Tag Archives: spirituality

I will remember you

 I met a man once who said he wanted to get rich enough to sustain a fund that would enable his children, grandchildren, great grandchildren and so on to be able to go to Disney World once a year.  He felt that they would enjoy themselves and remember him fondly.  I wasn’t very optimistic.  I thought a generation or so down, people would not remember him, but remember that there was some relative who had created a hopefully fun experience for them.  They would perhaps, enjoy the thought of him at best.

Do we remember John Wayne or Steve Jobs?  We remember what they left for us.  We enjoy their achievements.  But who were they as individuals?   Most of us never knew them, and so to miss them seems peculiar to say.  Is it enough to be remembered for what we did?  Or does it matter who we did it for?

Earlier this summer my father in law passed away.  Russell was not quite 93.  He fortunately had not been sick for very long and I believe was ready when his time came.  His two youngest children, one of which is my husband, were with him when he died.   It was evident by his last words that he knew they were with him and I believe he took great comfort in that knowing.

My in laws were not special, but they were as extraordinary as I understand the word to be.  They were ordinary, somewhat simply lived people, but they did everything to their fullest capacity.  They were kind.  At my mother in law’s memorial a couple of years ago, so many people shared stories of how Russ and Marge had helped them over the years.  They fixed things, baked things, drove people where they needed to go, lent them a dollar or two and even housed people who needed housing on occasion.   Upon Russ’s death, grandkids posted stories on Facebook about their memories.  These included fishing, hunting for mushrooms, sewing, cooking, making S’mores and watering the pecan trees at the farm. 

The elder Young’s will not be remembered by millions or thousands.  They might not be remembered beyond another generation.  I wear my grandmother’s engagement ring.  My children never knew her and were young enough that they barely remember my own mother.  But remembering and knowing are two different things.

My children know their great grandmother because so many of her qualities still reside within me.  My love for cooking undoubtedly was passed on by her to me.  I can still remember how she taught me to bake bread when I was only seven or eight years old.  And I share my love of cooking and baking with my family, not just as something I do, but something that is at my core.

My husband has so many fine qualities that are linked to his father.  I see many of the same traits in our oldest son as well.  Our youngest son sometimes has his grandfather’s laugh.  Likewise, my husband’s five sisters all possess some of the same gifts as did my mother in law.  And I see many of these traits passed on to their daughters as well.  They are crafty and creative just as she was, but each in their own way.

I suppose what I’m really trying to convey here is that our lives are less about our own stories and more about seeing them as chapters in a larger book.  Once the chapter closes, the book continues to build upon what was just conveyed.  The value in our lives is perhaps more contingent upon the simplicity of the subtleties we leave behind in the people we love rather than the notable achievement others who do not know us will attach to our name.   If that is accurate, then living well, being extraordinary and nurturing the growth of those around us, are our best hopes for immortality. 

 

Floating in a sea of insecurity

Sixteen years ago I became a mother for the first time.  I was 2 months shy of my own 40th birthday.  Obviously I am a late bloomer.  And 13 years ago I became a mother for the second time.  And so I have enjoyed saying that I am the mom of two kids for quite some time.  But on Friday my youngest son Andrew will turn 13, meaning I will for the last time, be the mother of children and will instead become the mother of teenagers. 

I would be lying if I said it was not bittersweet.  On the one hand I am delighted to watch my boys grow and become people in their own right.  It is fun to have the freedom that comes with the untangling of childhood needs and demands.  We have the luxury of not attending to their every need.  And I miss soft skin; baby smells (the good kinds) and coos.  Even though these have actually been gone for quite some time, there is still a way of defining one’s self that changes with an official transition of stages.  It’s neither cool or welcomed to remind a teenager of the things he did when he was a toddler.

But perhaps more than rearranging the child memories out of the forefront of my brain is the awareness that my own identity is once again cast out onto the open seas, unmoored from the dock of supposed security where I had been storing it for a time.  This is what we do as a people.  We link our identity to some safe haven so that we might know ourselves and have a way of introducing ourselves to others.  The dilemma is, of course, when we delude ourselves into thinking that our identity claim is anything more than arbitrary and or temporary.  I chose the identity of mother of children; some choose more exotic names like executive or entrepreneur, while others go for more personal descriptions like thin or beautiful.  In the end, they are all mere snapshots of who we are, and fleeting.  The only thing constant about our lives is that they change.

I am continuing to learn that genuine peace comes not from finding a more solid identity defined by my current circumstances, but rather increasing my awareness that who “I” am, is in fact, none of these adjectives or roles.  I am “I” who has participated in many of these over the course of my years and will hopefully continue to participate in more still to come.  I am “I” when I was not a mother of any children just as I am “I” today.  “I” is a solid and constant, and is the only thing that is solid and constant.  The lesson is to not get too attached to the ways I try to box “I” in.  It is not the boxing in per se that is the problem, but rather the attachment to the limitations of that box.  In other words, if I only feel present and solid because I am the mother of children, then once they become teens, it will be hard to know how and what to be the next day.  It will also be hard to know what they are the next day as well.  This is the case with folks who experience “empty nest” and depression from other kinds of life transitions like divorce, loss of a job etc.

This is deep, philosophical convoluted and truncated for the sake of space in a way that might not make it very clear.  If you want to do more reading “The Untethered Soul” by Michael Singer is a good primer.   This is predicated on the strategy of engaging in more eastern rather than western thinking.  In particular, it means to be mindful of not becoming attached to culturally or familial definitions of our self and using those definitions to insist on their legitimacy.  Failing to do so means we forfeit the right to choose anything not on our predefined path, and we require everyone around us to support our identity through their behavior as well.  Unfortunately, they usually don’t receive the script in advance and they keep mixing up the lines.  And when they do, it is us who falters.  We don’t receive the right cues, we get agitated and we become the director who now focuses on everyone around us to get their lines right as we want them performed.   

Nobody wants to work with a diva.  Not in show business, not in life.  No one wants to alter their behavior or their life trajectory so that we can feel safer in our comfortably created little identities.  The alternative is to let ourselves drift as the fleeting souls we actually are and enjoy the waves as they come along.  It means accepting that some will be gentle and some not but neither condition is ours to control or claim.

Life in the fishbowl

I read what was for me, a rather moving book last week.  Though, as much as I loved it, I recommend it with quite a bit of trepidation.  I listened to the book on Audible and I must say until the last two hours, it was pretty dull.  There was a lot of philosophical rambling.  I nearly quit, but I held on and I was well rewarded by the gems contained within.  I don’t know how well these will come through without the context of the book, and I have to be somewhat cryptic in order to not spoil the story in the event you might wish to read it for yourself.  The book is titled “The Elegance of the Hedgehog”.

There are two concepts that I want to share here that do not give away the story.  The first is the idea of the fishbowl.  This theory is put forward by 12 year old Paloma, an intellectually gifted French girl who lives with her family.  At the start of the story, Paloma is working out her plan to commit suicide on her 13th birthday.  As an intelligent child, she deduces that life is nothing more than the struggle to fulfill a great lie that our parents have thrust upon us and therefore, not worth the effort once you know the truth:

“Apparently now and again adults take the time to sit down and contemplate what a disaster their life is.  They complain without understanding and, like flies constantly banging against the same old windowpane, they buzz around, suffer, waste away, get depressed then wonder how they got caught up in this spiral that is taking them where they don’t want to go…And yet there’s nothing to understand… “Life has no meaning and we grown-ups know what is” is the universal lie that everyone is supposed to believe.  Once you become an adult and you realize that’s not true, it’s too late…. People aim for the stars, and they end up like a goldfish in a bowl”.

Thus, her planning suicide is to suck out what few joyful moments might lie ahead and then save herself the agony of ending up in the fishbowl.

The second thread I want to share is something that Paloma learns at the end of the book.  While we all use the word “never” quite freely, it is something that none of us truly understands until we are faced with a condition in which we experience no ability to transcend a limit regardless of our means and abilities.  A real never occurs when the illusion of our control is shattered beyond repair. Everything becomes clearly defined without the fantasy of “if only or when this, then that”.

The irony however, is that in the midst of Paloma’s “never” experience (I must be vague here to keep from spoiling the book), she experiences a moment in which time as she knows it to be in its linear form gets “interrupted” for lack of a better word.  In her words:

“I have concluded, maybe that’s what life is about:  there’s a lot of despair, but also the odd moment of beauty, where time is no longer the same.  It’s as if those strains of music created a sort of interlude in time, something suspended, an elsewhere that has come to us, an always within never”.

In short, life is filled with so much beyond our control.  The idea that we can and should do X Y and Z and we will be guaranteed the magic answer and life without sorrow, is in fact a lie perpetuated upon us by our parents and our culture.  Most of all it is perpetuated by our childlike naiveté and wish to have a perfect life with a happy ending.

Paloma begins with the understanding that the wish is a lie and attempts to resolve it by quitting the game.  Despite her advanced intelligence, her immaturity and surroundings prevents her from knowing that there is an alternative to both wrestling to live the lie or dying to avoid trying.

That alternative is also known as life.  But it is life that willingly accepts our limitations without shame, fear, denial and insistence that we and others transcend them.  It is life that is open to the moments of beauty that allow us to step out of the Never of time for brief moments and to allow those moments to nourish us and hold us until the next one comes along and to let them go as naturally as they came to us.  It is life that sees its end, not as a failing to hold on and thus succumbing to the fishbowl, but rather the transformation from this existence into something else, even if that something else cannot be definitively determined by the human mind.  And most of all to be open to those moments of beauty in a variety of forms rather than to predetermine allowable examples conjured up by our own ego.

 

 

Forgetting to Remember

Forgetting to Remember

In case it isn’t obvious to you already, let me confess that I am in fact a Pinterest Junkie.  In addition to my craft interests, I also enjoy the funny entries and quotes.  One I’ve seen with some regularity of the latter category is: “What would it be like if you woke up tomorrow with only the things you thanked God for today?”

