Solitude is Your Friend

A little solitude. Yes, that would be a fine thing. Time to myself. Time to meditate; to day dream and, perchance, to rest.

Hmmmm … a fine thing, indeed.

And I suppose, as I watch my 12-year-old niece, Amy, snuggling with Max the big orange and white tabby who’s basking in the sun by the big ol’ barn door, I am in solitude. By myself, certainly. Enjoying my own company? Of course! While observing the innocence of youth interact with the trust of another species. It’s quite special, actually.

I want this for her. I want Amy to always feel safe and strong, so that even when the seas of life start to billow and bluff she will feel anchored and secure. Solitude helps us find that place within ourselves ~ that quiet place of strength. Lord knows I’ve had to discover this for myself along the passage of life, and often the hard way, but I have learned to enjoy my place in solitude.

I don’t find it necessary to be connected to people all the time. There is peace in finding your place in the world that starts within. Make peace with yourself and the world cannot move you without your permission.

Amy and Max have parted company now. Looks like the old barn cat has found a distraction worthy of his attention. His own solitude. I haven’t seen a mouse in our barn for years, for he and his four cohorts are terribly efficient hunters and leave no evidence of their work. Nothing goes to waste.

And here comes Amy now, running up the gravel drive toward the house and …

“Hi Auntie Ella!” The door crashes open with her exuberance and there’s a kerfuffle of boots kicked off and jacket removed and posted to an already loaded coat hook.

“So how’s ol’ Max, today?” I smile and give her a big hug after she’s stomped into the kitchen. She squeezes me back.

“Oh, he’s a happy boy,” she responds, wistfully. “We had a nice visit, and then he saw something and abandoned me to go exploring.” Disappointment tinges her words.

“How do you feel about him leaving you?” I ask, curious about how she feels about being abandoned, as she put it. We untangle and I move to the sink to fill the kettle with water; put it on the stove to heat, and then reach for the cookie tin in the ice box.

“Okay, I guess. We were having such a nice visit though. I’m sad he left.” She sounds conflicted as she plops herself down at the wobbly kitchen table and rests her head in her hands. Dirty hands.

“You need to wash up,” I admonish, nodding her over to the sink. Without questioning she gets up and wanders over to the kitchen sink and grabs the bar of hand soap. Turns on the tap and begins to scrub. “You know that cats, especially these barn boys, are predators and that’s what they do ~ always on the look out for their next meal. I hope you didn’t take his departure personally.”

Amy finishes washing her hands and turns off the tap. Grabs the tea towel to dry them.

“Not the tea towel, dear. The hand towel … beside it, please.”

“Oh … right,” she responds absently, and makes the switch. After she’s done she shuffles back to the table and sits. Still cheerful, but pensive. “I was disappointed. I was hoping we could stay there a little longer. It was so nice to play with him in the sun. I hope I didn’t do anything to put him off.”

I sigh. “Of course not, sweetie. If he didn’t like you he wouldn’t spend time with you at all. He’s a barn cat. He knows his job and he’s good at it. He caught wind of something else and went to investigate, that’s all.” I set a plate of ginger snaps on the table between us and gather cups and saucers. “If you like, we can go fill the cats’ feed tub when we’ve had tea.” The cats earn their keep, but we do like to supplement their income.

Amy smiles and nods. The kettle boils and I fill the china teapot with hot water.

“What tea would you like today?” I ask. Amy’s becoming quite the connoisseur.

“Lavender and camomile sounds good.” She knows her own mind. This is good. “I’ll get it.” Amy jumps up from the table, careful not to jog its wobbliness, and rushes over to the cupboard where the tea caddy lives. After a couple of moments spent ruffling through the packages she finds the favoured variety. She hands it to me.

“Excellent choice!” I smile. “Please put the caddy away.”

As together we complete our tasks I wonder about the lesson I might teach her today about solitude. We both sit at the table at the same time, and giggle as it wobbles. I really must fix that leg.

“You know, Amy, I think cats can teach us a valuable lesson about how to be alone.”

Amy helps herself to a ginger snap and begins to nibble on it. I know she’s desperate to dunk it. Just a minute more. “What do you mean?” She finally asks.

