New Year, Give Yourself The Ultimate Gift; A Journey Within

December 30, 2011 by  
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As the year draws into a close, many of us reflect back to our personal highs and lows.  Even people who are not totally convinced of the end followed by a new beginning, get pulled into the general feeling of warm hugs, introspection and slowing down.

Today, I went out with a friend who I have known since I moved to Los Angeles in 1994.  Out of the blue he looked at me and said: “You should live in Europe.  Probably Paris.  Yes, that’s the right place for you.” A bit puzzled I asked him: “Why?”  To which he answered: “Because Europe is so artistic, I think it is a more accurate reflection of you.” Without missing a beat I said: “I’m exactly where I want to be.”

Afterwards, I thought about my answer: I’m exactly where I want to be.  Wow.  How many people can say that?  Now, I don’t live in a mansion or on the beach or have amazing views.  It is not the house.  It is my state of being.  I am exactly where I want to be.

The realization made me smile.  After all, I had spent decades trying to figure out how to be at peace in my own skin.

I, like most people, had thought I would find contentment if I had the right partner, or plenty of money, or position, or the admiration of many only to realize feeling good comes from within. Feeling good comes from a close relationship with the self.

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Transforming Through Pain

August 6, 2011 by  
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“Life is not lost by dying; life is lost minute by minute, day by dragging day, in all the thousand small uncaring ways.” – Stephen Vincent Benet

I had a conversation with a friend a few days ago, about turning pain into self-knowledge.  My friend was having trouble understanding how hurting could have any positive aspect such as wisdom.  I told her by embracing with awareness that which is painful we allow suffering to have a transformational quality.

Recently, my father came very close to dying.  As I now am a widow, the possibility of losing my father took on an added layer to my possible loss.  But, instead of dulling my pain, every night after making sure my mom was okay, I would spend time with myself and let the full impact of what was happening take hold of me.  It was not easy to feel the full force of loss one more time.  But, by doing so I was able to understand that loss is a part of life as much as happiness is.  I was reminded in a deep level that in the human journey, experiences – good or bad – is what creates wisdom and compassion in every one of us.  There is great humility in acceptance, and when we do so, we transform.

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How To Stop Labeling Ourselves And Others

August 11, 2010 by  
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I am a widow.

I tell myself to not share with people I meet, at least right away, this fact about my life.  But time and time again within the first half hour of a conversation I blurt out: “You know I am a widow.”

Being a widow has become my new identity.  It is as if I’m saying to the world “I know pain, and so I understand.”

I tell myself being a widow should not be my identity.   Why not pick loved with all my heart and been loved with everything?  More attractive and reflective of my history.

For some reason for most of us, loss and negativity have more intensity than love and happiness.  How many times a smile on our faces has gone unnoticed?  But what about a tear?  We can always see those.

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Getting On With Life After A Partner Dies

June 15, 2010 by  
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lov1fetA friend of mine sent me a NY Times article (http://www.nytimes.com/2010/06/15/health/15brod.html?scp=1&sq=Jane%20E.%20Brody%20Personal%20Health&st=cse) “Getting on With Life After a Partner Dies” written by Jane Brody.

The article describes how she and other widows and widowers have coped with the loss of a partner by filling up their days and trying to turn their loss into something positive.  She goes on to site examples of different people whose energy and attention turned to concrete accomplishments after the loss.  She writes experts call this phenomenon “psychological resilience”.

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A Widow On Valentine

February 11, 2010 by  
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I’m a widow.  I never thought I would say these words.  I never thought I would say them in my 40s.  Widows are supposed to be old women contemplating the end of their lives.

I’ve recently watched a few films about soldiers returning home and it dawned on me that our lives are molded by that which happens to us.  Soldiers after seeing extreme violence, injustice, fear and deplorable conditions find solace in each other not because they speak the same language or come from the same town or even share the same believes.  They find solace because they went through the same psychological wounds. They all know what happened without any need for an explanation.  They understand each other in a visceral way.

I remember years ago when by a set of mismanagement of information and conduct by others, I ended up spending time with a woman, at the time in her 30s, who was dying because her organs and skin had lost the ability to stretch.  I used to tell her to look for others who were in the same situation as she was because they would understand her and she would find community with them.  I could talk to her and have compassion but I couldn’t really understand in an emotional way what she was going through specially because then I hadn’t gone through the depths of suffering and loss I would eventually go through.

I’m a widow.

I used to think widows and widowers were sad people who spend the rest of their lives pining for the person gone.

I am now a widow and sometimes I’m very sad; a special kind of sadness; profound, simple and quiet.  But I also have a great desire to live life and to make it meaningful.

I have a friend who has had a leg and a hip amputated because of cancer.  I truly don’t know what it is to live the kind of life she does, but unlike how it was with my other friend, I now have an understanding of pain and hers doesn’t scare me anymore.  I can offer her and receive from her more than I could many years ago.

