Help for Healing

Bitter & Sweet, living daily with grief


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Julia Cameron: Openhearted

Gratitude card of the day: Openhearted

“I am blessed with a hospitable heart. I welcome new souls in my family of souls. I open my heart to new companions…As I welcome new life, my heart blossoms with new flowering.”

I would have to say I think I have an hospitable heart. I have never heard that specific term, but I think it’s pretty appropriate. I have spent lots of time trying to help other people see that your heart is meant to be shared. Love is about what you give away, not about what you guard and protect. The heart is an organ that grows with use. The heart’s capacity to love only gets greater the more it is exercised. Contrary to reason, it doesn’t get used up.

There is another side, though. If I have erred in life, it is sometimes for not protecting my heart enough at times. Once, a friend said to me, “That person is bad news for your heart.” It was very, very effective. I don’t think in those terms on my own. It just expressed something to me in a way that hit me differently. Very rarely am I “bad news” for someone else, but I spend little time considering whether people might be “bad news” for me. Anyhow, I told her she was brilliant and I wouldn’t forget that phrase. People, in and of themselves, are rarely bad, or even bad news. But they may be bad for MY heart. I guess I say that to balance myself. You can’t just rush in and give your heart to anyone and everyone. You have to be responsible with your choices.

Even for someone like me, having a hospitable heart and opening up to new companions can be very scary. I do it, but sometimes I almost panic. The new flowers can’t blossom, new life can’t be born without risk. But let’s face it, it’s still risk.

Anyhow, I think to oversimplify, people generally fall in one of two categories when it comes to this. They will either die erring on the side of not moving enough, not risking enough, playing it safe. Or they will die erring on the side of too much movement, risking too much. Every one of us will make mistakes, it just matters which side you fall on.

For 48 years, I’ve known I’m on the latter side. I won’t have stood still enough, slowed down enough. The last couple of years I wondered if I was jumping to the other side. But so far, looks like I will keep my hospitable heart. When I err, it will most likely be on the side of investing too much, trying too hard, risking…

But you know what? I think I’m okay with that! In fact, I may even be proud of that. “I am blessed with a hospitable heart. I welcome new souls in my family of souls. I open my heart to new companions…As I welcome new life, my heart blossoms with new flowering.”

Warm greetings to all the new folks in my life, in whatever space you come in (personal, professional, students, clients, etc.) I’m keeping my heart open to what you bring- the bitter and the sweet- and I hope you open your heart in return.

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Madame Secretary

I only watch two TV shows- The Big Bang Theory and Madame Secretary. Pretty opposite ends of the spectrum. I don’t usually get to watch either one of them when they air, but “on demand” works fine other than having to sit through the commercials. (Yes, I am the only woman in America that does not have a DVR.)

This morning while Frankie was getting ready for school, I was finishing watching this week’s episode of Madame Secretary. They are all usually pretty riveting, but this one was an especially dangerous story line. There was an explosion I wasn’t expecting so I jumped and let out a small scream. Then I was teary-eyed. Frankie thought it was hilarious. He’s such a guy. “Mom, it’s just a TV character. It’s not real you know.” Simple for him.

He got on the bus and the next ten minutes I full-out cried for the rest of the episode. Didn’t even bother trying not to, I was just so moved by the story and the characters.

I love that show. Mostly, it’s because I love Elizabeth. She is the Secretary of the State. Now I know less than nothing about politics, but I find it fascinating anyhow. The politics are interesting, but the real snag for me is her persona. She is a brilliant- I mean brilliant- kick ass woman. She takes no shit, thinks outside the box, and comes up with solutions that are no less than genious. Yet, she is still somehow completely feminine and warm.

I love her marriage. Her husband is total eye candy. (That never hurts.) But they have the coolest marriage. They are total partners. They can completely disagree sometimes, but most of the time they are on the same page and they back each other.

I love their kids. They have three and one of them is usually in some sort of crisis. But I love watching the five of them mill around the kitchen. In this episode, she was saying goodbye to them. No one but the husband knew that she was going on a dangerous, life-threatening mission. He stood in the corner, watching his wife kiss her kids goodbye, knowing full well that she knew full well that it might be her last interaction with them. It was ridiculously intense.

It was nothing crazy. But the way they walk by their kids and just touch them, the way they can give them a hug… I’m so incredibly jealous. I wonder if Frankie even has a thought in his mind when he watches a scene like that. I wonder if Colin ever thinks twice about it. Because I do. Our home is NOTHING like that. There is hardly any interaction, no family time, and most certainly no touching or affection. If I even brush up against Frankie, you would honestly think I burned his skin.

Now in a way, this show is so totally unrealistic to 99% of the population. We don’t work in the White House. We don’t work in the CIA. And yet, I feel like I’m totally at home watching them. They all seem so completely normal. Not perfect, because that would just make me mad that another media message is going out to sell the impossible dream. They all fight, have conflict, etc.. But at the end of the day, you totally respect the adults, and their kids respect them too.

This particular episode, our heroine survives (of course!) but what was moving was watching all of the different characters see her come safely home. There were no words, just music. But words weren’t needed. Her beloved staff sank into relief. Her husband gets the phone call that she is safe and he breaks down sobbing with his kids. Shit. I’m crying again, writing about it.

There are lots of good people in the show. She isn’t the only one. But seeing the impact she has on everyone around her, knowing how highly respected she is, knowing how deeply loved she is- she is a worthy heroine to me.

I think that is why I love it. In one way, it touches a deep sadness inside of me. But in another, it makes me want to keep fighting. Damn it, that is possible. And I want it. A truly loving partner, kids that love me, the respect of my co-workers and peers. Knowing I make an impact on the world. I may not ever get it, or maybe just not all of it, but I’m going to go down trying! That’s the kind of woman I aspire to be, the kind of life I seek to have.

