Friday, January 30, 2015

Reflections on Healing: year of the mountain

I have been thinking lately that the challenge for me this year is to fundamentally change everything about how I celebrate each day of the year.  In the past (B.E. - before estrangement) my day, my life revolved around my family and my work.

Nevada - Red Rock Canyon
Photographer - Renate Dundys Marrello 
Those two essential to my life elements no longer really exist.  I was forced into early retirement (a whole other story) and even the relationships that I still do have, well, they are not the “centre” of my life (like when I was a mother of young children) rather they are a much smaller part of my life, as everyone is busy doing their “own thing”.  As such some of these relationships are on the very periphery of my life. 

So this year my theme is “climbing the mountain”, finding not only healing but also the meaning.  In the past year, I wandered lost, searching for the path.  I feel that I now have found the path, through my reading and research.  I worked very hard at learning what it looks like to be on a healing path.  And I did learn so much! 

One of the things I learnt was that without meaning we just survive another day.  So the goal of healing is to get from survival mode to living mode.  And living requires meaning.

Our ancestors I believe had knowledge that we have forgotten.  They had the right idea!  They surrounded their lives with rituals that connected them with the earth and the universe.  They celebrated the seasons, the planting and the harvest.  Their celebrations revolved around the need to survive the hardships of rural / agricultural life.   Their rituals connected them with meaning outside the events of their individual lives.

I feel that it is by getting back to that cycle of traditions that I can find a way to become reconnected with the meaning of life.  We are born, we have our own living cycle, and then when life’s journey is done we pass into the next stage, the unknowns of death and the “afterlife”.   In the process we have jobs and families, but they are not really the meaning of life, they are ultimately only a part of the life we lead.  They are what we do with the life we have been given.   The meaning of life comes back directly to the process of being connected to the universe and playing our role in that greater sphere.

My “year of the mountain” is the search for those elements that bring meaning into my life. I hope to discover in this uphill struggle, a way to reconnect with an essential something within me.  This year is my pilgrimage up that mountain, to my own personal “medicine wheel”.  This year is one of focusing on learning and growing, of examining and questioning.  It is a year of challenging my beliefs and changing my goals or directions as required, not because it is what I want to do, but because it is what I need to do to move forward.  It is a year of creating connections, defining values and establishing rituals that enrich each day with meaning.

What I find interesting heading up the mountain is that I feel more focused.  I know where I am headed.  Not that the path is always clear before my feet, for I still suffer from doubts and confusion.  But there is this comfort of knowing the direction that I am headed, “UP”.

Renate Dundys Marrello

Tuesday, January 27, 2015

Reflections on Healing: Empowerment Through Self-Appreciation.

picture credit - hosting
Now that it is getting close to the beginning of February I am gearing up to do a "14 day Challenge of Self Appreciation" in the days leading up to Valentines Day.  

Last year I took the first step towards this by writing myself a love letter.  Today I re-read this letter, and it is amazing how that made me feel!  

As I read it, I also realized that so many of the healing moments that I have experienced in the past year are a direct reflection of the thoughts and ideas I had written to myself last year at this time!  I was amazed once again about the power of the unconscious mind and how it has directed me based on the thoughts I gave it to work with.

I have always been successful at giving my love to others.  But I have been very poor at giving myself love, validation and appreciation for everything that I do and everything that I am.  I have always been the first person to beat on myself for not being good enough.  And in the process I gave others the impression that they too could beat on me.  My resolution in my healing journey has been to change this. 

Slowly I have been changing this pattern in myself and I hope that in sharing my journey with you, you too can start to create a transformation in your life.

Being estranged robbed me of so much.  I have stated before, that I felt I had no value, that I was worthless.  At my lowest point in the aftermath of estrangement, I had no self-esteem left.  Zero! I caught myself walking hunched over, like I was trying to shrink from view.  I never smiled, and if my lips formed a smile because it was required of me in a social context I felt tears in my eyes because I felt “fake”.  All hope and all joy, all exuberance were gone from my heart and I felt defeated. I have talked elsewhere about the decision I arrived at to “choose a new path”.

