Friday, December 28, 2012

Embrace the choosing

Photo:  S. Dawn Sievers
Someone close to me has positively commented, more than once, on my habit of taking charge (i.e., control) of my own emotions.  What this person is pointing out is that I tend to only allow myself to dwell in negative thoughts for a short amount of time.  Over a lifetime of learning and experiencing the myriad emotions we are given on this Earth School, in these physical bodies which house our souls, I have come to the firm opinion that a vast majority of my existence is fully within my power to govern.  I don't know whether this habit is especially noteworthy, or cause for praise; I do know that I have a short window of tolerance for being and feeling miserable.  So, when I find myself on the brink of dwelling in negativity, I choose to change.

Some will argue the point that we have even a modicum of control over our lives.  Many will say that we are merely pawns of cause and effect, being tossed about on the tides of chance and Fortune.  I don't deny the school of thought that there are fragments of chance that affect us all.  I think a great deal of the beauty of life is what we perceive as the unexpected.  If Life were all neatly planned out and responded to tidy lists and projections, I think we would all be a very dull, bland bunch.  Getting back to my point, though, I believe we have choice in everything.  I believe that even that which we perceive as an "accident" is something that has come to us, that we have invited and allowed in order to learn and grow.  Call them surprises, if you like - the moments that throw us off kilter and force Life to shift in the blink of an eye.  By their very nature, surprises force change, so they are an integral part of life for us all.

Can we control when tragedy hits our horizon?  When someone we love leaves us, whether through death or the end of a relationship, can we control this?  Can we control losing a job that is needed to pay bills and keep a roof over our heads?  Of course not.  The only thing that we can control is how we react to a given situation.  I have said time and time again that we are defined by how we choose to react to Life.  We define ourselves by the choices we make and by our subsequent actions.  When negative moments hit, dismay, anger, sadness, grief and a boatload of equally negative emotions are there at the door, waiting to set up housekeeping inside us.  It is normal and healthy to feel all of those feelings, honor them, process them.  Dwelling in those negatives indefinitely is not healthy, and we all know this as a sure truth. We can remain apathetic and downtrodden, as this is a conscious choice.  Or we can choose a different reality.  There is no shame in this process taking a while, by the way.  Healing and growing has a different time table for each of us, and will also vary per the situation and circumstances.  Being kind and loving to ourselves during this part of the process is essential.

As I write this article, 2012 is ticking down to its final days.  It is human nature to reflect on the waning year and take stock of what we experienced.  Looking back on my own Life Path, I note a year that was challenging on several levels.  It was interspersed with beautiful moments, yet I found myself focusing on the sadness as I reflected.  I didn't like sadness being my immediate perspective, so I began to ponder.  I began to ask myself why I was coloring this year in sadness, and the answer is that I am currently going through some personal experiences that are not what and where I want them to be.

That's when the moment of epiphany hit my fair self.  If I were driving a car, I would have hit the brakes to come to a screeching halt, it was such an "A-ha!" moment.  That epiphany moment was this:
Life is rarely what we want it to be.  
We all know this, yes?  This wasn't news to me, obviously.  It just popped into my mind in a manner, and at a crucial moment, that woke me up and shook me out of this current gray stage I've been inhabiting.  So, I repeat:  Life is rarely what we want it to be.  We also...most of us, I would think....have come to the realization that when we do not get that cherished wish, it is a blessing in disguise.  Sometimes we DO get that cherished wish, but it is delayed.  The timing simply hasn't come to fruition.

So, I pondered.  And I contemplated.  And I turned my thoughts over and over, considering options that would shift how I have been feeling.  In doing so, I came to another moment of epiphany.

What is at the moment is not what has to be in the future.  
I think I want that statement on a t-shirt.  I mean it!  That statement flowed from my fingertips effortlessly, and as I read the words back, I am struck by the profound truth of the thought.  I have it within my ability and power to create a new version of what is, and I am able to do this, create this new version by choosing my thoughts, feelings and perceptions.  I can choose to release limiting thoughts.  I can choose to believe that what is, at this moment, is necessary for this moment, but it is not necessary for the future.

