Choices and Cheeseburgers

I had to make a lot of choices during the first year following my husband John’s suicide.  Choices I was ill-equipped to make considering the fact that in those early days, my shock-saturated brain kept making me leave the house with two completely different types of sandals on my feet.

As the one year anniversary of John’s suicide approached, I faced yet another decision. How do I commemorate such a thing when I am still so angry at him? What will the kids want to do on this day?

If they wanted me in a black veil I would drape myself in miles of black tulle. If they wanted to lay flowers on his grave I would buy them ten thousand roses. If they wanted to run a way and hide, I would take them to Jupiter.

Turns out, they wanted cheeseburgers.

Yes, cheeseburgers. It was that simple. When presenting them with the traditional options of a gravesite visit to lay roses, or a balloon release on the beach, they were both quiet for several seconds before my son asked if we could eat cheeseburgers that day instead, since the other options sounded “boring.”

My daughter took some convincing. Her main concern was this: cheeseburgers made her happy. Was it okay to be happy on such a day? I eventually convinced her (and myself), that yes it was. Feeling however you wanted to feel on whichever day of the year you feel it was always okay.

On the day of his death anniversary, I checked my social media and found photos and stories of my husband, a man that everyone felt they knew. People still expressing shock over the way he had died, and countless, sappy, overused poems with floral arrangements and beach sunsets in the background. Poems with rhyming words. Poems that made the general population feel comfortable with the way in which they were expressing their grief.

I became enraged the more I scrolled. He was not this person everyone was memorializing! He was not a nice person! He was not noble!

At least he wasn’t those things to me anymore.

In the years before his death, he had become cruel, disconnected, and unpredictable. Where were the stories and pictures of that? They were inside of me and the kids; the only ones who had been subjected fully to this side of him.

My anger subsided at this realization because these people were grieving a healthy version of John. A version I was slowly forced to grieve over the years as I watched his sanity slip from him. These people had to grieve in this way; remembering him fondly felt natural to them, like cheeseburgers seemed natural to my children. How could I judge these people for grieving in such a way when part of me feared being judged by them for eating cheeseburgers?

What if no one judged another for how they chose to grieve? What kind of world would that be?

That evening, when the kids and I reached the milkshake course of our meal at Ruby’s Diner, the three of us were laughing about the chocolate dripping form my son’s chin and the noise my daughter’s thigh made each time she peeled it from the pleather cushion of our booth.

So many other times in the past three hundred and sixty-five days had been devoted to the act of mourning. And it is, like love, an action. Random Wednesdays when the smell of a stranger’s Swisher Sweet cigars sent me into crying convulsions, Fourth of July when we each pointed out which firework we think daddy would’ve liked best, Saturday mornings at 3am when my nightmares were so vivid they induced an asthma attack.

Yes, so many days and weeks and moments in that first year had been devoted to thoughts and actions about him; missing him, crying for him, regretting not having done enough for him, celebrating him. But on that day, one year after he took his life we chose to celebrate us; our resilience, our mutual love of greasy cheeseburgers, our ability to still laugh about the arbitrary things that make up life, like milkshakes on chins and thighs on pleather.

We had made it through the first year intact and we will make it through so many more. Together. Inseparable. Adhered to one another through our tragedy and triumph like cheese adheres to meat patties.


Michelle Miller is a suicide-widow, author of two memoirs: “Boys, Booze and Bathroom Floors” and “Vodka Soup for the Widowed Soul”, public speaker, and Widow Life Coach. She lives in San Diego California with her best friend, their five children and a dwarf bunny.

Website: MouthyMichellesMusings.com

Facebook: https://m.facebook.com/WidowingIsHard/

Instagram: @Mouthy_Michelle


Better Days to Follow

I stood for a moment this morning and literally felt all energy and determined action spinning around me. Life moves so quickly and the most effective way to manage it is to stop and pause. Do nothing for a moment. Dare I say, allow some magic to do its best within that moment. And by magic I mean your faith, your true power. I swear there are things in action that we have no control over and that they are there to help us.

This post is for those who are going through grief and great change in some measure. Of a job, a loved one, an animal, a home. Whatever the loss, it has its whirlwind energy that can destruct and then, if allowed, it will redesign and build.

I did not believe someone when they told me three years ago that I would feel differently, and yet here I am, six years into my own grief and I do, feel differently. For all the hard work and focus I brought to my situation, something empowered me late last year to embrace something new. For all the positive affirmations I say, the candles I light and the version of prayers I whisper, something took me by the hand and heart to lead me to the next part of my life. One that is creating new possibilities, opportunities and new love.

I remember at my hardest point, thinking how on earth does grieving arrive at healing? How do I get there? I'm here to state, that on top of all the hard work that you do, it is also important to stop and pause. We have to learn to trust, and I truly believe, this may be the hardest part of our human experience. To trust. To have faith. To believe that whatever is for our highest good will occur.

