The Blurt Factor

I wrote this waaaaaaaay back on February 5, 2011. It was around 7 weeks after the death of my son. I’m sharing it with you now, more than 8 years later because I think that these experiences are more common than we might imagine.

If you are someone that is grieving, it’s my hope that this will assure you that if you ‘blurt’ you are not alone. When grief is new and fresh, our brain simply does not operate in quite the same way as it does typically. Please be gentle and forgiving of yourself.

If you are supporting someone who is grieving, please be patient and aware that they are doing the best they can. Often with less grace than they would prefer, but it is their best at the moment.

February 5, 2011

I’ve been calling it the ‘blurt factor’. At times it seems so strange to me that the death of my son has not caused the planet to stop spinning. I’m sometimes puzzled that when I turn on the radio, pick up a newspaper or switch on the television that there is not wall to wall news about Mike dying. Perhaps similar to what we see and hear when there is the death of someone like Princess Diana or President Kennedy.

Mike died on December 17, 2010. I returned to work on January 3rd. I’m self-employed so that made it somewhat easier. I can and do postpone or cancel appointments when those feelings overwhelm me.

And yet, on the phone with a treasured client a few hours ago, I found myself telling her that my son had died last month and that the cause of death was suicide. Because of the nature of my business, many of my clients including this one know quite a lot about my personal life.  I use examples from my own experiences all the time to help them to move forward in a positive manner. Still, this particular client has moved to another state, she had no way of knowing this had happened and the phone call was not ‘about me’. Hence what I call The Blurt. There was no reason to share this with her, it did not benefit her in any way to know. At least not then and not in that way. Many, if not all of my clients do know because they see one another and also because I have had to cancel or postpone appointments when I’ve had a particularly emotional day. Ugh!!! This was only a moment or two of the one-hour conversation and of course, I apologized profusely. On the phone as well as in follow up communication. I don’t like that I am doing this – this blurting.

As with many of you, this is new territory for me. Part of my brain detaches often and observes with fascination the process that is unfolding. The day before my son died a client contacted me and asked if she could simply come and share for a while with me on Friday. She had lost two people that she cared about to suicide in the previous weeks. These people were unknown to one another but she was feeling overwhelmed and simply needed to share. So, we spent over 3 hours in my office. As we talked I realized that it seemed to me that survivors rarely ‘get over’ suicide. The day I spent with her and with another client who was sharing deep concerns and worries about one of his sons is the day my son died. Another fact that seems to hang around that part of my brain that is simply keeping notes and is not as emotional.

When I experience something life-changing, one of the ways I cope is to read, read, read. So, after losing Mike I began reading websites and books about grief. I was horror-stricken when I read a book that told me that I should expect to curl up in a fetal position and want to die myself. Of course, that’s not literally what the book said, but that is what I took from it at the time. Talk about selective reading! I know that is the experience of many people and I feel horrible that is so, but it’s not been my experience. At least not yet and I pray that it never will be. It sometimes feels to me that I’m not moving through this the way I’m supposed to. But I don’t know just how I am supposed to. What are the rules, the guidelines?

I remember the morning after the officers left our home telling us about the death of our son. My husband and I were sitting together, numb. I kept thinking and even saying ‘I don’t know what to do, say or think next. There must be directions somewhere.’ I think that’s what I look for when I read, directions. There isn’t a manual that I can find so I’m stumbling through doing the best that I can and I think I’m doing okay. Still, there’s the blurt.

I think what bothers me most about the blurt is that it hurts so many people and that feels unnecessary and cruel. It occurs to me that for me at least it’s the verbal equivalent to wearing mourning colors, an armband that signifies that you’ve suffered a loss or a wreath on the door indicating to all that you may be in a fragile state of some sort. While I absolutely do not consider myself fragile, I know that I am changed. Just what that change will look like down the road, I don’t know as yet, I guess I’ll find out as time goes on. For the moment that change brings the frequent blurt, the frequent memory lapses, occasional issues with focus and thankfully diminishing problems with sleep. As sleep returns, I suspect and hope that some of these other issues will dissipate to some extent as well.

