grounded. and lifted.

as you know, daisey and i were off to utah for thanksgiving. that is, until we weren't. 

all packed up and bundled up (daisey with her new pink sweater and down coat to brave the utah piddle breaks), we settled into one of those fancy black cars to the airport (since daisey isn't allowed on the airporter shuttle bus), well early to accommodate the tuesday-before-thanksgiving holiday crush. gliding up the swooping offramp to SFO, i reached in my wallet to pay the guy, and realized, "i don't have my driver's license!" 

now we all know we need a government-issued photo ID to fly. (i had lost my wallet, and had applied for a new license, but only had the temporary photo-less paper from the DMV). so i made a quick decision ... instead of going into the airport and spending my precious time finding out if they'd let me through security, i asked the driver if he would take us back to my house to get my passport and back again to the airport ... maybe i could still make my flight. he turned the car around and we raced home. i must've told him at least three times, "i know exactly where my passport is." his driving pleased me. he drove as i would have driven. he executed smart lane changes to make the best time possible, and we would still -- maybe -- make the flight.

this kind of thing used to send my adrenaline soaring. and i loved it. adrenaline was my fuel. happened often as a photojournalist. insanely desperately racing to get to an assignment, to a news scene, to a last minute flight ... this time, i was relatively calm, with floods of adrenaline rising through my body, followed by ebbs of the attitude: i'll make it if i make it. 

pulled up and dashed into the house to my trusty filing cabinet to the file marked: BIRTH CERTIFICATE /PASSPORT ... but no current passport (only expired ones). whaaaaat? where IS it? i looked high and low, upstairs downstairs, in all the other files, in my other filing cabinets, the clock ticking. i looked and looked, and 20 minutes into the search, i knew. i wasn't going to make this flight. i was grounded.

for a moment, that other flood rose upward in my system, the surge that brings on tears. i could feel it coming, to right up behind my eyes. i wasn't going to get to go to utah to be with my brother and my sister-in-law and my nephews for thanksgiving. my parents aren't here anymore. i was going to be ALONE for the most important holiday of the year. ALL ALONE. 

and then, as suddenly as the surge started, it diminished, ebbed. no flood here. no tears. ok. i'm not going to utah. i'm staying right here. 

told the driver what happened, paid him for all his good driving and kindness, dragged my bags back into the house, made calls cancelling catsitters, and called my brother. grounded.

the reality set in that i was home -- not in utah -- for this four-day holiday. nothing but time and space. got invited to several thanksgiving dinners. made plans to see friends. all was well.

i had heard for so long from all the great spiritual teachers of our time -- eckhart tolle, byron katie, and my teacher adyashanti -- (and jesus and buddha probably said it, too) that whenever you argue with reality, when you want something other that what is actually happening ... you create your own suffering. if i wanted to be in utah but wasn't in utah, then i would suffer, i would be sad and mad and frustrated. this time, i didn't even have to try to tame my mind. none of those thoughts came, thoughts of being a victim of the circumstances, nor did the self-critical thoughts that usually come, like "how could you be so stupid to let this happen?" i was miraculously ok with being grounded. weird. 

this whole thing is very weird, i thought. i'm usually so organized. i'm not at all flakey. there must be a reason why this is happening ... so i headed up to my meditation room and sat, asking "why am i not going to utah for thanksgiving? what is this all about?" and clearly *got* that it was about aloneness

this aloneness thing has been a real bugaboo for me. makes me incredibly sad and makes me anxious. and at times, i'll do anything to not feel that aloneness. eat too much. go to the movies in a tizzy. work till all hours of the night. just to not feel alone and lonely. my therapist says that everyone feels alone, even people in happy, stable relationships for 50 years. so it's not just about being single and living alone. huh?

wednesday i got up and went to meditate straight away. this is the best way for me to start the day, to meditate before my mind gets distracted by everything else. but i admit it happens rarely. i often get distracted the moment i open my eyes.

