Archive for July, 2009

Advice to a Ten-Year-Old

July 30, 2009

When he asked me what I would say to my ten-year-old self, I was taken aback for a moment. Not only did I not have an immediate answer, I also felt it was too personal to talk about.

It was a strange reaction because the person who had posed the question was my husband. We had finished dinner and were still sitting at table, under the shelter of a small tree. We had too little of this quiet, intimate time together, time to spend in the intimate sort of conversation that only true intimates can have. And here I was, unable and unwilling to say anything.

I know I must have disappointed him when I said, “I don’t know. I’d have to think about it.” It was true enough, but it wasn’t the complete truth. I didn’t tell him that the question seemed to pierce some very private place in me that I was not yet ready to visit.

But the question stalked me for a couple of months and I found myself wondering what I would say to my ten-year-old self.

She was in the throws of change at ten. She had just moved from the only place she had ever really known, thus far, in her young life. That it was the only place she’d known does not mean that it knew her. She couldn’t have voiced it then, but if she could have, she probably would have said that she was not at all certain that any place could know her.

Her body was changing, too. She was getting taller–an odd experience for one who had always been among the smallest in her age group. Her body was also changing in other ways. Hair was sprouting where it had never been and little nubs of breasts were appearing on her chest. She was a bit gangly and awkward. She rode her bicycle around and around the area of a few blocks that summer, in the new town, in the new neighborhood–where she knew no one.

So what would I, a sixty-year-old woman, tell that girl of ten? What would fifty years have done to inform me in a way that would be remotely understandable to, let alone useful to, that girl? I was sitting on the deck of a client friend’s mountain home, early on a Saturday morning, when I asked myself those questions. I had been invited for the weekend and I was sharing that weekend with my client friend, her brother, and another woman, also a client friend. It was glorious to have a weekend to relax in the mountains. Lake Granby was within view, the air was crisp, and my guard against whatever it was that had stopped me cold on the question was down.

But now I was curious. It wasn’t just the advice I might give to my ten-year-old self that interested me, I wanted to know what the others with whom I was sharing this cabin would say to their ten-year-old selves.

Tim was the only one up as early as me, so I wandered indoors and posed the question. I wasn’t at all sure he would be willing to answer it. After all, he might find it as personal as I had or be as stumped for an answer as I had initially been. He wasn’t, on either account. Debbie joined us when we were thick in conversation. Then our host, Peggy, ambled down from her bedroom and joined in.

Here is what my three companions told me they would tell their ten-year-old selves. I won’t attribute any one comment to any one of them, just to keep it interesting and give them a bit of privacy:

  • Stay yourself.
  • Don’t compare yourself with everyone else.
  • Don’t try to figure it all out now.
  • The priests, the teachers, and the ones in charge are not always right. But keep it to yourself until you can do something about it.
  • Be gentle with yourself.
  • You’re amazing! You’re going to be and do so many things that are going to leave an imprint.
  • You have no idea how much potential you have, but you’ll figure it out.
  • Everything is going to be okay.

This last one pretty much says it all for me. But I might add a few of my own:

  • You won’t know it for some time, but this move you’ve just made–the one you didn’t want to make, the one you fought–is actually a turning point that will change the direction of your life for the better.
  • You can be known by places, but you must open yourself to them and let yourself be known.
  • This small corner of your life is a wonderful start, but your life can and will be so much bigger. Take a deep breath and take a running jump right off that cliff. Keep doing it. Live life without a net. You’ll know what that means in a few years, but begin to think about it now.
  •  Yes, you did choose your parents and in a few years, you are going to see what a great choice it was. For now, know that angels are watching over you and that you are being guided. Pay attention. Be open to the guidance.
  • By the way, everyone else has angels watching over them, too, and everyone else is also being guided. Curiously, many people don’t know that.

Well, now that I’ve gotten started, I can see that I could keep going. But I won’t. I’d like to know what advice you would give your ten-year-old self.


Copyright 2009 by Melanie Mulhall

Letting Go

July 5, 2009

I had just taken out a couple of dying elderberry bushes when I injured my knee for the second time in two months. I had tripped on a limb y-joint and I heard the “pop” when  my knee corkscrewed as I went down. For a split second, I was afraid I’d seriously damaged it this time. But when I tested it, limping to the house for an ice bag, it didn’t seem quite so bad as that nauseating popping sound might have suggested.