On more days than I care to admit, my life would be pretty awful if this happened.  Like most people, I seem to forget to remember often enough to take stock in what I have to be grateful about.  The end result of this is probably not that, God will open the heavens with a lightening curse and take everything away.  That doesn’t make the result any less dramatic.  Because what happens when I forget to remember is that, I distance myself from the joy of truly embracing all that I have.  It’s there for me to experience and when I fail to recognize its true value, I get less joy.

There is a pretty funny old episode of the TV show Friends in which Alec Baldwin plays Phoebe’s new boyfriend Parker (you can check it out on YouTube).  He is over exuberant about everything to the point that it drives everyone in his path crazy.  His need to comment jubilantly about every small detail and experience causes Chandler to utter “Somewhere there is someone with a tranquilizer gun and a huge butterfly net looking for that man!”  I’m not suggesting we all become a slightly less annoying version of Parker.  But I am thinking that there is a substantial impact on our mood when we regularly remember not to forget what is around us right now in our lives.

I also have a word of caution.  Sometimes I notice that people remember to appreciate what they have by way of comparing their lot to what others don’t have.  An example of this is “Well, at least I’m not like that person I saw in the wheel chair.”  Another is “There are people starving in some third world country and my belly is full.”  While I appreciate the effort to be grateful, it comes at the cost of finding value only as a measure against someone else having a worse set of circumstances.  This approach is more likely to produce relief at best, guilt at worse, and in either case, not much joy.

It’s admirable to notice the less fortunate but not as a means to bolster one’s own circumstances emotionally.  The way to feel good about what we have is to simply focus on what we have whether or not anyone else has or doesn’t have the same.  Authentic value comes from owning the voice that bestows it, as opposed to temporarily renting it from an outside source.  As long as we depend on something outside us to determine what we find valuable, our happiness is subject to whether or not that outside source wants to continue to validate our need.

The new year is for most of us, off to a robust start.  We are back to our routines, normal schedules and responsibilities.  To avoid having the conversation with yourself in December of 2016 about how much of the year seemed to escape without your notice, this is a perfect time to begin incorporating some “taking notice of what is around you” time.  All it takes is the willingness to remember that this is all you know that you have- right now.  Acknowledge it and if possible, be grateful.

Happy Holidays

This is my last entry for the year.  I’ll be back the first week of January.  I just want to wish everyone a joyful holiday season, whatever your faith, including a hopeful new year.

The world is in a precarious state these days.  There is a daily barrage of bad news, potential threats, and looming concerns.  There is also joy, hope, and reasons for gratitude.  Sometimes in the wake of the former, it is difficult to find or focus on the latter.  Regardless of the difficulty, the choice remains ours.

To make the choice in favor of a more pleasant view of life however, is not to try and create a Norman Rockwell painting of upcoming events.  Rather, it means to simply focus on and appreciate what works, rather than to dwell on what does not. 

In his book “Conversations with God”, Neale Donald Walsh explains that we choose relationships based on what part of ourselves we wish to experience.  I would extend that thought as a statement about our lives in general.  What part of ourselves are we wanting to experience when we encircle ourselves with drama, chaos and hardship.  Is it a desire to feel punished, incompetent or inferior?  Is it a desire to see ourselves as a great rescuer?

And by the same token, when we surround ourselves with joy and plenty, are we bringing our self that is capable of richness and connection to God into the mix?  Neither of these questions is a simple yes or no, but are worthy of self-reflection.  What better time to do that than over this holiday season.

Once again, I want you to know how much I appreciate your dedication to reading, and value your feedback more than I can express.

Whatever you choose for this holiday season and the year ahead, I hope that you gain from it the knowledge you seek to make your life the best for you.

 

Happy Holidays

The City of Lights

The City of Lights

We are a couple of weeks past the tragic attacks on Paris.  Hopefully, those affected more personally have begun the process of healing.  The word process should be emphasized, because it is fact that and not as many expect, an event.  Grief, like many other life circumstances ebbs and flows through many changes and takes time.

Paris is often referred to as the City of Lights.  I would like to take liberty with that title by highlighting one of the stories I heard among those involved, because I believe they shine on the potential of a brighter existence for all of us.

Hélène Muyal-Leiris, left her husband of 12 years and their 17month old son, Melvil to attend a rock concert on Friday evening.  Instead of returning to their lives, she along with 128 other innocent victims lost their life in the massacre.  Upon learning the news, her husband Antoine offered the following powerful message to those responsible for his wife’s death:

“I will not give you the gift of hate.”

Leiris went on to interpret his understanding of the ignorance that leads to such violence, as well as, the limits of which, despite his grief, he will allow this to impact him and his son.  When referring to his child’s future he added “He is only 17 months old, he will eat his afternoon tea as always and then we will go and play as always, and this little boy’s entire life will be an affront to you by being happy and free. For he will not hate you either.”

I am in awe of this truly remarkable posture.  I often write about the accepting the freedom of personal choice in how we respond to what comes towards us in life.  This example is one of the best examples I have seen of application.  Leiris could choose to remain bitter, angry, devastated or immobilized by what has occurred.  Who would judge him harshly for choosing any response?  But instead, he opted to respect his grief, while also honoring the magnitude of love he felt for his wife.   He achieved this by choosing not to tarnish his or his son’s love by being forced into other feelings dictated by the actions of others.

There won’t likely be follow up stories to let us know in 5 or 10 years of this man or his son succumbed to depression, drugs and alcohol or a life of crime of their own.  But I have to hope that his gift of love will touch many people, who will in turn use it as motivation to choose in kind.  I hope that his current posture emerges from a spirit within him that looks towards the good in the world and that as a result; he has surrounded himself with like- minded people who will continue to support him through the days and years which lie ahead.

I often hear people say they can’t choose their feelings.  I’m not sure I agree.  I believe that circumstances appear to us and then we create a story around those circumstances.  How we build the story is predicated on our individual circumstances, both historically and in the present.  Sometimes this information is in consciousness and sometimes not.  But the story we tell is inevitably powerful, because it is the fuel that ignites our feelings.  Thus, while we may not be conscious of choosing our story, we are nonetheless its author.  Even if someone else originated the story, when we reinforce it by retelling it to ourselves, it becomes ours.

The good news is that all of our stories are subject to revision as we acquire new information.  We don’t have to stop editing until we take our final breath.  If you are not comfortable with the feelings generated by your plot lines, you have every right to change them.  I hope you will choose those which allow you to shine at your brightest.

 

 

Happy Thanksgiving

Thankful

This is the time of year that we are reminded to be thankful; to count our blessings.  I rarely look at Facebook, but I suspect if I did, or if you have, we would see lists of people posting that for which they are thankful.

For the most part, I’m going to save you from having to read my list.  But as I think about this task for myself, I am reminded of something from the movie American Beauty.  If I remember it correctly, this passage, uttered by Kevin Spacey, is from the final scene of the movie:

 

It’s hard to stay mad when

There is so much beauty in the world.

Sometimes I feel like

I’m seeing it all at once and it’s too much

My heart fills up like a balloon that’s about to burst

And then I remember to relax and stop trying to hold onto it and then it flows through me like rain.

And I can’t feel anything but gratitude for every single moment of my stupid life.

 

I think perhaps the reason that Gratitude lists get annoying is that most of us treat them like an activity or a single step in the pursuit of how to be happy.   It’s something we sometimes remember to do and sometimes not.  Or, we do it, and then we check it off as done.  Perhaps it might be more useful to think of Gratitude as a philosophy- a lens with which we look at the whole of our lives.  I think that is the intellectual understanding that many of us believe we are utilizing when we make our “lists”. We use our line items to verify the philosophy is intact.  But to truly operate from a stance of gratitude is to realize that it’s all a gift.  That which brings us joy and that which brings us pain is a gift.  The ability to feel all emotion, from sadness to grief, is a gift.  The opportunity to have and to lose is a gift.  The very act of being right here at this moment, no matter how wonderful or dismal, is worthy of gratitude.

It’s hard to feel grateful when the house is a mess and no will help clean it up.  It’s hard to feel grateful when your car breaks or the dog runs away, you get cut off in traffic or you catch yet another cold and feel miserable.  But if one is operating from a philosophy of gratitude, there is less temptation to separate single events into categories of good and bad.

One definition of gratitude is appreciation.  Appreciation is further defined as having a full knowledge and awareness of someone or something.  Often our inability to feel appreciation comes from a limited knowledge of someone or something.  We see only what we see in context to us and what we want in this moment, rather than a more comprehensive picture.  For example, the messy house is viewed by the number of toys on the floor and causes frustration.  But to see that the same house provides a safe shelter where our family can grow is a larger picture with more information, and thus more easily appreciated.  The broken down car is one view, but knowing that one has a job that can manage repair costs, provides for opportunities to consider a more grateful conclusion.

It’s curious that the word gratitude and great attitude sound so similar.  They also have in common the quality of choice.  In the end, there are no prizes for being grateful enough.  But there are rewards.

I began this post by saying I would mostly save you from my list.  But I am going to give you one item from my list.  I am grateful for your patronage, for your time in reading my posts, your encouragement and feedback that helps to keep this blog alive, despite its sometimes rushed, typo filled, over comma’d and under proofread existence.  Happy Thanksgiving.

 

Talent or Delusions?

Talent or Delusions

I don’t watch a lot of television. Except lately that seems a little less true. Last year I got a bit hooked on America’s Got Talent for a while. I was hooked until I discovered that talent was defined as a guy willing to get hit in his privates with baseball bats and the like and somehow  endure the pain.   After that,  I pretty much decided there were better things to do with my time. But the other night the TV was on and when I went by I saw this little old lady dancing and it caught my eye. I recognized her from an article I had seen a few weeks back. Her name is Tao Porchon-Lynch and at 96, she is the worlds oldest yoga teacher and apparently dancer on America’s Got Talent as well.

