When You Know It’s Not OK

We like it when our patients are their own advocates, the nurse says to me when I say, I wouldn’t have had this testing done if I hadn’t requested an appointment. There were no red flags except I KNEW I needed follow-up with my cardiologist when my blood pressure inched up. No one told me to do this! I was pissed already, but grateful that I had listened to my inner voice.

I hate giving bad news, she says as I cry on the phone, stunned, in shock. I suddenly feel like I need to comfort her, overly nice person that I am. I think much later, when did this become about her!

I google while she’s on the phone, not letting her hang up until I try to understand. I don’t understand. I calm myself. She says, the doctor wants you to start a statin. We’ll check you again in three months.

I wait. And wait. I wait for the report to hit the portal. It’s a few hours that seem like forever.

My calcium score. What I had anticipated would be ZERO is 3334.5 Yes, that’s three thousand, not three hundred. You read it right. Action needed when the score hits ONE HUNDRED.

Code YELLOW, whatever that is. I’m still stunned. 100th percentile. This is not good.

Report reads: Patient is advised to aggressively engage in risk factor modification. Clinical follow-up is recommended.

Risk factors to eliminate: The cigarettes I don’t smoke. The couch that doesn’t get company because I exercise EVERY DAY. The blood sugar that is normal. The cholesterol that is barely above 200. The five pounds I’ve always needed to lose, except when it’s 10 and I lose five. The wine I don’t drink. The blood pressure that’s controlled.

I’ve got it! Take the statin and clinical follow-up! More tests! YES! Information is KEY. What is really happening? Of course, we need more information.

I take a Xanax I had forgotten is in my medicine cabinet and go to bed at 7 PM.

Next morning, on the phone for an appointment with my cardiologist. Receptionist is looking. I wait. Eight minutes while she looks and apologizes. Nothing for months. Not with any provider. Nothing. I ask, Can I be placed on a waiting list? She responds, We don’t have one, you just have to call back. Snarky me says, Well, I guess we’re going to become good friends because you’ll be hearing from me every day!

I muddle through the week. My stepson is visiting. A good distraction. I facilitate a weekend workshop. Ditto. I can’t stay distracted. I google and look for good information. Cleveland Clinic, Johns Hopkins, and the like. No sites trying to sell me their diet or book.

I formulate a plan.

Fast forward one week. I see my GI doc. We have a 20 year relationship. He saw me through TWO treatments for hepatitis C. The first one in 2011 was hell and didn’t take. The second one, the miracle of mRNA, cured me. I still have risk factors for liver disease. We are on hugging terms.

He has a real desk. No, I’m not kidding. I love it. Solid wood. We each take our sides. We talk kids first, spouses next.

My turn. Do you have a good cardiologist? I ask. Yes, he says, he’s great! I toss my test results across his ample desk. He looks at the carotid ultrasound. Sets it aside dismissively. He takes up my cardiac calcium report and says, Holy fuck, and immediately texts his cardiologist while he listens to my story, incredulous that I was treated in such a cavalier manner. By the time I left the office, a nice long visit, I had an appointment scheduled next door less than 24 hours later.

I’m in the process of having aggressive testing and treatment of all parts relating to my cardiovascular system. I have confidence in my team. There is a plan in place with lots of moving parts, but they are on it. I’m on it. I just had a call while typing this, following up on the latest blood work. All is well in my world because I am my own advocate and I don’t suffer being dismissed when it comes to my wellbeing.

When it doesn’t feel right, it isn’t. When you know there’s more that needs to be discovered, there is. Trust yourself. Your head, heart, and gut. Let go of any idea that someone will judge you. That’s about them, not you. They’ve got thousands of patients, you’re the only you you’ve got. Dig in, hunker down, don’t give up. Knowledge is power. And never forget that you’re worth it.

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Structure and Discipline or Control and Addiction?

