The Science of Happiness
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!
Simon Beck is a snow artist. He creates works of art and beauty that can be erased in a matter of seconds with the next snow or windstorm. He spends hours creating these works of art. He doesn't use any technology. It is only him, the snow, his footprints and his amazing vision.
I found out about Simon through my sister-in-law's posting on Facebook. While part of my new year's commitment is to be less intimate with my smartphone, tablet, computer........ you get the picture....., there are some uses that serve my spirit. I knew when I read about Simon, that I would write about him and his work. In doing so, I'm imagining that part of his purpose has been fulfilled: to inspire others to what is possible through dedication, inspiration, purpose, and vision.
To look at Simon's trails above, you start to wonder what he sees that we don't. What is it that drives his painstaking footsteps in the snow? One misstep, one off- balance footprint could destroy hours of work. Virgin snow is just that: once tampered with, the system is changed; the design is altered. There's no going back. Yet as I look at Simon taking each step with purpose and passion, I know he's not thinking of what may ruin his design. His only thought is on creation. He is focused on his goal and he is pursuing it with relentless abandon. His companions are only his snowshoes, ski poles, goggles, and stamina. He is driven by his passion to create beauty, and to share that beauty through photography.
As a coach, we tend to seek metaphors in our work with clients and in our lives. So, what I choose to see is someone honoring his passion and
purpose: Someone whose inspiring goal transcends the "work" it takes to fulfill it. I see someone who moves into his purpose and passion, with full presence, realizing that it can all change in a heartbeat.
My prayer and commitment for 2014 is that my clients' experience of our work together can be just that: fully present, focused, with vision, passion and purpose. As leaders, that we can put one foot in front of the other, moving constantly closer to our goal: that we have the energy and commitment to withstand the inevitable challenges, and continue onward.
People often ask me about my career path and my purpose. What I always say is that my purpose began with positively impacting a hospitalized patient and that purpose has not changed. I don't practice as a "nurse," as we may rigidly define that role; and I do hope to inspire physician, nursing and healthcare leaders to be the best they can be in service to patients and families. Each person reading this blog will be somehow impacted by our healthcare system. Lives will be saved or lost. The quality of our lives will be improved, maintained or disintegrated by the care we receive. That care has to provide quality, respect, hope and peace.
Perhaps we in healthcare should start calling ourselves "Health Artists!"
My heartfelt thanks to Simon for his inspiration, and wishes to all for a "health-filled" 2014!
For a Christmas 2013 video of Simon, click here.
Connections and The Universe
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!
Changing of Seasons and Noticing
Changing of Seasons and Noticing.. Today is Halloween and the weather is cloudy and warm for this time of year (in the 60’s). Yet mother nature isn’t disappointing us and the belated beauty of the autumn foliage is spectacular. My husband made a point of alerting me to the brilliant reds and oranges on our backyard maple tree, particularly as contrasted with the golden yellow of the trees behind it. And as we watch the leaves fall to the ground, and, perhaps, complain too much about our need for raking, I am reminded of the seasons of life and the theme of noticing.
Autumn happens to be my favorite season as I welcome the lower humidity (as experienced on the East Coast), cooler and crisp days, weather that beckons you to play outside and ride bikes or go for hikes. And every time I mention my favorite season of autumn to others, they mention the regret of shorter days and the coming of winter. The coach in me forever searches for another meaning… another perspective and the metaphor hiding beneath the surface.
In our American culture, is it that we resist death, as in the falling of leaves, because of perceived darkness to come? How might we use the sharpness of light and color, and noticing that is inspired within us just before the falling? How often is it that when we recognize the impermanence of something or someone, we seem to notice what’s special about them and cherish them more? As you know, I am taking care of my elderly mom and I marvel at how I can still find those sparks of beauty and strength, amidst the decline of her memory and her independence.
The leaves that are dying stand out against the perpetual green of the evergreens, and those trees become background to the display of color and life that seems to come to the deciduous trees. If only we could recognize that beauty in our aging seniors and celebrate them as we celebrate autumn splendor? If only we could use our powers to pause and notice in seasons other than autumn? Nature has so much to teach us and each season brings a unique beauty and message. Winter teaches us to slow down; conserve energy; stay warm, and turn inward. We are preparing for the burst of energy and outward focus of spring, with new hopes, dreams, growth, and splendor. Using that burst of energy, we go full throttle into the longer days of summer, filled with activity, adventure, lightness, sunshine, laughter, and play. Just imagine if we had to keep that up all year long? What difference would that make to our ability to pause and notice? Now there’s something to ponder! Are we creating a perpetual summer with our constant use of electronic devices? (I’ll save that for another passage!).
I’ve been finding it more difficult to wake up in the mornings and I am reminded of nature’s slowing down and hibernation. I am choosing to continue to celebrate the beauty of autumn, yet I am celebrating it for a whole new reason. I am celebrating my ability to notice. After seeing a photograph that I took during one of our hikes, a friend of mine commented: “Joy, you see things that others don’t see: what an eye you have!” God has certainly blessed me with that ability and I celebrate it not only with photography, but more-so with nature and people. Here’s to noticing and to the seasons of life!
