Where’s My Zip?

June 9, 2017

 

The problem with lethargy is that doing nothing validates the fear that nothing can be done.
-Bill Crawford

 

STUFF I KNOW © Kathleen McKern Verigin

The Zip in my Doo Dah has gone missing. It’s an odd place to be for someone known as a bright and shining Light. Lethargy has been dogging me for a while now. By definition, lethargy means “…the quality or state of being lazy, sluggish, or indifferent.”

  • Am I lazy when I don’t jump out of bed in this morning?
  • Am I sluggish when I don’t want to tend to the piles of clutter in my office?
  • Am I indifferent if I don’t watch every Breaking News event on TV?

Or, when I’m feeling lazy, sluggish and/or indifferent, am I in truth being True to myself? This is how I feel, like it or not. As I often say, all feelings are holy. It’s what we do with the feelings that matters. I call upon my three “bodies” for guidance. Can you relate?

PHYSICAL – What is my physical body telling me?
When I dwell in a slack tide, I recognize that fear is keeping me at bay. Until a few weeks ago. I finally dragged my behind to see a new doctor. Through blood work it was revealed that my Body Temple was seriously deficient in Vitamin D and my thyroid level was extremely low. Thanks to meds and supplements, I’m at the starting line, anticipating the Zip to return. I’m at the “ready” stage. “Get set” and “go” will, I strongly believe, follow quickly. I can feel it, and it feels good.

MENTAL – What is my mental body telling me?
When I think about the state of the world, fear arises. Is any place safe? I’m learning to give myself a break from trying to figure out what in the world is going on—quite literally. When someone says to me, “I can’t make sense out of the atrocities we are facing, at home and abroad,” my reply is, “Because these are senseless acts. We cannot make sense out of the senseless.” To still my monkey mind, I return to the breath. It’s amazing how one cycle of three deep breaths can restore my sanity.

EMOTIONAL BODY – What is my emotional body telling me?
I’ve never felt this level of fear, for my country and her people, and countries and people all over the world. Since last November’s election my feelings have been all over the map. I’m talking a 3-D globe and not a road map. It seems that my emotions swirl in a circular motion, without a starting or ending point. I can barely understand how we arrived at our present state of government, let alone dare to vision a future for our beloved United States of America. Staying in the present moment is what’s called for, because that’s in truth all that we have. At this moment? I’m feeling some Zip, and that’s a good start.

I believe it is my spirit that weaves through all three bodies. Although I separate them out, they are all part of the whole that is uniquely me. No one “body” has power over the other. When I acknowledge and bind the three together, my true Self returns. Fear no longer has power over my Zip. It’s okay for my Doo Dah to return. Ask yourself right now:

  • Where is fear dwelling in my physical body?
  • Where is fear dwelling in my mental body?
  • Where is fear dwelling in my emotional body?

When the three become one I am restored to wholeness. My feelings will continue to travel around the globe in a circular motion, but I can determine if it flows like a gentle breeze, or if it swells into a menacing tornado.

Remember my friend lethargy? The origin of the word relates to being forgetful. Today I remember to treat my physical body with respect. I remember that I control my thoughts. I remember that it’s important to feel my feelings. Only then can I address what is happening in and around me. Only then can I truly sing Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah while getting on with this thing called Life.

Listening to this Disney song brought a smile to my face. May it do the same for you!
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=6bWyhj7siEY
Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah (Original)

The hit song from From Walt Disney’s “Song of the South” released in 1946 was “Zip-a-Dee-Doo-Dah”, which won the 1947 Oscar.

Assurance

May 11, 2017

It’s more fun to experience things when you don’t know what’s going to happen. Louis C. K.

If Life came with a spiritual assurance policy, which plan would you choose?  The Fun Plan or the No Fun Plan? We all know people who are living life on the No Fun Plan. Always frowning. Constantly complaining. Finding fault with everything and everyone. A genuine Debbie Downer. Remember her? Check out one of the all-time best Saturday Night Live skits from 2004. I hope you find it as fun and funny as I do!

SNL Debbie Downer: Birthday Party (Dress Rehearsal)
https://www.nbc.com/saturday-night-live/video/debbie-downer/n11842?snl=1

Imagine how low Ms. Downer would be living in 2017? It doesn’t take much effort to spot the gloom and doom swirling around us. Sometimes it takes a lot of effort to stay on the bright side. For me, it’s all about choice. If I am not vigilant, No Fun slips backwards into my pre-paid assurance plan. I start to see the world through grey colored glasses. Stop!  It doesn’t have to be that way. For example, take this fun moment.

My Ireland tour had concluded and I was now resting and recovering in my favorite place in Ireland: Ballyvaughan, Co. Clare. It’s a tiny village perched on Galway Bay in the west of Ireland. Some there think of me as the US Ambassador to Ballyvaughan. How fun is that?

