Search

Renee Dubeau

Creative Nonfiction & Inspirational Shit

Category

Uncategorized

Don’t Wait. Life Happens Now.

I lost a dear friend this week to a sudden cardiac event. It happened without warning, leaving us shocked, and so very sad. He was not an old man- just a few years older than me. He was not the guy you would look at and think, “oh, he’s a walking heart attack”. He was fit. He ate well. He loved people with his whole heart. And, finally, he was happy in his life, married to a man he adored. The world will never be the same without his light. Precious few souls on the earth are as kind, generous and sweet as he was. I hope there is a heaven for him, full of wine and kittens. And, I hope he knew how much he was loved and admired while he was here on the earth.

I’ll never forget the way we became friends. We lived across the breezeway from each other in a little apartment building in the suburbs a few years ago. We had a terrible ice storm, and were iced in for a few days. By the third day of being trapped in our little apartments, we were all stir crazy. We couldn’t get our cars out to drive anywhere. But, there was a little Mexican restaurant just about two blocks away. My girlfriend in the apartment below and I bundled up and walked there for tacos and Margaritas. As luck would have it, there was also a Kroger in the same shopping center. We filled a shopping cart with beer and snacks, and pushed it all the way home. We knocked on every door in the building and invited everyone to my place for game night. 

Jim was one of the neighbors who came to our little snow day party. He showed up with a bottle of Fireball and a nervous smile. We drank and played cards, and for the first time ever, we all talked and really got to know each other. We were all in transition phases of life. One couple newly wed, another couple expecting their first little one, myself still healing from a difficult divorce, and sweet Jim starting over after his divorce, too.

Later into the night, after much drink and laughing, one of the gentlemen began boasting that he’s very good at reading people. Jim piped up and said, “That’s great, but you didn’t read me very well.” They went back and forth for a minute, the other gentleman repeating that he knew Jim was a great guy, he was a professional type, probably a nerd…

“Well, sure. But you missed something ,” he said. “I’m also gay.”

He stammered, “but… you have kids?”

“Yes. Two kids. I was married to a woman for thirteen years.”

My jaw hit the floor. “Oh my God! You, too?”

He looked at me confused. I explained that my ex-husband is also gay, we also had two children together, and were also married thirteen years.  He put his arms around me and right there in front of the whole group, we cried together.

He was the first person I had ever met who had lived through the same twisted confusing hell of unraveling a life that was never meant to be. I had so many questions, and so did he. Though our experiences were very different, there were so many things that were the same- and so many things for us to talk about. We were friends from that moment, and Jim quickly became one of my favorite people. 

I’ve said before, there is nothing more healing in the whole world than realizing that you’re not alone in your suffering and struggles. I wholeheartedly believe that the universe conspired to bring Jim and I together so both of us could heal and move forward in our lives. And, that’s just what we did.

We both advanced in our careers, our financial situations improved, we both found love, and eventually, we moved out of our little transition apartments. We cheered each other on through the growth and change that came. Somehow, we ended up on opposite sides of the city. We stayed in touch, but regretfully, hadn’t seen each other in months when he passed away. 

We spoke occasionally, always ending the conversation with, “we should get together soon.” And, certainly, I think we both meant it. We loved and missed each other. We had every intention of meeting again. We were both planning weddings. Both needed to talk and laugh and cry and drink wine and look at cat memes. But, sadly, we will not meet again in this lifetime. This is my deepest sorrow in losing my friend. I let days turn into months of “we should,” but never did. 

Perhaps the greatest lesson I can take from this tragedy, is that tomorrow is never promised to us. Tomorrow is a wish, a dream, a whisper of what might be. We spend our lives taking tomorrow for granted, expecting that it will always come. But, sometimes it doesn’t. This is why we must live every single day we’re alive. We must love those we love every day, and express our gratitude for their contributions in our lives. We must do the things we’ve set out to do- chipping away at those long held goals, or illusive dreams- lest we die with our songs unsung, our books unwritten, our mountains unclimbed. 

Losing a friend so suddenly has me facing my own mortality, health, and relationships. I’ve been in survival mode too long. My days are better spent in pursuit of wellbeing and service to others than in pursuit of money at the cost of everything else. All the things I’ve dreamt of doing “someday” must make their way to my calendar now- before I run out of somedays. All of the people I love need to know-  today and every day – how important they are to me, and how much I value the ways they shape my life. And, all my dreams need to be placed permanently at the top of my list of priorities, so I don’t leave this earth with my story untold. 