You do not rise to the level of your goals. You fall to the level of your systems. Your goal is your desired outcome. Your system is the collection of daily habits that will get you there. – James Clear

View from Indian Head, Upper and Lower Ausable Lakes, Adirondack Mountains, NY

This quote from James Clear, author of Atomic Habits, is a perfect quote for a life coach. We encourage our clients to create structures, rituals, and systems to achieve their goals. We suggest using the SMART (Specific, Measurable, Achievable, Relevant/Realistic, and Time-Bound) method to guarantee a successful outcome. We talk about the importance of discipline, ritual/habits, and schedules. We look at what gets in the way and build some flexibility into the plan.

Where is the line, the tipping point, that if gone unchecked leads from well-intentioned daily actions to an addictive pursuit of control of our behavior, our environment, and the desired outcome? How do we know when our goal becomes the totality of our existence? Our culture values overwork or “exhaustion as a status symbol and productivity as self-worth”, as Brené Brown shares in her book, The Gifts of Imperfection.

I know what the tipping point feels like for me on a micro and macro level. Micro: When I attempt to micromanage my patient husband and believe this is a sign of caring. Macro: When I push myself to the brink of exhaustion with exercise, over-committing, “dieting”, over-working. At these times I’m experiencing (and fiercely attempting to numb) my sadness (fear of unworthiness). I get to masquerade as the omnipotent do all, be all, and don’t let them see you sweat, powerful woman. UGH!

This exploration is inspired by a recent podcast: “We Can Do Hard Things”, with guest Dr. Brené Brown talking about her latest book and HBO series, Atlas of the Heart. I literally stopped in my tracks on my morning “ritual” of a short hike on nearby trails. Back up. I need to hear that again. Full stop. Mouth drop. I don’t get it. I don’t want to get it. Listened again this morning. Then I read the transcript. I’m trying to get it.

As I twirl with the concept that the extreme effort to control (ourselves, others, environment) fosters disconnection (to ourselves, others, environment), I invite you, reader of my occasional blog, to reflect on the times when you’ve experienced that tipping point. Maybe it was not in pursuit of your conscious goals, but in pursuit of being a loving parent, friend, or partner? When does control masquerade as caring? How do you know you’ve gone overboard and are experiencing disconnection with yourself or others? What do you do about it? If you could do it over, what would love and connection look like in those moments?

This feels like an important conversation, especially in these desperately uncertain times when it’s so tempting to become a complete control freak. As I continue to explore this in my own life, my intention is to be curious and practice self-compassion. If this post inspires self-reflection, I invite you to do the same. This is hard stuff and we can do hard things.

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Feeding sunflower seeds to Chickadee, Marcy Dam, Adirondack Mountains, NY

Language both fascinates and niggles me. It gets right into my grill and won’t break free until I get curious about meaning. What really rankles me is when an expression takes hold that makes absolutely no sense. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not a language snob. My vocabulary is limited. When I’m reading, you’ll see me grabbing my phone frequently to look up words. AND I use words incorrectly all the time. Here is what’s currently in my grill — SNOWBIRDS. (Figuratively, not literally, phew.)

The definition of snowbirds:

  1. 1.INFORMAL•NORTH AMERICAN a northerner who moves to a warmer southern state in the winter. “at the peak of the tourist season the hotel hosted an additional three hundred snowbirds and backpackers”
  2. 2.a widespread and variable junco with gray or brown upper parts and a white belly.

How, just tell me HOW, the definition of snowbirds as northerners going south for the winter EVER came into common use?

Me, the junco, chickadee, mourning dove, blue jay, nuthatch, tufted titmouse, a variety of finches, owls, hawks, and birds whose names I do not know are the TRUE snowbirds. We stay. In the winter. In the snow.

I LOVE WINTER. I’ve loved winter from the time I no longer had to struggle through the worst of weather, bitter cold and snow, to drive to my job because without me the hospital could not function (or so I was told by my supervisor). Not to mention, personal days were few and frowned upon for such a thing as a little snow!