I often find myself laughing and enjoying the many pleasures in my life and I am so grateful for the blessing that while I experience profound sadness I have not experienced depression. Still, the tears surprise me often, many times without warning. The last several days were incredibly rough, but today feels pretty darned good and I’m enthusiastic about teaching a class tomorrow followed by watching the Superbowl.

I suspect that blurting is sort of my way of announcing that I’ve changed in a fundamental way. People can see that I’m short, they can see that I’m aging but they can’t see that I’m emotionally wounded. Maybe that’s what the blurt is, a way of sharing and in a small way re-balancing my world. I have always shared my excitement about my family with clients when one is coming home, has something to celebrate, etc, so I suppose that in some way this is continuing to share. For some reason, it’s important for me to assure them that while Mike is gone from my physical life, he’s not gone from my heart or mind. And that I absolutely know he’s near whenever I need him.

Perhaps the blurt will diminish or even go away. Time will tell. At any rate, It’s my intention that by expressing myself here, by sharing this strange bit of behavior (at least new and strange to me) that I will be more aware and able to release the need. Again, time will tell.

Namaste,
Sandy

 

How can I Support Someone Grieving?

That’s a really good question, and I’m so glad that you asked. (wink)

When someone’s heart has been broken, we want to help. It’s human nature and let’s face it, you are a really good human! The problem is that we don’t know what to say or what to do. How would we? We have not supported this friend through this experience before, we’re all new at this and doing the best that we can.

– Show up. Call, text, email, drop a card in the mail. Let the one you care about know that you care. Grief doesn’t heal or go away after a few days. Keep reminding them that you care, that they matter.

– Please be patient. Shock often sets in almost immediately and can last days, weeks or even months. For some, it means that focus takes a walk and memory seems to be on an extended vacation. The one grieving may not be able to process what she is reading or hearing and may need to have things repeated, more than once. He may not remember what you told him a few moments ago. Please, take a deep breath and remember this is someone you care about.

– What do we hear or say? Just call me if you need anything. And we mean it, we really do. But can I let you in on a secret? The one who is experiencing grief may be too overwhelmed to make that call even if they are able to focus enough to determine what they actually need.  This was certainly true for me. What I did find helpful were very specific offers. So here are a few suggestions to give you an idea.

– Ask if you can mow the grass.
– Call and say that you are going to the store for milk and eggs, ask if they have a meal for supper or would they like some tea.
– Headed out for a walk? Invite the one you care about to join you.
– Offer to take the dog for a walk or the children to the park. Ask if they would prefer to join you or have a bit of quiet time.

I think you get the idea. Specifics make it easier for the one who is experiencing grief to focus for a moment and discern what they want or need.

– Say their name! Say the name of the one that is missed. Tell a story about them, something that touched your heart or made you smile. Ask the one who is grieving to share a bit more. This is a gift that will always be cherished.

– Be the back-up. When a day or event is coming up that you expect may be difficult, offer to be their reinforcement. If there is an event coming up and your loved one is considering attending, let them know that you will be there for them. Shoulder to shoulder, it matters. Talk ahead of time about what sort of signal they can give you to let you know they need to have a break or even to leave. In short, be their safety net.

– Take a deep breath if the person you are supporting is unkind or short-tempered with you. Count to 3, or 5 or 137 before responding. What does your heart tell you they intend to convey to you? This does not mean that it’s necessary for you to be a doormat! As gently as possible, in a calm and quiet tone, respond from your heart. Kindness always matters.

– Notice language. If in doubt, ask. When my son died, I realized how many people were terrified of the word suicide. Because the word is so strongly stigmatized some would whisper or avoid saying the word. For me, that was not a concern, but it might be for others. Terminology can land quite painfully for some, please be sensitive. Again, thinking about losing my son to suicide, some would use the phrase ‘committed suicide’ this never bothered me at all. But I do know and care about folks who are deeply offended by that phrase. Notice, be aware and if in doubt, simply ask what is okay.

You are going to make mistakes. Forgive yourself. The one you are supporting is going to make mistakes. Forgive them. Remember that we are all doing the best we can and let that be enough. What matters most is that you care enough to let the person grieving know that they matter to someone. That they are loved. Bless you, for sharing your heart.

Namaste,
Sandy

Grief and Healing. What do the Words Mean to You?

