13May

Build the nest, for the bird of hope needs a place to rest.

Build the nest, for the bird of hope needs a place to rest.

Many arriving on the therapeutic couch are weary travelers, stretched to capacity and fatigued having marched across a risky, unknown terrain for over two years. The pandemic, workplace demands from home, challenged by new dimension of effective parenting, rising costs of supplies and since February, a harrowing war in Ukraine; violence and abject suffering within each click of an iPhone. Mt. Peace and Mt. Harmony are distant summits, barely visible, climbing elevations seemingly, hopelessly out of reach.

What happens when we lose our grasp of hope’s existence? Shaking our heads and wringing our hearts, is the concept of “losing” hope synonymous with denying hope? When we deny that hope exists, our thoughts become an internal “Whack a Mole” game. With every glimmering pop of hope, we grab our hammer of despair and whack it down.

Hope:  a feeling of expectation and desire for a certain thing to happen.

Denial:  the action of declaring something to be untrue. 

Perhaps “Hope” thrives when we become more paced, patient with our expectations. Scale back from the quest to reach the peak of global Kumbaya (albeit a righteous aim), try on more “Hope” and wear it for awhile.

With that, an Emily Dickinson poem archived in one of my college literature brain cells, landed in my cerebral inbox.

“Hope” is the thing with feathers
By Emily Dickinson

“Hope” is the thing with feathers –
That perches in the soul –
And sings the tune without the words –
And never stops – at all –

And sweetest – in the Gale – is heard –
And sore must be the storm –
That could abash the little Bird
That kept so many warm –

I’ve heard it in the chillest land –
And on the strangest Sea –
Yet – never – in Extremity,
It asked a crumb – of me.

Dare I be as bold as to challenge Emily, yet I believe “Hope” IS asking something of us. The bird of hope needs to be greeted with a warm, welcoming nest, to find shelter within our hearts, our minds, our souls. “Hope” needs to be fed by our belief in healing, wisdom, learning and striving to be courageous. “Hope” needs to be quenched with the belief we can be kinder, truer and better.

“Hope” exists when it has a nest in you.

19Dec

Rituals of Reassurance

To many people, holidays are not voyages of discovery, but a ritual of reassurance.
Philip Andrew Adams

The other day I found myself singing along to God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen…”O tidings of comfort and joy, comfort and joy. O, tidings of comfort and joy.”

This opening quote may hold the key as it speaks to the holidays as NOT being a time of newness, but rather a time to practice those rituals which bring us reassurance.  And isn’t being reassured a path to comfort?  And if we are comforted, might we be closer to feeling joy?

With flurries of hurried people pouring out of every store corner and lining up  freeway onramps, or when someone heists the parking spot you had set sights on as you are running late for a holiday gathering topped with a dose of prolonged pandemic worry, well it is easy to feel more stress and frustration rather than comfort and joy!

Many clients lament change. Lots of changes are hoisted on our emotions without our permission, which makes resistance a natural response. Rituals are the opposite of change. They are repeated events, activities and symbolic routines and during this holiday season, they come alive. Finding the frayed and grease stained cookie recipe your grandmother used for sugar cookies, lighting candles and singing “Silent Night” while leaving midnight mass, waiting for the adult “kids” to come home and complete tree decorating, making hot cocoa and late night driving around local neighborhoods to see houses dancing with lights, or reading “Twas the Night Before Christmas” when everyone is in their new pajamas. It is true, comfort greets us when we experience the soothing “ahh” in the predictability of our traditions.

Opening up the dancing hippo ornament you received from a childhood friend brings a chuckle, or the cardboard snowman with your then kindergartener’s beaming face brings a return smile from you, it can also trigger melancholy, as many of the memories we hold dear are associated with the past. We are challenged to go beyond the “what was” and absorb the comfort these loving artifacts represent. Even if your sweet baby boy is now a baritone, deodorant wielding “dude”, or your precious princess is now a moody, mascara wearing teen, as the parent you may question if you should continue to carry the torch for rituals. If you did not put out the traditional colorful ribbon sweets, believe it or not, your offspring WILL look up from their cell phone long enough to ask “Hey, where are those swirly candy things?” Rituals bring reassurance, comfort and yes, joy.

During the last nearly two years, grief and limitations have shadowed much of the joy in our lives and brought unwanted changes. But guess what? Rituals can be your timeless superpower, impervious to Covid. The ultimate antibody to ward off  loss are the traditions stored within our hearts and memories. Open them up, dust them off and embrace their COMFORT and JOY during this cherished season!

 

23Nov

6 Ways to Make Thanksgiving Extra Special

We can only be said to be alive in those moments when our hearts are conscious of our treasures.
Thornton Wilder

At this Thanksgiving, there are so many pieces of the giving pie to sample! Here are just a few ideas to bake up and top with plenty of gratitude to make for a delightful and heartwarming Thanksgiving!

