Self Care: the One Year Mark

The anniversary of Don’s passing is coming up in a few days and I’ve been deeply affected by it.  Don wasn’t only my husband; he was my best friend and the best person I’ve ever known.  Certainly the most solid.  I spent almost half my life with him.  Watching the struggle and rapid decline of someone who was my rock was the worst experience of my entire life.  I am only now beginning the healing process.

Some of these photos I’ve never seen before because they were recently sent to me.

Photo: Fred To
Photo: Fred To

People say it will get better but so far I don’t know what they’re talking about.  As of today, I can say that I’m managing my grief.  I say managing because I’m living with it, not overcoming it.  I don’t have a time frame for when it will affect me less; maybe never.

Grief feels very solitary. Even if we’re not alone we’re still alone in our grief because it’s all individual.  No one can tell me otherwise.  But there are a few similarities with others living with loss.  We work through it.

Working through grief is painful and tough.  It’s about finding ways to live alongside your loss; building a life around the edges of what will always be a vacancy. Making sense of something senseless.  We live in a culture that doesn’t understand.  It’s not really our fault that we’re ignorant. We’ve grown up with what we’ve learned; trying to fix things and make everything better.  Most people mean well.  But knowing that you had a good life with a partner doesn’t cancel out the fact that they’re no longer here to continue with the life you had.  Certainly doesn’t make one feel any better.

Photo: Fred To.  Our mutual friend Colleen Kohse was sitting on the other side of Don (but she would not have approved the photo of her in this shot).  RIP dearest Colleen.

It’s even more difficult if someone looks for the flaws in how someone got to where they were.  Hearing things like he/she didn’t really take care of themselves, didn’t exercise enough, or exercised too much, didn’t take proper vitamins or took too many.  They should never have taken that turn; things like that. As if that would have changed the outcome.  It’s hard for some people to accept the cold hard fate of what is.

Photo by Willy. I was surprised to see this up on the screen at Beth’s recent Celebration of Life. At former Heaventree Gallery from our Ambience of Africa photo exhibit.  RIP beautiful Beth.

So you try to heal as best you can.  You continue to go out with friends but there’s a huge void.  And there are moments where you lose yourself in laughter which feels great, but then you may feel guilty because your partner is not here to laugh alongside you.

Don with his mom Jean. She was lovely.
Don with another love.

Transforming  grief into a work of art that touches someone has been and continues to be a way of healing.  The best songs, poetry, movies and art are created out of loss.  Expressions of great pain were reflected by the images of Picasso’s Guernica or in the words of writers like C.S. Lewis.  Or Eric Clapton’s song Heaven written about the loss of his little boy.  Creating art out of loss is certainly not a fair trade for the loss, but sharing an expression of grief with others can help tell the story and stay connected to who you’ve lost.  Many people find that journaling helps.

*There is something to be said about our biology being affected by grief.  Losing someone close to us changes our biochemistry.   Respiration, heart rate, and nervous system responses are all partially regulated by close contact with familiar people and animals: these brain functions are all deeply affected when we’ve lost someone close.  I’m not a neurobiologist (surprise, surprise) however it is a factor of neurobiology.  Losing someone close changes us is ways we never could forsee.

Activist Don with friend Ruth

Then there’s the emotional rollercoaster just when you think you’ve got it all under control. And so you cannot expect everyone to understand your being overly sensitive or acting a little irritable at times.  Your real friends of course will understand some occasional out of character behaviour as being related to a deep sadness.  Someone said “those who support your shifting needs are the ones to keep in your life.  The others?  They can be set free.” Well meaning people can sometimes be very unkind; even cruel.

So missing someone who you’ll never get to see again in this lifetime is like finishing a great book that you like so much you don’t ever want it to end.  You turn the last chapter but the storyline will resonate with you for the rest of your life.  

And that my friends is what true love is all about.

*Source: Megan Devine, therapist + author

 

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Feel-good Friday: in my dreams

I had a dream. A very vivid albeit absurd dream last week.  Or was it?

Obsidian Butterfly

I told a few people about my dream and they suggested I blog about it because as it turns out, it contains quite a powerful message.  And I swear that I was not aware that apparently it could be a thing because Dennis Rodman and a few others had already done what I’d dreamt about.  You know you can’t even have a simple dream now without someone else having done it before you.

