Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Archive for November, 2012

Embrace Happiness

I read a book recently entitled, “be happy,” by Robert Holden, Ph.D. The subtitled says ‘release the power of happiness in YOU.’ I must admit until I read this book I had not processed the thought of happiness in quite the same way. Holden says, “Maybe we get stressed and depressed because we forget how to be happy.” The eight week course that he has transcribed in his book offers great food for thought. For instance, he asks us to think about who is the happiest person we know. That will give you pause as you think of at least 10 people and their attitudes – do their really embody happiness? Well, I can think of two people. One person gets up in the morning and the first thing she says is, “It’s a beautiful day.” It can be raining or snowing but she is happy to be alive. Being around her causes you to see more of the positives in life. What a lesson for the rest of us. We remember the statement that teachers come along just when the student needs them. Another person I know will often have music playing in her house and do a little dance step as she is at the stove making dinner. It makes you happy just being in her presence. Both of these people genuinely love life. Do they have stresses and challenges like the rest of us – absolutely – but they refuse to let go of the happiness that is their birthright.

Holden also talks about the importance of making happiness a conscious intention. For instance, if the first thing you tell yourself when awakening in the morning is that, “Today, I choose to be happy,” you automatically start your day with more positive energy. It may sound a bit strange but think about the alternative. If we don’t put our intention out there we just let life happen to us and we may have the tendency to see our glass as half empty rather than half full. Granted the same amount is in the glass but it is the ENERGY we bring to the thought that can bring happiness and opportunity to us – or not – for the rest of the day.

Think about the people you like to be around. Of course they are good listeners because everyone likes to have someone listen to them but in addition they actually cause you to feel more hopeful, more energizes (there is that word again!) just being around them.

Wouldn’t it be wonderful if we all committed to bringing more happiness to ourselves and others? What activity gives you energy? I love to put my ear buds in and walk a few fast paced miles in the morning to music. My neighbors just wave as they see me walk through the neighborhood sometimes singing along with the lyrics. Guess what – maybe a smile came across their face as they watched me and maybe it will be infectious. Life is like that – we often mirror the energy around us.

What can you do tomorrow to let the world know that you are glad to be alive?

Have a great few days and remember – think happiness – it is your birthright!

Surviving the Holidays

By now you have survived the infamous Black Friday events or at least the barrage of sale advertisements for the after Thanksgiving Day sales. During the next few weeks in preparation for the Christmas holiday we will think about everything that needs to get done and be going at fever pitch. Too much to do and too little time. The gift selection, wrapping, baking, cooking and decorating can leave us exhausted. When we throw in the open houses and other celebrations we wonder how it will all get done in time – and yet it always does.

Why not try a new recipe or new decorating idea we think to ourselves and find that we have consequently placed ourselves in serious overdrive. Of course, the family looks at the new ‘stuff’ on the table and says with obvious displeasure, ‘ What’s that? Followed by ‘ Where is the other stuff you usually make?’ No descriptive language is used here – like animal, vegetable or mineral but rather everything is relegated simply to ‘stuff.’ Amazingly, you know exactly the stuff that they are referring to and respond with, I just thought I would try something new. I can promise you new is not typically what family members have in mind for the traditional Christmas get togethers. The word traditional is used for a purpose. I have also learned that there is a fine line between gratitude and outright rebellion on this topic. You think to yourself, why did I bother – followed up with the thought -I really liked the old stuff better myself.

Your eyes fog over and you remember the pictures on the holiday editions of the monthly magazines. Those wonderful chefs and decorating gurus look positively giddy with self pleasure at the spread laid out before them. My latest theory is that behind all those magazines pictures of Martha Stewart smiling calmly and serenely is a cast of thousands hidden somewhere between the tinsel and mouth watering goodies. Back in my kitchen there is only me.

We have become masters at multi-tasking but what does that really mean? Not truly experiencing the moment but thinking about at least two or three other things left to do on our list. Funny thing about lists. They seem to multiply during the few hours of sleep. They greet us in the morning expecting applause that they not only maintained but gained on us while we escaped into oblivion. We may wonder to ourselves, has it always been this busy, this hectic during the Christmas season? We feel guilty if we don’t make everyone’s Christmas absolutely perfect.

One thing I have come to realize is that the more you do the more YOU expect yourself to do. It is not others that seem to place the super human expectations on us but ourselves. We watch people in line paying for groceries or gifts, talking on their phones or texting and I wonder….when will we slow down, exhale and enjoy the moment? Maybe never you may respond and maybe you’re right. I do know that I am making a commitment to myself to slow down and appreciate the moment. We may only have two different kinds of home made cookies this year and not three. Do you think anyone will notice? Probably not, but they will notice and feel my tension if I am exhausted and overwhelmed. That kind of tension can make even the most joyous occasion lose its’ significance. I’m making a pact with myself. I will do what I can do but will not make myself bonkers worrying about every single thing. The people I come in contact with during this season are too important for that to happen. If everything is not perfectly aligned…there is always next year! I need to be fully present and engaged when I am with them. After all, we are not guaranteed tomorrow.