You could call me a tough old snowbird. Not so. Winter gives me an excuse to be lazy! Once I was self-employed and my own boss, snowstorms brought snow days. Luxurious days of canceling appointments, so that my clients did not risk life and limb to get to my office. I stayed home too. A cup of tea by the hearth. All was well.

Once my son could walk, snow meant building snow caves, snow men, flying down the hill on plastic toboggans, skiing lessons, hot chocolate, homemade soup, homemade bread, extra reading aloud time, twinkle lights, and snuggling by the fire. Snow days were our favorite days! Unexpected and prayed for — unplanned and spontaneous. (As I write this, he is in Vermont snowboarding, despite the brutal below zero Fahrenheit cold. Snowbird.)

There are other reasons why I love winter.

I can venture into the back woods on snowshoes, something I will NEVER attempt if the temperature is above 32F. Why? DEER TICKS — those awful disease carrying parasites that plague the Northeast. UGH. Winter is bug-free. No midges, mosquitos, blackflies, deerflies. Serenely and completely UNBITTEN. I can keep my blood and be disease-free. At least insect diseases, let’s be real.

Mild season? I am frenetic (definition: fast and energetic in a rather wild and uncontrolled way. “A frenetic pace of activity”) from the time the frost is out of the ground until I can no longer put a garden spade in the soil in November. I feel like I HAVE TO be outdoors from sunrise until sunset, because it’s the Northeast! Snow will fly! Make hay while the sun shines! Take photos while the flowers are in bloom!

Speaking of garden spades, I am NOT a great gardener by any stretch of the imagination. I love my flowers and herbs and shrubs and trees. I’m kind of a “free-range” gardener. Overgrown, out of bounds, maybe-I’ll-move-that-NEXT-year kind of gardener. If the Cornell Cooperative Extension Master Gardener program included show-and-tell, I’d be stripped of my certification. Fortunately the only requirement is that I volunteer to inform other home gardeners best practices according to Cornell. Another blessing of winter — my inner garden critic is in hibernation.

Back to the luxuries of winter TODAY: Guilt-free power naps after lunch whenever possible, cozy evenings by the fire, early to bed, massive novel-reading, extra Netflix, extra meditation, planning the garden (most of which will never get done), pouring over seed catalogs, ordering seeds, watching the true snowbirds at the feeder and seeing a fox trot over the snow in search of breakfast (which may be a chicken at the neighbor’s house), snowshoeing out my back door, taking on-line “self-discovery” classes, coaching by phone, teaching on Zoom (check out the tabs above), planning my in-person summer retreat (ditto tabs), and just calming the EFF down. Nothing feels frenetic. Indoor projects are on a wish list that may get done. Maybe not. Priority #1: Snow shovels handy, plow guy set up for the season. That’s IT.

AND none of the perils of traveling. No horrendous drives down I-95 or other irksome routes to Florida or other warm climes. No getting stuck at the airport due to canceled flights for bad weather or whatever the latest airline excuse may be. Okay, okay, I know, once you get there it’s quite lovely. But me? I’d be in the same pickle. Frenetic. Taking in all the the sites, staying on the beach until my skin blisters, enjoying sidewalk eateries until my shorts don’t fit. OH the PAIN of it! Year round frenetic me.

So to my friends who are MIGRATORY BIRDS and will return north just in time for the last snowstorm (I promise we’ll save you at least one): Have fun for me in the sunshine and warm breezes and I’ll have fun for you watching the snow fly and being compelled to do absolutely NOTHING. Cheers!

Molting Goldfinch, March 2020
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Courageous Feedback

I’ve been facilitating workshops for decades. My first “front of the room” experience was as a Reiki master, sharing this healing modality with college students, healthcare workers, and even a few nuns. It was a huge stretch for me and deeply fulfilling.

