Audio · Essays · Healing · Original Digital Art · Prose · Quotes

Audio and Thoughts: Do Unto

Last night I published a poem on this blog called Do Unto. I have completed the audio. It was challenging to express the hate and fear depicted in the poem out loud. More and more we see posts on social media of people going off on others, especially those perceived to be immigrants, and other people of color. Trying to capture this reviling tone while speaking the poem was difficult.

It seems like civility these days is dissolving into a swamp of fear and hatred. We are here on Earth with the privilege to love and through our love to cocreate wellness and peace. We aren’t meant to bully and to demean each other.

As Caroline Myss states, “Our biography becomes our biology.” That is, negativity of any kind contributes to illness in the individuals who are spewing hate and to social contagion as groups rise up to scapegoat and to repress others. The way to heal fear is through nurturing compassion and empathy.

Masuru Emoto showed in his experiments with water molecules that if hateful words are directed toward the molecules, they become distorted and malformed. However, molecules that receive positive vibrations through words of love, form into beautiful crystals.

This short video demonstrates how sensitive water is to our thoughts and words. We are made up mostly of water, so if we exhibit or experience racism, imagine how that interaction affects our spiritual and physical bodies. Notice in this short video how ugly, distorted, and ill the water molecule becomes with the words “Adolph Hitler”. Yes, our biography becomes our biology if you consider the effects of hate on our physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual being. The result is often illness.

 

 

Moreover, fearful thinking can become habitual, making it difficult to let go and allow others’ needs to come first. People cling to dogma, which is habitual thinking, to justify their fear-based actions. I think every holy book has the Golden Rule. “Do unto others as you would have others do unto you.”  But it seems that value has been lost to many lately, and sadly, the holy books are sometimes used as weapons to perpetuate fear and dependency. I think many writers on WordPress are addressing the social, economic, and political issues that seem to be making our society sick. I can see it in the poetry, essays, and art. It’s important for us to continue to speak up about love, forgiveness, compassion, empathy, and other positive values, as these concepts are powerful medicine.

Most importantly, we each need to nurture and love ourselves, for if our cup of love has run dry, how can we possibly be there for others? Self-regard is a positive attribute if it doesn’t become narcissistic or self-serving and manipulative, using fear to control others. Therefore, the ego must stay in check as we grow into our powers.

All change begins in oneself.  Love in one resonates to all just as hate in one resonates to all. We each have a choice as to how we want our heart to sing and our souls and bodies to heal.

Love and Light!

 

©Barbara Harris Leonhard @extraordinarysunshineweaver.blog

Digital Art “Dancing Daze” ©Martha Harris

 

 

Essays · Healing · Prose · Reiki

Measles Encephalitis: A True Story of Self-Healing

Measles Encephalitis: A Story of Self-Healing

 

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Although I feel that my life has been affected by many events, even small ones, one specific event had a major effect on the direction my life took at the time.  This event occurred when I came down with measles encephalitis at the age of six.  I’ll never forget that time in my life and the things I learned about myself and my ability to heal my own tiny body despite what the doctors believed. Self-healing became my choice and my mission.

The onset of the illness happened suddenly. I turned from an active six-year-old to a helpless baby overnight. It was the summer of 1957. We were living in Lewistown, Montana, where my dad was a Presbyterian minister. Mom was at home with three children, aged seven to four. That summer, measles was going around. These were the days before the vaccine, so several kids fell ill, including us.

One day that summer, Mom asked me to run upstairs and fetch something off her dresser. I pranced up the stairs, and once I arrived in the master bedroom, my legs gave out from under me. I couldn’t stand or walk no matter how hard I tried. I managed to drag myself to the stairs and descend on my bottom. Mom thought I was teasing, but then it became clear. I wasn’t able to walk.

The next thing I recall is being carried around up and down the stairs for bed, baths, or the bathroom. I can’t remember the complete time line, but I soon lost my ability to reach my arms out the full extent. I couldn’t feed myself or swallow well, so I was fed baby food. I lost my ability to speak.