I only speak one verbal language, English of the American variety. The truth is that I looooove words! I find language, the nuances, the various ways that we use words to express a variety of meanings to be absolutely fascinating.

Something that I realize more and more is that phrases and words may not mean the same thing to you and me. While I find some words or phrases to be helpful others may find them hurtful. The reverse is also true.

For example, the phrase ‘You never get over it.’ I’ve been assured by more than one rather brilliant professional with all of the appropriate letters after their names that assures me they are licensed counselors, that phrase is true. Hands down, no discussion, it’s true for everyone who is experiencing grief due to death.

Each time I explained that I find the phrase absolutely terrifying! For me, it feels as though I am being told that I will suffer, hurt and never laugh again and that neither will anyone of those I love who have also experienced grief.  Ever. It feels final. A bit like being shackled and tossed to the back of a dark cave. As I said, a horrible feeling – for me.

At the same time, I realize full well that many are comforted by that phrase as they are reminded that it’s perfectly natural to have difficult moments, hours or even days long after the one they love has died.

The same phrase, but very different responses.

I often read websites or books that tell us what to say and what not to say to someone we are endeavoring to support through grief. As I read those books and those websites, I greatly appreciate the kind assistance that is offered. At the same time, again and again, I find myself wanting to suggest that those are not hard and fast rules. What feels good today may be painful tomorrow… or not.

* Forgiveness
* Healing
* Life after death

To offer just a few. I know how each feels for me, what the meaning is for me. At the same time, I am very aware that they may land differently for you.

I offer this thought, or perhaps a suggested exercise. When you are speaking about your own grief or with someone about theirs, ask how these phrases and words feel to them. Discuss what feels helpful for you and be open to hearing what is true for them in their own experience.

Yes, we share a common language. But the most helpful conversations are when we feel welcome and supported to understand one another.

Namaste,
Sandy

 

Self-Care, Yes, it Matters

If we’ve worked together for anything, you’ve heard me suggest… encourage… alright, I nag about self-care! Because it matters so very much. Self-care is right at the top of the list as far as I’m concerned.

Why? Because if you are not taking good care of you, you cannot possibly take care of anyone or anything else.

What does self-care mean? It means something different to all of us and it’s quite likely that it may mean something different this evening than it does at this moment. Put as simply as possible, it’s giving yourself permission to do what you need most at this moment.

For example, a cup of coffee and a stroll around the yard in the very wee hours of the morning is excellent self-care for me. The coffee feels warm in my hands even while the morning dew refreshes my feet. Taking a peek at plants as they are opening up, some showing off brand new blooms put me in a very excited and at the same time very tranquil frame of mind. It’s good for me.

Later, I pretty much need a walk. On nice days, I may need a couple. Walking, stretching my legs calms me and reminds me that I am strong and capable.

As the day winds down, I almost always feel a strong longing to spend time in the bathtub. It may be 10 minutes or an hour. Here’s the thing, it truly is a very intense feeling, my body and body are telling me to carve out time to spend in the water. I always feel like my very soul craves being near water and whenever possible, in the water.

Other days, self-care means checking off boxes that are on my list. Maybe cutting the grass or cleaning the house. Please, please, please let it be cutting the grass and not cleaning the house! 🙂

It might be realizing that concerns or worry are money related. The act of acknowledging and understanding what is prompting this feeling helps to find a solution. Perhaps cutting an expense or picking up a few extra hours at work. Also, excellent self-care if the feeling within you is good.

The very process of discernment, what is mine and what can/should I delegate? Making those decisions are excellent self-care as this brings around a calm which relieves stress.

It’s absolutely, completely, entirely alright to ask for support! We can’t do everything for everyone all of the time. It’s a gift to others as well as ourselves to ask for and allow support and caring. To share a hug, a meal or a conversation.

Self-care is about treating yourself with at least as much kindness, compassion and courtesy as you would a stranger.

Notice what your body is telling you, is it being nurtured with healthy food in the right proportions? Hear what your heart is saying to you. Are your thoughts and feeling being expressed in safe and healthy ways?

Excellent self-care is not any one thing. It is many small things. It’s making yourself a priority. After all, there’s only one like you. I know this to be true because I heard it from Mr. Rogers.

