Navigating loss, identity, and love in the “Chapter 3” of our lives.

First of all, let’s be grateful that we even made it to the Chapter Three of our lives. Not all of us are granted that status. By this stage of life, my loves, many of us have lost spouses, parents, pets, friends, or have even experienced the loss of a child.

Loss comes in other forms, as well: Loss through divorce, house fire, loss of a job due to covid, retirement, or “restructuring,” a.k.a. being replaced by a younger, less expensive (salary-wise) model. (Not fashion model, no. That’s the spousal department.)

We’re older and hopefully wiser. We’ve been around the block enough times to feel, well, dizzy! And, jumbled in with our various losses is the potential loss of our identity. Who are we, if not the caretaker of our loved ones, be they aging parents, ailing spouses, or terminally ill adult children who need help with the grandchildren?

We ask ourselves, What’s next? How do I begin this new chapter? I don’t know how to handle being in limbo. I’m so used to working a job or being busy serving others and sensing or asking them what they need or want.

I have so little practice taking time for myself and asking, “Hey, rock star! Me? Yes, you! What do you want? What have you set aside all these years? What’s a new idea that’s been waiting in the wings to be given center stage? What makes your heart area warm and fluttery…besides caring for others?”

Be the caretaker of you for five minutes…or longer, if you can stand it! Try this exercise. (Don’t worry, you don’t have to get off the couch…except for pen and paper.) What and who were you surrounded by growing up? What or who in that scenario do you want to keep, work through, or toss?

Make a list of both “good” and “bad.” (I put those words in quotes because once we depart this lovely planet, those qualifications no longer exist, I believe. Those are human determinations that we created. But that’s saved for another chapter, isn’t it?)

Ok, pen and paper ready? List what non-physical traits you inherited or were subconsciously influenced by in your childhood. What values were held by the adults around you? What shortcomings were in play?

Below is my list in no particular order: (names/roles were withheld to protect the not-so-innocent, but you should feel free to embellish your own list as you see fit. No one will read it…unless you post it on social media!)

Teaching/education
Book writing and creative writing
Theater
Love of animals
Love of children
Spirituality/psychic phenomena
Victimhood
Subservience
Strong work ethic
Creativity
Dance
Music (piano playing, singing, songwriting)
Avoidance of conflict
Abundance/money is “bad.”
Abundance/money is success.
Reverence for Nature
Quaker meeting
Atheism
Soft spoken parents
Mental health issues
Divorce

I’m sure there’s more, but making this list will help bring you back to your roots and who you are and how you feel about the influences of your upbringing.

End of Part I.

“Is it ME??” Dealing with a narcissist.

Spirit reminds us that our greatest teachers in life are our enemies, the ones who cause us the most strife. Well, then. There are a few in my life who deserve the Teacher of the Year (or lifetime) award. I’m sure you have them too. None of us get out of this unscathed! But hopefully, in the process of circumnavigating obstacles, we gain wisdom and strength.

Narcissist #1 came into my life when I was 16. Of course, no such label was known by the family about her. No. We all had to figure this out for ourselves. Being an empath, it took me years to unravel the mountains and valleys of deceit, the twists and turns of deciphering the hidden manipulation, gas-lighting lies, and wedge driving that was instigated by this individual. I spent decades thinking it was me that had to change, to rise above, to love unconditionally.

I tried all that. It worked for a while, and then back down the mountain of deceit I fell.

We need to recognize, dear Empaths, when we have been enticed into their sticky web with kindness, generosity, and charm. Narcissists excel at this façade, and save their rage for those to whom we show allegiance outside their circle. They’ll tell outright lies about them to drive a wedge of distrust and keep you for themselves.

“Narcissists present a false self, where they can seem charming and intelligent, and even giving, until you don’t do things their way, and then they get cold, withholding and punishing,” says Judith Orloff, psychiatrist and author of The Empath’s Survival Guide. They’re incapable of feeling empathy, although they will use such language to their advantage.

Narcissists require admiration, attention, and allegiance. Perhaps this was lacking in their childhood. Whatever. Not our fault, Empaths! Not our path. Not ours to fix!

