Bravery

Bravery

Bravery.

I don’t often think about this characteristic in myself or in others and yet it is one of those that seems to either drive one’s entire life or is left out altogether. What does it even mean to be brave? I am sure the dictionary has a clever definition of this substantive word, but I often like to ask myself what does the word mean to me — or to turn and ask what it means to you?

For me, bravery means you are “out on the edge of the branch” with yourself. You recognize what is safe and what is risky and, if it really means a lot to yourself, you take the chance and risk into something that is out of one’s comfort zone — that takes bravery. That takes leading life “out there” not know what will happen, but also knowing you have your own back to catch yourself if you fall rather than fly.

Is that how you would define bravery? I would be curious to hear your definition.

How do you know when you are being brave? Well, when you are scared to speak a truth or have a conversation at all — that is brave. If you are doing something for the first time that is uncomfortable and unfamiliar — that is brave. If you are risking a part of yourself to love, to create, to enjoy, and to do just about anything else — that is brave. Breaking a pattern or a way of being — that is brave.

Sometimes it is important to remind one’s self all the ways you’ve been brave in your life to date. My guess is you are already braver than you think. Make sure to take the long inventory of your life to think through how bravery has played into your life in so many of the decisions you have made. For me, I have a laundry list — heading to India on an intuitive notion and giving up my whole world to reconcile my bi-racial identity, meeting a man and moving countries to find out what we may be to one another and ending up marrying him 18 years ago, creating a start-up business out of pure passion and riding her to the end and letting go when it was long past time, facing myself both the good and bad parts and extending compassion to both.

I am thinking you have your own unique bravery list, but I also want to shine the spotlight on people who don’t care to be brave. For some, this is not how they want to lead life. Instead they value safety, familiarity, patterns and rhythms that are abiding through the ages personally and across time. This may take the shape of someone who accepts things at status quo, lives the life that was laid before them as a child and walked on through, and does not break out or away from the known throughout life. I don’t necessarily think these people are not brave, I just don’t think they prize this as a desirable characteristic.

Yet, even then, to live is brave. Even if we are to go forward with no abrupt changes or departures, we will grow up, grow old, lose loved ones, make decisions related to our careers, perhaps meet and marry and maybe raise a family. Even in the mundane, bravery is brimming over the cup. To be human, to live is to be brave. It does not have to be any extraordinary journey that we need embrace to claim it for ourselves.

To live is to be brave.If you were to define bravery, how would you frame it for yourself? From there, what has been your bravest moment in this life?

Cheers to you and your bravery.

Losing A Beloved Pet

Losing a Beloved Pet

Losing a beloved pet.

The idea has always felt so far away to me — until one week ago when I lost my beloved pet,

Pepper was a spunky, courageous, forward-looking pet who lived and moved with purpose. He was also a dog who allowed me to own him — which is often the case with a Scottish Terrier. The Scottie dog is about having an independent life even as he shares his life with you. I had them all my life as I grew up and I guess it was always my fate to have a wee lad as an adult.

Pepper hailed from Utah — one of five in a litter that summer of 2010 — he was the last of the litter to be taken from the breeder at 14 weeks old, which is kind of late to get a puppy. Yet, when I called I wanted a brindle Scottie dog that was 14 weeks old and I told the breeder his name would be Pepper. She said his Grandma and Mom were named Piper and Poppy — this dog is yours.

And was he ever. We were independent of one another and yet completely in sync. For the first five years of Pepper’s life, I walked him four times per day. We would walk and walk and walk. From there, we moved and he had a small urban oasis backyard where he ruled the corner of our neighborhood. Nothing got past him – and he always was chasing squirrels and looking for kitty cats. At night, he came inside and took his place on his window bench and would rule the other end of the corner keeping guard nightly.

When the time came, I lost Pepper quickly. Apparently he had cancerous tumor in his spleen that was causing him to bleed into his abdomen. This went on for quite awhile and we thought these were gastro episodes as he always had a weak constitution, most likely he was the runt of his litter. After treating him with some pain meds, he would be back to himself in a day.

Until the day came last week when the pain was not taken away no matter how much pain meds we gave to him. I always knew I did not want Pepper to suffer and would let him go before that truly took hold of his entire being. And so the hospice vet came in and we euthanized him in our home in his favorite spot. There was no real ceremony — I know many people make a loving plan. For us, it was just apparent that morning and we needed to help him out of his pain as quickly as possible.

And so I ended up holding him close to me as I said all the favorite phrases he loved and then laid him down and I saw his beautiful brown eyes sweep his corner one last time — and then he was gone. Just like that.