“Taking care is one way to show your love. Another way is letting people take good care of you when you need it.”
― Fred Rogers

Namaste,
Sandy

Grief to Healing

Grief is a noun. Sometimes I think about the word grief and I feel almost as though the word describes a thing, a place, a state of being. Grief. I wonder what it would look like if I could visualize it…

You’ve experienced a profound loss. It may be a person, a relationship, a financial situation or a myriad of other experiences. When we experience loss when we are faced with a profound change in our status of being. We may well feel as though we are victims. Fair enough. You are now in Grief. I visualize a sign-post designating this place.

Depending on many factors, we may spend quite a lot of time in that place without much movement at all. This is not unusual and may well be what we need at that time and possibly for a while. That’s alright, it’s where we are when we begin.

At some point, we begin movement. Healing. It can happen incredibly slowly or more quickly than we expect. We process our thoughts and emotions, we make strides along that path, through grief into healing. We are taking action. Up ahead is a new sign-post, it clearly says Survivor.

Grieving is a verb. An action word. Safe, healthy, productive grieving is taking place. So very important! As the pain is released, it makes room for healing to happen.

The Victim is now taking action, walking the path, moving forward to that new situation. The Victim is transformed into a Survivor. When I think of a survivor, I easily call to mind the image of someone who has been through something that has changed life as they knew it. They are changed, forever. The person is now a Survivor.

How would it be to deliberately continue to process thoughts, emotions, all of the aspects of grief? To continue walking that path, through grief into healing? Up ahead there is another sign-post you know.

Keep doing the work! Each step you take toward that new sign-post is an important gift of self-love that you give to yourself. And you deserve it!

Processing the hurt, finding out who you are now. Learning to love yourself in new ways and to integrate your experience. Celebrating all that you treasure from your past, appreciating your now and looking forward with joy to your future. You are evolving with every step, you are growing, you are healing.

You are a Thriver! Of course, I want to share the definition of thriver with you.

To grow vigorously; flourish.
To be successful or make steady progress; prosper.

This is you and me as well. We all begin at that same place, regardless of how we got there. Grief. As we do the work, we walk the path, together. We move at whatever pace is right for each of us. But each of us has within ourselves the ability to be a Thriver.

Namaste,
Sandy

 

 

 

The Towel – is it Code?

I went out to the patio early in the morning with my cup of coffee in hand only to discover a towel on the arm of my chair. An old stained towel, to be clear.

It’s standard operating procedure for my husband and me to spend a couple hours each morning out on the patio drinking coffee whenever the weather is fairly comfortable. Early in the morning, the world is rather magical. There is dew on the grass and the birds provide all the music. It’s a time that is special for both of us.

But yesterday was different, remember the towel I talked about a few lines up?

For the longest time, my hubby has laughed just a wee bit when I go walking through the dewy grass in the morning. I swear that the plants are calling to me and I feel a need to take my coffee cup and visit each of them. Saying good morning and encouraging them to be well. It’s okay if you think this is silly, I love it. What makes John chuckle is the fact that I return to the patio with grass clippings on my feet. And then the dance begins. You know, the hopping around, waving my feet in the air so that the grass will dry and fall off. After all, there is no way I’m going to walk back into the house to refill my cup with grass on my feet! This is pretty much the routine almost every morning. John has suggested remedies for this problem. Wait until the grass dries to take my stroll – not gonna happen. Keep a water bucket to rinse the tootsies off after my walk – nope, the toes still need to dry. How about a towel? – yeah, that would probably fix the problem… but still I don’t do it.

Yesterday, I went outside to find this old, stained but very clean towel on the arm of my chair. I loved it!

This about much more than a way to dry my feet and keep my kitchen floor clean. This was hubby’s way of saying loud and clear ‘I love you’. This is his way. He notices and takes care of things that matter to me or that makes my life comfortable or easier.

He’s not the guy who does big things. He’s never sent me flowers at the office or made public declarations of his affection. But he notices things and takes action.

Recently I got in the car and found that he had put a bottle of water in each of the doors of both cars. He doesn’t drink water when we are on the road, but I do. He was thinking of me. This was ‘I love you’.