February 2014, I came across this article about writing a love letter to myself.  The writing of this letter was an empowering moment.  I then followed up by creating a list of 14 days of Valentines to myself.   And I have to admit that I failed in that exercise.  I had the list but every day I found an excuse why I did not deserve to do this nice thing for myself.

So this year I am going to repeat the exercise.  This year I know I am in a much better place.  I care more about me and therefore I nurture myself more.  I show myself more compassion. So I have every hope and intension to make this a successful exercise to show myself appreciation and to reward myself for how far I have come on my healing journey since last February.

I invite you to join me in the 14 Days of Love Challenge

photo credit - 
1.  Write yourself a love letter:  how to instructions can be found here .  

Place it somewhere safe and reread it next year and be prepared to be amazed. 

2.  Create a list of “14 days of kindness for me”! These are simple actions that I can take that express value and appreciation of who I am and what I have accomplished.  From having a coffee outing with a friend, to visiting a museum or enjoying a favorite piece of music.  The idea is to do an activity I enjoy with the intention of seeing it as validating that I deserve good things.  Fill in a 14 day calendar with intentions. 

Feb 1st
Feb 2nd
Feb 3rd
Feb 4th
Feb 5th
Feb 6th
Feb 7th
Day 1 of Kindness to me
Day 2 of Kindness to me
Day 3 of Kindness to me
Day 4 of Kindness to me
Day 5 of Kindness to me
Day 6 of Kindness to me
Day 7 of Kindness to me

Feb 8th
Feb 9th  
Feb 10th
Feb 11th  
Feb 12th  
Feb 13th
Feb 14th
Day 8 of Kindness to me
Day 9 of Kindness to me
Day 10 of Kindness to me
Day 11 of Kindness to me
Day 12 of Kindness to me
Day 13 of Kindness to me
Day 14 of Kindness to me

If you are like me, and you are used to your life revolving around what you do for others you may find this challenge to be very challenging!  

I struggled to create that list last year and I struggled even more to do the things on the list.  I look forward to having greater success this year!

photo credit -
 3. Create a self-appreciation or self-validating ritual that I can turn always to, to reaffirm my healing journey.  This is a collection of thoughts / meditations, reading materials, music, home spa ideas, prayers or intentions, aroma therapy, peaceful corner that I have always close at hand.   The idea is to create an oasis ritual that I have access to whenever I need to nurture myself.  An example for a place to start. 

Let us celebrate Valentine’s Day this year with not only sharing love with others but also by remembering to love and validate ourselves!

Please feel free to share your successes with me!
Renate Dundys Marrello
2014 – 01 – 27 

Tuesday, January 20, 2015

Reflections on Healing after estrangement: Change and Starting Something New

Healing is about change.
About embracing something different
A symbol of change is starting something new.

For a long time now I have been following the lunar cycle; learning when the moon rises and sets, following the waxing and waning of the moon.   Recently I started learning more about ancient rituals and symbolism around the phase of the moon.  And I realized that those symbols relate to life, to the planting and harvesting of the ideas and intentions of our lives.

And healing is a cycle of releasing the old harvest (the bad experiences) and planting a new crop (making room for changes).  I decided to embrace this symbol of cycles as a healing tool.   My meditation evolves and grows as I learn and discover.  But always I have one intention in mind, to bring new ideas into my life that will make my days richer and fuller in meaning.

New moon - photo credit unknown
The “New Moon”, in the lunar ritual cycle, stands for a new beginning, for receiving and creating anew.

So with this in mind I decided to create a “new moon ritual” that allows me to meditate on this concept.  I wanted to create a space where I could make this a special and significant time:

  • To reflect upon the new beginnings I want to make.  
  • To creating something new and different in my life
  • To allowing healing to flow into my life
  • To change my thought patterns

I stated by asking myself some questions:

  • What is it that I want now, in the aftermath of all that has happened?
  • What would I like the patterns of my life now and into the future look like?
  • How would I like to feel and what emotions do I want to embrace?
  • Which changes can I take responsibility for to make them happen in my life?
  • Where do I see myself headed?
  • When do I see myself arriving at this destination?