I am a childless woman and I suppose that makes me – like many others – turn to my pets to take on the role of children in my life. With our pets, they are only with us for a short amount of years and Pepper was no exception taking his leave at the age of 10. However, for me he was 2 forever. In this way Pepper’s loss feels like the loss of my second child. He was mine and I was his — all the years.

When I first met Pepper at the Salt Lake City airport, I looked at him in my arms and said to him, “You are going to break my heart.” And he did. But that day one week ago, I know my broken heart was so worth it. We had such a fun ride together. I really wouldn’t trade it for the world. I wouldn’t trade it for not feeling the pain I feel today.

Now is the time for grief, for remembering, for hurting, for being with myself and extending compassion to myself. I know he had an amazing life and I still have regrets. I have a new puppy, who came in before Pepper departed, and I wonder is my love for him taking away from my fidelity to Pepper? This is the complexity of grief. In time, I will sort it out and come out the other side.

For now, I remember and love on my Pepper.

Hello February

Hello February

Hello February!

And where exactly did January go to? I know life in many ways is still very limited due to the COVID pandemic, particularly in states like WA, but it feels like time is still flying by even as lockdowns continue.

I always look forward to February. First it is a short and sweet month — four perfect weeks made up of 28 days. When Leap Year falls every four years it is also quite unusual. February also bridges the seasons between winter and early spring. Once March rolls around we know we are going to have longer days, bulbs blooming, and some warmer days. So, February is that short bridge to early spring. Ah!

And then there is the sweetness that comes from chocolates, flowers, and Valentine cards. Do you celebrate? Granted this is often noted as a “Hallmark Holiday,” but I love to show my family and friends how much I love them with special cards and candies. I make sure to have fresh flowers on hand and chocolate of all types for a sweet treat here and there. I know it can often feel bittersweet if we are single or recently broken up with, but I believe there is still the opportunity to spread and receive all types of love if we put ourselves in the space of love — just love.

Finally, this is a month to learn as we celebrate Black History Month. And all of us have so much to learn about black history that is rich and enlightening to the historical context of our nation and how the past history is shedding light and perspective on today. This is the perfect month to pick up a book on a black historical figure or event and to grow in understanding. And don’t stop there with your own understanding. Seek to pass along what you learn to your family and friends – perhaps have a group of your friends and family commit to learning about black history and at the end of the month hold a Zoom discussion to learn from one another.

February is whisked in after the very first month of the year has taken its bow. It’s up to each one of us to make the most of the next 28 days that are ours to spend in many different ways. Here’s to learning, love, and hopping the bridge to early spring.

Happy New Year

Happy New Year

Happy New Year! How did it feel for you to turn the calendar from 2020 to 2021?

Most people I know felt a whole lot of relief and happiness as they saw the end of 2020 – a year that was full if unexpected challenged from public health to job insecurity to financial hardship to isolation and more. Even worse? It was all unexpected — a complete shock to ourselves as things unfolded and then dragged on and on — still actually dragging.

However, there was hope in turning the calendar a few days ago. We did end 2020 with seeing our healthcare workers getting vaccinated. Wow! Our US healthcare system may soon be completely secured from the pandemic. That is definitely hopeful — and we all know that we will have out turn sometime in the New Year.

With the vaccine there is also the hope that our lives will resume to normality — but I am left to wonder will it be a new normal? The pandemic has gone on long enough that people are making new habits, living their lives along different rhythms, and orientating meaning in a different way. Dare I say it almost feels like a return to olden day ways. We are at home most of the time, cooking our own food, spending time with our family constantly – not just quality time – discerning who we really want to share time with via Zoom, engaging with our children on a deeper level, and more. Life has shifted and it’s not all been bad — the break from our break-neck, fast-paced lives has provided us with a different way to live our lives.

How often do we get such a reset in our modern day?

Having had the reset, what will you keep and what will you discard when we are all vaccinated and life is ready to return to “normal?”

As we enter 2021, I am hoping a new normal takes hold that honors the best of who we found ourselves to be in 2020 under extraordinary circumstances and also allows us to bring these parts of ourselves to our lives as we resume normality.

Here’s to it!

A Writing Break

A Writing Break
I Took A Writing Break

I am a therapist. And I am also a writer. Are there two different professional paths that you embody? For me, my work is about seeing my patients as well as writing on a fairly continual basis. It may be a screenplay, a non-fiction book, or this blog — but I write and always have. Somebody once said to me, “If you write, you’re a writer. Own it.”