I met someone on a hiking trail who had just faced death and will spend the rest of her life fighting it off.  I listened to her, she listened to me and neither of us were victims, we were just strong women sharing our lot with each other.

When my husband passed away I wanted so much to find something positive in all we had gone through and all that I had lost but I kept saying to friends and family that I was still the same person I had been before Chris had gotten sick.  But eventually I would realize that I was wrong.  It is impossible to go through something devastating and remain the same.  In my case I believe I have developed a new level of compassion and have in a way turned my loss into something of worth; I write about it and hope it resonates with others and inspires them to have the courage to be truthful, and to realize peace comes from knowing oneself.

So this Sunday when many lovers will send gifts and share kisses I will embrace the person that I am, the person life has shaped and I will promise her to be by her side and to love and understand her till the very end.

Happy Valentine’s Day.

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Living In Today

October 29, 2009 by  
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Elisabeth Kubler-Ross suggested in her book Death, The Final State of Growth, “Learning to re-invent yourself in living when you have lost someone you love is very difficult but only through doing so can you give meaning to that person’s death.” Regardless of the situation, when we experience a loss that touches our soul, the planned map for our future life quickly disappears. There are so many questions that flood your thoughts and spin faster and faster. The two most overwhelming questions for me are “Who am I?” and “What do I want to do with my life?”

Until recently I never realized how much of my identity was based around family. I don’t remember a time when decisions were based solely on me and what I wanted. My days started and ended in conversation with a man who knew me better than I knew myself. We shared our hopes and dreams. We had plans and talked about our future… being grandparents, another vacation in San Francisco, going to Australia.

All of that ended when I became a widow. 

Living in today feels like I am living in another person’s life. I don’t really feel like “me” anymore. Some days are more difficult than others. It is a constant rollercoaster of emotions accepting that my world will never go back to normal. What I knew as normal won’t be again. Living in the past is both comforting and heartbreaking. Living in the future is a fog, and it’s incomprehensible.

I have found peace, knowing that my man would always be, from the wisdom of a woman who was married over 60 years to her childhood sweetheart. When asked how she was doing she replied, “Honey it just doesn’t get any easier, it only becomes more permanent.”

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A Love Letter To My Husband

October 3, 2009 by  
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I have now been a widow for fourteen months.  I loved my husband as I have never loved anyone in my life before.  When we met it was like we both had won the lottery; neither one of us perfect but perfect for each other.

My loss is huge.  My husband was fun, funny, intelligent, and he wished for my happiness.  He didn’t compete with me and he was so self assured that he gave me all the space to be who I am; a loud, independent, opinionated woman.

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My Older Friend

July 8, 2009 by  
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A friend of mine who is in his 70s is visiting from New York.  He’s a funny and smart man and he’s known me for quite some time.

Unlike our society, I do like having older people as friends.  They’ve been there and done that and so they are a good source for life questions.

We had two major topics for last night’s dinner conversation.  The first was about aging. He said as you age you toughen up, pain doesn’t cut as deep.  By the time you get to your 70s you’ve had many losses and you’ve learned to protect yourself otherwise you couldn’t survive.  You also learn to differentiate from real pain and made up pain.

Still within the same topic of age, he continued on to say that you also start to face your own mortality as your friends start to die and so you become more protective of yourself.  You realize you don’t have as much time as you used to have and so your time and your energy become a little more for yourself; to do the things that are really important to you.

He also said he was happier now than he was when he was younger.  That caught me by surprise as usually we all look back with teary eyes to when we were younger and prettier.  So I asked him what he meant.  He said he was less anxious.  He now gave himself permission to relax and not try to occupy every single moment of his life with something to do.  He realizes now he could have done that earlier in his life without changing in any way how his life turned out but he didn’t know that then.

My last question on this topic was about dying.  Of course we can die at any age but when you are older even if you still live a long time that long time only means 10-15 years.  He looked at me and said:” You don’t think about it.  If you did you wouldn’t make it”.

We moved on to talk about getting into relationships after losing our partners.  He had been married to a woman for thirty years when she passed away from a heart attack.  Four years later he met a lovely woman, who was also a widow, and they married.

As I’m also a widow I wanted to know how do you make the transition from the sadness of losing someone to loving someone else and he said: “You heart is big enough to hold the memory and the love for the partner that is gone and to love just as deeply a new person”.   My next question was: “Don’t you then compare the two people, the two loves?” “No” he said “if you really love the new person you love them for who they are”.

So from my friend’s visit I’ve learned that maybe I don’t need to wait till I’m in my 70s to take better care of myself and to also give myself the permission to just take some time off and do absolutely nothing.  That doesn’t mean days on end but it means that it is okay to take time every day to just slow down.  I’ve also had it confirmed to me that a heart has the ability to deeply love many different people.  And lastly life is really meant to be lived one day at a time.

Of course not all older folks are as full of life as my friend but he can be an inspiration for younger people.  We can learn from him that life is worth living till the very end.

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