The ritual I created is simple:

  • A detox soak in the tub in the dark of early morning near the time of the rising new moon. (symbol - to wash away old negative feelings that no longer work for me or are no longer wanted in my life and to be aligned with new beginnings) 
  • I light candles for soft lighting. (symbol - light my path to new destinations)
  • I have soft music playing and / or a prepared meditation! (to guide my mind toward the thoughts I wish to embrace) 
  • I give myself the gift of time.  Time for me to reflect on the changes and new beginnings I am making.

I allow my intensions to flow; I ask for those things that I value to become apparent in my life:

  • I ask for peace and happiness and gratitude to flow abundantly into my life
  • I ask that I be more aware of those things in my life that bring me peace and joy
  • I ask to be open to embracing these gifts of happiness with exuberance and enthusiasm.
  • I ask to be conscious of new thoughts, idea and creative opportunities when they appear in my life.

For me, incorporating a new ritual is just one more way to connect mindfully with those things that bring joy into my life.  The act of verbalizing my intensions through ritual, allows me to courageously connect with those things that I am grateful for and to consciously choose and embrace change and move forward in my healing journey 

It is one more way for me to distinguish between those things that I cannot change and those things which I have the power to change.  Rituals like this are one more tool in my “wellness toolkit” that makes it possible for me to find peace in my heart, to reach for joy and enthusiasm and energy, to face today just as it is.

Renate Dundys Marrello
2014 – 01 – 20

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Sunday, January 18, 2015

Reflecting on Estrangement and a book about the journey of grief and healing?

I want to thank all of you my dear readers for your continual support and encouraging comments.   I have been writing about my experience with estrangement in my journal for the past 3 years.  I was estranged in May 2009, the first couple of years I confess, are almost a complete blur of grief.  It was starting to journal my feelings (Dec 2011) that was actually the first step I took toward healing.

I started my "Reflections on Life" facebook page shortly afterwards to trace my "journey of reflective thoughts", and then started my blog here (Feb 2013).  I have been trying to express thoughts and ideas that swirl through my mind. 

At first I was very timid, filled with fear of the repercussions.  I found myself wondering repeatedly, does my story reflect the experiences of other estranged parents?  Will my expressing of my thoughts and feeling alienate the "estrangers" even more? 

I have been overwhelmed by the heartfelt and generous words of praise and encouragement.  Hearing from you that I am also saying what you have felt the need to say has inspired me to keep going.  

Many of you have asked me if I would consider writing a book.  I want to admit to you that the prospect overwhelms me.

Can I do this?  Can I write about the experience of estrangement from our point of view and do it in such a manner that you the reader can gain solace and hope. Do it in such a way that others who have not been affected might come to understand us better.  Do it to leave a legacy for our estranging children to recognize the enormity of the consequences of their actions.

This question has been sitting on my mind for months now, and each time I have faced it I have sidestepped making a commitment to the project. 

Partly it is the fear of facing full on all the emotions we all experience.  To write a book about dealing and healing, a journey through estrangement, requires opening up and examining all those wounds once more.   It is a daunting process. 

And yet at the same time I realize that every day I face the trauma of the experience and make choices about how to navigate my day.  Writing about the process would allow me to face those same choices but offer others an opportunity to see the tools I have developed for handling the emotions and working through them to regain my life.  

The prospect that my work might benefit others is what inspires me to now take on this project. However, I also realize the fragility of my resolve. 

I know that on a bad day I might get stuck and not follow through on my intension.  And so I ask you my dear readers to be with me on this journey.  As I share parts of my book with you here, let me know if I am on the right track or remind me of what is most helpful to you.  Share with me your needs so that I can work through the darker days with hope that it is all worth it in the end.

Renate Dundys Marrello

Friday, January 16, 2015

Reclaiming Life After Being Estranged - A Healing Story Part 3

Over and over again I hear that "change is possible".  There are so many messages out there about this.  The challenge really is in believing that change is possible. 

When I first started recovering from the shock and trauma of being estranged by my Adult Child, (versus living in the shock and trauma) I had to remember that I was somebody before I became a mother and now I just have to rediscover who that somebody was.  I had to give up fighting the old and embrace the new.  

