Challenge Keywords: teen pregnancy, home foreclosure, compassionate divorce, parenting – anorexia – sexual trauma, Parent Plus loans
Taking a little detour here from what I usually write about. This blog is about what I experienced in my life that brought me to an expansive and remembered way of being. It’s always been part of me, it took a shaking up of things to awaken lost parts of myself that wanted to come home. But ya know what, and this is for you, now, it doesn’t have to be this way for you, all the shaking up. You can simply say no more. From my story may you find wisdom and a new way of seeing how everything around you is much more than what you think it is. If you are going through a similar experience, may it also spark a light within.
Wisdom. We are here to experience life on earth. Some of the experiences we choose to have are challenging. The good news is every experience distills down to wisdom and at the end of each challenge, you’ll find a pearl.
The good times. Through everything I experienced, I do want you to know that my life has also been, and still is, filled with the richness life has to offer. Many laughs, adventures, and beauty filled relationships. But these are stories for another time.
Spirituality & Art. Through all my life challenges, the visual arts have been a connection tool for self-expression and exploring spirituality. Be it making art for myself or with others in group settings. Art weaves its way into the stories.
My Upbringing. In a small Iowa town, I grew up in a middle-class family. Two girls, two boys with the girls being oldest and youngest, ten years apart. I’m the youngest. My dad was a District Manager for an electric company and my mom stayed home to care for the kids until I was in junior high. She learned typing and dictation, then worked as a principal’s assistant for a grade school. I was well cared for and provided for, a happy kid, with a bit of shyness. At least that’s what mainstream called those who viewed the world from a quiet observation, shy.
I also grew up during a time when there were so-called men’s magazines that became mainstream on the store’s magazine racks. You know, the ones where women posed nude. I was very intrigued as a young child to see these as my friend and I found her father’s private stash. Women’s rights and liberation were coming to the forefront as well, and as I got older I viewed these publications as something that were not in women’s best interest, or men’s. For me, they were about sexual power, especially the more hardcore pornography. I feel this view played a role in my sexual relations as I moved on in my life. Keep in mind this was the 1960’s, 70’s. Today it’s everywhere with the internet and social media. It’s more a norm and anyone can share their body and feel a sense of sexual pride. There is freedom in that.
Teen Pregnancy, Spirituality & Art
This was back in the mid-’70s. Teen pregnancy seemed to be on the rise and a common occurrence in high schools. It did not matter what side of the tracks you came from. It happened to me, a seventeen-year-old girl from a middle-class family. My intentions were to have an abortion, that is what my friends went through with, secretly of course. My parents found out about my pregnancy by getting to the mail first and read my pregnancy results. I was a high school senior and my boyfriend was a year ahead of me and in his first year of college. He was open to getting married. I was not. I wanted to go to college and create a life for myself and wanted the same for him. We chose to give the baby up for adoption. My parent’s supported my/our decision and helped me get situated in a home for pregnant teens through Minnesota Catholic Charities. I spent three months living in another state away from my family, friends, and school. I gave birth to a baby boy in March and later was able to return home and complete my senior year of high school. Looking back I would not change a thing. It was all so perfect. I did not feel traumatized being a pregnant teen and giving my baby up for adoption. I did feel a deep sadness that I put my parents through the experience, both emotionally and financially. I recall crying in the back seat on the car ride home telling my parents how sorry I was that I put them through all that. So many tears, so many. When I was in college my boyfriend and I ended our relationship and we went our separate ways. I graduated from college with an art major in graphic design and photography.
Seventeen years later…six months after giving birth to twin daughters, I met California artist, Francine Krause, who’s known as the pioneer of pregnant bellymasks – bellycasts. She was casting a woman’s pregnant form using medical-grade plaster gauze. She did this in the comfort of the woman’s home, and in her art studio. She also sold bellymask kits online (the internet was just getting rolling in the early ’90s). Pregnancy and giving birth was still so fresh for me, I knew this is where I wanted to go with creating an art-based business. Francine and I became good friends, she trained me and I became known as the Chicago area bellymask artist. And what I later termed dimensional portraits. I loved every moment. What an honor to work with my pregnant clients in such an intimate way. I was also commissioned to paint many of the bellymasks with imagery personal to each woman’s pregnancy. From all this, I knew bellymasks were a way for me to celebrate birth and new life, something I was not able to do as a pregnant teen. There was great healing in this.