Tonight, I will celebrate my friend, Jim. I’m so grateful for his friendship, his impeccable pet sitting services, his ability to steal my cat photos from social media and turn them into hilarious memes before anyone hit the like button, his kindness, openness, and dedication to living a life he loved. It’s my greatest sadness that his time here was cut short- right when his most authentic, happiest life had begun. 

Tonight, I will wrap my arms around Jim’s husband, Billy, and right there in front of everyone, we will cry as we remember the great man that Jim was. We will cry for the somedays that never will be, and the dreams that will leave the earth with Jim’s sweet spirit. I will tell Billy, “we should get together someday,” and I will make damn sure that we do. 

Life is short. Don’t waste a minute, friends. Life is now– now is the only guarantee we get here.

Godspeed, sweet Jim. You will be missed more than words can say. Thank you for helping me heal through some of the toughest years of my life. Thank you for sharing your unmasked truth with me, and always listening so compassionately. Thank you for leaving me with these lessons, though I wish they could have come another way. You were a very important person in my life, and I will always remember you.

 

 

 

Advertisements

Resolution Revolution

As the new year quickly approaches, many of us are preparing for the same old, tired resolutions as every year before. Most of us probably want to lose weight, quit smoking or drinking <insert applicable vice here>, pay off debt, save for something special, or accomplish some illusive goal we’ve had our eye on. Here’s the thing: That whole “New Year New You” thing doesn’t work. We don’t magically become different people because we threw away last year’s calendar and hung up a new one.

We’ve all been through the process of setting a resolution, starting strong with changes on January 1st, and returning to business as usual by the middle of February. No matter how well intended, our plans for change often do not lead to the new lifestyle we seek. We find all the excuses we need not to follow through with the commitment that seemed like such a great idea in December.

Why is it so difficult to follow through on our New Year’s resolutions?

Usually, that thing we want to change is something we spent a long time enjoying. Our habits, routines, and patterns don’t just happen overnight. Just as it takes a long time to learn and reinforce our “bad” habits, it takes time to unlearn them, and replace them with “better” habits. When we make that resolution to change on a dime, and don’t find immediate success, we may become frustrated, throw our hands in the air, and pick up that cigarette, glass of wine, or donut, or whatever our thing is. Sometimes, gradual change through a series of  carefully calculated baby steps is more realistic and attainable.

A goal without a plan is just a wish. Just making the resolution is not enough. If we want to make a change, or accomplish a goal, we need a plan. We need to know what steps to take to get where we want to go. This might mean reading up on different eating plans, researching the different smoking cessation programs, or learning about new investment options. We may need to  break our big goals into smaller steps that feel manageable. We need a timeline, and benchmarks, and ways to measure our success along the way. And, dammit, we need some little rewards built into our plan to celebrate our progress, and our continued commitment to our goal. Like, if I get my office cleaned and organized, I can go to the used book store and shop until my little heart is content. (I do not recommend rewards that are counterproductive to your long term goal, like food rewards for weight loss or spending sprees for debt reduction.)

Many times, our resolutions are things we intend to accomplish all by ourselves, so we plan to go it alone. When challenges come, and they will, we need the support of our friends and family to keep us going. Sometimes, we need advice from professionals, mentors, or experts. Whatever our intended change, it will feel easier if we assemble a team to keep us going. This might mean picking a workout buddy so those long nights in the gym don’t feel so lonely, choosing a meal plan that the whole family can live with, or setting up accountability check-ins with a friend. This might also look like hiring a financial advisor, attending a workshop to sharpen a skill, or finding a group or class to join.

Resolutions aren’t always authentic. Sometimes, we make resolutions to change the things we think we “should” change. Maybe, we decide to change for a parent or a partner. Maybe, we feel pressure from a specific person in our life, or from society, the media, or another external force. Maybe, we’re getting drug along on our partner’s resolution, or making a resolution with a friend that we are less passionate about than they are. Here’s the deal: You have to want to make the change for you. It has to be your commitment to do something to improve your health, quality of life, financial security, or sense of life satisfaction. No amount of prodding from our loved ones is going to motivate us to change. Our motivation must come from within.