JUST!   Makes it Sound simple enough right?   But the journey toward that goal was (and sometimes even continues to be) so wrapped up in my perception of myself as mother that it was incredibly hard to disentangle all the bits of my life that predate motherhood.  

I kept coming up against these questions:

“Who am I when I am not a mother?”
"Who am I when I am not focused on trying to do everything in my power to make my children happy?" 
"Who was I before?"
And "Does that person still exist somewhere hidden deep inside?"

And one of the things that I came face to face with was that my need to make others happy was tied to my need to be appreciated.  It was something I felt as a teen, you know that feeling of needing to fit in, to be accepted.  It was like I transmuted that need into “pleasing my family and making others happy was a fundamental extension of that old me. Something that I never resolved in all the "business" of parenting.  Something that has come back to haunt me.

When I was confronted with no longer being able to please my adult child, I lost way more than just a relationship with her; I also lost a relationship with myself.  For if my need to be appreciated can’t come from making her happy how will I fill that void?  How will I find acceptance?  How will I fit in?

Therefore, the first change I had to address was my need for validation / appreciation.  The questions I was left facing were “why do I need outside validation? And why have I never learnt how to validate myself?"

That led me into a whole bunch of research into building self-esteem and self-worth.  My challenge was to change the way I spoke to myself and the way I treated myself. I had to change my reasons for doing things for others from

“If I do good things for them, they I will feel and show their appreciation to me”


“If I do good things I will appreciate myself for doing good things, and being a good person.”

I learnt that as long as I felt the former I was giving control to others.  They could withhold their appreciation or validation and thus destroy and devalue me, leaving me devastated and empty.

When I learnt to appreciate myself for my good qualities, even when others do not appreciate those actions I retain my value because my self-worth now is linked with my own appreciation for the good things that I do.

This was one of the first fundamental changes that I made in my thinking and it was a pivotal part of my healing journey. 

This change in attitude allowed me to say:   I did a good job as a parent and just because my estranging adult child does not appreciate nor recognize it, does not mean that it is untrue.  I am still a good parent.  I did good things as a parent.  I am a good person. Whether I am recognized by others for this quality or not, does not change the truth of the fact.  Empowering thoughts!

These are new and healthier thinking habits.  I now realize that I have fundamentally changed in quite a profound way. This is good!

Along with a change in fundamental thinking habits I have had to re-examine what I invest my time into.

Parenting takes up so much of our time over so many years.  Many of our interests and hobbies were sublimated to make room for parenting.  And then there naturally was the anticipation that at some point in time there would be grandchildren to devote time to.  So when this future is taken away we are left with these enormous chunks of time that now stand empty of purpose.

That is a huge gap to fill. And when the empty time gets filled with backward reflections inevitably we get stuck in the past. Or sometimes we get stuck in the unprofitable place of "what could have been".  Neither of these is a healthy place to live for it robs us of enthusiasm for today and the joyful anticipation of tomorrow that we fundamentally deserve.

One day I found myself reflecting upon this notion and thought back to being a child myself, and then a teenager and young adult.  I never lacked for creative ideas of things to do.  My days were chock full of my many and varied interests.

I determined that it was time to get back to that frame of mind.  Here was my opportunity to make a major change; to re-embrace that vitality and enthusiastic outlook on life.  This was the second challenge I embraced in my path toward change.

My goal became to bring a childlike quality into my days.  I decided to start looking for things that I could take pleasure in.  For example, I took up sky watching and learnt about the lunar cycle.  I started doing research into any topic that caught my fancy.  I started to participate in various challenges (example “rewild your life”).  I tried to learn how to play again!  Actually I worked very hard at learning how to play again!

It sometimes felt foreign, like I was trying to be something I wasn't.  
But gradually I got into the spirit of things.  

Now when I feel foolish (like the time I climbed on the wall and walked along the stones) I recognize that I don’t so much "feel foolish" as much as I fear that others will look at me like I am foolish. 