Now don’t get me wrong. We’ve known one another for almost 40 years and there are absolutely plenty of things he says or does that make me crazy. If you’ve got five minutes and a cup of coffee, I’ll tell you all about it. Those things seem to come to mind very easily, very quickly.

If we’re not careful, it can be the crazy-making that we notice and focus on. This morning, I simply want to acknowledge and appreciate that those crazy-making traits are balanced by the heart-filling behaviors that are quiet and deliberate and very meaningful.

Yeah, that towel means a lot to me. It’s stained because he knows it would really bother me to keep a new towel outdoors for my feet. But it’s clean because he knows that is also important to me. He knows these things because they matter to me and he has decided that makes them important to him as well. That too is saying ‘I love you’.

Louis Armstrong says it so well in his song ‘It’s a Wonderful World’. He sings a beautiful line:

I see friends shaking hands saying how do you do
They’re really saying I love you

 

What does someone you know say or do to let you know that you are loved? How are you expressing those feelings for others? You are loved.

As for me, that towel will stay right where it is for quite some time. And each time I wipe my feet, I will remind myself that this guy I’m still crazy about, loves me.

Namaste,

Sandy

 

 

A Life Well Lived

He completed his earthly journey 5 years ago. But this isn’t about his death, this is about the life that he lived so very well. 

My dad, or as you may have known him, Art Raith entered the world in November of 1942. I’ve heard an awful lot of stories of his exploits as he was growing up, mostly good, always enthusiastic. I think if I had to use one word to describe him, that might be it. My dad had enthusiasm about just about everything.

Many memories have been surfacing recently, mostly silly or fun times. Like when he would come home from work with a fist full of kites early March. Determined that whether or not there was snow on the ground, March was the time of year for flying kites. So, he would put them together, my mom could always be counted on to find fabric to make the perfect tail. Then we would all head over to the neighborhood park to get these things in the air. So funny to watch this big man run across the grass holding on to the kite while yelling at one of us to ‘give it more line!’. Oh my gosh, it was fabulous! Inevitably at least one kite would wind up in a tree, but that too was part of the fun.

Remembering him setting up a bale of hay in the basement when we got bows and arrows for Christmas so that we wouldn’t have to go outside in the cold right away. Watching him with my own boys years later. Oh my gosh, it made me crazy sometimes! My boys could come in the house carrying a partially eaten sandwich and their Grandpa would simply pretend there was nothing in their hand. He would begin by asking them if their mom had fed the anything that day, or would they like for him to make them something special? You can guess what their enthusiastic response was each time.

We argued just like all families. He scolded or yelled, and boy, he knew the most impressive curse words. He controlled the television, sports were on endlessly. We talked about books, he was always interested in what each of us was thinking, doing, planning and he was more than happy to share his opinions. He loved to cook and was amazing. I bet all of us have a favorite or two. I easily recall the endlessly long games of Monopoly… what I wouldn’t give to play another game today. The long hours spent in the yard, doing nothing at all. Long and short, we all knew that we were loved. Without question. You knew you were loved.

So today, my heart is full. Gratitude and love have filled in all of the corners. And I’m remembering Pop. The picture that most often comes to mind for me is the one that I have shared. I swear he looks like a 6’1″ leprechaun. Pretty much perfect.

Today, I’m hoping that you take a few moments to think about someone you love, whether they are still with you on this planet or in spirit. Feel that love, go ahead and share it.

Namaste,

Sandy

 

 

 

Forgive and Forget – I Don’t Think So!

I’m all for the forgiving part, but as for the forgetting – not so much. Let’s walk through this just a little bit and I think you’ll understand my point.

When I forgive a hurt or a wound of some sort, I do it to release myself from further anguish. I forgive for myself, not for anyone else. For me, it is often a very deliberate choice. I may decide that I’m tired of being angry, irritated, depressed and defensive. In other words, I’m tired of feeling crummy! When I’ve had my fill of feeding those emotions which I do not enjoy one little bit, I am ready to begin thinking about forgiveness. I know that when I do forgive, that I will be able to release those feelings that are dragging me down and that I’ll experience relief. That relief is healing.