I was perilously close to creating more of the same sadness and negativity for my immediate future, by the very act of focusing on it and mentally bewailing what I perceived to be infinite.  That's where I slammed on the proverbial brakes.  2012 brought a great many lessons for me.  It was not an easy year, and I do not throw those words out lightly.  It was, however, a year of learning on levels that I hadn't been privy to up until this point in time.  I wasn't ready for those lessons until now.  They weren't for the faint of heart, and I managed to weather them with a certain amount of Grace.  Those lessons, the Big Ones, the ones that delivered big wallops of wow, they're not finished.  I recognize that there is more to be done there.  More to learn, more to absorb, more to embrace, more to share, more to live.

So, I shifted my perspective.  I stopped pouring regret into my current experience, and I began to pour appreciation into who I am as a result of those lessons.  I released frustrations, regrets and resentments, as those are three of the most self-defeating, crippling emotions that I have ever identified.  I am pouring appreciation and anticipation into the immediate future where all is possible.  This may sound very overly optimistic, perhaps unrealistic.  To the contrary; I believe it is vitally necessary to be aggressively optimistic and to ignore more of those self-defeating words/thoughts such as "unrealistic".  Being happy and fulfilled is never unrealistic.  How we choose to address that need, that dream, that expectation....that is the important facet.

Consider what a facet does in a gemstone.  It is designed to reflect and refract bounce that light in multiple directions, to multiply it and create a light storm that is dazzling to the soul.  A simple, flat plane gives finite reflection and a flat, one dimensional view.  I consciously choose to create that light storm with my thoughts, with my perspective, and in so doing, provide conditions that are limitless for that light to amplify, to expand in all directions.  And in the very doing, the very choosing, I felt an instantaneous lifting, a lightening of my Spirit.  A weight literally lifted from my heart.  Feeling better, reaching for that next best good feeling...these are Divine and Universal Laws.  That which we focus upon, we amplify.  That which we amplify, we invite more of into our personal experience, and it becomes an exponential act.  This amplifying applies to both positive and negative emotions - this is a key fact for all of us to remember!  If we dwell in negativity, it amplifies and sets the tone for our immediate future.  I certainly see the logic in focusing on positive emotions, expectations, dreams and wishes, as those are all what I choose as the set points for my immediate future.  Feeling better feels better.  So simple, yes?  It can be, but we have to choose to allow it first.

I am like most people in that I've experienced a couple of moments in life that fall into the category of clinical depression.  I know what that disordered chemical imbalance does to the thought process.  I know how dismal and dark the whole world can look and feel to anyone going through that level of depression.  I know the irrational thoughts that are processed that, at the time, make complete sense as they're being thought.  For whatever reason, I was either blessed or cursed with a stubborn character that refuses to let me completely give up.  Even in the midst of the worst depression episodes I've experienced (there were two - one hit when I was 19 and the other in my mid-30s), I knew in my heart that they would pass.  This is when the aspect of impermanence becomes one of the most valuable tools we are given as human beings. When we view a single life span, it is so fleeting.  From that perspective, that life truly is such a short span of time, there is hope to be gleaned from the canvas of impermanence.  "This, too, shall pass" is one of the most loving, reassuring statements to reflect upon when the world feels permanently dark and sad.  Our free will to choose is there, waiting for us to remember the power we are granted from our very first waking moment.

Those moments of epiphany are powerful, either as a sudden clap of thunder or as a soft brush of insubstantial mist drifting by.  It might not be that slamming on of proverbial brakes, big wallop of wow moment for you as it was for me.  I tend to be a bit more hard headed than some, so it occasionally takes a bit more force to grab my attention.  For some of you, the epiphany may come as easily as your next breath slipping into, and out of your body. The very slight shifting of perspective is simply powerful, regardless of its delivery, and it all narrows down to choice.  Choosing how we want to feel.  Choosing how we want to think.  Choosing how we want to view a set of circumstances.  Choosing how we want the tone of our life to resonate.  It might be different for each of you, this awareness manifesting.  Easier said than done, of course, but oh-so-powerful when we come to recognition and embrace the choosing.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Gazing at magic