After breakfast one morning, I took myself on a walk along the water front. I hadn’t slept well the night before. My arthritic feet hurt from days of walking on all sorts of uneven surfaces. Again, pain in my left hip kept me awake in the night. Emotionally I was recovering from the news of the death of a man I had gotten to know during my yearly travels to Ireland, plus news from home of the death of one of my husband’s longest friends. Shall I add that I also learned my beloved Ishka cat got out and went missing? Feeling “out of sorts” barely described how I was feeling.

This was a walk I’ve taken dozens of times but, this time something was different. A gigantic grey stone house, likely 200 years old, had been purchased. This after being derelict for over twenty years. It was an eye sore right smack in the center of the village. This particular morning I noticed scaffolding on one side and the front door wide open. Curiosity got the best of me so I crossed the street for a better look. That’s when two workmen, each in bright yellow vests and hardhats, stepped out of the front door.

Launching the conversation, I said, “I come here once a year and have always been intrigued by this building. Will it be a private home or a business of some sort? The first fellow responded, “Seems it’s a family with 5 kids or so. Might be their home, or a vacation home. Hard to tell.”  What was hard for me to tell was what exactly he said. When you get out into the hinterlands of Ireland, accents can be very thick. I asked if I could look inside the door, something I’ve wanted to do for years. The inside was nearly gutted for the remodel, but I still got a sense history there.

“We should call one of those ghost hunter shows and have them bring a crew here,” I joked.

“Oh, aye, ‘tis haunted this place, some folk say,” he said through thick accent and missing teeth. “Some say they’ve heard voices in there.”

“Male or female?” I asked.

“Hard to say,” he replied. “Some have even heard a wee baby crying.”

I gasped, “Really?” We both stood frozen in silence when suddenly, from the back of the house, came a faint sound. “Waa, Whaa…” It was a baby’s cry!  The man and I suddenly turned towards each other in complete shock. That’s when I saw the glint in his eye.

“Hey, you. Where’s your fellow workman?” That’s when the second guy emerged from the back of the house. They had totally set me up. I was glad they did because it completely changed my attitude towards the day. We three stood together as we laughed, and laughed, and laughed. It still makes me laugh just remembering the encounter. It is one of the most fun moments of all my journeys to Ireland.

I’m not advocating that we put on masks and play Pollyanna. But I will say–enough the Debbie Downer-isms. Choose to see the best in others. Choose to be open to unplanned encounters that remind us to lighten up. Choose. It’s really that simple.

Mr. Michael O’Toole

April 2012

“Ireland is where strange tales begin and happy endings are possible.”
Charles Haughey (1925 –2006) former Taoiseach of Ireland

 

Ballyvaughan is a tiny village nestled on Ireland’s west coast, overlooking Galway Bay. I adopted it as my home away from home, having enjoyed many stays there before and after my Ireland tours. That’s where I found myself in April 2012. Without a car at my disposal, and limited bus service, I discovered that I was getting a bit antsy, feeling kind of stuck. One day, while at the tiny market (which also serves as the post office and petrol station) a notice on the community bulletin board caught my eye. Every Tuesday morning in Ballyvaughan a 10-seater bus collects an assortment of seniors and delivers them to the closest big town of Ennistymon, and then returns them three hours later. Myself being a young 59, I wondered if I was suitable company. “Yes,” I was informed. Anyone could take the weekly bus to Ennistymon and back, for a mere two euro.

It was a soft weather day, meaning the temp was mild and the breeze light. I arrived at the market to find two elderly women chatting with each other. I inquired about the bus to Ennistymon. They assured me that I was at the right place, at the right time, and that the bus would arrive soon.

I was very much the center of attention on the wee bus, obviously new to the area and a couple of decades younger than most of the passengers. I loved being questioned, as I knew it was coming from a trait shared by the Irish—a lively sense of curiosity.
Together we sat in silence, until the Irish thirst for information got into one of the women. With narrow eyes and a tilt of the head, I was asked, “How do you come to be here in Ballyvaughan?”

I replied, “I lead tours to Ireland and like to take a break by staying on my own in Ballyvaughan.”

Both women looked at each other, somewhat shocked that a lady like me would be roaming about Ireland on her own. I gave them a smile and added, “I’m a Reverend, very interested in Celtic Spirituality.”

By their expressions, I sensed that I had passed a moral code of some sort.

“Did ye know of John O’Donohue?” one woman asked.

“Oh yes,” I replied, “He greatly inspired my ministry.”

“Johnny grew up here, you know,” a woman said, “just a wee bit down the road. Oh, his death was so shocking and sad.” With that both women nodded to each other, with hand over heart, followed by making the sign of the cross on their ample bosoms.

Friends at last, I learned their names were Mary and Maureen. They loved my Irish name of Kathleen and my mother’s birth name of Connolly. Together we bounced along as the wee bus negotiated the narrow roads full of pot holes. Already on board was an elderly gent, quite decked out for a casual trip into town. He kept to himself.

Suddenly Maureen announced, “This here lady is a Reverend from the States. She liked John O’Donohue.” Mary silently echoed with a vigorous nod. The old man replied, “You know Johnny grew up around here. Just down the road.” Now all four of us were nodding in agreement.