So, I decide that I want to forgive so that I can feel better. The person I’m forgiving may or may not know about my decision and my feelings. Remember, this really is all about me. I want to feel better, so I forgive. I believe that when my energy changes to become lighter and more loving that the offender so to speak, benefits as well, whether they realize it or not. But primarily I am taking this step to forgive someone or something so that I feel better. Me, me, me!  This is taking good care of me and I deserve to feel good just because I am me, a child of God. Whew, that feels better.

The process of forgiving is simple for me and no, that doesn’t mean that it is always easy. But sometimes it is easy and that’s okay too. In fact, it totally rocks. Forgiveness is sometimes a very deliberate process, other times it simply happens a little at a time with little thought or deliberation. Either way, it unfolds just about the same – for me. It begins with a decision that I want to feel relief, that I’m ready to stop feeding the pain, irritation and anger, all of that crummy stuff we talked about earlier. That leads me to begin looking for a blessing in the incident. Strange as that may seem, I believe that everything has a lesson and if I can find a lesson I can see it as a blessing. That allows me to begin releasing my pain and embracing the relief. Sort of like a balloon that is not popped, but has a slow leak, as I embrace the blessing I feel the pain ebb. Aaaaaah, that feels really good, and so forgiveness begins.

Now, about this forgetting stuff. That is a whole other kettle of fish my friend. After all, if each experience is a lesson of sorts, how is it helpful for me to completely and entirely forget about it? Makes no sense to me, because once I’ve experienced a specific wound I’m generally pretty much okay with not having another just like it. I’m hopeful that I learn not to put myself in such a situation again and if I forget all about the incident it seems that I’m much more likely to be hurt again and again and again. Now, of course, you do what is right for you. As for me, I prefer to learn and move on.

From personal relationships to global tragedies, this line of thinking works for me. No matter how small or how large. If we forget what brought about atrocities than we are likely to repeat the experience. If a friend has hurt me, I want to forgive that hurt so that I can move on feeling good, not being eaten up with anger or other general ickiness. Whether or not I renew that friendship is another thing entirely. If it’s a friendship that I want to continue, I have the ability to learn and decide if it is to my own benefit to put myself in this situation again. The wound may have been unintentional, what can I learn from this? How can I move forward in a healthier manner? Perhaps the relationship has run its course. Forgiveness allows me to bless the time that was spent together and still release the relationship feeling good. But, and this is a great big but – I don’t want to forget the lessons learned.

There are tools that I use to support myself in this process. I find that Reiki not only balances my energy but Reiki also enhances my general sense of well being; of course. The flow of Reiki makes it much easier for me to move through these steps. Okay, let’s be very honest here, the Reiki just feels so darned good that I welcome it at any time. Coaching helps too, no doubt about it. Whether I work with another life coach, coach myself through the situation or remind myself of the steps that I use when I work with my life coaching clients. One step at a time, using the appropriate tool for that situation. Hypnosis is also really helpful to me as I work through my own issues. Dovetailing and very nicely complementing the Reiki and life coaching. You see the life coaching allows me to become aware of what I prefer. The Reiki assists me in releasing negativity that is not serving me well. The hypnosis speaks to my sub-conscious, that incredibly cute but amazingly stubborn 4-year old that lives in my brain. Hypnosis speaks to her and reminds me that I don’t have to do anything that I don’t want to do. Because hypnosis speaks to my thriving subconscious it supports my choice, offering the reinforcement that it is not only okay but my choice to move in this direction. Now all of these tools have not always been available to me, and of course, I was able to forgive them as well. But I’ve got to say, I find that having hypnosis,  Reiki and life coaching all in my little toolbox assists me in the process. What works for you?

Forgive and forget if it feels right to you. As for me, I’m a project that is still in the works, still in the process of development. I’m still working on forgiving some people and events, but it’s coming along nicely and that offers me lovely relief. As for forgetting, I’m okay with the remembering. After all, once the pain is released the person, incident or event simply becomes a bit of history. Something I have learned from, something that has blessed me. And that makes it all worthwhile.

For this week, I wonder if you are ready to begin forgiving someone or something from your own life. How would it feel to release some of that pain or anger and welcome a bit of relief? It’s up to you of course, but I encourage you to give it a try. C’mon, you can do it. I know you can! When you’re ready.

Namaste,

Sandy

Why on Christmas?