Why is it so different to own something like writing?

In any case, this Autumn I found myself without the impetus to write. My motivation sort of up and left in what seemed like a mere instant. Perhaps it was my own election stress, perhaps being caught up in home projects, or perhaps even the change of seasons. Not sure what happened, but I did not want to write — not even this blog.

I don’t know about you, but when I have something like a blog to write that I have committed to write on a daily basis, I tend to “feel bad” if I don’t meet my own expectations. However, when my motivation to write vanished, I let go. I decided that it was “OK” to not write and to be curious when my desire to write would alight upon me.

How refreshing to not put myself through the ringer for not doing something that I felt I should be doing. I allowed for there to be a pause in my writing on this blog and other projects as well. I just let it be. The longer I let it be, the happier I became with my decision to not write, to not do, and to simply be with this.

And then my writing impetus began to return. Not sure if it is a daily thing, a weekly thing or a monthly thing or if I will switch it up between all three. I am not sure at all. What I am sure of is how awesome it feels to let go of an item on the old “to do” list when it is really not something you want to do. Freedom!

Are you feeling this way as the holiday season kicks in? Is there something you think you should be doing — professionally or personally — that you have no interest in doing? Perhaps the greatest gift you could give to yourself this season is the gift of not doing without guilt or care. Trusting it will return — or not. But whatever the outcome, there is something to become curious about yourself and learn from.

For now, I hope to be back to at least semi-regular posting. After all, I am a writer, even if one who takes breaks.

Election Stress Disorder

Election Stress Disorder

Election Stress Disorder? Is this even a real thing?

Yes it is and is a term was coined by Steven Stosny back during the run up to the 2016 election. From what I read in the NYT about this disorder, it’s back — bigger and badder than ever.

How would you know if you are suffering from it? Well, common symptoms include: doom scrolling, watching polls non-stop, your mind being crowded with election scenarios — who knew there could be so many? (This is probably one of the main reasons why we even have election stress to begin with!) Everybody and everyone is so divided and it feels like it has already been formally announced —

If one side wins, they cheated.

If the other side wins, the vote was suppressed.

Who can win and where does this end? Anticipating this is driving many of us to have Election Stress Disorder. So much information to scroll, so many scenarios to consider, so much worry over where it’ll all end up. Talk about frustration and anger that leads to stress related directly the the election. Often it comes off as feeling and being irritable.

What can be done? Well, first off recognize that the political landscape is causing you stress. Also, be honest — is it just the other side that you are upset with or is it also your own side and the extreme views that lie within? Or even those you respect who may be forwarding or posting news that is not true. If you can answer this question honestly, it can help to create a strategy to combat your Election Stress.

So, what can you do?

First, if you are going to engage in debate try to limit your time arguing with people. Adding to the divisiveness due to your stress simply adds to more discord. Pick and choose who you do battle with and when you engage look first to connect with someone and understand their opinions — listen! — and then bring your own thoughts to the conversation. If the whole engagement stalls, let it be. Find peace within and give yourself credit for trying to understand the other. Make sure to limit the amount of time you engage.

Yes, take time out from the news. Yet, when you do engage make sure you are reading and engaging with sources that are accurate and truthful. It is on all of us to take responsibility for how we are getting our news and where we are spending our time reading news that informs us about the election and beyond. So, yes, limit your time reading the news, but, when you do, make sure it is worth your time and not “fake.”

Take a break. It’s hard to keep all of this in perspective, but it is necessary. Let history be a guide for you in these times. In the past, people have met the challenges of war and racism and pandemics and the world continued to move forward. Some may say that the world no longer has this chance due to man’s impact on the environment. If this is your perspective, take some of your stress and channel it doing something good for whatever cause is near and dear to your heart.

From there, take heart that life will move forward — no matter the election results. Being present, doing what you can do — especially VOTING — and keeping in mind the larger perspective of where this moment in history fits into the greater history of the world can help one see that it is a moment. Yes, there will be impacts, but there is also hope that we can overcome any one moment.

Election Stress Disorder is real, especially with this final lead up to the election on November 3rd in America. Recognize it, take care of yourself, and seek perspective of this moment across the history of time.

A Mum for the Season

A Mum for the Season

Are you a gardener? If so, I bet you are putting your lawn and garden away for another season.

You most likely are harvesting vegetables, planting spring bulbs, picking up the leaves that are already falling, and closing up the patio furniture. Even with this odd COVID summer, the time has flown and we are closing up our outdoor gardens and yards for another year.