We traveled on in silence for several minutes, my eyes soaking up the beauty of this wild and rugged area of Ireland. Soon we made a stop in the tiny village of Fanore when on the bus hopped a jolly fellow more my age. He looked to be a rugged farmer type, with deep grooves on his forehead and red lines on his puffy cheeks. He nodded to the driver, to the elderly gent, then to Mary and Maureen. They all nodded back. Suddenly the new man, the one more my age, locked eyes with me. “Well, now, who are ye and where do you come from?”

Maureen blurted out, “She’s a Reverend from the States. She liked John O’Donohue.”

The newly arrived man chimed in, “Did you now! Well, Johnny grew up around here, just down the road. Fine lad he was. He used to do my religious home work for me.” With that he introduced himself as Mr. Michael O’Toole. We shook hands, and our bus ride continued. Mr. O’Toole interrupted my thoughts with his own inspired thought, “Ye know Johnny is buried in the cemetery up ahead.”

“Yes, I know,” I replied, “I have visited his grave.”

Without a pause, Mr. O’Toole shouted to the bus driver, “Tommy, pull over at the cemetery where Kathleen here can visit John O’Donohue’s grave.” Mary and Maureen nodded in agreement and then chimed in, “Oh, wouldn’t that be lovely!”

“Oh, that’s okay,” I tried to graciously reply. “I’ve already been there. You needn’t pull over for me.”

Pull over, Tommy the driver did do. Everyone was staring at me, in eager anticipation. I slowly stood up, gave the obligatory nod, and disembarked the little bus.
I walked through the cemetery gate and then climbed up on the cement wall in order to make the trek to John’s grave. When I arrived, I turned and looked at the bus. All eyes were on me, peering through the windows like they were about to witness John’s resurrection.

I hadn’t a clue what to do. With my back to them, I said aloud, “Okay, John, I’m paying my respects. Again. I can see how loved you were and are, and not just by me.” I stood long enough to give my witnesses a thrill. Down over the cement wall and back through the gates, I again boarded the little bus to Ennistymon. My group of newfound companions remained silent the rest of the way, each wearing a smile as soft as the weather.

We arrived Ennistymon and parted ways for a few hours. While the ladies shopped, I enjoyed a luxurious foot massage at a fancy hotel spa. Ever mindful of the clock, I returned to the little bus several minutes before the declared departure time. I was surprised to find Michael already on the bus. Now my Irish curiosity kicked in. “So, Michael, I see that our elderly friends come to town to shop. What is it that calls you to Ennistymon?”

“Well, you see, it’s a bit of a tale,” Michael replied. “I was arrested for drink driving.” That’s Ireland’s equivalent of a DUII. With that bit of news, I tucked my chin, cocked my head and looked over my glasses as I said, “Ohhhh, so you don’t drink anymore?”

“Oh, hell no. I drink like crazy. It’s driving I no longer do.” He seemed very pleased with himself. “Next time you take the bus to Ennistymon I’ll buy ye a pint.” He punctuated the invitation with a wink.

With all travelers back on the bus, we began the ride back to my little village. Soon, Michael interrupted my wandering thoughts as he shouted to the driver, “Hey, Tommy, can ye make a detour and show Kathleen here where John O’Donohue grew up?”

Mary and Maureen thought this to be a fabulous idea. One of the women chimed in. “His mum still lives there. Oh, the sorrow poor Josie has had since her Johnny died. How she lives with a broken heart, I don’t know.” Again the two women shook their heads and crossed themselves.

I did indeed get a look at the O’Donohue homestead in rural County Clare. It was a little yellow house on a hillside covered with spring flowers and surrounded by miles of rock walls. It was an extra treat to realize we were driving on a very narrow road that John used to walk to school. Once again, I heard Michael’s story of forcing a young John O’Donohue to do his religious homework. It was obvious that the ladies did not approve of this behavior, and it was equally obvious that Michael got a kick out of it. With a grin he said, “Oh, I did him no harm, ye see. It was all good fun. But Johnny sure knew his Bible!”

We all sat in silence the rest of the way home. Arriving in Fanore, Mr. O’Toole stood up, made a grand bow, and proclaimed, “God bless ye all on this fine, fine day.” With another wink he was gone. In another ten minutes, I was back at my B&B in Ballyvaughan, wondering if I’d ever see Mr. O’Toole again.
 
 

April 2013

“The secret of forgiving everything is to understand nothing.”
George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) Irish writer

One year later I was back in Ireland, again enjoying private time at a quaint B&B overlooking Galway Bay. Mostly out of curiosity, I decided to take the Tuesday seniors bus into Ennistymon. I was delighted when I recognized Mary and Maureen, one up in her 80s, the other low in her 90s. Smart as a whip these two! I re-introduced myself. They remembered that I was from Oregon and that I loved the writings of John O’Donohue. When they called me Kathleen Connolly, I didn’t correct them.

