amber waves coaching
Being grateful for what was
embrace what now is
and allow for what is yet to be.
On this magical Christmas Day, a point of reflection: The only things that truly matter are not things...They are our experiences, our contributions, our relationships--and how we create meaning from each of these.
Merry Christmas & Happy Holidays!
Last year, after mending a broken foot, I wrote about some of the overarching lessons learned through that experience, for which I created a charm bracelet as a physical reminder (October 2017 blog entry). There was a fourth lesson, probably the most difficult one for me. I've since added a charm for it.
The lesson was for accepting help. Even with a broken foot, I stubbornly refused to accept any help, at least at first. "No, I can do it! I've got it!" Until I realized just how exhausting trying to do everything myself--especially whilst injured and healing--truly was. And people seemed to genuinely WANT to help. They were everywhere: friends, neighbors, colleagues, and a surprising number of strangers. Many shared their own stories of having gone through something similar in the past. Each was an opportunity for real connection.
The fourth charm is an open heart with a wing in the interior. It symbolizes this connection between people--the helpers (Good Samaritans!) and the person being helped.
This was a tough lesson for me. It's seriously difficult to acknowledge that you need help, especially when you are accustomed to being the helper. I believe this is true for so many of us. We so value independence and believe we should be able to do everything on our own, to our own detriment. We refuse help when offered, believing that it makes us look weak. But what if the opposite is actually true? What if being able to acknowledge and accept that we may need some additional support instead makes us courageous, as well as affords an opportunity to connect with a fellow human being? And that it helps the helper just as much, to be of service to someone? Think about it--were the situation reversed, wouldn't most of us be willing to offer that very assistance?
It occurred to me whilst walking along a popular nature trail, sometimes I passed some people, sometimes people passed me. Life is like that. With cars, for example. Sometimes you'll be ahead of others, sometimes other people will be ahead, even seemingly ZOOM past you. A lot has to do with what kind of vehicle you have, as well as how well you've maintained it, or even if you have a vehicle at all or have to deal with driving someone else's.
A racecar won't function well in the same conditions that a jeep would, and vice versa. And neither would get very far if you didn't give them fuel or proper maintenance. A lot has to do with road conditions, timing and obstacles, too. Not everyone will experience the same ones nor the same intensity, frequency or duration. And of course, not everyone chooses the same path or destination. Yet we all have the same FINAL destination. So it really is all about the journey itself, which makes us each simultaneously utterly unique and recognizably similar in our life paths.
Throughout my time healing a broken foot, there were several lessons. During a conversation with a colleague, I was asked how I planned to remember these lessons after the healing was done. So I decided to put together a charm bracelet as a visual aid to recall the most salient ones...
The first charm is a pine cone. It was the actual physical object on which I had tripped, resulting in the injury. A pine cone also happens to symbolize intuition. I had been running around as usual, trying to do ten things at once, up in my head instead of focusing on things around me. So to me, it meant that if you ignore your intuition, what's right in front of you, it can trip you up. Paying attention to the "pine cones" in our lives is really about being mindful, being in the present moment.
The next charm is a sea turtle. When my foot broke, it was a quite forcible lesson in slowing down--whether I liked it or not!--as I could suddenly no longer walk, drive, stand up in the shower, or do other daily activities for several months. Yet I made it a point of focusing on what I still COULD do, and making adaptations, such as in the yoga routine I created while still in the cast boot. The sea turtle, therefore, is meant to remind me to slow down, but keep on swimming.
The last charm is a flamingo. Well, I'm a native Floridian, so all that standing on one foot reminded me of the flamingo. And if you've ever seen those beautiful pink birds, they actually do stand around serenely on one leg, perfectly balanced. So the flamingo is to remind me to find the balance in the imbalance--and to keep it classy! ;)
How have you committed life lessons to memory?
After I broke my foot and was no longer able to get to my regular yoga classes, I developed an amateur yoga routine that could be done at home, throughout recovery. This is the link to the YouTube video I created. My hope is that it will also be useful to others who have had foot injuries, and still want to do something to remain active.
Be smart, be careful, listen to your body, and be thankful for all the things you can still do!
Stop searching for meaning--immediately. Human beings are meaning makers. Go create your own. Yes, now!
The only things that are under our control, and are truly OURS:
1) Our thoughts
2) Our feelings
3) Our decisions
It is a universal human experience to endure losses: moving, divorce, changes in friendships and other relationships, and of course, deaths in our circle, all of which usher in a host of other “secondary losses.”
This is my story of loss…
Just before my fifth birthday, I was officially adopted by my maternal grandfather and step-grandmother. I went from an only child to the youngest sister of five females, all of whom were adults by that time. So I was raised “old school,” very differently from my peers growing up. My Dad was quite strict and we often butted heads when I was a teenager, which of course is not at all uncommon.
Dad became ill when I was in college out of state, and he was on hospice services. The cancer had spread to his brain and totally changed his personality. He was no longer the strong, stoic, certain, and authoritative man I had known. Instead, he was confused, highly emotional and might cry at anything—even the Jerry Springer reruns he had started regularly watching. He died shortly after the start of my junior year of college, when I was 20 years old. I remember getting that phone call. I was fortunate that I attended Agnes Scott College, a small women’s college in Georgia, and they responded with overwhelming support. They even allowed me to turn in papers late and to take tests “whenever [I] felt ready.” My Dad had been so proud of me, the first female in my family to attend college. So I managed to finish somehow. He never got to see me graduate from college, or graduate school either.
Grief changes things at a deep level. After about a year after my Dad died, my boyfriend at the time told me that I “should be over it by now.” People expect you to just go back to being “normal” (whatever that means) or to your “usual self” after some prescribed time. Bereavement leave from most workplaces is about three days or a week, if you’re fortunate to have it at all. But here’s the truth: the death of someone close to you will permanently change you in ways you cannot anticipate. And every death is different because every relationship is different. The death of my Dad profoundly altered the trajectory of my life, and the lives of my family members as well. None of us can or will be the same.
Know that, at times, people will say things that seem incredibly ignorant, disrespectful, ridiculous, or just plain stupid to you, after you’ve suffered a loss. Know also that, believe it or not, most of them are actually trying to be helpful, but don’t know how. Know that you may lose friends—people sometimes seem to think loss is somehow contagious or simply don’t know how to respond. However, you may also gain friends from unlikely sources as well.
Time on its own will not heal. It’s what you do with the time. Finding—and perhaps learning to accept—comfort and support in your community, finding meaning, going through your own journey of grief. Find the pearls of wisdom and gratitude—the gifts!—within profound loss and grief. You won’t recognize this at first. That does take time. Each person’s grief experience is as unique as a fingerprint, with a highly individual timeline and journey.
Know that grief does not end at a particular date and time, though it may change form with time, and subsequent losses can bring it back up far into the future. What you can learn, over time, is resilience, as well as wisdom and experience to help others in their own journeys. You can find and create your own meaning.