And slowly I have accepted that I have to let go of my fear of what others think, because they are going to think something anyways, regardless of what I do!  So they might as well make fun of me for having fun over any of the other things they could find fault with!  I slowly am regaining my "spark of madness".

A third fundamental change that I made was in my changing awareness of what is important.  I decided that this moment, the now, this minute in my journey is more important than the goal or the destination. I had to come to terms with and accept that too much of my life was spent in “doing something now for some future benefit”.

Even parenting had this kind of “goal” attached to it.  If I am a good parent then my children will be happy and then we will have a good relationship and we will have good times in the future when they are happy in their lives.  

Sure there were many times that I was invested in the “moment” of parenting.  And just like many other parents, I too can look back on those special cherished moments.  However, always the goal was there that the purpose of the good parenting was to develop good character in my children, to mold them into nice people.  And always there was this “special goal” that someday the process would lead me to being a grandparent and to live vicariously through the wonder of a grandchild.  So when that goal / reward was taken from me I felt an extreme loss.  I did not place enough value in the moment and placed too much emphasis on the "expected outcome".  When that expected outcome was taken away it somehow diminished the purpose of the journey.

So now bereft of that much anticipated future, where do I go now? First I had to make peace with the fact that the journey was the journey!  The outcome does not have the value that I attached to it.  Only the journey mattered.  And I traveled that road, that part of my life as well as I was able under the circumstances and with the knowledge that I had.

Now however, out of necessity I have had to reevaluate and my intentions have had to change. 

My goal now is to live out the days that I have remaining in conscientious appreciation of the "specialness" of NOW.  I strive each day to appreciate each moment as a unique part of the journey of life.

This instant, right now, is all that I have and this is the only moment that is important. Not what happened last week, last month, last year, not next week, next month, some time in the future.  ONLY NOW.

Now don't get me wrong, we still need goals and intentions. We need to wake up in the morning with plans that excite us and motivate us.   However in the process of working towards those goals we must never lose sight of the fact that our lives happen in the minutia of what happens in the now. We need to remember that each little step along the way has significance above and beyond how the future may or may not unfold.

I have embraced mindfulness practices.  Meditation and  focused thought are now part of my routine.


I have started a daily gratitude journal. I open my eyes more often to what blessings I have.  I see and I notice things that I used to take for granted. 

I realize that this is an ongoing project that will evolve and change over time.   But I am in motion towards feeling better and better by living here and now.

As always I want to remind you my dear reader that this is not a “quick fix”.  It does not magically “take away the sorrow and grief”.   However, it does allow me to live, at peace with the knowledge that I am moving forward in healing. And that, in my humble opinion, is so much healthier for me than when I was living in the past with constant repetition through my mind of the unchanging regrets and recriminations.

Renate Dundys Marrello 

Wednesday, January 14, 2015

Reclaiming Life After Being Estranged - A Healing Story Part 2

There is a writer, Joshua Coleman that proposes that it is the parent that can bring about the healing of the family rift.  He is a psychologist and I did read his work. He proposes that all that is required is an apology and a willingness to take all the blame and happiness is the end result.  Communicate and accept that it is all your fault and the rift will be healed!

At one point I did "buy" what he was selling.   I did the apology! As a matter of fact I wrote several heartfelt letters of apology accepting the blame for everything that ever went wrong and a willingness to try to start over!

They got me zero response! 

All I got was still more silent treatment. I was not abject enough I guess. Maybe I did not prostate myself at her feet enough!  Possibly I did not totally humiliate myself enough.  Bottom line, in her estimation, even my apology was "not good enough!"  I was once again a failure. 

I anguished and it hurt incredibly to write these  letters, taking and accepting all the blame for everything that I inadvertently did wrong ever in her life. 
I humbled myself to accept all my faults, real, imagined known and unknown.  Whatever fault there was in leading to her feeling the way she did I was willing to accept all the blame. I was willing to ask for forgiveness for every sin real or imagined she conceived me to be guilty of.  And, for this I was once again slapped in the face with the rejection of silence.

And in that silence I started to have new thoughts and new insights.  In that silence there started the seeds of the big revelations that unfolded before me.