It must have been hard to keep carrying me, so I was left on the living room couch. The living room became my bedroom, my dining room, and my playroom, except I couldn’t play with anyone. All I could do was sleep or daydream while the family went on with their lives around me. There was no television, either. It felt like an eternity laying there and trying to ask for things, but my words were just slurred utterances, like baby babble. Because no one could understand me, I felt abandoned on the couch and at everyone’s mercy. My siblings were young (I was the middle child), so I’m not sure if they understood what was happening. They were probably sick with measles too but lucky enough to be able to walk, talk, and eat. I’m sure they felt helpless, scared, and confused.

Mom was a doctor’s daughter, so maybe he told her to do this. She made a tent of blankets and put me inside with a steamer. The steam helped break up the mucous enough for me to spit it out. Maybe this saved my life. At the time, I just complied because I had no strength to protest being helpless and having to spit up phlegm into a bucket inside a make-shift tent of blankets, a lonely cell.

Throughout this dark period in my young life, I felt frustrated, vulnerable, scared, and lonely. No one knew what was wrong at this point, and I wondered if this was my end of days.

Finally after a few days, my parents came rushing home and swept me up to take me to the hospital in Miles City, where my paternal grandfather was dying. My dad had been busy, I think, picking his dad up in Michigan and driving him to a hospital closer to us. That is why he wasn’t around when I fell ill. And mom had two other young kids to care for. In any case, when I couldn’t walk and was losing more and more motor and speech functions, they had to get me to a hospital. They had learned that the diagnosis was measles encephalitis. The measles virus had infected my brain, causing my problems. As a gift so that I wouldn’t be scared, they presented me with a cute little plastic red purse.

That night, once we arrived to the hospital in Miles City, I got to see my grandpa maybe for the last time. These were precious moments since he was so important to me. After visiting with my grandfather, the next thing I remember is waking up from a coma (I was told it lasted 30 days but maybe that was the complete time frame for the illness) surrounded by doctors and nurses. I felt what I thought were a thousand needles sticking into my legs.

A doctor said, “Say ‘The bear went over the mountain.’ ”

I must have looked confused, so he repeated. “Say ‘The bear went over the mountain.’ ”

I said, “The bear went over the mountain.”

There were loud cheers.

“She’ll be OK!” he said.

But I wasn’t 100% OK. I still couldn’t walk. My legs felt like lead extensions. Again, I felt helpless and frustrated. Mom stayed with me as much as she could while I was in the hospital, but Dad, an only child, was still tending to his father. I was able to ask for things and eat, thankfully. Still, I felt helpless and vulnerable.  Strangers would come in to my room uninvited and discuss how cute I looked. I felt scared being left alone in a room for strangers to find me and stare at me. The hospital was also very noisy at night and felt cold. The nurses were nice, except for one, who was having a bad day and plopped me on the toilet angrily. She left me there a long time. Mom was furious when she found out.

Finally, I was able to return home but in a wheelchair. The doctors said I would never walk again, and there was nothing like physical therapy back then. I felt mixed emotions. Being in the wheelchair gave me a lot of attention in the hospital, and once I arrived home, there were friends of my parents there with many gifts. I even received a darling tea set, something I had wanted.

Though I loved the toys, these huge, tall people loomed over me as they fussed over my sweet helpless self. I felt diminished, ready to be stepped on or tripped over at any time. Their sympathy mixed with my feeling of helplessness made a dark emotional stew for me. I could have easily gotten spoiled. As a minister’s daughter, I would have been lavished with attention at church. Another benefit I realized was that I was off the hook for doing chores. I no longer was expected to help clean and do dishes. On the other hand, once the attention calmed down, the living room again became my prison, where I sat alone since all my siblings and friends had legs and could play outside. Again I watched life go on around me outside the picture window in the living room.

Also, I didn’t feel safe. Mom and Dad had to drive to Michigan to close up Dad’s family home. While they were gone there was news of a child molester trying to kidnap kids. As a result, Mrs. Bunker, our baby sitter, kept a gun. I thought about how I couldn’t run from anything because I was anchored to that wheelchair. The entire experience left me feeling anxious.

No matter how much attention and gifts I received, I came to realize that being paralyzed in a wheelchair was not the life for me. No one came to play. School was in session, and other kids had lives. Life was pretty boring and lonely. I knew that I just had to regain my independence regardless of the doctor’s prognosis.