I am not ignoring the realism that life is hard and tragedy does hit. We are slammed with the tough stuff, a lot. Yet I do believe that support and comfort surrounds us. That we cry in order to arrive at hope and to see possible solutions. Sometimes the solution can only be the management of pain, and we have to accept that nothing can be perfect. I have never thought that being fulfilled and happy contains perfect. I would rather giggle through karaoke with great joy than attempt at perfect. (Apologies to all my dear amazing singer friends!) I would rather read something with a spelling mistake that makes me think and lifts my spirit than wade through a heavy book of words I do not understand. (Apologies to all my dear amazing literary friends!)

For all those out there, aching with loss, because I know it is an overwhelming pain at times, please just stop. Just for a moment. Let it be. No analyzing it. No fighting it and no adding pace to it. If your heart can feel this much weight, it can also give you the strength to move through. It needs the space and freedom to do that. No human being ever made a healthy decision through pain or anger. And this is annoying because we want to read a map with solid instructions. Step one: Take three pills a day with cider vinegar and spin round to face East once at midnight. Nope! There is no step by step manual.

I am ashamed to say there was an important part of my life, where I said regularly, "I hate my life." I recognize now it was because I was in so much fear about what was going on, and trust me, saying I hated my life, did absolutely nothing to help that situation. Far, far from it. So if you are there, in that muddy, stuffy place where anger is constantly tap dancing on your shoulder - stop, pause. You have to. You deserve better. You'll never figure out that algebra problem by screaming at it.

There is only one way to approach it all, and it's the hardest, simplest, most powerful way to do anything and everything - love.

This is what I never understood, until I felt it, and I mean truly, authentically, honestly, hands all over myself felt it - that love will give you everything you need. And to get there - just stop, and give that love to you. Completely, utterly, divinely to you - I promise you, better days to follow.


Writer

Associate Director of Training

Lead Facilitator for TeamBonding & Quixote Consulting

www.JayneHannah.com

Jayne Hannah has received training in the emotional intelligence and 5 Dysfunctions model, with a passion for effective communication and is certified to administer the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator (MBTI). Jayne emigrated 16 years ago to the U.S. from London, England. She has been facilitating corporate programs for over 20 years and always leads with her heart.  She is a passionate writer for the stage with productions being produced across New England and a founding member of the popular Blue Cow Group in Providence, Rhode Island. Her full length stage play “Stalking” enjoyed a preview this Summer by Counter Productions. She is currently co-authoring a book with writer Linda Pestana, as they lead the way in health advocacy for care partners and patients with life altering illnesses. “Life is a privilege and each day an opportunity to explore how we may do more.” In 2012 my husband died at the age of 57 of early on set Alzheimer’s, after an 8 year illness which began with cancer. The loss of the love of my life was profound and I have reached a stage where my corporate work is now spilling into what I want to be my mission. To support, guide, inspire, perhaps, most importantly, to share and support others throughout their journey. I was lost so severely at times, and Christina’s work was invaluable. I want the loss of my David to equal something to be proud of and that his soul can help others, as he indeed helps me, every day.


She's My Wife

On this day.

Four years ago.

We became man and wife.

I’ve cried hard many a day.

This.

One of the most tearful of my life.

You were so sick.

The pain extreme.

You couldn’t stop throwing up.

A true nightmare.

No fairytale. Or dream.

You were in the same clothes.

From three days before.

The experience of our union should have been beautiful.

Instead.

More like a horror.

The happy couples.

Laughing. Smiling.

All around.

I teared up silently.

And hid my eyes.

I refused to let my sorrow be heard with a sound.

They finally called our name.

We headed to the back.

Most couples smile and hold hands.

I held you up.

So your fragile body wouldn’t fall to the ground.

The officiant was taken back.

‘Cancer’, I whispered in his ear.

Quietly.

To ensure that she did not hear.

Your mini-me we had not yet told.

I could see him tear up.

A good-hearted man.

Anything, but cold.

He led the vows.

You jumping around from the pain.

I lost my composure.

Tears flowing down so hard.

My heart broken.

My soul scarred.

For eight years.

We were apart.

Only to be reunited.

Cancer.

Threatened to once again take my heart.

‘I now pronounce you man and wife,’ he said.

We left the building.

Straight to the ER.

‘We just got married,’ I told the nurses.

As I somehow cracked a smile.

‘She’s my wife.’

They brought us wedding cake and soda.

Tragically beautiful.

But all worth it.

Because I got to say those three words.

About You.

The love of my life.


John Polo is a widower, stepdad, hope & empowerment coach, author and speaker. John is the author of the best-selling book "Widowed. Rants, Raves and Randoms" and can be followed on his website, www.betternotbitterwidower.com, and on social media by searching Better Not Bitter Widower.