Is anyone out there relating to what I am saying? If so let me hear a big ‘ Amen, Sister!’ Let’s put the joy back into the season and keep the demands we place on ourselves rational. When we see a line a mile long in the check out line let’s remember to pass on a thank you to the cashier. Who knows, we might be the one bright spot in their day!

Healing Through the Holidays

Another Thanksgiving and so many reasons to be grateful and yet… Although we may be struggling with the fact that there is an empty seat at the table, we remember the holidays when everyone was taking up their assigned seats and passing the turkey and gravy. Laughing and sharing what it meant to be together. Those were the times…

Loss has a way of catching you unaware especially during the holiday season. It creeps up on you and renders you speechless in mid sentence. Your voice catches in your throat and you pray not to be obvious to others. You think to yourself, I need to brush away my tears quickly so I don’t upset others. It is amazing what we do to appear strong to others.

The holidays are challenging to get through normally. Add the life changing event of loss to the mix and sometimes just getting through rather than celebrating is the best you can do. It’s okay. Most of us have been there or will be going through it sooner or later. No family escapes the sadness of losing a loved one. We are all travelers on this same path. It is predictable but not invited. The timing may be different but the gut wrenching ‘whys’ and ‘if onlys’ are the same. Maybe if we try to reach out and grab the hand of a fellow traveler and let them know we care both of our paths may be smoother. It’s worth a try.

Our loved ones want us to remember the special times we had, the unconditional love that still exists in our hearts and reflect on the gifts – large and small in our lives today. We see the victims of Hurricane Sandy and realize how quickly life can change. We have experienced devastating change in our own lives and have been altered -bruised and beaten- but we continue on because we realize that our loved ones may be gone from our physical presence but we will always have the special memories the ‘Kodak moments’ to remember. Memories like precious gems that grow more valuable with age are gifts that last a lifetime. We close our eyes and see the smile, hear the humor and feel the intensity of our loved one. We know we are enveloped by their unconditional love. When we feel the chill of loneliness surround us, we have only to remember the love. It will warm us and light our way toward tomorrow.

On one level we know there was a reason for their passing, ‘To everything there is a season.’ But knowing is one thing and understanding much less accepting is another. Our hearts and minds struggle to function in concert. This cruel twist of fate seems impossible to understand but eventually we stop fighting and demanding that it be different. Eventually, we move to a point of recognizing that we have more lessons yet to learn. Is is hard? The toughest thing imaginable. Can we speed up the process? No, we all heal in our own unique time and space.

So when you sit down with family or friends over this holiday let’s remember that our loved ones are around us always. We have learned a great many valuable life lessons. We are strong, we are survivors. Most importantly, we have learned both the value of unconditional love and that the energy of our loved ones last forever.

Robert Frost wrote a poem that may speak to you. It is entitled Nothing Gold Can Stay.

Nature’s first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold.
Her early leaf’s a flower;
But only so an hour.
Then leaf subsides to leaf.
So Eden sank to grief,
So dawn goes down to day.
Nothing gold can stay.

On this Thanksgiving eve may you remember yesterday with love and peace, celebrate today for the opportunity to make the day a little brighter and look forward to the challenges of all your tomorrow’s because you are loved.

As Frost said in another poem..
I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

Have a great few days!

Developing Plan B

The beloved Theodor Seuss Geisel, affectionally known simply as Dr. Seuss wrote a book in 1990 that has become a classic. It is entitled, Oh, the Places You’ll Go.” Although it has become the perfect gift to give others when they graduate from nursery school to graduate school, the thoughts and lessons are timeless, ageless and worth considering.

The book refers to the bang-ups and hang-ups we all experience in life and talks about the difficulty of ‘un-slumping’ ourselves when we meet a road block. The challenge of choosing the next path in our lives can be daunting even paralyzingly at times. All of a sudden (or so it seems) life has changed course and you are left questioning, ” What do I do next?” This is especially true for those of us who have experienced a major change in our lives, especially a loss. At first, time seems to stand still, then evolves into a slow drag stage. Sooner than we may be ready, life begins to resume at full pace – at least for the rest of the world. We are left wondering, does anyone remember that I lost a loved one who is irreplaceable to me? Do they see the bleeding of my heart? You think to yourself, my head knows what happened but when will my heart accept it?

Developing a Plan B for your life may take every once of energy you have and leave you breathless just putting pencil to paper but it is absolutely critical to do so. Plan B can become your life line – your reason to get out of bed in the morning. You may wonder, when will I shake this? Is there something wrong with me? Followed, of course, by the thought will I ever be the same again?

There is nothing wrong with you when you react like this to loss. You are gradually accepting that the change – the loss is real and no amount of wishing or hoping will change the fact that your heart is broken. It will take time and the loving support of others to help you regain your footing. It may take a lifetime – be patient with yourself. Beyond family and friends a talented grief counselor can help. Maybe that is why God/Universal Energy put these folks in our lives, to help us stand when we can not find the strength or will to do so for ourselves. Yes, your life will be unalterably changed but not stopped, not frozen in time. You will dig out of the hole you may be in and gradually see the light at the end of the tunnel. You may think you are slipping back into the morass of ‘why’ from time to time. It’s okay – you are okay. Remember, as my son said in my book, our lives are like a photo album with pages that are left blank. They will be filled in over time.