She is a sight to behold for sure. It’s admirable. I’m happy for her. But I don’t aspire to be her. I have neither a wish to be Debby Downer or self-deprecating, but realistically speaking, Tao is an anomaly, not the new poster child for 96 is the new 46. Yes, people are living longer than our predecessors, and I hope to be among that crowd. That said, the reality is that living longer doesn’t mean we are all going to be capable of doing in our 80’s and 90’s what we did in our 20’s and 30’s or even our 50’s and 60’s.  Why hold ourselves to this as the baseline standard?

I’ve been reading “Being Mortal” by Atul Gwande. It is a phenomenal book. But don’t pick it up unless you have time to read it in a relatively short period of time. The first half of the book is pretty tough to take in because it doesn’t sugar coat the harsh realities of aging. The goal is not to depress us, but rather to wake us up to accepting the inevitability of death. The author’s wish for his readers is that we live out our end with autonomy and agency rather than abdicating that responsibility to the medical community. Gwande, a physician, asserts that our society has turned dying into a medical war and people are often “sustained” and kept safe to achieve a quantity of life.  Further, He believes this strategy comes at the expense of achieving quality of life.

In our society, old age is something to be dreaded, feared and managed. I’m as guilty as the next guy. Yes, I’m used to my hearing aids, but I don’t embrace my aching joints, the lines in my face, or even the ever exposed “blonde” roots near my scalp. That said, I can contemplate at least intellectually that I’m logistically closer to death than I am to my birth. Emotionally, and perhaps this is only because I don’t consider having to confront it any time soon, I feel reasonably at peace with the prospect. I have lived a life I feel content with and have had the luxury of far more than I ever anticipated possible as a young girl. Still with the responsibility for my own young children, I’d like the opportunity to stick around at least long enough to ensure their launch into the world.

Beyond that point, I hope to have the presence of mind and the ability of body that will allow me to bead when I want to, eat and sleep when I want to, and to hang out with people or be alone if I choose. I hope as most people do, to not spend my last segment of life either hooked up to life support or in a nursing home. But the point is, most people currently in those conditions, also prefer not to be.

My mother died in a nursing home. She didn’t want to go into one and I knew that when I put her there. I felt I had no other option. She broke her hip and became immobilized. I work, have a family and neither, she nor I, had the funds to hire round the clock care for her. This is neither confession nor persuasion of justification, but rather an illustration of how these matters so often transpire. They happen because of the lack of a viable alternative.

Being Mortal is an invitation to consider an alternative to the status quo of how we currently manage aging and death. Instead of ignoring its realities and holding the fantasy in our mind that we will dance at 96, go home and quietly die comfortably in our sleep, we can make decisions in our life and our death. We can think about and discuss what we are and are not willing to endure when we inevitably become too frail to enjoy life as we know ourselves to be. This includes contemplation and some frank discussions with those who may be the executors of decisions on our behalf. It is not enough to simply say “I don’t want to be in a nursing home.” It is imperative that we make known what we individually consider quality of life to look like for ourselves and consider what options available best achieve those goals.

Would you trade a being gravely ill for 3 months of chemotherapy in order to live 4 months more?  If you have a heart attack or a stroke, what measures do you want to help sustain you? For those of you who are younger, what if you were in an accident? Would you be willing to stay in a coma indefinitely? How damaged of a body are you willing to live in? There are no rights or wrongs. Stephen Hawking has lived so many years in a body unable to move or even speak and has continued to make enormous contributions to the world. These are personal decisions for you to make. Don’t let someone else determine what you should or should not endure, be it family, children, and least of all institutions that do not know or understand your individual needs.

Welcome to my dreams.

Welcome to my dreams

 

A lot of people tell me they don’t remember dreams.   Personally, I think it’s a cultivated skill. I have always found my dreams to be rather instructive throughout my life and I have had a handful of recurring ones. Today I’d like to share one of those with you.

I find myself in high school. Usually in this dream I return to a high school reminiscent of my own or the community college, but last night I was actually in my son’s high school. It feels overwhelming. The kids there are nice enough to me, but I can’t get with the schedule. I keep getting lost while trying to navigate the various buildings and I can’t remember where my locker is or which class to go to next. Finally, I look around and say “I’m not doing this anymore. I already have a Ph.D.” Specifically in last night’s dream I went to the office and spoke to the principal. She said “Sure, you can quit, but there are certain types of jobs you won’t be able to get without your high school diploma.” She described the jobs to me and none of them were things I would ever want to do, so I left and never went back.

Now in real life, I did finish high school. But I finished at the semester rather than the full year. And I had just told that story recently which, most likely prompted the activity in my sleep. At various points in life that dream has meant different things to me. But last night’s version is, I think, the result of my contemplating something for someone else. Actually, for three someone elses: 3 women I am currently seeing in my practice.

Here is a quick vignette:

D- a very successful woman in the business world. She can pretty much count on getting 90% of the jobs she interviews for. In her last position, she worked 70 hours a week, and had to replace 75% of the team she inherited in under a year. Her CEO recently joined her on a sales pitch to a customer that if awarded would have raised her team performance considerably. The day after the sales meeting, without any indication of the customer’s decision, D was unceremoniously let go. She was told “It wasn’t enough.”

S- Another superstar. For her last position, she was courted by the employer. They stole her away from a competing company by promising the moon. They didn’t even know where to put her in their organization they just knew they had to have her. She joined them. Two years later, they still didn’t know where to put her. She never had an opportunity to shine at anything, because it was never really clear what she was supposed to be doing. She often felt like she was overlapping with others in their responsibilities, and they didn’t seem all that thrilled about the intrusion. Finally, the director told her he had made a mistake and they were eliminating her position.

N- Worked in a major institution for 20 plus years. She was the darling of the team. She was thorough and reliable. Not only did N do a great job logistically, but she was deeply committed to the people she served. N was called in to human resources and terminated without warning. Their reason: they claim N did not clock out before going to lunch. N often worked long after she clocked out in the evening in order to get her job done. She would never have gone to lunch on company time.  She was never asked about the incident at the time it supposedly occurred or given a chance to prove her case.

I heard each of these stories in about a two week time span which helped link them together in my mind.

In her discussions about entering the “dark night of a spiritual journey”, Caroline Myss says that anything that stands in your way will be removed for you by the universe. I don’t know if that was the case for any of these women, but I do know that each of them had been unhappy in their jobs and was thinking of leaving, but neither was sure what their next step would be. One could argue that their unhappiness produced substandard work which prompted their terminations. I know that was not the case with any of them however, as they are all hard working women with considerable integrity.

I think my dream was my own minds processing that these stories. For me, they are examples of being in a role that isn’t really right, but doing it because you think you are supposed to fulfill someone else’s rules for you. My declaration that I had a Ph.D. to the other students was a way to say, “I’m not supposed to be here. I don’t have to do this.” And to seal it off, the principal tried to give me advice of the importance of staying, but it was advice from her framework not mine. When I identified that, I was free to leave.

These women became free to leave. I am confident that each will land on their feet, and become stronger and wiser in the process.   Are you hanging on to a role or relationship that you don’t belong in, but one that someone else thinks is a good idea for you? Are you willing to take yourself out of the position or do you have to wait to be asked to leave?

Whatever doesn’t kill you makes you stronger

 

I had an unexpected complication in my first pregnancy. What started out as a nagging backache in my 11th week turned into a pinched nerve. I was getting ready for work when the pain literally dropped me to the ground. I somehow hobbled to the bed where I called my husband, barely able to speak and ended up going to the hospital by ambulance. I stayed in the hospital for 3 days while they tried to figure out what to do with me. Eventually a pain management doc started me on steroid injections which lasted several weeks outpatient.

In the first two weeks after the hospital the pain was really intense. I never slept more than 2 hours at a time. Frustrated one night I asked my husband “What if it’s like this the whole time?” He replied “Then it will be like this the whole time.” It was as if I expected him to come with an different answer because I wanted one. On another night in a sleep deprived stupor I exclaimed “I’m an American! This can’t be happening to me!” Brilliant- I guess only 3rd world countries are expected to have pain. Eventually the pain subsided. I was lucky.

A few years ago I met a young woman who had chronic headaches. I don’t mean take two aspirins and call me in the morning kind of headache. Rather, they were headaches that left her debilitated. Any kind of fluorescent lighting or screen light from electronics caused her considerable pain. She was forced to drop out of school.   After a couple of years she began to have some success with a variety of new treatments. It was hard to find hope when no one understood the cause much less the cure.

More recently I met Joyce who came to see me at the suggestion of her physician. Joyce has been coping with an excruciating pain which, at its peak left her housebound. She has tried every treatment she can find, both traditional and non-traditional. For the past several months Joyce has received relief through a medication intervention that has made the pain bearable, but it is far from gone.

Unlike my own experience of believing that if I could just use my national status or reason my way out of pain, Joyce, a very spiritual woman says that the pain has only strengthened her relationship with God. It has been educational, enlightening and frankly, beautiful to watch Joyce process her experience.   While it has been a journey for her, I will fast forward to the present resolution in the interest of brevity for this post. To state it succinctly, Joyce has moved from praying for the pain to be gone, to praying for the strength to use the pain as a tool to do whatever it is that God would like her to do in this world. Joyce has expressed that this reframe has enabled her to feel more empowered and less victimized by her circumstances.

I’m fairly confident that no one will read this post and hold up their hand to say “give me some pain please so I can grown stronger.” I think Joyce would really appreciate a vacation from her pain so she could get a good nights sleep that she hasn’t had in a very long time. But like many things in life, we don’t choose circumstances or pain that comes at us. Sometimes we do, but often we don’t. What we can choose is what we will do with it when it arrives.

I chose to become indignant. My first client chose to be focused on searching for a cure. Joyce tried both of those routes, but settled on a third posture. To find a way to keep living even with her pain, but even more importantly, to see it as purpose rather than ­­­­­persecution.