Soon we made the stop in the coastal village of Fanore and onto the bus came a man looking a bit disheveled. I recognized him as Mr. Michael O’Toole from the previous year. “Oh, I see we have a visitor!” Michael shouted with glee. I said a proper hello and then reminded him that we had met before. “Oh, yes, it’s John O’Donohue that ye’d be after. He was raised here and is buried just up the road a ways. He used to do my religious homework for me. All it took was showing him a fist.” Michael gestured while I grimaced at the thought of John being bullied. “Oh, ‘tis only a bit of fun we were having back then. You see, Johnny boy loved the Bible. I’d like to think I helped him in his studies.” A sudden outburst of laughter rang through the little bus.

This year, on the ride back to Ballyvaughan, Michael asked me to sit where we could chat. That would be him chatting and me listening. Soon he told me that he had had three drink driving offenses. With the third he permanently lost his right to drive. “That was fourteen summers ago,” he said. He’s never driven since, and nor will he ever again. This is because the last offense put a young woman in a wheelchair for life.

Michael has carried this heavy burden every day for fourteen years, he says, and will for the rest of his life. Each summer he makes a pilgrimage by train to Dublin to visit Ann and her family. He brings them gifts and buys them supper. “Ann and her family have forgiven me,” he said. After a long silence, Michael shook his head as he spoke. “How they can do that I just don’t understand. I don’t deserve to be forgiven. I could have killed that young woman, and nearly did so. I have to live with that the rest of my life.”

It was then that I remembered something I was carrying in my purse. It was a round clay medallion with a spiral etched on one side. A friend made these for my Ireland travelers that year. Each received one upon arrival in Ireland.

All had words on the back that became literal touch stones for our journey. The leftover medallion was white. On the back was etched the word “forgive.” I took it out of my purse and showed it to Michael.

“I want to give this to you,” I said, “because now you must learn to forgive yourself.” He scoffed at that notion, saying it wasn’t possible and that he didn’t deserve it. Knowing that Mr. O’Toole was likely a devout Catholic, I subtly played the God Card, using a tone of voice similar to Roma Downey on the Touched by an Angel television show. I’m pretty sure a golden halo emerged at the tips of my black and silver hairs.

“Do you think, Michael, our Creator would want you to suffer like this? You were made in the image of Him. You are a child of God, just like me, just like Ann, just like the ladies on the bus with us. Ann is showing you that God has forgiven you through her. Now, can you Michael, just believe for a moment that God can forgive you so that you can forgive yourself?”

After a long pause, I then placed the white medallion in his hand. “Hold onto this, Michael, and remember this moment. Our healing sometimes doesn’t happen in a day, a week or even a year. But with God’s love moving in and through us, forgiveness is possible. Can you believe that, even if for a moment?”
Looking like a lost little child, Michael nodded his head. He clasped the medallion in both hands as if in prayer. “I’ll hold this every day until summer, and then I’m going to give it to Ann.” I added, “That’s a grand idea. Let it connect you as anam caras, as soul friends, as your buddy John O’Donohue wrote about.”

With a grin, he replied, “Ohhh, that’s what John O’Donohue would say. You know he lived just up the road here. His mudder died a year or two ago. Dementia, a terrible thing.” Out of the corner of my eye I saw Mary and Maureen again shake their heads and cross themselves.

And on and on he went, sharing stories, pointing out landmarks in the rugged Burren landscape, and, occasionally, with a wink, showing me the clay medallion. I’d like to think that Mr. O’Toole was changed that day, but only he and God know that for sure. What I know is that I was changed by the encounter on the little seniors’ bus to Ennistymon. Mary, Maureen, Michael and I plan to meet up again on a spring Tuesday in 2014. Praise God, let it be so!
 
 

April 2014

“The reasonable man adapts himself to the world; the unreasonable man persists in trying to adapt the world to himself. Therefore, all progress depends on the unreasonable man.” – George Bernard Shaw (1856-1950) Irish writer.

One year later, for the third time, I again hopped aboard the little senior’s bus destined for Ennistymon. Maureen was there, greeting me with a grand smile. Mary, she said, was on holiday in England. Then Maureen proceeded to introduce me to a new lady I had not met. Maisy is a good friend of hers. The three of us enjoyed a good chat while savoring the sites of the lush and rocky landscape. It was a glorious day, spring effortlessly easing into summer.

I wondered if Mr. O’Toole would join us as in previous years. “Yes,” Maureen said, adding, “I hear he’s no longer drinking or smoking.” Tommy, the bus driver, let out a loud guffaw just as he pulled over. There was Mr. O’Toole, leaning against a rock wall, with cigarette in hand. He looked neat and tidy in a leather coat and dark sunglasses. Kind of movie star like. Mary whispered to me, “I’ll bet he’s into the drink again, too.”

So on the bus came Mr. O’Toole followed by a lingering trail of smoke. He nodded to everyone, including me, as if I was a local. “You’re back, just like ye said you’d be,” he said to me. I smiled and continued to enjoy the bus ride.

