Sanity! Your New Year’s Gift

iStock_000008122098LargeHave you ever felt such intense emotion that you could feel your blood vessels pounding in your ears, or your chest tighten from the inside out? How about literally feeling your heart beat so fast that you didn’t know what it was doing? When you finally take deep breaths and start to un-tighten, every muscle begins to ache from being unconsciously squeezed. It hurts to the bone. This kind of emotion hurts the body and the soul. What emotion would we label this? The physical orchestration of feeling helpless, combined with a type of grief and rage where an internal frantic feeling takes over.

Put aside the mood swings of adolescence; the angst of not knowing what to do with your life after being laid off; the shock of entertaining deep loss; the intense ache of the love of a caregiver; confusion of midlife crisis; and the personal summers of menopause. Those are only the innocuous feeling states when you add in the darkest spaces imaginable, one would come close to imagining an episode of feeling out of control.

It is exhausting and very difficult to survive. I suppose feeling out of control encompasses the mind, body connection to a degree that it plays such havoc that one’s body does not understand connectedness any longer.

Now this is a problem.

Grief, worry, sorrow, fear, and pain don’t touch the concept. Truly on every cellular level you shake. Coming back to a feeling of connectedness; then capacity to fully breathe, then sanity, which leads to a sense of calm. After residing in calm and releasing everything, all the negative energy that can fill the space of a body, eventually leads to peace. From this sense of peace, you can regain the mind-body connection again.

So I figure, the sense of being out of control must look and feel like losing one’s mind, body and soul connection. When all three are shaken, you are shattered. When you lose one of these senses, it causes stress. When you lose two of these senses, you feel ill. However, when you lose all three there is no capacity to self-regulate anything. I would guess this feels like insanity. No wonder our immune systems can be so fragile. It is shocking that when one feels out of control our bodies don’t just implode. Maybe they do. That might be the feeling I am looking for: “implosion.” I think that definition should make it to Wikipedia.

Whether healing from implosion or walking back to a feeling of well-being and control, one must start with forgiveness and kindness to oneself. Followed with self-compassion and love. A true respect for surviving implosion. Try being proud of yourself. You have just lost your mind and found it again. That would give anyone a headache and lead to disorientation. For now, let’s celebrate the fact that you still exist. And fully appreciate the courage it takes to survive the feeling of being out of control.

Recovering takes resilience and patience. It is a process, not an event. Appreciate your fortitude. Do not get impatient; this only causes setbacks. Notice every flower, every rainbow, experience every breath fully, and love love love yourself and the life you are coming back to. For those of you who are recovering from a year of being out of control, what an amazing new years gift!

Thanksgiving for the Emotionally Impaired

It’s Thanksgiving; my second Thanksgiving without the love of my life. I’m still breathing, but one shallow breath at a time. The second year of holidays seems to be much harder. The first year, I made sure to have plans. I don’t think I had a moment alone except when I was sleeping, (not that I slept all that well). This year is much more intense. Everyone’s life has moved on except mine, and my eight-year-old daughter’s.

So, what to do? The only thing I can think to do is not focus on our all-encompassing loss as much as I am capable; which, as I write this seems as close to impossible as one can get. Instead, I am going to focus on others. I am looking forward to serving dinner at one of the shelters in Los Angeles, where I live.

To be around homeless, suffering souls feels like a privilege and an incredible lesson to teach my daughter. It seems like the only way to survive this Thanksgiving. Giving love, support, food, a sincere interest in their stories, and a simple smile is what I look for this year. Expressing my sincere respect and admiration for those who are literally wondering where their families will sleep and eat every day, is my privilege. I will take it very seriously as I know they take their dread very seriously.

People with large families and bank accounts are blessed to share their love in person over the holidays. I am blessed to share mine with those who don’t have.

So, as I carry my spouse in my soul and my daughter in my arms, I will have a day to be thankful for the true meaning of giving and appreciation.

I also am thankful for the project my daughter and I plan on creating in honor of my spouse. We are going to begin a wall of thanks. A literal wall made out of bricks, cemented together with actual cement and love. We decided to write one thing we love, miss, and appreciate in our life, then place it in our back yard and add a brick every time our hearts need to yell, cry, or express love. What a great ritual to help us in our healing path.

After, we will have a tea party with scones. Because that’s apparently what 8-year-olds do on Thanksgiving.

I wish everyone who is suffering a loss, a blessed Thanksgiving. I’ll let you know how ours goes.

Happy Thanksgiving.

“Alone” is the New Black

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For the caregiver who’s patient is themselves.

When you are facing an illness that would over power an elephant, the first thing one does is lean into their spouse and family. If you are misfortunate enough to be alone — I don’t mean unloved… I mean ALONE in the sense of having no one available to care for you in the way your illness requires, vulnerability and fear rise to a new height.

For those who find asking for help difficult to begin with, there is a special kind of twist. For everyone who is facing the daunting task of caring for their loved one; as you look in the mirror, the loved one who needs your love and care the most is you. “OH, MY GOD.”

I don’t know when the numbness of the diagnosis begins to wear off, or if it should. I don’t know how you keep yourself well cared for as you hold your own head, and get your own strength up, but somehow strength kicks in.

When you also have others that continue to rely on you is when higher powers come in to play. The energy of the universe simply must abide or the saying, “every man for himself,” takes on the kind of meaning that is simply not possible for a dependent child or parent.

What to do first:

Cry — loudly and fearlessly until your eyeballs hurt. Next, remember how amazing your breath is to the universe, and without it, the earth would be slightly off its gravitational center. Self-love takes on a whole new meaning, as does self-care and gratitude.