  1. On the day before Thanksgiving, consider making surprise gratitude calls. As you run around doing last minute chores, baking or traveling, select friends and family members and call them…no texts! What a lovely treat to leave a voicemail or speak directly to another for the express purpose of telling them how special they are, and your well wishes for them. The act of living in “gratitude” can improve your overall mood and happiness.
  2. Thanksgiving brings favorite recipes to life, with plenty of full stomachs and promises to not eat again for a week. If you are making an extra special dish, consider printing up the recipe and bringing it to the gathering. The gift that keeps giving are happy taste buds long after we leave the Thanksgiving feast.
  3. Prepare three (3) note cards with the words “Person” “Place” and “Thing.”  Place them face down the center of the table.  Each guest is invited to take a turn by selecting one of the three cards.  Depending on which card they pick, they will describe the person, place or thing they are grateful for.
  4. Get moving!  After a lovely meal, and before dessert arrives on the table, rally everyone to go for a walk in the neighborhood. This allows for digestion, chatting, laughter and fresh air before returning for round 2! 
  5.  Invite everyone at the table to share a memory from a prior Thanksgiving, especially if there are grandparents assembled.  Directly asking for them to share can reveal hidden treasures and honor their history and experience.
  6. Consider the “Collage” entertainment experience can be fun and memorable. Ask your guests to come prepared to share a favorite inspirational verse, poem, short story or musical selection. This brings an added dimension to the festivities and makes for a shared experience of laughter, thoughtful reflection and memory making.

Wishing you a Thanksgiving filled with treasures and blessings!

30Jun

Free to Be True

During a session with a client the other day, she was marveling at the difference a year can make. Brimming with an optimism and a refreshing excitement about her future, she proclaimed, “I am so free.”

Are you free? Or, do you feel trapped in a prison of your own creation? For many of us, we are doing time in State Avoid. We have become “used to” our cell even though we experience excruciating anxiety, doubt, anger and fear. When in a state of avoidance, we lock ourselves out from spontaneity and life experiences. We feel stuck, shut down and powerless. We crouch childlike, hoping no one finds out our “secret”…that we are in a lonely marriage, have out of control kids, drink too much alcohol or live with a loved one who does, feel ashamed about our past, worry incessantly about a weight or health issue, or that we just don’t believe ourselves worthy of a satisfying life.

This is a “shout out” to those committed to breaking free from old burdens or defeating beliefs. Take a moment to consider how you have been breaking out from habits of avoidance through your courageous dedication to personal discovery. Consider how tough it can be to chip away at some of those “emotional life sentences” assigned to us from our past that we now must dedicate heart and soul to overturn.

To tackle what we thought was impossible…to speak about an issue with a family member, to live alone following a long-term relationship, to change jobs, set boundaries and advocate for our own worth…well, that is setting ourselves free.

There is no better season than summer to deeply experience freedom. Thoughts, ideas and inspirations take root during these weeks of lemonade, chlorine, watermelon and giggles. The sun, sand and smooth skies stretch out all around us, serving up plenty of time to digest your achievements and perseverance and dreamingly reflect on your next steps.

23Apr

The 3 “R’s” of SpRRRing!

The 3 “R’s” of SpRRRing!

Spring has sprung! The air is sun-baked crisp, flowers with popping colors abound and many of us have had “shots” in the arm as vaccines are also blooming everywhere. As a healthcare worker, I received both rounds of Moderna and found myself standing on the edge of a pool of possibilities. Should I fly somewhere? Dine in a restaurant? Welcome clients back to in person private practice? Hug a friend? As we re-enter life from pandemic panic to pandemic pragmatism, it is wise to enlist your own version of “know thy self.” As I gazed at this expanse of options, there were many resounding “R” words…renewal, reward, rejoice. Yet, there were three “R’s” which surfaced and began to float hope…Remember, Resume and Reclaim.

Remember

After over a year of remaining at or very close to home, it is natural to view returning to travel, workplace, social events, shopping and crowds with skepticism as the pandemic transformed most aspects of life into risky territories. How will you re-establish comfort and trust in a particular activity or setting? How will you remember who you used to be?

In the heat of summer and eager to cool off at a pool or the beach, are you inclined to tumble head over heels and immerse your entire body in chlorinated or salty water? Or would you rather slowly ease in and sample the temperature an inch and a toe at a time? We each have our own style of facing the unknown and strangely, that is what life may resemble as each of us face this “re-entry” process. Honest ownership of knowing your unique level of comfort, pace and listening to your instincts will be essential.

