“You want to make God laugh? Tell him your plans.” - Woody Allen
I consider myself half-baked. I’m not even certain why this image sticks with me, or what it fully means, but it rings true. Throughout my life, my health has demanded attention. I’ve been in a constant process of being pulled, stretched, seized, and flipped. So much so that it’s hard to take an accurate reading of how I’m doing sometimes.
If Spirit has its way, and it always does, I am the daily bread being kneaded, spread and folded over.
Maybe this is how other people feel on the often rough-and-tumble path of spiritual awakening.
“Change is good. Change is consciousness.” Winslow says to me, all deadpan. Winslow is my guide. He’s a horse. He’s the one I travel and talk with during my quiet time of guided meditation. Yes, I’m serious!
I’ve practiced Oprah + Deepak meditations daily for about four years now. There’s about ten-minutes of meditative silence at the end of these sessions. For the first nine months of my practice, during these minutes of silence I saw myself, in my mind’s eye, meditating on a beautiful hilltop, with a horse in the background. After some encouragement from my counselor, I internally asked the horse a question and he actually answered! That’s how we began to talk.
Winslow tells me that the way I feel and talk makes me “endearing.” Once I looked up the derivation of WINSLOW. It’s essentially “friend on a hill.” Yes, as I mentioned, spirit’s always right. Winslow is white with a greyish mane and he knows about my vision. They all do, my guides.
My vision is to have a conversation about how to return to our true selves, how to find the light that’s always been there. Mostly, I love to hear people’s stories. I want to reach out into the world and form a community—a for-the-people-by-the-people sorta thing. I can practically see Winslow right now as I’m writing this, playfully rolling his eyes.
So here I am, trying to introduce myself, in my initial blog entry. It seems like an audacious task but here I go…
I am the youngest of four siblings, raised Catholic on the Southside of Chicago. We were the rich family in the neighborhood, but inside that custom-built house all was not well.
My mom was a repressed alcoholic, doing her best to raise a family in a marriage that offered even less love and support than she received in her own upbringing. Which is saying something. She was an only child with a father who didn’t want children.
Consequently, she was shipped off to boarding school at a young age. She was a closed book to me and to many people. The bigger story is linked to my grandfather, whom I’ve never met. I promised my mom, in a modern day séance, that I would research his background prior to revealing stories about her mothering (or lack thereof).
My father never really grew up, intellectually or socially. For someone so impressed by façade, he was oblivious to how he appeared to others. With his childlike filters and lack of boundaries and accountability, he was ignorant, in the broadest sense, of his impact and attributed the negativities of life to fate. While he lived a life of vanities, he never lifted a mirror to himself, although he was able to find happiness in the smallest of places.
My parents are the reason why boundaries became a big theme in my practices and development. Between their addictions, apathy, and conditional “love,” based upon being socially impressive, we kids floundered in our own ways, were sensitive in our ways, and tried the best we could.
I got good grades so there was no pressure there. And being easily amused, as he was, I became my father’s favorite. Being the recipient of my father’s attention became an issue with my mother over time, although she would never admit this. Yet I’ve recently come to understand that it was my “sensitivities” that led to the most destructive side of our relationship.
I went through a rebellious streak in high school, finding friends who were as disenchanted as I was with the more cooperative ways to find fun. But I never let it affect my grades because going to college and getting out of my house was my sole mission in life. College is where I’d finally find some peace. Or so I thought.
In the first quarter of my freshman year, at the University of Illinois in Champaign-Urbana, I had my first nervous breakdown. This led to my first sticky label: manic-depressive. Apparently, I wasn’t as happy as I thought.
Fighting my way out of that spiral, I eventually went back to college and graduated with a degree that was in-demand at the time. I landed a great career with Ford Motor Company and married my best friend, who would launch his own career in supply chain, our shared major. I was off again to the races!
Until I hit a wall. Which popped up on a plane half way between Las Vegas and Denver. So returned the spirals.
I didn’t know why I was working so hard in a career that I didn’t feel especially passionate about. I couldn’t yet see it was a survivor’s game: Get ahead, look good; look good, get ahead. I rarely had a good talk with myself about what really mattered.
One birthday, my wisdom caught up with me. I committed to a relationship with a psychologist who helped me begin looking at the puzzle pieces of my life. More breakdowns ensued, but each time I came back together with a little more clarity, a little more strength, and a little more in tact. Sometimes I discovered missing pieces of my puzzle, through memories that my subconscious finally felt safe enough to release.
Then, years later, while raising an amazing daughter in a beautiful new home, pursuing a master’s degree in theology at an esteemed urban university, just as I’m finally walking down a path I dreamt about as a kid, one day I faint, out of the blue. Then, in the span of a weekend I am in the emergency room and diagnosed with multiple sclerosis (MS). This wasn’t so much a sticky label as it was a sign that you hang around someone’s neck for a mug shot.
No matter how good things got, my health always returned as a central issue. Full stop. It was like a child, sitting cross-legged on the ground, pouting below and demanding my attention.
Our spirit creates our health. Our health fosters our well-being. But from a very young age, my spirit was often stifled, literally. At those points my physical health staked its claim. While I may have inherited depression from my father’s side of the family, repression I learned from both parents. And that repression prompted my health to stage a boycott.
So, dear reader, as you were growing up, if your feelings weren’t allowed to be expressed, if your sensitivities were ignored or mowed over, if you were made to feel like a nuisance at best or that you didn’t belong at worst, then you may find some resonance in what I’m bringing forward here.
The great news is that I found a lot of help and guidance and have amassed a lot of materials that I intend to pass on to you, for you to try on or pass on.
If feeling half-baked is what keeps me on this path of curiosity and discovery, then so be it. My name is Sally O and I’m here to share my story, my often messy and undercooked journey-in-progress. And my counsel to others is gained as much through my real life experiences as through my training and education.
What if you are aching for a place to share, be vulnerable and create a like-minded community, like me? What if my journey can inspire yours, and vice versa? Let’s take a walk together and see where we go.
Do you like horses? Me? I’m scared to death of them!