There is a wonderful little book called “Intoxicated by My Illness by Anatole Broyard. After learning he had terminal cancer, Broyard decided to use the metaphor of drunk as a way to describe how his illness afforded him the opportunity to fully live with whatever time he had left, without any inhibition or prohibition. In essence, he became “intoxicated” by the illness allowing him to do and experience every ounce of life in his remaining time. Broyard’s wife had to finish the book for her husband as he passed prior to its completion.

As author, Geneen Roth writes “Real people feel some kind of pain every day of their life. Living hurts, dying hurts.” And the Buddha says “Pain is inevitable, suffering is extra.” Which will you choose when pain, physical or psychological knocks at your door?

acceptance vs resignation

Before I jump into this week’s post, I’d just like to thank you all for reading last week’s post, and for the bunch of comments I received both publically and privately.  I had no idea when I wrote about Leonard that it would impact people so favorably.  I am humbled and more importantly, I am thrilled that a piece of his life touched others.

This next piece is actually something  I wrote a long time ago.  Since I’ve been referring back to it a lot recently, I decided it was time to dust it off.  I hope you find it useful.

 

Many people seem to be confused about the concept  of acceptance.  I often hear them say, if I accept “this” as it is, “it” will never change, and I simply can’t live with the way things are.  Thus, they draw the conclusion that they can’t accept their current lot.  Maybe you’ve said, “if I accept my weight the way it is, I will never get thin.  And I don’t like my body now.”

I find it helpful to make the following distinction.  Acceptance says this is what it is AT THIS PARTICULAR MOMENT IN TIME.  It doesn’t require that you agree with the circumstance, that you like the circumstance, or that you hope it will always be this way.  It is merely acknowledgment of what is.  And this is the part people really struggle with:  acknowledge it without judgment of the condition being good or bad.  Rather, it is a relinquishment of the past and the present in favor of being where you currently are.  It is only from there that you can objectively determine the appropriate course of action.  Without your energy in the present, you are instead destined to cloud your choices by old habits and patterns and/or future fantasies.

In contrast, resignation is the inclusion of the judgment.  It says, okay, I’ll live with it the way it is, but I don’t like it.  Resignation is a victimization.

Acceptance is the recognition that where you are at this moment is all you can absolutely be sure exists.  It is an affirmation of the here and now which is the only thing you can impact with any real accuracy.  You might argue that if you change A, you can also impact the future of B.  I would agree that while that is likely in many cases, there is no guarantee that the future will occur at all, much less with the certainty that one might try to predict.

On a spiritual level, acceptance is an acknowledgment of what the universe has offered you at this particular moment.  Standing still in acceptance gives you the opportunity to see if there is anything you can learn, about you, about the world, about life.  Resignation doesn’t provide you with the openness to consider these messages.

I hope you will leave me a comment about any insights you have to share on this subject.

 

 

 

 

Sand Castles

Between the reports on the recent tragedy in France, and some personal stories of loss that I’ve recently heard, I am again reminded of the fragility of life. Most of us walkabout our everyday lives with the naïve sense that tomorrow will come and go according to plan. We hear about an event where that was not the case for someone else and we stop, give pause, and pick up right where we left off.

There is certainly nothing wrong with this. It’s what helps us get through the day. One of my favorite comedians Karen Mills has a funny bit about the absurdity of not taking that approach. Mills said she tried once to take Oprah’s advice and live every day like it was her last. The problem was it made her family too depressed because she ended every phone call with a dramatic “Goodbye, I’ll miss you”.

So how do we instead, find the balance between telling everyone goodbye as if it is the last time, and not living with such obtuseness that life won’t last forever? I appreciate the following quote from Pema Chodron:

“We are like children building a sand castle. We embellish it with beautiful shells, bits of driftwood, and pieces of colored glass. The castle is ours, off limits to others. We’re willing to attack if others threaten to hurt it. Yet despite all our attachment, we know that the tide will inevitably come in and sweep the sand castle away. The trick is to enjoy it fully but without clinging, and when the time comes, let it dissolve back into the sea.”

Not only is the quote beautiful, but instructive. Chodron suggests that we should play to our fullest ability, but not cling. These are the thoughts I try to remember when I crab about the shoes my boys leave in the foyer or the mud on the carpet left behind by the dog. It doesn’t always make me feel 100% better, but it does make me at least think. And when I force myself to think about the value I place over one set of my choices (children and a dog) over a things that I have (a clean or not clean house) then, I am by definition, engaging in the act of mindfulness. Regardless of what I ultimately choose, it is more likely done from the position of self- choice rather than numb reaction. I can only hope that when it is time for my sand castle to wash back into the sea, there will be a comfort in knowing I built it myself, it was the best castle I could have built, and I enjoyed it fully.

 

Who is the chief architect of your sand castle? Do you recognize the work? Are you enjoying it?

 

 

Life in a Jar


 

 

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Life in a jar

We are in the midst of the Jewish High Holidays. I’m not Jewish, but have worked with many Jewish clients over the years who have taught me so much about their religion and beliefs. And while I don’t pretend to be remotely knowledgeable despite the patience many have exerted while trying to educate me, I have come to have a great appreciation for many of their teachings. And so, part of this post, is intended as an acknowledgment of these special times for those who celebrate.

The other day however, one of my clients sent me a story about an unsung hero during the holocaust. I generally don’t take things that float around the internet at face value, so I decided to do a little more research on this one and was very glad I did. The article was titled “Thank the lady plumber” about a polish female plumber who supposedly saved many children during the holocaust.

It turns out that there were 2 inaccuracies in the article. Irena Sendler was actually not a plumber. She was a catholic social worker. Sendler had to be granted special permission to go into the Warsaw ghettos. As the article stated however, she did in fact find many creative ways to smuggle children out, from duffle bags, to coffins. At times, she even sedated infants to keep them from crying while getting them to safety. She literally had to talk parents out of their children, in hopes that they might be saved.

The other inaccuracy is debatable, which is that, Sendler was denied the Nobel Peace Prize in 2008. This can’t be categorically stated as Nobel Prize nominations, investigations and opinions are sealed for 50 years.

But pretty much everything else is dead on accurate. Sendler remained relatively unknown until a teacher in Kansas assigned his students with a year-long National History Day project. Originally two ninth graders and one 11th grader accepted the challenge. The project evolved into a play, and later a book and a movie called Life in a Jar. The three original students along with another who joined them and their teacher were fortunate enough to travel to Poland where they spent time with Irena Sendler. They also met Elzbieta Ficowska, a woman Irena had rescued at the age of 5 months and survived only because of Sendler’s heroism.

The glass jar refers to Sendler’s practice of putting information about each child she rescued in a jar, in hopes that they might later be reunited with their parents. She buried the jars in a friend’s yard and suffered physical brutalities by the Nazi’s when she refused to divulge their whereabouts. In all, the jars contained information about 2500 children. It is believed she saved an additional 500 children prior to the jars, bringing her estimated total closer to 3000 saved lives.

 

Sendler was just 29 when she began her mission. I personally can’t imagine the presence of mind she must have had, in order to muster the bravery needed, to follow through as she had. Katy Perry, Kiera Knightly, Ashley Tisdale and Scarlett Johannson are all 29. Their accomplishments and focus seem grotesquely un-relatable in comparison. And I’m not picking on these women, because frankly, when I was 29, 39 or even 49, I’m pretty sure I didn’t have a fraction of the courage or tenacity to do what this woman did, nor do I still today.

Sendler died in 2008 at age 98 from pneumonia.   She didn’t seek fame for her work. In fact, she is quoted as saying “Every child saved with my help is the justification of my existence on this Earth, and not a title to glory.”

Perhaps another of her greatest achievements is her clarity of knowing the justification of her existence, without the need for an external award of proof to her or anyone else. Do you know yours?

 

 

 

 

Leap of Faith

 

 

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There is a movie from 1992 called Leap of Faith starring Steve Martin and Debra Winger. Martin plays a con man Jonas Nightengale, who poses as an evangelical preacher that goes from small town to town creating “miracles”. But what he actually does is use a crew, led by Winger to feed him information about the audience into a hidden ear piece so he can “appear” to know things about the people. Of course, everyone is impressed by his great capacity and gives him money. Then he moves on to the next town and repeats this scenario.

Jonas and his crew find themselves in the impoverished town of Rustwater Kansas after their travel bus breaks down. Jonas looks around and declares “A town this deep in the crapper’s got nowhere to turn but GOD!”   Among their many problems, the drought plagued town needs rain to survive. Jonas plans to run a show or two while he waits for repairs before being discovered.

Shortly into the movie however, he is intrigued by a young boy Boyd and the sister who cares for him. Boyd can walk only with crutches since an accident that killed his mother and father and left his legs dysfunctional. The sister warns Jonas to stay away from Boyd, explaining that once before a preacher tried to heal Boyd. When it failed, the preacher blamed the boy for not having enough faith. However, despite her cynicism, Boyd is mesmerized with Jonas and wants to be healed by him.

Jonas continues to prey upon the vulnerabilities of the towns people. Each time they suspect God has spoken to him on their behalf, they add money to his coffers. Boyd makes his way to the stage and seeks to be healed. Jonas tries to ignore his presence because he doesn’t want his cover blown. But Boyd actually begins to walk without his crutches and the crowd goes wild. They throw money at Jonas and shout one more miracle. They now want him to make it rain to benefit the town.

Jonas is angry, believing that Boyd was a bigger conman than even he presuming the boy faked his impediment. The next night the town gathers in a field to camp out waiting for the miracle of rain. Knowing he will be discovered as a fraud, Jonas slips off and hitches a ride on his own leaving his crew behind. Ironically, he isn’t very far out of town when the truck driver notices it has begun to rain. Jonas laughingly calls out “Thank You Jesus.

Okay, I ruined the movie for you I’m sorry. But I wanted to give you an illustration of something I think best illustrates a principle one of the classic theorists in psychology, Alfred Adler. He calls it the As IF principle.

Adler suggested that when we are trying to make a change, we need to behave as if the change has already taken place. For example, if you want to get promoted, wear the clothing of someone at the next level. If you want to improve your marriage, act as if it is already improved and treat the other person from that mindset. If you want to be more financially sound, live as if there is money around you and operate from confidence rather than fear or deprivation.