Photo courtesy of
*This post was originally written in July of 2010.  It remains one of my favorite childhood memories of the Christmas holidays, so I was inspired to share it again. Please note that some of the photos depicted only have Bing images as provenance, as Blogger didn't offer the feature of annotating photos when this post was originally written.*

When I was very young, we lived in a small, single wide trailer.  The space was limited, with the washing machine in the one bathroom, and the clothes dryer set into a corner of the small living room.  It was next to the clothes dryer that we always set up the Christmas tree, against the wall to allow for the rest of the floor space to be clear.  This meant that there was just enough space between the branches of the tree and the dryer for the clothes dryer door to be opened and the controls to be reached.  It was also just enough space for one wee little girl to scoot in and sit with back against the clothes dryer, feet tucked close, elbows on knees to support small chin on small hands....and gaze upward at the twinkling lights.

I was spellbound by the beauty of each year's Christmas tree.  The tinsel softly shifting and catching and reflecting the tree lights.  The tree lights themselves were a whole fascinating experience all their own.  Who remembers the individual painted lightbulbs that had to be screwed into the individual sockets on the strings of Christmas tree lights?  They also had individual, colored reflectors, stamped out of solid sheets of metal with fluted edges that could be deadly sharp, and these reflectors could be fitted between the light bulb and the socket, securing them as decoration.

Photo courtesy of
Bing images
The light bulbs were easily the size of a man's thumb and were coated with opaque primary colored, green, yellow, blue and orange.  I found this one photo to the left of these old beauties. The lady in the photo is country music legend, Brenda Lee. While these lights don't have the metal wheel reflectors I've attempted to describe, it gives you an idea of what I'm talking about. We would sit on the floor with my Mother, painstakingly testing each light socket and bulb, selecting the colors so that they didn't repeat, and choosing with equal precision the reflector wheels.  We always made strings of popcorn and cranberries, as money was limited to purchase expensive garland.  The few garlands that we did have were made of a tightly wound tinfoil, sometimes dual colored, others were gold or silver, and were crinkly and rustling in our hands as they were strung around the tree.

To a small child, the finished result, covered in clumps of silver tinsel when we would grow tired of the decorating process, was always beautiful.  I could sit quietly tucked between the clothes dryer and Christmas tree and look at all the colors and textures.  Gazing upward into the tree provided a whole different perspective than you could get from standing in front of it and viewing it.  Looking upwards, all the lights cast a soft, lambent glow that seemed to fill the inner spaces of the tree and produce a fairytale atmosphere.  Even at that young an age, I was weaving stories in my head about the things that captured my imagination.

Photo courtesy of
Bing images
At some point, my Mom would notice I was missing and call my name, walking by and not thinking to look for me tucked down beneath the tree.  "Here I am," I would smile up at her, waving a hand to catch her attention.  "What are you doing down there on the floor?" was usually her question.  "Watching the's so pretty!"  One evening, to my everlasting delight, my wonderful Mom didn't ask the usual question.  Instead, she carefully shifted the Christmas tree slightly sideways, got down on the floor next to me and joined me in my nightly routine.  We sat there, me tucked cozily against my Mom's side, her clean, soft fragrance touching my senses, her heartbeat against my ear as I cuddled close.  She reached over and caught my hand in hers, and we gazed at magic together. 

My older sister and brother were occupied with a game and we weren't interrupted....something very rare for the youngest of three, as I was, to get such an extended quiet moment with our Mom.  She was raising us alone and dealing with very challenging circumstances.  Money was always an issue, yet she found ways to make our childhood carefree, secure and content.  And that particular evening, she indulged my whimsical nature by joining me and gazing at magic. 

Eventually, something broke the spell and the moment ended.  Dinner needed to be fixed, small bodies needed baths and bedtime loomed imminent.  But for that one lovely moment, we just sat there together and gazed up from the floor into the heart of that Christmas tree, hypnotized and enthralled by the warm glow of lights and decorations.  I can remember my Mom climbing to her feet, extending a hand to pull me up, and bending down to kiss me, saying, "Thank you, honey.  That was beautiful.  Let's do it again soon."