Fast forward a few decades to my training as a life coach and workshop facilitator, I continue to experience live group teaching and learning as a gift and a challenge. “Reading” the energy of a room and trusting the process, while holding a safe space for whatever is needed or wanted, has become second nature. I don’t always get it right. The experience is humbling.

When the pandemic hit, a brand new opportunity presented itself — teaching virtually. Was I up to the task? I definitely questioned whether I had the skills to facilitate a group of 8 in a virtual classroom. As I leaned in to this new format, holding the energetic space became something elusive, foreign, and nearly impossible. I had to trust even more that participants would receive exactly what they needed. It is so different and remains a huge stretch for me. Deep breath.

At the end of a workshop series, there is an on-line evaluation form for participants to fill out for The Daring Way™ team. This informs them and me of my strengths and weaknesses. This is part of the requirement for ongoing licensing to facilitate the curriculum. For the most part, evaluations are darn good. Not perfect. And, as a recovering perfectionist, darn good was “good enough.” I want to be a model of “good enough.”. Still, there is always so much to learn.

At the end of eight weeks it’s too late for me to make adjustments to my facilitation style in a way that benefits individuals or the group as a whole. So I decided to ask for feedback upfront.

In the very first class and each week, I ask participants to please send email feedback. Specifically, if something wasn’t working for them, it would help both of us, all of us, for me to be informed. On occasion I received constructive feedback. It was always helpful and sometimes opened up a broader conversation for group discussion. If it was something I could adjust, I would. If it wasn’t, we could talk about it.

Asking for feedback is courageous. Giving feedback, face to face, or emailed, is very courageous.

At the end of my most recent virtual series, an anonymous email was forwarded to me from my licensing team — someone who had spent 8 consecutive Thursdays, 16 hours of their precious time and energy in my workshop, who detested my style and thought I had no business facilitating groups without a LOT more training and supervision.

I was HORRIFIED! My heart pounded and I began to sweat. I was in a shame storm from this hurtful email. The story* I made up was that I’m incompetent. My greatest fear. It’s true. I suck. One out of many, I rationalized, one out of so many. They’re right. I suck. Then –why do I focus on the one person in the arena who hurls criticism out of so many who benefited? Back to — who do I think I am facilitating groups or coaching at all? Then — who is this cruel person who betrayed my trust? I did ask for ongoing feedback, after all. What a fucking coward!

Rumbling* with vulnerability, shame, blame, self-compassion. Finally – acceptance.

I can’t please everyone. I’m not here to please everyone. I’m here to be me. My authenticity mantra**: “Just be yourself, dear one.”

In the end, just as Brené Brown teaches, it is not the critic who counts. This individual is not the person whose opinion matters. And, frankly, it would have mattered had they come to me that very first or second or third week to share their dissatisfaction. I can “hear” clear feedback. I can’t “hear” anonymous criticism.

*To learn what it means to rumble with your story, read Rising Strong, by Dr. Brené Brown, or attend a workshop offered by a licensed Daring Way™ facilitator. like me!

**To learn about authenticity mantras, read Daring Greatly, by Dr. Brené Brown, or attend a workshop….

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Permission to Hope

Hope is a gooey word. I use it, as a noun and a verb, and never quite know if it sounds as gooey it feels. Here is a brief definition of HOPE. Noun: a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen. Example: She reached out in the hope that her friend would respond. Verb: want something to happen or be the case. Example: I hope she returns my call. Expectation not met. Hope dashed, disappointment follows.

Spring always comes, so the hope for spring is just a matter of waiting. This expectation is a given, whether the spring is cold and snowy or too bloody hot, spring happens. Returned phone calls, maybe not.

I hate hope. Life is awful right now for so many people and the planet. Hope? Sheesh.

Until…. I heard a Podcast on Ten Percent Happier https://www.tenpercent.com/podcast #340: The Science of Hope | Jacqueline Mattis

My new definition of Hope.