Later, when everyone had finished their chores in Ennistymon, we again boarded the little bus. This time I said to Mr. O’Toole, “Do you remember what we talked about last year on the way home?” He nodded, quickly adding, “And I still have the little coin you gave me with that word on it. I see it every day. Some days I pick it up and hold on to it like there’s no tomorrow. Other days I feel like throwing it. It’s a choice, you know. Do ye think that’s reasonable?” My reply was a simple nod of the head.

After a few bends in the road, I smiled and said softly, “You’re looking well. I can tell there’s something different about you.” He wanted details, so I continued, “Your eyes are brighter and your smile is softer. I can tell you’re no longer carrying the double burden of guilt and self-hatred.”

The rest of the journey home was filled with idle chatter and gentle laughter. It was like we were all lifted by Mr. O’Toole’s new found freedom. “To be honest with you,” he said before departing, “I did have a Guinness at the pub in Ennistymon, but look at me—I didn’t drive!” I asked for a photo. Just as Tommy the bus driver snapped the camera, Mr. O’Toole gave me a peck on the cheek. With a wink, he was gone.

Sometimes I wonder if Mr. O’Toole is real. Our brief encounters on the little bus to Ennistymon have been filled with unbelievable mischief and magic. I can’t wait to see what the next bus ride reveals.
 
 

April 2016

“If suffering brings wisdom, I would wish to be less wise.”
William Butler Yeats (1865-1939) Irish prose writer, dramatist and poet

My 2015 springtime travel plans for Ireland did not find me in Ballyvaughan. Having skipped a year, I wondered if, a year later, anyone on the wee little senior’s bus would remember me. Come to find out, I am quite memorable, as are the jovial and kind hearted seniors once again headed for shopping in Ennistymon. My trio of elderly lassies greeted me with glee. That would be Mary, back from London, plus Maureen and Maisy. Even Tommy the bus driver asked me how things were in Ore-e-gone.

As always, the enchanting landscape of The Burren captured my full attention. “Do you ever get tired of looking at where you live?” I inquired. All three agreed. “We never get tired of God’s blessing of this most beautiful place on earth to live.” Tiny little Mary squeaked, “And I’ve been here 92 summers.” I love how people in Co. Clare often measure time by the passing of seasons. It caused me to reflect on the many spring times that have passed since my first solo pilgrimage to Ireland in May 2000.

Before we reached Fanore to fetch Mr. Michael O’Toole, I was told that he was again into the drink. All heads shook in sadness to the tune of the soft clicking of the tongues. This time Michael looked disheveled but his spirits (not the drinking kind) were in full bloom. “Well, helloooo, Kathleen. Why were ye not here last year? We missed you and were worried about you.” I explained that my tour group concluded in the east of Ireland, therefore preventing me from my annual visit to the west.

There was the usual conversation about the late John O’Donohue. Remembering how Michael used to make John do his religious homework, I couldn’t help but inquire as to what stopped it. “Well,” he said, “It seems Johnny Boy’s mudder called my mudder and told her all about it. Oh, did I get a whupping that day! “

“So you stopped making John do your homework?” I asked.

“Oh, hell no. All I had to do was add a fist and he got the message.” With that Michael lifted two fists as if he were a world class boxer from Donegal. Again, laughter wafted through the little bus to Ennistymon.

This time, on the return journey, I sensed that there was something Michael wanted to tell me. “So,” I asked, “What’s new in your life?” His bushy eyebrows lifted as his lips twisted into a sly smile. “Shhh,” he whispered, “This is only for you to hear because you’re a reverend and will understand.” I calmly waited for whatever confession he was about to make.

“I’m seeing someone, all the way in Dublin,” he whispered.

“Oh, Michael, I think that’s fabulous. Why is it a secret?”

“Well, you see, her husband doesn’t know.” With that he threw his head back and laughed and laughed and laughed. I never did know if he was telling the truth.

We took another photo together and said our goodbyes. He again sneaked in a quick peck on my cheek. “Until next time,” he said over his shoulder as his disembarked from the little bus. That would prove to be my last encounter with Mr. Michael O’Toole.
 
 

April 2017

“Better pass boldly into that other world in the full glory of some passion, than fade and wither dismally with age.” – James Joyce (1882-1941) Irish writer

When my yearly tour concluded on April 30th, I returned to Ballyvaughan. A local business man once declared that I was the American ambassador to Ballyvaughan. I rather liked the sound of that. I arrived on a Monday feeling very tired, but I knew I could not pass up the nearly annual Tuesday bus ride to Ennistymon.

I arrived at the usual pickup point on an unusually sunny and warm day. It was outside the only petrol station in the village, situated right next to the only church. To my delight, I discovered dear Maisy sitting alone at a picnic table. The sun was in her eyes as we greeted one another. “Hello Maisy. It’s Kathleen, the reverend from Oregon.” Her face lit up as we clasped hands. “Oh, Kathleen, you’ve come back to us. Mary, now 95, has gone back to England to live out her days. Maureen, thank God still with us, will be very happy to see you.”