Have you ever tried this?  This year during the winter holiday season, if you decorate a Christmas tree in your home, take a few moments to sit on the floor, close in to the tree, and gaze upwards into the center of it.  I sometimes will even lie down on the floor and scoot directly underneath the tree to gain the best view.  It might sound slightly bizarre, but I assure you it will provide you with a breathtaking experience.  Clear your mind and simply gaze at the magic.

It might seem odd that this post was originally written during July, having Christmas as a focal point.  I don't know why the thoughts twined together to produce this blog article with a Christmas theme during summer months in East Tennessee, but I feel it expressed a valuable and beloved memory that was worth sharing, regardless of the time of year.

Such are some of the blissful moments of my childhood.  My beautiful Mom sheltered us from the challenging reality of admittedly difficult times and provided a secure, loving and nurturing home.  She also allowed for those magical moments and on occasion, she would embrace them and join us.  This Christmas tree moment is one of my most cherished memories.  From that day and many others, I learned to embrace my ability to find magic in the most unexpected places and it is something that gives me particular joy.  It is a connection to my wonderful Mom, who recognized that evening, that her youngest child was slightly different, slightly fey, and completely unique. 

Photo courtesy of
Bing images
She taught me, in subsequent years, that this side of my nature was beautiful and to be celebrated.  I still gaze at magic, and sometimes I'm able to share those moments with my Mom.  She doesn't always see the world in the same starlit glow that I do, but she appreciates this part of who I, her youngest child, am.  I gaze at magic, because I was taught by a lovely woman, my Mom, that this is a beautiful and natural thing.  I hope those who read this post have those special moments as well.  I would wish for you all to have the unique ability to regularly find and regularly enjoy...gazing at magic.

Namaste', and beautiful holiday wishes to you all.

Friday, December 14, 2012

We continue.

Today, December 14, 2012 is a very sad day in the history of the United States.  In the town of Newtown, Connecticut, a young man walked into Sandy Hook elementary school and opened fire in a kindergarten class, killing children and going on to kill several adults throughout the school.  He also committed murder at a separate location. As of a few minutes ago, the death toll had reached 20 children and six adults dead.

Social media swept the story across the world in mere seconds, giving rise to typical and inevitable accusations, theories and debates.  I experienced a true level of frustration at the fact that the debating and arguing began before those slain have even been given over to their families to begin the mourning process.  I find that part of the whole thing to be shameful, distasteful and disrespectful to the memories of the ones slain and to the integrity of the surviving loved ones.  Now is not the time to raise squabbling and ranting about gun control, or how the United States should be able to manage this type of insanity more efficiently.

So, how do we get through this type of tragedy, when it is so overwhelming and so senseless?  It tears at the heart in a particularly piercing manner to know that 20 wee lives were extinguished.  Young ones who had their whole lives ahead of them, going to school, innocent and deserving of protection and an inalienable sense of safety.  Six adult lives extinguished who performed a noble task daily, teaching young ones and stewarding them through each calendar year.  It is beyond human ability to comprehend, to absorb.  Yet, we do it, somehow.

We do keep living through the trauma moments, as well as the fallout and recovery of it all.  Through the doing of what needs to be done, we keep living through it.

There is also a level of Grace that occurs in the midst of this type of trauma.  We shift into a level of auto-pilot reality where we are somewhat removed from our bodies and emotions.  It's a protective mechanism, what shock does to our body and our mind, our reasoning.  I can clearly recall the thoughts that run through my mind at such a moment, when I have been faced with a tragedy of such enormous proportions that have stretched my ability to respond.

*Please know that these thoughts are not meant to undermine, or compare to, the incredible grief that the families of the ones slain today in Connecticut are experiencing.*:

"This can't be happening."  And I keep living through it.

"This isn't real."  And I keep living through it.

"I don't know how I'm going to do this."  And I keep living through it.

"I don't think I can do this." And I keep living through it.