Great show… you should watch it.


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A River of Goodness

Remember when I told you that Summer gave me a pack of gratitude cards to use for blog day? Well, I’m using one today and it was labeled “A River of Goodness.”

It talks about how when you are feeling lonely and overwhelmed, you should remember there is a loving universe. You can listen for any sort of sign that soothes your soul, which then allows you to act wisely.

Hmmmm… I didn’t thumb through the cards, I just took the next one in the pack, trusting it would contain the message I needed. And in turn, I trust that there will be a reader or two that need the message as well. Last week’s blog garnered several comments and texts. Many of you tried the quieting exercises and sent me your results. The “winner” was a brilliant young lady I know who said she had 52 thoughts in two minutes!

Anyhow, back to the card. I am very, very happy to say that I have NOT been feeling lonely lately. I think that is a miraculous statement coming from me, and I think it’s based on a number of factors. First, my acupuncture doc actually said she thinks I’m ready to go down to one treatment a week. She reminded me of the first appointment I had with her and said I couldn’t even smile. Not only am I less depressed, I have actually been off the depression medicine for almost three weeks. HOLY COW!

When I am less depressed, I think I am able to appreciate the people in my life on an emotional level. I always maintain an intellectual gratitude for all the amazing folks in my life, but often times it just doesn’t affect the level of sadness I feel. When I am less depressed, I can appreciate it emotionally as well. I have all my family and friends who have always been there through some of the darkest things I’ve ever had to face in my life. Then there are friends I have discovered in the last four years since Tim’s passing. And now there are new faces in my life just in the last month or two who I am very grateful for. Isn’t that a lovely thing?

Back to the card. So yeah for not feeling so lonely. But the overwhelmed part still stings. My color-coded schedule has been out of control. The responsibilities have been relentless and I have been exhausted as a result. I am working very hard (no surprise there!) to figure out how to shift that. It’s hard because all the things I do are worthwhile and mostly necessary. But going from 7 am to 10 pm every day is a bit ridiculous. One sign from the universe was the announcement that I could go down to once a week with the acupuncturist. I don’t know what the answers are just yet, but I am going to keep chipping away at making my life more manageable. Last night I went to bed by 10:30 pm. My kitchen was a mess, but I valued not feeling like a zombie today more than a clean kitchen. The great thing is, I woke up refreshed and it was no problem to get the kitchen back in order. Priorities!

Overall, I’d say that is good news. I still have my share of critics out there who have voiced how negative my blogs have been. Well, HA! This one is positive 🙂


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Don’t Just Do Something… Sit There!

I went to see Bill (my spiritual director) today. We were discussing the lifting of my depression, but the trade-off being more angst-filled. Stuff like, what the heck is this all for anyway? Keeping it together so that you can keep it together for another day so you can keep it together for another day kind of thing. We talked about how I have never avoided pain in my life, always dealt with it head-on. Without realizing it, I think I assumed there would be some sort of pay-off eventually. So far, it’s just been another helping of tough stuff to deal with. At 48, I’m ready to move on to something new.

Anyhow, we didn’t solve the problems of the world, but we decided to start doing some meditation/prayer type stuff in session. I don’t do so well with it on my own, so if we do it together, I can probably practice it more easily at home. It was simple, interesting stuff, so I thought I would pass it along to you. Each of them were only one to two minutes long.

Exercise One:
Just sit there. Sit there quietly and just see what happens. Not for a long period, but just see what happens. I close my eyes when I do these kinds of things because it’s just easier for me. So I sat there and I was surprised that I was actually blank for a few minutes before the train left the station. Then it was, “Oh, I have to blog today. Maybe I should blog about sitting here.” And then my mind just goes from there.

Exercise Two:
Similar to the first exercise, you sit quietly but this time you actually count how many thoughts you have. I had six. I thought that was a lot, but Bill had six too. I don’t remember all of his, but his were:
1- Here. I’m just here.
2- Darcy. She’s here too.
6- Here. Here I am.

Mine were:
1- Nothing to start.
2- Have to call my friend as soon as I leave to confirm plans.
3- It’s blog day and I don’t know what to blog about.
4- I’m really hungry.
5- I wonder if that new guy I’ve been texting will contact me or not.
6- Nothing again. Can I count that twice?

Exercise Three:
Counting breaths. I had eight. Bill had three.

Does it all sound kinda goofy and pointless to you? It sounds funny to me as I write it. But when I was there, it was really cool. The object is to diminish your numbers. The goal is to be able to sit with blankness. For cripe’s sake, it was only a minute but it seemed like forever. The goal is to get your thoughts down to one or zero and be able to be empty. And the goal is to get your breaths down to three or less. Bill says the practiced monks can get down to one. That’s crazy.

Anyhow, I’m actually gonna try this the next few days. I asked him if the goal was also to increase the time you do it and he kind of chuckled. Typical question from someone like me. He said the goal is for time to be meaningless.

He doesn’t know a whole lot about acupuncture, and neither do I for that matter. But I told him it’s interesting that the big goal of those treatments is to relax. She puts a thousand needles in my body, then turns the lights off and tells me to take a nap. The more nothing I feel, the better. Hmmm… do you ever have the universe send you consistent messages?

So another paradox. Finding meaning in my life apparently requires me to conquer being empty. And yet the ultimate goal is to feel less empty. Weird. Maybe I’m just a quack that is hanging out with a bunch of quacks. But I’m liking it.

If you attempt any of these exercises, please feel free to share your stories. I’m fascinated! Really folks, it’s safe to try it at home. Just sit and try to be empty.

Crazy.