My Personal Journey And Soul Path
My journey to self healing and discovery began with a natural curiosity to know the purpose of life.
As a child I was fascinated with all things mystical, from the teachings of Jesus Christ in our Lutheran church, to yoga and meditation classes taught in charm school. My grandmother was a psychic who channeled departed spirits and read the future. It wasn’t until I was in grade school that I learned these weren’t “normal” activities. I adored my grandmother and she taught me to love God first and not get too carried away by spiritual powers.
I loved literature and the arts. I played the piano and wrote poetry.
I discovered Shakespeare as a young teen and found that many of the characters in his plays were asking the same questions that I was. Who are we and why are we here? I made frequent forays to the public library, finding books on occult subjects like witch craft and hypnotism. I read the existentialist writers who said that life had no meaning but deep down I hoped they were wrong.
I grew up in the 70’s and was heavily influenced by the spiritual, idealistic and rebellious music of that era.
Bob Dylan, Joni Mitchell, Cat Stevens, and the Beatles were some of the artists that dared ask the questions I was burning to find answers to. I got involved with a group of creative high school kids and choreographed musicals. It was such a relief to meet people my age that wanted to express fresh ideas and didn’t care about following the crowd.
I needed this positive experience in my junior year to give me heart for the events that were to follow. That summer my dad announced that we were being transferred to Houston, Texas. I had to give up my beloved dogs and cat, my boyfriend, and dear theater friends to move to a place where I had no roots. We moved a fair amount when I was a kid as my dad climbed the corporate ladder but this move away from Glendale, California really sent me into a spiral of self pity.
I have a letter written from my father to me at that time.
He, like my mother, was a deeply spiritual person. He expressed compassion at my plight and reminded me that he had faced the unknown as a young man leaving the shores of the United States to fight in World War II. He was not much older than me when he had to leave everyone and every thing he knew behind. He encouraged me to look at the big picture, to think unselfishly and to love the Lord.
Over time, I managed to fit in to the new crowd in a strange place.
I joined the theater company and got a part in the senior play. I also found a new boyfriend, and learned to drink and “party.” I made good grades and got accepted into the University of Texas. I had adjusted on the outside but inside I was lost. My dad, an inspiration to me my whole life, was sinking into a deep and what turned out to be irretrievable depression. During this period he would express suicidal thoughts and returned often to Los Angeles to meet with a therapist recommended by our pastor back in Glendale. By the end of my first semester at UT my dad decided to quit his job. He resigned as Vice President and General Manager of a large metals company. He had worked his way up from floor sweep to executive but old boy politics mixed with middle aged challenges were too much for him.
I dropped out of college and returned with my parents to figure out a new life in California.
We ended up in Huntington Beach. I enrolled in junior college and worked a series of jobs, helping my mom to hold my dad together. I often heard him express urges to kill himself, so uncharacteristic of a man who had inspired others most of his life. My mother and I commiserated and prayed. I looked for answers in the writings of Carlos Castaneda and Joseph Chilton Pearce. I tried to reach out to my dad and give him hope by suggesting that the world he was so upset by was a construction of his thoughts which he could change. He had brief periods of respite from his mental suffering. He took a new job in a smaller company, played golf, and started attending church. I would play the piano and he would sing along in his beautiful tenor voice. My mother and I would breathe a sigh of relief and hope the man we loved would return. There were more bad days than good and by age 19 I wanted to escape my father’s roller coaster moods that were worsened by a deepening dependency on alcohol.
I found my get away car in a 27 year old surfer. I excelled at academics and he excelled at fun.
He was good looking and self starting in the construction trade. He made me laugh and forget my troubles. By the time I was 21 I was hell bent on marrying this poor guy even though he would have rather kept me for a girlfriend. I persevered, thinking that a big white wedding would turn the tides for me and my family. Deep down I knew I was making a mistake but I couldn’t stop the momentum. On July 23rd 1977 we were married in Newport Beach with a grand reception at Big Canyon Country Club. Three days later, on July 26th, my father put his army rifle in his mouth and pulled the trigger.
Through this tragedy, my family tried to pull itself together.