Please don’t confuse this as simple and easy. Actually, it is somewhat simple, but it isn’t necessarily easy. It requires clear goal setting, commitment to the goal, letting go of obstacles you may be holding on to (crutches), and the willingness to experience the discomfort of being in transition or even limbo between the self you have been, and the self you wish to be.

Even more than changes in behavior on the outside, acting as if, requires significant changes on the inside. It means to practice seeing yourself as successful. And, while many people have this desire, as the move suggests, it often requires a leap of faith.

While Martin is a clearly stated con man, Adler is not. However, in this exchange between Jonas and Boyd, Martin actually demonstrates in a crude way how Adler’s theory works:

 

Boyd: My sister says you’re a fake

Jonas, “Well maybe I am and maybe I’m not

If I get the job done, what’s the difference?

When we act as if, we begin projecting outward the image of us as having the capacity to live in the role where are seeking. Others, seeing us in that role begin to respond to us that way, which reinforces that confidence within us that we can handle the change. From that confidence, we continue to develop and strengthen the skills needed to make the change permanent and natural for us. Essentially what Jonas told Boyd is that whether or not it starts out as pure and legitimate, belief can make something become true.

 

Are there any areas that you could benefit from acting “as if”? How might you change if you took a leap of faith? I’d love to hear your comments.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

How to be a Birdbrain

 

 

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The recent storms created a lot of fallen trees in my subdivision which is mostly wooded. In fact, one of my neighbors had a rather large tree fall across their driveway. It was a pain to remove, but it’s also one of the expectable hazards of living where we do. Trees get old; storms knock them down.

I’m not so much of a nature watcher, but I suspect when a big storm hits birds don’t hang out in the trees. I have to guess that if they do, they fly somewhere pretty quickly if they feel a tree starting to sway and tumble.

But on a regular day, I imagine birds hang out in the trees for the most part, unless trees are not prevalent. And it reminds me of a quote I like very much:

A Bird Sitting On A Tree Is Not Afraid Of The Branch Breaking Because His Trust Is Not On The Branch But On Its Wings .

I guess to be a bird means to have faith when it walks out on a branch that, it will either be fine or it will do something else. In contrast, as people, we tend to think in advance about the branch, look at it, research branches, finding out the statistics on how many branches will break per year and under what conditions, and then try and make a calculated guess of whether or not we should step out onto the branch. After that, we invest more time still discussing our findings about branch safety with others to try and validate our plan. Very often this results in either not going out on the branch at all, because we haven’t finished the analysis, or forgetting what we went there for by the time we arrive. Possibly, what we went out there for has already passed.

On the other hand, there are also some humans that will tromp on out to the branch before they learn to fly which doesn’t usually end well either. One could argue that real faith means not even worrying about the flying part- trust that God or the universe or whatever you subscribe to will simply take care of the falling bird.   And so when they inevitably fall, they use the bump on their head as justification that God doesn’t really care about them, or even that, there is no God.

Do we really want to live in a world where something other than us takes care of every single for us? While it sounds tempting in those moments that we feel overwhelmed, the truth is that we derive a vast amount of our satisfaction and esteem from mastering things. We learn from the struggles and to have them taken away from us leaves us without much purpose in living. Faith is to fill in the parts we don’t need to struggle with. Faith is the connective tissue between the parts we do, and the parts we don’t.

The parts we do are simply “our part”. It means to develop the strength, skills, resiliency and in some cases, patience and understanding. And probably a few other qualities that I’m forgetting at the moment. So in short, it’s not about developing how to anticipate everything and account in advance for every unknown. It’s about developing a plan A to try and get down the right path, and a plan B for when A doesn’t work out. Plan B isn’t just a more developed A. Plan B is a strategy about how to be okay when Plan A doesn’t get you where you wanted and accepting that you have to live with the way things are now, at least for now.  Another way of looking at his is that Plan A is your willpower and Plan B is your willingness.

Thanks for stopping by– To leave me a comment, please return to the website if you are reading this through your email.

 

 

The Wisdom of a Child

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The wisdom of a child.

One of my most useful quotes comes from Jon Kabat Zinn:

Think of children as Zen masters in little bodies. They will bring you to every lesson you need to learn in life.

 

My little Zen masters have taught me invaluable lessons, and continue to do so every day. I had an advanced course this morning when my 14 year old taught me that I sometimes don’t listen very well, despite the fact that, a large part of my livelihood comes from my ability to teach others to listen.

He taught me that while parents think their goal is to teach a child how and what to be, what they really need is us to create an environment that allows and encourages their skills to flourish, even when as parents, we don’t understand their skill set.

I’ve learned that sometimes a six year old is the smartest person in the room. A client recently told me about an accident that happened to their younger child. While she was in a bit of shock over the affair, her six year old sat calmly beside her and kept reassuring her that things would be fine.

I’ve learned that adults often use the same behavior they criticize their children for- like yelling when they are angry. We tell ourselves that our anger is justified because it’s something big. But in reality, what a child is yelling about is equally big if not bigger to them because they often don’t have the tools or resources to counteract what is confronting them at the time. If we want them to stop that, maybe we should as well.

I’ve learned that you should carefully choose your words; they can crush someone’s soul if you forget to love a person when you speak to them. But in that same lesson, I also learned that love from a child is unbelievable strong and its power along with a little time, can often heal the deepest of wounds.

I’ve learned that most things in life can and should become lower in priority then missing a moment to share something important with another person. And that often what a person wants to share, isn’t the thing they are showing you, but rather the opportunity to let you know how important you are to them because they want to share it with you. If you are lucky enough to realize that at the time, don’t get lost trying to critique the thing you are looking at.

I’ve learned that- oh who am I kidding? I haven’t learned that patience is cultivated by lots of practice. I’m still working on this one. But I want to learn it so I’ll keep practicing. And I’m confident my Zen masters will remain at work to teach me.

I’ve learned that your body is an incredible source of wisdom. Things work a lot better if you listen to it and not try and cover up its messages with societal rules. Pee when you have to pee. Sleep when you have to sleep and eat when you have to eat.

I’ve learned that there aren’t really a lot of things that separate kids from adults. Adults have more cash, kids can bend and stretch more and run faster. But beyond a few things, we are more similar than different. It’s just that adults have more things to hide their fears and inadequacies behind. We have fancier words, letters behind our names and more powerfully built and long standing illusions than kids do. They use make believe to soothe themselves and so do we, but we are better at defending our coping mechanisms as legitimate. They use teddy bears. We use chemicals and compulsions.

I’ve learned that most things can be better explained in books 10 pages long and pictures than one with 300 pages and a bibliography.

And with the birth of my children I learned that love is something we decide. We extend our love to them before we ever know who they are. Even when they are covered in muck, red faced, wrinkly and screaming. Love is our power to give or to withhold. Whether we love a person or not has a lot less to do with who they are and what they do, and a lot more to do with what we are willing to pay attention to or let go.

This is such a brief snippet of the things I’ve learned or am learning from my Zen masters. What are yours? I hope to add to this list, and would love to know yours as well.

Please leave me a comment, and I hope you’ll pass this on to someone else and suggest they subscribe as well.

 

 

 

 

 

 

Operating Instructions

 

 

 

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Operating Instructions

Recently it seems I‘ve been asked a lot how I come up with blog topics. There are a couple of ways actually. First, there are a lot of ideas that have circulated in my brain for a long time and I’ve never written in a formal way before. Many of them are stories I’ve used repetitiously in my career over the years and found them helpful. So sharing those is easy. I have an ongoing list that I draw upon from time to time.

The second way is when I feel a reaction to something going on in current events, or happening in my own life. My goal when I provide these is to offer another way of looking at something that might be happening, with hopes that it can be applicable to your life as well.

The third source is perhaps the most quirky. Sometimes I think I have a rather peculiar brain, but over the years I’ve learned to run with it, rather than fight it. Mostly what I mean by this is that when an idea hits me I try to capture it as best as I can. Often this is when I’m in the shower, or driving, or immediately upon waking up in the morning. I find that when I fail to get it down its usually pretty much gone forever. And I get a lot of ideas.

I like to think of these ideas as whispers from the Universe. They usually aren’t hand engraved announcements but rather a nudge to make me aware of something or more curious about something. When the latter occurs, I will often go dig up a little more information to better understand a topic. What I find so interesting, is that many times, its something I previously had no interest in.

My reason for sharing this with you is to encourage you to not “ignore” whispers. Perhaps you too, have a peculiar brain that you haven’t been “listening” to. One very common place people experience this challenge is in dreaming.  Often, they will tell me that they don’t remember their dreams when they wake. I’ve found this is a cultivated practice. Try keeping a note pad beside your bed and jotting something down, even if you wake up in the middle of the night. Once your subconscious knows you are taking notes, it is more likely to be a little more forthcoming.   You may find some helpful insight.

As for daytime whispers, try not discounting the information you take in and brushing it off. I’m not suggesting you try to find the shape of Jesus in your nacho chips here. I am however, suggesting that, my legitimization of events that many would chalk up to coincidence, has proven to be very helpful to me over the years. Anne Lammot titled her best-selling book “ Operating Instructions” after the phrase her father often used. She reports that he when he felt stuck, he would look to the sky and ask for his next set of operating instructions.

The biggest resistance in this arena for most of us is when we get a “message” that may be our operating instructions, we are not open to what may come, but rather are focused on what we want to hear. This often blunts us from hearing what we are offered. Another resistance is that we may not want to stop what we are doing and get quiet enough to take note. I am particularly resentful when my operating instructions come before my desired wake up time. I’ve also had to pull off the road a time or two in order to make notes. Now, I try and carry along a micro tape recorder and get down as much as I can even when I’m driving along.

Just to be clear, I’m certainly not suggesting to anyone that I hear “voices”. At least not in the technical sense. But like many of my other posts, cultivating a posture of mindfulness is essential in being able to notice what happens within you.

