Wednesday, February 29, 2012

Whitney Houston - Saint or Sinner?

We’re a funny people. We tend to see things in extremes. Whitney Houston’s death is a prime example.

The first rush was to canonize her as one of the greatest voices of our time, perfection. And this is true. So she’s a saint.

Then came a second round of judgment, vilifying her for her addiction, resulting in the loss of her fabulous vocal range and, perhaps, of her life. So now she’s a sinner.

Maybe it’s difficult to be the vessel for a voice like that. Maybe it’s a burden as well as a blessing. Maybe she did not always make the best choices. Maybe she’s a saint and a sinner. Maybe she was just doing the best she could.

During an interview with Oprah where Oprah was pushing Whitney pretty hard about her drug use, Whitney said about her husband Bobby Brown, “He was my drug.” She shared how she asked God to give her just one day of strength and she would leave what the whole world witnessed in their reality show Being Bobby Brown as a toxic relationship. That one day came and she left. Here’s where we get into that extreme thinking again. She was out of the toxic situation so she should be fine now, right?

Well, no. See, the thing with addiction is that walking away, breaking free is only the first step. After that the real work begins. At that point, free from him and trying to free herself from drugs, she may have experienced painful clarity about how deep in the mire she was. She might have been looking back in disbelief, wondering how and why she allowed what she did. There’s a lot of shame and a lot of pain. Shame and pain are emotions that are tough to bear when you’re feeling strong but when you are vulnerable? It’s easy to understand why the numbing effect of drugs would be a temptation.

Relapse is the norm, not the exception.

So maybe Whitney Houston was neither a saint nor a sinner.  Maybe she was just an immensely talented woman trying to find her way. Maybe we can remember her for her glorious voice and her love for her daughter and family. And we can choose to believe that she did the very best she could and hope that she is finally at peace.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

Valentine Love

Every other commercial right now is about Valentine's Day and romance. What a limited view of love! I'm in love right now in so many different ways it makes my head spin. I'm celebrating love of the unconditional kind; love I give freely and receive in abundance.

A dear friend gave me this fused glass heart. I am wearing it every day in February as a symbol of the love I have in my life. My watch word for 2012 is allow and I am consciously choosing to allow in more love. Part of this is simply naming what is all around me, recognizing what I already have.

I am blessed with a generous and loving son. He recently got a gift card for Red Robin, his favorite restaurant, and after a celebratory dance his next impulse was to invite me as his guest for dinner. What a love.

I'm currently taking a class in Qigong, an ancient practice of mindful movement synchronized with the breath combined with intention and meditation. The instructor, Sharon Otto Trekel from the Inner Well Institute,  offers just the right mix of lecture and practice to make a beginner feel both capable and inspired. The energy in the room is palpable. I love the way this makes me feel... free, strong, centered, peaceful. This new form of exercise and the new friends I've made from the group are a joy.

I have another class called Creating A Forgiving Heart. Amazing! The people in this class are full of courage and willingness to forgive. While you might suspect this to be energy depleting work, it is just the opposite! The emphasis is on letting go of past hurts, practicing compassion, and moving gently into forgiveness. It is not about forgetting, it is about remembering, allowing (There's that word again!) and moving into joy. What's not to love about that?

I have the best friends! Just yesterday one shared a slide show that captured the unfolding progress of her needlework picture of a bicycle with its basket full of blooms. She then showed me the finished product with "Il s'agit de voyage" added. It was a gift for me! She googled the intended English phrase "It's about the journey" and instead embroidered the translation in recognition of my study of French. How can one not feel loved by such a thoughtful gift?

First slide from the slide show

Finished product, ready to be framed

My son and I got this Valentine from another friend. It is handmade and features a Yorkie. We have two Yorkies, CJ and Buddy. Adding to the charm was the fact that the Valentine was made by the participants of a sewing circle at a local sheltered workshop. Love is flowing all around me.

Here's a little Valentine gift for you all, my mother's short bread cookie recipe. These cookies are melt in your mouth good. If you want to be especially festive, you can put a drop of red food coloring in and make them pink. These burn easily so check them at ten minutes. Enjoy!

Short Bread Cookies

325 degree oven

5 T corn starch
1 cup powdered sugar
4 cups flour
1 pound butter

Sift dry ingredients together.
Combine with butter.
Shape into roll and refrigerate till firm.
Slice into cookies.
Bake 10-12 minutes.

I'm planning to bake a batch and simply give a few to everyone I encounter on February 14th. So spread a little love of your own. Smile at a stranger. Give a sincere compliment. Donate some money. Do a kind deed. Pay it forward. Forgive someone. Ask for forgiveness. Thank the people who have helped you become who you are. And most of all... appreciate the love in your life.