My eldest brother Chris helped my mom manage my father’s estate and offered to let her live with him. My middle brother Jeff, like me, was stunned and we would sit with my mother, remembering, crying and asking why? My mother and I sat in the driveway of our house and sold every bit of furniture to passing strangers. My mother moved in with my brother Chris’ family, leaving her job as a successful realtor to answer phones in a real estate office. On Thanksgiving Day 1977, she moved into her new condominium and we planned a celebration feast. My grandparents and brother Jeff gathered. Every one was intent on having a good day. While the turkey roasted, my grandparents strolled the grounds arm and arm while the rest of us played tennis. I’ll never forget how golden that day was after so much grief. After dinner we sang songs and reminisced. My grandparents had decided to spend the night to welcome my mom into her new home. At around 11:00 pm I was awakened by the phone. My grandfather had suffered a massive coronary. He died before my mother’s and grandmother’s eyes before the paramedics arrived.
What could this story be about? Was life just full of tragedy, loss and despair?
I needed to know if there was a purpose to this suffering. Everything I loved felt so impermanent. My marriage didn’t survive this disaster. My then husband wanted to escape my sorrow as much as I wanted to escape it myself. My dog was run over and killed in the midst of all this. I didn’t even have him to hold as I sobbed myself to sleep night after night. I didn’t have any real friends and none of the people my age could relate to what I was experiencing. No one in my age group had experienced the death of a parent and I’d never met anyone who had lost a loved one to suicide. I felt like a rain cloud had permanently settled over my head. I was careful to not make others uncomfortable by talking about my losses. I signed up for classes at Cal State Long Beach and poured myself into my studies. As bad as I felt for myself I felt worse for my mother. I remembered my father’s advice to think unselfishly in a crisis. I needed her to survive this. We would support each other and make it through the storm. I turned my attention to making funeral arrangements and helped my mom care for my grandmother who was out of her mind with grief. I needed to live for others and to lean on God. But who was God and why was He turning our lives upside down?
Even though I was asking these questions I’d had a powerful encounter with Spirit the morning I learned of my father’s death.
I’d been on my honeymoon in San Francisco and had called home to talk to my parents. Our home phone number had been forwarded to my brother’s number and he told me the tragic news. I was numb as I walked into the bathroom of our shabby hotel to splash water on my face. I looked at the girl in the mirror. She looked back at me but I wasn’t her. There was a huge energy emanating love and reassurance from deep within me. It was the “peace that passeth all understanding” that I’d learned about it church but it also contained a power and exaltation that is beyond words. I knew that this presence would stay with me and guide me. I realized in that moment that there was a presence behind the scenes of my life that was revealed to me in that desperate time. I was aware that I was a soul on a journey and now the journey was really set in motion.
On July 26th 1987, ten years to the day after my father’s suicide, I was in down town Los Angeles waiting to take the orals part of my licensure examination to become a psychotherapist.
This coincidental timing allowed me to see how far I had come in a decade. By choosing to become a therapist I was turning my tragedy into an opportunity to dedicate my life to a higher calling. In the early hours of the morning, I awakened from a fitful sleep. I turned on the bathroom light and splashed water on my face. It was still dark outside and my body was buzzing with anxiety. The examiners were notorious for asking tricky questions that only a handful of people could answer to their satisfaction. Slowly, I became aware of a reassuring presence standing next to me. It was my father.
I often tell my clients that when they are in chaos and everything is falling apart that something new is being born.
There is often pain in the birth process. If we can know that we are in a birthing process it helps us to endure the suffering and hold our vision. If we can keep our heart open and allow Spirit to lead us we will see that we are being led to the next level of our heroic adventure. The powerful experience of Spirit that I had in my early twenties birthed in me the desire to live a heroic life. I realized that I could choose to fall into self pity but that would be interminably dull over the long run and not attract the kind of experiences I desired. I have met the best people, studied the most intriguing subjects, traveled to places I dreamed of as a child and been able to channel God’s grace as a therapist. I wanted a life that would inspire me and in turn inspire others. Even though the challenges can be exhausting, I want to live for the adventure of seeing how it all turns out with Infinite Intelligence at the helm As our children grow up and our elders pass on we realize that we are the elders in the making. We grieve the losses of our parents and accept that we are continuing the journey of growing up and growing wiser. This is your choice no matter what you are going through. It may seem harder or easier than what I went through but it doesn’t matter.
What kind of story do you want to make out of your life?
It’s your choice, it’s your adventure, and Spirit is waiting to show you the way.