Hello, how are you?

That simple, seemingly innocuous, greeting makes me cringe on the inside. I want to be authentic and be real with people. Yet, when I am asked "How are you?" I am put in a very awkward social situation. I hurriedly go through scenarios in my mind to try and figure out how to genuinely answer the question. Does this person want to really know how I am? Some people asking the question genuinely want a real answer. Others are asking it rotely and going through the motions of an informal greeting.

If this person wants to really know how I am, how much information do I want to share with them? That is trickier. Some friends of mine really want to catch up with me and want to know how I am really doing. Others just want a brief synopsis of how it is going of late. If I surmise my friend wants details, how do I narrow down my harrowing week into a brief comment that doesn't sound horrific? I want the greeting to end on a positive note and move the conversation along away from me and my issues. All of this swirls around in my head in a split second and then I smile, nod and say, "I'm fine, how are you?" The woman inside of me is screaming "Stop! Say something! It's your chance to connect! Let them see you! Take off the mask!"

Then, to my dread, I hear these words, "You look great, you must be doing better." I smile, and say "Thank you." The woman inside screams again "SEE ME! Please SEE ME!" I keep the mask firmly in place simply because it is too complicated to be authentic.

All of us have different images of ourselves we project to others. We decide the image based on whom we are engaging and the role we play in their lives. You project a different image as an employee than you do as a parent. You project a different image as a significant other than you do as a son or daughter. The images become difficult to manage, but manage them we do! The secret to authenticity is to manage those images as close to the truth as possible, and as closely resembling each other as possible, so your boss knows the same person as your parents.

The nature of a chronic illness adds a level of invisibility and deception to your personal image. Invisibility because, for many, the illness cannot be seen. You don’t look sick and others have no idea how skilled you have become at wearing the mask of wellness. Deception because you wish to hide aspects of the illness and share certain information with only those you can trust.

I don’t know why I cringe so much when simple greetings are said to me. Yet, I cringe. In order to give an authentic answer, I have found it is best to look at the whole of myself and not just components or compartmentalization of self.

"How are you?"

“I am well.”

The whole of me is well.

That is what I am.

I am well.

 


Alias In Town is an anagram of the author's name. In every town there are alias people living with chronic illness, chronic pain, addiction and depression. Alias In Town is one of those people. Learning to live well while ill is a necessary and difficult endeavor. She learned multiple coping and life strategies to be Well. “I am more than my body. I am body, mind and spirit. My body is simply the weakest unit of the triad. Though chronic illness affects the entire triad, I have made considerable effort to strengthen my mind and spirit to find the balance of ‘Well’. - book excerpt Her style of writing is to combine multi-media formats into stories. She utilizes short essays to tell her story in words. She creates original artwork to tell her story through the end of a brush. She includes personal journal and diary entries to remain open, honest and raw in her writing. One of the most anxiety releasing activities she utilizes is art. She explores art through several mediums and included them in the book "Well." She does not claim to be a proficient artist but utilizing art is cathartic to her. She has an art website. . She has been married for 35 years with 6 children and 7 grandchildren and lives in central Ohio.


Who is that women in the mirror

Who is that women in the mirror?

I think I know her.  Yes I do.  It’s me.  The women whose husband died.  Yes, he died.  He left me.  Left me to pick up the pieces.  One by one.  Day by Day.  Week by Week.  Month by Month.  Year by Year.

I see the pain in her face.  It’s in the lines around her eyes, it’s in the lines around her mouth.  She is hollow.  She doesn’t see.  She only see emptiness.  The eyes tell it all.  The eyes tell the story.  A story you do not want to hear.  A story that you do not want to be part of.  A sad story.  A never-ending story.

Going through the motions?

You get up.  You shower.  You get your coffee.  A coffee that used to be sitting for you on the bathroom sink when you got out of the shower.  It’s no longer there.  That cup is forever gone.  You have to get your own cup of coffee.  It doesn’t taste the same.  It’s bland.  It’s just a cup of dark muddy water.  But you drink it anyway.  Because you need it.  You need it to get you going.  To get you through your daily routine.

You are on autopilot.  You shower, you do your hair, you put your make up on, you dress, and you get in your car and drive to work.  You do the same thing every day. Day after day.  Only to realize that you don’t remember doing it because you are on autopilot.  You are going through the motions.

Monkey mind!

The monkey is there.  The thoughts that consume your mind.  Going around and around in a circle like a tornado, only to never stop.  You think of the past, you think of what happened, you ask questions, you think of the future.  What future?  You don’t want to go there, you don’t want to see it “The future?”   What is it?   You can’t comprehend it?  A dark empty place.  A place where you can’t think.

The mind.  It plays tricks on you.  Why can’t you go to a good place?

I forgot how to breathe!