You see, the problem was that in doing this apology exercise, in taking all the blame upon mself, I felt even worse about myself.  

Not only was I an estranged parent, I was now totally stripped of all self-esteem and self-worth.  I was this total nobody.  A failure as a parent.  I had failed as a human being.  I was a failure.  I even failed to make an acceptable adequate apology!  I was a complete utter total failure. 

And in facing these feelings, totally devastated, I approached the darkest days of my life.

I did not care if I lived or died. In fact I almost died.  I was distracted with my sorrow and did not see an oncoming vehicle and I was hit.  I could have been killed!

And in that moment of walking away from that almost terminal accident I realized something vital, that I wanted to live! And I realized that in order to do that I had to reclaim my self-esteem.

I stated analyzing things differently.  I looked at my apology and realized that in taking all the blame I was absolving my estranging daughter of her guilt for the actions that she took.  In making her right, I was I was saying that her actions were acceptable and that I somehow deserved to be treated this way for my failures.

And then the thought exploded into my mind.  She is not right, her actions are not okay!   And I should not have to demean myself to win her approval.

No one has that right over me! 

No one has the right to force me to walk on bended knee in total humiliation to attempt to make someone else feel good and powerful.

No one has the right to destroy my self-respect so they can feel superior. 

No one has the right to demand my respect without giving me respect in return.  No one!  Not even my daughter.

It was then that I started taking back my human dignity and now I will let no one take that away from me. Never again! 

I am as worthy as my daughter is of being treated with respect and kindness and consideration.  I will not grovel and beg for what is my right as a human being. I will not take the role of second class citizen to make anyone else, even my daughter, feel superior.

That was the turning point in my life after estrangement.

Now, I will only own up to the mistakes I truly believe that I have made.   I know for example, I failed to teach enough about morality and socially acceptable constraints on self-aggrandizement.  I followed the advice of good old Dr. Spock to teach self-esteem but I forgot to balance that with teaching that it is also vital to appreciate the value of others and to respect their esteem

The reality is that because of my failure to teach this balance, my daughter learnt to feel that she is superior to others and deserves better treatment than others.  She feels she is better than me and that she is entitled to my groveling.  She feels that I ought to worship her regardless of how badly she treats me.

I do totally accept responsibility for this failure!  
Yes, I will even apologize for this!

However I do not apologize for her behaviour as a result of her grandiose beliefs in herself.   She is accountable for her behaviour and her own choices.  She has to be accountable for her bullying and manipulative tactics. She is responsible for the lies she has told about me behind my back.

Once I started to change my perspective on what I need to be apologetic for, I started to find peace.  

A deep inner peace that comes from knowing I did my best as a parent, with the information I had.
  I was the best parent I knew how to be with the resources I had available. 
I may have made mistakes, but they were neither intentional nor were they made with malice or evil intent or forethought to cause harm!
  They were simple human errors made by a human trying hard to do right.

I can no longer beleaguer myself into saying I need to do more.  I have done more and then more, and then some more, and then even some more; and that only got me disrespect, put downs, name calling, shunning and rejection.

Now I will respect myself first and foremost and my apologies will reflect this.  I will never ever again apologize for the sake of apologizing, nor will I take  the blame for things that I am not accountable for.

Now I reclaim my rights to be treated with respect.  I will no longer eat crow just for the sake of eating crow.

I am a good person.  I deserve to be treated well.  I deserve to be respected and I will not accept less than what I deserve.  And if the consequence of this is that I will not have my daughter in my be it.

It is more important to have my self-respect than to have such a demanding and inconsiderate person in my life.  It is more important that I feel good about myself than to allow a demeaning person to continually tear me down.  No one has the right to take my dignity away from me. 

Sure it would be nice to have a relationship with my daughter.  However, I am no longer willing to do so at the expense of my self-esteem, my dignity, my self-worth.  

A relationship is built on equality.  I will not give respect to a person who disrespects me.  Respect must be a two way street or there is no relationship.  I will no longer allow myself to be dominated, browbeaten, subjugated or coerced.

