Saturday, September 6, 2008

Laugh or Cry?

In follow up to the previous posts on emotions, I thought it would be fitting to discuss the outcome of emotions....or at least two possible ways that one can express what they feel.

The first is laughter. I personally use laughter or at least try to find something at which I can laugh, whether I am in the midst of joy or sadness every day of my life. Of course, when it is a joyful experience, the laughter comes quickly, easily and abundantly. When in the midst of sadness, it may be more of a challenge to find a reason to laugh, but I believe it is therapeutic to be able to tap into laughter, even in some situations that one wouldn't expect it. Here's an example: When my Dad passed away, my brother and I took my Mom to the funeral home to make all of the arrangements. It was certainly a sad time, yet my Mom, brother and I turned to laughter to make the experience easier to move through. When the funeral director asked my Mom for a suit for my Dad, she quickly responded, "I will give you for both days of the viewing....he wouldn't be caught dead in the same suit two days in a row". The three of us shared a really sweet moment of humor at a very sad time and I understand for some reading this, it may seem disrespectful, but in this case it was not. My Dad was an amateur comedian, and this quip would have been one that would have gotten a chuckle. For us the laughter was a release. It made the job before us easier to manage. It actually felt like a bit of a tribute to the spirit of my Dad.

As for crying....this show of emotion seems to be more difficult for most people.....especially men. I personally am touched beyond words when I am a witness to tears. It takes courage to express feelings and unfortunately, many people (especially men in my opinion) will tend to hold back, perhaps believing they will be perceived as weak if they cry. In my estimation, it is the opposite. I see courage when tears are openly shed. Emotions and their by-products are not to be feared. They are not to be hidden. They are to be expressed. Somehow, many people have put corks on their tear ducts finding it very difficult to let the liquid emotion flow out. Perhaps it is the fear of being judged that keeps the walls of the damn up.

My experience of life for the most part, includes more laughter than tears, but I openly express both depending on what I am feeling in the moment. I allow myself to be moved by the words, actions and intentions of other people. Whether I am watching a movie, listening to a client, or friend, or leading a workshop, I am always touched by the show of emotion. This is true for tears of joy or tears of sadness. I also give myself permission to show that I have been touched.

So what can we do about using laughter or tears to better serve help keep us emotionally healthy? It's simple, allow yourself to express what is within....whatever it may be. Resisting it does not make it go away. Expressing it will help move you through whatever you're feeling and find your way back to even ground. So, to practice....allow yourself to let go and express what you're feeling with someone you love and trust. When you feel how good it feels to fully express the emotion, you may want to make it a habit.

Friday, September 5, 2008

A Day in Grace

The word "Grace" has many meanings. It can be the prayer you say before a meal. It can be the word you would use to describe a state of holiness. It is a derivative of the word graceful. It can also be a female name. The reference for this article is that it also happens to be the name of my car.

When I first drove my car, a silver Porsche Boxster, I knew it was going to have a name. I never felt compelled to name a car before, but for some reason, this vehicle was needing a name. By the end of the hour long drive home from the car dealership, I knew Grace was the perfect name for her. You see, she seemed to instinctively know how to take the turns in the road. She moved along with complete Grace, regardless of the speed. When I thought about how this sports car could be a metaphor for my life, I loved it even more. It gave me great pleasure to think of being able to take the turns in the road of life with the same confidence and grace that the silver 4 wheeled version of Grace did.

I have come to love curvy roads with swooping S turns. It has become instinctive to hug the curve just right and then to accelerate out of the turn feeling the power of the car confidently move ahead. It feels effortless as well as graceful as I travel up and down the mountains that surround my community. There are countless roads for me to experience the rush of moving along feeling that sweet spot of the apex.

What I am learning is that when I stay present to the road and not try to plan or think about what's up ahead, I naturally and intuitively take the turns with grace. This is true in my life too. If I am looking ahead, I miss what is present right now. Of course, I often plan my journey, but am open to changing the route if some new inspiration for an alternative direction comes to mind along the way.

Today was a full day in Grace. Since I live in the northern tier of Pennsylvania, the Finger Lakes of New York are relatively in my backyard. My husband and I spent the day with the top down and the sun shining on us, taking turn after delightful turn in Grace.

I didn't mention the wonderful sound of Grace's engine....I wonder what kind of metaphor for life I can make of that.

Thursday, September 4, 2008

To Feel = Freedom

Sometimes when we have strong feelings, we can tend to hide, afraid to face whatever emotions are brewing. Sometimes, we even run away and hide, distancing ourselves as far as possible from being with whatever feelings are present.

What I have found is that the sooner I face whatever is within, the sooner I return to peace. Invariably the fear of facing the feelings is always far worse than simply being with whatever it is that seems to be stirring things up for me.

I am currently reading a great book written by a friend, Andrew Seubert, called The Courage to Feel. Andrew demonstrates beautifully the power and freedom of simply not running away from your emotions. His use of metaphors and case studies as well as the sharing of some of his own experiences, makes what we sometimes see as a huge challenge, into a much more doable experience for the average, feeling person.

As long as we allow our emotions to dictate our lives, we remain captive. When we learn to use our emotions to teach us something or to help us grow beyond some self created limits or beliefs, it can demystify the whole experience of being emotional beings.

Allowing our emotions to move through us, they can exit naturally and we can learn in the process how courageous we actually are.