 What?  What do you mean, you forgot how to breathe.  Yes, sometimes I forget how to breathe, only to catch my breath.  It should be so simple, so easy, it’s part of being alive.  It’s natural.  Not for me sometimes.  It gets stuck in my throat.  I gasp.  I have to calm myself down and tell myself “just breath”, until the craziness in my soul finally calms down and I am relaxed enough to breathe.  Something so simple can be so hard.  Just breathe.

The pain in your chest!

It all comes back to the breath. The pain in your chest.  It’s like someone is stepping on your chest and you can’t breathe.  It’s there, that dark cloud, the evilness.  Never to go away.  Some days it’s not so painful.  Some day’s it hurts so bad that you can’t imagine the pain.  It hurts, it's painful, it’s in your soul, so deep it goes to the core of your soul.  To that place where you want it to go and never come back up.  It’s lurking, for its moment to slam you, so hard that you fall to your feet.

Mending a broken heart!

How do you mend a broken heart that has been shattered in a million pieces?  You don’t.  There is not enough glue on this earth to fill in those broken pieces or glue them back together.  It’s impossible.  You can put a band-aid on it, but the broken pieces are still broken, never to be repaired.  It goes into infinity and beyond.  That place never to be touched again.

When your heart has been shattered from the first time, only to be shattered a second time (from a second relationship) the only thing you can ask yourself is “How do you break an already shattered heart”?  You can’t break something that has already been broken.  You are broke, you are defeated, you are destroyed.

That place!

Where is that place?  That place where you think you are safe?  I don’t know where it is?  I have been there for so long, I have physically lost my place.  I’m here, just suspended in time, just looking.  Where am I looking?  I’m not sure.  I can’t move.  I can’t go forward.

The sounds in my head

It sounds like a freight train.  The rumble under my feet.  The movement that my feet feel, it’s getting closer and closer.  It makes me nervous.  What is it?  Is it fear?  It can’t be heartache…. heartache already came and stayed, and it stayed way too long.  It’s like a friend of mine, a friend I don’t like.  I want her to leave, but she doesn’t.

I reach out and I can’t touch her!

She stands over there on the other side of the tracks and just watches me.  She say’s nothing, she just looks.  And, I look back… at her.  No words were spoken, just looking and watching and listening to the sounds in my head.  What does she want?  I reach out and I can’t touch her.  Is she real or is she my imagination?  She looks real, she looks like me.  It is me.

 The third party in a world of couples!

Yes, that is me.  I am the 3rd one, the 5th one, and 7th one.  I am alone in a world of couples.  They are all together and then there is me.  The 3rd one and so forth.  How did I become that extra person in a world of two, four and six?  Am I the long lost soul? Am I the person who they need to fix? Take care of?  Make sure I am included?  Yes, that is me.  The 3rd one in the group.  The one without a partner.

Going home!

The drive home.  The long drive home from work.  Going home.  The drive gets longer and longer.  You do it every day.  The same drive, the same streets, the same way. And, when you get home, it slams you.  You are now home. You are now home alone.

 I am looking at that women in the mirror and I can see her so plain as day.  It’s me.  The women whose husband has died.  The women he left.  The women who has to pick up the pieces, one by one until she can’t pick them up anymore.  Yes, I am that women in the mirror.


Written by Leslie Bachman

 

 


When Grief Derails You

Definition of Derail by Merriam-Webster

Define derail: to cause to run off the rails; to obstruct the progress of: frustrate; to upset the stability or composure of —

Define Derail at Dictionary.com

  1. To cause (a train, streetcar, etc.) to run off the rails of a track. 2. to cause to fail or become deflected from a purpose; reduce or delay the chances for success or development of:

Most of us have a life plan by the time we become adults. Life has its ups and downs however, and we learn quickly that things do not always go as planned. In most cases, we pick ourselves up, revise our plans, and get back on track. We learn lessons along the way and incorporate them into our new plans. We make a conscious decision to make these changes and respond to our circumstances because we have always been told, “It’s not what happens to you, as much as how you respond to it that matters most”

I have always considered myself to be a resilient and positive person. I put a lot of thought into my decisions so that I am usually content with them. I do my research, my homework, and try my best to make good decisions based on my findings.

When I was derailed by grief and loss six years ago, all of my usual coping skills vanished. I felt powerless and vulnerable. None of the tools I had used all of my life were helping. It felt like grief totally took control and I had no say in how I responded to any circumstance, any person, or anything that was happening. The depth of pain and loss, the hurt in my heart and my soul were in charge of my responses. In addition, the fatigue, and lack of energy made it difficult for me to make decisions. I felt completely like a train that derailed, and there was no getting back on track.