The hidden toxicity of this relationship is dangerous to one’s mental health. Empaths endeavor to create harmony. Narcissists relish in creating chaos. It’s a no-win situation. Keep your distance and recognize the behaviors before they suck the lifeblood out of you. Like mosquitoes, they seek out their prey: Empaths, the bleeding hearts of the world.

A Mother’s Day “card”

My daughter was born at home in the company of her father, two friends, and two midwives. Two cardinals appeared outside the window just as I had my last contraction. I held this amazing, slippery and warm, wide-eyed baby in my arms amid soft candlelight while Billie Holliday crooned in the background.

Yesterday was my first Mother’s Day without her. She passed away at age 42 after long battles with cancer.

Mother’s Day is no different from any other day except for the name we’ve assigned it on the calendar. I was aware of its razor-like significance with my new identity: a mother who had lost a child. My only child.

I knew I had a choice. I could spiral downward watching everyone else receive flowers and cards from their dutiful children. Or I could spend the day recalling memories of my daughter and our lives together, and feeling grateful that I got to be her mom.

I believe our spirits live on after death in the other realm that we are blind to with our physical eyes. Shortly after her death, I was showered with signs that she was still around me. I sensed her presence. This Mother’s Day, I requested–without desperation–a sign from my daughter.

Later that morning, while my husband and I watched a recording of American Idol, I felt a deep love for her as one of the contestants sang Bob Dylan’s, “Make You Feel My Love.” It moved me to tears.

Then, while another contestant crooned “Lilac Wine,” my husband suddenly cried: “Pause it! Quick! Come here!” He was staring out the window waving me over. There on the branches of our lilac tree were two cardinals.

The best ever Mother’s Day “card” from my daughter.

To Purge or Splurge?

My senior citizen cat, who normally lets me sleep, decided to touch the tip of my warm nose with the tip of his cold, wet nose at 2 a.m. this morning. He didn’t even want me to get up and let him out. He just wanted to kiss me and go back to sleep. I know. Sweet, huh? Except that I could not go back to sleep. “Hello darkness, my old friend,” as Paul Simon would say. (Was that song about insomnia or depression? Either way, it was fitting.)

Nighttime is the ripe time to ponder atrocities of life on the planet and in my household. My not-so-common common-law husband of 16 years is a hoarder. Ok, that’s not exactly true. He’s a collector. No, that would indicate many of one item of value, like coins or baseball cards. No, he’s an amasser. “Amass,” according to Webster: to collect for oneself; accumulate. Bingo!

Last night we met with the landlord of a defunct bakery that had sadly gone under. Covid was the straw. The owners of the building were selling off leftover items for the bank to recoup losses. My Common-law was interested in finding (read: amassing) a stainless steel rolling cart for his latest hobby: baking.

What we ended up with instead, stuffed in the back of my Subaru, was a mish-mash of professional baking items of every size, from silicone brushes to 60 lb. bags of flour and a supersized tub of brown sugar. A lifetime supply, depending on the shelf life of the contents…or the human.

I’m only shocked that he didn’t insist on lugging home the Hobart 6000 professional mixer floor model!

Ok, to put things back–or at least back in perspective–he is a man of many hobbies and side hustles that come and go. Currently, he seems to be caught up in a virtual bake-off with his buddy, Jay, that they boast about and post on Facebook. Jay bought a propane-fired pizza oven. My guy bought a bigger one. They both make the dough from scratch. Jay made molasses cookies stuffed with a cream cheese filling made with micro-brewed stout beer. My guy made them with bourbon.

The problem is, I’ve long ago adopted a gluten-free, no sugar, low carb diet for health reasons. I have successfully overcome my cravings for all three…over and over again. Now I live with a baker. So, my Common-law is baking for how many? One.

Really? A 60 lb. bag of flour?

I’m a periodic purger, one who purges. In fact, earlier that same day, I happily got rid of items we decided we didn’t need. I turned a small cabinet into $25 cash, gave away an extra rolling pin (I had to convince him we didn’t need two), and an unused cat ladder. Aaaah. That felt good.

But, the more I purge, the more he amasses. It’s a win-lose. Too bad I love him.

Becoming a Match to Your Soul Mate

(You can find the audio version here.)

