Thursday, February 28, 2013

Simply Notice

Crocus Signaling A New Season
The grand essentials in this life are
something to do, something to love,
and something to hope for.
           ~ Joseph Addison (1672-1719)

Today is the last day of February and that makes me smile.  I am not one to hurry time along but in this case I am happy to see the arrival of the month of March.  I love a longer day when the sun is warmer and daylight lasts until 8 or 9 o'clock in the evening.
I hadn't noticed that the seasons were starting change until the other morning when I had to get out the door extra early to go to work.  As I turned around to lock the front door to my house, I looked to the sky and noticed how much lighter is was compared to a month ago when it would have been pitch dark.  I even heard a few birds in the bare trees alternately chirping to each other.
"Wow," I thought. "Spring is almost here and so is daylight savings time. How did that happen?"
I welcome it happening.  There is always an amazing feeling of anything being possible when Spring and Summer arrive because people spend more time outdoors and they aren't weighed down by coats and gloves and boots and scarves.  To me, flip flops, shorts and T-shirts represent a sense of freedom.
Those days of freedom will indeed come, even though they are not here quite yet.
But I see signs of a new season coming: some crocus in a neighbor's front yard pushing through the soft dirt, Easter baskets and Easter eggs for sale in the grocery store and more television and newspaper stories about preparing your lawn for the warmer weather.  Is it time to fertilize?  Is it time to seed?  Can I plant anything in the ground yet?
I'm learning to look forward, to appreciate the simple things in life, to understand that I can endure and that the next day or the next season could bring flowers, chocolate. . .or  joy!

Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Go For It!

Reach out there and go for it! 

You have to
dream big,
wish hard,
and chase after your goals,
because no one
is going to do it for you.
             ~ Cee Lo Green

Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Finding The Words

I think the hardest thing about writing is writing.
                                               ~ Journalist, Author and Screenwriter Nora Ephron

During Sunday night's Academy Awards ceremony, tributes were paid to those in the film industry who passed away in the last year.  Nora Ephron most certainly was a bright twinkling star in her own right and the producers of the show chose to display the above quote in her honor.

Ephron was a keen observer of American culture and especially the stormy and romantic relationships between men and women.  Like most things Ephron wrote about she is spot on about trying to write. 
Writing is trying to get the words together in one sentence to reveal a truth.

Writing this blog for my readers is a wonderful, sometimes magical thing.  It has helped me process the grief of losing my husband and, in turn,  I do hope that it has helped others of you out there also trying to make sense of a loss whether it is a husband, a wife, a child, a parent or a good friend.  I never want anyone to feel isolated or alone in their despair.
Writing is something I feel I have to do and each time I sit down at the computer keyboard to write to you I try to do my very best.  Sometimes I feel I hit the bar of accomplishing what I set out to do and other days I wish I had a better brain so that something more insightful would have hit the page.
I enjoy writing but it also can be frustrating to find the right words to convey what I am feeling.  There is nothing more frustrating than staring at the blank screen and you know what you want to say but just don't know how to say it.  Writing can sometimes feel like trying to nail jello to the wall: elusive and messy.
Writing in particular about grief and a person's ability to bounce back from a loss is a tricky mission.  When I post my thoughts, I want to explain how shocked, how painful, how alone, how outside yourself you feel when someone you loves dies and how you feel totally lost.  But I don't want to sound whiney, dramatic or self-absorbed. 
Grief is a personal subject, almost intimate, yet it also univeral.
Whether you want to or not, at  some point in your life you will experience grief.  I can't say what it will be like for you or how long it will last because everyone's grief is different.
I also want to let you know that through my blog posts that with the passage of time, and it has been nine years for me since my husband died, the journey improves.  Step by step, day by day, you move forward.  It is slow and some days you may not feel the will to go on but that probably means you need to rest and recoup to garner strength.  You may not know where you are going but the act of moving helps you work through your jumbling emotions.
I have found that it takes positive energy, support from friends and family and a healthy way of living.  I know you will find your way.  It will reveal itself to you.
Thank you for reading Cry, Laugh Heal!!!  My readers are the best and I love hearing from you!!!

Monday, February 25, 2013

Silver Linings Playbook

Bradley Cooper & Jennifer Lawrence
I applaud the wonderful movie, Silver Linings Playbook, which came away from the Academy Awards last night with Jennifer Lawrence winning an Oscar for Best Actress.

I had heard a lot about this movie before I recently saw it and I wasn't disappointed.  It definitely lived up to its reputation as a solid, slightly edgy, movie and it stands out because its story and its actors are courageous and hopeful.  The movie shines a light on two subjects that make people uncomfortable: grieving and mental health, and weaves these sensitive issues in a romantic-comedy-drama about families, resilience, growth and love.
In Silver Linings Playbook, the characters played by Bradley Cooper and Jennifer Lawrence are trying to put their lives back together and not always succeeding.  Bradley Cooper's character is dealing with a bipolar diagnosis and Jennifer Lawrence's character has just become a widow after learning her husband was hit and killed by a car. 
I don't want to reveal too much about the movie because you really should see it for yourself.  But I think it's safe to tell you that both of them talk directly and honestly about the ways they reacted when their traumas crashed into their lives and how those out-of-control decisions took them to places they didn't want to be but at the time, they couldn't help themselves.
And yet their characters never give up.
They are vulnerable and heartbroken and always trying to put their lives back together.  They believe there is a Silver Lining out there for each of them and this is where I fell in love with the movie.
Both characters put themselves out there in incredibly fearless ways given what they are dealing with because they are determined to find new lives. 
You see how hard it is for them to change but they keeping going at it.
I know it's only a movie but it can be an unexpected source of strength to watch actors or people you know go about the painful process of making changes within themselves and finding the will to take actions that, as small or as large as they might be, reveals to them and to others that they and we are stronger than we might have ever thought we were.
As a widow, I know how hard it is to stay positive about life but I found that staying positive can really make a difference in the decisions you make.  There were and still are plenty of times when I screw up but if I didn't believe that things were going to get better I would find myself in a sad place and I don't want that for myself or for you.

