The beauty of betrayal.

It has been said that betrayal hurts most because it comes from an unexpected place…from somewhere close to you. It is one thing to have your enemy shoot an arrow in your back, a whole other thing to have someone you have trusted and let close to you to do it.

And betrayal hurts. God, does it hurt. You know…that sickening, sinking feeling that hits when you realize that someone you trusted just violated the sacred space of your heart. You’ve felt it…when your stomach drops, your mouth goes dry and you know that there is no going back from this. When your mind aches with the realization that things are forever altered, perhaps beyond recognition or redemption and grief replaces love.

Betrayal cuts deeply.

But I believe that betrayal can be a gift. The last betrayal I experienced was one that took my breath away–The other person was so convincing that I believed what I was told–hook, line & sinker. When my intuition started kicking in, I didn’t want to believe it was possible but I learned a long time ago to never ignore that voice inside of me. When the truth was revealed, I was hurt but after a while, I realized that this person, in his betrayal, actually gave me the freedom to have a life that was free of the dysfunction he carries within. His betrayal, while it cut me, also cut me loose. Once he was revealed for who he really was, I was free to leave the relationship with no doubt that it was the right thing for me to do.

His betrayal has freed me up to receive the love I deserve. I am free to open my heart to someone who truly loves and appreciates me who has proven himself true, safe and of sound character. I’m free to live my life, unencumbered by someone else’s baggage. His betrayal offered me something I may not have gotten otherwise–an intimate portrait of his deeper character–a damaged, desperate man who is incapable of truly loving another.

I’m not angry I was betrayed. I’m not hurt and I’ve no regrets about walking away. In fact, I am deeply grateful for his actions. I’m glad he betrayed my trust because it made me a better person, it made me wiser, and much more self-loving. The beauty of betrayal is paradoxical–the heartbreak broke my heart open into deeper ways of loving. In the end, I am far better off without him than I ever would have been with him.

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Dying to Live.

Today I had a direct confrontation with death anxiety. If I’m very honest, I can acknowledge that my fears of death have been diverted by my anxiety about my son’s health and medical condition. My focus has been on his life and my desire to have him live the best life he can and my own death awareness has been minimized as a consequence. The anxiety has been present, emerging in dreams of waves that overtake me, in terror driving on a snowy mountain road, and I’ve theoretically engaged with death. However, I’ve always redirected that anxiety and terror into something more tangible.

That is not the case today. Today, I got frustrated with my daughter about something that is really insignificant & felt regret immediately for hurting her feelings. I recalled the many times that my own family of origin did the same to me and how even today, I’m unraveling those threads. As I read the book “Staring at the Sun” by Irv Yalom, I read the passage where he talks about rippling–the effect that our lives have on people in our immediate circles and often for generations to come. I pondered family patterns, generational behaviors and how so often, we embody the very things we despise about our childhood experiences. I wondered what the ripple of my own life will be on my children, on their children, on the grandchildren I may someday have and I realize that there are many things I just don’t want to pass on. Yalom talks in the book about the idea that we cease being after we die, that we don’t really have a soul to pass on, a heaven to go to or the possibility to get it right in the next life. Perhaps this life we are living truly is the only one we have and while I’m not quite sure what my belief system is about that, the thought that there is no afterlife struck me deeply. Later, Yalom reflects on Nietzsche’s book ‘Thus Spoke Zarathustra”, where he asks how we would live if we had to live the same life over and over again, like an eternal Groundhog Day. As I pondered these thoughts, it struck me that I wouldn’t be fully pleased to be condemned to re-live this life I’m living. When that thought entered my awareness, tears flooded my eyes and when I re-entered my vehicle, a stream of tears began flowing.

If I were to die today, what would be my legacy? Would it only consist of the trappings of this world, a few degrees that cease mattering once I am gone? Would my life be a story anyone would want to tell? Would people line up at my services reflecting on the ways in which I changed their lives for the better? While there is certainly some of that present today, it is nowhere near what I would like it to be. I would want my story to be one of more bravery, more vulnerability, more compassion, more love, and mostly, I want my life to have mattered. I want my children to reflect on their relationship with me and to have the awareness that they were deeply cherished, adored, loved, cared for. I don’t want them to have painful memories that were birthed out of my own unconsciousness and patterning. I want my parents to know that even though they weren’t perfect, I forgive their failures. I would want my family to know that even if we disagree on some fundamental things that I never stopped loving them. I would want my legacy to be one that sends out ripples of hope in a despair-laden world, to be one that inspires, motivates, encourages and can even help someone who I never meet.