Dear Universe, I see lovers all around me. I myself have fallen in and out of love, or what I thought was love. Where is MY soul mate? When is it my turn to meet someone that matches who I am?

You may be having these thoughts. We’ve all been there. We’ve known heartaches. We’ve had relationships fire and then fizzle out. We wonder: what am I doing wrong? Why do I keep choosing mates that I outgrow or who outgrow me?

Manifesting anything in this creative life requires a unique recipe of letting go, unlearning the past, and reclaiming the future. It sounds daunting and mystifying, doesn’t it?

But if we take it one step at a time, and begin where we are, we can create a life of fulfilled desires. Bear with me here, this is not a fairytale of happily ever after. It will take a bit of work on your part. Let’s explore it together.

Let’s start with Step 1. Letting go. What does that even mean? Am I to let go of all my dreams, hopes and desires? No. Letting go means releasing any sense of urgency or desperation for what you desire. You may have heard people say, “As soon as I stopped trying, caring, or focusing on something, it happened, effortlessly.

So, let’s keep that in mind as we go forward. Let go of the desperate need and the feeling of urgency. Try that for a moment. Just take a breath and see what it feels like to just let go of those “must have” feelings and thoughts. [pause] Good.

Now, the next step is to unlearn the past. Here’s where the real work begins. Are you up for it? Before you answer, let’s see what we’re getting ourselves into. What are you asking of me, Janniejoy?

Let me start by saying that beliefs and expectations are stronger than hopes and desires. This means that the beliefs we have about ourselves and what we actually intend, will win the day every time.

We may desire a more loving relationship, but have no intention of doing the inner work it may require. We may want better health, but are not willing to give up the foods or drinks that can help us achieve that.

Let’s see if we can strengthen our beliefs and expectations about our ability to manifest what we desire.

One of the Laws of the Universe says that it will consistently prove our beliefs to be right. If we believe we are not enough, that we are unworthy of Love and respect, the Universe will bring experiences and relationships that support that belief.

Equally, the Universe will bring us experiences and people in our lives that match a belief that we ARE lovable and worthy of respect. How we treat ourselves is how we will be treated.

Are there ways in which you dishonor yourself? [pause] Do you say “yes” when you really want to say “no”? Did you feel dishonored as a child by parents, caretakers or family members?

We can’t change the past, but we can begin to change the pattern that was set forth before we felt empowered to make our own way in the world. We can unlearn how we were dismissed or not loved as a child so that we can begin to recognize how we do this to ourselves without even realizing it.

Start to notice the small moments when you discount your own needs in favor of those of others. This can be a difficult role to change, especially if it is so engrained that others have come to expect this of us.

Only when we learn how to honor and love ourselves will we find someone worthy of our love. We attract those who are equal to how well we treat ourselves. How we treat ourselves is how we will be treated. How much we love ourselves is how much we will be loved in a relationship.

What can we do right now to show ourselves Love, kindness, and respect? Make a list. What thoughts can we entertain to support self-love? Self-love is not narcissistic or selfish or egotistical. Those shortcomings result from a much deeper insecurity.

Love and honoring oneself is how we are meant to be. We were born of Love, held by Love, whether in someone’s arms or in Nature’s heart of which you are a unique and significant part.

Rather than chip away at ourselves in the mirror, we can focus on what we love about ourselves. Our eyes, our laughter, our smarts, our resourcefulness, our resilience, our intention to be loving and helpful others.

We are so much more than what is reflected in the mirror. We know love, we know pain, we know empathy, we know what we’ve endured, and how far we’ve come. We know what lies within that is waiting to be called upon, to be recognized, to be loved, unconditionally.

And last but not least, let’s reclaim our future by being present in the present. Be happy now, not I’ll be happy when. Let’s not give away our power to some future by tossing our happiness up ahead somewhere on our path. Count blessings now. Find joy now. Make a list of what’s going right. Jot down the things you love about yourself. Be happy now.

Becoming a match to your soul mate in this creative life requires a unique recipe of letting go of urgency and desperation, unlearning our childhood past, and reclaiming the future by finding happiness in the present. Not daunting at all. Let go, and enjoy the journey.

I will leave you with a quote by the 13th century poet, Rumi, who said: “Lovers don’t finally meet somewhere. They’re in each other all along.”