Sacred Silence

 

Silence can be hard to find. Cell phones and text messages demand our immediate attention; internet messages pop up when we’re trying to focus on a project to say, “You’ve got mail!” or “________ updated their status!” (That always makes me feel lazy and behind the curve and I’m not even sure why…) Everywhere you go there’s a television set on… Restaurants, doctor’s offices, heck, anymore you can’t even fuel your car without watching TV. We have hundreds of channels and it’s still hard to find anything worth watching. YouTube knows just what we like and creates a play list for us before we even ask while Google shows us viewpoints it’s sure we’ll agree with. (How frightening is THAT!? I thought it was a “search engine!” not an “opinion validator.”) Any way…

Silence is hard to find. But as a Mom with a son leaping through the adulthood portal, never to return to his childhood, I was determined to find it. Because I wanted to share conversation with him. I didn’t just want to, I needed to. I needed time to discuss life and I wanted to ensure that no text message would interrupt us with its frantic chirping. So I booked a cruise. A luxurious indulgence at first glance, but I wish to defend it as a necessity for a solo parent launching a man into a world that increasingly makes no damn sense.

For four days nothing interrupted our quiet passage through this life-portal. We read, we ate good food, we talked about life: Mine, his, the future that sits waiting for us both. We watched the Gulf of Mexico float by from our balcony like a giant infinity pool and visited the ancient ruins of the Mayans at Tulum. We marveled at both the complexity and simplicity of their 9-month calendar and organized society. The ground we stood on was developed into a walled city 3,000 years before Christ. The ancientness of the ruins gave breath to our discussions of family and in-laws and futures and life-partners and children yet to be born.

And in those four days of sacred silence (broken only by 80’s dance music from the party deck of the ship and the “whoo-whoo!” of sorority girls on break) we renewed old bonds as mother and son and built new ones as adult friends. He tried a pina-colada as we watched the sunset and gave it an acronym: WGW (White Girl Wasted). “Whoo-whoo!” We spent almost an hour watching the sun set. I can’t tell you how long it’s been since I’ve done that. Our hearts were communing – no words were necessary.

So, now that I’m back on land, I think this idea of sacred silence is a keeper. To carve out some time in our lives where nothing is allowed to interrupt the deep thoughts of our hearts is to honor our humanity. An electronic holiday is a most delightful and refreshing thing!

As our interactions with one another become more distant and driven by technology instead of iced-tea and a rocking chair, sacred silence has never been more valuable or needed. Give it a try. After all, you’re not an electronic receiver, you’re a human being…honor that.

And speaking of honor, how are you honoring your widow’s journey? How you honor yourself on this journey determines a lot about your future.  I’d be happy to talk with you about the Widow’s Recovery System. It’s helped lots of women recover and do wonder-full things! Click here to reserve your personal call! It’s completely free.

 

Destroying Negative Programming

Remember the old television show “Mission Impossible?” Remember how the agent would get his assignment on a cassette tape and once he’d heard it, the tape would self-destruct and go up in smoke?

Wouldn’t it be cool if you could do that with all the negative tapes that run around in your head? Wouldn’t it be cool if all those negative messages people gave you that said you weren’t smart enough or capable enough or attentive enough just caught on fire and burned to white ash? You know what I think? I think setting them on fire is a lot better than letting them run your life.

I’ve worked a lot on my old negative tapes. I haven’t found them all, but each time I find one, I close my eyes and see that Mission Impossible tape catching fire and as the smoke rises up from the tape, I release that self-limiting idea.

The question is: How many negative messages do you really need in your life? How are these old messages of you not being enough, not being good enough, attractive enough, smart enough helping you?

The worst part is that they’re as mean and useless now as they were then. They’re sneaky, too. Have you noticed that they always start playing just when you’re trying something new? Yeah, it’s a real “GOTCHA!”

