full of promise. My tribe gift is simple, I don't forget your truth. I carry it always, I know your soul and you know mine.

So your tribe may be wider than you think. Your circle may involve more facebook or long distant chats then you know. I thought the move would be devastating in my relationships. I was worried about the lack of daily contact. But what I'm learning is that the depths of my love for my nearest and dearest is likely even stronger. I carry them with me in the grocery store and when I make dinner. I look at my watch and know where they are, I pray more directly for these loved ones than ever before. And that is what your tribe is, the ability to connect in the world with love for the ones who make you stronger, wiser, deeper in your faith, whatever your tradition. What we need to ask ourselves is why we don't extend our arms as wide as we can? To love more, to love with more intention, to speak our truth to every ear. Why do we skirt the tough conversations instead of saying what is really in our hearts? You can have the difficult conversation if you do one thing, put others first. It's not about you, it's about them.

What is the one quality that you need in your tribe? Once you know that quality, that truth, your tribe will blossom and bloom. Just like you...

Life is better when you have someone (or a whole tribe) to walk on your pilgrimage with you.

So how does this help you become resilient? It's simple.

You are never alone when you have your tribe. Your tribe dusts you off, helps to pick you up, sometimes they carry you. Your tribe helps you get back on the path when you make a wrong turn. Your tribe holds you accountable along the journey, loving you and wanting only the best for you. But best of all, your tribe is there to celebrate the joyous moments, the happiness of the journey, the triumphs of this life.

To drink the champagne with you. To hold their glass high, toast and say, "Well done. We love you."

And to my tribe, you know who you are... I love each one of you, more than any words on this page today or ever could say.  Thanks for walking with me, always.

I raise my glass to you and say, "Well done. I love you more!"

Till next week my Pilgrims, make your tribe a little stronger this week. Spread some of that love around.

Kathryn
PilgrimageGal

Photo credit: http://pixabay.com/en/users/Holgi-5825/

Tool Two: Humor



"You can laugh or you can cry; choose to laugh."

I love and hate that expression, likely because it's one I hear constantly out of the mouth of my dashing husband. It probably should be part of our family motto; but as I'm want to do, ugggh, yet again, I have to give him props. Because he is right, AGAIN!

As we begin to examine tool number two in our resilient tool box, you may be surprised that I would include humor.  For me, humor is a daily tool, it provides stress relief. I find it is also a vehicle for vulnerability (another tool we will discuss down the road.)

Humor can be an escape from the difficulties of daily life, a place for teaching and an opportunity to connect with the Divine.

Yep, I said the Divine, will get back to that in a minute.

Humor is a "go-to" in our house.  If you can't be a little self-deprecating, can't take a joke or even make a joke about the absurdity of some of your daily struggles; well you're missing out on some good living. Humor takes the edge off the really hard and gives you a safe and joyful place to let off a little steam.

I'm very self-deprecating, I can make a joke about my health, who could possibly be allergic to cold, to sweat, to water?  My life is positively ridiculous, how can you not occasionally joke about the absurdity of it all... But, as always, that is where my journey has landed me.  I see the world with a glass overflowing; even in the dark times it is always more full than empty. Humor works hand in hand with creating that positive attitude, and life that is positive is the way we roll.

We make jokes about health issues, anxiety, perfectionism, and my beloved's control freak ways!  I want to be clear, our jokes aren't hurtful--ever, and if they miss the mark, someone is always quick with an "OUCH" and the comments are quickly re-framed.  We are about light and fun, not negativity.

As with all the tools, it's about muscle memory, using the tools during the good times, makes it a whole lot easier to pull them out when the going gets tough. When you inject humor in the right spots, it allows others to relax and enter into your space with less trepidation.

I often say that the Divine has a wicked sense of humor. How is it possible no one tells you before you have children that you will get to raise yourself in so many unusual ways! Jeffrey and I look at each other daily and point fingers, "THAT'S YOU!" or "Excellent use of your DNA" because our Beauties constantly allow us to see ourselves, providing opportunities for reflection and growth.  And let me be clear its not gender specific, as Ian gets older more and more of the Kathryness of it all shows up in my Irish Prince! Another opportunity to laugh at ourselves and God's fantastic sense of humor.

Additionally, how is it you can laugh with your friends, lovers and children, but not laugh with God? My couples group in DC would call it, "hammer moments," when for the billionth time you see something as if it was for the first and it hits you so hard it's, well like a hammer.  The Divine uses humor constantly with me to teach that message, that hammer moment, it's not coincidence.