"I can't believe I'm doing this."  And I keep living through it.

"This doesn't seem real, now that I'm doing it."  And I keep living through it.

"I can't believe I made it through that." And I keep living after I've done it.

"I don't know how I got through that." And I keep living after I've done it.

"I don't know how I'm going to keep living, now - the pain is still so overwhelming."  And I keep living through it.

"Looking back, I have no idea how I did everything that needed doing during that time."  And I keep living.

This is the unquestionable beauty of the human spirit, that we continue.  Despite all manner of crippling tragedy, we continue.  These human forms that house our Spirit slip into a mechanical state to allow us a buffer, and this is how we continue.  In a numbed state, on automatic pilot, guided by the kindness and love of those around us, if we're fortunate and blessed.  Lifted up by the equal kindness of complete strangers.  A simple touch, or a smile, or a task done without our asking.  A quiet moment where we are received and embraced and allowed to be in our raw grief without judgment.

In the coming days, more details will surface as to the motives of the young man who committed this unspeakable crime.  Endless debates about gun control will reign ad infinitum.  Discussion about mental health and the failings of our healthcare system will also jockey for position in the media.  Sensationalism, unfortunately, will also race at the head of the pack, spewing out needless details that do dishonor to the name of the media.

For now, in my opinion, it is a time to look to most precious to each of us.  If you are reading this and you are safe, secure, well fed, reasonably healthy, have a roof over your head and you are loved, take a moment to dwell in prayer, if you are so inclined.  Pray for the lives cut short today; pray for their loved ones as they navigate the unthinkable process of accepting what has occurred.  Pray for the young man who was so lost and confused, filled with unexplained rage to the degree that he chose this action.  Just pray.  Love the ones who mean the most to you.

Speak your love to them daily, because the one sure truth that we know is that tomorrow is not promised to any of us.

Speak your love, while you are given the blessing of time to do so.

Wednesday, December 12, 2012

Faith in the waiting

I said to my soul, be still, and wait without hope
For hope would be hope for the wrong thing; wait without love,
For love would be love of the wrong thing; there is yet faith
But the faith and the love and the hope are all in the waiting.
Wait without thought, for you are not ready for thought:
So the darkness shall be the light, and the stillness the dancing.

— T. S. Eliot, poem, East Coker

This snippet from T.S. Eliot was on my Facebook page recently, and I've returned to it several times over the last couple of days. It has prompted me to ponder deeply, and when I do that, I tend to process through the pondering better when I write the thoughts out.

At first glance, the words above appear negative and self-defeating.  Wait without hope, wait without love.  What is being expressed, though, is to shift our thinking.  It is more of existing in that moment....that space between exhaling and taking the next breath.  Just being there in that suspended fraction of time as we mark it from a human perspective.  And doing so without expectations.  Without Ego attempting to plant a flag of victory.  Much easier said than done, yes?

2012 has been a year full of self-discovery for me.  It's been a year of extremes, in fact.  Some moments so beautiful that they pierced my heart and left a permanent mark of equal beauty.  Other moments so painful, so wrenching and final in this corporeal reality that they left a different permanent mark....a jagged tear in my heart and soul.  I've grappled with these extremes and somehow, survived it all.  We do that, don't we.  We survive. 

It should be noted that surviving the beautiful moments can sometimes be just as challenging, if not more so, as the difficult moments.  

Those beautiful moments...the positive experiences....they can be scary.  They can show us a possible reality that we have dreamed of, wished for, planned for.  The potential manifesting of that reality can throw us off kilter and the common reaction can be panic.  I know this is a truth for me occasionally.  And therein lays the pitfall of expectations.  How we want Life to be.  How we want Love to be.  How we want Work to be.  How we want Health to be.  

This year, I've been confronted with releasing expectations in several very important areas.  And really, what that boils down to is releasing control.  *gasp*  I know, sounds crazy to most of us.  Believe me, I'm not a fan of that concept, releasing control.  Ego leads the race for most of us in that regard. Yet, I am a logical being, and I accept that enforcing rigidity can stifle growth. So, I've continued that refining of Self within the context of those vital areas, and I've recognized where I need to do more work.  It's a curious process, because I do tend to be quite aware of my own psychology, my own emotional patterns.  This year, however, ushered in a life experience tied to another and that relationship produced experiences and a mirror that reflected repeatedly, challenging me greatly.