As a matter of fact, getting back on track can take years. At the six year mark, I indeed have made a lot of progress. My life is different and always will be. Grief and loss changed the course of my life. With the love and support of my family and friends, I am getting back on track. I am constantly adjusting to the changes and still not totally sure of what lies ahead however I now have the courage to move forward. I remain open to the possibilities and opportunities that lie ahead


Linda Andrews is a Registered Nurse. Her experience includes intensive care, pediatrics, and nephrology. She has shared end of life experiences with patients and their families. She has been there to listen and to support people who are making decisions that will end their lives.

In September of 2011, Linda Andrews lost her father and just two weeks later, her husband. During this very difficult time, she came to the realization that many people in our society have difficulty responding to grief.

Please Bring Soup is Linda’s first book. It’s intended as a gift to others who have suffered loss. She offers suggestions that help both the grievers and those who are supporting them. Through her stories and journal entries, she describes the depth of pain that comes with profound loss, as well as sharing ideas about what helps and what does not.

 


A New Decade But The Same Grief

When you’re little you can’t grasp how big the world really is. Or for that matter how small. You have your day to day life. Playing with toys, eating snacks, running around in the backyard. There’s nothing that really grasps you to the earth. You are completely free. To be who you want. A magical creature from the blue lagoon, Barbie’s new best friend or an Olympic athlete. But what you can’t imagine, is that the one is right there next to you, playing make believe day in and day out, for your whole childhood will be gone by the time they’re twenty years old.

That’s my story. I was twenty-three. She was twenty. My first life long partner, gone. No more playing with Barbies or counting Christmas lights on the way home from Grandma and Grandpa’s house. All the memories you thought would turn into traditions for a lifetime are snubbed out. Gone in thin, lifeless air. Just like that. How fucked up is it that one bad choice can ruin a life? Not just one life but many, many lives. Mine included.

My life throughout my twenties was not as expected after my trauma. I was engaged to a man, who stayed when it would have been easier to walk away. I refused to go talk to someone about my grief which was unlike me. I wanted to die on more than one occasion. Confusion, anger, and sadness all filled my bloodstream and would completely take over. I cried over anything, had irrational rage and felt so alone that getting out of bed was hard. The days were long and painful. Nothing I would wish on anyone. No one should experience pain like that.

As the days trickled on and life kept flying pass me. I had to make a decision. I needed a goal. I wanted the chance to be something other than my grief. Since the old version of myself was long gone I had to figure out who I was again. So after five years of suffering in silence, I turned up in a therapist's office. She asked why was I there? I answered simply with, “My sister died and it’s fucked up my life and I don’t want to live this way anymore.” She looked across at me listening as I word vomited the last five years. Everything I did wrong, everything I thought I may have done right. Going over moments that were so painful I would speak the words through tears. It’s very hard work and I don’t always want to talk. It’s hard to relive the most painful moments of your life over and over again. It’s intense but it’s so very necessary for my growth as a person.

I hit a major milestone. Thirty. A new decade of life. A time of reflection of where I have been and hope for the future and where I’m going. I’m a different person than I was before. I shed the skin of my first life the moment I found out my sister was gone and now I begin this new chapter without her. She doesn’t get to know me now. She’s frozen in time with the old version of myself. Time is really fascinating and painful isn’t it? It can keep things safe but can also pull the rug right out from under you. So here I am. A new decade in front of me. My grief packed up in my pocket. She will always be with me. Cheers to thirty.


Ashley’s a New York-born playwright whose trying to manage her grief one day at a time. She spends her time dreaming of magic, getting lost in books and feeling safe in the world of writing.

She began a blog a few days after her sister’s death and continues, years later, to write to her there. To follow her journey as she tries to figure out this thing called life while dealing with such a painful loss please visit http://dearalyssanoelle.tumblr.com.

Tumblr: http://dearalyssanoelle.tumblr.com

Twitter: https://twitter.com/ashleynaudette

Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/ashleynicoleaudette


Creating Harmony in Chaos

Creating harmony in chaos.  That is a big statement in today’s world.  Especially while we are in the middle of one of life’s big changes.

We are faced with so many things that draw us away from the most simple, deeply nourishing and fulfilling moments.   The voices of we are not enough……..do this…you need this…you are not enough….. etc.  What if we came back to the simple moments?  What if we already have what we need to flourish, create balance and ride the wave of life?