Unexpected sources of strength are within us and around us.  Dig down deep within yourself or reach out to to others.

Move forward and surprise youself.

Friday, February 22, 2013

Happy Talk

As a woman, I have had many conversations with men about all different kinds of subjects but after a certain amount of time, I can sometimes see their eyes glazing over in disinterest even as I am talking to them.
Most women instinctively know that they like to talk more than men.  I know that I really enjoy verbally taking a situation apart and talking about it and then verbally trying to put it back together again in search of a solution.  But I usually have to find a woman who will listen to me do this.
Even my husband would only listen for so long and then he would usually bark, "My God, get to the point!"

Courtesy of the New York Daily News
Well, the point today is that new research was just published in The Journal of Neuroscience concluding that a protein called FOXP2 is responsible for our ability to verbalize, and girls' brains contain higher levels of FOXP2 than boys' brains.
Now there seems to be scientific evidence that girls like to talk A LOT more than boys.  Research indicates that women say about 20,000 words a day and men only blurb out about 7,000.
After reading this, I wondered, "Is this one of the reasons why men prefer to be quiet about their grieving?"
I know some of this information is stereotypical but there is also some truth in the "Chatty Kathy" woman and the "Strong and Silent" man.  I do know a few men who like to chat but they are few and far between.
Some men resent being encouraged to talk about the emotions of their grief or even the particulars of how they are doing after the death of a loved one.  In general, men like to put their feelings into action such as doing some kind of activity with their hands.  They immerse themselves in their work and that is their way of processing their loss.
Talking is just not the first reaction men have to dealing with a trauma.
I read of one man who after his 20-year-old daughter lost control of her car and was killed, the father spent several weeks rebuilding a neighbor's fence that was damaged in an accident.  The father described this activity as crucial to his healing and to "getting me through those first two months."
Maybe men think that by verbally expressing their thoughts and feelings that then they are vulnerable, and that's not something they are comfortable with.  Or maybe they have had bad experiences with trying to put their emotions into words.
Doctors are beginning to discover that there is such a thing as "men's grief," a grief that is processed very differently than women's. It's not the wrong way or the right way.  It's just the way that belongs to men.  Men's methods of grieving shouldn't be evaluated by the way women deal with their grief because we know that everyone grieves differently no matter what their gender.
Since women know that talking makes them feel better, they automatically assume that talking will make men feel better.  And sometimes that's not true. 
Whatever the case, the only reason women want men to discuss their grief feelings is because repression of the hurt, the anger and the confusion that surrounds grief can only be unhealthy.  Unrecognized and unacknowledged grief will only become stronger and harder to tame.  Grief that's expressed outward is grief that's released and it then allows you to start a healing process.
Vive la difference!

Thursday, February 21, 2013

Life Is Not a Cereal

Have you heard of Kid President?

While I was on YouTube the other day I discovered this young ball of fire who is very funny and very cute.

So today's post is about laughing because laughter is a tremendous resource for dealing with stress and forgetting how bad your day was.  Laughter is infectious and if you are laughing and smiling then your friends will want to know what's going on to make you all giggly and then pretty soon they'll be laughing too!

More importantly, laughter may go a long way to reducing and healing the pain you may feel from a loss and a good laugh can help you feel like you truly can go on and face your next set of decisions.

As Kid President would say: Life is not a cereal and it certainly is not a dress rehearsal!

Believe and don't give up!

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

Catching My Breath

Kelly Clarkson Singing at President Obama's Inauguration

Five days a week, I drive to and from work and during that time I usually listen to the radio.  I have five stations that I randomly listen to depending on my mood and the pace of the traffic.

These days the song that currently makes me go directly to the volume button is Kelly Clarkson's "Catch My Breath."

It's a song of strength, a song that gives me a boost of positive energy.

To me, the song has the vibe of someone who has survived some kind of a personal journey and come out on the other side it, more sure of life and the direction they want to go.

The lyrics of "Catch My Breath" remind me of a time in my life when I was trying to keep up with so many changes that were happening so fast that it was hard for me to get a breath of air. 

I've spent most of my life
Riding waves, playing acrobat
Shadowboxing the other half
Learning how to react
I've spent most of my time

But the lyrics also take me to a place of seeing life in a simplier way and realizing that you cannot let worries keep you down.  Focusing on being carefree, laughing and spending time with the ones that I love is really what brings me happiness and that I should grab as much of it as I can.

