Take time to grieve

It’s still early enough in the New Year to reflect on the year ahead and think about what you want in 2012.

If this still relatively new year has already brought changes for you, don’t forget to take time to also pay attention to whatever may have ended .  If along with your “happiness” you also feel some sadness, take time for it.  No feelings, especially the mysterious ones you may not be able to explain, should be suppressed or denied.  All life changes are accompanied by many ancillary losses. And, somehow, our body registers them.

A former client of mine had reached the point in his career that he was making a considered move from being the beloved head of one organization to a position as senior partner in another. He was definitely feeling a loss. Even though the change was one he was choosing to make.   I remember inviting him to write down all that was ending for him as he contemplated this particular move.  I also suggested that it was time for a “good man to cry.”   To his credit (male upbringing not withstanding), he did both. His next email to me was, “And what  do I do with these 17 pages of losses which I have identified?”

He taught me that we can underestimate the number of losses that accompany changes, whether those changes are unexpected, or desired and planned for.  Taking time to grieve, acknowledging the losses as losses, is the process that heals.  Elizabeth Lesser writes in her book, Broken Open: “I am not a big fan of “closure.”  It sounds so abrupt, so tidy, so final. I prefer old-fashioned words like  mourning, lamentation and grief.  They suggest a slow and sloppy process…” While not to be confused with clinical depression, this slow and sloppy process of grief that I am suggesting we take time for, includes feelings of depression.

After the death of her older husband and devoted soulmate, Elsa Weber decided to honor the import of his passing and take serious time to grieve. For a year.  She did not put pressure on herself to jump back to doing ”something”, but rather to track her process of healing and learning about who she was and would become, without this special man at her side. She beautifully documents the downs and ups of her year of grief and discovery in her recent book, A Beautiful Mourning.

Serendipitously, at a recent business meeting, I sat at a table with a woman who headed up a local grief service. Rick’s Place provides support to grieving children and their families.  While formal spousal bereavement groups abound, I had never heard of such a service dedicated to the needs of children, stricken by the loss of family members or friends.  Referred by school counselors, the service provides space and processes for children to both acknowledge and to be acknowledged for the normal process of grieving.  What a gift!  They aren’t left alone to act out these very human feelings in dysfunctional ways.

Fourteen years ago, my own experience of losing health and mobility and an anticipated future as a tennis playing senior, taught me a great deal. Sadness and regret can surface and resurface at any time.  I do my best to notice when it does.  I welcome it as a signal that I am human.  And I write about it when the spirit moves me. Other feelings typically emerge after one deeply surrenders to grief.  Gratitude and celebration for what I do have often follow.

How are you managing the changes in your life?  As you think about what you want, what might you have to give up?  Any unanticipated losses in your life?   In order to move forward in 2012, could it be that you need to take the time to identify and grieve some endings?

Take time to experiment II


For a long time it had seemed to me that life was about to begin – real life.

But there was always some obstacle in the way, something to be gotten through first,

some unfinished business, time still to be served, or a debt to be paid.

Then life would begin.

At last it dawned on me that these obstacles were my life.

~ Alfred D. Souza

YES, we are living life, our lives.  In how much of our lives are we reacting to the obstacles?  In how much of our lives are we choosing and creating our own path forward?

In my view, our life writ large is an experiment. Or, at least choosing to see it as such, gives us more freedom to actually stop experimenting in one area or another and to start a new experiment.  We can feel more control, as we are the experimenter with this life we have and not the victim of it.

There is no dearth of models around to give us inspiration.

I was inspired by an extreme example on a recent YouTube video someone emailed to me. An Australian, Nick Vujicic, a young man in his 20s or 30s born without arms or legs, delights in speaking to teenagers, and by his very own presence, demonstrates that a) we can do anything, and b) what most of us get “bent” about is really small potatoes.

Are you unhappy?  Are you sad about the trajectory of your life?  Have you reached a point that it is time to reevaluate and think afresh?   What would give you more joy?  How can you bring more meaningful activities into your life?  How can you develop more “human beingness?”

And, are you willing to take time for  the whole process of engaging with these questions as your next “experiment” in life?

Take time to experiment I

I love experimenting through life and encourage more of you to do so.  On the one hand , it gives me a way to “hold” any failure or the less-than-hoped-for result that may occur.  I can say, “I tried something out and while it may not have worked so well, I learned….”  On the other hand, it allows me the ease to keep moving forward in life and trying stuff. There is not such a big risk when you are less invested in perfection, and more curious about learning.

It’s a conscious thing with me.  When I’m faced with a new project about which I have some trepidation, like putting a first newsletter out  to a new mailing list and feeling vulnerable with my thinking and with my organically shifting intentions, I’m aware it takes a little courage. I don’t want to look like a fool.  Soooo,  I find myself sitting at my desk having a brief  “courage conversation” and talking myself into it. The bottom line of the little dialogue usually ends up like this:  “It is an experiment after all, and as long as I am honest about the process, I’ll learn what it needs to be on the next iteration. Whatever happens is OK.”

When I think about it, that’s the mind set that enabled me to write 3 books–all experiments.  It enabled me to go to Greece and Brazil, despite limited mobility.  Thankfully all “experiments”  succeeded beyond my expectations.

Mistakes are the usual bridge between inexperience and wisdom. ~ Phyllis Theroux

It was seeing this quote that reminded me of my own philosophy and prompted me to pen some thoughts on the topic.   Experimenting is my gift to myself…and very possibly to others.

Consider this:  Perhaps,  getting out there, no matter what it takes to persuade you to do so, is not only your path to wisdom, but your gift to the world.

What do you think?