During my years as a bellymask artist, I participated in a monthly women’s circle. I was introduced to Native American teachings, shamanic practice, Buddhism. I also discovered the world of luminous mandalas, the metaphysical world, and astrology. Since high school, I did not participate in any kind of religious belief system so this was all a new kind of spirituality. It resonated in a deeper way that words cannot express. It opened me up to a world of so much more. So much more than mainstream, mass consciousness, led one to believe. There is another world that is vast and could morph and shapeshift. The seed of consciousness was awakened. I entered the world of feeling energy and observing the world around me and within me. It also became all-consuming in the sense I kept wanting to know more, go deeper.
I ended up selling my bellymask business for several reasons: 1) The healing had come full circle. I came to a place of self-forgiveness and self-compassion for my teen pregnancy experience by going deeper, exploring spirituality, and using art as a tool for expression. 2) I was being called to help out in a bigger way with family finances. This meant getting a full-time job that included health benefits.
Teen pregnancy – healed and complete.
Wisdom: You can take a challenging life experience and transform it into a celebration of life. Be it a new way of living your life and sharing it with others, or simply by enjoying your life. It is like everything being brought back into harmony. A weight is being lifted and you feel lighter. Energy begins to flow freely again and new opportunities and people present themselves.
There is an inner knowing when the time comes to move on and bring a life challenge to closure. There is no second-guessing or doubting yourself. With your awareness, it’s a feeling that can’t be ignored. Trusting fully.
Divorce & Home Foreclosure
Both of these life challenges were happening at the same time.
Back Story – When dating my previous partner, he told me he had herpes. I recall thinking to myself this is a good thing because then we do not have to have sex! It was far from the case, there were ways to have sex, it did not have to be intercourse. Anyway, this thinking had an underlying tone of not being interested in sex throughout our sexual relationship moving forward.
Throughout the early marriage, right after the babies were born (twin daughters), I had a combination of low sex drive to just not wanting sexual relations at all. I wanted to take a sexual sabbatical of sorts. I happened to have a very understanding partner, though he did not feel it was the best or conducive to creating a thriving sexual relationship in a marriage. There were more ‘no, not tonight’s’ then ‘yes’s’ to lovemaking. Also at the time, I was reading more about women’s rights, liberation, and the history of pornography and how to do away with it. I wanted equality on the newsstand with magazines for women showing nude men posing, even if it was not popular. For our library of art books, I found comfort and was pleased with myself in purchasing a b/w art photography book set of nudes, one book all women, one book all men.
When we moved to a new neighborhood with lots of nice neighbors and lots of kid friends for our daughters, things changed again for me. I started saying no as a control mechanism every time my partner came to bed after a night of drinking socially with the neighbors. I chose not to drink since my pregnancy. The funny thing is, I knew exactly what I was doing. It was power (illusion of) and control. In a way, I hoped he would choose not to drink, or at least when to stop after one or two. What really was happening with all the no’s, is I was cutting off and slowing down the flow of energy to my self, my self worth, and love of Self. Everything that did not resonate with me about my partner was a reason to move towards divorce, and a way to not take responsibility and look within at my Self. I felt I could see the bigger picture and everyone and everything was going to be OK. At the same time, the lens I was looking through was singular and there was only one option, divorce. We did attempt couples counseling, it did not last, mainly because I knew it was not going to go anywhere. I felt divorce was the answer for me/us. Again looking through one lens, yet with an inner knowing. Hmmm, how can that be?