Making time for the ones that count
I'll spend the rest of my time
Laughing hard with the windows down
Leaving footprints all over town
Keeping faith kinda comes around
I'll spent the rest of my life

Please listen to Grammy Award winner Kelly Clarkson sing, "Catch My Breath," a song I currently consider to be my musical Red Bull:


Tuesday, February 19, 2013

A New Day; A New Way

They say that sharing is caring and I care so much about my readers that when I read the below post yesterday from the Bereaved Partners Support Group (@BereavedPartner on Twitter), I couldn't wait to share it with you.

So many things in this article resonated with me: especially the idea of stepping into your fears and working through them to find something new in your changed life.

Healing and recovery happen.  It may not feel as though this natural process is happening to you but it is.  You must believe in a new way of life and even a new point of view.

It doesn't mean that you won't miss your loved one.  You will.  But it will not feel as raw as it did in the beginning.  I can't tell you how many people would tell me that my husband would not want me to live my life in a sad way; in a way of constantly feeling pain.  I knew they were right but I didn't feel that way.  I wasn't in that place yet.  And then one day it did make sense to me and I did realize that it was okay to enjoy my life.

It is okay to buy some beautiful flowers.  It is okay to go out and laugh with friends.  It is okay to open myself up to new opportunities.

Please read the below story.  I love it because it is so hopeful!!


One of our group attendees passed on this passage to us to share with others. We encourage you to read it. It is eye-opening, grounding and beautiful…


A time comes in your life when you finally get it… when, in the midst of all your fears and insanity, you stop dead in your tracks and somewhere the voice inside your head cries out… ENOUGH! Enough fighting and crying and blaming and struggling to hold on.

Then, like a child quieting down after a tantrum, you blink back your tears and begin to look at the world through new eyes.

This is your awakening.

You realise it’s time to stop hoping and waiting for something to change, or for happiness, safety and security to magically appear over the next horizon. You realise that in the real world there aren’t always fairy tale endings, and that any guarantee of “happily ever after” must begin with you… and in the process a sense of serenity is born of acceptance.

You awaken to the fact that you are not perfect and that not everyone will always love, appreciate or approve of who or what you are… and that’s OK. They are entitled to their own views and opinions.

You learn the importance of loving and championing yourself… and in the process a sense of new found confidence is born of self-approval. You stop complaining and blaming other people for the things they did to you – or didn’t do for you – and you learn that the only thing you can really count on is the unexpected.

You learn that people don’t always say what they mean or mean what they say and that not everyone will always be there for you and that everything isn’t always about you.

So, you learn to stand on your own and to take care of yourself… and in the process a sense of safety and security is born of self-resilience.

You stop judging and pointing fingers and you begin to accept people as they are and to overlook their shortcomings and human frailties… and in the process a sense of peace and contentment is born of forgiveness.

You learn to open up to new worlds and different points of view. You begin reassessing and redefining who you are and what you really stand for.

You learn the difference between wanting and needing and you begin to discard the doctrines and values you’ve outgrown, or should never have bought into to begin with.

You learn that there is power and glory in creating and contributing and you stop manoeuvring through life merely as a “consumer” looking for your next fix.

You learn that principles such as honesty and integrity are not the out-dated ideals of a bygone era, but the mortar that holds together the foundation upon which you must build a life.

You learn that you don’t know everything, its not your job to save the world and that you can’t teach a pig to sing. You learn that the only cross to bear is the one you choose to carry and that martyrs get burned at the stake.

Then you learn about love. You learn to look at relationships as they really are and not as you would have them be. You learn that alone does not mean lonely.

You stop trying to control people, situations and outcomes. You learn to distinguish between guilt and responsibility and the importance of setting boundaries and learning to say NO.

You also stop working so hard at putting your feelings aside, smoothing things over and ignoring your needs.

You learn that your body really is a temple. You begin to care for it and treat it with respect. You begin to eat a balanced diet, drink more water, and take more time to exercise.

You learn that being tired fuels doubt, fear and uncertainty and so you take more time to rest. And, just as food fuels the body, laughter fuels our souls. So you take more time to laugh and to play.

You learn that, for the most part, you get in life what you believe you deserve, and that much of life truly is a self-fulfilling prophecy.

You learn that anything worth achieving is worth working for and that wishing for something to happen is different than working toward making it happen.

More importantly, you learn that in order to achieve success you need direction, discipline and perseverance. You also learn that no one can do it all alone, and that it’s OK to risk asking for help.

You learn the only thing you must truly fear is fear itself. You learn to step right into and through your fears because you know that whatever happens you can handle it and to give in to fear is to give away the right to live life on your own terms.

You learn to fight for your life and not to squander it living under a cloud of impending doom.

You learn that life isn’t always fair, you don’t always get what you think you deserve and that sometimes bad things happen to unsuspecting, good people… and you learn not to always take it personally.

You learn that nobody’s punishing you and everything isn’t always somebody’s fault. It’s just life happening. You learn to admit when you are wrong and to build bridges instead of walls.

You learn that negative feelings such as anger, envy and resentment must be understood and redirected or they will suffocate the life out of you and poison the universe that surrounds you.

You learn to be thankful and to take comfort in many of the simple things we take for granted, things that millions of people upon the earth can only dream about: a full refrigerator, clean running water, a soft warm bed, a long hot shower.

Then, you begin to take responsibility for yourself by yourself and you make yourself a promise to never betray yourself and to never, ever settle for less than your heart’s desire.