The treasure of time passing is to remember all you have learned about yourself, trusted resources and loyal friends during the pandemic. Once you are vaccinated, perhaps having a more detailed conversation with your family physician to gather “re-entry” suggestions will be useful. Inquiring and sharing strategies with friends as to how they are embarking on life again would be a fruitful conversation. The key is to remember you are very capable of re-entering and resuming your life, just as you proved capable to living with Covid.

Resume

Websters defines “to resume” as the act of returning to and beginning something again after an interruption. To pick something up again: to go back to using or doing (something, such as a way of behaving).

The Covid-19 storm interrupted and disrupted all our lives. What path would you like to discover and journey on now? What have you missed? What is calling to be picked up again? Now is the time to reflect on what you set aside during Covid and make a plan to “picking” it back up again, according to your comfort level. Tennis? Volunteering? Dance lessons?

There are many paths appearing open to exploration, either a familiar path or perhaps a brand new one filled with curiosity and renewed readiness to embark, learn and experience aspects of life sorely missed.

Reclaim

What does it mean to “reclaim” one’s life? Webster’s defines it to rescue from an undesirable state: to restore to a previous natural state.

Will you be “reclaiming” your previous “natural state” of life prior to the pandemic? Or was the “undesirable state” the life you may have been living pre-Covid? Consider this: there now exists a choice to NOT resume undesirable stress, strain and frenetic movement which many of us had assimilated as “normal.” After a year of putting the brakes on and pulling over to a rest stop, how you merge back onto the highway of life is completely in your control. What will you reclaim that existed before Covid? What will you hold on to as a result of it?

The choice is yours.

04Apr

“Lifted” to the Other Side of Challenge

“Lifted” to the Other Side of Challenge

Definition of “lifted”: To raise from a lower to higher position.

As many of you know, I love all things British, especially my friends who live in London. Years ago, while visiting them during a shared holiday in Cornwall, they played Lighthouse Family, a British band comprised of two young “mates” who had met while working at the same pub in the mid 90’s. A fantastic duo, they created magical, easy listening music and gained a dedicated audience.

Whenever I want to transport myself back to a cherished time spent on brisk walks along Cornish seaside cliffs, strolls into the village for afternoon tea or an evening of cheers with a pint at the pub for trivia game night, I play their songs, always beginning with “Lifted.” Although its appearance has spiritual overtones, the band and their music are not representative of a particular religious affiliation, instead this particular song holds a message of coming out of a darkness, beyond the rain, to joyfully experience what is on the other side…timely, eh?

The band separated for many years and reunited last year with a live performance during the Promenade Summer concerts in London. Watching this video will naturally ignite a variety of emotions: Shock, seeing so many people shoulder to shoulder, smiling, dancing, with lots of social closeness, not distance. There may be a longing for “the good ol’ days” when we united with similar crowds to sway together with a love of shared music and festivities. There may be a question of when will you be able to voyage to distant lands again and promenade through foreign parks, and mingle with others who may, like you, be checking off items from their bucket list?

Welcome these thoughts and their adjoining emotions. The pandemic forced us to face the unexpected and with it mounds of uncertainty, anxiety, waiting and wondering. Passover, Easter and Springtime are here and invite us to contemplate gratitude and renewal. Please gift yourself 5 minutes as you watch this video and tap into our shared collective spirit. Focus on hopefulness and envision how as more and more are receiving the vaccine, we are being “lifted” to the other side of this challenge, glimpsing a day when life will be restored, our doors open and we are “lifted” to health and recovery.

26Feb

Perspective

Perspective

I have been using the term “perspective” more often than usual lately. Of course, I love words and turned to my reliable Merriam-Webster and looked up the definition. Perspective: A mental view or prospect; the capacity to view things in their true relation or relative importance.

Against the backdrop of the pandemic, and by working, and socializing, virtually we have learned more about our own, and others, perspectives on health, risk-taking, problem-solving, coping, humanity and global well-being. The protracted stress of the virus and now the re-entry wobbles, call upon each of us to dig deep for a point of view which can help us maintain optimism, hope, acceptance, patience, and restore motivation to restart activities and lifestyle. The saying “beauty is in the eye of the beholder” is a timely testimony to how we each view our lives back (last year), center (right now) and front (the next months). We are the “holders” of our perspectives and what we see as beautiful, vital and true.

I recalled a short tale I have used numerous times during workshops. As a disclaimer, I did not author this original concept yet did edit it a bit. 😊

One day a wealthy father took his son on a trip to the country with the express purpose of showing him how impoverished others can be and to expose his son to a lifestyle of “less.” His hope was to heighten his son’s gratitude for the riches and lifestyle he was born into. They spent a day and a night on the farm of a very modest income family. When they returned from their trip the father asked his son, “What did you think about our time on the farm?”

“Very good Dad!”

“Did you see how very poor people can be?” the father asked.

“Oh yeah!” replied the son. “And what did you learn?” asked his dad.