so. i meditated. and asked the Universe (or God, Spirit, Truth, Life, Higher Power, Christ, Buddha, Allah, Whatever-you-want-to-call-it) two things. the first thing i can't remember. the second thing i asked was: "please show me what it is i need to learn or see about aloneness." i have learned to just put the question out there, and wait for a response. so finished up. then yoga. then hopped in the car and pulled out heading to a nearby trailhead for a run. but i wasn't paying attention and hit the car parked across the street from my driveway. 

now one might think i'd really lose it here. i thought i'd lose it. this is the kind of thing that usually really spins me out, and makes that critical voice inside my head into a monster. the flood of adrenaline/crying/criticism started to rise, then just stopped, ebbed back to calm. go inside, write a note, leave it on the dashboard, and drive to the trailhead. which is exactly what i did. no drama. i hit a car. all is well. all will be repaired. that's what insurance is for. calm. 

whaaaaaat? no drama? NO CREATING MY OWN SUFFERING? ... no. i didn't even have to try. didn't have to wrangle my monkey mind. peace just came. 

the day started out perfectly with meditation/yoga/run and just sailed on all day. the car owner came to the door later, we exchanged information, she was completely chill. no drama. the whole thing was kind of surreal. 

i was a little concerned about the wednesday evening before the thanksgiving holiday. it's like a friday night on steroids. A VERY IMPORTANT EVE. and i'm often a mess on friday nights. everyone racing home to their loved ones to go have a super duper duper fun weekend. and i'm often alone. so i was trying to be careful about how i was going to spend my thanksgiving eve. 

i had planned on taking take daisey to sausalito in the late afternoon. but i waffled, didn't seem like the right place to go. couldn't make up my mind. what about muir beach? what about tiburon? what about the dog park? i actually sat down on my bathroom floor and shut my eyes, trying to get where it was we were to go, where was the right place to go? (i've been trying to live more by intuition lately, and it works when i can hear it). finally i got we were going to tiburon, and off we went. 

the waterfront in tiburon is daisey's favorite. she can romp off-leash on the lush grass with all the other little doggies. and it's beautiful for me, too, looking out over the bay towards angel island, the golden gate bridge and san francisco beyond. and it's oh so familiar, having grown up in belvedere-tiburon. 

but i had some trepidation. worried i'd be upset seeing all the families together.

it was a magnificent afternoon, clear and crisp. daisey romped. shortly along the path, i saw up ahead a big family coming toward me. multiple generations, all strolling together in a pack. a small flood rose in me, then ebbed. i saw an older gentleman in a wheelchair being pushed by his strapping grandson. more women, men and children, chitterchattering away. but when i looked in the eyes of that older gentleman, who didn't look particularly lonely, something in his eyes told me he felt alone. 

a flash of insight struck me: we are all alone. each and every one of us. no matter what our outer circumstances. no matter if we have people all around us or not. we are born alone and we die alone. and that being alone is painful and that we all carry that pain. it is part of the human condition, and thus connects us all, making us all the same. all-one. alone. and yet truly connected. 

this realization gave me deep compassion and LOVE for that gentleman. and for myself, and for that whole chitterchattering family. and for everyone who came along my path that afternoon. and for my family in utah. and for everyone i know all over the world. and for everyone, for all people, everywhere. PURE LOVE.

i walked, daisey trotted and sniffed, we chatted with folks, got a latté. all was well. 

i spent my weekend among friends ... eating, celebrating, hiking, drinking, sharing. made plans to see my brother and family here after christmas. and just relaxed.

grounded. and lifted. beyond my wildest dreams. so so thankful.

i was also reminded that i am not alone at all. if the Universe answers me that quickly and clearly, then i am never alone, because the Universe is so magically and mysteriously there, always.

PS - i still can't remember the first question i asked the Universe, but i know the answer was my hitting that car. i guess i have to ask the question again. i just hope i'm paying more attention next time!