Optimism + A Plan = Hope

Thank you Jacqueline Mattis. https://g.co/kgs/HN8crL

I think of myself as a fairly optimistic person. I have evidence to be optimistic. I’m still on the planet. I have a loving husband, a great relationship with my son and his fiancé, and wonderful friends. I love my “work” as a workshop/retreat facilitator and life coach. I am truly fulfilled by my volunteer work in the community, as a trustee for my local library and a budding master gardener trainee for cooperative extension. I’m vaccinated. Darned healthy for an older woman or any woman. I am aware of my tendency to forebode joy (dress rehearsing tragedy — just in case). With awareness, I do this less and less.

Now the plan. My plan during the pandemic has been to survive it. To take one day at a time and learn how to be with uncertainty. Last year I planned a retreat. The plan didn’t go as planned. My co-facilitator couldn’t come because of the mandated Covid quarantine in NY. The space couldn’t accommodate 20. I cut the number of participants to less than half, measuring out exactly how much space each brave participant would need to feel and be safe. Days before the retreat we still weren’t sure if we could pull it off — we being me and Wiawaka Center for Women. https://wiawaka.org/ We did!

I didn’t recognize this as hope. Throughout my many moments of doubt and sleepless nights, there was still a plan in place that morphed into something I never could have anticipated along the way. Now I see and love that it was HOPE that got me through.

Hope is no longer gooey. I can own HOPE, grab it and hold it to my heart. It has substance, like the hunk of rock in my garden, but it is mailable, expandable, contractible, and no longer gooey. I plan without being (terribly) attached to the outcome, because I have hope. I am deeply grateful for my life. I am an optimist with a plan.

I hope you will join me in redefining HOPE in your life.

Posted in Brené Brown, compassion, hope, integrative coaching, life coach, permission, purpose, stay engaged, Uncategorized, vulnerability | Tagged , , | 9 Comments

Leaning into Uncertainty

I have not been writing, except a bit in my journal. Even then, I pick up a pen and have few words to describe the strangeness of my feelings.

After all, I’ve never lived through a pandemic before. Notice I wrote LIVED. Still alive. Still uncertain.

I have lived through and witnessed social disparity and racial injustice. Notice I wrote THROUGH, as though those of us who lived through the 60s saw its end. No, we are still on this journey. I’ve never before owned up to my white privilege. I’m working on it. Reading more, learning more. Being and doing better.

I’ve never worn a mask before, except when I was ill, waiting for urgent care. Pre-pandemic, masks were so strange — yet most of us have a adapted. Grabbing a mask on the way out the door (color coordinated or generic) and wearing it in public is the new normal.

We’ve managed to get through the uncertainty of a divisive political campaign with 50 days to go until the inauguration of our new president.

More and more, normalizing uncertainty, new ways of being and doing — leaning in.

Even as I write these words, I sense it will be obsolete before you read it. Does it have to be certain? It’s only this moment in time. The idea that anything is/was ever certain is my biggest rumble of the last 7+ months. Remember the expression, “You know how to make God laugh?…”

And still we plan. I plan. It’s part of our humanness. In reflection, I’ve had nearly as many plans FAIL as come to fruition. Maybe more! The college I wanted — didn’t happen. The high school sweetheart who was to be my life partner — dashed. The vacation(s) — cancelled. The successful medical treatment — first one failed. The marriage to my son’s father — ended. The healing of wounded relationships — still hopeful. The workshops — ugh. All plans based on intuition, love, hopes, dreams, expectations…

God, Goddess, The Universe, Fates, had other plans.

Leaning in, having faith, that whether the plan is a go or has to be scrapped or amended, it’s all okay. I’m okay. I can hold the space for whatever is meant to be within the uncertainty of the moment.