I’d like to finish today with a quote I love from children’s author Shel Silverstein

 

The Voice

There is a voice inside of you

That whispers all day long,

“I feel this is right for me, I know that this is wrong.

” No teacher, preacher, parent, friend Or wise man can decide

What’s right for you–just listen to

The voice that speaks inside.”

Life below the surface

 

 

 

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I took a fairly hard stance when Philip Seymour Hoffman died of a drug overdose. I tend to be somewhat unsympathetic about stars and drugs. And yet,  I find myself with a mixed reaction to the death of Robin Williams. Actually, it seems incomplete to say the death. It’s more accurate to include the phrase suicide in the death of Robin Williams.

After prolific musical artist Buddy Holly died in a plane crash, Don McClean wrote his classic melody “American Pie”. The chorus lyrics include “the day the music died”.   Given the widespread media coverage on Williams, it seems August 11 is a day many people will associate as the one the laughter died. Although I personally sometimes failed to appreciate his comedic talent, Robin Williams was truly a genius. He was also an outstanding dramatic actor. I wrote a post a while back that I will publish at a later date about his role in Good Will Hunting.

Robin Williams was also a man. One I know little about, other than what he puts in the public eye for us to interpret. He was vocal about his chemical dependence and struggles with depression. And despite what he now has taken away from us to enjoy, the reality is he never owed it to us. It wasn’t ours to keep.

Depression is a complicated thing that we sometimes over simplify. Many people use the word with an almost flippant regard. “Oh that was a depressing movie”. Or, “ I’m so depressed about this”. People that suffer from migraines understand there is an enormous difference between a headache and a migraine. People who have experienced clinical depression understand it is not like the feeling of being “bummed out” or sad.

I was a therapist treating “depression” for a number of years before I fully understood what it was. Or at least my version of it. I have had loss and less than optimal times in my life and always managed to “pick myself up by the boot straps” and move along. Until my 2nd pregnancy that is. I attributed my mood shift to my hormonal havoc, but I experienced a full fledged clinical depression. My intellectual functioning and emotional state simply would not line up. I was happy to be pregnant. I was relieved to be pregnant after nearly a year of trying. But I found it impossible to feel joy, or much of anything beyond a jagged numbness. Fortunately for me, the depression lifted almost immediately after giving birth.

Most of what I recall was the inability to feel motivated to do much of anything. Every action seemed labored and unworthy of the effort it required. The promised payoffs provided little to no incentive. Even my beautiful toddler at the time could not propel me to be excited about anything.

I once had a client who attempted suicide. Her description included a firm awareness that she would take her life at the end of a particular evening. She had dinner with a friend, and reported that, all the while she carried on a normal conversation, she was calmly thinking in her own head “only ___more hours until I kill myself”.

Depression hijacks your brain. The things you want to think, the things others tell you to think don’t have much impact. It’s kind of like the flight attendant yelling at the hijacker “You know, if you just put down that gun and take your seat, we’ll all have a much more enjoyable flight”. The hijacker isn’t interested in what the flight attendant has to say.

Medication is kind of like an Air Marshal. It can step in with authority that none of the other passengers have the skills to use. But even medication doesn’t help everyone. Some hijackers are resistant to even Air Marshals.

Therapy? Yes it helps. But not just the therapy that takes place in someone’s office. Depressed people often find themselves curled up in an emotional ball protecting their vulnerability from the world. Yet, what they most need is to be touched by as many supporting structures as possible. Ironically, the thing they feel least like doing, “talking” is the most helpful during depression. And they need to be “doing”, even if it just begins as going through the motions. At very least, doing, keeps you from drowning in the sea of one’s own negative sense of hopelessness.

Doing allows for the world to be a little larger than the black hole of one’s own depressed mind. And similarly talking provides not only an unburdening, but also a way to feel some sense of another person’s non depressed energy to remember what it feels like, during times you feel zapped of vitality. It can also be a way to see one’s value as worth more than a depressed person might be able to conjure up on their own.

Part of the dilemma however, is that non depressed people don’t usually want to hang out for very long with depressed people. This is usually painfully obvious to the depressed. And so Instead of seeking contact, they are more likely to retreat behind a façade or to their private hell where they can suffer silently.

Being with a depressed person doesn’t require us to solve their problems. Nor, does it require us to take their problems on as our own. More often than not, it harkens us to just be there in that space with them for a few moments without judgment or insistence that they change. Think of it as providing just one glass of water on a long path for a weary traveler. You don’t have to be an endless fountain and quench all of their thirst, simply provide enough for that leg of the journey. The traveler may still elect to end their journey prematurely, but they will do so with the knowledge that someone tolerated them as they truly are before they leave.  Sometimes that is the most needed and effective gift we can provide to another human.

 

Thanks for stopping by.  I’d love to hear your comments.  If you found this helpful, please pass it on and suggest someone you know subscribe.  Until next time- Take Care

 

Justin Bieber gets religion?

 

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I heard recently that, Justin has reportedly found God, is doing bible study and trying to use that avenue to turn his life around. The skeptic in me thinks Justin is trying to turn his plummeting stardom and likability ratings around- but who am I to judge. And frankly, I hope the skeptic is wrong. Not because of a religious conviction, but because at the end of the day I do firmly believe that the path to change always begins with the decision to do so followed by a single step in a different direction.

This morning I received a text from an old client I haven’t seen in a while. He told me he had been thinking of coming in for a while. I said I was looking forward to seeing him and we set up an appointment. He said I shouldn’t be too excited, because he wasn’t feeling very proud of himself. I don’t know what we have ahead to work on. Frankly, it doesn’t change how I’m feeling. I’m fairly confident that regardless of what he has to present, the fact that he already has an internal feeling that he knows he is behaving in ways he doesn’t feel good about, and is willing to talk about this, is justification for my optimism.

I am often asked if I think people change. My answer is yes. And it’s based on more than the PolyAnna optimism I’ve been charged with at times. While many people don’t change, I believe more often than not, people are capable of change. However, it is unlikely to happen unless there is something more compelling to go towards, or something compelling enough to motivate them to move away from. What qualifies as compelling varies from person to person.

 

From the outside looking in, we tend to view the need for someone else to change as pretty straight forward. Woman beaten by husband- leave him. Husband using alcohol with poor health- Don’t drink. Wife disappearing in emaciation- just eat. Employee losing wife due to overworking- just set boundaries.

I think the important thing to remember is that people don’t develop problematic behaviors in a vacuum because they are attractive or fun. Behavior is meaningful. It serves a purpose. The woman may tolerate the beatings because she is financially or emotionally dependent. The husband may be using alcohol to self-medicate other issues. The emaciated woman may use her body as a way to set boundaries between herself and others that she has been unsuccessful doing any other way and so on. I do not offer these as excuses, but as explanations or as a small glimpse of what might lie under the surface that we do not see in others when we judge.

That said, dysfunctional or maladaptive behavior needs to be addressed. But change in my opinion is a process that occurs over time, not an event from a short term burst of enlightenment. People can have an “aha” moment, feel the heal, and seal it by singing a little Kumbaya during a group hug. But chances are when they return to the mundane routine of their everyday world, the very factors that led to their choice of behavior will still be waiting for them. Real change involves learning how to be different internally even though the environment hasn’t changed.

Change takes work. It requires introspection, objectivity and honesty. It also requires a willingness to tolerate the uneasiness of stepping out of your comfort zone while you wait for something better to grow in its place. It also requires a willingness to fail and start again, sometimes over and over again.

I think I’ll wrap this one up with a little humor with a joke that although corny, does make the point.

How many psychiatrists does it take to change a light bulb?

Only one- but the light bulb has to really really want to change.

 

I hope you’ll leave a comment and pass my blog on to someone else suggesting they subscribe!  Thanks for stopping by and Take care.

 

 

lets wait and see

 

 

 

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There are more elaborate versions of this fable, but I think this one will get the point across.

There’s a story about a farmer many years ago who owned a horse.

He wasn’t a rich man and his horse was his most prized possession.

One day he woke up to find that his horse was missing.

The other men in the village came to visit and commiserate with him.  “What terrible luck, losing your prized horse.”

“Was it terrible luck?  Let’s just wait and see, it’s still too early to tell.”  the farmer responded.

Confused, his friends went home.

A few days later, the farmer’s horse returned and it had brought another horse back with him.

“What good fortune,” the man’s friends said, “now you have two horses, you have been blessed.

“Have I?  Let’s wait and see, it’s too early to tell.”  the man answered.

A week later the farmer’s son was riding one of the horses and he fell off, breaking his leg.

“What terrible luck,” his friends said, “You have surely been cursed for such a horrible accident to take place.”

“Just wait and see.”  the man again responded.

Once again his friends were confused by the farmer’s response.

A week later, the country went to war and every able-bodied young man was required to join the military.  The farmer’s son was excused from duty due to his injury, but every other young man from the village was forced to leave.

Sadly, they all were killed in battle.

Once again the men from the village gathered and congratulated the farmer on his good fortune.

“Just wait and see.” was the response.

 

Now for a real life example:
A week or so ago there was a story about a man in Arizona who was working at a convenience store when it was robbed. He was tied up along with another employee and pistol whipped to the degree he was taken to the emergency room. Once there they stitched up a large gash and gave him a CT scan. The scan revealed a brain tumor that, doctors said would likely have gone unnoticed, but would probably have resulted in his having gone to bed and never wakened. The tumor, golf ball in size will take 3 surgeries to remedy, while the initial injury required 8 staples.

 

When we are disappointed with an outcome, it may be difficult to consider that this result might actually be a blessing. A partner is heartbroken when a troubled marriage comes to an end and finds a partner down the road with whom he or she experiences a far more satisfying relationship.   A child does not get into a college they hoped for yet finds a great mentor at their second choice.   A great job interview doesn’t lead to an offer from a company that, downtrends a year later laying off many people. I’m not suggesting that every situation has its silver lining. I wish that were true. But I am suggesting that, very often, it is our attachment to an outcome that creates suffering, rather than the circumstances we experience.   At very least, it gives me reason to wonder how one’s suffering might be mitigated, if not alleviated, by taking the posture of “just wait and see.”