After more than five years there is a whole lot of water under the bridge. There were a whole lot of missed opportunities to reply to apologies, to reconnect.  Opportunities my daughter did not grasp as she continued to punish with the emotional abuse of rejection and silent treatment.

One day, not too long ago, I decided to look up what jail sentences were for various crimes.  I discovered that "violent crimes" are the only ones with 5 or more years of incarceration!    So punishing a parent for the failure in parenting is equal to a violent crime!?   I don't think so!  And this does not even address the fact that criminals are given trials and defense lawyers.  

I don’t see my estranging daughter doing anything towards creating a solution.  What has been her contribution toward communication or resolution?  

She has demanded.  
She has tried to manipulate me with ultimatums.  
She has slandered my name and defamed my character. 

Where is her willingness to apologize for those actions?  Those actions were not based on anything that I did or did not do as a parent.  How does she justify those deeds? 

In the movie "The Big Easy", there is a scene where Anne Osborne turns to Remy and says, “Why don't you just face it, Remy? You're not one of the good guys anymore.”

And this is what I want to say to my daughter, “After the way you have treated me, face it, you’re not one of the good guys anymore”.

So now, as part of my healing journey, I post what I feel.  
I have nothing to hide! 
I will not be shamed into feeling guilt anymore. 
I will not take blame for things I did not do.

I did not do anything so horrific as to warrant this kind of treatment.   If you have a problem with me, face me and say to my face what is wrong.  Allow me to defend my honour! Don't go shaming me and vilifying me and trashing me behind my back!  That is not right.

I pronounce that I too have my rights!

I have the right to be treated fairly.

I have the right to a defense.

I have the right to be respected.

I do not deserve to be treated abusively, to be lied about, to be rejected, to be unheard. 

People can and do chose sides. Most have already done so based on hearing only one side of the story, hers.   They did not even feel I was important enough to be given an opportunity to voice my side of the story! 

I now know I have nothing that I can say that will change their minds any more than I can change the mind of my daughter into seeing that her course of actions were wrong.  Having lost it all, I have nothing left to lose. And in knowing that fact, I have gained great strength.  I have learnt that I can survive rejection and abandonment!

And since I have nothing left to lose, I find that I have lost the fear of loss as well!

This knowledge has given me the freedom and the strength to embrace the reality of my life as it is now. 

This understanding has liberated me.

I am free to voice my opinions. 

I am at liberty to express what I feel is my truth. 

This is healing, and that is the journey that I am on. 

Renate Dundys Marrello
2015 - 01 - 14

Thursday, January 1, 2015

Reclaiming Life After Being Estranged - A Healing Story Part 1

One of the problems with being estranged is that you no longer live in the present.

You live in the past; reviewing the events of the past, trying to figure out what went wrong, what you could have done better, what you would change if you had a change and endlessly in a loop you go over and over again the events in your life that lead up to being estranged.

Or when not living in the past, you live in the future imagining happy reunions, or wondering about how you will react when and should and if the estranging adult child choses to return. What would you say, how might you feel, what would you think, what would you ask of the estranger?

So our present moments often become filled with memories, regrets about the past, sorrow created by the past, emptiness because of what has been taken from us in the past, and worry about what could or might be in the future.  

We look back or we look forward instead of seeing the present moment.  

It took me a long time to understand this.  I would say, "but I feel sad in the present moment."  Right!?  Have you been in this place, where you are sad right now and you think you are in the present?  I have been studying mindfulness for a year now and finally it dawned on me what has evaded my understanding for so long.

I am not sad in the present moment…I am sad because I am looking back at what I have missed out on and what has happened to me to get to this present moment.  The present moment is not making me feel sad. 

In the present moment I may be sitting in a comfortable chair drinking a cup of coffee looking out the window at the scenery. 
Does noticing the comfortable chair make me feel sad?
Does drinking the good cup of coffee make me feel sad? 
Does looking at the scenery make me feel sad?
NO!   It is my memories of the past that make me feel sad.   It is my thoughts about what might have been or could have been that make me sad.  It is where I am in relationship to my thoughts that is making me sad.