Resolutions are typically negatively focused. We want to quit something. We don’t want to be overweight. We don’t like something about ourselves, or our situations, so we decide to change it. Shifting to a positive focus can help us become more successful in meeting our goals. Instead of beating ourselves up with propaganda from diet culture, “earning our meals” in the gym, and otherwise starving and beating ourselves into shape, what if we just make choices each day that support our health? Instead of a list of forbidden foods, what if we focus on the foods we know make our bodies healthy and strong? Instead of workouts we dread, why not find ways to build physical activity into our days in ways that we look forward to? Instead of cold turkey, white knuckle, giving up that thing we’re addicted to, why not start by setting some limits and gradually working toward quitting for good? Focusing on the benefits of the change, and ways to do it that feel nice will always yield better results that trying to force ourselves to give up what we love and do stuff we hate.

Finally, big changes happen in little steps we take every day. If we want to make changes that last, we have to build routines that support them. This takes time, patience, consistency and commitment. Diving into something this January full force is great, unless we’re burned out with it by March and go back to our old habits. If we want to see real results this time next year, we have to plan little steps we can make each day, to meet our realistic short term goals we’ve set, that will eventually lead us to the big goal we desire. Yes, this likely means making some sacrifices, forgoing some short-term pleasures, and maybe even walking away from some things we enjoy. But, if we focus on the satisfaction we will feel by accomplishing that big thing we want to do, the short-term sacrifices are worth it.

2019 is our year to revolutionize the resolution by replacing our empty wishes with real life action plans. If we can take our big dreams, break them into small, reachable goals, and commit to baby steps, in the form of little changes to our daily routine- there is literally nothing we cannot do- especially with the support of a few good friends. Shifting our focus away from the things we do not want, and toward the end result we desire will help ensure our success. Your best life is right on the other side of your comfort zone. This is the year to go get it.

 

 

 

 

Choosing my legacy- the saddest funeral ever.

“She made the best chocolate chip cookies.”
Everyone in the room agreed. Her cookies were the absolute best. They were the perfect ratio of crispy edge to chewy middle. Soft, but not doughy. Crisp, but not too crunchy. Buttery and sweet, with just the right amount of chocolate chips. If you wanted the perfect cookie, she was your girl.
Normally, this would have been a kind compliment. But as we sat in the cold little church that November afternoon in rural Michigan, it was nothing short of tragic.
The words still haunt me today.

“She made the best chocolate chip cookies.”
My aunt lived a difficult life. She did the best she could with all of her challenges- that’s all any of us can do. She raised four children without a partner to help. She worked her whole life beside her mother and sister at the family business. She lived in poverty, and did what she had to do to survive as a single mother with no education. She was tough as nails, but sadly, addiction ruled her. She lost her life to an accidental opioid overdose, just years after losing a son to suicide.
When she died, a handful of friends and family gathered in the tiny corner church near my family’s farm to say goodbye. The minister of the church gave an odd little service- a mix of things from the Christian Bible, and Janis Joplin music. (She would have loved the second one.)
When we reached the part of the service where the preacher asked if anyone would like to stand up and say a few words about the dearly departed, the room was silent and still. We looked around waiting for someone speak.
The preacher began coaxing us. She was a mother, a daughter, a sister, a friend. Surely, someone there wanted to stand and share something– a memory, a story, something we would miss without her presence on this earth. Surely, after approximately fifty trips around the sun, somebody wanted to say something. Anything.
“She made the best chocolate chip cookies, ” someone finally offered.
Heads began to nod in agreement. “She sure did,” someone added.
Her surviving children were called upon to speak briefly about their mother before we were ushered into the little room behind the sanctuary for the Midwest version of a covered dish supper.
I stayed behind for a moment with my sister. We approached the little box on the altar that held my aunt’s ashes. I was so sad– not because she died. I was sad because in those moments I realized that she never really lived. She left the earth in debt and disease, having scarcely ventured past the corners of the family farm. Her legacy was a cookie she made from a recipe printed on the back of a chocolate chip bag.
When I returned to Texas after that sad trip home, I began thinking about my own legacy.
What will people say about me when I die?
Will I have lived a life worth remembering?
Will my children have fond memories of me?
Will I have made a mark on the world that will last when my physical body is gone?
Will my life have meaning and purpose beyond my front door?
In my heart of hearts I know my aunt’s life had purpose and meaning beyond her cookies. (Did I mention they were damn good cookies?) But, when it really mattered, on that cold day in November in a tiny country church where my family gathered to remember her, “She made the best chocolate chip cookies,” was all we had.
More than a decade later, I’m starting life over again, again. This memory came to me as I was feeling lost and unsure of what the next stage of my life should look like. I want to make my next steps with clear, focused intention, because in those steps, I know I am building my own legacy.
The workaholic, burnt out, tired, crabby, disconnected person I see in the mirror is not the woman I want to be. And so, I must choose carefully a better path. A path to happiness, health, and prosperity in every area of my life- and leave this worn out version of myself behind.
I want to be remembered as a cheerful wife, who loved my husband selflessly with my whole heart and soul. I want to be the mother (and step-mother) who had my babies’ backs through every stage of their lives- a teacher, a friend, and an example of what it is to be a strong, educated, independent, successful woman in the world.