Negative tapes stink. They show up when you’re trying to rebuild after a tremendous loss and constantly make you question your own strength. They arrive when you’re debating a new career path to remind you that you’re not smart enough or young enough to start something new. They tell you you’ll never be the same when you’re trying to recover from an illness and wonder aloud why, at your age, you would even think about that new exercise program. Are you kidding?  Older women aren’t attractive no matter what they do. They’re insidious and should be labeled for what they are: HIGHLY DANGEROUS!

Burn them I say! Burn them all! When a negative tape starts playing the “You’ll never be able to…” message , just TORCH IT!

Seriously! Just torch it. Because you know what? Life is too short to spend it listening to any message that doesn’t have your best interest at heart. If a thought isn’t on your side, it isn’t worth keeping.

And while we’re on the subject of trying new things, if you’re looking for a guide in your journey back from loss, I’d be honored to help you. We can talk by phone about what that might look like. Email me and we’ll set up a time to talk.

Embracing Another Life Portal

I did it. I ordered two cruise berths to Mexico. To see Tulum, the Mayan city that has fascinated me for years. To take my son, our son, to see it. We are mystics together. It’s his college graduation gift from his Dad and me.

Of course it will just be the two of us. His Dad isn’t here anymore. If he were, he’d want to Zip-line the ruins. I suppose I should be grateful that we get to go by ferry and bus instead.

It was an expense I could barely afford and my internal tabulator was perched on my shoulder screeching, “That’s too much! You could buy a 1980 Toyota for that!” Yes, true. But could I afford not to leap through this portal before my man-child leaves? No. Ultimately, I couldn’t. I was compelled to do it.

Too many life portals get missed. We think we’ll have time to do it later and then we don’t. Our lives are filled with regrets over moments not taken. It’s a big lesson I learned from my husband’s death: LIVE LIFE NOW!

Of course there were a few obstacles. Like the fact that we realized (after I bought our berths) that his passport had expired when he turned 18. The young boy who looked up from the passport wasn’t the same one seated next to me with a beard and a scientist’s perpetual puzzled frown. So he got to go to Atlanta to get a new one and pay a rush fee and everything. We all have to learn about the federal government sometime, might as well be now.

So off we’ll go. Mom and son. Off on another adventure together. No cell phones (Do you know what they charge you to stay connected on board? You can buy a used VW for that!) just Mom and son and a journey into the jungle to explore a world left by the ancients. An appropriate last trip before his adult life begins. I love being mother and son mystics.

Just Breathe

I have just returned from a delightful weekend with the women of First Baptist Church in Gainesville, GA. We had a fantastic time at the retreat. Our theme for the weekend was “Just Breathe.” One of those things that sounds easy, but isn’t.

Our modern life does not give us much time to catch our breath! Here’s some peace-stealers the women named at their retreat: Other people’s needs and schedules; work expectations; medical problems; financial pressure; family expectations, demands and conflicts; social media; commutes and traffic.

These pressures hold us captive
like caged animals in a high-tech zoo.

But each breath we take is really a gift from God that we can become aware of at any time. When we watch our own breath moving in and out of our body, we relax into ourselves inside the inhale and exhale.

We don’t think about our breath too much. Our involuntary respiration system is so efficient we often take each breath for granted. But as we discovered at this retreat, our breath connects us to God, to the natural world, to ourselves and to each other.

When your very breath becomes an act of release and intention, you become a more peaceful and intentional person (Sweet side benefit, right?).

Here is one of the breath techniques I taught the women at the retreat that you can use to release stress, find internal quiet and reset your homeostasis (respiration). It is called the 4-7-8 breath and it was developed to help heart patients manage stress. Here’s how to do it:

THE 4-7-8 BREATH

1. Close your eyes and say the word “releasing” very slowly.
2. Take in your breath on 4 counts.
3. Hold that breath for 7 counts.
4. Release your breath on 8 counts.
5. Repeat two more times.