So what is the good news? You have memories to last forever. You were given the gift of unconditional love for another. No one can ever take that away from you. The depth of your loss is directly proportionate to the depth of your love. You loved deeply and well and have been forever changed by it. Deeper as a person, a little less quick to jump to conclusions and more aware of the magnificence and delicate nature of life.

You will be ready to help the next person who crosses your path when they experience a major life change or loss and will serve as a model of survival. Granted, you may be a little battered and bruised but upright nonetheless. When you run across someone that seems to believe there is an acceptable or normal amount of time for grieving you will think to yourself that they have a very important lesson yet to learn. Yet, you will be ready to help them when they experience a loss. Why? Because you have survived a major life change – or loss – and your loved one would want you to ‘pay your lessons forward.’ The Universe is about learning our lessons, being grateful for love and becoming more aware of the significance of our individual purpose.

Have a happyThanksgiving!

Reach Out to a Friend

My blog on Sunday was about the importance of friendship. The artist Coldplay wrote a song entitled, “Fix You” that just seems to reiterate the importance of having a few close family or friends that take the time to not simply listen but truly hear you when you need a sounding board or simply a shoulder to lean on. They are more than ‘friends’ that someone can simply ‘unfriend’ on Facebook. (I must admit the thought of simply ‘unfriending’ someone is hard for me to grasp. It must be a generational thing.) The lyrics in Coldplay’s song touch our hearts.

When you try your best but you don’t succeed
When you get what you want, but not what you need
When you feel so tired, but you can’t sleep
Stuck in reverse
And the tears come streaming down your face
When you lose something you can’t replace…

The refrain in the song is hauntingly moving.

Lights will guide you home
And ignite your bones
And I will try to fix you

Who do you have in your life that help ‘guide you home’ and lighten your load? Everyone needs someone they can reach out to for support, encouragement even redirection at times. We can all get stuck in the fear of the unknown. It can paralyze our mental processing and make us feel like we are ‘stuck in reverse.’ Losing someone close naturally triggers fear of tomorrow. After all, we think to ourselves, we were powerless to stop this loss. We can easily start to generalize that feeling of powerlessness into the rest of our lives. If you find yourself stuck in the ‘whys’ and ‘if onlys’ it may be time to get in touch with someone – a friend, family member or even grief counselor. Do whatever it takes to get the emotional support you need to face tomorrow.

As human beings we have remarkably similar needs. We all need love, acceptance and support. When we lose a loved one each of us goes through predictable stages of grieving. The pain of loss may resurface throughout our lives when something out of the blue triggers memories of what used to be. Verbalizing these feelings is a healthy thing to do. The strongest among us recognize this and are not afraid to reach out for the supportive hand of another.There are special people in our lives to help ‘guide us home’ to find our true north and gently support us as we move on with our lives. They are heaven sent for a reason, season or lifetime.

Is it time to unload the rocks in the backpack you are caring? As I said in my book, the weight of grief can become so heavy that you can become laden down, unable to see the horizon – the light of day in the tomorrows.

Experiencing many losses, I have come to believe – to absolutely know – that God/Universal Energy does not make mistakes. “All is as it should be.” I don’t have to like it but I chose to live through the lessons involved in loss and a big part of that is to learn that I must move through the loss and continue living life. We have been given the gift of family and friends to help us along our way.

Be the Change

Tuesday was an important day for citizens in the U.S. We had the opportunity and responsibility to go to the polls and vote for the person we chose to represent us as president of our country for the next four years. We studied the issues and made an informed decision. Regardless of our choice of candidate, we knew that our voice is important. We were given this time in history and have earned the privilege to be counted.

Mahatma Gandi made a powerful statement when he said, ” Be the change you want to see in the world.” It has been a long political season that has divided some and united others. The devastating hurricane on the east coast has caused so many to experience the loss of family, friends and possessions. As they struggle to rebuild and cope with their tremendous losses our hearts go out to them. For many it will take the rest of their lifetime to recover. The Red Cross is receiving millions of dollars in donations to help these people exist as they live through the aftermath of the worst storm in their history. Once again, Americans have put aside their political differences to help those in need. We are a generous people who see hurt and loss and want to fix it.

As the votes are counted and the winner announced we will put our differences behind us and move forward, together, to be the change we envision. We are strong, resilient people who care about each other. On the outside we may resemble a nation of differences but underneath our hearts beat and veins bleed as one. We will survive and thrive by being the positive change for this world that Mahatma Gandi was referring to because we see a cause greater than ourselves. Time is on our side when we remember that everything happens for a purpose and all is as it should be. The Universe does not make mistakes but gives us the opportunity to learn our lessons in our own time frame through love and deeper understanding of the tremendous gifts we have been given. We are grateful to be living in a country that values our opinions and consistently supports those who are in greater need. It is all about love of self and others.

An unknown author referring to time wrote,

Time is
Too slow for those who wait
Too swift for those who fear,
Too long for those who grieve,
Too short for those who rejoice;
But for those who love
Time is eternity.

Have a great few days!