I’d love to hear your examples where waiting to see may have surprised you. Thanks as always for reading. If you liked todays post, I hope you will pass it on to someone else and suggest they subscribe. Until next time take good care.

 

 

 

Heroes

 

 

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I want to highlight and recommend a couple of books. These recommendations are not for the sake of reading a good book,  but for the importance of the message they deliver about the perseverance of the human spirit.

They are: Unbroken by Laura Hillenbrand and Miracle in the Andes by Nando Parrado (Unbroken is under production as a movie due out 12/25/2014). A little less strong, buy yet still a good read is Crazy for the Storm- Norman Ollestad

Each of these books is based on true stories of survival.  But far more important than the harrowing experiences that these individuals had to endure and overcome is, the sense of gratitude and affirmation of life they developed from their experiences.

They are all interesting stories.  Each offers detailed accounts of what hardships the individual experienced and how they managed through their life threatening ordeal.  Each discusses their physical capabilities, their mental resources, the connection to family and loved ones, and most importantly, a spiritual component.  Each of these men is certainly heroic in the having conquering odds that would make most of us (or at least me), crawl into the fetal position and beg for it to be over with.  And yes, each of them has a more than fair share of brutal and stomach turning details to digest (no pun intended).

I had a professor who defined a hero in a less traditionally thought of way.  He said (paraphrased) that, a hero is one who has come to terms with bearing the flaws of his humanness.  He referred us to the example of the Greek Tragedies, particularly Oedipus the King.  Upon learning Oedipus had fulfilled the prophecy by unknowingly killing his father and marrying his mother, she hung herself. In contrast, Oedipus continued to endure the pain of his knowledge by moving forward.    I realize this is a little deep and theoretical for a casual blog- but I wanted to provide some additional context for what follows.

We can look at Louis Zamperini (Unbroken) or Nando Parrado (Andes) and call them heroic because of their survival.  Most of us will never come close to what these men endured in their disaster.  But I found the real gem of these books to be how the men talked somewhat universally that, their greatest obstacle wasn’t getting out of a prison camp or climbing down a mountain.  It was their fight to find meaning in their own existence and whether or not it was a value worth fighting for.  Each ultimately had to keep stepping or breathing or whatever was required, in order to, prove their own essence had merit.  In both cases, it was largely dependent upon their willingness to see themselves as part of something larger, yet significant within that largeness.  These men had to come to realize that they mattered and it mattered if they kept going towards life.  They had to choose over and over both during their ordeal and even more so after they were safe, whether their next action was life affirming and preserving, or life rejecting or destroying.

The choices I have to make minute to minute or day to day or obviously not in the ballpark of what these men had.  That’s true for most of us, although certainly there are people walking around suffering from many afflictions and maladies, both mental and physical which are weighty and burdensome.  Sometimes no one else will ever know about those challenges.  However, when we don’t have circumstances so grave, we are more likely to interpret the ones we do have with the same type of scale.  For example, it’s a sunny day, everyone is getting along, a great item I want is on sale equals a good day

It’s rainy, I have a flat tire, I didn’t sleep well,  I’m late for work, I feel challenged equals a bad day- Those are the two poles that I judge between.  Yet, I suppose if I had cancer or a sick child, being late for work might be higher up the scale towards good day because the range has changed.

I hope what I want to say is coming through clearly, which is that, our individual challenges are less the focal point in determining our heroism. Our individual challenges are such largely because they come from our own lens. Easy and hard are relative terms not defined equally between people.  What is universal, however, is the need for each of us to have to choose to do what we feel is hard (when it leads to life affirmation) for the solely because we believe there is purpose in us doing so.  That something greater than just us benefits from us doing so.  That we accept that connection and the responsibility to the degree that, we are willing to keep putting one foot in front of the other to make it happen…. Even when it’s hard, painful, muddy, cold or any other number of conditions which apply.

Are you heroic?

Are you waiting for a set of conditions to pass in order to realize your significance?

How do you know that you don’t already?

And if you already do, I would love to hear what helped you to know that you are a hero.

 

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Uniquely Yours

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Today I have another book recommendation for you.  It’s called “The Art of Being Unmistakable” by Srinvas Rao.

The book is currently only available as an E-book, and I purchased it through Kindle. It’s a short, but helpful little book.  I’m going to give you four excerpts to give you a sense of what the book has to offer, each followed with my own commentary. Please keep in mind that these are notes I highlighted out of context of course.  They aren’t sequential and go together only to the extent that they all come from the same book.

 

No problem can be solved from the same level of consciousness that created it.

You have to go to another level, new energy, change the paradigm, maybe even do something that doesn’t make sense to find a solution.

Obsession with crossing off the checkboxes of society’s life plan leads to little other than therapy, midlife crises, and depression.

The boxes are determined from the outside rather than the inside. It’s unlikely the inside can feel authentic satisfaction by completing the checks. To use a food metaphor, it’s like having someone on the outside determine what they think YOU are hungry for. If you are past the age of 2, that’s only something you can determine accurately.

3Let’s say you want to be an artist of some sort and for the next 100 days you sit on your ass in front of the television.  Well that’s a completely different direction than the one your dream is pointing you in.  But if you have the habit of sketching, drawing, doodling something every single day and correcting your course just a tiny bit during each step along the way, you’ll eventually end up at your destination.

Check back to my earlier post called Do One Thing- every step towards your goal gets you closer. Some days you can walk further than others.

 

If you planted a tree, would it make any sense to keep digging up the roots to make sure it was growing?  You water it and have a bit of faith that it will grow.

Checking your bank account every day, your email every 10 seconds, waiting for the phone to ring are all examples of letting anxiety drive the process instead of expecting something to work. How might that energy be expended if you relied on faith instead?

 

So what is this book about?  Inspiration to become authentic.  It’s a dare to break the chains one might be living under, imposed by self, or other, or community kind of book. Rao suggests you instead charter a new path dictated by the need to be one’s self rather than by a picture of what the self should be.   The book is written by a blogger and quotes other bloggers.  This may be a little distracting if you aren’t or don’t want to become a blogger.  Ignore that.  The information is equally applicable to other careers and goals as well.  Its primary theme is cultivating your willingness to follow your own beat.

I keep a book on my bookshelf called “Giraffe’s Can’t Dance”. It’s a children’s book full of similar though simpler wisdom.  Basically, anyone can dance if they find the right music.  Rao’s book is an invitation to stop listening to familiar music and find something you genuinely like, even if no one else does.  Make it yours, so that everyone who hears the tune will remember it and associate it with you.

If you like today’s post, please pass it on to someone else and invite them to subscribe as well.  As always, I appreciate your time in reading and comments.

 

 

 

Happy 6th 7th and 8th of July

 

 

 

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The fireworks have ended. The sparklers have burned out. The chips are eaten and hopefully by now the trash from holiday celebrations is already out on the curb. 4th of July 2014 is now in the memory files.

Summer is ½ over. Department stores will start to transition this week to fall apparel. We start to think ahead to back to school (my kids go back 8/11).

So is that it? We move from anticipation of event, to event over, to anticipation of the next event. But what is the event? More importantly, WHY is it an event?

The 4th of July is a national holiday. Its ONE day. And sometimes it dribbles into a 3 day weekend. But what the 4th of July represents is not an event. I mean literally it is the marking of signing the constitution, but it represents far more.

The day we elected to become a free nation

What does it mean to be a free nation? Most of us don’t take the time or energy to think about that very often. I am moved by a recent story about a woman in the Sudan was jailed and sentenced to death by stoning and then set on fire because she refused to denounce her Christianity. She was given a temporary stay to give birth to a child and raise it for two years before her sentence would be implemented. She was then released, and detained again as she tried to leave with her family. At the time of this writing she and her family are staying at the U.S Embassy and trying to make their way to the U.S.  Her plight is an example of what it means to not be in a free nation.

We can be Jewish and not persecuted. We can be Christian or anything other religion and not sentenced to death for our beliefs. How many of us ignore our religion?

We can hold property. Property we often complain about the woe’s. I live in Wildwood and we have a septic/well system. The well pump broke this week. I have been without water for 2 ½ days so far. I have complained- a LOT- So this post is to remind me that I am free to hold property. But freedom also has responsibility attached.

We are free to marry who we wish. How often do we complain about our spouse?

We are free to send our children to school. I have spent a lot of this past year complaining about my kids school.

We are free to speak our minds. Are there times when you avoid doing this when it could make a difference to avoid getting involved?

We are free

But do we appreciate these freedoms day in and day out?

We can vote. How many times do you blow off an election because its not that big of one or you don’t know the candidates?   I know I have.

The goal of this post is not to lecture you and I hope it has not come across as such. Rather, it is to remind me along with you that freedom is not something to celebrate one day a year, but every day of the year like a process rather than an event. Considering our freedoms on a regular basis moves us into a spirit of gratitude rather than deprivation and burden. Embracing our freedom on a daily basis promotes a feeling of optimism of what is possible rather than focusing on what is hard about the life you are in. I heard a story this morning about a fund that raises money for returning vets to start their own businesses. The speaker said “Vets make great small business owners. Those guy know what a hard day is and what a hard day is not.”

I don’t wish to minimize any challenges or difficulties that exist in anyone’s world. Dealing with a special needs child, financial worries, an aging parent, a chronic illness or disability is in fact stressful in ways that most of us cannot truly imagine. I am simply saying that even when those traumatic events occur, we live in a society that provides much greater resources to cope with these things than most other people on earth. I also believe we are a nation of people with a mindset to work together to help manage crisis which is exactly how we got our freedom in the first place.

If you are a military vet, or a family member of a vet, please accept my heartfelt gratitude. Last night I watched Lone Survivor. If you have not seen the movie, select any 5 minute clip to get a sense of what the people who serve to make this a free nation for the rest of us are willing to endure, in order to achieve that goal.