I was looking outside myself for the answers instead of going inward. Even with all the spiritual new teachings I had come across and the practice of integrating them into my life, all these new ways weren’t getting past my limited and linear human mind. I thought they were, for a while there I felt like I had all the answers in the universe and everyone around me did not. I eventually came back down to earth and relaxed into the knowing we are all at different places along our life journey. Compassion came to the forefront.
When it came time to tell our daughters about the divorce, I thought I would feel lighter with everything out in the open. The opposite happened, duh, it was like what just happened, how can it be undone, what did we/I just do to our daughters. The blinders were taken off and reality set in. Both my partner and I knew that no matter what our daughters’ well being comes first in all decision making.
Back to a false sense of self worth and self love. With the direction I was taking, things just started to fall apart financially. We ended up putting the house up for sale. With my partner experiencing several different work layoffs, I ended up getting a full-time position that had medical benefits. Health insurance was extremely important, especially for our daughter who had Type 1 diabetes.
The one spark both my partner and I had through the challenging times was compassion for each other and for ourselves. Compassion was the light that allowed us to move forward with what came next. The house went into foreclosure. Which also felt like another closure, closure to the present financial hardships.
The girls were included in choosing the kind of living arrangements they felt comfortable with, the classic switch off between parents every weekend, or live with one parent full time. They chose to live with me and do things with their father on different occasions with a once in a while stay with him. Their father ended up living several suburbs away from where the girls and I landed.
The actual divorce happened several years after the separation. We went through a compassionate divorce. I had come across what was called a conscious uncoupling creed in a book I was reading, Conscious Uncoupling. We included this creed as part of our legal collaborative divorce. Compassion, forgiveness, no judgment, no blame, and love for the other and for ourselves. To this day we both consider ourselves pioneers in compassionate divorce, aka conscious uncoupling. Yes, it’s possible to remain friends and move forward in life.
After a time when my previous partner and I talked about the divorce day at court, we acknowledged we both had the feeling of wanting to say no, let’s not go through with this. We even tried getting back together at least four times! Each time did not last long for one reason or another, with me saying no more. There was still that inner knowing in me, it’s best to keep moving forward. I’m OK.
Art continued taking on new expressions, personal and for a livelihood. Meetup women’s spirituality and art group co-organizer, nature-art-spirituality blog writer, art sessions/experiences with children, expressive arts teaching artist for those living with cancer, teen center art studio manager, arts specialist for children’s museum. And today, the art-making experience is for me, and the pure joy of creating.
Spirituality and going deeper continued. Though at some point I discontinued seeking to know more. This was not easy. I would go back and forth, read something, and continue reading more or watch a video(s). Eventually, I no longer felt I needed to look outside myself for the answers. One could call it post-spiritual. I am complete as I Am. Another closure, closure of wanting to know more.
Wisdom: What’s the one commonality in all your life experiences? YOU. It’s all your energy. It’s all from within. God lives through you, as you, and everywhere around you. You are God, the shaman, the guru, the I AM. You are the creator of your life. If you choose to live with limitations and thoughts of lack, the energy will provide just that. When you choose a life of abundance in love of Self, joy, vitality, grace, laughter, financial wealth, the energy will serve you in this way. It’s as simple as allowing.
We are quantum beings after all, particles and waves of energy that can change form. Do not take one option as the only way. There are many potentials to choose from! Yes, we are here on this planet in human form, yet as a souled being, there is so much more. There is a mystical expression, walk in this world and not of it. Live with this.
Sexual Energy Resource: Even though I felt I reconciled everything within myself regarding sex and relationships, the Sexual Energies School, SES, was extremely helpful in me understanding consciousness, sexuality, power (the illusion of), relating sex to energy, and this thing called the sexual energy virus, what the sexual energy virus is, where it came from, and how it operates. Along with bringing in creative energies and living a powerless life.
Parenting through your children’s life challenges
As a parent, it is not easy knowing your child is having a life experience that is emotionally and physically traumatic. It can make a parent an emotional wreck or bring out a grounding presence from within. I chose a grounding presence. In my daughters late teens, early 20’s, one daughter dealt with anorexia, the other daughter sexual trauma from rape. Both these traumas weigh heavily on every thought, action, and word to the core of one’s being. And it does not go away overnight.