To make this even better, just stay with that awareness of your breath entering and leaving your body as you offer prayers of gratitude for all that is RIGHT in your life.

When the stress-monsters reappear (and they will, they always do!) just take 3 minutes to do the 4-7-8 breath no matter where you are. It’s so easy and discreet, no one but you has to know you are doing it. That’s my favorite part of breath work…no one has to know but you!

My prayer for you is that you find peace and restoration this day so that you can release yourself from the clutches of grief and move forward into your future. If you are looking for a guide who knows the territory I invite you to explore the Widows’ Recovery System. Email me and we can arrange a time to talk.

 

Making Friends with the Dark

After he died, and the cards and casseroles stopped coming, did you find your life got really dark? Did it feel like someone just snapped off all the lights and then removed all the light switches, too? You are calling on all the bravery you have inside you but can bravery alone get you through this?

There’s an old saying that if you fight with reality, you lose. And the reality is that you are in a very dark place. His death isn’t going away. He isn’t coming back. That’s hard to take, it hurts, a lot. No wonder you feel like a blind cave rat.

But here’s a thought I’d like you to hold onto: all new life is born in the dark.

Think about that for a minute.

It’s winter now, but underneath the hard earth daffodils are getting ready to push through and bloom. Babies spend 9 months in the dark of their mother’s womb getting ready to be born.

If it’s a fact that all new life comes from the dark (and it is, you can Google it) then what new life for you might come from this time of darkness?

Here’s an exercise that you can do to become better friends with the dark. I call it “Lap of God” and all of the women I work with love it!

1. Close your eyes & take 3 deep breaths.
2. Now imagine that you are sitting, in a warm, dark room in God’s lap.
3. Push your body against the chair you are sitting in and imagine God’s arms holding you. Just breathe quietly for as long as you can. If your mind presents other thoughts, let them go and refocus on this vision of being held by God. Stay in this space as long as you need to.
4. Before you open your eyes, take in three more deep breaths.

How did that feel to you? All the widows in the Recovery System love this one! Exercises like this are powerful because they let you release fear gently but effectively.

Can bravery alone get you through this?

Click here to learn more about the Widows’ Recovery System

 

Who’s Helping You Climb?

When a new year starts, it’s easy to have resolutions. What’s yours this year?

I’m going to:_______________________________

You want to move forward! You want to recover from his death. The problem is that life has some weird expectations of widows. And one of them is that you should miraculously just “move on” in three days or less. You’re a brave and determined woman but that’s not real, is it?

Death took a lot out of you. Recovering is a long process. Grief takes a toll that our society doesn’t see.

Finding people to support you as you re-imagine your life is hard, too. Couple friends fade away. You often don’t have the energy to pursue new friendships. Memories and yearnings come like unwelcome visitors in the dark of night.

If you want to re-imagine your life, then let’s talk.

Your discovery call is my gift to you. It’s a chance to sort through the roadblocks society’s attitudes about widowhood might be placing in your way and learn about how the Recovery System will help you.

I believe you can move forward. I believe in the power of your spirit to help you reimagine life now. I would be honored to be your Yoda, your guide on the journey.

Start the new year believing in you. Let’s talk.

How Kind Are You to You?

Here’s a great question to start your new year. Try to answer it honestly.

How kind are you to you?

I ask this question because it really matters. How kind you are to yourself matters all the time of course, but when you’re trying to recover from an illness, a set back, or worse yet, a death, it really matters.

Loving kindness to the self can feel so foreign to our all-American way of persevering with our “No pain, no gain” mentality, 3-day bereavement leave and the highest level of depression in the world.

Supporting your own well being with kindness is one of the most powerful things you can do for your health. And I want you to be healthy in this new year!

So look at this list and pick one of these practices to try on this year:

Hot tea and reading a chapter in a devotional book before bed

A 30-minute walk in a park at least 3 days a week

Making three healthy meals a week from scratch

Taking a restorative yoga class once a week

Using the 4-7-8 breath when you’re stressed at work or at home.