Anyway, in my dream I was getting married again….but to myself.  I told you it was strange.  I had a white dress, flowers in my hair and glass of wine in my hand (naturally) but no man in sight.  It appeared pretty clear that there was only me, myself and I.  And I was happy (key word).  Then I woke up.  Then I could not get back to sleep.  I pondered about the strange dream and what it meant. And it feels weird to even try to explain it here.

Now your first reaction could likely be how very sad and lonely she must feel and I would think the same thing had it not been for the feeling of happiness inside the dream.  Don’t get me wrong – I’m nowhere near being over the sadness of losing Don and might never get over it, but this gives me a little boost of hope in a powerful message.  Because what I believe (rather choose to believe) what the message is really saying is that through grief we still can find happiness.  Without going too deep, happiness within ourselves.

But aside from Dennis Rodman who I’m sure is extremely happy, I found out that a woman named Linda Baker was apparently the first person to marry herself in the US back in 1993 as a celebration of her 40th birthday.  And then I remembered the episode of Sex and the City when Carrie Bradshaw gave herself a wedding shower for one.  Apparently Sologamy, the act of marrying yourself, is on the rise across the globe. ???

I think that’s a great choice.

And I didn’t dream that up.

But it didn’t take a fortune teller or psychic to tell me that my dream, in a nutshell was making a commitment to myself, fully.

That there is no man, job or circumstance to make me more whole – because I already am (okay more likely I’m trying to get there).  I might be missing what I had, but I’m all I really need. I will be with me in sickness (god forbid) and in health. Besides, I will never leave myself.  I’m stuck with me for better or for worse so better to make the most of it…meaning, me (as it).  OMG… what a clear message.  Because if you really think about it….another person cannot fully complete you.  You have to be together and fairly complete yourself because you cannot expect another person to do that for you – it’s too much to ask.  So to make a relationship work you have to have a solid foundation first and foremost.

And I was thinking…what kind of person would I like to attract? Okay; truth be told, someone kind of like me.  AHA moment. Someone solid, with a sense of humor, who likes to cook or at least enjoy food,  a non-smoker, non-drinker (I mean someone not excessive), animal and shoe lover, likes to go for walks and enjoy travel.  Is that too much to ask?  Maybe. So I will be all I needat least for now.  It’s nice to dream right?

Thoughts?

 

 

 

Culture/Film: Mightier than the Sword

Film for Thought

When you believe in something that’s bigger than yourself you fight to make yourself heard.

Journalist Roberta Staley is fighting for women’s rights in Afghanistan.  Having traveled  undercover to Afghanistan on several occasions,  she took risky chances trying to create positive change.  She’s responsible for the award winning documentary entitled  “Mightier than the Sword” which has helped enpower women over there by giving them a voice to be heard.  A major accomplishment.

Rahibib Rahimi (L) and Roberta Staley (R)

I first met Roberta in a Spanish class over coffee in 2012 and was intrigued when she said she’d be leaving for a few weeks to go on assignment for Elle Magazine. In Afghanistan no less.

The Story (in brief)

Roberta went back to Afghanistan three years later to tell the story of Mozhdah Jamalzadah, a regular person here and a superstar in Afghanistan, where she’s a powerful voice for women similar to that of Oprah.  The Vancouver raised woman is actually referred to as the Oprah of Afghanistan.

This 48-minute documentary focuses on Afghan female journalists and filmmakers and their impact on gender perceptions and gender equality. In Afghanistan, a significant advance since the fall of the Taliban has been the entry of women into the media as reporters, directors, writers, producers and authors.

Excerpt by Lucas Aykroyd from Vancouver Magazine:

The powerful debut by Vancouver filmmaker Roberta Staley examines the impact of female media personalities in Afghanistan’s fight for gender equality. Staley, an award-winning editor and longtime contributor to Vancouver magazine, created the new 48-minute film to complete her Master’s degree in graduate liberal studies at SFU. After spending three weeks in 2012 in the Central Asian nation on assignment for Elle, she returned there in 2015 to shoot Mightier Than the Sword in 35 C weather during Ramadan. Staley remortgaged her condo to finish the film, which cost her more than $80,000. “That’s what you do when you believe in something,” she says. “I was obsessed with telling this story about the media and how it was changing gender perceptions and gender equality.”