The son answered, “I saw that we have a dog at home, and they have four. We have a pool that reaches to the middle of the garden, they have a creek that has no end. We have imported lamps in the garden, they have the stars. Our patio reaches to the front yard, they have the whole horizon.”

As the little boy was finishing, his father was speechless. “And oh,” his son added, “Thanks Dad for showing me how poor WE are!”

Here’s to hope for expanding your perspective to embrace the “riches” of re-joining one another.

25Nov

Giving Thanks

Giving Thanks

So much has been given to me; I have no time to
ponder over that which has been denied.
—Helen Keller

The pandemic has denied us many “ings.” Socializing, hugging, partying, traveling, playing, shaking hands, smiling at one another (due to masks), riding roller coasters, mingling, joining in the workplace, studying on campus, greeting one another in church pews and synagogues, singing in concert halls, cheering at Petco Park—the list goes on. Yes, there are many “ings” absent in our day-to-day lives yet there are a few that are impervious to Covid-19: giving, thanking, loving.

Giving to those in need—consider making a donation to a community organization. Thanking others is a “social distanced” verbal hug. Reach out to someone (or many) and share your appreciation with a phone call. Whether spending Thanksgiving with a few friends or enjoying a much smaller than usual family gathering, perhaps the quote from Helen Keller could be a conversation starter around the table or on a Zoom gathering? Focus on what we have been given during our lifetime, not what has been denied during this challenging year.

“What has been given to you?” 

Breath ~ Life ~ Friendship ~ Dreams ~ Curiosity ~ Mind ~ Vision ~ Health ~ Opportunity ~ Time ~ Creativity ~ Language ~ Faith ~ Hope ~ LOVE

Wake at dawn with a winged heart and give thanks for another day of loving.
—Khalil Gibran

It is my sincere hope you will “gobble up” and “digest” (couldn’t resist the puns 😊) all that you have been given and turn your focus to gratitude for another day of giving and receiving love. Wishing you a cornucopia filled with health and gratitude this Thanksgiving.

Enjoy this song by Jason Mraz, beautifully capturing “another day of loving.”

P.S. Couldn’t resist sharing this photo from the 2009 archives as my son and I were lucky to have a “Meet and Greet” following Jason’s concert at Coors Amphitheater.

Jason Mraz

02Nov

Ca suffit, reste tranquille

Ca suffit, reste tranquille

During my college summers, I worked as an au pair (nanny) in France. I adored the history, pastries, boutiques, villages, lush countryside, bustle of the Champs-Elysees, Le Metro underground transport and Bateau Mouche rides on the Seine. Yet most of all, I loved, and was mesmerized by, the language.

My adorable charges often spoke, ran and bicycled at speeds I struggled to match, yet one saying I used frequently was … “Ca suffit, reste tranquille.”  Literally translated it is, “That’s enough, stay calm.” It always flowed more as a caution than a reprimand, an invitation not a dictate. When our fears, future anxieties and distress speed up, it may be an opportunity to tell ourselves just this.

As we begin this week, many may be experiencing tensions regarding possible election results. I encourage you to take a moment and close your eyes, inhaling a full, glorious breath and say to yourself (in whatever language you prefer), “That’s enough. Stay calm.”

Music has always reminded me of the heart and soul of our humanity and never fails to bring me joy and optimism. I sincerely hope these selections will do the same for you. Ca suffit, reste tranquille.

 

18Jun

The beauty of your story

I find absolute calm when I step on the beach and walk to the water’s edge.  I did just that late yesterday afternoon and marveled at nature’s transformation.  No longer were the waves filled with laughing children, boogie boards or beach towels colorfully scattered on the sand.  The air was crisp, the marine drape masked the sun and a few random folks were enjoying an autumn stroll.

I gingerly picked up this pristine shell, no holes or wrinkles, smooth and unbroken.  Laying right next to it, I scooped up this fossil like rock, textured and weathered.  I carried one in each hand and pondered what story each could share? What had each experienced during their seasons at sea?

With its eroded tunnels and sea life imprints, the rock gave me pause for imagining all sorts of grand tales.  Was it a fragment from a dwelling in the lost city of Atlantis? Or perhaps had spent thousands of years sharing salty terrain with a family of sea turtles off the North Shore of Oahu?

The shell seemed to not have been penetrated by time, risky geography or nautical battlefields. Bits had not been severed and its simple beauty reminded me of a charmed, maybe even protected life.

Aren’t we much like these treasures from the sea?  So often we put the effort into the appearance of the shell; perfect, in tact, unaffected by the rough seas of our lives.  When in fact, we are the rock.  We have holes in our hearts, we have imprints on our souls.  Yet, what if beauty was measured in the intricacy and strength of the rock? What if self worth, your value, came from not perfecting your shell but instead, treasuring your true self, your story with all of its erosions and blemishes?