And with these realizations, a part of me is dying while another part awakens. I’m laying those pieces of myself that no longer serve me inside the coffin of the past and giving birth to a new me. There is a part of me that has been trying to emerge for a long time that I managed to keep at bay with other pursuits and other distractions. That piece of me that has been buried has rent the veil of my awareness and has shouted into my mind “if not today, when?”.

So here lies the Lisa I used to be. Today, I choose to laugh more, risk more, open my heart more, engage more deeply, embrace the breath I’ve been gifted and the lives I can touch. Today, I am reborn.

The Bucket List Project

The Bucket List Project is a new venture that I am embarking on with my two kids in 2015 (and beyond). The backstory, in short, is that my son Gabriel was born with a congenital heart defect and received a heart transplant when he was 13 days old. One day, as I held my infant son, terrified and despairing, I turned a page in one of my favorite books “Existential Psychotherapy” by Irvin D. Yalom. There was a phrase that jumped out at me and it was “though the physicality of death destroys us, the idea of death saves us”. That moment was life-changing for me…I’d always liked existential thinking but never really thought of myself as an existentialist. It’s one thing to be drawn to something and another thing to be fully committed to it. I was reborn that day. I committed to my son and myself that no matter what life brought, no matter what Gabriel’s future might be, that we would live lives that would be maximized happiness and minimal regret.

I had no idea what I was signing up for.

As part of the journey, my kiddos and I have decided to make a family Bucket List and start fulfilling those dreams. We are publishing our journey in video and written format because if there’s one thing I know for sure it’s that none of us are promised tomorrow. Too many people wait for a diagnosis to make the changes they want to make in life, and the dying often regret how they spent their lives. Although Gabriel’s diagnosis and treatment has been devastating, it has also been a great blessing. The awareness of the miracle of his life has made me realize the miracle of ALL life and that is something I want to share with the world. Don’t wait to live.

Please join us on our journey.

Highs and lows.

Today was a challenging day. My son, who has a chronic (ch)illness, needed his meds refilled. There was an insurance SNAFU and then a pharmacy issue which resulted in hours on the phone before it was finally resolved. Fortunately, it was resolved without any major drama but when these things happen (this is far from the first time), there is a rush of emotions.

First, I am fierce when it comes to protecting my children. Once, I read that the most dangerous place in the world is between a mother and her child and I am much like a bear when it comes to them. I will rise up and roar until I am heard, until they are safe, until things are resolved. Most often, I am grateful that I am strong enough to be able to bear the weight of acting as protector so they don’t know what is going on. Being a parent often means absorbing the shockwaves of pain, trauma and fear that are lobbed at the family so that the kids can keep being kids. My job is done well if at the end of a challenging day, they go to bed with smiles and happy hearts.

But that doesn’t mean that it doesn’t hurt me, that there isn’t a price being paid for it all. Indeed, on days like today, I feel weary. This is a soul level weariness that comes hand in hand with being the parent whose child has a chronic condition. Parents, imagine how exhausting it is to deal with your child when they have the flu or a broken limb…and then imagine that lasting for the entire length of your child’s life. It’s exhausting. Most days are not this challenging–and for that I am deeply grateful. Most days are good, great even, and those days sustain my aching heart when these rough days come along.

And that is the condition of life. There are highs, lows and every shade between. There is a popular illusion that remaining positive is the key to changing ones life and while I can definitely see the value in being positive, because this too shall pass, there is nothing beneficial in bypassing the pain when it arises. There is a vast difference between ignoring the waves as they roll in and learning to ride them, and that is what I am learning to do. I once heard grief (pain) described as a river, but I believe it is more like an ocean. There are times when the tide is low and the waters merely nibble at the toes. Then, there are times when the waves are hard & crashing, knocking you on your ass. Today was a day where the waves were stronger & knocked me off balance.

I’m tired and a bit battered today so I will allow myself the space to be quiet, and will allow my heart to express what it needs to say. Tonight, I will breathe deeper, rest longer and feel the ache. Tomorrow will be better.