I’m not sure how long it took, maybe a few days while my parents were away, but I taught myself how to walk again. I used my arms to push myself up so that I could slide off the wheelchair and drag my little body to a chair or the couch, where I would strain to pull myself up. Although it was difficult at first, I became stronger. I learned how to crawl and eventually stand. Once I could stand, I was able to walk like a miniature Frankenstein from one piece of furniture to another until I was walking more smoothly. When Mom and Dad arrived home from a pretty depressing trip, their little girl was able to run up to them!

This life experience taught me a great deal. The greatest realization was that I could change my destiny. I had every reason to remain in the wheelchair because of the attention, sympathy, and love that not only I received but my parents, who had that poor little “crippled” girl. The attention could not offset the loneliness, the feelings of being diminutive and helpless, and the boredom. I think these feelings precipitated my decision to try to walk again.

I thought a lot about my choice. Let’s face it, it is easy to think fatalistically and accept an outcome without debating it. After all, the doctor told me I was destined to use that chair for the rest of my life. However, in all the time I had to think, it seemed unfair for me to have to live that way. People tried to convince me with the toys, dolls, and tea sets, that this condition had amenities. I was so delighted to be the princess! And yet, my heart was crying out to be whole. That is why I made a different choice and threw myself off that chair.

I have often contemplated that major life event. According the Encephalitis Society, 1 in 3 in 1,000 children with measles will develop encephalitis, only 85 to 90 percent of those children will survive, and 25 percent will suffer permanent neurological damage. I learned how badly my life could have gone several years later when we were living in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan. Mom and I helped give physical therapy to a young boy who didn’t survive measles encephalitis like I did. He was left with permanent neurological damage and paralysis and loss of speech. We would move his arms and legs back and forth, a method his mom called “pattern practice”. He would never regain full function due to the extensive neurological damage.

While I was volunteering to help this boy, I suffered some survivor’s guilt, not understanding why I was able to recover and he wasn’t. Maybe I had a milder case. Maybe encephalitis resolves itself in some cases. Maybe I was spared because Dad was facing so much loss. His mother had died exactly one year earlier, and he was losing his father. I’ll never know the answers. However, I do know that I saw my situation involved a choice. I could have chosen to remain in the wheelchair. No one expected that to change, not the doctor, not my parents, not society. My thinking, my belief, was that I could walk, and so I set out to do that.

Later in life, I had a couple of cancer scares, culminating in two surgeries within two weeks of each other. One was a total hysterectomy and the other a partial thyroidectomy.  During the hysterectomy, the surgeon found my appendix was 8 inches long and ready to burst. Why was I so sick? This crisis led me to seek Reiki treatments. My first session was an amazing calling, so I set off to get training and am now a Usui Shiki Ryoho Reiki Master/Teacher. I also have completed 2 levels of Karuna Reiki training.

Everything I have experienced in the healing profession takes me back to the small girl struggling to walk. I see how attached we can get to illness and pain. Pain can seem a great comforter and even a teacher, but actually it is no real friend. Healing involves letting go of pain and illness, and it can be challenging work.  I’m still healing myself from the past surgeries. The organs may be missing, but their energy is still present and the source of that illness needs to heal.

Also, life events can be stressful, and it is so easy to stuff that pain into the body somewhere, where it can conspire to sabotage the health. It is generally known that stress is related to all illnesses. Lately, I have been fortunate to receive body work of various kinds, which is releasing a great deal of disharmony in my body. I’ve been taken back to many painful times in my life as this pain rises and dissolves into the Light. I don’t expect an instant cure. Those who do may feel discouraged. Basically, I’m nurturing myself, recognizing the pain, and asking that it be transmuted to the Light instead of hiding in my biology. Healing involves getting rid of all that no longer serves you, and only you can decide to purge Pain. Ultimately, no one can fix you but you.

Healing promotes changes, which can make life difficult for some. Illness can become a third-party in a relationship. Some people need someone to be sick, or possibly someone needs to be sick to feel loved. If the ill person heals, what is the role of their partner then? This dynamic may not always be the case, but part of healing involves facing changes, which can be difficult if the illness seems insurmountable. For me as a small child, facing a life without walking seemed impossible. I had to weigh the benefits of being sick with those of being well and then make a choice to face trying to walk or even failing in my attempts. Moreover, people are taught there are no choices. The doctor proclaims an outcome. Therefore, that’s truth. Mom’s dad was a doctor, and his word was law. Why would she expect me to walk again? I was never encouraged to try because of the false belief that it would be impossible.