Focus on everything that is going well in every second, and appreciate your strength. These are the moments that literally change our perceptions of ourselves. Hold them close as you race to the bathroom and lie on the cool, tiled floor. Although it seems counter intuitive, this is the time to be thankful for the ability to get up eventually and put yourself back to bed.

Your aching for acknowledgement of the extreme strength, persistence and love you are and have, seems endless.

Hold on. You will feel better. Your life’s meaning will definitely shift, and joy will be ever so sweet, just not at this moment. The most intense caregiving is to the self. It requires every emotion to carry you, vulnerability to keep you healing, and anger to fuel persistence.

Hold yourself in your heart, as you are conquering your worst fears while you are showing up for yourself in ways you didn’t think possible.

Nothing and everything matters for those who care to care for themselves.

Waiting…

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As I listen and feel my heart beating, I remember what it felt like to beat in tandem with my spouse. It was an amazing physical, emotional and spiritual experience that I sorely miss.

I miss it especially when I am anxiously waiting in a state of fear. When I could wait with my spouse, I was in a completely different internal energy state. We were in life together; two separate lives intertwined. Waiting with someone who loves your essence is a much easier way to survive terror. Shared fear is like surviving a war with your unit.

As I wait in a fear state now, it feels like I am staring into the eyes of uncertainty.

The feeling of being unconnected while waiting in fear, is as close to what I would imagine insanity feels like. Insanity feels like having no control over anything. The most alone abyss one can visualize on any level is waiting for a diagnosis, waiting to heal, waiting…

The loneliness after the death of the person who has defined life as you know it, can be so imobilizing that your own body begins to fail you. Now you have their absence, and your literal functioning, health, and well-being at stake. This is why attending to your own health, both mental and physical, after this kind of death is imperative to life.

This is easier said than done. Having worked with countless people in this shock-loss state, and having experienced it myself, helps me understand that the emptiness of being isolated overtakes the ability for self-care.

“When will this pain end?” This is the hands-down first question asked. The answer: It Depends. What a horrifying answer to get. It depends on what?

On who the person was to you…

On what the person meant to you…

On the duration of your relationship…

On how severely you watched this person suffer…

On the amount of caregiving that was involved, and the aftermath of that caregiving on you…

Need I go on? It just depends.

Tolerating your feelings through the pain without numbing, albeit terrifying, will lead to much less isolation. This in turn, leads to a healing of the soul and feeling your nervous system again.

So, when the question is, “How long does this pain last?” The real answer is:  as long as I am numb or in a fog, the pain exists. When I am able to live in the vulnerability of loss and life-transition, relief will come. When you find yourself waiting in emptiness and fear, remind yourself that “what exists persists.”

A Warrior’s Heart

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I was asked recently to describe myself in a word.

After sitting in silence for my soul’s definition, words like mother, friend, wife, therapist, and other descriptive words came to mind. However, none of these words seemed to embrace my essence. So after deciding that I was not simply an adjective, I sat breathing into the enormous weight I felt on my chest. This energy morphed into a blank, vast, empty, deep, dark, silent, enormous hole. Words failed. An emotional experience filled me. It was a total five dimension sense of being. Sadness doesn’t come close to describing the depth of this experience.

The thought that came to me was: if I don’t find a way to understand this grief, the experience of living the rest of my life will feel like this hole. I can’t let my spouse’s life become so tragic of a loss that I lose my life force.

How terrible would that be? The amount of love, security, vision, creativity, beauty, kindness, generosity of spirit, brilliant intelligence and enormous joy that was brought to me, and brought to this world, would be in vain.

So, “be strong” takes on a new meaning. I cannot, will not, let this life which was lived to its fullest be remembered and linked to silent torture.

Today, on Labor Day, a day we would be barbecuing, laughing, loving our children and friends, I choose to focus on a life lived, not the life lost. I will lift my energy even if it takes every ounce of courage in me. I will honor and appreciate my life with new dimension. I will allow my spouse’s strength and humility to run through my veins toward my evolution rather than my reinvention.

This is what feels like a necessary step; a necessary leap toward well-being, health and reclaiming my own destiny. I want to impress myself by carrying the love passed to me and through me, leaving me forever changed. Blessed with a new understanding of how life should be lived with a warrior’s heart.

Sometimes Lists Work

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1. I’m going to make a list of things that make me smile.

2. I’m going to make a list of things that makes me laugh.

 3. I will practice with number 1 on the first list.

If I am lucky, I will find something to smile at. If I am blessed, I will find something to laugh at. If I can remember that life is full of humor and joy, I will regain some of my breath.

4. I will work on a list of things that make me tired, the goal being deep relaxing sleep (Lessening the bags under my eyes).

5. After completing enough lists, I am aiming for world peace. NOW THAT IS FUNNY. However, I will settle for a state of calm, well being and peace.

Bucket List

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Why do we have to wait until we, or our loved one, has been diagnosed with illness before we even think about our bucket lists? The older we are, the faster our years seem to pass. Children never say, I wish I could relive first grade when they are in sixth grade. They are busy navigating sixth grade.

Live passionately. You are not here to only be “safe.” To some degree, safety is an illusion. Helen Keller said, “Security is mostly a superstition. It does not exist in nature, nor do the children or men as a whole experience it. Life is either a daring adventure or it is nothing at all.” Love completely. Why do we wait until our life is in danger to love completely? Why do we wait until someone close to us is ill to show our devotion, love and caregiving? You will never fail if you love completely. Live humbly. Knowing that relationships are more important than money. If we put all of our attention on financial success or popularity, without deeply acknowledging that we are who we are because of the people who love us and hold us up, life loses meaning.

You are never really ready to live until you are ready to die. Remember, bucket lists are wishes waiting to be filled. Don’t wait until health reasons hold you incapable to attend to your bucket list.