You make it a point to keep smiling, to keep trusting, and to stay open to every wonderful possibility.
You hang a wind chime outside your window so you can listen to the wind.

Finally, with courage in your heart, you take a stand, you take a deep breath, and you begin to design the life you want to live as best you can.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Two Life Tips

Say Ohmmmm!
My mother gets more magazines than anyone I know.  She always has a huge stack of magazines near her chair and after she whips through them she is always happy to get rid of them.
This weekend I stopped by my parents' house to visit, catch-up and check in on them to see how things are going and she gave me at least 25 magazines to take home.  Oh don't worry.  My Mom still has more magazines for herself.
I am always looking for information on how get healthier and de-stress and while reading a December 2012 Family Circle magazine, I came upon an article by Sharon Boone about how to avoid a meltdown during the Christmas season.  Now Christmas may be over, but for me there is always the possibility of a stress build-up from any number of sources and anything that can help me make my stress work for me is a good thing.
Here are two life tips that popped out for me:
--Say  Ohmmm: Meditation can slow a racing heart, decrease blood pressure, steady breathing and even stop checkout lines from driving you crazy. (Well, maybe.)  "By eliminating all distractions save the sound of your breath, meditation transforms the body's fight-or-flight response to relaxation," says Jay Winner, M.D., author of Take The Stress Out of Your Life.
--Appeal To A Higher Power: People who prayed before performing a task -- say, preparing dinner for 30 people -- had lower blood pressure and felt less anxious than those who did not.  Researchers theorize that prayer creates the sense of having a nonjudgmental and powerful support network.
It's all about my choices and as I jump into a new work week, I am going to try and find strength in the positive and kick the negative stuff to the curb!

Friday, February 15, 2013

Chocolate or Kindness?

Finding the Balance of Chocolate and Kindness

Don't let the collar turn you off.

Fr. James Martin is a charismatic Jesuit priest who has a Lenten message that can be appreciated by followers of Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Hinduism, Buddhism, Folk Religions and even atheists.
It's a simple message but one that is challenging for people (myself included) to practice.  And it doesn't have to be Lent to make it happen.  We can practice his message any time of the year.
Lent is traditionally a time when Catholics give up something.  But suppose instead of giving up chocolate (that would be me) or alcohol or potato chips, you decided to do something good?  Why something good?
Because it is soooo much harder to stay quiet and not say the smart remark that first pops into your head when you are talking to a co-worker or a relative than it is to walk past the bowl of M&M's.

Listen and dare to try it out:

Thursday, February 14, 2013

A Valentine Message

Photo Courtesy of French Essence

You don't love someone for their looks,
 or their clothes,
 or for their fancy car,
 but because they sing a song only you can hear.
                          ~ Oscar Wilde
Happy Valentine's Day!!

Wednesday, February 13, 2013

Roger Rosenblatt's Reflections

Some wonderful friends on the West Coast gave me Roger Rosenblatt's book, Kayak Morning, as a Christmas present.  I was familiar with Rosenblatt as a writer for Time magazine and also as a columnist for The Washington Post, but was unfamiliar with the tragic death of his daughter, Amy Solomon,  a 38-year-old wife and mother of three children, from a heart condition.
In Kayak Morning, which was written two years after Amy's death, Rosenblatt explores the human experience of loss.  His descriptions of his grief and his reflections about his daughter Amy's death are calm and straightforward yet poignant.

It is while Rosenblatt is kayaking in a creek not far from his home in Quogue, New York that he finds the solitude he needs to sort through his scattered thoughts about his grief and work through his deep sorrow to try and make sense out of what has happened to him and his wife, Ginny.  Rosenblatt recounts conversations that occured during this particular summer of kayaking and in an unusually striking discussion, he presents the idea that grief is a gift:

"You have to understand," she said. "Grief lasts forever."

"Like death," I said.

"Like death. Except death is someone else's condition, and grief is all yours."

"I feel worse now than I did shortly after she died."

"And you'll feel worse next year.  And worse the year after that, unless you find a way to transform your grief."

"We're back to that."

"We've never left it," she said. "Grief comes to you all at once, so you think it will be over all at once. But it is your guest for a lifetime."

"How should I treat this guest? This unwelcome, uninvited guest."

"Think of the one who sent it to you," she said.

I thought I had become familiar with most of the different ways that grief can be felt and presented to a person who has lost a loved one until I read the above excerpt.

It took me aback; the first time I read it, I thought to myself, "Grief is definitely not a present to be opened and cherished." But the more that I thought about the profound idea of it, the more I began to understand Rosenblatt's surprising point about grief being something personal given to you by the person you loved and lost. 

For it is in our grief, that we struggle to still keep our loved one alive.
Through writing down memories and sharing stories about the spouse, child, parent, friend or relative you loved and lost, you are  remembering your loved one, and as painful as your loss is in the beginning, grief, through the passing of time, does become more manageable.
Bringing your loved one back into your life through stories becomes a gift of sorts through the laughter, smiles and even tears that the person's life brings to others.