What heals us? We heal us. Even if we have good doctors, good surgeons, and good medication, it is our responsibility to participate in the healing process. It is so easy to be passive because pain can beat us down or maybe because the illness has benefits, as I indicated earlier. How many times do you hear of cancer disappearing or other miraculous cases of healing? There are cases such as these. Why?

According to Joseph Murphy in his book, the Power of Your Subconscious Mind, healing stems from positive thinking. We can bathe in holy springs, eat peach seeds, take pilgrimages, and pray, but nothing will heal us unless we want to heal. Our conscious mind may tell us we have no chance to heal, so we don’t. Our subconscious follows our thinking and our conditioning.  Murphy states,“You are living in a psychological prison if your own making and you are bound by your beliefs, opinions, training, and environmental influences. Like most people, you are a creature of habit. You are conditioned to react the way you do.”

This conditioning promotes the false belief that there is no hope, that there is a defined outcome, and that there is a template to follow without questioning. What I learned is that I had more power than I was led to believe I had. I had a choice to create a life with more misery or a life of wholeness and good health. As I think and feel, so am I.

Metapsychiatry, as taught by Thomas Hora, likewise teaches among other things that discordant thoughts cause personal problems. Healing comes from seeing the good in life and seeking harmony with it. Healing can result from nonmedical means if we believe in healing. Our minds influence the subconscious, and it’s the subconscious that directs the healing. Energy follows our thoughts. Good thought lead to harmony. Bad thoughts lead to disharmony.

Healing is multi-dimensional, and it involves seeking medical care in addition to holding positive thoughts. I am not encouraging anyone to give up chemo or fail to seek medical care. I also think it could be dangerous to fail to get medical care for yourself or a child just because of the belief positive thinking alone will heal. Let’s face it; some illnesses are fatal unless treated. I think having medical care is very important, but I think we should consider our personal responsibility to co-create our good health.

Experience has taught me to be proactive with my health. I get all my annual check-ups, vaccinations, bone scans, colonoscopies, and mammograms. If I had failed to visit my OBGYN regularly, I would have died more than once since I was a DES baby, another story of healing. When I felt depressed, I sought counseling and even psychiatric help. No one is going to make those phone calls for appointments but me. I couldn’t wish away ovarian cancer or a bad hip. I needed help. So don’t think I am throwing out doctors all together. What I am saying is to be an advocate for your own health. Work with the doctors, but ask questions and keep up with your care.

I am an advocate for my good health because I have learned there is a lot more to healing than taking meds. Healing is not fully resolved with medicine. Medicine is often just a band aid masking the pain. Because we no longer have pain or symptoms, we get on with our lives, having been led to believe this is enough. Also, is so much easier to expect medication than serious care. I know some people who want antibiotics when they only have colds. I can’t help but think about the rising abuse of prescription medication, especially opiates. All we are doing is masking the pain and resolving nothing.

Our natural state is to be whole, not sick. That is what that small seven-year-old girl taught me long ago. What does it mean to be whole?

We go to see so many specialists these days that we forget to treat the whole person. Indeed, we are physical, biological entities, and making mechanical changes to the physical body can ease pain or resolve physical problems with organs and joints. However, we are also emotional, mental, and spiritual beings. In order to heal, we need to heal all those bodies: physical, mental, emotional, and spiritual. Illness and physical dysfunctions are opportunities to heal at all levels.

In 2011, I learned I needed a total hip replacement and maybe back surgery because my back was collapsing due to inactivity from the hip pain. Before undergoing the hip replacement, I underwent rigorous physical therapy for my back. Everything went well with the physical healing. Still, I took the healing deeper and searched for the mental, emotional, and spiritual factors that needed to be addressed for me to return to feeling whole again. This form of contemplation can be a deep study that can take time, maybe years. It requires patience and a commitment to self. It takes love.

Now there is this argument: What if we really want to heal, but we don’t? Have we failed? Are we unworthy? If we don’t heal, we can’t beat ourselves up with guilt and despair. I think many of these cases of poor health may involve insurmountable physical limitations. Again, if the physical body doesn’t heal, that doesn’t mean that the afflicted person did anything wrong or didn’t want to heal. Our society holds fast to the false belief that healing involves merely physical relief or resolution of pain and illness.

