By the Hand of an Angel

I spend a notable amount of time (and money) at Wal-Mart, so it would seem fitting that I would have a spiritual experience there.  As I have mentioned in previous posts, I believe that EVERYTHING happens for a reason.  There is no such thing as luck, chance or accidents. I would like to list a chain of events that set into place a meeting with a kindred spirit:

1. Last week, I purchased gift cards for my son’s teachers and other school personnel. The list was lengthy, so in an effort to save a few bucks, I decided not to include his AM and PM bus drivers.

2. This morning, while waving to the bus driver, I felt a pang of guilt for leaving her off of the thank you list. I decided that I would stop at Wal-Mart on my way home from the gym and pick up two more gift cards.

3. While driving to the gym, I changed my mind and decided to stop at Wal-Mart before my workout. I ran into the store, grabbed two gift cards and headed for the checkout with the shortest line. While standing there, I realized that the customer in front of me was going to take a while, so I headed for another checkout.

4. There was no one in line at the next register, however, the cashier was standing a few feet away talking with a woman. When she saw me, she ended the conversation and hustled back to her register. She apologized for keeping me waiting, and said that she got caught up talking with the previous customer. Through casual conversation, the clerk had learned that the woman had recently lost her 18-year old daughter to Leukemia.

5. I finished my transaction and began walking towards the exit. I did not get very far when the female customer headed out of the restroom and into my path. We made eye contact, and I asked,” Are you the woman who was just speaking with the Wal-Mart employee?” She shook her head yes, and we began a 45-minute conversation. I mentioned that I had survived a rare form of Leukemia, and that I had lost my husband to cancer over eight years ago.  We spoke about her daughter, and the progression of the disease that ultimately led to her passing last November. We also learned that we share similar spiritual views, and are both on a path to learn more about ourselves and others as more than just human beings. As we parted ways, Rita jotted down her email address, and we agreed to make contact a second time.

We both believe that her daughter had orchestrated the chain of events that led to our meeting. (Rita lives in another part of the city, and had stopped at this particular Wal-Mart to pick up some supplies for work.) We were destined to meet and be granted the opportunity to share our stories about illness and loss.

Thank you, Natalie, for introducing me to your remarkable mother. Through our brief interaction, I learned that the two of you shared a very special bond, and that you are missed. I am grateful for the gift I was given today. I had a chance, once again, to witness the perfection of the universe.

Driving Miss Joan

If you read my earlier post, “The Religion of Joan,” you know that I believe that EVERYTHING happens for a reason.  This belief has definitely come into play as I try to figure out exactly what I am supposed to be doing with myself career-wise.  In 2005, I was accepted into a master’s program in Community Counseling. (I have a bachelors degree in Psychology and wanted to obtain the credentials necessary to become a counselor either in a cancer clinic or hospice.) I took my first course that summer and enrolled for three more for the Fall semester. One week before classes were scheduled to begin, my son was diagnosed with Type 1 Diabetes. I withdrew from the university in order to focus my attention on taking care of him. I have never taken any more courses towards the degree that I had believed I was meant to pursue.

Fast forward to late 2008. I had been unhappy in my part-time administrative assistant position for quite some time and made the decision to resign in order to pursue work in the mental health field. I  had my sights set on working at a nearby clinic that specializes in eating disorders, addictions, bipolar disorder and more. (I was willing to work as a volunteer in order to accrue some relevant, current work experience on my resume.) I applied for a few job postings at the clinic and even sent in my application for a volunteer program that they are planning to implement. (My sister even forwarded my resume and volunteer application to the director of the program with whom she has worked in the past.) Funny thing, I have not heard a word from them in over two months.

It seems that each time I make a decision to pursue a certain career path, I am “steered” in some other direction. I do believe that a higher power is at the wheel. I will do my best to be a silent observer, snugly belted in the passenger seat. Too bad I can’t Google a map to show me where we are headed.  Patience has never been a virtue, and I don’t care much for surprises.

Only the Good Die Young

I borrowed the title of this post from an old Billy Joel song. It’s a phrase that I have repeated over and over in my head, as I learn of the premature passing of family, friends, acquaintances, and strangers. Yesterday, my boss was informed of the sudden and unexpected death of a childhood friend. He was 51 years old. My own husband passed away just two months shy of his own fifty-first birthday. And, the list goes on- Susan, gone at age 53, Debbie, Pam and Scott, age 47, Judi, age 37, Chris, age 21……

I have tried to wrap my head around this phenomenon that is occurring all around me. Young, full-of-life individuals, with so much to offer, are being plucked from this earth, often with no warning, and returned to their spirit form. Was their time here on earth just up, sort of a pre-negotiated quitting date? Had they simply completed all of their earthly tasks? These are some of the answers that I come up with when I allow myself to ponder the question, “Why?”

