Went to a great Georgetown Alumni Coaching Conference this week and one of the wonderful breakout sessions that all dealt with resilience, showed us this video by Soul Pancake. This gratitude practice is a simple, yet powerful way to increase your happiness by up to 22% and make a memorable difference to someone in your life. Watch and see.... and then tell me what you did!
I took a shuttle today from my Atlanta hotel to the airport. Clarissa was my driver and I seemed to be the only passenger. When I asked her how she was, it was clear that she was not having a good day. The van that she was driving broke down yesterday and she was told that it needed major work. To make things worse, she needed to walk 90 minutes this morning to get to work.
We started talking about her life, family, passions, God’s will, and during the discussion, she became teary. She loved working with juvenile delinquents and had worked at the local detention center for about eight years. Unfortunately, she had fallen asleep on the job and was terminated. At the time, she was in school to get a degree and was also working two jobs. She talked about needing to make $12-$13/hour and if she could do that, she’d be golden. She apologized for getting teary and commented: “I’ve never gotten teary with anyone before.” I responded back: “yea, I seem to have that effect on people…..”
I encouraged her to call her former employer; ask for an in-person meeting, and to discuss her passion for helping the children. As she was describing to me what she would say to them, and lessons she would try and teach them, it was clear how much she cared about them and how her life experience helped her to create a powerful rapport. I gave her my card and asked her to call me to update me on what she did. We hugged farewell and before we parted, she notified me that the call would be from a “567” exchange.
I will admit to being on a small high as a result of our brief interchange. David Steindl-Rast, the monk who narrates Louie Schwartzberg’s “Simple Gratitude,” advises us to “be a blessing.” This morning, I believed that I was able to do just that.
As I entered the airport, I went into a store to ask directions to a restaurant that friends had advised me was a “not-to-be-missed” experience. The clerk looked at my boarding pass and notified me that I had Pre-TSA check in! I had not noticed that and would have spent 15-20 minutes in line, waiting to go through security! She told me where the restaurant was and gave me directions to the Pre-TSA check point. I felt like a VIP as I was informed that I didn’t need to take off my shoes; didn’t need to take off my vest; could leave my laptop in my bag, and went right through with NO WAIT!
I’m sure those who saw me were wondering why I had this large grin on my face! The real reason for my grin was less about going through Pre-TSA check in, and more about how amazing the universe is and how quickly it can respond…. if we pay attention and notice. Thanks, Clarissa and God bless!
We Get It!
To all my friends who have children.. to all the moms and dads... We get it!
My husband and I were not blessed, and ultimately chose to not have children. Whenever people would ask us if we had kids, which happens very often when you first meet someone, we would respond: "We have cats!" It almost felt like we had to say something to make us feel "OK" about our response. During the years when I struggled with infertility, I would often ask God: "why?" "What is the reason we're going through this?" Like there had to be some rational reason for our life circumstance... life is fair, right?... NOT!
As you may know from reading other blogs, we became the primary caretaker for my mom, who suffers from dementia. Eighteen months later, my mother-in-law has also come to live at the same continuing care community as my mom. We have our family wagon (see prior post), and we are now experiencing what we imagine you parents have experienced for most of your lives. We now get it!
At the ripe young age of 54, I just bought a family wagon! Normally, when I think of family wagons, I think of car seats for infants and toddlers; hauling children back and forth from athletic events; taking the dog for a ride; packing bags of groceries to feed the gang at home; and driving our adolescents and their friends to the mall or some other social gathering.
But, my husband and I don't have a dog... we have two cats who don't particularly like to ride in the car; we don't have children and the groceries we buy, for the most part, are just for the two of us. So, why the family wagon? Thankfully, we have aging mothers!
Now we pack walkers (rollators) that allow our moms to sit when they get tired, and keep them balanced when they walk. We may buy them groceries, but they're limited due to the meals they get at their continuing care community. We haul them to various events... alas, most of them seem to be doctor's appointments. We crank up the volume on the radio but it's not so they can sing along and groove to the beat... it's so they can HEAR any beats!