We do….Here are some simple quick tips to remind you:

  • * Increase your Vitamin G! Vitamin Ground, otherwise known as Earth or Nature.  Spend time in, with, on and around nature.  The benefits of spending time outdoors, in nature and on the earth are limitless to our whole being.  The sensuous characteristics of nature can inspire, nurture, calm and energize our mind, body and spirit.  Truthfully, the earth has a deeply fulfilling ability to feed spaces within our body nothing else seems to satiate.  Take a moment to observe the sunrise, listen to the birds, take a nap on the ground, walk barefoot on the beach or close your eyes to feel the wind caress your skin.  Along with that comes a healthy dose of vitamin D which benefits our well being in countless ways.  Soak up the healing properties of mama earth!  Pause and breathe it in.
  • * Speaking of breathing….BREATHE. There are techniques to breathing that benefit our mind, body and spirit.  Often when we are in the middle of chaos, the first to go is our breathing.  With just a simple deep cleansing breath, we begin to center our frazzled self.  Let’s take it one step further with heart-focused breathing.  Did you know that our heart actually sends more signals to our brain than brain to heart and our brain actually responds to the heart signals?  This means our heart has an intelligence that our brain actually listens to!  When we come from a heart-based state of being, our behavior reflects our heart intelligence with more focus, stability, awareness and openness.  With just a couple moments of time, we can experience the benefits of shifting from brain focus to a heart-based way of functioning.  Heart-based breathing has been used in many modalities for centuries and it is also the beautiful science behind HeartMath®.

Quick Coherence Technique

Step 1:  Imagine you are breathing through your heart or chest area- putting your attention here helps you center yourself and get coherent.  Take slow, deep breaths.  Suggestion:  Inhale for 5 seconds and exhale for 5 seconds- or whatever is comfortable. 

Step 2:  Activate a positive feeling.  Recall how it felt when you were appreciated or when you felt appreciation for something or someone.  Or you can focus on a calm, neutral feeling.

    Practice step one and two together for a minute or so and notice how you feel.  HeartMath®

  • Check in with your “wise guide inside”.  Internal inquiry means leaning into your wisdom.  The wisdom that resides within your heart and soul.  When life seems to be pulling you outward into the abyss of external stimulus, remind your brain to slow down and let your heart speak.  Bring your attention to the wisdom of YOU.  Of course external factors can play a very helpful role in our decision process.  However, remembering to check in with our own internal wise voice (not the voice of shame and blame) can make the difference in the middle of chaos.  Our wise wisdom voice is the unique expression of ourselves and when we listen, we bring a sense of heart and soul balance to our overall well being.  This might mean that in a moment of stress, we listen to our “wise guide inside” and go for a walk before reacting or choose to care for our self with a pedicure.  It is unique to you and so worth listening to.  Connecting with your inner wisdom can happen in many ways.  Take a moment and listen……how do you connect with your inner wisdom?

How we respond to our external environment allows us to find some sense of control in the situation.  We do this by shifting our focus to our internal environment, and then our response can change.  Creating harmony in the chaos of life is a continual journal of balance.  There will be moments of luscious excitement filled with joy and laughter.  There will also be moments of pain, grief and bittersweet tears.  Thus is the flow of life.  Our journey includes both and to think that we can only be peaceful during the sweet happy moments is to deny ourselves the full experience of life.  Even in great turmoil, we can find ways to create inner harmony.

Creating harmony in the chaos of life also takes conscious practice.  With daily practice, we begin to shift our overall well-being from a chaotic state to a more balanced and harmonic way of being.    Remember, we all experience the ebbs and flows of life.  Even within the strongest storms upon the ocean, there is always a deep current that remains stable in the wild chaos.  Find this place….create this place!

Be kind to yourself.  Be fierce with yourself.  Get outside, breathe and make an appointment with the wise guide inside! Become the deep flow of peace within the storm.  Even if just for a moment.

Become the harmony within the chaos.

Marni


As a Licensed Health Educator WHE® and Life Reentry Practitioner®, Marni facilitates the overall health–mind, body, spirit–of her clients. Since the death of her husband, she has navigated the world of grief, choosing to pick up the pieces and recreate herself in a life with renewed purpose. Facilitating retreats in Idaho and Belize have become a favorite way to connect with others discovering life after loss. www.coalescediscovery.com


Be Your Brother’s Keeper

This is a blog post and excerpt from my book, Life Lessons from Dad: 101 Ways to Get More From Life (From Someone Who Loves You).

The book is literally written to my children (Mandy, Aly, and The Amazing Alec) to be a sort of ‘handbook for life,’ for them as they become adults.

It covers lessons on the Heart, Mind, Body, and Soul--and a broad range of life situations from loving yourself and fighting the darkness (depression) to practical matters like getting every job you ever want and how to get rid of bad habits.

This particular life lesson is on being your brother’s keeper. It’s all about how you treat others.

Thank you for your time in reading this.

--Chip

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

To be your brother’s keeper means to consider your neighbor’s needs at all times, whether they are present or not.

It is your job to be your brother’s keeper. I mean this literally, with Alec, and in a deeper sense in life towards others as well.

I don’t know that I really need to remind you to be Alec’s keeper. I’m actually looking at you, girls, while I’m writing this. I see the love of life and joy on your faces. I watch you with your brother often and see how much you love that little man. And how much he loves you, too.

