Friday, August 17, 2018

Grief in all its forms

Two of my close friends died during the month of July, one older than me and one younger. So I have entered the world of grief again. I know that if I don't tend to the grieving process now, the grief will simply stay buried inside me until some new grief comes into my life—and then I'll have to deal with the whole lot of it at once. And that can really pack a punch.

There are so many causes for grief and so many types. I've long said that each loss contains multiple losses embedded within it. For example, if you have lost your job, you also have loss of income, loss of identity, loss of colleagues and perhaps even friendships, loss of meaning, loss of focus—and so much more.

Recently, in a retreat center's catalog of offerings, I saw a seminar listed that would take a look at how to find one's way through loss. It had a name for all these smaller losses within the big loss: It called them "secondary losses" or even "loss of the assumptive world." I'd never heard those terms before but they really fit.

Years ago I wrote a resource on grief for the women's organization of my church body, and I talked about these other losses. I didn't have a name for them then. If you are interested in this resource, click on this link.

And if you face any type of loss right now, I encourage you to face it and grieve. Remember, death isn't the only loss in life. We lose friends, jobs, homes, physical and mental abilities and so much more. All of it requires a grief process.








Wednesday, August 15, 2018

How do you want to live? And die?

I'm reading a book titled Being Mortal by Atul Gawande, and it's definitely resonating with me. Why am I reading it? Over the past couple years, it's been recommended to me two or three times by people whose judgment I trust. When that happens, I generally take notice. I'm really glad I did. Last week, when it was recommended to me again, I went straight to my local library.

Gawande, a practicing surgeon, opens up the world of end-of-life issues and in the process, talks about how to improve life itself. He looks at the type of decisions that need to be made when one faces cancer, for example. Rather than a one-size-fits-all approach, he argues that people want quality of life and that will differ for each individual. So he says we should consider questions such as: What are my fears? My hopes? What do I want my last days, weeks, months and years to look like? What are my goals as I age? What's most important? What am I willing to give up to have what I want?

If we can answer questions such as those, we can work together with medical staff to come up with treatments that are right for us. And, if we can answer those, we can improve quality of life right now!

I have a dear friend facing breast cancer, and I also have several other friends in various stages of cancer treatment. Some choose experimental drugs. Some go the traditional route. Yet others want to try alternative therapies. If I were facing some form of cancer today, I honestly don't know what I would decide to do. But I think these questions are excellent ones to consider. In fact, I would argue that we shouldn't wait until we have some medical issue or emergency to ask (and answer) such questions. We should give it some thought now, record it and keep it in an accessible place—and we should let our loved ones know. It's never too early for such conversations with family and/or friends. And it's never too early to change our lifestyle and make choices that improve our quality of life right here, right now.
















Monday, August 13, 2018

'A life well loved'

I may have mentioned before that I like the Magnolia Manifesto that's printed in The Magnolia Journal: Inspiration for Life and Home magazine I receive. This is done by Joanna and Chip Gaines of HGTV fame. Forgive me if I've already quoted from it before. I don't recall. Even if I have, some things bear repeating!

The Manifesto says, in part:

"We believe:
—that failure needn't be a negative thing; rather, we learn from our mistakes and fail smarter next time.
—in courage, in cartwheeling past our comfort zones and trying something a little bit scary every day.
—in subtle beauty, the kind that doesn't deteriorate with age or wear.
...and of all heroic pursuits large or small, we believe there may be none greater than a life well loved."

What more can I even add? Learning from mistakes? Definitely! Beauty that goes much further than skin deep? Oh, yes! And a life well loved? Indeed. Love wins!










Friday, August 10, 2018

Making our time count

I just read a beautiful poem by Brazilian poet, novelist, essayist and musicologist Mario de Andrade, and I want to share a couple of lines. They are worth hearing and pondering, in my humble opinion.

Andrade says, "I counted my years and realized that I have less time to live by than I have lived so far. ...I have no time for endless meetings where the statutes, rules, procedures and internal regulations are discussed, knowing that nothing will be done. ... I want to surround myself with people who know how to touch the hearts of those whom hard strokes of life have learned to grow with sweet touches of the soul."

There are many good lines in between those two. If you want the entire poem, do a Google search for "My Soul Has a Hat." It definitely is worth a read.

This is about making whatever days remain to us quality days, not just filling them up with fluff. What a great reminder!







Wednesday, August 8, 2018

Control & fears

As I watch a beloved family member struggle with dementia, I am getting in touch with my own fears about just how I will age. Will I, too, have to face what he and millions in our country deal with in the last quarter of life?