Tuesday, February 12, 2013

Fat Tuesday

Today is Fat Tuesday.
For Catholics, today is the last hurrah before lent begins tomorrow.  That is how Mardi Gras come to be.  Essentially, Mardi Gras is French for Fat Tuesday and with Mardi Gras comes some hard partying and parades and good times before Lent begins on Ash Wednesday. 
Lent is a time of fasting and serious reflection, a time of giving something up or doing something that's personally hard in order to prepare yourself for the celebration of Easter.
This year, once again, my demon is sugar.
I know all the bad stuff about sugar and how it is bad for your immune system and how it is highly addictive. Yet, try as I might, during the holidays, I cannot resist the cookies and chocolates that seem to surround me. I tell myself that when the new year arrives I will put the brakes on the sweets but then my birthday arrives in early January and I'm back on the sugar train.
The problem is that sugar makes you feel better.  At least it makes me feel better for the moment of that I eat it.  I read somewhere that when you eat sugar, it tells the brain to release dopamine, a chemical that the brain also releases when certain drugs are ingested or when you exercise a lot.  I'm always trying to remind myself about this sugar-brain connection but then I start to think about freshly baked cookies.
My friend Eileen makes the most outrageously delicious cookies in the whole world and when I see a plate of them offered at get-togethers, there is no way I can resist them.  Her cookies are like potato chips: you can never eat just one.
Whenever I think I'm the only one who is out of control about sugar, I pick up Kris Carr's book, Crazy, Sexy Diet, and I go directly to her chapter on sugar.  Here is an except from Carr's chapter entitled, Cupcakes, Coffee & Cocktails:
"Look I know firsthand how hard it is to heal addictions.  I come from a scarf-and-barf, drink-too-much history.  Date night with myself was a debaucherous romp into coma-ville.  I'd buy a bunch of cookies and wine, pop the top button of my jeans, and chow down.  Occasionally my higher self would guide me to the trash can before I finished every last crumb.  An hour later my lower self would bark orders to pick through the trash and retrieve the delicious drugs like a back-alley junkie.
Elegant people don't dig through the trash.  The chic and stylish don't attack their doughnuts with Windex.  Yes, I admit it.  The only way to keep my paws off the contraband was to blast it with Windex.  Clearly I was out of control."
Lent is arriving at the perfect time for me.  I need to be motivated to give up the sugar for an extended period of time and this way I'll be doing it for a higher purpose and a heavenly being.
And maybe, just in case, I'll keep the Windex nearby.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Year of the Snake

Chinese Celebration of the Year of the Snake/ AFP Photo
Happy Year of the Snake!
Chinese New Year is here and millions around the world are celebrating "the Year of the Snake."  Just so you know, 2012 was the Year of the Dragon.
In Chinese symbology, snakes are regarded as intelligent and wise, BUT the Chinese also believe that snakes have a tendency to be somewhat unscrupulous.  Oh yeah. . . we all are familiar with someone who might have "done us wrong."  Being unscrupulous definitely has a bad vibe attached to it, which is probably why Americans say that when someone acts badly he/she is a "snake in the grass" and can't be trusted.
I'm not sure why a whole year of snakes is a good thing but I'm willing to think of snakes in a different way if good luck is involved.

Which makes me wonder:  does good luck just arrive in our lives like the house in the Wizard of Oz that fell from the sky and landed on top of one of the Wicked Witches or do we make opportunities for good luck to enter into our lives?

I think having good luck is a combination of making the most of my opportunities, whatever they might be, and trying to be proactive and positive about life.  I know there are a lot of things that are totally out of my control but the way I look at life is one thing I can change and try to keep as positive as possible.  Coming at life with a positive outlook is a big step in the direction of  being receptive to good luck.

We all can use a bit of good luck in our lives so I wish your coming lunar year to be one that's full of fortune, peace, prosperity and good health and lots of good luck!

Friday, February 8, 2013

Getting Into The Zen Groove

"Never be in a hurry; do everything quietly and in a calm spirit. Do not lose your inner peace for anything whatsoever, even if your whole world seems upset."
- St. Francis de Sales, patron saint of writers

Courtesy of Bethany Fine Arts Gallery

From my core being, I am trying so very hard to attain a zen state of mind.
This year is the year when I am trying to learn to meditate and think about serene things and scenes of nature that bring to mind a balance of calm and beauty.
It is a matter of trial and error for me to get my Western mind into an Eastern place of mindfulness where deep breathing and relaxation can lead to healing.
It is harder for me than I thought it would be because once I close my eyes and try to start to focus on one place, less than a minute later my mind wants to start thinking about something that happening in my life that needs solving.
I am slowly learning how to put the brakes on my busy thoughts and I'm going to keep working on this because the end results are so worth it.
Meditation helps control pain and promotes general health, according to the American Holistic Medical Association.  A series of studies published in prestigious medical journals over the past decade found that people who regularly practice meditation reported a significant decrease in pain, anxiety, depression, blood pressure and other physical symptoms.
The breathing is the first thing that I have been consciously working on.  Breathing, you say?  Don't you just do that naturally?  True, we all breathe to stay alive but most of the time we don't realize that we are breathing in short breaths instead of slower, deeper breaths.  Okay, maybe you realize it but I'm just becoming aware of it.
For instance, the other day, I caught myself when I was in the middle of trying to finish something at work on deadline. I was trying to work faster and I wasn't paying any attention to the way I was breathing. I realized that if I stopped, took some deep breaths and slowly continued to take deep breaths that my pace of work was more focused and I finished with a better state of mind.
Instead of being all frazzled, I felt calmer.
It's going to be awhile before I really feel I am on the road to true mediation but I am making the effort to be more aware and I feel that's progress.
The journey towards mindfulness and a calm, focused inner being continues. . .
My groovy readers, please share. . . What do you know about meditation that could help others? 