I want to embody compassion, empathy, and love.

I want to share my experiences with the world in a way that brings comfort and validation to others who share my struggles.
I want joy, peace, creativity, and freedom to be part of everyday I spend on this earth. And when I die, I want people to say that I lived and loved every single day I was here.

Beyonce- I Was Here

What if we skip the thoughts and prayers, and do something about school violence?

“I’d jump in front of a bullet if it meant I’d save someone else.”

The words stopped me in my tracks.

Please, don’t be a hero. You’re my only son.” Was all I could say.

I’d never heard something so brave, or terrifying from my little boy. To be fair, my “little boy” is a man now. He’ll be eighteen in a couple of weeks. Still, he’s my baby, and the words shook me, leaving me in angry tears.

I wondered if my father had said the same thing at the tender age of seventeen when he left high school to enlist in the U.S. Army during the Viet Nam War. The only thing he ever wanted to be was a soldier. He was prepared to do what must be done for his country, no matter the consequences when he was my son’s age.

“I would take a bullet to save the life of another human being.”

Did those words leave my father’s lips as he prepared for war? Could he speak such a thing to his mother? Or, would it have left her in tears, too? Mothers don’t want to think about our young men going off to war or jumping in front of bullets.

When my son said he’d take a bullet, I believed him with my whole heart. The only times he’s ever been in trouble in his young life, he went down protecting or defending someone else. He stands up for the underdogs. He loves his friends fiercely. He will do anything he can to help someone else, even when it hurts him. That’s the kind of compassionate, selfless young man he is.

Yes, my son sounded like a brave soldier that day. But, he wasn’t talking about deploying to a distant warzone. He wasn’t talking about taking a bullet for one of his brothers who fought beside him in combat. No, my son wasn’t going away to war. He was going to his high school in Nashville, Tennessee, prepared to take a bullet to save a classmate in the event of a mass shooting.

“I’d charge down the hallways at some asshole with a gun if I thought I could stop him.”

His words filled me with pride, and dread. These are thoughts my brave, sweet son should not have in his seventeen-year-old psyche. These are things kids just shouldn’t have to think about at all.

When I was a kid, we had fire drills to make sure everyone knew how to get out of the building in case of fire. We had tornado drills to make sure everyone knew how to get to a safe zone to tuck and cover. We had evacuation drills on the bus, to learn how to get out quickly in an emergency. We did not have active shooter drills. Active shooter drills did not exist when I was in school.

Back then, our faculty watched the perimeters of our campus. They made visitors sign in with the office, and made sure the dangers of the world didn’t make it to our halls and classrooms. It was easy then, because the bad guys with the guns were outsiders. They were easy to spot because they were out of place inside the walls of our school building.

Back then, the bad guys with guns weren’t students.

Tomorrow, my son’s school district has closed in response to the most recent school shooting in Florida. They want to gather all of their staff, faculty, resource officers, and leadership to revisit and revamp our school safety protocols and policies. While I appreciate the proactive approach, I absolutely hate that it has to be this way.

I went to social media to talk to other parents about the school closures, curious if we were the only district, or if others had done the same thing. Our district stated in an email to parents that there have been eighteen shootings in the past six weeks in American schools. This began a Facebook debate about what exactly qualifies as a “school shooting” since in some of the eighteen instances in which a weapon was fired on a school campus there were no injuries to students.

What in the whole, entire, holy actual fuck are we doing, America?

Have we become so numb to the violence in our culture that we now need to quantify in bloodshed or lives lost what “counts” as a school shooting? Or, can we just for a minute agree that if someone is firing a weapon on school property, that’s not ok? Even if no one was hurt, the potential for danger was present, and real, and for fuck’s sake— why is having a gun in a school ever ok?