This past summer I was on an adventure with my sister exploring the Grand River in Ontario.     We stopped for picture opportunities along the length of the river and I had an amazing revelation.  It came about in the form of a simple conversation we were having about taking pictures.  It was an innocent conversation about why we take pictures and what captures our interest.  How the conversation went I no longer remember but the statement that has stuck with me ever since was this “when I have my camera in my hand I am more mindful of this moment in time; of what I am seeing and experiencing, and I look with an eye of expecting to find something wonderful to capture with my photograph, my mind does not stray to think about other things, my mind is in the moment”

It is interesting how powerful that statement has been for me. It opened up for me the opportunity to reflect that when I have a camera in my hand I see more!   When I am looking at a scene with my artistic photographer’s eye I focus differently on the image, what I see becomes central to moment. 

Without the camera I just see the scene and the input is a vague “that’s nice”.  With the camera ready to be focused on an image I take longer to look and see details.  I experience the contrasts, what is behind the object and how will that look as a back drop to the image.

For example; without a camera I see a pretty flower, I may even recognize what it is.  I notice the colour and the shape.  The image enters my mind “that is pretty” and I smile and I move on.  With a camera I still see a pretty flower, but now I wonder how can I take a good picture of the flower?  Will those leaves make a good back drop or do I need to get down on the ground and shoot upwards to capture the sky in the back ground?   Will that concrete wall make a good back drop if I change the focal point so the flower is crisp and clear but the background becomes hazy?  Do I want to change lenses and get an extreme close up so that the stamen and pistols are the central attraction of the picture or do I want a longer lens to bring the whole flower into the picture?  Deliberating about taking a picture causes me to notice more, to be more completely in the moment.  In concentrating on capturing that image I experience more of that moment. 

Another example, when I am on a hike without a camera in hand I often find my mind wandering thinking about other “stuff”, those ruminating thoughts that wander here and there and all too often lead back to the past.  I then get to the end of the hike and realize that I hardly noticed the beauty of the changing scenery around me.  Yes I walked but I was not participating in the moment of the walk.

With my camera in hand I look at each tree and stump and clump of foliage for the hidden magic.  I see the small mushrooms growing in crevasses in the wood.  I notice the tiny wildflower, almost hidden by last year’s mulching leaves.  I see the twisted trunks that look like embracing couples or those roots that bend around a rock in precarious support.  I see more with a camera in my hand because I look for more.

I look back and I realize that “camera in my hand” has been a saving grace for me in the years after being estranged.  With camera in hand I focused on the present moment.  I look at my collection of photos and I remember where I was and what I was doing because through the lens of my camera I was present in that moment.  The days for which I have no "photographic memory" I know were days filled with looking at the past with regrets or worrying about the future.

This past year I have been focusing a lot of my research reading on the nature of healing from emotional wounds.  Something I came across over and over again was the notion of “mindfulness”.   Mindfulness has become something that I do for myself.  I started to start each day by reading a message that I had written to myself:

“My intention is to pay attention to each and every moment of my life, non-judgmentally.
To be mindfully involved in purposeful action, focused attention, and grounded in the current experience.
To be filled with a boundless sense of curiosity.”

This became one of the first healing tools that I incorporated into my healing journey.  I found simple strategies that worked for me to bring my mind to focus on the NOW, on the PRESENT MOMENT.  I started to live my life as if I had a camera in my hand!

I have been working hard at “RE” learning how to live mindfully.  This lesson has been challenging for me.  I have been working diligently on this for just over a year now.  I am getting better!  I am faster at ending the ruminations when they start.  I still start every day with a reminder to remain in the moment.  I still read my “start the day with Mindfulness pages”.   I still rely on my mindfulness exercises to bring me back to the moment.  But the successes are starting to show.  

I enjoy each day “as it is” more, because I spend less time in the imaginary time frame of “what might have been”.  Oh yes I still have my “moments” when I flash back.  Yes I still have moments when the past haunts me, but I am getting better at closing the door on the past and returning to the present.  

When you, my dear reader, are ready to follow in your own healing journey I wish you the joy of those small successes that bring you back to living your own life fully once again.

Renate Dundys Marrello 
2015 – 01  01  

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