Right now, I'm in a holding pattern in regard to these several vital areas.  That requires a good amount of patience and as mentioned above, faith.  Releasing those expectations, releasing the desire and urge to step in and marshal the troops, draft a plan of attack and take no prisoners.  Given that I tend to be a person of action, the living in that suspended moment for long periods of time can be downright painful for me.  I'm doing it, though.  How long I can do it, and equally important, how long I should do it, are always the big ticket questions, but I've surprised myself with how deeply I've been able to process, and how patient I have been able to remain.  

There is a limit for all of this, of course.  Nature abhors a vacuum, and we cannot exist in eternal limbo in any facet of our lives.  Eventually, entropy fills the proverbial vessel with water and it spills over, causing reactions and change.  Usually, when I feel myself beginning to chafe and buck the confines of being patient, God/Universe/Spirit will send a reminder such as the T.S. Eliot passage quoted above.  It reminds me to continue to breathe through it, to not allow the frustrations to win the day.  Is that easy?  Absolutely not!  Being patient in certain areas of my life is one of my biggest challenges.  I have learned over a lifetime, however, that attempting to force time and a given situation to speed up to match my personal measure always, always brings me much more grief than is necessary to experience.  

So, there is faith in the waiting.  There is change of a positive nature in that suspended space between breaths, between heartbeats.  My heart is gentled in the process, and my capacity to adapt is broadened.  That place of waiting…in my mind's eye, it is painted in images that are difficult to describe, but I hover there.  The essential part of me, my very soul, inhabits that in between space where the beautiful and the painful, the positive and the negative all combine to weave new harmonies for me.  I envision those harmonies, delicate, liquid threads that dance and entwine with the harmonies of others to produce as yet unknown realities.  Fabric to clothe my soul as it returns to my body, just before the next breath is inhaled, before the next heartbeat sounds.  I return changed, always.  Stronger at times; definitely more thoughtful.  Aware that the path will play out without the necessity of me knowing the complete mapping.  My job is to keep taking that next step and doing so with faith that I'm heading in the proper direction.

There are areas of my life that require action and forward momentum.  It is clear, however, that the loosening of the limbo stage hasn't yet manifested.  Perforce, I remain suspended.  I suppose that one of the best courses of action is to simply enjoy the view.  That just occurred to me.  Beauty exists in the act of waiting.  I'll have to turn that one over in my mind for a bit.  It will certainly keep me occupied and distracted for a wee!  So, here is where I stand, for the nonce.  Surveying the view and breathing in the quiet.  Absorbing the peace in the waiting, and greeting Faith as it keeps me company. 

2012 shaped me in innumerable ways.  I tasted joy countless times, and it was balanced by the bitterness of grief, repeatedly.  Confusion reigned supreme more than once, as did uncertainty.  Because of this lack of stability, the only thing I knew to do was just let it be.  Allow the chaos to play its natural course, and believe there was a purpose to it.  I have yet to see clarity in all areas where it is needed, but I recognize the method at hand.  Similar to cleaning house, you first have to create chaos and a jumble of items before you can begin to pull everything back into order.  I imagine that something similar is occurring during this limbo stage.  Order is being gathered and it will fall into place in proper, Divine timing. There have been some abrupt endings that I did not wish for, but they were necessary.  Again, Divine Order at work.  And I have grown as a result, finding strength to deal with those endings, and doing so alone.

Mindful stillness; this is what meditation and yoga encourage.  Being in that breathless moment and feeling the immediacy of the feelings.  Entertaining change in a positive manner, rather than seizing up in denial or fear.  Admitting that my preconceived notions are limiting and that not knowing what the next breath will produce, this is the most receptive space I feel I can inhabit.  Faith in the waiting.  