And, before we jump on the gun control bus, let me state very clearly my position on that. It’s basically the same as my position on everything: power to the people. The more you try to take guns away from the good guys– the law-abiding citizens who go through the proper channels to purchase guns legally for protection, recreation, or hunting– the less good guys we’ll have with guns. But, the bad guys? They’ll still get their guns on the street, or by force, or however they can, just like they do right now. Unarming the good guys is not the way to take guns away from the bad guys. And personally, I’d like to know there are some good guys out there with weapons, just in case we need them.

Every time there is another school shooting, the gun control debate ignites. And, while I think it’s important to have that conversation, I also think we’re missing the actual root cause of the issue.

It’s fine for responsible adults to own guns. It’s not fine for kids to have access to them without adult supervision. Period. That’s one question I need answered. How do the kids who shoot up their schools get their hands on these weapons in the first place? Do their parents know their children have access to deadly weapons? Do the kids get the weapons from the parents? Where are the parents?

Right after the gun control debate, we go to the other, classic question. Where are the parents? It’s easy to judge, to assume they must be absent, or abusive, or just plain irresponsible and reckless. But, what if they’re not? What if they are just like us? What if our kids aren’t so different from their kids?

This isn’t an us and them issue, as much as we would love to put that space between ourselves and the parents of the kids who have done these terrible things. We have to stop blindly blaming them. We actually, really need them. We need their knowledge, their insight, their shock and regrets. We need to know what they saw, what they experienced living with their children before they become the kids who killed their classmates. Their stories might be the key to predicting and preventing the next horrible act of student violence.

Are these kids abused when they’re little? Are they bullied by other students, or treated unfairly by teachers? Are they mentally ill? Strung out on drugs? Are they desensitized from years violent video games, movies and television shows? Do they just snap under the sheer weight of their lives?

Maybe I’m naïve, but I just cannot accept the idea that any child is born with this kind of malice and hatred in their precious little heart. I have to believe they learn it. Maybe it comes from bad guys who inflict pain directly upon them. Or, maybe they absorb it from the rampant disregard for humanity that seems to dominate our bullshit culture. Maybe there’s something even darker at work here that I can’t fathom. I don’t know how it happens. I just know we have got to figure it out. We’ve got to fix this, and now–and no amount of thoughts and prayers is going to cut it. Enough with that. We don’t need anymore thoughts and prayers. We need action, and real, dirty, horrible conversation about the process that converts an innocent little child into a cold-blooded killer.

How do these kids become the kids who murder their peers? And, how can we reach them before they become school assassins?

That’s the conversation I hope our school district will have tomorrow. Are there warning signs? Can they tell which students might have violent tendencies? Is there any way to predict an event like this?

How do the kids get the guns in the first place, and how to they get them into the school building?

Do we need TSA style security checkpoints in all entrances of our public high schools?

What will it take to end this madness, and keep our kids safe?

This is the discussion we need to have. All of us. School officials, law enforcement, parents and maybe most importantly, the students. How can we all work together to make sure our schools never end up on the evening news?

My son will graduate in a few short months. He should be focused on his grades and getting ready for college in the fall. He should be thinking about prom, graduation, his birthday celebration and plans for the weekend. Instead, he is planning how to strategically take down an assassin in the halls of the very place he should go every day to feel safe, and concentrate on his future.

Hearing my son talk about his affluent high school like a warzone really made me realize how much trouble our kids are in. I’m proud of our school district for taking time out to make sure they’re doing all they can to keep our kids safe. I just hope they’re going beyond rules and procedures, and getting to the heart of the human element of this kind of violence.

The schools can’t do it alone, and they don’t need our thoughts and prayers. They need our support, and our candid conversation. They need us to be active and engaged in our kids’ lives, and the lives of their friends- to be present enough to know if they are struggling with something. They need us to show up, and talk to our kids about the hard things none of us want to think about.

 

 

 

It’s ok not to be ok.

“Fine.” It’s the superficial answer we give when someone asks how we’re doing today.

“Fine.” It’s the word we choose to describe something when we don’t want to get into why it isn’t horrible, but probably could be better.

“Fine.” It’s what we tell ourselves when we don’t want to expend the necessary energy it would take to fix the situation that deep down we are certain is absolutely not “fine”.