View Trailer:

http://www.mightierthanthesword.ca/videos/

More to come

Monday Mood: Meaning

My Monday mood board is normally light but sometimes we just need to vent. And sometimes it takes more than that.  Sometimes it takes an army to get a message across. Sometimes our lives depend on it.

March For Our Lives 

Looking west, people fill Pennsylvania Avenue during the “March for Our Lives” rally in support of gun control, Saturday, March 24, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon)

The kids have spoken.  We cannot keep America great if we cannot keep America safe. 

On Saturday, March 24, kids and families in cities across the country and around the globe took to the streets to demand change to gun control laws, so that their lives and safety become a priority in order to end gun violence and mass shootings in schools NOW.

The main protest was organized by students from the High School in Parkland, Florida, where a gunman from the same school killed 17 people and injured others on Valentine’s Day. March for Our Lives was anchored by the main event in Washington, D.C.

Sometimes it’s the very people who no one imagines anything of who do the things no one can imagine.

On Grief and Grieving:

Death can give focus to what money can and cannot buy.  It can teach us what being rich is all about.  No amount of money can ever replace the loss of someone we love.

Wealth and poverty are states of mind.  Many people without money feel wealthy, while many rich people can feel poor.  Death is a factor that changes all our views as we are forced to evaluate our worth and what ultimately matters in life – by Elisabeth Kubler-Ross, M.D. & David Kessler.

I like this quote from Mahatma Gandhi – Live as if you were to die tomorrow. Learn as if you were to live forever.

On life Lessons:

Maya Angelou told Oprah Winfrey: When people show you who they are, believe them the first time. Your problem is you have to be shown 29 times.

How many of us have to be shown 29 times or more?  Why do we have a lack of discernment for things that appear to be obvious?

Character is very much a defining matter in everything.  Integrity is important.

If we’re not living life to the fullest we can at least create meaningful moments. That to me, seems reasonable.  Because someone’s idea of living life to the fullest can mean jumping out of a plane every day while someone else might feel that reading a book a week is the answer.

What do you think?

 

 

 

 

Self Care: Words from the Wise

Six months, when looking ahead seems like an eternity, but when looking back, it’s a blink of an eye.  It really is.

One of my best friends gifted me with a book entitled when thing fall apart when things fell apart after losing my husband.  Unknowingly, my sister gifted me with the very same book.  They both believed the book would help guide me to some understanding or at least a place of acceptance.  It was an interestingly thoughtful read and it did help to some degree.  At the very end there was a website where you could enter your e-mail address to receive weekly mindful insights to your inbox.  Reassuring insights are always encouraging, especially when they come from an American woman who became a Tibetan Buddhist.

Like all explorers, we are drawn to discover what’s out there without knowing yet if we have the courage to face it. -Pema Chödrön

Just wanted to share one which I feel to be thought provoking and true.  Let me know if you agree.

THE UNIVERSAL DILEMMA

The source of our unease is the unfulfillable longing for a lasting certainty and security, for something solid to hold on to. Unconsciously we expect that if we could just get the right job, the right partner, the right something, our lives would run smoothly. When anything unexpected or not to our liking happens, we think something has gone wrong. I believe this is not an exaggeration of where we find ourselves. Even at the most mundane level, we get so easily triggered—someone cuts in front of us, we get seasonal allergies, our favorite restaurant is closed when we arrive for dinner. We are never encouraged to experience the ebb and flow of our moods, of our health, of the weather, of outer events—pleasant and unpleasant—in their fullness. Instead we stay caught in a fearful, narrow holding pattern of avoiding any pain and continually seeking comfort. This is the universal dilemma.

When we pause, allow a gap, and breathe deeply, we can experience instant refreshment. Suddenly we slow down, look out, and there’s the world. It can feel like briefly standing in the eye of the tornado or the still point of a turning wheel. Our mood may be agitated or cheerful. What we see and hear may be chaos or it may be the ocean, the mountains, or birds flying across a clear blue sky. Either way, momentarily our mind is still and we are not pulled in or pushed away by what we are experiencing. – Excerpted from: Taking the Leap: Freeing Ourselves from Old Habits and Fears – by Pema Chödrön

Why do people look for outside help or answers, and in doing so discover spirituality?  It’s a survival mechanism to deal with life’s challenges which hits you in the face.  I found out Pema came to explore her spirituality as an attempt to cope with the emotional trauma of her failed marriages. 