There are still ways to heal or even to get around the physical limitations. Some people born without arms learn to use their toes to paint beautiful art. Many people with physical limitations compete in the Special Olympics. Why? They overcome physical obstacles because the spirit, mind, and emotions can still heal. They change their thinking, and so they change their lives. People can co-create good health in more than one way and in more than one dimension, not just the physical one. We heal beliefs.

Now, as a Reiki master, I take to heart the adage, “Physician, Heal thyself!” What does this mean? It means that my clients are the true healers; I am but a tool. The people who come to me for Reiki are doing their own work of healing. They are their own physicians, not me.

Every moment presents a choice for wellness. People can heal themselves. It may take a while, since it involves personal responsibility and patience, but the tenacity will yield results. Most important is the love you have for yourself. If you give yourself the love and attention that your physical, mental, emotional and spiritual bodies require, you can heal to the best of your ability. Heal your thinking; heal your life.  Return to wholeness.

Copyright© 2018/02/06 Barbara Harris Leonhard @extraordinarysunshineweaver.wordpress.com

Image© https://www.cdc.gov/measles/parent-infographic.html

https://www.encephalitis.info/

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Essays · Poem · Poetry

Memorizing Poems: The Poet as Storyteller

Memorizing Poems: The Poet as Storyteller

Those of you following my blog know that I record audio of my poems. The audio is sometimes rough (too monotone) I think, so I am getting voice coaching. Indeed, I learned that I may be trying to get too technical in my delivery. My voice coach, who is the lead singer in Ironweed Bluegrass Band, Swampweed (a Cajun Band), and Pigweed (a country band) encourages storytelling and not just the technical reading of a poem or expression of a song. She has said more than once that story telling is a major responsibility of both singers and writers. Telling good stories, whether they be songs or poems, requires several techniques.

For one, memorizing a poem will help me ‘breathe’ the poem better. She recommended I repeat the poem while pacing and moving around. Moreover, it is more powerful to read aloud while standing than sitting to open up the airways. I have found there is more opportunity to use body language to emphasize points while standing.

In this process of learning how to be a storyteller, I am encouraged to find words with emotive power and to emphasize them. Which words convey the story? I am also becoming more aware of the use of sounds and the stretching some syllables to emphasize key elements in the poem. For example, I plan to stretch out the words “somewhere” and “blindly” to emphasize the storyteller’s dismay and anguish at misplacing something important.

Another factor is pausing. I’m a poet who uses commas, periods, and other punctuation to set off thought groups. Without these marks, I’m not sure where to pause. In fact, breathing correctly depends on knowing where to pause. Pausing also conveys meaning, I find that by changing pauses, even when writing a poem much less reading one out loud, the interpretation changes. If the interpretation changes, so does the story. Why is that so?

The period is our strongest pause in English. We use it to end sentences or to take a long pause in breathing. That’s followed by the semi-colon (;), the colon (:), and then the comma (,). The comma is the weakest pause and the shortest breath. Altering these marks can change the meaning of an utterance. Take these simple examples.

What’s for dinner, Grandma?    (Grandma, we’re hungry. What’s for dinner?)

What’s for dinner? Grandma?    (Yuck! We don’t want to eat Grandma!)

Lets eat, kids.    (OK, children, it’s time to eat.)

Let’s eat kids.   (Yuck! What a horrible idea!)

In addition to considering pausing, I am considering intonation, the rising (/) and falling (\) of my voice. Intonation is as important as pausing in the oral delivery of a good story. The following example shows how changing punctuation can alter meaning.

What’s up the road? (\) A head? (/)   (Is that a HEAD I see on the road? Let’s not drive over it!)

What’s up the road ahead? (\)    (I can’t tell what that is on the road. Maybe I should slow down.)

Although the featured poem asks many questions, I may avoid the rising intonation that goes with yes/ no inquiries. I think the falling intonation may add more depth to the interpretation of the poem. Maybe the storyteller has misplaced many things routinely and is tired out from it. Possibly the storyteller is guilty of all those actions. On the other hand, using the rising intonation may show the storyteller’s anxiety about misplacing something important. Maybe she is searching for any excuse for this mistake.

Jane also encourages me to mark up the poem as much as I want to study the words and syllables that I want to emphasize. So I formatted the featured poem with more spacing as reminders to pause and to allow for a stronger delivery.  I also indicated which syllables to strengthen. Since I’m a visual learner, I drew doodles to help me recall the lines (See the featured image).