Soon after that Maureen joined us at the bus assembly point. It was then I inquired about Michael O’Toole. “Will we be seeing him today?” I asked. I premonition told me that we would not.

Maisy began, bowing and shaking her head. “Oh, it’s very sad news. You see he died, last November, I think it was.”

Maureen chimed in. “Yes, I do believe it was November. A rather dark and breezy day.”

Tommy the bus driver confirmed it. “Yes, it was Tuesday in November. When he got off the bus he bid us all farewell. Those were likely his last words. His body was found the next day. They think it was a sudden and massive heart attack.”

I felt that drop in the belly that comes with sad news. “Oh, no,” I managed to say, adding, after a pause, “I hope his passing was swift and painless.”

“Oh, likely it was,” someone said. “But you know, Kathleen, that man lived a life of hell. It was his own pain and the pain he caused others.” This was followed by dead silence.

It was then that I realized I had only encountered Michael in the mornings, presumably before he had a first drink. That was on the way to Ennistymon. On the bus rides back, after a couple of pints, he was full of the craic, the Irish word for fun. He was, you know, the funny kind of drunk. But there’s nothing amusing about the pain and suffering caused by alcoholism.

In my four brief encounters with Michael, aboard the wee little bus for seniors, I always came away inspired.

First, by him taking responsibility for nearly killing someone due to his choice to drink and drive.

Second, by never again getting behind the wheel of a car, whether sober or drunk. I believed him.

Third, many times I imagined what it was like for him to make his yearly trek to Dublin—by bus—to make amends to the wheelchair bound young woman and her family.

Fourth, and finally, it’s that word: Forgiveness. Michael made it very clear that he hated religion for all the bad things it had done to good people. Forgiveness of the Church would never be uttered by his lips, he once told me, “…as long as I live.” Well, Michael is no living in human form, so I will utter that word for him.

I ask God to forgive you, Michael, for all of the transgressions you committed while alive. John O’Donohue, who passed as suddenly as you nine winters ago, forgives you for being a bully. The woman you maimed has already forgiven you. It is my deepest belief that now, in spirit form, you have finally forgiven yourself. I like to think that the medallion with the word “forgive” was your touchstone. To the past, to the present, and now the future of your eternal spirit. In memory of you, I shall gaze with wonder at the moon and bow in reverence to the dawn.

“Yes, I am a dreamer, for a dreamer is one who can only find his way by moonlight and his punishment is that he sees the dawn before the rest of the world.”
Oscar Wilde, Irish writer

 

RIP Mr. Michael O’Toole

 

Written by Rev. Kathleen McKern Verigin
May 4, 2017
Ballyvaughan
Co. Clare
Ireland

Religious Assumptions

April 10, 2017

“You must stick to your conviction, but be ready to abandon your assumptions.”
Denis Waitley, American motivational speaker, writer and consultant.

 

STUFF I KNOW © Kathleen McKern Verigin

Someone told me that there are fifty churches in our new home town of McMinnville, Oregon. That’s a lot of worship centers given our modest population of 33,000. Upon our arrival last September, I thought it would be easy to find an open, inclusive and liberal congregation to join. This because our county skews conservative while the town of McMinnville skews liberal. After some research, the community that stood out was First Baptist Church. Baptist? Eeegads, I thought, I wouldn’t be caught dead in a Baptist church. But then I kept noticing in our bi-weekly newspaper events that FBC sponsored. Like the former mayor of Silverton, a trans woman, speaking last September about LGBQ rights. At a Baptist church?

As I began to meet spiritual women who share my passion for earth-based and feminine respected spirituality, I again heard positive things about First Baptist Church. One woman said, “If you’re looking for liberal church, go check it out.” I was hesitant and put the idea on hold. Until I met my new chiropractor.

I noticed on his bio that his wife is the pastor at First Baptist Church. A coincidence? As I got to know the doctor, who himself seemed open minded and open hearted, I mustered the courage to inquire. He had all good things to say, reminding me that FBC is American Baptist, not Southern Baptist. I had no idea there was a difference! I thought all Baptists were holy rollers and conservatives, with closed minds and hearts. Wasn’t that loving of me?

 

Comparison of Southern Baptist & American Baptist Beliefs

By Janet Mulroney Clark

Southern Baptists follow a statement of beliefs contained in “The Baptist Faith and Message” as a guide for following Christ’s teachings. American Baptists embrace individualized worship not bound by creeds or statements of belief. They encourage diversity of thought in allowing a Christian to interpret scripture and develop a relationship with God.

The next Sunday found me at the First Baptist Church, sitting in a pew at the 11:00am contemporary service. It felt good to be there. Nothing offended me. Believe me, I tried to find reasons to be offended to confirm my righteous condemnation of all Baptists. It was then that my mind opened and my heart softened. I’d lived my whole life believing Baptists were bad, separate from My Loving God, and not worthy of my presence.