Which one did you pick? Did more than one seem appealing? Great! Did you feel that little spark of hope light up in your heart just now when you picked something from this list?

Our wise self knows that we need self-nurture. If we don’t provide it, we often become ill or depressed (Not a fun way to be in the dark days of winter!).

If part of what you need this winter is someone to get your back and be there as you move forward, let’s talk by phone and see. The call is free. A new Widows Recovery System starts this month. It might be just the thing you need in the new year!

 

What’s Your Theme for the New Year?

As each new year begins I pick a theme to guide my thoughts and behavior. Last year it was “Healthy” and I focused on healthy behaviors, attitudes, diet, relationships and finances. (My other choice was “Passionate” but if you know me very well you know I don’t need a lot of encouragement in that direction.) I highly recommend this to you as an annual practice. It’s one of those positive psychology thingies that really works!

Anyway, my theme for 2018 is FREEDOM and I’m getting excited about that. For one thing, the “horrorscopes” (as my Daddy called them) predict amazing things in the upcoming year for this Scorpio woman. Apparently, all kinds of power is moving into my “houses” month after month this year. An online source purred that my love life will “move so fast you’ll get whiplash!” (Hmm…that sounds fascinating but not in a good way. The last time I got whiplash I spent two months with a chiropractor.) The mavens of the planets also predict that, in addition to my super-charged love-life, my finances will improve and my business ventures will be “blessed by the super full moons that start on Monday, January 1, 2018.”

As if that were not enough, January 1, 2018 marks the seventh year since my husband’s first stroke, the event that changed our lives, and our son’s life, forever. I found this way more exciting than my horoscope because in Jewish culture the seventh year is known as the Shemittah (sabbatical) which literally means “to release.” I didn’t know the exact meaning of this word until after I had chosen FREEDOM for my 2018 theme, but how beautiful is that synchronicity? I’ve spent a lot of time releasing and reinventing, releasing and reinventing. It was how I survived that event and the fatal stroke that followed on the night of my birthday that same year. I’m leaping into my Shemittah with both feet!

But the rules about the religious seventh year are a little different from my horrorscope’s breathless predictions. According to the scripture, in the seventh year you are released from debts and labor but you don’t receive a “Pass Go” into gluttony and sloth. The Shemittah is not a year for idle pursuits. It is a sacred time. It is a time to turn from thinking about what you need to thinking about how you are needed (Oooo. It gave me chills to think about those last four words.). This sabbatical is a time to actively put your faith in G-d instead of your own talents and wiles.

As a person who grew up in a family of origin that highly valued productivity and industrious personal pursuit, this mandate will be challenging for me. (My grandmother’s favorite admonition was, “What are you just standing around for?” closely followed by “Idle hands are the devil’s workshop.” Can you relate?)

Walking the plank between my horoscope and my 7th year sabbatical will require a serious shift in perspective. Instead of “What should be I be doing” I am to consider why I am doing what I’m doing. Instead of worrying about my future and my finances and my aging ability, the mandate is to spend more time in prayer, faithfully remembering that I really don’t know what my future holds (horoscope or no horoscope) since God hasn’t even invited me to be that committee.

As I contemplated this thought-reversal and my theme for the year, I decided that during my Shemittah, “Freedom Year,” I’ll buy my groceries with cash from time to time. That way the words “In God We Trust” on the greenbacks will remind me to focus on two important questions: Who is in charge and why am I needed on this earth?

May your new year be a blessed one.

If you’re looking for some new directions in 2018 and know you need positive support to get there, the Widows Recovery System will start a new program in January. Sign up for your free call and let’s see if it is what you are looking for.

Shedding the Old

It was later than I thought when I awoke.