I managed to memorize the poem in just one day with her advice. I haven’t redone the audio yet but will soon. I’m still working on the final delivery. I am playing with all these tools like they are new toys, and I have discovered that making audio of a poem is like singing a song. Every mark is a note, and every word makes the story.

Here is the original, un-illustrated poem:

Somewhere Blindly

Somewhere blindly

I misplaced you.

Was I asleep in my tea?

Was I meandering on a twisted forest path

Of past life contemplations?

Was I hanging off a headline

Or falling off the edge of the Internet,

The dot in com,

Mesmerized by pixels and bytes?

Did I lapse you into a bed

Of forget-me-nots

By the Sea of Forgetting

On a beach of lost marbles?

Poem and Image: Copyright 2017 (See archive July 4, 2017) Barbara Harris Leonhard at extraordinarysunshineweaver@wordpress.com

My voice coach, Jane Accurso, and the website showing her many bands. The man with the banjo is my husband, Dierik Leonhard. He and Jane are the backbone in the three bands.

http://www.ironweedbluegrass.com/

See also these books by Mary Oliver, A Poetry Handbook and Rules for the Dance

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Essays · Prose

Childless

Childless

It was just an ordinary moment by the organic bananas in Gerbes. The kind of moment of silence as you pick over the fruit and feel lost in thought about what to make for dinner and decide whether or not you have gotten everything on your list.

Do you like this cart?  I heard a young voice say.

Not noticing that I was being addressed, I continued examining the bananas.

Do you like this cart?  The little girl said again, pointing at me with her voice.

Are you talking to me?  I had noticed her at last. Yes, it’s a fine cart!  She was sitting in one of those large wheeled carts from the front of the store or maybe from her mom’s car. I really didn’t pay attention to detail.

Do you have one?  She sparkled as she spoke. I noticed her shoulder-length blond hair. She was very friendly.

No, I sure don’t. It is a nice cart, though!

Do you have children?  She suddenly queried. Taken aback at the personal inquiry, I looked for her mom. Usually mom’s a step away at a time like this. I thought she would appear to say Now. Now. Let’s not get personal.

No. I sure don’t.  Might as well be honest though I thought about making up a story about having three kids, all girls like her only older, having graduated and gotten good jobs.

Why don’t you have children?  She asked. I saw that her mom was a short distance away examining the strawberries.

I shrugged and smiled kindly, thinking that would be enough. Don’t take me back there, I thought. I recall many encounters I had had in that very grocery store from women in my English as a Second Language classes in my child-bearing years before I learned the reason why I wasn’t bearing fruit. Some women from other cultures couldn’t understand why I was childless. To many people, bearing children is the most meaningful event in their lives. For others, it is a duty. In most societies, it is expected that people will marry and have children. This is one cultural expectation of theirs that I wasn’t ready for.  I hate to say this, but my emotional reactions to these challenges only made more women in my class torment me more intensely about it. Who wouldn’t want those cuddly adorable babies cuddled up to you with unconditional love? And small kids are so cute and entertaining with their words of wisdom and unabashed honesty. How could anyone not love children? Therefore, if you are childless, you must not like children. My students obviously struggled with this. Even people in my own culture didn’t understand.

If you don’t have children, you may be seen as selfish by some regardless of national origin. Even my own mother blurted out one day that people who didn’t have kids were selfish. This statement was only meant to highlight her accomplishment of having seven kids. Still, it made an impression on me as a young girl unaware that she was never to give birth. I knew it was important to be fertile and bear children as part of social expectation along with Why aren’t you married yet? When are you going to give me a grandchild? 

These days, because I am retirement age, I am even asked by hair dressers and nail technicians if I have grandchildren. Due to my age, I obviously must have grandchildren. When I reply No, the silence can be like a knife. Some people don’t know how to relate to the childless. I feel like I have to reassure them, I have three cats, though! Or I have tons of nieces and nephews!

Didn’t you ask God for children?  The young blond girl asked in a tone that said Simple enough or Let me help you out.  She seemed very inquisitive and concerned, even offering a solution, like it is still possible for me to have kids though I’m retired.

What do you say to that? My life circumstances and belief system came together like the perfect storm in my brain. This exchange repeated itself with me just smiling and shrugging my shoulders. OK, Mom, I thought, where are you? Can you kindly take this child to the candy aisle?