The word Baptist means “…one who baptizes.” At that first service I attended, I left feeling baptized, cleansed and forgiven for my error thinking. I was made whole again. My judgment was gone. I’ve returned a few times and each time my heart softens more. Palm Sunday was beautiful. I greatly look forward to Easter Sunday. Bottom line, I love and respect all beings who pursue a spiritual path that embraces and practices the religion of kindness, love and inclusivity. I don’t care if it’s Baptist, Buddhist or Bahá’í.

In closing, I apologize to all Baptists, and Christians in general, whom I have judged. I forgive myself for my assumptions. This Holy Week, may we all remember that We Are One, and we’re all in this together.

Want to learn more about the difference between American and Southern Baptist? Check out this website: http://classroom.synonym.com/comparison-southern-baptist-american-baptist-beliefs-5797.html

Ambivalence

Ambivalence is a wonderful tune to dance to. It has a rhythm all its own. –Erica Jong

 

STUFF I KNOW © Kathleen McKern Verigin

We’ve all been there. Caught between yes or no, stay or go, do this or do that. Wafting between sensing and knowing. Between listening to the voice within or the calling from the outer world. Some say this is ambivalence, what the dictionary defines as “simultaneous conflicting feelings.” The origin of the word ambivalence comes from Latin: ambi- “both” + valentia “strength.” What if both yes/no or stay/go is where we find our strength? Not in the polarities, but in the third aspect that draws the two together? This is the core teaching of The Anam Cara Journey whose pathway is the Triple Spiral. For example…

A mentoring client once came to me confused and distraught over a long-time relationship. She was caught in the tug of push-pull. Push him away or pull him closer? Is this relationship right or wrong? The ultimate question was: stay or go? Her ambivalence was intoxicating, fueling the monkey mind to keep spinning a story of confusion. No wonder she didn’t know which way to turn. I felt dizzy just witnessing her inner turmoil. This is where the Triple Spiral became the teacher.

For this exercise, I asked her imagine a triangle. One point represented go, one represented stay, and the third represented ambivalence. I gave her 3 tissues with the instruction to place on the floor, one at each of the 3 points. Then I asked her to identify which point was which—go, stay, ambivalence. From a distance, we observed the dynamic that was spinning in her head. But what shifted the spinning was when I asked her to stand at each of the 3 points. To step into her monkey mind.

GO – Stand in that place and look at Stay and Ambivalence.
STAY – Stand in that place and look at Go and Ambivalence.
AMBIVALENCE – Stand in that place and look at Go and Stay.

She did this, at first in a jerky kind of way, almost marching between points, scowling the whole time. But soon her face softened. The movements between became a dance of sorts. Eventually jerky eased into flow as her frown softened into a smile. It was a joy to witness, reminding me of my own monkey mind when I’m dwelling in ambivalence. We are not caught or held hostage by any of the 3 points. So why not bring them together? Invite ambivalence into the dance. Do this with curiosity and wonder, letting go of any outcome.

We purposely didn’t process what happened. I wanted her to embrace the dynamics of the experience. To integrate what just happened. No one spiral holds the power. It is the three spirals together that hold the power which will ultimately lead to an informed decision.
A few months later she did leave the relationship. She believes the Triple Spiral exercise helped her come to that conclusion. Both parties flourished after the breakup. “Why didn’t I leave sooner?” she wondered. Haven’t we all asked that question, whether about a relationship, a job or a move?

So today, on the New Moon, I ask–Why didn’t she leave sooner? Why didn’t you leave sooner? Why didn’t I leave sooner? Perhaps because we find an odd comfort in ambivalence, “…simultaneous conflicting feelings,” because it’s known. By making a decision, stepping out of ambivalence, we make ourselves vulnerable. And remember this. We cannot flourish without being vulnerable. Love, of the other and/or self, requires vulnerability. What supports us is being rooted in our Truth, and living from that place of knowing. We all know what we want and don’t want. What step are you willing to take today?
Check out this short YouTube video of one of my favorite songs from childhood. Do you see the three trees, and how lassie and laddie roamed? Crazy!!!

Did You Ever See a Lassie? | Song for Kids by Little Fox
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=z4uWfs3sH7s

Spring Cleaning

March 12, 2017

“It’s time for a spring cleaning of your thoughts, it’s time to stop to just existing it’s time to start living.” ― Steve Maraboli,  Speaker, bestselling Author, and Behavioral Scientist

STUFF I KNOW © Kathleen McKern Verigin

Years ago in a metaphysics class, we were studying the scientific principle that “nature abhors a vacuum.” It is also a spiritual principle. If we want something new in our life, we must make space. When we create the open space, we must be vigilant about what we fill it with. Because it will get filled, either by more of the same, or something gloriously new.

In the spring, our class assignment was to clean out a closet, a junk drawer, a messy glove compartment, or whatever area in our life where there was serious clutter. This sounded silly to me, but I was willing to do it.