The music we play is not of our time.... it's of THEIR time... We don't talk about the news of today; we reminisce about days gone by and speak more of emotion than facts. Head matters less..... heart matters most. We exchange "I love you's" at every encounter and offer hugs as if they may be our last one, because they could be.
I have the privilege of watching my husband demonstrate patience (most of the time...), advocacy, and compassion for our moms and I fall in love with him all over again. Both Robin and I are learning to be less judgmental and more accepting; to exercise our sense of humor and the art of forgiveness. We are parents at a mature age and thank God every day that we can give back to our moms who have given us so much! On this day of Independence, we are thankful for our freedoms and for those who are dependent on us. God Bless........
My Mom's Wedding picture 1956
Interesting title for the day before Thanksgiving, when we should be counting our blessings and showing our gratitude to what we so easily take for granted. That is, if we can resist the numerous media adds telling us to forget those family rituals and come get this deal at 8pm on Thanksgiving Day (pretty soon we won't be able to call it "Black Friday.....") because it will still be Thursday!
Ahhh, that attitude of scarcity that our society is so great at practicing. "If you don't act now, you will lose!" "And isn't this about 'I win, you lose...." I was so aware of that message during the most recent political campaigns and found myself getting irritated by, what I perceived as one upmanship vs. collaboration and partnership. So often, I find the value in our lives is not about who's right and who's wrong, but moreso, what do we want or need to accomplish and how can we combine our collective strengths toward that goal?
My reactions to a culture of scarcity and judgment have left me curious about those "unwelcome blessings" or, as Garth Brooks once said: "unanswered prayers." I did not choose for my husband to have a life threatening brain disorder requiring major brain surgery and risk of stroke or brain injury; I did choose to be the primary caregiver for my aging mom suffering from dementia, not really knowing the time and energy it would consume. When I find myself going to victim mode, I quickly change my view and focus on my many blessings. My husband's persistent brain illness requires me to appreciate each day, truly not knowing what the future brings. It allows me to "not postpone joy," and to plan wildlife and nature vacations that we can add to our memory banks for future enjoyment. My mom's dementia allows me to appreciate those fleeting moments of clarity and humor, as when I ask her to help me remember something and she looks me straight in the eye and says: "you're kidding!" Or moments when she smiles and embraces new friends that accept her as she is and share her curiosity about: "What day is it today?"
As I write this, rockets are blaring in the Middle East and I can feel the fear and angst of those living nearby, or with loved ones in the area. And, yet I know there will be people there, as all over the world, expressing gratitude, not only on one certain day, but everyday for the many blessings in our lives.
Wishing you days full of gratitude, love, health, and peace....
Above you will find a picture of Vicki Hess completing the Iron Girl in 2010. I took that picture as I watched her complete one of her, soon to be four Iron Girl races. Vicki is an ovarian cancer survivor and a great friend who inspires me every day with her positive attitude and energy. It's safe to say that Vicki's been challenging me to join her since 2010, if not before. Mind you, completing a triathlon has never been something I've longed to do, despite having completed some long distance bike rides (metric century) in the past. Another good friend of ours, Dana Slater caved to Vicki's challenges last year and completed her first Iron Girl in 2011. So now, both Vicki and Dana were ganging up on me!
As I wrestled around New Year's eve with signing on the dotted line to commit to doing the race, I was thinking about how it may serve me in the coming year of 2012. My only way to get in to the already sold out race was to join Team Fight, which I was proud to do given the desire to support young adults and their families dealing with life threatening illness. While not cancer, my husband and I had been struggling with a life threatening neurovascular illness for close to two years and at that New Years eve, it seemed like we were not winning the battle. My husband has a dural arteriovenous fistula (DAVF) in his brain; a rare disorder which puts him at risk of stroke or death. His was large and complex and he has had countless neurosurgeries to block off some of the abnormal vessels in his brain. Unfortunately, until this fistula is totally obliterated, it recruits other vessels, so it can feel, and did feel like we were living in a science-fiction novel and were losing the battle against the aliens.