“Fine” is part of the mask we wear. It’s the lie we tell ourselves and others when the idea of sharing our true selves feels too heavy. It’s the way we avoid vulnerability, and thereby connection and authenticity. It’s a way we allow our denial to suppress our truth and keep us from becoming all we were meant to be.

I wasted far too many years trying to convince myself and everybody around me that I was “fine” when I was dying inside. I worked so hard hide my bleeding wounds, I could never heal them. They just festered under the surface until I was ready to get real and face them.

We live in a culture that makes us feel like perfection is the only acceptable standard. Perfection is all around us- look at any nearby screen and you’ll see it. But, it goes beyond the photo shopped images we’re bombarded with. Just looking perfect is not enough. We’re expected to have our shit together at all times, too.

Vulnerability is seen as weakness. Admitting that things aren’t perfect can be the hardest thing to do when we are programmed to be positive all the time. I’m here to tell you that expressing painful emotions is not negative. We have a right to our emotions- good, bad, and ugly. It’s not negative to express how you feel honestly. But, unfortunately, people usually just can’t handle that level of realness.

Why?

Well, we learn it from the time we are small children. When we whine, cry, criticize, or lament the cruelties of our lives as children, there is always an adult around to tell us to stop crying and get our shit together. They shush us. They tell us that what we need or want in that moment is not important. They tell us to be good little girls and stop complaining. To take what we’re given and not ask for more. And, we carry those lessons with us for the rest of our lives.

Essentially, we learn to put the comfort of others above our own needs, desires, and feelings. That’s what we learn from the adults who shush us when we are little.

Then, when things get tough, we take over where our grown ups left off- telling ourselves to just be grateful for the scraps we’ve been given and stop asking for life to give us what we really want. We hold ourselves back, because at the end of the day, we just don’t feel like we deserve anything more.

But, the truth is, we do deserve more. We deserve to have every single thing we desire in this lifetime. We were not born to struggle. We were born to shine. We were not meant to hide our negative emotions. We’re supposed to listen to them, and follow them where the lead so we can find our purpose.

Despite what we are taught, negative emotions are not a bad thing. They are powerful teachers and guides. Without some frustration, anger, irritation or sadness, how would we ever really find our bliss?

Negative emotions help us to determine what we don’t want. And, usually, that’s a huge step toward figuring out what we do want. Without that contrast, how would we ever know which direction to move in our lives? Without some pain, how would we really know where to find pleasure?

Too often, we conceal our negative emotions for the comfort of those around us, and we pretend that everything is fine. Maybe we don’t want to look weak. Maybe we don’t want to burden someone else with our problems. Or, maybe we would rather just stay in the land of sweet, sweet denial where we don’t have to deal with our shit.

But, when we go around pretending that everything is great when it isn’t, we actually rob the people we love of the opportunity to be there for us. We keep our true selves hidden from them and sell them a lie. The fake smile, the small talk, the superficial interaction is really just bullshit. They can never connect with who we are when we are hiding behind our mask of perfection.

But, if we allow ourselves to be vulnerable and honest, we create more depth in our friendships. Being authentically who we are can only create space for others to be authentically who they are. When we share our imperfections, pain, mistakes, regrets, and dreams with another human being, it often inspires them to share with us as well. This is the foundation of an honest, loving supportive relationship.

Our masks may feel like little security blankets, but really, they can only push people away and keep us from the sincere connections we so desperately crave.

At the end of the day, it’ ok not to be ok.

It’s good, healthy, and honest to express our emotions for what they are. And usually, when we open up and share those scary things, someone is waiting to help us see our way out of whatever hole we’ve imagined ourselves into. Real connection begins with the courage to drop our masks and share what’s going on with us just beyond our “fine”.

 

 

Photo: Odd Stuff Magazine

The Intuitive Language of our Dreams

I was sailing a small boat out on the ocean, alone. Except, I wasn’t really alone. Another small vessel followed closely behind me. It approached the side of my boat, and I walked over to say hello.

On the other vessel, was my ex-husband. He reached a hand out toward me, I took his hand, and we held onto each other for a moment. Our boats moved easily beside one another. The water was peaceful and still. We stayed in that moment until something caught my attention over his shoulder.

I looked past him, out into the water that surrounded us, and saw a group of orcas approaching. Excited, I pointed to them and told him to look. I was in complete awe of the beautiful creatures.

“We’ve got to get out of here!” he shouted, scrambling to adjust his sails.