The assignment arrived at a time when I desperately wanted to be released from my long-time job producing a live morning television talk show, while longing to write and produce documentaries. I had taken a summer off to write and produce a documentary on child sexual abuse. It was one of the most rewarding experiences of my life, including an Emmy Award nomination. Bitten by the documentary bug, I begged and pleaded with my bosses to allow me to work on documentaries full time. I created a proposal that demonstrated why this would benefit the television station, and not just me personally. Still, my bosses said no. I was growing despondent. Doing the cleaning out ritual couldn’t hurt.

I chose the closet of my guest bedroom. It was small, and had a built-in chest of drawers. It was my expanded version of a one junk drawer. All drawers were stuffed to the gills with stuff. Random clothes were hanging on the rack, while a waist high pile of junky items cluttered the floor. It took a good half day to complete this project. I took a load of stuff to Goodwill, and put much of the other stuff in my garage for a future garage sale.

Once the closet was emptied, I then cleaned it–sweeping, dusting, and wiping it down. In its empty and clean state, the closet looked huge. My voice echoed in the emptiness. Throughout the rest of the weekend I would step into the cleansed closet from time to time, wanting to feel the good vibes. As Sunday evening approached, I remembered that I would likely face again a rejection regarding my desire to be a full-time documentary producer. In utter despair, I stepped into the closet and closed the door. There I stood, alone, in the dark, in a totally empty closet. I said aloud, “Okay, Universe. I’ve done my part. Now you do yours. Provide!”

I went to bed that night and slept very well. At the very least, I had cleansed my negative thinking. Early Monday morning, arriving at work at 6:30am, the first person I saw in the Channel 2 hallways was another early morning producer. He knew of my desire to leave the morning talk show grind for wider pastures in the world of documentaries. His eyes brightened when he saw me. He walked fast towards me and said, “Have you heard? Channel 8 has an opening for a documentary writer/producer?”

Ah, the Universe had provided, I inwardly chuckled. Not only did I eventually get the job at Channel 8, I also enjoyed the satisfaction of a clean closet. Note that this guest room would eventually be a bedroom for my young step-kids, with the closet drawers filled with their clothes and toys. An even bigger dream had manifested!

The Void

February 27, 2017

“Worry not if you are in darkness and the void sucks you in further. This is not the place we go to die. It’s where we are born and our stories begin.” ― Kamand Kojouri, writer/poet

STUFF I KNOW © Kathleen McKern Verigin

As Easter approaches (April 16), I am reminded of a Sunday mass in the little Irish village of Ballyvaughan.  I heard the priest remind his flock that Easter is not a day, it is a season. Whether or not we choose to celebrate Easter through Christian practices and traditions, we are dwelling in a resonate field that recognizes renewal. By definition, renew means to “restore to freshness or vigor.” By the laws of nature, to renew, something must first die. To die means that something must enter The Void. The trick is to not get lost in The Void.

My first conscious encounter with The Void took place twenty-some years ago when I resigned from a long-term job to pursue a new vocation. A minister friend encouraged me to take time off between the jobs. “You need to spend some time in The Void before jumping into the new,” she said, and recommended I read the book Transitions: Making Sense of Life’s Changes by William Bridges. The author’s last name was perfect, as he demonstrated how to cross the bridge from the past, showed us how to not get stuck in The Void, before we successfully landed on the other side of the bridge. Sounds simple, but for most of us The Void is something to be avoided. But, as Bridges said, it can be a rich time of self- reflection and personal growth.

This academic year was the first time since 2006 that I have not offered my nine-month women’s program. I felt the need for a break. Not because it wasn’t fulfilling work, but because I wanted to step back and re-evaluate. I purposely entered The Void, knowing it would be uncomfortable at times but also a time to renew. The big move last summer from the city to the country was part of that process. In order to renew, I had to withdraw. To do that, I had to take the risk of shaking the spiritual container that holds the body of my work. I knew that some of the events and ceremonies I have traditionally offered would go away. My mind often spun thoughts of concern that my work was done. Maybe I’ve gone as far as I can go. Maybe I’ve fulfilled my sacred contract for this lifetime. Maybe I should retire and fade into the mists. Maybe, maybe, maybe. What if? I don’t know. Maybe. Ugh.

Remembering the relevance of The Void, when I had those thoughts I immediately shifted my thinking and intentions. That’s the key to crossing the bridge. To engage with The Void. To look it fully in the face. To dance with it. To sing to it. To pray into it. But don’t forget to name the necessary feelings that arise as a result of engaging with The Void. Then, remembering the idiom “nature abhors a vacuum,” we imbue The Void with something positive and regenerative.

All too often we find The Void to be so uncomfortable that we drift or run back to what was familiar and predictable. Misery and inertia return. Conversely, that discomfort can also push us to leap into new territory before we’re ready. Fear takes the lead. But remember this. The Void can be our friend. Out of my current Void came a surge of excitement when a past mentoring client reminded me of one of our sessions. “That changed my life,” she said. Our eyes locked as she continued. “You should really be offering your groups again.” In that moment I realized how much I had missed facilitating women’s circles. “I agree,” was my hearty reply. My time in The Void was well spent.

Stay tuned for news about my next Anam Cara Journey women’s circle!