“Well,” I fish for words she’ll understand, “if you’ve ever watched a cat you’ll have noticed that they’re quite happy to be alone. They like companionship, too, but they’re comfortable enough with themselves not to need it all the time. They can watch a bird fly by and don’t need to point it out to their buddy. They enjoy the chase alone, and often even prefer it. When they do engage with us, it’s on their own terms. Many people object to this innate sense of independence, but I admire it. Knowing how to be alone ~ how to enjoy solitude ~ is an important life lesson.” I pause while she noodles, and then add, “Do we need to control everything? Cats are excellent teachers of letting go and letting be.” The focus has drifted somewhat, but done so naturally. It’s part of the discussion.

Amy ponders a moment and immediately dunks her ginger snap in the cup of tea I’ve just placed before her. “If we aren’t in control, how do we get anything done?”

“Good question. Have you watched Max hunt?” I ask.

“Yes.”

“How much control does he have over the outcome? Is he going to catch the mouse every time? Does he?” I take a sip of tea. Bite on a biscuit.

Amy gives this some thought. “Not necessarily. I saw him get really mad last week when a vole when to ground. It was kind of funny, actually.”

“Right,” I note, “so what else do you observe when Max is mousing?”

“He’s usually alone … and he seems to be having fun.”

“Okay, so in his solitude he knows how to entertain himself. He’s enjoying the journey of being a cat, notwithstanding it can have its moments of disappointment. He doesn’t need a cheering section. Doesn’t call in the troops for help when he’s zeroed in on his next meal. He’s resourceful on his own terms.”

“I guess …” Amy’s noodling again. “Some people don’t like that cats kill things.”

“That’s a topic for another day, sweetie. Cats are hunters and they kill things to feed themselves.” I sip tea and put this behind me. I get particularly impatient with people who don’t understand the laws of nature and always wish to bend it to their will. Take a breath. “Do you see what I’m getting at about being okay being alone, though?”

“Yeah, I think so.” She dunks her ginger snap again. “I’m alone a lot actually, and I don’t mind it most of the time. But sometimes I’d like more company. My school friends always seem to be having a good time without me and sometimes I wonder why I’m left out.” She takes a sip of steaming tea. My thoughts drift back to a recent conversation about her not being invited to a sleepover and how this had devastated her at the time. “But most of the time I’m okay with it. They get into trouble a lot. I don’t need that.”

“You’re a smart cookie,” I toast her with my tea cup and take a sip. “My mother always said that when the crowd goes one way, you go the other. It’s advice that’s always worked well for me. And in its way,” I stop and consider for a moment, “it really speaks to this idea of being comfortable being alone. As long as you can enjoy your own company, you need never feel compelled to run with a questionable crowd.”

“So, it’s okay not to be surrounded by people all the time?” Amy muses. “My friends think that if you’re alone you must be a loser.”

Friends, so-called. “That’s the crowd, honey. What do you think?”

“I think I’d rather learn to enjoy my own company.”

“That’s my girl!” I smile and take a final sip of tea. “Knowing how to live in solitude will always stand you in good stead. Then you have a choice, you see? You can be with people, or not, and be completely happy either way. So many people don’t understand this. I didn’t for a long time, and I was always anxious or worried that no one wanted me around. When I finally accepted it was okay to be alone and enjoyed it, it was amazing how fast new, good friends started to show up.” I get up from the table and walk around to give Amy’s shoulders a squeeze and whisper in her ear. “Never worry about being alone. Solitude is your friend.”

“That tickles!” she giggles.

“I know … Now, finish up. Time to feed the felines.”

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2016

Daily Prompt: Solitude

Buying Time

 

fwfprompt

~*~

“Matyas, what are you doing?”

“Playing Liszt on a sad, old piano,” replied Matyas as he fumbled over the bass clef of an abandoned piano.

“But, we are in the midst of battle.”

“I play anyway.” He culled from memory the patterns of finger play for the opening bars of the Hungarian Rhapsody. His lately unpracticed, nerve-frayed hands poking at the ivories with determination.

“You will alert the enemy.”

“Yes, to my humanity. I am not a killing machine. I am a man with a heart trained to do the unthinkable.” Matyas pursued the lilting, heart-felt movements with the passion of a man buying time, the tinny sounds of the broken piano resounding plaintively throughout the barren wood. A tear pooled in the corner of his eye. He wiped it away with the back of a dirty sleeve. “I must remind myself I am human. I must show the enemy I am more than a man in uniform.”

“But they will kill you.”

“Then let my last breath be the last note I play. Let me die in the rapture of the music I love.”

