Official blog for the book "Just Behind the Door"

Archive for September, 2014

Choose Happiness!

Do you really want to be happy? This is not a trick question but one that calls for a serious, thought provoking reflection of your life. I believe the majority of people might respond to this question with qualifiers. “I will be happy when …” They consciously or subconsciously place conditions on their own happiness. They might think that they will be happy when the get a new home, job, a true friend or enough money to pay the bills at the end of the month. The problem with this type of thinking is that as one qualifier is attained another one simply surfaces in their mind to take its place. For instance, once they get the new house they may begin thinking about the furniture they ‘need’ to make it better. It becomes a never ending cycle. Any condition you put on happiness automatically limits your ability to attain it.

People who think of qualifiers before believe they will be happy live in the past or future not in the present. They continually see their cup as half empty and often have a deep seated preference to view life as a burden not a gift. It may be a result of early conditioning. Yet all of us have had challenges growing up – some greater than others – but some have manage to pull up their bootstraps and move past them. How is it that some people see a pile of yuk but are insistent in their minds that there is a pony in there somewhere? True, they are the perpetual optimists and also true, they are a joy to be around. They are living a life of happiness.

If we believe our lack of happiness in life is because of what we don’t have we are sure to get more of the same. The Universe just works that way. We get more of what is foremost in our thinking. Thinking of the ‘lack’ in our life produces more ‘lack’. With this mindset, life becomes heavier each day until we feel we will break from carrying the weight. Then one day we may wake up and say, ‘Enough!’ There is always, always something to be grateful for if we choose to see life through a different lense. Change your lense and let in more light!
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When we begin digging into the spiritual side of life it becomes apparent that each of us has unique lessons to learn and challenges to overcome. As different as each script is we all have one big thing in common – learning to find happiness along the way. It’s as if the life script each of us has written has HAPPINESS as the key word. How each of us goes about learning it remains our life challenge.

Being happy and living in the present doesn’t mean not having goals to work toward and ultimately achieve. What it does mean, however, is that we recognize that each moment of each day offers a reason to be grateful and happy that you are alive and making a contribution on planet earth. It is not necessarily the type of the contribution but the fact you are choosing to do it that is important. Even offering a smile to someone to brighten their day is a contribution. We are learning lessons – some more difficult than others, granted, but we have been given the gift of time to learn them.

If you keep it simple and truly ask yourself, ‘Do I want to be happy?’ you will realize it is fully under your control. But you must decide to be happy without conditions. Choosing unconditional happiness means that whatever happens whatever challenges occur in your life you will decide to see them in the context of the bigger picture of life – your end goal – and refuse to let them wear you down.

George Bernard Shaw’s quote is worth remembering in this context:
“Life is no brief candle to me. It is a sort of splendid torch which I have got hold of for the moment, and I want to make it burn as brightly as possible before handing it on to future generations.”

He was talking about learning and accomplishing things in life and a big part of accomplishing things is the attitude that we bring to the task regardless of the difficulty. Deciding to be happy allows each of us to be more, achieve more and celebrate more before passing our torch on to future generations.

Over the next few days you might want to really think about making a conscious decision, sort of a vow to yourself, to choose happiness – because you can – it is within your power regardless of the path you have chosen. It makes the bumps in the road much easier to maneuver around and helps to make life fuller, richer and more meaningful. Happiness is yours simply by choosing it!

Have a great few days!

You Can’t Run Away!

Discussing death is extremely difficult for most people and viewed as the elephant in the room in many cultures. Yet, beyond birth it is the only thing we will all encounter and eventually experience. Yet, we are not only reluctant but often flatly refuse to discuss or learn more about it until the inevitable happens to us. If we are at least somewhat prepared it helps. Some people say it is just too depressing to even think about and so they choose to avoid the topic entirely until a friend or family member is involved and they must face it head on. Then the questions and fear starts in their minds, ‘How do I handle these emotions? Will I ever get over it? What’s wrong with me? Is it normal to feel this way? I feel tired and depressed all the time.’

Unfortunately, in American culture the ‘average’ amount of time the outside world is comfortable with our grief is two to three weeks. After that we are on our own. People start to avoid us because they can see we are in emotional pain and it makes them uncomfortable. It is sad that after a death, when we need people more than ever to just sit with us and allow us to talk about our loved one, yet again, they are not there. Frequently we may hear people say, ‘I just don’t know what to say and I’m afraid I’ll say the wrong thing so I just can’t visit.’ It’s not about words. It’s about caring, your physical presence…it really is about listening and giving people your love and energy to make it through another day.