But, I didn’t want to leave. I walked to the back of my boat to lean over the side, where the orcas greeted me. One by one they took turns jumping up out of the water to meet my outstretched hands. I would caress the enormous creatures, and kiss each one that rose from the water to connect with me. My boat spun in a gentle circle, as the giants swam around me. It was a magical experience. I felt completely at peace there in my little boat, surrounded by killer whales.

When I glanced up to see if he was watching the amazing thing that was happening, he was gone. His boat was disappearing into the horizon where the sun was beginning to set. In his fear, he ran away, and missed out on an incredible experience.

This powerful dream came to me not long after our divorce. We were still navigating our new normal, and creating new boundaries. I was getting reacquainted with myself after years of being only wife and mother. To say that I was right in the middle of an identity crisis would be an understatement. That’s why I was so grateful for the clarity that came with these amazing symbols.

In our dreams, water is often symbolic of emotional and spiritual cleansing. It is also an indicator of the emotional climate of a situation in our waking life. The calm, peaceful water in my dream was showing me that there was no need to fuss or fight about anything. I could just stay in the flow of my life and allow things to unfold until my transformation and healing were complete. I didn’t have to do anything to bring the orcas to me. The ocean brought them to me when I needed them, the same way that life seems to always deliver exactly what I need when I’m tuned in and allowing myself to receive it.

Being the captain of my own sailboat was huge. It showed me that I had taken control of- and responsibility for- my own life and choices. After years of being bound together in an unhappy marriage, we were free to be individuals again. When he chose to sail away, he didn’t try to drag me along with him, and I did nothing to make him stay. When he left, I was surrounded with love and protection, sent to me by the ocean itself. I was never alone, there was nothing to fear, and life was spectacular.

I felt the orcas rising up out of the water to connect with me was symbolic of the reconnection that was happening inside. I was getting to know myself again, connecting my emotional and physical bodies more soundly to each other. I was becoming aware of my own connectedness to the universe, and the other beings who inhabit it. I was expanding, becoming aware of something much larger than myself.

I knew when I woke that morning that our friendship would soon end. And, though that was not what I wanted, I trusted that it was the right thing. I knew that I would be completely supported through that transition, and just as the ocean sent the whales to me, life would continue to supply everything I needed. When he eventually started to pull away, I let go, and let our twenty-year friendship die.

Through the death of our friendship, I found a truth I’d not considered while I was clinging to it. To be friends with him, meant continuing to wear the mask I wore in our marriage. It meant bending to fit his expectations of me, and trying to keep him happy. To be friends with him, I would have to give up being my own best friend, and go back to the people pleasing, weak woman whose soul atrophied almost into oblivion while in his care.

It was time for me to let go of the attachments I had formed in the early days of our separation when we made promises from a place of fear and pain. It was unfair, unkind even, to make promises to each other in that emotional state. The things we promised were not realistic, an in the end, I realized how unhealthy it would have been for me to continue holding onto that friendship.

I was grateful for that dream, because it helped me prepare for the final cutting of our emotional ties to each other. In my heart, I know that I could only be a reminder to him of the man he didn’t want to be. His fear of that truth made him run away over and over until I stopped trying to pull him back. Watching his little boat disappear and feeling completely at peace was so incredibly powerful. I knew that I would be ok without him, after what seemed like a lifetime of believing that he was somehow necessary for my survival. When I got really honest about our relationship, I was shocked at how truly toxic we were together. What was I holding onto?

Our dreams can bring us all kinds of important messages about our waking lives. Often, our subconscious mind speaks to us in dreams when our conscious mind is not ready to process something, or if we’re ignoring or avoiding something that needs our attention. If we take time to listen, and study our dreams, we can learn a lot about ourselves. Sometimes, we can even predict how a situation will work out, or see the outcome that would be best for us. The more we trust these messages, the stronger our intuition becomes.

PhotoPixabay

 

Stop the ride- I’d like to get off now

I am sensitive. I know this about myself. I’ve done my best to insulate myself from the cruelties of life. I don’t watch television. I don’t read the news. When something terrible happens in the world, I don’t run out and consume all the footage, facts, and sound bites. I prefer to keep my brain, and my heart, free from all the suffering of the world.

Unfortunately, it’s just not possible for me to completely avoid current events, politics, and all the ways human beings hurt each other and the world around them.

Here’s the thing- even when I’m not out actively seeking the news, when I’m really trying to stay over here in my zen little lane- the damn news is everywhere.