Hope and Angels
My love post angiogram 12/18/12
Robin Goldman and I got some discouraging news yesterday with his angiogram and I decided to post a question on the AVM Survivor's Network to tap in to their collective courage and wisdom. The wise response back from "Ron" are words that can benefit all of us..... As Robin and I continue to travel this road, we are so very thankful for the angels that appear in our midst... like my friend, Evelyn who came down to the waiting room yesterday and cried with me as we heard news; or the person I've never met who came over to me and handed me rosary beads..... and my friend Susan M. Hahn who was there with us and will be there on Monday to meet with the doctor.... there are blessings amidst the pain, if we choose to look for them.... And, for Robin and I, as they say..... "it's not over 'til it's over!"
"Sorry no experience in cortical venous drainage.
As far as encouraging words, I've watched my wife go into brain surgery about 10 times (counting embolizations) and my son twice to stop seizures. It is not a fun journey, but for us, everything came out well. I wish the same for you!
I would encourage you to cherish every hour of every day. Forget about cleaning the house or doing laundry (hire someone if you can, or just ignore it). As much as you can, go and do things that are fun. If you enjoy reading, read all the encouraging books you can find. Be a joy to those around you, in any way that you can.
Give your friends and family that want to help you specific things they can do. They are hurting too, and any tasks they can lift from you helps YOU and THEM as well.
Give yourself permission not to hang around negative people (even if they are family). Turn off the news. We joke with our kids that we bought a new tv to watch Gun Smoke in hi def!
Laugh everyday, or every hour.
I am reminded of a saying I read in one of the Chicken Soup of the Soul books: "If you found out you only had an hour to live, who would you call, what would you say, ............ and what are you waiting for???????????????" Not meaning this as a downer thought, just a call to action.
Make a bucket list and start. Not suggesting round the world trips. Heck it might be 'go to dinner and a movie'.
I hope this helps and I wish you the best,
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....
Becoming an Iron Girl!
Joy running to finish line, accompanied by my two Iron Girl buddies, Dana Slater and Vicki Hess. Dana and Vicki had already completed the race, and found me just before the last hill to give me that burst of energy to help me cross the finish line!
I am an Iron Girl!
August 19th was a cool, partly sunny day in Columbia, MD and close to 2,000 women and their guests showed up at 5:15am to get ready to participate in the Iron Girl Triathlon. Our bodies were marked with our race number and our age (yes... no hiding from public scrutiny, or the pressure of possibly seeing those older than us surpassing us in the race!). Team Fight, supporting the Ulman Cancer Fund, hosted a dedication circle where 100 women held hands at sunrise and declared for whom they were racing. I had the privilege of announcing my race in honor of my husband, and my two fellow Iron Girl buddies. I will admit to having tears in my eyes when my husband ceased his "official photographer" duties, and came behind me to put his hand on my shoulder. If you've read my prior postings, you know that a life threatening brain disorder could have easily prevented him from being with me for the race.
The National Anthem was played and then it was time for the swim to commence! Three weeks ago, I totally panicked during a dry run at this same lake so I was "a bit" nervous going into the swim, yet felt that I had prepared as much as I could to be successful. I had my ritual planned which was to "bob in the water" six times (dunk my head and practice breathing) before taking off. As I did that, my goggles leaked and I feverishly adjusted them as my friend swam off to commence her race. I re-centered, bobbed again (no leakage) and took off! Me, and 156 other 50-55 year old women, with the next age group six minutes behind me. To make a long story short, I spent much more time than during the dry run, using the freestyle than backstroke, and managed to complete the swim in 45 minutes, 25 minutes better than previously! I went on to complete the 17.5 mile bike ride and 3.4 mile run, and realized my vision of running straight into the arms of my waiting husband.
Amidst the congratulations from friends, I've also been greeted with: "What's next?" Isn't our culture amazing? Are we always looking forward to the next "thing" or can we be content, for just a few moments, with staying in the present and savoring what is? As I rest my pleasantly tired body, and reflect on the journey, I am so grateful to be part of several communities: the community of "Iron Girls;" the community of Team Fight;" and the community of women who summoned the courage, passion, purpose, discipline, and fortitude to say: "I can do this," and achieved their goal. We put in the time; we endured the pain and discomfort; we asked for help; we embraced the loving support of our friends and family; we admitted to being "beginners" and learned whatever was needed in technique to endure with minimal injury; we set a vision and we achieved it.
Many, including myself, initially looked at other triathletes and said: "Not me.... I could never do that!" How many times in life do we say the same thing and prematurely relinquish our dreams in service to our fears? What are you denying yourself because of self-limiting beliefs? What's the first step you'd have to take to move toward your goal and what's it worth to you? I'd love to hear from you!
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!
Change Your View: Add some color!
This was shared by a friend and is a beautiful and inspiring reflection on nature, blessings, and the difference some color can add to our lives. How do you add color to your daily living? I'd love to hear your stories!
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.