Well, you know, some people can’t have kids, I finally said with another kind smile. I felt like an angel trying to placate this young one and let her down gently to the truth.

This reply seemed to work long ago for one woman a former student who just didn’t understand why she had kids and I still didn’t. We were in a different aisle in this very store, maybe the cereal and pancake mixes.

Really, she was very rude, a real bully about it. I don’t know how we got from, How are you doing so nice to see you to Why don’t you have kids? Do you hate kids?  Don’t you like children?  Her eyes were on fire, and I was stunned.

Between her breaths, I heard her possible frustration with kids, maybe even jealousy that I didn’t have kids. Did I really have to say why I didn’t have kids?

The reason for my childlessness was Diethylstilbestrol (or DES), a drug given to women between 1941 and 1971 in order to prevent problems such as bleeding during pregnancy. I was saddened to learn that the drug had been tested on young girls before it went to market. Still, it was prescribed to pregnant women. Mom felt uncomfortable being given a medication while pregnant and didn’t take it for very long, but the effects grossly deformed my reproductive organs, caused me problems with my monthly cycle, left me sterile, made me an emotional wreck due to hormone issues, and gave me four cancer scares later in life.

It’s ironic that DES, which was given to prevent miscarriages, prevented countless  births and ruined the lives of not just women but men. If I had been able to sustain fertilized eggs in my t-shaped uterus, both my male babies and female babies would have also been infertile and would have faced the same effects I did. As bad as my case was due to DES, others’ cases were far worse, including breast cancer, moderate to severe cervical squamous cell dysplasia, spontaneous abortions, preterm deliveries, ectopic pregnancies, to name a few. Due to these ramifications, I was happy my OBGYN was a DES specialist. I was well cared for.

As much as I wanted children, I chose not to go through expensive daily hormone treatments and have my cervix tied to prevent miscarriages. The process was already hard enough on my husband and me. I was also the breadwinner in the family since we depended on my income and couldn’t afford to miss work every day. I certainly didn’t want to face some of the dire consequences of DES exposure throughout a pregnancy. I also didn’t want to pass on the conditions I had suffered from to unwitting children.

Didn’t you ask God?  She asked again more pointedly. She was really concerned, having learned that God answers prayers. Her enquiries were innocent but persistent. For a five-year-old, her faith was immense. I heard her embarrassed mother say to her daugher (as she passed by us without stopping), You are silly.

Yes, of course, but…. And I shrugged again.

My brain felt like it was twisting in my skull. Back in the past, I finally tired of the rude challenges and just told the inquisitors why I was childless. I didn’t do it perfectly or with love, sorry to say, but the challenges stopped.

When you go right up to their face as close as you can without eating their nose, and speak firmly and slowly, Be….Cause.…I….can’t….have….chil….dren, they stop. And then they say matter-of-factly, Well, kids can be a lot of trouble! And then they forgive you for being childless. They flip flop as fast as coin being dropped to the surface of a road spins from heads to tails.

I certainly didn’t want to eat this little angel’s face. I really thought I had let go of a lot of the pain. It wasn’t my fault I had fallen victim to Big Pharm “science”. I just wasn’t prepared for this journey back to the past; all I had wanted was a good bunch of bananas. Instead, my life went before my eyes like a near-death experience.

All I could think of, as well, were the things I have missed out on by being childless. The list is so long: the pregnancy, the delivery, the first word, the first step, the first day of school, the graduations, the first job, the first love, the first date, the wedding, the grandchildren….The list goes on. By being childless, I have felt left out when mothers I knew shared their stories about their kids: the birth experiences, the joys, the triumphs, the sorrows.

I have a brother, she suddenly changed the topic just as her mother reappeared.

I have six brothers and sisters, I proudly stated. Her mother gasped.

I don’t believe you! The child said.

It’s true. I have six brothers and sisters!

Suddenly, she was elated. Then you DID have kids!

Yes, very true!  I affirmed.