I used to think that watching the news, reading up on current events, and so on made me a “well informed citizen”. What it actually made me was afraid. Afraid of terrorists, and anthrax, and nuclear weapons. Afraid of the swine flu, and Islam, and bombs people made in their shoes to take on airplanes.

I was afraid of lots of invisible enemies I didn’t even know I had.

Left unchecked, fear can become a powerful force in our lives. When we live in constant fear, we are not able to make choices that reflect our true nature, which is always love.

Fear is the antithesis of love– the two cannot exist in the same space. Fear literally silences the still small voice inside us, disconnecting us from our internal guidance. In that space we are in survival mode everyday- like sitting ducks just waiting for the next bad thing to happen.

If we allow fear to be our ruler for a long period of time, it will eventually turn into anger. The anger comes from frustration, feeling powerless, and the anxiety of always feeling unsafe in our environment.

This anger, eventually will turn to hate– and thanks to the media- there are plenty of readymade enemies for us to direct that hate toward.

This creates a cycle of being afraid because bad things are happening, then more bad things happen because people are afraid.  It’s like a merry-go-round of fear, anger, hate, and unthinkable acts that create more fear.

Without actively seeking the news this week, I know that another black man has lost his life senselessly at the hands of white law enforcement. I know that there is social unrest and rioting in Charlotte, North Carolina. I know that people are hurt, and angry, and afraid.

I saw an article on social media today, that said watching the footage of racial violence is giving people Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD). People literally feel as if they are living in a war zone, right here in their own homes.

I’m a middle aged, white, woman. I have a professional job, I drive a little SUV, and even though I am covered in tattoos- the police never bother me. I didn’t have to teach my white son how to survive a routine traffic stop- it never occurs to me that the local police would harm my child. These luxuries are afforded me, not according to merit, but because of my pale complexion.

Even the presidential election this year has turned into a big fear circus. We have to vote for this one, because of that one gets elected it will ruin America– so, go to the polls, hold your nose, and select the steaming pile of horsesh#t that somehow seems slightly less terrible than the other. For what?

You’ll get your little sticker with the stars and stripes on it that says, “I voted”. But, will anything change? What, exactly are we voting for?

How can we stop the violence, the hatred, the ignorance– all the things that come from this perpetual fear?

I wish I had an easy answer. I wish I could just toss a great big handful of hippie dust up in the air and magically make everyone return to their natural state of love.

I wish we could replace anger and hate with acceptance and understanding. I wish every person in America could feel truly free. I wish fear would vanish from our world. I have to believe that this is possible. The alternative is just too sad for me to face.

In a world full of noise, where the loudest voice wins– I will shout love from the rooftops.

No matter how hard the media tries to make me fear my earthly neighbors, I will embrace them as divine, eternal souls sharing this human experience with me. This is the only way to stop the fear machine, and begin to live in freedom and peace with one another.

MLK said, “Darkness cannot drive out darkness, only light can do that. Hate cannot drive out hate, only love can do that.” Fifty years later, this has never been more true. We have to get off the fear machine, and learn to love one another.

 

Photo: Public Domain Photos

The Woman Behind the Words

Renee Dubeau is a passionate raconteur from Nashville, Tennessee. She is a lover of all creatures, a dreamer, rebel, and unapologetic supporter of underdogs everywhere. She is an avid reader, an outspoken feminist, and devoted mother of two little humans and a French Bulldog.

 Renee began blogging years ago to document all the crazy things that happened in her hometown in rural Michigan. As she has grown as a woman and a writer, her work has shifted from mostly humor to more serious spiritual and social issues.

 Renee’s insatiable fascination for the human condition keeps her inspired and searching for new ways to explain why we do what we do. In addition to writing, she enjoys yoga, dance, art of all kinds, gardening, cooking, and playing outside. Her favorite color is turquois and her favorite food is cheese. Every cheese.

 Renee’s main goal is to inspire people, and help them see their own perfection, worth and potential. She enjoys talking about all things taboo, challenging stigmas and defying social conventions.  Renee believes in love, magic, hippie dust, miracles and the immeasurable fortitude of the human spirit.

 You can connect with Renee on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, ReneeDubeau.com, and Elephant Journal where she is a Featured Author. She is always ready for a friendly debate, and welcomes your comments and questions.

 

 

Blog at WordPress.com.

Up ↑