Many plans for 2020 were made well before the pandemic hit. Some had to be cancelled without question, though disappointing. Others waited. And waited. And waited. In the case of the “live, in person” workshops and retreat scheduled for the summer, we waited until the very last moment. We were all hanging on, hopeful, holding space within the uncertainty. https://wiawaka.org/

The workshops and Rising Strong™ Retreat happened. Not the way they were planned. We were fewer and thrived. We wore masks and survived. We were extra careful before we met to be sure we were as healthy as possible. We took good care of ourselves and our sisters throughout our time together. We leaned in and held uncertainty as our model of success.

Let’s dream. Let’s grow our dreams. Think big. Plan. Be uncertain. Whatever happens, plans dashed, thrashed, downsized or not-how-I-thought-it-would-look, Goddess willing, we’ll have a story to tell to our grandchildren.

Stay safe. Stay strong.

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Pandemic Perspective



Is this gander running toward or running away? Fight or flight? **

God grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change… I cannot change the pandemic. I choose do my part. Here in New York State that means stay home and, now, wear nose/mouth covering, along with other precautions when I must go out.  The curve is flattening. Deaths and hospitalizations are going down. Because we’re practicing NY PAUSE. There are glimmers of hope. I hold “glimmers” in my heart.

I choose to believe that I’m going to get through this. My perspective about what’s truly important is changing. It’s a process I can’t articulate well, but I feel different. Some feelings are familiar. Impatient. Paralyzed. Sad. Touched. Tired. Pissed off. Sometimes I feel positive and energized and this leads to full engagement in life as it is. I remind myself that it’s safe to surrender to the flow of my feelings — the only way out is through.
I’m aware of the concept of the holographic universe. My understanding — each of us is the microcosm of the macrocosm. My emotions, my beliefs, my thoughts, my actions, do not occur in a vacuum — each affects the whole. We truly are powerful beyond measure. How you engage in life, your thoughts, words and actions, join with mine and others and affects the whole of humanity and, in essence, the Universe.

This too shall pass, but at what cost? We just don’t know. Pause. Deep breath.

Notice what is stirring in you. Go with the flow. Reach out for help. Help others, if you can. Be keenly aware of how you are connected with the whole, even as you physically distance. Love your precious self, then allow that love to flow to others. The world needs your love. Remember, it start with you. May you weather the storm with grace and ease.

** What is your perspective about the gander? I took this photo a few weeks ago. It was a thrilling scene…
He’s running toward an adversary to protect his nesting mate. And, from my perspective, he was also terrified!  

Offering complimentary (FREE) coaching for anyone affected by COVID-19. Read more by going to the coaching tab at the page header and contact me to learn more.

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Lessons from a Warbler

A week ago, during a 30 inch snowfall over two days, a bird that I did not recognize showed up at our suet feeder. His little beak told me that he was a bug-eater, not a seed-cracking year-round resident. I posted his photo on Facebook, both in my news feed and NY Birders. The owners of Wild Birds Unlimited Nature Shop (Saratoga Springs) identified mystery bird as a black-throated blue warbler. He’s a tiny little thing, about the size of a goldfinch. My bird books agree that they summer in the Adirondack and Catskill mountains and that he “should” have skedaddled in September or October. Hum….

warbler and woodpecker What was I to do? The only thing a mother CAN do…. FEED him! He’s a bug eater, so I stocked up on highest quality suet with dried meal worms, increased the number of feeders and made sure the bark butter (seen in this photo) did not run out.

My friends who “follow” totem animals implored me to discover his meaning. Only then would I be released and he could fly south to his winter home. I’m always curious about the spiritual meaning of wildlife when some critter out of the ordinary shows up, so I did my research and discovered that when a warbler flies in as a spirit guide:

  • You have a song that you want to share.
  • You seek confidence to be yourself.
  • You have a dream but are not following it – when you need guidance or direction.
  • You have a desire to be valued for your work or effort.**

Well sure, I can always apply any spirit message when an animal shows up.

Snowed in for a day, ignoring “other” work that needed to be done, I watch this little bird take sustenance from the feeders and this season’s grapes left on the vine for wildlife. I fret about how he lost his way, wonder why he didn’t leave with his flock on schedule, curious to know how he found our feeders.