Try as we might to keep our minds sharp, eat well, exercise our bodies, get sufficient sleep and do all the other things we're encouraged to do to stay healthy for as long as possible, we know that there are no guarantees. That doesn't mean we shouldn't do those things. It does mean, however, that even as we do, we should be realistic about the fact that we aren't really in control. Sadly, we don't get to check boxes of what we'd prefer to have or not have as we age!

I'm an Enneagram Type 8, and the basic fear of this type is of being controlled or harmed by others. So control is a key issue for my personality type. The basic desire for an 8 is "to determine their own course in life," and the superego message is, "You are good or okay if you are strong and in control of your situation," according to Don Richard Riso and Russ Hudson in their (wonderful) book, The Wisdom of the Enneagram.

But, of course, that's unrealistic, isn't it? I'll never be completely "in control of [my] situation." And that's where letting go comes in. Control is an illusion and I need to let go. At the same time, I need to directly face my fear about whether I will face dementia at some point in my life. There's really nothing I can do about it—at least not beyond the usual efforts to stay sharp and healthy.

Do you have something you fear? Are you able to confront it head-on? And does it conflict with any desires or fears that are basic to your personality? These are all questions worth pondering. If you wish to discuss them further, I invite you to contact me for a no-obligation, complimentary coaching session.







Monday, August 6, 2018

Begin with a thankful heart

How do you begin your day? Do you wake up and think (or say), "Oh, darn, I have so much to do today! How will I ever get it all done? I wish I could just skip to the end of this day."

Or do you awaken, grateful that you made it through the night and now have a brand new day ahead of you? Are you thankful for the ability to do the things you need to do?

Do you face the day with grumbling—or with gratitude?

You may think it doesn't make a difference. Why should it matter? But just experiment a little. Try it both ways and just see how your day goes.

Personally, I find my days much better when I start them with an attitude of gratitude. It doesn't necessarily change what happens in a day. I still have the same to-do list. I still have the same list of events on the calendar. But what it changes is me. A spirit of thankfulness changes how I see the events of the day. It changes how I view my tasks.

Rather than grumble because I have to clean the house today (a job I really don't enjoy), I try to switch my attitude to one of gratitude that I have a house in which to live and that I'm physically able to clean it. I'm human; so, of course, I still grumble more than I should. But I really am trying to live more in an attitude of thankfulness.










Friday, August 3, 2018

Values & time

Last month two of my dear friends died unexpectedly. It's a poignant reminder to me that each day is gift—and that those who grace my life are also gifts. It reminds me that I should say "I love you" whenever I have the opportunity and that I should savor my moments and days.

I already miss Carol and Sandra and know that as time passes, I will miss them even more. The grief is fresh now so it doesn't yet seem quite real that I'll never see them again. Yet at the same time, I'm extremely grateful for the legacy each of these women leaves behind. I'm so thankful they were part of my life. I have learned much from both of them, and I have wonderful memories of times spent in their company.

Whose legacy makes a difference in your life today? For whom are you grateful in your life right now? Have you told them that?

It's easy to get caught up in to-do lists and the "shoulds" of life and neglect time with the people in our lives, whether that be family or friends. In the end, it really won't matter that all our tasks got checked off some to-do list and our house was kept spotlessly clean. What will matter is how we tended the relationships with which we were blessed. I've always said that I seriously doubt on my deathbed that I'll regret that I didn't do more work. I'm pretty sure any regrets I do have at that point (and I hope to limit those as much as possible!) will be more about not giving enough time and attention to those people I love and treasure.

I want to be present to those who grace my life and to those whose path crosses mine. I want to savor my days and make the most of whatever time yet remains to me. I don't want to spend my time on those things that really don't reflect my true values—and what I value so deeply are my connections with others.

What about you? Are you living your values? Are you savoring your moments?







Wednesday, August 1, 2018

Thank you's are so important

It's a beautiful thing to live with gratitude in your heart. It makes each day more pleasurable—for you and for all those around you.

Here's a question, though: Do you ever feel gratitude about something someone has done for you and
think it would be a good idea to write a thank-you note expressing that? And then you don't follow through?

Yes, I've done that, too. I'm trying to be far better about that lately. I am aware that when we're extremely unhappy about something, we'll tell others—and most likely, even that person who caused the unhappiness. So how much more should we follow through when we're grateful for what someone else did?

People love to get mail—so a thank-you card or letter is even better than a thank-you email. Still, a thank-you phone call or email can go a long way to making someone's day even better, too!

Who do you need to thank today? Don't put it off. Sit down right now and take care of it. If that's impossible, be sure to add it to your to-do list. And don't forget!