First of all, if you celebrate Christmas I would like to wish you a most magnificent day! However, for a variety of reasons not everyone does celebrate Christmas, what does that say about them and how are they treated?

I happen to be a Christian so for me Christmas is a no-brainer celebration. After all, as a Christian my faith tells me that this is the day to celebrate the birth of our savior. In honor of that amazing fact, we as Christians gather together to sing praises to our God, we often exchange presents and offer good cheer to those we meet. So far, so good. I have many friends who are not Christian, no problem. I wish them a most blessed day on religious holidays that I know are important to them and they return the heartfelt wish on the days important to me. And then there are my friends who are agnostic or even atheist, no problem. Many of them celebrate the day in a totally secular manner, again that seems to be considered acceptable to most people, Santa Claus visits, egg-nog is enjoyed and the world continues to spin to everyone’s satisfaction.

Enter a young man I’ll call Jeff, okay, he’s my middle son. He was raised Catholic,  however, he has decided that’s simply not his belief system. He doesn’t rain on anyone else’s parade; he doesn’t disparage our celebration he simply doesn’t ‘do’ Christmas himself. It’s interesting what sort of conversations and interesting comments take place when he mentions this fact to others. Apparently, this actually aggravates some people, my question is why? It seems that the common thought is that he is somehow a living, breathing, unreformed Ebenezer Scrooge because he doesn’t buy or expect presents or put up a tree. Huh? While I have no problem with folks celebrating in any way they choose it seems to me that we should be just as tolerant of someone who simply chooses not to celebrate.

I’ve heard some pretty disparaging comments about this and I don’t get it. Jeff frequently asks simple but thought provoking questions, such as why so many people pretend to like one another this time of year, but can’t tolerate one another next week. Why do they spend money buying presents for these people if they don’t truly care for them? Why are people expected to overspend to show they care about one another even if they cannot afford to spend money? Do any of those things have to do with the birth of Christ? From what I understand Jeff considers this sad and more than a bit hypocritical, I tend to agree. So, there are very unkind comments about him being unfriendly, stingy or even uncaring. While I don’t know the situation regarding every person who chooses not to celebrate Christmas I happen to know this is not the fact with this young man.

Jeff is always thoughtful about the feelings of others. If he is in town for Christmas or Easter he even attends mass with his Dad and me, not for himself, but because he knows it makes us feel good. I consider that to be very thoughtful. He’s absolutely not cheap or unwilling to spend on others; he is very generous without any special occasion in mind, because that’s just who Jeff is and the way he likes to treat people. More to the point Jeff and others I know who do not celebrate this particular holiday tend to treat people pretty much the same, day in or day out. Willing to know strangers before they judge them, loyal to friends and pretty firm in their stand regarding those they dislike. Now that seems very fair to me.

It seems that Jeff had a few things to say about this himself, you can read his thoughts if you visit Walden Ponder. http://www.waldenponder.com/2009/12/christmas-comes-every-year

Today, I am celebrating Christmas with the members of our family who are in town. We will eat, open presents and enjoy being together all in the name of celebrating the birth of Christ. I’ve got to say that I appreciate Jeff and others who don’t celebrate for the gentle reminder they offer. I will try to keep his position in mind all year long, hopefully, it will be a good reminder for me to keep in contact with those I care about, offer my love and generosity throughout the year and not only on particular days. I have to believe that is the best way I can honor my own Christian beliefs and respect the beliefs of others at the same time.

For those of you who celebrate, I wish you all the most wonderful blessings of this marvelous day. For those who don’t celebrate, I still wish you all the blessings of this marvelous day. Gosh, that feels good.

Namaste,

Sandy

Life Changes

We’re dating. By ‘we’ I mean my husband of 27 years and of course me. John decided a few months ago that he wanted to make some major changes. I had no idea what was in store for us.

John has always been incredibly conservative. Watching every penny, worrying about every event, predicting all possible outcomes and then sort of holding his breath to see if his predictions would come true. These qualities may sound dull as you read them, but the truth is that they’ve made him a terrific husband and devoted father. We’ve always known that John had all eventualities covered. The boys and I have always felt entirely secure regarding finances and knew that John was totally and completely devoted to us all.