For me, I must have a mum for the season. I don’t need a whole bunch of fall flowers, but I do need a burst of color that reminds me of fall. So, I went out and purchased one large yellow mum and plopped it on my front porch. What a burst of color even as we have shorter days and more rainy days. I can sit and look at my mum and think about all of the beauty to unfold this season.

Do you have a go to plant or flower that you look forward to having around as you change seasons? If so, I hope you will keep your tradition. It’s not quite time for pumpkins and gourds, but soon.

It’s all unfolding quickly…

First Day of Fall: A Balance Point

First Day of Fall

Today is the first day of Fall! Welcome, Autumn!

I am thinking about all the wonderful things I am ready to do as this new season arises. Cozy comfort foods to cook, drives to see the leaves, fall hikes, crisp weather calling me to pull out my sweaters and boots, a crisp chill in the air to accompany my running through the leaves, and more.

It’s Autumn. Yet, today is also the Autumnal Equinox. That moment — no matter where you are on the planet — where we are granted equal amounts of light and darkness. Daytime and nighttime are equal. It sounds like such a perfect balance and only Mother Nature can give us one stretch of perfect equanimity.

I feel like today is a perfect moment for a reflection on how well we balance our own lives. Often we live at extremes — not eating any sweets and then eating the whole cupboard, not doing any project and then taking on more than we could ever do, and on and on. Doing all or none of something always feels way easier than actually keeping a balance.

Making step-by-step progress on one project important to you, enjoying one cookie without regrets, spending one’s time across all that matters in equal amounts — now that sounds like balance. It also sounds incredibly difficult. I, too, favor the extremes — something so easy in the all in or all out approach.

However, the Autumnal Equinox gives us a natural example of how beautiful and fine it is to balance one’s self. It may not be easy, but what is in reality? Take time and savor this change of season and be present to how you can balance yourself and life this season.

Apple Season

Apple Season
Apple Season is Here!

I was just at the grocery store and noticed there are no more plums and peaches available, but rather so many varieties of applies. Definitely! Autumn is here. There is something about apples that take me back to my childhood days when I used to climb the apple orchard trees and pick my one apples. Such a fun excursion! I am curious if you have any fond memories of apple season?

Crunchy, tart, sweet, pies, tarts, hard, red, yellow, cores — some of the first words that come to my mine when I think of apple season.

And now my mind turns to how apples offer us an opportunity to relish the new season. There are so many things you can do with an apple — even putting them into a bowl on the counter to look at or even draw appeals.

Even as a mediation, keep your apples in mind this season:

Sketch an apple

Bake your apples — and what else to make with apples

Cut the apple peel in one long ring — I encourage you to at least try

Core an apple

Pick apples

Go apple picking

Host an apple tasting — can you taste the difference. Even better, blindfold yourself and try to guess the variety

What more can you do with your apples? You tell me. The most important thing is to be mindful that we are in apple season. Relish it!

This is Autumn!

A Plan for Autumn

A Plan for Autumn

Are you an endless summer person or one who is ready for Autumn? Recently, I was reading an article in the NYT about exactly this point in the year. It’s an important moment in the year.

During the regular years of the past, children are actually heading back to school, parents are returning to the hum of their lives with their children preoccupied for the better part of weekdays, we are turning over the closets to our sweaters and boots, apple cider and comfort foods are back in vogue, and all of us can feel the holidays coming — Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas — that is if you live in America and celebrate these holidays.

This year, this moment feels fraught. COVID is still alive and kicking around our communities. Although there is a degree of freedom that most of us did not have in the spring, it’s still advised to maintain distance, stay quarantined in your pod, and restrict what you are doing in the world. If you aren’t restricting it, somewhere guidelines are. So, now, it feels even more poignant to leave the carefree good weather days of summer where outdoor patio dining makes you feel somewhat safe to go out to eat, social distance picnics and camping kept us in real contact with others (goodbye Zoom for awhile!), and it just felt good to exercise outdoors!

So, what is your plan for Autumn? How are you going to approach this moment in the calendar year? Perhaps you are hanging on to dear life to these last days of summer? Perhaps you are already enjoying the pumpkin drinks at the coffee shop? Perhaps you are betwixt and between? It’s a moment to mark and to make a plan.

It’s going to be a different Autumn — many of the traditional activities are nil or on-line, flu season is almost here and so taking care is going to be extra important, we are moving into news media central with an election on in America this November – how will you take care, rejuvenate, stay connected, but also have space and time for you.

It’s time to make your plan for Autumn. May there be many magical moments even as we lose light and the air chills.