A heavy frost born in the cold of the night lay like a frosty blanket across the houses in my neighborhood. I let the dogs out and then quickly let them back in. Mr. Pips did his famous hand-stand pee and then raced up to the door that Dot was already boxing with her paw. I had no sooner let them in then they arrived. Six hard-working, Spanish-speaking men crammed into a tiny pick-up pulled up in the drive behind a bigger truck hauling a commercial dumpster.

Hurricane Irma breached my roof and they were here to do a complete tear-off. The thin patchwork that was put in place to stop the leaks was going to be replaced with a brand new roof. Tarps were positioned around the perimeter, ladders lifted the men and their shovels up and, crazy as I know this sounds, I suddenly envied my roof.

Like my roof, I have weathered more than my share of big storms and I have the scars (and a few leaky places) to show for it. It seems my work here on earth consists of building and shedding, building and shedding. I gave up trying to fight the process almost seven years ago, gave into it because I no longer had the energy to pretend it wasn’t going to happen after my husband died.

As the team of men moved like an army across my roof, staying in step and ripping off felts and shingles in a siege against the old protective layers, I felt places in me shift and move and it wasn’t just because of the banging. I, too, have old coverings that need torn off and spent timber that needs replacing. In my attic and my garage are piles of stuff that belonged to the now long-dead (My mom, my Dad, my husband, my old LifeDesign magazine publisher self.). I yearn to be rid of it all, to be free of what I will never use and the sadness of remembering that they will never use it again, either.

A new year approaches and I am ready to be lighter, happier, freer in my own skin. I am ready to again shed what no longer serves me, contemplate that which I know is being built within me by the hands of God, and begin again my dance with life.

If you’re ready to shed what no longer serves you, a new Widows Recovery System program begins in January. You can talk to me about it without obligation, sign up for your call here.

Christmas Expectations

I’ll never forget the Christmas before my son was born. I was about 8 months pregnant and very ready to have my body back. I lumbered around like a bumble-bee and hadn’t seen my feet in months. (My son was breech and the size of a three- month-old, but I didn’t know that at the time.) What I did know was that I wasn’t in charge of my body anymore and to make matters worse, I was on an emotional rollercoaster. It had turned unseasonably cold in the Delta as Christmas drew near and none of my coats fit. My maternity clothes were stretched tight and I couldn’t even tie my own shoes, there was too much baby in the way! Some days I was ready to perform my own delivery and other days I was terrified about the whole idea of giving birth. It was a dreadfully uncomfortable time of waiting for the unknown. I was excited and scared all at the same time.

My first few Christmases as a widow were like that, too. The familiar rituals of the holidays no longer seemed appropriate without my husband and nothing seemed to fit me. I was suspended in a quiet interior space where other people seemed very distant, even when we were in the same room. Sometimes their words seemed slurred or made no sense. My brain couldn’t fully process what had just happened. Carols made me cry. I either had no appetite or ate every cookie and chip in the house. Memories swirled like crazy visions in a carnival mirror. I was trapped in a house of horrors built for one – waiting in the dark for hope to arrive.

I was busy with the real work of widowhood. I was busy giving birth to a new relationship: the one I was forging with myself. It was exciting and scary, all at the same time. I was rediscovering parts of me I had forgotten and making cautious friends with the new wisdom I acquired from death. Just like childbirth, this birthing was both bloody and beautiful. It was filled with pain and joy, all at the same time. With the Holy Spirit as a mid-wife, I gave birth to a new me.

If there’s one thing widows don’t have, it’s delusions about human invincibility. Life forces us to be brave new creatures. We emerge scarred and tested, wise and loving, empathetic and forbearing. Death forces us to confront the last human frontier: our true relationship to ourselves and to God. We are forced onto our knees as we wait in the darkness. From this prayerful position we are able to see by the light of the Christmas star just how God’s hope is given to a weary world. From deep within the darkness, we get it. We finally get it. Life is always being reborn.

So as this Christmas day unfolds, I wish for you the joy of inner rebirth. I wish for you peace within your own heart and memories as sweet as a sugar cookie. Merry Christmas.