About Pema:

One of the most beloved of American Buddhist teachers, Pema Chödrön has devoted her life to inspiring people to awaken and has changed many lives in the process. She is the author of many influential books, such as When Things Fall ApartLiving Beautifully, and The Places that Scare You. Her writing, which explores Buddhist concepts and offers paths to conquering subjects such as suffering, fear, and difficult times, has inspired people worldwide.

My advice: You take sound advice from the wise until you’re wise enough to offer your own.

Any advice?

 

Hello hello…

Good riddance 2017!

If you take away the “o” in “Hello” that’s what kind of  year it’s been.

That may sound harsh, but realistically it was the worst year of my life. It was not only a  year full of  world catastrophes and lives lost to the cruel irrational behaviour of degenerates on the news every other day, but for me it was a year chock full of deep seated challenge and great personal loss.   But I did have three good things happen.  I purchased a little piece of paradise in Palm Springs and one more dog to enjoy it with.  I also reconnected with my childhood bestie all the way back to grade school in Montreal.  Other than that…. 

I couldn’t wait for 2017 to end and didn’t make any New Year’s resolutions.  Only reflections on the year left behind and what lies ahead.  So after a quick toast to a new year and an off to bed early evening, it didn’t exactly start off as planned.  I found my place in the sun but I’m writing this from bed where I’ve been for the third day in a row.  I don’t remember being this sick.  Coughing, listless and a bit dizzy when I get up although I managed to do a little better today.  Nothing seems to be working. Feeling a little sorry for myself. There’s an epidemic going around California so I hear.  Thank you very much. California welcomed me with open arms and a virus.

I’m hopeful things will get better because it’s only the second week of a new year.  A fresh new start. And nothing can be worse than what I went through last year up until the very end I might add. I’m not looking for miracles or expecting that a new year will make all the sadness and madness erased from my memory (which as I’m writing this reminds me of the movie (“Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind”) but I plan to make positive changes, handle some things differently, learn from bad experiences (which is the only positive thing I can come up with from having had a bad experience), remove people from my life who have not been there for me when I most needed them (you know who you are) and find some peace of mind. And live stress free as long as I can.

I came out here with media credential to cover the Palm Springs Int’l Film Festival (which is one of the largest film festivals in North America with an incredible film lineup and movie stars in attendance for the celebratory annual Film Awards Gala, and a host of other exciting parties ).  I saw the opening night movie but missed a bunch more I wanted to see but it doesn’t end until the 14th so we’ll see how I make out. I missed a screening of “Wonder Woman” with Gal Gadot in attendance, “The Polka King” with Jack Black in attendance and also Annette Benning was here for “Movie Stars don’t die in Liverpool”.  Darn!

After the opening there was a reception at the Palm Springs Art Museum (I love that building) but I went straight home after the movie ended.  I wasn’t planning to schmooze with the stars, it was enough seeing Steven Spielberg, Meryl Streep and Tom Hanks give a half hour talk about their very first collaborated film together.  It was informal and very interesting.  And let’s face it, they are the crème de la crème.

When I got to the theatre looking for the red carpet a man visiting from Boston went to his car, grabbed his sweatshirt and made me put it on after he heard me cough and decided I wasn’t covered up enough.  That’s what gentlemen are like!  I know because I was married to one.  And you’ve got to love people from Boston.

Getting back to last year, I lost a total of six people.  My husband, one of my best friends, a friend I only met last summer but who was awesome, and three other good people I knew.  When people say “well you know we’re at that age when we start to lose people in our lives” I cannot accept that.  If only because one of those people was a 38 year old woman, a man in his fifties who was senselessly murdered (wrong place, wrong time) and two others in their fifties. So you would never say to the friend of the 38 year old “well you know you’re at that age….”  It just doesn’t make sense to me.  Because as it so happens some people die young.  It’s the god awful truth.