I often think God looks at our world, wondering why we take everything so seriously!  I don't think it's wrong to remind ourselves that our spiritual role models were human!  Did they tell jokes... eek maybe even some dirty ones?  Or was one a practical joker, always hiding your shoes, or your pillow?  Each of our faith traditions have some great insights and tools to draw us closer to the Divine. The Jesuit order has the Ignatian Contemplation, or as some explain it, the Prayer of Imagination. The idea is simple and wonderful; take a scriptural reading and then imagine yourself in the midst.  You just beamed in, you are reporter or a director with your imaginary movie camera. What is going on around you?  What is the weather?  What are the main characters doing?  What can you see?  What do you hear?  The Ignatians like to use this prayer with the Gospels, but any number of spiritual passages could work too.  I love this type of meditation for families, because the young ones have the best imaginations!  After dinner, read a small Gospel passage and talk to your Beauties. Throw out some crazy questions, like; who do you think is funny or the clown?  The prankster? Which apostle did Jesus have to remind to pay attention?  Was Jesus funny or was Mary?  What were they like as normal folks?  Did Mary remind Jesus to take his elbow off the table or use soap to wash-up before dinner?  It's a simple, approachable way to talk about the readings and perhaps give each of us a chance to deepen our faith in a new light. Tonight after dinner we will be re-visiting the Transfiguration from today's Gospel from Mark 9:2-10.  My Beauties will have some interesting insights on what is happening on top of that mountain!

So tool two is a little humor.  Work on making it your super power this week! Please contact me and let me know if you have any other ideas on how to use the first two tools. I would love to add your ideas and suggestions to my summary at the end of the series.

Till next Monday. Peace be with you, and may you feel the warm glow of my Irish love on you today and always.

K



photo credit: Lenten Mission via photopin (license)


Picking Your Team...

Working together to achieve wellness...

When you are managing a chronic disease or suddenly diagnosed with a major health crisis, it takes more than a village to keep you healthy… It takes a tactical army; of friends, doctors,  therapists and great cooks…

My therapist is a Sister of the Holy Names, so in my case I have a therapist who is an expert on medical issues, families with chronic disease, but she is also my unofficial spiritual director… So in one pick I scored a two-fer, and she is my rock next to Jeffrey. She gets life so beautifully and cuts through the foolishness, is action oriented, and gives great hugs. That is a double win in my book.

She gave me a lovely compliment this week; she told me that she didn't know anyone who had assembled a better team… Which made me think, how do you assemble a great team?

Assembling this team has been a process for years, but this core group has been solid for several years… The key to my team, they all understand two fundamentals of my wellness:

First:  My husband Jeffery is my whole world and our children are our life

. We were married 10 years before we started our family. We grew into our marriage, I had to grow-up and then we were ready to start our family.  And it was the best decision we made and as a couple now married over 20 years; our choices work...

Second

:

I don’t want someone to just make me feel better; I want someone who demands I get better. 

Big difference in this statement… It requires both action and commitment.

When you identify what you are striving for, not just feeling better, but true wellness, it becomes tangible. All of my goals are based on these principles… Medicines, procedures, tests, appointments… How many flipping times have I had to give my medical history… But, it’s a step, a rock we turn over, it moves us down the road… It's more training for this marathon we call life.

Every step is moving me towards wellness, I believe that… I have a clear idea of what wellness is…. Will I be the girl I was before all this, NOPE… Never again… I will have limits… 

What I am is fearless, and unbreakable in spirit. Because every person who is welcomed onto my team gets instantly my two guiding principles… It’s that simple… If you are not on team Kathryn, you are lovingly retired and not welcomed back.

You learn that chronic disease is designed for the TYPE A… We are the only ones who will not curl-up and die under the weight of the pain... We learn how to survive and we flourish… My Hawaiian girl stopped by yesterday and we had a lovely chat, while our girls worked on their fairy garden, she said that she loved my “spirit” (so many compliments in a week.) But what she loves is my optimism… If you don’t have faith in wellness, you will NEVER EVER be well…

Many of these team members/players need whole posts on how to select them… Today I'm going to focus on forming the team:

Doctors:

 you need one, in my case two, Go-to doctors… The doctors who get you, know who you are, your priorities, your symptoms, tell you the hard truth and see you as a person not a disease. Now here is the thing, this is a relationship and like all relationships they require a lot of work, respect, and a ton of humor.

TIP: You know you are in the presence of a Go-to doctor when they say, “I’m out of answers or I don’t know, I've never seen this before… But, I know a person...”  And then: They make the call, send the email, get you the appointment.

Go-to docs have two jobs: manage your day to day and be the conduit for outside help when they run out of answers. My Go-to’s are not my primary physician, I still see her once/twice a year for check-ups, but my Go-to are specialists. One is an immunologist/allergist the other is a pulmonologist/critical care. They are the ones who use their relationships to find me experts on my health issues, they call in favors, make demands of colleagues and fight to get me access to the best the world has to offer.

And I LOVE my Go-to's… My Go-to lost some points and colleague's support by going over the heads of some folks to get me “in-to” the guy she wanted me to see.  That is the amazing support of my Go-to doctors... They go above and beyond, just to help me.

Therapist:

 Your therapist is the other leg on a three leg stool, your Go-to’s are one leg, you and your supports are another, and your Therapist, well mine stands alone…

Because she is soooo important. 

Picking the right one is possibly the most important member of your team, she will be with you for a long time, she knows all your issues is often your co-pilot on sorting things out.

My requirements

 are very simple… I don’t want someone to hold my hand and dry my tears;  I want someone who is in-it with me to get answers.