The one thing I did know how to do is to be fully present when with each daughter. Even though keeping words to a minimum was how I chose to be present, I also learned to not say a lot from their reactions/responses. When I did offer wisdom or advice to a daughter, the reply was usually no and she would only listen to advice from close friends. That’s OK. It is her journey and learning to make choices for herself meant doing it in her way. The more she did this, the more self-confident she’d become in making choices through other life experiences. Sometimes guidance comes in the form of therapy/counseling, which was big for each daughter at the time, and still is to this day.
Even before these traumas happened, during early high school years, as a parent I began to loosen the so-called emotional strings that bonded a parent/child together. This did not mean I’d stop caring and being with them, it meant they are their own being and are capable of working through what comes before them. I’m there at their side if and when they need me. I’d support them any way I could. I knew someday they’d be going off on their own, it’s best to loosen/untie those strings now. I’m glad I did. When the traumas did happen I was there for them with a clear purpose, to be present and breath. It may not have been as they would have wanted me to be, I was there in the best way I knew how.
Wisdom: Being fully present with an awareness of your breath allows something bigger to take place. A safe space is created and the energy starts to shift with calmness and grace. It doesn’t matter if it’s the parent, the child, or both together being present and breathing, the energy shifts. One’s Divine essence finds a lit path through the dense energy.
College Finances for Parents
The grand finale it is and for me the hardest one to write about. The main thing I’d like to share about college student loans, the kind that is called Parent Plus loans, is to be fully conscious of what you are signing. Actually do not sign anything if you are not feeling abundant. Funny thing is, I heard those words from a wisdom teacher back then. Ha! Now I am here to tell you if you are not financially abundant do not take on Parent Plus loans. Know where your finances are presently and where they will be 5-6 years down the road when the child is out of college. Know what the total loans accumulated will be because you’ll have to take full responsibility and ownership of them come the time.
CRAP! I see a financial pattern that is repeating. Credit cards paying for household bills during a foreclosure, not saying no to Parent Plus loans because I did not have the courage or heart at the time. My daughter who experienced sexual trauma during the first college year wanted to switch schools. Of course, anything to put the mind and thoughts in a new direction and at ease. A creative distraction with a purpose. I would do anything to help her get through the trauma. Truly, I would. Wait, wait, hit the pause button, there are other ways to move through this. Really, life is not linear. Nope, again, only one way, one lens. Repeat pattern. I do recall informing my daughter I would take on the loans and she would be responsible for them. Say what!? Energetically that’s a little cuckoo. CRAP again!
Note – I am not making light of my daughters trauma, I am making light of my choices. I also find this humorous and have to laugh because it’s quite the story. You see it’s all my energy. I am a creator. The energy of lack was serving me well. NO MORE I say, NO MORE.
Wisdom: No is a complete sentence. Putting yourself first is an act of love for Self. Do what feels right for you and everything else will find its way to new potentials.
Be conscious and fully present, breath. Eyes and heart wide open. Do not participate in any financial program if you are not already feeling abundant. Say NO MORE to lack consciousness. No more is a complete sentence too.
Find the humor in it all and laugh. The soul loves humor and laughter. Try not to take life too seriously, we are quantum after all.
I’ll end with where I began – But ya know what, and this is for you, now, it doesn’t have to be this way for you, all the shaking up. You can simply say no more. No More. Simple as that. Life’s big challenges can be resolved by knowing there is more than one way, you can choose from many potentials. Expansive energies are here to serve you.
Share your story. People across the globe now more than ever have access to the internet and social media. Be it only one person, or many, who finds a connection to your story, there is a consciousness ripple taking place. Experience a new future by healing your past.
And me now, I am finding out what it’s like to experience life in an abundance of so much more.
Featured Image: Studio Annika, Oyster on a sandy beach with one large pearl in it.