Thursday, February 7, 2013

Steve Martin Remembers His Father

Comedian Steve Martin in 2011

Comedian Steve Martin is obviously an incredibly multi-talented, award-winning funny guy.
To me, Steve Martin is one of those celebrities that I just accept as being the way they are as they present themselves in their work.  I don't think of him as a little boy or as having parents.  He is who he is as he appears in the roles of his television and his film work.
To the public, Steve Martin is the hysterical stand-up comedian who played the "wild and crazy guy" and many other characters on Saturday Night Live or he is the star of the movie "Father of the Bride" along with lots of other films.
So I was surprised when I was googling for an article on hospice care and up popped this story that Steve Martin wrote in 2008 about his father.  Thank you Google!
It is touching and sad and sweet and serious.  A whole other side of Steve Martin that is usually kept private.  I'm happy he decided to share this emotional story with us because it brings home and poignantly reveals how we all have complicated relationships with our parents whether you are a celebrity or not.
Steve Martin grew up thinking that his father didn't love him.  As a child, Steve Martin's father was stern and distant but all that changed as they both grew older.

Please read Steve Martin's story:

The Death of My Father
By Steve Martin
January 2008
In his death, my father, Glenn Vernon Martin, did something he could not do in life. He brought our family together.
After he died at age 83, many of his friends told me how much they loved him—how generous he was, how outgoing, how funny, how caring. I was surprised at these descriptions. During my teenage years, there was little said to me that was not criticism. I remember him as angry. But now, ten years after his death, I recall events that seem to contradict my memory of him. When I was 16, he handed down to me the family’s 1957 Chevy. Neither one of us knew at the time that it was the coolest car anyone my age could have. When I was in the third grade he proudly accompanied me to the school tumbling contest where I won first prize. One day, while I was in single digits, he suggested we play catch in the front yard. This offer to spend time together was so anomalous that I didn’t quite understand what I was supposed to do.
When I graduated from high school, my father offered to buy me a tuxedo. I refused because my father always shunned gifts. I felt with my refusal, that somehow in a convoluted, perverse logic, I was being a good son. I wish now that I could have let him buy me a tuxedo, let him be a dad.
My father sold real estate but he wanted to be in show business. I was probably five years old when I saw him in a bit part at the Call Board theater on Melrose Place in Hollywood. He came on in the second act and served a drink. The theater existed until a few years ago and is now finally defunct and, I believe, a lamp shop.
My father’s attitude toward my show business accomplishments was critical. After my first appearance on Saturday Night Live in 1976, he wrote a bad review of me in the newsletter of the Newport Board of Realtors where he was president. Later, he related this news to me slightly shamefaced, and said that after it appeared, his best friend came into his office holding the paper, placed it on his desk, and shook his head sternly, indicating a wordless “no.”
In the early ’80s, a close friend of mine, whose own father was killed walking across a street and whose mother committed suicide on Mother’s Day, said that if I had anything to work out with my parents, I should do it now, because one day that opportunity would be over. When I heard this remark, I had no idea that I would ever want to work anything out with them, that, in fact, there was anything to work out at all. But it stewed in my brain for years, and soon I decided to try and get to know my parents. I took them to lunch every Sunday I could, and would goad them into talking.
It was our routine that after I drove them home from our lunches, my mother and father, now in their 80s, would walk me to the car. I would kiss my mother on the cheek and my father and I would wave or awkwardly say goodbye. But this time we hugged each other and he whispered, “I love you,” with a voice barely audible. This would be the first time these words were ever spoken between us. I returned the phrase with the same awkward, broken delivery.
As my father ailed, he grew more irritable. He made unreasonable demands, such as waking his 24-hour help and insisting that they take him for drives at three a.m., as it was the only way he could relax. He also became heartrendingly emotional. He could be in the middle of a story and begin to laugh, which would provoke sudden tears, making him unable to continue.
In his early 80s, my father’s health declined further and he became bedridden. There must be an instinct about when the end is near, as we all found ourselves gathered at my parents’ home in Orange County, California. I walked into the house they had lived in for 35 years and my weeping sister said, “He’s saying goodbye to everyone.”
A hospice nurse said to me, “This is when it all happens.” I didn’t know what she meant, but soon I did.
I walked into the bedroom where he lay, his mind alert but his body failing. He said, almost buoyantly, “I’m ready now.” I understood that his intensifying rage of the last few years had been against death and now his resistance was abating. I stood at the end of the bed and we looked into each other’s eyes for a long, unbroken time. At last he said, “You did everything I wanted to do.”
I said the truth: “I did it for you.”
Looking back, I’m sure that we both had different interpretations of what I meant.
I sat on the edge of the bed and another silence fell over us. Then he said, “I wish I could cry, I wish I could cry.”
At first, I took this as a comment on his condition but am forever thankful that I pushed on. “What do you want to cry about?” I finally said.
“For all the love I received and couldn’t return.”
He had kept this secret, his desire to love his family, from me and from my mother his whole life. It was as though an early misstep had kept us forever out of stride. Now, two days from his death, our pace was aligning and we were able to speak.
My father’s death has a thousand endings. I continue to absorb its messages and meanings. He stripped death of its spooky morbidity and made it tangible and passionate. He prepared me in some way for my own death. He showed me the responsibility of the living to the dying. But the most enduring thought was expressed by my sister, Melinda. She told me she had learned something from all this. I asked her what it was. She said, “Nobody should have to die alone.”

