Click on the link below to read my blog post on Claremont Lincoln University's blog, Engage. This was published on April 3, 2017
It's been a really shitty month. There, I've said it. I'm not willing to pretend it hasn't been awful or just look the other way, suck it up, and "get over it". It's devastating when someone who was a part of your family at one time is kidnapped and murdered. It's gut wrenching when someone you admired and who mentored you falls ill and dies unexpectedly. It's frustrating when your health insurance premium hits a level you can no longer afford so you opt to go without even though you'll have to pay a fine for not having it. It's heartbreaking when your beloved pet's death two months ago still brings you to tears and envelopes you in loneliness. It's shitty when a political election goes in a direction you never imagined it could go and the world seems to have turned upside down, inside out, and too many people you love are living in deep genuine fear. Yeah, it's been a really shitty month. And in some ways I think that makes it more important than ever to be grateful!
It's easy to be grateful when things are good: money is flowing, health is glowing, and peace & love are the common mantra. It's not easy to feel and be grateful when things are not so good. But I'm willing to choose gratitude. I'm choosing to be grateful even when it's difficult. It's a coping strategy, really. Being grateful changes the brain, the body, and the spirit. It's life-giving! I have so much to be grateful for and while I will not ignore life's difficulties I also will not forgo gratitude. I hope you can muster the inspiration and courage to be grateful in your difficult times. Maybe one of my favorite grateful videos will inspire. The first is a contemporary song featuring rapper Nimo, and the second is based on a beautiful children's book and features Art Garfunkel.
Here's to being grateful...even when it's difficult.
For reasons that may be revealed as you continue reading, I'm keeping it short and sweet with this post. It's a topic that is timely (always timely) and sorely needed right now: when to speak and what to speak.
When to speak: Please heed the guidance of Indian Guru Sai Baba
Before you speak, ask yourself, is it kind, is it necessary, is it true, does it improve on the silence?
What to speak: Well, think about the fact that your words can literally change your brain! I'm not joking. Positive words increase cognitive reasoning and negative words decrease our ability to manage stress because they stop important neuro-chemicals from being produced. You don't even have to say the words aloud for them to have an impact! Having negative words and ideas in your mind increases activity in the amygdala (the fear center) and invites stress-producing hormones to wreak havoc. You don't take my word for it. Neuroscientist Dr. Andrew Newberg (Thomas Jefferson University) and communications expert Mark Robert Waldman have written about it in their book Words Can Change Your Brain: "Angry words send alarm messages through the brain, and they partially shut down the logic-and-reasoning centers located in the frontal lobes." They also write that when we have positive words in our mind we stimulate frontal lobe activity, and the longer you hold onto positive words and concepts the more other areas of your brain will be affected! Ultimately, with time, your thalamus will change and that means the way you perceive reality will be affected.
So think before you speak and choose your words and thoughts wisely. But only if you want to be happy and flourish! That is all.
Peace. Love. Beauty. Happiness. Comfort. Compassion. Forgiveness. Laughter. Abundance. Gratitude. Wonder. Family. Curiosity. Friends. Flowers. Hope. Puppies....
I haven't been myself lately. Wait. On second thought, maybe I have been myself but haven't wanted to recognize the grieving, unmotivated, and lonely parts of myself that have been showing up everyday for the past twelve days. Let me backtrack a bit. On Sept. 3rd, a rather unexpected turn of events took place. Our beloved, nearly 12-year-old, Maltese had what we think was a stroke. Just 30 hours later we had to put her to sleep. My husband and I are now adjusting to a new "normal" and continue to grieve the loss of our Lucy. We are fortunate to have so many dear friends and family members who call and email with condolences. Several people have asked when we will be getting another dog. That's not in the cards right now. And while knowing that fact, I've found myself thinking about other ways to fulfill my need to be of service to someone other than myself. I'm involved in a few groups where I can be of service in a variety of ways but it's the one-on-one connection that brings opportunities for hope and inspiration that I found my heart yearning for.
Just a few days after Lucy's death, the day before my 53rd birthday I joined the local senior center. I hear you snickering and see your eyebrows raised! And I can't say I blame you. But the Estuary Council of Seniors (don't you just love that name?) promotes healthy and active lifestyles for adults 50 and better (that’s how they actually describe it!). It’s where I’m taking a Tai Chi class and have just signed up as a Friendly Visitor to sit with, or go out to coffee with, a senior who is in need of someone to talk to, laugh with, and share stories with. My heart is doing a little dance at the thought of this latest venture in connection and service.
Finding meaning through volunteering, building and sustaining physical vitality, engaging in caring connections with others, and appreciating the goodness of life are all important keys to flourishing after 50. And that is what I intend to do - flourish! I know that grief doesn't just stop cold. I know that I will cherish the memory of Lucy and forever miss her physical presence in my life. I also know that life is hard and life is good. People are that way too.
I am continually learning to embrace the whole of me and push forward knowing that I am resilient and I am flourishing. I hope you know that you too are resilient and can flourish before and beyond 50! Now if I could just get that senior discount at the movie theater.
I had hoped to post once a week, and did for a short time. Unfortunately, my doctorate research and other obligations have taken priority over the blog. BUT, I will return soon! Some postings may be articles I've written for publication, messages I've delivered in congregational settings, or excerpts from papers written in my doctoral classes.