I'll get back to New Year's eve in a moment. In March of this year, we were told that the doctors could not do anything else for what may be two years and it was now a waiting game. We knew that Robin was still at risk for stroke or worse since he still had backflow drainage into the brain and the radiation he had takes years to work. We were also told that if Robin started to develop symptoms again (he previously suffered with periodic dizzy spells) that we should go to an emergency room.
If you know anything about neurosurgeons, you perhaps know that humility is not amongst their strengths. Their work requires painstaking detail and expertise... one wrong move and someone's life can be dramatically altered. As I struggled with accepting what these experts were saying, yet not wanting to accept a diagnosis that would bring disability and death to the most significant person in my life, I started researching the web for another possible answer. I found that possibility in articles that had been written about skull based surgery, and the Barrow Neurological Institute in Phoenix, Arizona. Dr. Robert Spetzler has his name on one of the grading scales used for Dural AV Fistulas, and for $100, he would examine records and images and let you know if he thought he could help. That seemed a no brainer to me (pun intended.....), so I mailed records out, and received a call shortly thereafter saying Dr. Spetzler believed that surgery could help, if not cure my husband. Hearing this felt like finding an oasis after wandering for days in a blistering, dry desert. And, that news was punctuated by the fact that Robin started to have dizzy spells again, which meant he had vessels close to rupturing.
All of this would have been enough, yet as fate would have it, my 80 year-old mother, who was living in a single family home in Boston, had a mild stroke, necessitating her being moved out of her home and into some sort of continuing care community. So, to make a long story short, I drove up the end of April, packed her up and moved her from her home; drove her here to a temporary apartment in a continuing care community, got her as settled as I could for about 6 days before I said: "see you later-- I need to go to Arizona for Robin to have major brain surgery."
What was supposed to be a one day surgery and 3-4 day hospital stay, turned into a two week hospitalization and three week stay in Phoenix. There were complications every step of the way, including blood loss requiring a staging of his craniotomy; six hours of endovascular work and radiation exposure (where they go in through an artery in the groin, thread their way all the way up to the brain, locate abnormal vessels, and insert a glue-like substance to block off the abnormal feeders, making sure that none of the glue leaks to block off normal vessels), a second craniotomy to seal off one of the major feeders, temporary psychosis and difficulty expressing himself, and the final assault which was his acquiring deep vein thromboses due to being immobile for so long. I would spend 10-12 hours/ day by his side, leaving the hospital around 10p feeling like I was walking in a fog and was only moving by putting one foot in front of the other. I had amazing support from family and friends, while I was out there and also knew that I had to force myself to exercise (swim or jog) for my mental health and to not lose the ground I had gained in my training for the race.
So, back to New Year's eve...... as I let the completed form stare at me from my computer screen for at least 24 hours before hitting the "send" button, something told me that I would need this race to serve as a positive goal for me; to help keep me fit and strong, and to help me experience and face my fears, realize my ability to overcome them and to be successful at something I previously thought was impossible. I honestly believe that my ability to disagree with what some of the most arrogant of surgical providers said was "true," and to persist in finding my own truth, which has prolonged, if not saved my husband's life, has been, in part due to my training and participation in this race. As I fantasize about the 19th and crossing the finish line, I imagine myself pausing just prior to entering the final gate and walking away. I am sure that sounds crazy, for isn't it about that final announcement of "Joy, YOU are and Iron Girl!?" And while I will probably choose to finish the race and go through the gate, that isn't what it's about for me. It's more about the journey; it's about what it has taken to endure pain and discomfort, and persevere; it's about courage; it's about asking for help; it's about being cut down to the core and putting one foot in front of the other; it's about every young adult's fight with cancer and regardless of whether they win their race for life, or die, they are winners.... they are Iron Girls, because of their strength, their courage, their commitment to ALL life has to offer. It's been about companionship, faith, laughter, tears, and spirit.