Wednesday, September 3, 2008

No Regrets

The Vigil for Miss M. (our Black Lab) has ended. Although she had not yet appeared to slip into suffering, it was clear she was not comfortable and her quality of life was lacking. It was obvious there was no chance of improvement. We called on our Vet for help since her natural exit from this life was unclear in timing.

Last night before going to bed, I laid on the living room floor next to Miss M and had a chat. I thanked her for unconditionally loving me. I thanked her for happily greeting me when I walked in the door, for her faithful companionship on my walks, for the joy she gave me and my husband in watching her run and play. I thanked her for demonstrating living in the moment with complete and utter gratitude and joy. I told her that I was sad to let her go and that I wished we had more time. As I laid with her sharing what was in my heart, she lifted a front leg and rested it on my shoulder. It almost seemed like a friend, putting their arm around me as a gesture of love.

Now that this chapter of my life is over I'm reflecting on whether it's worth it. Without question, although I feel sad right now writing this, I have no regrets. It is worth it, without question, to have had the experience of love and companionship that I have had.

Losing our pets and our human friends and family members is part of life. It goes with the territory of living fully. My life is fuller because of the relationships I have and I will continue to grow and learn, to feel, and experience so much more as a result of giving love and receiving love. I am grateful, and in this moment, peacefully satisfied.

Tuesday, September 2, 2008

Two choices: Acceptance or Resistance

I enjoy seeing my life's choices as simply as possible. I like it when things aren't complicated, and when it comes to dealing with the challenges that show up periodically, acceptance or resistance are what I see as my two choices. Of course, there is typically some follow up action that is required, but that seems much easier to carry out, if acceptance is my choice.

First, let's take a closer look at resistance. It takes quite a bit of energy to resist and it can be exhausting. We can resist by holding back or pushing against. Either way, it feels hard, and while we are doing it, we feel off centered and uncomfortable. Fear is often an accomplice to resistance. We may be afraid of change, of losing something or someone, or sometimes we may simply have a general fear of the unknown.

When we focus on acceptance, we feel more peaceful, relaxed and more at ease. We expend less energy, so therefore we are likely to physically feel stronger. We can experience a sense of relief and surrender as though when there is nothing to fight against, the war ends and peace prevails.

To those that would counter this opinion with a concern that acceptance means giving up, I'd like to distinguish the difference between accepting what is and then responding accordingly, and resisting what is and reacting from fear. Acceptance creates more room for us to show up as who we really are, whereas resistance diminishes our personal power.

Monday, September 1, 2008

The Vigil

For the past five days my husband and I have been holding a vigil for Miss M, our seven year old black Lab.

At this time last week, our attention was on other things. At this time last week Miss M. was still very lively, hungry for food, activity, and attention. On three consecutive days in the early part of last week, she ran 3 miles with my husband. Unknown to us then, she had a developing tumor. On Wednesday afternoon, I noticed it was a bit difficult for her to lie down. On Thursday, she wouldn't eat. That was the day we learned the diagnosis of Cancer.

During our vigil thus far we have watched Miss M. slowly deteriorate in health, in her physical abilities and attention. She is slowly moving farther and farther away from being the vibrant canine we have known. She doesn't seem to be in pain, although it is obvious her movement is guarded and limited.

I have given her my blessings to go peacefully and naturally. So far, she is not listening. Apparently, as long as there is any little bit of enjoyment in her life, she would like to hang around for awhile. She still thumps her tail on the floor when I come near her. She still closes her eyes and takes in the loving attention when she is petted or brushed. She still enjoys slowly walking around the yard, although sniffing every blade of grass is no longer of interest. She still looks in our direction with her eyebrows up, as if to say, "You called", when she hears her name.

So our vigil continues for now. I trust we will know when it is time to euthanize our faithful dog if she chooses not to pass on her own. Whenever this end comes, I plan on allowing it to be without resistance. I will allow the sadness to be felt. I will mourn the loss, and just as when I lose a human friend, I will celebrate her life.

Sunday, August 31, 2008

Enemy in Disguise

I have noticed that some of the most caring, compassionate and loving people I know can often be extremely hard on themselves. It seems the standard to meet, when evaluating their own performance in life, is extremely high. No mistakes are allowed. They do not feel any understanding in regard to themselves if they are experiencing a challenge in life. They are impatient, unforgiving and down right judgmental. They won't allow themselves to share their feelings with others. They resist support. They see themselves as failures and undeserving of love.

Now this just doesn't make sense to me. If we all have the ability to be compassionate, loving, understanding, forgiving, caring and non judgmental of others, why not for ourselves? Why don't we see ourselves as deserving the same unconditional caring support that we give to our friends, family and clients? Surely, we need not be punished for our humanity when we can forgive others for theirs.

This tendency to self evaluate so harshly is like having an enemy within. The enemy is well disguised, for outwardly we are seen as compassionate and understanding beings. It is the inner battles being fought hidden in our own minds, where no one can see, that can cause our deepest wounds. Ironically, we are also the ones that can stop the internal battering and allow healing to take place.

We can make this shift from being impatient and judgmental of ourselves to being understanding and compassionate by first noticing when we are playing the role of our own enemy. So often the self-deprecating internal battle is seen as normal, so we let it continue. It can be the default place to respond to ourselves when things aren't going the way we want them to in our lives.

The good news is we can train ourselves to shift from impatience to patience, from disgust to love, and judgment to compassion when we think about how we would be responding to someone else in that moment in the same circumstance.

With some practice, we can soon be as spacious, compassionate and loving with ourselves as we are with others.