So while the last sparkler may have extinguished in this holiday, light one in your heart today and shine for the world with all that you are free to do.

 

 

 

 

Plugged In

 

 

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In my last post I talked about how I discovered a great quote from Steve Jobs that was delivered by Ashton Kutcher. Sometimes guidance comes from unlikely places.

What is this guidance and what do I mean by it? Some people call it merely coincidence. Here is a funny little coincidence. While I was writing that last piece I didn’t even know a movie called “The Butterfly Effect” existed. Actually, I remembered the Rad Bradbury story from when I was a kid. When I shared it with my Brainiac husband a few years ago, he linked it to the term butterfly effect.   As I started writing this, I Googled “Butterfly Effect” to verify when the Bradbury piece was written. The first entry was the Butterfly Effect, a movie starring none other than Ashton Kutcher. Weird huh? But it ironically validated my point that Ashton wasn’t the source of the inspiration, only the messenger.

Have I lost you yet? I hope not, but I’ll bring it a little more into focus now. Simply stated, I think guidance is simply the way that God, or the Universe or something greater than us, collaboratively comes together in ways to help us grow. And that guidance can take many different forms. I don’t exactly have an operating manual of how this works. And I don’t have any illusion that there is a little man behind the curtain orchestrating every detail of our lives and experiences to achieve a pre-planned outcome. It’s just how my mind attempts to make sense of things that happen along the journey of this thing called life.

So now I’ll introduce you to another person’s theory and how it has shaped some of my thinking. Carolyn Myss is an interesting thinking. Some of her ideas persuade me into thinking she is a genius while others make me wonder if she needs to have a medication assessment. I’m going to just highlight one of her ideas for you now.

Think of yourself as having a certain amount of energy available to you renewable each day. Let’s just call it 100 units to make a point. You start the day with 100 units, but once you are up and about, it starts to get used. It gets used on whatever you spend energy on both mentally and physically. Things that are past, unresolved issues are big energy users. But so are places where you are heavily plugged into cultural ideals and expectations. These items very often require a lot of energy to maintain. The reason for this is simply that they are driven from the outside and so you have to align your inside in order to get them done.

Here is an example. Let’s take sisters Jo and Flo. Jo is a simple dresser. She goes for what is comfortable. She can usually be spotted in a pair of yoga pants and a t shirt. Her feet match with sneakers or slip on’s. Her hair is pulled back in a ponytail. She is clean, comfortable, and expends little energy trying to reach anyone else’s prescription of dress.

Flo, on the other hand, wants to keep up with the latest fashion. She first has to invest time to discover what that is, how to find it, afford it and finally wear it. If it is not the best for her figure type or age, she needs to adjust and compensate— more energy drain. And she has to spend more energy still monitoring the changes as someone else dictates the next signal to change.

So guidance works like this. It “comes to us” through the flow of our energy. It starts where we start in the day and gets up to the present moment. If it has to spend a lot of time circling around inside of you on a bunch of “stuck” places, it doesn’t find its way to the present moment that you are sitting in.

Again, here is the example.

Flo is driving down the street. She asks for a “sign” left or right at the next turn. Guidance comes, but spends its time wiggling around the places she has dispersed it within her psyche. By the time Flo hears a “little voice” or sees a sign, her car is already past the intersection. She has driven through concluding that no guidance was available. Although it actually was, she couldn’t hear it at the time she needed it because she no longer had enough energy/power operating in the present moment.

Something similar to this happened to me this week. I was working with a client of mine that I know really well. We were discussing her future as she is trying to decide what her next move will be in her career. In all likelihood a change in jobs will probably mean a location as well. I felt unusually blocked as I listened to her. In fact, I almost always have very strong and clear feelings when I work with her. I acknowledged this out loud to her during the session.

A few days later I was driving along and she popped into my brain. That in and of itself was not unusual as I generally process my sessions throughout the week in my head. But this time, I could see so clearly that what she needed was to slow down. I could so easily see how she was attempting to ask of herself, too many hard questions all at the same time.

I can’t say exactly what role my own energy delay played in this confusion. But I am sure that the session time we settled on was particularly late on Friday afternoon even though I had willingly agreed in advance. Sometimes that is not a problem, but it was on that day in retrospect. I was physically tired from the week and especially so on that day. My reduced energy level could not overcome her lack of clarity at that time.

So the take away from today is this. I am suggesting that guidance is available to us from sometimes unlikely places. But in order to access that guidance, it requires us to be aware of what we are plugging into, and how much it costs us to do so. We need to keep our energy (again, both physical and emotional) available in the here and now in order to access that guidance in the moment we need it.

 

Falling Forward

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Although I identify myself as very spiritual, I am not a religious person. Nor am I even remotely biblically literate. However, over the course of my life I have attended a variety of churches and there are about 5 at best, sermons I can recall. I’d like to share a message that came from one of those. It’s not a religious message, but since I can’t give credit to the minister (since I don’t remember who it was), I at least wanted to be clear that this is not my original work. However, its something I’ve thought of many times and find useful. I hope you will too.

The story he told went something like this:

When I was studying to be a minister, I went to my mentor I asked him for advice about how to be a great minister. My mentor told me, “Remember this. When you fall on your face”….

At which point, the story teller interrupted his own story and said he was disheartened because his mentor had not said “if you fall on your face, but rather WHEN you fall on your face.”

And then he continued:

When you fall on your face, remember to fall forward. That way when you get up, you will be further ahead than when you went down.

 

I remember this story because I think its brilliant. The reality is that we all will fall on our face sooner or later. Some of us will fall down repeatedly. I am particularly prone to clumsiness. So learning to fall forward comes in pretty handy. It saves time.

Falling down, isn’t so bad. Sure, you can get a little bruised up. But it also gives you a different view point of yourself and the world. It can teach us humility, patience and even gratitude both from our ability to get back up, and for those who lend us a hand to assist. Falling down isn’t nearly as bad as being afraid to fall. – I’m going to say more about that soon.

What does falling forward look like? It means not considering yourself a complete failure when you fall. It means not telling yourself you are a jerk because you made a mistake. Falling forward means realizing that a little stumble doesn’t mean you start back over at square one. Even if you literally start back at square one, you do so with the knowledge that you were further ahead before and you can get back there again from memory. You don’t have to create the path all over again.

How do you feel about falling? I’d love to hear your thoughts.

Happy Easter

Easter

What does it mean to you? Perhaps it is a time of great religious contemplation or absolutely nothing- When I was a kid I remember that my mother often bought each of us a solid chocolate rabbit.  She worked in restaurants and was able to purchase these from a wholesaler making them more affordable.  It would literally take us months to consume them and it often became a kind of game between my  brothers and me.  I’ve eaten my ears… My head is completely gone… and so the race to finish would carry on.

When my own children were small Easter looked like hiding plastic eggs around the yard or going to a Community Easter egg hunt.  The giant and imposing rabbit walking around usually scared my son’s,  and they were consoled only by the colorful plastic ovals filled with candy.

Whether or not you have a religious attachment to the day, Easter is still a day embedded with message of promise yet to come.  Whether it’s unwrapping a chocolate bunny, opening a surprise filled egg or the blossoming of redbuds and spring flowers, there is something of jubilance on the horizon.  Whatever is yet to bloom for you, I hope it is filled with joy, happiness and child-like wonder.

Grrrr

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My blog today begins with a message from my 4 year old self.  I’m cranky, I’m disappointed, the world is unfair.  I did not get my way and I’m not happy about it.  I have been active in my local school board election, supporting a long shot candidate and she/we lost.  People are stupid.  The world is stupid.  I’m going to move to a country that I can’t pronounce the name of and live happily ever after, surviving on natural berries and weaving my own clothing out of the fibers I pick up in the wild.

Fast forward the time machine to my adult self.  Yep, I’m still disappointed.  I don’t even think angry as much as I’m just plain disappointed.  The election loss was not about a personal candidate, but about an agenda and a philosophy chosen, which is different than the one for my family.  But not everyone thinks the way I do.  Namely about 17000 people who voted differently.  I can take a hint.

So now what?  I can try again next time, toilet paper the house of the winners, or move to another district, country, universe.  Or, I can live today just like I did yesterday.  My world hasn’t changed.  I still have the same goals, hopes and aspirations today that I did yesterday.  It’s merely that one of the paths I had hoped to travel down has a “no entrance” sign posted in front of it right now. I think it also has a “no loitering” sign as well, which means, time to let go and move on.

But this post isn’t really about an election- or my mood as much as it is about a way to look at how does one let go and go with a plan b?  I am reminded of one of my very favorite books of all time “Life is Good” by George Dawson.  If you haven’t read it, consider doing so.  George is a black man, grandson of sharecroppers.  As a young boy he witnesses a tremendous injustice and his reaction is similar to the one I started this blog with (although a bit more mature).  But his father instills a wisdom in his son that remains with him throughout his lifetime.  “Life is good and it’s only going to get better”.    The book is a telling of events throughout George’s life that, illustrate his father’s message into a reality.

So today, when I get cranky, I have a list of things I have to work at remembering:

-I have a family I love dearly

-I live in safety, I have a roof over my head, a job I love, food in my belly, friends that are loyal and giving

-I am healthy as is my family

-my life is good… and it’s only going to get better.

-and even this- I moved to this place largely for these schools.  Agree with them or don’t agree with them, they continue to provide an education for my children.  But it is not the only education my children will receive.  I always have the option, as do they to supplement or change that course.   More importantly, my children’s education is one tiny piece of my world- and their K-12 years are actually only a small piece of THEIR world-   Put it in perspective-  it doesn’t deserve this much energy or focus.  Look at the bigger picture.

So, this is my plan B:  working on staying in my adult voice, broadening the perspective, and most of all switching to a posture of gratitude and connection to something larger than me as being in charge of the world.  On that note- I hope you have the same kind of wonderful day, that I’m going to work towards having.