Apparently, John has now decided to do a 180! The man is changing right before my eyes, and it’s not only surprising it’s a ton of fun.

He came home one day and told me that we were signed up for ballroom dancing lessons. Okay…sounds like fun to me. Then he told me the date of the first class. It was actually last Friday when I was co-hosting a retreat. No worries, he went by himself. Anyone who knows my husband knows that this was totally and completely out of character. He’s always been quiet and reserved. Apparently, he’s getting over it. He went to the class on his own, danced by himself and asked the very pretty young woman who is one of the instructors to dance with him. John spent all of the days between that first class and last week doing the rumba around the house. I suspect he held off somewhat at the firehouse as I didn’t get any calls. But it’s been terrific watching him have so much fun.

He’s signed us up for cheese tasting classes, checking the movie listings and even planned a cruise for January. Why do I tell you all of this? Because I have to tell someone! Alright, that’s part of it, I am incredibly proud of the way he is embracing change. But most of all, it’s to point out that we can make any changes that we truly want, at any time in our lives.

First of all, we have to want to change. We don’t have to know exactly what we want our lives to look like, but an idea certainly helps. For instance, John didn’t know that he was going to become someone who wanted to go places as frequently as he now does. He’s always been a homebody. But, he did decide that it was time to embrace a more light-hearted approach to life. He made the decision that he would find ways to get out from time to time with his amazing wife (that’s me) and that he would enjoy what life offers, knowing and trusting that his hard work and diligence has laid a good foundation. He’s not become frivolous by any means, but he is having more fun than ever.

How can this happen? First and foremost John knew he wanted his life to start looking a bit different. He was tired of worrying. Tired of pinching pennies. So, he worked with a holistic life coach and Reiki master (yoo hoo, me again) to develop some practical and easy methods. He started re-framing his comments and statements to be more positive. Instead of focusing on events in his life or in the news that were upsetting or negative, he acknowledged them, discussed them with his life coach or others, but then he worked on letting them go if there was no way for him to change them. That’s huge! His personality is such that it was important for him to talk about things that bother him, that’s fine. But now, he tries not to end on a negative note. Instead, he tries to see a lesson or a potential positive outcome.

Another of the things John has done is to stop berating himself for mistakes made in the past. After all, what’s done is done. We can look at the past, we can learn from it, but we have absolutely no ability to change it. I’m proud of him for beginning to accept that the past is done and to forgive mistakes made by himself and others. Again, a big step.

Probably the biggest change in John is that he is focusing on the amazing life he has led and intends to go on living. He frequently brings up the fun we had raising our three sons. He speaks with pride about their accomplishments, no matter how small. Reminiscing about camping trips and time spent being active in Boy Scouts. He’s excited when he talks about them visiting us or a vacation to see any of them. In short, this man has become hopeful and silly excited about his future. Hooray!

I often speak to my clients, whether Reiki clients or coaching clients about re-framing their speech to see a positive viewpoint. It truly changes the way we feel and think. Affirmations are a powerful tool that we can use as well. Writing and talking to ourselves about the positive changes we are bringing about in our own lives. These things are sometimes overlooked or forgotten because they are so very simple. But they work. It’s pretty much that simple.

So, I’d like to applaud John for the life changes he’s made. I know it hasn’t been all that easy for him. He’s a 52-year-old man who had a pretty firm pattern set in his life. But he’s making changes and from all the signs he’s enjoying them incredibly, just as he deserves.

Just one small positive change this week could improve your entire life. Go ahead, give it a try. I can’t wait to hear all about the positive life changes you are making.

Now, if you’ll excuse me, I have to go practice my fox-trot and rumba steps so that John doesn’t go off dancing into the sunset without me.

Cha cha cha,                                                                                                                                                                                    Sandy


John has always been incredibly conservative. Watching every penny, worrying about every event, predicting all possible outcomes and then sort of holding his breath to see if his predictions would come true. These qualities may sound dull as you read them, but the truth is that they’ve made him a terrific husband and devoted father. We’ve always known that John had all eventualities covered. The boys and I have always felt entirely secrue regarding finances and knew that John was totally and completely devoted to us all.
Apparently John has now decided to do a 180! The man is changing right before my eyes, it’s not only surprising, it’s a ton of fun.