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Rosa Parks

When I read that the U.S. Postal Service unveiled a stamp commemorating civil right activist Rosa Parks, I said to myself, "It's about time."
Parks, who would have turned 100 this year, was riding a segregated and crowded bus home in Montgomery, Alabama in 1955 when a white man wanted her seat.  She refused to get up and give it to him and she was arrested for breaking the law.
A 381-day bus boycott began, lead by a young Baptist minister named Martin Luther King Jr.  Both Parks and King went on to capture the nation's attention for standing up and leading the national movement for civil rights.
Parks appealed her arrest taking it all the way to the U.S. Supreme Court which then ruled that bus segregation was unconstitutional.
By quietly saying, "No," look what Parks achieved.  She is truly inspirational!  Through her simple action she inspired thousands of others to demand a better life for themselves and their children.
Sometimes we want change to happen immediately; just as soon as we are sick and tired of something.  But other times, change happens incrementally, through one person after another agreeing with each other, bonding together and making their voices heard.
Positive thoughts can be powerful.
What would you like to change in your life?

Tuesday, February 5, 2013

It's Your Road

Thought For The Day. . .

I know this picture is a bit on the grainy side, but I really liked the sentiment of the saying:

"It's your road, and yours alone. 
 Others may walk it with you, But no one can walk it for you."

It would be nice if someone could take our place and walk on our road for awhile; perhaps making it less painful. 

Wouldn't that be nice?

But we don't know where our road is going to take us, do we?  I believe that my road has been painful but it also has been a road full of love, laughter and many other blessings.

I'm excited to see what may be down the road for me this year!!

I'd love to hear from you about your road and what it had brought you and what you hope it brings you this year!!

Monday, February 4, 2013

Breaking Out of Expectations

Photo Courtesy NY Daily News
When I write in my posts to you about rebuilding our lives after a loss, I don't mean to make it sound as though I suddenly woke up one morning and decided "today is the day I'm going to try to put together a new life."
Instead, what I really mean to say is that the step-by-step process of figuring out what to do after your loved one has died is a much more subtle process that usually happens slowly, almost as though you were putting your toes into a cold ocean and getting used to the temperature.
There is a lot of trial and error and I still find it to be scary.  Yet, when I try something I have never tried before and it turns out to be a good experience, it is definitely a confidence booster.  There have been times when some financial decisions I made by myself were not exactly the right ones, but then there were other good and solid decisions which lead to funny experiences, such as giving a party by myself and driving from Washington, DC to Connecticut with my son for the first time.  I learned a lot about myself and my comfort levels.
It's a weird time because the person who you used to talk to about plans, ideas and dreams is no longer there and you are flying solo.  Out there pretty much all by your lonesome.  So yes, you can basically do whatever you want to do, but do you really know what you want to do?  Not really.
Do I want to stay in the house we shared?  Do I want to stay in this city?  Do I want to keep the person's belongings?  How do I want to spend my free time?  What do I want to do next?  These and thousands of other questions are spinning around in your brain which just feels like Jell-O.
Nine years later, it still is scary but not as much as it used to be.  It took a long time for me to land in this place but I think I have finally given myself permission to live my life; to try things that are new and to not feel guilty about enjoying good times.  The sad and bittersweet times still visit me but not as often as they did in the beginning of my grief journey.
Today I think I can truthfully say I'm daring me to be more of myself, whatever that may be.
And that's a good kind of scary.
As Joan Juliet Buck writes in the following essay that was published in the October 2012 issue of Harper's Bazaar magazine: be bold in your life choices because true audacity can never be overlooked.  (For background purposes, you should know Ms. Buck's father was the American film producer Jules Buck).
Marilyn Monroe
By Joan Juliet Buck
Harper's Bazaar Magazine
I was with my parents at Idlewild Airport when Marilyn Monroe came toward us, escorts on each side, a big coat over her arm.  She'd been in one of my father's movies, so she stopped to hug him and shake my mother's hand, and continued along her way.  As he watched her wriggle down the corridor, my father shook his head and said, "Christ, still no girdle."  The retreating bottom looked soft, uncontrolled, and very present, as if a cat was lolling inside the tight skirt of her dress.  In those days, women's lower torsos were carefully caged up in rubber mesh.  I was five, and I was shocked.
Daring is about shocking children while you set free something that was seriously caged up.  It's about breaking rules.  The first rule that everyone breaks -- in art, fashion and conversation -- is modesty.  (You don't believe that about conversation?  Try going without "I" for two hours.)  Marilyn Monroe could challenge the zeitgeist and perturb the composure of men by forgetting her underwear.  My generation challenged the zeitgeist in the name of freedom, but it was really to perturb men: political and social acts were secondary to our true work of raising our hemlines, ditching our bras, unbuttoning our blouses, neglecting to shave our armpits, and consistently failing to grasp what the word sheer truly meant.
It's harder to shock today, when the actual part of a body that a garment might hide is often a random choice, and the Brazilian wax had to invented to disguise any evidence of the bull's-eye.  In the past few years, shoes had to carry most of the burden of shocking, but by now the sight of young women six and a half feet tall holding on to walls and doorways so as not to fall off the Trump City edifices on their feet are no longer remarkable.  No herd animal is ever daring. 
Acts of daring are always committed alone; even if they lead you to another person.  Once I kissed a man who was just a friend.  The only reason was that I couldn't understand why he had not yet tried to kiss me.  It set off something that lasted for decades.  I haven't tried that again with other men friends; truly  daring acts only happen once.
The daring are angels and geniuses and demons and divas and clowns, and sometimes also patsies, stooges, and fools.  Daring is not safe.  The impresario Serge Diaghilev said to the poet and painter Jean Cocteau, "Amaze me."  He did not say, "Reassure me," "Tell me I'm right," "Admire me," or "Stay in line and you'll get a nice pension."  Diaghilev could have been speaking for every good agent, every real gallery owner, every disconcerting collector, every casting director, even, I hate to say this but we have evidence, every TV judge.
Art demands daring.  It demands the new, the untested, the unproven.  And if you try, you will at some point fall on your face, just like the first wearers of impossible shoes.  My fashion life was born from little moments of daring; asking a new acquaintance called Karl Lagerfeld, "What are those brooches on your lapel?"  Pretending I could speak Italian so John Fairchild would send me to Rome for Women's Wear Daily.  Saying, "Why not?" when I was offered French Vogue.  It was daring, also, to let go when I realized how little the job suited my character.  I had no idea that would leadd to performing in black-box basement theaters and telling stories on the road, though I could have guessed; I love the unknown and am not afraid of ridicule.
The moment of greatest fear comes just before going onstage, because an audience is out there, and shared time is real time, no rewinds or rewrites.  The tension between wanting to flee and needing to stay and pierce through the fear is one of the most uncomfortable and delicious moments I know.  There are pills against stage fright; I would like a pill to get stage fright more often.
I believe, like the Surrealists, that everything creative arrives without calculation, but you must be prepared.  You need the skills to transmit unconscious impulses, but you also have to be humble.  The moment I think what an ace I am, I'm lost.  This is not an advantage in New York; where modesty is not welcome.  Performing has taught me that the second time I do something the same way, I'm developing a routine, and a routine is just shtick, the performing equivalent of a pink-slime hot dog.
You cannot standardize the moment when you break out of expectation and biography into something real.  You have to be uncontrolled and very present.  That's what I learned from watching Marilyn Monroe walk away when I was five.
Marilyn Monroe