“You are a romantic fool, Matyas.”

“I know. Let that be written on my stone.”

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … All Rights Reserved 2016

 

Free Write Friday

 

 

 

A Gentle Sense of Pride

Daily Prompt: Proud

~*~

“What are you proud of, mom? I just don’t get why you’re proud of me.”

For most of my life I’ve had difficulty acknowledging, let alone having pride in, my accomplishments. My therapist tells me it’s because I wasn’t able to see myself. And she’s right, I never could see what the big deal was about anything I achieved.

When people told me they were proud of me it would go in one ear and out the other. It just never registered. Mostly, I guess, because I could never feel pride in myself.

Growing up disconnected ~ through dissociation, etc. ~ does this. I was never really in my experiences, so even when they happened to end well (miracle of miracles) the end result had little meaning. I couldn’t feel it.

As mentioned in yesterday’s post, I was smart, but struggled to connect with it. There was too much else (of which I was unaware) in the way, so feeling proud was difficult.

My therapist has been working tirelessly to help me change this.  She wants me to be able to see and acknowledge what I’ve done in my life and feel proud of what I’ve achieved in the face of a great many emotional obstacles.

She tells me she is proud of me for all that I have overcome to get to this point  ~  a point where I can truly start to thrive instead of merely survive. It’s only in the past couple of years I’ve finally started to grasp what she’s saying.

A New Trajectory

Last year I made important decisions that altered the course of my life; sent me on a new trajectory of healing that demonstrates just how far I’ve come.

Bear

Completing the six-month Facilitated Equine Experiential Learning certification (FEEL) program in the last half of 2014 was a major accomplishment for me. Certainly I acquired new skills that paved the way to a career as a practitioner of equine experiential learning, but perhaps more important was the personal healing work achieved along the way.

It was challenging work to be sure. Every exercise, every assignment provided an opportunity to step into uncharted personal territory and create a new life map. As time passed, trauma was released; many tears were shed; and a healthier self-image ~ one in which I could begin to see my strengths and personal power ~ began to emerge. Seeing my life through the mirror of the horse gave me the courage to see my Self and do what needed to be done to change my life again.

Of course, that journey continues. The FEEL program launched me into a deeper personal understanding and provided important life skills that I can use going forward. It also showed me how I, with the aid of the horses, can be an empathic catalyst for change in the lives of others ready and willing to walk the equine experiential healing path.

Many friends and family told me how proud they were of me when I achieved my certification. My husband was particularly supportive and thus especially proud.

Still, what really matters is that I recognize what I achieved and feel a sense of gentle pride in that accomplishment. For this is something I have experienced far too little of in my life.

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

Another Silver Lining

Daily Prompt: Breaking the Law

Think about the last time you broke a rule (a big one, not just ripping the tags off your pillows). Were you burned, or did things turn out for the best?

~*~

In my 35 years of driving experience I’ve had about five speeding tickets. All were, admittedly, due to lack of awareness on my part for whatever reason. The third incident stands out as a particularly meaningful episode in my life … one of those clouds with a silver lining.

It was a beautifully clear Sunday morning in April 1999, about six weeks after my first marriage ended. I was experiencing a surreal period of my life; most unbalanced. I cried a lot, and by the grace of God and generosity of spirit of a few good friends I was hanging on.

One of these friends, who was also my shiatsu therapist, invited me to her country place for part of the weekend, including an overnight stay. Nestled in the heart of a beautiful rolling 50 acre woodland, her cabin was a 24 hour haven for me. When I left I was feeling the first glimmers of joy I’d known in a long time.

It was as I was driving home along the open, two-lane, hilly country road, not paying attention to the speed limit, that I got into trouble. I was lost in the immense sense of peace I’d finally found after weeks fraught with anxiety and sailing along enjoying a new-found emotional freedom.

And then there he was … the man in uniform. Just stepped out of the blue; flagged me down. My joy fled and was replaced again by an anxiety I’d hoped was gone ~ heart racing; hands shaking; helpless.

I tried to be sunny about it, but as soon as he started asking me questions I could feel myself choking up.

He was an older cop. Obviously seasoned. He looked at me with a bemused expression on his face and asked if I knew how fast I’d been going. I shook my head. He requested my driver’s license.

I scrambled for it in my purse and gave it to him. He scanned it back and front and pointed at the address.

“Is this your current address?”