So if last year taught me anything at all it’s that you cannot control in many circumstances the way things turn out. This year I’ll try to calm down, listen to my intuition, make the most of the life I’ve been given and accept change the best I can.  We need to still believe in love, have a sense of humour and family is the most important. And true friendship. Believe me you get to see who your real friends are when lightening strikes.  It’s good to know.

So if you were given a chance to erase from your mind all the bad things that happened would you do it?  You know what…as tempting as that sounds I don’t think I would play around with mother nature.  These are life lessons and hard school knocks and apparently they are character building. I’m quite the character I’m told. And I know that this year no matter what, it has to be better than last!

Here’s to an upswing of a Bright New Year!

 

 

 

Little things

Life is a good teacher and a good friend.  Things are always in transition, if we could only realize it.  Nothing ever sums itself up in the way that we like to dream about.  The off-center, in-between state is an ideal situation apparently , a situation in which we don’t get caught, and in which we can open our hearts and minds beyond limit.” – from When Things Fall Apart.I am now the proud mom of Siamese Twins

And the little camper that could go practically any place, from beach to rocky road and everywhere in between

It’s all BIG!

Celebrate Good Times

because eventually all good things come to an end

Photo: d. king

It was one hell of a good run while it lasted.  It is with a huge void,  big hole in my heart and ultimately resigned acceptance that I finally got it together to organize a celebration of life for my husband Don. Just short of three months after he passed, and on Remembrance Day no less.

He didn’t want a service, big hoopla or anything pretentious.  Just a gathering of people closest to him at home with food, music and memories.  He never mentioned a slideshow although with help from a friend we managed to put together a lovely showing of images from past travels and our life together and some heartfelt words from those who treasured him.  Hooked up by computer to TV, it continued to loop around while people mingled.  My dear friend Ryoko, who is responsible for us meeting was here and gave an unrehearsed funny speech and managed to sum up in a few short minutes what Don was all about.  It was perfect in it’s simplicity,  warmth and endearment.   Just like Don himself.

Outside a winery in Napa – 2013
I’ll try my best; no promises.

 

 

It’s never too late to…

Act on your dreams.

Be what you want to be (or better still; who you want to be).Change your future.  Sometimes the future makes changes without your consent. Makes changes you didn’t want or hope for.  But you can still make some changes that will make a difference.

Do things differently.

Enrich others’ lives.

Face your fears.

Get out of neutral.

Have fun.

Initiate friendships.

Jumpstart possibilities.

Knock the “t” off can’t.

Live enthusiastically.

Be Nonjudgmental (try, try hard!)

Orchestrate your legacy.

Plan for tomorrow.

Question your priorities.

Reinvent yourself (even if you’re not Madonna or David Bowie).

Stop keeping score (unless you have money on the game of course).

Take a leap of faith.

Uncork your mind (maybe along with a good bottle of wine).

Value who you are.

Wake up your luck.

Explore your spirituality.

Yearn for fulfillment.

Zoom in on love.

Source: Meiji Stewart – A taste of Chicken Soup to Inspire a Woman’s Soul.

Words of Wisdom

On Life

Life Lessons from Het Patel

At the beginning of October 2016, Het wrote a list of his life lessons.  Sadly, he died unexpectedly and suddenly two weeks later at the age of 37.  The one year anniversary of his passing is coming up this month.  I would like to share with you a selection from his 34 philosophical quotes on living. His life was cut short and he had so much more to give. But even in times of mourning there are moments to feel good about. Think about it:

Our brains are our greatest asset and our worst enemy.

A smile can hide the deepest pain.

The fabric of life is change.  We can’t often stop it.  We can’t always fight it.  Acceptance is, most of the time, the best way to deal with change.

We barely understand ourselves, yet we’re confident that we can understand others.  That’s kind of silly when you think about it.

The best moments in life are spent in the company of loved ones – regardless of what you’re doing.

Nothing in life has meaning, other than the meaning we put on it.

Accepting that we will die one day, is key to knowing how to live. – Het Patel

 Life Lessons from Dogs

 Living moment to moment, no worries whatsoever, an innocence, acceptance, playfulness and trust that escapes most of us humans.  Refreshing!  If only we could live like that!

We can all cope with the battles of today.  It’s when we add the worry of tomorrow, and the regret of yesterday, that we break down. – Het Patel.

Have a happy weekend.  No regrets!