With just over one week to go, I am feeling strong and confident (despite my total panic at the open swim dress rehearsal.....). My vision of seeing my husband standing at the finish line will come true. And, as I set foot in the water, waiting for that whistle to blow at 7:04am to start my wave, I will smile with gratitude for the many blessings preparing for this race has afforded me. There will be light within the darkness of Centennial Lake; there will be friends by my feet as I push up Mt. Albert, and there will be wings of angels lifting me up as I run/ walk my way home to the finish line.
__Simple Gratitude by Louie Schwartzberg
It's fitting that at this time of "giving thanks," and holiday miracles, that I share this amazing and profound 10 minute video with you from Louie Schwartzberg. This was shared with me by a very good friend of mine, and it has become my morning meditation. Tune out all other distractions; listen to the wondrous insight from a young girl; and the profound wisdom from an elderly man, shaped and honed by life experience and an attitude of appreciation.
It is impossible to watch this video and not feel a new sense of wonder and appreciation for the numerous blessings in your life. As you see the smiles on the faces, and the sparkle in the eyes of those photographed all over the world, recognize how small and interconnected our world is! What if, instead of fighting traffic, hunting sales and best prices, you simply shared this video and, perhaps, a donation to a charity of your choice..... imagine the sense of satisfaction and appreciation within that generosity: and then pause, and reflect on the true gifts of this time of year. Resist the impulse to spend more money, and, instead, spend more time...... with loved ones, doing what nourishes your spirit, that unveils the unfolding and becoming that is so vividly captured in Louie's time-lapse photography.
As we prepare to say good bye to 2011 and enter into 2012, thank YOU for allowing me to share my passions with you; for taking some of your precious time to read these small epistles, and to share in the natural beauty within YOU and our world. You are a cherished companion and I am grateful for YOU!
God's blessings for the remainder of 2011 and for 2012!
"Even with our eyes open we often go through our life asleep. We dream of what yesterday was or what tomorrow will be, all the while missing out on the opportunities to create tremendous joy and breakthroughs right this moment."
I've not written in a while..... happily, I can say that my business has started to take off and I am enjoying coaching leaders and physicians in being the best leaders they can be.
As I reflect on the flash that this year seems to have been, and as I deal with a family health crisis, I am reminded of the fragility of life, and the preciousness of the present moment. How easy it is to obsess about the past, or worry about the future, yet miss what's right in front of us! For the past few weeks, I have thought of the real possibility of losing my husband to a life disabling or life-ending illness. As we take one day at a time and proceed with life-saving treatment, I marvel at how I've lived more in the present recently, than I ever have. At a recent Center for Spiritual Living service, I heard that worry is "negative prayer." That we have to believe and "know" on a deep level, and act "as if" what we really want in the world is a "done deal." I must admit that, like meditating, making that belief a habit is easier said than done.
I've started to journal again and find great relief in putting my thoughts down on paper. My fears seem a bit less scary when I get them out of my head and in to my never judging, always accepting journal. For some reason today, I decided not to turn on music, and just listened to the pouring rain outside, and the noise of my husband's movement around the house in the background. The rain finally slowed down and I was aware that, if the music had been playing, I wouldn't still hear the patter of the raindrops against the window and pavement, nor would I hear that ever comforting sound of my husband's presence.
I can't say that I've totally embraced and welcomed this journey of dealing with my husband's illness, yet I am seeing the gifts that the journey is providing, and am grateful for those. And, in changing my view, I know that the universe will provide a world of possibilities!
If you've traveled a similar path, I welcome your comments and insights!
Joy Goldman is an avid photographer, and perpetual seeker of positive and inspiring views. She has spent much of her life, regardless of career expression, in finding what's positive, and using that to serve others. As a lifelong learner, Joy lives the principles she teaches, and challenges herself to be a model for the courage, humility and authenticity she requests of others.