Comments on Facebook range from dire predictions to suggestions on what to feed him to ooohs and aahhhs and keep us posted. Every dawn and dusk I’m glued to the windows looking for our little visitor.

A week later, he is still here, through below zero nights.

In the stillness of pre-dawn, as I hear the rain of a warmer day ahead, my heart speaks and lessons are revealed.

I acknowledge my abiding desire to nurture.

Nurture songs that has yet to be shared — yours as well as mine.

Nurture confidence and encourage you to be yourself, as I strive to be authentically me.

Nurture my unfulfilled dreams, as I support and celebrate you fulfilling your own.

No doubt there is more.

Back to little bird… Who am I to say he is “out of season”? I would never think that of you.

What if he is exactly where he’s meant to be?  Landing on my doorstep to receive nurturing and sustenance. Until he is ready to fly, this is his safe refuge.

What if YOU are exactly where you’re supposed to be? (You are.) When you’re ready to fly, you will.  In your time of “waiting”, I will nurture you with the sustenance of unconditional love and remind you that letting go of the need for certainty (Brené Brown, The Gifts of Imperfection) and trusting what you cannot see is a true act of courage.

As I sit in acceptance of this moment and surrender to the fickle weather of climate change, I’ll feed and nurture little bird and continue to rumble with the gifts of this miraculous visitation.

Some people see angels. Me too.

** credit for the spirit guide info: https://www.auntyflo.com/magic/warbler

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Loss and Longing

This morning, as I was folding towels just out of the dryer, I was overcome. It took a few beats for the emotion to surface. I commented to my husband that the old striped dish towels, worn but usable for spills, belonged to my mother. I gave them to her at least 25 years ago. At first I laughed at the longevity of William Sonoma towels, then it hit me. I was overcome with grief. Missing my mom, my dad, my youth, my connection with family, my old life. I sat on the edge of the bed and sobbed. How could it be that my mother, gone now nearly 17 years, and my dad, 15 years, could still be so embedded in my emotional body? How did I get so old and I’m now just noticing? How is it that we are (culturally) so bad at claiming and talking about loss and grief?

In Rising Strong, Brené Brown writes: Grief seems to create losses within us that reach beyond our awareness — we feel as if we’re missing something that was invisible and unknown to us while we had it, but is now painfully gone. (P 146) On longing: Related to loss is longing. Longing is not conscious wanting; it’s an involuntary yearning for wholeness, for understanding, for meaning, for the opportunity to regain or even simply touch what we’ve lost. Longing is a vital and important part of grief, yet many of us feel we need to keep our longings to ourselves for fear we will be misunderstood, perceived as engaging in magical or unrealistic thinking, or lacking fortitude and resilience. (P 147)

Turning to these pages again brings comfort. I am not alone in experiencing loss and longing.

In my work facilitating Rising Strong™ with individuals and small groups (curriculum based on the research and book of the same name, by Dr. Brené Brown) we give ourselves permission to “rumble” with grief, loss and longing. It is never an easy topic and as we dig deep, tissues fly out of the box. We hold each other with compassion as we share our common experience.

I remember this as I rumble and give myself permission to acknowledge and allow the feelings to move through me. I practice self-compassion, as well as gratitude for my life and loves today.  I will share this with my coach in our weekly session to help me discover the key learning from this recurring experience.

I am compelled to be vulnerable and share this tender emotion with you today because I want you to know, in the deepest part of your being, that you are not alone.

Posted in Brené Brown, compassion, grief, life coach, self-compassion, Uncategorized, understanding, vulnerability | Tagged , , , , , , , , | 6 Comments

My teacher – Beatrice

I haven’t ventured to blog post in over a year. I’m not clear about the reason, but it seems to have to do with my own “rumbling” with an overload of social media,  too much bad news, and distractions of all sorts. Somehow I have translated this into: I have nothing of interest to say that hasn’t been said before by someone more interesting than me. For today, I’ll let that go and get this blog out before I change my mind.