I will never really know the true reason for these seemingly untimely deaths (at least not in my current physical form), but I do believe that I crossed paths with many of these souls for a reason, and that my life is richer for having had them in it.

Life 101

My friends are leaving town tomorrow and heading to a famous cancer center where the Mr. will be undergoing a bone marrow transplant.  As I spoke with them today, I was reminded about the many people I know (and lots more that I don’t) who are dealing with REALLY heavy issues.  This includes friends and acquaintances with diseases like Cancer and ALS, or other folks who are out of work and trying to reinvent themselves.  As hard as these “lessons” may be for everyone involved, they are our opportunities for personal growth.  If you show up for class and do the homework, you will be rewarded with an “A”  in the course called “Life.”  You may learn things about yourself (and often others) that you did not know and you will, in all likelihood, be a better, stronger person because of this experience.

I am grateful that I am having a reprieve from the trauma and drama that have dominated my life, and that of my family, for the better part of a decade. However, I do not want to forget that many others are experiencing their own kind of personal hell as we speak.  You are in my thoughts, and I send you lots of love wrapped in positive, healing energy.


If you read my earlier post, “The Religion of Joan,” you know that I believe that we all are one.  This belief easily becomes eroded because as a society we insist on putting labels on ourselves. For example, let me make a list of all of the “tags” I might put on myself.

Female, Caucasian, Heterosexual, Buddhist, Democrat, Liberal, Accountant, Non-Smoker, Addict-you get my drift.

Here’s what often happens when human beings label themselves and others.  That old, scary notion of  “it’s my way or the highway”  comes into play.  We start believing that OUR race, OUR religion, OUR sexual orientation, OUR political affiliation, OUR occupation, is better than the next person’s.  This is VERY DANGEROUS.  It succeeds in accomplishing the one thing  that we do not need and that is to separate ourselves from one another.  Our country is in crisis, the world is in crisis.  We need each other.  Think twice before labeling yourself or someone else.  Try not to put yourself in a box.  It is dark and stuffy in there and smells like cardboard.

As far as my list is concerned, I am stuck with the labels white, straight girl. (The other labels are fake, anyway.)  I can’t change those. Okay, I guess  I could change my gender with surgery if I were so inclined.  I will choose to be color-blind and I will stay straight. I like men.

The Religion of Joan

I consider myself spiritual, not religious, and I believe that there is a difference.  My spiritual beliefs can be summed up in a few statements.

1. I believe in a higher power.  (You can call her whatever you like.)

2. We are all ONE.  (This is a biggy!!!)

3. What goes around, comes around. (Think Boy George and “Karma Chameleon.”)

4. We all came from the same place, and when our earthly lessons are complete, we all return to that place.  (It has been called heaven, nirvana, the other side.)

5. We are all made of energy.  Is yours positive or negative? (Hint: You want to pick the one that starts with “p.”)

6. EVERYTHING happens for a reason.  (There is no such thing as fate, luck or accidents.)

I was raised Catholic (not strict) and married a Jewish man (Conservative, not Orthodox).  This makes our offspring “Cathish.” When people ask me if I am raising my son as a Christian or a Jew, I say neither.  I tell them them that I am raising him in the Religion of Joan.

Cleaning Up Your Karma

I am a clean freak.  I love to clean.  It is therapeutic for me.  Something I have given thought to lately is “cleaning up my karma.”  If you have ever watched the television show, “My Name is Earl” on NBC, you know that the premise of the show is that Earl has made a list of all the people he has wronged in his life.  He spends time tracking them down to make things right, aka, cleaning up his karma.  If you are unsure of the meaning of karma, it comes from Hinduism and Buddhism and is the force generated by a person’s actions.  Some people define it as “what goes around comes around.”  Like Earl, I could probably make a list of my wrongs and make them rights.  I like that idea!  When I leave this earth and return to my spirit, I cannot take my tidy house and immaculate yard, but I can take my sparkling, spiffy karma.

I recently had the opportunity to fix some karma that I had created over 30 years ago in my high school math class.  Some classmates and I had been acting disrespectfully towards our teacher, Mr. T, for several class periods.  Things escalated one day and Mr. T kind of lost his cool and proceeded to rip my math notebook in half.  The class was stunned and so was Mr. T.  He ended up walking out of the classroom.  I don’t recall any real details or repercussions after the notebook-ripping incident, but I do know that this episode has stayed with me all of these years.  I have always felt badly about acting disrespectfully towards an adult, especially a teacher.

Last month, I had the chance to speak with Mr. T.  I recanted the story of that day in his algebra class and apologized for my behavior.  He did not remember the incident, but found the tale humorous.  I told him that if I died that day on my way home, at least I was given the chance to correct my karma with him.  It was a great feeling!

I have begun a mental Earl-like  list of other wrongs that I can right.  I think that I may have stumbled onto another way to channel my cleaning tendencies.  Spring is right around  the corner.  Care to join me in some karma cleaning in honor of the season?