Friday, February 1, 2013

Healing Therapy

Drawing By NYC Multiple Medium Artist Joe Mangrum
One of my sister has a shoulder that is frozen and she is going to a physical therapist to work through the incredibly stiff shoulder muscles and joint.  If the physical therapy doesn't work, then she may have to have surgery and she really doesn't want that to happen.
We were talking about her physical therapy and she was telling me about how the therapist told her that to really get the exercises to work and unlock the muscles and joint that the therapy would have to increase to another level and she asked my sister if she was prepared for the "wall of pain" that she would have to work through to achieve her goal.
My sister said she was prepared and she knew it was going to be bad; that it would be so painful that she probably would cry.  But she still is committed to the next level of therapy, know that it's going to be awful, but also feeling hopeful that this increased therapy could be successful.
This may sound random to you but the more that I talked to my sister about her "wall of pain"  the more I felt I was talking to her about processing grief.
New grief can be so painful that it feels as though a part of your body has been amputated and you are walking around in a state of hemorrhaging.  You need to just take each day as it comes and little by little, you will start to feel that the pain is decreasing. 
But there is still a core amount of pain that requires work from you.
I think this concept was the hardest part for me.  When my husband died, I was stumbling around and in a state of numbness.  Every day I was full of grief and pain.  What was I going to do?  I had just lost my husband and everything was falling apart.  I thought I could read about grief and think about grief and it would eventually disappear.  Not!
Months and months of just feeling terrible finally made me realize that I had to do some of the work myself.  I had to actively figure out how to make myself feel better.  I found a support group at a local hospital and in the beginning I talked to someone on the phone for one-on-one time.  Later on, I joined a group and went to sessions twice a month to talk about grief and rebuilding my life all over again.
It was exhausting but I am so glad that I took the first step and asked for help.
It's important for you to recognize that you need time to work through this loss of your loved one.  There is no way to know how long it will take you to process your feelings.  Everyone grieves differently and takes different paths in their grief journey.  I do think it's fair to say that healing can come in cycles of ups and downs.
You have to confront your "wall of pain" and feel it.  The processing of this pain is hard for you are giving yourself permission to remember all the good things and all the bad things that your loved one was to you.  Write it down, shout it out, talk to a therapist, talk to a friend, paint it, take a shower and cry or go running and cry.
But get it out. 
Vent your feelings and thoughts and work through you "wall of pain."  You are releasing the pain and the hurt and the anger and the frustration and the confusion of not knowing what you are supposed to do next.
And in releasing your "wall of pain" you are empowering yourself and moving forward. 
For grief that you hold within yourself only keeps hurting and hurting.
Courtesy of NYC Multiple Medium Artist Joe Mangrum