Thursday, December 6, 2012

Holiday stages

*I wrote this original post in December 2009.  I find that as we move into the winter holidays, practically everyone that I speak with wrestles with some form of sadness. I thought it would be appropriate to revisit this post, as it helped many people when it was first published.*

From the title of this blog post, you may be expecting a happy story about a Christmas event or pageant, children on stage singing or dancing.  Instead, what you'll be reading about is dealing with grief during the holiday season.

It is a proven fact that around religious holidays, be it Christmas,  Hanukkah, Easter, etc., there is an increase in mortality rates.  The concept of mortality rates can be traced as far back into history as Babylonian times and the rule of King Hammurabi.  In our modern times, this translates into insurance companies creating their mortality charts.  As this became standard practice, there became occasional note in media that death rates increase around significant religious holidays.

Think for a moment, and doubtless, either you or someone you know has lost a beloved family member or friend around a religious holiday.  I fall into this category, having lost the person I consider to be my strongest father figure.  He was my Uncle, my Mom's eldest brother, the patriarch of our clan.  Several years ago, he passed from this life on Christmas Eve morning after a lengthy, brave battle with debilitating illness.  As the Christmas holidays draw near, I find, despite my best intentions, there are definitely moments of melancholy that visit my heart.  Small wonder that if I feel these moments, the rest of the world might be visited by similar feelings in relation to their own personal losses.

There are many schools of thought about reasons that so many souls choose a religious holiday as the time to release from their physical body and pass from this reality.  My own thoughts on this topic are very personal, with one of the thoughts being that our Souls recognize an increased energy around high holy days.  I have always thought that this increased energy might facilitate an individual in making the choice to release from their physical body.  The reasons are myriad, the theories about this are endless, and at the end of the day, they probably don't matter beyond the ability to comfort us in the midst of painful, sad moments.

I have no mysterious remedy for this, other than to give it voice.  We are all very accustomed to slapping on that bright, cheerful social mask to cover our roiling emotions.  It's the holiday season (or whatever other particular moment in life where sad memories surface), be happy, upbeat and positive!!!  Don't be sad about the loss of a loved one, for fear you might drag everyone else down around you!!  Right?!  We all feel obligated to project that facade so that we don't make others uncomfortable or sad right along with us.  It is obvious that this tendency to stuff down our emotions around significant holidays and/or anniversaries of losing a loved one makes dealing with these significant dates that much more challenging.  When, and why did we as a collective society decide that it makes more sense to paste a happy smile on our faces than to honor our true emotions? 

Strong emotions, especially those connected to loss, do make most people uncomfortable.  It hits too closely to home for everyone; if you're mourning the death of a loved one and you present those emotions outwardly, that in turn can trigger buried emotions in others.  It's just a human response, this triggering of fears and resistance, and the need to cover everything up with a neat, tidy, happy facade.  Another truth is that most of us don't deal with significant loss immediately and instantly. 

Most of us are familiar with the five stages of grief.  They are as follows:
  1. Denial
  2. Anger
  3. Bargaining
  4. Depression
  5. Acceptance
Each person and each situation, each loss, is different regarding the manner in which these stages are processed.  For some, although I would think this is rare, the five stages are processed quickly and dealt with in a short amount of linear time.  For others, the process can take much longer, sometimes years.  Another point to make is that even after we have navigated our way through those stages, they can boomerang on us and creep back in unexpectedly, years later.  Anniversaries of loss are strong triggers What has always frustrated me is the medical mindset that after making our way through those five stages once, then it is all said and done, all bound up in an orderly bundle, case closed and door shut permanently.  I strongly disagree with that mindset.

Christmas, Hanukkah and the New Year, altogether, present a time when family and friendship is our focus, so of course sadness will lurk beneath the surface as we have wistful moments, missing those no longer here with us physically.  It is, therefore, not surprising that we'll sometimes feel sucker punched with sad moments.
Dealing with sad anniversaries is never easy.  What works for me might not work for you, but I can share my own process.  When I begin to feel those sad moments creeping in, the most important step that I take is to recognize it for what it is.  Life can be so hectic around the Christmas season that we don't pay enough attention to how we're honestly feeling.  We'll rush from one obligation and social function to the next, pushing the sad, bad, confused or angry emotions down until they finally expand and explode.  So, for my own mental and emotional health, I find it of paramount importance to stop and identify what I'm feeling.  It doesn't always come readily to mind for me either, because of course it's much easier to deny sadness and instead label it as being tired or grumpy or something much easier to ignore.