I hesitated. “No … I live in Toronto now … ” My voice shook and faded.

“When did you move?”

“About six weeks ago.” My voice shook some more.

“Are you aware that you need to change the address on your driver’s license within a week of moving?”

“No …”

And, that was it. I fell apart. I’d been rabid about changing back to my maiden name on all of my ID and forgotten my driver’s license. How could I have been so stupid? The only thing I could do was tell him what was going on in my life. I felt so terrible.

“You know,” he said blithely after a moment’s hesitation, “I could charge you with two offences today ~ a speeding ticket for 20 kms over the limit, and  failure to keep your driver’s license current … but I won’t.”

“You won’t?”

“No … let me finish,” he pulled out his speeding ticket book, “the speeding ticket I can’t do anything about. It’s $120 fine and three de-merit points.”

He started writing. My heart sank. I sat there numb contemplating how I would pay such a fine and mortified at how this would affect my driving record.

“But,” he added as he handed over the dreaded ticket, “I encourage you to challenge this in court. Tell them the truth … and tell them that it was the first beautifully sunny day of spring and that you got caught up in it and weren’t paying attention to what you were doing, and that there was no other traffic around.”

He smiled in a gruff police-officer kind of way. He had a heart.

“What about my driver’s license?” I asked, trembling.

“Go directly to the driver’s license bureau and get … it … changed.”

I wholeheartedly agreed to do this and, notwithstanding the need to attend my day in court for the speeding infraction, I was really grateful to this kind police officer. He’d recognized my unsettled circumstances and done what he could to help.

Still, it was his parting words that impressed me the most, and not so much what he said as much as how he said them.

He stopped with me for a moment longer, leaned on the open window of my car and said with emphasis while looking me straight in the eyes, “Slow down.”

Not an unusual thing for a copper to say, but in that instant it was not just the speed at which I was driving my car that was brought to mind but the insane pace at which I’d been running my life since leaving my husband. Racing to close one chapter of my life while racing to start another.

The weekend away had brought me joy, but the admonition of the police officer helped me onto the road of peace. As I thanked him and drove away, I had a feeling that everything would, in the end, be fine. (And, of course, I drove straight to the government office to update my driver’s license.)

As for my court date … it came up about three months later. I attended the court local to where I’d been stopped, and a court officer heard my story before I went before the magistrate. I don’t remember much of what happened, except that my fine was reduced to $40, which I happily paid before I left.

I’m sure that police officer has said “slow down” thousands of times in the course of his career, but he will never know just how much the kindness behind his words that day helped me to begin to see my then frenetic life in a more self-aware light.

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again … every cloud has a silver lining.

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

My Life Teacher

Daily Prompt: Teacher’s Pet

~*~

Dance Like No One’s Watching

I was never teacher’s pet. Or, if I was I never knew it. School was a nightmare for me.

At the time I wasn’t aware of it, but I was a child with abandonment issues lugging around a good deal of emotional trauma. My trust had been broken at an early age by the adults I was supposed to be able to rely on the most, so trusting that anyone else, including a teacher, would have my best interests at heart was next to impossible.

And when you can’t trust anyone, who can teach you?

It’s not that I wasn’t loved. I know my mother loved me, but she was so wrapped up in her music career while putting food on the table that I inadvertently became a shadow dweller ~ lost; lonely and invisible.

I didn’t begin to understand my early history and how it created the misshapen patterns of my life until I checked myself into therapy in spring 2009. Feeling stuck in survival mode I needed someone to help sort me out.

Coincidentally, or not, it was about this time the symptoms of adrenal fatigue, complicated by early-onset menopause (or the other way around, it doesn’t matter, it was brutal) began to manifest. Anxiety and panic attacks, extreme fatigue, unexplained weight gain, et al, drove me to near distraction. I wanted explanations. I needed to know what was going on. I needed to address underlying issues and give myself life again.

Like most people I was hesitant about jumping into the mental health abyss. Psychotherapy still has such a stigma attached to it ~ as if it is a weakness to step up to the plate and ask a specially-trained objective third-party, “Why am I this way and what can be done about it?” Still, it became clear after a tumultuous trip to Sarajevo in February that year, during which I had three separate and inexplicable panic attacks, that something needed to change. And anti-depressants, or any their kin, were not the answer.