I think one of the greatest moments for me as your Dad was to hear you two arguing, kind of half-seriously, half-jokingly over who Alec was going to, “live with,” when he got older. I love that, and I really feel that one or both of you truly and honestly plan on having him stay with you when, maybe, he won’t be living with your Mom and I, as we are thirty-seven and half and thirty-nine years older than our little man, respectively. The truth is, I think about this a lot; because when he’s forty, I’ll be eighty. I don’t know what life will look like then, but I want to know that we have options. It can be him living with his friends and/or independently, or it can be that he lives with and is looked out for by his loving sisters.

I think you know the most of the story about Alec’s birth, but I’m going to take a little time to tell you the details. Mandy, you were twelve at the time, and Aly you were eight. I know your part with Alec was very vivid. I don’t know if you know everything that your Mom and I went through at that time.

It was the hardest thing that either of us had ever been through, by far; but it also turned into the most beautiful experience in our lives, afterward. I hope you feel that way, too. I know having a brother with Down Syndrome isn’t easy. It’s a big responsibility, and it’s not necessarily something that you asked for in this life. We’re just blessed in that regard, I guess.

Your Mom and I decided that we’d have a third child. Your Mom was a little more reluctant than I was, but my reasoning to her made sense: We’d never regret having another member of the Franks’ brood, but there would be a big chance that we would regret not having a third. Both of you brought (and still bring!) much joy into our lives. Of all the things that we’ve done in the world, bringing our children in it, as the people that you are is our proudest.

After a gut-wrenching miscarriage, which we should talk to you more about. We knew that our baby boy would be coming into our side of the world on your Guela’s (grandmother’s) birthday: October 25th, 2011. What a day it was! We had an appointment at the hospital because they were going to induce labor for our new addition to the family. We knew he was a boy, and that everything seemed to be fine and he was healthy. Your Mom and I didn’t want to do any advanced testing, as it posed a risk to the baby; and it wouldn’t have mattered to us if he was born with defects or problems. We’d welcome him, regardless. We knew that he’d have an increased chance for a diagnosis of Down Syndrome, whereas there was usually a one in 700 or more chance for it, Mom’s age would mean that it was more like a one in 157 possibilities. But we never thought that it would happen. We had a pretty storybook life up to that time in our life.

We were happy and joyful going to the hospital. There is an “official thread of the birth of Alec Cruz Franks,” where we promised to keep everyone updated on his entry into the world, and joked around quite a bit. It was new and different then for a birth to be shared over social media. Everything went well, which is easy for me to say, as I wasn’t giving birth. This was our third time, and we had a comfortable familiarity with the process. The same wonderful doctor that had delivered both of our sweet girls was there to help us usher your brother into the world.

I was in the room when he was born as I was with each of you. They keep a sheet up between the lower half of Mom’s body and the upper half, so I was able to be close to her, and hold her hand as Alec was delivered via a C-section. As it happened with both of you, I cried tears of joy when I heard your brother’s voice for the first time ever, crying a little (but not too much). They cleaned and handed him to me as they cut the cord, and I was the first person to be in front of him when he opened his eyes for the first time.

And I knew.

Right away, I knew that Alec was different, and that he had Down Syndrome, and that our lives were never, ever going to be the same. It was a shocking, numbing experience to know that right away.

Your Mom was having a minor procedure done while they were in there, to get her tubes tied, and I was left holding our precious little man, just staring into his face, and those tell-tale almond shaped eyes for a good forty-five minutes. It seemed like forever, and as light as he was, my arms were getting numb (like my soul at the time) from holding him so long.

I was thinking over and over in my head that this couldn’t be. Our life had been pretty picture perfect to that point. No big shocks, surprises, or deaths for someone close in our family. This was the most traumatic thing that had ever happened. I was looking at this sweet, wonderful face, and I’m ashamed (but have since forgiven myself) to say that the first thing on my mind wasn’t how much I loved him. It was just shock and a kind of mourning for the child we had planned for. I was grieving. I know I SAID all of the right things to him, but it was more a sense of despair than joy at the time. I don’t know if that makes sense to you or not; or to anyone that hasn’t gone through something like this.

I remember telling both your Pa-paw and your Uncle Mike (as he was driving you to the hospital). Uncle Mike just asked me, “What’s wrong, what is it?” because he knew that something was wrong when I talked to him. I couldn’t even speak. I just cried, and cried. He kept asking what it was. Wow, I’m getting so emotional right now even writing about it, it’s all still so vivid in my mind, and probably will be forever. Your granddad was on a bike ride at the time, and he pulled over and talked to me, and I remember him saying when I said the words, “Down Syndrome,” that we were going to love him completely no matter what, and that it would be okay.