I have experienced the tragic death of my son, many family members and dear friends. I have lived the saying, “If tears could build a stairway and memories a lane, I would climb right up to heaven and bring you home again.” I know how loss feels.

Now I volunteer for a ‘not for profit’ Hospice organization. Doing so I have had the opportunity to see a range of emotional responses to the impending death of a loved one. What has surprised me is that even when Hospice becomes involved often the family members still do not want to ‘go there’ to discuss the inevitable. Avoidance can be life altering – and freeze you in time.

That’s why I wrote my story on the topic of loss. It was my way to try to help people, who have experienced the death of someone close to them, understand that handling death is a process – a long and arduous journey – but one in which peace and acceptance can eventually be achieved. Hearing from a kindred spirit can give us confidence that eventually we will survive, even though we feel we have a hole in our hearts that will never heal.

I have been fortunate to receive emails from many people who have read my book. I am grateful to each and every one of you who took the time to respond. Recently, I have had two nurses contact me after reading it. Since both have experienced death in their own families as well as in the medical profession, I was particularly moved when they also took the time to write to me. A quote from one of them said:

“Anyone who has ever lost a loved one really needs to read Mary’s book, “Just Behind the Door.” It’s raw, it’s honest and one of the very best I’ve ever read, and I’ve read a TON of them.”

If you or anyone you know is struggling with the loss of a loved one please consider
reading the book and then pass it on. When we help a fellow traveler along the way we help ourselves and that is what life is all about. As hard as it is to accept at times, ‘All is as it should be.’

Have a great few days!

Change … Bring It On!

The only consistent thing we have in life is change. For those people who find change intimidating or uncomfortable hold on … you are in for the ride of your life! This ride is not one where you give the vendor a ticket and can choose to get off at a certain time. No… this is a non stop experience so we can either learn to accept, adapt and go with it or …well there really isn’t any other option other than stagnation. I’ll take change any time over that alternative!

Time goes by quickly and change has become so rapid that adapting our mental outlook to see the positives involved in change has become a true survival skill. Whether we are changing schools, jobs, houses or even relationships, at first there is a period of discomfort. Things are different – better maybe – but still different and that takes greater emotional energy from us. If you feel that you are already tapped out of energy it is time for an attitude adjustment. Trust me on this, looking at change from the perspective of growth makes all the difference.

We all have fond memories and connections to certain things in our lives. When those things change, momentarily we are thrown off our game. So what do we do with this discomfort? We can begin to take stock with gratefulness at all of the wonderful memories we have and realize they will always remain with us. Next we can look to the source of the latest change in our lives and determine how this latest change will help us grow as a person. Change may not be easy but don’t we eventually appreciate those things that force us out of our comfort zone? Well maybe not at first, of course. We don’t go around with a sign on our backs that says ‘Change…bring it on!’ Yet we become wiser, more seasoned travelers when we face change with eyes straight at it and our minds determined to make it work. It may take every once of what we have to move forward but is so worth it in the long run.

Now comes the hardest part – wrapping our hearts around the change. We may feel an actual loss inside us when life gives us a major change to contend with along the way. The stages of loss do exist and it is not uncommon to experience them even with a change that you have purposely chosen. It may be confusing and you might wonder to yourself, ‘What’s wrong with me? I chose this change and now I am worried or uncomfortable.’ Well, congratulations it just means that you are human after all! You may feel a loss of security, or comfort because you remember all of the good times associated with what once was in your life. You may even be reluctant to make the change thinking that nothing will ever take the place of what was … and guess what … you’re right. Nothing will ever be the same as what was but it will be different and eventually even better if you take a deep breath and believe that you can handle anything that life throws at you. You have evidence that you have done so in the past and you will do so again. If you wonder why your heart is not totally wrapped around the new and different I would suggest that it means your heart was in what was and that is a call for celebration. You gave a piece of your heart to what was and that’s a great thing. The amazing thing is that the capacity of our hearts to grow is never ending and it will embrace the new change overtime. Be gentle with yourself. Allow the sadness because it is real. Just remember not to allow yourself to remain stuck in the grief for a long period of time because you will be treading water not moving forward. Have faith in yourself and remember that as one door closes another one opens. Get ready to walk through it, head held high because you earned it!

You will look back in a couple of years and realize that life really is better in a host of ways now you have experienced the change. You will feel stronger, wiser and more self confident because you lived through another life challenge and lived to tell the tale.

Have a great few days!