So, with my husband’s support, I found a good, trustworthy therapist. I prefer to call her my life teacher ~ a person who can safely reflect back to me who I was/am ~ for good or ill ~ and show me how to embrace what works and re-configure what doesn’t it.

And, what a journey it has been …

I have learned more about myself and my world (and my place in it) in the last few years than I’d known in a lifetime up to the point of sitting down in that therapist’s office. My therapist is the life teacher I’d never had, shining a light on a window to my world that I would never have been able to look through, let alone begin to enjoy the view.

She has shown me my strength; helped me to see my successes more clearly; opened the way for me to have the courage to recognize my pain without dwelling on it. Naturally it has not been easy, but facing my truth has given me the strength to see myself so longer as a victim but as a woman who can share the wisdom of her life experiences in profound and empathic ways.

I can say, in all honesty, that I am not the person I was when I walked into my life teacher’s office nearly six years ago. I’m thriving more than surviving.

Of course, the journey continues. There is much more to sort through; much more to learn but, truth be told, I have always looked forward to that hour and a half per week where I can sit down and sift through my emotions and issues with someone who does not judge me for the absurdities (self-judgement) that trips from my lips. Every visit my life teacher shows me how to see myself through a softer, less judgemental lens; to take life as it comes and let the past be where it lives ~ in memory only as a teaching tool. And to take what I learn of, and from, my past and recognize the strength of character that brought me through those experiences to this point.

My life teacher has taught me that my past is not my present, or my future. That I can reprogram my dysfunctional ways to create a new more holistic way of being. A way of being that integrates past experiences with present realities to support deeply-held and beautiful personal truths that have no attachment to my early childhood trauma and the illusion I’d lived under for so long.

So, you ask who my most important teacher was … and still is?

The person who has taught me to see, be, and love, my Self ~ my therapist; my life teacher.

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

~*~

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2015

Peace Rose

 

Peace Rose

~*~

“The world is bent on destruction at the hands of those who would themselves destroy …”

Grandma Rose raised her tea cup to her lips and sipped. She seemed unperturbed by her words, while I sensed my rose-coloured glasses slipping.

“Fighting for peace is not the wise course, but those who know not how to love themselves can never demonstrate love, or offer true peace, to others. It is not possible.”

I felt hopeless. She’d lived her life while most of mine was still ahead of me. The world seemingly falling apart around me. Still, I could see her point. How many times had I witnessed the mask of love a-kilter on the faces of those who felt nothing but self-loathing? Their acts of redemption couched in resentment and frosted with anger. The glass half empty with a cracked smile on its face.

Fighting for peace ~ the greatest oxymoron of all.

“What is to be done?” I asked.

Grandma Rose raised herself up, replaced her tea cup to the coffee table, and focused her attention on me.

“Love yourself. Genuinely love yourself ~ warts and all. Look inside your soul. Whatever troubles you, address it, embrace it and love it away. Even those we consider unworthy just want to be loved. They act out for attention. They act out because they don’t understand the source of their pain. If people would just look inside to find, address and love away their suffering they would feel no need to cause suffering in others. Only when the people can find this place of peace in themselves will there be peace in the world.”

A sigh rose from the depths of my own suffering; a tear pooled in my eye. I knew she was right. I had learned a long time before that love begins at home ~ the home of my soul ~ and that it resonates and colours the lives of others according to my intention. Love begins with the inner journey ~ a painful journey I understood all too well. A journey that creates empathy and a liberating knowledge of self that disengages the power of pain and sets us on a course of love in its purest sense.

Grandma Rose, ever the philosopher, noted my discomfort and offered this consolation:

“When you ask the meaningful questions, my dear, it is my privilege to give you the meaningful answers. As my wisdom is born of the inner journey so will yours be. It is a hard road but one worth travelling. Remember, the Golden Rule: ‘Do unto others as you would have have them do unto you.’ As long as you live by this treatise you will not go wrong … as long as you understand how you would like to be treated … and why.”

~*~

A free-writing exercise …

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014

 

 

 

What Changed?

 

Balloon

~*~

My world ~

Breath by breath

An ever-expanding,

Colour-full balloon of

Possibility.

Easing toward divine potential.

What changed?

Me.

~*~

Took me a long time and a lot of personal work to begin to feel this way.

It hasn’t been easy, but it has been worth it.

And, the journey continues …

Thanks for visiting …

Dorothy

©Dorothy Chiotti … Aimwell CreativeWorks 2014