Simple also means… Direct.  You should leave every appointment with a to-do list, homework, what you need to get done. You need tangible goals… If you have a therapist that wants you to just smell the roses and pass you tissues… You need to run like hell… You are much too busy for that brand of foolishness, time is not your friend, you have to have  urgency

 to find wellness. You need to have action oriented steps, plans, goals objectives.

Sometimes my homework is to rest, take care of my body… Other times it is to get my team mobilized for the next hospital and next specialist.  She is often the sounding board to my new ideas, plans and goals. She is also the one who helps me shape my "new reality" of what wellness means, how you live happily in the brokenness.

Your therapist does many things, she is an impartial viewer of you… 

Sometimes she has a better gauge on where I am; than I do… I get so mired in my own stuff; and she helps me sort-through it. Now listen, I do believe that therapy is vital when facing a chronic or serious disease.  I have had frank conversations with both my doctors and my therapist to say, “listen if I’m doing something psychological to make myself sick, then we need to find that too… because I want to be well.”  You have to be willing to look at every aspect of your life. Likewise you want your therapist to say, “Kathryn this is not in your head, your body is broken, we will find answers, you are doing the work.”

That is demanding wellness, not just making me feel better…

Spiritual Direction

and Spiritual Guide, your own personal Yoda:

We all need a Yoda, the person who guides us to the “Force” and leads you to your spiritual center. I have been in a women’s prayer group for eight years, drop in on another,  I practice   yoga, meditation, along with an active prayer life. Also, I have a life-long family friend that I call regularly to talk about matters of faith… And then I have my therapist. Your mental health is equal to spiritual heath in all matters … You need to constantly grow this side of your life… 

You must find peace in the foolishness….

Having

a spiritual guide is one of the best investments and she is easy to find… All you need to do is take an inventory of the folks in your life. The person who is always at peace in the hurricane of life? That is where you start… Ask her how she does it? Where does she go? Who does she talk with? Chances are high she does not do this in isolation. And if she does, well she is a saint. So hold on to her!

In the Catholic church, priests and nuns have relied on Spiritual Directors, a kind of spiritual  teacher/guide. The job of a Spiritual Director is simple--help you draw closer to God. You can find both formal or informal guides.  For some, you’re therapist may be able to provide you with a two-fer, like I have, or you may find that your minister or other faith leader may provide you with the tools to fit your life and lifestyle… 

Please, don’t over look this part of your team… Spiritual Direction allows you to grow in so many amazing avenues. When you open the door to this idea, it won’t take long to find your path… You may find that when you are open, the guide will appear.

Your Three AM call

… and your fairy godmothers:

This job falls on a several different girls in my life. This job is the one, when you are really sick you call this friend at 3 am.... They come running and my True Love takes me to the hospital.

This friend comes over in pj’s and sleeps with your kids when you are admitted. She makes pancakes in pj’s, watches tv, and has unlimited hugs, loves till the day or night gets sorted out.

This job also requires creating out of thin air, carpools, play dates, AND world class entertainment, when I was too sick to lift my head.

My list also includes my extended "created" family…. This is for the non-biological members of my family, who are just as important as our "real" family… Jeff and I could not survive without this branch of our clan… 

They are most evident in my

Fairy Godmothers…

The fairy godmothers are the women in my life who are my soul-sisters, who drop their very busy lives, jobs, spouses and roll-in and make the magic happen… They come when my True Love travels, they nurse me, Loooord they feed me sooooo good, and how they love my beauties… It makes me weep just talking about them...

Fairy Godmothers sprinkle the fairy dust... And I rest, sleep and curl up under their beautiful wings… I get to bask in their sunshine. No one has better Fairy Godmothers than I do, and my kids about die when my A-listers roll into town… These women, are the best of the best… 

This year we were blessed to have Norah’s godmother Jane and my stunningly beautiful soul-sister Shelly, both came for a week when I was too sick to do much of anything. What makes their arrival so special is they make the time beautiful, fun, seamless and my beauties forget that I'm sick, Dad's away and life is hard... My FG's have known me so intimately for so long, that they can run my household the way I want to and that creates calm and fun…. Which makes it all work for everyone… And it’s a huge help for Jeffrey, because he doesn't have to worry about us and he can drink a beer, watch the game in his hotel and work.

So this is what I mean when I say I have a small army… All of this would be nothing without my Jeffrey and my Mom, who almost daily drops life to help her baby… I am constantly surrounded by my Army of team Kathryn… All searching for the goal of wellness…

In my upcoming posts queue, I will discuss how you find your doctors… The supports at school for my kids... How communication with your team is critical, and more on spirituality/faith,  my thoughts on what wellness really means. I would also like to talk about what causes me stress as a Mom with an autoimmune disease... All that and so much more as we roll into spring and summer… 

If you have any ideas, suggestions or questions, please leave a comment, or don’t hesitate to contact me directly via email at pilgrimagegal "AT" gmail "dot" com.

As always, thank you for walking along on this Pilgrimage with me... 

The Divine in me bows to the Divine in you...

Kathryn the Pilgrimage Gal

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