My story is about my morning and Beatrice’s gift. I awakened at 4:30 AM, early even for me. I lay in bed thinking about an hour “talk” I was scheduled to give later in the morning to a small group at the beginning of their weekend retreat. I affirmed to listen as much as talk and gently meet them where they are.

I spent the early morning quiet, as I often do, reading a book that inspires me. Today I picked up Pema Chodron’s comforting book, When Things Fall Apart: Heart Advice for Difficult Times.  Slowly, I went through the many tabs I had placed in the book and found what stuck with me throughout the morning: “Our experience is the ultimate teacher.” I knew that I would be “presenting” to a group of people I had never met and that how I responded to them, my experience, would be my teacher. But I couldn’t have predicted how this would play out.

Because I had gotten up so early, I decided to run a few errands before my regular Friday morning dance class. I have been procrastinating about having a new passport photo taken and decided it didn’t matter that my hair was a wreck and that I was in my workout clothes. Passport pictures are awful anyway. The woman at CVS reminded me that for a U.S. Passport it is verboten to smile. She said forbidden, which sounds so foreboding, that verboten feels appropriate. She took several shots as I grumbled about not even wanting to see them. I was totally aware that I would be dissatisfied. And, yes, it’s pretty awful. Back in the car my inner critic went nuts, even spoke out loud. How did I get so OLD? How did my mother’s face suddenly turn into a face shadowed by my FATHER’S great nose? OY VEY! I told my critic: it’s OK. I LOVE my AGING self and who looks at passport photos anyway? If it gets me through the border, it’s fine! It’s way better than dead! Maybe if I get dual citizenship with Italy I can get a passport picture with me smiling…. Our debate continued as I drove.

And then I met Beatrice. I arrived at School of the Arts at the National Museum of Dance a few minutes early.  A classmate was just arriving with her granddaughter. She introduced me to Beatrice, who is spending the whole weekend and is almost 3! Grandmama helped Beatrice into her ballet clothes. Beatrice takes a pre-ballet class at the school and would be joining us for our kick-butt dance class this morning. Beatrice was not really in the mood to change her clothes. She had a look on her face that could only mean trouble, it was just too much to change. Mission accomplished, her wise grandmother said, “Look, Beatrice, look in the mirror!” Beatrice looked at herself in her pink leotard, ballet slippers and headband and a HUGE smile filled her face and whole being! Suddenly the dressing room got brighter and I swear the sun came out! She was totally in love and in awe of her very own preciousness; her response to her image in the mirror filled my heart with love for the little ballerina in me. How could I be so hard on myself?

When do we lose that self-love? When did I lose that? When did life’s experiences and people’s responses to me teach me that I’m not enough? I know it happens very young. Not much past Beatrice’s age for some of us. It happens when we are compared to others, to some sort of “ideal” way of being, behaving and looking. Then we begin to compare ourselves to others. It’s not always those closest to us who give this message. We are experiencing a culture of scarcity, comparison, never enough and just “not good enough”.

I was so happy to see that Beatrice had not yet lost her self-acceptance and true love for the sweet, gentle soul in the mirror. She danced her heart out along side the rest of us, smiling and laughing.  I hope she gets to experience this kind of love for a very long time.

My experience with Beatrice changed me and filled my day with light. When I met with the retreat group, I shared this story to open our time together. By doing so, I hoped to encourage each of us to look inside to find the precious light-child that we all possess and know that, just like Beatrice, we are whole. There is nothing missing. We are worthy of love, connection and belonging. The first step is to belong to ourselves completely.

Thank you Beatrice. May you continue to teach us old folks how to love for a very long time.


Posted in Brené Brown, compassion, gift giving, life coach, self-acceptance, self-compassion, stay engaged, Uncategorized, understanding, vulnerability | Tagged , , | 7 Comments