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“Red sky at night, sailor’s delight. Red sky in morning, sailor’s warning”

Daybreak, Thanksgiving morning 2012 . . .

I stand for a moment at my window taking in dawn’s red sky, the streetlamp still glowing below. I can’t remember if this is a delight or a warning?

And then it comes to me . . . ah oh . . . it’s a warning.

I refused to accept it. I had planned a nice meaningful Thanksgiving of solitude – candles, mindfulness and gratitude. If ever I was to take a spiritual by-pass from the real world – this was it!

The night before, however, I had been haunted by dreams of Thanksgivings past. As I took in the sunrise warning, I knew that my internal alarm clock — now chiming Thanksgiving o’clock — wasn’t going to let me sleep through family drama quite so easily.

My dreams weren’t even about my close family. I dreamed of my former in-law family – a group of people I was well and truly done with – or so I thought.

It still bothered me that I was never accepted or valued by my ex-husband’s family.

My ex and I were a case of “opposites attract”.  He was an outgoing extrovert from a large, Midwestern, Irish-Catholic family — and a frat boy to boot. I was a quiet introvert from the West-coast and my family had mostly disintegrated. I was bookish, intellectual, and had a small circle of close friends– and to boot also, I worked for Planned Parenthood. Partying, beer and football figured large in my ex’s life. For me it was social causes, soulful conversation and reading.

My ex was drawn to my intelligence and depth.  I was impressed with his confidence and ease with people.

You can see where this is going.

Holiday visits with his family were rough. I worked hard to ingratiate myself, but I just couldn’t gain a foothold. His family wasn’t unkind, but they kept their distance. Gatherings took place in the small familial home, which would become crammed with the six grown children, their spouses and kids, cigarette smoke, alcohol, and noise. I would escape to bed early. They didn’t understand. I began to suspect that something was wrong with me, and my ex was more than happy to believe that also.

Now 10 years post divorce these people, who had been in my life for over 20 years, no longer talk to me.

So they come to me in my dreams.

A friend suggested I imagine the difficult people in my life surrounded by angels and held safely and lovingly high up in the sky — well away from me.

So this Thanksgiving, instead of putting my in-law family in an imaginary hand-basket to hell — I gave the angel version a shot.

This healing must have been ripe for the picking, because I started to feel myself emerge a bit from the foggy, pain filled maze I had wandered for so long. My perception moved from dream state to 3D. Both my internal and external vision became sharper and clearer. My surroundings and and body sense solidified. Even colors were brighter and more saturated.

Everything seemed simpler and made sense.

No one was to blame, including myself, and I felt compassion for the orphan I was — for my hopeless quest to complete myself with an extrovert and a family who could not live up to my idealized wishes.

That day I began to separate myself out from an enmeshment with these people who I saw now as  ordinary people — maybe not “my people” — but people who I had made placeholders for my pain.

Damning them would damn me.

Putting the demonized version of them in the care of angels also held my demonized parts safe, and I was better able to find may way out of the fog and confusion.

I saw also that  this was self-compassion.

About this time a quote showed up on my Facebook wall:

“If we don’t embrace our confusion, we remain trapped between worlds—on the one hand, old ways of being ready to die; on the other, new ways of being eager to be born. By holding the space for all the possibilities at once, clarity emerges on its own terms. The bridge from one side to the other is confusion. We must learn how to cross it on the way home.” Jeff Brown

So this holiday season I give thanks for red skies, for parts ready to die and be reborn, and for that blessed confusing bridge and its crossing. I also celebrate my increasing ability to live  in my own skin, angels holding the space for my pain, the fog’s lifting, and my own two feet — now planted firmly on the planet earth.

11 Comments Post a comment
  1. Patricia Gardner #

    Very powerful Betsy! I really appreciate the quote and your comment – giving thanks for things ready to die and be re-born. I recently had a wrenching dream that seems to be telling me to let some old pain die. Life can be so meaningful when we embrace the messiness. Thanks for reminding me of this.

    November 29, 2012
    • Thank-goodness for dreams also – letting us know what is “up” for us! Love Betsy

      November 29, 2012
  2. Thank you for sharing your journey with such honesty and beauty! My life has taken some very similar turns, especially with ex’s, and I have worked very hard to accept them for who they are! I was also given the book The Four Agreements a few years ago, and it was the beginning of the long healing process for me.
    This blog is very insightful and I look forward to reading the new posts.

    November 28, 2012
    • Thanks Cathy! I am glad to know you are well on the way to healing. I didn’t know my walkabout was going to focus so much on healing from divorce, but that is where it seems to going — at least for now. I read The Four Agreements a few years ago too. With both you and another reader recommending it, I will have to dig it out and give it a re-read. Thanks for reading and commenting! Betsy

      November 29, 2012
  3. Joseph Campbell, (yes I know, him again!) said in conversation with Bill Moyers in the TV series “The Power of Myth”, that Native Americans addressed all of life as a “thou” – the trees, the stones, everything. You can address anything as a “thou” and if you do it, you can feel the change in your own psychology. The ego that sees a “thou” is not the same ego that sees an “it”. (Moyers; This happens in marriage too, doesn’t it?)
    Sometimes the “thou” turns into an “it”, and you don’t know what the relationship is.

    And I guess its a constant problem for all of us all the time, how do we keep that essential reverence about everything at the forefront of our minds, because once a thou becomes an it…well, witness the awful breakdown of relationships leading to abuse, the slaughter of buffalo’s or the slaughter of 6 million by Hitler and the reckless and feckless abuse of our Earths resources. Our ever changing simian minds are both a blessing and a curse it seems. (and usually the male of the species, i have to say)

    November 28, 2012
  4. Very insightful post, Betsy. I respect you for being able to get past the resentment of being mistreated and realizing that your forgiveness of others will also free yourself. Thanks for sharing this with us.

    November 28, 2012
    • Thanks Beckie – It always seems like a mystery how we get from the knowing to the actual doing and feeling. It was a group of angels and the particular place I am in my life right now – plus the distance of time, but it could be something else for another person. Thanks for commenting!

      November 28, 2012
  5. kaia #

    I can relate! I wasn’t sure where in my head to put these people. It was confusing…but now I see all I have to do is to give them to the angels and let them go. No longer my burden but thine! Thank you creator for this little bit of clarity! ….and thank you walk-about-woman for the journey you walk that reveals myself to me!

    November 28, 2012
    • Thank you Kaia! It has really been an arduous journey to a very simple answer! Clarity feels soooo good! Betsy

      November 28, 2012

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