But it was still a while before it became “okay” for us. Those first two days after his birth, knowing he had DS, and also would require several surgeries in his first few weeks of life were the hardest, toughest, DARKEST days in my life. I know it was for your Mom, too. She had it worse than me, because she wasn’t allowed to see Alec due to being confined to her room while he was in the NICU (Neonatal Intensive Care Unit). I had him to look at, to touch and caress in his bed, and your Mom was just left by herself in a dark room with the most horrible scenarios running through her head. I became okay by being with Alec, and getting to know him and his indomitable spirit, even at a few days old. I looked into his face and fell in love with that sweet boy and knew he would have my soul forever then (like you two do).

We made the announcement to the world the day after he was born, and after we told you that he had Down Syndrome. We kept everyone up to date with him and his (and our) ordeals on Facebook, and we were overwhelmed with support. We’d get little notification, “dings,” with every comment of love and support and they were like the sound of an angel at the time. You know what happened with the “Hope” hearts—Mandy, when you posted that you’d write a blue heart on your hand with the word “Hope,” on it to support your little brother and that was posted on Facebook. We suddenly started getting these hearts sent to us on Facebook from literally all over the world. From our friends and family, but also from Marines, from people in Canada and Australia, and in different languages. It was amazing and humbling, and meant so, so much to us.

We didn’t get to bring him home until Thanksgiving Day, a full month after he was born. He went through seven surgical procedures in his first six months of life, and earned the moniker, “The Amazing Alec.” He’s usually had at least one long hospital visit each year, and that part isn’t easy, but having him, and seeing YOU with him is such a joy of life!

I think you’d agree that he’s expanded all of our hearts, and that he’s made each of us more compassionate. He’s also brought so much joy and happiness just by who he is and what he does each day. He is an unfiltered light from God, and the sweetest, most affectionate boy we could ever imagine. I see you with him, and I don’t know if any feeling on Earth is better than watching y’all being so sweet and loving towards each other.

So, when I say, “Be your brother’s keeper,” I mean it in the literal sense. You didn’t ask for a brother with Down Syndrome, but he is still your responsibility too. I expect that of you if your Mom and I are somehow unable to watch him, or we’ve left the physical plane of our existence.

Please promise your Mom and I that you will always have him, and care for him. I’m pretty certain that you do already; but those words would mean the world to us.

Now, here’s the other part of this advice: Be your brother’s keeper in the larger sense of the world, too. By that, I mean always consider your neighbor as well as yourself at all times, even if they’re not with you.

This is Biblical in nature, but I just think that it makes for a better, richer, and deeper life when you’re looking out for someone else. That may mean little things like picking up trash that someone else left behind, or pausing to talk to someone that looks like they are lonely. It also means big things, like choosing a career that makes a difference to others, or trying to fulfill potential given to you by God.

I’ve written that YOU being happy is the best thing that you can do for others, and I think that some of that happiness is, or probably should be dependent on whether you’re being your brother’s keeper in the larger sense of the term. Would you truly be happy with yourself if you spent your career pushing gambling, or drinking sodas when you know it’s not right for most people? I don’t know. Obviously, you make the call on that—but I want you to consider your brother when you do these things. Are you your brothers’ keeper?

Answering “yes,” to that question is the right way to live, and I humbly suggest it for it you.

I hope you see and understand that I love you.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Life Lessons from Dad: 101 Ways to Get More From Life (From Someone Who Loves You) was released this month and is available on Amazon now.

It can be found at: bit.ly/lifelessonsfromdad


Chip Franks was born at the crossroads of the world in Killeen, Texas. He has spoken on the same stages at events with Tony Robbins, Peter Diamandis, Lewis Howes, Daymond John, and Simon Sinek. He's read over 1,000 books. He is a podcast junkie, and a consummate student of life with mentors such as Robbins, Jim Rohn, Henry David Thoreau, Seneca and Joseph Campbell.  Most importantly to you reading this-he specializes in providing easily actionable ways to improve life.


Mourning Dew

Expanding essence,

settling spirit,

vibrating vitality

–a trilogy of wellness.

Even with these truths aboard,

sadness sometimes

seeps to the surface,

quietly gathers

for acknowledgment.

For it is also true,

real, and right.

Like morning dew on

leaves and grasses,

stale sorrows bead and adhere

until a being notices,

allows them to vaporize

or entwine with

restoration and revival.

Mourning dew,

warmed by

mourning light.

A gentle,

beneficial aspect

of the continued

honoring of the

veracity of grief.

 


As we all do, Sarah Carlson has many pieces to her whole. Those pieces include: mother, teacher, daughter, friend, widow, sister, skier, bicyclist, hiker, coach, drummer, and poet. Sarah lives in the western foothills of Maine where opportunities to make connections amid the splendor of the rivers, lakes and mountains are plentiful. She began writing and combining her poetry with photographs of her experiences in the natural world as part of healing from the sudden loss of her husband, Barry.  Sarah posts her poetry and photography on her blog and her book, The Radiance of Change, is available here.