What I have learned over the years is that embracing the seemingly negative emotions does not equal failure of any type on a personal level.  The true failure, I feel, comes from denying what we feel and never allowing it to have enough of a voice for it to be processed.  So, I take time to look inward.  It isn't always pleasant, or easy, and rarely is it enjoyable.  It is, above all, vitally important.  I feel that in a way, it is a moment of Grace and tribute, when I stop, identify the reason for those melancholy moments and let myself feel what comes from within.  Grace, because I am honoring myself when I allow myself to grieve.  Tribute, because in recognizing these feelings, it gives me a moment to remember the person I loved deeply.  When I do open up to myself, the memories that I embrace are inexorably entwined with all the reasons I loved that person.  So, yes, sadness will be felt.  Many times the result is tears. Eventually, though, happier memories will also flood my mind and in a different manner, I will go through those five stages of grief all over again before coming to that moment of acceptance.

The inescapable truth is that when we lose someone we love, it is a life sentence.  We spend the rest of our lives learning how to cope, manage our lives and live without that person's physical presence.  That's the challenging part.  Just when we think we're doing really well, a holiday or anniversary will approach and cut us off at the knees.  Psychologists developed the five stages of grief to identify what we are feeling and where we are in relation to dealing with personal loss.  From that perspective, the concept is valid, but I honestly feel that it doesn't come to a definitive, full stop, ever.  I am not saying that we exist in sharp, raw grief permanently, nor would I suggest such a thing is healthy or prudent.  What I am trying to point out is that we do experience layers of grief, sadness and loss in sometimes unexpected ways at different times, for various reasons. As a result, we experience a micro-moment, often repeatedly, of those five stages.

In light of this, I think that kindness would be the word of the day. If you can step back from everything else that requires your attention and focus your attention on You, compassion and understanding are what you deserve when you are confronted with those unexpected holiday triggers, layers and stages of sadness.  You deserve kindness, and a few quiet moments to look clearly at what you are feeling.  Give it voice, allow yourself to feel, to remember, to cry; perhaps smile or laugh.  Then, when you feel ready, you will be able to gently tuck the memories back into a corner of your heart and mind that will allow you to move forward with strength, rather than sapping you of energy and enjoyment of the holiday season.  Remind yourself that these feelings will surface again, and recognize that this time, by embracing the moment with Grace and acceptance, you will possibly be able to achieve a more solid balance.

Talking about it with family or friends might be an integral part of this process; there are no hard and fast rules here.  Do what works best and feels right for you.  In talking with others, you may be surprised to find that you've opened the door up for them as well, to do some processing, sharing and healing of their own.

In closing, I wrestled with myself about posting this blog.  It is a highly personal and volatile subject, and perhaps not one many will want to contemplate in the midst of the holiday season. I was feeling sadness as the calendar approaches a personal anniversary date of loss, and for me, writing out the emotions and giving them voice was helpful and healing. I have no idea if what I have written and shared will be of a helpful nature to others, but I am going ahead with posting it.  Perhaps these words and thoughts will resonate with others out there and bring a moment of clarity and peace to their hearts as they realize they are not alone with what they are feeling.  Maybe the simple suggestion that yes, you will go through repeated, myriad experiences of those five stages will be a moment of epiphany for someone out there, allowing them to embrace kindness towards themselves as they process through that most current incarnation. 

If you have stayed with me through to the culmination of this particular post, whether it clicked with you on a personal level or not, you have my appreciation for spending time with me as I navigated through my own five holiday stages.  As a result, my heart is lighter and I have been able to move forward with a gladdened spirit to enjoy my Christmas.  Blessings to you all, this year, this holiday season.