I did help raise my siblings since I was the eldest girl and second oldest of the seven. The “little ones” were all in diapers when the last was born, almost taking Mom’s life, so Mom desperately needed help. One toddler was in the process of being potty trained, two babies were one-year-old twins, and one was the newborn. Because we had no disposable diapers in those days, the laundry had to be washed and folded constantly. All the bottles had to be boiled and sterilized between uses. Mom couldn’t breast feed, so we made formula and later added solid food we would mix up. My sister Martha and I would sit the babies side by side in their seats on the sofa and go down the row with the spoonfuls of food and sips from the bottle in succession.

As young mother’s helpers, my sister and I were not perfect. We still argue over who had pinned one of the twins, Christopher, to his diaper. However, I used to wake the babies up at night just to rock them and hold them. Being 10 years old, I didn’t completely understand that these years would my only time mothering babies. I didn’t realize then that the day the youngest called me Mommy would be the only time any child would.

I suppose this experience at Gerbes affirmed the young girl’s faith in God, for she had seen what I had grown to realize: Blessings don’t always follow time lines.

 

Copyright © August 23, 2017 Barbara Harris Leonhard

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In this picture from left to right: Martha, me holding Earle (the youngest), Cynthia (one of the twins), Monty, and Christopher (the other twin). Not pictured is Grant, the oldest. The four youngest, born 5 years after Martha, were the “little ones”. They were my children for a few years.

Essays · My Father · My Mother · Prose · Voices from the Veil

Writing Poetry in a Medium State: The Story behind Voices from the Veil

What I might call my best poems and writing is from Muse. I remember as an English Literature major being guided by my creative writing teachers to travel inward and seek the Muse. I always thought about this process in a theoretical way and never thought of it as genuine contact. However, where does creative work originate? There are some poems which I know I wrote pen to paper, but where did those images come from? Are they from Muse alone? Does Muse engage with my mind? Is Muse my mind? Is Muse really divine intervention? Does Muse deliver crucial messages?

My poetry is based on human experience translated from and into spiritual experience. I’m not sure what comes first. Maybe I’m trying to understand the deeper meanings and put the poems into the framework of universal human truth and universal spiritual truth. To do so, I listen. An intriguing thesis is proposed from somewhere inward, and I grab the pen or stylus and start to explore this proposition. If I do not do that instantly, I lose the moment of this truth and only hope it will return someday. Therefore, many poems are resting in my bones and flesh as a kind of wailing pain. I have found by returning to my writing in this recent thrust of creative energy that I have had less physical pain. Maybe the pain resulted from my deafness to Spirit’s, or Source’s, calling.

With more life experience and a treasure of images, I am able to listen again. This treasure trove of imagery and messages opened up to me after Mom’s death and led me to writing Voices from the Veil. I’ve been trying to trace the connections.

A while back maybe 3 or 4 years ago I was helping my mother a great deal because her memory was declining. She was living in an independent living facility in town. To get to her place, I always passed by a funeral home and cemetery. In a tiny plot of land near the road were the graves of children and babies. Come visit. Come visit. I felt I was being invited to stop there often. Finally one day I turned into the cemetery and visited those tiny grave sites. I was compelled to do so and to return to leave gifts to offer those little spirits. I know Archangel Gabriel was at my side in this endeavor. I could write a volume just on Gabriel’s influence in my life. I placed flowers and toys on the graves, most of which were already decorated with dolls, backpacks, infant angels, and other assortments to entertain the children. Some toys had been tossed about by storms, so it was important to anchor them down. I could not have children, so these visits were meaningful to me.

Mom eventually had to move to assisted living and within a year, her body failed her. Alzheimer’s shut down her heart and kidneys. Grieving her, my Muse reawakened. I wrote a few poems about this loss. In this poetry, I relived her last days and tried to make sense of certain signs and symbols that appeared before and after her death. Writing these poems led to others. After my retirement, I had time to review my poetry and was surprised at the number. I began this blog to continue to nurture my creative ventures.

One day, a year after her death, I asked my parents to visit me. Dad came in a dream and Mom, in a poem. While I was working on that poem while building my blog site, I recalled my visits to the babies and children in that small plot of souls. My mind also wandered to another beautiful cemetery near my home. I wondered if I could visit there and hear messages like those from Mom in that poem I wrote, Hello, It’s Mom. Without my even visiting the cemeteries in person, suddenly, more poems arose either out of me or to me. One from a young male teen and one from an older man, a laborer. Hence, I created the series of poems, Voices from the Veil.

Copyright © 2017 Barbara Harris Leonhard

poetry and image (my garden)

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