Still, I realized I needed to take a moment to contemplate what was going on. So I sat on a step with the pack on my knee and did just that. I immediately connected the injury to the telephone conversation I’d had right before going out to do the pruning. My longtime astrologer and dear friend, Sally McDonald, had called to give me details about the cancer she was having surgery for in a few days. The cancer had been a surprise to her. She was still in shock. So was I. And I was afraid for my friend.

Sally was not the first among those dear to me to be dealing with life threatening illness. My husband had been managing life with metastasized prostate cancer for two and a half years. My youngest sister’s hepatitis C had reactivated six months earlier, after a six-year remission following the birth of her son and a liver transplant. While I was ridiculously healthy, those around me were not, and when friends asked me how I seemed to be managing so well, I talked about how I  didn’t believe in death, how grateful I was for every day with my loved ones . . . and how living with their illnesses was a little like living with a persistent and constant slight fever.

I hobbled inside to see what Louise Hay had to say about knee problems. I had a good deal of faith in my own ability to sort out the energetic reasons for problems, but Louise Hay was always a good place to start when it came to physical maladies. Louise related knee problems to fear, inflexibility, stubborn ego and pride. Fear? You bet. Inflexibility? Stubborn ego and pride? Those three were, no doubt, there. I was human, after all. But I wanted to dig deeper.

So I thought about the elderberry bushes. We had been living in our beautiful home for eighteen years and the elderberry bushes had already been mature when we moved in. I had planned to do just a bit of pruning that day, but there was so much dead wood in two or three of them that I ended up removing those completely. It was time to let them go. I knew I needed to do the same thing with one of the lilac bushes. The blue spruce next to it and lilac bush in front of it had edged it right into oblivion.  And a year earlier, I’d hired a friend to take down two trees that were struggling. While there was so much vibrant life in my yard, not everything was making it. Like all mature yards, some things were past their prime and dying.

I realized that a part of me was resisting it. I was resisting the departure of bushes and trees that had been friends for years and I was also resisting the illnesses of those I loved, fearing that they might depart, too. I was trying to hold back time and change. That was where the inflexibility was coming in. Despite my deep spiritual understanding that everything and everyone survives what we think of as death, a part of me was stubbornly hanging on to some point in time in the past, a point in time when bushes and people were younger and healthier.

Of course, at some level, I was clinging to some past version of myself, too. At sixty, I found it curious that I was now likely in the last quarter of my life–if I was lucky. How could so much time have passed? There was so much left for me to be and do.

I realized I needed to let go at a deeper and more profound level than I ever had. I knew that love lived on, that it was the most enduring thing in the universe, that one instant of love for anyone or anything reverberated on and on into infinity. I’d experienced it and I needed to trust it now. And while I’d practiced and taught the art of making death the aly for many years, I needed to trust the very cycle of life and death at a more profound level, too. There comes a time when life and death look back at you when you look in the mirror each morning and I had come around to that very point in this life–as I, no doubt, had come around in life after life before this one. 

Ice, elevation, ibupropin–and a great massage therapist–got the knee back on track. I got my mind, spirit, and emotions back on track, too. I contemplated the divine paradox: none of us are getting out of here alive and all of us are getting out of here alive. I might as well let go and ride the wave of this life.

Three weeks passed. And then I was in a thrift store and came upon a set of gorgeous, never used, Mikasa china: eight plates, twelve bowls, and twelve bread plates. I gaped. And I thought about the china I was using every day at home. My grandmother had purchased it as a wedding present–forty-one years ago. I had left the troubled marriage in 1979. How I had managed to end up with the china, when so much else had been lost, was a long standing mystery. My second husband had been cheerfully eating off that china our entire marriage. It was time to let it go.

As I loaded my cart with the treasure, it occurred to me that this find might not have come to me if I hadn’t heeded the message about letting go and trusting the cycle of life and death. I had wanted to divest myself of that china from another life for some time and my opportunity to do so was presenting itself almost effortlessly.  As soon as I had gotten the message in more profound areas of my life, I was open to it in other, more mundane areas.

Apparently, all I’d had to do was let go.


Copyright 2009 by Melanie Mulhall